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