APPRECIATIONS 2008


E-Mail: Dec 30 2008

NOEL STANLEY FERNANDO

 

From Byron Fernando: <byronf@bigpond.net.au>

Tuesday, December 30, 2008 10:35 PM

Subject: re: CONDOLENCES

 

Dear friends from all around the world.  Thankyou for your condolences on the passing

of my dear Dad.  He had a great innings up until 3 months ago when he was diagnosed

with Motor Neurone Disease and went downhill very quickly.

Wishing you all a very happy safe prosperous healthy new year.

Kind regards, Byron.

 

DAD’S EULOGY

 

We are not here to mourn the death of a wonderful, caring and selfless husband, father,

and grandfather who sacrificed so much for his family, but rather to celebrate the long

and healthy life he enjoyed until almost the very end. It is tragic and unfortunate

that our father had to experience the debilitating and deteriorating affects of Motor

Neuron disease, however his fighting spirit and positive attitude never ceased.

 

Noel Stanley Fernando was born to Margaret & Eric Fernando on the 27th of December 1928

in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He came fourth in a small family of ten children; Henry (Joy),

Harry, Edward, Erica, Shirley, Phyllis, Hugh, Colin & Kristable (Kitto).

 

As a child, our father spent his days at his family home in Dehiwela, where he enjoyed

hunting with his father. My grandfather was a hunter and a Taxidermist who supplied

specimens to the Colombo Museum, which is clearly where Dad’s interest in hunting

evolved.

 

In his early years, Dad attended both St Thomas’ and St Peters Collage where he was an

exemplary student. Dad was keenly involved in the school’s sporting life, and excelled

in middle distance running. Two of his great achievements included being the Pin Weight

Boxing Champion STUB Shield Champion.

 

After finishing school Dad worked in the monetary Exchange Control, followed by a

successful career in tea planting at the age of 23. In 1955 after a 14-year courtship,

Dad married Mummy, who commonly described him as the ‘perfect perfectionist’. Shortly

after marriage their 3 children were born, first Nelomie, then Crystal and finally

myself.

 

Dad started off planting with an English company called Withall Boustards, at Kirklese

Estate, Udapusalawa. He rose steadily in his profession and stayed with the same

company until the 1970’s when tea estates were nationalised. From the seedling tea

plant to vegetative propagation, Dad refined the art of making ‘the perfect cup of

tea’, and implemented industry practices that have gone down in history. We are sure

that the thousands of workers who knew Dad so well will sadly miss him.

 

The 1980’s brought about a slight change of focus for Dad when he decided to join the

Janatha Estates Development Board where he was Director of the Badulla Branch. He was

assigned to the project development of Tea Estates funded by the Asian Development

Bank. Prior to this, he was involved in many projects with the World Bank and was good

friends with the president, Mr Watanabee.

 

Both our parents were members of the Planters Radalla Club in Dimbulla and Dad served

as the honorary treasurer of this club for many, many years where rescued the from

financial ruin after it was burnt down, and restored it to financial stability. Mum

served side by side with Dad to assist the Lady Con veneer in organising club functions

and catering for hundreds of people at a time. Dad and mum were also long standing

members of the Exclusive ‘Hill Club’ in Newera-Eliya.

 

On top of all the work and social events, our father also served in the army volunteer

force. Major Noel Fernando excelled in target shooting – no surprises there! In fact,

Dad’s main hobby was shooting and he was a renowned ‘crack-shot’. If he got 24 out of

25 in his target shooting, he’d be disappointed. Dad had an impressive collection of

hunting trophies of which he was very proud. Daddy also took great joy in both his

flower and vegetable patches, and his small business in animal husbandry on his estate.

 

Our father always found time to take a break and enjoy life with his family. Daddy

loved to listen to Jim Reeves and The Beatles. During school holidays he would start up

the record player and the children would dance to the music in the lounge. On weekends

all the children would be packed into the back of the Landrover for 7 hours. By the

time jeep reached the holiday home in Arugum Bay we were covered in dust and dirt,

looking like street hooligans.  There was nothing Dad enjoyed more than shooting wild

animals, as well as feasting on lobster, prawns and crabs. His initials were N.S and we

always knew this stood for ‘non stop’. In fact he was given this name because he used

to drive from the tea estates in the high country to Colombo “non stop”, except maybe

for a quick toilet break! These were very good times for all of us, and those memories

are everlasting. Dad took mum on two long holidays overseas, visiting the UK and Europe

where they stayed with family and friends. On their return they used to share stories

of their travel adventures.

 

One highlight of my Dad’s life was hosting His Excellency, The Honourable Mr J.R

Jayawardena, the first executive president of Sri Lanka in their home as an official

guest on numerous occasions. The president and his entourage mainly came to open homes

for underprivileged families, an activity in which Dad was involved with himself, along

with improving living conditions for tea estate workers for over 30 years.

 

The biggest change of lifestyle for both our parents occurred in 1988. When Dad was 60

he finally resigned as Director, J.E.D.B Badulla Branch and decided to migrate to

Sydney in order to be closer to their children and grandchildren. They gave up a lavish

and privileged lifestyle solely for their family, and never looked back. Not once did

we ever hear them complain about not having the comforts of back home. For our father,

wherever family is, was considered home. Dad and Mum’s 5 grandchildren - Shelomie,

Melissa, Allison, Lana and Joshua – all had the privilege of spending time with their

grandparents who moved half-way across the world for their family’s sake. Daddy loved

all of them very much and they all treasured him in return.

 

In his later years, Dad loved his horse racing, where he would always “just miss” the

trifecta. He was an avid poker player, organising games with friends and family – where

we would spend more time joking and laughing than actually playing cards. Watching the

cricket was another one of his pastimes, where he keenly followed the matches between

Sri Lanka and Australia – always supporting the motherland over his new home. Gardening

was another of his passions; he adored his roses and his avocado and mango trees. Dad

also loved just talking with friends and to his neighbours; my father was the first to

offer a helping hand to anyone in need and to welcome new people into the

neighbourhood.

 

In 2005, Dad and Mum celebrated their Golden Anniversary, signifying 50 years of

marriage. It is evident that Daddy’s patience, care, values, morals and love for his

family were at the core of his life and soul. Not one single person who knew our father

would ever have a bad word to say about him; he really was loved and cherished by all.

He was the ultimate gentleman. To his very last breath, he attempted be autonomous. Our

father was active up until the very end, never wanting to inconvenience anyone. He was

determined to retain his pride and dignity no matter what the circumstances were.

 

May God Bless all his efforts on Earth and give peace and rest to his soul.

 

30th Dec 2008


Nation Sunday Dec 28 2008

Mallika Perera Mother you are truly beautiful

It is little over one month that you bid farewell to your children and your loved ones after the completion of 77 golden years of your noble life. I personally believe that we were so fortunate to be your children and how you showed us the right path to become valuable citizens to our motherland since the demise of my father which was exactly three decades ago. We a family of five children and it was a daunting task for you Amma to guide us since we were just reaching our teenage. It was your courage and the commitment which ultimately paid rich dividends in life and we owe you a large debt which, I would believe, cannot be repaid throughout our life. But we would certainly pray that your journey of samsara will be short and may you ultimately find comfort in Nirvana!

Amma, you belonged to a strong Buddhist family background and after your marriage to thaththa who hailed from a staunch Catholic background never wavered to decide that children should follow the father’s religion. However, Amma remained a Buddhist and we all learnt to respect the other religions since both of you taught us that “your faith will discipline yourself.” You inculcated great values and we, on poya days, accompanied you to the temple and Sinhala New Year and Vesak day were celebrated equally well along with Christmas day and Easter Sunday. What is remarkable in you is that your memory with regard to the important days and feasts of Catholic faith. It was so difficult to escape from your memory!

It was heartening to mention that being a Buddhist you followed the Bible scriptures with lot of faith. “Love your Neighbour; Love your brethren.” You preached this and practiced it. And it was evident that the large crowds that thronged in to my elder sister’s residence to pay their last respects to you and in one condolence message it was mentioned “Good bye to a total Human being.” Amma, it was true that you faced many trials and challenges in life and you really faced the “bullets” and shielded us. Though you were seriously ill for nearly three years you were never left alone. The two daughters of yours looked after you and comforted you after a massive stroke confined you to bed. I, being the youngest son of you, I ‘m proud to be a part of this family since you always wanted us to be united and be exemplary human beings. This is what you expected; the good human qualities which cannot be bought.

As we firmly believe “Mother is always with us … she is the whisper of the leaves as we walk down the street; she is the smell of bleach in our freshly laundered socks;

She is the cool hand on our brow when we are not well. Mother lives inside our laughter and she is crystallized in every tear drop. She is the place we came from, our first home; and she is the map we follow with every step we take. She is our first love and our first heart and soul and nothing on earth can separate us - No time, no space …. nor even death!

May you attain the supreme bliss of nirvana!

Supun Perera


The Sunday Leader Dec 28 2008

 

Major General Janaka Perera

I listened in stunned disbelief to the news on October 6, that you and Vajira both had been killed in the explosion at Anuradhapura. As I absorbed the enormity of the tragedy, I felt as though I was transported back in time to 16 years ago, when I learnt that my husband Mohan had been the victim of a landmine blast. I wept then, and I weep now, as I write this appreciation of you whom I have known all my life and had the privilege to address as Janaka Aiya.

Sleep eluded me that night, as it did for many days after, and I went back in time to the carefree, wonder years of our childhood as we grew up together and romped into idyllic fun-filled teen years and thereafter, emerged into mature adulthood — to go our separate ways. You were the patriotic one amongst us, who sacrificed your university education and chose instead, to join the Army and don the uniform. We, the younger ones gazed at you wide-eyed and in awe, at the dashing figure you cut in military uniform as you took wing to Sandhurst for Cadet training.

Upon your return and during your leave periods, we would listen enthralled as you recounted stories of life in barracks in those distant camps. When I married Mohan, who was also a serviceman, it was indeed wonderful at family functions when we were content to be the listeners and let both of you take centre stage, as you swapped stories in easy camaraderie, which were carefully censored for us laymen’s ears.

In Vajira, your charming wife of 25 years, you found the perfect partner, your soul mate, who complemented you in stature, temperament and intelligence. Many were the times we enjoyed your gracious hospitality — be it at the Army married quarters, or at your Poorvarama Road residence or at the High Commissioner’s residence in Canberra.

Yours was an open house to even the most casual of acquaintances and the warmth and cordiality that exuded from within your home was experienced by one and all. Together you nurtured your lovely children, instilling into them the values and moral principles which you believed in. They have in them, the best of you both. The stoic acceptance of their recent fate and the courage displayed in the face of this tragedy, was indeed a part of your legacy to them.

When Mohan was killed in a landmine explosion in the North, you came home to pay your respects and there I asked you why this had to happen to Mohan. That was perhaps the only time I had seen you at a loss for words, but I saw deep sympathy and understanding in your eyes. Thereafter you and Vajira were both so supportive and helpful to us and found time to be present at all the important family functions, despite the responsibilities that lay heavy upon your shoulders.

When you informed us of your intention to enter politics, I feared for you. I quaked within, and time and again implored you to be careful. Another family tragedy could not be borne! But you, being what you were — even after giving 35 years of your life to the service of your country, wanted to do more. You wanted to make a difference. For all our sake, I hoped and prayed you would, I believed you could. Alas, it was not to be.

As I paid my last respects to you both, it was with profound sorrow that I visualised your stately forms clad in spotless white just moments before the explosion, and all that remained now were the shattered remains within the sealed caskets.

Major General Janaka Perera, RWP, RSP, VSV, USP, rcds psc — soldier, diplomat, statesman, politician – and to me, Janaka Aiya, I bid you farewell.

May you rest in peace.

Nangi 


Sunday Times Dec 21 2008

Blessed to have had a devoted aunt who was a devout Muslim and dear friend

BUDREY YUSUF

On December 7, 2008, after a short illness, my aunt Budrey Yusuf was called by Allah. She left this earth peacefully, surrounded by her loved ones. It is fitting that she passed away on the Day of Arafat, the most unified day in the Muslim religious calendar. On that day, Muslims gather on Mount Arafat in an act of unity to pray, fast and offer sacrifices.

This is a personal tribute to my eldest paternal aunt. Budrey Yusuf, or Big Budrey as we called her, was an impeccable and fastidious dresser, wearing perfectly matched saris, slippers and handbags, and later, when she began covering her hair, perfectly matched scarves. Up to the end of her life she was very particular about cleanliness and appearance. Indeed, she was a strong believer in cleanliness being next to godliness.

When I was a child, Aunty Budrey lived on Green Path with her mother, my grandmother, whom we visited every evening at 4. She would gather us round the dining table every Thursday evening to pray the Ratib ul Haddad. I do not recall her scolding me even once, although she did run her household with a firm hand.

My sister and I were not the easiest of children to handle. We were naughty in the old-fashioned sense, breaking windows, trampling on plants, and so on. But she put up with our nonsense. She had a gift for making all her nieces and nephews feel that each was special in his or her own way.

She was very tolerant of my controversial views, but would engage me in feisty debates if I dared stray from the correct path. When I got married to a Sinhala Buddhist, she sent her apologies. But subsequently, after she got to know my husband, I believe she felt true affection for him, and was extremely gracious and kind to him whenever we visited.

After she moved to Horton Place with her eldest daughter, it became a tradition that I would swing by to visit her every couple of weeks. Seated at the dining table, we would talk about life, the state of the world, Islam, marriage, death and her childhood. If there is one thing about my aunt that stands out in my mind, it is her unwavering devotion to the memory of her grandparents, especially her mother’s parents and her parents. She would not hear a word against them.

When I fell ill last year, she prayed for my recovery and was overjoyed when I got well. For a long, long time, Budrey Yusuf was ready to meet her maker. She had had a good run as a daughter, mother, aunt, grandmother and great-grandmother. She was now ready to leave this world and go to her Lord. In fact, like the Sufis, she longed to meet her maker. In the words of Jalaludeen Rumi:

“At last you have departed and gone to the Unseen.
What marvellous route did you take from this world?
Beating your wings and feathers,
you broke free from this cage.
Rising up to the sky
you attained the world of the soul.
You were a prized falcon trapped by an Old Woman.
Then you heard the drummer’s call
and flew beyond space and time.
O heart, what a wonderful bird you are.
Seeking divine heights,
Flapping your wings,
you smashed the pointed spears of your enemy.
Now the words are over
and the pain they bring is gone.
Now you have gone to rest
in the arms of the Beloved.”

Aunty Budrey, God bless you and keep you in His care.

Ameena


Proud soldier who proved himself a noble son of Lanka

General L. D. C. E. Waidyaratne

It is with both sadness and pride that I pen these words of tribute in memory of the late General L. D. C. E. Waidyaratne, VSV USP ndc psc. This great officer and gentleman passed away on December 18, 2001, in India after a brief illness.

General Waidyaratne, who was born on May 16, 1938, was a student of St. Benedict’s College, Colombo. He brought his college much credit as a vibrant sportsman who played First Eleven cricket. He had the rare privilege of playing cricket at Lords, in England. Even after he left school, he never forgot his alma mater. As an old “Ben”, he was a regular visitor to the college.

The General joined the then Ceylon Army on June 26, 1959. He was an alumnus of the prestigious Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, in the UK. On July 28, 1961, he was commissioned to the Ceylon Armoured Corps as a Second Lieutenant, and subsequently became Commanding Officer of the 1st Reconnaissance Regiment of the Sri Lanka Armoured Corps.

He was the only officer who commanded four different units of the Sri Lanka Army. Before becoming Commanding Officer of the 1st Reconnaissance Regiment, he commanded the Sri Lanka Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, the 1st Battalion, Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment, and the 1st Battalion, Rajarata Rifles. This alone proves General Waidyaratne’s calibre.

Having commanded the famous ‘Operation Combine’, which crushed the Southern rebellion in the late ’80s, the General was seen as a path-breaker in the war against terrorism in the North. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General on November 16, 1991, and appointed as Commander of the Sri Lanka Army the same day.

General Waidyaratne’s military career was truly illustrious. Those who knew him cherish their memories of him. It was a great opportunity to serve with him, and I am grateful that I had such a privilege. As his aide-de-camp (ADC), I associated closely with the General. The closer you got to him, the more you realised how far you were, in fact, from him.

He was a proud soldier and sturdy personality. He faced many ups and downs in life, but his charisma was unaffected. He had great inner strength, and he was righteous. Beneath that steely exterior was a heart of gold, and great warmth and affection.

The recently recaptured Pooneryn military complex was the scene of a debacle during General Waidyaratne’s tenure as Commander of the Army. Although a subsequent inquiry absolved him of any responsibility for the Pooneryn failure, this great man took full responsibility and resigned from his post as Commander of the Army on December 31, 1993. This display of nobility was rewarded by the then government, which appointed him as Ambassador for Sri Lanka in Thailand.

The untimely demise of this great patriot and veteran soldier was a great loss to the military arena and the nation. Today’s generation of military officers and the next generation have much to learn from him.
May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

Lt. Col. Mahesh de Zoysa, RSP


Lively, loving, selfless and ever-helpful – that was Casi

CASINATHAN RAJAKARIAR

Three months have gone by since we lost our dear Casi. Casi was a true, dedicated and loving husband to my sister Subo. She was his life for him. The short spell he spent with her was truly memorable.

He was a unique, selfless person who never lived for himself. His priority was helping others. Helping people and helping to resolve the problems of friends and kith and kin took precedence over his own problems. He knew he had a terminal disease, and he faced it with courage. When he was very sick, my nephew called him from overseas. Full of hope, Casi said: “I know what is ahead of me, but I am giving it a good fight.”

Casi was a God-fearing, humble person with a heart of gold. He always had a smile. There was never a dull moment with him.

As a Brahmin married to a Roman Catholic, he balanced his religious life beautifully; he never missed a Sunday service nor a Friday visit to the temple. He was very popular at his workplace, where he was known for his hard work and dedication. His boss Mithra Vallipuram, under whom Casi worked for more than 20 years, said: “Casi was my employee only in the office; outside the workplace he was a dear brother to me.”

Casi’s passing away has been a great loss for his sister Saro, the family’s only survivor. She looked up to her brother for advice and moral support. She still cannot believe that he is gone.

Casi was the livewire in the Rajakariar family, and his demise is an irreparable loss to us. Casi is no more, but his good deeds will never be erased from our memories.

God takes early those He loves most, and Casi is one of those. We are confident that for all the good deeds he did he will be safe in the arms of Jesus. May his soul rest in peace.

Puvi Domingopillai


At home with Jesus

BRYAN SENANAYAKE

B rightest star

Radiant

Yielding spirit

Adoring dad

N ever to be forgotten

Darling Dada, it is 730 days since I last heard your voice, and 730 days since I last saw your face. Yet you are still ever present in my mind and heart. I miss you every single day.

With all my love, Shimali


A life lived like a poem

Nalini Colonne

For Roseland, a daughter, delicate and dainty
This Christmas Eve she would have turned eighty;
Nalini to some and Kusum to another
To Samanthi and Sidath, a wonderful mother.

Soft-spoken and charming, amongst friends so popular
She sailed to the United States as a Fulbright scholar
Armed with a Master’s and homeward bound,
For the British Council Library, a chief was found.

Though marriage came late, she made a pretty bride;
As her flower girl, I gazed at my aunt with pride;
In Uncle Percy she found her life’s soulmate,
A forty-seven year union, as decreed by fate.

At the pinnacle of her career she was presented to the Queen,
But no arrogance or haughtiness ever was seen;
Good health was denied her as illness began its rise
Until that final fall which led to her sad demise.

Hidden talents blossomed with verses in poetry
Stringing beads on chains, jewellery and tapestry;
Creative was she, commercial she was not,
Giving freely to charity and to those who had not.

To stray cats and dogs she opened doors for shelter;
Her mission in life was to free cattle from slaughter;
A strict vegetarian for years, she loved those lesser beings,
Following Buddhist philosophy – a very special human being.

In more ways than one, she touched my life and heart;
Enriched by her I stand as she now departs;
May she be my aunt again as we journey through Sansara,
Till she attains everlasting peace in that oasis of Nibbana.

Dr. Rasieka Jayatunga


Tribute to a selfless teacher

Ruwani Seimon

The first death anniversary of dearest Aunty Ruwani who departed from this world at a very early age of 39 years fell on November 7, 2008.Aunty Ruwani was gentle by nature and full of energy. She was selflessly involved in her musical career, tirelessly training the many pupils under her charge.

I was very shy and timid when I was small. Though I was a student of hers I did not like to join the school choir at that time and managed to avoid her weekly requests to do so. As usual she never gave up and finally I gave in. I am very grateful to her for this as I have enjoyed every minute being a member of the school choir.

She was suffering from an illness that necessitated frequent medical attention. On certain occasions when discharged from hospital, she continued with the active life she was accustomed to in the years gone by.

She organized many concerts and her pupils participated in many singing competitions with success. All these events necessitated arranging many practices and keeping late hours much against medical advice such was her dedication and love for the profession so dear to her heart. She made many sacrifices particularly her social and family commitments for the sake of her numerous pupils who were treated like children of her own.

Today, some of our leading singers have at some stage of their musical career benefited from her skilful guidance.We, her pupils remember Aunty Ruwani with a tinge of sadness because she is no longer with us but most of all with lots of love.

May her soul rest in peace.

Maheshika Perera


Goodbye sweet princess

Heshini Vitharana

It is a year since your tragic death and it is with profound sorrow that I pen these few words. I still cannot believe that you have gone never to return. You were so beautiful and innocent, in the flower of your youth with a whole future ahead of you. It is unbearable to think that your young life came to an untimely end at the cruel hands of a terrorist.

I knew you from your infancy and I saw you grow into a pretty girl and then into an equally beautiful young woman. I still remember how you used to greet me those days on your way to school and later, on your way to work and I know those greetings and your infectious smile came from the bottom of your heart.

When you decided to shift to your grandma's place due to transport problems, I almost lost contact with you, yet you never failed to visit me whenever you came home for weekends. When I fell sick just before your tragic death you were kind enough to call me and inquire about my health on several occasions heavy with remorse.

What crime had you committed to meet with such a horrible death in the prime of your youth?

Your beloved mother is still in shock unable to comprehend what happened to her beloved daughter. How tragic that your father too had to meet with an unfortunate death. I am sure your irreparable loss hastened his early demise. I feel particularly sad for you. In spite of the vicissitudes of life you were so cheerful, hopeful of a beautiful future and how ironical it is to think that the very day you kept your date with your destiny you had heard the happy news that you had successfully completed the Part 1 of your Degree exam.

Your beloved friend, my daughter, still cries uncontrollably whenever she thinks of the happy times you two had.

Dear Heshini, may your journey through Sansara be short and may you never meet with such a cruel fate again.

Goodbye, sweet princess, may the host of Devas sing thee to sleep.

Upali Nanayakkara


Those glorious days at GTC Maharagama

Evelyn Geddes

Evelyn Geddes died in Australia on June 25 at the age of 95, leaving behind Ripple, Rodney, Russell, Ryan and Rhona, whom she called her 5Rs, and her grandchildren Rohan and Kyra, Nerelle and Karl, Senene, Shantelle and Mark, Jessica, David, Luke, Karine and Tahla. Great grandchildren -Brayden, Nyah, Kyan, Lawrence, Justin, Flynn and Lana- complete her beloved and blessed progeny. Her husband Harry predeceased her.

Our nostalgic reminiscences of GTC Maharagama, where we spent two of the best years of our life, are surely incomplete without summoning up remembrance of Mrs Evelyn Hester Grace Geddes (nee Labrooy), who was our English lecturer par excellence. Educated at Methodist College, she obtained a First Class Honours degree in English from the University College of that time. She was the first woman to secure that rare distinction in those early days of university education. She went on to win the coveted university scholarship and proceeded to Oxford, where she excelled in the pursuit of further English literary studies. She taught briefly at University College when she returned, and then joined GTC.

That was testimony, if testimony were needed, of the calibre of the staff and the resulting quality of the English curriculum of the premier English teacher training college of the time. The English Department of GTC was second only to, if not on par with, the English Department of the University of Ceylon. Now there are many teachers’ colleges, some of them called Colleges of Education, but neither their faculty nor their pedagogical delivery is in any way comparable to the GTC of the late forties and early fifties. English lecturers like Evelyn Geddes, Douglas Walatara and Augustine Tambimuttu, and principals like S. F.de Silva, E. H. de Alwis and D. G. Sugathadasa (to name just a few of that galaxy, those shining stars of yesteryear) cannot be replaced. They are a dead or dying breed -both metaphorically and literally.

Evelyn Geddes retired after twenty five years of service and migrated to Australia as many of her community were and are wont to do. English teacher-trainees suffered an irreparable loss with her departure. “She was no ordinary Sri Lankan migrant Down Under but a learned and accomplished educationist,” said Sugathadasa, who was principal at the time she retired, in his tribute to her in a special edition of Changing Times, a journal published by the English Department of GTC. “Those that instruct many into justice shall shine like stars for all eternity,” he added.

His predecessor E. H. de Alwis in his tribute asked poignantly, “Why has she decided to desert her beloved college where she laboured with such devotion?” And, this is the answer he proffered:

“I may be wrong and maybe unwittingly doing an injustice to her, but I have a shrewd suspicion that nurtured as she has been on the lofty ‘Miltonic harmonies and the mighty lines of Shakespeare, she finds little attraction in the teaching of English as a second language. Structure and pattern, phoneme and phonics are the jargon of the new generation of English teachers. Fries, Gurrey and West are the names they now conjure with. Mrs. Geddes must occasionally have felt that she was sinning against the light that is in her. Her métier is Literature. I can imagine her looking back with nostalgic yearning to the day when she would declaim some noble passage from a Lord of language and sense the response in the appreciative silence of an understanding audience. Such moments were her recompense in the past. Can the new generation be led, through the dry bones of structure and pattern, phoneme and phonics, to perceive ‘The light that never was on Sea or Land, The Consecration and the poet’s dream’?

That said it all about Evelyn Geddes, our English lecturer, who found in us a captive audience in those days that are no more. Adieu, Mrs. Geddes!

Carlton Samarajiwa


The golden thread in the family tapestry

Dulcie Bianca Jayewardena

When the golden thread
That weaves the grand design
Is wrenched away
The beauty of the tapestry
Will never be the same –
Like your demise had been.

Deeper still is our grief,
Remembering the astute way
With love and foresight
You made ours a happy home,
Guiding our two daughters
And shrewd but impish son
To fine-tune their skills
And achieve their goals.

Now when the fruits are ripe
Your absence is the saddest blow,
But the memory of fifty years
Of happy family life we share
Is treasured by all you loved.

R. D. K. Jayewardena


Nation Sunday Dec 21 2008

Austin and Rose de Silva Wijeyeratne

Founders of Wijeratne Town in Borella

Austin and his family were originally from Grandpass and moved to Horton Place, Colombo 7 in 1905 with his mother and other family members. He was educated at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo. He married Rose, the daughter of the late Mr& Mrs M R Fernando of Hatton and Moratuwa in1916. After a few years they purchased Shamrock in Horton Place, Colombo 7 and took up residence in the year 1927. They had a family of 10 children. The eldest, Shereen expired as a baby. The others were Sherard, Cleta, Rienzi, Dalton, Manel and Therese (twins) Hermione, Linden and Shanti. The sons were educated at St. Joseph’s College Colombo and the daughters at St. Bridget’s Convent.They owned hundreds of acres of land and Austin was known to be an authority on copra. During the time of the Second World War, Austin surveyed the entire island’s stock of copra. Long after retirement, he was recalled to serve in the Oils and Fats Corporation as Copra Surveyor as his honesty and integrity were unquestionable.

Austin also built several middle class houses in the Borella area which were later named after him as ‘Wijeyeratne Town’. This area is still known by that name, and he also owned several houses opposite All Saints’ Church. They kept company with the highest and lowest in society and contributed generously to various charities. They contributed towards the construction of All Saints’ Church in its initial stages during the time of Rev Fr Jayamanne and Rev Fr. Guegen and gifted most of the statues which we see in this beautiful Church. Austin and Rose helped many members of their extended family and theirs was an open house to all their and kith and kin, rich and poor who were entertained lavishly. This tradition of helping others and entertaining friends and relations has been continued by their children. Their children, their grandchildren and their great grandchildren are well placed in society and some of them are now resident abroad. Their children and grandchildren are today reaping the fruits of their labours. It must be mentioned that the new electronic pipe organ at All Saints’ Church which was played at this Service of Thanksgiving and Remembrance has been donated by a grandson. The family still continues to help and support the Church and live good Christian lives. May the Lord grant Austin, Rose and the departed members of the family eternal rest!
Anton and Shanti Fernando


C. Raja Kuruppu

Multi-faceted yeoman service of a servant of the Buddha

Appreciations published in the newspapers provide an opportunity for loved ones and society to gratefully remember the departed. This tribute or salutation is for one who has educated others to lead meaningfully happy lives. His voluntary work covers a long span of time and he continues to do so with zest. The late Hon. Jayaweera Kuruppu MP, and Mrs. Clara Kuruppu had three children, one of whom is Chitral Ranjith (Raja) Kuruppu, born in 1934. He was educated at Royal College, Colombo, and later at the University of Peradeniya. When I first chanced to meet him at the Ministry of Industries, some thirty years ago, he was a junior CAS officer. Blessed with a good memory and ability to work amiably with all sorts of people who came his way, he ended up his public service career at the General Treasury, cloistered in an atmosphere where confidentiality was a key factor to reckon with. At that time, the scholar monk Aggha Maha Panditha Dr. Walpola Rahula Maha Thera’s classic publication What the Buddha Taught greatly influenced Raja Kuruppu’s general outlook on life. His ‘Guru’, H. P. Jayawardena, the highly respected Headmaster of Royal College Junior, and Buddhist worker had founded the annual publication Vesak Sirisara, as a bilingual. When Jayawardena was in the evening of his life, he wisely handed over all publication rights of Vesak time publication to the Government Servants Buddhist Association. It then fell by choice, and certainly not by chance that young Raja Kuruppu should take responsibility for the publication as the Editor- in-Chief) which office he held for more than twenty five years. Just two months ago, this human dynamo gracefully relinquished his association with Vesak Sirisara.

The Servants of the Buddha Society, founded on 16th April 1921, invites scholars to deliver lectures in English on Theravada Buddhism, every Saturday evening at the Maitreya Hall, Lauries Road, Bambalapitiya. Founded by Dr. Cassius Pereirs LMS (Eng). LRCP (Eng) (its first President), and with the help of Venerable Aradha Maha Thera and Ven. Soma Thera (who was Mr. Victor Pulle, a Roman Catholic who hailed from Kotahena,) Mr. R. J. Perera, W. J. Oliver Soysa of Bambalapitiya, Hema Basnayake (later Chief Justice), Ven Ananda Maitreya (An Englishman, named Allen Bennet Mac Gregor), H. A. de Abrew and A. E. Goonesinghe. After the demise of Ven. Kassappa Thera, his son, Ananda Pereira (Solicitor General) continued his father’s work until the heavy mantle of the Office of President of the Servants of the Buddha fell on a born Christian Burgher who accepted the Buddha word, on his own. He was Deshabandu Alec Robertson (born 1929 - died December 2002) later a MP. Being a Buddhist scholar he delivered lively lectures at the society meetings. Robertson spotted in Raja Kuruppu, the human qualities necessary to steer the affairs of the age old Society for the next 10 years. Having dutifully served as President of the Servants of the Buddha. Deshabandu Alec Robetson retired, handing over to Raja Kuruppu the trust reposed on him, about a year before the 75th Anniversary celebrations of the Society in 1997. Robertson and Kuruppu got on well, like when a house is on fire. Whilst Robertson was a Buddhist scholar and a highly disciplined man educated at Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa during the great war years, his successor, Kuruppu was more liberal in outlook. He often invited a galaxy of University professors and lecturers, who lectured and discuss the Great Master’s words, - the central theme - the way to end all suffering on earth. I remember Prof. Carlo Fonseka, (a non-conformist) lecture to a packed audience with rapt attention on ‘The Validity of the Buddhist Approach to Reality.’ His lecture referred to the uniqueness of Buddhism compared to six characteristics of six other classical religions, the centre point of his lecture was, where truth lies. Several other University Dons did lecture at this hallowed institution. As a result the attendance increased. A few notable names I recall are: Prof. Chandima Wijebandara PhD; Dr. (Mrs) Lorna Devaraja P.hD; Dr. W. G. Weeraratne PhD; Prof. Y. Karunadasa P.hD; Dr. C. Wickremage, PhD; Mrs Sita Arunthavanathan, MA, and educated people T. B. Ratnayake, Asoka Devendra Bsc, Bhikkuni Kusuma MA, Asoka Jayasinghe and the Ven Olande Ananda Maha Thera, Prof. Raja D. Alwis. Raja Kuruppu religiously served as President of the Society for about 12 years, during which span of time, he built up a valuable society library. His unfailing dedication to duty is remembered when we saw him unexpectedly sit on the President’s chair to conduct a meeting at the Maitrie Hall, only about 14 days after he underwent a major cardiac surgical operation. Raja had no attachment to sit on the President’s seat. He knew it would perhaps give his frail and weak body some comfort. The writer believes Kuruppu simply had felt it was his bounden duty to do so, as long as his mind was alert and heart was willing. Such men of remarkable character and dedication to duty are seldom seen. They say, Raja is always simple in mannerisms as was one simple Simon and methodical to be perfect.
As an author and publisher, many monograms and books are to his credit. Four of the better known and valued publications are:

Reflections on Life and Death (May 1989)
The Buddha’s First Sermo (1996) s
The Noble Art of Living (May 2000)
Buddidsm: Its Essence and some Relevant Approaches (May 2003)

Besides these, we have enjoyed reading several Poya Day articles he wrote to the newspapers over the years. His Radio Programmes on Buddhist topics were well conducted and interesting. Another achievement of this leader has been his reckonable contribution to numerous activities of the YMBA (Colombo). As a Senior Vice President he has been of great strength to the Board of Management. Besides, he has been moderating at regular monthly Sunday morning popular Buddhist Forum meetings. The YMBA Library has a “New look” and is a powerhouse for academics doing research. He has also served as the Editor-in- Chief of The Buddhist, one of Sri Lanka’s oldest Buddhist publications, founded in 1888.

When the unforgettable Buddhist leader of Ceylon, Sir Baron Jayatilleke, was appointed our High Commissioner to India, in about 1943, there were two Honorary Offices he valued very much, and refused to relinquish. They were the post of President of the Vidyalankara Pirivena Dayaka Sabha, and as President of the YMBA,

Borella. Raja Kuruppu has served the YMBA Board of Management for long years. He is now the Senior Vice President, and has always had his heart and mind working for the welfare of that Association. He richly deserves to be elected uncontested as the President at the next AGM. His contribution to spread the noble Dhamma is like a song to remember.
Upali S.
Colombo 3


The Sunday Leader Dec 21 2008

M.P. Saheed

Some time during 1997 the distinguished and controversial author, Carl Muller, told me that he wished to introduce me to an extraordinary man.   He took me to a shop in Trincomalee Street, Kandy and there, in a tiny, cluttered office at the back of the shop sat Saheed.

I have never been aware that he had any other names.   For me this meeting had the sort of significant effect on my life which one rarely experiences.   Saheed was a man of much thinking but few words and when he did speak you had better listen because his words were so well worth listening to.   Through the years I considered him to be immortal so, when he died on  November 30, I was totally shocked and deeply saddened.

During the past week my mind has been trawling through the many delightful meetings which I had with this articulate, wise, and perceptive man;   my recollections would take pages of print so I will confine my thoughts to a few observations.

His personal standards were impeccable, he was slow to accuse and very quick to forgive - he was without malice.   I once asked him what he considered to be the most admirable trait and his response was immediate - humility.   I don't know why I was surprised because his humility was demonstrable.  

Saheed was intellectually sharp and well read, from the Greek classics, through comparative religion (he was more educated in Christianity than I) to current affairs and politics.   During any conversation he would dive into his 'archive' and pull out a yellowed document, a faded letter, or an old photograph of some long dead eminent person to reinforce some point or opinion which he had expressed.

This might suggest that Saheed was too academic and unapproachable. But it was not so.   He was a 'people person' who cared very much for his fellow men, particularly those who were less fortunate in life than he.   His sense of humour was slightly mischievous but never at another's expense;   it was understated and delivered with a twinkle in his eyes.   Some of his anecdotes even had him laughing out loud.

Saheed's Islam was intensely private to him and extremely important.   He resented anyone who used it as a power base and felt that those who constantly paraded the religion to enhance their egos, was irritating and rather foolish.   He was convinced that the main ethic of Islam, as demonstrated by The Prophet, is tolerance.

Physically he was wiry and lean, but a strong man whose ears fascinated me. They always seemed disproportionately large to the rest of his body.   Perhaps they were a compensation for his myopia! The latter was responsible for a compliment which he paid to me, he entrusted me with writing occasional mails for him (under his strict supervision).

Saheed had a voracious appetite for both knowledge and food and this was appropriately apparent during our last meeting.   He wished to discuss an important letter which he wished me to draft and we did so at the Kandy Club.   I was somewhat in a hurry. So, when we had finished talking about the details of what he wished me to write, I asked him whether he would like a soft drink.   "No thank you," he replied, "I would rather have lunch!"

 I abandoned my thoughts of leaving quickly, ordered rice and curry which he devoured with a relish - something that  had to be seen to be believed.   "My turn next time" he said.   God bless you, Saheed.   There won't be a next time but it was an absolute pleasure and a memory which I will treasure.

M.P. Saheed was a man of the highest quality and integrity whom I loved and respected.   He was a gentleman, there can be no stronger compliment.

Peter Wells


Legal luminary who felt for the downtrodden

P. Navaratnarajah

I was privileged to enjoy a close friendship with one of Sri Lanka's most eminent lawyers, the late P. Navaratnarajah, Queen's Counsel, who will go down in the annals of legal history as a counsel par excellence.

In recognition of his outstanding performance at the University College where he read Mathematics and obtained a first Class Honours, he was awarded a scholarship enabling him to proceed to Cambridge University to sit his Mathematical Tripos.

Thereafter, he pursued his legal studies at the Middle Temple where he was called to the Bar in 1934, and in the same year called to the Bar in Ceylon as an advocate of the Supreme Court.

It was in Hulftsdrop that he spent the whole of his professional life, where from a promising junior he blossomed into the eminent Queen's Counsel, despite the fact that when he commenced his career at the Bar, he had none of the hallmarks of the preferred class. He was comfortable, but had no wealth, influence or elite social status.

He was not only brilliant in legal argument, but an indomitable fighter and his particular force was in his reply to his opponents, for which he reserved his most telling points.

To have him as an opponent was an awesome experience. One knew that one had to deal not so much with shrewd tactics or the cross-examining skill, but with one who ruthlessly stripping the case of camouflage would come clearly and crisply to the essential weakness of his opponent's case and the essential strength of his.

He had a legal mind of the highest order and applied it with painstaking thoroughness to every matter which he had to deal with in a clear discernment of legal principles and a fine sense of distinction which govern their applicability, rarely seen in our courts. He made an abiding contribution to the development of the law.

In his relationship with his clients, he had a touching concern for the indigent which followed him to his grave. He despised extortion as a way of life. Indeed, it was said of him that he was one of the front line counsel of his time one could retain with no risk of bankruptcy. He was charitable, but his charity was unknown to others. The poorest of the poor had a place in his heart and home.

To the innumerable juniors who worked in his Chambers, he was kind, sympathetic and generous, particularly to those who had neither influence nor affluence to support themselves during the lean years of their career at the Bar.

As a human being, despite his brilliance and erudition, he was simple with the simplicity of greatness. He shunned public office and neither sought nor cared for public adulation. He was a man of incredible humility-always accessible to the rich and poor alike.

His essential goodness left an abiding impression on all those who were privileged to have known him. He was disappointed and sad when some people who were known to him on assuming high and responsible office lost their bearings. Commenting on such conduct he would remark:-

"Why can't they be nice to people on their way up.
They have the intelligence to realize that they
Are bound to meet them on their way down.
When they are on their way down, it is only the good
Will of the people that they take along with them."

When Mr. Navaratnarajah died, not only did we mourn the loss of a great and brilliant lawyer, but of a great friend.

His passing away left a great void in our lives which was not possible to fill. But our sorrow was tempered with gratitude that the fates allowed us to number such a man as Mr. Navaratnarajah among our friends.

Maureen Seneviratne, President's Counsel.


The country needs more men like him

Colvin Sirimanne

The date July 25, 1983 brings back sad memories to many of us, for various reasons. To the extended family of Colvin Sirimanne, it was a tragic day for more reasons than one. That day, on which many died, was also Colvin’s last day on earth. He was called home by Our Lord that night. We are certain of his happiness in the near presence of God, but cannot help being sorry for ourselves, those he left behind. We miss him very much and his presence in our lives.

On the morning of July 23, on his way to the cardiology unit of the General Hospital, Colvin witnessed some shocking, tragic sights that no doubt contributed to the massive heart attack he suffered that day.
The late Dr. Ernie Pieris, my husband and Colvin’s nephew, lived with Colvin and his family when he was a medical student, and even after that, until we got married. The love and care Colvin and his wife Lucky extended to Ernie most certainly contributed to Ernie’s success at his final MBBS examination. Even after our marriage, the couple was always there for us. Ernie never forgot the love and support they gave us, and neither will I.

Our close association with Colvin’s family, even after our marriage, contributed towards our postgraduate scholastic and professional achievements.

Colvin was a brilliant old boy of S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, and he was on the school board of governors for more than 20 years. He graduated from University College Colombo with first-class honours. Apart from his academic achievements, Colvin was a keen sportsman, his favourite sports being rugby and rowing. On his return from England, after a four-year training, he was elected as the first Ceylonese president of the Colombo Rowing Club, where he was an active oarsman and won many awards.

He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Chemists of Great Britain and Ireland on May, 21, 1948.
Colvin was a colossus in his chosen field, Ballistics and Forensic Studies, and he brought out the best in those who worked under him. He was a strict disciplinarian, and on account of this a few may have failed to understand him. He always strove to maintain the high standard of the Government Analysts’ Department, and faithfully carry out government policy.

He sustained mutually trusting and supportive friendships with his staff, including the late Mr. Chanmugam, from whom he took over, and senior assistants like the late Tom Nagendra, the late Newton Weerasinghe, the late Ben Dissanaike, and the late Noel Jayatunga. They made a very efficient and loyal team.

I must mention three cases in which Colvin was professionally involved. Soon after the assassination of Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, on September 26, 1959, Colvin was summoned to Tintagel by the premier’s widow, the late Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Colvin was the first person on the scene from the Government Analysts’ Department, taking measurements and making notes. He earned accolades in court for his painstakingly collected evidence.

Colvin also earned international recognition when he was invited by Scotland Yard, London, to work with them in solving a difficult case.

Then there was that baffling case in Matale, in which a female domestic helper was found dead from a gunshot wound in a toilet in the home of a wealthy and influential family. Colvin received a call from a young ASP, who had appealed to the Government Analysts’ Department for help. The ASP expected Colvin to send a junior to investigate. To his surprise, Colvin himself turned up in Matale.

The chief occupant of the house where the death had occurred happened to be in political power at the time. His political opponents in the village were making capital of the murder and trying to discredit him. A rumour started to spread in Matale that the politician had committed the murder.

After a meticulous study of the evidence, Colvin proved that this was a case of suicide, not murder. He persuaded court that the deceased had taken a loaded shotgun belonging to the family, placed it at an angle, and from a kneeling position bent over the mouth of the barrel and pulled the trigger herself.
The junior ASP was highly impressed that the Government Analyst had taken the trouble to come all the way to Matale. The young ASP, incidentally, was none other than Cyril Herath, who rose to be IGP.
Shakespeare wrote: “Men’s evil manners live in brass/Their virtues we write in water”.

That is why I am writing this, 25 years after Colvin’s demise. Our country needs more men and women of his calibre. Colvin was a remarkable man. He was the embodiment of honesty, integrity and energy, ready to take on any job that arose, and he never compromised his principles.

He was a deeply loved and respected husband and father to his beloved wife, Lucky, and their five children, Lakshman, Dharshini, Mohini, Gehan and Ruvani.

We thank God for two lives well lived.

Dr. Philine Pieris


We are what we are, because of Appa

M. L. M. Aboosally

When I sat down to write an appreciation of my beloved grandfather M. L. M. Aboosally, who was like a father to me, I had to think hard: Where should I begin? How would I give a perspective on someone I looked up to and miss so much?

Most people feel a great sadness at the loss of a loved one, but I think Appa would have been disappointed if we felt the same over his death. He left us with many happy memories that we can reflect upon with a smile.

As a child, I was fascinated by his strong work ethic. I would watch him sift through document after document, while always finding time for the people of his electorate. I would crouch under his desk to hide from my nanny, and he would give me paper and crayons to play with. He was always on my side. This was something I truly appreciated.

My first job for Grandfather was to count all the coins inside a dusty, old sack twice my size. I counted up to Rs. 50, and he let me keep the coins. That was a lot of money for a five-year-old.

It was Grandfather who got me started with my reading. My first book was Anna Sewell’s “Black Beauty”, which belonged to the family library. After reading that book, I never looked back. I made it my mission to get through all the books in the library. Grandfather made sure I had appropriate reading materials. We had an archive of magazines, “Time”, “Reader’s Digest” and “National Geographic”. The last book he gave me was a book on international law.

Growing up, I did not get to see a lot of grandfather, apart from the few minutes I would spend after school on the swings at my grandparents’ home. He would also drop by for tea.

Grandfather was something of an enigma. He had an unwavering focus in serving the country. Because he was always in Parliament or at the family estate, there were long spells when I hardly ever sat down with him to have a proper conversation. Perhaps to compensate, he would write me letters and ask how I was doing, and what books he should bring me.

After I finished my Advanced Levels, I went to live for a while with my grandparents on their estate in Balangoda. We would take long walks through winding paths, past tea bushes and paddy fields. We would visit all the people who worked on the estate.

At home, we would lie on the sofa after lunch with a bag of M&Ms on our laps and watch BBC television for hours on end. Dinner would not be complete without Grandfather teasing me about my decision to become a vegetarian. His main concern was that I was not getting enough nutrition.

As a politician and Member of Parliament holding a wide range of portfolios, Grandfather was a lot of things to many people, but to me he was just Appa.

Although he is not with us any more, he continues to live on in all of us. We, his grandchildren, are who we are today because of our grandfather, and because of what he instilled in us.

Looking back, I realise the magnitude of Appa’s legacy. He made a huge difference in all our lives.

Anisha Niyas


A lady who helped many through prayer and deed

Theo Seneviratne

Theo was born on January 9, 1922, in Nuwara Eliya . She was the third born to her parents, Stanley and Lilian Jansen. She had a brother and two sisters, and is survived by her younger sister, Barbara Brown, who lives in Australia.

Theo had a quiet and happy childhood. She studied at Good Shepherd Convent, Nuwara Eliya, where she was a good student. She met her late husband Noel when he was posted at the Governor’s Office in Nuwara Eliya, where the family stayed during the Easter holidays to avoid the Colombo heat. They married on December 27, 1947, at St. Mary’s Church, Bambalapitiya. I had the honour to be best man at their marriage.

After marriage, Theo moved to Noel’s parents’ home. Coming from a Burgher background, she adapted well to the contrasting Sinhala lifestyle of her in-laws, who took to her kind and gentle ways.

Theo lost her first born, but went on to raise five more children – Avril, Nishanta, Nihal, Lalith and Sabrina. She was the perfect wife and mother, dedicating her life to caring for her husband and young family, giving them lots of love and making personal sacrifices on their behalf. Many times she played the role of single parent when Noel was away on business trips, here in Sri Lanka and overseas. At such times, she acted with courage and excellence.

She spent a short time in a nursing school prior to marriage, and consequently did an excellent job of nursing her mother-in-law, and then her father.

Theo also nursed her late husband Noel during his prolonged illness, a task that took a toll on her personal health.During one of our visits to Sri Lanka, we found a very concerned Theo trying hard to get Noel into hospital. He was refusing to go, saying he was tired of hospital stays. I happened to call her that night. She begged me to speak to Noel. I went over to Nishanta’s house, where most of the family had gathered, and sat with Noel and finally convinced him to agree to enter hospital. Theo was happy and grateful. In return for her loving care of her husband , she was blessed with children and daughters-in-law who took good care of her during her final years. She has eight grandchildren, and they all have fond memories of time spent with her, listening to her stories and benefiting from her love and spiritual guidance. She was thrilled when, a few years back, she was blessed with a great-grandson. She knitted him a pixie cap, among other things.

Theo was a devout Roman Catholic and took an active role in church activities in Ratmalana. She believed in working for the Lord by helping the needy through prayer and deed. Many less fortunate families in Ratmalana benefited from her great goodwill.

Joe Seneviratne (brother-in-law)


Nation Sunday Dec 14 2008

Casi (Casinathan)

Live wire of the family

Three months have glided by since we lost our Dear Casi, husband of my sister Subo and our brother-in-law. Casi was a true, dedicated and a loving husband to my sister. She was his life for him. The short spell he spent with her was really memorable.
Casi was a unique selfless personality who never thought of himself nor did he live for himself. His priority was to help others. Helping and resolving the problems and assisting in difficulties of his kith and kin took precedence over his own. Even when he knew that he was suffering from a terminal disease, he faced it with courage. When my nephew called him from overseas when he was sick, with full of hope he said “I know what is ahead of me but I am giving it a good fight.”

He was a God fearing, humble person with a heart of gold, always with a smile. There is never a dull moment with him. Being a Brahmin and married to a Roman Catholic, he balanced his religious life so beautifully that he never missed a single Sunday service nor the visit to the temple on a Friday. Even at his work place he was a very popular figure renowned for his hard work and dedication. Mr. Mithra Vallipuram under whom Casi worked for over 20 years said “Only in office he was my employee, outside the work place he was dear brother to me.”

It is a great loss for Saro, his sister, the only survivor in his family, who looked upto her brother so much for advice and moral support. She still cannot believe that he is gone.

He was the live wire of the Rajakariar family and his demise is an irreparable loss to us. Casi is no more but the good deeds he did will never be erased from our memories.
God takes whom he loves most early and Casi is one of those. We are confident that for all the good deeds he did he will be safe in the arms of Jesus. May his soul rest in peace.

Puvi Domingopillai


Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thera

(5th death anniversary commemoration)

The most revered, unique, Gangodawila Soma Thera
Great pupil of most Venerable Madhihe Mahanayake Thera,
Viharadhipathi, Sakyamuni, Sambuddha Vihara, Australia,
Irreparable loss the passing away, untimely in Russia.

Pioneered, established Jana Vijaya Foundation,
To build society, followers of five precepts in adoration
Fifty five year old, out spoken, controversial straight forward Thera
Campaigned against unethical conversions, forthright Thera

Conducted, discussable discourses, remote villages
Thousands flocked to listen forceful bold messages
Propagated Dhamma nationally in internationally,
Greatly influenced, irrespective of faith unanimously

Realised need to inject Buddhist view’s values,
Cleansed society with Buddha’s message true values,
Engaged in propagating Buddhism in many a country,
The vacuum made can never be filled this century

Believed moralistic concepts cannot reach society,
Without protecting principles wholeheartedly in piety,
Late prelate vehement critic practices mythical
Expounded Dhamma in clear manner so acceptable

Lived in Australia propagating Dhamma nearly two decades,
Donated to development viharas virtuous crusade
Contributed knowledge, services to religious necessities
In New Zealand too conducted Dhammaduto activities

Endeavoured to popularity among masses far’n near
Vanguard of Buddhism, to achieve noble’end dear
Guided by a deep sense supported causes national importance,
Felt deeply plight of Buddhism Buddha Putra par excellence.
May you attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana

Kumari Kumarasinghe Tennakoon


Captain Arthur E.A. Bartholomew

An Officer and a Gentleman

Arthur Bartholomew passed away of heart failure on Monday November 17, 2008, in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 79.

Arthur was an alumnus of Royal College, Colombo, where he spent his formative years. Not only was he an excellent student but was also an outstanding rugger player representing the college in the inter school matches in the Bradby Shield tournament and played for the Havelocks Sports Club. He was also an excellent cadet rose to the rank of RSM in the Cadet Corp.

He applied to join the newly formed Ceylon Army and was selected as an Office Cadet to attend The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in the UK for training. He graduated from there and was commissioned into the Sri Lanka Artillery. It was during this phase of his life that he met Anne in London. However before returning to his Regiment in Sri Lanka he went for training to the School of Artillery in Larkhill, UK. On completion of that training he returned to Sri Lanka and joined his Regiment which at that time was stationed in picturesque Trincomalee bordering the Eastern Coast of Sri Lanka.

Anne flew out to Sri Lanka where they got married and I had the honour of being his best man. Their two sons, Ean and Stuart and daughter, Tessa, were born in Ceylon.

At different times he was assigned to different duties that required him to serve in different parts of the island including the army training centre in the hills of Diyatalawa, where he trained many officers who subsequently became senior officers in the present Army.
One such assignment took him to the jungles of Amparai which to him was the quintessence of his army career. In 1959, he decided to say goodbye to the land that he loved and immigrated to the USA with his family.
The family settled in Florida where daughter Tara was born on Arthur’s birthday. Arthur was an executive in the citrus industry in both Florida and California. He loved travel, photography and most of all his grandkids.
It was with great sadness that we heard the news of Arthur’s demise on 17th November. He had many friends all over the world who have expressed their sorrow.

Extracts from the Guest Book -
Arthur was my friend from prep school days, through Royal, Sandhurst and the Regiment. Though our ways parted to different parts of the globe, we kept in touch. I have fond memories of him. He was an Officer and a Gentleman. My sympathies extended to his family. May he rest in peace!

Capt. Tony Anghie


I knew Arthur since my Trinco days in the late 1950’s! What a glorious time we had at Floris Court where we lived in two opposite flats! We could not have had better neigbours! He was a gentleman of pleasant personality, a congenial friend and a respected superior to those who worked with him! May he rest in Peace!
Brigadier George Fernando

Captain Arthur-We loved you in life and even more in death We will always cherish and remember your heart warming conversations that seemed to ignite us with fire. “Once a Gunner always a Gunner”. All who knew you and served with you in the Sri Lanka Artillery will surely miss you. Till we meet again in the shores of Heaven our fond remembrances.


Captain Callistus and Megal Corera, Michigan, USA.


Arthur is preceded in death by his Dear Wife Anne and their Daughter Tessa. Arthur is survived by his two sons, Ean and Stuart; his daughter Tara ; his brother and sister-in-law Vernon and Katie (Australia).
A memorial service was held at Holy Cross Episcopal Church Winter Haven on Monday November 24, 2008. Arthur’s ashes were interred with those of his late wife Anne and daughter Tessa in Tallahassee. Peace be with him!
 

Capt. Don Weerasinghe (Retd).


Amara Aunty

Faced adversities with a smile

“Ranjini! Are you sleeping?” is what you always ask during your customary late afternoon visits to our home. My mother’s standard reply was to say “I’ll wake up to answer the question.” The chuckles that follow the routine joke are the natural outcome.

You sewed my first baby gown with pin tucks and tiny embroidered flowers and I remember how it brought tears to your eyes to know that 28 years later I dressed my baby with the same gown when I brought him home from the hospital. You were gifted with the needle and for how many children did you create your little wonder pieces? Yet humble was your middle name, along with loving and compassionate. You were simple and hardworking and a constant in our lives.

You were also a ‘naughty’ diabetic. Of course that did not deter you from falling into temptation. Sweets were a passion. It always used to amaze me how you used to sense when I baked brownies. And did you ever say no to one?

We have to admit that you have a habit of forgetting. How many times would you come back after a visit in search of your lost purse, spectacles, bags and umbrella? How many times would you have laughed at yourself?

How could we forget all the animals? The animals you saved, the animals you nurtured, the ones you tried to find loving homes. You loved them and they loved you in return. When they suffer so do you. How often you have you come in search of extra bread so that you can give milk dipped bread to the homeless puppies you save.

What about your famous ‘Ketawala’ oil? You insisted that it is the total remedy for all human and animal wounds, bruises and what not. People form an integral part in the lives of all of us and your presence was something we have all come to depend on. Today you are not with us and we have come to realise how much we have taken you for granted.

Your life’s history is not what I remember dear Amara Aunty, but how you lived it. I celebrate the life you lead despite the many adversities you faced with a smile. Your brother, sisters and nieces and nephews will miss you dearly and so will I and my family. My son will not know the joy and fun you bring with you when you visit. He will not be able to learn the gentle compassion and joy of giving you had in abundance. I will try to teach him the little things you taught me with your deeds. Siripura will miss you Aunty Amara. May you attain Nibbana.
 

Suramya Hettiarachchi
Siripura, Talawatugoda


The Sunday Leader Dec 14 2008

Herbert Lakshman Fernando

Legend in his own time

Herbert Lakshman Fernando of Moonvalley Estate, Kundasale is a principled philanthropist.

He is one man unafraid of meeting words with deeds.

The oldest living member of the Kandy Sports Club, Herbert was an undaunted ruggerite cum adroit hockey player. A planter by profession, Herbert left for England three decades ago. Assuming duties as Assistant Secretary in the National Council of the YMCA, London, he embarked on rehabilitating 68 nationalities under one roof, a remarkable task indeed. Considering his social welfare work and strict discipline, Herbert was given a berth as Senior Administrator at the Horticultural Society of England.

Herbie was made both the accredited representative of the National Council of YMCAs in Great Britain and a British citizen.

Subsequently joining the Central Methodist Church, Preston, Lancashire as senior community worker Herbie rendered yeoman service in pioneering a safe haven for girls and boys aged 16-24, who had been rendered homeless.

Back in the motherland, Herbie joined Trinity College Kandy, his alma mater. His elder brother Lionel was a former principal of Trinity. But Herbie joined after his brother’s tenure of office was over.

Donating a handsome amount to begin with and then through prayer, Herbie undertook the task of concreting the Junior School compound. Mobilizing parents, students and members of the OBA, he ardently went about it.

Again, in a lively gesture, Herbie donated 300 books of English classics to Trinity. They are currently housed in the Junior, Middle and Upper School libraries. Furthermore, he brought choice sports equipment from the UK which he donated to the college.

Moreover, to Trinity’s Middle School Herbie donated an exquisite trophy in respect of The Most Promising Student of the Year in memory of his brother the late Lionel Fernando. Again, in memory of his sincere friend the late Quentin Israel, the celebrated ruggerite and coach, Herbie donated to the Junior School challenge cups to be presented to the Most Promising Student and the Best All-round Sportsman of the Year.

Installing the public address system and the security light arrangement for the Trinity Junior School was Herbert Fernando’s brainchild.

Herbert Fernando was brought up in a God-fearing Christian atmosphere. Therefore, he is benevolent, meticulous and religious. On November 8, he and his amicable wife Claudia dedicated to St. Paul’s Church, Kandy their invaluable house situated at Kundasale. It will function henceforth as St. Paul’s Eventide Home. It was a long-felt need of the Church.

Well done, good and faithful Herbert!


Achilles Joseph

A year has passed since the demise of Achilles Joseph, who influenced most of us through an example of personal and character development. He was formerly a Deputy Inspector General of Police, a man of high standards, complete integrity, and boundless enthusiasm for whatever task he took in hand.

I remember him taking up the post of President of Alumni Association of St.Patrick's College, Jaffna Colombo Branch on my request and regenerated the organisation which is now a strong and vibrant association. I was so fascinated by his epitome of courage in taking on very difficult tasks.

No one whose privilege it was to know him, is likely to foget the candor of his exchange of ideas, the courage of his faith, the warm and glowing brightness of his friendship. For me personally, Achilles Joseph's greatest legacy was that he lived a full and meaningful life.

He had a vision in his mind and a mission in his heart. The intensity of such mission and vision translated into action that enabled him not to waste time in any trivial matters but rather devote all of his time to the accomplishment of the mission and vision that he believed was given to him. Sri Lanka Institute of Training and Development (SLITD) was his vision, founded on December 3, 1998 for the mission of establishing a centre of excellence in building competencies which now celebrates its 10th anniversary today (5) at 'Tigo Zone' Duplication Road. He was also the founder of Centre for Human Resource Development.

He was vigorous, smiling and friendly - a complete human being, concerned about all other human beings. Words cannot describe how the people of these organisations felt when they lost their founder and the leader. What matters is that feeling of loss-that personal sense of emptiness-that all of us felt because we have lost a great man who understood the institution of human development, gloried in its overwhelming responsibilities, and discharged his duties with dash and joy which were an inspiration to everyone

We all felt his severe loss very deeply, but some small measure of consolation may be found in the words of the poet, Walt Whitman: He is not gone..He is just away. With a cheery smile and wave of the hand. He has wandered into an unknown land. And left us wondering how very far that land is.

May be, since he tarries there, may the bereaved family find solace in the inspiring memories of the exemplary life of the departed legend. A memorial service will be held on Sunday, December 7 at 4.30 p.m. at Nirmala Chapel, Clifford Place, Colombo 4.

- Lakshman David President AASPC


Sunday Times Dec 7 2008

His fame spread from Hulftsdorp Hill to The Hague and beyond

Justice P. Ramanathan

The day-to-day events in the country’s law courts attract almost as much public attention as the country’s political events, and consequently outstanding personalities on Hulftsdorp Hill become as famous as their peers in politics and Parliament. The late Deshmanya Justice P. Ramanathan, popularly known as “Rama” among his wide circle of friends, was one such outstanding person.

Rama came from a respected Hindu family – a family that has given Sri Lanka more than one leader in such fields as politics, administration and the law. But Rama did not sit back on his family laurels; he proceeded to make an individual mark for himself, and he achieved this in no small measure. His successes and the high offices he held were not for self-glorification but to serve his country and fellowmen.

Had he remained at the unofficial bar, his capabilities would have brought him success and financial gain. However, he opted from the very start to give of his services to the country. He joined the Attorney General’s Department, where he held offices of importance and where his ability and personable ways soon earned him wide recognition.

From there, he entered the vocation for which he was best suited – that of a judge. He possessed all the qualities of a good judge; he was just and upright. From the bench of the High Court he rose to the country’s apex Court, where he served with wide acceptance. No litigant – whether winner or loser – left the courtroom without the satisfaction of knowing he or she had received a fair and full hearing.

Rama’s talent was recognised overseas too. He was a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, and he was a bencher of Gray’s Inn, where he qualified as a barrister.

He served as president of Rotary, the Medico-Legal Association, and the British Scholars’ Association. He had many interests, and dogs were one of his passions. He had some of the best dachshunds in Sri Lanka. His imported pooches were champions in the Kennel Club.

Retirement was no resting time for Rama. He continued to serve the country with his characteristic zeal. Official recognition came from his appointments and his consequential services as Governor of the Western Province, Chancellor of the University of Uva Wellassa, and Chairman of the Human Rights Commission.

Rama had winning ways. He was relaxed and unruffled, and enjoyed good-spirited repartee between opposing counsel in court. His repartee was always in good taste, and never left a wound on anyone. One was always at ease when he presided in court. Whenever I knew that one of my cases would be heard before Rama, I would enjoy a relaxed breakfast that day before leaving for Courts.

Rama enjoyed a good joke. He would throw his head backwards and laugh his distinctive laugh.
He enjoyed a happy married life with his wife Mano.

His life was free of ostentation and replete with graceful words, deeds and service. His was a noble life worthy of emulation. His honoured memory will remain in the minds and hearts of those who knew and worked with him, as it does in mine.

“Green be the turf above thee,
Friend of my better days!
None knew thee but to love thee
Nor named thee but to praise.”

K. N. Choksy, PC, MP


Top cop’s good work lives on

Achilles Joseph

Twelve months have passed since the death of Achilles Joseph. My close association with the late Mr. Joseph began when he was a Senior Superintendent of Police and Director, Police Higher Training. I had previously met him when he was Superintendent of Police, Matara.

My great admiration and respect for Joe, as he was affectionately known to those close to him, started to grow during my interaction with him at the Police Higher Training Institute. I was a visiting faculty member at the time, handling training in leadership and communication for senior police officers.

The late Mr. Joseph was a true professional and stickler for perfection. He believed in doing things right, and he put heart and soul into whatever he undertook. Little wonder the Police Higher Training Institute improved greatly as an institution during his tenure. He had an uncanny ability to grasp ideas and concepts and transform them into applicable tools and processes.

His work and initiatives were tempered by human understanding and empathy. He enriched the curriculum and training materials at the Police Higher Training Institute with a library, a source of up-to-date knowledge that was greatly appreciated by the senior police officers.

Joe went on to become SSP Implementation and Progress Control, Elections, and finally Deputy Inspector General of Police in 1992, a position he held with honour until his retirement in 1995. He was proud of his achievements as an officer and gentleman, after a long career in the police that began when he joined as a young Sub Inspector in June 1956.

Even in retirement, Joe continued to contribute to the Police force as president of the Retired Senior Police Officers Association, from 2004 to 2005. After retiring from the Police Department, Joe began a new career in training. This line of work came to him naturally. He took to it like a fish to water. Occasionally he and I would work together on joint training programmes for the private and public sectors.

