The Political Genius of Philip Gunawardene Composed in Volumes | Daily News


Book Review

The Political Genius of Philip Gunawardene Composed in Volumes

Gandhi is reported to have said ‘There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.’

Giving an insight into the mind of a political colossus, the two volumes document the way he changed the course of our history with his inspirational and motivational speeches. These speeches have not only influenced the people of his time but also generations, they are of significance in situations of turmoil, violence, and injustice.

The two volumes of parliamentary speeches of Philip Gunawardene [1060-1964] who was known as “Father of Socialism”, for his introduction of his earliest Marxist/Trotskyite ideals to this Island, published by Philip Gunawardene Commemorative Society brings to life an extraordinary man whose thoughts and actions speak to our burning contemporary concerns and still inspire the wishes, hopes, and thoughts of us all. Philip, the loving husband and father who wanted to balance his family's desires with those of a growing, national movement was a leader who was fired by a vision of impartiality for people everywhere.

It is an inspiring collection of thoughtful speeches delivered by Wisconsin’s Agricultural Economist and double degree holder, Philip Gunawardene, founder of Mahajana Eksath Peramuna [MEP]. He was trained in Marxism in the US by Prof Scott Nearing in the company of batchmate Jayaprakash Narsayan, a giant in the Free India movement. The two volumes include some of the most exciting and eloquent addresses by him. This impelling collection of exciting moments of oratory would offer the reader a fresh perception; remind feelings of patriotism, inspiration, knowledge, spirit, good humour, passion and limitless motivation. The dedicated young Member of State Council and LSSP stalwart since the 1930s [he converted the Suriyamal campaign into the first political party], continually questioned the limits of his wisdom was none other than the late Mr Philip Gunawardene, the Lion of Boralugoda, son of viceroy of Boralugoda, who was unjustly jailed along with DS and FR in 1915. Relevant and insightful speeches have painted a rich and moving portrait of a nation, a time, and people in the face of powerful changes.

The summaries of larger works or a field of knowledge delivered by the expert politician during the first lease of Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s government have been carefully condensed into two volumes. Political and historical views on human understanding and its weakness for authority and material hoardings are explained in simple verbal communication. The speeches delivered in a plain, metaphoric style-are loaded with a sharp visualization of the future.

The farsighted visionary, whose predictions on future adversities, on lack of human values and the political role of the state are well articulated in these speeches. The speaker discusses a future based on tolerance, a future where tradition and modernity are balanced. Philip’s Nationalism holds much significance in today’s environment of hostility and intolerance. He disagreed with his Samasamajist colleagues in believing that all Bourgeoisies are capitalist with whom they should not have any ties. Philip was able to separate the Comprador Bourgeois from Nationalistic sections of the rich; hence he joined hands with Bandaranaike in 1956 and changed the course of our nation. The rest of his former colleagues took eight more years to learn the social and cultural realities and the importance of pragmatic approach introduced by Philip Gunawardene.

The fundamental and critical moments of history are packed with the words of many famous orations by him in the legislations: their power-packed words strongly affected some of the major happenings, peace negotiations, political upheavals and Constitutional amendments. Such orations had motivated and continue to enthuse the public at all levels.

Usually, inspirational Speeches need a short introduction giving an overview of the circumstances that transpired around the speech, especially comments and responses of the speaker to his opponents, which could help the reader in grasping the real essence of speaker’s ideas. [Dr Sarath Amunugama’s introductory notes cover this requirement to a great extent]. The compilers or editors should have highlighted some great saying extracted from the wealth of statements the great man thundered in the legislator.

Philip Gunawardene stands tall among the yesteryear-greats who graced State Council and House of Representatives with their impeccable mastery of language and unmatched oratory skills. They are the likes of SWRD Bandaranaike, Drs NM Perera and Colvin R de Silva, Dudley Senanayake, GG Ponnambalam, Pieter Keuneman; to mention a few men and moments that have changed the course of our nation. In his speeches, Hon Philip Gunawardene not only addresses the ordinary people of his electorate in a particular style but spoke to the intelligent intellectual audiences as well with a different but in a persistent theme. It is the result of a character that had been forged by skills that raised him above his more fortunate and accomplished rivals. His success was his possession of an extraordinary ability to put him in the place of others, to understand what they were feeling, to experience their motives and desires. It was this ability that enabled Philip to bring his disgruntled Marxist comrades together in 1963 under one umbrella; who previously chose to go in different directions, separated merely on ideological divisions.

The collection of speeches in the two volumes is forceful, stunning and frank. I received education, inspiration, and amazement from reading quite a number of his oratorical pieces that I had missed in my regular updates with Parliamentary archrival record, the Hansard. Let me, in conclusion, say, that the best way I can express my sentiments on this two volumes is that after reading them, they made me determined to be a better person because, in Philip Gunawardene, his conscious superseded all the theories, isms and ideologies!

In sum, the two volumes of speeches could be considered as useful as Political Science student’s guides besides being sources of enlightenment on national politics critical lore. The publishers deserve all encouragement and recognition in this great effort of educating the younger generation and the uninitiated. The volumes published by S Godage Brothers for Philip Gunawardene Commemorative Society is available for purchase in book shops.

The writer was the Secretary of the Panadura Branch [Schools] of All Ceylon Student Union’s Federation [Inter-University], affiliated to MEP, at the time he invited the great man [in June 1962], to deliver a talk on “The Current Economic Chaos” at Panadura Town Hall.

Reviewed by KKS Perera

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