Although I have been involved very actively in
UNP politics from the time I was a mere brat of 13 years (my 1st
outstation political event was at Ratnapura in 1958 where the
All Ceylon UNP Youth League held a 2 day session at Seevali
College) and was the youngest electoral leader of the party in
1970 (Ambalangoda). I resigned in protest of the ‘unholy’
agreement that Dudley Senanayake had with J. R. Jayewardene
against whom we demanded disciplinary action.
This was because he was flirting with the SLFP
and had told Dudley that the UNP should join with the SLFP and
if the party was not willing to consider his proposal that he
would do, what today would have been termed a Rohita Bogollagama.
Rohitas were no where there in the political scene then as were
many others including Ranil.
J. R. was called the ‘Nijalingappa’ of the UNP
after the reactionary figure in the Indian National Congress and
our local ‘Nijalingappa’ who was ironically the most senior Vice
President of the party besides being the chairman of the UNPs
disciplinary committee publicly announced at a meeting at Matara
then Uyanwatta Esplanade (now Sanath Jayasuriya esplanade) that
in a few day time, his services would be available to the people
in a significant way. Mind you this was during the SLFP regime
of Sirima Bandaranaike.
The youth league whose leader was the
indefatigable Jinadasa Niyathapala, political guru to many of us
up in arms against this ‘betrayal’ and we had the support of a
considerable section of the party including R. Premadasa.
The UNP, in the past had taken disciplinary
action against party members for lesser ‘offences’. ‘Patty
Mahattaya’ (W. D. S. Abeygunawardene) of Galle who brought
credit to the party by defeating a sitting Prime Minister ‘W’
(as the ‘great man’ Dahanayaka was affectionately called by the
‘Gallans’) was sacked on the recommendation of J. R. for the
former’s failure to honour a Mayoral agreement that he had with
a non UNPer Dahanayake (‘W’ was not a UNPer then!)
But the 2 leaders Dudley and J. R. hugged and
kissed each other, cried over each others shoulder at UNP MP
Paris Perera’s Thimbirigasyaya house and the party high command
expected us to follow this decision made privately without the
endorsement of even the working committee (initially) like a
flock of sheep. Well I was the black sheep in that flock and I
promptly submitted my resignation from the membership of the UNP
and organisorship by telegram!
Rukman and Niyathapala still tease me on the
contents of the telegram which according to them upset ‘Lokka’
(Dudley) a lot.
The same incident led to the resignation of
Premadasa from the Party’s working committee and he went on to
form the original citizens’ front (Puravesi Peramuna) of which I
became a founder member and a key speaker along with people like
Gamini Fonseka, Prof. Tilak Ratnakara, D. J. Maha Kumarage and
the Ven. Welletota Pannadassi Thero.
UNP was anathema to me mostly because of the
‘Nijalingappa’ (J.R.) who succeeded Dudley as the leader in
In early 80’s I was with Balfour Beatty Nuttall
the British contractors to the victoria dam and Hydro-electric
project as the legal and personnel advisor. I believe at the
time I was one of the highest paid mercantile executives in the
country my employers treating me on far (or even at a higher
pedestal) than some of the expatriates-so much so-even when my
pet Golden Retriever died I was sent to England to bring
a dog and the chief buyer at the May Day road head office in UK.
Nick Dowlin congratulated me on being the man responsible for
getting the Purchasing Department of Balfour Beatty’s (then) 75
year history ‘to purchase a 8 week old Golden Retriever
female puppy for BK!’ This canine record still holds good at BB.
Although my friend, Gamini Dissanayake is often
credited by the friends for ‘landing’ me this plum job, I must
state emphatically and with gratitude that it was a former
employer R. (Killy) Rajamahendran of Maharajas who secured this
lucrative position for me. He got Nimal Cooke a co-director to
summon me from Taiwan where I was on a private visit arranged by
yet another friend Eamon Kariyakarawana of Lake House fame.
During the referendum in 1982 Gamini was touring
the country by helicopter to coax the people to vote for the
lamp. The referendum was one of the many mistakes committed by
J. R. in my opinion.
Gamini asked me to meet him at a meeting at
Hasalaka where Tissa Attanayake’s uncle R. M. B. Attanayake was
the MP as well as the Deputy Minister of Higher Education.
