DEVALAKSHMI BALASUNDARAM ( SITTAMPALAM )
HER LIFE HISTORY
Devalakshmi Sittampalam was the eldest daughter of Cathiravelu Sittampalam and Kamalambigai Sittampalam.
Cathiravelu Sittampalam was a distinguished old boy of Royal College, Colombo, and graduated in Mathematics at Cambridge University, England. He was a brilliant Mathematician. He was a Barrister-at-Law, a Civil Servant and a Government Agent. He was a Member of Parliament for Mannar and held the post of Minister of Posts and Telecommunications in independent Ceylon's first cabinet of Ministers with the Hon. D. S. Senanayake as the Prime Minister. The only other Tamil member of the first cabinet of ministers was Mr. C. Sundaralingam, member of parliament for Vavuniya.
STAMP TO HONOUR CATHIRAVELU SITTAMPALAM
STAMP TO HONOUR CATHIRAVELU SITTAMPALAM
A commemorative stamp to mark the first Cabinet Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Cathiravelu Sittampalam was issued in Feb 2004.
Cathiravelu Sittampalam was born on 13th September, 1898 and had a brilliant academic career at Royal College, Colombo. He passed the Cambridge Senior with first class honours and with distinction in Mathematics at the age of 15 years.
At Royal College he showed his brilliance and versatility by winning the much coveted prizes such as English Essay Prize, The De Zoysa Science Prize and the Mathematics Prize. He was also the editor of the college magazine and the Secretary of the Literary Association. He graduated in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge. He qualified as a barrister in the Middle Temple.
He served the government in various capacities such as District Judge and Government Agent in various areas including Matara and Hambantota and on retirement from the Civil Service he was elected as MP for Mannar by a multi-ethnic constituency, consisting of majority of Tamils and was appointed as First Minister of Posts and Telecommunications by the Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake when he formed his first Cabinet of Ministers of Independent Ceylon in 1948.
The other Ministers in this Cabinet were some of the stalwarts of that era, such as S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, Sri John Kotelawela, Dudley Senanayake, A. Ratnayake, Oliver Goonatilake, J. R. Jayewardene, Lalitha Rajapakse, Prof. C. Suntheralingam and five others.
He started the opening of a large number of sub-post offices and thus improved the postal services in the rural areas. Mr. Ratnayake, Wattegama (a contemporary, a distinguished politician and later Speaker of the House of Representatives) on the occasion of his death on 3rd February, 1964 stated of him "I remember one of the things he did which today is one of the most popular things in Ceylon, is the provision of radio sets to villages.
He provided a large number of villagers, hundreds and thousands of villages with receiving sets, so that the village people were able to listen to broadcasts from Radio Ceylon and many of the popular items now in the programme were initiated by Mr. Sittampalam. I remember one of the items which was inaugurated by Mr. Sittampalam was pirith which is very popular with the Buddhists today." He was also the Minister for Industries, Industrial Research and Fisheries for a short period.
Sittampalam hailed from a distinguished Tamil family from Jaffna. His father Arumugam Cathiravelu was a Magistrate and District Judge. His uncle Arumugam Canagaratnam was the Chairman of the first Urban Council of Jaffna and built and founded Canagaratnam Maha Vidyalayam. Mr. C. Sittampalam's grand uncle Viswanather Casipillai was a Crown Proctor and co-founder of the Jaffna Hindu College.
Mr. C. Sittampalam's own brother C. Ponnambalam was the First Mayor of Jaffna, and his brother-in-law C. Casipillai was the Third Mayor of Jaffna. Sittampalam's son Arjuna and his grandson Ganesh have taken after him in the field of Mathematics, the former being a top Investment Banker in the United Kingdom and the latter having entered the Guinness Book of records several times for his academic achievements at a young age.