by Buddhika Kurukularatne
To conclude the series of articles on the most
controversial and the most colourful personality to adorn the
country’s political arena I reproduce below some ‘gems’ recorded
in the debates of the State Council and later in the Hansard of
the House of Representatives.
Sir John was reputed to shoot from his mouth. He
seldom thought before he spoke. ‘Kotelawelism’, as reproduced
here from the State Council debates and the Hansard are refined
and guarded expressions — not the usual verbal bombardments he
is so notorious of. In an era where even the word, ‘lies’ was
considered unparliamentary and any reference to a member by his
name too was not permitted, Sir John would here felt himself
gagged on many an occasion preventing the free flow of unbridged
and unbridled original ‘Kotalawelisms’.
Dr. S. A. Wickramasinghe (Morawaka): I mention
these facts to make the House realize the enormity of the
problem, a problem which is far bigger than what the Hon. Leader
makes us believe. It is a problem which he thinks can be tackled
by a mere system of registration of servants agencies.
Major Kotelawela (Kurunegala): ‘It is the oldest
profession in the world.’
Dr. Wickramasinghe: The Hon. Member specializes
in that profession. He knows all about it! (State Council
debates 25-10-1935 Vol. III P 4068 — ‘Exploitation of Women and
A. E. Goonesinghe (Colombo Central): He told us
of the great work done in India by the great Indian leader and I
really thought that he was another ‘Mahatma’, but today far from
being a ‘Mahatma’ he has become a ‘Ras Gugsa’.
The Hon. Maj. Kotelawela: Who is that?
Mr. Goonesinghe: A military man does not know
who Ras Gugsa is!’
The Hon. Maj. Kotelawela: I do not know. I never
met him. Is Ras Gugsa in my committee?
Mr. Goonesinghe: Ras Gugsa is the man who
betrayed Abysinia to the Italians.
The Hon. Major Kotelawela: Then Sir, the Hon.
Member of Colombo Central has a close resemblance.
(State Council Debates — 2.3.1938 Vol. I P 700)
Dr. N. M. Perera (Ruwanwella): I have had 3
telegrams to say that they are starving on the estate and asking
that an inquiry be held.
The Hon. Maj. Kotelawela: They have money to
send telegrams and yet they are starving!
(State Council Debates — 1938 Vol. H. P. 2933)
Sept. 13 1938).
Taking off their trousers and getting them to
A. E. Goonesinghe (Colombo Central): "I think
the Hon. Minister gave an interview to the Times of Ceylon in
which he said, I will rid these fellows of their trousers, and
get then to wear cloth."
The Hon. Maj. Kotelawela: I wish I can do that.
(Appropriation Bill (Railway) — State Council Debates 1938 Sept.
16th — Vol. II P. 3199).
A. E. Goonesinghe (Colombo Central): He thinks
that Junior Guards will do as well as Head Guards. That is the
mentality of the Hon. Minister. Head Guards and Junior Guards
are all the same to him.
The Hon. Maj. Kotelawela: Except a blackguard!
(Appropriation Bill (Railway) — State Council
Debates 1938 Oct. 25 Vol. III P. 3528).
A. E. Goonesinghe (Colombo Central): The Hon.
Minister talks of a separation allowance. That allowance is paid
if your wife is not with you.
Hon. Maj. Kotelawela: That is separation.
Mr. Goonesinghe: You have to send away your wife
to get a separation allowance. I know the Hon. Minister
Hon. Maj. Kotelawela: I appreciate it very much.
Know better at 75
Mr. H. R. Freeman (Anuradhapura) I volunteered
evidence before the Donoughmore Commission in favour of
universal suffrage and advised that it should be at the age of
25 when people in this country know rather better what to do
than they know at 21.
The Hon. Major Kotelawela: They know better at
75 I think. (State Council Debates — 1940 May 15 — Non-Ceylonese
Voters — No. 1 P. 877).
Carrying legal briefs
Francis de Zoysa (Balapitiya)
Most of us unofficial members of the Bar, carry
our own briefs, when we go into Court. Even as Kings Counsel I
did not have a peon to carry my briefs from the Law Library.
The Hon. Mqj. Kotelawela: All depends on the
briefs. (State Council Debates 1940 — Appropriation Bill Aug.
13. — Vol. II P. 1489.
H. W. Amarasuriya (Galle): ‘I am sure the
Minister of Communications and Works will not frame his family
budget in that manner.
The Hon. Maj. Kotelawela: I have no family Sir!
(State Council Debates — 1940 Appropriation Bill Aug. 20 — Vol.
II P 1608)
H. W. Amarasuriya (Galle): The watchdog of the
Finances of the Country is the Treasury.
Hon. Maj. Kotelawela: Bulldog!
Mr. Amarasuriya: But unfortunately the watch-dog
has turned out to be — as the Hon. Minister of Communication and
Works describes a bulldog.
The Hon. Mr. Bandaranaike (Veyangoda): A bull
dog is a watch-dog! (State Council Debates 1940 Appropriation
Bill Aug. 20 — P. 1614).
