Dahanayake’s witty dimensions | Daily News

Dahanayake’s witty dimensions

Wijayananda Dahanayake
Wijayananda Dahanayake

A splendid article on Prime Minister W Dahanayake authored by Dr Upatissa Pethiyagoda rekindled in me effervescent memories of the rare maverick politician who added life to Parliament and fame to Galle.

Soaked in the soothing gems of English romantic poetry his witty parodies directed at Prime Ministers, Ministers and fellow members, too many to recall and reproduce here, often kept the House in fits of laughter. His mastery of the English language made him a legendary expert in the now-defunct Parliamentary art of filibuster. I remember he once made a 13-hour non-stop speech in Parliament to delay the passing of a bill.

Daha’s claim that he shook a money tree scattering the fruits to be picked up by the voters of Galle has been often repeated for several decades. This historic brag is neither morally wrong nor unethical. As Dr. Pethiyagoda contends there need be no remorse in meeting guile with guile. The satisfaction that Daha would have got with voters accepting the bribes of Amarasuriya and voting against the latter is justifiable and understandable. His innocence remained untainted. This brag will remain a saucy bit of typical Wijayananda wit!

Bertrand Russell’s essay

Another conclusion of relevance is that the voters of Galle at the time were not idiots. They were wise enough to gleefully accept the largesse offered by power greedy givers and kick them out. Today, the country is in dire need of such voters. What a contrast! Politicians of today swimming in ill-gotten wealth shake and rattle Wine Stores and bars to roll out barrels and barrels for voters to guzzle and vote for them not once but even several times! Fools! What they should do is to as Dr. Pethiyagoda says “take the largesse – the bottle, lunch packets, bus hires, Tea Shirts and Caps, but deny them convertibility”!

On the subject of remorse after doing ‘Something wrong’ I am reminded of an essay of Bertrand Russell that I read over 75 years ago as a schoolboy in which Lord Russell cites an instance where he claims that he derived immense satisfaction after uttering a lie.

Lanka Prajatantra Party

One morning when he was on his constitutional walk on an English country road he had seen a weary fox overtake him and turn right at the crossroads ahead of him. Moments later had followed a posse of red-jacketed huntsmen. The leading huntsman had pulled up near Lord Russell and enquired, “Sir, did you see a fox go this way? “ Oh yes, a few seconds back a fox ran past me and turned left at the crossroads”.

By uttering a lie and sending the fox hunters in the wrong direction, Bertrand Russell had saved an innocent life. Indeed he had good reason to be happy!

Personally, the few meetings I had with Daha are firmly etched in my memory. I was the ASP Ratnapura in the early sixties when he came campaigning as the leader of his new party, Lanka Prajatantra Party. Although Parliament stood dissolved he was the Prime Minister. After accompanying him in his official 1 Sri 1 Cadillac for whistle-stop meetings at Kahikatoa, Godakawela, Pallebedde, Embilipitiya, Panamure and Rakwana we ended up at the Pelmadulla Rest House for lunch.

William, the Rest House Ralahamy looking quite Impressive with his ‘handlebar’ mustache and Silver buttoned white tunic coat greeted the Prime Minister with clasped hands. Before entering the room prepared for him, “Ralahamy, bring me my gargling mixture”, he ordered. It was half a tumbler of warm water laced with salt and sugar! After gargling his throat he had a stiff drink of arrack (the Rs. 8/= variety that came in an amber bottle) with a dash of lime juice and warm water. I had to politely turn down his offer of a drink saying that it was improper for me to take a drink as I was in uniform and on duty.

At his invitation, I sat down to lunch with him. When the lunch that consisted of hot plain white kekulu rice, kiri hodi, pol sambol and tempered sprats was served he called for his briefcase that was in the Cadillac, pulled out an envelope and sprinkled a brown powder over the white rice. He explained to me that it was rice bran that he always carried with him in his brief case!

Gentleman par excellence

The Pelmadulla Rest House Ralahamy of the early sixties of the last century was a remarkable character. On many an occasion, he proudly related to me of his meetings with Lord Soulbury, D.S. Senanayake, Sir John Kotalawala, Sir Richard Aluvihare and several other dignitaries. His pretty, English-speaking, only daughter got married to a young British engineer who was attached to the Udawalawe development project. The Englishman had fallen in love with her after she had served him a portion of Yorkshire pudding turned out by her!

When I was the Asst. Director of Police Training in the sixties in charge of recruitment almost all the applicants from Galle came with recommendations from Daha. They were beautifully handwritten in purple ink. Most of them failed to make the grade. At about this time when I chanced to meet him at ‘Woodlands’ the residence of the Prime Minister, at a friendly chat, referring to his recommendations I reminded him of the saying, “He who recommends everybody, recommends nobody”. His response was “Don’t you know son; we politicians have to please everybody. Your job is to select the deserving ones!”

Wijayananda Dahanayake, Prime Minister, Minister, teacher, lover of English Poetry, fair critic and exemplary parliamentarian was indeed a gentleman par excellence. Memories of this lovable maverick will live forever in the hearts of many. 

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