‘Kotelawelism’ Men and Memories

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’.

Oldest profession

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 Children’)

Ras Gugsa

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 wear cloth.

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 appreciates that.

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.

Family budget

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. 1627)

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 — P. 2110)

Daniel come to judgement

Mr. G. E. de Silva (Kandy) — Justice must be done.

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).

Rationing Speeches

Mr. H. W. Amarasuriya (Galle): Everything has been rationed.

The Hon. Lt. Col. Kotelawela: Except speeches! (State Council Debates 1942 Feb. 20 — Food Control Orders — Vol. I 401).


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).

Liquid food

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).

Spinning yarns

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).

‘Black’ white

Mr. H. W. Amarasuriya (Galle): Mr. White is a Ceylonese?

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).

Barren man

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 movement?

The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: A barren man! (state Council Debates 1946 — Vol. I P. 419).

Devil’s grandmother

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 Socialist.

The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: Socialism is not your private property. Is it? (House of Representatives Hansard — Vol. I P. 365).

Stone throwing

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 flag-waving.

The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: What do you indulge in? Stone throwing? (House of Representatives’ Hansard — Vol. I P. 371).


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 teaching singing!

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 occupation.

The Hon. Col. Kotelawela: Yes, for the rest of my life.

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 members.

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 same.

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 cigarettes.

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).

Not aware

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 telephone?

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 night.

Continued next week



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