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Principals
L. H. Mettananda (1936-1945)

He was Principal of Dharmaraja College, Kandy from 1936-1945. At the time, Dharmaraja College was facing many difficulties and it was decided that Mr. Mettananda would be the ideal choice to sort out these problems and give the school a much needed new lease of life.
Two of the main problems that the school faced were financial difficulties to run the school and factionalism and conflicts among staff between upcountry and low country Sinhalese. One may say this was a caste issue. Both these issues were affecting the progress of the school.
Using tact and diplomacy which were hallmarks of the Mettananda personality, before long he was able to bring harmony among the staff and commence an upward march to improve the school. It is recorded that during his tenure of Principal at Dharmaraja College, he was able to convert Dharmaraja into becoming the foremost sought after Buddhist school in Kandy. The school saw many new buildings coming up including the library and two storeyed Science Laboratory. From 1936 to 1945, the student population increased from 440 to 805.
It was during his time, that Dharmaraja College blossomed out to be a well equipped school with an impressive improvement in the standard of education. An institution which faced severe debts at the time of his taking it over, he converted it into a school with a credit balance of Rs.128,213.94 at the time of leaving in 1945, which in those days was an enormous amount of money.
Mr. Mettananda's sense of honesty and integrity were unmatched. Every cent that Ananda College and Dharmaraja College received from well-wishers for improvement of the schools was accounted for and recorded.

Buddhism & Culture

Mr. Mettananda was closely associated with the Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maithri Thero (who was on the staff of Ananda College), Ven. Madihe Pannaseeha Thera and the Ven. Henpitigedera Gnanaseeha Thera who all worked together to bring about an awareness among the Buddhist population of this country and helped to bring about a change in the discriminatory treatment meted out to Sinhalese Buddhists in the post-independent era of the late Mr. D.S.Senanayake and other leaders thereafter. Buddhist revival work commenced by Anagarika Dharmapala continued even after his untimely death, thanks to personalities like Mr. Mettananda, Mr. P. de S. Kularatne, Mr. G.P.Malalasekera and many others.
Being an educationist, Mr. Mettananda was of the strong conviction that the cultural erosion that had taken place in this country during 440 years of foreign domination, needed to be changed and that the Sinhala Buddhist cultural heritage of this country must be revived and given its due place in our society. To achieve this, he worked tirelessly. Although he himself was a Buddhist with strong convictions, he always respected all other religions in this country. It is reported that he never slandered or insulted any of the other religions, but his mission was to get the rightful place for the Sinhala Buddhists. He was instrumental in forming the " Bauddha Jatika Balavegaya" to champion this cause and also initiated the "Temperance Movement" in this country.
He was elected President of All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC) at the AGM held in Galle in 1935. In his inaugural presidential address he reportedly stated that it was of paramount importance to steer education based on Buddhist principles. He was of the opinion that poverty and illiteracy were the main causes of crime and therefore, it was important to remove these two evils from our society. By some, he was labelled as a "religious fanatic" purely because he stood his ground on Sinhala Buddhist issues.
It was he who first demanded that the 5th Clause in the Kandyan Convention of 1815 on protection being given to Buddhism be included in the Constitution. and demanded that the proclamation of 21st November 1818 regarding temple lands be implemented. He also demanded that Article 29(2) of the 1947 Constitution be abolished. He also requested the government of the time, to publish the Tripitaka in Sinhala.
In 1951 a delegation from the ACBC headed by Dr. G.P. Malalasekera met Mr. D.S.Senanayake and requested him to appoint a committee to inquire anti-Buddhist activities in the country on the grounds that even though we were independent and had our own democratically elected government, nothing had been done to give Sinhala Buddhists there rightful place. It was pointed out that anti-Buddhist forces had caused grievous harm to Buddhists and that there was blatant discrimination against them in the government at various administrative levels.
After this meeting, even though Mr. D.S.Senanayake had requested a list of names of persons who could be included in such a committee, he later informed the ACBC that such a committee could not be appointed because he had received advice from the legal administration that an appointment of such a Commission to inquire into religious affairs would constitute a violation of Section 29(2)テつゥ and (d) of the Ceylon Constitution (Order in Council, 1946). Needless to state, that these advisors at the time were all under the guidance and supervision of strong anti-Buddhist forces and did not wish to have their activities exposed!
Under these circumstances, the ACBC decided to appoint its own committee to look into matters related to discrimination against Buddhists. The chapter on education, was written by Mr. Mettananda. They had the full support of the masses the Maha Sangha, who worked tirelessly to gather as much information as possible and many months of travel around the country was necessary when transport was not as convenient as it is today.
On the Wesak Full Moon Day of 1955, this report was offered to the Maha Sangha at a ceremony organized at Ananda College. It became evident however, that without the support of the government, nothing could be achieved and he tried other avenues to achieve his objectives.