Gamini went by chopper from Colombo along with
Joe Abeywickrema who was one of the key speakers on the UNP
platform and I drove my 11 Sri 5996 ford escort via the 18
(really it is 17 now) hair-pin bends along the old Mahiyangana
Road. When I arrived at the meeting place Gamini was about to
conclude his speech and to my utter surprise and astonishment
concluded his speech announcing that the next speaker would be
‘Advocate Buddhika Kurukularatne’.
I obviously could not let the side down-least of
all my friend (although many of his ‘so called’ friends did just
that!) and I though unwillingly became part of the notorious
referendum compaign of the UNP. I was then a registered voter of
Nuwara Eliya and travelled all the way up with my wife to commit
the felony of voting for the UNP’s lamp!
Having thus tasted the forbidden fruit (again!)
there was no turning back.
There was no ‘District System’ then and my
political interest was obviously focused at Ambalangoda where I
was born, bred and buttered! Mr. Dudly Senanayake looked upto me
to be a UNP candidate as was stated by him in a letter he wrote
to Prof. Brian Buckley Director of studies at the centre for
labour and social studies in Rome, in recommending me to a
political leadership training in Sept. 1966.
By the time, I returned ‘home’ to the UNP Dudley
was no more.
Ambalangoda electorate was represented in 1977
by Ryter Thilakasekera, who like Manivel Savariappa Themis of
Colombo central in 1956 was swept into parliament with the
tsunami of 1977.
Ryter Thilakasekara though not a man of any
academic achievement or social background as compared to the
Kularatnes, William Silvas and Saddasenas who represented this
southern electorate with distinction was indeed a maestro at
Machia Vellian tactics.
He was the live wire of UNP activities and apart
from being a sales assistant in the Bata Shoe agency his father,
uncle Robert owned he never did a job. Nevertheless, a man with
tremendous organisational skills, he saw himself elected to the
Board of the Ambalangoda co-operative society.
It was he who took me in Fairly Wijemanne’s
Borgward to campaign for Percy Samaraweera’s by-election
where the latter clashed with ‘Bhasha Boy’ K. M. P. Rajaratne. I
cut school to proceed to Welimada.
However it was at Percy’s Wemulla Estate, that I
fell out with Ryter over an incident which endeared me to Percy,
Capt. Seneviratne and Sri Chandraratne Manawasinghe who were in
charge of Percy’s campaign. I was invited by Percy to occupy a
room in the Wemulla Bungalow with Capt. Seneviratne (‘Bindu’ —
Lakshman Seneviratne MP’s father) and Manawasinghe whilst Ryter
slept in a mana thatched house with Almon Pieris, Nimal Rohana
Ryter knew that I was a threat to him
politically and he was close to JR as I was to Dudley. However
Dudley never liked him which was yet another reason for him to
throw in his lot with J.R.
With me out of the political arena in 1977 and
J.R. as the party leader, the abject corruption and nepotism of
the Sirimavo Bandaranike regime, the UNP tsunami hauled the
likes of Ryter to parliament.
As the UNP ‘lost’ the referendum at Ambalangoda
a by-election was held and I took 3 weeks leave from my employer
to lead the UNP’s campaign at Batapola area (the largest vote
bank in the Ambalangoda electorate) which saw the UNP candidate
M. H. K. Jagathsena, the only son of Dr. M. H. Saddhasena a
former MP, win by a razor thin margin. Jagath who was too fond
of the bottle died before his parliamentary term was completed
and Ryter, to the amazement and utter surprise of many was again
selected to parliament via the ‘chit’. The ‘chit system’ was yet
another curse introduced by the UNP.
Mr. M. S. Amarasiri along with the District
Minister G. V. S. de Silva both had a soft corner for Ryter who
had the knack of making the right connections with the right
This was the time that nominations were being
called for the first provincial council elections. Although the
JVP which mercilessly carried out their threats to kill those
who participated in the treacherous provincial council
elections, I decided to submit my nominations to contest the
P.C. elections to the Galle district from the UNP ticket.
My application found favour with Sirikotha and
the nominations board got down Amarasiri who was the chief
ministerial candidate, G. V. S. de Silva the District Minister
and Ryter Thilakasekera, the UNP MP to Sirikotha.
When the desire to field me as the party’s
candidate was proposed by Premadasa, Ryter whole heartedly
agreed stating that I had the backing of many young people
because of the NGO that I headed, the Ambalangoda Deshapremi
Both Amarasiri and G. V. S., who knew that Ryter
and I were not seeing eye to eye on many matters were visibly
moved by Ryter’s what they believed was a magnanimous gesture.
