C W W Kannangara remembered in Ottawa
Posted on June 25th, 2013

By Rajendra Alwis

Dr. C W W Kannangara

Under the auspices of “ƒ”¹…”Hela Hamuwa’, along with the blessings of the Sri Lankan scholars and the High Commission of Sri Lanka, “Father of free education in Sri Lanka”, Dr. C W W Kannangara, was commemorated in Ottawa, on July 15, at the Heron Community Center.

The attendees of this meeting represented a wide range of academic fields such as medicine, engineering, pure sciences, agriculture, law and humanities those who have reaped the benefits of free education in Sri Lanka. The meeting was inaugurated with the playing of Kannangara commemorative song. On behalf of “ƒ”¹…”Hela Hamuwa’, Mr. Priyantha Wijeweera extended a warm welcome to those who were present.


Setting the tone for the day, Sri Lanka High Commissioner in Canada, Her Excellency Chitrangani Wagiswara addressed the gathering. She said that a new era in national advancement has dawned in Sri Lanka in 1940s, with the introduction of the Universal Free Education System, by Dr. C W W Kannangara.  Those who have received free-education have vastly contributed to the national advancements in their motherland and wherever they have domiciled subsequently. Further, she said that as a Foreign Service Officer she is well aware of the fact that Sri Lankan academics are on par with any other academics scattered throughout the developed world.

Addressing the gathering, Prof. Nimal De Silva gave an interesting biographical briefing about Dr. C W W Kannangara. He said this national hero hailed from a very ordinary lower middle class family, which struggled hard to make the ends meet. Yet, he was a brilliant student who demonstrated a great intelligence since his early childhood and was a keen sportsman as well, especially in the field of cricket.  Before becoming the Minister of Education, he practised as a lawyer; A lawyer, who represented the poor-people for free in many instances.  Coincidently the speaker Prof. Silva too was from Randombe village, where Dr. Kannangara was born.

Prof. Chandre Dharmawardhana also addressed the gathering and said that the free education is a great investment in the country. And yet some neo-con economists question free education to put a price on it. He also said that the demographic expansion is reduced in educated societies, quoting Sri Lanka as a concrete example. Also, he said health conditions prevailing in Sri Lanka are very much better compared to her south Asian neighbours, mainly due to the impact of education.  In concluding, Prof. Dharmawardhana said that those who received free education are greatly indebted to our motherland and must try to repay that debt.

Mr. Chaminda Weerakoon in his speech focussed the attention of the audience towards the segment of disabled students in Sri Lanka. He said that it is a long felt need to launch a special program, to help the needy disabled students in Sri Lanka.

With the partnership of Mr. Visita Leelaratna of Sirin Foundation, and donations from the audience, a small- scale scholarship in honour of Dr. CWW Kannangara was established.  Mr. Priyantha Wijeweera mentioned that the grant will be awarded to a needy disabled student in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Gamini Senarath and Ms. Lakmini Seneviratna performed a “virindu-song” devoted to Dr. Kannangara.

Mr. Roshan Rajapaksa proposed the vote of thanks.

The film “ƒ”¹…”Hantane Kathawa’ was screened for the enjoyment of everyone.  Mr. Keerthi Weerasooriya gave an introduction to the movie.  This 1969 black-and-white romantic movie was directed by the renowned-artist Mr. Sugathapala Senarath Yapa.   The story-line addresses the struggle and survival of the very first batch of the fully free-educated generation, at university-level.

At the end, refreshments with “kiri-bath” were served in traditional Sri Lankan style.  

2 Responses to “C W W Kannangara remembered in Ottawa”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    The spirit of free education is no longer present today as it was then.

    Free education mechanics should be altered to meet national challenges. Free education alone cannot meet the education needs of the nation either. Developing private education (from schools, private tuition, private universities) is as important as free education.

    A nationally beneficial ethnicity based university standradisation system can have huge benefits to the nation.

    A national focus, not an individual focus, is what is needed today.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    I agree with Dilrook. ‘Free education should be altered to meet the national challenges’. The old ‘kata paadam’ education should be removed forever. Modernising the Education System of Lanka is imperative to meet the Needs of a modern day society.

    It is heartening to note that Technology is to be introduced as a subject in the A Levels.

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