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Sri Lanka 54th Independence Anniversary  


Colonial rule to independence

by Aryadasa Ratnasinghe

The Dutch who ruled the maritime settlements of Sri Lanka for 138 years (1658-1796), finally surrendered Colombo to the British forces on February 16, 1796, without struggle, without loss of life, without much expense and without let or hindrance from the King of Kandy.

Thereafter, the maritime settlements were first attached to the Madras Presidency, and were administered through military governors. Madras civil servants were brought to the island to carry on the civil government, under the general control of Robert Andrews, the Resident, who was also the Superintendent of Revenue.

The employment of Madras tax collectors and the imposition of an extortionate tax, led to a formidable revolt among the people in 1797. Lord Hobart, the Governor of Madras, who became seriously perturbed over the uprising, reported the matter to Dundas, the Secretary of State in England, for appropriate action. The Secretary Dundas, in order to avert the situation, decided to place the country under the British Crown. With the result, Sri Lanka became a Crown Colony on October 12, 1798.

The first British governor to assume office was Frederick North (later Earl of Guildford). He displaced Brigadier-General Pierre Frederic de Meuron, who was the military governor at the time. The first step taken by governor North, as authorized, was to nominate a Council of Advice and to form a civil establishment for the island.

This Council was known as His Majesty's Council and it was composed entirely of civil servants, presided over by the governor. It formed the legislature of the island. It was during the governorship of Sir Robert Brownrigg (1812-1820), under whose command the Kandyan kingdom was reduced by the British forces, and its territory annexed to the maritime settlements, which were already under the British. Thus the whole island fell under the British yoke.

The Home Government in England hailed Sir Brownrigg "as the Conqueror of the Kandyan Kingdom, and king George III allowed him to wear in his arms, the Crown, scepter and banner of the King of Kandy."

Kandy was occupied by the British forces on February 14, 1815, and the king Sri Wickrema Rajasingha, a Nayakkar Malabari from South India, was himself taken prisoner at Gallehewatta in Dumbara, a few miles away from Kandy, within the outskirts of Meda Mahanuwara.

The British deported him to Vellore in South India, where he was interned at the stupendous mansion of Tippo Sahib, the Sultan of Mysore, which was requisitioned by the Indian government for exclusive use by the ex-king, until his death in 1832.

In 1829, the arrival in Sri Lanka, by virtue of the Royal Commission of January 18, 1823, Lieut. Col. Macbean William Colebrooke and Charles Hay Cameron, who had been advised by the Home Government in England, inquire and report, the former in regard to the administration of the island's government, and the latter, in regard to the judicial establishment and procedure in the country, The Commission recommended a series of reforms, including the abolition of land tenure by slave labor and the opening of the public service to all classes of people, either local or foreign, according to their qualifications.

According to William Digby, author and journalist, the immediate occasion for the appointment of this Commission (i.e., the Colebrooke Commission), was the financially disastrous position of the country at the time.

The government was described as arbitrary, unjust and oppressive, and the administration of justice most defective, the trade depressed by government monopolies, and the people reduced to destitution and grounded down by slave labor.

The two reports of Colebrooke and Cameron, made very important and far-reaching recommendation and majority of them were adopted.

The first and foremost was the amalgamation of the maritime and Kandyan provinces into one government under a uniform administration.

The Commission was of opinion that maintenance of two separate and independent establishments was contrary to British policy, and most unpolitic, and was only conducive to the benefit of a few chiefs and to the detriment of the Kandyan people.

It recommended the division of the country to five provinces (Colombo, Kandy, Galle, Trincomalee and Jaffna) as capitals for better administration.

The other recommendations of the Commission were the abolition of the caste system, establishment of educational reforms, freedom of the press, the removal of the distinction between the Courts of law in the Kandyan and maritime provinces, the extension of the jurisdiction of all courts to Europeans and natives alike, without distinction or discrimination, the establishment of a Supreme Court with a Chief Justice and two puisne justices, and the district courts to supersede all existing courts.

Judging from the sequence of events, the creation of a Legislative Council was, perhaps, immediately due to the suggestions made in the Colebrooke Commission Report. During the administration of governor Sir Robert Wilmot Horton in 1833, the year in which saw the proclamation of a new charter of Justice, and the opening of a new Supreme Court, the old Council was withdrawn and dissolved, and the power of enacting laws and the appropriation of public revenue was conferred on the Legislative Council.

The demand for an effective participation in the Government of the colony, and the introduction of the elective principle in filling the seats of the Legislative Assembly became more insistent. Chief among the causes that contributed to the desire for a reform in the existing Council, were the spread of education, the increasing wealth of the country and general awakening of the people in their duty towards the State.

The reforms of 1912, had not in any appreciable measure satisfied the political aspirations of the Sinhalese and Tamils, who formed the backbone of the reform movement. The agitation for reforms, therefore, continued unabated, and with the passage of years, political aspirations flamed the idea for responsible government. In order to achieve this objective, the Ceylon Reform League was formed in 1917, under the leadership of Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam. The Ceylon National Association was formed in 1919, later came to be known as the Ceylon National Congress.

Soon after, in August 1920, the new Order-in-Council appeared. In fact, it preserved the dominance of the government under pseudo-democratic forms, and gave no real power to the people. It further gave extraordinary powers to the governor, Sir William Manning (1918-1925), and he could stop the discussion of any bill or resolution, limit the time of any discussion and suspend unofficial members, at his sole discretion, which was arbitrary and unjust.

It did not take long for it to be realized that the Constitution of 1923, would never work satisfactorily. Hence a new commission (the Donoughmore Constitution) was appointed "to visit Ceylon and to report on the working of the existing Constitution, and on any difficulties of administration which may have arisen in connection with it; to consider any proposal for the revision of the Constitution, and what, if any, amendments to the Order-in-Council now in force should be made."

The governor, Sir Herbert Stanley (1927-1931), was able by his tact to grasp affairs to launch the Donoughmore Constitution, which introduced adult franchise, abolished communal representation in the legislature and created local ministers. The Constitution recommended by the Donoughmore Constitution in 1928, was revolutionary in certain respects.

The State Council was to be elected by adult franchise. The Donoughmore period, i.e. the period after 1931, the year in which the Donoughmore Constitution came into operation, and gave internal self-government, with an elected State Council, was largely characterized by attempts to introduce amendments to this Constitution, and further the advance towards full self-government.

In October 1941, His Majesty's Government in England issued a Declaration, recognizing the "urgency and importance of constitutional reform" and suggesting that the position would be examined after the Second World War (i.e. after 1945). There followed a period of rather uncertain exchange of views, between the Sinhala leaders and the Colonial authorities, culminating in the appointment of a Commission with Lord Soulbury as Chairman, and assisted by Sir Frederick Rees and Sir Frederick Burrows, to examine the minsters' proposals, and to "provide full opportunity for consultation to take place on constitutional reforms.

Shortly after the Soulbury Commissioners had completed their report, Sri Lanka received her independence, by the Independence Act of 1947, passed in the House of Commons in England. The Constitution is contained in two sets of documents, viz: The Ceylon Independence Act, 1947, and The Orders-in-Council of 1947, known collectively as the Ceylon (Constitution and Independence) Orders-in-Council, 1947. These documents contain the legal powers for full Dominion Status.

Formal announcement was made that February 4 would be 'The Appointed Day' under the Ceylon Independence Act. The final draft of the new Constitution was prepared by the legal advisers to the Secretary of State, of whom Sir Kenneth Roberts-Wray was the chief. He was assisted by two officials from Sri Lanka. They were Sir Barclay Nihill (the Legal Secretary) and Sir Oliver Gonnetilleke (the Financial Secretary). The new Constitution was assented to by His Majesty King George VI on May 15, 1946.

Sir Henry Monck-Mason Moore was the last Colonial Governor and the first Governor-General of Sri Lanka.

The ceremonial opening of the first Parliament of the Dominion of Ceylon, on February 10, 1948, was an occasion of great historical significance. The opening was performed by His Royal Highness, the Duke of Gloucester (brother of king George VI) accompanied by the Duchess of Gloucester.

On May 22, 1972, the Soulbury Constitution was abolished and a new Republic of Sri Lanka was established under a new Constitution. This Republican Constitution was replaced by another similar Constitution, drafted by the United National Party (UNP), which came in to power in July 1977, and it still continues as The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.

Celebrating our Independence How and Why?

by Bhikkhu Professor Dhammavihari

Today is the fourth day of the month of February. Every year we celebrate this as the day of Sri Lanka's independence. Four years ago, we celebrated the fiftieth year of Independence. Veteran Independents indeed, we are. 

