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Sunday Times Dec 20 2009

A carpet of peace rolled out the length and breadth of Lanka was this brave soldier’s dream

Major General Lucky Wijayaratne

Almost two decades ago, 19 years to be exact, the cruel hand of the enemy snatched from our midst Major General Lucky Wijayaratne. Lucky was serving in Trincomalee as Area Commander / Co-ordinating Officer when the deadly bomb blast at Morayaya snuffed out his life, in December 1990.

Lucky was a duty-conscious, obedient and disciplined officer for whom the commitments of service ranked uppermost, always. He believed that strict discipline brings into focus the full force of one’s commitment and power among one’s charges, and this focus helps one to achieve the success one seeks.

Lucky and I studied at Mahinda College, Galle. I saw him progress from class to class at Mahinda, and long after that, all the way to the end. Lucky was born to a Galle family of high social standing. His father was a popular doctor, a household name in the Galle area. Patients would come in their hundreds daily to the “Weda Oushadalaya”, seeking the touch of the doctor’s healing hands.

As the child of a medical practitioner, Lucky was treated to a daily dose of life’s realities, seeing and learning the harsher side of life at close quarters. This made a lasting impression on him and, I believe, it reinforced his qualities of sympathy and understanding.

From his young days, Lucky’s character was moulded by discipline and obedience. He grew up to be a law-abiding and productive member of society. In school, he was always among the top five students in class. He displayed a special proficiency in the English language. Lucky was always keen to share his knowledge.

In 1964, he joined the Army and proceeded to the Pakistan Military Academy for advanced training. He followed many advanced military courses, both in Sri Lanka and overseas. His outstanding performance earned him a scholarship for postgraduate studies (MSc.) in strategic warfare at Aberdeen University, in Scotland.

Lucky was an avid reader, consuming books on different subjects. His vast knowledge, together with his eloquence, earned him the respect of his peers and superiors, and made him the centre of attention at all gatherings with his near and dear and with his friends.

As a soldier, he knew well that when wars are thrust upon economically insecure countries, these wars must be waged without the requisite military hardware. But Lucky also knew that courage, commitment, prudent planning and trust can go a long way to compensate for scant resources.

Lucky would often tell me that his greatest reward would be to see our country once again whole, in one piece, with the “carpet of peace” rolled out the length and breadth of Sri Lanka.

He performed all duties that fell upon his shoulders to the best of ability. His instincts warned him of possible enemy attacks and how best these could be forestalled with pre-emptive action.

He did much to plug the loopholes the enemy was using for its destructive work. Feeling the heat of Lucky’s strong presence wherever he went, and encountering the ever-mounting challenges posed by Lucky and his men, the LTTE hatched a fool-proof plan to kill him, and those with him, in one of their deadly bomb blasts.

When Lucky died, the Sri Lanka Army lost a valiant, battle-hardened officer, and the country a true patriot.
Lucky was also a good son and brother, loyal and dutiful husband, loving father, and true friend.
Lucky’s death immobilised us all, and deadened our hearts for years – so long that only Time, the great healer, could help us get over our grief.

We wish Lucky the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

An old Mahindian

Visionary leader who reinforced the human factor in our police force

Stanley Senanayake

“To live in the hearts of those you love is surely not to die”. This is so very true of the late Mr. Stanley Senanayake, who left an indelible mark on all who came in contact with him.

When my batch of police trainees entered the Police Training School in January 1957, Mr. Senanayake was the director, and right from the start he made an impact on us. He was friendly, but he was also a stickler for discipline. He also led by example.

Mr. Senanayake and his wife Maya showed immense care for us young officers, and went out of their way to make our stay in the training school no more stressful than necessary.

In later years, when Mr. Senanayake became Inspector General of Police (IGP), he was faced with incredibly trying and difficult situations. The insurrection of 1971 occurred during his watch. I was working at Police Headquarters at the time, and saw first hand how he handled what seemed like overwhelmingly bad situations.

The attack on the Wellawaya Police station occurred on the night of April 4. Mr. Senanayake was shuttling between his office at Police Headquarters and Temple Trees, giving briefings. At the end of the day, Cyril Herath and I (we shared the same office) decided to stay back and monitor the situation.
Things were looking bad. We contacted the outstations to assess the situation. By 10 p.m., the situation looked very serious.

The Borella Police reported hand bomb explosions. At 10.30 p.m., Mr Senanayake was back in the office, and we briefed him on the latest news. Just then a police officer, accompanied by the late ASP K. S. Perera, burst into the room, saying that all police stations were to be attacked simultaneously at 11 that night.

Mr. Senanayake immediately headed to Temple Trees with the information, while we got on to the job of alerting all the police stations. What followed was history. Those were tense days, and Mr. Senanayake was at the heart of the action.

Mr. Senanayake was also IGP at the time of the Non-aligned Conference of 1976, when Colombo hosted 60 or more heads of state. The sheer scale of the event, the complex logistics involved, and the need for precision timing at all times, posed a colossal challenge to the police.

The police had to co-ordinate state drives and meetings of heads of state, formal and informal, at different locations. Heads of state were crisscrossing the city with escorts and sirens blaring.
This was one of the biggest international events ever hosted in Sri Lanka. Mr. Senanayake co-ordinated all the work – both within the Police Department and with other agencies involved.

Mr. Senanayake had the welfare of the rank and file always close to his heart. It was during his tenure that the old police constable uniform, shorts and slouch hats, was replaced by the long trousers and peak caps. He believed that all ranks in the Police should wear the same uniform, with the insignia to denote rank. Sri Lanka set an example for India.

The Madras and Bombay police have adopted the same uniform, discarding the turban and baggy shorts. It was during Mr. Stanley Senanayake’s time that the Police Officers’ Mess underwent a transformation. He introduced social evenings that included not only the wives but also the children of police officers. The Mess turned into a hive of activity, with the families of the officers sharing in the fun.
Mr. Senanayake was also a champion of the Police Families Welfare Association, spearheaded by his wife Maya Senanayake. This association was the forerunner of similar associations dedicated to the welfare of the families of soldiers and other servicemen.

Mr. Senanayake’s reach extended beyond the Police Department. He was keen to instil discipline in schools, and inaugurated the Police Cadet Corps in many Sri Lanka schools.

The school cadet battalions run by the Army were a huge success. Mr. Senanayake wanted a similar Police Cadet Corps to reach out to the wider rural school population, with an emphasis on service. The Police Cadet Corps in schools became so popular that many school principals scrambled to have a corps in their schools. The only other country then known to have a Police Cadet Corps in schools was Malaysia.

Last but by no means the least of Mr. Senanayake’s contributions was the boost he gave to the Sri Lanka Police Reserves. During his time, this arm of the police grew from a small band of volunteers to a 6,000-strong auxiliary unit. The Sri Lanka Auxiliary Police has become an invaluable source of manpower for special events and during national emergencies.

Mr. Senanayake was a visionary in many ways. He was responsible for many ideas that have borne fruit during his time and long after his demise.

V. Vamadevan

A lawyer and man of great calibre

Kithsiri Senavirathne

It is with great sadness that I pen these lines in appreciation of an erstwhile friend of mine, Kithsiri Senavirathne, Attorney-at-Law. His sudden demise sent shock waves through our hearts. The light that illuminated the Kandy bar has been extinguished.The trail of memories he left behind would be etched in our minds forever, reminding us of a gentle, soft spoken lawyer who was very much a part of the Kandyan social fabric.

Kithsiri was a down-to-earth man, who never had a chip on his shoulder, a man of the people, loved by everybody from the top to the bottom. A gentleman of high calibre, kindness was stamped in the words he spoke and every action he made.

He had assisted me in numerous ways whilst standing by me at my time of need. He was never tight fisted in his acts of helping the needy in their most miserable hours. I was lucky to have been in his circle of friends. My memory races back to an incident where he delivered an inpromptu funeral oration at the obsequies of my late brother Sudharma, a contemporary attorney, at our residence at Pujapitiya. His presence like a giant and beneficial shadow brought us solace.

Kithsiri, a man of unquestionable moral rectitude, inspired deep devotion in those who required his services in any matter of need. He was also ever ready for consultations when people were down in the dumps. His altruism brought him a host of friends in and out of the legal circle.

He was a scion of the Kandyan aristocracy, born as the youngest son of late Mr. and Mrs. D.D.Y. Senevirathne, with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. He studied at Trinity College, Kandy right through from the kindergarten. Most of his contemporaries were reputed men like Lakshman Kadirgamar, Jayantha Dhanapala, Sarath N. Silva, Gamini Dissanayake and Denzil Kobbekaduwa. He also played cricket for the school 1st X1 team and later for Kandy lawyers’ cricket club. He entered the Law College and graduated as a lawyer in 1967 and had a lucrative practice at the Kandy bar for over 40 years. He married Ramani Ratnayake, and his only son Maneesha is also a lawyer.

He entered politics and was appointed the SLFP organizer to Hewaheta Electorate and was elected MMC member of the Wewelpitiya seat of the Kandy Municipal Council. His dedication to animals and nature was legendary. He found relaxation from court work by playing the piano. He also led an active life, taking walks around the city very often.

Kithsiri who stood by his principles of life never grovelled before politicians He was Justice of Peace & Unofficial Magistrate (JPUM) and appointed chairman of the Kandy Bar Association. He was behind the newly constructed courts complex and the lawyers chambers.

He was relaxed and affable at courts, a discerning lawyer who exculpated a number of innocent victims sometimes without a fee. His address, submissions and cross examination were meticulous and incisive.

Today, even amidst the consumer-oriented society where money and power have overtaken values and justice, Kithsiri was an icon who upheld professional-ethics. We had the great privilege of having known you.

May you be blessed with a short journey in sansaara.

Sarath Dhanapala

Charlie was a more than a credit to his bank and friends

Charlesly Karunendran Kunanayagam

Charlesly Karunendran Kunanayagam has a special place in the hearts of bankers in Sri Lanka.
Charlie joined the Bank of Ceylon at the age of 20, in 1954, as a clerk. While working as a bank clerk, he followed a science degree course offered by the University of London. Through his dedication and academic and professional achievements, he rose to the level of Assistant General Manager, a position he held until his retirement.

Charlie excelled in all areas of banking, while specialising in credit administration and documentation. He was instrumental in giving the bank a sound credit culture. He also played an important role in the reorganisation of the bank and decentralising its administration to district levels.

He was the first district manager of the Jaffna District, from 1978 to 1981, under the decentralised administration. This was a prime period for Charlie and the Jaffna district. The bank extended financial assistance to businessmen in the area and helped many entrepreneurs to emerge from Jaffna.

He worked as a loans officer at the Bank of Ceylon head office and trained a number of future managers in the art of good lending. As manager of outstation bank branches, he built a strong customer base and helped build the bank’s image in other parts of the country. He introduced credit modules for appraising credit facilities. He was a guru to many bankers who are in high positions today.

He was firm, and astute in decision making. He handled issues and problems with tact and a smile. Everyone who worked with him would attest to his simplicity, humility and sweetness of manner.

He actively participated in trade union activities and held several positions in the Bank Employees Union and Staff Officers Association. Charlie was also a dedicated member of the Lions Club, extending his services beyond banking to social upliftment.

I had the privilege of knowing Charlie for more than 30 years. I was impressed by the way he and his wife led their life and brought up their children. They were two joy-giving people who loved life more than most people I know.

Charlie was prompt and clear in everything he did, and he was utterly selfless. His endearing qualities earned him scores of friends. He was also deeply religious, and worked in the service of God.

To think this gentleman par excellence is no more pricks the heart. The vacuum he has left among his friends cannot be filled. His wife, children and friends know that he is now in the embrace of God.

R. Nadarajah  

Sunday Tines Dec 13 2009

Malli had many talents and excelled in the roles he took on

W. W. Dahanayake

It is with deep sorrow that I write this appreciation of Wijaya Weerasinghe Dahanayake, retired Senior Area Manager, Bank of Ceylon, Kalutara Division, who passed away after a brief illness on September 13, 2009.

Wijaya was the youngest son in a family of four children. His parents were the late E. W. Dahanayake of Thelikada, Galle, and Ms. Sellawathie Seneviratne of Bangalawatte, Baddegama, Galle. His older brother, the late E. L. W. Dahayanake, was Chief Accountant of the Government Supplies Department, Colombo. The late Soma Dahanayake Wijesinghe, who also predeceased Wijaya, was the second in the family. The writer of this appreciation is the sole survivor of Wijaya’s generation of the Dahanayake family.

Our Mother died at the age of 34. Mallie was two years and I was barely four at the time. A child herself, Akka, who was 13 years at the time, took on the Herculean task of playing second mother to the toddler in the family, a task she selflessly carried out till Wijaya left school and found employment in 1962.

Ours was a humble household, but we had love and care in abundance. I will be failing in my duty if I do not mention with gratitude our Mother’s older sister, the late Ellen Seneviratne, who gave up her dreams of getting married to fulfil her dying sister’s last request that she would never leave the children – a task she carried out for the rest of her life. It is our deep sorrow that circumstances beyond our control prevented us from keeping our Aunt Ellen with either of us, to compensate for the sacrifices she made for our family.

Wijaya was in the second batch of students to be admitted to Thurstan College, Colombo, when Mr. D. E. A. Schokman was the Principal. Wijaya joined as a fifth standard student, and continued to study at Thurstan College till he left the school in 1962. He excelled in athletics and rugby. He received his Public School Colours in 1959 for the 4x400 Relay, an honour he considered the pinnacle of his sports achievements. He was House Captain and also captain of the Athletics Team. He was Head Prefect from 1961 to 1962.

Apart from his love for sports, Wijaya loved to sing. As a boy, he would imitate the well-known actors of the day. He would accompany me to Karu Aiya’s “Lama Pitiya”, and in the children’s plays he would take on small roles and also sing along with us. The drama teacher at Thurstan was the late Dayananda Gunawardane, whose school play “Naribena” was a great hit. Noting Wijaya’s enthusiasm, Dayananda Gunawardane asked Wijaya whether he would like to play the lead role in the play. With regret, Wijaya declined the offer, fearing the boys would nickname him “Nariya” and that the name would stick to him for the rest of his life.

At night, when we were finished with our homework, we would convert our sitting room into a makeshift theatre, and Wijaya would act the whole of ‘Naribena’, scene by scene, and sing all the songs in the play. I recall my father beaming with pleasure, his eyes filled with pride for his son.

Wijaya’s departure has left me with an overwhelming loneliness. As I sit facing the sunset of my life, I think of my two late brothers and sister, and I realise how desperately I miss them.

Wijaya joined the Bank of Ceylon in 1962 as a clerical hand and rose to executive rank through hard work and dedication. He served as manager of many Bank of Ceylon branches in Colombo and suburbs, including the NRFC and the Metropolitan branches, to name a few. Wherever he served, he was very popular with the staff.

Wijaya’s marriage to Nalini Kulatunga, a contemporary at the Bank of Ceylon, was a successful one.
Malli, it is three months since your passing away, and to say I miss you is an understatement.

May your sojourn in Sansara be short, and wherever you are, may you achieve everlasting happiness and the solace you so richly deserve.

Podi Akka. (Ranee Dahanayake Wanigasooriya)

Fond recollections of the Maristonian master blaster

Melvin Mallawaratchi

Misty-eyed Maristonians of the 1950s have fond recollections of the glory days of Melvin Mallawaratchi who stood out like a colossus striding across the field of sports. In the 80-year history of the college, Melvin was perhaps the only Maristonian to captain the school in cricket, athletics and volleyball. In the ’50s Gladstone Dias was the only other Maristonian to captain the college in cricket and athletics.

Melvin was indeed a multi- faceted sportsman. But his first love was always cricket. He talked, walked and breathed cricket. He was fascinated by its various facets and always spoke in glowing terms about the great game and its great players.

Both at school and later in adult life Melvin’s lifestyle was carefree and lighthearted. Although Melvin never read the Rubaiyat of the philosopher-poet Omar Khayyam, Melvin’s life style was based on the essential philosophy of Khayyam -- all we have is this ever slipping moment, this now, which itself has a timeless quality. So was his cricket. He was an unorthodox cricketer with simple batting techniques and an uncluttered mind. This is what made him a success. In victory or defeat he never lost his sense of humour. He knew how to enjoy the game.

Among Melvin’s cricketing contemporaries at Maris Stella were Ignatius Anandappa, Oliver Fernando, Siripala Kurera, Mervyn Fernando and in later years Gladstone Dias. But Melvin was peerless – he was the unrivalled king of the willow at Maris Stella in his time and perhaps for all time in the history of the college.

He wielded the willow with power and grace. He hammered bowlers in a space of few overs and often took the game away from the opponents. However, the quintessential adventurer that he was, in a moment he would play an unnecessary shot and gift his wicket away. Melvin at the crease was akin to a Hitchcock thriller! You never knew what was to follow. He was a power player with a penchant to strike the ball. Caution was never in his vocabulary. If there was something to be hit, he would make sure that it was hit. No half measures for him. Like in life, he was fearless at the crease, carefree and ready to put the bowler under pressure.

In 1957 he set the grounds of Maris Stella ablaze with his electrifying batting in an encounter with Ibbagamuwa M.M.V. His score of 96 runs in 20 minutes was Vintage Melvin – 2 sixers, 18 fours including nine in quick succession. Equally memorable was his score of 100 in 55 minutes against Joseph Vaz. He was the eternal tormentor of Ibbagamuwa and in 1959 scored 74 in the first innings and a hurricane 54 in the second. We stood in awe and admired this fine schoolboy when in 1959 he hammered the bowlers of St. Anthony’s College Wattala with a whirlwind 111 not out in the 1st innings and 96 in the second. His aggregate for that season came close to a record in school cricket.

In 1957, Melvin the prolific scorer broke the Maris Stella College ground record of 459 for one season set up in 1955 by Eardley Fernando by over 100 runs.

Soon Melvin attracted the attention of the National Schools Cricket Association. In the 1958 schools quadrangular tournament, Melvin was the only Maristonian selected for participation. Cyril Ernest who played for St. Mary’s Negombo was the other cricketer from Negombo featured in this tournament which had big names such as Polonowita, Yatawara, Michael Tissera, Ranjit Samarasekera and Herbie Jayasuriya. Cyril Ernest is now a successful Cardiologist living in Los Angeles and Herbie Jayasuriya retired as Senior Superintendent of Police.

Once again in 1959, Melvin was the only Maristonian participant in the National Schools Cricket Association Tournament. He played for Outstation Schools vs. Colombo and for an Association XI vs. Jaffna District.

While yet a schoolboy, Melvin represented the Negombo Cricket Club at national level tournaments. He was one of club cricket’s greatest entertainers scoring 99 in 50 minutes against Tamils “B” and 130 in 68 minutes including 12 sixers and 7 fours in a Daily News Trophy match agaisnt Kotahena. With such superlative and exhilarating performances, Melvin entered the list of cricketing legends in the early 1960s. In a newspaper write up headlined “Selector’s Guide” on selecting players to represent Ceylon for matches with the West Indies, Madras and Australia, Melvin was listed with some of the finest cricketers of that era-- Vernon Prins, A.C.M. Lafir, Michael Tissera, H.I.K. Fernando, C.I. Gunasekera, Makin Salih and Abu Fuard.

At Maris Stella, Melvin excelled himself in athletics as well. His pet events were 100 yards, 440 yards and javelin.His contemporaries on the track and field were Charles Senarath, who retired as Moratuwa University’s Engineering Dean and S.P. Dharmadasa De Silva, Former Senior D.I.G. of Police. We pooled our paltry resources of pocket money as schoolboys and came in a group to cheer Melvin when he ran the 100 yards at the Public School Track and Field Event in the late 50s. Melvin was tipped to win against E.L. Perera and R.A.F. Perera. Unfortunately he faltered in the starting blocks.

At school, Melvin with his chiselled features and Sir Garfield Sobers like swagger sent many a teenage school girl hearts aflutter. Eventually he married the love of his life Geraldine whom he met at Nestles. They had 4 daughters and a son – Marlon who along with Graeme Labrooy and Shehan Samarathunga were coached in the rudiments of cricket by Melvin as the College Cricket Coach from 1982 – 1984.

Melvin’s death on November 9, 1998 was a moment of great grief to all of us who were privileged to have shared the warmth of his friendship, sense of humour and love of life.

Merrick Gooneratne

Remembering my grandfather’s voice

M.L.M. Aboosally

There are white rattan chairs on the verandah of my grandparents’ house. I remember I had found a miniature book of poetry by Omar Khayyam and was reading it on the verandah, as it was a cool day.

This is where my grandfather found me and he sat down with me and began to recite a few passages. He flipped through the pages and then said, “Here is an interesting one.”

He then read the following verses:

“One thing is certain, that Life flies;
One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.
Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out of the same Door as I went.
With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with my own hand labour'd it to grow:
And this was all the Harvest that I reap'd -
"I came like Water, and like Wind I go."

He explained to me that this poem talked about how life is fleeting--that we arrive, live and eventually die. Big changes were taking place in my life; after the summer vacation I was going to university. I left for school in September and I saw my grandfather one last time before I left.

Memorable white rattan chair

He passed away that December, one week before I was due to return home for the break. When I read the verses he read to me that day it is as if he sensed something imminent-- I was leaving and so was he.

I wish I could say that the day was extraordinary, that we shared something great that day, that wisdom was passed to a new generation, but the truth is I sat uncomfortably, listening intently but taking nothing in. I wish I had listened. I wish I had asked questions, I wish I had not been such a fool.

Yet, was I a fool? I don’t remember the words exactly, but I found the poem he read to me and I don’t remember all my grandfather’s words, but, I do remember the sound of his voice and his dark leathery hands that shook slightly, as he held the tiny silver book. I remember thinking to myself that I must remember the moment because what a beautiful memory it would be.

When I went back to the house, the first time I had been there after my grandfather’s death, I looked for that book, I held it close and breathed in the flaky, faded cream pages hoping for any smell, any mark of his. That small silver book gave me nothing, but then it is only a book, the gentle fragile hands are gone.
On the night of my grandfather’s death, I sat alone in the common room of my dorm, that is where one of my friends found me. I was distraught, then stoic, then miserable. I remember saying to her that I feared forgetting my grandfather’s voice. She told me, “If you hear it you’ll know that it’s him.”

One day I will sit in that white rattan chair. I will wait for silence; wait for the trees, the birds, the world to stop. It will be a cool day.

I’ll hold my breath and listen. I’ll hold my breath and listen. For I remember his voice.

Imaan Ismail

Nation – Sunday Dec 13 2009

Al Haj M.F.Razook Amirdeen

A well known religious and social worker

By the sad demise of Al Haj M.F. Razook Amirdeen, the famous Kandy sportsman, promoter, social and religious worker at the age of 79, the Muslim fraternity has lost a distinguished leader.
The late Al Haj Razook Amirdeen as he was popularly known was the son of the late M. I. Amirdeen of Kandy who was a famous figure during his days. They lived at the end of Trincomalee Street, now known as D.S. Senanayake Veediya.

He received his education at St Sylvester’s College where he excelled in football, athletics and boxing along with people like M.E. Marikar (the late Razooks’s cousin), M.P. Shabdeen, R.P. Wijesiri, C.Thiagarajah, W.M. Jaffer, and D.Labroy. It is said that he was a fine footballer and played as left half.
After leaving school, he went to Colombo for employment, and later became a top businessman and was the Chairman of the F.F. Forwarding Company.

In Colombo, he was housed at Pannipitya Road, Battaramulla, where he was a famous figure and everyone knew him, he was a popular person, and did a yeoman service to the area.
It was he who along with the area MP, Buddhadhasa, put up a football ground and also he gave his fullest support to construct a Muslim mosque and the burial grounds at Battaramulla. He was also involved with the old Zahirians, that is where his four sons schooled, and his elder was at St Peter’s and played rugger for his school and his second was a fine boxer. These two died long ago.

Razook Amirdeen was well known for his social and religious work and he treated all religions alike.
He was the founder member of several Muslim organisations and had organised several Thablique Jamthas in Colombo. He was of a very high Arabic stock and was well known for the exemplary manner in which he recited the Holy Koran at religious functions.

His Janaza took place at the burial grounds at Battaramulla which was erected by him. The crowd that attended his funeral was ample testimony to his popularity.
He leaves behind five children, a daughter and four sons, and several grandchildren. Two of his sons, the ruggerite and the boxer, and his wife passed away before him.
“Wa Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Illahi Rajoon.”

Hafiz Marikar

Sivasampu Senthilnathan

Toiled to help our society

“He who lives an ideal life on Earth
Would be a man of divine worth.” - Thiruvalluvar
With the unexpected demise of S. Senthilnathan, our community has lost a rare human whose integrity none doubted. Two thirds of his lifetime was dedicated to Bank of Ceylon (BoC) where he had served for four decades with an unblemished record of service. He was on the verge of retirement when death embraced him on September 20, 2009.

It was in the mid-seventies, I worked with him at the Haputale branch of BoC. All the bank staff as well as the customers loved and respected him well because of his good character - and his simple pattern of life and living. His thoughts, words and deeds were good and he did what he said.

Hailed from a pious and respected Hindu family, he had his education at Alaveddy Arunodhaya College in the North. BoC welcomed him no sooner he had completed his college studies, and appointed him as a junior cashier. Due to hard work and enthusiasm, he had been promoted from time to time and reached the grade of ‘Manager’ at the time of his death.

At one time, when staff feared to work in Jaffna due to war situation in the North and fled to safer areas, he did not flee, but stayed in Jaffna in the midst of numberless grief and torments. He had helped the customers of BoC and the society at the time of need, and won the hearts and minds of all.
It is very unfortunate that we have lost a kind-hearted person who had toiled for BOC and helped our society at the time of need. A golden heart stopped beating and made the working hands to rest, which engenders grief to us.
His demise is a great loss not only to his family, but also to his relatives and friends. He leaves behind his fragrant memories.

May his soul attain Moksha!

K. K. Arumainayagam

Sunday Times Dec 6 2009

A queen among ladies, she taught us to keep our heads up and our shoulders back

Gwen Opie

Actually, there were two Miss Opies at Ladies’ College, but nobody ever had difficulty identifying who THE Miss Opie was. The other, her younger sister who smiled more easily, was known as Miss Rita, and irreverent schoolgirls called them, behind their backs, “Big O” and “Little O”.

Not too many “Opie” girls are above ground today, but the few of us who are still around would, given a chance, celebrate the life of a great missionary educationist who lives on vividly in our minds.

It does not seem like 65 years since Miss Opie passed away, at the age of 57, while still at the helm of the school she served so well for the better part of her adult life. Her birth anniversary falls on December 9, a fitting time to recall the remarkable woman who, to a great extent, moulded us.

When she arrived in Ceylon (as it then was) in 1915, Gwen Opie (born December 9, 1887) had the letters MA, MSc to her name, a rare distinction for a woman well over half a century ago. She earned these degrees at Canterbury College, University of New Zealand, and after graduation she had her teacher training at the North Canterbury Training College.

She then taught in secondary schools in New Zealand and finally, when she felt she was called to the mission field, she underwent training as a missionary. It was our great good fortune that when our founder principal, Miss Lilian Nixon, left the island, Miss Opie came as a worthy successor.

A very shy and private person, she had the courage to leave behind all that was dear and familiar to her in her native land and travel on a troopship to a distant country to spend the rest of her life among an alien people and culture, eventually coming to love them as much as they in turn loved her.

In 1916, she was formally named principal. There may be, as some aver, “unfortunate legacies of British education” extant in independent Sri Lanka, but well over and above that there still lingers strongly the powerful influence of the many great and good women and men who gave devoted and selfless service to the cause of education in this country.

When we “Old Girls” gather at the school for any special occasion, in the minds of many of us who are over 80, there looms the unseen but felt presence of one whose impact on our lives in our formative and impressionable years, still resonates strongly.

While Miss Opie unremittingly encouraged academic excellence, she was equally focused on character-building, on turning out truly educated girls of high principle and purpose. Who among us can forget the emphasis with which she drummed into us the value of absolute honesty at all times and particularly at examination time, be it only our end-of-term tests? Cheating was something she taught us to abhor as a vile practice.

She expected the best from her girls in every compartment of living. Courtesy was another virtue she constantly upheld. We learnt a little song that said:

“Of courtesy, it is much less
Than courage of heart or faithfulness;
Yet in my walks it seems to me
That the grace of God is in courtesy.”

Today it might be considered quaint that she should have introduced a grade for Courtesy, along with Conduct, at the bottom of our school reports, but it showed how much importance she attached to it. Our carriage – how we held ourselves – was another matter on which she held forth frequently.

“Shoulders back, girls, and heads up,” she would call out, wanting to see us march smartly when we walked from assembly to our classrooms. She discouraged us from folding our hands over our stomachs because it resulted in a slouch – but if hands were folded behind our backs, she said it pulled our shoulders back and improved our posture. So it was not surprising that “carriage marks” were awarded every week by our teachers to those who carried themselves erect and sat up straight in class. A silver “Carriage Cup” was awarded at the annual prize-giving.

I know that I am but one of innumerable “Opie girls” who, to this day, cannot bear to see a scrap of paper lying on the ground. My husband used to be amused by my compulsion to pick up litter. This was another of the bees in Miss Opie’s bonnet and her frequent lectures on it had to rub off on us.She loved grass and plants. We were encouraged to plant flowerbeds outside our classrooms, and even to bring pot plants into the room, just as much we were forbidden to walk on the grass on the front lawn. When World War II broke out, the flowering plants gave way to vegetables, but we weren’t too successful at that.

Another clear memory I have of Miss Opie is of her holding up a rather sad-looking little Sinhala book and telling us that we should take pride in our mother tongue and make it our business, when we grew up, to produce better quality books in Sinhala and Tamil that would compare favourably with the attractive, well-illustrated English books to which we were irresistibly drawn.

She also urged us to describe familiar, indigenous scenes and experiences in our English compositions, rather than writing about summer and winter and snow and apples and such.
Miss Opie had an almost pathological dislike of noise.

“In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength” and “empty vessels sound the loudest” were oft-quoted texts. We were surprised when she implored us to avoid using the words “yell”, “howl” and “shriek” in our compositions. Her reasoning seemed to be that ladies simply did not descend to that level in using their voices, so why employ such ugly words when writing”.

She never kept much to her office on school days, and her beloved dog Judy would trot ahead and give us warning that Miss Opie was on her way.

Of her talks at assembly, a few have stayed in my mind. One was built around Christ’s saying, “To whom much is given, from him is much required.” She urged us to be ever mindful of the many who did not enjoy the advantages and privileges we did.

Had she lived longer, she would have smiled, with that rare smile that would light up her normally stern features, to see the number of former students who were serving the community in volunteer organisations such as the Lanka Mahila Samithi, the Girl Guides, the YWCA, the CNAPT, and the Ceylon Association for the Mentally Retarded.

She had many dreams for the school, but the one nearest her heart was a chapel of our own that would be the inspiration for all the values the school tried to inculcate.

The gem of a chapel, which she named the Chapel of the Hope of the World, became a reality in 1933. On January 31, 1944, we walked reverently into this same chapel to pay our last respects to her as her mortal remains lay there.

Miss Opie’s impact on us was so strong and enduring because she lived the kind of Christian life she preached.

Dear Miss Opie, even if we are not the pillars of perfection you would have had us become, we who were privileged to be your pupils during that blessed era, salute you with gratitude and with love for pointing us to the highest through your teaching and the example of your life.

Anne Abayasekara

Model Parliamentarian with a great vision for a united Sri Lanka

Anil Moonesinghe

I had the pleasure and privilege of knowing Anil Moonesinghe for 60 long years. We knew each other as second cousins, and we were in very close touch during his 27 years in Parliament.

My mind goes back to the halcyon times when his parents, Piyadasa and Beatrice Moonesinghe, would visit my parents’ home in Havelock Road, bringing Anil with them. His father would bring along a tin of Huntley & Palmers biscuits – an indication of the family’s background and social level.

Anil received his education at Royal College, Colombo, under the strict and discerning eye of Principal E. L. Bradby, the last of Royal’s British pedagogues. While at Royal, he won his colours in athletics, at which sport he later excelled in his short stay at the University of Ceylon, Colombo.

Anil represented the university at the All India Universities Athletic Meet, which was held regularly in those years. Soon, Anil was seeking greener pastures abroad and, thanks to his generous and affluent parents, he found his way to England where he joined the Middle Temple. He passed out as a barrister and was enrolled soon after.

It was in those early formative days that Anil showed a distinct penchant for left-of-centre politics and found himself closely involved with a young Labour Movement. He joined the British Communist Party in 1946 and the British Labour Party in 1948.

Possibly the early beginnings of his association with Trotskyite politics in Ceylon began there. Unknown to many, Anil cut his teeth in municipal politics and contested a seat at the Colombo Municipal Council elections.

Also involved in local politics at the time were such stalwarts as Dr. N. M. Perera, Mrs. Vivienne Gunawardene, T. Rudra, Dr. Osmund Jayaratne and Robert Gunawardene. Anil joined progressive groups, working to improve the conditions of the poorer sections of the community.

The Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), which boasted such distinguished politicians as Dr. N. M. Perera, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, Leslie Goonawardene and Bernard Soysa, welcomed into its ranks the young, dashing and debonair Anil, and nominated him for the Agalawatte seat.

The Young Turks of the Sama Samaja movement called him the Aneurin Bevan of Sri Lanka. He won the Agalawatte seat in the historic 1956 elections.

In 1960, following the assassination of the then Prime Minister in 1959, the country witnessed two elections in one year. Two general elections were held in a space of three months, March and July. Anil was successful at both elections, representing his Agalawatte constituency, and was invited to join the third Cabinet of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike in June 1964 as Minister of Communications, when the LSSP allied itself with the SLFP. In March 1965, Anil won his seat from the same constituency again, but sadly had his election declared void two years later.

Anil was also a leading figure in the Trade Union Movement, and formed the United Corporations and Mercantile Union. In 1970, under Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s coalition government, he was made chairman of the Ceylon Transport Board. He served in that post till 1975, working with dedication, enthusiasm and commitment to give the harassed traveller a better service.

I recall a certain Saturday afternoon, when I had come to the Pettah bus stand to drop off a friend. There was Anil in the searing afternoon heat, supervising and directing buses and the movement of passengers, rather than giving directions from his air-conditioned office, something that others in his position might have done. By doing so, Anil demonstrated his commitment and his dedication.

In later years, Anil resigned from the LSSP, of which he was Secretary, and joined the SLFP. Soon after, in May 1983, when there was a by-election, he won the Matugama by-election and defeated the UNP candidate. Seated in the Opposition ranks, Anil performed a useful role, speaking articulately and examining issues with a focused mind.

In his final years in Parliament, he was Deputy Speaker. He was respected by both sides of the House for his fairness and impartiality. In later years, he was Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Austria with accreditation to the United Nations and the Balkan countries of Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Bosnia-Herzgovenia.

A grandson of the Rev. Anagarika Dharmapala, Anil worked a lot for the revival of Buddhism and immersed himself in the activities of the Maha Bodhi Society, becoming the society’s president eventually.

Anil was highly respected for his honesty, integrity and efficiency. He was deeply committed to any cause he embraced. He had a great vision for a united Sri Lanka, which regrettably he did not see because of his untimely passing away.

He was a totally simple and approachable man. His many, many constituents of Kalutara District will bear testimony to this.

Nihal Seneviratne

Longing for the day we will see your smile again

Bryan Paul Senanayake

Darling, darling Dada, it is so hard to believe that three long years have passed since I last saw you and heard your voice. But the memory of you is still very fresh in my mind, and I think the reason is because I think about you every day and miss you so much.

There are so many things I wish I could tell you and share with you, so many things I wish I had shared when you were in this world.

The only way I have been able to deal with your loss is in the knowledge that you are much happier now in the arms of Jesus and Our Lady, and also the knowledge that you are always with me.

Every time I feel down, I feel your presence, and it gives me such a sense of consolation. In happier moments, I wish you were still with us to share our joys and to see you smile. I long for the day that I will see you smile again and run into your arms.

When our son was born, he looked the spitting image of you, Dada, and I know you were looking down on us then, as you are now. He has changed a bit, but still holds on to your unmistakable nose.

I just wanted to let you know that although many days and many nights have passed, your spirit is still close to me, and that you are deeply loved and always will be.

With all my love,
Your daughter,

Creative, cheerful and generous to a fault - that was my uncle

Dr. M.A. Farouk

It was with a sense of immense grief and profound loss that I heard of the untimely death of my beloved Uncle Farouk. He was not only a dearly beloved relative but also a source of true inspiration.

Farouk Uncle would have liked to have been considered an ordinary man, but in fact he was an extraordinary person. He would brighten our day with his generous but sincere compliments. He was a compassionate human who had a gift for motivating and inspiring people.

Farouk Uncle was also a man of principle and sound values. He believed that we have a moral responsibility to help those in need. He was intellectual and he was also creative and inventive.

He used his knowledge of science and technology to effectively and artistically solve problems. These ranged from fixing technical equipment to developing housing facilities. He put his knowledge and talents at the service of both loved ones and the greater community, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.

I will always treasure the moments I shared with Farouk Uncle. He encouraged me to pursue my dreams, and he helped me discover my potential. I cherish his priceless guidance in various aspects of life.

I will always be grateful to Farouk Uncle for the incredible gift he gave me only a few days before he left this world. It symbolises his concern and his creativity, and captures the essence of his personality.

Significantly, he passed away on the most holy day of the month of Ramazan, after midnight prayers.
Although Farouk Uncle is not with us any more, he will continue to be an inspiration.

May Almighty Allah grant Farouk Uncle Jennathul Firdous.

Azara Jaleel

Nation Sunday Dec 6 2009

Dr Vere Edrisinghe

His healing hands were legendary the advances in medical science, few medical specialists would venture to give a guarantee of health. To do so, would be to lay their reputations and indeed the profession on the line.
But, this is exactly what Dr F.V. Edrisinghe did on one of my last visits to him shortly before he passed away three years ago. Having checked some lab reports, he said, “You don’t have anything to worry for the next five years.”

His comments were not some casually made remarks. They reflected the confidence born of his knowledge and expertise over a lifetime of service in the medical profession.

It was nearly twenty five years ago that I met him for the first time. In those days, as I accompanied my wife as she took her mother to consult him, the wait was painful. It was easily two hours before they came out of the surgery while I sat in the car trying to keep myself occupied and not feel resentful. Only when I started consulting him I realised that here was a man who first took great pains to listen to his patient whatever time it took. Then came the careful examination and probing with pointed questions. But the best was when he quietly reassured his patients in a gentle yet matter of fact voice of what the ailment was, what the treatment would be and how long it would take to cure. If it couldn’t be cured, he was sure to say so.

Despite my growing fondness for him and our warm and friendly discussions from dogs to politics and anything in between, there were some facts that I learnt only after his demise.
Dr Edrisinghe studied at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia and was a keen boxer during his undergraduate days. He was the first Consultant Physician to work at the Matara General Hospital and he also served in Kalutara, Kandy and at the General Hospital, Colombo. He retired in 1975 and went to Nigeria as a Consultant Physician in 1976. Following his return to Sri Lanka, he worked as Consultant Physician at the Central Transport Board (CTB) till he passed away on November 30, 2006.

His professionalism earned for him a reputation among many in Colombo and the suburbs. It was quite common to see foreign nationals waiting to consult him. His healing hands were legendary. There are many who would still testify to his demonstrated capability to detect cancers without sophisticated examinations.
Dr Edrisinghe loved dogs and would often enquire about our own dogs. His service though was to his patients and especially to his son Prineeth, who passed away a few years ago. Many would not have known that he conducted a free Medical Clinic at the Calvary Church for a quarter century.

It is an honour to pay tribute to a man who lived a simple yet exemplary Christian life as a medical specialist. To his wife Manel, daughter Mala, son-in-law Chrys and his grand son Rehan his death would no doubt have been a void hard to fill. I hope these words from a grateful patient would ease their pain even temporarily. May his soul rest in peace!


100th Birth Anniversary

J. Willie Aiyadurai Sportsman and Writer:, it has been a hundred years
But in our hearts you did not die,
the explosion you have been, has set alight
your name among the stars shining bright.
The bat in your hand stroking the ball
shooting runs forever into our minds,
the pen in your hand, writing words forever
and forever into our memories --
about your love, your wit, your life.
In the midst of remembering there is laughter
The light of your star helps us soldier on,
to tread our course in life.
And we shall become, in the dawn of days
Resilient, Renewed, Purposeful and always Thankful.

Jeremy Aiyadurai (grandson)
Victoria BC. Canada

Nation Sunday Nov 29


A sportsman par excellence with fine sense of humour I think of my dad on this day the 100th anniversary of his birthday, many vivid memories come into my mind.
I remember most of all, his great sense of humour when he was with people. He was the convivial raconteur par excellence.
He regaled us with stories of his school days at Trinity College, Kandy where he excelled in cricket (won his Lion and captained in 1928 and 1929), in rugby (won his colours) and college athletics and served as head prefect.
But the best school stories were about his antics when boarded at Napier House at Trinity in the Fraser and Campbell eras, where he created a great deal of amusement by his penchant for pranks that left his dorm mates (some of whom were co-conspirators) laughing even decades later.

Many of these antics are recounted in his article that appeared in the Ceylon Observer of July 30, 1995. I am happy that they were published, for the sake of my own three sons who were growing up physically distant from their grandpa since I chose to reside permanently in Canada in 1974.
No one could help but feel at ease in dad’s presence because of his wit and genuinely affable manner. He taught me that friendliness begets friendliness and that genuine interest in a neighbour invites reciprocal interest. The friends he made remained his friends for life.
I also remember him for his writing talents that had taken him into journalism when he left school. In my growing years in Sri Lanka, The Ceylon Observer, Ceylon Times and Sunday Observer were the platforms for his story telling.

I remember especially the weekly serials on his unique street characters like Pasthol Moosa or the king of beggars that put smiles on our faces. Earlier on in his journalistic career he had shown a knack for poetry in the several years that he courted his “Princess Golden Heart” - my Mom, via the columns of the Ceylon Observer. And the clippings of these poems filled a locked cabinet in his bedroom as I discovered one day.
Then there was his fine poetic piece “The Kandyan Love Song” that he dedicated to Mom and to “Romance that grows sweeter with time” which was set to music by Alesandra Castilleno. Ruth, my wife enjoys playing it today on the piano. And in those courtship years before their marriage, he systematically showered Mom with beautifully bound classics of English Literature which filled the bookcases of our home in Schofield Place, Kollupitiya, and which I avidly read in my teenage years. Each book was inscribed in his bold handwriting on the inside cover “To Princess Golden Heart from Wilver Arden”; those initials my Mom told me stood for “Great Heart”. He was a prince of a man to her.

Their long romance was the prelude to a solid and happy marriage. A related memory is a family home constantly open to a steady stream of friends, relatives and even former domestic servants who tasted my parents’ warm hospitality whenever they dropped in to visit.
It must also be said that my Dad who was openly given to joviality had a manly reserve to openly showing grief. The prime example was when Mom deceased suddenly following complicated surgery for a bad hip fracture in April 1983. My brother-in-law Hubert Aloysius told me of Dad spending many a moment, several times inside the home bathroom, shedding tears for her during that fateful time.

Today, I keep and re-read his letters to me and to my children written in their early primary and secondary school years in Canada before he deceased in 1998. All his letters were hugely positive and inspiring as he encouraged my children on to self-accomplishment and to having good character qualities, a reflection of his own mould formed during his school days at Trinity College. So also were his letters to me encouraging me to complete my graduate studies, and later, to move on in life when I decided to settle permanently in Canada.
Looking back, although in my early teen years I did not follow in his large footprints of excelling in sports at school (for which I was teased at Royal College by teachers who knew my dad), I still feel I have many bits of him in me - especially the importance of being positive and resilient, of cultivating good friendships, of having a sense of good humour and the gift of community with anybody you meet. I do also keenly follow the game of cricket which he played and was an ardent lover of, because of his enthusiastic interest that affected me in my growing years as we discussed matches and players together.
It was superb having him as my dad and I love him always for the wonderful memories he has left with me.

Mark Aiyadurai
Victoria BC

Dr Amal Uthum Heart

“Minisun atharey deviyek” faith in the Lord, undying love for humanity
Tried and tested friend, Thomian staunch and true
Honourable, charitable, kind and gentle
Unassuming, understanding… unique in every way
Model human being for all to emulate
Honest to a tee, humble to a fault and a heart of gold
Erudite scholar, economist par excellence
Righteous religious worker… a rare gem
Admired for his intellect and integrity, adored by one and all
Teacher, Preacher and Deputy Governor of the Central Bank
“Uthumaaneni, obata apagey uththamaachaaraya”
May you attain eternal Glory, my sweet friend!


