DPL who won all hearts
Jinadasa Fernando Gunasekera - Ceylon Daily News, 24th March, 1988.
Greatness was virtually thrust on him by his uncle, W Arthur de Silva, the sage of 'Sravasti' who was a Minister of Health in the State Council era.
Susantha de Fonseka, whose twentieth death anniversary falls this year, was a grandson of the legendary Sri Chandrasekera of Panadura, the man who had so much money that he once bought half an entire department of Cargills because a sales assistant poked fun at him for daring to enter the portals of that firm where the European gentry and the very rich 'natives' did their shopping.
In those days of the Donoughmore constitution when people were largely men of means with rich family backgrounds, the way was clearly laid for the class of Susantha de Fonseka to enter the legislature. If he wavered at first, he went headlong into it after his uncle, who gifted 'Sravasti' to the nation, gave him the assurance that he would help him along.
Arthur de Silva, whose wealth also came from the Chandrasekera millions, brought up Susantha as his own son, educated him at Royal College and sent him to England for his higher studies. After receiving his master's degree from Cambridge University, he entered the Inns of Court and qualified as a barrister.
On his return, Arthur de Silva who was then in the vanguard of Buddhist education, gave a grounding in that sphere to his young nephew. He got him the job of principal of Sri Sumangala College, Panadura.
Thereafter his uncle wanted to acquaint Susantha with the country's struggle for political freedom. There was no better place for this than the leading nationalist English daily of the time, the 'Morning Leader'.
It was after the era of the great Armand D'Souza that Susantha de Fonseka sat in the editorial chair of that newspaper. He got the post through Uncle Arthur, who had a voice in the management.
Giving up journalism for the rough and tumble of politics, Susantha de Fonseka, now mature enough to rub shoulders with the E. W. Pereras, the Baron Jayatilekas and the Senanayakes, entered the State Council as member for Panadura for the first time in 1931 and again after the 1936 general election.
During the period of the second State Council when Sir Vaitilingam Duraiswamy was elected speaker, the young member for Panadura contested the post of Deputy Speaker and won against E. A. Nugawela, who later became a Minister in the Cabinet of D. S. Senanayake.
While holding the post of Deputy Speaker, Susantha de Fonseka also did a stint of duty in the armed forces as a commissioned officer in the Naval Volunteer Force. His love for his country and for his people did not cut much ice with the then British Governor, who withdrew his commission.
Leaders like Senanayake were that time eying the member for Panadura for a bigger and higher place in the country's political system. At an election meeting in Panadura in the course of the 1947 election campaign Mr. Senanayake announced that Susantha de Fonseka was to be his candidate for the post of Speaker in the first Parliament.
Came the elections, when fate played one of its cruel tricks on a man to whom Panadura was almost a pocket borough. A relatively unknown challenger, from the Lanka Suma Samaja Party emerged victor and with that came the political end of Susantha de Fonseka.
But he was not to remain in the political wilderness for long. There were other jobs on behalf of his country for which he had the talent and the capacity. He was appointed our first Ambassador to Burma in 1949. He cut such a figure in Rangoon that soon he won the confidence and regard of the then Prime Minister of Burma, U Nu. He studied the Burmese language so fast that other diplomats were amazed at his capacity to make impromptu speeches in that language.
Ambassador de Fonseka built up such close contacts with the Burmese leadership that he was associated with Prime Minister U Na when Karen guerillas surrendered.
When D. S. Senanayake and son Dudley visited Burma at the time; they were struck by the popularity of Colombo's man in Rangoon. Soon afterwards D. S. Senanayake sent him on an important diplomatic assignment to Peking in 1952. It was this assignment, which laid the foundation for the rubber-rice pact with China.
Now a frontline diplomat, Susantha later became, Ceylon's Ambassador in Japan. While there, he together with the late Dr. G. P. Malalasekera, organised a conference of the World Fellowship' of Buddhist.
Buddhist work took a front seat during Ambassador de Fonseka's stay in Tokyo. He propagated Theravada Buddhism and built a dagoba there (the first to he built there) within which were enshrined, Buddha relics from the Mahiyangana Stupa.
Susantha de Fonseka was so much a success in the rarefied areas of diplomacy that Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike, when she was Prime Minister, also enlisted him to do duty for the country. He was a member of the delegation to the United Nations General Assembly sessions accompanied by Dr. Malalasekera.