What an emergent nation like Sri Lanka, and with more than fifty years of emerging at that, needs is not a shower of blessings or a bouquet of well wishing in anybody's name. If wishes were horses, they say, beggars would be kings. Let each one of us in Sri Lanka, the rulers and the ruled, look into ourselves seriously today. Anybody born, not much later than our Independence day of fourth February 1948, would today easily be at the head of two generations, as a father or a mother with son or daughter and many more of them.

If they were wiser and luckier, they could even be grand parents, with three generations to count.

With this aging, an invariably self-operating process, where do we stand? Are these independent people of Sri Lanka any the wiser for this aging? Psychologists of the Western world today put forward a brave new line of thinking in which they speak of aging and saging.

In this millennium, we do need look at ourselves and at the things we do with a greater degree of diligence and circumspection. Otherwise we shall never make it to the moon, Jupiter or Saturn.

On gaining independence, did we really ever achieve anything? The historical fact of it is that after nearly a century and a half, we did disengage ourselves from the colonial rule of the British Raj. Many others, besides me, historians and saner brands of sociologists, would add here the world shackles to colonial rule. A true concept of independence would naturally lend support to this.

Being under the yoke of any foreign rule invariably implied impediments to one's own national and indigenous growth, in more ways than one. Does the awareness of this or the sensitivity to it need to be brand-named as chauvinist? Let us bravely ask who says so and for what specific purpose?

By the time the British came on the scene, we had already been bettered twice before by invading colonialists from the West, the Portuguese and the Dutch. It is true that they did bring to the shores of Sri Lanka red wine and white bread. On the hand, and there is no getting behind this fact, these invaders were politically motivated expansionists.

They surely were no Pilgrim Fathers, as far as we know. They were determined to build for themselves empires in the maritime regions of Southern Asia. In this part of the world, they found many things like spices etc. and plenty of raw materials like rubber and many minerals for their own industries which they could profitably take back home. This is how they built up their imperial affluence.

This move of theirs was more than amply supported by yet another high-powered under current, namely the high tide of evangelism which closely accompanied it. A new religion, looking our for new pastures, was determined to make a violent conquest of the East, particularly of those regions which were falling under the political tyranny of the invader.

The consequences were devastating. History bears ample testimony to this. On our side, let us remember, and by no means forget, the way in which Emperor Asoka of India sent Buddhism's message of peace over to his friend Devanampiya Tissa here in Sri Lanka.

Or the manner in which the king of Peik Che in Korea sent Buddhism, with a note of very high commendation, to his fried in the neighboring kingdom of Japan. No tears and never ever any drops of blood accompanied the process.

Buddhism, wherever it went, was never chaperoned with bayonets or gunpowder.

Buddhism, with its amazingly reformist new liberal teachings transformed and upgraded to higher levels of dignity local religious thinking and modified their religious practices, in a humanely acceptable way. Upholding this view and paying an unstinted tribute to Buddhism, Sri Jawahar Lal Nehru in his classic, The Discovery of India, says this of Buddhism.

"Buddhism spread in India from Kashmir to Ceylon. It penetrated into Nepal and later reached Tibet and China and Mongolia. In India one of the consequences of this was the growth of vegetarianism and abstention form alcoholic drinks. Till then both Brahmins and Kshatriyas often ate meat and took wine. Animal sacrifice was forbidden." p 105

On a day like this, let us be sensibly reminded of what we have lost through centuries of colonial rule. What we have lost, or have being robbed of, is a rich cultural heritage of more than twenty centuries over which the wiser and impartial world outside, not politics, keep continually applauding us. (Read the latest on this in Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft by Douglas Johnston and Cynthia Sampson-1994. Oxford University Press).

This lost treasure has definitely to be retrieved. Policy makers of this country have to be sensitized on these lines and be made to feel the need for mining, and bringing to the surface, like the one-time lesser known gems of Ratnapura, the wealth of wisdom for living, for the guidance of men and women, and equally well for the rulers and the ruled, which was sent here by emperor Asoka via Buddhism and thereafter upheld and cherished by the just and benevolent rulers of this island who were more or less required by the subsequent cultural tradition of the land to play the role of Bodhisatvas in the process of governance.

25 swearing-in ceremonies at a glance

by Ravi Ladduwahetty

There have been 25 swearing-in ceremonies of Cabinets of Ministers of independent Sri Lanka in since 1947.

Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake’s first Cabinet in 1947

The first swearing-in ceremony of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Government of Ceylon under the Soulbury Constitution in 1947 was with Governor Henry Monk Mason-Moore with Rt. Hon. D.S. Senanayake as the Prime Minister of independent Sri Lanka. The portfolios of the Defence and Foreign Affairs were retained by the Prime Minister.

the present Cabinet of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga 

The Leader of the House in the D.S. Senanayake Cabinet was S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike who held the portfolios of Health and Local Government. The Agriculture Minister was Dudley Senanayake and Finance Minister was J.R. Jayewardene. The Minister of Transport and Works was John Kotalawela, who was of the rank of Colonel at that time.

It is also poignant that these four Ministers of the first Cabinet of independent Sri Lanka, were subsequent Prime Ministers, one of whom went on to become the first Executive President of Sri Lanka on 04- 02- 1978.

The Trade and Commerce Minister of the D.S. Senanayake Cabinet was C. Suntharalingam and the Food and Cooperatives was A. Ratnayake.

The Labor and Social Services Minister was T.B. Jayah. The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications was C. Sittampalam. The portfolio of Industrial Research and Fisheries went to George E. De Silva. Sir Oliver Goonetilake was the Leader of the Senate and Minister of Home Affairs and Rural Development. The Education Minister was Major E.A. Nugawela. The other two Ministers were Senator Sir Lalitha Rajapakse and R.S.S. Gunawadena was the Minister without portfolio.

The ethnic composition of the 14 Ministers in the inaugural Cabinet of Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake comprising 11 Sinhalese, two Tamils and a Muslim.

The second swearing-in ceremony of the Cabinet of Ministers was on March 26, 1952 with Lord Soulbury as the Governor- General and Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake as the Prime Minister.

The third swearing-in ceremony of the Cabinet of Ministers was in the immediate aftermath of the death of Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake in June 1952. His son Dudley Senanayake was sworn-in as the new Prime Minister. Lord Soulbury was the Governor- General. There were 14 members of that Cabinet of Ministers comprising 13 Sinhalese and one Muslim.

The fourth swearing-in ceremony of the Cabinet of Ministers in independent Sri Lanka was in 1953 with the first Ceylonese Governor-General Sir Oliver Goonetilake and as Sir John Kotalawela as the Prime Minister.

The 4th Cabinet of Ministers was sworn-in 1956 with Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike as the Head of the Government while the Governor was Sir Oliver Goonetilake. There were 14 Ministers which comprised 13 Sinhalese and one Muslim.

The 5th Cabinet was sworn-in by Governor Goonetilake with Prime Minister Wijayananda Dahanayake as the Head of the Cabinet on September 26, 1959 following the assassination of Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike.

This Cabinet comprised 11 Ministers of which 10 were Sinhalese and one Muslim. The 6th Cabinet swearing-in ceremony was in March 1960 following the general elections. There were 8 Ministers comprising 7 Sinhalese and one Muslim.

Elections had to be held again in July 1960 with the Dudley Senanayake Government losing a motion of no confidence consequent to the loss of the Vote of Thanks on the Crown Speech. It was at this election that the then Ceylon set up a unique world record with Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike as the world's first woman Prime Minister on July 21, 1960. The 7th Cabinet was a 11 membered one with 10 Sinhalese and one Muslim.

The 8th Cabinet under Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake which was sworn in by Governor General William Gopallawa following the Parliamentary elections in 1965, had 17 members with 15 Sinhalese and one Tamil.

Some of the stalwarts of that Government were: Leader of the House and Minister of Irrigation, Power and Highways C.P. De Silva, State Minister J.R. Jayewardene, Education Minister I.M.R.A. Iriyagolle, Local Government Minister M.Thiruchelvam, Cultural Affairs Minister E.L. B. Hurulle, Minister of Sports and Nationalised Services V.A. Sugathadasa, Labor Minister M.H. Mohamed ( later Transport Minister in the Jayewardene Cabinet in 1977 and Speaker of Parliament in the Premadasa Government and now Minister of Western Regional Development) Housing Minister R. Premadasa (later Minister of Local Government, Housing and Construction, Prime Minister and President), Agriculture Minister M.D. Banda, Social Services Minister Asoka Karunaratne (who held the same portfolio in the J.R. Jayewardene Cabinet of 1977), Health Minister E.L. Senanayake ( who was Minister of Agriculture and Agricultural Research and Speaker of Parliament in the J.R.Jayewardene Government), Finance Minister U.B. Wanninayake and Minister of Trade and Commerce M.V.P. Peiris.

