K Ganeshalingam’s 74th birth anniversary:
Multi-faceted and multi-dimensional personality
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.