Many needs but no one has the time for them
(inset) Dreams of going back home
By Ranee Mohamed
Compassion and serenity are the theme words in their
surroundings. As hundreds of devotees calmly make their
way to the Kelaniya Temple - just a few metres away,
down Gomes Lane in Waragoda Road, Kelaniya there is
turmoil in the minds of approximately 55 people who live
in Freedom Home.
live in Freedom Home, yet remain trapped by their own
minds. Freedom Home is a transit place for the mentally
ill. But sadly all those who come here to stay a few
days before they actually go home find that they are
stuck here for life.
"Nobody wants us, my son does not want me," says
Kusumalatha who has attempted to set fire to herself
because her son does not come to see her.
is a painful lack of lustre here, but that does not seem
to affect them, but the lack of food certainly does.
Something nice to drink
walk in the requests keep pouring in and they are all
'food based.' "Can I have something nice to drink," begs
Arafath, a young man in faded old clothes who sits alone
in the hot, dry surroundings amidst the rising dust.
begs for 'cooked pumpkin, green leaves and fish curry,'
and Amala Raj wants 'bread and butter.' The requests go
on. "Cutlets, patties, cakes and coloured sandwiches,"
beg these mentally traumatised people who amazingly
seem to gather their wits and seem inspired at the mere
mention of food.
Pathmakanthi says she worked as a midwife. "Yes, she was
a midwife" said a staff member of the Freedom Home. "I
suffered mental anguish because I had a baby to look
after and a job to do. In addition to this my
mother-in-law was harassing me. I could not cope and was
under stress because I had to go to work and instead of
help I only got antagonism and turbulence," said
Pathmakanthi who volunteered to sing a song to forget
the anguish she had suffered.
song lasted almost as long as a whole musical show, and
it was with this mournful tune in the background that
the others spoke out loud of their own plight.
husband was a pilot and he died in a plane crash," said
Kanthi. It was Kanthi who missed the cutlets and patties
the most. "Can you please also get me some Fair & Lovely
and some Godrej Hair Dye," she whispered. "I miss my
son," she went on to weep.
and worn out Premila walks closer to us and whispers her
ardent request; "Bread and margarine is what I dream of
day and night," she said.
some days Freedom Home does not have the funds to buy
the inmates a meal of bread. This seems understandable
because they do not receive any kind of permanent
Despite all their hardship, they did not pause to give
out a dream menu - "capsicum, dhal curry, tempered
potatoes, cutlets, brinjals, yellow rice and fish and
chicken," they chorused.
Nilantha is young and Nilantha is musical. "Please bring
me a book of songs by Niranjala Sarojini is his only
Nilantha is a young man. Yet he remains troubled. "Jokes
make him uncomfortable and he does not want to be
laughed at," said his friends.
makes him very happy, yet there is no music around here
- only tears and the hurt, humming of those around him.
not easy to look after them. They have to be fed and
washed and supervised. Some of them dive into depression
at the slightest provocation," said Daya Fernando, their
caretaker. "I spend my days looking after them in the
hope that this merit will make my son walk. I have a
young son who cannot walk and I know the sufferings of
the handicapped," said caretaker Daya Fernando.
Freedom Home is a personal venture of Samanthi Sagarika
Perera. "I was an only child and this was my ancestral
home which was given to me. I first wanted to start an
elders' home and then saw the plight of the mentally ill
whom nobody wants to know and this is how Freedom Home
came into being," said Chairperson Samanthi Sagarika
Perera who having given her home away to the mentally
troubled is now living in a rented house.
She seems very happy
she seems very happy. "We bring nothing and we take
nothing with us," she analysed our life on this earth.
And so happily she continues to live and give these
mentally troubled a roof above their heads and their
have problems with regard to food and dry rations. They
also need everyday medication. I also wish we had a
bigger space and I am on the lookout for a donor who
could give us a space to build a bigger home. It is
getting stuffier in here and it is not easy to house 55
inmates," said Samanthi Perera.
know that is asking a lot, but if there is someone who
is willing to refurbish this home," she wished. The
conditions in the home takes one back in time to perhaps
an era of war; the broken down conditions and the fading
paint - the makeshift bunker beds all made the outside
world look like heaven.
these people grappling with their different thoughts,
seem to be condemned to live in hardship for they have
limited people to care for them and understand their
minds and lives.
