‘I come from the land of the Buddha’
This country has had many a gifted speaker, but not so skilfully
thrustful, to be extraordinary eloquent orators, as the world’s reputed,
SWRD Bandaranaike and GG Panambalam. Both established a common bond
through the topics they often discussed where emerged a fine friendship.
Ponnambalam had this to say of his friend SWRD, that he was a
cavalier among Parliamentarians, while the rest of us were round heads.
He wielded the rapier, while a lot of us have been wielding and some
of us continue to wield with gusto, the bludgeon a master of the spoken
word. The intention here however, is to draw a narrative of the speech
made by the suave, debonair GG Ponnambalam, when leading the Ceylonese
delegation, addressed the UN many years ago.
Ponna, as he was affectionately spoken of, had his early education at
St. Patrick’s and St Jospeh’s. He won the Ceylon Government scholarship
for science. Science and literary pursuits are not hand maids. But
almost simultaneously as he gained the science scholarship, Ponna was
elected secretary of the university literary union.
The many faceted genius, earned himself a degree in industrial
chemistry among other academic accolades and returned as a barrister at
law of Lincolns Inn.
According to Reggie Michael, a former leading journalist, covering
the UN sessions said that he was annoyed with a Canadian politician who
kept on referring to Ceylon as an under developed nation.
The descriptive Reggie says at this point Ponna, dark, nattily
dressed in grey suit, silk shirt and maroon tie walked briskly to the
podium and addressed the UN – he commenced his speech by the dramatic
announcement “I come from the land of the Buddha”.
That captured immediate audience attention, from then on Ponna held
his audience captive by flawless fluency, impeccable enunciation and
such nuances of voices as bespeak the elegance of polished eloquence.
The Canadian politician stood up as Reggie did, grasped his hand
warmly and said “If that is the stuff of the underdeveloped countries, I
wish to god I came from one”. As the Ceylon delegation watched and heard
the cascade of his effortless eloquence, even the polished fluency of
the previous speaker Lord caradon leader of the UK delegation paled some
Reggie continues to exult by saying for good measure the staid and
starched ex. US Ambassador in Ceylon the pencil slim, Francis Willis,
tossed aside protocol and hugged Ponna in salute, as he breezed down
from the dais to his seat, “you have done your country proud she
Sir Senerath Gunewardene, the affable Knight whose ringside knowledge
of UN is encyclopedic recalled the surge of national pride that swept
through him after Ponna’s decisive debut.
Ponna really put Ceylon on the map said Sir Senarath. An American
Pressman exulted at this Asian leaders flawless fluency “man drawled a
Negro journalist “If I heard him without seeing him, I sure would have
thought it was a westerner speaking”.
It was acclaimed as a masterpiece a brilliant address by GG