“Thathi had a way of making people feel important” | Sunday Observer

“Thathi had a way of making people feel important”

22 April, 2018

Even though her stay with her father was brief, memories came floating by as she turned back the cherished pages of her golden days spent under the loving care of her father.

It was because of her father that she learned to treat everyone with dignity. “In the short time I had with him he taught me that everyone deserved dignity.”

“Dignity of labour is important,” he used to tell her often. “I didn't understand exactly what he meant by it at the time, but as the years passed, it is the lesson that has stuck with me the most,” Serela emphasized.

Her father’s ‘Sinhala’ lessons offered her a good opportunity to develop an interest in languages. “His lessons were fascinating. I learnt to love languages from him - to see them as something living - that is always evolving,” she reminisced.

Highest award

This visionary politician who wholeheartedly wished to see a country filled with intellectuals, did not live long enough to see his own daughter achieve her goals in education. Serala has a faint memory of her father handing over the best Orator Trophy to her at the Trinity College Award ceremony held in the late eighties. She still vaguely remembers her father explaining to her what it meant to be the President of the country.

“He told me once that to be President meant, you were the people’s servant. That even a beggar on the street had the right to tell you what to do. “I don’t know if he really believed it himself, but I never heard him being disrespectful to anyone when I was near,” she added.

Anxiety and tension prevailed throughout the country when Ministers Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake decided to produce an impeachment motion against the then President Premadasa.

As the attempt failed, the duo, along with five others, were expelled from the party, and the DUNF was formed under the leadership of Lalith Athulathmudali. However Serala was too small to recall the happenings at home. She only has faint memories of her father saying “how important it was for President Premadasa to be removed.”


The adorable daughter of Minister Athulathmudali drew everyone’s attention wherever she visited with her parents. The photograph of President Premadasa helping little Serela to read a book that was published in a newspaper in the early nineties, grabbed everyone’s attention for its cuteness. Asked if she could recall the days she visited the then President Premadasa who was soon to become her father’s main political rival, Serela replies: “I do, but not because of visiting the President. I was running around after being told not to and bumped into someone who was carrying kiri hodhi, which then landed all over my brand new white dress!”

Though she was barely 11 years at the time of her father’s death, her memories of those grief-struck days remain sharp and clear. The great pain and confusion she experienced when he was brutally murdered still haunts her memory.

“I remember my mother was heart-broken and my uncle Dayantha was angry,” she recalled.

Eleven years later when her mother succumbed to her illness, the feeling of loss was so unbearably intense that it made her quit her opera singing career. Today, the much loved daughter of late ministers Lalith Athulathmudali and Srimani Athulathmudali, sings only for fun when she is at home in Sri Lanka and can join her fellow workshop players or her old friends from Adlib for a while!

Serela calls her father a great politician in the true sense of the word because he genuinely cared about the people.

“Thaththi had a way of making people feel important, of finding people who could do a good job,” she reminisced.

Mother's decision

Her mother Srimani Athulathmudali who later led the DUNF founded by her husband was elected to Parliament in 1994.

However Serela never encouraged her mother’s decision of taking up politics.

“I did not want my mother to follow my father’s footsteps. I tried to convince her to return to her job in Switzerland. I even used the words I had heard my father say many, many, times when people joked that I should become a politician “One politician per family is enough” She chose not to listen to me!” she said.

A mother now, Serela currently makes a line of toys. Her son, she says, is very proud of being Sri Lankan even though his father is Brazilian.

“He wants to come back home. He knows that his grandfather was a politician and that he was assassinated. He always asks if they have caught the assassin yet, to which I have to tell him, no!” she finally noted with nostalgia and regret.

(A version of this interview was first published in the Daily News - May 15, 2017)


You will never Dream of Politicians like the late Hon. Lalith Athulathmudali ,he never Robbed or Swindle the People's Money,Never Swindled the country to Earn for his Family,There are Plenty of These Beggars now in politics