36th Death Anniversary of the late Dr A. M. A. Azeez, MBE

‘Golden Era’ of Zahira College

November 24, 2009, marked the 36th death anniversary of Dr A. M. A. Azeez, C.C.S., Principal of Zahira College, Colombo for 13 years which records the ‘Golden Era’ of the college. It is specially appropriate to appreciate his invaluable services to the Sri Lankans, not only as an eminent educationist but also as a brilliant scholar who promoted ethnic harmony through his vision. A dedicated social worker, Abubucker Mohamed Abdul Azeez was born in Vannarpannai in Jaffna on October 4, 1911.

Dr Azeez was educated at the Allapichai Quran Madrasa, Vaidyeshwara Vidyalam and Jaffna Hindu College. His early education itself developed his liberal outlook that barred no race or ethnicity; instead there was the notion that there would be nothing that would succeed a good education. He maintained it firmly throughout his professional and personal life.

He entered the University in 1929 and graduated with honours in History from the University of London. Later he was awarded Government Arts Scholarship and proceeded to St Catherine’s College, Cambridge.
Dr Azeez held several important positions in the Public Service. He started his career as a young cadet at Matale and then he was assigned to the Customs Department in 1942 during World War II. In Ceylon history, he was the first Muslim Civil Servant - a distinction awarded through merit in the Ceylon Civil Service Examination.
In 1942, he was transferred to Kalmunai as Assistant Government Agent to set up an emergency Kachcheri to accelerate the food production of the southern region of the Eastern Province from Batticoloa to Kumana. It was reported that 12,270 acres were cultivated with paddy during that time.

Soon the region was transporting rice to other areas in the country. As a mark of respect, the farmers have reserved a section of land in Dr Azeez’s name. A harvest festival was held on the farm in March 1943 for the first time to celebrate the accelerated production. This event was graced by the late Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake (Privy Councillor) and other dignitaries who were brought to the ceremony in a procession of carts. The highest productivity in the region of Ampara District contributed 62% of paddy cultivation of the country. Later he was the Deputy Food Controller, A.G.A., Kandy and finally he was attached to the Ministry of Health.

In 1948, Dr Azeez quit the Civil Service to take over as the Principal of Zahira College, Colombo. The 13 years of his stewardship have been referred to as the ‘Golden Era of Zahira.’ With the intellectual capacity, vision, sincerity, dedication and administrative skills, Zahira became one of the finest public schools and one of the leading Muslim educational institutions in the country.
The college under the Free Education Scheme consisted of students from all communities of the island irrespective of caste, creed, race or religion. Students at the time lived as brothers with unity, integrity and communal harmony to its best.

The writer bears testimony to this as he was admitted to the college at the time of its former Principal, T. B. Jayah and continued during the tenure of office of Dr A. M. A. Azeez. The writer’s article in Sinhala was published in ‘Az-Zahira’ College Magazine and also received the first prize for Sinhala, awarded by the then Prime Minister, Hon S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike for all of which writer extends his gratitude to “Mother - Zahira”. Dr Azeez was so humble that a telegram of best wishes was sent to the writer on the occasion of his wedding at YMBA, Colombo 08.

During this time, the college excelled in studies, sports, scouting, elocution, oratory and debating and nearly 100 students entered the University of Ceylon. The standard of education and discipline Dr Azeez built up at Zahira was excellent. It had a well equipped library and an excellent laboratory too.
No doubt, Swami Vipulananda of Karaitivu, the founder of Sivananda Vidyalam and the poet, Abdul Cader Lebbe were in close association with Dr Azeez influencing Tamil culture and Tamil literature at that time. He however, promoted social harmony among all ethnic groups in the country. He also had a vision far ahead that higher education should be available to women as well.

Dr Azeez founded the All Ceylon Young Men’s Muslim Association Conference in 1950. His role as a Muslim public figure has been etched in Sri Lankan history. In 1952, he was awarded the MBE for his services to the country and in the same year he was appointed to the Senate. In 1963, he became a member of the Public Service Commission. Senator Azeez was honoured on a commemorative stamp in 1986. In recognition of his contribution to literature and education, the University of Jaffna, at its first convocation in 1980, conferred a doctorate of letters on him.

He fervently believed that all communities in this country could and should live in amity through not just understanding and tolerance, but by learning from each other.
Not only Muslims but also all Sri Lankans lost a great personality of social, cultural and educational values with his sudden death on November 24, 1973 at the age of 62. Let me appeal to the grateful Muslim friends to earmark his birth centenary on October 4, 2011.
May Dr Azeez be in communion with his spiritual belief!

Bhikku W. Rathana
Ananda Buddhist Meditation Centre

LakbimaNews Sunday Nov 29 2009

Thaaththi was my hero,my world, and my everything

15th death anniversary

Bertie E. Wijeratne
Thaaththi was my hero, my world, and my everything. He being a member of a family of planters followed the footsteps of his elder brother after completing his studies at St.Thomas' College Matale with distinction. He was a very courageous person and he used to take bold decisions when required.


A rigorous training under Europeans made him quite knowledgeable and hard working. His superiors found in him, the makings of an efficient planter and without any hesitation recommended and transferred him to larger plantations from time to time. There was no doubt there was keen competition even during those days to become a planter. I was told that from his young days he was very keen, sincere and dynamic and mastered the techniques of all aspects of tea and rubber planting and manufacture. It did not take much time to prove to the different managements he worked for, that he was capable of managing large plantations.

During this period the majority of the labour force on estates were Tamils and he found it quite easy to work together in harmony with a diffrent ethnic community and look after their interests while producing the best results. He was very fluent in Tamil and he was quite close to the work-force and they 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.

In his day thathie was tall, good-looking and always smartly dressed. He was highly articulate and charismatic too.

To his brothers and sisters Thathie was the darling of the family and 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.

Thathi was also passionately interested in sports and had a great sense of humour. He loved the company of his friends and wanted simple food. He needed no invitation to sing at parties; He sang solo as and when he chose and at other times dominated the chorus with his stentorian voice.

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

He also had a fierce sense of intellectual independence and a deep interest in national issues; in the arena of national political conduct he would insist on righteousness at all times, oblivious to the inherent murkiness of political realities.

At the time of his death he had more than forty years experience in planting and was a well-recognised ‘Visiting Agent’ for so many large plantations in the private sector. The vast areas he has replanted in many plantations that he was managing in the low country would undoubtedly bear testimony to the invaluable services rendered by him to the industry and the country at large.

His 15th year Death Anniversay falls day after tomorrow (December 1)

May he attain Nibbana.

- Son Haren

Sunday Island Nov 29 2009

A. M. A. AZEEZ – eminent Educationist and Scholar

by Deshabandu Prof. Tuley de Silva

It is with great respect that I remember late Al Haj Dr. A. M. A. Azeez, the exemplary Principal of Zahira College, Colombo on his 36th death anniversary which fell on the 24th of November 2009. He was an eminent and an erudite scholar who became an educationist par excellence. He served with dedication and devotion to uplift the education of the Muslim Community in Sri Lanka. This was achieved through a number of activities, the major being the development of Zahira to be one of the leading schools in the country.

Summary of his path to success is apt to demonstrate why we all admired his leadership as a role-model. Having had his early education in Jaffna, he entered the then University College and graduated with Honours in History from the University of London. He won a Government scholarship to pursue post-graduate studies at the University of Cambridge but returned without completing his studies to fulfil his mission of service to the country by joining the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service. He was the first Muslim Civil Servant in this country and held many important positions within the Ceylon Civil Service, excelling in each and every one of them. He was then offered an opportunity to accomplish his vision of providing a radiating centre for educating the community by becoming the Principal of Zahira College, which he gladly accepted after prematurely leaving the elitist civil service where he would have had a very bright future.

As the Principal, he was innovative, authoritative and effective in introducing numerous reforms to make Zahira the foremost school in the field of Muslim education. During his tenure as the Principal, Zahira College excelled in education, sports and other extra-curricular activities like cadeting, oratory, debating etc.

His success largely depended on the selection of teachers with commitment, perseverance, dedication and loyalty and the improvement of infrastructural facilities such as the. establishment of well equipped laboratories for sciences, a valuable library and facilities for sports and other extracurricular activities backed by a strong involvement in religious activities.

During his stewardship, Zahira gained significant academic achievements with record numbers entering the University of Ceylon. Well over 100 students gained admission to Universities during the glorious period of Azeez and many became leading academics while the others became eminent professionals and administrators in Sri Lanka and abroad. The high standards of education and discipline introduced by Dr. Azeez have yet to be surpassed.

I am proud to be one of the record number of 13 from Zahira who entered the University of Ceylon in 1956, two for Engineering; four for Science; one for Medicine and six for Arts. Among them A.G.A. Barrie is an International Project Management Consultant; K.R.L. Perera preferred to join the Navy to become a top naval engineer and retired as Rear-Admiral; R. C. Ratnapuli specialized in Physics and worked in Brazil for many years; M.Y. Mohamed is a Management Accountant; A. Ariyaperuma became a high ranking Army officer and was killed in action and the others ended up as professionals and administrators. At the Peradeniya campus the popular large group of Zahirians held sway in all fields and were affectionately called the "Arab League".

Dr. Azeez played a dominant role and rendered yeoman service to the renaissance of the education of Muslims of Sri Lanka, worked for their progress and welfare and devoted all his life to the service of his community.

He worked with determination to achieve his vision of helping Muslim students with financial difficulties to pursue higher education by establishing the Ceylon Muslim Scholarship Fund, which by now has assisted a large number of Muslim students from every part of the country to continue higher or professional education.

Dr. Azeez believed in catering to all communities as close interaction was essential to bring about multi-racial and multi-religious understanding and respect. Thus students from all communities and from all parts of the country and abroad sought admission to this prestigious leading Muslim college. The staff too hailed from many communities. Irrespective of the community we came from, we as a body of students, had the rare opportunity of living with all communities in harmony, tolerance and friendship and respect to each other.

I am one of those who benefited by his graceful action of allowing non-Muslim students to learn at Zahira College. It is sad that such opportunities are not readily available for the present generation so much so that some have not even socially met members of other communities.

I would like to share some of my reminiscences during my student days under the leadership and guidance of Dr.Azeez, whom I held in high esteem as a mentor, guide and a teacher.

After my secondary education at Rahula College in Matara, I joined Zahira to continue my pursuit of higher education and was at home from day one with the fellow students. I had the opportunity to be in the Hostel of the College with many students of different communities and from all parts of the country. Hostellers were a united lot who belonged to one house "Angora". We were formidable in all spheres of student activity as we could help each other and devote time for extracurricular activities as well. I had the rare opportunity of becoming the first non-Muslim Senior Prefect of the Hostel which changed things for the fellow hostel mates. No Muslim student could avoid or cut prayers early in the morning as I did rounds to all dormitories making sure that all went to the mosque on time. I may not have been popular on this count but my friends appreciated the fact that they were made to seriously study during the allocated times. As the Senior Prefect I had to be the secretary of Angora House which added more responsibility of organising winning teams both in sports and extracurricular activities for inter-house competitions.

We won most of the competitions as we were a united and a dedicated set of friends with a common purpose. Dr. Azeez gave a free hand to the Boarding Master, Mr. Issadeen, fondly called "Bulldog", who was also a task master, to run the hostel. The mischievous deeds and pranks of the hostellers are reminisced with delight even now, when old Zahirians and ex-hostellers meet.

The next memorable event was when I was appointed a Prefect of the College. We were proud of the badge that we were given and had to fulfil our tasks with dedication. I had to continue with the task of sending all students to the mosque after school as my brother Prefects also had to go for prayers. No one could sneak out of the gates without being questioned.

As Prefects we looked forward to the meetings with the Principal as these were exciting, stimulating and rewarding. He not only took students into confidence and entertained suggestions for improvement, but was also perceptive to them. We learnt from our close interaction with him, the proper sense of duty, commitment and attitudes towards harmony and tolerance in the multi ethnic and multi religious community.

In the academic activities, I distinctly remember the time that I as a biological science student, won the Senior Arithmetic Prize after competing with the Mathematics stream students. I also remember with gratitude, the School Prize Days where I won both the Senior biological and physical science prizes. It was a treat to listen to the eloquent and flowery speeches of our Principal at Prize Days in the presence of distinguished chief guests and invitees.

We as hostellers arranged annual trips lasting days as we could enjoy the generous hospitality of the hostel mates from different parts of the country. This was an occasion for us to learn the cultural practices of all communities and religions.

Not being a good sportsman, my activities centered on inter-school debating, oratory and Do You Know competitions. Our victories were well appreciated by our Principal with mention at the weekly assemblies where we enjoyed listening to his religious quotes. After victories I recall the many times that Dr & Mrs. Azeez entertained us at their home ‘Meadow Sweet’ in Barnes Place

Dr. Azeez’s contribution to the Senate was noteworthy. We never missed any speech made by him in the floor of the Upper House of Parliament during Senate debates and discussions as these were rich in content and demonstrated his flair for the language. These speeches were not tainted with trifling consideration of community or religion but were precise and enriched with forethought, illustrating his eminence as a good orator, educationist and an administrator.

I must congratulate the Dr. A. M. A. Azeez Foundation for giving the present generation an opportunity to enrich themselves by reading the printed collection of Dr. Azeez’s speeches in the Senate.

Besides, Dr. Azeez initiated the All Ceylon YMMA Conference which has now grown to cover all parts of the country and worked with distinction as a member of the Public Service Commission, Court, Council and Senate of the University of Ceylon and as President of many Associations. His contributions as a writer in English and Tamil are well acclaimed and admired.

We will remember with gratitude the yeoman services rendered by Late Al Haj Dr. A.M.A. Azeez as an erudite scholar, distinguished educationist, innovative leader, eminent administrator, prominent Senator, exceptional orator, reputed writer and above all a community worker for the enrichment of our country and the society. He was a caring and helpful gentleman of great vision, geniality and understanding who demonstrated what he believed in by example. His lifetime contributions, performance, steadfastness and commitment ought to be emulated by the present day leaders of all communities.

(Prof. Tuley de Silva hails from Matara and was a student of Zahira College, Colombo during the Azeez era. He entered the University of Ceylon in 1956 and graduated with Honours in Chemistry in 1960. He obtained the degree B.Pharm. from the University of London in 1965. He was awarded the M.Sc. and Ph.D. from the University of Manchester, UK in 1969 and 1971 respectively. In 1996 he was awarded a Honorary D.Sc. from the University of Sri Jayawardenepura. He was Professor of Chemistry at the University of Sri Jayawardenepura, Visiting Professor at University of Maryland, U.S.A. and Pharmaceutical University of Shenyang in China. He served as Special Technical Adviser of UNIDO in Vienna, Austria and as a Consultant at the International Centre for Science and Technology in Trieste, Italy. He has headed many professional associations and is on the Boards of many institutions and universities. He was awarded the National Honour of Deshabandu)

Sunday Times Nov 29 2009

A credit to the bank he served, pillar of the Methodist Church and exemplary citizen

Charlie Kunanayagam

The late Charlie Kunanayagam, retired Assistant General Manager of the Bank of Ceylon, chief steward of the Methodist Church, and past President in the Lions movement, passed away on Monday, October 5, 2009. His funeral was attended by family members, relatives, his large circle of friends and associates from the Bank of Ceylon, other banking institutions, priests and members of the Methodist Church.

Charlie was born on January 4, 1934. He lost his father when he was 11 years, and his mother had to start working to maintain her family of five children. After an early education at Union College, Tellipallai, Charlie joined Wesley College in Colombo to do his London Advanced Level studies, which he passed with distinction.He joined the Bank of Ceylon as a junior clerk at the age of 20. He decided to work and study and do his duty as a son of the family.

While at the Bank of Ceylon, he worked nights and studied during the day. He obtained a degree from the University of London in 1957. He was the first Bank of Ceylon clerk to get a degree. He was promoted to the post of Sub Accountant. He excelled in the field of credit.

He was a teacher and guide to all the staff during his time at the bank. With his logical, incisive mind he made an exemplary banker, respected by his seniors and juniors alike. Several sections of the bank’s credit manual and credit operating circulars benefited from his expertise. He was an authority on credit lending. His talents, contribution and hard work were recognised and he was duly promoted, ending up as Assistant General Manager, a post he held till his retirement in 1990.

As president of the Bank Staff Employees’ Association, he worked hard to make sure all staff were treated fairly. After retirement, he was invited by several banking institutions, including the National Savings Bank and the Housing Development Finance Corporation, to train their staff and act as their consultant.

Charlie was married to Sakunthala, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. I. P. Thurairatnam. They were blessed with one daughter, two sons, and four grandchildren.

Charlie was an active leader of Methodist Memorial Church. He was a society steward for a number of years and later became circuit steward of the then Moor Road Jampettah Circuit. Together with the Minister at the time, Charlie played a leading role in constructing the Women’s Hostel at Wellawatte, and also in the management of the hostel. Charlie also helped in the financial management of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka. He joined the world’s largest service organisation, the Lions Club International, as a member of the Lions Club of Jaffna, in 1979, and later the Lions Club of Inner Colombo, as a charter member, in 1993. He was the Lions Charter Secretary and later President in 1996-1997.

Charlie will be greatly missed by his family, his friends in the Methodist Church, the Lions Movement and the banking institutions he served.

May his soul rest in peace with the Lord Almighty.

Emmanuel Joseph

Portrait of a gentleman who was also a wonderful father

Lakshman Andrew Noel Abeyesundere

Fifteen years ago, on November 18, 1994 to be precise, my father passed away. To those who knew him, his death was indeed sudden. He was hearty and healthy, although recovering from his second heart attack. For me, his death was both sudden and shocking.

When my father survived his second heart attack, just a month before his death, I thought things would be fine. I thought he would be there to see me finish my schooling, get my first job, see me enjoy a successful career and get married and have children.

All these hopes vanished when his two close friends broke the news to me, his only child. As I pen this tribute, 15 years later, I do not feel that Dada passed away that long ago. It seems like last year. I refuse to believe in my heart that he is "gone" and that I will not see him again for as long as I live. I make myself believe that he has gone away temporarily and that I will see him again, some day. It is as if he is gone to another country and we will soon see each other. That is how I console myself.

I often think about how things would have been if he was still alive. Would he be happy with my achievements? Would he advise me on my career and life decisions? Would he be happy with the choices I have made, the decisions I have taken? These are questions I ask myself when I think of my father.

My father was a gentleman. I believe anyone who associated with him in his 58 years with us would agree with me on this point. I never ever heard him talk ill of anyone, nor did I ever hear him raise his voice in an argument.

He was God-fearing. He instilled in me very early in my life that no matter what happened, to have the utmost faith in God. He would say, "Tell the truth and shame the devil", showing me the importance of being truthful under all circumstances.

He taught me patience and good manners and groomed me to be a lady in society. "Sorry", "excuse me", "please" are words he was very keen to hear me use, as a girl. These simple but powerful words have helped me forge good and strong relationships with friends and colleagues over the years.

He encouraged me to read and would buy me books and write witty comments in them. One comment was, "Read and get fat!" This was a reference to my being a skinny teenager. He took great pride in my artistic ability, often saying I had inherited my talent from his mother (my grandmother, Laura Marian Abeyesundere). He showered me with drawing materials, even going so far as to ask friends overseas to send me oil paints. This was at a time when oil paints were not freely available in Sri Lanka.

My father never forced me to do anything. He left me to make my own choices. He made sure I knew the value of a sound education. He would walk me to school every morning, and keep waving to me until I disappeared into the school building.

This was our daily ritual, which we continued daily for 16 years. It sadly ended when I switched schools for my Advanced Levels and started taking public transportation.

I am sorry I did not inherit my father's outstanding singing ability. He mesmerised audiences with his vocal performances, from his schooldays at St Aloysius College, Galle, to his years at Lake House newspapers. He even sang out loud at home and entertained our neighbours!

He took pride in whatever he did, paying close attention to detail. He did everything with dedication and enthusiasm, whether he was writing a review of a concert or writing publicity material for his school's Old Boys' Association. He was also actively involved in church matters, while finding time to chair the parent-teacher committee of my school, St. Lawrence's.

My father was not a rich man in the sense of having worldly possessions, but he was rich in heart. He possessed a kindness, a genuineness, a love and a warmth that he gave of freely to whoever came his way.

I miss him greatly, even after 15 years. And I know I will miss him even more in the years to come.

Aruni Abeyesundere

Daily News Nov 26 2009

Appreciation - Lynnette Fernando

She is now in the hands of God.

Such a gentle creature of His making. With no harsh word spoken or anger shown. She cared, and was caring.

A companion and mate to Oliver, for 50 years and more, she quietly and lovingly shared the changing seasons of their life at home and abroad. A mother to Ian, Anil and Dayamal, she served them encouragement and hope through trial and test to bring them each to their goal.

In the 70s, when Oliver was responsible for the Provincial General Hospital Services in Kurunegala, the Ministry Secretary, after completing his inspection there, remarked “Dr. Fernando, I have been to more hospitals than I can count, but yours ranks as the best” To which Oliver humbly replied “Sir for this praise, I have only my wife to thank.” Lynnette never grudged the extra working time, and they were long hours that Oliver put in at the hospital.

The evenings in Kurunegala would lead me often to Oliver’s for talk in the way that friends do, and Lynnette would prevail on me to share a meal. Her hospitality was without ostentation, and like everything about her, came straight from that gracious heart.

In Nigeria, when Oliver was a Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology at the University of Ile-Ife, she made use of her talents in the fine arts to teach children the fundamentals of aesthetics.

A few months ago, we were at lunch, when she told me that she was not all that well, and on meditation. I was strangely uneasy, and struggled with the thought that the days ahead may see her taken.

So it happened, and I am left now to write this tribute, which I willingly do to honour her memory. He who made the lamb made thee.

Dr. J.G. Hattotuwa

Sunday Times Nov 22 2009-11-22

Goodbye Piyal, goodbye Aiya

Henry Jayasena

I was woken up on Wednesday, November 11, by a call from a friend in the UK to give me the sad news of the demise of veteran artiste Henry Jayasena.

I had met Henry only two months earlier, at a dinner party in Colombo, when I was in Sri Lanka for a short holiday. He was hale, hearty and jovial, but there was a tinge of sadness about him. His mood had changed with the death of his beloved wife, Manel, three years earlier.

I cherish my memories of working with Henry Jayasena. I called him Piyal, after the character he played in the film “Gamperaliya”. We did three major films together. Our friendship stretched over a period of five decades. Whenever we met, we talked about the good old days, making “Gamperaliya”, and later “Kaliyugaya”.

Punya and Henry as Nanda and Piyal in the movie Gamperaliya

He was more of a big brother to me than a fellow artiste. We had long, serious discussions about cinema, theatre, literature, and other topics. Bernard Shaw said “simplicity is the canon of high art”. Everything about Henry was simple. His dramatic creations, his lyrics, his poetry, his acting method, his literary work, his dress, his behaviour, his walk, his mesmerising smile – all were genuine, heartfelt, and simple.

In “Gamperaliya”, Piyal gives Nanda (the character I play in the film) the book “Robinson Crusoe” to read. He is tutoring her in English. Unable to express his feelings for her in speech, he smuggles a love letter or two inside the books he passes on to her. In real life, Piyal would send me his literary works, and almost all his books had a letter for me tucked between the pages.

I believe it was in his “Nim Nethi Kathaavak” (“Endless Story”) that he referred to Zambia as a Scandinavian country. I immediately wrote to him and pointed out that Zambia was a landlocked country in central Africa, where we had been living for a couple of years. He wrote back saying he regretted the mistake, adding that he never scored more than 4 out of 100 for geography at school.

Simple and unpretentious as he was, this great man had no airs. But he did have an aura of dignity that went with his simplicity. His many talents extended into theatre, television, literature, and translation work. At the time of his death, he was in the middle of translating the biography of a celebrity into Sinhala.

After the death of Manel, his wife and soulmate, Piyal became a lonely man. Thanks to Manel and their only son Sudaraka, Piyal enjoyed a happy life of retirement, surrounded by his son’s family and grandchildren.

Whenever I was in Sri Lanka, I made it a point to call or visit him. When he received an honorary degree from his alma mater, Nalanda College, I called and addressed him by his long and decorative title. He was silent for a moment, then said, “Is that Punya calling”?

He would gently reprimand me if I ever forgot his birthday. When he became a heavy smoker, I expressed concern for his health. He retorted.“Yako, umba mage ammada, mata cigarette bonna epaa kiyanne?” (Are you my mother to tell me not to smoke?). I apologised. I said, “I may not be your mother, but I am like your sister. As a national treasure, you are obliged to listen to lesser mortals like us. You had a nasty illness and you are in remission, so don’t add fuel to the fire by smoking.” He calmed down, but he did not give up smoking.

Our lighthearted banter was very much in the spirit of a big brother and an erring little sister having an argument, rather than two fellow artistes sparring. He lived to see the revival of “Gamperaliya”, and the French accolades that were bestowed on the restored version of this masterpiece of Sinhala cinema.

Now, one half of the “Gamperaliya” duo – Piyal and Nanda – is no more. Another multi-talented national treasure – multi-faceted Lankan jewel – is gone. The “all-in-one” individual, such as Henry Jayasena was, is a very rare phenomenon.

As a fellow artiste I was privileged to have worked and associated with him. The world of cinema, theatre, television and literature will miss him, but his creations will live on in the hearts of his colleagues, fans and family.

Goodbye, Piyal. Goodbye, Henry Aiya. May you attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.

Punya (“Nanda”) Heendeniya

Classmates remember tragic loss of a dear friend

Sarath Ambepitiya

Many years ago an eminent Queen’s Counsel said: “In the field of justice and fair play, right is right and wrong is wrong and the two can never meet. … To compromise the two takes an elastic conscience. … Such men should be shunned, for they are the bane of society.”

You stood by this priceless piece of wisdom, and you paid dearly for it. Five years later your grieving family continues to feel the pain of the tragedy that took you away, while civil society endures an irreparable loss. Your stamp of professional integrity was appreciated at a time when the pillars of Hulftsdorp seemed to be shaky.

We salute you, Sarath, in death, as much as we admired and respected you in life. We continue to share the pain and heartache your dear wife, Vajira and son Sithira have endured since that fateful day in 2004.
May you attain Nirvana.

Your Classmates, Royal College Group of ’59

Fond memories

Years five have passed since that fateful day;
For the course of justice your life down you lay.
Are memories short? No! We remember still
The void you left that no one can fill.

In this land called “blessed”, crime marches on
The Vendors of Terror, diverse dresses they don,
The battle between good and bad continues,
The good are few, while the bad come with retinues.

The unfolding drama that ended in your death
Has been retold after studies in depth;
Justice caught up with the fleeing criminals,
And the story has entered medico-legal journals.

You left behind a name that is everlasting;
Loved and grieved by citizens law-abiding;
Honesty and integrity are our great pride,
Sterling qualities do not change with tide.

Prayers and alms given in your memory
Will serve wherever you are as your armoury;
The good that you did in good stead,
We all hope to travel the path you tread.

Vajira & Sithira


Popular vet saw his practice grow with Nugegoda’s rising fortunes

Dr. Vasantha Unantenne

Dr. Vasantha Unantenne’s popularity as a veterinary surgeon was virtually synonymous with the rise of Nugegoda as a commercial hub and a key link town of Colombo. With the dawn of economic liberalisation in the late 1970s, Sri Lanka began to experience rapid changes. There were growing opportunities everywhere for economic advancement.

The development of Kotte and its environs in the 1980s had a favourable impact on neighbouring areas, especially towns like Nugegoda, with its reach and accessibility. On the one hand, commerce began to expand, and on the other there was a steep rise in population.

Economic advancement means social change, and the lifestyles of the rising middle class evolved along with the social changes. The new lifestyles included, among other things, a heightened interest in pets – more precisely, in the rearing of dogs of different breeds.

Into this picture of societal transformation entered Vasantha, who located himself at the centre of a dynamic town. And what a success he made of his career. There were also significant personal attributes that helped him. He was friendly and outgoing. He had a passion for life and an uncanny knack for relating to people. More important, Vasantha was a consummate communicator.

Life and career, however, have twists and turns that are not brought about by cosmic alterations and transfigurations. They are more often of man’s own making, however strange and inexplicable they may appear to be.

The Japanese have a simple saying: “Life is what you make of it’. When Jayanthi and I learnt of Vasantha’s death, we were greatly saddened. We recalled those effervescent years of our association with Vasantha.

Vasantha’s life bore a curious parallel to that of another departed friend, Vasantha Karaliyadde. Physically very different – one was rotund, the other pencil slim – they both hailed from excellent families in Kandy. Both left the hallowed portals of the same great educational institution in Kandy around the same time. Both became professionals, though in different disciplines. Both were knowledgeable in their own way, and both were humorists par excellence.

Vasantha Unantenne’s practice also gained from his ability as a diagnostician. With great accuracy he would identify a disease, and he would never consciously prolong the treatment of a pet.

In the early years of his practice in Nugegoda, we would do our weekend marketing together, and such occasions included a meal at his house. Though we intended to take lunch, it was more like supper that we finally sat down to, the meal punctuated by loud laughter.

Vasantha then was a quintessential foodie, and this was perhaps inimical to him in later years.
Economic growth has another side. Although Vasantha, like many other professionals, along with trades and businesses, gained from Nugegoda’s growth, it was that very growth and the invasive urban spread it entailed that made him relocate.

Vasantha moved down High Level road to a three-storeyed building with ample parking space, although on the main road. Despite personal problems, he continued to enjoy a lucrative practice. He also retained his special charm and allure.

My family remembers with joy the many trips we made down to Delkanda, along with the dogs, moaning and howling alternatively. A man for all seasons, fair or foul weather, Vasantha never lost his form as a humorist. It was good fun to be in his company.

In his last years, Vasantha was a virtual recluse. But he made the annual trek to watch the Bradby, school rugby’s most anticipated event.

I cannot help noting the striking similarity in the two Vasanthas awaiting the inevitable. Jayanthi joins me in offering a silent prayer for Vasantha – for his life and his work.

Jagath Savanadasa


‘Chief’ proudly steered hundreds of officers and sailors in the Navy

Tuan Kamaldeen Rahim

Fondly known as Chief (G.I.) among his colleagues, Tuan Kamaldeen Rahim joined the Royal Ceylon Navy in 1944, during World War II.

He was among the first batch of 100 sailors who helped to build the formidable modern Sri Lanka Navy of today.

He was also one of the very few sailors to be sent to the United Kingdom on three occasions for training and to take delivery of ships for the Sri Lanka Navy. One of these ships was the famous and last warship, H.M.Cy.S Parakarama.

During his 18 months’ training in the UK, he consistently achieved his “target”, thus impressing the British naval officers. On completing his training in the UK and India, he passed out as a fully fledged Gunnery Instructor, Class I.

As a trainee, he participated at the funeral of King George VI, the present Queen’s father, and he was among the organisers of the naval-style state funeral accorded to Prime Minister S.W.R. D. Bandaranaike, in 1959.

Chief (G.I) Rahim guided hundreds of officers and sailors of the Regular Sri Lanka Navy and Volunteer Naval Force. He was also proud to be the first Sri Lankan Gunnery Instructor, as his predecessors were all Europeans from the Royal Navy.

In his last years, my grandfather lived with us. His loving wife, Gnei Mass Rahim, continues to live with us. My grandfather left Darul Fana on June 14, 2009. May Almighty Allah bless him and grant him Jennathul Firdouse.

Arshad Musafer

DN Sat Nov 14 2009

Memories of a loving grandmother

'Death is not the end of life but rather, the putting out of the lamp when the dawn breaks.'

It is hard to imagine that it has been a year since Lakshmi Wanigasinghe, my beloved grandmother passed away.

I can still hear her voice correcting me over some mistakes I did, being extremely worried that the food was not good when it was actually delicious or giving us one of her most valuable advices. Dear Acha, if I am to say that I won't be writing this appreciation today it not for the letters you taught me, I don't think anyone would disagree.
Lakshmi Wanigasinghe

Acha was one of the greatest hosts who made any person who visited her home feel very welcome. She was such an ebullient and entertaining character and therefore makes life harder for us when we miss her.

Acha would never forget to keep the Buddha Pooja daily. She was a devoted Buddhist who observed sil every poya, lived by the Dhamma and taught all her grandchildren the value of it. She also served the community in every possible way.

She was an unpretentious, simple, lovable and a wonderful role model to all of us.

I truly miss Acha's bright smile which was always present, even when she was sick. She was my guiding light, inspiration and pillar of success.

I recall the memories of how Acha along with Seeya took us on vacations to historical and enjoyable places. Then Acha and Seeya would teach us everything they knew and their knowledge amazed me. I can say these were the happiest memories of my childhood.

"Perfection" was one of Acha's favourite words.

She wanted every tiny thing to be done without any fault and that is probably a reason why her home was always prim and proper which we still identify as Acha place. Recently I found a book which Acha had written for me when I was in Grade 1 which contained so many essays and Maths sums. The effort she had put into this brought tears into my eyes. It made me dream of how I stayed with Acha everyday after school. Without having her meals she waited until I came with the delicious lunch prepared just for me.

The most significant quality in Acha's life was she always wanted to help someone.

This was clearly seen when her body was given to the Medical Faculty according to her will.

She always gave her best, whatever the situation was with dignity, charm and profound dedication.

Acha lived by the dictum "If we can help someone around us enjoy a better quality life, we have not lived in vain." Dear Acha, you certainly made a difference by the way you lived your life.

You will live on in the bright and fond memories of all of us who had the privilege of knowing you.

Your death is a great loss to our family. There are no words invented to show my gratitude to you. The inevitable reality of life is that those we love will leave us some day, but the memories they leave behind stay with us forever.....

May you attain Nibbana, Acha!

Shashikala Wanigasinghe

NATION Sunday Nov 15 2009

Reminiscences of my brother Rajah Kumarasinghe

I recall down memory lane since my happy childhood
In uncorrectable ways you were the pride of true brotherhood
Never’ll the aches in my heart fade ‘n vanish away
Profound sorrow bitter heart burns’ll remain, forever sway.
Till memory fails your absence felt day after day
How much we miss you nor tears or words could ever say
Undying nostalgic memories stand engulfed in my painful heart
Par excellence you played lovingly many a heavy part, so smart.
Numerous awards won for extraordinary talents outstanding
Reputed boxer, a celebrity, teetotaler, integrity abounding
Though after a brief illness your demise bound belief
Loved ones aghast deeply stunned, we in unbearable grief.
Extended generous selfless hand to needy, less fortunate,
Without you they wouldn’t have become so fortunate
Regardless of reward meritorious deeds in silence for charity
Your sincere attitudes expecting unity, lucid harmony, no disparity
A few decades ago won prestigious titles for body building, weightlifting
Respected honoured personality cynosure of manhood over flowing
Never proud of achievements rare calibre unassuming
In you humble heart forgiveness, togetherness loving kindness soaring
May his only son, Roshan, with countless blessings of deities
For a fruitful life acqure his gentle father’s sterling qualities
A pillar of strength instructed many unto justice
Never pompous arrogant, ever ready by nature to sacrifice.
This sentimental tribute I owe with gratitude at least this way
Sathya sai devotee lives in cheer in your lips as you passed away
By virtue of myriad meritorious deeds performed in sansara
May you my loving brother attain the supreme bliss of Nirwana.

Kumari Kumarasinghe

Sarath Ambepitiya

Civil society endures an irreparable loss

Many years ago, an eminent and highly respected Queens Counsel said “In the field of justice and fair play right is right and wrong is wrong….the two can never meet….To compromise the two takes an elastic conscience….such men should be shunned for they are the bane of society.’’ You stood firmly by this priceless saying and yet paid dearly for it. Five years beyond, that tragedy continues to be bravely borne by your grieving family, whilst civil society endures an irreparable loss. In an era where the once erect pillars at Hulftsdorp appear to be struggling to remain upright, you left behind a stamp of professional integrity worthy of both memory and emulation.
We salute you Sarath in death, as much as we admired and respected you in life. We continue to share the intense pain and heartache that your dear wife, Vajira and son, Sithira have endured since that fateful day in 2004.

May you attain Nirvana!
Your classmates
Royal College Group of 59

An ode to a sister - Sita

We did as many trips to Bharata Boomi
To tally with the voyages of Sinbad
Sometimes with others in tow
But more often - just you and I.
We many do
At all the renowned shrines
And went farther, where few go¬ –
Mookambikai, Mahanandhi at Nandiyal,
Shantha Durga, Athi Shankar / Sri Saratha and many more.
We took many a perilous risk -
At Hogenakal where the mighty Kaveri
Cascades from Karnataka into Tamil Nadu
You were keen on the mega boat ride
But couldn’t go down to the river;
I made you sit atop the crag
And inch by inch, helped you
Slide down to the Water’s edge
And into the enormous round “Vallam,”
Which spun wildly in the swift, swirling currents;
The booming rapids jettisoned a spray
Making the air cloudy - and oh so scary!
But we came home safe.
Boating in the deep, dark waters of Kodai Lake
We said to each other
It was a foolish risk when kith and kin
Knew not where we were -
But we came home safe.
Cruising on the Santa Monica in Goa
Down the River Manduvi, to where
The waters mingled with the Arabian Sea - and back,
In the gloaming hours and after -
But we came home safe.
A nasty fall in the temple city of Madurai
A row of twenty bikes came down with you
And again in Madras, on the side-walk of Mount Road,
But you sprang to your feet with never a bruise-
And we came home safe.
The last joyous trip together was in ’97
The cool, healing falls of Courtallam
Left you ironically with phlegm in the lungs
But we came home safe,
India, never again you said!
Years lapsed with nary a thought
Of the country we loved so much;
Then a few years ago you asked me
How about one last trip? I said No,
But, you went this year, without me And never, never came back.


G. Kalyanaratne

A prominent social worker

G. Kalyanaratne of Katukurunda, Pannipitiya, passed away recently. I came to know Kalyanaratne somewhere in 1985 and thereafter he became a friend. Thereafter, I met him frequently as he became a committee member of Vadihiti Nivasaya at Hokandara Road, Pannipitiya.
He was helping to the Buddhist temples in the area. At the same time he was a prominent figure in assisting Athu Perera Vedihiti Nivasaya. He was a religious minded person and had always been in calm mood. He was moving with his friends in a very cordial manner. In fact, I never expected his sudden death so soon. As a result of his sudden death we lost a sincere friend. Actually that type of people is very rare in the present day society.
May he attain the supreme bless of Nibbana!

M. G. Asoka Karunaratne



Sunday Times Nov 15 2009

Modest, gentle, wise, kind to all living things – and above all a great teacher

Rachel Monica Strange

Miss Monica Strange, who died a fortnight ago, was an exemplary teacher. She could have been regarded as an ideal school marm. She rejected the arbitrary distinctions of caste, race, nationality, religion. To do good and avoid evil was her credo.

Miss Strange obtained her degree from the University of London in 1940, when World War II was getting into stride. She was the daughter of a teacher, her father being Cyril Strange, a mathematics teacher at Nalanda College in the 1930s.

Miss Strange too wanted to teach, and approached her old school, Methodist College, for a teaching position. This she did not get, and so she turned to her next preference, Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya, where she spent her entire teaching life, working with the establishment to guide hundreds upon hundreds of educated ladies, most of whom, in due course, migrated Down Under and to countries in the West. Those surviving may be long past their middle age, if not old, but they would have shed a tear to learn of Miss Strange’s demise.

Miss Strange never married and therefore had time and opportunity to devote herself to her vocation. She lived all by herself in a modest annexe off Lauries Road which, as the years rolled on, became a miniature Mecca for students and parents. She gave those who wanted guidance all the advice they needed, and was happy to see her efforts produce good results.

She taught mainly English and Mathematics. She was like an elder sister or aunt to all her charges. She appreciated mischievousness, seeing it as unbridled energy that could be channelled into something good. She was tolerant and patient to a fault. Never did she utter an angry word. She was quite aware that not all girls are alike. She would say: Quot homines, tot sententiae – many men, many opinions.
She would deal with erratic behaviour or neglect of studies with kind and encouraging words. She believed that proper encouragement and advice was the answer for all schoolgirl maladies. She enjoyed being counsellor, friend and guide to all entrusted to her care.

Her philosophy, as teacher and individual, was to refrain from harming any living thing, and to reply to harsh words with kind, loving words. On her retirement, because she found it difficult to manage on her teacher’s pension alone, she took in private pupils. Her fees were nominal, and she taught many free of charge.

In her active days, she would be seen riding her bicycle – a tall figure, always dressed in frock, and wearing thick-lensed glasses – cycling along Galle Road, between Bambalapitiya and Wellawatte, her bag of books and whatnot tied to the pillion.

Her wish was that she die unseen, unwept, unknown, and that not a stone should indicate her resting place. Her wishes have been granted. Her mortal remains were cremated and her ashes returned to the elements. She was in her early 90s.

The last time I met her was at the General Cemetery, Kanatte, at the funeral of a Hulftsdorp lawyer.
It may be wondered why I am writing this epitaph. It is mainly to honour a lady who was my contemporary at the University College, Colombo, in the late 1930s. We were in the same class, following lectures on English Literature given by Professor E. F. C. (Lyn) Ludowyke and Herbert Passe (who would become a professor later).

I graduated the same year as Miss Strange, in June 1940 – 69 years ago.

R. L. N. de Zoysa

Lankans in America will greatly miss their bubbly, beloved ‘CEO of SODA’

Merrill Cassell

On a sunny afternoon, at about 3 p.m., our good friend Merrill went out for his usual bicycle ride to nearby Tarrytown, in suburban New York. He waved goodbye to his beloved wife Maxi, saying he should be back in 15 minutes or so. Alas, that was his last goodbye to Maxi. He was knocked down by a bus and succumbed to his injuries shortly after.

When I heard the sad news in New York later that evening, I was in total shock. Merrill was one person I truly loved and respected among my friends. He was a great husband to Maxi, wonderful father to his only daughter Tania, affectionate father-in-law to Tim and doting and proud grandpa to his grandson and granddaughter.

Merrill was very fond of the country of his birth, Sri Lanka, and was always nostalgic about his happy years, growing up in that tropical isle. He was also proud of his heritage as a Burgher of British origin. “I am one of the better Burgher buggers,” he would joke.

As a youngster, he started off as a cost clerk at Walkers, Colombo, and worked under his hero and mentor, Mr. Alagaratnam (chief engineer). After completing his cost and management exams, he rose up the management ladder quickly. He later joined the United Nations, worked in countries such as Bangladesh, and finally ended up at UNICEF, New York, where he was budget director at the time of his retirement, some years ago. While working at UNICEF, he studied for a Master of Public Administration degree at the New York University Wagner School of Public Service.

Merrill was a very likable and unpretentious person. Because he was non-judgmental, he made friends easily among the Sri Lankan community in the US and the Americans. He was devoted to his adopted country, the US of A. I remember the day he became a US citizen. He was ecstatic.

As a friend, he was phenomenal. Can we ever forget the founder of SODA – Sri Lankans Online Discussion Association? We are all beneficiaries of this unique organ. Merrill would give pen-names to all his buddies at SODA. I was given the name “Poet”, for my esoteric expressions, I suppose. Luke de Silva of Stamford, Connecticut was called the Duke of Stamford. Brahman Sivaprakasapillai was referred to as “Your Highness”, and ChandraRaj was affectionately called the “Moon King”.

Merrill was fondly called the “CEO” by us all. Whenever some of us fell behind, owing to lack of time or just plain lethargy, our CEO would give us a pep talk and the e-mail traffic would start humming again. How we enjoyed his messages. They were priceless.

Those of us in our twilight years found SODA a great vehicle to keep us occupied and informed. There were jokes galore, too, as our CEO was a man of humour. He loved jokes of all kinds, the darker the better. Below-the-belt jokes were very welcome.

In the meantime, our CEO started a blog of his own. It was brilliant, and a resounding success. Our CEO was a veritable intellectual who could write on any subject, from management, accountancy and economics to health, life, sports and a lot more. His writing was balanced and poised.

Merrill was cool, calm and collected. He had a unique, non-confrontational way of communicating, with that soothing mellow voice of his. And we all listened.

Merrill was a sportsman. He was a runner. He ran many marathons till his feet gave way. He was a champion swimmer. And he was a bicycle aficionado. He was an expert on sports bikes and had four great ones in his garage, next to his Toyota Avalon. He promoted biking to all and wrote many articles to the local newspaper on the environmental benefits of biking.

All of us are reeling from the blow of Merrill’s death. Some of us still refuse to accept the fact that he is gone. My heart is heavy.

Till we meet again, Merrill.


Chorus of loving tributes for a great singing teacher

Ruwani Seimon

It is two years now since you left us for a better place. You are still sadly missed, and I don’t think I speak only for myself.

Ru, you didn’t stop at being just a choral director/music teacher, did you? You made an effort to understand a student beyond his or her musical prowess. You committed yourself to forming friendships. As a result, many students found in you a source of support and comfort. Here was someone with whom they could enjoy a candid conversation and a good laugh.

