Sittampalam Family History
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An article with more information about the government of Ceylon/Sri
Lanka can be found on this website,
which also mentions C. Sittampalam's role in the government.
Extract from 'Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) House of Representatives
Official Report', Volume 55, No. 14, Tuesday, 11th February, 1964
[daily record of the proceedings of the Parliament of Ceylon]
This document (requires a PDF reader), shows the election results for the 1947 election in which C. Sittampalam stood.
VOTE OF CONDOLENCE: MR. C. SITTAMPALAM
Mr. Speaker, with your permission I wish to refer to the passing away of Mr. C. Sittampalam, who was a Member of this House. He contested the Mannar seat successfully in 1947 as an Independent candidate and joined the Cabinet a few months after the elections as Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. He also functioned as the Minister of Industries, Industrial Research and Fisheries for some time. He was returned to Parliament in the 1952 elections also.
Mr. C. Sittampalam had a brilliant school career. Having received his early education at Central College, Jaffna, he entered Royal College where he showed his brilliance and versatility by winning the much-coveted prizes, such as the English Essay prize, the de Zoysa Science prize and the Mathematics prize. He was also the editor of the college magazine and the secretary of the literary association.
After finishing his education at the Royal College he entered Cambridge University, where he graduated with Honours in Mathematics. He studied law at Middle temple and passed out as a barrister-at-law also. In 1923 he was appointed to the now defunct Ceylon Civil Service. He had held several revenue and legal appointments under Government when he retired to start practising as an advocate.
Those of us who had personal contact with him will agree that he was a popular Member of this House.
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Members of this House I wish to record our regret at his passing away, and I request you to direct the Clerk of the House to send a copy of these proceedings to the bereaved members of his family and to convey our deepest sympathies to them.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to associate myself with the Vote of Condolence moved by the Hon. Leader of the House, and in doing so, I should like to state that I met the late Mr. C. Sittampalam for the first time exactly fifty years ago, in 1914. We joined Royal College the same year; Mr. Sittampalam joined the Sixth Form while I joined the Fourth Form. I remember he was one of the most brilliant students of that year. He was very good in Mathematics. In fact, he was supposed to be a prodigy at that time; he was very good at his figures. But the amazing thing was that he was one of the leading lights of the Literary Society of the College. I remember when he was elected Secretary of the Royal College Literary Association in that year he was contested by Mr. Sri Nissanka. Some of Mr. Sittampalam's contemporaries were people who afterwards became very eminent both at the Bar and outside.
Mr. Sittampalam won the Government scholarship. At that time there were two scholarships offered, one for Inter Arts and the other for Inter Science. I believe, he got the Inter Science scholarship and went to Cambridge, if I remember right, and there he studied Law and Mathematics. He passed into the Civil Service and also became a Barrister. As a Civil Servant he was somewhat of an unusual type. All kinds of stories are being related of Mr. Sittampalam's unusual ways. One of his habits was chewing arecanuts. In fact, I was told he always carried a bagful of arecanuts with him when he went from station to station.
Many of us will remember that in Parliament too he was an unusual type. He always chewed betel and we had to provide a spittoon for the first time in the history of our Parliament. He was elected to Parliament in 1947 and under very unusual circumstances he became a Member of the cabinet. I think he was Minister of Posts and he distinguished himself there. I remember one of the things he did which today is one of the most popular things in Ceylon, is the provision of radio sets to villages. He provided a large number of villagers, hundreds and thousands of villages with receiving sets, so that the village people were able to listen to broadcasts from Radio Ceylon and many of the popular items now in the programme were initiated by Mr. Sittampalam. I remember one of the items which was inaugurated by Mr. Sittampalam was pirith which is very popular with the Buddhists today.
He was elected to Parliament again in 1952 but failed to secure a Cabinet portfolio. But I want to say that in spite of his strange ways he was an uncommon man in the century of the common man. He was very honest and very straightforward. He was a very unusual person. He came out with an unusual argument in any discussion and in that respect earned the honour and respect of his colleagues.
I join the Hon. Leader of the House in supporting the Vote of Condolence.
Mr. Chelvanayakam [leader of the Federal Party, later of the T.U.L.F. the leading party in the Tamil areas)
I knew Mr. Sittampalam from his college days in the year 1916.
