'True love is great'
Senani speaks of life with Minister Duminda
True love is great for true lovers like the young couple whom we are
featuring in this column this week. Senani Lanka Jayaratne speaks about
her hubby, Duminda Dissanayake, Minister of Petroleum Resources.
A revolutionist in Sri Lankan politics who fosees much promise for
the future of the country, Duminda has created history by being the
youngest Parliamentarian by breaking the record held by the President
Mahinda Rajapaksa. Duminda became a Member of Parliament at the age of
21 years, while President Rajapaksa stepped into the Parliament when he
was 24 years.
Though still 28 years of age, the young revolutionist has a wide
scope for the future. He has been really fortunate as he has handled
three Ministries since he came to power. "He became a MP in year 2000 in
the Anuradhapura District.
He was appointed as the Deputy Minister of Vocational Training in
2004-2005, and then the Deputy Minister of Port and Aviation in 2006. He
became the Minister of Petroleum Resources last year. Apart from that,
he is the Deputy President of the SLFP Youth Organisation which is
directly under President Rajapaksa," smiles Senani humbly.
"But I never liked him entering politics," she laughs.
"I imposed three conditions to him before I gave him my consent 'no
politics, no drinks and no beard'.... But ultimately I had to
sacrifice," she says.
Senani: Aiya has become a social drinker, but has promised to stop it
in the future. Question: You call him 'Aiya'?
Senani: Yes, because I got to know him as his our brothers are
friends. They were batch mates and best of friends.
Pix: Vipula Amarasinghe
I call him 'Aiya'. And if I call him by his name when I really get
irritated with him. And he knows that(laughs). He calls me 'Baba' but
when amongst others 'Senani' (laughs).
Though shouldering many responsibilities the duo is still a newly
married couple. Senani is just 25 years and the young Minister is still
28 years. Amidst the never ending work in the Directorate the two spend
quite a few moments with each other.
"Well, at the beginning I used to get annoyed, especially when I
heard my friends were going out with their husbands and having a gala
time. But later I realised that I have to accept my situation. Luckily I
come from a political background too and that has helped me a great
extent to understand his position," she says.
Senani is the eldest daughter of the Minister of Plantation
Industries, D. M. Jayaratne and Anula Yapa Jayaratne. "I have a younger
sister and a brother. I learnt the alphabet at Doluwa Maha Vidyalaya and
then entered Mahamaya Balika Vidyalaya, Kandy, and then from Grade 8, I
was at Visakha Vidyalaya," she says.
"All five members in our family have been very close to each other.
We were brought up in a strict secured background. I was 10 years when
my father became a MP. So, unlike our friends we rarely had a carefree
life. While our friends were talking about the trips they went on during
the vacation, we had nothing very specific to talk about.
Even when we go either to Anuradhapura or Dalada Maligawa, it was
also amidst strict security and we couldn't even see the road properly
due to the speed of the vehicle we were in. We couldn't get off to go to
the bathroom! Our mother used to fill the vehicle with food so that we
didn't have to stop.
That was the fate of most of the children of politicians. And that
was why I didn't want to get married to a politician. But I did," she
Duminda Dissanayake is the eldest son of the present Chief Minister
of the North Central Province (NCP) Berty Premalal Dissanayake and the
former NCP Chief Minister Jayani Thisera Dissanayake.
Apart from former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and MP Anura
Bandaranaike whose parents (S.W.R.D. and Sirimavo Bandaranaike) who were
appointed Premiers of Sri Lanka, Duminda was the only politician whose
parents were in politics and appointed to the same post in the same
"Aiya has three younger bothers and since both his parents were in
active politics, it was he who looked after them. So all three brothers
have a great respect for him, and the also scared of him. And that was
the very fact that provoked me to give him a phone call," she begins her
"I had seen him only once when I was about 14 years at Ratmalana Air
Port when he had come to pick his father back home. Both our families
were friends. It was 1995, we just returned from Anuradhapura to Colombo
by a Chopper. He looked haughty and swollen headed and didn't even look
at us. And my cousins and I were so annoyed. We thought he was proud,"
"It was December 3, 1998. I was at home after O/Ls. Some of my
friends had a crush on Duminda Aiya. But nobody knew that I too had a
major crush on him after I saw him at Ratmalana. I couldn't reveal it to
anybody as they too were crazy over him.
