• Extracts from Dr. Amunugama’s foreword to ‘Philip Gunawardena: Parliamentary Speeches’

By Dr. Sarath Amunugama

I really feel honoured to be invited to jot down an introduction to a group of Parliamentary speeches of Philip Gunawardena, probably the most distinguished of Parliamentarians to grace our Legislature, from the times of the pre-independence State Council to the Parliament of the late 1960s. 

He belonged to an age of giants that included the likes of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, N. M. Perera, Dudley Senanayake, G. G. Ponnambalam, Colvin R de Silva, Pieter Keuneman, J. R. Jayawardene and latterly Felix Dias Bandaranaike. Every of them left their distinct mark within the annals of our Legislature. Philip’s was among the many brightest of the lot.

Collections of Philip’s speeches have been printed earlier than, in an orderly sequence. The current assortment belongs to that section in his political profession when he had ceased to be a Minister within the 1956 M. E. P. Authorities of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, and was then serving as a member of the Opposition having been returned to Parliament in two subsequent Common Elections.

Multi-faceted character

I wish to start this introduction with some excerpts from considered one of Philip’s speeches included on this quantity, for the very cogent cause that I really feel it to be a superb introduction to this multi-faceted character. 

Talking in the midst of the Price range debate on 11 October 1960, he mentioned: “…. In our nation with its accent on political illiteracy, there may be the hazard of a category wrestle between the ignorant and the educated. The fashionable world is a fancy world; its technological issues want a cultivated understanding. The truth that new concepts and studying largely come to our nation by means of a overseas language creates new limitations between the educated elite and the unsophisticated individuals. The brand new concepts and studying don’t naturally seep down, fail to develop into part of the heritage and the consciousness of the individuals and so they stay a monopoly of the brand new Nationalisation of contemporary data is the ‘sine qua non’ of efficient democracy and socialism in our nation.”

Right here, Philip the thinker, the modernist and the percipient observer of the social scene clearly comes out. Going past the basic Marxian notion of courses based mostly on the possession of financial belongings he sees the rising emergence of a unique class wrestle. A category wrestle between totally different units of haves and have-nots that’s to say, the haves and have-nots of contemporary data. Was it not this lack of expertise of the fashionable technological world and its dynamics that the tragedy of such a data not turning into “a part of the heritage and the consciousness of the individuals” that was at the least partly chargeable for the youth rebellions of a later date taking the shape they did? Philip appears to have been prescient. He was removed from being a slave to moth-eaten texts – a favorite phrase of his, a dig aimed toward his erstwhile Marxist colleagues. 

The above citation additionally exhibits that Philip was, as I said earlier than, a modernist, and was acutely acutely aware of the truth that the trail to progress in Sri Lanka lay by means of trendy know-how and never by means of a mere change of property relations by means of violent revolution or in any other case. The pity is that this lesson doesn’t appear to have adequately penetrated Sri Lankan society but.

Whereas Philip confused the significance of contemporary data and know-how he didn’t belittle the worth of tradition. Through the course of the identical speech above, he mentioned: “Spanish proverb says that there’s a fixed quarrel between magnificence and chastity. Let there not be an analogous quarrel between socialism and tradition. The socialist is an inheritor to the various cultures of the previous; to desert the heritage is to make socialism as unreal because the shell grit sea”. By the way, we could take notice that he was talking of assorted cultures and never a mono tradition. The a lot travelled and well-read Philip Gunawardene was not a person with a restricted horizon.

Let me give two closing quotations from the above speech – this time extra for the fantastic thing about the language and elegance than even for the substance (which latter is after all as sound as at all times).

1. “A world to the center courses – the educated and enlightened sections of our inhabitants. Your growing hostility to the working individuals will not be solely quick sighted however self-destructive…. Could I respectfully attraction Mr. Speaker, to the center courses to cease turning the only beads of irritation right into a rosary of despair. The long run belongs to the educated and the technocrats, to not the foreman.”

2. “…The rising divorce between phrases and their that means is a serious tragedy of our instances. Socialism, Democracy, Peace, Freedom are utilized in a way that makes them not solely meaningless however topsy-turvy. The fluidity within the that means of phrases creates disaster in communication. Phrases as a substitute of clarifying and crystallising ideas confuse it. Immediately counterfeiters have seized the temple of Saraswathi. As false cash deliver concerning the breakdown of an financial system and society so counterfeiters in language destroy widespread confidence. Boring indifference is the one response when not the goblet alone however the grapes are with out wine.”

Grasp of the spoken phrase

As these and different contents of this ebook present, Philip was actually the grasp of the spoken phrase, the telling phrase and the just about poetic fashion. I’ve little question he would have been, even higher, the grasp of the written phrase as nicely. 

Earlier than I transfer additional away from the sooner citation the place Philip appeals to the educated and enlightened sections of the inhabitants, I want to point out that this can be a recurring theme in his speeches. He had a excessive respect for the competent and hardworking skilled, as he had solely probably the most virulent scorn for the charlatan and the time saver. He by no means minced his phrases – for reward or abuse. A spade was a spade.