Politics

Mr. Mettananda never had aspirations to enter active politics but whenever there was any national crisis, he would invariably get involved. His sole mission in life one could say, was to ensure that a Sinhala Buddhist awareness was initiated which would eventually bring about the necessary changes.
In 1934 Mr. Mettananda played a very active role in the Anti-Malaria campaign. In the Sessional Paper V-1936 titled "Report on the relief of Distress due to Sickness and Shortage of Food: September 1934 to December 1935" by H.E.Newnham (Commissioner for Relief) it is stated on page 47 thus: " The Ceylon Buddhist Congress under the direction of Mr. Mettananda, the Principal of Ananda College, gave me the fullest assistance in undertaking the distribution of these "comforts" and every week-end, for a period of three months, he visited those areas in the Kegalle District I had noted as being in need of the grant of relief in addition to that supplied by Government. Mr. Mettananda had organized his workers in a most efficient manner and there were no villages in which they would not undertake distribution however remote they might be. Further, the regularity with which these visits were paid enabled me to place the highest confidence in his organization and be able with certainty to inform villagers that relief would arrive."
The above statement made by H.E.Newnham about the commitment and organizational capabilities of Mr. Mettananda is ample testimony to the confidence and trust people had in him.
In 1956 when the late Mr. S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike was planning to come forward to contest the elections, Mr. Mettananda and those who worked on the issue of gaining the rightful place for Sinhala Buddhists decided to meet him and discuss matters.
 
Sir D.B. Jayatilaka
150th Birth Anniversary of Sir D.B. Jayatilaka – A statesman who swam upstream to protect the country and his people

Sir D.B. Jayatilaka was a visionary and a man who was ahead of time nationally and internationally.
He was a ’patisothagami purisa’ - a man who swam against the current, which approach was extolled by Lord Buddha as worthy of a human being, if the patisothagami acts are good, wholesome, skilful, and of benefit to self and other human beings.
Jayatilaka’s ’patisothagami’ trait was clearly visible from his childhood. He accepted without complaint, the value of diversity in education and attending two schools at the same time, the Wesley College in the morning and the Vidyalankara Pirivena in the evening.
Jayatilaka excelled in Sinhala, Pali, Sanskrit, and Buddha Dhamma at Vidyalankara Pirivena, and won the coveted Hill Memorial Prize for western classics at Wesley College. He obtained a Bachelors degree in Latin and English from the Calcutta University. In 1913 he was admitted as a Barrister at Lincoln’s Inn, Jesus College, Oxford. Later on he obtained a Masters degree from University of Oxford for his research in oriental studies. Jayatilaka may have been the only Ceylonese at that time to have reached the top in three scholarly traditions, oriental, occidental and law. It would certainly be interesting to do some research on this.

