Ilankai Tamil Sangam

28th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

The Alfred Duraiappah Dossier

Part 2

by Sachi Sri Kantha, August 4, 2010

In brief, the total number of MPs in the roll call were 157 (151 elected MPs and 6 nominated MPs). Ten were missing on that day. One of the missing ten was Alfred Duraiappah. What happened to Duraiappah on that day? Was he aware that there was a crucial vote on that day, and somehow absented inadvertently or intentionally?

The Difference between Ninaivu Anjali and Oppari

I have to answer to the comments of one correspondent who had criticized my use of satirical oppari (wailing lament) in Part 1 of this dossier. This correspondent fears that personal tirades “have no place in passing the torch to the next generation” and confuses the traditions of printing the 31st day anniversary ‘Ninaivu Anjali’ (Memorial Submission) booklets with that of oppari. The Ninaivu Anjali tradition is still being preserved by the diaspora Tamils. But as I indicated in part 1, the oppari tradition is becoming extinct, even in our traditional homelands. This was one reason why I took pains to translate the satirical oppari that appeared in print after Alfred Duraiappah’s death.

The satirical oppari of Kachcha Theevu Kavirayar was a parody. According to Sylvan Barnet et al. (1971), a parody is ‘a literary composition that imitates the style (e.g., meter, vocabulary, sentence-structure) of another work but normally substitutes a very different subject-matter. It amuses us, but need not make us devalue the original.’ I personally consider this parody as belonging to ‘Kannadasan grade’ in Eelam Tamil poetry.

If the griping correspondent has collected an authentic original oppari [not Ninaivu Anjali] on Duraiappah, he is welcome to share that with us in this community website. Furthermore, Duraiappah was not a private person. He was a politician, a public individual and also a braggart soldier, as I provide details in this part 2. As such, he was fair game for parody. Sylvan Barnet et al. also defines a braggart soldier as ‘the boastful, vain, cowardly soldier is a stock figure in much comedy. The miles gloriosus is the Latin term.’ Please read below, for an example of Duraiappah’s braggart soldier act.

Duraiappah’s Profile

As chronicled by S. Arumugam for the Dictionary of Biography of Ceylon Tamils (1996), the following details appear about Duraiappah:

“Alfred Thangarajah Durayappah, born on 15th July 1926, was the son of Durayappah, who pioneered the ice and aerated water manufacturing industry in Vannarpannai, Jaffna. Alfred has his education at St. John’s College, and became a Proctor, S.C., at the age of 22. He entered Local Government politics and was elected Deputy Mayor of Jaffna Municipal Council at 23. Later he was chosen as Mayor and held office during 1961-62 and again in 1966. During his regime, several improvement works were added to Jaffna town. The public library, Jaffna water supply, model market, all received attention and the Durayappah Stadium was also erected then.

Known as the ‘People’s Mayor’, he was an active politician, and founded the ‘Suthanthiram’ Party in Jaffna. However his political views were not acceptable to many in Jaffna. He was assassinated near the Punnalai Perumal Temple, when he went to worship on 27th July 1975. He was given a state funeral.

Durayappah married Dr. Parames (daughter of Engineer Cumaraswamy) who after holding a high position in the public health service of the Brunei Government passed away in 1989 (sic). Their daughter Rochana is a graduate teacher.”

As this profile had omitted how the ‘People’s Mayor’ fared when he faced the people’s verdict at the general elections of 1960, 1965 and 1970, I provide below the details.

Statistics on the Four General Elections contested by Duraiappah

I provide details on how Alfred Duraiappah became a member of parliament for Jaffna. He contested four general elections as an Independent candidate. He won two and lost two. His two victories in 1960 were marginal rather than astounding, with victory margin of less than 1,000 votes. In the March 1960 election, he defeated G.G. Ponnambalam, the ‘sitting MP’ for Jaffna by a majority of 889 votes. One contributory reason that was in favor of Duraiappah in 1960 was that the ‘old’ Jaffna constituency represented by Ponnambalam was split into two (Jaffna and Nallur) following the 1959 Delimitation Commission recommendations.

The problem faced by Ponnambalam in the North was similar to the problem faced by the UNP leaders in the South, like Dudley Senanayake (in Dedigama constituency) and J.R. Jayewardene (in Kelaniya constituency). Population increase-based splitting of ‘old’ electorates into new ones with smaller voter base sliced the ‘loyalty-pie vote’ of ranking leaders. Though Dudley Senanayake, until his death in 1973, was successful in getting re-elected with reduced margins from Dedigama, J.R. Jayewardene (sensing his declining fortunes in Kelaniya after his loss in 1956), switched to Colombo South constituency in July 1960 onwards.

