APPRECIATIONS - 2006
A rare person who did much in a short lifespan
I recall the scene vividly even though three decades have passed. Not even the torrential downpour on the day of Bamunuarachchige Don Dharmasena’s funeral at Homagama could keep the vast crowds from all parts of the country from attending the funeral.
They had gathered that day to pay their final homage to the man who had made a deep impact on their lives during his years of public service.
At the prime age of 43 years Dharmasena bade goodbye to his beautiful wife Sheela, three young children and his wide circle of relatives and friends. His untimely death came as a great shock to everybody. His demise was due to a severe heart-attack. He was unaware of being a victim of a heart condition that gathered momentum and led to his sudden death on December 21, 1974, at Yala.
Dharmasena was a wild life enthusiast. He never failed to spend his holidays with his family at the Yala holiday resort at least twice a year. Interested in photography he used all his skills to get the best shots of wild animals, which he had done on this occasion as well for the last time.
B.D. Dharmasena, famously called “Dharme” by his close associates was the Managing Director of the High Level Road Bus Company Ltd, the pioneer bus company in the country. His appointment as Managing Director at the age of 22 years created history in the transport industry, as the youngest to hold such a high position in the transport industry.
Dharme was a much loved philanthropist, a charming character, teetotaller, patriot and lover of nature. His death created a void that will never be filled and a heartache that was destined to remain forever.
It was on August 24, 1974 at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) Pavilion that Dharmasena, E.A.P. Edirisinghe and myself were installed as Charter Members of the Lions Club of Thimbirigasyaya. On the day of the Charter Presentation held at the Grand Oriental Hotel (GOH) on November 9, 1974, Lion Dharmasena volunteered to host the dinner in honour of the then Lions District Governor Lion Dunstan De Alwis, at his residence at Longden Place, Colombo 7 in January 1975. It was not to be.
He left us a few weeks before casting a pall of gloom on the entire Lions Movement.
Having Dharme as a close friend was a rewarding experience for me. Many were the trips on which he invited me to join him. They were all memorable, enjoyable and pleasant. Dharme was one person who touched the lives of so many people irrespective of their race or status.
A film producer in the late sixties, his first production ‘Kawda Hari’ included famous actresses and actors of that era. Directed by Titus Thotawatte, the film was a hit.
Dharme was a person with rare qualities. I am yet to come across a person of his calibre.
Thank you for the gift of wonderful memories
On your b’day dearest Appachchi ~ Brig. Dharmasiri Kempitiya
It’s nearing the 8th month since you left us Appachchi and your powerful voice and tender care still remain as close to us as you were.
Every morning I awake and before I go to bed all I can think of is how much I miss you. I have learnt to appreciate all that is dear to me ever since you fell ill. It was a terrible thing to befall such a wonderful human being and caring and dear father, but you gave me the opportunity to appreciate every little word you spoke, every memory you shared with us and all the time we spent with you. That is the reason Appachchi, today I look back with no regret, I look back only with a smile on my face and still see you in everything I do and every step I take.
The wheel of samsara keeps rolling on and I find solace in the fact that you have come closer to nearing its end, for I believe that you were so noble and honorable, that the merits you have gathered will keep you safe and will pave the way for you to attain enlightenment.
Your son and daughter will walk your footsteps and make you proud. You were the greatest role model any son or daughter could have. You excelled in sport and you could draw the most beautiful pictures and carve intricate sculptures out of wood. All that wonderful art you created surrounds us and gives us comfort even today.
In the military you are still remembered and honoured as an honest officer, innovator and true gentleman. We look at your pictures today and wonderful memories and stories come flooding back, bringing smiles to our faces. You have done the greatest thing Appachchi, you left us with enough memories to last us a lifetime and keep you near and dear to us always. I am so thankful for that.
I still remember what you told me when you fell ill, “no matter what happens, no matter where I go, I will be with you’ll and be watching you”. I know that is true, because I feel your presence almost all the time.
This is life Appachchi, the end befalls everyone of us sooner or later. An individual can disappear forever, depending on what kind of life he lived. If he lived an honourable life, the more he is remembered and the longer his memory lasts. This is you Appachchi, a man who was honourable and gave the best years of your life to his country and family, this is why you will remain with us as lively, jolly, courageous and caring as you always were.
On your 58th b’day Appachchi, we all wish you the blessings of the Noble Triple Gem and may the path to Nirvana be paved for you with blossoms of merit.
We love you very much Appachchi, Happy B’day!
Memories of a life well lived will live on
Tribute to my late husband, former MP for Balangoda
December 1, 2005 – my husband was not looking well. To me, he looked pale and not his normal self, usually up and about from the early hours in the morning. My husband, the most disciplined man I have ever met had just concluded organizing his electorate for the recently concluded Presidential elections and even for him, this effort had taken a toll on his health.
When our children heard about this, they wanted to return to Colombo from our estate in Balangoda immediately and, knowing my husband’s dedication to his work, sometimes at the expense of his health, my eldest daughter, Roshan, was to come to Balangoda to take us back.
After speaking to our family doctor in Balangoda, my husband also reluctantly agreed to leave his beloved estate and electorate of Balangoda to come to see a specialist in Colombo. As usual, before he left, he was in his office giving instructions to his secretary and later, with his briefcase in hand, he walked slowly but surely to the car.
In Colombo, my husband had to be admitted to hospital as he was frail. From December 2nd to the 9th, although very sick, he was his usual self - impatient at being confined to hospital but taking life as it came. The doctors and nurses were kind to him and he had time to talk to all – including discussing the state of the country with the boy who brought him his meals and listening to what he had to say.
My husband Aboo was not left alone night or day – I, or one of my daughters, were always with him. His schedule was taken care of with dedication and devotion. Those days were also peaceful for the two of us – sitting together in the comfortable large room watching TV, especially the news. I took pleasure in reading to him from the daily newspapers as he was too tired to read himself.
There were the routine visitors – friends and family. Family and others from Balangoda dropped in to see him and then left, telling people in Balangoda that he looked well and that he would be back soon. This was the routine for those days.
Sadly, on December 10, my husband’s condition took a turn for the worse and his health rapidly deteriorated. My daughters were with him every single moment that day and the next, when he was rapidly tiring but had lots to tell them.
Early on December 11, we were all called to the hospital. As it was a Sunday, everyone was at home and rushed to be beside him. That morning, he looked into my eyes deeply and I did not realize that this would be for the last time. That look in his eyes haunts me still. My husband passed away peacefully that day as peacefully as he had always lived. It was that calm look on his face that was commented on by all who came to his funeral, the thousands of people who had always supported him – shedding tears for a man they could always rely on. The cares of his illness had fallen away and he looked at peace and asleep.
These are all in the past now. One year has flown past and as I write my tribute to him, my memories will never fade. The wonderful life we lived together. Our rapport and the special love he had for me and our daughters and grandchildren and the son–in-laws we considered our sons.
We were married for 55 years and it is still like a beautiful dream to me. Everyday brings new thoughts of my husband and the thought he is no longer with us in person brings much sadness and tears silently shed.
Life has to end for all of us who are born in this world and his was a productive and honourable life that contributed to his family, community and country. It is this thought that reconciles me to his death and keeps me brave and helps me keep his memory and vision alive in the years ahead.
~ Salma Aboosally
With limited resources at hand he brought out the best in one and all
L.W.N. Labutale - a principal of high calibre, an eminent administrator of education, and accomplished sportsman died in Kandy a year ago. He was 76. His first death anniversary fell on December 6.
Mr. Labutale started his life as an assistant teacher in 1951 at Pelmadulla Central College after completing his primary and secondary education at Mahinda College, Galle, and Central College, Gampola respectively. At the latter, he was the first student to be enrolled.
His sporting prowess blossomed to the fullest, when he was at the Teachers’ Training College, Maharagama. He was awarded the Thornhill Challenge Cup, after being adjudged the most outstanding athlete in the government services. That was in 1954, and two years later under the tutelage of the renowned Duncan White, he established a new national record in 400 m. hurdles, which stood for many years.
In 1958, the University of London conferred a Bachelor of Arts degree with honours on him. Subsequently he obtained a diploma in teaching English as a foreign language, again from the same university. It was while working as a lecturer at Katukurunda, that he was posted as the Principal of the Central College of Anuradhapura at the relatively young age of 36, along with his wife - herself a teacher.
Although the school was the largest in the province, many including those in the parlance of education considered it as a trouble spot.
Noticing the low levels of discipline, he launched on a project to build a shrine room, probably in anticipation of improving moral values, since the vast majority of students came from a Buddhist background. After more than 40 years, the edifice still stands in its pristine glory as a fitting tribute to its builder.
Then he set in motion many extra curricular activities simultaneously.
The college cadet corps after intense training under its indefatigable master-in-charge Amaradasa and the constant motivation of the principal, won the coveted Herman Loos Trophy in 1965. Many in that platoon joined the armed forces, and rose to higher ranks. The present Chief-of-Staff of the Army is one of them.
Then, it was also under his stewardship the school produced its first undergraduate from the science stream.
It was also under his stewardship that the all-island public schools athletics meet was held for the first time in Anuradhapura. To achieve all these, he was fortunate to have the backing of a galaxy of young and talented teachers. Susil Siriwardene - the Oxford alumni whose brain child was Janasaviya, the youthful Gamini Munasinghe, who switched professions later to become a diplomat and Gunaratne who rendered his voice exactly like that of his Guru maestro Sunil Santha, are a few among a vast and colourful staff.
It was during his usual walk from his quarters to the office, minutes before the first bell that we had a chance to see him up close. Clad in full suit in spotless white and holding a briefcase, he would pause to talk to a teacher in a clear and authoritative tone, either in English or Sinhala.
After a successful term of two and half years at Anuradhapura he went to Kingswood to succeed the famous educator Kenneth de Lanarolle, thus becoming the first Buddhist principal of that school. He managed the transition smoothly in the first half of his tenure, and was chosen to follow a one term course in education administration and supervision at Morey House College, Edinburgh, Scotland in 1972.
However, the latter part of his stint at Kingswood was not that smooth, and it was said that political interference was the root cause of it. As a result, he was finally transferred to Poramadulla Central College, where he served as the principal till 1977.
Soon, he was back in contention, this time as the Director of Education, North Central Province. He served three years in that capacity until he was summoned to Colombo to head a new stream called non-formal education. He also served in the reserve police force as a superintendent, until his retirement from the government service in 1987.
Mr. Labutale’s period was undoubtedly the golden era of our school and what he helped achieve with the limited resources, under the given constraints, still remains to be surpassed, particularly in the field of extra curricular activities. We were fortunate to be his students and his influence still remains vividly in our memories. May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.
~ Jayadeva Mayadunne
Pioneer agricultural scientist and illustrious son of the soil
Dr. Ernest Abeyaratne
On December 10th, 1995, a great agricultural scientist who was internationally recognised passed away at the age of 74. I refer to Dr. Ernest Abeyaratne, one of Sri Lanka's finest intellectuals, who retired as Director of Agriculture in 1977 after a long and distinguished career in the public service. Ernest spent the next few years conducting seminal research in a lonely outpost of Palembang (Sumatra) in the capacity of a senior FAO consultant.
Despite his great intellectual stature, he was one of the most unassuming people I knew, who shunned fame, wealth and power and lived a life of utmost honesty and simplicity. A man blessed with deeply humanistic qualities, Ernest devoted his entire life to the Department of Agriculture (DOA) and to the cause of agricultural science. His contributions to the Maha-Illuppallama(MI) Research Station and to the development of dry zone agriculture are too well known to be elaborated upon in this short appreciation. However,one cannot fail to mention his dedication and devotion to research, which he considered more than a duty. For example, he was in the habit of walking barefoot and tending to his experimental plots even at dead of night-a sort of barefoot scientist who would promptly get on a tractor and plough the plots if the driver was absent. He was a man ahead of his time, for he adopted a "participatory approach" to agricultural research long before that term came into vogue in international circles.
Ernest, a distinguished son of Trinity College, Kandy, joined the DOA in the mid 1940s and obtained a PhD in Plant Physiology from Oxford University in the late 1950s. He is best known for his pioneering work at MI in such areas as plant breeding, soil and water management and farming systems research-so much so that his name is synonymous with MI, an institution which he built up from scratch during the first half of his professional career. At MI, Ernest was ably assisted by a first-rate team of officers, including Dr. Walter Fernando (deceased), Mr. Selvaratnam (deceased), Mr. Medagama (deceased), Dr. Chris Panabokke, Dr. E.S. Thevasayagam and Mr. S.H. Charles.
The second half of his professional career was spent mostly at the DOA headquarters in Peradeniya-first as Deputy Director, Extension and second, as Director of Agriculture. As Director, Ernest considerably improved the conditions and service of officers through the establishment of the Agricultural Service, which enabled technical officers to remain in their specialized posts but draw higher salaries with mobility from grade to grade. Earlier, large numbers of officers had to stagnate while awaiting a post to fall vacant, which resulted in many having to retire in utter frustration. These revolutionary changes enabled the DOA to draw the best from its specialized and technical cadres, for which Ernest would be long remembered, together with his massive contribution to make Sri Lanka self-sufficient in rice through a regionally specialized breeding programme linked to a dynamic and well-structured extension programme, which even prestigious international agencies drew inspiration from.
As a person who worked closely with Ernest in the Directorate, I have discerned two facets that revolutionized his life and his thinking. First, as a young undergraduate receptive to new ideas, Ernest would have been greatly influenced by the prominent thinkers and activists of the time - particularly the leading Marxists, who frequently addressed the student unions and had the ability to move the audiences with their superb oratorical skills and powerful ideas. His socialist tendencies would have been enhanced by his close association with the poor, dry zone farmer, whose lot he constantly endeavoured to improve through almost 35 years of dedicated service to the nation. His privileged, upper-middle class background notwithstanding, he put into practice his socialist ideals by leading an utterly simple, honest and sincere life and by pursuing the goal of transforming Sri Lanka's non-plantation agricultural (NPA) sector with single-minded purpose and vigour. Ernest, who was extraordinarily sensitive to the plight of the poor farmer, did much to improve the productivity of the NPA sector through technical, institutional and policy change, thereby making a meaningful and long-lasting contribution to Sri Lanka's economic development.
The next great personal change came during the autumn of his life, largely as a consequence of the simple and rustic existence he led in MI, during which time he paid close intellectual attention to the ancient wonders of the dry zone, including the mighty reservoirs, the towering dagobas, and the ruins of well-laid Viharas and other great Buddhist monuments. Ernest, no doubt, would have been deeply impressed and influenced by these lofty engineering and architectural achievements dating back more than 2,000 years. Not surprisingly, he became a practitioner of Buddhism in his retirement, devoting his time to pursuit of the Dhamma.
Ernest - scientist, humanist, and original thinker - spent the last year of his life hammering out a thoughtful and erudite book on Buddhism on his battered old Remington, which he entitled, 'Findings of Gautama Buddha on the Fundamental Realities of Existence'. The book was published posthumously by his loving and devoted wife, Ranee, and proved to be so popular that a second edition has just been released. In view of his lofty mental and spiritual development, his end was peaceful and so be his sojourn in Samsara. May he attain the bliss of Nibbana!
~ N. Asela Navaratne
My close association with him dates to the mid 1980's when I shifted to my present address which happened to be close to his address where he had been residing with his wife and father and his sister's house almost next door, for sometime.
At that time his father's house too had been earmarked for acquisition for the proposed Marine Drive, in Colombo 4. He happened to tell me once, how unfortunate his father has been on his investments. First, it was his residence at Duplication Road, Colombo 3, and then Melbourne Avenue, Colombo 4 which were successively acquired for road extensions.
In the early 1990's at a party hosted at my place on being elected Vice President of Colombo Law Society he insisted on the phone that Desmond Fernando P.C. twice President of Bar Association of Sri Lanka and President of International Bar Association London, should drop by, for I owed a lot to him on that election.
This was the beginning of a friendship among the three of us. Rama and Desmond a Hindu and a Catholic, had been school friends and classmates at St. Joseph's College, Colombo which included Ven. Gnanapala Thera presently an incumbent Buddhist priest at Vajiraramaya Colombo 4 in their class.
Desmond once told me that his own mother had more than one reminded him that Rama was his best friend.
After his studies in England, where he was enrolled as a member of Honourable Society of Gray's Inn, and having been called to the Bar of England and Wales returned to Ceylon (then) and practised for a short time at the private Bar.
He was picked up by Chief Justice late Mr. Victor Tennekoon and invited to join the Attorney General's Department as a Crown Counsel.
He prosecuted in, and on later elevation to the bench as a High Court Judge served in numerous and distant parts of the country, Galle, Matara, Jaffna, Kurunegala and Anuradapura. He served as President of the Court of Appeal and finally adorned the Bench of Supreme Court of Sri Lanka.
Jayantha Gunesekera P.C. used to tell me that as a Crown prosecutor hewould even make available documents to his opposing counsel, which one was not entitled to. Fair minded and courteous, he would listen patiently to the counsel of both sides, never engaging in slanging matches.
A long standing member of Kennel Club and a very avid dog lover he used to bring up dogs of pedigree and very regularly displayed them at the regular dog shows.
The daschunds were his favourites and one of them, a pup personally brought over from U.K., was a champion and went on to win a coveted title of "Champion of Champions" at a show in Kandy in the 1990's. He shared this interest with the late Mr. Lakasen De Alwis both being very knowledgeable about dogs. We both happened to be pall bearers at the late Lakasen De Alwis's funeral and after I wrote an appreciation. Rama told me "Methsiri you must write something about me too" when the occasion arises.
A superb conversionalist with a wonderful wit, his hilarity at parties was infectious. He was the centre of attraction with his usual bantering and with more than a fair share of food and drinks, usually carried the party with him. The last I saw him in his elegance and usual style was on 31st October 2006 at Desmond's birthday where as usual he made a very lively impromptu toast to the birthday boy.
He was more than a friend and neighbour and almost an elder brother to me. He would always encourage me on my numerous endeavours and was the first to appreciate what was done. Always ready to oblige in many ways, even financially he was liberal with his purse. He was fortunate to have a very understanding wife in Mano.
He was elevated to the highest in the Inns of Court London where he was made a Bencher of Honourable Society of Gray's Inn London.
After retirement from the Supreme Court he functioned as the Governor of Western Province, Chancellor of Uva Wellasa University, Chairman of Human Rights Commission (which he attended the last and the very day he passed away) at the time of his death.
He was a trustee of Vaneeswara Hindu Kovil, Kotahena.
May He attain the supreme bliss of Mosksha
Anil represented all aspects of the social democratic political life of our times. His life and work was a complete picture of the public aspirations of a political leader. He was well accomplished in almost all spheres and dimensions of public life and intellectual ability. Truly, Anil Moonesinghe was a unique political personality in the post-colonial history of our land.
I disagreed with him and I was shattered when he left the LSSP to join the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. But I could understand why he did so, listening to his own reasoning. The democratic and progressive block represented by the several alliances and fronts of the centre-left is now taken for granted. But the birth pangs of this formation was not easy. Anil bore the brunt and pioneered the idea inside the left. He often asked what is the use of being a commander without an army? But I cannot yet reconcile with our (LSSP's) role in a centre-left cabinet dominated by an equivocal leadership, unless it was a limited strategy which it was not. Anil underscored the need of developing a left tendency within the block strong enough of impact on the policies of the government together with the mobilization of the people around their demands and expectations, and thus move on with progressive reforms. Anil never failed to be in the thick of such struggles.
His youthful days in UK absorbed the left programme and the Marxist ideology as a worthwhile purpose of his life. He dived into the depths of the labour movement and the debates of the left. He believed that the revolution would blossom out of the movement of the masses demanding reforms and participating in the process. For this he advocated the need to be entrenched in the midst of the progressive forces without being in revolutionary isolation.
He walked the streets of London in the shivering winter mornings taking the party paper from door to door. He returned to the island as a young Sama Samajist with a vision and as a qualified barrister. He was never content with public speaking without joining the people in arduous tasks and political action. He believed more in real life and action to advance the cause than spend time in theoretical expositions. And impatient Anil will do it himself - any task even before the comrades came along. He was a romantic and nurtured an idealism but never lost the bearings of the practical approach.
He introduced a lifestyle quite new to the Sama Samaja Movement.A simple and down to earth man who shared with his people any, and all circumstances, of hardships. He taught us the frugal way and exposed us to the splendour of nature, when he promised us a comfortable night and parked his vehicle on the bund of the Tissa Wewa to take out a folding bed for a good night's sleep. He was emotional and laughed merrily as much as he wept with his heart for the joys and grievances of his people and comrades.
He was well exposed to the Western culture but he was firmly rooted in his cultural heritage. He took pride in being a grand nephew of the anti-imperialist Anagarika Dharmapala. He was quick to find the vacant areas of Sinhala consciousness in the Sama Samaja Movement and he tried to infuse that element into the party. But this was resisted as chauvinism. He was committed to the hilt in defending the rights of minorities and even welcomed Tamil national consciousness inside the party. He believed that the two nationalisms could be fused whilst others thought that a common nationalism should be invented.
As a minister or a chairman he demonstrated the way to harness the workers' enthusiasm in raising productivity and efficiency. He was a role model as a minister or chairman. He was out on the streets meeting with public and sensing their mood. The constituents from his distant electorate never failed to find the warm hospitality in their MP's home. He shared with them whatever he had. The "Bolsheviks" in the party looked down on these kind traits of Anil as a popularity quest. He built up a formidable Trade Union in the corporations and cooperative sectors within a very short time. For this he vigorously travelled to all corners of the island and his weakness was motor vehicles and the joy of tireless driving.
His debating skills as a Parliamentarian and later, his prowess as Deputy Speaker, were distinguished. The deep commitment to democracy within socialism was manifest in his passionate opposition to Stalinism and dictatorship. For him democracy and democratic rights was scared. Anil was endowed with the rare qualities of leadership, strength of character, vision, commitment to social democracy in actual practice, a heart warming concern for the poor, national pride mixed with a conviction of internationalism and a unique capacity to face challenges. He was eminently suited to be this country's leader of his generation to take the country in a left of centre direction.
It was fifty years ago, Prof. Hardy founded the Regional Technical Training Institute, at Amparai. In the present day, having gone through many different names, it is known as Hardy Advanced Technical Institute. Very recently, the golden jubilee celebrations were held both in Colombo and in Amparai, organised mainly by the Hardy Alumni Association located at Hardy Centre, Ratmalana. Many distinguished guests, including Ministers participated in this event.
Customarily, Prof. Hardy is commemorated on 4th December, annually associated with a charitable event, and a commemorative lecture. This year too it was done and hence I wish to write these few lines to show the great commitment and devotion shown by this Canadian.
I have written earlier too through the columns of the Daily News, about my experiences with him as a student. I am not going to repeat the same as anyone who is interested could find it through the internet. There are many more details about his contributions while in Canada, that could be accessed through the internet search engines. He was a great sportsman as well as a sports administrator.
Therefore today I am going to express my opinions about this great person by looking back at what he did, why he did and how that helped to mould young men to be valuable to society.
"Honesty, Training and Industry", the motto of the Institute, I am certain was an idea that prevailed with the professor, all the time. He dedicated his time from eight in the morning till eight in the evening for the Institute's well-being. He lived in the premises in a simple house where very often in the evenings elephants used to roam around.
This I mention because, after his demise, it was not possible to find an individual with such dedication to succeed him, and hence I believe the Institute did not prosper to the heights which I am certain, the professor had in mind. Though a man from Canada, who had been holding high positions, and enjoyed much more comforts, preferred to be in Amparai, whereas our locals were reluctant to live there. Therefore, it was a problem for the authorities to find even suitable lecturers who were willing to live there.
He believed in training not only on technical matters, but also on day-to-day living. Programmes were set, questionnaires were prepared and followed them through daily, which had a salutary effect on all the students. As far as the technical training was concerned, his main idea was not to promote pen pushers, but individuals who could manage men and machines with the available resources. Not only to direct but also the ability to do and demonstrate. He believed in the day-to-day progress rather than the performances at a final examination.
He expected daily reports to be submitted and he in turn spent his time from 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm in going through them and put his assessment marks. Meanwhile students were expected to be at the "supervised study" in the library. He kept a record of individual student's work. Every student knew this and hence they never failed to submit reports. At times, he would drop into the library and sits with students around 8.30 pm. This was all the supervision he made. This probably is a lesson in time-keeping.
He was a strong believer in the dignity of labour. I have seen his willingness to give a hand in such matters. He wanted the students to carry out certain tasks manually and learn the intricacies involved and to what extend the human factor is involved. Once at a lecture on driver training, he said that even his daughter was not allowed to drive, until she was able to prove that she could change the spare wheel. This showed how much he relied not on the theory alone but on the work that was carried out not in laboratories but with people who are really involved in actual day-to-day work.
In other words, how the work is done in the real environment. This he called 'on the job' training. This involved being at the workplace, when the work starts the disciplines applied to that particular field. Learn from workmen and grasp the theories learnt in the class with the help of these practical people. Some of that may be called trade secrets and that knowledge is difficult to get.
Industry, mentioned in the motto is not connected to any particular industry, but to be industrious in any particular field one chooses. Therefore, those who passed out were fit to be good employees as well as good employers, and it has been proved so. They were fit to serve in any part of the world.
Today communication systems have improved very much and hence acquiring knowledge, at least theoretically, is not remote from any individual. But during those days the Professor got down films and used projectors to impart knowledge.
Professor Hardy, with all his wealth of knowledge and recognition by his own country, was a simple and kind man. While he was at Amparai, University of Saskatchewan awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Laws Degree.
He was liked by everyone and he dealt with everyone with equal respect and empathy. When he inspected the Institute's well laid garden in the sweltering heat or was at his desk in cooler atmosphere, there were no signs of fatigue. Also, though he was a mild person, he did not expect 'no' as an answer. So everybody first had to say 'yes professor and then say, but... professor.
Professor Hardy loved the Institute and its environ. He always showed that each student was in his mind very much closer to him. Whenever he was away on a long vacation with his family, he never failed to send greeting cards with a personal note to each and every student.
He was cremated in the premises as he may have wished. I still remember the day, which was 43 years ago people of all ages and positions, ordinary village folks, where Professor had accompanied them while advising on their agricultural needs, flocked at the premises to show their gratitude. Flower petals were dropped from an Air Ceylon aircraft, organised by the past students. The day's proceedings were filmed by an old Hardrian. He lived till his last breath to serve others.
Benjamin Franklin had said 'Well done is better than well said'. So no need to say more, Professor Hardy did well.
The fourth day of the month of December is the death anniversary of our beloved Professor, who departed us in 1963.
Sri Lanka was fortunate enough to get the services of our Professor who left the shores of Canada after a long tenure, as Professor of Agricultural Engineering at the Saskatchuvan University, to reach our shores in 1951.
At the time he was already 61 years old. After a short stint at Mahaillupallama, providing guidance to our Agriculturists in dry zone cultivation, he reached Amparai to set up the "Regional Technical Training Institute" under the Gal Oya Development Board.
He started from scrap to build up this Institute and made it a reality by 1956. The first batch of trainees were admitted in January 1956. He solely handled the task of formulating the training modules relating to almost all the disciplines taught there, with adequate stress on the relevant practical aspects. An up to date technical library was established by him. This library not only served the trainees but all those who were serving the Gal Oya Development Board.
In addition to our own students several from the developing countries like Thailand, Borneo, Nepal, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia etc. had the good fortune of getting technical training under the guidance of our Professor.
Along with so many others I was lucky enough to get admitted to the Institute by facing an interview panel, headed by our Professor. During the two year residential training at the Institute, Professor taught as earth moving, mechanised dam construction and maintenance of machinery and equipment. His lectures were very vivid incorporating humour to stress important points.On the whole he enunciated that machinery should be used only when a task is not possible within a reasonable time by other means. Also he stressed that one does not deserve to supervise a job, unless he has done the same or similar job at least once with his own hands. That is why he was a firm believer in "On the job training".
Let as all solemnly pay our homage to his soul by perpetuating his ideals.
The light of our home suddenly faded away bringing grief to all of us here. We feel the call was too early but, your Creator decided that it was you, who could fill that void, in that far and distant land blessed with a golden shore. Darling Rehan, it's your sweet face that we cannot see anymore. But, those beautiful memories shall linger forever in hearts and minds till we join you over there.
Darling Putha, you gave us so much joy from the moment you were born. We, your Ammi and Thaththi valued you as the greatest gift given to us by God. The man in you made us proud. Our love for you will continue though we miss you forever. God will stand by your side, till we join you on that golden shore.
Rehan, we were your closest cousin Ayya and Nangi. We cannot erase the lovely childhood we enjoyed with you. Your beautiful smile and that cracking laugh which made us happy always lit any place you were. You stood by your helpless friends, and touched everyone's heart wherever you went. Your multi-faceted friendship around the world was ample testimony of the true gentleman you were. Oh, dear Rehan, you were not only a cousin but also our brother and best friend.
Your memories are carved in our hearts, while you stay awake in our thoughts. However, the void you created in us cannot be filled. We continue to love you, while you Rest in Peace. Putha, this is Bernie Ammi and Remy Mama recalling fragrant memories of you. You were the big man with a large heart, and fun- loving. It was a pleasure to have you around.
You gave more, and that gave you more friends.
We miss you much. Rest in Peace dear son. I am your dearest Achchie, Priscilla- "Darling Rehan, I pen these few lines in grief. You were my pride of life from your boyhood. My thoughts are with you each day. I loved you here, I loved you in death and I shall continue to love you wherever you may be".
"It seems to us that you lived your life, like a candle in the wind,
Never fading with the sunset and when the rains set in ..."
Your fond memories will always stay, along our journeys' path
Your death plunged us into eternal grief, like boulders crashed in ... "
- Ammi and Thaththi
Sir you are gone, but not forgotten
“His life was gentle; and the elements So mixed in him that nature might stand up And say to all the world; this was a man”
This quotation from Shakespeare may well describe Mr. Athukorala, former Principal of Nalanda College who passed away last week. “Passed away” are the right words to describe his demise, for men like him do not die, but fade away. He lives in the hearts and minds of all those who worked under him, or had the good fortune to be his charges during the period 1969-1982.
Pages can be written, and will be written about the services he rendered to Nalanda, but in this appreciation I only mean to write about the wonderful human being he was.
Mr. Athukorala was a humanist, whose heart was full of goodwill and compassion for everyone who crossed his path. Sometimes his kindness was mistaken for weakness, but he was by no means weak. He had the strength of character to withstand all the slings and arrows that were flung in his path.
His unblemished record left him far above his detractors, as these personal reminiscences of Mr. Athukorala will show. I was a teacher at Nalanda during the Athukorala era, and I had the rather dubious reputation of being the 'teacher who wrote character certificates'. As such, I had to meet him often, because I could not write fairy stories of my own, particularly when I was writing character certificates for teachers.
Mr. Athukorala used to be on the watch out for good teachers and he often managed to lure them to Nalanda. On one occasion he brought in a young Chemistry graduate with a proven track record in an outstation school. Naturally, he had to make adjustments in the time tables in the Advanced Level classes to accommodate the newcomer.
One teacher did not like this arrangement at all. The day her timetable was altered she marched into Mr. Athukorala’s office at peak hour, when parents, visitors and clerical staff were all waiting to meet him, spoke to him in the harshest language possible. “She must be giving you something I don’t give you.” Not a word did Mr. Athukorala speak. The perfect gentleman that he was, he let her have her say and swagger out of the office as though she had won the battle. But he took the only step possible. He got her transferred to a bigger school in Colombo.
Two years went by, and one day this person came to meet me saying that she needed a character certificate to seek employment abroad, but could not get one from her present principal. I told Mr. Athukorala about this person’s request, and his reply left me speechless. “Write the best you can,” he said. That was the day I realized that here was a person who was a veritable Bodhisatva. No one else could be so forgiving.
On another occasion, the school carpenter came
with a request to admit a boy to the Advanced Level class. This carpenter and
the boy both happened to be from my village, but I had nothing to do with the
admission. I saw them loitering near the office.
The carpenter did not have the courage to make his request, even though he had bragged that there was nothing he could not do at Nalanda. When Mr. Athukorala came out of his office, as a matter of common courtesy, I told him that the pair were from my village. I did not make a request on their behalf. Later in the day Mr. Athukorala told me, “I admitted the boy the carpenter brought. You know, these schools were meant for poor boys like this. These schools were first built with the poor man’s contributions.” My respect for him grew (It is besides the point that the carpenter had brought one of the richest boys in our area).
His tactics in handling 4000 rambunctious boys are also legendary. To them too, he was kind and gentle. One day a boy came to school sporting the long mop-like hair-style popular at that time, but taboo in schools. The principal saw him, stopped him and began walking around him. The flustered boy asked, “Sir, is there anything wrong?” Mr. Athokorala calmly replied, “No, I was just trying to find whether you had both ears”. The next day, the boy had had his hair cut.
Sir, you are gone, but not forgotten. You have
touched the lives of so many young people that their love and respect for you
will remain until they too are old and grey. To their children, you will become
She now settles into our thoughts and opens up memories’
“Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.” - Eskimo Proverb
A mother, sister, aunt & friend. May the
Angels play soft music as she alights our hearts once more on this day of
She now softly settles into our thoughts and opens up our memories of her. Each of us remembering today her spirited conversations, maybe a spontaneous hug or her quick wit followed by a musical laugh. Or maybe we remember her softly humming or breaking into song as she went about her daily life.
But more than worldly memories, it’s the essence of her spirit that softly seeps into our hearts, making us smile. Her spirit is now set free, skipping and frolicking in the hills of Bandarawela and other magical places of her childhood. She is surrounded by all her beloved animals; these animals who instantly recognize a kind and pure heart.
She lies down amongst them on a grassy hilltop, humming softly and playfully. Her face turns towards the sky, her eyes squinting towards the sunlight while the wind plays softly with her hair. She laughs. A soft breeze helps a flower bend over to lightly brush her cheek while the trees overhead wave their branches to cool her skin.
She sighs, her spirit finally free; finally
You made us appreciate the small things in life
December 1, 2005 was an emotional day for many of us as a devoted wife, responsible mother and loving grandmother answered God’s call, leaving with us, fond memories of her and a house left empty and desolate with memories of the great times we spent beside her.
My achchi, Clarice, in my opinion, gave a whole new meaning to the saying ‘happiness is a journey, not a destination’, as she lived her life to the fullest, making the most of everything that came along her way.
The 57 years she spent married to her one true love, Fred was undoubtedly the best time of her life. My Seeya, Fred was renowned for his great character and perfect life. Indeed, behind every great man is a great woman, and to Seeya, it was her. Achchi adored him. She loved him truly and deeply. So much so, that she never regretted a second she was married to him. She always stood by Seeya at every step, every achievement of his life. Together with Seeya, she moulded her three children to be the best they can be.
They never hesitated to help the less fortunate in whatever way possible. Hence, their lives have inspired us all. The demise of Seeya – precisely five months before she died, was a big turning point in her life. Coping with his death was difficult for her and till the day she died, she missed him a lot. She often counted the days till she would be reunited forever with him.
Achchi was a high-spirited, talkative woman who always enjoyed telling her stories to anyone who would care to listen. As a remarkable mother, she raised her children with great love and care, teaching them to be humble and humane. As a loving grandmother, she always took a keen interest in our daily routines and was the happiest when any of us achieved something in life.
She was well known for her remarkable memory which she never lost, even till her very last day. She would always reminisce about all the fun moments she spent with Seeya and all the sweet and bitter times of her journey. The many stories told by her will always remain in my memory. I recall her telling me often that her life was so beautiful that not once did she regret anything in her life.
Even though the past 12 years of her life were spent in a wheelchair, she never allowed this to be a handicap and carried on happily.
Gone are the days I spent hours beside her, listening to her stories about her childhood, her life with Seeya, and the days I joined her in her prayers. The little time we spent together brought happiness and joy for her and all those long conversations I had with her are definitely being missed.
Never did she fail to wait for me till I came
home from school, or my sister, from work. I recall her telling me how much she
enjoyed seeing me walking home. She found happiness in such small everyday
events in life and thus, inspired me to do so as well. I’m certain that such
grandmothers are rare and I consider myself lucky to have had her as mine. I
believe that she, together with Seeya, is looking down on all of us, and their
spirits will always be among us and guide us through our lives.
Open your eyes, love and go on
Death is not the extinguishing of the light, but the putting out of the lamp, because Dawn has come. - Rabindranath Tagore
“You can shed tears that she is gone,
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all she's left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see her,
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her only that she is gone,
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what she'd want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”
In remembrance of our beloved Grandmother,
mother & friend. May our hearts sing in her memory and our souls find our way
back into her arms when our Dawn has come
From cadet to 4-star admiral, he strode on like a colossus
Admiral Ananda Silva V.S.V.
On the seventh death anniversary of Admiral Ananda Silva, V.S.V. who strode like a colossus for nearly 40 years from cadet to 4-star admiral, I would like to pen a few thoughts.
Admiral Silva began his career in the Royal Ceylon Navy as a young naval cadet and was sent for training at the prestigious Royal Navy Training Establishment at Dartmouth in the United Kingdom.
I commenced my own naval career when Admiral Silva, was holding the coveted position of Commandant of the Naval and Maritime Academy in Trincomalee. I later served on his staff when he was Naval Officer-in- Charge, Trincomalee and later at SLNS “ Gemunu” where he served as the Commanding Officer, prior to his promotion as the Chief of Staff and later as the Commander of the Navy. Above the Commandant’s Office in the Naval Training Academy in Trincomalee carved in thick brass is the challenging motto, “ Duty is the great business of a naval officer. No private considerations should give way to it, however painful it may be”. Admiral Silva conducted his long naval career true to its word. The Navy was his life!
At the very outset of my career I noted that the then Commander Silva was strict and set high standards of good order and naval discipline by his own exemplary manner which ensured that naval orders and instructions, naval customs and traditions (written and unwritten) and service protocols were observed at all times, with the high standards of conduct trickling down from the top. He continued his career in this manner to the very end.
Though strict at all times, Admiral Silva always acted in a fair, polite, soft spoken and gentlemanly manner and upheld naval law at all times. The chain of command was followed to the letter. His unstinted support was there at all times provided the law was upheld and the right thing was done.
Few are aware that Admiral Silva was a keen angler and used to cast his line off the Honeymoon Cottage pier at the inner yard in Trincomalee and had great pleasure in talking about the day’s fishing at the bar.
It’s a common saying that the “good die young” and this was yet another example. It came as a surprise to me as his doctor for many years to hear that Admiral Silva passed away following a heart complaint.
He had never complained of
any serious illness during my own career as a Medical Officer in the Navy for
two decades and more!
Admiral Silva left behind his dear wife Chitra and three lovely children who were all patients of mine for a long period of time, a wonderful naval family.
“ His life was gentle and the elements so well mixed that even Mother Nature will stand up and say, ‘This was a man’.”
Always in step with comfort, style and health
P.A.C. Perera (Christy)
The proprietor of the Ceylon Boot Manufactory, P.A. Christy Perera passed away one year ago. It was an irreparable loss to all who knew him.
Christy was from a family reputed for hand-made leather footwear. The Ceylon Boot Manufactory is well known for its fashionable high quality shoes.
For Christy, footwear manufacture was a science. His shoes were never out of step with one’s health or skin. They were comfortable and light to the feet, while being strong and durable.
I can still get the fragrance of the leather top and crepe rubber sole of these shoes from my schoolboy days. My classmates and friends often asked me from where I bought them.
Christy was soft spoken and kind. He was honest and sincere. He was dedicated to his work.
I guess only a few Sri Lankans are aware that most presidents and prime ministers of our country obtained the services of Christy to provide them with quality footwear.
Most of the medical specialists and paramedics, on board the ‘Hope’ ship that dropped anchor at Colombo harbour and stayed there for a while to the public giving healthcare opportunities to the public, collected their leather footwear from the Ceylon Boot Manufactory.
Christy was a devoted husband and dutiful father.
He was a devout Catholic. His way of life was serene and worthy of emulation. I’ve heard that he used to rise early to milk the cow and contribute his share of work towards the family.
He managed his workforce with a human touch. Over the years he gave employment to many. He was lavish in helping the needy. Whenever a former employee made a courtesy call on him he never forgot to slip some money into his pocket.
Many are the nostalgic memories when passing the CBM shop. When we were young, for Christmas and New Year our parents took us on a shopping spree.
My mother would take us to Christy’s shoe shop and after buying our requirements we stayed in the company of Christy till father came from his office at Slave Island. Christy used to telephone my father’s office to say that we had arrived. Afterwards we would continue our journey to Colombo Fort and Pettah with father.
Our heart-felt condolences go to his wife Mary, daughter Concy and sons Percy, Malcolm, Kingsley, Ranjan and Keerthi. We all miss Christy dearly. May the angels guide him to paradise.
He stood by his decisions and convictions
Cricket umpire Upali Ariyawansa passed away on November 13 at the age of 59, after a brief illness.
Born on October 20, 1948 Upali joined the Association of Cricket Umpires in February 1970 in the good old days when the ‘white coat’ was an essential part of an umpire.
An unassuming and soft-spoken individual, he soon became a respected and bold decision maker who achieved Grade I umpiring status in a matter of only seven years. This speaks volumes for his umpiring skills and dedication to acting without fear or favour. If not for his sojourn to the Middle East during the peak of his career to find greener pastures, I am sure Sri Lanka would have had another son of the soil on the ICC’s elite Panel of Umpires.
I have moved closely with him and what impressed me most was his conduct during the time he was a Vice President and Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee of our association. A hard task master he was never afraid to call a spade a spade and then face the consequences.
I still remember his motto and advice to young umpires and scorers during his time in office: “Umpires and scorers are not on the playing side. We are not on any side, we do not care who wins. Such considerations would create an impossible conflict of interest for us. Truth is not some sort of prize to be awarded to whoever wins. Truth is forever – truth is the daughter of times.”
As an administrator he had
no peers. He was a bold decision maker and stood by his convictions.
Farewell Ari, may the turf lie gently over you.
‘Thank you for the good times we shared at Seeduwa’
Cecil Herbert Goonewardene
My mother’s eldest brother Cecil died on November 8, leaving behind his wife Amara, daughters Asanthi and Anusha, and family members, friends and a plethora of memories.
My earliest recollections of Cecil maama, as he was fondly known by my brother and I, were at his house in Seeduwa.
We had lots of fun and good times there, playing cricket and other games, picking mangoes and rambuttan, going on adventures, riding bikes, playing cards and eating the most delicious food cooked by nandi.
Our week-ends at Seeduwa were eagerly awaited . We would catch the train from the Fort Railway Station and stop at Seeduwa.
Maama’s house was just a stone’s throw from the station and we would practically skip to his house for a fun-filled weekend. The following weekend would usually be a return at our house. Sometimes extended family members would also join us.
My uncle who had an engineering background was meticulous and neat. His house, books and furniture were always kept in order. He admired the German ethos and way of life and would tell us stories of his time there. He also had a penchant for the Volkswagen car and I remember his spotless white Volks 5 ‘shri’ 8121.
He was extremely proud of his two daughters and their achievements and also my brother. He had a soft spot for me as I was the youngest of the foursome. Fair complexioned with a moustache he was my Sudu-Maama.
He could sing very well and I still remember him singing, Sihina Lovey and Mindada ghee.
Meeting our two lovely akkies and their adorable children Nihara, Pramuka, Akansha and Nishitha recently, brought back those special childhood memories. In the hustle and bustle of our busy lives today those days seem to be idyllic, like stories out of a children’s favourite book.
And as my brother succinctly put in a final word, “…we must always find time for our loved ones and not make excuses. We must just go and see them and be with them...and not wait until they die”.
So, ‘Thank you’ from all of us Cecil maama for what you have been to the entire family. You will always be in our hearts. May your soul rest in the loving hands of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
I’ll always be with you
“Your love is eternal”
When the snow was falling,
And the bells tinkling by,
There you were grandpa,
Over heaven high,
You clasped my hand,
And took me by,
To show the tender memories,
Of our lives
You were the inspiration
Of my life,
Holding my hand you taught me
Left and right,
Holding me on your shoulders
As if to say,
That I won the world in a day
The day you passed away
I could not bear,
You touched my head
With gentle care,
“Don’t worry,” you said to me
“In every birth you’ll be mine”
Dear grandpa I hope your wish is true,
Wherever you are I’ll be with you.
She taught us many of life’s lessons
Sirancee Gunawardena - Sunday Times Dec 3 2006
" I thank my God upon every remembrance of you"
These words, in St. Paul’s letter to the Phillipians, Ch. 1, verse 3, capture what is in the hearts and minds of many pupils of Ladies’ College who were privileged to have Sirancee Gunawardena as our Principal.
Whenever I think of Sirancee Gunawardena, I am amazed at the enormous impact someone so quiet and so unassuming had on so many. She was Mrs. Gunawardena, Sirancee Gunawardena or Mrs. G to generations of teachers and pupils in the school; Sirancee to her acquaintances and professional colleagues; Siro to her close friends, aunty Siro to her many nieces; and loved and respected by all of us. At her funeral service held a month ago, the present Principal, a former pupil, spoke of her faith, her humility and her life of service. On November 27 her birthday, I pay tribute to her vision, her courage, her enthusiasm and her empathy.
Mrs. Gunawardena was appointed the first Sri Lankan Principal of Ladies’ College in 1968. Under her vision and guidance, during the next three decades, the school succeeded in maintaining unity in diversity and a fine balance between “book learning” and the other important aspects of education, in the deeper sense of the word--a sense of integrity and sound values, a sense of responsibility and discipline, a sense of community and a sense of humour. She enthusiastically embraced diverse interests, and this helped to create a culture in the school of appreciation of different talents, a tolerance of others’ beliefs and weaknesses and a striving for excellence. It was her courage that led the school on that focused, unwavering path, through a period when vast economic and political changes were taking place in the country, and there was relentless pressure on the education system in Sri Lanka. Many of us feel that we owe much of what we are to that courageous vision and life’s lessons that we learnt in our school.
She gave each of her students the space to develop, and encouraged and nurtured their various talents, whether academic, artistic or organizational, with trust and confidence. Whatever the problem, Mrs. Gunawardena’s office was always accessible to any student at any time.
Her empathy with the students was legendary. I remember an incident in my time, when a pupil vandalized the grand piano in the Hall. The teacher who discovered it wanted to give that child 10 black marks, but Mrs. Gunawardena said “No, bring the child to me. She must be disturbed by something, because no one would willingly damage such a beautiful piano”. That was her sensitivity and understanding. Years later, another batch of her students wrote of our school “this was our second home”. The teaching staff too, were given their own space to harness the pool of student talent around them and achieve excellence. In the words of a former teacher, “She believed in all of us, so everyone could achieve something”.
The achievements during her time as Principal were many. Her far sighted vision recognized, well before governments did, the need for vocational skills training and IT education, when she built the DVS in 1981 and established an Information Highway, complete with computer lab, in 1991. It was years later that successive Sri Lankan governments put these plans on their own development agendas. She ensured the safety of all those under her care in a shattering bomb blast, and thereafter, rebuilt the school out of that destruction in 1993, together with the support of old girls, teachers, students and their parents. She enhanced the school buildings and environs, including constructing the swimming pool in 1992 and the Grade 5 block in 1995, which was later named after her on her retirement in 1997.
There were so many achievements by the students, under the able direction of their teachers, in sports, drama, music, art and academia. These were not her achievements alone, but a collective team effort under her guidance and commitment. That was the harmonious, empowering atmosphere she created around her, including where former pupils and teachers were always made to feel so welcome in the school. She battled ill health with fortitude, and harnessed her creative energy with dedication. Her book on Ola manuscripts was published in 1996. It was so fitting that, on its Founder’s Day this year, the school was able to launch her book of children’s stories.
The memories and accolades are many, but finally, it is the individual that we remember, with such love, respect and gratitude - her creativity, her simplicity, her vision, her faith, her courage, and her life of service to our school. Memories of her quiet strength, her soft voice and her radiant smile that crinkled her eyes, will remain with us. We thank her children, Aruni, Ruwanthi and Anil, for the sacrifices they would have made as her nucleus family, that allowed her to devote her energy and her time to her extended family at Ladies’ College. We share in their sorrow.
One of her former pupils referred me to
another quotation from St. Paul’s letter to the Phillipians, Ch 4 verse 8 that
epitomises the way she lived her life. “Finally brethren, whatsoever things are
true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever
things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good
report; if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on those
things.” May she rest in peace.
She will always be remembered for her selfless service and approachability
Not even the torrential downpour on the day of Sirancee Gunawardana’s funeral could restrain the vast crowd from attending the service at the Ladies' College Chapel and the final obsequies.
She was a much loved Principal. Both staff members and students will remember her for her amiability, selfless service and approachability. She was most appreciative and found the time to show it. On reading my article on past Principals in the Daily News for the 90th Anniversary of the school she wrote an acknowledgement of which the following is an extract. “Your intimate knowledge of the school would have inspired you. Thank you for handing over so many bouquets. I don’t think we deserve all of it. It makes me feel quite embarrassed. It’s so awkward seeing things about one’s self in print. I prefer to do things quietly, away from the limelight. Nevertheless, thank you for your article.” I expected no reply, yet she was gracious enough to write.
As Principal, Mrs. Gunawardana inculcated in her students the need to look not only within their immediate purview, but also beyond it. The purpose of learning had to be multi-faceted rather than restricted to only passing examinations.
She, in her own way was one whose interests were many and varied. They ranged from archaeology and wild life conservation to literature and the arts. She was also a Life Member of the Royal Asiatic Society and an honorary member of the Symphony Orchestra. In addition to her onerous duties as Principal she was also, Editor of the wild life journal ‘Loris’. Sometime later she published an authoritative treatise entitled ‘Medieval Palm Leaf Manuscripts of Sri Lanka’.
The Department of Vocational Studies is a concrete example of her farsightedness. It has been catering to the contemporary needs of school leavers by providing a vast range of job oriented courses. This enterprise of twenty five years duration so far has proved its worth and put so many youth on their feet enabling them to fend for themselves.
The swimming pool was another brainchild of hers, built at a time when no other girls’ school had one. As a result, swimming was given a place in the school curriculum.
Mrs. Gunawardana’s great contribution to the development of the school has not gone unsaid, yet that is not all she will be remembered for. Much greater was the person that she was. She may not have been a self -avowed missionary, nevertheless her serenity of spirit, which not even a horrendous bomb blast at Flower Road junction could shatter, could only have been derived from a deep faith in God whom she worshipped. It is this indomitable courage that enabled her to not only overcome the difficult patches, but also meet challenges head-on.
The fact that the school with every building in some measure or other affected was still able to function and even conduct examinations within a week of the explosion, speaks volumes for Mrs. Gunawardana’s tremendous resourcefulness and grit.
Also worth mentioning was her unimpeachable integrity no matter what the odds. This was something which she, like her predecessors never compromised, for what is right can never be circumvented by corrupt means.
In the tribute paid to her at her funeral service by Nirmali Wickremasinghe, the present Principal, she mentioned that the new multi-storied buildings including the modern cafeteria were all constructed from the funds saved for the school during Mrs. Gunawardana’s time.
Having known Sirancee as a close friend was to me a very rewarding experience. Many were the trips we went on together. She was one who touched the lives of so many people. Her credo if she had one, could well have been:
Measure thy life by loss instead of gain,
Not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth -
For love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice,
And he who suffers most has much to give.
He served all with cheerful disposition
Dr Upali Weerasena
Dr. Upali Weerasena was a popular medical practitioner who served the Cooperative Hospital at China Garden, Galle for more than two decades. Prior to this assignment, he served in many medical department institutions in various parts of the island till he reached the statutory age of retirement. Upali had a cheerful disposition and was fortunate to have a wiry athletic figure which ensured him continuous good health. Unlike his colleagues and even his juniors who gave up their respective jobs and sought a retired life, he batted on. He died on October 15 just two weeks prior to his 86th birthday.
Upali was an ‘out and out’ Galle man who virtually knew everybody there. He was educated at Mahinda College during the Golden Era of the much revered E. A. Wijesooriya. Anada Samarakoon who composed our National Anthem joined the Mahinda College staff after leaving ‘Ratnasara’ Baddegama and lodged in the college hostel. During this period there were many other reputed teachers who contributed to our welfare at Mahinda. I spent seven years of my early formative life under the roof of Upali’s parents’ home.
Their house was located opposite Mahinda’s north gate. The strong bonds I had with Upali’s family lasted many decades. Upali’s father was a strict disciplinarian and his mother who was from Akuretiya, Baddegama was a courteous and religious lady.
Upali was an athlete and senior cadet who had a flair for art. He won the College art prize when a talented art teacher W. S. de Mel from Moratuwa was on the Mahinda staff. In the course of time Upali passed the SSC and qualified to enter the Medical College, Colombo .
He followed the two-year course for Registered Medical Practitioners as it is known today. Upali’s younger brother Mahinda also completed his pre-medical and joined the Medical College to do his MBBS. I was junior to them by a few years. I also passed the SSC but had no particular goal except to do higher studies. Upali was already in Colombo and encouraged my parents to send me to Colombo. Upali and his brother Mahinda found lodgings for me at Kollupitiya.
During Upali’s first appointment at ‘KKS’, I got the opportunity to travel all over the Jaffna Peninsula. His next posting was to a major irrigation works at Dewahuwa, off the Galewela Kekirawa Road. During this time he married Sumana, a quiet dignified lady with means from a respectable family at Hirimbura, Galle.
By a coincidence, I was attached to the Nuwara Eliya Forest Office immediately on my return from Oxford and Upali was posted to Udupussellawa Hospital with his new bride Sumana.
I used to be a frequent visitor to Udupussellawa during long weekends. Upali had three daughters and two sons. In September this year while Upali was holidaying with Ramani at Moratuwa he was unfortunate to slip down the stairs and injure his hip. While he was recuperating at his youngest daughter Nelum’s house in Galle, I received a telephone call informing me of the unfortunate incident. He had told the daughters that he would like to see me.
