A Talk On Free Speech
by Sir James Peiris

The following extract illustrates James Peiris' capacity to fundamentally differ with another and yet respect the individual. The extract also contains a salutary lesson for all participants in politics and indeed for all involved in clashes and conflicts over views and proposals for action. — L.J.M. Cooray

"I should like to say something to my Ceylonese friends who are assembled in such large numbers today. In England politicians who attack each other most bitterly in the Council are the greatest of friends outside, (cheers). There is a tendency in this country to think that because a man may be a political opponent, he must be a personal enemy. Gentlemen, I ask you all to banish this idea from your mind, (cheers). You can be on the best personal relations with a man and differ from him very strongly in the matter of politics, (hear, hear). That is a lesson we ought to learn. I say this not only in connection with those who work together as members of the Council, but I also say this, gentlemen, in connection with the relations between the Unofficials and Officials, (hear, hear). You ought to bear this in mind. I have only been in Council a very short time, but I have dabbled in politics for over 30 years, and all that time I have had the best personal relations with many Officials in this country, and also with many members of the European community. But those personal relations have never made me in any way backward in expressing my opinions which were quite antagonistic to their opinions. I shall just mention one small incident to show how Officials treat those who differ from them. You know the genial Governor we had, Sir Henry MacCallum. His policy was one with which we did not agree. But I think we all agree that he was a very genial Governor, (loud applause). You remember, gentlemen, I was called upon to preside at the meeting which took place to protest against the Excise Policy of the Government of the day. Before that I had the honour - I do not know whether to call it "Honour" or "Pleasure", I will say pleasure (laughter) of dining with the Governor who chaffed me and asked me whether we were going to have toddy at the demonstration. Now at the demonstration I was obliged to make a strong indictment against the Government and the Colonial Secretary. A day or two afterwards I was standing opposite a row of sauces and chutneys at the All-Ceylon Industries Exhibition held in the Victorial Park, I felt a gentle tap on the shoulder. I turned round and saw His Excellency who asked me "Is that the Peiris' hot sauce?" (laughter). Now, gentlemen, that shows the way in which political opponents treat each other, (applause). I ask you, gentlemen, to keep this in mind and believe that it is possible for a man to drink tea at Queen's House (you have been talking of the "flavour" of Queen's House Tea) (laughter) today, and tomorrow to walk out of the Council, (loud cheers). Now I think it necessary to say this to you because this sort of thing leads to a lot of misconceptions. Because a man may happen to dine with the Governor or take tea with him, it is supposed he would not act according to his conscience in ordinary political affairs." — Ceylon Daily News, 30. 10. 1922.