seldom have a visitor in here," said the caretaker. Yet
today there was a visitor. The sound of a vehicle down
this quiet roadway brought a hurried happiness into the
hearts of those living here. They rushed to the gate as
Daya Fernando made her way there with a key. The family
who came in was welcomed with great happiness.
are so happy that someone came in here," said Darwin
Jalill and his wife Zaveeni. Darwin Jalill carried a
radio for Nilantha. The young man grabbed the radio and
threw himself at the feet of the visitor.
are from the social service organisation called Az
Zahra Association and we try our best to give these
people a meal whenever possible. They require a 50 kilo
bag of rice for one meal," said Jalill.
No one wants them
wife Zaveeni Jalill said that the sufferings of these
people must be realised. "No one seems to want them and
no one seems to want to care for them. When we bring
them a bag of rice and unload it they all begin to clap
their hands in glee," she said with tears in her eyes.
is a gentleman called Saybhan Samat who comes here every
Friday to play the trumpet for them. They call him Sindu
Sir," said Jalill.
hard to keep that little sparkle in the eyes of these
people for they have no reason to be happy.
They who seem to be steeped in a permanent unhappiness
which was brought into their lives by society are now
struggling to reach out to happiness. And the very same
society that has put in the unhappiness into their lives
will neither take them back, nor take back the
unhappiness which is threatening to become a way of
life for these helpless people.
Windmills — a breath of fresh
A windmill power plant (inset) Windmills for clean
By Risidra Mendis
close to a beach or in an area where strong winds are a
constant occurrence has more often than not instilled
fear in us. The mere thought of witnessing or
experiencing a hurricane in full force and the damage
caused to lives and property has always created a
negative attitude among people. However it is only in
recent times that people have come to realise that the
power of this mighty wind can be utilised to bring
positive results to a country that is presently facing a
serious energy crisis.
Windmills as they are commonly known were always a craze
among many of us during our school days. The thought of
having a colourful windmill and watching it respond to
the powerful wind has always brought joy to many
children. Many are the days when we have seen children
running with windmills in their hands or passing
vehicles with windmills sticking out of windows. But
little did we know that these windmills that were made
as toys for us would someday play a major role in an
energy crisis that has affected the entire world.
Renewable energy is probably one of the most talked
about subjects these days. Solar power, wind power and
hydro power are the most viable solutions towards
solving the serious energy crisis.
country’s main aim is to have 60% of its energy
requirement from renewable energy by 2011, 70% from
renewable energy by 2016, 80% from renewable energy by
2021, 90% from renewable energy by 2026, and 100% from
renewable energy by 2031.
Find a solution
Consultant of Practical Action Ajith Kumara says that it
is high time the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) finds a
solution to the growing energy crisis. “The CEB has no
long term solution to address the energy crisis. Many
people are made to believe that the energy crisis can be
solved by the use of solar power. Solar power is costly
and not the best solution,” Kumara said.
added that the presently functioning coal power plants
are causing environmental problems and are costly. “If
we run out of coal someday how are we going to run these
power plants,” Kumara asked.
According to Kumara saving on energy is not difficult in
this day and age. “It is up to us to train ourselves to
cut down on the large use of energy. I know of a man who
has taken on the task of cutting down the amount of
energy he uses for the day. He switches off his computer
monitor if not in use. He irons all his clothes for a
week in a day and doesn’t iron his shirt below the waist
as this part of the shirt is tucked in to the trouser.
He switches off his fridge at night and uses bio gas
generated from solid waste for his day to day work,”
present a large percentage of Sri Lanka’s electricity is
generated by fossil fuels. Utilisation of renewable
energy for electricity generation has therefore become
very important to mitigate economic and environmental
impacts. Wind energy has been identified as one of the
more promising renewable energy sources that could
generate electricity in Sri Lanka.
energy is popular because it is clean and relatively
will be necessary to improve the quality and
accessibility of renewable energy resource data before
large-scale wind energy technologies can be developed
locally. At present, ground wind measurements are not
sufficient to accomplish a comprehensive wind resource
assessment in Sri Lanka,” some experts say.
wind power plant in Hambantota, the only one in the
country was established by the CEB as a pilot project at
a cost of Rs 280 million in March 1999. The Hambantota
wind power station with a capacity of 3 MW has five
windmills, and is situated on over 17 hectares. The wind
power station consists of five wind turbines of 600 kW
each and an expected annual energy generation of around
became interested in wind power in the 1980s. According
to a new study Sri Lanka has nearly 5000 square
kilometres of windy areas for power generation. In the
1990s, the concern for the environment and the reduced
cost of production were the main reasons for many
countries to establish wind power plants.
