From The Western Democratic Tradition by LJM Cooray

I was born and nurtured in a traditional and elitist environment in which classical liberal, religious and Asian values intermingled. The importance of integrity and individual responsibility, concern for human suffering and problems and the vision of human interaction under divine inspiration as the basis for the establishment of a better world were the ideas that were put before me in my formative years.

I embraced socialist and progressivist ideas whilst at university. Socialist and progressivist ideas based on concern for human problems led me to question seriously and reject many of the values and institutions of my early education and home environment. I felt they were not conducive to the confrontation of and solution to human problems and suffering. Socialist and progressivist ideas took a deep hold on me for about twelve years. Whilst studying at Cambridge I opposed the Vietnam war and was involved in the anti-war campaign. I came to believe that the Soviet Union was being unjustly and overly criticised and I was cynical about anti-Soviet propaganda. I was interested and involved in the political struggles in Sri Lanka. I supported the Socialist Constitution and was an intellectual apologist for it. I was, however, a continuing critic of the socialist government in Sri Lanka, pointing out the deep gulf between theory and practice. I was a founder member of the Civil Rights movement in Sri Lanka. Consequent to victimisation in public employment visited on the President of the Civil Rights Movement who was a colleague and good friend of mine, I decided to emigrate from the then socialist Sri Lanka. I arrived in Australia a refugee from Bandaranaike socialism without a penny in my pocket (due to exchange control laws) and was compelled to make a new start in an unknown country.

While I was a socialist I took socialism seriously. I had struggles with my conscience in purchasing a family home, becoming a property owner and receiving inherited property. On deeper reflection and experience I have found socialism and progressivism wanting. I have come to believe that socialism and progressivism are in practice, as far as human development is concerned, retrogressive philosophies.

I have been committed at various times to socialism and progressivism and also to the liberal tradition. Through this process of thought and experience, I have come to appreciate the evolved values of western civilisation. Socialist and progressivist ideas which influenced me at one time have been influential in the refinement of my liberal values.

I have drawn from socialism's professed concern for human problems, for suffering and for a better world but I have rejected the foundations of socialist and (so-called) progressivist ideas. A better world for all, especially for the poor, can only be achieved through a revival of the values and institutions which were responsible for the rise of western civilisation (for reasons provided in various parts of this book).

I have drawn from the liberal/conservative and socialist traditions. I suppose in a sense I do not belong anywhere. I am a cultural bastard (an Asian in a western environment). In my socialist days, I used to stress the importance of individual liberty and political freedom in a way which made me an odd man out. My recognition of the importance of freedom, of the need for strong government as well as limited government, that the problems which freedom creates cannot be ignored and of the importance of family, moral values and the common law, do not always fit in with the ideas of other conservatives and liberals.

The conclusion represents my understandings based on my study of history, law, politics and government in reasonable depth. More superficial encounters with readings in sociology, philosophy, sociobiology, evolution and economics have also influenced me. My practical involvements as a teacher, in politics, in journalism, in law, as a company director, in the working of government bureaucracies and committees and in religious organisations have deepened my understandings — as has the experience of living and working for substantial periods among brown, black, white and yellow people on three continents and for shorter periods on the other two.