There is a saying that if the mountain does not
come to Mohamed, Mohamed should go to the mountain.
So, I went to see my ‘phone friend’, Mrs. Kamala
Wickramasuriya, my ‘source’ of all the information or at least
90% of the information about the Rajapaksa clan.
I wore a green shirt. Expecting to see, a
formidable lady, for her father ‘D. M’. was the ‘Lion’ of Ruhuna.
I was greeted by a pleasant very small-made lady, very alert
belieng her 72 years clad in a white sari.
I greeted her with folded plans of my hands in
oriental fashion and before I could say who I was she jumped the
‘Ah’! You must be Buddhika! Nobody else would
dare to wear a green shirt to this house! she said with a
twinkle in her eye.
Kamala Wickramasuriya - the third daughter of
the legendary D. M. Rajapaksa, then gave me a white envelope.
It was a simple hand written invitation for her
‘Ordination Ceremony’ for she is to join the Order of the
Buddhist Nuns next Thursday, the 16th December! Even this
important news was broken to the first cousins - Prime Minister
Mahinda et al via the ‘Men and Memories’, column of the
After the last week’s article as usual I
received a number of calls. My one time Boss at Maharaja’s ‘Ajit
Sara’, a son of the famous P. Sarawanamuttu accused me of being
racially biased for I only wrote about the Sinhalese and not the
Tamil who have served the country with valour and great
dedication. Thundered Ade, do you know that, the Hambantota
Government Agent Hudson of whom you had written was my father’s
successor in office.
‘Ajit Sara’s’ father is none other than the
famous ‘P. Sarawanamuttu’ of the ‘Sara’ Stadium fame who held
the offices of both the Tea Commissioner and the Rubber
Commissioner simultaneously thereby drawing a salary which was
only second to that of the British Governor!
Then there was another caller a Mrs. Savitri de
Silva who took turns with her husband in speaking to me.
Lindamulage Anthony Christopher de Silva’s
memory was rekindled by my reference to ‘Ratnawali’ the ‘Rodiya’
girl from Mulgirigala who was given a Vishakian education at the
behest of D. M.Says de Silva:
‘My father was Takurtha Deva Aditya Gardiye
Wasam Lindamulage Gabriel de Silva of Moratuwa. He was the Head
Master of the Kahawatta Government Mixed School in the Ratnapura
District way back in 1932.
‘The Government Agent at the time in Ratnapura
was Mr. C. L. Wickremesinghe - the first Ceylonese Government
Agent. C. L. Wickremesinghe was the paternal grandfather of
former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Those days in the Kahawatta area, there were a
fairly large tribal population of Rodiyas (gypsies) who as
custom would have it, were debarred from having access to any
form of education.
‘C. L. Wickremesinghe asked my father to admit
all the Rodiya children to his school. My father did so without
any hesitation and infact my elder brother studied with the
Rodiya children as I was not yet born then.’
At this point his wife Savitri took charge of
‘You know Mr. Buddhika (we are total strangers
and have not met ‘yet’. That explains the ‘Mr.’ Buddhika part).
My mother-in-law was ‘expecting’ at the time.
Again her husband intervened.
‘A certain very powerful Kandyan aristocrat
(name withheld by the writer) organised a protest campaign
against my father - so much so after premature childbirth my
mother became very ill. She died when I was a baby of just three
months. My father who was faced with death threats levelled by
this powerful Kandyan aristocrat asked for a transfer and took
us all to safety!’
Mr. de Silva said that as I had written about
‘Ratnawali’ he should mention this fact about his father and
As ‘Ajit Sara’ had told me that his father was
the Government Agent at Hambantota before Hudson - The ‘Sudda’
and de Silva’s claim that C. L. Wickremesinghe was the first Sri
Lankan Government Agent, I wanted to clarify who was senior.
I contacted Mr. Sam Wijesinghe, a ‘former
Secretary General of Parliament, a vast repository of knowledge.
‘What are you talking Buddhika? C. L. was my
father-in-law. I married Esmond’s sister (Esmond is the son of
C.L. and father of Ranil).
