ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday November 4, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 23
Financial Times  

Bala Tampoe - the great union leader

The present trend is to write beautiful lines of words about great personalities in newspapers or magazines, when they depart from us forever. Very seldom, we see a write-up of a living personality; and most of the writers’ intention is not crystal clear, because some writer’s ulterior motive is either political or personal.

I thought of writing a few lines of a great personality who has sweated and toiled for the common worker in the Mercantile and Plantation sectors and also contributed to the country’s economy. This great personality is the General Secretary of the Ceylon Mercantile Union, Bala Tampoe. The CMU consists of approximately 35,000 members. This large membership present and past has been benefited due to the hard work of this great personality. I am confident that the present and past members of the CMU would agree with me. All good deeds of his has been for the common man of the Mercantile and Plantation sectors.
I have no personal connection, affiliation or relationship with him but do have the highest regard and respect for this great personality and leader.

Mr.Tampoe has been in the CMU for a period of six decades or more but has never supported or patronized any political party in the country. This is one of the redeeming features of this exceptional human being, who has worked tirelessly for the downtrodden without any personal gains or glory.

He is well educated, an eloquent speaker, a voracious reader and a unique personality who has the ability to beat any politician in Parliament on any matter. If he was inclined towards any political party, he would have by now been a powerful member of the Cabinet of any government.

Mr.Tampoe is a lawyer by profession and an Advocate but did not practice as a lawyer. Had he done so, he would have earned millions of rupees.

Instead of rupees and cents, he utilized his talent, wealth of knowledge and other resources towards the benefit of trade union work in uplifting the downtrodden masses of the mercantile and plantation sectors of this country. He never tried to earn money, but only wanted to serve for the betterment of his people and he could be compared with leading personalities such as the late Dr. Colvin R.De Silva and G.G. Ponnambalam Q.C.

The membership of the CMU gifted him a Volkswagen many years ago and although the membership requested him to upgrade it to a newer one, he preferred to remain with the old car which he is using to-date. This too is another redeeming feature of this great leader of the common worker.

Unlike the present union leaders and despite being an ardent trade unionist, he has never intended to interrupt the work of the members at their place of work or take any government to task, thereby putting the lives and employment of the members and their dependents at risk. He had fought many times on behalf of the membership, against the companies and has achieved many milestones which we still enjoy but not known to the new generations. I became a member of the CMU in 1965 and at that time the Union Headquarters was at Upper Chatham Street, Fort. I still recall how we used to gather around this area and join the rally which was led by this great leader marching towards the Hyde Park Corner, shouting the slogan “LONG LIVE CMU’. I am quite confident that all members of CMU, past and present would endorse what I have stated. In the circumstances, the time is right for us to get-together and salute him, and also wish our comrade Mr. Bala Tampoe, the great leader, hero of the common workers, good health, wealth, happiness and long life!.

Nihal Eriyagama


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