By Inka K –
Dr Gamani Corea “A gentleman par excellence”, as mentioned in the funeral oration by Dr Tissa Vitarana, and a son of the soil who rose to one of the highest international positions ever held by any Lankan is now ashes and dust. A trickle of people gathered for the last service for him, on strangely his Birthday. I am sure those of us who gathered there annually for a Birthday service and refreshments to share his gentle smile and few comments, felt a tug at the heart strings. The brilliant brain had gone into hibernation leaving only the amiability and that lovely full smile in the past few years. Malini Kotelalwala the ever constant supervisor of Horton Lodge (lately with largely clipped wings owing to circumstances rather than her health and defiant spirit) summoned us all every 4th of November be it rain or shine….
Horton Lodge was an open house for people from all walks of life. There was always food and drink and rest and conversation there. Two prime ministers of this country John Kotelawala who grew up there and Dudley Senanayake (who visited Gamani’s mother every day if he was in Colombo) were frequently seen there. You could say the house and its women (Alice K / Freda C) hosted the country’s unofficial planning and policy making always with the best interest of the country and people. Hot arguments between dissenting cousins like RG Senanayake the ever rebellious son of FR would have also helped streamline and shape the process. I for one consider myself privileged that young and raw as I was that a place would be cleared for me at the dining table always when I happened to be present. I benefitted much from the food and the lunchtime conversation.
You could say that Dr Gamani Corea the wizard of Economics and statesman to his fingertips died a biological death and was cremated that day but he was dead or buried years ago. Being Buddhist we could heap it all on karma and be very complacent as we are quite guilty of being up until now. However, I need at least to say my piece before I too ‘go under’ one of these days.
My argument is; there are ways that people live and the way people lived in those days was how Horton Lodge was run till Gamani had his stroke a few years ago. People always dropped in unannounced, the house looked the same and they were greeted and feted. The original domestic aids were long dead and gone while their descendants stayed on and obviously multiplied. They went to school and work from there and attended to the needs of the household in their spare time evolving into a minute community (a kind of back up) somewhat out of synch with the environs of the Colombo 7 dwellers of the neighbor hood. With cousin Lailth and Ceylinco forces taking over an attempt was made to change all that and make it more ‘up to date’ but I think they only succeeded partially. It definitely caused dissent and the gates were closed for any of us for awhile and one would not really know the basis of qualification to enter the now quite rickety gates! Rest is history and is available in full account on the internet and legal sources for all interested parties. With the Ceylinco saga and the jail sentence of Lalith K the gates opened fully and those barred hitherto and even those deemed undesirable could enter at will. Strangely Ceylinco services continued to run the place. …… I never inquired as to how or why not considering it my business.
Afterword the times I met the then ‘afflicted’ Gamani C he was always very clear in recounting the past and retaining his long term memory. He was nostalgic for the friends and his life in Geneva, Switzerland where he spent most of his working life. He remembered the extremely colorful relatives from his childhood. He was still diplomatic! Once when I inquired from him in the midst of a conversation if he really knew who I was he pondered the question. He never affirmed the negative as it would be rude to do so but put the ball back into my court very efficiently. He asked me “do you know who I really am?” I thought that was clever and shut up from that line of questioning for good. We must not forget the hard work of the legally appointed guardian for giving her time and commitment & for looking after Gamani till his end. Congratulations and thank you Chandani G (Channa). Sure it would have been a very tough job given the space and circumstances.
The few who gathered for the last rites at Kanatta cemetery heard the President’s message read out by Vijaya Corea his step brother. His Excellency had done the needful by sending a well worded tribute. Yet, seeing him opening the ‘ White House’ styled – pink glowing new House of Fashion with beaming smiles a few yards away with much pomp a few hours later on TV was ironic. Could it be part of the city’s accelerated Beautification Program which seems to be the priority of the government that with less pomp helped disappear the very moving artists’ monument to the Disappeared near the Parliament turn off in Battaramulla – erasing any trace of that history which should be a lesson learnt never to revive. So beautification over history in both instances it seems….
The final curtain on the story of Dr Gamani Corea a truly genuine and lovable human being not knowing the meaning of the word arrogance although holding much high office and hobnobbing in the highest echelons; was drawn soon after the funeral. The doors to the always-open house in the midst of the city were sealed tightly. I know not the reason and am beyond believing words and explanations either in time like ours. The KALIYUGAYA has set in so it is not surprising?
We await the next chapter hoping that reason and sanity will prevail with breath held and in limbo. Farewell sweet prince. It was a privilege to meet you in sansara and rest in peace.
R.J.de Silva / November 10, 2013
Charming and touching tribute to a learned Gentleman – through and through. Kalu Yugaya has been with us for a while now. It is the best of times for a microscopic few and the worst of times for everyone else. That was not the society Gamani Corea envisioned and worked for.
R.J. de Silva
Ameer Hamza / November 10, 2013
He was a gentleman par excellence! I once had a brief meeting with him at the Horton Lodge and he made me feel very important. He was a sincere diplomat. I do not know if we will ever get people like him in Sri Lanka.
Vertex.Deep / November 11, 2013
Sri Lanka is passing a “nonagathaya” in this Kaliyugaya. Greedy clan has step into every corner of the country to loot and plunder. Waiting till the deaths to happen to these wonderful sons of the soil to grab their left overs. As usual the so called patriotic game masters, do not know the the value of these learned men as their agenda is only to loot and loot till the last penny. The masses who want a just society is waiting for “Yuganthaya” to come soon. RIP Dr GC – You will be a relieved man now after the gloom days of your retirement.
Backlash / November 11, 2013
Within the next few days “representatives” of the regime – of the Kudu Mervin variety – will be asked to visit Horton Lodge and “respectfully suggest” the peaceful transfer of Horton Lodge to be made the home of one of the Princes. The sum offered will be well below the market – naturally. Democracy a la Rajapakse Lanka style, if you like.
Patta Pal / November 12, 2013
The end of a truly Golden Era with a few still left standing. Those born to privilege, who only cared for their Country, and not for self, as they learned to live on what they had, but did not wish to increase that Greed. So one knew all decisions were purely based on their interpretation of the best interests of the Country, though some had other opinions as to what that was!
Today is NOT that philosophy that governs our Country, it is only of those who go into power for their own upliftment both in power, and wealth, and they use the Media, to outwit the public in this daylight robbery, and still get voted in to continue this plunder!
When will the people finally see through this mirage? Only when the lords of Colombo stop bumsucking them and say it as it is , to prevent further looting.
The poor are marginalized whoever is in power, so it is the wealthy who have a duty to represent the poor, to prevent their marginalization.
It is this era that has disappeared, and we pray it returns, sooner rather than later.
Marcian Christopher / November 12, 2013
The late Dr.Gamini Corea was a great gentleman. I can still remember and picture how he was hooted by our socialists when he arrived at the Central Bank of Ceylon then with the change of government in 1971 blocking his entry to his place of work as the then Senior Deputy Governor of the Central Bank. From there he left to take up top appointment at the UNDP. I think still are people who will remember this very sad incident with the connivance of our so called educated and learned socialists who came to political power in this country in the year 1971.