Veteran Trade Union leader Bala Tampoe has passed way in Colombo at the age of 92.Philips Balendra Tampoe born on May 23rd 1922 was a legend in his lifetime being general secretary since 1948 to date of the Ceylon Mercantile,Industrial and General workers union known popularly as the CMU.Having interacted with comrade Bala in the past I made it a point to meet him last year when I returned to Sri Lanka after an absence of 25 years. Later I was in touch with him by e-mail.I later wrote about Bala Tampoe on the occasion of his 92nd birthday in May this year.The article which appeared in the “Daily Mirror” of May 31st 2014 was posted simultaneously on my blog under the heading”Comrade Bala Tampoe: Evergreen Phenomenon in the Trade Union Sphere”.I am reproducing that article here without any changes by way of tribute to one of the greatest Sri Lankans I have known in my life. I shall be writing another article about this mighty fighter for the rights of the underdog later this week-DBS Jeyaraj
Comrade Bala Tampoe: Evergreen Phenomenon in the Trade Union Sphere
General-Secretary of Ceylon Mercantile Union Celebrated 92nd Birthday on May 23rd 2014
May 23rd was the 92nd birth anniversary of Sri Lanka’s unique Trade union leader Philips Balendra Tampoe known generally as Bala Tampoe. Bala or comrade Bala as he is popularly called has been at the helm of the Ceylon Mercantile Union(CMU) as its General-secretary since 1948.Though called the CMU still, the amended name of the union is now The Ceylon Mercantile, Industrial and General Workers Union.
CMU staffers and members of the union’s executive committee were preparing for a celebration in honour of their nonagenarian General-Secretary at the Trade union office down 22nd lane Kollupitiya when President Mahinda Rajapaksa made an unannounced entry with a birthday cake. Earlier Mr. Mahinda Madihahewa, Co-Chief Executive Officer to the Secretariat for Senior Ministers, had visited the premises and informed Bala Tampoe that the President wanted to visit him at the CMU office. The “Birthday Boy” however told Madihahewa that while the President – a former CMU member – was most welcome to visit the office , he did not want the trade union premises to be invaded by media or security personnel. So when Mahinda Rajapaksa walked into the CMU headquarters to felicitate Bala Tampoe, he was only accompanied by Mahinda Madihahewa. The in – house birthday party turned out to be a pleasant occasion.