As a teacher, you knew how to challenge your students without jeopardising the spirit and joy of learning. As an accompanist at the piano, you had this ability to sense when a singer was short of breath, and subtly up the tempo and see the singer through to the end of the song. If the singer was slightly over-pitched or flat, he or she would surely note the raised eyebrows from behind the piano.

Your love, desire and passion for music were insatiable. Your desire to innovate and experiment knew no limits. It went hand in hand with your dedication and discipline. There was no compromising in that department. You instilled qualities necessary in life, and many of your students will thank you for that.
There are also those who will remember you as this hot-tempered tough personality who never minced her words. But the truth is that deep down you were big-hearted, warm and compassionate. And it did not take long for those qualities to surface.

You always gave of your best, Ru. Even in anguish, you fought to live your life to the fullest – no one can deny that. Like strands of light lacing the night sky, you will not fade from the hearts and memories of many.

God bless you, Ru

Trader who believed in honesty and honour in business and personal life

Abdul Majeed Rajabdeen

Abdul Majeed Mohamed Rajabdeen was born into a middle-class family, his father Abdul Majeed hailing from Mattakuliya and his mother Mariam coming from the Panendam Kanthoori Ootar of Grandpass.
An only child who lost his mother when he was barely two months old, Abdul Majeed was looked after by his paternal aunt, Mathugan Natchiya, and later by his maternal uncle, Abdul Majeed of Grandpass.

His childhood days were spent in the loving care of his uncles and aunts. As a young man, he was employed for a short period by his uncle in the medicinal shop of Aliya Marikar & Sons, in Negombo. Adventurous and enterprising, he later worked in a Colombo hardware store owned by leading trader Abdur Rahman of 3rd Cross Street, Pettah.

In 1935, with a minimum of capital and an abundance of goodwill, he opened a small hardware store in Pettah. He was helped by the leading merchants of the time because of his enthusiasm, integrity and dedication. He built up a wide customer network and expanded into the estate supply sector, where he was immensely successful. The war years boosted his fortunes, and in 1940 he set up another shop, at 72, Third Cross Street. This shop was used as a godown and later as Abdul Majeed’s head office.

In 1936, Abdul Majeed married Noor Nizara, daughter of Abdul Hameed and Ummu Habeeba of Temple Road, Maradana. The couple set up home in Dematagoda, Abdul Majeed’s birthplace. Allah blessed Abdul Majeed with a large family and later showered him with wealth. By the end of the war years, he was a leading merchant and a landed proprietor.

He was actively engaged in the Zaviya Movement in Colombo, just as his father and grandfather were prominent members of the Shazuliya Tareeka. A devout and practising Muslim, Abdul Majeed would go for his daily prayers to the mosque in Dematagoda. The Thakkiya in Dematagoda was also a favourite place of prayer. Abdul Majeed bought a property adjoining the mosque, and it has been proposed that this property be given to a Madrasa run by the mosque.As founder of the sole proprietorship A. M. M. Rajabdeen, Abdul Majeed later formed a partnership with his three sons, calling the business A. M. M. Rajabdeen & Sons. It is on this solid foundation that Rajabdeen & Sons Ltd now stands, at 192 Nawala Road, Colombo.

Abdul Majeed believed in honesty, hard work, dedication and honour in both business and in personal life. The merchant fraternity held him in high esteem, and spoke of him as a man who kept his word – so much so that two leading banks, Mercantile Bank Ltd and the National Bank of India, spontaneously offered him facilities, which he graciously turned down because of the riba (interest) factor. He said he could manage his own finances.

Abdul Majeed earned his fortunes single-handedly. Despite his success, he was a simple man with no trace of conceit or haughtiness. He was the same person towards the end of his life that he was at the beginning.

He often quoted from religious discourses. Some of the wise sayings he quoted were: “Never look down on the man who is walking when you are on horseback, for tomorrow the position may be reversed”; “Pay the labourer before the sweat on his brow dries up”; “Success built on trust will stand the test of time”, and “Pride precedes a fall”. How very true!

He taught us by example to care for the elderly, to cherish righteousness, piety and simplicity and to love the relatives of both sides of the family. In this he was assisted in no small measure by his wife, the epitome of grace and love, a wonderfully devoted person to whom all her relatives were an integral part of her life.

Abdul Majeed was a devoted father. An only child, he found love and comfort in all his children. Upon his advent to Makkah for Haj in 1960, he bequeathed his business to his sons, dividing his wealth and business equally.

Never envious of the good fortune of others, Abdul Majeed wished for the children of others whatever he wished for his own children.

His life has left an indelible impression on us all. May Allah in His infinite mercy grant him the highest abode in Jenna.

Mohinudeen Rajabdeen

Sunday Times Nov 8, 2009

A man who lived after the manner of his name “Uthum”

Dr. Uthum Herat

When H. L. de Silva, PC, passed away in April this year, the small Methodist Church at Mount Lavinia, where he (with his wife Manel) was a devout worshipper, became smaller, diminished. Now a little over six months later it has become still smaller, more diminished, with the sudden and untimely death at 52 of Dr. Uthum Herat on October 23.

Uthum was an inseparable part of the little church on the hill. He served as Superintendent of the Sunday School, which he had attended as a schoolboy. He was also a lay preacher at this church, and each time he preached, his well-prepared message touched a chord in every heart that listened. He conducted Bible studies for a small group of church members, who found them of absorbing value in strengthening their knowledge and understanding of God’s word.

He was a learned man with a first class B.Sc. degree from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura and a doctorate in Economics and Finance from Purdue University, Indiana. But he did not flaunt his learning ever. He was too humble, too simple, for such enormities.

To me, an ordinary member of the Mount Lavinia Church, Uthum, like H.L., belonged to the elite of the congregation and I was in awe of both of them for their intellectual prowess. They both helped me, though they never knew it, to be sure of God and of my faith in Him, particularly when an old friend, himself an intellectual, ridiculed me for going for Sunday worship.

He had been baptized as an infant, went to a Christian school, and had married a Christian. He, however, despised the faith to which he was born and in which he was nurtured, for what reason I wouldn’t know and never sought to know.

“Stupid” is how he described those who believed. I used to say to myself while listening to him belittling my faith, “Who am I to question God when there are H.L., the country’s leading constitutional lawyer, and Uthum, the brilliant Central Bank economist, who believe in God and attend church more regularly than I do?”

Uthum rose to the position of Deputy Governor of the Central Bank. He was also the Central Bank’s alternative Director to the IMF and served in Washington on an assignment. He also made an impressive power point presentation in Geneva to attract investors to Sri Lanka. He made keynote addresses and inaugural speeches at various important professional events in Colombo, not long before his death.

On Sunday October 18, which sadly turned out to be his last Sunday at church, he told my wife he was going to visit me, as he had not seen me for a long time. And then, death struck with such unforgiving finality as to leave Uthum’s fellow worshippers at Mount Lavinia, all of them without exception, shattered and bereft.

One of Uthum’s favourite hymns has this refrain:

We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll; Fastened to the rock which cannot move, Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!

Led by Roshan Mendis, we sang the hymn amid audible sobs and sighs as we watched over the mortal remains of a man who lived after the manner of his name “Uthum”.

Farewell, Uthum, you were too dear for our possessing.

C. N. S.

Remembering the ‘elder statesman’ of Royal College

Vijitha Weerasinghe

It is two years since Vijitha Weerasinghe, the esteemed and respected “elder statesman” of Royal College, left us. Tempus fugit, as he would have said.

He was fond of saying he was associated with Royal for more than 70 years, first as a pupil, then as a teacher and a Deputy Principal, and finally as Vice President and Advisor to the Royal College Union, the “old boys’” arm of Royal College. We who were taught and guided by him would say that Mr. Weerasinghe will be associated with Royal for a great many more years – until the last Royalist he taught and guided breathes his last.

Mr. Weerasinghe was a unique man – a gentleman with a kindly disposition. He liked music, quality tobacco and a single quiet drink in the evenings, listening to his beloved western classical music. He had that rare ability of being able to walk with kings while keeping the common touch.

He was a vast storehouse of knowledge regarding English language and literature, Latin, and the history and lore of Royal College. In his younger days he was an orchid enthusiast who scientifically grew orchids.

Mr. Weerasinghe exuded joie de vivre. Vishunusharman, the ancient pundit from King Sudharshana’s court, would have had a man like him in mind when he said:

“Kavyashastravinodena kalo gachchathi dheematham Vyasenena cha moorkhanan nidraya kalahena va.” (Wise men spend their time in the study of enjoyment of sciences, literature and poetry: fools in vice, sleep and quarrels.)

After his retirement in 1997 at the age of 70, Mr. Weerasinghe immediately took up duties at the Royal College Union as its Advisor and Vice-President.

Many Royalists, including principals, sought his advice and guidance, including this writer. I became the Royal College Union Secretary in July 2007, and Mr. Weerasinghe passed away a few months later, on October 31, 2007. This was a great personal loss to me.

The school’s 175th anniversary is next year, and the Royal College Union is planning a number of events to mark the occasion. Mr. Weerasinghe’s advice and guidance would have been a source of much strength to me. His mere presence would have given me strength, just as the presence of a father gives strength and courage to a son.

I am sure I speak for all those who served as Royal College Union Secretary when I say this. Even non-Royalists who worked with him have this glowing feeling about him.

May he flourish – wherever he is.

M. Rizan Nazeer, Honorary Secretary,Royal College Union

Father could fill a room with his quiet humour, a whole house with his warm presence

Asoka Abayaratna (03.08.34-31.10.08)

About a month ago I saw my father’s smile again. Not in a photograph or a home video but on the face of my eight-week-old baby girl. It felt like a gift, a blessed inheritance from a grandfather she never met but who knew she was on the way.

It is now a year since our last conversation, when I told my father that he would be a grandfather once again. He died a few days later. A year on, it is hard to believe he is not in his study, or fixing something in the house, and that he will not appear at any moment.

Asoka Abayaratna was never loud or overbearing, but he could fill a room with his quiet humour, a whole house with his warm presence, and the hearts of his whole family with his kindness.

Dad adored spending time with his loved ones and friends, talking and laughing and exchanging views, sympathy and advice. He spoke proudly of his happy childhood, his hometown Kandy, and his school, Trinity College. He talked affectionately of growing up with his brothers and sisters in Lewella, the family home he often wished he could preserve for future generations.

His first visit to England in 1963 was the source of some of his best stories. At the time, England was not the liberal, cosmopolitan country it is now, and my father’s search for lodgings involved landlords who were disinclined to take in young men from South Asia, with their exotic “cooking smells and strange foreign ways”.

My father did, however, find lodgings in the home of a Norwegian lady and her small son. Happily settled in for many months, my father was surprised at Christmas to receive a pair of pajamas from the landlady, who then dropped to one knee and proposed marriage. Anyone who knew my father can imagine his embarrassment. On that occasion my father lost both a wife and a flat.

His return to Sri Lanka for a holiday in 1969 was a turning point in his life. He was interviewed for a job at IBM, where he would spend the next three decades of his life. Dad would never have said it, but he was in fact one of the pioneers of the technology age. His first encounter with a computer was when he was working at a research station in England. The computer was regarded with deep suspicion by his colleagues. Deeply curious, he volunteered to work on it, and thus began the other enduring love of his life.

After joining IBM, he was offered work in England and then in California, where he was part of the founding generation of Silicon Valley. More important, IBM led him to my mother, Michelle. She was working at the reception desk, and no one, my father included, could have failed to notice her.

I never knew my Dad to move fast. Patience, precision and thorough investigation were the trademarks of his style, whenever he had to make a big decision. Over the next 37 years of marriage, this slow, precise style would drive my mother crazy. He was the perfect foil for a lady who moved like a hurricane. Their partnership was the best template for a supportive and loving marriage. It was the bedrock of my brother Lalith’s and my happiness and the foundation of Dad’s confidence to take us to live in different parts of the world, knowing that wherever we were, he would always be home.

Our house was always full of fun, activity, friends and family. Dad made a point of showing us and our guests as much of a country or continent as he could. His road trips were legendary.

Dad looked after people, always. It seemed to be his mission in life. His kindness and generosity were immense, and he expected neither recognition nor reciprocation.

He was loved by his friends and his extended family. The family expanded when I married John. His first grandchild was just hours old when I placed her in Dad’s arms.

We are all happy that in the last difficult year of his life, my father found an entirely new joy in his first grandchild. He threw himself, cameras and all, into the role of grandfather. He called her the light of his life. It will be some years before my daughter will be able to appreciate the great compliment her grandfather paid her.

Piyanjali Feeney

Cheerful and full of ideas, he was a friend indeed

Shyamlal Rajapaksa

Shyam was a dear friend and I cannot begin to think of life without him. It is so hard to believe that someone as lovely, smiling and considerate as him is gone, especially when he was such an important and necessary part of our lives here in Tanzania. But I do have the fondest memories of the time spent with him (which almost always make me smile).

I don’t actually remember when I met Shyam properly for the first time at the Rwandan War Crimes Tribunal, but because he was so popular with everyone, I knew of him even in my early days at the Tribunal and recall seeing him walking down the corridors on his way to court wearing his black gown and white bib (with a pencil in his hand!), flashing that cheerful smile and always saying hello!

A few months later I met him more frequently at group dinners mostly at Twiga (the Sikh Club in Arusha), and he was always the easiest person to get along with – open, friendly and always with a sense of fun. That was Shyam. You could speak to him for under a minute about something entirely casual (including the quality of the curry at a restaurant) and feel so accepted as a friend. He always made people feel welcome, and put them at ease. Of course, the day I moved into an office on his floor, he was among my first visitors and came by to see me to make sure I was settling in alright.

It was such a privilege to be Shyam’s friend in so many ways. He used to come by our offices, almost every morning with that happy smile, just to say hello. There could not have been a better start to the work day than with that visit from Shyam. However bad the work day looked, or whatever troubles one had, it all vanished in his presence.

There were so many times when he would just listen to my problems, even if they were just ordinary and mundane issues. You could always count on him to come up with some solution to make things easy. If I had a cold he would prescribe steam inhalation, and keep reminding me about it if I had forgotten. If I did not know the way somewhere, he would offer to drive in front of my vehicle to show me the route. If my car needed to be fixed, he would come with me to the mechanic to help. He always had the time to help a friend.

I have never heard him say no to anyone when his help was sought. And even when the situation was out of his hands and there was little anyone could do to set it right, he would tell you a funny story (often involving him) to make you laugh and distract you.

As a friend, Shyam was never judgmental of anyone. I admire him for his incredible ability to make friends across every possible barrier – nationality, gender, social strata. I used to joke that going with him anywhere was like being part of a celebrity’s entourage – he knew so many people at the Tribunal and in town, and was so well liked by everyone.

I remember him saying that he just loved to go to the main vegetable market on some weekends with his housemaid Joyce because it was so vibrant and throbbing with the energy and pulse of people. Just as he was!

We always used to say that he needed people and friends around him. But I think it was much more the reality that people whom he came into contact with, however brief and his friends needed him. He lit up this place and our lives with his sparkling smile, happy attitude and generosity of spirit.

There were so many people to whom he had shown such immense kindness and generosity – and life will really never be the same without him.

Shyam always had a fantastic sense of humour, and could find something funny and wonderful in any situation. There were so many wonderful admirable qualities in Shyam – none more than his ability to just live life to the fullest. There are so many of us who spend so much time complaining about the state of things or letting the daily stress get to us. But Shyam was so refreshing and unique that way.

I am sure like the rest of us, he had hard times at work and otherwise. But he never seemed to let it get to him. We almost never saw that side of him. Before an American thanksgiving dinner at Kirsten’s house last year, while most people said they were thankful for very specific things that had happened to them the previous year, Shyam said that he was thankful for generally everything. And that was what made him so special. He loved his life and lived it with such passion and zest.

Very few could remain unaffected by his positive and infectious attitude towards almost everything.
Although there are days when I still can't quite believe that he is no longer here with us, I’d like to remember him as he was, full of ideas and plans, ever helpful, wonderfully cheerful and always smiling. He had a remarkable gift – that of making other people happy, and I’ll always feel privileged to have had him as my friend.

Priyadarshini Narayanan, Appeals Counsel – UNICTR – Arusha, Tanzania


He would not have lived his life any other way

Dr. Uthum Herat

I first met Uthum Herat over 25 years ago as my student, when he followed the M.Sc., Programme in Applied Statistics at the University of Colombo for which I was a visiting lecturer. Later, our roles were reversed, as I found Uthum more knowledgeable than I on most Bank-related subjects, including my own, Statistics and I would seek his opinion and clarification on economic and financial issues at the Central Bank where we both worked. Finally, while following a short course in Corporate Finance at the Bank, I became his student! We began as professional colleagues, but soon developed a close friendship that spanned those same 25+ years, throughout my career in the Bank and later, until his untimely death on October 23. We would discuss the economy, professional ethics, work stress, bringing up children, American cheesecakes and other diverse topics. I appreciated his thoughtful insights and always learnt something new from our discussions.

Uthum’s advice and wise counsel were sought by the highest in the land, yet, he wore his importance lightly. He worked with many different Governors, different Monetary Board members and senior management, yet there were none who spoke ill of him or disliked him, even though they knew, in no uncertain terms, that Uthum would never take a decision that would compromise his integrity or his professionalism. He earned their respect. Among his many academic and professional achievements, he had a doctorate from Purdue University and was a qualified accountant. Yet, he was so modest, that you could know him for years and never hear mention of any of these.

He was conscientious about his work to a fault. He would often miss out on social occasions due to work pressure, coming in to the Bank at 6.30 a.m. and never leaving before pitch dark. He literally worked himself to death, maintaining an astounding commitment to the Central Bank. Yet, however busy he was, he always had time for little kindnesses which extended to everyone. In my own personal experience, on one occasion, Uthum learnt that my husband was fond of a particular snack from his student days in the USA, which he had never found in Sri Lanka. Some weeks later, Uthum dropped off two packs of this very snack that he had managed to track down in a supermarket in Mt. Lavinia!

Throughout my children’s formative years, he would send them carefully selected story books which he thought they would enjoy. He and a mutual friend in the Bank would jointly send the children birthday cards, usually enclosing book vouchers. My son is now 20 years old and at university, but even this June, Uthum found the time for an e-mail to wish him on his birthday, though I know Uthum was inundated with critically important work as Deputy Governor in charge of financial stability in the country.

During his stint at the IMF, he would always find time to inform his many friends of an upcoming visit to Sri Lanka to ask what we needed from there. No request was too trivial for his attention, and usually, a parcel would be delivered enroute from the airport - such thoughtfulness, even though he never allowed himself time to come over for a meal. Unusually, on my birthday in 2007, the year I retired from the Central Bank, it was such a treat to see him walking in that evening, straight from work, carrying his signature umbrella! This year too, a birthday card arrived by post, spot on time, just two weeks before he fell ill.

I considered Uthum a close friend, but also recognised that he was a private person. One never quite grasped the true depth and breadth of the man. There were, I know, many, many people, young and old, to whom Uthum was as close a friend. He was extremely generous with his worldly goods and his intellect and yet, his good deeds were done anonymously, so that even his left hand did not know what his right hand did. The massive gathering at his funeral - young and old; subordinates, peers and superiors; personal and professional contacts; friends from his school days and university years; worshippers from his much-loved Mt. Lavinia Methodist Church, from his bible study group and FOCUS group - reflects the enormous love and respect in which he was held by so many. As his close friend, Prof. Priyan Dias, said so eloquently at the beautiful and moving funeral service held at S. Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia, Uthum was self-effacing, humble and never forced his opinion on anyone.

This man, with a brilliant intellect, never looked down or passed judgment on others. He lived up to his name “Great” in all respects, but was also most human, with a wonderfully sharp wit. I remember, when we, his self-appointed “older sisters” in the Central Bank, felt he was being exploited because he would never say “no” to any task assigned to him, even if he was already inundated with work, we would scold him and suggest that he find a wife to take care of him. All our match-making failed, as he would say ‘your prescription is worse than the disease!'

He once said to me that his time as a graduate student at Purdue and as Alternate Executive Director for South Asia at the IMF were two of the happiest periods in his life. Perhaps, he felt less stress and responsibilities there and made more time for himself to enjoy his many interests - browsing in book stores, walking with nature and visiting museums, among others. He was self-contained, content with his own company and did not need a host of others to enjoy himself.

Uthum was truly, a very special person - a man of God. To me, it was more than coincidence that Uthum died on the same date, October 23, as another man of God from the previous generation, my much-loved uncle, the late Bishop Lakshman Wicremesinghe. He, like Lakshman, was blessed with a powerful intellect, unquestionable integrity and loving, gentle heart that embraced everyone.

He, like Lakshman, chose to live a life of simplicity and humility and tread this mortal world lightly. Despite significant intellectual and professional achievements, neither sought the conventional social trimmings of such achievement - no house, no car, no spouse, nor children to call their own. Yet, each shared of themselves with others, almost to a fault, loving and caring for all God’s children as their own. Neither was a saint, both enjoyed a good joke and witty conversation. Neither was ever condescending or superior. Each lived by his Christian faith, led by example and commanded respect. Uthum, like Lakshman, chose to ignore his health towards the end in the interests of his chosen vocation and he too, has died young, before the ravages of old age could leave their mark. It is we who are left behind who suffer their loss.

I remember, with gratitude, his friendship, his wise counsel, his concern and love for children, his sharp but gentle wit, his love of books and beauty, his many kindnesses and never-failing thoughtfulness and compassion. He lived his life for others at great cost to his health, but would not have lived any other way.

Uthum’s life is epitomised in many passages in the Bible. I have chosen one, Philippians, Chapter 4, verse 8, to salute him -

''Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on those things”.

In the greater presence of God, may he rest in peace and have infinite time to smell the roses. I will never forget him.

Anila Dias Bandaranaike


Serving the people was her only ambition

Mallika Lakshmi de Mel

“Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear,
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste its sweetness in the desert air.”

– John Gray ‘Elegy in a Country Churchyard’

Mallika Lakshmi de Mel who passed away on October 12 walked with kings, presidents, and prime ministers, the biggest bankers, financiers and businessmen of the world, but never lost her common touch and her compassion and deep feeling for the poor, the dispossessed and the downtrodden.
The thousands who flocked to her house in Devinuwara for help during her lifetime and the thousands more who filed passed her coffin bore testimony to the immense love and affection in which she was held.

Hundreds, including mature men, who came to her funeral cried and wailed aloud. For, she had given them new hope by helping them to find jobs and build houses. Many were the people who were educated upto university level through her own Educational Trust.

Hundreds of unemployed young women were given training in her training centres for sewing, cooking and dressmaking. She also ran centres to teach English.

In times of floods in Bulathsinhala, Matara, Kamburupitiya or Akuressa, she would come wading in the water carrying food to extend help. She loved serving the poor and helping them in every way. Thus it was no wonder that they came in their tens of thousands in unbroken file to pay their last respects.

Mallika was indeed a remarkable embodiment of womanhood. She never wanted to contest a parliamentary seat or run for office, being content for over 40 years to help her husband in his Parliamentary constituency work, but when her husband decided to quit active politics in 2000, not only her party leader but also the common people of the area urged her to contest her husband’s seat. She acceded to their request and won with a handsome majority. She felt one term in Parliament was enough and refused to contest again despite requests from her party.

She retired from Parliament on the grounds of ill-health as she was then recovering from knee-replacement surgery. Power was not what she craved for. Service to the people was her only motive and her ambition. After all her father, Sir Leo Fernando, one of Sri Lanka’s richest men in the past century, was a Member of Parliament till his death. She wanted to devote more time to work for the poor in her usual way without being encumbered by the trappings of office and that was what she did. Even the day before her sudden death, she addressed two meetings in the poorest villages of Matara.

Mallika leaves behind a fragrant memory of a wonderful human being, always smiling, always laughing, always cheerful to a fault, always ready to help people irrespective of their race, caste, creed or station in life.

It was no secret that she even went alone to the Welikada Prison to meet Rohana Wijeweera as she had known his family in Tangalle and sympathized with them and their sufferings at the hands of the authorities from time to time. That visit to Welikada was indeed Mallika at her best, sympathizing and helping anybody in distress, regardless of any consequences or any reward.

Leaders of all political parties paid their last respects to her either at her Colombo residence or at Devinuwara. Among them was President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his wife Shiranthi, Opposition UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and JVP Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe.

The JVP Leader’s only comment was: “My leader Rohana Wijeweera would have wanted me to pay our respects to this great lady. That is why I have come all the way from Colombo to Devinuwara today.”

May this great and noble lady attain Nirvana!

R. Rajaratnam 

A humane educationist who touched our lives

Viji Weerasinghe

October 31 marked the second anniversary of the death of Viji Weerasinghe of Royal College who was a great educationist but never honoured either by a university or the government.

I would like to mention that probably never in the history of the teaching profession has a teacher received so much love, adoration, admiration and respect during his lifetime as Viji Weerasinghe of Royal College.

He was connected to Royal College for nearly 74 years - first as a student, teacher, Deputy Principal and later as senior advisor to the Royal College Old Boys' Association at the college premises itself. The huge crowds who came to his funeral bore ample testimony to the popularity of this great but humble human being. Many distinguished leaders of our country have been taught by this great teacher and they always remember him with love and respect.

Though I am not a Royalist (I studied in the school adjoining Royal in the mid 1950’s) I got an assignment to coach one of the Royal College Under-13 Cricket teams in 1982 and 1983.

During this time Mr. Weerasinghe was the Deputy Principal of the middle school and as he looked a humane person I asked him whether it was possible to admit my son to the Grade III class. I also noted during this time that he treated and spoke to everybody on the staff from the minor employee to the teachers in the same manner without any discrimination.

He told me that a new Principal would be assuming duties the following week and if he agreed he would let me know.

Just one week later he called me and said the new Principal had agreed to admit my son. This action of Mr. Weerasinghe changed our lives forever. Today, my son is holding a high post in the banking sector.

Ranjan Goonetillake

A musical tribute to Ru

Remembering Ru - a musical tribute to Ruwani Seimon will be held on November 7 at the Russian Cultural Centre.

A group of former members of Voices in Harmony, together with the Merry An Singers, the Revelations and CoroCantAmici as invited guest performers, will pay this musical tribute to Ruwani who died on November 7, two years ago.

Ruwani gained admission to a Sri Lankan university, but was compelled to leave for Canada in 1988, due to the turbulent times here which led to the closure of universities. She returned home in 1993 with a B.Sc in Math and a B.A in Music (Voice)-Summa Cum Laude.

Music was always her first love and it was to music that she devoted her entire life. While in Canada, Ruwani sang with the McMaster Musical Theatre, the McMaster Choir, the Hamilton Opera Company and the pop band ‘Tropical Breeze’. On her return to Sri Lanka, she did a few solo vocal performances, but finally concentrated on her career as a teacher.

From 1994 to 2007, Ruwani taught singing individually to over 150 students, ranging from children to lawyers, to vocalists in bands and even to a grandmother!

She trained not only her own choir, ‘Voices in Harmony’ but also the school choirs of St. Bridget's Convent, Wycherley International School, Bishop’s College and Good Shepherd Convent, Panadura.
Admission to 'Remembering Ru' is only by invitation.

Nation, Sunday Nov 1 2009

Young at heart and yet soft with age – Mohamed Isack Bin Ismail

He was a grandson of the famous Arabi Ibrahim, who hailed from Zebedee in Yemen and settled down in Ceylon with his beautiful wife from Surat, India. He came as a trader and later came to own the Avissawella town and its environs besides several properties and estates acquired by him. The British who were the masters of the time described his rise as ‘from peddler to prince.’ His son was Ismail Bin Ibrahim to whom was born Hassan and Isack. His only daughter was married to the late Sir Razik Fareed, the leader of the ‘Ceylon Moors.

Isack was born on January 1, 1927, had his early education at Kingwoods College in Kandy which moulded him to what he was, an attorney-at-law and notary public by profession, a great sportsmen excelled in captaining school cricket and hockey team and thereafter he entered the Ceylon Law College and in 1952 as a opening batsman who scored a rare century in the annual Law¬ Medical Cricket Match. A gentleman par excellence, he was a lover of the outdoors and wild countryside. As a lawyer, he was highly respected in the legal field as an honourable and fine gentleman.

While a student at the Law College he joined the Moors Sports Club in 1948 and was active in all club affairs, played pivotal role as wicketkeeper and opening batsman, in 1952 he captained the Moors Team. Isack played tennis in the Moors Clay Lawns, and his team annexed the Hildon Sansoni Challenge Shield, and he spent half his life playing tennis at the Moors Tennis Club which kept him fit and active. He inaugurated hockey to the Moors S.C. and due to his tireless efforts the team reached its peak in the game in the very first year and annexed the coveted ‘Beacon Cup.’ He took to planting in the land bequeathed by his father, Zeabeediya Estate at Demmanhandiya, Katana, which was also his home.

M. I. Bin Ismail elected Assistant Secretary from 1956 to 1961, elected honorary General Secretary from 1961 to 1988 - a record 27 years as Secretary - President from 1988 to 1991, Immediate Past President from 1992 to 1998, Patron from 2002 to 2009. He was the longest surviving committee member up-to-date and after his demise, moreover, he has the unique distinction of having served the club for 52 long years, quite a feat by any standards in recognition of his unwavering loyalty and devotion to the club.

On May 25, 2001 Past President Al Haj Bin Ismail was felicitated and as a token of appreciation for his yeomen service towards the Moors Sports club named and declared open the Al Haj M. I. Bin Ismail Auditorium on the third floor of the new pavilion with the presence of a large distinguished gathering and unveiled a portrait of Bin Ismail by the Chief Guest Hon Rauff Hakeem, MP Minister of Internal and International Trade, and Commerce, Shipping Development and Muslim Religious Affairs, At the felicitation ceremony Al Haj Bin Ismail spoke and said that usually, unveiling of a portrait was to commemorate the demise of distinguished past members, but in his case, the club members unanimously decided to “hang him whilst alive.” Bin was loved by all, where he was present in the evenings playing his favourite game of tennis. He was a very loyal member of the club and a pillar of strength, a friend and guide to all who had the good fortune to know him. Always a picture of sartorial and tonsorial elegance he resembled a prince from Surat with his neatly trimmed moustache, which would have made Errol Flynn proud.

On the eve of the centenary celebrations of the club, he was honoured as a long-standing member who had contributed immensely towards the revival and popularity of sports. He was the patron, and fathered the Moors constitution and advised me upon the completion of the New Club pavillion. He was on all counts a true friend, age was not a barrier but his humour and his journey down the memory lane at many committee meetings was a pleasure to listen to. Young at heart and yet so soft with age. We all loved to be amongst this great man.

I had the pleasure of his company for over three decades, enjoyed his trust, learned immensely from his wisdom and courteous qualities. A very rare person indeed. When I was elected as the President of the Moors Sports club Mr. Bin Ismail called on me and extended a word of advise and said, “Son, this position of President of this club has been held by great men in the past and having upheld the highest traditions of the Moor community with Islamic values amongst sporting men in the Island,” and later at the felicitation ceremony for me being elected to Parliament, I remembered the words of my mentor, and delivered a key note address that I was a simple businessman then, having upheld the highest traditions, I held the position of a Municipal Councillor, Provincial Councillor and today as a Member of Parliament whilst holding the position of President of Moors Sports Club.” In my close association with him, he was one who inspired me into political life, advised me as a true friend. His demise has been a great loss to me, to our great club and its membership, specially a great loss to the Muslim community of the island.

He leaves behind a great son, Iqbal, who is also another livewire at Moors to carry on the legend of Bin Ismail for years to come and his two daughters. The fond memories of a great and gallant gentleman remain evergreen whose love for the MSC was only superseded by his love for the family.

May Allah grant him the highest abode in Jenna.
Shafeek Rajabdeen MP

Late Dr B M Mahboob

A consultant surgeon with charisma of the eastern regions from Batticoloa to Pottuvil were soaked with sadness and submerged in an unexplained sorrow by the news of the untimely demise of DR B M Mahboob, a Consultant Surgeon attached to Teaching Hospital Batticoloa on the October 18, 2009 at the age of 52. People were bemused and perplexed without knowing as to what to do on learning the death of Dr Mahboob who was born and breathed his last at Kathankudy where he lived with his beloved wife and children. He was selected as a medical student to the University of Jaffna where he completed his graduation and passed out as a doctor in 1983.

He was, thereafter, appointed as medical officer in charge to D H Sammanthurai at a time when the people of this area had a dire need for a doctor. At this juncture, the appointment of Dr Mohboob was felt as a boon blessed by the heaven. The patients of this area really benefited immensely by Dr Mahboob who had all characters of humanism. During ethnic clashes took place in Kalmunai region in 1988 as I was a medical student I had to take some victims who sustained severe gun-shot injuries from Kalmunai to Ampara Base Hospital with the help of the Indian Peace Keeping Forces. These patients on their way to Ampara Base Hospital were given necessary emergency treatments by DR Mahboob who worked single handedly through out the day at the district hospital,Sammanthurai. He, outside of his profession, maintained convivial and cordial relationship with patients and people of this area.

After many years of service at Sammanthurai, he was transferred as Medical Officer at the Eye Hospital in Colombo. He again got an appointment to the eastern region as Medical Officer of Health at Kathankudy. The surgical cases that Dr Mahboob handled during his many years of service in these strife-stricken and war-torn areas necessitated him to further his carrier in surgery. With that intention, he got through his MS part I examination while he was working as MOH at Kathankudy. After that he was appointed as Registrar at the Teaching Hospital Karapittiya where we both worked in different surgical units.

On his completion of MS part II examination and training period, he was appointed as an acting surgeon to Ashraff Memorial Hospital, Kalmunai. He was the first general surgeon who started surgical intervention and treatment for patients in this region.

Even the poorest of the poor was able to seek treatment in his private channeling place. He never failed to consider seriously the socio-economic situation of his patients. The way he talked to his patients in common parlance attracted those who sought treatment from him. The patients who were treated by him always prayed for his health and wealth.

After a few years of service at Ashraff Memorial Hospital, he was transferred to teaching hospital Batticoloa where he worked until his last day. When he worked at this hospital, he went for his overseas training. On his return, he again assumed duty at the same institution. He always approached his patients with sympathy and much needed empathy. Whenever he came to know the adversity of his client he never failed to extend his assistance to those patients in all possible ways and means. He never bowed down to power and privilege. He treated and cared for all people alike irrespective of their race religion and ethnicity. During festive seasons, his charity was not limited to the poor people but extended to other low wage earner who worked in his units. Dr Mahboob established a name for charity in the minds of people. In spite of all these he never failed to pay his thanks to the creator whom he believed firmly. This was the very basic reason for his humane characters that he inherited from the soil where he was born.

He was, in any occasion, it could be an official meeting or a social gathering, seen intermingled with all people without staying aloof considering his position and post which is now a day a very rare scene among educated stock. The name of Dr Manboob as a first Muslim General Surgeon with diligent and intelligent from eastern region will definitely go down to posterity.

On October 18, 2009 a mammoth crowds of people from all communities, from all the areas wherever Dr Mahboob worked, flocked towards his residence at Kathankudy where his remains was lying in state to pay their last homage. Most of the business establishments at Kathankudy were closed to mark of the irreparable lose of its most esteemed and dignified son of the soil who was there to bid his last bye to them.

The late Dr Mahboob led a life as a prestigious doctor to his patients, beloved husband to his wife and caring father to his three children. Any amount of words can not console the grief of his beloved wife and children who lost her beloved husband and most caring father and a good friend to all of them. I humbly convey my deepest condolence to the bereaved family members and pray the Almighty Allah to bless late Dr Mahboob with Jannathul Firthowse, Ameen!

Dr U L Sarafdeen

Ubesena Godahewa

A great social worker

Ubesena Godahewa, General Secretary, the Pension Association, Maharagama passed away recently and his funeral took place amidst a large gathering. He had been attached to the Ministry of Health and later retired. He was born in Ambalangoda area and he built a home at Daham Mawatha, Maharagama while he was working in the government service. After the retirement he was engaged in social service and meanwhile he was helping to the Buddhist Temples in the area. As for the Pension Society he was doing a yeoman service. In fact, we lost a good friend and we never expected his sudden death so soon.
Godahewa is no more with us. He was of great service to the society. May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana!

M. G. Asoka Karunaratne

A superior human being standing above all – Dr Amal Uthum Herat Amal Uthum Herat, one of the leading lights making up the top brains of the Central Bank got extinguished permanently last week. He was the Deputy Governor overlooking the financial system stability at the time. In addition, he was Chairmen of both the Institute of Bankers of Sri Lanka and the Credit Information Bureau of Sri Lanka, two responsible positions he held simultaneously.

Having completed his primary and secondary education the S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, young Herat joined the University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, to read for a special degree in Mathematics and Statistics. However, the ethnic disturbances that broke out in Jaffna at that time did not permit him to complete the degree at that university. He, along with others in his batch, was relocated at the University of Sri Jayawardenepura to complete the degree programme. His academic brilliance was such that he passed out from the university armed with a First Class Honours Degree in Statistics. Like other youngsters of his generation, he had by that time completed another professional examination: the final examination of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, UK. He joined the Central Bank as a young staff officer with these double qualifications. Then, he proceeded to Purdue University in the USA and completed a Master’s degree and a Doctorate in Economics specialising in financial economics.

After returning to the Central Bank, he worked as a Senior Economist for sometime, got promoted as the Deputy Director of Economic Research and finally, was appointed to the prestigious post of Director of Economic Research. He was then released to the IMF to function as the Alternate Executive Director of the Executive Board representing India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Bhutan. After a three year stint at the Fund, he returned to the Bank as an Assistant Governor and in May, 2009, was elevated to the post of Deputy Governor.
Dr Herat was a combination of many disciplines: Mathematics, Statistics, Finance, Accountancy, Economics, Philosophy, Religion, History and many more. A brief conversation with him will leave any stranger with awe, respect and love for the rare intellect, fittingly conditioned by modesty and humility, which he normally displayed. He had the remarkable ability of patiently listening to the viewpoints of others, quickly synthesizing the main arguments and approving or refuting them without offending or hurting their feelings. He was a master debater, mesmerising preacher and spellbinding speaker. Anyone who had listened to him once would love to do so again and again. Many generations of students who had studied under him at the universities, professional bodies and numerous other places of learning will vouch for this fact.

Dr Herat was a late entrant to the science of economics, having embraced the ways of that dismal science only after joining the Central Bank. Yet, true to his innate skill of learning any new subject to its core, he became a master of that science with a profound knowledge of the philosophy on which it is based. His multi-disciplinary background would have helped him to understand the foundation of economics much more easily. When all of us were making silly mistakes in our reading of the world events, he was able to guide us to the correct position with examples drawn from religion, politics, philosophy and even Mathematics. He was a firm believer of free market economy system, free trade and individual liberty as pillars for creating wealth and prospering sustainable growth. His public lectures, discussions and writings display his unambiguous position on these subjects.

The writer had the advantage of being associated with Dr Herat very closely for nearly two and a half decades and picking up wisdom from him regularly. At the Monetary Policy Committee of which he was the founding secretary initially and later an important member, he made no bones about the true culprit of unsustainable inflation in the country: reckless government expenditure. The papers he submitted to the Committee were all lucid, to the point and sharp on the policy recommendations. At the Committee meetings, there were heated debates; yet, he was able to carry his view with proper explanation and clarification backed by sound logic.

He was a person of exemplary character and a living example for all of us to emulate. The writer recalls that once when there was a thumping salary increase in the Bank, the ordinary mortals like us could not hide our over-joy and were openly boisterous about it. Dr Herat, having watched us for sometime, had only one comment to make: ‘I don’t know what I could do with this salary; I wish if I could return it to the Bank’. It showed the frugal living he made satisfying only the bare necessities of life. When he was the Alternate Executive Director of the Fund, every time he returned to Sri Lanka, he presented the writer with a new book. When he was offered payment, he refused saying that he was disseminating the knowledge among many through the writer because the ideas in the books could be used by the writer in his lectures and writings. That was the magnanimous character of Dr. Herat.
Dr. Herat had only friends and no enemies. When the news of his falling sick and being hospitalised was heard, everyone was concerned. The writer got frantic calls and e-mails from his friends from all around the globe asking about his health. There would have been others too who would have been similarly contacted. During the two weeks he was fighting for his life alone on a hospital bed, the whole Central Bank got into action irrespective of religious, ethnic or cadre differences. Religious observances were held daily to invoke the blessings of deities for a quick recovery. Central Bank employees rallied in large numbers to donate blood for him. At the funeral on October 25, the Mount Lavinia Cemetery had practically been flooded by present Central Bank employees, past employees and all those from banks, universities and professional bodies to pay their last respect to him. An unsaid message was visible on all their grieving faces. That was that ‘Dr. Herat was a superior human being standing above all of them’.

As a human being, Dr. Herat led a practically worry-free life. To the knowledge of the writer, he had only two worries, both relating to his name. The first one was the long list of initials in his name (numbering six) that troubled him every time he filled up immigration forms that did not have sufficient space to record his full name. The second one was the spelling of his surname ‘Herat’ which the computer automatically changed to ‘Heart’. Perhaps, the inanimate computer would have been correct. We, as well as he, would have wrongly spelt his surname all this time when he was truly a big ‘Heart’ for all of us.

W. A. Wijewardena









Adisham: A homesick Englishman’s haven in the tropics

Sunday Times Oct 25 2009

Our best friend, role model, hero – and beloved brother

Srilal Perera

“Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero.” -– Marc Brown

Even 15 years after the passing of our dear older brother, Srilal, we still feel an ache in our hearts.
On October 24, 1994, a devastating bomb at Thotalanga took the lives of many important leaders of our country, including the late Mr. Gamini Dissanayake. It also took away our best friend, our role model and our hero – our dear brother.

Aiya died two days after his 27th birthday. That day changed the rest of our lives in unimaginable ways. We never expected to lose our closest confidant and idol just as we were beginning to embark on our adult lives – at a time when we most needed him.

With the early demise of our beloved father, the late H. Joe Perera, we had to grow up a lot faster and be a lot stronger for ourselves, as well as for our dearest and sweet mother. She was only 48 years at the time.

Aiya was her pillar of strength. He knew exactly how to help her recover and regain her strength to look after three very young men who totally depended on her.

Aiya always expressed himself eloquently, and it wasn’t solely because of the thousands of books he had read. Any interaction with him was memorable because he expressed what he felt compassionately and unabashedly.

Aiya not only looked out for his family, he empathised with those in need. He had a big heart, and was extremely generous. After Thaathi’s death (he was the sole earner in our family), we had to be very careful with our savings. But whenever a villager or friend came to us asking for money, Aiya never refused. Although we needed the money, he would give it, saying they needed it more.

Aiya idolised Thaathi, who had been president of the Colombo Magistrates’ Court and also first chairman of the Western Provincial Council. This inspired Aiya to enter the Law Faculty.

He was an extremely bright and hardworking student, the youngest in his batch. Despite his promising future, he had a deep yearning to do something more meaningful and contribute to society in far greater ways. That is why he entered politics. He was driven by an intense conviction to make a difference. His childhood ambition was to become a priest, but his new passion shared the same intention – to improve the lives of his fellow man.

Aiya joined the political arena at the tender age of 22. He was honest and always followed his conscience, never letting external pressures sway his judgement. He entered the Colombo Municipal Council at the age of 23, polling the highest number of votes in Colombo North and outperforming all the senior politicians. At 26, he was chosen to lead a delegation to Manchester, England, to represent Sri Lanka at an environmental conference.

Aiya had many talents and successes, but what we loved – and miss – most about him was his role as our big brother. He advised and guided us, and even bailed us out of trouble! We knew we could always count on him. After our father’s death, we depended on Aiya to carry the family forward and share Amma’s burden. Alas, he was taken away far too soon. Within a space of five years we lost both our father and our older brother.

Aiya, if you could see us now, you would feel extremely proud. We were inspired by your ever-loving, always compassionate, generous and determined nature. We remember you and Thaathi daily in our prayers, and you are ever-present in our hearts, as well as in the hearts of our little ones. Although they haven’t met you, they love you and look up to you, just as we do. We are confident that you are now resting in peace in the Kingdom of God.

Amma is also loved, admired and looked after in the best possible way. Her memory of you is ever fresh. She often joyously shares tales of your young and fun days with your nieces and nephews.

We are sure your legacy will pass from generation to generation. We love you, Aiya, and though you are not with us in physical form, you are very much alive in our hearts.

May your sweet soul rest in peace.

Brothers Jayantha and Mangala

Warm memories of Guneratna hospitality

Herbert and Miriam Gunaratna

There are people who, in their gentle and caring ways, touch our hearts, and when they leave this world they leave behind beautiful memories.

My uncle Herbert Gunaratna, who passed away three months ago, and my aunt Miriam, who predeceased him, were gracious hosts who made any person who visited their home “Ratnasri”, at Seeduwa, feel very welcome. Whether you arrived announced or announced, or visited early in the morning, in the middle of the afternoon or late at night, you were given a warm welcome.