Joe always gave of his best. He conducted training programmes for the National Savings Bank; Sampath Bank; Commercial Bank; Seylan Bank; the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); Bank of Ceylon; John Keells; the University of Moratuwa, the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration (SLIDA) and other private and public sector organisations. He also conducted management training programmes in the Maldives. He was always updating his knowledge through research.

In 1997, Joe founded the Sri Lanka Institute of Training and Development, which has grown from strength to strength. The institute celebrates its 10th anniversary this month. He would be proud to see how the SLITAD has developed over the years.

Above all else, Joe was a good man – a simple man with no pride or arrogance. He was always happy to help and to impart his knowledge to others. To him, humane service was above money and wealth. He was God-fearing and he played straight. He set a fine example to the rest of us.

Shakespeare’s Mark Antony said “the good that men do is oft interred with their bones”, but this will not be the case with Joe, who will be remembered by the professional community for years to come.

Nalin N. P. Jayasuriya


Top score for an all-rounder, true friend and gentleman

Panteleon Algama

Don Panteleon Algama passed away on November 9 at the age of 72. He was a respected business entrepreneur and well-known citizen of Wattala.I knew Pante, as we affectionately called him, for more than 60 years, first as a schoolmate and then as a good and trusted friend.

At St. Anthony’s College, Wattala, Pante was an all-round sportsman, representing the school at cricket and soccer. In his last year at school he captained the cricket team. He was a prolific run-getter and hard-hitting batsman. His love for cricket continued with his association with the Anthonian Sports Club, Wattala. He was president of the club for many years, and was instrumental in making it a leading cricket club. He achieved most of his goals, but various factors prevented him from achieving his dream. He spent much of his time and money on the club and in helping budding cricketers.

We picture him joining the heavenly cricket team and playing with such legends as Stanley Algama, George Fernando, Denis de Silva, Dalton de Silva, Noel Jansz, Shanthi Samarasekera and Julian Fernando.

Pante was a devout Roman Catholic, generous and helpful to the poor and needy. His was a life of simplicity and humanity, qualities he learned to practise under the tutelage of the De La Salle Brothers. He was a parishioner of St. Anne’s Church, Wattala, and All Saints’ Church, Borella. Many Catholic clergy, including the Archbishop of Colombo, attended his funeral.

He will be missed by his many friends. We will remember his hospitality after a club meeting; and our countless intimate chats. Our happy times together, the joys and the successes we shared, and even the difficult times that brought us even closer together, are what is left. These precious moments no one can steal from us.

My deepest sympathies go to his wife Malini, his sons Janaka, Priyantha and Samantha, his in-laws, and his grandchildren. Be comforted in the thought that Pante was a gentleman par excellence – kind, honest and caring, a type hard to come by these days.

I came across these inspiring words on a card titled, “Comfort for those who mourn”: “Death is for the good – a translation into light, into power, into love. Those who on earth were ordinary Christians become perfect, those who were beautiful become good, and those who were good become sublime.”

May Angels descend upon Pante, singing joyful hymns and escorting him to heaven to meet Christ our Saviour.

Thanks for the happy memories, Pante.

Victor Rodrigo


Let’s take a leaf out of the book of a dedicated teacher

Lakshmi Wanigasinghe

Lakshmi Wanigasinghe, a dedicated teacher of Anula Vidyalaya, Nugegoda for well over 30 years, passed away on November 9, 2008. The charismatic figure with simple but noble qualities touched the hearts of her students, colleagues, friends and relatives.

She led an exemplary life, and looked after her family in the most loving manner. My brother, Colonel W. M. Wanigasinghe (retired), was lucky to have been blessed with a wife of that calibre. She groomed her children – three boys and one girl – exceptionally well, giving them guidance beyond measure to ensure they were well placed in life.

It was a pity she could not much share the happiness of her eldest grand-daughter, Sashikala Wanigasinghe, when she was appointed a prefect at Visakha Vidyalaya. The credit undoubtedly goes to Lakshmi.

As a sister-in-law, Lakshmi meant much to me, and many were the times I had to count on her. I recall how she comforted me when I lost my loving husband 16 years ago. Her mental stability, gained through her high spirituality, helped dispel the darkness I was facing. Her demise is a great blow to me.

I had the privilege of joining her in a few of her many philanthropic activities, such as helping needy students.

According to her wishes, her remains were handed over to the Medical College at a simple ceremony. She never wanted to cause an iota of inconvenience to anybody.
May she be born in a blissful state.

Malini Kumarasinghe


Diplomat who made the world listen to Lanka’s tragic saga

Lakshman Kadirgamar

It is now three years since the diplomat, politician and lawyer Lakshman Kadirgamar passed away. With the distance of time I am still trying to understand the tragedy of his passing. After his assassination, I started to look for answers to life’s tragedies. Like most distraught persons, I turned to religion and philosophy to understand why this icon was removed from our midst.

Buddhism explains things with the inexorable law of Karma. You reap what you sow in the long journey of Samsara. But it was the story of Lazarus in the Bible (John 11) that came to mind. Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus, had profound faith in Jesus Christ. Christ walked up to the cave where Lazarus was entombed and said, “Lazarus, come forth.” And Lazarus walked back to life.

Who has the faith of a Martha and a Mary, I wondered .Who will say, “Lakshman, go forth and serve the people who loved you so much.” Even as these thoughts flashed through my mind, I realised that these were flights of fancy. He was gone.

What is the legacy that the former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar has left behind? Has he left his country a better place after his gentle and brief walk through the history of this sad and troubled land?

He was Sri Lanka’s most potent weapon in the halls of international power. He walked through the chancelleries of Europe, and to the court of St. James, the White House, New Delhi, the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, persuading, mesmerising and convincing his peers as he spoke of the dilemmas of our island nation. Lakshman spoke not as a supplicant begging for favours, but with the righteousness of a man demanding that the world listens to the true facts of a nation imperilled by the barbaric force of terrorism. He changed world opinion.

He died so we could live. A few days before his death, he spoke to me about the heightened threats to his life from the LTTE. I invited him to visit a private bungalow in the south, where he would be far removed from the threat posed to him in the capital city. “I have an engagement with the Ambassador for the United States. When I finish that, I will take you up on your offer,” he said. It was not to be.

It is a sad indictment of our land and culture that the statue made in Lakshman Kadirgamar’s memory by a world-famous Russian sculptor still lies prostrate. The LTTE killed him, and the nation he served so well fails to honour him. This was the sad lament of his devoted wife Suganthi.

Lakshman had the rare privilege of having his portrait unveiled at the entrance to the hallowed halls of Oxford. The unveiling ceremony was a star-studded event. Prime Ministers, ex-Presidents, ambassadors and ministers from different countries assembled to pay tribute to him. In his speech, Lakshman said: “The icing on the cake may have been at Oxford, but the cake was truly baked in my island home of Sri Lanka.” A product of the University of Peradeniya, Lakshman did not forget to pay homage to his early seat of learning.

He was proud to be a Sri Lankan. He abhorred tribal appellations such as “Tamil”, “Sinhalese”, “Muslim”, etc. He belonged to the human race, and could not understand the stratifications of birth.

I would like to strike a personal note.

My son Uchi had passed all his law examinations in the UK and was awaiting acceptance at one of the Inns of Court schools of law to complete his barrister’s examination, only to be told that there were no vacancies and that he would have to wait another year in England. I spoke to Lakshman. He immediately spoke to the Lord Chief Justice of England. He came back and said to me: “You will hear from one of the schools of law.”

Two or three weeks later a letter arrived, accepting Uchi to one of the premier schools of law. Lakshman had only to pick up the phone to talk to people like the Lord Chief Justice of England, former US Secretary of State Colin Powell and other world leaders. He knew them personally.

His wife Suganthi is keeping his memory alive. A Lakshman Kadirgamar Foundation has been inaugurated and worldwide sponsorship is flowing in from his international friends.

Suganthi mentioned the eminent men appointed to the foundation. I do not recall the name of Wimal Weerawansa, but it was Mr. Weerawansa who single-handedly organised Lakshman’s funeral arrangements. Chandrika, whom he had loyally served, was only cosmetically involved. Wimal Weerawansa saw what was happening and stepped in to honour the fallen leader. He mobilised the entire might of the JVP.

Lakshman did not belong to Colombo, to Trinity College and the urban elite. As he said at Oxford, he was a home-grown product and a son of sovereign Sri Lanka. To honour him selectively is to do him an injustice.

Let me end by quoting from the book of condolence left at Lakshman’s funeral. Here are the words of a peasant farmer from the Ruhuna: “In your journey through Samsara, may you be reborn in our country just one more time, so you can finish the work you started.”

Malinga H. Gunaratne


Professor with many passions

A well known figure in the corridors of Pera and in the music, drama and literary fields, Professor Ashley Halpe now 75, talks of what has shaped his life to Kumudini Hettiarachchi.

Pic by Saman Kariyawasam

Be it sitting on a panel with eminent literary scholars, teaching Shakespeare to fresh-faced 16-year-olds or singing his heart out on stage or at mass – one thing marks him out as “different”.
The endearing quality that many great academics lack is ingrained in this professor who needs no introduction.

Humility is Professor Ashley Halpe’s hallmark and sitting before him in his daughter’s home in Mount Lavinia, while his “beloved wife who has unfailingly fed my spirit” Bridget is teaching piano to a boy, The Sunday Times attempts to gain an insight into what has made him what he is.

Prof. Halpe whose name and life have inextricably been linked to literature and the University of Peradeniya for long years, has just reached three-score years plus 15. He celebrated his 75th birthday on November 19.

To find an answer to what makes him tick, Prof. Halpe journeys back to his childhood…..and picks on the great influence his father had on him. “He had a crucial impact. He put books in our hands. Being an excellent artist, he guided me but never thrust literature or art down my throat,” he says. His father, known fondly as Captain Vernon, as he was a Cadet Officer had been the Principal of Lumbini Vidyalaya when the theatre was created there, subsequently becoming the home of Sinhala drama.

Books, books and more books…….a constant flow, enriched by the travels across the country, from Talaimannar to Matara or to the east or the hills. For his father had railway warrants.

In his childhood, Prof. Halpe had never been a Colombo boy, except for a short stint, the final years of the H.Sc. which he spent at St. Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya. Starting his school career at the Montessori at St. John’s College, Panadura, followed by a few years at Holy Cross College, Kalutara, he believes that it was later at De Mazenod College, Kandana, and St. Peter’s College that he was offered more than education. “The primarily Catholic environment was tangible, real,” he says, successfully and naturally nurtured by committed teachers including the Brothers of that order. De Mazenod also had a tradition of choral singing.

 

Talking about the years when he was studying to get admission to university, he says there was no competition. “If you passed you were in university. The stimulus was the work itself and you competed with yourself.”

St. Peter’s also had a strong tradition of music and drama and that was where the young Halpe was drawn into acting. It was also there that he faced the academic challenge of an open prize system, where whatever the student was studying, science or arts, he could compete for prizes in the other stream. “I tried for every conceivable prize…….this gamaya, while all the other boys were mainly from Colombo 4 itself, and collared three from the other stream (he was doing science) apart from the class prize.”

But never a bookworm, he was also heavily involved in music, choral activity, debating and sports such as cricket, football and tennis, though he was “never very good at cricket”.

Poetry and sketching had always been a passion………a “fantastic holiday” spent at Minipe coming to mind where his uncle who was working there had taken him to see anicuts, birds et al. They would explore the land and this impressionable youth would write poetry “in my head”, come back and reproduce it in exercise books. He also did a lot of sketching.

Suddenly Prof. Halpe remembers the three libraries – De Mazenod, St. Peter’s and also the British Council in Colombo -- which played a major role in his life. The reading was “not streamed and I read what I felt like reading”, science books as well as Eliot, Dickens, Walter Scott, Chaucer, just to see what they were like.

The next “big change” in his life came along with a “shock” to his father who wanted him to become a doctor or scientist when he changed track and decided that it was the arts for him. Facing a gruelling interview he got into university to do arts.

Into the full life of the campus of the University of Ceylon, in the beautiful setting of Peradeniya his “encounter with English”, started early in life, became strengthened. It also opened up new and exciting vistas. Though cut off from Colombo, the hub for concerts and exhibitions, those at Pera, as they call it, never felt “deprived”.

“We did our own thing through Dramsoc (Drama Society) with E.F.C. Ludowyke introducing us to famous directors of the time like Jubal. Around that time, the students also formed themselves into the University Singers, which later became the Peradeniya Singers, under a lecturer in English, Robin Mayhead,” he says. Twice a week for half-an-hour Mayhead put them through their paces in four-part harmony in a cappella style.

The grandeur of nature was just a short walk away. “We savoured the hills about two or three times a month.”

“But it was not only academic and cultural,” adds Prof. Halpe. “Pera was also a world of people. Relationships meant a lot and life-long friendships were forged here.” It was as a young lecturer at Peradeniya that he met his life’s partner, Bridget, whom he says he “grabbed” in 1957 when she joined as a fresher. They married in 1959 and have been inseparable since then, even now travelling down to Colombo by Intercity together to teach students, he English and she music and singing. Family life with their three children was also very important amidst all the work.

For Prof. Halpe, Peradeniya provided every kind of experience, witnessing first-hand the inevitable politicization of the university, the tussles, the group rivalries and also being part and parcel of the tense times…1968 stands out when there was a standoff between the undergraduates and the army. He was Proctor (dealing with discipline) during the challenging years of 1971 (when the country agonized over the first youth insurrection) and would be out of home which was on campus itself for long hours. “There were calls in the middle of the night, there were visits to Bogambara Prison and also Pallekelle and Weerawila camps on behalf of the students.”

Down the years, before the country experienced Black July ’83, some people “jumped the gun” and attacked Tamil students, he recalls, and the students just disappeared, fearful of staying at Peradeniya. It was Prof. Halpe and Dr. Premasiri who were instrumental in getting them back. “We persuaded the lecturers to gently refuse to teach until all students, including the Tamil students, were back in class.”

July ’83 found about 10,000 people fleeing from the violence beingprovided shelter at the Hilda Obeysekera Hall. 1988 -89, the beeshanaya period was “a naked kind of conflict with young people at risk,” says Prof. Halpe.

Retiring from university in 1998, the bonds have not been severed, for he has been invited to continue teaching as a Visiting Lecturer. “Teaching is part of my life,” says Prof. Halpe, while he also continues to direct plays and paint. Not only does he teach at university but does so privately to students sitting the Advanced Level and external degree both local and London. This is what sustains them along with Bridget’s music and singing lessons as they “plunged all my retirement benefits into a house we built at Anniewatte”.

To the public Prof. Halpe and painting are not common knowledge. Drawing has always fascinated him and once again it was his father who took him to the Royal Primary School Principal H.D. Sugathapala who in turn introduced him to Harry Pieris of the famous 43 Group. Prof. Halpe was 18 at that time. Soon after he met Neville Weeraratne. An uncle of his also took him to see Donald Ramanayake and he was the first artist who gave him some tips on choice of colour to suit Lankan landscapes he was dabbling in at that time.

A long and illustrious life. As Prof. Halpe faces a new year, what hopes and plans for the future?
To publish as a whole his works that have remained in journals and notebooks, he says, adding that though at the moment it is a fallow period for him as an artist “a canvas on an easel in my room” awaits.


Nation, Dec 7 2008 

Justice P. Ramanathan

Endowed with abundance of goodwill

 

Justice P. Ramanathan passed away peacefully at his home on the 7th of December 2006. Two close friends and his dutiful wife Mano, who always looked after him with great care, were by his side. It was in the fitness of things that his death was as peaceful as was the way he lived all his life - in quiet dignity.

He belonged to a well-known family. His great grandfather was Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, Solicitor-General, King’s Counsel and a distinguished member of the Legislative Council. His great grand uncle was Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam, the first Ceylonese to enter the Ceylon Civil Service and was Registrar-General for several years. Sir Muthu Coomaraswamy was also a relative from an earlier generation. The family was renowned for its philanthropy, munificence and service to the people.

Much has already been said and written about his career as a prosecutor in the Department of the Attorney-General and the various judicial positions he held with honour; first, as a Judge of the High Court, thereafter as a Judge and President of the Court of Appeal and finally as a Judge of the Supreme Court. It is therefore unnecessary for me to advert to his career, except to say that he possessed in ample measure the essential attributes of a good Judge, namely, impartiality, integrity, and a strong sense of justice and fairness.

On this occasion, I would like to refer briefly to his personal qualities which permeated and vitalised his entire being. These were the mainspring of his life. It is precisely these qualities which endeared him, in a special way, to a very wide circle of friends.

His personal qualities and attributes were unique. He was blessed with a nature devoid of meanness, pettiness, malice, envy, ill-will and arrogance. On the contrary, he was richly endowed with positive qualities such as generosity, hospitality, magnanimity, moral integrity, compassion and an abundance of good-will to all, including the few who disliked him! He was never self­-righteous nor ‘moralistic’. He was unassuming to a fault. It is but rarely that one meets with a person so loyal in friendship, and so resolute and unswerving in principled conduct. He certainly measured up to the Roman ideal, ‘1 have lived honourably, I have never harmed anyone’.

His journey came to an end two years ago. Ours may continue for a short while longer, but the fragrance of his memory will remain undimmed and undiminished in the hearts and minds of all those who had the good fortune to have known him. I consider it a privilege to have associated with him closely and to have worked with him. The oft quoted lines from “Hamlet” epitomise his life and work.

“He was a man, take him for all in all.
[We] shall not look upon his like again.”

G. P. S. de Silva
Former Chief Justice


 

Theo Seneviratne

In memory of her sweet gentle ways

 

Theo was born on January 9, 1922 in Nuwara Eliya. She was the third born to her parents Stanley and Lilian Jansen. She had a brother and two sisters, and is survived by her younger sister Barbara Brown who resides in Australia.

She studied at Good Shepherd Convent in Nuwara Eliya where she was a good student, and had a very quiet, happy and content childhood. Theo met her late husband Noel when he was posted at the Governor’s Office in Nuwara Eliya, where they moved to during Easter to avoid the heat in Colombo. They married on 27th December 1947 at St. Mary’s Church, Bambalapitiya. I had the honour to be bestman at their marriage. After marriage she moved to live with Noel’s parents and our large family in Colombo. Coming from a Burgher background, she adapted well to the totally contrasting Sinhala lifestyle of her new in-laws who took to her kind, loving and gentle ways.

Despite the sad demise of her first born child, she courageously and faithfully went on to raise five more children in Avril, Nishanta, Nihal, Lalith and Sabrina. She was the perfect wife and mother, dedicating her life to caring for her husband and young family with lots of love and many personal sacrifices. Many were the times that she had to be a single parent due to Noel’s business travels both locally and overseas. At such times she conducted herself courageously and with excellence.

Having been to nursing school for a short period prior to marriage, she did an excellent job in nursing and caring for her Mother-in-Law, and subsequently her Father until their ultimate demise. In her twilight years she also nursed and cared for her late husband Noel during his prolonged illness, taking toll on her personal health and wellbeing. On one of our visits to Sri Lanka, she was most concerned that Noel needed immediate hospitalisation, but was refusing to go as he was fed up of being to hospital so often. I happened to call her that night to inquire of Noel’s condition when she begged of me to speak to him. I went over to Nishanta’s where most of the family had gathered, sat by Noel for quite awhile, and finally convinced him to agree to enter hospital. Theo was so happy and grateful. That was her nature. She was blessed in return with her children and daughters-in-law taking good care of her during her final years. Theo was a great and much loved Mother-in-Law who was always approachable, and available for advice and guidance. She has 8 grandchildren, each of whom has very fond memories of having grown up spending much time with her, listening to her folk-tales and experiencing her love and spiritual guidance. She was blessed with a Great Grandson a few years back, and was thrilled to knit him a pixie cap among other things. Spiritually, she was a devoted Catholic taking a very active role in her church activities at Ratmalana. She believed in working for the Lord by helping the needy through prayer, deeds and means. There were many less fortunate families in Ratmalana who benefited from her goodwill. They will undoubtedly mourn her loss along with all of us. As a caring relation and a great friend she is loved by many for her sweet gentle ways, and the love she exuberated at all times. Though extremely sensitive and easily hurt, there was never a harsh word or an act of retaliation from her, only a silent suffering and a prayer for the offender.

At the age of 86, she was full of energy and led an active life free of any major ailments. When we visited Sri Lanka in June 2008 she attended my 80th birthday, and was the ‘live wire’ at the party. It was a few months later that she complained of ill health that led to her demise. That makes it more difficult for family and friends to accept that she is no longer with us. We thank and praise the Lord for being merciful in sparing Theo a long suffering end. May she spend the rest of her years in the presence of the Lord.

Joe Seneviratne (Brother-in-Law)
L.A. - USA


 

Kumudu Rodrigo

Built a tea brand from scratch

 

Who would have thought that when we all saw Kumudu on that fateful day on the 15th of September that it would be the last time that we would see his smiling face and his still small voice? Many of us are still suffering from the shock of bidding him goodnight and agreeing to meet him the next day, when we were thunderstruck by the news that he had met with a tragic accident a few minutes later.

As the news trickled in, we all thought it was a case of another accident of someone’s reckless driving or a faulty vehicle, but it was only the next day that all of us realised that the cruel hand of fate had struck this genial personality. We came to know that a large metal piece from a passing cement mixing truck had flown off and come through the driving side shutter and struck one side of his head. The thunderous impact of this object made him lose control of the car rendering him motionless. He was unconscious until he passed away exactly one week later. He was only 37 years old, far too young to die.

The doctors in the accident ward did their utmost to give him the best care and attention but unfortunately fate took a different turn and all of us lost a gentle human being whose qualities and ways are rare in this present generation. We were always greeted with a warm smile whenever we saw him, and never saw him unruffled or angry or upset over anything. None of us have ever heard him speak a harsh word to anyone even though some may have offended him. He was indeed a rare human being. The saying that only the Good die young is truly a fitting tribute to his memory.

He joined Aitken Spence ten years ago, as a young graduate trainee and came to work in the marketing division of Elpitiya Plantations Plc. as a junior executive. His dedication, hard work and common sense attitude made the company entrust him to develop a brand of tea from nothing. He single-handedly gave birth to the Harrow Ceylon Choice brand and brought it to what it is today from scratch. He took the tough low cost route and built the brand purely on relationships, quality and image to make it a brand that is well known particularly in the outstations with over 15 distributors and 20 sales representatives. He built a Harrow family amongst all these people, as was witnessed during those tragic days after his accident. His dedication to the brand was unbelievable, so much so that even in the last moments before his death, he had been on the phone to some distributors and sales representatives. The pride of his life was the brand and did everything on his own giving leadership to all who worked with him. It was no surprise that in a few years he rose to the position of Deputy General Manager. His void in this job will be hard to fill.

Kumudu was also a great family man and did more than his best for his wife and three children. He wished the best for them and his main ambition was to particularly give his children the best education that he could afford. His wife Shama was his tower of strength and together built his home and family bit by bit. Unfortunately he was tragically struck down before he could see the fruits of his hard work. The pain and agony to his wife and children cannot be measured and if we, his colleagues, miss him so much, one could not imagine the grief and sorrow that his family and his parents would be going through after his death. We can only pray that God will help his family to bear the grief and sorrow of his sad loss and may God give strength to his wife Shama and the children to carry on life and fulfil Kumudu’s expectations with the help of all those who cared and loved him in life.

May his soul rest in peace!
Colleagues at Elpitiya Plantations Plc.


 

Mr. Viji Weerasinghe - First death anniversary

An educationist par excellence

 

31st October 2008, marks the first death anniversary of a true, dedicated, humble, and humane son of Mother Lanka, an institution at our “Alma Mater”, Royal College, a colossus in the field of education, Vice President and Advisor of the Royal College Old Boys Union. Readers, and Friends, I refer to none other than Mr. Viji Weerasinghe, whose first death anniversary was on the 31st of October, 2008. Friends, and Readers, he was indeed a “Patriarch” and an “Institution” at our “Alma Mater”, Royal College, and most importantly a humane, humble, and benevolent son of Mother Lanka.

One of the noble and gifted characteristics that this humane individual possessed was that he never ever basked in the glory of public patronage, a unique feature, which is, very seldom found among, the “so called educationalists” of today.

A statement made by the Principal of Royal College, at the funeral a year ago, when I, and scores of others from all walks of life, who were there to hear the speech was the Prophetic words uttered by the Principal which is still itched in my memory. He said “ He was the Mahatma Gandhi of Royal College,” and it goes, without any exaggeration whatsoever, he commented. Friends, this bears ample testimony to this remarkable individual who was a martyr to our Royal College, and has left an indelible mark not only at Royal College, but also in the field of Education.

Our Honourable Sir, Mr. Viji Weerasinghe, should be bestowed with the highest title in the country, not only for his yeoman and dedicated service in the field of Education he had served for over 50 years, but also for being a true, dedicated, humane, humble son of Mother Lanka. It is my earnest hope and prayer, that even, at this late stage, in hindsight, the Government of Sri Lanka, bestows this honour on him. Friends, I wonder, how many are aware of the fact that he was the oldest, and most senior, living educationist in our Mother Land at the time of his demise, and also how many are aware of the fact that lakhs of people from the Corporate World, and all walks of life, came for his funeral. It was something like a State Funeral, of a high public official, from the top echelons of State, who had expired while holding office, but in reality, he was only a Senior Advisor to the Royal College Old Boys Union having an office in the OBU complex.

Another unique and noble characteristic he possessed, was that it went against his grain, to speak any evil or ill against anyone, at our Alma Mater, or anyone, for that matter. I have never seen him getting angry or having vengeance, malice or vendetta against anyone, even if harmed or provoked.

In Conclusion, it is my earnest hope and prayer that his Soul rest in Eternal Peace and Happiness in the world beyond.

Amyn Chatoor


The Sunday Leader

Sandy Senaratne

 

Sandy Senaratne finally gave in to the disease which afflicted her after facing it bravely and in a manner which amazed all those who knew her and her husband, Athula.

Sandy adapted herself in Sri Lanka with ease and even began enjoying her stay in her adopted country. Athula and Sandy endeared themselves to all those who had the good fortune in crossing their path. Sandy was very popular at her place of work, with the neighbours, and all of Athula's friends.

She became a naturalised citizen of Sri Lanka and was a concerned and caring mother to Dehara. Sandy even went to the extent of bringing her ageing parents from the UK to Sri Lanka so that Athula and she could take care of them.

It was actions such as this that stood out and made all appreciate her concern for other human beings and more particularly that of caring for ones parents in their advanced years. Sandy never trumpeted the good that she did by way of uplifting the needy and afflicted. An avid supporter of Sri Lanka cricket, Sandy was able to keep abreast of her love for Premier League Soccer in UK too due to the advent of cable TV.

Athula and Dehara did not spare anything in taking care of Sandy during her illness. May Sandy find eternal peace in the Lord's garden.

 LW 


Sunday Times Nov 30 3008

My brother, the colour and cheer of my life

Rohan Jayawardene

A stand-up comedian, versatile actor, self-made chef of exotic cuisine, psychologist, counsellor, home decorator, doctor in the house for all, but himself. This was my brother, not by profession but by nature. He was a businessman inheriting the family batik business.

How do I come to terms with your sudden journey into the unknown? With no goodbyes, unfinished sentences and untold truths? You were not just a brother to me, but a great friend, caregiver, protector and supporter in all my endeavours.

You cared for all your family, close friends and workers unconditionally. You always found time in between your numerous chores to listen to the woes or day-to-day tales of not just friends and family but the fishmonger, the garage mechanic, the vegetable vendor, the bathroom brush seller or anybody who needed an ear. You even had time for the constant chatter of the little boy next door. Your patience was really a golden virtue.

I remember how you were kept in charge of me when I was little and while our parents were at work, you constantly fanned me with a newspaper to keep me from acquiring a wheeze which I did if I sweated. You were my sole playmate and also taught me some wild tricks like sneaking into our parents’ room at Christmas time to snatch a piece of cake from the almirah while they slept. It was a ‘mission impossible’ but well accomplished. How can I forget the numerous ‘test matches’ we played in the balcony of our tiny flat, and the car tyres we rolled around the living room, knocking down furniture imagining we were driving cars? You even brainwashed me into thinking raw bacon was delicious. It was!

On your own you were mischievous, getting into all the scrapes and getting out of them with the most creative fairytales. Your middle name ‘William’ didn’t fit anyone more aptly, as you were the epitome of the character in that series by Richmal Compton. You gave us endless entertainment with your priceless cricket commentaries at parties and when we had sing-songs you would always hit the high notes that none of us could pitch.

You would watch a movie and enact the entire story to us, making it come alive by taking on all the different characters. When we invariably did see the movie, it would be an anticlimax as your version was so much better. You excelled in sport at Royal, playing cricket as a little chap and represented College in rugby. I came for all your matches with Thaththa and my stomach would flutter inside every time you had to kick a penalty.

You transformed my life forever when I was eleven, when you brought home the ‘Woodstock’ LP and all the serious progressive music emerging at that time. I metamorphosed from a ‘sweet goody two shoes’ to a rebellious hell-raiser. Thank you! I realized then that something complex was going on ‘out there’ and life was not about pretty dresses. We got even closer and were really good buddies in our late teens and stayed close friends till the end.

You later became my boss, but we joked and laughed most of the time throwing in work in between. We also had a collaborated creative phase when we produced two fashion shows “Implosion I and II”, more like fashion dramas with dramatic movement, music and special lighting which hadn’t been staged in Sri Lanka before. I am ever so grateful and indebted to the time, energy and great lengths you went into making sure my house turned out something special.

You were always there in all my trials and tribulations with sound advice, moral support and the nuttiest jokes. We all have had many fires to hurdle through, cliffs we hurtled over and a lot of rocky slippery terrain to cover, but we made it and you were always there. Now we have fallen into this dark abyss because of our loss and you are not there to show us the way out.

You brought up three children by yourself and looked after our parents at the same time. Your burdens were much, maybe too much. You have left a legacy of three wonderful, beautiful children Janith, Vidhu and Yathra. We all miss you incredibly, and a shadow hangs over us because we cannot share with you the sunrise and the sunset, the starry sky and the moonlight, the leaves on the trees and the chirping of birds, the rivers, the breeze and the sea, but mostly the laughter you generated whenever we spoke. How dull, boring and colourless our lives will be.

How many interesting and enlightening conversations we had on a daily basis? Be it the arts, sports, politics or social issues, we always had great rapport. I don’t know how I can ever watch a Sri Lankan cricket match again with no post-mortem with you. The void you have left doesn’t have refills. We can only have memories.

There have been and will be many great sons and lovers, fathers and brothers, but I tell you surely that you were the very best. I am convinced you are in a softer, sweeter realm of consciousness, because you gave so much of yourself in this life. May your soul be at peace!

The sun will always shine, but never as brightly as before.

Menik


A planter respected by superiors and loved by workers

Bertie E. Wijeratne

My father, Mayadunnage Bertie Edward Wijeratne, who was born on June 1, 1935, and died on December 1, 1994, hailed from a low-country family from Sedawatta, Kelaniya. Born to a family of planters, Thathie followed in the footsteps of his elder brother after creditably completing his studies at St. Thomas’, Matale.

He was a courageous person, and would take bold decisions when necessary. He was also knowledgeable and hard-working, thanks to the rigorous training he had by working under Europeans. His superiors saw in him the makings of an efficient planter, and over the years they would recommend him to increasingly bigger estates. There was no doubt keen competition, even in those days, to become a planter. I have heard that from his young days my father was sincere and dynamic and very keen about his work. He mastered the techniques of all aspects of tea and rubber planting and manufacturing. It did not take him much time to prove to the different managements he worked for that he was capable of managing large plantations.

After just four or five years, he was put in charge of tea and rubber plantations of more than 1,000 hectares in extent. During this period the majority of the labour force on estates was Tamil, and my father worked in harmony with them and looked after their interests, while producing the best results. He was fluent in Tamil, and he was close to the Tamil people, who loved him very much.

He gave top priority to the well-being of the downtrodden labour force who were trampled by the Europeans at every turn. Thathie’s kindness and large-heartedness brought him fruitful results in the many plantations he managed.

His lady love (my mother) was from the land of gems, Ratnapura, and also came from a well-known family, the Delgodas.

A happily married man, Thathie was a loving husband and father. He had three children – two daughters and a son (myself). He was very proud of his family, and he was delighted to see that they were second to none. At the time of his death, one of his daughters was married. My younger sister and I were not married. Today all three of us are married, and I wish that my father was here today to see his eight beautiful grandchildren who, I am sure, would have made him the happiest grandfather ever.

To his brothers and sisters, Thathie was the darling of the family. They were very proud of him. He was prepared to sacrifice anything for the sake of his brothers and sisters. This rare quality was embedded in him from his schoolboy days.

My Thathie’s sudden and untimely demise created a vacuum that can never be filled. Tragedy struck our family like a bolt of lightning, leaving the ship rudderless midstream to the mercy of God.

He had carefully planned his life of retirement, but alas all hope was lost. When my father died, our family was left with no one to guide us. As the saying goes, man proposes but God disposes.

Thathie was a God-fearing man who never missed his morning prayers before setting out for work every day.

At the time of his death, he had more than 40 years’ experience in planting. He was a well-recognised Visiting Agent for many large plantations in the private sector. The vast areas he has replanted in the many plantations he managed in the low country bear testimony to the invaluable services he rendered to the industry and the country at large.

His 14th death anniversary falls tomorrow. May he attain Nibbana.

Son Haren


She inspired her students to give of their best

Ruwani Seimon

I first met Ms. Ruwani as a child of 12 years. St. Bridget’s Convent was presenting the musical “Camelot”. Indu Dharmasena was the director and Ms. Ruwani was the musical director. I was one of the “children of the court”.

Ms. Ruwani terrorised everyone. That was one of her trademarks. She was a perfectionist who worked miracles with her performers. “Camelot” is still referred to as the best musical ever put on by St. Bridget’s Convent.

After “Camelot”, I worked with Ms. Ruwani on several other shows, theatre productions and carol services, both as a performer and as a co-producer. Our student-teacher relationship grew into a unique mentoring friendship. She taught me how to sing, and more important, how to perform on stage.

My best memory of Ms. Ruwani is of her conducting the choir in a grand concert finale, her exuberance pumping up the adrenaline in us so that we ended up giving a brilliant performance.

Her famous dressing room “pep talks” would give a band of sweaty teenagers the courage to command a stage. Her stubborn stance against the long-suffering school administration secured performance opportunities barely approved by our Roman Catholic educators. She was a force to be reckoned with.
I learnt many lessons from Ms. Ruwani. Her best critique of me was uttered out of exasperation, while coaching me for a solo: “Sulo, I don’t care if you sing a wrong note. Just be confident. Hold your head up high and for God’s sake PERFORM!”

This advice has followed me wherever I have performed, from the stage at the Lionel Wendt Theatre to many other theatre venues. What I admired most about Ms. Ruwani was her recognition of talent and her respect for hard work. She allowed seniors a free hand with choreographing, designing and publicising the school choir productions. These experiences shaped me and continue to influence me, five years later.

Every time I think of my school career, I thank my lucky stars that we had someone like Ms. Ruwani. She allowed our creativity to bloom and encouraged us to hone our talents.

Like most relationship, ours was far from perfect. We failed to agree on many things, and at times we were quite vocal about our disagreements. When I recall some of our worst arguments, I wonder how we ever survived them. But our clashes cleared because of our mutual respect, which strengthened our relationship.

Ms. Ruwani, people like you and my grandmother will never pass away. You will always live, vividly, in the minds and hearts of the people you have touched. My only hope is that the generations to come will find a replacement who is half as qualified and devoted as you. But that’s a tall order.

Right now, all I can say is a simple thank you. Thank you for everything you have done for me, my friends and my school.

And, by the way, save me a seat at your next performance.

Sulochana Dissanayake


Extraordinary in her quiet, dignified way

Sheila de Alwis

We are constantly reminded of the lives of the great and famous, but not often do we remember ordinary people who led extraordinary lives. Such a person was Sheila de Alwis, née Obeysekera.

She was married to Leslie de Alwis, a prominent scholar and former head of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Sri Lanka. She was indeed a lady by every measure. She was born to wealth but lived humbly. She died the way she lived, with neither fuss nor excitement, but in a quiet and dignified manner.

Her son Lalith (Lalla) and I became friends at Trinity College, Kandy. Subsequently, I came to know and love all his sisters – Shanti, Nilanthi and Ione. Lalla lived in Colombo and I in Kandy. To our teen hormones, Colombo was a far greater attraction than Kandy.

Lalla’s house became a home away from home to me and many others from Trinity and Kandy. But it was a home because his mother, Aunty Sheila, as we all called her, made it so.

Better than anyone else, she understood our wild gyrations and oscillating personalities. She was pragmatic and understanding in every way. There was food for the hungry and counselling for the eternal teen problems, mainly related to girls, that would invariably crop up. Many a romance originated in her home. We tested the limits for our age late Saturday nights at Colombo nightclubs and rugby clubs – but there was never any censure for forsaking discipline for fun.

In essence, she was a mother to me and all of Lalla’s friends who enjoyed a kind of freedom at her home at an age that many did not. She was a lady beyond her time.

For all the love and affection she gave me and those of us who were not her children, I feel compelled to write this, so that she would smile, as she often did for our transgressions, while reading this in heaven.

Roy Balasuriya


Nation Snday Nov 30 3008\

Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Vianney Fernando

His guidance and contributions are immense

His Lordship Bishop Joseph Vianney Fernando, Bishop of Kandy, celebrated the Silver Jubilee of his Episcopal Ordination on the 21st of May, 2008 at the Kandy Cathedral where he had spent ten years as the Vicar General and prior to that as a schoolboy at the adjacent premises of St. Sylvester’s College. The birth of St. Anthony’s College Kandy in 1854, took place at these very same premises and prospered for 74 years before moving to its present home at Katugastota.

Many appreciations and tributes were written and published during and after the Episcopal Silver Jubilee highlighting the spiritual, intellectual and humane achievements of this wonderful servant of God, Bishop Vianney Fernando. This reflection however is to set down the huge role of influence His Lordship has had on the growth and sustenance of St. Anthony’s College Kandy and to express gratitude and appreciation of all Antonians, young and old.

Initially it was as Vicar General for the Diocese of Kandy that the then Rev. Fr. Vianney Fernando began his association with St. Anthony’s College. Those were turbulent times when the then Bishop of Kandy was compelled to hand over the educational section of this institute to the Government. As this was a unique situation, it demanded extraordinary measures to be set in place for future governance, and Rev. Fr. Vianney Fernando had a role to play in structuring an administrative policy between the Government and Church. Nearly thirty years on, these policies are still in force resulting in St. Anthony’s College being the only Government Boys’ school that has continued to have a Catholic Priest as its Principal.

It must also be said that even prior to his ordination as a priest, two very prominent Antonian personalities were the influential forces behind his chosen vocation. His mentor was Rev. Fr. Lawrence Hyde osb, the first Principal of St. Anthony’s College after the shift to Katugastota, who was also an Old Antonian. Then the great builder at the Katugastota premises, Rev. Fr. Theophane Wickramarathne osb, was responsible for sending him to the seminary to become a priest. The fact that he was consecrated Bishop at the grounds of St. Anthony’s College was a fitting tribute to these two very Revered Priests.

After his Episcopal Ordination in 1983, Bishop Vianney, by virtue of his capacity as Bishop of Kandy, became the overall Church authority in the joint management of St. Anthony’s College with powers to appoint or remove the Principal in conjunction with the Ministry of Education. Dubbed the “Gentle Giant of Kandy”, he has built a solid base over the last twenty-five years for a satisfactory administrative process between all parties involved in running the school, commanding respect from all.

The Old Boys’ Associations of College have found him to be their guiding-hand in all matters. The Colombo Branch of the OBA in particular, has worked very closely with His Lordship who is also the Patron of the Association. Despite his many commitments in Sri Lanka and abroad, he has always found the time to meet with delegates of the Association and give ear to their suggestions and proposals or even grievances and advice or support them accordingly. The OBA (Colombo Branch) has played a vital role in the development of infrastructure and facilities for the young Antonians, none of which would have been possible without the guidance and support of His Lordship, Bishop Vianney Fernando.

In 2004, when the College celebrated its milestone of 150 years, he was a major source of encouragement to the Principal, staff, students and old boys, being involved from the inception in planning and setting out an appropriate programme of events and being present at all of them. His guidance and contributions were also great attributes in the successful production of the ‘Sesquicentennial Publication’ by the Colombo Branch.

In appreciation of the major contributions he has made to the success of both our Association and our Alma Mater, the Colombo Branch of the OBA has arranged a ‘Thanksgiving Service’ to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of his Episcopal Ordination, at St. Theresa’s Church Thimbirigasyaya on December 1, at 6:30 p.m.

 


 Sunday Times Nov 23 2008

Remember a true patriot, great officer and gentleman

Admiral Clancy Fernando VSV, USP, ndc, psc, MNI(Lond.)

It was 16 years ago, on the morning of November 16, 1992, at about 7.45 a.m., that we lost a great officer and gentleman. He was assassinated by an LTTE suicide bomber who rammed his motorcycle into his car at Galle Face, opposite the Hotel Taj Samudra. Admiral Fernando was on his way to office from his residence in Longden Place, Colombo 7.

I happened to be travelling on the same route in my official vehicle, and I was some 75 metres ahead of him. I was on my way to my office at the Western Naval Command Headquarters, at SLNS Rangalla (the old “Rangalla” complex, behind St. Anthony’s Church, Kochchikade), within the port of Colombo I realised I was ahead of his convoy only after the blast. When I was abreast of the Colombo lighthouse, along the Marine Drive, I heard a blast which sounded like a hand grenade that had misfired. My driver slowed down. I turned back and saw a Land Rover jeep taking the turn at the old Parliament roundabout. The vehicle was emitting unusually excessive smoke from the rear. I told the driver to proceed, saying it was a likely misfire.

On arriving at the SLNS Rangalla Ward Room, while doing a change, my communicator (P/O Fernando, if I remember correctly) tapped on my cabin door. He told me there had been a blast along Galle Face Centre Road, and it appeared that the Navy Commander’s vehicle had been at the same location. I said I just passed Galle Face Centre Road, and that I too had heard the blast at the Parliament roundabout, and that it had sounded more like a misfire.

A few minutes later my communicator came up to the Ward Room again and tapped on my door for the second time. He said, “Sir, we heard on the MSO on VHF channel escort sailors reporting that the Commander’s car has got caught up in a blast.”

I rushed to the scene. I found the car, a Mercedes Benz, completely damaged. The Navy Commander, in his uniform, was lying face down in a pool of blood on the floorboard of the car. His Flag Lieutenant, seated at the back, was also dead, and so were the driver and personal escort in the front seat.

The Commander’s escort jeep had not been damaged, and the other escort personnel had not been injured. Apart from the police and some Army personnel, I was one of the first people from the Navy to arrive at the scene. Mrs. Hema Premadasa, wife of the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa, had arrived just before me. All this was all of 16 long years ago.

At the time, Admiral Clancy Fernando was the most senior serving military officer to be killed in the line of duty. On this 16th anniversary of his death, we reflect once more on a great man and pay tribute to the invaluable service he rendered to our country during an exemplary career spanning 35 years. He joined the Navy at the age of 19, in December 1957, as an officer cadet. He was appointed Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy on August 1, 1991.

He was a communications specialist. He made a huge contribution towards efficient and secure communication by devising the first ever cryptographic system, “SINHALE”, for use in the Sri Lanka Navy. He was also the brains behind the designing of the Navy President’s Colours and Staff. His book ‘Customs and Etiquette of the Services’, which has become a standard reference text, reflects his vast experience and knowledge of the subject.

He took a keen interest in naval history, and wrote several scholarly articles on the naval history of Trincomalee. And it was he who designed the gun carriage that is presently in use by the Navy. He designed a similar gun carriage and donated it to the Sri Lanka Air Force.

The late Admiral Fernando was a man with a vision. He believed in change for the better. He did not accept “no” for an answer, even to a seemingly intractable problem. His period in the highest office in the Navy lasted only one year, three months and 16 days. His untimely death prevented him from fulfilling all his commitments in keeping with his vision.

He was a man with an operational bent of mind, and would always discuss with his officers and men on how best to do “this and that”. He would listen to what we had to say and work on the best possible solution to any challenge – be it fighting the LTTE at sea, preventing cross-border terrorism, re-organising the navy for smooth and efficient functioning, or seeing to the welfare of service personnel. Applying the principle of critical thinking, he developed a coherent strategy with a clear connection between action and result.

For example, in solving the problem of limited long-range fire power at sea, he took on one of the most challenging of tasks – loading an Army MBT (main battle tank) onto a Navy LCM (landing craft medium) to conduct test firing at sea. This proved a resounding success, and was a morale booster for both the Navy and the Army. As a result, we had a mobile MBT at sea.

His decision to intensify sea patrols in the Jaffna lagoon by deploying small naval craft was another priority measure to cut off the LTTE supply route from the mainland to the Jaffna peninsula.


One issue that has been of consistent concern to any Navy Commander is the Indian fishing trawler menace in the Palk Straits. Admiral Fernando always maintained that this was a problem to be tackled directly with Tamil Nadu. In order to do so, he obtained approval from the governments of Sri Lanka and India to visit Tamil Nadu, in south India, during his first official visit to India, in January 1992, as Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy. His itinerary included an official call on the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. In addition to discussing joint naval patrols in the Palk Straits in New Delhi, he also discussed the Indian trawler menace in the Palk Straits with the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha Jayaram.

On his return he briefed us on the steps to be taken when encountering Indian trawlers. He noted for the record that the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu had agreed to co-operate fully with the Sri Lanka Navy in tackling issues arising from problems posed by Indian trawlers in the Palk Straits.

He emphasised the need to have an ongoing dialogue with the New Delhi and Tamil Nadu governments. He recommended that regular high-level consultations between the governments of India and Sri Lanka be held at political and diplomatic levels, during which visits by naval teams from both countries for discussions should also take place.

He always maintained that the only way to prevent supplies reaching the LTTE from parts of southern India was by preventing Indian trawlers from poaching in our waters. This was indeed an important step. To my knowledge, this was the first time that a Navy Commander from Sri Lanka had called on a Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu to express Sri Lanka’s security concerns vis-à-vis Indian trawler excursions into our territorial waters.

It was generally felt that the LTTE targeted Admiral Fernando because of his actions during a short period of time to curb LTTE boat movements in the Jaffna lagoon and the Palk Straits, consequent to his discussions with the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on LTTE activities at sea originating from the coastal belt of South India.

His contribution towards tri-service operations on land and at sea was tremendous, and sometimes at the Navy’s expense. He was very popular and liked by the other two arms of the services – Army and Air Force – because he always accommodated their requests on all operational and logistics-related issues.

On a personal note, I would like to share a few memories. One day, when Admiral Fernando was talking to me about the late Lieutenant General Denzil Kobbekaduwa, he said: “Razeek, you know, what I like? An instantaneous death, like that which befell my good friend Denzil.

I would hate to be hospitalised and suffer.” What he had hoped for, however sad it may have been to those he left behind, came to pass.On another occasion, when we were together during one of his visits to SLNS Gemunu, the naval base at Welisara, he was keen to have a look at the gun carriage that he had designed and built. On seeing it, he said to me: “When will I get an opportunity to be taken in this?” Neither of us knew then that the day was not far off when he would have that opportunity.

He was a great family man who liked to spend time with his wife and children. I remember receiving a letter from him when he was serving on board MV Lanka Kanthi (CSC vessel) as Master of the vessel on secondment. Let me quote from his letter: “Look after my children, as they are my treasure”. He was sailing, and only his wife was on board with him. Their children, who were in the 9 to 12 age group at the time, were going to school and being taken care of by their grandparents.

I wish to recall another occasion, which has to do with the time I was serving under Admiral Fernando’s command as his deputy (Executive Officer) on board the then Flagship SLNS Samudra Devi. At the time I had a personal problem. The owners of the rented house I was occupying wanted the house back, and it was difficult to find suitable alternative accommodation at such short notice. All of the official Naval quarters were occupied, with no signs of any falling vacant in the foreseeable future. Admiral Fernando listened to my problem.

Two days later, he said to me: “Monica and I discussed your predicament, and we have decided to let you occupy our house at Mount Lavinia when we leave next month on my joining the CSC vessel MV Lanka Kanthi. You will have the place for a period of one year, and during this time we hope you will find a solution to your housing problem.”

I asked: “Sir, how much rent do you expect?” He smiled and said, “I don’t think you could afford to pay the market price, and so the house is free for you.” That was Clancy Fernando, a warm-hearted and generous human being.

It was from here onwards that we became intimate family friends. Eventually, the unenviable task of delivering the obituary tribute to my boss and close friend fell to me.

Today, as we mark the 16th anniversary of his passing, I would like to repeat the last paragraph of that tribute I paid Admiral Clancy Fernando:

“Sir, though you have departed from us, we will remember you and the service you rendered to our country forever. You were a true patriot, great officer and gentleman, valuable son of Mother Lanka who made the supreme sacrifice in the defence of our country. As you fade away beneath the waves, we will steer your course with guns blazing.”

Rear Admiral (Retd.) A. H. M. Razeek, VSV, USP, ndc


Fragrant memory of a beloved matron

Margaret Dias

The wilted flowers in the vase outside the principal’s room bear testimony to the fact that the loving hands that replenished these flowers daily are stilled for ever.

When Margaret Dias walked through the gates of Bishop’s College in 1957 as a damsel of 18, she would little have known that the school would be her home for the next 51 years, and that she would one day be custodian of the hundreds of children who passed through the junior boarding school. To them she was always “Miz Dias”.Asked for their impressions of the late Miss Dias, boarders and non-boarders were unanimous in their compliments. They described her thus:

“She always wore a smile”;
“She never complained”;
“She went out of her way to help others”;
“She never indulged in self-pity”, and, above all,
“She loved the nurturing of flowers.”

The first person we would see as we arrived at school in the mornings was Miss Dias. Even in retirement, she could not resist the call of her “home away from home”. She would come each morning and beautifully arrange the flowers in the school chapel and the vase outside the principal’s office. She would then sit outside and greet the arriving schoolchildren with her benign smile.

We will sorely miss you, Miz Dias. We know that the loveliest of flowers will bloom wherever you are.

Priyanthie de Silva


Nation Sunday Nov 23 2008

 Mrs. Siri Rupesinghe

Sharing, caring and giving personality

She was one of the most dynamic personalities I had met, so full of joie de vivre, always smiling, always happy - sharing, caring and giving - her life an ode to kindness and love.
I am grateful for the ten years of friendship I shared with her before she was heartlessly wrenched away by the very hands that were supposed to heal her - a splash of black on the noble profession of healing.

This appreciation I write in her memory is one which I hope will specially be a celebration of her talent in painting which she so gladly shared-with-me. It was in 1999 that I approached her as an unsure student of Art. I confessed to her that I was really unsure if I could even “draw a circle straight”, a phrase she always taunted me with jokingly, as I progressed under able guidance to reach more decent abilities in painting. I never ceased to be awe stricken by the galaxies of gorgeous paintings that adorned her walls - each one more beautiful than the other - every one a masterpiece.

She became my mentor and friend. Sunday afternoons were hours filled with happiness.They were my only holidays, and Sunday after Sunday she made my lessons a tryst with beauty and colour. When I drew the flowers, she would breathe in fragrance. When I drew wild life, she would give it life - that twitches to the whiskers of the leopard, or the glint to the eye of the tiger. She made the landscapes come alive, fresh with dew and the waves in the ocean roll on my canvas. She added the froth to .the waves of the sea, and the mist to the mountains. We worked tirelessly, she more than I, goading me forward to achieve that final feeling of satisfaction of a job well done until finally she allowed me to rest my brush.

Sunday afternoons will never be the same.
Her life was one of love, of giving and sharing, of happiness, beauty, goodness and prayer. Her profound faith in God illuminated her whole being. I can still picture her smiling face, she was always smiling, the largeness of her heart glowing through her smile.
The news of her passing away sparked shock, sadness and an aching sense of loss to all of us. I do not know if her family will ever come to terms with it as she was the life of the home. No she cannot be gone forever - her life was too beautiful to be snatched by one so puny as Death.

“Death be not proud, though many have called thee,
Mighty and dreadful, thou art not so.
For those whom thou thinkest thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death…
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more.”

Marietta Siriwardena
Colombo 5


The fine imposed on the former president

Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was imposed a fine of three million rupees by the Supreme Court over the Waters Edge deal, a good lesson to all who misuse power or resort to corrupt practices.
There was news that a fund is to be launched to collect money. I am sure that the former president could herself pay the fine easily.
On the other hand, hundreds of people are languishing in jail due to their inability to pay the fines imposed by Courts. Is it, therefore, not a better thing to raise a fund to pay the fines of the poor prisoners and have them released from jail?

Upali S. Jayasekera
Bambalapitiya


 

An eagle’s endgame

Never to forget
The years that met
A world of regret
Tortured by hate
The spirit of justice
Must not hesitate....

Irene de Silva
Colombo 5


Deryck Aluwihare

It is with sadness I received the news of the death of Uncle Deryck. I have known him all my life and to me he was uncle, friend, mentor and hero. His values in life and his impeccable honesty are things that most people sadly lack today.

He was born at Pahala Walauwa, Matale to L. B Aluwihare and Julia Nuwerawewa Parangama Aluwihare Kumarihamy. Deryck was their youngest son.

 His grand father was the Disawa for the Matale District during the British occupation of our island.

 Deryck was educated at Trinity College where he excelled in his studies and graduated with Honours from the University of Colombo.

He Joined the Ceylon Civil Service and he held very high office in the public service of Sri Lanka.

Aunty Rani, his wife, was kindness in its self, and during the time I was attached to the Ceylon Hotel School, I was with them and it was home away from home. The values and principles that Uncle Deryck has instilled in me, has enabled me to face life with a philosophy that is practised in both Buddhism and Christianity. To have courage, love and compassion on all things.

He was not a good driving instructor. I remember the time he decided to check my driving skills, and he was so nervous at my driving that I too forgot all what I had to do and at that time the Galle Road was very busy.

 Uncle Deryck held many high positions in the Civil Service, but he was never a political cringer, and as such enjoyed the respect of all ruling parties of the time, but not their 'favoured son' status.

One of the greatest acts of bravery displayed by this son of the soil was in Anuradhapura. It was 1958 and he was the government agent of the Anuradhapura District. There was rioting and in the night he walked the main street of this ancient city holding only a stick for protection.

Many a Tamil family owed their lives to this man who had no racial preferences; all he practised was what was right and what was wrong. I have seen this stick which  has a silver plaque and the words: 'To a brave person who saved many lives. From the Ceylon Army.' He is mentioned in the book Emergency '58 by Tarzie Vittachie.

Uncle Deryck was never popular with people who bent the laws of the land to line their pockets. I remember many a time Uncle Deryck relating his early childhood in Aluwihare, Today these stories would have made the charts in a movie or a novel. 

He knew so many branches of this very old Kandyan family. My mother Julie is the only surviving member of his family of three boys and six girls.

Uncle Deryck retired and followed his daughter Neila to settle down in Auckland, New Zealand, where he spent a useful retired life, delivering talks to social groups on Sri Lanka.

Having been born to a staunch Buddhist family, but having converted to Christianity at Trinity, he had a unique blend of two religions and he lived by their teachings.

Rohan De Silva Jayasundera 


Sunday Times Nov 16 2008 

Much-loved First Lady was a true daughter of Lanka

Elina Bandara Jayewardene

Elina Bandara Jayewardene, born Elina Rupasinghe, married Junius Richard Jayewardene in 1935, and despite being the First Lady from 1978 until President Jayewardene retired in 1989, led a characteristically simple, unassuming life.

Having known the Jayewardene family from childhood, it is with a deep sense of nostalgia that I reflect upon her life, and the impression her gracious personality left on me.

Aunty Elin, as she was affectionately called, inspired genuine affection and respect in the hearts of the people. To have known her was to have loved her. Even to those who did not have the privilege of associating with her closely, she was a symbol of serenity, simplicity and sincerity, which together form the very essence of humanity.

The inner glow and radiance that always lit up her face was proof that she was a person who felt intensely for people. This is evident in only a truly good person who spends much of her time helping people in need, and who always found time for others.

Elina Jayewardene, whose first death anniversary falls tomorrow, was a person who showed it was possible for wives of politicians to be impeccably elegant in their dress while retaining their simplicity.

In her service to the people, Elina Jayewardene had a sense of profound dedication to any cause she believed in. She was living proof that a genuine person who sticks to her beliefs and principles can be a major influence in the making of a nation’s history.

Even as First Lady, she never took an active role in her husband’s political affairs. In fact, she shunned the political and public limelight, and kept as low a profile as she possibly could.

Through the inevitable tides of President Jayewardene’s political life, she stuck firmly by his side, giving him the strength and inspiration he required to reach the height of success. They say that behind every great man there is a woman. President Jayewardene would have been the first to say that he owed most of his triumphs and successes to his choice of partner.

Elina Jayewardene spent a lot of her time in the service of the less fortunate. Widows would visit her on an appointed day to receive donations, which no doubt went a long way to keep their home fires burning. Aunty Elin delighted in making this an occasion to have tea and a chat with them. She was a founder member and driving force of the Seva Vanitha Movement.

Aunty Elin had an unflinching loyalty to old friends, finding time to visit them all. This writer vividly remembers the many visits she made to the home of a maternal aunt, where she retained the same happy, relaxed and simple style, notwithstanding her position as First Lady.

She was a modest and humble person who would see everyone who wanted to see her in her home, Braemar. It has been said many times, and I say it again: Elina Jayewardene was a noble, perfect lady, destined to guide, comfort and command. We salute her as a worthy daughter of Mother Lanka.

Aunty Elin, you are no longer in our midst, but your memory will always be in our hearts, treasured with love and affection, till we meet again some day in that land beyond.

Bryan Nicholas


 A noble teacher who taught from the heart

Mrs. M. A. Silva

“The best teachers, teach from the heart, not from the book” It is with a heavy heart that I write this tribute in memory of my teacher, Mrs. M. A. Silva, who passed away at the age of 83 on September 13, 2008. Rev. Fr. Priyantha Silva, her only son, conducted the funeral service at Christ the King Church, Pannipitiya, in the presence of a distinguished gathering.

I had the pleasure of knowing Mrs. Silva for more than 40 years. I first saw her when she walked into our class as our Grade 7 algebra teacher, at the then St. Joseph’s Convent, Nugegoda. This was in the mid ’60s. I remember her as a very warm person.

At St. Joseph’s we had some wonderful teachers, and Mrs. M. A. Silva was one of them. Her career at St. Joseph’s spanned at least a quarter century.

Throughout her long period of service at St. Joseph’s Convent, Mrs. Silva discharged her duties with calmness, devotion and thoroughness. She was kind and sympathetic and always accessible. She was a noble woman, and distinguished and highly professional teacher.

It is strange that we appreciate what our teachers did for us only after we leave school. Mrs. Silva was a teacher par excellence who moulded thousands of lives throughout her career. Her students have distinguished themselves in all walks of life, both at home and abroad. A true daughter of God, she dedicated her life and service to teaching.

I should not omit to mention that she was also a daham pasal teacher for more than 60 years in her own parish church, Christ the King Church, Pannipitiya.

From St. Joseph’s Convent, she was transferred to a junior school as a sectional principal. She was later appointed as principal of the primary section of Vidyakara Vidyalaya, Maharagama. Past pupils of these schools have vivid memories of her selfless service.

Thank you, Mrs. Silva, for being a great teacher and for the wonderful things you did for your students. Your lessons have made a lasting impression. You were not only my teacher, you were also my friend. Your dedication has given me strength and courage to succeed.

I will never forget how you visited me at home when you heard about my mother’s death.

We praise and thank God for your life.

Farewell till we meet on that beautiful shore.

May your soul rest in peace.

Lilamani Amerasekera


 A true friend who will live on in our hearts and minds

Tuan Zaheer Mohamed

My first meeting with Tuan Zaheer Mohamed was back in 1980. A group of us, including the late Lakshman Jayawardena, a well-known figure in the tea trade, had decided to form a tea export company. At the time, I was working for an international management consultancy. Lakshman and I had an appointment to meet a prospective financier for the tea project. His name was Zaheer Mohamed. My role was to convince Zaheer of the project’s financial viability. I had done a fair amount of preparation, and I arrived early for the meeting.

Half an hour later a man turned up on a scooter. I assumed he was a messenger bearing a note from Zaheer. It came as a big surprise when Lakshman welcomed the man, saying, “Zaheer, you are late as usual!”

I was expecting the financier to arrive in a luxury car, in full suit. In fact, I was worried that I may not have been appropriately attired for the occasion. Zaheer was casually dressed, and he apologized for being late. He said his family was using the car, so he decided to take the delivery boy’s scooter from his travel office.

On my very first meeting with Zaheer, I was struck by his humility and lack of airs. Over the years, throughout our friendship, I would repeatedly observe this quality about Zaheer.

The meeting started. I explained the financial aspect of the project. Halfway, Zaheer stopped me and declared he was confident about my capability, and that he would like to know how much money was needed, and when. That demonstration of trust is something I will value for the rest of my life.

The company was finally formed in November 1980, and today it is one of Sri Lanka’s leading tea exporters.

Zaheer was more than just a business partner to me. He was a true friend. Unfortunately, my interaction with him was limited after I retired from the company, apart from the occasional courtesy call.

One day, as I was driving along Galle Road, I noticed that the car engine was heating up. I needed help. The first person who came to my mind was Zaheer. I called, and he said he would come over soon, as he happened to be in the neighborhood.

He turned up in a three-wheeler and promptly got down to the job of checking the radiator. He soon identified the problem – the radiator tap was leaking. He took out the toolkit, removed the radiator and took it with him in the three-wheeler, asking me to wait by the car. He was back in an hour and put back the fixed radiator.

I wonder how many businessmen in the middle of a busy day would do what Zaheer did for me that day. Gestures like this are the mark of a true friend. Such friends live with us forever.
Yes, Zaheer will remain “a living friend” to me.

R. Nadarajah


His pioneering Sinhala textbooks shaped generations of students

D.F.E. Panagoda

The 18th death anniversary of eminent educationist and scholar D. F.E. Panagoda falls on November 18. The pioneering services he rendered in post-independence Sri Lanka paved the way for the consequent growth and development of education in this country. Mr. Panagoda was many things – a trainer of teachers, mathematician, author, educationist, artist, and above all, unassuming, kind-hearted, and cheerful man. D.F.E. Panagoda was principal of Musaeus Teachers’ Training College for a quarter century, from 1937 to 1962. He helped train outstanding female teachers who nurtured generations of students across the country. But he is better known as a mathematician and author of textbooks.
Don Francis Edmund Panagoda was born in Malabe, in the Colombo district, on March 7, 1907. His father and mother were both teachers, and his four sisters also became teachers. This background no doubt influenced his decision to become a teacher himself.

He attended Royal College, Colombo, from 1918 to 1925, where he gained his Cambridge Senior Certificate. He obtained an English teacher’s certificate at the Maharagama Teacher Training School, and in 1932 took up a teaching post with the Department of Education. He later took up a post as a lecturer at the Mirigama Teacher Training School (1933), before becoming principal of the Musaeus Teachers’ Training College.

He obtained a bachelor’s degree from the University of London in 1947, majoring in Sinhala. Although he studied Sinhala and Pali for his bachelor’s degree, he also excelled in mathematics. He went to Canada in 1952 for further studies at the University of Toronto as the first recipient of a Colombo Plan Fellowship in education.

Long before Sinhala became the official language, educationists such as D.F.E. Panagoda were pioneering the teaching of algebra, geometry and arithmetic in Sinhala. Mr. Panagoda made this possible through his user-friendly mathematics textbooks. His Sinhala publications, including ‘Senior School Algebra’, ‘Senior School Arithmetic’, ‘Teaching of Arithmetic’, ‘Delight in Numbers’ (Books 1 to 5), were used widely in schools from 1940 to 1960. Some of the Sinhala mathematical terms Mr. Panagoda coined have become standard terms in mathematics.

He was also interested in language and literature, especially poetry. His other publications include ‘Padya Rasaya’ (a seven-volume series of poetry books), ‘Rasanjalee’, an anthology of Sinhala verse, and ‘Sinhala In Practice’ (a five-volume series). All of these books were widely used in schools as supplementary texts during the ’50s. Those who were students in the ’50s and ’60s would no doubt have fond memories of these books.

Mr. Panagoda served on several committees to promote the use of Sinhala as the medium of instruction. In 1960, he was appointed to the National Co-ordination Committee of UNESCO.

Educationists like Mr. Panagoda have rendered an inestimable service to the country by giving new generations of students access to higher education in Sinhala.

As the male head of a women’s college, Mr. Panagoda was a strict disciplinarian, but his kindness and understanding gave him an iconic status among schoolteachers in our country.

Mr. Panagoda will be remembered by many: immaculately dressed, cheerfully walking the corridors of Musaeus Training College.