Mr. Sittampalam was one of the most brilliant students that the Jaffna schools have produced. He was born in the latter part of 1898 and in 1913 when he was 15 years old and yet under-age he passed the Cambridge Senior with first class honours and with distinction in Mathematics. There were only two students from Jaffna before him who had got first class honours in the Cambridge Senior. They were Mr. A.M.K. Cumarasamy and Mr. S.S. Navaratnam. The latter joined the Ceylon Civil Service. Both these people had done the same thing before Mr. Sittampalam, that is, obtained first class honours with distinction in Mathematics. After he got through the Cambridge Senior from Central College Jaffna he came down to Colombo and joined the Royal College. From there he passed the Inter-Science in July 1915 and again in July 1916, when he was 17 years old, and carried off the Science Scholarship which was awarded for the best student of the Inter-Science Examination. His scholastic career seemed to have come to an end with his winning the University Scholarship. He proceeded to England under the scholarship and there joined the Mathematics School at Cambridge. There, had he stuck to his studies, he would have been a Wrangler, but he took to extra-curricular activities which spoilt his studies. After he graduated from Cambridge, he joined the Ceylon Civil Service from which he retired in 1946 under the Soulbury Constitution Scheme of retirement. In 1947 he contested the Mannar as an independent candidate and won that election. As the Tamil Congress was in the Opposition at that time, Mr. Senanayake adopted him and Mr. Suntharalingam, another independent candidate, as his Tamil Ministers.
The presence of these two Tamil Members in his Cabinet was one of the reasons why Britain handed over power to Ceylon under a unitary type of Constitution without any safeguard for the Tamil-speaking minorities. Mr. Sittampalam was not a great speaker, but he did his work as a Parliamentarian to the satisfaction of his electors so well that he was returned to Parliament at the next election in 1952. After he lost his seat in the 1956 elections he retired from politics. He has left behind him a son and a daughter. On behalf of my party the Ilanki Tamil Arasu Kadchi, I join with the other hon. Members who have spoken before me in sending our condolences to the bereaved family.
As one who was associated with the late Mr. Sittampalam during his career in Parliament I would also like to pay my humble tribute to a very versatile man.
He had, to the best of my knowledge, functioned for some time as Magistrate of Matara and was known as one of the simplest Civil Servants of that time. As you know he had the habit of chewing arecanut constantly, even while he was on the Bench. He was not very orthodox; he was not frightened of being unorthodox in his personal habits, in the attitudes he adopted and in the arguments he put forward.
He was in this House as a Minister for a number of years and all hon. Members who came in contact with him will bear witness to the fact that he was most accessible, was almost always considerate and was prepared to give heed to the wishes of hon. Members from whatever party they came. This was at a time when the U.N.P. was adopting a different policy. I mean no reflection on the U.N.P. but I am only trying to draw out the fact that Mr. Sittampalam had his own way of doing things.
I think that by and large he was amenable to discipline but he had his own sturdy sense of independence. I know that on tricky occasions the U.N.P. put him up in order to bring out a particular point of view on any subject. I remember one occasion when we were discussing a very important Motion on the Governor-General, Sir Oliver Goonetilleke. There was Mr. Sittampalam on his feet advancing an argument, which in the end prevailed. Mr. Sittampalam was able to convince Mr. Speaker that his position was correct. He was a very likeable person with whom it was impossible to argue. I must say, Sir, that he had a notable career as a civil servant and as a politician, I think, he adopted a fairly broad view of things and he never took a very narrow point of view of things. By his death we have lost a valuable personality. I would like wholeheartedly to support, on behalf of my party and that of the U.L.F., the Vote of Condolence moved by the Leader of the House.
[Spoke in Sinhalese - translation to follow]
On behalf of our party I would like to associate with the sentiments expressed on both sides of the House. Those of us who had the opportunity of working together with him in this House always found him to be a genial and amiable man. He appeared to be slow in making up his mind but he had a nimble mind that enabled him to get at the crux of a problem and eliminate that problem with a few words. As the Minister of Posts he did not have much scope for all the capabilities of a talented man but he acquitted himself in that post well and hon. Members had already mentioned that he was responsible for the extension of 'radio listening' in the rural areas; he also started the opening of a large number of sub-post offices and thus improved the postal services in the rural areas.
I should like to associate ourselves with the motion moved by the Hon. Leader of the House and request that a copy of the proceedings be sent to the relatives of the late Mr. Sittampalam.
I wish to associate myself with the sentiments expressed on both sides of the House in regard to the death of Mr. C. Sittampalam. I shall request the Clerk of the House to make a minute of the proceedings of the Meeting today and send a copy thereof to the members of the bereaved family.