Point in Life

Meeting with Colonel Henry Steele Olcott was a turning point in Jayatilaka’s life. The 22 year old was immediately mobilized into the Buddhist Schools Movement. Those were heady times for Jayatilaka. Teaming up with the Buddhist Theosophical Society, and with the blessings of Maha Nayaka Theros of Malwatta and Asgiriya, Jayatilaka mobilized a vast constituency of Kandyan villagers, some erudite Buddhist monks, and the urban rich, to start –up a Buddhist English school in Kandy which later came to be named as Dharmaraja College. As the first Principal he worked his heart out to provide a good start to the school.
Oftentimes, high success removes one from the well-spring of his success. To the dismay of Kandyans, Jayatilaka was moved to Ananda College, Colombo, as its Vice Principal and later promoted as the Principal.
The very first project of adding new buildings to Ananda College was started by Jayatilaka. The school did not have money, but the school needed more buildings. Taking off from where he left off in Kandyan villages, Jayatilaka working under the umbrella of the Buddhist Theosophical Society toured the country by coach, cart, and foot to mobilize people not only to part with money for a good cause, but tactically to seed the concept in the minds of successive rural middle class philanthropists that providing education for children was important for the advancement of Sinhala Buddhists. This was a brilliant stroke of advocacy by the Buddhist educationists. As a result, a good number of rural (Buddhist) schools sprang up in the districts totally or partially funded by local elites.
Jayatilaka did not ignore the academic aspects either. It was under Jayatilaka’s watch, that for the first time a student from Ananda College won the annual Government scholarship to study in a prestigious British university. This proved that a Buddhist school operating with meager resources, led and taught by dedicated Ceylonese could also compete with schools run by Europeans receiving moral and material support from the colonial government.

Answering Life’s Higher Call
After doing yeoman service at Ananda, Jayatilaka left for UK to study law. He returned in1913 with necessary credentials to establish a successful legal practice. But it seemed that Jayatilaka’s ’patisothagami’ thinking had come to the fore once again . He decided to shoulder other more onerous and dangerous work for the downtrodden people of Ceylon against a powerful colonial government.
DBJ answered Life’s Higher Call, not the call of the Bar. Dr. Nandadeva Wijesekera, his biographer, confirms: "He could not ignore the claims and needs of society… He crusaded with F.R. Senanayake for the temperance movement against the galloping plague of toddy and arrack taverns spreading throughout the island."
Jayatilaka, the temperance lobbyist took the Salpiti Korale by storm. People flocked to listen to him speak. Professor K.M.de Silva describes why the British identified the temperance movement to be a potential danger- "The temperance agitation marked the emergence, as a factor in public life of a strata in society which had hitherto been inarticulate and quiescent, the lower rungs of the rural elite consisting of notaries, school teachers, and small traders." ( in ’The reform and nationalist movements in the early twentieth century’ in University of Ceylon-History of Ceylon, Volume3, edited by K.M. de Silva,1973.)