Within the reduce and thrust of debate Philip was equally efficient and witty in Sinhala as nicely, as when as soon as mentioned in reference to the Finance Minister, Felix Dias Bandaranaike, who represented Dompe and whose price range he was analysing: Dompe is barely well-known for nurse-maids, a maybe refined and considerably convoluted dig on the then woman Prime Minister whose protégé the Finance Minister was presupposed to be (Hansard of 23 August 1960).

Although Philip was a trenchant and sometimes an abrasive critic when he didn’t agree with one thing or somebody, he is also fairly beneficiant and fulsome in his reward when reward was due – even to these whom he opposed politically. 

Talking in Sinhala, the graduation of the speech within the Price range debate, from which I’ve been quoting above, he mentioned that he learn a number of instances the speech of Dr. N. M. Perera, the estranged erstwhile Marxist colleague, and was of the view that it was filled with extra beneficial substance, than all the opposite speeches made earlier than. He mentioned that he agreed with most of what Dr. Perera has mentioned. On a later event he additionally mentioned when referring to another person whom he thought-about a really exhausting working man. “…The one different exhausting working man I do know of is the Hon. Member for Yatiyantota. One feels unhappy for the nation that such individuals of means missed the chance of working collectively for the frequent good.”

Whereas such references would possibly come as a nice shock to readers who can recollect the acrimonious political exchanges between the 2 at the moment, they exemplify the wonderful previous Parliamentary custom of giving unprejudiced consideration to the views of even one’s political foes and accepting them with out reserve when they’re affordable. Fairly surprisingly much more fulsome was the reward of the then Finance Minister Felix Dias Bandaranaike of whom Philip mentioned: “…I have no idea the politics of the Hon. Minister of Finance, however I’ve already had a sneaking regard for his skills. He’s the one gifted Minister on this outfit. I’ve not the slightest doubt that he’ll make an accurate selection within the appointment of a director to run the financial institution (viz. the Folks’s Financial institution that was simply being arrange). He’s a gifted younger man and he’s very hardworking younger man and I’ve at all times had a sneaking regard for each these qualities in a politician” (Hansard 1961.05.09 Col. 5209-5232).

Philip didn’t hesitate to document his appreciation of even the providers of competent and hardworking public officers, as as an example when he positioned on document the great work completed by a number of officers in formulating the implementing the Paddy Lands Act (Hansard 1961.06.06 Col. 7197-7244).

Agency and shut grasp of goings on 

I’ve advised earlier that Philip, the percipient observer of what was occurring, could have had nearly a premonition of the youth rebellion of the ’70s when he referred to the rising battle between these disadvantaged of entry to trendy data (which in flip meant many different issues) and the educated and due to this fact privileged class. 

One wonders whether or not by means of his rational evaluation of social forces at work (which it is probably not unreasonable to attribute to his early Marxist self-discipline) he could have equally foreseen the potential of the 1962 tried coup d’état by a sure group of army and cops. I make this remark due to his pressing plea to the federal government of the day, in the midst of the 1960-61 price range debate (Hansard of 11 October 1960) to reorganise the armed forces, which has looking back, that pathetic ring. 

That is what he mentioned: “…I’d due to this fact ask the Hon. Minister Finance to look into these issues and never enable issues to float. That was what occurred to the late Prime Minister: he allowed issues to float. And the poor man needed to pay for it together with his life. I repeat, due to this fact that within the pursuits of the nation speedy steps be taken to reorganise the Military, the Navy and the Air Drive with a view to eliminating all these outdated… Officers with alien loyalties… in case you are desirous about safeguarding the pursuits of the individuals and the continuing with the work that you’ve got undertaken to do even in a restricted method you will need to not hesitate to take drastic steps to reorganise the Military and the Navy the Navy notably… The Police power high wants reorganisation.”

Lots of the speeches reproduced on this ebook bear testimony to the truth that Philip Gunawardena every time he was a minister of the federal government has had a really agency and shut grasp of what was occurring not solely in his personal ministry however within the authorities as a complete. In a speech he made on 28 September 1960, greater than a yr after he had left workplace, he associated what went unsuitable with, even at current ill-fated Kantalai sugar manufacturing unit and on the Gal Oya manufacturing unit. 

He knew that the Agriculture Division had didn’t plant up the complete acreage set aside for sugar cane, he knew all concerning the Czechoslovakian plane purchased to spray fertiliser for the sugar cane crop, and he knew that sugar cane harvested after the essential 14 month deadline yielded little or no sugar. He had been a ‘hands-on’ in a speech delivered on 16 November 1960 he gave a really helpful account of the planning mechanism and the planning expertise of the 1956 Authorities. 

