22 April, 2024


Memories Of H. L. D. Mahindapala

By  L. Murugapoopathy – 

L. Murugapoopathy

H. L. D. Mahindapala, former editor-in-chief of Sri Lanka’s Sunday Observer and a renowned writer, passed away on January 30 in Colombo. I was introduced to Mahindapala by Noel Nadesan, a literary friend of mine who lives in Melbourne. Nadesan was publishing a bilingual (Tamil-English) newspaper called Uthayam at the time. Mahindapala also spoke at some of Uthayam’s seminar’s. Mahindapala migrated from Sri Lanka to Melbourne, Australia, in the 1970s with his wife, Ranjini. Ranjini was a Tamil lady whom Mahindapala loved and married. Despite the absence of offspring, their love blossomed for half a century, imbued with the pure, innocent affection of childlike devotion.

H. L. D. Mahindapala

They wanted to live in their homeland in their final years. Mahindapala’s beloved wife, Ranjini, passed away in Colombo in May 2021.

Though his wife’s passing left a void, Mahindapala found solace and support in his family as he approached his 92nd birthday. Yet, his right-wing convictions remained ever-present, fuelling a prolific career as a political commentator. He tackled pressing issues in English newspapers, online magazines, and even Australian government radio, his voice resonating across geographical boundaries. Melbourne’s The Age and the Colombo Telegraph regularly featured his astute social and political critiques, a continuation of the themes explored in his early poems published in British media.

Mahindapala was a prolific critic of Sri Lankan politicians. He also wrote criticism articles on world politics. Beyond his writing, Mahindapala actively championed peace and human rights through his membership in the Society for Peace Unity and Human Rights for Sri Lanka (SPUR). His voice held substantial weight within the organization, evidenced by their respect for his advice. Though SPUR courted controversy for its perceived hard-line stances, particularly among Tamil nationalist activists, Mahindapala navigated criticism with grace and a disarming smile. His affable nature transcended ideological divides, earning him a place in my circle of friends.

He would occasionally discuss Professor K. Kailasapathy and A.J. Kanagaratna with me. He also took away English books written about them from me to read.

When ‘Nallai Kumaran‘ Kumarasamy, a writer who lives in Melbourne, translated Noel Nadesan’s novel “Vannaathi kulam” into English under the title “Butterfly Lake,” Mahindapala beautifully refined it. He has also improved some of my work in English.

Mahindapala, who was always searching for a mindset, discussing with others, and collecting data to write, once tried to change my life.

A minister who is currently a target of severe criticism and condemnation in Sri Lankan politics, while visiting Melbourne, was injured in an accident and admitted to the hospital. At that time, the minister was responsible for the media in Sri Lanka.

Despite knowing the volatile political climate in Sri Lanka, Mahindapala, ever helpful, connected me with a government minister seeking someone for their Tamil media section. He even went the extra mile by preparing my application himself! However, I ultimately declined due to the uncertain political landscape. Because of this, my friend Mahindapala, who was a little disappointed, reminded him of why he left Sri Lanka in the 1970s.

After the general election held in that particular year, the United National Party-led coalition government of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the Communist Party, and the Sama samaaja Party came to power.

Following this, a major protest took place in front of the Lake house Newspapers building. The company, which had the support of the United National Party, was later nationalized. After that, it has been operating under the full control of the governments that have come to power. It was ironic that Mahindapala, who fled his homeland due to the 1970 crisis and championed media freedom, would recommend me to that very minister. Yet, his warmth and kindness shone through even after my polite refusal.

When Madulgiriye Wijeyaratne, a Tamil lover, translator, and Sinhala literary critic, visited Melbourne, Mahindapala led the event related to him.

He continued to write even at the age of ninety. He also replied to the emails that came to him without fail.

He also served as the president of the Working Journalists Association in the past while he was in Sri Lanka.

A poignant farewell to Mahindapala, a journalist who courageously fought for media freedom. Recently honoured at a function in Colombo with an Achievement Award, he passed away after returning to his beloved Sri Lanka after years as a resident in Australia.