Ponnambalam represented the Jaffna constituency in the 1947, 1952 and 1956 elections. In 1956, the total electorate for Jaffna constituency was 34,804 and total votes polled were 22,178. Percent votes polled 63.72. In a four-cornered contest, Ponnambalam received 8,914 votes and won against E.M.V. Naganathan (Federal Party) with a majority of 1,741 votes. In the March 1960 election, the total electorate for Jaffna constituency became reduced to 24,299, a decrease of 10,505 vote base. In proportionate terms, Ponnambalam’s vote count slid from 8,914 (in 1956) to 5,312 (in March 1960). Duraiappah was able to exploit this slide for his advantage. As I indicated in part 1, that his wife Dr. Parames Duraiappah was a niece of Ponnambalam was also marginally helpful in cleaving the ‘family-oriented’ voters.

March 1960

Total electorate: 24,299, Total votes polled: 17,473, Percent votes polled 71.97.

A.T. Duraiappah (Independent) 6,201 votes

G.G. Ponnambalam (Tamil Congress) 5,312 votes

S. Kathiravelupillai (Federal Party) 5,101 votes

A. Visuvanathan (LSSP) 767 votes.

Majority for Duraiappah 889 votes.

July 1960

Total electorate: 24,299, Total votes polled: 18,056, Percent votes polled 74.31.

A.T. Duraiappah (Independent) 6,313 votes

G.G. Ponnambalam (Tamil Congress) 6,015 votes

S. Kathiravelupillai (Federal Party) 5,644 votes.

Majority for Duraiappah 298 votes

March 1965

Total electorate: 28,473 votes, Total votes polled: 22,141, Percent votes polled 77.76.

G.G. Ponnambalam (Tamil Congress) 9,350 votes

C.X. Martyn (Federal Party) 6,800 votes

A.T. Duraiappah (Independent) 5,918 votes.

Majority for Ponnambalam 2,550 votes.

May 1970

Total electorate: 31,214 votes, Total votes polled: 24,938, Percent votes polled 79.89.

C.X. Martyn (Federal Party) 8,848 votes

A.T. Duraiappah (Independent) 8,792 votes

G.G. Ponnambalam (Tamil Congress) 7,222 votes

Majority for Martyn 56 votes.

Where was Duraiappah on Dec. 3, 1964?

In post-independent Sri Lankan history, a crucial vote in parliament was taken on December 3, 1964. In this Vote of No Confidence, the then coalition government of Sirima Bandaranaike was defeated by the Opposition (74 for Opposition and 73 for Government). Some details of this vote have been covered by K.M. de Silva and Howard Wriggins, the biographers of J.R. Jayewardene. I plan to focus on this No Confidence vote in a forthcoming article on ‘CIA influence in Sri Lankan politics.’ In brief, the total number of MPs in the roll call were 157 (151 elected MPs and 6 nominated MPs). Ten were missing on that day. One of the missing ten was Alfred Duraiappah. What happened to Duraiappah on that day? Was he aware that there was a crucial vote on that day, and somehow absented inadvertently or intentionally? Was he on an unavailable sick leave? Was he out of the island? As a fence-sitter, did he ‘bite the carrot’ that J.R. Jayewardene dangled for him, and absented himself at the opportune moment, and pulled Sirima Bandaranaike’s leg? Mrs. Bandaranaike’s piquant remark on the action of 14 SLFP MPs and 2 nominated MPs who deserted her on that day was ‘a stab in the back’. Did Duraiappah, by his absence, also stab Mrs. Bandaranaike on that day?

I provide below the descriptions provided by renowned Tamil writer Es. Po [aka, S. Ponnudurai] in his autobiography ‘Living Through History’ (2003). It should be noted that one of Es.Po’s sons was an LTTE cadre, who lost his life in late 1980s. I have translated the original into English.

“When Dahanayake brought the no confidence motion against the Government, nobody believed that the Government would lose. It was talked about that if Duraiappah, who represented the Jaffna constituency then, was present in the House the Government would have escaped from that loss. This Duraiappah was the one who beat G.G. Ponnambalam to become the Jaffna MP. A fun-loving person. He would mingle freely with anyone. It cannot be forgotten that as the mayor of Jaffna, he contributed to the city’s development. When talking with him, I realized that he carried the dream that he wished to turn Jaffna into a modern city with all facilities. However, when the International Tamil Research Conference was held in Jaffna, he earned a bad image from people because of his pro-government activities. The youth believed that because of his tactless act, nine persons had to lose their lives. Thus, he became the first political leader to lose his life in the Tamil Eelam Freedom Struggle. His assassination marks the commencement of violent campaign.”

