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DUDLEY SENANAYAKE: COLOSSUS AMONG POLITICIANS

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(Excerpted from the Memoirs of Senior DIG (Rtd.) Edward Gunawardene)

His visit to my residence: About two weeks after I had shifted residence and with only a week to pass for election day, I was to experience one of the most pleasant and rewarding days of my life.

About 6 O’clock one evening the telephone rang. The caller was Alex Dedigama. He said he was with Mr. Dudley Senanayake at the resthouse and the latter would be pleased to meet me. I very politely told Alex to explain to Mr. Senanayake that it would not look nice for me to meet him at the resthouse and that he was most welcome in my humble home. I also told him that several other candidates including Kalugalle and Ratne Deshapriya Senanayake have seen me at home as this is my official residence. Alex promised to convey my wish to Mr. Senanayake.

As a precaution I telephoned Salgado’s and requested the manager to prepare two glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice. Chandradasa (my servant) brought this in a thermos flask. No sooner Chandradasa arrived, the telephone rang again. It was the great man himself. He said that he would be at my residence in five minutes. I instructed Chandradasa to be  ready to open the gate. When a car arrived at the gate I prepared myself to meet the special visitor.

As the car entered the premises I recognized the 4 Sri Series Triumph Herald. It was driven by Dudley Senanayake himself. Seated beside him was Alex Dedigama, a cousin who resembled Dudley very much. After Dudley and Alex sat down Dudley, as if to put me at ease, started filling his pipe saying, “I hope you don’t mind me smoking.” “I too smoke, Sir, Peacock is my brand”, was my response.

Apparently he had heard of my Peradeniya days. I was surprised when he told me that he had skimmed The Students Council Magazine edited by me. Joe Karunaratne who was his private secretary had briefed him about me and even given him a copy of the 1956 Union Magazine.

When Chandradasa served the orange juice, Dudley looked at me and asked what the drink was. When I told him that it was fresh orange juice and he smiled saying “good”. I told him that his brother, Robert, had been a regular visitor and fresh orange juice was his preferred drink too. He then told me that Robert had briefed him about the meetings he had with me; and how my servant too had been courteous and accommodating when I was not at home.

It was only after about 15 minutes that Dudley asked me about what was happening. “Mr.Gunawardena, what is this talk that you are going to be transferred?” Without batting an eyelid I replied, ” I am ready to go anywhere Sir,  be it Jaffna or Moneragala. I have to just  pack my suitcase and go.” He laughed. Alex Dedigama who was silent all the while butted in, “They know it Dudley. Even Kalugalla admires this man’s guts. Edward has a good word among the lawyers too.”

He had been well briefed about the goings on in Kegalle; and he appeared to be particularly pleased about the impartial role of the police. He had even heard of the incident where two children flying a green kite had been assaulted and the manner in which I had dealt with Tissa Wijeyaratne. Apparently Alex Dedigama had related the incident to him.

This first meeting of mine with Dudley Senanayake which was to lead to a close relationship with not only him but also his brother Robert and the latter’s children. This remains remarkably fresh in my memory. As I write this 45 years later I can visualize Dudley dressed in a green casual shirt, smoking a large curved pipe seated close to me. “Don’t be discouraged by threats. Don’t be intimidated. Just do your duty,” his parting words that evening still ring in my ears.

Meeting Dudley on Election Day

The day of the elections was relatively quiet. By the time the polls began in the morning apart from police presence at every polling station in the district all the mobile police patrols were operating smoothly. Apart from visiting a few polling stations in the Dedigama, Kegalle and Rambukkana, electorates most of my time was spent in the Operations Room that I had set up in the office of the HQI Kegalle.

The reports received at the Ops. Room by noon indicated that most of the candidates had been seen visiting polling booths. Only a few minor incidents had been reported by this time. A drunk had been arrested by IP Pilapitiya, OIC Bulathkohupitiya, and locked up in a cell. Being busy with the election duties he had not been able to produce this man before a doctor. Dr. N.M. Perera had casually dropped in at the station as he had received information that one of his supporters was in custody. When he saw the true position he had been more than satisfied with the action taken by the OIC.

When I visited the Warakapola Police Station IP Shanton Abeygoonawardena was there. He had been posted to this station by Police Headquarters because the OIC, IP Wijetilleke had been the OIC of Nittambuwa and had been very close to Prime Minister Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike. 