H. W. Amarasuriya (Galle): ".....it is not right
for me to get angry with the minister and blackguard him and say
that the minister is a rascal, and that I am the only good man —
The Hon. Maj. Kotelawela: That is not true.
(State Council Debates 1940 — Appropriation Bill Aug. 20 — P.
Mission of three to say the same thing
H. W. Amarasuriya (Galle): There is no reason
why three ministers should proceed on this mission to India.
Hon. Maj. Kotelawela: To say the same thing!
(State Council Debates 1940 Sept. 5. — Indo-Ceylon Relations —
Daniel come to judgement
Mr. G. E. de Silva (Kandy) — Justice must be
Hon. Maj. Kotelawela: A Daniel come to judgement!
(State Council Debates 1940 Sept. 19 - Appropriation Bill — Vol.
II P 2709.
Cannot give understanding
Mr. G. E. de Silva (Kandy): One Hon. Member
after another wanted certain information, but nothing which
would induce any reasonable man to pass the Vote was offered.
Hon. Major Kotelawela: We can give reasons but
not understanding. (State Council Debates 1940 — Import Duties —
Sept. 24 P. 2845. Vol. II)
Proctors and parasites
Mr. G. E. de Silva (Kandy): These speculators
are parasites, and these parasites, once they get a taste of
making money at the expense of unfortunate people will keep on
sucking their lifeblood until they go out of existence.
Hon. Lt. Col. Kotelawela: They are like
proctors! (State Council Debates 1940 Nov. 13 — Tea Coupons —
Vol. II P 2974).
Half a loaf or no bread?
Mr. G. E. de Silva (Kandy): The Hon. Minister
wants the railway to go up to Chilaw and he wants to cut up the
23 miles of line from Puttalam to Bangadeniya.
The Hon. Lt. Col. Kotelawela: Which is better,
half a loaf or no bread? (State Council Debates 1941, Nov. 25 —
Puttalam-Bangadeniya Railway — Vol. II P. 2960).
Talk through spectacles
Mr. A. E. Goonesinghe (Colombo Central): The
Hon. Minister ought to wear his spectacles always and be careful
as to what he says when he writes or speaks.
The Hon. Lt. Col. Kotelawela: I don’t talk
thorough my spectacles. (State Council Debates 1942-2-12 — Board
of Ministers Vol. I P 312).
Mr. H. W. Amarasuriya (Galle): Everything has
The Hon. Lt. Col. Kotelawela: Except speeches!
(State Council Debates 1942 Feb. 20 — Food Control Orders — Vol.
Mr. B. H. Aluvihare (Matale): You cannot have an
able-bodied population capable of doing a day’s work when that
is the condition of your babies in one of your healthiest areas.
Hon. Lt. Col. Kotelawela: All depends on the
father. (State Council Debates 1942-8-4 — Appropriation Bill —
Vol. II P. 1399).
Dr. A. P. de Zoysa (Colombo South): Should you
spend as much as Rs. 181,000 in appointing Excise Guards,
Inspectors and so on in order to spy out and discover who is
producing arrack or toddy? All this money could very well be
utilized for producing food.
Hon. Col. Kotelawela: This is liquid food.
(State Council Debates 1943-5-27 — Supplementary Estimates —
Vol. I P. 881).
Mr. J. R. Jayewardene (Kelaniya): When Prince
Vijaya landed in Ceylon and met Queen Kuveni history says that
Kuveni was spinning.
The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: Yarns! (State Council
Debates 1943-9-1 — Appropriation Bill — Vol. II P. 1952).
Mr. H. W. Amarasuriya (Galle): Mr. White is a
The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: He is a Black White
just as there are white Blacks. Note by Buddhika: This is an
innuendo at an European Member of the Council Mr. C. J. Black).
(State Council Debates 1944-9-14 — Appropriation Bill P. 2307)
Success of failures
Mr. Thomas Amarasuriya (Moratuwa): Instead of
being penalized for failing their examinations, they are now
drawing a higher scale of pay.
Hon. Col. Kotelawela: Sometimes it is far better
to fail an examination! (State Council Debates 1944-9-14 —
Appropriation Bill — Vol II P 2311.
On W. Dahanayake from Bibile
The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: I can tell you this.
Sir, that the Hon. Member for Bibile was nearly questioned
outside this chamber the other day when a demonstration took
place; and if I had not been responsible for his safety, he
would have been questioned that day never to be questioned
again. I had to ask him to remain inside.
Mr. Dahanayake (Bibile): They how-led you down!
The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: They did not howled me
down. They listened to me and if not for me they would have
taken the Hon. Member like a monkey on a stick. (State Council
Debates 1945-11-20 — Vol. II P. 7194-5).
Mr. W. Dahanayake (Bibile): If it is working as
the minister claims, then we want to see the fruits of its
labourers. Or, is it that the sub-committee is a barren
The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: A barren man! (state
Council Debates 1946 — Vol. I P. 419).