My family’s association with the Gunaratnas goes back to the early 1970s, when my father, the late W. P. R. B. Wickremasinghe, had the good fortune to find a lifelong and loyal friend in Uncle Herbert.

The two worked together at the National Museum, in Colombo, and later moved to different government institutions. My father joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Uncle Herbert moved to the State Gem Corporation. By then, they had laid a solid foundation for a friendship that grew into an extended family, combining the Gunaratna and Wickremasinghe families, including Aunty Miriam, their two daughters Roshi and Dayani, and the five of us.

My father’s job as a diplomat meant that the family would go overseas for extended stays. A stop at the Gunaratna residence on the way to the airport was a must. And their home was our first stop when we returned to the country.

Sumptuous meals awaited us whenever we visited. The warmth and friendliness shown us by the Gunaratnas was unlike any we have ever experienced. The inevitable reality of life is that those we love will leave us some day. But the memories they leave behind stay with us forever.

Herbert and Miriam Gunaratna were warm, loving and caring people who touched many hearts. Now reunited in their heavenly abode, they must surely be resting in peace, happy in the knowledge that they lived their best life while on this Earth.

Champa Wickremasinghe

A year has passed by

Major Raja De Silva Amarasekera

My Husband
I met you 53 years ago
But you left our daughters and me one year ago
You had dinner and you were with me
Next moment you were gone from me
Oh! Raja why did you leave me
Now there is no one to take care the way you did of me
Who is there to call me when I get late
No one is there to wait for me at the gate
We were together for 43 years
You looked after me in every way all those years
Though you were a disciplinarian
You were such a gentle peace-loving person
In all those years I knew you
You never uttered a single word against any person
You were always concerned of others' well being
It is seldom that you find those qualities in a human being
Loving memories of the past I retain
May my beloved husband Nibbana attain
Why Raja why did you leave me along in this world.
What is there for me to live any longer in this world
I have lived one year without you
Every single minute of the day my mind is with you
How many years more do I have to live in this agony without you ?


Eminent historian and university administrator par excellence

Professor K. W. Goonewardene

Professor K. W. Goonewardene (fondly known as Carl to many), who passed away recently at the age of 84, was a great scholar and distinguished professor.

He was an eminent historian who devoted his life to scholarly pursuits and to improving the academic life of the universities. He was a university administrator of the highest calibre. Above all, he was a genuinely humane person who was always there for the underprivileged.

Professor Goonewardene was very thorough and original in his research. His work on the early part of the Dutch period was the basis of a superb PhD thesis he wrote at the University of London in 1953. He knew several languages, including Dutch, Portuguese and German, and had a very good grasp of Sinhala. This knowledge helped him to conduct extensive and original research and write with authority on the Dutch in Sri Lanka.

His research in Dutch colonial history extended from South Asia to Southeast Asia. He was one of the few historians specialising in modern Sri Lankan history who could research both local resources in the Sinhala language and foreign sources in foreign languages.

His PhD thesis, “The Foundation of Dutch Power in Sri Lanka”, published in 1958, is a pioneering work on the subject and a landmark study not only of the Dutch period of Sri Lanka but also of the colonial Dutch era in Asia. In that study, he gave a balanced account of Rajasinghe II, who had been portrayed as a tyrant by many previous historians. His critical evaluation of Robert Knox’s account of life in the Kandyan kingdom threw new light on the work and its significance.

Professor Goonewardene was a leading authority on European colonial expansion in the 17th and 18th centuries. His critical evaluation of the original sources, and his unique gift for reading between the lines, often resulted in a revision of established views on modern Sri Lankan history in general, and the Dutch period in particular. He challenged the Eurocentric view of western and local historians, and highlighted the achievements of Asia vis a vis the West.

Professor Goonewardene was always immaculately attired, and was among the best dressed teachers at Peradeniya. He was a strong supporter of teaching in Swabhasha at the universities, at a time when many academics of his generation were either sceptical or unenthusiastic about the transition.

He lectured in English and Sinhala with equal ease. In his tutorial classes, he encouraged his students to think clearly and critically. He was on several occasions appointed head of the Department of History of the University of Peradeniya. He was instrumental in expanding the scope of the history programme at Peradeniya to include East and Southeast Asia.

In that effort, I was fortunate. I was chosen to specialise in Chinese history and became the first university lecturer in that field in Sri Lanka, while a colleague of mine was selected to specialise in Southeast Asian history.

Professor Goonewardene went out of his way to help students and fellow lecturers. I am aware of one notable case involving a bright and promising student whose bad handwriting threatened to blight his future academic career. The professor asked the student to call at his office after the examination and read out his answers to him, so he could give him a deserving grade. That student went on to become a highly regarded scholar.

Whenever faculty members required additional study leave to complete their postgraduate studies, the professor would do his best to help. I was one of those who benefited from his kind efforts. I was seeking additional leave to complete my postgraduate studies in the US in the early ’70s. The university authorities were not willing to consider my request, but Professor Goonewardene, with the support of the late Professor Shelton Kodikara, who was president of the Peradeniya Campus at the time, fought vigorously on my behalf to get the additional leave approved.

Professor Goonewardene was twice appointed Dean of the Faculty of Arts, the University of Peradeniya. In 1969, he was made Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kelaniya, at a critical time when the administration of that university had been sharply criticised by a Royal Commission. He skilfully steered the university past several obstacles and challenges.

The University of Kelaniya student centre was built largely through Professor Goonewardene’s efforts. He left Kelaniya University in 1972, when all universities were brought under one umbrella, and returned to Peradeniya. Professor Goonewardene also served on the University Grants Commission (UGC).
In all these capacities, he displayed his excellent abilities as a university administrator.

Besides his role as a professor and university administrator, Professor Goonewardene devoted a great deal of time to volunteer work, helping others. He served in various national and international academic societies, committees, and advisory bodies, such as the Royal Asiatic Society, Sri Lanka Historical Association, the National Museum, the National Archives, the Indian Historical Records Commission. He also served on the Peradeniya university senate and council.

In recent years, when he was failing in health, I would meet Professor Goonewardene whenever I visited Sri Lanka.

His death is a great loss to his family –his beloved wife Lakshmi and loving sons Anura and Nandana and their families – and to his many friends, colleagues, students, and the whole country.

May he attain Nibbana!

Mahinda Werake

Nation Sunday Oct 25 2009


Had warmth in abundance

Far beyond the stars
My soul is longing to go
There beyond the stars
To a better place I know….
I heard my four-year-old grandniece Shaha singing these phrases from the ‘Singing Nun’. I thought of my dearly beloved husband Lhareef. This is the appropriate place for him.
He was a devoted and loving husband who had a strong will power and sheer determination to face the ups and downs of life. He always had a positive mind and nothing bothered him in moving forward, onward and upward. It was this attitude that made him bear his illness for six and a half years, trusting in the Almighty

Many are the sweet memories that I have of our years together. We travelled to Europe, London and Dubai and even went on a pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca while he was ill. When Dubai opened its ice rink, Lhara and I were there taking part in all the games. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly in Europe and London exploring famous places all by ourselves with the help of road maps. He was a music lover and in Austria he made a visit to the humble abode of Mozart. We witnessed a dinner theatre and in Salzburg we toured the places where ‘A Sound of Music’ was filmed and we winded up singing popular songs from the film, much to the amazement of others in the bus, who later joined us.

He was a son of the former City Coroner A H M Ismail and Mrs Ismail. He was the sixth in a family of eleven. He would humorously say that there are five above him and five below him. The middle order has now collapsed.

Lhara was so loveable, understanding, calm and patient. He was so popular with my relations and friends and most of all, my only brother and sister. Having a genuine warmth about him and generosity in abundance, he was there to put himself before them and guide them always. Forever thoughtful about others, his life was full of loving deeds

He was a loving a proud dad to our son Imran Hasan and daughter Imara Mariam. He gave them a beautiful childhood. The happiest day in his life was when Imara married Matheen Khalid and Lhara was glowing as he walked with the bride on his arm.

He always told me to bear in mind that whatever transpires, one must understand the reason why things happen. He said I must always keep smiling, and be nice to everybody, not to take unpleasantness seriously, or pass judgment on others but to forgive and forget. He said that everyone has problems and need help however possible. He always said I should carry on my social service, be dedicated and to move forward by the Grace of Almighty Allah.

Darlo! I am so glad I was your wife. I also take this opportunity to thank each and everyone who helped us in our time of bereavement and also to Dr Jayantha Balawardana for his care, support and encouragement.
Goodbye Lhara!
Through the darkest skies
I can see a heavenly glow
Far away… far away
Beyond the stars……..

Shazina Lhareef

The Sunday Leader Oct 25 2009

Dr. Gamini Wijesekera

Dr. Gamini Wijesekera left this world on October 24, 1994 as a result of a bomb attack by the LTTE, considered the most violent terrorist organisation.  He left leaving all of us in eternal sorrow.  It is 15 years since his untimely demise.

It is mere destiny that I happened to be so close to Dr. Gamini Wijesekera when I married his youngest sister.  That was in 1975.  From that day onwards I had a very close relationship with him up to his parting in 1994.  I am always reminded of this illustrious gentleman’s qualities coupled with love and kindness. Dr. Wijesekera’s father Prof. Wijesekera was a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo and Professor of Sanskrit and a distinguished linguist; and his beloved mother was Mabel Wijesekera.

Dr. Gamini Wijesekera who was their eldest son had his early education at Trinity College, Kandy and higher education at Ananda College, Colombo. He entered the Medical Faculty, Peradeniya and passed out as a doctor.  During his studies at the Medical Faculty he became an active member of the Samavadi Shishya Peramuna.

After completing his medical degree, he could have lived a very comfortable life as a doctor.  But he decided against that type of living and ventured into a much arduous life.   He joined the public service and in addition to his profession as a doctor, he joined the Government Medical Officers’ Association and became its secretary which entailed a very busy schedule.

Later, he resigned from government service and established a private medical clinic close to the High Level Road in Pannipitiya. His friendly attitude and the enormous kindness shown to the patients made him a very popular doctor in the area.  His patients included not only the well to do persons but also the hapless ordinary persons.

He gave not only free medical treatment but also free medicine to the needy patients who were ever grateful to him.  He was so much loved by the people of Pannipitiya that he was always with them in their sorrow and happiness.

He started his politics while being a university undergraduate and joined active politics while practicing medicine.  In 1977, he was elected to the Executive Committee of the United National Party.  He served in many Government Statutory Corporations and was appointed as the Secretary to the Ministry of Highways and Transport in 1980 by the then government.  During his service in that post he discharged his duties with much dedication to the progress of that institution.

At the by-election held in 1983, he contested the Maharagama seat as a candidate of the United National Party.  He functioned as a director of many government institutions which included among others Lanka Milk Foods, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment and the University Grants Commission.

In 1993, he was elected a UNP member of the Western Provincial Council.  He was appointed as the General Secretary of the UNP and became a Member of Parliament in 1994.  He was determined to take Sri Lanka to the democratic political mainstream.  It is no exaggeration to identify him as one person who came forward to create gentlemanly politics in Sri Lanka.  Although he marched along such a difficult track he never did anything to bring misery on others, which quality he discerned from his early childhood.

I have heard of the story that during his childhood, when he became angry, he managed to control his emotions by biting his own hand without hurting others’ feelings.  I know for certain that Dr. Wijesekera did not harm even a small insect.

At the time of his demise his daughter and son were small kids.  His daughter Bhavani, who followed in her father’s footsteps, sat for the medical degree final examination a few days ago and will be entering the medical profession as a doctor very soon.  How proud he would have been if he had lived to be with her and be a guide to her.  His son Dumesh is now a fully grown youth and has ventured in to a successful business concern.

His loss is felt not only among his family members but among all those who had contact with him.  His beloved wife, Daisy Wijesekera had to discharge the parental responsibilities and duties towards their children both as father and mother.  She had to see that they were properly educated.

Every year since 1994, an alms giving was held for the inmates of a children’s home on October 9, his birthday.  On the day before October 24 on which date he passed away, a bana sermon is held at their residence, followed by a sangika dana on the following day with the participation of his family members.

May Dr. Wijesekara, who was a doctor, eminent politician, social worker as well as a loving husband and father attain the supreme bliss of nibbana.

Srilal Jayakody

Sunday Times Oct 18 2009-10-18

A visionary politician who played the game as it should be played

Gamini Dissanayake – 15th death anniversary

October 23, 2009 marks the 15th death anniversary of the charismatic, caring and extraordinary politician, the late Gamini Dissanayake who, along with several other UNP stalwarts, was assassinated by an LTTE suicide bomber, just before the conclusion of a Presidential election campaign meeting at Thotalanga.

With the elections just two weeks away, Mr. Dissanayake’s tragic death shattered all dreams of his becoming President. His assassination was a blow to the whole nation. He achieved more in his 24 years in active politics than many do in a lifetime in politics. His accomplishments include milestones in the nation’s development and the country’s cricket history.

Gamini Dissanayake was born on March 20, 1942 in Kotmale, to Andrew Dissanayake and Welagedera Samaratunga Kumarihamy. He was one of seven children. He was educated at Trinity College, Kandy, which he joined in 1948. He entered the Law College in 1961 and passed out as an advocate, taking his oaths in 1966. He later became a President’s Counsel.

Gamini Dissanayake

In 1970, inspired by such famous leaders as D. S. Senanayake, Dudley Senanayake and J. R. Jayewardene, Gamini Dissanayake gave up a lucrative legal practice to enter politics, becoming an MP soon after only to be unseated by an election petition. He was re-elected to the Nuwara-Eliya/Maskeliya seat in a by-election in 1972. The energetic young politician and people’s representative for Nuwara Eliya district did yeoman service for all his constituents.

Gamini Dissanayake never stooped to petty, partisan politics. He was ever willing to engage in sensible debate. He possessed a clear, dynamic vision and made no false or hollow promises. His humility and friendly disposition endeared him to a wide cross-section of the public. He never differentiated between rich and poor. He extended equal hospitality to both poor constituent and rich friend.

When the United National Party came to power in 1977, Gamini Dissanayake was entrusted with many ministerial portfolios, as well as several monumental tasks. The portfolios were Irrigation, Power, Construction, Lands, Land Development, Mahaweli, Plantation Industries and Highways. His biggest achievement was, of course, the accelerated Mahaweli Project. His toughest challenge there was to relocate some 3,000 families in more than 50 villages living in the valley of the Kotmale reservoir. The valley was also home to about 15 places of religious worship. The late leader sacrificed ancestral lands belonging to his family as a result of the Mahaweli Project.

The gigantic Mahaweli exercise was scheduled for completion in 30 years, but through Gamini Dissanayake’s great skills, charisma and untiring leadership, it was completed in just seven years.
On April 11, 2003, the Kotmale Reservoir was appropriately renamed the Gamini Dissanayake Reservoir. His statue was unveiled at a glittering ceremony presided over by the then Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremasinghe.

While actively engaged in the country’s development, Gamini Dissanayake found time to be actively involved in the game of cricket. He held office as president of the Board of Control of Cricket in Sri Lanka (BCCSL) from June 1981 to June 1989, and for the four months before his tragic death in 1994. He made significant contributions to Sri Lanka’s cricket – changing the infrastructure and setting standards for the BCCSL. He inaugurated the Sri Lanka Cricket Foundation and was instrumental in us gaining full ICC Test status.

He had a vision of what he felt was best for Sri Lanka cricket. This included creating a cricket headquarters (at Maitland Place), raising the Asgiriya cricket grounds to international standard, creating grounds in provincial venues for domestic and international cricket, launching an overseas training programme for young cricketers, establishing a cricketers’ benevolent fund, and introducing intensive training for umpires, coaches and curators.

After doing all the spadework, it was unfortunate that Gamini Dissanayake did not live to see Sri Lanka win the plum of world cricket, the Wills World Cup in 1996, 17 months after his tragic demise.

In July 2008, at the conclusion of the night Asia Cup, staged in Karachchi, Mr. Dissanayake’s widow, Mrs. Srima Dissanayake, chairperson of the Gamini Dissanayake Foundation, and her son Navin Dissanayake, the Minister of Investment Promotion, collected a lifetime award given by the Asian Cricket Council in recognition of the late Gamini Dissanayake’s services to cricket.

Mr. Dissanayake was a pioneer member of the Asian Cricket Council; in fact it was he who formulated the concept of the Asian Cricket Council.

It should be mentioned that the Gamini Dissanayake Foundation, in line with the late leader’s vision, has set up a Gamini Dissanayake Institute of Technology and Vocational Studies in Kandy. The institute provides vocational training for the less-privileged, and hundreds of youth from the Central and Uva Provinces have benefited.

May the late leader attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

Sunil Thenabadu  

Kurunegala will fondly remember the ‘bodhisaththa dhosthara mahaththaya’

Dr. W. M. A. E. Weerasekera

Dr. W. M. A. E. Weerasekera was a good, dedicated and caring physician who would not accept money from the poor. Friends and relatives called him Asoka.

Educated at Ananda College, he obtained his MBBS in Sri Lanka and worked in peripheral hospitals for a few years before proceeding to the UK for further studies, accompanied by his wife, son and daughter.
After specialising in otolaryngology or ENT (ear, nose and throat), he returned to Sri Lanka and was posted to the Kurunegala base hospital as the ENT surgeon. The people of Kurunegala and Dambulla called him “Bodhisaththa Dosthara Mahaththaya”. Even after retirement, he continued to visit Kurunegala to see his patients.

During his time in Kurunegala, Dr. Weerasekera devised a process to help people who had undergone a certain neck operation after consuming poison or being bitten by a venomous snake. Because such patients find breathing and eating solids difficult, an opening is made in the neck. As long as the opening is there, the patient’s voice is unclear. When the patient wants to speak, he has to cover the opening with a finger to make himself heard. The doctor applied a stent (or tube) to the affected part, secured with a stainless steel wire. This allowed the patient to speak normally.

Dr. Weerasekera demonstrated his unique medical procedure at the South Asia Regional Conference (SARC) of ENT surgeons held in Nepal a few years ago. Why this unique system has not been adopted in this country is anybody’s guess.

At the age of 72, Dr. Weerasekera was struck by the dreaded disease that everyone fears. As someone who moved very closely with Dr. Weerasekera, I find his loss very hard to bear.

Our deepest sympathies go to his ever-loving wife Prema, son Asantha, daughter Himani, daughter-in-law Mellisa, and his grandchildren.

Dr. Asoka Weerasekera, may your journey through Sansara be short, and may you achieve the ultimate goal of Nirvana in the shortest possible time.


A generous-hearted nurse – and a flower that adorned our world

Kusuma Samarakoon (nee Rajapakse)

It is three months since my only sister (elder to me and my late brother) passed away. She breathed her last on July 18, at the General Hospital, Colombo, in an atmosphere with which she was all too familiar, for she had been Vice-Principal of the Colombo Nurses’ Training School, the institution that provides the hospital with its nursing staff.

She retired in the late ’70s, after three decades of service at the training school. She was drawn to the vocation of Florence Nightingale, and not long after leaving school she enrolled as a nurse. In recognition of her dedication as a nurse, the Department of Health sent her to India and Singapore for training. She served in the same capacity at nurses’ training schools in Kandy and Ratnapura.

My sister was educated at Christ Church Girls' School, Baddegama, whose principal at the time was an English woman. The school was also privileged to have the illustrious Christian dignitary, Reverend Lakdasa de Mel. The matron in charge of the hostel was so attached to my sister that during one school vacation she visited our home and stayed overnight with us.

My sister participated in nearly all the school activities, winning prizes in art, sports and music. She was blessed with a personality that was perfect for the office she held. She was also blessed with great natural beauty. Hers was a unique oriental beauty.

On spotting a photograph of my sister in her home, a visitor commented that hers was the kind of beauty that inspired people to break into poetry, and cited the classic maidens in the famous Sigiriya frescoes. Yes, indeed she was the flower that adorned our family.

My sister had a family of five children, two boys and three girls. Surmounting numerous difficulties, she educated them in prestigious Colombo schools – the two boys attended Royal College and Ananda College, and the three girls went to Visakha Vidyalaya.

She inherited from her parents a deep attachment to Buddhism. On all important Poya days, she observed sil – a practice she followed up to the very last. She would often visit a temple built on a plot of ancestral land donated by the family. She was generous in assisting any relation or villager who sought her guidance or help.

All these memories and more surfaced on the day of my sister’s funeral. I try to find solace in Buddhist scripture: “Anichawatha sankhara” – impermanent are all conditioned existences.

H. S. Rajapakse

 Nation Sunday Oct 18 2009

Fr Kingsley Jayamanne

Refined man of culture and faith

Many have already written about Fr Kingsley who, as a priest of the Archdiocese of Colombo, held several prestigious and not-so-prestigious positions in the Church. I wish to give some random impressions on him as gathered during our seminary life together at the Collegio Urbano de Propaganda Fide in Rome, where he was ordained a priest in December 1964.

He was already there when I arrived in 1961 in Rome. He was one year senior to me and during his entire stay there, he was by far the most respected Sri Lankan student among us who were thirteen at the time in the Sri Lankan community.

It was the summer vacation of September 1961 when I arrived in Rome from Naples ( by train) with Patrick Olivelle (a brilliant student who later did post-graduate work at Oxford and who subsequently left the priesthood but became a professional and much esteemed contributor to international Philosophy journals - now living somewhere in the United States, probably Texas). All the college students were at the summer villa at Castelgandolfo adjoining the Papal summer residence, where there was a swimming pool and other holiday facilities. There was the huge, picturesque lake Albano on the other side of the road where students went fishing. The Sri Lankans went cooking under the pretext of fishing!

Fr Kingsley came to Rome on our arrival and took us on our first visit to St Peter’s Basilica before accompanying us by train to the Castelgandolfo villa where the Sri Lankan community had prepared a sumptuous rice and curry meal - our first taste of Sri Lankan food after spending two weeks in a liner from Colombo to Naples and one week in Naples at the Jesuit House. Sri Lankans were known for their cooking of tasty dishes which even the Australians came to relish and begged almost for “left-overs” from our frequent cooking sessions.

Fr Jaya - as Kingsley Jayamanne was known to everyone at Propaganda College, was at the zenith of respect enjoyed by the Sri Lankan community, known mainly for cooking, music and general versatility. Jaya was reputed for his intellectual brilliance (not merely academic), his well-rounded personality and his wide knowledge of science, literature, theology and the arts: a rare versatility indeed. He was well-read in every imaginable area and a great fan of Cardinal Newman’s life and writings. Although a science graduate from Colombo University, he was all-embracing in his interests. As a person he was urbane, cultured, soft-spoken, expressing considered opinions in refined, unaggressive language. He graced the student and Sri Lankan community with a marked, dignified decency.

He was of a very gentle demeanour, but of firm convictions, fearlessly expressed. The English, American and Australian students were amazed at his command of the English language, his maturity and his decorum. They couldn’t figure out how an Asian could beat them in their own language. The Sri Lankans were generally reputed for their good English and clear diction. He was a great connoisseur of western music, while being well-versed in Sinhala music and Sri Lanka history and culture. When we sang on festivals in the chapel or refectory (the college choir was 70-strong, representing at least 40 countries and directed by an Italian priest-maestro of St Cecilia’s Academy fame), Fr Jaya was particularly appreciative of our rendition of operatic arias from Verdi’s La Traviato and Il Trovatore and compositions of Rossini (La Speranza La Carita). It was indeed a compliment to be congratulated by him because he was a modest man of culture not given to flattery or exaggeration but a sincere expression of refined tastes.

Together with Fr(Dr) Mervyn Fernando (of Subodhi Integral Education and Astronomy fame, then doing a post-graduate course in Canon Law, residing at St Peter’s post-graduate college in Rome), he was an official stenographer at the Vatican Council II and a sort of secretary to Cardinal Cooray, Archbishop of Colombo. Thomas Cooray was made a Cardinal by Pope Paul VI during the Council. It was, mainly, a recognition of his commitment to hard work in the preparatory committees that vetted documents and agendas for the Council general sessions. They said, he was one of the few Council Fathers who attended nearly all the preparatory sessions. We knew this, because of his frequent visits to Rome during the Council. With him was also the first African Cardinal-Rugambwa from Tanzania, if I remember right.

We owed to Frs Mervyn and Kingsley our Council information and jokes especially about over-cautious Cardinals Ottaviani, Ruffini and Simi who thought the Council a kind of declaration of war on the existing forms. Pope John had referred to ‘ prophets of doom’ sceptical of the Council’s outcome. Those were heady days in more sense than one. New insights into dogma and ecclesiology were given to us, students by famous personalities like Karl Rahner and Hans Kung, who as Council experts were invited to address the students hungry for Council developments and gossip.

What kind of man Pope John XXIII was, can be gauged from his twice sending casks of beer for the college students through his much-loved Secretary Mgr. Loris Capovilla. He brought it to us with the love and compliments of the Pope who had received the best Bavarian beer from ‘good friends in Germany’. Both Popes John and Paul VI regarded Propaganda Fide College as their own college because so many nations of the world were represented there. The Roman diocese and Papal diplomatic colleges (so much favoured by Pius XII) took second place, arousing the envy and sometimes resentment of Roman circles. I digress, in a way, but this was the atmosphere which nourished Fr Kingsley’s priesthood which he eventually received in December 1964, one year before the Council closed in December 1965.

Throughout his many assignments in Sri Lanka on his return, he became known for essentially what he was: a man of God, of culture, of refinement, finesse and sensitivity. One wouldn’t usually associate such wide-ranging qualities with a science man generally with limited vision. In his knowledge, he was a humble man of faith. He was respected and looked up to as Rector of St Aloysius’ Junior Seminary. As acting Rector of St Peter’s College, he was appreciated for his quiet efficiency and sense of justice by students, teachers and Old Boys. In administration at the Archbishop’s House, which he reluctantly accepted more in obedience than in elation, he was trusted and consulted by bishops and priests. He made no bones about it when he wished to quit administration and revert to the role of a simple parish priest. In terms of success and promotion, he could very well have had a prestigious parish, but he asked for a small one. So, he came to St Anthony’s, Galkissa where the people revered him for his sincere ways and his penetrative but down-to-earth, to-the-point sermons. It was from there that he retired due to ill-health.

Only a man of faith could have borne the suffering he endured in his last years. There have been priests, intellectual giants of great fame and culture who found being ill and dying, a challenge to their faith. The greatest tribute one can pay to a man in the end is that he knows how to live and how to die with grace and dignity. The illness and death of such a man isn’t a tragedy, but a luminous witness to faith and hope. John Donne in one of his poems writes:

“Any man’s death diminishes me”.
No doubt we feel impoverished by his passing, because he is not among us to inspire us, visibly and tangibly. But his death is ultimately a gain for him and for us too, because he has reached, as we believe, his ultimate destiny: the goal that all of us pilgrims on this earth look to with hope.
‘Jaya’ had a weak stomach all his life. He had to eat bland food wherever he went. Even in Rome it bothered him, but it didn’t make him moody and unpredictable. Perhaps it prepared him for greater health challenges in his later years. The dignity and endurance of his final years are an inspiration to all of us. He couldn’t express himself in speech but had to write on a slate or paper what he wished to say. In his darkness, he knew Christ’s light and presence. To us, who live in the best way we can in our twilight years, he is a beacon of hope, love and courage. Well may he have comforted himself in the end with the words of Cardinal Newman whom he so much cherished:

“Lead kindly light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead thou me on
The night is dark and I am far from home
Lead thou me on
Keep thou my feet: I do not ask to see
The distant scene: one step enough for me...............

So long thy power has blessed me, sure it still
Will lead me on
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile”

Rev Fr Claver Perera 

Sunday Times Oct 11 2009

She went out of her way to brighten her part of Planet Earth

Evelyn Hapugoda

Late-blooming friendships can be just as meaningful as those we forge in our early years. I came to know Evelyn Hapugoda some time in the 1980s. The link was the original “Lanka Woman” magazine, launched in 1984 under Clare Senewiratne’s able editorship.

Evelyn and I corresponded for several years – she in Baddegama and I in Colombo, as “old girls” of rival schools Bishop’s and Ladies’, before we actually met in person.

From the beginning Evelyn impressed me as one of those rare human beings who go all out to brighten whatever corner of Planet Earth they find themselves, with no thought of recognition or reward. She cared about people, regardless of class, caste, community or creed.

Typical is a letter I found, dated 4/3/2000, which is all about a School Drop-outs Project in which she was thoroughly involved, as founder-member of the Baddegama YWCA. Evelyn was angry with herself for needing emergency surgery for a strangulated hernia. It was during her enforced rest that she wrote to me. She was worried that the money for the project was running out.

I couldn’t help but smile when I read the following: “I was told that Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya are sponsoring a programme for school drop-outs. So I phoned Muralitharan and he wanted particulars of our work. He wanted them before 7/2, so I posted all the details on 27/1/2000. I then fell ill and was rushed to Colombo and was operated on 31/01, and now I am here and Muralitharan is in Pakistan.”

Among her many concerns at the time was the Halpathota Detention Home (which I had never heard of), which housed 186 girls and boys. Evelyn told me the official name for the home was “Sanasuma Niwasa”, but that it “really wasn’t a place of comfort”.

She added, “Here in Baddegama we Christian and Buddhist women work together, and our YWCA group has taken responsibility for organising three different courses for the girls – cookery, crochet and English.”

Paid teachers were employed with the help of local sponsors, and Evelyn was delighted that the girls were keen to attend classes.

Evelyn had a flair for enlisting help from friends for the good causes she espoused. When Bob Parsons, who headed the UK Save The Children organisation in Colombo a long time back, visited Sri Lanka as director of another UK-based organisation called “Hope for Children”, Evelyn got him interested in the Halpathota Home. His association donated, among things, a three-wheeler for the home’s use.

Evelyn had friends abroad, Sri Lankan and foreign. I found that many responded to meet the needs expressed by Evelyn – never needs of her own, but on behalf of the less-advantaged in her neighbourhood. For example, a Tamil friend of hers living in Australia was able to co-opt four Tamil Hindu friends who had left Sri Lanka after 1983 to send regular money donations for a child sponsorship scheme on behalf of Sinhala Buddhist children in Baddegama.

“They started by helping five children, and now 12 children benefit from their generosity,” Evelyn happily told me. When an American friend who had previously worked in Baddegama came on a visit, Evelyn told her about her desire to help a poor widow with three children. She wanted to build the family a cottage on a small plot of land she had received. The American left some money with Evelyn and later, from America, sent a gift of US$300 towards making the dream come true. How pleased Evelyn was to send me a picture of the completed house. The family now had a home to call their own.

Evelyn was a well-loved figure in the village, for she had the welfare of the villagers at heart. I recall her telling me how she encouraged them to plant kitchen gardens in chatty pots. Anyone in need could come to Evelyn in the certainty that she would be welcomed.

Evelyn’s marriage to Stephen Hapugoda was a happy partnership. When he was president of the Lions’ Club of Hikkaduwa, a Lions club in Finland collaborated with the Hikkaduwa club to sponsor poor children. Evelyn was chairperson of the scheme. “I supported him in his Lions’ Club activities, and he helped me in my YWCA work,” she told me.

A heart-warming aspect of the Finnish aid scheme was that the Finnish Lions, 20 to 30 of them, would visit Baddegama once a year to see their protégées in their homes and note what other practical assistance they could give. The Finnish group met at the Hapugoda residence and Evelyn would give them a farewell party that always ended with a rousing singsong, with the hostess at the piano.

What started out as sponsorship of five children developed to include 160 children in Hikkaduwa and 60 more in Baddegama.

Stephen Hapugoda was principal of Christ Church Boys’ School, where Evelyn taught music, singing and English. She also did much for the upliftment of his village. The road on which the Hapugodas lived together for 45 happy years was re-named K.S. Hapugoda Mawatha in Stephen’s lifetime. He died in 1989, and Evelyn carried on the good work alone. When she left her parents’ home in Pussellawa to marry Stephen, she embraced Baddegama as her own “gama”. She was never happy to be away from it for too long.

The Hapugodas have four sons and one daughter. Evelyn was thrilled to be present at the baptism of her first great-grandchild, born in America and brought to Sri Lanka for the occasion. The baptism took place early this year, in the Anglican cathedral on Bauddhaloka Mawatha.

Family and friends were looking forward to celebrating Evelyn’s 94th birthday on September 20 this year. Instead, Evelyn’s ashes were interred in Baddegama that day. Evelyn lived by the dictum: “If we do what we can to help those around us enjoy a better quality of life, we shall not have lived in vain.”

Dear Evelyn, you certainly made a difference by the way you lived your life, right up to the end. You will live on in the bright and fond memories of all of us who had the privilege of knowing you.

Anne Abayasekara

He saw to it that rural people got the best of dental services

Dr. Adley Mohamed

It was with deep sorrow that I heard about the sudden demise of my friend and former colleague, Dr. Adley Mohamed.

I had the privilege of knowing him and working with him closely for a considerable period of time, and I found in him a genuine friend and committed professional.

After qualifying as a dental surgeon at the University of Peradeniya, Dr. Mohamed worked in the hospital dental service for some time before proceeding to England for postgraduate studies.

He obtained his postgraduate qualifications in dental public health from the Royal College of Surgeons, and returned to the island to take up the post of Regional Dental Surgeon, efficiently managing hospital and school dental services.

It was during this time that the Sri Lanka Dental Association initiated the country’s first-ever fluoride research project. This was a programme to remove excess fluoride from drinking water at Polpitigama, in the Kurunegala district.

As the project’s honorary secretary, he was involved from the beginning, and he was instrumental in conducting two preliminary surveys with a UK consultant, Dr. June Nunn. While the project was in progress, Dr. Mohamed visited Kurunegala many times and took a keen interest in devising a procedure to prevent the dark-brown discolouration of children’s teeth (dental fluorosis) in the North Central Province.

Dr. Mohamed was a past president of the Sri Lanka Dental Association, and served as honorary secretary of the College of Community Dentistry from its inception. He later took on the mantle of president. In later years he served as a senior committee member of the college, and junior members always sought his advice.

Dr. Mohamed was a familiar figure at the annual scientific sessions of the college, presenting scientific papers of a very high standard.

He was instrumental in securing a substantial amount of funds from Japan to set up a clinically oriented project to whiten the fluorised teeth of children (micro abrasion technique) in distant corners of the island, including Embilipitiya, Moneragala, Polonnaruwa and Kekirawa.

During these interactions, he made a number of friends based in the UK and Japan. It was only a few weeks ago that he visited his UK friends on the way to the US to see his two children.

In the latter stages of his career, Dr. Mohamed served as Consultant Dental Surgeon in the Health Education Bureau of the Ministry of Health.

His untimely death is an irreparable loss to the dental profession in general and the dental public health community of Sri Lanka in particular.

Dr. K. D. G. Saparamadu

Rugby stalwart doctor was a man for all seasons

Hubert Aloysius

It is hard to imagine that it is 21 years since Hubert Aloysius passed away. I can still hear him on a coach heading somewhere, perhaps Radella, singing heartily and cracking a joke from his endless store of rugby humour. He was such an ebullient, entertaining and amusing character that even after all these years he is still remembered vividly by his close friends.

Hubert was born on January 8, 1933 and educated at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo, where he came under the influence of the great educationist, Rev. Father Peter Pillai. Apart from his studies, he was a very good athlete and basketball player, both at school and later in the university. Indeed, I first came into contact with Hubert when we played rugby and basketball together on the playing fields of Reid Avenue and later at Havelock Park.

Although he took up rugby only after leaving school, his athletic prowess helped him become an excellent player. Representing Havelock Sports Club as a line-out forward, he bravely took on the big European players of those days and fought it out with them. In 1961 he was chosen to captain the team. Most of his team members were very young, some just out of school, but charismatic Hubert knew how to motivate them.

Ultimately, he produced a match-winning outfit that brought the Clifford Cup to the Park after a lapse of 10 long years. A photograph showing Hubert being chaired off the field by his ecstatic teammates used to hang in the clubhouse, but now there is only a photograph of Hubert looking down fondly on the friends he has left behind.

After passing out as a doctor, Hubert worked in the Kurunegala and Karawanella hospitals. One of his favourite anecdotes from his Kurunegala days concerned his friend the undertaker, whose funeral parlour was next to the doctors’ quarters. The undertaker would salute Hubert on his way to and from the hospital. “I was a famous man,” he would laughingly say. Well, one night this man was taken ill and admitted to the hospital. But when he saw Hubert striding through the ward the next morning, he forgot all about his illness, leapt over the hospital wall and ran home. One presumes the undertaker feared he would end up as one of his own customers if left to the tender mercies of the famous Dr. Aloysius!

Later Hubert joined the private sector and worked with his brother, Dr. Dennis Aloysius, in Dehiwela. In practice with Dennis, Hubert worked three days a week, which gave him enough time for other activities, including cookery (turning out tasty bites for our get-togethers); journalism (contributing weekly medical articles to a national newspaper), and, of course, playing rugby and singing. Hubert had an excellent voice. If he had received proper voice training, I am sure he could have become an opera singer.

After our serious playing days were over, we formed a team called the Pink Elephants, made up of former club players, such as Peter Amerasinghe, Graham Hamer, Y. C. Chang, Eric Alwis, Jayantha Jayawardena, Didacus de Almeida, Tony Amit, the Paternott brothers, and so on. We had fun with Hubert leading the way.

On a trip to Uva, our coach skidded and ended up with the front hanging in mid-air over the edge of a precipice. All except Hubert managed to get out of the coach. He was right at the back, and every time he moved forward the bus would tilt forward dangerously. We all had to grip on to the rear buffer so Hubert could slide slowly towards the entrance and escape.

On another occasion, Hubert gave us such a riotous time on the journey that we arrived too late for the match. However, we attended the post-match social arranged by our hosts, and played the match the next morning.

After hanging up his rugby boots, Hubert would officiate as medical officer for inter-club rugby matches. Invariably, when an injured player saw Hubert running over to examine him with his high knee action, he would forget his injury and get up before Hubert reached him, preferring to trust the injury to God rather than Hubert.

On or off the rugby field, Hubert was a jovial person. He was the life and soul of any party, carousing and cracking jokes far into the night. We would go on trips together – Babu Jacob, Eustace Fonseka, Y. C. Chang, Quintin Israel and others – most of them now gone with Hubert.

When a marriage proposal came for Hubert from Willie Aiyadurai, I was nominated to take Hubert to meet Carol. When I went to pick him up, he was missing. I had to hunt him down at the Havelock’s, take him home, get him dressed and then accompany him to the Aiyadurai’s.

Hubert was so shy he wouldn’t even sit down. He stood and talked, hoping it would be a two-minute affair. But when he was introduced to Carol, the two wouldn’t stop talking. They chatted on for at least an hour, and the rest, as they say, is history. Meanwhile, I did full justice to the bouchées, cutlets and sandwiches laid out for the occasion.

Hubert and Carol had two sons. Hiranjan, their first born, is settled with his family in Australia, where he practises as an accountant on the Gold Coast. Jehan, the younger son, decided to pursue a career in drama, and has successfully produced and directed a number of plays. He has clearly inherited Hubert’s talents, mannerisms and voice, as well as his penchant for jokes. Whenever I watch Jehan on stage, I am reminded so much of Hubert.

Unfortunately, in his latter years, Hubert neglected his health and did not heed his friends’ advice and curb his excesses. His standard excuse was that it was too late to do anything about it. In the famous words of his favourite song, which he would sing lustily, he would say, “I did it My Way.”

Dr. Harry Rasiah

The Sunday Leader Oct 11 2009


L. C. D. Abeyeratne

Louis Conrad Duncan Abeyeratne was a legend in his lifetime in the field of science education in Sri Lanka. He was also a man of many parts — a devoted family man, a person who kept in touch with a wide circle of family and friends, and one who could evoke plenty of laughter with a rich repertoire of stories for all occasions. As we commemorate his sad passing away six months ago, it is fitting to recount some highlights of his life and times.

"Duncan Master" as he was known, became synonymous with sure-fire results in mathematics and physics at the University Entrance and GCE A/L examinations for students under his tutelage, and was one of the most outstanding teachers of our times. He had the knack of imparting knowledge like a laser beam into students’ minds, knew how best to coach them for examinations, and inspired them for further studies. Most of his students excelled in their work, leading them to high positions in their respective walks of life.

Duncan began his teaching career at St. Anthony’s College, Wattala on May 8, 1957 and served for over 25 years. He held the position of Sectional Head of Science (GCE A/L), and was the Vice Principal at the time of leaving. Duncan served as the GCE A/L Chief Examiner in physics and mathematics for some time. For a short period he was also the Principal of Christ the King College, Tudella. In 1985 he was appointed Deputy Director of Education in the Ministry of Education, to be in charge of the School Supervision Unit.

As a man of science, Duncan kept in constant touch with recent developments in science, helped in part, through books of mutual interest I used to bring during our annual visits to Sri Lanka. These were essentially non-technical books such, as A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, The Elegant Universe and The Fabric Of The Cosmos by Brian Greene, Einstein: His Life And The Universe by Walter Isaacson, Beyond Einstein by Michio Kaku, and Fermat’s Enigma by Simon Singh.

He enjoyed reading these books from cover to cover, providing a basis for our long discussions on topics such as superstring theory in the quest to unify Einstein’s general relativity with quantum mechanics through an eleven-dimensional theory of the universe.

As a family man, Duncan was indeed a role model. I vividly recall the first time I met Duncan, some months after his marriage to Rosemary Moldrich-Diaz on January 15, 1962. I had just begun dating my wife Sheila, who is Rosemary’s sister.

Although Duncan and I had attended the University of Ceylon, Colombo Campus, we never met there as he had graduated in 1957, when I had just entered the University. He was the only candidate that year to obtain second-class honours with mathematics, physics, and chemistry.

Over the years, we had a lot to talk about, as I had graduated with a special degree in mathematics in 1961 from the same university, and had started teaching the University Entrance classes at St. Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya.

Since my marriage to Sheila in 1964, both our families were in close contact. Our daughters Deepthi and Shyami were in the same age group as their children — Roger, Densy, Denise, and Daphne. The girls attended the same school, St. Bridget’s Convent in Colombo 7.

Duncan guided the children through a good education and hard work, which paid rich dividends. They were also influenced by Rosemary who epitomised hard work in her career of 38 years at the Commercial Bank. As a deeply religious Roman Catholic, he prayed with his family every day, and believed that "a family that prays together stays together." He and his family were frequent visitors to St. Jude’s Church in Indigolla.

Duncan was also a well-rounded man. This was evident from his early interest in a scouting career, earning the rare honour of being a King’s Scout, and probably one of the last to receive such an award, as King George VI passed away shortly thereafter.

He had the exceptional privilege of being invited to Queen’s House by Lord Soulbury, the Governor General at that time to pay respects to His Majesty King George VI. Cricket was also a passion of his and he played for the first-eleven team at St. Anthony’s College, Wattala.

We will always remember Duncan as a genial man, being very jovial at family gatherings, having a great human touch, and one who has contributed much to Sri Lanka in the field of science education. Such were the life and times of my brother-in-law Duncan. He is sadly missed by his family and friends.

Dr. Hilarian Codippily

Sunday Island Oct 11 2009

Prof. K.W. Goonewardena - A Tribute

Of that rare breed of outstanding Peradeniya men, one more has left us. He was one of the giants at whose feet we sat. Professor Karunadasa Wijesiri (‘Carl’) Goonewardena (1925 – 2009) was the epitome of the gentleman scholar. By the time he returned home upon completion of his post-graduate studies at the end of 1953, the university at Peradeniya had been established. He was thus one of the founding fathers of Peradeniya having joined that venerable institution in the Jennigsean era. He retired in 1990 and lived in Maharagama until his recent death.

Although from a different and much younger generation, I had an education and upbringing similar to the one Prof. Goonewardena had. Like him I was born in the south (on the correct side of the Bentara Ganga, too!) and like him I had the benefit of receiving my primary and secondary education at Buddhist, Catholic and Methodist schools: he at Sangamitta Vidyalaya and St. Aloysius’ College, Galle, and Kingswood College, Kandy and I at Hikkaduwa Central, De Mazenod College, Kandana, and Kingswood College, Kandy. Perhaps it is our broad exposure which made us avoid the pitfall of ‘Adolescent Nationalism’ that most others of our social and class background have, sadly, stumbled over.

My senior colleagues and contemporaries who specialized in History acquainted me with Prof. Goonewardena’s pioneering work of great significance in historical revisionism. I have since read his The Foundations of Dutch Power in Ceylon 1638 – 1658 (his doctoral dissertation of 1953 revised and published in 1958)) and his 1958 University of Ceylon Review article on Robert Knox and benefited from his incisive scholarship. Together with Prof. S. Arasaratnam, another notable Sri Lankan authority on the Dutch Period, Prof. Goonewardena has enabled us to understand better the Dutch colonial interregnum in seventeenth century Ceylon.

