22 October, 2020

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Gamini Dissanayake Pursued Practical, Smart Politics Of The Sublime Without Resorting To Cheap Politics

By Palitha Pelpola

Palitha Pelpola

“All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.” ~John Kenneth Galbraith

Gamini Dissanayake would have been seventy seven years plus old had he lived. But fate so decreed that he be gunned down twenty five years ago at the ‘tender’ age of fifty two (52), at his prime, reminding all of us about the very impermanency of human life and its fragile length of years.

Each year at his birth or death anniversary or at both, writers write, speakers orate and thinkers deliberate about this man whose span of political power exceeded the boundaries of narrow nationalism and parochial politics. When the ordinary mundane indulged in politics, Gamini Dissanayake sculptured a novel and moving spectacle of dynamic statesmanship. When others strained to drag him into the gutters and a garbage pile, where they found their own ‘comfort zones’, Gamini refused to go there; he rejected the lucrative but temporary cushions of power and embraced a fresh and creative drama of serving the people altogether.

In today’s context, Gamini’s philosophy of life in general and politics in particular has no relevance, for its very existence is denied every minute and hour by the charlatans of deceit and fraud. Some of those who eulogize about Gamini today are firstly hypocrites and secondly incapable and uneducated.

Gamini Dissanayake

It is valid in the dark, chaotic and gloomy regions of power politics and it is even more compelling in the real corridors of power and corruption in Sri Lanka today. The House of Parliament is empty and lonesome; the collective voice of Cabinet of Ministers is muted and without any guiding voice; the paddy fields are barren and without life-giving water; the schools are without a teacher of any lofty standing, factory wheels are missing a pivotal cog and a link and political life generally is dull and boring. Such was the man’s power; such was his influence on worldly matters that mattered to man, common and of elite; such was his charisma, unmatched and unmatchable.

But life shouldn’t be like this. That exactly was what Gamini probed and inquired into; its complexities did not irritate him, nor did they divert his attention from the task at hand. Gifted with enormous capacity for diverse work, Gamini could chair over four different meetings on four different subjects at the same time and still reach decisions and issue instructions that would yield results of enormous weight and relevancy. Born with an uncanny eye for talent and ability, he chose the best for all billets, whether the jobs were the least consequential or most demanding; he made them rise independent of him and achieve excellence of their own making. When some leaders did not allow even a blade of grass to grow under them, Gamini made room for his supporters, juniors and subordinates to develop their own niches and sharpen their skills that would stand in good stead one day.

He was a perfect blend between tradition and modernity; an ideal equilibrium between extremism and liberalism. Never resorting to cheap and populist politics that is embraced by a great majority of politicians of today and yesterday, Gamini Dissanayake pursued practical and smart politics of the sublime. His answer to the question as to why he risked his political career by getting involved in the alleged authorship of the Thirteenth Amendment which recognized the rights of a minority in the country in order to bring lasting peace and co-habitation between the two major ethnic groups gave ample testimony to his candor and honesty and forthrightness: “why, isn’t my mother Sinhalese?” Gamini was offended by the questioning of his abiding commitment to the cause of the majority Sinhalese people! The interviewer was dumbfounded. He ought to have been.

Once, in the early Nineteen Eighties, we travelled to Nuwara Eliya with the late R I T Alles, the former Principal of D S Senanayake Vidyalaya, for a seminar. Alles was billed to deliver a motivational speech to the staff and students of Gamini Vidyalaya in Nuwara Eliya. I had to make the introductory address and was leaning forward, resting my lower body over the podium. All of a sudden I heard my name being called from behind: “Palitha, stand erect and speak”, Gamini shouted at me for everyone to hear. He saw the flaw and he corrected it then and there and I felt ashamed, yet I learned. He taught me the postures one should adopt when one delivers a speech. Since that day, each time I mount a platform to make a speech, I remember those words: “stand erect and speak”.