My son Samantha, knew about our close friendship. He readily agreed to take me down to Galle which we did on September 16. We recalled many happy memories and Upali agreed to see me in Colombo once his plaster was removed.
However, this final meeting was not to be. Ramani informed me that Upali had recovered from the hip injury fully and he was planning to start work at the Cooperative Hospital on October 16. However, on the 15th night he passed away in his sleep.
He set an unparalleled record
November 24, 2006 marks the 33rd death anniversary of Al Haj Dr. A.M.A. Azeez, an eminent scholar, educationist and visionary, who worked wholeheartedly towards the betterment of the Muslim community in Sri Lanka. His work, especially in the sphere of Mulim education, has indeed been beneficial to the community.
Azeez was born in Jaffna on October 4, 1911. He was from a well respected and educated family. His father, S.M. Aboobucker J.P., was a leading lawyer, Vice Chairman of the Jaffna Urban Council, Quazi and first outstation President of the All Ceylon Muslim League. After his early education at Allaphichai Quran Madrasa, Vaidyeshwara Vidyalayam and Jaffna Hindu College, Azeez graduated with honours in History from the University of London in 1933. Even though he proceeded to Cambridge on a government scholarship to pursue post-graduate studies, he opted to join the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service. He was the first Muslim civil servant in this country. He never forgot his roots in Jaffna, where he received an education that made him a scholar in Tamil and a versatile exponent of both Islamic and Hindu philosophies. These gave him a broad outlook and the University of Jaffna conferred a posthumous doctorate on him at its first convocation. It is just as well that Azeez did not live to see the senseless and cruel dismembering of the Jaffna Muslim community.
He had many important positions within the Ceylon Civil Service, excelling in each and every one of them. He is best known for dedicated work in his efforts to raise the living standards of the Sri Lankan Muslim community in particular. In 1942, as Assistant Government Agent in Kalmunai, he transformed the landless Muslim farmers of the Eastern Province to land owners. The district soon became the granary of the East and continues to be so.
His main concern was with education for Muslim youth. He founded the Kalmunai Muslim Educational Society in 1942. Poverty was identified as one of the main factors which prevented many eligible and intelligent students from furthering their education. This prompted Azeez, the visionary, to initiate The Ceylon Muslim Scholarship Fund in May 1945. As of today more than 2000 deserving students, including this writer, have benefited.
To train the youth leadership and social service, Azeez inaugurated the Young Men’s Muslim Association Conference in 1950, which has numerous branches in all areas of the island.
His service in the Civil Service did not last long. After the general election in 1947, T.B. Jayah tendered his resignation as Principal of Zahira College to join the Cabinet of Ministers. The mantle fell on A.M.A. Azeez and he accepted the challenge to become the Principal of Zahira with hope and enthusiasm. Azeez has left indelible footprints in the sands of time, and Zahira College is one among many.
I was a fifth standard student at Zahira and watched with awe when two stalwarts, T.B. Jayah and A.M.A. Azeez were walking the school grounds on the morning of August 23, 1948, when Azeez ceremoniously accepted the principalship of Zahira. In the evening, the first major event presided by the new principal was the unveiling of the portrait of Jayah by the Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake at the Ghafoor Hall. This was truly a historic day for Zahira.
Azeez exhibited his efficient administration and outstanding leadership qualities by grooming Zahira into one of the leading schools in the country. The achievements in a very short spell of his career are unparalleled. Zahira excelled in education, sports and other extra-curricular activities such as music and drama. In his own words, “Zahira was the radiating centre of Muslim culture, thought and activities”.
For the benefit of the students, various associations were formed such as the Science Club, Curia Historica, Iqbal Society, Sinhalese Society, Dramatic Society, Art Club etc. Being a Tamil scholar, Azeez encouraged the Tamil Manram resulting in a fine crop of Zahirians who later dominated in literature and other fields in Tamil. Fresh ideas applicable to Zahira such as the Students' Council were introduced soon after his tour of the USA on a Smith-Mundt scholarship in 1952. The Cultural Centre too was built in the College premises which accommodated the Islamic library, publication bureau and an Islamic research centre. All these were formulated towards achieving Azeez’s final goal of establishing at Zahira a Muslim Cultural University in the lines of the Vidyodaya, Vidyalankara and Hindu Cultural Universities. Those around him were able to see his mission but unfortunately the dream was shattered when the foolhardy among the community failed to follow through with this great leader’s vision resulting in the state Zahira is in today.
Though his dream was not fulfilled and denied to him in his country, Azeez’s contribution to education was recognized in neighbouring India. Just two months before his death he was invited to inaugurate the Tamil Nadu Muslim Educational Conference in Madras and was honoured with a “Golden Shawl”. Being a visionary the disappointment did not stop him from imparting his knowledge and experience in founding the Jamiah Naleemiah. He gave his expertise to this Institute until Allah called him back from this world prematurely. Inna Lillahi Wainnah Ilaihi Rajioon.
Dr. A.M.A. Azeez has set an unparalleled record and will be remembered as a distinguished scholar, a comptent administrator, renowned educationist and above all as a man of unquestionable honesty and integrity. He was a modest, unassuming and humble gentleman approachable at any time by anyone. His achievements, deeds and dedication will be an example to present day leaders of all communities. He is the only Sri Lankan to be honoured by his inclusion in the “100 Great Muslim Leaders of the 20th Century” published by the Institute of Objective Studies in India.
Appreciation - Sunday Leader Nov 12 2006
It was with great sorrow and a sense of loss that I learnt of the demise of a co-teacher and friend, Mahilmalar Jayasingam.
The winds of change run swiftly now and what once loved seems lost, yet fond memories of a distant time will always strengthen and warm our hearts.
To live, to know and then to part is the saddest thing. The time we spent together during the good old days when she was on the staff of Chundikuli Girls’ College, now a cherished memory. Those of us who knew her closely will miss her greatly but will remember her with love and affection.
When I was appointed to the staff of Chundikuli Girls’ College in 1956, the middle school was manned by some able teachers and Mahilmalar Jayasingam was one of them. These teachers considered teaching as a vocation and had an impact on the lives of students who passed through them.
She was a double trained diploma teacher, and by her sincerity and friendliness, she maintained a good relationship with all the students which will never be forgotten by them.
She took great pains to see that students entrusted to her mastered the Tamil language and mathematics with perfection. She was everything a teacher should be and was blessed with a good memory — she knew every student by name and their family history.
She was a very sympathetic lady and went out of her way to help students under her charge and was dearly loved and revered by the students.
As a senior teacher she held the position as the house mistress of Page House for a very long time and took a lively interest in all the activities of the House.
She lost her husband quite early in life and with courage singlehandedly brought up her children. She was a loving, affectionate, dutiful and precious mother to her three sons Jayandran, Ravi and Puvi.
God tests different people in different ways and in different situations. Life’s trials and tribulations are varied and different from person to person. During the last few years due to her deteriorating health she was confined to her home.
God seeing her getting tired and cure not possible, put his arm around her and whispered ‘come to me.’ Her Lord called her, so she had to go, to be safe in the arms of Jesus.
That which seemed a sad ending with red and tearful eyes, may be mercy in disguise, for her soul was pleasing to the Lord. Even through she had departed from the world, the exemplary life she led will be always be remembered with love and gratitude by all who were associated with her.
May her dear soul enjoy the divine peace, which she richly deserves.
L. P. Jayaveerasingam
Ex. Principal, Chundikuli Girls’ College
A life of dedication away from the public glare
~ Sirancee Gunawardene ~(nee Samaraweera)
We record with sorrow the death of Sirancee Gunawardene, former Principal of Ladies’ College and Founder Member, Mithuruwela, the Cancer Support Network.
My acquaintance with Mrs. Gunawardene began when as Sirancee Samaraweera, she was the Senior Art teacher at Ladies’ College. We used to look forward to her classes because they were a refreshing change from the set patterns of our other classes. More particularly we enjoyed them because they were the only school periods in which we knew we had the licence to walk out. We would often convince our teacher that our artistic masterpieces needed a bunch of leaves that could be found only at the far end of the school garden. Art classes with Mrs. Gunawardene were therefore glorious afternoons of leisurely sorties around the school grounds, smugly aware that we could not be punished, even by our formidable principal, Miss Simon.
In 1968, our gentle, kind Art teacher herself became the principal of Ladies’ College.
The Centenary Volume which charts the history of the school records that she was the first Sri Lankan to be so appointed. During her tenure as Principal, she was to change the ethos of the school into a setting which reflected the diverse cultures of the various communities that formed our nation. Her attempts to ensure that Ladies’ College embraced as many traditions as possible while providing the best of education are echoed in her own career achievements.
During her period as Principal, she managed to complete a course in Education at the University of Oxford, a Diploma in Buddhism and a Master’s degree in Archaeology. Her abiding interest in history culminated in the publication of “ Mediaeval Palm Leaf Manuscripts of Sri Lanka” and her concern for all things natural saw her taking up the post of Editor of ‘Loris’, the journal of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society.
Apart from these personal achievements, Mrs. Gunawardene was also to steer the school through some of the bleakest and most demanding moments of Sri Lanka’s recent past – the youth insurrections of 1971 and the late 1980s, the horrendous ethnic riots of 1983, and in 1991, the bomb blast at the neighbouring JOC headquarters. The fortitude and courage she showed in dealing with these events is reflected in the way she dealt with her illnesses.
Her frail health however, did not deter her from adopting new interests. So when we broached the possibility of establishing a much-needed support group for cancer patients and care-givers, her espousal of our cause was a warm-hearted indication of her dynamic spirit. With characteristic enthusiasm, she drafted a constitution for the newly-formed organization, and pressed her hospitality on us, opening her home in Rosmead Place for our early discussions.
Her subsequent ill-health prevented her from taking a major role in Mithuruwela’s activities, but she was always happy to hear of our progress. Some months ago, when illness struck again, I visited her in hospital. She was obviously weakened, but was as buoyant as ever, and on her sick bed was putting the finishing touches to a charming set of children’s stories, written and illustrated by her. “I am ready to go anytime,” she told me, “but while I am waiting, I thought I’d finish this.”
Mrs. Gunawardene lived a life of dedication to all that she undertook, away from the glare of publicity. Her many achievements are a testimony to the ideals she believed in.
To us at Mithuruwela, she
was a Founder Member, a role model who epitomized the truth that cancer may
invade the body but cannot destroy the spirit. To Mrs Gunawardene, we offer
thanks for all she has given us, and to her family, our sincerest condolences on
Courageous to the end, she radiated love
~ Ranee Kadirgamar ~
“After a long illness bravely borne”, are words one sometimes reads in obituaries about unknown people. I learned its full implication only when such an illness struck my friend, Ranee Kadirgamar – erect, always beautifully attired, smiling and serene, Ranee who died on October 22 after three years of a debilitating disease, gallantly borne.
Her posture and her attire inevitably changed due to the nature of her illness, but her smile and her serenity remained unchanged to the end.
Ranee (nee Abraham) was a product of Jaffna College where, besides being a good student, she shone in extra-curricular activities like English drama, singing, oratory, Girl Guides and the Junior YWCA. In 1958 Ranee married Alagan Kadirgamar, the young and dynamic General Secretary of the Central YMCA. She was teaching in Jaffna at the time, but later joined Alagan in Colombo and taught English in government schools until she retired in 1985 as Vice Principal of the Rajagiriya Convent.
I came to know Ranee well many years ago when she was the energetic Hony. Secretary of the Kollupitiya Methodist Women’s Fellowship. She also served on the Bible Society Women’s Committee and the YMCA Women’s Auxiliary.
The Kadirgamar’s had three gifted daughters – Damayanthi, now resident in England, Priyanthi, now in Sydney, Australia, and the youngest, Shiranthi, living in Sri Lanka and with whom Alagan and Ranee moved in, in the latter years. Talking to me, the daughters recalled their mother’s skills in music and singing, cake decorating, sewing and embroidery. She was a devoted mother and homemaker. Her winsome personality drew people to her, so that she had a wide circle of friends. It seemed apt that at her funeral service Rev. Duleep Fernando quoted St. Paul’s words from Romans chapter 16, about a woman named Phoebe who “served the church and has been a good friend to many”.
I recall how, after my husband’s death last year, when she was prevented by her illness from visiting me, Ranee would not only telephone me when she could, but would regularly send Alagan round to see me and he would invariably say, “Ranee reminded me that I hadn’t dropped in on you this week and she wanted me to come and see how you were.” She showed even more concern when I underwent surgery on my knee. She was a caring friend who never became wrapped up in her own increasing infirmities.
Rev. Fernando said something else that has stayed in my mind. He referred to the National awards that Alagan had received in recognition of his services to the community. “Ranee may not have qualified for that kind of award, but Alagan was able to render the whole-hearted service he gave, mainly because of Ranee’s unstinted support and understanding. Alagan, in his turn, gave her all the tender loving care and support that Ranee needed during these last few years.” So, Ranee was upheld to the end by her enduring faith in God, by the love of family and friends and by her own courageous and uncomplaining attitude.
Her beloved 9-year-old
grandson, Yudheesh, came into the bedroom to comfort his Grandpa on the night of
the funeral. Yudheesh said, “Don’t be sad – I am here with you, and God will
take care of Ammamma.” Ranee is surely one of the blessed, for whom all the
trumpets would have sounded on the other side.
She was the epitome of a perfect mother
~ Dotbelle Jayawickrama ~ (nee Fernando)
It’s with deep sorrow that I pay this tribute to my mother who left us 20 years ago on October 18, 1986 at the age of 67.
She was the daughter of Hendry Fernando and Dora Fernando of Matara. Being the eldest in the family of four she had her education at St.Mary’s Convent, Matara. After the untimely death of her father at the age of 56 years, she married my father Sam Jayawickrama who was a public servant and landed proprietor. He was from a well known family from the South and they both settled down in Walasmulla. They were blessed with seven children and lived together for 40 years till the death of my father in 1984.
Mummy was a tower of strength to Daddy at all times. She never failed to give him his morning egg flip coffee as that was one of his favourites. She was fun-loving and had a liking for music. Her favourite songs were “Olu Pipila”, “You are my sun shine” and “Daisy Daisy”. She loved to travel and dress well.
She had a warm heart and was always willing to entertain people to the best of her ability using all her talents. A culinary expert of exceptional ability, Mummy prepared palatable dishes which we relished heartily when we went home for vacations. The annual almsgiving to the Maha Sangha was always prepared by her with great care and devotion. Among her other religious activities and meritorious deeds was the annual offering of the special noon “Buddha Puja” on Vesak Day to the temple at the request of the head priest. She did this too with much care and devotion.
Mummy's death is a big loss to all of us. Sweet memories of her still linger in my mind and heart. I still preserve the last letter she sent to me before she fell sick. The letter ended with ‘nothing else for today. Love to the little ones'. She was always concerned about all of us. We miss her so much, most of all when we recall the happy days with her in our midst.
One of the most memorable were our school holidays when all her seven children were back at home from the school boardings. For her, it was a case of preparing and feeding us with all types of tasty dishes. She was the epitome of a perfect mother.
The unconditional love,
guidance and the support she gave us right up to her last days will never be
erased from my memory.
Recalling those happy b’days of the past
~ Sheila Josephine Johnson ~
A tribute to a mother on her birth anniversary
Dear mother had you lived another few months you could have enjoyed your 86th birthday on November 13, together with your two sons, daughter-in-law, grandchildren, great- grandchildren, not forgetting your neighbours, loved and dear ones. However God had his own plans, He took you away from us. Bereft of the love, affection, guidance and everything you gave us, we are now left in darkness.
I can only imagine the pain you would have undergone to bring me and my brother Tyrone to this world. This pain did not stop there because as far as I remember, you single handedly brought us up as most of the time my father the late Thomas Newton Johnson was away doing service to our country and the Sri Lanka Army (Ceylon Engineers) as a Regimental Sergeant Major. With deep gratitude we thank you for making us what we are today.
Although sorrowful let’s not forget those happy birthdays you had, surrounded by your husband, children and loved ones. What wonderful days they were. Making you and everyone happy and joyful was our father who himself was a wonderful personality. All those gifts you received on your birthdays are still preserved by us re-kindling treasured memories.
When our father left you and all of us to God’s heavenly kingdom on July 6, 1997, how much we and your loved ones consoled you. As days and months passed, you reverted to your day-to-day life to make us happy. But we all knew it was only an outward act, as deep inside you felt the loss of your dearest one with whom you had spent over 50 years together.
As the days and years passed you frequently fell ill and got weaker. It gave us strength and determination to give you the same care and love you always gave us by trying to extend your life on earth day by day.
But God took you to
eternal rest on June 28, this year. This day was undoubtedly the saddest in our
lives. But we all know you are happy to be together with your husband in heaven.
This thought brings us solace as we all know that some day we will be together.
Till we meet again, dear mother, happy birthday and good bye!
A teacher whose heart though on the left was always right
~ D. S. Jayasekera ~
If the walls of S. Thomas’ College could talk, they would speak volumes of D. S. Jayasekera who held no wall between teacher and student; a master who saw through the students and yet made a positive impact in their lives. Having served the college for over 50 years as a teacher, Head Master of both Junior and Middle schools, he knew every inch of it, and he knew everything that a teacher should know about his students.
To me as well as to thousands of his students he will always remain the epitome of a teacher. He was a strict disciplinarian whose firm grip we never escaped. I still remember how he detained many of us after school as punishment. It did not take us much time to realise that his motive was never a sadistic one but was only prompted by a sincere wish to see us become men of worth; men who would outshine all others as Thomians. What he has left in our hearts is his imprint that he meant well; that his heart though on the left, was always right.
To say that D. S. Jayasekera was a kind-hearted man is an understatement. There was more than kindness in all his deeds. He gave a patient hearing to the students but the difference was that he understood his students. I still recall how he wanted us to take care of the school stationary cupboard. To us playing cricket was more important than the task he had in mind for us. We always came up with excuses to avoid his ‘book cupboard’ duties, but all those were tactically confronted and reverted by him. He had time for his pupils at any given time. He has proven over many years that the teacher was always ahead. And every time any student or group tried their boyish pranks he effortlessly ensured that the master was fool proof. He stood out not only because he taught Buddhism and Sinhala and taught it well, but also because he spent his time and energy for the betterment of the college and for generations of Thomians. Blessed are we who were nurtured by dedicated teachers. And I know that I am nothing without my teachers, Mr. Jayasekera in particular. The worth of his deeds is invaluable to me today as I recollect the events in my mind’s eye and take stock of the wonderful childhood memories he has given me.
The calibre of teacher he was is the kind that we need today, for there was dedication and devotion towards the school and the profession which is unmatched even today. He was a gem of a teacher who was rare and precious and will never lose his worth wherever he may be. Never did I see a teacher to whom college was more a home than a place of work. And thanks to him S. Thomas’ College will be the home where we come to rest in mind, body and soul.
I wish for him the supreme
bliss of Nirvana.
Dynamic and dedicated leader
Marhoom Baba Zahiere Lye
Marhoom B. Zahiere Lye, the distinguished Malay leader and former appointed Member of Parliament was born on November 7, 1902 and passed away at the age of 67. He guided the destinies of the All Ceylon Malay Association, the Malay Cricket Club and the ACMA Rupee Fund - the three premier Malay organizations for a considerable number of years.
Zahiere Lye is a household name among the Sri Lankan Malay community. He spent much of his time, wealth and energies for the progress and upliftment of the Malays at a time when there were few to help them, keeping the spirits of the community high and vibrant.
It is because of his untiring efforts in having built separate secretariats for the above three organizations and having amalgamated them as ‘Padang Complex’ that the Malay community could proudly invite VIPS, delegates and others from abroad.
At the same time, the Malay organisations islandwide make use of the ‘Padang Complex’ for their activities and it serves as the cultural centre and the secretariat for the Sri Lankan Malay Community.
The Malay Cricket Club, the oldest Ceylonese Sports Club which will celebrate its 135th Anniversary in 2007, had its original Rifle Green grounds commandeered during World War II. When the war ended the Malays saw to their consternation the police barracks (the present Slave Island police station and barracks) coming up where once they held sway on the cricket field.
After his personal prolonged negotiations with numerous ministries and government departments, suitable land for a cricket ground and pavilion was made available at Kew Road.
In accordance with the vision of Zahiere Lye, the CMCC was planned to have well laid out grounds for cricket, hockey, soccer as well as facilities for netball and other outdoor and indoor sports. This was to be the radiating centre for Malay activity – the pavilion was also to be used for the cultural, religious and fellowship activities of the All Ceylon Malay Association. It was also his plan to provide a few residential rooms for outstation Malays especially sportsmen on their visits to Colombo.
During the period without grounds, through Zahiere Lye's efforts the cricket team did creditably well in the Saravanamuttu Trophy Cricket Tournament.
His work as president of both premier Malay institutions was not the mere adornment of office but characterized with sincere hard work and sacrifice of time, leisure and wealth for the cause he espoused in ensuring progress of the community.
The Sri Lanka Malay Association Rupee Fund – for social service – will stand as a lasting monument to his services to the underprivileged. Both Zahiere and his wife Mashmoon made sacrifices to bring happiness to thousands of needy people, through such projects as the milk feeding centre, the handloom weaving centre, distribution of rice, cloth and cash, an annual treat to poor children, financial assistance, vocational training centre etc. The most laudable was a scholarship scheme for higher education to needy talented students – thanks to which many have passed out as doctors, engineers, architects and accountants.
The special “Zahiere Lye Scholarship” is awarded every year to the most talented university student or someone following other professional courses.
The Rupee Fund arose from an idea that “If each member were to collect a rupee a day – we would be able in due course to render assistance to the less fortunate brothers and sisters”. The idea seemed almost too simple but by sheer grit and determination their efforts surpassed expectations. Within three years the Fund was recognized by the government as an approved charity.
The then Governor-General Sir Oliver Goonatillake being impressed with this achievement invited Zahiere Lye to hold a meeting of the committee of the Rupee Fund at Queen’s House.
Zahiere Lye maintained a healthy rapport with the Ceylon Malays abroad. During his stay in London in 1947 he met Tunku Abdul Rahman who was later to be the first Prime Minister of Malaysia. He also served many institutions and organizations viz - the Islamic Religious Affairs Advisory Committee, the Waqfs Board, the Board of Control for Cricket, founder member Ceylon National Chamber of Commerce, Ceylon Malaysia Friendship Society, Ceylon Japan Society, Textile Advisory Board, the Masjidual Jamiah (Malay Military Mosque) etc.
The Malay community owes a great debt of gratitude to Zahiere Lye – the dynamic and dedicated leader for the great leap forward he gave the community.
She lit up our days at Ladies’ College
“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.” -Margaret Fuller
It was a sad day for all LCites, past and present, with the news of Sirancee Gunawardena’s death last week. As a mark of respect, the college gates closed while the chapel doors opened to embrace the outpouring of grief and gratitude as generations of past and present students streamed past her mortal remains to pay their last respects.
For 25 years, ‘Mrs. G’ (as she was fondly known), was the guiding light of Ladies’ College. She nurtured and cultivated generations of alumni to be proud of and privileged by their association with Ladies’ College. As the first Sri Lankan principal of Ladies’ College, she steered the course for several generations to hold their heads up high to be a part of this proud tradition.
In 1973, Mrs. Gunawardena, a past student of LC and graduate of the University of Colombo, undertook postgraduate work at the Oxford University to obtain the Certificate of Education. Having completed her studies, she joined the staff of LC and two decades later, became co-vice principal with Mrs. Nalini Macintyre. In 1969, Mrs. Gunawardena took the helm of LC.
In the 69th year of CMS Ladies’ College, Mrs. Gunawardena, thus heralded a new era when she rose to the occasion to take on this formidable responsibility. Her leadership was proven beyond doubt and her term of 25 years was unparalleled as Ladies’ College gained the superiority and recognition that was exemplary.
Apart from her prowess as a teacher, Mrs. G was a prolific writer of children’s stories and poems. In her latter years, she wrote for and edited many wildlife publications including the ‘Loris’. Subsequent to her wide research on ola leaf manuscripts, she published a well documented book entitled “Medieval Palm Leaf Manuscripts of Sri Lanka”. In addition, Mrs. G was also a well known broadcaster, artist and an ardent traveller. As Augusta Fernando, a former teacher under her leadership so aptly said, “Her zest for stimulating experiences has little parallel. Whether exploring the magnificence of the Sinharaja forest, glorifying in the artistic creations of Pablo Picasso, descending into the bowels of the earth in search of archeological artifacts, strolling through undulating tea-country or enraptured by the untracked sand dunes in Yala- no matter what, everything is grist to her mill.”
However, her attachment to Ladies’ College was foremost. In addition to the running of the college, she started the Department of Vocational Studies in 1981 to cater to the needs of the early school-leavers. During the 1983 riots, she started a correspondence course with self study guides to help O/L students keep up with their studies.
Mrs. G also laid great emphasis on physical education as an integral part of education. Under her principalship, students of LC took part in a gamut of sports excelling both nationally and district wise.
Mrs. G’s courage and indomitable spirit was put to test during the bomb blast at the JOC that shook the very foundations of the college. Her utmost faith in God and her resolute courage helped tide over the atrocities that befell the college and the students who suffered in that horrific act of malice.
It is for these reasons and a hundred more that each LCite, both past and present, pays tribute to a wonderful teacher and friend. She is the candle that lit up our unforgettable days at Ladies’ College
The Sunday Leader Oct 29 2006
Alosious Jeyaraj Canagaratna
It is with immense sadness we record the death of A. J. Canagaratna popularly known as AJ, the distinguished Tamil veteran writer, scholar and translator who had done much to bring world literature to a whole range of people and groups in Sri Lanka, including university students, social workers, political activists and militant movements. He died on October 10, at the age of 72 as a bachelor in Colombo several days after he was taken to hospital following illness.
He had a distinguished career as a journalist. He took pleasure in all things around him. This organisation came to know AJ, closely when he was on the editorial staff of the Saturday Review, which was supported by us. He was an extremely simple, quiet and unassuming person, but an outspoken critic. No story of the Saturday Review would be complete without the touch of A.J. Canagaratna, the self effacing man who provided continuity between the two editors — S. Sivanayagam and Gamini Navaratna.
AJ was one of the kindest and gentlest persons we have known. In a life dedicated to helping others, AJ not only touched the lives of thousands of people but also had a profound effect on all who knew him, whether they knew him well or just briefly.
Sri Lanka and we who knew AJ will miss him.
Tamil Information Centre
Fr. Roy de Silva
Death has taken away from us our co-worker and friend, Roy. He answered that call from His Maker a few days ago — October10.
Roy would have been 64 on November 9. He had his education at Prince of Wales College Moratuwa, and also at the Kelaniya Campus where he did his G.A.Q.
After his call to be ordained, he had his formal foundation at our ecumenical seminary in Pilimatalawa. Thereafter, he was, by Bishop Cyril Abeynaike of blessed memory, ordained deacon in 1974 and priest in 1975, at the Cathedral of the Living Saviour in Colombo.
As a person who had answered God’s call to the sacred ordained ministry of the Church, Roy served as youth chaplain in the area deaneries of Colombo North and Moratuwa and also as hospital chaplain. He was a keen member of the Diocesan Missionary Council and the Denepitiya Medical Mission; and also till ill health and pressure of work prevented him from continuing. He was the founder director of Lay Workers in the Diocese of Colombo.
In his diocese, Roy functioned as an assistant curate at Moratuwa. And also at St. Michael and All Angels, Polwatte. He was in charge of Dandugama, Mampe, Boralesgamuwa, Koralawella and Kotte, and at the time of his death, was the vicar of Talangama.
Roy had a God-given zeal to shepherd his flock. The many who came into his orbit of work will testify to this. Roy, in and through his God-given personality, lived and worked as a good priest. He was very organised and systematic.
I have known him from his Pilimatalawa days. A little known fact about this wonderful priest of God is that he was a keen cricketer of the classic mould of Len Hutton who used to open for England and stay on till the last wicket fell!
Roy, we shall miss you as a co-worker and your presence in our Council, Synod and at Deanery Fora. Thank you for the friendship that you gave us. May your soul rest in peace and rise in glory.
Daphne, Roy’s soulmate in life, can be certain of our prayers and our continued concern.
You fed us, cared for us and loved us
Violet Juliana Wickramasinghe
Our annual October pilgrimage to Badulla to greet our mother on her birthday is over. Two weeks short of her 97th birthday she passed away peacefully.
Her last letter to her sons and daughters, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law was dated April 2006. The letter began quite legally, stating that her mind was clear. In the next sentence she thanked us for being her children. Before she ended the letter she gave the menu for her dane (almsgiving).
The seven-hour journey to Badulla, gave me time to think of our childhood and our home. We are a large extended family and our ties are strong. Most of my cousins at one time or another lived with us, our friends too made our home their home. My parents welcomed them, but it was my mother who fed and cared for us all.
Every night my mother went to bed making sure there would be enough food for at least three people who might drop in during the night. She had no fridge and other modern conveniences.
Amma, remember the times we fell off trees, strange we never broke our bones? Remember the time when one of us nearly got drowned at Kurunduwathawe, the time that one of my brothers was almost gored by an angry bull or the time when everything came to a standstill at Liyangawela when a little three-year-old went missing?
Then there were other times when childhood diseases invaded our home, whooping cough, and mumps, and Diphtheria and everything in-between. You handled them all, with coriander for simple colds, and 'dummala' from the 'dummessa' for simple wounds. Dhammi is the one who got this treatment most often.
How did you manage it all and still keep your cool?
You were a good seamstress. During World War II you bought white sarees with the coupons, so you could make our school uniforms. You crocheted all our curtains. Kamali has inheritted this talent from you.
I have never known you ill-treating or favouring anyone, not even our helpers. You cared for all my cousins and all our friends the way you cared for your own children. There was no place for jealousy in our home.
You were someone very special to your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Our son called me from Hong Kong, wanting to talk to you. Thank God, I was able to get him to speak to you on Jana's cell phone. This was a week before you passed away. One grandson cried his heart out because you would not be there to bless his child, and he is not even married. "There is no one who strokes my head the way my grandmother did," he said.
You gave us, your children and in-laws the opportunity to care for you, to feed you, bathe you and joke with you. Our cousins Pearl and Ethel were with you most of the time — we thank them for caring for you. Two days before you passed away Sitha invited two monks to chant Pirith for you. The day you passed away Rupa fed you the 'kenda' that Sepali made. Srinath and Vinitha were always with you.
A gentle smile creased your
lips as you crossed over. Perhaps Thaththa, Sonna and Jayanthi were
there to welcome you.
Farewell Amma, and thank you for the memories.
You touched us all
Bandula Tissa Dias
The sudden demise of Tissa
three months ago at his desk at Lake House has left a deep void in
the family and at his workplace.
He enjoyed life to the full spreading joy to all those around him.
Both his parents, whose pet child he was, predeceased him a few years back. He took their place in guiding and caring for the other siblings and in-laws.
He was a hard worker and gentleman to his fingertips.
He loved his alma mater, Isipathana College and his teachers.
His was a loving husband who regarded his wife and two sons as his treasures.
He treated his parents-in-law like his own parents and both of them had the highest love and respect for this wonderful son-in-law.
Thy console themselves with memories of his wonderful ways.
Let’s continue his unfinished mission
Dr. Nandana Karunanayake
The untimely demise of Dr. Nandana Karunanayake, an expert on mass media, on August 13 has left a void in the media in Sri Lanka, which cannot be easily filled. Creating a world-class mass media culture in Sri Lanka through research, publication and training was Nandana’s lifelong ambition.
His commitment towards this goal was remarkable as he worked tirelessly often at the risk of his own health, to ensure that Sri Lanka’s media industry will be recognized globally for its professionalism in terms of content as well as practice.
Towards achieving his vision of a professional mass media tradition, Nandana took the initiative to establish the Sri Lanka Institute of Mass Communication (SLICOM) under Act No. 55 of 1998 and set up the Media and Communication Development Fund (MCDF).
Having conceptualized this project and launched it through the website www.mcdflanka.com, Nandana laid the foundation for building a research-based media culture in Sri Lanka without much fanfare or publicity.
A noteworthy feature of Nandana’s personality is that he never wanted to take personal credit. Thus, he took extra care that his name was not mentioned in the MCDF website or any other communication related to this project.
Nandana was a simple, down-to-earth man, yet he possessed the power of knowledge, morals and honesty, which many well-known people in our society do not have.
Though he was known to people in the centres of power as an expert in mass media, it was unfortunate that none made adequate use of his knowledge and skills for the benefit of Sri Lanka’s media industry.
It is my earnest hope that Nandana’s fellow media professionals and students will take appropriate action to accomplish his unfinished mission and the authorities to protect as well as promote Nandana’s work while helping to educate his two daughters.
We celebrate a life today
We remember a life today –
And all that made the man you were -
All that you enjoyed
And found rewarding…
Calling to mind
And the wonderful stories
We love to share about you.
We honour a life today –
For the things you stood for
Recognizing your good heart,
Your sense of humour,
And the helping hand
You so often extended to others.
We celebrate a life today-
And all that earned you
The love, the admiration,
The respect of family and friends,
Feeling grateful for our time with you,
Enriched for having known you,
Feeling blessed to have
Your remarkable spirit
Here among us forever.
Wife, two sons and family members
Sunday Times Oct 29 2006
He will always live in us
Bishop Lakshman Wickremasinghe
On October 23 this year we will keep yet another death anniversary of Bishop Lakshman.
I give below a poem on him by Haig Karunaratne. Mr. Karunaratne’s poem states what I said at a recent Forum. One of the speakers said, “if Bishop Lakshman was alive ...” and I responded, “Bishop Lakshman is not dead. He will always live in us”.
Looking back, those of us who were under God tended by Bishop Lakshman are, l am sure, keeping that flame alive. Both in church and society, the post-Lakshman Wickremasinghe era has been a difficult one. The church had to live and work in the post-July 1983 era. Bishop Lakshman died in 1983.
Bishop Lakshman has left such a lasting impression on some of us in church and nation, that some of us tend to say, ‘if he was alive…’.
Any celebration of death is a time to reflect on the death and all deaths - a look back; a Thanksgiving; a promise to move forward. For the dead person is not there in the tomb. Like the Man called Jesus, the person is alive - In the nearer presence of God. From that state of being, they continue to pray.
Remembering Bishop Lakshman this year is the time to promise to move on with what he taught us. To be and become: work for Kingdom and Gospel values. It is by doing all this that we can thank God for Bishop Lakshman and keep his memory alive.
May what he, under God, began in us, live, thus completing his dreams and visions - the forward movement of the unfinished symphony.
May he rest in peace and rise in glory!
Requiem for Bishop Lak
One last chat, Brother Lak
Sometimes I have travelled to your rockside house, bishop,
Knowing you would look me in the eye, yet
Pretend you wanted to only con chat.
Arguing out of circles from
morn to sunset, you'd
Probe my like
And make the most hasty
Judgments as though you
Knew every darn thing about me'
And really you did, though I
Got it in bits and pieces
From the chats you had
At funerals, weddings,
- whizzing about one two three
four five con chats, just like that…
Jesus! What's Buffalo Bill?
You were more than just a handsome man
Storing in your computer mind
Every detail about me.
But then, that was you, bishop
Bishop Lak's not dead -
Damn it, you were a hell of a saintly
Man. That's what's so great about you
Bishop man. You always cared - always did.
We all left Rock House -
Sinners turned from our ways?
And coming back wondered
How you had the gumption
To do it, catch the darkness
By the scruff of its neck, as it were.
Yes man, bishop man, you
sustained the magic
Didn't care a damn for the big
Truth, risking everything
Boom! Boom! The cannons you'll
Fire from the ramparts of heaven
Our darkness to fire into
Now you'll walk in heaven, I
Trying your damndest to see if
Something cannot be done for those
Down here. Not like you to rest in peace…
You carrying our personal files
still in your mind?
Like in your chaplaincy days?
Running about like a man trying
To put out a house on fire?
You were so like your master, Man
A man of fairplay
The first time I saw Edward Grey was as far back as the early fifties when I was a teenage schoolboy. During this period tramcars were in use and the Colombo Fort terminal was opposite the present Grindlay’s Bank. One day, around 5 p.m. a classmate of mine and I left the College Hostel at Maradana, got into a tramcar and got down at Fort.
The then Colombo harbour passenger jetty was just opposite the Grand Oriental Hotel, and all the ship’s crew and passengers entered the city of Colombo from here.
A tall, well-built man was seen harassing a young beggar woman who was at the corridor of the G.O.H. Suddenly from nowhere, an athletically built man gave him a shot on his left shoulder blade, a blow on his solar plexus and another hard direct punch on to his face. The man was floored, his feet sagging. One of the persons in the crowd said that the person who hit the assailant was Eddie Grey, the Officer-in-charge of the Fort Police Station. After this I met him at several boxing meets when he functioned as a Referee and Judge.
Edward Ian Grey’s second death anniversary fell on September 21 this year. He died at the ripe old age of four score and five. This Sri Lankan boxing legend was laid to rest on September 27, 2004 at the Anglican parish of St. Stephen and St. Mary, High Street Road, Mt. Waverly, Melbourne, Australia. A large gathering had been present to pay their last respects to this Sri Lanka icon.
Eddie Grey was a product of Royal College, Colombo. He had been a college cadet and had captained the College at rugger, athletics and boxing, the latter being his forte.
He joined the Ceylon Police Force as a Sub-Inspector straight from college in 1937. In the Police too he had been outstanding in several fields. He represented Ceylon in boxing, in the lightweight division at the 1948 Olympics held in London, where Duncan White won a Silver medal in the 400 metres hurdles.
Again Eddie Grey represented Sri Lanka in Boxing in the 1950 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand.
He had the distinction of being physically present at two Olympic Games, one in 1948 in London and the other in 2000 in Sydney where two Sri Lanka athletes, Duncan White and Susanthika Jayasinghe won a Silver and a Bronze medal respectively for the country.
He was an excellent horse rider and was the first Ceylonese to be in charge of the Police stables, replacing the European officers. During this period he used to ride with the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka D.S. Senanayake every morning and when the Prime Minister fell down from the Police mare ‘Chitra’ at the Galle Face Green on the morning of March 22, 1952 he took the Prime Minister to hospital after the accident.
The press at this time made a big ‘hue and a cry’ stating that the mare had stumbled and caused the fall. Eddie Grey, right throughout maintained that the mare never stumbled but the Prime Minister had fallen quite suddenly. His version was proved to be correct later when the famous neuro-surgeon Professor Juma who was flown from Pakistan to treat the Prime Minister confirmed that the Prime Minister had suffered a stroke whilst riding.
Eddie’s sense of fairplay was strong. Once when he was boxing at an international meet with Gene Raymond, his gum-guard had got dislodged from his mouth and had fallen on to the ground.
Raymond had bent down to pick the gum-guard. Eddie Grey had ample time to finish his opponent, but he took a step back and allowed Raymond to fix his gum-guard and continue fighting. Eddie Grey lost the bout but the loudest applause was for the looser.
Sub-Inspector Eddie Grey was Officer-in-Charge of the Habaraduwa Police Station during the 2nd World War and the Air Force camp at Koggala came under his jurisdiction. He was present in the camp, when the Catalina flying boats flew non-stop from the Swan river in Perth to Koggala led by Squadron Leader Leonard Birchill who was called the ‘Protector of Ceylon’. Coincidentally Sqn. Ldr. Birchill passed away in Canada four days before Eddie Grey. Birchill was 88 years old when he died.
Eddie Grey had been a distinguished police officer and had an unblemished record. He retired from the police service in 1957 the day the writer joined the service.
Though he was domiciled in Australia for the last quarter century, he was a frequent visitor here. He attended almost all the sports functions in Sri Lanka, like the Duncan White Foundation - Champions Trophy Cricket Tournament, 125th Royal-Thomian cricket encounter etc.
His death is a great loss to Sri Lankan sports bodies in general and to boxing in particular.
Good-bye Sweet Prince. May the turf lie softly over you.
Sunday Times Oct 22 2006
Lalini Attygalle Abeyratne
To me she was Loku Amma, my husband’s aunt. I first met her before I got married, but I came to know her only after she came to live with her sister — my mother-in-law. She was always full of life, had a very infectious laugh and was generous to a fault. Many were the times when people took advantage of her kindness and generosity but she never gave any less.
It had been Loku Amma who had taken it upon herself to arrange and decorate our apartment so that it would be ready to be lived in when we returned from our honeymoon. It wasn’t just that she cleaned it, but the love and thoughtfulness that went into the little pot of flowers she left on the coffee table, the improvised cushion covers, etc. which made our small apartment a home filled with love.
She had had a hard life, having to start work soon after she lost her father at a young age and continuing until a few years ago. She never complained, but regaled us with stories of various events that had taken place in her life over the years. Many were the conversations over lunch or dinner, that at times went on for hours as a result!
She was passionate about what she did — whether it was building a house or looking after a dog. I still remember coming home one day to find her with this tiny little puppy she had acquired, looking like she had won the lottery! She took great pains in caring for it and over the years none of us saw a healthier, better fed or better looking dog!
When she got her own house, she put her heart and soul into making it a home. Each piece of furniture was lovingly and carefully chosen and everything had its place. She was very house-proud and loved entertaining. Even if it was just her family, she took great pains to ensure everything was just so. Even during her illness, when she was supposed to rest, she would potter around the house always finding something that needed to be moved, fixed or changed around.
She kept up with the latest fashions, taking extra care to dress well. This trend continued even as she went in and out of hospital. She found unusual ways of tying turbans and scarves around her head to camouflage her loss of hair and made a great effort to ‘dress-up’ when leaving hospital. She never wanted to look like a ‘patient.’ She did not deny she was ill, but wanted no pity and never once did we hear her complain. The doctors loved to check in on her because she was so cheerful and upbeat despite the pain and discomfort she had to suffer.
Her zest for life was epitomised in her request that no sombre colours be worn to her funeral as she did not want to be mourned — but celebrated! And so we celebrate her, one year on, remembering her with love and thanking God for her life. The strength with which she endured her illness and the happy memories we associate with her, will remain in our lives — an eternal source of encouragement and gratitude. May she rest in peace.
Mishthi de Silva Senewiratne - Sunday Leader Oct 15 2006
He showed us the true meaning of university education
Osmund Wickrama Jayaratne
Prof. Osmund Wickrama Jayaratne, one of the most versatile personalities in Sri Lanka in recent times, passed away peacefully a few weeks ago after a long and fruitful life which spanned almost 82 years. His demise is mourned by many of his colleagues and past students in academia, comrades in the political arena and friends and fellow artists in drama circles. I write this appreciation as one of his past students who studied Physics under his guidance at the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya in the early seventies.
Prof. Osmund Wickrama Jayaratne
I first met Professor Osmund Jayaratne at the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya when I entered this hallowed institution as a freshman in September 1969. I vividly remember how eagerly we were waiting to listen to our first lecture at the university soon after completion of registration formalities. Sharp at ten o’clock a tall gentleman dressed in casual but smart attire appeared and welcomed us with a broad smile and introduced himself as Osmund Jayaratne. It was an introductory lecture in which he introduced Physics as the fascinating story of the relentless quest of mankind to understand nature. He took us along a guided tour of the historical development of Physics, starting from contributions of early Greek philosophers to those of architects of Modern Physics, through the celebrated work of giants of the classical period such as Kepler, Galileo and Newton. He referred to the Apollo 11 mission, which was completed successfully just a few months before, as a fine example of Physics in action. It was a refreshing two hours during which we learnt not only Physics but also history, philosophy and even English language and literature. It was a totally different learning experience for all of us -through which we realised what university education is all about. At the end of the lecture many of us came out of the lecture theatre with a dream: the dream of reading for a special degree in Physics.
Professor Osmund Jayaratne was a brilliant Physicist. This brilliance can be traced back to his school days at the Royal College where he won many prizes for his academic excellence including the prestigious Turnour Prize and came second in the island in both the Cambridge Senior Certificate Examination and the London Matriculation Examination. He entered the University of Ceylon in 1942 and was selected to follow the Special Degree in Physics. In addition, to academic activities he took a keen interest in drama and took part in no less than 15 Shakespeare plays directed by Professor E.F.C. Ludowyck, then Professor of English of the University of Ceylon.
Professor Jayaratne was a strong left wing politician who stepped into political activities while he was a student at the University. Once he had to sacrifice his position as an Assistant Lecturer in Physics at the University as a consequence of his political involvements. In 1959 he was again absorbed into the University of Ceylon and posted to its newly built Peradeniya Campus. Soon after recruitment he was offered an opportunity of reading for a Doctoral Degree in Atmospheric Electricity and Cloud Physics at the Imperial College of the University of London under the guidance of Prof. B.J. Mason who later became the Director General of Meteorology of Great Britain. His Ph.D. research resulted in many publications including one in the most prestigious “Proceedings of the Royal Society”.
After completing his postgraduate studies, Professor Jayaratne returned to Peradeniya in 1964 and continued his teaching and research commitments. He taught Physics in both English and Sinhala languages, with equal competence. To overcome the scarcity of Physics books in Sinhala, he translated into Sinhala, Allen and Moor’s “Practical Physics”, a text book popular among English medium Physics students at that time. In addition to his statutory duties as a university teacher he contributed immensely to upgrade the cultural and intellectual life of the university.
A weekly lecture series “Popular Science Gossip” organized by him was appreciated by the University community. A bi-weekly lecture series conducted by him at Peradeniya on “Humanities and Social Sciences” was popular not only among the University community but also among students and teachers of schools in Kandy and its suburbs. His lecture series on General Science to first year students reading for the Bachelor of Arts Degree gave them a rare opportunity to appreciate the logical approach of the scientific method and to have a glimpse of fascinating developments of modern science.
Professor Jayaratne’s involvements in university reforms and his subsequent career at the University of Colombo are well known. However, I wish to make a special mention of his contribution towards uplifting the education of the working class by inaugurating the workers’ education programme at the Universities of Peradeniya, Sri Jayewardenepura and Colombo, which later culminated as the “Institute of Workers Education” of the University of Colombo. Contributions made by Professor Jayaratne to the trade union movement of the University teachers also deserve special mention. In recognition of his long and exemplary career at the university and his service to mankind, the University of Sri Jayewardenepura conferred on him the Degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa in 1991.
I met Professor Jayaratne about two years ago at one of the annual get-togethers of the Peradeniya Alumni Association.
He and his wife were special invitees of the occasion and he was happy to meet his past students.
He was alert and agile in spite of the ravages of time on his body. He continued to chat with us with great enthusiasm, narrating anecdotes full of humour, which took us back to the good old days of Peradeniya. That was the last encounter many of us had with him.
Professor Osmund Jayaratne was a versatile person with talents and skills in many areas. He was much loved by his colleagues, students and close associates from many walks of life. He will be long remembered for his contribution to education, science, arts, and politics and also for his continuous attempt to serve mankind.
He realised his dream of taking pictures.
I was shocked to hear about Ralex’s somewhat sudden demise. We were thick chums, apart from being cousins. Along with his talented film star brother Tony we were also schoolmates both at Mutwal and Kotahena. Being neighbours, we were playmates too.
Ralex and I were altar servers at St. John’s, and he liked to have a neat cassock and a clean surplice and made sure that his hair was well groomed, even at the altar. Ralex was Ranasingha Hettiaratchige Mathew Alexander Silva, but like his brother, he changed his name.
Ralex died a few days after his birthday on September 21, the day of the feast of evangelist St. Mathew, his patron saint.
During schooldays Ralex showed glimpses of his artistic talents. He used to cut short stories from the “Janatha” paper, and paste them on to old exercise books. He was a Hindi film fan and adored Dilip Kumar the heart throb of millions in the sixties. He would buy film magazines like the “Filmfare” and “Screen”. He used to imitate Dilip and at times slapped his brother Tony the way Dilip did on the silver screen.Tony, however, was not interested in films those days and wasn’t amused and it eventually ended up in a quarrel between the two brothers.
Earlier Ralex was in the seminary and two people who influenced him later in life were Rev. Fr. Ernest Poruthota and Hector Welgampola.
At school, Ralex dreamt of being a film director and said he would name his film company “Ralex Productions”. The female Hindi star he liked most was Meena Kumari and he never missed a film of hers. In fact he was interested in a girl who resembled Meena Kumari. Ralex made it a point to travel on the same schoolbus as she did.
Once Ralex and I cut school to stand in the queue opposite the Regal, for more than five hours, to catch a glimpse of Nargis who was to come to that theatre that day.
On finishing school Ralex turned to photography. He started it as a hobby but photography became his career and he was employed as a photo journalist at the Independent Newspapers where he made a name with his unique photographs for the Weekend.
The last time I spoke to him he said he was doing a few commercials and recalled the old days. He wanted me to come over for a drink and chat, but I never had the occasion to accept the invitation.
Ralex is no more but he has left enough memories for posterity and no one will forget his contribution to art and photography.
May he rest in peace.
Your love will shine on
Petronella de Silva Wijeyeratne
As her youngest daughter, I remember her on her 85th birthday which falls on October 19 with love and gratitude.
She married my father Henry de S.Wijeyeratne and had five children. They had a long married life, and celebrated their golden jubilee. My mother was the daughter of Felix and Anne Tissera, a well-to-do family in Negombo.
She left us in grief on March 9 this year.
She was 84 years when she died.
As I go down memory lane, I can’t forget how she stitched Christmas frocks for all three of us.
She would burn the midnight oil to finish them. She loved to dress us in lovely clothes.
I will also never forget her love for Thatha and my younger brothers. Her favourite was my little brother Chandra.
She had 17 grandchildren and 22 great grand children, still she looked young, with her jet black hair.
She was religious and said her prayers regularly. Her favourite hymn was “I sing a hymn to Mary.” She was a music lover and enjoyed listening to popular Sinhalese numbers.
Holy Father take care of her
Let your perpetual light shine upon her
He was always the typical villager from the Rajarata
T.B. Wijeratne Karalliyadde
The third month of the death of T.B. Wijeratne Karalliyadde, the well-known social worker and environmentalist of Raja Rata Anuradhapura was marked recently.
The two cousins Ranbanda and Tikiri Banda set off to Rajarata from the Dumbara Valley as Ranbanda was offered a post of monitor by J. Howard, the then Director of Public Instructions in Ceylon. Tikiri Banda accompanied his cousin on this arduous journey through the jungles where more than half the journey was in a horse carriage. Having arrived at Medawachiya they both lodged in a room in the school building.
In the days of yore, the school staff was the Loku Mahattaya, Deveni Mahattaya and the Monitor Mahattaya. They settled down to start a new life. Ranbanda started his teaching career while Tikiri Banda spent his time in the wilds enjoying the fauna and flora which was so dear to his heart. As time passed, Ranbanda retuned home for the school vacation while Tikiri Banda opted to remain in his new abode. The turning point in his career was when the horse carriage to Anuradhapura toppled during the school vacation and Ranbanda, my father decided not to return to Medawachiya to pursue his teaching career.
As time passed, Tikiri Banda, son of a Korale Mahattaya was offered a post of “Forest Agent” by the then Colonial Government and posted to Kebithigollewa as Tikiri Banda Wijeratne Karalliyadde to be in charge of the range. This new appointment was the turning point in the career of the man who was close to nature, fauna and flora. He travelled all over the jungle as a part of his duty, thus earning the pet name of “Kele Mahattaya” from all and sundry. His duties included official visits to Horowapatana, Padaviya, Mullaitivu, Nuwaragam Palatha, Mihintale etc.
His ties to the Rajarata were further strengthened when he married the sister of late Maithripala Senanayake who was the doyen of Rajarata SLEP politics. This matrimonial alliance was to the mutual benefit of the invincible politician of Rajarata. “Kele Mahattaya’s” fame and acceptance in Wanni was such that in the 1970 General Elections a total stranger from Weudawillihathpathtu, T.B. Herath, his son-in-law was able to defeat the UNP stalwart E.L.B. Hurulle in Horowpathana. Karalliyadde had no ambition for political power or perks. If he wanted to enter the legislature he could have easily done it from any electorate in Rajarata. He was the Chairman of the Kunchutti Korale Village Committee for some time. Though he rubbed shoulders with the high and mighty he never forgot the downtrodden poor villager.
Once on one of my official visits to Weli-Oya. I visited his abode at Kivulekede. It was about 4 p.m. and a girl in the house said in typical Vanni accent that “Attappa ledek Balanta Rusneka Wewa giya”.
When I went along Horowpatana Road I met him travelling on a push bicycle with a bunch of king coconuts tied to the cycle bar. On seeing me he came back and took me to Kivulekede where I was shown the Wewa behind the house full of water crystal clear, a vast stretch of paddy fields fed by the tank and a land where a Japanese company has grown sugar cane at the time.
When he worked in the CTB where his brother-in-law was the Minister in charge he never used official transport to travel to Narahenpita from the Jawatta residence of the Minister. Such were his simple and unassuming qualities. When I heard that he entered Kandy Hospital for an eye operation, I visited the paying ward to be told by the sister-in-charge that no patient by that name entered the paying wards. She directed me to the ordinary wards. When I made inquiries the ward sister told me that a patient by such a name was in the ward and was discharged. He did not tell the hospital staff that his son was the Deputy Minister of Health and Minister of Indigenous Medicine. This was the way with the typical villager from Rajarata.
Sunday Times Oct 15 2006
Dr. Shan Vishvalingam
October 5brings cherished and evergreen memories of a precious and wonderful doctor — Priashanta (Shan) Visvalingam. He studied at S. Thomas’ College Mt. Lavinia and then joined St. John’s College Jaffna, winning the gold medal for general excellence and best outgoing student in 1982. He gained admission to Christian Medical College Vellore in July 1983 and graduated with honours in 1988, winning the Reeves H. Betts gold medal for the best sportsman in the final year and the Ida Scudder prize for the best paper on Medical Care Of The Sick And Suffering In The Medical World Of Today.
