The conferment of dominion status on Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in February 4, 1948 is an important landmark in the history of the National Independence struggle in this country. Accordingly, in the national calendar every year February 4, has been declared as the day of National Independence in this country.
In fact, our national history is replete with wars signifying national freedom. Further, the 18th and 19th centuries have produced some of the bright thinkers, intellectuals, political leaders and social and religious leaders and reformers at a time when Sri Lanka (Ceylon) had suffered three centuries of Western conquest particularly by Portuguese, Dutch and British who held sway over Sri Lanka (Ceylon).
During this period a large mass of people were oppressed, suppressed and subjugated and exploited in their own soil by those who claimed to be superiors simply on the basis of birth. To talk of revolt was something forbidden and unthinkable. But, some of the great statesmen and patriots an account of their power-packed words and dazzling deeds attained immortality.
To this select group belong D.S. Senanayake, Fr. Senanayake, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, Sir Baron Jayatilleke, E.W. Perera, D.R. Wijewardene, James Peiris, Arthur V. Dias, Al Haj Dr. T.B. Jayah, Sir Razick Fareed, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam, Sri Muthu Coomaraswamy, Sir Waitilingam Duraisamy, Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy, Anagarika Dharmapala, Sri La Sri Arumuga Navalar, C.Y. Thamotharampillai, Handy Peripanayakam and several others who sacrificed their lives for the ideal in the pursuit of which they were unmindful of danger or death.
They suffered much to maintain the honour of Sri Lanka (Ceylon). Lapse of time had not bedimmed the splendor of their achievement and their epic heroism. The deeds of such men are the salt of history and their remembrance as this great and glorious occasion of this “Independence Day” shall remain a precious heritage of our race.
He entered public life by identifying himself with the “Temperance Movement” following the footsteps of his elder brother F.R. Senanayake. He was educated at S. Thomas College where he excelled in sports than studies. Though he received his education up to seventh standards, he was able to become the first Prime Minister of Ceylon. One of the foremost journalists of Sri Lanka D.B. Dhanabala referred to him as “A Remarkable man with nothing remarkable in him. He further said that the secret of his success was the success of his secret.
In fact D.S. Senanayake's “Temperance Movement” was looked upon with suspicion by the British for two reasons. It aroused the people to a sense of responsibility to free themselves from foreign rule. It also deprived the government of a large portions of their revenue through the sale of today and arrack rentals and tax on foreign liquor which was increasing in leaps and bounds.
So when riots broke out and spread rapidly from the Central Province, the British thought it was a plot to throw them out. Martial Law was declared and the leaders of the “Temperance Movement” were taken into custody though there was not a single evidence against them. Undoubtedly, D.S. Senanayake was a great builder of tanks and a great statesman with charismatic personality.
His contact with public affairs was only a period of 20 years from his return from Cambridge. He died at the age of 43. But his influence pervaded the decades beyond his life time. He was born in October 1882 at Botale where his father Mudaliyar Don Stephen Senanayake had already won recognition for his public spirit. The Mudaliyar's discerning intellectual promise in FR, his second son, sent him to Cambridge.
The father called him “The London John”, the elder son DC had a philosophical bent migrated to Colombo and was dubbed as “Colombo John.” D.S. was called as “Kelay John”. Indeed F.R. Senanayake was a man who had high regards for Truth. No one in his days commanded so much influence as FR though paradoxically he did not choose to get in the legislature.
He was a great statesman, silver tongued orator and linguist was born on January 8, 1899 to a wealthy and distinguished family in Sri Lanka. He was the only son of Maha Mudaliyar Sir Soloman Dias Bandaranaike, a very distinguished personality in his days.
He received his secondary education at S. Thomas College, Colombo where he excelled both in studies and in sports. He passed the senior Cambridge Examination with high honours gaining third place in the British Empire. Thereafter, he proceeded to Oxford University I 1919 where he played a significant role in Oxford Union. Soon he became a gifted speaker and he debated with well-known personalities and made a memorable speech in 1922.
In 1923, he was elected to the coveted post of Secretary of the Oxford Union. After having been called to the Bar he returned to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in 1925. In 1927, he was elected to the Colombo Municipal Council and with the introduction of “Donoughmore” Constitution in 1931, he was elected to the State Council unopposed as a member for Veyangoda.
In 1936, he was returned unopposed. He even acted as the Leader of the House in 1945. In 1947, he became a Member of Parliament for Attanagalla. He held the Portfolio of Health and Local Administration, but resigned from the Cabinet on political grounds in July 1951.
In fact S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike had the courage of his conviction. After his resignation from the UNP, he formed the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and in 1952, he retained his seat and became the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representative. In the 1956, General Election, he swept the polls and became the Prime Minister. During his tenure of Premiership he introduced several reforms.
Don Richard Wijewardene was one of the greatest patriots of Sri Lanka. He was the third son in a family for nine and was born at Sedawatta where his father the late Muhandiram D.R. Wijewardene, a wealth merchant who lived in Colombo.