Potential of wind energy
Wind Energy Resource Atlas of Sri Lanka compiled by the
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the
United States has said that the island has a wind
resource potential of 24,000 MW. However engineers
estimate that only 200 MW can be utilised due to the
system operation limitations.
According to experts areas where the wind blows
throughout the year are ideal locations to build wind
power plants. The wind is known to increase with
altitude and over open areas with no windbreaks. The
tops of smooth, rounded hills, open plains or
shorelines, and mountain gaps are considered to be the
best places to build wind power stations.
Researchers in the field have stated that seven
provinces in the country provide over 2000 MW of good to
excellent wind potential. “However, not all of this wind
energy can be tapped, as the country does not possess
the required technology to harness all this energy and
is only capable of absorbing about 10 % (200 MW) into
the existing system. Seasonal variations in wind
patterns and capital expenditures have also prevented
the country from tapping all its wind resources,”
experts have revealed.
Although wind is available in plenty, tapping this
energy resource is difficult as wind cannot be stored.
“It needs to be utilised on the spot, as and when it
Another possible option is to produce hydrogen from wind
and store it for future use. However the hydrogen
procedure though pollution free is costly and is yet to
be developed,” some experts explained.
in Puttalam and Nuwara Eliya in the hill country have
been identified by experts for wind power plants.
Kunu Kanda in the news again
The garbage mountain at Bloemendhal
With Dilrukshi Handunnetti
the Bloemendhal garbage mounds collapsed last week,
burying a dozen houses under the smelly toxic waste of
Colombo, it was the local version of Slumdog
Millionaire. Only, there are no mega movies made based
on the Bloemendhal dumps and certainly no Oscars. There
are also no millionaires emerging.
350 tiny dwellings of the city's poorest of the poor are
located in close proximity to what is referred to as the
'Kunu Kanda' in Colombo 13.
attempts by the Colombo Municipal Council to clear the
garbage mounds proved no permanent solution. The
recycling efforts by a private company also drew little
result. But the poor dwellers have to deal with the
squalor and disease that go hand in hand when living
close to the mounds of garbage.
authorities cannot feign innocence that they were
clueless about the enormity of the Bloemendhal garbage
issue. There had been previous warnings that went
Kunu Kanda is once again making news. In the wee hours
of Sunday, thick layers of garbage caught fire due to
gas formed under the garbage piles. Fire fighters had to
be called to douse the fires.
Typically, a few houses were damaged and some were
buried. Backhoes were used to unearth the buried homes
of the poor people. The only saving grace was that the
occupants were away from their homes, attending a
ceremony at the Mahawatta Kovil nearby. Or else it would
have been a question of double jeopardy for the poor -
losing homes and suffering physical injury in one
garbage mounds are well over 100 feet high, a nauseous
and ugly site that bespeaks of not only the city's
increasing garbage problem but also the failure on the
part of the authorities.
fire broke out, squatters in the area sprang into action
to douse the flames which would otherwise have gutted
hundred of shanties in the vicinity.
Growing day by day
mountainous garbage keeps growing day by day, and the
warnings were made earlier that the mounds could explode
if fire spreads to the methane gas emanating from the
lower levels of the dump.
Colombo Municipal Council Public Health Department's
warning has fallen on deaf ears. It has warned that
garbage there contained methane gas and should be taken
officially labelled as 'hazardous waste' the garbage
dump poses a health problem to those living close by,
especially the families in Madampitiya and Mutwal.
the land that had now become Colombo's toxic dump yard,
was years ago a wetland extending to 22 acres. Then the
Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) converted it into a
convenient dumping site. Although about 70-80 tonnes of
the city's garbage is now dumped there, there is no
effective recycling or disposal system adopted by the
CMC to combat the menace.
Following Sunday's incident, residents complained of
respiratory problems and a dry cough among the children.
