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,
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.
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.
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
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
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/=.