Saturday, 14 February 2004  
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Let us pay tribute to Amarasuriya, Malalasekera

by Nemsiri Mutukumara

Mr. Henry Woodward Amarasuriya, planter, philanthropist, educationist, social worker, Parliamentarian, Cabinet Minister and above all a disciplined Buddhist leader is to be commemorated in a fitting manner.

This thoughtwave has arisen in the mind of Amarasuriya kinsman Dawson Silva.

A few days ago he telephoned me since I had the privilege of associating with Mr. Amarasuriya when he was President of the All-Ceylon Buddhist Congress as well as the Sri Lanka Regional Centre of the World Fellowship of Buddhists.

Mr. Amarasuriya held leadership in the Colombo Young Men's Buddhist Association and the Lanka Maha Bodhi Samagama as well.

Almost all the Pirivenas from the Vidyodaya Maha Pirivena, Maligakanda, Maradana and the Vidyalankara Maha Pirivena, Peliyagoda were beneficiaries of Amarasuriya philantrophy.

My first acquaintance with him started during the 1947 General Elections. He was contesting the Galle seat in the first Parliamentary Election. His office was situated in front of the Vidyaloka Vidyalaya where I had my education during the time of Principal Mr. B. D. P. de Silva.

I was barely twelve years. Without any fear or hesitation I walked into his office. He had never met me earlier, neither had he seen me before. Nevertheless, he was a friend of my father Henegama Mutukumarage James, a building contractor by profession.

At that time we lived on the Halls roads near the Talapitiya Railway Gate.

My mother hailing from Moratuwa was a friend of the M. J. C. Fernando family, particularly Lucille who married Thomas, the younger brother of Henry. Naturally her allegiance was drawn towards Henry Amarasuriya.

peace-loving Upasika

Besides, a peace-loving Upasika vehemently detested the bhangaveva dogmas of some people who were opposed to Amarasuriya's democratic way of living.

Mr. Amarasuriya, got up from his chair smiled with me. Before he could speak to me I told him that I am a student of Vidyaloka and came to get some election material for distribution in my home area in Talapitiya.

His office room was neatly arranged. On a table, different posters, books, booklets, leaflets were laid so that anybody, even in his absence pick up any election-related publication quite easily.

He gave me a bag full of heavy heap of documents. Unlike now-a-days where schoolchildren are transported by vans to schools located within quarter mile from their houses, we used to walk from Vidyaloka passing Talbot Town, Galle Municipal Council, and across the Vegetable Market and enter the Dangedara Vidiya.

From there at the Velivatta junction it is one straight road home - covering nearly one-and-a-half miles - carring text-books for seven subjects, exercise books and stationery plus a bundle of election literature.

I was jubilant to show these material to my beloved Amma who was delighted to read through them. Since my kind father had left after lunch, I was waiting for the first chance to show the material when he came for dinner.

So far several days, my job after tea-time was to visit houses of our relations and friends and distribute Henry Amarasuriya election literature and engage in election propaganda work.

Mr. Amarasuriya was a planter of tea and rubber. Most of his estates were in the Galle, Baddegama and Akmimana electorate.

The Amarasuriya family's large income from plantations were utilised to provide education to children, housing to the working classes and every single Vihara and every single bhikkhu benefitted from the family.

Besides, his father, Henry Silva was a Renter. There too the monopolistic enterprise brought in rich dividends.

farmer and fisher-folk

However, all those profits were utilised to provide relief to the farmer and the fisher-folk. During the Varakan - the off season the fisher-folk heavily relied on Henry Silva's support not only keep the home fires burning but also to send the children to school.

During the Sinhala Avurudu time, both groups enjoyed the Sinhala Avurudda thoroughly.

Henry Silva himself with the children visit the beaches and the fields to play Sinhala games with the people.

Had, Henry Silva not taken the monopolistic business, the large profit that derived from the business would have gone to a non-Sinhala, non Buddhist in the town. His conduct should be praised and his service to the people should be appreciated.

Many people have risen to prestigious leadership positions throughout the country, thanks to Mr. Amarasuriya.

Everybody should consider their bounden-duty to honour this great personality and contact Dawson Silva to plan out the program.

Professor Dr. Gunapala Piyasena Malalasekera was one of the finest Buddhist scholars born in modern times.

There is a humerous observation concerning Amarasuriya and Malalasekera. The story goes like this: "The divine beings have given only wealth to Amarasuriya and only scholarship to Malalasekera."

The Amarasuriya family dropped the Portuguese nomenclature of Silva while retaining the Anglican names of Henry and Henry Woodward and Thomas.

Nobody seem to know the reason. However, one possibility according to some people, is that the family was closely associated with the British planters and so they did not wish to change English names and embarass their good friends.

Contrarily, the Malalage Peris family of Panadura threw out the Anglo-Portuguese names hook, line and sinker.

Malalage George Peris became Gunapala Piyasena Malalasekera.

The one hundred and fifth (105) birthday of Dr. Malalasekera falls in November, this year. He was born in 1899 in Malamulla, Panadura.

worthy service

Beginning from the Malalasekera family members, his pupils, his close friends and those Buddhist organisations should team up together to tender a justifiable and worthy service to pay Lanka's debt to the world leader.

In my humble tribute, I have compiled and written four books.

Those are: "Sihivatana" - a recollection of thoughts in his own words recorded by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation from time to time;

"Punci Kale Mam" many attractive facets of his life written mainly for children.

"Malalasekera Mataka Satakaya" - compilation of one hundred thoughts of Malalasekera.

The first edition was printed on my own funds. The second edition was printed by the Research and Publication Committee of the World Fellowship of Buddhists - Sri Lanka Regional Centre by Mr. Kumara Semage as chairman of the Committee. Semage is also a Vice President of the WFB-SLRC.

After many years, the WFB-SLRC has made fine remarks on the contents of the book.

The observation was that the thoughts were not of Dr. Malalasekera but of the compiler.

Suffice to say, those colourful remarks are recorded in the WFB-SLRC Executive Committee.

Had there been any pupil or a relative of Dr. Malalasekera he or she would have enlightened those critics and kept their gabs shut for once and for all times.

The fourth book is a three hundred (300) page work in English. This book carries all appreciations, condolence messages special contributions made by people in many parts of the world in journals, newspapers and annual publications.

When the World Fellowship of Buddhists - the world body of which Dr. Malalasekera was elected the founder-President celebrated its Svarna Jayanthi - the Golden Jubilee in Bangkok, Thailand in the Buddhist era of 2544, a special jacket was printed with the photo of Dr. Malalasekera with the legend Svarna Jayanti and distributed to Buddhist leaders at the Svarna Jayanti General Conference.

All these works and the books written by Dr. Malalasekera must be printed for distribution to Pirivenas and Libraries throughout the country.

For that, let us team up together to formulate a program of work.

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