From the time last week’s article on the
Rajapaksas of Giruwapattuwa hit the stands I have been inundated
with telephone calls - mostly congratulating me but a few others
nagging and teasing me!.
‘Ade, have you done a political, High Jump?.
What did Mahinda promise you? queried the haranguing types more
in jest for they, knew that I shall always be a ‘Kotan Adina
Aliya’ (Elephant that pulls logs), whilst new comers to the
herd carried the ‘casket’ and went in procession!. (Again the
hallmark of a Manda Buddhika).
Early morning I called Mahinda at his country
residence in Tangalle. ‘Carlton’ - thinking that unlike
Premadasa who read all the newspapers by 4.00 a.m. Mahinda, not
being a Premadasa would still be in bed on a Sunday morning at
‘Eei, you have put me with the highway robbers’
yelled Mahinda referring to the Buddhist Jataka story - the
Gira Pothaka Wastuwa - I quoted liking Mahinda as the baby
parrot who was swept by a gale into the den of highway robbers
and soon mastered the vocabulary of his mentors.
I told Mahinda, that nevertheless I had ‘Nishkriya’
fined the contents in the next paragraph stating that at the
rate the Prime Minister was now visiting temples he would soon
beat Premadasa’s record on this score.
He laughed aloud at my mentioning the word ‘Nishkriya’,
the newest Sinhala word to be coined to the political vocabulary
- the innovator of which being the Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero
of the Jathika Hela Urumaya who used this very apt term to
describe their action in voting for the Opposition nominee W. J.
M. Lokubandara to annul the 2 rebel votes cast in favour of the
Government nominee at the now notorious election of Speaker!.
Sunimal Fernando of the Prime Minister’s staff
whilst congratulating me sent me a long fax titled ‘the
Rajapaksas and Ruhuna’. He also pointed to an error - I had
stated my ‘source’ as Mme. Kamala Wijesuriya when she in fact is
Mme Kamala Wickramasuriya - the 3rd daughter of the Lion (of
I promptly apologised to Kamala when I am yet to
meet and she said that she would sue me for the insult! A clear
indication of the esteem, a Govigama lady has a ‘Karawa
Surname’. I told her so and she burst out in laughter. She also
corrected yet another error. I had said she was 67 years. She
proudly said she was 72 years and suggested that I could even
mention her age as 75! (She certainly is a rather unusual female
of the species!)
Kamala, faxed a hand written account about her
father. It was my intention to use this as my ‘source’ and do
the ‘write up’!. But on hindsight, I thought it was much better
to translate almost verbatim Kamala’s account of her father
written in home-spun Sinhalese to English.
Before that I must let the readers including the
Prime Minister and his elder brother into a family secret. I
have the full permission of Kamala to divulge this ‘secret’.
Ever since I came to know Kamala, through the good offices of
her 1st cousin, Chamal (She was a ‘wire friend’ of mine is no
time as our contacts have been exclusively over the ’phone) she
has been asking me to help her to get a small plot of land. Just
imagine, a daughter of the Lion of Ruhuna and a 1st cousin of
the Prime Minister and a Deputy Minister asking me, an ex UNP MP
(readers! I reiterate that I am NOT a ‘Signore’ though - for
Sunil Perera’s popular song by that title refers to a defeated
and disgraced politician. I was never rejected by the people. I
retired ‘unhurt’ from the hurly burly of contesting politics!)