Prof. Goonwardena’s contribution to Peradeniya and Kelaniya as scholar and administrator has been exceptional. He was only 38 when he was appointed Professor of History at the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya in 1964. Five years later he was selected to be Vice- Chancellor of the Vidyalankara University.

In the post-1965 days of the National Government led by the late Dudley Senanayake, the politicization of the higher education sphere which had begun under the previous government of Sirima Bandaranaike acquired a fresh and new lease of life. In addition there now was at Malay Street (then the Education administration headquarters) presiding over the destiny of education in Ceylon a volatile and authoritarian Minister in I.M.R.A. Iriyagolla. He was as hostile as anyone you could then find to the academic independence cherished by the majority of the university tutorial staff members of that era. He used to refer derisively to this freedom as autonomiya. This factor makes it even more remarkable that Prof. Goonewardena, a forthright and unbending academic if ever there was one, found acceptance.

The late 60s was a time of turmoil in university campuses the world over and Ceylon’s were no exception. As we know, the turbulence in our universities at that time which culminated in the momentous and violent Insurrection of April 1971 made university administration of that period more challenging than usual. The Vidyalankara University was in particular disarray, both at the student and staff levels. Long after these seemingly calamitous circumstances had become history and many an academic battle had been waged, lost and won, I learnt of Prof. Goonewardena’s marvellous contribution to the betterment of the Vidyalankara University. Two of his then Kelaniya colleagues, Professors Charles Dahanayake and Indra Balasuriya, stalwarts of the Science Faculty, shared with me their recollections of Prof. Goonewardena’s tenure as Vice-Chancellor. These recollections accord with the facts found in the introduction to the K.W. Goonewardena Felicitation Volume(1989) edited by Profs. C.R. de Silva and Sirima Kiribamune. Here’s how they record Prof. Goonewardena’s labours on behalf of the Vidyalankara University:

… in January 1969 he was elevated to the coveted and challenging position of Vice-Chancellor of the troubled university at Kelaniya, the Vidyalankara University of Ceylon, the administration of which had come in for severe and scathing criticism by a Royal Commission a short while before.

A great deal of credit for rectifying the situation and steering it through its formative years goes to K.W. Goonewardena. Among his achievements as Vice-Chancellor was the successful battle [he waged] to preserve the Science Faculty in that institution at a time when it was threatened with closure. He was a strong advocate of the introduction of the study of Tamil at Vidyalankara University and proposed that students in the Faculty of Arts should also be given a basic grounding in science, though problems of finance and the change in the University set up in 1972 frustrated these objectives.

Apart from that brief spell at Dalugama, Kelaniya, to revive the Vidyalankara University of Ceylon, Prof. Goonewardena’s academic labours were devoted to the continued wellbeing of the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya. In addition to his superlative contribution on the academic front, Prof. Goonewardena involved himself, as did the rest of his colleagues of his generation, with the wider life of the community at Peradeniya. He gave of himself abundantly to the causes of both students and staff whilst holding a variety of honorary posts—as Warden of Marcus Fernando Hall of Residence (1963- 1968), as President of the University Faculty Club on numerous occasions and as President of the University Teachers’ Association in 1967 and 1968 in addition to serving as President or Vice- Patron of a number of Sports Bodies both within and outside of the University. All of this besides functioning as the Head of the Dept. of History, Dean of the Faculty of Arts on two occasions and serving a three-year term on the University Council.

Prof. Goonewardena was erudite and civilized. Involved though he was to the hilt with university affairs both in and outside of the classroom, he yet managed to keep a respectable distance from the generality of Peradeniya’s residential community of students and scholars. He was dignified and decorous at all times. And yet he was never aloof and detached as some of his contemporaries tended to be. He doubtless watched bemusedly as some of his contemporaries turned academic populists seeking to win cheap acceptance or groped for fleeting moments of glory by playing to the gallery. Neither being overly reserved nor being a ‘hail-fellow-well-met’ type, Prof. Goonewardena managed to relate meaningfully and appropriately to Peradeniya’s younger generation. There was not a trace of artifice in him. He was thus looked up to by both the teachers and the taught. He was a good mixer, moving easily and comfortably in all circles. He was a wonderful role model, mentor and friend to generations of Peradeniya’s fortunate undergraduates and younger academics. He fought relentlessly against injustice no matter which quarter that injustice emanated from reserving his best efforts in this regard to champion the cause of the underdog and the marginalized. I think it is not unfair to say that Prof. Goonewardena was acceptably old-fashioned to the extent that he upheld traditional values worthy of preservation. Respect for the sanctity of institutions, honouring those worthy of honour, observance of discipline and decorum at all times and consistent adherence to principle were of utmost importance to him. He was forthright sometimes even to the point of bluntness in defending the values he chose to live by. His unequivocal and explicit manner notwithstanding he was ever amiable and affable for he was no prissy academic standing on ceremony. He was always firmly rooted in the particular whilst reaching out to the universal. It was a difficult balancing act to perform in order to be who he was and be understanding and caring at the same time. I am convinced that it was his unblemished character and his rock solid integrity that enabled him to remain a credible personality.

He was the Dean of the Faculty of Arts when I joined the academic staff of Peradeniya as an Assistant Lecturer in English in the mid-1970s. We were regular tennis partners for several years thereafter. Not infrequently we would meet for a beer and a few rounds of Bridge at the Faculty Club especially when it was situated in those wonderful surroundings of the abandoned old golf course opposite the Botanical Gardens. We had a regular crowd that included the late Dr. ‘Udu’ (M.S.) Uduwela, Dr. S. Mahalingam, Dr.Rex Clements, Dr. ‘Soory’ Soorymoorthy, Dr. Ranjith Galappatti, Dr. ‘Rambuks’(N.B.) Rambukwella, Wilfrid Dahanayake, Vijitha Kuruwita, R.O. Thattil, Athula Perera and the inimitable George van der Poorten—young academics, then, drawn from the Engineering, Veterinary and Agriculture Faculties. ‘Carl’ Goonewardena was at home with all types, the young and the old, the conservative and the revolutionary, the indigenous and the westernized, without ever losing his individuality. He was the consummate Peradeniya man.

Tissa Jayatilaka
06 October, 2009

Daily Mirror Oct 2009

Dr. Adley Mohamed

It was with deep regret and sorrow that I heard about the sudden demise of my friend and erstwhile colleague Dr. Adley Mohamed.

I had the privilege of knowing him and associating with him closely for a considerable period of time, and I found in him a genuine friend and a committed professional. After qualifying as a Dental Surgeon from the University of Peradeniya, he worked in the hospital Dental services for some time and proceeded to England for Post Graduate studies and obtained his Post Graduate qualifications from the Royal College of Surgeons of England in Dental public Health and returned to the island, to serve as a Regional Dental Surgeon efficiently managing the hospital and school Dental service.

It was during this time that the Sri Lanka Dental association animated the first ever Flouride Research Project to remove excess of Fluoride from drinking water at Polpitigama in the Kurunegala district. He was involved in the project from its very beginning as its honourary secretary, and was instrumental in doing two preliminary surveys with a Consultant from UK, Dr. June Nunn. During project implementation he visited Kurunegala a number of times and took a keen interest in devising a procedure to prevent the dark brown discolouration of children’s teeth (Dental Fluorosis) in the North Central Province.

He was a Past President of the Sri Lanka Dental Association, and functioned as Honourary Secretary of the College of community Dentistry from its very inception and later on took the mantle of leadership as its President. Later years he served as a senior committee member of the College and his advise was always sought by junior members. He was a familiar figure during the annual scientific sessions of the College and presented scientific papers of a very high standard.

He was instrumental in securing a substantial funding from Japan to implement a clinically oriented project to whiten the teeth of children (micro abrasion technique) in far away corners of the island such as Embilipitya, Moneragala, Polonnaruwa, and Kekirawa. During these interactions he made a number of friends in the UK and Japan and it was only a few weeks ago that he visited his friends in the UK, on his recent trip to the States to see his two children.

Dr. K B G Sapramadu

Nation Sunday Oct 4 2009

Dr Hubert Aloysius

Man for all seasons

It’s hard to imagine that it is 21 years since Hubert Aloysius passed away. I can still hear him on a coach heading somewhere, perhaps Radella, singing heartily and cracking one of his never ending store of rugby jokes. He was such an ebullient, entertaining and amusing character that even after all this time he is still remembered vividly by his close friends.

Hubert was born on January 8, 1933 and was educated at St Joseph’s College where he came under the influence of the great educationist Rev Father Peter Pillai. Apart from his studies he was a very good athlete and basketball player both at school and later in the University and indeed, I first came into contact with Hubert when we played rugby and basketball together on the playing fields of Reid Avenue and later at Havelock Park. Although taking up the sport after school, his athletic prowess led him to become an excellent rugby player. Representing Havelock Sports Club as a line out forward he took on the big Europeans who played in those days and fought it out with them. In 1961 he was chosen to captain the team. Most of his players were very young and indeed some just out of school but Hubert was charismatic and he knew just how to motivate them. Ultimately he produced a match-winning outfit that brought the Clifford Cup to the Park after 10 long years. A photograph showing Hubert being chaired off the field by his ecstatic team-mates used to hang in the clubhouse but now it is only a photograph of Hubert that looks down fondly on those of his friends left behind.

After passing out as a Doctor, Hubert worked in the Kurunegala and Karawanella hospitals. One of his favourite anecdotes from his Kurunegala days concerned his friend, the undertaker, whose funeral parlour was located next to the doctors’ quarters and who always used to salute Hubert as he passed on his way to and from the hospital – “I was a famous man,” he used to laughingly say. Well, one night this man was taken ill and admitted to the hospital but when in the morning he saw Hubert striding down the ward, he forgot all about his illness, jumped over the hospital wall and went home, fearing, one must assume that he might end up as one of his own customers if left to the tender mercies of the famous Dr Aloysius!

Later on he joined the private sector and worked with his brother Dr Dennis Aloysius in Dehiwela. In practice with Dennis, Hubert worked only three days a week and had enough time for other activities including cookery – turning out many a tasty bite for our get-togethers; journalism – contributing a series of weekly articles on medical matters to one of the national newspapers and, of course, playing rugby and singing. Hubert really had an excellent voice and it was a pity that he did not have any training, as I am sure, he could have become an operatic singer.

After our serious playing days were over, we had a team called the Pink Elephants made up of ex-Club players like Peter Amerasinghe, Graham Hamer, Y C Chang, Eric Alwis, Jayantha Jayawardena, Didacus de Almeida, Tony Amit, the Patternott brothers etc. We really had fun with Hubert leading the way. On a trip to Uva the coach skidded and ended up with the front in mid-air suspended over the precipice. Except Hubert we all managed to get out but he was right at the back and every time he began to move forward the bus tilted alarmingly! Eventually we all had to hold onto the rear buffer while Hubert slithered slowly to the entrance and escaped. On another occasion he gave us such a riotous time on the journey that we arrived too late for the match and so decided to enjoy the post-match social arranged by our hosts instead and finally played the match the following morning.

After hanging up his boots Hubert used to officiate as Medical Officer for Inter Club rugby matches. Invariably when an injured player saw Hubert running on to examine him with his high knee action, he would immediately forget his injury and get up before Hubert reached him preferring to trust the injury to God rather than Hubert.
On or off the rugby field Hubert was a jovial person and was the life and soul of any party he went to carousing and cracking jokes far into the night. We all used to go on trips together – Babu Jacob, Eustace Fonseka, Y C Chang, Quintin Israel and others – most of them gone now with Hubert.

When a marriage proposal came for Hubert from Willie Aiyadurai, I was nominated to take Hubert to meet Carol. When I went to pick him up he was missing and I had to hunt him down at the Havelock’s, take him home. After much persuasion, I managed to get him to agree to go and see her and then accompanied him to the Aiyadurai’s. Hubert was so shy that he said he won’t even sit down and would just stand and talk and that it would be a two minute affair. However, once he was introduced to Carol they didn’t stop talking for at least an hour and the rest, as they say, is history. I, of course, didn’t twiddle my thumbs and did full justice to the bouchées, cutlets and sandwiches that were laid out!

Hubert and Carol had two sons. Hiranjan, their first born, is settled with his family in Australia where he practises as an accountant on the Gold Coast. Jehan, the younger son, decided to pursue a career in drama after obtaining an English hons degree. He has successfully produced and directed a number of plays. He has clearly inherited Hubert’s talents, mannerisms and voice as well as his penchant for jokes and whenever I watch Jehan on stage I am reminded so much of Hubert.

Unfortunately for Hubert and all of us, in his latter years Hubert neglected his health and did not heed the advice of his friends. His standard excuse was that now it is too late to do anything about it and in the famous words of his favourite song which he sang lustily “I did it my way.”

Dr Harry Rasiah

Sunday Times Oct 4 2009

True patriots within and outside the country

Major General Janaka Perera and Vajira Perera

It is with heavy hearts we reflect on a year since our beloved parents were taken from us, along with 29 other innocent civilians. Our sense of loss is overwhelming and although we miss them everyday, we gain strength in the knowledge that they are together and are watching over us.

We know both Ammi and Thaththi were deeply loved and respected by so many people in Sri Lanka. It was comforting and heart warming to know when we went to Anuradhapura how much our mother too was loved and admired by the people there. The outpouring of emotion by the people who lined the streets to pay their respects to our parents made us appreciate this was a shared loss and the nation was grieving with us. Thaththi always wanted to help the people. He felt a great sense of community and compassion to improve the lives of all Sri Lankans. With Ammi by his side the two of them hoped to achieve this.

They never believed in racial divides or in singling out people for petty differences. One of the many values our parents instilled in us was that all people should be treated with respect and dignity. Our parents were patriotic to our country and its people. They wanted to contribute to make the future bright and hopeful for Sri Lankans. This sense of patriotism was evident in their two diplomatic postings when Thaththi represented Sri Lanka as High Commissioner to Australia and subsequently as Ambassador to Indonesia. In these positions, Ammi and Thaththi proudly represented Sri Lanka in the host country. Through their hard work and dedication, many people learnt about our country.

Throughout Thaththi’s successful military career he contributed to the success of many a battle and defended the sovereignty and integrity of Sri Lanka. He tried to ensure the safety of all his troops because as Thaththi always said, “I would not like to leave any mother without a son.” People saw Thaththi’s strength and courage in his military victories and political stand but we know the source of his strength came from the love and support of Ammi.

Her magnetic personality, her quiet charm and genuine interest in everyone attracted people to her. She related to people from all walks of life and showed respect and courtesy to everyone. Ammi was beautiful but it was the inner beauty of her soul which radiated. We believe it was our father’s love and devotion to her which influenced him in all aspects of his life. We believe it was this love which made them want to give back to their homeland and help Sri Lankan people.

Our parents have taught us many values on which to base our lives. One of the main ones is to stand up for what is right and not be afraid to do so. We know our parents lived by these words and for this reason they were loved by the people of our country and admired and respected by everyone.

For us, our parents were inspirational. We are proud to say that Ammi and Thaththi lived their lives in an honourable manner without compromising their values. Everyday we try to live up to their standards and follow their guidance, so they would be proud of us. Ammi and Thaththi are with us in everything we do, in every decision we make, in our joy and in our sadness and because of this we have the courage to look towards the future. We honour them and will love them forever.

Our thoughts are with all the families who lost their loved ones on that fateful day one year ago, and we share the pain of those who have been victims of terrorism.

Janukshi, Shehara and Ashanka Perera

Their legacy will live on

We pen this appreciation as a tribute to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of Major General Janaka Perera and his wife Vajira Perera on October 6.

We in the family take justifiable pride to say for all the world to hear, “This was a Man.” Vajira was indeed a tower of strength to Janaka in all his endeavours and no doubt contributed immensely towards his success in life.

Major General Janaka Perera, the brilliant soldier, excellent diplomat and politician who earned the respect of those humble voters of Rajarata, the people of our great nation and of those living even beyond the shores of Lanka is no more, but the magnitude of his legacy will be felt by generations to come and his roar will reverberate in the echoes of time. ‘To live in the hearts of men is surely not to die.’

Children Janik, Janukshi, Shehara and Ashanka, brothers Lalith, Prithiviraj, Ajith, sisters-in-law Kanthi, Thilaka, Sherine, Lilanthi and their families.


Her meritorious deeds live on

Sumali Samantha Bamunuarachchi

It is one year since you passed away. The memories you left behind remain with us. We recall your friendly and kind nature, which was appreciated by your family and your many friends.

You bravely faced your terminal illness and went on with life as usual. You were very close to your two children, Sithum and Vindi. Little Vindi believes you are “somewhere up there”, and will return one day when she is grown-up, while Sithum understands that you are no more with us.

When you were with us, we performed various meritorious acts together. Even when you were ill you continued in the same manner. We would save a calf as a meritorious act on your birthday, which falls on June 18. We continue with this practice, even though you are not there to join us.

The second month after your demise we lit 1,000 oil lamps at the Kelaniya Temple. In the third month we had a “bana” preaching ceremony, conducted by Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera, with a “sanghika dhana” for 15 monks.

This April, we selected 26 poor families in the Malabe area and gave them dry rations. In May, during Vesak, we maintained an ice-cream “dansala”, which was very popular. We are sponsoring a Lord Vishnu Kovil at the Valukaramaya Temple in Kollupitiya in your name.

On October 7, your first death anniversary, we will hold a bana preaching ceremony, followed by a sangika dhana and an offering of “atapirikara” for 33 monks. We visit your grave on the seventh day of each month and light candles.

I know I will meet you in my next birth. We will console ourselves with the thought that it was your Karma that an untimely death should overtake you, and we believe it is our Karma to lose a good wife and good mother so early in life.

Your parents, sister Suvini and brother Sanjeewa equally miss you. We look forward to rejoining you in our next birth.

Neelanga, son Sithum and daughter Vindi


Guiding light and role model for a generation of girls and women

Sita Rajasuriya

In a world where competition and jealousy are rife, where the rat race gives us little time for our neighbours, the life of Mrs. Sita Rajasuriya stands out like a beacon of light, encouraging us to hold true to time-honoured principles despite all obstacles.

Mrs. Rajasuriya led a simple life, and believed in a simple philosophy of service. For well over 50 years, she played the roles of mother, sister, advisor and friend to all who knew her. She championed the cause of women through the two great movements she dedicated her life to: the Sri Lanka Girl Guides’ Association and the Sarvodaya Movement.

She held numerous posts with the Girl Guides’ Association, serving finally as Chief Commissioner for nine years and then as President for five years.

On a trip to Sri Lanka, Lady Baden-Powell, World Chief Guide and wife of the founder of the guiding and scouting movements, expressed a desire to see Adam’s Peak. Mr. and Mrs. Rajasuriya arranged for Lady Baden-Powell to be flown to Adam’s Peak to view the sacred mountain from the air. The plane journey gave the World Chief Guide the opportunity to persuade Mrs. Rajasuriya to serve the movement as Chief Commissioner, a post Mrs. Rajasuriya had previously shied away from.

Mrs. Rajasuriya was the first Asian to chair a world conference of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). She was also the first chairperson of the Asia Pacific Committee, and the first Sri Lankan to be on the World Committee of WAGGGS.

Within the Sarvodaya Movement too, Mrs Rajasuriya proved a formidable force. She was vice-president of the Sarvodaya Sharamadana Sangamaya; president of the Sarvodaya Women’s Movement, and honorary president of the Sarvodaya Suwasetha Society. She gave of herself untiringly to both movements.

Despite the glamour and status that went with the many positions she held, Mrs. Rajasuriya remained her simple self. With her charming smile and neat way of dressing, she was grace and dignity personified on all occasions. She had a word for everyone, whatever their position in life and whatever their age.

Ranjini Dissanayake, a director of the Sri Lanka Girl Guides’ Association, remembers as a young Guide how Mrs. Rajasuriya would check on her state of health when she (Ranjini) fell ill on the morning of a drill display at the Police Park grounds. Another director of the Association, Mangala Peiris, remembers Mrs. Rajasuriya, as Chief Commissioner, climbing a rope ladder made by Guides at Devi Balika Vidyalaya. She did this purely to make the children happy.

Mrs. Rajasuriya was also very supportive of young leaders, and went out of her way to encourage, commend and thank them for their efforts. The present Chief Commissioner, Kanthi Fernando, remembers as a young Guide Leader being presented with a bouquet of red anthuriums cut from Mrs. Rajasuriya’s own garden, on the occasion of her first Guide Leaders’ meeting, when she was made Colombo District Commissioner.

The philosopher Schopenhauer once wrote, “Whatever fate befalls you, do not give way to great rejoicing or great lamentation – partly because all things are full of change and your fate may change at any moment; partly because men are apt to be deceived in their judgement as to what is good or bad for them.”

With her wisdom and foresight, Mrs. Rajasuriya must have had these words close to her heart, for whatever challenge she faced she remained unruffled, accepting all difficulties with equanimity. This held true in both her official life and personal life. Perhaps the fact that she too experienced the thorns that life and destiny throw at us, she could accept good and bad alike. This gave her an aura of greatness. Her personal “thorns” also helped her empathise with others at “crisis times” of their own. Her schedule was never too busy for her to find time to share the sorrows of others, and to be there for them.

Sita Rajasuriya opened a new chapter for the Sri Lanka Girl Guides’ Association by introducing Guiding to rural areas and starting a branch for differently abled children. She recognised human rights, and pioneered the association’s community development projects, starting Guide companies for street girls. One was the Gangodawila Home for Young Offenders, where she worked with girls who had been raped and had become pregnant. She also worked in Rodiya villages, such as Kantholuwa.
Her funeral, at Girl Guide Headquarters on September 26 was attended by Girl Guides, past and present. They had travelled from all over the island to pay their respects to the legend that was Sita Rajasuriya.

Many had worked closely with her, and several of the Association’s current office bearers had been Guides under Mrs. Rajasuriya; others had known her only briefly but considered themselves blessed for their chance encounters with her; still others knew only of her. But one and all held her in the highest esteem.

Mrs. Rajasuriya’s niece spoke a few words on behalf of her family. She said the fact that the last rites were being held at Girl Guide Headquarters spoke volumes for the respect the Association had for Mrs. Rajasuriya.

It is all too easy to blame circumstances or others for one’s misfortunes. Mrs. Rajasuriya never apportioned blame or criticised those around her. She dealt with unpleasant situations herself, gently guiding and advising those around her.

“Children need models more than they need critics,” wrote the French moralist Joseph Joubert.
What better model then than Sita Rajasuriya?

Shaleeka Abeygunasekera


Your golden, healing hands touched thousands

Dr. Genevieve Johnpulle

My darling little sister, you left me for good just one year ago, without even a goodbye. A year has passed since your tragic end, but I am still unable to come to terms with it. I keep wondering why God had to call you so very suddenly, when you and your devoted husband Raja were rendering such invaluable service to humanity.

Both of you healed countless people, often without remuneration; you comforted them in their distress, and helped them financially and otherwise. Your healing hands with the golden magic touch healed, and even extended the lifespan of thousands. They mourn your irreparable loss.

My darling sister, you were so very close to me, your Loku Akka. Apart from being my little sister, whom I had a hand in nurturing, you were my best friend and confidante. I shared with you my troubles and sorrows, especially after the demise of my dear husband six years ago.

I recall the glorious holidays we spent with you and your dear husband in your beautiful homes in Anuradhapura and elsewhere. A few months before your untimely death, you invited me to spend a most enjoyable holiday with the two of you in Welimada and Nuwara Eliya. Did we ever imagine that that would be our last holiday together? You were so full of life and joie de vivre. I cannot believe that you, with your lovely charming smile and endearing ways, are no more.

As a little girl you had beautiful looks and charming manners. You had a coterie of admirers. As you grew up in beauty, grace and wisdom, you attracted many, but it was Dr. Raja Johnpulle, whom you met at the Medical Faculty, who won your heart.

The two of you made a wonderful couple, devoted and closely knit. Raja was your entire life and you were his. You were an excellent wife to him, stood by him at all times, good and bad, and supported him in the pursuit of his dreams and ambitions.

Although politics held no interest for you, you supported him in his political life. That was his other “love”. Tragically and ironically, it was this close support that brought about your untimely end. Both of you went hand in hand together to meet your Maker. You had been together for 42 years. In His divine wisdom, God took both you away together. Neither of you could have survived without the other, the bond was too close.

Genevieve, you who we all fondly called Jenny, were everything that parents could wish for in a daughter: dutiful, loving, considerate and very clever. You were always first in class in school, so much so that I would tease you and say, “Why don't you give somebody else a chance, at least once?” We, your siblings, were very proud of you – your beauty, charm and endearing ways.

You wisely chose the medical profession. Your healing hands have healed many a desperate patient, especially the women, who simply adored you. For years you and your husband treated the people of Anuradhapura and elsewhere. Your treatment was so very effective. You had charming and friendly manners. People from miles around would flock to your dispensary for treatment.

You have left behind three lovely children and two adorable grandchildren. Words fail me when I realise what a priceless treasure they have lost in both of you – such wonderful, caring and loving parents and grandparents. God has given and He has taken away, but He continues to give them the courage and fortitude to bear their tremendous loss.

Just one-and-a-half months before your demise, your house and dispensary came under arson attack. You lost all your possessions. You lost everything except what you were wearing at the time. My darling sister, I could not imagine you in such a plight, you who were always so tastefully and impeccably dressed, and such a pleasure to behold.

When the whole world crashed around you, God gave you the courage and fortitude to bear your tremendous loss. I admire the way you stoically resigned yourself to your calamity. A few days after, you and your husband celebrated your 42nd wedding anniversary at your daughter’s home. Looking at the photograph taken on that occasion, nobody would have dreamt that you had just experienced the worst calamity in your life.

Genevieve and Raja, my loving sister and brother-in-law, I am grateful for all you did for me and mine, for all you were to me personally, and for all the glorious times we shared together.

It has been said that death is not the end of life but rather the putting out of the lamp when the dawn breaks.

Let us rejoice in the fact that the dawn of eternal happiness has arrived for Raja and my darling sister Genevieve.

Elfrida Puvimanasinghe


Remembering a brave spirit

Tribute to Rajini Thiranagama

By Chandani Kirinde

"Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights," were the words of Dr. Rajini Thiranagama's favourite song sung by her music idol Bob Marley. It was her courage to stand up for the rights of her fellow countrymen and her refusal to remain silent against oppression in the face of danger that ultimately cost her life.

Rajini was gunned down by the LTTE on September 21, 1989 while cycling home from the Faculty of Medicine in Jaffna where she worked. The gunman who shot her dead not only silenced one of the strongest voices against violations of human rights by all sides to the conflict but also deprived her two young daughters of a mother, her family members of a daughter and sister and countless others of a friend. But most tragically it instilled fear in others who dared to dissent.

A memorial to Rajini was organised on her 20th death anniversary last week with members of her family and many others present to celebrate the short but remarkable life that ended when she was just 35. Family members and others paid tribute to Rajini while a personal insight into her life came from the words of her husband Dayapala Thiranagama.

A section of the audience at the commemoration ceremony

He recalled how on the morning of September 22, 1989, he had to hear the news of his wife's death from a total stranger. "Your wife, Rajani, was shot by a gunman yesterday afternoon on her way home from the university. She was fatally wounded in the attack. Your children are with their grandparents," he was told. He was in Colombo at the time.

The couple had met in 1976 when both were fellow students of the Colombo Medical Faculty and her fighting spirit was very much evident even then. They married the following year, 'in the midst of anti-Tamil riots in Colombo'. Their daughters Narmada and Sharika were born in 1978 and 1980 respectively.

"Rajani demonstrated an extraordinary courage and unwavering commitment in her quest for justice and human dignity against all the parties embroiled in a brutal armed conflict where the lives of ordinary masses were placed at risk of displacement and death," Dayapala said.

By 1983, inter-communal relationships between the Sinhalese and Tamils had taken a turn for the worse in the aftermath of the July riots. That year Rajani had left for England on a Commonwealth scholarship to commence her postgraduate studies. "Her initial exposure to militant Tamil Tigers and her campaigning for her sister (Nirmala Rajasingham who was being held under the PTA) both had contributed to her joining the LTTE. I visited her in mid-1984 in London and it appeared then that there was no going back on her part. We decided to part and go on our separate ways," Dayapala recalled.

However, it was not long before she became disillusioned with the LTTE. "Rajani was too honest, politically straightforward, truthful, fiercely independent and committed to her beliefs for the LTTE to handle. After I left for Sri Lanka, within a couple of months Rajani had left the Tigers. She returned to Jaffna with her two daughters against the advice of the family and friends in 1986."

In April 1987 Rajini wrote to Dayapala from Jaffna, "I am very worried. It is difficult to live here. Most depressing is the dark valley we are walking through -particularly, inhumanity everywhere. Amma is scared, she is scared for the children that I would talk out loud or do something".

He explained that it was against this depressing and gloomy political background that Rajani fused together her new political outlook which consisted of the right to dissent against the rule of the gun and the freedom to organise structures that would ensure democratic freedom with human dignity. One of the major components in her outlook was her feminism - in empowering women and building structures to strengthen the independent voice of the woman.

However it was her pioneering role with other university academics in forming the University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR Jaffna) that spoke out against atrocities committed by the Tamil Tigers that resulted in her brutal killing.

"The Tamil Tigers understood the possible political danger from Rajani. The Tigers would not hesitate to stop the live wire of the organisation (UTHR) for good."

In a society that has seen countless young lives being cut short in their prime, Rajani Thiranagama may have become just another faceless statistic but her dedication to the cause of human rights while she was alive as well her inspiring and compelling writings have meant that another generation of Sri Lankan continue to be inspired by her to speak up against oppression which ever quarters it may come from.

Her commemoration was organised by the Rajani Thiranagama Memorial Committee together with the International Centre for Ethnic Studies. The memorial lecture was delivered by Indian human rights activist Nandita Haksar.


Daily News Sat Oct 3 2009

J.M. Ismail

Having led a good life
Leaving behind a beloved wife,
Two sons - seed of a love consummated marriage,
Daughters-in-law and grandchildren
Of a happy home in a foreign soil
In grief and bereavement

You have hastened before us
To meet our Maker -
"Verily we are for God,
Verily to Him we shall return"

Ismail, boon companion,
Bosom friend,
When the bitter news reached us
Your mortal remains were laid to rest in Perth,
We recalled those moments of joy and mirth
You shared with us in the days of yore;

We grieve deeply you are no more.
The countenance of your sweet smile
Shall always remain etched in our memory.

J.M., we pray for you;
May Almighty Allah, the merciful God
Forgive your sins and grant you
Eternal Bliss in Jennathul Firdause.

S. M. Farook - Matale

Sep 13 2009

My father Dharmasiri Gamage










"Chuti duwa, Chuti duwa, Do you hear me? Why are you crying every night? I can hear you are weeping so much? Do you think I have gone without telling you? Can you remember the last time we met? I promised you I would return home in three days. It is true; I couldn't keep my promise this time.

This was the only broken promise my beloved father ever made to me.

I will never forget the date, September 19, 2004.

I was planning to go to Dambulla with some of my friends on September 17 and the day before the trip I went to see him in the evening to our Maligawatte house to inform him about our trip. He was quick enough to arrange a boat trip to us to enjoy at "Sathutu Dupatha" on our way to Dambulla.

"Chuti duwa, I am also planning to go to Pollonnaruwa to see "Somawathi" Cetiya on this coming Sunday with some of my friends who have come from abroad. I will be back home in three days. As you are returning to Colombo on Sunday, sometimes we may meet each other at Dambulla". These were the last words he spoke to me and the last meeting I had with my loving father.

I never thought that I had to carry my father's body along with me back to Colombo. The joyful trip which began with laughter ended up in tears to me.

It was like "An unforgettable trip", not full of sweet memories, but with bitter experience and a sad note forever.

However it was a coincidence as he pre-indicated, that we met each other while on our way back from Dambulla. But he was not alive. He had gone forever, leaving me alone.

Still I remember on that fateful day, we were at Kandalama Hotel, when Channa received a sudden message from my father's sister saying that Thaththa had been rushed to the Dambulla Hospital with a sudden illness.

While we were heading to the hospital another call came, to notify he had passed away. All my friends including Channa wanted to hide the information from me and they only informed me that thaththa was a little bit sick and we have to go to the hospital. At the doctor's office, I felt that doctor was trying to console me about what had happened. I couldn't understand, what was the doctor trying to tell me indirectly. Therefore I asked, " Would you please tell me what had happened"? Then only the doctor broke the news of his death.

The whole world shattered before me. It was just like the '9\11' attack to me. I was clueless, helpless and only knew the other part of my heart, which, I was holding after my mother left me two years ago, had gone too leaving me alone. "Would you like to see your father's dead body"? The doctor asked me. I just nodded my head.

The hospital staff took me to the mortuary where my father's body was lying.

The mortuary was situated in the centre of a rubber estate, a little distance away from the hospital.

I was walking on a narrow footpath, towards a tiny room, which had a cement floor with an asbestos roof. It can only accommodate two bodies on the marbled top of the two sides of the room and was getting the fresh air unlike 'coolers' in Colombo. The entire outside area was full of dried rubber leaves and one can only hear the sound of crushing dried leaves while walking. I couldn't believe my eyes. Some words uttered by my father came to my mind. "I would like to have my last breath in a quiet surrounding, a nature full of trees and leaves. How wonderful if such thing could happen to me, while I'm travelling".

The wish you made sometime ago became true, I thought.

I know how much you loved the environment. You used to treat the nature as your own mother. I still remember, an incident at one of your book-launchings. Days before the event there were heavy rains. At the book-launching day, in the morning, you went near the Wathsudda tree planted by me outside our home and touched a leaf of the tree and whispered some words to it. By observing this from inside home I asked you, "Thaththa what are you doing there?. "I am seeking the blessings of the mother nature. It's going to be my day-today. I want her blessings throughout the day without heavy rains", you told me.

It was a wonderful day, she has listened to my words", you assured me later, after the ceremony was over without any problem.

I know, you always like to share the beautiful, unique places that you have seen with others. As a travel journalist it was hard to find a place where you have not been to.

To you, it was a wonderful experience to see the moonlight in the mid-night on the top of the Sigiriya Rock, to see Horton plains as a lovers' paradise, miracle of Madu Ganga with 64 islets, and "Namal Uyana" - the Asia's largest pink quartz land, which you loved so much. Those were only a few places in your long list of exciting areas that you visited. You made most of these unforgettable visits not alone. You invited Maestro W.D. Amaradeva, Prof. Sunil Ariyaratne, Nanda Malini, Victor Ratnayake, Kularatne Ariyawansa, Bandara Eheliyagoda, Geethanath Kudaligama, Sarathchandra Wanniachchi and many other fellow artistes and friends to join hands with you in these marvellous trips.

I remember you were saying that each trip ended with fabulous stories, fun and jokes which one would remember forever!

The outcome of the field trips was the unique pieces you had written to "Rasanduna" every weekend, which many were waiting to read. It is a matter to pride that through "Rasanduna" tabloid you introduced many exciting places for the first time. However I know, how much you were depressed when you came to know these environmentally valuable places and beautiful sights exposed by your pen were destroyed by some vandals.

As a result many public appeals made by you were highlighted in your subsequent articles.

It is true, that many students were glad to improve their feature writing skills under you and they are still re-calling past memories of how you advised them to use the 'third eye' in feature writing. "He was the one who taught us to look at in a different way, think in a different way. It is the way to have unique peace and path to develop your own writing style", a student has written in your remembrance book.

Many are still recalling the way both of you treated the young generation who visited you seeking assistance for their various needs. For me, it was not a new experience as from my small age I have seen so many brothers and sisters hangout at our home, especially after the "Pahan Weta" - one of the first youth forums formed by you to upgrade their literary skills. As most of these youth were from remote areas, the rented houses we were living later became a shelter to them as well. As the three children of Dharmasiri Gamage, my two elder brothers and myself were taught to share whatever we have with us. Our loving mother Sita was kind to all of them and did not mind cooking rice for these young girls and boys who would have to come to Colombo with empty stomach. Both of them treated them as their own children and later we all looked like 'one big family'.

The most important lesson I learned from you is to look at life in a manner of toleration. Whatever happened in your life, good or bad you had enough courage to take them easy. You proved to me the meaning of real married life. "Marriage is not merely two people living together. You have to look after each other when needed," you advised us. You proved it to all by looking after your beloved wife and our loving mother, Sita who was paralyzed and bed-ridden for eight years!

I know how much you cried silently on my wedding day. My being apart was unbearable to you. I remember how often you were saying to me, keeping me on your lap. "I don't like you to grow. I want you to be my small girl forever. The bond between father and daughter became stronger after we both became helpless and lonely due to our mother's illness. During that difficult period you performed your duty well not only as the father but as a mother too! By presenting your "Namal Uyana Saha Rosa Thiruwana Kadu Pela" book to me
- Anjana Gamage

you were glad to praise me for the service I rendered as a daughter. Still I'm protecting the first copy with your signature carrying the lines "Mawatath, Matath Mawak Vu Diyaniyata" (To a daughter who had been a mother to me and her own mother). But I often feel, how unlucky I'm as both of you could not see your grandchildren - that is my son and daughter. Both of you were gone at the time I needed you most.

Today I am, miles and miles away from all my loved ones. The loneliness is at its height most of the time. Whatever the memories are rolling up and down in my mind, yet I am not strong enough to bear the pain of loss of my dear father who I loved most. And I strongly believe that he will be with me forever until I am gone.

(In memory of veteran journalist Dharmasiri Gamage whose fifth death anniversary falls on September 19.)

Sep  13 2009


M. T. L. Fernando

The recent passing away of M.T.L.Fernando, former senior partner of Ernst & Young (Chartered Accountants), heralded the end of an epoch. As the anglicised expression goes: A mighty oak has fallen, and may I add, he was a gentle giant imbued with the genuine quality of noblesse oblige. Both as a human being and a professional he was primus inter pares et nulli secundus nulli secunda — first among equals and second to none.

A colossus, he towered, almost apologetically — such being his nature — over the country’s financial world for many a decade. Being in great demand for his financial and management expertise by most leading entrepreneurs in the mercantile sector, his mere name when listed as a member of a board of directors automatically gave that organisation an aura of being well above board. Yet, the hallmark of ‘MTL’ was his inherent distaste for publicity. Not for him the limelight. Service was his motto, integrity being his watchword. A fitting epitaph if there was one.

His genteel nature prevented him from ever uttering a harsh word — an unparalleled achievement after having been in the thick of the highly competitive commercial world for over half a century. Yes, this was the uninterrupted and possibly an unprecedented long-service record in the annals of the local accountancy and/or business world, he so faithfully rendered the firm of Chartered Accountants that was then known as Turquand, Youngs and Co.

Another distinction was that he was also the first Ceylonese, in 1961, to be appointed as a partner of the firm — an honour he bore with unsurpassed professional dignity. Hardly anyone would grudge if one would say that M.T.L. Fernando was the jewel that shone in the crown of this leading century-plus firm of Chartered Accountants.

It was in 1961 that I had the opportunity of being one of his first batch of articled clerks. Although I did not come up to his expectations as a student about which he would sometimes gently reprimand me, I am grateful that he always kept a fatherly eye over my subsequent career; it was also a chore he performed willingly to anyone who sought succour from him. Indeed I was not only honoured but also touched when, a few years ago, he requested of me to make the inaugural address to the staff of Ernst & Young at an in-house seminar held at a hotel down south.

Nobody could have earned the well-worn expression "a gentleman to his finger tips" more deservedly than the man who was first dead-set on becoming a physician but circumstances made him turn his talents to become a Chartered Accountant, in which he reached the pinnacle of the profession with consummate ease.

This was not all. With a couple of his friends, he helped establish a charitable organisation, Eyecare Foundation (, to render gratis assistance to those afflicted with optical ailments. This was his pet project towards which he utilised a lot of time and resources and has, so far, rendered yeoman service to the less affluent sections of our society.

Hopefully, this charity will continue to go from strength to strength. Supporting this noble venture is the best tribute one can pay to the memory of this benevolent being for which I am sure many would gladly lend a helping hand.

My fervent wish is that may M.T.L.Fernando’s journey in samsara be comfortable and short.

Mahinda Wijesinghe 

 Sunday Times Sep 27

A pioneer of SL Girl Guides’ Association passes away

Sita Rajasuriya, a former Chief Commissioner and President of the Sri Lanka Girl Guides' Association passed away on September 24.

A much loved member of the Guides Association, Mrs. Rajasuriya was the first Asian to chair a World Conference of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) and was the first Chairperson of the Asia Pacific Committee. She was the first Sri Lankan to be on the World Committee of WAGGGS.

She opened a new chapter for Sri Lanka Girl Guides Association by introducing Guiding to the rural areas and starting a branch for differently-abled children.

She rendered yeoman service to the Association in various capacities for well over 50 years.

Focusing on children

Sanka Gallage's love affair with photography started many years ago. As a child he was captivated with the wonders of nature and while pursuing his studies in Physical Sciences at the Ruhunu University, he also stepped into the print media.

Despite his talent for photo journalism he trained as a wildlife photographer and went back to his first love - nature and wildlife. Skilled in wedding photography he also went on to establish his own studio in Battaramulla.

Realizing there is a dearth of child photography in Sri Lanka, Sanka has looked to capture the innocence and wonder of childhood in his latest exhibition, 'Kids Clicks' which will be held to mark World Children's Day. It will be open to the public from October 2 - 4 at Waters Edge, Battaramulla.

Exhibition and sale of plants

‘Supriri Mal Dakma’, an exhibition and sale of plants will be held at Viharamahadevi Park on October 2,3 and 4 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. A series of lectures will be delivered for those who are interested in growing orchids and anthuriums as a hobby or self-employment avenue.

Oct. 2, at 2. 30 p.m.-- Growing Anthuriums by Sunil Amarasinghe; Oct. 3 at 10.30 a.m.-- Growing Orchids by Susila Fernando, president, Orchid Circle of Ceylon. Supiri Mal Dakma is organised by Punya Kathriarachchi.

Ex-Irrigation officers Association AGM

The 7th Annual General Meeting and get-together of the Irrigation Department Ex-officers Association will be held today, Sept. 27 at the Randiya Hotel Koralawella, Moratuwa at 10 a.m.

They that instruct many unto justice shall shine as stars

Rev. Bro. Baptist Croos

It is a few moons since the demise of Rev. Bro. Baptist Croos, teacher, hostel warden, scout master, Provincial Superior and director of the Catechists’ Training Centre.

He was a teacher with a vision, and he lived his life to the full, with joy and thanksgiving. It was this abundance of life that he shared with all.

Born in June 1939 at Mannar, Rev. Bro. Croos joined the Novitiate in Penang, Malaysia, after completing his secondary education in his native land. He came back two years later and continued his religious foundation. In 1965, he followed a course in journalism and then proceeded to Paris where he obtained a diploma in catechism in 1968. He joined the University of Punjab, Pakistan, and obtained his BA degree.

He then followed a special course in Lasallian Spirituality in Rome and a three-month course in theology in Bangalore, India and Paris. He obtained his master’s in religious education in 1991 at the Institute of Spiritual Formation for Asia. This was followed by a doctorate in education, in 2001, from the De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines.

Dr. Baptist was in Pakistan for 17 years, during which time he served as a teacher and ecclesiastical administrator at the Catechism Training Centre, (CTC), Principal, Diocesan Director of Education, and Superior of the La Salle Brothers in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

At the Catechism Training Centre he taught Church History, Liturgy and Pastoral Theology. His gift for languages and his way with words made him a natural orator. His lectures were guaranteed to make one sit up and listen, as there was much humour in them. He was a prolific writer, writing on a variety of subjects. His responses to contemporary events in the Christian world were fascinating. He also wrote on Urdu thought and literature, liturgy and theology.

Bro. Baptist made a significant contribution to the church in Pakistan. His devotion to the Lord in the Eucharist took centre stage in his life. At his request, I wrote a review of one of his books and it was published in the Daily Mirror.

He often encouraged me to keep writing, saying my religious articles provided interesting reading. My last chat with him was in the TV lounge of the Mutwal Novitiate last year. I had heard he was ill. He told me he liked his stay in Pakistan and would go again if he recovered. When I asked him how my colleague Bro. Herman was faring in Pakistan, he said, “I’ll give you a surprise”. He took me to the next room and, lo and behold, there was my old friend. He had come here on holiday. By visiting Bro. Baptist, I met an old pal after nearly 50 years. Bro. Herman and I reminisced about our days at the Novitiate, when we were in our early teens.

Bro. Baptist had the distinction of celebrating 50 years in the Fratres Scholarum Christianarum (FSC) Fraternity. He was on the staff of St. Benedict’s during its centenary year.

The Holy Writ says, “They that instruct many unto justice, shall shine as stars for all Eternity”.
I trust Bro. Baptist has received the rewards reserved by the Almighty for those who have shown youth the way to salvation.

May the good Brother rest in peace – that rest which, according to St. Augustine, is never ours until we rest in Him.

