Sir Oliver Goonetilleke: Life in exile
His 129th birth anniversary fell on Oct. 20
By T. Thurai –
Nine years of researching the background to my novel The Devil Dancers introduced me to some fascinating historical characters. One of the most remarkable was Sir Oliver Goonetilleke (1892 –1978), one of the key architects of Ceylon’s Independence and the first Ceylonese to hold the post of Governor-General. This is the last of three articles on one of the most brilliant statesman of his generation.
Following his loss of office, Sir Oliver’s sudden departure from Ceylon and his final destination were matters of conjecture. A short paragraph in The Times noted his arrival in Paris along with a statement from Mr A. P. Jayasuriya, leader of the Senate, that Sir Oliver was “neither removed from office nor did he resign.” A remark that seems somewhat disingenuous in hindsight.
However, the mystery was soon resolved. England was Sir Oliver’s choice for his self-imposed exile. His friend Sir John Kotelawala had already taken up residence in the Kentish village of Biddenden following his failure to win the 1956 General Election.
Almost immediately, Sir Oliver was received into the highest levels of society. For instance, the Court and Social pages of The Times record a dinner party given “in honour of Sir Oliver Goonetilleke in honour of his relinquishing the office of Governor-General of Ceylon” by Sir Graham and Lady Rowlandson at 18 Grosvenor Square. Among the guests were the High Commissioner for Ceylon and Sir John Kotelawala.
Unlike his friend who enjoyed the tranquillity of a rural setting, Sir Oliver preferred the frenetic pace of the city, choosing to live near Hyde Park, at the heart of London. It is one of the city’s most select addresses, just over a mile from Buckingham Palace and with Apsley House, the home of the Dukes of Wellington, as a close neighbour.
Within days of Sir Oliver’s departure from Ceylon, The Times recorded a Troskyite MP questioning the House of Representatives with regard to the amount of money that the former Governor-General had been allowed to take out of the country. The sum in question was £7,000 when the normal travel allowance was only £150.
The delicate question of money resurfaced several months later when the House of Representatives raised 56,250 rupees (£4,000) to be paid to Sir Oliver in lieu of 10 months leave not taken by him when in office. A Government spokesman explained that this was to be sent to him in monthly instalments of £150, Sir Oliver having “told the British press recently that he was penniless because all his money was tied up in Ceylon.”
Doubtless, Sir Oliver had had to leave much of his wealth behind. However, just how penniless he was is open to question. Just two months after settling in England, he is recorded as having paid 1,500 guineas for a horse called Hippo at the Doncaster bloodstock sales.
Horse-racing was to be one of the many activities with which he diverted himself while abroad. He had already established himself as a leading member of the racing fraternity, being described by the Sporting Chronicle as one of the most popular and respected owners. He had raced his horses in England and France for many years, his two-year old Henrico having won the prestigious Prix de la Cascade at Longchamp in 1949. However, perhaps one of his proudest moments was being able to give the famous jockey Lester Piggott his first ride.
Despite his sadness at leaving Ceylon, Sir Oliver did not succumb to grief. Instead, he created a new life. He accepted various posts with companies related to Ceylon’s tea and rubber companies and achieved another ‘first’ when he became the first Asian underwriter at Lloyds.
He travelled extensively – especially during the English winter – paying annual visits to India. He also discovered domestic happiness after having spent many years as a widower since the death of his first wife Esther in 1931.
He first met his second wife Phyllis Miller when she visited Ceylon as secretary to the Soulbury Commission. After that, they stayed in close contact and, following his removal to London, she helped him with his business affairs. They married quietly in 1968, only announcing their marriage several months later.
However, his self-imposed exile did not guarantee immunity from deteriorating political conditions at home. Two years after Sir Oliver’s departure, Philip Gunawardena, head of the United Left Front, declared his belief that sinister forces were at play. His evidence? Recent visits to Ceylon by Lord Mountbatten, Lord Soulbury and Sir John Kotelawala, a trip to Madras by Sir Oliver and alleged telephone conversations between Sir Oliver and Dudley Senanayake.
