Sujeewa Pushpakumara Doloswala owns the local government
Posted on February 6th, 2018

BY MALINDA SENEVIRATNE

Let’s get to the name and the man later.  Let’s begin with what this is all about.  Local Government.  Local government elections, that is.  In other words, municipal councils, urban councils and pradesheeya sabhas; all reduced, in the parlance of the political, to the gama or village.  
Whether it is a candidate or a party, a man or a woman, a seasoned politician or a newcomer, the (at this point) respectful request is ‘give me/us the gama.’  Respectful’ because the candidate and the party need the voter.  Once vote is cast it’s another story. We know that script too well to go over it.
There’s no ‘virgin gama’ any more; no self-contained, self-sufficient and internally coherent entity that is geographically describable.  People move.  They commute from gama to nagaraya for work.  It’s a small country after all.  They move out and settle elsewhere.  And the town enters the village in numerous ways too.  First there were newspapers, then radio and television and now smart phones and the internet.  And people who go out, either for employment or education, also come back and when they do, they have ‘town-stories’ to tell.  
So when people talk of ‘gama’ and local government authority as one and the same or use the former as a proxy for the latter, it’s a bit misleading if not promotion of a downright falsehood.  But these are do-gooder days and do-gooding (or promising to do-good) days.  They all want the villagers to come together and deliver the village to them.  ‘They’ as in politicians.  It’s essentially an ‘I am your savior’ kind of charade.   
As for the villagers, they are supposed to convince themselves that they are a bunch of impotent nincompoops who are all of a sudden offered the unexpected gift of having someone sort out their problems. 
But then again, there are villagers who know what’s what.  They know that it is best not to depend on anyone else simply because they’ve been lied to, hoodwinked and cheated time and again.
Sujeewa Pushpakumara Doloswala wasn’t thinking about such things.  He wanted a playground for the village.  It was not just him of course.  It’s a bunch of young people living in a village called Kudamaduwa, located between Piliyandala and Kottawa.  
For years, they had petitioned politicians to get them a piece of land which they could turn into a playground.  Politicians are full of promises and not just when there’s an election around the corner.  They were asked to identify a plot of state land.  There were none.
So they played in rubber estates and in the premises of the village templed.  They did not give up though.  
Finally, Sujeewas, known to all as Sujee, gathered everyone and said ‘let’s buy a piece of land.’  They went to the Chief Incumbent of the temple, Rev Kalawellaragama Chandananda Thero for guidance. The Thero advised them to go about it in a systematic way.  So a leaflet was printed and distributed.  Everyone in the village were summoned to the temple.  Not everyone came, but a considerable number did.  The old and the young, men and women, all came together.  
That was how the Kudamaduwa Sports Club came to be formed.  Office-bearers were elected.  They figured they would need around 6 million rupees to buy a piece of land that was suitable, a rubber estate.  They were around the village soliciting contributions. In the first round they managed to collect 20,000 rupees. Anyway, the owner decided he didn’t want to sell it.
Then one day, Indika, who looked after buffaloes in the village, told them of an abandoned paddy field that was up for sale.  However, the owner had been reluctant at first. 
‘So we went to meet him.  The office-bearers and the haamuduruwo.  There were issues with the property.  First, there was no access road.  The deeds weren’t clear.  There was no survey plan.  Tissa Mahattaya, the lawyer in our village, told us to get it surveyed and that he would thereafter get the legal aspects sorted out.  The haamuduruwo found a surveyor.  
‘We needed money, though.  So we went from door to door. Some people were suspicious, some scolded us, but the majority supported, especially those who weren’t very rich.’
It had been tough, Sujee explained.  On one occasion the Chief Minister had come and said he will give three million rupees.  
‘He asked us to stop collecting money.  Nothing happened.  We went to meet him with the hamuduruwo.  Finally one of his secretaries said ‘this won’t happen…you continue to raise funds the way you did before.’
It was a big blow.  It would be even tougher to go from house to house and ask people for money.  They didn’t give up though.  They finally purchased the piece of land.  Then they had to fill it.  This too they did, bit by bit.  They even purchased a strip of land so that an access round could be made.  They still had to construct a small bridge over a ditch.  This too cost them.  
Sujee and his friends organized a kite festival on two consecutive years.  The profits were channeled to construct the bridge.  
And now it’s all ready.  The playground for the young people of Kudamaduwa, now and for many years to come.  
‘We will hold an avurudu uthsavaya there this year, after a pirith ceremony,’ Sujee said proudly.  
Many contributed in many ways; some with money, some with labor.  There were others who encouraged.  Sometimes it would be a matter of knowing someone who would help in some technical way.  Sometimes it was about giving food or tea to the man operating a backhoe machine they had hired for a few hours.  Sometimes it was just a thumbs up sign.  
Sujee insists ‘it is not about me, and I could never have done it by myself.  Everyone in the committee helped.  The haamuduruo  was always a tower of strength.’
If one were oblivious to things and processes in the community one would not know about the playground and nothing of the efforts expended to get it done.  Such a person would see Sujee as the guy as a barber.  A successful one, sure, for even those who leave the village for whatever reason come to him for a haircut; successful, always with a smile, a doer more than a talker.  
He smiles when we discuss politics, especially the forthcoming local government elections.  He is most certainly aware of what’s what in the village and in the country and that’s why he smiles, not cynically but with that quiet understanding of the mismatch between promise and delivery.
 
He had a simple theory: hithai ekamuthukamai thiyenavanam karanna bari deyak naha…”  If there’s unity there’s nothing that can’t be done if you put your mind to it.  
Of the village, with the village and for the village. That’s what Sujeewa Pushpakumara Doloswala and his friends are all about.  The names will be forgotten in years to come, like we’ve forgotten the names of those who turned population in a people, a geography into a nation.  But it was never about names and glory.  It was always about community and things that last.  Doesn’t hurt to mention a name, now and then.  Like Sujeewa Pushpakumara Doloswala and others who truly own  and run the local government. 

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