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T B Ilangaratne – A Sri Lankan par Excellence



21st May, 2021 marked the 29th death anniversary of this unassuming colossus who perhaps had done more for the people of Sri Lanka than many others before him and after him.


By Raj Gonsalkorale

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing – Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke was an influential Anglo-Irish politician, orator and political thinker, known for publicly expressing his opposition to the French Revolution. Born in Dublin in 1729, Burke went to London to study law, but soon gave this up and pursued a literary and political career. He became a member of parliament in 1765 and had a 30-year career as a political theorist and philosopher. Later praised by both conservatives and liberals, Burke believed that the government should be a cooperative relationship between rulers and subjects. He also said that most men in a nation are not qualified to govern it, stating that those who are elected to represent the people should possess a greater level of wisdom than the public. The past is important, but change is inevitable so, in order to keep a balance between the new and the traditional, society needs to learn how to adapt. Therefore, we should construct civilization by giving weight to our ancestors, but also consider ourselves and the needs of future generations.

This article is not about Edmund Burke. It is about one of Sri Lanka’s greatest sons, Tikiri Bandara Ilangaratne or T B Ilangaratne, who in so many ways epitomised the values that Burke believed in during his time. His revolutionary policies and the people owned public institutions he created or helped to create demonstrated in no uncertain manner that he was never a man who stood in silence when it came to public policy and governance for all and not a favoured few. TB Ilangaratne, a family man, a novelist, poet, union leader and politician, born on the 27th of February 1913, passed away peacefully on the 21st of May 1992 having lived a life dedicated to a selfless service to the people of Sri Lanka.

One enduring characteristic of T B Ilangaratne was his unassuming nature, his simplicity and his affinity to his family that never faded throughout his life. He and his wife, Tamara Kumari Ilangaratne or TKI as she was fondly referred to, ran a home which had been more like a community hall and there had always been a pot of rice and a simple meal in the home as everyone who had visited, and there had been many from the two electorates represented by TBI and TKI, had never left their home hungry. There had never been any discrimination on status or any other discriminatory practice and whoever having a meal had been served at the main dining table. Being a crowded household, children of TBI and TKI, and their cousins and friends who had been regular visitors, sometimes had their meals either in the kitchen or in their rooms. The family home had been one of joy and had been full of very meaningful life.

Both TB Ilangaratne and his wife, as members of Parliament, along with other members of Parliament at the time, unlike those of today who find it difficult to even walk, let alone travel in public transport, had not been given fleets of vehicles. They were entitled only to public bus and train passes, and unless they had their own transport, which the Ilangaratne’s did not have, their only mode of transport to and back from their respective electorates had been public transport.

Despite these challenges, TB Ilangaratne had one motive throughout his life and that was to be of service to others, in particular to those who were left behind by the legacy of colonialism and supremacy of money for a few at the cost of exacerbating the plight of those who were left behind by that few. His achievements in introducing far reaching policy reforms in independent Sri Lanka, which continued till the end of the seventies, have to be looked at through such a prism.

His vision and approach to policy settings paved the way for others to emulate and set the direction for a fairer Sri Lanka and opening opportunities for those who had been denied such opportunities.

Throughout his life and especially during his political career, he was a person who not only thought of or just empathised with people in society, who were poor, homeless and the lower middle class who were left behind by the Colonial administrations and then by those who took over from them, but actually introduced ground breaking policies to raise the standards and hopes of such people.

Besides the accolades that he got, which were many and richly deserved, he was also at the butt end of the nastiest characteristics of many fellow countrymen who assigned all manner of derogatory labels to him, which were totally unjust and untrue. Not only was he subject to such vilification, even his family was not spared and they had to endure these on behalf of a husband and father who did and always did, what was in the best interest of the mass of Sri Lankans who were left out of the post-colonial Sri Lankan dream.

In the days before the advent of social media, these vilifications were spearheaded by interested parties including the monopoly media who were the servants of the masters at that time, masters who had been affected by the far reaching public policy changes introduced by T B Ilangaratne.

His life’s philosophy and his political philosophy were no different to each other. Simplicity and equal opportunities for everyone irrespective of ethnicity, religion, caste or any other discriminatory practices, guided his thinking. In this respect, he saw common ground with the left movement in the country and the leaders of the left movement. His socialist orientation and outlook brought him very close to a scholarly Buddhist monk, Venerable Walpola Rahula who had his early education at the Vidyalankara Pirivena, and who maintained close links with the University. There is no doubt that Ven Rahula had a lasting influence on T B Ilangaratne and they remained lifelong friends.

These socialist leanings had irked D S Senanayake and his fellow supporters in the government of the day. Senanayake was the first Prime Minister of the country then known as Ceylon, who was in the 1940s, the Leader of the House of Representatives. They saw the Buddhist clergy as a threat to their power, and influence with the rich segment of the polity.

Vidyalankara Declaration

In the early part of the 1940s, the leading Buddhist monks of the day had taken a stand to campaign for broad basing the public policy settings of the country and to extend the country’s social structure to the majority people in the country who had been left behind by a few who controlled most aspects of the country’s economy. This was no ethnic or religion based campaign although the leading Buddhist monks had taken it on themselves to launch such a campaign on behalf of the wider mass of people of the country. In this regard, monks led by Yakkaduwe Pangnarama, Kiriwattuduwe Pannassara, Walpola Rahula and others and lay persons like young T B Ilangaratne had taken the lead to introduce what was referred to as the Vidyalankara declaration which articulated a new vision for the country.

