W.A.Dharmasiri is a larger than life persona that epitomizes patriotism in its true sense. In an era when politics is shrouded in a miasma of doubt, this writer was privileged to meet a true son of Mother Lanka. The legendary W.A Dharmasiri had to be cajoled to reveal his story by his daughter, the dynamic Ruwini Dharmasiri, Chairperson of the Waste Management Authority (Western Province) and his bosom friend, Wilson Gunaratne of Charitha Hathak fame. I was immediately enveloped in warmth by the power couple W.A.Dharmasiri and his effervescent spouse, Malini Dharmasiri who inconspicuously played a pivotal role in the political sphere earning well-deserved respect, honour and loyalty among the political elitist of this country.
Fondly referred to by the late Vijaya Kumaratunge as ‘Raththarang Dharme’ (golden Dharme), he holds sway as a loveable yet straightforward figure who has fearlessly and resolutely proven his true worth to the country. While the world flaunts their achievements in all social media platforms and other outlets, W.A .Dharmasiri prefers to remain anonymous about his contribution to society, silently churning the wheels of patriotism through his relentless work.
Commencing the interview with Wilson and Malini by his side, the hero opened the door into a world of mayhem where sheer guts and familial support enabled him to stand firm against false accusations and other challenges which were hurled at him during a period of political unrest in the country. It was indeed the best of times and the worst of times in which your life was at risk but to those who thrive under pressure, it only served to refine their characters.
“Politics was not part of my future plans but I was inevitably drawn to it by my brother. Many attended my father’s funeral and I felt an affiliation towards the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and joined them in support of their magnanimous, albeit patriotic views.”
Before we proceed to the next level, we need to include the beautiful Malini who is his soulmate in every sense of the word. How she came into his life was revealed to me, yet it remains confidential and classified with only the gist of it being that W.A.Dharmasiri fell in love with Malini from the moment he laid eyes on her. Their destinies were intertwined and to this day, the two of them share an amazing bond. With the inclusion of his beloved spouse and the addition of four children, the close-knit family continued to play a prominent role in the political arena.
W.A.Dharmasiri was faced with baseless accusations which instilled fear among some folk, yet W.A remained unperturbed until he was taken forcibly for questioning. Here was a man of valour, who remained in custody for 19 days in remand due to the senseless finger-pointing by authorities who accused him and others of being involved in the Naxalite movement. This was a period of dark despair to W.A. and his family as the kind-hearted man spent these days separated from those he loved.
“My small son saw me playing a local version of chess known as dhang and thought I was locked away for the sole purpose of playing the game, so he associated my prison term with that and requested my wife not to send me back me to go play that game again.”
His wife Malini, who was initially shaken, received immense moral support by the former President Chandrika Kumaratunga who at that time was going through similar trauma due to the incarceration of her husband, Vijaya Kumaratunga. She had offered solace and moral support to Malini, who continued to do her wifely duties by providing meals for her husband and his friends while in remand. Eventually, he was exonerated and returned home.
This is not the end of a story as W.A.Dharmasiri’s contributions to this land are multi-faceted and acclaimed by many. Among them is ‘Ahasin Polowata’ a film which reserved world-wide recognition gaining the Best film from the Third World award at the Cairo International Film Festival in 1977. It was co-produced by W. A. Dharmasiri.
Although he has withdrawn from active politics, the affluent movers and shakers of the political world are drawn to him for his sound advice and broad vision. His home continues to be the base for many gatherings and brainstorming sessions with Malini and him being the perfect hosts to a number of elite figures.
The core of his being
His expertise is not limited to politics, film making and the like, but somewhere lying deep within the core of him is profound love for his country and its people. Here is a true gentleman who understands the anguish of the people, a philanthropist who has not served his people individually but collectively along with his family. The children themselves are imbued with a sense of servitude and vows to give back to society.
The eldest Ruwini, who shares her parents’ compassion, has rooted herself in the soil of Sri Lanka with a yearning to serve the people. Ruwini left Great Britain at the zenith of her career in order to share her expertise with her mother country despite being a much- sought after figure overseas due to the scarcity of individuals following her field of study.
W.A Dharmasiri is imbued with a heart of a philanthropist and continues to serve without ever expecting anything in return. This is the true face of politics and not a tarnished version which is associated with profligacy in the present. He along with his family is similar to a breath of fresh air in which a major confluence of politics and honesty has blossomed amid the diabolical purposes of power-hungry individuals and parties in the island. We salute this living legend that walks the talk with effortless grace and integrity, a lion spirit with a heart of gold!
Text by Rochelle Palipane Gunaratne