This is a funny incident that took place several years ago. One evening we, then school children, were playing softball cricket on the grounds of Mahinda College, when someone rushed over and told us that a young maid from a certain household had climbed a huge tree in protesting a wrong done to her, and refused to come down.
All of us, including Minister Rupa Karnatilleke, who was a classmate of mine, ran to see the unusual spectacle, to find a huge crowd already there. It was almost dusk, and there was this pretty creature perched precariously on one of the tallest branches of a massive Donga tree. It was a formidable task.
“I want to talk to Dahanayake hamumahattaya” cried the young girl. I won’t go down until he’s here! (Being the son of a Muhandiram, W was hamumahattaya everyone, despite being a noisy Sama Samajist).
W. Dahanayake was absent in Colombo, to attend a session of the Council of State. (He was MSC for Bibile at the time) and everyone was looking at each other in dismay. Then someone had a brain wave.
“I’m going to have it,” he shouted to the girl who was on the tree, and fled. Minutes later he was back with W’s twin brother Kalyanspriya, who spoke gently to the girl and persuaded her to come down, promising her grievance would be investigated.
In the 1947 general election, the first in the newly formed House of Representatives, twin brother K ran for the central seat in Colombo. Unlike today’s elections, previous ones spanned several days. (As everyone knows, it was W, then Prime Minister, who organized the very first one-day general election in March 1960).
On the first day of the 1947 elections, Sir Vaithyalingam Doraisamy, the outgoing President of the Council of State lost. On the second day Sir Susantha de Fonseka, the vice-president, lost.
A few days later, as W was addressing one of his brother’s meetings, a police inspector approached the platform and said, âMr. Dahanayaka, you are not allowed to use the speakers until 10:00 pm It is now 10:05 am I don’t care if you haven’t finished your speech, I’ll unplug the speaker.
As the inspector did, W shouted, “Sahodaravaruni, on the first day the President giyaa! On the second day, vice president giyaa! Onna dhan strong sepakeruth giyaa! (The first day the President is gone! The second day the Vice President is gone! And now the speaker is gone! “
At the end of the 1940s, there was a large crowd at the side of a road. A woman pounced on K accusing her of not taking care of something about her after having solemnly promised to do so. It was obvious to everyone that she had mistaken him for her twin brother W, then MP for Galle.
K then asked a friend of hers, who was there, to tell this woman that she was wrong and that he was not the MP. His friend did as he was asked and the woman who then turned on K’s fired angrily, shouting: “Tho mata Kiyanna enawada â¦ .. â(â Are you trying to tell meâ¦. â) And went on to say that she had known W for years and years, and that the unlucky man at the end of her tirade was him.
Later things were sorted out and K said to his friend regretfully, “It’s one of the risks of being a politician’s identical twin!”
Once during a school excursion, the students visited Sir John’s Kandawala Estate with their teachers. Seeing K, Sir John asked him “I say Daha!” What are you doing here?”
âSir, this is my older brother,â said K.
Prime Minister Bradman Weerakoon’s secretary once said. âThe twin brothers were extremely close and one of Dahanayake’s true friends was indeed his twin brother who visited him often at Temple Trees. It was quite difficult at the beginning and especially when they were together to determine who was in fact the Prime Minister? “.
The remains of the assassinated Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike lay in Parliament and K went to pay him a final tribute.
W was sworn in as the new Prime Minister and the two brothers drove to House-by-the-Sea in the Prime Minister’s official car.
As the car stopped at the entrance to the house, a policeman rushed forward and opened the door on the side where K was sitting. As K got out of the car, all the police and other duty officers present clicked heels and cleverly greeted him.
When W came out the other side, their jaws dropped and they looked around in dismay and confusion – for they were totally unaware of the existence of W’s identical twin!
K knew his crowd psychology just as much as W. My friend Siri, who was once the Registrar of the High Court of Wales, was then a student at Hikkaduwa Central College, when K joined the staff as an English teacher.
On the first or second day, he took lessons from the back of the class.
“Yes,” he would suddenly say in the middle of a lesson. You there, Sirisena, give a word with a similar meaning â. And a very surprised Sirisena stood up and answered. And so it went on from day one. K was shouting a name from the back of the class, and the concerned student stood up and answered.
The students were the most impressed. How did the new professor know their names so early?
One day, a daring student surreptitiously glanced at the professor standing at the back of the classroom – and the cat was out! K had in hand a list of the names of the students, copied from the class register, and he called out a name at random. And he was standing at the back of the class, because then he didn’t have to look at the student while he shouted his name, because he didn’t know who the name belonged to!
It was a tradition of Hikkaduwa Central in the past that a member of the academic staff was to be elected president of the College’s Literary Union.
One year, a rather unpopular teacher who had the ambition to become president, obtained that two of his âaccomplicesâ propose and support his name.
âOther names? Asked the headmaster who was presiding. (Usually there was no competition for this position). And immediately Siri, who was a student at the time, stood up and proposed the name of K, the popular English teacher.
“Do you have Mr. Dahanayake’s permission to suggest his name?” The Principal asked sternly, knowing that a contest was going to be an unworthy thing.
“Yes, sir,” Siri replied without batting an eyelid.
Both names were put to a vote, and, of course. K won resoundingly. As soon as the result was announced, Siri rushed to the staff room and told K what had happened, profusely apologizing for not getting his permission first.
“It’s okay, boy,” K said looking at the excited student with a twinkle in his eyes. “I won’t let you down!” “
Parakrama, a son of K, who at the time was W’s private secretary, the Minister of Cooperatives, wrote to “Amita’s column in The island“, giving a vivid description of the farewell dinner to then-principal of Richmond College B. Suriarachchi, who was leaving to take on the new post of principal of Royal College.
He said that 300 old Richmondites who had gathered for the occasion were singing vigorously.
âRichmond in the foreground / the boys let the air ring out / Richmond in the foreground / the boys let the cry spread. Adding that the speeches were spicy and witty and that CJ Seneviratne, the president of the Galle Bar Association delivered this exhortation to the ladies of Galle:
“When you leave school,
This lesson you should teach –
Live in dignity and grace,
You must kiss a Richmondite.
Vijaya was another son of K. He was once the mayor of Galle. The day of his funeral, said a trade unionist. “Today is the end of the era of Galle’s political gentlemen.”