Let us remember him not just for his achievements, but for his resilience and his spirit. Our deepest condolences to his family and friends. To my fellow media colleagues, we share this grief!

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Latest comments

  • 27

    Dear Readers,
    I dont think we may have any good memories of right wing sinhalayas that always stood like POISONOUS reptiles its own minorities. This man HLDM is such a racist.
    They just widened the gaps between majority sinhala community and the minorities in that country.
    That only fester the wounds int he conflict that held srilanka away from its economic progress.
    Be them within my circles or anywhere, I always stood against them. I will continue to do so, also in the future. I am against sinhala racists. This is the reason why i hide my identity in my ciricles, becasue I had some death threats going back to late 90ties calling me sinhala-kotiya.

    Sinhala_Man or the like honest individuals are but naive by their fights for better politics in this ruined country, but they shoudl be able to differentiate things as they really are.
    Regardless of the race, religion and others they come from, they should not be respected by anyone. This country and its nation are stagantured by their developements be it economically, culturally or others are well connected with their racial thinking above any other factors.

    • 1

      Mahindapala always used his initials, H.L.D. Does anyone one know what they stand for, and what was his background?

      • 0

        old codger.
        Mahindapala was the son of an Ambulance driver. Apparently he was of Malay stock and also belonged to the dhoby caste. But apart from his scathing attack of Tamils he had his own literary style and the man had read widely.
        Apart from this I WOULD FOLLOW THAT DICTUM………
        De mortis nil nisi bonum……..
        ……OF the dead nothing BUT good is to be said………………..

    • 13

      Let the poor man die … fully.
      Don’t you have a word for L. Murugapoopathy.

      • 11

        I have a word, Poop!

        • 5

          Greetings from Central Europe, my dear Uncle Nathan! Your thoughts always make sense to me. I read some of SM’s this morning and I feel he is now refreshed with new thoughts of positivity. I will add my appreciation notes in a separate message. Commenters should change their attitude going by the facts, that is my expectation. That is the real change we have long been waiting for.
          Regarding the current article, I totally agree with you, but isn’t that normal in our stupid dominant society? I deliberately omitted to add my disrespect to the writer in my previous comment.
          Last week Sri Lankan television screens were filled with a man who was Rajapaksa’s number one slave (Sanath Nishantha) who died in a car accident. There the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (Rajapaksa’s party) tried hard to revive the nation’s risk-taking mindset and use the opportunity to the advantage of their voters.
          Their crown prince (the bastard style- son to us) was dressed in “sataka” and was very hard to our eyes.
          It is clear that there are still many people in this country who support the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna under the banner of Sinhala nationalism.

          tbc- >2

          • 12

            There are plenty of bald “parasites” dressed in safron constumes (Akmeeman Dayarathana, Ghansara or Medagoda Abetissa Mudalali or similar brutes) who hawk the “Sadhu Sadhu Phalaya-followers” and publicly speak in favor of Sinhalese racism.

            My regret is how much internal torture must have gone through the ethnic Tamil wife (late Mrs. Ranjini) of the deceased who was known as the Godfather of all Sinhalese racists. Such intermarriage crimes do not come out of the family, they shelter them. That is the nature of Asian culture in South Asia, Southeast Asia or other regions compared to European and Western cultures.

  • 19

    H. L. D. Mahindapala’s demise is no cause for celebration ……. he was a vicious insecure insignificant pipsqueak who spread hatred …….. but the damage he could do – in his position – was insignificant. There are many others, on all sides, who write and speak hatred but can’t cause much damage because of their insignificance. These people are not in positions of immense power to do much damage to anyone …….. perhaps, other than to themselves ……… and their own “reputations.”

    I will celebrate if any of the Rajapakse clan, ………. CBK, Dinesh, 225, ……… died. …… The people who were in positions to do damage and did do damage ………. without exception.

    But I’ll celebrate the most if Ranil dies. The damage Ranil has done to the country is immeasurable ………… More than any other, Ranil is responsible for the state of the country today. ……. He is the main cause for the Rajapakses!

    Does anyone wants to know the reasons? Please ask ……. first I’ll sponsor you for a brain-transplant ……. then try to instil the reasons ……..