The 9th cabinet was sworn in by Governor General William Gopallawa on May 27,1970 with Prime Minister Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike 's United Front Government assumed office with two thirds majority. The Leader of the House was Irrigation, Power and Highways Minister Maithripala Senanayake.

The other members of that Cabinet were Minister of Public Administration, Local Government, Home Affairs and Justice Felix Dias Bandaranaike, Fisheries Minister George Rajapakse, Finance Minister Dr. N.M. Perera, Plantation Industries Minister Dr. Colvin R. De Silva and Minister of Sports and Parliamentary Affairs K.B. Ratnayake ( who was subsequently Speaker of Parliament in the first PA Government of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and later NCP Governor).

The highlight of that Government was that the Republican Constitution was approved and Parliament was transformed into a National State Assembly.The eleventh swearing in ceremony was held on May 22, 1970 under the Republican Constitution where the identical cabinet was sworn in.

The 10th Cabinet was sworn in when the three stalwarts of Mrs. Bandaranaike's Cabinet- Finance Minister Dr. N.M. Perera, Transport Minister Leslie Gunawardena and Minister of Plantation Industries Dr. Colvin R. De Silva were removed. They were asked to resign which they vehemently refused.

They were removed by the President on the recommendations of the Prime Minister. The eleventh cabinet was sworn in without them.The then Deputy Minister of Justice Ratnasiri Wickremanayake was elevated to Cabinet rank as the new Minister of Plantation Industries.

The 11th Cabinet was sworn in on July 23, 1977 with the Government of Prime Minister J.R. Jayewardene being returned to power by a five sixth majority. The highlight of that cabinet was the creation of Ministries for Foreign Affairs and Mahaweli Development.

The stalwarts of that 24 member cabinet, which had 21 Sinhalese, one Tamil and two Muslims included Prime Minister R. Premadasa (later President), Lands, Land Development and Mahaweli Development Minister Gamini Dissanayake (later Opposition Leader and UNP Presidential candidate) Trade and Shipping Minister Lalith Athulathmudali (later National Security Minister and DUNF Leader) Finance Minister Ronnie De Mel (later Minister of Port Development and Southern Development), Minister of Information and Broadcasting D.B. Wijetunga (later Prime Minister and President), Health Minister E.L. Senanayake (later Speaker and Provincial Governor) Transport Minister M.H. Mohamed (later Speaker), Foreign Affairs Minister A.C.S. Hameed and Health Minister Gamani Jayasuriya (who later resigned from the Cabinet and the Government due his disagreement of the Indo-Lanka Agreement). The only Tamil Minister was Justice Minister K.W. Devanayagam.

The 12th swearing-in of the Cabinet of Ministers (which was the same as the twelfth) was sworn in again when Prime Minister J.R. Jayewardene became the first Executive President of Sri Lanka on February 4, 1978. A further highlight is that a new Constitution was enacted with the President having executive powers over Parliament.

The 13th Cabinet was sworn in on September 7, 1978 with the inclusion of Saumyamoorthi Thondaman as Minister of Rural Industrial Development.

The 14th Cabinet was sworn in during February 1980 when President Jayewardene assumed the Plantation Industries portfolio (following the resignation of Minister M.D.H. Jayawardena.

He also took the portfolios of Plan Implementation, Higher Education ( which was held by Minister Nissanka Wijeyeratne who was appointed Justice Minister). The present Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe who was then Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister was elevated to Cabinet rank and was elevated to the Education portfolio). There were 26 members of this Cabinet which had 21 Sinhalese, 3 Tamils and 2 Muslims.

The 15th swearing in ceremony of the 22-member Cabinet was in 1989 following the General and Presidential elections where the Premadasa Government came into power. A further highlight is that President R. Premadasa also created the Ministry of Buddha Sasana.

The 16th swearing in ceremony of the 26-member Cabinet of Ministers came up in March 1990 when the then Plantation Industries Minister Gamini Dissanayake was evicted from the Cabinet. Harold Herath was accorded the Foreign Affairs portfolio and A.C.S. Hameed, Justice.

The 17th swearing in ceremony of the Cabinet was in March 1991 when Minister Gamini Dissanayake was reinstated with the Plantation Industries portfolio. Minister Lalith Athulathmudali who had the Education and Higher Education portfolios, was reassigned to the Agriculture and Cooperatives portfolio. Former assistant UNP Leader Gamini Atukorale was elevated to Cabinet rank with the Lands, Irrigation and Mahaweli Development portfolio.

The 18th swearing in ceremony of the Cabinet was in August 1993 which had a total of 24 with 20 Sinhalese, one Tamil and two Muslims. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was given the Science and Technology portfolio in addition to Industries, which he held earlier.

Ranjan Wijeyaratne was appointed as the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, a portfolio which was held by Harold Herath. A.M.S. Adhikari who held the Tourism portfolio was accorded the Posts and Telecommunications portfolio.

Chandra Bandara was given the Power and Energy portfolio. Alick Aluwihare who was Plantations Minister was given the Ports Development Ministry. Gamini Athukorale was appointed as the Minister of Forestry, Irrigation and Mahaweli Development. It was also the first time that Forestry was accorded a Cabinet portfolio. K.N. Choksy was appointed as the new Minister of Constitutional Affairs, a new portfolio as well.

The 19th Cabinet of Ministers was sworn in August 19, 1994 with the electoral victory of the People's Alliance Government. The President was D.B. Wijetunga and the Prime Minister was Mrs Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. A speciality of that Government was that it was the first time that a President was from the UNP and the Prime Minister was from the PA, though only for a short span of three months.

The 20th Cabinet of Ministers of independent Sri Lanka, comprising 23 members, was sworn in on November 12, 1994 with President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga as the Head of State and Head of Government. There were 20 Sinhalese, one Tamil and Two Muslim Ministers.

The 21st cabinet of Ministers was sworn in 1997 in a sweeping Cabinet reshuffle with Labor Minister Mahinda Rajapakse as the new Minister of Aquatic Resources Development, Indika Gunawardena who held that portfolio was the new Minister of Urban Development and Housing, Lakshman Jayakody as the new Buddha Sasana Minister, a portfolio which was held by the President until that time.

Two other portfolios which were held by President Kumaratunga- Ethnic Affairs and National Integration, were divested to Prof. G.L.Peiris, who was Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs at that time. Urban Development Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva was appointed as the new Health and Indigenous Medicine Minister after A.H.M. Fowzie who had the Health, Transport and Highways portfolios.

Amarasiri Dodangoda had only Vocational Training after the Indigenous Medicine portfolio was removed from him. S.B. Dissanayake was given Samurdhi, Youth Affairs and Sports. Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Mangala Samaraweera was given the Media portfolio, which was held by Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister Dharmasiri Senanayake.

The 22nd swearing in ceremony of the Cabinet was when President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was re-elected at the December 21, 1999 Presidential poll. There was no Cabinet reshuffle and the same Cabinet was reappointed and sworn in.

The swearing in ceremony of the 44-member Cabinet of Ministers of the second People's Alliance Government at the President's House on October 19 2001 was the 23rd swearing in ceremony of the Cabinet of Ministers in independent Sri Lanka since 1947.

The 24th Cabinet swearing in ceremony was October 14, 2001 on when the JVP insisted that the Cabinet be pruned to 20 as a reciprocation that it would support it to gain a Parliamentary majority. President Kumaratunga retained her portfolios of Defence and Finance in addition to seven others inclusive of Media. Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake was reinstated. Minister of Public Administration, Home Affairs and Administrative Reforms Richard Pathirana.

The 25th and final Cabinet swearing in ceremony was on when the United National Front Government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in by President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga at the President's House.on December 13-2001. Premier Wickremesinghe was sworn in on December 8.

This is the Cabinet that stands in office today. There are 25 Ministers of Cabinet rank, 28 Ministers of non Cabinet rank and 9 Deputy Ministers. Justice, Law Reforms and Buddhist Affairs Minister W.J.M. Lokubandara was the Leader of the House. 

The Independent generation

by Aditha Dissanayake

The King of Britain said on February 4th, 1948, in a speech conveyed through the Duke of Gloucester "After a period of nearly a century and a half, during which the status of Ceylon was that of a colony in my empire, she now takes her place as a free and independent member of the British Commonwealth of Nations". Words of joy? Or words of doom?

