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The man who served under nine Prime Ministers of Ceylon/Sri Lanka

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An Interview with Bradman Weerakoon by Marianne David

Deshamanya Bradman Weerakoon turns 80 today (Oct 20th). He really needs no introduction, having done Sri Lanka proud on many occasions in his many capacities and served the nation to the fullest of his ability in public service for half a century.

Bradman as he is generally known has served under nine Prime ministers of Ceylon/Sri Lanka namely Sir John Kotelawela,SWRD Bandaranaike,Dudley Senanayake,Sirima Bandaranaike,JR Jayewardena,Ranasingha Premadasa,DB Wijetunge and Ranil Wickremasinghe.

Bradman Weerakoon ~ pic by: Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

To strike a personal note I had the pleasure of interacting with Bradman Weerakoon when he was secretary to the Ministry of Plantations Industry in the UNP government that took office in 1977. I was then a reporter on the Tamil Daily “Virakesari” and was assigned to cover the ministry.MDH Jayewardena was the minister and Alick Aluvihare his deputy.

Since a large number of “Virakesari” readers were employed in the plantations and the paper itself had an up –country edition the day to day activities of the Plantations Industry ministry were of great relevance to the paper.

Covering the plantations industries ministry therefore was n important part of my duties as a journalist.My task was made easy because of the friendly disposition and cooperative spirit of boith Bradman Weerakoon and the addl secretary YG Punchihewa. I found both to be very courteous and amiable in their dealings with the press.

Bradman Weerakoon had in depth knowledge of the subjects under his purview and would explain the intricacies in a very simple manner so that journalists could write their stories with clarity.

Apart from being an efficient and capable official Bradman Weerakoon was what I would call a thorough gentleman.

I wish him well on his eightieth birthday and hope the rest of his golden twilight would be a productive period where he would pen many, many books.

In a bid to inform readers about this remarkable, multi-faceted personality I am reproducing an interview conducted on the occasion of his milepost birthday.

Here, he talks to Marianne David of the Financial Times about the early years, life today and future plans: ~ d.b.s. jeyaraj

Question: Going back to the early years, could you tell us about your childhood – where you grew up, about your siblings and parents and what life was like?

Answer: I was born in Colombo but I grew up in Kalutara.

My first school for a year or so was Holy Family Convent Kalutara and then Holy Cross College Kalutara. After that I wanted to get into the boarding in Mount Lavinia because my elder brother was there. I stayed in Mount Lavinia until the war broke out and then went and spent six beautiful years in Gurutalawa. I was one of the founders; we went in 1942 when the war took up Mount Lavinia. My elder brother was also there with me and my younger brother – a planter – joined later on.

I have an elder sister and a younger sister. The elder was a music person and went to England finally for her exams and so on. My younger sister played in the first cricket match for women. We were quite the athletic family. Both my father and mother played tennis. My elder brother Ronnie was a government servant and a district land officer. He finally became an ambassador in Egypt.

I had a stern and very disciplined father because he was in the Police. He would be the one who would admonish and occasionally cuff us. But my mother was very gentle; a nice person – always a peace maker, trying to bridge things over, right through her life. She outlived my father by about 25 years and passed away when she was 85. She had a long life.

Q:How do you feel about your parents naming you after Australian cricketer Don Bradman, who sailed to Colombo on the day of your birth?

A:At the beginning, a little bashful because I always had to explain my strange name. You can understand an English name but not that of an Australian cricketer. That became the point of a little concern at that point but later on it became a talking point.

When I went for interviews, the first thing they would do was look at the name and ask how I came to be named Bradman. That gave the opportunity for a few minutes indulgence in cricket. They would ask ‘Do you play cricket?’ and I would says ‘Yes’ and so on… ‘Is your father a cricketer?’ It was the usual game. At least 10 questions emerged from my name, which spent the greater part of the interview. That perhaps made them feel I was quite sociable and so on. It greatly helped

I find interviews are quite important. I love interviews; I love your coming here and interviewing me. I just relish it as a great opportunity. I was fairly forward then; not in an aggressive way. I was reading a lot at that time and I wanted to show the knowledge I had – not boastfully… but I would be quite well informed about things, both local and foreign.

Q:How did your entry into the Government service come about?

A:When I came back from a master’s degree in America, I was quite talkative. When I went for the Civil Service examination, I had to do the examination basically based on the knowledge I had acquired a year earlier, because I was away for one year. But the interview got me 250 marks, which was a full mark. Perhaps only one or two others got into the Civil Service with full marks at the interview. I was 22 at the time.

Q:How long were you in Public Service?

A:Off and on – after a point I went out and came back – I was in administrative service for about 35 years. My full public service life – being active in either public service or NGO sector or foreign – amounts to about 50 years.

Q:Could you tell us about your wife?

A:My wife was from a traditional upbringing, a strong Buddhist background; not overzealous. I became a Buddhist when I was about 17 or 18, before I met her. I was not very sure about where I was on heaven and hell and so on – it bothered me, like it does all young people, but it bothered me more so I just moved away into Buddhism and found that more suitable for a Sri Lankan living in a Buddhist country. One didn’t think of it as a foreign thing; it was an indigenous thing and I wanted to get into indigenous society.

My wife was actually related to me; she was a Weerakoon from her mother’s side. So we met and then got a whole lot of connections with the village in Payagala. That’s how I wrote the book on Kalutara. She was not a university person; she was quite clever. She did very well in her matriculation and all the examinations at Holy Family Convent in Bambalapitiya, which was across the road for her. She was very insightful and very good at picking up things; rather impatient with people and found a lot of people gossipy and so on. We were married for 50 years. She passed away in 2007 after our 50th anniversary.

Q:Could you tell us about your son and grandchildren?

A:I have one son, Esala. He came after about five years of marriage. Being the only son, we spent a lot of time with him. He was more attached to the mother than to me, which is probably natural in boys. We spent a lot of time travelling around showing him the country, talking to him and so on
Then I was going out on various trips and when I went to England he came there and went to the London School of Economics and read for an MSc in International Relations.

