Sixty Sixth Death Anniversary of Late H. Sri Nissanka (Feb. 26, 2020


During the period of the British Administration, it had been a daily habit of elite rich families to visit Galle Face Green in the evenings for horse rides for exercise and entertainment. A few of the riders were Mr. D.S. Senanayake, Sir John Kotalawala and Mr. Soloman Dias Badaranaike (father of the late Prime Minister). Among them was Mr. H. Sri Nissanka who galloped his brownish horse at a high speed across the green.

Seeing this, the British Jail Superintendent Major Wilton became furious, blocked the way of Mr. Nissanka and questioned him in a threatening manner: "Who gave you permission to gallop your horse fast on this ground?" Angered by this Nissanka pointed his forefinger at Wilton and countered: "I do not need anybody’s permission to ride my horse in my motherland at any speed I choose and if you are not satisfied with this, it is best for you to jump into the ocean." People like this are very rare today.

He was a partner in the rebellion against the imperialism from his early childhood and a true patriot whose motto was "My Country before self".

Herbert Sri Nissanka Mendis was born on January 17, 1898 at "Garumuni Walawwa" in Balapitiya from where many eminent and famous people hailed. He had his primary education at the Ananda College and entered Royal College for his higher education.

King’s Counsel H. Sri Nissanka is one of thel pioneers who planted the giant tree called the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

With a mind nourished in Buddhism and "Making a Social Democracy" the theme he prepared the Constitution of the SLFP in language intelligible to rustic villagers. He proposed the name for the party as "Sri Lanka Nidahas" by using his initials "Sri. N" and suggested its symbol as ‘hand’ and colour ‘blue’ to his friend and Oxford mate, Mr. Bandaranaike whom he asked to embark on his journey with the support of the Sangha, Veda, Guru. Govi and Kamkaru. He rendered his party wholehearted, dedicated services without thinking of personal benefits and privileges – a quality not known nowadays which some SLFP members too are unaware of. His diaries are evidence of the early days of the party. The table and chairs used at the conference to form the party and the pen used to sign its Constitution are preserved at his home "Yamuna". It is the duty of concerned officials to preserve these memorablia for coming generations.

Mr. Nissanka Diweris Mendis, a silent scholar and Mrs. Anoma Wickramaratne Zoysa were the parents of Mr. H. Sri Nissanka. Dorothy, Harriet and Charlotte were his sisters. His loving wife was Muriel Nissanka. They had two daughters, Yamuna and Geetha and a son. Ranjith. Professor Randiv Nissanka Karunaratne and Doctor Avanthi Nissanka Karunaratne were his grandchildren.

Later he went to Burma (Now Myanmar) and entered the priesthood. Hearing his parents were unwell, he returned home and disrobed himself after informing the Sangha.

From his childhood he showed leadership qualities and joined Oxford University to study law. There he met Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike who also did law. They became very close and discussed topics like the realism in Buddhism and the values of Sinhala culture. After completing his studies, he came back to Sri Lanka in 1924 and began his law practice.

During the 1930s and 40s he became prominent criminal lawyer. He was a fine orator, keen logician and a pleasant personality; and his fame spread throughout the island. He was proficient in Sinhala, English, Pali, Sanskrit, Burmese and Hindi languages. Many ethnic and religious conflicts of his time were settled by his able intervention. He excelled as an author by publishing books like "Ape Lanka" "Engalantha Ithihasaya" "Lanka Dandaneethiya" and "Salgala Pudabima" and also served as an editor of "Heladiva" and "Sanka Nadaya" newspapers. He was also a born artist.

He was elected as a member of the first Parliament of Sri Lanka representing the Kurunegala electorate. Also he was elected uncontested to the Wellawatta ward of the Colombo Municipal Council.

As fragrant flowers fade and wither soon, good and great people’s lives are short. He was not able to see the people’s great victory of 1956 as he breathed his last casting his eyes on the Buddha Statues at his ‘Yamuna Sadaham Ashramaya".

The Postal Department will issue a commemorative stamp at ‘Temple Trees’ on April 4 at the request of the Nissanka Memorial Foundation. The Foundation will celebrate the anniversary with a free book distribution to children at Dematagoda Nadadeepa Temple at 4.00 p.m.

Jagath Janakantha Gunetti

(Secretary-Nissanka Foundation)

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