|Tuesday, 27 April 2004|
Mahinda the grandson of Ruhunu Lions
by Bandula Fernando
Mahinda was born in the deep South off Tangalle in the village called Medamulana. This village is towards the north of the five road junction of Weeraketiya. The village is surrounded by lush paddy fields-coconut and citronella apart from the chena cultivations.
The three Rajapakse families aligned to politics lived in their Walawwas comprising a family triangle akin to that of the cultural triangle. Medamulana Walawwa that of Mahinda in one corner, Luxshman's Walawwa known as Walakul Bungalawa in the middle and George Rajapaksa Bungalawa known as Kondagala Bungalawa in the northern end.
This family triangle is highlighted due to the existence of three historic temples of ancient origin namely Kasagala Rajamaha Viharaya, Naigala Rajamaha Viharaya and Mulkirigala Rajamaha Viharaya. These three temples are connected with the legends of king Dutugemunu.
This may be the reason why Mahinda is an ardent Buddhist and close to the Buddhist clergy. Mahinda's father was a junior minister and deputy speaker of the Sirimavo Government. Luxshman was also a deputy minister and George was also a minister under the Sirimavo Government. George's father (Mahinda's father's elder brother) D. M. Rajapakse was known as the Lion of Ruhuna. All these three families commanded the respect and loyalty of the masses living within and outside this Rajapakse triangle.
Once I accompanied George and his mother to Medamulana Walawwa, on the way before we parked the car in the porch, I heard the melody "ohh! ohh! ohh!" to see Mahinda's father who was a junior minister of lands then, driving a herd of buffaloes with a stick in his hand, a towel wrapped round his head, a sleeveless banian on his upper part of the body and sarong tucked up like a herdsman. Mahinda's mother served us tea with kitul jaggery.
Few minutes later came the tall fair man with a well formed body smiling with his thin elongated lips making a dimple on his cheek and wiping the sweat from the towel he had worn as a turban. Mahinda's lips are replaced with that of his mother. Palatuwe Hamine's broad lips that can address even a thousand people who throng to hear him speak at political meetings and shout on a high note whilst on "pada yatra".
While sipping the cup of tea I saw through the corridor of the house a woman seated on a half-chair with a bundle of cloths by her side on the floor.
She was also sipping a mug of tea served by Mahinda's mother. While D. A. was talking to us I saw Mahinda's mother giving a bag full of country rice in return for the load of cloths she brought well washed and ironed.
All these Rajapakse ladies were famous for serving food to all types of people who came to their bungalows even at odd hours of the day. Eight and half years after serving the Central College, I paid a visit with my wife after my marriage to the Rajapakse families with whom I associated closely. We were treated right-royaly by Mahinda's mother who got a farmer who stood by the porch to load two bags of country rice into the car before we left.
One evening in 1950's George, his mother and I were having a chat in the verandah of Kondagala Walawwa about the sportsmeet that took place about a week ago. George was seated in his armchair as usual when Mahinda, his mother and a couple of Mahinda's brothers came to visit them.
Mahinda was about ten years then. George was happy to see the cousins laughingly said "Here is the tonne pachaya pointing to Mahinda. Instantly Mahinda retorted "mama neme tonne pachaya, George aiya thamai tonne pachaya" and added "I was listening to the speech you made the other day at Walasmulla where you untied a string of lies saying your father called you to his bed side before he died and told you to look after the people of the area on his behalf, you are a lawyer and you know how to fabricate lies."
D.A.'s boys including Mahinda did not get the chance to learn proper Sinhala as all these boys had their education in the "English schools". D.A. who understood the importance of Sinhala language got one Mr. Jayasekera, a versatile Sinhala teacher loyal to the D.A. family to left us forever three weeks ago, to impart Sinhala knowledge to the boys. This was done at Srawasthi where D.A. had a room when he was a junior minister.
Mahinda's youngest brother Chandra was schooling at Weeraketiya Maha Vidyalaya. He was about 6 years then. One evening came D.A with Chandra to the school hostel and said "Mr. Fernando I can't keep this lad at home, you know what he did the other day when we had a Pirith ceremony at home, Chandra pelted a small stone at the Pirith mandapaya and unluckily it struck the head of one of the priests who was reciting Pirith. Please keep him in the hostel and I shall come to fetch him every week-end."
Chandra felt a little shy, hid behind D.A. While he was in the hostel, he became the pet of all specially of the girls who were hostellers. He became a good pal of mine and used to go everywhere I went like the Mary's little lamb. One evening when it was a little dark Chandra came shouting "Sir the girls do not behave well, please shout at them".
I knew what had happened, a hosteller, who is now the wife of a reputed Professor had pinched of Chandra's body. Chandra was a well behaved boy at Weeraketiya Madya Maha Vidyalaya until he left. I liked this boy so much when I left the Central College I sent a couple of toys from U.S.A. since imports of luxury items including toys were banned then.
Some years back in the sixties while I was at a party hosted by the Head of the British Council together with some distinguished guests, a lady known to me who is the wife of a senator of the British House of Lords related to me how she was given some photographs taken in Sri Lanka showing violations of human rights to be taken to the office of Amnesty International.
Mahinda knew a friend who is also a friend of this lady and requested him to give them to this lady who was taking them with her to U.K. in a few days. Mahinda could not take them himself as he was harassed many a time by the police and Sri Lanka Customs during a certain era. Mahinda ran the risk of all these by trying to help the down trodden.
Once it happened, that a relation of mine was repeatedly requesting me to take him to the Labour Minister as my relative has been refused reimbursement of the security fee of hundred thousand rupees kept as a deposit at the Foreign Employment Bureau when Mahinda offered a chair and I sat saying "Mahinda this is a relative of mine", then he said "you are also like a relative of mine".
The words he uttered went deep into my heart, even today I recollect these lines every time I talk about him when I meet our pupils from Weeraketiya Central College and other friends. Two weeks after the meeting my relative got the money back. Mahinda is respected and loved by all including the clergy, irrespective of caste and creed within the parameters of Ruhuna and outside.
I hope everything will go well with him and the blessings of the Triple-gem will give him the strength and ability to serve the Nation.
Produced by Lake House