'We were made for each other'
Mela speaks of life with parliamentarian Ravi
Love doesn't boast
Love doesn't hurt
Love doesn't possess
* * *
Love is humble
Love is polite
Love is patient
And such love is beautiful....
And that was why Ravi and Mela could tie the knot even after 19
years, which seemed to be the longest love affair of a Parliamentarian
in Sri Lankan history. Some give a maximum period of three years only
for a relationship as they assume it gets stale and stagnated once it
goes beyond that, time.
"I met him at a cricket match. He was the Wicket Keeper," laughs Mela.
Well, he knows the game and that's how he has managed to save all his
wickets; his MP ticket, his business and his love for her. Leaning
against a cosy sofa at their residence which is radiates elegance, love
and happiness; and situated at the Rajamalwatte Mawatha adjoining the
road that runs to the Parliament at Sri Jayawardenapura, Mela begins to
reveal her life with her hubby, former Minister and present MP of Kotte,
"My intended brother-in-law (who was then the boy friend of my
sister) was playing cricket for Royal College. She wanted to see him
playing at a match at Kotmale. My mother who didn't want to send my
sister alone sent me as well with her. Even before, this had been a
practice. Ravi and I used to bump into each other, and were quite
friendly. However, he says he was determined to carry on our friendship
at the cricket match," she says.
Question: You two might have been quite young?
Mela: Yes, in our teens....Oh! don't write all that (says with
Question: Why not? It's a rare occasion in the life of a
Mela: Oh...Ok..! I don't know....(smiles). I had a long hair.
And he says he fell for that (laughs). We just exchanged our telephone
numbers and that was all.
Merene Wiranthi Akbar (Mela) was born on October 20 to her Malay
parents Ilfan and Bistia, the second of their four daughters. Mela had
her education at St. Lawrence Convent, Wellawatte and then at Milagiriya
St. Pauls, Colombo.
Question: Tell us a bit about your school activities and
Mela: Onella (calling her daughter), what does grandma say
about your mom darling?
Onella: Grandma says my mom was the naughtiest of all the
Mela: You've already got the answer, haven't you? (laughs).
Well, we were residing at Dehiwala and Kohuwela. I was engaged in a lot
of sports. I was playing athletics and basketball, and anything that was
sports connected I was involved in. I was known to be one of the most
mischievous one at school..
Mela comes from a closely knit family especially with her sisters.
She claims they are still together. "It's a blessing. Once a brother
gets married he tends to move a away, but sisters are not. That's why I
always wanted daughters. Even when I've asked Ravi about it he says the
same. I'm happy to be gifted with three daughters," claims Mela.
The young mischievous beauty who stole the heart of the young
cricketer developed another major interest. And that was for
hairdressing. All her sisters and cousins enjoyed free hairstyles from
her. Knowing her flamboyant gifted talent, Mela's home people arranged
her to follow a Diploma in hairdressing in Hongkong. After O/Ls,
hairdressing became her pastime as well as her career. Her 'Mela's'
Salon at Flower Road, Colombo was a famous spot with many.
To win a man, the first attraction in a woman is beauty or
pleasantness. Secondly the good qualities should par with his. The third
and the most important thing is that to maintain the relationship the
her ability to fill his tummy with delicacies. And so, she has this all.
"Not only me, all my sisters too can cook well," says Mela smiling and
blushing all the time.
Ravindra Sandresh Karunanayake was born on February 19 to his planter
parents Tissa and Carmi Karunanayake.
Ravi had his education, first at St.Thomas' Prep, Kollupitiya and
then entered Royal College, Colombo. "That's why he doesn't cheer
neither of the sides at the Big Match as he is an Old Boy of both
schools," butts in Mela.
After his father's death which occurred when he was 12 years, it was
his mother who took the burden of bringing up him and his brother,
Saliya. She worked for the President's Secretariat and was Incharge of
the House Keeping of the President's House during the time of both
Presidents J.R. Jayawardene and R. Premadasa.
Ravi was doing his A/L in the Commerce stream. The subjects he was
studying were Economics, Geography, Commerce and Finance and Accounts
through which he began to explore the world. His distant relative, late
politician Lalith Athulathmudali was the main inspiration that drew him
to Sri Lankan politics. Eventually, Lalith Athulathmudali became his
idol, and. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher are among his icons.
Since then young Ravi got involved in many political campaigns of Lalith.
In 1988 and 1989, Ravi was in active politics and helped Lalith to win
his seat in Colombo District. In 1991, ten MPs including Lalith and
Gamini Dissanayake left the UNP (United National Party) Government
headed by President R. Premadasa and formed the DUNF (Democratic United
When Lalith was assassinated in April 1993, his wife Srimani
Athulathmudali took over. And then Gamini Dissanayake re-joined the UNP.
