“Part of my life ended on the day my father died” | Daily News

“Part of my life ended on the day my father died”

Father and daughter
Father and daughter

Twenty-five years after the assassination of President Ranasinghe Premadasa, his daughter Dulanjalee Jayakody shares with the Daily News the most treasured memories of her father- his pains, virtues, strengths and unforgettable moments.

Bitter memories of May 1, 1993, still haunt her. Profound sadness is still buried in her heart. It did not fade away over time and would become intense on every May 1 when she starts hearing her father’s voice on the radio or TV.

Dulanjalee Jayakody.
Picture by Ruwan de Silva

“Part of my life ended on the day my father died. Your father can be a king, president, farmer or beggar, whoever he is, he is your father. To realize that my father was no more was devastating,” She recalled the tragic moment that changed her life forever.

Her greatest regret to this day is that she couldn’t return to the country to be with her father on that fateful May Day just as she promised.

“I was in England. I was there for a week and was going to fly back to be with my father on May Day. But my husband insisted that we should stay there one more day,” she recalls with profound sadness.

“How do I come to terms with my life without my father, and my guilt that I should have been there, and I know that if I had been there I would have been more alert,” she lashes out at his security guards for not being vigilant at all in protecting the President of the country.

“If they were vigilant they would have been able to understand that there were sleeper cells around us. How did this incident happen? They are responsible for what happened. Up to now, no proper investigation has been done as to how my father died,” she notes with regret.

Wonderful father

Dulanjalee and her brother grew up having a father who was more a people’s politician. They had to be disciplined and they knew that even though he was their father he was accountable to his people.


She remembers her father as “wonderful, kind, very loving, but strict.”

“We knew that he would not have tolerated us behaving badly. He was a strict father. But he loved us immensely. Even after getting married I used to sit on his lap and he would stroke my hair,” she takes a stroll down memory lane and recalls one of the most affectionate father-daughter moments!

“I think we are all unique in our own ways, but he was exceptional. We all have our faults. My father was not perfect, but who are we to judge him?” she queries.

She reminisced how he took over as the candidate for the UNP in the 1988 Presidential elections.

“My father had the support of the majority. There were many other people who wanted to be the candidate, but the Working Committee decided that none of them could win the elections. They said only the Prime Minister can face it.”

And he waited for his turn.

“Never go and sit in the main seat, wait till you are called to sit there,” he used to tell us always. “And only when you are called, when you are really called you go and sit there,” Dulanjalee recalls her father’s words.

Great Qualities

Premadasa family photo

Asked what made her father an outstanding politician she replies;

“First of all his sense of responsibility, discipline, accountability – accountable to the people as a politician, and his deep love for this country and its people. He was highly patriotic, but he respected all religions and ethnic groups. He loved this country as a whole with its different ethnicities and religions.”

She emphasised that her father genuinely felt the needs of the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers, “He realised that all of them have huge issues. He knew his Tamil well, but still, he polished it up further so that he could speak to them and listen to their grievances.”

“Even during the speeches sometimes when the translator made mistakes, he got up and corrected it in Tamil,” she reminisces.

“I was nine years old when he became the Prime Minister. He woke up very early - at 3.30 am or sometimes 4 am. The whole household was up at that time because he used to leave our house and go to Sucharitha. So until he became the President he stayed there.”

Dulanjalee reminisced that she used to be ‘half asleep’ always because her father used to come to give her a kiss before leaving!


The enthusiasm of the poor upon seeing them was immense. The words of those people still echo in her mind.“I was born in 1969 when my father was in the Opposition. So I grew up seeing my parents going to meetings, rallies and Sathyagraha and getting battered and assaulted. That was my childhood until the 1977 elections and even before that my brother and I were taken to the rural areas of Sri Lanka.”

“Premadasa Mahaththaya Enawa,”

“He actually felt what they were going through. He was always a people’s politician. It was not something which he put on to get the votes or to be in power, it was his call. Those are the things my brother and I grew up with,” she adds.

“On some days we walked into small houses during lunch time. They were happy to share whatever they were eating with us. So we used to sit with them and eat.”

Gam Udawa

Having witnessed the poverty-stricken villages, President Premadasa was determined to build self-sufficient villages across the country.