Q:How did you feel about your son following in your footsteps in a sense, as a diplomat?

A:In a way; not really public service local but public service outside. I thought that was good. In fact there wasn’t anything else particularly that I wanted him to do. Doctoring and lawyering and so on. Doctoring I liked, but lawyering I was nervous about.

He is quite a simple guy. Once I had to move to Ampara on transfer from the Prime Minister’s Office and he had to be left behind here. My wife accompanied me and he was quite lonely with his grandmother. For two years or so he was unhappy so we finally brought him to Ampara but there were no schools there.

Then in Batticaloa, he went to St. Michael’s and sat on a bench with small people and got very interested in small people. His friends were the farmer’s son, carpenter’s son, rest-house keeper’s son and so on. He began to attune himself to that kind of life. He didn’t go much for the social thing. He didn’t drink or smoke but was quite interested in people.

He went to the Vidyalakara University in Kelaniya by bus. We never gave him a car to travel; he went by bus or someone took him to school if it was close by. I think he was very happy with that. He gets on very well with people, particularly small people.
Q:Moving on to your career, how did it feel to work with so many leaders of this country?

A:At the beginning it was a challenge; you couldn’t relax, they were very prompt and demanding about things, particularly Mr. Bandaranaike. Sir John Kotelawela, who I started with, was quite amiable. Mr. Bandaranaike was quite firm and demanding; he wanted everything very well done and top class and so on Dudley Senanayake was quite a nice guy; he dealt with me very gently. He was old school. We played cricket together at S. Thomas’ and we used to play golf together. Premadasa was also very fond of me so he was also okay; quite a hard taskmaster, but never hard with me. He knew that I could deliver and he allowed me to do it. He often praised me and never found fault with me and he used to hold me up as an example to others and so on.

In 1983, when the racial issue took place, I was a permanent secretary of government in J.R. Jayewardene’s time. He felt that I could handle this job of looking after refugees and essential services. There hadn’t been a Commissioner of Essential Services earlier so he had a special Gazette notification in which he gave me a whole lot of powers; enormous powers dealing with acquisition of property and land and even people. He said I could choose anyone I wanted from the government to work in my department.

A new establishment was set up and I pulled in all the old people I knew I could work with and we formed a fairly effective unit to deal with several things; one to make sure that the essential supplies like food, water and power were all being given to all people. The other issue was dealing those affected; numbering over 150,000 after the ’83 riots. They were mostly Tamil people whose houses were burnt, family members killed and so on. They all flocked into churches, kovils and schools

We commandeered some schools and put them on holiday and Ratmalana Airport was taken over. We looked after the affected people for about two to three months, until they began to go back. I got a couple of ships, local planes and trains, all geared to send them back. The operation took about a year to complete, after which I went off.

I was getting a bit tired of work here and I had a good offer from London to be Secretary General of an international organisation, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which ran family planning associations around the world. I knew a little about it because I had been interested in sociology, family and women’s rights and so on and this was an organisation which could give me that opportunity.

I went and worked there for five years; it was a five year contract. It was big job and well paid.

This was from 1984 to 1989 and then I decided to come back since I did not want any more contracts there. Upon my return, Premadasa appointed me as Chief Executive and Chairman of Air Lanka. I knew absolutely nothing about planes – except for having sat in one – and I became Chairman of an airline.

I learnt a lot in one year; went to the various offices abroad, had links with other airlines and learnt about how airlines are run and managed. I was also Chief Executive which meant I had to really be hands-on, unlike chairmen of today who are chairman only on boards. The chief executive had gone off and I had to do that too.

Having done that for a year, Premadasa then wanted me in his office as a Presidential Advisor on International Relations. We had got into a really serious position about our human rights record.

Everybody was accusing Sri Lanka then of having killed off the JVP. Thousands had died and lots of human rights violations were talked about. My job was to ease the pain and try and relieve it to some extent.

There were various things I did; invited people in, got them taken around and showed them what was happening, why it had happened and how it had happened. We also relaxed some Emergency regulations. I think that was quite effective in relaxing the whole tightness of the government holding, because by then the problem had been resolved. Wijeweera was dead and there was no reason for all that censorship and security and so on. Premadasa then had a fairly good opportunity for more development work.

Q:Are you helping the present Government on this score as well?

A:I have some concerns. New people have new ways of dealing with it. My concern is that we have been alienating a lot of people, quite unnecessarily. I think the alienation has been really too much.

When you are in a situation that you cannot defend totally – some are indefensible situations – you cannot ride the high horse and say this did not happen or that did not happen. You have to make some admissions of guilt and some admissions of necessity and then try and let the other party know that they too might have faced those situations and they have to get over it that way since there is no other way. That might win you some kind of friendship. But we’ve been very strong at alienation. I find that quite a different way of dealing with problems.

We should have been far more conciliatory, far more concerned about the total effect. The total effect is not good if you have the EU stopping your exports of garments and aid being cut off and so on.

Q:Did you think you would see peace dawn in your lifetime?

A:Yes. I was working very actively towards peace. But the peace I was trying to deal with was a different kind of peace to eliminating the enemy. Mine was to try and bring the enemy into your fold so that there are no enemies. But it requires concessions on your part.

My whole approach to this problem was that there were many things that we hadn’t done as governments. We had let down a considerable part of the minority by not doing that; and by knocking off the other side, you can’t solve the problem. I have a feeling that that is why one has to be so guarded now; that’s why the Emergency goes on, security goes on and people are very scared.

Though the war has ended in that sense, the peace has not begun. The real peace has not been won. And that’s a missed opportunity. I think that’s unfair by so many people. People on this side seem to be alright but people on the northern side seem to be very troubled, to say the least. If you’ve sent about one-and-a-half of your 20 million people abroad, something’s not good, not quite right.

Q:You just published your book ‘Kalutara: An Odyssey’. Any more books in the pipeline?

A:Yes, I think so – if I live! I’m not going to do anymore district related books. This was thoroughly enjoyable. It’s an example of a book which should be written about most districts. This is not an official government manual of the district. This is a personal but objective view of the good and the bad and the positive and the negative.

