22 May, 2024


Passing Away Of Gentle Lady

By Palitha Pelpola

Palitha Pelpola

“Many a surviving spouse has erected many a statue in memory of her husband, in bronze, cement or steel. Srima Dissanayake erected a monument that no other spouse could dream of; she erected the Gamini Dissanayake Foundation in memory of her slain husband. That monument is not a mere statue where people come and pay their respects; what she built was one where young men and women, our successive generations learn the skills for the uplift of their lives, English language and computer skills”. That is how the late Dr. Wickrema Weerasooria paid his tribute to the then living Srima Dissanayake, before he, Wickrema passed away. That gentle lady, Srima Dissanayake, passed away in the twilight hours of March 29, 2019.

It is not easy to imitate the life of such a gracious lady. Born to Mr. and Mrs. Piyasena Lenaduwa from Galle, Srima was educated at Ladies’ College and then passed out from Law College, Colombo and practised as an advocate. She met her future husband, Gamini Dissanayake, at the Law College and the romance that began in the nineteen sixties ended up in a happy, joyous and eventful marriage. Gamini and Srima were one of the few couples that dominated the political scene in the 70s, 80s and early 90s.

Srima’s contribution to Gamini’s success cannot be understated. Her eternal vigil on the prevalent political and social milieu was sharp and piercing. The results she derived from that vigil were a consistent source of strength to her husband. Her judgment on those who were around Gamini Dissanayake, who was then a powerful Cabinet Minister in the JR Jayewardene Government, was not only accurate and sometimes bordering on being clairvoyant, it was cuttingly decisive and helped the Minister of Mahweli Development to a great extent in his day-to-day political dealings. Known for her personal charm and tact, she once related quite a unique story.

After JR became President in 1978, he organized a private dinner party to celebrate his birthday. One person JR wanted to invite to the party was Dr NM Perera. But JR was hesitant to make the call. When he discussed his dilemma with some of his friends, among who were Gamini and Srima, JR looked at Srima. Srima being well known to Dr NM, got the hint that JR wanted her to take the initiative. Srima said, ‘Mr. Jayewardene, I’ll invite him on your behalf’. JR gave her the nod and NM most willingly came for the dinner party, after accepting Srima’s invitation on behalf of JR.

Being a devout Buddhist, her faith in the Dhamma was never ever in question; her devotion to her husband and his cause in politics knew no bounds. We used to meet at breakfast each morning and her far-sighted contributions at these strategy-discussions were far more important than one could learn at a forum attended and lectured to by university academics.

Yet, her interference in the running of her husband’s Ministries was zero. Never ever did I receive a call from her, to transfer this guy or promote this girl or for that matter, even consider anyone for recruitment. She dealt with her husband on all those matters. A personification of grace, stoicism and courage, she had the determination and foresight to continue what her husband could not do, by devoting her fullest possible strength and time to the cause of Gamini Dissanayake Foundation and Gamini Dissanayake Institute of Technology and Vocational Studies. The students at the Institute must be feeling the loss of their matriarch. But in their tears dwell, not a sense of loss, but the flow of life that is eternal and inspirational.

And Navin, Mayantha and Varuni have lost their mother. It’s no easy void to fill.

May Srima Dissanayake attain Nibbana

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Latest comments

  • 23

    No decent human will deny that the loss of a mother, especially someone who became mother and father to three children who lost their father brutally and unexpectedly is an unsurmountable pain.
    But please, lets not get this romantic about this looter family, shall we?
    I quote:
    //Yet, her interference in the running of her husband’s Ministries was zero. Never ever did I receive a call from her, to transfer this guy or promote this girl or for that matter, even consider anyone for recruitment.//
    “”Mahaweli flowed to Trinco- The money flowed to Finco”
    Finco was the construction company set up to construct the dams of the Mahaweli project.
    Who owned it?
    The brothers of Srima Dissanayae- Sarath Weerasooriya et al.
    She didn’t have to “interfere with” small things like “transfer this guy or promote this girl” mate. Looting was all taen care of.
    Gamini Dissanayake and Srima Dissanayake were unprecedented looters of our country’s wealth in the 80s.
    All you have to look at Mayantha Dissanayake (who worshipped Mahinda Rajapakse on all four limbs- jumped here jumped there) and Navin Dissanayake (who went to strengthen the hand of Mahinda Rajapaskse with his useless father in law Karu Jayasuriya).
    What did Navin and Mayantha do to the UNP ? They did not even have the strength of character that Gamini Dissanayake had when he and Lalith Athulathmudali formed the DUNF. They had the character to resign from the party respecting the parliamentary tradition and fight like men.
    These two whimps , Navin and Mayantha are testimony to failure of parenting.
    While respecting the dead and all that, lets not forget the Srima Dissanayake’s historical contribution to looting the country and raising two more jumping jacks of politics.

