‘Make him a Man!’ implored Abraham Lincoln the
man who rose from rag to riches to become a famous President of
the United States, to the teacher of his son.
The same legend is inscribed in a plaque at the
bungalow occupied by Dr. R. L. Haymon at S. Thomas’ College
My late father, though having played truant was
a great lover of Shakespeare. Though the legal maxim, ‘eus
dem generis rule cannot be applied to Lincoln, Nehru
vis-a-vis my father, my father sent me a letter to the Centre
for Labour and Social Studies in Rome where I was sent by then
PM Dudley Senanayake, in 1966, to follow a political leadership
‘My son’ wrote my father’, remember! you are in
a foreign country. But do not forget your values. Remember you
are always a Ceylonese. Be respectful towards your teachers and
courteous towards your colleagues.
When Mahinda Rajapaksa gave me a letter written
by his father, the letter written by my own father came to my
mind. As this article is about Mahinda’s father not mine, I
shall proceed to narrate the event that made D. A. to write this
letter to his eldest son Chamal.
Chamal had been selected for recruitment to the
police. He sought his father’s permission and the father took
several days to ponder over the issue. D. A. was a Member of
Parliament at the time and he wrote to Chamal thus (the letter
was in Sinhala. Although I can never capture the warmth and
affection contained there in the English translation of mine).
‘House of Representatives
My dear son,
Please hear in mind that I am addressing this
letter to you due to my profound love and affection towards you.
I need not stress on the fact that you are the
eldest child in the family. You are aware that the eldest child
inherits the father’s position and it is the eldest child who is
bestowed with huge reponsibilities in family matters. As I fall
ill frequently these days, considering the situation in the
family, your fullest co-operation is very necessary for the
future well-being of the younger brothers and sisters. I need
not emphasize on the dire need to safeguard our name which has
earned the respect of the people as also to improve the family’s
standing. Please be informed therefore that I count on your
co-operation towards this end.
‘Please bear in mind that this letter is written
not because we have any doubt of your support but merely to
serve as a reminder.
Son, when you sought my permission to join the
police I gave my consent after considering the matter at great
length. The general belief today is that the police is capable
of corrupting any person with a good character. As the saying
goes bees making their hive in a Margosa tree will not affect
the sweetness of its honey (—-) a person who joins the police
with an unblemished character will remain untarnished. Although
consumption of liquor and acquiring notoriety have become the
legacy of the police, I and your mother earnestly expect you to
perform your services devoid of such evil.
Therefore my beloved son, please thoroughly bear
in mind that we, your loving father and mother expect you to
lead a just life in a manner that would dawn a radiant future
both to you and the family.
Your loving mother and father
This letter reflects inter-alia, the values the
Rajapaksa’s cherished so dearly.
I must say Chamal never failed his father. And
this coming from a solid UNPer is indeed something.
Robert Knox, the British prisoner, must have had
a premonition when he said of the Sinhala peasant, that when a
ploughman’s mud is washed, he is fit to be king!
After the untimely death of his illustrious
elder brother D. M., the family responsibilities fell largely on
D. A. He therefore concentrated on looking after whatever
properties that was left after various alienations. But the
people of Giruwava, looked upon D. A. as the natural successor
to ‘the lion’. This was more so, as D. M.’s elder son, Lakshman
though politically inclined was not yet 21 (the age requirement
of franchise then)
So, hoards of Rajapaksa loyalists went in search
of D. A. who was ploughing a field, to get his signature for the
D. A. washed the mud from his hands (Robert Knox
must have been very pleased from wherever he was) and signed the
He was thus returned uncontested on 14-7-1945,
to the Hambantota seat to fill the void of brother D. M. in the
In the second State Council he was appropriately
made a member of the Executive Committee on Agriculture and
Lands from the day he was elected i.e. 8.8. 1945 up to its
abrogation on 01.7.1947, to pave way for the first parliament.
D. A.’s ‘Family Tree’ is as follows.
Waniga-Chintamani Mohotti Don Davith Rajapaksa.
+ Dona Gimara Weerakoon Rathnayake of Ihala Beligalla.
D. C. Rajapaksa D. M. Rajapaksa Don Alvin (D.
A.) Rajapaksa Dona Karalien Rajapaksa, Dona Dandina Samarasinghe
Dissanayake of Palatuwa, Matara. 1. Chamal 2. Jayanthi (Hettiarachchi
— deceased) 3. Mahinda 4. Chandra Tudor 5. Gotabhaya 6. Basil 7.
Preethi . Dudley 9. Gandini (Ranawaka)
Chamal tells me that D. A. who was a UNP MP
until his defection with SWRD named a son after Dudley
Senanayake, then the Minister of Agriculture in the D. S.
Senanayake cabinet. This also proves the love he had for
That fateful day on the 12th of July 1951, when
the Leader of the House, S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike crossed the
floor he didn’t discuss his crossing over with D. A. The very
fact S. W. R. D. stated that D. A. was not one of those he spoke
to, implies that he did speak to others and it is said that many
promised to cross the great-divide, but only D. A. followed him
like a shadow. Few others followed later.
