Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sir John Kotalawala

Sir John Kotalawala

I must confess this is the only Sri-Lankan politician, I am going to mention since he gave up politics in its infancy and left an indelible mark in my formative brain.

He was famous for his uttering   “ It is better fox  hunting in England than doing politics in Ceylon". 

Shooting foxes was a sport in UK then, I joined the cavalcade, vigorously opposing it, as a sport, in early eighties, on the lines of animals rights while working there.

Sir John Kotalawala who was ranked as General in later years was our 3rd Prime Minister of Ceylon from 1953 to 1956. He entered mainstream politics by being elected to the Legislative Council as the member for Kurunegala, thereafter to the State Council in nineteen thirties. In 1948, when Ceylon became a dominion, Kotelawala, was appointed to the Senate. He was elected to the parliament in 1952 and was the Leader of the House and was chosen as the Prime Minister when Dudley Senanayake resigned in 1953.

Sir John was an outspoken man who loved sports and did not mix his words in political circles and thereby made a few political enemies in the opposition.

He was picked up as a target for slandering and his mavericks made it easy.

Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawala laid the foundation for a Non Aligned foreign policy. He took the initiative to hold the South and South East Asian Colombo Powers Conference which became the precursor for the Bandung Conference where the principles of Non Alignment was formulated. An important happening at the Bandung Conference should be recalled.

When the agenda item Colonialism and Independence came to be discussed Sir John raised an issue which caused a stir at the conference.

He actually dropped a bombshell equated Soviet domination over Eastern Europe with Western colonialism in Asia and Africa.

Sir John was always against international communism, Chou-En Lai and Jawaharlal Nehru had got upset and sought to take Sir John to task for his statement but Sir John was said to have, in his inimitable way, been blunt and forthright as he always  was.

The Indonesia was worried that the conference would collapse but that did not happen and the conference was an absolute success.

Back here in this country the local Marxists had roared and called Sir John "Bandung Boouruwa" but it was the Marxists who turned out to be the absolute Booruwas for when the Iron Curtain fell and the Soviet Union collapsed the countries of Eastern Europe rose as one to claim how they had been cruelly ruled by Moscow.

In 1996, when Indonesia celebrated an important anniversary of Bandung and  our late Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was in attendance, he had the onerous task of listening to the heads of Eastern European governments, who were recalling that it was Sir John who had spoken up for them when they were under the Soviet jackboot.

I knew him as a kid and used to visit his Walawwa (Bungalow) with my father. Everybody feared him but he was very easy with children and especially me. 

When Queen Elizabeth visited Ceylon  in 1953 he invited us and there was a grand party running parallel with the official ceremony.

We were treated like royals.

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