Abeygoonawardena told me that Mr. Dudley Senanayake and his brother Robert were touring the electorate together. After visiting the Warakapola station I drove to the thalaguli shop of Jinadasa, a man with a Groucho moustache who was well known to many. I wanted to eat a thalaguli and drink a ginger tea. There was a jeep halted outside. When my car was stopped behind this jeep, Themis the driver got down from the jeep. He recognized me and told me, “Sir, Hamu athule innawa”. This man whom I addressed as Themis aiya as a child was from my village, Battaramulla. I waited outside until Dudley came out.

As he came out with his brother followed by Jinadasa I saluted and greeted him. Robert who was quite friendly with me having met me often at my residence smiled broadly and tried to introduce me to his brother saying, “Dudley you must meet Eddie”. “I met him only a few days ago”, was Dudley’s response. I chatted with them briefly. They were quite pleased with the police arrangements. Whilst parting Robert told me that they were operating from the Ambepussa Resthouse. 

Cellular telephones had not come into existence at that time. After a thalaguli, vadai and a cup of ginger tea at Jinadasa’s I was able to skip lunch and leisurely tour the district. At about four in the afternoon I was able to get to my residence, change into a sarong and relax. All reports indicated that voting had virtually ended. The percentage poll was appreciably high in all the electorates. I telephoned the Kegalle Ops Room and told the duty officer to inform me when the ballot boxes started coming into the Technical College, the counting centre for the district. 

After a shower and a cup of tea I went to sleep having instructed Chandradasa to put me up if there was anything urgent. When I contacted the Ops. Room I was told that all arrangements were in place at the counting centre; and the counting proper is likely to begin after 10 p.m. A call from my friend Leel Gunasekera, the Returning Officer confirmed this.

Feeling completely relaxed, I told Chandradasa to prepare a freshly laundered light uniform — shirt and slacks; and a light dinner, before leaving for the Planters Club for a game of billiards. The few of my friends who were there were surprised to see me in such a relaxed mood. Sipping a fresh lime juice I played a few frames of snooker with Dr. Clarence Muttiah. At about 9 p.m. I received a call on my Walkie Talkie that the postal vote count had begun; and I decided to leave the club. Whilst leaving I instructed the Ops Room to keep me informed of the arrival of Messrs Kalugalle, Dudley Senanayake and Dr. N.M. Perera at the counting Centre.

After I had dinner and got into uniform I received a call from the Ops. Room to say that Mr. Ratne Deshapriya Senanayake had arrived at the Dedigama counting centre with several people. I immediately telephoned the Returning Officer, Leel Gunasekera, and he told me that only the accredited counting agents and the candidate could be present. Accordingly I instructed HQI Kegalle to evict all unauthorized persons from the counting rooms. No sooner I entered the Technical College premises the HQI told me that the rule enabling only authorized persons from entering the counting rooms was being strictly enforced. He also told me that Mr. Dudley Senanayake and his brother Robert were also accompanied by two or three unauthorized persons and they had not been allowed in.

I did a brisk tour of all the rooms where the counting was taking place. With the minimum of people allowed there was plenty of breathing space in the rooms. The candidates too appeared to be happy that unwanted persons had been kept out. With even the police on duty at the counting centres debarred from moving in and out, even I felt somewhat embarrassed to be entering and exiting the counting rooms. 

When I entered the Dedigama electorate counting centre Dudley and Robert were having a chat with Dharmasiri Senanayake, the brother of Deshapriya. “Good thing Eddie that you have restricted entry”, said Robert. “You can be assured Edda will always do the right thing”, added Dharmasiri who was a Peradeniya buddy of mine. He was undoubtedly one of the most efficient and honest Cabinet Ministers of the seventies. I called him Dharme and he called me Edda. That was our relationship, With his early demise the country lost a honourable politician.

Having driven round the Kegalle town and having dropped in at home for a cup of tea I returned to the counting centre at about 1.00 a.m. With the results coming in and the indications being a defeat for Mrs. Bandaranaike’s  Government the crowd outside the counting centre had thinned out. I walked straight upstairs. On the corridor outside the Dedigama counting room, seated on the balustrade and leaning against a pillar, to my utter surprise was Dudley Senanayake. 

Casually dressed, with a muffler round his neck he was smoking a pipe. Apparently he had just come out of the counting room. I saluted him. “Hullo, is everything peaceful?” Just then Robert who was his counting agent walked out of the room. After greeting me, a somewhat worried looking man turned to his brother and said, “Dudley it doesn’t look too good”. By this time I was seated on the balustrade beside Dudley.