From Cricket to Mahaweli, Lands, computer studies and English education, Gamini made it a personal habit of his to render his best at all times and he did so without any fear or favor. When there were a couple of telephone calls from the Sirikotha, the UNP headquarters, asking him why he engaged Tissa Abeysekera, a well-known LSSPer to direct the “Gangawa Tharanaya” (Crossing the River) television drama for the Accelerated Mahaweli Program, he summoned me and asked me why I gave it to Tissa. I told him that in my judgment, Tissa was the best to do such a moving drama. He accepted and when the movie was done, he invited all UNP parliamentarians to come to the Liberty Cinema in Kollupitiya for a special screening of the Gangawa Tharanaya. That year the coveted award for the single-episode TV drama was won by Gangawa Tharanaya. The critics were silenced. His trust in his subordinates was total, without qualification.

He was instrumental in getting the music maestro Premasiri Khemadasa back into the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) studios after a lapse of several years since the master too, solely because of his political affiliations, was persona non grata at the SLBC during the early days of the UNP regime in the late Nineteen Seventies. Khemadasa provided music and melody for the songs for the Mahaweli and Swarnabhumi land grant programs. When talent counted, all politics and its shades and colors evaporated in Gamini’s presence. He did not indulge in parochial politics; nor did he seek revenge from those who had caused untold hardships to UNP supporters during the dark age of 1970-1977. For him there was only one way to move: forward.

Whether he moved with Rajiv Gandhi or Natvar Singh in the Indian political hierarchy, Margaret Thatcher or Judith Hart of the British Establishment or Gary Sobers or Rudy Webster of Cricket, to quote Rudyard Kipling, he ‘never lost touch with the common man’.

But many have tried to distort history and portray Gamini as an appeaser; some have even endeavored to tarnish his image with stories of burnings of libraries and ownership of apple yards. They have all failed as they ought to have. All such scorn and what not, has been answered in their own time, in their own intrinsic ways. Around him, charisma glowed; little fellows felt big and the big couldn’t help but bow. Today on twenty fifth death anniversary, people still remember him for what he did and specially for what he could not do as he was not spared another twenty to thirty years.

With Gamini’s death, Srima lost a loving husband, Navin, Varuni and Mayantha lost an understanding ‘Appachchi’ and the country lost an inspiring and charismatic leader, an honest and a forthright one and a brave and gallant one. In his presence, leaders of today would shudder and stutter, for there was no place for mediocrity in Gamini Dissanayake’s realm.

*October 24th is the 25th Death Anniversary of Gamini Dissanayake

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Latest comments

  • 15
    0

    The flames that engulfed the Jaffna Public library will speak volumes about his greatness.
    So would the waters of Mahaweli that made him extraordinarily rich.

    • 1
      4

      SJ

      Mmmm ..

      Man is a mixture of good & bad.

      To my calculation he’s 50% good & 50% bad.

      • 3
        1

        Examples of practical, smart politics of the sublime:
        1. 1981 – Burning of Jaffna library to destroy ola leaves recording history of Jaffna.
        2. 1983 – Releasing goons and making them to burn Tamil properties in Nuwaraeliya.
        3. 1984 – Ethnic cleansing of Tamils from Manalaru and naming it Welioya.
        4. 1987 – Giving excuse for not attending parliament, knowing about bomb attack.

  • 1
    9

    This is a moving article which surely touched many hearts of people of that era. It is unfortunate that our country was made leaderless by the civil war, darkest chapter of Sri Lankan history. There were three politicians with immense talent and intellect who loved mother Sri Lanka but could not fulfil their potential as they were gunned down before reaching pinnacle of their political careers. They were charismatic, erudite, honest and had a vision for the country. In my humble opinion they were Gamini Dissanayake, Lalith Athulathmudali and Luxman Kadiragamar. They were the silver bells of Asia and best Primeministers Sri Lanka never had.

