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Gamini Jayawickrama Perera: A True Statesman and A Man Loved By All

23 February 2024 01:01 am - 3     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Once again, a beloved figure and a role model for the entire nation has departed. Mallawaarachchige Gamini Jayawickrama Perera’s passing away serves as a poignant reminder to the Sri Lankan public of a true statesman; one characterised by philanthropy and unwavering dedication. In Sri Lankan political history, few match his commitment, determination, selflessness and ingenuity in public service. 


Gamini Jayawickrama Perera was synonymous with the Kurunegala District and the North Western Province; his presence was integral to discussions about these regions. He maintained a profound connection with the people; making him irreplaceable. While the loss of a dear friend like Perera is deeply saddening, it also provides an opportunity for our nation to honour the genuine dedication of a remarkable individual once more.


In 1973, Perera assumed the role of representing the Katugampola constituency; a decision met with resistance from both his mother and wife, Mrs. Rohini Perera. However, he managed to overcome this opposition with the influential endorsement of Dudley Senanayake and J.R. Jayewardene, who were prominent opposition leaders at the time. The fact that two such formidable figures extended their support speaks volumes about the remarkable qualities possessed by Perera, underscoring his exceptional character and potential.


At the 1977 General Elections, Perera, serving as the Chief Organizer of the United National Party in the Katugampola constituency, achieved a significant triumph. He secured an impressive victory at his first election, garnering the highest number of votes, totalling 23,475. This electoral success marked a significant milestone in Sri Lanka’s political history, and it attributed to various underlying factors that paved the way for this remarkable outcome.


Perera, born as the second son to philanthropists Paulis Perera and Soma Perera, enjoyed a privileged upbringing in a family of seven children, and received his primary education at Bopitiya Junior College – one of Katugampola Hatpattu’s esteemed primary schools. He attended Nalanda College in Colombo for his higher education, where he distinguished himself as a disciplined and talented student. Perera was also renowned for his cricketing prowess, captaining the first-class cricket team in 1960. Remarkably, his elder brother, Lincoln and younger brother, Ashoka also served as cricket captains at Nalanda in 1949 and 1962, respectively; marking the first instance of three brothers simultaneously holding such positions in Sri Lanka.
Despite being a prominent and well-liked individual from a wealthy family, Perera’s lifestyle, characterised by abstaining from alcohol, smoking and consuming meat and fish, drew widespread attention within society. His adherence to a wholesome and virtuous way of life stood out amidst societal norms. Moreover, Perera actively participated in social service initiatives led by A.T. Ariyaratne, the founder of Sarvodaya. His involvement in these activities marked a significant milestone in his life, reflecting his commitment to contributing positively to society, and achieving his first notable victory through such meaningful engagement.

 

 

Notably, Gamini Jayawickrama Perera’s dedication to preserving the Buddhist Order is evident through initiatives like the “Budhu Puth Suraksha” Insurance – a commendable measure aimed at safeguarding the Monk Order and its adherents, which continues to be implemented today

 


Under the guidance of Mr. A. T. Ariyaratne, a team of young individuals spearheaded by Perera initiated a toilet project in Pannala Hadalagamuwa, Yayamulla village. Their leadership aims to address the health challenges prevalent in the area. Furthermore, reminiscent of their earlier community-driven efforts, in 1958 and 1960, they organised Shramadana camps at Kantholuwa Lake in Panduvasnuwara. These camps focused on purifying water sources and ensuring access to clean water for local farming communities.


Even before the 1977 election, Perera had already endeared himself to the people through his extensive social service work and affiliations with prominent figures in the country. Upon assuming the role of Member of Parliament, he embarked on a series of transformative initiatives for his constituency. He revitalized the Sandalanka Cooperative Hospital, elevating its efficiency and services. Additionally, he relocated the Office of the Medical Officer of Health from Kadanegedara to Alabadagama, establishing the Officer for Medical Officer of Health, Pannala. Jayawickrama Perera also played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Nestlé and Simline factories in Alabadagama, thereby creating employment opportunities for local residents.


Despite facing opposition from his relatives and friends, he selflessly surrendered their land to the government to initiate the Wickramasheela Central College, Giriulla, laying the groundwork for providing higher education to the children of the area. Through these bold and altruistic actions, Perera demonstrated his unwavering commitment to the betterment of his community.