    The fault, dear Native, is not in our stars / But in ourselves, that we are deceived and are brain-dead ……… The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste ……….

    • 11

      nimal fernando

      “I will celebrate if any of the Rajapakse clan, ………. CBK, Dinesh, 225, ……… died. ……”

      Any plans to set fire to Parliament, MPs’ houses, Ministries, …… while the occupants are inside?
      Are you an Orthodox Hindu practitioner of Sati or a secret member of Ku Klux Klan?
      May be close relative of Cyril Mathew and Gamini Dissanayake.

      • 6


        “Cyril Mathew and Gamini Dissanayake” ……… and H. L. D. Mahindapala are dead ……… Ranil is alive …….

        Even one word of condemnation against Ranil’s antics, eh Native?

        Lankans are a nation of hypocrites: takes the cake! ……. And you are very near the cake, Native ……. just behind Ranil !

        The Rajapakses shared their cake with their supporters ……. Ranil is sharing with his.

        Who are you trying to fool, Native? ……. Gunduvindu? ………. And who is Gunduvindu trying to fool? ……….. You?

        That’s why the forum is so addictive ………. the best entertainment in town! :)))

    • 13

      Though late GOOD RIDDANCE. This year seems to have started on a good note.

      • 12

        Author says ” their love blossomed over half a century , imbused with
        the pure, innocent affection of childlike devotion.” No kidding. A typical SB racist with extraordinary talent, who otherwise hated Tamils.

  • 3

    Those days in the 90’s, LTTE propaganda was very active on the Internet. This was before social media. SPUR was one of the few organisations to offer a counternarrative. This was the time when SLA was on the defensive due to Chandrika’s incompetency. Journalists like Iqbal Athas were harassed for writing about military matters. In any event, H.L.D was a first-rate historian. Those who wish to know the truth about some historical matter simply cannot ignore him.

    • 15


      “H.L.D was a first-rate historian.”

      He was a first rate fake historian.

      “Those who wish to know the truth about some historical matter simply cannot ignore him.”

      True, those who wish to know the truth about some historical matter would generally turn to original documents, researches, ola manuscripts, widely respected professional historians, ……

      He entertained some people.
      His stories were based on his fake Vellala thesis.

      Even the long established well respected Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka
      fell for him, ….. .

      • 1


        Philosopher Aristotle once said “we do not know a truth without knowing its cause.” History is essentially cause and effect. HLD told us the cause, many will deny it because then they have to accept the effect.

        • 0

          *they have to accept responsibility for the effect

        • 0

          I can see why they hate you so much. Always at odds with the dominant narrative. i.e. Dominant here.
          On “*they have to accept responsibility for the effect”
          Not only that they will then have to do something about it! That may involve looking at the mirror and changing their age old ways, handed down to them from generation to generation. That probably scares the shit out of them. So they resort to petty debates and name callings to keep them occupied. To kill time until they die. Thinking that they are involved in a major intellectual discourse and are the pundits of everything that exists and have ever exited.
          JVP who is notorious for being “Kuhakayas” was blamed for insulting the dead when they rejoiced the accidental demise of infamous Sanath Nishantha; judging by the comments here, that doesn’t seem to be a trait confined to JVP.

      • 10

        Adherents of a perverse way of thinking do not read it with an open mind. This is the nature of Lester or similar people and their behavior. Even a sunset can be interpreted by such people as “the end of the world”.
        Where was HLDM a good historian?
        He always tried to place Sinhala above society and distorted facts in favor of promoting “Sinhala-Jainism in the name of Sinhala Buddhism”.
        He would have been related by blood to the living “Sinhala racist”, Prof. Nalind De Silva.
        “We are the best, we are the ones who want to own this country and lead this nation,” were his public mottos, even if his wife, as a Tamil, could have been hurt. Had not his wife, the late Mrs. Ranjini, been deaf and blind, she might have had a warlike married life with him, but the marital conflict may have ruined almost her entire life with the toxic man. I studied human psychology for two years and know what it means to fight when someone is constantly being discriminated by verbal or physical means.
        Looking back, I feel ashamed to call myself Sinhalese when I see our country producing HLDM or similar beasts.

