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K Ganeshalingam’s 74th birth anniversary:

Multi-faceted and multi-dimensional personality



K Ganeshalingam

The 74th birth anniversary of former Mayor of Colombo Municipal Council K Ganeshalingam falls today. He was at the helm of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) for over a decade beginning from July 1991. He was Deputy Mayor for two and a half years (July 1991 to the end of 1993), Acting Mayor for another two and a half years (January 1994 to June 1996), Mayor for nine months (June 1996 to March 1997) and as leaders of the Opposition for five years (May 1997 to April 2002).

Ganeshalingam or ‘Ganesh’ as he was popularly and affectionately called by his friends, relations and associates was born in Puloly, Point Pedro on January 3, 1938 into an orthodox and conservative family which has not only excelled in the sphere of education, but has rendered yeoman service in the propagation, promotion and development of Hindu religion, Hindu culture, Tamil language and Tamil literature.

His father late Kanagasabai was a well-known lawyer who retained the confidence of the Bench and the Bar at the Point Pedro District Court.

Eminent personalities

Ganeshalingam received his early education at Hartley College, Point Pedro, a well-known educational institution that has produced eminent personalities like late K B Ratnayake, former Minister, Speaker and Governor of the Central Province in the SLFP government.

On completion of his early education at Hartley College, Point Pedro, he came over to Colombo for his secondary education and joined S Thomas College, Mt Lavinia and was under the tutelage of Rev Roy H Bowyiryin, a former Cambridge University scholar who whilst serving as Chaplain of S Thomas, also taught Mathematics to the University entrance class students.

Ganeshalingam obtained entrance to the University of Ceylon and spent most of his time in the Students’ Union where he actively participated in its activities and won every election he contested.

After his university educational career he joined Ford Rhodes Thornton and Company to study accountancy. Here he was very popular with the clients and colleagues because of his friendly disposition.

Thereafter, he launched into many business ventures, most of which proved successful because of his hard work, dedication, high sense of discipline and commitment.

Shanty dwellers

Though he was in the business, his passion was politics. As such, he contested the Colombo Municipal Council elections and was appointed as Deputy Mayor and thereafter on account of his efficiency, hard work, honesty and integrity, finally he ended up as Mayor of Colombo Municipal Council and piloted the affairs of the Council with unsurpassed distinction and unsullied honour. Besides, he was a very popular mayor and did much for the city by way of widening roads, uplifting shanty dwellers His selfless, inestimable and admirable services had been duly recognized and immensely appreciated by all the communities and denominations.

He rose above narrow parachialism, regionalism, sectarianism and communalism and he was held in high esteem by successive Presidents, Ministers, Members of Parliament belonging to different parties. Besides, his persuasive eloquence, and his missionary spirit were rare. His sense of responsibility was unscrupulous, his behaviour was modest.

He had the gift of understatement using the soft word to mitigate wrath. Further, he was consistently pragmatic in his approach and willing to seek out and accept solutions wherever they could be found. This brought him the personal esteem even from his opponents.

Ganeshalingam had immense human and humane qualities. He practised what he preached and discharged his duties and responsibilities without fear or favour, guided by the philosophy and teaching of ‘Bhagavad Gita'.

He was truly a great Hindu gentleman wishing well of others. He was a man of gold and his mind was a mansion of noble thoughts. His face was always lit with smiles, deep piety and integrity character.

He was of the view that noble means, noble ideas, noble actions will certainly have noble consequences. Convoluted thinking and contorted behaviour would lead to calamitous consequences. In fact, there is a famous stanza from ‘Purananooru’ which was written about 2,000 years ago which has influenced the thoughts of the Tamils. This poem runs as follows:

All villages are mine,

All human beings are my relatives.

Good and bad are the outcome of our own actions and not of others.

Ganeshalingam had donated tremendously for the construction and restoration of several Hindu and Buddhist temples. Further, he had helped immensely for the betterment of Colombo Vivekananda Society, All Ceylon Hindu Congress and various other temples and religious organizations. He was always of the view that ‘what the right hand does, the left hand should not know'. In fact, he had even helped his ‘Alma Mater’, Hartley College, Point Pedro, and S Thomas College, Mt Lavinia. Even now, the Rector and past students of S Thomas College remember him with gratitude for the yeoman service he rendered for the college.

He was responsible for the revival of the ‘Vel’ festival after a lapse of several years. Ganeshalingam had the rare privilege of receiving ‘His Holiness Pope John Paul II’ in January 1995. Even he received blessings from ‘Mother Theresa’ in recognition and appreciation of his services to the poor and the downtrodden. Possessed of a sparkling versatile genius Ganeshalingam illumined any and every task which he undertook with extra sense of devotion, dedication and commitment combined with a unique organising ability and with a dedicated harmonizing touch.

He was literally a comet who blazed momentarily across our skies, leaving in his trail a luminescence which the passing of time can hardly erase.

Indeed, he was a colossus, multi-faceted and multi-dimensional personality who will be always remembered by all the communities and denominations for his work, worth and value.

 

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