A fearless man, who never feared anybody or anything, always stood by the correct thing and above all, he had a manly heart. He was so courageous that he was ready to fight and to fight, even when hope is out of sight.
As a politician, he never wanted to retire he said, and wanted to live his life, forgetting his age and never to retire from living. Above all, he enjoyed living like a humble villager and enjoyed being himself. Simplicity and patience, we have observed to a very great extent in his life. Those qualities were his greatest treasures.
His achievements were born of great sacrifice. He had good faith, and positive thinking, confidence in himself, and devotion to hard work. These excellent qualities, enabled him to do a remarkably great service to the nation and Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) as its General Secretary over the years, without caring for troublemaking personalities.
One of his biggest contributions to the country was during the last few years of the separatist war – mainly from 2006 to 2009, when he was the Premier. He never knew about fear and he was so brave and fearless, while threatening Velupillai Prabhakaran with death and the LTTE terrorist leaders, again and again, saying that Prabhakaran’s days are numbered; ‘in three months hence, Prabhakaran would be three metres under the earth and so on.’ This type of brave speeches helped to boost morale of our armed forces on one hand, and helped the campaign to attract urgently needed new recruits to our armed forces on the other. That way his contribution was immensely valuable for the country at that time.
He was never a racist. But a Sinhala Buddhist at heart and always respected all religions and ethnic groups without any difference. We have never seen any occasion, where he has shown, any difference under whatever the circumstances, all were Sri Lankans for him. He was by all means, for a unitary Sri Lanka and valued always the sovereignty of our country.
After passing out as a young lawyer, at the party reforms, I was selected as the SLFP organizer for Balapitiya in 1979. Since then, I became fairly close to this gentleman, who was our General Secretary of the party. We continued our friendship for last nearly 40 years.
In early eighties, may be at least once a week, we used to meet and discuss political matters at Mr. Rathna Deshapriya Senanayake’s residence at Castle Street, Borella, with Mr. Dharmasiri Senanayake, Lakshamn Jayakody, Senerath Somaratna, Harischandra Mendis, sometimes, Nimal Siripala and Vijaya Kumarathunga etc. All sorts of arguments regarding various subjects with their deep knowledge on men and matters, where we were lucky to enrich our political knowdgele with Mr. Wickramanayake’s great contributions especially to me as I was the youngest in that circle.
Again, around 1995 when I was District Judge of Hambanthota for a public function. That day, early morning, he rang me, to say that he was coming there, but will not visit me, even for a cup of tea. To that extent, he was conscious and concerned about the members of the judiciary.
During the 2010 Presidential Election campaign, I accompanied him to many a meeting, in different parts of the country by helicopter. With him travelled throughout Kalutara district, during the General Election by car.
Once, after a grand meeting, to felicitate him, for completing 50 years in politics in 2010, in Horana, we were to go to a certain well-wishe’s place for a lunch. After the event, though we were seated together, he just went to the car and left. I just continued to be seated at the same place at the venue, though I knew, we were to go for lunch together with him. A little later, only he got reminded of me, and immediately the car returned and got me in. While proceeding, he inquired as to why I did not join him. And I said, ‘you didn’t invite me.’ Still the PM but at once with a smile, he apologized for the lapse on his part. He is such a humble genuine gentleman, with such noble qualities.
Money was never his God. He cared very little for money and during election times, he sold a few acres of his ancestral land to do the campaign. But never uttered a word about his loss.
He had boundless enthusiasm, and worked with resolution, to overcome even so-called impossibilities. He had been a man, who had honour, and one would not lie. A man, spoils of the office cannot buy, as he had a strong mind and a great heart. He believed, in persistence and determination as the most important factors to make this place we live in a better one.
Appears rough and ruthless, and vociferous speaker inspiring for the supporters, but merciful, gentle, gracious, kind and humane, compassionate, tender-hearted, where his conduct is concerned most dignified eminent without pomp, but a very vibrant person who always prompt.
A couple of times, he told me that he was not going to Parliament with pleasure. He was the Prime Minister then. He said, ‘just see the people there, in Parliament, compared to people like N.M, Colvin, Keuneman, Philip, Dudley and JR etc.’
All his good qualities and trustworthiness, helped him to be the Prime Minister under President Chandrika and also equally, under even President Mahinda. Finally, he was selected as the Senior Advisor to the President Maithripala Sirisena as well.
‘‘Dullabho Purisajanno – na so sabbaththa jayati
Yattha so jayathi dhiro – tam kulam sukham edhati’’
‘‘Hard to find is the thoroughbred man – he is not born everywhere
Where such a wise man is born – that clan thrives happily’’
Written by C.V.Rajapakse Formerly District Judge and Diplomat