    • 3

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    • 0

      Dear Palitha,
      I have no heard this grand lady has ever been complicit to any high crimes as is the case with former President’s wife.
      Thadjudeen killing was reported and there had been speculations former President s wife to have made 34 phone calls in the night that misterious murder was occured.
      And against the Mrs Rajaakshes was rumoured to be connected with GOLD BUSINESS. and please check you guys, for your on info…what one another woman has to share about former Presidents wife.

  • 22

    I saw Mayantha kneel before Mahinda and worship him.Navin was aminister in MR government, so was his father in law Karu.

    We must be more logical when we write appreciations. When Gamini was buying the Alfred House mansion did she ask where the money came from ?

    Or maybe like the other “great” UNP minister Ravi K , she never bothered about such small matters !

  • 0

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  • 14

    JRJ reportedly once declared that Gamini Dissanayake was one of the richest men in Asia.I vividly remember that remark; Perhaps, mid 80s?
    I do not want to cast aspersions, but the role of Gamini Dissanayake in the burning of the Jaffna Library has been recurring from time to time. Perhaps, there is no smoke without fire?
    Gaminis father Lionel Dissanayake started off with the SLFP in the mid 50s,and was an MP.
    Starting off with SILVERDALE, a modest restaurant in Kandy, they ended up with Apple plantations in Australia!
    Amunagamas, who are now rolling in the Pigsty of Dilith Jayaweera were introduced to politics by Gamini.
    Perhaps it takes one to recognize another!

  • 19

    Her husband was a racist thug, who deserved what he got. He was in Jaffna when our entire Jaffna town and the beautiful Jaffna library was burnt down. I don’t know anything about this lady, therefore I will hold my comments to myself, but she was married to one disgusting pig whose death was a blessing to all.

    • 11

      Someone here says Gamini Dissa burned the Jaffna Library and deserved what he got.

      Another one says Gamini was as crooked as Dr Ranil’s mate Dr Mahendran., Although Dr Mhaendran made his SIL the richest man in lankawe in less than 6 months.

      Gamini Dissa apparently was killed 16 days before the Presidential Election according to my Elders.

      Gamini Dissa was no friend of Praba if the Jaffana Arson Story is true.
      UNP Preme was a real Buddy of Pira, although Dr Ranil is also buddy buddy with the one time Pira supporter TNA Sampathar and Abraham..

      Did they find out who did the “job” on Dissa ?
      On the balance of probabilities it is UNP and Pira in a joint venture…

      It is sad to see the UNP supporters spitting Venom on a Woman who is dead..

      • 9

        Sumanaya, you have raised a decent question and I will tell you it was Premadasa’s people who did Dissanayake, good riddance of bad rubbish. The Jaffna library was burnt on the orders of Gamini Dissanayake and Cyril Matthew another low class thug in parliament. It is true what happened. Premadasa brought this up when Dissanayake and Athulathmudali did not respect Premadasa due to his caste. He told the Parliament that Dissanayake was directly involved in the burning of the Jaffna library. Also don’t think we decent Tamils want to separate this country, that will be utterly foolish to do that. Some of these diaspora fellows who have a lot of time on their hands want to instigate another war so that they have something to talk about on the weekend after a shot.

      • 4

        KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera

        “Gamini Dissa was no friend of Praba if the Jaffana Arson Story is true. UNP Preme was a real Buddy of Pira, …”

        Maybe, however Praba was a great ally, friend, business and coalition partner of Mahindawamsa and Sinhala/Buddhists.

        He made them who they are helped build their career and wealth.

        If Navin Nayakka is still writing in English please ask him to thank Lord Naseby who recently lauded Marapana’s statement at UNHCR.

        By the way Dutta Gamani was a great friend of Hindia and the GUIDE, PHILOSOPHER, AND FRIEND of Basil who learnt all necessary ropes for an active, vibrant, popular crook.

  • 8

    One of the saddest tragedies of the pogrom of 7/83 was the killing of several families of rich Indian Tamil businessmen in Nuwara Eliya. Said to be about 15. A few rich friends and relatives (Tamils) of owners of a house in a residential part of the city had taken refuge there – assuming it is a safe abode. Thugs related to a leading Sinhala politician of the area had attacked the house and subjected everyone inside to their gory deaths. Many were women and the elderly.
    Perhaps more knowledgeable readers will come out with details.

    It is not my intention to open old wounds. But the terrible crimes that took place in 7/83, still untold, at the hands of the educated, influential and powerful in the Govt must come out.