I end this tribute with a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that my maternal uncle would often quote:

The heights by great men
Reached and kept
Were not attained by
Sudden flight

But they, while their companions
slept,
Were toiling upwards
In the night.

He would quote this each time he admonished us, and that was exactly what he practised to become recognised as a great man of achievement.

Upali Cooray


Nation Sunday Nov 16 2008

The gratification to Dr. M. M. L. A.

The versatile knowledge and fair
The hoary hair,
The shimmering bold-head,
Are the rewards? By the God

When you sit
On the majestic, rotating chair
Almost like a mighty king,
Reigns in the beautiful spring

Agile hands merciful mind
Treat the sick – genially
arouse the life – gingerly

You’re wealthy
In generosity and honesty
Amicable and heart
With all of us
You’re gentle
Genteel and genuine
I’m gleeful
To see your, glory and good will

As a genuine human
Neither genus nor casts
It’s the only glare
That gleams the unit.
How? Do I gratify and greet, to you
As a glorious doctor,
This’s my gratification and greet
For your unforgettable treat!

B. B. – N.H.S.L.


Sam De Silva

A man of surpassing integrity

It is 2 years since my friend late Mr. Sam De Silva was called to his eternal rest by his creator on 24th November 2007.
I knew Sam for 60 years at the time of his death. He entered St. Aloysyus College, Galle in 1945. For the last time I met Sam when I went for the Annual General meeting of the Colombo branch of the old Boys Association on 9th September, 2007 at the entrance of the Hotel Sapphire, Wallawatta, where he invited me to be his guest. At that time I never saw anything that he was sick but to my surprise that Sam had passed away on 24th November, 2007. He had being sick for only a week but I didn’t not know it. Had I known I would have gone to see him but it was a very sad occasion for me about his death.

Sam was a very loyal old boy of the college, He took a keen interest in the affairs of the Old Boys Association where he was holding office as a Committee Member, Vice President, President, and Vice Patron at the time of his death. Now a loyal old boy is no more. Casting my mind back over the 60 years about Sam I knew and reviewing all the association of these years, counting all his achievements, there is one word that sums up him, i.e. faithfulness. He was primarily a faithful husband, father, and then friend. He was faithful to all his professional commitments. He was faithful to his ideals. He was all in one. He was a man of surpassing integrity. He was also a very wise man. One could go to him for counsel and receive the best considered advice. He would listen with his mind and warm heart, and you could sense his mighty intellect trimming the extraneous details and getting to the core.

Goodbye my dear friend Sam until we meet again.

Claude De Silve
Kotugoda


Possessed all the qualities to lead - Late Mr. Hubert Austin de Silva

 It is 16 years since late Mr. Hubert Austin de Silva was called to his eternal rest by Lord Jesus Christ on 21st October, 1992.
Late Mr. de Silva was an unforgettable character endowed with a good brain, a splendid sense of humour and steady fast loyalty to his principals and friends.

Late Mr. de Silva had achieved greatness and possessed the qualities of a leader. The first and foremost requirements of a great leader are honesty and sincerity of purpose. Then come vision, devotion and dedication to that purpose which could be enumerated as qualities that enhance leadership.
A leader should also be able to identify temperament, the individual capabilities and ability of his entire staff. Mr. Hubert Silva possessed all these qualities to lead the entire group.

His early education was at St. Benedict College Kotahena where he had a brilliant education.
Late Mr. de Silva was selected for the District Revenue Officers Service in 1944. His first appointment as D.R.O. was in Matara. Later he was appointed as D.R.O. to Gampaha district.

In 1951 he was selected by the Colombo Plan to undergo training at Administrative Staff College Hanley on Thames, England for a period of six months. In 1958 Government appointed late Mr. de Silva to the Port (Cargo) Corporation where he was the Chief Executive and Chairman, Port Cargo Corporation. He served on several other and Government organisations and was also acting chairman Ceylon Shiping Corporation.

After over 27 years of valuable service he left the Government service and joined the private sector as Director of Mc Larence Ltd. which was then one of the well established reputed foreign owned shipping agency houses. In 1973 Mc Larence Limited became fully fledged Ceylonese Company as Mc Larence Shipping limited and Mr. de Siva was elected as its Chairman in the latter part of 1971.

In 1975 he launched his project in tourism and constructed Hotel Topaz and later Hotel Tourmaline. He further ventured into various other fields and also built two Container Yards at Welisara and Hendala.
It is the duty of all the staff employed at the group to say a prayer on this 21 October, 2008 in his memory.
I have written this appreciation for the 16th time because we are a society with short memories.

May the Almighty God rest him in peace.
Claud de Silva


Remembering Mrs M A Silva

“The best teachers, teach from the heart, not from the book.” (Author Unknown)

It is with a very heavy heart that I decided to pay this tribute to my teacher, this noble lady, Mrs M A Silva who passed away at the age of 83 on September 13, 2008. Rev. Fr. Priyantha Silva who is her only son conducted the funeral service at Christ the King Church, Pannipitiya in the presence of a distinguished gathering.

I first came to know her in the mid 60’s when she walked into our class as the Algebra teacher for grade 7, the then St. Joseph’s Convent, Nugegoda which is my alma mater. I will always remember her as a very warm person who introduced us to Algebra. I shall be failing in my duty and obligation if I do not pen a few lines as one who had the pleasure of knowing her for over 40 years of my life.

At St. Joseph’s there were a few its best teachers who had devoted over 20 years of unbroken selfless service in the interest of her students and Mrs. M A Silva is one of them. The entire term of her teaching career at St. Joseph’s spans, I am sure, over a period of 25 years. This great personality joined the tutorial staff during the period of Rev. Mother Rafiel.

Throughout her long period of service at SJC, Mrs. Silva discharged her innumerable duties with calmness, devotion and thoroughness. She was genuinely kind and sympathetic and was accessible always. She was a distinguished, loyal and a professionally qualified teacher. She was a noble woman where she treated teaching as a service oriented profession.
It’s strange how we really don’t see what the teachers have been trying to instill in us until we have left school.

Mrs. Silva was a teacher par excellence who would have moulded thousands of lives including her own daughter throughout her career. Her students have distinguished themselves in all walks of life both home and abroad. As a true daughter of God, she dedicated her life and service to teaching. I should not forget the fact that she was also a daham pasal teacher for over 60 years of which 47 years in her own parish at Christ the King Church, Pannipitiya and the little children’s minds were touched with holiness. She was a methodical painstaking diligent personality. Her association with her students was not be confined to the classroom but she guided them too. She was not always sweet faced with us – there were times that she was strict and stern when needed. She was a strict disciplinarian too, and was able to inculcate great ideas and values on her students.

From SJC she was transferred to a junior school as a sectional principal and later she was appointed as principal of the primary section of Vidyakara Vidyalaya, Maharagama. The past pupils of these schools still have vivid memories of her undying service.

This is also a long overdue “Thank You” to my teacher. You developed in your students a lasting foundation that we remember you fondly.
We praise and thank God for her life. Farewell and Goodbye till we meet on that beautiful shore. May your soul rest in peace.

Lilamani Amerasekera


Durand Jayasuriya Devoted life for social harmony

I came to know Durand Jayasuriya when he came to reside at Siripura Housing Scheme in 1974. Since, there were very few families residing in the scheme at that time and scattered far apart, my wife and I, being newly married were greatly thrilled to have them as our immediate neighbours who were very friendly and helpful.

Durand completed his schooling career at Aluthgama Vidyalaya and taught for some time at Thudugala Vidyalaya and when he got through his Government Clerical Service Examination he joined the Government Service. He served as an Executive Grade Clerk at the Examinations Deparatment. Thereafter, he was transferred to Cultural Dept. where he was entrusted with the highly responsible task of accompanying foreign cultural groups to all corners of the country attending to their needs, looking after their comforts, transport arrangements and coordinating with other departments which he performed meticulously to the utmost satisfaction of the foreign cultural groups and his higher officers. He also served at the Fisheries Department for a number of years and was transferred to the Department of Agriculture. Thereafter, he was transferred to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication where the former Minister Mr. Sunil S. Abeysundera impressed by his performance appointed Durand as his Personal Assistant. Finally, when he reached 60, he retired from Government service. He was a very humble person who treated everyone with due respect. After retirement he joined Pure Beverages and served for a few years at Coca Cola Co.

Durand loved his alma mater Aluthgama Vidyalaya which is situated adjoining his house at Aluthgama. He held many posts in the Aluthgama Vidyalaya Old Boys Association. He was also a founder member of Colombo Branch of Aluthgama Vidyalaya OBA where too he held many posts. Many old boys paid their last respects without considering the distance involved in travelling as all of them loved him sincerely for the long service he rendered to the OBA.

Born on 22nd November, 1929 at Beruwala, Durand was the second son of Kaineris and Joslin Peiris. He married Kamala Gertrude De Silva Manukulasuriya, an English trained teacher on 6th September, 1961. After marriage he resided at Moratuwa and Dehiwela and finally settled down at Siripura, Talawatugoda.

He gave the best education possible to his two sons. He was a very friendly and amiable gentleman, a devoted husband, a dutiful father and a very helpful neighbour. He is one of the oldest residents at Siripura Housing Scheme who was a founder member of Siripura Welfare Society where he was the first Cultural Secretary who did yeoman service to unite the residents by organising Sinhala New Year festival avurudu pola, get-togethers, Wesak Bakthi Gee, eye catching Wesak decorations within the scheme, organising a procession of the residents to offer Buddha Puja at the Jothikarama Temple in the neighbourhood in the morning of Poson Poya Day, Christmas Carols, New year Get-togethers etc. He devoted most of his time to organise the above events which helped the residents to live in harmony like a well-knit family irrespective of any religious differences. He also served on its Committee for many more years making his services readily available for the greater good of the residents.

Durand as a hobby wrote regularly to the newspapers highlighting shortcomings and defects affecting the community. He never missed to write an appreciation to the newspapers whenever a resident of Siripura or a friend of his passed away. Once his wife Gertie asked him as to who would write his appreciation when he dies. He was a regular writer of articles to the newspapers and magazines and was the editor of ‘Kala Puwath’ and ‘Saruketha’. He happened to be a voracious reader and never missed to read the newspapers daily until he grievously fell ill.

During his illness Durand was well looked after by his wife, two sons and daughters in law and relatives such as his nephew Wimal Dharmaratne who is also a resident at Siripura. Gertie will find it very difficult to bear the loss of her husband, so will be the two sons, two daughters in law and the three grand sons who loved him very dearly. Durand .was also a diabetic patient recovered to a certain extent where he could walk about but all of a sudden his illness turned into worse and breathed his last at 9.30 p.m. on 12 October, 2008 at the age of 79. He will be missed not only by his family, relations and friends but by the residents of Siripura Housing Scheme who are very grateful to him for his kindness, friendliness and helpfulness. May he attain eternal bliss of nibbana.

D. I. T. Hettiarachehi
Talawatugoda


The Sunday Leader Nov 16 2008 

 

Rev. Sr. Mary Adrian

When I first met her so many decades away, I was too little to understand the influence she would ultimately have on the rest of my life. No doubt that it must be true with most of those who have passed through the hallowed precincts of Sacred Heart Convent, Galle and were privileged to have her touch their lives.

An Irish Rose, born in Ireland to bloom fragrantly and wither in our own soil she was a Sri Lankan by choice. Arriving in Sri Lanka as a young missionary in the Order of the Sisters of Charity, she lived for 58 years in service to humanity. Most of those years were spent at Sacred Heart Convent, Galle as a teacher and then as its well loved principal.

Her patience, compassion and love transcended all boundaries of ethnic and religious barriers. She understood the heart-ache of a little girl at the boarding school crying for her mother, face smudged with sticky tears. She was there to console her with tender loving care.

She also understood the heart-ache of many a pig-tailed, starry-eyed, teenager’s tears of broken romances. She was there too, well aware of the beauty of the unspoiled and innocent love of adolescence. Yet, she certainly was no nurse-maid but a fairy God Mother to all those who came under her care.

She was soft-spoken, yet strong. She was kind, yet firm. She was simple, yet awe inspiring. The radiance she spread around mirrored the inner-beauty of herself. She was devoid of anger, hatred and malice. She was endowed with a witty sense of humour and the music in her heart broke out in the form of song on her lips.

She gave generously her time and guidance, spiritually and materially, to those who sought. She never denied those less fortunate children the facilities enjoyed by those who could afford it. Nor were they made to feel any less important than the others. Nor did she let others know about those who were helped. All were equal in her eyes. She was there to fulfill a mission she undertook as a servant of the God she worshipped.

Sr. Adrian lived her life to the full in every sense of the word. She loved her adopted country and her people, the reciprocal love was showered on her in abundance in true Sri Lankan hospitality. She spent most of her life in Galle. Beloved Galle, simple, sleepy, slow to change, the southern capital that brought up and nurtured us, guardian of many a treasured memory of growing up years where our roots are firmly grounded. Galle and Sr. Adrian were synonymous with each other. Both Galle and Sr. Adrian are etched deeply in our hearts. She has created a void that is hard to be filled.

With memories growing fonder, to live in the hearts of those who love is never to die.

With the passage of time Sr. Adrian too has been subjected to the law of the world where all conditioned things are subject to change. We do not mourn her death but celebrate her life.

May her upward path be smooth, sure and steady!

Neelani Wickrema Wijesinghe


Sunday Times Nov 9 2008

Humility was late leader’s most endearing quality

D. B. Wijetunga

There have been many tributes to the third President of Sri Lanka, the late D. B. Wijetunga. As a public servant who worked closely with Mr. Wijetunga in the Ministry of Finance (1990 to 1994), I would like to pay my own tribute to this much loved and respected statesman, who rose from the lower ranks of society to the highest office in the land.

Mr. Wijetunga was my minister, first as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, and from May 1993 as President and Minister of Finance.

He was polite and considerate to the officers who served under him, and he was genuinely concerned about their welfare. On one occasion, at a Buddhist function at the Ministry, we were seated together – he on a thick cushion and I on a mat. Turning to me, he inquired: “Rajah, are you comfortable? Do you need a cushion?” I politely declined his kind offer, but I mention this as an example of his concern for his subordinates.

He was a devout and committed Buddhist. I well remember one morning when he wanted me to meet him in his room in Parliament. He arrived a few minutes after me, and he was given a tray of flowers to offer at the Buddha statue in the Parliament shrine room. He asked me to accompany him, and gave me the tray of flowers. Apparently, this was the way he started his day’s work in the office. He was a complete vegetarian, abstaining from consuming even eggs and Maldive fish. When I had to leave for towns outside Colombo on Ministry Mobile Services, I informed Mr. Wijetunga’s personal staff that I was a vegetarian, and that I would require vegetarian meals. They told me the Prime Minister was a total vegetarian, and that I need have no worries on that score.

Once, during a chat while we were outstation on Ministry Mobile Services duties, I asked him whether any astrologer had predicted his meteoric rise to such heights. He said, “Rajah, you ask very peculiar questions!” But he did say raja yoga (predictions of “royal” status) references had been made, but no one had spelled out that he would one day be a prime minister or a president.

Mr. Wijetunga had his own sense of discipline. My own experience was that ministry files referred to him would be returned the following day, with approval for a recommended course of action. I once asked him how he managed to deal with the mountain of ministry files and take such prompt action. He said he would get up very early in the morning and attend to office files.

Punctuality was another virtue of the late President. In the day’s programme for many ministry events, the Minister of State would be expected to arrive before the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance. Often, Mr. Wijetunga would arrive earlier than scheduled, and he would receive the Minister of State, who at the time was the late Harold Herat. Mr. Herat told me it was very embarrassing for him when he came at the appointed time, or even a little earlier, to find the prime minister already present. So, to avoid embarrassment, he would make it a point to come quite early for functions attended by both Mr. Wijetunga and himself.

The late Mr. Wijetunga was a very humble man. He once told me he knew my father, also a politician, first in the UNP and then when they followed the late Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike to form the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. He said he had visited our home in Ratnapura in the early 1950s, when my father was with the UNP, and perhaps he was in the company of the late Mr. A. Ratnayake, a former president of the Senate, since he was at that time his private secretary.

It is not often that persons in high office refer to their connections and associations with subordinate officers, or their parents and relations, especially when they have had small beginnings. Mr. Wijetunga was not carried away by the high office he held. A great and endearing characteristic of the late President was that he never lost the common touch.

(In this connection, I am reminded of a story about an encounter between the late Prime Minister Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike and the Ven. Vajiragnana Nayaka Thera, founder of the Vajiraramaya Temple in Colombo. The late premier had gone to visit the Thera, who was not well. The distinguished visitor remarked that the Thera’s leg was swollen. Promptly came the Thera’s reply: he said his leg may be swollen, but his head was not!)

President Wijetunga took the many political elevations that came his way in his stride, without a semblance of pride or conceit. He always remained the simple man that he was.

I recall with nostalgia the pleasant and friendly relations we had during the period I served in the Ministry of Finance.

May this humble, simple man, so unaffected by the high glamour of his position as head of state and government, realise early the supreme peace and bliss of Nibbana.

Rajah Kuruppu


Loyal to principles and friends

Hubert Austin de Silva

It is 16 years since Hubert Austin de Silva passed away, on October 21, 1992. Mr. de Silva was an unforgettable character, endowed with a good brain and a splendid sense of humour. He showed steadfast loyalty to his principles and friends.

In 1951, under the Colombo Plan, he was chosen to undergo six months of training at the Administrative Staff College, Henley-On Thames, England. In 1958, he was appointed chief executive and chairman of the Port Cargo Corporation. He served several other government organisations, besides being acting chairman of the Ceylon Shipping Corporation.

After more than 27 years as a civil servant, Mr. de Silva joined the private sector as director of McLarens Ltd, one of the leading foreign-owned shipping agencies. In 1973, he was made chairman of McLarens.
In 1975, he launched his own tourism project, building the Hotel Topaz and later the Hotel Tourmaline. He also built two container yards at Welisara and Hendala.

Claude de Silva


Remembering a fun classmate and jewel of a friend

R. SRI THARAN

We mourn the loss of a dear person, R. Sri Tharan, fondly called Kaiam or KKB by his friends. Let us celebrate his life, and remember him for his attributes, his way of life and, more important, his loyalty to all those who knew him.

I am here to represent his Class of ’56 and his friends at Royal College. I first met Kaiam 52 years ago.
He was quick-witted, always smiling, and ever-ready for a prank. He was a teacher’s nightmare! Cricket was his passion, and he was a sound batsman – on and off the field.

Recalling his pranks, a mutual friend, Asoka, told me how Kaiam would stop and drink the milk from the bottles left by the milkman at the doorsteps of his neighbours, when he went on his 5 a.m. jogs with Asoka.

He believed in enjoying and living life to the full, every moment of his life. At the Royal Thomian match, Kaiam was always in peak form, calling the shots.

Under his happy-go-lucky exterior, there was a pearl, or a deity, hidden within him, and this precious something gave light to those immersed in darkness. Kaiam always gave a helping hand to strangers and the needy.

He was a bastion of racial tolerance, and one of the few mortals who could pass a modern morality test.
His heart was always with Royal College. In my last chat with him two days before he left us, he asked how he could continue to live here, when our good friends were so many thousands of miles away.

On behalf of the Class of ’56 and all our friends in Sri Lanka, Australia, Britain, Canada, the US and other parts of the world, I bid farewell to our dear friend.

Anantham Harin, New York


Master, the music you left us speaks for itself

Premasiri Khemadasa

There is no need for you to be valourised,
That is for lesser mortals.
You have left us your music
That speaks for itself and renders all words redundant.

But can there be silence in the face of such loss?

We have lost a man
Who dared us to dream
Who saw no lines among clearly defined things
So that we ceased to see them either
And the world became seamless. One.

You were the colossus yoking earth and sky together
In a world of sound, and the young people who you
Bred there and set forth on the more mundane plane of this world
Carry your magic with them.

I have seen the dwarfing of the piano under your hands,
The rising up of cities with a flick of your wrist
As a hundred-worker- choir sang of a classless world
Under your baton.

The creation of gods, of heaven, of hell –
Nothing was sacred to you, and yet everything was.

You laughed at everyone.
You laughed at ordinariness and all you seemed to be saying sometimes was: “Just get off your a-- and DO!”
and then throw in some comment about Verdi or Beethoven.

You laughed at the illness that was killing you.
Rest, they said, and you composed an opera;
Stay in bed, they said and you carried your music
To all corners of the island, like a devotee.

You carried buns and rolls in brown paper bags
for hungry musicians, lunch packets, water.
You shouted at them. For them.

I have seen you order an orchestra off the stage
When the light-man had the audacity to say, “Hurry up.”
“Music cannot be hurried!” you shouted.
Master of grand gestures.

I have seen the contradictions in you.
I have known you from my childhood, so how could I have not?
Yours was the arm my school best-friend hung upon as she went home.
Your daughter's cello banged against my legs,
My violin case clutched in my hands,

I have swung inside a crazily teetering car you drove
on the wrong side of the roundabout,
swearing at the docile cars that correctly came towards us.
Five minutes to show time
– we had to play the prelude.

My friend has your humour,
She laughs at the world too.
So I know you live, Master, in
The two wondrous souls that are your daughters
Who carry your power in their blood –
quiet as you were loud,
self-effacing as you were not,
Following their own paths
With a polite unconcern about a world
That might suggest to them what they should do.

In that, and the music within them, they are your inheritors.

I hope we would be worthy of
Them. And the hundred others from
All corners of the country whom you trained and
Cast in the mould of true musicians.

The earth beneath their feet is gone.
May we have the foresight to spread our land before them,
To make this the soil upon which they would grow
The seeds you have gifted.

You have never rested before, Master.
But do so now, in peace.

Madhubhashini Ratnayake


In memory of Father, greatly missed

A. N. (Nanda) Senewiratne

Called home – 10-11-2002

“When music sounds, all that I was I am
Ere to this haunt of brooding dust I came;
While from Time’s woods break into distant song
The swift-winged hours, as I hasten along.”

Viraj and Dhakshina


Nation Nov 9 2008

14th death anniversary of late Gamini Dissanayake

Charismatic and caring leader

October 23 2008 marks the 14th death anniversary of the charismatic and caring leader, late Gamini Dissanayake who was assassinated along with many UNP stalwarts by a LTTE suicide bomber just before the conclusion of a Presidential election campaign meeting at Thotalanga. His tragic death shattered all hopes and thwarted peoples dream of their leader becoming the President, with the elections was just over two weeks away.

He was educated at Trinity College Kandy. Although his parents’ ambition was to make him an accountant, he pursued a career in law and practised as a lawyer. After drawing inspiration from famous leaders like D.S.Senanayake, Dudley Senanayake and J.R.Jayewardena he gave up his lucrative practice as a lawyer and entered politics in the year 1970, becoming an M.P. Almost immediately after he was unseated by an election petition he was re-elected to the Nuwara-Eliya/Maskeliya seat in a by-election held in the year 1972. As a young and energetic politician as the people’s representative in the Nuwara-Eliya district he extended a yeoman service to all constituents with devotion, commitment and sheer dedication using his typical charismatic approach.
He was a unique and extraordinary politician who listened to the masses, solved their problems. Anyone who was keen in meeting him had very easy access irrespective of any individual’s political affiliations.

He was an excellent orator who spoke sense keeping the vivid audiences spellbound. The contents of his speeches spelt out his promises inspiring the desperate with hope for their lives. The firm foundation built and the confidence gained by the people of the electorate in particular helped in his stride to nurture and mature himself to become an ideal politician. When the United National Party came into power in the year 1977, he was entrusted to accept many Ministerial Portfolios, monumental goals and tasks during the tenure of the government. The Ministerial Portfolios entrusted to him were Irrigation, Power, Constructions, Lands, Land Development, Mahaveli, Plantation Industries and Highways. Late Gamimi Dissanayake once confessed that the word “development” means developing the infrastructure and the end result of “development” is upliftment of the living standards of the masses in physical, mental, moral, social and cultural advancement.

The most gigantic task confronted by him was, of course, the historical accelerated Mahaweli Project. The toughest challenge in its implementation was the evacuation of approximately 3,000 families from over 50 villages who lived in the valley of the Kotmale reservoir. This also included about 15 places of religious worship. The late leader too sacrificed his ancestral lands. The Kotmale reservoir was one among other reservoirs, Victoria,Randenigala, Rantembe, Ulhitiya, Rahkinda and Maduruoya.to be built and commissioned under the accelerated Mahaweli development programme.This multipurpose diversion scheme also included the amalgamation of several canals and waterways This massive Mahaweli scheme with foreign collaboration was manoeuvred by efficient personnel deployed both locally and internationally using innovative modern technology under the close scrutiny of the great leader.

The gigantic exercise was initially, targeted to be completed in 30 years. However due to the enormous skill, the charismatic approach and tireless leadership it happened to be completed in an unbelievable short period of just seven years. The Kotmale reservoir was commissioned on 24 August 1985. fulfilling a dream of late Gamini Dissanyake.Those who sacrificed lands have now settled and are living freely and independently having fulfilled their basic needs like jobs, shelter and food, while making maximum use of the golden waters of the reservoir for their agricultural needs. The speech he delivered on that day was emotional and fascinating. While paying great tribute to those who sacrificed lands engulfed in the reservoir, he emphasised that it was made for national interest with a view to a definite development revolution. He said “ I believe the agony and the pain of mind the people of Kotmale and my relatives suffered as a result of loss of ancestral lands will be compensated when they witness the great benefits that this project will bring to the next generation”.

As a gesture of national gratitude on April 11 2003 the “Kotmale Reservoir”was appropriately renamed as the “Gamini Dissanayke Reservoir” by unveiling his statue at a glittering ceremony presided by the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. This event became more significant as it took place at a time when the farmers were blessed with a bumper paddy harvest deprived them for a long period of time.

The efforts of late Gamini Dissanayake while holding several Ministerial Portfolios other than the Mahaweli project have helped immensely to uplift to a large extent the basic living standards especially of the average citizen and made possible to make a tremendous impact on the economic revival of the country, which needs no exaggeration.

Besides actively engaged in our development process he found the time to be actively involved in the game of cricket having held office as the President of the Board of Control of Cricket in Sri Lanka, BCCSL (now known as Sri Lanka Cricket) from June1981 to June 1989 and thereafter for a brief period of four months immediately prior to his tragic death in 1994 during which period he made many significant contributions.

It is pertinent to mention that The Gamini Dissanayake Foundation in keeping with the vision of the late leader has already set up The Gamini Dissanayake Institute of Technology and Vocational Studies in Kandy to provide Vocational training skills for the less privileged children using modern technology.
May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.


Ven. Ratwatte Siddhartha

His interest was not self-glorification

Ven. Ratwatte Siddhartha, who was the founder and the Chief Achariya Teacher of the well-known Dhamma Khuta Vipassana Meditation Centre on the hilltop of Mahakanda in Kandy, passed away on the September 9 2008 at the age of 85. He was virtually the local representative of the world-renowned guru Goenka whose technique of Vipassana Meditation is followed all over the world.

Before ordination he was Brendly Ratwatte, who hailed from an aristocratic family in the hill capital of Kandy. Although he was a lawyer who could have easily built up a lucrative practice, his interest was not self-glorification but understanding the vanity of glory. He married Miss Damayanthi Ellepola of a family of parallel standing in Matale.

They gifted to the society, a very valuable daughter who is a doctor and a valuable son who is a lawyer. Then onwards, this great lover of humanity did not belong only to his family and relations but he was a guide and a teacher to all those that sought emancipation on Buddhist principles of Vipassana Meditation, as practised on the techniques introduced by his guru Goenka.

Incidentally his wife, who was a university lecturer, too excelled in the art of meditation followed by her husband, and after his becoming a monk, she took over the role of the Chief Teacher at this meditation centre. She conducts courses of training by herself and with the help of the other teachers trained on the technique of meditation of Sri Goenka.

The Buddha always emphasised the value of doing good for oneself and for others (attahita, parahita). Late Mr. Ratwatte as a layman and then as a Buddhist monk was an embodiment of this great precept. His mission is reminiscent of the parable of the ship (nava) in the Suttanipata:

As one who boards a sturdy boat,
With oars and rudder well equipped,
May many others then help cross,
Sure, skilful knower of the means.

In his search for light he travelled abroad, followed instructions under the eminent Buddhist monk Webu Sayadow of Myanmar. He also had a spell of meditation in the Himalayas. It was on one of these journeys that he encountered his final guru S. N. Goenka, whose clarity of teaching and the efficacy of the technique of meditation attracted Mr. Ratwatte more than those of any other in the field. He studied his technique, practiced it, tested it with his own intuitive wisdom and accepted it as a very pragmatic approach. From then onwards he became the local representative of this International Guru Goenka.

He founded the “Dhamma Kuta”, the well-known Buddhist meditation centre with his own money and with those lavishly contributed by other followers of this technique of meditation and attracted people of various walks of life, Buddhist monks, judges, physicians, scholars and also those less privileged people, for courses of training on Vipassana. The followers of the practice of meditation were not limited to Buddhists but included people of other races and religions as well.

Eventually he became a Buddhist monk, receiving his pabbajja (novice ordination) and as well as upasampada (higher ordination) under the Ven. Ramhukwelle Vipassi Maha Thera, the High Priest of the Malwatte Chapter of Shyamopali Maha Nikaya in the year 1999. Thereafter he continued his meditative practice in a kuti constructed and donated by his children, in a plot of land in the vicinity of Dhamma kuta, until his passing away.

What was so impressive about Rev. Siddhartha, however, was not what he contributed to the field of meditation but what he was. He was truly selfless, because he totally dedicated himself to the mission he had undertaken. He left behind a world of good things for others to emulate.
May Ven. Siddhartha attain his goal of Nibbana!


Sunday Times Nov 2 2008 

Remembering a reconciler and bishop of the people

Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe

Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe’s 25th death anniversary was observed on October 23. His outstanding gifts and leadership qualities are remembered in this time of deep crisis in the life of our nation. While he was an outstanding leader of the Universal Church of God, he had his roots firmly planted in the soil and culture of his motherland.

Let us reflect on some of the high points of Bishop Lakshman’s life of service. Bishop Lakshman was a creative theologian, Biblically based, rooted in the tradition of the “one holy catholic church” and embodying in his personality a rationality balanced by a deep faith with understanding. He never wrote or published a book, but he communicated his thinking in his sermons, homilies, pastoral addresses, letters to “The Ceylon Churchman”, and his talks and lectures. His theology was characterised by penetrative social analysis and solid Biblical exegesis. For inspiration, he drew from our cultural sources, ancient and modern, and all that was good and beautiful and true in the teachings of the living faiths.

Bishop Lakshman’s teaching ministry is remembered and appreciated by many generations of youth, students and adults. He had a special concern for lay persons in the Anglican Church and beyond in regard to equipping them for their ministry in the church and in society. He stressed the importance of responsible political involvement and being socially conscious trade unionists. When he became Bishop of the Diocese of Kurunegala, he produced a booklet, titled “Kiriya Huruwa”, which was a guide to help lay people become agents of change in church and society.

Although “born with a silver spoon in his mouth”, Bishop Lakshman was committed to the struggle for justice, and empathised with the plight of the farmers, the working people and the minorities, and the poor and oppressed. He responded to the needs of the poor by initiating a series of development projects in his diocese in the late 1960s and the 1970s. He helped set up two farms-cum-training centres for youth, “Christodaya” in Kurunegala, and “Uda Gira” in Galgamuwa.

After the failure of the 1971 youth revolt, he became involved in the setting up of a “collective farm” at the Devasaranaramaya, in Ibbagamuwa.

As a radical young priest, Bishop Lakshman was instrumental in creating the Christian Workers Fellowship (CWF) in 1958, and he remained in close touch with this group of lay social activists until his death.

He worked tirelessly in the field of civil and human rights. He was a founder member of the Civil Rights Movement (CRM), along with the late Bishop Leo Nanyakkara and others.

In the wake of the general strike of July 1980, Bishop Lakshman responded to the invitation of the CWF leadership and presided over a Workers’ Mass dedicated to justice for the workers. Some words from the Bishop’s sermon are relevant at the present time:

“We are reminded that if we want to build a new society we cannot do so successfully without sacrifice, without suffering, without facing up to a struggle and conflict.

“The breaking of bread is a challenge to us all. If we too want to participate and share in this liberation movement, is every one of us ready to sacrifice his/her life? Do we look forward to facing the struggle? Are we ready to face oppression, hardship and suffering? It is only by these means that victory can be won.”

From 1962 to 1983, he served as the second Bishop of the Diocese of Kurunegala. He had a natural gift for counselling people in distress, and he engaged in reconciling people and groups in conflict situations.

He often displayed his gifts as counsellor and reconciler beyond the boundaries of the church. Within the diocese of Kurunegala, he enriched the life of corporate worship by making a beautiful synthesis of the Sinhala and Tamil cultures in creative acts of worship. He gave splendid leadership as chairperson of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCC). He was a Christian leader who encouraged dialectical thinking. His intellectual honesty and humility were remarkable.

After a decade of service to his diocese, Bishop Lakshman launched out to make his mark within the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), serving on the executive committee for many years and within the inter-Anglican Theological Doctrinal Commission.

Bishop Lakshman contributed to the World Council of Churches Programme to Combat Racism when he presided over a consultation process in 1980 to arrive at a consensus regarding the Sinhala-Tamil conflict. A year later a consensus document was produced and signed by leaders of all faiths and representatives of civil society organisations.

He was also a keen participant at the Christian Conference of Asia - Urban Rural Mission (CCA-URM) Race and Minority Desk meetings in Asia.

After the racial holocaust of July 1983, he returned to the island shocked and profoundly saddened by the events that had transpired and the sufferings of defenceless Tamils. He heard first-hand the stories of victims and refugees in his diocese and from the plantation areas. He also visited the Tamils in the North.

Bishop Lakshman’s final pastoral address, delivered in September 1983, is a classic document and served as a testament to a divided and broken nation. It is deeply relevant even today and deserves serious study. Shortly after the Diocesan Council Sessions, Bishop Lakshman had a massive heart attack and passed away. He was 55.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Revd. Jeffrey Abayasekera


Singing the praises of an unforgettable personality

Ruwani Seimon

I can still hear her voice – so clear, so stern, and yet so full of love. Ruwani Seimon came from a family of doctors, but her interest in music was hardly clinical. She had this amazing ability to take any kind of music – classical, rock, pop, Tamil, Hindi, African, Hebrew, Latin – and transform it into her own piece.
Over the years, she coached the choirs of St. Bridget’s Convent, Bishops’ College, Wycherly International School and Gateway International School. I had the honour of being in two choirs under her direction – the Bishops’ College choir and her very own choir, Voices in Harmony.

She was a perfectionist, and would settle for nothing less than the best. She would keep saying: “I don’t want anything less than 200 percent.” I remember her running about, against doctors’ orders, prodding us with her walking stick and insisting we got our notes right and our dance steps perfect.

Everyone who met her will confirm that she was a fierce fighter in every sense. She was always bursting with energy, and I had to keep reminding myself that she was ill; during her last three years she was living with cancer. With her choir, Voices in Harmony, Ruwani raised more than one million rupees for cancer patients.

As her condition worsened, she became stronger, calmer, more driven. Everything was now on fast-forward. We rehearsed for and performed our last concert in Sri Lanka in just under two weeks.

Aunty Ru was different. She involved us in everything. We were singers, choreographers, costume designers and ticket sellers. Every rehearsal was so much fun. I remember her once finishing a class with an insane baila session, with her on the piano and her little son on drums, allowing us to freak out in her studio.

I still cannot fathom how she managed to instil in us so much discipline, and at the same time encourage us to let go of ourselves. Weak as she was, she insisted on joining us for rehearsals. Gradually, however, her visits to the studio became less regular, and her visits to the hospital more frequent.

I will never forget how hard she worked to raise money for our trip to Indonesia- to compete in the World Choir Games 2007. The trip to Jakarta, Indonesia, was exhilarating, mind-blowing. All of us carried with us the words she uttered weakly to us the night before we left: “I won’t be disappointed if you fail to win an award, but if you do win, that’ll be fabulous.”

We returned from Indonesia on November 7, 2007 and made our way to the hospital. The hospital corridors, stairways and floors were filled with fellow choristers,-past and present, as we raised our voices in tribute to Aunt Ru. Tears streaming down our faces, we sang in perfect harmony. She passed away that same evening.

We never got to tell her that we had won two gold diplomas, and I never got to tell Aunty Ru what a profound influence she had been in my life, and will always be.

Hania Mariam Luthufi


Generations of Royalists will treasure the memory of a mentor

Vijitha Weerasinghe

Among the great men produced by a hallowed institution, he stood taller than the rest. Mr. Viji Weerasinghe, former Deputy Principal of Royal College, Colombo, and one of the greatest Royalists ever (if not the greatest), was a rare and exemplary individual.

Viji had the rare distinction of being closely associated with Royal College for a record 73 years. During this span he played many roles, from schoolboy to teacher and deputy principal and finally as adviser to the Royal College Union.

Most old boys, as they step out of the Boake gates, move on, leaving the school far behind as they enter the real world and get on with their lives and careers. Mr. Viji devoted all his time and energies towards his alma mater. The college was his, and helping to maintain it became a full-time job.

His vision forged Royal College anew, fusing old and new, time-honored traditions and experiences with new briefs and trends.

Some might wonder why he was so involved in the school’s daily activities even during his last days. Aged and rather feeble, he still came to office, never a minute late; never a day missed.

The immense importance of his role in the life of the school should not escape mention. His hand guided many a policy of school administration. The number of principals, deputy principals and teachers who drew wisdom and inspiration from him is too great to mention. He was the link between school and authority and the union, and both sides gained immensely from his patient mentoring.

He possessed a wealth of knowledge relating to Royal College. Having been an integral part of the school for more than 70 years, and having witnessed so much, one could always rely on him to provide an answer to a pressing problem or extend a helping hand and offer truly worthy advice. This ensured that his office was never empty.

Looking back, we smile as we reminisce on all that was great and good about him. It cannot fail to stab our hearts with pain to know that never again will we behold his angelic smile and hear his words of courage and hope.

We really miss your presence, as there is no one else who can advise us on Royal College or Royal College Union matters as you did.

Yet our memories of you and what we learnt from you will last a lifetime, and more. Sir, your spirit will never leave your eternal home.

Rizan Nazeer,Secretary, Royal College Union


Happy family blessed with a perfect grandmother

Vinitha Rukmani Wijesinghe

Being a perfect human being might not be possible, but we can strive to be the best person we can possibly be. We can do this by having a positive impact on other people’s lives, living a life we can look back on and be proud of, and being someone who others can admire. That is my definition of being perfect.

My grandmother, Vinitha Rukmani Wijesinghe, was one of those people. She passed away on October 22 , 2008, leaving behind a loving husband (Samson), mother (Daisy), brother (Susanda), sister (Dharshani), five children (Gayani, Priyanga, Delan, Eresha and Sudharshi), and nine grandchildren (Anushka, Sarindee, Mevanka, Janith, Anuka, Nethmal, Kushali, Randil and Imasha).

A mother’s love is difficult to explain. It is something only her children can appreciate. Devotion, joy, pain, sacrifice and equal love – these are just a few of the emotions mothers experience. My grandmother experienced all of those. Throughout her life, she fulfilled the duties of a mother to the highest standard, loving and sharing everything she had with her five children equally.

A grandmother’s love is something rare and should be cherished. She can be defined as someone with a big heart, a warm smile, and a loving touch. Each time a grandchild is born, she opens up another part of her heart to let a new loved one in. At 70 years, she passed away from a life full of generosity, kindness, commitment, and unconditional love. It was a life that will not only be dearly missed, but admired immensely by anyone who may or may not have known her. Although she has left the circle of life, she will stay in the hearts of everyone she came in contact with.

We all love you very much, Achchi. May you attain Nibbana.

Sarindee Wickramasuriya


Dedicated teacher and social worker

Mrs. Sithy Cader

Mrs. Sithy Cader, joint secretary of the Women’s Bureau of the Moors’ Islamic Cultural Home (MICH), passed away peacefully on August 1, 2008. Innalillahi wa Inna Ilaihi Rajioon.

Mrs. Cader served the MICH Women’s Bureau from its inception 33 years ago, first as secretary and finally as president. She held many positions within the bureau, and was actively involved in the home’s various activities. She served the MICH up to the very end.

Mrs. Sithy Cader was a teacher by profession, and was vice-principal of Lindsay Balika Maha Vidyalaya, Colombo 4, for many years. She devoted much of her time to helping others, and she continued to be active in teaching and community service even in her retirement. She was a tireless social worker, strongly committed to all the projects she was involved in. To name a few, she was principal of the Ahadiya school, with which she was associated for the past 27 years; a member of the hospital committee of the Kalubowila Teaching Hospital, through the Young Women’s Muslim League; an All Island Justice of Peace, and a volunteer teacher at many orphanages.

An active and energetic member of the MICH Women’s Bureau, Mrs. Cader took a lead role in forming the Muslim students’ scholarship fund, which was established just one month before her demise. She also spearheaded an MICH project to maintain a ward at the Lady Ridgeway Children’s hospital.
We at the Women’s Bureau miss her greatly. She was a pillar of strength to all of us. Whenever we asked her how she found the time to do all her community and social work, in addition to fulfilling her personal and family obligations, she would say: “If you try hard enough, you will find the time.”
May Allah grant her Jennathul Firdous.

President and Executive Committee Members of the Women’s Bureau of the Moors’ Islamic Cultural Home.


A doctor who was loved for his simplicity and humility

Dr. George Benedict

Dr. George Benedict, a medical practitioner for more than four decades, passed away recently as quietly and peacefully as he had lived.

In this age, when medicine has to a large degree become a business, Dr. Benedict was best known for his patient-friendly approach, simplicity and humility. For more than three decades he served mainly poor patients at the Ragama Teaching Hospital and gave top priority to their well-being.

As his son Lakshman noted at the thanksgiving mass on October 24, their father was so simple that he would daily take a bus from Torrington to the Fort Station, and from there a train to the Ragama hospital, with stethoscope and other needs in hand. So this simple verse would be a tribute that Dr. Benedict himself would like:

No farewells were spoken,
We did not say “goodbye”,
You were gone before we knew it
And only God knows why.

You left us precious memories
That made us laugh and cry,
But the love you planted in our hearts
No millionaire can buy.

If tears could build a stairway
And memories a lane,
We would walk right up to Heaven,
And bring you home again.

Family members


Nation Nov 2 2008

VIJI

Man to be taken for all in all
A year passed of thy presence unfelt
Only in person for thy persona lives in the hearts of old and the young
All those fortunate to have had a glimpse of you.
Still yearn for your magical touch
On the eve the 175th Birthday of Royal
The only man served the hallowed place for 72 years !

Few men would create history and fever would be revered like you
We mortals still wonder the secret of your health and happiness
We still wonder how you were numb to pain
Was it your strength to renounce
The worldly possessions
Caring for nothing, but the human worth
The moral sensibility never unaffected
Or your single ambition to be near your loving Glado

All those who came through the mighty Boake gate
If lucky enough, to receive your gentle smile
Saw the real world.
Good old Viji one would say yet in a rebels shoes, I would say
No traditionalist you were for the traditions sake
Boldly advised the Principals
Discarded bravely all what was outdated, counter-productive
Of an institution facing the time and tide tuned by the global trends
Many young ones at times failed to comprehend
The blunted purposes should not get better of Royal
Yet a strong defendant of the same when the tradition called for
Thus “threw away the worser part of it
And lived the purer with the other half’

Music, Literature your food for life
The youngest cast King Lear
Coming home with the coveted Trophy
Passed your empty office
The castle thousands found a “pleasant seat”
Air nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto your gentle senses”
Being thankful Children
Sang in your praise

“He was a man; Take him for all in all I shall not look upon his like again”

Lakshmi Attygalle
Deputy Principal
Royal College

****


A perfect grandmother

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is a well known fact that the world consists of many imperfect people. Being a perfect human being might not be possible, but being the best person you can be, making a positive impact on other people’s lives, living a life you can look back and be proud of, and one that others admire is, in my opinion, being perfect. My grandmother Vinitha Rukmani Wijesinghe was one of those people. She passed away on October 22nd , 2008, leaving behind a loving husband (Samson), mother (Daisy), brother (Susanda), sister (Dharshani), her five children (Gayani, Priyanga, Delan, Eresha, and Sudharshi), and her grandchildren (Anushka, Sarindee, Mevanka, Janith, Anuka, Nethmal, Kushali, Randil, and Imasha).

A mother’s love is something that is difficult to explain. It’s something that can only be felt by her children. The devotion, joy, pain, sacrifice, and equal love, are only a few attributes that mothers’ possess. My grandmother had each and every of those qualities. Throughout her life, she fulfilled the duty of being a mother to full of her ability, loving, and sharing everything she had, with her five children equally. A grandmother’s love is something rare that should be cherished. She can be defined as someone who had a big heart, a warm smile, and a loving touch. On every occasion a grandchild was born, she opened up her heart to let that one in.

At 70, she passed away from a life full of generosity, kindness, commitment, and unreserved love. It was a life that will not only be dearly missed, but admired immensely by everyone who knew her. Though she had left the mortal life, she will stay in the hearts of anyone she had come in contact with.
We all love you very much Aachchi, and
may you attain Nibbana.

Sarindee Wickramasuriya

 


A great philanthropist, visionary and entrepreneur

Sir Cyril de Zoysa

At the mere mention of “Sir Cyril”, Sri Lankan people of all races and religions remember with respect and gratitude the great philanthropist and visionary Sir Cyril de Zoysa. A highly respected lawyer who was best known for his acts of charity, Sir Cyril made a tremendous contribution to Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

I remember him once telling me: “Had I remained a practising lawyer, I would not have had the opportunity or the good fortune to be of service to humanity and be involved in meritorious acts such as these.”

Aside from his successful legal practice, Sir Cyril’s entrepreneurial instincts prompted him to found a bus company, called “South Western”. Through sheer hard work and commitment, he began to build his businesses, gaining in confidence and acumen, and developing himself and his organisation in the process.

Powered by this success, he began to expand the business into related fields, especially the manufacture of rubber-based goods and other ancillary products for motor vehicles. These business ventures marked a milestone in his life and heralded a new chapter in the vibrant industrial growth of the nation.

Had Sir Cyril’s dream of a local automotive industry been fulfilled, Sri Lanka would be probably on a par today with India, which is experiencing an automotive industry boom. Decades ago, Sir Cyril endeavoured to make Sri Lanka a motor manufacturing powerhouse. Unfortunately, his efforts to help and support local manufacturers were often thwarted by certain elements with vested interests.

As a leading businessman and head of one of Sri Lanka’s most successful companies, Sir Cyril was determined to maximise employment opportunities for our people. Associated Motorways Ltd and its many subsidiary companies provided thousands with a livelihood, and gave their families a chance to build a better life.

Sir Cyril was the first private sector entrepreneur to introduce the concept of community housing. The construction of private apartment complexes in the city was his brainchild, something the people of Sri Lanka and the country’s successive governments should be ever grateful for.

Although he was a highly successful businessman, Sir Cyril did not forget his religious upbringing. Before embarking on any new venture, he would perform the required religious rites and seek the blessings of the clergy.

He identified the sacred Kalutara Bodhiya for his special attention, and helped maintain this sacred site with his generous donations. What began as a gesture of goodwill and charity “during the operation of the South Western Bus Company” has grown into a sizeable regular contribution. The Kalutara Bodhiya is a landmark religious site, where thousands of travellers and commuters stop daily to seek blessings as they make their way to the south along the Galle Road.

The Sir Cyril de Zoysa Trust was created with the vision of protecting and developing the Kalutara Bodhiya. The trustees include Shelly Wickramasinghe; the late Kingsley Wickramsinghe; his daughter Rashantha de Alwis Seneviratne and son-in-law Dr. Sarathchandra de Alwis Seneviratne.

Today, on Sir Cyril de Zoysa’s 112th birth anniversary, Rs. 100 million and land worth Rs. 75 million are available through the trust. The funds are used to develop and maintain the Bodhiya and shrine and also help the residents of Kalutara.

The Kalutara Bodhi Trust has been headed by different people at different points in time. The present chairman, Ajita de Zoysa, is the second son of V. T. de Zoysa, brother of Sir Cyril. We can be sure the current chairman will keep Sir Cyril’s vision alive for the benefit of the people of Sri Lanka.

As chairman of the Kalutara Bodhi Trust, Ajita de Zoysa, with the assistance of his relatives, continue to make private donations for the upkeep and development of the Kalutara Bodhiya. These contributions are also used to develop temples, construct halls for Sunday schools, and build schools and homes for the elderly in different parts of the country. These are just a few of the good works the family is engaged in to fulfil the vision of the late Sir Cyril.

The Sir Cyril de Zoysa charity is not limited to one area of the country. Sir Cyril also made a big contribution towards establishing Young Men’s Buddhist Association centres around the island, as well as rebuilding the pilgrims’ rests in Kataragama and Anuradhapura. He was also chairman of the Kiri Vehera restoration project.

Sir Cyril played a prominent role in a number of important projects. He helped to develop the Gangaramaya Viharaya; found the Shri Jinarathana Industrial College, and construct the border walls of the Beira Lake. He also played a key role in the Navam Perahera.

Sir Cyril was appointed chairman of the Senate, and during his tenure a motion was raised in Parliament to turn both Vidyodaya and Vidyalanka Maha Pirivenas into universities. Sir Cyril vehemently opposed the idea, sensing the move would be damaging to the Buddhist clergy. However, the motion was approved by Parliament. What was the fate of Vidyodaya and Vidyalanka Universities? The universities do not even bear their original names, and the Buddhist clergy were distanced from their vice-chancellorship. What was the logic behind this move?

A giant among men, Sir Cyril de Zoysa worked with passion and compassion to help others and share what he had to benefit this nation and its future generations.

To honour the memory of this great man and recognise his magnanimous contributions to Sri Lanka society and Buddhism, a proposal has been made to erect a statue of Sri Cyril de Zoysa in the city of Kataragama. The project has been initiated by Ajita de Zoysa, who is being advised by the Most Rev. Aluthwewa Soratha Thera, chief incumbent of the Rajamaha Viharaya Kiri Vehera; the Most Ven. Kapugama Saranatissa Thera, chief incumbent of the Kataragama Sri Abhinawaramaya, and Rev. Hille Gnananda Thera, chief incumbent of Dhamnikethana Pirivena, Sellakataragama.

Like a seedling that grows into a plant and then into a giant tree, the good work of Sir Cyril continues to grow and spread its branches. His life and good works have touched thousands of lives, blessing them with love, life and opportunity.

We are deeply grateful to the late Sir Cyril – and to his family, for keeping his noble vision alive.
May Sir Cyril be born among us again.

Ven. Galaboda Sri Gnanissara Maha Thera


Perfect wife to a soldier and diplomat

Vajira Perera

It seems like yesterday that Vajira came through the front door of our home with her usual impish smile and a twinkle in her eye. I would never have imagined I would not see her ever again. That last poignant memory of her is etched deep in my heart.

Vijaya and I first met Vajira Perera many moons ago, when Janaka brought her home, saying he wanted to introduce us to a special friend. She was like a breath of fresh air. Shortly after, Janaka’s special friend became his wife. We were so happy for him, knowing that in Vajira, Janaka had found his perfect partner, his soul-mate.

The couple became very much a part of our family. We spent many happy times together. Vajira had a wisdom far beyond her years. She perfected the art of getting her husband to agree with her point of view, without his realising it. True to his military training, Janaka was not one to show his emotions easily, but with Vajira it was different. It was obvious how deeply he cared for her.

When Janaka went on duty to Jaffna, we could see how distressed Vajira was, but she hid her feelings bravely for the sake of her children. She went to the temple every day to invoke blessings on her husband and all servicemen fighting for our country. She herself had suffered a great family tragedy, when her only brother died at a very young age while serving in the Army.

Vajira had to take on a new role when Janaka was appointed as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in Australia. The role of diplomat’s wife fitted her, with her charm and unassuming manner. She was the perfect hostess at the many diplomatic functions the couple hosted. She could hold her own with the wide spectrum of people she met during her husband’s diplomatic posting. Her homes overseas were always open to her many friends from Sri Lanka. Despite the pressures on her as diplomat’s wife, she always made sure that everyone felt very welcome in her home.

The last time we met Vajira, she was very excited about her new life in Anuradhapura, and the prospect of inviting the people of the area to meet Janaka. In those last few months, she became very popular among the people of Anuradhapura. She was always ready to lend a sympathetic ear to their problems.
Much has been written about Janaka, but he would not have been the great man he became without his best friend and devoted partner, Vajira, to inspire him. She was an excellent mother to their children, instilling in them the high principles that have stood them in good stead during this time of family grief.
Janik, Janu, Shehara and Ashanka – your parents were very special to all of us. We have no doubt that in time you will make your parents very proud of all four of you.

Niri


An Irish Rose whose goodness blessed this country

Rev. Sr. Mary Adrian

When I first met Rev. Sr. Mary Adrian many decades ago, I was too small to think that this special person would not only influence me during my growing-up years but also for the rest of my life. No doubt this is true of all those who passed through the hallowed precincts of Sacred Heart Convent, Galle and whose lives were touched by Sr. Adrian.

Sr. Adrian was an Irish Rose who lived the life of a Sri Lankan by choice. Born in Ireland, she put down roots in our soil and bloomed fragrantly here for more than half a century.

She came to this country 58 years ago as a young missionary belonging to the order of the Sisters of Charity. Her years here were dedicated to serving humanity. Most of those years were spent at the Sacred Heart Convent, Galle as a teacher and then as the well-loved principal.

Rev. Sr. Mary Adrian’s patience, compassion and love transcended all ethnic and religious differences. She understood the heartache of a little girl new to boarding school crying for her mother, her face smudged with sticky tears. She was always there to console unhappy children with her tender loving care. She also understood the heartache of many a pig-tailed, starry-eyed teenager who had experienced the tears of a broken romance. She was always there for us, and always sensitive to the beauty of the unspoiled and innocent love of adolescence. She was a Fairy Godmother to all those who came under her care.

She was soft-spoken, yet strong. She was kind, yet firm. She was simple, yet she inspired awe in her students. The radiance she spread around her mirrored her inner beauty. She was devoid of anger, hatred or malice.

Neelani Wickrema Wijesinghe


Birthday remembrance

C. S. Ranatunga

Today is your birthday.
You are no more here,
But I remember it as if it were yesterday
How you used to celebrate it, dear.

We prepare “heel dane” and take it to the temple,
You offer it to the priests, with the gifts
They chant Pirith, give their blessings,
And they tie Pirith Noola on your wrist.

You come back to the breakfast table
Ready with kiribath, kavum and plantains;
We all shout Happy Birthday –
You embrace all your kith and kin.

Your son, three daughters and their spouses,
Four grandsons and two granddaughters
And your wife – we all miss you this day;
Let us all meet again in Sansara.

From your loving wife, Asoka Lilamani Ranatunga


 Nation Sunday Oct 26 2008

Gerald Nanayakkara

Mr. Gerald Issidor Nanayakkara, Attorney-at-Law passed away on 19th July 2008 after a brief illness. Mr. Nanayakkara was born at Kotte on 5th August, 1935. He studied at St. Thomas College, Kotte where he excelled in his studies. His first place of employment was Cave and Company, Colombo. He later joined the Colombo Municipal Council. In 1975 he was transferred to the Municipal Council of Kalutara as the Chief Accountant.
Subsequently he was appointed as an Administrative Officer of the Printing Division the Colombo Municipal Council and thereafter he became the Director of the Old Town Hall. He retired from service as the Administrative Officer of the Treasury’s Department of Colombo Municipal Council.

I came to know Mr. Nanayakkara in 1992 when he was working as the Administrative Manager in Global Tours & Travels where I was working as a Tour Executive. During our brief tenure there I was highly impressed with his compassion towards others, his unselfishness and the assistance he readily gave to junior employees.

I also have had the opportunity of accompanying Mr. Nanayakkara to the Colombo Municipal Council on several occasions and was so impressed as to how much respect was shown to him by his former colleagues.
Mr. Nanayakkara subsequently entered Law College in 1993 and took his oaths as an Attorney-at-Law in 1996. Even as a law student Mr. Nanayakkara took his time to help fellow students who were weak especially in English and Trust Accounts. He was fondly called “GI” or “Boss.” At that time there was a joke making rounds that GI had no time for his studies as most of his time was spent helping other students.

He was such an unassuming person who was blessed with a heart of gold. He was always lavish with his meagre pension and did not hesitate to help the needy.
After being called to the Bar in 1996 Mr. Nanayakkara practised at Hulftsdorp. His clientele consisted of poor and humble people. He was a firm believer in the justice of his client’s case. He never thought of his fees as a priority and gave his clients a legal service of exceptional quality. Even though he was not a high flying practitioner, he had always a few lawyers seated around him seeking his advice on various legal matters. Mr. Nanayakkara tendered a yeoman service to many junior 1awyers. I have seen him on many occasions spending his time correcting junior’s plaints, draft deeds and other legal documents. He always helped them to correct their English. There were even occasions that his kindness was taken as weakness but he never bothered about it.

It was such a joy and pleasure to see Mr. Nanayakkara at Hulftsdorp, to have a little chat and share a cup of tea with him. He was always a calm and quiet person but always very witty. He was so special and rose above others due to the wonderful knack he possessed for helping fellow human beings.

In a society where the majority are engaged in a rat race running after money, fame and wealth, I salute Mr. Nanayakkara for his honesty, humility and for his unlimited kindness. He set an example by giving his client’s a legal service of exceptional quality and facilitated their quest for justice, and for this, both community and the profession must remember and respect him. I am proud to be one of his colleagues. GI will always be remembered with so much of love and respect.

He leaves behind his wife, daughter, son-in-law and his two precious grandchildren. On the 19th of October 2008 it will be 3 months after his demise and there will be religious ceremonies where both Catholic and Buddhist rites will be performed in his memory followed by a alms-giving to be held at his residence.
May his soul rest in peace.

Kapila M. Sarathchandra
Attorney-at-Law
Divulapitiya.


Appreciations

Esme Davidson

Mrs. Esme Davidson (nee Rozairo), passed away peacefully on September 30 at the age of 80 and went to her eternal Home to be with God. The two were no strangers to each other — as from her childhood she dwelled in peace, joy and contentment under His benign care.

Her husband Bobby predeceased her in 1983.

This charming lady, gracious in her ways, was also affectionately called Mum, Grandma, Nana and Aunty by her loved ones. She was an outstanding example of a lady. Everyone who came in contact with her was able to see in her the devoted wife, the caring mother, the nana who doted upon her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the exceptional mother-in-law. She was a sincere and dependable friend and a wise counsel whose words of wisdom and advice were always encouraging and comforting to family and friends in their times of trial and adversity.

"Aunty Esme" to us, was one of Heaven’s own gentlewomen, quiet in demeanour and intensely loyal in spirit in all things lofty. The example she set will be a constant guide to her loved ones and friends to reach out and strive to attain the heights she scaled during her lifetime. Those of us who were so fortunate as to come within the radius of her noble spirit will not easily forget the charisma that radiated from her.

While we mourn the going away of this good lady, our hearts’ tender sympathy in full measure to her children and their spouses — Patrick and Shamali, Neville and Tammy, Therese and Tyronne and Eileen and Leonard; to her grand children Ricardo, Richard, Salome, Dynel and Shehan, Dylan, Davina, Autherine and Andrea; to her great-grand children Sarah, Stacey, Shenelle and Shauntelle and to her sister Trisette.

The pall-bearers were Sal Barbutt, Douggie Ferdinands, Anton Jansz, Stefan Jansz, Trevor Ludowyke and Maxi Rozairo. Amidst the large and distinguished gathering of mourners. President of the Burgher Association of Sri Lanka, Trevor Ludowyke, delivered the eulogy.

The final blessing was given at St. Mary’s Church, Nayakakanda, after which her mortal remains were laid to rest in the Roman Catholic Cemetery, Nayakakanda.

"She is gone but will never ever be forgotten,

By her loved ones and friends on earth below;

Some day we hope to meet this wonderful lady,

On the glorious golden Shore.

Heaven’s golden gates were opened wide,

And a gentle voice said, ‘Come;’

And all angels on the other shore,

Gave her a loving welcome home."

Holly Ohlmus


Aug 2008 - sent in by Mo Qamardeen from New Hampshire, USA

My father - a man of few Words

 ALHAJ S.M. Kamaldeen (retired Assistant Chief Librarian, Colombo Public Library and former Director of the Sri Lanka National Library Services Board) beloved husband of Haleema Hanem, loving father of Qamarudeen (U.S.A.), Father in law of Sharon (U.S.A), Grandfather of Anna (U.S.A.), passed away.  Janaza and burial took place on Saturday, August 16, 2008, at Wattakkiliya Muslim Burial Grounds, Chilaw.

 

 

My father, S.M. Kamaldeen, passed away on August 15, 2008. Until his death in August, he had lived a full life: provided for his family, achieved success in his career, volunteered his services to social causes and saw the world.

 
As I write this memorial to my father from my home in the United States of America, very recent words spoken to me by a relative praising my father over the 
telephone, resonates in my mind.  However, his primary trait was described in just a smattering of words- that my father was a man of few words.  
My father, who was always in the habit of giving others more so than he ever received, wasn’t inclined to wasting too many words to highlight his accomplishments.  
Being the bearer of my father’s legacy to the world, I feel it is my duty to reflect on his contributions to the society that he lived in and recall highlights of his long and 
illustrious life. 
My father who was born in 1922, attended elementary school at St. Mary’s College, Chilaw, a town where his family from India had settled in British colonial Ceylon.  
He pursued his secondary education at Zahira College, Colombo, where he was exposed to the intellect of many of the Sri Lankan Muslim leaders of the day. My father 
completed his high school education at Jaffna College,
 
Vaddukoddai, which was a pioneer institution of higher Western learning in the East run by the American Ceylon Mission, during his day. Following his education in 
Jaffna, my father attended the University of Ceylon where he acquired a Bachelor of Arts degree and a diploma in Librarianship.  When my father married my mother, 
Haleema (Marikar), a graduate student at the University of Toronto, Canada, he used that opportunity to travel to North America and completed a degree in Education 
from the same University.     

In 1948, my father began his career in education as a member of the tutorial staff, at his alma-mater Zahira College, in Colombo.  He entered the field of librarianship in 
1954, serving as Deputy Librarian at the Colombo Municipal Public Library. In 1973, while employed at the Public Library, he won a UNESCO Fellowship to attend a 
study tour of Libraries in Australia.  My father joined the Sri Lanka National Library Services Board in 1975, and served as a Director of the Board, until his retirement 
in 1981.  During his employment with the Board, UNESCO sponsored his overseas trip to an IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) 
conference on Public Library Buildings, in Bremen, West Germany. After his retirement, my father continued to be very involved in the development of library education 
in Sri Lanka and served as the President of the Sri Lanka Library Association. 
 

I can remember numerous instances, where my father volunteered his services to helping others. However, two examples where he volunteered showing true heroism and dedication to the well-being of his fellow-citizens of the World come to mind. In 1978, he volunteered in a search and rescue mission following an international aviation disaster involving a Loftleidir Icelandic Airways DC-8 aircraft shuttling Indonesian Hajj pilgrim passengers that occurred in Negombo. Another instance in 1979, where my father stepped up to the plate to assist in a much needed relief- cause, was when a cyclone hit the Eastern province of Sri Lanka. 

I remember him traveling to the affected areas in Eastern Sri Lanka shortly after that disaster, to provide the much needed humanitarian assistance there. 


My father was responsible for instilling the love of books in me. As a child, he
inspired me to read more than just comic books and learn about the World beyond the shores of Sri Lanka. In 1976, when the Non-Aligned Nations conference was held in Colombo, my father insisted and arranged for him and I to catch a glimpse of the international attendees as World history was being made. My love for international relations was born when from a front row seat my father and I waved to the motorcades of Indira Gandhi, Anwar Sadat, Marshal Tito and Colonel Muhammar Gadaffi, that drove past us to the BMICH.  I would not have experienced this once in a life-time opportunity, if not for the influences yielded upon me by my dad, the internationally conscious citizen.

 

In summing up my father’s long and illustrious life, it is necessary to re-state that he did not want to talk much about himself. However, from the examples above, my father’s actions in life spoke louder than words. The meaning of his life was tied to promoting the path to knowledge thru books, and he dedicated his service to mankind thru volunteerism. I take great pride in the legacy of the kind of man my father lived his life to be. An idiom from William Shakespeare’s King Henry the Fifth best describes my father’s essence, "Men of few words are the best men."  

 

Shakespeare Stamp Bookmark


 

Sunday Times Oct 19 2008

Fond memories of a beloved cousin and friend

Zaheer Mohamed

It is hard to believe that my cousin Zaheer Mohamed is no more. In a way I am glad I was not around when he recently crossed the Great Divide. I want to remember him as alive and well. I will not grieve his death, but rather celebrate the good life he lived.

Zaheer and I were the children of two sisters. As Zaheer’s father was based in Dickoya, it was only natural that he stayed with us in Colombo when he entered Royal College.