Mr. D. P. R. Gunawardena (Kotte): My party, the
L.S.S.P. is prepared to form an alliance even with the devil —
not only with the devil but even with the devil’s own
grandmother — in order to fight the common enemy.
The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: Devil’s grandmother?
We do not know her, Sir! (House of Representatives — Hansard
Vol. I P 362-3).
Socialism — private property?
Mr. D. P. R. Gunawardena (Kotte): And the
strangest spectacle of all is that the Hon. Minister of
Transport and Works transforming himself overnight into a
The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: Socialism is not your
private property. Is it? (House of Representatives Hansard —
Vol. I P. 365).
Mr. D. P. R. Gunawardene (Kotte): If anybody
does any flag waving today, it is the Hon. Minister of Transport
and Works and the Prime Minister. We do not indulge in
The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: What do you indulge
in? Stone throwing? (House of Representatives’ Hansard — Vol. I
Mr. Wilmot A. Perera (Horana): There is lack of
equipment. I have known instances of teachers of music working
in schools for over 3 years without a single musical instrument.
The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: They must have been
Mr. Wilmot A. Perera: There must be some musical
accompaniment to singing.
The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: What about whistling?
(House of Representatives’ Hansard — Vol. II P. 2514).
Whole time occupation
Dr. N. M. Perera (Ruwanwella): ‘...it is no use
thinking that a handful of members can make up trouble unless
there are genuine grievances.
The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: All non-sense!
Dr. Perera: I know it is the hobby of the
Minister of Transport to —
The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: Not hobby, occupation.
D. P. R. Gunawardena (Kotte): Whole-time
The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: Yes, for the rest of
Dr. Perera: That is his trouble, and we shall
know all about it when his votes are taken up tomorrow.
The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: I am not dumb. (House
of Representatives Hansard — Committee Vol. II P. 2830)
Never refused a lady’s request
Mrs. Florence Senanayake (Kiriella): I press for
an assurance from the Hon. Minister because there is a nasty
rumour about the country that the Hon. Minister is anxious to
see new constructions made only in areas represented by UNP
The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: I hope that, that
rumour is spread all over the Island.
Mrs. Florence Senanayake: By your supporters, if
I may say so.
The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: I have never refused a
lady’s request. (House of Representatives’ Hansard Appropriation
Bill Committee. Vol. II P. 31115).
Set a thief to catch a thief
The Hon. J. R. Jayewardene (Kelaniya): The Hon.
Member of Agalawatta (Mr. S. A. Silva) has taken a great deal of
interest in a certian fraud and I must thank him for bringing
this matter to the notice of the responsible authority.
The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: Set a thief to catch a
thief. (House of Representatives’ Hansard — Adjournment May 1948
Vol. III P. 254).
Doing the same thing
Dr. N. M. Perera (Ruwanwella): When they were
back-benchers the capitalist system was a crumbling system, an
outworn system, but now that they are ministers, the Capitalist
system is apparently not the same.
The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: You will be doing the
Dr. Perera: That is judging by your own
standards. (House of Representatives’ Hansard — Appropriation
Bill — Vol. III P. 1803).
When the working class takes power
Mr. D. P. R. Gunawardena (Kotte): When the
working classes of this country take power in to their hands.
The Hon. Sir J. Kotelawela: You will not be
there! (House of Representatives’ Hansard — Appropriation Bill
Vol. III P. 1846).
Drink for prisoners
Mr. P. G. B. Keuneman (1st Colombo Central):
There is absolutely no reason why a prisoner who earns his money
by doing work in prison should not be allowed to spend it on
The Hon. Sir J. Kotelawela: What about a drink
for the prisoners?
Kissing goes by favour
Mr. Kavisena Herath (Nikaweratiya) Will the Hon.
Minister tell us whether it is his policy to expedite the work
of those who follow him blindly and who never oppose him?
The Hon. Sir J. Kotelawela: That is not my
policy, but I must tell the Hon. Member that kissing still goes
by favour. (House of Representatives’ Hansard Vol. IV P. 156).
The Hon. Sir J. Kotelawela: The Hon. Member
wants to know whether I am aware — I am not aware. (House of
Representatives’ Hansard — Vol. V. P. 1427).
Poor man and the telephone
Mr. W. Dahanayake (Galle): What has the poor man
in Galle done to warrant almost a hundred per cent increase in
the charge for trunk calls that he makes?
The Hon. Sir J. Kotelawela: Has the ‘poor’ man a
Socialism and revolution
P. G. B. Keuneman (1st Colombo Central): Smash
the government and establish a Socialist government and there
will be no unemployment under a Socialist government.
The Hon. Sir J. Kotelawela: There will be
Revolution. (House of Representatives Hansard — 13-7-1949
Adjournment — Vol VI P 109.
What aid you do at night?
Mr. W. Dahanayake (Galle): I could not be
present at the meeting held on the 21st because I had a very
crowded programme on that day. I was busy, morning, noon and
Continued next week