Among his contempories were D.S. Senanayake and Francis Molamure. From S. Thomas he went to Peter House, Cambridge. Indeed, it was in his undergraduate days at Cambridge his interest in politics began. D.R. Wijewardene's major contribution was the moulding of public opinions through the highly successful newspapers.
Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan
|Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan|
Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan was indeed one of the greatest freedom fighters among the Tamils. There were several able, talented and even brilliant men who aspired to national eminence. But, none touched the heights of greatness as Sir Ponnambalam Ramanthan did. When he rose in the forum of the legislative council his British conquistador poised to unsheathe their swords of hostility against him. But, he neither flinched nor worried. He instilled fear into their hearts and also commended their grudging respect.
He said “How pleasant it would be sir to bash in the sunshine of your Excellency's smiles, how nice to be courted by officials as a man who says pleasant things, but what do I gain for myself by this opposition by chrosins to express and independent opinion unfavourable to the government. Do they treat me with respect, for doing what I believe is my duty? No they even challenge my motives.
If does not matter to me Sir, I do not want the favour of the government. It is enough that I am able to say what I feel to be right. That will be my comfort. Those words of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan should be etched deep into the hearts and minds of those who call themselves politicians.
Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam
ir Ponnambalam Arunachalam was one of the most productive men of his age, said the former Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike at a public meeting. He was born on September 14, 1853 as the youngest son of Ponnambalam Mudaliyar. In the reports of Christ College Sir Arunachalam is referred to as a brilliant mathematician and an able classic scholar. In 1875, he not only graduated, but also qualified for the Bar and wanted to enter the legal profession. But, his uncle advised him to sit for the Civil Services Examination and he was the first Ceylonese to enter the Civil Service through an open competitive examination.
Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam was the first president of the Ceylon University Association and also the first Ceylonese President of the Royal Asiatic Society.
Sir Waitilingam Duraisamy
He was the second son of Waitilingam who became the first speaker in the State Council. He had his education at Jaffna College where he excelled with his studies and sports. Thereafter, he entered the Presidency College in Madras and graduated with double honors in science and mathematics. He returned to Ceylon and studied law and practiced as a lawyer and thereafter entered into the political field. He represented Ceylon at the Coronation of King George VI along with Sir Baron Jayatilleke and was knighted by the king person.
Sir Razik Fareed
Sir Razik Fareed was one of the greatest Muslims of Ceylon. His leadership of the Muslim community brought the Muslims of Ceylon to the forefront in the life of the community. He had been a great educationist and a great social reformer. Sir Razik Fareed without doubt was uncrowned king of the Moors of Ceylon and also functioned as Minister of Trade.
Dr. T.B. Jayah
He was considered to be one of the great leaders of the Muslim community. He sacrificed his whole life for the betterment of Muslims and their culture. In fact, he played a pivotal role during the crucial phase of Sri Lanka's historic march towards national liberation. His life was an inspiring saga on rightly called the architect of Sri Lanka's unity.
Sri La Sri Arumuganavalar
Sri La Sri Arumuganavalar who was born on December 18, 1822 was one of the early revivalists of Hindu Tamil tradition in Sri Lanka. He received his education at Jaffna Central College and while he was a teacher Ven. Peter Perceival wanted to translate the Bible and his translation was considered to be the best. Further, he was influential in creating a period of intense religious transformation among of Tamils in Sri Lanka, preventing a large scale of religious conversion. This he did through his constant lecturer Prasangams and books he wrote and published. In fact, Navalar Natpani Mandram and Navalar Sabari published a book containing articles of Sri La Sri Arumuga Navalar recently and also they erected several statues of Sri La Sri Navalar in several schools in Colombo.
Undoubtedly, Sri Lanka which had been described by great men as the Pearl of Indian Ocean, the paradise isle of the East, the island in the sun is passing through the most critical and crucial period in history. As such, the need or the how is profound and abiding love of the country and greater sacrifice by all the communities.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa
He was the true national leader as a great patriot with vision, mission and foresight who has piloted the affairs of the nation with his indomitable courage, inspiring leadership, quickness of thought, unyielding determination, total dedication, high degree of discipline ad profound commitment and has etched his name in the records of Sri Lanka's history as a true national leader and great statesman.
Indeed, President Mahinda Rajapaksa should be rightly called a great patriot and an architect of Sri Lanka's unity. In fact, an account of his political sagacity, robust patriotism, wisdom and great administrative skill, he was able to win the three decades of war and liberated the nation from dehumanizing and emasenlating fear. His patriotism and love of the nation should be highly commended. No field of human endeavour was left untouched by the swaying amplitude of his imagination, thoughts and actions. It is very often said that “the truly great are not the men of wealth, of possessions, not men who gain name and fame, but those who testify to the truth in them and refuse to compromise whatever be the cost. They are determined to do what they consider to be right. We may punish their bodies, refuse them comforts, but we cannot buy their souls, we cannot break their spirits.