My first memories of Zaheer were of a little boy with a passion for cars. Whenever my mother made “pol roti”, he would take a circular roti and hold it like a make-believe steering wheel and make sounds like a car purring along. When my mother told him to get on with his dinner, he would eat the roti, wipe his plate clean and then use the plate as a steering wheel as he continued his car-driving fantasy.

Another memory etched in my mind is of attending the Royal Primary School sports meet and being taken by my parents to see Zaheer participating in the obstacle race. He was about nine years, and he was a plump kid. One of the obstacles on the course was to crawl through a barrel. Plump Zaheer got stuck inside the barrel. Our uncle, the late B. J. H. Bahar (Junior), vice-principal of Zahira College, Colombo, was present as a special guest. He gave the little boy a sharp push to his bottom and Zaheer emerged from the barrel. The sight caused much amusement among the spectators.

When Zaheer moved on from Royal Primary to Royal College, he was boarded at the hostel. He was still mad about cars. At 13 years he could drive a car. He was a competent driver and would drive his father’s car whenever his Dad came to Colombo.

In later years the two of us were joined by two other first cousins, Haji Rasseedeen and Bolly Johar, and we formed a close foursome. More than being cousins, we were great friends. We joined the Colombo Malay Cricket Club. We were in our 20s and we became party animals. Not a week would go by without some get-together.

It was at this time that Zaheer met Kerima. They married and had three wonderful children – Aasha, Anusha and Shiran. The girls went to Holy Family Convent, and the son followed his father by joining Royal College.

As the years rolled on, we started to go our separate ways. Zaheer went to the UK and then to Australia on different stints, and not long after Haji and I went overseas to better our prospects.

On my return to Sri Lanka, I got together with Zaheer and we did a few business deals – importing cars. Better things were in store for Zaheer when he teamed up with old Trinitian and former Havelocks and Sri Lanka rugby player, Gamini Fernando, the late Lakshman Jayawardena, former Thomian cricketer Kumar Boralessa and R. Nadarajah to form a company, Ceylon Tea Marketing Ltd. Zaheer offered me a part of his stake in the company, which I accepted and for which I am grateful.

Zaheer’s eldest daughter Aasha married early, and is a devoted wife and mother of three children. His second daughter Anusha created history when she joined SriLankan Airlines as the airline’s first local female pilot. A few weeks before Zaheer’s untimely death, she was promoted to the rank of captain, marking another first in the country’s aviation history.

Zaheer’s son Shiran has also joined SriLankan Airlines, and is now a First Officer. Zaheer was a gem of a person– so good, so rare, so precious. He lived wonderfully well. In his final weeks, Zaheer’s mind was clouded by his illness. That cloud has now lifted. He is himself again – more himself than at any time on this earth. As his last journey took him beyond the sunset, I like to think – in the words of John Bunyan – that “all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side”.

Farewell, dear Zaheer!
May Allah grant you the bliss of Jennathul Firdous.

Branu Rahim


Little flowers bloomed under her guidance

REV. SR. M. LUCILLA

Rev. Sr. Mary Lucilla, former principal of Little Flower Convent, Karampon,("Little Vatican"), died on September 5, at the age of 89 in Jaffna. She was born on December 19, 1919 as the eldest daughter of Christopher Thambipillai. Her father was from Veemankaamam and her mother from Vasavillan.

 

Sr. M. Lucilla embraced the religious order as a Holy Family nun in June 1939.Through her hard work and determination she obtained a First Class in the Bachelor of Arts London Degree and also the Ceylon Teaching Certificate.

Going back memory's lane almost 54 years, I still vividly remember the morning in April 1954, when the staff and students of Little Flower Convent, were excited to witness the arrival of a new Principal in the person of Sr. Lucilla. She came from Bambalapitiya Convent, a leading girls' school in the heart of Colombo to assume the leadership of Little Flower Convent, a small school in the village of Karampon.

 

Once the initial shock of the change had worn off, she became totally focused on her new dream. She knew that there was no future for the girls at Little Flower without a foundation in the basic science subjects. She built and equipped the science labs and recruited science teachers. Next she extended the library both in the quality and quantity of books and laid the groundwork for a very comprehensive education.

She was endowed with a variety of talents and skills including art, music and singing. She used all these talents and skills to train the children for exhibitions, concerts, church functions, and important ceremonies. She trained the parish choir to sing for daily services, feasts and special occasions which were made lively and inspiring due to the singing par excellence. The chapel which was added to the convent building still stands as a lasting memorial to her name and achievements.

She presided over the destinies of thousands of girls for well over 15 years and during this time, she won the hearts of not only the "little" ones but also their parents and the general public. She was admired, loved, and respected by Catholics and Hindus alike.

After she retired from school activities, she channelled her energies into social service among the poor and the mentally challenged in Jaffna. Her enthusiasm to guide and direct the youth and the broken families gave her the impetus to do a Family Pastoral Counselling course in the University of Ottawa. The key to the success of her career as a nun, then as a principal, and later as a counsellor was mostly due to the strong faith in her spiritual life.

She continued to teach her favourite subject English to the Seminarians in Jaffna, helping in the moulding and shaping of young hearts to answer the call of the Lord unconditionally as she had done. As Sr. Lucilla had lived all her life in the service of God in the many tasks she undertook during her 70 years of ministry, we are confident that her reward will be great in heaven. May her soul rest peacefully in the arms of the Lord.

Pearl Philip, Retired teacher, Little Flower Convent, Karampon, Kayts


Pushpadana alumni pay tribute to a much-loved principal

Hema de Saram

Mrs. Hema de Saram, one-time principal of Pushpadana Balika Maha Vidyalaya, Kandy, passed away on June 24, 2008, after a brief illness. Hers was a humble and exemplary life, but filled with academic and other accomplishments. She was a fine example to all of us who were fortunate enough to know her and study under her.

Mrs. Hema de Saram was born on September 20, 1922 to a respectable middle-class family in the southern village of Galvehera, in Kosgoda. She studied at Musaeus College, Colombo, where she demonstrated her talents as an all-rounder. She excelled in sports, and was games captain. She was also a gifted musician. She could play the piano, violin, and tabla.

She entered the then University College in Colombo, which was affiliated to the University of London, and majored in oriental languages. She was fluent in Pali, Sanskrit, Sinhala, English and Latin. She continued her studies in the US, and in 1964 she graduated from Cornell University, New York with a master’s degree in education.

Mrs. de Saram was married to the late Professor D. D. de Saram of the University of Peradeniya. She instilled in her children – daughters Lekha and Mauli and son Darshi – and in her students a love and respect for learning. She also taught them to think for themselves and develop as individuals. In 1957, she took up a position as an assistant teacher at Pushpadana, a school that was established in 1942 with a vision to provide an English education for Buddhist girls in Kandy. She became the school’s vice-principal in 1960. She took up the post of principal at St. Joseph’s Balika MV, Gampola, and returned to Pushpadana in 1965, this time as principal. She served Pushpadana until her retirement in 1980.

During Mrs. de Saram’s tenure as principal, Pushpadana developed into one of the island’s leading girls’ schools. She introduced the Advanced Level science curriculum and helped raise funds to set up a science laboratory. She also created the Western Band, which evolved into one of Kandy’s best girls’ school ensembles.

She would travel to Colombo regularly at her own expense and bring back lab equipment and instruments for the band. She introduced many sports and extra-curricular activities. She organised English elocution lessons for the primary and middle school. She worked tirelessly to raise the school’s ranking in terms of student performance at the GCE/OL and GCE/AL Examinations. She also helped set up the Pushpadana Old Girls’ Association.

She was a very versatile teacher. She taught oriental languages and mathematics, and she had a talent for art and needlework.

She emphasised the importance of an English education, and encouraged her students to cultivate the reading habit. She encouraged her girls to pursue higher education, telling them that a university education was the gateway to a world full of opportunities.

Madam de Saram was a strong personality who was greatly loved and respected by her students.
As a principal she was unique. Every morning, before classes began, she would recite a stanza from the Dhammapada on the public address system, and then explain and interpret the text. The religious spirit she instilled in us every morning continues to influence our lives as adults. We continue to treasure her words.

She was an educator and administrator par excellence, and a model of politeness, humility and integrity.
After she retired from Pushpadana, she lived in Nigeria for a few years before returning to Sri Lanka in 1984 to join the University of Peradeniya as a visiting lecturer in education.

Following her husband’s retirement from the University of Peradeniya, she and her family moved to Pitakotte, Colombo.

She is fondly remembered by all her students and colleagues at the University of Peradeniya.
Our beloved teacher, may you attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.

Sriyani Perera (née Dharmasena); Dr. Kanthi Perera (née Karunarathna); Kosambika Samarasekara, and Dr. Vasanthi Pinto


Saluting a soldier, politician, diplomat and an Aiya

Major-General Janaka Perera

It was with stunned disbelief that I heard the news, on October 6, that you and Vajira had been killed in an explosion at Anuradhapura. As I absorbed the shock and took in the enormity of the tragedy, my mind went back 16 years to the day I heard that my husband Mohan had died in a landmine blast. I wept then, and I weep now as I write this appreciation of someone I had known all my life, and had the privilege of addressing as “Janaka Aiya”.

Sleep eluded me that night, as it did for many nights and days after, as I looked back on those days of our carefree childhood – growing up together, enjoying our idyllic, fun-filled teen years, and then going our separate ways on reaching adulthood.

You were the patriotic one among us, the one who made the sacrifices. Instead of enjoying a university education, you chose to join the Army. You cut a very dashing figure in your military uniform as you left for England for your cadet training at Sandhurst. We, the younger ones, gazed upon you with awe and wide-eyed wonder.

Whenever you were home on leave, you would entertain us with your stories of Army life in faraway places, and we would listen enthralled. When I married Mohan, also a serviceman, you and my husband would get together and swap Army stories for hours on end. It was wonderful to see the two of you taking centre stage at family functions and talking about your lives as servicemen, but always careful to censor and edit your stories to suit your audience!

In Vajira – your charming wife and companion for 25 years – you found the perfect partner. She was your soul mate. She complemented you in stature, temperament and intelligence.

We enjoyed your gracious hospitality countless times – whether it was at the Army married quarters, or at your Poorvarama Road home in Colombo, or at the High Commissioner’s residence in Canberra, Australia. It was always open house at your home, even to the most casual of acquaintances. Everybody who visited you and Vajira was given a very warm welcome. Your home radiated great warmth and hospitality.

Together, you nurtured a lovely family, instilling in your children the values and moral principles you believed in. They have in them the best of both of you. Their stoic acceptance of the double tragedy in their family, and the courage they have shown in this time of great grief and loss, is proof of the fine legacy you have given them.

When Mohan was killed in a landmine explosion in the North, you came home to pay your respects. I remember asking why this had to happen to Mohan. That was perhaps the only time I ever saw you at a loss for words, but in your eyes there was a profound sympathy and understanding. After Mohan was gone, you and Vajira were so supportive and helpful to us. With all your heavy duties and responsibilities, you would somehow find time to be present at all important family functions.

When you told us about your intention to enter politics, I feared for you, I implored you time and again to be careful. Another family tragedy could not be borne. But being what you were, you wanted to do more – even after giving 35 years of your life to the service of your country. You wanted to make a difference. For all our sakes, I hoped and prayed you would. I believed you could. Alas, it was not to be.

As I paid my last respects to both of you, it was with a profound sadness that I visualised the two of you impeccably dressed just moments before the explosion, and now what remained within your sealed caskets.

Major-General Janaka Perera, RWP, RSP, VSV, USP, rcds psc – soldier, diplomat, politician – and to me, Janaka Aiya – I bid you farewell.

May you rest in eternal peace.

Nangi

 


Sunday Times Oct 12 2008

May your roar reverberate in the echoes of time

 

The loss of Major General Janaka Perera is a devastating blow to a country now devoid of learned, respected and beloved leaders who potentially could have united all

the races of Mother Lanka under one banner. With his untimely demise, another shining light has gone out, only to be remembered in memory by generations of Sri

Lankans to come. His life of service to the nation will be part of the great historical record that is the exclusive preserve of the privileged few, who served a grateful

nation; never for personal reward or recognition, but to answer a call of duty, that for this Lion of Sri Lanka, was too loud to ignore.

 

Like his esteemed brethren Lieutenant General Denzil Kobbekaduwa, Major General Vijaya Wimalaratne, and other dedicated and decorated service personnel before

him, Major General Perera was a Sri Lankan patriot who served his motherland to the end, and vehemently believed that a return to greatness for our country was on

the horizon. His success on the battlefields over 20 years will now be part of the essential reading on military strategy, and he was the true epitome of courage and

perseverance. His leadership on the battlefield against all odds and adversity today is the stuff of legend. His colleagues in the Army will vouch with pride that in a

lifetime of service to his beloved country, he never wavered in his duty and obligations to his troops and commanders, and he put our nation’s interests first.

In an age where moral values have been desecrated, and where politicians are the standard bearers for the prevailing social fabric of society, Major General Perera stood

out like a beacon. While he was human and therefore vulnerable to human failings, he always strove for greatness, and his learned discourse and dialogue always smacked of hours spent reading on subjects that he couldn’t speak on with authority. His supreme self-confidence coupled with an unbridled self-belief was seen as arrogant by some, but viewed in general as the hallmark of all great leaders. He had that rare quality where he never expected anyone to do something, that he himself would not do first, and he always led from the front, even when it was strategically important that he manage his troops

from the safety of his command centre. His loss will echo throughout the armed forces more than anywhere else, as he spent almost his entire life in their service, and

was one of their most beloved sons.

 

A record of distinguished service…

 

He had the unique distinction of being the Colonel Commandant of the Commando Regiment, Special Forces Regiment and the Corps of Sri Lanka Engineers. Major

General Janaka Perera had been awarded the gallantry medals Rana Wickrama Padakkama and Rana Sura Padakkama, the distinguished service medal, Vishista

Seva Vibhushanaya service medals, the Uttama Seva Padakkama, Sri Lanka Armed Services Long Service Medal, combat service medals Purna Bhumi Padakkama,

North and East Operations Medal, the Vadamarachchi Operation Medal, the Riviresa Campaign Services Medal, and also the Republic of Sri Lanka Armed Services

Medal, 50th Independence Anniversary Medal 1998, Sri Lanka Army 50th Anniversary Medal and President's Inauguration Medal.

 

His entrance into politics was controversial, and even when many of his family and closest advisors questioned his decision, he always said that he still had so much

to give his country, and wanted to contribute even after completing his exemplary military service. While many will rue his decision in the coming days, it important

to see his most dominant quality of self-sacrifice, shining through. One can only hope that his peers and colleagues alike will carry forward the legacy of this great

man, as a testament to his sacrifice. What is now needed is not further political divisions and debates, but for Sri Lanka to go forth united together in her efforts to

stamp out the scourge of terrorism, and bring peace and prosperity to all people of this island.

 

He was one to all…

 

He was dearly loved by the people of all races and creeds, and always expended his duties to ensure racial harmony was maintained wherever he or his division was

based. Even in hostile territory, he always assured the minorities that he would never tolerate anyone, even his troops, to violate the rights of the very people they had sought to liberate from the evil clutches of terrorism. He had no patience for political masters, and refused to compromise himself or his troops for the petty political mileage that today has become the hallmark of politics and service in Sri Lanka.

His devoted and lifelong partner Mrs. Vajira Perera, who also perished in this cowardly attack, was his tower of strength, his harshest critic and his biggest fan. She always went everywhere with him, and made sure that in his battlefield absences, she raised a wonderful family that he could be proud of today. His children share his gregarious nature, and their mother’s charming and pragmatic approach. They will take heart that they had extraordinary parents who made the supreme sacrifice serving the country they loved so dearly.

Farewell Lion of Lanka, and may your roar reverberate in the echoes of time, and may your spirit inhabit the generations of patriotic children of our motherland. May you find in eternal rest, the peace for which you have worked so long.

Ashan Malalasekera. Founder & Executive Director, Youth Progressive Foundation (YPF) - Sri Lanka. www.youthforlanka.org


 

Goodbye to a brave general, eloquent diplomat, popular politician and patriotic friend

 

I have known brave generals, eloquent diplomats, popular politicians and patriotic friends in my lifetime, but I can confidently say that there was only one person

known to me who possessed all these qualities and that person is none other than the late Major General Janaka Perera. The country has lost a patriotic and dedicated

military and political leader. He risked his life over and over again because he had a vision to regain the lost paradise in this country by defeating the LTTE both

militarily and politically. The LTTE succeeded in assassinating him on October 6, 2008 at Anuradhapura in the most cowardly way through a suicide bomber, before

he could make his vision a reality.

 

 

His military efforts to defeat the LTTE are numerous and among them his victory at Weli Oya is among the greatest, wherein nearly four hundred LTTE cadres were

killed, while the losses on his side were only one soldier and one home guard. He was sent to defend Jaffna at a time the political leadership in Colombo were making

preparations to withdraw the Security Forces from Jaffna, with the assistance of India. His leadership turned defeat into victory. While the whole country is well aware of

 these two victories of his, there are many other victories he achieved as a military officer that perhaps only those in the Security Forces would know.

 

The liberation of the east when the late D.B.Wijetunga was President, where he was one of the front line Commanders and the subsequent successful march via

Elephant Pass to Kilinochchi, which was implemented with him as the Operations Commander and his role in the capture of Rohana Wijeweera to end the last JVP

insurrection are just a few that I can recall from memory.

 

The Major General Janaka Perera that I knew was ambitious and nothing short of becoming the President of this country would have enabled him to make his vision

a reality. In an article that was published in The Sunday Times of July 20 2008, I said, “However if this is his aim, the path ahead is pitted with many obstacles. The

LTTE will not be the only enemy he will have to contend with. He survived the LTTE threat when he was a serving officer in the army because he had the necessary

security. As an opposition nominee to the post of Chief Minister who is considered a threat to the governing party, his security will never reach the level that he

enjoyed while serving in the army.

 

Therefore the question is whether he will be ever allowed to work his way up…” He was not allowed to work his way up, because the government failed in providing

him with the necessary security and has to now take the responsibility for allowing the LTTE to assassinate such a valuable person. Let this be a lesson to the

government to make an independent analysis of the threat assessment on very important persons, without considering political affiliations.

 

As a close friend I tried to persuade him not to take to politics at this point of time, but he was too strong willed to heed my advice. He even declined an offer by the

President to be appointed as a Governor and made the mistake of taking to politics by joining the UNP and being nominated as the candidate for the Chief Minister’s

post in the North Central Province. It was this mistake that paved the way for his assassination.

 

Major General Janaka Perera was very confident of victory and said on the political platform that he had never lost a battle and would therefore be victorious at the

provincial council elections. However, though he was the candidate who polled the highest amount of preferential votes, his party the UNP was defeated and he was

appointed to the post of the Leader of the Opposition in the North Central Provincial Council. He was preparing himself to serve the people in his new appointment

when the LTTE assassinated him.

 

As an army officer he stood by his men because he valued the lives of those under his command more than his own promotions. Therefore he refused to dance to the

tune of politicians and as a result possibly even lost the chance of becoming the Army Commander. As a diplomat he succeeded not only in Australia and Indonesia

but at all international diplomatic gatherings to eloquently show that the problem in our country was a terrorist one and not ethnic. As a politician he won the

hearts of the people in record time and became the most loved politician in the North Central Province. Finally as a true friend of mine he went beyond the call of

duty when he was in the army to help me when I was in difficulty.

 

Though he is no more there are many in the army who were trained by him and who served under him to follow in his footsteps. Therefore, I am certain that the LTTE

 has made another great blunder in assassinating Major General Janaka Perera, because though they were able to kill him, they will never be able to kill his vision of

defeating the LTTE both militarily and politically.

 

His determination to do so I hope will gather immense strength in the days to come with the support of both the government and the opposition. This, however, is

unlikely to happen if the opposition tries to use the assassination of Major General Janaka Perera to gain petty political mileage, without keeping in mind that the

common enemy responsible for death and destruction is the LTTE. May the late Major General Janaka Perera, his wife Vajira and all his supporters who were killed

by the LTTE in Anuradhapura on October 6, 2008 attain the bliss of Nibbana. I also take this opportunity to convey my heartfelt condolences to his children and his

family.

 

Lt. Col. Anil Amarasekera


We have lost two caring doctors and a rare politician

DRS RAJA & JENNY JOHNPULLE

My wife and I were saddened by the sudden and tragic passing away of our dear friends Raja and Jenny Johnpulle. I first met Raja in 1957 when he joined the Faculty of Science, University of Ceylon, Colombo, for his First MB. He has been my friend ever since. We lived in Aquinas Hall (Catholic Hostel), a well-knit community of 40 undergraduates. He was a smiling character taking an active part in the affairs of the hostel. I remember him being the Literary Secretary and producing the annual journal.

Moments before the blast in Anuradhapura

He and Jenny left the government health service very early to engage in full time private practice in Anuradhapura. They were respected and popular practitioners.

He was happy when I was appointed the Superintendent of Health Services Anuradhapura in 1978. Then he was Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in the USSR. When he was on leave in Sri Lanka he paid a special visit to me at my office and had a long chat about the health services of Anuradhapura district.
We became closer friends from the 1990s as we met at the monthly meetings of the Independent Medical Practitioners Association of which he was Vice President. He travelled regularly from Anuradhapura and most of the time went back in the dead of night.

He was dedicated to the UNP under every leadership. He did not gain financially from politics. Jenny did not dabble in politics but stood by his side always. When the UNP office situated in his clinic was first damaged. I telephoned him and told him that the time had come for him to give up politics. Regretfully, he did not agree. We met them after their home was burnt. They were calm and resigned to what had happened.

Sri Lanka has lost two honest and caring doctors and a rare upright politician. Their children among whom one is a doctor can be proud of them.

May they rest in peace.

Dr. Lucian Jayasuriya, Rajagiriya

 

 


 

Sunday Times Oct 5 2008

Distinguished physicist was a great teacher and complete gentleman

Professor George Alexander Dissanaike

Professor George Alexander Dissanaike (“GAD”), a great teacher and complete gentleman, passed away on July 4, 2008, in Kandy, at the age of 81. He was Emeritus

Professor of Physics at the University of Peradeniya. He served as Senior Professor and Head of the Department of Physics at Peradeniya for many years, until his

retirement in the early 1990s.

His exemplary character is permanently embedded in my memory. I was unable to attend his funeral because I was visiting South Korea at the time and attending

the official opening of the first solar village in Sri Lanka. However, I did visit his family in Kandy to offer my condolences. There I was fortunate to meet both Mrs.

Dissanaike and his only son, Dr. Gishan Dissanaike, who is on the academic staff of the University of Cambridge.

This article is an appreciation of GAD’s 63-year association with the university system of Sri Lanka, and his huge contribution to society.

GAD was born in Colombo on June 23, 1927. His ancestral family hailed from Sabaragamuwa but had settled in the Southern province. GAD was named after his

paternal great grandfather, Mudaliyar Don George Alexander Seneviratne Dissanaike.

GAD was the youngest of three brothers, all of whom had careers in science. The eldest brother, the late Ben Dissanaike, retired as head of the Government Analyst’s

Department. The second brother, Dr. Stanley Dissanaike, was a former Professor of Parasitology and Dean of the Colombo Medical Faculty.

GAD’s primary and secondary education was at Richmond College, Galle, and St. Peter’s College, Colombo. He entered the University of Ceylon, Colombo in 1945.

After graduating with a BSc special degree in Physics in 1949, he was awarded the Government University Science Scholarship for postgraduate studies overseas.

He went to Cambridge University in 1950 and obtained his PhD in 1953. He was a research student in experimental nuclear physics at the Cavendish Laboratory and

a member of Downing College, Cambridge.

GAD joined the staff of the University of Ceylon (Colombo) in 1949, and was transferred to the University of Ceylon (Peradeniya) in 1962. His research and publications

covered Nuclear Physics and Energy, the Scattering of Light, Sunsets and Air Pollution, Science Education, and Physics in Biological and Medical Research. He collaborated

with his older brother, Prof. Stanley Dissanaike, in preparing a series of academic papers.

GAD represented Sri Lanka at numerous international conferences and forums, including the International Atomic Energy Agency, UNESCO, International Centre for

Theoretical Physics and ASPEN. He was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and the National Academy of Sciences, in Sri Lanka. He was also a past President of

the Institute of Physics, Sri Lanka.

GAD has held visiting professorships and faculty appointments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of California at Santa Barbara, and

the University of South Carolina in the US, and Cambridge University and the University of Surrey in the UK. From 1980 to 1982, he was a member of the committee

of inquiry on the Use of Atomic Energy for Power Generation in Sri Lanka.


I met GAD for the first time 40 years ago, when I did my Advanced Level physics practical examination in 1968. I was fortunate to have his excellent guidance when

I entered the Faculty of Science at the University of Peradeniya, in 1969. I was able to complete two BSc degrees, join the academic staff, and progress as a demonstrator,

an assistant lecturer and a lecturer in physics in the same department while he was a key senior staff member. During my 15 years with the Department of Physics,

I was inspired by his professional behaviour and gentle nature. He was a role model for many physicists of my generation.

 

After I moved to the UK in 1984, we would continue to meet at seminars, conferences and graduation dinners for new physics graduates.

 

GAD’s gentle nature and professional behaviour helped to create a pleasant working environment in the physics department. GAD silently served the country over

a period of six decades, producing fine physicists who would serve mankind around the world. His wise guidance, smile and relaxed management style will be missed

by all who knew him.

 

May he attain eternal peace.

Professor I. M. Dharmadasa, Sheffield Hallam University, UK


Kamal’s love of books enlightened the Malay community

S. M. Kamaldeen

The Muslim community of Sri Lanka has lost one of its most illustrious intellectuals. S. M. Kamaldeen, fondly known as Kamal to his friends, passed away recently. He was 88 years. He lived a full and fruitful life in the service of knowledge and humanity.

Kamal was a former librarian of the Colombo Public Library, and served as director of the Sri Lanka Libraries Board, in addition to holding other responsible positions in the field of librarianship. Kamal devoted his life to books and the dissemination of knowledge among students and all those who sought his help in finding information.

I first came to know Mr. Kamladeen when I was a regular visitor at the Colombo Public Library in the early 1960s, when I was a student preparing for my university entrance examination. I would diffidently approach him and he would happily help me find the information I required. He was always accessible to anyone who needed guidance.

Many scholars have benefited from Mr. Kamaldeen’s vast knowledge of history, politics and literature. It was he who drew my attention to the existence of the first Malay and Muslim newspaper, “Alamat Langkapuri”, which was published by lithograph in 1869, in Colombo, by the great Sri Lankan Malay literary savant, Baba Ounus Saldin.

Kamal offered to give me a facsimile of this newspaper to use in my PhD research work at Monash University, when I left for Australia in 1974. That single finding changed my perspective on the history of the Sri Lanka Malays. Following Mr. Kamaldeen’s lead, I discovered many other hitherto unknown Malay manuscripts in Sri Lanka. I am sure there are many scholars who owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mr. Kamaldeen.

Kamal’s life was not confined to books. He was an active member of the community. He was a true leader and a dedicated social worker. His contributions to the Young Men’s Muslim Association are widely known. He was also president of the All-Ceylon YMMA Conference, back in 1960. Inspired by the ideals of A. M. A. Azeez, founder of the Sri Lanka YMMA movement, Kamal enriched the intellectual life of our Muslim youth. He helped to build up the library at the Dematagoda YMMA. Fearless and unbending, he stood up for principles, regardless of political influences. His unbiased report on the 1981 burning of the magnificent Jaffna library was further testimony to his integrity.

He is survived by his wife, Haleema Hanem Marikar, retired Director of Education, Kegalle. His son lives in the United States.

I am sure there are many who will miss this wonderful intellectual, whose memory will be perpetuated in the works of writers and scholars in Sri Lanka and abroad.

Professor B. A. Hussainmiya


Former Surveyor General would have made an excellent Governor General

R. A. Gunawardene

Former Surveyor General Reginauld Alick Gunawardene, known as “RAG” to his close friends, passed away peacefully at his home “Melville” three months ago.

Reginauld was born to a Methodist father and a Roman Catholic mother, but lived as an atheist most of his life. It was only in his last years that he acknowledged an awareness of a loving God. He died the way he lived, largely unknown and unsung. He left instructions that his mortal remains be buried within 24 hours of his death, and that he be given a private funeral.

RAG was born in Kandy on January 29, 1923. He studied at St. Benedict’s College, Kotahena, and after a successful school career joined the staff of his alma mater for a short while before taking up a full-time job as a teacher at St. Mary’s, Chilaw. He entered university and graduated with a BSc (London).
Before joining the Survey Department in 1948 as an Assistant Superintendent, he was for a short time Assistant Food Controller. He was promoted to the position of Superintendent of Surveys in 1962, and rose to the rank of Assistant Acting Surveyor General. He became Acting Surveyor General in 1972, and retired 10 months later. The next four years he spent in salubrious Diyatalawa as head of the Institute of Surveying and Mapping. He trained dozens of people in the disciplines of surveying and mapping, while being quite a disciplinarian himself. He was a stickler for rules.

I had the privilege of profiling this great man in The Sunday Times of February 12, 2006, when his surveyor colleagues felicitated him as the oldest member of their fraternity.

RAG was a legend in the Survey Department. There were many stories told about him and his no-nonsense ways. For example, there was the case of the draughtsman who had refused to be transferred to a distant outstation post, saying he could not leave behind his bed-ridden mother. Later, when the draughtsman appeared before an interview board, headed by RAG, in connection with an application for a scholarship to go overseas for training, RAG asked him how he would manage to leave his bed-ridden mother to go abroad when he did not want to leave her side to work in another part of this country.

Many believed RAG should have been Governor General, rather than Surveyor General, saying he would have given the country the discipline it needed.

May this labourer who was called to the vineyard in the last hour of the day enjoy eternal rest with the Lord.

By Lenard R. Mahaarachchi


 

To our beautiful Ceylon Rose

Charmina M.Kaduruwane

Beautiful lady,
Our Ceylon Rose,
We greet you
On your birthday …
Not with joy
But with a tinge of sadness,
Sad that you are not with us again
On yet another birthday.

So while we all
Remember you
With lots of love …
All the hugs and kisses
Remain in the heart!

Happy birthday!
Darling Bubbie …
From us all –
Princess, Cuda and Seneca,
And all of those you loved…

Sharlene,
Charmina’s b’day fell on September 21

 

 


Sunday Times Sep 28 2008

A gentle scholar and a just professional

Justice M. Jameel

Justice M. Jameel passed away on September 11, on the 10th day of the holy month of Ramadan. Soon after breaking fast, family, friends and colleagues were calling each other to convey the sad news of the death of this outstanding person who had contributed so much to the community.

Justice Jameel was a model of politeness, humility, simplicity, honesty, integrity and deliberation – superior attributes rarely found in people today. He was full of knowledge, yet lived so quietly. He was well versed in the law and had a deep knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence.

Justice Jameel did a great deal for the development of the Muslim community – educationally, culturally and economically. But his yeoman service is not visible in his name for the simple reason that he did it all behind the scenes. The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, Ceylon Baitul Mal, Ilma International School and Amana Investments Limited all enormously benefited from him.

Silence was one of his unique qualities. He talked very little; just a few meaningful sentences constructed with well-chosen words. He was loved by virtually everyone. He rose to the exalted position of “Justice”, and held many other responsible positions as well. He had the honour of being a member of the Constitutional Council, and he was the Sri Lanka Ambassador in the UAE. His presence illuminated the exalted positions he held, rather than the exalted positions illuminating him.

He got deeply involved in social service, after his retirement. He was president of the Ceylon Baitul Mal, president of the board of governors of the Ilma International School, a member of the Shari’ah Supervisory Council of Amana Investments Limited, as well as holding many other responsible posts in various public organizations. He performed his duties with great patience and the utmost prudence, setting a good example to others in public life and social work.

He was a great scholar. In his last few years, he showed an intense interest in Islamic Shari’ah literature. Islamic Jurisprudence was his focal point. He never hesitated to get any doubts cleared by respected Ulama.

I fondly recall the way we used to address each other. He was older than me by many years, but he would address me as “Sir”, and I would address him as “Your Lordship”.

Justice Jameel’s passing has left a void which will not be easily filled. A human being par excellence, who served the community in silence and with sincerity, humility, simplicity and deliberation, has left us. Society is deeply indebted to him.

It is my considered opinion that Justice Jameel is a chapter that should be researched in depth.
May Almighty Allah forgive his sins, accept his good deeds and honour him by granting him Jannatul Firdaus, while granting his family patience and solace.

By Ash-Shaikh H. Abdul Nazar General Secretary, All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, President, Centre for Spiritual Solidarity

Compassionate nurse who comforted countless people

Seelie Wickremasinghe

Seelie Wickremasinghe, my mother, passed away peacefully on September 11, 2008. She died as she lived, in peace and with dignity. To her friends she was Seelie. To her grandchildren and great-granddaughter she was Accha. To countless others she was Seelie Aunty or Seelie Accha. To my sister and me, she will always be our beloved Amma.

Before she was our mother, she was a nurse. She was barely 18 when she entered nursing school in Sri Lanka. She was 78 when she finally retired from nursing in the United States. Her nursing career spanned 60 years and three countries – Sri Lanka, Britain and the US.

In Sri Lanka, she reached the highest level in nursing as Matron of the Colombo General Hospital. As President of the Sri Lanka Nurses Union, she strived to bring respect to the nursing profession and fought for the betterment of nurses in Sri Lanka. In her capacity as President of the Nurses’ Union, she represented Sri Lanka at international conferences in Asia, Africa and the US. Specializing in ENT nursing at the Royal ENT Hospital in London, she was placed first in her class and passed with honours to receive her SRN licence to practise nursing in England. In the US, she re-entered the nursing profession after taking a refresher course in practical nursing at 60 years of age.

Amma touched the lives of many. She spent countless days and nights at the bedside of friends and relatives who needed her, as well as those she cared for professionally. Her compassion and caring for the sick knew no boundaries. As a young girl, I remember how people in need of medical care would make our home their first stop. These patients included both known people and people we hardly knew. Amma would accompany them to the doctor, walk them through the admission process, and stay at their bedside.

Born to a humble, lower-middle-class family, Amma was raised to believe in the value of education. She was fortunate to attend St. John’s Girls’ School, in Panadura, where she received a well-rounded English education. This helped her in her latter years, when she pursued her career in nursing.

She helped many of her nieces and nephews with financial assistance so they could achieve their educational goals. Today, many of them are successful young men and women holding responsible positions in various professional fields.

When the tsunami struck Sri Lanka in 2004, Amma decided to go back to Sri Lanka to help in the rehabilitation of victims. She “adopted” a young girl and funded her education. Unfortunately, not long after, Amma fell ill. She had to return to the US for medical treatment, but continued to correspond with the young girl and encourage her to continue her studies.

Amma left us many gifts – the gift of family love, the gift of compassion, the gift of caring, and the gift of kindness and understanding. Often I would get upset with her for giving away clothes and other gifts she received from family members. It is only now that I understand that this was her way of sharing. She found more joy in giving than receiving. Her life may be summed up in a few words: Amma denied herself so she could give to others.
May she attain Nibbana.

By Badra Nanayakkara. Donations in Seelie Wickremasinghe’s memory may be sent to the Maharagama Children’s Cancer Hospital

Much-loved Kandy personality served his country as lawyer and diplomat

Nissanka Wijesundera

“If I were asked to give what I consider the single most useful bit of advice for all humanity, it would be this: Expect troubles as an inevitable part of life, and when trouble comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in the eye, and say: ‘I will be bigger than you, you cannot defeat me’.”

The above is taken from the book “Chicken Soup for the Surviving Souls of Cancer” by Jack Canfield. The book was read daily to Nissanka Wijesundera during the last months of his life.

Mr. Wijesundera was born on April 12, 1926 to a respectable Kandyan family in Meewatura, Peradeniya. His father, a strict and honest man, was a Registrar of Land in Kandy. His mother was B. M. Angunawela, whom he adored. He often recalled the difficulties the family experienced to come up in life. He was very proud that all of his family members were well educated and had excelled in their own fields. There were eight in the family. His older brother, the late Professor Stanley Wijesundera, gave him the courage and motivation to become an attorney. He spoke often about his sister, the late Soma Perusinghe, and his younger brother, the late Ashley Wijesundera.

He had his education at Dharmaraja College, Kandy, and was a fluent speaker in the debating team and a brilliant student in Latin and English. He was also a member of the cadet platoon.

In 1966, he married Padmini Dahanayaka Yapa of Waralla. They lived in a beautiful house with a large garden at Meewatura. He was a homely person who enjoyed getting involved in domestic work. He was proud of his garden and enjoyed getting into a banian and sarong to work in the garden. Clients coming to see him for a consultation would mistakenly take him for the gardener and ask to meet his “master”! He would then ask the clients to take a seat, go into the house through the back door, get dressed and come out to meet them. After completing his apprenticeship, he started his own practice in Kandy as a young lawyer.

His honesty, punctuality, hard work and dedication made him a highly successful lawyer. He once said: “I have immense confidence when conducting cases because my colleagues and clients trust me.” He helped junior lawyers rise in the competitive world of the legal profession. He was happy to see his juniors doing well. This was duly recognised, and he was appointed President of the Kandy Bar Association in 1995. He was proud to have worked at the Kandy Bar for 49 years.

Mr. Wijesundera left for work very early in the morning, taking not only his children to school but also the children of friends. His small car was packed with children, whom he entertained by humming golden oldies as he drove them to school.

He was appointed an all-island Justice of the Peace in 1971. He held the post of unofficial magistrate for 36 years. He was a council member of the Senate at the University of Peradeniya, and served as a member of the development committee at the Kandy General Hospital.

He was an active member of the Parent-Teacher Association of Girls’ High School, Kandy for many years, when Mrs. T. K. Ekanayake was principal. He reached the pinnacle of his career when he was appointed Sri Lanka High Commissioner in Australia in 1993.

He was not a politician but a warm-hearted social worker. He felt for the villagers and helped them whenever the need arose. He initiated the construction of roads, wells and housing schemes in Meewatura. He was actively involved in religious activities in the Udunuwara area, building temples and libraries and forming many associations in his area.

He was in good health until the age of 81, when he was diagnosed with colonic cancer. Despite his ill health, he wanted to fight back. He continued to work even after surgery and chemotherapy. He would tell us: “You gain strength, courage and confidence with each experience of looking fear in the face. I have lived through the horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”

He was very fond of the doctors who treated him, and gave them merit until he ended his journey. Consultant surgeon Dr. Gamini Buthpitiya and consultant oncologists Dr. Kanthi Perera and Dr. Hilmi, consultant urologist Dr. Udaya Pethiyagoda looked after him throughout his illness. He was happy to see Dr. Manil and Dr. (Mrs.) Sakunthala Pieris and Dr. Indika Bandara, who comforted him at home. They were not just professionals in medicine but people with humanity, who encouraged him to be himself.

His honesty and dedication gave us strength, for Nissanka Wijesundera was our loving father. We thank him for what we are today. We remember him on his first death anniversary, which fell on September 23. May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.

By Sanjika, Shalika and Thilanjika


Nation Sep 28 2008

Kesara Lal Wanigasekara

It is with a deep sense of grief that I write these words of our beloved friend who passed away in September last year. Leaving a whole world of friends in sorrow, he passed away at a private hospital due to a terminal decease which was discovered a couple of years before his death. Anybody who associated Kesara even for a short while will bear testimony to the agony his family and friends are going through and the silent thoughts are engraved in their hearts since his demise.

Though it is said that time is a great healer, I still am wondering whether it is the case here. When the doctors confirmed the death of our beloved friend the shock waves that ran through our hearts made us wordless for a while. Words I know in the language are not enough to describe what his loss means to most of his friends and also to his family. I still wonder whether the huge void created by his death could ever be filled by anybody.

Kesara always had deep sense of humane qualities and never forgot the poor and the underprivileged, and his friends. Kindness was stamped in all the words he spoke.. Sincerity was his theme in life and his clean way of handling matters won the implicit trust of all his friends and associates. The most admirable and endearing feature we all loved to be around him was his sense of humour.

People of noble virtues are hard to find and Kesara was a man of deeds than words. His prime concern and priority were his family and the business and he always had time for any of his friends.
Although it is twelve long months since the demise of our beloved friend our hearts still hurt so much when we go to his office which was once filled with joy, happiness and fun.

All your friends are haunted by those lovely memories and have had to bear the emptiness your demise created. Kesara, have a nice and pleasant journey; we pay our tribute to a truly remarkable friend.
Pushparanjan
Mt. Lavinia


Late Mr. Suganadasa Atukorala former principal of Nalanda College

A dedicated educationist with a vision

Eminent educationist Mr. Suganadasa Atukorala passed away on Saturday 18th November 2006. The demise of Mr. Atukorala who rendered yeoman service to the field of education at micro as well as macro levels is a grave loss to the nation.

Late Mr. Atukorala who was born on 12th November 1921 in Matugama, was educated at Ananda College and graduated from the University of Colombo. He joined the noble profession of teaching and commenced his long stay at Ananda Sastralaya Mathugama where he rose to the post of Vice Principal. Subsequently he served as the Principal of St. Mary’s Mathugama and Takshila Horana. He took over Nalanda in 1969 and served there until 1982. Afterwards he was appointed Chairman of the Library Services Board from where he retired after an efficient, effective and productive long innings of almost forty years in public service.

During his fourteen year tenure at Nalanda, Mr. Atukorala did a lot to improve infrastructure facilities, absorbed teachers with skills and competence in to the Staff in order to enhance children’s quality of education, introduced new concepts to improve teacher – student relationship and furthered extra curricular activities.

In 1972 Mr. Atukorala invited Mr. Oruwala Bandu to teach Russian language to the A/L students. This visionary step was the turning point, which paved the way for many Nalandians in that golden era of the Soviet Union to join leading Universities like Moscow, Lulumba and Minsk. Nalanda boys had the distinct advantage over the other aspirants for those scholarships, as they were value added students who were conversant in the Russian language.

He got so engrossed with Nalanda and decided to shift his entire family from Mathugama to a location which was only a step and jump from Nalanda. Later he domiciled in the same locality. His beloved wife who predeceased him, Mrs. Hemalatha Atukorala too joined Nalanda Staff from Ananda Sastralaya Mathugama.

His son Upul who was one class my junior graduated from Peradeniya as a Civil Engineer and later earned his Masters and Doctorate from the British Colombia University, Canada. Daughters Savitri and Gayatri both are Vishakians. Savitri is presently serving as Consultant Pediatrician at the General Hospital Kalutara. Gayatri decided to fellow the footsteps of her parents and currently serving as a Graduate teacher at Nalanda.

Although Mr. Atukorala left Nalanda in 1982, he continued to be our own “Disapamok Acharya Thuma” until he became very feeble a few weeks prior to his demise. Present and past pupils, parents, present and past teachers, past Principals and present Principal; every now and then sought advice from Mr. Atukorala on critical issues. Mr. Atukorala very willingly parted advice through his wisdom and knowledge. Mr. Athukorala attended the felicitation ceremony for him on October 8, 2006 which was his last visit to Nalanda before becoming too ill to be active any further.

I consider myself very privileged to have been a student under his able leadership. He reiterated the criticality of quality reading to acquire knowledge power. Whilst adding value to Nalanda, he never forgot Mathugama. Mr. Atukorala made use of his network of friends and pupils in various key positions in good faith to help people in his native area. He was humble. Simplicity was his hallmark. He followed the Gandhian style of Leadership. He was a beacon to Nalanda and Mathugama. Vicissitudes of nature over took him after a long spell of four scores and five.

His funeral was held on November 22, 2006 amidst a gathering of galaxy of Nalandians, including His Excellency The President of Sri Lanka, World Best Cricket Captain, Best Schoolboy Cricketer of the year and Best in A/L results – 2006; who are all Nalandians.

Third month remembrance bana and dana pinkama was held mid February 2007.

May Mr. Suganadasa Atukorala attain Nibbana!

Madura Wijeyewickrema


The Sunday Leader Sep 28 2008

Appreciations

Dr. W. G. A. Silva

I am sending you out like sheep among the wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

— Matthew 10:16

In this fallen, corrupt world, we should always be wise about what is good, break up our silence and resist the harm offered so subtly by the devil.

Our dad always took the stance of a dove by being innocent, which many of his companions used for their own benefit.

The word of God also says submit to God and resist the devil. So, we also have to play a part here on earth. Our dad’s silence though golden was misused by many.

But we thank our Heavenly Father for our dad, for showing us the innocent and simple side of life at its best! May we also cultivate shrewdness as we travel along for a few more years!

Sons Nilantha, Gerald, Bentley and Dinesh


Herbert Cooray

Gentleman first, Businessman second

September 7 marks three month since the demise of Herbert Cooray; a patriotic Sri Lankan, a far sighted businessman and a true gentleman in every sense. He was fondly and respectfully referred to as ‘Boss’ or Loku Mahatthaya by the staff of Jetwing and as ‘Herbie’ by his friends and colleagues.

He considered his staff as part of his family, termed as the ‘Jetwing family,’ a common reference in the company usage that had special characteristics and values that everyone were guided by; among them, integrity and humility at the top, qualities he cherished and lived by.

He was a pioneer in the tourism industry and was a friend to all. He contributed diligently to the country’s economy and to the tourism industry by re-investing his earnings in building the tourism infrastructure in the form of guest rooms that was badly needed to accommodate the inflow of tourists in the ’70s, ’80s and the ’90s.

Though he claimed that it was his luck that made his investments meet with success; there was much more to it. He always had a good grasp of the things he did. His investment decisions were well thought out and he looked at them from numerous angles, sought the views of others and would go ahead only when he was convinced that his ‘gut-feeling’ would work.

He was an early riser. He would arrive at one of his hotels in Negombo by 6.30 a.m., driving himself from Colombo, on the way visiting the construction sites his company N.J.Cooray Builders Ltd., was handling.

He had a lot of commitment towards the work he did though he may have referred to all positive things he did as ‘luck’ in his humble nature. He never claimed credit for having done much of the work, and never felt tired or looked forward to planned holidays. He was never heard using the word ‘stress;’ a trendy, halo effect that follows everybody these days as an excuse to take a holiday.

The gentleman in Herbert Cooray always overshadowed the businessman in him.

He never intruded into areas of work of others. He never took advantage of the misfortune of another and try to acquire anything at an unfairly low price. He believed that a fair deal must be given even when there was an opportunity to strike a bargain. He insisted and practiced the principle that all due payments must be made within the stipulated period, a practice followed in the company to date.

He also had a lot of wit; and most jokes he narrated were his personal experiences starting from his university days. He enjoyed sharing funny stories and loved having a good laugh with the rest.

His big frame, above six feet in height also came with a big heart. He did his philanthropy silently and never looked for popularity and undue advantage or fanfare. He donated to school projects, churches, and temples. For him CSR was a bounden duty he had to society and not a fad, a cover-up or an indirect marketing tool for profit making.

Whenever he was invited to staff weddings, he made it a point to attend them. If he got to know of a death in a staff member’s family, he made it a point to visit the funeral house. Once at a funeral of a father of a staff member, he was told by the member that he did not expect the chairman to come all the way and especially at a time he was not too well. His reply was "As long as my feet could take me, I will attend."

Though he has not been in the best of health during his last few years, he was in his seat at the office on most days. He remained quite alert with matters of business, until the last days of his life.

Herbert Cooray was a unique individual in very many ways. He left behind a rich legacy; a legacy of human values that made him unique. Those who came in their numbers from various corners of the country; among them beach vendors and fisher-folk from Negombo, beach operators from Beruwala, to pay their last respects at his funeral, was a reflection of the genuine admiration and respect he gathered from people over the years.

May he attain eternal bliss!

Kumara Senaratne

 


Sunday Times Sep 21 2008

Legendary lawyer who raised the bar for his profession

AINSLEY CLIVE (BUNTY) DE ZOYSA

It is hard to believe that a quarter of a century has elapsed since the sudden and untimely death of Ainsley Clive De Zoysa (better known as “Bunty”). To us juniors of the time, Bunty seemed immortal. We could not conceive of a Hulftsdorp without him. Yet, so it is, and has been for exactly 25 years.

I had the privilege of knowing Bunty in four capacities: as a family friend; as my supervising officer in the Attorney General’s Department; as an awesome opponent after his retirement from that department and finally as my senior counsel in the Unofficial Bar. When I hark back to the days when Bunty was among us (which seems like yesterday), I am deluged by nostalgic memories.

Bunty De Zoysa was a many-faceted character, the likes of whom Hulftsdorp will not, alas, have the fortune of knowing again. As a friend, he was loyal to the core, and followed to the letter the sage advice of Polonius to Laertes (in Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’): “Those friends thou hast and their adoption tried, grapple them to thy heart with hoops of steel.”

Both as a man and as a lawyer, he feared no man; and to him, no one was too “big” to “take on” or too “small” to fight for. He never “demanded” respect, as many do today: he “commanded” it from all who came into contact with him. At the Bar, he was a true professional, and not a businessman in the garb of a professional. Many are the fortunate litigants who received his services free of charge, where the cause was right.

Bunty was a criminal lawyer of rare distinction, equally at home in the original as well as in the appellate courts. As a senior counsel, juniors were to him not mere subordinates to be ordered around and used as glorified porters to carry his books around, as some do today. To him, his juniors were friends and colleagues who were “juniors” only because they happened to have been born after him. He strove to instil in them self-confidence, and develop them so they could stand on their own feet.

Anecdotes about Bunty De Zoysa are legion: many of these stories were already part of the folklore of the Attorney General’s Department when I joined it 39 years ago. No appreciation of Bunty De Zoysa would be complete without mention of a few such anecdotes.

I have selected three stories to illustrate the endearing qualities of this unique person; one relates to the Attorney General’s Department and the other two are drawn from my personal experience.

“E” files were the bane of officers of the criminal branch of the Attorney General’s Department. These were civil advice files containing requests for advice from various government departments, and quite a few of these were about the disbursement of sums of money. While a public servant could be surcharged in respect of a sum of money disbursed by him, if he had done so erroneously, even if he had acted perfectly bona fide, he could not be surcharged if such a disbursement was made with the advice of the Attorney General’s Department.

One such file allocated to Bunty De Zoysa related to the payment of some Rs. 40. Although the amount was relatively small, the resolution of the legal question involved was complicated, and Bunty had no inclination to do research into abstruse questions of civil law, which bored him stiff. With characteristic originality, he did no research and wrote no report. Instead, he summoned the public servant concerned, gave him the Rs. 40 out of his own funds, and advised him to make the payment!

I was prosecuting at the Negombo Assizes, and Bunty was my supervising officer. In the middle of a complicated case that was going badly for the Crown, there arose a decision I had to take, and take immediately, but could not take because there was a circular stating that such a decision could be taken only with the prior approval of the Attorney General himself. In those days there was no direct dialling from Negombo to Colombo. I made a trunk call to Bunty and explained the situation. Never will I forget his response: “You are the man on the spot, you make the decision.”

I then reminded him of the circular. His response to this was even more unforgettable: “To hell with the circular. It is impractical. Take what decision you see fit and make a minute on the file saying that I authorised you to take that decision. I will take the responsibility. If you are wrong, I will tell you where you went wrong when you return to Colombo. Hereafter, never telephone me, but take what decision you see fit, and make a minute saying that I authorised it.”

Thereafter, I always made my own decisions, and never made a minute “passing the buck” to Bunty. This was one example of how Bunty developed self-confidence in his juniors. He taught us to think for ourselves and make our own decisions, while “sticking his own neck out” to do so.

The last anecdote concerns a brush with a judge. Bunty was leading me for an accused party in a long and complicated jury trial that lasted about three-and-a-half months, with daily hearings. Bunty addressed the jury. It was clearly a Herculean task to marshal and present the massive volume of evidence adduced over so long a period, but Bunty succeeded, and he earned the rapt attention of the jury. In the course of his address, the judge cracked what was, in his perception, a joke, and the spell woven by Bunty’s eloquence was broken. He did not explode, as I had expected him to. Instead, he stood erect and stock-still, and looked straight at the judge without so much as blinking, until the judge stopped laughing.

The judge then said, “Yes, Mr De Zoysa?”, indicating that he should resume his address to the jury. Bunty then broke his silence: he said in measured tones: “That, was a good one, sir, a good one”, and then he repeated: “a good, good, good, good, good, good one, sir”, the tempo of his words, accompanied by taps on the Bar table, increasing with every “good”. Bunty then lowered his voice, resumed his measured tone, and said: “In short, a good one sir. Now, may I resume?”

Never again was Bunty interrupted, although his address lasted another two to three full days.
Bunty is gone, and we will never see the likes of him again. We are all the poorer for his death. At least those, such as myself, who were privileged to have known him have a rich store of memories that help, to some extent, to relieve the ever-present and mounting frustrations of Hulftsdorp. I pity, from the bottom of my heart, those who had not that privilege, or such memories.

S. L. Gunasekara

 


A fearless champion of justice and loyal friend

AINSLEY CLIVE (BUNTY) DE ZOYSA

It is difficult to believe that this man of singular sparkling personality has been dead for 25 years. Bunty strode every corridor he passed through – whether in court, the corridors of power or the social orbit – with supreme confidence. He had that rare gift of making his presence felt the moment he entered a room.

He had it all -- a devoted wife and children, a brain as sharp as a stiletto, a rare talent for putting words together, good looks, a successful career, having reached the heights as a lawyer and effortless style and panache.

I met Bunty in person for the first time when he got married to my cousin, Santha. I knew of him, and was aware that he was one of the younger sons of the late Francis De Zoysa, the well-known King’s Counsel, freedom fighter, state councillor and campaigner for purity in public life. Francis De Zoysa was respected as someone who spoke the truth, stood up for what he believed in. The Tamil people had so much respect for Francis that when he lost the Galle elections, they invited him to accept an uncontested seat in Jaffna.

Four decades later, Francis De Zoysa’s son Bunty displayed similar qualities when he fought long and hard against corruption, abuse of power and the muddled state of public life between 1970 and 1977. This was when he led the state team before the Special Presidential Commission. It was undoubtedly Bunty’s eloquence par excellence, sparkling phrases and courtroom manner that resulted in making his opening address before this commission the classic social document of our time. He was a man who knew exactly what to say at the right moment, wherever he was.

Bunty was one of the few Sinhala lawyers retained to appear in Jaffna. When he was elected President of the Bar Association, for two consecutive years, in 1980 and 1981, he won with the wholehearted support of the Jaffna Bar.

Like his brothers before him, Bunty went to Royal College, where he displayed his talent as a polished speaker and debater, winning many awards. During World War II, he was sent to St. Patrick’s College, Jaffna, where he excelled in debate, oratory and cricket. He went to university, where he read English, economics and philosophy, and then to Law College and to Gray’s Inn, London. He joined the Attorney General’s Department at the invitation of Sir Alan Rose, the then Attorney General, but quit later to revert to the Unofficial Bar. His rise in the Bar was phenomenal, making him a legend in his lifetime.

What of Bunty the man? An extremely popular figure in all circles, he was a loyal and steadfast friend, which is a rarity today. He fought steadfastly and relentlessly for what he believed in, against injustice, and he was not afraid of the consequences.

Another rare gift he had was his ability to move with kings while never losing the common touch. He was able to move freely with people from all walks of life. He made people feel at ease and he never patronised anyone.

This, I am sure, is what the Royal College principal Edward Lawrence Bradby had in mind when he wrote of Bunty in a school report: “The very qualities which often found him in trouble may prove useful to him in later life.”

Bunty’s kind heart made him give generously to those in need. Reaching out to people was one of his special gifts. Even at the height of an extremely busy career, he made time for all who sought his help. His sincerity attracted those with similar genuine qualities.

Bunty was an indulgent father. He always made time for the children, with whom he had a special rapport. He was well read and could quote extensively from even lesser-known poets and writers.
He died in August 1983, just after Black July.

Santha told me that he was extremely worried about the situation as a whole. He was concerned about his Tamil friends, about the children affected by the crisis and about the effect on the UNP, the party he supported with his heart and soul, and which was in power at the time. He worked long and hard in defence of party supporters who were harassed, arrested and falsely charged between 1973 and 1977.
He played a major role in helping the party regain power in 1977. Bunty was persuaded by President J.R. Jayewardene to serve as a director of the Bank of Ceylon, where he was a great asset and made a tremendous contribution to its development.

His death was an irreplaceable loss to the party. I recall President Jayewardene being inconsolable at the time. Bunty de Zoysa stood out, with his dashing personality and debonair demeanour. He was the epitome of high ideals, courage and supreme self-confidence.

The world is the poorer without him, but those who loved him must not let him go. They must continue with all he taught them. In these difficult times, they must try to be as he was: brave, hopeful, compassionate, open-minded and merry-hearted. His ideals are embodied in the words of Mahatma Gandhi. These words were displayed prominently in his chambers.

I shall not fear anyone on earth
I shall fear only God.
I shall not bear ill will towards anyone
I shall not submit to Injustice from anyone,
I shall conquer Untruth by Truth
I shall put up with all Suffering.

Ilica Malkanthi Karunaratne

 


To Sir with love

AINSLEY CLIVE (BUNTY) DE ZOYSA

Twenty-five years on, those who once worked with Bunty De Zoysa – some of us now at the zenith of our legal careers, some of us having changed course to follow different career paths – wish to say in chorus:

“But in my mind, memories of Bunty
will still live on and on.”

There was a difference in the eras we belonged to -- Bunty grew up in colonial British times, while most of his juniors were born in the post-Independence era. As a schoolboy Bunty drew inspiration from poets like Dryden, Keats, Pope, Kipling and Frost, while honing his talent for rhetoric and eloquence by reading Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde. Our era regarded the English language as the great “kaduwa”. Bunty’s mastery of the English language served him well in his professional capacity, earning the respect of fellow lawyers, judges and jury, while outside court he would entertain us with his wonderful way with words.

Bunty showed his loyalty as an “old boy” whenever the annual Royal-Thomian match came around. In fact, it was he who initiated the Mustangs Trophy – containing the ashes of a wicket from the 1975 match -- for the 50-overs Royal-Thomian match. When it was Big Match time, Bunty’s home would be like a camp, with old Royalists and old Thomians occupying the ground floor, while their son’s Thomian friends would take over the upstairs. On those days, Bunty’s home had a Camp David-like atmosphere! After the match, with throats hoarse from dust and booze, the rival school’s representatives would review the game, with heated arguments breaking out over captains’ decisions, etc. At the end of the day, however, it did not matter who had won.

“But how do you thank someone
Who has taken you from arrack to Royal Salute.
It isn’t easy, but we’ll try.”

Two of Bunty’s juniors, R.J. and Jayantha, would accompany Bunty on his outstation cases. During the day they were ready for battle in court, but at night both defence and prosecuting counsel, and sometimes even the judge, would accept Bunty’s invitation for a little bonhomie on the beach, if they were down south, or a night out at the Garden Club when in Kandy. Needless to say, next morning the battle between rival counsel would resume in court before an impartial judge. In Jaffna, where they appeared before the Sansoni Commission, Bunty had to turn down invitations to lunch and dinner from his colleagues, there were so many.

It was usual practice on a Saturday morning, after a few hours’ work, for Bunty to take his juniors on a round of the clubs. The Rowing Club and the CR & FC were some of his favourite watering holes. R.J. recalls how Bunty, on one occasion, after partaking of whatever the Intercontinental Hotel had to offer, insisted on driving all the way to the Reliance Café in Panadura to sample its highly publicised “bis-stek”.

Even from his hospital bed in London, Bunty would ring the Chambers and instruct his juniors to have their usual Saturday morning drink at the CR. Boss’s orders would be carried out sans Bunty, to the amazement of the barman Wilson.

When the time came to close the doors of Bunty De Zoysa’s Chambers, we felt lost. We had lost our mentor. However, we have wonderful memories of Bunty to keep us inspired, and for this we are deeply grateful.

“We know that all you wanted was our success, but we would rather give you our hearts.
To Sir with Love.”

By the Chambers

 

Nation Sunday Sep 21 2008

 

A farewell to an officer and a gentleman

Deshakeerthi Colonel H.H. Lawrence De Silva. KSV

Col. Lawrence De Silva passed away on Sunday, September 7 after a brief illness at the age of 66.
He joined the Nalanda College as a science teacher in 1967 and served there as the Chemistry teacher for GCE O/L classes until he retired from teaching to join the Sri Lanka Army to serve as the first Commanding Officer of the 11th Gajaba Regiment in 1986. Since then he served in the north and the east until his retirement from the SL Army in 2001.

He was the master in charge of the school cadet core and became the best commanding officer for many years in 1970s.
H.H. Lawrence De Silva was born in Elpitiya on November 30, 1941 and studied at Dharmashoka Vidyalaya in Ambalangoda. He distinguished not only in his studies but also in extra curricular activities.
He decided to take up the noble profession ‘Teaching’ as his career. Hence, he joined Maharagama Teacher Training College, where he excelled in studies, sports and obtained a first class pass.

He was commissioned in to the Ceylon Cadet Corps (CCC) in 1964 as a second Lieutenant after a probationary period of two years. He was in charge of the cadet platoon of Devananda College, Ambalangoda and subsequently at Ibbagamuwa Central.
He joined Nalanda College, Colombo in 1967 and got involved in all activities of the College very efficiently, effectively and productively.

During his stay at Nalanda College, he groomed many students in chemistry. He guided a lot of school cadets who are presently serving in Sri Lanka Defence Forces including the Police holding very high ranks and also many professionals in other key sectors of Sri Lanka and worldwide.
He was absorbed into the National Armed Reserve in 1986 and later in to Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force, fifth Battalion Sri Lanka Light Infantry.

He held many key operational, training and administrative appointments in the Army and retired from active service in 2001.
He was awarded with Karyakshama Seva Vibhushanaya (KSV) for meritorious services rendered. He also got 10 other medals for his unblemished military career.
Although he retired from services he did not just idle. He got involved in many activities as a retiree and in 2007, His Excellency the President, bestowed the coveted Deshakeerthi. He also held the Honorary Secretary appointment of the Ex- Servicemen Association of Gajaba Regiment.

Lawrence was very popular at Nalanda. He was fondly known as Lawra by his loving pupils. He loved his pupils and pupils loved him. He was very strict inside the classroom but he was a friend of students outside the four walls. It is very rare to find a dedicated teacher like Mr. Lawrence De Silva who devoted his career for his pupils. During his period at Nalanda, pass rate for Chemistry was more than 95%, students got very higher grades for GCE O/L Chemistry. He even conducted extra lessons on weekends to help the students to achieve higher grades. During his period the discipline of the college was in a very high standard. Last year when my classmates held a party for the former teachers, he also attended and I was fortunate to talk to him for 15 minutes on the phone bringing back good old memories. The only request he asked me was to help his daughter who was studying Information Technology at that time.

Col. Lawrence De Silva was a sincere teacher and a friend to all pupils and colleagues, a man of fine sense of humour, a family man and a loving father to his three children. Though he is no more with us, the void created by his demise will never be filled.
With all his virtues and good qualities Lawrence will be remembered mostly as an excellent human being.
His funeral was held on Wednesday, September 10, at the Borella Kanatte with full military honours. He left his wife Daya, two sons Indu, Thamara and daughter Yasodha.
 

May he attain nibbana!


Sisira Chandrasekera


Achievements of Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala

It is our duty to remember, with gratitude, our national heroes, who, in no small measure, contributed towards our independence. One such hero, acclaimed as the greatest person to spread Buddhism, next to only King Dharmasoka of India.
Locally, he is the persona who spread Buddhism in Sri Lanka and the world over, only next to our National Hero the great King of Sri Lanka Dutugemunu.

Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala was born on 17.09.1864 and his parents Don Carolis Hewavitharana and Malika Hevavitharana were from Matara. He was named Don David.

At 6-years he entered St. Benedict College, then St. Thomas’ and finally Royal where he came first in the examinations.
The writer met the Mayor of Colombo, Karu Jayasuriya in 1998, and persuaded him to change then Turret Road in Kolupitiya to Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala, in keeping with the national names for which he was instrumental.
He himself changed his name from Don David to Dharmapala. Others to followed suit; George Peiris to Gunapala Piyasena Malalasekera and many others and took Aryan names.

He diverted all his attention to create a national consciousness and a national identity. He fought to dethrone alien ways and habits and enthrone national and indigenous culture. He launched a national reawakening movement which quickly spread throughout the country.

He established the Lanka Maha Bodhi Society in 1891 and set up the Mahabodhi Society of India, The following year he launched ‘The Mahabodhi’, a journal which was published every month. He was the Editor, writer, proofreader, publisher, sub editor all rolled into one.
The downfall of Sri Lanka’s culture, customs and practices, together with Buddhism, was the result of Portuguese, Dutch and British rule.

During the Dutch period, the village school was made the base for instructions in the first principles of Christianity. Baptism was administered and marriage colonized in the village school. This was made compulsory and fines imposed on parents, if the pupils did not attend school.

The British destroyed our tanks in Vellassa and the Uva Province and uprooted the villager from his traditional homelands, forcing them to labour in the coffee plantations. The British opened up taverns in every village throughout the interior and distributed liquor, making our people develope a taste for it. This converted our sober and thrifty people into criminal wasters and the Anagarika spoke very harshly to our people and got them to change there habits.
Anagarika practiced what he preached, for he was a teetotaler, and refrained from eating meat. He denounced the drunkard and encouraged vegetarianism.