Asthma and bronchial diseases are common among these
offensive smell that emanated continued for days, even
after the fire was doused, they claim.
it rains, the area is flooded and the garbage is washed
on to the main road. "Have you seen a hell on hearth? It
is right here in Bloemendhal," an angry resident said.
spreading of disease, the unbearable stench and the
possibility of the garbage mounds catching fire or
collapsing give these residents sleepless nights. During
the previous fire, some Rs. 50,000 was paid to the
affected to rebuild their lost homes. Incidentally,
authorities complain, that since then the number of
illegal settlers in the area has increased.
are around 10,000 families living in the area
surrounding the garbage dump while around another 1000
families live close to it. Closest to the dump are some
350 makeshift homes all occupied by the poorest of the
garbage mounds pose many problems, chief among therm
being environmental and health problems. Then there is
the issue of physical safety of the people living close
to the mounds.
CMC earlier issued notice to the private company
responsible for dumping garbage there to immediately
start the process of recycling as agreed. The local
body is now under a Special Commissioner. And there is
no long-term solution on the cards.
According to Colombo Municipal Commissioner, Bhadrani
Jayasinghe there is a special presidential committee
also appointed to look into the Colombo garbage menace
and to recommend how to carry out a quick clean up.
there is the ever green Environment and Natural
Resources Minister Champika Ranawaka who pledged on the
day he assumed his portfolio to clear the mountainous
garbage in Bloemendhal.
nothing as such has happened. Words do come cheap,
especially when the mounds not only stand there but also
continue to grow turning nauseous and toxic with each
Protecting the consumer
By Sarath Wijesinghe
World Consumer Day was first observed on March 15, 1983.
Two years later, on April 9, 1985 the United Nation’s
General Assembly adopted the UN Guidelines for consumer
protection, following a decade of hard lobbying and hard
work of consumer organisations worldwide. The guidelines
adopted the principles of eight consumer rights to
provide a framework for strengthening national consumer
protection policies of respective states and governments
which have changed according to the respective trade
practices and economic policies.
The consumer worldwide is a powerful force well
organised with the media worldwide.
They say in the West that the consumer is always right
and he is the king. An organised consumer could dictate
terms to the supplier and manufacturer. Unfortunately in
Sri Lanka consumerism and consumer activism is less
organised, developed and powerful. It is time for civil
society, NGOs and other organisations to come forward at
this hour of need to save and protect the consumer
against exploitation and unhealthy trade practices.
Consumers refer to individuals or households that use
goods and services generated within the economy, which
uses any product or services. In a free market economy,
consumers are presumed to dictate what goods are
produced and are generally considered the centre of
The identified rights by the UN are, right to
satisfaction of basic needs, right to safety, right to
be informed, right to choose, right to be heard, right
to redress, right to consumer education and right for a
healthy environment and by adoption of the guidelines,
consumer rights were finally elevated to a position of
international recognition and legitimacy, acknowledged
by developed and developing countries alike.
Yet they continued to be ignored or trivialised by
governments, producers, companies and powerful
interests. These rights sometimes are embodied in the
Chapter on fundamental rights jurisdiction and public
law remedies available in the system of law has some
opening in promoting, protecting and enjoying consumer
rights which are a basic human right. These rights are
codified and implemented in various ways.
The best and the most effective mode is consumer
activism which is also known as consumerism which is on
the top of the agenda worldwide today. Obviously, today
is the peak of activity in world consumerism for the
World Consumer Day initiative can be concerned with the
food we eat, the medicine we take, or the products we
use in our homes. They can draw attention to unethical
marketing practices, expose to hazardous technologies
and production processes, or point out the need for
consumer legislation and its enforcements.
It is the mandate of the regulator to protect the
consumer against marketing of goods or provision of
services which are hazardous to life and property of
consumers, protect consumers against unfair trade
practices and guarantee that consumer interests are
given due consideration. Also to ensure that wherever
possible consumers have adequate access to goods and
services and to seek redress against unfair trade
practices, restrictive trade practices and other forms
Junk Food (JF) is unhealthy and/or has poor nutritional
value according to the food standards agency in the
United Kingdom. It contains high levels of saturated
fat, salt, sugar, numerous food additives such as mono
sodium and glu-ta-mate. At the same time JF is lacking
in proteins, vitamins and fiber.
