“Wise men who avoid the love of wealth and bonds in life are not owners of anything. Such persons stay apart from demerits and make their minds pure.”
I still remember Wijeyapala Mendis speaking out the above lines preached by our Buddha.
Mudalindu David Mendis was the son of Seliyas Mendis and his beloved wife who came to Thimbirigaskatuwa at Negombo from Randombe, Balapitiya in the Galle District. He was a first- class bus owner at that time in the Negombo area as well as a famous social worker.
Wijeyapala Mendis was born on December 16, 1928 to Mudalindu David and Magilin Silva as the second son of the family of 18 children.
Sujeevan de Silva, a friend of Mr. (Wijeyapala) Mendis’ father, was the Principal of Thimbirigaskatuwa Maha Vidyalaya. So Mr. de Silva was Mr. Mendis’ first teacher and Thimbirigaskatuwa Maha Vidyalaya became his first school.
As he told me, the best lesson he learnt from Mr. de Silva was non-violence to animals. One day a venomous snake had come to the school premises. Mr. de Silva put it in a box and released it to the nearest jungle after school. From the day Mr. Mendis saw this incident he never killed even a mosquito.
One day while I was talking with Mr. Mendis a mosquito bit me, I happened to involuntarily hit it. Then he smiled and said “Child, stop doing that, be patient. When mosquitoes bite, try to avoid them as I do.
Then they don’t bite. When you kill the mosquito the other mosquitoes sense it and they also come and bite you. See, they don’t bite me?” It was a truth which I experienced.
After Thimbirigaskatuwa School, he entered Maris Stella College, which was an English medium School. He was attracted to a teacher called Mr. Obiris. The reason for this was that he was neatly attired and taught well.
" One day a venomous snake had come to the school premises. Mr. de Silva put it in a box and released it to the nearest jungle after school. From the day Mr. Mendis saw this incident he never killed even a mosquito "
Another person whom Mr. Mendis loved as much as his parents was senior leader Valisinha Harischandra. During a period when there was no school to study in the English medium from Peliyagoda to Chilaw, with the dedication and devotion of Buddhist philanthropists, the Harischandra Buddhist School was established in Negombo. “Wijeyapala Mendis” was entered as the first name on that register. He was proud to be a student of that school.
Young Wijeyapala who studied up to London Matriculation had to end his education to take up the post of Manager of his father’s bus company.
As Mr. Mendis mentioned, he was encouraged and strengthened by the lessons he learnt from his father.
One of his father’s practices was to release a cow from slaughter to celebrate each and every birthday of his children. This was something Mr. Mendis also practised till he died.
Mr. Mendis’ father was a powerful member of the United National Party (UNP). He made a special donation for the future of the UNP when it was established. David Mendis’ name was in the list of donors, Dr. Sam Wijesinghe, the Deputy Secretary of the UNP said.
Mr. Mendis entered the political arena with the help of the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, the late Mr. D.S. Senanayake.
Mr. Mendis got married on January 5, 1953 to Agampodi Nanda de Silva, daughter of Mr. Thomis Silva the owner of the Ebert Silva Bus Company, Dehiwala.
Wijeyapala Mendis became the Negombo Town Council Chairman at the age of twenty-four as the youngest chairman of a town council in the world.
There was an acute water shortage which was not attended to by any chairman of the Council at that time.
But Mr. Mendis took necessary action to solve the water problem of the Negombo people by diverting water from the Ma Oya. “Negombo city-dwellers should remember me whenever they drink water,” Mr. Mendis once told me.
Wijeyapala Mendis represented the UNP from 1960 to 1997 as a Member of Parliament. During that period he held the positions of Minister of Handlooms Industries, Minister of Road Development and Transport and Leader of the House.
" There was an acute water shortage which was not attended to by any chairman of the Council at that time. But Mr. Mendis took necessary action to solve the water problem of the Negombo people by diverting water from the Ma Oya "
Mr. Mendis had great respect for the late D.S. Senanayake as well as the late Dudley Senanayake.
Davindra Mendis, son of Wijeyapala Mendis was born on June 19th. Though the year was different it was the birthday of Dudley Senanayake.
To commemorate the death of his son and Dudley Senanayake Mr. Mendis made a great pooja. That was the donation of 76 acres of coconut land in Mavatta to Ambepussa Senanayake Mudalindarama Pirivena which was the temple of the Senanayake generation. Some of the more meritorious deeds committed by Mr. Mendis were the establishment of Thimbirigaskatuwa meditation centre and the donation of 8 acres to Harischandra Vihara in Harischandra Pura, Negombo.
To pay his respects to the late Valisinha Harischandra he bought the house where Mr. Harischandra lived, converted it to a museum and handed it over to the Department of Cultural affairs.
As Wijeyapala Mendis did when he was alive, his beloved wife Nanda Mendis and beloved daughters Manori Mendis and Dilupa Mendis donated the house where he lived to Ambepussa Senanayake Mudalindaramaya to establish an international Buddhist Centre to exchange the knowledge of Buddhist Monks who came from abroad.
This is being maintained with the guidance of the Anunayake of the Sri Lanka Ramanna Chapter the Chief Incumbent of Senanayake Mudalindarama, Venerable Maditiyawala Medhankara Thera.
Wijeyapala Mendis who did such a great service to the development of Buddhism is no more. Although a year has already passed after his demise, his great service will live in our hearts forever.
May he attend nibbana with the power of these merits.