Our parents would still be alive
if they were given security
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
If the security they sought was provided at
the required time, our parents would still
be alive. And now they are lost to all of
us, not just their children but also to the
country, say the grieving children of late
Major General Janaka Perera and Wajira.
To Janukshi, Shehara and Ashanka, their
parents' death dealt a deadly difficult
blow. And they acknowledge that their father
was targeted at a time when he was altering
the course of his life to dabble in
mainstream politics to continue serving his
country through a different medium.
They are still trying to deal with the grief
their parents' loss had caused them. As they
come to terms with their grief, these
youngsters nevertheless draw strength from
the values imparted by their parents and
feel a strong desire to reach out to the
families of the 28 others who died in the
October 6 suicide attack in
"We feel their pain, because it is the same
pain that we are currently going through. We
also know, they don't get the attention, the
media focus or support that we receive. Our
hearts go out to them. We are all one in
this shared grief, "acknowledges Shehara,
the youngest daughter in the Perera family.
To these kids, their parents were
everything. "They constituted everything to
us. Our life source. Everything," notes
Janushki, the eldest daughter.
"Two exceptional human beings"
There are too many memories of her parents
that she considers precious, but Janushki
says that her parents were "two exceptional
human beings" who made every possible effort
and sacrifice to make them happy and secure.
"Often they told us, treat everyone the way
you would like to be treated."
The youngest and the pet in the family,
Ashanka prefers to allow the sisters to do
all the talking, only intervening to add a
thought or two or embellish a comment. "Our
parents were unique. They taught us about
love and living life fully. This meant,
helping each other, within family and
society," he notes.
Among the most important lessons they
learned about love and marriage also came
from their parents who were extremely
committed to each other. "They were two
different people. But they functioned as
one," summarises Janukshi.
And looking back, amidst the debris of
yesterday, she feels that their father put
his dreams aside for years to accommodate
their own. This also meant, not entering
politics after his retirement from the Army
despite many invitations.
"Initially we did not like the thought of
our father entering politics. It's too murky
and risky. After he retired from the Army,
thaththi was invited by many political
parties to enter politics. I think he was
keen, but he refrained because we disliked
the idea," she adds.
In her eyes, their father was a giant of a
man who was ready to paint in broad strokes
on the canvas of national politics when his
life was snuffed out, together with his
Distinguished military career
Intervenes Shehara, to add: "It is important
to note that despite his long and
distinguished military career, our father
never identified himself racially. He called
himself a Sri Lankan, encouraged us to do
the same and wanted us to be of service to
the nation, in our own individual ways."
The children later relented and when their
father joined the UNP and ran a quick
campaign in the North Central Province (NCP)
to become the chief minister, their mother
wanted to be with him.
"They had that kind of relationship where
mom missed dad so much that she left
Australia to be with him. Our guess is she
herself took to politics like a duck to
water. She never thought it was in her and I
think she identified a new aspect in her
personality when she went to Anuradhapura.
There she grew in a different way, made
friends and wanted to help the women there,"
Adds Shehara, "This is funny. She used to
joke that she had the bigger following. When
we chatted on Skype, she told us how genuine
and innocent the people were and what fun it
was to run a campaign and feed over 1000
people during mealtimes. She also spoke how
much of love flowed during the campaign and
about thaththi's grand plans to make Raja
Among some of the fun things she recalls of
her parents' campaign days was when their
mother told them how they protested in front
of a police station and the kind of
reception their father received. "Mom said
it was amazing. And mom never wanted to be
away from father. She believed her place was
always next to him, with him. In fact, she
was his quiet strength and his reason for
being," adds Janushki.
Merged with the people
And young Ashanka believes that soon enough,
their parents became a part of Anuradhapura
and the lives of the Anuradhapura people.
"They laid down new roots there and merged
with the people."
In the aftermath of their tragic deaths, the
children feel emboldened by the love and
support others show them. "Our parents were
everything to us. We are shattered now that
they are gone. But we feel their presence,
that they are around us," says Janushki who
marvels at the reception they received in
Anuradhapura when their parents' bodies were
taken for the public to pay their respects.
"It was amazing. We realised what our
parents have built in such a short time and
what they have become to the public. How
many people have come to count on their
presence? We acknowledge their grief and
their sense of loss which is as intense as
ours," says Shehara.