I asked Kamala to speak to her 1st cousins
Mahinda and Chamal. She said ‘Aiyo No! I don’t want to ask
them!’ I told her that Dinesh Gunawardena is the man to ‘tap’ as
he is the Minister-in-charge. Then she asked me to ‘sound’
Dinesh about her request. I said I do not meet Dinesh often, but
on my frequent visits to Parliament I meet ‘Geetha’, Dinesh’s
brother who is the Deputy Speaker. ‘Ane ask him for me please’,
begged Kamala. ‘I know all the children of philip as he used to
come to our place with his Samasamajist colleague’ she added. I
did mention her request to Geethanjana Gunawardana at a Pirith
ceremony in Parliament about a month back, but ‘Geetha’ did not
take this request seriously. He said you ask her to write the
book that she said she would write. When I told this to Kamala
she said a book on Kusuma (wife of Philip) had already been
written. Geetha promised me a copy and Dinesh told me that their
sister who has the copies is a tough customer’ and Geetha was
frightened of the sister! So that was why I was denied copy so
Kamala told me why she wanted the land. It was
for a nunnery.
Come December, Kamala is going to leave all the
materialistic comforts behind, not to mention a loving husband
and 3 very successful offspring and take to the life of a
‘Even Mahinda does not know this!. Let them hear
this from the ‘Sunday Island’. That was why I wanted a plot of
land!’ said she. I am indeed proud that the Prime Minister’s 1st
cousin confided in me, what she had so far not disclosed to even
the ‘Agamethi Malli’.
The other matter that I should mention was that
according to Sunimal Fernando’s much researched document ‘The
Rajapaksas and Ruhuna - An uncorrected Note for Reflection’
(Kamala says that Sunimal stayed at her Mahagedara in
Buddiyagama when he was researching into the ancestry of the
According to Sunimal’s account, it was an
entrepreneur from Hapugoda in Galle who opened up new vistas in
developing the rural economy at the seat of the Rajapaksas.
I quote: ‘In the early 1850s a then modern
entrepreneur of Hapugoda in the Galle District, by the name of
Don Constantine de Silva Waniga Chintamani Mohotti Ralahamy,
started developing a series of modern capitalist enterprises in
the Giruwapattu. He introduced into the Giruwapattu, a system of
what was then recognised to be modern agriculture with modern
technology and wage labour in place of feudal tenant farming and
at the same time engaged in property development in the then
fledgling town of Tangalle. His then modern enterprises were
headquartered at Buddiyagama in Weeraketiya - the seat of the
Rajapaksas and their management was entrusted to a modernist but
patriotic young man of Buddiyagama - the grand father of the
Lion of Ruhuna - DM - and the great grand father of Mahinda and
DM was the 2nd son of D. D. Rajapaksa, Vidana
Arachchi and Dona Gimara. He was born on 27th Nov. 1896. D. C.
Coronelis Rajapaksa, the ‘Coroner Ralahamy’ was his elder
brother and elder sister was Caroline Bandara Weeraman nee
Rajapaksa. Don Alvin Rajapaksa (D.A.) the father of Mahinda
et al, was the younger brother.
The Vidana Arachchi Ralahamy, though every inch
a rural rustic villager, had immense foresight for a man of his
standing. After the initial education at Mandaduwa Government
School, he got his sons admitted to Richmond College in Galle,
which was a premier educational institution in the island
founded by the Methodist Missionaries, as were Wesley College in
Colombo and Kingswood College in Kandy.
The Principal of Richmond was then the legendary
Rev. Small - believing his name he took vast strides in the
field of education akin to the ‘stone-age’ at S. Thomas, Mt.
Lavinia and the Kularatne era at Ananda.
Young D. M. soon won the hearts of his peers and
teachers and displayed qualities of leadership. He excelled in
both studies and sports and in particular cricket was his forte.
During those days the captain of cricket was not
selected but elected by the popular vote of the students and
also of the teachers. D.M. romped home an easy winner at the
election and as captain of the Richmond team brought in many a
win to his alma mater. This was DM’s first election victory!.
Rev. Small and the staff were eager to get DM
elected to be the captain for the 2nd year due to his proven
track record as ‘captain’, but had to hold and election
according to the prevailing ‘rules’.
DM stood for re-election - but strange and
unseen forces were at work. DM’s rival, one Amarasuriya, bribed
the entire student population with a ‘seeni pittu’ feed
and to the surprise and anger of Rev. Small DM lost the election
by a solitary vote!!.