Politicians, businessmen and women, and others belonging to the governing class led by D S Senanayake, who was then the Leader of the House of Representatives, had been vehemently against this declaration and the call to action by the Buddhist monks. The animosity between Senanayake and his supporters and the Buddhist clergy had intensified to the extent that they had prevented monks like Venerable Rahula from receiving their daily mid-day meal. It is at this point that the role played by TB Ilangaratne comes into focus, as he, although a poor clerical hand at the time, had arranged with well-wishers to supply the mid-day meals to Ven Rahula and other monks. Ven Rahula had made special mention of this effort on the part of TB Ilangaratne, and their friendship flourished.

Ven Walpola Rahula was a scholar and a writer. He became the Professor of History and Literature of Religions in the North Western University in the US, the first Bhikkhu to hold such a chair in the Western world. He later became a Professor Emeritus at the same university and in 1964, the Vice Chancellor of the Vidyodaya University in Sri Lanka (now Sri Jayawardhanapura University).

Navaratne Rajakaruna Wasala Tikiri Mudiyanselage Tikiri Bandara Ilangaratne

was born on 27 February 1913 in Tumpane, Hataraliyadda, Waligodapola, as the fourth child in a family with seven siblings. His father was a well-known general practitioner of traditional ophthalmology. He began attending school in 1917 at Galagedera Vidyalaya and received his secondary education from St. Anthony’s College,Kandy. Ilangaratne wrote three plays while in school (Akikaru Putha, Himin and Anda Nanda). On September 4, 1944, Ilangaratne married Tamara Kumari Aludeniya in Gampola. Tamara Kumari Ilangaratne (TKI) was elected as the member for Kandy (1949-1952) and Galagedara (1970-1977). They had four children Udaya, Sandhya, Rohana, and Upeksha.

He was a Member of Parliament for Kandy, Galaha, Hewaheta and Kolonnawa in Colombo district. He served as the Sri Lankan Cabinet Minister of Labour, Housing, Social Services, Finance, Commerce, Food, Trade and Shipping, Public Administration and Home Affairs and he also functioned as the Acting Head of State during Sirima Bandaranaike’s time as Prime Minister in a career spanning more than three decades.

As extensive as his political experience and achievements, he was also well known for his literary talent and authored several classic novels and is best known for writing Amba Yahaluwo (1957), a popular children’s novel. His novels Tilaka Saha Tilaka, Lasanda, Nedeyo, Sasara, Niwena Ginna, Nayana and Kale Mal have been adapted into movies. Amba Yahaluwo and Vilambheetha were made into a television serial. Altogether he has written 50 Sinhala novels, and two English novels – Matchmaker and Amba Yahaluwo which were also translated to French. He also translated Tale of Two Cities written by Charles Dickens to Sinhala as ‘Denuwara Kathawa’.

Early Days

T B Ilangaratne left school after passing the London matriculation exam upon which he joined the government service as a clerk in the General Clerical Service. In 1941, he tried his hand at acting, playing King Dhatusena in the play of the same name by Gunasila Withana and in the movies ‘Radala Piliruwa’ and ‘Warada Kageda’.

In 1947, T B Ilangaratne’s leadership qualities were recognised by the membership of the Clerical Service and he became the President of the Government Clerical Services Union (GCSU). There were many trade unions representing the working class under Dr NM Perera, Dr S A Wickramasinghe and Peter Keuneman, but his vision was to involve the clerical staff to fight for their civil rights and also towards gaining independence from the British Empire. He organised a massive rally at the Galle Face Green against colonial rule and this led to his dismissal from the Government Clerical Service.

He then contested and won the Kandy electorate in the 1947 general election as a Socialist candidate, but was unseated as a result of an election petition. At the request from the people of Kandy, his lifelong friend, companion and wife, Tamara Kumari Ilangaratne, affectionately referred to as TKI, contested at the by-election and became the MP for Kandy. An election petition may have got rid of T B Ilangaratne, but the people of Kandy did not.

TB Ilangaratne joined the editorial board of Lankadeepa newspaper writing the political column under the pen name ‘Andare’ while his wife TKI continued as a member of Parliamentary opposition.

The following year he contested a by-election in the Kandy electorate as an independent socialist candidate defeating Fredrick de Silva, and entered the House of Representatives of Ceylon and was sworn in on May 18, 1948.

It was around this time that S W R D Bandaranaike, who would become Prime Minister in 1956, left the government of D S Senanayake and joined the opposition. T B Ilangaratne recognised and wrote of this move of Bandaranaike as the greatest political sacrifice he had made. He invited S W R D Bandaranaike to address a socialist group of Kandy headed by Queens Counsel Sri Nissanka and himself. At the meeting S W R D Bandaranaike announced his vision to follow a middle path and expressed his desire to join hands with T B Ilangaratne to form a new political party. The seeds for the birth of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party were sown and Bandaranaike’s vision became a reality when both T B Ilangaratne and his wife, as convenors and founder members together with 42 others formed the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. This included DA Rajapaksa, the father of Mahinda and Gotabaya who were to become Presidents and Heads of State of the country, and another sibling, Chamal, a Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka, and Basil, a cabinet minister himself. The key role played by T B Ilangaratne and TKI in the formation of the SLFP and leading it to one of the most stunning political victories is perhaps not known to many.