They were flimsy threads from which to weave a plot but Mrs Bandaranaike took these claims seriously and invited Philip Gunawardena to her home for secret talks. The result was uproar with everyone accusing everyone else of betrayal and Dudley Senanayake complaining to the police that attempts were being made to establish a dictatorship. According to The Times, “no one knew what was happening.”
By now, Parliament had been prorogued for a record four months and Mrs Bandaranaike was contemplating a coalition with the far Left. With an election looming the next year, the political atmosphere was rapidly becoming toxic, conspiracy was perceived everywhere and even elderly statesmen living thousands of miles away were caught up in the maelstrom.
Trial and Retribution
By the early 1970s, Ceylon had changed its name to Sri Lanka; Mrs Bandaranaike, having been temporarily been ousted by her rival Dudley Senanayake, was back in power and a new threat to stability had arisen: the JVP movement.
As part of the measures to deal with the JVP, the Government introduced the Criminal Justice Commissions Act. Under this, some 130 insurgents were jailed, including one of the JVP’s prime-movers Rohanna Wijeweera.
However, the Act had implications for several people unconnected with the JVP. It was extended to a handful of individuals accused of Exchange Control Offences – among them Sir Oliver Goonetilleke.
Aged 82, he was tried in absentia and sentenced to four years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of 950,000 rupees (£61,000).
While he could not be extradited, the sentence nevertheless had a discernible impact on his life. Having met and entertained the Queen on many State occasions, he was now banned from her presence. In a sense, he was doubly exiled. It must have been a stinging blow.
In 1977, Mrs Bandaranaike was defeated at the polls by Junius Jayewardene. He repealed the Act accusing the previous Government of having used it to destroy its opponents. Those who had been jailed under the provisions of the Act were released and an amnesty declared.
This sparked a flurry of communications between the British High Commission in Colombo and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. Due to their sensitive nature, these remained embargoed for 30 years.
Now available for public viewing, these documents reveal frantic activity by diplomats and civil servants in trying to establish the exact nature of Sir Oliver’s status under the amnesty.
The question is succinctly stated in a memo to Bob Dewar at the British High Commission, Colombo from R. E. Holloway, South Asian Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office:
“We are of course particularly interested in Sir Oliver Goonetilleke and need a full account of where he now stands under Sri Lankan law. As you probably know Sir Oliver has been under a cloud in London since he was convicted and sentenced for the Exchange Control Offences. He is no longer invited to Royal functions or to other occasions at which the Queen is present. We must now advise the Lord Chamberlain on whether, according to Sri Lankan law and in the eyes of the Sri Lankan Government, he is entirely redeemed.”
Other memos show that these concerns were due not only to the niceties of royal protocol but also to an anxiety “that the Sri Lanka Government might take it amiss if we were seen still to be treating him [Sir Oliver] as a distinguished elder statesman.”
Sir Oliver was eventually re-instated and his name cleared, allowing him to return home to Sri Lanka where he died a few months later at the age of 84. Sadly, this last chapter of his life does not reflect well on any of the individuals or authorities who had benefited from his years of devoted service. Some actively sought his final ignominy while others passively complied with it.
However, his contribution to Sri Lanka’s Independence is a lasting monument to his unique skills. In the words of his biographer, Sir Charles Jeffries: “If Ceylon makes it, this will largely be due to Oliver Goonetilleke. If she fails, it will not have been his fault.”
O.E.G. Sir Oliver Goonetilleke – a biography by Sir Charles Jeffries
E.G.C. Ludowyk The Story of Ceylon, p 262 [cited in OEG p. 44]
Emergency ’58: Tarzie Vittachi
The Times digital archive
ICC arrest warrant; a setback for authoritarian rule
As should be expected, the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Russian President Vladimir Putin on war crimes allegations has given rise to a widespread debate on how effective it would be as an instrument of justice. What compounds the issue is the fact that Russia is not obliged to cooperate with the ICC, given that it is not a signatory to the Rome Statute which outlaws the crimes in question and envisages punitive action for signatory state representatives who act in violation of its provisions.