However, since both his younger brother, Kasun and my younger brother
were best of friends, they used to come to our place to play. But
Duminda Aiya had imposed a law that his brothers should return home
before 6.00 pm. So, Kasun had forgotten about it and was really scared
that Aiya would scold him.
He asked me to call him and shape it up saying that I cooked a dish
and asked him also to stay for dinner. So I did. But, Duminda Aiya at
once said, 'Don't lie. I was there a few minutes ago and saw them
playing'. He had come to the gate and was watching," she laughs.
Exactly after a month Senani had a get together with her friends.
Giving nuisance calls to known boys was fun at that time for many gals.
So they too were up to mischief. When it was the turn of Duminda,
however, it was story different. He was serious and it was the beginning
of the 'love story. But they kept it as a secret.
On January 30, of the same year he confessed his love for her. He
visited their place disguising himself as a computer repairer.
Fortunately none of Senani's parents were at home and she was under the
care of her Nanny. The very first gift she got from him was a beautiful
Rose, perfume and a gold pendent. "But I had to sell that pendent", she
"Both of us went to Australia soon after. He was following an IT
degree course in Melbourne and I was following a degree in Business
Administration in Sydney. Since I was with my aunt's family I rarely had
a chance to meet him. But we exchanged letters everyday.
The minimum number of pages of his letters were between 8 and 10. I
was became famous among my batch mates as the girl who got the longest
love letters in the University.
We phoned each other everyday. But both of us had to spend heavily
for telephone calls. I only had pocket money, and when I heard about my
O/L results from Sri Lanka, I wanted to call him and inform it to him.
That day I had no other choice, but to sell the pendent to find money
for the phone call," she sighs.
Question: What are the best qualities you see in him?
Senani: A lot. Duminda Aiya was quite matured for his age. He and his
family is hundred percent with people. His mission is to work for the
country. And drilling out oil from the Sri Lankan shores is the biggest
venture ahead for him. I'm sure he will be a great success, and make a
strong and rich the economy in this country. Because of all this he
rarely has a personal life.
Fortunately I am from a similar political background, so I could do
any sacrifice in the name of politics. Sometimes, a day we attend 13-15
funerals in the Anuradhapura area. Whatever the occasion they have, to
name a few, wedding, grown-up party, Dana, Bana, Aiya is invited. Those
people think it's a big healthy omen to see him around. And also they
are really grateful to all that. Aiya and Berty uncle have launched many
projects in the area to uplift the life of the people.
Fifty thousand acres of land were given to people to grow maize on a
foreign business venture along with seeds and fertilizer. And people get
Rs. 30,000 per acre. And also they provided over 1000 jobs in the newly
made garment factory in Mihintale.
At present they are concentrating on developing the standards of the
schools in the area. They were also able to close down the illicit
liquor dens at Rajanganaya by providing them shops in the town. That was
the biggest venture I personally admired of all of their work.
Question: All that as a politician. How is he as a husband?
Senani: Most lovable and adorable, I would say (laughs). He handles
everything. He treats me like a child. We have a good understanding for
in the nine years of our love affair we talked, fought and got to know
each other to the maximum level.
So we have a really good understanding between us. Since our marriage
took place on September 27 in 2006, except for a few days I was never
apart from him. I always say that though you are a Minister to the
world, to me you are just my husband.
We don't have helpers at our Colombo residence still. So he helps me
in all the work at home - cooking, sweeping, cleaning, washing and the
garden is managed by him. I'm really lucky to have him as my hubby.