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Reflections on 67th Birth Anniversary

I came to know Lionel Gamini Dissanayake as a fellow student. A mere acquaintance. A contemporary of mine at Law College. Subsequently - a lasting friendship.

At Law College Gamini kept his leadership qualities and oratorical and debating skills to himself. They were never on display for any fellow student to prophesy a political future for him. However, those who knew him intimately having had access to the wealth of knowledge he had in matters of politics, expected him without much delay to enter the political arena for the country.

Having seen him only in Western attire, I was struck with a premonition when I saw him for the first time clad in national costume at a friendís wedding in 1967. I knew then that the day would not be very far off when he would make his mark in politics.

Resounding victory

There was an aura of sensation often in any important event connected with Gaminiís life. In 1970 when he contested a parliamentary seat for the first time; the UNP faced a debacle. But he won his seat and sat among UNP stalwarts in Parliament.

Soon thereafter Gamini was unseated in an election petition, but won a resounding victory at the by-election in 1972. His tenacity to fight to the finish was clear to us then.

He held his audience in rapt attention at many a parliamentary debate or during a speech at some occasion or the other.

He could talk to any group, irrespective of age, ethnicity, academic or professional background.

This bears ample testimony to the wealth of knowledge he had, his studious application to the subject matter, his capacity to absorb and his fluent and eloquent delivery. Eulogies have been written elsewhere of his achievements.

Suffice it to say that he was the leader of the team, which planned, executed and implemented the Accelerated Mahaweli Scheme, the largest development project undertaken by any government in the known history of our country.

His will to fight, he has demonstrated many a time. The year 1990 was a tragic year for him. He was dropped from the Cabinet and stripped of many positions he held in the party, some of which were very dear to him. Gaminiís entire political future was at stake.

He left the country despondent. Being fortunate to have spent a few moments with him at the time of his departure I would say it was a moving scene.

Knowing him as I did I was confident that he would come back stronger than ever before.

Although a few thought he would never come back to politics, Gamini returned to Sri Lanka in the mid of another sensation - this time to face an alleged charge of abduction of a then well-known personage.

The case ended up in another sensation, it being dismissed without calling him as the defendant to defend himself.

Gaminiís role in the motion to impeach the then President and the events, which followed, are well known. Whether he was right or wrong has been debated and is further debatable.

But what emerges is that he did what he thought and considered right for the cause of democracy.

Gamini was a man in a hurry. He could not wait for things to happen. He wanted to make things happen. It would be more correct to say that he made things happen.

Political endeavour

A leader has to be ambitious. To succeed one has to be ambitious whether in politics or in other fields of endeavour. So Gamini had his share of ambition - to be the future leader of his country. He was at home with the fool, the naive, the hardworking, the brainy and the intellectual. With the highest and the lowest in the land, he was equally relaxed and would win their hearts.

To those who did not know him he was haughty and proud but to those who knew him he was always kind and considerate. He was kind to a fault. It caused him to make friends of enemies. Often Gamini was happy and carefree with a lively sense of humour. At times, however, he appeared to be withdrawn and moody. May be the vagaries of his chosen profession weighed heavily on him on such occasions.

Politics was both his triumph and disaster. Every triumphant moment in his life was related to politics and so was every tragic moment.

Tragic loss

When I remember his untimely death I can only quote him, when he wrote to me on the tragic loss of my brother, he having lost a brother in similar circumstances, thus:

ď....you could console yourself and sustain yourself in some way. I could do so only through the Dhamma and its wisdom that life and death are ever present illusions and that the life of every being brings at the time of his arrival the time also of his departure.

Beyond that beings are reborn according to their Karma... and he being a person of merit and happiness would be the same wherever he is....Ē

May Gamini attain Nibbana.

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