Junior - 1st in the British Empire
In 1901, he passed the Cambridge Junior
Examination, obtaining the highest marks in the whole of British
Empire. In 1904, he presented himself for Cambridge Senior
(University Entrance) Examination but failed to win the only
Scholarship, thereby hindering his life ambition to take to law.
However, Rev. Darrel offered him a teaching post to teach
Mathematics at Richmond where he continued for a few years.
However, his ambition to take to law compelled him to join
Prince of Wales college in Moratuwa as Senior Mathematics Master
in January, 1907, since he could easily attend Law College from
It was in this year that the Government decided
to raise Moratuwa to the status of a Local Board and elections
were held at the year end. J. G. C. Mendis, Principal of Prince
of Wales not only entered the contest but also insisted that his
staff manage the polling booth located in the College premises.
It was customary for candidates to treat voters at the time and
the Principal expected his teachers to serve the voters and also
canvass. Two teachers among them, C.W. W.Kannangara and H.D.S.
Gunasekara, refused to take part in the Election although their
moral support was for the Principal. Kannangara drew his salary
at the end of the month and bade farewell to Prince of Wales.
This was Kannagara who always stood by his principles.
Later he joined the staff of Wesley College in
Colombo, which job enabled him to continue his studies at Law
College. It is worthwhile to mention here that Oliver
Goonetilleke, who later became the Financial Secretary, a
Minister of Finance and a Governor - General, was one of his
erstwhile pupils, who later helped him to get the required funds
for Free Education. To earn an extra income, he started teaching
at Methodist College in the evening.
Kannangara’s dedicated service to the society
spread far and wide, starting from being elected as Secretary to
the Galle Reading Room in 1911. Among other positions he held
were, Secretary of the Richmond College O.B.A, Committee member
of Galle Cricket Club and Gymkhana Club (where he was a
versatile player of Billiard and Ajutha), Secretary of Galle
Poor Relief Committee, Vice President of the Sinhalese Young
Men’s Association and General Secretary of the Galle Temperance
Movement. It was while practicing at the Galle Bar that he
appeared free for innocent Sinhala Buddhist leaders who were
prosecuted by the Colonial Government during the anti – Muslim
In 1911, he supported Ponnambalam Ramanathan
against Dr. H. Marcus Fernando in the election of the Educated
Ceylonese seat for the Southern Province in the Legislative
Council. In 1917 also, Kannangara supported Ponanmbalam
Ramanathan against J.S. Jayawardene thereby enabling him to win
the seat again. In the same year, he was instrumental in forming
the first Political Association in Galle - The Galle National
Association - and was elected as its secretary, which post he
held and adorned upto 1923 when he resigned after he was elected
to the Legislative Council. C. L. Wickremasinghe who was elected
acting Secretary says that " first thing that struck me was the
thoroughness and methodical and ungrudging manner in which
Kannangara has carried out his duties as Secretary and the high
standard he has set to his successor. However, after Kannagara’s
resignation, the Association died a natural death.
Ceylon National Congress
This was a period of agitation for political
reforms, and for this purpose,. The Ceylon National Congress
(originally named as Ceylon Agricultural Association) and The
Ceylon Reform League called a joint Conference in Colombo (with
144 delegates) on December 15th, 1917 and Kannangara led the
delegation from Galle. At this conference, Ponnambalam
Arunasalam and D.R. Wijewardene were elected as President and
Secretary. The first Conference could not achieve any success
and a second conference was held on 13th December, 1918 at which
Kannagara proposed that:
(i) very liberal reforms be introduced into our
(ii) Legislative and Executive Councils be
(iii) there should be elected majorities in our
(iv) there should be more popular control of
(v) there should be larger employment of
Ceylonese in more responsible and higher branches of the Civil
and other public services ;
(vi) there should be larger grants for
(vii) there should be greater support and
encouragement to agriculture and local industries;
(viii) iniquitous and inequitable poll – tax
should be abolished.