Srimani along with the
'DUNF-Lalith Front' joined the People's Alliance under Chandrika
Kumaratunga at the General Election in 1994.
In the election two MPs in the national lists were given to the DUNF,
and that was the time buoyant young Ravi Karunanayake received his
ticket to enter the Parliament of Sri Lanka. Kesaralal Gunesekara was
the other DUNF MP who got appointed along with Ravi.
In 1996, Srimani was removed from the Cabinet by President Chandrika
Kumaratunga, and simultaneously Srimani and her party had a dispute over
the affiliation to the Government. Ravi was more towards the UNP, and as
a result Srimani sacked him from the DUNF-Lalith Front. However, through
a court order, Ravi was able to became an Independent MP in 1998-1999.
With the dissolution of Parliament in 1999, he joined the UNP, and
became the organiser of Kotte. He won the Kotte seat with 425,000 votes.
In the General Election held in the year 2001, Ravi became the Minister
of Trade, Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Along with the fall of the
government in the year 2004, the UNP lost the portfolio, but Ravi has
remained as a Member of Parliamentarian till today. His radiant
personality as a politician won him the 'Young Politician of the Year'
awarded by the Jaycees International in the year 2000.
Question: Having an affair continuously with a guy for nearly
twenty years is a record.
Mela: We were together through out. Though we had minor differences,
we postponed getting married to see whether we are made for each other
and also to find out whether we need each other really. I was there with
him even when he went to Delmege. He is a Chartered Accountant by
profession. And later, we started our own Freight Forwarding business.
Finally, we got engaged in January 16 in 1988, and had our wedding on
January 20 the next year.
Co-incidentally, both Ravi's mother and grand mother also had their
weddings on the same day at the same venue - Galle Face Hotel, Colombo.
Question: You were very careful when commenting on things.
Mela: Well, once we had to go through a gruesome period due to his
politics. The harassments were immense. They might have indirectly
affected our children as well. I would like to say something, all what
we've earned (including this house) we earned before he was actively
involved in politics.
Question: Do you fear for him in active politics?
Mela: That's the nature of politics. Now I have him more at home.
When he was the Minister it was an unending rat -race, one after the
other, and we hardly had time to breathe. And all the business matters
were on me. At present I feel bit relaxed as he has time for them as
well. However, Ravi is not a person who drinks or smokes. That is the
greatest thing I admire in him. He has not got in to any illicit
involvements either. Politics is his only passion. So, how can I ask him
not to do politics, it's quite unfair by him. But, at the beginning,
yes, I did oppose. But, later I knew his passion to work for people. He
loves this country, and always wants to do some kind of service. And he
thinks politics would provide him a good stage for that.
Question: Ravi, as a hubby?
Mela: Generous and virtuous. He does get angry, but that is
for few seconds. Neither of us can stay without talking to each other.
He never keeps anger with him. (laughs). He is a good husband and a good
father as well. An extremely a family man I would say. He loves to
cuddle his daughters and would play with them the whole day if time
permits. He would be there at every Parents' Day Meeting, sports meet,
athlete meet and any school function of our daughters. Even during his
busy schedules when he was a Minister he never missed them. The
Principal of the school also has commented on that. He loves his
children, and would go to town with them. Also he is a father with
orthodox ideas. It was all my idea to send our children to an
International school, and not his. He is jovial and friendly, and would
help anybody that would tread his path asking for help. And there were
times that this quality has given him trouble as well (laughs).
Question: Any possessive attitudes?
Mela: We were quite possessive over each other before. But, once you
get mature you tend to think differently, don't you? We don't hide
anything from each other and would openly discuss it if there's a
problem. If you are honest with each other you don't have to be scared.
You get married to a person because you love him/her, don't you? We move
around as a family and we maintain the family bond. I also work hard at
home, looking after the business during his absence and back up work
connected with his politics. I do all that with great enthusiasm. We
love to go abroad and that would be the time I see him really relaxing,
as otherwise if he is at home most of the time he would be on the phone.
He is a perfectionist, and likes to be extremely prim and proper. Even
when we are going abroad it is he who packs the bags. And I agree with
my family people who say I'm spoilt by him (laughs). He too helps out at
the house chores, by giving his ideas in decorating the house and even
doing marketing with me.
Question: Tell us a bit about your children?
Mela: We have three daughters; Onella(16), Shenella (9) and Minella
(7). Their father wanted their names also to rhyme as their mother's ,'Mela'
(laughs). All my girls go to the Colombo International School and are
quite studious and good at sports.
Question: Many have crossed over from the UNP to the
Government. What would be your husband's agenda?
Mela: (Pause and thought for a while) We have friends of both
parties. Some are personal friends. But, politics is politics. Ravi
thinks our people should believe in credible policies and not in
incredible policies. And he always says he is a principle politician. I
would approve and assist whatever the decision he takes (smiles).
Pix: Kavindra Perera