The wider family marked the fifth death anniversary of Harold Herat, member of parliamentfor Nattandiya in Sri Lanka and a cousin of Vernon Corea on Friday 31st August 2012. The Daily News in Colombo published this feature on Harold Herat who was at one time Foreign Minister of the Government of Sri Lanka:
Gentleman par excellence – Harold Herat
Hailing from generations of aristocracy both from Kegalle as well as from Chilaw, Harold Herat was the youngest son of Dr Albert Herat and Mrs Dagmar Herat and from a political background where his uncle, Sir Claude Corea, was the first ambassador to the US and another uncle, Shirley Corea, Speaker to the House of Representatives.
The young Herat had no political intentions until one fine day in 1977, President J R Jayewardene (then Prime Minister) invited the budding young lawyer to take over Nattandiya electorate which he did and was MP for over 20 years undefeated and held the portfolios of Plantations, Finance, Justice and Constitutional Affairs and Foreign Affairs until the UNP was defeated and its government collapsed.
But even so his constituents sent him to Parliament to sit in the Opposition. Such was his popularity.
During his illustrious political career, he made no enemies because of his genial nature which found him world leaders as good friends like Benazir Bhutto who was very close to him until she was assassinated.
He gave up a lucrative career as a young lawyer to take over the constituency of Nattandiya from 1977 and was faced with the difficult task of not knowing from where to start. Such was the state the poor were experiencing.
He turned around the agriculture sector as well as the fishing industry that were the main sources of income. Because there had been no leadership, he was faced with deteriorating office buildings that were in near collapse where administration suffered under those trying conditions, some cities looking like ghost cities with cattle roaming about.
There was no power, no dialogue and the poor were suffering. They were living day-to-day.
With energy and enthusiasm Herat got down to business, setting up committees and soon Nattandiya was raising its head. Bridges were spanning waterways, power supplied to every village and a network of bus services for both public and schoolchildren.
Fishing industry was zooming with old boats replaced by mechanized boats. Coconut industry and paddy farming were forging ahead.
Marawila became the international scene for the Batik industry and was gaining almost equal recognition as tea.
Cruel hand of death
Herat spared no pains; youth were absorbed into employment. Skilled training was provided for those who failed in their education. Schools were upgraded with a National School. Sports flourished while producing national players. Herat gave due place for all religions, he was a friend of the church and temple.
A devout Christian, never missed church on a Sunday with his family, setting a good example that religion plays a vital role in man’s life. He simply waded through all these with ease and dedication with the poor in mind.
Herat along with Gamini Dissanayake, Lalith Athulathmudali and Ranil Wickemesinghe made up the foursome that leapt into popularity the moment they became MPs in 1977.
They were all eager, enthusiastic and full of exuberance and President JR Jayewardene nurtured them towards what they all achieved later until two were assassinated, one died too early and the surviving one in an utter political mess.
‘May the green grass on his grave keep fresh like his life.’