Lenard R. Mahaarachchi

Seeya blessed us all with his deep faith and daily prayers

C. B. L. Jayasinghe

One cannot easily accept the death of a beloved person, especially someone who has loved and cared for you throughout life’s journey. I never thought Seeya would leave us so suddenly. I deeply regret that I was not in the country to be by his side when he passed away.

Seeya, who was known as “Lionel” and lovingly called “Beebi”, was an exceptional person who had a close relationship with God. He prayed the Rosary every day to Our Blessed Mother. For 25 years of his life, he never failed to attend daily mass at St. Philip Neri’s Church.

Seeya liked to say his prayers aloud. He never missed his daily prayers, which he recited with vigour. I will not forget how he would pray for me and Malli during our examinations. It was not just a small prayer, but a prayer session that started at the precise time we started writing for the exam and lasted until we had finished the exam.

For his unfailing faith, Seeya was rewarded by God Almighty during his lifetime, and especially in the last days of his life. Fr. Ernest de Mel, parish priest of St. James Church, Modera, did everything required. He was at Seeya’s bedside, offering his soul to the Lord, when Seeya breathed his last, to join his beloved wife who passed away 10 years previously.

This truly endorses Our Lady’s promises for praying the daily Rosary: “Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary, shall not die without the Sacraments of the Church.”

The Lord called Seeya to his eternal home on June 24, 2009, before he could taste his 90th birthday cake. Seeya would have been 90 on September 1, 2009. But he was granted the grace of seeing 12 grandchildren and 11 great-grand children during his long and fruitful life of 89 years.

Seeya was loved and cared for by his children Rukmani, the late Selvarani, Ann, Suranimala, Nirmalee and Surendra, as well as by his sons and daughters-in-law, the late Milton, Tennyson, Damayanthi, Virgil and Attracta.

He was blessed to see his two sons and their families who returned from Australia to be with him before he left them forever. I thank God for all the blessings He showered upon Seeya throughout his lifetime, giving Seeya his cheerful and pleasant smile that remained to the last.

Goodbye, Seeya. Even though you are not with us now, you will always live in our hearts. May you find eternal happiness in God’s Heavenly Abode.

Varuna de Silva

A versatile don with immense wisdom

Dr. W.R. Breckenridge

It is really hard to imagine that Dr. Breck, as he was known to all of us, is no more. He represented many things, but most of all, I remember him as a kind, gentle, and approachable person who was generous with his words and deeds.

I could say with ease that he was a pillar of strength to everyone, whether one came looking for a testimonial, certificate of some sorts, advice on academic or other worldly matters, or even just a few words of appreciation or encouragement. Never was he pompous or arrogant. Neither did he put on airs and graces; he remained the simple human being that he was, to the very end, doing the right thing by everyone.

Way back in 1968, when Dr. Breck returned from Canada, fresh with his PhD, we were second year undergrads at Peradeniya. We were simply thrilled with his casual and boyish appearance. His scholarly attributes kept us spellbound at lectures, where all the animals he described, especially, the brittle stars and tapeworms came alive and danced about in front of us. So was his ability to narrate a story and give that flavourful essence on the subjects that he taught us.

As time went on, I got to know him even better. For me, his subtle sense of humour, witty remarks, and his interpretation of the true university education, opened great new vistas into the scientific world. I had the good fortune of working with him during my student days, as well as later on, when we teamed up for a research on snails.

Looking into the nervous system of the common garden snail, I realised that I was being introduced not only to the science of the nervous system, but a whole new world of art, music, drama and literature, all of which he appreciated and loved to talk about, with equal interest and a jolly manner. Those memories would run into pages. He appreciated the beauty of the universe, allowed everyone to be part of it, without judgment or harsh words, while doling out his colossal wisdom with words of encouragement.

As Dr. Breck bows out of this mortal world, I wonder whether the curtain has fallen on an era of versatile university dons. Very few have the breadth of knowledge and the passion to engage the students beyond their specialised area.

His love for his alma mater, made him retire pre-maturely from the university, where he served as professor and head of the Zoology Department for a long time. During his short tenure as Trinity College principal, his heartfelt contribution uplifted the academic profile and standards of the school that gave him the early foundation and prepared him to face the larger world.

As he spent the final lap of his life, in the company of family and close friends, nestled in the hills of Hantana, Kandy, quietly listening to the rustling of leaves in the soft breeze and songs of chirpy carefree birds, he would have reminisced perhaps of all the good things he enjoyed and countless blessings, and that life was not about worrying over things, but loving, sharing and having a good laugh. He is survived by his wife, Chandra and two daughters, Nadine and Anouk.

“Life is eternal, and love is immortal. Yet death is only a horizon and a horizon is nothing but the limit of our sight”- Rossiles Worthington

May his soul rest in peace.

Delicia Tillekeratne

Breck’s tryst with Trinity

“After life’s fitful fever, he sleeps well” -- Macbeth

The river-lake and mountain continue to meet and will continue to meet. It is we who slip out from time to time, as Breck would say, in the Tonto parlance, to the “Happy hunting grounds”. He was given to complete his time but not Karan, nor Mano. No more will his slender form be seen in those scenes he and his family helped generations of Trinitians to revere and venerate.

In 1954 RRB was appointed to teach English in Form III. This sent a strapping shiver down the spines of the boys. He was rumoured to be severe, forbidding and steely in comportment. They said his caning was the most painful in college. Even before he entered the class, there was a stillness, a soundlessness, most unusual in a boys’ school. They said that his standards in the subject were so high that cuts would be inevitable.

One day early in that year, he failed to turn up. There was a sense of trepidation for some time. Then the bolder of the lot began their normal restlessness. He didn’t turn up the next day, and the next.

This continued for sometime, when the news came to us that some fatal disorder had lodged in him and he was gone from his family. The news did not touch us with feeling, for boys at that age don’t have such feelings. It was only much later that we realized the loss.

The Breckenridges were in a house between Harry Hardy’s and Squealery. On Saturdays Breck’s sister Rohini would play marbles with the Squealers – and win! With their father’s death they had to give up their house and the boys moved ten feet to the left, to the boarding house. Karan was on his way to Peradeniya.

No one knew of the monetary hardships Breck was going through because he blended well with the boarders. It was as if he had always been there.

It was only a keen observer that would have noticed that Breck was not the usual Trinitian. He was above average in his application to studies and could easily have entered Medical College. He chose not to. Instead he chose an unusual combination of subjects unheard of at that time. No one had hitherto applied for chemistry, botany, zoology and geography. Mr. Sahayam could not give him a master to teach geography because there was only one student in the class.

Breck did it on his own – and passed! He went on to be a great professor in zoology. He wasn’t remarkable in other fields of school life. He did go to Asgiriya and join House practices in rugby but more to encourage others than to seek a place.

He loved music although he was never heard singing in the corridors. He would never miss the three hours of Sunday Choice. He had a vast collection of records and what he knew about the singers and the songs was phenomenal.

These displayed his fondness for jazz and the easy music of Sinatra, Dean Martin and Nat King Cole. His knowledge of the cinema was also exceptional. It was his love for music that made him so attached to the English Hymnal and the traditional church service. He would often talk of the sheer poetry of the King James’ Version and would have none of the other versions.

It was typical of Breck that he should leave an illustrious career in the university and be persuaded to be principal of Trinity. The college was so valuable to him. But once in the principal’s chair, he realized what a lonely place that was. He soon discovered that while there were those who encouraged him, there were also those who had strong views on how events and matters should be handled. He had to take decisions alone and for the good of Trinity. He did this even in the teeth of opposition.

Circumstances having the distinctive qualities of such opposition were Breck’s responses to Trinity rugby. Breck felt that parents send their children to learn and secondly to play rugby. He realized as an academic that the new world runs on knowledge and information, especially in areas of ICT. No longer are boys who play rugby and come from well-connected homes at an advantage in the world outside. Breck, himself loved the game. He was there, frail as ever, without proper transport, at Bogambara, this year to see the boys play.

In the past there was always a gathering at Breck’s house at the campus after the match. Puggy Gunaratne, U. L. Kalu and other Royalists would share a common cup with Breck, Bala and the Trinitians. The gathering was symbolic of all that the two schools stand for – healthy rivalry and good sportsmanship.

Trinity has to thank Breck for walking along its steps and drains. Perhaps he is the last of the Breckenridges.

Upali Ratnayake

Nation Sun Sep 27 2009

Evelyn Hapugoda                                                                                         

Embodiment of serenity, sincerity and honesty

Right at the outset, I need to state that I have very serious doubts whether I will be doing justice to this great and exemplary lady by attempting to write an appreciation of her - should I fail, I ask forgiveness from her family members. My association with the Hapugoda family of Baddegama began as far back as 1974 and therefore it is a 35-year-old friendship which I have cherished right along. It is not too often that we meet people who command our respect and therefore, I consider it a privilege to have had the good fortune of having known late Uncle Stephen and Auntie Evelyn. Both of them were highly respected teachers during their lifetime as was my own mother, the late Malathie Wickramaratne and this I suppose was another factor which brought me close to this family.

Auntie Evelyn passed away at the grand old age of 93 years (she would have on September 20, 2009) in the early hours of August 29, 2009 and as per her wishes was cremated on August 30, amidst a gathering of those who were near and dear to her during her lifetime which included her immediate family, members of the YWCA, Reverend Father Niroshan and the congregation at Christ Church Baddegama and a host of Baddegama residents who were beneficiaries of Aunty Evelyn’s friendship, guidance and her welfare work towards the less fortunate people in and around Baddegama and Hikkaduwa. Faithfully they were all there to bid her farewell at a funeral ceremony which according to her wishes, was to be simple and without publicity. Her obituary notice appeared only on September 6, in the Sunday Observer, again according to her wishes, it was to be published only after the funeral ceremony was over!

Auntie Evelyn was born on September 20, 1915 as the eldest in a family of six children (she had four brothers and one sister who all pre-deceased her). Born into a wealthy family in Pussellawe as Evelyn Josephine Mary Samarasekera, she obtained her education at Bishop’s College, Colombo and passed her Cambridge Senior Certificate Examination at the age of 16. After this, at her father’s request, the then Principal of Bishop’s College Sister Mary Kathleen had kept her on for a few years as a Pupil Teacher. During the World War II she had worked as Volunteer Nurse. She moved to Baddegama after her marriage in 1944 during the World War II, to the late K.S.Hapugoda or Uncle Stephen as I called him. Both of them have five children. Auntie Evelyn had the added privilege of seeing her great grandchildren (4th generation) during her lifetime when Ashi and Keiran were born a couple of years ago. In the eyes of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, Auntie Evelyn was the central figure around whom all family functions revolved (Uncle Stephen pre-deceased her many years ago in 1989).

While Uncle Stephen was the Principal of Christ Church College Baddegama, Auntie Evelyn was a teacher in the same school teaching English and Western Music. Oriental Music was something she studied and mastered on her own as music was very much in her blood as it were. She played the esraj with equal mastery as she did the piano which was a treat to listen to. If I am not mistaken, almost all her children also have this inborn talent. After a teaching career of 10 years, she retired in the 1970s. Based on the concept introduced by Deva Suriyasena of using oriental musical instruments for Church music, Auntie Evelyn was in the forefront of promoting the idea to Christ Church Baddegama to add a local flavour to Church activities by helping ordinary people in the village appreciate, understand and participate in music.

Her insight into the living conditions of villagers commenced when her late husband decided to enter politics in the 1960s and the faithful and duty conscious wife that Auntie Evelyn was, she did the rounds in Baddegama campaigning for her husband, even though, personally she disagreed with Uncle Stephen’s decision to enter politics. Doing the village rounds, she began to understand how underprivileged the rural villagers were and decided to spend most of her time to engage in programmes and projects for their uplifting. Sanitation, education, housing and poverty were areas she got involved in with YWCA Baddegama of which she became their Founder President. The Lions Club Hikkaduwa, through which she supported a Foster-children’s Programme to help children with a single parent. Her very first community based project had been in sanitation when she discovered that most villagers did not have proper toilet facilities! She also began an Education Sponsorship Programme through which she helped 12 poor students through their education for which she sought the assistance of well-wishers through her many contacts with business circles. During this process, she also never hesitated to help the families of these children if and when she felt they had a problem/problems which needed her guidance and assistance to solve. Before she launched on some of these, she would also send me letters giving me information about the programmes and wherever/ whenever possible, I also offered my assistance.

Auntie Evelyn was happiest when she was in Baddegama because she felt that she could be of service to those who needed her guidance. During the last 13 years of her life, due to various health related issues she was compelled to come to Colombo and live with her children until her doctors permitted her to return to Baddegama. Many are the times she told me, “I am useless when I am here Ramani - if I go back home, there are a hundred and one things with which I can make myself useful!” This was typical of Auntie Evelyn - it was not that any of her children neglected her but her mission in life was to help others - not herself.

Hers was a life of austerity and example. Most often, she would re-use envelopes which came to her because she believed that one should not waste or harm the environment. Never once in my entire 35 years of association with her have I ever heard her complain about anyone or anything materialistic. She was always happy with whatever she got and was never short of words to appreciate even a small gesture of goodwill towards her or any of her family. She could mingle with any class of people or any religious group without any friction or contradiction. Her implicit faith in her Christian faith was the driving force in her life and every action of hers proved that she practised to the letter everything she preached to others! Although I myself am a Buddhist, Auntie and I had long conversations about many aspects in our own religions and she always listened with patience and understanding. In order to understand other religions, she took pains to read about other religions and compare notes with her own faith and try to understand where the differences were. Among her friends there were Buddhist Monks, some of whom came to her to study English and others to discuss religious issues, Hindus, Muslims (she was also reading material about Islam she told me once) because her vision was one of universal love. She never believed in the “barter-trade” attitude of “guidance and help in exchange for religion” as we hear so often in today’s context. Humanitarian assistance given by her was always for the sake of humanitarianism - to help some one who needed help.

Auntie Evelyn was an exemplary embodiment of serenity, sincerity and honesty as well as detachment. No doubt her 94 years had seen many ups and downs and all these had taught her to accept things as they are and not what she wanted them to be. Many years before her death, she had written personal letters to each of her children in which she left a deep message for them to remember her and instructed her son (to whom she entrusted the task) not to open the letters until she passed away.

As a mother, she never tried to impose her ideas on her children but she took them through a life of teaching and learning through experiences in life. As a teacher, she was fully aware of how to inculcate good values and education in her own children which I have no doubt, helped all of them through their own sojourn in this life. Her vision for them has helped them walk through life in the same manner as she did. To all her children and their families, she was their best friend and confidante. It was a pleasure to see her amidst her family. They are extremely fortunate to have had a mother of the stature of Auntie Evelyn of whom they could truly be proud of and whom they could truly respect and honour.

May she find Eternal Peace!

Ramani D. Wickramaratne

LakbimaNews Sun Sep 27 2009-09-27

How the old times reported the death of a premier

SWRD said, ‘five hour operation, but I still have the guts...’

Lloyd Rajaratnam Devarajah





It was on the morning of Friday 25th September, 1959—50 years ago - that the fourth Prime Minister of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike, was brutally gunned down at his Rosemead Place residence in Colombo, by a fanatic, saffron-robed Buddhist monk

Having resigned my permanent, pensionable and secure job in the Posts and Telecommunications Department after seven and half years of service, in August 1959, I became a “Stringer” reporter for the now defunct Times of Ceylon group of newspapers. Earlier, I was freelancing for the Times since 1953. that fateful Friday morning, I was carrying a one-year-old Lakshan Amarasinghe, my neighbour’s son, to show him the two pups littered by my Alsatian dog. As I was showing him the pups in the back verandah of my Moor Road residence at Wellawatte, the telephone rang. Donovan Moldrich, the news editor Times of Ceylon was on line and he asked me to “Report to office right away as something tragic has happened.”
He did not spell out what it was, but I noticed the time was 10.20am. I got ready and as I was about to step out of my house and I heard Lakshan’s father, Alfred Amarasinghe, returning home in his car, screaming at my father ...”the Prime Minister was shot at.”
When I reached the gate, the phone rang again and I returned to answer it. It was Felix Gunawardena, editor of the Sunday Times asking me to proceed straight away to the National Hospital, Colombo where the prime minister was hospitalised.
As I approached the hospital and I saw a truck load of police getting off and positioning themselves at various strategic points in the vicinity. I moved around and saw two of my colleagues, veteran reporters, K Nadarajah a correspondent for Indian Express and M K Pillai a correspondent for Times of India. I also spotted E C B Wijesinghe of Reuters. I reached there at 11.10am and was with them until 2.30pm when another veteran journalist/ colleague Shelton Liyanage (Fernando) also writing for the Statesman Calcutta, came to assist me.
At the time I left, premier SWRD was still in the operating theatre. The Emergency operation was performed by Dr MV P Peries, Dr P R Anthonis and Dr Noel Bartholomeusz and lasted a little over five hours.

Message from Queen’s House

The governor, General Sir Oliver Goonetilleke who was swearing-in the Italian Ambassador, Count Paolo di Michelis di Sloughhello, stopped the ceremony and rushed to Rosemead place. Dr.N M Perera and Philip Gunawardena who were in the House of Representatives (Parliament) went to SWRD’s residence on hearing of the tragic incident. A message had also been sent from Queen’s House (Governor General’s official residence) to Parliament to continue with its meeting. W Dahanayake had suggested that the Parliament be adjourned but Dr Perera said, “There was no need to panic”.

At the time of the shooting incident, there were many people as usual, waiting to meet the prime minister in the verandah of his house. Among them were two saffron-robed Buddhist monks. After meeting, SWRD whilst bowing to one of the monks in reverence, turned towards the second monk. Whilst bowing, the second monk suddenly pulled out a .45 revolver hidden under his yellow robes and shot at the PM at point - blank range.
The premier turned and ran into the house but three bullets ripped his hand and the abdomen. Two other bullets hit the glass pane of a nearby door and a flower pot in the verandah.
People who were waiting to meet SWRD, immediately set upon the monks and mauled him mercilessly. A policeman on sentry duty, also shot at the monk and wounded him on the thigh and arrested him.

The Governor-General declared an island wide State of Emergency at 11am and the defence forces including volunteers were mobilized in order to suppress any civil commotion.
When I reached the Times editorial which had already put out two editions about the shooting incident, put out its third edition giving more details of that day’s assassination attempt.

At the hospital

Around 5pm, I left in a taxi with Sunday Times feature writer, Samson Abeygunawardena to meet Dr Gamini Corea at his Horton Place Colombo residence. The entrance to Rosemead place as well as the adjoining Barnes Place and Horton Place were highly guarded by armed police. We got off the taxi and walked about 200 yards and met Dr Corea and collected an article on “Ceylon’s Population problem” for the newspaper’s National Forum Column.
Thereafter, we proceeded to 5th Lane, Kollupitiya and met Dr L O de Silva at his clinic. He was treating a large number of patients. The doctor told us that SWRD was in the operating theatre and the surgery lasted a little over five hours. He also told us “The first 24 hours after the operation was very crucial

When I returned to office at about 7.15pm, many of my colleagues were also there. I was then directed by the news editor to be at the National Hospital the following (Saturday 26th September 1959) day at 6am. When I reached the hospital at 5.40am, and I saw my colleagues Nadarajah, Liyanage and Pillai already there keeping vigil for any new developments about the premier. Shortly after that Saturday morning, Shelton came hurriedly down the hospital corridor and signaled me to grab the telephone in the solitary booth in the hospital vicinity, before anyone else gets hold of it. As he approached me he grimaced indicating that it is ‘Finished’. Shelton took the receiver from me and phoned to Moldrich that the ‘PM is dead’.

When I reached the Times news room at 9.25am, the first edition of the Saturday Times of Ceylon was already out. The headline read “The Prime Minister is dead!”
It was said that few hours after the operation on the previous day, SWRD had been joking with the doctors and nurses around his bedside.

He had asked one of the nurses “How am I doing” and she had replied, “You are doing fine, Sir”. “Yes I am an old man and have undergone a five hour stomach operation but I still have guts”, he had said.

The Buddhist monk who carried out the assassination was Talduwe Somarama Thera, an eye specialist and a visiting lecturer at the College of Indigenous Medicine, Borella and at Amaravihare, Obeysekere Town.

The official statement

The official bulletin on his death stated, “The condition of the Prime Minister suddenly took a turn for the worse about 7am. There was a sudden alteration of the action of the heart and his condition deteriorated very rapidly. He passed away peacefully at about 8 O’ clock”.
Sgd. Dr.P.R.Anthonis
Dr.T.D.H.Perera and

Shortly after the news of the death spread throughout the country, there were several incidents where monks had been abused, harangued and even assaulted. Buddhist monks feared to step out of their temple premises and were mostly confined indoors for about six weeks, after the assassination.

A verdict of homicide was recorded by the City Coroner J.N.0 Tiruchelvam J.P.U.M at the inquest. He said “Death was due to shock and haemorrhage resulting from multiple injuries to the thoracic and abdominal organs.”

The premier’s funeral was held on Wednesday 30th September 1959, where his body was entombed into a vault at his ancestral Horagolla Walauwe.

Daily News Sat Sep 26 2009

Fifty years ago - assassination of SWRD:

The shots that shook the world


It was on the morning of Friday September 25, 1959-50 years ago - that the fourth Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike, was brutally gunned down at his Rosmead Place residence in Colombo, by a fanatic, saffron-robed Buddhist monk.
In his younger days. Pictures courtesy ANCL

Having resigned my permanent, pensionable and secure job in the Posts and Telecommunications Department after 7 1/2 years of service, in August 1959, I became a "Stringer" reporter for the now defunct "Times of Ceylon" group of newspapers. Earlier, I was freelancing for the "Times", since 1953.

On that fateful Friday morning, I was carrying one-year old Lakshan Amarasinghe, my next door neighbour, to show him the two pups littered by my Alsatian dog. As I was showing him the pups in the back verandah of my Moor Road house at Wellawatte, the telephone rang. Donovan Moldrich, News Editor of the "Times of Ceylon" was on line and he asked me to "Come to office right away as something tragic has happened."
Mr. and Mrs. Bandaranaike

He did not spell out what it was, but I noticed the time was 10.20 a.m. I went next door and left Lakshan and I got dressed up and as I was about to step out of my house, I heard Lakshan's father Alfred Amarasinghe returning home in his car, shouting to my father, (reading the morning "Ceylon Daily News" seated in an easy chair on the front verandah) that "the Prime Minister has been shot and wounded."

When I reached the gate, the phone rang again and I returned to answer it. It was Felix Gunawardena Editor of the "Sunday Times" asking me to proceed direct to the General Hospital, Colombo where the Prime Minister had been brought, after an assassination attempt.

I went direct to the hospital and I saw a truck-load of Police getting off and positioning themselves at various strategic points in the vicinity. I moved around and saw two of my colleagues veteran reporters K. Nadarajah who was also working for the "Indian Express" and M. K. Pillai also correspondent for the "Times of India" there. I also spotted E. C. B. Wijesinghe working for the Reuters news agency there. I reached there at 11.10 a.m. and was with them until 2.30 p.m. when another veteran journalist/colleague Shelton Liyanage (Fernando) also working for the "Statesman" Calcutta, came to relieve me.

At the time I left, the Prime Minister was still in the operating theatre. The Emergency operation was performed by Dr. M. V. P. Peries, Dr. P. R. Anthonis and Dr. Noel Bartholomeusz and lasted a little over five hours.

Earlier, the Governor General Sir Oliver Goonetilleke who was swearing-in the Italian Ambassador Count Paolo di Michelis di Sloughhello, stopped the ceremony and rushed to Rosmead place.
Taking his dog for the Dog Show

Dr. N. M. Perera and Philip Gunawardena who were in the House of Representatives (Parliament) went to the PMs residence on hearing about the shooting. A message had also been sent from Queen's House (Governor General's official residence) to Parliament to continue with its meeting. W. Dahanayake had suggested that Parliament be adjourned but Dr. Perera said that "there was no need to panic."

At the time of the shooting incident, there were many people as usual, waiting to meet the Prime Minister in the verandah of his house. Among them were two saffron-robed men.

After meeting one of them and bowing to him in reverence, Mr. Bandaranaike turned towards the second monk. While bowing, the second monk suddenly pulled out a .45 revolver from under his yellow robes and shot at the PM at pointblank range.

Mr. Bandaranaike turned and ran into the house and in the process, three shots hit him in the hand and abdomen, whilst two hit the glass pane of a nearby door and a flower pot in the verandah.

The people who were waiting to meet the PM, immediately set upon the man in saffron robe and mauled him mercilessly. A Policeman on sentry duty there, also shot at the Buddhist monk and wounded him on the thigh and arrested him. The Governor - General declared a State of Emergency throughout the island at 11 a.m. and the Army, Navy and Air Force units including volunteers were mobilized to suppress any civil commotion.

When I reached office the "Times" which had already put out two editions about the shooting incident, put out its third edition giving more details of that day's assassination attempt.

Around 5 p.m., I left in a taxi with "Sunday Times" feature writer Samson Abeygunawardena to meet Dr. Gamini Corea at his Horton Place, Colombo, residence. The entrances to Rosmead place as well as the adjoining Barnes Place and Horton Place which were guarded by armed Police, were closed to all vehicular traffic. We got off the taxi and walked about 200 yards and met Dr. Corea and collected an article on "Ceylon's Population problem" for the "Sunday Times" National Forum Column.

After that, we proceeded to 5th Lane, Kollupitiya and met Dr. L. O. de Silva at his clinic, where there was a large number of patients.

The doctor was biting into a sandwich which he told us was his late lunch. He said he was in the operating theatre and the surgery "lasted a little over five hours".

He also told us "The first 24 hours after the operation was very crucial."

When I returned to office at about 7.15 p.m., many of my colleagues were also there. I was then directed by Mr. Moldrich to be at the General Hospital the following (Saturday 26th September 1959) day at 6 a.m. When I reached the hospital at 5.40 a.m., my colleagues Nadarajah, Liyanage and Pillai were already there keeping vigil, for any new developments about the PM.

Shortly after that Saturday morning, Shelton came hurriedly down the hospital corridor and signalled me to grab the telephone in the solitary booth in the hospital vicinity, before anyone else gets hold of it. As he approached me he grimaced indicating that it was all finished. Shelton took the receiver from me and phoned through to Moldrich that the PM has passed away.

When I reached the Times news room at 9.25 a.m., the first edition of the Saturday "Times of Ceylon" was already out. The headline read "The Prime Minister is dead."

A few hours after the operation the previous day, the PM had joked with the doctors and nurses around his bedside.

He had asked one of the Nurses "How am I doing?" She replied "You are doing fine, Sir". "Yes I am an old man and have undergone a five hour stomach operation but I still have guts," the PM declared.

The Buddhist monk who carried out the assassination was Talduwe Somarama Thera, an Eye specialist and a visiting lecturer at the College of Indigenous Medicine Borella and also of the Amaravihare, Obeysekere Town.

The official Bulletin on his death stated "The condition of the Prime Minister suddenly took a turn for the worse about 7 a.m. There was a sudden alteration of the action of the heart and his condition deteriorated very rapidly. He passed off peacefully about 8 'O' clock."

Sgd. Dr. P. R. Anthonis, Dr. T. D. H. Perera and Dr. M. J. A. Sandrasagara.

A verdict of homicide was recorded by the City Coroner J. N. C. Tiruchelvam, J. P. U. M. at the inquest. He said "death was due to shock and haemorrhage resulting from multiple injuries to the thoracic and abdominal organs."

The Prime Minister's funeral was held on Wednesday 30th September 1959, where his body was entombed into a vault at his ancestral Horagolla Walauwa.

SWRD BANDARANAIKE - The assassination aspect

Firoze Sameer

Saturday, September 26 2009, marks the 50th death anniversary of Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike, who died at the General Hospital on a Saturday morning at about 07.45-Hrs.


The six shots fired by the Ven. Talduwa Somarama Thera of the College of Ayurvedic Medicine with a .455 Webly Mark VI revolver at the prime minister in his unofficial residence, Tintagel at No. 65 Rosmead Place in Colombo-7, on Fri.-Sep.-25, 1959, about
The clothes he was wearing at the time of his death

09.45Hrs, fatally injured the PM and seriously injured a teacher called Gunaratne in the neck amongst a throng of about forty persons.

It was later established that the murder weapon came from an unlicensed armoury of five firearms, which belonged to Ossie Corea, a tavern renter at Dagonna in the Negombo District, and who was also the personal security officer to the Minister of Finance Stanley de Zoysa, MP.


The deep-seated conspiracy finally blew sky-high, when it was established at the subsequent Supreme Court trial that the 1st and 2nd accused, the Ven. Buddharakkitha thera, High priest of the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihare, and HP Jayewardena, conspired to assassinate the prime minister in view of their disappointment, inter alia, in not being able to push through their business ventures with the assistance of the government.

Notable was their failure in May-1958, to secure the bid, at great financial loss to them, for the carriage of rice from Burma (now Myanmar) to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), on behalf of the Food Department, through their new company, the Colombo Shipping Lines Ltd, which had been floated with the expert guidance of Major JR Baptis, a former director of the Government-sponsored Ceylon Shipping Lines Ltd.

Also, the prime minister had not taken seriously the scurrilous pamphlet relating to Buddharakkiktha and Mrs Vimala Wijewardene, his minister of Health.

Ossie & Lionel:

The hatchet man, Somarama, harboured no grudge with the prime minister.

Suspicion fell on Ossie Corea as the enforcer, since he was bald-headed during the time of the assassination.

However, Corea, who was a former temporary Excise inspector, and his

protégé former ASP-CID Lionel (Gompa) Goonetilleke, who lived opposite to Tintagel, appeared as strong prosecution witnesses at the trial.

Police Investigation:

Amongst the crack team of police officers investigating the Bandaranaike murder, were included DIG-CID DCT Pate, SP Rajasooriya, ASP SSIK Iyer, IP Abeywardena, IP AM Seneviratne and IP Tyrell Goonetilleke, who later on rose to the rank of DIG.


The Bandaranaike Assassination trial commenced on 22-Feb.-1961 presided by Justice TS Fernando, QC, CBE, with a seven member jury whose foreman was DWL Lieversz, Snr.

The trial concluded almost three months later on 12-May. To be continued

DN Magazine Page Sat Sep 26 2009

Island Sat Sep 26 2009

Rajani Thiranagama: Making of a new revolutionary 

By Dayapala Thiranagama

Speech delivered yesterday on the twentieth death anniversary of Rajani Thiranagama

On the morning of 22 September 1989 I was asked to come to a safe house in Colombo to receive an urgent message from Jaffna. Some friends of mine were waiting there with a messenger who had come from Jaffna and who had had lunch with Rajani on the previous day. She wasted no time or words in delivering the message. "Your wife, Rajani, was shot by a gunman yesterday afternoon on her way home from the university. She was fatally wounded in the attack. Your children are with their grandparents." The woman herself was deeply shocked and was in a state of distress. It would have been the most difficult message she had to ever deliver to a totally unknown person within such a short time in such a few words. I still remember the incredible speed with which my head started spinning and how speechless I was. 

The woman who brought the message of Rajani’s death for me in Colombo later became an invaluable friend who was right beside our family’s side in London whenever we needed support.

Rajani demonstrated an extraordinary courage and unwavering commitment in her quest for justice and human dignity against all the parties embroiled in a brutal armed conflict where the lives of ordinary masses were placed at risk of displacement and death. Women and the children had to bear the brunt of it. Between 1987-89 the Tamil people had to witness the most destructive war the community had ever seen between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan army and then it continued unabated between the Tamil Tigers and the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF). In the Sinhalese south the situation became alarming as the JVP started assassinating the left activists who supported the devolution of power to the Tamil people under the 13th amendment. 

This account of Rajani’s life attempts to trace the journey of a new revolutionary from an ordinary young Tamil medical student who became conscious of the experience of her community and the meaning of her ethnic identity, to a tireless human rights activist who paid the ultimate price for what she believed in. She had no hesitations. This is the story of a new kind of revolutionary. It also tries to unearth her political contribution, as it has as much significance to the current situation as it did 25 years ago.  

Rajani began her political life through the Student Christian Movement (SCM) which was very active among the students in the mid-1970s and beyond and got involved in the political issues of the day. As those issues needed to be analysed within a wider socio-economic context, at times other political groups had offered more space that could not be ignored. Rajani and her other colleagues did not hesitate to use such forums while keeping their links with the SCM. The end of the mid-1970s also marked the end of relative peace in the student movement. At Peradeniya an innocent student, Weerasoorya, was gunned down by the police. This sent the shockwaves through the student movement and the universities were closed down by the authorities. For the first time, schools in Colombo had joined the protest following the Weerasoorya murder. The public were fully behind the student movement. The Colombo Medical Faculty, for the first time in its history, went on a strike against the murder of Weerasoorya by the police. Rajani was at the forefront in organizing the strike at the Medical Faculty. This was the reason I met Rajani in September 1976. Our meeting marked a new chapter in our lives and the decision we would make from now would change not only our lives but also our family forever. We fell in love and got married on 28th August 1977 in the midst of anti-Tamil riots in Colombo. Rajani was still a medical student and I had just begun an academic career in the University. We sometimes called ourselves ‘the unity of opposites’ in relation to our social, cultural and ethnic differences.

In Rajani’s journey from an ordinary politically conscious Tamil woman to an extraordinary new revolutionary, her marriage was the first step. Rajani broke her barriers and got married to a Sinhalese man who had spent many years in prison.  And my own social profile of being brought up in a poor peasant family in the Sinhalese down south was quite unimpressive to her middle-class community. Rajani’s courage and human understanding in accepting me as I was, bewildered even some of our political friends, whose understanding of inter-ethnic relations in both communities had serious defects at the time, as it does today. They were the sons and daughters of the generation of parents, including my own, that formed and belonged to the 1956 Sinhalese social mobility. As far as our families were concerned, they had to accept the inconvenient truth about our relationship and marriage. Rajani also accepted the continuation of my political commitment as before. We also came to terms with the fact that our family was not going to be a family that would make both parents available for the children throughout their childhood. Any political involvement in Sri Lanka would be a very dangerous affair just as it is today. These were hard and painful decisions. As far as our family was concerned, ideologically and politically, it departed from the accepted family norms of its existence and Rajani’s contribution was crucial in this transformation. Without Rajani’s deep understanding, unhesitant approval and courage we would not have built a family unit that would withstand the political and survival test of our times. Then the birth of our daughters Narmada (1978) and Sharika (1980) made us wonder at times about the level of our political commitments. This was a very emotive, painful and difficult issue. That was a huge responsibility we had failed to anticipate.  

Rajani’s consciousness in its evolution took a dramatic turn when she had to work in Haldummulla, a predominantly Sinhalese village on the Balangoda - Haputale Road with a scattered Tamil people of up-country origin. Tamils were the poorest of the poor there. One day Rajani had to inform the mother of a young boy who was a patient in the hospital that her son would be transferred to the Badulla Hospital. That would be the only chance of his survival. The woman begged Rajani not to transfer him simply because if he died in Badulla she would not have the money to bring his body back home. However, he was sent to Badulla, ignoring her plea, and he returned home after a full recovery. Rajani found it extremely difficult to deal with such situations of poverty and the sufferings and how it hampered any possibility of a dignified human existence.  It left an un-erasable scar on her conscience. Finally in 1980 we both decided that medical practice was not the best employment in such circumstances and decided to leave for Jaffna. Rajani opted for teaching and joined the Medical Faculty in Jaffna University. 

In 1983 Rajani started campaigning to release her sister Nirmala Rajasingham from jail who had been detained under the PTA.  Prior to this, Rajani had treated injured Tamil militants. Rajani left for England by the end of 1983 on a Commonwealth scholarship to commence her postgraduate studies. Her initial exposure to militant Tamil Tigers and her campaigning for her sister both had contributed to her joining the LTTE. I visited her in mid-1984 in London and it appeared then that there was no going back on her part. She did not wish to return to Sri Lanka through legal channels. I came back to Sri Lanka and this was tantamount to a farewell as I felt there was a huge wall between us. We decided to part and go on our separate ways. However, Rajani was too honest, politically straightforward, truthful, fiercely independent and committed to her beliefs for the LTTE to handle. These were the personal qualities of a new  kind of revolutionary Rajani  came to represent in her personal and political journey, which resulted in the ultimate sacrifice for the right of dissent in the Tamil community. Rajani also possessed certain qualities that made it possible for her to connect with ordinary people. After I left for Sri Lanka, within a couple of months Rajani had left the Tigers. She returned to Jaffna with her two daughters against the advice of the family and friends in 1986. In April 1987 from Jaffna Rajani wrote to me, "I am very worried. It is difficult to live here. Most depressing is the dark valley we are walking through –particularly, Inhumanity everywhere. Amma is scared, she is scared for the children that I would talk out loud or do something". Against these depressing and gloomy political backgrounds Rajani fused together her new political outlook which consists of the right to dissent against the rule of the gun and the freedom to organise structures that would ensure democratic freedom with human dignity. One of the major components in her outlook was her feminism - in empowering women and building structures to strengthen the independent voice of the woman. She worked for the formation of Poorani for destitute women. These structures and political ideas ideologically and politically went against the military project of the Tamil Tigers. They were poorly equipped with political ideas and organisations that would be capable of having a mature dialogue with dissenting voices. Rajani’s joint authorship of The Broken Palmyra with others brought these ideas to people’s attention. Her pioneering role with other university academics in forming the University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR J) marked a milestone in human rights in the Tamil community. This work and these political ideas sent shockwaves through the professed monolithic structure of the Tamil Tigers. The UTHR rightly introduces Rajani as a olive wire of the organisation even today in its website. The Tamil Tigers understood the possible political danger from Rajani. The Tigers would not hesitate to stop the live wire of the organisation for good. Rajani’s life and death shows how long, arduous and painful the road to victory is when human dignity and the right to dissent are violated by those who choose to use violence to resolve political issues.

It is also necessary to reflect on the validity of Rajani’s ideas in relation to the current political situation. To use Rajani’s phrase still, we are walking through a dark valley, and inhumanity is everywhere. One of the fundamental issues today is the fear to speak out or the right to dissent. The dark shadow of the ethnic war has not entirely disappeared. Unless the democratic space is expanded with maximum devolution of power to the Tamil community peace will be as elusive as ever.

It is possible that in both the Tamil and Sinhalese communities there will be more and more people like Rajani, as the political barriers for which Rajani had to give her life, as a new revolutionary in support of their fundamental democratic right of dissent, are still not removed. Those who follow Rajani’s path will make our world a better place. 

For twenty long years I have been coming to terms with the terrible pain and anguish Rajani would have felt a few seconds before her death and my inability to share that with her. I know how she would have felt. Once she wrote to me saying that, "If anyone knows me in this world like pages of a book it is you." I owe so much to her, for the depth of my love for her, and for the true understanding of the beauty of human love that our relationship taught me. 

Rajani and I loved Bob Marley’s music. She particularly liked one song with which I would like to end by quoting "Get up stand up, Stand up for your rights".

Rajani: A heroine of our times

I’d like to thank you for publishing the full text of the Statement of the Jaffna University Teachers for Human Rights on "RAJANI’S

VISION FOR SRI LANKA."    I have read each of the 4 instalments carfefully, have learned much and have been been stirred by the quality of Rajani Thiraganama’s all-too-brief life, her idealism, her passionate commitment fo the truth as she saw it and  her unflinching courage.

Over many years, the writings of the UTHR (J) have earned the respect of readers who may or may not agree with them.

Their impartiality and integrity cannot be questioned and it gives us hope for the future that your paper has published what they have to say in today’s context.   Last year, I saw the film, "NO MORE TEARS, SISTER," in Australia.  It moved me powerfully.  I ddin’t know Rajani in person, but I wish I did.  I hail her as a heroine of our times. 

Anne Abayasekara.

Tilak A. Gunawardhana - An Appreciation

Over one year has passed since the demise of Tilak A. Gunawardhana, Chemist, Literary critic, Poet and one interested in the study and practice of the Dhamma. Born in June 1930, he was a little short of 78 years at the time of his death. The son of the Late Mr. & Mrs. C.D.A. Gunawardhana, he had many brothers and sisters.

After his secondary education at Ananda College, Colombo, he pursued studies at the University of Leeds in the UK and graduated in Textile Chemistry. In his working life, he served for some time at the well-known Chemical Company, CIBA in Basle, Switzerland.

While his main academic interest was Chemistry, especially in the field of Textiles, he took an avid interest in English literature and was known in school for his prowess in that field. Both at the University of Leeds and in his working life, he pursued the study of foreign languages, French and German.

I came to know Tilak when he married my sister-in-law, Gayatri (nee Wijayatilake) in 1966 after his return from overseas. A few years later, he left the country with his family and worked first in Canada and then in the USA. Returning to Sri Lanka in 1970, he was for a short time the Textiles Chemist at the Veyangoda Production Unit of the National Textiles Corporation (NTC). Back in Colombo, he worked in a number of institutions from time to time and also undertook the teaching of German and French to students in a private capacity. In this connection, he was closely associated with the Alliance Francaise and the German Cultural Institute. He was a good teacher of these languages and many were the young students who came to him for guidance and instruction. Monetary matters were not his priority and the tuition fees he charged were at a minimum level. Efforts to persuade him to charge reasonable fees since his teaching was highly appreciated and many students came from an affluent wealthy background fell on deaf ears.

He undertook much work in the field of literature. For some time, he was a Film critic reviewing English Films in the newspapers. As a Poet, he contributed poems to the newspapers and Buddhist journals and to The Guardian, a well-known journal in the years gone by. Moreover, he published two booklets containing some of his poems.

I was close to him because of his interest in Buddhism and he was very helpful in my Buddhist work. He contributed articles and poems to Buddhist journals that I edited namely the "Vesak Sirisara" and "The Buddhist" of the Colombo YMBA. He also reviewed these journals from time to time. Proof-reading of articles and poems was another valuable contribution he made for these journals. Tilak delivered lectures at the meetings of The Servants of the Buddha Society at Maitri Hall in Bambalapitiya and participated in English Buddhist Panel Discussions of the Colombo YMBA held on the third Sunday of every month at its Borella building.

His knowledge of science and literature was extensive. In fact, whenever I sought his assistance to obtain information on any subject, he was able to oblige even to a limited extent. If he failed to provide relevant information on rare occasions, he was able to refer to sources from where such information could be obtained. He had a prolific memory to draw on his extensive knowledge of men and matters.

Tilak had great potential with an intelligent mind and knowledge acquired by wide reading and sound assimilation. Unfortunately, he did not realize in my opinion his full potential. He was modest to a fault and never thrust himself forward even in his fields of interests. Unassuming, soft-spoken, he was far from being ambitious. To me, it was sad that he did not pursue vigourously at least a few of his many talents.

About one and a half years prior to his death, there was a deterioration in his health. Though mentally alert, physically his movements were somewhat constrained. Perhaps, he sensed that the end was near and faced it with equanimity or upekkha, a noble quality advocated in Buddhism.

To me, his death was a great loss for the exchange of thoughts and views in many areas, especially on the Dhamma.

May this simple man, realize early the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana

Raja Kuruppu

Email: Sep 2009


Abdul Majeed Mohamed Rajabdeen 1909-1970

Held in high esteem amongst merchant fraternity

Abdul Majeed Mohamed Rajabdeen was born into a middle class family whose father Abdul Majeed hailed from Mattakkuliya and mother Mariam was from Panendam Kanthoori Qotar of Grandpass.

Being the only child who lost his mother when he was hardly two-months-old, he was cared for by his paternal aunt Mathugan Natchiya and later by his maternal uncle Abdul Majeed of Grandpass.

His childhood days were spent in the loving care of his uncles and aunts and as a youth ventured out to Negombo and was employed by his uncle in Negombo in the medicinal shop of Aliya Marikar and Sons for a short period of time. Being adventurous and enterprising he was employed in a hardware store in the Pettah by a leading trader, Abdur Rahman of 3rd Cross Street, Pettah.

In the year 1935 with a minimum capital and an abundance of goodwill he embarked on to start a small-time hardware store in Pettah. He was helped immensely by the leading merchants of that time based on his enthusiasm, integrity and his dedication. He built up a wide customer network and gradually expanded into the estate supply sector in which he was immensely successful. The war years boosted his fortunes still further and in 1940 expanded further by adding another shop at 72, Third Cross Street which served as a godown at that time and later became his head office.

In the year of 1936 he married Noor Nizara, daughter of Abdul Hameed and Ummu Habeeba of Temple Road, Maradana and settled down in Dematagoda where he was born. Allah not only blessed him with a large family but showered him with greater wealth thereafter. He was, by the end of the war years, a leading merchant and a landed proprietor. Of the many children he was blessed with, some are now resident abroad and those that are presently in Colombo have their offspring domiciled overseas.