It is popular with suppliers because it is cheap to
manufacture and has a long shelf life and do not
necessarily need refrigeration. It is popular in the USA
and the trend is spreading fast all over the world
encroaching poor and underdeveloped countries as well
because it so easy to purchase, requires little or no
preparation with lots of tasty flavours. It aids
obesity, heart diseases, Type 2 Diabetes, dental decay
and many other diseases. Mostly junk food is consumed
for enjoyment, not for health and good living.
This is a cancerous habit which is fast spreading all
over the world due to ferocious advertising techniques
by multinational companies mainly targeting and aiming
the future generation. Pseudo heroes and names such as
Poke man, Batman, Superman and hundreds of games are
being used via supermarket ‘giants’ and modern IT
mechanisms and many other modern forms of enjoyment to
attract children and young generation to eat junk food.
The former prime minister of Great Britain increased
government funding to schools for a balanced diet for
the children, discouraging them from consuming ‘junk’
food which has the potential to ruin the nation in the
Junk food chains have got the message and started
introducing salads and health food to the children and
public. It is sad that our children and even adults
consume soft drinks which are short and long term poison
without consuming ‘Tambili’ which is one of the
best, cheapest and healthiest drinks available at a much
lower price. It is known that we have 40,000 food
outlets out of which only few are safe, and adopt safety
In this country anyone could start a food outlet without
any requirement. Multinational, local junk food outlets
are spreading all over the country rapidly. It has
become a style for the young and even the elder
generation to eat from these chains, which are now
deserted in the West as consumers are now health
conscious. They read and look into the health aspects
before consumption of any food or drugs.
Consumer Protection Law or Consumer Law is considered an
area of public law that regulates private law
relationships between individual consumers and
businesses that sell those goods and services. Within
the law, the notion of consumer is primarily used in
relation to consumer protection laws and a definition of
consumer is often restricted to living persons, not to
the corporate or business sectors and excludes
Consumer protection is a form of government regulation
which protects the interests of consumers. A consumer
under the CAA Act is defined as actual or potential user
of any goods or services made available for a
consideration by any trader or manufacturer. This gives
a broader meaning to include all citizens as consumers
as even a person who intends to purchase any consumer
item or service is considered to be a consumer by
Government may require businesses to disclose detailed
information about products particularly in areas where
safety or public health is an issue such as food.
Consumer protectionism is linked to consumer rights and
to the formation of consumer organisations which help
consumers to make better choices in the marketplace.
This shows that there should be a joint force by the
government, trader, manufacturer, industrialist and the
consumer to make our country a better place to live.
According to Western ideology consumer interests can
also be protected by promoting competition in the market
which directly and indirectly serves consumers,
consistent with economic efficiency but this topic is
treated in competition law.
Our traditional system of price control was completely
overhauled by the introduction of the free economy and
subsequently introduction of the present Consumer
Authority Act No: 9 of 2003, which has replaced the
Consumer Protection Act, Fair Trading Commission Act,
and Control of Price Act which implemented the policies
of governments of closed and planned economies.
Today the only piece of legislation in this area of law
is the CAA in which the consumer is protected mainly by
regulatory powers in Part 11 of the Act which has power
of indirect price control of certain items only by
enforcing Section 18 of the Act. Under the Act the
government is expected to protect not only the consumers
but the traders as well.
It states that the policy of the government is to
safeguard the consumers through the regulation of trade
and the prices of goods and services and to protect
traders and manufacturers against unfair trade practices
and restrictive trade practices.
CAA is helpless before a number of multinational and
company giants. Many companies stand firm against the
regulatory powers of CAA by ignoring the decisions of
the authority. Dishonest traders have a field day due to
the lacuna in the implementation process of the
The government alone will not be in a position to
deliver the goods. It will only act as a catalyst as
provided in the Act which encourages formation of
consumer organisations. Steps are being taken to amend
the legislation shortly for a more effective mechanism
of consumerism in Sri Lanka.
The CAA is a mixture of the USA, Australian, Canadian
and traditional UK/Sri Lankan system, enacted with lots
of hope but unsuccessful as it lacks teeth for
Our ultimate goal is to protect the consumer and
maintain the goodwill and equilibrium with all other
players. We need alert consumers and just traders. The
umpire in the process is the government as the regulator
and the watchdog of fair play and impartiality.
