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DateLine Wednesday, 17 October 2007

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Book review

Proletarian revolutionary and rebel in the church

Review: Stanley E. Abeynayake
Warankulasuriya Sanitiago Fernando - The Devout Catholic
Author: W.T.A. Leslie Fernando
Publishers: International Book House (Pvt) Ltd, 01, Kumaran Ratnam Rd, Colombo 02.
Price: Rs. 250

W.T.A. Leslie Fernando besides being learned in the humanities and the law, well-known judge in the past with an aptitude for literary tastes running in his blood since schooldays, the Peradeniya Campus period and the Law College time, has once again in his inimitable way wielded his mighty pen, so to say to compile this publication embracing the distinguished life and times, career of his equally illustrious Father "Wa. Sa. Prananda" of Negombo.

It is a series of articles by eminent men of letters that were carried in the press from time to time. Paying due homage to his indefatigable father, the son has observed the Buddhist doctrine "Pithu patham namami", also adhering to the Christian version in the Holy Bible "Honour thy father and mother".

The son Warnakulasuriya Thomas Aquinas Leslie Fernando decided most appropriate to bring out this vibrant, radical exuberant book in order to focus attention on the contributions made by his father from his youth, who took to the socialist road in politics, trod, trekked along it and worked vehemently to bring succour to the oppressed class. He spoke on behalf of the needy strata of society.

Frugal Manoeuvres

Thus he followed the humble uninfluential, frugal manoeuvres to make the masses conscious of their political, social and economic rights. To achieve the aspirations of the proletariat, his medium of contact was the mother tongue Sinhala language. He was one of the Sinhala speaking leftist politicians before the tremendous social, cultural and educational changes that were initiated in 1956.

The publication consists of resourceful articles dealing with the immeasurable services of a pioneer of the left movement. It is in fact a saga of an early member of the first political party formed in Sri Lanka in 1935, the LSSP.

In the leftist politics, he played dynamic roles, adopted the hide and seek tactics to evade the police detectives in the Second World War 1939-45, Yet he worked for the party, undeterred.

It is worth while to emphasise that W. Santiago Fernando contributed in no small measure for the expansion of free educational facilities from the kindergarten to the University under the Free Education Scheme formulated by then Education Minister Dr. C.W.W. Kannangara that became operative from March 1945.

Although a Catholic he followed suit in the Assisted Schools Take Over by the Sirimavo Bandaranaike government in 1961. This excellent book is an endeavour to unearth the political battles of a progressive schoolmaster turned fearless leftist politician.

He inspired lowly paid fellow teachers to follow his mission in life - betterment of the downtrodden, demonstrating opposition to the injustices of the British Raj - later perpetrated by the 'Black English' class in power.

To do justice fully by him it is not possible to put in black and white all that he humbly did for the welfare of the have-nots.

Yeoman services

The eighteen articles in the book are ample evidence of his yeomen services that ought not to be discarded to the limbo of the past.

The present and future generations must be conscious of his mighty deeds for humanity. This book is in that direction.

The gist of his politics was right is might. Along with Philip Gunawardena the "Father of Marxism in Sri Lanka", both of them with a national flavour sought to adapt Marxism-Leninism to suit our indigenous religious and cultural aspirations.

Suffice it to assert - that all the articles in the book written elaborately in English coupled with lucidity, reveal to the reader the patriotic services of a gentleman from Negombo with a heart of gold who did all within his compass to ameliorate the living conditions of the underprivileged brethren irrespective of race, religion, class or caste considerations.

Creative work

The articles are all creative work of able authors, journalists, critics, professionals all legal etc. Those include two contributions by the reputed writer ecclesiastical dignitaries namely, Ven. Horathapola Palitha Thera and Rev. Fr. Ernest Poruthota.

Of great importance are the articles of a colleague of our hero W. Santiago Fernando - P.E. Vernon Botejue JPUM and W.A. Abeysinghe, the well-known lawyer, author of no mean repute, outstanding poet from Kuliyapitiya. Both of them associated very intimately with Santiago Fernando.

Last but not the least there are excellent articles by Dinesh Gunawardena, Leader of the MEP, Minister of Urban Development and Sacred Area Development who closely knew W. Santoago Fernando and was also his mentor in party matters and by W.T.A. Leslie Fernado who has contributed a very emotional article under the heading "Reminiscences of a Son'.

He concludes thus, "Father if I were to be born again in this 'Sansara', let me be your son, over and over". What moving words of affection of love by an obedient, learned Judge son to a devoted exemplary Father!

This is a worthy book that any reader with a basic knowledge of English could read, grasp and appreciate with pleasure during leisure.

It is a lovely book, short and sweet very beautifully printed on superb glossy paper by International Book House (Pvt) Ltd, 01, Kumaran Ratnam Road, Colombo 02 and reasonably priced at Rs. 250/=.


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