His clarion call was ‘Awake Sinhala people to save Buddhagaya’.
He was not against other religious or even the foreigners, for he encouraged the study of all foreign languages. He himself was proficient in Sinhalese, English, Pali and study of other religions.

Everywhere, he ruthlessly attacked the apes of unnecessary western habits and culture.
He had no fixed abode and hence he was called ‘Anagarika’.
The birth is, incidentally, the birth anniversary of one of my daughters in Victoria, Australia.
Anagarika’s first visit to India was in the later part of 1884, to participate in the all India ‘Parama Vighya’ Society in Madras and went with Mrs. Blavasky and returned in 1885.

Anagarika then started his career to serve the cause of Buddhism. Anagarika was the first to propagate Buddhism in Japan.
His mentor was the most respected Sri Sumangala Thera, who was consulted by Anagarika’s father to give permission for his eldest son, Anagarika to become an Anagarika and in all other matters.
We Sri Lankan’s and the Buddhists the world over, owe him much and remember him with deep gratitude.
May Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala be born in Sri Lanka again and again to serve the cause of Buddhism.
“May he attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana.”

V.K.B. Ramanayake

Maharagama


Herbert Cooray – Gentleman first, businessman second

September 7, marks three months since the demise of Herbert Cooray; a patriotic Sri Lankan, a far sighted businessman and a true gentleman in every sense. He was fondly and respectfully referred to as ‘Boss’ or ‘Loku Mahatthaya’ by the staff of Jetwing and as ‘Herbie’ by his friends and colleagues. He considered his staff as part of his family, termed as the ‘Jetwing family;’ a common reference in the company usage, that had special characteristics and values that everyone was guided by; among them, integrity and humility at the top, qualities he cherished and lived by.

He was a pioneer in the tourism industry and was a friend to all. He contributed diligently to the country’s economy and to the tourism industry, by re-investing his earnings in building the tourism infra-structure in the form of guest rooms that were badly needed to accommodate the inflow of tourists in the 70’s, 80s and the 90s.

Though he claimed that it was his luck that made his investments meet with success; there was much more to it. He always had a good grasp of things he did. His investment decisions were well thought out and he looked at them from numerous angles. He would always seek the views of others and would go ahead only when he was convinced that his ‘gut-feeling’ would work. He used to say that, he believed more in this approach than the ‘feasibility studies or reports’ that were available to him. He never got himself buried in figures and projections. With his given levels of confidence, he pursued his vision.

He was an early riser. By 6.30 a.m. in the morning, he arrives at one of his hotels in Negombo, driving himself from Colombo, on the way visiting the construction sites his company; N.J.Cooray Builders Ltd., was handling. He had a lot of commitment towards the work he did, though he may have referred to all positive things he did as “luck” in his humble nature. He never took credit for having done a lot of work, never felt tired nor looked forward to planned holidays. He was never heard using the word “stress;” a trendy, halo effect that follows everybody these days as an excuse to take a holiday.

The gentleman in Herbert Cooray always overshadowed the businessman in him.
He never intruded into others areas of work. Never took advantage of a misfortune of another or tried to acquire anything at an unfairly low price. He believed that a fair deal must be given, even when there was an opportunity to strike a bargain. He insisted and practiced the principle that all due payments must be made within the stipulated period, a practice followed in the company to date. He understood the difficulties of those who supplied and provided services to his companies and the need for them to get paid by the agreed dates.

He also had a lot of wit; and most jokes he narrated were his personal experiences starting from his university days. He enjoyed sharing funny stories and loved having a good laugh with the rest.

His big frame above 6 feet in height, also came with a big heart. He did his philanthropy silently and never looked for popularity and undue advantage or fanfare. He donated to school projects, churches, temples. Only those that assisted him in these projects knew what was done, not others. When it came to individuals, especially in times of their distress, he would request their telephone contacts and discreetly offer his assistance. He never wanted to embarrass or inconvenience the aggrieved party in anyway, nor identify himself with the charitable act. For him, CSR was a bounden duty he had to society and not a fad, a cover-up or an indirect marketing tool for profit making.

Whenever he was invited to a staff wedding, he made it a point to attend. If he got to know of a family death of a staff member, he gave priority among other things, to visit the funeral house. Once, at the funeral of a father of a staff member, he was told by the member that he did not expect Mr. Cooray to come all the way and especially at a time he was not too well. His reply was “As long as my feet could take me, I will attend.”

Though he has not been in the best of health during his last few years, he was in his seat at the office on most days. He remained quite alert with matters of business, until the last days of his life. He had a word with everyone he came across; a practice he cultivated all his life. He had an open door policy that went beyond mere words. Anyone, without discrimination, had the opportunity to meet him as the chairman, to sort out his or her grievance, sans any bureaucracy. Prior appointments, coming through the so-called proper channels was not in his agenda. If he was free, he was available. Seldom, did a person have to come a second time to meet him.

His business model was as simple as his lifestyle. He never complicated matters or overburdened himself with cravings. He never chose things by brand names but looked for utility value.
He was very embarrassed if the staff in his hotels paid more attention to him than to the customers and was most uncomfortable when a security guard on duty saluted him. He made sure that they did not do it a second time.

Herbert Cooray was a unique individual in very many ways. He left behind a rich legacy; a legacy of human values that made him unique. Those who came in numbers from various corners of the country; among them beach vendors and fisher-folk from Negombo, beach operators from Beruwela, to pay their last respects at his funeral, was a reflection of the genuine admiration and respect he gathered from people over the years.
May he attain eternal bliss!


Kumara Senaratne


The Sunday Leader Sep 21 2008

Appreciation

Ashvini David Felix

A tribute of love to a precious daughter

Six years ago, we never knew the day we least expected was drawing near and you were going to leave us, to go back to your heavenly home, to be happy forever.

We did all we could to save you and keep you close to us, yet, Jesus knew what was best for you. We thank God each day for the most beautiful life he lent us, to love you, take care of you, till he wanted you back.

Ash, you did bring so much sunshine, joy, love and peace to our home. Daddy and I were blessed to have a daughter like you; religious, kind, caring, thoughtful and responsible in every way. You took care of your only brother Munesh with such love and protected him. We thank God for giving us the opportunity to watch you achieve all you did in your short life on Earth. You were a keen student. What happiness you brought us, and we thanked God the day you obtained eight distinctions in your O/Levels. You then went on to complete your marketing degree. What joy we felt when we saw you on your Graduation Day and on all your special days.

With your God given talent in art you excelled in holding your art exhibitions and helping the needy with the proceeds. Many a home have your paintings. Your fond memory will live on. Thank you for beautifying our home as well. At every turn we see your paintings. It helps us carry on.

Life will never be the same without you Ash. But we know for sure we will meet again never to part.

Till then we pray God gives us the strength to carry on. May you have your eternal rest.

Your sorrowing Mummy, Daddy and Munesh


SSP K. S. Kadigawa

The late SSP K. S. Kadigawa was a recipient of the prestigious Oak Leaf for Distinguished Services during World War II.

The recent death of the ex-Royal Air Force paratrooper, the only Sri Lankan recipient of the prestigious award of the Oak Leaf for bravery and distinguished services in South East Asia in the World War II, brings down the curtain on another chapter of our police service as well as the illustrious career of a highly decorated and a respected officer — SSP K. S. Kadigawa.

I was deeply saddened when I heard of his passing away at his ancestral home in Kandy recently and even sadder that due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to attend his funeral, which I am told, took place within a matter of hours according to his wishes.

He is survived by his devoted and caring wife of so many moons as well as the three loving daughters who were seldom seen and rarely heard of in police circles. In reality, his family, upon which he doted, was the source of his strength, inspiration and success. Indeed they were his world.

I was privileged to serve under the man whom I regarded as an officer and a gentleman of class and finesse, when he was superintendent in charge of Hatton District in 1968.

A dynamic personality renowned for rigid discipline, he epitomised dignity and decorum in and out of office. Yes, his career was marked by uncompromising honesty and proven incorruptibility.

Dispensation of justice in spirit and letter of the law was his forte and such personal attributes contributed to the development of character, which earned him the confidence and the respect of his superiors, subordinates and the public alike.

He served the nation as well as the colonial masters when there were tremendous challenges facing the world. Indeed the world, particularly our country, was in the grip of daunting challenges. Challenge requires men who are more than a hundred percent committed, dedicated, disciplined and passionate about their goals and objectives, and I make bold to state without reservations that Kadigawa possessed such characteristics.

He was never flattered by authority and neither sought to flatter it. Instead he combined simplicity with a basic humility. There was serenity in his spirit, which appealed to his family members and the world at large.

There were times he suffered the ignominy of injustice largely on account of professional jealousy, but he bore no ill-will, no bitterness or malice toward any man. He took pride in the virtue of his honour, which was non-negotiable come rain or high water, least of all political intrusion, especially at a time when such words impinge upon us heavily.

Kadigawa despised wanton inroads into police operations, especially by some pig-headed politicos. They were tactfully dealt in a searing manner yet without offending the Penal Code.

Let me then add to the list of fine officers mentioned recently in an article by Sharm de Alwis, that were picked from the cream of students from Royal, STC, SJC, Trinity Colleges etc. for recruitment to the inspectorate by Sir Richard Aluvihare — viz. Neil Weerasinghe, Jim Bandaranayake, N. M. de Silva, Schokman and others. I also recall the names of E. L. Abeygunawardene, John Attygalle, A. C. Lawrence, David Senarath, S. H. P. Samarasinghe, L. M. P. de Silva, Hughbert Bagot, Tony Mahat, Rodney Kitulegoda and Upali Seneviratne and many others who were renowned for incorruptibility and hand picked for the inspectorate during the same vintage years.

If only Sri Lanka could spontaneously produce men of character in the mould of officers like them, then it would have true homeland security instead of bureaucratic and political hassles that have caused havoc in our police service.

Kadigawa was a source of inspiration and wisdom. I will always remember his words: "Brick walls are there for a reason" and "Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted." I loved his incredible zest for living, the steel in his character, his passion for police work, his brand of humour and his sense of fun.

When I was overlooked for my rightful promotion, he called me to say that he was sorry about the fact, but his one liner said it all: "Carlyle, when you cannot change the cards you are dealt with, then you just have to deal with the way you play your hand."

Many are the anecdotes I recall during my tenure under his command. Just to mention one, I remember that after an inspection of my station he observed thus: "The station is in good order and the OIC seems to have a grip of the state of crime in the area and his men. He should go very far in the service."

As fate would have it, we had a very senior DIG who was no good with the Queen’s language and he completely misread the last line of Kadigawa’s comments. Hence the following order was made by this DIG: "IP MailScanner warning: numerical links are often malicious: D. C. de Silva transferred from Talawakelle to Talaimannar, with immediate effect."

On seeing it I interviewed the DIG and all he said was: "I say Silva, your SP wants you to be sent very far in the service and so Talaimannar is the furthest I can think of."

On hearing this, old Kadigawa hit the roof and the rest is history.

Kadigawa’s passing away reminds us of the teaching of Lord Buddha: "The uncertainty of life and the certainty of death." What matters most is that he lived purposefully and he lived life to the fullest.

May the Lord give his beloved wife and children the strength and the fortitude to tide over this period of sadness and irreparable loss.

Good bye and God bless you Sir, and may you rest in peace.

Carlyle de Silva

Kalubowila 


Sunday Times Sep 14 2008

Father inspired the family and steered the family business

MERVYN Cecil PERERA

Friday, September 5, 2003. Five years have gone by and it seems like yesterday – so vivid is the memory of that fateful day when my dearest father departed from us forever. He developed a heart condition, but took it in his stride. He continued with his normal daily routine, just as he had done all his life.

He had a caring and sharing attitude towards the people around him. He always stood firmly for what was right. He believed in justice. He was well read and well informed on any subject. He had a philosophical way of thinking and analysing any problem.

He had a strong sense of responsibility towards the ancestral business, which spanned three generations. The firm Martinus C. Perera & Son (Pvt) Ltd is one of the very few old firms still surviving in the heart of Union Place, Colombo 2. The family business spans more than a century. With calmness, patience and wisdom my father steered the business single-handed through its darkest period, following the demise of his brother, Claude Leslie Perera.

His courteousness and bright smile won the hearts of his friends and customers. He had a gift for reaching out to his employees and understanding their problems. He would listen with heart and mind and give the right advice at the right time. He was greatly loved and respected by his employees.
He had a sympathetic and generous nature, and was helpful to those in need. He derived a lot of joy and satisfaction from helping to develop the Gangodawila Rehabilitation Home for Mentally Handicapped Children, of which he was the vice-president.

He gave my brother and myself the best of everything. Ours was a home filled with love, laughter and happiness. He would show his appreciation of whatever dishes my mother made for us. He would go all out to entertain any visitor who dropped by.

My parents were active members of the Lions Club of Maharagama. As a couple, they were a joy to behold when they got on the dance floor, swirling to the beat of the waltz, which they were expert at.
My father was more than just a father-in-law to my husband, who admired, loved and respected him for his wealth of knowledge. My father doted on his two grandsons, and they in turn loved him dearly. He was very proud of their achievements at school.

Dad, you were a dutiful brother and a source of strength to your older sister and your late brother, a loving and caring husband, a wonderful father and father-in-law and, last but not least, a loving grandfather, the best anyone could have.

So much water has flowed under the bridge over the past five years – yet your memory will stay embedded in our hearts for ever, and your words of wisdom will be engraved in our minds.
May you attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

Nilika Panagoda (nee Perera)

 


A fine gentleman and true friend

Stanley Mather

On July 29, 2008, Stanley Mather went to be with the Lord. It was a privilege and honour to be associated with such a great person. I came to know Stanley through his younger son. His father, Reverend James Mather, was a respected Methodist minister. Stanley Mather received his education at Trinity College, Kandy, where he proved a brilliant student. He worked at Uni-Levers for many years, where he rose to be Chief Engineer, a position he held until his retirement in 1988.

Mr. Mather was an active parishioner at the Bethesda Church, Milagiriya. At his funeral service many tributes were read from all over the world, and all had one message, saying that Stanley Mather was an honest, God-fearing true Christian.

His service to the Bethesda community was immense. The church will miss him, but hopefully the church community will take Stanley Mather as an example and emulate him.

Uncle Stanley will be greatly missed by his friends and family members. He taught us a valuable lesson, and that was how to face death. When he was diagnosed with an incurable sickness, he, being a God-fearing man, knew the time had come to meet his Creator. He took the sickness in stride, showing fear of nothing.

Stanley Mather was a highly respected and friendly person, and a devout Christian. He was never shy of a smile. Many things could be said of him, but to sum it up, let me say that he was one of the finest gentlemen I have ever known.

Rest in peace, Uncle. After all, you are with Jesus.

A Family Friend

 


Nation Sunday Sep 14, 2008

Memories of an outstanding friend
Srimathie de Silva

The news of Srimathie de Silva passing away reached me on September 14, 2007, when I called her residence on this day, to find out whether her son had come to take her to the hospital. The sad news I received about her death disturbed me so much that, I walked out of office, as I wanted to reach her home quickly. It was with a very heavy heart that I got into a three wheeler to get to Wijerama. I comforted myself with the thought that she had a full life and had passed away peacefully, without much suffering. However strong you are, it is always sad when you receive a message to say that someone very dear has passed away.
I had the privilege of knowing my dear friend Srimathie for over 30 years. My first encounter with her was way back in the early 70’s. I know how hard it is for a single female to survive, unless you have the warm assurance and advice of sincere and caring friends and family. Such was Srimathie akka. To me, she was a dear mother, always happy to welcome me. Her home and her heart was open to me at all times. Her ready smile and her friendliness, when she greeted me, whenever I visited her. She would listen to my problems and try to solve them. I am deeply grateful for the help and advice given to me throughout in all matters.

She was unwell for some years. Although she is no longer with us, the friendship with that family continues. She was a Buddhist, leading a righteous life and a truly trustworthy person, and I was not alone in benefiting from her. I could give many examples of her kindness. She is far beyond the price of pearls. She found time for others too, giving happiness to those who sought her assistance. All of us who knew her, will never forget her, as she has touched many lives. We are all aware of her extraordinary capabilities and talent all round.

She was a good mother to her two sons Prasanna and Ranil and doted on her two grandchildren Chanilka and Roshan.
Fond memories of the good old days will never be forgotten or fade away from my memory.
As a Christian, I believe she is now resting from toil, pain and sorrow, awaiting the joyful resurrection at the Lord’s second coming. Farewell Srimathie akka, till we meet again.


Lilamani Amerasekera


A hospital that cares

I am pleased to write about human beings who go beyond their job function with much caring and commitment to take care of patients. I am just completing, three weeks since my bypass surgery at Durdans Hospital.

I being ‘clinically’ healthy, returned after a ten day overseas business tour, and continued with my usual day to day activities till two days after returning I was diagnosed with Heart Disease. Some blocks and bypass surgery followed immediately after. A massive heart attack was prevented by Dr. (Mrs) Selvi Perera’s timely intervention, and follow up diagnosis by Dr. (Mrs) Neomali Amarasena, for which I am ever so grateful. On recommendation of both doctors I made a decision to get my surgery done at Durdans Hospital, Colombo. It was then that I was handed over to Dr. K. Dev and his team.

With the very first consultation with Dr Dev, I was made so comfortable and calm with his soft spoken and confidant approach where he explained everything in detail and spent more than half an hour with me. At the end I was given so much courage he even went to the extent of giving his personal mobile number and said to call him any time when in doubt. He also said to text him if he did not answer the phone while in the theatre - that he will get back to us as soon as possible. This is a rare quality!! It was then that all his juniors started visiting, in preparation of surgery. Well the way all these doctors, sisters, nurses and all other staff conducted themselves and the caring and attention paid certainly gave me full confidence to go for the operation without any fear. I feel the nursing staff in this section must be well briefed and regularly trained to handle such patients. I would be failing in my comments if I do not write about the junior staff who prepared me for the operation and attended to my requirements. They were so kind, soft spoken and very caring

I was taken in for surgery and that is all I knew until I gained consciousness in the Cardiac Surgical Intensive Care Unit. I faintly remember struggling in pain while on the ventilator. It was an unusual feeling. It was then that I could hear a female voice in a very comforting tone saying ‘Why Mr. Nanayakkara? What is wrong? You are ok now!’ They kept on talking to me in the same tone and in that comforting manner from time to time.

The kind tone and the way they were caring was no different to a mother talking to a child, when the child is not well. These are things to learn for all others - whatever the profession that you may be in. I was at the CSICU for three and a half days and do recollect that there was a nurse or a sister allocated to each bed paying personal attention. However, the team work of the nursing staff at the CSICU was amazing! Though I was in pain and recovering from surgery, I gave time to observe how the nursing staff was helping each other whenever the requirement arose. If the nursing staff looking after me was not around - I only had to tell someone else my requirement and it was met. Being someone who appreciates system driven management, it was great to watch how they handed over the patient to the incoming staff at the shift change, and how well they give a short briefing of the immediate history of the patient. The place is so streamlined and organized - every time before the medicine was given the nursing staff would go up to the team leader, show the medicine and get the approval to give the medicine to the patient. I certainly appreciate and consider these professionals.

Having come out of the ICU into the Ward Number 08, caring and the nursing continued to be of very high standard. I did not feel that I was in a ward purely because of the friendliness and the warmth extended by the staff. My appreciations also go to the team of Physiotherapist who got me to walk and climb stairs within a short spell. It was nice interacting with the entire team of doctors who helped me along.

I am able to talk only about the experience that I have had at Durdans Hospital – perhaps, and I want to believe, that all other hospitals extend a similar service.

Dr Dev visited me at the CSICU as well as at the ward after the surgery, immaterial of it being a Sunday, Poya or any other holiday. Such was the commitment. Personally, to me, seeing him was absolutely rejuvenating - and I think the name ‘Dev’ goes well with the personality.

Overall, personally, to me - my gain is way beyond value for money. If this is what Sri Lanka can offer together with an Indian Team of doctors, I see no reason why people have to rush off to other countries for ‘bypass surgery’!


Nilmin Nanayakkara
Nugegoda


Sunday Times Sep 7 2008

Deshamanya Al Haj Bakeer Markar

It gives me great pleasure to write a few words regarding the gentleman whom I had the pleasure of serving when he adored the highest seat of Parliament as the Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka for a considerable period of time. The late Al Haj Bakeer Markar was the first Speaker who had the distinct privilege of serving as the Speaker in the new Parliament at the time it was ceremonially opened in 1982.

I knew that the late Al Haj Bakeer Markar was truly a Sri Lankan in all respects and he enjoyed serving the masses with dedication having started his political career as a Member of the Beruwela Urban Council where he had implemented various programmes for the uplift of the community where he was committedly serving both Sinhala and Muslim communities equally. He was a humble, kind hearted, deeply religious minded leader who wanted to do the utmost to the people since he was truly a people's representative.

According to the records available the late Al Haj Bakeer Markar entered Parliament for the first time in 1960 having won the Beruwela electorate.

Thereafter in 1965 he was re-elected to Parliament for the second time. Subsequently, he was elected as a Member of Parliament back again in 1977 when the UNP Government got a massive landslide. On this occasion, the late Mr. Bakeer Markar was unanimously elected Deputy Speaker and became the Speaker when the late Anandatissa de Alwis relinquished his post to take up a Ministerial post in the Government under the Mr. J. R. Jayewardene.

It was my privilege to come to know him very closely when I was called upon to attend to various duties entrusted to me personally by him in my early twenties. At that time, I was lucky that I enjoyed unique privilege of working for the then Speaker one of the most renowned sons of Sri Lanka who was also a great humanist and a gentleman of par excellence. In my view, as a politician his only ambition was to serve the country with sincerity to the best of his ability which he did with dedication. He attended to his duties with a deep sense of responsibility and a commitment.

I must very sincerely state that his traits have been a great inspiration for all those who worked under him including me. His simplicity and down-to-earth outlook, I have no doubt, made him an affable politician having won the hearts of everyone from all walks of life.

Furthermore I have been very fortunate to serve him even very closely when he was the Chairman on Public Petitions as I was the Head of the relevant secretariat at that time. The Al Haj Bakeer Markar enjoyed performing his duties as its Chairman in order to ensure justice and the welfare of the petitioners who came before the Committee seeking redress. I could recall very well instances when he was personally overjoyed to grant redress for those deserving cases who came before the Committee on Public Petitions seeking necessary relief.

The late Al Haj Bakeer Markar similarly took no time in turning down appeals when there were grounds that an appeal could be rejected. I believe this was because he was a true disciplinarian who upheld the values, who regarded the rules and regulations with utmost respect. This is the man who taught me to be firm for reasons and to be courageous when you need to seek justice. He took great pains to explain matters and showed us the path in order to be efficient so that petitioners could be granted expeditious relief. He added that justice delayed is justice denied. Due to this kind of training I have no doubt the petition secretariat at that time earned the highest respect, appreciation and the recognition from everyone.

It reminds me of a few words of "Rudyad Kipling" which goes as" if you can walk with Kings and Queens and not lose the common touch" and Al Haj Bakeer Markar was a shining example who did not lose the common touch and was able to move with masses with admirable humility. This quality I suppose stood very well in him as a politician who was loved by all communities in our motherland.

I must add that he served the Supreme Legislature for 16 years and more than 5 years as the Speaker and another 5-year-term as a Minister. However, he enjoyed very much being the Chairman of Public Petitions Committee since he was able to do an enormous service to the petitioners through the Committee to his heart's satisfaction. The Petition Committee at that time met on every working day including all Sitting days in Parliament. As I have stated above, he was overjoyed when he was able to deal with difficult cases and grant redress because he was a true Muslim and he always said that he was proud to serve the people and he truly enjoyed serving the mankind.

The late Al Haj Bakeer Markar had a distinct advantage of being able to be fluent in all 03 languages. He associated people of all classes, religions, races and was able to move happily with the rich and the poor, the educated, the uneducated, etc. with ease.

As a lover of human beings he enjoyed advising them perhaps again due to his desire to ensure the uplift of his fellowbeing. I have seen how he exchanged views even with Heads of States. I was able to witness the contributions he made in several International Conferences both here and abroad.

He was a respected Speaker in the Sri Lanka Parliament. His simplicity, sincerity and affectionate ways were the characteristics in the man who was endeared by all who came in contact with him.

I may be failng in my duty, if I do not mention his ambition towards providing the necessary facilities, welfare activities etc, for the staff under him. He relentlessly fought for the introduction of trousers for the minor staff along with the courage and support he received from Mr. Sam Wijesinha, the then Secretary-General of Parliament.

Al Haj Bakeer Markar was full of sympathy for those who deserved sympathy of the Hon. Speaker. In my view, he developed the quality of leadership not only among the Muslim community, but also the Sinhala and Tamil communities as well. His desire to do his duties towards the people with perfection had no barriers and had nurtured these qualities to be a perfect politician with a dedication for social work.

He was always prepared to serve the mankind. I have associated him very closely, even after he left politics having completed the term in the Southern Provincial Council as the Governor. He enjoyed our presence in his Beruwela residence and treated us with hospitality, who is typically a Sri Lankan. As I myself comes from down south, he insisted that I should drop in his residence at Beruwala on my way home when time permits. He enjoyed my visits so much and we happily discussed various issues including what he did in order to uplift the quality of the staff of Parliament. I must mention that I had the feeling and the respect I had for my own father to the late Al Haj Bakeer Markar.

He may have had enemies, but he never carried vengeance. He was full of humour and he enjoyed helping people and his style of benevolence had no limitations. I was able to see him as a true party man which he always said that he was proud of being an UNPer. He stood firmly and never hesitated to standby despite odds which stood against him when there were hardships that befell on him.I must also mention that I have the highest respect and affection to his eldest son Al Haj Imtiyaz Bakeer Markar, the former Minister of Mass Communication who is also ably carrying forward the vision while following the noble steps of a legendary father in order to fill the immense vaccum created by the late Al Haj Bakeer Markar.

Lacille de Silva,Director (Administration), Parliament of Sri Lanka.


 Sunday Times Sep 7 2008

He cared about the world’s happiness and well-being

CHANDRA DE SILVA

Who do you look at in the real world and say, “That’s a hero”? The people who devote themselves to serving humanity at the cost of being less comfortable and less protected than the rest of us. They are policemen, firemen and those who bring to the world’s attention things that are critical to the world’s health and well-being.

Chandra was the chief executive officer of Ranweli Holiday Village. He also worked for many years for the Child Protection Society of Sri Lanka. His sudden passing away will be felt deeply by all who knew him well. He touched the lives of many, some unknown to us. It is only now that they talk about how kind and helpful Chandra was.

Born and bred in the southern town of Ambalangoda, Chandra was proud of his Sinhala Buddhist heritage. After completing his secondary schooling in Sri Lanka, he proceeded to the University of Benares, in India. On returning to Sri Lanka, he joined the Department of Inland Revenue, where his colleagues continue to speak glowingly of his impeccable integrity, his hallmark quality. We were blessed to know such a man, when our families were joined together with the marriage of his daughter Shayanika to our younger son, Shanil. Chandra’s happiness was complete when the couple was blessed with baby Saranya a few months ago.

The “wind beneath his wings” was his devoted wife, Shirlene. He would not have attained such heights – in his career and in eco-tourism – without her strength, understanding and courageous support.

We carry with us our friends even after they have gone away. That is their immortality. Not a day passes that my husband Cyril and I do not think of Chandra, and the many things he said to us, sometimes in jest, sometimes in all seriousness. We still reflect on what he said regarding deeper issues. In today’s world, people think lightly of valued ideals in their desire to establish their own concept of life, which is not actuated by the highest motives. They are thinking of short-term gain, not of long-term benefits – for themselves and their country.

Chandra was a man with deep motivation, a purpose in life, a clear direction and an overpowering conviction that there would be a reward at the end of his life. His work at Ranweli Holiday Village, his contribution to eco-tourism, and his 42 years of devoted service to the Child Protection Society of Sri Lanka, shows how passionate he was to see world conditions improve.

May he rest in peace.

Marie Alles Fernando


Mummy’s extended family loved having her in the driver’s seat

Edith de Lanerolle

A year has passed since the death of my mother-in-law, Edith de Lanerolle (nee Edirisinghe). “Mummy”, as I used to call her, was an important figure in the lives of her children Hashendra, Mohan (Loni), Rohan, Krishni, Kumudini (Kumu) and Nirukshi, as well as her daughters-in-law, sons-in-law, grandchildren and even great grandchildren.

At the age of 93, when God called her home, Mummy had lived a complete and satisfying life, having been married to Malcolm de Lanerolle for a long period of time, raised six children who became well established in life, and living a successful and happy life, with God as her guide at all times.

Mummy was a strong and courageous person who was ready to put her hand to many matters without any fear, including matters normally handled by men.

In fact, she was one of the very first women drivers in the whole of Sri Lanka. She drove her old Wolsley for many years, even after the death of her husband. She did not consider age a barrier to sitting behind the wheel of a car!

She was a source of great strength to my father-in-law, and she was a good and guiding mother to her children, teaching them the true values of life, with a solid Christian background.

Mummy was a regular churchgoer. In fact, even after suffering a stroke in 2005, she was still determined to attend church as often as she could. She was always happy when she was in the House of God.

Many members of the church congregation were greatly encouraged, seeing her determination and faith in God in handling difficult situations in life.

Although Mummy is no more, memories of her remain with us. We know that she is now with her Maker, enjoying everlasting life and the joys of Heaven.

Sunil Fernando

 


The Sunday Leader Sep 7 2008

Appreciation

I.A. Cader

My Dad, a man for all seasons

My father the late I.A.Cader was a man for all seasons. Twenty nine years after his demise his memory stands vivid in our minds. A product of Mahinda College, Galle and St. Peter’s College, Colombo, Dad hailed from Talapitiya, Galle and was born on January 5, 1917

A lawyer by profession, he later took to politics and indulged in the gem trade too. He was a Member of Parliament for Beruwela, Deputy Speaker and Senator as well. Retiring from politics in 1977 he was assigned a diplomatic posting as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Egypt.

How he combined politics, his profession, social activities and family was truly amazing. He sported an extraordinary charisma which made people of all ages to be drawn towards him. He loved children and for us his daughters he had a deep affection.

As a member of the Wakf Board he had to travel extensively to far off places. This did not hinder him making it an official cum leisure jaunt. As usual he bundled us into his amazingly expanding ‘Zodiac’ to the wild and exotic places.

Dad was an extremely generous person. He instilled in us the need to be charitable; and most of all to be ‘honest and truthful.’ He despised those who lied to achieve their goals. His constant advice to us was ‘Whatever your dealings, be truthful and be honest.’ These words are etched in our hearts and are strictly adhered to, although we live in a world full of such elements.

His love for his kith and kin was another unique aspect to his character. When his only sister was widowed with three young children, he moved in as a shield and protector. He always visited his relations and gave them companionship, security and advice. He was a tower of strength to them.

During his tenure of office as Member of Parliament, his constituency saw many development activities. The fisheries harbour in Beruwela and the Maggona market stand to his credit. Father nursed his electorate with genuine fondness and his constant weekend visits included us as well.

Dad’s contribution to his party the SLFP was immeasurable. Loyal to the core he stood by the government of the day in 1964 when many crossed over for monetary gain. He was staunch until his demise in 1979. He was of a very rare calibre indeed, considering the standards of politics today. He was returned to parliament as member for Beruwela on two occasions; in 1960 and 1970. He served for 11 years in this capacity. Dad’s home was a haven for anyone who sought refuge, it was open to all.

Dad was unique in character. He played many parts in his life and in all of them he achieved distinction. As a trusted lawyer many turned to him for justice and advice. He didn’t turn away any one for monetary gains.

He quoted extensively from Shakespeare, Rabindranath Tagore and ‘Avvayyar.’ His favourite poem was IF by Rudyard Kipling.

He detested untruths and dishonesty. Parliamentarians of yore often had to dispose of their assets for their upkeep, and electoral activities. They did not receive the perks enjoyed by parliamentarians of today.

Father had a powerful voice and could sing a variety of songs — an asset, which I inherited. Singing his favourite songs Mona Lisa, Autumn Leaves and This is My Song to him had a soothing effect. He rendered ‘ghazals’ in a voice that was deep and eloquent. His rendition of Rosemary was absolutely awe inspiring.

Islam ran deep in his veins. He imparted Quranic stories of prophets, anecdotes and sharia. His personal Quran which my younger sister possesses has many markings to show the importance of certain verses.

Angling was one recreation he found peace and solace in. He was a member of the Angler’s Club and would make trips to the breakwaters in the port at dawn.

We are indeed proud of our Dad who left a lasting legacy to us his daughters. A soft hearted person, his purse opened readily to assist the less fortunate. Warm and gentle, a rare breed he was better known as ‘Adham’ to his wide circle of friends and to his relations.

We his five daughters salute our dear father who was a rare personality, an advisor, philanthropist, exemplary politician, a friend, a father and a grandfather.

May Almighty Allah grant him Jennathul Firdous. Ameen.

Liqa Cader Faaiz


Sunday Times Aug 31 2008

Maths educationist whose goodness multiplied throughout his life

M. D. H. (Douglas) Cooray

However prepared you are, it is always sad when you receive that phone call to say that someone very close to you has passed away. Although everybody had noticed that Thaaththa was showing signs of slowing, after his 85th birthday last March, he would still get about and attend to routine chores.

Things got worse about two months ago, but after a week in hospital and another week in rehabilitation, his characteristic determination saw him return to his normal self. On returning home, sounding his usual enthusiastic self, he described himself to my wife as a “fully rehabilitated” person.

He was loved for his amazing ability to appreciate life’s positives, and he maintained this outlook to the end. When his grandson visited him in hospital a couple of days before his death and asked him, “Why are you here, Seeya, what is wrong?”, he typically replied, “Nothing”, and smiled.

When I last spoke to him, a couple of days before his death (on July 30), I noticed that his voice lacked its usual brightness. I was due to travel overseas, and he said he was looking forward to my return to Australia at the end of August. But it was not to be. It was with a heavy heart that I boarded the plane for the long flight from Washington to Sydney. Thaaththa was no more. I comforted myself with the thought that he had had a full life, and that he had passed away peacefully without any suffering. The trip home gave me plenty of time to reflect on Thaaththa and his long life and career.

Thaaththa was a very unassuming man. He did not say much, and did what he had to do in a quiet, determined way. He was always willing to help if you needed his assistance, whether it was to solve a complex mathematics problem or advise on a suitable school for a child. He treated everybody alike, friends and relations, rich or poor. He was very organised and methodical.

Mathematics education was his vision in life. He was a senior lecturer in the Mathematics Department, at the Teachers’ Training College in Maharagama. His purpose in life was to train hundreds of mathematics teachers and send them out to all corners of Sri Lanka to make mathematics education interesting for future generations. He wanted to send out a message to future teachers that a good foundation in mathematics was important for a child’s development, and that it was the teacher’s duty to make mathematics as interesting as possible.

As Controlling Chief Examiner in Pure Mathematics for the GCE (O Level) for more than 20 years, he influenced many generations of Sri Lankans in an indirect way.

Because a pass in mathematics was an essential for science students seeking a tertiary education, he saw it as his duty to ensure he set a paper that allowed all science students a chance for a higher education. Later, as a Director of Education at the Ministry of Education, he had a chance to develop policies for teacher education in Sri Lanka. He also had the opportunity to visit countries like the USA and Britain to observe and adopt new teacher education techniques for Sri Lanka.

He was very interested in travel and exploring new places. Even in his daily walks he would explore new routes. He travelled extensively in the US in the 1960s, and would show us the hundreds of slides he took on his travels. When we were children, he took us to visit different places in Sri Lanka during the school holidays. Just two months before his death he was contemplating visiting my sister in Bangalore. The “travel bug” is a legacy he has passed on to us, his children.

When the time came for my two sisters and me to go overseas for a higher education, Thaaththa took up an appointment in Africa in order to make our overseas studies a reality. After my father’s retirement, my parents decided to come and live in Sydney, Australia, to be closer to their children. He kept in close touch with his relatives and friends in Sri Lanka, and visited them as often as possible. My father lost his father when he was five years, and an extended family of aunts and uncles helped my grandmother raise the young family.

This experience made him appreciate the virtues of an extended family, and he always kept in touch with his relatives. He made contact with old friends who happened to be living in the Sydney area, and made many more new friends through them. He enjoyed the Sydney lifestyle. He would go for leisurely walks, wearing his “tartan beret”, and stroll around the local mall almost every day. Everybody working in the mall, from the bank to the post office staff, knew Mr. Cooray.

He would go to the Sri Lanka Buddhist Vihare as often as he could, and he observed “sil” at least once a year, on Vesak day. Although he lived overseas, he was always interested in what was happening in his beloved Sri Lanka. At the age of 75, he learnt to use the internet so could look up the Sri Lankan newspapers and catch up on the news. If he found anything interesting, he would tell me about it on the telephone. He followed the ups and downs of the Sri Lanka cricket team very closely. Whenever he heard that someone was coming from Sri Lanka, he would wait to meet that person to get the news first-hand. Whenever a close associate passed away in Sri Lanka, he took it upon himself to write an appreciation for the Sri Lanka newspapers.

As the Rev. Dhammagavesi, chief incumbent of the Lankarama in Sydney said at the “Pansakula”, nothing in this world is permanent – one minute you are there, and the next you are gone.

In her eulogy, my niece quoted the eminent scientist and mathematician Professor Stephen Hawking: “If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, and I’ll stay there forever”.
I think Thaaththa would have liked that.May he attain Nibbana.

By Ranil Cooray

 


She enlightened the minds of her students

Lizzie Jayawardena

The news of the passing away of Mrs. Lizzie Jayawardena on May 28, reached us a week after her demise. She had been ailing for some time, but was looked after by her daughters, especially Ranjanie, her second daughter, during her last days.

All of us who knew her well will not forget her. Her ready smile and her charm and friendliness when she greeted us, whenever we visited, will never fade from our memories. To me she was a dear mother, always happy to welcome me, whenever I visited the family to meet my dear friend Rupa, her eldest daughter.

My earliest encounter with her was when the family was living in Nupe, Matara. Later, after moving to Dehiwala, she was able to see her children completing their education, finding employment in their chosen professions, getting married and bringing up her grandchildren.

I enjoyed being in her company and that of the whole family. Whenever I had work in Colombo, I would stay a few days with them, in Dehiwala, enjoying Rupa’s mother’s hospitality.

A teacher by profession, she enlightened the minds of hundreds of children in and around Matara and Dehiwala. She belonged to an older generation of teachers, genuinely interested in the progress of their students and giving them all the assistance and encouragement they needed.

She was a devout Buddhist, leading a simple and righteous life. She participated in the Buddhist and social activities of the temples nearby, fulfilling her responsibilities without much fanfare. She found time for others too, giving happiness to those who sought her assistance. She was a good mother to all her daughters’ friends.

I will always remember the sight of her smiling face, her eyes filled with tears of happiness, as she applauded us – her daughter Rupa, Padmini and myself – when we received our Bachelor of Arts degrees from the Chancellor, Sir Oliver Gunatilleke, the then Governor General of Sri Lanka, at the University of Peradeniya, in 1960.

In April 1970, she lost her dear husband, Pinoris Wickramasinghe, a scholar of languages, who was honoured by the Muslim community of Sri Lanka for his translation of the Holy Quran into Sinhala.
The untimely deaths of her sons, Sarath and Anura, in the late 1980s, caused her deep sorrow. During these difficult times, she was greatly comforted by her Buddhist way of life and the presence of her children and grandchildren.

As the years rolled by, and when her children moved on, she would find solace in visiting them. She derived much pleasure from the company of her grandchildren. The last time I visited her and Rupa, she was with her youngest daughter Sirina. Old age was creeping up, but she recognised me and gave me her blessings when I paid my obeisance at her feet. She had adapted herself to a comfortable and contented life in her old age.

Fond memories of the good old days with her flood my mind. Ranjanie and the other members of her family who looked after her tenderly during her last days will greatly miss her. My deepest sympathies go to her daughters Rupa, Ranjanie and Sirina, her sons-in-law, and her dear grandchildren.

By Shivarani Jayawardena

 


The Sunday Leader Aug 31 2008

Appreciation

Deshabandu Harold Herat Par-excellence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Born into an affluent planting family in the north-western sea board of the country, Harold Herat chose law for his career, though his father was a foreign qualified physician. While practicing law in his home town of Marawila and nearby courts, Herat was attracted to politics.

He has told us how he was picked for the Nattandiya electorate in the 1977 general election by J.R.Jayewardene, against many other formidable aspirants. It is, perhaps, this soft corner that JR had for Herat that made him appoint him a minister within one year of election as a member of parliament.

He was the first non-cabinet rank minister to be appointed under the Second Republican Constitution of 1978. He was assigned the subject in which he had the greatest potential to perform - the coconut industry.

Having inherited vast acres of coconut lands in the Marawila/ Mudukatuwa area, though later diminished with the land reforms of the previous regime, he was expected to revitalise this important segment of our economy, which was essentially indigenous in nature.

In fact, he proved to be a worthy successor to that great politician, though of a different genre, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, who as minister of plantations in the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Government, had laid the institutional foundation to uplift the coconut industry.

Harold Herat not only improved and rationalised this network, but also introduced new impetus through additional local investment and much needed foreign investment and innovation. The coconut statistics for the era (1978-89), not only in plantations, but also processing and marketing would amply demonstrate the contribution that Harold Herat  made as minister of coconut industries.

I came to know him during this period (1983-89), as secretary to his Ministry and chairman of the Coconut Development Authority, the apex body for the industry. Being a general administrator, with no expertise in any particular sector, I benefited immensely from Minister Herat's knowledge and wisdom. It was both educative and fascinating to listen to him.

Fluent in both Sinhala and English, he could speak to a local crowd using their own idiom and to a forum abroad in polished dictum. I have watched him in both. With local audiences he may use pithy language if the occasion demands, but always with utmost decency.

At international and regional forums, which I attended with him, his discourses made us proud. At personal discussions, he was very persuasive even with greats like President Marcos of the Philippines.

 Harold Herat was subsequently elevated to cabinet rank and held two portfolios, Minister of Foreign Affairs (April 1990-August 1993) and Minister of Justice (August 1993 - August 1994).

Unfortunately, I took up duties in the Cabinet Office only in mid-1996 and I missed the chance of witnessing my former minister performing as a member of the cabinet. However, I can visualise how it would have been, with his well thought out presentations and unhurried, timely interventions.

Going by his earlier performance before international and regional forums such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome and Asia and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC) in Jakarta, I assume that his participation in much more prestigious global bodies like the UNO and the Commonwealth would have been both useful to such organisations and beneficial to our country.

It is really as a gentleman that Harold Herat impressed any one who came into contact with him. Neat in appearance and appropriately dressed always, he was an embodiment of decency. As a rule, he was courteous to his staff, deferential to those with expertise in relevant fields and considerate to all.

Scrupulously honest, he had a high sense of decorum and correctitude. This was most evident in travel abroad. While his wife, Gwen Herat accompanied him on such trips as his private secretary, there were occasions when one of their three children would also join to broaden their horizons.

When this happened, the Minister always made sure that all the expenses of the children were met with his personal funds. In fact, I remember instances, when he brought in wads of currency notes (obviously received after a successful coconut harvest!) to pay for their airfare!

It is one year since the demise of Harold Herat. Planter, lawyer, politician, minister of the state, though he may have been, I will always remember him as a gentleman of the  first order.

D. Wijesinghe

Cabinet Secretary


LakbimaNews Sunday Aug 31 2008

Harold Herat

In 1977, under the new government of J R Jayawardena, Mr M D H Jayawardena took over as the new minister of Plantation Industries. As expected changes in the higher levels of bureaucracy were being effected. Mr Bradman Weerakoon was appointed as the secretary to the ministry. Fresh appointments too were made to head the number of corporations falling under the ministry. I continued as the additional secretary of the ministry dealing with the coconut and rubber sectors.
One morning in September 1978, I was in deep thought over the preparation of a cabinet paper when a handsome and nattily dressed gentleman tapped at the door and walked into my room. There was some familiarity about his face but I couldn’t recollect having met him before.
“I am Harold Herat. His Excellency has appointed me as the minister of coconut industries, a project ministry. I invite you to be the secretary of the ministry”. That was the beginning of a new chapter in the coconut industry in the country and for me a new relationship.
We had to start from scratch as we were the first project ministry to be formed. The subject assigned being coconut, the five statutory boards dealing with coconut, namely the Coconut Cultivation Board, the Coconut Research Board, the Coconut Processing Board, the Coconut Marketing Board and their umbrella organisation the Coconut Development Authority, were transferred to the new ministry along with the financial provision already approved for them.

East Coast Rehabilitation Project (ECRP)

Hardly could we settle down to business, when a cyclone hit the east coast of the island. The worst affected were the coconut plantations. Nearly 2,000,000 coconut trees were devastated. Two days after the cyclone the new minister with his officials rushed to the scene and acquired first hand knowledge of the damage. Rehabilitating the coconut industry in the east coast thus became the priority of the new minister. With hardly any funds available for such an eventuality, Mr Herat was able to convince several donor countries and agencies of the necessity and the urgency for bringing immediate relief to the area.
The rehabilitation work commenced almost immediately. Steps were taken to clear the fallen trees, which otherwise would have been the breeding ground for beetles and other pests. Once the ground was prepared, seedlings were transported from the coconut triangle. In addition three new nurseries were established in the three affected districts of Batticaloa, Ampara and Polonnaruwa.

Production and productivity

Mr Herat’s main objective was the increase in production and productivity of coconut. To this end he took a series of measures. To provide good planting material, he instructed the Coconut Cultivation Board to set up additional nurseries. At the time he took over, there were only 16 coconut nurseries in the country. By 1983 it had gone upto 34 thereby providing the farmers easy access to seedlings. He decentralised the work of the Coconut Cultivation Board and set up regional offices in the main coconut growing areas. The number of seedlings issued increased from 948,000, in 1978 to 2,194,000 in 1982. The number of extension officers too was increased.
The ministry of coconut industries was the first of its kind to be set up in any of the coconut producing countries. For the first time the poor man’s crop received recognition. It led to a period of immense activity in the sector. The government contribution to the sector alone increased from Rs 29 million in 1979 to 168 million in 1983.
During my tenure at the ministry I found that it was a pleasure to work for him and with him.
(In mid 1983, I left the ministry to take up an appointment at the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community in Jakarta, Indonesia, leaving the ministry in the able hands of Mr D W Wijesinghe.)

Dr P G Punchihewa
Secretary to the ministry of coconut industries
(1978-1983)


Sunday Times Aug 31 2008

Maths educationist whose goodness multiplied throughout his life

M. D. H. (Douglas) Cooray

However prepared you are, it is always sad when you receive that phone call to say that someone very close to you has passed away. Although everybody had noticed that Thaaththa was showing signs of slowing, after his 85th birthday last March, he would still get about and attend to routine chores.

Things got worse about two months ago, but after a week in hospital and another week in rehabilitation, his characteristic determination saw him return to his normal self. On returning home, sounding his usual enthusiastic self, he described himself to my wife as a “fully rehabilitated” person.

He was loved for his amazing ability to appreciate life’s positives, and he maintained this outlook to the end. When his grandson visited him in hospital a couple of days before his death and asked him, “Why are you here, Seeya, what is wrong?”, he typically replied, “Nothing”, and smiled.

When I last spoke to him, a couple of days before his death (on July 30), I noticed that his voice lacked its usual brightness. I was due to travel overseas, and he said he was looking forward to my return to Australia at the end of August. But it was not to be. It was with a heavy heart that I boarded the plane for the long flight from Washington to Sydney. Thaaththa was no more. I comforted myself with the thought that he had had a full life, and that he had passed away peacefully without any suffering. The trip home gave me plenty of time to reflect on Thaaththa and his long life and career.

Thaaththa was a very unassuming man. He did not say much, and did what he had to do in a quiet, determined way. He was always willing to help if you needed his assistance, whether it was to solve a complex mathematics problem or advise on a suitable school for a child. He treated everybody alike, friends and relations, rich or poor. He was very organised and methodical.

Mathematics education was his vision in life. He was a senior lecturer in the Mathematics Department, at the Teachers’ Training College in Maharagama. His purpose in life was to train hundreds of mathematics teachers and send them out to all corners of Sri Lanka to make mathematics education interesting for future generations. He wanted to send out a message to future teachers that a good foundation in mathematics was important for a child’s development, and that it was the teacher’s duty to make mathematics as interesting as possible.

As Controlling Chief Examiner in Pure Mathematics for the GCE (O Level) for more than 20 years, he influenced many generations of Sri Lankans in an indirect way.

Because a pass in mathematics was an essential for science students seeking a tertiary education, he saw it as his duty to ensure he set a paper that allowed all science students a chance for a higher education. Later, as a Director of Education at the Ministry of Education, he had a chance to develop policies for teacher education in Sri Lanka. He also had the opportunity to visit countries like the USA and Britain to observe and adopt new teacher education techniques for Sri Lanka.

He was very interested in travel and exploring new places. Even in his daily walks he would explore new routes. He travelled extensively in the US in the 1960s, and would show us the hundreds of slides he took on his travels. When we were children, he took us to visit different places in Sri Lanka during the school holidays. Just two months before his death he was contemplating visiting my sister in Bangalore. The “travel bug” is a legacy he has passed on to us, his children.

When the time came for my two sisters and me to go overseas for a higher education, Thaaththa took up an appointment in Africa in order to make our overseas studies a reality. After my father’s retirement, my parents decided to come and live in Sydney, Australia, to be closer to their children. He kept in close touch with his relatives and friends in Sri Lanka, and visited them as often as possible. My father lost his father when he was five years, and an extended family of aunts and uncles helped my grandmother raise the young family.

This experience made him appreciate the virtues of an extended family, and he always kept in touch with his relatives. He made contact with old friends who happened to be living in the Sydney area, and made many more new friends through them. He enjoyed the Sydney lifestyle. He would go for leisurely walks, wearing his “tartan beret”, and stroll around the local mall almost every day. Everybody working in the mall, from the bank to the post office staff, knew Mr. Cooray.

He would go to the Sri Lanka Buddhist Vihare as often as he could, and he observed “sil” at least once a year, on Vesak day. Although he lived overseas, he was always interested in what was happening in his beloved Sri Lanka. At the age of 75, he learnt to use the internet so could look up the Sri Lankan newspapers and catch up on the news. If he found anything interesting, he would tell me about it on the telephone. He followed the ups and downs of the Sri Lanka cricket team very closely. Whenever he heard that someone was coming from Sri Lanka, he would wait to meet that person to get the news first-hand. Whenever a close associate passed away in Sri Lanka, he took it upon himself to write an appreciation for the Sri Lanka newspapers.

As the Rev. Dhammagavesi, chief incumbent of the Lankarama in Sydney said at the “Pansakula”, nothing in this world is permanent – one minute you are there, and the next you are gone.

In her eulogy, my niece quoted the eminent scientist and mathematician Professor Stephen Hawking: “If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, and I’ll stay there forever”.
I think Thaaththa would have liked that.May he attain Nibbana.

By Ranil Cooray

 


She enlightened the minds of her students

Lizzie Jayawardena

The news of the passing away of Mrs. Lizzie Jayawardena on May 28, reached us a week after her demise. She had been ailing for some time, but was looked after by her daughters, especially Ranjanie, her second daughter, during her last days.

All of us who knew her well will not forget her. Her ready smile and her charm and friendliness when she greeted us, whenever we visited, will never fade from our memories. To me she was a dear mother, always happy to welcome me, whenever I visited the family to meet my dear friend Rupa, her eldest daughter.

My earliest encounter with her was when the family was living in Nupe, Matara. Later, after moving to Dehiwala, she was able to see her children completing their education, finding employment in their chosen professions, getting married and bringing up her grandchildren.

I enjoyed being in her company and that of the whole family. Whenever I had work in Colombo, I would stay a few days with them, in Dehiwala, enjoying Rupa’s mother’s hospitality.

A teacher by profession, she enlightened the minds of hundreds of children in and around Matara and Dehiwala. She belonged to an older generation of teachers, genuinely interested in the progress of their students and giving them all the assistance and encouragement they needed.

She was a devout Buddhist, leading a simple and righteous life. She participated in the Buddhist and social activities of the temples nearby, fulfilling her responsibilities without much fanfare. She found time for others too, giving happiness to those who sought her assistance. She was a good mother to all her daughters’ friends.

I will always remember the sight of her smiling face, her eyes filled with tears of happiness, as she applauded us – her daughter Rupa, Padmini and myself – when we received our Bachelor of Arts degrees from the Chancellor, Sir Oliver Gunatilleke, the then Governor General of Sri Lanka, at the University of Peradeniya, in 1960.

In April 1970, she lost her dear husband, Pinoris Wickramasinghe, a scholar of languages, who was honoured by the Muslim community of Sri Lanka for his translation of the Holy Quran into Sinhala.
The untimely deaths of her sons, Sarath and Anura, in the late 1980s, caused her deep sorrow. During these difficult times, she was greatly comforted by her Buddhist way of life and the presence of her children and grandchildren.

As the years rolled by, and when her children moved on, she would find solace in visiting them. She derived much pleasure from the company of her grandchildren. The last time I visited her and Rupa, she was with her youngest daughter Sirina. Old age was creeping up, but she recognised me and gave me her blessings when I paid my obeisance at her feet. She had adapted herself to a comfortable and contented life in her old age.

Fond memories of the good old days with her flood my mind. Ranjanie and the other members of her family who looked after her tenderly during her last days will greatly miss her. My deepest sympathies go to her daughters Rupa, Ranjanie and Sirina, her sons-in-law, and her dear grandchildren.

By Shivarani Jayawardena

 


The Sunday Leader Aug 31 2008

Appreciation

Deshabandu Harold Herat Par-excellence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Born into an affluent planting family in the north-western sea board of the country, Harold Herat chose law for his career, though his father was a foreign qualified physician. While practicing law in his home town of Marawila and nearby courts, Herat was attracted to politics.

He has told us how he was picked for the Nattandiya electorate in the 1977 general election by J.R.Jayewardene, against many other formidable aspirants. It is, perhaps, this soft corner that JR had for Herat that made him appoint him a minister within one year of election as a member of parliament.

He was the first non-cabinet rank minister to be appointed under the Second Republican Constitution of 1978. He was assigned the subject in which he had the greatest potential to perform - the coconut industry.

Having inherited vast acres of coconut lands in the Marawila/ Mudukatuwa area, though later diminished with the land reforms of the previous regime, he was expected to revitalise this important segment of our economy, which was essentially indigenous in nature.

In fact, he proved to be a worthy successor to that great politician, though of a different genre, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, who as minister of plantations in the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Government, had laid the institutional foundation to uplift the coconut industry.

Harold Herat not only improved and rationalised this network, but also introduced new impetus through additional local investment and much needed foreign investment and innovation. The coconut statistics for the era (1978-89), not only in plantations, but also processing and marketing would amply demonstrate the contribution that Harold Herat  made as minister of coconut industries.

I came to know him during this period (1983-89), as secretary to his Ministry and chairman of the Coconut Development Authority, the apex body for the industry. Being a general administrator, with no expertise in any particular sector, I benefited immensely from Minister Herat's knowledge and wisdom. It was both educative and fascinating to listen to him.

Fluent in both Sinhala and English, he could speak to a local crowd using their own idiom and to a forum abroad in polished dictum. I have watched him in both. With local audiences he may use pithy language if the occasion demands, but always with utmost decency.

At international and regional forums, which I attended with him, his discourses made us proud. At personal discussions, he was very persuasive even with greats like President Marcos of the Philippines.

 Harold Herat was subsequently elevated to cabinet rank and held two portfolios, Minister of Foreign Affairs (April 1990-August 1993) and Minister of Justice (August 1993 - August 1994).

Unfortunately, I took up duties in the Cabinet Office only in mid-1996 and I missed the chance of witnessing my former minister performing as a member of the cabinet. However, I can visualise how it would have been, with his well thought out presentations and unhurried, timely interventions.

Going by his earlier performance before international and regional forums such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome and Asia and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC) in Jakarta, I assume that his participation in much more prestigious global bodies like the UNO and the Commonwealth would have been both useful to such organisations and beneficial to our country.

It is really as a gentleman that Harold Herat impressed any one who came into contact with him. Neat in appearance and appropriately dressed always, he was an embodiment of decency. As a rule, he was courteous to his staff, deferential to those with expertise in relevant fields and considerate to all.

Scrupulously honest, he had a high sense of decorum and correctitude. This was most evident in travel abroad. While his wife, Gwen Herat accompanied him on such trips as his private secretary, there were occasions when one of their three children would also join to broaden their horizons.

When this happened, the Minister always made sure that all the expenses of the children were met with his personal funds. In fact, I remember instances, when he brought in wads of currency notes (obviously received after a successful coconut harvest!) to pay for their airfare!

It is one year since the demise of Harold Herat. Planter, lawyer, politician, minister of the state, though he may have been, I will always remember him as a gentleman of the  first order.

D. Wijesinghe

Cabinet Secretary


LakbimaNews Sunday Aug 31 2008

Harold Herat

In 1977, under the new government of J R Jayawardena, Mr M D H Jayawardena took over as the new minister of Plantation Industries. As expected changes in the higher levels of bureaucracy were being effected. Mr Bradman Weerakoon was appointed as the secretary to the ministry. Fresh appointments too were made to head the number of corporations falling under the ministry. I continued as the additional secretary of the ministry dealing with the coconut and rubber sectors.
One morning in September 1978, I was in deep thought over the preparation of a cabinet paper when a handsome and nattily dressed gentleman tapped at the door and walked into my room. There was some familiarity about his face but I couldn’t recollect having met him before.
“I am Harold Herat. His Excellency has appointed me as the minister of coconut industries, a project ministry. I invite you to be the secretary of the ministry”. That was the beginning of a new chapter in the coconut industry in the country and for me a new relationship.
We had to start from scratch as we were the first project ministry to be formed. The subject assigned being coconut, the five statutory boards dealing with coconut, namely the Coconut Cultivation Board, the Coconut Research Board, the Coconut Processing Board, the Coconut Marketing Board and their umbrella organisation the Coconut Development Authority, were transferred to the new ministry along with the financial provision already approved for them.

East Coast Rehabilitation Project (ECRP)

Hardly could we settle down to business, when a cyclone hit the east coast of the island. The worst affected were the coconut plantations. Nearly 2,000,000 coconut trees were devastated. Two days after the cyclone the new minister with his officials rushed to the scene and acquired first hand knowledge of the damage. Rehabilitating the coconut industry in the east coast thus became the priority of the new minister. With hardly any funds available for such an eventuality, Mr Herat was able to convince several donor countries and agencies of the necessity and the urgency for bringing immediate relief to the area.
The rehabilitation work commenced almost immediately. Steps were taken to clear the fallen trees, which otherwise would have been the breeding ground for beetles and other pests. Once the ground was prepared, seedlings were transported from the coconut triangle. In addition three new nurseries were established in the three affected districts of Batticaloa, Ampara and Polonnaruwa.

Production and productivity

Mr Herat’s main objective was the increase in production and productivity of coconut. To this end he took a series of measures. To provide good planting material, he instructed the Coconut Cultivation Board to set up additional nurseries. At the time he took over, there were only 16 coconut nurseries in the country. By 1983 it had gone upto 34 thereby providing the farmers easy access to seedlings. He decentralised the work of the Coconut Cultivation Board and set up regional offices in the main coconut growing areas. The number of seedlings issued increased from 948,000, in 1978 to 2,194,000 in 1982. The number of extension officers too was increased.
The ministry of coconut industries was the first of its kind to be set up in any of the coconut producing countries. For the first time the poor man’s crop received recognition. It led to a period of immense activity in the sector. The government contribution to the sector alone increased from Rs 29 million in 1979 to 168 million in 1983.
During my tenure at the ministry I found that it was a pleasure to work for him and with him.
(In mid 1983, I left the ministry to take up an appointment at the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community in Jakarta, Indonesia, leaving the ministry in the able hands of Mr D W Wijesinghe.)

Dr P G Punchihewa
Secretary to the ministry of coconut industries
(1978-1983)


Sunday Times Aug 24 2008

Wife and mother to ministers who always kept a low profile

Khema Samaraweera

Khema, dear friend,
We miss you so much,
Your friends of the OGA,
Of the Colombo branch
Of our Alma Mater, beloved
St. Thomas’ Girls’ High School,
Matara, our home town.

Once the wife of a Minister,
Later a Minister’s mother,
High positions you held
But never lost your head –
Loss of dear ones,
Sickness, infirmity
With grief but with fortitude
You took in your stride.

Never losing your balance,
Gracious and kind,
Vivacious and helpful,
You stood with us, a friend
Right to the end.

We shall always remember
Your beautiful smile,
Beside us no more
But in our hearts
All the while.

Eileen Siriwardhana

 


Memories of an outstanding and outspoken editor and friend

Clare Senewiratne

The recurring picture of Clare in my mind’s eye is of her seated at her desk in her office in The Sunday Times building; always busy, but never too busy to greet me with a smile on my infrequent visits to her sanctum. It was during her 20 year reign at the helm of the new women’s magazine, the Lanka Woman of which she was founder editor when Wijeya Newspapers launched it in February 1984 and to which I was a contributor from that very first issue that I came to know Clare as I interacted closely with her.

Our acquaintance at Lake House in the early ’50s had been brief and fleeting. For I left soon after Clare David (as she then was) joined the Editorial Dept to look after my growing brood. I had known Nanda Senewiratne, the popular Transport Manager as who in that vast edifice didn’t? He rubbed shoulders with the small fry and the big and never let his family background (he was the great D. R. Wijewardene’s nephew), get in the way. His generosity in offering lifts to all and sundry in his posh family car, was well known and my husband and I, who then lived in far off Rajagiriya, were often among the beneficiaries. So, when we heard on the grapevine that Nanda was courting Clare, we hoped for a happy outcome. We attended their wedding at Christ Church, Galle Face, and the reception that followed.

Clare did a great job with the women’s pages of the Ceylon Daily News and sometimes invited me to contribute articles. In due course, Clare and Nanda had a son, Viraj, who attended STC along with my nephews and he became a buddy of one of them in particular, a friendship that’s still alive and thriving today. It shouldn’t have come as any big surprise to us when, in the fullness of time, Viraj married Tishan’s sister Dhakshina in 1984. The same auspicious year that Clare took charge of the “Lanka Woman”.

The new women’s magazine, the only one of its kind in English, took women and men by storm. Clare was a revelation to us of what an editor should be – far seeing, innovative, bold, and with a gift for making women feel they had a stake in this paper, that it was THEIRS! She invited readers’ letters and comments and they were also welcome to share their own newsworthy experience by writing articles to LW. She had her team of handpicked writers from the start – Maureen Seneviratne, Daphne Cadiramen, Dr. Pam Wright, Beryl Gunasekera, Delrine Munzeer, Therese Motha. When she introduced my Counselling Page (originally called ‘Problem Page’) she took the bold step of permitting me to answer problems of a sexual nature, provided they weren’t too intimate.

This was a huge success, for it met a felt need. But I do remember that one irate father wrote in to say that he was cancelling his subscription forthwith, as he didn’t want his daughter to read such stuff. Clare staunchly stood by me. She took an interest in what each of us wrote and she would every now and then make suggestions or nudge us in some direction and her instincts for topics that she thought would hold a wide appeal, was always right. She gave me free rein and I wrote much else for the LW besides the counselling page, but I always valued and heeded Clare’s suggestions.

Clare herself made a huge impact on the readers, both male and female, with her forthright editorials on all manner of topics, from the political to the sartorial, and on manners and more. “She’s fearless when it comes to calling spade a spade,” one of her numerous, unknown fans admiringly said in my hearing once, as he came up to shake her hand at some event. She had strong opinions and was honest in holding fast on to her beliefs. Her life was firmly grounded on her Christian faith. Yet, Nanda’s death when it came, was a blow from which she never recovered, it seemed to me. Some spark went out with him and she missed him deeply to the end, while finding comfort and joy in her devoted son and daughter-in-law.

Her unforeseen bout with cancer was bravely faced and although she lost that fight, from the few times I spoke with her, I got the impression that she was ready and willing to go. Clare was a loving wife and mother and a loyal friend. As an editor, she was unsurpassed. The countless numbers who for 20 years, avidly read the Lanka Woman, she created in her own inimitable, incomparable fashion- as well as the few of us who wrote for her- will never forget her. On behalf of us all, I feel honoured to salute her memory today.

Anne Abayasekara


 

A couple’s beautiful friendship that meant the world to a single woman

Muruthappah Naganathan

“We must see life in true light. It is an instant between two eternities.” – St. Thérèse of Liseux

I had the privilege of knowing Muruthappah Naganathan (Nage) in this instant of time – from the day he married my close friend Malini. For me, that day was the beginning of a beautiful friendship with a couple so closely knit together.