In 1992 Shan passed the Australian AMEC exam and worked at the Wooden Valley Hospital in Canberra in December 1993. He joined Westmead Hospital Sydney as registrar and started his training for Fellowship in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. In January 2001 he obtained the fellowship of the RANZCOG. He worked as a consultant at the Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney.
Shan also won the prestigious Crown Gold medal for his research paper and best Registrar Presentation at the RANZCOG annual scientific conference at Noosa in Queensland on October 1, 2000.
He then worked as a fellow at the Royal North Shore Hospital Sydney in the Menopause Clinic and Endoscopic Surgery. He was a member of the NSW Regional Committee of RANZCOG and Chairman of the Education Sub Committee in which role he was responsible for launching the Mentor Scheme for NSW trainees and involved in the overseas doctor training programmes.
He was invited to lecture at the scientific sessions of the American College of Gynaecologists in Chicago USA in May 2001 and at the Global Medical Conference hosted by Eli Lilly Corporation in Indianapolis and the Women’s Health and menopause Fourth International Symposium held in Washington DC USA. In January 2002 he presented a paper on treatment of sexual dysfunction in post menopausal women at the investigators’ conference held in Geneva, Switzerland. He was privileged to be a guest speaker at the World Menopause Conference in Berlin and Frankfurt in April 2002.
He also did a poster and oral presentation at the first scientific session of the Asia Pacific Menopause Federation in Seoul, South Korea. In June 2002 Shan and Prof. Hugh Torode came to Colombo to present an endoscopic workshop and lecture at the inaugural meeting of the Sri Lanka Menopause Society and made a very good impression on all who attended it.
Shan had a very cheerful personality ever ready to help anyone with a problem. He had an extensive specialist practice in the Royal North Shore, Hornsby, Ryde and the Hills. His patients found him to be a wonderful and dedicated doctor who provided devoted care antenatally and during delivery, giving the utmost comfort and ease.
He was respected and admired by peers and colleagues not only as an excellent doctor but also as a lovely warm natured beautiful person, one of life’s real angels who touched many hearts and minds and achieved great medical expertise, and did much for others in too short a time, than most do in a life time.
Such a devoted and dedicated doctor lost his life in the twinkling of an eye at the prime of his life and the pinnacle of his illustrious medical career, in a car accident at the Waroonga Junction on December 20, 2002 leaving his wife, son Arvin and daughters Anjali and Anika.
May the Lord comfort and sustain them and bless them always.
Sunday Leader Oct 8 2006
A man so generous with his knowledge, life and time
~ Lakshman Devakumar Ranasinghe
Ranasinghe Mudiyanselage Lakshman Devakumar Ranasinghe was born in Katugastota in 1949. He lived a remarkable life, one that inspired me.
His adventurous attitude, broad range of interests and his happy demeanour made him a wonderful person to know and associate with. He carried the stamp of patience, and was generous with his time and affection.
He always took an interest in the people he met. He was all out to help those who sought his assistance. Despite his own views on politics, he would help those from diverse backgrounds, political and religious affiliations.
At the OPA, he held the post of secretary on four occasions in 1989, 1991, 2000 -, and finally in 2005 till his death. He served as its Vice President in 2004. He served as the Editor of OPA publications in 2001. He was at all times, elected without contest, an endorsement by the membership of his enormous capacity for work. At the forthcoming Annual General Meeting, which was to take place after his tenure of his current office, he had offered his candidature for the post of President-elect, and I am certain he would have walked-in uncontested.
He had a new vision for the OPA, which he shared with us.
He was a great athlete. At Royal, he excelled in boxing. After he left school, he continued to support the cause of athletics.
The discipline he acquired in sports, he translated into thoughts and words in Courts of Law, and thus emerged as one of the more successful lawyers in the country. At the time of his death he was at the height of his powers. To his credit, he succeeded at the Bar against great odds.
He was philosophical in his approach to life. He especially had a great perspective when it came to the little things, never displaying anger or impatience. Instead, he showed dignity and humour. He extended this philosophy no matter what obstacle he faced.
The strength of his character showed even in criticism. With a few wry words, he could achieve so much without resorting to any strong language.
We will miss the news of his adventures; the stories of his schooldays, his trips abroad; stories of his children, whom he loved so dearly and his old friends; and his experiences in the Law Courts; stories he told again and again, in the same exacting detail with every telling.
We will miss his perspective and gentle humour. We will miss the surprising depth and scope of his knowledge. We will miss the warmth he extended to everyone he met.
We will treasure his memory forever.
Our tears will never dry
~ Dona Chandrani Sirisena
Cherish her life at
Highest respect to all
Always with a smiling face
Never argued with relatives and friends
Delighted and rejoiced at having her in our lives
Round the clock and not lazy to work
A loving and caring wife and mother
No one ever criticised
Innocent kindness and compassionate
Your 38th Wedding Anniversary fell on September 26.
Years may pass and time may fly but darling amma our tears will never dry. Loving memories of you will be in our hearts forever.
God- fearing, God-loving, humble man
~ D.J. Anselm
Warnakula Arachchiralalage Don Julian Anselm was born on April 21, 1900 in Payagala. When he was 18 his father died and he looked after his mother and two sisters, giving them in marriage, and looking after his mother till her death.
He worked in the estate plantation sector. One day, he saw a beautiful girl and later found out that she was an only child living in another estate with her parents.
Dressed as a poor man in a sarong and dirty banian with a towel wrapped around his head like a turban, he went to that estate on the pretext of collecting fallen coconut branches for making cadjans.
While at the job, he got the opportunity of seeing this beautiful girl once again and went to the rear entrance to ask for some water to drink. He was rewarded indeed! Then and there he made up his mind that she would be his.
At the age of 36, he married his first love Pearl Edith of 18 years. They were blessed with seven gifts as he used to say. Ben, Dotty, Leo, Neil, Doreen, Berna and Freeda were their pet names.
I am the sixth among them. We grew up in estates amidst canals, hills, dales and waterfalls, coconut trees, rubber trees and tea bushes infested with leeches, hares, iguanas, squirrels, birds and butterflies and wild flowers and ferns.
Thaththa was the head of the family and everyone obeyed him. Amma was the heart and everyone loved her. He bestowed love and respect on her and treated her like a precious pearl. I still remember how he sat in the old kitchen, keeping her company when she cooked lunch on Sundays.
He was an example to us and gave us good advice. He had been a heavy smoker for a long time but none of his three sons smoked. He believed in God and was a devout Catholic. Every evening the family prayed together. On Fridays and Saturdays he stayed up the whole night in prayer while we slept.
He gave us a good education in Catholic convents and colleges, even though it was not an easy task to educate and provide for seven children with a limited monthly salary.
He also took care of the poor. He bought books for very poor students, whether they were Catholic, Buddhist or Hindu, Sinhalese or Tamils. He helped the needy in which ever way he could.
He was a man of few words. I remember his smile and happiness when during school holidays we children got together in the evenings and sang songs and hymns.
Those must have been the happiest hours in the latter part of his life. Sometimes he joined us in singing and even sung solos. His favourites were “Ave Maris Stella – Dei Mater Alma’ and ‘Good Bye, Piccadilly.”
The last time we sang together with him was at St. Peter’s Estate, Ingiriya in August 1966. On that day he had a special request for us to sing ‘nearer my God to thee.’
On August 30, when
holidays were coming to an end he called the youngest four of us, a son and
three daughters and told us “one day when I am not there you must give my place
to your mother. You must obey her at all times.”
On Sept 10, 1966 after a brief illness my father passed away. It came as a shock to us as he had never been sick before.
Two weeks after his funeral when my eldest brother went through Thatha’s files, he found a letter he had addressed to ‘Darling Pearl". In it he requested her to give him a mendicant’s burial with only four plants just enough to hold his body and whatever money saved to be given to the poor.
He thanked mother for bringing up with love his God-given seven gifts. He said that the treasure he was leaving behind for her were these seven gifts.
Articles written by him had been published in the then well known ‘Psychologist’ magazine.
When he worked on a foreign owned estate and when he had to write a certain report to be sent abroad, he had told his boss that there was no word in the English language to bring out the real meaning of this particular Sinhala word that he needed to use.
Then on being told to coin a proper English word to bring out the meaning, he did so.
They told him that they would get it entered in the English Dictionary. The word he coined was “Asswadumise”.
This happened even before I was born. My eldest brother remembers thaththa telling this to him. Today this word is supposed to be in the Dictionary.
His precious ‘Pearl’, our mother passed away 17 years ago and our eldest sister Dorothy – his favourite – passed away eight years ago.
Even today my heart is happy and proud to know that my father was a God-loving, God fearing humble man. We still love you Thaththa and cherish the happy memories – the golden memories of you. We your children are all God-loving and God-fearing too!
Solicitor of repute and much more
~ Shelton V. Perera
It was August 19, 2006 that yet another link from my short chain of friends was torn away with the passing of Shelton.
For many Shelton was a lawyer practising in a foreign country. However, Shelton meant more than one in the legal profession. I had known Shelton from 1939 as a boarder at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo. He was the youngest of four brothers – Douglas, Oliver, Durand and Terrence. He was in the small dormitory with my younger brothers Joe and Rienzie. He was affectionately called Kaputa, may be became he was of darker complexion than his brothers.
When St. Joseph’s was commandeered by the Royal Navy during the Second World War, the boarding was shifted to a coconut estate in Homagama where a branch school was established. Being a place with smaller numbers I came in closer contact with Shelton.
After his secondary education he read for his L.L.B. at the Peradeniya University. After his degree he passed his Advocates Final but due to changes in the legal profession he took oaths as an Attorney-at-Law and joined the highly respected law firm of Julius and Creasy.
After marriage to Leonie he decided to search for new pastures and soon settled down in England. He obtained a junior position in the most prestigious law firm of Farrer & Co. Farrers were prestigious because they are the solicitors to the Queen of England and to the Royal Family. Soon Shelton proved to be a solicitor of repute and Farrers placed him in charge of the Mid-East, Asia and the Far East Desk.
At this time I was attached to the Tea Board and was posted to London. This office I held being of state service was not free from political maladies. Thus on many occasions I had to seek Shelton’s advice.
So I say adieu for now. May hosts of angels blow their trumpets heralding your meeting our maker who with outstretched arms will invite you saying softly "Well done Shelton, my son".
A beauty with many talents
~ Zoe Jayatilleke, Sando Mirsky, Nightingale
Through the grapevine, my friend Maxim Flamer-Caldera, businessman and entrepreneur, the news came to us of the sad demise of a very dear friend, Zoe Jayatilleke, of a massive stroke in her Astra Apartment in Bondi, Sydney, Australia.
Stunningly beautiful Zoe, was the sister of my close friend, Willie Jayetilleke who will be remembered for his classic century in the Royal-Thomian of 1936 at the NCC grounds and his astute leadership of the Colombo Colts Cricket Club in the Premier League through the late ’40s and early ’50s. I took over the captaincy from him when he decided to call it a day from first class cricket.
Zoe was head girl, or senior prefect of Bishop’s College. She was an ace swimmer, champion ballroom dancer, enthusiastic golfer and beauty queen at several dances, particularly the Otter Dance.
She was a regular Otter and star pupil of the Marjorie Sample School of Dancing at Layard’s Road. It was here she meet Rolf Sando Mirsky, a Russian Pole, professional dancer and teacher. A handsome man and a charming chap, he had a wide circle of Ceylonese friends. He stood handsomely at either bar –Otters or Colombo Swimming Club.
He struck a whirlwind love affair with Zoe and married her in a simple ceremony which was followed by a lively reception at the Sample School, hosted by Marjorie Sample. They paired superbly, taught dancing together and gave ballroom dancing exhibitions for charity at several functions, particularly at the Galle Face Hotel. Rolf’s favourite watering hole was the Colombo Swimming Club, and it was after one of those pleasurable encounters that he was riding home on this Triumph Speed when he made a wrong judgement and crashed head on to a lorry travelling at high speed without lights – opposite the Green Cabin, Colpetty – death was instantaneous. At that time Zoe was with child, and 3 months later a son was born.
Later, Zoe married Harry Nightingale, an Australian Olympic swimming coach, a great chap and a staunch supporter of the Otter Aquatic Club. He was in Sri Lanka for years and years, coaching at the Otters and the Surf Lifesaving Club which he founded in Mount Lavinia. They were a happy couple and moved superbly with acceptance in Colombo’s society. After many years, Harry packed his bags and left with Zoe, seeking fresher pastures in Bondi and Manly, and with Zoe’s assistance he got established within a few months with some lucrative coaching stints.
Harry died years later, leaving Zoe to battle through life and a future. Jeanne and I visited Zoe in Bondi and she always looked fresh, vibrant and full of humour.
Willie was Zoe’s elder brother. Willie and I joined the Colombo Colts Cricket Club in 1940 and clicked immediately, playing for the club in the Premier League with success. We cycled to work, to the club and to chase the girls in Havelock Town and Bambalapitiya with occasional success. Our buddies were Stanley & Christobel Livera, Budgie & Esme Metzling, Jack & Ranee Misso, Mervyn Vandort, Ernie Kelaart, Ted Misso, Fred & Babs Kellar, Haig & Maureen Christoffeltz. We were regulars at the Milgiriya School’s quarterly dances, the Otter Annual Dance, the BRC Dance, and occasionally at the D.B.U.
My friendship with Willie got closer over chasing girls together, and my playing under his captaincy. In the early fifties he met and tied the knot with attractive Lois Vanderziel and they made a handsome couple. I was Willie’s bestman at the well-attended ceremony at St. Paul‘s Church, Milagiriya. A few years later the couple migrated to Australia to join the Scotts and the Nightingales. That was about the time the exodus of Burghers to Australia was running at its peak. Willie went to work with my millionaire friend, Maurice Sterland in Gosford, N.S.W. His happy association with Sterland Bros. lasted for over 25 years until he retired a few years ago.
On my several visits to Australia, I met with Harry & Zoe and the Scotts, but I missed Willie and Iris. Eventually I caught Willie last year through the courtesy of a close mutual friend, Dr. Douglas Arndt, over a gorgeous crab lunch hosted by Vilma Arndt in her beautiful seafront home. Jeanne and I had a great day with my old pals Willie, Douglas and Vilma.
Willie passed away early this year, followed by Zoe, a few days ago. Thus endeth a glorious friendship with a delightful family. May their souls rest in peace.
Sunday Times Oct 8 2006
A young bright star shines no more
Mohamed Marzook Mohamed Mifras
A charming little flower about to blossom has been nipped in the bud. That is the sad fate that befell Mifras Marzook, only son of Fareena and Marzook, Chairman/Managing Director, Middle East Group of Companies. Mifras left us forever, victim of a deadly viral infection at the tender age of 14 years.
The belief that the good die young is quite apt in the case of our beloved Mifras.
His parents left no stone unturned in their frantic efforts to seek the best medical treatment. But sadly all their efforts proved futile. As fate would have it Mifras succumbed to the will of the Almighty Allah at the Apollo Hospital, India whilst receiving medical treatment.
The chubby and cherubic Mifras, ever sporting a pleasant smile, was full of zest and so lively that the heartrending news of his untimely demise came as a rude shock to all of us.
Born and bred in Kattankudy, Batticaloa, Mifras received his early education at a leading school in his village, where he excelled in his studies. Subsequently, the family moved to Layards Broadway, Colombo and Mifras was admitted to Royal Institute, Colombo. Here too he showed his prowess and skills in his studies. He was a keen football player and an ardent cricket fan.
Mifras was always up to schoolboy pranks whilst in the company of his friends.
He was a maestro on the computer and fully conversant with all its intricacies. Be it up-grading or replacement of software, he was on the spot.
Mifras was laid to his eternal rest at the Meera Jumma Masjid, Kattankudy in the midst of a large gathering of mourners, relatives and friends.
He is survived by his ever sorrowing parents, Fareena and Marzook and his elder sister, Mifhara.
Mifras is no more. But his
loving remembrances and fond memories will linger long in our
Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Illaihi Rajyoon.
Memories of your loving ways linger
Antony George Paul
Ten years ago a sudden
Turned my life upside down
When I lost you, my inspiration,
My role model, my everything
Echoes of your hearty voice
Visions of your warm smile
Memories of your loving ways,
Keep coming back to me every day.
You’d never know, how much I miss you
Or how much I pray every day
To see you again, at least in my dreams
I know you’re in heaven, smiling, down on me
Because where ever you are
I know you’ll always, love and protect me
I’ll always love, cherish and remember you
God grant you eternal rest!
Sunday Times Oct 1 2006
Professor Sobitha Sanjaya Panditharatne
September 2 marks the first death anniversary of Professor Sobitha Sanjaya Panditharatne. He was the eldest brother of my classmate and friend Abhaya. I first met Professor and his wife Manel when I was living with Abhaya in his old ancestral house at Nugegoda during my A Level examination, way back in the 1960s. Theirs was a very united and loving family.
Having joined the Department of Anatomy in 1962, he rose to be the Professor of Anatomy at the Faculty of Medicine, Colombo, which post he held for more than 25 years till retirement. He worked very hard and was meticulous in his work and had the charisma to inspire his staff and students to greater heights. His achievements could be gauged by the many students who are now holding senior posts as consultants, professors and lecturers, here and abroad.
He was also singularly responsible for all the dissections and created a comprehensive Anatomical museum, which is on par with any museum in the world. Upon retirement he was made an Emeritus Professor in recognition of his valued services.
Furthermore he was an examiner to MS Surgery Part 1, MS Dental Part 1 and Radiology Part 1 for many years. In 1989 he was conferred with a ‘Honouris Causa’ fellowship (FCCP) by the College of Surgeons of Sri Lanka.
Subsequently his inbuilt character and excellent leadership made him an automatic choice for the post of Registrar of the Sri Lanka Medical Council. During his 11-year tenure he made the council financially viable and was responsible in housing it in the new showpiece fully furnished building at Norris Canal Road, Colombo 10.
His busy schedule did not deter him from his obligations. He was much interested in the accomplishments of his two daughters. His was a unique academic family where he and his wife Manel, his two daughters and two sons-in-law are all doctors and specialists. He was a horticulturists and an avid orchid grower. He was in his element in his garden, tending the plants he loved.
In his later years, failing health made him give up his multitude of interests and lead a happy retired life under the tender care of his loving wife, Manel, who was a tower of strength to him.
He was a simple person who was very content with life and never wanted more. He always helped anybody who wanted his advice and was happy with other people’s success. He was a wonderful person who led a very accomplished life. He has helped both my wife and me in numerous ways for which I will always be grateful.
May he receive all the blessings of the triple gem in his journey through samsara.
Sunday Leader Sep 24 2006
A life that was a celebration of love and compassion
Sister Maude A.C.
Sister Maude A.C. was a loved sister in the Congregation of the Apostolic Carmel for 59 years. She hailed from Dehiwela and was known as Dorothy Hopman. She completed her God given 82 years on this earth walking with us as a true Carmelite nun. We miss her very much today.
Deeply prayerful and steeped in Carmelite spirituality, she was a true daughter of the church. Sister Maude who faced the reality of religious life not only in Sri Lanka but also in India was a source of inspiration and strength to one and all. She was equally a good teacher, superior and administrator, as well as an exemplary religious Mother, at ease with prayer book and pen as with brush and broom. Entrusted with the responsibility of Major Superior, Sister Maude strove untiringly to raise the standard of religious life in Sri Lanka, playing a leading role with prayer and example, inspiring and challenging us to aim high, to take risks and be interested in events and people. She always reminded us that the responsibility of our actions was ultimately ours. While being a person of deep prayer she was utterly humane. Everyone was a recipient of her kindness and concern.
In the capacity of a Major Superior, she had close links with the Church in Sri Lanka, and actively participated at AMOR meetings and the activities of the Centre for Society and Religion. She gave full cooperation to the inter faith dialogue.
The parish community was as much her concern as the religious community. As Principal at Badulla, Bandarawela and Ampitiya, Sister Maude was loved and appreciated by teachers, students and parents. Care of the poor, the needy and the handicapped was her forte. The plight of the sick, the unwanted, the oppressed had a special place in her heart – it was large enough to embrace them all. For her, all differences of rank, race, colour, religion and gender melted away and all appeals to her heart were met with equal concern and compassion.
Her valiant service to the congregation, parish church and society extended to the very end. Her death came suddenly after a brief illness which took us all by surprise. A multitude of friends from all walks of life flocked to the chapel of Carmel Convent, Borella where she lay in a garden of wreaths and bouquets, beautiful in death. Verily was her going home a celebration of love, as was her entire life.
A driving force among family, friends & colleagues
Tyrone Angelo Fernando
Charisma combined with loyalty, efficiency and honesty are rare achievements for any individual. However, these characteristics were inborn in Tyrone and formed an integral part of his life and made him what he was, an indefatigable and omniscient, yet amiable driving force. He was many things to different people- to his wife - a loving husband, to his daughters - a caring father, to his friends and peers - an amiable buddy, to his employer - a conscientious worker and to me.. assistant, colleague and more so, a friend par excellence.
After his education at St. Joseph’s College, Maradana, he embarked on a successful plantation career. He was a General Manager at the time of his demise. Even on the day of his untimely death his concern for his staff and workers was abundantly evident.
He first joined the company taking over Glasgow Estate and soon turned into one of the best units. His pioneering efforts included obtaining ISO status for that factory and thereafter HACCP status for Balmoral, the estate. However, being the humble man that he was he rarely took credit for a stupendous job so meticulously accomplished. He was a believer in “Nil Nisi Optima” or nothing but the best, when it came to his duties. Tall in stature and blessed with a dynamic personality, it was no surprise that he was a respected figure in the sector. He was the past Chairman of the Planters’ Association of Ceylon of the Nuwara Eliya District and came to the assistance of many estates in their hour of need. Lack of space, unfortunately limits me from listing his multitude of accomplishments both in the sphere of employment as well as in the social sector. A devout Catholic - he rarely missed Sunday mass.
He will be sadly missed by his ever - loving wife Chrysanthi, his daughters Trehana and Chiara, friends, relatives and colleagues. May their beliefs help them to console themselves and move on with their lives remembering what Tyrone stood for in his short life of two score plus seven years.
not suffice to express our feelings. In moments such as this, such emotions can
only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart. “His life was
gentle; and the elements so mix’d in him that Nature might stand up and say to
all the world, ‘This was a man!’”
May the turf lie gently on him.
A happy journey down memory lane
Abdul Latif Mohamad Haleem
To see a close friend of over 50 years depart is sorrowful. My good friend Muhandiramlagegedara Abdul Latif Mohamad Haleem passed away on August 22 this year and the funeral rites were performed on the same day as per the Muslim custom. He was 78 years.
What is poignant is that only a couple of days earlier he had phoned me and wanted me to visit him. Although looking frail and weighed down with illness he talked to me in his usual convivial mood and his family members also joined us in friendly conversation. There wasn’t the least indication that it would be the last time we would be seeing each other, but three days later he was dead.
I met Haleem for the first time on July 15, 1953 to be exact when he came to assume duties at the Nuwara Eliya Municipal Council on his passing the Government Clerical Service Examination. I was then employed in that office. His main problem was to find a place to board. I straighatway took him to my place which was run by a widowed Malay lady assisted by two of her daughters. They were more than happy to accommodate the young and personable Haleem who was of their own faith.
To write about my friend is a long journey down memory lane. Young and ebullient, our stay at Nuwara Eliya was the most eventful period of our lives. Practically every evening it was the Public Services Club where public servants of the town mixed and enjoyed themselves in the evenings.
Here, we tried our hands at all the recreation facilities available - table tennis, lawn tennis, cards and occasionally a ‘foxtrot’ with a fair partner to the beat of music from the Radiogram which was then a prized possession in a Club or an affluent home.
There were singsongs and Halim had a repertoire of some popular Sinhala songs of that era and would sing them melodiously, making every one listen in amazement to a Muslim youth singing Sinhala songs so beautifully.
When the time came for my marriage, it was Haleem who accompanied me on my maiden visit to see the proposed and finally he was best-man at the wedding, considered a departure from the orthodox practice of having a person of your own community to take that intimate position.
His wife was his greatest asset. He found in her a true life companion - an embodiment of all the finest qualities of Muslim womanhood - his friend, philosopher and guide who with resourcefulness and endurance shouldered all the burdens with good cheer and cared for him with dedication till the last.
He fought hard for all to one day live in a just society
The coffin was closed. The Crematorium lights were lit. Flames from the burning embers puffed out smoke from the chimneys. Three months have passed. Bana was preached and alms were given to the monks. Friends gathered and departed leaving Rohini and Pulasthi alone.
The lone struggle he carried out against what he believed to be wrong disappeared. He was convinced that during his lifetime he would create a society in which his friends, of all communities would live in peace and harmony and without acrimony. Has this dream been doomed?
Suranjith was my friend. Was he my best friend or one of my best friends? I do not know. If these clichés were true, why did we part ways? His sense of justice and fair-play was different to mine. His sense of hopelessness over the system dear to him, was it a manifestation of other ideas or agendas of others, I queried. Or we simply could not agree on our methodology. Disagreement leads to ennui, disillusion, and separation.
He told me that I was a supporter of a corrupt system. I should be responsible for its ultimate demise not its proliferation he argued. Very soon people will only read law books to find out what justice was. Justice is history he lamented. I disagreed. I too was fighting corruption in many ways. If someone does not take action, the entire system would be corrupt. So I am helping the authorities to weed out corruption from the system dear to me. He grinned. His countenance said it all. I have become a partner and a defender of a system that is oozing with corrupt, unjust people. Can corruption root out corruption he mused, cynicism writ over it? Who is correct? Only the future would tell.
"I may not live long. I cannot stand the way this system is being corrupted. I will fight it to my dying day. I may be charged, convicted and sent to jail for fighting injustice, but I will not stop fighting.” He was fighting a losing battle. The whole society was corrupt. Corruption has become an inalienable facet of our culture. Honesty is frowned upon, truth is diluted, falsehood enshrined, crime preserved and protected, rights abused. We become a part and parcel of this cancerous system which is eating into the body politic. Who cares? Suranjith cared. He appeared and defended Victor Ivan, when indictment after indictment was filed against him. Ultimately, like almost after a million years, the truth triumphed, in the new millennium. Criminal defamation laws were repealed from the statute book. This was one achievement of Suranjith's indefatigable struggle against the curtailment of the freedom of expression.
We parted ways as I, in some instances, did not agree with him. It was too much for him. He always thought he was correct and I was wrong. 'One day when I am dead and gone you will realize how wrong you were in this struggle to cleanse the system.' This question will always worry me and continue to trouble my consciousness. I remember what my teacher told me – “Hemantha the search for truth and justice is a constant struggle. You should never compromise your perception of truth or sense of justice, though it may be the bitterest pill to swallow, or it may be the most arduous route to take. Swallow it with relish and take it with vigour. It is your duty to lead others through this correct path. Remember, truth survives at the end.” I still do not know who was correct and who was wrong, in fighting the system from inside or outside.
Your death brought me close to you and your family again. I am relieved to know what Rohini told me when you were gasping for the last breath. Pulasthi your son, held Rohini's hand and told her "let him go ammi let him go peacefully leaving this dreadful world. After all, throughout his life he gave his utmost love and devotion to us. He was the kindest father I knew”.
Suranjith, it may console you to know that at least there is another one to carry on your mission for justice, human rights; minority rights; fair play; freedom to speak and write and to rid this society of corruption.
“Pulasthi Hewamanna, it’s over to you. You have for the sake of our future generation undertaken to fulfill your father’s mission.”
He was truly a great man.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 7, 2006
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
SRI LANKA: Honouring Suranjith Hewamanna, a model courageous lawyer
The Asian Human Rights Commission expresses deep sadness on the occasion of the passing away of Suranjith Hewamanna in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Hewamanna was one of the bravest lawyers in the country during one of the hardest times faced by the judicial and legal professions. He embodied the fearlessness and conviction associated with advocacy at a time when such qualities were no longer favoured by legal and judicial practitioners in the country. He took up cases dealing with undue executive and judicial interference. He represented journalists who were targeted by politicians as well as the attorney general of the time, Sarath De Silva, who later became the country's chief justice. Hewamanna saw the rise of De Silva as one of the greatest blows dealt to the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession. Only his strong commitment to basic freedoms convinced him to continue appearing before the courts in recent times of judicial and legal degeneration.
Freedom of press and expression were the causes closest to Hewamanna. He played a prominent role in the campaign against criminal defamation, which was finally abolished. This was a campaign for which he devoted a significant period of his life. He was fervently opposed to censorship. The achievements realised by the Sri Lankan society in these areas will be part of the legacy Hewamanna leaves behind. Many leading journalists owe a great debt to him for his bold and free defense of their cases. Many of them will likely share their own stories about him in the coming days.
He also represented members of the judiciary who felt their fundamental rights were violated through arbitrary and unfair disciplinary processes. Few lawyers were willing to take up such cases, which would bring them in conflict with senior judicial and other officers, as well as place them against the current of convenient adjustment to a rapidly degenerating legal process. This brave and bold lawyer however, never considered the 'consequences' of his work.
A V Dicey said of the British constitution that it was grown and not made. The same cannot be said of constitutionalism in Sri Lanka. Recent decades have seen the uprooting of basic foundations of constitutionalism, which have in effect made the judiciary subservient to the executive. Although this has been a painful process for many lawyers, few dared to fight against it, particularly with the knowledge that the odds are against them. Hewamanna was among a handful who refused to compromise and give in to the decay and degeneration going on around him.
He was a gentle person, kind and concerned about his friends and deeply worried about his countrymen. A man knowledgeable of many cultures, his was a commitment to the basic rights and liberties of everyone. The Asian Human Rights Commission salutes 'a truly lawyer type of lawyer' and hopes that he will be a role model emulated by more persons. The survival of Sri Lanka's judicial system as a democratic institution depends upon this. The Asian Human Rights Commission particularly honours him for daring to swim against the current, for not giving in to the degeneration around him and for continuing to believe in basic freedoms and the possibility of an independent judiciary and a bold legal profession in the country.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 14, 2006
A Paper by the Asian Human Rights Commission
SRI LANKA: A former high court judge recalls Suranjith Hewamanna
Samith de Silva, a former judge of the high court in Sri Lanka, recalls and appreciates the life and work of Suranjith Hewamanna, who passed away recently in Colombo:
He was a god among men one said. No! He was a man among men another said. No! He was a gentleman among lawyers the third said. As for me I was certain that he was a gentleman and a lawyer. He was a gentleman to the fingertips. And as a lawyer he was as bold as brass. His honesty was beyond question. He did not fight cases to earn money. He fought for the rights of others: for the society.
The news about Suranjith Hewamanna's death was not a great shock to me. He was suffering for years. His kidneys were packing up and he had survived a few heart attacks during the past few years. He went on absolutely unconcerned about his health, as he had graver concerns. He always said that for as long as mercenaries are at the helm of the system it couldn't be put on the right track.
Every moment he spoke of the political future of Sri Lanka, its judiciary and the liberty of its people. He was a well-read man, and truly erudite. His knowledge was not confined to the books of law, the profession that he practiced. He was a mine of information on many things, be it history, politics or civilization.
I had seen Suranjith in court quite often during the time I was in the Attorney General's Department, but had never struck up a long dialogue with him. I still remember the day he first appeared before me, after I had joined the judiciary. He had a bad case. Still, he was not willing to give up his attempts to convince the judge. His desire was to do the best for his client. It was difficult to limit his address. Very much later he told me that he had appeared pro deo. I still remember when he appeared for a second case I pushed his case for another date saying, "Mr. Hewamanna, you are a good opening batsman. We'll have a very clear date for you." He bowed, agreeing, with his usual smile--a mixture of humbleness and sarcasm.
I became a close associate of Suranjith
not very long ago. It was only around 2000 that I came to know that he was a
pioneer in the campaign against the wanton destruction of the justice system.
He was a rare example of a person who had in-depth vision into two irreconcilable political ideologies: communism and democracy. I thought he was playing the devil's advocate. Later I found myself to be wrong. He was a man who respected the good elements in both systems. In his the early days he was a sympathizer of communism and later he ended up as a central committee member of the Sri Lankan branch of the communist party (Moscow). The Suranjith whom I met was an outright democrat who never denounced communism but rather respected its root principles.
Human liberties--justice, freedom of the press and expression--were at the deepest point of Suranjith's heart. He had the utmost contempt of anybody who disgraced the judicial system, whether someone on top or bottom. He always said, "If the top stinks, how can the bottom be better?" And he asked, "What's the use of superficial justice and living in a society like this?"
It is ironic that a man who sacrificed all his life for principles had such a sad ending. The strong feeling that the Sri Lankan judiciary has gone beyond the point of redemption made Suranjith frustrated, depressed and sick. It is natural for an honest person who works for the wellbeing of the country to suffer the consequences of such deep frustration, unlike the unscrupulous vermin who destroy society from whatever post and with whatever power available, be it judicial or administrative, from the higher echelons or lower.
Suranjith never preached. He just did what he thought to be correct and honorable. He never used any pretexts for any gain, however beneficial it may have been to him. He was the only solace for many judicial officers who were victimized by the whimsical actions of people in power. He went all out to help them, and often prepared papers for their cases at his own expense. He was the model of a true lawyer: bold enough to call a spade a spade without any hesitation or disregard of whatever consequences may come, whatever disfavor he may face or whatever loss he may suffer. He boosted the courage and principles not only of the up and coming in the legal profession and set an alternative example to the bootlickers and crafty and dishonest ones who would otherwise stoop down to any level for their survival, money or position.
Suranjith was a blaze that kindled many little fires against the darkness of injustice. His untimely death is no death: he continues to give life to those small fires that he kindled, that one day they may ignite together in a gigantic blaze.
About AHRC The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
She brought out the beautiful
CHARMINA MOLLIGODA KADURUWANE
As we remembered Charmina Marlene’s birthday on September 21, we also remember the beautiful and unique lady she was.
Many of her family members and friends remember her for many different things. Her school friends will no doubt remember her stunning performance as a sixteen year old, as Damayanthi in the romantic play “Nala saha Damayanthi”. And many family members and friends still remember her as a leading model, who graced the fashion pages of the 1960s.
Charmina, my aunt, was also a writer, cook par excellence and lover of the creative and unique. She always combined elements of nature and was original in her creations, be it the fashionable clothes she wore, her interior décor or in her writing. One remembers with amusement her passion for plants and the way in which she would potter around the garden talking to them.
Her wonderful frog-collection was even more intriguing as she had every conceivable ‘froggie ornament’ – in bathtubs, on a throne and they seemed to be ‘alive’ everywhere in her home waiting to spring at you.
Her sense of humour was wonderful and she loved to play pranks on the senior members of the family with us children. She loved to go to the beach with us or allow us to enjoy the beauty of her garden without restrictions. I remember my brother and I having a wonderful time in her fish pond when we were kids.
One great aspect of her that all of us admired, was her sense of fashion, and the use of colour and jewellery, most often traditional, when she dressed up for a function.
She also loved to write and had a collection of poetry and short stories which made an interesting read!
Charmina was many things to many people – daughter, mother, sister, sister-in-law, aunt and friend. She was also the ‘mother’ to many cats and dogs.
To my brother and I, and to many youngsters she was our ‘Bubbo Amma’. The` most precious person in her life was her only son Cuda. Her mother Princess, brother Seneca and entire family miss her unique personality.
Darling Bubbie, we remember you with affection not only on your birthday but every day!
May your soul rest in the loving hands of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Sunday Times Sep 23 2006
‘One day we will stand for our own national anthem’
Today, September 17 marks the 100th birth anniversary of former President J.R. Jayewardene
The film was over and the entire audience was stirring prior to standing up to the strains of the national anthem ‘God Save the King’. I moved in my seat to stand up when my father’s large restraining hand came down gently but firmly on my forearm. He explained in that characteristic subdued voice of his that had to be obeyed, “We no longer stand for this anthem as we do not consider it our anthem.
former President J.R. Jayewardene
“One day we will stand and respect our own national anthem, when we are free.”
I was too young then to realize the full significance of this statement. I was too concerned about the people around us. All were standing up to attention and some of them turning around to hurl racial abuse at my father who was seated. All of them were white and I presumed British. To me they all looked big and some bigger than others. I was nine and if there were a confrontation perhaps my only line of defence would have been to kick the big white man directly in front of me for him to go tumbling down over the rows immediately before him. Perhaps tuning into my thoughts, my father again touched my hand while sitting in stony silence as though he himself could not see or hear anything.
This was Sri Lanka in 1945 and my father was a freedom fighter. Unlike most of the liberation struggles of today that fight for freedoms they already possess, with guns, grenades and mortars, my father’s liberation struggle had started over 25 years before, using only the power of passive resistance.
He did not believe in the shedding of blood. He explained to me the significance of names like Kotelawala and Senanayake in this long struggle against foreign domination spanning over quarter of a century. He told me how he planned to take the struggle for Independence to its final conclusion following the principles of non-violence, similar to that, which was then being practised in India by the great Mahathma Gandhi. I keenly followed the progress of the protest marches and demonstrations that he planned against the British. He filled my youthful heart with confidence that one day I would grow up in a Lanka that was free and totally independent of foreign rule.
The pages of time have recorded the history of our country since that great day in 1948 when my father’s promise was fulfilled to this nation and to me. As far as he was concerned the fighting was over and it was the time for peace and prosperity. But as we all know, this was not to be. I have often spoken to him in the quiet moments of his retirement after 11 years as the first Executive President of Sri Lanka about his achievements and failures.
He was large enough to admit his failures and mistakes, but some of his lesser achievements he had surprisingly forgotten. When I reminded him of the pension scheme that he set up for the soldiers, the salary benefits for the widows of soldiers and the allocation of special wards for injured servicemen, he asked me “Did I do that?” So I continued to refresh his memory about all the other minor things that he had accomplished including sending his able minister as an emissary to get Test status in cricket for Sri Lanka, and setting up the President’s Fund. Perhaps in his time he was able to see a degree of prosperity but the peace that he so dearly wanted for his country did not seem to come.
unable to comprehend the mind of the modern terrorist and the
callous nature of the senseless slaughter that is his hallmark of
accomplishment. The battle that he fought and won did not have the
remotest resemblance to the carnage today, the same rules did not
apply, and in him an underlying sense of sadness remained, when on a
sunny morning during his 90th year the curtain came down, and Sri
Lanka’s last freedom fighter stepped off the stage.
( First published in Past Times - The Sunday Times Millennium Magazine.)
Through writings and debates, he propagated the Dhamma
D. Amarasiri Weeraratne
D. Amarasiri Weeraratne, the well known propagator of the Dhamma, passed away in Kandy after a brief illness on March 1, this year at the age of 82 years. Educated at Kingswood College, Kandy, he served as a Government Officer in the Health and Forest Departments. After retirement he devoted his time mainly to the study and propagation of Dhamma.
With his wide reading and knowledge of the Dhamma he was a prolific writer on the subject, publishing articles in established Buddhist journals, The Buddhist of the Colombo YMBA, Vesak Lipi and the Vesak Sirisara that has been published annually without interruption over the last 71 years and is now published by the Government Servants Buddhist Association. Fluent in both English and Sinhala, his presentations on the Dhamma were also published from time to time in English and Sinhala newspapers of the country.
In the 1960s, Mr. Weeraratne was the Secretary of the Servants of the Buddha Society and was closely associated with the late Deshabandu Alec Robertson, who was the President of the Society for a long period of time.
In more recent times he was a crusader for the establishment of a Bhikkhuni Order in Sri Lanka and wrote numerous articles on the subject in newspapers. He appeared to be more dedicated to that cause than the women themselves. He readily participated in debates on the controversy regarding the establishment of a Bhikkhuni Order in this country.
He was firmly of the view that women should not be deprived of the opportunity to lead a totally Buddhist spiritual life enjoyed by the male Sangha of the country. He consistently contested the argument of some that the Buddha conceded the establishment of a Bhikkhuni Order in His time under pressure and that the Buddha felt that males were more suited for spiritual life than women. It would have been a matter of great satisfaction to him that the Bhikkhuni Order was eventually established during his lifetime.
Mr. Weeraratne in his younger days was interested in evidence of rebirth and engaged in hypnosis and age regression.
He also participated actively in the monthly public Buddhist panel discussion, conducted by the Colombo YMBA every third Sunday morning of the month, starting from mid 1990s. Moreover, from time to time, he was a member of the popular Buddhist Forum of the SLBC that is broadcast weekly on Tuesdays.
He wrote articles on subjects such as the establishment of a Bhikkhuni Order, the Anatta doctrine, and meditation being confined to monks. He was of the view that the Abhidhamma was not a part of the teaching of the Buddha but a later development. On the Anatta doctrine, he argued that it was not possible to maintain that there was no self or personality at all.
Having strong views, he would not let go of an argument easily. Another matter on which he disagreed with many was his conviction that Bhavana or Meditation was only for the monks and not for laymen. My efforts to persuade him to practise meditation himself to test its beneficial impact here and now proved unsuccessful. Despite these disagreements he was always polite and considerate and responded positively to most of my requests for help in Buddhist activities.
Thus, to some extent he was a controversial personality and many including the writer did not always agree with his views.
Recently, Mr. Weeraratne was not in the best of health and had a premonition that the end was near. During his final illness he was warded at the Kandy Hospital where he indicated to his doctors that it was better to go before things became too difficult both for himself and others.
On the last
day he was seated on a chair by the side of his bed in the Intensive
Care Unit of the hospital where he was engaged in a pleasant
conversation with his niece who was serving as a Nurse. He had
spoken very well with a clear mind and just after she left he had
collapsed and died.
May this keen propagator of the Dhamma realize early the bliss of Nibbana.
A lovable ‘Loku teacher’
Eva Jayasekara, the beloved wife of Emeritus Professor U.D. Jayasekara passed away recently, at the age of 86 years. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. S.P. De Silva of Colombo and had four brothers and two elder sisters. Mrs.Jayasekara was a student of Musaeus College, Colombo, and after her higher studies, joined the teaching profession, being attached to Clifton Girls’ College, Colombo.
After her marriage to U.D. Jayasekara, she joined him in England when he left to pursue his doctoral studies.
There she successfully completed the London exams and the AMI Montessori diploma. In 1962, she decided to prematurely retire from teaching while she was on the staff at Clifton Girls’ School. She also served as a relief news reader at Radio Ceylon and was chosen to give commentaries in Sinhala on the visit of Queen Elizabeth. As listeners we enjoyed her narration and even as tiny tots, we would anxiously wait glued to transistors on weekday evenings for the children’s programme ably conducted by Siri Aiya and Somi Akka.
Somi Akka, as Mrs Jayasekera was known, was a lovable teacher and as a mother herself, her commitment to Montessori education was evident.
Her residence at No 35, Mount Mary was popularly known as Mount Mary Pre-School. Fondly known as ‘Loku teacher’, she was always concerned about little children. Despite her failing health over the past six months she played an active role in their affairs. Her afternoon and weekend English classes were also well patronized.
In the midst of her busy schedule, she always found time to attend to family matters. She was concerned about her husband’s welfare and that of the five boys, Kithsiri, Jayantha, Ajith, Prasanna and Chandana. She always found time to help and guide them in their studies, sports, extra curricular activities etc.
A pioneer in epidemiological work
Dr. A.V.K.V. de Silva
I first met Dr. A.V.K.V. de Silva in 1977 soon after joining UNICEF. It was a period in UNICEF’s history when maternal and child health including nutrition was the major focus of UNICEF programmes.
UNICEF had just started working with both the Epidemiological Unit and the Family Health Bureau on planning and developing the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI).
Prior to this, immunization was given either in the form of “mass” immunizations particularly in the case of polio, or administered if and when it was requested by parents on the referral of a paediatrician or a general practitioner.
UNICEF was also working closely with WHO which provided technical expertise and had many discussions with the Ministry of Health to develop a comprehensive plan for EPI. A particular challenge was establishing a viable cold chain for vaccines from the time the vaccines came by air right down to the central stores to provinces and districts, and Medical Officer of Health areas and finally a Public Health Midwife who administered vaccines to infants.
I recall the numerous discussions he had with me and also with Dr. N.W. Vidyasagara and many others dedicated to immunization at the Family Health Bureau - people such as Dr. Malini de Silva, Dr. Sybil Wijesinghe and Dr. Kamini Alahakoon. Few will know that in those early days when we started the EPI we did not even know what cold chain items or injecting equipment would be most suitable.
The most important aspect of AVKV, as he was fondly referred to among all of us who were involved in public health activities, was the professional manner in which he conducted all aspects of his work. Technical consideration dominated his decision making and he was never swayed in his judgement by any other consideration. He was joined by other eminent epidemiologists such as Dr. Ranjan de Sylva and Dr. Wimal Jayakuru who continued the “AVKV” tradition of technical competence.
Many significant decisions were made during this time in relation to the immunization schedule, introduction of measles vaccine in 1985 to the already existing one covering Diphtheria, Pertusis (Whooping cough) and Tetanus, and giving tetanus toxoid to pregnant women to prevent neonatal tetanus.
It was during AVKV’s tenure that UNICEF launched an island-wide programme on Oral Rehydration Therapy in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. Until then Oral Rehydration Salts were imported. I remember how I contacted AVKV and we worked out a plan to tie up with the State Pharmaceutical Corporation and the Chairperson at the time Dr (Mrs.) Gladys Jayawardene to produce local ORS using the local brand name of “Jeevanee”.
Wider access to Jeevanee meant that many infants and pre-schoolers were saved from the effects of dehydration.
At all times AVKV’s advice and technical direction were based on sound epidemiological principles and standards.
He was never swayed by petty considerations. I remember in the 1980s when UNICEF planned mass immunization campaigns with a “campaign style approach” AVKV discussed this with Dr. Vidyasagara who was then Director (MCH) and me.
We always worked as a team. We agreed collectively that we should only provide immunization through the Primary Health Care network of services and that we should strengthen the system to deliver immunization on a methodical and systematic basis.
How correct this decision was. Immunization became sustainable because of this and Sri Lanka has been able to eliminate immunizeable diseases such as polio, whooping cough, tetanus and measles. Establishing the practice of immunization itself was a great achievement which was supported by the Health Education system and a variety of field public staff such as Public Health Midwives and Health Education Officers.
AVKV will not only be remembered for his contribution to establish an Epidemiological Unit with high standards of technical proficiency but as a true Public Health professional he was a man of integrity and a team player with others like me who fought hard and strong to control and prevent immunizeable diseases among children in this country.
It is important to mention that both the immunization as well as the Oral Rehydration therapy programmes commenced in the early 1980s and were successfully implemented in all parts of the island including the conflict affected areas of the North and East.
Dedicated health professionals continued to provide services in those areas in spite of the prevailing war situation, collaborating with all of us to ensure the delivery of service to children. We travelled as a team to many parts of Sri Lanka to check on the effectiveness of both the immunization and ORT programmes.
It was always a team of the Epidemiological Unit, Family Health Bureau and I from UNICEF. Personally, I learnt the best of epidemiology not from a textbook but from AVKV and the work we did together for Sri lankan children.
May he attain Nibbana.
Sunday Times Sep 17 2006
"A great teacher,
A strict disciplinarian,
A fine gentlemen,
May he attain nibbana."
" To me he exemplified all the finest qualities in a great teacher from his immaculate dress to his superb teaching of Sinhala and Buddhism."
"The lessons were free flowing and made the subject a pleasant one to learn." "I carry very happy and pleasant memories of him at S.T.C." "He taught me more than Sinhala."
"Even when I met him many years after leaving school he greeted me with great kindness."
"I still remember with lot of gratitude and pleasant memories, the Sinhala and Buddhism he taught us."
These are what some of my colleagues had to say at this great gentlemen’s funeral.
D.S. Jayasekara who roamed the corridors of the school by the sea for almost half a century is a record breaking teacher with 48 years service, out of which a good portion as head master of the lower school. Although he taught in the vernacular his subjects being Sinhala, Buddhism and History, his attire — starched white suit with tie was in keeping with Oxford-Cambridge traditions and that of Eton and Harrow. A gentlemen to his finger tips, a mentor par excellence, he was a strict disciplinarian with a very soft heart.
He was in charge of college literary activities, was master-in-charge of the Sinhala Literary Society, Sinhala Drama and Music Society, the Debating team and the General knowledge quiz team. Prof. G.L. Peries, H.K. Caldera, Rohan Perera, Palitha Kohona, S.L. Gunasekara, Prof. A.P. De Silva, Dr. B.L.J. Mendis, N.M. Don Mohanlal, Harsha Abeywardana, and W.D.N. Perera are some of the well known names that come to my mind, who took a keen interest and participated fully in the above teams and societies.
The college ‘book cupboard ’ was also under his charge and he did a fine job. He had some handpicked students to assist him in this task. U.R. Morawaka, Donald Perera, Dayathmal Gunawardana, R.S. Perera, D.A.W. Sena-nayake, Donald Gamin-ithilaka, Yohesan Casie Chetty, S.S.L. Hettiarachi, Kesaralal Gunasekara and Bodhi Ranasinghe are some of those who helped in the daily work. Today all of them are doing extremely well in life.
Jayasekara was also in charge of De Saram House which used to be the best all round house during his time. It is my duty to mention here the potential leaders who emerged from this House who are doing brilliantly in life. Chico Gunarathna, Manilal Weerakoon, D.R. Chan-mugam, A.N.C.W. Jayasekara, P.L.D. Kariy-awasam, D.R. Weer-asinhe, Y.S.de Zoysa and G.D.V. Perera, are some of the names that come to mind.
We Thomians at some stage of our school life would have come in contact with this fine, well respected teacher whom we all loved. Later in life we had the pleasant task of coming to him with our sons. Most of his students went on to be noteworthy achievers in society. Perhaps he taught three generations and to cap it all, at least two latter day wardens addressed him as ‘Sir’ out of sheer respect and gratitude to the old teacher when they returned to be the head of this great institution.
May his wonderings in samsara be short, and may he attain the supreme bliss of nibbana.
Sunday Leader Sep 10 2006
A loving mother so tender and caring
Sheila Cecelia Josephine Johnson
The recent passing away of Sheila Cecelia Josephine Johnson nee Alwis at the ripe age of 86 years, is a great loss not only to me but to my brother Tyrone as well.
From the early days of our life, she looked after us with care and tenderness. She spared no pains in bringing us upto what we are today. During our mischievous teenage days she was always behind us, not even allowing us to learn to ride a push cycle, climb a tree or a wall, as most teenagers used to, because of the love she had for us fearing that we might hurt ourselves. Such was her care for us.
In addition to all the attention she gave us, she was also a devoted and faithful wife to the late Thomas Newton Johnson, Retired Sergeant Major (Sri Lanka Army - Ceylon Engineers). They shared 50 wonderful years of married life.
The passing away of her dear husband a few months after celebrating their golden jubilee was the saddest moment of her life.
However, with courage and determination she went on to live just one week short of her husband's 10th death anniversary.
I am certain they are once again together in their heavenly home.
In addition to her duties at home she was a source of strength to her relations, neighbours and friends, who, on numerous occasions sought her advice and guidance.
May her soul rest in peace with Jesus. Goodbye for now till we meet again.
A humble man, he served all with honesty
Navaratne William Prematilleke
Our eldest brother, N.W. Prematilleke passed away on August 7, last year, after a brief illness.
Born in 1930 in Makura, a small village in Kegalle District, he had an illustrious career as a public servant. He had his early education at the Hettimulla primary school and thereafter entered St. Mary’s College, Kegalle for further studies.
Having passed the Senior School Certificate Examination, he joined the Government Clerical Service in 1950 and his first appointment was to the Registrar General’s office in Colombo. It was the era that most of the qualified young people from various parts of the country ventured into the city looking for greener pastures, in the public and private sector.
While he was boarded in Colombo close to Temple Road, Maradana, which was considered as the temporary abode of the youth who came to the city for employment, he had the opportunity to meet persons of various skills in the literary field.
He used to visit Radio Ceylon when he had the time, to watch the production of broadcasting programmes by veterans such as Karunaratne Abeysekara, Chithrananda Abeysekara, Sarath Wimalaweera, Gunatunge, K. Liyanage and many others. As a result of his association with them, he also developed an interest in the literary field. Whenever he came home for the weekends, he used to tell us about the Aganuwara Tharuna Kavi Samajaya and great Sinhala poets such as U.A.S Perera (Siri Aiya), Meemana Prematilleka, P.B. Alwis Perera, Sagara Palansurya and many others, too numerous to mention.
As a villager, he valued our traditions and customs and was never influenced by the changing lifestyles of the city. He followed the teachings of the Buddha to the letter and did not hurt anybody’s feelings by unwanted utterances. He displayed these qualities while attending to his official work and readily helped those who came to seek his services as a public servant. After working in Colombo for a few years, he joined the District Registrar’s Office in Kegalle after a transfer.
He also had the opportunity to serve the people of Kegalle in a broad perspective, when he was called upon to work in the Ministry of Education, Shipping and Tourism under former Minister P.B.G. Kalugalla. As a co-ordinating officer in those Ministries, my brother listened to the problems and needs of the people.
He had developed that natural instinct to understand people’s problems and found solutions purely on merit and not for any favours or personal gains in return. Due to those honest qualities, he earned a good reputation amongst his superiors and colleagues.
In the early 1970’s he moved to Nawala, which became his permanent residence until his demise in 2005. In fact, he considered Nawala as his second home as he embarked on various social, cultural and religious activities in the area.
He held responsible positions in the credit and death donation society and spent much time in the operations of the functions of this organization. Being a devout Dayaka of the Wimalaviharaya, Nawala, he visited the temple as a daily routine and looked into the needs of the clergy, winning their admiration.
Even after his retirement, he never abandoned that practice. Earning the goodwill of the people was his wealth and that fact was amply demonstrated, during his funeral, which was attended by people of all walks of life, ministers and eminent persons.
