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Government Gazette

President D.B. Wijetunga - An end of an era

Undoubtedly it is with deep regret and profound sadness that the nation mourns the death of former President of Sri Lanka D.B. Wijetunga the third executive President.

At this hour when the nation mourns for its former leader justice, gratitude and appreciation require we should on this occasion to bestow on him an honourable remembrance.

In this country our political ancestors kept themselves always firmly settled in office and through their valour handed it down free to every since succeeding generation, unlike President Wijetunga who was more than magnanimous.

Worthy indeed of praise is he and yet more worthy are our political fore fathers who bequeathed their political work of toil to the present generation of politicians.

President Wijetunga’s chequered life having his beginnings in an ordinary upcountry village family without the command of a clan or class power or the attraction of prestige of economic or social assets is known to everyone.

He started his life almost in the manner of any ordinary man would do with all the disadvantages in life posing a challenge to time. If he wanted to gain anything say education, a job, a place in society he had to work hard and by his own dint of hard work realised it.

There was no one to offer him such rewards on a golden platter. Perhaps it is this quality that finally moulded his character and shaped its electric philosophy. What he learned in the formal and informal way was systematised by him by his own effort based on his own experience.

In his manner of living he showed an elegance tempered with frugality and he cultivated a philosophy without enervating the mind. He displayed his humble wealth in the season of beneficence and not in the vanity of discourse. A confession of humble political beginnings is disgrace to no politician and no effort to avoid it is disgrace indeed.

President D.B. Wijetunga entered politics by joining the United National Party in 1946. He entered Parliament for the first time when he successfully contested the Udunuwara seat at the 1965 general elections, and quickly made a reputation for himself as a fine constituency Member of Parliament ever mindful of the needs of his electors.

In terms of meeting the needs of his constituents he was considered the most effective MP in that parliament. He lost Udunuwara in 1970 and returned in the 1977 UNP landslide as Minister of Information and Broadcasting in the J.R. Jayawardene administration.

He later also served as Minister of Post and Telecommunication, Minister of Power and Highways and Minister of Agricultural development. He served briefly as the Governor of the North Central Province in 1988 before returning to parliamentary politics a few months later. President Wijetunga preserved friends not by receiving but by conferring obligations.

For he who does a kindness has the advantage over him who by the law of gratitude becomes a debtor to his benefactor. The person obliged is compelled to act the more insipid part conscious that a return of kindness is merely a payment not an obligation. Thus every body who got to know President Wijetunga returned honesty impartiality and more dedication to work.

As President Wijetunga espoused our form of Government is committed not to the few but to the whole body of the people which is called a democracy. How different President Wijetunga was in his private capacity he made us enjoy the same general equality our laws are fitted to preserve and superior honours just as we excel.

He showed every body that public administration is not confined to a certain class of people but is attainable only by merit.

He showed us that poverty is not a hinderance since whoever is able to serve his country meets with no obstacles to preferment from his first obscurity. Historic Udunuwara the stronghold of President Wijetunga cover scenery so varied as to include ravines and streamlets and acres and acres of sparkling paddy fields vanishing into the purple distant mountains.

Backward villages in the Udunuwara electorate were provided with roads repaired enabling far flung villages access to development and modern amenities. With the assistance of officials and with the cooperation of constituents he implemented several schemes for the development of Udunuwara.

When Ranjan Wijeratne was killed by a car bomb it was to D.B. Wijetunga that Premadasa turned to assume the Ministry of Defence in which capacity he chaired the National Security Council Wijetunga was asked to take on the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Services on top of his many other responsibilities.

Wijetunga was appointed Prime Minister in 1989 by President Premadasa which was a surprise to the country. At the untimely death of President Premadasa by the unanimous decision of members of Parliament both Government and Opposition he was elected as the third executive President of Sri Lanka, to serve the rest of President Premadasa’s term.

The silver haired President Wijetunga emerged as a tough talking no nonsense President steeping himself in controversy and not giving in an inch to rivals.

As for us who now survive President Wijetunga it is our business to pray for a different fate at the moment but we should think it as our duty also to preserve the same spirit and warmth of courage, against even our enemies.

President Wijetunga made the daily increasing grandeur of his country the object of our thoughts, to grow quite enamoured by it.

When it really appears great to our apprehensions we again conclude that this grandeur of our country was acquired by great and valiant men such as President Wijetunga who knew his duty and in the moments of need and action was sensible. Sadly we have lost another great political leader of our nation.

The life of President Dingiri Banda Wijetunga was exemplary, an ideal which all Sri Lankans should emulate in spirit and philosophy. May the soul of President D.B. Wijetunga rest in eternal peace.

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