|Tuesday, 4 February 2003|
Great men that freed
their motherland from British rule
by Chelvatamby Maniccavasagar
All great men, whether great social reformers, great thinkers, statesmen, sages, patriots or men of letters differ from common men only in one thing. They have the courage to dream and also work to turn that dream into reality.
They give life a meaning, a purpose and dedicate themselves to that purpose." They truly are great who testify to the truth in them and refuse to compromise whatever the cost."
In fact, the 18th and 19th centuries produced some of the bright thinkers, intellectuals, political leaders and social reformers at a time when Sri Lanka (Ceylon) had suffered three centuries of western conquest, multifaceted in its manifestations and consequences - political, economic, cultural, religious and psychological.
During this period a large mass of people were oppressed, suppressed, subjugated and exploited in their own social order by those who claimed to be superior simply on the basis of birth.
To talk of revolt was something forbidden and unthinkable.
Some of the great patriots like S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, F.R. Senanayake, D.S. Senanayake, Sir Baron Jayatilake, E.W. Perera, D.R. Wijewardene, James Peiris, Arthur V. Dias, Al haj Dr. T.B. Jayah, Sir Razik Fareed, Dr. N.M. Perera, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam, Sir Mutu Coomaraswamy, Sir Waithilingam Duraiswamy, Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy, Sri La Sri Arumuga Navalar, C.Y. Thamotherampillai, C.V. Swaminatha Aiyar, Swami Vipulananda, Handy Perimpanayagam, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, G.G. Ponnambalam (Senior), M. Thiruchelvam, C. Vanniasingam, James T. Ratnam and several other patriots dedicated their lives for the ideal in the pursuit of which they were unmindful of danger or death. They suffered much to maintain the honour of Sri Lnaka (Ceylon). Lapse of time has not bedimmed the splendour of their achievements and their epic heroism.
The deeds of such men are the salt of history and their remembrance on this great and glorious occasion of Sri Lanka's Independence Day shall remain a precious of heritage of our race.
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike who was a great statesman, silver tongued orator and linguist was born on January 8, 1899 to a wealthy and distinguished family in Sri Lanka.
He was the only son of Maha Mudaliyar Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, a very distinguished personality in his days.
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike received his secondary education at S. Thomas' College, Colombo where he excelled both in studies as well as in sport.
He passed the Senior Cambridge Examination with high honours gaining the third place in the British Empire.
Thereafter he proceeded to Oxford University in 1919 where he played a significant role in Oxford Union.
Soon he became famous as a gifted speaker and he debated with well-known personalities who made memorable speech in March 1922. In 1923, he was elected to the coveted post of Secretary of the Oxford Union.
After having been called to the Bar he returned to Sri Lanka in 1925.
In 1927, he was elected to the Colombo Municipal Council and with the introduction of the Donoughmore Constitution in 1931, he was elected to the State Council unopposed as a member for Veyangoda. In 1936 election he was returned unopposed. He even acted as the Leader of the House in 1945 for Mr. D.S. Senanayake. In 1947, he became the Member of Parliament for Attanagalla in the newly formed House of Representatives.
He held the Portfolio of Health and Local Administration, but resigned from the Cabinet and the UNP on political grounds in July 1951.
After that he formed the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and in 1952 he retained his seat and became the leader of the opposition in the House of Representatives.
In the 1956 General Election he swept the polls and became the Prime Minister.
During the tenure of premiership he introduced lot of reforms and did everything with unsurpassed distinction and unsullied honour.
Don Richard Wijewardene, who was the maternal grandfather of the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, was one of the greatest patriots Sri Lanka has ever produced.
It was the love of his country which led him to prepare as a student in England for his life's work. He was the third son in a family of nine and was born at Sedawatte, where his father, the late Muhandiram D. P. Wijewardene, a wealthy merchant lived within easy reach of Colombo, where he had a very successful business.
D. R. Wijewardene was educated at S. Thomas College when Read was warden and the Rev. G. A. H. Arndt was sub-warden. Among his contemporaries were D. S. Senanayake and Francis Molamure. From S. Thomas, Wijewardene went to Peterhouse, Cambridge. Indeed, that it was in his undergraduate days at Cambridge that his interest in politics began.
Mr. Wijewardene's friend and member during his student life was F. H. M. Corbet, an influential Barister. D. R. Wijewardene's major contribution was the moulding of public opinion through the highly successful newspapers he conducted.
Indeed, his life was that man can achieve great things for his country if they have faith in the future and are prepared to work for their ideals with self discipline and tolerance.
F. R. Senanayake's contact with public affairs was for a period of about 20 years from his return from Cambridge to his early death at 43 in 1926. But, his influence pervaded the decades beyond his life time.
He was born on October 22, 1882, at Botale where his father Mudaliyar Don Spate Senanayake had already won recognition for his public spirit.
The Mudaliyar's discerning intellectual promise in FR, his second son, sent him to Cambridge and the Inns of Court.
