My father had a mission to dedicate his entire life to public service. It started with hope, and it ended with the fulfillment of a long-cherished dream.
It is three years since my father passed away (on August 31, 2007), but it feels like an eternity. Whenever I visit his beloved electorate, Nattandiya, I feel his presence in every nook and corner.
The Marawila post office, the massive bridge in Iranawilla dedicated to the fishing community, every church and temple in the electorate – all these benefited from his contribution, even in a small way.
His beloved people looked up to him as their saviour; his clean leadership will be hard to replace.
The only time I saw my father hold his head down and weep was when he received a call to say that the Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa had been assassinated. He sat at his office table and was silent for hours. My father was down with chickenpox, but that evening he got dressed and rushed to Colombo to attend to the final arrangements for his beloved leader. I cherish such dear memories.
I do not remember a day my father missed Sunday service, even during the height of JVP insurgency. He would drive to his small chapel in Mudukatuwa, kneel down and pray.
He taught us to be thankful for our blessings, to be humble in all ways, and to create harmony in life and among people. He worked seven days a week for the betterment of his people; on Sundays, he worked a half-day in order to have time with the family.
That was when you saw him relaxed and happy, at home, in his white sarong. There were many Sundays he could not join us because of commitments in his electorate. Although his duties must have been at times tiring, he never complained.
The family misses him dearly. We miss his large presence at the dinner table, his voice on the telephone, his driving around in white garb in Nattandiya, his presence at the tennis courts most evenings, and mostly, we miss his big smile and sparkling eyes when he was among his people.
Looking back, I realise he had found his heaven among his people of Nattandiya.
As his youngest daughter, I thought of writing this article to share a few moments of my father’s life.
When I read the following words, I remember my father and his teachings:
“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it. ”