Real Facts behind the Duraiappah Stadium in Jaffna

Arrant nonsense has been propagated about Duraiappah and his eponymous stadium in Jaffna, as if Duraiappah donated the funds to build that stadium. Even in the 2010 presidential election manifesto of Mahinda Rajapakse, some mention is made about ‘Doraiappah stadium’. The Colombo Tribune of November 28, 1981 carried a letter from Jack van Sanden (then residing in Queensland, Australia) with the caption ‘Jaffna Sports Stadium’ that sets the record properly. Here is its complete text. I also provide a scan of the original letter that appeared in the Tribune.


When I was Superintendent of Police, Northern Province, a public committee convened under my chairmanship that did the spade work, collected the necessary funds and completed the Jaffna Sports Stadium. The credit for this formidable task must go primarily to the public of Jaffna who were more than lavish in promoting this praiseworthy scheme and helping to bring it in to being. This stadium was built for the present and past generations of sportsmen of the North, for whose benefit this project was primarily intended. I may mention that the late Mr. A.S. Mariyanayagam, who was then Asst. Supdt. Of Police, Jaffna and Mr. P.A. Pragasam, who was the Manager of Lake House Branch, Jaffna, were a great asset to me in collecting the necessary funds. If not for their assistance this scheme might not have materialized.


After I left Jaffna on transfer the completed stadium was handed over to the Municipal Council by the Stadium Committee as it found it difficult to maintain it. This would never have happened had I continued to be in Jaffna. The late Mr. Alfred Duraiappa, who was subsequently elected the Mayor of Jaffna named the stadium after his name. He was only a member of the Stadium Committee that assisted me and at no time did he function as the President of the Stadium Committee after I vacated the post. For these reasons, I am not happy with the present name. I have no doubt that the public Jaffna appreciates what I have done and the Municipal Council would consider changing the name and give it a suitable name appropriate for the peninsula.

Jack van Sanden
Retired D.I.S., Police,

18, Ridgewood Street,
Qld 4117, Australia.

Jack van Sanden letter in Tribune Nov 11 1981 on Duraiappah Stadium Jaffna That was the truth. In Tamil, there is a popular idiom that states, Vazhi Thengayai eduththu theru pillaiyarukku udaithanaam [Like the guy who picked up a roadside coconut and offered it to the way side Pillaiyar temple] What Duraiappah did was to name the stadium after him shamelessly, without considering the sentiments of the Jaffna public on whose funds that stadium was built and after the spade work was done by others. A typical case of braggart soldier!

Addendum added August 10, 2010

Nine MPs (and not ten) were missing on Dec.3, 1964. Speaker of the House counts as the tenth MP. If there had occurred a tie (like 73 for and 73 against the No Confidence Motion) in voting, the Speaker's vote would have decided the outcome. As the Speaker was elected from the governing party ranks, it was assumed that the Speaker would have voted for the government. That was one reason that the vote of S.Thondaman Sr.(who was then an appointed MP) against the government was considered as a critical vote that decided the outcome. Why Thondaman voted against the government on that day? Later he wrote in his autobiography, that he was rather humiliated by the action of primeminister Sirimavo Bandaranaike signing a pact with the then Indian Primeminister Lal Bahadur Shastri on repatriation of Indians residing in plantations, without consulting him.

Consulted Sources

S.Arumugam: A Dictionary of Biography of Ceylon Tamils, London, 1996, pp. 50-51.

S. Barnet, M. Berman and W. Burto: A Dictionary of Literary, Dramatic and Cinematic Terms, Little Brown and Co., Boston, 1971, 2nd ed.

K.M. de Silva and H. Wriggins: J.R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka –a political biography, vol.2, Leo Cooper/ Pen & Swords Books Ltd., London, 1994.

Es.Po. : Varalaaril Vaazhthal [Living through History], vol.1, Mithra Arts & Creations, Chennai, 2003, p. 948. (in Tamil)

G.P.S.H. de Silva: A Statistical Survey of Elections to the Legislatures of Sri Lanka 1911-1977, Marga Institute, Colombo, 1979.

J. van Sanden: Jaffna Sports Stadium. Tribune (Colombo), Nov.28, 1981, p. 23.



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