D. A. Rajapaksa: an exemplary politician

D. A. Rajapaksa

by Prof. W. I. Siriweera - Daily News Monday Nov 11 2002

Don Alwin Rajapaksa was perhaps the most outstanding democratic politician produced by the Ruhuna region. He vehemently advocated the cause of the Ruhuna peasants throughout his career, while maintaining a quiet demeanour and a steady resolve. The country lost this able and amiable personality on November 7, 1967.

He was born on 5th November 1905 in a hamlet called Madamulana and had his early education at Mandaduva School in Weerakatiya. His father Don David Rajapaksa who held the post of Vidanaracchi in Ihala Valikada Korale, Giruvapattuva in the Hambantota District, sent him for secondary education to Richmond College, Galle. Having completed his school education successfully, he helped his father to manage the family property which consisted of paddy fields and coconut plantations.

He also helped his elder brother D. M. Rajapaksa, who was the State Councillor for Hambantota in attending to affairs of the electorate. Thus he got sufficient experience in the field of politics, but was reluctant to contest the Hambantota seat at the by-election of 1945 on the death of his brother.

Nevertheless, the politically influential people in the area insisted that he should contest the by-election and were finally successful in dragging him into active politics. He won the seat at the by-election and was included in the Committee on Agriculture and Land in the State Council. This gave him a good opportunity to tackle the problem of landlessness of the peasantry of Giruvapattuva. DA adopted a 99-year lease scheme to transfer crown land to landless peasants in five acre plots. For the middle income earners, the land extending from 10 to 50 acres was alienated in the same manner. These measures in fact gave a boost to the paddy and coconut cultivations in Giruva Pattuva.

When the first parliamentary general elections were held in 1947 under the new constitution, the former Hambantota electorate was divided into two, namely, Beliatta and Tissamaharama electorate. Most of Western Giruva Pattuva was included in the Beliatta electorate. D. A. Rajapaksa contested in Beliatta on the UNP ticket and triumphed at the elections.

When S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike was disgruntled over the policies of the United National Party and left it to form the Sri Lanka Freedom Party in 1951, D. A. Rajapaksa who was a close associate of Bandaranaike followed suit. It was the Rajapaksas who gave the maximum strength and support in Ruhuna to Bandaranaike at the general elections of 1952 winning the Beliatta electorate for the SLFP. Later on, in the historic general elections of 1956, which changed the course of our history, D. A. Rajapaksa and the family and their supporters were a source of strength to the MEP coalition. DA was elected MP for Beliatta and in 1959 he was appointed the Minister of Agriculture and Lands.

In fact D. A. Rajapaksa's ups and downs in the political arena are identical to the vicissitudes of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party at the time. At the general election of 1960, when the SLFP was defeated and the UNP formed a government, DA too lost his seat at Beliatta. But when the UNP government was dissolved and the parliamentary elections were held for the second time in July of the same year, DA once again emerged victorious at Beliatta and was a great inspiration to the government led by Sirimavo Bandaranaike.

He was appointed Deputy Chairman of Committees in Parliament and subsequently Deputy Speaker. When the SLFP lost to the Dudley Senanayake-led UNP in the 1965 elections, DA also lost his parliamentary seat.

Rajapaksas were never bent on making money out of politics. On the contrary, they had sacrificed their material wealth for the sake of politics. At the defeat in the 1965 general elections, DA not only lost his political power but was also devoid of material wealth. During this period all his children, Chamal, Mahinda, Basil, Gothabhaya and Dudley were studying in Colombo and he found it difficult to meet their expenses. He sold his vehicle, leased his coconut lands and went through enormous hardships to sustain the family. When he fell seriously ill in November 1967, there wasn't a vehicle nearby to take him to hospital. When transport was arranged belatedly his heart condition had worsened. After admission to hospital this great servant of the people expired. The people of Giruva Pattuva and Ruhuna lost a great leader.

D. A. Rajapaksa was undoubtedly a politician par excellence and a noble human being. He showed genuine goodwill towards the ordinary masses, moved with them and even joined the workers in his paddy fields in ploughing and harvesting paddy. That explains why the memory of his pleasant, unassuming personality has not faded even thirty five years after his demise.

D. A. Rajapaksa, through his exemplary political career and through wise counselling by his beloved wife Palatuwe Dandina Dissanayake, has guided his children over pitfalls and over rough terrain which politicians encounter in pursuing their objectives. It is up to Chamal, Mahinda and Basil, who also have taken to politics, to live up to his expectations and maintain the dignity and decorum which their father had cultivated even while being a politician.  

David Rajapaksha Vidanarachchi 

He held the post of Vidanarachchi in Ihala Valikada Korale, Giruvapattuva in the Hambantota District. 

D.M. Rajapaksa 

            State councilor for Hambantota District 

Alvin Rajapaksa (1905-1967) 

            He was one of the founder members of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and was also               a Deputy Speaker of Parliament.

 Maninda Rajapaksa (1945) 

            He was appointed as the Leader of the Opposition in 2001. 

  1. David Rajapaksha Vidanarachchi

2        D.M.Rajapaksa 

2        Alvin Rajapaksa (1905-1967) + Dandina Dissanayake 

3    Chamal Rajapaksa 

3        Mahinda Rajapaksa 

3    Basil Rajapaksa