If S. W. R. D. was pleasantly surprised at the
unexpected support from D. A., the Prime Minister was surprised
too. Chamal told me that the Grand Old Man had commented, ‘I am
not surprised at what Banda did’. But I can’t understand why D.
A. crossed over.’
D. S.’s remark was the result of D. A. hosting
the Prime Minister and his entourage comprising Minister of
Public Works Col. John Lionel Kotalawala, Minister of Finance,
J. R. Jayewardene, Col, C. A. Dharmapala who was kinsman of the
Rajapaksa’s to a grand lunch at his Medamulana home after
several function in the Weeraketiya and Walasmulla areas.
There were many who thought D. A. was committing
political Hara kiri when he left the ruling UNP.
In the run up to the first Parliamentary
Elections, D. A. contesting as an UNP candidate secured 14,007
votes as against D. P. Atapattu (who was later to become a
Deputy Minister in the UNP Government of Dudley Senanayake) who
polled a mere 5,985 votes. A third candidate Eddie Fernando
trailed behind D. P. with 4885 votes. Still two others P. Jamis
de Silva and P. de S. Wickramasinghe polled only 362 and 270
Although this election was fought on party
lines, there were no symbols allocated on party basis. Perhaps
almost by premonition, D. A. was assigned the ‘hand’ symbol,
which was later to be official symbol of the S. L. F. P.
Ironically the ‘hand’ that secured many a victory for the SLFP
is conspicuous by its absence in the hustings today.
Symbols of other candidates were the ‘Chair’ (Atapattu),
Elephant’ (Eddie Fernando), ‘Star’ (Jamis de Silva) and the
A few months after S. W. R. D.’s cross over,
Dudley who succeeded his father as the Prime Minister dissolved
Parliament and called for a fresh mandate from the people.
Fresh from his cross-over, D. A. was one of the
few rebels to be returned to Parliament. This time too from
In a straight fight with Don Peter Atapathu who
by now had become D.A's. ‘traditional rival’, D. A. retained
Beliatta contesting under the ‘Umbrella’ symbol defeating
Atapathu whose symbol was the ‘Star’.
The detailed results are as follows
D. A. Rajapaksa (Umbrella) 17,382
D. P. Atapattu (Star) 13,750
In the People’s Revolution of 1956, D. A. was
the candidate of Bandaranaike’s Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP)
yet his symbol was the ‘hand’ which got him elected to first
parliament in 1947 albeit as an UNP MP.
1956 was also a straight fight between the
D. A. Rajapaksa M.E.P. (hand) 26,215.
D. P. Atapattu U.N.P. (elephant) 10,382.
He was made the Junior Minister of Agriculture
and Lands, a field with which he was thoroughly conversant and
was the Minister of Agriculture and Lands for a mere 2 weeks.
from the date of the brutal assassination of S. W. R. D. upto
10.10.59. The Prime Minister then was Galle’s W. Dahanayake. He
resigned his portfolio on 10.10.1959.
In March 1960, Don Peter Atapattu was at last
able to turn tables on D. A.
D. P. Atapattu is the father of the amiable and
charming Dr. Ranjith Atapattu was the Minister of Health under
the J. R. Jayewardene government of 1977. I remember meeting D.
P. Atapattu in his Tangalle home as a small boy in the company
of my father. D. P. who was a teacher before he took to law, had
been a teacher at Maha Bodhi Vidyalaya in Maradana. He even told
me that my father had a very bad ‘stammer’. Something both I and
my mother didn’t know!.
The results of the March 1960 Beliatta
electorate was D. P. Atapattu (UNP-Elephant) 14,379 votes and D.
A. Rajapaksa (MEP-cartwheel) 12,685 votes. Five others polled
less than 500 votes.
A mere four months later at the July 1960
general elections, D. A. was able to wrest Beliatta from D. P.
in a straight fight.
D. A. Rajapaksa (SLFP-Hand) polled 15121 as
against D. P’s (UNP-Elephant) 14074 votes.
On Nov. 6, 1962, upon the death of Deputy
Chairman of Committees, Adhikari, D. A. was appointed to fill
the vacancy. When the Speaker R. S. Pelpola resigned on 24-1-64
to accept a Ministerial portfolio, the then Deputy Speaker Hugh
Fernando became Speaker. D. A. Rajapaksa succeeded Hugh Fernando
as the Deputy Speaker which position he held with dignity and
distinction until the ignominious defeat of the Sirima
Bandaranaike Government in Dec. 1964.
The traditional rivals clashed for the last time
at the general elections of 1965 where D. P. Atapattu (UNP-elephant)
got the better of D. A. (SLFP-hand) with a majority of 5,862
D. A. whether in power or no mingled with the
masses until his death on 7th November 1967.
