3rd October 1999
Christopher William Wijekoon Kannangara was a great democrat and a great patriot whose work left an indelible mark on Sri Lankan society.
As the first minister of education in the state council under the Donoughmore Constitution for 17 years to the development of education.
He found that the existing colonial educational system had defects and it was his far-sighted educational reforms that marked a very important stage in the evaluation and development of our educational system.
He made radical changes in our educational system. A sweeping change in his reforms was providing free education to every child from kindergarten to the university. Under the existing system only government Sinhala and Tamil vernacular primary schools were free.
But they were of a poor quality. Under his free education scheme all schools were made to provide free education. This not only provided the quality in education but led to qualitative improvement.
He changed the medium of instruction in education to he contributed child's mother tongue in place of English.
The Kannangara Report further said it was only through the mother tongue, in our case Sinhalese and Tamils as Sri Lankans, could make worth-while contributions to our mother land.
His reforms also led to social mobility. The opening of central colleges provided all educational facilities for the rural children, at their secondary education stage.
A large number of girls also attended schools and this helped the women develop further in our country and created very effective social mobility.
He also made adequate provision for adult education.
We can see through the years there had been vast improvement in our education field due to the Kannangara reforms.
If not for C.W.W. Kannangara's proposals our education would have been only for the elite.
Anoja N. Kumari Goonetilleke,
The man of the green revolution
One of the good reasons for choosing Dudley Senanayake is that he held the rare and unique position of being the prime minister of our country for four terms. A unique record even in the annals of Asia.
The love and affection in which he was held was reflected on the day of his funeral on 13th April 1973. People from all walks of life and politicians of all colours mourned the passing away of a beloved leader.
Though Dudley did not die while holding the office of prime minister, unprecedented numbers of mourners attended his funeral.
Another great quality of this leader was that he was not power hungry. It is a well-known fact that in 1960 had he agreed to form an alliance with a small political party, he could have continued to be in power.
He chose to stand on principle, and as a result he was defeated in parliament. Even today, his opponents, would recognise the quality of this great leader.
Dudley Senanayake was a gentleman - politician par excellence, honourable and humble; so humble that any citizen could approach him.
Another great achievement was that he ushered in the green revolution in the 1960's.
He also launched the highly successful "Grow more food campaign" which encouraged farmers to take to production of food crops.
It has been truly said, that when his mortal remains were confined to the flames under the gaze of a million eyes, there were a few that were dry.
H.L.D.Mahindapala writes an open letter to Mithuran Tiruchelvam on his father's death
Dear Mr. Tiruchelvam,
I am writing this not to protest against your respected father's death. It is futile to protest against death. We are all subject to the universal law of mortality. But all of us are entitled to die with, at least, a modicum of dignity. Your father was denied that last honour by his bitter enemies.
The tragedy of our times is that we live in fear of losing that dignity in the last minute or second of our brief lives. So I am writing to protest against the way he died. Human history, of course, is one mass record of people living and dying without dignity.
Sri Lanka is no exception, particularly in the post-1983 phase.
We are now living in fear of a death without dignity than the earlier fear of living without dignity. Though we accept death as a way of life it does not mean that we must die like hunted animals.
If we can't live with dignity we have the right at least to die with some dignity. That is the least a Tamil can expect from the members of the Tamil community, particularly to someone like your father who had devoted a life time in serving his people.
It is our duty, derived from centuries of our sacred of belief in human dignity, to protest against the perverted politics of hate that denies the last rite of dignity to a fellow-human being.
You will also agree with me, I am sure, when I say that it is our duty to protest against dying of hunger, disease when it is preventable, torture, persecution, or when we are killed for holding different beliefs and opinions by those who assume that they are "liberators" because they have the means to kill defenceless, unarmed civilians.
Your father was killed for approaching politics from an angle that refused to toe the line of his enemies. Even though I did not agree with your father's politics I protest, with all the verbal power at my command, against the brutal assassins of the LTTE whose glorified cult of death has claimed dissident victims, most of whom were Tamils.
In this hour of grief, I extend to you and to the other members of your family my deepest sympathies. Any loving son would be grieved by the loss of his father. Your duty, if you have not embarked in that course of action yet, is to turn your grief into a positive force.