The father called him the London John. His eldest son D.C. who had a philosophical bend migrated to Colombo and was dubbed as "Colombo John". His third son D.S. who had no patience for learning and was an uncut diamond which was to dazzle his countrymen as their Prime Minister in due course was known as "Kalay John".
One time Editor of Lankadipa the late D. B. Dhanapala describing D. S. Senanayake referred him as remarkable man with nothing remarkable in him" and further said that the secret of D. S. Senanayake's success is the success of his secret.
F R was a man who had regard for truth. No one in his day commanded so much influence as FR though paradoxically he did not choose to sit in the legislature or hold executive office in the Ceylon National Congress.
D. S. Senanayake entered public life by identifying himself with the
Temperance Movement, following in the footsteps of his brother FR and
The Temperance Movement was looked upon with suspicion by the British for two reasons.
It aroused the people to a sense of responsibility and to free themselves from foreign rule. It deprived the government of a large portion of their revenue through the sale of toddy and arrack rentals and tax on foreign liquor which was increasing in leaps and bounds.
So, when riots broke out and spread rapidly from the Central Province to the West and South, the British thought it was a plot to throw them out. Martial law was declared and the leaders of the Temperance Movement were taken into custody though there was not a single evidence against them.Undoubtedly D. S. Senanayake was a great builder of Tanks, national literature and a statesman with charismatic personality. Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan was indeed one of the greatest freedom fighters among the Tamil patriots. There were several able, talented and even brilliant men who aspired to national eminence.
But, none touched the heights of time greatness as Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan did.
When he rose in the forum of the Legislative Council, his British conquistadors poised to unsheathe their swords of hostility against him.
The Ceylonese knight neither flinched nor wavered.
He instilled fear into their hearts and also commanded their grudging respect." How pleasant it would be Sir," he once taunted the then British Governor as he addressed the Legislative Assembly in 1877" to bash in the sunshine of your excellency's smiles, how nice to be counted by officials as a man who says pleasing things.
What do I gain for myself by this opposition by choosing to express an
independent opinion which is very unpalatable to the government? Do they
treat me with respect for doing what I believe is my duty? No, they even
challenge my motives.
It does not matter to me Sir, I do not want the favours of the Government, it is enough that I am able to say to myself "I have done what I feel to be right". That will be my comfort. These words of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan should be etched deep in the hearts and minds of those who call themselves politicians genuinely concerned about alleviating the sufferings of the masses.
Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam was "one of the most productive men of his age," said the former Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike at a public meeting.
He was born on September 14, 1853, as the youngest son of Ponnambalam Mudaliyar. Like his elder brothers Coomaraswamy and Ramanathan, he was brought up under the kind protection of his maternal uncle Sir Muthucoomaraswamy.
In the records of Christ College, Sir Arunachalam is referred to as a brilliant mathematician and an able classic scholar. By 1875 he not only graduated but also qualified for the Bar and wanted to enter the legal profession.
But his uncle advised him to sit for the Civil Service Examination and he was the first Ceylonese to enter the Civil Service through the open door of competition.
The crowning moment of his political life came in 1919 with the Birth of Ceylon National Congress of which he was the President. Sir Arunachalam had been a fighter for Independence Civil Servant, Judicial officer, Member of the Executive and Legislative Councils, President of the Asiatic Society, President of the Ceylon University Association, President of the Ceylon Reform League, Ceylon National Congress, Ceylon Social Service League, Ceylon Workers' Welfare League, Ceylon Workers' Federation and Ceylon Tamil League.
Sir Waithilingam Duraiswamy was born in Velanai, an island on the west of Jaffna Peninsula and his father Ayampillai Waithilingam was an engineer who spent his life in Malaya.
Sir Waithilingam Duraiswamy founded the Hindu Board of Education and was the secretary of the Hindu Board which was responsible for establishing a series of schools.
In fact, he was elected as the first speaker in the Legislative Council on account of his remarkable service to the nation and popularity. Late Yogendra Duraiswamy who was an eminent scholar, well known diplomat, former Ambassador and High Commissioner to Rome, China, Washington and India, Government Agent of Jaffna and President of the Hindu Council was the son of Sir Waithilingam Duraiswamy.Raja Raja Thangarajah who is a well known advocate of the supreme court of Sri Lanka and former lecturer of the Sri Lanka Law College is one of Sir Waithilingam's Duraiswamy's grandsons.
Dr. T. B. Jayah was considered to be one of the great leaders of the Muslim Community. He sacrificed his whole life for the betterment of Muslims' education, politics and culture.
Sri La Sri Arumuga Navalar was a great social reformer who was born in 1882 at Nallur in Jaffna. He was the youngest son of Paramanathar Kanapathipillai who was a reputed physician and a government official.
Sri La Sri Arumuga Nawalar achieved his objectives by transforming the hearts of the people by his "Prasangams" he delivered, the Hindu schools he established, the press he founded and by the books he published.
He also translated the Bible into Tamil at the request of Rev. Peter Percival.
Produced by Lake House