The exemplary personality in the Sri Lankan Politics

posted on: 31-10-2013

At the BMICH on 2013 October 30

CHAMAL

The exemplary personality in the Sri Lankan Politics

Address delivered by the Leader of the House of Parliament and the Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Management Hon. Nimal Siripala de Silva, at the launching ceremony of the Biography of the Speaker of the Parliament, Hon. Chamal Rajapaksa, at the BMICH on 2013 October 30

Hon. Nimal Siripala de Silva

Hon. Nimal Siripala de Silva

With the permission of the Most Revered Buddhist Clergy and the Respected Members of the other religious denominations,
His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa,
Hon. Speaker of the House Mr. Chamal Rajapaksa
Mrs. Chandra Rajapaksa,
Hon. Ministers
Hon. Governors,
Hon. Chief Ministers,
Hon. Members of Parliament
Excellencies, Ambassadors,
Distinguished Invitees,
Friends,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am indeed pleased and honoured to express my sincere thoughts about a distinguished and exemplary personality in the history of Sri Lankan politics, Hon. Chamal Rajapaksa, The Speaker of the Parliament, at this very special moment of the felicitation ceremony organised to launch his biography and to share some highlights of 30 years of his illustrious public life.

He was born the eldest son to late Mr. D.A. Rajapaksa, a great son of Sri Lanka hailing from Giruvapaththuwa in the deep South of Sri Lanka, who left a legacy of distinguished politicians of the Rajapaksa clan, in his sons, who eventually changed the destiny of this country redeeming our future from the scourge of the separatist terrorism.

Having grown up in pleasant village surroundings, Chamal’s childhood was nurtured and enriched with values that empathised with the pulse of the village folk, which has retained with in him, permanently, adding much value to his character and his political career later on in his life. He never forgot the villager with whom his heart always rested.

He had the rare privilege of growing up under the influence of great progressive leftist political leaders such as the late D A Rajapaksa, D M Rajapaksa and Lakshman Rajapaksa.

As a student he imbibed the teachings of eminent gurus like Prof. Senaka Bibile, Prof. Osmand Jayaratne and Mr. Vasudeva Nanayakkara who gave him the people skills, and a solid foundation to build a people friendly political career.

In the early sixties I got to know about Chamal, who came to Badulla District, my homeland, as a young Sub Inspector of Police, who soon earned a name as an honest and a righteous officer who never had allegations of bribery and corruption.

I can still recollect the general elections of 1965, when he served as a young Sub Inspector, at Bandarawela Police Station.

Mr. Cyril Mathew who contested from the UNP, suspected Chamal who came from a family of SLFP politicians to support and work for the SLFP candidate Mr. K.J. Gunasekera. Later on he changed his views by making public a statement commending Mr. Rajapaksa as an unbiased Police Officer of high integrity.

This was a clear indication of how disciplined he was to have a clear distinction between politics and his duties which sets a glaring example to all police officers even today. In an era, after decades of politicization of the society, the types of Mr. Chamal Rajapaksa gave us a breath of fresh air to change our society to the better.

It is a great tribute to the Rajapaksa family for bringing that change to the system in Sri Lanka. When he joined politics in 1971, he left the police force wearing the rare medals of honesty and integrity.

We in the SLFP, are ever grateful to him for the commitment shown by him to protect Mrs. Sirmavo Bandaranaike when she was deprived of her civic rights.

In the early 70s when I started my profession as a lawyer, I got to know HE Mahinda Rajapaksa as a smart and lively law student and an active parliamentarian. Through him , I met his two brothers Chamal and Basil with whom I continued my association into politics later on in life.

Unlike his brothers, I saw in Chamal, a soft spoken, calm and composed personality with gentle mannerisms and a resilient outlook.

In the year 1983, Mr. J R Jayawardene; then President, instead of holding the due Parliamentary Elections, went ahead with a referendum which introduced the famous Laampu – Kalagedi circus.

At this referendum, Mulkirigala was one seat lost by the UNP. At the by elections that followed it was won by Ananda Kularatne of the UNP which was challenged by Nirupama Rajapaksa the SLFP candidate. I had the rare distinction of fighting this election petition as her assigned attorney and to unseat Mr. Kularatne.

