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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
May Gamini attain Nibbana.