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Chanaka Amaratunga (1958 - 1996)

April 19th would have been Chanaka Amaratunga’s 52nd birthday. I was first reminded about this by ‘Groundviews’, which requested an article of commemoration. Though I believe ‘Groundviews’ is now not as partisan an entity as when it was first set up, I still wonder about the propriety of contributing to it, given my criticism of the manner in which and the purpose for which it was funded. In any case, I was not so sure that it was essential to write on what did not seem a significant anniversary.

My mind was made up however when I saw an article commemorating, on the 37th anniversary of his death, Chanaka’s great hero, Dudley Senanayake. I was struck by the use there of the quotation that Chanaka first brought to national attention, in 1982, when the infamous referendum was perpetrated upon the nation.

He referred then to what Dudley Senanayake had said a decade earlier, namely that ‘There are some things in every true democracy which no mandate can ever destroy. Even if a majority agrees, the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to vote to elect your representatives at periodic and regular elections, these are features which cannot ever be abolished.’

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Rajiva Wijesinha

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