It was indeed a tense and closely contested election. The comment that Robert made was after having observed how the count was going. At that moment I was the nearest person to the two brothers. The immediate response of Dudley to Robert’s apprehensions was certainly not a studied statement for political gain. It was a soft, low voiced conversation between two brothers and I happened to be a listener. The words that came out of Dudley spontaneously were, “Robert, if that is the wish of the people, we have to accept it.” 

These were great words from a great man. They are greater still because they were not made to the public but out of his heart to his only brother; and I was the only other man who heard this! They were indeed words that brought out the true democrat in Dudley.

Celebrations at Woodlands 

The Dedigama result was officially announced at about 2 a.m. Dudley had won convincingly. Not only had he won his seat, the results that had come in indicated that the UNP had won the largest number of seats as a single party. Although the UNP did not have an absolute majority it was clear that only Dudley could have formed a coalition government.

As I escorted him out of the counting centre the crowd had thinned out. The supporters of the ruling party that had formed the bulk of the crowd had naturally left dejected. The lead picture in the Lake House papers on the following day was Dudley leaving the counting centre with the ASP Kegalle.

From the counting centre Dudley and Robert went to the residence of Winston Wickremasinghe, a prominent Kegalle lawyer who was a friend of the Senanayake family. I too followed in my Peugeot 203 driven by my orderly PC Dharmasena. Robert who was looking jubilant came up to me and thanked me for being with them. I told him that my responsibility was not over and that an escort would be provided. I also told him that I myself would be travelling in the lead police jeep to Woodlands. 

“Eddie, you must join us at Kiribath. We will follow the police jeep”, were the softly spoken words of a tired but spirited Robert. Whilst waiting for the jeep with a Sub-Inspector and a Sergeant and constable, Winston came up to my car and insisted that I have a coffee before leaving for Woodlands. Being a local lawyer he was especially courteous when he spoke to me. At that time an Assistant Superintendent of Police commanded much respect among lawyers and Judges.

With the roads almost empty the journey to Woodlands was smooth and fast. At 5 a.m. we reached our destination. At the gate was a police jeep with several policemen inside. On seeing the signal lights of the jeep I was in, an officer got down from the jeep that was at the entrance. I recognized him as ASP Gamini Jayasinghe who was the ASP Colombo Traffic. The few people who were gathered on the road opposite Woodlands lit crackers and shouted ‘Jayawewa’.

Robert’s wife, Neela, and  their children, Devinda, Ranjani, Ranjit, Lala and Rukman were in the verandah near the porch. Carolis, the faithful valet of Dudley dressed in a white shirt and white sarong, was beaming with smiles. Ranjit Wijewardene the Chairman of Lake House was also there.

After the initial greetings and hugs they all moved into the sitting room. By that time Gamini Jayasinghe also had moved towards the porch with an Inspector. I started chatting with them, enjoying a smoke. According to Gamini the victory of the UNP had not been anticipated by Police Headquarters. Before I could finish my cigarette, Carolis walked up to the two of us and said, “Gunawardena mahattayata hamu kathakaranawa”. I fetched my cap from the jeep and walked in.

The entire family was round the oval  dining table laughing, chatting and eating kiribath. No chairs were to be seen near the table. They were all standing. The few pieces of furniture were untidy and in disarray. Indeed it was typical of a bachelor home.

As soon as Robert saw me he turned to Dudley and for all to hear exclaimed, “Dudley, here comes Eddie. The man who had to bear the brunt of the problems”.

The children also surrounded me whilst Dudley himself gave me a plate with a piece of kiribath and some katta sambol. Rukman was a small boy who was a silent observer.

Devinda spoke to me quite freely. He even told me how his father used to mention the long evenings he spent seated in the verandah of my Kegalle residence. He had not failed to mention that I had a servant who always served him an orange juice! At 6 O’clock I walked up to the Prime Minister-designate and sought his permission to leave as I had to get back to station. His reaction was a visibly emotional ‘Thank you’. As I came out to the porch I met Gamini and told him that I was getting back to Kegalle.

It was nearly nine in the morning when I reached Kegalle. After a quick bath and a cup of tea I went straight to the Ops. Room. The HQI was there with Sub-Inspector Cumaranatunga. Not a single incident or election offence had been reported. I instructed HQI to send an ‘Incident Nil’ report to Police Headquarters and disband the Ops. Room. 