He contested the 1956 general election from Galaha as the candidate of the newly formed party SLFP, defeating Theodore Braybrook Panabokke and re-entered the House of Representatives in a landslide victory. Prime Minister Bandaranaike appointed him to his cabinet as the Minister of Labour, Housing and Social Services.

In 1959 S W R D Bandaranaike, a visionary who gave a life and purpose to the very ordinary ‘common man’ fell to an assassin’s bullet, although the conspirators to the assassination were people engaged in commercial activity who had lost out on some deals, which were unprincipled, unethical and not in the national interest, and rightly turned down by Bandaranaike. The chief conspirator, former chief priest of the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya, Mapitigama Buddharakkitha, was tried and convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, and he died in prison while serving his sentence.

In the immediate post S W R D Bandaranaike cabinet, T B Ilangaratne assumed duties as the Minister of Home Affairs, which included the department of police that investigated the assassination and which eventually led to the conviction of the assassin and the conspirators.

He contested and was elected in the general elections of March 1960 and July 1960 from Hewaheta. He was appointed Minister of Commerce, Trade, Food and Shipping by Sirima Bandaranaike who became Prime Minister having led the Sri Lanka Freedom Party in the July election. In 1963, he was appointed Minister of Finance and then Minister of Internal and External Trade in 1964.

T B Ilangaratne lost his seat in the 1965 general election. He however returned to Parliament from a by-election in 1967 from the Kolonnawa electorate and sat in the opposition. He was re-elected in the 1970 general election from Kolonnawa and was appointed to the cabinet with the portfolios of Foreign and Internal Trade, thereafter, Trade and Public Administration and Home Affairs. In 1974 he served briefly as the acting Prime Minister. Ilangaratne retired from politics on April 12, 1986.

There is a strong possibility that TB Ilangaratne’s very significant and unparalleled achievements are not known to many as such interested parties have for years, carried out a successful campaign to hide them from the public and vilify him for activities he was never part of or had any association with.

His achievements are overwhelming, and amongst the major achievements not mentioned so far in this article are the following.

Declaring a holiday on account of the May Day and recognising this as a special day for workers, establishment of the Employees Provident Fund. The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) was established under the Act No. 15 of 1958 and is currently the largest Social Security Scheme in Sri Lanka. With an asset base of Rs. 2,540 billion as at end 2019, the EPF today has become a huge ‘Peace of Mind’ for the employees of institutions and establishments of the Private Sector, State Sponsored Corporations, Statutory Boards and Private Business.

The adoption of the Labour Disputes Act, creation of Shops and Office Employees Act, passing of Maternity Leave Act, providing light work to pregnant mothers, implementation of the Workers’ Compensation Act, establishment of the National Wages Commission, establishment of Vocational Training Centres, abolition of the right of employers to dismiss employees abruptly, facilitation of trade union representatives to attend foreign conferences.

Some of the institutional work he was responsible for were, nationalisation of private petroleum companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, Mobil gas, Caltex and Esso transferring its assets to the newly formed Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, and its refinery to refine crude oil, nationalization of insurance and the establishment of the Insurance Corporation, establishment of the People’s Bank, establishment of the National Lotteries Board, adoption of the Shipping Corporation Act, establishment of Sathosa, launching the Oberoi Hotel created under the Sathosa establishment, establishment of State Trading General Corporation (now known as Rajawasa), establishment of the State Tractor Corporation, establishment of the State Textile Corporation (Salu Sala), establishment of the Consolidated Export Corporation (Consolexpo), establishment of Co-operative Services Commission, establishment of the National Fruit Board, establishment of the National Pricing Commission, creating a price control department to protect consumers, transfer of dried fish importation business to the State (CWE) on account of a gold smuggling racket amongst some private importers, to the CWE.

He is also credited as the first Finance Minister to present the national budget in Sinhala, the reason for this being the budget in Sinhala were to open the doors for entrepreneurs from the cities as well as villages to Sri Lanka’s economic opportunities, and to broad base the naturally agro based country and to create opportunities for students to study economics in the Sinhala language as such opportunities were restricted to those who studied in the English medium up until then. He was also responsible for widening Tea exports, hitherto restricted to Britain, directly to the rest of the world, breaking the monopoly of Oil imports restricted to England, and opening importation from the Middle East and Russia.

It would not be misplaced to assign any other label than what Mahatma Gandhi said of great men – ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world’, to T B Ilangaratne. He epitomised that and he was always the change he wished to see in Sri Lanka. His singular achievements, his dedicated service to the country he loved, demonstrate this beyond any doubt. He is assured of an honoured place in Sri Lanka as a man for all seasons and a visionary leader for generations to come.

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Sat Mag

Living building challenge



By Eng. Thushara Dissanayake

The primitive man lived in caves to get shelter from the weather. With the progression of human civilization, people wanted more sophisticated buildings to fulfill many other needs and were able to accomplish them with the help of advanced technologies. Security, privacy, storage, and living with comfort are the common requirements people expect today from residential buildings. In addition, different types of buildings are designed and constructed as public, commercial, industrial, and even cultural or religious with many advanced features and facilities to suit different requirements.

We are facing many environmental challenges today. The most severe of those is global warming which results in many negative impacts, like floods, droughts, strong winds, heatwaves, and sea level rise due to the melting of glaciers. We are experiencing many of those in addition to some local issues like environmental pollution. According to estimates buildings account for nearly 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions. In light of these issues, we have two options; we change or wait till the change comes to us. Waiting till the change come to us means that we do not care about our environment and as a result we would have to face disastrous consequences. Then how can we change in terms of building construction?

