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A tribute to Premalal Kumarasiri
from Mahinda Rajapaksa (Prime Minister of Sri Lanka)

The death of Premalal Kumarasiri brings the number of survivors of the members of the first parliament to just one. He was its youngest member.During the four and a half years of his membership of that parliament, he gave much promise of developing into a politician and political thinker of much distinction. However, few would dispute that neither the country nor its socialist movement were destined to use the skills and attributes of a man who had all the markings of a great political guru and leader.Premalal was born in the village of Gonapinuwala - a village located in the southern part of the country. After a spell at the village school, he came to continue his studies at Ananda College where he came under the prevailing mood of anti-imperialism and of that segment of it which expressed itself in Marxist thought. After having achieved brilliance in his examinations in science, he decided to forsake a professional or academic career for full-time work in the Communist party.The course of his life from here onwards was anything but calm and settled. He was a firm believer in the value of 'principle' and 'ideology', and made no compromise when their significance was in jeopardy. This did not endear him to all, particularly to those to whom political expediency was defensible in terms of the exigencies of the moment. On the other hand, when compromise was clearly indicated in terms of broader issues and wider interests, Premalal was as pragmatic as the situation required.These qualities and attributes resulted in several refusals by him of high office and of opportunities to represent his party and the many coalitions into which it entered from time to time. For instance, had he accepted ULF nomination for Minneriya at the 1970 elections, he would today have been at the very least a senior minister in the government. Premalal's principles were sacrosanct and he stuck to them steadfastly at great cost to himself and to his family.There is another achievement for which Premalal has not been given his due credit. When politics first took his interest, the Sinhala vocabulary of Marxist politics was extremely limited. With his superb command of both Sinhala and English, Premalal sought to put right this lacuna in as elegant and as appropriate a manner as possible. He more than achieved this, and it is due to his efforts that this vocabulary had achieved an acceptable level and volume by the time those educated in Sinhala alone had to acquire their political knowledge through this language. This contribution of Premalal's was little acknowledged by his political contemporaries. But the beneficiaries of his mission were the radical youth who came a generation later and used Sinhala as their language of dissemination.It is sad to reflect that this country was not able to make much greater use of Premalal Kumarasiri's perceptions and of his skills and attribute. He has died; largely unsung and with his goal in the political activities of the country known only to an older generation. It is hoped that the new generation of radical politicians will deem it fit to accord him the recognition that he should receive; not merely for the few years he spent in parliament more than half a century ago, but for the way in which he continuously exercised his conscience for the greater good of the socialist movement and of the country.We know that his family went through great hardship on account of the political principles and perspectives for which Premalal had committed his life. At his death, let us share the sorrow of his wife, Menike, his daughter in law, his two grandchildren, and of the other members of his family.

 

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