Due to his vast knowledge and experience he was also called upon to serve in many other voluntary organizations. Being an active member of the YMBA, Nugegoda for a long period of time, he organized and participated in “Sil” campaigns, almsgivings as well as helped the Homes for the Aged and the Destitute Children.
He fulfilled those social obligations until the last days of his life before he fell sick and was hospitalized. After a few days in hospital, he passed away peacefully and the funeral rites were done according to his last will.
His demise created a vacuum in our lives, which cannot be filled as he was our mentor, who guided us to choose the right path of living.
May he attain Nibbana....!
Her life reflected the message of Lord Jesus
Clare Attygalla Abeyratne passed away on September 6, 2004 after her 83rd birthday on August 12, that year.
She hailed from a respectable family and was educated at Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena. She married Lambert Stanley Attygalle Abeyratne and lived at Madapatha, Piliyandala, her husband’s ancestral home. As a housewife she found happiness only in his happiness. She was in short, the embodiment, the personification of all virtues and qualities prescribed by our culture and tradition for a housewife.
Being a pioneer member of the Lions Club of Kohuwela, she always prepared delicious dishes and desserts for the Lions Club parties. Many of her nieces and nephews remember with gratitude her genial disposition, magnanimity and hospitality and the way she entertained them during Christmas parties and other occasions. Nature had blessed her with special qualities, modesty, reserve, gentleness, patience and forbearance.
She was deeply religious and worshipped Lord Jesus Christ with her heart, mind and soul.
She was a humble, simple, lovable and sociable person who was willing to oblige those who sought her assistance. She never harboured a grudge. Her sincerity and steadfastness to her friends should serve as a lesson, in a world where changing loyalty and shifting attitudes are the order of the day.
She was not content to give her four children a good education alone but also inculcated in them a deep sense of service to their fellow beings. In her life she reflected the message of Lord Jesus.
An artist, guide and philosopher
Zarina S. Moosajee
smiling – that was Zarina.
Ever ready to lend a hand.
Years did not matter youthful and sprightly.
Leading a life of sunshine and smiles.
Oils were your forte – and figure – work too.
Now we salute you – an artist true.
prize fund – your uppermost thought.
Over the years – your donations were great.
Calm and collected - at meetings you sit.
Inwardly absorbing each point with zest.
Emphasis on honour and upholding the just.
Trustee for years - serving in silence.
Your advice invaluable – our funds to balance.
On the centenary
– the prestigious Kalapathi Award.
For you an honour – so well deserved.
A ‘guide and
philosopher’- in times of stress.
Resign? No!-Your command – I was blessed.
The Ceylon Society of Arts – pays this tribute.
Sojourn in peace, great artist – in your realm of art
Sunday Times Sep 10 2006
Your parting was sudden, but your goodness lives on
It was on July 26 at 4.45 p.m. that we said "bye" to each other and then within minutes you had left this world. Never did I think it was your final 'bye' to me. We cannot imagine that you are no more, as we still feel your presence.
Why did you have to give in your resignation so suddenly to this world at the age of 49 years? You always said 50 not out. Yes, you have proved that life is uncertain but death is certain. It is truly said that the good die young. Words are insufficient to express our thanks and gratitude to you for all what you have been and done for us. You were a wonderful friend and loving brother to me.
Though you were younger than I, I always considered you as an elder brother for advice and guidance when the need arose. You always helped and supported me whenever I faced a problem. You encouraged me to carry on with my job whenever I was hurt or depressed. You were kind and understanding, concerned, caring and protective.
Caste, creed, race or wealth did not matter to you when it came to helping anyone in need. You were sympathetic to the poor and readily opened your purse or gave in kind. You did have a temper which was short-lived just like a bottle of soda when it was opened. Though you were an executive you sometimes did the work of a peon or a labourer when an urgent job had to be done.
You never missed a function, picnic or trip. You would attend any funeral no matter what the distance was. You were a rugger fan and never missed a rugger match of your old school, Isipathana.
Amidst all your office duties you faithfully fulfilled all your duties and obligations to your wife, sons and other family members. You were unselfish, honest, loyal and dedicated and gave your time and life for your job at Lake House and ended it at your desk that evening. You were a workaholic.
Dear Tissa, I will miss
you always. The good qualities you had will always be beautiful memories to
remember and treasure until my dying day. I thank God for your life. May your
soul rest in peace.
Fragrance of Parliament’s Na trees evokes memories of him
S.A. Jinadasa, a distinguished, senior government servant passed away on September 3, five years ago.
It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I write these lines about Mr. Jinadasa who served the people of this country to the maximum as a dedicated and devoted public servant.
Mr. Jinadasa joined the Sri Lanka Administrative Service in 1967, after his graduation from the University of Peradeniya. He had an ambition to serve the people of Rajarata and found the opportunity to do so when he was appointed DRO Nuwaragam Palatha West in the Anuradhapura District.
In 1971, he was appointed to the post of Deputy Commissioner in the Marketing Department where he worked hard to find solutions for the marketing problems encountered by the vegetable cultivator in the hill country. It was under his supervision that the jathika pola became a popular marketplace at the Race Course premises when several food items were scarce in the country.
He did not restrict the availability of such essential food items only to the elite in Colombo. He mobilized lorryloads of essential food items to reach the weekly pola sites in far and distant corners of the country.
As Commissioner Local Government he was entrusted with a heavy load of work by the then Prime Minister and handled everything to win the admiration of everyone, paying special attention to the city of Kataragama to keep it in proper condition.
He held many posts. He was chairman of the Central Environmental Authority, chairman of the State Timber Corporation, chairman of the Agriculture Authority and Deputy General Manager of Mahaweli just to mention a few. Finally he was handpicked by President R. Premadasa as his Senior Additional Secretary in the Presidential Secretariat. His duties included the conducting of the Presidential Mobile Service apart from attending to education and religious affairs.
Whatever he undertook he handled with competence, commitment, honesty and responsibility and he was a brave fighter for principles. Those who knew him would endorse that integrity, was the stamp of his life.
He never hankered for personal gains even when he was deprived of his rights. In every institution he worked he was respected and loved by those who worked under him.
He was a simple man and quite unassuming. He respected all religions. When the High Priest of Dimbulagala was in need of alms, he sent lorryloads of dry rations every month to the Pirivena in Dimbulagalla.
The young priest of Aranthalawa who survived the terrorist attack was looked after by Mr. Jinadasa personally and was entrusted to a Pirivena in Balagalla. Officers of his calibre are indeed rare.
His loss even after five years is felt deep in the hearts of those who knew him. Once, as the Chairman of the Timber Corporation he handled the planting of Na trees on the way to Parliament. Every time flowers bloom on those Na trees, the fragrance of his good work wafts in the air.
May he attain the Bliss of Nirvana
With the grace of God she served us all
Grace has won the promised crown through God’s grace. She stood true to her calling and was faithful to her mission. The prospect of suffering and giving up one’s life for the cause of Christ is not pleasant, but for a Christian, death is not the end; it is the prelude to a new and joyously endless life.
It had been so with Grace, our dear sister in Christ. Most assuredly, she is living on, in a new existence, where she is strong and free of pain.
Her ministry involved visiting and sharing the unsearchable riches of Christ, with the sick, aged, lonely, bereaved and the house-bound. Unmarried, living all by herself, she had no attachments for worldly possessions and desires.
The cosy comfort of her drawing room, decked not with flowers and ornaments but with Bible verses and scriptural calendars, creating an atmosphere of holiness and serenity, drew women young and old for fellowship, Bible study and counselling. Her years were fruitful and her good work without fanfare.
She was also called into doing one of life’s greatest ministries – the Ministry of Intercession. It is the crowning ministry of the Christian life. Being an intercessor is not easy. It cut into her time, made demands upon her energy, taxed her patience, and forced her to re-arrange her priorities. A deep concern for others was her main motivation and this led her to plead for the needs of others. Her sincerity towards her Creator is a lasting legacy she has left behind. No doubt, many who are grieving her absence are those to whom sound doctrine of our God and Saviour has been given and to whom knowledge of the Bible has been imparted by her.
Grace was an inspiration to those who helped and watched over her during her lingering ailment that took her life on July 7, this year. She was thankful to God in every circumstance. She used to say, “I am thankful that though I am led into this physical difficulty, God has certainly not deserted me in it.” As a good and faithful servant of God, she has received a ‘Well done’ from her Master and entered into His joy.
“I bade earth
‘Good-bye’ one day
‘Welcome Home’ Jesus did say
Heaven’s streets are of pure gold
Oh! What beauty I behold
In this place of great splendour
I am with my Redeemer.”
Sunday Times Sep 3 2006
End of a long journey of friendship
Velauthampillai Mahintha Vikunthanathan
To write a few words of my friend is not an easy task, as it is about a long, long journey down memory lane. He was my oldest friend, of nearly 60 years.
My association with him goes back to 1947, when I knew him as a 14-year-old student at Jaffna Hindu College, where I did a short stint as a teacher prior to my entering university.
He was so full of impertinent yet humorous wisecracks that he held the attention of the class more than I did as a teacher, so much so that I berated him severely and put him on the bench for the remaining duration of the class. This somewhat unpleasant encounter was the beginning of a close and intimate friendship that eventually lasted over half a century.
After his school career, he joined the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd., as a printing assistant at Lake House. His wayward and carefree nature resulted in his severely damaging all his fingers in his right hand and ending up at the General Hospital, Colombo. It was a blessing in disguise for him; for there he was cared for by a young woman, who became his future wife.
In Sunanda, as we know her, he found a life’s companion, a good Buddhist, who was the embodiment of all the finest qualities of traditional Hindu womanhood, one who was his friend; philosopher and guide, and, finally, nursed him with the utmost care and dedication during his last years.
She was a woman truly beyond compare. They were blessed with three wonderful children, who scaled the heights of their respective professions, and yet carry their laurels with modesty, never flaunting their achievements as many others do. This speaks volumes of a good upbringing, which only good parents could provide.
Printing was too dour a vocation for his irrepressible nature. While I entered the sedate ranks of the pen-pushing gentry of the Sri Lankan government, he ventured into the tough and competitive world of business. Starting from scratch, he went from success to success beyond anyone’s wildest expectations.
He did not stop at that, because for him, as famously said by Plato of ancient Rome, ‘Man, not money, was the measure of all things’. He launched into the arena of journalism, to write of men and matters. He wrote critiques on Bharata Natyam, including one on my own daughter’s Arangetram.
Eventually, he became a connoisseur of Carnatic music to the extent that he was able to befriend and also mix and mingle with a remarkable degree of nonchalance with the most brilliant musical maestros of South India. He had, what a famous musician, the late Professor Narayanaswamy of Chennai, told me is known in Tamil as ‘Sangeetha Gnanam’ viz., a natural flair for music.
During his last years he developed a passion for Carnatic music. Once, when I was seething with rage, over a governmental decision in my official career, and was on the point of tendering my resignation, he calmed me down with music and prevented me from making a decision in haste. To recall the famous lines he believed that music, “has charms to soothe a savage beast. To soften rocks or bend a knotted oak”.
He thereby gave me the courage to face with fortitude the vicissitudes of life, by instilling in me the tranquillity that was an inborn trait in his character and one that I sadly lacked. In the words of Rudyard Kipling, ‘to move with kings and yet not lose the common touch, to face prosperity and adversity, victory and defeat with equal disdain’.
All these were a lot to achieve in a single lifetime. According to the Bible, one has to be truly blessed to live a full life of three score and ten. Vaiki lived his life to the fullest, well beyond the aforementioned biblical span. Moreover, he lived his life to the fullest, with love towards all and malice to none. I wish to repeat 'with love towards all and malice to none’ because, honestly I cannot say this of everybody whom I know! A famous writer once said that the true character of a man is known by the manner in which he leaves this life. When I sat at Vaiki’s house and listened to Sunanda relating to my wife as to how he breathed his last - the peace and tranquillity with which he slipped away from life, I said to myself “Oh, what a fine way to go!”
About Vaiki, I can truly say, as Shakespeare wrote, “Age did not wither, nor custom stale, his infinite variety.”
She still mourns the loss of her great son
A salute from his Alma Mater: Trinitians carrying the casket of the late Mr. Kadirgamar.
The sky is heavy with tears once more
That fall fast on our burning earth
Where Death’s knell tolls from door-to-door
And each new child is dead at birth
The rains may fall, but
canst not stop
Each raging blaze that springs anew
Our land bleeds slowly drop by drop
In this despair, we remember you
One year gone since you
With so much work still left to do
O! If you could but reawaken
To halt this murderous, mutinous crew
Your lamp burns bright
though its oil is gone
Your name worshipped with honour and pride
A great man’s vision doth still live on
An upright truth one need not hide
truthful and just
With dreams of a Lanka bonded in unity
’Tis time the entire world must know
You learnt these virtues in the hall of Trinity
Her corridors are still
cast in gloom
Mourning the loss of her great son
That young athlete that she did groom
Whose mind and body she trained to run
And run you did towards
Straight and true, with fire and power
Before ’twas won, they made you fall
And now we strew your track with flowers
Within her walls you
learned from book
And games, in brotherhood’s truest sense played
The spirit of Trinity to the world you took
Her heritage, her legacy that will never fade
Great men are born, and
so must die
But their dreams live on in every new morn
Remembered you are, where your spirit doth lie
In the school you handed on
I think of you day and night
Sunil my dear
It is September
Our birthdays just here
My very first – all
Wondering what to do & where to go
When you all are gone!
Good & bad – ups & downs
Many a beautiful moment - together
Just you and me - forever!
Gone are the days
Filled with fun & excitement
With hopes & plans for children
And our retirement
I think of you – day &
And of pain & agony - gone thro
And a million deaths-I die for you!
Every church, temple &
Let me pray
That justice be
For those who may!
No wife, sister or
mother - to suffer this way
No child, relative - should feel this way
And let no innocent life be - just taken away!
A grandmother so special
Trixie Elizabeth Fernando
A tomb is only an empty space. The one I love exists entirely in my memory; in the scent of a handkerchief; and suddenly I remember and listen, for a whole long moment, my head bent…
The first time someone close to you dies it becomes a memory that will linger....and what bitterness it is at first. For me, it was the death of my grandmother. She and I were very close and shared a special bond. As the wife of a Methodist Minister, she had travelled widely and always had an interesting story to tell.
Like all grandmothers she used to prepare us our favourite dishes and sweetmeats when we came from the hostel, where we were boarded. She showered us with gifts, not only on our birthdays but whenever she could afford it. Being a musician who played the church organ regularly on Sundays, she was happy that my mother and I also used to do the same. Whenever I passed a music exam she was overjoyed.
She was loved by everyone at the Salvation Army hostel where she stayed. She used to look forward to our visits and always kept tidbits for us to munch while we were there with her. She outlived all her siblings, her husband and even her in-laws. Even though she was 96 at the time of her death, she definitely did not look her age and was able to manage on her own.
In the evenings she would sit in the sitting room and sing hymns and choruses, her favourite being “All to Jesus I surrender” which she sang till her last breath. During her last days which she spent at our home, I was certain her spirit could hear and understand everything , though she remained in a semi-conscious state. In death I remember her being frail and vulnerable. I am at peace as I know that her suffering is over and she is with the Lord. But words could never express the sadness I felt, seeing her lying there - even though she had such calmness and the smile of a victor. I felt we were leaving her there alone.
It was one year on August 13 since she passed away. But still her smile and the memory of her are fresh in my mind.
Your life was just a dream
Six years ago you left
us, a decision you took unaware,
Though mysterious your absence is a silent grief
To your parents and family who doted on you.
A shining ruggerite but a better friend to those who associated with you
It is still among your family and friends
So precious are the memories
Time can heal certain griefs but it’s different where your life is concerned
Compared to the biblical lifespan of three score and ten
Your life was just a dream
Manoj, God is a merciful God whose, judgements cannot be challenged
Hope we will meet on that eternal shore.
Sunday Times Aug 27 2006
From our childhood to adulthood he was always there with us
Lt. General Parami Kulatunga
Para as he was fondly known to us was a part of our family for many years. I first met him almost 30 years ago, when he was a young handsome Captain of the Sri Lankan Army being in the same regiment as Thaththa – The Gamunu Watch.
Lt. General Parami Kulatunga
When we were kids, I clearly remember my brother Ajith and I following Parami around in the Diyathalawa Army Camp. We were attached to him like glue. He played with us, shared our jokes and spent many hours in our company. Our association with him continued over the years. Jaffna was one of the most vividly remembered destinations. Para was with Thaththa during the many times he served in the North. Between the two of them they made many friends no matter what race or religion they were.
When Thaththa became Army Commander in 1983, Para was chosen to be his ADC. By this time he was more than a part of our family. He planned out Thaththa’s schedules to perfection. There was never a time that things didn’t go like clockwork. He not only was a part of all this but very involved with the rest of the family too. Our close relatives and friends have all known Para over the years. I also recall an incident many years ago when he suddenly turned up at school. Suddenly we saw this handsome tall man in uniform walking towards the office and the girls were quite excited as it was a rare sight in a convent 22 years ago. I became very popular overnight after Para’s visit to school.
Time passed and we moved on with our lives but Para never stopped visiting my parents’ home and joining us for family functions.
The true and sincere love that Para had for our family became clearly evident when Thaththa was diagnosed with cancer. Thatha’s two ADCs Para and Eggie stood by him, tall and strong. Para shared our pain and sadness. He was with us all the way. He took care of Thaththa like a son would do to a father. He never hesitated to openly show his love and concern.
Para was unique. He loved and was loved more than any other person I can think of. He was a ‘gentle giant’. My kids loved him; it was like when I was that age.
We will miss the hugs, kisses and the love we shared with Para. The memories are endless and he has left a void not only in our lives but in the lives of many people. In my faith I believe that Para is in heaven with some of the people he truly loved – his parents. I also picture Thaththa and Para having a chat over a drink. We wish we could have personally thanked him for the love he shared and kissed him goodbye.
He is among us forever
We remember a life today
and all that made him the man he was -
his work, his gifts, all that he enjoyed and found rewarding....
calling to mind
his beginnings, his journey, and the wonderful stories
we love to share about him.
We honour a life today
his character, his integrity,
his commitment to the things he stood for -
recognizing his great heart, his sense of humour
and the helping hand he so often extended to others.
We celebrate a life
and all that earned him the love, the admiration, the respect
of family and friends,
feeling grateful for our time with him,
enriched for having known him,
feeling blessed to have his remarkable spirit
here among us forever.
A great innings
K.M.S. Kasturi, a well-known cricket administrator, umpire and coach in the Kurunegala district is no more. He departed from us at the age of 56 after a sudden illness.
He was an assistant secretary of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association at the time of his death. Born in 1950, Kasturi was an old boy of Mayurapada M.M.V., Narammala where he excelled in extra-curricular activities.
He began his cricketing career as a cricket coach at Mayurapada M.M.V. in the late seventies. He helped many talented junior cricketers in the area.
Later he and a few others formed the Narammala Sports Club in the early eighties.
He held the post of secretary for almost a decade in the club. Under his guidance they were promoted to play Division II cricket of Sri Lanka cricket, the governing body of the game in Sri Lanka.
He also joined the Kurunegala District Cricket Association from its inception in 1982, and held many posts of the association for the past 24 years. He was instrumental in starting the Mayurapada -Ibbagamuwa M.M.V. big match in the early eighties.
He was an active member in the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association and was assistant secretary of the association at the time of his demise. He toured Malaysia with the junior schools Under 15 team as its coach and served as the tournament secretary for many years in the Under 13 age group.
A teacher by profession, he served his alma mater for nearly three decades. May he attain Nibbana.
Time goes by, life goes on, but your memory lives on
Zamanie Fazreen Izzadeen
One would have thought that five years would have dimmed the pain and the memories would have started to fade. But, when you lose a child, the passing years only make you more aware of how precious a gift you have lost.
We have moved to a new home, and as Dada and I walk through the rooms we think of all the plans we had for you. This house would have been the place where you would have grown from adolescence to womanhood.
Every corner of our new home is a poignant reminder of the loss of our precious child. We have learnt to face life and we go on with our day-to-day work. But suddenly something happens or we see someone, and our grief is fresh once again and we weep for our loss.
My darling, this is how life will be for me till the end of my days as I live with the hope that the Lord will unite me with my baby once again.
Akka’s baby son brings
us a lot of joy and to a certain extent soothes our grief.
You would have been thrilled with your little nephew and you wouldn’t have let him out of your sight. We remember how you loved children.
We had two family weddings which brought us much joy but at the same time we were crying for what might have been. You would have been a beautiful 19-year-old in saree having a wonderful time dancing with your cousins.
We are living in a cruel world full of stress and strife with a war looming in the background. But you are in a place where no one can harm you and where you will always be at peace.
This thought comforts us a lot and to me one day of my life spent is a day closer to when I will be able to kiss you and hug you again. We love you my darling and from wherever you are we feel that you are watching over us . Be happy my child – I will love you and cherish your memory always.
Sunday Times Aug 20 2006
Jeff the gentleman with booming voice is no more
Cyril Jeffrey Babapulle
"You live and learn……….then you die and forget it all" - Sir Noel Coward.
The sudden death of Professor Cyril Jeffrey Babapulle at the age of 66 on May 29, this year in Colombo, deprived the Sri Lankan Medical Profession of one of its greatest exponents of Forensic Science. His death came as a sad blow to everyone who had known him, but the blow was particularly hard on those who had worked with him or had benefited from his personal kindness or professional assistance.
His death has left a deep void in the scientific community, and it will always remain a source of profound sadness to all of us who were privileged to have known him. He had been in failing health for some months but he faced his illness bravely with equanimity, great mental and physical courage, and religious conviction. Jeff's children, Mohan and Sharmini took leave from their jobs in Canada to be with him during the last days. Their presence was a great comfort to Jeff who took great pride in the activities and achievements of his children. Jeff's wife Mary, son Mohan and daughter Shamini, and Jeff's brother Patrick, his wife and family were by his side when he passed away. It was the end of a beautiful life.
Jeff was born in Colombo on December 10, 1939 - the eldest of the six children of Dr. Cyril and Marjorie Babapulle.
The Babapulles include four generations of Doctors. Jeff's parents valued education above anything else. With unbounded confidence in the abilities of their children, Cyril and Marjorie gave them a good catholic education to instill discipline and develop their character. Jeff was sent to St. Joseph's College in Colombo where he excelled in studies and was made the Senior Prefect. He became a compulsive and voracious reader at a young age and began building a small library at home.
Being such a clever student, there was no doubt that he was destined for a career in medicine. The standing joke was that it was awful to be a Babapulle and be stupid. The block chipped and Jeff, following his father's footsteps, entered the Colombo Medical College in 1960. In the very first year itself, he discovered a demure young girl by the name of Mary Jacob, an old girl of Kandy Girls' High School, and proposed to her. It was love at first sight. Despite his uncertain temper, most people including Mary found his generosity and zest for life irresistible. Young Jeff had more charm than a stadium full of people. Jeff and Mary married in 1967.
Having graduated from the Ceylon Medical College with honours in the second class, Jeff worked for several years as the Medical Officer of Health at Wattegama, and then as the Medical Officer at the Bogambara Prisons, and subsequently joined the Department of Pathology at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Peradeniya on secondment as Lecturer for two years. He received permanent tenure as Lecturer at the Department of Forensic Medicine in 1983, where his career proceeded along a smoothly ascending trajectory from Lecturer to Professor, solely on the strength of his phenomenal research and publications.
He has a M. Med. Science in Medical Education and 2 PhDs, one in Law and the other in Logic, and an MD on his thesis entitled, "Physics as applied to Injuries of the Calvarium". He wrote several books on a variety of topics that include medical education, law, logic, forensic toxicology, and medical physics, to name a few. His last book on medical diagnosis is to be published posthumously.
At the Faculty of Medicine (University of Peradeniya), there was no downside to being Prof. C. Jeffrey Babapulle. He was a towering figure with a stern exterior that belied a gentle and generous nature. He rarely took leave and was at his desk putting in long hours of work with religious regularity until the very day he retired in December 2004 as Professor and Head of the Department of Forensic Science.
As a teacher, he had few rivals. He was adored by students, and he knew almost every student by name. Jeff was both teacher and friend to his students, whose academic performance remained always his prime concern. His basic characteristic was that he enjoyed life, and this enjoyment spread to those about him. His forte was the possession of a lucid mind, a booming voice, and an excellent command of the English language in all its subtleties. He had enviable qualities of clarity and imagination, qualities that many academics lack today. There was something hypnotic about the way he looked at you. He had a sense of the theatre. Like the late Professor Hilary Crusz, the power to keep people spellbound was partly a matter of his personality, for he knew the art of oral scientific presentation. He rarely used technology to enliven his lectures; instead he often used the "pregnant pause" to mesmerize his students. His lectures and ward classes were hilarious as he enlivened them with anecdotes derived from his experience and recollection. There would be peals of laughter from the students.
Our paths crossed in the mid-1970 when Jeff would discuss books with me. He was particularly keen to understand the mind of the Jesuit biologist and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who in his seminal work, "The Phenomenon of Man" tried to reconcile his Christian theology with the scientific theory of evolution. Another thinker who had a profound influence on Jeff was the Nobel Prize-winning French biologist Jacques Monod, who was probably well known for his book, ""Chance and Necessity" published in 1970, in which he put forward the view that "Pure chance, only chance, absolute but blind liberty is at the root of the prodigious edifice that is evolution". Jeff had a wide interest in all aspects of life, and at his home, you never knew whether you were in for a discussion on science, art, literature or music. He was a great lover of music and gardening, both of which gave him hours of pleasure and relaxation.
The tragic and untimely death of his eldest son Naresh in the US was a blow from which Jeff and Mary never recovered. It may have even triggered the decline in Jeff's health. The sadness plunged Jeff into a deep grief that amounted virtually to melancholy. Despite the strength of Christianity, Jeff could never come to terms with the death of his dear son. And for the rest of his life, Jeff lived with the thoughts of his dead son never far from the surface of his mind.
I have been
exceptionally fortunate in my friends; among them, one of the most important was
Jeff for whom I have the greatest respect, affection and admiration as a man,
mentor, and polymath. Jeff was among the most civilized, courteous and
considerate of men, and his conversations, both scientific and social, have
always been stimulating, provocative and just.
With Jeff gone, I find the world cold and less joyful.
Those who killed you…
You believed in the truth and nothing but the truth -
Those who killed you rely on falsehood and half truths
You relied on sound reasoning, logic and effective advocacy -
Those who killed you rely on unreasonable rhetoric and unethical lobbying
You were a peaceful person committed towards the establishment of a non-violent society
Those who killed you are violent and are committed towards infliction of harm through acts of terrorism
You treasured human life and respected people for their humanity
Those who killed you do not protect human life and have scant respect for humanity
You were committed towards the development of a plural society in which all peoples of this country could live peacefully whilst enjoying equal rights and privileges
Those who killed you are committed towards the establishment of a mono-ethnic,
mono-political, authoritarian State for their benefit only
You always acted in the best interest of all peoples of Sri Lanka including the Tamil ethnic community and other Tamil speaking people -
Those who killed you act against the interests of all Sri Lankans and certainly do not act in the best interest of the Tamil ethnic community and other Tamil speaking people of Sri Lanka.
You were determined to preserve the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka -
Those who killed you are determined to destroy the territorial integrity, sovereignty and the single nationhood of Sri Lanka
You were loved by your people and commanded respect and admiration for your knowledge, ability, foresight, vision and commitment -
Those who killed you demand respect and honour through infliction of harm and fear, and are hated by their own people
You lived to protect Sri Lanka -
Those who killed you assassinated you in revenge and to facilitate the separation of Sri Lanka
You had the courage to accept responsibility for all what you did -
Those who killed you are cowards and continue to deny their involvement in having assassinated you
The name Kadirgamar will ne’er be consign’d to oblivion
Sniper’s fatal shot
pierc’d thro’ his precious heart
Flame O’his life flicker’d out on Ides of August
Dew-laden-soft-night-sky silently sobb’d
His last breath mingl’d with th’air that we inhale.
No harbinger o’doom appear’d ere his death,
Soothsayer did ne’er foretell his tragic end
Neither a spooky nor a ghostly figure was in sight
Nature didn’t show-up an ill-omen on the fateful night
Ashes to ashes, his mortal remains reduc’d to ashes,
That were scattered’d o’er the river, steep and wide,
Murmuring rapids ardently embraced them soon
And carried’em safely to the bosom of th’ocean
He’s no more; yet his spirits seem to reign on th’earth
Dead Kadirgamar prov’d more potent than the livin’ un
The efforts he made sans fear, with undaunt’d courage
Came to full fruition, in the period-post-demise
Breeze that mix’d with his last breath,
Blew fastly across many continents and oceans
Conveyin’ a decisive message thro-out the world
Alightin a deadly blow on the terrorist-outfit
Expand’d European Union impos’d a total ban
On the most-cruellest-and-brutal-strip’d-felines
Virtually inactivatin’ their arms-deals abroad,
And incapacitatin’ their terror-machines
He earn’d the highly deservin’ sobriquet ‘Prince of Peace”
Undoubtedly outshining all our national heroes
Tho’ the eulogies sung will never restore him to the earth
Name Kadirgamar will ne’er be consign’d to oblivion.
Sunday Times Aug 13 2006
The man behind the rail coach fit for a queen
P. Rajagopal passed away
peacefully on July 7, this year at the golden age of 92 years. He hailed from a
distinguished family from Jaffna. His father, the late Mr. Ponnusamy established
the first ever department stores “The Jaffna Apothecaries” in the late 1920s. It
was mainly patronized by the elite of Jaffna.
Mr. Rajagopal was educated at a leading Christian College in Jaffna and after he matriculated, studied engineering. He joined the Mechanical Engineers Department of the Railway as a Trainee Engineer and rose to the position of Chief Mechanical Engineer and later General Manager. Those were the times the Railway Department maintained its high standard, not second to what it was during colonial days, through the efficient and competent administration of the heads of department.
After his retirement from the Railway he served as consultant in a leading engineering institution in the private sector. But his ardent desire to be of assistance to the Railway Department was foremost in his mind. He proposed to the Ministry and the Railway authorities to build coaches locally stressing the advantages particularly the cost factor. This was accepted and a trial order was given to him to build a prototype. This was done and the Railway Department was impressed with the quality of what had been produced and also realized the sizeable savings compared to the cost of the imported coaches. Approval was given to Mr. Rajagopal to carry on the project. With the able assistance of some of his colleagues, retired technical officers, skilled and unskilled workmen he established a workshop and successfully carried on the building of coaches under the auspice of his firm of engineering consultants.
When Queen Elizabeth II was to visit Sri Lanka, the Romanian Government that was supplying steel coaches to the railway, offered to send a special coach for her use. Mr. Rajagopal took this as a challenge and undertook the construction of a luxury coach. What he accomplished was beyond description. The interior décor with elegant tapestries, stylishly upholstered drawing room suite, comfortable bedroom suite, turned out in his own workshop, delightful lighting, were a combination of excellence and class. The Government had no hesitation in accepting this coach for the use of the royalty.
Mr. Rajagopal’s aesthetic sense was beyond perception. He accomplished all matters with his own style and finesse. He had a passion for roses and had a beautiful garden of roses in his home which he tended personally. He was President of the Rose Club and held the office for many years.
Though I served in the Railway Department I had no occasion to work under him; but on my retirement I had the good fortune of working for him. This gave me the opportunity to experience the magnanimity, benevolence and kindness of this gentleman par excellence.
After I left his service he was always in touch with me, as I believe he was with those close to him. Though death is inevitable at his age, those of us who were close to him, no doubt, feel his loss. His daughter and two grandchildren, whom he loved so much, will miss him for a very long time.
May God bless his good soul.
A life of different eras and journeys’ ends
Gertrude M Pinto (1908-2006)
She was the matriarch: loving grandmother, strict disciplinarian - a hard working woman with a penchant for Yardley soap and the scent of lavender. Her life would span the fall of the British Raj and the dismantling of empire across the globe, the rise and triumph of the nationalist movement in Sri Lanka, and two world wars. And it would be a life characterized by journeys - across the island, across the Indian Ocean into the English Channel, and finally, across the Atlantic.
Gertrude Miriam Hewa Sahabandhu, known as Mummy to her children and even some of her friends - and Aachchi to us (her grandchildren) was born on March 17, 1908 in Kadugannawa, Kandy, Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then known). The daughter of Rev Edwin Lionel and Esther Sahabandhu, she was one of nine children. Like many women of her era she chose one of the few professions open to women - nursing - and practised until, having decided to marry, she was required to give up the job.
She was 22 when she married Moragodage Peter Vincent Pinto, senior health inspector for Colombo. It was 1930 and as the Second World War brewed and loomed across the oceans, Gertrude and Peter set about building a family. They had six children: five daughters - Merline, Barbara, Rose, Lilian and Manel and one son - my father - Joseph.
On April 5 1942 - Easter Sunday - over 100 Japanese planes raided Colombo harbour bringing WWII to Ceylon, and Gertrude was called back to nursing in aid of the war effort. Ever a loyal subject of the Raj, she worked at the British military hospital, caring for wounded and dying soldiers as well as civilians. These were hard times - times of rationing, divided families and siege. Then, as the war was finally drawing to an end, Peter contracted typhoid and died, leaving Gertrude alone to care for all the children - the eldest 12, the youngest not yet born. It was Sept 1944; the couple had been married for just 14 years.
Thus did life become even harder for the family as the children were put into boarding school so that Gertrude could earn enough money to support them. She was transferred across the island, caring for its newborn, ailing and dying in Polonnaruwa, Udugama and other areas. The children visited these far-flung places from Colombo during school holidays, bringing back with them exotic stories of monkeys stealing fruit from kitchen cupboards and elephants roaming at dusk.
In 1964, Gertrude swapped patients for grandchildren, having retired from nursing to care for Merl’s children. Three years later she set sail for England, one grandchild -Bernadette - in tow. The journey took six weeks, the closure of the Suez Canal forcing them to approach via the Cape of Good Hope. They arrived in October 1967 in Southampton where they were met by my dad. After six years in London, she migrated to Toronto, Canada, living with her youngest daughter, Manel and her second eldest, Barbara.
Over those years, she cared for many of us grandchildren (Michael, Tony, Michelle and me): washing us, feeding us, teaching us manners (when seated at the dining table, always keep your legs together and never NEVER shake your feet). She was thorough and consistent in her care.
I was a notoriously slow and reluctant eater.
But I was not allowed to leave the table until I had cleaned my plate - that is to say, eaten all my food. So there I sat, pushing my rice to the perimeter of my plate while Aachchi paced the corridor. The clock ticked 10 minutes, 20, then an hour. When she took a moment to go to the bathroom, I seized the opportunity and threw the remaining food in the bin, covering it with a tissue.
She emerged, I told her I’d finished and made a grand display of washing my plate. But Aachchi would not be fooled. She opened the bin, moved the tissue and found my lie. There would be no chocolate for me for dessert.
She was an excellent cook, too, mincing onions with expert precision, rolling out perfectly spherical cutlets of identical size and proportion. Her beetroot curry and Seeni Sambol remain unrivalled even today.
She was an avid gardener, growing tomatoes and roses. She was a pious Catholic, praying daily and loathe to miss Sunday mass. And she was engaged with the world, watching the news and reading the papers everyday. Truly, she was a woman of many abilities and interests.
In Feb 1993 - 20 years after coming to Canada – Aachchi suffered a stroke while on pilgrimage in Switzerland. The condition slowly and inexorably claimed her mind and her body, but not her spirit. She was supported by all her children, especially Barbara, who cared tirelessly for her day in and day out and was with her to the end. But those 13 years spent confined to her bed deprived her of what she loved most - most being active. It was a difficult thing for many of us to see.
I prefer to remember Aachchi as I knew her: a dynamic woman with hidden depths. There is one memory of her that will never leave me. One of the several summers that Tony and I spent in Toronto, we were sitting with our cousin Michael playing cards. We must have been between seven and 10 years old. We’d finished one game and were trying to start another, but to do so, we had to shuffle the pack. So we tired - each one of us - with shambolic results: the cards kept falling everywhere. Then Aachchi swooped in from the kitchen and grabbed the deck. We thought, this is it, we’re toast, we’re in trouble.
I remember the cards blurring against her hands, her hands drawing them across the table in a row and flipping them over, then blurring again as she shuffled the pack with the dexterity of croupier. Tony, Michael and I went silent, our mouths gaping. Then, unable to contain our curiosity, we spoke out at once, saying: 'Aachchi, where did you learn to do that?!...
Aachchi put the deck back on the table with a smile. And though she didn’t wink at us before she turned away, she left every suggestion of it hanging in the air between us. And with that, she swept back into the kitchen and left us in our wonder.
‘No’ was never in his vocabulary
It is a little more than two months since the demise of Asoka Perera, affectionately known as AP and it is still like a bad dream to me.
I had known AP for over two decades and I am yet to meet a man of his calibre. I was fortunate enough to work with him for a short spell in March this year on a film project just two months before his passing away and consider myself lucky I had the opportunity to do so.
He was like the rock of Gibraltar to many. He had a vibrant personality and always kept us in stitches. The unique quality about AP was that twenty four hours of the day were just not enough for him and he had the knack of turning things around and making things happen.
The word ‘no’ was never in his vocabulary. Many a times have I seen people from all walks of life coming up to him with their numerous problems and he always said ‘ let’s see what can be done’ and had the ability to come up with something to help that person. This was what I admired most in AP.
Asoka, may you attain the bliss of Nirvana.
Under the Ehala tree where memories come rushing
It seems time heals little, and after just over a year, a day scarcely passes without us thinking of you. The time we had together with you seems unfairly short – 30 years is hardly a lifetime to spend with a father as wonderful as you. Thaththi I miss you a lot and I feel as if I will never be whole again. As I sit in the shade of the Ehala tree we planted together, images and memories come rushing back. I remember how excited we were to see the first blooms of cascading yellow. Today, it seems appropriate not to see a single bloom peering through the green canopy.
Now, all I do is hold on to the memories of the days we spent together and I will cherish them with all my heart for the rest of my life.
Your family meant so much to you. I never realised until recently, that you had kept a file of scribblings, that malli and I had drawn for you as children and of the letters ammi had sent you when you were overseas. You always made time to play with malli and me. I will always remember how you would carry me up high on your shoulder, sit me on a puwak frond and drag me around the yard, or play cricket with the two of us.
But to you thaththi, ‘family’ did not just mean the four of us. You instilled in malli and me a sense of duty and respect for our grandparents and aunts and uncles. And you did this mainly by example. I remember how you used to take three meals a day for achchi amma whenever you were in town and how you were always happy to help your brothers and sisters whenever they needed it. I remember how we would all visit seeya’s grave every Vesak, and how you would make it a point to clean the family burial plot at least a few times every year – a task malli and I will now continue, albeit with a heavy heart. You were always ready to help anyone in need not just the extended family. I still smile each time I recall how you and I went looking for a bottle of Horlicks on a Sunday to give an achchi we met at the Naga-vihara.
Thaththi, it is from you that I learnt that action was more important than idle words of wisdom. You didn’t just quote the dhamma, but instead you lived it quietly. I remember how you rallied us all to collect food and clothes for refugees, worked tirelessly to revive a local temple, taught me the true meaning of joy by getting me to share my tenth birthday party with a group of children at a local orphanage.
May you attain the most noble peace of Nibbana.
Sunday Times Aug 6 2006
You loved unconditionally and unselfishly
Lt. Col. D.U. de Lanerolle
On the fateful day of July 31, 1999, my beloved malli, your voice was stilled forever. You were far more than just a brother to me – you were my best friend of my childhood, my partner in mischief and my trustworthy confidant.
Everyone knows what a brilliant soldier you were. Your motto was “no surrender, no retreat”. You were loved deeply and your leadership qualities were greatly admired by all. Your demise was a great loss to the army and to the country and the void you created in the hearts of your loved ones can never be filled.
Though you were wounded on the battlefield several times, you fought on injured – never for once thinking of your wellbeing, but facing the hardest challenges with valour and determination. You were short tempered at times but your short temper lasted only for a few minutes and you had the ability of apologizing to people instantly. You never held grudges against anyone. Loving unconditionally and unselfishly came naturally to you. We miss you everyday but think fondly of all the happy memories and laugh and smile thinking about all your antics. Though you left us seven years ago you are very much alive in the hearts of all your family, friends and fellow servicemen.
Darling malli, may you attain the noblest bliss of Nibbana.
His prayers were the wind beneath our wings
Walter Jonathan Sinniah
To many he was ‘Uncle Sinniah’ or ‘Brother Sinniah’, friend, ever present partner in prayer; comforter and encourager; problem solver; administrator and consultant. Yet I had the greatest privilege of calling him and knowing him as ‘Dada’. It is hard to believe that already a year has passed since we laid Dada to rest.
Walter Jonathan Sinniah
I remember clearly that sad, rainy day when the heavens wept as his mortal remains were lowered to the ground. I just could not bring myself to throw that handful of sand on his casket as is the tradition. In my heart, he is not buried down there, but still alive and very much a part of our lives. I hear him in every prayer, in the strains of a familiar song, in my thoughts and in my children.
I know for sure Dada would want me to thank all of you who visited and comforted Amma in prayer during this one year she spent without him. She was his greatest treasure. He would also want me to thank the staff at Lakeside Medical Centre, Kandy who attended on him and made him as comfortable as possible during those last weeks.
He would have wanted me to profusely thank my sister Sharmini and her husband Alfy for the tender loving care and many comforts they afforded him those final months in Digana.
He would have clasped his hands together and prayed for all those who cared for him and visited him and wept silent tears for him. I cannot remember a day he did not pray for someone. He would have been greatly humbled and thankful for all those who had gracious words to say about him. He would have smiled and nodded and understood those who criticized him; and then prayed for them too.
He would have been grieved at the senseless violence in his motherland. He would have rejoiced at Sri Lanka’s victory over England in the recent cricket series. He would have cried with joy and pride at our children’s achievements. He was intricately but unobtrusively woven into our daily lives. How much we miss him is beyond words.
What he has left behind is a challenge. He taught us that there is contentment in humility, hard work and in the simple things in life. He taught us that although this world is full of trickery, it should not blind us to what virtue there might be in people. He had the wonderful knack of finding something good in the worst of people. I still marvel at the way he knew each of his children’s weaknesses and strengths and dealt with them accordingly. There were five of us. He was superman to his grandsons and a defence lawyer to his granddaughters. They found great comfort and strength huddled in the warmth of his embrace.
His prayers were the wind beneath our wings. Although we struggled to stay aloft after his absence, whispers of his prayers are still carrying us through. We thank God for the life that Dada shared with us, selflessly.
Darling Dada, may you find some comfort in the arms of angels.
We will miss her
I am greatly saddened by the loss of my dear friend Maleeha.
I knew Maleeha for over a decade. During those years we used to meet at least once or twice a month at our writers' meetings. She was a stalwart of both the Wadiya Group and the English Writers Cooperative of Sri Lanka.
In her quiet way Maleeha always produced the most wonderful stories, full of human interest and humour and written with an exemplary flair for the English language. She attended our meetings regularly and contributed a piece of writing unfailingly at every workshop. I could picture her now, impeccably dressed, greeting us with her cheerful smile and then entrancing us with one of her stories.
Her book Dance of Life which won many awards, is a fine example of her clear understanding of the techniques of the short story, and the stories themselves reflect her deep perception of human behaviour.
Recently Maleeha and I got to know each other better when she undertook the Editorship of Channels, a literary journal published by the English Writers Cooperative of Sri Lanka. I was very much impressed with her sense of responsibility and dedication.
Her sensitive nature made her grateful for any minute speck of help and often she would call me just to thank me for some suggestion or bit of advice I'd given her.
She had the gift for making friends and in her unassuming manner she accepted people for what they were and not what she thought they should be.
I am sad that I was not able to visit her in hospital, as she had wanted me to, as I was out of the country at the time. Still, my thoughts and love will always be with her and I am truly thankful to her for sharing a part of her life with me. My heartfelt condolences and prayers go out to her husband and family at their irreparable loss.
We will miss him
It is July. There is yet another memorial lecture to celebrate Neelan’s life.
As those of us who knew him, and yet others for whom he will always remain only a name, celebrate his life, we need to ask a few questions. Maybe one pertinent question is - how does one view Neelan’s tragic death?
Being the type of worker I am, we are trained to question not only why did a person die, but ask as to how one should face death - how to handle and manage?
However, Neelan’s death being a part of violent Lanka, I presume one should delve deep into that untimely end.
Given the complexity and the deep-rootedness of the national problem of Sri Lanka, one needs, in the name of Neelan, to challenge those responsible for that death. Did those who made it possible for Neelan to leave us in that violent manner achieve the cause of liberation?
I am sure that they were liberated in a sense by the death, violent at that, of a voice that was different from theirs. Neelan’s death once again symbolized the refusal to celebrate and cherish and cultivate diversity and pluralism.
Is the solution to the national problem, violence?
The culture of 'an eye for an eye' and ‘a tooth for a tooth’? Does not this culture of violence perpetuate violence and not really liberate the people for whom one is supposed to be fighting for?
These are hard and difficult questions. But they must be asked as we celebrate the life and work of Neelan, our friend.
For Neelan, too, in his
own way, wanted to liberate his people. His way was different. For that, he paid
the supreme price of a tragic death.
May he know true liberation.
He was hospitality personified
A telephone call from the late Rohan Amerasinghe's wife, Lekha, reminded me that it is two years since the sudden death of this most genial of hoteliers.
Rohan Amerasinghe was not just a hotelier, though, he was irrepressible hospitality personified; and he was a good friend.
My first encounter with Rohan was about 20 years ago when, as a young man, he was presiding over the then Galadari Meridien's French-style, fine dining rooftop restaurant. I thought he had been trained in France, so well did he play the part of making guests feel welcome.
It was a trait I came to recognise in him during our occasional encounters over the next two decades. He loved to involve himself whole-heartedly in whatever he was doing.
He worked hard and success came quickly as he dedicated himself to a career with John Keells Hotels. He took on the challenging role of setting up the Keells Hotel brand in the Maldives, turning their first two resorts into top-grade properties. Keells has been able to build well there on the foundations he laid.
He became director and General Manager of Bentota Beach Hotel and once again used his charm and mixed his customary magic to restore that hotel to its former glory after refurbishment.
Because he had started at the bottom of the hospitality ladder, Rohan knew every trick of the trade and understood staff problems.
So, while he was
sympathetic to staff concerns and would do all he could to support his staff, he
expected - and received - dedication and loyalty in return.
There are hundreds of people working in resorts in the Maldives and in hotels in Sri Lanka who learned a lot from Rohan. Even my own house staff did, as he would dive into my kitchen when he came for a visit and show them how to prepare a snack to go with drinks on the veranda. He was a man of enthusiasm and candour, but he knew how to act the diplomat too.
One of his last major promotions was the Beach Derby at Bentota with horseracing on the s sumptuous barbecue.
As with everything Rohan did, it was a hugely successful event that made all associated with it feel proud of their achievement. Rohan was promoting Keells Hotels in England when he died suddenly, leaving an utter void in the lives of his wife, Lekha, and daughters, Nirmani and Sammani.
Rohan Amerasinghe represented genuine goodwill and warm, sensible friendship. If those who knew and worked with him remember - and follow- his example, Sri Lanka's hospitality industry can only improve and flourish.
Sunday Times July 30 2006
You’ll always be here
Colonel Fazly Laphir
Colonel Fazly Laphir
My dearest darling Fazly,
It’s been ten years
Since you left me..
After you departed
When life became
Wilted, cold and inert
You were still there
Then life had to give in
Active, warm, hectic
Still you are here
Occupying my heart
As if it’s yours
Is it really mine or yours?
Devoted to the memory of Colonel Fazly Laphir PWV, RWP, RSP who with total disregard for his safety voluntarily led the Special Forces in the battle to save the Mullaitivu Camp in July 1996. He was posthumously awarded the Parama Weera Vibushanaya (PWV) – our version of the coveted Victoria Cross.
The wonder of a generous man
Hilary D. Fernando
Hilary D. Fernando was an exceptional human being who lived a wonderful life and passed into the hands of his Lord two years ago. I came to be related to this wonderful person through Shyara - my wife. Affectionately known to us - his nephews and nieces as Hilo, he was the second son of the distinguished family of the late Mr. and Mrs. H.D. Fernando.
Not being the brilliant academic like his elder brother – the late Professor. H.V. J. Fernando, Uncle Hilary was educated at S. Thomas’ Prep and at Richmond College, Galle. He eventually took over the business empire of his late father. As a businessman he was honest and it is with much pride that we can claim to have had him as an Uncle. Above all he possessed the sterling qualities of being a humble, innovative and practical man. He did have strong opinions of things of the world, but humble as he was, he was prepared to sit down and listen to the opinions of others too.
In the areas that he could not grasp or understand fully, particularly in managing the farm, he would employ the best resource persons available. Together they would look at the problem from all angles and come up with a practical solution. Hilary being the busybody that he was, was never comfortable with delegating and instead was always in the thick of everything and strove for perfection as far as details were concerned.
He enjoyed life to the maximum, and I have vivid memories of the trips we did together - mainly to the jungles. These trips were meticulously planned from the menu on arrival till the meal on departure. Although our actual stay within the wildlife sanctuary was only 3-4 nights, we usually had about 5-6 meetings in Colombo, prior to the date of departure. These meeting were enjoyed by all, since we were served with a sumptuous dinner after about 15 minutes of planning.
To Uncle Hilary, generosity knew no bounds, and as we have heard in Biblical terms his left hand did not know what his right hand gave. He was a firm believer in tithes and he loved his church. He loved his family very dearly and his generosity extended to family members, relatives and friends.
His love for Aunty Shini was a shining example of a husband’s love towards his wife. His love for Christ and the church knew no bounds. Aunty Shini stood by his bedside for countless hours during the worst of times, when life’s light within Uncle Hilary kept flickering on and off. Uncle Hilary was in every aspect a Christian. We thank God for having him with us.
May the light perpetual shine upon him, and may he rest in peace.
A humble hero on and off the field
Some have to die for others to live. The death of Charles Wijewardena under tragic circumstances, was a brutal act. He was tortured to death.
Soft-spoken Charles, an officer and gentleman, maintained his dignity on and off the field. A proud product of Vidyartha College, Kandy he later performed with distinction for the Air Force, CR&FC and signed off with the Police.
In my weather-beaten sports journalistic career spanning over 35 years, I have seen much of the good and the ugly side of the game. I had a bird’s eye view of ‘Mr. Reliable’ Wijewardena’s exploits since he donned the Air Force jersey. He was never shy to mention those who helped him and one of them was Air Vice Marshal Harry Gunatilake . Charles turned out to be one of Harry’s best products.
Charles joined the Police Force as a sub-inspector. He initially played as centre and later when Hajireen, called it a day, he manned the last line as an attacking fullback. He played hard, tackled hard, but never played dirty or caused pain to others.
Charles left an indelible mark in the annals of Police and Sri Lanka rugby. He has scored over 100 points in a season from 1975-1980; a record which will take many summers to beat.
He never lost his way and unlike some of the present-day players he never succumbed to money or any other unwarranted acts. He maintained the dignity of the Police Force on and off the field.
He never misused his powers or position, but was able to sort out human problems with understanding. Wherever he served including in difficult areas, he commanded respect. He also did a lot to build police-public relations. This was especially evident when he was SP Wayamba. With fellow officer C.I (Rtd) R.P. Linton he spread the gospel of rugby among the rural schools.
He played a decisive role, assisting the needy with loving kindness and compassion. ‘King Charles’ was always gracious in victory and defeat. Many were the times I went through the tunnel in Kadugannawa, to Kandy to watch him play. Though I am old now I still have nostalgic memories of this unassuming personality, who lived with honour.
“Life is uncertain. But death is certain.” May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.
July 22 2006
Only the fragrance of a beautiful person remains
Our darling angel
Six months have passed so soon
It seems as if ’twas yester noon;
Your charming smile is in our hall
We miss you bad, yes one and all
Two years of illness saw
You bore it well and that’s quite true;
Always smiling with a cheer
God wanted you away from here!
With love and flowers we
go each day
To see you there where you did lay;
Candles we light to make you bright
God in His love showed you His light!
We have not lost our
faith in Him
For when ’er to you we sing a hymn,
We know that in His loving care
He’ll give you happiness o’er there.
Farewell, our little
You’re still with us it’s oh so clear;
In His love God gave you rest
For He well knows you’re still the best!
Patriot, freedom fighter and workers’ champion
July 23 marks the 116th birth anniversary of a great son of the Upcountry Tamil Community, Peri Sundaram. The late Mr. Sundaram has several unique records. Commencing his education in an estate school, where the policy at the time was described as “a little too much education and unaccustomed luxury than necessary would unfit the children for their calling or indeed for anything”, he got admission to Trinity College Kandy, then went on to S. Thomas, Mt. Lavinia and later to the Ceylon Law College.
He proved his mettle by going overseas and obtaining the Master of Arts and the Bachelor of Laws Degrees in the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. He showed his prowess as an orator and was elected President of the Cambridge Indian Majlis and was twice elected Committee Member of the Cambridge Union Society. He was called to the Bar in England in 1916. Thereafter, he returned and practised as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Ceylon. Mr. Sundaram was an outstanding lecturer at the Ceylon Law College, acting Principal and examiner in Law to the Ceylon Civil Service.
Mr. Sundaram threw himself into the movement for political reform and national independence and was a founder member of the Ceylon National Congress formed in 1919, with the avowed objective of getting independence.