Before the green concept and green building practices come into play majority of buildings in Sri Lanka were designed and constructed just focusing on their intended functional requirements. Hence, it was much likely that the whole process of design, construction, and operation could have gone against nature unless done following specific regulations that would minimize negative environmental effects.

We can no longer proceed with the way we design our buildings which consumes a huge amount of material and non-renewable energy. We are very concerned about the food we eat and the things we consume. But we are not worrying about what is a building made of. If buildings are to become a part of our environment we have to design, build and operate them based on the same principles that govern the natural world. Eventually, it is not about the existence of the buildings, it is about us. In other words, our buildings should be a part of our natural environment.

The living building challenge is a remarkable design philosophy developed by American architect Jason F. McLennan the founder of the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). The International Living Future Institute is an environmental NGO committed to catalyzing the transformation toward communities that are socially just, culturally rich, and ecologically restorative. Accordingly, a living building must meet seven strict requirements, rather certifications, which are called the seven “petals” of the living building. They are Place, Water, Energy, Equity, Materials, Beauty, and Health & Happiness. Presently there are about 390 projects around the world that are being implemented according to Living Building certification guidelines. Let us see what these seven petals are.


This is mainly about using the location wisely. Ample space is allocated to grow food. The location is easily accessible for pedestrians and those who use bicycles. The building maintains a healthy relationship with nature. The objective is to move away from commercial developments to eco-friendly developments where people can interact with nature.


It is recommended to use potable water wisely, and manage stormwater and drainage. Hence, all the water needs are captured from precipitation or within the same system, where grey and black waters are purified on-site and reused.


Living buildings are energy efficient and produce renewable energy. They operate in a pollution-free manner without carbon emissions. They rely only on solar energy or any other renewable energy and hence there will be no energy bills.


What if a building can adhere to social values like equity and inclusiveness benefiting a wider community? Yes indeed, living buildings serve that end as well. The property blocks neither fresh air nor sunlight to other adjacent properties. In addition, the building does not block any natural water path and emits nothing harmful to its neighbors. On the human scale, the equity petal recognizes that developments should foster an equitable community regardless of an individual’s background, age, class, race, gender, or sexual orientation.


Materials are used without harming their sustainability. They are non-toxic and waste is minimized during the construction process. The hazardous materials traditionally used in building components like asbestos, PVC, cadmium, lead, mercury, and many others are avoided. In general, the living buildings will not consist of materials that could negatively impact human or ecological health.


Our physical environments are not that friendly to us and sometimes seem to be inhumane. In contrast, a living building is biophilic (inspired by nature) with aesthetical designs that beautify the surrounding neighborhood. The beauty of nature is used to motivate people to protect and care for our environment by connecting people and nature.

Health & Happiness

The building has a good indoor and outdoor connection. It promotes the occupants’ physical and psychological health while causing no harm to the health issues of its neighbors. It consists of inviting stairways and is equipped with operable windows that provide ample natural daylight and ventilation. Indoor air quality is maintained at a satisfactory level and kitchen, bathrooms, and janitorial areas are provided with exhaust systems. Further, mechanisms placed in entrances prevent any materials carried inside from shoes.

The Bullitt Center building

Bullitt Center located in the middle of Seattle in the USA, is renowned as the world’s greenest commercial building and the first office building to earn Living Building certification. It is a six-story building with an area of 50,000 square feet. The area existed as a forest before the city was built. Hence, the Bullitt Center building has been designed to mimic the functions of a forest.

The energy needs of the building are purely powered by the solar system on the rooftop. Even though Seattle is relatively a cloudy city the Bullitt Center has been able to produce more energy than it needed becoming one of the “net positive” solar energy buildings in the world. The important point is that if a building is energy efficient only the area of the roof is sufficient to generate solar power to meet its energy requirement.

It is equipped with an automated window system that is able to control the inside temperature according to external weather conditions. In addition, a geothermal heat exchange system is available as the source of heating and cooling for the building. Heat pumps convey heat stored in the ground to warm the building in the winter. Similarly, heat from the building is conveyed into the ground during the summer.

The potable water needs of the building are achieved by treating rainwater. The grey water produced from the building is treated and re-used to feed rooftop gardens on the third floor. The black water doesn’t need a sewer connection as it is treated to a desirable level and sent to a nearby wetland while human biosolid is diverted to a composting system. Further, nearly two third of the rainwater collected from the roof is fed into the groundwater and the process resembles the hydrologic function of a forest.

It is encouraging to see that most of our large-scale buildings are designed and constructed incorporating green building concepts, which are mainly based on environmental sustainability. The living building challenge can be considered an extension of the green building concept. Amanda Sturgeon, the former CEO of the ILFI, has this to say in this regard. “Before we start a project trying to cram in every sustainable solution, why not take a step outside and just ask the question; what would nature do”?

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Sat Mag

Something of a revolution: The LSSP’s “Great Betrayal” in retrospect



By Uditha Devapriya

On June 7, 1964, the Central Committee of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party convened a special conference at which three resolutions were presented. The first, moved by N. M. Perera, called for a coalition with the SLFP, inclusive of any ministerial portfolios. The second, led by the likes of Colvin R. de Silva, Leslie Goonewardena, and Bernard Soysa, advocated a line of critical support for the SLFP, but without entering into a coalition. The third, supported by the likes of Edmund Samarakkody and Bala Tampoe, rejected any form of compromise with the SLFP and argued that the LSSP should remain an independent party.