The trouble with government publications is that they seem to only look at the golden side; but life is not all golden, there are also bad portions and gray days… like rain and sun. This deals with that too. This says ‘here is the promise,’ but for example it also speaks of the need for credit in the village.

Credit is an absolutely vital need in the village. But there are no credit institutions which would cater to those needs of the people. There are huge credit needs – for funerals, weddings, all the really personal things. Credit to set up an industry and all that is one thing, but how do you deal with these?

I found out that what they do is go to the money lenders – I call them loan sharks. They are sharks; they lend you money at very exorbitant rates of interest. You can get Rs. 1,000 in the morning and pay Rs. 1,100 in the evening. It’s ridiculous. These guys who get into loan sharks’ arrangements either default or keep asking for more loans and then they build up enormous loans.

Say you want to send a child on a foreign job – even a housemaid doesn’t go free. You need to get the equipment, the clothes and to attend to other things. How do you get the money? They sell land and so on. There is a high level of indebtedness. This personal indebtedness of individual families is not being met any institution. It must be a very extraordinary institution to do that, but it’s a very big need. I talk about those things in this book.

You have people’s banks and savings banks all over the place, that’s true. But they are mainly dealing with foreign remittances and so on. But there are typical needs of people for day to day living which are not being met.

Q:Have you started on another book?

A:I have an idea for two books. The first will be on my assessment and my understanding of how we got into the ethnic problem, how we got out or thought we got out and what the future of the Sri Lankan nation looks like. How do you best give expression to the potential of the Sri Lankan people?

The potential is there in all the various and diverse sectors – whether you are Christian or Buddhist or Muslim or whether you’re Hindu or Sinhalese or Tamil or whatever, how do they all try and get together as a real nation? Not a nation of one kind; not a homogeneous nation, but a heterogeneous nation. Homogeneous nations are easy, but I don’t think they can be done, unless at very great cost.

But how do you devise the mechanisms, the institutions, the rules, the conventions to keep a mixed society going? I want to examine that and the political leadership of the various people whom I’ve worked with at different times and how leaders – from Bandaranaike to maybe even Rajapaksa – have faced this issue.

My second book is fiction, a fictional account of a person who looks like me, born like me, bred like me, came up like me… but it’s fiction. In fiction you can say things that you can’t say in real life.

Q:Could you describe a day in your life today?

A:I wake up at about 6 a.m.; I don’t sleep very much now. Almost the first thing I do – after my cup of tea and so on – is read either a magazine, either The Economist or a book. There’s always a book going.

I’m reading three books at the moment. I’m reading a book called The Atlantic by Simon Winchester. Then I just finished Michelle de Kretser’s novel The Lost Dog. I’m also reading From Heaven Lake by Vikram Seth. I also finished Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns. Books have been a big part of my life since I was very young; my mother used to say I was reading and spoiling my eyes!

I’m very computer literate. I love machines. I just got one of these new phones and I can manage it after three or four days. It’s quite complicated but I am going to master it. In the book, I even did the indexing.

Usually people write a book and give it to the publisher to do all that; but I did the pictures, the captions, the index and all that. I did it in Microsoft Word and then they said they had changed the setting to InDesign. When you do it in Word and try to change it to InDesign, you find the pages are wrong. Then I learnt how to do it in InDesign. I found it interesting – learning something new.

Around breakfast time, I walk around the house a little – I don’t go for walks anymore. I used to be very much a sportsman; I had colours in cricket, football, athletics, tennis, swimming… all kinds of things. And I took up golf later.

I find it interesting to spend time going for meetings, discussions, meeting people; I telephone a lot, email, write. I am in contact with a lot of friends around the world. Family I have only one son so there isn’t too much. But I know Skype and I’m on Facebook! I find it very exciting and the day passes before you even know it.

I also travel on the weekends to my village, Payagala. I have a little land there, about two acres, and two houses – an old house and a new house my wife and I built – and a little paddy field.

There are problems with the paddy field, water logging and so on, and I learnt a lot about paddy through that field. I talk to village people and listen to their problems so I know a lot about what they need. Everybody needs something. I get a lot of callers, mostly for jobs, asking me to speak to so and so; I say, ‘I will try and help, put my name as a referee!’

Q:Do you dine out and where do you enjoy going?

A:I like the Indian restaurant at Cinnamon Grand, Chutneys. Of all, I prefer having lunch at the Galle Face Verandah. I like to sit there.

Q:How will you celebrate your 80th birthday, which falls today (Wednesday)?

A:I’m having 80 friends coming for dinner at the Galle Face Hotel, which is a special place for me. I was married there and we celebrated our 50th anniversary there. I have most of my little dos there. I like the spaciousness, ambience and old-fashioned nature of the place. Everybody is very kind to me there.

The birthday is not a celebration… I find that after my wife passed away, it doesn’t feel like a big celebration. I don’t think I can celebrate in that sense, jumping up for joy, when you have lost your partner for so long who has been so loyal and affectionate… I feel a sense of great sadness.

The occasion is a sober thank you. I want to thank everybody who comes for all the generous support throughout the years. I couldn’t have achieved what I have without the support of friends, relations, associates, lovely colleagues… all supportive, helpful and very loyal over many years. I have people from Ampara who still want to give me things. I want to thank everybody for that.

I don’t think I’ve yet reached that final stage that Shakespeare talked about in The Seven Ages of Man – the second childishness and mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. I think I’m not there yet – don’t know how many more. You never know these things.

But then, what do I do with the rest of it? I’m very happy where I am. It’s a rich period of one’s life when you don’t have too many problems to worry about. You have a certain loneliness but you also have a certain freedom as a result of that loneliness, doing what you want.

I thought maybe I should write – you can’t do much, but you can write and speak – about the future that really is the ideal of my future. This future ideal comes from two things that I’ve kept very close to my heart.

One was what Bandaranaike said in 1948, about what the new nation needs – freedom from disease, freedom from ignorance, freedom from want and freedom from fear. I think those four freedoms – I’ve echoed them over and over again – are a wonderful ideal to work towards for everybody, not for some. Some can always have that.

