Appreciation – Gunadasa Mabarana
Posted on August 20th, 2010

By Dr. Tilak S. Fernando

Gunadasa Mabarana’s  sudden death, while he attended his mother’s  funeral in Sri Lanka came as a bolt from the blue and  shocked me with numbness because Mabarana seemed to be in the pink of health when I saw him last in London. As a Buddhist, one needs to reconcile to the inevitable death we all have to face one day, but I felt there was no urgency for him to answer the call from above so soon.

 I first met Gunadasa Mabarana in London over a decade ago.  Hailing from a rural background in the deep down of South, he worked in Colombo as a Labour Officer attached to the Department of Labour at Narahenpita. His determination to progress in a professional career prompted him to read a LLB External Law Degree  at Aquinas University simultaneously.

 At Law College he had the privilege of moving with  some undergraduates  who, later in the years, became prominent personalities and eminent Lawyers and Politicians such as Harsha Abewardane, Ossie Abgunasekara,  Imthias Bakeer Marker, Mohan Gunasekara, Kusal Gunathilake, Ravi Appadurai, Jith Tambaiah, Justin Suraweera, Justices Gamini Aberatne,  P.B. Warawewa, as well as, Ananda Kasturiarachchi, Ananda Thennakoon (now in the UK) and Sunada Herath.  His other contemporaries included Kusal Jayathilake, Mahinda Wijesekara, Sarath Koongahage, the late Amarasiri Dodangoda,   Dharmadasa Banda and Shantha Senadheera (currently practicing Lawyer in London). President Mahinda Rajapakse was two years senior to him.

 Shantha Senadheera  recalls   Mabarana being  actively involved with the UNP Student Union activities at Aquinas and had once sought nomination too to stand for parliamentary elections from the Mulkirigala Electorate. He took oaths as an Attorney-at-law in 1979 and decided to bid good bye to his job as Labour officer to take off to the  UK for  higher studies.

 For a good measure of time in the UK, he was prevented from visiting Sri Lanka due to stringent restrictions attached to his passport, yet  he had family responsibilities to sort out –  the welfare of his wife and two  young children at home.  During all those uncertain years in London, Mabarana had a score of plans for his family; once he confided in me his desire to get down his daughter to England for higher studies. He was full of ambitions.

 With the help of his legal knowledge and perhaps identifying the loop holes in the Immigration Laws in the UK he managed to stand on his own feet and become a partner of an English Law firm in Croydon, South East of London. Over a dispute on a partnership issue Mabarana decided to throw the towel in  ( at a considerable financial loss) and registered his own legal firm as Gunadasa Mabarana & Co., Solicitors, and started operating from Kilburn High Street in North West of London, covering  areas of immigration and law-breaking.

 In the UK, he was closely associated with the London Buddhist Vihara  ( and other temples) and was also actively caught up with the Sinhala  Bala Madalaya and other Sinhala Organisations  to stand up and fight against the terrorist activities in Sri Lanka that had reached the zenith and LTTE sympathizers in the West  were  having a heyday  in disseminating adverse propaganda against Sri Lanka  from London.

 With his atypical penetrating tone (which characterized him as a unique personality ( ah!  Mabarana !) he became an icon among the Sri Lankan Diaspora in the UK. He never allowed his afflicted knowledge of spoken English as an impediment to stand-up fight against the LTTE terrorist activities or bravely defend a client in a court of law in London. In his own peculiar manner he had cultivated many English friends and was seen hob nobbing with   Conservative as well as Labour members of parliament with a single pointed view of safeguarding the good name of his motherland.  He clandestinely worked as a self appointed “ƒ”¹…”incognito agent and informant’ to report LTTE sympathisers’ terrorist activities in London to the British and Sri Lankan authorities.  He took up the membership of the British Labour Party and associated closely with British Parliamentarians who were sympathetic towards Sri Lanka.

 In 2002 Gunadasa Mabarana organised the Sri Lankan Lawyers Association in the UK for the first time in England under one roof, identifying it as a big milestone which attracted a recorded number of Sri Lankan lawyers. Among them were eminent barristers-at-law Messrs. Munasinghe and Desmond de Silva whom Mabarana  had coaxed ( Desmond de Silva)  to be the President of the  new Association.

 I noticed him last participating in a victory parade at London Westminster last June organized by Sri Lankan expatriates to celebrate the annihilation of the LTTE.  Mabarana carried the Lion Flag majestically ringing out loud slogans at the LTTE terrorist sympathizers who were still demonstrating at Parliament Square. He was no doubt a true patriot and a born survivor who continued to live in London until he visited his mother’s funeral in Sri Lanka a few days ago.

 Gunadasa Mabarana was a simple man with a compassionate heart who was willing to extend a helping hand to any genuine cause or person in need. While some were fond of him (despite his human weaknesses) naturally, there were others who were critical of him, which is a common weakness among human beings.

 To me, personally, he was a good friend and a humble man who helped me immensely in my journalistic tasks while I was the London Correspondent for Sri Lankan English Newspapers.

 Gunadasa Mabarana’s demise will not simply end like a mid morning dream or a few letters written on sand, but his name and his fond memories remain with me forever.   

 May he attain Nibbana.

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