Features

Mrs Wimala Kannangara
by Ilica Malkanthi Karunaratne

Time seemed to stand still for a while when I first heard of her death and my mind flew back to a time when she was so much a part of our lives. So many memories of her seemed to flood the recesses of my mind. Her straight talking, fearing no-one and nothing, as she had nothing to hide and no skeletons in her cupboard. She could afford to say what she felt in her very own inimitable style, and I recall many occasions when the late Dudley Seananayake, would roar with his unforgettable, uproarious laughter at her straight talking comments, and episodes concerning her. He knew her well, as they contested from the same district and appreciated her honesty, sincerity and special brand of humour. Her integrity and generosity will live on forever, not only in the hearts of the recipients of the latter, but in the minds, of everyone who knew her.

I first came into contact with her after my marriage to a politician; I will never forget her thoughtfulness, kindness and many warm gestures. She seemed to sense that this was a new lifestyle for me which certainly took much adapting. Perhaps the fact that my father was a doctor, as were her two brothers, one of whom had been a student of my fatherís, may have inspired her kindness and special interest. Later on, when she was a Cabinet Minister under the late President Jayewardene, she would entertain in great style, with those special touches which help to achieve perfection.

I always thought of her as a mighty atom, well endowed with commonsense and dedication. Small in stature, but capable of hard work and commanding respect, whenever she strode into her office or a meeting. She was a devoted mother and a devout Buddhist; so it was no surprise when I heard later on, after she retired from politics, that she had sold all her earthly possessions, which she had left- after seeing that her two children were on their feet, and gifted the proceeds to The Dalada Maligawa and other Buddhist causes. I hope that the rumours about the plundering from this most holy place of worship did not include all that the late Wimala sacrificed her luxurious life for, and gifted with so much devotion.

There are few who are aware that after this, she was living alone far away from Colombo. It was none other than Ranil Wickremesinghe who heard of her plight, sent Ms Renuka Herath to see her, and subsequently arranged for her to live in a Buddhist meditation centre in Colombo. I am glad for her sake though, that later on, her only son returned from abroad and looked after his mother till she died. All that a mother asks for is the love, caring and respect of oneís children. "A motherís tender care never ceases for the child she bore."

In this day and age, polticians like Wimala are sadly missed; they leave a void which can never be filled, they are irreplaceable and our country is poorer without them. So much seems missing in the peoples representatives we have at the moment. Both the country and the UNP badly need more men and women of Wimalaís calibre.

She was the epitome of loyalty to both leader and party, throughout her journey in politics and after it too; and would have been shocked at behaviour patterns and attitudes today. Each one has their own agenda for self advancement where switching loyalties and parties, seem to come as easily as changing partners, in a game or in a marriage, in modern society.

 

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