The other thought is that wonderful thought of Rabindranath Tagore:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up
into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason
has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

I think that might be a suitable kind of objective for the remaining years.

COURTESY:FINANCIAL TIMES

DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at dbsjeyaraj@yahoo.com

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83 Comments

  1. Expected something written by you Mr.Jeyaraj. I was disappointed slightly at first to see this but upon reading the interview found it interesting reading

  2. Happy Birthday, Brad.

    One of the few men around of whom one can say, without the fear of contradiction, he has hardly any enemies. Brad brings the term affable a whole new meaning.

    ISS

  3. Bradman Weerakoon and the late DBIPS Siriwardena were two great civil servants of the old school. I have had the privilege of serving under both

  4. I used to work at Shaw,Wallace and Hedges when Mr. Weerakoon was plantations secy. Our buildings were near each other in Colpetty. One day I tripped in front of his car and fell while going to the bus. He stopped the car and got out and immediately attended to me in a concerned fatherly kind of way. He insisted on dropping me at home in Havelock town in his car. Will never forget that incident

  5. I worked under Mr.Weerakoon when he was GA in Ampara now Digamadulla. Actually he had been sent on punishment transfer by Mrs. Bandaranaike because he was seen as a UNP man when Dudley was PM

  6. Aiyo Jeyaraj, this is all very interesting but we want to read what you write no?Aney!

    Aney Nelum, read this and see will you?…………DBSJ

  7. Nice to read something about the old gentleman. He belongs to a different era when public service was really a service and people who were in the public service thought that it was an honor to serve. He and my late father were contemporaries and my dad always spoke very highly of him.

    They don’t make them like him anymore.

    Have a happy birthday sir.

  8. Here is a man who has had a SAY in our contemporary history. I wonder if he is proud of what he sees ?

    What he thinks he could have done different ?

  9. Thank You DBS Anna for the post. Throughly enjoyed the flow of this interview – made the morning a great one. A grt Diplomat for sure….

  10. Mr. Bradmon is a thorough Gentleman, never a racist or discriminates against anybody, that is probabaly a reason that still he is enjoying his life in peace- blessing from God Almighty.

  11. Bradman Weerakoon , DMA Speldwind,and the late DBIPS Siriwardena were three great civil servants of the old school. My father whi was a Government Sevant used to frequently speak about his association with these Gentleman to the fingertips.

    Their devoution to duty will never be appreciated nowadays except the Old School types.

    Mr. Bradmon is a thorough Gentleman, never racial nor discriminatory and that may be the reason that he still enjoys his life in peace – God Bless You Sir.

  12. My father was very much closed to him when he was the GA in Galle. He used to tell us how disciplined his boss was. Great stuff to bring along with our life. Happy Birthday sir, long life with the blessings of noble triple gems. Many thanks to Jeyaraj for writing on this great civil servant.

    DBSJ RESPONDS:

    Thank you but the interview was by Marianne David of “Financial Times”

  13. First and foremost I would like to convey my kind blessings and best wishes to Mr.Bradman Weerakoon for his 80th Birthday.

    Comparison with many Civil servants and officials he is highly regarded and true Gentleman especially in Srilankan society.

    Though he has served many years under various type of State leaders, he was not politicised and corrupted like many other.

    May the blessings of the Triple Gem be with him always!

    With Metta, – Ven. Horowpothane Sathindriya Thera.

  14. I am really happy to see this article. Ehat he sya is the full truth. Good egsample for to days public servants. Essal Hamal Who was in the Army and my self was very good freinds in the university of Keleniya. He came to uni by bus and he was very simple ugy and very good person. To day I in Middle east holding a management Possition,Hemal in NewZeland and he is in Londan. This how life change . I wish him as sincier freind of mine.

  15. happy birthday sir you are a gentleman unfortunately we cant find today. i like to know what your opinion about 83 troubles which the jayawardena govt instigated.

  16. Mr.Jeyaraj, What a nice Interview! Extremely Interesting! To my mind, Mr.Bradman Weerakoon is a genius of exemplary character. I wish him at his 80th Birthday…. “Theruwan Saranai !!!” Ranjith Madurapperuma – Australia

  17. Excelenat what a piece of true journalism,as i m a younger i ve heard about the name,never no much about this gentleman,at least its good to know him while he is active in day to day life.even this old gig in face book and twitter well we can share withhim.
    Good on you son happy bday we salute and pray for you.to show his fairness one comments that was a punishment trnansfer,but he even not mention at all.DBS we are in your class,the life is lot to learn.translate it and make some publications ,take them to right path.there is no room for youngsters to know about lot of back home true honest leaders we had.small interview but its telling a lot

  18. dear mr jayaraj
    i would like to contact mr weerakoon since he was with my father at guru. my father died when i was 14 years and i would like to ask him things about my father
    would you be so kind to help me if you want to check with mr weerakon tell him my fahters name – G.C. M. GOONESKERA
    thanks a lot

  19. To all those who wrote that there wont be Bradmans anymore is not true./ Not to take away any laurels from the fine gentleman he is, but there is always a Bradman in you, Always a mahatma gandhi in you, Always some Christ and Lord Budha in you. Have faith in the Human race. There are Giants in human-ness amongst us as much as villians.

    Just see the good in everyone and behave in a gentlemanly way towards everyone big or small.
    cheers. A good interview….

  20. ” Q:Did you think you would see peace dawn in your lifetime?

    A:Yes. I was working very actively towards peace. But the peace I was trying to deal with was a different kind of peace to eliminating the enemy. Mine was to try and bring the enemy into your fold so that there are no enemies. But it requires concessions on your part.

    My whole approach to this problem was that there were many things that we hadn’t done as governments. We had let down a considerable part of the minority by not doing that; and by knocking off the other side, you can’t solve the problem. I have a feeling that that is why one has to be so guarded now; that’s why the Emergency goes on, security goes on and people are very scared.

    Though the war has ended in that sense, the peace has not begun. The real peace has not been won. And that’s a missed opportunity. I think that’s unfair by so many people. People on this side seem to be alright but people on the northern side seem to be very troubled, to say the least. If you’ve sent about one-and-a-half of your 20 million people abroad, something’s not good, not quite right.”