Locked up in a cell was a solitary elderly man. Coming out of a polling station in Hettimulla he had been arrested by a mobile patrol for the possession of a knife. I questioned the man and he said he always carried that knife to cut arecanut for his chew of betel. His betel stained mouth and teeth, showed that he was an inveterate ‘bulath hapaya’. I ordered his release and returned the knife with the advice to file the point off. I casually remarked to the HQI that the police should not act foolishly chasing after such trivialities!

The only unpleasant thing that happened after nearly 36 hours of smooth going where all the police arrangements of Kegalle district worked out without a hitch was that two days after the polls, even before a government had been formed, my explanation was called for by Police Headquarters for leaving station and accompanying Dudley Senanayake to Woodlands. I ignored this; and that was it!

 



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All communities should be treated equally without distinction

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by Jehan Perera

The government was elected on a platform that stressed national security and unity. The elections took place in the aftermath of the Easter suicide bomb attacks of 2019 that caused the highest numbers of casualties in Christian churches. As the bombers were all Muslim, the Muslim population in the country came under public suspicion which was spontaneous and widespread. There was also equally widespread fear and anxiety about follow on attacks that could target Christians in particular and also the population in general. The cause of the attacks and the master minds behind them were a mystery then as they are now.

Due to the timely intervention of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, in whose diocese the two most serious attacks took place, there was no retaliation against the Muslim population by those who had lost their kith and kin. However, in the weeks that followed, there were mob attacks against the Muslim community in parts of the country that were distant from the bomb attacks. These attacks were not spontaneous but organised and intended to loot Muslim property and cause fear in them. The government, which was under political siege for having failed to prevent the suicide bomb attacks, failed once again to adequately protect the Muslim community.

It is in this context that Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s statement on the occasion of the second anniversary of the Easter bombings takes on significance. About two months ago he gave a deadline by which he asked the government to identify who was behind the Easter attacks and the cause for them. The Cardinal has consistently spoken up on the issue of the Easter bombing, first to ask for restraint on the part of the victims, then to ask the government to identify the perpetrators and prior to the elections to take the position that the people needed a government that could protect them. Now he has said that “Our brethren were attacked not by religious extremism, but by a group that exploited it to use the attackers as pawns in order to strengthen their political power.”

MUSLIM OUTREACH

Two years after the Easter bombings in which they were branded as supporters of religious extremism, the Muslim community seeks in many different ways to overcome the suspicion that once engulfed them and which they fear can do so again. The use of the black Islamic dress that was an increasing trend among Muslim women has been much reduced. Muslim organisations are making energetic efforts to network with other religious organisations, join inter-religious groups and to liaise with civil society. They make available to them the Islamic teachings on peace and coexistence. This weekend I was invited to the opening of a community centre in the Kurunegala District by a Muslim organization.

On the walls of the community centre there were panels put up with sayings from the different religions on a number of important matters, such as how to treat others, and the role of spiritual values in everyday life. The foremost place at the opening ceremony was given to Buddhist monks who had come to attend the ceremony along with government officials and police officers. The monks who spoke said that the Muslim community living in the village had good relations with the Sinhalese living in the neighbouring villages, and this had continued for generations. Another monk said that after the Easter bombings they had heard there were violent gangs heading in the direction of the Muslim village, they had come there to ensure no harm would befall those people.

In this context, the announcement that the government will ban 11 Muslim organisations sends a negative message to the country at large about the Muslim community. It creates an impression that Muslims organisations are under suspicion and possibly even close to performing acts of violence which necessitates them being banned. Of the 11 banned organisations, two are foreign ones, the Islamic State and Al Qaeda which have been reported internationally as engaging in violence. However, the other nine are Sri Lankan organisations which do not have a track record of violence or illegality. Four of them have the name “Thowheed” in them, which in the Arabic language means “faith.”

 

DIFFERENT TREATMENT

The ban on these Thowheed organisations may be due to the fact that the leader of the suicide squad, Zahran, was part of an organisation that had the name “Thowheed” in it. The ban on them may also be due to the fact that the Commission of Inquiry into the Easter bombings recommended such action against them. However, the Commission also recommended that other non-Muslim organisations be banned which has not happened. This suggests that the Muslim organisations are being treated differently. The danger is that when it treats organisations differently, the government may be generating resentment in the Muslim community, especially the youth. If the words of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith are correct, the problem lies not in Muslim extremism but in partisan power politics.

