Remembering an honorable politician

P. C. Imbulana’s 100th Birth Anniversary Commemoration


Pictured here is Wijegoonewardena with Imbulana at his tea estate in Dolosbage.

By Dharmasiri Weerakkody Wijegoonawardena

The late Prema Chandra Imbulana had the rare distinction of serving the country from village level on being elected Chairman of the Village Council and climbing the ladder to become a Parliamentarian, Deputy Minister, a Minister and then Governor in two provinces of Sri Lanka, in a colorful and distinguished career in politics spanning six decades.

He was also the President of the D.S. Senanayaka Memorial Society, a position he held and was dedicated to until his sad demise two years ago.

I had the privilege of serving him as the Public Relations Officer and in the capacity of Private Secretary during some of the time he was Minister and as Governor. I was no relative of his. He assigned me the task because he felt I was capable for the job and the good working relationship we cultivated when I was a planter.

P. C. Imbulana, popularly known as P.C to his close friends, hailed from an aristocratic ancestry. He was the son of the landed proprietor and then Village Headman of the "Thun Korale" Ruwanwella Walauwe, Kuruvitarachchilage Martin Appuhamy Imbulama and of Rajakaruna Wanigesekera Mudianse Ralahamilage Bandare Menike Dedigama Kumarahami of the "Beligal Korale" Walauwe.

His mother’s brother, U. B. Dedigama was the Beligal Korale’s ‘Rate Mahaththya" in charge of the Warekapola and Galigamuwe divisional secretarial areas and was made a Member of the British Empire. (MBE)

Prema Chandra Imbulana was a founder member of the United National Party which formed the first government after independence. His talents and the commitment to serve the public in general and his village in particular started as a teenager without any title or position. He was elected without party affiliation as the youngest Village Council Chairman of Ruwanwella that included both the Dehigampala Korale and Pahathe Bulathgama areas.

We had heard of the then Education Minister C. W. W. Kannangare who was to experience Imbulana’s determination when he paid a visit to him. Young Imbulana told the Minister that he wouldn’t return to the village unless he got the Imbulana village school listed as a Govt. School, which he subsequently argued successfully to achieve in obtaining before he returned that same evening. This was conveyed by Kannangera to Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake which had prompted him to invite Imbulana to venture into politics.

Although the youthful Imbulana contested three times against leftist giants like N. M. Perera and losing marginally, he was relentless in his pursuit for his party to win, and he was elected from Ruwanwella on his third attempt and politically broke the famously known red fort.

He won in 1965 and entered parliament. He was made the Deputy Minister of Agriculture in the Dudley Senanayake Government. In the Jayewardene government he was appointed Deputy Minister Local Govt. Housing and Construction and worked well together with his Minister, Ranasinghe Premedasa who was also the then Prime Minister.

Upon Premedasa forming a government, he appointed his one-time Deputy as his Labour Minister. Subsequently, Imbulana was selected to be one of the first set of Governors in the newly-established Provincial Councils. He was then appointed Governor, Central Province by President D. B. Wijetunga.

He is considered one of the most honorable and honest politicians genuinely committed to serving the country and one who served as Governor above party politics. This was endorsed when President Chandrika Kumaratunga who represented a different political party retained him for the remainder of his term as Governor of the Central Province on her appointment to the highest office, recognizing his impartial stand of serving country before party and self.

Having lost his father early in life Imbulana’s mother, who reminded us of Britain’s Queen mother due to her charming majestic ways and mannerisms, was a tower of strength to him in his early life. She passed away in the height of his career when he was Labor Minister.

Imbulana was the father figure to many in his family. He took this responsibility early in life. He extended this responsibility even to those who immediately worked under him. He was a wonderful boss who understood each one of his employees well and regarded them more as part of his team rather than those who served him.

It would not be wrong to call him a gentle giant with an iron fist. As that is how he did his day-to-day administration where the demand for honesty and integrity was at its highest but zero tolerance on those found corrupt.

One of his marked traits was that he never got flustered or alarmed or excited for anything. His calm demeanor was the most outstanding. In the worst of crisis, he was the calmest person. He was never hasty, nor in a hurry, even in his strides he walked slowly majestically and earned the name of "Maligawe Atha" (The elephant of the palace) even by his opponents.

Imbulana was unmarried and would joke that he married into politics. Right throughout his political life, his sister Prema Imbulana Munasinghe was his shadow, meticulously preparing in the background ensuring all he required for a steady, dignified successful career in which his wish to serve the people was fulfilled.

She would always be there together with her husband and their youngest daughter Charnika as we frequently would witness accompanying him. His constituents would recall them behind him in his campaign trail quietly supporting him at elections and one of his nephews worked closely with him for a time period and served as his Private Secretary for some time.

I recall an invitation by Gamini Wijesekera, the then UNP General Secretary to Imbulana’s niece, journalist Charnika to be the Coordinator of Kegalle District in 1994. He was smiling when he told me the news saying he had no idea of the appointment but he knows she is very capable and efficient to fulfill the short term role and he added laughingly that in no time she’ll want to get back to her media work.

Charnika left her job as Creative Director at the Hilton to take up the political party assignment. Subsequent to her fulfilling the task successfully he was to once again to make a comment to me when she was appointed Press Officer to the Opposition office in parliament for which she took up only for the duration of the Presidential election in 1994 soon after, upon a recommendation made by the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, A. C. S. Hameed to Gamini Dissanayake.

Imbulana was an agriculturist and loved the outdoors as well as being very house proud. His sprawling ancestral house in Ruwanwella when he lived there and the official residence at No. 19, Longden Place, Colombo 7, were immaculately maintained at all times.

He was active in mind and spirit to his last and his sister Prema was by his side until the end. It was she who informed me of his death.

Charnika together with a team of Imbulana’s closest loyalists to which I too belong, acting on a pronouncement of MP Sajith Premedasa at Imbulana’s funeral oration in Ruwanwella, very fittingly suggested that if "we are to give him the highest honor a foundation should be set up to upkeep his ideals".

Charnika spearheaded and formed the P.C. Imbulana Trust to carry forward in his name social services of national importance for which a website also is scheduled for launch to coincide with his 100th birth anniversary commemoration today at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies.

We hope and strive to make this endeavor as successful as P. C. Imbulana’s career and service to the nation to uphold his ideals in his honor. He will remain etched in our memory and this endeavor will not only be dedicated for what it is set up to do but with the hope that it will also educate and enable the future generations for yet another 100 years or more to emulate not only his achievements and service to the country but more his exemplary qualities as a person.


Imbulana’s 100th Birth Anniversary Commemoration event today

The 100th Birth Anniversary Commemoration events of the late P. C. Imbulana, which commenced on his 100th birth anniversay on October 28, 2014 will culminate at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Centre for International Relations and Strategic Studies at 2.30 pm today. Memorial orations will be delivered by Dr. Dayan Jayathileka, former representative to the UN in Geneva and former Ambassador to France, Sajith Premedasa, MP, UNP Deputy Leader and Wasantha Senanayaka, MP.

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