“As he visited the rural areas he saw their needs. He understood that building houses for them alone would not help them get rid of poverty. He wanted them to become self-sufficient. Villages have to be built. For villages to be built, schools have to be built. Religious places of worship have to be built. Roads and hospitals have to be built. The next issue was how to fund these. During that time he was the Prime Minister and did not have much power. So he started the Sevana Lottery to enable the funding of his housing programme, independent of State funds.”

“Next he launched Sevana Sarana Kapakaru Mapiya Kramaya to educate the needy children. Schools uniforms and meals were given afterwards,” she says.

Father and daughter

“Our ideas and views were so much alike, we thought alike. We held the same views on certain matters. I would agree with him when he took controversial decisions,” she recalls.

“During the Indo - Lanka Peace Accord he was determined not to take part in it. My mother and brother were worried that my father would resign from his post.”

Dulanjalee still vividly remembers the day President Jayewardene and Mrs Jayewardene visited her home to take up the matter with her father.

“Usually the President does not visit the Prime Minister. But since this is a great issue President and Mrs Jayewardene visited us. However, my father was firm in his decision. “Sir I have never said ‘no’ to you. But I cannot agree with this Accord,” he told President Jayewardene.

“Next the President turned to me and said “what do you think? I said “I think my father is correct” I believed that’s what his conscience is.,” she explained her stand on the matter.

“And I remember my father putting his arms around me and we had a good laugh,” a wide smile spread across her face.

“All looked stunned. But to me, my father’s principles and convictions were more important and I respected that. He should not go up to the people and ask them to accept something with which he himself did not agree.”

And then the President said, “Do the changes to the Accord.”

“My father said, “I will do the changes sir, but Rajiv would not agree.”

“So just like he said he did the changes, immediately it was faxed to Rajiv Gandhi, but India did not agree with suggested changes.”

Taking up politics

“Since of late a lot of people told me that President expected me to take over, but I said he had never told me anything like that. Probably he would have thought that I would have had a political mind, but that does not mean that I have to get into politics. Anyway getting into politics is not really a good idea when you are a mother,” she states.


“There was one security officer C A Upali Silva (STF) who survived for three days after the Armor Street Bomb explosion. He was standing very close to my father, had fallen having withdrawn his weapon. Obviously, he would have noticed the man coming towards the President. He was the only person who had withdrawn the weapon and I respect him for that,” she adds.

Asked how she wants the people of this country to remember her father, she responds.

“Remember him as a human being who worked tirelessly to uplift his country, his people with so many odds against him - so much of criticism, so much of mud-slinging, sometimes more than he could take.”

Still, he was determined.

“He was strong enough to overcome all these odds because he knew that he was honest. Everything he did was transparent. He had the love of the people and he was hard working. You can’t impeach a President just because he does not listen to his ministers. So the impeachment fell through.”

“Today we see President Premadasa as the President who did the most for this country. Nobody else could ever match him.”

“Was Lee Kuan Yew impeached because he was strict with his ministers? That is why Singapore is where they are and we are where we are. My father started to put in some rules and they did not like it. In the early 50s, Singapore was less developed than us. They listened to Lee Kuan Yew and allowed him to do some work.”

“My father did all that he did amidst great opposition and mud-slinging. That’s the difference. He never had it easy. But at the end accusations really hit him. If you read his last speech you will understand how upset he was.”

“Does he need to kill anybody to gain power? The work he has done would have been enough. If he was allowed to do his work where would we be as a country, economically financially?” she throws at his opponents accusingly.

“Is it because he did not come from the affluent class? There were instances that certain ministers didn’t call him sir, just the ‘prime minister.’ He didn’t care. But when he became president they had to call him Your Excellency. But that did not stop him from rendering his services to the people. It was all because he did not come from the affluent class!” she emphasises.

Dulanjalee vows that she has not witnessed that kind of strength in any other human being.

“Amidst all the weapons targeted at you, you perform. That strength, that single-mindedness I have not seen in anybody,” she adds triumphantly.

“Sometimes he was too stressed, sometimes he was said to be too harsh, but who are we to judge him?” she reiterated.

“Just see, throughout various presidencies how corrupted the ministers had been. Can you imagine why my father was strict with his ministers? Do you understand why he thought he had to be much disciplined with them? First of all, he was disciplined himself.”

“Now do you realise if other leaders too were strict and disciplined it would have been a different story?” she throws a question at me.

Today, at the end of the day, who has won? My father. They want him back. But it is too late now,” she concludes with regret. 


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