The conference was held a year after three parties – the LSSP, the Communist Party, and Philip Gunawardena’s Mahajana Eksath Peramuna – had founded a United Left Front. The ULF’s formation came in the wake of a spate of strikes against the Sirimavo Bandaranaike government. The previous year, the Ceylon Transport Board had waged a 17-day strike, and the harbour unions a 60-day strike. In 1963 a group of working-class organisations, calling itself the Joint Committee of Trade Unions, began mobilising itself. It soon came up with a common programme, and presented a list of 21 radical demands.

In response to these demands, Bandaranaike eventually supported a coalition arrangement with the left. In this she was opposed, not merely by the right-wing of her party, led by C. P. de Silva, but also those in left parties opposed to such an agreement, including Bala Tampoe and Edmund Samarakkody. Until then these parties had never seen the SLFP as a force to reckon with: Leslie Goonewardena, for instance, had characterised it as “a Centre Party with a programme of moderate reforms”, while Colvin R. de Silva had described it as “capitalist”, no different to the UNP and by default as bourgeois as the latter.

The LSSP’s decision to partner with the government had a great deal to do with its changing opinions about the SLFP. This, in turn, was influenced by developments abroad. In 1944, the Fourth International, which the LSSP had affiliated itself with in 1940 following its split with the Stalinist faction, appointed Michel Pablo as its International Secretary. After the end of the war, Pablo oversaw a shift in the Fourth International’s attitude to the Soviet states in Eastern Europe. More controversially, he began advocating a strategy of cooperation with mass organisations, regardless of their working-class or radical credentials.

Pablo argued that from an objective perspective, tensions between the US and the Soviet Union would lead to a “global civil war”, in which the Soviet Union would serve as a midwife for world socialist revolution. In such a situation the Fourth International would have to take sides. Here he advocated a strategy of entryism vis-à-vis Stalinist parties: since the conflict was between Stalinist and capitalist regimes, he reasoned, it made sense to see the former as allies. Such a strategy would, in his opinion, lead to “integration” into a mass movement, enabling the latter to rise to the level of a revolutionary movement.

Though controversial, Pablo’s line is best seen in the context of his times. The resurgence of capitalism after the war, and the boom in commodity prices, had a profound impact on the course of socialist politics in the Third World. The stunted nature of the bourgeoisie in these societies had forced left parties to look for alternatives. For a while, Trotsky had been their guide: in colonial and semi-colonial societies, he had noted, only the working class could be expected to see through a revolution. This entailed the establishment of workers’ states, but only those arising from a proletarian revolution: a proposition which, logically, excluded any compromise with non-radical “alternatives” to the bourgeoisie.

To be sure, the Pabloites did not waver in their support for workers’ states. However, they questioned whether such states could arise only from a proletarian revolution. For obvious reasons, their reasoning had great relevance for Trotskyite parties in the Third World. The LSSP’s response to them showed this well: while rejecting any alliance with Stalinist parties, the LSSP sympathised with the Pabloites’ advocacy of entryism, which involved a strategic orientation towards “reformist politics.” For the world’s oldest Trotskyite party, then going through a series of convulsions, ruptures, and splits, the prospect of entering the reformist path without abandoning its radical roots proved to be welcoming.

Writing in the left-wing journal Community in 1962, Hector Abhayavardhana noted some of the key concerns that the party had tried to resolve upon its formation. Abhayavardhana traced the LSSP’s origins to three developments: international communism, the freedom struggle in India, and local imperatives. The latter had dictated the LSSP’s manifesto in 1936, which included such demands as free school books and the use of Sinhala and Tamil in the law courts. Abhayavardhana suggested, correctly, that once these imperatives changed, so would the party’s focus, though within a revolutionary framework. These changes would be contingent on two important factors: the establishment of universal franchise in 1931, and the transfer of power to the local bourgeoisie in 1948.

Paradoxical as it may seem, the LSSP had entered the arena of radical politics through the ballot box. While leading the struggle outside parliament, it waged a struggle inside it also. This dual strategy collapsed when the colonial government proscribed the party and the D. S. Senanayake government disenfranchised plantation Tamils. Suffering two defeats in a row, the LSSP was forced to think of alternatives. That meant rethinking categories such as class, and grounding them in the concrete realities of the country.

This was more or less informed by the irrelevance of classical and orthodox Marxian analysis to the situation in Sri Lanka, specifically to its rural society: with a “vast amorphous mass of village inhabitants”, Abhayavardhana observed, there was no real basis in the country for a struggle “between rich owners and the rural poor.” To complicate matters further, reforms like the franchise and free education, which had aimed at the emancipation of the poor, had in fact driven them away from “revolutionary inclinations.” The result was the flowering of a powerful rural middle-class, which the LSSP, to its discomfort, found it could not mobilise as much as it had the urban workers and plantation Tamils.