"Doom" says twenty-two year old Mekula Wijesena. "My father thinks we should never have got our independence.

He says if we had still been a colony of the British empire we would have done better. We would have been like Hongkong." This is what your father thinks, what do you think? I ask Mekula. "Gosh" he says and shrugs his shoulders. "I haven't given it much thought" he admits. "But I suppose we should be glad we are a free nation".

Sixteen year old Ruwanthi de Silva too, says, to her, so far independence had meant writing an essay every year on Independence Day, at school, but now that she had finished her O/L exam, she is happy she would never have to write one ever again. "But, according to my father, we got our independence too easily. There was almost no bloodshed. He says if we had to fight for it the way the Indians did we would have valued it more".

"Everything went wrong after we got our independence", says the thirty-three-year-old manager of a tea estate in Talawakelle. He too is determined we would have done better if we had been under British power.

For four-hundred and forty-three years, Sri Lanka was under foreign rule. Europeans exploited the economy and dominated the political arena. But they also built roads, improved transport, health, communication and the education systems.

Yet, the whole nation, regardless of their race or caste had got together to throw them out. Venerable Wariyapola Sumangala Nayaka Hamuduruwo had hauled down the Union Jack. People from Uwa, Wellassa, Kandy, Matale, Dumbara and Kurunegala had rebelled against the British government. But all this was centuries ago (1816-1817) Now, fifty four years after 4th Feb.

1948, to most of the young people at Galle Face on Saturday before last, Independence meant just another chapter in a history textbook. "It has something to do with the Donoughmore Commission hasn't it?" asked one young man, scratching his head in bewilderment and not a bit ashamed he knew very little about the history of his motherland.

"All this happened so long ago, I don't think even my father was born when we got our independence. So, why bother about it?" he asks me, not bothering to hide how bored he is by my questioning. "If white men had not pierced the rock at Kadugannawa you will not be here looking at the ho-gana pokuna" (the howling pond)" says another young man to his friend while staring into the blue waves in the receding sunlight.

He says he is Mihira Pathirana, from Galle. His friend is from Kandy. They are following a course about the garment industry in an institute in Bambalapitiya. I ask them what they think about Independence Day. "Its a holiday." Grins the one from Kandy. "I can stay at home for three days". Mihira frowns at his friend's carefree words.

He says in a serious tone "I think it's silly to celebrate an independence we do not have".

What is independence? Who has it? Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence in America on July 4th 1776 said " We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".Life, Liberty and Happiness? Slavery in its conventional form being dead, everybody who is alive has got the first. But Liberty and Happiness?

"I don't think anybody in this world is truly independent. Not as an individual or as a nation", says a twenty-nine-year old marketing executive who believes he knows something about the subject, having studied political science at university. "Being truly independent means not bowing down to any authority and sticking to one's principles even when everyone else is against them."

A graduate in archaeology, who had once been a bhikkhu but had given up his robes says "Independence means keeping your head high without bowing it to serve another's will. To me, being independent means being honest and truthful. It means looking any man in the eye and being able to ask him to go to hell".

"I don't know about the nation and its independence." sighs a voice in my ear. "But wouldn't I like to have some for myself. I would like to break free from my family, forget my work and my studies, throw my present life out of the window and travel all over the world. I would like to be like H.D Thoreau in Walden". Sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion." Whose voice is this? Mine? Or Yours? Or ours, together? 

Do Sri Lankan women enjoy genuine independence?

by Nadira Gunatilleke

We, Sri Lankans gained "Independence" from Great Britain in 1948. Since then we live as an independent nation. The tangible meaning of the word "Independence" is always controversial.

In Sri Lanka the commonest controversy about being an independent nation is, the reality of varieties of the independence such as economic independence, social independence, cultural independence and religious independence.

Some people say that Sri Lanka is not yet economically independent and another group of people would say that "independence" depends on economic independence. At present fifty one per cent of the total Sri Lankan population is represented by women. Do Sri Lankan women enjoy a true independence?

It is true that Sri Lanka has produced the first woman Prime Minister in the world and our present President is also a lady. The post of Women's Affairs Minister (a Cabinet Minister) is also held by a lady. Parliament is the symbol of democracy and independence of the nation. But the most incredible situation is, there are still only 10 women MPs in our Parliament.

The percentage of women in our Parliament is less than five per cent even after seven decades of winning universal franchise by Sri Lankan women. This is an important symbol of the amount of independence enjoyed by Sri Lankan women. The Women's Affairs Ministry's plan to encourage women to come to politics will be a significant step towards improving present situation.

When comparing this situation with other countries in the world and especially with other South Asian countries, Pakistan has already allocated about 30 seats in their parliament for women while India is also considering to follow the same procedure in the near future by allocating 30 seats in the Lokh Sabha for women. At present woman representation in local bodies in India is 30 per cent.

There is a 40 per cent woman representation in parliaments in Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

There are several reasons behind the situation existing in Sri Lanka. One major reason is Sri Lankan women are not independent to take decisions related to their own lives. They cannot decide what they want out of their lives.

Most of the women have to obtain permission from their respective families (either from parents or husbands; depends on the marital status of the woman) before entering politics.

Most of the time they do not permit their daughter/wife to involve in politics which always link with violence. During elections violence increased up to an unbearable level. During Wayamba Provincial Council Elections some time back a woman was stripped and forced to walk naked on the road in public. Under such conditions women scared to contest even in local government elections.

The above incidents are used to evaluate women's independence in a crucial way. But it is also important to measure women's independence in the simplest of ways available. For example someone can ask "Whether a typical Sri Lankan woman can travel in a crowded bus without getting harassed?" or can a Sri Lankan woman walk along a dark road in the night without getting sexually abused?" Those are simple questions that demonstrate how much independence is enjoyed by Sri Lankan women.

While studying and working, women are being encouraged to maintain their enslaved mentality. While studying the women are being encouraged to study subjects such as home science, sewing, health sciences etc.

They are not encouraged to study subjects such as electronics, motor mechanism and other subjects related to the technical field. For example women are eligible to apply for different courses available at the Ceylon German Technical Training Institute.

But the authorities rarely select women for these technical courses and such women have to undergo difficulties while studying with their male counterparts due to lack of equal treatment. Under this situation how can we say that Sri Lankan women enjoy free education on par with males?

It is not a secret that most of the women undergo domestic violence in Sri Lanka. Most of them are married women.

According to the existing situation the victims do not have any support from the law or social values. Although several NGOs and other organisations have been campaigning for better legal structure, yet domestic violence does not consider as a crime in Sri Lanka.

Under these circumstances women are not independent to enjoy common human rights.

The State is not fully responsible for freeing women from the existing slave status because women also have a significant role to play while acquiring independence for themselves.

Programs such as Kantha Diri Piyasa will be a strong prop for Sri Lankan women to gain independence. But women should have eternal crave, courage, enthusiasm and boldness to make use of such programs. First of all they have to be economically independent.

Education is the automatic weapon while fighting with all the other problems faced by women. Economic independence will be the bullet.

Therefore first of all women have to be educated and financially stable.

Acquire independence within yourself! You will be an independent woman!! 

The decade for revitalization of the agricultural sector

by Prof. C.S. Weeraratna

In the past, when Sri Lanka was the "Granary of the East", peace and contentment prevailed. The main occupation of our ancestors was production of crops such as paddy in the lowlands, and maize, kurakkan, mineri etc. in the uplands, mainly for consumption.

The history of the country is studded with numerous massive irrigation projects, and frequent reference to agricultural prosperity.

With the advent of colonialism, opportunities arose for employment in government service, and consequently factors such as cash earnings, increased purchasing power and superior local status of government servants came into existence, which promoted the people to keep away from land.

Thus, the domestic food production sector gradually declined. Crops such as tea, rubber, cinnamon, coffee, were cultivated for export resulting in the development of an export agriculture sector or plantation sector.

The agriculture sector in Sri Lanka is considered as the cornerstone in the economic and social development of the country. Since Independence, the successive governments, having realized the importance of the agriculture sector implemented many agricultural development programs.

In spite of massive investments in this sector, the productivity of this sector has been declining during the last decade, and the production and average yields of most of the crops cultivated in Sri Lanka have stagnated or show a decline. A colossal sum of money is spent annually to import food most of which can be produced locally.


Expenditure on Food Imports

Year                    Amount Spent 
                              in Rs. Million

1995                        26,746
1996                        33,111
1997                        37,867
1998                        38,411
1999                        38,770
2000                        42,959

1. Inputs:- Costs and Quality

High production costs of almost all crops have increased during the recent past causing crop production to be an unprofitable venture. Most of the agriculture inputs, even those which can be locally produced such as seeds of some crop varieties are imported, which undoubtedly increase their cost of production and increase the chances of new pests and diseases getting introduced into the country.

