Commemorating Panini Ilangakoon

Chamal Rajapaksa - Minister of Ports and Aviation

We have often heard about politicians being bloated with power. But in our country, we have also had political leaders who, having achieved power through the vote of the people, in turn serving the people.

Former member of parliament for Weligama, Panini Ilangakoon, can be deservedly described as one of those benevolent, prominent men of our land. He is not among us today. Although he passed away 20 years ago, because of his unassuming, affable, unostentatious and benevolent nature, his name and deeds echo and resonate in the ears of the people in Ruhuna.

The late Ilangakoon, who held an affable and amiable alliance, both with the people and his friends, was known and called by them, often affectionately, as ‘Pani’, To commemorate such an amiable and benevolent son of the people, who departed from us on February 10, 1989, on his death anniversary, is a deed of gratitude.

Mr. Panini Ilangakoon was the only son of Gate Mudaliyar Simon William Ilangakoon and Lady Liliyan Augusta Obeysekera. Panini had in-born kind, humane and simple qualities which he had inherited from his honourable parents. He was so popular because he possessed a commanding, kind, and pleasant personality that were necessary to move and associate with the people.

Mr. Ilangakoon’s mother, who was a sister of the mother of the late S. W. R. D. Bandaranayake, one of the distinguished political leaders of this country, had instilled into and bequeathed to her only son, Panini, several good and gentle endowments.

Panini was born on November 26, 1919 at Weligama. He received his primary and secondary education at S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia. Thereafter, he continued his education in Bangalore and in the United Kingdom. Having returned to his motherland, he entered politics by being elected uncontested as an independent member of the Weligama Urban Council in 1947. It was a very significant event in his political career.

He was an ardent anti-imperialist and a patriotic politician who never, for a moment, thought of being segregated from the people. Mr. Ilangakoon was a blood cousin of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, the founder of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. He received membership of the SLFP and contested the Weligama seat, unsuccessfully, under the party banner in 1952. However, in 1956, he was elected MP for Weligama. Although he was defeated in the 1960 and 1965 elections, he was again elected as the MP for Weligama in 1970, with an overwhelming majority. His glorious period in politics was from 1970 to 1977. It was during this period that he got the Weligama Central Public Bus Stand, Divisional Asst. Govt. AgentOffice and the Agricultural Service Centre, buildings built and opened. He continued further, in serving and nursing his electorate, and got school buildings and roadways in the electorate improved.

It was on account of his unrelenting and insatiable desire and determination to serve his people that the Urban Council Building at Weligama and the Mirissa Fisheries Harbour have been provided for the electorate. These are two mementoes of service he has rendered. Ever since the establishment of these facilities, his name echoes and re-echoes, not only in the Weligama electorate, but also in the whole of Ruhunu Rata.

To commemorate such a patron of the people, who had an innate national feeling, at a time when we are celebrating the 62nd anniversary of independence, would be analogous to the commemoration of a national hero. He helped the poor, the rich, friend and foe without discrimination. This outlook of his, as a politician, is a fitting example to the fact that there need be no rivalry and antagonism in serving the public and in politics.

He never even thought of betraying the trust the people had reposed in him as their representative. It is these characterists that have immortalized him in the Southern Province. He sympathetically endeavoured, listened and understood the problems of the poor who sought his assistance and voiced their grievances even in parliament.

Mr. Ilangakoon, the popular representative of the people, having won the hearts of his people and having united the progressives of the land, died on February 10, 1989, depriving the Ruhuna of a patriotic son. Today on his 21th, death anniversary, we pray that he is reborn amongst us till be attains Nibbana, the supreme bliss.

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