He had many qualifications to his credit and also a number of firsts, which are too many to enumerate. Suffice it to say that he was elected uncontested to the first State Council of Ceylon in 1931 from the Hatton electorate and served as the first Minister of Labour Industry and Commerce from 1931 to 1936. Subsequently, he was a Senator for many years and was also Deputy President of the Senate. The responsibility thrust on Mr. Sundaram was enormous, but his intellectual capacity and determination were equal to the tasks he was called upon to do. He recognized that it was in the national interest to strengthen links with Ceylon’s close neighbour India. In 1932 he led the Ceylon Government trade delegation to India.
The labour portfolio presented Mr. Sundaram with the greatest challenge of his career. There was an abundant supply of cheap ‘captive’ labour to work in the plantations, maintain roads, railways and the port of Colombo to transport and ship the cash crops which was the order of the day. The question of workers’ rights did not figure at all in the colonial administration. The files of the Department of Labour will reveal Mr. Sundaram’s professionalism, authority and knowledge on the subject. He brought about radical legislative proposals, overcoming opposition with his skill and authority as a legislator par excellence.
Some of the landmarks to his untiring efforts are the Trade Union Ordinance, the Workmen’s Compensation Ordinance and the Minimum Wages Ordinance, which embody the basic rights of workers. These are a lasting tribute to the pioneering efforts of Mr. Sundaram to free the workers from bondage and get them social justice.
He was also responsible for the appointment of a Commission which led to the establishment of the first national bank — the Bank of Ceylon. His record of service clearly illustrates a lifetime of dedicated service to the nation and the people of the country. In 1919, he formed the first labour union in the country - The Workers’ Welfare League – of which he was the founding Secretary. He also founded and became the first Secretary of the Ceylon Workers’ Federation. He can justifiably be regarded as the father of the Trade Union Movement in this country.
Mr. Sundaram was mainly responsible as a co-founder in inaugurating the Ceylon Indian Congress (CIC) in 1939, a merger of over 25 Indian community organizations in Ceylon, the fore-runner to the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC) to which he was elected President. This came about after Pandit Nehru’s visit. Soon thereafter in 1940 the Ceylon Indian Congress Labour Union (CICLU) was formed and Mr. Sundaram was elected the first President of the CICLU with 180,000 members, the largest trade union in the country. In 1952 he was elected President of the CICLU and the CWC.
The Government of Sri Lanka issued a special postage stamp in honour of this patriot, freedom fighter and workers’ champion at the centenary celebrations in 1990. Peri Sundaram passed away on February 4 (Independence Day), 1957.
Though different in many ways, a buddy to the end
Fitzroy and I met in college. From those painfully punctual and regimented days, up to the time of his demise, spanning five decades, our friendship continued. Though we were quite different in character and in our ways of life, there was a bond of understanding between us.
Fitzroy was not only an old friend, but also a close friend. He returned to Sri Lanka last year, after spending over 40 years in England. He practised as an architect in England and Saudi Arabia. Maybe it was destiny that deemed that he should return home to rekindle family connections, old friendships and die in the land of his birth. Fitzroy was a good cricketer, having played for that champion Benedictine side led by L.P. Rayan in 1957. He scored runs against the best of bowlers. But no sooner he got a score of 30 or 40, which he did in almost every match, he threw away his wicket. This was true off the cricket field too. While he could have had a lucrative career in architecture, he threw away the practice.
Fitzroy was a small and wiry person and whenever he strutted on to the grounds and batted solidly against six foot pacemen and wily spinners, he became an instant hero, among junior and primary schoolboys, who idolized this curly haired, smiling, ‘West Indian-looking’ man.
I was in the Arts stream, where many could not study or did not want to. Fitzroy was in the Science stream. They came under the strict supervision of Brother Theodoret, the sub-director of the college and everybody was petrified of him except Fitzroy. The more authoritarian the rules, the more rebellious was Fitzroy. He escaped being sacked from college, only because of his cricketing prowess.
At a time, when our sister school, Good Shepherd Convent, had more than its quota of beautiful girls, Fitzroy had no interest in that line. He remained unmarried to the end.
He stood by what was right
I first met Donald Mendis when he was an Inspector in 1972, while I was under training at the Kalutara Police College as a probationary Sub-Inspector. Mr. Mendis was an affable lecturer with a wide knowledge. His lectures were interspersed with anecdotes, case records and quotes.
Mr. Mendis was born on 03.05.1933 to a well-known family in Moratuwa. He had his education at Prince of Wales College where he not only excelled in his studies but also in rugby and football.
He joined the Police Department as a Sub-Inspector in 1957. He married Pat and had two sons, Fedrick, a Captain in the Army who died in action and Ryan who is domiciled in America.
He never became a stooge, flatterer or lackey to any politician but called a spade a spade and stood by what was right. He kept his hands clean while other police officers made money illegally.
He assisted me in numerous ways and stood by me in my time of need. It was he who safeguarded me and spoke up for me when I had a problem with a controversial IGP.
Due to his frankness he was kept at a desk and not allowed to rise within the Police Force. He retired as a Senior Superintendent of Police and joined the Sugar Company at Hingurana where I had an opportunity to serve as Senior Security Manager at the Pelwatta Sugar Company.
Later he joined the UDA and World Vision where he did consultancy work. Mr. Mendis was a versatile police officer and honourable and distinguished son of Lanka.
Sita Arunthavanathan (nee Windsor)
It is only the memory of this lovely person that remains now.
She was beautiful. She was Sita Windsor, and later became Sita Arunthavanathan. She was the daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Windsor of Magalle, Galle. Her demise was sad and somehow too soon. Too sad for all of us. She was a bright and promising student of Sacred Heart Convent, Galle and an all-rounder. Having completed her studies, she gained entry to the University of Peradeniya and she was among the first batch of undergraduates to obtain the degree from there. She was one of the pioneers to have acted in Professor Sarachchandra’s plays, one of which was Bahina Kalawa which went on the boards, and became popular. She was a versatile actor, scholar, singer and dancer. She was radio broadcaster and Buddhist scholar who gave talks on Dhamma and participated in discussions on T.V. on the Buddhist doctrine. She was well versed with the ‘Tripitaka’. She was a devout Buddhist and her knowledge of Buddhism was wide, one of her orations was ‘Sakyamuni Buddha’.
She held the post of Secretary of the International Buddhist Centre and was a Council Member of the Women’s Congress and Federation of University Women. She held office as President of the Colombo Branch, O.G.A. of Sacred Heart Convent, Galle and of the Welfare Association of Housewives.
She held many other key positions too serving in the administrative wing of Lake House and as Administrative Officer of Consolidated Exports Ltd. She was also in the tutorial staff of St. Clare’s College, Wellawatta. She was at one time the Chief Translator to the then Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike at Temple Trees. Around that time she also composed lyrics for the Police Bakthi Gee and for versatile singers P.L.A. Somapala and Chitra and also sang with them. She had a beautiful and melodious voice. I consider myself fortunate to have known a person of this calibre. She was kind, gentle, and loving.
I got to know her through my sister Pearl, who was her classmate and great friend. She liked me a lot and I called her Sita Akka. After her graduation, she got married and came to reside in Galle. I will never forget, how loving she was to me. Wherever they went, they never failed to take us whether it was a picnic, a film or a trip.
I remember how we went to see the movie ‘Awara’ with them.
She was very fond of my parents too. She went for cookery classes with my sister, leaving the little baby in my care. That little baby is a senior officer in the armed forces today. He also has lovable qualities, like his mother and so do her other children.
She was an asset to her husband, who was a senior Police officer, who predeceased her two years ago. He too was a person of generous and unassuming qualities. Sita Akka was a beautiful lady, elegantly dressed. She was always neat, prim and proper.
Her sincere and warm smile was one of the characteristics of her personality. She was a loving mother not only to her sons and daughters, but also to the sons and daughters, who have joined the family, adorable grandmother, loving sister, loving aunt and sincere friend.
I used to ring her up and once when I rang her it was her birthday. She was very happy. When I heard the news that she was sick, I was sad. I went and saw her at Asiri Hospital, with my son.
I was sad to see her, she was in a deep slumber. My memory went back to bygone days. She was clad in a soft pink night gown, and the colour of the dress made her more beautiful.
I wrote a small note, and gave it to the girl who was attending on her and she later told me that she listened to it being read. I am sorry I couldn’t see her before all this happened. We will never see her again. Only fragrant memories of her are left behind.
May you attain the Sweet Bliss of Nirvana.
A popular doctor, he cared for all
Dr. Chelliah Sinnappahpillai was born on July 3, 1924 in Manipay, Jaffna and entered the medical profession as a Registered Medical Practitioner in Ampara. He served in government hospitals in the Gampaha area for more than 50 years. Prior to his retirement in 1978, he was attached to the Malwatte Peripheral Hospital where he served for four years. After his retirement, he established his private practice under the name Ranee Medical Centre in Thihariya, Kalagedihena.
Fondly known as Ranee Doctor among villagers around Thihariya, Kalagedihena and Attanagalla, where there was a scarcity of medical professionals in the 1970’s, there are many who sought his services day and night. He was also a popular figure among the Muslim community in Thihariya and also among the Sinhalese and Tamils.
A willing social worker who contributed his services to any social activity in the area, he was also an active member of the church. After a brief illness, he was called to rest with Jesus on February 14, 2005, leaving his loving wife Ranee, three sons Dr. Ranjit, Lalith, Vijith and daughter Dr. Shiyamala Allegakone, son-in-law, daughters-in-law and grandchildren.
We are sure the Good Lord whom he served with much devotion must have reserved a very special place for him. May his soul rest in peace.
Raja loved peace but was pushed towards war
Tuan Nizam Dane
It’s nine years since Colonel Tuan Nizam Dane, affectionately called Raja, of the 10th Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment of the Sri Lanka Army, left us – according to his fervent wish - to die with his boots on. But I still have to come up with an accurate word or phrase to describe the man he was.
Raja was a dedicated army officer, a loving husband to Eileen, a dedicated father to his only off-spring Romola and a doting grandfather, even though for a brief period. During my association with him I have hardly seen him lose his temper, but angry he did get with me once.
That was during a discussion, one of so many, about a solution to the country’s ethnic or terrorist conflict. I made the blunder of questioning him why he, being a Malay, should be fighting a conflict between two other races.
My question was meant more to prolong the discussion, but he missed it for such. I vividly remember what he said, “This is our country. Whoever fights, it’s the future generation that will suffer. For their sake, for our children’s sake we should fight if necessary. But, mind you, it has to be a political solution at the end.” How true? Are we any nearer to his hopes?
Raja Dane touched the lives of the elite and the normal alike. He specially had an amiable way with children. When I walked home on the evening of June 7, I saw a lone candle throwing its light on our porch. Yes, I had forgotten, but my son Amrit and my wife, Raja’s little sister Rani, had remembered that it was Remembrance Day for all those who had sacrificed their lives in this senseless war in our island. When Raja died, my son was only six years old. But remember he did. I stood under the porch for a few minutes and asked forgiveness from God Almighty, my dear friend and all those who had sacrificed their lives to make this land a better place to live in.
“Apey sir nitharama positive,” troops who served under him used to say. That phrase conveyed several meanings. ‘Apey sir’, as far as the military is concerned, goes a long way. It makes Raja one of us, one who belonged to the troops. The other conveyed his positive outlook to life. Time was of essence for him. Do it now, was what he always insisted on. Most of the time, he had an uncanny foresight, which on occasions saved his life. During one instance, while he was travelling by road to Batticaloa, something had made him take a different and longer route from somewhere near Habarana. His driver had not questioned but followed instructions. They proceeded safely. But another vehicle carrying senior officers which followed the regular road was hit by a land mine. Many instances like these were related to me by Raja, so much so that his friends serving with him would ask him which route they should take to arrive safely.
True to his Geminian character (not
that he believed in astrology) he had many pokers in the fire at the same time.
When I talked of astrology he would dismiss it as bunkum, but he would prod me
for more! How else could a person opt to be a voluntary officer without joining
the regular force? His urge to move, his liking for more space, what else? And
that too, after sacrificing a teaching career and a comfortable office life at
Mercantile Credit Ltd. He was with the 5th Artillery in Jaffna, Mannar, Gampaha,
Colombo and Batticaloa. For sometime he served as secretary to the North East
Governor, General Nalin Seneviratne. Raja was with Military Intelligence before
he reverted back to his Vijayabahu Regiment, which he commanded until his death
at Periyamadu in Omanthai, during the Jayasikurui Operation.And while in the
Army, he wanted to continue his legal studies as well! God only knows what else
he had up his sleeve! When we start a discussion on him, it usually centres
around the fun and the jokes he played on others as well as on himself. He had a
unique sense of humour. A voracious reader and a perfectionist in English, he
would throw chapter and verse at us. But ultimately, the discussion peters down
to a somewhat prolonged silence followed by tears. He never talked about his
military operations. It was like getting a feather from a tortoise if we asked
anything of that. But once in a way he would provide us with that little ‘need
to know’ bit.
A man who loved peace, but was pushed towards war, that is as close as I could ever get. Anyway, he was fortunate to have departed fighting, a fitting end to a formidable character.
He would not have wanted to be assassinated by his foes. That much I know through my experience with my friend, partner, companion and brother-in-law Colonel Raja Dane.
His was a career like that of Lord Tennyson’s ‘The Light Brigade’: Not though the soldier knew, Someone had blundered; Theirs not to make reply, Their’s not to reason why, Theirs to do and die.
We will remember you always Colonel Raja Nizam Dane.
Tribute to a brave uncle
I want to pay tribute to
A special place in our hearts
Approaching death, of others did you think,
Memories and melodies
Today, June 25, marks the first death anniversary of my Uncle Jimmy. After his death, one of his friends told my father, “Well, that’s the end of Jimmy.” My father told him it will be the end of you and me when we are no more but not for Jimmy as his voice lives on and now belongs to the ages.
How true – every morning when I go to my parents’ home right next door, I hear on the cassette recorder his programmes playing with that rich voice breezing through the house. His programmes, such as “Melodies and Memories”, “Vintage Hour”, and other musical programmes which he presented, also interviews, news broadcasts, etc. are played very often by my mother who is indexing his CDs and cassettes. To go through all the cassettes he had in his possession would take a lifetime.
Uncle Jimmy was the only person I knew who really loved what he did and did what he loved. He used to tell me that he never had the “Monday Blues”, as everyday was exciting and enjoyable for him.
Among his numerous fans, there is one in particular who drops in quite often to reminisce about Uncle Jimmy and who told me that whenever he listens to his programmes (he has taped so many of them on his own cassettes), he thanks God for Jimmy.
The other day I went to the wedding of Uncle Jimmy’s first pupil who learnt English from him. I was surprised and thrilled when her husband’s parents came up to me and said if it weren’t for Uncle Jimmy she would not be in the place she is today. They praised his teaching skills and were ever grateful to him.
In addition to being a perfectionist in the English language, he was also conversant in French and his pronunciation of the language was impeccable. His grand-nephew attributes his success in the study of the French language to the coaching he received from Uncle Jimmy.
I cannot forget the last moments of his life. Little did I know that the cup of tea which I was holding for him to drink would be the last time I ever touched him alive. His eyes wandered all over the room looking at everyone there as if to say “good bye”.
I truly believe he is with God who has amply rewarded him for making use of his talents so fruitfully.
He was a person who took great pleasure in imparting his knowledge in his chosen field to others – be it broadcasting, training or teaching.
We all miss him terribly but I am
sure he is among us as he loved us dearly too.
May he rest in peace till we all meet again. Thank you, God, for Uncle Jimmy.
You never lapsed in motherly duties
Elsie Dias Abeyagunawardene
years since you-
Left us for ever, Dearest Amma
So unforgettable is the sweet smile which adorned you
I have no words to express your limitless loving kindness
Evergreen you shall remain for ever in our hearts
illustrious service rendered as a mother
Best of everything in your power, you bestowed on us
Enduring physical pain, you never lapsed in motherly duties
You always tried your best to show us the correct path
All what you did in your life span, with
Gratitude we remember, hands clasped in respect.
Upeksha, Metta, Karuna, Muditha were embedded in you
Not restricted to one, you showered them on every one
Always you thought of others, before your own self
Work you did in silence to better our lives,
Are appreciated much by your loving children
Remembered most affectionately
Dearest Amma, thank you for being such an-
Exemplary and loving mother
No words to tell how good you were
Eternal bliss of Nibbana will not fail you
.... ending the sorrowful journey in Sansara.
A good doctor and friend
Dr. Kanakasabay Sundaralingham
I was grieved by the demise of Dr. K. Sundaralingham (affectionately known as Dr. Sundha). He died of a heart attack at his residence in Gonakalle Estate, Passara.
Dr. Sundaralingham was born on December 31, 1933 to A. Kanakasabay (O.A.) and Mrs. K. Rasammah at Karainagar Arugampuram. He was the second in the family.
He had his early education at Otakarai American Mission College, Yaltern College and Victoria College Chullipuram.
In 1952 he worked at the Bank of Ceylon Colombo. He was selected to the Medical College in 1953. After graduation his first appointment in 1960 as a Medical Practitioner was to Madulseema Estate Mahadowa. In 1962 he was transferred to Sarnia Estate Hospital Badulla.
After he retired in 1993 he was appointed to the Gonakella Estate Dispensary where he was employed till his untimely death.
He and his wife Rajeswary were the proud parents of Dhanusha, a Mathematics teacher at St. Clare’s and Shyamala, a qualified Architect in UK.
Dr. Sundaralingham’s wife was a tower of strength to him. Her untimely death was a blow to him. He was a devoted husband, dutiful father and loving grandfather.
The Uva Province has lost an eminent medical practitioner and also a good friend with the passing away of Dr. K. Sundaralingham.
She was always a picture of grace and elegance
I met Beryl Helene Irangani Wijewardene when we were schoolgirls at Ladies’ College. She was a calm, collected girl, who unlike many of us, was always neat and tidy in appearance. Ira was not mischievous or boisterous, she had a quiet, unassuming matter of fact manner. But she did have an Achilles heel, which we soon discovered.
She detested her name. If we wanted to make her mad, we would yell “Beryl Helene Irangani” and she would turn red and try hard to refrain from saying something she might regret. We did miss her calming presence when she was suddenly moved to another school much to her dislike.
Ira’s marriage to Donald Wijewardene, her cousin, was quite a talking point in Colombo. Although it seemed so romantic to us girls at the time, Ira’s elopement with Donny to Bombay stirred a hornet’s nest within family circles. Soon after their return to Colombo the birth of their elder daughter Nelun, thawed some of the ice.
Ira soon settled down to being a wife and mother. She had become an exceptionally attractive young woman with an impeccable sense of style and elegance. Ira had the gift that many of us girls only dreamed of. She could hold a room full of people to ransom with her grace and elegance. She was always well groomed with her hallmark konde kura stuck stylishly in her konde and dressed in a well tailored and draped Kandyan saree.
She was an exceptional hostess. At home in Ixora, she would experiment with various combinations of ingredients and come up with some delectable dishes.
Her repertoire varied from her legendary cadju curry to complicated cake structures and short eats turned out for her daughters’ birthday parties and mouth-watering courses presented with such style and elegance to Donny’s overseas visitors who would marvel at the various combinations put before them.
Her accomplishments were not limited to the domestic front. Her love of dogs made her a stalwart of the Ladies Kennel Club where she was an active member for many years.
Ira was artistic. Her eye for colour and design together with her passion to promote local arts and crafts made her a keen supporter of setting up a centre to help local artisans to produce and market their wares. She was on the Board of Management of Laksala taking an active role in nurturing and promoting local handicrafts. She was also right up to her death, a Director of Swadeshi Industrial Works.
Ira was a talented multi-faceted human being. After Donny’s death, nearly 20 years ago, she took up a more private lifestyle.
To many of us old friends, it was a sad day to learn that Ira was gone and we were too late to pay our last respects. Goodbye dear friend until perhaps we meet again on the shores of the kingdom of our Lord.
Sunday June 25, 2006
It was her final unfinished trek
Thisula Jayanetti Abeysekera
It was six weeks ago on a humid Sunday afternoon, that a speeding bus snuffed out the life of a cyclist, who was taking a turn at the Reid Avenue junction in Colombo. With such impact and internal injury, her death had to be instantaneous.
Friends who saw her in the morgue noted with amazement that a person so beautiful while living was preserved the same in death, despite the trauma such an accident brought about. She was 51years old and had always dreamt of true love and real happiness. In a new life after death we hope and pray she would gain both.
Thisula was born into greatness, with immense intelligence, a wealth of talent and an abundance of kindness and compassion. Many people said she was one of few who came into this world with several silver spoons in the mouth. In her childhood she enjoyed luxuries that none of us could afford in those younger days.
Growing up in a well respected and conservative family which treasured traditional values was not very easy for a free-spirited, mischievous young girl who enjoyed the typical childhood fun and games of the 1960s’. It was not often that Thisula had the liberty of joining in activities and excursions that some of her friends who had more liberal parents enjoyed.
In fact it did not please her that she had to be chaperoned even to school, in the most protective manner, as thought fit by her parents. Although they loved and cared for her deeply, they missed seeing the turmoil and unrest in Thisula who felt intensely uncomfortable in the stereotyped Jayanetti household.
Her life at school was memorable in many ways, a rich blend of academic shine and great fun. My first recollection of Visakha Vidyalaya, our old school, is that of Thisula in a grade two class room finding our way in a new surrounding with a mixture of fear and excitement. Those fond memories range from singing ‘Billy Boy’ as 10 year olds (a duet with Thisula on a vast and empty stage in a packed Royal College Hall on our school Prize Day), to numerous pranks both in and out of the class room that irritated many of our teachers, quite justifiably.
The latter led to many punishments that we had to endure outside the Principal’s office.
But there were also several occasions where serious study sessions and intellectual debate with close friends on a variety of subjects, helped Thisula and all of us grow up. Those made us see the good, the bad and the ugly of adolescence.
Thisula was special because she was the school’s nightingale and her stellar role in the school choir was admired and appreciated by everyone. Her talent at music was remarkable; her voice was brilliant and unmatchable and her singing was eagerly awaited by all, at school concerts and other performances. In this field she blossomed after leaving school.
Many music directors of films, and others in the music field sought out her talent for a variety of films, concerts and other activities connected to music and song. They often lamented that Thisula had not studied music professionally. They all said she had potential to be a world class singer and musician, had she received a focused and quality training.
Sadly this was not to be.
Her performance in Medical School, which she qualified for comfortably, was equally noteworthy. She was a clever student who took to Medicine with ease, coped well with the typical academic rigour of such a demanding course and passed all her exams with distinction. As a committed intern she cared deeply for her patients. Needless to say she would have made a compassionate and dedicated practitioner had she continued in her career path. Sadly this was also not to be.
On that fateful Sunday, on a push bicycle she had begun to ride after many years, she went visiting friends.This was yet another trek that was to remain unfinished.
I see Thisula’s life from school to university and beyond, as a journey of many missed opportunities, where she was robbed of a brilliant medical career, potential for musical stardom and finally, inner peace.
However, I also see as a solace, that what she missed in life, she had in the form of two beautiful children (Nanda and Dayani) and a large group of friends who would never forget her, in life or in death.
She was as beautiful as her names
Charmina Molligoda Kaduruwane
Charmina Marlene. As beautiful as
these two names sound, so was the lady.
A leading model in the 1960s, Charmina my God-mother was a writer, cook par excellence and lover of the creative and unique. She was as sensitive as she was tough, creative and practical at the same time and had a wonderful sense of humour.
My childhood was spent in and out of her beautiful homes. She would create a pond with marbles, augmenting its gold-fish, she would craft a plethora of macramé ornaments – lamp stands, cushion covers and frogs. Her passion was collecting frog ornaments, of which she had the largest conceivable collection in Sri Lanka. Her garden was also speckled with her miniature and sometimes live ‘froggies.’
My aunt gave me the most unique gifts – from gold jewellery to vanity cases. But what I prize most is a ‘teenage memory’ when she made me feel comfortable in her home at Rajagiriya when I was down with the flu in 1988. She also had written me beautiful letters and cards which I still have in my possession.
She also loved music and had a ‘green-thumb’. Her home was always alive with music from rock to classical, and beautified with lovely potted plants of different hues and textures, grown painstakingly by her.
She was many things to many people – daughter, mother, sister, sister-in-law, aunt and friend. She was also the ‘mother’ to many cats and dogs, who had exotic names, like her cat ‘Batik’.
To my brother and I, and to many youngsters she was our Bubbo Amma. She leaves behind her son Cuda, mother Princess, brother Seneca and family, who will miss her unique personality.
May your soul rest in the loving hands of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, whom you loved all your life, above all.
Honouring a writer and artiste
The sixteenth death anniversary of journalist and writer Kalamanya D.V. Seneviratne fell on May 16.
He joined the pioneering Sinhala newspaper Swadesha Mitraya as a journalist in 1936 and later joined the Lankadeepa newspaper as a sub editor. He was also the founder editor of the magazine Chintamani.
He was responsible for writing the
history of the Sinhala cinema and his book Sinhala Cinemave Vansa Kathawa is the
most authoritative work on the subject.
Among his outstanding works are the historical novel Samudra Devi and Ma Alaya Kala Tharuniya, Katha Menika, Araliya Hadisi Vivahaya, Jeevitha Poojava, Jeevithaya, Jeevithaye Rahas and Lakshmi Apasu Eiy. While being a student at Ananda College, in 1920 he received the prize for Dhamma from the Bengali poet Ravindranath Togore.
Mr. Seneviratne, who headed the Arya Sinhala Natya Sabha, along with other actors and artistes was responsible for making a request for the Elphinstone Theatre to be established as a national arts theatre and centre for artistes.
At that time one of his close friends, Member of Parliament for Colombo Central and Premier R. Premadasa started the Tower Hall Foundation and appointed D.V. Seneviratne as its Deputy Director.
To those great days of thrills and spills
I was shocked and saddened to learn of the untimely death of my good friend Zacky, who was residing in Oklahoma U.S.A, a month ago.
We both started motorcycling (racing) together at the Ratmalana air strip. Katukurunda came much later on. His brother Rally who was in England came to Sri Lanka a little later on and the three of us raced together.
In those days, the Saturday morning
papers carried the head line in the Sports page: Dean Brothers and Chandra de
Costa to do battle once again.
Those days the circuit was full of spectators, nothing less than 40,000.
I am proud to mention here that Zacky was a great rider and the riders who were selected as the very first team to India in 1956 comprised Zacky Dean, W.D.P. Indraratne, Trim Seneviratne, A.A. Jinadasa and myself. These riders were selected purely on merit and they were managed by the late Andrew P. Mirando often considered the “Father” of the CMCC.(?)
Zacky Dean won the 350CC and the 500CC on his Manx Norton in exemplary fashion to thrill the Bombay crowd. The other riders also brought credit to Sri Lanka in their respective categories. Zacky participated in the Isle of Man (England) in 1953 on his 350 Manx.
After returning from the Isle of Man he used to win almost all the races because he had the distinction of having the only Manx and it was such a powerful machine that the others had no chance.
I was riding a Triumph Tiger 100 and I was always behind him and I was called the Shadow of Zacky. There are plenty of more things I could write about Zacky, But I guess the above speaks volumes for him. I will certainly miss him very much.
May his soul Rest in Peace.
Her compassion was reflected in her writings
It was in 1998 that I joined the "Wadiya Writers Group". From the very first day, Maleeha, a founder member, made an impression on me. Her welcoming smile and friendly conversation went a long way in making me feel at home.
She was one of those members who made a solid contribution to our meetings. Her compassion for humanity was amply demonstrated in her writings. Her 'slice of life’ stories, which encompassed all walks of life, were poignant and realistic and written in impeccable English.
Maleeha's volume of short stories 'The Dance of Life’ has been translated into Sinhala. She was a regular contributor to Channels and Waves and was editor of a recent volume of Channels. Her title story ‘The Dance of Life’, won an award at an all island state competition in 1998. An experienced English teacher for many years, she also taught creative writing to a group of young people
Whatever her problems, there was always a twinkle in her large brown eyes, and a smile hovering on her lips. When we last met, two months back, she read a short piece based on childhood reminiscences, depicting a leisurely way of life, now lost forever. It was her intention to publish a collection of these reminiscences. I knew she was going on one of her regular visits to her daughter in Dubai, and thought nothing of it when she did not turn up at our meetings.
Then one night, a fellow member of our group rang me up. "Have you heard the news?” he asked. "Maleeha has passed away."
It is always difficult to reconcile sudden death with a vital personality who seemed to have many more years to share with a loving family, and with us, to continue to make a real contribution to Sri Lankan literature.
Mercifully she was spared a long period of suffering, and passed away peacefully, surrounded by her family who had arrived from Dubai, France and Canada, to be with her during her brief illness.
She will leave an irreplaceable void in our group and will be greatly missed by her friends and family.
Thank you for the memories
Nihal de Silva
It was inevitable that writers should meet each other through a book. In 2003 I was handed a book by Vijitha Yapa for reading and reviewing. It was the The Road From Elephant Pass by Nihal de Silva. It eventually won for him the Gratiaen Award.
I met the author through the Wadiya group of English writers much later on. This book was followed rapidly by The Far Spent Day and The Ginirella Conspiracy and finally Paduma Meets The Sunbird. It was as if Nihal was trying to make up for lost time.
He had been a busy businessman until his retirement and it was only now that he had discovered the true love of his life - writing.
He once told me that unless he did some ‘writing’ for the day he did not feel whole.
At the launch of the Ginirella Conspiracy, Nihal said he was borrowing the subject of incest from me. Nihal was a courageous writer. He wrote on subjects which other English writers dared not do.
Nihal was also a good friend, gentle and understanding but with a sense of humour. To me he was very helpful since it is only now that I am coming to terms with the computer. He spent time helping me to transfer my work from the computer into disks. Prior to his unexpected death, Nihal had given me a copy of his last book Paduma Meets The Sunbird.
Paduma is a rebel against the system the same way William of Just William in the world famous series by Richmal Crompton behaves. I recommend this book to all parents if they want to give their children a good Sri Lankan dose of fun and laughter in our villages.
I met Nihal recently at the Mega
Buzz at the British Council. “It is good to see you here,” I told him. “Since
you will not be coming to our Wadiya meeting, because of your trip to Wilpattu.”
Now we will not be meeting him at all.
Thank you Nihal, for the memories.
Sunday Times June 18, 2006
He was a true patriot - Col. B.A.Perera
The sun seemed a little warmer than usual that afternoon…. as if determined to stay on, until the designated time arrived to bid goodbye to a great son of the south. Matara itself seemed strangely quiet and forlorn on that day March 4, as one of its most illustrious and patriotic sons wended his way on his last journey through the town.
The solemn-faced soldiers of that gallant unit of the Army, Gemunu Watch, most fittingly paid their last respects to their one-time Commanding Officer, Col. B.A. Perera, with a burial service with full military honours.
As the bugle sounded that strangely vibrant yet haunting music known as the ‘Last-Post’ which in itself seemed to reflect the mood of everyone gathered there, Col. B.A. Perera’s tired and weary body of 80 years was laid to rest. The grateful salutation of the Army personnel whose admiration and respect he had won and the sincerely fervent wishes of his loved ones and friends in whose hearts he shall live on, would have made him happy if he was watching from beyond. Well known are the facts that he was an attorney-at-law, as well as an unofficial magistrate. He was also a director and subsequently vice chairman of the Paddy Marketing Board and director of the National Livestock Development Board. He held the unique honour of serving as the Basanayaka Nilame of the famous Devundara Devale for 25 consecutive years.
He is credited with starting the southern region’s first ever security company, Provincial & City Security Services Ltd.
However, the lesser known facts show the soul of this remarkable man better. His sense of patriotism and generosity were such that his own life and wealth were mere tools for him to serve others for a greater cause. It was perhaps this noble trait in him that prompted him to donate his entire salary from the Paddy Marketing Board as well as the National Livestock Development Board to the National Defence Fund. He had also been contributing towards the renovation and maintenance work of the Matara Hospital.
He had generously spent his own funds to enhance the quality and standards of the welfare sector of the Gemunu Watch Regiment. Yet another silent humane gesture which was known to his immediate family only, was the financial assistance he had been providing to a deserving athlete in the Matara Police, Damith de Silva. Another noteworthy feature was that he assisted those who found it difficult to hold a decent funeral for their kith and kin. His home was always open to friends, relatives and associates to come in, relax and refresh over a meal or a cup of tea.
As a voluntary force officer, his uncompromising patriotism and duty-bound honour saw him rising up spontaneously in defence of his motherland. The sacrifices made by people like him to keep democratic values on course have saved our motherland from the clutches of hasty immature philosophers.
His one foray into politics, was more in desire to keep the democratic way of life flourishing at whatever cost, than for any other reason. He did not expect personal victory. Those who have today gained electoral victories ought to be grateful to the heroic deeds of men like Col. B. A. Perera.
Did he have any regrets? Being human, he must have had. In the last lap of his life when he was besieged by illness, which in turn affected even his speech, he would sometimes gaze into the eyes of his daughter longingly trying hard to say something. The love and gratitude showed by his two children, sisters, brothers, son-in-law, cousins and those who stood by him always, would have been of great comfort to him.
May our motherland be blessed with more and more truly courageous and generous men like him. May the ‘Last Post’ sounded at his farewell, be the clarion call echoing from the soul of our motherland for the truly patriotic sons and daughters to do their duty as well.
May his spirit edge him on towards the enlightened path leading up to Nibbana.
Uncle Nee….you are sorely missed.. - Nihal De Silva
It's two weeks since that tragic day Nihal de Silva set out on a trip that was no novelty to him but still exciting-an early morning safari at the Wilpattu National Park.
When I first heard of the blast at Wilpattu, just before noon on Saturday May 27, it was another "news story" and since of late all of it has been bad news. Blasts, assassinations, shootings killings, killings and more killings, that by the end of the day they add up to a number.
It was not until much later on Saturday, that I found out that Uncle Nihal may have been a part of the group caught in the explosion. I was shocked, to say the least. I frantically made a couple of calls and was told that there were two people who had escaped. They had heard of the blast and fled into the forest.
That was the hope I clung to and also shared with Uncle Nihal's family. His two sons Shanik and Shenal were to set off for Wilpattu at the break of dawn on Sunday.
But by morning, the bouts of information that emerged throughout the night proved our worst fears.
I found it inexplicable how the life of a man like Uncle Nihal could be snatched away so suddenly and cruelly. I still don't have an answer but as a believer of Jesus Christ, I know it's all a part of a larger plan that will be clearer to us some day.
I have known Uncle Nihal since I was a child, but interacted with him far more frequently after he took to writing.
He always had a passion to read and write and I remember when I was about 14, he took a few of us kids, along with his own for pizza and couldn't take his eyes off a read in the Time magazine, prompting a nudge or two from Aunty Sherline.
When he first told me about the "Road from Elephant Pass," I was excited, more so because the title, recounts an area that as a journalist I have so often visited and covered. He told me not to expect too much and to let him know what I thought of it. I told him it was a page-turner and that I didn't realize he was such a prolific writer. He wanted me to do the launch and say "something about the book". I said I would be happy to. He autographed the book saying, "to read, and laugh at".
But it was no laughing matter. His first literary work went on to bag the Gratiaen Prize and the State Literary Award.
Uncle Nihal was on a roll and since
then, The Far Spent Day and Ginirella Conspiracy followed in quick succession,
all of which I compered at the launch.
His fourth book, on an arms dealer was in the process of being completed when his life was snuffed out.
What stood out for me about Uncle Nihal was his simplicity, modesty and wit. He also always had time to listen.
Even when I asked him for an introduction about himself for the launch, he brushed it off saying "ah, there's nothing much to say, just say I'm a product of St. Joseph's College.”
But there's so much to say, Uncle Nee… You have given so much to the world and to everyone who knew you-from your family to those who just barely knew you or just met you only once. The impression you left was lasting. And it did not matter who the people were or how old they were, either.
Like many of us, Rev. Fr. C. Kuriyacose was overwhelmed during his farewell at the cemetery. He said Nihal was "a man who didn't preach religion. But lived it," a true child of God.
I will miss our chats, especially the ones after Sunday mass, which were a mixture of the situation in the country and what more I should be doing with my life. He always urged me to complete my masters, saying he was sure I would be very successful.
In one of his last emails, he attached the story of "Chaya" saying "this is to keep you amused." It recounted a powerful experience of a couple that survived the Boxing Day tsunami and pointed to the need to appreciate how precious human relationships are in this materialistic world we live in.
The last time we spoke, he congratulated me on an article I had written for the New York Times and told me about the fourth book he was writing. "I can count on you for the launch, right," he said, and I replied, "Of course Uncle Nee."
I will remember that day, and your ever-smiling face. I have sat with Uncle Nihal in his office many times, talking about the content of the books. He would also ask me a million questions on my life as a journalist.
On May 29, I sat in that very office with his sister-in-law Iromi, writing his death notice and picking hymns for his funeral service. It was awful.
The room was still full of him. Papers strewn on the table, a half-empty Black Label Whisky bottle and by the side of the computer, handwritten notes of his next book.
It was not easy to focus on getting logistics done and the practical matters attended to, when most were still in shock over his death. But they had to be done. Looking for an epitaph from what had been written before, we couldn't find anything that encapsulated what Uncle Nimal stood for and meant to the people who loved him.
Swallowing the tears that welled up
and trying hard to focus, the words suddenly flowed.
Are memories of you….
Deep in our hearts
You will always be treasured….
A quintessential Lankan woman - Sriyani Nonis
"Her children shall rise up and call her blessed"
What matters now is that we must realize that hers had been a remarkable and an extraordinary life. Born to wealth and high station, she could have lived a life of ease, enjoying all those prerogatives. This was not her choice. She created her own life, acquiring through her own efforts, a sound education and the highest of professional qualifications in her chosen field of competence. Fortified with these credentials, she built on the foundation of the business devolved on her by her father to reach pre-eminent status in the world of commerce.
Marriage and the upbringing of her children were not the least of her achievements. She projected the image of the quintessential Sri Lankan woman of distinction - truly oriental in her lifestyle; quiet, dignified, commanding both admiration and respect from all who knew her. Soft spoken, gentle in demeanour, never overbearing yet forceful and firm in her convictions, she wielded a great deal of influence whenever her advice or direction was sought by friends or colleagues.
Always well groomed, dressed appropriately for any occasion, she stood out in a crowd although she never sought the limelight. Her family could justifiably be proud of this unique personality and death will not remove the aura attendant on her for many years to come.
Her boundless unpatronising charity and compassion for those less privileged than herself will always be remembered. What is more, these endearing qualities she had bequeathed to her children — all eminent in their respective fields yet simple and unassuming.
There is no doubt that Sriyani derived courage and enlightenment from the faith that she professed. That is why it behoves us to find her Biblical counterpart whose children, without hesitation, ranked her among the blessed.
A guiding light and tower of strength - Sumitra de Silva Wimalawansa
The death of our dear Nelumpura Nenda, Sumitra de Silva Wimalawansa, is a loss for everyone in the family. We were blessed with her acts of kindness, generosity and understanding. She was always there for us and with us at any stressful or happy time to comfort and share our pain and sorrow and to smile and share our success and happiness. It would be hard to find anyone in the family who had not experienced her kindness and hospitality.
Her life was beautiful and complete - an exemplary family life in which she was its centre, devoted to her brilliant husband D. S. P. Wimalawansa de Silva and supportive to him in his duties to the state, a loving mother to her three children who were guided and encouraged by her to become good people with sound education, sturdy values and kindly hearts. Their stable family life was an inspiration and a benign influence to the younger generation.
But her world extended beyond her little family. Her extraordinary affection and caring nature made her a dearly loved aunt, sister, cousin, in-law, grand-aunt and friend to numerous people. She and her husband shared that rare love for people.
She had time for everyone. Even
after her husband departed, she continued his good work undaunted. She did not
drift into oblivion or solitude, but took life with both hands and made up for
his loss by being there for all who needed her.
Nenda was a guiding light to our family, a sure tower of strength. A sweet-natured person, she had mature wisdom to guide us and share our hopes and dreams. Everyone in the family, even those older to her, respected her and gave heed to her word for she had the rare strength of character to make good, sensible and fair decisions.
So many memories hold her close to our hearts and, in each of those memories, we see her loving nature and her gentleness.
A cheerful and happy person who found pleasure in everyday events and simple acts of love and goodwill, she kept track of each one's achievement, progress and whereabouts, however far they lived.
She became the grand matriarch of our family surrounded by many loved ones, near and distant. Selflessness and hospitality were the hallmarks of her character. Whether it was a party, a wedding, a family reunion, arranging a marriage or facing a loss, everyone depended on her sound guidance and direction. Her culinary skills and organising ability made whatever the occasion a success.
To the end of life, she remained
dutiful, cheerful and alert. Distance was no barrier — she would always insist
on visiting sick relatives and friends and attending funerals of anyone whom she
had even the remotest connection with.
Yet, impermanence and sorrow are an inevitable part of life. But to reflect on the features of her beautiful and complete life of over four score years, would help us to derive inspiration from it and take consolation in the fact that here was a truly loving and lovely person who gave sunshine to the lives of all who knew her, lived a happy life, was free of vices and bequeathed three good children to the world who will surely carry on their good parents' legacy of compassion, love and goodwill in all they say and do.
In the magnificent work that her son Professor Sunil Wimalawansa does so unobtrusively for Sri Lanka's downtrodden and the needy, his generosity and gentle nature, Sumitra Nenda shall live forever. In our adoring hearts, her memory will be forever fresh and fragrant.
May our dear Nenda attain the peace and tranquillity of Nibbana!
In memory of their kindness
J.M.H. Felsinger & Leslie A. Alphael
It is with profound sorrow and pain of heart that I write this appreciation of my beloved brothers-in-law who were tragically and so suddenly snatched away from our midst on June 4, 2000.
When my elder brother-in-law Milton married my sister Joyce on December 27, 1958, I was only 12 years. He was in the Royal Ceylon Air Force and was fortunate enough to be provided with married quarters at Katunayake.
I still remember the fatherly attachment and affection he showed me by taking me under his wing and providing me with all the assistance and comforts.
He made arrangements for me to travel daily to school from Katunayake to Kotahena. Being the elder brother-in-law he played a leading role in guiding the destinies of the family by his wise counsel and responsible actions. He was a pillar of strength to me and other members of the family.
He played the role of a father to all of us with affection and love. He was magnanimous and always stood for what was right and never spoke ill of anyone.
My third brother-in-law Leslie married my younger sister Monica on February 4, 1971. He was an excellent printer and more than that a sincere friend to all of us. He was dedicated and devoted to his profession and climbed to the top through hard work, determination and efficiency. He was unassuming and benevolent and sweet by nature. “Love and forgive, live and let live” was his motto. The loneliest, the most wretched received compassion at his hands. He never missed family functions whether they were weddings, funerals or confinements.
It would be an understatement if I say that it was Leslie who laid the foundation for the betterment of my life and that of my family members. He was fond of my three sons, particularly my youngest Dodwell, on whom he showered affection until his untimely tragic death.
Even after a lapse of six years I find it still difficult to get over the shock of their tragic deaths and the devastation caused to the whole family . But by the grace of God my sisters have gradually recovered now to lead a normal life.
In the words of the poet “They were statesmen, yet friends to truth of soul sincere, in action faithful and in honour clear, who broke no promise, served no private end, who gained no little and who lost no friend. They were noble, Nay nobility itself.”
Those were the days
MAJor ERIC PATHMANATHAN JOSEPH
Eric Joseph, as he was popularly known and his batch-mates, were enlisted as officer cadets in the Sri Lanka Army on February 23, 1953. Immediately, thereafter, all four of the batch, proceeded to the Army Training Centre, Diyatalawa (now re-designated the Sri Lanka Military Academy) for basic military training.
It was at Diyatalawa, during our initial training, that the batch-mates got to know each other closely. And, when one lives with others, following the same routine, sharing accommodation, eating the same food, sharing the rigours and, at times the very occasional pleasantries of military training, one gets to know one’s batch-mates closely indeed.
Eric, whom the batch, after a short while affectionately named Periyapulle, undoubtedly because of his six-foot plus physique, big heart and most charming and pleasant personality, hailed from Mannar.
He was educated at St. Patrick’s College, Jaffna, which had the distinction of producing many famous personalities, including many respected and honourable politicians from other parts of the country. At school, Eric had enjoyed a reputation for being a good and disciplined student, and was more popularly known for his outstanding athletic prowess.
He participated in the Public Schools Athletic Championships, representing his college over a number of years in the early fifties, in the 400 yards event, winning this event in the final years of his schoolboy career.
After basic training at Diyatalawa, our batch of four proceeded to the UK, to continue training. We underwent a further eight weeks training in July/August 1953 at the Mons Officer Cadet School, Aldershot and here too, we were accommodated in the same barrack rooms, along with National Service Officer Cadets of the British Army.
On September 9, 1953, we entered the portals of Sandhurst, and were admitted to different colleges, Eric being accommodated in Inkerman Company, at Old College. Eric, as usual, with his warm and charming personality and his athletic talents, soon became very popular. For his outstanding performances in the field of athletics, during his officer cadet training, he was awarded Sandhurst Colours, a rare achievement indeed, which brought glory to him and Sri Lanka as well.
After his cmmissioning on February 3, 1955, Second Lieutenant Eric Joseph was posted to the 1st Battalion, The Ceylon Light Infantry, which Battalion he served for many years with his customary disciplined loyalty and dedication. In later years with the raising of the Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment, Lieutenant E.E.P Joseph was posted to that regiment till he retired in the rank of Major. Eric had a fine sense of soldierly discipline, which made him not accept any breaches or violations of the military code of conduct. He was outspoken. At all times a man of religion, he practised his faith quietly, unobtrusively and with dedication.
He always had a smile and a tremendous sense of humour. Eric
retired from the Army prematurely, at his own request, to obtain employment in a
prestigious mercantile organisation, where undoubtedly his services were highly
appreciated. He retired from this appointment, after many years of service, much
against the wishes of his superiors for reasons of ill health.
Eric passed away three months ago.
He impressed all with rare qualities
Tribute to C. Sankarakumaran
When I read the ‘Tribute to C. Sankarakumaran’on May 20, by Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Governor of West Bengal, I felt a pang of regret that I had not been in contact with Sankar even on the telephone, since he so graciously entertained us his contemporaries at the University Catholic Hostel – about 10 years or so ago at the Queen’s Hotel, Kandy.
A few of us had decided to go to Kandy to see him. He was overjoyed to see us after such a lapse of time and rolled out the red carpet.
It was in 1944 that I was admitted to the Catholic Hostel by Fr. Ignatius Pinto, the Warden. I was not a Roman Catholic but then I had studied under Fr. Pinto at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo. In Sankar’s case, he was a Hindu and a devout Hindu at that; yet Fr.Pinto admitted him. I can only imagine the words the Principal of his old school in Kandy would have used to describe his character in the letter of introduction to Fr. Pinto.
Undoubtedly, his old principal described Sankar’s qualities of head and heart in such a manner that convinced Fr. Pinto to admit him.
This was, without doubt, due to the ability of Sankar to impress others with the rare qualities that Mr. Gandhi speaks of in his tribute.
When one meets Sankar one is impressed by his quiet dignity and, above all, his humanity. I can only describe it in the words of the Roman poet Virgil, “Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt”.
This defies translation into English and the closest I have come across is “The world is full of tears. Men’s sorrows touch men’s hearts”.
Most of us, during the three years at the Hostel had disputes and differences of opinion with each other which sometimes led to frayed tempers. Sankar was supremely above all this – not that he had no differences of opinion with others – but he was a person who calmed tempers and guided us to reason.
Mr. Gandhi speaks of Sankar being ‘so light and frail’. When I read these words, a picture came into my mind, that of two strong hostellers, I think they were Mervyn Ferdinands and Andrew Joseph, holding out Sankar over the quadrangle from upstairs, one by his shoulders and the other by his legs. Even now I get the jitters when I remember this incident – what if one of them had let go? Sankar stayed calm and quiet and I feel he may have held his breath throughout this manoeuvre.
On graduation, after leaving the Hostel, we went our separate ways. Two years after that, in 1950, I found myself in the Kandy Kachcheri as a Probationary District Land Officer and we were able to renew our acquaintance. I was a frequent guest at his house – a welcome guest.
I agree with Mr. Gandhi that Sankar is a unique person destined to bring joy and peace to all who came into contact with him.
His contemporaries, including myself, have reached the age of eighty or are about to reach it, like Sankar.
I reiterate the hope of Mr. Gandhi that Sankar will continue to live the span of life intended for him with joy in the close company of his family. I am sure that our fellow hosteller Greg Marcelline will join me in this tribute.
A pioneer of one-day elections, he was a polls chief respected by all
Deshamanya Edwin Felix Dias-Abeyesinghe, former Commissioner of Elections, Secretary PPC, and High Commissioner to Australia, passed away in the early hours of May 14, this year. The funeral took place on his 88th birthday on May 16, in Australia.
Edwin Felix Dias-Abeyesinghe
He had a bright career at S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia, and obtained his B.A. (London) from the Ceylon University College. He was on the tutorial staff of Methodist Boys’ School (now Aluthgama Vidyalaya), Richmond College, Galle, S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia and Trinity College, Kandy. He had a short spell as an Asst. Accountant at the Bank of Ceylon and thereafter joined the Department of Local Government in 1944 as an Office Assistant and rose to the position of Commissioner of Local Govt.
He acted as Commissioner of Elections in 1957 and in the latter part of 1959 he was the first to be appointed as Commissioner of Elections after this post was made independent similar to the post of Auditor General. He was the first to take on the burden of conducting the 1960 General Election in March, islandwide in a single day and the counting of the ballots that very night, unlike the previous general elections which went on for days. This one-day system of holding a general election islandwide was greatly appreciated after the 1977 July election, by the then Prime Minister, J.R. Jayewardene (later Executive President), whose letter of appreciation is reproduced here (see box).
A copy of this letter is included
as Appendix ‘L’ in the book Keerawelle Menikkadawara Bandarawallya by James
Dias-Abeyesinghe, a relative of Felix Dias-Abeyesinghe.
As the Elections Chief he never cast his vote for 18 years until he retired from service.
The honorific ‘Deshamanya’ for ‘distinguished services of a highly meritorious order’ was awarded to him in 1987 by the President of Sri Lanka.
Mr. Dias-Abeyesinghe held a record in conducting five general elections and 40 by-elections during his tenure as Commissioner of Elections, in an impartial and efficient manner, so much so, it became a source of study to other countries. In addition, he was also an authority on the National Identity Card system.
He was respected by all political parties for his honesty and integrity which is expected of a Public Servant, especially when bestowed with an onerous post as Commissioner of Elections.
In his final report as Commissioner of Elections he had suggested that the marking of a finger with indelible ink should be stopped forthwith as it was a slur on the country. If I am to quote his very own words, “a blot on our national character.”
Mr. Abeyesinghe was a humble and God-fearing person. Though he possessed a wealth of experience and academic qualifications, when appointed as High Commissioner to Australia he is supposed to have said, “I am nervous about my appointment since I don’t know much about the art of diplomacy. I am hoping to learn my job.” However during his period as High Commissioner he promoted trade, investments and aid to Sri Lanka.
“The Lord Giveth, The Lord
Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord.”
(Job 1 : 21)
Letter from then Prime Minister
Office Sri Lanka
I wish to convey to you and through you to all the officers of your Department, the appreciation of the Government and my own appreciation of the exemplary manner in which the General Election held on 21st July 1977 was successfully organized and conducted.
The increasing involvement of the public over the years in the elective process, the keen competitive element that has been a feature of recent elections, and the enormity of the tasks involved in conducting a General Election on one day has enhanced the responsibility of the Department and made the task of organization and execution more complex. It is with pleasure that I convey to you and request you to convey to all the officers of whatever level who contributed to this achievement, the appreciation of the Government and my own warm appreciation of their devotion to duty, their high level of efficiency, often in very difficult circumstances, and much personal sacrifice.
I think it would be appropriate on this occasion to make a reference to your own personal sacrifice. Since your appointment as Commissioner of Elections in 1958 you have had the arduous and very responsible duty of organizing and successfully concluding five General Elections.
During this period I have never heard a word said against your own personal conduct, your sense of impartiality and your devotion to duty though Governments have changed five times.
On the other hand I have heard nothing but praise. This is a singular achievement for a public servant and I am happy to say that you have throughout this period maintained the highest standard and traditions that the countrymen expect of a public servant.
A source of inspiration, solace and comfort
'Prof. Kingsley De Silva'
He was born to a God-fearing Catholic family at Kandana in 1932. His father, the late Donald De Silva, a reputed teacher in mathematics and chemistry, was much respected by his students for his dedication and discipline. Some of them entered priestly/religious life or held important positions in their vocations.
After a successful university education, Prof. Kingsley qualified in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. He then proceeded to the UK to obtain further qualifications in that speciality. He worked as a Senior Lecturer in the University of Colombo for about 12 years.
Thereafter he was appointed Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Peradeniya in 1976, which post he held for 14 years. Since 1984 he served as the Consultant in Gyn., Obs. at Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital. He was proud of his students advancing in their respective careers and they, in turn, were proud to have been trained by him. After his marriage to Eranee, a daughter of the late Dr. Richard Caldera, an eminent gynaecologist who was in charge of De Soysa Maternity Hospital, Prof. Kingsley came to reside in the Borella parish. He was greatly influenced by the spirituality of his father-in-law. A faithful follower of Jesus Christ, the Great Healer, he delivered the blessings of healing to numerous patients under his care. His faithfulness to his patients and the loving care flowing from him have become life-time memories. Many a time, he went out of his way to save the lives of those in his care. Even during the time of his last and terminal illness, he cared less about his own ailment, and more about his patients, enquiring continuously about the progress of their recovery, even giving appropriate instructions to his assistants.
He suffered courageously, always with a smile on his face, telling us that now he is waiting for a call from Heaven! It was during this period of time that we realized that he was a much more noble human being, on a mission with higher ideals.
