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DateLine Sunday, 22 June 2008

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Country sans terrorism, nonagenarian politician’s dream



 Daya Pasquel happily recollects his past

Former MP for Matugama Daya T. Pasquel who celebrated his 96th birthday on June 10 could be the oldest politician living in Sri Lanka. He represented Matugama electorate from 1956 to 1977 and was able to win each election with a sweeping majority.

He played different roles as a member of Parliament, as a deputy minister and as deputy chairman of the parliamentary ommittees. Politicians of Daya T. Pasquel’s calibre are rare indeed. He will be a guiding light for the future generations of politicians. n an interview with Lal Kannangara Pasquel reminisced his past.

Excerpts:

Q: Can you describe yourself and your family in brief?

A: Sure. I was born on 10th June, 1912 in my mother’s ancestral home in Uragoda, Welipanna. Now I am 96 years oid. I have to hit only one boundary to reach century. I was born as the eldest in a big family.

There were 13 members in my family. The youngest is 26 years younger to me. My father was a farmer. Those days farmers were called Govi Ralas. He had enough lands and cultivated paddy and vegetables. He also had a large number of buffaloes. My mother was a housewife and she was a good astrologer too.

Q: Tell me something about your childhood memories?

A: Very pleasant. As the eldest of a very large family, I had to shoulder many responsibilities. I had to help my mother and look after the younger ones. I helped them with pleasure. Anyway I am very happy when I recollect the sweet memories of my childhood.


“I walk two or three miles every day” , Pasquel reveals one of the secrets of his healthy life

Q: Where did you receive your education?

A: I received my primary education at the Sinhala School in Matugama and that was the only school in the area at that time.It was located in the present private bus stand premises in Matugama. I did my higher education at Ananda Shastralaya, Kotte under the able leadership of late Dr. E. W. Adikaram. I was able to obtain good results giving reputation to the school.

Q: How do you see your political career?

A: After receiving early education, I wanted to do my higher studies. But I could not pursue due to financial constraints. Anyway I was given an opportunity to work in a small grocery in Mt. Lavinia. I had to give English tuition to owner’s son.

While earning a little income, I was able to do my higher studies. After completing my higher studies, I wanted to find suitable employment. I went to Galle with the hope of meeting my old science teacher when I was at Ananda Shastralaya, Kotte.

He was Mr. S. A. Abeywardana and explained the necessity of finding a job. He said “Daya we are lawyers. We love money more than people. There is a person who loves people more than money.

He is at Richmond Hill. That’s Mr. W. Dahanayake. (A teacher at St. Aloysius College, Galle) Why don’t you go and meet him? That’s how I began to have contacts with Mr. W. Dahanayake. I stepped into the political arena with Mr. W. Dahanayake. I represented Matugama electorate from 1950 to 1977. I had faith in the electorate.

Q: Do you have any unforgettable memories in your life as a politician?

A: Many. I usually did not have meals at Parliament. I used to go with Mr. D. A. Rajapaksa (President’s father) for vegetarian meals. Both of us went to a hotel called “Pagoda.” A waiter brought food with forks and spoons. I refused them and said I want a finger bowl.

Having meals, I ordered a desert. He brought a cup of fruit salad without a spoon. I thought the waiter had done this purposely. Somehow or other I managed to have fruit salad without a spoon and finally I complained to the manager. That incident appeared in the Evening Times. The headline was “An Ultra Nationalist MP experiences inconvenience.”

Q: I saw a photograph of you posing with President Mahinda Rajapaksa. What kind of relationship you have had with the Rajapaksa family?

A: Mr. D. A. Rajapaksa, the President’s father was a very close and reliable friend. We used to visit each other. He was very simple and humble. I think President Mahinda Rajapaksa has inherited his father’s noble qualities.

He always used public transport. After parliamentary sessions he used to spend the night here.

I gave a lift to Mr. D. A. Rajapaksa to Alutgama in my car. From Alutgama he travelled to his destination by train. President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited me during the last week of tenure as the prime-minister and I gave my blessings for him to be the President. President Rajapaksa has very high leadership qualities combined with gratitude towards his fellowmen. I’m invited to most of his functions.

Q: You are very keen on commemorating late Dr. C. W. W. Kannangara, father of free education. Is there any particular reason?

A: Late Dr. C. W. W. Kannangara was from Loolbadduwa in Matugama electorate. He did a tremendous service to the poor children by introducing free education Act, most of the poor children got the chance of entering universities owing to his free education policy. So we all are indebted to him.

Q: Any future aspirations?

A: My first dream is to see the country free from terrorism. I’m confident that our President will bring peace to our motherland soon.

My second dream is to put up a statue of Dr. C.W.W. Kannangara and build a library with an auditorium and a computer training centre in his own village in Loolbadduwa. I hope our President and other authorities will pay attention to this soon. I have already started organising and if the required funds are given, I will be able to see it before I breath my last.

Q: Do you think that you have served the people in the electorate?

A: Why not. I did my best to develop the electorate. I like two places in Matugama.

They are Ananda Shastralaya and the temple. Every morning I walk passing these two places. I like to see both these places going from strength to strength. I did not earn money after coming to politics. Instead I had to spend money out of my pocket.

Q: One last question. You celebrated your 96th birthday on June 10. What is the secret of your good health?

A: I have neither cholesterol nor sugar or any other ailments. I drink much water. I firmly believe it helps me to have a healthy life. On the other hand, I depend only on rice and vegetables. I think food and physical exercise play a major role in one’s good health.

The interviewer is a teacher of English at St. Mary’s College, Matugama.

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