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Wednesday, 22 September 2010






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Tribute: Monty Gopallawa:

Role model for politicians

I consider myself very lucky to have had the good fortune to associate, Monty my sincere friend, who in all respect was a gentleman par excellence.

Monty was born on January 16, 1941, in Dullewa Maha Walauwa, Asgiri Udasiya Pattuwe, Matale. The last Governor of Ceylon (1962-1972) and the first non-

Monty Gopallawa

executive President of Sri Lanka (1972-1978), William Gopallawa was his father, and Seelawathie Rambukwella was his loving mother. As he was the youngest of the family, he was named, Moithra Cuda Banda Gopallawa, Iranganie and Chintha were his two elder sisters and Asoka was his elder brother.

He had his primary education at St Thomas Prep-school, Kollupitiya and moved on to S Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia for his secondary education. He entered the Peradeniya University and obtained his BA (Hons) in 1967. He served as an assistant lecturer at Peradeniya University from 1967-1970. He was a popular student and was elected the President of Inter-University Student Movement.

SLFP member

Monty started his active political career in Matale and was elected the SLFP Member of Parliament, Laggala electorate in 1970. During these seven years (1970-77) he developed this back ward electorate, which most politicians neglected since 1948. He started with education Social Welfare, Health, Religious and Environmental Activities. Most of the schools were developed. Advanced Level classes were started in Naula MV, Nalanda MV., Pallegama MV, Konegahawela MV, Mahalakotuwa MV and Namini Oya MV. He upgraded the rural hospitals in Nalanda, Pallegama, Konegahawela, Illukkumbura and Namini-Oya with modern facilities. The roads that were in very deplorable conditions were re-built and a modern highway from Elahera to Namini-Oya was built with two long bridges with Japanese aid. He took the initiative to protect the environment and solve the ‘Human-Elephant’ conflict by making Wasgamuwa, a National Park, where the wild elephants found shelter.

In 1967, Monty got married to Nimal Kobbekaduwa, daughter of Minister Hector Kobbekaduwa, Monty and Nimal were blessed with a son Mahen and a daughter, Shanika.

Monty has represented Sri Lanka in many International Conferences. As the Minister of Cultural Affairs (2000-2001) he made an official visit to China and officiated at the presentation of construction and design documents for the National Performing Arts Centre, Colombo on behalf of Sri Lanka and at the twinning of the

Political career
* Role-model to other politicians
* Started his political career in Matale
* Elected SLFP Member of Parliament, Laggala electorate in 1970
* Engaged in education, social welfare, health, religious and environmental activities
* Involved in friendship activities with Socialist countries
* Appointed Central Province Governor in 2001
* Held the Cultural Affairs Minister portfolio

cities of Kandy and Chengde-China.

Train youth

On June 27, 2001, Moithra Cuda Banda Gopallawa was appointed the Governor of the Central Province. As the Governor he attended the Asia Pacific Scout Jamboree in Kanchanaburi, Thailand as the chief guest, in 2004 and in the same year he made an official visit to Vietnam on an invitation extended by the Government of Vietnam.

As the Governor he had to solve many problems closing down of smaller schools was a major problem. He converted these school buildings to train youths for jobs. The first one was at Thibbatuwawa Village, Matale, where the most Venerable Mahanayake Thera of the Malwatta Chapter, Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Mahanayake Thera was born.

Twentysix smaller schools in far off villages had no monks. He, with the guidance of Mahanayake Theras appointed monks to these temples and provided all facilities to perform the duties of laymen. On every Full Moon Poya Day there was a sermon in governor’s residence to which he invited people of all faiths and on other Poya Days he visited temples in remote villages with a bag of dry-ration for everyone who observed ‘Sil’.

The Karaka Palaka Sanga Sabha of the Ramanya Nikaya awarded the Honorary Title, ‘Keerthi Sri Dharmapriya Sasanabandu’ to Monte Gopallawa in recognition of his social, cultural and religious services rendered by him, in 2005. This simple man had no enemies. He was one of those few politicians who had no security guards around him and at the gates of his house. His palatial house at Dharmapala Mawatha, Matale was always full of people from remote villages in Laggala to see him or to attend to their everyday work in Matale town. They spent the night here and were provided with food and lodging till they finished their work. A large pot of rice and curries were ever ready to feed these grateful people who loved Monty very much.

Socialist countries

Monty was very much involved in Friendship activities with socialist countries. He was the President of Sri Lanka-Laos Friendship Association and Patron of Sri Lanka Vietnam solidarity Association, and Sri Lanka-Cuba Friendship Association, Kandy and Matale. When Vietnam and Cuban delegations visited Kandy and Matale he used to invite them to his official residence and received them warmly and entertained them to tea, lunch and dinner.

He had a very close rapport with all religious sects and always sought the advice of Maha Sanga very specially the Mahanayake Theras of Malwatta and Asgiriya chapters, before he ventured into any difficult project or program. He had proposed and implemented many novel and new schemes to upgrade the standard of Sri Dalada Maligawa Perahera and other Devalas and also helped the traditional dancers and feeble artists in the Central Province to live a decent life in their old age.

Monty Gopallawa was a highly disciplined person, working to time and for the benefit of the poor masses. He was really a role model to other politicians. He never used his political power to harass his opponents and never earned money from politics.

He, in fact, sold most of his property to raise funds for his election campaign.

He was not ambitious but took all things seriously and never hoodwinked the people to gain popularity in the 'rat-race' for power. Monty was a loving and caring husband to his wife and a devoted father to his son, Mahen and Shanika his daughter and a loving father-in-law to Nilushi. He was a simple, lovable and an unassuming person.

Although five years have passed since he left his relations, friends and the poor people of Laggala and the Central Province, still we all remember him with honour, love and respect.

Moithra Cuda Banda, my good friend we miss you, but we have a very special place for you in the deepest place of our hearts.

May you attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana!

The writer is a retired principal


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