He lived by his conscience, dealing with issues squarely, tempered with the essence of fairplay. He trusted those who served under him and they in turn trusted him, but he was never happy with the lazy, cowardly or the dishonest. Among his noble qualities, such as fidelity to his family, relatives and friends, his loving care for the needy, was the most impressive.
His associates will miss him very much, but will carry with them, loving and unforgettable memories of his thoughtfulness and kindness. He was a source of inspiration, comfort and solace.
Although his mortal remains were buried, his multi-faceted services to humanity will remain immortal.
“Good night sweet Prince! May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
An unsung hero, he achieved much
Summa Amarasinghe is no more. He passed away quietly after a haemorrhage in the wee hours of last Sunday morning comforted by his caring wife Kanthi, at the Durdans Hospital's Coronary Care Unit. If I had missed the opportunity to beg forgiveness from this former boss of mine prior to his departure, that would be for not letting him see or hear what I was to write about him. To me Summa was more a friend, than a boss. He changed my life after a chance meeting we had at the Jefferson Room of the East West Centre in Hawaii in 1975. He topsy-turvyed my plan of becoming an agricultural economist and made me a proud pioneer with him, in setting up the Coast Conservation Department (CCD) and authoring the much talked about Coast Conservation Act No 57 of 1981 for Sri Lanka.
I learnt most of my early management lessons from him. He was a brilliant coastal engineer and strategic thinker cum manager who would insist that we crossed our 't' s and dotted our 'i' s right. He was a perfectionist as a professional. He was a guru who cared for each of us and held up the ladders for success, without holding anything back.
His passion for coastal zone management was electrifying. During the 1980s, he would convince the CCD team, local people, politicians and ministers of government with equal ease on the need to ban coral and sand mining to protect our coasts. He would support and protect his team of officials from those who opposed the Coast Conservation Department's moves in these early days, with determination and grit. He stood firm with a sense of diplomacy but never gave into the politicians. Had they listened to him and heeded his advice then, we would have prevented a few thousand deaths and immense loss of property when the tsunami struck in Akurala / Seenigama areas. It is unfortunate, that the cause for which Summa dedicated most of his life was wasted away later, by those who turned their eyes and minds away from scientific realities, for political gain and material favours.
Among the several firsts he contributed to mother Lanka were the setting up of the Coast Conservation Department (CCD), the CC law and the coastal zone management planning process, setting up of the Lanka Hydraulics Institute (LHI) and the setting up of the international forum and office for the Coastal Zone Management Conference for Less Developed Countries. Summa sourced work for the LHI from Brunei, Indonesia, India, the Maldives and the Middle East. He was also the catalyst for setting up a Coastal Engineering cadre within the engineering profession in Sri Lanka. Armed with a civil engineering degree from the University of Ceylon, Summa joined the then Colombo Port Commission in 1959.
In 1964, he entered the field of coastal engineering after obtaining a one year study diploma from Delft University in Holland on a Dutch Government scholarship. Four years later he moved to Britain's Hydraulic Research Station and obtained a postgraduate qualification in coastal engineering on a Nuffield Research Foundation Scholarship.
Summa also loved to travel abroad and would plan his several visits a year to various parts of the world with his usual attention to detail. He once had an audience with the Queen of England and was so proud of this opportunity. Summa simply was incorrigible, but those who knew him closely knew how lovable he was. He was difficult and sometimes troubled those who loved him for he would not listen to them always, for he had his own mind.
When the elder of his two sons Chulaka won the Royal-Thomian encounter for Royal, the proud father was there to cheer him. As Mahesh Rodrigo, Summa's school-time friend and Chulaka's mentor recently told me "Summa was then the winning captain's father, now he is the father of the winning team's coach".
He was referring to the Royal College cricket team's victory at the last big match where his son Chulaka was the team’s coach. It was the same with Romesh the younger. He cheered him on, in the Rugby field and when he achieved success in academic pursuits, he talked about that with equal pride.
Summa was an unsung hero who achieved a lot in his lifetime, which may perhaps go unnoticed to many.
My quiet friend who was always there in the background
'Ellerine Wijetunga – Dissanaike'
As yet I find it difficult to accept that my friend of many years, Ellerine Wijetunge Dissanaike is no more. Our friendship began in school and continued into our late lives.
Ellerine was a quiet friend, always there in the background when I needed her. She refused to join our gang called the Secret Seven who talked about love-affairs, boy-friends and sex. For even at that exploring age she had only one man in her life, Dr. Stanley Dissanaike.
She was one of my bridesmaids, when I married Ananda Wijenaike in 1952. Ananda and Stanley took to each other straight away and, prior to marriage, we escorted each other, making a foursome going on picnics and journeys. I still have a snap of the four of us bathing in the Ambalangoda natural sea water pool. Ellerine and Stanley married a year later in 1953. As the years passed we kept up our friendship because we found we had a lot in common. We were not socialites going from party to party. No, we had our children and homes and gardens where we loved to meet and talk. Finally there were the grandchildren but unfortunately my husband died before he could see them at the age of 52 of a lung illness. I was left a widow at the age of 42, with three unmarried girls on my hands. Ellerine and Stanley continued befriending me in my loneliness. But of late Ellerine withdrew into herself, often refusing to talk to me on the telephone. Now I understand that she was too ill to talk.
I would like to end with a quotation from a poem sent by Stanley after her death.
When, I am gone,
release, let me go-
I gave you my love
You gave me happiness.
Though you cannot see me or touch me anymore
I am near.
And then, when one day, you must come this way alone-
I’ll be there for you, once again, with a smile to say-
She stood out for her goodness and kindness
Jeanne Perera (nee Rodrigo) :::::
While her close family and friends kept vigil, prayed and wept in shocked disbelief as Jeanne’s young life ebbed away, we couldn’t even begin to find any consolation in Wordsworth’s sentiment that “the good die first!”
The truth how good she was and her true excellence, only hit us as we watched her flower filled coffin being lowered into her grave. As a child, growing up with her four sisters, playing with her numerous boisterous cousins, she stood out for her quintessential goodness. One of them, remarked when proposing the toast at her wedding that they all regarded her as ‘mother superior’, as she perhaps was a restraining influence on their mischievous pranks!
Her parents probably never had to reprimand her even once as she was an obedient daughter, excelling both in her academic studies, as well as in her chosen field of Information Technology. After she married Conrad, she continued her role as an exemplary wife, and together theyfaced the unfamiliar and rigours of life in Kuwait.
After returning to Sri Lanka, they provided a wonderful home for their two sons, Rushitha and Chiren to grow up in. Jeanne’s unstinted energy supplied them with all their needs.
She broke rest whenever they were ill, personally prepared all their favourite foods and zealously encouraged and promoted all their educational and extra-curricular activities.
Though only 8 and 5 years, they showed prowess in both studies and sports, mainly due to Jeanne’s untiring efforts. There was an unusually close interaction and rapport between all the members of this wonderfully happy family- her parents, four sisters and brothers-in-law, whom Jeanne described as golden (rathran). Their 11 children, as well as the progeny of other cousins, provided a close knit, congenial environment at Kelaniya, when awareness of Jeanne’s fatal illness struck with the force of a bolt of lightning!
Jeanne had always seemed the healthiest in the family. Unwilling to worry anyone, she probably concealed her aches, pains and discomfort under her usual cheerful exterior. Else how could her medical condition have remained undiagnosed till less than two and a half months before her death?
Now, as all in her close family circle try to come to terms with the first bereavement that affected their generation, they can only find consolation in the fact that Jeanne was mercifully spared the harrowing agony and anguish involved, if she had to face the medical treatment prescribed for her ailment.
Deeply religious, with a life-long, special devotion to Mary, she was privileged to have a vision of the Virgin Mother beckoning her with a bouquet of flowers, a few hours before she died. As she and all of us continue to believe “Life is eternal and Love is immortal and death is only an horizon and an horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight!”
Jeanne, the only relief we have in our grief is the knowledge that you are resting in peace, though hidden from our mortal sight.
Man of the wilds and much much more
Christopher Wickremesinghe :::::
Christopher Wickremesinghe was my husband, Simon’s uncle. But over the years he became my uncle as well and we affectionately called him Uncle Kitty. Knowing him was an experience I’d never forget, for he was no ordinary mortal. Here was a man who was totally absorbed with life and its many facets. Working with wildlife was his primary interest, and his outstanding efforts in this field won for him many international and national accolades.
When I first got to know Uncle Kitty, he had already retired from Government service and was involved in planting crops on his land at Mahiyangana. This venture however was terminated when a fire destroyed the property. In the latter years of his life he kept close contact with us and used to drop by for Sunday lunch and talk to us regularly on the telephone. It was during these times that I learnt more about him.
I learned that he was a keen hiker in his youth and how as a student while exploring the Minipe area, studying the ancient irrigation systems, he met our first Prime Minister, D. S. Senanayake, who took an instant liking to him which later developed into a ‘guru-pupil’ relationship. Uncle Kitty was responsible for being one of the founders of the Historical & Geographical Society of his school, Trinity College Kandy. He joined the Medical College as a student but after a few years a virulent attack of malaria prevented him from doing his exams and he decided to abandon the course.
Nature was close to his heart and he loved nothing more than roaming the jungles. He told us how he opened an account with Cargills (one of the largest Department Stores at the time) through whom he purchased medicines which he then distributed to the Bintenne Veddhas on his visits to those areas. It was not surprising therefore, that he chose a career with the Wild Life Department which he joined in 1950. He was appointed as a Game Warden in the National Parks while still a young man.
Uncle Kitty’s days as Warden were
ones of accomplishment and excitement; animals went out of control, needed to be
rescued, poachers were rampant, tours had to be arranged for special visitors,
and flooding and drought caused their own kind of disasters which affected the
terrain under his administration.
Today, a plaque bearing his name stands in the Yala Sanctuary marking his exemplary service in the Wild Life Department.
He was a skilled photographer and was appointed by the internationally reputed Time/Life Magazine to cover the first Colombo Plan Conference held here. I have seen some of his photos, among them some superb black and white pictures of D. S. Senanayake with Jawaharlal Nehru (then PM of India) as well as some interesting studies of Leonard Woolf.
Uncle Kitty was also a gifted pianist and possessed a great love for classical music. Reading was also an important part of his life. A few years ago we were delighted when he was honoured with two prestigious International awards for Wild Life Conservation. The first took him to Holland where he received the Golden Ark for Conservation, personally presented by Prince Bernhardt of the Netherlands. The World Wildlife Fund awarded him the Conservation Merit Award which event took place in Malaysia. In 1998 the Biodiversity Elephant Trust of Sri Lanka presented him with the Conservation Gold Medal.
In recent times Uncle Kitty virtually lived by himself and used to sometimes feel lonely and bereft at the loss of many of his old friends. He once told me, ‘I can’t talk about the old times to anyone now as there’s no one who’d remember them’. Nevertheless, he did have a band of people - from those who worked for him, to relatives, neighbours and close friends – who looked after him in their own different ways. The telephone became his chief contact point and we called each other often, Uncle Kitty and I; we’d talk about cooking, the latest antics of our dogs, birds that visited our gardens, music, books we had recently read – or we would call each other just to say “How?” His two dogs were his staunch companions and dearest friends.
We shall certainly miss Uncle Kitty.
His spiritual convictions led him to Buddhism and Sai Baba, and I am certain that although he has left this world, Uncle Kitty has finally gained happiness and peace in his new Home.
Her melodious voice will not be stilled
I hadn't seen her for a while and
it came as a shock to learn that Thisula had met with a tragic accident, knocked
down by a bus while riding her bicycle.
It was at the then popular
Country Music Jam sessions of the Country Music Foundation (CMF) in the late
1980s and early 1990s that I met her and husband Prasanna who was then a
livewire in the rock music industry and one of its pioneers.
Thisula had a beautiful voice and to me was a Joan Baez, Crystal Gayle, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Nana Mouskouri - all rolled into one.
She would strum her box guitar and sing and you couldn't beat that voice. Folk songs fitted her perfectly.
She and Prasanna were regulars at the monthly jam sessions which brought together a nice bunch of musicians interested in folk, folk-rock and country and western music.
The duo also performed a couple of times at the Country Road concerts and Thisula made a big impact with, as some recall, a couple of Nana Mouskouri songs.
Thisula was a soft-spoken and kind individual and shared our passion for helping the needy, instantly volunteering to sing at the charity concerts. The CMF relies a lot on volunteerism which has helped the organization raise millions of rupees for needy children across Sri Lanka in a collaborative effort with UNICEF.
For hardened journalists like us, death is not a painful thing but I was jolted when I heard about Thisula's death on Wednesday, the same day she was cremated.
Ironically a few days ago I was reflecting on the 'long and winding' road of the Country Road series of concerts since 1988 and thinking about some new ideas to celebrate our 15th anniversary concert in 2007 with a big bash. On my mind was a coming together of the numerous musicians who performed at our shows.
Sadly Thisula won't be there but her unforgettable voice will remain with us forever.
Those unsaid words
In our home town of Moratuwa
People always called him captain
He flew Spitfires and Dakotas
In the golden age of aviation
I certainly could never be the pilot he was
I probably would never be as good a human being either
I would only be the captain’s son
I wish I could tell him this, but I can’t
He is long gone
That is what is so sad about it
I'm sure those of you who have lost loved ones
With things unsaid
Would know what I’m talking about
Capt. Elmo Jayawarden
Never a dull moment with him
My good friend Nazeer Nana is no more. My association with him started in the early ’50s when I stayed at Maliban Street, Pettah after starting work in the Public Works Dept. Fort.
Though I was 12 years younger, he would come down to our level.
It was an interesting period of my life when we would not miss a single Hindi film that was screened in Colombo, and listened to all the Hindi song programmes over the radio.
I used to get down the Film Fare magazine, and he would go through it page by page and tell me of the happenings in the film industry in Bombay.
On Sundays he would arrange some picnic or some sport and about six or seven of us would join in. There was never a dull moment as he was such an entertaining character.
I remember the sad period when his wife was sick. He had to buy expensive drugs prescribed by the doctors.
All his earnings went for the purchase of these drugs. After her death, he was a mother and father to his four sons.
He devoted his time and money to bringing up the boys. They are a true example of the father, sincere, jovial and honest. By Allah’s grace all are on a sound footing in their particular fields of work and business.
Nazeer was one of a kind. I am sure many who knew him will agree.
May Allah grant him Jennathul Firdhouse.
He enriched our lives
Felix Premawardhana was one of that rare breed of schoolmasters who gave their entire school career to one school, Wesley College. There he was ever present 24 hours of the day living in the College flats. Like most successful teachers his work and influence did not cease at the school gates. With his background in the Baptist church he played an invaluable role as a counsellor for those in trouble.
He had considerable talents and wide interests and was a man of modesty, integrity and kindness. Felix P. influenced generations of colleagues and pupils as a teacher. Through his interest and many roles in theatre and television he became a popular household name in Sri Lanka. In the 1960’s the celebrated British dramatist Peter Schaffer’s play 'Black Comedy' was translated by Felix Premawardhana as 'Kaluware Jaramare'.This was hailed by theatre critics and the public as a great success.
Felix P. taught many subjects in the middle school. He taught ancient Ceylon history with a passion and held strong views about the original inhabitants of the island. The long held view that they were savages akin to the devil was fiercely contested and dispelled by him. History for him was a story which he related as a master story teller to a spellbound audience.
Many would remember him as an energetic teacher of the Sinhala language. He was a strong character and had an interest in academic detail. He tolerated no nonsense and we all learnt Sinhala to sail through the difficult examinations.
He was always well dressed. My abiding memory of Felix P is his well trimmed handle-bar moustache and his large frame in a cream gaberdine suit walking the long corridors of the school.
Some people, through what they are and what they do, raise our expectations of human nature and thereby lift the spirit. Felix P did this. His serenity, lucidity, composure, generosity, gentleness, compassion and sheer indomitable courage in his final illness made him an extraordinary man. He was strengthened throughout his life by his very happy marriage to Indranie and also by his son Kuvera and daughter Kuveni. To them he gave his love and guidance always. To the school he gave his entire career. Our lives have been enriched by his presence. We remember and celebrate his life and work.
Grant Him O Lord Eternal Peace
Dr. Nihal D.Amerasekera
He played the game to the end
We met for the first time in the Billiard Room at the S.S.C. Later Norman and quite a few others played golf at the S.S.C. Grounds. It all started when Banda came in with an antique set of golf clubs one-day way back in the early seventies. After we finished our tennis for the evening, a few of my tennis cronies, Ubhaya De Silva, Parl Umagiliya, Earl Fernando and A.L. Dias Bandaranaike (Banda) on invitation by Banda followed him to the cricket ground, which was adjacent to the tennis courts to watch him reveal to us the mysteries of golf.
As we progressed in golf, Banda quit the group leaving, Ubhaya, Norman, Earle, Parl and me. We were hammering away in gay abandon from one end of the grounds to the other until we propelled a few wayward golf balls into the sightscreen, the Billiard Room and towards visitors lounging outside the clubhouse.
Derek and Ian Peiris were on to us
in a flash. Stop immediately was the order. What followed was the beginning of
our golf career. Proposed by Derek and seconded by Ian, we became members of the
RCGC. From then onwards we played a lot of golf together in our 4 bell games, in
Colombo, Nuwara Eliya and abroad.In the early days there
used to be Dr. Shelton Jayasinghe, Dr. K.K.U.Perera,George Gomes, Chriso
Abewardene, Frankie Ferrer, Ambassador Karim Marzuki from Malaysia who in fact
oganised most of our foreign tours and Norman of course flitting in and out of
the different four ball games we played. Norman was a good club golfer with
quite a few trophies to his credit as it was in billiards. Quite early in his
golfing career he mastered the art of putting. He was exceptionally good at it.
He made a science of it and freely passed on his knowledge to any one who he
felt needed his advice. In later years he repeatedly won many of the senior
events. He had an approach to the game that was a bit different from others of
his age group. Those with health concerns played the game at a lower tempo.
Norman could not. Norman was competitive and needed the challenge of a tough
opposition to keep him going. He pushed himself to the maximum and latterly quit
by the 14th or so when he could go no further. A gentleman to his fingertips,
Norman never varied his standards.
Sunday Times May 14 2006
Farewell to the Grand Dame of the Miskin clan
I could not bid her goodbye! However, this will not haunt me nor does it bring a lump to my throat. In a way I am glad that it was this way - I want to celebrate the good things in her life and what she lived for.
These sentiments I echo on that Grand Dame and materfamilias of the Miskin clan of Horetuduwa who bade a final farewell and crossed the great divide on March 24, just one month before her 91st birthday.
Born on April 22, 1915, my mother-in-law Sareena Miskin was the third in a family of three boys and two girls.
She was genetically predisposed towards music, with her late father being a bandsman of repute in the then Ceylon Police. She would be equally at ease playing the harmonica or the piano accordion and had this uncanny ability to exercise her vocal chords with similar fluency. Married to the late Inspector M.J.T. Miskin who was a sportsman par excellence in the Ceylon Police, she produced 11 children (seven girls and four boys) - a veritable cricket team! With a government servant's meagre salary brought home by her husband, it certainly was not easy to bring up a family of such numbers. But she handled this challenging task with prudence and brought up her offspring in the best Malay traditions inculcating in them the tenets of a frugal, but enjoyable life.
It is to her credit that all her eleven children were wedded within the Malay community with me marrying the sixth among the girls who was number nine in the family.
I vividly remember my first encounter with her when I visited their Horetuduwa home in 1973, where after scrutiny, I received my future mother-in-law's nod of approval. From thence began a close relationship between us, born out of a sense of mutual respect and fondness for one another, which prevailed for more than 33 years until she breathed her last in March this year.
It was only last year that she celebrated her 90th birthday at her residence which we endearingly term the Mahagedera. She got her children to arrange a dinner which was funded entirely by her, refusing any financial assistance from her progeny. And what a grand affair it was. Besides her, the gathering that day comprised her children, sons/daughters-in-law, grandchildren/spouses and great grand-children - four generations in all totalling 42! Besides, present on the occasion was her only sister and a few wellwishers, swelling the numbers to a full-house of over sixty. After dedicating the birthday song to her to the accompaniment of a 3-piece band, she summoned for her harmonica and played a few old time favourites with her children singing along in harmony. She was able to play only three songs…..that was as far as her lungs would permit. As if that was not enough, after a brief rest, she broke into song with that classic of yester-year, "I…. want to be a Go…viya". Certainly a most amazing effort for a ninety-year-old!
She loved cricket and was a great supporter of the Sri Lanka team. Whenever a cricket match was shown live on television, she would be glued to the TV. However, in later years, as her sight began failing her, she would indulge in listening to radio commentaries of the game.
She was a cheerful lady and it was a sheer joy to see her playing "three cards", which was a weekly ritual with the children joining their mother and having a whale of a time. However, with the passage of time, the frequency of these games would decrease and with failing eyesight, she would get one of her daughters to see her hand after which she would instruct her pattern of play. During the past few months, the effects of old age were catching up on her until she finally answered the call of the Almighty. Goodbye, sweet lady! May Allah grant you the bliss of Jinnathul Firdouse.
Sister, friend, teacher and counsellor
Marjorie Peiris nee Ekanayake
My sister, Marjorie's first death anniversary was on March 26 this year. The quote of Emily Mathews, 'Some people make a difference just by being who they are, their inner light shines bright and, touches lives both near and far,' aptly describes Marjorie's influence on the many thousands of men, women and children she encountered throughout her colourful and distinguished life and career as a teacher, counsellor and socialite to name but a few of her attributes.
Affectionately known as 'Chutta' by her family and 'Marjie' to almost everyone she knew, my sisters, Beatrice, Geraldine and I were privileged to know and love her. We were blessed with wonderful unselfish understanding and considerate parents who nurtured the close bond which we shared throughout our childhood years and which sustained us when put to the test as adults in times of stress.
From an early age, she indulged in reading Shakespeare and Dickens available to her at home. She was literary minded and won several prizes in newspaper competitions. However, studies did not prevent her and the bunch of intelligent classmates from engaging in mischevious pursuits which got them into constant trouble. Her sense of fun and gift of mimicry are legendary and she had us in stitches for hours on end with her performances - a gift which, thankfully, she never lost and which we all miss.
English was her forte together with English Literature and History. She produced many a drama in school; the most memorable for me was during the 1948 Independence celebrations when as Senior Captain of Langdon House she wrote a piece called ' ‘The Commonwealth of Nations' which she produced and directed to much acclaim.
History was another of her strengths and one night sharing a room with her in London she gave me a history lesson on the Queens and Kings of England. Such was her command of the subject. She read English, History and Economics at the University of Colombo and on completion of the BA degree in 1950 she joined the staff of her alma mater, Girls’ High School to teach English and History. All her ex-pupils extol her virtues as a teacher and are unanimous in saying that she was the 'best' teacher they ever had.
She gained a merit for the Diploma in Education from the University of Ceylon which was followed by ane MA degree in 1965.
scholarship to the Institute of Education in Oxford in 1969 gave her the
opportunity to study Psychology and English Language Teaching as a second
language and earned her the Diploma in Teacher Education Oxford. She joined in
the activities of Oxford University even travelling in the Oxford boat for the
Oxford/Cambridge boat race missing a dunking in the river Thames due to over
Returning to Sri Lanka in 1971, she was Deputy Principal at the Teacher Training College, Peradeniya teaching Educational Psychology, English Language and Literature and was later made Principal where she remained until retirement.
Her other academic activities were in the Open University Centre in Kandy. She taught professional English to employees of the Tobacco Company, Kandy. In 1990 she worked as a supply teacher in a comprehensive school in London teaching English as a second language to children of refugees and asylum seekers and she said this was the biggest eye-opener in all her teaching career.
In 1992 she was a visiting lecturer for the B.Ed course at the National Institute of Education in Maharagama travelling at odd hours from Kandy by bus and train to be there on time. She lectured at the Teacher Training Centre "Estopex" in Kandy and until 1995 at the Open University Centre, Polgolla in professional English for the Science course. She was a module writer on a Distance Education Programme for teachers of English organised by the National Institute of Education.
Her final contribution was to tutor pupils of all ages in English even professionals like doctors and teachers charging them a pittance, sometimes even without charge, because all she wanted was their success.
Her culinary skills were as accomplished as her teaching skills. We were subjected to many an experiment all of them delicious. Mishaps did happen of course! Her marzipan angels on horse back on the merry-go-round cake collapsed during the night which prompted our mother to give a graphic demonstration of their fate much to our mirth and Marjorie's chagrin. There were other times when the family made fun of her creations but she mostly took them in good faith.
Her interests were varied. As President of the SLFUW in Kandy in the 70s she revitalized their sagging fortunes and set up vocational training programmes for unemployed girls.
She enjoyed her time as President of the YWCA Kandy from 1992- 1995 and 2000 to 2002. She worked tirelessly to get the building plans and funding to erect the impressive new building which was completed in 2004.
In her role embracing multi-faith values she worked with the 6 "Y"s, i.e the Muslim, Buddhist and Christian Men's and Women's Organisations. She was the Director of the Vocational Training School at Talwatte. Its closure was a great disappointment to her.
Illness was an inconvenience to her and she treated it as something to be endured. When leaving for the airport bound for Rome after her time in Oxford, she slipped on the last few stairs out of my flat and sprained an ankle badly. She made me bandage it and proceeded to Rome where the nuns she was scheduled to stay with treated her so that she continued her sightseeing 'in agony' as she later admitted but with satisfaction. In 1994, she amazed us all when at my invitation, after a very major operation she and Geraldine travelled to London.
Still on medication we travelled together all over England and Scotland once more visiting Oxford and then by plane to the Netherlands and Belgium and then by Eu-Rail through Germany and Austria to Lausanne in Switzerland returning by plane from Geneva to London. We were pretty tired but Marjorie loved it all.
Only her blood family and those close to her knew that she was unwell for a couple of years and that her cheerful demeanour and determination to continue as normally as possible convinced friends and students that she was OK.
In Vernon she found a soul-mate for over thirty years. They had similar enjoyment in socializing, entertaining, music, travel etc. Both of them had a solid Christian foundation embracing both Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions and Marjorie was a favourite with clergy and Bishops of both faiths. The quote by Bishop Lakdasa, "The reward for good work is more work' sums Marjorie's philosophy. Happy memories are everywhere of her love of life and people, humorous fascinating character free of jealousy and maliciousness, dynamic personality, amazing intellect, always faithful to her upbringing and background, sympathetic humanity, versatility and all her special abilities which she shared with all. As Christians we remember with joy all the good she did in this life, in the full knowledge that she and all our loved ones will be there to welcome us when it is our turn to go to a happier place, 'Safe in the arms of Jesus’.
Sunday Times May 7 2006
He was much more than Prince Charming of
He was Rudy, "Prince Charming of the Police". Yes. Yet more, much, much more. We remember a great deed done to assist unemployed youth and the De La Salle Brothers with land for a Vocational Training Institute in Colombo North.
Would senior bureaucrats garner super power, take full responsibility and say "No" to a Minister or MP and "Yes" to a well established NGO? Rudra would and did.
Politicians respect those who do not
shuffle thoughts and papers, especially work of worth and immediate operational
nature. But this is incompatible in a country in which economic solutions are
riddled with corruption.
Again Rudra was different. Absolutely honorable.
It was 1970. A property at 25, Temple Road, Modera in this congested slum area had been gifted to the De La Salle Brothers’ ‘Mission for the poor’ giving bread once a week to the poor. The donor of the property lived next door at No. 51, Watersmeet. He had died and Watersmeet had fallen into complete disrepair and was now occupied by some narcotics dealers, prostitutes and ‘kappam’ (extortionist) men.
A heritage building, with a beautiful sea-front- vandalised. It faced the Hindu temple and St. James Church was behind. Years later, I rang Rudra who was then IGP. Within a week, the police raided No. 51 and took everyone to the Police Station. The late owner’s daughter resident in U.K. moved security in and finally sold it to the De La Salle Brothers.
Directors were appointed: Bro. Emmanuel, Bro. Marc, Dr. Brighty de Mel and myself as Executive Director, a lawyer and accountant Hector Fernando. An institution to give drop-outs, non schoolgoing children vocational training with consumer knowledge for girls and women free was set up. It was 'learn to earn' in Socially Useful Productive Work (SUPW). They were trade tested by NAITA (National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority) and given a national certificate.
'Plenty Canada' moved in for two years
with soya and set up the Catering Section. The Group of Five with V.L. Wirasinha
and Ranil Senanayake and the Back to Indigenous Food and Medicine programme was
launched as well.
Thousands of boys, girls, drop-outs, youth and housewives from this congested urban area, say a big "thank you" to Rudra for making the land available for this vital programme.
There are more stories to tell, some sad,
some hilarious. Rudra was SP, Mannar and my husband Raine was G. A. Vavuniya.
Both were Trinitians.
I recall the ’57 floods; tank bunds bursting, water often 20 feet high swept down the Malwathu Oya. It was a scene of total destruction. Bishop Dr. Emallianus Pille was stranded in Madhu with 3000 refugees. An SOS to Raine and lorries packed with food and jeeps with diesel fuel were despatched. There was not a word from Rudra, so we went to Mannar.
He was reading a book in bed. "Rudra for
God’s sake, with all this chaos what are you doing in bed"?
"What do you want me to do? No fuel. Your husband flying around in a helicopter dropping food, dropped bags on my radio equipment and knocked me out."
On another week-end in Mannar, we
accompanied him in his jeep inspecting Police on the watch-out for illegal
immigrants from India. Suddenly a policeman rushed out from hiding "Get back
Sir, Get back Sir, we've spotted an illegal boat and are just about to shoot the
flares,” he said. The flares were shot too soon. The boatmen pushed the women
and children overboard and turning rushed away. Eighteen bodies were washed
ashore the next day. Aubrey Collette, the famous cartoonist has illustrated this
incident on Page 180 of my book,
"Just another Shade of Brown".
What did upset Rudra was Police Operating Section 35 (b) would place a 12-year-old child in the care of any fit person-- decent middle-class families, and there were many. But now the hyperactive market of false accusations keeps these people away. Where have all the good people gone, was Rudra's comment.
He was both mentor and teacher
The news of the sudden passing away of my friend caused me shock and untold grief as his death was totally unexpected. He had enjoyed good health with no known ailment. He had gone for his daily early morning swim to Otters' where unbelievably he was drowned in the pool. How this occurred cannot be understood or imagined as SHC was a good swimmer.
His death has left a deep void among his
family and relatives and among the larger number of his friends and colleagues
in Sri Lanka and abroad.
SHC received his primary and secondary education at Mahinda College, Galle and Ananda College, Colombo respectively where he excelled in his studies and gained admission to the Science Faculty of the University of Ceylon in 1948. After completing the first year at the University he opted to go to the U.K. to pursue Engineering studies and successfully completed his Bachelor's degree in Engineering at the University of London. He continued his studies and was awarded a post-graduate diploma in hydraulic engineering. On his return to Sri Lanka he joined the Irrigation Department (ID) where he performed his duties with commitment, dedication and devotion. He never acted against his conscience. He was an exemplary public servant. He was sought after for his counsel and guidance, by officers of the Department to whom he was both mentor and teacher.
He retired in 1988 as Additional Director of Irrigation. After retirement he continued to serve as Consultant to the ID for a further three years. Thereafter he was employed as a consultant at "TEAMS" and then was Director, Water Resources Board and Director ICTAD. Even at the time of his death he was functioning as the Chairman of the Lanka Rainwater Harvesting Forum.
He was an active ex-co member of about 20 professional associations, societies and NGOs. He served as the President of the Institute of Engineers and was the President for over five years of the Association of Franco-Ceylonese Technologies. Some of the Societies and Associations were kept alive due to his untiring efforts and dedication. My heartfelt condolences go to his wife Hema and children.
May he attain the bliss of
Anton Joseph Alles
Here’s to those happiest days of our lives
On July 1953, a group of eight people was selected as x-ray technicians (later redefined as radiographers) by the Department of Health – Anton Alles and I were in that group.
My good friend Anton is no more. He died on March 7 this year. I grieve his loss because he was a very quiet and lovable person in our batch. Those were the happiest days in our lives when we joined the General Hospital, Colombo, as trainee x-ray technicians.
We were a carefree lot; we were just out of school and grew in our working environment with utmost cordiality and friendship. I admired Anton as he was humble and devoted to his work throughout his career.
It was his real Catholic spirit and upbringing which gave him the strength of his noble character and excellent moral integrity. He was the Honoree Treasurer for our trade union, The Government X-ray Technical Officers’ Association, for nearly 25 years. This is an unblemished record of service for a single person to hold such a position for so long.
He served last as the Supdt. Radiographer, Chest Hospital, Welisara. After his retirement he worked as radiographer at the Healthcare Lab at Horton Place, Colombo, and at Glass House.
Anton was a very good and practising
Catholic. I am sure that in the true Catholic spirit, Anton's family was a
source of consolation to him in the last lap of his life. Anton's much loved
wife passed away a few years before him, but his deep trust in his religion and
in the Heavenly Father must have given him the moral strength to face all life’s
trials and tribulations with courage.
Farewell Anton my good friend! May God grant you eternal rest!
She was a pillar of strength
Enid De Silva
She was called Eni mamma and Enid nanda, names dear and close to all her nieces and nephews. Born and bred in Moratuwa, she hailed from a respectable Catholic family of seven girls and two boys. Her father was an intelligent, educated man, full of wit and tact. Her mother was endowed with courage and great foresight. Fourth in the family, Enid inherited these qualities.
She was barely twenty when she left to Talawakelle to spend a holiday in a tea estate where her elder sister lived with her family. Little did she know, that fate would have her meet a handsome, cheerful man from Kandy, who was employed on the same estate. Soon the Lord paved the way and they tied the nuptial knot which lasted for 60 long years.
They were blessed with two sons and two daughters. Twenty five years they stayed on in Talawakelle to raise the family and educate the children with good Christian values. Then they moved to Kandy to spend the rest of their lives. Thirty five golden years they were to be, which both of them dedicated to the service of the Lord and the service of man. Their eldest daughter 'Mani' was sent to the Convent to serve as a Franciscan Missionary of Mary. Their two sons are holding responsible positions in prestigious institutions.
Enid mamma was sensitive to the needs of her relatives and neighbours. She touched their lives deeply. When any need arose, or there was a function she would rush from Kandy to Moratuwa, do her maximum and get back after a few days. She was a pillar of strength to her sisters and brothers. She could admonish with great foresight and was able to solve a problem very tactfully. She was talented in embroidery and the culinary field. Every niece has at least one item of beautiful embroidery which she gave them. She made cakes for the weddings of some relatives and neighbours.
During our memorable holidays with her in Talawakelle and Kandy she fed us delicious meals. In August last year she clebrated her 60th wedding anniversary.
The gratitude of her neighbours in Kundasale was seen in the large gathering that was present at her funeral.
The Bishop of Kandy, 15 priests and
several religious sisters and laity were also present at the funeral service.
The orations were touching.
So dear Eni mamma, the ministering angel, with hearts laden with sorrow we say, "In that sweet by and by, we shall meet you on that beautiful shore."
A man with a heart of gold
Charles. F. Grigson
I first got to know Charlie, as I always called him after I joined Mackinnon Mackenzie & Co. in 1953 -the good old days when the P&O Passenger ships frequently called in Colombo.
Charlie was working in the Freight Dept.
and did so until he retired.
He and his wife Phyllis then decided to emigrate to Australia to be with their older son Roddy and wife Mena who had emigrated a few years earlier and were living in Melbourne.
Charlie has been a wonderful and caring friend to me and my family down the years. He was always ever ready to help anyone who asked for help be it big or small and no one would ever know he had. Charlie was such an unassuming and humble person with a heart of gold.
Although Charlie and family were living in Australia and my family and I in Canada we always kept in touch. I met Charlie last in June 2004 when I visited Melbourne and stayed with him and Phyllis for a few days. We then had the opportunity to reminisce about the good times both families were fortunate enough to have shared.
Charlie was always with a smile and
nothing ever worried him. He was pleasant, calm and collected at all times. That
was his nature.
The last few years he had not been keeping too well but Phyllis always beside him taking good care of him was a tower of strength.
He was a wonderful husband to Phyllis and
Dad to Roddy and Dirk and a dear friend to many who will miss him.
Farewell Charlie......May you rest in peace.
Hugs, kisses at the gates of heaven
Heaven’s a place that’s good to be
And all of us would love to see
Pure love and grace for you to feel
Paradise; the place we’re bound to be …….
Yet you were first and before us
But though in heaven you are this day
I have something special to say
Ruth dear! It’s your birthday today
Then there’s something that I should say
Happy Happy Happy Birthday
Dear we send you prayers & wishes
And open our hearts with hugs & kisses and
You’ll find them in bunches at the gates of heaven
Nelson, Niron and Jennifer
Sunday Times April 23 2006
Toast to a special bond of friendship
Three months ago, our dear friend P.H. Premawardena, formerly of the Ceylon Civil Service passed away after a virulent illness, leaving us, his friends and family in a state of shock and disbelief - disbelief because his death came like a thief who took everything.
Events leading to his death were swift and
it is difficult for us to reconcile ourselves to the grim fact that the
irrepressible Prema, who, in the words of our friend Tissa Devendra filled our
lives with 'life and laughter' is no more.
Prema was one of six of us who worked in Nuwara Eliya in the mid-fifties, each of us being in charge of a different discipline. Prema was the Civil Service cadet and oversaw almost all Kachcheri activities.
Tissa (Devendra) was the District Land Officer, Bodhidasa (HDT) was in Food Control, Stanley (Fernando) was in Agrarian Services, the later politician Paul (Perera) was in the Archives under that eminent Archivist J.H.O. Paulusz and I was the Electrical Engineer.
As we came from different disciplines, our close association under a single roof gave us wide exposure to the different world within our own and for me it was an education of sorts.
Paul would recite extensively from Faustus
and Tissa would talk about Claudius, Prema would hold forth about drama and the
ancient classical texts.
We travelled a lot together and were involved in several provincial activities such as local elections.
During dinner we compared 'notes' on our
activities of the day and special mention was made of anything which we felt was
One such was when Prema was invited by a Village Headman for a function connected with his granddaughter having attained puberty. The invitation read:'On the occasion of the arrived maturity of Somalatha, daughter of ----'.
I remember the several hours we spent
together discovering the obscure 'walks' in Nuwara Eliya, Prema would comments
on the colours of the Nuwara Eliya trees, plants and terrain - colours not found
anywhere else in Sri Lanka.
A particular day I remember is the day I took him to the Mahagastota 66 KV Grid Substation which was constructed on the land where Sir Samuel Baker had his farm. Baker lived in Ceylon for almost a decade in the 1860s before he left this country and earned for himself a niche among the famous explorers of Africa by involving himself in tracing the origin of the Nile.
During our time the Mahagastota Grid Substation site had a plaque that Baker had his farm at the site. I have not seen that plaque during my recent visits to Nuwara Eliya. Maybe someone has thrown it away without realizing that the plaque gave such historical significance to an otherwise unimportant place where a Grid Substation is located.
Prema explained to me at great length the role that Baker and his group of settlers played in the birth of Nuwara Eliya, its agriculture, animal husbandry and how Baker's group introduced leeks, carrots, beetroot etc. which form the backbone of Nuwara Eliya produce today.
We who were together at Nuwara Eliya recollect with much nostalgia the experiences we shared during that memorable time. The bonds of friendship had a special significance, maybe because Nuwara Eliya has that ambiance that seals friendships.
Memories of Prema will pervade our lives until our own time to depart this world comes along. He will be remembered for his 'sterling' qualities, for the manner in which he would go out of his way to help anyone who sought his help and for the love and affection he had for all who were fortunate to be his friends.
May the blessings of the Triple Gem guide his wife Paduma and the children during these sad days. We pray that Prema's journey in Sansara will be short and that he will attain the eternal bliss of Nirvana.
You were my guide in life
Lucian A.P. De Alwis
This is a tribute to my beloved grandpa Lucian A.P. De Alwis whose birthday falls today. He was educated at St. Joseph's College and was a lawyer by profession. But for me he was just my grandpa and my role model.
I am writing this today, although he left us in tears six years ago.
"Grandpa" as I used to call him, was a simple man. I still remember like it was yesterday how he encouraged my brother and me in our studies. He was the only person to whom I could take my report card whether it was good or bad. There was a lot to learn from his life but unfortunately I had only 13 years to be with him. I used to visit him every evening and he never failed to give a treat of goodies to my brother and me. Although he was a busy person, he would always come to talk with us.
I still remember how we celebrated Grandpa's birthday every year. It was a happy family get-together with uncles, aunties and cousins at Grandpa's house. How we looked forward to that day. We enjoyed his birthdays where there was food and music aplenty. But now on his birthday with a sad heart we light a candle at this graveside.
His sudden illness made him weak and feeble. But strong at heart he wanted to continue his daily chores by himself and I was there to help out in the school vacation. I feel fortunate to have been able to be with him and help him when he needed our care. Our relationship got stronger and stronger day-by-day within a short span.
He left all of us in tears on October 16, 1999 and for me it was the day after my 13th birthday. My birthday wish for my dear grandpa to come home was not fulfilled. On that sad day, he had a pleasant smile, as if he was trying to say "Don't cry dear, I'll be waiting for you in the garden of our Lord and be not afraid I'll be looking after you day and night". Grandpa, I know that you are with Jesus today. Please guide us and pray for us as you had been doing throughout your life.
He had a vision for the health sector
Dr. Kumar Weerasekera
The sudden and premature death of Kumar, who was a dear friend and colleague has left a void which will take time to heal. Our friendship started when he and his wife Dushayanthi worked in the General Hospital, Galle in 1975.
After his internship he served the people of Mahiyangana with much enthusiasm, as the only medical officer at Mahiyangana Hospital. Early in his medical career he chose to work with cancer patients. He was kind and sympathetic to these patients who were looked after in a crowded and depressing environment.
He worked in the Cancer Institute, Maharagama for over two decades, more than half of it as a consultant clinical oncologist. At the time of his untimely death he was the Senior Consultant Clinical Oncologist in the state health service. In addition to his heavy commitment as a consultant oncologist he wanted to do more for the health service of our country. He was active in the affairs of the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) and was a popular President in the millennium year. He also led the Government Medical Officers' Association (GMOA) for four consecutive years.
He had considerable influence over the more enthusiastic younger doctors in the GMOA. They respected him and his views. He was able to temper their enthusiasm for action.
He had a vision for the health service of
Sri Lanka. During his year as President of the SLMA he worked hard to get a
referral system organised.
We will miss an ever-smiling, humorous and courteous friend.
Dr. Lucian Jayasuriya
You were always there
Six years have passed since you departed from our midst. You were always admired and appreciated for your gentle and affable ways. A loving mother and darling grandmother you knew how to differentiate between elders and children and deal with them appropriately.
Your teaching methods were so inspiring. We can still remember how you trained Anjula and Upadhaya to pick up similar objects of the same colour and shape from a jumbled box. You never grumbled as a grandmother nor did you avoid doing your part as a mother and loving wife.
You never neglected your daily religious activities, whether sun or rain. Your chanting of pirith was like sweet music to all of us .Our household awoke to your seth pirith in the early hours of the day and went to sleep with jaya pirith at night. It was your unending faith in the Dhamma that helped you to tide over stress and fatigue. You were always careful not to be too demanding or commanding. We cannot therefore understand how you were removed from our midst so unexpectedly. As a housewife you were an example and as a mother you were a gem. For your many students you were a guiding star and at all times a good friend. You were a friend in need both at home and in school.
Thanuja Serasinghe and Uditha Balachandra
Sunday Times April 9 2006
A kind and sincere friend
Dr. Kumar Weerasekera
My good, sincere and honest friend Dr. Kumar Weerasekera is no more.
I met Kumar and his beloved wife Dushie when they were serving at the Mahiyangana District Hospital where I had to serve for a short period when I was attached to the Teaching Hospital - Kandy in 1980.
When I went there both Kumar and Dushie cordially welcomed me and even told me that I could stay with them. This was a very great relief to me at that time in an unknown distant place.
Kumar as the officer-in-charge of the institution gave me all the assistance that a head of an institution could give to a professional colleague, so that I was able to exercise my duties happily. In the evenings after work we used to go to some of the small lakes in the area for fishing.
Late in the evenings we habitually went to Dr. Somasiri's dispensary which was close to the hospital to play cards. Kumar and I were always on one side and Dr. Somasiri's brother Dr. Dharmasiri and his cousin Sisira were on the opposite.
I never felt that it was a difficult station to work, since Kumar took a lot of trouble and a personal interest to keep me and all the others in the staff happy.
He was popular among the people of the area. Both the Chief priest of the temple and the Catholic priest designated to the area from the diocese of Badulla were frequent visitors to his residence. As time passed, I had to fulfill my mission and get back to the Teaching Hospital in Kandy.
At the same time Kumar too got a transfer to the Cancer Institute, Maharagama. Subsequently, when I came to the Dental Institute, Colombo on transfer, Kumar used to come and meet me. He never hesitated to help anybody if it was within his ability.
Once I called him to get assistance for a relation of mine who was suffering from a cancer and at once he said "Bernard I will do everything that is possible".
He held the post of President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association some time back. He was also the President of the Government Medical Officers’ Association until the time of his demise.
On March 20 he was about to leave with
some oncologists to attend a conference on breast cancer in France.
Unfortunately at the airport he had got a massive heart-attack. Kumar was a
member of the noble profession who had many noble qualities. I extend my deepest
sympathies to his wife Dushyanthie, two daughters and son.
May he rest in peace.
Dr. Bernard Tirimanne
‘May flights of angels sing thee to thy
Therese Thaneswari Douglas
It is with a deep sense of sorrow that I write this humble tribute to the memory of Therese. In fact, death struck her swiftly and suddenly on March 6, underlining the Biblical saying that “in the midst of life we are in death".
My association with her dates back more than two decades, since both of us worked in the Davasa Group of papers for a short period. In life she fulfilled all the responsibilities that any mortal is called upon to perform.
She was an affectionate and dutiful
mother, a loyal and trustworthy friend. Besides, she was a veteran journalist of
exceptional calibre, deeply religious and God fearing. Perhaps, it is some
consolation for all those who loved her, that Therese was spared the agony and
anguish of illness of which she experienced very little, and that her life was
snuffed out in a few moments.
As a journalist she excelled in her profession. She worked in the Sun as a reporter and thereafter the Upali group of papers employed her as a sub editor in the Island.
She was a good sub-editor and did her work with meticulous care, dedication, devotion and total commitment. She was always particular about deadlines in the production of the paper and did all her pages in time.
When the Virakesari started an English paper, "Weekend Express'' she joined this paper as Features Editor. As Features Editor she carried out her responsibilities with honesty and loyalty and gave publicity to articles pertaining to politics, economics, culture and religion and won the respect and confidence of the reading public. Her feature articles were well balanced and she always maintained impartiality and independence.
Therese got on very well with her friends, colleagues from all other newspapers, relations and other associates. She was of great assistance to all her juniors and never hesitated to help anyone in need. She was one of the most courteous and sweetest of friends and was broadminded, tolerant and spiritual.
After working at the Weekend Express for a few years she joined Lake House and was attached to the Daily News in the Features Department until her untimely death.
Therese's only child Arushan V.S. Kirk
excelled in his studies at S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia and now holds a
high position in a private organization.
Never will I forget her thoughtfulness and kindness.
I wish to quote the following in loving memory of her:
"To the uninitiated, she brought the light of knowledge,
To the feeble the power of strength;
To the sinner the liberation of forgiveness;
To the suffering the peace of mercy;
To the comfortless, comfort.."
Indeed, "She was a loving mother to her
only son, a journalist of great ability, and a deeply religious servant of her
May I say: "Goodnight sweet princess and may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest"
He belonged to
a respected breed of judges
The late A.W. Gooneratne, well known among his friends as "Mons" was a dedicated judicial officer of yesteryear, who belonged to a respected breed of judges. He served the judiciary of this country for 25 years sacrificing much of his personal life in the course of his judicial duties. After retirement he was engaged in social service work and took a keen interest to help the needy, until his demise in April last year.
He cared about the needy, very deeply, and with his innovative welfare schemes, he helped many children to shape their destiny. A man of vision, he formed an organisation that helped many who lost their livelihood, to get back on their feet. While many supported his schemes founded by his own savings, there were those who ridiculed and laughed at him. Against all odds he managed to keep these schemes afloat providing some economic benefits to the poorest of the poor.
I personally have spoken to
many children and adults who benefited from these schemes. There were many
unemployed youths who received three wheelers and many schoolchildren who
received stationery and school books.
The late Mr. Gooneratne was also there to help relations maybe financially or with his valuable advice. He was an active counsellor on many occasions when relatives had conflicts with each other, and was able to bring about amicable settlements.
His beloved late wife Linda,
gave him all the support he needed for his illustrious career, and the social
service he rendered. She was his guiding light and also his most ardent admirer.
May his sojourn in Sansara be short and blissful.
Ever loving nephew
He showed the path to honesty, truth and
Born in Galle, when the so-called "Great War" (First World War) was at its height M.I.H.M. Nazeer - or Nazeer as he was more popularly known - was essentially a man of peace. The tranquillity that was forever clearly visible upon his face to the last, was a mirror image of the quiet, peaceful and upright man that was quintessentially Nazeer, our Dad.
Having grown up in Galle Fort - and been educated at St. Aloysius' College, Galle, Dad received his higher education in the precepts that were expounded by the Holy Prophet Mohammad SAL (p.b.u.h) centuries ago.
Living his early years during the First World War in Sri Lanka was by no means an easy task, but our Dad always found inner peace and contentment (in any given situation) in the religion he professed.
Later, marrying and moving to Colombo after a brief stay in Galle, Dad did not take long to become one of the most respected businessmen in Pettah, after founding and establishing Stylex Footwear and Fashion Centre in First Cross Street in 1948 - which he nurtured and built-up from scratch.
Though physically only of average stature, Dad was throughout his lifetime, able to "walk tall" among his peers because of his firmly-held beliefs that shunned dishonesty, deceit and deception - together with his sense of inner discipline - which were his greatest gifts to us, his four sons.
"So shall he rise like a Cedar on the
His head shall be seen above the trees of the forest".
We, his children always found his quiet, subtle wit to be one of the main reasons why others sought him out, for his company. Often were the times when a subtle joke of his, said with an emotionless poker face, took several moments before others realized the "punch" in the punch-line - and virtually collapsed in laughter. Our Dad Nazeer had an uncanny ability to influence others with his wit, as he did with his exemplary life-style.
In as much as he was an icon in the business life of Pettah, Dad was also a keen sportsman with his chief interests being cricket and football - especially football, having in his youth played in the national team and done our motherland proud.
Having tragically lost his wife, our
mother, rather early in his married life, Dad took upon himself - in addition to
all of his other responsibilities and duties - the role of mother to all of us
his four sons, ensuring that we lacked for nothing whatever - be it parental
love and care, a good education or the instilling into us, the importance of
those basic moral values in our adult lives.
From the very day that Mother passed away, he was a loving father and mother to all of us in a dual role for the greater part of his lifetime. He used to often tell us that it is more important in life to earn friends even more than money (a guiding rule of his) - and the great host of people at his funeral bore eloquent testimony to this fact.
We, his sons, recall nother words of advice that our Dad, Nazeer gave us - to always visit a person who was ill or who had suffered a misfortune, to console him and to strengthen him.
Dad is no longer with us having gone to his eternal reward, but the legacy that he has left us his sons, other family members and all who knew him, is the knowledge that truth, honesty and integrity of character are the milestones by which we too may share in this reward - if only we follow in his footsteps along the pathway he has shown us.
May Almighty Allah grant him Jannathul
His sons, Rizan, Rinaz, Rimzi and Rizni
Sunday Times April 2, 2006
Serving well at 80!
By Baron de Livera
Rukmani Eheliyagoda nee de Alwis celebrates her 80th birthday today, March 26. Always cheerful and smiling, Rukie as she is affectionately known, had her schooling at St. Bridget’s Convent and still supports her alma mater, keeping in touch with all school activities. She formed the ‘Action Group’ of old Bridgeteens 12 years ago and while undertaking charity work, they also meet every month and reminisce about their antics in the convent boarding and outside.
Rukie had a fairytale wedding when she married Percy Eheliyagoda in 1952. They had five children including two sets of twin girls. “The joy of my life was dressing up these four ‘dolls;” she said.All four daughters attended St. Bridget’s as well. Until recently, she played football with her grandsons and excelled in her favourite sport table tennis.
“My only granddaughter Shanika is in the UK studying medicine and if I could live a few more years until she passes out as a doctor I will be happy,” she says.
Sunday Times March 26, 2006
She was loved for her gentle and affable
It was a poignant moment in my life when I was asked to be a pall-bearer at the funeral of my dear cousin and friend, Ranee Atapattu, who departed this life on February 15, this year at the age of 89. She lived a full life and had no complications till about six months ago when she was afflicted with some breathing problems and had to be rushed to a private nursing home. However, she fought back with great courage and returned home on every occasion in good health.
Just a day prior to her final collapse, Ranee had been in excellent spirits and joined in the singing of her favourite hymns with family members and Rev. Paul, the English Pastor of St. Paul's Church, Kandy, who was accustomed to administer holy communion to her regularly every month. So it was indeed a great shock when we learned that she had passed away.
Ranee hailed from a well-known aristocratic family in Tangalle where her father, John Senanayake (a first cousin of our first Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake) was the Deputy Fiscal and her mother was Cornelia Obeyesekere, kinswoman of Sir Christoffel Obeyesekere. From her early childhood, Ranee was nurtured in family traditions and graces, and grew up to be a strikingly beautiful young woman.
She married Douglas Atappattu, Commissioner of Excise and was an exemplary wife, mother and housewife. She endeared herself to everybody by the concern and care she displayed for the impoverished and marginalised segments of the community. Hers was an open house to those in need, those who sought her advice and assistance. Ranee was a devoted and dedicated Christian who was loved for her gentle and affable ways. She ministered to those in need and gave generously of her time and resources. She solicited my prayers too for any project she had in mind.