In 1915, due to mutual misunderstandings and ensuing impulsiveness Sinhala –Muslim riots broke out in Kandy, and began to spread. The colonial government saw this as a golden opportunity to break the morale of the Sinhalese Buddhist leaders who were gradually transforming the Temperance Movement into a struggle against the colonial government. The response of the colonial government against the temperance leaders was even more tragic than the riots, and vastly vindictive. The authoritative ’History of Ceylon’, Volume 3, provides a perceptive analysis of what the British did: "Sinhalese Buddhist leaders, especially those associated with the temperance movement immediately came under suspicion and were the first to be arrested and jailed notwithstanding the fact that many of them had used their influence in the restoration of order, and in protecting the lives and property of potential victims of mob violence."
In 1934 Mr. Mettananda played a very active role in the Anti-Malaria campaign. In the Sessional Paper V-1936 titled "Report on the relief of Distress due to Sickness and Shortage of Food: September 1934 to December 1935" by H.E.Newnham (Commissioner for Relief) it is stated on page 47 thus: " The Ceylon Buddhist Congress under the direction of Mr. Mettananda, the Principal of Ananda College, gave me the fullest assistance in undertaking the distribution of these "comforts" and every week-end, for a period of three months, he visited those areas in the Kegalle District I had noted as being in need of the grant of relief in addition to that supplied by Government. Mr. Mettananda had organized his workers in a most efficient manner and there were no villages in which they would not undertake distribution however remote they might be. Further, the regularity with which these visits were paid enabled me to place the highest confidence in his organization and be able with certainty to inform villagers that relief would arrive."
The British tactic of piggy-backing on this incident to kill two birds with one stone is also well articulated in the book: "Though there was little or no evidence to support the sedition or conspiracy theory about the origins and the nature of the riots, it gained wide currency among British officials and became the impulse behind a series of panic measures of inexplicable harshness taken against the alleged leaders of the conspiracy-Sinhalese Buddhists". Almost all Sinhala Buddhist and nationalist leaders were arrested and imprisoned. The revered Anagarika Dharmapala was kept under house arrest in India, preventing him from returning to Ceylon at this critical time.
In prison, Jayatilaka recited Buddhist gathas and kavi (which he learnt at Vidyalankara Pirivena as a child) aloud to while away the time. But he was also thinking deeply about the future of the country and his potential role in shaping that future. Jayatilaka made up his mind – agitate together to win Independence from Britain.
The colonial government sensing danger embarked on a new policy, i.e. dividing groups to maintain British supremacy. Fortunately, however, communal harmony between Sinhalese and Tamils were maintained due to enlightened attitudes of Ponnambalam Arunachalam, D.B Jayatilaka, F.R. Senanayake, and Ponnambalam Ramanathan. But the Ceylon (British) Government did not give up on the efforts to divide and rule Ceylon.

