Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - 2021-11-21


The role he played in the lives of many is made clearer in his absence


Saliya Pieris

It is three months since Gamini Wanasekera passed away. I first met Gamini as a first-year student at Law College.During the 33 years of our friendship, I like many of his friends, relied on his wisdom and insight, turning to him at the most challenging times. His friends, colleagues and those who worked for him would go to him to pick his brains on a whole gamut of things - relationships, health, family matters, studies, employment, education, and children. Nearly always he had the answers and his friends benefited from his ability to think through things. He was also able to gently persuade people to agree to his point of view. Although he rarely practised law- these were his advocacy skills at best. He deeply cared for people and had the ability to listen and to look at matters dispassionately and rationally. He had the ability to tell his friends what they ought to hear. This was so even when he was 21when I first met him, and at 54 when he passed away. I was privileged to be his friend through Law College, to teaching at CFPS Law School which we started 30 years ago with two other friendsAjith Perera and Nanda Muruttettuwegama. At Law College we engaged in student elections from 1989. He was one of the main architects of the decisive victory of our group - the Progressive Group or Pragathipila, at student union elections in September 1990 holding the view of a more inclusive student community respecting the diversity of people.He was an outstanding student- topping the batch at the Final Examinations in 1991. As General Secretary of the Law Students’ Union, as a mooter and debater fluent in both languages, he demonstrated exceptional skills and talent. At the triangular moot competition organised by Law Faculty judged by the Attorney General Sunil de Silva and then Court of Appeal Judge Sarath N. Silva, I distinctly heard Justice Sarath Silva turning to the AG and saying of Gamini“this fellow will make a good State Counsel.” That was not to be. Despite his sharp intellect, discerning mind, advocacy skills, and interest in law, apart from a short stint at the NDB and in the chambers of Lionel Senanayake PC, he was never destined to make law his living. Instead, he ventured out to do a range of activities from teaching to business to civil society. At one time he headed the Family Planning Association and then moved to the UNFPA and thereafter to Population Services Lanka where he was Country Director at the time of his passing away. The multidisciplinary nature of his talents was evident in his role as Vice Chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board and thereafter as a Consultant at the Ministry of Digital Infrastructure. He could hold his own in many spheres. Despite his many achievements, Gamini cared little for the limelight often leading behind the scenes, meticulously planning and strategizing, but always willing to let someone else be the public face. He was a private person rarely showing his emotions in public. In the face of challenges, he would show exceptional calm. Gamini was one of those who I turned to when I considered contesting the Presidency of the Bar Association.Although he had been away from Hulftsdorp, he once again joined me in that venture, supporting me and strengthening me in what was an unusually challenging campaign. In the most difficult of times, he would always advise restraint and patience. The tributes paid to him after his passing away from many people from different backgrounds are testimony not only of the diverse talents and skills, he possessed but also of the depths of the friendships he formed and of the man he was, motivating people and respecting their diversity. The role he played in the lives of many, is made clearer in his absence and I am reminded of the words of the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran in ‘The Prophet’:“when you part from a friend you grieve not, for that which you love most in him is clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.” May Gamini’s journey through samsara be short and may he attain nibbana.


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