‘Madman’ who stood for a righteous cause – Forty sixth Death anniversary of L.H. Mettananda
Posted on October 31st, 2013

By Janaka Perera

‚ He was branded a religious fanatic because of what he stood for. ‚ ‚ 

‚ Friday November 1st‚ marks the 46th‚ Death Anniversary Lokusathu Hewa Mettananda – better known as L.H. Mettananda -” the indefatigable fighter for the rights of Sinhala Buddhists.‚  In the words of veteran journalist the late D.B. Dhanapala -Anybody who dare talk of Buddhist rights in a Buddhist country is bound to be called a fanatic on disturbing the peace and rousing up religious feelings-‚  (AMONG THOSE PRESENT).

‚ Mettananda-â„¢s goal was to liberate the country from those whom he considered aliens in their own land.‚ ‚  They found it difficult to identify with Sri Lanka-â„¢s pre-colonial history and culture and dealt in short weight to Buddhists.

‚ Mettananda was born on March 19, 1894 at Kalawadumulla, Ambalangoda as the eldest son of L.H. Kovies De Silva a businessman and Weerasooriya Karalinahamy. Mettananda had four brothers and one sister. Having had his primary education at Dharmasoka College, Ambalangoda, he entered Richmond College-Galle where he had a distinguished academic record. In 1912 he passed the Cambridge Senior Examination and in 1913 he successfully completed the London Matriculation examination.

In July 1930, he obtained the Diploma in Education from the London Day Training College and continued to study for a Masters’ Degree in Education. In between these years he joined the tutorial staff of Sri Sumangala Boy’s School, Panadura in 1912 and served as an Assistant Teacher at Holy Cross College-Kalutara during the years 1916-1918. He joined Ananda College as an Assistant Teacher in 1919 and the Buddhist Theosophical Society (BTS) selected him to become the first Principal at Nalanda Vidyalaya in 1923, which was a new school.

‚ In 1923 he married Celia, daughter of Mudaliyar J.De S.Wickremesooriya. They had three sons and two daughters.

‚ Mettananda-â„¢s first love was education. In each school he taught or became Principal, he encouraged students from the provinces to study science and qualify as doctors or engineers. He stressed the need for making students fluent in English. ‚ He himself taught Latin and English for four years at Ananda College. Under him, education was based on Buddhist traditions and the mother tongue was used as the medium of instruction.

‚ He also played a very active role in the Anti-Malaria campaign of the 1930s.‚  The then Commissioner for Relief, H.E. Newman praised the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC) under Mettananda-â„¢s direction for the -fullest assistance- given to the commissioner in the distribution of relief items to affected people.

Mettananda was elected ACBC President at its 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.

‚ It was Mettananda 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 was the guiding spirit behind the Buddhist Commission Report that accelerated the United National Party’s ignominious defeat in the 1956 Parliamentary Elections, reducing that party’s number of seats in Parliament to eight.

The call to appoint such a Commission of Inquiry was based on the need to remedy the injustices done to the Buddhists under three colonial regimes which were continued in the post -“independence period by local rulers subservient to colonial interests. The undertaking the British gave to protect and maintain the Buddhist religion had been grossly betrayed before the ink was dry in the Kandyan Convention of 1815.

Buddhism in consequence of the terms of the Convention enjoyed the same position as the Anglican Church in England. But even after 1948 not only was this fact ignored but attempts to marginalize Buddhists in the State sector, in the armed forces and elsewhere continued as before.

Mettananda noticed that the Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake’s Government was not prepared to give State patronage to Buddhism as in the pre-colonial days. When ACBC team led by Professor Gunapala Malalasekera proposed to Senanayake the need to establish a Buddhist Commission the Prime Minister at first agreed to accede to the request but subsequently backed out, saying that it would be a violation of the Soulbury Constitution. But it was really the pressure from non-Buddhist forces that strongly supported the then government -” which made the Prime Minister change his mind.

Consequently the Buddhist leadership had no alternative but to appoint a Commission of Inquiry themselves to probe into the continuing system of education and other areas that denied Buddhists their rightful place. The ACBC established a Buddhist Committee of Inquiry on April 2, 1954 in accordance with the resolution adopted at the 33rd annual ABC conference held at Kegalle on December 27, 1953.

The `Buddhist Commission’ as it came to be popularly known, held its sittings throughout the length and breadth of the country beginning at Ratnapura on June 26, 1954 and concluding at Anuradhapura on May 22, 1955. It gathered evidence from organizations and individuals representing all sections of Buddhist society.