German radio operator, while monitoring the emergency
channels, heard a distressed voice saying, "We are
sinking, we are sinking." The operator keyed the mike
and said, "Okay, what are you sinking about?"
You're Not Alone Sailor
such a long face John?" asked the other seaman.
don't know," said John "maybe it's just that we have
been at sea for so long and I'm so depressed, I can't
seem to do anything right. Most of the time I feel so
alone and useless!"
Smiling and nodding in an understanding way, the other
seaman said, "John, I don't know if this helps, but let
me assure you; you are not alone. Most of us on the ship
feel you're useless too."
ship carrying blue paint collided with another ship
carrying red paint.
crew is missing and believed to be marooned
sailor: "Pass me the chocolate pudding, would you?"
sailor: "No way, Jose!"
sailor: "Why not?"
sailor: "It's against regulations to help another sailor
lonely bachelor wrote to a dating service explaining
that he had specific criteria for a potential mate and
would not accept anyone who falls below his standards.
He went on to explain that the candidate should be cute
and short, who enjoys water sports, is a team player and
who enjoys group activities.
received an envelope the following week. It was a
picture of a penguin.
Retiring with a pet
There’s no doubt about it: pets have a positive effect
on people. And now there’s good news for older people
with pets — if you’re thinking of moving into a
retirement community, you may be able to find one that
will allow you to bring your four-legged friend with
Independent living communities are the type of
retirement community most likely to allow pets. They are
designed for healthy, active older adults who are able
to live without assistance, and are thus able to care
properly for their pets. You probably wouldn’t be able
to notice a difference between an independent living
community and other residential communities except for
the age of the residents.
Assisted living communities, on the other hand, are
meant for older adults who need regular help with daily
activities — but do not require the services of a
assisted living communities will allow residents to
bring their lifelong pets, while others may permit a
“community pet;” a pet that doesn’t belong to any person
in particular, but that lives within the community to
provide companionship to all residents.
or a family member is looking for a retirement community
that will allow you to bring your pet friend with you,
be sure to get a copy of their pet policies. Some
communities may require:
extra deposit to cover possible pet-related damages to
care fees to cover anything that you cannot provide for
your pet. This can include walking your dog, cleaning
kitty litter, feeding or bathing your pet, and other
certain types of pets maybe permitted. For example, some
communities will allow dogs or cats but will not permit
communities may only allow cats or small dogs below a
certain weight or height.
communities where there may be a number of resident
pets, it is in everyone’s best interests that they all
get along. Some communities may screen your pet to
determine that they are properly socialised (can get
along with other people and pets) and reasonably
not uncommon to see pets in retirement communities. And
if you spend some time with the residents, they’re sure
to tell you what a delight it is to have a pet companion
living with them. It’s wonderful to see more and more
communities catering to the health and well-being of its
residents by permitting pets.
Is your pet obese?
like people, pets can become “a little too healthy.” All
kidding aside, obese pets can have serious health
problems — including arthritis, heart and respiratory
problems, and shorter life spans. Your pet is overweight
if you cannot feel his ribs or backbone when you lightly
run your hands over him.
Although it’s no doubt hard to ignore the pleading eyes
of your adoring pet, it’s best to turn away and not give
in to his pleas for more food.
feeding guides as a recommendation only. Pet food
packages will often recommend how much to feed your pet.
However, this really depends on your pet’s age, activity
level, and size. Use your own judgment.
not to use the “free-feed” method. In other words,
resist leaving food out for your pet all day long. This
can contribute to overeating.
Provide your pet with more exercise. Take him out for an
extra little walk, or play with her in the house for
half an hour. Every little bit helps.
weight loss or gain should be checked by your vet. If
you think you’re feeding your pet adequately but he
loses weight, or your pet suddenly starts gaining
weight, consult your vet.
and overweight pets may be switched to special diets.
There are lots of high-quality pet food formulated
especially for senior pets, as well as plenty of
low-calorie diets. You may want to consult with your vet
to get recommendations.
George E. De Silva — champion of
58th death anniversary of the late George Edmund de
Silva was on March 12. He was the third son of a famous
ayurvedic physician who migrated to Nuwara Eliya from
the south in 1870, and set up a lucrative practice in
the British era. He owned the “Orange Tree House” at the
foot of the
Mountain, with a large garden of roses.