Non availability of good quality seeds/planting material in adequate amounts limits crop production and causes production costs to go up. Although the researchers at the Rice Research & Development Institute have developed new high yielding rice varieties, seeds of these varieties are not available in adequate amounts. It is the same situation with regard to other crops.

A colossal amount of money is spent to import pesticides. However, a number of compounds such as nicotine, pyrethrin and azadirachtin which have pesticidal properties, are present in some locally grown plant species.

For example, Azadirachtin can be extracted from Azadirachta Indica (Kohomba) and Pyrethrin from Pyrethrum. Development of pesticides from those local plants and promoting their use in controlling pests would reduce costs and also provide employment in the rural areas.

Another factor important in reducing costs is use of locally available fertilizers. In the year 2000, around Rs. 600 million worth of Inorganic fertilizer have been imported to Sri Lanka. On the other hand organic fertilizers can be made with locally available materials.

Replacing inorganic fertilizers, partly with locally produced organic fertilizers would reduce the cost of production. Organic fertilizer production units, in each village, would maximise utilization of resources and provide employment on a large scale.

The present system of fertilizer subsidy is unsatisfactory as only urea (Nitrogen) is subsidized. As a result, farmers tend to apply more of urea which is cheaper, and this practice may even cause yield reduction. Either, all NPK fertilizers should be subsidized or the subsidy for urea N should be removed.

2. Low productivity

One of the main factors attributable to the declining production in the agricultural sector is low productivity primarily due to soil degradation. Cultivation of arable lands for decades, particularly those in the wet zone, without practising adequate soil conservation measures, has eroded most of these lands with associated ill-effects, one of which is decreased productivity.

For example, in some tea lands there is hardly any soil and the annual average yield of these tea lands is only around 500 kg/ha which is considerable lower than the national average.

Farmers complain that the response of crops to fertilizers has decreased, and this can be attributed to depletion of the colloidal fraction of their soils which retains the added fertilizers. Low productivity with high cost of inputs causes the unit production cost to go up making our crops more expensive. In fact, the prices of crops such as rice, chillies, potato etc. produced in the country are the highest in the region.

It is important that appropriate land use systems are practised at least for degraded lands to increase their productivity, rather than continuing to cultivate them with crops, which would degrade the land further. For example, bringing marginal tea lands under forest or grass with associated animal husbandry may be a better land-use system than continuing with tea.

3. Marketing

To make crop production profitable, farmers should get a reasonable price for their products commensurate with cost of production. However, marketing of agricultural products at a profit to the farmer has become a constraint.

Very often, middlemen tend to exploit farmers, who sometimes are forced to dispose their products at almost the cost price. Unfortunately, the Marketing Department, which could have played an extremely important role, has been closed down resulting the farmers to be at the mercy of middlemen. An efficient marketing organization is essential to minimize this exploitation through appropriate market intervention.

4. Liberalisation of food imports

The import of chilies, big onions, potato and some other crops was liberalised in the recent past causing considerable economic problems to farmers who grew these crops.

The financial advantages to an average family as a result of the implementation of this preposterous liberalization policy is very marginal compared to the disastrous effects on the incomes of thousands of farmers and hence on the economy of the country.

Therefore, it is necessary that a detailed study on the long term effects of liberalization of import of food is carried out by an organization such as the Agrarian Research and Training Institute.

5. Agricultural Research

Research is an essential component in realising the agricultural potential of the country as it provides data and information, which could be used in the development of improved, and more effective agricultural practices.

A primary objective of agricultural research in Sri Lanka must be to utilise locally available resources, and the research efforts need to be directed towards those aspects, which have a more direct impact on increasing production, and reducing costs. It must be to solve those problems, which limit production quantitatively and/or qualitatively.

Research priorities need to be based on the needs and problems in the agricultural sector.

In Sri Lanka, a plethora of institutions are involved in agricultural research. Around 1000 agricultural scientists are working in these institutions, and annually a few billions of rupees are spent on research. A large number of institutions are involved in research connected to domestic agriculture.

Among these, the Dept. of Agriculture (DOA) established in 1912 is the major institution. At present the DOA has three Research Institutes for rice, horticultural crops and filed crops, six Regional Research Centers and 14 Research Stations, and around 10 special research centres.

There are nearly 250 Research Officers, supported by almost 100 Research Assistants. However, all the efforts of the research staff appear to have not made any significant impact on the agricultural sector and the rural economy. The average yields per hectare of most of the crops commonly cultivated in Sri Lanka, except rice, do not show any sustained increase during the last two decades.

The pests and diseases, which affected crops two decades ago, still continue to limit production.

Even the results of some research programmes conducted in Sri Lanka, which would have an impact on costs, appear have not been utilised to the benefit of the country. For example, the results of research studies on Biological Nitrogen Fixation (BNF) conducted by some research scientists, involving millions of rupees, indicate that BNF can be profitably used to partly replace fertilizer nitrogen.

However, these studies appear to have not benefited a single farmer in Sri Lanka, although we continue to import nearly Rs. two billion worth of nitrogenous fertilizers annually.

Inadequate research and development (R&D) is considered to be one of the factors responsible for low food production in the country. Some scientists are of the view that this is due to insufficient funds allocated for research and development. They lament that in Sri Lanka only 0.17% of the GDP is spent on R&D while many other countries in the region spend a much higher percentage of the GDP on R&D. This is true but, we need to examine critically whether we make use of all the laboratory, library and human resources we have to the fullest extent for R&D.

6. Agricultural Extension:

Agric. Extension is a very important aspect of agricultural development. The findings of the research projects need to filter down satisfactorily to the farmers, who are the end users.

Ideally one ministry should handle agricultural extension. However, at present, while agric. research is handled by the National Department of Agriculture, agricultural extension in relation to domestic crops is handled by the Provincial Departments of Agriculture. This situation is more confused by having Intra-Provincial Agric. Extension, which is managed by the National Department of Agriculture.

During the last two decades, perhaps a few thousands of research studies, involving millions of rupees, have been conducted. Findings of hundreds of research projects are presented annually at the annual sessions of numerous institutions such as the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science, Postgraduate Institute of Agriculture, and Dept. of Agriculture etc. But, there appears to be no organized system to utilize these research findings in our efforts to increase productivity in agriculture.

There is very little liaison/interaction with the relevant production sectors, and the agricultural research carried out in the country appears to have no positive impact on the food production level in the country.

7. Institutions and human resources

A large number of Institutions are involved in activities related to agricultural production.

The Agricultural Development Authority (ADA) was established in 1978 to co-ordinate and implement agricultural development activities for the development of the small farm sector.

In 1998, Rs. 46.8 million was allocated to ADA. Sri Lanka Hadabima Authority also was established to assist small farmers to increase crop production. In addition, the Land Use Policy Planning Division of the Ministry of Agriculture is also involved in various aspects of production of domestic agriculture sector.

On the top of all these institutions is the Ministry of Agriculture with the Minister, his secretary and a number of other bureaucrats. There is no effective programme to obtain the services of agriculturally trained personnel in the country.

Around 400 agriculture graduates and a similar number of Diploma holders pass out annually from the University Faculties of Agriculture and Agricultural Schools respectively. But, most of these graduates and Diploma holders are unemployed or under-employed, and there is no proper plan to make use of their training in increasing crop/animal production in the country.

8. Agro-based industries

A large number of crops cultivated in Sri Lanka have considerable potential in various agro-industries.

However, only tea, rubber, coconut and a few fruit crops are used in industries, and that also to a very limited extent. Many other crops such as cassava, horticultural and floricultural crops, medicinal herbs, cane bamboo, sunflower, castor etc have a considerable industrial potential but are not cultivated to any appreciable extent for want of better and improved varieties, technological know-how, relevant market information etc.

There is an urgent need to develop agro-industries in Sri Lanka as it will have a tremendous impact on unemployment and rural poverty. However, in this sector too there appears to be no proper long term plan except for some ad-hoc projects. The Ministry of Industries needs to implement an effective Agro-Industrial Development Programme.

9. Promoting Investments

The 2 million farming families, if provided with better marketing facilities etc discussed above, would be able to contribute significantly towards increasing food production in Sri Lanka. However, it is essential that the presently uncultivated lands are intensively cultivated with agro-industrial crops, for which a significant investment is necessary.

Hence, the Board of Investment needs to pursue a rigorous and effective programme to promote investment in sustainable commercial agricultural enterprises, which will provide more employment opportunities and also promote growth.