I am extremely happy, today, that, at the by election that followed, I was able to contribute and support Chamal’s candidature and his election campaign. I vividly recollect how, Chamal as a freshly nominated candidate went to hand over his nominations for the By Election In January 1985 and found to his surprise that the By Elections had been postponed to September that year by a Presidential Decree.

The calm and resilient Chamal showed no distraught, but worked hard, going from house to house in his campaign, getting to know his voters better. That campaign was a hard fought one for the SLFP led by the present President, HE Mahinda Rajapaksa supported by prominent SLFP stalwarts like Reggie Ranathunga, Nanda Ellawela and Yasaratne Tennakoon to counter a bigger force of governing UNPers from many parts of the country.

Hon A.H.M. Fowzie and I , along with the CMC Member Mr. Bandujeewa Perera and Douglas Bois were placed i n charge of a polling station in Kirinda during this election. Working towards his victory, we got the opportunity of getting close to Chamal, meeting him often at Madamulana Walauwwa.

We witnessed how close he was to the rural folk and how certain was of his victory. However, the election day happened to be a very violent one. Following an incident near Korewela polling booth, the goons and thugs of the UNP created terror in 17 polling booths from Walasmulla to Katuwana, beating and chasing away the SLFP supporters and voters.

Mr. Bandujeewa, Mr. Bois and I, narrowly saved our lives by running across the fields taking cover of the thickets, and back roads. The violence escalated to a high pitch, and we were forced to leave our vehicles and slip out of Mulkirigala taking public transport to Colombo. With all that terror, UNP w o n this election only by a narrow margin of 1304 votes and Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa was soon arrested and remanded.

During and after this election violence, Chamal was very resilient and calm. After the results were announced, he stood fearlessly, against his adversaries and wished the winning candidate and went on to say :

” if it was not a war but, and election; I would have been the MP for Mulkirigala today! I am very grateful to the 24708 voters who braved the thuggery to vote for me. I feel sorry but, I am thankful to all those voters who came to vote for me but got chased away from the polling booths.”

This very brave statement shows his very fearlessness at a time of crisis and injustice.

After the Mulkirigala election the Late Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike called me and told me that Mr. Chamal Rajapaksa would visit me and wanted me to help him to prepare an election petition. When I met him, I was so upset and depressed about the sordid events of the election violence but at the same time was surprised to see his resilience and determination to stand against injustice.

As his attorney at law, I fought hard with him, seeking justice. Though we were not successful at this election petition we were later on successful at the 1989 General Elections working against the odds of JVP violence and were able to sit as opposition MPs in Parliament.

Chamal, to all of us in opposition was Chamal aiya. He truly was an elder brother to us the younger ones providing us with brotherly advice.

Later on, in the Political Campaign led by HE Mahinda Rajapaksa, to regain power for the SLFP, a ‘Pada Yathra’ and many more activities were organized.

After the demise of his father, Chamal was the father figure in their family. He also played a prominent role in HE Mahinda Rajapaksa’s election campaign. When HE moved around the country, working for the party, Chamal took over the responsibilities of the Hambantota Electorate and the Southern Province, to ensure the victory of HE at all the elections.

His inborn qualities, life skills and experiences, has contributed tremendously to his success in the Irrigation Portfolio as its Deputy Minister and its Minister.

Late Hon DA Rajapaksa’s one dream was to find water for the farmers of Giruwapattuwa. Chandrikawewa realized his dream to a certain extent and it was taken further by Hon Chamal Rajapaksa. Chamal had a passion for Agriculture and Irrigation, and his efforts extended beyond Hambantota to the whole country, which opened a new era in the annals of Irrigation in the country.

He was instrumental in establishing Rambakan Oya, Weheragala, Kekiriobada and Wemeditta reservoirs and Maw Ara irrigation schemes. In recognition of his contributions to the subject I was indeed pleased to name Maw Ara Reservoir in his name.

His dedication and determination has made it possible for him to overcome many obstacles that stood in his way in achieving his targets.

