‘Will also lose his wife fielding her as candidate’ – SWRD

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By 2018-01-07

By J.B. Deegala, Kandy

During the period of the 1947 General Election, though the Ceylon Communist Party and the Lanka Sama Samaja Party wielded popularity in Kandy, it was apparent they did not have the ability to win the electorate. Having realized this, the parties decided to back lawyer Albert Godamunne, the Leader of the Three Sinhala Mahajana Party, a sure contender who could defeat George R. De Silva in Kandy at that time. At the same time a number of organizations including the Udarata Peramuna also extended their support. It seemed a number of Kandyan aristocratic groups too extended support to defeat George R. De Silva. P.B. Madurawe and I supported Godamunne. During that period, T.B. Tennekoon, a well known leader, T.B.S. Godamunne and a large section of the people supported lawyer Albert Godamunne.

 

However, suddenly a countrywide general strike was launched. A Government servant named T.B. Ilangaratne was interdicted as he was involved in the strike. Owing to this the trade unions sought an electorate for Ilangaratne. Consequently the earlier decision had to be changed. Many of the organizations which supported lawyer Godamunne changed their decision all at once to support Ilangaratne. At that stage defeating George R. De Silva was more important than defeating the United National Party (UNP).

It was also made public that Albert Godamunne's wife was D.R. Wijewardena's sister. Hence doubts proliferated that Godamunne after winning the election would join the UNP. Based on this and other reasons, many who supported George R. de Silva informed him that they will not extend support to him. However, he did not accept that rumour citing the grounds that he has a huge support extending up to Thalathu Oya.

At the election, George R. de Silva won by a majority of about 1,000 votes when Ilangaratne filed a petition in Court against the victory. At that time three election petitions had been filed. All these three cases were heard during the Second World War days by the Colonial Judge Will Graham.

The lawyer who appeared for all three petitions of J.R. Jayewardene (Kelaniya), T.B. Ilangaratne (Kandy), and R.S.S. Gunawardena (Gampola) was E.S. Gratiaen, and these cases attracted the attention of the entire country.
As the petitioner against Jayewardene who won the Kelaniya seat went missing, the petition was stalled at the commencement. Because R.S.S. Gunawardena who won at Gampola accepted that his unknown supporters violated election regulations, he was unseated. However, he was granted permission to contest again. R.S. Pelpola won the election by a majority of 2,500 votes at the by-election.

In the case filed by T.B. Ilangaratne against George R. de Silva, the latter lost the seat and he was banned from contesting for one year. At the by-election, T.B Ilangaratne defeated UNP candidate Fred E. De Silva by a majority of 3,500 votes. However, when the election petition was heard against him, Ilangaratne was unseated and was banned from contesting elections for a period of 7 years. At the next by-election, it was his wife Thamara Kumari Ilangaratne who contested.
The election in Kandy was conducted most peacefully though there were some sporadic bouts of violence, and there were no verbal duels. Both parties faced elections on a cordial note. Many women rallied around Thamara.

The final UNP rally was held at the Kandy market ground. What was, especially, noteworthy was that supporters of all parties attended the rallies as spectators. The speech made by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike of the UNP was to the great pleasure of all present. He said: "T.B. Ilangaratne who participated in the strike had lost his job. By committing blunders when contesting elections the second time, he lost the seat he won as well as his civic rights. At this election by fielding his wife he will lose her, too".

It was A.C.L. Ratwatte who contested on the UNP ticket. He was the Kandy Mayor and a cousin of Sirimavo Bandaranaike and because of that it was S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike who organized the election campaign. All the UNP Ministers and MPs were in Kandy to support him. At the same time Ratwatte also received the support of the aristocratic class.

Meanwhile, all the MPs of the Opposition successfully whipped up support for Thamara Kumari Ilangaratne. They went to all the villages to enlighten the villagers. With the massive support of S. Thondaman, it was possible for the United National Party to win the elections at Gampola and Kandy. The majority votes polled in Kandy were 2,050.

J.B. Deegala of Kandy is a founder member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. He is 91 years of age now and is one among the living who has experience in Kandyan politics.

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