L.H.METTANANDA -(1894 -1967)
An Educationist & Patriot Par Excellence
By Ramani D.Wickramaratne
1st November 2006 marks the 39th Death Anniversary of Mr. L.H. Mettananda-educationist,
humanist, nationalist and Buddhist revivalist. Even after 39 long
years, his very name brings about a deep feeling of reverence for
this exemplary "Lanka Puthra." The more one reads about
him, the more one is amazed at the quality and quantum of work that
one human being has accomplished during a lifetime! In an article
Mr. D.B.Dhanapala wrote about Mr. Mettananda in The Island of 3rd
November 2004 he refers to him thus:" In his person he combines
the force, of more than half a dozen Buddhist Congresses and a hundred
Y.M.B.As all put together."(end quote) Through his commitment
and dedication in the field of education, he has left behind a legacy
hard to match by other human beings. While stating this, it needs
to be emphasized, that those who fitted into the same category of
bygone eras, are few and far between. All this has been done purely
and truly, as a "committed service" to the nation, never
for his own personal glory or monetary benefit. Such personalities
are indeed an extremely rare phenomenon in the current Sri Lankan
society. This is why it is so important for the citizens of this country,
especially those in the field of education to know and understand
the personality of the late Mr.L.H.Mettananda and understand what
exactly the country expects of them. It seems that words cannot do
adequate justice to a personality such as him.
Mr. Lokusatu Hewa Mettananda was born on 19th March 1894 at Kaluwadumulla,
Ambalangoda as the eldest son of L.H.Kovies De Silva a businessman
and Weerasooriya Karalinahamy. He had four brothers and one sister.
He had his primary education at Dharmasoka College- Ambalangoda, his
secondary education at 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.
During the period 1914-1915 he studied at the Teacher's Training College-Colombo.
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 Mr. Mettananda married Celia, daughter of Mudliyar J.De S.Wickremesooriya.
They had three sons and two daughters all of whom have done justice
to their late father by qualifying academically and becoming useful
citizens of Sri Lanka. The heavy work schedule which involved school
work, social service, as well as Buddhist work did not hamper too
much Mr. Mettananda's duties as husband and father towards his family.
Time permitting, he coordinated all these duties and responsibilities
as best as he could. No doubt, the children would have loved to have
their father's company more but his sense of "service to the
country " did not permit him to be selfish. Thirty Nine years
after his death, his children as well as their partners still talk
with a lot of love, affection and reverence when referring to their
late father and father-in-law. This indeed is also a rather rare phenomenon
in modern Sri Lanka! On 5th November which was Poya Day, they organized
a Bane sermon delivered by Ven. Vijitha Thero of Issipathanaramaya
Temple, to offer merit in memory of Mr. Mettananda.
Those who knew Mr. Mettananda well respected him as a man who had
five basic principles which guided him through life. They were (1)
never sought personal gains; (2)never amassed unnecessary wealth;
(3) never made irresponsible statements; (4) always safeguarded democracy;
(5) simple life style.
He was indeed a remarkable personality who, as a principled Buddhist
was fearless and forthright, self-less, committed and dedicated to
the well-being of the nation, a "Kalyana Mithra" (good friend),
honest and disciplined, diplomatic and tactful, just and fair to all.
It was rare indeed, for one personality to possess such exemplary
qualities but these were absolutely necessary for the life he chose
for himself and his family. He set the same examples & standards
for his own children, as well as other children. The fact that he
was able to mix with a wide spectrum of society and gain their respect
alone bears testimony, to the fact that he deserved every bit of the
respect he commanded. These qualities helped him to get the support
he needed to carry on his mission in life.
His Service to The Nation:
His service to the nation was many facetted and equally amazing in
achievements purely because of the high standards he set for himself
and those around him. They can be categorized into three main areas
as stated below. Having read through them, one will surely feel a
sense of awe and amazement at whether it was humanly possible for
one individual to be all this and more!
It could be said of Mr. Mettananda, that his first love was education.
It is evident from documents available, to see how much time and energy
he spent in each school he worked, to find ways and means of implementing
an environment which was conducive for children to gain maximum benefits
to widen their horizons in knowledge, sports, service to others during
their school life. Discipline was absolutely essential and he took
great pains to instill discipline in the students at every school
he worked. In each school he taught or became Principal, he encouraged
students from the outstations, to study Science and to qualify as
doctors or engineers.
During the period he was Acting Principal of Ananda College (1932-1936)
and Principal (1945-1955), he improved the standard of education and
the curriculum to be practical and constructive. Instead of punishing
students for misdeeds, he taught them to be responsible and self-reliant.