Manning’s Manipulations
The joy of Ceylonese national leaders was short lived. in 1919, Sir William Manning the new Governor of Ceylon manipulated what he saw as ’the fault lines’ in the composition of the Ceylon National Congress (which was constituted as a multi ethnic organization to fight for Ceylon’s Independence with the Presidency offered to Sir Ponnamblam Arunachalam to reinforce the idea of unity) to rescue Britain from the Constitutional reform trap. Manning deftly used the communal card to sow dissension. The University of Ceylon book on History of Ceylon explains Manning’s manipulations convincingly: "…his (Manning’s) handling of the problems of constitutional reform in Ceylon would serve as an illuminating text-book case in the application of divide et impera" (divide and rule)……."
Under the guidance of Ponnambalam Arunachalam and Baron Jayatilaka the Tamil, Sinhalese and Muslim leaders had agreed that the ’territorial based selection’ was the most suited format to select members to Legislative Council instead of the ’ethnic group based principle’. In one swift manouvre Manning legitimized the communal selection principle through the Manning Reforms of 1920. This disturbed the delicate unity agreement between Jayatilaka and Arunachalam. The majority of Tamil leaders opted for the Manning approach. Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam, though personally convinced that this was a retrograde step, was not inclined to desert his brother Sir Ponnablamm Ramanathan who believed in the Manning formula. But it is said that Jayatilaka’s personal relationship with the Ponnambalams were kept on an even keel despite these policy disagreements.
A Politician Not - But A Statesman Par Excellence
Jayatilaka was elected as the new President of the Ceylon National Congress. He was returned uncontested from the Colombo district to the new Legislative Council. Jayatilaka by nature and religious upbringing was not a natural power-player in politics. He chose politics, because he believed that with his scholarship, legal background, advocacy and debating skills, and ethical approach imbibed in the portals of Vidyalankara Pirivena, it was his duty to be of service to the people, and to lead them to be free again. If there was a free choice- without that moral responsibility of freeing the Buddhists from severe British discrimination - he may have selected the fields of academia, research, and education as his first loved profession. W. Thalgodapitiya , in ’Lives of Ten Patriots’ states: "It was not allurement of power, not gratification of vanity, but the desire and urge to help the people when they most needed it that drove him (Jayatilaka) to Politics".
In 1927, the Donoughmore Commission proposed many reforms to the Ceylon Constitution and also removed the communal based selection principle.
Jayatilaka as the President of the Ceylon National Congress lobbied for acceptance of the Donughmore proposals as ’a half loaf (of bread)’. His argument was-’ do you not accept the half loaf with the future intent of obtaining the other half, than be left with nothing’. D.S. Senanayka, D.R. Wijewardena etc supported DBJ and lobbied for the acceptance of ’half a loaf ’.
The short-sighted agricultural policy of the colonial government of importing rice to feed the people rather than supporting local production created a starvation situation in the country during World War II. It was difficult to import rice as British ships came under attack. India was the safest source. But India too refused to help Sri Lanka, despite two missions undertaken by D.S. Senanayake, the then Minister of Agriculture and Corea the then Minister of Trade. The Governor requested Sir Don Baron Jayatilaka to accept the position of Special Representative of Ceylon to India and help to avert a starvation situation for the people of Sri Lanka. This request was like asking a Head of State to take over the position of an Ambassador.
Letting Go
His ’patisothagami’ trait and ’sense of sacrifice’ came to the fore again. A man of inordinately high intelligence, he would certainly have known that going to India would remove him from the mainstream of politics on the eve of Sri Lanka gaining Independence. That means he would lose the opportunity of being considered for the Head of State position in an Independent Ceylon.
Jayatilaka’s ’model of a ruler’ would have been greatly influenced by Buddhist concepts of ’Dasa Raja Dharma’ and ’Dasa Sakvithi Vath’ – two concepts of ten attributes and values that Lord Buddha stated that a beneficent ruler of people should possess. The two key guiding principles of these two concepts are anchored on the main principle of providing ’optimum benefits to the citizens at the expense of benefits to the ruler’.
For Jayatilaka, his responsibility was absolutely clear and straight forward – ’protect the people, come what may’. Sir Don Baron Jayatilaka succeeded in saving people from starvation. Having succeeded in ensuring that Ceylonese would continue to be fed irrespective of the war’s duration, he breathed his last over the skies of Bangalore attempting to reach the Motherland to breathe his last.
Sir D.B. Jayatilaka, the Buddhist leader, scholar-statesman, patriot and national hero ’let go’ of his positions to save the people. Subsequently his Last Will revealed that he had also ’let go’ of his wealth, as he had gifted the ’Thurbon House’ situated in a prime area of Colombo7, along with Pitakanda coconut estate of about 80 acres in Dodangaslanda to the Public Trustee to continue his service in the field of education through the ‘D.B.Jayatilaka Trust’ even when he would be no more.
It was also to Sir D.B. Jayatilaka’s eternal credit that he did not allow the ’Vidyalankara tradition’ to be submerged by the ’Oxford tradition’, as the vast majority of the up and coming political leaders and intellectuals of the British colonies in Asia and Africa at that time were apt to permit. Jayatilaka moulded a via-media drawing inspiration from both traditions, while, however, being firmly rooted in the appropriate indigenous traditions and the focal culture of the Country.
Mr. G.A.H. Wille, nominated member, making an address at the Vote of Condolence for Sir DB.Jayatilaka at the State Council of Ceylon, said- " Sir Baron had great influences on his countrymen exerted both by precept and example; and if I do not say that his death has created a void which cannot be filled, it is because of the effect which I expect from that influence. May it be said of him, as the best tribute to his memory, that though dead, he yet speaketh to his countrymen" .(State Council of Ceylon, Hansard, Vol. 1 )
It would infinitely benefit the Country and its People, if the present day Parliamentarians do decide to actively listen to Sir DB Jayatilaka, on this his 150th birth anniversary year.
(The writer, a former journalist and communication researcher is a retired staff member of the International Civil Service of the United Nations system.)
 
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