Wijaya was brutally gunned down outside our home on February 16, 1988. Wijaya was my life’s partner and we raised two children, but he did not live to see them grow up. We shared a vision for our country and sought a solution for its burning issues based on humaneness, equality, justice and plurality.
Towards this, we journeyed together and he took many daring and unconventional initiatives and made many sacrifices, including going to jail for his beliefs when the powers that were felt threatened. He made the ultimate sacrifice, as also other great leaders and brave civilians in our nation have, in the cause of their beliefs.
Wijaya played a unique role in the annals of Sri Lankan politics. He belonged to the rare few among the majority Sinhalese to express views and show unusual commitment to a Vision shunned by most Sinhala politicians, due to opportunism or sheer bigotry.
Wijaya continued to espouse the cause of Democratic and transparent governance Guaranteeing Fundamental Rights to all, irrespective of ethnicity, religion, caste and creed.
He sincerely believed that political power should be wielded only to empower the powerless.
“He belonged to the rare few among the majority Sinhalese to express views and show unusual commitment to a Vision shunned by most Sinhala politicians, due to opportunism or sheer bigotry”
His exceptional good looks, remarkable humaneness, his sharp intelligence together with his oratorical skills and deep, mellifluous voice, as well as his warm generous personality gave him a charisma, unparalleled by any other political leader or actor in Sri Lanka.
Wijaya employed his assets to promote his Vision of a United Lanka in which equality and justice would reign supreme, in the face of challenges even to his life from forces of extreme bigotry and an authoritarian, oppressive regime.
This was the time when Lanka lived through a most shameful chapter of its history–
The installation of an executive presidency with dictatorial powers, followed by the massive victimisation of democratic political opponents and the 1983 Racial Violence.
The country experienced the beginnings of a serious degradation of democratic governance and institutions, as well as the breakdown of ethical values in society.
Was Wijaya attempting to swim against the current?
Will we Sri Lankans always destroy our leaders whose Vision raises us above the ugly and the mundane?
Or shall we at last, act in unison to realize Wijaya’s vision?
Wijaya transformed himself from mirroring life through the cinema to seeking to make a change for his country. I hope his life will be an inspiration and encouragement to all our people and the younger generation in particular, to pursue bravely their beliefs and values for a just and humane society.
(February 16 marks the 25th death anniversary of Wijaya Kumaratunga.The above are Extracts from the book “Wijaya”, to be launched on February 27 by the Wijaya Kumaratunga Foundation that was published in the “Daily Mirror”.)