I will miss that familiar ring on the
telephone when she would speak to me and inquire if I was also in prayer for
what she had in mind.
After the sudden demise of her husband, Douglas, she had many problems in bringing up her young family of a son and two daughters single-handedly, but she handled every situation with great skill and courage, inspired by her steadfast faith in God. Her elder daughter Ranjini, wife of Dr. Asoka Siriwardane and her sisters Iris Attygalle and Neeta Samarakkody, predeceased her while son, Ranjit, is domiciled in Sweden.
Ranee spent most of her time in the beautiful home of her younger daughter, Vijayalakshmi, married to Prof. George Dissanaike of the University of Peradeniya, both of whom lavished their love and unceasing care on their beloved mother and provided her with every comfort. Ranee's cup of joy overflowed when her grandson, Gishan and wife Padmika became the parents of two lovely twins and made her the proud great-grandmother at an early age.
And so, we bade our last farewell to a
gracious lady as we tenderly lowered her down to her final resting place to the
strains of her favourite hymn. "Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
Change and decay in all around I see:
O thou who changest not, abide with me". We are assured that Ranee has earned her place in the Heavenly abode of the Lord whom she loved and worshipped.
Criminals feared him and colleagues
Retired Senior Superintendent of Police, Ebert Egodapitiya passed away at the ripe age of 80 years and his funeral was held on February 2 at the General Cemetery Borella before a distinguished gathering of Police Officers and members of the public. I was sad that I was unable to pay my respects to him as I was away in the USA.
I worked with him as a young Sub Inspector when he was Officer-in- Charge of Maradana Police, when Maradana was like the Wild West infested with criminals, pimps, prostitutes, pick-pockets, illicit liquor dens and brothels.
Egodapitiya was a tough cop who controlled the area with an iron fist like a Sheriff. His deputies were Inspectors Lal Mendis, H. Y. De Silva and Sub Inspectors John Jayasinghe, I.K. Samarasinghe, Tassie Seneviratne, Sarath Borelessa, Sivasubramaniam and yours truly to name a few. He not only kept the criminals in check, but also his subordinates, who were also tough. He always looked after his subordinates.
"Choppe" Dharmadas and "Madavi" Somapala were two notorious thugs who terrorised Maradana and they met their "Waterloo" in Egodapitiya. There were also other underworld characters such as Seeni Malli and Avandale Jamis who were bootleggers, Chuti Mahattaya, a violent extortonist, Uda Balung, a prostitute who ruled Junction Bridge, Maradana by night, who was feared by everyone and Letchumi, a provider of prostitues down Pitchers Lane. They were all kept in check by Egodapitiya who knew his Law and Police Orders like the palm of his hand.
Egodapitiya was a product of Trinity College, Kandy and was a lover of sports. He excelled in soccer and cricket and was a keen rugby fan who never missed a Police match when I played and captained the Police rugby team. He was a source of inspiration. When he was HQI. Kalutara, he was a member of the Kalutara Division Cricket team which won the J R Jayewardene Trophy captained by Anton Joachim, a former Peterite cricketer, in the Police Inter-Division Cricket Tournament.
During the period he was HQI Chilaw, HQI
Kalutara, OIC Maradana and OIC Colombo Fort, he earned a reputation as a good
administrator and a fair cop who was respected by the members of public and
feared by the criminals.
Politicians never interested him and he never went after them, but performed his duties to the best of his ability. He was honest in his dealings and discharged his duties impartially. He was always God- fearing. It is a pity that we do not have Police officers of his calibre today.
His wife predeceased him and he leaves behind his only daughter and family. Bernie Wijesekera, the well known sports scribe is married to one of his sisters and was very close to him till death... May he rest in peace.
Retd Senior Supdt
His sterling qualities and thoughtful acts
will not be forgotten
Thurai to his loving wife, dad to his children, athan to some and annan to most of us, bade a final good-bye to all his loved ones, relatives, and friends on March 22, 2005. Although he was confined to his home for sometime due to his sickness, he always looked cheerful.
His ever-caring wife was always by his side, sharing his pain and anguish and the children called from abroad every now and then to hear of his progress. On two occasions he steered through. However on the last occasion he had to bow down to God's will, his Creator and Redeemer, whom he faithfully followed through life.
Though he is no more, his sterling qualities and affable manners cannot be forgotten by all those who knew him. He hailed from a family of educationists, he himself being a product of Trinity College, Kandy and a coloursman in Rugby. Completing his secondary education he joined the Colombo Municipal Council and retired as Assistant Assessor, having completed thirty years of service.
The Church at St. Mary's Dehiwela that he frequented day after day will bear testimony to the life that he lived. On the day of his funeral the Pastor of St. Mary's dwelt in brief on his humble contributions to the various sodalities and religious organizations he was closely associated with.
A man of moderate habits, drinking and smoking were never in his agenda, however he relished good food and tasty dishes with a bottle of coke or ice cream soda.
On this the first anniversary of his death family members and friends would say, Thank you Lord for all what you have been to him and thank you Lord for all what he has been to us.
Sunday Times Mar 19, 2006
My father, my guide and my teacher
"I shall pass this way but once
Any kindness that I can show, any help that I can give
Let me do it now
For I shall not pass this way again" - Stephen Grellet
This poem and the poem "IF" by Rudyard Kipling were framed and hung upon my father's office wall. When we were young he encouraged us to memorize the words, and as my sisters and I grew up we watched our father live his life by these very same ideals.
My father was a very busy man - he was involved in so many activities political, religious, social and professional - yet he always had time for us six girls. Every single aspect of our lives was important to him. He filed our letters and school reports, kept our birthday cards, was proud of the certificates and prizes earned and in later years of our respective careers and achievements. He encouraged us to take part in every sport and extra-curricular activity and many a school friend would recall how he would take us all out to Fountain Cafe or Green Cabin to give the whole team a "treat" after a sports tournament or elocution exam.
At the end of each school term he took us on holiday all over Sri Lanka. Each trip was a history and geography lesson for us. He told us folk tales and legends about each place we visited and patiently repeated stories of Saradiel, Sitawaka or Sigiriya each time one of us wanted to hear the story all over again.
He was a gentle, patient man who never raised his voice to get his point across. An extremely clever man - he had a brilliant mind, a remarkable memory and mathematical skills which would put our calculators to shame. In later years when I worked with him at the Ministry, I was able to see him work with such dedication and skill - his high intelligence, his quick grasp of facts, his ability to make firm decisions and give precise directives earned him praise and respect from his staff.
Education was extremely important to my father. His only request to his parents was that his future wife should be an educated girl. In that he found a perfect partner and soul mate in my mother - she had beauty, grace and education. Together they gave us children the best of education.
His library had an extensive collection of books. Every educational magazine and periodical and newspaper was ordered for us and likewise in later years when it came to his grandchildren his birthday gifts to them were subscriptions to the National Geographic, finance for a school trip or a beautiful letter with words of advice quoting wise words from great poets encouraging them to: "toil whilst their companions slept".
His pride knew no end when he attended his eldest grandchild's graduation ceremony at Cambridge University and watched the others follow suit in various fields of study. The emphasis on learning was not only for his own family. In his youth he helped to organize Night Schools for people in his electorate, which effectively began his career as a social worker and politician in later years. Upon his death we had many visitors, most from his much loved electorate of Balangoda.
Many told us of the help they received
from him, as he quietly sent them funds for their books and fees or helped get
electricity to their villages, so they could study and become the doctors and
teachers that they are today.
Likewise he donated land so schools could be built and was instrumental in striving to get the University of Sabaragamuwa to be set up in Belihuloya in the Balangoda electorate.
My father was most well known for his political achievements. A French journalist who met him described him as "formidable". Eminent historian K.M. de Silva in his book "The History of Ceylon" says, "the most remarkable case of all is the case of M.L.M. Aboosally M.P. for Balangoda... a seat he won against the powerful family interests of the Ratwattes... the Muslims constitute just 2.75% of the total votes."
My father represented this Sinhala electorate from 1977 to 1994 and was the longest serving MP for Balangoda. He also served in the Ministries of Mahaweli Development, Plantations and Labour.
From my early days I remember the hectic political activity inside our home, especially when a general election was near--hundreds of people to meet my father, hundreds of political meetings, hundreds of houses to be visited in house-to-house canvassing for votes... etc.
All this he did amidst petty party politics, political victimisation, racial brickbats, tension and treachery. Throughout all this my father never wavered.
True to his principles and the policies of the party he represented he remained honest, forthright, courageous, loyal and humble, dignified in both victory and defeat. When he was victorious he never remembered insults nor stooped to take revenge.
He told us: "It is when you are most
powerful that you must be most careful not to abuse that power". A leading
politician who is now no more described him as: "A true gentleman and the only
person in politics whom I can trust".
In my father's library is a book which he read when he was twenty years. They are the writings of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus the great Roman philosopher king (A.D. 161) who inspired him for he strove to be such a man:
"Let me learn to be gentle, to take no decision without careful investigation, to hold fast to the anchor of truth, not to be deluded into the pursuit of what men all honour, to lend a ear to all who may propound something to the common good, to reward every man according to his desserts without fear or favour...
My father never differentiated between people because of their religion, race or creed. He worked well into the night answering their letters and heeding their humble requests. Awarded the Deshabandu award for his services to the Nation in the last month of his life, he appreciated the gesture, but was quick to share the honour and give credit to his wife saying to us "it is as much your mother's award as it is mine".
In the 50 years of his political life my father saw many changes, lived through many social and political upheavals, riots and insurrections. He faced these difficult times bravely helping numerous people in many ways by word or deed often at risk to his own life.
His philosophy in life was thus:
"Let any action, word and thought be of one who is prepared at any moment to quit his life" - (M.A.A.) . He taught us this in simple words: "Go to sleep each night with a clear conscience - this is the most important thing you can do each day".
In his memoirs which he started writing in the 1980's he pays tribute to his own father who taught him to be fair and just in all his dealings. Fortune had lavished on my father a privileged life but what material wealth he had he used without ostentation. If they were present he enjoyed them simply, if they were absent he felt no need of them.
He was a generous man who gave much to charity and never "let his left hand know what his right hand gave". A hadith relates a question asked of his Holy Prophet Mohammed (s.a.l.) by his companions; If I have no wealth to give what other charitable act can I do to please Almighty Allah? And the Holy Prophet (s.a.l.) replied:
"You can enter public life and serve the people, you can build a well or you can write a book". My father did all three and more, in his lifetime, and he did these with integrity, honesty and humility in all his actions.
The state of the country as it is today,
being in active politics, my father could have met with many a violent end, for
such are the times we live in. But when he left us on December 11 last year, he
closed his eyes and slipped away gently with his family around him, and prayers
in his ears.
The peace on his face reflected the blessing of a peaceful death that Allah granted him.
The Quran says: "Verily we are from Allah
and to Him we return".
He was a good man, who lived a good life and was bestowed a good death.
As I look back on this wonderful human being whom I am privileged to call my father, I thank God that I was blessed to be part of his life, I was able to experience his love, his wisdom, his strength and brave spirit, I was able to watch and learn from his many acts of kindness and generosity, courage and fairness and that I am able to pass onto my children all that he taught me,
And pray that I can lead by example, as my father did throughout his life.
Thank you for all that you were to us my darling daddy - you will always be adored and appreciated and live in our hearts forever.
May we your children and grandchildren
live up to your high ideals -
May we make you smile as you look down upon us.
May you attain Jinnath Ul Firdous and find
Everlasting peace and rest with Almighty Allah.
Rameez Ayesha Soysa
He steered Maris Stella through the storm
Bro. Peter Berchmann Wijetunge
Maristonians, wherever they may be, were saddened to hear of the passing away of Bro. Peter on January 31, at 89 years of age. God blessed Bro. Peter with a long span of life of which he devoted over 70 years to the service of the Marist Community as a teacher, Principal and Director of the Marist Novitiate.
A specialist in Mathematics, Bro. Peter was equally competent in the study and practice of music. He was also a linguist of repute. He was the first Principal of Christ King College, Tudella (1943) and Joseph Vas College (1955). The people of Tudella acknowledged with gratitude his services to the school and community at a public felicitation where they named a road in his memory. His crowning achievement as an educationist was his stewardship of one of Sri Lanka's leading Catholic colleges, Maris Stella College. He was heir to a tradition of excellence, from 1922 set by his predecessors - Bro. Louis, Bro. Anthony, Bro. Conran and Bro. Stanislaus.
The years 1959-1965 were tumultuous following the political revolution of 1956. It was aptly described as an "age of transition between two civilisaitons - one dying and the other struggling to be born". Drastic reforms were being effected in education policy and implementation.
The schools’ takeover of 1964 threatened the very existence of Christian schools such as Maris Stella. Long serving teachers opted out. Financial management and resource control became a virtual nightmare. But Bro. Peter stood undaunted. Supported by a loyal group of Marist Brothers, teachers and old boys, he gave leadership as an administrator to steer Maris Stella through the storm to tranquillity.
A soft-spoken man of few words, he was
dignified in his style of management, patient, interactive and committed to
consensus and compromise. These were the qualities that stood him in good stead
during the difficult days of his stewardship of Maris Stella. Bro. Peter was
indeed a model of Christian living devoted to the virtues of faith, hope,
charity, prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. He had a special devotion
to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the statue of the Holy Mother which he so fondly
erected at the entrance to Maris Stella is indeed an eternal monument to the
memory of Bro. Peter Berchmann Wijetunge.
May he rest in peace!
From the cross to the crown
As Christians move into another season of Lent, family members and friends of Moira Benedict who died on February 4, will remember that for her, life was one long way of the cross but she went through it with trusting faith, expectant hope – and a smile.
Brother Mark who spent the last few years with Moira after their parents died some years ago, remembers his crippled sister as the family’s best mannered person who started the day by wishing everyone Good Morning and ending the day with a Good Night. But on February 4, Mark was away and she was unable to say what would have been her final good night because by morning she had passed away peacefully and was not able to say good morning.
According to Mark it was mainly Moira’s prayers that brought peace, unity and prosperity to the family. She was also the family’s computer having the best memory where birthdays and anniversaries of friends and relatives were stored. She would faithfully send greeting cards with little gifts in a spirit of caring and sharing.
Faithfully and fervently Moira prayed the rosary daily and would have done it thousands of times. Though the family could not say good night, her beloved mother Mary would have come with the Lord Jesus in Moira’s moment of death to take her to heaven.
Mark says that though Moira was disabled from birth, through her, the family learnt that in many ways they are better and brighter than able bodied people. Moira taught them that disabled people given the right opportunity could produce far better results than normal human beings.
“One thing is certain that most of the disabled go to heaven and it is we who dig our graves without deciding where to go. Moira often joked with me and her other brother that she will go to God first and she did so as “God takes whom he loves most”, says Mark, sad and lonely but also full of faith that his sister who suffered so much is now beyond pain or suffering and living happily with God.
Now she must be singing joyfully with the
“Through many dangers, toils and snares I have come. His grace brought me safe all the way and now His grace has led me home.”
Sunday Times Mar 12, 2006
A sound farewell to the voice of Lanka in
Veteran journalist Deeptha Leelaratne took his final bow before a large gathering of friends who were at the hallowed North Hollywood Wat Phai temple grounds, to participate in the funeral services presided over by Venerable Amabantota Kolitha Thera of the Sarachchandra Buddhist Center in Los Angeles. Prelates from the five Buddhist Temples in Los Angeles were also present.
Deeptha, whose pioneering efforts in publishing the first Sri Lankan newspaper in the Western USA and also the first Radio Station "Tharanga', had won overwhelming acclaim from thousands of Sri Lankans due to his endearing qualities of friendship and service to fellowmen. This theme of service ran like a golden thread throughout his life, said some of the people who attended the funeral services.
Fellow Times journalist Walter Jayawardana described Deeptha as one of a new breed of journalists handpicked by late D. B. Dhanapala when he launched the Lankadipa in the 1950s. Deeptha had scooped the presence of oil resources in North West Sri Lanka at the time when the Soviet drilling team did oil exploration work. Even though the project at Pesalai did not come to fruition, subsequent studies point to the presence of oil in the region, Walter said. The Sri Lankan government is today pursuing this seriously.
Deeptha will be remembered for his efforts
in starting the "Sri Lanka Express" together with his wife, Hassina. Their
legacy is indeed legendary, he added.
Philip Fernando, former Deputy Editor of the Ceylon Observer, said Deeptha was a patriot for all seasons. He brought Sri Lankan culture to the new generation of Sri Lankans living thousands of miles away from home. Whether he wrote about the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka or the need for building strong cultural ties with his motherland, Deeptha was a guiding light to everyone who read his columns, he said.
Thousands will miss him dearly, he added.
Chandra Ranasinghe, former editor of Sri Lanka's first women's magazine, "Vanitha Vitti", said the large gathering present was a telling testimony to the manner Sri Lankans came to know and respect Deeptha. He enriched our lives immeasurably, she added.
Deeptha leaves behind his wife Hassina, a veteran journalist herself and English graduate from the Peradeniya University, and their only son, Sahan, a senior undergraduate at UCLA.
She was everything
It is so hard to put into words what I feel when I think of Aunty Thelma. I owe her so much. She was my mother, my guardian and the most fantastic person I have ever known. She was a pillar of strength to those around her, unwavering, full of principles and at the same time gentle, kind and caring.
When my mother passed away, she felt it was her responsibility to look after me. I owe her everything. She was always there for me ensuring that I did my best in whatever I undertook, urging me on through school, through university and later on through life.
She instilled in me that nothing could take the place of a good education. I will never forget her English lessons as a little girl. She was the best teacher, a gift so rare these days.
I will always remember the beautiful Sundays my family spent with her on her estate. My boys would enjoy listening to her endless reservoir of stories and she would patiently answer all their questions. The hearty Sunday lunches with Aunty Thelma were the highlight of the day.
When my daughter was born, I called to give her the news and she wept with joy. She was so thrilled for me and kept repeating "now you have a daughter to look after you." After I moved overseas I would call her often to chat to her and she was always keen to know how the children were doing. I am so glad that I was able to take my daughter to visit her. I spent a wonderful week with her in April last year.
I will treasure all those memories. I talked to her just prior to her falling ill and the last thing she said to me was "treasure those children". Those words will stay with me always. Yes Aunty Thelma I will treasure them like I will always treasure and remember you. Thank you for everything. I will love you always.
She helped those in need in a quiet manner
Sithy Nissa Firdouse
A good friend, dedicated teacher, sincere social worker, this sums up Sithy Nissa Firdouse who passed away on January 10. Gentle in her ways, soft-spoken, kind and understanding, she was a friend to many. She was someone to whom one could turn to when faced with a problem. She was ever willing to help, giving her suggestions unobtrusively. She was the favourite aunt who was the confidante, guide and counsellor to her niece Shamila and her nephew Safraz. She was the true help-mate to her two sisters. A trained teacher, she taught in many schools in Colombo Central but it was Dhar-as Salam Maha Vidyalaya that she always spoke of, insisting that it was worthwhile helping the needy children of this school. We, her friends will fulfil her wish. Insha Allah!
At the time of her death she was teaching at the Fathima Home that houses many orphans. She always spoke of them with affection and wanted to do her best for them. I am certain that these girls will miss her greatly. A committed and dedicated social worker, she was genuinely interested in helping the poor and needy.
The two societies she was most involved in, the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Friendship Association where she was a committee member and the Young Women's Muslim Association where she was Vice-President, kept her busy. She was happy to involve herself in fund-raising activities to help the needy as well as in social activities.
The work she did at the YWMA was
tremendous and must not be underestimated, as it was done quietly and without
publicity and fanfare. Be it the Kola Kanda project, distribution of spectacles
to the poor, giving uniform material and exercise books to needy schoolchildren,
helping displaced families, Sithy Nissa was at the forefront in collecting
funds. On several occasions, she personally donated cash to displaced families
at Ehelagama (Nochchiagama).
To me she was a very dear friend. I will miss her.
May Allah bless
There was music, laughter and yummy cakes
wherever she went
There will be a few hundred people around who will remember Sybil Abayasekara for the incomparable cakes she made for them - birthday cakes in all shapes and sizes, engagement cakes, wedding cakes with elaborate structures, christening cakes, Christmas cakes, and love cakes. Many others, my family among them, will remember her delight in having relatives and friends at her table, partaking of one of the delicious meals she loved to prepare for them. Her dwindling group of Ladies' College classmates will recall her pleasure when it was her turn to host the monthly class-reunion.
Neither age nor lack of domestic help diminished her enthusiasm for having friends gather in her home. ‘Hospitality’ was her other name. I had only to mention that one of our children was coming from abroad - or even our son and family from Kandy - and she would immediately want us all to come for a meal.
It seemed appropriate that on that fateful day, January 12, this year, she should have had about 20 people who had come to her house for the weekly Thursday Bible study that has been held there for years and that she had prepared an array of food to be served after the meeting. An additional incentive on this day was the presence from England of her daughter and son-in-law, both of them doctors, and her eldest grand-daughter (also a doctor) and family. Her joy in her two little great-grandchildren, 4-year-old Sammy and 2-year-old Eleanor, the latter born on the same day as her great-Archchi, was boundless.
Somebody came to the door and when Sybil went to her front doorstep to talk to him, she slipped and fell and broke her leg. While everyone present was filled with dismay, nobody foresaw it as the prelude to the end. Sybil's fracture was attended to in hospital and when she came home after 5 days there she seemed cheerful and well.
But on the night of January 22, with a devoted cousin, Marlene, at her bedside, she had a sudden heart attack and passed away, leaving behind a stricken family and a host of friends to mourn her passing.
Sybil was an independent person. After her husband, Ivor, died several years ago, she continued to live alone in their house in Ratmalana without even a domestic help. Her only concession to security was in having a man she knew, to come to sleep in her garage at night.
She did her own housework and marketing and attended to household maintenance, payment of utility bills and all the things that Ivor had seen to while he was alive. She had a little annexe occupied by another widowed lady. But the neighbourhood in which she had lived for so long held many old friends and having their support and that of her church, family and close relatives, she never complained of loneliness. Nor was she scared to be on her own at night.
She was sustained by a deep faith and trust in God. She loved to make an annual visit to her daughter and family in England, but even after she celebrated her 84th birthday over there last year, together with her great-granddaughter's 2nd birthday, they couldn't persuade her to uproot herself from Sri Lanka and move to make her home with them in the last years. She paid a long visit to her son and family in Australia and although she seemed to enjoy herself very much, they too found there was no point in asking her to come to live with them.
Sybil was a caring person, always concerned about others, ready to do anything she could to be of help. She was a good neighbour in every sense of the word, loving relative and friend. She had a sense of fun. There was a lot of music and laughter at any gathering in her house, particularly when Ivor was alive. They danced well together. With Ronnie Abayasekara playing his clarinet and Ronnie's wife Premini at the piano, a happy sing-song was also invariably a part of the evening's entertainment. She had a strong family-feeling and any party at Sybil's was packed with relatives from both sides, a pattern that continued even when she lived alone.
It must console her son, Ramesh, greatly that he came over last December and spent three wonderful weeks with his mother who was in her element having him to squire her around and for whom she held a memorable luncheon party to which she had invited all his old friends and companions who were still in Sri Lanka, as well as dozens of cousins and relatives who had known him from boyhood. Similarly, her daughter Shalini and family must derive comfort from the fact that she had spent some happy days in their company in that week before she fell. Shalini stayed behind with her mother for as long as she could when the rest of her family had to return to England.
It was characteristic of Sybil that before
Shalini left, she had herself wheeled to her spacious, wonderfully-equipped
kitchen-cum-pantry and, with some help, she made one of her famous love-cakes
for Shalini to take back with her.
Being human, we grieve that she is no longer with us, but we thank God for every remembrance of Sybil, knowing we can leave her safely now in the nearer presence of the Lord whom she loved and trusted to the end.
Sunday Times Mar 5, 2006
A message of whispering hope
“Hope as an anchor so steadfast,
Rends the dark veil of the soul,
Whither the Master has entered,
Robbing the grave of its goal”
These lines from the largely unsung last verse of the immortal song, ‘Whispering Hope’ written some 150 years ago underline the trusting faith and expectant hope with which the family members and friends of Shirmal Fernando mark the 1st anniversary of his death on Wednesday March 1, which also happens to be Ash Wednesday.
The dynamic young company director passed away not to the end of life but to a new beginning after battling for 30 years with a rare blood disease. Right through it Shirmal had the grace and the courage to battle through the struggle and battle through the suffering instead of seeking or pleading for a way out of the struggle or the suffering.
As the world commemorates Ash Wednesday,
Shirmal would be experiencing first hand and in a definitive way the words of a
song for the day:
“Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day,
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories fade away,
Change and decay in all around I see,
O Thou who changeth not, abide with me”
During Christmas time last year – the first Christmas without Shirmal for the family – the precious memories were also filled with tears. But for those who were near and dear to Shirmal, the Lord gave through the words of ‘Whispering Hope’ and other inspirational songs, a very special grace. It was the gift of pain and joy going together in a sort of a wedded bliss. It was a deep experience where amidst sadness, tears and pain there was at the same time an inner strength and courage which is the joy of the Lord.
In any event, situation or tragedy like the death of the beloved Shirmal, the Lord has led his family and friends into an experience where Christ dies, Christ rises and Christ comes again. In the immediate aftermath of the despair and loneliness, Christ dies. When trusting faith and expectant hope revive the spirit in the assurance that all is now well with Shirmal, Christ rises and comes again to give joy amidst the pain and sadness.
On this 1st anniversary of his death, family members and friends would say – “Thank you Lord for Shirmal and thank you Shirmal for being with us in spirit and whispering to us the inspiring words: “Then when the night is upon us, why should the heart sink away. When the dark midnight is over, watch for the breaking of day”.
A Thanksgiving service for Shirmal will be held on Wednesday March 1, at 6.30 p.m. at “Lankarama”, the Catholic Bishop’s Conference Hall Chapel, No 19 Balcombe Place Off Cotta Rd. Borella.
Memories of a lasting and exciting
I was saddened by the news of the untimely demise of Claude Fernando. He was my childhood friend since our Sunday school days at St. Peter’s and again as students at St. Peter’s Day School, both at our native Koralawella. Though we attended Moratuwa’s rival schools, Claude at Prince of Wales and I at St. Sebastian’s, our friendship remained intact.
We were also in the Youth Fellowship movement as adults where Claude took a more active role. In the town of Moratuwa, the Claude-Sheridan duo was registered as a unique combination till with Roy, we stood out as the famous Jim Reeves and Hank Locklin fans among the Moratuwites. Music was the common factor of this trio. We organised picnics, boat trips to the Bolgoda lake and Panadura. Other music lovers of our age group joined us on these trips. I can still recall organising pilgrimages and sing-songs at Christmas time et al and bathing at Bolgoda not to mention in the sea.
On completing school, Claude joined the private sector while I joined the State sector. Yet we were inseparable. The Debate Forum on Sunday kept us amused and yet engaged in heated arguments on various subjects including politics, religion, cricket. Often the atmosphere at the Sunday Forum was hot but friendly.
When he took the plunge, I was his bestman. Often we donned the identical attire being dress-conscious. We even had the same brand of sports cycles and other things in common. This went on till we nearly fell in love with the same girl.
Ultimately it was the sea that parted us when I decided to go abroad but we kept in touch via the mail and the female. I had the good luck of meeting Claude again recently after a long stint overseas. We did a pilgrimage to the Anglican Church at Hambantota where we recalled the good old schooldays, church days and thereafter.
Claude was unassuming and could befriend
any outsider at short notice. He had an aptitude for journalism and said he
dreamt often of being a gentleman of the fourth estate. He used to contribute
articles and letters to the press.
Last year on my last visit to my home country, I had the pleasure of phoning him to wish him a Happy B’day. I reckon he had a premonition about his death. I learnt that he had detailed his funeral arrangements and even penned his obituary. Christians need not fear death for it is the gateway to life eternal. If we believe that Christ lives in our day to day life, death is only a case of our living with Him, as the famous author cum preacher Bishop Fulton Sheen once said.
Claude is no more but he will continue to live in the memory of the parish circles of St.Peter’s, Koralawella and elsewhere. He leaves behind his dear wife, Leonie and daughter Lakshini. Our friendship has been exciting, adventurous and memorable and Claude will not be forgotten by many, and least of all by me.
“Adios” my friend in the jargon of our idol Gentleman Jim and may you rest in peace.
There was never a dull moment with her
Susyma Pinto Jayawardene
It is three months since the departure of my dear friend. It gives me an eerie feeling to write about someone who has been so close to me; Susyma was so much alive and part of my world for over 30 years and now she is no more!
I came to know Susyma way back in 1972. She was my neighbour and a colleague on the staff of Girls' High School, Kandy. We travelled to and from school together with our daughters. She would carry a flask of tea for herself and made an extra cup for me too for our tea break. When I protested she said it was no problem making tea for two.
This went on till we retired. That's how thoughtful she was. She used to say that I was the sister she never had. Our tea breaks were quite enjoyable. A group of us would sit together and our conversation would range from cookery to gardening, sewing to child raising. It was such a pleasant break from the classroom routine. Susyma had so many interests and she had so much to contribute. I will remember those tea breaks for a long time. She was a great cook and also took great pride in her garden. In school she was an excellent teacher and loved by her pupils. At home she was an excellent hostess, housewife and mother.
As a friend she was always there for me in times of need. I will always remember her for her delightful humour and cheery laughter. In her company there never was a dull moment. In times of stress she kept calm and quiet and had the knack of dealing with problems in her own inimical style.
After retirement, Susyma and Brian left Kandy to settle down in Colombo to be with the children. Though we had to part we stayed "just a phone call away". We would talk to each other almost every week. How much I miss those chit chats now! Susyma was taken ill in 2002 and the news of her illness was indeed devastating for everybody who knew her. She was so normal till then. In the hands of experts she was treated and thanks to them she was given an extra span of life. During this period she showed great courage and fortitude. Our phone conversations resumed after she returned home. She did not think of herself as a patient. She told me she was trying her best to keep the house running smoothly without being a burden to her family.
She involved herself in church activities
and social service work as much as she could. Though she put up a brave front,
with the passage of time it was plain to see she was fading. In the end she lost
her battle to cancer.
Susyma is no more but her memory will live on for a long time. My thoughts go out to Brian, Sureni and her family and Kishali. Susyma was very proud of her children especially her grandsons. She would tell me about their achievements from the time they cut their first teeth till they passed their O/Ls. Her family made her very happy and I am sure this knowledge should lessen their sorrow.
We will not see her again. Susyma is gone. She came, she played her part in life's drama and left. Birth, Death.. this is the eternal law of the Universe. To quote the words of a popular hymn
"Time like an ever rolling stream
Bears all its sons away
They fly forgotten as a dream
Dies at the opening day."
We can do nothing about it but wipe a tear and move on. Farewell my dear friend. It was nice to have known you!
A mentor and advisor to many
December 16, 2005, a Friday morning dawned bright and clear, but brought sad news of the death of a dear one and shocked family, relations, friends and the Bohra community.
Naju bhai as he was affectionately known by one and all was about 75 years old but very young at heart. At the time of his death in the town of Bagasra in the state of Gujarat in India he was on one of his usual Indian pilgrimages and staying at his wife’s brother’s house.
On that Friday morning, he got up for Fajar Prayers and went for his usual rest before breakfast. This rest was to be eternal. He was a disciplined man of high principles and punctual in all his prayers as well as his exercise. He always kept up with local and international happenings.
He was wealthy but with a humbleness you rarely see in people today. An avid traveller, he liked to experience different modes of transport wherever he went. A mentor and advisor to many, his greatest happiness was to help people in need.
Sakeena Mazahir Mu Hassenally
Thank you for being my friend
Olsen Autry (Lucky) Ferdinands
Thanks, dear friend, for being there
When my life seemed to lead me nowhere.
Thanks, dear friend, for giving me sweet hope,
Strength and courage, in heart-rippling moments,
Thanks, dear friend, for listening - even
to little things - I had to say
When no one cared to guide me on my way.
My friend, in my mind, pleasant memories of you will grow and grow
And, in the garden of my heart, the sweetest
Roses, will spring up, for you, row on row.
Rodney Mervin Downall
She radiated charm
Amina (Chaslyn) Jaldin
Charming, charismatic, cheerful in life,
Cool and courageous in the face of strife,
A loving mother, a devoted wife,
That was Amina Chaslyn Jaldin.
She wore a smile wherever she went,
To pain and suffering did not relent,
Joined in the fun, in whatever event,
That was Amina Chaslyn Jaldin.
The courage she showed was amazing,
In spite of the immobility and the aching,
So very co-operative, loving and giving,
That was Amina Chaslyn Jaldin.
She radiated charm, in home and office,
Her friends and family will certainly miss,
We admired her in life, in death we cherish,
The memory of Amina Chaslyn Jaldin.
May her soul rest in everlasting bliss,
Is our fervent prayer and ardent wish,
Goodbye Amina Chaslyn Jaldin.
Mohomed Shiraz Amith
Sunday Times feb 26, 2006
Of carefree youth and decades of bonding
Ashes and memories are all that remain of Prema, my dearest friend who left us forever, three months ago, after a short and bitterly fought battle with a cruel disease. This is a personal memoir of our decades-long friendship - not one of those post-mortem CVs that moved us both to irreverent amusement.
I am rather down-to-earth in temperament and not inclined to other-worldly concerns. But, today, mulling over our friendship I am convinced that we were destined to be "kalyana mitras" from ages past. Nothing else can explain the lifelong friendship that blossomed, way back in 1957, when the young CCS cadet Premawardhana joined us like-minded souls in our rambunctious bachelor home at 'Shanti Alaya' up in Nuwara Eliya. As I have written earlier, this chapter in our lives of carefree youth is aptly summed up in the song that goes -
We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun...
Prema fitted into our happy band as smoothly as fingers into a glove and rapidly learnt from us the assorted responsibilities we handled - food rationing, power supply, supervising agricultural farms and distributing 'Crown' land. The District Head Manders, the last British Government Agent, entrusted me, the District Land Officer, with the tutoring of CCS Cadet Premawardhana in the niceties of land administration.
Our friendship, of almost half a century, was sealed for ever during those arduous hill climbs where salty banter relieved our aching sinews. "He was fresh out of the University at Peradeniya and a loyal acolyte of Sarachchandra whose epoch-making 'Maname' had stormed Sinhala drama...(To) His spirited rendering of its lyrics.. we drummed out accompaniment on the dining table" (Quote from "On Horseshoe Street").
His week-ends were spent courting his beloved Paduma, yet at the Peradeniya Campus, and meeting assorted mishaps en route thanks to erratic driving (learnt from me alas). All these old friends affectionately rallied round to cheer him up during his last few pain-wracked days. Prema left Nuwara Eliya after a brief six months or so but, by then, our friendship was already bound by 'hoops of steel'. Up in Bandarawela I met his school principal father who impressed me by treating his eldest son as just that, without fawning over him as a 'CCS man'. Mild though he was by temperament, Prema was the epitome of honour.
He manfully resisted the many blandishments of wealth via matrimony that too many of his colleagues fell victim to. Paduma was the unswerving lodestar of his love and they married a few short months after she graduated, embarking together on a voyage which brought them great happiness. She stood strong by his side when his promising career was almost wrecked by the treacherous currents of political chicanery. Indrani and I married a year after them and the friendship of our families became cemented even more firmly. Our children were "born friends", to quote their daughter Shyamalee.
In Prema's brilliant, but all-too-short, career in administration he graduated from being Government Agent in Puttalam, Vavuniya and Anuradhapura to the field he loved best - Cultural Affairs, first as Director and, later, as Ministry Secretary while barely forty. Few seem to remember that it was during his period in Anuradhapura that he revived the fortunes of that almost forgotten temple in the jungle, Tantirimalai, and made it a place of pilgrimage.
A true acolyte of Sarachchandra in that 'golden summer' of Peradeniya in the 1950s, Prema was enthralled by drama and oriental music. He found time to write and produce two Sinhala plays while being A.G.A. in Kandy - "Denna Depolay" and "Kamaray Poray". Unfortunately, the drudgery of bureaucracy as well as the tribulations that fell on his shoulders, left him no time to express the creative impulse that was so strong within him. In the dramatic arts his friends were legion and many were the bonhomous evenings he spent with Donald Abeysinghe, A.J. Gunawardena, Gamini Wijesuriya and like souls - now no more with us.
After 25 years of working in the provinces I found myself in administrative limbo from which Prema rescued me by taking me on as Director in the Ministry of Social Services he headed. The young Cadet I had nurtured was now my saviour and mentor. Sadly, the JRJ election of 1977 cruelly cut short Prema's career in administration. He only heard of his ouster, by a subordinate, on the evening newscast!
What led JRJ's gang to conclude that Prema was "not one of us?" I believe it was his deep roots in the Sinhala Buddhist culture of the village. He did attend Royal College where he had his secondary education and excelled in both Western and Oriental Classics. But his heart remained in the village. Naturally '1956' and all it meant won him over heart and soul. This led to his personal friendships with many who became movers and shakers in the new regime. He was no cultivator of useful acquaintances, but his interests and sympathies won him the GA-ship of Anuradhapura and, later, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. However, he was an officer of integrity and would have loyally served any lawfully constituted government. But to the fellow-travellers of JRJ, he was tainted.
It was adversity that brought out the steel in Prema's soul. He had to maintain a young family on his paltry pension. But he took to the stormy waters of the private sector - and flourished. His happiest time was when he held a key position in a pioneering TV establishment which gave ample opportunity to both his creative talents and administrative expertise. But, once again, he was cruelly let down and left to wind up the firm in which he had invested so much capital and hope.
Despair and gloom were not in his character. He threw himself fully into providing for the education abroad of his two sons. I was amazed at the enthusiasm he brought to building two houses towards this laudable end. I called him a "nut bass" as he had a knack to fiddle about and repair odd bits of household equipment.
He was the perfect paterfamilias, presiding over the happy marriages of his siblings and, later their children. A few days before he left us bereft, he fought his pain to grace the wedding of a niece. He relished family occasions and Paduma's extended family gave him great joy. He was the gentlest of men, the most affectionate of husbands, most indulgent of fathers, and most loyal of friends. Never did a harsh word ever escape his lips. We could never ease the cruel pain that wracked his last hours but, we hope, his last view of his loving family surrounding his bed eased his path to a better world.
Let me end by quoting a letter I wrote many years ago to another friend who is no more. "Prema is the closest in every way, we think and feel alike - but act so differently. We have the same sense of the absurdities and contradictions of our exasperating land." The Prema I loved is gone for ever, and there is a void in my life that will never be filled. May his journey in Sansara be brief before he attains the Bliss of Nibbana.
She held sway over her empire
Noor Naima Caffoor
Monday, January 30, was a sad day for all who knew Noor Naima Caffoor – or ‘FC’ as she was affectionately known. She had a brief illness and passed away within 12 hours and her funeral was held the very next morning, within 24 hours. It was just the way she would have wanted it – quickly, painlessly and without being a burden to her family. She was well prepared to meet her Creator, having been a devout Muslim who followed every aspect of the religion during her lifetime.
She was the matriarch of the family, the one who held the many disparate groups together with her regular lunches and dinners – both to celebrate various joyous events in the family (the latest being the marriage of her grand-daughter Sara) and to uphold her religious beliefs. She was grand aunt, mentor and advocate to a whole generation who loved and respected her. In fact with her good management skills, excellent memory, courage, drive and determination she would have made a fantastic present-day CEO!
My childhood memories of her were ones of awe; she was an imposing figure who held sway over her empire. She was tall and always beautifully dressed, making heads turn whenever she walked into a room. She commanded respect and received it from both the family and those outside of it. She was a shining asset to her husband, the late Falil Caffoor, campaigning alongside him during the elections.
She was a founder member of the All Ceylon Muslim Women’s Association and a tireless social reformer. She was a beacon of altruism, helping the poor and needy, and even conducting Quranic classes for the poor in her garage. She was strict when it came to the practice of the religion and instilled proper values into everyone. But she was also a social bon vivant, who loved to fill her stately home on Abdul Caffoor Mawatha with food, drink and conversation.
As she matured, she became a fountain of information, reading the newspapers regularly and ensuring she was up to date with the current news. She was intuitive and gave her advice freely without fear or favour. There was always the ‘right way’ of doing things and she had the strength of character and will to ensure that this was usually the path that was taken. At the same time, she was prepared to change with the times and had a wisdom that came with her age. She would surprise everyone with her grasp of the situation and would give sound advice – and once she made a decision, you could be sure that all the family would abide by it.
She was the bedrock, the foundation stone of the family and sadly, she is no more. But it would be the greatest tribute to her if the family members upheld the traditions she preserved and continued her good work. But I would be the first to admit, that she would be a hard act for anyone to follow. Goodbye sweet ‘Duchess’. We are surely going to miss you.
Everyone looked up to this guiding light
Constance Mildred Harriet Muller
It was a sad Sunday, February 5, this year when I got a call from the Matron at St. Nicholas Home to say Miss Muller was very ill. The first thing I did was to send the priest who obliged willingly, it being a Sunday and she was able to receive the last Sacraments.
She was part and parcel of Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena, where she spent her whole life. She knew everything about the school, every Reverend Sister, teacher, pupil and past pupil, having served there for 50 years. In turn they too knew her and it was her advice and guidance that brought these Reverend Sisters, teachers, Shepherdians and friends to such standards today. She has produced so many doctors, lawyers, teachers and many more who are holding distinguished positions.
She always had a kind word for all of us. She had a heart of gold, and was loved by all. Being also a past pupil of the school, she served many a time as President of the Past Pupils' Association and then in different capacities too. Whenever we asked Miss Muller how many scholarships we gave the children she would have the answer at her fingertips. She knew everything about the association’s activities and never missed a meeting or a re-union.
Miss Muller was a lady of charm and dignity. Generations of students passed through her hands and quite a number of them will agree with me, that her most frequent threat was 'Woe be unto you, if you do not do my work. But her heart was so soft that she hardly ever made that threat a reality. The Rev. Sisters, students, parents, teachers, clerical and minor staff, loved her andlooked up to her.
Wherever she went she found large numbers of past pupils and friends like pebbles on the beach all of them running towards her willing and able to help her.
Dear Miss Muller, to someone as wonderful as you, be happy with the Lord and be assured of my fervent prayers for you my dear friend. I do miss you. Rest in Peace with the Lord.
Sunday Times Feb 19, 2006
A scientist, teacher and mentor
Prof. F. Prashantha Amerasinghe
The untimely death of Prof. F. Prashantha Amerasinghe on June 7, last year in Colombo, came as a deep shock to those of us who knew him as a colleague at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka where he spent some of his most productive years as scientist, teacher, and mentor of remarkable intellectual breadth.
He was 57. His death has deprived the Sri Lankan scientific community of one of its most influential zoologists. His remarkable contributions to the advancement of medical entomology in general and mosquito taxonomy in particular earned him a reputation as one of Sri Lanka’s foremost scientists.
Prashantha, as he was known to us, was born on July 14, 1948 in Colombo into a distinguished and erudite Catholic family. His father, the great scholar Cuthbert Amerasinghe held the chair of Professor of Western Classics at the University of Peradeniya. Prashantha began his early education at St Anthony’s College, Kandy, where his achievements as a gifted student earned him the respect of his peers and pointed the way to a bright future. Although he was selected to study medicine, he rejected it in favour of zoology which he loved.
He entered the University of Peradeniya in 1967 and had the privilege of studying under the late Professor Hilary Crusz. Having such an outstanding mentor as Prof. Crusz was perhaps the most important event in the career of Prashantha at the university. In many instances, distinction often breeds distinction. He was a brilliant student with an indefatigable spirit and a genuine enthusiasm for zoology, which he was able to communicate to other students without conscious effort on his part. He specialized in Entomology and graduated with a First Class in 1971, and was recruited as Assistant Lecturer at the Department of Zoology, University of Peradeniya, from where he proceeded to the United Kingdom on a Commonwealth Scholarship to pursue his postgraduate research in the field of Entomology at the University of Bristol. He received his PhD in 1977.
Prashantha returned to Sri Lanka and resumed his academic career at the University of Peradeniya as Lecturer in Zoology. It was here that he established himself as an inspiring teacher and a first rate scientist. It was the late Prof. W. Fernando who observed that ‘teaching without research was like looking through a lens-less telescope’. Prashantha enriched his lectures with the findings from his research, and always kept his students informed of the latest developments in the field of entomology.
He had a distinguished academic career at the University, and at the young age of 48, he was appointed Professor of Applied Zoology. His influence stemmed from a combination of innate intelligence, considerable scientific talents, strong personality and ntellectual breadth. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject he taught and his lectures were among the most popular at the university.
His personal sense of justice, his energy, and his quick grasp of a subject made him a good and efficient Head of Department.. He was scrupulously honest and straightforward in his dealings with the staff and treated everyone with equal fairness. But he was a strict martinet who refused to compromise on ethical standards and propriety.
He was extremely sympathetic to young scholars and devoted much time in supervising and guiding their research. Many of them now hold important research and administrative positions both in Sri Lanka and abroad. He took the responsibility for producing good research workers out of raw graduates. He had an uncanny knack for pulling things out of students that they didn’t even know they had. He was able to inject excitement and liveliness into anyone who was fortunate to have worked under him. He will always be remembered as an outstanding administrator with a mind comprehensive in its grasp of things simple and precise.
As a scientist who left his mark on the science of his generation, Prashantha received many academic honours related to his work on the mosquito. It may be difficult to love the mosquito, but his research on this terrible insect – the so called ‘angel of death’ - contributed much to our understanding of the taxonomy, ecology and epidemiology of the mosquito in Sri Lanka.
The study proved most rewarding, and it brought him international recognition and respect. From being a consultant in the Sarvodaya Malaria Control Project in 1988, Prashantha quickly built up a reputation as one of the foremost exponents in the field of medical entomology in Sri Lanka. This brought him to the notice of the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) which recruited him as advisor to the International Irrigation Management Institute (IIMI) in 1991. From then on, there was no turning back: success in research brought recognition and rewards. Prashantha finally ended up as the Principal Researcher and Leader, Water Health & Environment Theme, International Water Management Institute, with Headquarters in Colombo – a position he held from 2000 until he passed away.
Although his primary research focus was on the epidemiology of mosquito-borne diseases, Prashantha maintained an active interest in a variety of disciplines that included conservation of biodiversity, primatology, ornithology and wildlife biology. It was during 1979-1980 when we were assigned to carry out an assessment of the environmental impact of the Accelerated Mahaweli Development Project in Sri Lanka that I came to appreciate the depth of his knowledge of the birdlife in the country. He was an excellent spotter of birds, and he would identify them from their calls, colours and flight patterns. In the field he was very relaxed, talkative and jovial. His study of the identification of the mammals of Sri Lanka based on the structure of their hair remains a classic.
Prashantha brought a characteristic intensity of purpose to everything he did and a determination to succeed against all odds. His research output was phenomenal: over 80 peer-reviewed papers, numerous presentations at international symposia and conferences, and a book entitled “Malaria in Sri Lanka: Current knowledge on transmission and control”, co-authored with F. Konradsen, W. Van der Hoek & P.H. Amerasinghe. He received countless awards and was included in the “2000 Outstanding Scientists of the 21st Century”, published by the International Biographical Centre in Cambridge, UK.
He spent two years (1990-1992) as Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, USA. In 2005, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) conferred on him posthumously, the outstanding scientist award for making major contributions towards the improvement of water and land resources management in Sri Lanka. Despite the awards and accolades, Prashantha remained a modest man who refused to let success go to his head; he lived a simple and unostentatious life. He always had a sharp aversion for any form of outward show. Fame never bothered him as he would never use it for personal power. His public manner concealed a deep shy and reserved nature.
An important influence on Prashantha was his wife Priyanie, who supported him in sickness and in health. Married in 1978, they were a well matched couple, given their mutual interests in classical music, art, theatre, literature and horticulture, especially a love for orchids and roses. Prashantha enjoyed reading, acting, singing and listening to music. He was a creature of habit and punctuality was one of his virtues. He was of delicate health, and was highly sensitive to changes in weather. We used to jokingly refer to him as the human barometer, for a slight change in the weather would be reflected in his attire.
All of us were very sad to see him in his final days at the hospital when he was very ill. We all hoped and prayed that he would pull through. But he met the knowledge of impending death with great mental and physical courage. His death was one of the most distressing events in my life, and it has robbed us of a distinguished scientist and a decent human being. Prashantha touched many lives. He is survived by his wife Priyanie, and his children Chaminda and Niranjali.
He will always be our hero
The passing away of my grandfather, M.L.M. Aboosally, should have filled with me with great sadness but all I feel when I think about him is an immense sense of joy and privilege to have had him in my life for so long. Appa’s life was so full of activity but for all his grand children, he had time. He was there for every birthday, sports meet, prize giving and graduation. His interest in all our lives, his support and encouragement is a blessing that does not end at his death. The way he led his life and the way he treated people, his humility in the light of his many achievements is the best example we can carry with us throughout our lives.
Appa was a living historian. His knowledge seemed infinite to us as children. He would take us on many trips around the island and regale us with tales, which would bring to life the great and ordinary Sri Lankans who had walked this land before us. I will always remember how detailed and exciting his stories were and how patient he was when we plied him with questions. He taught us to respect all communities, cultures and religions and how to draw strength from our own. He knew that ignorance bred intolerance and was keen that we learnt the wealth of difference that made us Sri Lankans above all other divisions. Any subject was open for discussion with him and no matter how great his knowledge and understanding, he was always willing to listen to our views, even if it differed from his.
It is hard to say I miss him – for having Appa in our lives had such a profound effect on us all that it feels like he is here with us always. And I truly believe he is. For myself, Tariq, Azi, Tahir, Hatim, Anisha, Nadine, Imaan, Aquila, Hakim, Salma, Aamil, and Hussein, he was more than a grand father. We carry his name with pride for he is an inspiration and will always remain, our hero.
He believed in honour
It is now two years since our Seeya left us forever and we miss his love and regard for us more and more.
Our Seeya was a police officer of the highest calibre and served our country and people with great honour and integrity. He was second to none in his devotion to duty and was an exemplary officer.
He left us at the age of 84 on January 12, 2004 and was cremated at the Mahaiyawa cemetery before a large gathering with a guard of honour accorded by the Police.
He was grandfather, friend and devoted teacher to us. We remember as if it were yesterday how he told us Jataka stories and gave us timely advice and examples for us to grow up into good citizens.
Seeya was always aware that he would have to face old age and death. He always took precautions to be healthy even in his old age according to the Buddhist way of life.
We thank our beloved Seeya for all that he
gave us. May he attain Nibbana.
Twin grand-daughters Natasha and Natalie
Sunday Times Feb 12, 2006
An unforgettable melody
We are now nearing the death anniversary of a remarkable man Peter Allon, a gifted and brilliant pianist and Church organist. He had the rare ability, whenever he went with us to the cinema, to write down the notes of all the favourite songs appearing on the screen in his own style of shorthand and later transpose it to piano music.
Those were the days when we had no tape-recorders and relied heavily on Peter Allon to give us the music of those beautiful classics when they featured in unforgettable films such as "Gone With the Wind", "My Fair Lady", "Sound of Music", "Dr Zhivago" etc. Such was his wonderful talent and innovation.
The special effects and interludes which he adapted to his style of playing the piano were a delight to listen to and kept the audience spell-bound whenever he appeared on stage to perform his solo items from classics to swing.
He was equally at ease on the piano-accordion and the pipe organ at St. Anthony's Cathedral, Kandy where he was the church organist. His rendition of Mendelssohn's Wedding March with special effects during wedding ceremonies in Church was performed with skill and dexterity. I was lucky to be an altar boy at the time.
Moreover, Peter excelled as the pianist in the fabulous Hawaiian concerts led by Brixious and organised in aid of the British War Effort at Trinity College, Kandy at the request of Mrs Sydney Smith, Chief Convenor of the War Service League.
These 'Full Moon' concerts were in great demand during the last World War when the American and British troops on their way to the Burma Front were, entertained by Brixious & His Hawaiians featuring a galaxy of Kandy's loveliest young maidens singing and dancing the Hula-Hula in the authentic Hawaiian style.
Among them were Dalrono De Kretser as a
teenager in her first public appearance on stage, and Yvonne Soertsz, daughter
of the Chief Justice, Sir Francis Soertsz, also a teenager, who enthralled the
audience with their superb exhibition of the Hula Hula to the exhilarating
accompaniment of Peter Allon on the piano. Peter was also the live wire behind
the scenes in all those fabulous shows, training the singing in four-part
harmony to perfection.
Peter's genius again featured prominently as the Dance band pianist of the first-ever strict-tempo dance band in the provinces styled 'Brixious and his Swing Stars'.
Peter's versatility extended to other spheres too. He was for many years the champion table-tennis and Billiards player at the Kandy Catholic Club. He worked at the Bank of Ceylon, Kandy and was essentially a family man, devoted to his wife, Lena and daughters, Rosemary, Marylin & Barbara who are all in well-established positions today.
Peter was an amiable and lovable personality who was always willing to perform without any fee at the many musical shows organised in aid of the Cancer Society, school building funds and elders' homes etc. He passed away due to a sudden heart attack in the prime of his life. May his soul rest in peace in the Kingdom of the Lord whom he worshipped and loved.
He followed the middle path
A.P. (Paal) Sirisena
A.P. or Paal Sirisena as he was widely known among the earlier generations of his relatives and friends passed away recently. He was 91 years at the time of his demise and it seems with his departure an era has ended. Paal was not merely an individual but a veritable institution in his area of residence. Paal and I were close friends until about the 1960s through the post-independent period when his family came into residence in Navinna. It was then a pleasant era as opposed to the current tumultuous times.
