Amparai, Asitha Perera, Bellagio, Chandrika Kumaratunga, D B Wijetunge, Gamini Dissanayake, garment factories, Lalith Athulathmudali, Liberal Party, Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Premadasa, Ranjan Wijeratne, Richard de Zoysa, Rohan Edrisinha, Siron Rajaratnam, Tissa Jayatilaka, Tissawewa Resthouse, UNP, Walter Ladduwahetty, Wijeyadasa Liyanaarachchi
I had left for Bellagio at a tempestuous time, just after the death of President Premadasa, in that extraordinary assassination on May Day 1993.That had followed on the murder of Lalith Athulathmudali the week before. The latter incident I heard of while at Anuradhapura, upstairs in the vast dining hall of the Tourist Board Resthouse that catered to the impecunious. The older Resthouses were now relatively upmarket hotels under the management of Quickshaw’s. I had loved staying in them, in particular in the old Tissawewa Resthouse, in my youth and again when British Council work took me there. But working for the government, and indeed having to pay my own way much of the time, precluded such indulgence.
Premadasa’s death occurred a week later, while I was running a training workshop for both AUC and USJP English Teaching staff at the University. I had persuaded Scott Richards to run the programme, but I think he had not turned up at the time we were told that a curfew had been declared. I saw everyone off and it was only when I got home, after driving through ominously quiet streets, that I heard that the President had been killed – after which I heard crackers, which has always struck me as perhaps the worst example of the viciousness that characterizes Sri Lankan politics.
I was quite cut off from news in Bellagio, in those days before email became common, so I had no idea what was going on in Colombo while I was there. The occasional cursory letter from home told me that Premadasa’s preposterous Prime Minister, D B Wijetunge, who had taken over as Acting President, and then been confirmed in the post by Parliament, was doing well. Indeed I was told that he was Doing Bloody Well, in line with his initials. I was therefore quite optimistic when I got back to Sri Lanka, but Chanaka soon gave me a much more bleak picture.
The Liberal Party had finally decided to support President Premadasa in the Provincial Council elections that had taken place in May. I had not been sure this was the best decision possible, and had indeed stood out against it when the question first came up, and suggested we wait and review the situation. I was the President of the party, and though executive power lay with the Leader, Chanaka respected forms and accepted the suggestion I made from the chair. But I believe those in the UNP he was talking to were impatient, and he and his old friend Asitha Perera, the most fervent at that stage about the alliance, pushed the matter through at the next meeting. Continue reading