Minister of Land M K D S Gunawardena passed away

mkds-gunawardenaMinister of Land M K D S Gunawardena passed away today at a private hospital. He was 69 years old.

Gunawardena was a longstanding member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

He resigned from this deputy minister post in 2014 when Mahinda Rajapaksa was in office and joined the campaign to support Maithripala Sirisena for President. (Colombo Gazette)

1 COMMENT

  1. He was a good man. I knew nothing of him until he crossed over from the UPFA with Mr Maithirpala Sirisena. If what I have written looks too long, I suggest that you look at the last paragraph.

    Thereafter, I got to know him just a little better, because there was a Lands Problem that I wanted to get resolved. I met him twice in the Ministry of Lands, but, obviously I learnt all I could about him before meeting him. He had been in the Police service, and somebody said that he had been in charge of training Police dogs.

    Be that as it may, he used to meet the public in the auditorium in the Ministry of Lands in Battaramulla. All this is standard stuff! He had all his officials with him and directed the public to various officials seated in a row with him. After my second meeting with him I received the copy of a letter he had sent to the Commissioner General of Lands, directing that my matter be looked in to, and relief granted, “if it was in keeping with the regulations of his Department.” That second meeting with him was about May 2015, and I never saw him again.

    Well, I had followed all the proper procedure, making an appeal to the President, but starting with a the original going from the Grama Sevaka upwards. I was fortunate; not one request for a bribe, or the promise of reward. Fast forward to the 22nd of July 2015. I met the Commissioner General, Mr R.P.R. Rajapaksa, who said “the file had to go upstairs.” “To the Minister?” I asked. “No, to the Secretary, who is the person who knows the regulations. There’s no need for you to meet him; come back after two weeks”

    That was not something that I had prepared for; I didn’t know even his name. I was loath to travel back with nothing achieved. So, I asked the ever patient Asst Commissioner who he was. “Dr Mahanama,” (later I was to discover the initials, I.H.K.)

    So, up I went, and sent in a chit explaining that our family was being asked to pay a sum of fifteen million rupees for an acre of 99 year Crown Land that we had occupied for 62 years because they wanted to give it to us as three separate blocks.” It was true that somewhere down the line our family had blundered in making the request.

    I was asked to wait (the usual story!) then summoned by Dr Mahanama, and asked to wait a few minutes. After half an hour of further waiting I was asked to go meet the Commissioner. I protested that I had met the Commissioner General that very morning, and the Commissioner, Mrs Wijegunewardena, a fortnight earlier. I got through to Secretary. He told me that my matter was done and that I could carry the letter away that very day. He said that the Commissioner was one of the three people who had been with him when I went in earlier; they had got the file brought up and he had made his order.

    So, I went downstairs again, and I was told that I had to wait while they got the letter done – which was only at 4.45 p.m., although closing time was 4.15. Dr Mahanama had ordered that we go by the 1944 values (that was when the lease commenced), and that a rent of Rs 63 be charged for each block. Going on those figures we were going to get down to about Rs 6,000, from 15 million. Let me emphasise that we have been in continuous legal occupation and paying regularly since 1952.

    I had this long wait; so I went in search of lunch. Rice and curry with fish was seventy rupees, I was told! “Let me have it”, I said, with some dubiety. Just as I was given mine, came a well-dressed peon and asked for the fifteen packets they had ordered, and “had they remembered that it was an omelette instead of the fish for the Minister’s packet.

    “What?” I asked incredulously. “Does the Minister shamelessly have a seventy rupee lunch packet?” Yes, they said, always, him and his staff. I’m sure that many tributes will be made to this simple man. They will be more passionate, and made by people who knew him well. But I am an ordinary member of the public, recording faithfully what I know at first hand myself, as learnt on the 22nd of July 2015 – a date etched in my memory because what had transpired earlier made such a difference to our family, but also because I learnt that one politician, at least, had been walking the talk. May he NOT walk long through Samsara, and may his family, too, be blessed.

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