Senator A. Ratnayake, a true patriot of Sri Lanka | Sunday Observer

Senator A. Ratnayake, a true patriot of Sri Lanka

21 November, 2021

Abeyratne Ratnayake who was born in 1900 was the eldest son of P.B. Ratnayake, a stalwart of Kandy temperance movement and D. A. Ratnayake of Katugastota.  Educated at Dharmaraja College, Kandy and Royal College, Colombo, he entered the Ceylon University College and obtained the London BA Degree. He was a teacher at Ananda College, Colombo and in 1924, was appointed Principal of Maha Bodhi College by Anagarika Dharmapala. 

He studied law and in 1931 was qualified as an advocate. Ratnayake was the last of the generation that pioneered the fight for the freedom of Sri Lanka. His first love, however, was politics. He represented the Dumbara Electorate for 40 years.  Ratnayake was elected to the Senate and was the last President until the senate was abolished.

It was Ratnayake, as a member of the special committee on education in the State Council, introduced motion that education should be given free from kindergarten to the university. Though there were many obstacles, his persuasive manner succeeded in his proposals on free education complemented. In 1947, as the Minister of Food and Cooperatives in the first Cabinet of Sri Lanka after independence, he developed the Cooperative Movement to be managed by the people.

He inaugurated the Cooperative Federal Bank, providing credit to rural folk, who otherwise, have to depend on money lenders. He was the Minister of Home Affairs under Prime Minister Sir John Kotalawala. He organised an event to mark the 2500 years of Buddha Parinibbhana. This was a promise he had made to his mentor Anagarika Dharmapala. Probably because of his close association with Anagarika Dharmapala, he was always a simple man and was approachable. 

The translation of Tripitakaya to Sinhala, an encyclopaedia on Buddhism in English and restoration of the Dalada Maligawa were made during his time.  

He was a great believer in the teachings and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi who believed in the doctrine of Ahimsa, non-violence. He was anxious to spread Gandhi’s doctrine in the modern society. 

As we honour this hero today, let us tell the younger generation what a man of his calibre has done to promote language and culture. I have no doubt that when the history of this period is written, the name of Senator A. Ratnayake will be written in golden letters as a true patriot of Sri Lanka.

Chulanee Herath Gunerathne