In 1978, upon his appointment as the Kurunegala District Minister, Perera spearheaded a remarkable revival in the region. His emphasis on developing rural infrastructure, including roads, tanks, sewers, school buildings and playgrounds, as well as prioritising the advancement of coconut and export agriculture, garnered widespread attention across the island. His visionary initiatives propelled the Kurunegala district into the spotlight, becoming a beacon of progress and development for the entire nation.


Perera voluntarily stepped down from his role as a Member of Parliament and subsequently achieved a significant milestone by winning the inaugural Provincial Councils election following the establishment of the 13th amendment to the Constitution. He ascended to the position of Chief Minister of the North Western Province. During his tenure, President Ranasinghe Premadasa inaugurated the Karandagolla Garment Factory in the Dodamgaslanda Constituency under the auspices of Kumara Devapura. This event marked the beginning of a transformative initiative to establish two hundred garment factories across the island, heralding another pivotal moment in Perera’s career.


The implementation of the “homeland concept,” aimed at fostering a free and prosperous society, led to the transformation of underdeveloped villages into economic hubs specializing in various industries such as cashew, mango and goat farming. This innovative approach served as a model for societal progress, capturing the attention of political leaders across the nation.
Perera demonstrated visionary leadership by establishing institutions such as the Wayamba Industrial Service Bureau, Wayamba Machinery Authority, Passenger Transport Authority, and Provincial Environment Authority, which facilitated industrialization and job creation through the adoption of new technologies. Additionally, he founded the Wayamba Folk Arts Centre to promote the development of traditional crafts and culture, an initiative that continues to thrive today.


His tree planting program, exemplified by the iconic “Giant Trees” lining the roads of the Northwest, stands as a testament to his commitment to environmental conservation and beautification efforts in the region.


Perera’s initiatives in developing rural sports, particularly by transforming the Ibbagamuwa and Madampe Central Colleges into sports schools, yielded remarkable results. These efforts culminated in the emergence of talented athletes from the North West region who went on to achieve success in international competitions. One notable example is sportswoman Sriyani Kulawansa, whose achievements exemplify the impact of these programs in nurturing sporting talent and bringing recognition to the region on the global stage.


In 2016, Jayawickrama Perera’s appointments as the Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Economic and Social Commission and as the Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference underscore his political acumen and leadership capabilities. These significant appointments serve as exemplary instances of his diplomatic skills and strategic insight on both regional and international levels.


The esteemed roles of Minister of Regional Development, Minister of Irrigation and Water Management, Minister of Wildlife and Sustainable Development, and Minister of Northwest Development and Buddha Sasana stand as tokens of appreciation bestowed upon him by the people for his multifaceted contributions in various fields throughout his political career. Notably, his dedication to preserving the Buddhist Order is evident through initiatives like the “Budhu Puth Suraksha” Insurance – a commendable measure aimed at safeguarding the Monk Order and its adherents, which continues to be implemented today.


It is undeniable that he stands as one of the most seasoned politicians I have ever encountered. His unwavering support bolstered the leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe within the United National Party, where he meticulously organized party affairs and enriched its legacy through his dedication, intelligence and strong work ethic. Presently, his son, Asanka Perera, is continuing in his father’s footsteps, actively contributing to the on-going efforts to fortify the United National Party.
Even though he has departed from us today, the profound legacy of his service to the people of our nation will endure in the hearts of humanity for generations to come.
To our esteemed senior companion, Gamini Jayawickrama Perera: May You Attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana.


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  Comments - 3

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  • K. Ranaweera Friday, 23 February 2024 10:19 AM

    Very pragmatic politician with perseverance and tenacity that I have seen in Sri Lanka. Rest In Peace!.

    Nimal Friday, 23 February 2024 02:57 PM

    His greatest statesmanship was shown in 1981 during the DDC elections in Jaffna. JR, Cyril Mathew, Gamini Dissa, Gamini Jayawickrema Perera and Ranil showed the type of democracy, what JR termed "five star democracy" they practised.

    ANURA NANAYAKKARA Monday, 26 February 2024 12:12 PM

    A GREAT GENTLEMAN POLITICIAN , WHO ALSO EXCELLED IN GENTLEMAN'S GAME NAMELY CRICKET , AT NALANDA COLLEGE CAPTAINING THE SCHOOL FIRST ELEVEN TEAM IN 1960. AN HONEST POLITICIAN , WHO DID NOT ROB PUBLIC MONEY . MAY HE ATTAIN NIBBANA .!!


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