    _______________________________________

    The above answer by Bradman Weerakon has to be printed and distributed to many who blindly refuse ‘there is no problem here’.

    My respect for a seasoned intellectual like Bradman Weerakon has doubled just by the way he answered the question.

    It is people like these we need as advisors and leaders of Sri Lanka. Not the ones who proaclaim ” there is no issue here”.

    Thank you DBS Jeyaraj for a timely article with a person of high caliber. I knew Bradman was a highly educated and deep thinking intellectual. But, I never knew he believed so much in ‘accommodating and treating all citizens equally’.

    Nice comments Ranjan. It is always a pleasure to exchange opinion with people like you.

    Happy Birthday to a good public servant – Mr. Bradman Weerakon. God bless you.

  21. Bradmon is one of those who had the gift of extraordinary diplomatic skills and the ability to get along with “small people” as well as affluent people. In 1973, my first day in Ampara while I was walking along on the road from Digawawa dam to the Eragama tile factory with my small suit case (with clothes) and a pillow in hand to accept my first appointment, I met a poor farmer who travelled with me in the same bus ( Ampara – Akkaraipattu) going home to Digawapiya.

    As we walked the farmer was inquiring about me and when he got to know about my hesitance to leave Colombo, he started motivating me by talking about “Bradmon Deviyo,” who also came from Colombo, who had been the Government Agent (GA). The farmer had a lot of good things to talk about Bradman Weerakoon, with lot of pride and reverence. I was surprised to hear how much the GA was closer to the poor people, who paid great attention to their needs and the impressions he had created in their lives.

    My childhood ambition was to join the Sri Lanka Administrative Service and this humble experience, inspired and solidified my desire to serve the people. After few years, I joined the Sri Lanka Administration Service with Mr. Lalith Weeratunga. I observed, Lalith very closely and predicted that one day he will be the next Mr. Bradmon Weerakoon. There are many Sri Lanka Administrative Service people who are extremely dedicated, and working on very trying conditions. We need to recognize and appreciate them. Happy Birthday Dear Mr. Weerakoon!

  22. One of the few men around of whom one can say, without the fear of contradiction, he has hardly any enemies.

    Tell that to Chandrika.

  23. Many thanks to Mr Jeyaraj for bring this sort of articles while these great people are alive. I am sure Mr Weerakoon would be glad to know how much he has been appreciated.
    I left Jaffna 17 years back (35 now) and never read any English medium papers back then. However, I remember the name Weerakoon as an ‘important person’ and a ‘good person’. I guess what I am trying to say is, even for a less than regular Joe, he was known and known as a good person.
    His life has been an example of how to live and how to grow old. His comments about InDesign and the smart phone shows how active his mind is! My 55 years old in-law is still struggling with MS word and Excel 🙂

    Few things bothered me.
    Firstly, why did he really change his religion? Personally, I believe in god but I don nott believe in a religion. There could be many reasons to change religion such as:
    – better opportunity
    – survival
    – attracted by teaching
    – going through depression and finding something to hold on to

    I only hope that he did not change his religion for the first reason.

    Second thing is the use of ‘Small people’ for farmers and carpenters. Language has never been my cup of tea but is it really okay to call them small people? If it is yes then, well, I learnt something new here as usual. If not then how could he?

    Thirdly, the 83 riots. It is widely known that the riots was happened with J.R. Jayewardene’s blessings. Then why did he appoint such a genuine, non- racist and able person to look after refugees and essential services? Also gave all the resources! Is it because he underestimated the impact of the riots initially?

    Mr Weerakoon said that ‘Wijeweera was dead and there was no reason for all that censorship and security and so on’. Isn’t it sad how the same theory is not applicable now only because it is Tamils this time?

    Finally, happy birthday Mr Weerakoon. Wish you many more years of active life! SL needs to hear voice of your kind of people. I wish I could personally meet and get blessings from you one day!

  24. It appears that Mr Weerakoon is a very talented person. But in his interview, he has quoted poor people as small people. This reflects the upper class mentality of Srilankans both Sinhalese and Tamils. Everyone should accept that poor people are not small people but they are fellow unfortunate Srilankans. This type of attitude in Srilankan society has created JVP and LTTE.

  25. It was interesting to note that bradman seems to think that the rajapakshes have made a mistake in the way they handled the war and its aftermath. However iam wondering whether his judgement is clouded by the fact that he is a UNP’er. I assume so because he has served mostly UNP leaders.I may be wrong about that, i don’t know whether as a public servant he is neutral.Only time will tell whether his judgement is right. A man of his calibre and experience cannot be taken lightly when he says something.

  26. To: Bradman
    Happy birthday you Sir.

    To the readers

    If we read carefully the interview, it indicates Baradman was and continue to be on a misson of showing compassion, equally to every Srlankan ( fr that matter all humanbeings). He has not looked for any accolades or rewards but continue to provide the compassion to all. As well sais by Dilshan F, everyone of us have his qulaities but we have no courage to exercise it.
    Especially Srilankan leaders of the past and current didnot have the courage to generate such qualities in them. This is the biggest problem and may continue to haunt the Srilanka

  27. 30. Kumar
    I may be wrong, but I think when he uses the term “small people” he is using a direct translation from the Sinhalese term “podi minnissu” which refers to “common men”. The reverse, “loku minnissu” or “big people” refers to the so called “important” people or the movers and shakers.

  28. Happy birthday to Bradmon. I thought he was older than 80 because I remember him as GA, Galle when I was little boy in school. So obviously he was very young when he became the GA of Galle. He must be so sad to see how corrupt the SL society now, but he doesn’t want to go there
    for obvious reasons. There were lot of very honest gentlemen of his vintage, but I wonder any new ones are replacing them.

  29. Contributions 29 and 30. The term “small people” was used by my father who had a great passion for the common people. Ranjan from Toronto at 33 is correct. It means poorer people or under privileged people. It was not said to demean the other person. The term is used usually by people of an earlier era.