At a time like this, when you have to honour your father when some of your own fellow-Tamils have refused to do so, you shouldn't make your grief an excuse to withdraw.
Your instinctive response to your father's death, I guess, should be something like that of Dylan Thomas whose innermost urge was to "rage, rage against the dying of the light".
You need to look inwards to rise and go forward from the depths of your grief. If necessary, you may even have to go through an agonising reappraisal of all the forces and the circumstances that led to your father's assassination to understand the meaning of your father's death.
That meaning goes beyond the personal grief that must be tearing your heart apart now. Your father's death was a meticulously calculated act to deprive him of the most precious gift given to all creatures — life.
Did his assassins realise the gravity of what they were doing when they took his life? Yes, they did and, I am sad to say, that is the reason why they killed him.
Your father moved too close to their firing line that was aimed at eliminating all those who obstruct their politics of hate and violence. He entered the danger zone of being a rival to "the sole representative of the Tamils". The LTTE may tolerate anything else but that.
And they callously calculate their murders knowing that the world is full of ideological careerists, hypocrites and cowards who would surrender to ideologies of megalomaniacs.
Sadly, the voices of the intellectuals are muted when it comes to the exploration of the hidden forces that gave birth to the LTTE and its atrocities.
It is the failure of the intellectuals to collectively name the evil force that has emboldened them to pursue violence as a permissible — if not justifiable —instrument of politics. They believe that they can get away with impunity because they have human rights activists like G. G. Ponnambalam (Jr.) who makes pilgrimages to the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights to either cover-up or justify the inhuman politics of the LTTE.
It is apparent that they waited all this time until they felt that your father had reached his limits "in creating greater understanding of the problems of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka and helped in international understanding of the conflict", as stated by the Tamil Information Centre (TIC) based in London.
Having achieved all that they calculated that it was time to eliminate him since he was no longer useful to advance the cause of "Eelamists".
They timed the assassination of your father in the firm belief that he was a political obstruction and had to be removed even though he had fulfilled the role of raising the international profile of the Jaffna Tamils and advanced the frontiers of peninsular politics.
He is the goose that laid the golden eggs for the Jaffna Tamils and, denying the validity of this proverb, his Tamil enemies killed him. The Jaffna Tamils, overawed by the killing machine of Velupillai Prabhakaran, should know that he can never achieve, even in a series of rebirths, what your father achieved in his life time for the Tamils.
But the Jaffna Tamils, whom he served so devotedly, either withdrew into a studied silence or condemned your father even before his body, or what remained of his body, was cremated.
The reaction to your father's death is equally disturbing as the way he was killed.
Broadly speaking, it falls into three categories. First, there are those who praised him and condemned the assassins by naming them. Second., those who praised him and did not name the assassins.
Third, those who justified it or condoned it by refusing to pay the common courtesies due to a victim of the politics of hate.
I fear that I may have missed all the published statements on his death. But from what I have read I can only conclude that the most effusive praise came from abroad and from the non-Tamil communities, mainly Sinhalese (e.g. Mrs. Savithri Gunasekera, Vice-Chancellor of the Colombo University and Prof. K.M.de Silva, our leading historian.)
The NGOs nurtured by him — and even those aligned to him like the Minority Rights Group (London) of which he was the chairman — were generous in their praise but very wary of naming the assassins, or condemning them in the manner they deserved. The way they hedged their bets was a damning condemnation of the NGO institutions which were fostered by your father.
Or if they adverted to the assassins it was disguised by veiled references (e.g. "suicide bombers" and not the LTTE).
The Third group is the worst. They are the Tamils who justified it or ignored it by refusing to comment on his death. These triple reactions reflected the respective politics of the various groups. As in life, politics refuses to leave you even in death.
But what appalled me was that your father's Tamil rivals pursued their politics of hate not only to the grave but beyond it.
I was in Geneva attending the 51st Session of the UN Sub -Commission on Human Rights shortly after your father's death when an NGO representative handed me the press release of the Tamil Information Centre (TIC) justifying the murder of your father.
