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Felix in Parliament and at Parliamentary Conferences

The Legislative Council of Ceylon was established by Letters Patent of March 19, 1933, its first meeting being held on May 22, 1834. There were nine Official and six Unofficial Members, three to represent the Europeans and one each to represent the Sinhalese, the Tamils and the Burghers. From the inception the representatives of the Sinhalese and the Tamils tended to be from two well-known family groups. The Tamils were mainly the descendants of one of the first Unofficial Members, Mudaliyar S. Edirimanesingam. They included Sir Muttu Coomaraswamy and his three nephews Ponnambalam Coomaraswamy, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, K.C., and the Official Member, Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam.


Felix Dias Bandaranaike

One of the earliest Sinhalese Members was J. G. Philipsz Panditaratne succeeded by his sister’s two sons J. C. Dias Bandaranaike and H. Dias Bandaranaike the tow younger brothers of Rev. S. W. Dias Bandaranaike who later became a Canon of the Anglican Church, Colonial Chaplain and Vicar of All Saints’ Church, Hulftsdorp. J. C. Dias Bandaranaike was enrolled a Proctor in 1839 and was a Member of the Legislative Council till 1861. He was succeeded by H. Dias Bandaranaike who was not only the first Sinhalese to be called to the Bar in England but also the first such to be appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court (1879) and also to be knighted. Sir Harry Dias Bandaranaike was succeeded in the Legislative Council by Philipsz Panditaratne’s grand nephew, Advocate James D’ Alwis in 1864.

He was not only an outstanding Legislator but also a great Oriental Scholar whose contributions to the development of our language and literature alone earned him a place in our recent history. Another of James D’ Alwis’ relatives, Albert L.D.’ Alwis was also an Unofficial Member of the Legislative Council.

Meanwhile, in the 1840’s Susannah Cornelia, Rev. S. W. Dias Bandaranaike’s cousin, married D. B. Ferdinandus Obeysekere, Mudaliyar of Talpe Pattu in the then distant Galle District. After two sons, James Peter and Christoffel were born, the young Mudaliyar died. The widow left the ancestral home at Kataluwa and came back to her father’s Udugaha Walawwa in Colombo. Thereafter the widowed mother of the two Obeysekere boys married her cousin, the Rev. S. W. Dias Bandaranaike. To them were born two boys and two girls. The younger of the two boys Felix Reginald Dias Bandaranaike was also called to the Bar in England and retired in 1920 whilst on the Supreme Court Bench. His son was Justice R. F. Dias Bandaranaike our Felix’s father.

Incidentally the two step-brothers Christoffel Obeysekere and Felix Reginald Dias Bandaranaike married the two younger daughters of James D’ Alwis. The elder brother James Peter Obeysekere was a Member of the Legislative Council for a short time and after his untimely death his younger brother Christoffel Obeysekere became a Member of the Legislative Council and continued till 1916. He was knighted in 1911. Felix Reginald Dias Bandaranaike ‘s elder brother William Chapman who was also a Proctor was the grandfather of Justice Tissa Dias Bandaranaike of the Supreme Court which has taken over the functions of the Privy Council since 1972.

Susannah Cornelia (Dias Bandaranaike’s) brother C. H. Dias Bandaranaike married Anna Philipsz Panditaratne and their only son was Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike who married the eldest daughter of his cousin Sir Christoffel Obeysekere.

Their only son was S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike. Former President Chandrika Dias Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike who were both Prime Ministers of this country, is the proud heir to this illustrious heritage.

I have dealt with these matters in detail to indicate that our Felix has had four generations of Supreme Court Judges and several generations of Legislators in our country. Once, when Felix was Agriculture Minister etc. he was speaking in the House on Animal Husbandry.

He referred to the Australian cows imported thirty years earlier by D. S. Senanayake and went on to say that each of them gave forty bottles of milk a day at that time.

But thirty years later at Ambewela and Bopatalawa each gave only four bottles a day. “You know why Mr. Speaker?” he asked. Leaning forward from the Ministerial front row, he looked to his right at Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike the Prime Minister, and with his usual impish glint in his eyes and a straight face he said “Those cows, like the Bandaranaikes, are in-bred.” He never missed a chance to have a good crack - even at his own family.

To be continued tomorrow

 

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