Where else could the left turn to? The obvious answer was the rural peasantry. But the rural peasantry was in itself incapable of revolution, as Hector Abhayavardhana has noted only too clearly. While opposing the UNP’s Westernised veneer, it did not necessarily oppose the UNP’s overtures to Sinhalese nationalism. As historians like K. M. de Silva have observed, the leaders of the UNP did not see their Westernised ethos as an impediment to obtaining support from the rural masses. That, in part at least, was what motivated the Senanayake government to deprive Indian estate workers of their most fundamental rights, despite the existence of pro-minority legal safeguards in the Soulbury Constitution.

To say this is not to overlook the unique character of the Sri Lankan rural peasantry and petty bourgeoisie. Orthodox Marxists, not unjustifiably, characterise the latter as socially and politically conservative, tilting more often than not to the right. In Sri Lanka, this has frequently been the case: they voted for the UNP in 1948 and 1952, and voted en masse against the SLFP in 1977. Yet during these years they also tilted to the left, if not the centre-left: it was the petty bourgeoisie, after all, which rallied around the SLFP, and supported its more important reforms, such as the nationalisation of transport services.

One must, of course, be wary of pasting the radical tag on these measures and the classes that ostensibly stood for them. But if the Trotskyite critique of the bourgeoisie – that they were incapable of reform, even less revolution – holds valid, which it does, then the left in the former colonies of the Third World had no alternative but to look elsewhere and to be, as Abhayavardhana noted, “practical men” with regard to electoral politics. The limits within which they had to work in Sri Lanka meant that, in the face of changing dynamics, especially among the country’s middle-classes, they had to change their tactics too.

Meanwhile, in 1953, the Trotskyite critique of Pabloism culminated with the publication of an Open Letter by James Cannon, of the US Socialist Workers’ Party. Cannon criticised the Pabloite line, arguing that it advocated a policy of “complete submission.” The publication of the letter led to the withdrawal of the International Committee of the Fourth International from the International Secretariat. The latter, led by Pablo, continued to influence socialist parties in the Third World, advocating temporary alliances with petty bourgeois and centrist formations in the guise of opposing capitalist governments.

For the LSSP, this was a much-needed opening. Even as late as 1954, three years after S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike formed the SLFP, the LSSP continued to characterise the latter as the alternative bourgeois party in Ceylon. Yet this did not deter it from striking up no contest pacts with Bandaranaike at the 1956 election, a strategy that went back to November 1951, when the party requested the SLFP to hold a discussion about the possibility of eliminating contests in the following year’s elections. Though it extended critical support to the MEP government in 1956, the LSSP opposed the latter once it enacted emergency measures in 1957, mobilising trade union action for a period of three years.

At the 1960 election the LSSP contested separately, with the slogan “N. M. for P.M.” Though Sinhala nationalism no longer held sway as it had in 1956, the LSSP found itself reduced to a paltry 10 seats. It was against this backdrop that it began rethinking its strategy vis-à-vis the ruling party. At the throne speech in April 1960, Perera openly declared that his party would not stabilise the SLFP. But a month later, in May, he called a special conference, where he moved a resolution for a coalition with the party. As T. Perera has noted in his biography of Edmund Samarakkody, the response to the resolution unearthed two tendencies within the oppositionist camp: the “hardliners” who opposed any compromise with the SLFP, including Samarakkody, and the “waverers”, including Leslie Goonewardena.

These tendencies expressed themselves more clearly at the 1964 conference. While the first resolution by Perera called for a complete coalition, inclusive of Ministries, and the second rejected a coalition while extending critical support, the third rejected both tactics. The outcome of the conference showed which way these tendencies had blown since they first manifested four years earlier: Perera’s resolution obtained more than 500 votes, the second 75 votes, the third 25. What the anti-coalitionists saw as the “Great Betrayal” of the LSSP began here: in a volte-face from its earlier position, the LSSP now held the SLFP as a party of a radical petty bourgeoisie, capable of reform.

History has not been kind to the LSSP’s decision. From 1970 to 1977, a period of less than a decade, these strategies enabled it, as well as the Communist Party, to obtain a number of Ministries, as partners of a petty bourgeois establishment. This arrangement collapsed the moment the SLFP turned to the right and expelled the left from its ranks in 1975, in a move which culminated with the SLFP’s own dissolution two years later.

As the likes of Samarakkody and Meryl Fernando have noted, the SLFP needed the LSSP and Communist Party, rather than the other way around. In the face of mass protests and strikes in 1962, the SLFP had been on the verge of complete collapse. The anti-coalitionists in the LSSP, having established themselves as the LSSP-R, contended later on that the LSSP could have made use of this opportunity to topple the government.

Whether or not the LSSP could have done this, one can’t really tell. However, regardless of what the LSSP chose to do, it must be pointed out that these decades saw the formation of several regimes in the Third World which posed as alternatives to Stalinism and capitalism. Moreover, the LSSP’s decision enabled it to see through certain important reforms. These included Workers’ Councils. Critics of these measures can point out, as they have, that they could have been implemented by any other regime. But they weren’t. And therein lies the rub: for all its failings, and for a brief period at least, the LSSP-CP-SLFP coalition which won elections in 1970 saw through something of a revolution in the country.

The writer is an international relations analyst, researcher, and columnist based in Sri Lanka who can be reached at

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50 years of legacy of Police Cadeting at Ananda



By Nilakshan Perera

Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranayake wanted to forge a cordial relationship with school children and the Police Department, after carefully studying a similar programme in Singapore and Malaysia. With the support of the then Ministry of Education and the Sri Lanka Police, the Sri Lanka Police Cadet Corps began as an attachment to the Sri Lankan Police Reserve. On 03 July 1972, six schools were selected for the pilot programme; namely Kingswood College Kandy, Mahinda College Galle, Hindu College Jaffna, Ananda College Colombo, Zahira College Gampola and Sangabodhi Vidyalaya Nittambuwa. By 1978, this number rose to 32 Boys’ schools and 19 Girls’ schools.

