Devananda’s journey from the valley of militancy to the haven of democracy

by Dr.Tellipallai.C.Rajaratnam

(November 07, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The naughty schoolboy transformed into one of the most dangerous Tamil militants of our times. The winds of change transformed the militant to a Politician and a Leader of a Political Party. Douglas Devananda stands as one of the most disciplined Politicians in Sri Lanka – those Tamils around him have a lot to learn from him of the intricacies of democracy, discipline, human dignity and good conscience.

Douglas Devananda hails from an aristocratic family. He has that touch of class. But like all other leaders, his attempt to strive hard to discipline others to respect fellow human beings and inculcate the norms of democracy and human dignity -whether he has succeeded in doing so or whether he will succeed only time can reveal. This may not always be successful as there is a Tamil proverb which the Jaffna Tamil man believes such as “Kulathalave aagumam kunam” (The general disposition of a person reflects his caste/breed).

Douglas’ father Kathiravel, his paternal Uncle Nithiyananda were good friends and associates of my father, Wanam Rajaratnam. Douglas’ father and Uncle were very proud of the achievements of Douglas.

Douglas was born on November 10, 1957. His mother Maheswary died when he was six years of age. It is noteworthy to mention that his Legal Advisor Maheswary assumed the role of a mother to him and influenced his transformation and spiritual life. Her assassination was a loss to Douglas and his Ministry. It was like losing a Mother again. Douglas leads a life of an ascetic. Very little is known of his meditating skills although it is trite learning that he meditates regularly. Over the years he has transformed into a very fine gentleman with very sober habits, excellent disposition and dignified manners. Douglas has only one meal a day and leads a very simple life. He has no belongings, no earthly possessions except the love and affection of the numerous people from various ethnic groups.

If a series of questions could be asked such as - How many Tamil Members of Parliament represent the North and the East? Where are they? What have they contributed to society? What have they contributed to the Tamil people of the North and the East? What have the people of the North and the East experienced in the recent past? Who amongst these representatives, sends food, clothing, medicines and other essential items to the North? Who amongst these representatives holds a file and seeks all the basic necessities for the people of the North and the East through the government? Who amongst these representatives takes care of the people of the North and East? Who amongst these representatives gives a hearing and grants an audience to those who have grievances and heals their emotional wounds and takes care of their day to day necessities? Who amongst these representatives has sacrificed his personal life and other luxuries which he could enjoy? Who amongst these representatives is always clad in white in hand spun clothing and wears sandals and eats only one meal a day? Who amongst these representatives could be contacted any time of the day and night by any person in distress? Who amongst these representatives wakes up at 3 a.m. in the morning and retires to bed past midnight? Who amongst these representatives sleeps on a wooden bench? On whom can the Tamils of the North and East count on? If all these questions could be answered in the affirmative, then there is none other than one man who fits the description as the sole representative of the Tamils of the North and the East. Who is this man? He is none other than, Kathiravelu Nithiyananda Devananda better known as ‘Douglas Devananda!’

Mahinda Chintana - the concept of His Excellency President Rajapakse is the grund norm of the development projects of the Ministry of Social Services and Social Welfare. These development Projects are being implemented through the Department of Social services, Secretariat for older Persons, Secretariat for Persons with Disabilities, National Institute of Social Development and Sri Lanka Social Security Board. Ever since Minister Douglas Devananda assumed office as the Minister of Social Services & Social Welfare, the Ministry of Social Services & Social Welfare has rapidly progressed and helped numerous citizens throughout the island.

Minister Douglas Devananda has stated that the Ministry of Social Services and Social Welfare is striving to provide Social services to the deprived segments such as elders, persons with disabilities, single parent families, people affected by mental problems and street people and initiating programs aimed at improving their living standard. He gives priority to develop their personality by harnessing their innate potentials to make them as equal partners in development activities through social workers in this field. He has initiated programs to improve the living standard of the under privileged people and engaged in rehabilitation and social integration programs for the drug addicts, for the prisoner's families and for the victims of prisoners.

In recognition of the outstanding services to humanity and his commitment towards the cause of persons with disabilities, The United Nations Economic & Social Commission for the Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP) accorded Minister Douglas Devananda with the highest order of honour. Minister Devananda was the Minister of Development , Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of the North during a previous Government. The Ministry helped the resettlement of internally displaced persons on state land in the Vavuniya and Mannar districts, the rehabilitation of place of worship, rehabilitation of community buildings, rehabilitation of roads and infrastructures, the revival of closed industries in the North, educational development in schools and imparting vocational training to thousands of youth in the North and East. It was during his period that the IT information Park, commonly known as the IT Park which is the gateway to the world knowledge through internet was established with the provision of more than a hundred computers in the Jaffna town.

In recognition of his outstanding service to the Nation, President Mahinda Rajapakse appointed him as the Chairman of the Special Task Force for the Development and Rehabilitation of the North.

A generous tribute to personal worth - it is also a garland of honor laid by one to another; a recognition that new conditions are opening an era radically different in many things from the one before it, and as he accepts the wishes of the thousands, will do so not for himself alone, but as a representative of the people. His political success commanded a larger share than he hoped for in the beginning, for one of the truest and best things to be said of him is that his ambition has never proved stronger than his hold on duty, and no one can find where he has forgotten principles for the sake of personal gain. But in the development of character his pure and honorable life has not overstepped its aim, for he set out with a high ideal, and has lived up to it, and this, too, in conspicuous and dangerous places and amid surroundings that too often break and destroy. Another fact enters into this great public recognition. Those who have been with him during the tenure of crisis of the past do not hold him in higher honor than those who have been against him. His friends give him no greater credit for than do his foes. The honesty and blunt courage that have inflicted sharp blows in the past are forgiven in /on of the purpose that lay behind them. His first step in the line of personal politics came upon him after the Indo Sri Lanka Peace Accord.

We learnt that however much we strive for peace, we need a strong defense capability where a peaceful approach fails. Whatever the dangers of the action we take, the dangers of inaction are far greater. Laws will have to be changed not to deny the basic liberties but to prevent their abuse and protect the most basic liberty of all; freedom from terror. The people are terrorized by certain vested interests in their vile pursuits for power committing crimes and targeting a reflex scenario as if the Government was responsible.

Douglas Devananda will soon present to the Cabinet this week the Voluntary Social Services Bill which is one of the finest bills in Sri Lanka. This new law would be the masterpiece of Douglas Devananda who has been involved in deep research in the comparative study and analytical survey of similar laws in other countries.

*[ Dr. Tellipallai. C.Rajaratnam LL.B(SL)., LL.M(Lond)., Ph.D(Lond)., was the Co-ordinating Secretary to the Chief Government Whip of Parliament, Late Jeyaraj Fernandopulle; The Member in charge of the English Media of the Media Observation Unit founded by Late Jeyaraj Fernandopulle for the Presidential Election Campaign of President Mahinda Rajapakse in 2005; Candidate for the Colombo District for SLFP-PA in the 1994 Parliamentary General Elections; Author; Orator; Member of the World Lawyers & Poets Society ; International Legal Consultant; CEO of the Chambers of Academic & Professional Studies] E mail:

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