      • 8

        “Even the long established well respected Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka
        fell for him, ….. .”
        It did so because it had been already captured by the ultra-racist Susantha Goonatilleka.

  • 23

    HLD is one of the most eveil racists the nature has ever produced. He is a born liar and a trouble maker. He is a pathological liar. He ran away from SL after Premadasa was killed and sought refugee status in Australia. He is supposed to be married to a Jaffna Tamil, Catholic woman most likely from a lower caste. This may be one of the reasons why he all the time condemned Vella tamils and spewed venom on them. He was financed by Mahintha to carry on churning vulgar racism against the Tamils, using some other fellow racists and some sick Tamils such as Nadesan and one Balanathan. Even his orbituary is brief and no mention about his late wife. Anyone looking at him knows he is neither a Sinhalese or tamil or a Muslim. He is a by product of some evil genes from somewhere. He re-wrote Sinhala history, may be paid to do so. His hatred of Tamils of course is his mandate. It is sad that he came back to SL towards his latter part of evil life to have his last breath. He will be soon forgotten as a waste product of Sri Lankan society like some others already going away. 2024 looks a good year for Lanka with evils are vanishing one by one.

  • 10

    Despite all the nasty and mocking things H.L.D.M. wrote about the Tamils, much of which was published on CT, the irony is that this eulogy is written by a Tamil.

  • 6

    HLD Mahindapala was exposed by none other than Lasantha Wickrematunge, of his back ground. HLD Mahindapala along with Dayan Jayathilake managed the 4th Estate for Ranasinghe Premadasa when Preme was President. No sooner the UNP returned to power in 2002 he came back to Sri Lanka expecting Ranil Wickremasinghe to hand over the 4th Estate back to his charge. Ranil Wickremasinghe not only shut the door of the UNP for him, but also to Dayan Jayathilake and Sirisena Cooray. This infuriated the lot, to become Ranil haters and all of them started attacking Ranil Wickremasinghe at every turn. Apart from this Trio, there are some others who are wishing Ranil’s demise to celebrate most. What Cantankerous characters we have amongst us? I wonder how all these people, leave alone Ranil’s demise, whether they will live to see Ranil Wickremasinghe securing a mandate to continue as President this year?

    • 4

      “Cantankerous “

      If you ask Native, Ranil is more Fascist than Cantankerous …….. albeit tin-pot. …… And a little bit gay?

      Poor poor Gamini ……. calm down and enjoy life ….. you have nothing to worry: for sure Ranil is going to obtain an unprecedented mandate ……. no one doubts you, except you, yourself ……. if not, why write? :))

  • 6

    Eulogy by a tamil does not matter. This gives an opportunity to expose this evil, opportunistic, inhuman, mercenary guy who called himself a Sri lankan Sinhala which no doubt an insult to average sinhala people who are very sane and caring. This guy is sick and also suffering from severe inferiority complex, both by his origin and that of his poor Tamil wife.

  • 2

    Aside from the fact that he married a Tamil and is now eulogized by a Tamil, I cannot find anything racist written by HLD. Take him at his own word:

    “In their heart of hearts, the Vellalars who dominated the history of Jaffna through feudal, colonial and modern times are ashamed of their past not because they failed to produce a great culture, great heroes, great iconic monuments, great civilisation, a great language, — or anything else outstanding or memorable, for that matter — but because they reigned over a culture of inhuman violence and cruelty that reduced their oppressed Tamils to sub-human non-entities for around 700 years.”

    He is clearly saying that Tamils have a “great civilisation.” Does that make him a racist? My personal opinion, as I have stated here, is that Sri Lankan Tamils did not accomplish anything extraordinary, unlike Tamil Brahmins, who won Nobel Prizes. Therefore, SL Tamils are not entitled to special privileges, such as they enjoyed during the British times, only as a result of learning English. HLD reminds us that Vellalar further abused this privilege to the detriment of all communities in Sri Lanka.

  • 2

    Mr Murugapoobathy, you are a shame to all of us.

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