Predictably, the Russian side has rubbished the ICC allegations and its arrest warrant on the basis that they are totally irrelevant to Russia, considering that it does not recognize the ICC or its rulings. However, the fact remains that important sections of the international community would be viewing Putin and his regime as war criminals who should be shunned and outlawed.
The possibility is great of the Putin regime steadily alienating itself from enlightened opinion the world over from now on. In other words, Putin and his cohorts have incurred a heavy moral defeat as a consequence of the ICC’s arrest warrant and its strictures.
Morality may not count much for the Putin regime and its supporters, locally and internationally, but the long term consequences growing out of this dismissive stance on moral standards could be grave. They would need to take their minds back to the white supremacist regimes of South Africa of decades past which were relentlessly outlawed by the world community, incurring in the process wide-ranging sanctions that steadily weakened apartheid South Africa and forced it to negotiate with its opponents. Moreover, the ICC measures against Putin are bound to strengthen his opponents and critics at home, thereby boosting Russia’s pro-democracy movement.
However, the Putin administration could earn for itself some ‘breathing space’ at present by proving the ICC’s allegations wrong. That is, it would need to establish beyond doubt that it is not guilty of the crime of deporting Ukrainian children to Russia and other war-linked offences. It could liaise with UNICEF and other relevant UN agencies for this purpose since it does not recognize the ICC.
A wise course of action for President Putin would be to pick up this gauntlet rather than ignore the grave allegations levelled against him, in view of the long term consequences of such evasive behavior.
Besides, the Russian President would need to restrict his movements from now on. For, he is liable to be arrested and produced before the ICC by those governmental authorities who are signatories to the Rome Statute in the event of Putin entering their countries. That is, Putin’s head is likely to be increasingly restless as time goes by.
However, the gravest consequence flowing from Putin and his regime ignoring the ICC and its strictures is that later, if not sooner, they could find themselves being hauled up before the ICC. There is ample evidence from recent history that this could be so. All the alleged offenders need to do is take their minds back to the convulsive and bloody Balkan wars of the nineties to see for themselves how the ICC process, though slow and laborious, finally delivered justice to the victims of war crimes in that tempestuous theatre.
All those war criminals who have lulled themselves into believing that it is possible to escape being brought to justice before the world’s tribunals, need to recollect how former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevik and his partners in crime Rodovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic were brought before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the early years of this century and required to pay the price for their criminality. So confident were they initially that they would never be brought to justice that they agreed, tongue-in-cheek, to fully cooperate with the ICTY.
It is pertinent to also remember that the criminals mentioned were notorious for their ‘ethnic cleansing’ operations and other war-time excesses. Accordingly, those accused of war crimes the world over would be only indulging in wishful thinking if they consider themselves above the law and safe from being held accountable for their offences. Justice would catch-up with them; if not sooner, then later. This is the singular lesson from Bosnia.
Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping has considered it timely to call on President Putin in Russia. He did so close on the heels of being elected President for a third straight term recently. This is a clear message to the world that Russia could always depend on China to be a close and trusted ally. It is a question of two of the biggest authoritarian states uniting. And the world they see as big enough for both of them.
Interestingly, China is having the world believe that it has a peace plan for Ukraine. While in Russia, though, XI did not spell out in any detail how the crisis in Ukraine would be resolved with China’s assistance. However, China has drafted what is termed its ‘Position on the Ukraine Crisis’. It contains 12 points which are more in the nature of a set of principles.
Seen against the backdrop of the developments in Ukraine, some of these principles merit close scrutiny. For instance, the first principle lays out that the sovereignty of all countries must be respected. Besides, International Law must be universally recognized, including the ‘purposes and principles of the UN Charter’. However, ‘double standards’ must be rejected. Hopefully, the West got the hint.