As a single woman I know how hard it is for an unmarried female to survive (especially in a country like Sri Lanka), unless you have the warm assurances and sound advice of sincere and caring friends, such as I enjoyed through Nage and Malini. In time, all Nage’s friends became Malini’s friends. Their home and their hearts were open to me and my friends. They would listen to our problems and try to solve them.

Together, probably without their being aware of it, Nage and Malini nurtured many beautiful friendships, and although Nage is no longer with us, the friendships continue. Nage and Malini clearly had immense faith in God. Small wonder, then, that the fruits of their relationship overflowed into the lives of others, like myself.

Most people are aware of Nage’s extraordinary capabilities, and his talent as an accountant. He was also a good sportsman – a Rugger Lion, no less. I experienced his sportsman-like spirit on the rugged field of life.

I am deeply grateful for the help and advice he gave me in financial matters. When I returned from Zambia, I might have spent my savings if not for Nage’s sound investment advice.

He was truly a trustworthy and upright man, and I was not alone in benefiting from his wisdom. When, for instance, my sister was facing serious problems, Nage and Malini helped me to guide her. I could give many other examples of their generosity and kindness, but neither space nor confidentiality allow me to do so.

Nage was blessed with a God-fearing, genial and sociable wife, to whom the words of Solomon apply:

“The truly capable woman – who can find her?
She is far beyond the price of pearls.
Her husband’s heart has confidence in her.
From her he will derive no little profit.
She will do him good all the days of her life.”

These words aptly describe the solid bond that Nage and Malini shared. Just as their home was named Shangri-La, so their relationship provided a place of rest and recuperation for many weary travellers along Life’s Way.

While I miss Nage’s laughter, mirth and comradeship, I triumphantly celebrate his life of caring, sharing and his commitment to God’s values and God’s people. I conclude my fond farewell with the words of the great English poet, John Donne:

“Any man’s Death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;

And therefore never send to know for Whom the Bell Tolls; It tolls for Thee.”
Farewell dear friend. May you have eternal happiness and peace in God.

Rita Saverimuttu

 


Nation Sunday Aug 24 2008

Vettivel Ramachandran lived his life helping others

Ramachandran, better known as Rama by his colleagues, and Ramanna by the younger folks, returned to the island along with his wife Pavalam, having spent six glorious months of holidaying in the company of his children in U.K before succumbing to the vagaries of fate on November 28 last year, after a fatal fall in his newly acquired apartment off Boswell Place, Wellawatte. His sudden demise spread like wildfire sending shock waves to his friends, associates and relatives, and more so among hundreds of his bank’s retired colleagues, who held him in very high esteem.

Though a brilliant student at St. Peters College, Bambalapitiya with exceptional talent in Mathematics, he chose a banking career at the tender age of eighteen against the wishes of all his teachers, yet with the blessings of his father who had a premonition of not living long, and felt that the son should take on the mantle of looking after the family of mother and three young siblings.

Having joined the Bank of Ceylon as a clerical hand, he gradually rose in position and in the process carved a name unto himself as a quick learner and a much sought after officer by the higher ups of the Bank. His immense popularity was mainly due to his easy way of approach in dealing with both figures and faces. As officer - in - charge of Supplies Department he had been an easy going officer with a more flexible and imaginative approach together with an unassuming smile that adorned his face at all times. As Accounts officer of the Northern Provincial Office he has to consolidate figures submitted by all branches of the province and when irregularities or lapses are detected he was never in the habit of calling for explanations or reprimanding anyone instead to guide the officers responsible with more data and directives. His duty was not to find fault but to guide everyone with a friendly approach. In addition to his official duties he played the role of a good Samaritan and sincere guide to many of his colleagues who had left the bank for good and were domiciled in many Western countries by helping them to obtain their Superannuation benefits and other forms of relief in the form of medical assistances which they were entitled to. To many he was like a saviour and they worshipped him.

Finally, retiring in the Managers grade as Accounts Officer of the Banks Northern Provincial Office, with an unblemished reputation of forty two years of record service he devoted his entire life from then onwards up to the time of his death to helping those in need of his help, and participating in all events of people he knew and more specifically that of his retired colleagues. Besides these admirable personal qualities, his old residence off Fernando Road then was hive a of activity with friends and relations flocking to see him from far and wide to be guided and helped in obtaining their travel documents to go abroad.

He undertook these tasks ungrudgingly accompanying the old and the disabled to the passport and visa offices as well as to the respective embassies too. Rama’s humane approach in helping the needy knew no bounds and his philosophy of life was to be of service to everyone who needed assistance be it to direct a patient with complications to the correct physician or advise someone as to which lawyer he should consult in sorting out legal problems or to which Bank and the name of the officer who should be approached in expediting a specific banking problem etc.

On his return to the island he lost no time in calling on many of his friends to inquire into their state of health and that of their kith and kin. Likewise he rang me up and when told that he was not in the best of health, promising to drop-in the next day. Alas, that day never came to pass by. That fateful fall had snatched from our midst a hale and hearty personality who had been a tower of strength in the lives of very many.
May he attain the eternal bliss of Modsha under the feet of Lord Krishna, the incarnation of Rama of Ramayana.
A. R. S. Mahalingam
Colombo 6


Siripala Senadhipathy, an outstanding gentleman

Mr. Siripala Senadhipathy, a teacher administrator, social worker, devoted Buddhist and a true friend passed away on June 14, 2008. Born in Kandana, he was 68 years when he passed away after a short illness. A brilliant student of De Mazenod College, Kandana a promising athlete, he participated in inter school basketball competitions on several occasions. Having completed his school education he joined the Ministry of Education as a science teacher.

During his long service as a teacher he sacrificed his luxurious life with enormous wealth left for him by his affluent and philanthropic parents. He was a teacher trainer, coordinator in administration and a senior instructor when he retired..

He was called Siripala or Senpathy by his close friends. The name Senpathy was bestowed on him with a real meaning as it symbolised, the inborn talent he was blessed with in leadership and oratory. As a student he held the position of President in the Literary Association. In the schools he served, he was an organiser in various projects. As a Buddhist he rendered a yeoman service, serving in Dayaka Sabha of Sri Jayawardhanaramaya Hapugoda, Kandana, holding the position of Honorary Secretary for six continuous years.

In 1957, we were in GCE (O/L) class at De Mazenod and only 5 Buddhist students out of 30 observed atasil at Jayawardanaramaya Hapugoda on Full Moon Poya days. Siripala was our group leader and his mother was also very supportive of our programme. Our class teacher late Dr. Watson Mendis, a devoted Catholic, visited us in temple and encouraged us. Kandana being a Catholic dominated area, with a few affluent Buddhist families was highly benefited by the service of Senadhipathy family. Siripala as the secretary of Dayaka Sabha, organised a pilgrimage for devotees of the area. It was a very popular annual event in Kandana. Another expensive and popular work he did annually was the Vesak decorations and illumination hung in his spacious garden. He started this interesting event when he was a school boy. I still remember, we Buddhist and Catholics participated in erecting a pandol, in Siripalas garden opposite his ancestral home. Those of us who joined in this project, are today doctors, engineers, scientist, teachers businessmen and politicians who are very successful men in society.

I came to know Siripala in my school days at De Mazenod. We studied together, underwent teacher training together served as teachers together and our true friendship and interests remained unchanged until his sudden death. Watching national and international cricket matches, taking part in religious activities, were our common interests. “Sugath, get up Jayasuriya is in action,” was a message received at 3 a.m. one day, when an international match was in progress. Siripala was very fortunate to have a simple and very understanding wife.

Once Siripala told me his wife took care of him just like his mother did when he was ill.. He was ill for a short period but he endured his illness with patience and understanding and was never depressed.

I was away from the country for a considerable period of time. In all there years I have never missed receiving the beautiful Vesak cards and reports of his annual pilgrimages. It was his pleasure to take the devotees not to famous places of Buddhist worship, but to the less famous but important religious places.

Siripala or Senpathy is no more physically, but memories of him will always remain in our minds.
May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana!.
Buwaneka Sugathadasa
Walpola, Ragama


The Sunday Leader Aug 24  2008

Appreciation

Sithy Cader

Innalillahi Waina Elaihe Rajioon

Sithy Cader a great social worker, strict disciplinarian and an able administrator suddenly passed away from our midst on August 1 like a banyan tree that was uprooted by a cyclone. 

She was a founder member of the Young Muslim Women's League which was inaugurated in June 1973 consisting of 20 young pioneering ladies for the upliftment of the less privileged in our society and for community development. 

She was our first President from 1973 - 1975.  This was her  stepping stone to serve humanity and opened the floodgates for her to enter other social organisations to render yeomen service.  She held various important positions in the league until her sudden demise. 

She initiated two major projects of the league - one of which was the maintenance of the female surgical ward 11 at the Colombo South Teaching Hospital in Kalubowila, Dehiwela in 1998.  She was also a member of the hospital committee.  She was the chairperson of the Educational Trust Fund which was her brainchild, granting scholarships to the underprivileged students for their university education.

She successfully fulfilled her duties as the chairperson of these two major projects.  Whatever she did, it was done with grit and determination.  She was an outstanding personality and made her mark both in the educational and social field.  In a fair, truthful and honest way she achieved what had to be achieved in all her social work. 

She is no more with us but her good work will be remembered forever by our members.  May Allah grant her jennathul firdous. Ameen.

President and members of the Young Muslim Women's League

Colombo 4


R. R. Nalliah

Gentleman par excellence

August 16 is the death anniversary of R.R. Nalliah, sportsman and gentleman, who lived life to the fullest. A Thomian, he was also an All Ceylon athletic record holder, so much so S. Thomas' awards an athletic trophy, R. R. Nalliah Challenge Cup for the best performance in the triple jump under 18.

He was a staunch supporter of the United National Party and was very close to former President J.R. Jayewardene. He was also the chief UNP organiser for the north and travelled with JR to Jaffna when necessary. He held many posts as chairman of State Printing Corporation and also competent authority for the Times Group of Newspapers.

His father, R.R. Nalliah senior was a leading crown proctor in Jaffna, and the mayor of Jaffna for a long time. A road has been named as R.R. Nalliah Street  in his memory.

R. R. Nalliah comes from a family of distinguished lawyers. After a degree from the university he passed out as a Barrister from Lincoln's University. He worked as a junior under G.G. Ponnambalam senior, and had the distinction of appearing in the Privy Council as junior to Sir Dingle Foot QC in the Contracts Commission. He was also a member of the delegation to the UN General Assembly in September '87.

When he was chairman, State Printing Corporation, he answered the call by printing 3.5 million school books in all three languages for free distribution. There was one thing that Nalliah and his staff were proud of when they produced for the first time in Sri Lanka the Ceylon Tourist Board pictorial diary cum calendar, which had all along being printed in Japan at huge cost.

It was indeed an irreparable loss to his beloved wife Nesie who was at that time the chairperson of the Colombo Gas & Water Co. Ltd., working director of Petroleum Corporation and director of the Board of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation. She was also the Sri Lankan ambassador to Indonesia. R. R. Nalliah was a loyal and trustworthy friend, born into an aristocratic family, a gentleman par excellence, noble, nay nobility itself.

May his soul rest in peace.

A Friend


LakbimaNews Sunday Aug 24 2008

Sir Razik Fareed's 24th death anniversary

Sir Razik Fareed was born on 29 December 1893 at Grandpass, Colombo and received his early education at Zahira College Colombo and Royal College. He came to reside at ‘Hajara Villa’, Fareed Place, Colombo 4 in 1915. He was the son of the late W M Abdul Rahuman and the grandson of Wappichchi Marikkar.
Sir Razik inherited from his ancestors the spirit of service to his community and country. Wappichchi Marikar founded Zahira College, Colombo while Sir Razik Fareed founded Muslim Ladies College, Colombo - two leading Muslim colleges for boys and girls.

Relentless service

Sir Razik Fareed championed the cause of Sinhala-Moor unity and for a united Sri Lanka, thus demonstrating that the interest of the Moor community and the welfare of all Sri Lankans were near and dear to him. In this respect he proved his sincerity by his relentless service to the Muslim community and the country. No wonder he was popularly known as the “uncrowned king of the Ceylon moors”.
He established Muslim Ladies College in an attempt to give every educated Muslim boy an educated Muslim bride. The former principal of Zahira College Colombo, the late A M A Azeez predicted that Sir Razik would be remembered by generations to come and he would live in the history of our country as the “father of government muslim schools”.
In 1930 he entered politics and was consecutively a member of the municipal council, the senate and parliament in a long political career that culminated with his appointment as a minister in 1960. Later on he moved into the diplomatic field and was Sri Lanka’s high commissioner to Pakistan.
Sir Razik Fareed entered politics by contesting the New Baazar Ward of the Colombo Municipal Council. He beat the man known as the “Lion of New Bazaar,” the late N Saravanamuthu. As a municipal councilor he took a keen interest in the welfare of the city. He dedicated himself to uplift the poor. As a member of the municipal council, Sir Razik gave priority to establish a school that conducted both day and night sessions to help educate the poor children of the city.
Sir Razik was a person with a generous heart. He spent much of his wealth on the poor without many knowing it.
His long service to the community as president of the All Ceylon Moors Association for nearly 40 years and as president of the Moors Islamic Cultural Home (MICH) for more than 40 years were complimentary to his crowned life service to the community.
A grateful community has established a foundation called the Sir Razik Fareed Foundation to foster and preserve for posterity the humble services rendered by him in the name of Allah.
The legendary and highly respected Sir Razik Fareed peacefully passed away on 23 August 1984 at the age of 91 after a fruitful and dedicated service to the country in general and the community in particular.

Ruzaik Farook


Sunday Times Aug 17 2008

He utilised both his proficiency in English and Sinhala

Guardie Punchihewa

My beloved brother Nothkachara de Silva Guardie Punchihewa passed away on July 25. He was 81 years old. His mortal remains were cremated at the Rawatawatta Crematorium on July 27.

He was the son of the late Mudaliyar A. De. S. G. Punchihewa and Mrs. Hettihewage Jane de Silva. We were a family with three children. His wife predeceased him by six years. He leaves behind a son, Pulathisi, and a daughter, Sumanjula.

He was a brilliant student. At Mahinda College, Galle, he excelled in Sinhala, Pali, Sanskrit and English. He sat for the university entrance examination, but as he was not successful in getting a place in the university, he sat for the Post & Telecommunications Clerical Examination. He served first as a clerk attached to the Post & Telecommunications Department Stores, Maradana.

In later years, utilizing his proficiency in Sinhala and English, he served as a translator in the Post Master General’s Department, Colombo, and retired from the department as a senior translator. He inherited his talents as an interpreter in Sinhala and English from our father, who was the Interpreter Mudliyar in Sinhala, English and Tamil in the District and Supreme Courts of Batticaloa and Chilaw and who, on retirement in 1940, served as the Press Examiner (Sinhala and English) in the Criminal Investigation Department.

After his retirement, my brother worked with the Sarvodaya Vishvalekha Publishers, Ratmalana, as editor of their newsletter “Danya”, under Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne. Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne paid him a glowing tribute for excellent services rendered to the newsletter.

He was a freelance journalist and a regular contributor to the “Sinhala Bauddhaya”, as he was well versed in Buddhist philosophy and was familiar with the world of local English newspapers. In later years, my brother’s health started to decline after a fall.

His son Pulathisi and wife Pavani cared for him with unflagging devotion during his last illness. May my dear brother attain the full bliss of Nirvana.

His malli, Gamini

 


A man we lost, but are proud to have known

D.D.R. Nanayakkara

March 21, 2007 marked the demise of a teacher, guide and philosopher to several generations of grateful students. D.D.R. Nanayakkara retired from the teaching profession as the Deputy Principal of Royal College, Colombo capping a lifetime devoted to teaching.

Mr. Nanayakkara or ‘Nana’ as he was referred to by thousands of students was born in Galle and educated in Kandy. He married in early 1949 and was the father of one son, Sanath Nanayakkara.
As a young teacher at Madampe, he demonstrated his capacity for drawing the best from those around him. The school needed a playing field but had no assets to pay for the labour involved in the project. Young Nana as he was then known, organised the whole village to turn out as volunteer labour. Lo and behold, a playground was the result.

The then Minister of Education recognized his worth and Royal College was the beneficiary of a devoted and competent educationist. During his 26 years at Royal, ‘Nana’ drew on his experience as a hockey and soccer player as a Hockey and Soccer Master.

Those who knew him appreciated the qualities that he preached and more importantly practised.
During his tenure at Royal, pressure was brought on him to temper his view on what was correct to pander to the wishes of those who wielded power. We Royalists are proud that he held his head high and did what he knew was correct whether it was advantageous to him or not.

A man we lost but are proud to have known.

Sunil de Silva, (Former Attorney-General)

 


Malli was a hero to his family and fellow soldiers

Lt. Col. Upul de Lanerolle

Twenty years ago, Malli wrote me a letter from the battlefield describing the hardships and triumphs he experienced with his brothers in the army. He described with humour the challenges of going to “bed” on a table in his army boots, and the pleasures of dreaming about his family, whom he had not seen for months.

Malli’s army camp had been recently attacked by the Tigers, and he had lost many of his colleagues. Despite the grim situation he faced, his spirits were high as usual and his commitment to his colleagues was evident. His letter is scattered with phrases like “api ithing nava gilunath, band choon”, and “even though I am entitled to a vacation, there is no way I can abandon our boys now and come home”.

He sent the letter mainly to cheer me up, because I was recovering from a minor ailment. Living in an army bunker in Jaffna, surrounded by death, my Malli was writing a letter to console me and urge me to get well soon and await his arrival in Colombo.

The irony of the situation was not lost on me then, but the significance of that letter is even more precious to me now. It is evidence of his strength and a testament to his humour, warmth and love for his family, colleagues and country.

Twenty years have passed since he wrote me that letter. The war he described then has not changed much. His hopes of victory, fear of defeat, and the desolation of death resulting from war remain true today. And yet time certainly has passed.

It has been nine long years since he decided it was time to take leave of us, and for nine years we have remembered him with great love and pride on his birthday. During this week of his birth anniversary, his family, friends and colleagues scattered all over the country and the world will take off their hats in silent honour of Malli, our personal hero.

Akka – Manisha Seneviratne

 


Sweet-tempered to all, the whole world to your family

Monica Irangani de Silva

It is now a year since your demise, as a victim of dreaded cancer. But I have not yet reconciled myself to this fact, and probably never will, not until my own term ends.

I live in the house that sheltered us for more than 47 years, and some little facet of your life illuminates every living moment of my waking life. Yesterday, for example, the fish vendor came by, crying out that he had one of your favourite items – fresh sprats. If you were here, we would have bought a quantity of sprats and you would have cooked it as no maid ever could – a dish fit for a king.

As I write this, your other culinary skills come to mind, such as your roast wild boar (out of this world) and your cutlets and patties, as only you could make them. The fish vendor’s visit briefly distracted me from my more important task, and that is to write about your genuine goodness.

The most unforgettable thing about you was your equable temperament. You were never easily ruffled. And there was your total commitment to the family – the four children and myself. Your devotion was extraordinary. You lived for us, never thinking of yourself.

You were never much of a visitor to temples, especially in the latter stages of your life, those last three or four years when you developed arthritis. Your meritorious deeds were done silently and unobtrusively. On one occasion you saved the life of our younger son, two years at the time, when he was about to fall off a window sill. On another occasion you saved our four-year-old nephew from being burnt to death. That child is now 11 years. These two acts, together with the good deeds you continuously rendered through your selflessness – all for others, nothing for yourself – would alone give you enough merits to take you along Sansara for more than a dozen births.

Monica, you were a sweet-tempered person to the world, your relatives and your friends, but to us, your children and myself, you were our world. You were there beside me for everything; whether it was to fix a leaking tap, a blocked sink, or a blown fuse. You would do it all yourself, without troubling me in the least. You made our house a fine home.

Dearest Monica, I am lost without you, and can only echo that old song – “I'm no good without you anyhow”. Please, at least one more time in Sansara, be my wife and the mother of our children.
May you attain Nirvana.

Your grieving husband, Oswald

 


Nation Sun Aug 17 2008 

On the 12th Death Anniversary of Dr. Chanaka Amaratunga (1996.08.01)

Chanaka Amaratunga and political ideology

Though there were elections in Sri Lanka prior to the introduction of the Donoughmore Constitution in 1931, franchise was not universal in that early period. A few left-wing political parties, especially the Lanka Sama Samaja Party and its breakaway parties such as the Communist Party and the Bolshevik Leninist Party were formed during the Donoughmore period.

The Labour Party of A.E. Gunasinghe was formed prior to the introduction of the Donoughmore Constitution. These political parties gathered momentum through the Marxist Leninist or Trotskyite ideology that prevailed in Europe at that time. Armed with socialist ideas, leaders of these parties introduced certain political principles to the Ceylonese body politic. Among these political principles trade unionism, anti-colonialism, anti-capitalism, anti-feudalism, welfare of the common man, state ownership of means of production were noteworthy.

Most of the prominent and leading political figures during that period organised themselves under the banner of Ceylon National Congress that did not have a coherent ideology, though some of the members were akin to various political ideologies prevailed in the contemporary Europe. Constitutional reform movement pioneered by the Ceylon National Congress took momentum in parallel with the global political developments during the World War II period.

Introduction of the Soulbury Constitution with the First-Past-the-Post electoral system in 1947 gave way to the formation of political parties to contest elections. Hasty formation of political parties was a result of the introduction of the new Constitution. Yet, many independent candidates contested for the 1947 Parliamentary election and over 20 of them were successful. Sinhala Maha Sabha of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was also absorbed into the United National Party led by its pragmatic leader D.S. Senanayake.

During the first 10 years after independence, ideologies of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism slowly and clearly entered into the two major political parties. Sinhala Buddhist nationalism was anti-colonial and it suspected euro-centric Marxist socialism. But Sinhala Buddhist nationalism as prevailed in Sri Lanka had an element of welfarism as opposed to Marxist socialism. Beginning with the 1949 Citizenship Act that deprived the voting rights of the Indian plantation population and coming to climax in 1955-56, both the United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party stood for language disparity. It is a well-known fact that Marxist ideologists who stood for equal rights of the people had clearly explained the danger posed by the two major parties by introducing a ‘Sinhala Only’ policy.

Ceylonese economy even by the late 50s was a dual economy comprising plantations and traditional rural economy and there was no pioneering local industrial capitalist class to boost capitalist transformation. Even the political elite of the day came from the land owning and professional sector. Due to the above mentioned facts, the government of the day had to initiate industrialisation through state sponsored corporations and services through various government boards. On the other hand, nationalisation programmes initiated by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike with blessings from the leading left-wing politicians also discouraged the development of investment. The government of Dudley Senanayake in 1965 and also the policies of Sirimavo Bandaranaike wanted to retain a large state sector, to provide employment opportunities to their political supporters.

Although both parties, when in government, had done yeoman service to develop and introduce scientific agriculture to achieve the objective of self-sufficiency, it is a goal not yet fulfilled.

A crucial change in our economy took place after 1977, but we liberals cannot satisfy ourselves the way things improved in the economic front. While opening up the trade sector with no clear industrial policy in hand, the 1977 regime was not able to lead the country to the status of a newly industrialised country. Further, authoritarianism engulfed in the 1978 Constitution had contributed to political instability. The agitations of minorities and southern youth unrest contributed to the age of terrorism and state terrorism.

The 1982 referendum, coupled with state terrorism, to postpone the Parliamentary elections was an eye-opener to many who stood for democratic and political rights of the people President J.R. Jayewardene greedily retained the 5/6 majority in Parliament he got from the 1977 election under First-Past-the-Post system.

Chanaka Amaratunga, analysing the political and economic developments in the post-independent Sri Lanka and the Constitutional authoritarianism of President Jayewardene, came to the direct conclusion that basic principles and norms of liberal democracy were fast fading from the Sri Lankan polity and society. He pointed out the need for a political ideology to clarify and understand the issues facing the nation. It is noteworthy that political parties of many liberal democracies in Europe are based on political ideologies such as Conservatism, Liberalism or Social Democracy.

If one were to take a look at the two major parties that tasted political power in the post-independent Sri Lanka, it is clear that the two parties had come forward by addressing popular slogans peculiar to the majority Sinhalese population.

Chanaka, being a sensitive political scientist and an ardent liberal, used tools of liberalism to analyse and understand the Sri Lankan polity and society. He pointed out the value of the ‘individual’ as against class and nation. The empowerment and the freeing of the individual from the fetters of illiteracy, elitism and economic deprivation, lay in the development of market forces and not in state monopoly.

He stressed the significance of constitutionalism and criticised both 1970 and 1978 Constitutions and pointed out the need for power sharing in a multi-national and multi-religious society. He saw the declining quality of the people’s representatives and stressed on the need of a second chamber.

Liberalism as a political philosophy has its own principles and tools. One of its major tenets is supporting a Free Market Economy. In Sri Lanka it is the United National Party that stood for open economy. However, Chanaka Amaratunga pointed out that the UNP government of President J.R. Jayewardene was not pushing a free market economy for Sri Lanka but only opening up trade by keeping in hand a large state sector.

When the left intellectuals were attacking Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin for the state of affairs in the Soviet Union, Chanaka pointed out the dynamics of the Russian society that was yelling for change. He was concerned about the rising nationalism in many countries after the collapse of socialism.

To spread his views and to engage in politics he needed a modern thinking political party and in 1987 he formed the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka. It is a political party that is based on the liberal ideology. Hitherto in Sri Lanka this political ideology was applied only by the parties with a left orientation, in the form of Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, Mao Tse Tung Thought etc. Ideologically, liberalism is against central economic planning by the state and state monopoly. In the political front, liberalism opposes ‘one party rule’ whether it is of left or right origin. It supports representative democracy and the idea of limited government. Thus liberalism poses a challenge for socialism as well as nationalism of all breeds including fascism.

In developing the liberal ideology Chanaka understood the ideas of privatisation and trends of globalisation and of digital age. He clearly emphasised that economic policy debate is not taking up seriously within the United National Party or the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

It was liberals who developed the idea of welfarism in the British political context. It is not illogical to think that the state alone can fulfil the welfare needs of the people. Chanaka was fully supportive of the people-based organisations aimed at promoting welfare and poverty alleviation. He was of the view that schools managed by religious societies in the past were far better in promoting education but admitted the validity or expansion of education initiated by Dr C.W.W. Kannangara. He was critical of the fake private medical college established during the J.R. Jayewardene period to promote the idea of educating the children to face international examinations as the quotas in the state university system is limited.

Chanaka was against land policies of both the SLFP and the UNP. While endorsing nationalisation of foreign ownership of plantations he was critical of the delimitation of land ownership. He pointed out that after nationalisation of lands political stooges of ruling class were in control of them, which lead to corruption and wastage.

Chanaka had an ideological view towards the national problem. As the aim of liberals is to promote individual freedom, there is a need to protect minorities and enhance their rights. To allow the minorities equal opportunities there must be a power sharing formula. He differentiated the meaning between a unitary constitution and unitary state.

He also pointed out that the united nature of the state would be retained even under a power sharing political structure.
His understanding on various electoral systems paved the way to understand the nature of German electoral system and the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka was the first ever political party in Sri Lanka to promote the method in Sri Lanka.

As political intolerance, crony capitalism (the term he used to explain the UN economic policy), human rights violations are prevalent in the island, the need for principled politics is in great demand. So, on his 12th death anniversary, which falls on August 1, 2008, all liberals and those who stand for democratic rights can learn many lessons from the writings of Dr. Chanaka Amaratunga and his liberal ideology.
 

Kamal Nissanka


The Sunday Leader Aug 17 2008

Appreciation

Dr. Dharmawansa Senadhira

It was on July 7, 1998, 10 years ago, that Dr. Dharmawansa Senadhira was killed in a freak road accident in Bangladesh, when "Sena" as we affectionately called him, was travelling in a bus together with a group of scientists, who had gathered in Dhaka, for a seminar/workshop to discuss technology for rice production in the flood plains of Bangladesh.

In fact, Dr. M.P. Dhanapala (Dhane), Sena’s able colleague, was in the same seat of the ill-fated bus, with Sena right adjacent to him when this accident occurred. Dhane, who now works as a senior scientist at JICA, Tsukuba, Japan, had no injuries at all, but he will carry this shock for the rest of his life as exemplified in his most recent email to me, that "It is something I want to forget but time after time the whole incident appears in my mind. I have to live with that."

Ten long years have lapsed after Dr.Senadhira’s unfortunate and untimely demise and I thought that it is nothing but right and opportune to place on record, a few lines on Sena, who contributed immensely to increasing the productivity of rice in Sri Lanka, by breeding and introducing new improved varieties of rice in association with his team of scientists.

I have known Sena from 1965 onwards when he was one year senior to me at the Faculty of Agriculture in Peradeniya. Sena was a very simple person with humane qualities and was a popular figure at the Faculty of Agriculture (of the then University of Ceylon, Peradeniya) as well as at Mars Hall where he resided. He was a man of few words, which were made to the point and he lent a quiet efficiency to whatever he did. As to be expected, he ended up with a second-class upper division B.Sc (Agric) Degree in 1967.

It was in 1976 that Sena earned his Ph.D in Plant Breeding, from the University of Davis, California, after a three-year period of postgraduate training. Subsequently, Sena rose up to be the head of the CRBS, Batalagoda (the present Rice Research & Development Institute-RRDI), and was in that position up to the mid ’80s, when he joined IRRI as a scientist in the Plant Breeding Department.

Having joined IRRI, Sena did not distance himself from Sri Lanka. He made frequent visits (both official and private) to Sri Lanka and used to come over and stay at Batalagoda, providing the much sought after advice and guidance to the researchers. He also made use of these visits to meet his friends here and keep in touch.

For those of us who visited Los Banos when Sena was there, I am sure happy memories of Sena’s lavish hospitality at his home are still fresh. Ironically and coincidentally, on July 7, 1998, the writer happened to set foot in Manila, also with great hopes of seeing Sena if he was around. But by that time he had encountered his tryst with fate.

Dr. Senadhira’s professional work was highly acclaimed here and abroad. He received a Presidential Award in 1982, along with his team of scientists (including his able successor, Dr. Dhanapala) in recognition of their contribution to rice research in Sri Lanka.

Subsequently, he was awarded the FAO CERES Medal, in recognition of his research work. In addition to a number of awards he received later at IRRI, Dr. Senadhira was also nominated for the prestigious Koshihikari International Award offered by Japan and this Award was bestowed posthumously in September 1998, owing to his untimely death.

With a view to placing on record, in an easily accessible manner, the important scientific papers published by Dr.Senadhira, these were collected with the help of his colleagues (Dr. Dhanapala and Dr. Sumith Abeysiriwardana). In 2001/2002, these papers were compiled by Dr.Nimal Ranaweera, then Additional Secretary/Project Development, Ministry of Agriculture and myself, with the support of Stanley Senadhira, the beloved brother of Sena.

I am sure this publication will be of immense value to the research community, and will help sustain the life-long and dedicated efforts of Dr.Senadhira, in rice breeding.

In conclusion, I wish to state that the untimely demise of Dr. Senadhira was a big loss not only to Sri Lanka but also to all rice producing countries in the region, considering the contribution he was making to rice research.

It was a severe shock to those of us who knew him and kept in touch with him. I sincerely hope that these few lines on this simple but great human being will rekindle memories of him in the minds of those who knew him and also help others to have some awareness of him. May he attain eternal peace.

Bedgar Perera

Imbulgasdeniya


Sunday Times Aug 10 2008

Public law award honours memory of legal luminary

First death anniversary of K. C. Kamalasabayson

Former Attorney General and President’s Counsel, K. C. Kamalasabayson, who passed away a year ago (August 12, 2007), was a towering figure whose name will be writ large in the annals of Sri Lanka’s legal history. He will be remembered for his profound scholarship, his brilliance as an Attorney General, and his significant service in the spheres of legal, social, cultural and religious activity.

Mr. Kamalasabayson discharged his responsibilities with unsurpassed distinction and unsullied honour. He was one of the most polished, persuasive and hard-working of Attorney Generals. A model of patience and dedication, he took a methodical and meticulous approach to the work entrusted to him, and he extended maximum assistance to the Bench.

When he walked into the court, he knew his brief like the back of his hand. His court craft was admirable Mr. Kamalasabayson, who exemplified the qualities of simplicity and humility, was pragmatic in his approach to the problems of the Attorney General’s Department, thereby earning the high esteem of the department.

He hailed from an illustrious family in Trincomalee. His brother, the late Mr. Kamalanathan, was a leading criminal lawyer in his time.

On completing his secondary education at S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia, Mr. Kamalasabayson entered the Sri Lanka Law College. He passed out as an advocate in November 1971 with first-class honours.

He joined the Attorney General’s Department as a State Counsel on August 1, 1974, and went on to obtain his Master of Laws, Public Law, at the University of Colombo, and his Master of Laws, International Business Law, from the University of London.

Through hard work, efficiency and ability, Mr. Kamalsabayson rose steadily up the ranks to the positions of State Counsel, Senior State Counsel, and Deputy Solicitor General. He was appointed Additional Solicitor General on March 1, 1996, and Solicitor General in 1998. In 1999, he was made Attorney General. He appeared for the State in several extradition cases, including the late Manik Sandrasagara and Benwell case.

He was a visiting lecturer and examiner at the Sri Lanka Law College, and a visiting lecturer at the Faculty of Law, the University of Colombo. Mr. Kamalasabayson had a clear legal mind, and never strayed with irrelevancies. But all his gifts would not have taken him to the top of the legal profession without his unquestioned integrity and industry. Indeed, he was a man of deep and responsive human sympathy, unfailing patience, transparent sincerity, gentleness and goodwill.

He was friend, philosopher and guide to the younger generation. If is often said that “behind the success of every man there is a woman”. His wife Ramani was a source of encouragement and a tower of strength in all his endeavours.

The Incorporated Council of Legal Education has decided to grant an annual award in memory of Mr. Kamalasabayson. The award – a cash prize of Rs 25,000 and a gold medal – will be given to the author of an essay that exemplifies critical scholarship in the area of Public Law. The award will be presented on August 12, 2008, to coincide with Mr. Kamalasabyson’s death anniversary.

By Chelvatamby Maniccavasagar

 


Challenge-loving scribe who quizzed world leaders and delivered top stories

Roshan Peiris

She was in the twilight of her professional life as a journalist when she joined The Sunday Times, in the early ’90s, but even at that stage of her career she was a formidable force, and soon earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues.

She had in earlier times reached the highest echelons of the Ceylon Observer during her long and distinguished career as a journalist. She was admired for the breadth of her knowledge of current affairs, Sri Lankan and international, her efficiency and crisp writing skills.

Never one to waste even a second, the minute she returned from an assignment, she would head for the typewriter and get on with the job. With Roshan, there was no time to be frittered away at lunches and coffee breaks when a copy was due. It was always work first. She would not rest till she had finished her story and handed it in.

She was game for any assignment, and even the hurly-burly of election campaigning did not daunt her. Tired she may have been after long evenings on the campaign trail, covering election rallies as political campaigns reached fever pitch, but she always filed her stories on time. She delighted in the challenge of a tough story and being the first to break the news.In the course of a long career she interviewed many famous figures – from world leaders to film stars, writers and other celebrities.

Her list of “contacts” was legendary. She had a particularly soft spot for the world’s first woman Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, and never missed her birthday gatherings at Tintagel.

She was an ardent disciple of Sathya Sai Baba, and looked forward to her visits to Puttarpathi, in India.
Her colleagues knew her as a kind and generous person, always willing to help those in need. She was always forthright and sound with her advice.

Every so often she would bring us special treats. She would make Indian sweets and Parsee dishes and bring these to office, and then look on happily as her colleagues did justice to her culinary preparations, which invariably vanished in a trice.

Her love and devotion to her family, her daughter Savitri and son Suren, was an example to all.
She is remembered with affection, three months after her passing away.

By A Colleague

 


A technocrat who never lost sight of the human element

S. K. W. Dias

Three months have passed since the demise of S. K. W. Dias, who held the post of General Manager, Sri Lanka Ports Authority, for well nigh 20 years.

Born in 1936, Dias (“Buckie” to his friends) had his secondary education at Ananda College, Colombo, from where he proceeded to the University of Peradeniya. After successfully completing his tertiary studies, he joined the former Port (Cargo) Corporation as a probationary executive. He was part of the first batch of university graduates to be recruited to the newly nationalised venture. It was an era when the corporation had, at some time or other, such illustrious persons as Shirley Amerasinghe, M. F. de S. Jayaratne, Nissanka Wijeratne, Ronnie de Mel, V. P. Vittachi, M. Chandrasoma and several others of like calibre manning the higher echelons of the organisation.

Dias served with distinction in various capacities of increasing responsibility, in the ports of Colombo and Trincomalee, where he acquired a deep knowledge of different aspects of port operations and administration. At the same time, he pursued further studies in specialised fields and obtained additional qualifications. He also followed advanced training courses in port operations and management.

Dias was raised to the position of general manager in the Port (Cargo) Corporation in 1976, in recognition of his brilliant administrative skills and commendable work ethics. In the late ’70s, when the Sri Lanka Ports Authority was formed, the enabling Act required that “a competent and experienced person” be appointed as general manager of the authority. Dias was the obvious choice, and was duly appointed. He continued to hold this pivotal post for 20 years, until his retirement in 1996. A unique record indeed.

While serving as general manager, he also served on the board of directors of the then Fertiliser Corporation and the Central Freight Bureau, and as chairman, Port Management and Consultancy Services Ltd. He had the rare honour of being accredited at the United Nations as a national expert on ports, after being nominated by the Government of Sri Lanka.

During his long tenure as general manager, he made a significant contribution in helping to make Colombo a major trans-shipment base in the region and developing the port as a viable contributor to the national economy.

Dias was a technocrat by training and inclination, but he never overlooked the human element when making a decision or analysing an issue. He was approachable and accessible to all levels of personnel at all times, and was ever courteous and considerate to everyone. In a challenging and at times volatile environment, he acquitted himself with remarkable grace.

When he retired, he put his knowledge and experience of ports and shipping to further use when he accepted the post of Secretary General, Ceylon Association of Ships’ Agents (CASA), which he served for almost five years His goodwill and rapport with officers at all levels in the Ports Authority, the Customs and other water-front organisations were an asset to CASA.

Dias was the embodiment of honesty, integrity and sobriety. Work kept him busy till late in the evening, most days. He was also a devoted and loving husband, a caring and gentle father, and an adoring grandfather. In the latter stages of his life, when his health was failing, his family took good care of him. It was deeply touching to see how his wife, two daughters and their husbands would help Dias to get around when he was too feeble to get about on his own.

When Dias passed away, a large gathering came to pay their last respects to a man with a “golden heart” and an endearing personality. He will be remembered with deep affection and respect by everyone who knew him, especially those in the ports and shipping sectors.

May he attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana

By H. D. Gunaratne

 


Nation Aug 10 2008

Chandana Kaluarrachchi – A colossus in the planting field

It is with a sense of admiration and love that I write this tribute for a colossus in the field of plantation. He is none other than Chandana Kaluarrachchi .
The passing away of Chandana at a time when it was least expected has sent shock waves among all of us. He passed away on August 8, 2007 at the age of 56.

I will be failing in my duty if I do not pay this tribute as one who had been associated with him over several years although I doubt whether I could do adequate justice through this short note.
The sad news that I received about his death sent me in to deep thought about the beginning of my connection with his family.

I still remember clearly my first meeting with this fine gentleman way back in early nineties at the Madulsima tennis club. Whenever he visited my bungalow, he would make sure that he brought something for us .If I called him to inform him about some achievement on EL – Tab Estate, he would say that he was very proud of me and that I should keep it up and try to do even better next time. He always encouraged me and was happy to help me with my work, and offer me advice especially when I was at Balangoda Group. He was a good low country tea manufacturer.

He was ill for some years and endured his illness with fortitude and was never depressed. Because of his positive attitude towards sickness and also because he overcame every hurdle, all of us took him for granted, and we all depended on him for various things.

It is with very heavy heart and deep sadness that I recollect some past memories of this remarkable friend Kalu as we used to call him. He was an excellent administrator, a duty conscious person and a disciplinarian, who took his work seriously with a keen sense of responsibility. He always believed in quality and only enjoyed the satisfaction of a job well done. His guidance and advice was readily available and those who worked under him had immense love and respect to him.

He was a very knowledgeable person and displayed a wealth of knowledge in all areas. I still recollect the arguments he had with our good friend Rohan Kobbekaduwa at the Madulsima tennis club after a few shots. He was also happy to be with his two daughters. He was anxiously waiting to see his eldest doughter Chandishni become a doctor. She is now a final year medical student at Peradeniya campus where her father too was an under graduate.

His sudden demise will be an irreparable loss to his wife Chandrika and the two daughters Chandishni and Hirariya. He has left with all of us very valuable memories, which will not fade away with the passing of time.
Finally, in bidding farewell to you Chandana, as a Christian, I believe that you are not alone in that beautiful shore till we meet again. May your soul rest in peace.

Lalin I De Silva


Ratna Seevaratnam – An outstanding gentleman

I was very sad to learn of the demise of a very outstanding gentleman, sportsman and travel agent tour operator in the tourism business very recently.
He hailed from a very respectable and very outstanding Hindu Tamil dynasty in Jaffna District. He was educated at Royal College, Colombo 07. He excelled in his academic studies, sports, particularly in cricket, and rugby, football and cadetting.
He captained the college Rugby Team and also was Sergeant Major of the Royal College Cadet Team which won the Heran Loos Cup for College.

Since leaving college, he joined as a Aitken Spence & Co Ltd. as a management trainee and he was involved in company affairs with regard to shipping, tourism. plantations, export, hotels, printing, and other industries.

He was given responsibilities to develop tourism business, which he did in an excellent manner. There was lucrative tourism business during his term of office as Director Tourism. He rose very gradually, culminating as Chairman of Aitken Spence & Company Ltd., which position he held from 1997 to 2001.

Ken Balendra of John Keells Group of Companies was his contemporary in the tourism business and they were very good friends who rendered great services to develop travel/tourism business worldwide.

Aitken Spence & Company took the initiative to go to Malawi Islands and constructed hotels on the islands to promote tourism when Sri Lanka tourism was at a low ebb due to LTTE terrorism since 1983 to date.
I came to know him well particularly in the plantations industry and eco tourism as I too was engaged in the tourism business. Our deepest sympathies to his beloved wife and children.

– Capt. L. B. Lanka Jayaratne
Director
Sinhala Travels Pte. Ltd.


Air Chief Marshal Harry Goonetilleke

A colleague’s tribute

I have read many tributes paid to Harry by his subordinates. Harry and I were Service Commanders together and I pay tribute to him as a colleague and friend. During our tenure as Commanders, we did not have an ‘armed enemy’ to deal with, but there were several situations which required the involvement of the armed forces to overcome unruly situations and restore normalcy. The media sometimes mistakenly refers to the armed forces at that time as ‘ceremonial forces.’ None of the Service Acts provide for ‘ceremonial forces’ to be maintained at public expense. ‘Military Ceremonial’ is a phenomenon which is essential for maintaining the morale of the forces and is resorted to in war and peace. Even currently there are many military ceremonials in Sri Lanka.

Harry Goonetilleke, Basil Goonesekera and after him Alfred Perera (Navy Chiefs) and I worked as a close-knit team and presented our views to the government in unison and not resorting to one upmanship. One result of our joint effort was the appointment of a Pay Commission in 1979, after which the Services were provided with many benefits, such as rent allowance; ration allowance etc. etc., and though the quanta have increased in keeping with the escalating costs, no revision of pay and allowances have been examined since then. Another outstanding landmark of our joint effort was the establishment of the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence Academy (now a University) after I negotiated with Sir John for his property to be used for that purpose. The Revolution of Military Affairs (RMA) had been in vogue since the end of World War II and one of the requirements of this new thinking was that the Army, Navy and the Air Force had to work in unison and their officers had to learn ‘jointness’ from the very beginning of their service career. This phenomenon has, I hope, helped our forces to work jointly in the operations against the LTTE. We also worked together to prepare regulations covering Honours and Awards for armed forces personnel which was non-existent before.

After retirement Harry and I worked together in the Association of Retired Flag Rank Officers (ARFRO) particularly in assisting War Widows. Harry lost one of his pilot sons in the anti-LTTE conflict and was very much motivated towards assisting war widows. He spearheaded an island-wide counselling service and raised funds to assist widows to follow vocational training classes to keep them occupied and also to assist them to earn some extra money (they are all entitled to pay and pension from the government). He organised exhibitions of their handiwork and raised funds to assist them in numerous ways.

About 12 years ago, ARFRO (Harry was the motivator) arranged for 20 widows of LTTE persons and a child each to be flown to Colombo and lodged at the Sugathadasa Stadium. An equal number of widows from the armed forces and a child each were brought into join the party from the north. Though language was a barrier, after four days they were sorry to part company. The children in particular got on very well and the widows had common problems which were discussed through interpreters. ARFRO continues to do the work initiated in this connection by Harry.

Harry and I were both Presidents of the Sri Lanka Ex-Servicemen’s Association at different times. I was from 1993 to 1996 and Harry a few years later. The welfare of ex-servicemen and servicewomen was our primary concern and in this respect the Veteran’s Home at Bolegala near Katana was well cared for in addition to numerous other projects we initiated during our respective periods of Presidency.

Harry and Marion were blessed to have a son who rose to command the Air Force today, like his father. This is perhaps unique and Harry showed me a letter he had written to the publishers of the Guiness Book of Records. They had said they were verifying whether this was unique.

I salute Harry as a friend and colleague and wish him all blessings of his faith.
– Lt. Gen. Desamanya Denis Perera, VSV Commander of the Army (1977 to 1981)


The Sunday Leader Aug 10 2008

Appreciation

Gihan Hettiaratchi

It is with a deep sense of grief that I pen these few words of my son Gihan who passed away six long years ago leaving me in an untold sea of sorrow at a time when it was least expected. Any mother who gave birth to a child, nursed and lavishly loved her child will bear testimony to the agony I am going through and the silent thoughts, the sorrowful tears and the wound that was engraved in my heart since his demise. This wound could never be healed till I join my darling son in this never ending wheel of Samsara.  

Though it is said that time is a great healer it is not so in my case. When the doctors confirmed my son’s death, shock waves ran through my heart and I was lost for words for a few minutes. Words are not enough to describe what his loss means to my family. He was a devoted son and a caring elder brother.  

The huge void created by his death could never be filled. When memories of him are rekindled my eyes get blinded with tears and there has not been a single second during the past six years, that I had not been thinking of my precious elder son.  

Though born with a silver spoon in his mouth, my son always had a deep sense of humane qualities and never forgot the poor and the underprivileged. Kindness was stamped in all the words he spoke and every step he took. His radiant eyes showed what love and kindness was. Sincerity was his forte in life and his clean habits won the implicit trust of all the family members and his company was enjoyed by them all. His cousins enjoyed his company because of his good humour.

Children of noble virtues are rare to find and my precious son was a young boy of deeds than words. His prime concern and priority was his family — father, mother and the younger brother and he never turned down any request made by us and fulfilled all our wishes.

Although it is six long years since the demise of my son my heart still hurts so much when I go into his study room that was once filled with fun and frolic. My mind races back in search of the golden days of our lives when the four of us spent our leisure time together.

Today the three of us left behind are haunted by those lovely memories and have had to bear the emptiness in our lives for the last six years. Life has not been the same since you left as we harbour a permanent ache within our hearts.  

When my son was sick the three of us never had a wink of sleep and let no stone unturned to comfort him in every way we could and that was the only solace that keeps us going.   Memories of my darling son Gihan are permanently etched in our hearts  May you be blessed with good health in your journey through samsara and finally may you attain nibbana, the sublime bliss.  

Ammi


Sunday Times Aug 3 2008

A “Boss” with great charm, magnetism and vision

Ratna Sivaratnam

I came to know “Boss” way back in 1976, when he interviewed me for a job at Aitken Spence. I left the room overawed by his charm and personality. I said to myself: “Never have I ever seen or spoken to someone so exceptional”.

I joined Aitken Spence shortly after, and thus began a journey in which I would learn and grow under a master of a rare class. Tourism was in its infancy, but growing dramatically. I was one of the first to join his dream team (as we liked to imagine it!), a team that had the likes of Chandra, Manil, Mahinda and UC.

Mr. Sivaratnam was the perfect person for this people-related industry. He had all the qualities of a great leader, someone who could spur his team to unimaginable heights. He had charm and magnetism, and probably no one could match him. He was a colossus in our world. He took tourism at Aitken Spence to dizzy heights in a space of just four years, in the late ’70s. Everyone in the industry watched with awe as he rode to fame.

His greatest achievement during this time was securing TUI AG (Touristik Union International), Europe’s biggest tour operator, as an agent for us. What a coup that was! By 1980, Aitken Spence was an unchallenged leader in tourism, and we all owe it to the dynamic leadership and charisma of Siva, as he was popularly known.

What was great in this man was his unique quality of giving. He gave a lot to others. He was selfless by nature. At the same time, he was extremely sharp when it came to business. It was a treat to see how he outdid rivals of the highest calibre in business negotiations. He was razor sharp in cutting through and getting ahead of the competition, but always in his inimitable style. The greatness of this man lay in the way he balanced his success with his humility.

He was one of the first to introduce the great destination of the Maldives to tour operators around the world. The Maldivian community should be ever grateful for the tremendous service he rendered them.
My desire to venture out further afield for the sake of my career meant that I had to leave him, back in 1980. But even then he was gracious, advising me and warning me of the pitfalls I might encounter in my adventurous pursuit of greener pastures. He was not far wrong.

I kept in touch with this great human being, as I increasingly felt the absence and guidance of a great leader. Fortune favoured me when I came under his wing once again, in 1984, this time to head the hotel sector. It was a daunting challenge to survive at a time when tourism was looking right down the barrel. During this period, “Boss” took full control of the ship that was encountering bad weather at every turn. He steered us through troubled waters, and by the 1990s once again gave leadership to the industry by boldly venturing with the architect Geoffrey Bawa to build Kandalama Hotel, which took the world of sustainable tourism by storm. This was his dream project. The great hotel experience that is Kandalama is probably unmatched even in this part of the world.

He spurred me to go to the Maldives in 1990. Those in the industry know that the Maldives was probably Aitken Spence’s best ever investment in its long history of more than 140 years.

“Boss” could be compared to a good wine – the more it mellows, the better it gets. One success followed another. In the twilight of his career, Mr. Sivaratnam pursued an initiative to introduce “power generation” to Aitken Spence. This was a new sector altogether for those in the private sector.

The financial supremacy of Aitken Spence today is without doubt the result of the Maldives and power generation ventures. Full credit to you, “Boss”.Probably only my colleague Trevin and I knew about the many sleepless nights you spent to overcome so many hurdles. I was truly amazed at your patience, coupled with your killer instinct to achieve the impossible. Only you could have done it, “Boss”, and you did it without fear or favour to any one – a lesson for today’s leaders.Mr. Sivaratnam was much more than a man to me, and he made me what I am today. This applies in equal measure to several others who came under his caring leadership. There is one distinct quality that separates him from all others: “He is there for you when the chips are down”. He will never ever let you down. That was the man he was.

Today’s leadership has so much to learn from people like “Boss”, and I do hope they learn. There was his great friend, Mr. Ken Balendra, a corporate visionary. They both battled fearlessly as competitors, but had the good sense to sip a beer every Sunday and share good and bad times. This is the kind of lesson we rarely see in the business world today.

I could write so much more, “Boss”!

I say goodbye to a man who deserves the highest in God’s Kingdom. God Bless you “Boss”. You are truly immortal to many of us.

Prema Cooray


 

He worked tirelessly for his men and their families

Air Chief Marshal Harry Goonetilleke

Harry and I were Service Commanders together, and I pay tribute to him as a colleague and a friend.
During our tenure as commanders, we did not have an “armed enemy” to deal with, but there were several situations which required the involvement of the Armed Forces to confront unruly situations and restore normalcy.

At that time the media would occasionally, and mistakenly, refer to the Armed Forces as the “ceremonial forces”. None of the Service Acts provide for “ceremonial forces” to be maintained at public expense. The “military ceremonial”, on the other hand, is a phenomenon that is essential for maintaining the morale of the forces, and is resorted to in war and peace. Even now, there are many military ceremonials in Sri Lanka.

Harry Goonetilleke, Basil Goonesekera, and after him Alfred Perera (Navy Chiefs), and I worked as a close-knit team and presented our views to the government in unison, not resorting to one-upmanship.

One result of our joint effort was the appointment of a Pay Commission in 1979, after which the services were provided with many benefits, such as a rent allowance, a ration allowance, etc, etc, and although the quantum has increased in keeping with escalating costs, no revision of pay and allowances has been examined in toto since then.

Another outstanding landmark of our joint effort was the establishment of the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence Academy (now a university), after I negotiated with Sir John for his property to be used for that purpose.

The Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) had been in vogue since the end of World War II, and one of the requirements of this new thinking was that the Army, the Navy and the Air Force worked in unison and that their officers learnt “jointness” from the very beginning of their service career. This phenomenon has, I hope, helped our forces to work jointly in the operations against the LTTE.

We also worked together to prepare regulations covering honours and awards for armed forces personnel, something that was previously non-existent.

After retirement, Harry and I worked together in the Association of Retired Flag Rank Officers (ARFRO), particularly in assisting war widows. Harry lost one of his pilot sons in the anti-LTTE conflict, and was very much motivated towards assisting war widows.

Harry spearheaded an islandwide counselling service and raised funds so that widows could follow vocational training classes. This training kept them occupied and gave them skills to earn extra money (they are all entitled to pay and pension from the government). He also organised exhibitions of their handiwork and raised funds to assist them in numerous ways.

About 12 years ago, ARFRO (Harry was the motivator) arranged for 20 widows of LTTE persons and a child each to be flown to Colombo and lodged at the Sugathadasa Stadium. An equal number of widows from the Armed Forces and a child each were brought in to join the party from the North. Although language was a barrier, the widows and children of both sides interacted happily, and after four days they were sorry to part company. The children in particular got on very well and the widows had common problems that they discussed through interpreters. ARFRO continues to do the work initiated in this connection by Harry.

Harry and I were both presidents of the Sri Lanka Ex-Servicemen’s Association, at different times. I was the president from 1993 to 1996, and Harry held the position a few years later. The welfare of ex-servicemen and servicewomen was our primary concern, and in this respect the veterans' home at Balegala, near Katana, was well cared for, in addition to numerous other projects we initiated during our respective periods of presidency.

Harry and Marion were blessed with a son who rose to command the Air Force, like his father. This is perhaps unique. Harry showed me a letter he had sent to the publishers of the Guinness Book of Records. They said they were verifying whether this was unique.

I salute Harry as a friend and colleague, and wish him all the blessings of his faith.

Desamanya Denis PereraCommander of the Sri Lanka Army (1977-1981)

 


Inspiring leader who put Sri Lanka on the ecotourism map

Chandra de Silva

The world of ecotourism has lost a great leader with the passing of Chandra de Silva, founder of the Ranweli Holiday Village, Sri Lanka, and a fellow director of The International Ecotourism Society (TIES).
Chandra was also a great friend.

The Ranweli Resort was a pioneering ecotourism venture, and it led the way to integrating environmental, cultural and social values. Chandra promoted the concept and spearheaded its implementation, in the face of much skepticism – and achieved great results.

Chandra was a guest speaker at several Ecotourism Australia conferences. At board meetings he provided wise counsel, bringing with him a wealth of experience from his accountancy background and Ranweli experience. He was a very learned and inspirational person, and he was also an excellent host. I have fond memories of my visit to Sri Lanka in 2004, as part of the TIES board. I will always remember the hospitality he showed me.

When the tsunami struck in 2005, Chandra's immediate response was to rush to the assistance of his village neighbours and help them rebuild their houses and schools, although his own property was seriously damaged in the tsunami. That was so typical of Chandra’s character. He had a great sense of community. He was also very active in the Child Protection Society of Ceylon, having served the society for 42 years.

The ecotourism industry has lost an inspirational pioneer.

Tony Charters, TOURFORCE Magazine

 


Great teacher, writer and crusader for Third World peoples

C. R. (DICK) HENSMAN

Charles Richard Jeevaratnam (Dick) Hensman was called to his eternal rest on July 9, 2008.
Educated at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, Dick responded to the call of his “alma mater” when he went back to his school to teach English. He remained a teacher at S. Thomas’ for many years.

I was one among a generation of students who benefited from his labours at Wesley College, Colombo and S. Thomas’. He will be remembered for his ability to stretch the minds of his students and foster their critical consciousness. We learned to form values in a very natural way from the manner in which he taught and lived. With Dick, the “guru-shishya” relationship blossomed into life-long friendships with his students. His Christian faith was integrated with his passionate socialist convictions. To a whole generation of students, Dick has passed on a noble legacy of faith with understanding, a humane ideology linked to a lived praxis.

Dick was a truly gifted writer. His literary efforts at the Community Institute, in Colombo, and the quality of the magazine “Community” that he edited for several years, inspired many social activists and budding writers.

When he left our shores and went to Britain, he worked for a time with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). In the 1960s, he helped found the Tri-continental Liberation Institute, in London, and established a network of Third World groups, nurturing them in thought and action with the literature he produced and distributed.

Dick will also be remembered for his lucid and penetrating Third World writings. His books include: “Rich Against Poor – The Reality of Aid”; “From Gandhi to Che Guevara”; “China: Yellow Peril? Red Hope?”, “Sun Yat-Sen”, and “Agenda for the Poor – Claiming Their Inheritance (A Third World People’s Reading of Luke”).

On his return to Sri Lanka, Dick Hensman made a tremendous contribution to an Asian theology that related to people’s struggles to achieve a fullness of life.

He was an active member of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians, from its inception, and served as its national co-ordinator, while representing the association at meetings overseas. He was also a founder member of the Sri Lanka Association for Theology, and served as its secretary for many years. Both organisations may be classified as ecumenical fellowships, drawing together people from all churches, including the Roman Catholic church. As a young person, Dick was a leader in the Church of Ceylon Youth Movement and the Student Christian Movement.

Dick was a wonderful resource person, along with his wife Pauline, one of Sri Lanka’s first feminist theologians. His humane and humble qualities endeared him to many.

He was always encouraging me to “write it down”, whenever we shared thoughts. In this sense he was a good “guru” and a role model to many writers. We shall miss his presence as a genuine friend.
To Pauline, Rohini, Jimmy and Savitri we offer our deepest sympathies. We rejoice and thank God for Dick’s long life inspired by and rooted in his belief in Jesus Christ and the centrality of God’s reign.
May he rest in peace and rise in glory!

Rev. Jeffrey Abayasekera

 


Sunday Leader Aug 3 2008

Appreciation

Ratna Sivaratnam

Boss, you are truly immortal

I came to know ‘Boss’ way back in 1976 when he interviewed me. When I left his room I was simply overawed by his charm and personality. I said to myself "never have I ever seen or spoken to someone so exceptional."

The fact that I joined Aitken Spence soon after, was to be the beginning of a journey to learn and grow under a master of a rare class. Tourism was at its infancy but growing dramatically. I was one of the first to join his dream team (or so we think!) which had the likes of Chandra, Manil, Mahinda and UC.

Sivaratnam was just tailor made for this people’s industry. He had all the qualities of a great leader to spur his team to unimaginable heights. His charm and magnetism –— probably no one could match him. He rode like a colossus. He took tourism of Aitken Spence to dizzy heights in a space of around four years in the late ’70s and everyone in the industry watched with awe his ride to fame.

His greatest achievement during this time was securing the agency of TUI, the largest tour operator in Europe and what a scalp it was! Aitken Spence by 1980 was an undisputable leader in tourism and we all owe it to the dynamic leadership and charisma of ‘Siva’ as he was popularly known.

What was great in this man was this unique quality — that he gave a lot to others. Selfless by nature but extremely sharp in his business skills and negotiations. It was a treat to learn the way he baffled his negotiating counterparts of the highest calibre.

He was razor sharp to cut through his competition in his inimitable style. The greatness of this man was that he balanced his success with humility. He was one of the first to introduce the great destination of Maldives to numerous tour operators in the world. The Maldivian community should ever be grateful to him for the tremendous services he rendered them.

My desire to venture out made me leave him in 1980. But even at this time he was gracious and advised me of the pitfalls that possibly I may face in my adventurous pursuit to see greener pastures — he was not far wrong.

I kept in touch with this great human being as I increasingly felt the absence and the guidance of my great leader. Fortune favoured me and I came under his wings once again in 1984 and this time to head the hotel sector and a daunting challenge to survive with tourism looking right down the barrel.

During this period ‘Boss’ took full control of the ship that struck bad weather at every turn. He steered through troubled waters and by the 1990s once again gave leadership to the industry by boldly venturing to develop with the great genius — Bawa to build the great Kandalama Hotel which took the world of sustainable tourism by storm. This product was his dream. And today the great hotel experience that Kandalama symbolises is probably unmatched in this part of the world.

He spurred me to go to Maldives in 1990 and most know the success that it brought Aitken Spence — probably the best ever investment of Aitken Spence in its long history of over 140 years. He could be compared to a good wine — the more it mellowed it got better and my ‘Boss’ Sivaratnam, was no different.

Success followed one after another and in the twilight of his career he relentlessly pursued an initiative to introduce "Power Generation" to Aitken Spence. A new sector all-together, to us in the private sector. Today the financial supremacy of Aitken Spence is without doubt due to the ventures in Maldives and power generation.

Full credit to you ‘Boss’ — probably only my colleague Trevin and I knew the sleepless nights spent by you to overcome so many many hurdles. I was truly amazed at his patience coupled with the killer instinct to achieve the impossible — only you could have done it ‘Boss’ and you did it without fear or favour to any one — a lesson for today’s leaders!

Sivaratnam was much more than a man to me and made me what I am today. This applies in equal measure to several others who came under his caring leadership. There is one distinct quality that separates him from all others — ‘He is there for you when the chips are down.’ He will never ever let you down. That was the man he was.

Today’s leadership has so much to learn from ‘Boss’ and I do hope they learn. There was his great friend, Ken Balendra a corporate visionary. They both battled fearlessly as competitors, but had the good sense to sip a beer every Sunday and share good and bad times. This is the kind of lesson we rarely see in the business world today.

I can write so much more ‘Boss!’ — I say goodbye to a man who deserves the highest in God’s Kingdom. God Bless you ‘Boss.’ You are truly immortal to many of us!

Prema Cooray


Sunday Times July 27 2008

Great buddy, born leader and thoroughly sporty helmsman

RATNA (“ROTI”) SIVARATNAM

Ratna Sivaratnam – “Roti” to his friends – passed away on Friday, July 18, 2008 and, in keeping with his wishes, was cremated with Hindu rites at a private funeral the very next day.

“Roti” was an outstanding personality who made his mark in several areas. However, I believe he will be most remembered for his long and exceptionally successful career at Aitken Spence. His career there is legendary. He moved up the ladder with ease, and in a very acceptable manner, without treading on the toes of others. His stint as chairman and chief executive officer of the blue-chip company is widely recognised, and acknowledged as one of the major contributions to the firm’s success.

He was largely responsible for taking Aitken Spence into tourism. He helped the firm become one of the dominant players in the tourism business in double-quick time. His initiative to go into power generation and hotels in the Maldives is perhaps the reason Aitken Spence share prices continue to perform well. He spent his entire working career at Aitken Spence, and even after retirement, continued to be associated with the firm. He was a non-executive director of the company at the time of his demise. The present chairman Harry Jayawardene publicly acknowledged Roti’s exceptional service to the company at a large gathering at the BMICH.

After his retirement as executive chairman and CEO of Aitken Spence, he sat on several boards as a non-executive director, and was chairman of the Export Development Board (EDB) for a couple of years. His commitment, leadership and achievements in this role are still recounted by his associates at the EDB. The then minister in charge, Professor G. L. Pieris, acknowledged this, again at another large gathering at the BMICH. Praise came his way on a regular basis, but it sat lightly on Roti’s broad shoulders.

Roti was humble, charming, generous, and a great friend to many. He was honest to a fault, and was respected for this. His commitment, efficiency and leadership qualities were unquestionable. His support for his friends was hard to match.

On a personal note, he played a role in my own career, which I began as a planter before joining John Keells. He went out of his way to do likewise for many others. Many of his friends, like me, have been close to him for more than half a century, and we thoroughly enjoyed his company.

I once asked him how he came to be nicknamed “Roti”. He said that his class master at Royal College once asked the students to announce what each had had for breakfast that morning. This was in the late ’40s, and most of the students said “bacon and eggs” or mentioned other typical western breakfast items. When it was Ratna’s turn to answer, he unhesitatingly said “roti” – and the nickname “Roti” stuck to him ever after.

The batch of students Roti belonged to at Royal is reputed to be among the very best produced by the school, and he was proud to be one of them. He certainly contributed to this reputation with the success he achieved in several areas.

At Royal, Roti was an outstanding and towering figure, looked up to by all – Prefect, Captain of Rugby and Badminton, Regimental Sergeant Major, etc. It was only last year that we celebrated 50 years of rugby under his captaincy. In 1957, he led his team to break the spell of repeated wins by Trinity, who were running circles around us.