Sri Lanka has experienced Sinhalese youth insurrections twice and even the Tamil militant movement was started by youth, who were once called “the boys.” Perhaps in anticipation of such a radicalisation phenomenon, the government has recently passed an add-on called the “De-radicalisation from holding violent extremist religious ideology” to the Prevention of Terrorism Act. This will permit people who fall into its ambit to be send to rehabilitation centres for up to two years without trial. This may provide the government with an opportunity to release up to 250 Muslim citizens currently under detention on suspicion of being involved in the Easter bombings and send them for rehabilitation. On the other hand, this regulation may be used in the future in regard to other persons and other groups. The better way to prevent radicalization is to make people feel that the law is even-handed to all, and also to encourage engagement between communities.

During the discussion that took place at the opening of the community centre in Kurunegala, it was noted that the younger generation had fewer inter-community linkages than those of older generations. This may be due to the changing nature of society and the economy where people spend less time with other people and more time with machines or doing narrow and specialised jobs. In multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies in which there is conflictual relations, the tendency on the part of those from different communities will be to live in their own silos rather than interact with those of other communities. Living in peace in plural societies requires purposeful and energetic interaction which is organised. Where there has been ethnic and religious strife the world over, the better answer has been to provide people with encouragement and incentives to mix together, which is what the Muslim organization in Kurunegala was trying to do.

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TNGlive…a boon to artistes affected by the pandemic

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No doubt, Covid-19 has ruined the entertainment industry, throughout the world.

Entertainment venues have been shut down, concerts cancelled…and musicians are finding the going pretty tough.

However, it’s heartening to know that there are performers who find solace in keeping the public entertained, via online performances.

In this instance, those responsible for TNGlive must be congratulated for creating this platform, on social media, in order to give lots of folks, from around the globe, the opportunity to showcase their talent, on a regular basis.

Quite a few Sri Lankans have been featured on TNGlive, including Melantha Perera, Suzi Croner (Fluckiger), Sureshni Wanigasuriya, Yasmin de Silva, and Kay Jay Gunesekere,

Suzi did this scene twice, and on both occasions her performance was highly rated, with bouquets galore coming her way…on social media.

On Saturday, April 10th, she was featured (8.00 pm Sri Lankan time) doing songs from the country and western catalogue.

It was a very entertaining programme, which also contained some dance scenes (line dancing) from the audience present, in her living room – her friends.

Her repertoire included ‘Joline, ‘Me And Bobby McGee, “Johnny B. Goode,’ ‘Blue By You,’ ‘Okie From Muskogee,’ ‘Tennessee Waltz,’ ‘Rose Garden,’ ‘Mississippi’ and ‘Cotton Eyed Joe.’

Suzi is to make her third appearance, on TNGlive, shortly, but this time it won’t be a solo effort, she says.

“For variety, I would be having a guy from the Philippines, and he sings the hit songs of Tom Jones and Engelbert.”

So get ready for another special from Suzi, who now resides in Switzerland.

Suzi was the frontline vocalist for the group Friends who were, at that point in time, top of the pops!

Another artiste who impressed viewers, performing on TNGlive, with his daughter, was Nigel Gerrard John Galway.

Nigel is from India, and has been a Chef for the last 23 years, with 12 years spent at the Oberoi hotels. He was also an executive Sous Chef at Taj, in Coimbatore.

In fact, Allwyn Stephen, TNGlive chief, referred to Nigel as…probably the first Singing/Dancing Chef in the world!

He, and his 18-year-old daughter, Lean Pamela Mary, did get the attention of many, with their unique style of presentation; while Nigel handled the vocals, Lean, using only gestures, expression, and movements, brought out the meaning of the lyrics in most of the songs her dad did. And, she did it beautifully.

Yes, she also did exercise her vocal cords, on this particular programme

Says Nigel: “We come from a family of musicians, but we attempted singing, only during the pandemic, on various social media groups, and we did so only because we were all stuck at home.

“We joined TNGlive, through a friend, and have been performing ever since. The love and support we received from people around only encouraged us to keep growing and now we have a page of our own called THE SINGING CHEF.”