Each of these individual platoons consisted of 33 cadets. The masters who were in charge of these platoons were considered part of the Police Reserve. They were assigned with the rank of an Inspector (IP) or a Sub Inspector (SI).

Cadet Corps held a selection for the camps. They would participate in annual competitions for squad drills, physical training, first-aid, drama, billet inspection, general knowledge and public relations, best commander, sports and IGP’s Challenge Shield. From these selection camps, the first three winners would be called for the final camp, from which the Island winner was then selected.

When Ananda College was selected for Police Cadetting on 03 July 1972, two of the school’s teachers were appointed as the Officers In-charge of the College Cadet Platoon. They were Mr Lionel Gunasekera and Mr Ariyapala. Later on, Mr W Weerasekera took over from Mr Ariyapala. Both Mr Gunasekera and Mr Weerasekera extended their invaluable and unwavering services for the Cadet Platoon’s success story. Both these gentlemen were there to supervise and train cadets. One could not forget Mr Weerasekera’s 9 Sri 7321 orange coloured Bajaj scooter parked next to the College main canteen. Another teacher, who trained cadets for drama competitions, voluntarily, was the late Mr Lionel Ranwala. He was the talented master who helped cadets to secure wins in the drama competition, year after year, at the annual camps.

The evening before attending the camp, a special “Mal Pooja” was organised to bless the platoon. After this, they would meet the principal, at his office, for another special blessing and a tea party, hosted by the principal himself. The then Principal of Ananda College, Colonel GW Rajapakse, gave his fullest blessings to the Police Cadets. These recognised cadets earned more responsibilities and assumed various leadership roles at the College. Prefects, Deputy Head Prefect, Head Prefect, Big Match Tent Secretaries, and Presidents of various societies were given to Cadets uncontestedly.

The Cadets stayed at the hostel, the night before leaving for camp. Our trunks were loaded into the college van and unloaded at Maradana Railway station. The most valuable trunk in the Cadet’s eyes was the PLATOON BOX. This was so since the box often contained items such as butter cakes, bottles ofcordial, sweets, such as marshmallows, chocolate rolls, and biscuits. This precious box was kept under lock and key and the watchful eyes of two Cadet Corporals.

SSP Prof Nandadasa Kodagoda, SSP P V W de Silva and a few other senior officers from Police HQ often attended as judges for different categories in the annual camp competitions, such as first aid, general knowledge, squad drill and physical training. Both these senior officers would discharge their duties to the rule and spirit.

All first-aid requirements were provided by the college St John’s Ambulance Brigade for all college special events, such as big matches and sports meets. This unit was led by 1979 Corporal Devapriya Perera (IT Professional – London) and most of the first-aiders were Police Cadets. They volunteered their services to the General Hospital Accident Ward and the Sri Pada pilgrims. It was pleasing to see Cadets controlling traffic duties in front of the college, at the Maradana – Borella main road, every morning, from 7.00 am to 7.25 am and helping with traffic duties and car park duties during the college sports meet and other functions.

Police Cadets CR Senanayake (Automobile Engineer-Brisbane), Ravi Mahendra (IT professional), and the late Dharmapriya Silva, established a swimming club that held its training at Otters Swimming Club. The School Bus Travelers Society, organized by the Police Cadets, issued bus seasons tickets for students with the help of CTB officials.

Back then when a teacher had not reported to a class, senior Police Cadets would step in and take turns to teach these classes. Deepal Sooriyaarchchi (Former MD of Aviva, Management Consultant) and Sarath Katangoda (Management Consultant – UK) were the most popular student masters in that era with their popular stories and innovative methods of teaching. This increased the popularity of police cadets among the other students. The way cadets conducted themselves had a very high impact on fellow Anandians, and the number of students attending practices rose rapidly.

On several occasions, Anula Vidyalaya Police Cadets called our Cadets to assist with their training in preparation for their Annual Camps. Having borrowed bus season tickets from students coming to College, via Nugegoda, our senior cadets were looking forward to visiting Anula to train them during school hours. This friendly culture blossoms during camps as well as outside the two schools. We still continue our friendships with Kamal Hathamuney (who joined the Army and retired with the rank of Major, residing in Sweden), Nirmala Perera, Malraji Meepegama (married to Maj Gen Sunil Wanniarachchi), Rosy Ranasekera (married to former Ananda Cadet Band leader Maj Gen Dhananjith Karunaratne) Dilani Balasuriya, (former IGP late Mahinda Balasuriya’s sister – married to Dr Priyanga de Zoysa). Interestingly our Cadet Lanka Herath continued this relationship and found his lifetime partner Ganga Thilakaratne from the Anula Vidyalaya Platoon. A famous school from Kelaniya, St Paul’s Balika Vidyalaya, too, started Police Cadeting in 1980. The writer being 1981 Ananda Sgt found his partner from St Paul’s Balika Cadet Sgt of the same year, Rasadari Jayamaha. Former Dean of the faculty of Law, University of Colombo Prof Indira Nanayakkara and Shiromi Perera (Melbourne) were the Corporals of the same platoon.