For seven years the results of the Bradby Shield matches were a foregone conclusion, but Geoff Weinman, the coach, Roti the captain, and Ralph Wickremaratne the vice-captain, decided it was time to put an end to these successive defeats. They succeeded, even though we lost the Bradby by a whisker. That was on July 19, 1957. Coincidentally, Roti was cremated in Colombo on July 19, 2008.

It is acknowledged that it was Roti’s leadership that moved Royal back into being in contention for the Bradby. The next year, under Dudley Fernando, with Roti still in the team, the Bradby was brought back to Reid Avenue, after a lapse of seven years.

Roti was a sportsman par excellence. In rugby, he would surely have gone on to play in the then All-Ceylon team if he had not suffered a knee injury, which kept him out of rugby but took him into tennis. Although he started late, he made his mark in this game too through constant practice at the Otters sports club, where he earned yet another nickname, “Rotters”, among his gang of “sundowners”.

I remember, when he took on the mantle of chairman and CEO of Aitken Spence, he said, in response to a question from a senior journalist, that if he had any leadership qualities, it was mainly on account of his having been Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of the Ceylon Cadet Corps. It was after a lapse of time that a Royalist was chosen to head the Ceylon Cadet Corps, and I remember how proud we were to present arms on his command to a visiting dignitary.

Roti and I happened to head two of the country’s biggest tourism companies. We were competitors, with no quarter asked and none given. Nevertheless, we were the closest of friends, and that was an enigma to our respective assistants – but that was Roti. Compete, yes, but not at the cost of a long and close friendship.

Life was not completely rosy for him. He and his wife Meropi never got over the passing away of their older son, Romesh, a chartered accountant based in Melbourne, who succumbed to cancer at the age of 26.

Roti’s demise leaves a void, especially for his wife, who was steadfastly by his side throughout his long illness, and his son, Dinesh, a cardiologist who has made his mark in his field, in Melbourne, Australia. Roti was very proud of him and his achievements. His immediate family, his extended family and his numerous friends will miss him in no small measure.

Meropi and Dinesh, our deepest sympathies. If it is any consolation, there are numerous friends of Roti’s, who, like me, join you in your grief. He was a great guy, and we will remember him until the final whistle is blown on the rest of us.

By Ken Balendra



Ratna was blessed with the common touch

Ratna Sivaratnam, affectionately known as “Roti”, braved the vicissitudes of his recent illness and sadly succumbed before the Biblical “three score and ten”.

Roti’s father was a doctor, and his older brothers Bala (Forbes & Walker) & Wigna (Liptons) predeceased him. He captained the Royal College rugby team in 1957, but lost to Trinity by a whisker because of Wilhelm Balthasar, who robbed Roti of his cherished dream. He became a Regimental Quarter Master Sergeant of the Royal Cadet Battalion.

Roti continued to play for Royal for another year, under Dudley Fernando, and in 1958 helped the school beat Trinity, after eight years. He joined Aitken Spence as a cargo boat surveyor, after marrying his childhood sweetheart, Meropi. He and Lorenz Pereira, who played under Roti, married two sisters and were thick chums.

He played for the CR & FC vs CH & FC with Geoff Weiman as flankers, but a knee injury prevented him from continuing club rugby. Later, after doing pioneering work for Aitken Spence Hotels, he was promoted to the Aitken Spence board, under Chari De Silva.

Roti and his best pal Ken Balendra became the two most powerful heads of the travel trade in Sri Lanka, heading the respective travel divisions of Aitken Spence and John Keells, and later becoming chairmen of their respective organisations.

His close pals were Ken Bala, Ralph W, Lorenz Pereira, Dudley Fernando, Rajah Pothuhera and Godwin Daniel. It is fair to say that Ratna “moved with kings and queens alike without losing the common touch”.

To his beloved wife Meropi and son, and to Ratna’s favourite and only employer, Aitken Spence & Co and his beloved staff, who adored him, my deepest sympathies. There will NEVER be another Mr. Sivaratnam.

May the turf lie gently on him”.

By Mithila Gunaratna New Rochelle, New York


A life together as beautiful as a garden

by Tissa Dias

Dear Tissa,

July 26, 2008 was your second death anniversary. We still cannot believe you have left this world for ever. We miss you, we remember you, we think about you, and we love you every moment of our lives.

I can proudly say that I had the best husband a wife can ever have. You shared and helped me in every single thing in our day-to-day life. As a botany teacher, I am fond of plants and enjoy gardening. You always supported and admired that. Every Sunday you were in the garden with the plants, even when I was busy. Whenever I wanted to hang ferns and other ornamental plants, you were ready with the equipment. That last Sunday when you were gardening, I came to you and said something, and when I turned away to the kitchen you asked: “Where are you running? Wait a little”. You liked my presence in the garden with you. Those memories are sweet and unforgettable.

The first day you visited my home in Panadura, after returning from abroad, you gave me three valuable books about indoor plants, vegetables and gardening. You had written in the books the words: “To mark the first visit to Champi’s home”, and autographed the book on indoor plants.

You wanted sons, and we were blessed with two sons, Supun and Nipun. Supun has your facial features, voice, smile and friendly manner. Our younger son Nipun has your body shape, walk, the way you stand, your handwriting, and more. Sometimes they look just like you.

At your funeral, I said to Professor Ranjith, “Your friend has gone for ever.” He replied, “Tissa has given the world two sons and gone.” That moment, I realised the value of our precious sons.

We both had many common interests, music and films being just a few. I remember how, just three months before your demise, you enjoyed my staff get-together at Chrishanthi’s place. You mixed well with all my friends and their spouses.

You had a good collection of the old favourites of each and every singer – Sinhala as well as Hindi. Every day, after dinner, you liked to listen to those songs.

That last day, we went as usual with our younger son by car. Our older son was at home. When I was getting out of the car, I said: “Give a call to our older son, who is at home, and today also come early”, which were my usual last words to you each day. So you had the conversation with our older son over the phone. No one realised those were the last moments of our happy life together.

Now life is not the same, and life is tough. Now I understand that life does not belong to us. Some things we wish for we never get. Your untimely departure is felt by each and everyone you associated with. Your office friends remember you – the help, support, guidance and friendship you gave them, and your excellent jokes.

When people speak of your good qualities, I feel you are with us. I like to talk about those memories. I realise your life is a good example to all of us, the way you lived as a human being. No one will forget your memory, Tissa.

You will live in our hearts for ever.

By Champika Ramani Dias

 


Nation Sunday July 27 2008

Dharmasiri Senanayake the gentleman politician

Eight years ago on July 27th, 2000 the country sadly lost a gentleman politician the like of whom we will rarely see again. He was a man of the highest integrity, genuine humility and absolutely incorruptible. How different from some of the politicians we have in our midst today! He was a rising star in the political firmament which was beckoning him to greater heights and nobler deeds.

Born on March 30th, 1933 he had his primary education in a village school and moved on to Ananda College, the cradle of budding patriots. On completion of his secondary education, he graduated from the Peradeniya University and later the Law College and passed out as an Attorney at Law. That was the platform from which he launched his political career.

I first heard of Mr. Dharmasiri Senanayake when he contested the Dedigama seat at the Parliamentary General Election of 1970. Over the years, Dedigama had been the pocket borough of the late Mr. Dudley Senanayake. In 1970, it required a gallant David to take on Dedigama’s gentle Goliath. It was a fiercely contested election but the two Senanayakes were on the friendliest of terms. The younger Senanayake always showed great respect and regard for the Prime Minister, who in turn, treated the brash young man with avuncular affection, even teasing him saying he was in the wrong party. Although Mr. Dharmasiri Senanayake narrowly lost the election, he was considered the moral victor because of the great fight he gave the seasoned campaigner. Defeat did not discourage this aspiring politician..

Many prestigious posts were offered to him by Prime Minister, the late Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike but Dharmasiri Senanayake, who was always looking for new and challenging pastures; decided to take into his warm embrace the fascinating mistress of Tourism and accepted appointment as the Chairman of the Ceylon Tourist Board. What a Chairman, what a mistress this happy combination proved to be!

I was a Director of the Tourist Board at that time and naturally looked forward to meeting the new Chairman. He breezed into the Board Offices one sunny afternoon captivating everyone with his winsome smile. At that time, we had some pretty unmarried young ladies on the staff of the Board. You could almost hear their hearts twittering as they surveyed the debonair Chairman and soon found out he was an eligible bachelor with no strings attached. In an exuberance of affection they described him as the ‘Ladaru Sabapathy.’

As Director Administration and Travel Trade, I had to work closely with the new Chairman. The day after he assumed duties he told me that the staff should know what sort of a person he was. Tell them that the politics of vindictiveness is definitely not on my agenda. That goes against my grain. All I ask for is their loyalty, co-operation and of course hard work. The staff were relieved to hear this, and throughout the seven momentous years during which he graced the office of Chairman, he had the unstinted co-operation and goodwill of the staff and the entire travel trade.

Mr. Dharmasiri Senanayake’s greatest asset was that he was not shy to confess that he was a novice, when it came to unravelling the intricacies of international travel. With that disarming statement he could draw out the best in the staff and the professionals in the travel industry. He had the marvelous gift of quick comprehension and receptiveness. By sheer dint of hard work involving voluminous reading, participation at workshops, seminars and international conferences he worked his way into the hearts of the fastidious international, travel community. They spoke of him with warmth and affection calling him ‘Dharmasiri’ with an accent that made his name sound pleasingly musical. .

Mr. Senanayake’s disposition was such that, in all the years I have known him, I have never seen him genuinely angry. On one occasion, an employee of the Tourist Board who had committed an offence was hauled up before him. He tried to look very angry and when it came to admonishing the offender words came to him with difficulty. After the employee had left his office he asked me to give him a bit of my mind and let him off leniently because he said “These chaps are poor and sometimes yield to temptation. In their battle to make ends meet, who wouldn’t?” That was the true measure of the man: a warm heart, deep compassion and a genuine sympathy for the less fortunate. No wonder everyone who had experienced his kindness loved him and held him in the highest esteem.

He was not only a wonderful superior and a brilliant administrator but also a steadfast friend. I had personal experience of this when he went out of his way to espouse my cause for an overseas appointment which was legitimately due to me. He said he was doing this as a matter of principle, because a deserving officer should not be unfairly treated on frivolous allegations. He left no stone unturned in his efforts to help me although he had known me only for a few months. All his efforts failed. As in his case destiny had far bigger things in store for me. He was absolutely fearless in his convictions because he had nothing to fear. Being a politician of outstanding integrity he had no skeletons in his cupboard. He was never dogmatic and was always a robust champion of healthy change.

After seven eventful years as Chairman of the Tourist Board he decided to contest the Dedigama seat once again at the Parliamentary General Election of 1977. Victory eluded him on this occasion as well. There was a change of Government and Mr. Senanayake reverted to a very lucrative legal practice. Such are the ways of an inscrutable destiny that he had to wait until 1989, to achieve his long cherished dream of being a Member of Parliament. He became the Opposition’s Spokesman on Tourism and Civil Aviation matters (Shadow Cabinet Minister) and his contributions in the House were always treated with great respect. Often his ideas were adopted by the Government of the day.

When I was the Sri Lanka High Commissioner in Canada in 1991, I was called upon to represent Sri Lanka at the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organisation held in Argentina. There were several hard boiled professionals who had known Mr. Senanayake in the days when he was Chairman of the Tourist Board. One lady who was obviously enamored with him even wanted to know whether he was still a bachelor. This was understandable, because the elusive, affable and amiable bachelor had the knack of leaving behind him a trail of aching hearts!

After the General Election of 1994, he was appointed Minister of Tourism and Aviation in the Government of Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunge. In this capacity, the Hon. Dharmasiri Senanayake led the tourist industry to heights which were hitherto thought to be beyond its reach. He brought into this vital portfolio a fund of knowledge garnered over the years, a balanced judgment and a penetrating insight into the future of the international travel industry.

He was easily the most popular Minister in Parliament. His astute wisdom and his spicy wit coupled with his innate graciousness endured him to all sections of Parliament regardless of their political affiliations. When the votes of the Tourism Ministry was taken up for discussion during the Budget debate everyone without exception paid a glowing tribute to him and exhorted him to continue his efforts to add a new meaning and purpose to this important industry. He accepted all this with a boyish blush of gratitude.

In December 1998, he was unanimously elected to the highly prestigious post of Chairman of the Executive Committee of the World Tourism Organisation. The WTO benefited immensely from his mature wisdom and his proven ability to hold a team together despite divergent opinions and ingrained beliefs.

He was an unrelenting advocate of the view that tourism development should be consonant with the social, cultural and environment priorities of a country. The World Tourism Organisation unanimously endorsed his view. He was one of the finest Chairmen of the Executive Committee of that prestigious body.

Writing about one of his illustrious contemporaries, Sir Winston Churchill has said, “His manner was so gentle, so sweetly reasonable, so matter of fact and so clothed in sensitivity that there was always in him the glow of conviction and an appeal that was instinctive and priceless. He believed that healthy debate was the flame that brought great ideas together. It required fuel to feed it, motives to excite it and a true leader to brighten it. He provided all that and much more.”
Those words could well have been written of this great gentlemen politician and administrator whose untimely death eight years ago we commemorate today.


Walter Rupesinghe


Tissa Dias – The best husband ever!

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Tissa, 26th of July 2008 is your 2nd death anniversary

Still we can’t believe or imagine that you have left this world for ever. Every moment in our life we miss you, we remember you, we think about you and we love you.

I can proudly say that I had the best husband a wife can ever get. You shared and helped me in every single thing in our day to day life. I am fond of plants and enjoy gardening as a botany teacher. You always supported and admired that. Later when I was busy and couldn’t find the time, you spend every Sunday in the garden with the plants. When I want to hang ferns and other ornamental plants you were ready with the equipment. That last Sunday when you were gardening, I came to you and told something, and when I turned away to the kitchen you asked me where I was running and to wait a little. You liked my presence in the garden with you. Those memories are sweet and unforgettable.

The first day you came to my place in Panadura after returning from abroad, you gave me three valuable books about indoor plants, vegetables and gardening. You had written to mark that 1st visit to Champi’s home on the books given and signed on the indoor plants book which I really enjoyed reading.

You wanted to have sons. So your wish was granted when we were blessed with two sons Supun and Nipun. The Eldest Supun has your facial features, voice smile, talk and friendly type behaviour.. Younger son Nipun has your body shape, structure, walk, the way you stand, and your handwriting. Sometimes they look just like you. On the day of your funeral, at the cemetery when Prof. Ranjith came to me, I told him “your friend has gone for ever”. Then he replied, “Tissa has given you two sons and gone.” Then I realised the value of our precious sons..

Both of us shared a number of common interests; songs and films are a few of them. I can remember just three months before your demise, how you enjoyed my staff get together which was held at Chrishanthi’s place. You mixed well with all my friends and their spouses. That day when we were singing, several times you shouted and called my name saying you knew all the songs.

You had a good collection of old favourite songs of every singer in Sinhala as well as Hindi. Everyday after dinner you liked to listen to those songs. The day before your death you were sitting in the verandah and I was on my way to my kitchen. You said, “I feel lazy”. Then I said, “ go and listen to a song”.

That last day, our younger son, myself and you went together by car as usual. That day me eldest son was at home. You were talking about our car which was serviced the previous day and wanted to sell it. You asked me what was the date and we went up to the Galle Road,. When I was getting down I said give a call to elder son who was at home, and return early. These were my usual last requests to him each day. So you have had the conversation with elder son over the phone. No one realised these are the last moments of our happy life.

Now life is not the same and life is tough. Now I understand life does not belong to us. Your 50th birthday, our 20th anniversary and my 50th birthday all important events in our lives have passed without you. If you were here for these events what happy moments they would have been.

Your untimely departure is felt by everyone who you associated with. Everyday your office friends remember you. They remember the help, support, guidance, friendship you gave and your remarkable jokes. When people tell your good qualities I feel you are with us. I realise your life is a good example for others.. No. one will forget your memory Tissa. You live in our hearts for ever.


- Champika Ramani Dias


HERBERT COORAY

Rabindranath Tagore did put it aptly; “death is the stamp that gives value to the coin of life.” Having been the Founder and Chairman of Jetwing, the value of Herbert Cooray’s work is bound to take precedence over the man he was, in the final reckoning. However, it would hardly do justice to the task.
I first got to know Herbert Cooray when his son Hiran and I were 10-year olds in school. Even then, Uncle Herbert and I struck a great conversation. At least, so I thought. Now I realise that he was just being kind! Later, I had the opportunity of working with him in the early days of my enterprise… again, I am sure he was being kind in commissioning my services! We once toured the Middle East with the late Lakshman Kadiragamar when the latter was the Foreign Minister.
Thus, I am fortunate to have known Herbert Cooray well, and seen him in action in his many roles from entrepreneur and leader to husband, father, friend, brother and son over a continuous period spanning nearly 4 decades.

The enterprise he has built and his pioneering moves in the early days of Sri Lanka’s foray into tourism are well known. However, little would most know the grit and determination with which he undertook his task. The buck stopped with him both metaphorically and literally for the better part of the first two decades of Jetwing. Yet he did not fear to focus, invest and reinvest relentlessly in Sri Lanka’s tourism industry. He did so in the best of times and the worst of times. What he did is there for the senses of mortal beings to perceive. Yet, how he did it, is a sweet waft in the portals of time. To have achieved what he achieved or endured what he endured in any other way but the fair, just, truthful and honest way that he chose, would have relegated their value to a minuscule. That these qualities in an entrepreneur were hardly celebrated in the world that he lived in, did not discourage him either. His example has inspired the next generation and the many top professionals who lead the vast Jetwing enterprise. He was indeed a happy man in the twilight of his life, to see Jetwing forging ahead, whilst holding true to the high ideals he built into its foundation.

Uncle Herbert and Aunty Josephine’s devotion to each other was remarkable. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary a year ago. Celebrations were never glitzy affairs in the Cooray home. They preferred the quiet company of each other, often with their children, grand children, close friends and long standing professionals of Jetwing who were very much a part of the family, and in and out of their open house.

Friendships were by no means on the surface. Uncle Herbert had a set of close friends, the majority of whom predeceased him. In their day, they were a spirited lot who met unfailingly. Uncle Herbert particularly, loved a good old sing-song. He was also full of humorous anecdotes with his own brand of witty humour, spiced with varying degrees of wryness.

During major growth phases, he would put everything on the line from his reputation down to his last shirt… as entrepreneurs typically do in the name of calculated risk taking (in his case with a good dose of intuition). Yet, he had the knack of living life with its lightness. I can’t remember seeing him rushed, despite the busy and never ending schedules in the peak of his working days. His imposing physique, nonchalant manner and few words uttered in a characteristic baritone staccato, made him an unique personality.

The Herbert Cooray philosophy is as paradoxical as it is multifaceted. Here was a man who was a socialist at heart with the head of a capitalist. As a young university student he was inspired by the likes of Trotsky, Lenin, Marx and Castro. He was a close associate of the Leftist stalwart Philip Gunawardena. However, this was more than a passing fancy of a University student, as would be evident in the frugal lifestyle he opted for and his quest for social justice. His intellectual honesty made him a strong influence on those who came under his stewardship. This is most evident in the paths that his son Hiran and daughter Shiromal have chosen to tread. As a father, he had a subtle ministry over his children.

Thank you, Uncle Herbert, for being my inspiration, mentor and true friend. May your soul find eternal happiness!


Vijith Kannangara


The Sunday Leader July 30 2008

Appreciation

J.A. Pereira

Joseph Augustine Pereira fondly called ‘Achin’ by family and friends who passed away a couple of days ago was one of the most genial persons I knew.

A devout Catholic, the son of the Dewan Bahadur Chevalier I.X. Pereira many are the institutions of the Church which benefited from his benevolence. He was a godfather to many who came to him in their times of need. His pockets seemed to have no bottom to those who appealed to him for help. His time and advice, he gave freely to those who sought it

He followed in his father’s footsteps in the business world. After the import control restrictions in the 1960s hit the family business he struck out on his own securing many international agencies. He later helped his family to regain control of the shipping agency business, which under his guidance they have built in to a huge logistics conglomerate, the Pership Group. He was one of the pioneers of the Jaycees movement in Sri Lanka and remained a senator to the end.

Beryl his wife, will miss him greatly as will his many friends. I was extremely fortunate to have known him and met him after many years when I visited Colombo recently.

May his soul rest in peace

Dave Labrooy 


Sunday Times July 20 2008

A top-brass boss who was tops in every way

Air Chief Marshal Harry Goonetilleke

By Wing Commander E. H. Ohlmus (SLAF Retd)

Since Air Chief Marshal Harry Goonetilleke’s demise, on April 11, 2008, there have been appreciations and eulogies extolling his achievements as sportsman, administrator, pilot and Commander. However, there is another side of “AVM Harry” (as he was affectionately known among those of us who were close to him).

He was an amiable, simple and very approachable person. He was a good boss and, as the cliché goes, “he never showed it, nor did we ever forget it”. Arrogance, snobbery, guile and duplicity were alien to him. He never hesitated to call a spade a spade when it was necessary or expedient to do so.

He was also a caring man who was very much concerned with his family and his friends, in spite of his onerous responsibilities in all his senior postings. He was Officer Commanding Administration and subsequently Commanding Officer SLAF Bases at Katunayake and China Bay, and later Director of Operations and Chief of Staff.

I remember the amount of time he spent with his children during their schooling. I often wondered from where he got all that energy and enthusiasm. He worked tirelessly for the Air Force; he was a dutiful and loving family man; he spent hours on the sports field, and he found time for recreation and relaxation with friends and colleagues in the Officers’ Mess or at his home.

He was a workaholic, an able administrator with an impeccable command of English. He was also a good manager of men, a great friend and a good bridge player. May I venture here to boldly say that he never interfered with his subordinates, as to how they got on with their assigned duties. He relied heavily on those in whom he had confidence, and he knew “the job would be done”. And to so many, within the service and without, he proved he was more than a worthy friend and guide.

Having been associated with AVM Harry for well nigh 47 years, 20 of which were as a subordinate, I am happy, and indeed proud, to pen these few words about a good human being. His doughty frame was symbolic of his character and his steadfast belief in truth, justice and unblemished professional conduct.

Back in 1978, the Air Force obtained from the Forest Department a consignment of 15,000 pine and eucalyptus saplings for transplanting on the hills of Diyatalawa, in the direction of Fox Hill. The lush forest we see today overlooking the beautiful SLAF Camp at Diyatalawa is in no small way the result of his foresight. Perhaps some day this forest reserve will be named after him.

He and his cousin Lanka de Silva, both Royalists, were co-organisers of the first ever Royal-Thomian Limited Overs Cricket Fixture, in March 1975. As president of the Ceylon Society of Rugby Football Referees, he put into place an infrastructure for upgrading the standard of refereeing. He himself was an A Grade referee. As Chairman, Defence Services Rugby, he worked tirelessly to raise the standard of the game in the three Armed Services.

The Air Chief Marshal was always happy in the company of his friends and loved ones. He was jovial and fun-loving, and he had a fine sense of humour, even when someone “pulled his leg”!

He was a livewire whenever there was a party, especially get-togethers for ex-Air Force officers. It was he who would start the ball rolling with his jokes and humorous reminiscences. On November 27, 2004, a large gathering of family and friends and distinguished persons, joined AVM Harry to celebrate his 75th birthday.

AVM Harry was a devout Buddhist who practised his faith unobtrusively. He did not believe in any outward manifestation of ritual, and those of us who “worked under his nose”, so to speak, saw in him the four virtues of Loving Kindness, Compassion, Altruistic Joy and Equanimity.

Being human also means having faults. As much as all of us have our own individual faults, so did he. But it was never in doubt that he was a good, sincere, large-hearted and friendly man. It was my privilege to directly serve under his command, and I can do no better than recall the words of my friend and colleague, Squadron Leader JTR “Rex” Fernando, who said that the Air Chief Marshal was like “a comet that blazed across our skies, leaving a trail of luminescence which passing time can hardly erase.”

You will always be remembered, Sir!

 


Trying to fill an empty canvas

Colonel Fazly Laphir

In memory of Colonel Fazly Laphir, PWV, RWP, RSP, Commanding Officer, 1st Regiment Special Forces, who died in action on July 19, 1996 while on a rescue mission in Mullaitivu

My Dearest, Darling Fazly

Crimson sun sets over the ocean,
Full moon over the silver waves,
Lonely traveller in the midnight train,
Sky highlights in darkest sights.

Prem Joshua plays in place of the birds,
Basho, Rumi and Tagore inspire my world,
Have it all I have dreamt of to fulfil the dream,
Yet something is missing – it’s nothing but you.

Lonely empty canvas awaiting my touch
Stands on the easel. I pick up my brush,
I try to find the form in the void,
And then I find the void in the form.

Your ever-loving Ano

 


A great entrepreneur who was a socialist at heart

HERBERT COORAY

By Vijith Kannangara

Rabindranath Tagore put it aptly when he wrote: “Death is the stamp that gives value to the coin of life”. In the final reckoning, the work of the late Herbert Cooray, founder and chairman of Jetwing, is bound to take precedence over the life. However, this would not do justice to the man he was.

I first got to know Herbert Cooray when his son Hiran and I were 10-year-olds in school. Uncle Herbert and I struck up a great friendship. Later, I had the opportunity of working with him in the early days of my enterprise. We once toured the Middle East with the late Lakshman Kadirgamar, when the latter was Foreign Minister.

I am fortunate to have known Herbert Cooray and seen him in action in his many roles, from entrepreneur and leader to husband, father, friend, brother and son –all over a continuous period spanning nearly four decades.

The enterprise he built and his pioneering moves in the early days of Sri Lanka’s tourism are well known. However, few would be aware of the grit and determination with which he undertook his task. The buck stopped with him, both metaphorically and literally, for the better part of the first two decades of Jetwing. He did not fear to focus, invest and reinvest in Sri Lanka’s tourism industry. He did so in the best of times and the worst of times.

He achieved what he achieved and endured what he endured in a fair, just, truthful and honest way. His example has inspired the next generation, and the professionals leading the vast Jetwing enterprise.
Uncle Herbert and Aunty Josephine’s devotion to each other was remarkable. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary a year ago. Celebrations in the Cooray home were never glitzy affairs. They preferred to celebrate in a quiet way, with their children, grandchildren, close friends and long-standing professionals at Jetwing, who were very much a part of the family, both in and out of their open house.
Uncle Herbert had a set of close friends, the majority of whom predeceased him. In their day, they were a spirited lot. Uncle Herbert loved a good old sing-song. He was also full of humorous anecdotes, with his own brand of humour, spiced with varying degrees of wryness.

During the major growth phases of his enterprise, he would put everything on the line, from his reputation to his last shirt. He had a knack for living life with a touch of lightness. I never remember seeing him rushed, even at the busiest of times.

He had an imposing physique and a nonchalant manner. He was also a man of few words, and when he did speak, he spoke in a characteristic baritone staccato. He was a unique personality.

The Herbert Cooray philosophy is as paradoxical as it is multi-faceted. Here was a man who was a socialist at heart but with the mind of a capitalist. As a university student, he was inspired by the likes of Trotsky, Lenin, Marx and Castro. He was a close associate of the Leftist stalwart Philip Gunawardena. He opted for a frugal lifestyle and he believed in social justice. His intellectual honesty made him a strong influence on those who came under his stewardship. This is most evident in the paths that his son Hiran and daughter Shiromal have chosen to tread. As a father, he had a subtle ministry over his children.

Thank you, Uncle Herbert, for being my inspiration, mentor and true friend. May your soul find eternal happiness.


 

 

Nation July 20, 2008

Loss of great spiritual leader - Let us follow her Path

 

We have lost a great guru and guide of outstanding and unique calibre.
She created a religious renaissance from Tellippillai and her life is a chapter to be written in letters of gold letters in the history of Hindus by Thevathirumagal Sivathamilz Selvi Dr. Thangammah Appacutty, who was a Hindu Spiritual Leader in Jaffna, helping the needy children and elderly people and teaching religious values and morals not only to people in Jaffna but to all Hindus worldwide, passed away at the age of 83 on July 15, 2008 (Sunday) at 12.15 p.m.

The Tamil Devotional Classic Puranam or ‘The Great Epic’ by Sekkirzhaar is the saga of the sixty three Nayanars or Servitors of the Lord, who not only lived for Him but adored Him in delightfully distinct ways. In that lineage, Sri La Sri Arumuga Navalar who has been recognised by all Sri Lankans and the government as one of the national heroes; is regarded as the sixty fourth Nayanar. Sri Lanka and Jaffna, in particular, starved for several years without a successor to that great Nayanar. This vacuum was filled by a great lady, who has been a mother to all of us. That was ‘Thirumagal’ Sivathamilz Selvi Dr. Thangammah Appacutty.

Professor Dr. T. N. Ramachandran, a renowned authority on Saiva Sitthanthan in Tamil Nadu once said in his tribute that he hailed Dr. Thangamma Appacutty as a lady of ‘Periya Puranam.’ It is not only her knowledge but her yeoman dedicated service that acquired for her that praise. Dr. Thangammah was given several titles and honours including the titles of ‘Sivagnana Viththagar’ at the 25th anniversary of All Ceylon Hindu Congress, ‘Theiva Thirumagal’ at the Golden Jubilee of All Ceylon Hindu Congress, Honorary Doctorate by the University of Jaffna and ‘Kalasuri’ by the Government of Sri Lanka, the Global Award for the best service by a Hindu by the Hawaii Shri Subramania Swamigal Ashram, USA.

‘Theiva Thirumagal’ was a title bestowed on her by the All Ceylon Hindu Congress (Federation of Hindu Religious Associations and Trusts) when it held a Hindu Religious Conference in July 2005 to commemorate its Golden Jubilee. ‘Theivam’ means the God, ‘Thiru’ means sacred, ‘magal’ means daughter. Yes, she was really a divine daughter who came to be born in Jaffna in 1925 and remain as a servant to mankind. She dedicated her life to serve others.

The trials and tribulations she cheerfully underwent, particularly in the nineties and the incredible sacrifices she made in her service to mankind in the name of Sakthi takes our breath away. Looking at her life history is to inhale the air of sanctity and blessedness.
Having commenced her career as a teacher in Batticaloa, moving to Colombo and thereafter settling in her own village Tellippillai, this unique Divine Daughter led the reconstruction of the famous Amman Kovil, Tellippllai. Durga Amman Kovil is one of the well known places of worship for Hindus. She did not just remain as a glorified trustee of a temple, but instead, she went round the world and lectured on teachings of our religion and spread the message that service to mankind is a real prayer to the Almighty.

She created a laudable renaissance by spearheading a social service movement from the temple to help the needy children and the elderly people in numerous ways. It was the innovation brought in by Siva Thamilz Selvi to our society. Her goal was to serve the needy people as part of her worship to the Almighty and she succeeded in that and set an example for all of us.

The first lesson we Hindus learn from our religion is that Love is God. Loving the Almighty should be only for the sake of love and not for any reward. Saint Thirumoolar has sung in Thirumanthiram that Love and+ God are the same. Sir Pon. Arunachalam has given (as follows) in English those words of wisdom:-

“The ignorant call Love
and Siva two different objects
No one knows that Love
and Siva are both the same
If one knows that Love is Siva
one will abide in grace
the form of Love and Siva.”

The archaeological studies of Hindu Temples in Tamil Nadu established that community life was built around the Kovils. Even the cities came to be built in that way. Educational, Cultural and Social services originated from the Kovils. The best example thereof is Madurai Meenatchi Amman temple.

Our Thanga Amma (meaning ‘Golden Mother’) gave life to that concept in Tellippillai. Her services were an example and eye opener for our people. Hindus all over the world appreciated her services.
Thus, she created a new history by propagating the morals and ideals of our religion not only through her teachings but by her service.

‘It is said that all good things are material to those who know their duty and walk the path of perfect good.’ - (Translation of Thirukkural 981).

Her life is a good interpretation of this Kural.
She was the indispensable Mother to our children in the time of crisis. She did not run away from the problems she faced in Jaffna due to the unfortunate situation. When Tellippillai was affected by the war, she moved with her home’s children and elders and gave them shelter in various places. Her courage and determination is admirable. One of her children who was brought up by Thamilz Selvi in her young days in one of her homes said Thamilz Slevi looked after her and her children as if they were her own children and she cried. Even I could not resist the tears that came to my eyes. She has really created a vacuum in our society.

Our Thanga Amma rose to be a courageous leader of our community and taught all of us that our religion is not meant only for temple worship but also for service to others who are also the children of our God and we can pray to God through such service too.

The noble path shown by our divine mother should penetrate into our society and its culture and remain and take our society further and further on that path.
Kandiah Neelakandan
General Secretary
All Ceylon Hindu Congress
Federation of Hindu Religious
Associations and Trusts in Sri Lanka


Literary genius S. A. Wijeytilaka

The 37th death anniversary of S. A. Wijetilaka fell on June 22. He was the fifth in a family of nine. His father served as the Headmaster of several schools in Matale and was popularly know as S.M.P. (S. M. Perera)

S. A Wijetilaka was known as Ariyaratna (Ari to his friends, colleagues and relatives) Ari started his schooling at the Buddhist Institute (Now Vijaya College). After a few years he joined the well known Christ Church School. Having completed his education at Matale he joined St. John’s College, Panadura. After passing the seventh standard, he joined Ananda College, Colombo.

He had a brilliant career at Ananda. Here he won several prizes and steadily built up a good library. He was particularly good in English, Latin, Greek and History. He joined the University College in 1921, when Professor Mars was the Principal.

He passed his B.A (London) obtaining a First Class. Incidentally, he was the first graduate that Matale produced. Although he could have obtained a lucrative post under the government he chose teaching as a career. The other brothers took to the practice of law.

His first appointment was at Dharmaraja College, Kandy. After a short period, he joined Ananda College, Colombo, at the request of P. D. S. Kularatna. After Kularatna founded Nalanda Vidyalaya he joined Nalanda and got married while at Nalanda.
From Nalanda, he was transferred back to Dharmaraja College, Kandy as Vice Principal. When L. H. Mettananda became the Principal of Ananda, he was appointed as Principal of Dharmaraja, in which capacity he served for nearly eight years. He resided at ‘Lake View’ the official quarters of the Principal. It was a place from where the entire Kandy town could be seen. When the post of Principal Ananda College fell vacant, he was the popular choice. It was with the greatest reluctance that he joined Ananda as he loved the idyllic situation of ‘Lake View.’ After his retirement from Anand,a he functioned as a member of several boards and commissions. He had a fearless and independent outlook on life and his speeches at different functions depicted his fearless personality.

At Dharmaraja College he was my English teacher and later my Principal. He was the greatest influence in my life. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was forced to study at different schools for very short periods; as a result, no other teacher in any other school was able to exert any influence on me.

All his pupils had the highest respect for him and they used to proudly proclaim that they studied at Ananda, Nalanda and Dharmaraja during the ‘Wijetilaka Era.’ He was a literary colossus almost a literary computer.
G. H. I. De Zoysa
Gampola.


Rev. Fr. Glen Fernando (CSSR)

Champion of the oppressed and downtrodden

Time dims the memory and with numerous problems confronting us in our daily work. Regrettably, we as a nation generally forget even extraordinary persons once they cross the great divide. However there are some persons who by their exemplary lives, amazing charisma, and significant contribution to society leave an indelible imprint in our hearts and minds. Memories of such persons linger for ever, One such person was Rev. Fr. Glen Fernando, who passed away on July 4, 2007 at the age of 67.
Fr. Glen was a martyr for truth, freedom, human rights and human dignity. A Redemptorist priest who literally adored the Redemptorist community and the Catholic Church, living upto the ideals and holy ethics of his priesthood which he abundantly and manifestly demonstrated by his exemplary life. He has left behind a luminescence that passing time can hardly erase. He was a great and extraordinary man.

Fr. Glen did not confine himself to the main stream of parochial activities. He ministered to all, irrespective of religious and other differences. He was a social apostle of national standing, especially building conviction among the various communities. He was committed to social action and change of society that is just and true. He continuously exhorted Christians to understand people of other faiths. He would often refer to the famous words of Jonathan Swift “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another”.

He was a multi-faceted personality, deeply religious, well read, a social worker, championing the cause of the oppressed and down trodden. A thinker with an incisive mind, he was also a very articulate preacher. His sermons were often not on aspects of intricate theology. Scripture was brought to life with moral lessons from his experiences of day to day living. He was able to speak simply and clearly, interjecting with humor, which held congregations spellbound.

Rev. Fr. Glen he was a rare personality; he could associate with beggars and kings with absolute equanimity, a rare trait which drew people to him. His heart though was very much with the poor; those both materially and spiritually, and the downtrodden. His religious piety, exemplary and ethical conduct, integrity and high moral values left an indelible impression on all those he came into contact with.

Staying true to his teaching and what seemed to be very clearly his mission.
Fr. Glen pursued with tremendous energy, his passion form uplifting the lives of those forgotten and shunned by society, the Lepers. He spent most all his earthly life, on many an occasion neglecting his health, going around the country, making sure that the patients in the leprosy colonies, had a decent lifestyle and that the basics such as education and healthcare were accesible to them. The Society for the Upliftment and Rehabilitation of Lepers (SUROL) was very close to his heart. Fr Glen guided the Society with great dedication and enthusiasm. At the time of his death the Society was caring for approximately 500 persons with leprosy, with the love and care that was incomparable and undoubtedly a conduit of life for this community.

His heart was always with the poor the destitute, and the young spiritual dropouts. By his exemplary life style and accessibility, he was such a shining example of character that he was able to bring many youth, who had strayed away, back to the fold. His understanding of the problems of modern living helped bring together many young couples who had separated or were on the verge of separation.

Fr Glen, you left a blazing trail, not through the pursuit of fame, fortune, or recognition that most of us are embroiled in, in our earthly pursuits. Yours was one of service, and contribution Father. Many lives have breathed easier because you graced this earth for 67 glorious years. We thank God for that and long for more of you, more so those 500 people whom loved you so much. God knew best though and took you back to be with him in his glorious Kingdom.

Rex Fernando


The Sunday Leader July 20 2008

Appreciation

Herbert Cooray

Rabindranath Tagore did put it aptly; "Death is the stamp that gives value to the coin of life." Having been the Founder and Chairman of Jetwing, the value of Herbert Cooray's work is bound to take precedence over the man he was, in the final reckoning. However, it would hardly do justice to the task.

I first got to know Herbert Cooray when his son Hiran and I were 10-year olds in school. Even then, Uncle Herbert and I struck a great conversation. At least, so I thought. Now I realise that he was just being kind! Later, I had the opportunity of working with him in the early days of my enterprise. again, I am sure he was being kind in commissioning my services! We once toured the Middle East with the late Lakshman Kadirgamar when the latter was the foreign minister.

Thus, I am fortunate to have known Herbert Cooray well, and seen him in action in his many roles from entrepreneur and leader to husband, father, friend, brother and son over a continuous period spanning nearly four decades.

The enterprise he has built and his pioneering moves in the early days of Sri Lanka's foray into tourism are well known. However, little would most know of the grit and determination with which he undertook his task.

The buck stopped with him both metaphorically and literally for the better part of the first two decades of Jetwing. Yet he did not fear to focus, invest and reinvest relentlessly in Sri Lanka's tourism industry. He did so in the best of times and the worst of times. What he did are there for the senses of mortal beings to perceive. Yet, how he did it, is a sweet waft in the portals of time. To have achieved what he achieved or endured what he endured in any other way but the fair, just, truthful and honest way that he chose would have relegated their value to a minuscule.

That these qualities in an entrepreneur were hardly celebrated in the world that he lived in, did not discourage him either. His example has inspired the next generation and the many top professionals who lead the vast Jetwing enterprise. He was indeed a happy man in the twilight of his life, to see Jetwing forging ahead, whilst holding true to the high ideals he built into its foundation.

Uncle Herbert and Aunty Josephine's devotion to each other was remarkable. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary a year ago. Celebrations were never glitzy affairs in the Cooray home. They preferred the quiet company of each other, often with their children, grand children, close friends and long standing professionals of Jetwing who were very much a part of the family, and in and out of their open house.

Friendships were by no means on the surface. Uncle Herbert had a set of close friends, the majority of whom predeceased him. In their day, they were a spirited lot who met unfailingly. Uncle Herbert particularly loved a good old sing-song. He was also full of humorous anecdotes with his own brand of witty humour, spiced with varying degrees of wryness.

During major growth phases, he would put everything on the line from his reputation down to his last shirt. as entrepreneurs typically do in the name of calculated risk taking (in his case with a good dose of intuition). Yet, he had the knack of living life with its lightness. I can't remember seeing him rushed despite the busy and never ending schedules in the peak of his working days. His imposing physique, nonchalant manner and few words uttered in a characteristic baritone staccato, made him a unique personality.

The Herbert Cooray philosophy is paradoxical as it is multifaceted. Here was a man who was a socialist at heart with the head of a capitalist. As a young university student he was inspired by the likes of Trotsky, Lenin, Marx and Castro. He was a close associate of the Leftist stalwart Philip Gunawardena. However, this was more than a passing fancy of a university student, as would be evident in the frugal lifestyle he opted for and his quest for social justice.

His intellectual honesty made him a strong influence on those who came under his stewardship.  This is most evident in the paths that his son Hiran and daughter Shiromal have chosen to tread. As a father, he had a subtle ministry over his children.

Thank you Uncle Herbert for being my inspiration, mentor and true friend. May your soul find eternal happiness.

Vijith Kannangara 


LakbimaNews July 20, 2008

Herbert Cooray

Rabindranath Tagore did put it aptly, “Death is the stamp that gives value to the coin of life”. Having been the founder and chairman of Jetwing, the value of Herbert Cooray’s work is bound to take precedence over the man he was, in the final reckoning. However, it would hardly do justice to the task.
I first got to know Herbert Cooray when his son Hiran and I were 10-year olds in school. Even then, Uncle Herbert and I struck up great conversation. At least, so I thought. Now I realise that he was just being kind! Later, I had the opportunity of working with him in the early days of my enterprise... again, I am sure he was being kind in commissioning my services! We once toured the Middle East with the late Lakshman Kadirgamar when the latter was the foreign minister.


The enterprise he has built and his pioneering moves in the early days of Sri Lanka’s foray into tourism are well-known. However, little would most know of the grit and determination with which he undertook his task. The buck stopped with him both metaphorically and literally for the better part of the first two decades of Jetwing. Yet he did not fear to focus, invest and reinvest relentlessly in Sri Lanka’s tourism industry. He did so in the best of times and the worst of times. What he did are there for the senses of mortal beings to perceive. Yet, how he did it, is a sweet waft in the portals of time. To have achieved what he achieved or endured what he endured in any other way but the fair, just, truthful and honest way that he chose would have relegated their value to a minuscule. That these qualities in an entrepreneur were hardly celebrated in the world that he lived in, did not discourage him either. His example has inspired the next generation and the many top professionals who lead the vast Jetwing enterprise. He was indeed a happy man in the twilight of his life, to see Jetwing forging ahead, whilst holding true to the high ideals he built into its foundation.


Friendships were by no means on the surface. Uncle Herbert had a set of close friends, the majority of whom predeceased him. In their day, they were a spirited lot who met unfailingly. Uncle Herbert particularly, loved a good old sing-song. He was also full of humorous anecdotes with his own brand of witty humour.


His intellectual honesty made him a strong influence on those who came under his stewardship. This is most evident in the paths that his son Hiran and daughter Shiromal have chosen to tread. As a father, he had a subtle ministry over his children.
Thank you, Uncle Herbert for being my inspiration, mentor and true friend. May your soul find eternal happiness.

Vijith Kannangara


Sunday Times July 13 2008

A visionary, gentleman and above all great friend

Dhammika Gunaratne

During our journey through life we meet travellers of all types and description; many we ignore and pass while some we acknowledge and join for a brief sojourn. A few become fellow travellers and share the journey. Dhammika was one of them.

I first met Dhammika in 1969 when we were both freshmen at Peradeniya. The acquaintance grew into a lasting friendship when both of us were selected to do sociology in the second year. We later went our own ways in the third year, with Dhammika opting to do commerce and I continuing with sociology. Yet our friendship remained as strong as ever till that fateful Saturday, June 14, this year.

Dhammika was a product of Ambalangoda Dharmasoka College, the premier Buddhist institution of learning in the South. He excelled in sports and represented the school in Badminton, TT and Basketball. As an undergraduate too, he pursued his interests and represented the university at both national and international levels. He also captained the University of Peradeniya team for two successive years, an achievement that has only occasionally been equalled but never bettered. He also excelled in studies getting through his finals with honours.

He was perhaps the gentlest person I have ever known, always soft spoken and never uttered a bad word about anybody. He was also a patient man and good listener -something that one needs in a friend and Dhammika was indeed a friend in the fullest sense of the word. He was also a rare individual who had the ability to relate to people and make them feel comfortable anytime, anywhere.

Dhammika was a visionary. With all the qualifications and skills he possessed he could have done a cushy well paid job in air conditioned comfort, like many of my batchmates who did Chartered Accountancy after graduation but he did not want to take the easy path. Instead he went into business, built a company from scratch and established a name in the confectionery industry. Daintee Toffee Limited which marked the beginning of his entrepreneurial adventure, is not only the market leader in the confectionery sector today but also the core business of a dynamic and expanding group of diversified companies. I know that he did not do all this only for his sake but for others as well. He always wanted to be of service to others.

He was not your everyday entrepreneur. His love for his workers was well-known. He always attended to their problems personally and they were not workers to him but part of his extended family. They were sons and daughters to him and in fact he always addressed them so. In the week prior to his untimely death, he had been busy attending to the needs of some of his employees who got caught in the Dehiwala bomb blast. On the day of his demise he was to attend a funeral of one of the employees who had been injured in the blast and later died in hospital. It was not to be. Fate instead decided that he also had to join that employee on a final journey.

I sometimes feel Dhammika had a premonition about what was to happen. In February this year he contacted me to say that he was coming to Kandy with some of our batchmates and asked me to organize a place for the weekend. We spent a memorable weekend in Peradeniya and Dhammika enjoyed himself thoroughly. He also visited the gymnasium, a place where he collected many a trophy during his student days. Though it was a Sunday we managed to get the office opened and Dhammika had the opportunity to share some memorabilia with all of us. Recalling the joy in his eyes that day I am happy that he had the opportunity to share those brief moments with us. We talked about our days in Peradeniya and about what he was doing in Australia, his family and also his business. He was full of enthusiasm and shared his dreams with me and what he wanted to do on returning from Australia, which for him was only a temporary abode for the sake of the children. Sadly these dreams never materialised.

Dhammika called me again about a month ago to invite me to Colombo for an event his company was sponsoring on TV. He wanted some of his batchmates he knew at Peradeniya to share this occasion with him. As I had another engagement I had to excuse myself but promised to see him in Colombo soon or else in October the month we invariably met for our annual reunion of the 69 batch. I did see him sooner than that but not in the manner anyone of us expected.

Dhammika will be sadly missed by those of us who knew him in Peradeniya, when we have our next batch get-together in October. He always came down from Australia for these meetings.

We Buddhists want our dear departed friend to have a happy and blissful after-life, ending in Nirvana. In the case of Dhammika, maybe one is allowed to make an exception and wish that he be born with us at least once more before ending the journey through samsara. It is a purely selfish thought but we need more like Dhammika and not one less.

Sisira Pinnawala

 


I am still walking, but without you

Yasothera Balabaskara

My dearest aunt, I am now walking down a long path, but this time not holding your hand as we used to do when I was a kid, but down memory lane, recalling the lovely days I enjoyed with you and my dearest Uncle, and Shankari, Gajen and Rabin, your most precious children.

Can you remember the days my brother and I used to gather at your home and decorate the Christmas tree, pinning cards on the curtain and wrapping presents? You used to make us lovely puddings and sweets. You made a lovely dress of the same design for me and Shankari and gave me the one with the better hue! I recall the lovely books you used to read to us when we were young, and how you would question us and laugh at the funny answers we gave. Those were memorable days in Nugegoda, when life was easy and when we used to go for walks, especially during Vesak, admiring the beautiful lanterns and pandals. What a joyous time you shared with us.

The interesting plays we used to act together still linger in my mind. Your sense of creativity triumphed with a beautiful tail you made for Rabin, stuffing a sock when he acted as an animal. And then what about the Chinese checkers we played together! You always used to support me in any game, wishing me to win. These were the lovely childhood days we spent as one family.

When I was going to do my degree, you told me several times that I should pass with Honours. I achieved this, just as you had wished, obtaining a Class. I tried many a time to tell you this, whenever I visited you in your room, but you were already in the last lap of your final sleep that lasted many years. I was so keen to tell you this, my dearest aunt. However, God has allowed me to convey this news to you in this appreciation. How can I ever forget what you have done for us?

I still have a question, which I ask the Almighty in my prayers: Why do You make the good suffer? After much effort, I realised that we cannot in any way balance our books of accounts without taking into account the Brought-Forward Balance. We have to somehow use it in some way and credit it before we take the Carried Forward Balance to our next athma.

So, you are now on a long journey towards a beautiful destination. I am still walking, but without you. I hope to see you some day at the same destination, where we can share the rest of our jokes. My eyes are misty when I look up at the skies during my walk, but brighten to see the sunshine in your eyes, as you have ended all your pain and suffering and are now in happiness.

Your loving niece

Shivanthi

 


Nation Sunday July 13 2008 

A faithful friend, husband and father
B. H. S. Jayewardene

A few months before Jaye passed away I had intended to let him know how much I esteemed him and his friendship and how much a part of our family legend he was.
Everyone’s death comes as shock- it is part of the pain of mortality.

But from the distance of time and place, Jaye seemed indestructible. And I had not heard of his final illness. Expatriates find it harder to bear the deaths of friends and colleagues because they do not have the consolation of sharing memories with relations and common friends to assuage the sadness.

In the twenty two years that I have been an exile from my homeland dozens of my mates have gone, but this is the first time that I am writing a note of appreciation for one. It has always been hard to express one’s deepest feelings in such circumstances.

Casting my mind over the thirty five years I have known Jaye, and reviewing all the associations of these years, counting all his achievements, there is one word that sums him; faithfulness.
He was primarily a faithful husband, father, and then friend. He was faithful to all his professional commitments. He was faithful to his ideals. He was all of a piece. He was a man of surpassing integrity.

He was also a very wise man. One could go to him for counsel and receive the best considered advice. He would listen with his mind and heart. With his powerful mind and warm heart, and you could sense his mighty intellect trimming the extraneous details and getting to the core. That was part of his legal heritage inherited from the genes of his lawyer father.
What followed was pure Jaye. Having found the solution he offered to help, impulsively, instinctively.

I have struggled against including two personal details and decided to include them.
When my elder son was ten years of age he needed to have some surgery. The nursing home insisted on an initial deposit of Rs I,000 prior to admission. Hardly anyone carries that amount of cash on their persons, (this was thirty years ago.) I rushed to my employers (a Catholic institution). They were less than helpful. I telephoned Jaye. He said “Stay where you are. I’ll come over. “He came with the cash within minutes.

When that same institution where I worked terminated my employment, Jaye visited me at my home that very evening and offered me employment at one of his enterprises on the same salary. Since that time I was associated with him in several of his ventures.
I stood in awe at his daring, at the great sweep of his mind, at great capacity for sheer, grinding hard work, at the skill with which he managed several affairs, while holding high offices in journalism concurrently. Single handedly he offered to handle the Public Relations work for a big international conference held at the Hotel Intercontinental. It ran for three days. He asked me whether 1 would cover it. Alone.

I said “Yes.” When he asked you to do something he infused the confidence that made it seem possible. And there was always that laugh that reduced mountains into molehills.

We produced a daily newspaper with photographs working almost all night on a handset press. It was delivered on the tables of each delegate.

He paid like a prince, putting some huge institutions I have worked for to shame.
When a novel of mine was being serialised in a Sri Lankan paper, he guided its progress with great skill and courtesy. He was the soul of efficiency. His personal office and desk proclaimed his neat mind.
He could relax when he wanted to. He was a lavish host and genial company.
His grasp of economics and politics was unsurpassed as far as I know. He used these skills in his journalistic ventures both locally and internationally.

His modesty was such that it was not well known that Ministers of State and at least one Prime Minister, came to his home to be briefed before making important speeches in Parliament.
He published a monthly digest of news for the diplomatic community, and an annual, with both of which I was slightly and peripherally involved. The latter sold at Rs 500 per copy.
He gave me an insight into his marketing strategy. “It’s easier to sell one copy at Rs. 500 than to sell five hundred copies at one rupee each.”

His accomplishments have been duly noted by the media in the days after his demise.
But the last words on him were those mentioned by his family at the back of the memorial service leaflet.
And that flashing smile on the card said it all.

E. C. T. Candappa
Melbourne


You will always be in our minds…

With a gentle smile and a honest heart
We will never forget what you have done
It brings a tear to our eyes to remember…

Countless lives you saved
Every act you did
Every tear and sweat you shed,
Will be remembered by all
Now draped in white
We stand by you
With memories and tears in our eyes,
Staring at your body
Now lifeless…

So long, until we meet again…..

Navindi Fernandopulle
Negombo


Air Chief Marshal “Harry” Goonetilleke

5th Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force

Since Air Chief Marshal Harry Goonetilleke’s demise, on 11th April 2008, there have been appreciations and eulogies extolling his achievements as a sportsman, administrator, pilot and a Commander. However, there is another side of “AVM Harry” ( as he was affectionately called and referred to by those of us close to him). He was amiable, simple and an easily approachable person. He was a good boss and, ‘he never showed it nor did we ever forget it.’ Arrogance, snobbery, guile and duplicity were words alien to him. He never hesitated to call a spade a spade when it was necessary or expedient to do so. He was also a caring man… who was very concerned about his family and friends, in spite of his onerous responsibilities as; Officer Commanding Administration and subsequently Commanding Officer SLAF Bases at Katunayake and China Bay, and later as Director of Operations and Chief of Staff.

I remember the amount of time he spent with his children during their schooling. I used to often wonder from where he got his energy and enthusiasm to work so tirelessly for the Air Force, be a dutiful and loving family man , spend hours on the sports field and have time for recreation and relaxation with friends and colleagues in the Officers’ Mess or in his home. He was a workaholic, an able administrator with an impeccable command of English -and little known to many, a good manager of men, a great friend and a good bridge player ! May I venture here to boldly say that he never interfered with his subordinates, when carrying out their assigned functions. He relied heavily on those whom he had confidence in, as he knew that ‘ the job would be done.’ And to so many, within the Service and without, he proved that he was more than a worthy friend and guide.

Having been associated with AVM Harry for well nigh 47 years, 20 of which were as a subordinate, I am happy and indeed proud to be able to pen these few words about a good human being. His doughty frame was symbolic of his character and his steadfast belief in truth and justice. He had an unblemished professional conduct. These, I know, stood him in good stead in his career, even in times of disagreement with his peers and superiors.

AVM Harry had a number ‘firsts’. He was the first Ceylonese Air Force officer to get married, the first Commander to have a son who also rose to command the SLAF, the first Director of Operations in the first Air Force Board of Management, the founder of the SLAF Families Association and the founder of the first SLAF Agricultural Detachment at Morawewa.
Way back in 1978 the Air Force obtained from the Forest Department 15,000 Pine and Eucalyptus saplings for transplanting on the hills of Diyatalawa, in the direction of Fox Hill.

The lush forest we see today overlooking the beautiful SLAF Camp at Diyatalawa is in no small way due to his foresight. Maybe someday, this forest reserve will be named after him!

He and his cousin, Lanka de Silva, both Royalists, were the co-organisers of the first ever Royal-Thomian Limited Overs Cricket Fixture in March 1975. As the President of the Ceylon Society of Rugby Football Referees, he put into place an infrastructure for upgrading the quality of refereeing and the knowledge and competence of referees. He himself was an “A” Grade referee. As Chairman Defence Services Rugby he worked tirelessly to improve standards of the game in the three Armed Services.

The ACM was always happy in the company of his friends and loved ones. He was Jovial, fun loving and had a fine sense of humour, even when someone ‘pulled his leg‘!

At a party, especially at ‘get-togethers’ of ex-Air Force Officers, he was a live wire who would start the ball rolling with humorous reminiscences and jokes.
On 27th November 2004 he celebrated his 75th birthday with a large gathering of family and friends and distinguished personages among whom were former Commanders of the 3 Armed Services , Inspectors General of Police and Commanding Officers of SLAF Formations.

AVM Harry was a devout Buddhist who practiced his faith unobtrusively. He did not believe in any outward manifestation of ritual, and those of us, who “worked under his nose,” so to speak, saw in him the four virtues of Loving Kindness, Compassion, Altruistic Joy, and Equanimity.

Being human also means having faults. As much as all of us have our own individual faults so did he. But that he was a good, sincere, large-hearted and friendly man was never in doubt.
 

It was my privilege to directly serve under his Command and I can do no better than recall the words of my friend and colleague, Squadron Leader JTR “Rex” Fernando that the Air Chief Marshal was like “a comet that blazed across our skies leaving a trail of luminescence which passing time can hardly erase.”
 

You will always be remembered, Sir!

Wg Cdr E. H. Ohlmus (SLAF Retd.)


Sister of My Heart Yasothera Balabaskara Nee Chinniah

With pen in hand, I know not what to write. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s “Sister of My Heart” comes to mind. She surely must have experienced what I did to have written that book about two “sisters” who were like one entity.

We could not reminisce when we should have, so let’s do so now. I was born just two years after you, but even as a toddler you took charge and fondly named me “kuttis”. For the benefit of the Sinhala domestics you also called me “Podi Baba” which became “Podiba”. Yes, we spoke only Sinhala to each other in our childhood. It was our first language! We begged the servants to make “rathu pittu and “rathu sambole” I guess Shankari made “rathu pittu” for you for the fifth day rituals.

I have but fleeting memories of the Chando Street days and of the evacuation to Jaffna during the war. Back in Galle, the Fort not being safe, we moved to Hirimbura. Those were carefree and halcyon days - plenty of land round the house to play in at our own sweet will. You were always the leader and I followed the leader implicitly.

Back to the Fort - Rampart Street - schooling at Southlands in the English Primary, especially created for us by Miss Ridge - we formed lifelong friendships with Lynette and Lucille - walks on the ramparts - and at your insistence we had the spunk to snatch the wickets while a game of cricket was on - because those big boys had annoyed us in some way!

Rampart Street days are incomplete without mention of Shirani Jayawickreme, the girl from next door. We had wonderful times - singing, dancing ‘and playing. Two balls were about our only play-things, nevertheless we derived immense pleasure from bouncing our balls and also playing ‘;’Mademoiselle, she went to the well”. Of course there were the music lessons at Brenda’s and the awe-inspiring Trinity College examinations.

You went to Uduvil a year ahead of me. Being in the hostel you took on the mantle of “elder sister” very seriously. I always followed you and your clique - so much so that the teachers would remark “Mary had a little lamb”.
Again you went to Methodist College in Colombo a year before me. The matron put me in the same dormitory as you, and Yehelee was also one of the eight. We had lots of fun and played many a prank - Seba was also in the same dorm and you and Seba made an awful mistake dressing Guy Fawkes in the matron’s clothes! .

You left school a year before me. So, in all we were separated for 3 years. Then it was the wasteland between High School and marriage, in Chundikuli. Not having gained admission to the University, when admissions were restricted to 100 to each faculty, and the numerous avenues that are available to school leavers today, not being heard of then, we plodded a long and weary road. However, nostalgic memories of those years are many. We did a lot of sewing on two machines at each end of the dining table. We sewed enthusiastically for babies to be born into the family and later had those babies clad in all the wonderful little clothes we had turned out with love’s labour going into every stitch.

We had holidays in Colombo at Rubaunty’s - and Nimala made us a trio ­shopping for sarees in Colombo, and in India as if our whole lives depended on the number of sarees we collected. Ironically, we have hardly worn saree in recent years!
Giggling was, and is, a family weakness or malady. It was absolutely our forte. I recall to mind one incident in each of the different phases of our lives. As kids we were sent to the Ephraums Dispensary to buy some medicine for Amma. We couldn’t speak because we started giggling - and went on helplessly. The dispenser said he had a medicine for giggling and gave us “chicklets” - tiny white lollies. We were intrigued because even after many chicklets the giggling wouldn’t stop!

Uduvil days - at the Girl Guide Rally in the Old Park, Jaffna - we were singing an action song - in two concentric circles, and at the end of each verse the outer circle moved one place clockwise while the inner circle moved one place anti-clockwise. Suddenly we found we were partners. It was hilarious for us - nodding to each other with a finger placed on the right cheek among other absurdities!

We giggled as women too. In Madras we were trying to fix an auto to take us to Mylapore for a day’s shopping. We were overcome by the giggles and had to dismiss the man and get another auto after regaining composure. The saree you bought in Mylapore that day is what Shankari chose for your final journey. I am sure you approved her choice.
I can recall so many little incidents, but. I would need reams to write them all. Until you got married in 1965 our lives were so entwined that Selvi’s sister Siva Sorubini, in all her childlike innocence could think of us as only “One” and aptly addressed us “YasoThilakka.”

That bond we had is being perpetuated by our sons. It is not for us to ask why your life had to change irrevocably, so suddenly and with but warning. We are all united in our gratitude to Bala, Shankari, Gajen and Rabin for having looked after you so well and kept you’ comfortable until the end.
I also thank myself for having made that special trip to see you on your birthday, May 17th, barely 2 weeks before you attained Glory.

Socrates said, “And now our lives part. I go to death, while you go to life. Who goes to the better only God knows.”
Socrates, in all his wisdom ought to have known he was going to the better.
Goodbye. Sister of My Heart, until we meet again.

Thilaha Yoganathan
Colombo 06


The Sunday Leader July 13 2008 

Appreciation

Chandani Jayatunga Perera

On June 23, one of Kandy’s most popular lady business personalities, who was a religious and social worker, Chandani Jayatunga Perera, was cremated at the General Cemetery, Mahiyawa. At the time of her death she was 46 years. She leaves her husband Roland Perera who stood steadfastly by her at all times, 15 year old son Ayesh who plays cricket for the Trinity juniors, and Chamli her daughter aged 10, a student of Good Shepherd Convent.

Chandani hailed from a famous business family, and was the daughter of the late B.H. Jayatunga and Mrs. C Jayatunga. She was born and bred at Katugastota. She had her early education at St. Anthony’s Convent and later changed over to Mahamaya Girls’ College, where she was an exemplary student who excelled in studies and sports.

After leaving school she took up teaching, and later following her husband Roland Perera was involved in his business.

Chandani was a lady to her fingertips. She was prepared to stand for what was right even if it meant she had to make much personal sacrifice. She took part in religious, sports and social service activities to help her fellow people. Her death is a great loss to the Kandy Buddhist and sporting fraternity.

Her husband Roland Perera who was educated at St. Sylvester’s College was an all round sportsmen where he excelled in cricket, hockey and football. It was cricket that he continued to play. He played for the school and later for Kandy Schools, Kandy CC, Moors SC and Kandy Youth SC.

He joined the Kandy District Cricket Association as a representative of the old Sylvestrians Sports Club. Later he became the treasurer, and at present he is the secretary of the club.

Whatever Roland did to promote sports, his wife Chandani was there to give her support. Roland is one of the brothers of Malcom Perera, the coaching manager of Sri Lanka Cricket.

Hundreds of mourners shed tears as they filed past her coffin, repeatedly mentioning a personal sense of loss – a tribute rarely paid these days.

Death came to Chandani without suffering.

Not in the sky, not in mid ocean, not in a mountain cave is found that place on earth where abiding one will not be overcome by death. (Dhammapada - stanza 128)

May she attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana

Hafiz Marikar

Kandy


LakbimaNews Sunday July 13 2008

Rev. Fr. Glen Fernando

Time takes a toll on memory and with numerous problems confronting us in our daily work and regrettably we as a nation generally forget even extraordinary persons once they cross the great divide. However there are some persons who, by their exemplary lives, significant contribution to society and remarkable charisma, leave an indelible imprint in our hearts and minds. Memories of such persons linger forever. One such person was Rev. Fr Glen Fernando, who passed away on 4 July 2007 at the age of 67.

Fr. Glen was a fighter for truth, freedom, human rights and human dignity. He was a Redemptorist priest who literally adorned the Redemptorist Community and the Catholic church living upto the ideals and holy ethics of his priesthood which he demonstrated by living an exemplary life.

Imbibed with deep religious convictions, with enviable ethics and moral values very early in his life, he showed a great desire to serve the Lord. Propelled by the reality of the suffering of the poor, the oppressed and the down trodden, he pursued his vocation despite initial constraints and obstacles.

