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My father Ossie.

Sweden, Nov. 7 -- The 9th of November marks the 21st death anniversary of Ossie Abeyagoonasekera who was assassinated by the LTTE. He was not alone. The weeks preceding this day also mark the death anniversary of United National Party Presidential candidate Gamini Dissanayake, Dr.Gamini Wijesekera, Weerasinghe Mallimarachi, Christy Perera, Mawathagama Premachandra and many unnamed party supporters.

The 24th of October 1994 was a dark day in the narrative of Sri Lankan political history. It marks a day in which the most number of political leaders and innocent civilians were killed in a single terrorist attack. This attack killed 56 and injured 70 .Attacked on the 24th of October my father succumbed injuries two weeks later on the 9th of November 1994. On the same day, the Presidential Election results were declared. The UNP faced defeat to and CBK who became President.

Albert Camus writes in The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt, "rebellion cannot exist without a strange form of love." My father held a strange form of love for his fellow countrymen. This very love was deemed rebellious due to the existing political situation. Many of the political decisions he made at that time along with his friend Vijaya Kumaratunga made them unpopular, but in such a volatile time I believe the decisions they made were for the people of our nation.

Born on the 7th of August 1950, my father entered politics at a young age. A school friend of Vijaya Kumaratunga, he was a key supporter of the political activities of the actor-turned politician. At the time of the Presidential Election of 1988 and the Provincial Council elections in 1989, during the southern insurrection the supporters of the 13th amendment were called traitors and gunned down. In this political backdrop he led the Sri Lanka Mahajana Party after the assassination of the late Vijaya Kumaratunga. There were 117 members who were brutally assassinated from his political party. More than once, he was a target during the Presidential Election campaign. At a political rally in Kadawatha while seated next to Vasudewa Nanayakkara and Vikramabahu- gunmen openly fired at the platform. The group managed to narrowly escape the assassin's bullets. With warnings from the assassins they admirably and fearlessly pushed forward with political meetings with the aim of saving the democratic process of our country.

As the presidential candidate from United Social Alliance, Ossie Abeyagoonasekere secured the third highest vote of 4.63%, a deciding factor in the election. In a time when many were afraid to talk about devolution of power he spoke of its importance. At a time where the political climate was tense he was not afraid to stand up for what he believed in.

Back in 1982 he was instrumental in printing the rice ration book, a rice subsidiary book to overthrow President Jayawardena owing to his decision to postpone elections and hold a referendum. Ossie, Vijaya and his colleagues ended up in prison for this.

"Struggle continues and victory is certain" were the words Nelson Mandela wrote to Ossie while he was imprisoned for his political actions. While writing to fellow freedom fighters even in prison, from South Africa, Nelson Mandela responded to his correspondence with words of encouragement.

In 1983 Ossie contested from the Habaraduwa electorate with Vijaya contesting from Mahara at the same time from SLFP. It is notable that at this, President Maithripala Sirisena was a political worker in support of their victory .Unfortunately both of them lost that election to the UNP.

At times when it was difficult to communicate with the LTTE leadership such as in the case of Jaffna in 1986, Ossie walked with his friend Vijaya to negotiate with the LTTE. They did this despite being labeled traitors by certain Southern radicals. Many of these decisions made him unpopular, but he decided to stick to his principles and values.

Ossie was loved by many Tamilians. In a lecture "Does Prabakaran need a political solution?" he stated that Prabakaran was not prepared for a political solution. He was one to loudly call out the difference between the LTTE and the Tamil people. A vacuum of such leadership was created when the LTTE strategically targeted and assassinated politicians who were unafraid to make their voices heard.

Upon his appointment as the first leader of the Western Province, he placed a sticker on the back of his vehicle stating "this vehicle was given by public money and will be used only for public work not for private use". He spoke at the provincial council to decentralize the bribery commission to fight for corruption at all levels. It is a known fact that he never misused public money; at the time of his death he didn't possess any large sums of money in his name as every rupee was used for the public good.

Across the island he was revered for his oratorical skills. An instance of this was at late President Ranasighe Premadasa's political platform and especially at all the textile factory openings until the assignation of the President in 1993. He supported this initiative while he was the opposition leader of Provincial Council as he clearly stated that the textile factories will add value to our economy and will generate many jobs to the villagers. With President Premadasa's assistance he managed to help the 83 July strikers to get part of their compensation something that the 83 strikers remember with great gratitude.

In 1994 he contested the general election in August and was elected from Colombo North electorate to Parliament securing the second highest after Ranil Wickramasinghe. Unfortunately, he could only represent his people for three months as he was assassinated by the LTTE the same year at a young age of 45.

He was a true politician who dedicated his life to the people of Sri Lanka and did not engage in politics for personal profit. His political career is an example of an honest person who served many.

A morally uncompromising and fearless politician, Ossie Abeyagoonasekera's life is a lesson for us to remember the importance of values in politics and centrality placed on service to a nation's people.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Asian Tribune.

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Publication:Asian Tribune (India)
Date:Nov 7, 2015
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