Thursday, November 23, 2023

Kithalangamuwe Marthelis and Professor Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri

Professor Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri who is a Senior Lecturer of the Department of History at the University of Colombo has written a book titled " Kithalangamuwe Marthelis". Marthelis is an old SLSSP member who used to work with Dr. N. M. Perera - a Marxist Politician and the Leader of the LSSP. 

Recently I had the privilege of meeting with Professor Nirmal and I posed a question to him about Marthelis. In my opinion, Marthelis was an insignificant element in the SLSSP that was exploited by its leaders. People like Marthelis believed in a socialist utopia and they were living with false hope. According to Prof. Nirmal, the SLSSP leaders gave certain recognition and empowerment to people like Marthelis. However, it did not help them in the long term and it did not uplift their living standards. Marthelis was a poor peasant then and he is a poor peasant now. Nothing changed in between. 

Dr. N.M Perera, Pieter Keuneman, Colvin R. de Silva, Philip Gunawardena, etc. were honest politicians but they made several irreversible blunders.  For instance, Philip Gunawardena's  Paddy Lands Act created huge tensions and rivalry between paddy land owners and farmers. Pieter Keuneman's Rent Act, No. 7 of 1972 limited the ownership of houses and prevented landlords from giving houses for rent. It created massive housing problems. 

According to Professor Harold Laski, Dr. N. M. Perera was an intellectual. But Dr. N. M. Perera was not pragmatic, his vision was limited. He tried to understand everything under Marxist theory. He did not see things in global terms. Indeed he was not a visionary like Lee Kuan Yew. His economic interventions were limited to Sri Lanka. Moreover, it was disastrous in the long term. He perceived businessmen/industrialists as an exploiting class and instigated strikes against them. Hence he enfeebled the production and distribution of wealth crippling the local economy. When the Colombo harbor was at its peak he jeopardized its services by calling strikes. Then the Singapore Harbour grabbed our place and developed their harbour earning foreign currency. I think people like N. M. Perera too are responsible for the present economic crisis.

Ruwan M Jayatunge M.D. 

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