He was actively engaged in the Zaviya Movement in Colombo as his father and grandfather before him were leading members of the Shazuliya Tareeka. Being a very devout and practising Mussalman he was often seen trudging for his daily prayers to the Mosque at Dematagoda. The Thakkiya at Dematagoda too was his favourite place of prayer and being desirous to live beside the mosque he purchased a property adjoining the mosque which is now proposed to be given to a Madrasa run by the mosque.

Being the founder of A. M. M. Rajabdeen, a sole proprietorship at that time he made his business, now a partnership together with his three sons under the name and style of A. M. M. Rajabdeen & Sons. Today it is upon this solid foundation that Rajabdeen & Sons Ltd stands which is now based at 192, Nawala Road, Colombo.

He inculcated the need to be honest, hardworking, dedicated and honourable in the trade and in our daily life. Amongst the merchant fraternity he was held in high esteem as a man of his word and having thus established his integrity and the leading banks of the day, Mercantile Bank Ltd., and National Bank of India spontaneously offered him facilities which he was graciously turned down due to the riba factor and often said that he could manage with his own finances. This religious outlook was the primary thing which resulted in the Blessings of Allah and the attendant success.

With all his fortunes earned single handedly he was of the utmost simplicity and never let conceit or haughtiness reside within him. He was the same person towards the end of his life as he was upon the beginning. He often quoted from various religious discourses “the trust of those under you, the orphans and young are inviolable”, “never to look down at the man who is walking when you are on horseback, for tomorrow the position may be reversed”, “Pay the workmen before the sweat from his brow dries up”, Success built upon trust will always stand the test of time and pride precedes a fall. How very true!

By example he taught us to care for the aged and elderly, righteousness, piety, simplicity and love for the relatives of both sides of the family, in this he was assisted in no small measure by his wife who was an epitome of grace, love, simplicity and a wonderfully devoted person to whom all her relatives were an integral part of her life and never ever differentiated between the rich or the poor.

As a father he was selflessly devoted to his children, being an only child he found love and comfort with all his children. Upon his advent to Mecca for Haj in the year 1960 he bequeathed the business to his sons without exception on an equal footing. Thus was his life manifested in the dispensation of the laws of Allah in the equal treatment of his sons. Never envious of the good fortune of others he wished for the children of others whatever he wished for his own. Lessons that have left an indelible impression on us all.

On January 14, 1970, he was laid to rest at the Maligawatte Muslim burial grounds amidst a large and diverse gathering, as a mark of respect the members of the Ceylon Hardware Merchants Association of which he was a founder member closed their establishments on this day.

May Allah in His Infinite Mercy Grant him the highest Abode in Jenna.

S. Rajabdeen

Nation Sep 20, 2009

The Sunday Leader Sep 6, 2009


Capt. George Oscar Henricus

Captain George Oscar Henricus died on July 4, and was laid to rest on July 9.

Captain Henricus qualified as a Master Mariner at a comparatively young age and joined the then Colombo Port Commission as a Harbour Pilot in 1955 at the age of 27 years and thus became the youngest entrant to the service. He was also the second Ceylonese to join this exclusive service, the first being Capt. H. J. H. Garsen.

It should be borne in mind that the pilot service was then dominated by expatriates. With the passage of time Capt. Henricus rose steadily in rank to the post of Deputy Master Attendant, Master Attendant and with the formation of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority in 1979, to the post of Harbour Master and Head of Division, which position he held until his retirement from service after a distinguished career of 34 years.

Hailing from an illustrious sporting family, he excelled in boxing at his alma mater Royal College and also in hockey, and was at one stage, president of the Amateur Boxing Association. His illustrious younger brother Barney was a Gold Medalist at the Empire Games later to be known as the Common-wealth Games.

He was one of the few Burghers who never wanted to migrate and when I posed this question to him on the day he retired, his reply was quite emphatic — "I was born in this country and this is where I will die." He was generous to a fault and I am aware of entire families who benefited from him financially. There were many who took advantage of his generosity.

I recall the time I was the Hony. Sports Secretary of the Colombo Port Commission and we had to conduct various Government Services Tournaments on shoe-string budgets and when we were short of money, as we often did, it was Capt. Henricus who dipped into his personal funds and helped us out. The government contribution to sports at that time was negligible.

His sense of humour was infectious and even when his health was on the decline, he never lost this gift. A few dedicated officers who had retired from the Ports Authority formed the Sri Lanka Ports Authority Retired Staff Officers’ Association of which Capt. Henricus was an active member.

His witty jokes and personal experiences kept all of us entertained. However, when illness laid him low, he stopped attending these meetings. His absence was felt by all of us and the void left by him was difficult to fill.

Capt. George Oscar Henricus was laid to rest amidst a large and distinguished gathering after a funeral service at the Baptist Church, Cinnamon Gardens.

His wife Minette pre-deceased him three years ago.

All members of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority Retired Staff Officers’ Association extend their condolences to his three children, Keith, Hars and Michele.

N. Leslie Cooray


Sunday Times Sep 6, 2009

Thaaththa was my greatest hero

James Aneclitus Silva

It was three months, on August 14, since our father left us. How lonely we are with out you, loving Thaaththa.

For the past 23 years my father was a friend and a pillar of strength to me. I could open up my heart to him. With his gentle advice and guidance, he put us on the correct path on life’s journey. The deeply rooted values in my life all came from my father.

Thaaththa was by nature strong and silent. He faced life with courage. Reading books and newspapers was his hobby. Since his death, the cupboard filled with his books remains untouched. His deep knowledge of English helped him to render great service to the Ports Authority for more than 35 years.

I remember how my father would take me to Montessori school, and feed me in the playground. I had 100 excuses to skip school, but he somehow succeeded in taking me to school. I cherish all these sweet memories, with tears in my eyes.

Father did the best for our family in the best way he could. I always think how lucky my mother was to have such a sweet and understanding husband. It was indeed a blessing from God.

My brother and I are both in the good positions we enjoy today because of Thaaththa’s guidance and advice. He taught us how to act practically in all issues that arise in life.

Dear Thaaththa’s lovely smile and thoughtful words are missing from our home and our lives. In his 70 years with us, he was a loving husband, a caring father, a sweet grandfather and “the biggest hero” of my life To me, my father was the greatest man alive. His memory will be cherished forever.

We miss you greatly, Thaaththa

Cherished friend, doting mother and teacher of teachers

Geetha Geradine Shanthakumari Wignaraja

This is a tribute to a charming lady with a winsome smile, sweet and serene as her very name implies. The best go before their time to the land beyond. Those whom God loves die young, they say.

One such person was Mrs. Shanthi Wignarajah, the better half of one of our High Court judges. She was a multi-dimensional personality, dear to all, a rare being of virtue and culture: cherished companion, doting mother, teacher of teachers at the university who kept alive the English Language unit, guide and mentor, respected by the academic community, and ever hospitable, who gave ere charity began. Those near and dear to her enjoyed her sweet delicacies.

People like Mrs. Shanthi Wignarajah are the beloved of the angels. Let this one thought console her near and dear ones. She was to say in one word: “Non pareil” – beloved of the Lord.

Let us find solace and comfort in the thought that her soul is enjoying eternal bliss in Elysium, with her fond angels in everlasting glory. May she enjoy perpetual peace.

“Millions of roses watered by my tears bloom in her memory for ever”

Om Shanthi! Shanthi! Shanthi !

V. T. Sivalingam

Popular vet, charmer, entertainer and life of the party

Wasantha Unantenne

Wasantha may have been mischievous and may have made blunders at a great cost to himself. Yet, he was a rare character who, with his narrative skills, endeared himself to everyone. We will miss his wisecracks, his extraordinary humour, especially those creative “gems” spun instantly. Naturally he was the livewire at every family gathering and it certainly would be hard for his relatives and friends to come to terms with his death.

He was the youngest son of Edwin and Chintha Unantenne and because they lived at Gampola he was boarded at Trinity College, Kandy. Later, when he travelled to school from home, he also visited his uncles and aunts in Kandy and more often us, the reason being that he had got too close to my friends at Kandy High School.

In those restricted times, to which we belonged, I, his cousin, had to play the role of his messenger and the number of times he got me into scrapes was countless. He had huge plans for himself and he couldn’t be satisfied with anything less. As I now reflect, Wasantha pursued missions impossible -- chasing stars!

As a veterinary surgeon, he was a hit. Anecdotes related by pet owners who visited his clinic at Nugegoda, if compiled into a book, would indeed be a bestseller. I used to wonder whether it was really his veterinary skills that worked or his gift of the gab. The secret of his success, according to him, was: you treat the owner before the pet!

In his private life, it was a different story. He, much later in life, had many regrets. It was “I should have done this or I should have done that.” Why he lacked the strength to take charge of himself, I couldn’t understand.

He was living at the Balana Pass during his last years. The number of steep steps to be climbed to reach him put us off from visiting him more often. On the phone, he broke down. We thank Maureen, his wife, for being by his side during his most difficult times.

Whatever directions he may have taken, with him around, there never was a dull moment. We will miss his vast reservoir of anecdotes he used to relate to both branches of his family -- the Unantennes and the Kehelpannalas. As cousins, we will cherish his memory and our fervent wish is that those on whose toes he trod would realize that to err is human.

Rajitha Weerakoon

A friend like you is hard to find

M. S. M. S. Nakib

It was the 10th of March,
a sad day –
Sad news shattered my home.
Too soon you had departed, my dear.
With dignity you dwell in our minds.

A friend like you is hard to find.
Together we acquired knowledge
In Denham and Dar us Salam, our alma mater.
You excelled in language and literature,
Created social drama of a different kind,
Unearthed social facts that matured.

Social reality-signalled vigilance in future.
On our maiden journey to
We accompanied you on
Your first teaching mission.
Chose your partner from Galhinna,
Oh soft-hearted soul.

Admired your hospitality and
Henceforth we cannot enjoy
your affection
And affinity.
Teacher, writer, narrator and
orator par excellence.
Wherever you went, you gained prominence.
We remember you in our
daily prayers.
May Almighty Allah give you Jennathul Firdouz.
My pen laments, it moves no more.
Oh, our Nakib is no more.

M. M. Liyaff

Priest, inspiring preacher and God’s soldier for justice

RT. REV. DR. Frank Marcus Fernando

It was with a heavy heart that I heard about the death of Rt. Rev. Dr. Frank Marcus Fernando, Bishop Emeritus of Chilaw. At the time I got the news I was at the annual retreat of priests of the diocese of Loikaw, in Myanmar.

Bishop Frank Marcus Fernando was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo in the mid-1960s. A few years later he succeeded Bishop Edmund Fernando OMI as Bishop of Chilaw, a post he held for almost four decades, till his retirement in 2005.

Although officially Bishop of Chilaw, he was the undeclared leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Sri Lanka. Many recognised in him an innate episcopal dignity. He excelled as an administrator, a writer, a fighter for justice, and a preacher.

People of all faiths, not Catholics only, went to hear his inspiring sermons, especially those given at the national shrines at Madhu and St. Anne’s, Talawila. He mesmerised the congregation with his preaching, in Sinhala and Tamil. He choice of words and metaphors was unique. He was known as “the Fulton J. Sheen of Sri Lanka”.

Many, including prominent Church leaders, tried to imitate him, but none could match his inimitable style of preaching and commanding, God-given voice. Whenever I congratulated him on a sermon, he would tell me how hard he worked on his sermons. This should be an example to all public speakers, not only priests and religious leaders. I was one of thousands who admired his sermons.

Perhaps it was this admiration that prompted me to ask him to ordain me, in 1987. He was President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka at the time, and very busy. Nevertheless, he kindly consented and came all the way from Chilaw to St. Sebastian's Church, Kandana, to ordain me.

I vividly remember his inspiring homily on that occasion. Incidentally, he was also the bishop presiding at my confirmation as a young boy, as Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo. He had an excellent memory. During my ordination homily, he recalled an incident that had occurred at my confirmation: the veil of a girl had touched a lighted candle and caught fire, and the bishop put the fire out with his hand!

After my ordination he would often tease me, saying my mother looked too young to be my mother, and that I looked too old to be her son!

In 1990 I was selected to go to Rome for higher religious studies. Bishop Marcus was one of the first to congratulate me. We kept in touch during my four years in Rome. He never failed to answer my letters. He made it a point to visit me at the Alphonsianum whenever he visited Rome. He had a great devotion to the Mother of Perpetual Help, the original icon of which is kept in the Church of St. Alphonsus, adjoining the place where I lived. He once came to see me accompanied by Fr. Valence Mendis, also a student in Rome at the time and later Bishop Marcus’s successor as Bishop of Chilaw.

Bishop Marcus always encouraged people. As Major Superior of the Redemptorist Congregation during a turbulent time, I faced many a trial for acting according to my conscience, Church orders and the common good. Bishop Marcus was one of the few to support me from behind the scenes for doing what I believed was right and just thing.

He liked and encouraged my style of teaching moral theology, when I was at the national seminary in Kandy. He invited me to preach at his annual retreat in 1997. I was nervous. I felt small before such a giant of a preacher, but he kept pressing me until I accepted. Later, he congratulated me for conducting a good retreat, and hesitantly gave me a few tips on how to improve my preaching, which I was happy to accept. He told me that encouraging and appreciating others was a part of his personal ministry. The world would be a very different place if all of us did likewise.

Despite his busy schedule, Bishop Marcus kept up with things, especially his reading. Every time I published an article in the newspapers or in journals, he would send me a note with his comments, always encouraging. These brief notes would usually end with the words: “May the Good Lord bless your writing hand.”

Even in retirement, Bishop Marcus continued to serve the Church. He undertook an ambitious project to prepare in Sinhala a series of sermons for all three cycles of the Sunday liturgy.

With the death of Bishop Frank Marcus Fernando, Sri Lanka’s Catholics have lost a great leader and pastor. Personally, I have lost a father and a friend.

Whenever I asked him: “How are you, Bishop Marcus?”, his invariable response was: “I am on top of the world!”

If I were to ask him the same question, now that he is gone to his well-deserved eternal reward, I can imagine his response: “On top of the world”, and with this addition – “enjoying eternal life in Heaven.”

Dear Bishop Marcus, thank you for being a great, responsible pastor of the Church in Sri Lanka, amidst your own quota of trials. Thank you also for preaching the Word of God in such an interesting and inspiring way and for making every effort to live what you preached.

We thank God for your exemplary life here on earth.

May you rest in God's peace.

Fr. Vimal Tirimanna, CSSR

Sunday Island Sep 6 2009

Sept 5th: Mervyn de Silva’s 80th birth anniversary
An 80th birth anniversary in postwar Sri Lanka

I reflect possibly for the last time for a few years to come, let’s say five, on Mervyn de Silva, former editor of the Daily News and Sunday Observer, former editor-in-chief of the Lake House and the Times groups of newspapers, founder editor of the Lanka Guardian magazine, founder-president of the Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka — and my father — on his 80th birth anniversary, having returned home to a country of victory in war and uncertainty in peace; a country of renewed hope and expectation and polarized postwar prospect. It is a country in which the majority of citizens are rightfully grateful to the political and military leadership for vanquishing a deadly, existential enemy that had terrorized the island for decades, and which successive dithering administrations had failed to overcome. It is also a country that, having won the shooting war, needs to win the "legitimacy war" (Richard Falk).

Nowhere is the postwar polarization more evident than in the matter of the IDPs, where the discourse of the impassioned liberal humanitarian clashes with that of the neoconservative "securocrat". Both forget the multidimensional character of the reality of the problem. The war is over. The worst guys lost. The IDPs are humans with inalienable rights, and fellow citizens with rights equal to ours. They were also part of the mass base of a separatist terrorist army, by whichever mixture of consent and coercion. Some went from Jaffna with the LTTE after Riviresa in late 1995, while most Tamil civilians didn’t and many headed in the opposite direction.

These are the multiple realities, but the liberal focuses on the purely humanitarian aspect, naively forgetting that of security, while the neoconservative security bureaucrat forgets that though they were once part of the mass base of the enemy, no child or old woman or man belongs behind security wire and armed guards (unless convicted of an offense by the courts). La guerre est finie. The war is over and we have won; furthermore, we are the majority and for all these reasons it is incumbent on us, the South, the Sinhalese to be magnanimous. Post war security must be understood in the broader sense of "human security": whereas the human cannot be secure if the state is threatened, conversely the state cannot be secure if the human being is under siege.

My last day as Ambassador/Permanent Representative, August 20th, would have been my parents’ 54th wedding anniversary. The circumstances of my return to Colombo bore a strange resemblance to one of Mervyn’s, 45 years ago, on which my mother Lakshmi and I accompanied him. The July 17th fax from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs instructing me to relinquish my post in a month, was sent on the day that the top-level Sri Lankan delegation returned from the Non Aligned Summit in Sharm el Sheikh. Mervyn, the island’s foremost expert on the Middle East would have noticed that for the first time, the Sri Lankan speech made no mention whatsoever of peace in the Middle East; not even a passing reference in the softest, most moderate tones, despite the fact that the NAM Summit was being held in Egypt. Furthermore, there was not a single reference to the 2nd NAM summit in Cairo at which Sri Lanka was represented by an SLFP leader nor any mention of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, with whom Sri Lanka had the warmest relationship. Mervyn would have immediately noted the sharp turn or deviation in the traditional foreign policy of Sri Lanka and especially the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

This is not, however, the strange symmetry that I was referring to. In 1964 Mervyn de Silva covered the 2nd Non Aligned Conference for Lake House and accompanied the Sri Lankan delegation led by Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike and Felix Dias Bandaranaike. He took my mother and me (aged 7) along. Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Cairo was the elegant and hospitable Lakshmi Naganadan, a friend of my parents. On his return from the NAM summit in Egypt, Mervyn was facing the sack. This was September and just months away from the centre-left coalition’s myopic effort to "take over" Lake House, i.e. bring it under state control. As we know, the effort proved abortive thanks to the deft footwork of Esmond Wickremesinghe, and led to the collapse of the SLFP led administration, paving the way for elections which brought a UNP led coalition to office. The take-over bid was revived in the early 1970s by the returning centre-left coalition, this time successfully.

Mervyn had his well known political sympathies, but was never an apparatchik, and always maintained his own distinctive position. Maintaining his intellectual independence and attempting to rise above the fray, on occasions he found himself caught in the crossfire. It turned out that the Lake House bosses had received information that the leaders of the Government had decided to "nationalize" the press; that this decision had been made in Cairo, and that Mervyn had been in on it or worse, actually lobbied for it. This was of course arrant nonsense, because he was as opposed to the state takeover of the press as he was to the biases of private oligopolistic ownership, and in the early 1970s, as Editor of the Daily News, privately urged Mrs. Bandaranaike not to take over Lake House just as he had urged the owners of Lake House not to be as openly biased towards the UNP as they were during the election of 1970 which he assured them the SLFP would win.

Then as now, facts hardly get in way of intrigue in board rooms, mansions and palaces of the various factions of Sri Lanka’s ruling classes, so Mervyn’s innocence in this matter was irrelevant. He was to be dismissed from Lake House. Almost directly from the airport he went with me in tow to the notorious Press Club (also known as "Simeon’s joint" after the owner — whose son, a long-time driver of a fellow ambassador, hailed me in Geneva) to pick up the news from his fellow journalists who ranged from pro UNP Dharmapala Wettasinghe to the Communist BA Siriwardene; hard drinking men bound by camaraderie of a shared university life and professional integrity.

In the event Mervyn was not fired — that was to happen at the peak of his career, as Editor Daily News and Editor in Chief Lake House, at the hands of the SLFP and Prime Minister Bandaranaike, over a decade later, in late 1975 or early ’76. What happened in 1964 after the 2nd NAM summit in Egypt was that Mervyn was downshifted around, bitterly dismayed to realize that he would not be made Editor of the Daily News, and physically penned into a small partitioned space, pale blue boards with frosted glass or plastic, with a Communist sympathizing personal assistant or "peon" in Bermuda length khakis, named Pedris

(whom Mervyn promptly dubbed "Pedro the Fisherman"). Confined to that small cubicle with the room of the Editor Observer mere yards away and within sight ("Mervyn mahattayava koodukarala" — has been caged Pedris would tell me) overcrowded with paper clippings, books and magazines, Mervyn spent the UNP years 1965-1970 writing some of his most scintillating and searing pieces, from the satirical column Off My Beat to essays on Che Guevara’s Diaries, the Vietnam War, and the history of the CIA. After school, I would hang around my old man’s cubicle. Mervyn’s writings would return to the radicalism of these years when he founded the Lanka Guardian, on the first May Day immediately after the promulgation of JR Jayewardene’s 1978 Constitution.

Mervyn’s advocacy of balance for the sake of credibility, sustainability and enlightened self interest, fell on deaf ears, whether those of the owners of the private media, organically linked to the UNP, then as now, or the state, in the hands of the SLFP with its self-image of patriotism and progressivism. He was finally made Editor when the voters dislodged the pro-West elite rule of the UNP, and promoted to Editor-in-Chief and Director when the SLFP administration "nationalized" Lake House against his advice (he preferred that the state purchase a sizeable shareholding in the private press). Whereas in any other political culture Mervyn would have made it to the top of the journalistic ladder by sheer ability, in Sri Lanka it took a particular combination of sociopolitical circumstances, a particular conjuncture. He would never have had the opening to be the great editor he proved himself to be were it not for the contradiction between the UNP and SLFP and the fissuring open of the frozen Establishment by the masses backing the centre-left coalition, and the lack of credible support among English language professional journalists for the SLFP cause. The contradiction inherent in that confluence of circumstances was that the very qualities which made Mervyn the most credible and skilled representative in the media of the broad centre-left cause, also opened a gap between him and the "line" (though perhaps not the enlightened self interest, of which there was no notion) of that SLFP administration. As the larger crisis mounted, the response of the SLFP administration, just as that of the centre-right Jayewardene administration which would follow it, was to tighten up, crack down, and replace individuals capable of offering an autonomous analytical opinion with "team players" and "committed loyalists". Mervyn would say jokingly that he "might have been willing to consider playing a serf, but they wanted a slave".

Under the increasingly vengeful SLFP administration of the 1970s, a senior Daily News journalist Fred de Silva was sent to jail, with the Justice Ministry pushing hard for a lesson to be administered. Today, J. Tissainayagam, a journalist with pro-Tiger views, faces 20 years hard labor, for writing articles allegedly causing racial hatred. Tissainayagam’s views were repugnantly pro-Tiger, but as Mervyn would have editorially insisted, repellent views in a publication must be repelled by equivalent means of newspaper articles and argumentation; by the force of argument rather than the force of law and the state.

Mervyn was too left for the UNP, too liberal for the Left, too Westernized for the SLFP nativists and Lake House trade unionists, too pro Soviet and pro Cuban for the SLFP’s ‘China wing’, too Maoist for the pro Soviets, and simply a "CIA agent" (yesteryear’s "RAW agent") for Samasamajist second raters. Tarzie Vittachi put it best when he said of Lankan labeling: "Sri Lanka is the only country in the world where every rumor is a fact, where there can be a smoke without a fire, and every man with five bucks more in his pocket than you is a CIA agent". He might have mentioned a Harvey & Hudson shirt and YSL tie.

In a period of the overall decline of the Sri Lankan media and the deterioration of the climate of regime-tolerance of independent journalism, Mervyn de Silva’s stellar achievement as Editor Daily News was a brilliant anomaly, going against the tide. It was an individual achievement which was never replicated; an achievement of an individual whose knowledge and understanding of English literature and matchless use of the resources of the English language, thorough familiarity with local politics, mastery of world politics and international relations, non-conformist temperament and irreverent humor could not sit well with the sociopolitical and ideological trends that had set in and would become dominant. A Third Worldist, he derided parochialism, and was for "rapid, radical structural change", not leveling down.

At the height of his success as Editor Daily News, Mervyn could have quietened down, conformed, consolidated his success and played it safe. His prose style had certainly matured; the tone less edgy and surer. Mervyn’s higher loyalty was not however, to the leader or Government, political project or party line, ideology or perceived national exigency, but to the highest values, traditions and norms of his vocation, and to the compulsions of his own critical intellect. In 1972, when the government was at the zenith of its power, flushed with its successful military suppression of the JVP insurrection and passage of its Republican Constitution, and armed with the prolongation of Emergency powers, Mervyn began to dissent, writing editorials cautioning about youth perceptions of discrimination and stirrings of militant unrest in the North. In 1973, the Daily News under Mervyn gave fair coverage to the funeral of former Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake, and he penned one of his most poignant editorials on Mr. Senanayake’s contribution to the national ethos. The Cabinet and the cabal of relatives and retainers inhabiting the Byzantine corridors of Temple Trees and Rosemead walauwwa, from Lake House chairman AK Premadasa right up to the PM’s Coordinating Secretary, began to regard their most successful and internationally respected editor as a problem.

The trigger of his gradual exit from Lake House and the ranks of the State was predictably an article. It was a piece by Mervyn in The Economist (London) on how the Chilean coup of 1973 was playing in the local political theatre, illustrated by a less than flattering photograph of the PM. Mervyn found himself the target of a fatwa: if he wished to remain Editor he could no longer write to the foreign press. Thus did the SLFP deprive itself of a toehold in the international media established by the only Sri Lankan journalist who was broadly sympathetic to that party. Though Mervyn complied for a while, it was only a holding operation. He was soon kicked upstairs as Senior Editorial Advisor, and then out the door. Two years later in 1978, when JR Jayewardene used the Business Acquisition Act to silence the newly revived Times Group and sack Mervyn who was its editor in chief, my father, the only journalist to be editor-in-chief of both major newspaper companies, became the only editor to be fired by both the SLFP and the UNP. He went on to found the Lanka Guardian magazine, plunging into alternative journalism, having been master of the mainstream.

Throughout his conscious life, as schoolboy, university student and journalist, at Law College, Lake House and Lanka Guardian, in the New York Times, the Washington Post and on the BBC, Mervyn de Silva spoke in his own voice. That voice was informed by a sensibility that sought the vital centre and a self-assurance that valued the broader over the narrower, the higher over the lower: profession over family, nation over ethno-religious identity, world over nation, reason over received wisdom, modernity over antiquity, choice over heritage, critical judgment over collective belief, independence over cultural conformity, individual freedom over group loyalty, universal over parochial, and the human, over and above all else.

Daily News Sat Sep 5 2009

Tribute to Shyamlal Rajapaksa

‘The good die young’

Shyam was a good human being, just 43 years and a month, when he was suddenly snatched away from us. I was fortunate to know and associate with him, a gentleman-adversary in court and pleasant company outside.

He was the only son of late George Rajapaksa, the affable criminal lawyer and Minister and Lalitha, the well-known socialite, the first Lady President of the Lanka-Japan Friendship Society. Shyam was also the only brother of Nirupama Rajapaksa, Member of Parliament and former Junior Minister and the nephew of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Shyamlal Rajapaksa

He was born with the proverbial silver spoon as, like his father, he preferred the common man to the affluent. He was the grandson of the late D. M. Rajapaksa and late Edmund Samarasekara.

Born on July 11, 1966, his father named him Gemunu (and not George, which he considered colonial), befitting Shyam’s Southern ancestry.

He passed his GCE Advanced Level Examination from Royal College, at a time when institutions of higher learning in the country were closed due to the Southern insurgency. He was therefore sent to UK for further studies, on the advice of Sam Wijesinghe, a long-standing family friend, who found Shyam idling with his friends at home.

Having completed his three year LLB course in just two years, he was back in Sri Lanka, when another family friend, late Lalith Athulathmudali PC, advised that he be sent to an Inn of Court. He joined the Lincoln’s Inn, from which he was called to the English Bar. He also secured a LLM from the London University and on his return to Sri Lanka, he qualified to join the Sri Lankan Bar.

After being in the Chambers of President’s Counsel, Daya Perera, he joined the Official Bar as a State Counsel, in which capacity he prosecuted in the High Courts of Anuradhapura, Badulla, Galle, Balapitiya and Ratnapura. Soon, the constituents of his father’s old electorate urged him to enter the world of politics, which he did, securing the highest majority at his very first Southern Provincial Council election.

Soon disillusioned, he resigned prematurely and joined the UN to serve the International Criminal Tribunal for Ruwanda as a prosecutor, a job many dreaded to touch due to the risks involved. Shyam was made of sterner stuff and he went round Ruwanda interviewing a large mass of victims, a task which he completed by July. This is said to have earned him a standing ovation at the assembly and a promotion in his job. He was confident that his report would eventually open the eyes of the world.

Though entitled to a home vacation in July, he would gladly postpone it to December to complete his report. He was never destined to have that December holiday.

When his mother phoned him to wish him on his 43 birthday, he complained that he felt like an old man at that age. Lo and behold, it was in exactly a month, that his mother was to hear that he was seriously ill, from no less a person than the present Chief Justice, who probably did not have the heart to break the sad news of Shyam’s death to his mother.

Due to a heart attack he suffered at the age of 32, it was a heart attack that Lalitha initially had suspected as the cause of Shyam’s illness. She is yet to know for certain, the cause of her only son’s death.

Shyam was one of the most affable young men around. He was not only well-educated and well-connected, but also handsome, with a charming smile and endearing ways. Though many a young lady would have been attracted to him, it was only Prashanthi, a State Counsel herself, who won his heart.

Being a Buddhist, I wish that this wonderful human being should never ever encounter an untimely death again in his voyage through Sansara. May Shyam attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana.

Island Tue Sep 1 2009

Remembering Justice Ramanathan: A Man for All Seasons

Deshamanya, judge of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, President of the Court of Appeal, Honorary Bencher of the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn, member of the Permanent Council of Arbitration in Hague, Governor of the Western Province, Chancellor of the Uva Wellassa University, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission, Rotarian and Trustee of the Sri Ponnambalavaneeshvara Kovil: all these he took in his stride. While success and recognition were undoubtedly welcomed he was never overwhelmed by them. Till the end, he remained a sincere and much loved friend and counselor to many people from different walks of life drawn from across the ethnic divide in Sri Lanka. To us all, he was just Rama and that is how he wished to be remembered. No one in recent times commanded as much personal respect and affection from so many as did Rama.

Pathmanathan Ramanathan was born on 01 September 1.932 into a conservative Tamil Hindu family. His father, Sangarapillai Pathmanathan was a well known broker in a leading Agency House and also a knowledgeable planter and spokesman for Low- Country Plantation interests. His mother, Srimani (nee Rajendra) was the grand- daughter of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, lawyer, statesman, politician, educationist and Hindu Philanthropist who made an immense contribution to Sinhala Tamil amity in the last century.- Among his close kinsmen were Ananda Coomaraswamy the internationally recognized interpreter of Hindu Buddhist art and thought and Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam founder President of the Ceylon National Congress that brought together the different strands of opinion in a common endeavour to fight for the freedom that we now enjoy.

His early education in Colombo was at St Joseph’s College. He then proceeded to India and joined Montford High School a leading missionary Public School in South India. It was a happy period in his life since he distinguished himself both in sport and studies.

From India, he was sent to the United Kingdom to further his education. After a brief spell at St David’s College, Lampeter in Wales, he was admitted to Gray’s Inn to read for the Bar. He lived in London House, a Hall of Residence for Commonwealth Students. He was an institution there: with an engaging personality, he was very popular with students from several parts of the Commonwealth including Sri Lanka. Many of them remained his lifelong friends. Some of the Sri Lankans who were his close friends during this period themselves went on to become well known in their chosen careers both in Sri Lanka and abroad. Among them, to name only a few were: Dr. Tony Gabriel, Dr. Mano, Muttucumaru, Dr Gihan Tennekoon, Sinha Basnayake, Desmond Fernando, Palitha Kirthisinghe, Dr Lal Jayawardene, and Ajit Jayaratne. These years in England broadened his horizons and gave him the self confidence that underpinned his lifelong determination to "‘do it his own way". It was apt that Frank Sinatra’s recording of the song "My way"was played at Rama’s funeral in accordance with his wish.

Returning to Sri Lanka as a Barrister at Law, he was admitted as an Advocate of the Supreme Court and initially "devilled" with Lakshman Kadirgamer who enjoyed a wide practice in the Industrial Courts. After a brief spell at the Private Bar, he joined the Attorney General’s Department in the late 1970s. This gave him a lot of pleasure since his great grandfather, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan had been Solicitor General over 75 years before. The Department gave him the opportunity to exercise his multiple talents. He enjoyed the criminal side of the Bar to which he was initially assigned in the Department and was respected for his sense of fair play whether prosecuting in the Assizes or arguing Criminal Appeals in the Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA) on behalf of the Attorney General. In the CCA, he was pitted against such formidable Advocates as Dr Colvin R. de Silva and E.R.S.R. Coomaraawamy both of whom thought highly of him.

In the Department, he made many friends: G.P.S de Silva and Sarath N. Silva (both of whom later became Chief justice) and Faisz Musthapha among others.

It was not long before he was appointed to the Bench, first as a High Court judge followed in fairly quick succession as a judge of the Court of Appeal (of which he became President) and as a judge of the Supreme Court. A sensitive, modest courtroom presence, Justice Ramanathan presided over the cases before him with a measured, calm assurance. Held in high esteem by those encountering him in a professional capacity, Ramanathan was known for his consistency, honesty and unwillingness to prevaricate. Advocates in his court and their clients knew that they were guaranteed a fair hearing and went away satisfied with their day in his Court. He did not seek in every case to settle the law on a point for all time by a display of great erudition and precedent but sought to dispense with justice according to law as he understood it in the case before him. To him the life of the law was experience, not logic. These qualities earned him the complete respect of his colleagues and members of the Bar.

On retirement, Ramanathan was a much sought after public speaker. He involved himself in many voluntary activities including those of a Rotarian and a Freemason. He gave freely of his time and experience whenever his advice was sought. He enjoyed his tenure as Governor of the Western Province and in the brief period he served as Chairman of the Human Rights Commission he did much to reorganise the body to enable it to better respond to the needs of the many who sought its’ help.

His wife Mano, cared for him with devotion and love throughout their many happy years together. He passed away peacefully at home on 07 December 2006 surrounded by his wife and two close friends of long standing, Nimal Jayawardene and Ranjan Gooneratne.

His passing was shock, but there are many like my wife and myself who will continue to cherish Rama’s memory and be grateful for his friendship and loyalty. He was truly A Man for All Seasons.

Muttusamy Sanmuganathan

The Sunday Leader Aug 30, 2009


Hubert Pearce de Silva

A tribute to a great big brother

Hubert Pearce de Silva (Prasanna) or Loku Aiya to us younger siblings, was the most dynamic and inspiring man I’ve ever known. I say this with no exaggeration, as anyone who knew him would second me on this without a moment’s hesitation. He was a loving husband, a wonderful father and certainly a great brother.

I remember the days I knew Loku Aiya with great fondness, affection and with a tear in my eye, going down memory lane when my brothers and I were little in the early ’50s. In 1954, Loku Aiya sailed away to the UK on HMS Otranto. I remember the excitement and the fun we had boarding the ship to bid farewell and wave bon voyage to Loku Aiya. He wrote airmail letters in his cutest little handwriting. He described in his inimitable style, details of the weather, scenery, food, fashion, life in general, the UK.

Before Loku Aiya came back to Ceylon after approximately 12 years in the UK, he sent us a letter saying he was coming ‘home from home.’ In a Bedford van he had refurbished and prepared to stand up to the two extremes of weather conditions, as well as cope with the treacherous road surfaces, he drove the extensive and tiresome journey overland accompanied by two friends, one being a doctor and the other an engineer.

Having made the spectacular trip in the proverbial "one-piece," I feel Loku Aiya can easily be regarded as one of the handful of pioneers who successfully completed this mammoth task.

He and his friends literally had to run the gauntlet across hostile territory due to the escalation of the Indo-Pakistan conflict prevalent at the time. Amidst the potential dangers, he drove through the region with admirable courage and sheer determination and came out triumphantly and unscathed.

Loku Aiya then joined Browns Group. He became a senior executive purely due to his unparalleled communication skills, despite being a fully qualified automotive and road transport engineer with a string of qualifications to his name. As a matter of fact, Loku Aiya was my higher education teacher, master and guru and I regard him as my first lecturer or professor in the realm of my engineering studies.

Loku Aiya had a deep passion and an excellent ear for music. He particularly loved jazz and adored the big time bands of jazz musicians like Oscar Peterson, Errol Garner, Tommy Dorsey and arguably the greatest trumpeter of all time, the late Louis Armstrong.

The biggest personal tribute I give to Loku Aiya and the loudest applause I make is because it was he who paved the path, not just for me, but also for the rest of the family members who wanted to follow in his footsteps. Whether to go abroad to study or settle down in a land of opportunity to earn a decent wage and live a comfortable life, it is all due to his setting the perfect example

I salute Loku Aiya in earnest, very humbly indeed and raise my hat to him wherever he is and whatever life he is living. He simply was the best and in my book; the greatest and without a doubt my hero and role model whom I idolised. I shall hold Loku Aiya and memories of him in my highest esteem as long as I shall live.

Sadly, his untimely departure from this world has left a deep black hole and a gigantic vacuum in the lives of all those who loved him or were lucky enough to have known him and enjoyed his magnetic company.

He leaves behind his wife and three children who lovingly looked after him during his prolonged illness. May Loku Aiya have attained the supreme bliss and eternal happiness of nibbana!

Keerthi de Silva

Sunday Times Aug 30, 2009

A truly caring healer, not just another health-care provider

Dr. V. Ganesan

I first met Dr. V. Ganesan when we both entered the Faculty of Medicine, Colombo, University of Ceylon, in June 1962. “Ganash”, as we affectionately called him, was a batchmate you could depend on – decent, ever ready to help, and good fun to be with. He had a great sense of humour. Unlike most male medical students, he never cracked off-colour jokes that would embarrass us female students.

(Females were very much in the minority in the medical college in those days.) I recall that Ganash lived in a house on the site now occupied by the Majestic City complex, in Bambalapitiya. In fact, the old Majestic Cinema was virtually in his front garden. We envied him, because he could so easily go for a late night show when he got tired of studying!

After completing his internship at the General Hospital Colombo (the old name for the National Hospital), Ganash decided to go into general practice. He chose Horana as his location. Through his gentle, compassionate nature, he could establish a close rapport with his patients. He gained their confidence and became a popular and much-loved family practitioner.

In “Black July”, in 1983, his surgery in Horana was burnt down. Ganash was shattered. But like a phoenix, his practice rose again from the ashes. His gentle heart forgave the people who had attempted to hurt him. He went back to Horana to resume his practice, something not many in his situation would have had the courage to do. He served the people of Horana until his demise in 2007. Crowds came to his residence in Moor Road, Wellawatta to pay their last respects. Many were in tears. Ganash was much more than just a doctor to them.

In 1988, I organised a reunion of our batch mates from medical college. Ganash was the first person I contacted, and he enthusiastically helped me track down those of our colleagues who were living in Sri Lanka. Thanks to his efforts, we had a heart-warming reunion.

Since then, we have had reunions in 1992, 1997 and in 2007, the year we celebrated the ruby anniversary of the graduation of our Class of ’62. The reunion took place at Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana. I clearly remember Ganash lustily singing popular old Sinhala songs all the way.

At each reunion, we would remark on how young Ganash looked, while the rest of us were visibly aging. With his boyish good looks and his endearing smile, he remained eternally young. I could not help but conclude that Ganash’s fresh and youthful looks were the result of clean living and an utter contentment with life, blessed as he was with a loving and charming wife, Padmini, and three beautiful and talented children, Sanjeev, Anjana and Niroshini.

He was immensely proud of his children. I got to know Niroshini quite well when she started working as a senior house officer at the Sri Jayewardenepura General Hospital. I saw in Niroshini her father’s gentle qualities. Her total dedication to her patients was no doubt something she had inherited from her father.

Another notable thing about Ganash was that he was always impeccably groomed. He always looked smart in his perfectly colour coordinated attire.

In Ganash I saw a perfect human – loving, forgiving, caring and compassionate. He was a caring healer, not just another health care provider. He certainly lived up to the ideals of medicine, ideals we often forget in this crazy rushed world of ours. “To cure, sometimes … to relieve, often … and to comfort, always.”

I was privileged to have Ganash as a friend. His demise leaves a void that cannot be filled.
Good-bye, my friend. Thank you for the impact you made on our lives. May your soul find eternal rest.

Dr. Suriyakanthie Amarasekera

The final accounts show he was a gentleman to the fingertips

M.T.L. Fernando

The passing away of M.T.L. Fernando, former senior partner of Ernst & Young (Chartered Accountants), heralded the end of an epoch. As the anglicized expression goes: A mighty oak has fallen, and may I add, he was a gentle giant imbued with the genuine quality of noblesse oblige. Both as a human being and a professional he was primus inter pares et nulli secundus nulli secunda -- first among equals and second to none.

A colossus, he towered, almost apologetically – such being his nature -- over the country’s financial world for many a decade. He was much sought after for his financial and management expertise by most leading entrepreneurs in the mercantile sector. His mere name when listed as a member of a board of directors gave that organisation an aura of being well above board.

Yet, the hallmark of ‘MTL’ was his inherent distaste for publicity. Not for him the limelight. Service was his motto, integrity being his watchword. A fitting epitaph if there was one.

His genteel nature prevented him from ever uttering a harsh word – an unparalleled achievement after having been in the thick of the highly competitive commercial world for over half a century. Yes, this was the uninterrupted and possibly an unprecedented long-service record in the annals of the local accountancy and/or business world, he so faithfully rendered the firm of Chartered Accountants that was then known as Turquand, Youngs & Co. Another distinction was that he was also the first Ceylonese, in 1961 it was, to be appointed as a partner of the firm – an honour he bore with unsurpassed professional dignity. Hardly anyone would grudge if one would say that M.T.L. Fernando was the jewel that shone in the crown of this leading century-plus firm of chartered accountants.

It was in 1961 that I had the opportunity of being one of his first batch of articled clerks. Although I did not come up to his expectations as a student, about which he would sometimes gently reprimand me, I am grateful that he always kept a fatherly eye over my subsequent career. It was also a chore he performed willingly to anyone who sought succour from him. Indeed I was not only honoured but also touched when, a few years ago, he requested of me to make the inaugural address to the staff of Ernst & Young.
Nobody could have earned the well-worn expression “a gentleman to his fingertips” more deservedly than the man who was first dead-set on becoming a physician but circumstances made him turn his talents to become a chartered accountant, in which he reached the pinnacle of the profession with consummate ease.

This was not all. With a couple of his friends, he helped establish a charitable organisation, Eyecare Foundation (, to render gratis assistance to those afflicted with optical ailments. This was his pet project towards which he utilized a lot of time and resources. It renders yeoman service to the less affluent sections of society. Hopefully, this charity will continue to go from strength to strength. Supporting this noble venture is the best tribute one can pay to the memory of this benevolent being. I am sure many would gladly lend a helping hand.

Behind every successful man, as yet another hackneyed saying goes, is a woman. In describing Shirani, his ever-loving wife, I would prefer to change the word ‘woman’ to a ‘lady’ - and a caring one at that. I am aware of how she tended her husband during his illness, rushing him to hospitals at the slightest hint of danger and ensuring that the best of medical attention was available at all times. No doubt she would be blessed though his loss would take quite a while for Shirani and their charming daughter Gayatri to bear. Yet, one must take solace in the universal fact,of nature that all compounded things are subject to death and decay.

Paeans of praise, adulation and hosannas were heaped on Lal Fernando -- as he was referred to by some – in life and it would continue, for sometime even after death. Yet, as Thomas Gray wrote in his immortal poem, ‘Elegy written in a country churchyard’:

“Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust
Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death?”
Obviously the answer is a resounding ‘No’.

However, my fervent wish is that M.T.L. Fernando’s journey in Samsara be comfortable and short.

Mahinda Wijesinghe

Doctor with a heart of gold

Dr. S. N. B. Talwatte

There are heroes and there are legends, and then there is Dr. S. N. B. Talwatte. Born on October 29, 1924, Dr. Talwatte filled the next 84 years and 10 months of his life with magic and creativity. Great men fight to the end .This he did, and he did it with dignity, until 1 pm, July 16, 2009. He played many roles in life: loving husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, teacher, doctor and friend to all. He was a fine example of a true and humble leader who earned respect without demanding it. To me he was Loku Mama, Aththa and a friendly doctor – a doctor who did much more than merely listen, diagnose and prescribe medicines.

Dr. S. N. B. Talwatte

Hailing from the sacred city of Kandy, he was born to the late Dr. J. A. Talwatte and Mrs. T. K. Talwatte (nee Wadugodapitiya). After the sudden loss of his father in 1959, he took on the role of patriarch of the Talwatte clan at the tender age of 35. This position did not come with a free car and a bonus. It came with responsibilities that he gladly and courageously took on.

After 12 academically outstanding years at Trinity College, Kandy, he went on to Medical College to fulfil his dream of becoming a doctor. He passed out with flying colours, qualifying as a radiologist. He served the government for 39 years.

By nature compassionate, he saved countless lives through his private practice (he never cared for monetary benefits). He was one of those rare, dedicated doctors who would rather lose sleep than neglect his patients. Every single night he would do his “home work”, as he described his rounds visiting patients in their homes.