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Heard at the club

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Part II

A member reminisced an incident that happened long years ago, during those peaceful times when terrorism was unheard of. He had been driving his car, on the Deniyaya Road, when about six miles from Galle, he saw a village in a state of panic. So he stopped his car near the village boutique and asked the mudalali what was happening? The mudalali had said that the self-opinionated ‘mudliyar’ of the village (a court interpreter) had organised a ‘dane’ (an alms giving) and was awaiting the procession of monks, complete with drummers, from the temple. And, seeing it coming over the paddy fields which was a short cut, instead of the village road as show off, put him in a paddy, and he had chased the monks away. So the monks had gone back to the temple. As the meal time deadline for monks was fast approaching, the villagers brought the meals they had cooked in their homes, to serve the monks! That was the panic.

He was an unpopular villager who rose to a high position in the public service with political influence. Cussed by nature, he used his official position to harass villagers. When he met with an untimely death and, right at the moment the coffin was taken to the hearse, the whole village reverberated with the sound of fire crackers, organised by the irate villagers.

****

Once a terrible post office blunder very nearly wrecked a marriage. A certain sales rep sometimes sold his wares on credit. One such creditor was the owner of a shop named ‘Chandra Cafe’ who was slack in his payments. So the sales rep sent him a telegram that he would be coming to collect his dues, next Monday. On receipt, the owner of Chandra Cafe telegraphed the rep asking him not to come on Monday and the telegram received by him read, ‘Do not come on Monday – Chandra K.P.’ And when the rep’s wife read the telegram there was some misunderstanding at home which nearly rocked his marriage.

****

This reminded us of another telegram. An army officer was to go back to camp by the night mail. When he arrived at the railway station, he found a lady in an advanced state of pregnancy, almost in tears, because no berths were available. Gallantly the officer offered her his berth and, at the nearest post office, sent a telegram to his commanding officer saying ‘Unable to return tomorrow as ordered. Gave berth to lady. Arriving tomorrow evening.’

Obviously, the vital word ‘berth’ had been misspelt as ‘birth’, for the gallant officer received this reply from his commanding officer, ‘Your next confinement will be to barracks’.

****

A philanthropist donated a building to his old school. An opening ceremony was held with a VVIP as the chief guest. A group photograph was also taken. As the donor was keen to get this photograph published in the newspapers without delay, he sent the local correspondent in his limousine to Colombo. He met the editor who happened to be an old boy of the same school. After a look at the photograph, he folded it in such away to eliminate the principal and sent it for publication. The editor seemed to have an axe to grind with the principal!

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It was in the early 60s and I was on my way to the club in the evening, when I met a friend near the club. With him was another, I invited them both to the club and after a few drinks we were headed out of the club, when near the gate, my friend pulled me aside and said that his friend was going for some trade union work to Hambantota and was short of funds. I told him that he should have told me that before I paid the club bill and also told him I had only Rs.18.00 which I gave. This trade union leader was non other than Rohana Wijeweera, who was to become JVP leader.

****

It was towards the end of the 1980s and a club member, a tea factory owner was on his way home all alone in his car, at the break of down, after finishing his factory work. He had to travel 12 miles. After about five miles, he saw a youth profusely bleeding with injuries, coming down a hill. The good Samaritan that he was, he took him in his car to the hospital. On the way, the police took him and the injured youth into custody for terrorist activities. Fortunately for him, Major-General Lucky Wijeratna, who was a classmate of his at school, was there to save him.

 

****

This happened several decades ago. There was a certain popular elderly club member, who was a wealthy businessman and drank nothing but whisky. That day when he came to the club, he seemed to have lost his bearings. He told his friends that he was going to donate all his wealth to the Home for Disabled Children which was close to his house, because his only child, a daughter, had eloped. His friends prevailed on him to defer his decision for a few months. About a year or so later, he came to the club one evening carrying a big flask in his hand. He said that it was for his errant daughter who has now reconciled, adding that he was a grandfather now!

****

A busy garage was located in a residential area and it was open day and night. To highlight their services, they put up an impressive signboard, ‘We never sleep’. The following day a prankster had written below it ‘and neither do the neighbours’.

During the day of insanity – 29th July 1987, the Open University at Matara was burnt down and the Ruhunu University remained closed. A wall poster came up. It read: ‘Close the Open University’ and ‘Open the closed University’.

