First death anniversary of former Minister R. M.
The Uncrowned Prince of Wellassa
October 23rd marks the first death anniversary of late
Parliamentarian R. M. Dharmadasa Banda from Bibile Wellassa.
Wellassa is famed in legend and history for its great hero Monarawila
Keppetipola and other heroes who laid down their lives to liberate their
motherland from foreign invasion and aggression.
Wellassa was also renowned for its lush green paddy fields, orchards
of luscious oranges and springs of crystal clear water. The word
Wellassa implies hundred thousand paddy fields.
R. M. Dharmadasa Banda
Late R. M. Dharmadasa Banda was born on February 7, 1938. He hailed
from an influential distinguished family from Medagama Bibile. His
father R. M. Kiribanda was the Chief Village Headman of Medagam Pattuwa,
He received his primary education at Medagama MV Bibile and proceeded
to Colombo for his post primary and higher education. The Chief
Incumbent and Sanganayka late Ven Pitadeniye Sri Ratanapala of Medagama
Anandaramaya also a celebrated teacher at Mahabodhi College and Ananda
College Colombo at that time, having recognized the talents and
potential of the boy patronized to bring him to Colombo for his future
The late venerable was his teacher, preacher and spiritual guide
throughout. He described him as ‘the Prince of Wellassa’ because he
brought credit and pride to Wellassa.
The late minister received his education at Ananda Sasthralaya, Kotte
and then at Zahira College Maradana during the Principalship of late Dr.
A. M. A. Azeez who saw a golden era dawn at Zahira. The late minister
excelled in English medium studies up to the University entrance. He
played cricket and volleyball for Zahira. He captained the volleyball
team and was a colour holder in cricket.
After completing his studies he came back to Bibile and was
determined to serve the down trodden masses. He was unanimously elected
the chairman of the Medagama VC.
Then he got an appointment as a specialist English teacher. In a
short space of time he became very popular among his students in the Uva.
Late Dharmadasa Banda was the younger brother of late parliamentarian
R.M. Gunasekara, MP for Bibile, who was assassinated by an unidentified
gunman. Since then late Dharmadasa Banda became the caretaker and
guardian of his dead brother’s only son Ranjith Madduma Bandara, the
present Moneragala District MP. After his brother’s untimely death he
became the chief UNP organizer for Bibile and gained immense support
from the masses.
Elected to Parliament in 1965 to fill the vacuum created by the death
of his brother R. M. Gunasekara, late Dharmadasa Banda rendered a great
service to Bibile and its outskirts being the youngest MP in Parliament
at the age of 27. He could not retain his seat at the 1970 General
Election because the ULF acquired a landslide victory.
He entered Law College for better future prospects and passed out as
the first attorney-at-law from the Moneragala district.
He was re-elected in 1977 and was appointed the Deputy Minister of
Textile and Handloom Industries. He did his best to develop textile
industries and safeguarded the interest of small scale Handloom
He was re-elected in 1989 and was appointed the Agricultural
Development and Research Minister.
During his tenure of office he regularized the farmers’ pension
scheme. He took steps to boost paddy production, subsidiary crop
production and sugar cane cultivation in the Moneragala and Ampara
areas. The construction of agricultural wells in the Dry Zone around
paddy lands to provide water to cultivate vegetables and other
subsidiary food crops during droughts was a concept of the late
He organized and initiated the Farmers’ Day to inspire the farmer
folk. The Farmers’ Day was celebrated on a very grand scale at Kettarama
Stadium with the participation of late President R. Premadasa. He worked
hard to revitalize the orange cultivation that had been ruined by a leaf
pest and fungi with the help of local and foreign expertise. He restored
the abandoned irrigation works, dams, anicuts etc in the dry zone. He
achieved credit as one of the best Ministers of Agriculture we have had.
He joined the UPFA government in 2005 to extend support to President
Mahinda Rajapaksa to liberate our motherland from ruthless terrorism
that plagued the country for decades. He held the portfolio of the
Minister of Minor Export Crops.
He was equally eloquent in English and Sinhala. He was a handsome
leader with appealing personality to behold. His mere presence inspired
the people. People of Wellassa loved him dearly because he was committed
and dedicated to service.
He passed away on October 23, 2010.
May he attain Nibbana.
The lives of great men all remind us.
We can make our lives sublime
And departing leave behind us
Foot prints in the sands of time.
- Henry Wordsworth Longfellow