Eighteenth Death Anniversary of the late W. I. Hugh Fernando former Speaker of Parliament who created history by casting his deciding vote against the Press Bill. By this he toppled the Sirimavo Bandaranaike government, on April 02.
Hugh was born at Nainamadama in the Wennappuwa electorate and his father was Mr. W. I. Stephen Fernando a reputed Village Headman in this colonial days.
Hugh had his primary education at the village school and entered Maris Stella College, Negombo for higher studies, later. Thereafter he received training at the English Training School, Maharagama and passed out as a highly qualified English Teacher. He joined the staff of Joseph Vas College, Wennappuwa which was his alma mater.
In the 1952 general election he contested Nattandiya seat as an independent candidate. His rival was Sir Albert F. Peiris former Speaker of Parliament. Sir Albert won the election by a narrow majority of 306 votes.
Unsheltered by the defeat Hugh determined to defeat Sir Albert in the next elections. By keeping to the proverb failures are the pillars of success he organised well in the electorate. He started workers unions and many other societies and thereby strengthen his power. He even published a newspaper called ‘Janatha Hatana’ (struggle of workers) which contained good news about workers.
In 1956 general elections Hugh contested Nattandiya electorate as an independent candidate. At this stage Hugh contacted a communicable disease and could not attend election meetings. Following medical advise he stayed at home. It was his 10-year old daughter. Ivy Fernando who addressed meetings on behalf of his father. When result was announced at this Puttalam Kachcheri Hugh Fernando was declared winner by a comfortable majority.
He was appointed Junior Minister of Agriculture in the Sirimavo Bandaranayake Governemnt under minister Philip Gunawardena.
There after he portfolios and he was appointed Deputy Speaker later. Following the death of Speaker R. S. Pelpola who was the MP for Nawalapitiya, Hugh was elected Speaker.
When the Press Bill to take over Lake House was presented in parliament, votes were equally divided and the Speaker Hugh Fernando gave his deciding vote against and defeated the bill. Consequently the Sirimavo Bandaranaike government had it resign.
Hugh did not contest at the 1965 general elections when the UNP came into power Hugh was appointed Sri Lanka High Commissioner in Pakistans. When Sir Albert Peiris the Speaker and MP for Nattandiya died in 1968 Hugh Fernando returned to Sri Lanka and he was elected to succeed Sir Albert. Thereafter Hugh was appointed Minister of Trade and Commerce in the UNP cabinet.
Hugh did not contest a seat in the 1977 general elections.
Consequently he crossed over to the SLFP and became in SLFP Chief Organiser of Puttalam District. He took part in a giant walk called ‘Pada Yathra’ from Colombo to Kataragama organised by the then leader of opposition Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa to protest against some undemocratic activities of the UNP government.
While taking part in the walk Hugh fell ill suddenly and admitted to Ratnapura hospital where he died on April 02, 1993.