Biography – Mr E.M. Navaratne Banda – President of the SLFVH
Born in Laggala, Matale District, E.M. Navaratne Banda lost his sight at the age of 5. His father was a prominent Ayurvedic physician at that time, very wisely consulted the Government Agent of the Area, who advised him to send young Navaratne Banda to the School for the Deaf and Blind at Ratmalana, and provided Railway warrants to travel thereto. The new student proved to be a bright pupil and displayed a keen interest and enthusiasm for learning.
On leaving school, he was the first blind student to be trained in physiotherapy under the renowned physiotherapist, the late Mr. Francis Perera. His dedication and determination enabled him to attain skill and dexterity in his chose profession and he began to draw a large clientele both foreign and local, which included the highest of the land. In this regard one cannot fail to mention the late Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawela, who was one of his most respected clients as well as benefactor.
Mr Navaratne extended his entrepreneurship to other fields of activity such as the production and sale of starch and adhesives and consumer goods as well as the operation of a tourist resort, together with other members of the family. These projects are progressing well.
In 1959 he was elected as the first President of the Past Pupils Association of the School of the Blind, Ratmalana. He was a founder member of the All Ceylon Blind Union in 1958. In 1971 he became the Treasurer of the Sri Lanka Council for the Blind, and served in that capacity up to 1989. In 1987 he was unanimously elected President of the Sri Lanka Federation of the Visually Handicapped, which position he holds to date.
As President of the Federation he has been the main force instrumental for obtaining the land and a sponsor for the construction of the new five storeyed building for the Federation. In addition, he has played a major role in finding donors for maintaining the Sarana home for the elderly blind at Godawaya, in the Hambantota district. In fact, many of the benefactors of the Federation and its expansion projects have been his friends or associates.
Under his stewardship, the Federation has grown in stature and today it is the premier National organisation of the blind in this country. It has taken giant strides to meet the needs and aspirations of the visually handicapped community and to enable equal opportunities for the blind. Presently the SLFVH contributes in great measures to the granting of a monthly allowance to home workers in the handloom textile industry whose products the State ceased to purchase in 1982. Through his interventions other services have been obtained in the form of travel concessions for the blind on State-run buses, free radio licenses for the blind, the reservation of 3% of jobs in the State sector for persons with disabilities, the establishment of the trust fund for the visually handicapped, the promulgation of the Act for the protection, advancement and promotion of rights of persons with disabilities, the establishment of the national committee for persons with disabilities and the recent launching of the lottery for persons with disabilities.
In February 1998 Ekanayake Mudiyanselage Navaratne Banda took his oaths before the presiding Judge at the Hulftsdorp Court Complex, as a Justice of Peace (all island), the first blind individual to do so in our country. On obtaining this honour, many observed that it was indeed a just reward and recognition for a kind and considerate son of this country, whose amiable personality endears him to all who are fortunate to make contact with him.