|Cabinet Minister of Urban Development and Sacred Areas Development|
|Political party||Mahajana Eksath Peramuna|
|Alma mater||Royal College, Colombo,
University of Oregon
Dinesh Chandra Rupasinghe Gunawardena ( born 2 March 1949) is a Sri Lankan socialist politician. He is a Member of Parliament, Cabinet Minister, Chief Government Whip and as well as leader of the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (People's United Front). He is the third son of National Hero, Architect of Sri Lankas Socialist Movement, Freedom Fighter, Late Philip Gunawardena and Parliamentarian Kusuma Gunawardena.
He received his schooling at Royal College, Colombo. He went for higher studies to the Netherlands, where he received a Diploma in International Business from the Netherlands School of Business and to the USA, obtaining a BBA degree from the University of Oregon.
Boralugoda Ralahamy’s grandson Dinesh Chandra Rupasinghe Gunawardena was born to Philip and Kusuma Gunawardena on the March 2, 1949. His father Don Philip Rupasinghe Gunawardena is known as the Father of Sri Lankan Socialism. His mother Kusuma Gunawardena, was the first and only woman MP to return uncontested to the Parliament of Ceylon.
Dinesh studied Business Economics as his main subject in the Netherland School of Business (Nyenrode University). Having successfully completed his higher diploma in International Business he obtained a scholarship to the University of Oregon, USA. There he graduated with a degree in Business Administration and International Transport. In New York he obtained employment in a prestigious organization. It was during this time that his father died.
After some time Dinesh returned to Sri Lanka to carry forward the political programs of his father and guide the destinies of the MEP. At the by-election held in 1983 Dinesh was elected with a massive mandate from the voters to become the Member of Parliament for Maharagama.
In 1985 his mother died. Soon Dinesh had to suffer a very tragic loss in the untimely passing away of his wife, leaving behind son-Yadamini & daughter-Sankapali who were at that time 5 years & 4 years of age, respectively.
Political career summary
Dinesh Gunawardena joined politics through the MEP Youth organization in 1968, and revived it to be one of the foremost youth organizations of the day.
After his return to Sri Lanka he entered national politics while becoming Leader of the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) in 1973.
He contested the general election of 1977 unsuccessfully, (Dinesh Gunawardena recorded the highest number of votes obtained by an unsuccessful candidate in 1977 elections), but won a by-election for the Maharagama constituency in May, 1983 and was elected a Member of Parliament (Dinesh Gunawardena recorded the highest number of votes obtained by a successful candidate at 1983 elections). He was an active member of the Opposition, which was outnumbered 5:1 in the House.
In 1989, he contested the General Election from the MEP in the Colombo District, and was successful in returning to Parliament under the Proportional Representation. The %, percentage, of preferential votes obtained at the 1989 General Election by Dinesh Gunawardena against votes obtained by the party in the constituency district or all island is still a Sri Lankan electoral record to date as the highest by a successful candidate.
In 1994 he contested the General Election in the Colombo District once again, but was unsuccessful. Even though his party polled 42,734 votes in the Colombo District it was disqualified to obtain a seat as it did not exceed the cut-off point of 5%. The %, percentage, of preferential votes obtained at the 1994 General Election by Dinesh Gunawardena against votes obtained by the party in the constituency district or all island is still a Sri Lankan electoral record to date as the highest by an unsuccessful candidate.
In 2000, MEP was a constituent party of the People's Alliance (PA), and he was again elected in the General Election from Colombo District obtaining over one-hundred thousand (100,000). He was appointed Minister of Transport on 19 October 2000. On 14 September 2001, the subject of environment was added to his portfolio.
In 2001 he was elected again from the Colombo District in the General Election, but the defeat of the PA meant that he once more sat in the Opposition.
In 2004, MEP as founding and constituent party formed the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), and was elected as the vice-president of UPFA. He again contested the General Election successfully from the Colombo District. He was appointed Minister of Urban Development and Water Supply and Deputy Minister of Education on 4 October 2004. On 22 November 2005, he resigned from the position of Deputy Minister of Education.
In the Cabinet re-shuffle of February 2007, he was appointed Minister of Urban Development and Sacred Areas Development.
He is also the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee of Electoral Reforms.
In 2008 he was appointed as the Chief Government Whip of Sri Lanka Parliament and immensely contributed towards the success of the Government while leading the government benches in Parliament at crucial and decisive debates and votes.
He has always played dominant and significant roles at presidential elections in Sri Lanka in support of candidature of the main progressive party, maintaining the firebrand oratorics on political platform while immensely contributing to the success of Hon Hector Kobbekaduwa in 1983, Hon Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1988, Chandrika Kumaratunga in the decisive 1999 elections, and in the triumphant of HE Mahinda Rajapakse in 2005 & 2010.
On 8 February 2010, Dinesh Gunawardena was awarded the 'Leadership Award for Pro-Poor Policy Implementation' in Mumbai, India.
In 2010, he contested the General Election from the Colombo District under the UPFA banner, and was successful in obtaining over one-hudred thousand (100,000) preferential votes in Colombo District, and be elected to the Parliament for the 6th time. Subsequently, he was appointed as the Minister of Water Supply and Drainage, and remains to be the Chief Government Whip of the 7th Parliament of Sri Lanka.