At the presentation of the Commission Report to the Maha Sangha at Ananda College on February 4, 1956 Mettananda said:

‚ -A great noise is being made by our Government that much is being done for Buddhism. The Dalada Maligawa is to be provided with a new wing, Mahiyangana is to be restored, and the Pattirippuwa and Magul Maduwa are to be given to the Buddhists. The Tripitaka is being translated into Sinhalese. A Buddhist Encyclopedia is being compiled. These are no doubt very good things, but I ask you, -ËœWill the restoration of old buildings help to revive the Buddhist Way of Life?-â„¢ The translation of the Tripitaka and the compilation of a Buddhist Encyclopedia are good things, but will they alone help to revive the Buddhist Way of Life?-

In 1956 when S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike won the General Election he expected Mettananda to be satisfied with a cushy job like a diplomatic post and not bother about Sinhala Buddhist issues anymore.‚  But Bandaranaike was mistaken.‚  Mettananda spurned all efforts to placate him and spoke out loud and bold once again about the grievances of the Buddhists.‚  This made the Prime Minister call him a madman.‚  It only amused Mettananda who was devoid of ambition.

No one could question his sincerity.‚ 

L.H. Mettananda passed away in Colombo at the age of 73, on November 1, 1967.

To coincide with his death anniversary his daughter Dr. Kamala and her husband Thilak Ediriweera will lay the foundation stone for the construction of an elders-â„¢ home to be named after L.H. Mettananda in Pittugala, Malabe at a cost of around Rs. 20 million. It is being built as an addition to the ACBC Elder Citizens Home in Pittugala.‚  Accommodation will be on payment.

6 Responses to “‘Madman’ who stood for a righteous cause – Forty sixth Death anniversary of L.H. Mettananda”

  1. mjaya Says:

    LH Mettananda was one of the greatest people to live during modern times. As the article says he was a main with no ambition other than to serve his Sinhalese-Buddhist heritage.

    He said long ago that Sri Lanka needs one national language for national unity and Sinhalese should be mandatory for all citizens.

    He was never afraid to say what he felt.

    Dear patriots, when you have the time please read his letters, they have been published multiple times.

  2. Ratanapala Says:

    Above all he exposed to the country and the world the works of the Catholic Action. If not for these timely actions Sri Lanka would have ended like a Vietnam with Ding Diems. However the maggots still crawl in the corridors of power. It is up to the present generation of patriots to eradicate this menace once and for all.

  3. Lorenzo Says:

    SL badly needs another BUDDHIST COMMISSION.

    Politicians will NOT appoint it. People should. Just like in 1954.

    I propose Janaka, Shenali, Fran, MJaya, Gomin, Geeth, Mahinda, Ananda-USA and Ratanapala for it (among others).

    SL needs an INDEPENDENT commission to identify and rectify problems faced by Sinhela Buddhists.

    A Buddhist Committee of Inquiry must be established by April 2, 2014 (60th anniversary).

    Their report should be presented to BOTH UNP and SLFP before the next presidential election in 2016.

  4. Nanda Says:

    No ! it should be mixed racially.
    Please add ALAVI MOULANA as chairman and Bijneshwaran as secretary !

    – MR

  5. samurai Says:

    What Ratanapala says is correct.

    Mettananda’s most important contribution was the formation of the Bauddha Jaathika Balawegaya (BJP or the Buddhist National Force) to counter the machinations of Catholic Church. Despite the majority of Sri Lankans being Buddhists and Hindus, the top positions (with a few exceptions) in the armed forces and the police were held by Catholics and Christians.

    After Catholic police and army officers staged an abortive coup in 1962 the BJP published a booklet titled Catholic Action – A Reply to the Catholic Union of Ceylon, exposing the latter’s agendas in the State and private sectors. Non-Buddhists dominated the English language newspapers. The BJP strongly focused on this when it gave evidence before the Press Commission of 1964.

    It is the duty of the past pupils of Ananda, Nalanda and Dharmaraja Colleges as well as Buddhist Organisations to issue a commemorative stamp and a name a road after him in recognition of his services to the cause of Buddhism and the Sinhala Buddhist Community.

  6. Fran Diaz Says:

    Lorenzo,

    Yours is a good idea. A Buddhist Commission is necessary. Yes, call it ALBC – ALL LANKA BUDDHIST COMMISSION.

    Thank you for suggesting my name, but I personally do not feel well qualified enough to serve on such a wonderful Commission as I am not the typical “Temple going Buddhist”. However, I do care about the welfare of Buddhists and others of Sri Lanka and can write in suggestions if an ongoing dialogue is presented on this website for a new Buddhist Commission.

    I have often wondered what happened to the ACBC. I suppose funds for the ACBC came mainly from the wealthy Buddhist land owners who lost land due to Mrs B’s Land Reform Act, and that may have been the reason for diminishing of Buddhist activities via the ACBC.

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