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Jayawickrama, an iconic symbol of the UNP in NWP

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If a politician can leave an enduring legacy in the province he represents, he is considered a populist figure. Gamini Jayawickrama Perera, a diligent statesman, achieved just that.

It’s not an overstatement to declare that the name Jayawickrama was synonymous with political prowess in the North-Western Province (NWP).

Mr. Gamini Jayawickrama Perera, who emerged onto the political stage as a representative of the United National Party (UNP) during a tumultuous period in Sri Lanka’s history, following the introduction of the Provincial Council (PC) system, secured victory in the PC elections. He subsequently served as the inaugural Chief Minister (CM) of the NWP from May 4, 1988, to October 19, 1993, spearheading initiatives in the nascent administration. Due to his astute decision-making during his tenure, the name Jayawickrama became emblematic of the UNP’s influence in the NWP.

Born on January 29, 1941, as the second son in a family of seven siblings, to Paulis Perera and Soma Perera, both plantation residents in Katuwellegama and Giriulla towns of Sath Korale, Kurunegala district, Gamini Jayawickrama Perera ventured into active politics in 1968.

In the Parliamentary election of 1977, he clinched victory in the Katugampola constituency, a bastion of leftist politics in the country, with an impressive tally of 23,475 votes.

In 1977, Gamini Jayawickrama Perera secured his maiden Parliamentary seat representing the Kurunegala district. Remarkably, he maintained his presence in Parliament uninterruptedly until the 8th Parliamentary term, successfully contesting and winning every general election from 1994 to 2020.

Throughout his tenure, he held pivotal ministerial roles, notably serving as the Minister of Irrigation and Water Resource Management from December 2001 to November 2003, Minister of Food Security from January 2015 to August 2015, Minister of Sustainable Development and Wildlife from September 2015 to February 2018, and Minister of Buddha Sasana from August 2017 to October 2018. Even today, he remains cherished by the populace, held in deep affection and utmost esteem.

In every ministerial capacity, he discharged his duties with unwavering dedication, earning accolades from state leaders for his innovative initiatives. One such example is the Budduput Suraksha Insurance scheme under the Buddha Sasana Ministry, which promises invaluable relief to Buddhist monks and their families residing in various locations across the island.

Mr. Gamini Jayawickrama Perera’s commitment to the UNP was unwavering. Serving as its President until 2013, he steered the party with distinction, steadfastly remaining loyal regardless of triumphs or setbacks.

Mr. Gamini Jayawickrama Perera has a longstanding tradition of addressing challenges by engaging in discussions with Party leadership, a testament to his problem-solving approach. Renowned for his eloquence in Parliament, he also holds prominence in the union movement affiliated with the UNP.

As a young MP who earned the favour of President Jayewardene, Jayawickrama Perera showcased remarkable versatility and innate talent, intuitively understanding the needs and expectations of the Party, its leadership, and members alike. The harmonious relationship between Ranasinghe Premadasa and Jayawickrama Perera later benefitted the entire North-Western region immensely.

Educated at Nalanda College, Colombo, Jayawickrama Perera excelled as a cricketer during his school years, leading the college’s 1st XI cricket team to notable success in 1960. His educational background from Nalanda College, coupled with his contributions at the constituency level in the Katugampala Constituency, Kurunegala District, and the broader national arena, underscores his unique political journey.

After the tragic assassination of Ranasinghe Premadasa, D.B. Jayawickrama Perera fostered a close bond with Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was poised to succeed Wijetunga as the leader of the UNP. The UNP faced unparalleled challenges in its history following the loss of key figures such Premadasa, Gamini Dissanayake, and Lalith Athulathmudali to the LTTE. Amidst this turmoil, Jayawickrama Perera emerged as one of the steadfast political figures who, alongside Wickremesinghe, made selfless sacrifices to rebuild the Party during this tumultuous period.