Placed in the context of the LTTE portrait of your father (he is portrayed not as a peace-maker but as a goose hatching eggs in Chandrika's nest) it points directly to the political arm of the LTTE whose tactic of "elimination by killing" has been the "ordinary mode of settling differences."
This is a fascist obscenity that has come directly from the twisted womb of Jaffna Tamil politics.
Mr. Ponnambalam (jr) who never fails to advertise himself as the Jaffna Tamil alternative to your father in various media outlets suddenly withdraws into a coyness that has never been a part of his nature.
Eventually he said his piece (Have the Tamils mortgaged their souls to the LTTE?) on September 8 in the Midweek Review of The Island and in The Sunday Times of September 19, 1999.
What he said must be the most hurtful of all because, in his raucous vituperations, he distorted your father's record to suit his own political agenda.
So how can he accuse non—Tamils for not respecting the Jaffna Tamils? How can he accuse others of not protecting Tamil lives when he justifies the killings of Tamils by this fascist cabal?
Besides, the arrogant presumption in this argument is that Jaffna-centric violence is morally defensible as against the violence of other groups and the state. Mr. Ponnambalam's seems to assume that this gang of political criminals has been given the licence to liquidate anyone whom they pick but no one else must touch these brutal liquidators.
But there is another gruesome aspect in his bitter tirade against your father. In the process of condemning your father he has also portrayed the people of Jaffna as a venomous tribe with vindictive memories waiting to strike down any Tamil who opposes racist politics
But the beautiful (Mr. Ponnambalam excepted), self-effacing, and concerned people of Jaffna I know are not the kind of people denigrated by Mr. Ponnambalam.
They are as loving and caring and compassionate as any other fellow-human being.
They have the capacity to rise above tribalistic terror and racist taboos and join hands with non-Tamils sharing their love for one another.
They have lived in harmony and amity down the ages until the Ponnambalams, the Chelvanayakams and the Prabhakarans took over the leadership, one after the other, and led them into the wilderness of Wanni and, of course, politics.
Prof. A. J. Wilson testifies to this aspect in his biography of his father-in-law, S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, who pushed Jaffna Tamil tribalism to it vicious extreme. Chelvanayakam not only steered Jaffna politics towards separatist politics but he saw to it that his own family did not cross the racist lines which he planned to impose by dividing the Sinhala and Tamil people.
It was good enough for him to come down south and live off the earnings of the Sinhala people, or save his skin from the borrowings of his Sinhala colleagues but he deliberately chose not to buy a house in Colombo fearing that his children would be influenced by the more liberal spirit of south and forget their tribal roots.
He even abandoned his Anglican Church in the south and went back to the Tamil-oriented Church the moment the branch of the South Indian Church was opened. It is this virulent racism that is spread as the gospel by even Catholic priests like Fr. S. J. Emmanuel who told an audience in Geneva: "I am a Tamil first and a Christian second!" I wonder whether Jesus would have spared his whip on him?
When will the Christian Churches and its partisan missionaries open their eyes and put an end to their racist politics that has caused untold misery to God's children?
Why should Christian priests come in to separate the children put together by God?
If God is the father of all humanity then what right has the Church to divide His children whether in Ireland or in Sri Lanka? If the Christian priests, linked to Tamil racism, had decided not to play a partisan role would we have come to this mess?
If the Churches as a whole had played a more constructive role of reconciliation by being considerate to the aspirations of all communities — and not just to one favoured community — would we have come to sorry this state?
And yet it is the Sinhala-Buddhists who are blamed for everything!
Who is the Sri Lankan of the Century?
pick, the persons who in your view have made the most lasting contribution to Sri Lankan life in the last hundred years. Most lasting could mean the most prominently impacting or the most remembered contribution, though it may not necessarily be the most "valuable". One person is entitled to send in one voting form, and your votes will count towards the nominations for the Sri Lankans of the Century, as the Millennium Countdown winds down. The Sunday Times will also be pleased to publish the best articulated and argued presentation that gives the best reasons for the choice of "Sri Lankan of the Century."
S . W . R . D . Bandaranaike.
One reader says…
You have included the name of a megalomaniac, but not the name of D. B. Jayatilaka, I hope you will list his name too.
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