By Faraz Shauketaly
Bodhi Ranasinghe, 57, the de-facto aide-de-camp to the United National Party, passed away in his sleep early on Thursday, leaving his family, friends and the UNP membership shocked at his early demise.
Bodhi who had met up with his classmates from the school by the sea – S.Thomas’ College – on Thursday evening at the Orient Club had then joined Sajith Premadasa and others at a mutual friends’ house for dinner, before returning home. His wife the lawyer Chathuri Rodrigo, found that Bodhi had passed away sometime in the early hours of Thursday morning. A huge crowd rushed to his Polhengoda residence within hours as the news spread.
Bodhi Ranasinghe, a hotelier by profession, started his life in the hospitality industry at the Koggala Beach hotel before moving on to the Mercantile Groups Hotels Division where he served as Managing Director. During the Ranasinghe Premadasa years Bodhi served as a Director of the Hotels Corporation and under the Wickremesinghe administration served as the Chairman of the Ceylon Hotels Corporation.
His passion for politics was marked by his complete loyalty to the UNP first and everything and everyone else second. He was a President Premadasa loyalist, then supported Ranil Wickremesinghe through more defeats than triumphs but was always hopeful that his beloved UNP would be the ultimate beneficiary over individualism. Bodhi was a legendary political raconteur and over the past two years played a key role in the reform process at the UNP. He is largely credited with persuading the late Anura Bandaranaike to meet with Sirisena Cooray which led ultimately to Bandaranaike joining the UNP. At times he lived close to the edge of Sri Lanka’s divisive and dangerous politics: seated for example at the same table as Sarath Kohngahge at the Canton Restaurant when a hit squad attempted to assassinate Kohngahge the owner of the restaurant, during the President Kumaratunga regime.
His loyalty to the United National Party was beyond reproach and he took a pragmatic but wide angled view of the state of party he had joined many years ago. Increasingly disturbed at the chances of electoral success, he attempted to persuade Ranil Wickremesinghe to be more inclusive in party politics; having tried and failed to make substantial changes in the way that the party was being led, he detected and joined the growing calls for change at the UNP – for more democratization, accountability and inclusiveness. Bodhi Ranasinghe soon established himself as the principal aide to Sajith Premadasa who he passionately believed would make the difference between success and oblivion for the party.
In a statement Sajith Premadasa said that Bodhi Ranasinghe played a pivotal role in the reform of the UNP and was a close associate of the President Premadasa Initiatives in terms of development and social upliftment of the people of Sri Lanka. He described Bodhi’s untimely and sudden demise as “personally sad” and a “monumental loss, not just for the United National Party, but also for Sri Lanka as a whole”. Bodhi Ranasinghe is survived by his wife Chathuri and sons Weranja and Tamra.