As Mr. Wickremesinghe assumed leadership, he confronted a series of obstacles in the arduous task of revitalising the shattered UNP, post-1994. Internal strife proved to be as daunting as external challenges, demanding significant time and effort. Yet, Jayawickrama Perera stood resolutely by his side, providing unwavering leadership and support.

Whenever the UNP assumed power, it shouldered the responsibilities of governance, with its leadership steadfastly confronting adversaries and upholding truth and integrity. However, certain factions within the party sought to exploit crises to seize control, aiming to capitalize on the Party’s misfortunes. Jayawickrama Perera undertook ambitious efforts to unite factions within the UNP to address these crises, remaining a stalwart ally of Wickremesinghe.

Beyond his political endeavours, Jayawickrama Perera was a multifaceted individual with a passion for nature and animals, embodying a deep humanistic spirit. Often seen with his camera, he captured moments of protest and community engagement, demonstrating a love for photography amidst his commitment to public service.

The establishment of Giriulla Wickramashila School stands as a testament to his vision and leadership. This institution, which has enlightened the minds of over 20,000 students, serves as a beacon of knowledge and has nurtured countless professionals under Jayawickrama Perera’s guidance.

Additionally, his transformative impact on the Katugampola constituency remains indelible. Noteworthy accomplishments include reviving the defunct Sandalanka Cooperative Hospital, relocating the Medical Officer of Health office from the remote Kadanegedara to Alabadagama for enhanced accessibility, and fostering economic development through initiatives such as establishing the Nestlé factory in Makandura. His prioritization of infrastructure projects, including the establishment of the Agricultural Research Institute and University, as well as the Giriulla SLTB Bus Depot, reflects his unwavering commitment to public service and community development.

In 1978, he assumed the role of Minister for the Kurunegala District under the World Bank’s auspices, overseeing the implementation of the Kurunegala District Integrated Rural Development Project. This initiative focused on enhancing rural infrastructure, including the construction of roads, water supply systems, and sewage facilities. Additionally, efforts were directed towards bolstering export agriculture and upgrading educational facilities, particularly through the development of school buildings and playgrounds, with a special emphasis on coconut cultivation. These endeavours sparked a revitalization in underdeveloped villages, garnering attention across the island.

As CM of the NWP, he spearheaded numerous development projects, leveraging both local and foreign assistance. This proactive approach propelled the NWP Council to be recognized as a model of success during that period.

Fostering innovation, he established a garment factory in Karadagolla within the Dodamgaslanda Constituency. Former President Ranasinghe Premadasa, impressed by the model, championed the replication of this concept, leading to the inception of 200 garment factories nationwide.

Introducing pioneering initiatives, he founded the North-West Janakala Kendraya, enriching the region’s traditional crafts and cultural heritage. His commitment to environmental conservation is evident in the flourishing trees lining the roads of the NWP, a testament to his greening initiatives.

Under his leadership, projects such as Cashew Villages, Mango Villages, and Goat Villages transformed underdeveloped areas into thriving economic centers. His Najabima concept initiative catalyzed socioeconomic growth in these villages.

Mr. Jayawickrama Perera championed sports education by implementing the sports school concept in Ibbagamuwa and Madampe Central High Schools, nurturing athletes who excelled nationally and internationally.

Additionally, he established the North-West Industrial Service Bureau, introducing cutting-edge technology to industries and stimulating job creation. The Institute of Advanced Technology in Wilgoda, Karunagala town, emerged as a hub for nurturing technologically skilled youth. He also played a pivotal role in establishing institutions such as the North-West Machinery Authority, North-West Road Passenger Transport Authority, and North-West Provincial Environment Authority, furthering the region’s development trajectory.

While many politicians leave a lackluster and apathetic impression on the populace, Gamini Jayawickrama Perera stands out as an exceptional philanthropic leader. His unwavering commitment to serving the people of the NWP and his steadfast support for his fellow Party members have solidified his legacy within the UNP. Jayawickrama Perera’s name remains indelibly etched in the annals of political history as a towering figure who provided genuine care and support to his constituents and colleagues alike.

 

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