Royal People

A dedication to those wonderful people who served Royal Primary School & Royal College, in Sri Lanka, since 1835, and, who will be remembered for their committment, sincerety and unselfishness.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Sir John Kotalawela

General The Rt. Hon. Sir John Lionel Kotelawala CH, KBE, LLD (April 4, 1897 - October 2, 1980) was a Sri Lankan politician, soldier, most notable for serving as the 3rd Prime Minister of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) from 1953 to 1956.

Family and early life
John Kotelawala's father, a police inspector also named John, committed suicide when he was 11. His mother Alice, who was originally a Buddhist converted to Christianity after this. The family was very poor after John Sr's death, but eventually became prosperous. Young John attended Royal College, Colombo but had to leave after he became involved in political activities which led to riots in 1915.

He went on a trip to Europe after leaving school, which was very dangerous because World War I was being fought there. He remained in Europe for five years, spending most of that time in England and France and taking some classes at Cambridge University. After returning to Sri Lanka, he distinguished himself as a soldier and businessman.

Political Career
He entered politics in 1931 and was elected to the State Council. As early as 1915 he had become involved with political leaders such as Don Stephen Senanayake and his brother F.R. Senanayake, who was married to Kotelawala's mother's sister. They criticized many of the actions of the British colonial officials.

By the time Sri Lanka received dominion status in 1948, Kotelawala had become an important member of Senanayake's United National Party and he served in several important positions during Senanayake's time as prime minister (1948-1952) including as minister of communication, minister of public works and minister of transport. When the prime minister died in 1952, many expected Kotelawala to succeed him, but his son Dudley Senanayake was chosen instead. By the following year, Kotelawala was the speaker of Parliament, and was chosen as prime minister when Dudley resigned after the Hartal 1953.

As prime minister, Kotelawala led Sri Lanka into the United Nations and contributed to Sri Lanka's expanding foreign relations, particularly with other Asian countries. In 1955 he led his country's delegation to the Bandung conference in Indonesia, where his performance earned him the epithet Bandung Booruwa (Bandung Donkey) in Sri Lanka. At the conference he stated his belief that fashionably Marxist anti-colonialist rhetoric ignored Communist atrocities.

The statue of General Sir John Kotelawala at the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence UniversityHis government had to deal with economic problems and ethnic conflicts, and he and his party were defeated in the 1956 elections by a group of more radically chauvinistic Sinhalese parties under the leadership of Solomon Bandaranaike. Kotelawala retired from politics shortly after his electoral defeat and lived for several years in Kent, United Kingdom. He eventually returned to Sri Lanka and died at his home in Kandawala.

Kotelawala was known as an aggressive and outspoken man who loved sports, particularly horseback riding and cricket and, particularly as a young man, often got into physical fights when he was insulted. As an officer of the Ceylon Light Infantry from 1922 to 1945, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and a member of the Ceylon War Cabinet during World War II he was a strong supporter of the military and was promoted to the rank of general on the night before his death by president Junius Jayawardene in recognition for his service of the country's military when he gifted his home Kandawala to the government to establish a defence academy.

In 1985 a national defence academy for training of Officers for all three Defence services in Sri Lankan was established in his home , which he gifted. It has been named General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University (KDA) is a University offering Undergraduate and post graduate study courses to officers of Defence services in Sri Lanka in various disciplines.

Though he strongly criticized the racist attitudes of many westerners, particularly British colonial officials, he did support the continued military presence of the British in Ceylon. He advocated the adoption of some western customs in Sri Lanka. He was knighted and received several other honors from the Ceylonese monarch.

He was made a knight in the Order of the British Empire and admitted to the Order of the Companions of Honour for his services to the government of Ceylon.
He was made a member of the Privy Council.
In 1980 the Government of Sri Lanka promoted him to the honorary rank of General.


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