He was of the strong opinion that children must be conversant in both
Sinhala and Tamil and therefore, made them compulsory subjects for
grades 1 and 2 at Ananda College. He was also of the opinion that
English must be taught to students for them to be able to use it fluently
in later life, when they go out into society and the world at large.
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 introduced handicrafts
and gardening as subjects and also introduced vocational training
subjects such as carpentry, book binding and iron works to enable
students to appreciate manual work and vocational education. During
his time at Ananda, he improved the library facilities and encouraged
students to read as a method of enhancing knowledge and also personally
supervised the building of the school Science Laboratory which is
being used (as it was then) even today. It was also during his time
that the foundation for the Ananda Viharaya, the extension to the
existing school hostel(soft opening was in 1954) saw the light of
day and the Parent Teachers Association as well as the Ananda Paropakara
Samithiya (through which students were taught the rudiments of social
service) were formed.
Due to his absolute commitment to education, he organized fairs and
carnivals to raise funds to improve the school facilities. He was
also able to engage excellent teachers onto the staff of Ananda and
to gain unstinted support from well known Buddhist philanthrophists
who appreciated the vision Mr. Mettananda had for Ananda College and
Extra curricular activities were given as much importance as academic
studies. During his tenure as Principal of Ananda College the school
did extremely well in swimming, boxing, cadetting, badminton and athletics.
1952 was a special year for Ananda when they won the Herman Loos Cup
given to the best cadet platoon in schools, they became inter-school
boxing champions. This year also saw many Anandians becoming champions
in swimming and athletics. However, when Anandians applied for positions
in the Armed Forces, they were rejected because they came from a Buddhist
school & this upset Mr. Mettananda that suitability, was not a
criteria for selections. It was only after he complained to the late
Mr.D.S.Senanayake showing him proof of the suitability of Anandian
applicants, that they were gradually taken in to the Armed Forces
with utmost reluctance. Till then, only students from selected Christian
schools were recruited.
He was Principal of Dharmaraja College, Kandy from 1936-1945. At
the time, Dharmaraja College was facing many difficulties and it was
decided that Mr. Mettananda would be the ideal choice to sort out
these problems and give the school a much needed new lease of life.
Two of the main problems that the school faced were financial difficulties
to run the school and factionalism and conflicts among staff between
upcountry and low country Sinhalese. One may say this was a caste
issue.Both these issues were affecting the progress of the school.
Using tact and diplomacy which were hallmarks of the Mettananda personality,
before long he was able to bring harmony among the staff and commence
an upward march to improve the school. It is recorded that during
his tenure of Principal at Dharmaraja College, he was able to convert
this into becoming the foremost sought after Buddhist school in Kandy.
The school saw many new building coming up including the library and
two storeyed Science Laboratory. From 1936 to 1945, the student population
increased from 440 to 805.
It was during his time, that Dharmaraja College blossomed out to
be a well equipped school with an impressive improvement in the standard
of education. An institution which faced severe debts at the time
of his taking over, he converted it into a school with a credit balance
of Rs.128,213.94 at the time of leaving in 1945, which in those days
was an enormous amount of money.
Mr. Mettananda's sense of honesty and integrity were unmatched. Every
cent that Ananda College and Dharmaraja College received from well-wishers
for improvement of the schools was accounted for and recorded.
2.Buddhism & Culture:
Mr. Mettananda was closely associated with Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maithri
Thero (who was on the staff of Ananda College), Ven. Madihe Pannaseeha
Thero and Ven. Henpitigedera Gnanaseeha Thero who all worked together
to bring about an awareness among the Buddhist population of this
country and helped to bring about a change in the discriminatory treatment
meted out to Sinhalese Buddhists in the post-independent era of the
late Mr. D.S.Senanayake and other leaders thereafter. The Buddhist
revival work commenced by Anagarika Dharmapala continued even after
his untimely death, thanks to personalities like Mr. Mettananda, Mr.
P de S Kularatne, Mr. G.P.Malalasekera and many others.
Being an educationist, Mr. Mettananda was of the strong conviction
that the cultural erosion that had taken place in this country during
440 years of foreign domination, needed to be changed and that the
Sinhala Buddhist cultural heritage of this country must be revived
and given its due place in our society. To achieve this, he worked
tirelessly. Although he himself was a Buddhist with strong convictions,
he always respected all other religions in this country. It is reported
that he never slandered or insulted any of the other religions, but
his mission was to get the rightful place for the Sinhala Buddhists.
He was instrumental in forming the
" Bauddha Jatika Balavegaya" to champion this cause and
also initiated the "Temperance Movement" in this country.