Principle 4 has it that ‘Dialogue and negotiations are the only viable solution to the Ukraine crisis.’ Principle 8 points out that, ‘Nuclear weapons must not be used and nuclear wars must not be fought’.
Needless to say, all the above principles are acceptable to the international community. What is required of China is to evolve a peace plan for Ukraine, based on these principles, if it is in earnest when it speaks of being a peace maker. The onus is on China to prove its credibility.
However, China could be said to be characteristically pragmatic in making these moves. While further cementing its alliance with Russia, China is placing the latter on notice, though in a subtle way, that its war in Ukraine is proving highly counter-productive and costly, both for the states concerned and the world. The costly economic consequences for the world from the war speak for themselves. Accordingly, nudging Russia in the direction of a negotiated settlement is the wisest course in the circumstances.
In the limelight again…Miss Super Model Globe 2020
Those who are familiar with the fashion and beauty pageant setup, in Sri Lanka, would certainly remember Shashi Kaluarachchi.
Three years ago, she was crowned Miss Super Model Globe Sri Lanka 2020 and then represented Sri Lanka at the Miss Super Model Globe International, held in India.
Shashi won two titles at this big event; she was placed second in the finals (1st Runner-up) and took the title of Best National Costume.
Very active in the modelling scene, in the not too distant past, Shashi went silent, after dazzling the audience at the Super Model Globe contest.
Obviously, those who are aware of her talents were kept guessing, and many were wondering whether she had prematurely quit the fashion scene!
Not quite so…and I had a surprise call from Shashi to say that she is ready to do it again.
The silence is due to the fact that she is now employed in Dubai and is concentrating on her office work.
“When I came to Dubai, I was new to this scene but now I do have some free time, coming my way, and I want to get back to what I love doing the most – modelling, fashion and beauty pageants,” she said.
Shashi indicated that she plans to participate in an upcoming beauty pageant, to be held in Dubai, and also do some fashion shoots, and modelling assignments.
“Dubai is now buzzing with excitement and I want to be a part of that scene, as well,” said Shashi, who had her early beginnings, as a model, at the Walk with Brian Kerkoven modelling academy.
“I owe my success to Brian. He made me what I’m today – a top model.”
Shashi, who 5’7″ tall, says she loves wearing the sari for all important occasions.
“The sari is so elegant, so graceful, and, I believe, my height, and figure, does justice to a sari,”
Shashi has plans to visit Sri Lanka, in April, for a short vacation, adding that if the opportunity comes her way, she would love to do some photo shoots, and a walk on the ramp, as well.
* Shorter Showers
If you have dry skin, do not take long showers, or baths. Staying in the water for a longer time can dry it out more. You should also use warm, instead of hot, water, when you wash. Hot water can strip your skin of the fatty substances that give it hydration. As soon as you finish cleansing yourself, apply a body lotion, all over your body, to moisturize. Don’t wash yourself more than once a day
Applying a daily moisturizer can do wonders for dry skin, and there are products in your kitchen you can use which are natural and effective. Try coconut oil, olive oil, almond oil, or sunflower seed oil
Olive oil and brown sugar have amazing properties for the skin. Both of these substances deeply hydrate. Olive oil is also a known wound-healer, while sugar contains glycolic acid, which allows it to have anti-aging. You can make a natural scrub, using these ingredients which can be as good as the best anti-wrinkle creams.
* Mix one tablespoon of brown sugar with a teaspoon of olive oil.
* Blend them, and spread the mixture on your face, and neck, using a circular motion, for a few minutes.
* Then leave it to sit for another couple of minutes, and wash it off with warm water.
You can do this twice a week for amazing results
Taking care of your lips is important. Lips can also get dry and chapped, which is why you need to keep them hydrated, daily. If you’re looking for a natural balm, try sugar and lemon, or honey, sugar, and butter.
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