    • 1
      1

      your twisted statement proves that you are one of those “Sinhalese spies” or possibly an other spy who are directed by “Well known global agent.” Do not worry! Western countries knows well what they have doing in Sri lanka. Jews are the only ones who does not like to give up . I know have been backing Unity government and at the same time supporting Rajapakses. And this time Gota Rajapaksa.
      Just wait and see!
      problem Sri lanka is facing .is global it is not only local.

  • 2
    11

    Mahaveli and Swarnabubmi.. My Elders tell me those are great projects , But I never knew Mr Gamni Dissanayaka from the UNP did them.

    What a contrast to the current Lot.
    When someone like this Dude writes an Eulogy on the current Crop of UNP Rulers, in twenty five years ,wonder what material they would have to report?.

    The greatest Bank Robbery which cost our EPF members LKR 11 Billion .
    Free Car Permits to the tune of LKR 34 Million Each,
    Easter Sunday Attacks which nearly destroyed the Catholic Church.
    And an all neutral PSC which grilled even their own PM and the President but couldn’t find who done it.

    My Elders tell me Minister Navin is the son of this great Dude along side a another grand son of a another great Dude ,Mr D. Senanayaka of the UNP.

    The grand son of Mr D S Senanakan I think has had enough of his mates..
    Poor fella is going to retire and he does not look like even 50.

    The reason is the new Leader Hopeful Keselwatta Kid has not answered his Letter wanting to know whether Dr Ranil will be the next PM,
    Whether Ravi Karunanayaka will be in the Cabinet.
    Why Raul Hakeem addressing the UNP rallies with that Zaharan Hakeem Tape doing the rounds in social media.?.-
    Whether Minister Bathudeen will be back in Dr Ranil’s Cabinet.

    Wonder whether this UNP great man Gamini Dissanayaka ‘s Son Navin Dissa has asked any questions from Keselwatta Kid?..

  • 7
    5

    By today’s standards, GD was exemplary and achieved much during his time. Having said that, like most other SL Politicians there are allegations against him as well ( e.g. accumulation of wealth – investments in Australia).

    It appears, most of those who take to Politics in Sri Lanka, do so primarily not to serve the Nation / People but to feather their own nests. I can think of only a handful of Politicians who may not have fitted into that mould. Dudley Senanayake is one of them.

    It’s to be regretted his two sons are not of the same stature as their father and infact, by some of their actions, put their father to shame.

    May GD’s soul rest in peace!

    • 8
      1

      Gamini

      “It’s to be regretted his two sons are not of the same stature as their father and infact, by some of their actions, put their father to shame.”

      Of course Dutta Gamani’s children could not match their father whose stature includes the destruction of Jaffna Library, releasing thugs from police detention just before the riots, his promise to finish off Tamils before the Indians come to help them, then of course Mahaweli funds and investments in apple orchards in Australia, …………..
      This was another Nayakka who was an enemy of the entire people of this island. One of his most successful understudy is Basil (10 to 20%).

  • 20
    0

    Gamini Dissanayake Pursued Practical, Smart Politics Of The Sublime Without Resorting To Cheap Politics?

    Oh really? This low life scumbag, with that low class douche bag Cyril Matthew and 200 drunken cops burnt down the entire Jaffna library and the town. He was a racist filth!!!! Yes he played smart politics, for a racist he did pretty well. Even in the parliament Premadasa accused him and Mathew of burning the library down. We Tamils will never forget what these racist douche bags do to us. I only wish he died a slow excruciatingly painful death. He was truly a SOB!!!

    • 7
      0

      Not only this , this racist was planning to colonise the north and large parts of the remaining Tamil majority east with Sinhalese under the so called Mahaveli scheme. This diabolical scheme was kept very hush hush and secret until some loud mouth blurted this out and it had to be shelved. As per this scheme , the north will have only a Tamil majority in the Jaffna , Killinochchi and northern Mullaitheevu areas . Mannar , Vavuniya and southern Mullaitheevu to become Sinhalese majority with large scale Sinhalese colonisation. The same in the east . Trincomalee and Amparai will become Sinhalese majority areas and the Tamil majority in the eastern heartland Batticaloa to be greatly reduced. All Sinhalese politicians and governments are still trying their best to implement this plan under various guises.