Unlike his brother D. M. who would erupt like a
volcano in the face of injustice, D. A. was a comparatively mild
mannered person who was addressed fondly as ‘uncle’ by most of
his young constituents.
In his Richmond College days he captained the
football team and was the vice captain of the cricket team. It
is said that the record he established at the Richmond and
Sebestinite encounter of Moratuwa is still to be bettered.
Since agriculture was his livelihood even before
his advent to politics, he took great pains in improving the lot
of the Giruwawa peasant.
Chamal remembers the day in 1957 S. W. R. D.
Bandaranaike as the Prime Minister came to inaugurate the
‘Chandrika Wewa’ so named after the Premiers younger
daughter. C. P. de Silva who was the Minister of Land and Lands
Development. Mrs. Wimala Wijewardena, the Minister of Health and
other VIPs were entertained to lunch at the Walakulu Bunglow of
Lakshman Rajapaksa (now owned by Chamal) who was the Deputy
Minister of Trade under R. G. Senanayake, the Minister. D. A.
was C.P.’s Deputy Minister of Land and Land Development.
Chamal remembers attending the Chandrika Wewa
inauguration in the company of Mrs. Wimala Wijewardena in her
car. I even operated a bull-dozer at the inaugural soil cutting
ceremony’, chuckled the amiable Chamal who has inherited most of
his father's qualities, whilst his younger brother Mahinda, is
more the street fighter type like his uncle and cousin Lakshman.
However Mahinda with the responsibilities of Premiership, has
hung his ‘fighting gloves’ perhaps to be donned later!.
D. A. was soft spoken and endeared himself to
friend and foe alike.
Matara’s C. Justin Wijayawardena, an erudite
Sinhala scholar who wrested the Matara Red-fortress for the UNP
in March 1960 in an apt appreciation recalls D.A’s humbleness in
victory and in defeat, his great dedication to the peasantry and
his unflinching loyalty to the cause he believed in. ‘He never
hurled abuse from the political platforms Wijewardena states in
It was D. A.’s role as a peace maker that
settled a violent dispute amongst fisher-folk at Kudawella.
I remember my father mentioning the tense
situation which prevailed in the costal belt of Tangalle. One or
two people had been killed for the people of Kudawella used
their knives not only to cut fish!
The trouble erupted between two sections of
fishermen who used different methods to catch fish. The ‘method’
was known as ‘Panna’ and depending on the method adopted,
the mode of fishing came to be known by it. Thus ‘Riti’
panna — is ‘Stilt’ fishing. This is now found only along
a small stretch of sea in Ahangama, by my friend Hema Kumara
Nanayakkara’s Club Lanka Hotel’. The ‘fight’ at Kudawella was
between the ‘Bileepithi panna’ fishermen who used fishing
rods to catch fish-one at a time. As opposed to this form of
fishing was the ‘madeal panna’ — the catching of fish by
using the nets. This method caught the big and small fish alike,
depriving the ‘Bileepithi’ panna fishermen of their
As the dispute rose to uncontrollable
proportions ‘D.A.’ went as emissary in quest of peace between
the warring sections of fishermen. By gentle persuasion he was
able to bring about an amicable settlement.
What is most significant of the success of D.
A’s mission was that, he had to face a hostile tide. The
Karawa community. The fishermen of Kudawella, Tangalle and
its environs are fiercely caste-consclous. The vast majority of
these Karawa fisher falk harboured a deep rooted enmity towards
the Goigama community and it was indeed a miracle that a
representative of the Goigama community was able to settle a
dispute between two factions of Karawas.
Even today from the southern coastal belt we
hear of clashes between ‘Light Course’ (the method of
catching fish with a light) and ‘Alagodu course’.
However the Bileepithi Panna form of
fishing is now only confined to Kudawella and Unapuruwa beaches.
What has taken its place is ‘Kotan course’ (log method) I
was told that in the deep sea there are rotting logs washed away
from India and other countries. These rotting timber attracts
small fish and the small fish in turn attracts the large fish.
‘Madelpanna’ however continues to thrive at Tangalle,
Kalametiya, Welipathanwila, Pattiyawaraya and Uraniya fishing
grounds in the south.
Coming back to our ‘Hero’ — D. A., he left his
political legacy complete with his shawl of Kurakkan colour to
two of his off spring. Chamal and Mahinda.
The legacy of the Giruwapattuwa was continued in
the 1970 general election, by a young man-barely out of his
teens in Percy Mahinda Rajapaksa who was elected to represent
the Beliatta constituency of his father (SLFP-Hand) securing
23,103 votes as against my friend and fellow UNPer the amiable
Dr. Ranjith Atapattu (UNP-elephant) who polled 16,477 votes.
Mr. B. M. Amith — Editor Hansard
Mr. N. M. C. Thilakaratne — Librarian —
Mr. C. Kuruppu Deputy Librarian — Parliament
Next: The present generation of the Rajapaksas