    • 5


      In an preemptive move Shelton Ranaraja MP got the police to round up all known thugs in the city during 1983 riots. However Dutta Gamani got them released within hours. The rest is history.

      Why do you think people do not seem to remember Shelton Ranaraja?

      • 7

        Dear Native

        The Sinhala extreme – media, clergy and others – calling him
        derisively as Shelton Nadaraja is a telling indictment of our hateful times. That description tells it all. He was one of the finest, liberal, non-communal truly SRI LANKAN politicians this divided land days we are fated to live in. That he pleaded with the TULF MPs not to leave Parliament in those outrageous 6th Amendment days speaks of the man’s indomitable character. It shows even in the Sinhala side there are decent, thinking men and women.

        I will for long remember the honourable MP Shelton Ranarajah as a man of principled politics – a feature, you will surely agree, lost years ago in this declining society.


  • 11

    People remember you being the personal secretary to Gamini Dissanayake. You must have been very well looked after by Gamini , Srima et al by sharing the spoil.
    What did Srima do to discourage Gamini from getting %s from Mahaveli projects and joining Cyril Mathew (architect of anti-Tamil riots) in burning the Jaffna library?
    It is easy to be a gracious lady as a cover to a corrupt and cunning politician.

  • 10

    Very nice lady; politics was out of her league. UNP tried to float her as a candidate knowing they were going to lose. RW did not want to contest. All the top leadership of the UNP who were able were killed off by the Tamil Tigers. Gamini and Lalith. Even Gamini could NOT have beaten CBK in that election cycle. He would have made it closer but no way they would have stopped the rally. People were sick of the corrupt thuggish and genocidal UNP which committed the acts of mass violence against our Tamil people.

    As for the author’s credentials, there was a man who got drunk at Nuwara Eliya soon after UNP won in 1977. He and a gang of thugs threatened Mrs. Bandaranaike. There is a familiar name here and is it a mere coincidence?. Very interesting. Very interesting.

  • 13

    Shame for Colombo Telegraph. When a colleague of the deceased wrote a tribute in memory of her, others are taking this platform casting abusive comments. This cannot be sensible journalism. It would have really heart the family members so badly at a time of profound grievance. Please do what is right for the situation.

  • 11

    Shame on CT?
    Shame on Gamini and Srima Dissanayake for looting the national wealth via Finco and leaving behind two absolutely disloyal whimps in politics who have consistently worked against the UNP.
    Shame on Mayantha for sucking up to MR fro money and power.
    Shame on Navin for sucking up to Mr for money and power.
    Ranil didn’t want to run says Tania (is this Tania Weerasooria , the niece of Gamini D commenting above? Haha- another recipient of the looted wealth of our nation), comnenting above.
    What bunkum.
    Wickrema Weerassoria who was the campaign manager for Gamin D’s presidential bid threatened to pull out all fundings and the entire UNP campaign if Srima was not given the nomination in Gamini’s place.
    Ranil’s entire family rallied around and his supporters were all willing to support him.
    It was the greedy Dissanayake -Weerasooria complex that put family before party , always, and looting before people, always that insisted of Srima.
    Yes, CBK would have won, no matter who ran against her.
    These servile whiners who have amassed so much from the Dissanayake loot are weeping. Palitha Pelpola should get a grip o his grief and finish counting his money and land.
    Just because somebody dies they are not elevated to sainthood.
    Their kids will sure miss them. I’m sure if Hitler had kids they would miss Hitler.
    If Prabhakaran’s children lived on- they would have missed their father.
    That is a poor logic call this woman a gentle lady.
    Gentlemen and gentleladies don’t steal men!
    Get it in to your thick skulls.

    • 2

      In addition to the looting and the Jaffna public library burning, and unleashing thugs in july 1983, those who invested their hard earned money with fund managed by the Maharajah group and lost most of it, said that Gamini was the reason why the fund lost everything. I don’t know the story behind it. Maybe someone can tell it.

      • 8

        Many months ago, Agnos stood to counter the allegation of Mrs Amirthalingam’s racist election rhetoric in 1977 by demanding concrete proof. He claimed the moral high ground. I similarly ask him – does he know for certain that Gamini Dissanayake (as opposed to Cyril Mathew) led the burning of the Jaffna public library, unleashed thugs in the race riots of 1983 and swindled/mismanaged funds administered by the Maharajah group as he seems to insinuate here? Was he there? Did he see it for himself? Absent all that, can he otherwise provide hard proof? If not, I would urge that he desist from making allegations that lack hard supporting evidence. There is a lot of unsubstantiated hearsay typical of the Sri Lankan mindset, Tamil mindset in particular.

        Further, this is an appreciation of Gamini’s wife. I am not sure why the comments thread here are so beneath the belt. Let the lady be at peace.