10. National Policy and Plans:

One of the contributory factors for the present parlous state of the agricultural sector in Sri Lanka is the absence of an integrated, long-term, viable national policy which needs to be supported by an effective, practicable action plan.

Agriculture, in addition to its positive contribution to economic and social welfare of the country, plays an important role in providing food to the people thereby increasing the level of food security.

At present, a large number of organizations are involved in providing support services to the domestic food production sector, but our food security situation stands at a very low level. During the last few years numerous programs such as "AMA", "Waga Sangramaya" and "Govi Sevana" were implemented but these have not made any impact on the food security of the country.

Hence, the people of this country fervently hope that at least now, the new government will effectively implement programs to improve the agricultural sector in the country thereby benefiting the country in general and the farmer population in particular. It is often said that farmers are the backbone of the country. If they face ruination, the country too will fall into the same plight.

Remembering the "Local Pioneers" in the propagation of tea in Sri Lanka 

by Maxwell Fernando

When the Union jack was lowered and the national flag hoisted in its place on February 4th 1948 at Independence Square, little did we realise how the country would appear after five decades. Today, we celebrate yet another important land-mark in our self governing Sri Lanka.

It is not possible to talk of Sri Lanka of today without reference to the past. It is not the creation of explorers, or deceitful politicians who fashioned its future. Sri Lanka of today, owe all to the untiring efforts of our pioneers. 

It was Governor Sir Edward Barnes who laid the foundation for the future development of the island by his foresight in constructing roads and bridges during the period 1824 to 1834. This was the starting point in the development of agriculture in the island, and as we take stock of the situation, it has been the tea industry initiated by the British followed up closely by the Ceylonese, that has stood the test of time. It has remained the bed-rock of Sri Lanka's economy.

Warusahennedige Soysas from Moratuwa were the first on the scene, and they were considered the richest and the most powerful of the Sinhalese capitalists. Jeronis the founder of the Soysa clan enjoyed a very charming personality and was an envy to many an European. He entered the renting business in 1829, and by 1844 he was dominating the Central Province rents, that in 1836 cost him Pounds Sterling 6,800. He soon took control of the Western Province.

Jeronis Soysa was acclaimed as the first young man from Moratuwa to penetrate the hill country in search of new business opportunities. According to E.H. Peterson's Almanac of 1870, de Soysas owned 26 properties totalling an extent of 8,189 acres of which 88% was cultivated, 2,936 acres in coffee, 2,378 in coconut, and 1,432 acres in cinnamon.

The Ferguson's Directory of 1880 - 81 records an increase in the family holdings to 25,176 acres, the extent in coffee reaching to 6,368 acres with a corresponding increase in coconut. The percentage of uncultivated land however had risen from 17% to 31% at that date.

The period 1900 to 1910 is referred to as the "native era" for tea planting. Gampola, Galle, and Matara districts provided the nucleus for the Ceylonese to proceed with the cultivation of tea. Following the way of the British, the wealthy Sinhalese families who owned vast extents of coffee were seen converting them into tea.

The response received from the government towards this process, however, was only lukewarm. The state at that time was accused of being indifferent towards the Ceylonese.

They without offering all the encouragement towards its progress, they only placed obstacles which tended to discourage the locals. Despite this apathy on the part of the government, the Ceylonese kept on adding tea to their garden cultivations. Many respectable Sinhalese villagers were purchasing tea seeds and tea plants on a regular basis at Rs. 10 per thousand, cash down.

The extent under tea in 1895 for smallholder native gardens were around 2000 to 3000 acres. It may sound a wild guess, but the fact of it was that, vast extents were been cultivated with tea, mostly in small units.

Unlike in the hill country, the growth of the tea industry in the South was a slow process. In the hill country tea plantations were fashioned by the British, but tea cultivation in the low country was fully developed by the low country Ceylonese, according to a style of their own.

The Amarasuriya family from Galle. H.W. Thomas - Francis - and Buddhadasa, after having acquired the necessary skills from their fathers regarded notable agriculturists, took to the cultivation of tea in a serious manner. They are well known for having invested widely in tea, and for conducting their businesses with a considerable degree of success in the twentieth century.

Citrus Group in the Galle district was the largest plantation in the area. It had in extent 2504 acres of which 2003 acres were in tea. Their plantation empire included many other prestigious tea properties.

To mention a few, there was Kurulugalla Group in Morawaka Korale, in extent 866 acres with 259 acres under tea. Diyadawa Group in close proximity to the above plantation had 661 acres in tea from a total extent of 696 acres.

Mahendra Group in the same vicinity, was a 263 acre property of which 250 acres were planted in tea. Olympus Group and the Monrovia Group in the Galle District were two other large properties the family owned.

The former was a large property with a total extent of 908 acres, of which 666 acres were in tea. The latter had 197 acres cultivated in tea from a total extent of 649 acres. Up to Land Reform, the above properties remained within the family.

The Fairfield estate in the Dimbula district came their way soon after. This was another well-managed property of 314 acres of which 228 acres were cultivated in tea. Their buying spree continued purchasing Holmwood and Thornily estates in the Dimbulla district with a total of 367 acres under tea. All these properties were bought in open competition with other British interests.

The entry of the Amarasuriya family to the tea scene during the second stage of the Ceylonisation process was most appropriate, and contributed in no small measure towards promoting changes in land ownership, which the government in power at that time was trying to encourage.

In addition to the Amarasuriya family, there are many others who gambled their fortunes in tea with exceptionally good results.

P.L. Buddhadasa, opened up and planted Allen Valley and Andaradeniya Group in the Morawaka Korale district. He constructed a well equipped and a showpiece of a tea factory on this property, at a time when there was insufficient factory capacity in the area to manufacture green leaf.

Andaradeniya factory became the nucleus for the processing of green leaf and was the first bought leaf factory in the area. Bewerly Group owned by Mrs. V. Wijewardene, Panilkanda owned by D.J. Ranaweera and many small holdings supplied the factory, leaf on a regular basis.

D. J. Ranaweera OBE is another pioneer tea planter who started his planting career in the Southern Province, but soon moved to the hill country where the tea industry was prospering. He was able to out-bid many a European to secure Fetteresso Group in Dickoya that had 890 acres under prime tea.

His holdings in the low country, consisted of Kinwanaganga (385) acres, and Panikanda (734) acres in the Morawaka Korale and Diddenipotha Group (1075) acres in the Matara district.

Victor Ratnayake, MBE considered the "laird" of the South, was not only an eminent and a proficient tea planter but was also a notable legislator.B. Warusavitarne, a low country tea planter with extensive experience in planting, served the industry in many agricultural and national consultative projects. He had done a great deal for the promotion of Ceylon tea abroad.

He was a member of the Ceylon Tea Propaganda Board for a considerable length of time. He held the Chairmanship of the Ceylon Planters' Association form 1966 to 1969. He also served the Sri Lanka Tea Board as its Chairman from July 1977 to December 1979.

P. Ratnayake of Willie Group Deniyaya is not only a renowned tea planter, but also a well-trained tea taster.

In addition, he enjoys the unique distinction of having departed form conventional designing of tea factories to create a new concept in factory construction.

His original factory was destroyed by fire in September 1964. Mr. Ratnayake planned his new factory without the use of any timber in its entire construction. Further, the Willie Group factory was one of the first factories in the island to go in for trough withering of tea.

In a publication of this nature a compete identification of personalities who pioneered this great industry is not possible, but a few families do standout, and they are.

E.W. Goonatillake family (Hallala Group - Walimaga), Senator Sarath Wijesinghe family (Andapana Group - Kamburapitiya), M. Jayawickerema family (Charley Mount Group - Weligama), R.J. Roberts family (Katahene Group -Deniyaya), Hewavitharana family (Mawarala Group -Maraella), M.D. Yapa family (Yapland Group - Kotapola), D.S. Jayawickrema (Berubulla Group - Matara), Y.M. Soysa and Brothers for a star purchase of Gartmore Group in the Maskeliya district with 755 acres of prime tea in the 1960s. They enlarged their tea holdings further by acquiring Hatale Group in the Kelebokka District with 478 acres under tea.

Mattakalappu boyhood memories at the time of Independence

by K. S. Sivakumaran

Seemingly deviating from the customary pious dedication to the remembrance of the Independence Day celebrations of the then Ceylon, I decidedly thought of writing one or two pieces of information out of my personal memories of those days so that some of our younger citizens may like to gather. I wish to confine my account to only one place where I was born and lived during 1942-1953.

