The Sunday Leader

Baton Passes In British Conservative Politics

Gaj Wallooppillai: Representative of Diversity in European politics

By Faraz Shauketaly
A 25-year old who traces his ancestry all the way to Balangoda, Sri Lanka was recently elected as a Local Councillor in a London suburb. Gaj Wallooppillai was the Conservative Party candidate in Coombe Hill, Kingston a well-to-do constituency in England’s stockbroker belt county of Surrey. Gaj registered an easy win and became the youngest ever Conservative party member of Asian extraction to be elected as a Local Councillor.
Wallooppillai traces his ancestry all the way to Balangoda, a small town some 143km away from Colombo, the island’s capital. Born in London to Sri Lankan parents, Gaj has lived all his life in the South West London suburb not far from Wimbledon, the Mecca of everything tennis and synonymous with strawberries and cream in the summer.
A regular visitor to Sri Lanka where his father is a consultant on infrastructure development, Gaj was excited for Sri Lanka’s prospects with the renaissance of peace and rapid development. His main focus politically, however, was on his constituency in Coombe Hill. Wallooppillai says that he intends working closely with the authorities to ensure safety and a healthy respect for the law. Speaking after his convincing victory earlier this summer, Wallooppillai said, “I am delighted that the hard work has paid off and the people have spoken clearly that they wish for the Conservative Party to represent them. I intend working closely with the local Neighbourhood Watch groups and the Police to cut down on crime especially burglary in the area.”
Walloopillai – Oxford educated and who has an abiding interest in cricket having turned out for his school, the popular Tiffin Boys School, was in Sri Lanka recently and spoke briefly about his passion for cricket and his foray into British Conservative politics. Asked who his mentor was, he said: “Nirj Deva – he was the first non-white person to be elected as an MP to Westminster from the Conservative Party way back in 1992. The Conservative Party then waited till 2005 to repeat that performance. Nirj Deva is a trailblazer.”
The Wallooppillai family from Balangoda have also had an involvement in Sri Lanka’s politics. In 1933 when Sir Cudah Ratwatte, brother of Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s father, retired due to ill health from the State Council, Gaj Wallooppillai’s paternal grand-uncle was a contestant. T. Wallooppillai was a resident of Balangoda and a respected Procter. He was backed by Mrs Bandaranaike’s father and a number of ‘Radala’ families all of whom keenly felt the blow of an ‘outsider’ in the form of a low-country man, J. R. Jayewardena’s uncle, Colonel T. G. Jayawardena who was backed by a host of low-country ‘mudalalis’. The Procter polled 6,501 votes to the Colonel’s 6,763, much to the chagrin of the Bandaranaike father. The younger Wallooppillai has had an immensely successful internship in European politics and worked in the British Parliament at Westminster for Rt. Hon. Malcolm Rifkind, the former British Foreign Secretary (Minister). He also had an internship in Brussels where he worked for Niranjan Deva Additya, the Sri Lankan born MEP. Mr Deva speaking exclusively to The Sunday Leader said that, “the baton has passed.  Gaj Wallooppillai is representative of the success of diversity in Britain, if not Europe. Born in England, Gaj is an Englishman and there is no doubt that he will represent the best of Sri Lankan culture, history and traditional values in a modern democratic Britain.”

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