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D. A. Rajapaksa
The modest and Affable Leader of the people of the South

Early Life

Some are born destined to be honoured and affectionately held in high esteem not only by their peers but by seniors as well as by the public. Don Alwin (D.A. Rajapaksa) was such a fortunate and an exemplary individual.

Born in 1895 March 30th, as the youngest son of Wanigachintamani Mohotti Don Davith Rajapaksa Ralahamy and Dona Gimara Weerakoon Ratnayake of Buddhiyagama, Weerakatiya. D. A. Rajapaksa seems to have been well looked after and nurtured by his parents as well as by his two elder brothers and the sister. Being the youngest scion of a reputed and a respected village family, with its roots deeply embedded in the village of Weeraketiya and its traditions, young D. A. Rajapaksa had the opportunity of growing up as the son of the soil.

After his early education at the Mandaduwa Government School in Weeraketiya, he moved on Richmond College, Galle and pursued his studies well winning the hearts of his teachers as well as of his peers. He seems to have been interested not only in his studies but also in sports, including cricket in which he performed creditably.

The family environment, its tradition and customs and also D. A.’s inborn attachment to the village and its people drew him closer to the people and its paddy fields, working wherein he felt extremely relaxed and satisfied. This gave him the opportunity to move closely with the village crowd, personally see the hardships they underwent, both socially and economically, and the inequalities and discrimination the average person faced due to petty and narrow divisive factors.

Soon the young Rajapaksa brothers D. C., D. M. and D. A. became popular leaders in the area, and this popularity is evident from the election of his elder brother D. M. Rajapaksa as the member of Hambantota in 1936 to the State Council. In this election campaign D. A. sharpened his skill as an efficient campaigner and also refined his public relations, securing a permanent niche in the hearts of the average villager.

D. A. does not seem to have entertained personal ambitions, and was highly content working in the paddy field, sharing the company of his village folk and caring in the best possible way to uplift their conditions. People seem to have sincerely loved his for his honesty, integrity and affability which appear to be hallmarks of his character from his early childhood. He appears, from what we hear, to have been more a worker than a talker, hence a pragmatic man with practical solutions for problems of the people of the area. This approach of him endeared his to the people more and more.

Entry into Politics

It was the sudden demise of his brother in 1945, the then sitting Member of the State Council representing Hambantota electorate, that pushed the reluctant and almost unprepared. He seems to have entered politics not to fulfil any of his ambitions or wishes but to oblige the request of his people who were in chorus demanding him to accept nomination to fill in the vacancy in the State Council created by the demise of his elder brother. His heart was in the paddy field and not in the high echelons of -politics’. This is why the villagers’ themselves had to prepare the nomination papers and rush to him who was in the paddy field enjoying tilling the field.

He won the election and entered the State Council on the 08th of August, 1945, as the Member for Hambantota and assumed duties of the portfolio held by his elder brother and functioned as the Member of the Agriculture and land Committees chaired by D. S. Senanayake. From his very entry into active politics he was close to Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, and hence at the Parliamentary General Election held in 1947 he came forward as one of the two candidates of the United National Parry to contest the Beliatta electorate. He in fact in said to have been aligned to the Bandaranayake faction of the UNP. He won the seat with a thumping majority, and entered the First Parliament of Independent Sri Lanka representing Beliatta.

Not only his close connections with Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike but also his strength of character become evident when he followed Mr. Bandaranaike and crossed over to the opposition sacrificing the position he held in the Government. This was on the 12th of July 1951, thus becoming a founding Member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

At the General Elections held in 1952 D. A. contested the Beliatta seat under the "Hand" symbol, not the official party symbol, for parties were by then not allocated specific symbol. At this election the Sri Lanka Freedom Party managed to secure only two seats. One was the Beliatta contested by D. A. and the other Attanagalla won by Mr. Bandaranaike contesting under the "elephant" symbol. D. A.’s victory appears to have been considered as an auspicious happening for the new party and consequently the Sri Lanka Freedom Party adopted the "Hand" symbol as its official symbol.

Political Service

Entering Parliament D. A. held a number of important Ministerial positions, functioned as Chairman of certain Committees, and also as the Deputy Speaker. Ever since his taking to active politics he committed himself totally to work for the upliftment of the country and the people. His special focus was on agriculture. Thus, he initiated the multipurpose agricultural development programme based on the Walawe Ganga Development Project and in 1957 inaugurated the Chandrika wewa scheme. To help agriculture development farsighted D. A. Rajapaksa saw the importance of developing small tanks, and this was a boon for the farmers in the dry southern region. He organised schemes to utilise rain water and encouraged farmers to enter into cotton cultivation during the yala season. The paper factory at Embilipitiya speaks volumes for his farsightedness and dedication to serve the country and the people. Besides, he inspired and encouraged the people to venture into how areas such as the handloom industry jewellry and brassware.

He gave a boost to the system of indigenous medicine by opening up Ayurweda dispensaries. He was greatly concerned about the youth and therefore, did all he could to provide a good education for them. He not only cared for their education, but also was concerned about their health, and hence did such to improve the health sector in the region.

Social and Religious Service

From the very beginning D. A. Rajapaksa appears to have been the spokesman of the poor and the down trodden. Using his political acumen and strength D. A. did a yeoman service to the region by taking steps to uplift the economic conditions of the masses. Inspired by his inborn affection to humanity and being influenced by the social philosophy of the Buddha, he did whatever he could to shatter the social barriers that perpetuated inequality and all kinds of social discrimination. He was physically as well as mentally tall enough to see above these patty barriers, and move freely with the masses working for their good, sacrificing whatever he could and should.

He was a very religious person, and the bhikkhus of the area vouch for the service he rendered to religious revival and upliftment. He moved very closely with the bhikkhu, attending to their needs and also extending his support in renovating temples and religious institutions. He was equally popular with the laity and the clergy.

The Modest and Affable Leader

After nearly two decades he lost his seat in the 1965 General Election. In this he merely lost the parliamentary seat, and not the people, their affection and admiration. This is evident when people in the area talk nostalgically of the good old days when they would go to meet him seeking his help, advice and guidance to overcome their numerous problems. They say that they know that though he was not in active politics his humaneness was always alive and overflowing and that they were sure of getting some solace and redress to their problems. This was D. A. Rajapaksa, a true lender of the people.

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