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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2427

Sri Lanka: Kusma Rajaratna - one time firebrand woman member of parliament dies of heart attack

By Walter Jayawardhana

Colombo, 27 May, (Asiantribune.com): One time firebrand woman Member of Parliament Mrs Kusuma Rajaratna who represented the backward Welimada and later Uva Paranagama constituencies in the Sri Lanka parliament died of a massive heart attack, her husband and former parliamentarian K.M. P. Rajaratna said.

Kusuma, one of the most attractive and charismatic lady politicians of the Sri Lanka Parliament was 81 years of age at her death.

Mrs. Rajaratna’s body lied in state at their family home at 444, Kotte Road , Pita kotte and the funeral is scheduled to take place at Beddagana Cemetery on Sunday (today) May 27 at 4.30 p.m.

A fiery public speaker who was elected to Welimada electorate after her husband was unseated by an election petition, Kusuma added color to the post 1956 turbulent politics by championing the cause of the Sinhala Buddhists who were a deprived lot immediately after the independence of Sri Lanka.

Hailing from Kotte, where her husband, the founder leader of the Jathika Vimukthi Peramuna finally went to settle down in retirement, she always championed the cause of the backward masses of Uva province, who had been deprived of their ancestral lands due to a rebellion led by Keppitpola during British imperial times and leading lives of poverty and deprivation. It was the Rajaratnas who got the Wilson Plains of Welimada renamed to Keppitipola Plains after 1956. That was the battle ground where the British imperial army led by Wilson met the army led by Keppitipola.

Rajaratna, Kusuma’s husband hailed from Welimada, and is a scion of a former village headman of the area. The Rajaratnas made the aspirations of the landless masses of Uva Province, their political cry and that was the first time their grievances were brought to the political platform. Their political movement became defunct due to the regional nature of the party. Both husband and wife are identified with the Sinhala Only Act.

She represented both Welimada and later Uva Paranagama electorates for nearly 12 years. Immediately after the victory of 1956 Both Kusuma and K.M.P. had policy differences with their mentor the Late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. But they were careful not to put the late Bandaranaike out of power. When the opposition moved a no-confidence motion in the parliament Kusuma from the opposition benches voted with the other opposition parliamentarian firebrand S.D. Bandaranaike to save the Bandaranaike government by just two votes.

Mrs. Kusuma Rajaratna, with her husband K.M.P. championed the cause of press freedom and vehemently opposed the take over of the Lake House that later led to all sort of anti-press freedom measures by both major political parties that took over the government in turn. The assignments of this correspondent as a cub reporter then were to cover the Rajaratnas in their anti- press takeover campaigns for the Lake House papers.

But, the Rajaratnas mellowed down later, and their Jathika Vimukthi Peramuna became a member of the seven party coalition that included the Federal Party too, headed by the Late Dudley Senanayaka. A veteran journalist living in retirement in Los Angeles said it was Dudley Senanayaka who commented that the Rajaratnas had mastered the politics of language and now they have to master the language of politics.

Rajaratnas are generally considered one of the major causes of the downfall of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, in the Uva Province , which was once led by a former LSSP leader, the late J.C.T. Kotelawela (Jack) who also became an ambassador under the regime of the late Dudley Senanayaka.

Kusuma Rajaratna, with the support of various Bhikku organizations championed against late Dr. N.M. Perera’s Toddy Act that would have allowed every man to tap his coconut or kitul palm trees for an alcoholic beverage of fermentation called toddy (RAA). The late Perera was defeated in his attempt and the law never saw light of the day.

Her husband Rajaratna, a firebrand himself said, in their later years they were completely retired from politics and only practicing Buddhism. He said, “she had a very peaceful death as she always wanted.”

Besides her husband she leaves behind, her children, Bhavanti, Suhashan, Nalaka and Pramada.

- Asian Tribune -

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