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Dr. Anthonis and Mr. Banda

This anecdote is about two illustrious sons of modern Sri Lanka, the illustrious surgeon Dr P R Anthonis (who left us a few weeks ago) and Mr M D Banda, the politician (whose demise occurred in 1974). They belonged to an era when politicians were not rogues and doctors were not leeches. Mr Banda, who came from a rural background in the Seven Korales, is best remembered as the trusted lieutenant of Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake in the 1965-70 government who was entrusted with the task of spearheading the Green Revolution as Minister of Agriculture and Food. He worked so tirelessly in the pursuit of his task, that, as unstintingly acknowledged by Mr Hector Kobbekaduwa himself, his successor (in the next government), self-sufficiency in rice was nearly achieved by 1970. Mr Banda had three sons who were being educated at Ananada College and they were in the hostel. Somewhere in 1969, Gamini, the eldest,developed symptoms of Appendicitis all of a sudden and the College doctor sent him immediately to a private nursing home where he was operated on by Dr Anthonis who was its visiting surgeon. Mr Banda was away in the countryside attending to the "food drive" and when informed of the son’s illness came to see him in the nursing home. He asked his son "Umba ei nursing home ekata aawe ispiritaleta yanne nethuwa. Koheada mevvata gevanda salli tiyenne?" (Why did you enter the nursing home without going to hospital? Where do we have the money to pay these bills?) One wonders whether a present day reader can imagine why a senior minister was asking such a question from his son. But those were the times when ministers (especially people like Mr Banda) did not enter politics to make money, and in fact lost whatever they had inherited from their parents in selfless service for the country.

A couple of days later it was time for the son to be discharged from the nursing home. The nursing home bill was delivered to the patient’s room and he found that the surgeon’s operation charges had not been added. He informed his father about the bill and this detail and Mr Banda asked him to wait till evening when he will come and meet the surgeon who would be coming on his rounds. They waited and when Dr Anthonis arrived Mr Banda met him and reminded him about the operation charges. Dr Anthonis smiled broadly and asked Mr Banda "Sir, knowing what you are doing for this country how can I charge money from you?" and the matter ended there.

A relative

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