He joined the Redemptorist congregation and was ordained a priest in 1971. Very early in his vocation, he demonstrated his ability to positively influence others by his spiritual leadership after his ordination, serving in the parishes of St. Theresa’s Thimbirigasyaya and Sacred Heart Church, Rajagiriya and as rector of the Redemptorist Seminary and as head of the Redemptorist Congregation in all of which he performed his onerous duties and obligations with commendable zeal. Fr Glen did not confine himself to the mainstream of parochial activities. He ministered to all, irrespective of religious and other differences. He was a social apostle of national standing, especially building conviction among the various communities, committed to social action and change of society that is just and true. He continuously exhorted the Christians to understand people of other faiths. He would often refer to the famous words of Jonathan Swift, “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another”.

He was a multi-faceted personality, deeply religious, well read, a social worker championing the cause of the oppressed and downtrodden, a thinker with an incisive mind and a fine preacher. His sermons often were not on aspects of intricate theology but he drew moral lessons from his experiences and the day to day life of the parishioners. He was able to speak in a simple way, virtually holding the congregation spellbound.

The best way we can express our gratitude to Fr Glen is to endeavour to live upto his ideals and what he relentlessly pursued. In this context, it is appropriate to recall the famous words of John F Kennedy: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”

Rex Fernando


Sunday Times July 6 2008 

Surgeon with a magic touch and a heart of gold

Prof. James Randunna Corea

He was tall and smart, with an athletic figure. He had a friendly disposition and an infectious smile. His simplicity was too good to be true, and least of all to be associated with an eminent orthopaedic surgeon.

He was at the height of his illustrious career, winning friends and admirers among his patients. He excelled in giving hope to the hopeless and bringing them out of difficult situations to live normal lives with his incredible touch and caring ways. He achieved everything he believed in – as a devout believer in God, a surgeon par excellence and a human being whose primary obligation was to serve mankind. That was Professor James Randunna Corea.

His life was snuffed out like a candle in the wind, and we Coreas have lost a tower of strength that was always there when needed. The end came just as he would have wanted – instantly, without any suffering. But to his wife Nalini and children Ranmali, Namali and Gemunu, it is an irreparable loss. All of us who were close to him banked on having Randunna around for many more years, and now we are all poorer as a result of his absence.

Randunna was a product of S. Thomas College, Mount Lavinia, where he acquitted himself well in studies and sports. His grandmother often spoke of her father, Dr. John Attygalle, who had many firsts in his list of achievements. He was the first Sinhalese to study western medicine and obtain the MRCS London and MD Aberdeen; the first Sinhalese Colonial Surgeon of Ceylon; the first Ceylonese to act as the Principal Civil Medical Officer, retiring in 1898. He was the author of “Materia Medica”, a book on the indigenous medical flora of Ceylon. To young Randunna, all this inspired him to take to medicine and qualify as a doctor. He was in the first medical batch at Peradeniya.

After passing out, his first appointment was in Kandy, where he met Nalini. When he proceeded to the UK to qualify further, Nalini followed. They got married and worked together towards realising Randunna’s dream of becoming an orthopaedic surgeon. Nalini in no small way gave Randunna all the support he needed towards achieving his goals and aspirations.

Having qualified as an orthopaedic surgeon, he was keen to return to Sri Lanka and serve in the land he loved so much, but was told he would have to start at the bottom, and that his seniority would not be taken into account. Disappointed, he left for Saudi Arabia. Many years later, when applying for a post at the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital, he was asked to go through a viva, but no one more qualified than him could be found to conduct the viva, and as a result Sri Lanka lost his expertise yet again.

In the late ’80s, when he heard of the increasing number of scoliosis patients in Sri Lanka, he wrote to President Premadasa suggesting that the Government set up a surgical ward for scoliosis patients. This was done at the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital, and for the first time treatment for scoliosis was introduced to Sri Lanka. The surgical operation to straighten crooked spines takes between 10 to 12 hours. An all-round surgeon, Randunna also did hip and knee replacements.

Randunna started his practice in Colombo, at his residence. His patients from the outstations would bring him gifts of fruits and vegetables in place of a fee. He never charged a fee for the poor and those known to him.

He was advised to tie up his medical practice with Nawaloka and Asiri hospitals and make his services available whenever he flew down to Sri Lanka. He was also a Reserve Senior Superintendent of Police, and assisted DIG M. M. Guneratne in developing the Operating Theatre at the Police Hospital.

He once asked me whether I could refer poor patients for him to treat free of charge, whenever he visited Sri Lanka. Such a scheme was considered, in co-operation with the Lions Club, but it did not become a reality because the demand was overwhelming and Randunna’s stays in Sri Lanka were usually too short.

This example shows how little Randunna was interested in making money, and how much he enjoyed serving those who had implicit faith in him.

In recent years, Randunna spent much of his spare time doing voluminous research on the Corea family ancestry, an enthusiasm he clearly inherited from his parents, Henri and Claire. He was engaged in a novel project – to print the Corea family tree on fabric, using sophisticated printing techniques – when his efforts all ended so suddenly.

Gentlemen like Randunna are a God-given gift to mankind. I am personally aware of the countless times he waived his fee and reached out to those who could not afford to channel him but yet came to him. He magnanimously and cheerfully refunded consultation fees that had already been paid, because he cared deeply for his patients.

May his life be an inspiration to all who knew him.

By Sri Sangabo Corea

 


The creative ad man with a great sense of fun

Jack Rawdin

“Hello-Hello-Hello! This is Jackie here. Jack Rawdin R-A-W-D-I-N. How are you? I am calling to give you the exciting news that we are running a special supplement on Burma next week ...” And so would commence another of Jackie’s “super-sell” advertising promotions for the Ceylon Daily Mirror.

Jackie, who resigned from Earth in March this year to take up a new assignment with The Great Advertising Agency Up In The Sky, was a former advertising manager for the Daily Mirror. But he was much more than that: he was the femoral artery and lifeblood of that virile, young tabloid in its heyday in the 1960s.

The Mirror’s meteoric rise from nowhere to become an English daily with the second largest circulation in Sri Lanka was due largely to the editorial policy of the then editor, Reggie Michael, who believed in calling a spade “a bloody shovel”. He was aided and abetted by a small group of journalists who always thought outside the square (reporters, sub-editors and columnists). It was my privilege to work with these nonconformists.

We followed Reggie’s “fear nothing” dictum. But merely observing the editor’s rules alone would not have kept the Daily Mirror afloat for long, if it had not been for one man: Jack Rawdin (he was actually christened Jack, not John). A newspaper depends on advertisements for its continued existence, and it was left to Jackie to bring home the bacon. And that he did!

The only help he had was from his assistant, Felix Cooray, and a team of three advertising canvassers. That was the Daily Mirror Advertising Department, as far as I can recall. The department itself was a single desk, Jackie’s. It sat cheek-by-jowl with the news editor’s desk. From this position, Jackie directed his troops, talked non-stop on the telephone and waved his begging bowl.

To get companies to advertise, Jackie would reason, plead and cajole – and promise bucket-loads of business stemming from ads in the Mirror. He would keep close tabs on all countries that had an embassy or consulate in Sri Lanka. A month before a national day, he would ring the ambassador or consul and say with great pride that the Mirror was running a special supplement to mark the occasion. He would ask the dignitary for a message that would be “prominently featured” in the supplement.

Of course, the message was always forthcoming. Say the country was China. Jackie would ring every company doing trade with China, or had even the most remote connection with China, and tell them about the special supplement and that the ambassador considered the supplement so important that he was writing a special message for it.

“Obviously,” Jackie would say, “given your close relationship with Chinese companies, you will want to take out a full page advertisement in the supplement.” He would even ring every Chinese restaurant in the telephone book. He did not always get full-page ads, but a high percentage of the companies he called did advertise.

Then came the next problem: producing the supplement. Jackie was no journalist. He adopted the same tactics he used with advertisers. He would plead with feature writers, reporters and sub-editors to produce the supplement he had promised. And he usually gave us – on average - 48 hours’ notice. We knew that if we did not support Jackie, we may soon have no newspaper.

Sometimes he really had to cut it fine. On one occasion, 24 hours before we went to print, he pulled me aside and said we had to produce a four-page supplement on Burma. I was the only feature writer on deck at the time. After much ranting, I went down to the library, gathered every volume I could find with articles about Burma, came back and dropped the stack on Jackie’s desk. Unfortunately, the books landed on Jackie’s little finger. Jackie was in agony, although it was only a bruise.

Using my handkerchief, I wrapped pieces of ice round his finger. My guilt was great that night as I worked away while Jackie watched. I produced every single Burma article he wanted – from trade and politics to history, geography, tourist destinations, sports, etc., etc. He left the office that night with a very sore finger but a happy heart. Jackie reminded me of the incident when I visited him and his gentle, cheery wife Norma, in January this year.

Jackie and Norma (nee Siebel) had what may be described as an “up-and-down” courtship: In the early ’70s the Daily Mirror occupied the 4th floor of the Times Building, and the 3rd floor housed the editorial and advertising departments of the Times of Ceylon. There, in her capacity as secretary to the circulation manager, sat the charming, willowy Norma.

As love blossomed between the floors, we on the 4th floor lost count of the number of times Jackie had to go down to the third floor “to check on something important” about this or that ad, and the number of times Norma had to fly up the stairs to “double-check” something. By the time they got married in 1976, they had both lost at least five pounds with all that exercise, running up and down!

Their marriage was one long honeymoon from beginning to end. They were blessed with a son, Keith, born in 1977, and he was blanketed with their love. As an adult, Keith, in turn, looked after his parents with a fervour to which we should all aspire.

Jackie was a rare individual. He was completely without guile. You had to talk with him for only a few minutes to sense this, as well as his innate goodness. If you had a problem, Jackie was the first to offer help. Blessed with an impish sense of humour, he was absolute joy to have as a companion – except when we played bridge. Jackie’s bidding made his partners weep. They threatened to do unspeakable things to him if he repeated his mistakes. “Next time, we’ll keep a grand slam, buddy,” he would reply with a twinkle in his eye.

Jackie left the Daily Mirror to take up an appointment with the Mikechris Company in 1979. He retired in 1997. He leaves his wife Norma and son Keith. He was 78 years old. We mourn his passing, but I can already see him making up a fourth at some Bridge Party Up There.

“Jackie, here’s a word of advice: Just because you have three spades in your hand, it does NOT mean you can automatically bid five Spades!”

By Iggy Paiva

 Nation Sunday July 6 2008

****

Jeyaraj Fernandopulle-
We will not forget you

Words cannot state the sorrow
When we learned the tragedy of your demise
Which was felt not only by your loved ones
But for the country as a whole

A loving father, friend and mentor were you
Best compared to a beautiful flower
Which blossomed in the mud of corruption
A vast library of knowledge were you
With God’s grace used it in words
And so powerful were your words
That none stood a chance to oppose

If you grieved, you did so in seeing the plight of the needy
And help the needy you did
Often people would come to you with their misfortunes
And you would always help them, turning their misfortune into fortune
A jovial individual were you
Bearing a great sense of humour
But never in spite
Did you utter a word

You were taken away from us
Because of the mindset of a heartless villain
But your memory will forever linger
In our hearts which you truly touched
Rest in Peace Dear “JAJE”
We will forget you not

Nilupul Fernandopulle
On Behalf of your daughter, son, nieces and nephews (The cousins)

 


The Sunday Leader July 6 2008

Appreciation

Squadron Leader (Rtd) Callistus John disanayake

Callistus John Dissanayake, my uncle and my mother’s only surviving sibling, passed away on March 27 in Geel, Belgium, after nearly a year long battle with a terminal illness. He was fondly known as ‘Cally’ to his numerous friends and few close relatives; and to us, he was Loku Maami.

It feels rather strange to be writing this tribute after his death, about a man who epitomised life itself and possessed the zest and desire to live it to the full. After all, he wanted to recover from his illness and continue to live a normal life. He believed this was possible until his last stages.

His energy was incredible and presence strong — he kept coming through people’s doors calling their names and driving a double cab like a twenty-year-old at the age of 84! He never tired of narrating stories and anecdotes.

Born on November 18, 1923 in Colombo, Callistus was the eldest in a family of five, my mother Beulah being the youngest. He attended St. Aloysius College, Galle and his love for this charming southern city lasted all his life — and indeed, in a manner of speaking — beyond it.

Having lost their father at a young age, my uncle had become the mentor, father figure and able brother to his siblings and a great source of strength to their mother. Especially, since my mother was 13 years his junior, she was a beneficiary of this guidance and has gratefully reminisced about it from time to time. He continued to impart these qualities to the family throughout his life and to us was certainly the greatest example of motivation, energy, resolve and spirit in a world where much younger people are struggling to maintain these attributes.

He began his career in government service based in Galle, joined Radio Ceylon thereafter and subsequently joined the Royal Ceylon Air Force and was in service till the late ’60s. As a Squadron Leader in the Air Force, he cut a handsome figure in uniform and a photograph taken of him in it has become a family favourite.

The friends and acquaintances he made during this period lasted his lifetime and those who enjoyed his friendship and hospitality will of course remember him always. After retiring from the air force, Callistus joined the Ceylon Fisheries Corporation, and worked there during the politically turbulent times of the early ’70s.

My mother remembers him helping some of those victims of the disturbances.

In 1973, my uncle, aunt Wijelatha and their four children migrated to the UK, primarily to open up greener pastures for the children — Dalip, Amali, Chintha and Charitha. This they definitely did, and unlike most who migrate, the parents returned to Sri Lanka in the ’80s to call this country their home for the remaining part of their lives.

Callistus and Wijelatha celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year at the Water’s Edge, with a large gathering of close friends, family and well wishers. This occasion was very emotional to us since his illness was diagnosed by then. However, the spirit he displayed that day was typical of the bravery of this man. He was a serviceman to the bone. Of course, he derived much pleasure in being able to celebrate this important milestone.

Loku Maami was close to our family and he loved my parents, Shali my wife and our two children; my sisters Chuti, Kisha and their families and Shamalie, his niece. We too loved him dearly and shall remember him with the fondest memories.

He wanted to finally come home and in keeping with his wishes, his ashes were interred at Galle, the town he lived in and loved. We feel so much sadness in missing him, yet joy in what he gave. I also feel he is not far away – just out there fairly close, with a smile on his face and missing us as much as we miss him.

Loku Maami, may your soul rest in peace eternally.

Nephew

Nalin Perera 


SO Mar 6 2007

'Tribute to the memory of Anil Obeyesekere President's Counsel'

CONDOLENCE: The death of Anil Obeyesekere P.C. after a brief illness, sent waves of shock and bitter sorrow not only among his close family members but among the large circle of his friends, associates in politics and of Lake House where he was the Chairman at the time of his demise; his wide circle of friends and associates naturally was larger with those of two huge corporate bodies. Sri Lanka Petroleum Corporation and Sri Lanka Telecom where he was the Chairman.

The numerous floral tributes and banners of the various corporations and institutions including that of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, that glittered at Anil's home and precinct where his remains lay, mutely but eloquently expressed the feelings of deep sorrow in appropriate words of those who loved and respected him.

It was my privilege and pleasure to have known Anil for more than three decades. He was not only my learned friend in the true sense of the term in our profession but also my dear and sincere personal friend till his passing away. To me Anil certainly was the friend that the famous English poet Shakespeare had in mind: "Those friends thou hast and their adoption tried/Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel."

"Life! We've been together/through pleasant and through cloudy weather: T's hard to part when friends are dear/Perhaps 't will cost a sigh, a tear;/Then steal away give little warning;/Choose tine own time;/Say not Good night!; but in some brighter clime:/Bid me 'Good morning'.

Anil proved himself not only a good friend but also a gentleman par excellence. In the Eighteenth Century Edmund Burke wrote "that a king may make a nobleman but he cannot make a gentleman." How true it is even today.

I emphasize without fear of contradiction that Anil was both a noble man and a gentleman. He hailed from a noble and respected family in the country: His professional talent and success was recognized and honoured by the Head of State having been appointed President's Counsel. His ability as an administrator was recognized having been appointed Trade Commissioner of Czechoslovakia and later the Chairman of three massive corporate bodies aforementioned.

I remember with affection and deep gratitude Anil's last great act of humanitarian service rendered a few days before he fell ill and was hospitalised for heart surgery. On a mere telephone call by me on a Friday afternoon to help my niece, a journalist at Lake House, to enter Apollo hospital, Colombo, to undergo immediate heart surgery, even before she could fax the necessary formal documents, by Saturday noon his secretary informed me to collect the necessary letter of admission to the hospital and that saved the life of this patient.

It was chronic irony of fate that by the time this patient was discharged after successful surgery, Anil was hospitalised and passed away in the early hours of 26th February 2007 to our bitter grief. I noted to Lake House his loss was irreparable.

That was Anil the good and sincere friend and gentleman. The usual jargon of officious administrators sincere to red tape than a friend, "I'll see. I'll consider, I'll look into the matter when I receive the papers etc," was certainly not in the vocabulary of Anil. He acted and acted fast like the gentleman and trusting friend that he certainly was.

This gracious quality of Anil was confirmed to me by a class mate of his, Bhatiya Jayaratne at S' Thomas College, Mt. Lavinia where Anil had his education and this no doubt speaks volumes for his Alma Mater too.

At his funeral at Kanatte, Borella, speaker after speaker spoke in high praise of Anil's achievements as a lawyer and administrator and his contribution to the SLFP and to the community and society and the country at large.

It was in the fitness of things that since President Mahinda Rajapaksa was out of the Island His Excellency's message of condolence to the bereaved wife Iranganie, daughter Eromi and son Prasanna was read by Hon. Minister W. D. J. Seneviratne.

Minister Maithripala Sirisena, Secretary of the SLFP emphasised that unlike others Anil served the SLFP during times when the party was not in power and that he displayed a great love and loyalty for his party. In fact I had noted myself personally the truth of this assertion of Anil's great love of the SLFP.

In or about 1974 Anil prevailed upon me to enroll myself as a member of the SLFP although I told him that I had quit politics since 1960 as I was called upon to perform acting judicial functions often during that time.

Anil's death certainly is a great loss not only to his bereaved wife and family and close friends but also to his motherland which he served as a true patriot.

"Now racks a noble heart/Goodnight sweet prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

Anil's body was cremated and turned to ashes but undoubtedly his soul has risen and soared into heaven or nirvana. May his soul rest in peace.

Vernon Botejue J. P. U. M., Nugegoda


Sunday Times June 29 2008

You were the mischievous and loving son

Nimal Aryaratne

To my beloved son, who left us three years ago

I recall the day you were born. It was such a joyous event. I remember when you, at age 7, walked about five miles from Royal Primary all the way home to Pagoda. I was amazed how you found your way! You were the mischievous kid in the family. You were a loving son, full of compassion. You were a great entertainer at family gatherings and today we miss you and your absence is greatly felt especially by your beloved wife, Valerie and your sons, Manjula and Sumedha and their families.

Your grandchildren, Nethme, Savidya and Sanchali would have had a wonderful grandfather.
All our memories lie within us as long as we live. It is a sad goodbye.

God bless you my darling putha and keep you in his arms till the great day of awakening dawns.

By Rene Aryaratne

 


Philanthropist who was a mother to the Malays

MASHMOON LYE

Mrs. Mashmoon Lye was born on June 18, 1908, and passed away peacefully on June 18, 1990.
She was the first woman member of the Colombo Malay Cricket Club and the All Ceylon Malay Association - both premier organisations of the Malay community.

Mrs. Lye helped these institutions in numerous ways by organizing get-togethers and bringing the womenfolk into the limelight, helping them find employment, seek higher education and learn various skills like hair-styling, cookery, dress-making, music, oriental dancing, and so on.

As a further step towards helping her community, she thought of a way to ameliorate the conditions of the less fortunate. She decided that if each member of the association and others were to collect “a rupee a day”, a good amount would be collected over a year and a start could be made to render much assistance to the less fortunate around us.

Thus in 1953 was born her idea of establishing a “Rupee Fund”. A few pooh-poohed the idea as coming from a lady unacquainted with finance and administration. But others saw her vision. She decided to go ahead with her project to help the less fortunate and make her idea a reality. With the support of many members, she formed the All Ceylon Malay Association Rupee Fund. Hard work over three years met with recognition from many government departments. The then Governor-General, Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, invited her to hold a meeting of the general committee at Queen’s House (now President’s House). A rare honour indeed. Another venture was a Milk Feeding Centre, where over 300 undernourished children gathered every morning for their glass of milk. Her thoughts turned to talented students who could not continue their higher studies for financial reasons.

She established a Higher Education Scholarship Scheme in 1959 to provide scholarships for such students. Many of the beneficiaries are serving the nation as doctors, engineers, architects, agriculturists, accountants and technicians. The scholarship scheme continues. Mrs. Lye was one of the first Muslim women in Sri Lanka to emerge from the traditional role of housewife to get involved in service to the community.

In 1967, she and her husband B. Zahiere Lye, a former Appointed Member of Parliament and founder of the Padang Complex Colombo 2, visited Malaysia as guests of the then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahaman, to attend the 10th Merdeka anniversary celebration. One of the popular newspapers had a special article about Mrs. Lye with the heading, “She’s Mother to Ceylon Malays”, giving prominence to all she had done to lift up the community.

History was created at the Padang Complex, Colombo 2, in March 1973 when Malays unveiled her portrait for her signal services to the community.

Although she is no more in our midst, her life’s work for the community in general and for the poor and needy in particular will live for ever in the memory of the many families whose lives she touched.

Marville Lye


Distinguished lawyer and UNP stalwart

Peter Paul Perera

Today is the birth anniversary of Elupitimudiyanselage Peter Paul Perera, who was born in Negombo, educated at Maris Stella College and became one of its most illustrious sons. At school, Paul excelled both in studies as well as in cricket, football and athletics.

He entered the University of Ceylon, where he continued to excel in studies. He also represented the university in cricket and football. Graduating with honours, Paul sat for the Civil Service Examination and took on the post of Assistant Archivist at the National Archives.

Paul married Kulaseeli Wijeratne, and they had four sons and a daughter. He moved to the Port Cargo Corporation where, under its chairman Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe, he served as secretary. He attended the Ceylon Law College and was enrolled as an advocate. Paul apprenticed with the late H. W. Jayewardene, QC, and the late Neville Samarakoon, QC, who later served as Chief Justice. Paul left the Port Cargo Corporation and soon built up a lucrative practice.

By that time, Paul and Kulaseeli had built a comfortable house in Ward Place, almost opposite the residence of J. R. Jayewardene. Paul soon became a close confidante and acolyte of the UNP leader. Paul founded the UNP Lawyers’ Association, which became a vibrant organisation under his stewardship. He was in the thick of the fray during the 1977 elections. He was appointed Competent Authority of the Times of Ceylon and also a founder director of the Greater Colombo Economic Commission (GCEC), which later became the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka.

Together with Upali Wijewardene, Paul was successful in attracting a host of investors into the Katunayake Free Trade Zone, which was managed profitably with great zest. After the untimely death of Upali Wijewardene, Paul took over the reins at the GCEC and founded the Biyagama Free Trade Zone, with great success.

Paul was soon called upon to enter Parliament, to represent Kaduwela. He was made Minister of Justice under President Jayewardene, who also appointed him a President’s Counsel in December 1988. Paul continued under President Premadasa and served as Minister of Science and Technology. Paul served on the Working Committee of the UNP for several years.

Paul’s stout and doughty frame and resolute jaw were symbolic of his character. He had a wide coterie of friends and colleagues both in and out of Parliament. He was a great story-teller, faithful friend and much-loved husband, father and grandfather. He is greatly missed.

His friends would say that when Paul approached the Pearly Gates and identified himself as Peter Paul Perera, President Jayewardene from inside chuckled and declared: “He is my able lieutenant”, and Paul was immediately granted entry.

By Ben Eliatamby

 


Nation Sunday June 29 2008

B. H. S. Jayewardene

Remembering Bassa, a unique, humane, sincere friend

Sometime in the mid-fifties students from colleges in the south were sent to Jaffna schools, virtually the last hope for concerned parents, as Jaffna schools had a reputation for education and discipline. Some of us entered the portals of Jaffna College Vaddukoddai. About this time students from Malaysia were also being enrolled, because college education in Ceylon, as this country was then known, was said to be better than in Malaysia. We entered the college as boys with a shaky past and uncertain future.

We left as men well equipped to serve our nation. Most of the Malaysians went back and held responsible positions. Those who stayed back did extremely well too.
One amongst us at Jaffna College was Briareus Hercules Susunaga Jayewardene, popularly and affectionately called Bassa. Quiet at first, not only because like the rest of us he was coming to terms with the environment, but more so because he had lost his dear father, Francis Jayewardene the Crown Proctor of Kuliyapitiya, a few months before. In general conversation he often referred to his father whom he was proud of. It is fitting, therefore, that his ashes lie beside that of his father in the family grave at Kuliyapitiya.

As time moved on and he took to journalism as his profession, he acquired more aliases, BHS, Jaye among them, Mahes called him Briareus. His personality changed to portray the character that each alias was expected to project. He was, however, at his natural best as Bassa, in the company of close friends and colleagues. Bassa did himself proud at Jaffna College. After an initial misunderstanding with the Faculty, he was liked, respected and much sought after, specially after he left the institution, manned by the then stalwarts of the education system of that era in the North: Rev. Bunker, Dr. Rockwood, President and Vice President of the College, Dr. Holmes, K.A. Selliah and Lyman Kulatungam, Principal and Vice Principal, K.C. Thurairatnam, who taught English, which was one of the subjects followed by Bassa and Prof. Dr. K. D. Arudpragasam, hostel warden, amongst others. Early in life he developed the ability of moving with persons holding responsible and respectable positions in society. His room mate K. B. Y. Seneviratne, an ex-Trinitian like Bassa, now an established Kandy lawyer, mentioned that he was the favourite of Gordon Burrows the house-master of Alison house.

He enjoyed hostel life, and though he wanted very much to be part of the action, was cautious. When his mates went on fowl raids, he would trail behind, because he was nervous that if detected, his size would prevent him from making a quick getaway. He was sporty enough though, to lend his only sarong which was soaked in water, to cover the unsuspecting fowls roosting on the branches of neighbourhood trees. On those special sarong less nights Bassa slept between the bed sheets; his reward was one leg of chicken! His generosity went beyond the sarong, to the extent of giving Manikam, the bare bodied hostel cook, a generous hand- out every Wednesday which was mutton day in the hostel. The cook responded by giving him an extra large serving. The writer sat next to Bassa and got the crumbs which fell off his plate, which was substantial! His roommate KBYS composed a baila about Bassa’s rotund bottom which was sung lustily at baila sessions. Bassa played the cymbals in the hostel band. Though his timing had room for improvement he made enough noise to be noticed.

Gajendran and Bassa were the poets in our group. Their romantic poems reflected their hopes, feelings and frustrations. The subjects of their poems were two co-eds, whom they eventually married. The writer standing on a table in the hostel lobby, would read the poems aloud, accompanied by appropriate actions, as light hearted entertainment to a ready audience. Little did we know that cupid was shooting his arrows in the direction of the women’s hostel. Gaj and Bassa were at different times Associate Editors of the Northern Undergrad, probably now defunct, when the editresses were Elizabeth Verghis and Mahes Kandavanam respectively. Eventually Elizabeth also known as Sheila married Gaj and Mahes married Bassa. It is said that marriages are made in heaven. These were made at the printing press! It is correct to say that Bassa cut his journalist teeth and honed his caring ways at Jaffna College.

Many tributes have mentioned that he always went that extra mile to help his colleagues and friends, to whom he freely gave both financial support and advice. While he gave freely, unfortunately, he hardly accepted, specially advice given in good faith. This tribute would have been many moons away, had he heeded advice. Bassa had a keen sense of humour and enjoyed a good story often inventing his own. The story is told that he phoned his daughter Romaine and told her that her mother and domestic who were taking their sick dog to the vet, had taken off in a three wheeler, leaving the sick dog behind!

The Asian Tribune for which journal he was the Colombo correspondent, in their tribute said that his family was his universe. He and Mahes invested in their children’s education; of the three girls, two are accountants, one a Ph.D in Mathematics and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Colombo and their only son a Chartered Ship Broker working in Malaysia. To them, he and Mahes were their guides on the journey to adulthood, teachers of moral values. They listened to their problems and helped to find solutions. They were their friends sharing good and bad. His children respected and trusted him and loved him because of all that he was to them. He disciplined them without compromising his love and care.

The dedication, love and commitment of Mahes, his wife of 47 years and the children were visibly demonstrated, and commented upon by the doctors and nursing staff when he was unwell. We have reason to believe that he was overwhelmed by the care and love they gave him. During this time he was able to reflect and build his relationship with his Creator.

Hercules was his middle name, a Greek mythological hero, famed for his courage and strength and cleaning in one day the Augean stables. Bassa may not have had physical strength, but the courage and strength of his convictions, his attempts to rid corruption, were demonstrated time and time again in his journalistic career, even losing his job in the process.

After Bassa’s death, Mahes discovered a few pairs of new unused shoes in his wardrobe. These shoes were offered to relations and friends. They fitted nobody. This is symbolic of the man - nobody can get into Bassa’s shoes! He was unique. He was Bassa.
Bassa will be missed with the going down of the sun and in the morning; he will be missed when we next meet at the Wadiya to reminisce and recount the mad and good old days which Rajan Kadirigamar a teacher during our period and later Principal of Jaffna College described as the ‘golden era’ of the College. We will miss him when we want to discuss the latest political situation in the country and have his interpretation of same. We will miss his brand of humour and his chuckles.

To Mahes, Ianthe, Romaine, Tamara, Sanjeeva, his in-laws and grandchildren, to whom his home was always halfway point, a haven, we extend our sincere condolences and pray that Bassa will rest in peace in the near presence of his Creator.


C. S. Edwards
Colombo 5


My friend Dalrine

Dalrine, who was affectionately called ‘Dal’ by her loved ones and friends passed away on May 1, this year. When I heard, on the day prior to her death, that she was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Asiri Hospital, I rushed to see her. As I peeped through the glass pane of the ICU and saw her lying on the bed, I soon realised that our friendship was coming to an end. At that point the thought which arose in my mind was that all mortals have to one day breathe their last breath and that is an inevitable reality.

In the year 1991, I was being treated for para-typhoid fever at the Nawaloka Hospital, Colombo. Towards early noon on a warm July day, in walked Dal and Nimal to see me in my room, my husband Rama having told them about my illness. Dal carrying a bag full of oranges in her hand, sat on my bed, introduced herself and started chatting. I was frail and weak at that time. She insisted that I had a glass of fresh orange juice, immediately. In her own inimitable style, she got a member of the hospital staff to prepare an orange drink for me, and also saw to it that I drank the full glass of orange juice. I recall how well and refreshed I felt at that time after having had that orange juice.

Like a duck taking to water, I took to her at that very first meeting. As time went on, I realised what she had done for me that day was not something unusual. That was typical of Dal. My husband and I had enjoyed Nimal’s and Dal’s generosity and hospitality on many occasions. Those who knew Dal and associated with her, and those who were the beneficiaries of her generosity and hospitality will always remember her with great affection. She was generous, helpful, kind and selfless. These qualities are all too rare in a society that is increasingly becoming materialistic in the assessment of virtues.

Into each life, whatever the degree of its lustre, some rain must fall. All human beings at some point of time in their lives experience rejection, disillusionment, failure, death and personal tragedy. I too experienced immense sadness in great measure in my own personal life, not too long ago. At that time Dal stood by me like a solid rock, always available and caring.
As a friend, Dal was world when you were lonely, a guide when you were searching, a smile when you were sad and a song when you were glad.

She was a great culinary expert. About 10 days prior to her death, she sent some homemade goodies to me with a note, “With love to you Deary.” Little did I realise then, that this would be her final act of hospitality to me. She had the capacity to enjoy little things in life. There was always the hidden little girl in her. Her hospitality was boundless and spontaneous.

With her charming ways, she was able to win friends wherever she went. All those who associated with her, her friends, her acquaintances, even her subordinates will miss her for a long time to come.
My heart goes out in sympathy to Nimal, Imran, Merza, Ghazi and other members of her immediate family.
May the fragrance of her memory live on
May her soul rest in peace
There is a link death cannot sever
Love and remembrance last forever.


Mano Ramanathan


The Sunday Leader June 29 2008

Appreciation

Gayani Gunasekera

We the Belvoir family recollect the passing away of our dear colleague, friend and teacher with deep regret.  Three months have passed since the day she breathed her last.

She was one of the English teachers who served Belvoir College International where she spent most of her teaching hours imparting the medium of instruction in the international schools to her charges.  She taught with such composure and elegance that the boon was obvious in the pupils. Our appreciation is not only because she was a successful English teacher, but also for the valuable service she rendered in the co-curricular activities of the college.

As the teacher in-charge of the English literary and debating societies, she encouraged children in articulation and intonation enabling them to adapt the correct technique in oratory.  In addition to oratory she taught them the skills of debating such as presenting facts, arguing, counter arguing and diction. Whenever she came across any hidden talents in pupils, she motivated them to cultivate the talent and exhibit them in front of an audience.

She also played a very significant role in publishing the college magazine The Belvoiran.  She was a member of the magazine committee and was the dynamic force behind most of the articles and the reports from the middle school (boys section). 

She was a housemistress of 'Harrow House' and had done yeoman service to her house.  She was always on the spot at literary meetings, debates and in all the committees she served to guide and advise and direct.  She always stood up to defend the boys, and on the other hand she reprimanded them severely for any misdeed.

In the staff room she was an outspoken lady. She did not hesitate to say what she wanted to say, which  definitely was not palatable to everyone. Even I had to experience a few such occasions - but it is a virtue that should be appreciated.  Though we will not hear her loud voice; I am sure her voice will echo within the walls of Belvoir.

We learn the she was loved by all in her hometown - Matara.  Boys and girls who had the privilege of being tutored by her feel that they are left abrupt.  Those who worked for her especially the three-wheeler operators who provided transport to her are bewildered as they have lost a generous customer.  He relatives consider that the vacuum created by her death cannot be filled. We the Belvoir community have lost a versatile teacher and friend.

May the Triple Gem grant her eternal peace.

A Colleague


 

Sunday Observer June 22 2008

Ninth death anniversary of Mervyn de Silva today:

Mervyn and all that Jazz

by Errol Alphonso

 

 

 

 

 

 

All I had to do was ask him if he liked Benny Goodman or Fats Waller or Louis Armstrong. At the time, I knew nothing of his chosen musical confections, for that would have made the writing rather more about the Mervyn I knew, than the one I had to get to know through distance learning.

For, indeed, I received a large part of my education from him in language, letters, foreign affairs and intellectual wrangling, with a safe spatial interval between us.

About the jazz, I learned only after he was gone, and that too, from something Dayan had written. I don’t know if I can be faulted for not making a first approach. He seemed unapproachable, and after the experience a friend, to whom I used to retail Mervyn’s salon style, underwent, I decided that distance did lend enchantment.

This encounter took place in the lobby of ‘Lake House’. My friend was there on some routine matter. He saw Mervyn, and in a mighty flush, went quickly up to him and asked “Excuse me, but are you Mr. Mervyn de Silva?” Mervyn gave him one of those looks reserved for the briefest of brief encounters, said a short “No”, and turned on his heel. The poor man was devastated, and I had to coax his savaged feelings back to health over long days.

Those were Mervyn’s bright times. He knew of no such thing as the retort courteous, and did get a rise out of taking down those he could not suffer gladly. There was a weekly column in the “Daily News” pseudonymously authored by “Adonis”.

After quite a number of these had appeared, Mervyn got out his jousting lance, and after referring to the writer as not so much. “A-don-is” as “A-don-was”, toppled him with his closing line. “I suppose old dons never die, they just lose their faculties!”

He was also very good at mimicking informal speech. I still remember bits and things of the dialogue he wrote. Thus, he specially saw the humour in some telephone talk between two ladies discussing their fashion choices for the evening, with one of them indicating that the way to salvation lay in donning “...the dot, dot, dot saree.” This was all 1960s stuff.

I read him and listened to him, as a man who needed very much to learn, and was hardly disappointed. It was around this time, that I first saw him at Radio Ceylon, and heard him doing his talks including some of those penetrating book reviews, which as I sat in the continuity studio, I listened to him deliver from the talks studio down the way.

There are two of these I remember with a staggering vividity. One was Mervyn’s review of John Le Carre’s “Call for the Dead.”

At first, I didn’t pay particular attention, as I went about attending to some of the clerking duties that went with the territory. Then suddenly, my blood caught a chill. Mervyn, was reading that deadly passage where George Smiley kills his friend and cold war adversary, the East German intelligence operative, Dieter Frey.

The words tumble in my ears after a space of forty and more years, and I quote now without benefit of text: “They met in the clearing of a timeless forest, two friends rejoined and fought like beasts. Dieter had remembered and Smiley had not.

“Mervyn paused, then he ended his review with the words Smiley kept repeating to himself in a delirium. It was from John Webster’s dark tale “The Duchess of Malfi”. I bade thee when I was distracted of my wits go kill my dearest friend, and thou hast done it.”

It was worth the ticket. A while later, Mervyn appeared at the continuity studio to have his payment voucher endorsed by me. I tried to look in awe, but he was having none of it. Always an elegant dresser. Mervyn anticipated third-degree brand building or whatever it is that advertising men talk about today, long decades earlier. Clasped in his hand was a tin of the most fashionable foreign cigarettes, with silver lighter topping it. It was pure posh.

This takes me to the other talk of Mervyn’s, again unforgettable. Ian Flemming had created James Bond, and Bond was brought to the big screen in the shape of Sean Connery. Who can forget Connery saying: “Bond, James Bond.”

This was an irresistible character for Mervyn, who was particularly taken by Bond’s love for the finer things in life. Apart from his faithful Walther PPK, Bond drove fast cars and was faulties in his choice of women. He was impeccably outfitted, and everything he owned had the stamp of high class.

About this time, a group of local spoilers mounted an attack on Bond, calling him a dangerous and culturally detrimental representative of the West. Mervyn was cut to the quick, and responded with his classic piece delivered on radio, in the form of an address to the jury, called “In Defence of James Bond.”

I can hear him now, his mannered voice and measured style, with his habit of sometimes sliding one word into another, making this masterful performance. I sat riveted in the studio. This later appeared in print, but it was no match for his original delivery.

Mervyn moved on to his later, and even greater moments. He came to be one of the best foreign affairs analysis and political commentators of his time. Two occasions on which I saw him outside Radio Ceylon were when he presided over lectures delivered by Krishna Menon, the great Indian intellectual warhorse.

And yes, there was one other, when he spoke at the Centre for Society and Religion, with Felix Dias Bandaranaike, and a bill of speakers including Amaradasa Fernando. This was almost immediately after the UNP landslide in 1977.

I remember Amaradasa Fernando making some palliative remarks, and Mervyn who followed him, started out by saying: “I don’t know if Mr. Amaradasa Fernando is trying to make a virtue out of necessity. “But it will be interesting to recall as an aside, that FDB himself began by saying.

“It is not often that Satan comes to the Centre for Society and Religion!”, in an illusion to Dr. N. M. Perera’s greatly favoured description of him at the time of the United Front Government.

While Mervyn was comfortable with the cognoscenti, he did bring intellectual discourse close to a wider public with his journal “Lanka Guardian”. Some of the best minds contributed to it, and even grudging wallets like mine gladly gave up the small sum needed to attend the feast.

For me, Mervyn’s grand period was in the 1990s, when he wrote in a microprocessed style. It had “everything inside.” This was his Sunday column, full of brilliance for what he did not say. Staccato sentences, dots, pauses, perfectly placed quotations, and of course, much mischief, which even then he could hardly resist, as in “...the Hoo and Pee, Chee, dirty, no?”

A brief rewind. Mervyn had a remarkable sense of time and place. The 1960s did not offer opportunities of frequent travel for most of us.

Mervyn being in journalism was more fortunate. Writing once about a visit to Greece, he described how he stood on a particular spot, and then in tones that were highly evocative, added “Here Homer sang.”

It’s all been said before. Mervyn, the great journalist, the outstanding editor, the innovative publisher, the learned commentator, the intellectual gymnast. My choice of legacy is out of another box, Dayan.

This is Mervyn’s living legacy, and rarely is it known to happen. In intellectual sweep Dayan has outdone Mervyn. Dayan brings to his daily exercise in existence, a swathe of experience that makes him stride with the mighty and hold the magic to touch people. We are talking fine steel forged out of the hottest fire.

All that jazz? Second chances don’t come easy, so I’m asking Dayan right away. Do you like Duke Ellington?


Tribute

Maheswary Velautham

HR activist and social worker:

Mrs. Maheswary Velautham was assassinated on May 13, 2008. Her demise brought darkness to the arena of human rights and human dignity.

She was a powerful voice, an able lawyer, a dedicated human rights activist, a humane social worker, a religious humanist, a modern rationalist a remarkable philosopher, an excellent orator and a unique writer. She was a literateur who dedicated herself to clear conscience.

She uttered the words that came from within-she expressed her conscience. She was a fearless Defender of the Rights of Humanity for which the price and prize was her life. She has become a martyr for truth, freedom, human rights and human dignity.

“I met her at the Ministry of Social Services and Social Welfare for the first and the last time during a meeting in the Minister’s Conference room. The day was May 9, 2008 (Friday).

She was present as the Advisor together with the Secretary to the Ministry of Social Services and Social Welfare Ms. V. Jegarasasingham another able and well accomplished lady from the Sri Lanka Administrative Service both of whom have been responsible for the rapid progress and development of the subjects under the purview of the Ministry of Social Services and Social Welfare under the able direction of Minister Douglas Devananda.

The meeting was followed by a working vegetarian lunch with red rice, pappadam, fried bitter gourd garnished with onions and tomatoes, curd, rasam and dhal. Mdme. Maheswary Velautham, the Secretary Ms.V.Jegarasasingham and two other Officials were amongst those present.

That was the last official supper.

“Soon after lunch, Mrs. Maheswary Velautham invited me to her Office Chambers on our way to the NISD for a meeting. For almost one hour she was having a discussion on meditation and yoga and the reflection of the presence of the Creator.

During the discussion she was calling the Ministry of Defence to expedite the issue of the MOD clearance as she was contemplating to travel the next day to Jaffna to see her ailing mother. She revealed that her prayers and meditation have had a positive impact on her mother’s health condition and that her visit to Jaffna would save her mother from death.

She said that there was no necessity for my bodyguards to accompany us and that I could travel in her vehicle with her and her bodyguards to the NISD that day for the meeting at 3.30 p.m. Our conversation continued.

She was as innocent as a child when she made her deliberations on religion, meditation and philosophy. I was shocked to learn that she was assassinated on May 13, 2008.

“I have heard and read about Mrs. Maheswary Velautham’s work but when I met and heard her in person I was impressed by the deep sense of commitment, loyalty and sincerity of this noble lady.

“Each of us has lost friends and relatives. They have been killed for the vile pursuits of the killers.

There is no justification to kill. Those who killed these people thought that they had the truth and they had the whole truth and anyone who didn’t share it, was a legitimate target. They thought that the differences they have with us, political and religious were all that mattered and served to make their targets less than human. Our common humanity matters more.

“No terrorist campaign apart from a conventional military strategy has ever succeeded. The purpose of terrorism is to terrorise, to change your behaviour if you become a victim by making you afraid of today, afraid of tomorrow and afraid of each other. Therefore, by definition terror campaign cannot succeed unless we become its accomplices and out of fear to give in.

“We must remember good times and the bad, how we as a society have been together and share our commitment to equal opportunity without diversifying the crisis into further chaos. This is a moral imperative. All men are created equal and they are endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights, that amongst these are life, equality and pursuit of happiness.

Mrs. Velautham lived to fight for these rights and ideals.

“Mrs. Maheswary Velautham was the only lady lawyer who was simultaneously doing wonders as a Defence counsel for those charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

She deserves to be honoured posthumously with a National Civil award for her bravery, charisma, professionalism and service to the Nation.

“It was well-known that Henry Brougham gained fame in the public eye by his defence of Queen Caroline.

In 1828, in his celebrated speech on Law Reforms, Brougham completed with a peroration which has often been repeated: “It was the boast of Augustus...that he found Rome of brick and left it of marble...but how much nobler would be the sovereign’s boast when he shall have it to say that he found law dear and left it cheap; found it in a sealed book-left it in a living letter; found it in the patrimony of the rich- left it in the inheritance of the poor; found it the two edged sword of craft and oppression-left it in the staff of honesty and the shield of innocence! “ Ms Maheswary Velautham was a Brougham of our times.

Dr. T. C. Rajaratnam


Sunday Leader Jun 22 2008

 Appreciation

Ian Mervyn Dias Jayasinha

The death of Ian Mervyn Dias Jayasinha was undoubtedly an irreparable loss to his close friends and loved ones. I had a nice friendship with him for over three decades.

He as a journalist and as a creative writer, showed a distinctive flare for writing, who as a visionary single-handedly spread his noble message of bringing all the people together, as one family, eschewing narrow and parochial distinctions.

Our deep-rooted friendship was nurtured, as both of us found common ground as ardent lovers of classical literature, in which pleasing and rather seductive embrace, we were always mildly intoxicated, ensuring the satiation of our senses, with an elixir of happiness.

Ian who was educated at S. Thomas’ College and worked over 25 years at Lake House as a journalist. He also had the good fortune of living in the USA for sometime and appeared twice on Florida TV, reading Dylan Thomas and his poems.

Looking back, touching a surfeit of fond memories, without being overtly nostalgic, is rather difficult or even impossible. Ian was indeed a cheerful and jovial personality who would have been the cynosure of all eyes in any social gathering, enlivening it with his banter and echoing and re-echoing laughter, vibrating its spell to no end.

He being an epitome of fun and frolic lived a full life, spreading in his own way, the gospel of universal love.

Ian, as a poet was a lover of humanity, though to the circle of his intimate friends, he showed a streak of unconventionality, extolling a nature friendly, bohemian lifestyle.

To me he will always remain as an inspiration, who was always very generous in approaching my writing, especially my poetry, without which, I must now get used to carry on, knowing his spirit will always be with me bestowing me guidance, thus ushering me to a higher pedestal.

I, who was the recipient of your love and enviable attention, take this opportunity to thank you a lot for the friendship I had with you. I will now miss your bubbling laughter, specially when the music was reaching its crescendo, and also for being the host, who never got tired of serving us savoury food, which as a whole, made each step of our life lighter and bearable.

Ranjan Amarasinghe


Sunday Times June 22 2008

He always went that extra mile to help others

B. H. S. JAYEWARDENE

Sometime in the mid-Fifties, students from schools in the south were sent to schools in Jaffna, virtually the last hope for concerned parents. Jaffna schools had a reputation for education and discipline. Some of us were privileged to enter the portals of Jaffna College, Vaddukoddai. About this time, students from Malaysia were also being enrolled, because college education in Ceylon, as this country was then known, was said to be better than in Malaysia. We entered the college as boys with a shaky past and an uncertain future, and we left as men well equipped to serve our nation. Most of the Malaysians went back and took up responsible positions in their country. Those who stayed back did extremely well too.

One of our peers at Jaffna College was Briareus Hercules Susunaga Jayewardene, affectionately known as Bassa. Quiet at first, not only because like the rest of us he was coming to terms with the new environment, but more because he had lost his dear father, Francis Jayewardene, the Crown Proctor of Kuliyapitiya, a few months before. He was proud of his father, and would often refer to him in the course of a conversation. It is therefore fitting that his ashes lie beside those of his father in the family grave at Kuliyapitiya.

Over time, and when he took up journalism, he acquired more aliases, including “BHS” and “Jaye”. Mahes called him Briareus. He would alter his personality to fit the character of each alias he was expected to project. He was, however, at his natural best as Bassa, in the company of close friends and colleagues.

Bassa did himself proud at Jaffna College. After an initial misunderstanding with the faculty, he came to be liked, respected and much sought after, especially after he left the institution, by the stalwarts of the education system in the North of that era. They included Rev. Bunker, Dr. Rockwood, president and vice-president of the college, Dr. Holmes, K. A. Selliah and Lyman Kulatungam, principal and vice-principal, K. C. Thurairatnam, who taught English, and Professor K. D. Arudpragasam, hostel warden, among others.

Early in life, Bassa developed the ability to move with persons holding responsible and respectable positions in society. His room-mate K. B. Y. Seneviratne, an ex-Trinitian like Bassa and now an established Kandy lawyer, recalls that Bassa was the favourite of Gordon Burrows, the house-master of Trinity's Alison House.

Bassa enjoyed hostel life, and although he wanted very much to be part of the action, he was cautious. When his mates went on fowl raids, he would trail behind, nervous that, if the raiders were detected, his size would prevent him from making a quick getaway. He was sporty enough though, to lend his only sarong, which was soaked in water, to cover the unsuspecting fowls roosting in the branches of neighbourhood trees. On those special sarongless nights, Bassa slept between the bedsheets; his reward being one leg of chicken!

Bassa’s generosity went beyond the sarong to giving Manikam, the bare-chested hostel cook, a generous hand-out every Wednesday, which was mutton day in the hostel. The cook responded by giving him an extra large serving. Meanwhile, this writer would sit next to Bassa in the hope of getting the crumbs that fell off his plate, which were substantial!

Gajendran and Bassa were the poets in our group. Their romantic poems reflected their hopes, feelings and frustrations. The subjects of their poems were two co-eds, whom they eventually married. The writer standing on a table in the hostel lobby would read the poems aloud, accompanied by appropriate actions, as light-hearted entertainment to a ready audience. Little did we know that Cupid was shooting his arrows in the direction of the women’s hostel.

Gaj and Bassa were at different times associate editors of the Northern Undergrad, probably now defunct, with Elizabeth Verghis and Mahes Kandavanam as the respective editors. Eventually Elizabeth, also known as Sheila, married Gaj, and Mahes married Bassa. It is said that marriages are made in heaven. These two were made at the printing press. It is correct to say that Bassa cut his journalistic teeth and honed his caring ways at Jaffna College.

Many tributes have mentioned how Bassa always went that extra mile to help colleagues and friends, to whom he freely gave both financial support and advice. While he gave freely, unfortunately, he hardly accepted, especially advice given in good faith. This tribute would have been many moons away, had he heeded advice.

Bassa had a keen sense of humour and enjoyed a good story, often inventing his own. The story is told that he called his daughter Romaine and told her that her mother and domestic, who were taking their sick dog to the vet’s, had set off in a three wheeler, leaving the sick dog behind!

In its tribute to Bassa, The Asian Tribune, for which Bassa was the Colombo correspondent, said that Bassa’s family was his universe. He and Mahes invested in their children’s education; of the three girls, two are accountants and one is a PhD in Mathematics and a senior lecturer at the University of Colombo, and their only son is a chartered shipbroker working in Malaysia.

Hercules was his middle name, a Greek mythological hero famed for his courage and strength. Bassa may not have had physical strength, but he had the courage and strength of his convictions. His battle against corruption was demonstrated time and time again in his journalistic career. He even lost his job in the process.

After Bassa’s death, Mahes discovered a few pairs of new, unused shoes in his wardrobe. These shoes were offered to relations and friends, but they fitted nobody. This is symbolic of the man – nobody can get into Bassa’s shoes. He was unique. He was Bassa.

Bassa will be missed. He will be missed when we next meet at the Wadiya to reminisce about the old days, which Rajan Kadirgamar, a teacher during our period and later principal of Jaffna College, described as the school’s “golden era”. We will miss him when we discuss the latest political develops in the country and hear his interpretation of things. We will miss his brand of humour and his chuckles.
To Mahes, Ianthe, Romaine, Tamara, Sanjeeva, his in-laws and grandchildren, to whom his home was always halfway point, a haven, we extend our sincere condolences, and pray that Bassa will rest in peace in the near presence of his Creator.

CIONA - a close friend

 


White flags and verses for exemplary colleague

Lasanthi Elvitigala

It was a great shock to all of us at the HDFC Bank to hear of the sudden demise of our dear colleague, Lasanthi Elvitigala. She departed this world with her unborn child, leaving her precious seven-year-old daughter with her loving husband and her parents.

Lasanthi, who was seven months pregnant at the time of her death, would have had great expectations right up to that fateful day, Monday, May 26. She is remembered in every nook and corner of the HDFC premises with white flags and tribute verses written by colleagues.

She was disciplined and efficient, and she was the quietest and most reserved of all of us. Mostly, she was quiet. If she had any free time, she spent it reading, a pastime that gave her pleasure while improving her mind (chittha). Lasanthi is remembered as an exemplary personality by her bank colleagues. She was a friend who kept the ties of friendship strong within our closely knit unit.

Lasanthi was a devoted wife, an intelligent mother, and a precious daughter to her parents, being an only child. Her untimely death is an irreparable loss to her husband, her daughter Alum Umanja, her parents and her colleagues.

With all the merits she has accumulated in her Sansara journey, may she attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana.

Rohinie Dias, on behalf of the staff of HDFC Bank

 


A brave soldier lives on in our hearts

Tuan Nizam (Raja) Dane

The fervent wish that was always his
To die with his brown boots on,
God gave it to him, the sacrifice was his,
So that we could, for one more day, live on.

Jayasikuru was the operation,
The task to hold on to terrain
Regained after a battle hard won.
But it was not to be for long
For the Tigers struck in waves again,
Snuffing out so many brave lives in vain.

Yes, they died, but after a bitter fight,
Better that way than take to flight
When overwhelmed in a corner tight.
Oh, what else than the Almighty’s might
To make the supreme sacrifice in delight,
Still with beloved brown boots on tight?

In loving memory of Colonel Tuan Nizam (Raja) Dane and his compatriots, who sacrificed their lives for the sake of our tomorrow during Operation Jayasikuru, at Periyamadu in Omanthai on June 24, 1997. They will live forever in our hearts.

T. B. Singalaxana


 

Nation Sunday June 22 2008

The deadly Pacemaker

We all called her ‘Aunty Siri.’ Her full name was Constance Ellen Serenie Rupesinghe. She was a very beautiful lady with a unique and shapely figure. On one occasion, much against her wishes, she was selected as the Beauty Queen at a largely attended social event in Kandy. That meant very little to her because she shunned publicity, preferring to lead her simple life of domestic bliss. She was a natural beauty and she needed no make up or facials to enhance God’s unique-gift to her. She was a very warm and charming person with an unforgettable smile which made all of us so happy in her company. We learnt a lot from her on how to lead a life of sweet contentment.

She was immensely talented. She was a wonderful musician, a brilliant cook, a fantastic gardener, a great entertainer and a passionate artist with brush, oil and canvas. Her paintings adorn the sitting rooms of her many friends and relatives in several parts of the world. She had a voice which was out of this world. When she played the organ or the piano these instruments came to life and we felt that they were swaying with her as her strong wrists and playful fingers rolled out the music with solemnity or joy as the occasion demanded. We could have listened to her all day marvelling at her boundless energy.

Her garden was a sheer delight, a riot of colour. During her travels with her husband she was always on the look out for new plants to add to her varied collection. She propagated them and gifted them to all who were interested.

The food that she personally prepared for us when we gathered at her home was outstandingly delicious. She had her own collection of recipes. Nothing gave her greater joy than to see us enjoying her preparations.

She loved to share everything she had with others. Little wonder then that she was so happy.
She sewed her own clothes, read a great deal and loved to retreat into her studio to attend to her many other preoccupations. She was deeply religious but her spirituality was never on show.

As the wife of the Sri Lanka High Commissioner in Canada she was an outstanding success but she never boasted about it.
All in all, she was a joyous personality who made a lasting impression on everyone who was privileged to meet her.
How fortunate her husband and children were to have a person like Aunty Siri to brighten their lives.

Her rich and colourful life came to an end when tragedy stuck with dramatic suddenness. She complained of some difficulty in breathing. The Cardiologist, a family friend recommended a pacemaker. The task of installing the pacemaker was entrusted to a specialist in that field. When she was taken to the theatre at a leading private hospital in Colombo, she was in high spirits talking of the unfinished work she would attend to when she returned home. Sadly that was not to be. There was an unforgivable mess up in the theatre. She had stopped breathing, her brain was damaged and she was paralysed. She was brought out of the theatre almost dead. After fifteen terrible days in the Coronary Care Unit struggling for breath she passed away on April 10, 2008. It was a case of sheer carelessness and negligence on the part of the doctors, which cost the life of this very beautiful and talented lady.

Her birthday falls on June 22. Thanks to the uncaring doctors who attended on her, what a day of tears and sorrow it will be for all of us.
Our beloved Aunty Siri is gone but her fragrant memory will live with us for the rest of our lives.

Swarna Goonetilleke
Kotte


A voice that now sings in paradise Sister Marie-Cecile A.C.

My concept of heaven, where we will all meet our Creator one day, is a place echoing with celestial music and song. To me, it was no wonder then, when the Almighty summoned our dear, dear, Sister Marie-Cecile to join the choir of His glorious orchestra. True, it was a terrible shock to me at first, to hear that she had taken ill so suddenly and unexpectedly, for, until almost the day she was stricken with illness, she had been so active and energetic, conducting her music classes, encouraging her pupils to do their best and patiently and painstakingly preparing them for their exams.

From the day she joined All Saints’ Balika Maha Vidyalaya, Borella, she and I took to each other, and she was among one of the best friends I had at ASBV. She had many other interests apart from her ‘forte’ music and singing. She was full of humour, ready to laugh, and we often shared a joke, especially ones about our hypocritical local politicians. We argued, we discussed various newspaper articles and views expressed by our so called ‘leaders: I worked with her closely, training our students for Inter-School and Inter-District singing and drama contests, for radio programmes etc ... She was a perfectionist and always demanded the best from the students. Even after she retired from active teaching, ASBV still depended on her for help. She offered it ungrudgingly. Not only will the students at All Saints’ but even Holy Cross College Gampaha, St. Anthony’s Dematagoda, and all other AC Convents miss her now.

The many tributes paid to her at her obsequies by grateful pupils, (who are now teachers of music themselves), by others who knew and loved her and whose lives she has touched for the better, were proof enough of what a dedicated and devoted teacher and friend she was. She was not one of those stiff and rigid personalities that one generally comes across in the profession, but a person that exuded generosity, geniality and good humour. Wherever she was, she shed that divine kindness which always brought a ray of sunshine into the lives of all whom she met.

I know almost nothing of her life or family before she offered her services to God. All I know is that she was not a Sri Lankan by birth. Still, she loved this land of ours, always praying for peace in Sri Lanka, for harmony and goodwill among our people and unhesitatingly offering her care, love and service to all, no matter what colour or creed they were.

Rest in Peace now, dear Sister Marie-Cecile is my fervent prayer today. And when I, too, am called by our Maker to join those gone before us to the land beyond, may she be there to welcome me, seated at her piano and raising her lovely voice in praise of the Lord.

God Rest Her Soul!
Antoinette Ferdinand (Ferdie)


A Doctor worth a million dollars! - Dr. B.D.J. De Silva

Dr. B.D.J. De Silva, passed away on June 9, 2007. His first death anniversary fell last month.
He was uncrowned king of Maharagama. He rendered yeoman service to the entire area for more than five decades. It is my duty and privilege to put on record some facts of him.

He led a very simple lifestyle and did tremendous service with enthusiasm. He was a principled doctor par excellence in diagnostic straightforwardness.

He was involved in all aspects of social life. He played many roles in his carrier. He was a good doctor, teacher, artist, photographer, electrician and carpenter. An all-rounder. He studied at St. Thomas’s College, Mount Lavinia. After having completed the London Matriculation in 1941 and a premedical course and joined the Medical College. He passed out with a 2nd Class at the finals of the M.B.B.S., with Distinctions in Forensic Medicine. He had an opportunity to join the Faculty Staff, but joined the government service because he liked family medicine.

In 1952, he resigned from government service to start a private practice, as his forte was Family Medicine. He started his practice at Maharagama Junction and later, shifted to his own premises. It was called Central Dispensary & Surgery.

When he started the practice, Maharagama was a remote village. There was no electricity and no proper roads. He treated patients from the surrounding areas. His patients came from distant places. He attended to them day and night. Even at night, patients were able to visit him. He treated four to five generations of patients from the same family. He was the only family physician in the entire Maharagama area. There isn’t a family not treated by him. His patients could be found anywhere in Sri Lanka or in the world.

His charges was minimal, most often he didn’t charge poor patients. He treated the clergy of any religion, free of charge. He was a doctor who gave very little medicine. He never prescribed expensive drugs. He followed the method of Rational Prescribing taught by Dr. D.J.T. Liyanage of General Hospital, Colombo.

Patients were convinced that, he was a doctor who could cure by just attending to them. It was believed that, even if he prescribed a bottle of water, it would cure the patients. An indication of how the doctor-patient relationship prevailed. Most often he refrained from giving medicine and asked them to take Kothamalli instead, and didn’t charge. Even if he did prescribe, it was only a few medicines and mixtures. he had his own concoctions of mixtures and creams. Throughout his career, he was engaged in all types of social activities, with clubs, societies and organizations.

He was a founder member of Sri Vajiragnana Temple - Dharmayatanaya, Maharagama. At the onset, he was involved with the Dharmayatanaya and as a resident of Maharagama, he helped build the temple. He was the Senior Vice President of Sasana Sevaka Society, till his demise. He was a doctor to the Dharmayatanaya and looked after the health of the priests. In 2003, He was bestowed a lifetime award in recognition of his services to the Sri Vajiragnana Temple at Viduranena Pranama Ceremony. He was a close associate of Late Ven. Madihe Pannaseeha and Ampitiye Rahula Thero.

He was a founder member of the College of General Practitioners of Sri Lanka and was elected to the Council of the College at the inception, and later became its President. In his inaugural speech, he spoke on his pet subject- Rational Prescribing, where he mentioned, with thanks to his teacher Dr. D.J.T. Liyanage that, 80% or more of the illnesses are SLD. (Self Limiting Diseases) and the treatment for which was ADT (Any Damn Thing) it was appreciated by people of all walks of life..

In 2003, Dr. B.D.J. De Silva was the first doctor to receive an award in recognition of his services, from the College of General Practitioners, Sri Lanka. Between 1961 and 1975, he was Vice President and later became the President of the Independent Medical Practitioners Association of Sri Lanka. During his tenure of office, he founded the IMPA drug centre which was a great boon to the GP’s, because of a shortage of drugs during that period.

He was the council member of the Sri Lanka Medical Association and Member of Health Council. In 1972, then Minister of Health appointed Dr. Silva to inquire into the workings of Nursing Homes and later he was appointed to the Nursing Homes Advisory Body.

From 1974-1977, he was a member of the Tender Board of the State Pharmaceutical Corporation. He was a Senate member of the Board of Management of Sri Jayawardenapura University. He was also a member of the Board of Management of North Colombo Medical College. He was a teacher to the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes of the college. He presented many research papers at the scientific sessions of the College. In 1989, he won the Dr. A.M. Fernando award for the best research paper submitted at the Annual Session of the College.

He was Past President of the Lions Club of Maharagama and did yeoman service to the community.
We must not forget his wife Doreen for being beside him and giving him the strength to achieve all what he did. Like the saying “Behind every successful man is his wife”.

Finally, Thank you very much Doctor for your dedicated service of over 50 years to the nation, with strict adherence to the Hippocratic oath.

May he attain Nibbana.
A close associate


In memory of Late President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s 84th Birth Anniversary

AN ODE
Glorious leader, remarkable unique politico
Powerful magnate among politicians
Noble qualities fiercely independent, great courageous
Politician worthy of emulation
Unquestionable integrity, inspired by Buddhist principles
Endowed with rare creative abilities.
Yeomen service, persevering, outstanding
Punctuality, perfection, admirable qualities
Sterling qualities yielding to reach desired heights
Adorable multifaceted exemplary career.
Symbol of commitment created prestigious global history
Reached great heights amidst barriers.
Embarked on many gorgeous ideas, spectacular contribution
Hero of a nation, god gifted brilliance.
A legend in you life time earned a memorable name
Demeanor virtuous, attitudes par excellence
Virile tone in verse ‘n prose, rhetoric terms, extempore eloquence
Audience marveled in pleasure
Your untimely sojourn great loss to much wanted nation
Each passing day we miss you beyond measure.
May you be born once more among our future generations
To make a peaceful united Sri Lanka
By virtue of myriad meritorious deeds performed in Sansara
May You Attain Supreme bliss of Nirvana

- Kumari Kumarasinghe Tennakoon

Sunday Times Jun 15 2008

Remembrance candle for a beloved Captain
Anton A. Puvimanasinghe

By Elfrida, Ashok, Shymali, Shyami, Marishque and Marize

Anton A. Puvimanasinghe
On this special day – your Birthday,
We thank God for every remembrance of you.
All that made you the man you were –
Your virtues, your gifts, your beautiful character.

Everything you said, your words of hope and comfort,
Everything you did, your commitment to all that mattered,
Your honesty and integrity beyond compare,
Also your loyalty, devotion and tender care.

We fondly recall the happy days now long gone
When you were by our side, helping and leading us on.
With your gentle spirit, tender devotion and love
You were indeed a gift to us from above.

We are grateful for the years spent with you
For the joy and happiness bestowed on us by you.
We are blessed for having closely known you;
We thank our God for the precious gift of you.

All the words in the world cannot express
The love that fills our hearts for you.
We can never repay but earnestly pray
That God may abundantly reward you.

Vaya con Dios, till we meet on that Beautiful Shore.

 


A simple man with many a talent