I was deeply grieved on hearing the demise of my friend, the late Dr. Kiri Banda Ratnayake, a very senior parliamentary politician. He held the posts of the Secretary and Vice President of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. He was nurtured to politics by his friend and one time colleague Maithripala Senanayake, who was the Rajarata leader at one time. Both served very diligently and honestly the Rajarata farmers, as Cultivation Officers. Mr. Ratnayake was the Cultivation Officer in charge of the Anuradhapura City Tanks, whilst Mr. Senanayake was in charge of the Maradankadawala Area. They were responsible for regulating the issue of water for irrigation to farmers. Mr. Ratnayake got the taste of politics, when Maithripala Senanayake, Minister, selected him for the post of Private Secretary.
Mr. Ratnayake was elected to Parliament in 1962, from the Anuradhapura seat which fell vacant on the death of Mr. Sirimevan Godage, M.P: The Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Prime Minister appointed him as the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Sports at the age of 38 years. He made an enormous contribution for the promotion of sports and the welfare of the sportsmen in the country.
He encouraged the entry of sportsmen from remote rural areas to the international arena of sports. He was responsible for the enactment of the present "Sports Law " and the Sports Act in Parliament. He established the Torrington Square Sports Stadium and Sports Training grounds, which is of immense benefit to our sportsmen. Ratnayake’s period was the golden era of sports in the country. He was an exemplary Sports Minister. The Torrington Square sports stadium should be named after him, in recognition of his services. I trust that the present Prime Minister will take action on this. He was an absolutely honest politician who died a poor man.
He held the post of Minister of Transport for a brief period, prior to his election to the exalted position as the 'Speaker,' of the 10th Parliament. Being proficient in all three languages he was a very popular Speaker. The members of Parliament from the North and East held him in high esteem for his eloquent Tamil guidelines to members.
Mr. Ratnayake had his early education at the Kahatagasdigiliya Maha Vidyalaya and joined Hartley College, Jaffna in 1933. He was a popular student and was made a Senior School Prefect and College Cricket Captain. He was also an excellent athlete, a soccer and tennis player. He was a sixfoot tall handsome young man at that time. He captained the Anuradhapura Public Services Cricket Club and excelled in our annual encounters with the Trincomalee P.S.C Club and the Vavuniya P.S.C Club captained by Mr. Ronnie de Mel, who was the Asst. Govt. Agent at Vavuniya in the year 1950. Maithripala Senanayake who played cricket for his Jaffna College and later Nalanda Vidyalaya, was also a member of this team. I had the privilege of playing for this club under Mr. Ratnayake’s capable Captaincy.
After his retirement from politics, he was appointed as the Governor of the North Central Province. He remained as the Governor for two years. The Rajarata University conferred on him an honorary Doctorate. He never used the Dr. prefix. He was a very humble simple man who never changed his lifestyles, with the exalted positions he held. I was a close friend of his for fiftyfive years and I visited him after he had lost an election.
I saw no changes in his household goods or his sense of values. He welcomed my family very warmly. I was also his neighbour when I was a Senior State Officer at Anuradhapura. He was a very sincere and honest politician. He handled the rehabilitation of the youth of the Rajarata, with meticulous and sympathetic care, after 1971 youth insurrection. Her Excellecy the President, Chandrika Kumaratunga who paid her last respects to him at Anuradhapura, paid tribute for his contribution in the rehabilitation of the youth.
He was a youth from a remote Wanni village who occupied one of the prized positions in politics to be the Speaker of the Parliament, from 1994 to 2000. We express our deepest condolences to his two daughters. Mrs. Dammika Semasinghe and Mrs. Malkanthie Wickremesinghe and the two sons Wasantha and Ranjith. We knew them intimately as neighbours.
May the late Dr. K. B. Ratnayake, attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.
V. K. J. Ramanayake
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