Did they wish to participate in the election
campaign? Janushki shakes her head. The
children did not want to play a role in the
political programme. "We are not
politicians. That's for those who are in
it," notes Shehara.
But they certainly wanted to be in
Anuradhapura and watch how things unravel as
their father turned into a politician. When
they booked air tickets to fly home, Janaka
stopped them, due to security concerns. "If
we arrived in Anuradhapura, he would have
given his security to us. That would have
exposed him to further danger for he never
had the security he asked for. We knew the
kind of security risks he ran, much more
than many people we know. If we were around,
he would not have been able to concentrate.
He loved us so much."
Love and service
Do they feel enraged by what happened to
their bereaved parents and the sheer cruelty
of it? Quips Ashanka fast. "Our parents'
legacy is not about hatred or bitter legal
disputes. Theirs is about love and service.
That's how we want them to be remembered. So
in whatever possible small way, we will
continue to realise their dreams, even if
they are no more."
"What would anyone gain by being bitter?"
questions Janushki, and insists, when her
father was killed, something tragic happened
from the nation's point of view as well.
"When thaththi died, the hope of this
country also died with him."
They are no longer amazed by the fact that
their parents decided to settle in a new
Anuradhapura and why they felt so strongly about the Raja Rata
people. "We realised that in
Anuradhapura, they were parents to not just
four children but many. They were brother
and sister to thousands. They had created
new families, friends and a new circle of
which they were the elixir of hope. People
spoke with such affection about them."
Shehara particularly recalls what the
villagers told her as she visited the
hospital and some people associated with
their parents during their brief spell in
Anuradhapura. "They remembered mom as the
easier person to get to know. They said she
ate a particular food at their homes, she
liked a particular curry and she sat on the
mat and drank water. Things like that. And
everyone said they loved her for her warmth
and her brilliant smile."
Adds Janushki, " they all knew about us.
Amma had spoken about us to everyone. They
knew our names and small details and treated
us perhaps with the same love they showed
our parents. We are very grateful for their
Through a political programme
It is these people, Shehara believes, that
her parents wish to help through a political
programme. " They are the ones who actually
fall through the crack. Everyone forgets the
And they feel there is a lot that needs to
be done in the electorate their father chose
to be a part of. Health remained a big
concern as did water and sanitation. Access
to English was also a gray area. "They are
smart people. We want to help them so that
they can help themselves. They only need the
tools for development," adds Ashanka.
In hindsight, they deal with their intense
grief by filling their minds with the many
positive things their parents taught them.
They take solace in the fact that they were
one happy family. " We have no regrets. We
were perhaps the world's most loved
children," notes Shehara.
Quips Janushki, "in our family, many thought
dad was boss, because he has this great
personality and a name to go with it. But
mom held the key, and she held the key to
his heart too."
"With them, we had many years of happiness.
They gave us love, support, affection and
values. We are extremely grateful to them
for all that they did for us. We will try to
live our lives, supporting each other, just
the way they would have wanted us to," adds
To help the families of servicemen
To keep their parents' memory alive, the
children are eager to work through Lak Jaya,
a foundation created by Janaka Perera and
others to help the families of servicemen
affected by the war and service people
themselves. As for politics, they rule out
any involvement though they dedicate
themselves to the task of realising the
dreams of their parents at least to some
And they look forward to establishing a
Leadership Academy in the names of their
parents to help the
The ashes of Janaka and Wajira were interred
on Thursday in Panadura, the ancestral place
of the Perera family.
The children are very grateful to their
uncle Prithiviraj and aunt Shereen for
stepping in to take care of them in their
time of sorrow. "They are our strength. We
are holding on, thanks to them. And our
cousin Rejaan is much more than a cousin.
She is our shadow. She just refuses to leave
our side," they add, gratitude etching their
They also have a collective message for the
people of Anuradhapura. " Stay strong. Keep
trying. Our hearts remain with you."
On Monday, they take wing to Australia to
resume their education - and a life without
their beloved parents. As they leave, they
take a host of cherished memories and the
determination to keep the memory of their
parents alive and to help the people of
Anuradhapura - just as their parents