As Camus writes in his book The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt, “Rebellion cannot exist without a strange form of love.” My father had a strange form of love for his fellow countrymen, which was deemed rebellious due to the political situation that existed during that time. Many of the political decisions he made at that time made him unpopular, but in such a volatile time I believe the decisions he made were the right thing to do.
Today marks the 63rd birth anniversary of my father, the late Ossie Abeyagoonasekera, and to commemorate his life I have initiated a foundation called “Diri Saviya.” The foundations slogan is “to empower your community” and our vision is to “create a harmonious society with dignity.” My late father’s dear friend Carlo Fonseka will launch the foundation and it will be my platform to carry out my work as a Young Global Leader (www.asanga.org.lk)
For those of you who have forgot or never heard of, let me remind you of some of my father’s political courage and rebellious character during his short life. At the time of the first provincial council elections in 1989, at a time of insurrection where the supporters of the 13th amendment were called traitors and gunned down, my father, Ossie led his party the Sri Lanka Mahajana Party, after the death of his dear friend Vijaya Kumaranatunga. There were 117 members who were assassinated from the Sri Lanka Mahajana Party and my father was targeted many times, one example was the Kosgashandiya Kadawatha political rally’s where he was seated with Vasudewa Nanayakkara and Vikramabahu, narrowly escaping from the assassins bullets. During a time when people were afraid to talk about devolution, my father Ossie, spoke of the importance of it. My father, Ossie, at a time where the political climate was tense was not afraid to stand up for what he believed in, he was a fearless leader who sacrificed his life for what he believed in.
I remember when he became the first opposition leader of the Western Province winning the majority vote, he placed a sticker at the back of his vehicle stating “this vehicle was given by Provincial Council and will be used only for public work, not private”. Mt father, Ossie believed in never misusing public money, and when he was assassinated in 1994 by the LTTE, he didn’t have any monetary possessions in his name as every rupee was used for public good.
Back in 1982 he was instrumental in printing the rice ration book, a rice subsidiary book to overthrow President Jayawardena due to his decision to postpone elections and hold a referendum. He and his colleagues ended up in prison for this. He was brave enough, even behind bars to write to another leader who was not so popular at that time, Nelson Mandela who shared a similar struggle. Mandela in reply sent his words of encouragement saying, the “struggle continues and victory is certain”. My father was never afraid to voice his opinion, he used to say it is hard to find the truth in an environment of dictatorship, because the lamp with which you search for the truth will be stolen by the dictator (Lantharum Speech). When it was an impossibile to talk to LTTE leadership in Jaffna in 1986, Ossie was not afraid to walk with his friend Vijaya to negotiate with LTTE even when some southern radicals called them traitors. Many of these decisions made him unpopular, but he decided to stick to his principals and values. It’s a lesson for some present politicians to treasure their values and not to run behind financial gains.
These few days are important in our history as they commemorate the slaying of great tamilain leaders, one of who was a close friend of my fathers, Neelan Thiruchelvam who was assassinated on the 29th July. The 12th August is also important as in commemorates the assassination of the late Lakshman Kadirgamar the founder of the Institute I work. We lost many tamilan leaders who where rebellious voices willing to make a huge change in this country and in the internationally arena. My father, Ossie was loved by many tamilians and he pointed out the difference between the LTTE and the Tamil people during his lecture “Does Prabakaran need a political solution?” Unfortunately a huge vacuum of leadership was created when the LTTE strategically targeted the politicians who were unafraid to make their voices heard and stand up for what is right.
People all over the island knew Ossie for his eloquent oratorical skill and his loving kindness. Today we have a great opportunity to develop our Nation together with all ethnic groups and encourage social. President John F Kennedy said, it is usual to find high walls during your journey, the trick is to throw your cap to the other side so you have no other option but to climb the wall. My father was unafraid to climb that wall. People have forgotten the heroes of the past who laid down their own lives to protect and develop our great nation. Today I would like to commemorate one of those leaders, my father Ossie Abeyagoonasekera, a courageous leader who was not afraid to stand up for what was right.