Patriarch of an old family with distinguished connections Paal was a well-known publisher of an earlier period. He was the fourth male in a family of nine. Three of his sisters Mrs. Ratnavali Dissanayake, Mrs. Sumana Savandasa and Mrs. Wimala Kannagara predeceased him.
Now in the fifth or sixth generation Paal's family origins reach back to the 19th century - significantly with his mother's ancestry which indicates a blood relationship to Vedamuhandiram D.C. Wijegunwardena, a prominent social activist and wealthy individual in Rambukkana. But the best known name associated with the Sirisena's was that of Piyadasa Sirisena, pioneer novelist and Buddhist Renaissance figure of the early 20th century.
Paala's longevity could be attributed to his quiet and somewhat untroubled existence. He was in many ways a contented individual, living symbol of a man who followed the middle path.
Like three generations of his family Paal was also educated at Ananda College Colombo the citadel of Buddhist education when the family was in residence at Stanley Place, Maradana (now Piyadasa Sirisena Mawatha). But in a move possibly brought about by the World War II in which many Colombo based families relocated themselves Paal's father shifted to Navinna. When he was young Paal had to shoulder a heavy burden. He was entrusted the task of running the family owned printing press and publishing his father's novels and also the newspaper "Sinhala Jatiya".
He also had to bring up one of his sister's children when they were suddenly orphaned. Two of his four charges, the boys, who achieved considerable success later in life, and became public figures, undoubtedly gained from the discipline and excellent values inculcated in them in their formative years under Paal's care. Kamala, his wife and companion whose death more than a decade ago was a severe blow to him, was a step-sister of Mudaliyar C.T. Perera C.C.S. former G.A. Galle and a sister of R. J. Perera, yet another Civil Servant and Deputy Public Trustee long years ago.
An unobtrusive individual Paal shunned publicity. But he served the community in his own quiet way. He was a storehouse of knowledge and regaled everyone with interesting episodes of history and politics of the past. He was humorous and witty but rarely cynical.
I am fully aware that Paal was a reformed man during the latter half of his life. He was pious and devoted a lot of time to reading. He was the Chief Dayakaya of the ancient Temple near his home and also once served as a member of the Conciliation Board of his district. Paal with the rest of his family gained from the idealism and nationalist sentiments propagated by Piyadasa Sirisena. Their comfortable home had a lingering influence of the greats of an earlier era like D.S. Senanayake, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, Sir John Kotalawala, Justin Kotalawala, the Jayawardanas, M.D. Banda and others who used to meet the aging and ailing patriot at their residence in the final years before independence.
Paal Sirisena exemplified a dignified and
cultured life, which effectively was a synthesis of the old and the new, and the
good of the East and the West.
We lost a kind, thoughtful and gentle
Death is a certainty, yet the manner in which it comes sometimes is unbearable. "Karma" works in strange ways and so D.H. Wickremasinghe passed away just three days before the New Year dawned.
After a distinguished career in the state service, Wickremasinghe joined the Port in 1958 and played a key role in the successful takeover of activities of private shipping agencies by the newly-created nationalized body named the Port Cargo Corporation. With the establishment of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority in 1979 he held several senior positions and ended up as personnel manager, having to deal with a large work force exceeding 20,000 with strong trade union ties.
Wickremasinghe or "Wicks" as we used to call him displayed great human qualities now rare among mortals. His constant warmth, intelligence and repartee made him popular in all circles. As a devout Buddhist he fervently adhered to the tenets of his religion and promoted all religious and welfare activities in the Port to the maximum. He held office in the SLPA Buddhist Association and was one of the pioneers in the development of activities connected with the Chaithya.
My association with him dates back to 1958 in the Port while both of us together with a few others who were loaned from government service were processing data for the functioning of the new nationalized venture. We maintained an unbroken and excellent friendship ever since. He was a founder member of the Association of Retired Executive Officers of the SLPA and assisted in all work involved in its initial formation. He was also a Member of its Committee of Management for several years and his services were greatly appreciated.
Wicks, I personally miss you and will always fondly remember the good times spent together. All of us his friends lost an incredibly kind, gentle and wondrously thoughtful person. His ultimate reward was the immeasurable devotion and loving care during his illnesses sometime earlier by his beloved wife and four daughters and their spouses and grandchildren. I convey to them all my profound sorrow and deepest sympathies.
When his last religious rites were conducted at his residence before a large and representative gathering, high praise was showered on him by the Buddhist Clergy for his devotion and assistance for the promotion of Buddhist activities not only in his home town Egoda Uyana but also in areas as far as Kalutara.
You were the light of our life
Her maiden name was Manjula Wickrema and she was fondly called “Sudu” by her family members. My mother was blessed with four girls and Sudu was the third.
Our darling sister Sudu was the pet in our
family. She was a special sister in many ways, but unfortunately she passed away
at the age of thirty-two.
February 4, is not only Independence Day but also her birthday. She was a playful child, always with a sweet smile. A product of Newstead Girls School and Ave Maria Convent, Negombo, she was a brilliant student, who won lots of prizes and also excelled in sports. She was the games captain in 1986. As a sister I was proud to see her carrying the ‘Solange House’ flag, leading her team.
My mind goes back to the pleasant times we spent together, but today we are the victims of an unbearable loss. After leaving school, she joined Star Garments and finally resigned as an Asst. Accountant. She married Susantha in1994. She was blessed with two children, Shenali and Shaun and gained happiness looking after her family. In 1996 Susantha planned to migrate to Australia. That was sad news for me, because at that time she and I were not only sisters but best friends. Whenever we visited her home her main concern was to accommodate us and feed us well with delicious meals.
Every year during Christmas Eve she visited Ammi and Thathi. That was a happy occasion for all four families, especially for Ammi and Thathi to be with the grandchildren. In 1999, after Christmas when she returned to Australia, after three months we received the most unbelievable news regarding her illness.
Later her time was spent in hospital, but she faced her suffering with great courage.On the last day of her life she was with Ammi and died in her arms in the hospital. Though she was in a critical condition, she sent Christmas cards to her loved ones. We all received her cards on December 8 - the day she passed away.
She showed us the way to God
Amelia Pieris Deraniyagala
It is with fond remembrance and deep gratitude that we as a family offer our heartfelt thanks to an Almighty Loving God who shared with us His precious gift of love for many years- almost 89 years- a wonderful caring Mother who has gone to be with her Lord.
On February 5, 2004, the Lord called her home to be with Him. She has now returned home after making our lives and those of many others joyful with her presence. She was mother to each one of us- her five children, but she was also “Mum” to so many others who had no hesitation in addressing her so as she epitomized their mother, who was no more to many of them.
She hailed from a distinguished family and was born to a family of means, but she lived a simple, God fearing life which made a lasting impact on us who looked to her to show us the way to God, having lost our father in our early childhood. She shouldered the responsibility of being both Mum and Dad to us all as she faithfully and self sacrificially expended her life, to put us on our feet.
We owe a debt of gratitude we can never repay but the remembrance of her life’s example spurs us on. The good deeds of loved ones departed follow after them and challenges us to follow in their footsteps. She seems to echo to us and many others, the words expressed by Apostle Paul, “You follow me in as much as I have followed Jesus.”
Sunday Times Feb 5, 2006
He was a model of simplicity and humility
On August 4, 2005 the telephone rang around 4 p.m. It was Gamini's youngest son Duminda. He said "Ranjith Uncle, I have sad news. Thathi is very sick and in hospital and the doctors have given him only a few hours to live, he is now in a coma". I was shocked. How could this have happened so suddenly? It was only the evening of July 21, prior to my return to Australia, that we had had a meal with his family at his house. He passed away soon after.
It was at Royal College in 1947 Form 1B that we met. Since then our friendship grew stronger with the passage of time sharing common interests. He was popularly known as "Gamma" and got on well with his mates. He loved to share jokes, although he was sometimes a very quiet listener.
Since leaving college in 1958, he started as a creeper at Geekiynakande Estate at Neboda and carried on as a planter for some years. He then started a finance company, where he did well for many years. He was a kind hearted and understanding boss to his employees. Thereafter, he looked after his family properties for a while and went into full retirement. He occupied himself walking long distances, reading Dhamma books and looking after his beloved wife, who needed his support.
We knew him as a patient person, full of compassion and straight in his dealings. In a nutshell, he was the hallmark of simplicity and humility. He loved cats and wildlife and on many occasions he spent much time holidaying with our families at the wildlife parks and enjoying get-togethers at up-country estate bungalows.
Gamini cared for his two sons and educated
them well. He also cared for the elderly and devoted time to looking after sick
monks at his family temple.
We had to part, as we were migrating overseas but we kept in touch and on our holidays to Sri Lanka, he and his family entertained us.
May you be well and happy wherever you are born and continue a peaceful journey through Sansara, leading to the blissful state of "Nibbana".
A dedicated planter
"Do you know the difference between a rubber tree and a tea bush, young man?" thundered Eardley Hermon to a quivering nineteen-year-old 'fresh-face' just out of S. Thomas' College Mt. Lavinia on July 1, 1969, on the steps leading to the Manager's bungalow of Poronuwa Group, Kahawatte. That was my first unforgettable encounter with this unique personality - The 'Planter of Planters' - Eardley Arthur Hermon. Eardley Hermon in spite of a stern exterior was indeed a lovable man - I should know - he was after all my 'guru' and mentor in planting, when yours truly did his stint of 'creeping' under the great man and thereafter served as Junior SD. Poronuwa then was a formidable tea cum rubber property of 2074 acres, owned by a 'Sterling Company', Pelmadulla Tea and Rubber Company Ltd., managed by James Finlays.
I have come across many keen estate superintendents but never such an absolutely devoted planter - straight as an arrow and never fighting shy of calling a spade, a spade. Eardley Hermon used to start his day in the wee hours of each morning - hardly being driven. He preferred to 'to do his rounds' on foot - cross country, through the tea and rubber fields. Many a time I have personally trudged with him starting at 6 a.m., ending up at 3 p.m. not across the proverbial hills and dales but through carpets of tea, through 'leader' drains, along field boundaries and climbing over huge boulders strewn across the rubber fields. A 'hands-on' planter he believed in getting his assistants too to do likewise. And so I had to pluck the required poundage with the pluckers. The 'Dorai' himself would weigh the leaf to check whether I had a few pounds passed on by the two champion pluckers.
Mr. E.A. Hermon loved his workforce. And
he personally knew each one of them. He would never fail to check on their
humble abodes; water services and sanitation was a 'must' along with 'compost
pits' next to all 'lines'.
If ever there was an all round planter - it was E.A. Hermon!
Eardley Hermon reigned over Poronuwa Group for some 27 years. Generations of planters 'made it' under his tutelage. His cost management was legendary whilst always maintaining an absolutely 'clean' weed-free estate. He would come down on you like a 'ton-of-bricks' if ever your fields would have even one flowering weed sticking out above the plucking surface. Fields were ever ready to receive fertilizer as a result. Planters of such dedication are indeed a dying breed now.
Thoughts of those glorious days of planting came flooding into my mind when I stood at the gates of Kanatte to receive the casket of my beloved 'guru'. Next to me was a cricketer of yesteryear - Berty Wijesinghe, who spoke of Eardley's cricketing talents as a top-class wicket- keeper. "Eardley was the best 'keeper' I have come across - at any age" confirmed Berty Wijesinghe [and that says a lot!] who also represented S. Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia along with Eardley Hermon in the 1930s.
As the casket was being lowered that December '05 morn, I could only reflect on the life of Eardley Hermon, born October 31, 1920 to the well-known Herman planting family. A dapper, Thomian sportsman - a brilliant wicket-keeper/batsman and boxer. Joined 'planting' during WW 11 when Ceylon was under the British. A dedicated 'Finlay-Planter' to the very end, until the State took over the estates in 1975. The past 30 odd years of his life made him get closer to God. Eardley was a 'regular' at the Anglican churches of Nugegoda and Mirihana. He loved his family and was indeed proud of each one of them.
A tribute to an exceptional father
My dearly beloved father passed away one and a half years ago. It is with deep sense of gratitude I pen these few lines as a glowing tribute to the life of an exceptional father remembering his 86th birthday which fell on December 21.
You were more than a father to me. You were both my mother and father, looking after my children, feeding them and taking them to school and tuition classes without any fuss.
You were deeply religious, a vegetarian and devout Buddhist who never missed observing "sil" on Poya day. You were not scared to do the right thing even at a cost. You were courageous enough to advise even a senior monk to do the right thing at the right time. You were a noble father, worthy of emulation.
Born in the hamlet of Nindana in Ambalangoda, you did not have the opportunities that we and our children enjoy today. You were a "born engineer" and entrepreneur with all the necessary skills but without a formal training. I remember how marvellously you designed and built the cinnamon oil mill all alone in our premises. I was too small to understand your skills but I know today you need good engineers, architects and contractors to build such a structure.
You knew how to get along with people of all walks of life. You were simple and unassuming and always cheerful. You enjoyed every moment of life and won the hearts of everyone. Even though you migrated from village to city, you never forgot the cultural and social values of the village and continued to maintain those values to the end of your life.
Your strong personality was an inspiration to me. You were a tower of strength to me and lifted my spirits when I was in trouble. I wholeheartedly wish you attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana within a short period of time as you wished in your life.
Humble and humane
January 4 this year marked the fourth death anniversary of a genial personality and humane person, Rohan Hapugalle, who was indeed a gifted son of Mother Lanka. I had known "Uncle Rohan" for many years. He had many great qualities. Despite the high positions he held in Rotary, Jaycees and in the corporate world of industry and commerce, he never ever lost the common touch.
He left an indelible mark in the corporate and social fraternity of Mother Lanka, and was greatly loved by all and sundry. He was Chairman of the Sri Lanka Jaycees Senate, District Governor of the Rotary Club of Colombo, Vice Chairman of the National Chamber of Commerce and President of the Sri Lanka India Society. Even now in these organizations and other institutions Uncle Rohan, is still remembered with love.
I remember once when I attended the funeral of a fellow Jaycee friend of mine, who died under tragic circumstances, I was surprised to see Uncle Rohan there as he was such a senior Jaycee. This speaks volumes about his humble and humane qualities which was his trademark.
It was against the grain for him to speak ill of anyone or hurt anyone's feeling. If a person spoke ill about someone else he would smile and say, "let's forgive and forget".
May Uncle Rohan's soul rest in eternal peace, and may he attain the supreme bliss of eternal happiness, peace and the blessings of the Triple Gem, in the world beyond.
A businessman who was
foster father to all the poor children in his neighbourhood
U.A. Tudor de Silva
Soon after Independence the first all-modern cinema in this country was opened in Wellawatte - the "Savoy". When the rest of the complex was completed, the first of the shops, "Savoy Jewellers”, opened its doors in 1950. Fifty-five years later, now, "Savoy Jewellers" has been the last of the shops to quit the complex. But it is not the shop itself that is worth commemorating, but the man behind the shop. U.A. Tudor de Silva, a newcomer to the Colombo scene.
Born in Galle in 1918, he was the eldest son of U.A. Simon de Silva, the doyen of jewellers in a city internationally known for fine jewellery, and of Soidahamy. In 1947, he married Lakshmi Achirawathi, the youngest in a family among whom were the late D.A. Devendra, the late D.T. Devendra and Dr. D.W. Devendra. After marriage he wished to be an independent businessman, and so he came to Colombo and set up Savoy Jewellers.
"Savoy Jewellers" was a shop with a difference. It specialized in "Ceylon Stone" jewellery. His fame spread by word of mouth, yet he kept a quiet, modest shop and advertised only in the "smalls" in the newspapers. He could be trusted. He was honest. He was welcoming. He was the man you could deal with, with confidence. He built up a group of clients who would never go to anyone else. He was considerate too, to those who brought him items for sale. Though sometimes they were of low quality, he did not turn the man away, but always bought something, absorbing the loss. And yet he remained in his first shop, did not try to expand it. It remains so yet, although he himself passed away in August 2004.
He was not merely a businessman. He was a charter member of the Lions Club of Dehiwela-Mount Lavinia to which, on becoming President in 1981-82, he donated Rs. 10,000. The ideals of Lionism and the teachings of Buddhism ruled his life. The list of his good works is long, but worth meditating on. He was the foster father of all the poor children in his neighbourhood. Every Sunday, they would queue up for their milk and biscuits. Lunch was also given on every Poya day. At Christmas and Vesak, they were given a festive lunch and new clothes. He took the lead in his club's efforts to build an orphanage.
As a Buddhist, his deeds spoke louder than words. He built a meditation centre for the patients at the Colombo South Hospital; shrine rooms at Buddhaghosa Maha Vidyalaya and Kalubowila MMV; the "Asana" for the Buddha image at Dharmapala Vihara, Mount Lavinia, of which he was a dayaka; a pavilion for the exposition of the relics brought from Kapilavastu in India. He also gifted a 2-ft. tall karanduwa to Jetavanarama Vihara, in India, to enshrine Buddha relics, and another to replace it.
Leelamani Wijesena, Geetha De Silva, Jayanthi Jayaratne and Dr. Vasantha De Silva.
Sunday Times Jan 29, 2006
Single-handedly he overcame challenges
A bolt of lightning could not have struck me any worse than when my friend Ana called me at the crack of dawn on Tuesday, December 20 to inform me that Abey had gone to his eternal rest, around 4 p.m. the previous day.
I first came to know Abey at a tender age when we were boarders at Trinity College, Kandy though in separate 'Houses', he in Alison and I in Ryde. It was a friendship that blossomed and lasted over fifty years. We both took to planting and served on estates close to one another, further strengthening our friendship.
In the late 1960s, we were among the pioneer members of the Lions' Club of Nuwara Eliya. Abey was its first president. He spearheaded several successful social development projects, where his leadership qualities and concern for the less fortunate segments of society were expressed in real terms.
Few of his peers will know that as a young
schoolboy, Abey was a promising ruggerite who played as hooker for Alison House
and would certainly have made it to the College 1st XV, if he had not lost an
arm in a cycle accident.
At times I cannot help but feel that, this accident -- unfortunate though it was -- had a huge impact on his life. Quite naturally the stressful aspect of this tragedy bore heavily on Abey at the time, and he never failed to mention that it was the late Major Gordon Burrows, the then Vice Principal of Trinity, who had an overwhelming influence on his life from that point on to make him the man that he became. And what a splendid specimen of a man he turned out to be! That physical handicap was no problem to him for any matter that he set his mind on, he excelled in. When he took to planting, his spirit was such that he came out on top and proved to be a respected and well recognised manager and administrator.
In sports, I have seen Abey dive off the boards and enter the water as smoothly as a dolphin would and swim several lengths of the S.S.C. pool leaving aghast many who would be watching him. His forte was tennis where he excelled winning several tournaments that were held by clubs in the plantation districts in the bygone days.
Abey was a thinker, innovator, artist and
agriculturalist — all moulded into one. Above all he was a loyal and sincere
friend ever ready and willing to help.
I condole with Usha and his dear daughter Mano.
Farewell, my friend and may the turf lay lightly on you and your dear soul rest in peace.
Rajah M. E. Adhihetty
A cheerful personality and sincere friend
'Piyehi Wippayogo Dukkho' a quotation from Sathipattana Sutta says the departure of loved ones from this world brings a great sorrow to their near and dear ones. Such a person was Mahinda who passed away after a brief illness on September 29 last year. He served at the St. Coombs, TRI, Talawakelle and at St. Joachim's, Ratnapura for nearly 37 years. He joined the plantation sector following in the footsteps of his father, the late U.B. Bowatte of Ukuwela, Matale.
At St. Anthony's College, Katugastota, Mahinda excelled in sports, especially cricket, which he continued at the TRI. At his TRI bungalow, he started the day, viewing the panoramic scene of the rising sun.
After taking an aromatic cup of TRI tea, he would adjourn to the prayer room and then trudge the winding path to attend to the ledgers and figures at the office of this internationally famed institution.
He spent his young days at the ancestral house of his mother, where his maternal uncle, the late A. Ratnayake, the former President of the Senate was born and bred. It was also in a special room of this house that the Anagarika Dharmapala took lodging whenever he was attending to the work of the Temperance Movement in the hill country or meeting Kandyan leaders like his maternal grandfather, late P.B. Ratnayake. This atmosphere undoubtedly would have helped mould his cheerful personality and character. He genuinely cared for his host of relatives and friends but not much for himself. He was lavishly hospitable.
He took a great interest in religious, sports and social service activities at the TRI. Thus he amassed a great wealth of friends. Dear Malli, our family chain is broken by your sudden demise. In this sansara this chain of ours should continue to link again and again till we reach the bliss of Nirvana.
A doyen of local government unions
O.P. Premadasa, who was simple "OP" to his friends and colleagues, passed away in November last year. Premadasa was from Uluwitike, Galle and had his education at St. Aloysius College, where he was a bright student and an active participant in literary and oratorical activities, particularly in Sinhala.
He evinced socialist ideas even during his schooldays and gave expression to them in literary activities. Many admired his forward thinking ability.
On leaving school, he joined the Local Government Clerical Service and his first appointment was to the Kotte Urban Council. The Local Government Service unified in 1946 was then in a fledgling state and lacked many benefits and facilities when compared to parallel grades in the government.
Young and exuberant, 'OP' played a seminal role in the formation of the Local Government Clerical Service Union along with the likes of D. R. Sendanayake. He fought against the inequalities that existed in the service to the then functioning Local Government Service Commission (LGSC) and gradually made the service an enviable one. Their union remained the flagship of the service and offered resistance to the arbitrary role played by the then LGSC.
Premadasa was quite uptodate with rules and regulations governing the Local Government Service and appeared in defence of officers involved in departmental inquiries, bringing relief to many.
He progressed in the service gaining
promotions and at the time of retirement was in the Administrative Grade
attached to the Colombo Municipal Council.
In retirement, he served in several social organizations, promoting cultural and Buddhist activities in his village and was appointed a Justice of Peace (All Island) in appreciation of these services.
His friends and relatives adored him for his humane qualities for he was with them in sorrow and happiness. Clad in his distinct garb of white cloth and banian, he often enlivened social occasions with speeches spiced with wit and humour.
He was a devoted husband to his beloved wife and caring father to his children.
Premadasa will live in the hearts of his friends and relatives for ever.
May he attain
You were my beautiful daughter
Sweet and serene,
The cruel hand of death
Snatched you away from me,
On December 30th
That dreadful morn
I brought you up with much love and care
That beautiful rose of mine
But now you left me
To bloom in a better place elsewhere.
I see your beautiful face around me
In pictures hung on walls
Every time you seem to say
Mum I'm with you there
The beautiful winds that blow,
The fragrance of the flowers
Tell her how much I miss her
And give her all my love,
He lived up to the full meaning of his
Born the eldest of four boys and a girl to N.E. Weerasooria, a leading civil lawyer, King’s Counsel, historian, author, Chairman and Director of leading public and private sector organisations, and to the gracious, Kathleen Weerasinghe, he was named Viswamithra Ananda.
The first was the name of the tutor of the
Gauthama and meant intelligent and friendly whilst the other meant happiness. He
lived up to both.
For their early education he and his brother Norman were enrolled to Ananda College where they hardly lasted three months. A former headmaster told me later that he had to summon their father, and very reluctantly tell him that his two sons were too good for the institution and whether he could place them elsewhere. He then shifted them to the Royal Preparatory School.
Viswa, in no time, became the leader of a group which included Homa Weerasuriya, L.R. (Ranjit) Jayawardene, Palitha Wijesekera, Buveneka De Silva, Ranjit (Bundy) De Silva, late Kingsley Perera and late Raja Weerasinghe (Air Ceylon) my first cousin. This was when I met him and began to associate with him although his brother Sarath was my class mate.
Viswa loved outdoor life, jungles and villages. Long before the Colombo elite had even heard of these places, Viswa and his "gang" in their teens were frequent visitors. More often, the trips ended with Viswa's car lying upside down somewhere on the wayside.
His working life was launched with the Autodrome where his father was a director. They could not hold him long. He then started a finance company with his brother and some friends. He, his brother and some others then started Finco Group of Companies where he served till the end as a director. His brothers gave him transport, his greatest love.
As a great lover of vehicles he did a great job. But here too with his large heart the vehicles were distributed to those in want. He made it a point to visit needy relatives and friends and help them. I recall during the curfew days he visited his retired teachers with dry rations and all other goodies. He even saw a former teacher installed in an affluent retirement home. He had a retinue of help, drivers, cars etc. he provided for them all. He bought late Sir John's ‘1 Sri 1’ Cadillac, repaired it and presented it to the Kotelawala Defence Academy.
He married on the leap year day. When
questioned why, he joked "Sammie, anything can happen infour years, further, you
don't have to be reminded annually". His greatest happiness was when Tania was
born. She lived up to expectations, and after a brilliant career at Ladies
College, she proceeded to US and did her first degree and MBA. She was besides
him, right to the end...
I can vouch for his intelligence. We were on the board of a group of companies where most of the directors were highly qualified.
When a complicated matter came up, Viswa
sat silently and at the end came out with perfect solutions. He had a host of
friends from all walks of life. When someone turned to him with a problem, he
left no stone unturned to solve it.
He was ailing for some time and all his retinue was there round the clock tending to his needs. On his last day at home whilst the others slept round him, his good friends Victor Wijeratne, Pali Ratnayake and I kept vigil besides him. The large crowds at home and the cemetery bore testimony to his greatness, generosity and simplicity. May you attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana.
Susantha Samaranayake (Sam)
Loved by all
Never late for office, devoted to service and duty first.
Understanding the problems of the ratepayer, utmost you did to overcome them.
Gentle, generous and a good sportsman you
Adored for all the good deeds.
Patience in all endeavours.
Is it not a blow to your loving family?
Tender hearted and loved by all kith and kin.
Impermanence of all component things we realise.
You did a yeoman's service to the people of Batticaloa and Trincomalee as Commissioner. "Alas, you left us but shall meet you once again in this ocean of Sansara!"
Wife and children
Sunday Times Jan 22, 2006
A teacher who served her motherland
I first met Susyma, then a Miss de Saa Bandaranayake when she joined the teaching staff of Girls High School, Mount Lavinia. She was always active, gentle in her ways and willing to help any person at any time. In turn, any little favour done to her was always remembered with gratitude.
Her ready, truly sincere and warm smile was one of the most remarkable characteristics of her personality as was her lack of pettiness, malice and personal ambition. She was beautiful in a very simple manner without any artificial attributes and attracted many admirers. Her utter lack of personal vanity was one of her most appealing traits.
She had her education at Bishop’s College, Colombo consequent to which she took up a teaching career out of a sense of conscientious duty to serve her country. After her father's death in 1954, she bore a large part of the financial responsibility, (along with her mother), for the upkeep of the family at the cost of her personal luxuries.
These efforts bore fruition when her three brothers, who were all Thomians, engaged in successful careers first domestically and then migrating abroad in the seventies; two of them (Raja and Ranjit de Saa Bandaranayake) culminating their work as eminent Professors of Medicine in Australia and New Zealand while the youngest (Gamini De Saa Bandaranayake) specialised in the IT sector in Switzerland).
Following marriage in 1960, she gave up home comforts and bravely ventured abroad to be with her husband for a while as he studied for his doctorate. Thereafter, she lived and taught for long years at Girls High School in Kandy where also her beloved uncle, (and mother’s youngest brother) Archdeacon Christopher Ratnayake, was functioning as the venerated chaplain of Trinity College and an almost iconic teacher to unruly College students. Her proximity to him was an important part of her desire to be in Kandy where her husband Brian preferred also to work, away from the hurly burly chaos of the capital city though both had been born into well respected Anglican families in Colombo.
Though I lost touch with her on a regular basis during the time that she moved to Kandy, my remembrances of the two of them at that point were that they were made for each other in their quiet partnership of all the joys, trials and tribulations in life. Both of them shared a desire to work for the betterment of those less fortunate and did so in an inconspicuous manner. They both shunned ostentatious and materialistic lifestyles and brought their children up to believe in the same values.
Hers was a close knit family. Once she and her husband retired from public service, they returned to Colombo principally to be with their daughters, the elder of whom Sureni had just got married to a doctor while the younger daughter, Kishali was studying in the Faculty of Law and also pursuing a career in the media. Her devotion towards her children was very strong and she gave them much loving support. Her elder daughter bore two sons who became the apple of Susyma’s eye. Her younger daughter, after graduating with Honours from the University of Colombo, became a well-known lawyer/legal activist and elegantly courageous writer. The fact that her children consciously chose to live in Sri Lanka and contribute to the betterment of the country in their various ways was a source of great pride to her.
On her return to Colombo, we renewed our association. She joined us, the older generation of retired teachers of Girls High School, Mt Lavinia when we ‘got together’ to meet and greet a friend who comes from the UK once a year. Later, she became ill but her faith in God grew in its strength and she bore all her tribulations with fortitude as did her family who came closer at a time of need.
She passed away as she lived; bravely and with much courage. Her family will miss her intensely and she will be remembered by all of us, her friends, as a sweet and uniquely fragrant rose which is now blooming in heaven. Our love and deepest sympathies go out to the family. May her soul rest in peace.
A math teacher who added value to Wesley
C.J.T. Thamotheram was a respected mathematics teacher at Wesley in the 1950s. Being a brilliant mathematician he didn't suffer fools gladly. When students misbehaved, he would say they would end up in the institution opposite Wesley — the Welikada jail.
He made an immense contribution to maintaining high academic standards at the school. The engineering and physical science students of the era gained enormously from his erudite math lectures. His premature departure from Wesley was a great loss and the void he left was never filled.
Perhaps the Methodist hierarchy did not recognize his efforts and service to Wesley. They mistakenly ignored his desire for promotion. In retrospect, this was a grave mistake as he deserved better. It was a missed opportunity to have a man of his stature in a leading role in a school going through stormy times. He made no attempts to hide his feelings. Naturally, there was some bitterness on his part for this lapse.
CJT's commitment to Wesley and to his students did not end with his departure. After migrating to Britain, he was the patron of the Wesley College OBU since its inception. I last spoke to him a few months ago when he gave me his memories of J.A.T. Sethukavalar, the physics guru of the 1950s. His mind was then clear and his voice just like in the old days.
He was an old school teacher, a breed fast disappearing, who cared genuinely and worked tirelessly for students’ welfare. For him teaching was not a stepping stone for another more lucrative job. It was a profession and a way of life which he cared for passionately.
He taught countless students at Wesley and later in the Latymer School in London. CJT made a profound difference in our lives and made us think more deeply. At an impressionable age he set our feet on the right path.
His contribution to Wesley College and
education will always be fondly remembered by his students and colleagues. The
brotherhood of past students sends its condolences to his immediate family.
Grant him O Lord, eternal peace
Dr. Nihal D. Amerasekera
They inspired awe and respect
Col. Dudley Fernando, Maj. Milroy, Suresh And Aravinda Fernando
It was a tremendous honour to be associated with my Thaththi, Milo Aiyya, Suresh Aiyya and Malli as we remember them on their death anniversaries.
There are no words to describe the awe and respect they commanded. My undying love and devotion to our father and brothers cannot be communicated by words.
They are my heroes and I hope my other
brothers and I can inspire our children to have the courage my father and
My grandparents and my mother are proud of what they had done in serving the country and its people.
Thank you for grooming, guiding and
protecting us and showing us what is right and wrong. And that's what it all
comes down to: keeping our country safe and free for the next generation, just
as our forefathers did.
I do not know how to express my gratitude towards my father and brothers for supporting me, especially when I was in my tender years. I feel I am truly blessed. They taught me to be a true Sri Lankan and do everything for the country.
We don't know the course our future will
take or the challenges that lie ahead. We do know the strength and character
that we carry forward.
I am incredibly proud to be a member of your family, and alongside great brothers like you. I am greatly fortunate to be a part of this family. May you attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana.
A brave and gallant intelligence officer
Colonel Tuan Rizli Meedin
"Thus let me lie unseen, unknown,
Thus unlamented let me die,
Steal from the world and not a stone
Tell where I die"
Tragedy struck again with the brutal killing of Colonel T .R. Meedin, General Staff Officer I, Military Intelligence Directorate of Army Headquarters, Colombo. The killing took place close to his residence in Kiribathgoda, about 12.30 a.m. on October 29, 2005. He was 39 years.
As I collect my thoughts for this piece of writing, my mind goes back to the pleasant times I spent with the Meedin family at their ancestral home situated in front of the Hambantota Jumma Mosque. I was then serving with the 601 Field Battery, Royal Artillery, when this unit was stationed in Hambantota during the Second World War.
Falick, Rizli's father, was then an active young man, a lovable character and an interesting companion. He lived with his parents. Rizli's grandfather was a senior government servant attached to the Hambantota Kachcheri. Their hospitality was unique and generous. It was sheer pleasure to have been in such wonderful company when camp life was boring.
A product of St. Aloysius College, Galle, Rizli was an outstanding sportsman representing his alma mater in cricket and soccer. He outshone others in the college debating team. He was also a keen member of the college cadet platoon.
Leaving school, he joined the Army on March 17, 1986 as an Officer Cadet and on completion of his military training at the Army Military Academy, Diyatalawa, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Sri Lanka Light Infantry and posted to its 3rd Regiment on March 17, 1989. In the same year, he was transferred to the Intelligence Section of the Joint Operation Command under the Ministry of Defence. Promoted Captain on March 17, 1992 and Major on March 17, 1995, he commanded the 2nd Regiment, Military Intelligence Corps for four years and earned on merit a promotion as a Lt. Colonel. A brave and gallant officer who proved his worth on the battle field, he was decorated and awarded medals such as the Rana Sura Padakkama (RSP), Army 50th Anniversary Medal, 50th Independence Anniversary Commemoration Medal, Deshaputra Sammanaya and the North & East Operations Medal.
On behalf of the Sri Lanka Australian
Malay Association (SLAMA) and on my own behalf I convey our deepest condolence
to his wife Shamina, two daughters, Rishanya and Shiranya and all other members
of his family.
May he attain Jannathul Firdouse.
Capt. Anwar Dole
Her maiden name was Beatrice Simon. She was a brilliant student, always first in class, winning several prizes. Yet she was modest and unassuming. That was a characteristic trait which was inborn in her.
As a classmate, I was miles apart academically. Nevertheless, she would come to my home at least once a month to enjoy reading my poems on the Dhamma. She would tell me so compassionately, "your poems, Pearl have been in the form of Theri-gathas of yore". Beatrice was a practising Buddhist, observing the eight precepts or the Ata-Sil.
May my good friend of supreme qualities attain Nibbana.
Sunday Times Jan 15, 2006
She was a friend of the family and the
Geethi Ranaweera Jayasooriya
I was anxiously awaiting your arrival home on Monday after surgery. But the most unexpected and unbelievable shocking news of your death on Sunday morning shattered my heart to pieces. The grief and the loss will last through my life. Three months have passed since your demise but the memories are so fresh in my mind as if it happened the other day.
Geethi my darling, you were a special daughter in every way to us, much loved wife to your beloved husband Anura, the most loving and caring mother to your angelic daughter Saisha, a true and admired person among all your friends.
You led a simple life, setting an example to the ones who think of nothing but a luxurious way of living. You poured your heart out to every one, especially to the needy. In Los Angeles you fed the homeless people on a regular basis, and continued to do the same in San Francisco until your death. You gained happiness and satisfaction by helping the needy. The few years you lived in Sri Lanka made you contribute more towards the needy.
You knew how to face any situation in life and were a genius in advising and guiding a person on the correct path. You were always admired and loved by your relatives and friends for the simple reason that you set a living example in their eyes.
I have very pleasant memories of you, Geethi. Your wedding in Los Angeles was the best and happiest occasion as every one enjoyed a real Sri Lankan wedding including the poruwa, food, and all the rituals, though thousands of miles away from home. You gave us tremendous joy as we could fulfill your wishes.
Everytime I visited you, your main concern was to feed me well and shower me with gifts. You were such a caring person and the happiness of your relatives and friends was your happiness. The surprise party you organised for me on my birthday in December 2003 in your house, combining yours and mine was yet another very happy family reunion. I heard that you wanted to do the same in December 2005 too if not for this unfortunate incident.
In August you asked me to take care of Saisha during your stay in hospital for surgery. I was thrilled. Now I consider that I was fortunate enough to spend time with you the last few days of your life.
Why did this happen to an angelic soul
like Geethi? Why did I have to go through the pain of seeing you go before me?
Why could not the doctors replace your failing heart with mine and let you live
some more. With these unanswered questions and a grieving heart, I have to live
my life, Geethi.
It's so painful to recollect your sweet smile, the humour and goodwill you had towards every one, family or otherwise.
The only solace to my broken heart is Lord Buddha's teachings. I have to console myself thinking that the lifespan destined for you was only that and the impermanency of all natural beings. May you attain the bliss of Nirvana, my darling Greethi.
Your grieving Amma
A man of good cheer and strong faith
Harold Perera (H.O.P.E.)
Our Seeya, Harold Perera (H.O.P.E.) was a wonderful man. He was a person who enjoyed every bit of his life.
He was once a playful child, brother of three, loving husband, beloved father and grandfather of seven.
He was a friend to everybody, both rich and poor. Seeya never looked at race or religion when he wanted to help someone. His house was open to any stranger. Seeya spoke gently and listened calmly to what a troubled soul had to say.
He never advertised himself nor did he lecture people on what they should do. He had a quiet way of showing all this by deed, and people learned from his deeds, not words.
All these good deeds showed that he was a fine Christian. His qualities are a good example for us. Seeya never believed in burying a person within 24 hours. He always said: "I have walked long distances and met many different people. They have treated me well and I appreciate their excellent company. So don't close my coffin till they come to see me and bid goodbye to my earthly life."
It was when he died that we realised that what he said was correct. We never thought that so many people would come and mourn for a man of 88 years.
It was when all sorts of people came and told us what Seeya had done to them, and how he had come and talked to them and enjoyed a cup of tea with them, we got to know what a blessed man he was, a man of good cheer and strong faith.
People who came for Seeya's funeral did
not come for what he had done for them in financial ways, but for Seeya's smile,
good heart and listening ear.
When someone wanted to know his age, Seeya always said 88 not out, but now he is out. We loved him so much and we miss him too, but we have hope that we will meet him again, "in heaven". "Safe in the arms of Jesus." Looking down at earth and waiting for us to be called one day and come to him. Good bye but not forever.
Navindra Ruvanmali Gamalathge
A fascinating person
Sylvie de Silva - Ma Belle-Mere
My mother-in-law was a fascinating mix of personality traits. She embodied the qualities of kindness, open-mindedness (even the most unfortunate, found acceptance at her door), thrift (her constant adage was, ‘when the berry tree is full, it will have many birds, but when the berries disappear, so will the birds), caring, though in an inconspicuous manner and most of all, an unfailing sense of humour, which saw the funny side of any situation.
These are some of the traits she imbued in her seven children, 19 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren and which I encountered when I entered her family 33 years ago. At the outset (having only one sibling of my own) this experience of constant togetherness, proved overwhelming. But with time and teasing and bullying from my in-laws, which permeated the atmosphere at all family-gatherings, I was duly initiated!
Her grandchildren adored her, which speaks volumes for one brought up in the mores of strict tradition. She was party to their wildest schemes but never betrayed them. Now we know how our children used to steal away for teenage parties, under the guise of “paying Achchie a visit!”
Her mainstay was her abiding faith in God and humankind. She always affirmed that it was ‘each man for himself and God for us all’. Thus whilst encouraging self-dependence, she reminded us where our true strength lay. The perfect epitaph seems to be in the words of Oliver Goldsmith, from the ‘Village Preacher’,
“His ready smile a parent’s warmth expressed,
Their welfare pleased him and their cares distressed,
To them his heart, his love, his grief was given,
But all his serious thoughts had rest in heaven.”
As we celebrate her life on earth, we say
may she “requescant in pace!”
Priyanthie de Silva
He was Doctor Aiya to the plantation
A. Seevaratnam passed away peacefully at the age of 82 on December 2 after a brief illness.
Seevaratnam, a self-made man, began his career as a pharmacist in Colombo in the 1960s, in one of the popular pharmacies of his time in Bambalapitiya (Sittams) and later passed the Estate Medical Assistant's Course (EMA) and served as EMA on Desford Estate and Maha Eliya Estate in Nanu Oya and on Warwick Estate in Ambewela from where he retired and took up residence in Colombo.
Seevaratnam, fondly known as Siva by his friends and as "Goya Uncle", by his numerous nephews and nieces (a sobriquet he earned after the popular perfumery for reasons best known to his relatives), was an unassuming, sober, mild-mannered, gentle and noble person, with a charming smile, and a great sense of humour and wit.
During his days as an EMA in the plantations, he endeared himself to the staff and workers, and he not only cured their ailments, but was also a friend and counsellor to them. So much so, he was always respectfully addressed as "Doctor Aiya" and not by his name. Many sorrowing people in the plantations took the trouble to come all the way from the various plantations, to Colombo to pay him their last respects.
Siva bore no malice or ill-will towards anyone, and his heart was of gold, always willing to lend a helping hand to anyone in need. The large crowd present at his funeral was ample testimony of his popularity. Siva lived a full life, having seen his three children happily married, and becoming a grandfather.
Brother Siva was a devoted and
affectionate husband and loving and dutiful father. He leaves behind his wife,
two sons, a daughter and four grandchildren.
May his good soul rest in eternal peace.
He is the force that keeps me going
Noordeen Passela, my father was 83 when he passed away in 2000. The family was just getting over the shock of my sister Jameela’s sudden demise in February 2000 when my father passed away on December 19.
He married my mother, Noor Faleel at the age of 28 and was blessed with six girls and five boys always fondly called his cricket team! He was employed at the Royal Air Force and was offered citizenship in Malaysia after Sri Lanka gained independence but declined the offer and decided to remain and serve his motherland. He worked thereafter in the Import and Export Control Department and finally retired from the Government Press.
The love he had for his children knew no bounds. At any festival time or happy occasion, he would enjoy the company of all. He was a pious Muslim and he even fasted before his demise in the holy month of Ramazan. He did his obligations towards his family and friends who held him in high esteem. He is survived by his wife, children, 21 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, Alhamdulillah.
Personally, I miss him very much as
between the two of us we had an understanding of the mundane affairs of life,
the comfort and warmth I received when things didn’t go the right way. The
strength, the pillar I leaned on is no more but I feel his presence, his will in
me and the force to keep me going that extra mile. I miss you, my “Sugar Daddy”-
that was his favourite horse in the 60s as my dad was an ardent punter and I
used to call him so in fun.
May Allah grant him Jennathul Firdouse.
Sunday Times Jan 8, 2006
Fond memories of two brothers
Stanley and Kingsley Kalpage
December 16 marked the fifth anniversary of the death of my elder brother, Stanley (Prof. Stanley Kalpage) and December 20, the fourth death anniversary of my younger brother Kingsley (Dr. Kingsley Kalpage).
They were both great men, men of science, proud members of the Kalpage family, deeply rooted in Christian teachings and traditions. Their deaths from cancer coming as they did within an year of each other, were untimely. Fortunately for Stanley and Kingsley they both received excellent medical attention at the Tata Memorial Cancer Institute at Mumbai.
Much has been written about Stanley's political achievements, being a Senator appointed by Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake, Chairman of the University Grants Commission and Permanent Secretary to the Minister of Higher Education.
Stanley and Kingsley were two very much loved brothers in a family of five. We were brought up by two caring and loving parents. Our father and mother did everything they could to provide us with all the opportunities that were so essential in helping us achieve success in life. Our parents were good practising Christians, strong supporters of the local church and community. They taught us good Christian values of tolerance, forgiveness, love and compassion.
Stanley from an early age revealed that he was exceptional - a genius. At S. Thomas' College he won every single form prize from the kindergarten to the time he left college after successfully gaining admission to the University of Ceylon. In fact while a Science student in his final year at STC (Form Col Science A) he contested and won the Latin Prize although he had not studied Latin for two years since his London Matriculation. In addition to the form prizes, he won many special prizes.
Stanley had a phenomenal memory. I can remember at Christmas, after the family dinner, gathering round the old radio and listening to the Christmas broadcast by King George VI. At the end of the speech he would repeat the speech verbatim. No wonder at that time Stanley was considered to be the best product of STC.
We never reached the same standards of excellence but having to work harder to maintain the Kalpage tradition at STC, did help both Kingsley and myself reach very high standards in our respective specialised fields. For Kingsley, it was in the field of Entomology that he obtained his PhD at the University of Manitoba, Canada. He was held in high esteem there and was offered postgraduate fellowships and permanent work had he so wished to take it. For me it was in the speciality of anaesthetics.
During the last few months of his life after medical experts had informed him that there was nothing more that medicine could offer him Stanley accepted this decision with a calmness that revealed the strength in his character. He contacted me immediately from Bombay and spoke to me about his decision not to pursue his search for a medical miracle but rather that he had decided to obtain an audience with the Indian spiritual guru, Sai Baba. He later described his experience to me, "I saw for myself the majesty and wonder of Swami's abundant energy and Love". I knew that I had to be positive and encourage Stanley with the decisions that he had arrived at.
He later wrote to me, "We appreciate very
much the patient hearing you gave me and your positive reaction". Later a few
weeks before he died he wrote, "My medical problems are slowly sorting
themselves out even as my spiritual journey towards God progresses. It is a new
and enlightening experience”.
Kingsley was a good practising and devout Christian. In his daily life he practised the teachings of Jesus Christ. In humility he was grateful for that which had been granted to him and felt the need to help his less fortunate compatriots. He helped many of those who were less fortunate, helping them to master the English language and also by helping others at work to reach heights, which he knew that they could if only they were given some encouragement.
Kingsley was an acknowledged expert in his
field. His documented research on the mosquito is quoted by those who have
followed him. His experience in his field has helped him in his leadership of
the anti filaria campaign In Sri Lanka.
Both Stanley and Kingsley were rewarded for their work in their respective fields by being awarded Presidential Awards.
Stanley and Kingsley were not only good students they also excelled at sports. Stanley was a good cricketer, stylish batsman who represented STC 1st Eleven in some matches. Kingsley was a good cricketer and represented STC at Hockey and won his colours at this game.
Both Stanley and Kingsley were very happy family men. Each of them were happiest when they were with their children..
During our last three visits to Sri Lanka
we spent a considerable amount of time with Kingsley and his wife Rukma. One of
the most welcoming sights on our arrival at the Colombo Airport was to see
Kingsley's smiling face. That smile surely said 'Welcome home'. On our last
visit to Colombo in April 2003 we felt extremely nostalgic on our arrival at the
airport. We quite subconsciously searched for Kingsley's smilimg face, yet we
knew that he would not be there. It was one of our saddest visits. We realised
that on this trip we would miss my two brothers. They were gentlemen in every
sense of the word.
May their souls rest in the peace and love of Christ.
Dr. Quintus Kalpage
Haji. Faiz Yoosoof
The fragrance of his noble life will linger always
Boxing Day, December 26, 2004 will be long remembered as the saddest day in the annals of our country. It revives grim memories of the ferocious tidal waves that wrecked thousands of innocent lives. It also deprived us of a precious father and a dearly beoved husband Haji Faiz Yoosoof, whilst holidaying at the Sea Spray Hotel, Hambantota.
It breaks our hearts to think of the good times we had together, especially the laughter and joy that we had whilst on our way down south on that fateful day. Little did we realise even in our wildest dreams that we would have to part ways forever. We could not believe our eyes that it all happened so suddenly. Faiz Yoosoof was swept away by the tsunami.
The year gone by revived sad memories of a fond father and a dearly beloved husband. Faiz Yoosoof, who will never come back to us again. The glimmer of the light that kept our lives aglow has flitted away. His final moments before embarking on a marketing errand to the Poya day pola still remains vivid in our hearts.
The fragrance of the noble life he spent will certainly be embedded in our hearts forever. He was a wonderful father to his children and a dutiful husband to his ever-sorrowing wife. He never faltered in his duties towards his family, who in turn bestowed him with all the care and comforts in life. His name and fame will no doubt be etched in letters of gold on the "Meezans" that lie at his graveside.
He will be remembered for many more years to come for his kind generosity and gracious qualities. Every year that passes away renews the eternal love and affection we have for our precious Faiz.
Wife Ziyana, son Iqbal, daughter Ilma.
Much more than a neighbour
Several weeks have passed, since the demise of Daisy Thenuwara, the charming old lady, who lived at Stork Place. In spite of her ailments such as high-blood pressure, she lived a full life span of 92 years.
Living next door, I had the rare privilege
of knowing Mrs. Thenuwara closely. I call it a privilege as one may very seldom
get a chance of associating with a person of Mrs. Thenuwara's calibre. She was
unassuming, kind-hearted, pleasant, talkative and above all ever willing to help
anyone in need.
She used to go for walks early in the morning dressed neatly in a beautiful saree and jacket chaperoned by her faithful aide Mary even before we had even thought of starting our day’s chores.
She never missed a day without dropping even once at our place and having a short chat with me. She definitely was a source of inspiration to me. She never had any grudge against anyone. She was full of praise when she spoke of anyone she knew.
She used to tell me that her life was not a bed of roses. When she had to face the untimely death of her husband, she was an inexperienced young wife, who had never handled any household chores herself. However with courage and fortitude she was able to overcome the situation gradually. Then again she had to face another misfortune, when her daughter Sumana died. She however faced this tragedy too with courage.
When her son a Doctor of Philosophy doing a lucrative job, suddenly decided to sacrifice all that and come home to meditate for the rest of his life, she quickly got one of her rooms renovated to suit the purpose and waited eagerly to welcome him. Any other mother would have certainly worried over the son's decision. Such was the broad-mindedness of Mrs. Thenuwara. She treated her son like Queen Mahamaya treated Prince Siddhartha. She enjoyed every moment of being at his service, in order for him to achieve his goal. She also enjoyed the religious discourses he used to have during meal time. She was simply amazed and proud of his knowledge of Buddhism.
She liked my children so much that she seldom missed treating them with a pudding or a dessert whenever time permitted. She loved to try new recipes and make various dishes herself. Last of all I must say that all big and small at Stork Place liked Mrs. Thenuwara very much and held her in high esteem. I am sure they will all miss her.
The loss of a leader, guide and pillar
M.L M. Aboosally
A star shoots up leaving a trail of light, when a human being beloved of Allah leaves the earth. It is the path to eternal peace. He needs no earthly titles because his greatest one was his humaneness.
The search for a good man/woman goes on in the world. Aboo was one such and when he breathed his last on December 11, 2005, at 1.35 p.m. the peace on his face reflected the mellow light of the righteous. He achieved much and like the Holy Prophet (sal) he had only daughters.
The story goes that as a young man his temper was such that people quailed before him as he could never tolerate wrong. As the girls were born one, two, three, four, five and six – the evolution of qualities such as patience (saboor) was remarkable, one of the qualities among others which he already possessed that made a wonderful caring husband, adored father and warm grandfather. The few days he spent in hospital, his room was filled with love with the Aboosally girls tending to him as if he were a baby, caressing him with tenderness that revealed feelings far beyond the ordinary.
Awarded the Deshabandu for his service to the nation (it should have come much earlier), appreciation, however late is of value. In the corrupt world of politics he stood out like Iqbal’s famous superman a moral giant, honesty and transparency his armour working with both mind and heart for justice, sans clan, caste, creed in fact sans ‘everything’ but the focus on the right and dignity of every man and woman.
There he was lying in dignity, the hundreds who milled around wondering at the calm stillness of the person. The diminutive Salma, the loving wife she was, bewildered by the swift action that took her beloved away yet in her own inimitable sweetness – remarking, “Look how he sleeps so peacefully” with no resentment that he had left her, only wonder at this special quality that was almost like an aura around him.
The funeral was a perfect blend of customs, the white flags, the speeches in Sinhala and the Tamil dignitaries of different religions. It was an example of pluralism and multiculturalism we are striving to bring back to this island. The expression of love for their great leader led some to fall on their knees shedding tears, the young and the old bowing there, in spite of the crowd that jostled them. There was bewilderment of grief and a kind of hopelessness at the loss, their loss, the nation’s loss of a leader and guide, a pillar, small only in size but great in moral strength that dwarfed most around him.
Death is certain, but loss is
irretrievable, rest is necessary for all humans and Aboo, you deserve it for the
full life you led with the people for the people.
A famous Sufi poet writes about the sacred contract between humans and Allah:
“For heaven itself was too weak to bear
The burden of love Allah laid on it
He turned to seek a messenger elsewhere
And in the book of fate my name was writ.”
Aboo, your name is there because you
fulfilled your contract of love as stated in the Scriptures.
The Surah Yaseen one of the greatest surahs, the heart of the Quran, is recited at important events. The lines are important. The translation reads thus-
“Verily we shall give life
To the dead, and we record
That which they send before
And that which they leave
Behind and of all things.”
(Surah Yaseen, verse 12)
Have we taken account – i.e. “Our Deeds
good and bad, go to God’s Judgement seat before us. They will, of course, be
brought to account; but our account will also be swelled by the example we left
behind us and the consequence of the deeds, that will come into play or continue
to operate after our earthly life has ceased. Our moral and spiritual
responsibility is therefore much wider than as affects our own person.” (A.Yusuf
You have done this. You will tread gently the path to Jennathul Firdous enveloped by the peace that has been earned by the love you gave Allah’s creations.
To Salma, my dear cousin, to my nieces, Roshan, Rameez, Niloo, Shanaz, Laila and Sharm, your legacy is rich as you have had the model of righteous being right in your home. Blessed you are by this father of yours whom I will call a good man who is rare in today’s world.
I was lucky indeed to have known him not
just as an in-law, but much closer than a blood relation whom I admired,
respected and warmly regarded.
Aboo needs no concrete monument, it would only desecrate the memories of him. Deification of any sort will sully the humility and simplicity that is Aboo.
Sunday Times Jan 1, 2006