• 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.

  • Circle of Life

    November; for many this month represents the start of Movember, a month dedicated to creating awareness towards issues affecting men’s health, the month z_p10-DARajapakseof celebrating Thanksgiving, if you’re a citizen of the United States, or most importantly the month which the world remembers its fallen heroes, a day to salute those that gave up their lives to propagate change in the world. For me, November is also the month of remembrance and the month of being thankful. It marks the remembrance of my paternal grandfather; his birth and death, and the birth month of my beloved father; November is an emotional month, a month that invites a great deal of personal reflection, a month that draws me back to my roots, a month of re-understanding my purpose in life, a month that represents the circle of my life.

    On the steps of my verandah at my ancestral home in Madamulana, I sat peacefully enjoying the cool November breeze that swept across the garden, swiftly pass the coconut trees, rattling the branches as it sashayed towards the house, leaving a brief chill in my spine and a sniffle in my nose. The moonshines brightly in all its glory and the sounds of the monk chanting pirith on a radio from my fathers bedroom, fills the quiet dimly lit house that sleeps soundly to the absolute silence that conquers its surroundings of luscious green paddy fields. Everyone has retired for the day, and the village has fallen victim to nightfall. A sense of serenity, calmness and peacefulness surrounds me, as I pen my thoughts to words. Words have always given me solace; they have lifted me up and broken me down, but it has always been my guardian angel, helped me keep my emotions in control, thoughts in order and been my sunshine after a heavy storm. Writing to me is therapeutical, it enables me to reflect on my day, gather all my thoughts into one frame, revisit and understand in-depth conversations engaged, and most importantly it enables me to evaluate and put into perspective the day gone by. A habit inculcated from my childhood, by a man who up to date maintains two diaries; one for all his meetings and events and one in which he reflects and pens his thoughts; the greatest tool gifted to me by my father was a notepad and a pen, and my mother, the art of using that pen. A teacher by profession, my mother treasured the gift of language and knowledge, she emphasized the importance of education in us from a very early age. She encouraged my brothers and I to read and write whenever our emotions attempted to have the best of us; in boredom we were encouraged to write and let our imaginations run wild, during moments of sorrow we were encouraged to read and let our minds wander into the magical world of books, when in fits of anger we were encouraged to write till our minds were at peace again; writing became a part of our journey and words have followed me from Hambanthota to Colombo to Killinochchi to every nook and corner of my paradise isle. My journey, my experiences, my thoughts, my triumphs and my joys, my sorrows, fears and my secrets; I have penned them all to paper and I reflect back on those pages when I feel the need to understand a decision made in haste, when I need to remember an event that has occurred in my life or simply recollect a memory or an experience.

    We are what we believe and we are what we think. As revealed in the bestselling book – The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, ‘the secret is the law of attraction! IMG-20141108-WA0001Everything that’s coming into your life you are attracting into your life. And it’s attracted to you by virtue of the images you’re holding in your mind. It’s what you’re thinking. Whatever is going on in your mind you are attracting to you. Every thought of yours is a real thing – a force.’ With this mantra in my mind, I write every evening, so that my day draws to an end with my mind at peace.

