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Sir Lalitha Abhaya Rajapakse:

Great son of Lanka

Sir Percy Spender who was the Foreign Minister of Australia in his first authoritative publication has mentioned the key role played by Sir Lalitha Rajapakse at the Colombo Plan conference held in January 1950.

Sir Percy paid a tribute to Sir Lalitha when he described Sir Lalitha as a polished speaker with a profundity of the English diction which surprised him. The Foreign Minister of Great Britain Earnest Bevin, the Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru and our own Prime Minister D S Senanayake were among the participants at the conference.


Sir Lalitha Abhaya Rajapakse

Dudley Senanayake was given an unprecedented mandate by the people of Ceylon in 1952 and he controlled a huge majority of the Members of Parliament, the support he commanded eroded due to the initiatives of Sir John Kotelawela who published cyclostyled pamphlet 'The Premier Stakes' which contained the intentions of the Commissioners to become Governor General of Independent Ceylon and most other matters in Ceylon politics, which facts the public was unaware of but Sir John denied anything to do with the publication of 'The Premier Stakes'.

It was Sir Lalitha in his letter of resignation from the Cabinet of Ministers sent to Sir John who reminded Sir John, that he himself had given Sir Lalitha a copy of the Premier Stakes. The public of Ceylon owes a debt of gratitude to Sir Lalitha for the courageous act of confirming with authority that Sir John Kotelawela was the author of 'The Premier Stakes'.

Multi-faceted personage

Louis Alexander Rajapakse was born 112 years ago on May 3, 1900, who was destined to be a multi-faceted personage, a man of numerous achievements - he was a lawyer, King's Counsel, judge, lecturer, politician, legislator, the first Leader of the Senate, a Cabinet Minister, Diplomat, religious leader, social worker, above all, a sportsman, a cricketer who was to play a straight bat on and off the field, having renounced alien names and opting for Lalitha Abhaya passed away 36 years ago on May 25, 1976.

He received his secondary education in Ananda College, Colombo and St Joseph's College, Colombo and was a member of the invincible cricket team. He entered University College with its first batch of students, was its first cricket captain, won the Obeysekara gold medal in athletics in 1922. He graduated in Arts in 1922, graduated in Law in 1923, passed out as a Barrister in 1924 and was called to the Bar in the same year, obtained the prestigious Doctor of Laws in 1925 being the youngest ever to receive an LLD from any university anywhere in the world.

He returned to Ceylon in 1925 and was called to the Ceylon Bar in the same year. Sir Lalitha was considered a giant in the Supreme Court for more than two decades.

He took silk in 1944 and was appointed a Commissioner of Assize from the Unofficial Bar in 1946 but the day he was convinced he is committing a sin if he were to sentence an innocent person, he resigned and reverted to the Unofficial Bar.

Full time politics

He was a founder member of the United National Party, its first propaganda secretary.

He was appointed to the Senate, was its Leader of the Senate and was deservedly sworn in as the first Minister of Justice in the Cabinet of Ministers of D S Senanayake. He was honoured with a Knighthood.

Dudley Senanayake and J R Jayewardene worked in the Chambers of Sir Lalitha for a short period of time, till they were involved in full time politics.

During the period he was the Minister of Justice, he initiated a move to shift the courts from Hulftsdorp to a site at Bambalapitiya, in this bitter, sometimes acrimonious controversy, the intrepid minister was for the Bambalapitiya site, but the majority of lawyers were for old Hulftsdorp, his erstwhile friend H V Perera stood by him.

There was a drawer in his writing table which he used exclusively to collect money for charity, an exact percentage of every fee he collected went into it. Most of the money so collected was used to uplift his native village.

Lands on which the Teachers' Training College, Balapitiya stands was a gift of Sir Lalitha, Revata Maha Vidyalaya, Balapitiya was founded and financed solely by Sir Lalitha, till it was handed over to the state.

Sir Lalitha took centre stage wherever he was from his student days.

Jack Anderson walked into bat against St Joseph's College at Darley Road grounds who was in cracking form who was fresh from a record breaking double century against S Thomas' College to face L A Rajapakse who dismissed him with his first ball. When he walked into take his oaths as a Barrister he was informed papers were not ready, mistaking him for one of the Ceylonese Barristers who were to leave England the following day, when he informed he is in no hurry, he was called to the Bar the same day.

The Ceylonese Embassy in France was upgraded and Sir Lalitha was accredited as our ambassador to France and Switzerland in 1966, he presented his credentials in Sinhala and proceeded to deliver a speech in impeccable French to the astonishment of each and everyone present.

Versatility and brilliance

He wrote and published a book in French on the Noble Eight Fold Path. His services were sought even by the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna government of the late S W R D Bandaranaike when he was appointed to the Governing Boards of the newly founded Vidyodaya and Vidyalankara Universities.

He was the President of the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress. Sir Lalitha was one of the few polished speakers even at that time, when he addressed court, Judges would listen to him with rapt attention, everyone in court is spell bound, so much so, that the opposing Counsel would disturb him and interrupt him.

He was charged with finesse, versatility and brilliance was the word that erupted from one's vocabulary when thinking of Sir Lalitha and his life's work. He was a gentleman.

He acted and behaved as a gentleman. Sir Lalitha when on his feet was a treat to listen to, with his brilliant wit, beauty of diction and the flow of language, aptness of the words, all these kept one spell-bound as one listened to him.

Portraits of Sir Lalitha were unveiled in Law College, in the Teachers' Training College, Balapitiya and at Revata Maha Vidyalaya, Balapitiya and recently a statue of Sir Lalitha was erected in the premises of Revata Maha Vidyalaya.

On a personal note during the period the writer sat for the Law College final examination, Sir Lalitha used to send his car sharp at 6 o'clock in the evening to fetch me from 'Voet Inn' the law students hostel at 19, Barnes Place, Colombo 7 and use to question the writer as to the manner in which the question papers were answered, at the conclusion of the examination he requested me to inform my results to my parents first and before the results are conveyed to anyone else, to inform him next, the writer proceeded to his residence to convey the results but unfortunately he was not present, the writer kept a note stating the writer has been successful and to inform the results to the parents through his caretaker of his residence in Balapitiya.

Remarkable man

At the instance of Ven Waturegama Somalankara Maha Thera, Sir Lalitha was solely responsible for the erection of a life size statue of the orator monk Ven Mohotiwatte Gunananda Maha Thera in Mohottiwatta in Balapitiya, which was ceremonially opened by the then Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake in 1966 at the personal request of Sir Lalitha who was our High Commissioner in Great Britain at the time. Sir Lalitha Rajapakse, one of the greatest sons of Lanka, lived a very fruitful life, made his mark wherever he went, his life from birth to death was meticulously planned and implemented. This remarkable man ceased to write, ceased to speak, and ceased to move on May 25, 1976, for he was dead. May the sojourn in Sansara be smooth and brief till he attains the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

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