He will never truly fade away - Gamini Athukorale
Those were happy days - Wellington Sirilal Rajapakse
Never lost common touch - Rohan Hapugalle
He will never truly fade away
The man was furious when self-exiled JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe arrived
last year, and he was doubly furious when Amarasinghe left the shores before
the general election results were announced. His contention was that Amarasinghe
should have been tried in a court of law. And unlike the majority who would
feel safe in speaking under a veil of diplomacy, Gamini Athukorale felt
no need to pretend or censor what he said.
Many would disagree and even find Athukorale, the charismatic assistant
leader of the UNP rather brash as he spoke his mind. But such was his character
that he plainly expressed exactly what he felt. And that itself was a novel
experience to us scribes who are used to politicians who are often careful
and untruthful in their utterances to the level of hypocrisy.
My first glimpse of Gamini Athukorale has remained deeply etched in
my mind. As a cub reporter nine years ago, I was watching the legislature
in session from the Press Gallery and immediately noticed a white national
clad, bespectacled minister, locking horns with a legislator.
Somehow, that image of the furious minister has remained. And over the
years, we developed an extremely comfortable professional relationship
so much so that he shared his candid views with me, and though not necessarily
in agreement, I found his approach rather refreshing.
For those in the UNP, Gamini was the one who sweated, toiled and laboured
to bring a UNP government into office. While other leaders were recognised
for their ability to govern, Gamini certainly was recognised as the driving
force behind the UNP's electoral victory last December.
As Ranil Wickremesinghe said in his funeral oration, perhaps Gamini's
untimely departure was brought about by the excessive workload he shouldered,
the burdens he silently bore on behalf of the UNP. And having done his
supreme duty by the UNP, of securing electoral victory, Gamini Athukorale
was so jubilant that he claimed that he was even ready to leave the world
in a spirit of victory.
The UNP, a party that is often seen as a monopoly of of the traditional
ruling class, experienced a difference when Gamini Athukorale came along.
He certainly belonged to that same class. Yet he was the man with the common
touch, the man who knew public feeling, felt their pulse. Undoubtedly,
it was he who had that essential Sinhala identity that many found lacking
among UNP politicians, and the man who embodied the fighting spirit the
UNP seemed to lack.
When a group of UNPers while in opposition advocated a national government
with the PA, Gamini Athukorale declared war on such thinking, openly claiming
that a few portfolios should not lure the UNP. He felt strongly about the
UNP being the single largest party, and felt that agreements based on portfolios
was not something the UNP should go for.
It was Gamini's Jana Bala Meheyuma last July that provided the UNP the
necessary impetus and the winning streak to a party that was languishing
in opposition. It was his show, his opportunity to display his skill in
mobilizing people, his undaunting spirit and indefatigable effort that
saw the end of the road for the PA administration.
His finest hour in politics was when he was made the UNP General Secretary
following the dismal defeat in 1994. And the new General Secretary had
a massive rebuilding operation entrusted to him. He began with an ambitious
membership drive, met grassroot level organizers, revamped the party and
rebuilt the party organisation that had been neglected during a 17- year
Having built it up from scratch, he injected the UNP with new vigour
as he continued to hold protests and take up issues headlong. In Parliament,
his voice rose against corruption and malpractice. That was his forte.
He was in his element when he was providing leadership to the masses. Just
three months short of celebrating 25 years in politics, the dynamic Ratnapura
legislator undertook his final assignment last year- to seal the PA administration.
And having done that, his joy knew no bounds.
Gamin Athukorale's detractors would concede that he was candidly honest,
outspoken and loyal to his party. And often there were moments that reminded
me of our first meeting- the angry legislator taking on the opposition
If there was a prize for loyalty among UNP ranks, my contention is that
Gamini Athukorale would have won it uncontested. Such was his unswerving
commitment to the party and loyalty to the party leadership. The mantle
of high office sat lightly upon him.
At 51, Gamini Athukorale shared the enthusiasm of a kid, and had strong
likes and dislikes- things that made him easy to associate with. And over
the years, I have got used to seeing him in the Parliament lobby, taking
quick steps and flashing his ready smile. There are a million things that
flit through my mind as I write this piece on Gamini.
And one thing is true about Gamini Athukorale. As we mourn his loss,
as the UNP struggles to recover from the devastating shock, Gamini Athukorale
could never truly fade away. He had so much of vitality. Such men never
Those were happy days
Wellington Sirilal Rajapakse
Cheerful smile - caring thoughts
Are no more from you, our dear "Willie"!
But, we cherish the happy days spent with you
And will always remember your sweet smile!
You're in our hearts forever
May you attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.
Never lost common touch
It is with a profound sense of sorrow that I learnt of the demise of Uncle
Rohan, while I was out of the country. On my return, one of my first deeds,
was to pay my last respects to Aunty Neelakanthi and the family.
Uncle Rohan, was gifted with many qualities. He was a gentleman par
excellence and humble person.
Despite the high positions he held in Jaycees, Rotary and the field
of commerce and industry, he never lost the common touch.
When I attended the funeral of a fellow Jaycee, who died under tragic
circumstances, I was surprised to see among the many friends, Uncle Rohan.
When I expressed my surprise he said, "It was my duty to pay my respects
to a colleague, although I did not know him personally." This was his humanity
Another remarkable thing was that whenever I sent him congratulatory
notes on his successes, he would make it a point to acknowledge them despite
his busy schedule.
It is my earnest hope and prayer that younger generations will follow
Uncle Rohan's example.
May his soul rest in peace.
May Aunty Neelakanthi and his family be given the strength to bear this