‘My father-in-law indeed was the first Ceylonese
Government Agent and in fact he was stationed at Ratnapura after
his stints at Mannar and Kalutara’ added the amiable
octogenarian. Sam Wijesinghe stating further that the Governor
in a letter addressed to C. L. had wished him to be a trail
blazer for many a Ceylonese to come.
Coming back to the eldest son of D. M. Lakshman
Rajapaksa the ‘strong man’ in the family was popularly
considered the natural successor to D.M. But at the time of
D.M.’s untimely demise, Lakshman had not yet reached the age of
adult franchise being a strapping lad not yet 21.
Therefore his paternal uncle ‘D.A.’, (Prime
Minister’s father) became the automatic choice. ‘D.A.’ (Alvin)
was returned uncontested to fill the vacuum created by the death
of brother D.M. thus blazing a fresh political trail not only in
the Ruhuna but also the country.
Unlike the other Rajapaksas, Lakshman’s
political career had its ‘ups’ and ‘downs’. In 1947 he won the
Tissamaharama seat in the first Parliament representing the
Communist Party. His Kinsman the C.P. Leader Dr. S. A.
Wickramasinghe largely influenced the young Lakshman’s political
thinking during these formative years. Lakshman was the youngest
MP of the first Parliament and it was during the 1947 General
Election he first clashed with Charles Edirisuriya, a powerful
personality, popularly known as ‘Mole Mahattaya’.
‘Mole Mahattaya’ was so called because he was
the owner of several rice mills. My father who had many building
contracts in the deep south was a close friend of Mole Mahattaya
and by implication a persona-non-grata with the Rajapaksas.
Tissamaharama and Hambantota seats like the
Dehiwala-Mt. Lavinia (previously Wellawatta-Galkissa) of you saw
the political fortunes changing hands between two sets of
individuals. Lakshman Rajapaksa and Charles Edirisuriya in the
former and Dr. Colvin R. de Silva (LLSP) and S. de S. Jayasinghe
(UNP) in the latter.
However, Lakshman Rajapaksa got the better of
‘Mole’ Mahattaya and upto the time of his demise counted 13
years and five months as a Parliamentarian.
Lakshman’s biggest win over his traditional
rival was during the 1956 landslide where his majority was over
In both March 1960 and July 1960, Lakshman
retained the Tissamaharama seat as a MEP candidate and he helped
to topple Mrs. Bandaranaike’s Government by voting with the
opposition motion of Galle’s W. Dahanayaka in Dec. 1964.
Mr. Dudley Senanayake, the leader of the UNP
declared that he would not field UNP candidates against any
Parliamentarian who voted to out-vote the Sirima Bandaranaike
To ‘Mole Mahattaya’s dismay, he was deemed UNP
nominations of the 1965 General Elections. ‘Mole’ Mahattaya, the
‘Warrior’ he was then sought and secured SLFP nominations.
Due to the decision arrived at by the UNP, it
was decided that Robert Gunawardena one of the most colourful
and rebellious MPs of the Post Independent era was not to be
contested by the UNP at Kottawa. A Joint Secretary of the UNP,
M. D. H. Jayawardena was Kottawa UNP Organiser and he revolted
against the leader’s decision threatening to resign from the
party, if he was not given nomination. This put Dudley is a
tight spot and a cordial meeting with Robert saw Robert agreeing
to meet the six foot giant of the UNP. M.D.H. has been a good
friend of mine from my school days who openly predicted that I
would one day represent Ambalangoda in Parliament! (I did better
by representing the entire Galle District!)
However, we of the UNP Students Union were
unhappy with M.D.H.’s decision to contest Robert and decided not
to join his campaign. But this was not to be - for one evening
M.D.H. ‘caught me at Sirikotha asking me where the hell I had
been hiding and hijacked me in his own car (a Black Mercedes) to
several of his meetings. I had no escape. At one such meeting I
was to see Manivel Saviriappa Themis, a postal employee fielded
by Mr. Bandaranaike in 1956 - waxing eloquent on the virtues of
the UNP - mostly for the benefit of Mr. Dudley Senanayake who
was in the chair!
