A Devout Buddhist, An extraordinary husband and father and A man of the people

WIJYAPALA MENDIS - 84th Birthday Remembrance


It is with sadness that I write this appreciation in memory of my brother-in-law, the late Wijayapala Mendis, with whom I shared a close and dear friendship even before joining the family with my marriage to his sister-in-law, Chandra, over 42 years ago. Wijayapala Mendis was born on December 16, 1928, as the third child of Mudaliyar David Mendis, a bus magnate and a former Mayor of Negombo and his wife, Magilin. A unique personality, he affectionately nurtured his loving and closely bonded family, served his motherland having a successful career in politics and lit up his life’s path with the teachings of the Buddha, being a pious and devout Buddhist. His generous and magnanimous deeds to the Buddha Sasana, offered for the advancement and development of Theravada Buddhism will spread the radiance of the Dhamma far and wide throughout the world in the years to come.

Wijayapala Mendis started his political career at the tender age of 19 as a schoolboy of Maris Stella College, Negombo, even before being eligible to vote. (Eligibility age then was 21 years). He embarked in his political career joining the UNP Youth League of Negombo under the leadership of the first Prime Minister of Ceylon, Hon. D. S. Senanayake. The outstanding organizational skills and exceptional promise stood out in him as a young man as he contested the Negombo Municipality Council in 1954. At the young age of 24 he was elected the Mayor of Negombo, and was among the youngest Mayors of the world at that time. Six years later he was successful in entering the Parliament having contested and won the newly formed Katana electorate as a UNP candidate.

He was able to win the hearts of the people of this constituency which consisted of many faiths. The choice in him as their leader was also an epitome of the people’s unwavering faith and trust in him as an open minded leader who respected all faiths and religions. It further portrayed the confidence, ability and skill in him to win and uphold the trust of his people, against many odds.

Ascending the ladder in his career as a Senior Minister in the late President J. R. Jayewardene’s Government he held the portfolio of Textile Industries and later the foremost and prestigious portfolios of Transport and Highways and of State. As a senior member of the Parliament he also held esteemed positions such as the Chief Opposition Whip and the Leader of the House. During the 2010 Presidential Elections having faced many disheartening issues and experiences he moved on to be a firm supporter of HE the President Mahinda Rajapaksa and remained so until his demise.

The demanding responsibilities and work load throughout his political career never lessened or affected the love and attention he showered on his family. His wife Nanda, the daughter of Mr. Nomis de Silva, the founder of the Ebert Silva Bus Company was blessed indeed, to have such a caring, loving and dutiful husband. Having spent 59 long years of their lives together they were known to family and friends as an exemplary couple, with their faith, love and devotion to each other only being strengthened with time.

As a father, he gave his abundant love and care to his four children, Manori, Davindra, Dilupa and Nadika. Looking into their every need he fulfilled his duties and obligations with immense happiness and joy. The unfortunate and tragic loss of his only son Davindra at a least expected time brought unbearable misery to the closely knit family. He drew the courage to face this tragedy from his deep knowledge of the Buddha Dhamma. The profound understanding of the philosophy not only enabled him to draw immeasurable strength but also helped him comfort and console a grieving mother and three affectionate sisters who could not endure the loss of their only brother.

To his family he was always an affectionate spring of love, an unfailing pillar of strength and a constant comfort and solace in their hour of need. To the grandchildren Sandika, Usij, Malin, Thavisha, Ushita and Punita he was a role model to look up to and a loving and adorable grandfather.

Throughout his life he was deeply involved in Buddhist religious activities and relentlessly worked towards its propagation. His magnanimous donations include large extents of land bequeathed to Buddhist temples such as the Senanayake Pirivena in Perissala. With the donations the Senanayake Maha Pirivena today trains and guides young Samaneras to spread the message of the Buddha around the world. The Nugawela Estate donated to the Abesekaramaya in Negombo, is yet another gift by him to The Sasana, to build a Centre for Meditation. His sole wish was to donate the splendid residence he built and lived throughout his life with its large extent of land to the Sasana, with a vision of establishing an International Theravada Buddhist Cultural Centre. His dream has been made a reality today by his loving wife and children as they have bequeathed the property to the Senanayake Pirivena.

Wijayapala Mendis was a loving and caring husband and father, an outstanding and generous leader and a great a patron of Buddhism.

May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana!

Sarath Wimalaratne

(Brother-in- law)

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