Posted on May 18th, 2023


Premadasa won his seat at the General election of 1970, without any difficulty. In 1970, Premadasa had built five pre- fabricated houses and one community hall in every district, said Evans Cooray. Mayors and chairmen of local bodies were invited to Temple Trees and their views were obtained.

The UNP victory at the General Election of 1977 was Premadasa‘s victory not only JR’s, said analysts.  Premadasa played an important role in that election. He planned his campaign and canvassed throughout the country. With his earthy anecdotes and devastating wit, he drew huge crowds, said Bradman Weerakoon.  When JR became President, Premadasa became Prime Minister. Premadasa held the position of Prime Minister from 1978-1989.

Prime Minister Premadasa set up mobile offices to take government offices to villages, meet people and solve their problems on the spot. For this purpose, a new division was created under the Prime Minister, called the Mobile Office Secretariat.

An electorate was selected by the Prime Minister and a Mobile Office was set up in a school in that electorate. The school was selected by the Prime Minister. Officers moved one day ahead to set up their offices in   the school classrooms. We had to arrange school desks, tables and chairs to function as an office.  The staff were put up in villagers homes for the night.

Premadasa virtually took the entire Government machinery, from the Department of Registration of Persons to the RMV, to a selected village and attended to the villagers’ problems for a couple of days, said analysts. An oath of service (prathigna) was taken to start off proceedings. Prime Minister Premadasa visited every office set up for this mobile project.He could usually be found in one of the kiosks personally supervising the whole operation, said an analyst.

A senior officer who could take decisions was sent from each ministry or department to this mobile office. The instructions were that the officer sent should be able to take decisions on the spot and see that they are carried out without delay. I was appointed by my Ministry for this duty, at the first mobile office said GAD Srimal.

 GAD Srimal related that at the Mobile clinic, villagers came to his office, seeking employment in the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) which came under his Ministry. I had to find a way out without displeasing and disappointing them, so I opened a register to register their names and pleased them by saying that I will be sending these names to CEB and they will be called as when vacancies occur. They left rather satisfied. Whether they received any such letters from CEB is another matter, but as far as I was concerned, I had not disappointed them.

 Then there were organizations, continued Srimal. Buddhist priests wanting electricity to be supplied to places far away from the existing transmission lines. I inquired as to how many houses were there and the distance from the transmission lines, just to show I was keen to help them. The area electrical engineer who was with me spoke of the approximate cost which was prohibitive.

Seeing that there was no way in helping them, as there was no financial provision in the budget of the Ministry as well as CEB, I requested them, to contact the Member of Parliament to provide funds from his Decentralized Budget. The MPs later stormed my office, in Colombo and expressed their displeasure for making them lose face in their electorates.

The parents in the house he stayed in asked Srimal to find employment for their daughter. I gave him my office address in Colombo and requested him to send me an application, with her educational qualifications and left, genuinely to help. Sure enough, I received her application, to see she had not passed O/Level. I had to reply, saying her educational qualifications were not enough to at least consider for appointment as a clerical hand and that ended our connections.

GAD Srimal was also involved in the mobile office at Matugama electorate. I contacted the Divisional Manager and the Area Electrical Engineer, to find out what projects are in hand in this particular electorate . In this electorate there were four Rural Electrification Schemes under construction. We decided to have Prime Minister declare open at least one of these on the day of Mobile Office was to be held.

 The Divisional Manager and the Area Electrical Engineer also said that if any person wishes to have electricity connection on the same day, it could be provided, if the house is close to the transmission lines, and no new electrical post to be planted.  I contacted my friend Jehan Cassim, Chairman of Bank of Ceylon. He told me that there would be a mobile BOC there and he could make arrangements to receive payments. 

We announced over the address system that the Prime Minister will be declaring open a particular rural electrification project and those desirous of having electricity connection on the same day could call over, get the estimate and make payments at the Bank of Ceylon Mobile Office. When Prime Minister heard this, he was surprised and when he walked into my office, which he normally does, visiting all offices, he thanked me and said that it was such action people want, not to hang around offices in Colombo to get a minor job done.

A week or so later, an officer met me and wanted to know whether I wish to join the Prime Minister’s Mobile Office Secretariat, which I politely declined. Jehan Cassim had told me how he is called up at odd times of the day and night, disrupting domestic life.

 An engineer, who had also attended a Premadasa mobile office, told a group of us this story. The villagers had asked for a water connection. The Water Board had said that it could not be done. Premadasa had then asked the Water Board officials whether they could provide taps and pipes, to the houses, but without giving the water connection. The officers had readily said that this could be done. ‘What a great chap Premadasa is”, concluded the speaker. The audience was silent.

My first day of experience in a Mobile clinic is worth mentioning for another reason, said GAD Srimal. That evening, after I set up my office in the classroom allotted to my Ministry, a few officers from the Prime Minister’s Mobile Secretariat walked in and questioned me rather rudely, as to why I had not hung a picture of the Prime Minister. I said that there were no such instructions and I have not brought a picture. One of them ran back to the Prime Minister’s Mobile Office Secretariat and brought a framed photograph and hung it on the wall behind where I was to sit. While leaving the officer told me that the Prime Minister was very particular about having his picture exhibited.

Next morning, I found that the clerical assistant and the KKS had garlanded the picture with Watu Sudda flowers, plucked from a tree in the school garden. I questioned as to why this was done and my clerical assistant and the KKS said that they heard what the officers had said of the importance of the picture of Prime Minister hence placed a garland to give added recognition.  When the PM stepped into my office and I greeted him, I noticed him looking smilingly at his own portrait.  That was the start of hanging pictures of political leaders.

 At Matugama too, the Area Engineer had garlanded the photograph with Yellow Daspethiya flowers. Sure enough, when Prime Minister Premadasa, stepped into my office, I saw his smiling facial expression on seeing his picture, concluded GAD Srimal.(Continued)

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