UNP could no longer exploit Hashan - wife Apsari
Hashan’s wife Apsari
Singhabahu Tillakaratne (centre) after obtaining the SLFP
membership from the Hambantota district Parliamentarian Namal
Rajapaksa (right) at the UPFA rally held at Gothatuwa New Town
on Thursday to support the candidature of Ajith Subasinghe
The UNP supporters, especially those in Colombo, Piliyandala and
Avissawella areas were shocked when former Sri Lanka cricket captain and
the outgoing UNP Western Provincial Council member Hashan Tillakaratne's
wife, Apsari Singhabahu Tillakaratne obtained membership of the Sri
Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) from parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa at a
UPFA political rally in Gothatuwa New Town last week.
The Sunday Observer had an exclusive interview with Apsari Singhabahu
Tillakaratne to find out the circumstances that led her to join the SLFP
and why her husband is not contesting the Western Provincial Council
Q: Your husband Hashan Tillakaratne comes from a left-wing
family. What made him to join the right-wing UNP when he began his
A: Hashan's family always had been with the left wing politics
for the past 80 years. His parents, grandparents and the family were
actively involved in politics in Kesbewa, Piliyandala areas.
His parents were contemporaries of respected politician in the area,
Somaweera Chandrasiri and served the common people in the area together.
My own family was also strongly and actively involved in left politics
The involvement of left politics of his family was so strong, when
Hashan announced, for the first time, that he is commencing his
political career with the UNP, most of the people in the area were
genuinely astonished. In fact, the question is still asked frequently
why Hashan chose UNP over UPFA. However, over the years both of us had
supported persons involved in politics irrespective of the party
politics, but purely on personal grounds.
Q: Before Hashan joining in the UNP campaigns, have you taken
part in UPFA campaigns before?
A: Yes, in the year 2000, when Arjuna Ranatunga entered party
politics with UPFA, Hashan was still playing for Sri Lanka. Despite his
heavy cricketing schedule, Hashan guided me to involve myself with
I managed to gather the area stalwarts in aid of Arjuna which secured
a substantial number of votes in the Kesbewa electorate which had the
second highest vote base in Colombo district at that time.
Q: What happened to the Cricket Aid project initiated under
Hashan's leadership after the tsunami devastation?
A: When Hashan retired from national cricket in 2004, Thilanga
Sumathipala, the then president of Sri Lanka Cricket, who has identified
the dedication, commitment and the leadership skills, invited him to
lead the 'Cricket Aid Project' as the Head of the program.
This project was one of the best development programmes introduced to
Project was aimed at developing young, talented school cricketers in
tsunami hit areas, and Kilinochchi, Batticaloa, Matara and Kalutara
districts were chosen. The program was to build 50 houses in each
district with a playground and to provide a 1000 rupee financial
assistance for 10 years to 1000 selected students from these four
Former Sri Lanka cricket captain and ex-UNP Western Provincial
Council member Hashan Tillakaratne with his family
More importantly, Reeds College in London, England offered a four
fully expensed scholarships to four talented young students to study in
England for this program. Hashan travelled to these four areas and with
relentless effort, selected four deserving students to come to Colombo
for training. Hashan was so committed to the task of uplifting the lives
of the chosen students, he travelled to England spending his own money
to meet the authorities of Reeds College and arranged everything for the
students. I was pregnant with my youngest but got myself fully involved
in the project spending time relentlessly. Almost all cricketers and
their wives too were involved heavily and volunteered to assist.
Soon after these arrangements were made with Reeds College and the
1000 students were given their first scholarship payment of Rs. 1000/-,
an invisible hand abruptly stalled the entire project, to the dismay of
The programme was carrying on successfully till then, when the orders
came to shut down this extremely valuable project. We believe that the
project was closed down due to a personal grudge of a higher up in the
authorities of the then Government with the then SLC President.
Had the project been successful, it would have been continuing to
date and Sri Lanka would have had an important and effective message for
the world community who are making a hue and cry for equality for the
North, as the benefits were distributed to North and East equally.
The million dollar question is where have the funds for the project
gone? The puzzle has not been solved as yet. Persons who have
jeopardized this nationally beneficial program on personal grounds are
still with the opposition and the laughing matter is that they are the
ones who are talking about developing the country.
Question for me is to think how we can work hand in hand with these
villains who betrayed a national interest for personal gain are still
remaining in the opposition.
Q: What prompted Hashan to enter politics?
A: Hashan was so bitter and disappointed over the premature
end to his Cricket Aid project.
That prompted him to commence his political career in 2005 with the
UNP. However, he was given only a section of the Avissawella electorate.
The other was given to Sagara Senaratne.
Q: Was Hashan happy with the manner in which he was treated by
A: We were not at all happy about it as we presumed that the
breaking the electorate into two will result in a division among common
voters which was proven correct later. Due to this factor, Hashan
initially refused to contest and offered to help Sagara instead, in
order to ensure a win for the party.