March 12, 1950 he died from a stroke followed by two
heart attacks he got while playing at the Peradeniya
Golf Course with a few Englishmen friends. He was 71
years of age at the time of his sudden death. He was a
very enthusiastic golf and tennis player. His brother
lawyer Timothy de Silva was the first Ceylonese golf
Edmund de Silva was a very prominent politician in the
Donoughmore Era of Sri Lankan history. He was a tall,
sturdily built, fair, handsome and jovial man with a
constant smile and he immediately attracted the
attention and friendship of all whom he met.
began his career as a journalist. He was a reporter to
the Ceylon Independent and later worked in the editorial
staff of the then famous Times of Ceylon. He had a
brilliant command of the English Language having being
tutored by the famous English scholar at N’Eliya, Henry
Young. He then entered the Law College, Colombo. He was
a pupil of the famous Lorenz College of Colombo. He
passed the Proctors Final Exam in 1900s and went to
Kandy, and within a short period had established a very
two brothers, Timothy and Gregory who migrated to
Malaysia were also brilliant lawyers.
Kandy Bar was at that time dominated by Dutch Burgher
lawyers and they resented the entry of the newcomer
George and on the first day all the other lawyers
including a few Kandyan aristocrats walked out of the
Bar, but the English Magistrate remained and George won
his first case, much to the consternation of those who
boycotted the courts. Subsequently he found it difficult
to get a chair in the Court House, and he got his valet
to bring a chair.
Subsequently he taught a bitter lesson to the Burghers
by marrying Agnes, the only daughter of Paul Nell, who
was the provincial engineer, from the cream of Burgher
Society. George was a very keen ballroom dancer and
quite adept in dancing and singing. He met Agnes at many
of these parties and subsequently married her in grand
style. She was a very kind hearted lady who championed
the cause for franchise for females in the 1930s.
entered politics as a ward member for Katukelle in the
Kandy Municipal Council and in 1931 he was elected to
the first State Council of Sri Lanka for the Central
Province seat, which extended from Dambulla to N’Eliya.
He handsomely defeated Sir Gerard Wijekoon and Kandyan
lawyer Albert Godamunne, who were prominent persons in
the country’s political arena.
subsequently re-elected and held the Kandy seat for 16
years, and was appointed as the Minister of Health by
the then Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake. He held this
portfolio for five years and in the next parliament he
was the first Minister for Industries and Fisheries. The
cabinet at that time comprised of a dozen ministers
entering the State Council, he was the mayor of Kandy
for several years.
racial riots between the Sinhalese and the Muslims
started at Gampola in 1915, and spread to Kandy and
within a few days it spread to all parts of the country
except the north and east. Many Sinhalese national
leaders and professional men from many areas were jailed
and some were tried by ‘Kangaroo Courts’ presided over
by Justices of Peace, who were mostly senior British
Martial Law was enacted and Punjabi troops were brought
from India, who harassed the Sinhalese people. This
irked George very much and it proved to be a watershed
in George’s political advancement. He fought against the
injustices meted out to Sinhala people by Governor
Chalmer, and he went to England along with E.W. Perera,
another national hero of this era, and had the British
governor recalled by making convincing representations
to the Colonial Secretary. He fought valiantly to save
the lives of young Hewavitharana and D.G. Pedris.
championed the case of the poor peasantry who under
feudal lords had to perform Rajakariya, a compulsory
form of free labour. Due to his efforts the Rajakariya
system was abolished and the depressed class citizens
got their place and dignity in society. He commenced the
Mura-Pola Ela irrigation scheme in Hewaheta and many
barren lands were irrigated and paddy and vegetable
cultivation commenced in the Kandyan areas.
