|Monday, 7 January 2002|
by P. D. A. S. Gunasekera
The Minister of Transport, Highways and Civil Aviation, Gamini Atukorale is no more. He passed away peacefully in his sleep, at his Panawenne residence in the early hours of the morning on the first of January 2002, unknown even to his beloved wife Haridrani Dissanayake and his children who were in Colombo. He was 50.
Educated at St. Peter's College Colombo, he gave up his higher studies at the age of 22 and assisted his father to run the family business complex while at the same time "nursing" the village community through the social services program of his father, thereby winning the admiration of the villages in and around Nivitigala, in his pre-political days.
I came to know Gamini closely during my official career in the Ratnapura district over a period of 20 years or more, from the inception of his political career.
He was the eldest son of E. C. J. Atukorale, a veteran planter, landed proprietor, tea factory owner, philanthropist, and politician of no mean repute, who ended up in the UNP executive committee in which post he remained till his death in 1998.
Gamini as he was affectionately called in the family and social circles, in the hey-day of his youth following in the footsteps of his father, took to politics at the age of 26, making Nivitigala electorate, 'the Bastion of the Reds' at the time his pocket borough and became the second youngest MP and deputy Minister in the J.R., Premadasa and Wijethunge Cabinets between 1978 and 1994.
Minister Atukorale came from a long line of lawyers, judges, planters, administrators and philanthropists and politicians running in to several generations in Sabaragamuwa from the time of the colonial rulers.
He used his political talents inherited from his father, the trainings gained in the management of a vast business enterprise and the wealth derived from his estates, to boost the social and economic development of the villages around during the brief period of his life.
He was brought up in a Buddhist cultural environment from his childhood days, untarnished by his education in his alma-mater of a different religious background, which the young Gamini kept at arms length, influenced by the deep Buddhist cultural background of his ancestors.
A devout Buddhist both by up bringing and conviction he served in ample measure both the temporal and spiritual interest of the social order.
His humane qualities and character coupled with his business acumen, sound knowledge of the economics of development and personnel - management and close official relations, his give and take policy, he was able to get his work attended to by the officialdom, and deliver the goods in time.
That indeed was the secret of his success for rapid rise to the higher echelons of power in the party and in the administration.
A strict disciplinarian and hard task master, he had by his own example been able to inculcate in his staff the importance of punctuality in every aspect of the performance of their official duties, by starting and finishing his own day's work in time.
He always worked round the clock till he finished the work in hand, at times missing his meals and with it his drugs despite his high blood pressure.
Gamini like his father while moving with 'King never lost the common touch'. That indeed was mainly responsible for his popularity among the masses and with those he moved.
He was a politician with a broad-mind, well on the way to become a statesman, struck down by the cruel hand of death, at the most crucial moment in the political life of his country after the landslide victory of his party, with a mandate of 'a tall-order' in which Gamini would have been a mainstay.
Gamini was, indeed, a politician and gentleman par excellence. By his untimely death the UNP leadership lost a dedicated supporter, Sabaragamuwa a benevolent statesman in the making and his family a beloved husband and loving father.
He leaves his ailing mother, Mrs. Atukorale, his beloved wife Haridrani Dissanayake and his children.
The Minister Atukorale was a dutiful son, loving husband and father, benevolent philanthropist, and efficient administrator, friend of the masses and statesman in the making and the assistant leader of the UNP all rolled into one.
May he attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana
Produced by Lake House