C.W.W. Kannangara and the attitude of University Students who have benefited from free education.
Posted on December 11th, 2018

Chandre Dharmawardana

What happened to CWW Kannagara happened to many legislators of limited means of that era who worked selflessly, without thinking of how they are to fend for themselves when they reach old age. They died poor although they were expected to maintain a high social standard. In deed, it is an irony that some segments of Sri Lankan’s commemorate Che Guevera but pay scant attention to Kannangara. Similalrly, some Tamils commemorate Prabhakaran, a man who butchered more Tamils than even all the Sinhalese Kings put together, as stated by a Tamil writer named Sebastian Rasalingam:


Militant students are cultivated by  political leaders who were/are  themselves misguided by their blind support for Marxist ideologies.  When I was in charge of the Vidyodaya University, I proposed that the main Hall at Vidyodaya University, used mostly by the Arts students, be named Kannangara Hall, but the student leaders strongly objected and name it Lenin Hall, almost out of spite for my suggestion. Even the “marxism” of the students was hollow. It is/was more driven by the idea of gaining some status and power “(Thathvaya)” in the campus by aligning with some political party. The JVP slogans claimed that the degree can come later – after the revolution.

The students also held a one day strike against me when I denounced their action in an interview with an editor of the Daily News. Most of the teaching staff also remained mute, perhaps in fear of the student leaders, or to curry favour with them.

The Vice-Chancellor of the unified single university covering all the campuses was Mr. Sumanadasa who did the bidding of student leaders, or the bidding of Mr. Paskaralingam who was the Permanent Secretary for Education at that time. He had no policiy of his own.

The attitude and ideology of militant students was set by Philip, N. M. Perera, Colvin and others who were inspired by Marxist Ideology and saw little value in the traditional values and ideologies of the country nourished in Buddhism.

Philip Goonawardena was the main Marxist leader who considered that some national values should be supported –  but mainly for political-strategy reasons.

While they brought important socialist values of equality, such values  actually existed in early Buddhism and Jainism. The Marxitst brought in the immoral idea that the “end justified the means”, and that violent methods of political struggle – revolutions modelled of the Russian revolution or that of Che Guevara are necessary.

Actually, CWW Kannangara was originally opposed to free education. It was A. Ratnayaka who consistantly pushed it (as is clear from the Hansard record), and personally convinced Kannangara (the Minister) of its value and importance. N.M. Perera and other Marxist revolutionaries opposed it, and N. M. Perera even wrote a book explaining that free education should be introduced ONLY AFTER THE SOCIALIST REVOLUTION. He argued that the militancy of the working class, necessary for the revolution, will be mollified by free education which will be used   by the capitalist class to create a “brain-washed” middle class.

D.S. Senanayake and others also opposed it stating that it is an extremely expensive extravagance. He was the prime minister and he could have killed it, but did not do so as he probably decided to allow it on a trial basis. The country actually became prosperous during DS Senanayake’s time, even with the  war, and during the Korean war, by selling rubber and other exports needed by war conditions, and hence free education stayed on. In 1956 a large amount of foreign capital left when SWRD threatened to nationalize them.

The British reduced buying tea from Sri Lanka and switched to buying more from South Africa. Meanwhile the leftists began a series of crippling strikes, hoping to capture power by revolution. The rupee began to tumble. Then came the more dangerous game of Language-policy conflicts that inflamed the country in race riots.

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