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Friday, 16 September 2011






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Hector Kobbekaduwa’s 28th death anniversary:

Champion of peasant rights

The 28th death anniversary of Hector Kobbekaduwa falls tomorrow(17).

He was born on August 29, 1916 in Kandy, the last kingdom of the Sinhala kings and was a member of a legendary family from Yatinuwara who fought against foreign rule. His father Dr. Tikiri Banda Kobbekaduwa was the first Kandyan to qualify from the prestigious British Medical College and his mother was Sangamitta Dullewe Kumarihamy from Matale. He completed his education at Trinity College, Kandy, joined the Law College and passed out as a Barrister in 1942.

Hector Kobbekaduwa

He embarked on his political career from Kandy in 1947 when he joined the Mahanuwara Samajawadi Peramuna which was started by Queen’s Counsel H. Sri Nissanka and T.B. Illangaratna and was a member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party from its inception in 1952. Hector Kobbekaduwa contested from the Ampitiya Ward and became a member of the Kandy Municipal Council in 1954 and served until 1960. He was appointed to the fact-finding mission for the formulation of the Paddy Lands Act presented by the Mahajana Eksath Party of the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. In 1960, Ms Sirimavo Bandaranaike appointed him as the Chairman of the Public Services Commission.

General elections

He won the Yatinuwara Electorate at the 1970 General Elections and became a Member of Parliament for the first time and was appointed Agriculture and Lands Minister by Ms Sirimavo Bandaranaike.

When Ceylon became a colony of British rule, under the ‘Bare Lands Ordinance’ the people of this country who were the rightful owners were deprived of their lands and the ‘British Raj’ established a large plantation sector with cash crops, such as, coffee, tea, coconut and rubber changing the traditional planting patterns in the country.

Nationalization process

To correct this unfair ‘land grab’, Hector Kobbekaduwa presented to Parliament the Lands Reforms Act in 1972. Through this Act, private owned land was limited resulting in his close relatives and friends becoming eternal enemies. In 1975, he was able to nationalize private owned and sterling companies completing the nationalization process of lands even though the British threatened to refrain from buying our tea to cripple our economy. The affluent and privileged blamed him but he stood firm in his resolve to provide the landless peasants ownership of land. Thus, he was hailed by the poor and the downtrodden who were deprived of their basic needs of land and shelter.

Hector Kobbekaduwa could be considered a champion of the Kandyan peasants in the recent history of Sri Lanka politics who worked with dedication and sincere commitment for the upliftment of the masses.

When J.R. Jayewardene gained power in 1977 defeating the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, he deprived Ms Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the most powerful political opponent of her civic rights.

His next target was Hector Kobbekaduwa - saying he abused his political powers, Kobbekaduwa was taken before the Presidential Commission. Though the Commission tried to implicate him by dragging on the investigation for about one year, he defended his own case without a lawyer and was able to prove his innocence.

Jaffna district

Even during the difficult times experienced by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party after its defeat in 1977, Hector Kobbekaduwa stood firm and steady supporting Ms Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Due to his loyalty to the party, he was nominated as the Sri Lanka Freedom Party candidate for the first Presidential election on October 20, 1982.

Though the South rejected him, it is clear from the analysis of the results of the elections that people in the Jaffna district was in favour of Hector Kobbekaduwa. There is ample proof to this effect from the results in the Jaffna District where even Kumar Ponnambalam, the All Ceylon Tamil Congress Party candidate who fought for the cause of the Tamils received only 4,984 votes and J.R. Jayewardene 3,546 votes with Hector Kobbekaduwa receiving 13,768 votes.

The reason being that the Northern people appreciated the agricultural reforms introduced by Hector Kobbekaduwa, specially the drive to be self-sufficient in chillies, onions, rice and other commodities.

After the Presidential elections the government caused mental and physical discomfort to Hector Kobbekaduwa. A large number of his supporters including Vijaya Kumaratunga, D.M. Jayaratne, Ossie Abeygunasekera, Felix Perera, Mervyn Silva were falsely accused of being a Naxalite group and were imprisoned. Under a detention order, Ratnasiri Wickremenayake who was the Secretary of the party at the time was questioned at the Fort Police Station for many months. Hector Kobbekaduwa too had to visit the fourth floor of the CID daily and was questioned regarding a Naxalite conspiracy and issue of false rice ration books. During this reign the first attack on voter franchise was exhibited when soon after the 1982 Presidential elections a referendum to extend the government was held where Hector Kobbekaduwa’s vote had been already cast before he went to the polling station.

Dedicated politician

Hector Kobbekaduwa was truly an honest and dedicated politician whose wealth was accounted not in rupees and cents, but by the appreciation and gratitude of the people. He spent his personal wealth to help the poor and the under privileged to make their lives better. His political ideals of honesty and integrity is an example to be followed by the new generation of politicians who seem to believe that getting into politics is just like any other vocation and will make them wealthy.

Hector Senarath Rajakaruna Bandara Kobbekaduwa passed away on September 17, 1983 but we will remember him as a politician who overcame all obstacles before him with a strong character to serve his motherland.


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