Heritage - Gaveshaka recounts significant happenings in June
A national leader is born
|George E de Silva
Another national leader was born on June 8, 1879.
He is George Edmund de Silva, a lawyer from Kandy who played a prominent
role in the struggle for independence. He joined A. E. Goonesinghe's
Labour Party and was a pioneer in the formation of the Ceylon National
Congress. He served as President of the Congress with S .W. R .D.
Bandaranaike & J. R. Jayewardene as joint secretaries. In fact,
he was President on four occasions.
In 1921 & 1925 he contested and won the Central
Province rural seat in the Legislative Council. He served the hill
capital as an active member of the Kandy Municipal Council for over
two decades. He played a prominent rule in putting into effect the
abolition of feudalism in the Kandyan provinces. He also fought
to secure universal adult suffrage. The Donoughmore Commission recommended
that persons over 21 years of age be given the right to vote. It
was implemented from the 1931 elections to the State Council. Sri
Lanka became the first Asian country to enjoy the privilege of adult
Having served as a member of the Executive Committee
of Health in the second State Council (1936), George E .de Silva
became Minister of Health in 1942 and was responsible for radical
reforms in the health sector. The training of nurses in Sinhala
and Tamil was introduced by him and he implemented a scheme to set
up rural hospitals, maternity homes, maternity clinics and child
welfare centres in remote areas. He was in the forefront in the
movement to shift the university to Peradeniya.
He served as the Minister of Health in the first
D. S. Senanayake Cabinet (1947) as Minister of Health. He passed
away on March 12, 1950 and was honoured with the release of a stamp
on June 8, 1980 to mark his 101st birth anniversary.
Mr. Speaker plays a vital role
The Speaker is the Presiding Officer of the legislature
in many countries which have adopted the British system of government.
He is not only a mere officer who presides at the sessions of the
legislature, but also protects the powers and privileges of the
representatives of the people. He wields his powers through Standing
Orders as well as convention and practice built up over the years.
|Sir Waitiyalingam Duraiswamy
In Sri Lanka, before the Parliament was instituted
by the Soulbury Constitution, the legislature was the State Council
set up in 1931 following the recommendation of the Donoughmore Commission.
The proceedings in the State Council were quite similar to Parliament
with a Speaker being elected by the elected representatives of the
people at the first meeting of the Council. A. F. (later Sir Francis)
Molamure was elected Speaker of the first State Council. Following
his resignation due to personal reasons, Deputy Speaker Forrester
Obeysekera was elected Speaker.
The second State Council (1936) saw a highly respected member from
Jaffna - Sir Waitiyalingam Duraiswamy (Member for Kayts) being elected
Speaker by a majority of two votes. Three persons contested - Duraiswamy,
Francis de Zoysa (Balapitiya) and C.Batuwantudadwe (Kalutara) and
Duraiswamy got 27 votes, de Zoysa 17 and Batuwantudawe 14. As Duraiswamy
had not secured more votes than those polled by his opponents in
the aggregate, a second ballot was held with the elimination of
Batuwantudawe. It resulted in a tie, both getting 29 votes each.
In a third ballot, Duraiswamy got two votes more than de Zoysa -
30 to 28.
Born on June 8, 1874, Sir Waitiyalingam had his
early education at Jaffna College and Jaffna Central College. He
graduated with double honours from the University of Calcutta and
qualified as an advocate from Ceylon Law College. He rose rapidly
to become Crown Advocate and leader of the Jaffna Bar. In 1921 in
the first elections on a provincial basis he represented the Northern
Province in the Legislative Council and was returned uncontested
in 1924. An ardent advocate of communal harmony and understanding,
he was in the forefront of the fight for independence.
In 1936 he was returned uncontested and after
being elected Speaker, he served for eleven years since the term
of office of the second State Council was extended because of World
War II. He died on April 12, 1966. A commemorative stamp was released
on June 14, 1982.
Sinhala Catholic weekly
A weekly newspaper 140 years old today had its
beginnings on June 7, 1866. The newspaper is 'Gnannartha Pradeepaya'
the Sinhala Catholic weekly. It was printed at a press set up in
Kotahena called the Catholic Orphan Press managed by the Catholic
The name of Juan Fernando of Kotahena has been
recorded as the first editor of 'Gnanartha Pradeepaya.’ While
the eight-page tabloid paper was printed once a week, the English
version, 'The Catholic Messenger' was released twice weekly. That
was also printed at the same press.
Due to lack of funds, the printing press changed
hands in the early 1870s and the newspaper was printed at another
press in Pettah under the direction of Fr. David Gabriel Fernando,
one of the few local Catholic priests at the time. He was a scholar
in English, Sinhala and Tamil with a good knowledge of Pali and
Although there were disruptions in the printing
of both the Sinhala and English Catholic newspapers from time to
time, both newspapers continue to be published to this day at the
Catholic Press in Borella in the premise of the Bishop's House.