|The exemplary stalwart of the UNP extinguished in prime of
by Prasad Gunewardene
I remember Gamini as the second youngest member to enter parliament in 1977 at the age of twenty six when J. R. Jayewardene gained a landslide victory. The youngest was the late Anura Daniel who was then aged 21. Gamini looked youthful till the time of his untimely demise on Monday night. Young Athukorale, a product of St. Peters College, Bambalapitiya, a landed proprietor, took to politics that year with a huge commitment to his party and the country. He braved many odds from that time. In parliament he was a fiery speaker with facts who was difficult for the opposition and governments to dismiss. As a deputy minister of Youth Affairs and Employment in 1977 he used the opportunity to mobilise the youth round the party. From there he became the deputy minister of Mahaweli. Like his predecessor, Gamini Dissanayake, Gamini Athukorale worked round the clock. He was duly rewarded under the Presidency of Ranasinghe Premadasa who elevated him to cabinet rank of that ministry.
When the UNP lost its General Secretary Gamini Wijesekere along with Gamini Dissanayake in the Thotalanga bomb explosition in October 1994, the obvious choice for the post of General Secretary was young Gamini Athukorale. He accepted this challenge with courage. The party was defeated in 1994 but, Gamini worked hard for his leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. He never relaxed as his dream was to bring his leader and party to power at the earliest. Way back in 1997 when I met Gamini near the Speakers office in parliament I asked him whether his party would have to wait 17 years to return to office as Jeyaraj Fernandopulle pledged inside the chamber a few minutes before that day on the future of the UNP. Gamini who always had a mischievous smile on his cheeks quipped, "Jeyaraj doesnt know the fact that the mother and daughter will only serve seven years" and added that when the PA completed seven years in office it will be Ranil who would lead the government.
Gamini struggled hard for this cause. A young man who broke the leftist grip at Nivithigala after 27 years in 1977 was subjected to two electoral defeats in 2000 and 2001 where violence marred that electorate. Gamini lost by a mere hundred votes on both occasions but to be returned handsomely on the preferential vote polling over one lakh. Gaminis dream came true on December 5, 2001 when he saw his party in power in a convincing manner ending a seven year PA rule proving that both the mother and daughter had only seven years to rule. It was unfortunate that this young man, Gamini, who worked with commitment, dedication and sacrifice for his leader and the party was snatched away so early before he could taste the success of victory. Within a quarter century in UNP politics, Gamini rose to the position of Assistant Leader of the party which is a remarkable achievement.
As the new Minister of Transport, Highways and Aviation, Gamini was to go into action from yesterday. But the cruel hand of death snatched him away. The UNP has lost a faithful, dynamic and a promising member. The country has lost an honest politician who spent his personal wealth for his people and the country. In an era where politics is embraced by corruption, Gamini was an exemplary figure who sold his own property to do politics to serve his people. Good bye Gamini, you played your innings with courage and determination till you saw victory. May you attain the supreme bliss of nirvana.
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