When Sri Lanka was blessed with decent politicians



Seeing an old Volkswagen Beetle displayed in one of the automobile showrooms in Riyadh evoked nostalgic memories of my schooldays in Sri Lanka. I was then staying in my father’s shop at Old Moor Street, Colombo. One day we had a highly distinguished visitor; he was accompanied by his private secretary. He told my late father’s partner that he was seeking contributions to buy a car. The visitor was none other than comrade Pieter Keuneman, the MP for Colombo Central, which he represented for a long period of time. After parting with his contribution my late father’s partner requested me to take the visitor to other business places along the street since I knew many of them very well then. I gladly did so because I personally liked Keuneman very much for his sincerity and honesty.

Out of curiosity, I asked Comrade Keunaman what car he would like to buy. His prompt response was ‘Volkswagen Beetle’.Slightly amazed, I asked him; ‘Why not something bigger?’ He replied, ‘Then I will have to come here frequently asking for assistance to buy petrol.’  We had a hearty laugh!

Our visits to various business places in the locality yielded desired results. Comrade Keuneman was very pleased. He would invite me to watch important debates in Parliament.

It is fitting to recall here that it was following Comrade Keuneman’s proposal in June 1948 the first Bribery or Corruption Commission was formed and it was chaired by his father and eminent Justice A.E. Keuneman. This reminds us that, once upon a time, we had honest and decent politicians though they are a rarity nowadays. How much we enjoyed watching parliamentary debates by all the highly qualified MPs arguments in decent language and exemplary behaviour.

I recall that once the late Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike said that she became nervous to see schoolchildren in the gallery due to the foul language used by some of the MPs. She said she herself had been a regular visitor to the gallery when late SWRD was the prime minister. Who can forget the ‘chilli powder attack’ by some MPs , which we all watched live on TV?

S. H. Moulana