Ultimately he contested on request of many and secured 34,000 votes
to win the seat in the Provincial Council at a time when the Government
was at the height of popularity with the inevitable win of the war in
Q: Hashan has been a non-controversial character in politics
A: I have to point out that we worked in harmony with many
Government candidates such as Sumith Soyza during this period.
It is sad, but, as we presumed Sagara Senaratne lost due to the
division of the party men in the electorate resulting a total political
career loss forever. I think, the leaders may have killed Sagara's
career, never to return.
The only person gained benefits from that was the district leader who
had secured or increased his vote base.
I think that all these acts were a well planned strategy to weaken
strong and performing candidates in the UNP. It is during this period we
have commenced a 'Vidwath Mandalaya' (Panel of Intellectuals) for the
UNP gathering up educated intellectuals and getting them together for
the betterment of the masses with their guidance and advices.
Q: Your family too had a difficult time after January 2010 due
to Danuna Tillakaratne's disappearance?
A: There was a period when we came up against many challenges
due to Hashan's close relationship with Danuna Thilakaratne. Let alone
help, nobody from the party even discussed the problems prevailed.
I am still grateful to Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka Thera and Rukman
Senanayake who kept calling me time and again offering support. The
pressure was such, Hashan went overseas for two months and I fought a
lone battle with my baby son and my father. However, several persons who
were with the government also helped me.
Q: Hashan lost his chance of entering parliament as he had
refused to contest the last general election. That cost him his UNP
organiser post as well?
A: Hashan decided not to contest the 2010 April General
Election as we were still going through the trauma. Also, the entire
family, mine and Hashan's were vehemently against contesting. The party
wanted us to resign from even the 'half' the UNP organiser post he held.
It was sad as we have sweated amply to secure the electorate by
canvassing house-by-house day and night and gaining confidence of the
people in the area.
Since the day Hashan took over as the UNP Organiser for Avissawella,
we managed to establish many branches, get Women's Movements activities
going successfully through Lak Vanitha Movement, organise youth forums
and many other social activities.
Q: Why wasn't Hashan, being a Provincial Council member, given
an electorate by the UNP leadership even after the party lost the 2010
General Election badly?
A: Due to the respect we both had for Opposition Leader Ranil
Wickramasinghe, as the leader of the UNP, we continue to trust him. We
firmly believed that he is a gentleman, we wrote to the Party stating
Hashan's willingness to work again with the party as an organiser.
He was invited for many discussions and was promised an area to
organise but we now realise that the party was leading up the garden
path. It is depressing that we have not given such a responsibility as
There was a request to contest the oncoming PC Elections but it was
too late. I have to mention here that Karu Jayasuriya gave a patient
hearing and understood our situation.
As I have explained earlier, many in the UNP hierarchy do not want to
field strong candidates. They want weak personalities so that they can
secure their own vote base but ignore the party votes.
Q: When Hashan's captain in the World Cup-winning team Arjuna
Ranatunga became the chief of Sri Lanka Cricket, was Hashan invited to
manage the Sri Lanka team?
A: Yes, he was. In 2009, Arjuna Ranatunga offered the post of
Manager of the Sri Lanka Cricket Team. But Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge
had other ideas.
He said that he will ratify it only if Hashan leaves politics
completely. This may be because of the challenge he was facing in
However, I am thankful to Mahindananda Aluthgamage, the Minister of
Sports, who realised the value of the contribution Hashan can offer to
Sri Lanka Cricket, installed him as a National Selector and the National
His Excellency the President always had close and cordial connections
with Hashan long before the Presidency, as His Excellency was a keen
supporter of cricket and a strong promoter of sport. He once held the
position of the President of the Hambanthota District Cricket. His
Excellency helped us on many occasions and was with us whenever we had
Q: Do you think Hashan has been ill-treated by the UNP?
A: Yes. The party promised to re-appoint him as a party
organiser since its 2010 general election debacle. But the party
leadership has not done so far, reasons best known to them.
Finally, I have to regrettably say that I will not allow the UNP to
exploit Hashan again. I will be against him working with hypocritical,
inconsiderate members in the party. I know for a fact that certain
elements in the party will not allow him to come up as a performer
because they think that he is a threat to them.
Q: Finally, what made you to make a sudden appearance on the
UPFA stage to obtain the SLFP membership from parliamentarian Namal
A: I have joined the UPFA stage at the inaugural rally of
Colombo District UPFA candidate and leading businessman Ajith Subasinghe
at Gothatuwa New Town, in order to help my close relative. He is the
spouse of my first cousin sister and thought that I should extend my
fullest support to him and the UPFA team in the Western Province.
Ajith's father-in-law S.R. Podiralahamy was intensely active in left
politics for over five decades.
Ajith Subasinghe is considered a thorough gentleman with principles.
He is a millionaire businessman who does not want to earn through
politics. Namal Rajapaksa whom I knew personally for many years was also
there on the platform with a few other parliamentarians and I am glad
that I did what I did.