I knew the better known Amarasuriyas, Thomas and
Henry went to the ‘other place’ in Galle – Mahinda College – the
premier Buddhist educational institute in the South which boasts
of its association with Colonel Henry Steel Olcott the famous
American Buddhist Missionary.
Wanting to find out who this Amarasuriya who
bribed his way into captaining the Richmond cricket team, I
asked my friend ‘Lion’ Mahendra Amarasuriya Chairman of the
Commercial Bank amongst many other establishments as to which
blacksheep in the Amarasuriya clan studied at Richmond. Having
listened with acute interest to the ‘seeni pittu’ story I
narrated, Mahendra, every inch a gentleman par excellence said,
‘Buddhika I do not know of any Richmondite relation of mine. In
any event I do not want to know of any namesake whether relative
to not who would stoop to such low tactics!’.
Kamala too readily conceded that the culprit was
not one of the famous Amarasuriyas but probably a namesake of
rather dubious lineage.
When the results of the captaincy election was
announced both the staff and students were shocked beyond
Rev. Small, the Richmond Principal called a
general assembly. He told the assembly, that it was indeed a sad
day for Richmond as ‘bribes’ were offered to induce the outcome
of a student election. He and the staff decided to declare the
election null and void.
Rev. Small was so upset about this incident he
sent for the Vidana Arachchi and got the elder Rajapaksa to
remove DM from Richmond and personally accompanied the father
and son to Wesley College (also run by the Methodist Church) and
handed over the young DM to the Principal of Wesley.
Soon DM showed his mettle by becoming the
cricket captain at Wesley too, where he secured many a victory
for his side.
With the sudden death of DM’s father - the
Vidana Arachchi the family fortunes took a turn for the worse.
The Rajapaksa children had to return to the village and continue
their education in the village school as their mother could ill
afford the luxury of a ‘college’ education for her sons.
But their mother, Dona Gimara was equal to the
task. She sold the paddy from the rice paddies and the milk from
the dairy often milking the cows herself. Infact in later years
when a marriage proposal was brought to DM from the aristocratic
Weeratunga family of the Paregedara Walawwa in Madihe in Matara,
the women folk of the Weeratunga clan raised objections as to
why they should marry their Emalyn to impecunious Rajapaksas
living in a thatched house and running a diary.
These flimsy objections were over-ruled and
sanity prevailed. DM married Emalyn Weeratunga and together they
fathered and mothered 7 children (4 daughters and 3 sons).
During the difficult times that the Rajapaksas’
underwent with the sudden demise of the Vidane Arachchi Ralahamy
the 3 brothers, Coranelis, Mathew (DM) and Alvin (DA) looked
after their only sister Carolina (Bandara Weeraman after
marriage) and helped their widowed mother in the many household
DM was a lad of 16 years when he lost his father
and since the death of the Pater families, the eldest of the
Vidane Arachchis children Don Corenelis was the guiding light in
the life of DM.
DM under the guidance of his elder brother rose
to become a youth who always stood for justice and fairplay. He
knew only too well the agonies of impecuniousity and began to
champion the cause of the underdog. In the area where he lived,
there were very strong caste divisions. The Rajapaksas of course
belonged to the dominant caste —`A0the govigamas whilst most of
the Govigamas treated those living in the same village but
belonging to the so called ‘low caste’ as mere chaffel. Some men
and women of a certain low caste were precluded from covering
the upper part of their torso. They were not allowed into the
houses of the Govigamas although they performed either feudal
services (Rajakari) or menial work for those who owned the land.
These social injustices that he witnessed day in
and day out saw the young DM harbouring the seeds of
anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism in his bosom. Thus the
‘Making of a politician’ showed early signs in the character of
DM. He was soon recognised as a village leader who led from the
front against every form of social injustice.
Thus was born a legend. The legend of the ‘Lion
Next week — DM the politician.