MAHINDA AMARAWEERA – SPARKLING PERSONALITY
by Dr. Tilak S. Fernando reporting from London
In the normal process of birth and rebirth it said that we bring forward a diversity of talents from our previous life’s experiences to grow up as intellectuals, professors, surgeons, musicians, elevated spiritual beings, patriots, leaders, politicians and rulers alike. In the context of Sri Lanka’s development and progress, from the time she gained her independence, politicians’ have played a major role either towards the progress or decline of this country to a certain extent. In this conspicuous breed, our political forefathers stand out as dedicated patriots of the Nation. Today among a much younger generation of political icons Mahinda Amaraweera sparkles as the Deputy Minister for National Water Supply, Town Planning Development and the New Railway Development Minister.
To celebrate his fifteen years of dedicated political life a special programme of approbation called ‘Amaraviru Piya Maga’ , organised by the public was launched throughout the country between 18th June and 18 July 2007, making Tangalle as its focal point.
Born in a remote village called Udayala in Angunukolapalassa as the fifth child to Amaraweera Kankanamge Arnis and Gajaweera Arachchige Karunawathie in the outskirts of Hambantota district, Mahinda Amaraweera received his education at Angunukolapalessa primary school and secondary education at Vijitha Central College, Dickwella.
Quite contrary to the general concept of the society during his teen years, to seek a government job with a guaranteed pension at retirement which was the key advice many parents gave to their children, Mahinda, however, had his own conviction to deviate from such concepts as a young man and concentrated on a long range plan to be a self made entrepreneur. He started his career by launching a small cottage industry as the foundation.
In 1991 during the UNP regime’s provincial council elections SLFP encountered a problem in finding a suitable young candidate for nominations. SLFP Tangalle district campaign organiser H.S.de Silva hit the panic button and started to comb the whole district in search of a suitable young man in desperation. He sent circulars, messages and appeals to all the SLFP branches in the district for this purpose. The communiqué ultimately fell on the ears of Pundit Vitharandeniye Wimalasiri thero, the incumbent priest of Kasagala Purana Vihara, who wasted no time in contacting those concerned to recommend young Mahinda, “Dingi Mudalali’s son, as the suitable candidate for the job. In doing so the priest further proclaimed that he had already studied the horoscope of the young man and predicted that young Mahinda would be a great personality in the future who would progress in life like a “sweeping wind across a paddy field”
Mahinda’s father Amaraweera Kankanamge Arnis, popularly known as ‘Dingi Mudalali’ was a farmer. He did not dabble in politics but whenever there was an election he was supposed to have ‘suffered from a kind of political fever’. Dingi Mudalali was closely associated with the late D.A. Rajapakse and Lakshman Rajapakse subsequently became a close buddy to Mahinda’s father.
Mahinda Amaraweera neither had associated with politicians nor showed any interest in politics at the time. To attend any political meetings or listen to any political jargon radiated from various politicians did not interest him either. Even the family members were not so favourable of the idea of young Mahinda getting involved in politics. Ultimately under a kind of inevitable social pressure he consented to give his name as a possible candidate from the SLFP ticket. Initially he lacked the experience in making a political speech from a platform. However, in several meetings prior to the election he managed to deliver a few short speeches.
As per Venerable Wimalasiri thero’s prediction a magnetic attraction towards this young handsome candidate by the public made him elected to the Aangukolapalessa Provincial Council. Mahinda Amaraweera became the first ever Chairman elected by the people to the Angunukolapalassa Provincial Council. Although Mahinda Amaraweera lacked initially the political experience he was a master to himself on business management and on leadership .He set an exemplary example in executing his responsibilities as Chairman of the Provincial council without any discrimination or political victimisation which earned him the reputation as a kind , caring and an effective politician.
1992 was a period where Provincial Councils were brought into focus in a competitive manner. Angunukolapalassa Provincial Council came under the SLFP control. UNP had only a slim chance of coming to power in an election, however they also entered the race. The results were astonishing. When the UNP held power in the country Angunukolapalassa Provincial Council managed to take the first place as winners of the Southern Province and 2nd place out of the whole country.
1993 was a period when SLFP leader, Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s attention too was focussed on young Amaraweera. The responsibility of selecting candidates for the 1993 Provincial Council was entrusted to Mahinda Rajapakse, who was the MP for Hambantota District. Mahinda Rajapakse nominated Mahinda Amaraweera to battle against UNP stalwarts but young Amaraweera was did not dawdle, the result being not only he became a member of the Provincial Council but succeeded as the Chairman of the Council.
By this time the name Mahinda Amaraweera has filtered through to every nook and corner of the Hambantota district and every one was aware of who Mahinda Amaraweera and his capacity as an up and coming politician.
During the 1994 Parliamentary elections Mahinda Rajapakse nominated young Mahinda Amaraweera as the SLFP candidate for the contest. It wasn’t a secret that the UNP having ruled the country for seventeen consecutive years was applying all their might and tactics on Mahinda Amaraweera. The scene was set and it appeared as a somewhat dangerous political playground, yet Mahinda Amaraweera was now ready to face any challenges.
Finally he entered Parliament, along with Mahinda Rajapakse, Chamal Rajapakse and Nirupama Rajapakse, .as the Member for Hambantota electorate with a record number of votes than the majority of votes he received out of two previous Provincial Council elections. Looking back now, one was able to recap the words of the Pundit Thero at Kasagala Vihara when he recommended young Amaraweera as a provincial council candidate: “ This young man’s horoscope is very powerful. This son’s forward march cannot be stopped, and one day he will reach a very high position in the country.”
During the 2000 parliamentary elections he lost his place for the Hambantota district, yet managed to record the highest number of preferential votes. During the same year he was appointed as Chairman of the first Housing Development Corporation under whose guidance and direction transformed it into the status of a bank as the Housing Development Finance Corporation Bank, whose aim was to assist the general public to obtain housing loans without much difficulty. Today the HDFC is on record as the Bank which is granting the maximum number of housing loans to the public.
In 2004 when Mahinda Amaraweera made a re-entry to the Parliament from the Hambantota district as an UPFA member. President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga appointed him as the Deputy Minister for National Water Supply and Town Planning and Development.
His untiring dedication, commitment, hard work and strategic planning during the Presidential elections in 2005 helped President Mahinda Rajapakse to record a maximum number of votes from the Hambantota district. Under Mahinda Chinthana programme Mahinda Amaraweera was entrusted further responsibilities as the Minister for New Railway Development. Matara – Kataragama new railway line which commenced immediately after Mahinda Amaraweera took over his new ministerial portfolio is progressing rapidly.
It was a coincidence that politics was thrust upon Mahinda Amaraweera which he has finally embraced to work for the welfare of his people. He did not have a real political guru to guide him at the very inception but his leader, Mahinda Rajapakse, became the ‘political father’ whom he emulated and under whose guidance progressed in his political life. To mark his successful political career and the services he has rendered to his people over a span of fifteen years, a collective programme organised by the people is in progress from 18 June to 18 July making Tangalle as the focal point for such activities.
During this programme the Mahinda Amaraweera concentrated on a wide range of social and official activities such as presenting 75,000 school uniforms to all the Hambantota District School children, distribution of spectacles, sewing machines, supply of electricity, water, ayurvedic dispensaries etc., to name a few, which was quite different to any political Thamasas that people have often heard and seen before.