Dinesh Turns Three-Score
Boralugoda Ralahamy’s grandson Dinesh Chandra Rupasinghe Gunawardena
was born to Philip and Kusuma Gunawardena on the March 2, 1949. His
father Don Philip Rupasinghe Gunawardena is known as the Father of Sri
Lankan Socialism. His mother Kusuma Gunawardena, was the first and only
woman MP to return uncontested to the Parliament of Ceylon.
Minister Dinesh Gunawardena
It is during the time that Mrs. Kusuma Gunawardena was actively
articulating the political programs and philosophy of the party and that
of the husband in Parliament that Dinesh Gunawardena was born.
Dinesh studied Business Economics as his main subject in the
Netherland School of Business (Nyenrode University). Having successfully
completed his higher diploma in International Business he obtained a
scholarship to the University of Oregon, USA. There he graduated with a
degree in Business Administration and International Transport. In New
York he obtained employment in a prestigious organization. It was during
this time that his father passed away.
After some time Dinesh returned to Sri Lanka to carry forward the
political programs of his father and guide the destinies of the MEP. At
the by-election held in 1983 Dinesh was elected with a massive mandate
from the voters to become the Member of Parliament for Maharagama.
In 1985 his mother passed away. Soon Dinesh had to suffer a very
tragic loss in the untimely passing away of his wife, leaving behind
son-Yadamini & daughter-Sankapali who were at that time 5 years & 4
years of age, respectively.
Following the Indo-Lanka Accord in June 1987 Dinesh struck common
cause with Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike and other political leaders who
shared a common stand for the protection of the unitary state and the
heritage of this country. Dinesh was actively involved in support of the
candidature of Mrs. Bandaranaike at the second presidential elections.
His contribution was manifested in the highest number of votes cast
for Mrs. B from the Maharagama seat, though she was defeated. Parliament
was dissolved even before the results of the presidential polls were
At the general elections of 1989 Dinesh lead under the MEP banner and
was successful in holding the Maharagama seat. Under his leadership 3 of
the MEP members found representation in Parliament. Thereafter, Dinesh
continued to play a leading role in the Parliament as a front bencher of
the Opposition lead by Mrs. B.
The ruling party was calculatedly whittled down some of the
progressive measures that were taken in the wake of 1956 victory as
evident in amendments to the Paddy Lands Act, the mutilation of the CTB
act and the formation of cluster companies, which turned out to be white
elephants. Most of the related Bills were challenged in the Supreme
Court at the initiative of Dinesh.
There was also a move to introduce amendments to the Archeology
Ordinance to remove the control of temples from the hands of the
Viharadipathis and vest it in the hands of laymen. Dinesh the and master
of Parliamentary procedures was very vigilant and alert enough to take
the then government by surprise in calling for a early vote on this Bill
when the government benches were depleted.
Dinesh with his legendary and visionary father Philip
Gunawardene at the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna May Day procession
This move resulted in the first and only defeat of a Bill presented
by the ruling party in their 17 years of rule. When attempts were being
made to reintroduce this Bill, after much agitation and with
representations made to the Supreme Court inviting attention to the
legal effect of this Bill which should have had the effect of
contravening Section 9 of the Constitution, Dinesh successfully
checkmated that move.
Dinesh interacted with the leaders and other important persons in
various continents for the mutual benefit of Sri Lanka and the
respective countries. He met Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in a delegation
that had been sent to Delhi to attend to certain outstanding issues
arising out of the Indo-Lanka Accord.
He maintained a personal relationship with Dr. Vinyaka Purohit,
freedom fighter of India, Mrs. Isabella Allende, daughter of legendary
Allende of Chile, Evo Morales, the present President of Bolivia, Mrs.
Sisulu-daughter of two stalwarts of the ANC movement and close
associates of Nelson Mandela the legendary freedom fighter, and
especially Uhuru Kenyata, son of Jomo Kenyata-the Father of the Kenyan
nation and colleague and associate of Philip Gunawardena in the struggle
against colonialism and imperialism.
The year 1994 was rather eventful for the MEP lead by Dinesh. At the
general elections of 1994, the MEP became a victim of a small coterie of
persons-political enemies-who were calculatedly biding their time to
shut out the MEP from the alliance that was forged. Dinesh,
nevertheless, forged ahead with his campaign to save the national
heritage and the unitary status of Sri Lanka.
The MEP, however, joined the alliance in 2000 and reasserted the
stand on the unitary status and the heritage of this country.
After the Elections of 2000 Dinesh was appointed as the Minister for
Transport and Environment. During his tenure the Ozone Summit was held
in Sri Lanka solely due to the untiring and enthusiastic efforts of
Dinesh. He prepared a Bill to restore the CTB by doing away with cluster
companies. It didn’t see light of day due to defection of a section of
the then government group. This Bill was later presented in Parliament
The defection precipitated a general election which resulted in the
defeat of the government. When the new ruling party sort to bring
legislation to do away with the pension scheme in the entire country,
Dinesh counter moved to checkmate this exercise. The pensioners’ rights
have thus been conserved to this date.
Dinesh as an Opposition Parliamentarian, both in and out Parliament,
fought strenuously against any inroads been made into the unitary state
of Sri Lanka or any erosion of the national heritage of our country. He
moved to forge a broader alliance to counter local and foreign
conspiracies against Sri Lanka. His campaign proved fruitful and the
result was the United People’s Freedom Alliance.
The UPFA registered a landslide victory at the 2004 general
elections. This was followed by the victory of his then Prime Minister
Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Presidential election, which signalled the
birth of a new order with a new outlook and with a new determination to
grapple with the burning challenges of the day.
From this time he has been holding various other Ministries
pre-eminent of these being the Minister of Urban Development, besides
higher education, water supply and sacred area development.
It is to his credit that the Uva Wellassa University stands today
with a new outlook to meet the challenges of the present day. As
Minister of Water Supply he has procured and established the Greater
Kandy water scheme despite considerable difficulty much to the acclaim
of the people of the Kandyan areas inclusive of the Temples of the
Malwatte and Asgiriya chapters within Kandy. In the matter of Sacred
Area Development his projects have accommodated all religions and all
races throughout the island.
The Kusum Nivasa project, the brainchild of Dinesh, which is under
the newly established Urban Settlement Development Authority is unique.
Dinesh has a pragmatic approach to the problem confronting this
country. This is articulated in his address to an influential segment of
the business community, thus, “We need some fresh air if we are to
resolve the problems confronting Sri Lanka, of which the major infirmity
is a stagnant economy. Then the problems of the deprived Sinhalese in
the South and the deprived Tamils in the North, and of the Muslims will
come out in the wash”.
Dinesh Gunawardena who is also presently the Chief Government Whip
turns three-score years today, March 2.