      • 2
        0

        I could add to this.
        He made it policy to allocate land in every Mahaweli settlement in proportion to the national (rather than local or regional) ethnic distribution.

    • 1
      9

      Tamil Mate,
      Your lot in Lankawe are not helping Keselwatta Kid at all, this time.
      After the two Lingams , Sivaji and Dharme modified the Hindian 13 A . Keselwatta Kid was totally disorientated..
      Which forced his nemesis Dr Ranil to call the ex Vellala CM .on the Cell phone to sort the things out.
      But the ex CM flatly refused..

      Now the talk is that 5 Tamil Parties in the TNA are going to meet Dr Ranil and sign an agreement.
      Looks like Dr Ranil is now in total control .
      Is this a sign that Keslwatta Kid. is sure to score on the 16th but on Dr Ranil’s Terms?..

      I wonder whether this new Tamil Stand is because of Keselwatta Kids association with undesirables like Navin Dissa whom I believe is the son of Senior Dissa who burned the Tamil library in Jaffna. .

    • 8
      1

      Tamil from the north

      “I only wish he died a slow excruciatingly painful death”

      This is cruel.
      I don’t think you should lower yourself because of a scumbag, crook, racist, thug, ….

      • 8
        0

        Native I agree with you my friend, but the pain of losing our land, everything we owned, and personally seeing the entire Jaffna city in tatters the next day was so painful as a minority. Many feel the same anger, unfortunately I verbalized it. I for one, never ever felt that the Sinhala people are my enemies. There were and are racists on both sides. Majority of the Sinhalese are very decent people.

        • 8
          0

          ‘With Gamini’s death, Srima lost a loving husband………………” and while Gamini lived the Tamils lost one of the worlds best library. Thanks to Gamini

  • 10
    0

    The well planned torching of the Jaffna Library was the most despicable act in the recent history of this island. It very clearly demonstrated the low, callous mindset of the people who orchestrated it . Nothing else they may have achieved matters .

  • 12
    0

    ‘Palitha, stand erect and speak”, Gamini shouted at me for everyone to hear. He saw the flaw and he corrected it then and there. Palitha Pelpola doesn’t have even the intelligence to separate callousness from greatness. That act of Gamini is a sign of his arrogance and utter disdain for a subordinate. And Palitha is proud of being at the receiving end. It only reflects the slave mentality of Palitha!

  • 8
    0

    during 83 pogrom N’eliya was peaceful until the arrival of GD. it is well known to all. you know what happened afterwards.
    Dayal

  • 1
    9

    Late Gamini Dissanayake was a charismatic leader born with leadership qualities. A visionary with sterling qualities able to harness human capital to complete the national project of Mahavali with credit. Demise of R Premadasa brought him back to UNP platform again was an agonizing challenge for Ranil Wickremesinghe. Gamini had maintained healthy relationship with the Indian leaders of that time placed him potentially on success path. His killing was a big blow for Sri Lankan politics which brought Chandrika Kumaratunghe to power which ended 17 years rule of UNP.

    • 8
      0

      PK, Are you out of your mind. Show me an instance of his leadership qualities. Using your yardstick GR will be what, -God?

      • 0
        6

        Thappu, we should always give the devil his dues. He was no doubt a charismatic leader.

        • 4
          0

          @Paramanthan, he was a charismatic leader only for the lowlife racists among the Sinhalese.

        • 2
          1

          Paramanathan, this fellow was a similar man in stature to the maniacs who said they were fighting to liberate the Tamils. Those rascals who lead the LTTE were similar maniacs who stood in the back and sent young rural Tamil youths to the war front to die and commit suicide and then when their time came they ran to the army waving white flags. So we had and still have rascals on both sides. Gamini was simply a devil and zero dues must be given to this filth.

