Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gamini Dissanayake

Nation Nov 9 2008
14th death anniversary of late Gamini Dissanayake

Charismatic and caring leader

October 23 2008 marks the 14th death anniversary of the charismatic and caring leader, late Gamini Dissanayake who was assassinated along with many UNP stalwarts by a LTTE suicide bomber just before the conclusion of a Presidential election campaign meeting at Thotalanga. His tragic death shattered all hopes and thwarted peoples dream of their leader becoming the President, with the elections was just over two weeks away.

He was educated at Trinity College Kandy. Although his parents’ ambition was to make him an accountant, he pursued a career in law and practised as a lawyer. After drawing inspiration from famous leaders like D.S.Senanayake, Dudley Senanayake and J.R.Jayewardena he gave up his lucrative practice as a lawyer and entered politics in the year 1970, becoming an M.P. Almost immediately after he was unseated by an election petition he was re-elected to the Nuwara-Eliya/Maskeliya seat in a by-election held in the year 1972. As a young and energetic politician as the people’s representative in the Nuwara-Eliya district he extended a yeoman service to all constituents with devotion, commitment and sheer dedication using his typical charismatic approach.

He was a unique and extraordinary politician who listened to the masses, solved their problems. Anyone who was keen in meeting him had very easy access irrespective of any individual’s political affiliations.He was an excellent orator who spoke sense keeping the vivid audiences spellbound. The contents of his speeches spelt out his promises inspiring the desperate with hope for their lives. The firm foundation built and the confidence gained by the people of the electorate in particular helped in his stride to nurture and mature himself to become an ideal politician.

When the United National Party came into power in the year 1977, he was entrusted to accept many Ministerial Portfolios, monumental goals and tasks during the tenure of the government. The Ministerial Portfolios entrusted to him were Irrigation, Power, Constructions, Lands, Land Development, Mahaveli, Plantation Industries and Highways. Late Gamimi Dissanayake once confessed that the word “development” means developing the infrastructure and the end result of “development” is upliftment of the living standards of the masses in physical, mental, moral, social and cultural advancement.

The most gigantic task confronted by him was, of course, the historical accelerated Mahaweli Project. The toughest challenge in its implementation was the evacuation of approximately 3,000 families from over 50 villages who lived in the valley of the Kotmale reservoir. This also included about 15 places of religious worship. The late leader too sacrificed his ancestral lands. The Kotmale reservoir was one among other reservoirs, Victoria,Randenigala, Rantembe, Ulhitiya, Rahkinda and Maduruoya.to be built and commissioned under the accelerated Mahaweli development programme.

This multipurpose diversion scheme also included the amalgamation of several canals and waterways This massive Mahaweli scheme with foreign collaboration was manoeuvred by efficient personnel deployed both locally and internationally using innovative modern technology under the close scrutiny of the great leader.

The gigantic exercise was initially, targeted to be completed in 30 years. However due to the enormous skill, the charismatic approach and tireless leadership it happened to be completed in an unbelievable short period of just seven years. The Kotmale reservoir was commissioned on 24 August 1985. fulfilling a dream of late Gamini Dissanyake.Those who sacrificed lands have now settled and are living freely and independently having fulfilled their basic needs like jobs, shelter and food, while making maximum use of the golden waters of the reservoir for their agricultural needs. The speech he delivered on that day was emotional and fascinating. While paying great tribute to those who sacrificed lands engulfed in the reservoir, he emphasised that it was made for national interest with a view to a definite development revolution. He said “ I believe the agony and the pain of mind the people of Kotmale and my relatives suffered as a result of loss of ancestral lands will be compensated when they witness the great benefits that this project will bring to the next generation”.

As a gesture of national gratitude on April 11 2003 the “Kotmale Reservoir”was appropriately renamed as the “Gamini Dissanayke Reservoir” by unveiling his statue at a glittering ceremony presided by the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. This event became more significant as it took place at a time when the farmers were blessed with a bumper paddy harvest deprived them for a long period of time.The efforts of late Gamini Dissanayake while holding several Ministerial Portfolios other than the Mahaweli project have helped immensely to uplift to a large extent the basic living standards especially of the average citizen and made possible to make a tremendous impact on the economic revival of the country, which needs no exaggeration.Besides actively engaged in our development process he found the time to be actively involved in the game of cricket having held office as the President of the Board of Control of Cricket in Sri Lanka, BCCSL (now known as Sri Lanka Cricket) from June1981 to June 1989 and thereafter for a brief period of four months immediately prior to his tragic death in 1994 during which period he made many significant contributions.

It is pertinent to mention that The Gamini Dissanayake Foundation in keeping with the vision of the late leader has already set up The Gamini Dissanayake Institute of Technology and Vocational Studies in Kandy to provide Vocational training skills for the less privileged children using modern technology.

May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.


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