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How Anura lost his chance to lead the SLFP

"A man in a million, my mentor - farewell!" I dread to recall that moment when I penned the phrase in the condolence book kept in the glum surroundings of the Acland House on that fateful Monday morning.

You were my childhood hero, a friend, a mentor and a guiding light.

It was not until 1977 when you entered parliament that we made our first contact. Together we chatted about evolving global patterns in politics, socio economic changes, a future Sri Lanka which we both dreamt of as we made long car journeys outside Colombo sometimes on gruelling election campaigns. You respected me for my ability to engage you in an intelligent conversation.

I was someone with modest standing in terms of money, power and social background in comparison with your rich and famous friends the world over. Yet you related to me in a way which was not even a notch below the way you treated the mighty and the glitterati.

We shared our passion for the English language You encouraged me in my writing, admired my skills whilst stressing the need to improve. There were times when you even edited my professional writing.

I recall my first ever visit to London. On the eve of my flight, it took you just a couple of minutes at the dining table to provide me with your own handwritten guide on the use of the London underground to my location. Such was your personal touch.

I was a prime source for comments and feedback on your parliamentary speeches which you yearned for. You ensured my presence in the gallery to listen to them - if I failed to be there you made it a point to drop me a copy of the Hansard with a personal note.

Your speeches came after painstaking preparations and your inimitable two fingered typing in the old manual typewriter. They were speeches extraordinarily enriched with substance, garnished with banter, parry and repartee.

Sadly even your most innocuous of mannerisms provided ammunition to your detractors. You loathed the smell of food on your fingers. Your use of cutlery to eat kiribath was misconstrued as a trait of your snobbishness. No drive out of Colombo was possible without at least one change of clothing along the way. These were insights to your obsession with personal hygiene

There was not a day in your political life that you were afforded the chance to take things easy. You were in recurring perplexity as a result of constant back stabbing and conspiracies to undermine your progress in the party your father founded and your mother led.

Your unfailing love for your mother knew no bounds despite all the differences of ideology that you may have had with her.

Her tears held you back when you were thrust in to the position of the general secretary of the SLFP. The entire parliamentary group had endorsed the move defying your mother's wishes. You gave up because you were moved by your mother's sentiments evident by her tears. In retrospect that sealed your fate in the party.

You received flak for leaving the SLFP but only a handful knew what a difficult decision it was for you to resign from the party you so dearly loved. You broke down sobbing with your political friends over the phone having returned home upon receiving the UNP membership. Some of them now occupy high positions in the land.

The outpouring of your emotions in front of your father's portrait just before leaving for parliament to take oaths as an UNP MP is something I shall never ever be able to erase off my mind.

This country was not fortunate enough to see you as its leader but will be revered in the thoughts of millions forever. You were indeed a gentleman to the core and a colossus of our times.

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