He was elected President of All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC) at
the 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. He was of the opinion that
poverty and illiteracy were the main causes of crime and therefore,
it was important to remove these two evils from our society. By some,
he was labeled as a "religious fanatic" purely because he
stood his ground on Sinhala Buddhist issues.
It was he who first demanded that the 5th Clause in the Kandyan Convention
of 1815 on protection being given to Buddhism be included in the Constitution.
He 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 also requested the government
of the time, to publish the Tripitaka in Sinhala.
In 1951 a delegation from ACBC headed by Dr. G.P. Malalasekera met
Mr. D.S.Senanayake and requested him to appoint a committee to inquire
anti-Buddhist activities in the country on the grounds that even though
we were independent and had our own democratically elected government,
nothing had been done to give Sinhala Buddhists there rightful place.
It was pointed out that anti-Buddhist forces had cause grievous harm
to Buddhists and that there was blatant discrimination against them
in the government at various administrative levels. After this meeting,
even though Mr. D.S.Senanayake had requested a list of names of persons
who could be included in such a committee, he later informed the ACBC
that such a committee could not be appointed because he had received
advise from the legal administration that an appointment of such a
commission to inquire into religious affairs would constitute a violation
of Section 29(2)© and (d) of the Ceylon Constitution (Order in
Council, 1946). Needless to state, that these advisors at the time
were all under the guidance and supervision of strong anti-Buddhist
forces and did not wish to have their activities exposed!
Under these circumstances, the ACBC decided to appoint their own
committee to look into matters related to discrimination against Buddhists.
The chapter on education, was written by Mr. Mettananda. They had
the full support of the masses the Maha Sangha, who worked tirelessly
to gather as much information as possible and many months of travel
around the country when transport was not as convenient as it is today.
On the Wesak Full Moon Day of 1955, this report was offered to the
Maha Sangha at a ceremony organized at Ananda College. It became evident
however, that without the support of the government, nothing could
be achieved and he tried other avenues to achieve his objectives.
Mr. Mettananda never had aspirations to enter active politics but
whenever there was any national crisis, he would invariably get involved.
His sole mission in life one could say, was to ensure that a Sinhala
Buddhist awareness was initiated which would eventually bring about
the necessary changes.
In 1934 Mr. Mettananda played a very active role in the Anti-Malaria
campaign. In the Sessional Paper V-1936 titled "Report on the
relief of Distress due to Sickness and Shortage of Food: September
1934 to December 1935" by H.E.Newnham (Commissioner for Relief)
it is stated on page 47 thus: " The Ceylon Buddhist Congress
under the direction of Mr. Mettananda, the Principal of Ananda College,
gave me the fullest assistance in undertaking the distribution of
these "comforts" and every week-end, for a period of three
months, he visited those areas in the Kegalle District I had noted
as being in need of the grant of relief in addition to that supplied
by Government. Mr. Mettananda had organized his workers in a most
efficient manner and there were no villages in which they would not
undertake distribution however remote they might be. Further, the
regularity with which these visits were paid enabled me to place the
highest confidence in his organization and be able with certainty
to inform villagers that relief would arrive."
The above statement made by H.E.Newnman about the commitment and
organizational capabilities of Mr. Mettananda is ample testimony to
the confidence and trust people had in him.
In 1956 when the late Mr. S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike was planning to come
forward to contest the elections, Mr. Mettananda and those who worked
on the issue of gaining the rightful place for Sinhala Buddhists decided
to meet him and discuss matters.
It takes a man of extreme commitment, to go to the lengths that Mr.
Mettananda ventured for the sake of the country and her people. In
today's context even though many decades have lapsed, we still see
similarities between then and now, the only difference in today's
society is that we are sadly lacking in patriotic human resources
who will take the plunge and fight for what is right and just. We
have more people who do not wish to be noted for fear that it will
affect their own personal agendas of professional and economic success
or the well-being of their own kith and kin.
Let us hope that in the not too distant future, there will come a
time when Sri Lankans will be proud of their identity and their culture.
Let us hope that the late Mr. Mettananda's efforts have not been in
References: "Light of Ananda"- Dr.K.D.G.Wimalaratne; "Remebering
L.H.Mettananda" - D.B.Dhanapala (The Island of 3rd November 2004);"Report
on the Relief of Distress due to Sickness and Shortage of Food: September1934
to Decembe 1935"-H.E.Newnham(Commissioner of Relief); "L.H.
Mettananda (19th March 1994)"-Gunaseela Vitanage (former Hony.Secretary
of Baudha Jatika Bala Vegaya)