• 18th November 2014

    They say the love between a mother and her son is pure and unconditional, and the love between a father and his son, albeit the same, is woven more intricately than the latter. A mother will always fuss over her son, put him on a pedestal and in her eyes he can do no wrong. But a father will mold a son to be a man. He will teach him how to ride his first bicycle, how to love and play a sport so passionately, read him his first letters as a toddler, and in my case, he will sit back and watch while we live our lives and carve our own niche in the world.

    I have always been in awe of my father. He was my idol, my role model in life. I have seen him in his best times and bad, and in both he ensured we, my malli’s and I, were kept protected and insular to all the trials and tribulations he was facing on his own. He fiercely crossed all of lives hurdles on his own all whilst allowing us to learn from our own mistakes and experiences; he never forced his lessons in life onto us. He simply allowed us to live our lives; our dreams.

    Thaththi was a man with a magnanimous heart, a colorful personality and a great vision. He envisaged his purpose in life from an early age. He followed in my seeya’s footsteps and he made it his sole purpose in life to work for the people; the country. He believed in a free world, a world where all humans co-existed free from violence, discrimination and hatred, a world where all were tolerant of each other irrespective of race, religion, caste and class. He believed in equality. He was a Human Rights activist at heart. He saw the fabric of Sri Lanka being marred by certain factions, he saw the cultural melting pot of all the worlds’ religions inhabiting in Sri Lanka, a feat that should be applauded and not scorned at or ripped apart. He knew Sri Lanka was a treasure trove, an island to be preserved and enjoyed by all, not just a few and an island that stood tall together, but insignificant if shattered apart. He was a leader, never a follower. He was a man who hailed from the deep south of Sri Lanka, a commoner that placed immense value on his cultural roots, heritage and traditions. A man that grew up with the people and lived only to serve the people. He was a free-spirited, freethinker who believed in Sri Lanka and believed that her people had the power to make the impossible possible. Be a force to reckon with in a global platform. It was this energetic spirit that drove him to follow his dream of seeing a free united Sri Lanka in his lifetime.

    Thaththi joined politics in an era where Sri Lanka, albeit free from being a colonized island, was going through rapid social, political and economical change. A time when the youth and the minorities were suppressed from growing to their full potential, a time when an elite few enacted legislation that would impact an entire population, a time when the country was beginning to lose its identity. He was against it all. He believed in democracy and freedom!

    He believed in the principles firmly inked in the Constitution of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party; center left wing ideology of politics. He believed in empowering the youth, for he always said, the young child today is the leader of tomorrow; the future of our country lies in the hands of our youth. An educated, empowered youth force would eventually lead to a healthy educated workforce that would drive the economy forward. He fought for what he believed. In the 1980’s when Sri Lanka was governed by a UNP stronghold, he drove his party to stand up for what they believe it, he gathered more members and despite being in the opposition he ensured the ruling party was kept on their toes. He spearheaded the Paada-Yaathra movement, whereby he gathered large numbers of people to walk the streets and toot their vehicle horns in unison across the island. He kept leading his party and his people despite the many obstacles he continued to face. He marched in protest of the treatment and harassment faced by the youth in the country. He fought for human rights and was even a ‘political prisoner’ held under remand for three months, for a crime he didn’t commit. He was framed and remanded with the hope of silencing him. But he rose and returned stronger and more determined than ever before.

    From being a Member of Parliament to being the Leader of the Opposition and being appointed a Cabinet Minister, my father climbed the ranks on his own merit; it was his hard work that spoke a thousand words. From Prime Minister to subsequently serving as the fifth President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, my father’s greatest accomplishment to date remains not his victory at the polls, but his ability to have curbed the power of the terrorists and free his country from the clutches of a ruthless organization that fought a deadly war for three decades and ripped the fabric of our country apart, not for any gains of the people but for their own selfish needs. 18th May 2009, a date permanently affixed in our history, a date when Sri Lanka was once again united under one flag. The day we made history across the globe by being one of the first nations in the modern world to eradicate terrorism.

    To me Thaththi was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He believed in hard work, trust and honesty. He believed in sincerity and always taught us to spend more time developing friendships and harvesting relationships. He always said, those we meet on our way up we will also meet them on our way down and those that we meet when we are of no use to them are those that we must keep close when we become of use to the world. He believed that the time spent nurturing friendships and developing relationships was time well spent; for he often said there is no bond greater than the bond of a strong friendship. His words have echoed true all through my journey in life. I have watched how my father, up to date, keeps close all his old friends who have been there for him during some of his most trying times. Without bating an eyelid he will free up his diary if an old friend requests for his time. He will cancel all prior appointments and be at the aide of an old friend that needs help. He often told us the friends we meet in school would be our extended families throughout our lives. He couldn’t have been wiser.

    Despite his hectic schedule, Thaththi always took pride in our work. He encouraged us, his sons, to follow our dreams. Be who we wanted to be not who he wanted us to be. We were never forced to follow a career of his choice. Instead he encouraged us to do work which we enjoyed, for he often said if one enjoys the work one did, then work will never seem like work, it wont seem a chore, it will instead be an adventure that you unfold every morning. Chichi malli hence went onto becoming a Space Systems Engineer, Yoshitha malli a proud Naval Officer serving his country and me a Lawyer who also chose to follow in my father’s footsteps and ventured into the world of Politics. I recall the day when we each told him our choices in life, when Yoshitha malli informed the family he wanted to join the Navy, like his Maternal Grandfather, my father sat me down and asked me if I thought malli had made the right decision. We were a country ravaged by a civil war. He would be putting his life into grave danger. And Yoshitha malli made this decision a few days after the Kabithigollewa Massacre, where several school students were killed when the LTTE exploded a bomb inside a bus. We were all still reeling from the shock and coming to terms with the loss of young lives. But, we knew malli had made up his mind and he was determined to fight for the country. Hence, Thaththi and I, sat and discussed, like we often do when important decisions concerning the family have to be made. We both agreed that malli serving the nation would indeed be a matter of great pride for the entire family. Similarly, when I announced to my father that I wanted to follow in his footsteps and venture into the world of politics my father asked me one simple question, ‘putha, are you ready to put the needs of the people over and above your own?’ Those words echo in my ears to date.

    From attending our rugby matches, to making sure he sat and had breakfast with us on a day he knew we had an important exam, to making sure he is with us on our birthdays or simply sitting and having a conversation with us on a night he knows we have been battling a flu or cold, Thaththi despite his busy schedule have always been there for us and with us in our time of need. He was always there for us, cheering from the sidelines, ready to motivate us when we needed our spirits lifted, comfort us in times of defeat; he has been our best gift in life. There is no greater joy in this world than seeing a smile on your parents face and knowing that you are the reason for that smile. They say when a father does for his son, they both laugh, but when a son does for his father, they both cry. Tears of joy that I’ve seen in my father’s eyes when he watches with pride when anyone of us, his sons, accomplish something in life, is priceless. He will always be our biggest strength, our best source of inspiration.

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