  30. #3o Kumar and #29 Devan K,

    I think ‘small people’ is a literal translation of the Sinhala ‘Podi minissu’ which metaphorically means the common people. Most Sinhalese will not take offence at such an remark. Infact the term ‘Loku minissu’ meaning big people is used as a sarcastic term against arrogant people..

  31. A nice article about an excellent Srilankan. We need people like Bradman in fron seat, if we really want to come out of current trouble, rather than so called intelectuals likes of Dayan etc

  32. 33.Ranjan thanks for correcting
    Its well said,see how this language barrier can make a lot of missinerpretation.but still wonder how many people are out there to pick.its shows how sad of our nation.we never satisfied nor appriciate,
    Also 29] devank its nice to see your research in religion but this is his personel issue.even for people like mr.weerakon he belive him self.give him a respect and honour.

  33. Sir DBJ could you pls sometime in future could you bring Sir John Kottalawela.like Brad when i was small i heard about him .but damn not a lot as few words he is a good leader.good leading in what pls alight something if any old gig out there with the plateform of DBJ salute everyone Sir

  34. Dear Mr. Jeyaraj,

    First of all i want to thank you for posting this interview online. so we all living around the world can read.
    Mr.Weerakoon has done a great service to Sri Lanka.

    I have a one question, will you ever write about another great person still living. Dr. Mervyn Silva. i think he is
    great because he tied a public servant to a tree.

  35. A most outstanding article by a brilliant journalist.Marianne

    David has brought out the essential humaneness and

    intellect of Bradman Weerakoon-a most exemplary public

    servant.Thank you DBSJ for sharing this work with us.

  36. Small People, Big people

    Sri lankan English has its own characteristics. For example:

    Very hot, no ?
    Very cold, no ?
    What men ?
    What child ?.
    I will go and come.
    Take and go.
    Take and eat.
    Aney sin aney.
    Aiyo what Machan ?.
    Almirah top bottom have match box.

    And the list goes on.

    Interesting, No ?

  37. DBS ! you are writing of all the proud citizen of srilanka ! when are you going to write about Hon Dr, Mervin Silva !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  38. ARUN

    You appear to be an upstart of a “podiyan” without any depth or reading. Just because DBS allows idiots like you freedom to post on his blog smart alecs like to come here and write poppycock taunting and insulting him

    When you try to insult DBS with stupid inanities and questions like “when are you going to write about…….? you are actually insulting long standing readers like me who have been reading his delightful articles from his “behind the cadjan curtain” column in “The Island “ of early eighties

    For your information DBS wrote a scintillating ,had-hitting piece about Mervyn many years ago in “The Morning Leader”. When I first read it I was puzzled as to why DBS was writing about this buffoon and joker. Mervyn had not acquired the notorious reputation he now has. But it is to the credit of DBS that he identified the negative potential of Mervyn and the controversial role he was to play in lanka politics then itself and write

    When DB Wijetunge died in 2008 DBS wrote what I think was one of the best obit –articles about him

    So Arun go and read them nefore asking stupid questions. You must learn to show basic courtesy to a veteran writer like DBS by not posting inanities here

    Go and read what DBS has written you fool before asking him when are going to write?

  39. Words of wisdom from a distinguished Thomian academic , an officer and gentleman …………
    Esto Perpetua ! ! !

  40. I am glad we have readers like Boteju around. One should not glorify drug-traffckers, abductors, killers and gangsters simply because opportunists have chosen to use them for their ulterior motives – by undermining the system and contaminating the legislature and once-hallowed Ministries with vermin and the human plague. History has its own way of remembering garbage within it.

    In the Churchillian analogue, posterity will condemn in due time the leadership that enabled such gutter-snipes to reach the portals of power in that which fraudulently calls itself a democracy.

    ISS

  41. God sake let them learn,,,,,,,,,,,,its long way to go ,unfortunatley,its a sad of our state.this is not him but this is how our heroes and leadres lead us.

  42. Dear DBJ i m addicted your blog,keep checking whats coming up and so on,we are curious to know about your self as well.this is your blog and we acn come freely and make some ludicrus comments as well.so pls just a few words about your self and how many nick names you have for various news papers.so we can work out your personal intention.sorry if i do so but let us know anyway.

    I write under my own name………..DBSJ

  43. Belated Happy birthday Mr. Bradman Weerakoon.

    We need more of you at this present time in our country.

    Wishing you a very peaceful and long er life.

    Take care.

  44. Dear DBSJ,

    If you have the time please write an article about Mr. Charlie Mahendran, another distinguished public servant. These type of people need to be honoured whilst they are still alive..

  45. Who is the ninth prime minister? The list has only eight names. Did he by any chance work under Chandrika? He resigned when she became the president. Did he really serve under her? It is strange why he resigned when Chandrika became the president in spite of the fact that he served under her father and mother!!!

    Oops!Dr.W.Dahanayake (1959-60) was left out.Sorry………….DBSJ

  46. It is OK DBS. I found the answer on the Internet. This shows the levels that Sri Lankan journalism has descended to these days. Our kids have no knowledge of history! They should do better than this at least with the help of the Internet.

  47. Enjoyed this interview thoroughly.

    DBS,why dont you focus more on these kinds of people as opposed to those dull,boring, hypocrites called politicians?

  48. I concur with comment no 41 by Alan who said that the journalist who did the interview Marianne David -” has brought out the essential humaneness and intellect of Bradman Weerakoon-a most exemplary public servant”.

    I felt that the interview simply flowed smoothly and was eminently readable.

    Though I knew bradman slightly this interview revealed so many facets of his illustrious life

  49. For me, it appears that Bradman has avoided talking at length about his experiences with the 9 PM’s he served with. This would have been the best insight to these Prime Ministers. May be even at Bradman’s age, he is worried about repercussions! In contrast, I can remember memories of N.U.Jayawardana(former governor of Central Bank SL) on Sir john Kothalawala and NU did not pull any punches.

  50. I dont think the primary objective of this interview was to elicit detailed viewpoints about the Prime Ministers under whom Bradman Weerakoon served.