          Back in the 80s, the dirty TULF douche bags while promoting Tamil Ealam and winding up the innocent Tamil youth to join the various militant groups, secretly were sending their own children abroad to study. These douche bags were treated as Tamil political heroes and the people worshipped them. Even as a child I felt so sad seeing all these young boys were running away and sailing across the ocean to India to be trained. While these boys came back after training to fight and die, the children of these TULF rascals were getting their PhDs and marrying big in the USA and other parts of the world.

          Never ever give devil its dues, a devil must be kicked to the corner.

  • 7
    0

    Sorry, but Gamini Dissanaike can only be judged by one thing. What was he doing in Jaffna that night when my library was burnt?

    • 2
      0

      Should we investigate this mystery further by directing that question towards the current TNA MP Saravanan (owner of UTHAYAN newspaper and cheating partner of the bankrupted SHABRA Finance)?

      One of his neighbour recently revealed a long kept secret that MP’s (Police) Appa was a sidekick to GD and they were hard partying in his house near to Jaffna camps few hours before burning the Jaffna Library.

      Should we rewrite the last chapter to this historical event saying that an Oxford educated strong man from South went to North and lost his common sense after consuming heavy dose of alcohol with his friends?

      Should local people also make a deal with GD’s boys that GD’s name will only be cleared if they spend GD’s leftover fortune from Mahaveli commission in North?

  • 4
    0

    Tee Twenty

    “Sorry, but Gamini Dissanaike can only be judged by one thing. What was he doing in Jaffna that night when my library was burnt?”

    The question is what did the majority of the majority (supposed to be good, kind, humane, secular benevolent, …………………. do gooders) do to prevent the repetition of competitive racist horrors?

    • 2
      2

      Sadly, a repetition of this particular evil won’t matter. The rebuilt library, as I remember some drunkard writing in these pages sometime ago, is only used by the young people there to take selfies from the outside. Not to go in and read. Your elders will be saddened to see the state of the nation!

  • 0
    3

    Chandrika clung in parents & became the leader.

    Rajapakses are paving the way for off-springs to cling in & come to surface.

    Ranil clung to JR but so far unsuccessful because JR was not mom or dad.

    Sajith is also clinging in these days trying his luck.

    Wonder whether forgotten GD is being taken back to surface to accommodate a Dissanayake junior after Sajith’s failure in the near future?

    • 2
      0

      RR
      Do not forget that Chandrika deserted her mother in the 1980s to form another political outfit.
      In fairness, she had her own views, right or wrong, that were distinct from her mother’s.
      Her comeback was when the SLFP was not very strong, and she had to wrest it from rivals.

  • 8
    0

    well said I totally agree with Tamil from the north. Absolute bunkum of Palitha Palpola pointing to a another Buddhist extremist ruffian and arsonist such as Gamini as being “sublime”. Mr Palpola, are you trying to be a start-up stand-up comedian? well if the answer is yes, you might just got the break you were lokking for. Have to laugh. I will laugh too as “BOOOWHAAA” like our minnimaruwa in Goata style for this ludicrous article. Palpola, if you want to know the skulduggery of Gamini from all mega financial misappropriations, then ask my good friend Vijay who was his auditor and also knows the inside out about Paskaralingam and this other thief Sirisena Cooray . This scoundrel Ganmiani registered so many shady companies with M R Fernando and Nimal Cook and a few others, and made billions in the form of commissions and kick backs from the Mahaweli projects, up country dairy projects. You say Gamini was a “charismatic leader, an honest and a forthright one “… My black, blistered, hairy arse he was!!!

    • 3
      0

      CondemnedLizaPriceless, good one mate.

  • 1
    1

    Gamini had class and stature compared to his
    dumb son Naveen, a boorish freebooter.

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