****

A young teacher, met a young man at the Dehiwala Zoological Gardens. Although their native villages were far apart, they

became close friends and planned to get married in the near future. He posed as a private bus owner. One day on a visit to his fiancée, he stayed the night over and muttered in his sleep, “Borella – Battaramulla! Borella – Battaramulla!” This aroused serious suspicions about his identity. So a few days later, her parents came to the Borella junction, to see him in a sarong loading passengers to private buses as a ‘bus crier’. And the love story ended right there.

****

A long time ago a wealthy industrialist, a popular member of the club, was having his drink in a secluded corner of the club, most unlike him. He appeared to be quite agitated. Some concerned friends asked him what happened. He said that his only daughter (he also had a son) had married a man of her choice adding that his wife was in favour of the marriage. The daughter he said, was 22 years old. His friends told him that at that age, she was entitled to choose her partner in life and appealed to him to take things easy as his wife too approved of the marriage. After about a year or so, a friend visited him. Proudly pointing out a large multiple storey house in his sprawling garden, he had said that it was built by his son-in-law.

****

A certain member served abroad for many years. One morning he come back to his native Galle in a hired helicopter. That evening he came to the club and ordered a case of beer for his friends!

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Several years ago, a member had gone to the Galle Post Office to send a telegram to a close relative. He was informed by the postal authorities that there was a breakdown in the telegraphic services and that it was unlikely that his message, about a bereavement in the friend’s family, would reach his relative in time. They advised our friend to telephone someone in the area where his relative lived and to get the message delivered orally. Those were the days when only a few had telephones. As the member did not know anyone in that area with a telephone, he thought of S. Jayasinghe, known as Mr. S, who was not know to him personally and who was a Junior Minister residing in the area where our friend’s relative lived.

When our friend telephoned him from the post office, he had just got into his car to go somewhere. Soon after he was speaking to our friend over the phone as if he was talking to an old friend. He also told our friend that he was about to go to the site where he was building a new house. Our friend then gave him the message and appealed to him to get it delivered. The rest of the story was told to our friend by his relative who had said that during a heavy shower of rain, he found a car near his gate and that when he went up to the car he recognized him to be the Junior Minister. Like my friend, he did not personally know the Junior Minister. Instead of giving the message then and there, he had got off the car and had gone to our friend’s house and not only given the message but also consoled him by talking to him for a few minutes.

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It was in the late 1980s, at the height of the insurrection, that this member was travelling all alone to Galle in his jeep. He was going through the Kottawa Forest which was famous at the time for tyre pyres. The Navy had stopped his vehicle and asked him to take a young man who was injured in a motorcycle accident, to the Galle Hospital, about eight miles away. The young man was bleeding profusely. He got him admitted to the hospital but our friend was forced to stay there for a long length of time, culminating in his having to give his consent for a surgical operation on the injured, whom he had never seen before. Alas! The purpose of his visit to Galle was lost.

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A member had two sons, twins aged three years. As they fell ill, he channelled a specialist doctor who examined one twin and refused to examine the other, as an appointment was not made for him. So our friend had the other twin channelled as well. Certainly, it was no personification of Hippocrates!

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A popular elderly member used to come to the club only on his pay day to keep himself warm. He worked at ‘Sathosa’ (C.W.E). The younger members would then tell him that he is very fortunate to work in a historic establishment like ‘Sathosa’ which is also referred to in Guttila Kavya (an epic) thus:

‘Sara Salelu Jana Sathose.’

Highly elated he would order a round of drinks, adding ‘Surapana karathi mese’.

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This happened many decades ago. A member who was an inveterate gambler once lost heavily at the card table and mortgaged his expensive wrist watch. A member who was not well disposed towards him had sent a post card to his wife informing her that her husband sold his watch to gamble. He also had a 15-acre well-maintained tea estate which he had to sell when his gambles failed.

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This story was related by a member and is about the ‘kings’ in the planting circles. A planter in the coconut belt of the North Western Province who owned acres of coconut, once named himself ‘King Coconut’. He argued that if a planter in the Kalutara District who owned vast acres of rubber could be referred to as a ‘Rubber King’ why shouldn’t he be called ‘King Coconut’.

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One day a member related a story, which is hard to believe. A teacher who served in an uncongenial station, in his quest for higher knowledge, had studied for an external degree at a university. And he passed the examination with flying colours, obtaining first class honours and was highly commended by the university authorities for his brilliance, while serving in a different area. He had confided to his friends that his success at the exam was due to the gift of seeing all the question papers in a dream, before the examination!

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