These may not be qualities commonly associated with Ranil Wickremesinghe but they are very apparent to those of us who have had the chance to mingle with him away from politics.
This is Ranil I wish to talk about; a person I am privileged to know and be related to. His life has been dedicated to serving Sri Lanka even at the expense of his own public image. He is a man who has had the courage to make unpopular decisions for the greater good.
Though I encountered Ranil during my school days, I did not have the privilege of getting to know him intimately. I met him after college at various places but I only really spoke to him in 1993 when he was Prime Minister and came to my residence one night during my father's funeral. As this was the LTTE era, he came with a convoy of vehicles. However, Ranil mingled with ease with those who were there to pay their respects to my late father and surprised most of them with his simplicity.
I actually came to know him closely only in 2012 at one of the inaugural Tudugala Wijewardene family meetings where he wanted me to take the position of President of the family union. I was very reluctant to do this as I didn't know most of the relations but he persuaded me to take it on. His compassion and concern in keeping an ever-expanding family together were a revelation! During my tenure that I came to understand closely who he actually was and I greatly benefited from his leadership qualities. His unassuming guidance was vital to the success of my year as president of the family union.
Though he was the leader of the opposition, he came for all our meetings and religious programs, get-togethers and always got involved in long conversations on various topics. It was amazing to witness the knowledge he had on any given topic and the simplicity of the man.
After he became the Prime Minister, things did not change and he found the time to be with his relations, enjoying some fellowship and sharing various stories on the history of Sri Lanka and family history always with a touch of humour. I should mention here one of the great keys to his success -- his wife Professor Maithree Wickremesinghe. A match for him both intellectually and in terms of simplicity, her calm and graceful presence are an unending source of strength for him.
This month we had our annual get together and all of us wondered if Ranil would attend the function due to the problems he was facing because of the vindictive decisions by unscrupulous elements. However, to the surprise of most of us who attended, Ranil was present with his charming wife and he was as cool as can be, talking with all who were present and enjoying himself, displaying the calm he has when faced difficult situations.
Having had these opportunities to encounter Ranil under various circumstances, I have had a first-hand experience of his simplicity, intellect and grace under pressure. These are virtues that every family, however large or small, needs and can benefit from.