Premadasa then asked Ryter himself to propose my name which he
Rajan Wijeratne was to come to the Ambalangoda
Rest House to decide on a Provincial Council candidate after
hearing the views of party activists.
Ryter immediately went in to action. On the
appointed day he packed the Ambalangoda Rest House with his
henchmen and cronies and made them sit at different locations.
Ranjan took the chair with Amarasiri and G.V.S.
on either side. Ryter as the MP was also seated at the head
There were three candidates who had applied. As
the meeting had been convened to find the response of party
activists the applicants themselves were not invited. I applied
merely to register myself — If I had not applied for nominations
for the provincial council and only applied for the
parliamentary elections, I knew Ryter would then carry out a
campaign that I was scared to come forward at a time ‘our
people’ were being massacred. His game plan was obvious to me
and I decided to exhaust all his ammunition at the nomination
stage for the Provincial Council Elections so that he would not
be able to fire a shot when I sought nominations to the
But another applicant Sarath Lamahewa too had
sent his men to find out what happened at the meeting.
As Ranjan had concluded his opening address and
invited those present to suggest a name to be the UNP’s
candidate for the forthcoming Provincial Council elections,
Ryter had jumped up and prasing me to the skies had proposed my
Ryter’s game plan worked according to clock work
precision and led ironically by a classmate of mine who was also
a colleague at Lake House, pandemonium reigned supreme with
almost the entire audience howling in protest that they would
cross-over to the SLFP if Buddhika was appointed as the UNP
Ryter wore a troubled look and won the immediate
sympathy of Ranjan Amarasiri and G.V.S. Ryter had put up a great
act in trying to reason out with his own ‘plants’, which
impressed the visitors more.
Ranjan went back to Sirikotha with a report that
said I was a Persona-non-grata with the youths of the area.
Naturally I was not given nominations and I live today to fell
the story thanks to Ryter and vicariously to Ranjan.
When news went around that I had applied to seek
UNP nominations to the Provincial Councils a friend Leelaratne
Bindu Hewa from Delgahabedda in Batapola in the Ambalangoda
electorate met me to convey an important message.
‘Leele’ as we called him had been a JVP hardcore
activist in the 1971 insurrection of the JVP. In Ambalangoda JVP
activities were rampant as Rohana Wijeweera himself was educated
at my alma-mater-Dharmasoka.
I had no less than 13 of my school-mates facing
that 1st ‘Maha Naduwa’, as the JVP Trial-at-Bar was
Leele by this time had shed his revolutionary
ideologies and was working with us in my NGO the Ambalangoda
Deshapremi Sanvidhanaya. He took me to a side and said Sir I
received a confidential message from ‘Aragollo’ (those
people) in Hambantota, that if you were to submit your
nominations to contest the Provincial Council elections that
they would have to ‘remove’ you.
I told Leele, ‘Leele only a fool would die
twice! Let tham kill me if they want to. But let them also
continue my scholarship programme that I have launched for the
‘Leele’ went away a very worried man.
Unlike most people who jumped sides when they
failed to get nominations, I was the first person to vote at the
Pepiliyana Sunethradevi Balika MV in the Kesbewa electorate
where I was a registered voter.
Kesbewa was also an electorate which was teeming
with JVP activities. There were unofficial curfews imposed by
the JVP bringing civil life to a grinding halt. Hand bills and
notices announced death to the first five persons who came to
This was the time, Malini was hospitalized under
the care of Dr. H. H. R. Samarasinghe at Sri Jayewardenepura
General Hospital with a massive cardiac infraction or Heart
Attack (so after all, she had a heart!)
The poll commenced at 7.00 a.m. and I walked the
500 meters from my house to the polling booth at 6.45 a.m.
sporting a green shirt. Many people came out — not to go to the
polling booth, but to see this ‘Manda Buddhika’ courting
When I reached the Sunethradevi Balika Vidyalaya
there was no queue. In fact there wasn’t a soul. The officers
themselves were not ready to receive any voters although it was
7 o’clock. Except for the officers there were no polling agents
or candidates present.
The officers almost apologetically requested me
to bear with them until they got ready.
So I waited for death. Nos 2,3,4 and 5 were not
to be seen anywhere. That was how I missed my rendezvous with
death — curtsey the JVP!
After I became an MP I told Ranjan as to how he
saved me from being killed.
Never at a loss for words, Ranjan said, ‘yes
men, I deliberately denied your PC nominations as I wanted you