A good example is that when Daduru Oya scheme was initiated by him, he managed to personally intervene and settle many disputes raised by the people and move ahead unabated.

There was a major agitation against the project and a massive demonstration was held at the proposed reservoir site.

He visited the site and personally tried to talk to the people and explain how they would be benefitted by this project.

During this intervention people incited by some destructive elements, started to throw stones and attacked him. He narrowly escaped death, trying to do a good deed to the people of Wayamba.

Today those very people are ever grateful to him for this project.

As the Minister of Port and Civil Aviation, he has rendered unprecedented services to the country.

He had a firm conviction that any development work in Sri Lanka, should happen preserving our environment and the national heritage and he always stuck to it.

His brotherly advice to HE Mahinda Rajapaksa, has contributed much to HE’s resounding victories at the Presidential Elections. This has been highly appreciated and often acknowledged by HE.

When he was elevated to the prestigious post of the Speaker to the House, I as the Leader of the House, had the distinction of working very closely with him .

He was soon a master in Constitutional Matters, Standing Orders, Other Rules and Traditions of the parliament and hence was able to solve any problem or dispute in Parliament.

He was always impartial and righteous, treating all alike, irrespective of party affiliations. I am sure that all in the Parliament would bear witness to this.

As the guardian of the Constitutional Assembly a Speaker’s bounden responsibility is to safeguard and ensure its dignity, integrity and independence and to protect it from the influences of external forces.

Hon Chamal Rajapaksa will go down in the history of the Parliament as one Speaker who has diligently performed his duties in this regard.

This was made explicit in the decisions taken by him when Divineguma Act was argued in Parliament and also when the Proceedings of the Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to investigate into the impeachment filed against the former Chief Justice was challenged in Supreme Court and the Appeal Courts.

When the Members of the Select Committee were summoned to Supreme Court to show cause he correctly declared that those orders were null and void and that the judiciary has no authority to restrict the actions taken by the Parliament.

He will also be fondly remembered by the employees of the Parliament as the Speaker who has done a yeoman service for the welfare of its workforce. I am aware that he is loved and respected by the entire staff of the Parliament.

I have had the opportunity to travel overseas with him for many official functions, including Parliamentary Seminars, memories of which I cherish very much to this date.

He was a great strength to all of us, in our interventions at meetings and also was a wonderful companion. His contributions at such events were astute, bringing recognition to Sri Lanka.

His simplicity and affable interactions made him popular, among Speakers of other countries. This invariably elevated the image of HE the President and that of our country.

The leadership and guidance and innovative ideas provided to us in organizing the Commonwealth Parliamentarians Conference held in Sri Lanka brought in a lot of credit and recognition to Sri Lanka.

It makes me feel proud to hear other countries praising this event at subsequent conferences I attended. It has become a memorable event for those foreign dignitaries who attended it, and the credit goes to him for its success.

This great personality who hails from a great family of politicians is blessed with an equally successful family life. The hand behind his overall success in life is undoubtedly is, his dear wife, Mrs. Chandra Rajapaksa. He is blessed with two loving children, Sasheendra and Shameendra.

He is a living example to all our politicians and truly a model to the whole world.

I am ever grateful to him for blessing the downtrodden and deprived people of Uva Wellassa with a honest, dedicated and an effective leader, who has contributed immensely to the development of Uva. He is none other than the eldest son of this great personality, Hon. Shasheendra Rajapaksa.

I see in Sasheendra our Chief Minister, a politician who is emulating his father’s qualities to the core and I am sure he brings in an utmost pride and satisfaction, to this great Son of Sri Lanka Mr. Chamal Rajapaksa who completes 30 years of his public life.

I know how proud and joyed His Excellency the President is today, to see his older brother, an accomplished politician of Sri Lanka having served the people with 31 years of dedicated public life, bringing honour and repute to the whole family adding value to the legacy created by the Rajapaksas over the generations.

Let me sincerely wish our Speaker an accomplished veteran politician, our mentor, teacher, and the peoples’ person with a golden heart, the strength, wisdom and long life to continue to serve the people of Sri Lanka for many more years to come.

Thank you.

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