In 1972, the College platoon, led by Sgt Ranjith Wijesundara, became the Island’s best platoon. On the 23rd of July, 1983, the Sri Lankan Army’s routine patrol was assigned from Madagal to Gurunagar with the call sign of Four Four Bravo, commanded by 2/Lt A.P.N.C de Waas Gunwardane with 15 soldiers attached to Charlie company of SLLI were ambushed at Thirunelveli in Jaffna. 2/Lt Waas Gunawrdane and 12 soldiers made the supreme sacrifice. Adjutant and Intelligence Officer of SLLI Capt Ranjith Wijesundara was assigned the task of identifying the fallen heroes. Lt Wass Gunawardane was a Cadet of the 1977 platoon. Ranjith Wijesundra is now retired with the rank of Colonel.

In 1975 the College platoon, led by Sgt M A K E Manthriratne, also became the country’s best platoon and he was selected by the National Youth Council to represent the Sri Lanka Police Cadet Corps to travel to Canada under the Youth Exchange Programme between Sri Lanka and Canada. Manthriratne later joined the SL Navy and retired with the rank of Commander. Presently, as the President of Past Cadets, together with the ever-reliable 1982 Sgt V S Makolage carrying out various welfare projects under the banner of the Past Police Cadet Wing of Ananda.

Ananda held an unbroken record of winning nine out of 10 Trophies in 1978, under the great leadership of Sergeant Kithsiri Aponso who undoubtedly took Ananda Police Cadets to greater heights, was a leader with great charisma, integrity and leadership qualities. He became the Deputy Head Prefect and joined the STF. He later moved to the Police dept and is presently appointed as the DIG In Charge of the Badulla region.

The highest rank Cadet could achieve is Sgt Major. There were three Sgt Majors who brought honour and recognition to Ananda, namely Piyal Jayatilake in 1977, Jagathpriya Karunaratne in 1978 and ‘79, and Kithsiri Aponso in 1980. Chinthaka Gunaratne, a Cadet of 1981, also became the athletic Captain in 1983 (presently SSP In Charge of Highways) brought great honour and recognition as he became the Director in Charge of the Sri Lanka Police Cadet Corps.

College Athletic Captain of 1977, Ranasinghe Dharmadasa (Snr Manager BOI), 1978 JPPP Silva (Consultant-USA), 1980 Damitha Vitharana, (joined Sri Lanka Navy and retired as Lt. Commander and was the Director at Lankem Ceylon PLC before migrating to the UK), 1981 Jagath Palihakkara, (joined Sri Lanka Police as a SI in 1982 and at presently acting Senior DIG Western Region). DIG S M Y Senviratne another past Cadet joined the Police and is presently DIG in Charge of the Ampara Region. They also brought pride and joy to their alma mater during their time in their respective platoons and in their subsequent endeavours.

Two Sgts who led the Island’s best Platoons in 1983 Priyantha Ratnayake (Planter) and Pasindu Hearath of 2016 (Undergraduate of Kyoto University, Japan) became Head Prefects and Pasindu was awarded the Fritz Kunz Memorial Trophy for the Most Outstanding Student of 2017. The 4th of July 2017 was a great day for Ananda, as well as for the Police Cadets. 1980 Cadet Sgt who led the Island’s Best Platoon became Commander of the Army. It was a great honour for Cadets. Past Cadets organized a felicitation for Gen Mahesh Senanayake to recognise his prestigious appointment.

With profound gratitude, we remember past Cadets Rear Admiral Noel Kalubowila (a highly rated naval officer decorated with the highest gallantry medals especially having led the “Suicide Express” in 1990 evacuating troops from Jaffna Fort, Major General Lakshan Fernando, Major General Ajith Pallewela, Brig Mahinda Jayasinghe, Maj Aruna Vithanage, Maj Sampath Karuanthilake, Major SP Rodrigo, Lt Bandual Withanachchi, Director Prisons TI Uduwera, SSP Deepthi Hettiarchchi of STF (Zonal Commander Jaffna Mannar, Killinochchi and Mullaithivu), SSP Amal Edirimanne (In Charge of Colombo North) were Cadets who joined the forces, Police and Prison departments, respectively.

Chairman of University Grant Commission Senior Prof Sampath Amaratunge, one of the brilliant academics and a past Cadet, always believed and mentioned that “I am where I am because of my alma mater, and shall forever grateful to my journey”. Other note-worthy past Cadets are Harbor Master Capt Nirmal Silva, Prof Rohan Gunaratna (a political analyst specializing in international terrorism) present President of Ananda OBA, Bimal Wijesinghe who excelled in athletics during annual camps.

When this writer contacted one of our Masters-In-Charge, Mr W Weerasekera, he recalled those golden days. “As a pilot school where Police Cadet platoons were formed, Ananda College played its role in achieving the aims of cadetting as envisaged in the curriculum. It gives me great satisfaction to note the leadership and achievements of the Cadets, their success in later life with the highest contribution to the society at large”

Thanks for the untiring efforts of Hiranya Hewanayake (Senior Manager – Singer Sri Lanka) and Wing Commander Pradeep Kannangara Retd (Former Officer Commanding of the Special Air Borne Unit of Sri Lanka Air Force – Director – General Manager Abans Securitas), all past Cadets who reside all over the world are now well connected, via social media.We cherish the remarkable legacy of Ananda Police Cadetting.

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