        • 1

          A.A. Kalaam

          “..typical of the SL mindset – Tamil mindset in particular”
          This is quite unnecessary and calculated to provoke. Remember,
          despite this bogus claim of Arab ancestry you come from a Tamil ancestry – Dalits notwithstanding. Several groups of Muslim delegations lead by leading Muslim politicians immediately after the Juky ’83 pogroms here pleaded with Tamilnadu politicians to protect them. They claimed, in accord with history, they are of Tamil origin. Time is not far off when your people will plead with the Lankan Tamils to help them because they have a Tamil origin.

          Tamils may be weak and divided now. But the equation will change soon. You have no where to run.


        • 2

          Adhu Antha Kaalam

          You sound like UNP version of SJ.

          “Was he there? Did he see it for himself? “

          I never been to Black Hole nor do I intent to however I know Black Hole exists.
          Therefore Agnos may have his own reasons to believe what is well known among the chattering classes and former presidents, Premadasa as well as JR mentioned both the burning of library and the looting (actually JR named the crook in an interview to a International media). I haven’t got the time now to retrieve evidence from my library. I shall find the media reports in the fullness of time.

          “Further, this is an appreciation of Gamini’s wife.”

          Dutta Gamani’s entire family shares his wealth and glory while not distancing themselves from both physically and morally apologising for his criminal acts.

        • 1

          Hello AAK,

          I rented a home in Kandy, along with fellow Peradeniya undergrads, during the late 1980’s when the JVP insurgency kept the university frequently closed. The owner of that rented home repeatedly said he lost all his money in the funds he invested in, and that he held Gamini responsible. If this is not true then it is for those close to GD to clarify it.

          GD’s presence in Jaffna while the library was burnt down is well established from multiple media reports. And Premadasa publicly accused GD about the library burning, and the latter never gave any rebuttals on why he couldn’t stop it.

          Moreover, I clearly recall something GD said in his public speeches during those years: ” It will take an hour for India to come to the aid of Tamils, but we Sinhalese can kill off all Tamils within 20 minutes. Don’t forget it.” ( I may not recall the precise wording exactly, but the threat was very very clear.) How will you spin that?

          As for Mrs. D, I would normally not bring up the negatives of the departed. There is a saying that concerning the dead, only the good shall be said. But these issues about GD were a matter of public record even when both Mr and Mrs D were alive. Given the recent history of bloody violence in the country, these issues cannot be suppressed, and the opportunity to raise the issues, unfortunately, may arise only at such occasions; when those who were close to Mr and Mrs D bring up sanitized versions, we the public have to challenge it.

  • 0

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  • 2

    OK, let me put it in this way- Mrs. Dissanayake RIP. I don’t agree with most of the things Mr. Pelpola’s views and I was told nothing good about Mr. Dissanayake too. He’s super corrupt, racist and architecht of Jaffna Library arson. He minted money in Victoria dam project (fondly called by himself) that made him one of the richest men in Asia. He left two very useless offsrping to manage his wealth. Good gracious!!!

  • 1

    Hope “Gamini Dissanayake Foundation” and “Gamini Dissanayake Institute of Technology and Vocational Studies” will help erase the black mark of having hand in burning of Jaffna Library.

  • 1

    Lots have been written about Gamini D’s family. Are they all true?
    Looted/burnt/ murdered etc etc during the Victoria Dam project/1983riots
    Author can write to say he did not do harm to the Tamils and to the country

  • 0

    If Gamini lived today the UNP would have been the GOP, not a rubbsh heap. Although its Srima’s appreciation she was part of his political cult. UNP were Robber Barons, today they are a MAFIA.

    • 0


      According to JR large scale looting took place during actual building phase of Mahaweli project. Guess who was in charge?

  • 1

    LOL!! As usual, the do nothing, can do nothing, Pelpola writes in flowery English about Ms. Dissanayaka. Of course she did not need to have people transferred because Pelpola took care of it. Pelpola has achieved nothing and done nothing productive his whole working life.

    Jus ask the gatekeepers and the poor clerks/peons at Mahaveli, they will tell you how the “Mahathaya” was.

    As a matter of fact he was the personal secretary to the most incompetent President SL has produced – Maitripala Sirisena. May i say that Pelpola got fired for being incompetent? He was so terrible that even the incompetent Sirisena realized this. So go figure how terrible Pelpola must be!

    And he, Pelpola, lived in the US for many a year, but had to rely on some expat SL businessman for employment. That is because no one wanted to hire him – he was just useless. So after many years, he is back in SL looking for handouts and support thanks to SL’s corrupt politicians.

    A total rap sheet of Pelopola and his incompetence can be shared if anyone wishes…

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