    The interview conducted very decently was to celebrate the eightieth birthday of one of our distinguished public servants rather than get him to make “bold” titillating utterances about these heads of state

    Besides Bradman has written his memoirs “Rendering unto Caesar” which provides insight into the Prime ministers and Presidents he had worked with.

    Bradman and NU are totally different in personality, style and general approach towards life. One cant imagine Bradman hitting below the belt like NU.Also unlike NU who had a “battle” with Sir John Bradman bore no grudges against him

  51. I think Don is wrong in comparing NU J with Bradman. They are like chalk and cheese and Bradman is a first class gentleman not a third class guy like NU J

  52. Events of 1961 and 1972, as viewed by a Sinhalese Official
    [source: Bradman Weerakoon: Rendering Unto Caesar, 2004]
    (Notei: The BC Pact referred to by the author, stands for Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact made by FP leader Chelvanayakam in late 1950s, with Sirimavo’s husband Solomon Bandaranaike. The author also misidentifies the year of FP’s satyagraha campaign as 1962. It happened in 1961. The army’s coup d’etat occurred in January 1962)
    During Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s First tenure of office

    “The Federal Party, which had voted to defeat Dudley’s minority UNP government at the vote on the ‘Throne speech’ in March 1960 gave its support to Sirimavo Bandaranaike and the SLFP in the July elections. In return the Federal Party expected some movement on the proposals made in the BC Pact which had been further elaborated in its statement of minimum demands which had been put both to the UNP and the SLFP.

    These referred to the four basic objectives of regional autonomy for the Northern and Eastern Provinces, suspension of state-aided colonization, Tamil language rights especially regarding entry of Tamil speaking persons to government service and amendments to the Citizenship Act of 1948 which had deprived thousands of up-country Tamils of their right to vote.

    However, Sirimavo’s immediate priority concerns were elsewhere and had more to do with reviving the economy which was in decline. But her economic policies of increasing state control over the commanding heights of the economy while providing relief to the majority was of little help to the Tamils as the industrial enterprises were located mainly in the South and the preference for Sinhala language proficiency in the public sector did not enable the Tamils to reap any benefit from this policy.

    The other strand of her policy of exercising more state control over education through the virtual take-over of the assisted schools also indirectly created resentment among the Tamil middle classes and the Tamil Christians. Education in the Jaffna peninsula – the heartland of the Tamils – was largely in the hands of missionary schools. Sirimavo although educated throughout her school year in mission schools – Ferguson College in Ratnapura in the primary classes and then St. Bridget’s College, Colombo, a leading Roman Catholic institution, was to pursue a determined policy of bringing the assisted schools under state control and eliminating the difference which existed between the privileged and the well-endowed mission schools and the state-run schools. Some of the leading schools which had opted to remain outside the state system and be fee levying private institutions, continued but with the changes introduced by Sirimavo a large number of important schools, including her own St.Bridget’s lost the grant-in-aid from the state which had enabled them to run without charging fees. These in future were to be under the direct control of the state as regards recruitment of staff and the content of the education they imparted.

    Her education policy, which was seen as part of the socialist orientation of the government was much resented by powerful elites, especially in the city of Colombo and among the higher bureaucracy, which had largely been recruited from the leading public schools. It was to trigger one of the principal challenges Sirimavo had to face, the attempted coup d’etat in January 1962.

    The state take-over of assisted schools meant that state patronage and financial assistance, extended from colonial times to schools run by religious denominations, would cease. This followed earlier moves to curtail the visas of the nursing nuns of the Catholic orders who had for many years been the mainstay of the country’s health institutions, particularly in the cities.

    The prime minister’s permanent secretary in the Ministry of Defence and External Affairs (NQ) Neil Quintus Dias was well-known for his strong stand against ‘Catholic Action’ as it was then called. His actions in regard to the defence establishment and police were also being watched by the upper echelons of the three Forces which were then largely manned by non-Buddhist officers who had had their secondary education mainly in the denominational schools.

    As these actions of the government continued, and there rose a need to lobby against the schools’ take-over, an important religious dignitary, Cardinal Gracias, came over from Bombay, in a hurried visit to talk to the prime minister. Although he was courteously received and given high hospitality, Sirimavo did not retract from the stand she had taken. The Cardinal returned to Bombay with the mission unaccomplished.

    The seeming lack of interest by the administration to the problems of the Tamils, as articulated by the FP and put forward in the Minimum Demands, led to the FP calling for a non-violent hartal at its party convention in Jaffna in January 1962 [sic]. On 20 February 1962 [sic], Chelvanayakam led the satyagraha by lying down on the floor in front of the entrance to the Jaffna kachcheri and blocking entry to it.

    This soon became a mass movement of defiance to government authority and when on April 14 a postal service was inaugurated by the Federal Party, the government moved to declare a state of emergency. The armed forces were sent in, the satyagrahis were dispersed and the Federal Party members were arrested. The satyagraha had collapsed but its echoes and the images of a Sinhalese army in occupation of the ‘Tamil homeland’ began to reverberate and form the genesis of the militant movement which was to emerge later. Brigadier Richard Udugama, later to be Army Commander, was an important figure in the restoration of law and order in the North.” (pp. 106-108)

  53. 62. Granville | Yes I got to concede you got a point there. I forgot the context under which this interview was conducted. I also forgot that NU is his own man while Bradman would be much more accommodating in the true style of civil servants of that era.

    63. Nimal | I do agree with you but I am amused at your calling NU a third class. I don’t know him personally.

  54. 64. panamkottai…Your comment is greatly appreciated. It puts these events into the correct perspective. Very enlighting.

  55. A trail blazer whom other public servants should emulate. So much to learn from him with regard to respecting other peoples opinions.

