Political clergymen of the past

These days there is a big hulla-balloo about Buddhist monks contesting elections. In fact in the outgoing parliament there was Rev Samitha Thero of the LSSP who is the first ever Buddhist monk to be elected as a MP, but several Buddhist monks had contested before that.

The book ‘10th Parliament’ a Lake House publication gives the names of the candidates who contested that election. Under the list of Sri Lanka Pragathiseelee Peramuna for Kalutara District a monk Rev. Mulatiyana Dammaloka Thero has contested. Also in the Colombo District list of the Nava Sama Samaja Party candidate No. 2 in the list is one ‘Aluthwela Dammaratana’ it is not stated whether he is a monk but the name and style is indicative that he is a monk.

The first ever cleric who sat in the state legislature was a Christian Clergyman - Rev W. E. Boteju, who was elected as MLC for the Sabaragamuwa Province on 21/04/1921 polling 615 votes and defeating D. C. Wijesinghe who got 25 votes, C. F. Dharmaratne 10, E. A. P. Wijeratne 10, and A. A. Wickramasinghe 05 votes, at the election held on 24/11/22, Rev Boteju was elected uncontested.

In 1924 the Legislative Council was enlarged and Sabaragamuwa had 2 seats - Kegalle District and Ratnapura District, at the election held on 27/09/24 Rev W. E. Boteju contested the election polling 676 votes to the 3166 polled by A. H. E. Molamure. He does not seem to have contested thereafter. Perhaps a relation of his Rev - J. W. E. Boteju contested Avissawella seat at the 1931 State Council election and came third polling 6034 votes. The winner was another Christian Gentleman Forester Obesekara who polled 7424 votes.

A popularly peddled story is that Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike is a ‘Donoughmore Buddhist’ who had embraced Buddhism in view of the Donoughmore Constitution which gave ‘one man one vote’ and hence ......... he ‘had’ to become a Buddhist to win. This is totally false. The ‘Ceylon Daily News State Council 1931’ gives S.W.R.D.’s religion as Christianity in 1931. (It gives the religious persuasions of each State Councillor and out of 46 members there were 27 Buddhists, 15 Christians, 3 Hindus and 1 Muslim)

So this shows S. W. R. D. the Christian in 1931 was returned by a predominantly Buddhist constituency Veyangoda in 1931 which is a tribute to the Buddhist masses who had no hesitation in electing a deserving and an eminent Christian gentleman.

By profession out of the 46, 23 were lawyers, 13 were land proprietors, 2 were engineers, 2 doctors, 2 retired headmen, 1 retired civil servant, 1 school master, 1 journalist and 1 bank shroff.

It is interesting to note that 2 Europeans sat in that Council having defeated local candidates. H. R. Freeman won the Anuradhapura seat (the entire NCP) polling 8311 votes and defeating S. D. Krisnaratne who could muster only 888 votes, and A. Fellowes Gorden won the Bandarawela seat polling 9097 votes defeating H. J. Pinto who polled 5798 votes. The Uva province in 1931 had only 3 seats - Badulla, D. H. Kotalawela unopposed, Bandarawela, Fellowes - Gordon and the other seat Bibile had G. C. Rambukpotha also unopposed.
M. Sarath K. Munasinghe