As a Legislator
His entry to Legislative Council politics
commenced by contesting the bi – election for the Galle seat
when it fell vacant on the death of O.C.Tillekeratne in 1923. He
defeated David de Silva collecting 1969 votes against 115. In
1924 also, he won the Southern Province Western Division seat
defeating Francis de Zoysa by a majority of 1867 votes. After
the promulgation of the Donoughmore Constitution, Kannangara
entered the State Council as the member for Galle, defeating S.
H. Dahanayake by a majority of 6640 votes. At the 1936 State
Council Election, he shifted to his own native place Matugama
and returned as Member for Matugama, defeating S, Suriyagoda by
a majority of 4459 votes. He remained in the State Council upto
1947 General Election at which the forces that worked against
the Free Education System led by D. S. Senanayake and the
Catholic Church defeated him.
Now let us turn to the lesser known aspects of
Dr. C. W. W. Kannangara which have been least dealt with by
numerous writers and journalists since his immense contribution
to Education has been adequately and profoundly dealt with.
Religious holidays for Non - Christians
In 1925, it was Kannangara who agitated for
equal treatment for Buddhists when the minority Christians
enjoyed all the plums and puddings. He drew the attention of the
Legislative Council in the following words : " The provisions
regarding Public and Bank Holidays for Buddhists are given in
the Ordinance No. 4 of 1886. In that Ordinance, Section 4 states
that all the Sundays shall be ‘dies non’ and schedule 4, list is
given of the days that shall be holidays in the Colony. In this
Schedule, 4 days, December 24 - 27 are given to the Christians
to commemorate the birth of Christ. Then again January 1st has
religious significance and January 1st and 2nd are holidays.
Therefore, Sir, we would ask that some proper and adequate
provisions be made for the Buddhists as well as those of other
religious faiths. " But nothing was forthcoming and he had to
raise the issue again and again. As a result, Poson and the day
following Vesak were declared Public Holidays on 28th February,
Salaries of lower Grade Employees
Kannangara opposed paying high salaries and
giving numerous other privileges to the top rungs in the
Government. He always fought for a better deal for the lower
rungs. In 1926, he fought for higher salaries for Headmen. This
is how he addressed the issue:
" The general Public are very anxious to see
that the work of the Headman is done well. For that purpose, it
is necessary that the Headman should be a man of character,
intelligence, large – hearted and liberal – minded and that he
should have the physical fitness, social position and local
influence necessary for public office. Men with these
qualifications cannot be attracted for Rs. 10 / - or Rs. 15 / -
In the midst of Workers’ struggles
In 1927, harbour workers led by A. E.Gunasinghe
struck work demanding higher wages and the Colonial Government
appointed an Arbitration Committee with Justice Schneider as
Umpire and C. W. W. Kannangara on behalf of workers and C. S.
Burnt to look after the interests of employers. After
deliberations, the Arbitrator awarded higher wages and 13,000
workers returned to work. As result of the award, the workers
not only got higher wages but also one hour for meals and double
wages for night work.
In 1928, All Ceylon Trade Union Congress was
formed consisting of 11 men and 9 women. The list included,
among others, C.W.W.Kannangara, C.H.Z.
Fernando, A. Mahadeva, Victor Corea, G.C.S.Corea,
George E. de Silva, and Dr. Muttiah.
Among the women members, were Agnes de Silva,
Dr. Mrs. Iyer, Mrs A. E. Gunasinghe, Mrs. A. E. de Silva , Mrs
Cyril Jayewardene and others. This was precursor of the Ceylon
Ceylon National Congress
In 1930, CWWK was elected President of the
Ceylon National Congress and in welcoming him to the Annual
Sessions held in Knady, E.A.P.Wijeratne, Chairman of the
Organizing Committee, ushered Kannangara saying : " Mr.
Kannagara is a worthy successor to the phalanx of the great men
who had held this exalted office.
Continued on Thursday