51st commemoration ceremony of the National hero Mr. Philip Gunawardena was held at Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, Colombo on 29.03.2023.
The ceremony was held under the patronage of President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Former presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena participated in the event while the guests were welcomed by Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.
Vice-Chancellor of Uva Wellassa University Prof. Jayantha Lal Ratnasekara and Historian, Academic Scholar and International Film Award Winner Dr. Sinharaja Tammita Delgoda delivered keynote speeches at the event.
Member of Parliament Mr. Yadamini Gunawardena, Director of Philip Gunawardena Trust Foundation, explained the purpose and commented as follows –
Today is the day to commemorate the virtues of Mr. Philip Gunawardena and take one step forward to continue the most important work he did for the survival of the nation and the future generations.
Mr. Philip Gunawardena was born with an inheritance of thousand acres of land. When he passed away 51 years ago, there was no more than two acres land owned by him. He sacrificed everything for the rights of the people for the freedom of the country. In his own words, the greatest gift he had was his five children.
He constantly reminded that those five children were gifted to this nation as highly educated people and they can bear any responsibility for the nation’s security for the future of the country. HE the President, you may remember that you studied with one of his five children in the same class at the Royal College Colombo some years ago. We do not need to remind you that you have carefully studied that political philosophy and that path.
I warmly welcome all of you who join this occasion today with that huge political force that initiated the Pancha Maha Balawega of monks, indigenous doctors, teachers, farmers and workers who represented our society.
Prof. Jayantha Lal Ratnasekara, Vice Chancellor of Uva Wellassa University highlighted in his speech;
For those who know about the character of Philip Gunawardena, it is not strange to say why land reform comes with Philip Gunawardena. Philip Gunawardena is someone who fought massively against imperialism and colonialism.
Colonialism means grabbing land. Sri Lanka’s old leadership, Philip Gunawardena, led by the vanguards of the freedom struggle, fought against colonialism. Therefore, there is nothing strange to say about the character of Philip Gunawardena about land reforms.
Everyone has forgotten the work done by Mr. Philip Gunawardena for the agriculture of this country. The Department of Agricultural Services was started by Minister Philip Gunawardena. It should be greatly appreciated. He has done what should be done at that time.
Speech by Dr. Singharaj Thammita Delgoda
History flows through us and it shapes us. Mr. Philip Gunawardena was a political leader who exercised a profound influence on thought and imagination of modern Lanka. In promoting socialism he connected it with culture and gave it a deep local meaning to give it more relevance.
He attended Boralugoda Temple and village school for primary education. In 1925 he went on to Columbia University for his Doctorate in agriculture.
In 1929 he became a part of the anti- colonial movement campaigning alongside Jawaharlala Nehru, Krishna Menan, Jomo Kenyata and Indonesian Freedom fighter and National hero Tum Malika.
In 1956 Philip Gunawardena won the Awissawella seat and appointed as a key member of Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike’s Cabinet. As the minister of agriculture, Food, Land and Cooperative he was the architecture of the Paddy Lands Act which guaranteed the tenant farmer his share of the harvest and protected him by law.
Mr. Philip Gunawardene’s profound understanding of the dynamics of history is remarkable of his thinking. King Rajasinghe the First and his father King Mayadunne halted the tide of Portuguese colonialism on the Island within a short time in the middle of the 16th Century. They had expanded the principality of Seethawaka in to the largest and most powerful kingdom in Sri Lanka. Philip Gunawardena was fascinated by this story. This led him to study the history, Seethawaka Urumaya (Seethawaka Heritage).
He said “I feel that the past heritage is significant to the present as well to the future”. Seethawaka Urumaya reflects Philip Gunawardena’s belief in the importance of value of channeling the energies of the past towards the momentum of the present.
He understood the importance of irrigational civilization. As professor Wimal Dissanyake tells us “Gunawardena saw clearly how history flows through us and shapes us. It was his belief that our unease before the future grows out of our loss of historical identity”.
Maha Sangha including Navagamuwa Raja Maha Viharadhipathi Malwane Pannasara Maha Nayake Thera of Sri Kalyani Sect, Chancellor of Colombo University Venerable Murutthettuwe Ananda Thera, Venerable Elle Gunawamsa Thera, Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharadhipathi Venerable Dr. Bellanwila Dhammarathana Thera and priests representing other religions graced the occasion while Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, Ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva, Pavithra Wanniarachchi, State Ministers Janaka Vakkumbura, Geeta Kumarasinghe, D. B. Herath, Anupa Pascual and Members of Parliament Chamal Rajapaksa, Dilan Perera, Vajira Abeywardena, Lakshman Kiriella, Duminda Dissanayake, Rauf Hakeem, S. M Chandrasena, Kumara Welgama, Dallas Alahapperuma, Dayasiri Jayasekara, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Imtiaz Bakir Marker, Ranjith Maddumabandara, Gevindu Kumaratunga, Yadamini Gunawardena, ambassadors, governors and many others took part at the event.
Prime Minister’s Media Division