  56. thanks jey for publishing interview of bradman weerakoon who seems to be an archetype civil servant of yesteryears.even in india we have had many civil servants like him i wish you a happy birthday sir.the reason why i mentioned that there were many civil servants in india like him is becoz after the independence from british countries like india,srilanka,pakistan had idealistic youngsters who wanted to serve the society.they served the society well and we are reaping the benefits of their hardwork now civil services are no longer attractive given the fact that private sector is much more lucrative and they pay very handsomely.with regards to weerakoons concern at money sharks grameen bank in bangladesh has been a pioneer in micro finance and its founder was honoured with nobel prize for peace years back .this type of financing of poor people can be tried in srilanka also which will be very beneficial for the masses.secondly i read a comment of devank this religious issue has been rankling me ever since i became a regular reader of your blog.after reading mr.weerakoons interview i went to wikipedia and read a small introduction about mr.weerakoon where it was mentioned he was son of devout anglicans i dont think he has been the only one i have come across many sinhalese personalities whose parents have been christians and they have been buddhist list reads like mervyn silva(dayan jayatilakes father),swrd bandaranaike,junius richard jayawardene rather it is surprising how these people who had a christians background to survive they had to become buddhist.i happened to read about another talented srilankan tilakratne dilshan who was born as tuwan mohammed had to convert to budhism becoz he was scared that it may be an impediment to his career.i hope jey i have not provided any jarring note rather i am just commenting about the happenings in sinhalese society.i wish bradman weerakoon a happy life once again we need people like him so that srilanka also becomes a more tolerant pluralistic society.i wish our regular commentators of this blog and you jey personally and your family a happy deepavalli.

  57. Sir Bradman is a precious gift to our country.lefted Jaffna when i was 18years old and living outside of the country 23years.I never ever wished to return to my country untill i met that Precious person.There is no words to tell how kind he is..Am so proud to be a Srilankan .He is 80years old man with 20years old activities.No one can take his place.He made me to love my country and people.No one can replace him.He is a Father of our country..Why someone is writing about someone?coz they have seen what that person did to us?Stop asking questions about why he does not write about an other person..Every Srilankan should bow this Precious man..God bless him…Wish you have a long life Sir..

  58. Bradman was singlehandedly responsible for many good things in Sri Lanka. He was a good number 1 public servant.If there were more people like him Sri Lanka should be like Singapore today not a 3rd world shit house.

  59. Thank you David Jeyaraj for placing Marianne’s superbly composed interview on your ‘blog’. I enjoyed so much reading what you all had to say. Feel very humble too for all I was doing throughout, was my duty as a public servant. I got immense pleasure out of each day.of work. What a pleasure it was to see a face light up in delight when one spoke to him or her. And for this pleasure the State paid me too, quite handsomely.
    About my religion and God. Some of you – Dilshan in particular I think had it right. You were all divine. I saw what or who God was in all of humanity.
    About GCM (Gamini or Gamma) Gunasekera of course I knew him in school. I remember him as as very determined, handsome, somewhat proud and a good leader. Sorry I cant reply each of you individually but very grateful for your Birthday wishes.

    DBSJ RESPONDS:

    Thank you Mr.Weerakoon for reading the comments and responding through this post. It was my privilege and pleasure to post the interview on my blog. I am glad you read the comments.Wish you all the best Sir, ……………….DBSJ

  60. poor Sri Lankan’s and their generation lived under so many prime ministers and still no light at the end of the tunnel

  61. Hello Brijesh
    In 1988, I heard, IPKF had told that Jaffna is like small Singapore.
    Who made it to ths worst situatonnow?
    Where is the all hard work gone?
    There is a Hindu song, we sing it at the end of our prayers:
    “Van Muhil Vallathu peika, MalIvalam suraka
    Mannan konmurai arasu seika, kuraivla thuirkal valka, Nanmarai arankal onka,natravam velvi malka, MENMAIKOL saiva neethi villanguka ulakam ellam”.

    All religion says the same thing.
    God bless our country, our people and us.

    I wish Bradman should live many more years with good health and teach people more by many ways,
    Thanks

  62. He seems to be a legend in certain areas. But he doesn’t look like a role model to me as he appears to be overconfident of what he did while we – people of SL realistically couldn’t see anything of that extraordinary he did to change what we went thro’ in his whole service.

  63. Our nation is very special.I can imagine how hard to work with our people??Today we all are giving our comments for all you have done to this country.Easy for us to write this and that..But how many days and nights you have worked to save us alive..Thanks a Lot Sir.we always forget to see the good things.under Sir Bradman”s service only we never seen the bloodbath like last year.Happy that war is over but thanking him that due to his previous gov.service only we are living today.God bless You Sir…

  64. Sorry Chinthaka but I beg to differ.
    Bradman is a role model for younger administrators to emulate. Sri Lanka needs people of his integrity.

  65. He made a very interesting point that instead of eliminating enemy he wanted to get enemy into his fold.

    But in practice what really happening was they were going in to enemy’s fold. That was actually what happened during the CFA of Ranil’s government of which he was a main adviser.

    Being a close associate to seven past leaders he was equally or more responsible for mistakes made by them.

  66. Dear Dbs.Jeyaraj,

    I was writing in the pen name of Tjustice, I am very much addicted to current affaires in srilanka and the plight of the Tamils also found a lot of questions not answered.

    I just comments things in the heat of the argument. I didn’t mean to harm anybody. Can you please kindly remove my comments from your forum, I realized it is dangerous and stupid on my part.

    I appreciate and admire your work, I will keep following you and avoid any adverse comments in the future.

    I trust your professionalism and safety of your readers, also I am not belonging any organization or any group.

    Thank you very much.

    Kind Regards

    DBSJ RESPONDS:

    Posting comments on this site is an individual decision. The forum is open to all and there is no danger to anyone posting comments here.Except for a few most of the comments are under pseudonyms. So unless the commentators reveal details about themselves there is no threat posed

    As for you the comments made by you have evoked a lot of responses and I found you also continuing to engage in the discussion with them

    Continuing to participate on this forum is your decision but I dont think I can delete all your posts. I dont do that normally except for special circumstances.

    Also there have been many other posts related to your posts. So I cannot simply delete your posts and leave the others responding to you or involved in exchanging views with you

    I would personally request you to continue posting here albeit with more restraint and decorum. You can adopt a new pseudonym for these if you wish

    I am intrigued by your sudden transformation. I do hope it is a positive sign

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