Born in the eastern province capital in 1936 and lived in Vavuniya as my father was a government servant, I returned to Batticaloa to have my early education. My father insisted that I should study in the Thamil medium up to the 5th standard and I studied at the Aanaipanthy Boys School.

The head master was a great Hinduism scholar, the late Arunachala Desigar. At home my father taught me English and I was taken as an English medium student in the 5th standard again at the St. Michael's College, still a leading educational institution in the town. My father hailed from neighbouring Trincomalee and mother in Batticaloa although their origin might have been from the north of the country or perhaps even in Kerala. Who knows, our real origin?

Then since 1953, I live in Colombo absorbing the innate artificialities and niceties of a 'Colombo Thamilian'.

The first General Parliamentary Elections was held in 1947 and one of my father's relatives was elected as the M.P. for the Trincomalee electorate. He contested as a Thamil Congress candidate and later joined the UNP. My relative was the late S. Sivapalan. He took our family to the Galle Face Parliament one day introduced us to some leading Members like Mrs. Florence Senanayake of the LSSP, and others from various parties.

Like these days also, politicians of various parties fought within the well of the House but remained friends outside. Birds of a feather flock together!. Mrs. Senanayake was the first elected woman M.P., I believe.

Again, my maternal uncle, the late M.C. Senathirajah compiled a very fine statistical book collecting the newspaper clippings of all about the elections including photographs of them. One of this uncle's son, S. Sriskandarajah is a well known political personality in Trinco.

There were 101 photographs of the newly elected MPs as one portfolio of tiny size available at a photographic studio called the Vinns studio near the Elphinstone theatre in Maradana. I ordered a copy by post and received it in no time.

Another M.P. for Trincomalee, the late N.R. Rajavarothayam of Thamil Arasu Kadchi was an uncle of my wife, Pushpa, who was born in Trinco. Her father was from Koapai in the north. Even the present MP for Trinco and the Secretary-General of the TULF, and presently with the newly formed TNA, Mr.R. Sampanthan is in some ways connected to me as a relative.

Thus you would see that I have politicians who were and are my relatives. But the strange thing is that I fear politicians and I do not like them much unless they are in some ways connected with the arts and literature.

Those days we studied S.F. de Silva's Civics and A,J. Wilson's Civics and Government. This also prompted us to learn about democracy and that kind of thing.

In the then Batticaloa town the Hindu Thamils might have been more in number, but it was the Christians (Catholics and Protestants) who were influential and sophisticated.

Despite all this the first M.P. for Mattakalappu was an Islamite - Mr. A. Sinnalebbe.(I think that it was the Dutch who called Mattakalappu - Batticaloa. Historians, please correct me, if I am wrong).

Mattakalappu produced some great people known elsewhere too - Swami Vipulananda (a great scholar, researcher, poet and the first Lankan Thamil Literary Critic), S.O. Kanagaratnam, S.V.O. Somanadar ( father of the late journalist Kenneth Somanadar), F.X.C. Nadarajah, Prince Casinadar and others - I am talking about the late 1940s only. As far as politicians go V. Nalliah and C. Rajadurai were predominantly known.

Come February 04, 1948 Ceylon becomes an independent country.

Celebrations all over the island. Seeing a member of the Sinhala community visiting Mattakalappu as the country's leader was a thrilling experience to us schoolboys then.

D.S. Senanayake was a mighty figure drawing respects.

Leaving politics alone, let's turn to sports and entertainment in the early 1950s. St. Michael's College and Methodist Central College and the Government College produced some outstanding sportsmen and women.

Have we heard of the American Jesuit Rev. Fr. Harold Webber? Top athletes like J.R. de Silva, his brother Leo de Silva and sister Josephine de Silva (at that time there was no discrimination just because one spokes a different language. We all spoke both Sinhala and Thamil), Lyle Balthazaar, Fergus Balthazaar (both brothers top people in the armed forces later), C. Alagaratnam, T. Kiruparajah, R.P. Ariyanayagam were all trained by the late Fr. Webber.

Do we know that Mr. Mansoor, a former minister, and present M.P. for Batticaloa Joseph Pararajasingham and his wife Sugunam and B.M. Ockersz were top athletes then.

Come to think of it, I watched in Colombo, the late Lalith Athulathmudali and the M.P. Lakshman Kadirgamar running neck to neck in the 110 metres hurdles in the AAA meet in Police Park sometime in the early 1950s. St. Michael's became basketball champions of some standing in Sri Lanka.

The Thomian cricket captain and stylish batsman E. Crowther was the Rector of St. Michael's. His elder brother was a novelist and former Ceylon Daily News editor S.J.K. Crowther. Then there was Sando Sangaradas, who performed difficult feats with the strength of his body.

St. Michael's College Band was the first outstation school band to perform over the then Radio Ceylon. Julian Barthelot made his debut as a musician in the then Amateur Hour programme of the Commercial Service.

Trinco-Batticaloa combined product the late S.T. Sivanayagam started his journalistic career as the editor of Suthanthiran and later became a doyen of all Thamil journalists.

Sinhalese students from all parts of the country studied with Thamil, Islamic and Burgher students in schools. St. Thomas, Guruthalawa and St.Michael's , Mattakalappu had dual meets. We were all Sri Lankans, with English as a link language. But we also knew our Thamil and to some extent Sinhala. The Sinhala brothers too knew Thamil well.

Kurunerus, Arthur de Silvas, Wickramasinghes, Saranelis de Silvas and many others did business there and all were 'happy'. Those were some of my pleasant remembrances of the past as a schoolboy in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Nostalgia is also soothing to the body and mind. What do you think? 

In the field of sports Many milestones in 54 years

The year in which Sri Lanka gained its independence - 1948, is an important year for Sri Lanka athletics as well. It is in the same year that Sri Lanka gained its independence from the British rule and Sri Lanka won its first ever Olympic medal.

Another coincidence is that while Sri Lanka gained its independence after a long British rule, a British native, running for Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) - Duncan White, won the silver medal in the men's 400m hurdles. The third significant incidence with Great Britain is that it was the host country of the 1948 London Olympic Games.

But since then, Sri Lanka had a lean run at the Olympic Games, before sprinter Susanthika Jayasinghe broke the hoodoo before Sri Lanka's 53rd year independence anniversary celebrations. Jayasinghe's women's 200m bronze medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games is probably the best ever sports achievement in the local sports history by a native Sri Lankan.

Sri Lanka has reached many milestones in the field of sports since its independence, starting off with the late Duncan White's feat in London. over the past six years.

Our cricketers and athletes have won many events in the international sports arena. Sri Lanka has also fared prominently in snooker, netball, rugby, soccer, swimming, diving and volleyball.

Sri Lankan sports have gone from strength to strength, since the late President J.R.Jayewardene opened up the local economy with sweeping reforms in 1977.

Since then, there has been a new era in local sports with the introduction of Mahaweli Games, National Youth Games and the revival of the National Sports Festival, National School Games etc.

With the open economy introduced by the late President in 1977, the sponsorships for local sports increased tremendously. Since 1978, the late President R.Premadasa, who was then Prime Minister, played a key role in the re-development of the Sugathadasa Stadium and the construction of the Premadasa Stadium, which was then the World's second flood-lit cricket stadium.

The Ministry of Sports has played an active role in promoting sports activities. Searching talented but less affluent young rural sportsmen and women from the provinces and grooming them for the future is one of the key areas for which the Government has given top priority in the field of sports.

Finances have been the main barrier for the rural sportsmen and women in their attempt to sharpen their skills when competing in the international arena. But the Sports Ministry came forward with an innovative idea of finding individual sponsors. With the Sports Ministry's program to find individual sponsors, who pay an attractive monthly allowance to the respective athletes up to Rs. 80,000, the problem has been solved. The athletes have nothing to worry about on their financial matters while they enjoy superior training and residential facilities.

This is apart from the millions of rupees the Sports Ministry has found for the promotion and development of sports over the past years.

In 1981, Sri Lanka became a full member of the International Cricket Council due to untiring efforts of the late Minister, Gamini Dissanayake. This opened a new era in Sri Lanka Sports.

By 1996, Sri Lanka climbed up the ladder to win the cricket's World Cup. The other most significant achievement in Sri Laka sports since independence is the late M.J.M.Lafir emerging the world champion in billiards in the 70s.

The 1995/96 season will go down as Sri Lanka's most memorable in their brief international cricketing history. Apart from becoming the first team in 14 years to win a Test series in Pakistan (2-1), Arjuna Ranatunga and his mighty men proved they were world beaters in the limited edition of the game too, by first winning the Singer Champions Trophy in Sharjah and following it with a grand win in the World Cup final.