The quantity of detailed data that he possessed exterior his ministerial portfolio was exhibited when through the aforesaid speech he referred to the Nicholas Kaldor tax proposal partially applied through the interval of the earlier authorities and defended the introduction of an Expenditure Tax as an incentive to financial savings, countering the criticism of a former Minister of Finance, J. R. Jayawardene. He knew the element that the Debit Tax, which too JR objected to, was not a Kaldor proposal however solely an emergency income measure, which he conceded, must be eliminated on the earliest alternative, within the pursuits of selling the banking behavior. 

To a social scientist, an endearing characteristic of lots of Philip’s speeches is the copious use of statistics to ascertain some extent. Witness for instance his speeches on the Insurance coverage Company Invoice (9 December 1960), the Petroleum Company Invoice – the place the statistics prolong to the worldwide oil business (21 April 1961), the Agricultural Merchandise (Assured Costs) and Management of Hulling and Milling Invoice (9 Could 1961) and the Tea Analysis (Modification) Invoice (7 June 1961). After all within the resort to statistics to objectively analyse phenomena, he was within the nice Marxian custom of Karl Marx, Engels and Lenin whose work is replete with historic and modern statistics. (The one different Sri Lankan public determine to notice who involves thoughts in regard to this observe is Anagarika Dharmapala. He quoted copiously from authorities Sessional Papers).

Philip took his Parliamentary enterprise critically

Going by means of his speeches, it’s apparent that Philip took his Parliamentary enterprise critically. To him, it’s fairly obvious that Parliament was fairly a unique discussion board from the general public political platform. His Parliamentary position was not {that a} slogan peddling rabble rouser. It was severe enterprise. It required analysis and preparation. Reverse factors of view needed to be countered with stable info and logical argument and never simply by attempting to shout down your opponent. Due to this fact, studying his speeches an academic expertise whether or not you lastly agree together with his standpoint or not. In both case your horizon of data would have expanded. I imagine it was Harold Laski who recognized considered one of Parliament’s features as constructing knowledgeable public opinion. Laski would have appreciated Philip’s position.

Some passages in Philip’s speeches are actually what is likely to be described as pedagogic. He was desirous about educating – after all his pet undertaking was Socialism. As soon as he quoted extensively on this topic from a ebook by his revered previous Guru and private buddy Prof. Scott Nearing of the Wisconsin College (a fairly ill-informed and mischievous MP who dared to inquire who he (i.e. Prof. Nearing) was, was floored by the repartee “you’ll nonetheless not perceive even when I advised you all about him”). 

Through the course of a debate in 1964, reminiscing on the early days of his political profession he really referred to a educating position he carried out. Stated he: “He (Sir Baron Jayatilleke) readily granted me a passport to return to this nation in November 1932. Since then I’ve been within the wrestle for socialism on this nation. There was not a single socialist after I returned – not even the leaders of the LSSP have been socialists. Then I needed to train most of them even the weather of Socialism and Marxism.”

One additionally learns with some shock, from one other assertion made by Philip in considered one of his speeches, that whereas being in jail within the 1940s together with different LSSP detainees he had translated into Sinhala (and had bought printed) the celebrated work of Lenin, State and Revolution. As for the pedagogue’s position he performed with a lot enthusiasm, it’s nicely to recall that Marx himself has usually been referred to as a trainer. The reputed Australian American Economist Joseph A. Schumpeter, a pleasant and nearly reverent critic of Marxism, has titled one part of his well-known ebook ‘Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy’, as Marx the Instructor.

Philip’s perspective on socialism

On socialism itself Philip had a unique perspective from the red-shirted comrade shouting himself hoarse on Could Day: “You speak of Socialism. You can not socialise poverty. You may solely socialise a lot. And if individuals can’t work, if they can’t produce you can not have Socialism.” This was most likely an admonition to the federal government of the day which was claiming to be Socialist.

To the intense scholar of the politics of this nation, of the latter of the final Century (really starting with the 1930s as a result of Philip and the Lanka Sama Samaja Get together made their debut in Parliamentary politics in 1935), the speeches of Philip within the Legislature – each within the State Council and Parliament – are indispensable studying. (Often he will get even fascinating ‘small speak’ – like J. R. Jayewardene having being invited to hitch the LSSP at its inception in 1935 and he declining as a result of he “had develop into a Buddhist” – as if there had not been even Buddhist monks who have been card carrying members!). 

The coed of politics gleans from these speeches not solely what agitated the Left and the Nationalists at totally different instances but additionally the stance taken on these points at these instances by the opposite aspect – the lackeys of imperialism. The capitalist exploiters and the de-nationalised decadent ‘thuppahis’ in Philip’s personal vibrant selection of vocabulary. And what he’ll get is not going to be only a rambling of petty slogans and low-cost invective – though the language and the fashion shall be by no means boring – however well-crafted. Political, financial and social evaluation supported by a wealth of info, coming from a extremely smart, well-read and acutely observant grasp of commerce.



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