to-day these farmers are famous for their vegetable and
fruit cultivation in this area. As the Minister of
Health there are may landmark achievements. He
established the first ayurvedic hospital having come
from a famous generation of ayurvedic physicians from
Galle, N’Eliya and Matara areas. He established 250
cottage hospitals in rural areas as malaria was rampant
at that time. He introduced the system of spraying D.D.T
to eradicate malaria breeding mosquitoes all over the
famous Oxford scholar Dr. Jane Russel published his
autobiography. The President of Sri Lanka at that time,
J.R. Jayewardene, who was a very close political
associate of George, in a foreword to this book has
stated as follows:
worked with George E. de Silva during the war years in
the Ceylon National Congress and came to know him as a
patriot and an untiring worker for social and political
reforms. His death in 1950 deprived Sri Lanka of a man
of progressive thinking, for it must be remembered that
together with A.E. Goonesinghe, George E. de Silva
proposed the introduction of universal franchise in 1931
and supported the freedom struggle in 1943. George was
essentially a man of the people. Although he became the
Minister of Health from 1942 to 1944 and President of
the Ceylon National Congress on several occasions, he
was a man who never lost the ability to feel and
articulate the heartfelt desires of the common man. His
championship of the cause of ayurveda and rural
hospitals proves this.
welcome the writing of the biography of this great son
of Sri Lanka.”
President of Sri Lanka. December 15, 1978.
recorded that when George E. de Silva became the
president of the Ceylon National Congress in 1943,
before we achieved freedom J.R. Jayewardene and Dudley
Senanayake were the Joint Secretaries. G.C.S. Corea, Sir
Edwin Wijeyaratne, A.F. Molamure former Speaker P. de S
Kularatne, Dr. S.A. Wickremasinghe, D.M. Rajapakse, and
Nethil Hewavitharana were very prominent Congress
son Fredrick Edmund de Silva, M.B.E., followed his
footsteps and not only became the leading criminal
lawyer in the Central Province, but also the Mayor of
Kandy and Member of Parliament. He was a class-mate of
Dudley Senanayake at S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia.
Later he was Sri Lanka’s ambassador in France and
director of UNESCO in Paris. At the time of his death
he was chancellor of the Peradeniya University, founded
by his father.
only son is Sir Desmond de Silva, Q.C., world renowned
criminal lawyer who is engaged by the United Nations for
international assignments. He is married to a lady from
the British Royal family. He was knighted recently.
E. de Silva moved a motion in the State Council for the
establishment of a Ceylonese bank to help the indigenous
entrepreneurs. This was opposed by the Englishmen who
had their own banks. He went to England and got the
approval of the Colonial Secretary and Bank of Ceylon
was established. His photograph should be hung in the
bank premises as acknowledgement of his endeavours.
the mayor of Kandy for nearly a decade he did yeomen
service to the rate payers like the inauguration of a
pipe-born water supply scheme, improvement to the Kandy
Lake and Wace Park, providing benches to people to sit
round the lake bund, the Deiyannewela Model Tenements
Housing Scheme with a school and a playground.
Watapuluwa Middle Class housing scheme was designed by
his daughter, the first lady architect of Sri Lanka who
worked with world renowned architect Patric Abeycoombie
who designed the Peradeniya University, mooted by George
in parliament. When he was the Minister of Health the
new Kandy Hospital was built. It is one of the best
hospitals today in the island.
E. de Silva died a poor man. His tea estate in Kandy was
sold on a mortgage and once he was the co-owner of the
largest coconut estate in Sri Lanka, had a palatial
bungalow overlooking the Hantane Range and the Dumbara
his wealth was spent to help the poor people. He gave a
helping hand to many poor students and looked after his
enemies at times of distress. His worst enemy in the
Kandy Bar was Cox Sproule, a leading Burgher lawyer. He
spoke against British excesses during the Martial Law
and he was arrested and detained at Diyatalawa Camp to
be shot dead. His wife came and fell at George’s feet.
It was a remarkable day for George to travel to
Diyatalawa in the height of martial law and get the
release of his enemy by forcefully arguing the case.
Weerasuriya Q.C. the famous Kandyan lawyer, writing of
George commented, “But then George E. de Silva’s career
was unique not only for his professional success and his
political career, but also because he was a symbol of
new Ceylon, despising and attempting to overcome caste
oppression mindful of Lord Buddha’s message:
not by birth that a man becomes an outcast. It is not by
birth that a man becomes a Brahmin. It is a man’s
character, that makes him an outcast. It is a man’s
character that makes him a Brahmin.”
you enter Kandy city one could see the statue erected by
the grateful people of Kandy at the George E. de Silva
Park, as a fitting tribute to the selfless service he
rendered for five decades.
this monument as in the hearts of the people for whom he
lived and laboured, the name of George E.de Silva is
enshrined. Born June 6,1879. Died March 12,1950.
— L.B. Abeyaratne