In the 1994/95 season, Sri Lanka registered its first ever Test win (and also the Test series win) abroad  against New Zealand.

Sri Lanka cricket team had a highly successful tour of England in 1998 beating the hosts in a one off Test, their first on English soil and winning the Emirates Cup three nation title beating England and South Africa.

Sri Lanka's ace women sprinters Susanthika Jayasinghe and Damayanthi Darsha created history by winning the silver and a bronze medal (respectively) in the same event (women's 200m) at an Asian Games in Hiroshima in 1994. But the biggest moment for local track & field came in 1997 when Jayasinghe won the silver medal in women's 200m at the IAAF World championships.

Our athletes are determined to do even better at this year's Asian Games and Asian championships.

Since independence, our sportsmen and women, well within their capabilities, resources and infrastructure facilities, have done well to mark Sri Lanka in the international sporting map. They have the will and power to achieve greater things in the years to come. 

A tribute to an educationist of the post independence era

by Rupa Banduwardena

The establishment of a private institution for girls in the field of education plays a very important role in the process of nation building.

At a time that education was growing in efficiency and scope from colonial days to the era of Independence, a person who holds something of a record for building an institution of his own for Girls, deserves the highest tribute one could pay. He is none other than late Linton Kuruppu the founder and architect of present Sujatha Vidyalaya, Colombo.

Therefore, it is fitting that we pay tribute on this momentous day for his mammoth contribution to a worthy cause - one of the urgent social needs of the post Independence era. It was mainly due to his painstaking dedication for this national cause that Sujatha Vidyalaya was able to tread the pathway to success.

The story of Sujatha Vidyalaya is the story of this dedicated personality of the post independence era spanning decades, covering the latter British period and the post independence era. In Sri Lanka, then Ceylon the foremost Buddhist Girls' school for education (Visaka Vidyalaya) was promoted by Sir Baron Jayatilake, the most senior statesman of the day and a pioneer Buddhist educationist.

The second person to think of a similar institution using a similar name in Buddhist history was late Linton Kuruppu, another Buddhist Educationist of a late stage who devoted his whole life to building an institution for girls. The offer of the principalof Visaka Vidyalaya was made by Sir Baron Jayatileka to late Mrs. Clara Motwani, was later followed by late Linton Kuruppu to Sujatha Vidyalaya where both together laid the foundation for progress and witnessed a rapid improvement.

He was fortunate to meet Ms. Motwani when she was planning to leave the island. At this juncture he invited her to be the founder Principal of Sujatha Vidyalaya. The dedicated service rendered to our school by late Ms. Clara Motwani was proved by her stay with us from the inception till her demise in 1989.

Without her commitment we couldn't have achieved this success. Anton Kuruppu a highly disciplined and an ambitious personality was not too slow to realize the significant impact a girls school has on national and social development. His ambition was to develop Sujatha Vidyalaya into a fully pledged girls' school in Colombo, which he did see in his lifetime along with Ms. Clara Motwani as the founder Principal.

Sujatha Vidyalaya was founded by late Linton Kuruppu on the 1st June 1965 at No 17, Alfred place, Colpetty with only 30 students. Soon the numbers increased and it became necessary to look for new premises and he had the good fortune of leasing out a spacious building down Queen's Road. At present an International school is housed at this location.

The primary section was shifted to another building at No.3, Havelock Road which is now occupied by Shanthi Vihara. By 1978 arrangements had to be made to hand over the buildings in both places to the respective owners due to the urban development program to be started at that time.

The problem faced by him at this juncture was very grave. His determination never to have the school in rented out premises made him acquire the present site and constructed the present building single handed and as a consequence of his far-sighted move the school was inaugurated at Nugegoda with the primary section to start with, and then securing the whole school return to its own premises.

He planned its expansion and improvement and under his pioneering efforts what was once a vacant stretch of land rose into the next decade with a number of buildings surrounded with greenery which he tendered with loving care. Ever since the school occupied a noteworthy place among girls' schools in Colombo.

Every one concerned was very happy that Sujatha Vidyalaya had at its helm, at this stage of growth, Mrs. Motwani the correct choice of the late Managing Director. She too was indeed very fortunate in having an obliging managing director who fully appreciated and supported her efforts at every turn in building up the school.

At the farewell lunch to Mrs. Motwani in Colombo in February 1987 the late managing director recalled how during his childhood an astrologer had predicted that someday he would have a lasting connection with a foreign lady over which his parents were not too happy and how later he had realised that the prediction came true, when by the joint effort with Mrs. Motwani Sujatha Vidyalaya was built up.

The school functioned efficiently and to the admiration of all, it grew from strength to strength and growing number of students started pouring into the school clamouring for admission and the school was packed to capacity specially due to the high standard of English maintained throughout, which continues up to this day with quality education.

English language and literature were given prominence in the curriculum as both late Mr. Kuruppu and Mrs. Motwani considered them to be the main binding of all ethnic groups in the school catering to a multi-racial and multi-religious society to fulfil the aspirations of all who came to Sujatha Vidyalaya for education.

This is where students of all communities studied and played together devoid of all barriers.

The children mostly belonging to the two communities Sinhala and Muslim were well knitted together as one and his aim was to create a fruitful future for generations to follow. Sujathians have set an example for a better and prosperous tomorrow, which is the immediate need of the nation.

Always fully committed towards the well being and progress of the school he took pleasure in seeing Sujathians do well. For him, for the growing popularity of the college, two or three buildings were not sufficient. Having brought the school under one roof and successfully transferring the school to its well-established position at Negegoda he did not feel that he had completed his task.

He started the construction of a second three storied building at the entrance to the college, which at present accommodates the primary section and had the ceremonial opening in 1992.

The entire college went gay with the opening ceremony of the newly constructed building with Stanley Thilakerathne gracing the occasion, Late A. M. Munasinghe was extremely happy that he could witness both occasions the foundation laying ceremony as well as the opening ceremony, promising further assistance in future. the ex-speaker praised the location of the school; the general set up of the buildings and the landscape.

He even compared the buildings to the University buildings at Havanna. The school rejoiced the grand occasion - the finest hour in Sujatha's colourful history, during late managing director's time, with a special program presented by the students.

He left no stone unturned to look into every aspect of eduction and comfort of the students. Not even two months since the emergence of the new building so essential for the spacious and smooth running of the college was made possible, by his painstaking dedication, the news of the sudden demise of the late managing director after attending to his days work at the college, came as a shock not only to Sujatha Vidyalaya but to the entire country.

He sacrificed his entire life to Sujatha Vidyalaya and bravely championed the students' right to education. Having fulfilled his supreme purpose in life he made a deep impact in the field of nation building.

Sujatha today adorns the area of greater Colombo, Nugegoda in particular. During the formative years it set the highest standards that any college could be proud of. Sujatha today has become a household name.

It has become a landmark as a well established and a well disciplined institution for girls not only for this area but also for the rest of the country. Today it has become an institution that everyone is proud to belong to.

They always consider it a privilege and a pleasure to be a "Sujathian". Over the past years Sujatha Vidyalaya has continued to develop successfully consolidating its position as one of the most popular schools in Colombo. Thanks to the organizing capabilities, vision and foresight of the late managing director. Sujathians past and present therefore place their deep appreciation of his contribution to their lives.

His remarkable service to Sujatha Vidyalaya does not stop at this. It is a ceaseless effort and this service is two fold. His service can not only be confined to the establishment of Sujatha Vidyalaya but also he did a greater service by leaving behind a person - his son to continue the work begun by him, to carry the school forward, into the new millennium and further enhance the service it renders.

It is highly commendable that the college under the present Managing Director Lakshman Kuruppu is moving forward even more constructively with new technology.

At the outset I am proud to say that Sujatha Vidyalaya under his leadership has achieved a stable transition to match the modern trends. Significant progress has been made in terms of expansion.

The whole area of the college is being re-structured. One can marvel at the new high rise - the new five storied building which has come up within a very short time. With high rises cropping up all round, Sujatha Vidyalaya is indeed a transformation that will be quite a surprise for those who have seen Sujatha Vidyalaya two or three years ago.

The newly constructed, colourful Pre-School with an eco-friendly environment is yet another achievement. Another bold step forward is the commencement of the English Medium Stream from Year - 1 (Local Syllabus) and the English Medium Pre-School.

There is a well-organized plan to upgrade the educational facilities always giving prominence to English language and technology, the key to the modern world. Computer education is still another area drawing his attention. In short Sujatha Vidyalaya has marvelously excelled in almost every field and it has an enviable reputation of doing well in all its activities emerging as one of the Islands best girls' schools.