A pioneering figure in anti-UNP movement | Daily News


A pioneering figure in anti-UNP movement

Tribute to SLFP stalwart Herbert Sri Nissanka on his 66th death anniversary

During the period under the British Administration, it had been a daily habit of the high and rich families to visit Galle Face Green in the evenings for horse rides which provide exercise and entertainment for them and their friends. To mention a few of them are D.S. Senanayake, Sir John Kotelawala, Solaman Dias Bandaranaike (Father of the late Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike).

Among them was H. Sri Nissanka who was riding his brownish energetic horse at a high speed across the Galle Face. After seeing this, the British Jail Superintendent Major Wilton became alarmed and furious and blocked the way of Mr. Nissanka and questioned in a threatening voice “who gave you the permission to ride your horse so fast on this ground”. On hearing this Nissanka became more furious, pointed his forefinger forwards Mr. Wilton and said: “I do not need anybody’s permission to ride my horse in my motherland at any speed I want and if you are not satisfied with this, best for you to jump into the ocean, which is just nearby and run away.” (people of this category are very rare today).

He was a partner in the rebellion against the imperialism from his early childhood and a true patriot whose motto was “My Country before me”.

Sri Lanka Freedom Party

Queen’s Counsel Herbert Sri Nissanka Mendis was born on January 17, 1898 at “Garumuni Walawwa” in Balapitiya on the Southern Coast which is a blessed land for famous eminent persons, gifted to our motherland. He had his primary education at the Ananda College and entered Royal College for his higher education.

King Counsel H. Sri Nissanka is a pioneer who formed the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. With a mind nourished in Buddhism and “making Social Democracy” the theme he prepared the Constitution for a party that can approach the village folk. He proposed the name for the party as “Sri Lanka Nidahas” by using his initials “Sir, N” and suggested the symbol as ‘hand’ and colour ‘Blue’ to his best friend and colleague at the Oxford University S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and he also asked Bandaranaike to go forward with the combined Five Great Forces (Pancha Maha Balavegaya) namely: priests, physicians, teachers, farmers and workers. His dedication towards the motherland and the Party and services rendered without thinking about his personal benefits and privileges is not known nowadays and some of the SLFP members too are unaware of this dedication. It is a sorry state of affairs.

His diaries show worthy evidence of significant memories regarding the commencement of the party. The table, chairs used at the conference to discuss from the party and the pen which used to sign the Constitution can be seen preserved at his residence “Yamuna”. It is the duty of the relevant officials to preserve all these articles for the coming generations.

Nissanka Diweris Mendis, who was a silent scholar and Madam Anoma Wickramaratne Soysa were the parents of H. Sri Nissanka. Dorathy, Harriet and Charlotte were his sisters. His loving wife was Muriel Nissanka. They had two daughters namely Yamuna and Geetha and a son named Ranjith. Professor Randiv Nissanka Karunaratne and doctor Avanthi Nissanka Karunaratne were his grandchildren.

At one time he went to Burma (Now Myanmar) and entered the priesthood. There he studied the Dhamma in depth. After hearing that his parents were in an unhealthy condition he came back and disrobed himself after informing the leaders of the Maha Sangha.

Leadership qualities

From his childhood he showed energetic leadership qualities and joined the Oxford University to study law. There he met S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike who followed a law course. Both of them became very trusted confidants and Nissanka very often discussed with his loyal friend Bandaranaike. The topics connected with realism in Buddhism and the values of Sinhala culture. After completing his studies in law he came back to Sri Lanka in 1924 and started his law career, though he qualified to enter the Middle Temple in the UK.

During the decades of 1930s-1940s he became prominent as a criminal lawyer. He was an erudite orator, keen logician and a pleasant personality, so his fame spread throughout the island. He was proficient in Sinhala, English, Pali, Sanskrit, Burmese and Hindi languages and showed extra talents using his linguistic prowess.

Many ethnic and religious conflicts during his period were settled by his able intervention. He excelled as an author by publishing books like “Ape Lanka”, “Engalantha Ithihasaya”, “Lanka Dandaneethiya” and “Salgala Pudabima” and also served as an editor of “Heladiva” and “Sanka Nadaya” newspapers. He was an artist too.

He was a member of the Ceylon Light Infantry in the 1930s. Nissanka was the Member of the Board of Appeal of the Rubber Commissioner’s Department (1938) and a member of the Archeological Commission. Nissanka was a founder of the Salagala Monastery (1936), the Biyagama Monastery and headed the 1936 Ceylon Delegation to the Pan Pacific Conference of Buddhist Associations held in Tokyo. He was also the President, Dumb Friends League and Honorary Counsel to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Entering politics as member of the Colombo Municipal Council in January 1944, he served till December 1946. He was elected as a member of the first Parliament in Sri Lanka (1947) who represented the Kurunegala Electorate. Also he was selected an uncontested member of Colombo, Wellawatta area.

He was not able to see the people’s great victory of 1956 as he breathed his last on February 26, 1954 casting his eyes on the Buddha statues at his ‘Yamuna Sadaham Ashramaya’.

The Postal Department will issue a commemorative stamp on April 4, 2020 at the request of the Nissanka Memorial foundation. The stamp will be issued under the patronage of the President.

H. Sri Nissanka’s Foundation will celebrate this event with a free book distribution to needy children of Dematagoda at the Nadadeepa Temple at 4.00 p.m. on this day. 

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