Following the Indo-Lanka Accord in June 1987 Dinesh struck common cause with Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike and other political leaders who shared a common stand for the protection of the unitary state and the heritage of this country. Dinesh was actively involved in support of the candidature of Mrs. Bandaranaike at the second presidential elections.
His contribution was manifested in the highest number of votes cast for Mrs. B from the Maharagama seat, though she was defeated. Parliament was dissolved even before the results of the presidential polls were announced.
At the general elections of 1989 Dinesh lead under the MEP banner and was successful in holding the Maharagama seat. Under his leadership 3 of the MEP members found representation in Parliament. Thereafter, Dinesh continued to play a leading role in the Parliament as a front bencher of the Opposition led by Mrs. B.
The ruling party was calculatedly whittled down some of the progressive measures that were taken in the wake of 1956 victory as evident in amendments to the Paddy Lands Act, the mutilation of the CTB act and the formation of cluster companies, which turned out to be white elephants. Most of the related Bills were challenged in the Supreme Court at the initiative of Dinesh.
There was also a move to introduce amendments to the Archeology Ordinance to remove the control of temples from the hands of the Viharadipathis and vest it in the hands of laymen. Dinesh the and master of Parliamentary procedures was very vigilant and alert enough to take the then government by surprise in calling for an early vote on this Bill when the government benches were depleted.
This move resulted in the first and only defeat of a Bill presented by the ruling party in their 17 years of rule. When attempts were being made to reintroduce this Bill, after much agitation and with representations made to the Supreme Court inviting attention to the legal effect of this Bill which should have had the effect of contravening Section 9 of the Constitution, Dinesh successfully checkmated that move.
Dinesh interacted with the leaders and other important persons in various continents for the mutual benefit of Sri Lanka and the respective countries. He met Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in a delegation that had been sent to Delhi to attend to certain outstanding issues arising out of the Indo-Lanka Accord.
He maintained a personal relationship with Dr. Vinyaka Purohit, freedom fighter of India, Mrs. Isabella Allende, daughter of legendary Allende of Chile, Evo Morales, the present President of Bolivia, Dr. Sisulu -daughter of two stalwarts of the ANC movement and close associates of Nelson Mandela the legendary freedom fighter, and especially Uhuru Kenyata, son of Jomo Kenyata -the Father of the Kenyan nation and colleague and associate of Philip Gunawardena in the struggle against colonialism and imperialism.
The year 1994 was rather eventful for the MEP led by Dinesh. At the general elections of 1994, the MEP became a victim of a small coterie of persons-political enemies-who were calculatedly biding their time to shut out the MEP from the alliance that was forged. Dinesh, nevertheless, forged ahead with his campaign to save the national heritage and the unitary status of Sri Lanka.
The MEP, however, joined the alliance in 2000 and reasserted the stand on the unitary status and the heritage of this country.
After the Elections of 2000 Dinesh was appointed as the Minister for Transport and Environment. During his tenure the Ozone Summit was held in Sri Lanka solely due to the untiring and enthusiastic efforts of Dinesh. He prepared a Bill to restore the CTB by doing away with cluster companies. It didn’t see light of day due to defection of a section of the then government group. This Bill was later presented in Parliament in 2007.
The defection precipitated a general election which resulted in the defeat of the government. When the new ruling party sort to bring legislation to do away with the pension scheme in the entire country, Dinesh counter moved to checkmate this exercise. The pensioners’ rights have thus been conserved to this date.
Dinesh as an Opposition Parliamentarian, both in and out Parliament, fought strenuously against any inroads been made into the unitary state of Sri Lanka or any erosion of the national heritage of our country. He moved to forge a broader alliance to counter local and foreign conspiracies against Sri Lanka. His campaign proved fruitful and the result was the United People’s Freedom Alliance.
The UPFA registered a landslide victory at the 2004 general elections. This was followed by the victory of his then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Presidential election, which signalled the birth of a new order with a new outlook and with a new determination to grapple with the burning challenges of the day.
From this time he has been holding various other Ministries pre-eminent of these being the Minister of Urban Development, besides higher education, water supply and sacred area development.
It is to his credit that the Uva Wellassa University stands today with a new outlook to meet the challenges of the present day. As Minister of Water Supply he has procured and established the Greater Kandy water scheme despite considerable difficulty much to the acclaim of the people of the Kandyan areas inclusive of the Temples of the Malwatte and Asgiriya chapters within Kandy. In the matter of Sacred Area Development his projects have accommodated all religions and all races throughout the island.
The Kusum Nivasa project, the brainchild of Dinesh, which is under the newly established Urban Settlement Development Authority is unique.
Dinesh has a pragmatic approach to the problem confronting this country. This is articulated in his address to an influential segment of the business community, thus, “We need some fresh air if we are to resolve the problems confronting Sri Lanka, of which the major infirmity is a stagnant economy. Then the problems of the deprived Sinhalese in the South and the deprived Tamils in the North, and of the Muslims will come out in the wash”.
- Sri Lanka Parliament profile
- 'Mumbai eye-opener to India - Dinesh', Sunday Observer, 30 November 2008
- 'Dinesh Turns Three-Score',Daily News, 2 March 2009