    Tonight, like every other night, I once again sit down to reflect on my day. A day that has given play to my emotions, a day spent reflecting on the words spoken by my father and other members of my family about the work and life of my grandfather, whose death anniversary we commemorated in the early hours of the morning. Immersed in thought, I sat back and thought about Seeya. Being born a couple of decades too late, and owing to tragic circumstances, I was robbed of an opportunity to meet him. The pictures I have painted in my memory were from photographs restored and hung proudly in our home. I have heard many a tales of my grandfather’s good work, his experiences and his victories in life, all fondly narrated to me by my father. I was told he was a great man, a man that rose from the village and travelled to the city to represent his town of birth. A man of the people, selected by the people and who worked only for the people. His sole purpose in life was to uplift his people, bring about a change in their lives. See real growth in his village and have it trickle down to his people. And he did just that. He took great pride in the schools he developed in the village, some of which exist to this date. He welcomed modernization yet scorned imperialism, he believed in development and revered the preservation of history and traditions. He believed in an educated society that moved in tune to changing times and placed great importance in the role religion and culture played in further cultivating our minds and shaping our characters. He was a man whose words echo true today. A man whose footsteps my father chose to follow. And decades later me, his grandson.
    Seeya was born on the 5th of November 1905 in Madamulana, and had his early education at the Mandaduva School in Weerakatiya. His father, Don David Rajapaksa sent him to the prestigious Richmond College in Galle for his secondary education. Having completed his education successfully, he helped manage the family property; paddy fields and coconut plantations. He also worked with his elder brother, D.M. Rajapaksa, who was the State Councilor for Hambanthota and attended to affairs of the electorate. Having gained immense experience in the field of politics, he subsequently contested for the Hambanthota electorate at the By-Election of 1945. He won the seat at the By-Election and was included in the Committee on Agriculture and Land in the State Council. This gave him a good opportunity to tackle the problem of landlessness of the peasantry of Giruva Pattuva. Seeya adopted a 99-year lease scheme to transfer crown land to landless peasants in 5-acre plots. This immensely boosted the paddy and coconut cultivations in Giruva Pattuva.

    The historic and momentous change in Seeya’s life came about in 1951, when a disgruntled S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, irritated over the policies of the existing political party decided to form the Sri Lanka Freedom Party along with Seeya, Herbert Sri Nissanka and D. S. Goonesekera. Seeya being a founding member of the party and an ardent supporter of S.W.R.D Bandaranaike worked tireless with him and ensured his subsequent victory. At the historic General Elections of 1952, Seeya emerged victorious of the Beliatta electorate and won the seat for the party. Later on, in the General Elections of 1956, Seeya was elected as a Member of Parliament for Beliatta and in 1959 he was appointed as the Cabinet Minister of Agriculture and Lands.

    Throughout Seeya’s illustrious political career, he faced many ups and downs, similar to those faced by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party at the time. At the General Election of 1960, when the SLFP was defeated and the UNP formed a government, Seeya too lost his seat. But when the UNP government was dissolved and the Parliamentary Elections were held for the second time in July of the same year, Seeya once again emerged victorious in Beliatta and was an inspiration to the government led by Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Seeya was appointed Deputy Chairman of Committees in Parliament and subsequently as the Deputy Speaker. When the SLFP lost to the Dudley Senanayake led UNP in the 1965 elections, Seeya once again lost his parliamentary seat and at the 1965 General Elections, Seeya not only lost his political power but was also devoid of material wealth. During this period all his sons, Chamal bappi, thaththi, Basil bappi, Gota bappi and Dudley bappi were studying in Colombo and as thaththi recalls, Seeya found it difficult to meet all their expenses. But determined to educate all his children and thereby guarantee them of a better future, Seeya had sold his vehicle, leased his coconut estates and had suffered enormous economic hardships to sustain the family. On that fateful day on the 7th of November in 1967, when Seeya suffered a heart attack he succumbed to the attack due to a time lapse in being taken to a hospital. As thaththi recalls, there had been no vehicle in the house to take Seeya and thus finally after a long delay once he was admitted to hospital, his heart condition had worsened and he left the world on the 7th of November 1967.

    Seeya’s memory lives in all our hearts, his proud grandchildren who albeit never met him, cherish the tales and stories related to them by his children. Trials and tribulations faced and overcome by him have made our journey in life smoother. The road he walked on which he paved with love and affection, the hurdles he crossed with great courage and determination, decades later have been his gift to us. We are reaping the benefits of all the hard work, blood, sweat and tears he sowed so that generations of our family can continue to walk on the same road with our heads held high. Determined to continue Seeya’s legacy, strive to serve the people and empower the youth of my resplendent isle, with a tear in my eye and a sense of pride in my heart, I end this note tonight with a prayer hoping that wherever he may be, he is living a blessed and peaceful life.