Coming back to the General Election of 1965
where Charles Edirisuriya of the SLFP narrowly defeated Lakshman
Rajapaksa who contested as an Independent by a margin of 200 odd
votes an interesting incident was witnessed at the ‘Throne
Charles Edirisuriya, out and out a UNPer at the
time of voting walked across the floor of the those from the
Opposition ranks to where Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake was
seated, did a ‘U’ Turn towards Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike - the
Leader of the Opposition and gesticulated at her with the palm
of his raised hand resembling an egret. (fldld)
From that day he was known as koka (Sinhala for
In the 1970 General Elections, my friend and
kinsman Tennyson Edirisuriya contesting with the then SLFP
‘hand’ symbol defeated Lakshman who ran as an Independent by a
majority of over 5000.
As in the General Election of 1952, Lakshman’s
symbol at the 1970 General Election was the ‘Umbrella’.
Well-known leftist and Poet Lionel Sarath who
was a popular speaker at all of Lakshman’s meetings used to
recite ‘Kavis and Kamala remembers just two lines from one such
It was not possible to keep Lakshman away from
politics or parliament.
When his younger brother George, who was the
Minister of Fisheries and Health died, the SLFP picked him as
the SLFP candidate for Mulgirigala. Due to some manoeuvring by
specially some sections of the Rajapaksa women folk, the
youngest of the Rajapaksa brothers, Niel was pitted against
Lakshman. Poor Niel met his Waterloo and even forfeited his
deposit. Lakshman romped home with a majority which even
Lakshman with his Communist upbringing was a
rebel. His paternal uncle D.A. was at one time the UNP MP for
Beliatta. This was during D. S. Senanayake’s premiership and
before the famous ‘cross over’ of S.W.R.D.
D. S. Senanayake was touring the Hambantota area
and had been invited to lunch by his Party Man D.A. Along with
the ‘Old Man’ his encourage was also lunching at the Meda Mulana
house of D.A.
Immediately after the Prime Minister’s limousine
travelled the Prime Minister’s strong man Col. C. A. Dharmapala,
who was a very close relation of the Rajapaksas, left in his
Lakshman Rajapaksa with a few youths wearing
‘Red Shirts’ laid in wait by the Kondagala house of Lakshman. He
allowed the Prime Minister’s vehicle to pass and when the
vehicle in which Dharmapala travelled approached, Lakshman got
one Ovis Appu who had only one leg and hopped about in crutches
to stand on the middle of the road, obstructing Dharmapala’s
Dharmapala’s driver veered to avoid running over
the cripple and as the car passed him Ovis Appu at the
instigation of Lakshman let off some raw filth at the big shots
in big cars trying to kill innocent cripples.
The police were quick to arrest both Lakshman
and Ovis Appu along with some other ‘red shirted’ youths. They
were on remand for sometime and charged before the Magistrates
Court of Tangalla.
Dr. Colvin R. de Silva who had been retained by
the Rajapaksa Kinsman, George Weeratunga the leader of the
Matara Bar called Ovis Appu to the witness stand when the
defence was called. Ovis Appu in his evidence said that Lakshman
Rajapaksa the first accused was never there and it was true he
swore at the driver who paid scant respect to a cripple!
No wonder all the accused were honourably
Ovis Appu may have repaid a debt he owed to
Lakshman for saving his life. He had been afflicted with
elephantiasis and to save this life he had to part with one leg.
It was Lakshman who bore all the expenses connected with Ovis
Appu’s tag amputation.
Dr. Colvin R. de Silva had to get Lakshman out
in several other criminal cases most of which were total
fabrications according to sister Kamala Wickramasuriya.
Once when Lakshman was returning home along the
Tangalla-Hambantota Road, there was a bus on fire. Lakshman only
saw the incident but soon he was arrested for setting fire to
On this occasion too he had to languish in
remand for several days for something which he never did.
But then when his father’s creditors came to the
Kotabowa fair to collect the rent Lakshman assaulted the
representatives of the creditor who ran for their lives.
Lakshman Rajapaksa was a legend of his time
though not in proportion to his illustrious father D.M.
Next George Rajapaksa.