His home at No. 14/1 Cambridge Terrace, Colombo 7, became my second home. His conversation was wide-ranging, going from family to cricket to the pronunciation of the English news presenters. Our discussions were always interesting, educational and highly enjoyable.

There were times when we would argue. Rather than get angry, he would give me his familiar smile, a smile that spoke a million words. That understanding, reassuring smile was warm as a blanket to keep an Eskimo snug and content.

When he did have to be stern with me (this was inevitable because of my extreme stubbornness), he would call my mother after I got back home to check how I was. This showed he had no malice and was a true gentleman who was only doing his duty as head of the family. His role was to correct us and be the light that guided us back onto the right path.

On night Dr. Hodhahitha confessed to me that he had never attended a dance in his life, and that it was one of his great regrets. I am sorry I did not tell him that dancing could be done anywhere, even if only in one’s heart, and that if life was a song, Loku Mama would have danced, oh how he would have danced.
“He is a never-ending song in my heart, of comfort, happiness, and being. I may sometimes forget the words but I will always remember the tune.”

S. Senanayake

A fiercely courageous champion of human rights

Shyamlal Rajapaksa

I had the honour to share our house in Belgravia, London, with the late Shyamlal Rajapaksa in the early 1990s, with my late wife Isabella Blow. My mother Helga de Silva Blow Perera is from Sri Lanka and the two families are close friends. I was practising at the Bar, Isabella was working at British Vogue, and the basement of our house was rented by Philip Treacy, the famous hat maker.

Shyamlal was clearly, even then, at 22, a remarkable young man. His father George Rajapaksa, a Sri Lankan Cabinet Minister, had died in the 1970s, when Shyamlal was a boy. He and his older sister (who herself became a MP in Sri Lanka in her 20s) were brought up by their remarkable mother, Lalitha, a lady of fierce courage, intelligence, generosity and humour – all attributes that her son inherited.
Shyamlal came to England for the first time at the age of 18. Within two years he had passed his LLB, at the University of Buckingham. He passed his Bar exams at the age of 21, and then came to live with us while he studied for his LLM.

It was a very interesting and exciting household. Isabella’s career in the fashion world was taking off, and Shyamlal was a charming, handsome young man who enjoyed going out, when his studies were over, and partying hard, which we often did together. Even then, he was interested in human rights and in his spare time worked as a volunteer for Amnesty International.

Shyamlal wore his achievements with great modesty. It is a guise that very intelligent and capable people use to avoid sounding pretentious and pompous. When you talked to Shyamlal, you soon became aware of his overriding passion for human rights and fundamental freedoms -– the right of people to go about their lives in a decent and humane way without being persecuted for their beliefs, class, caste, religion, gender, whatever.

My last contact with Shyamlal was a few years ago when he told me he had married Prashanthi, and that they were both looking to get jobs to work for human rights for the UN. I was very proud of him and wished him well.

The genocide in Rwanda in 1994, in which more than 800,000 were murdered because of their ethnicity, was a disgrace to the modern world. I salute Shyamlal Rajapaksa, my friend of over 30 years, for working in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to bring the evil perpetrators to justice and bring some decency to mankind.

I offer my deepest condolences to Shyamlal’s widow Prashanthi, mother Lalitha, and sister Nirupama.
Shyamlal was a man in a billion, a brave and courageous person who lived to make this world a better place.

I will miss him.

Detmar Blow

Sunday Times Aug 23, 2009

He gave his best years to the Police Department

L. M. P. de Silva, Deputy Inspector General of Police

The death of L. M. P. “Lumpy” de Silva on August 8 took away from us a dedicated public servant who gave the best years of his life to the Police Department. Rising from Sub-Inspector to Deputy Inspector General, he was a leader, peer and friend whose life gave rich meaning to the concept of loyalty. He was also a husband, father, and grandfather, to whom his family meant more than anything.

Lumpy was a product of S. Thomas’ College (STC) where he acquired the values that he carried with him in his professional and personal life. Like all others educated at Mount Lavinia’s “large swimming pool with a small school attached to it,” he was enthusiastic about swimming. His abiding interest in sports, however, was cricket, in which he excelled. He also loved dogs and had been, for many years, immersed in growing roses while he had a fondness for cars.

He played First XI cricket for STC and the Police Department which he joined after his matriculation. In later years, he turned out, as long as he could, for teams of “seniors” and when ill health kept him away from those encounters, he spent much time watching and enjoying cricket on television.

Like his contemporaries, he gained his experience as a uniformed officer in the field. After a short stint at the Police Training School, he moved to the CID’s Special Branch responsible for political intelligence and counted many years of effective service.

Lumpy was mentored by several police “greats” of the past such as Scharenguivel, De Zoysa, and Attygalle. These were officers who did not equate extracting finger nails with obtaining evidence. He absorbed their ideas and ideals, made them his own, and tried to improve on them. He had a really good moment when a suspect announced that “only the rathu mahattaya” did not lay hands on any of those taken in for questioning.

The nature of Lumpy’s work at the Special Branch was such that he could not share his memories with friends. One of his mentors frankly admitted, however, that at the time Lumpy had the best circle of political contacts among all his contemporaries, the intelligence he gathered or interpreted often enriched the contributions of his superiors and peers.

Lumpy was steadfastly loyal to the government during the 1962 abortive coup, not out of some special partisan conviction but because he believed that it was the appropriate course for a police officer.
Some years later, the same government, in a slightly different form, sent most of the Special Branch officers back into uniform and out into the provinces, well away from their field of experience and expertise.

Police old timers say that the former Special Branch has since evolved into an alphabet soup of agencies. Lumpy was in Amparai during the first JVP uprising, and often commented on how extensively and efficiently the task of restoring law and order was supported by Bradman Weerakoon who had also been sent out to the boondocks from Colombo.

Lumpy and his staff were responsible for the arrest of JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera at that time and when a quaking Wijeweera pleaded for protection, he ensured that the man was unharmed. He had learned through the example of colleagues and superiors that the well-being of a suspect was a charge on the officers responsible for his custody. In that spirit, he had been appalled by the death while in custody of Dodampe Mudalali.

Back in Amparai, Lumpy handed over Wijeweera in good physical condition to a team from Colombo for further questioning elsewhere and, later, prosecution.

Lumpy met his lifelong partner, Ira, while he was in the Special Branch. Together they raised a happy and accomplished family which later grew into an extended family that gave him great joy. In his final years, he doted on his grandchildren. Lumpy and Ira maintained a home that was warm and hospitable to a huge number of friends. Their doors were always open, and his guidance was sought by his junior officers even after he retired.

As for all of us who were in his circle of friends, it was a pleasure and a privilege to have known him. Lumpy was fun to hang out with, a great raconteur whose laugh was as infectious as his manner was appealing. He was willing to go that “extra mile” to help others.

Shortly after heart bypass surgery, when he learned that a fellow patient was nervous about his own impending surgery, he tried to put the patient at ease by standing on one leg to show how effective a recovery he could expect. The incident did wonders for the nervous patient but not for Lumpy.

I will always respect him as the consummate professional that he was. I will, as well, always value and never forget his friendship, which, to me, was golden.

May his soul rest in Peace

For the happy times with wonderful sister

Clare Senewiratne

It is with never fading memories and a great sense of loss, I still recall my dear sister Clare, and the wonderful times and rapport we shared as sisters.

Clare was a private person in her working life as her colleagues at 'Lanka Woman' would affirm but she was dedicated, disciplined and utterly committed to any task she undertook. As the Founder/ Editor of Lanka Woman for many years she would never lower her standards in any way and woe betide anyone who took the easy way out, be it deadlines or assignments.

'Lanka Woman' was her 'baby' and no effort was too big or too small if it concerned the magazine. She faithfully carried on even in the face of illness that made it impossible to carry on, though she kept in touch till the very end.

In her personal life, she was always there for family and friends. She led a full life with her devoted husband Nanda and son Viraj and later daughter-in-law Dhakshina. She delighted in planning and organizing the many excursions and trips to wildlife sanctuaries and places of historical interest with family and friends.

Festivals like Christmas, Easter and birthdays were celebrated with Clare in charge of most of the arrangements and décor. What happy times they were. I also remember with nostalgia the chats we had almost daily via telephone discussing the current topics of the day and other matters.

Life was not always easy, but she took the challenge with great courage and fortitude and unfailing faith in the Lord. We miss her guidance and assistance in many ways but are comforted by the thought that she is at peace in the nearer presence of the Lord.


We will continue to walk together

Victoreen M. Hassan

It is with the deepest sadness that I write about my late, loving wife Victoreen M. Hassan on her first death anniversary.

We were married on October 8, 1968, and we spent close to 40 happy and peaceful years together. She passed away peacefully on August 25, 2008, after a brief illness.

Victoreen was loving, caring and the greatest blessing in my life. The day I first held her and kissed her sweet face are precious memories that time cannot erase. She saw the love in my eyes the day we met, and thus began happiness for Victoreen and myself.

Victoreen was always there for me in everything I did. My life was complete when I was with her. Whenever I was sad, she was always there for me.

Over the years, Victoreen and I together faced the good times and the bad. Remember, Victoreen, although you have gone many miles away, the love in my heart will always stay.

The pain in my heart gets worse with each passing day. Thank you for loving me and for being what you were.

Within my heart I know we will continue to walk together.

M. Kamil. A. Hassan

His well-balanced, disciplined life formed my WWTD principle


Thaththa had many outstanding characteristics about which much has been said from time to time – his integrity, patience, gentleness, caring, self-control, self-discipline, leadership….the list could go on. While they were revealed to us as children in our everyday experiences of growing up, I also saw them in a new light in his later years of retirement when I visited him from Kandy.

His style of leadership was to encourage the best in others, while he took a backseat. I would call this ‘selflessness’, and it is exemplified by the fact that he left the computer solely for Amma’s use while he himself stuck to the typewriter. This was mainly because he thought his slowness in getting used to the computer would deprive Amma of the computer time she needed. This selflessness went hand in hand with his concern for, and discernment of, others’ needs. Those who constituted the recipients of this concern extended beyond his children and grandchildren to the wider circle of relatives and friends, as well as the stranger, the deprived, and the powerless.

His ability to plan was legendary. At the age of 80, he combined this planning with self-discipline in preparing for his final exam for the postgraduate diploma in Buddhism. Given that the exam schedule intruded into his usual time of rest, he trained his body to fit into a different routine, so that he would be able to write the exam without too much discomfort.

In Kandy, I had picked up allusions to him being a ‘terror’ in his running of the Lake House Bookshop, from two former employees who had received their training there. They mentioned it in a spirit of gratitude for all that they had learned from him, with the proof being their current careers in bookshops – one as proprietor and the other as branch manager of a well-known chain.

However, being a ‘terror’ was not something I attributed to Thaththa! But I kept an open mind, and had my own resolution of this apparent incongruence in his character when I observed how he dealt with those who came to carry out repairs to No. 10. His approach was to question their suggested methods, thereby ensuring that they thought through their intentions and foresaw possible stumbling blocks in advance. His critical appraisal almost portrayed a disbelief in their statements, but the end-result was a cost-effective job of good quality. Perhaps other employers of these workers benefited unknowingly from the ‘training’ he provided free of charge to the latter!

Thaththa remained alert to the end. The last time we saw him alive at No.10 was when Ashi and I arrived there a little prior to his being taken to hospital. He was lying on his bed weak, with his eyes closed. But as we went in, he opened his eyes, saw Ashi and queried whether she was attending a workshop in Colombo. This kind of alertness is hard for some of us to possess at the age we are in now.

On reflection, what is amazing is the balance (of qualities) he kept in every sphere of life. This allowed him to influence a large group of people in a far-reaching and positive way; one that would enable them to influence others. Many a time in the face of a quandary there flashes to my mind the WWTD principle: ‘What Would Thaththa Do?’ While such a thought would not necessarily propel me to follow his example, it provides me with a framework, or benchmark to analyze my own actions.

When I reflect on his life, I realize he is all around us; in the stars that light up the night sky, in the wind that cools and refreshes, in the sunset that turns the sky to pink and orange and red. We are grateful for the privilege of being called his children, for being able to grow up in the nurture provided by the unique team of Thaththa and Amma. We will keep on falling; but our memories inspire us to rise up again and reach for the sky.


Sunday August 16, 2009

Brave spirit who soared on wings like an eagle

Sahan Peiris

“When storm clouds gather and the road is blocked,
Turn your eyes to Jesus, He’ll guide you through.
When you know not if you will live or die,
Turn your eyes to Jesus, He’ll give you life.
Praise the Lord, for He is good;
He gave His son for us to live.
In Jesus’ name, salvation is ours
And victory over fear and death;
Soar on wings like eagles, never faint.
When you fall down with problems too heavy to bear,
Turn your eyes to Jesus, He will lift you up.
When you know not the path, everywhere a trap is laid
Turn your eyes to Jesus; He is the way.”

These are the words of a song of faith written by Shahan in November last year. The words exemplify the manner in which he lived his life. Shahan’s life was short – too short for those of us left behind – and yet his life was one of celebration and of appreciation of God’s blessings.

My friendship with Shahan and his wife Shalini spans more than two decades, going back to their dating days, their marriage, and the birth of their two beautiful and loving children, Druwen and Drushenka.
As I write this appreciation of someone I considered the brother I never had, I find it extremely hard to grasp the harsh fact that Shahan is no longer with us.

My memories of Shahan range from our hilarious “Peter Pan” encounters at the annual Royal-Thomian cricket match to the adventurous trips organised by the “Wala”, as Shahan and Shalla’s close-knit circle of friends called themselves. It was imperative, no matter what the plans were, that Shahan had his full plate of rice for lunch!

It was a heart-breaking moment when Shahan was diagnosed with a terminal illness. The best tribute we can pay Shahan is to celebrate life the way he did – facing every problem with a cheerful disposition rooted in an unshakeable faith in the Lord; always being there for his friends, and being a patient listener and a non-judgmental friend who led by example. He “walked the talk”. Shahan lived the words of Mahatma Gandhi who said: “Be the change that you wish to see most in your world.”

When I initiated a small project for the Cancer Hospital in Maharagama a few years ago, Shahan was one of the first people to get a group of donors together, in Dubai, and to contribute to the venture. Again, when I was facing a traumatic, life-changing time in my life, Shalla and Shahan were there to support me all the way.

Shahan’s passing away has left a huge void in our hearts, and I believe I speak for all of us, his “Wala”, when I say this.

Those who were close to him saw an amazing change in Shahan in March this year, when his life seemed almost back to normal. We asked such questions as: “How did it all turn around so fast? How did this happen?” Answers to these questions are hard to find.

In my last telephone conversation with Shahan, he said: “Malathy, I used to believe I was in control of my life, my family, my finances, and my health. Now I leave it all to Jesus, and I am at peace. I thank God for all the blessings he has given me, Shalini and the kids.”

Shahan’s faith had taken him to the point where he was ready to meet his Maker. He was at peace, and he praised and thanked God for each new day he lived.

It is not easy to lose a loved one. Words hardly ease the grief and pain Shalla, Druwen, Drushi, Uncle Lester, Shareen and all Shahan’s loved ones must feel.

We can draw comfort from the thought that our lives are that much richer for having known Shahan, and from the thought that he is in the loving arms of his Creator.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

Malathy Knight-John

Gone too soon – a friend who was like a sister

Sadani Liyanage

I wept when the sad and shocking news of my beloved friend Sadani’s untimely demise was conveyed to me. I cannot believe that Sadani is no more. I have lost not only a sincere and true friend but someone who was also a sister to me.

Sadani breathed her last at a private hospital in Colombo, after ailing for some time. Our school-going days were the happiest and most memorable time in our lives. The day Sadani first set foot in Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena is still vivid in my memory. She was a chubby, cheerful and cute little girl, shy, soft-spoken, gentle and genial. We become the best of pals.

Not long after completing her schooling, Sadani walked down the aisle with Rukshan. The happy couple migrated to Dubai, and Sadani came back for her first confinement. She would never fail to bring a bag of candy and gifts for my two children when she visited. She was full of exuberance and excitement when she talked about life in Dubai.

She was blessed with a baby boy, Yohan, and subsequently a baby girl, Yuthika. When Sadani passed away, Yuthika was seven months old.

I met Sadani for the last time when she came to a private hospital for a medical check-up. I will treasure those precious moments for the rest of my life. Two days later Sadani left us forever. She was 28 years old. Truly, the good die young.

Sadani leaves behind beside her beloved parents, Gladwin and Marriette Pieris, her grieving husband Rukshan, her two lovely children, Yohan and Yukthika .

I will miss Sadani for the rest of my life. Sweet memories of her will linger long in our hearts. Good-bye Sweet Sadani. May the Angels sing thy praise.

A mass in her memory was said recently at St. Lucia’s Church Kotahena, to invoke the Blessings of the Good Lord.

A True Friend

Bubbly, gregarious and brave to the end

S. M. De A. Samaranayake

S. M. De A. Samaranayake, affectionately known as Sam to his friends, made friends easily. Those who met him liked him instantly, and stayed glued to him like bees drawn to a flower. They did so not because he had enough nectar for everyone but because of his cordiality and hospitality to everyone. He went out of his way to help people, and was consequently nicknamed “Mr. Fix-It”. His wide circle of friends ranged from politicians, judges, lawyers and priests and to the ordinary man in the street.

I first met S. M. De A Samaranayake at a Colombo convention centre, back in the early Eighties. I had travelled from Anuradhapura to attend a club dinner, but without making a prior registration. I arrived too late to go in even as a late entrant. Disappointed, I lingered in the lobby, as I had come to join my colleagues to return with them later that night.

Then I saw a gentleman – dark in complexion, hair cropped short – briskly coming down the stairs. He was wearing the same gear-wheel badge I had on my lapel. I approached him and told him my story. When I finished, he took me to meet the organisers and told them to allow me in, which they did.
When I met next him, he was in the entourage of my future brother-in-law, paying the traditional visit to the bride-to-be. Shortly afterwards, we became relations by marriage.

Susantha Ayya bubbled with energy. He never liked to be alone. When he did not have visitors, he would go over to his neighbours or invite them over for a game of cards or chess.

He married Sunethra, of the Lanerolle family of Kelaniya, famed for their literary contributions. Susantha Ayya joined Indian Airlines at the age of 18, after his schooling at Thurstan College and Royal College. He rose to become manager before joining the computer giant IBM. He travelled extensively during his tenure with both companies, where he was a much sought-after staff trainer.

He was invited to sit on the boards of reputed companies, and later served as a consultant to other leading firms. His last assignment was as consultant to the Mahaweli Engineering Agency in 2002.
Susantha Ayya was a brilliant speaker. I had the privilege of hearing him address the Colombo Toast Masters’ Club, of which he was the charter president, and several Rotary Club events. He was also president and a long-serving member of the Rotary Club of Colombo, Midtown.

In April this year, while on his way with close friends to Wasgamuwa, he fell ill. His condition was diagnosed as being terminal. He accepted his fate in the same spirit in which he lived his life – with courage and a cheery outlook. When I tried to console him over the phone, he was at his characteristic best, dismissing my expressions of sympathy by cracking some juicy jokes.

Susantha Ayya prepared himself for his end in the most admirable way. He started uploading his computer with his memoirs, particularly for the benefit of his son Sumantha, who is based in the United States. His lawyer daughter Sumalka and her husband Indaka, were by his side all the way, providing whatever they could to make his life comfortable. The day he breathed his last, he had complained of some discomfort and was rushed to hospital. After receiving pain-killers, he regained consciousness, and had a long chat with his son. By noon that day, he was gone.

His memory will linger for a long time among those who knew him. The memory of Susantha Ayya will not die easily. It will perhaps only fade away.

May his journey in Sansara be short.

Jayadeva Mayadunne

Fond memories of a wonderful aunt, great cook and dear friend

Kusuma Wickramasinghe

My aunt Kusuma Wickramasinghe (née Gunasekara) passed away three months ago, aged 87. She was the second child in a family of six. The eldest was my father who, I can say without hesitation, was her favourite brother.

“Kusuma Nanda” attended Musaeus College, which was her mother Louisa’s school as well. She was proud of her alma mater, and never failed to go back to attend events organised by the “Old Girls” of the school.

When my grandfather, J. E. Gunasekara, died as a relatively young man after returning from Oxford, the family circumstances changed quite drastically. The family relocated from a sprawling upstair house near All Saints’ Church, Borella, to “Andewatte”, my grandmother’s home, in the hamlet of Waalawela, in Matale. Kusuma thus became a boarder, and the school holidays in Andewatte became a cherished, long awaited event.

In the war years, cousins and aunts came to stay en masse, each family occupying its own cottage. Those were the years Kusuma Nanda enjoying reminiscing about. She would recall with affection the trips she and her cousins Lorna and Loyce made to Matale town, warbling “home for dinner” as they walked uphill on the way home. Another aunt would warn them that “bacon and potatoes” awaited them in the form of my grandmother, who was sorely annoyed at their being so late.

Suitors presented themselves, and she married my uncle Vincent and came to live in Colombo. Kamal, her firstborn and her pride and joy, was followed by Ujith. She would call her two sons her greatest treasures, often describing them as “my two eyes”.

There was a lifestyle change for her when she became a “workshop and garage person”, running Uncle Vincent’s Eastern Auto Engineers. She was the public relations person, the writer of bills, the co-ordinator, the maker of tea. What delicious “cuppas” she served us whenever we stopped by.
Kamal went on to become an engineer. She was so proud of him. She and Ujith continued to run Eastern Auto Engineers after Uncle Vincent’s death. The business moved from R. A. de Mel Mawatha to Rajagiriya.

A brave woman is how I would describe her. She faced with great stoicism whatever life threw at her. A lady of the old school, she would never be seen slouching around the house dressed in a housecoat. She would always leave her room in the mornings dressed in the pastel-printed Kandyan sarees and the white puff-sleeve blouses she so favoured. Her hair, which turned grey only when she was well into her seventies, was always tied in a neat knot. Lime and Dill were a must for her, long before those names became the fashionable shampoos. Baths were always at the well at her home in Battaramulla.

Cooking meant doing things in the traditional manner, the hard way, with spices roasted and ground for a curry. She did take a few culinary short-cuts, using coconut milk frozen in ice-cube trays. I am glad I wrote down her typical recipes, such as the dishes for “polos" and “kekiri”.

Not long ago, I walked with you through the fields in Kagama, Kekirawa, and you identified the medicinal plants you used in your famous “polos”, cooked on the hearth.

Dearest “Kusu”, as I called you in later years, I cherish the memories, going back to my childhood and girlhood. There were the sing-songs at Andewatte, during what you called “lamp-lighting time in the valley”. You so loved to sing the “oldies” and those Tower Hall songs.

Then there was the trip to Ritigala, and the picnic on the Kalawewa bund. I will never forget that hilarious occasion when we returned from Avukana and our former houseboy Amaradasa was so thrilled to see you that he almost sat on your lap!

You remembered every family birthday. You never failed to send a birthday card if you could not come for a birthday party.

Every letter of yours was loving, full of comforting, empowering thoughts and blessings, whenever adversity assailed me.

I remember our long chats at the dining table, the laughter, the shared confidences. Then there was the time you “house sat” for us when I went on a trip to India and you looked after the spouse and the boys. I treasure the delicately embroidered cushion covers you brought back from that wonderful holiday in England.

You were looked after so well by Kamal, Niran and Sandeepani. At the end, frail as a little bird, you proceeded with your onward journey, a whisper away.

A few days ago I heard your favourite song with the words “I'll be waiting for you on the other side of the moon”. It brought back all the memories and made me go all weepy.
Thank you for all the love you gave me.

Peace be with you.

Sharmini Rodrigo

Sunday Times Aug 9 2009

A teacher, charismatic leader and a true friend

Mrs. S. Anandanayagam

“The Moving Finger writes; and having writ, moves on; nor all your Piety nor Wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash out a word of it.” - Omar Khayyam

Mrs. Sathiavathy Anandanayagam was the epitome of all that one could wish for in a leader, an adviser and a friend. She was charismatic, lovable and patient.

I first came to know her when she became my English literature teacher at Vembadi Girls’ High School, Jaffna. She was mesmerising in the way she presented drama and verse. Even today, “they flash upon my inward eye”, although age has taken its toll on me.

While at Vembadi, Mrs. Anandanayagam organised general knowledge competitions for Grades 8, 9 and 10. This exercise made us alive to the world around us. She made us read the newspaper from cover to cover so as to gain an awareness of current events, and social, political and economic trends. This training enabled me to beat the seniors in the Senior General Knowledge competition, even though I was in Grade 8.

Not only was she an excellent teacher, she was also interested in games. She made us participate in the inter-house sports and games competitions. She wanted us to be active members of society, not passive onlookers.

As adviser to the Colombo branch of the Vembadi Past Pupils' Association (PPA), I had the opportunity to interact with her closely. She would attend every meeting, leading us in prayer and supporting us in all our activities, whether it be lunch, cookery demonstrations, or “talks” by distinguished speakers.

She gave me untiring and spontaneous support when I was president of the Colombo PPA. She would come to meetings dressed immaculately in colourful Indian sarees, majestic and smiling. She helped us grow in confidence and develop a community spirit. Thanks to her leadership, members such as Mangales, Sakuntala, Ranjini, Sathiabama, Amsa, Gunam, Jayanthi, Selvi, Premini, and Shanthi and many others became pillars of our association.

The “high tea” Mrs. Anandanayagam gave the PPA committee members at her home in Ratnakara Place, Dehiwala, just before she left for the UK for good, was a memorable event, an affirmation that all past pupils of Vembadi belonged to one family.

Mrs. Anandanayagam made our Colombo PPA a lively, friendly and dynamic organisation. She brought members of all ages together to work for a common cause, to help and support all members, and to keep our flag flying high.

Our association has lost a true friend and a wise adviser. Mrs. Anandanayagam, let memories of you, your talk, your intellect and your smile, inspire us to reach even greater heights.

May your soul rest in peace.

Mrs. Kamala Rex Thambyah (nee Amirthalingam), Past pupil and teacher, Vembadi Girls’ High School, Jaffna (1937-1959)

A radiologist and mentor par excellence

Dr. S.B. Talwatte

The demise of Dr. Talwatte has left an unfillable void in our ranks. The hundred-odd Consultant radiologists who are scattered throughout the island owe an immense debt of gratitude to him.
In 1979, the idea of local postgraduate degrees was mooted, and the Institute of Post-Graduate Medicine created.

There were around 10 consultant radiologists in the island at the time. Dr. Talwatte like Atlas of Greek mythology bore the entire burden of post-graduate education on his shoulders. He based the curriculum on the curriculum of radiologists in Britain.

Helped by his contacts abroad and a few senior colleagues here, he formulated the training programme, the quality of which is borne out by the excellent performance of those who have obtained the MD Radiology. They made an impression in whichever hospital they obtained their post-graduate training, be it Australia, Britain or Singapore.

The design of the logo of our College of Radiology too was his brain child. That was Dr. Talwatte the radiologist and mentor par excellence.

The ‘Tale’ I knew walked in to the X-ray department of the General Hospital of Kandy in 1965. I was MO Radiology at the time. Dapper, courteous, well-groomed, he wore his quizzical smile; his eyes bore their usual twinkle. His disarming manner dispelled any doubts I had about my “new boss”. He always treated me as a colleague and friend.

Patient and unflappable, never irritable, I doubt he was capable of losing his temper with anyone. He was totally devoid of malice and envy, and his warm personality encompassed all who came within his orbit.

I obtained an excellent grounding in general radiology from him. When he left to Colombo in 1969 he donated x-rays collected from his previous stations, Kurunegala and Galle. These included unique examples of rare pathology.

He was a devoted father and grandfather. And a father figure to his siblings. My daughters who used to meet him when they were young, used to refer to him as ‘that sweet uncle’, as does my grand-daughter, in more recent years,who used to visit his place quite often.

My sympathies go out to his grieving family.“His life was gentle, and the elements So mixed in him that Nature might stand up And say to all the world, 'This was a man!'” – Shakespeare

Premini Amerasinghe

An old world gentleman with a healing smile

‘Tale’– as he was fondly referred to by his friends – was the typical genial gentleman. Though we were in medical school around the same time, I came to know him only when we were together on the staff of General Hospital, Kandy in the late 1960s.

Working with Tale was, apart from being educative, a real pleasure. Always soft spoken he would express his opinion succinctly, simply, and confidently, but never with the arrogance of a closed mind.
He was always open to any suggestion when discussing a clinical problem and our discussions were frequent, fruitful and most pleasurable, usually sprinkled with that quiet almost mischievous smile.

Tale was an altogether warm character, with a fine light sense of humour. In our long association, I’ve never seen him ruffled, never heard him being vindictive. On those rare occasions he would make a critical remark about anyone, he would do so with sadness bereft of anger or contempt, and usually with that quiet understanding smile of his, which seemed to say ‘and that is human nature’.

All those who knew him will miss this almost old-world gentleman. He was an aristocrat in his behavior, a feudal lord without a trace of feudalism in him. I used to always think of him as a ‘Chieftan from the highlands bound’, and in his mature years, as he greeted me with that cheery ‘How are you Don Mark?’ I’d straightaway clothe him in the splendid costume of a Kandyan Chief, a costume which seemed to suit him so well.

Unfortunately, on the last occasion I saw him, while that warm smile was still there, I sensed the slow weakening of this admirable spirit. Premini and I both feel deeply for those who loved him and were so dearly loved by him. May the blessings of the Triple Gem be with him, for all time.

Mark Amerasinghe

Sadie: He did not glitter but he was gold


Veteran journalist and English literature scholar M.I.M Sadie passed away last Tuesday after almost half a century of dedicated and highly professional though low profile service to the print media. In deed and in words Mr. Sadie’s career was summed up classically in the headline of another newspaper’s tribute - If reading maketh a man, then Mr. Sadie was proof of it. He was a walking dictionary, encyclopedia and a press button source of classical quotes.

M.I.M Sadie

An old boy of Zahira College, Mr. Sadie who hailed from a leading business family joined the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd., (Lake House) and served there for about three decades. His command of the English language, commitment to hard work late into the night and his rare literary knowledge set the page for him to become the head of his department.

He later joined the Weekend Express newspaper group and about 10 years ago began what was to be the last long lap of his career at Wijeya Newspapers where he worked for the Sunday Times and the Daily Mirror. Not for him was the fame or the influence of bylines or other perks and privileges.

Yet close colleagues and friends were aware of the vital role he played in maintaining the highest professional and ethical standards in journalism. On July 21,at the age of 74, Mr. Sadie died as quietly as he lived and worked. As he would have wished, his family did not want the publicity even of an obituary notice.

His only daughter, Fathima Hameed - though sad and shattered over the death of her loving and caring father –said her strength in consolation was that he had died on the day when Muslims believe the Holy Prophet Mohamed was taken by God for a visit to heaven.

Fathima has faith and hope that her father also is with God in heaven.So be it.Goodbye Sadie and thank you for your hard work, sincere friendship, selfless generosity and the wonderful contribution you made towards producing a better newspaper.

Champion of fine English expression

N. M. M. Sadi Hussein

It was saddening to read of the passing away of the old stalwart of fine English expression in the columns of the press, the dear Sadi (Sunday Times, July 26, 2009).

Sadi’s health had declined in recent months. It was noticeable that his grasp of environment and topic were slipping.

The major contributing cause was his solitary existence at an unostentatious home down Vihara Lane, Wellawatte.

What does one say when an old scribe goes to his reward on the basis that he had done his best, and that he could not have done better?

“Into a glow of red sunset,
Eyes set and chin held firm,
Sadi walked off stage and set
Life’s play over and race well run.”

God bless and keep you.

Rohan Jayawardane

lady with the beautiful smile!

Leonie Samerawickreme

I was fortunate enough to be the niece of this lady with the beautiful smile! Her lovely smile was what endeared her to all whom she met, and even in her final sleep, she was smiling. She smiled through many years of sickness and two agonizing years of dialysis. Should one ask her “How are you?”, her smiling reply would be “I am OK”.

But she was not “OK”, she was in pain, and a lot of discomfort, and during the last four months of her life, she would have been missing her beloved Shirley so much, but she never complained. She always remembered and spoke of Uncle Shirley with a smile.

Neighbours who called over to pay their last respects to her said, they had not spoken to her much, but knew her to be a lovely person through her smile. Be it a complete stranger, a familiar student, a very close relative or friend, she would greet all of them with her smile.

The best part of it was that even when you called her to chat or to inquire about her health, you could feel her smile, because it was in her voice.

Her birthday is on August 7, a day on which she loved to be remembered, and fussed over. This year for the first time for as long as I can remember, I am unable to wish her a “Happy birthday”, but I console myself in the fact that she is celebrating her best day ever with the Lord and all her loved ones gone before, very specially her beloved Shirley.

“You my darling Punchie Ammie meant so much to me, and I miss you! I will miss you for a long, long time to come as there will never be another like you. So I pray that the good Lord will bless and keep you, till we meet again on that beautiful shore where there will be no more parting!”

Joy (I. Semasinghe)

Sunday Times Aug 2, 2009

In memory of a loving angel of a niece

Sadanie Liyanage (née Peries)

I still remember that joyous day, April 24, 1981, when I heard about your birth, although I was not in the country at the time. Two years later, when I was due to return from the United States for my wedding, I was wondering what to bring you. I thought of a frock, although it was difficult to choose such a gift for an unseen baby. However, it turned out to be the perfect choice. With your round face and curly hair you looked a doll in that frock on my wedding day.

I later became your “aunty next door”. I can still picture you as a cute little girl, neatly dressed, coming to our front garden every evening, to play hide-and-seek with your cousin Ruwanthi Akki. I cannot believe how fast the years flew. In no time, you grew to be a smart, accomplished young girl, and then a Montessori teacher, and then you got married, and became a loving wife and the devoted mother of two.

You did your best in every role you played in your life. You were a pillar of strength to your family. Whether rich or poor, young or old, people always received help from your generous hands. There are many instances of your generosity, but let me mention one. You wanted three girls from an orphanage to be your flower girls at your wedding. You told your father, “Thaaththi, those orphan girls may never have such a chance again.”

You won the hearts of everyone with your friendliness and unfailing kindness.The doctors, the so-called “specialists” who treated you, were unable to diagnose your fatal illness. To them, you were just another patient.

God decided that this corrupt, selfish, unkind world was undeserving of you. So He chose a wonderful place in His kingdom for you, and He asked the angels to decorate it. The angels brought flowers, and each flower stood for each good thing you did in your life, and the place was covered with beautiful, fragrant flowers.

Finally, the angels came to gently carry you away to the place you belonged to. You surrendered, but you knew the pain your departure would cause to your loved ones. You turned back and whispered, “Don’t cry, take Yohan and Uthika as a remembrance of me”, and with that you joined the angels. We remember you on the occasion of your one-month remembrance day.

Yes, Sadanie, we see your sweet smile, your bright eyes and your friendliness in your little darlings.
We will console ourselves by looking after them.

Padma Manel Silva

A man with a mission who stood tall in his community

A. A. M. Marleen PC

In the early hours of June 24, 2009, I received a call from my son Fazal, a banker in Saudi Arabia, to say my dear friend A. A. M. Marleen had passed away. Marleen was the Sri Lanka ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and he had died during an official visit to Yemen. His departure is an immeasurable loss to the Muslim community of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan businessman Rizmi Riyal aptly and poignantly said: “We have lost a great ambassador. In everything he did, Mr. Marleen had his country’s and his community’s interests at heart. Personal aggrandisement had no place in his thought.” In my more than 50 years of friendship with Marleen, I observed that the force that propelled him was to be of service to humankind.

Marleen and I were friends from our teen-age days. Although we went to different schools – he to Zahira College and I to St. Mathew’s College – we would often meet as members of various social organisations, including the All-Ceylon Islamic Students’ Union. Marleen was the secretary of the union.
Marleen was the livewire of the union. He and the other members did tremendous service for the Muslim community in respect of the educational requirements.

Like many of his friends in the union, Marleen entered the Law College and passed out as an Attorney-at-Law. He worked with enthusiasm and enjoyed an extensive practice. He stood tall among his peers as a person with a strong analytical mind. He was quick at grasping the essence of an argument. He was greatly respected by his fellow lawyers. His sincerity, patience and pleasing manners endeared him to all, especially those who sought his help and legal advice. All his friends were delighted when he was made a President’s Counsel, an honour he richly deserved.

Both in his professional work as a lawyer and in his social involvements he held fast to Abraham Lincoln’s maxim, “With malice toward none, with charity for all”. Marleen was also an active member of the Afro-Asian Solidarity Front, and travelled to many countries in Asia and Africa to attend regional and world conferences.

On March 31, 2008, I stopped over for a few hours in Riyadh, on my way to London. Marleen had just taken up duties as the Sri Lanka ambassador to Saudi Arabia. I called on him at his residence. It was late in the night. We had a pleasant discussion. He said he would use his position to serve his country as best he could, and that he would keep the concerns of his community in mind. This was exactly what he was doing when Death took him away.

His teen-age initiatives in humanitarian and social work were extended later in life in projects at national level. When he was elected president of the Moors’ Islamic Cultural Home, he saw the post as a God-given opportunity to bring about palpable change in the conditions of his community.

Marleen spent the best years of his life trying to realise the vision of the late Sir Razik Fareed, the leader of the Muslim community and founder of the Islamic Cultural Home. That was Marleen’s mission. Sir Razik believed that the future of the Muslim community lay to a great extent in the education of Muslim women. He contributed generously to establish the Muslim Ladies College.

The country is witnessing a surge in the education of Muslim girls all over the country, and there is a steady influx of young Muslim women into Colombo to study for professional qualifications.
Marleen and his dedicated team at the MICH worked assiduously towards this end. Their untiring efforts resulted in the imposing structure at the top of Lily Avenue, Wellawatte, which houses the MICH women’s hostel.

Our paths crossed once again 20 years later when I returned to Colombo after retiring from UN services. I was invited to be principal of Zahira College, Colombo. A year after I assumed duties as principal, Marleen was appointed chairman of the school’s board of governors. I was happy to have another opportunity to work with my good friend. “As long-time friends,” Marleen said, “we should be able to do something tangible for my alma mater, to which I owe a lot.”

Unfortunately, these plans did not materialise, as Marleen left a year later. During that year, he showed a deep interest in the school, and never missed a school extra-curricular activity. I wish he had been persuaded to stay on as chairman a little longer. The school would have benefited a great deal.
Marleen lived a rich and fulfilled life. He will continue to live in the hearts of all those who knew and associated with him.

He leaves behind his beloved wife Fathima and their loving children Dr. Sharoon, Dr. Shezoon, Dr. Shemoon and Sharhram.To end this appreciation, I wish to quote Mustafa Kamel Ata Turk, founder of modern Turkey. Just before his death in 1938, the year Marleen was born, the great man said:
“Everyman is doomed to perish physically;
The only way to stay happy while we live is to work,
Not for ourselves but those to come”.

Dr. Uvais Ahamed

Anybody, anytime could seek Victor’s counsel

V. J. T. PERERA (Victor)

V. J. T. Perera, you passed away on August 2, 1999 – 10 years ago. August was also your birth month. If you had lived a few years longer, you would have reached the three-quarter century mark, which I am about to reach. These thoughts bring to mind the lines of the poet Laurence Binyon:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

Death humbles us all because in death we are all equal. Your life was a shining example of humility and equality to your children and self, your loving younger brother. You were an exemplary son to your parents, an exceptional husband to your lovely wife Joyce, and a loving father to your sons and daughters. You treated your in-laws as your own children. Your life revolved around compassion, loving kindness and service to humanity.

You worked for the Ceylon Tea Propaganda Board, which ran the advertising slogan, “Any time is tea time”. Similarly, “any time was comforting time” was the theme of your personal life. Anybody, any time, could come to you for help or advice.
Thank you for your loving kindness and concern.

Maurice A. Perera

Grateful for the friendship of a great teacher, playwright and Buddhist mentor

Sylvia Gunatillake

I first met Sylvia Gunatillake in 1953. I had returned from America with my parents, and I was placed in Form III at CMS Ladies’ College, in Colombo. Miss Gunatillake was our Form III Sinhala teacher. During my years away from the country I had forgotten even the Sinhala alphabet, and so I had to re-learn the language. Meanwhile, my classmates were reading Martin Wickramasinghe’s “Rohini”, which I found almost incomprehensible.

The diminutive Miss Gunatillake had a beautiful, kind face, although she could be stern. She was a teacher in every sense of the word. Besides her classroom teaching, she taught us to be good citizens. She would bring to class articles that had appeared in the Sinhala newspapers. These articles were invariably about great personalities who led exemplary lives, such as Mahathma Gandhi and Vinoda Bhave. I recall her once spending two entire classroom periods reprimanding us for being rude to another teacher.

She kept me back in Form V because my Sinhala was still not up to standard, but I did not hold that against her. In fact, it gave me more time to work on my Sinhala. Miss Gunatillake was a fine language teacher and also a distinguished playwright. I was privileged to take part in her stage productions. She made her debut in the Sinhala theatre producing and directing her own version of “Kuveni”. The play was praised highly in the newspapers. Her next play was “Vihara Maha Devi”, which was also very well received by critics and audiences. The show was taken to Kandy, and I believe it brought in much-needed funds for the new school hall.

She cast me in another play but I had to withdraw before it went on the boards because my parents had to go abroad again. I don’t remember exactly when I found out that Miss Sylvia was a relative of mine. Much later in life, when I was going through a bad patch, she telephoned me out of the blue and said, “Come and see me, child. I want to speak to you. And don’t call me Miss. It is high time you started calling me Auntie. After all, we are related.”

At one time Auntie Sylvia lived in Moratuwa, at a famous temple, in a section reserved for female renunciants. She took me under her wing. She introduced me to the Vipassana Bhavana Centre at Wijerama Mawatha, and on several occasions took me with her Buddhist Society friends to offer dana to the monks at Polgasduwa.

By then she was no longer interested in writing plays. Her life was now dedicated to religion. She also introduced me to a group of ladies who met once a week to listen to Buddhist talks. She was the mentor whenever the group met at Sita Wickramasooriya’s house.

At the time, I was studying at the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies. I could not attend all the get-togethers, but I did spend time meditating with Miss Sylvia at the meditation centres at Wijerama Mawatha and Dhammakuta.

I was never very involved in the ritual aspects of religion (a failing of mine), and she did not press me to participate. She was very understanding. I saw her less frequently after she came to live at the All-Ceylon Women’s Buddhist Congress, because I was ordained shortly after. Whenever I did visit her, she would tell me all about her activities. Her achievements were astonishing for someone her age. Her memory was excellent, and her knowledge of Pali as fresh as it must have been back in her university days.

She translated into English several books written by the Ven. Nauyana Ariyadhamma Thera. She was invited to visit Ladies’ College once a week to talk on Buddhism. Many young people would come to her for advice and counselling.

She also held discussion groups at the All-Ceylon Women’s Buddhist Congress. She taught Buddhism until her death at the age of 93. The Dhamma flowed from her lips, and she quoted freely in Pali.
Sylvia Gunatillake was an exceptional person. Young people, mothers and grandmothers – they all sought her out for her wisdom and knowledge. May she be happy in whatever realm she is, and may she attain the peace of Nibbana soon.

Bhikkhuni Waskaduwe Suvimalee

Sunday Times July 26, 2009

A gentle warrior who protected her family like a Royal Bengal tiger


My mother, Basanthi Devi Durgabakshi, passed away one year ago, on July 6, 2008. As I sit down to write about her, I wonder where to start? What do I say? Do I portray her as a normal human being or as the angel who came to guide me and be beside me throughout my life?

If you ask me to describe her, the words that come to mind are fighter, survivor, pioneer, learner, and ever-lasting friend.

Mother came to Sri Lanka from Calcutta, India, as a teenager. She had passed her matriculation, just lost her mother, and she was here to marry a man she had never met. An only child, she came into a family of six men and a single woman, her mother-in-law, who was not kindly disposed towards her.

A Bengali speaking fluent Bengali and a little Hindi and English, my mother found herself in an alien culture surrounded by unfamiliar languages – Sinhalese, Tamil and Hindi. The first task she set herself was to learn Tamil, from a neighbour, and Sinhala, from a brother-in-law. These language lessons generated a desire to learn new things. Her goal was to earn money and have a home of her own some day.

We once lived in a rented annexe that had been a curio shop. This fact, and her aesthetic leanings, inspired her to transform the space into a beautiful home.

Her voracious appetite to learn new things drew her to sewing, smocking, embroidery and crochet. She did not have a sewing machine, and had to depend on friends. She soon realised this was not a practical way to earn a living. Much later my father did buy her a sewing machine, but by then she had moved on to other things.

When my father bought a second-hand Peugeot 203, she decided to learn driving, as my father suffered from weak eyesight. There was no power steering or air-conditioning in cars those days. I remember her petite frame in the driving seat, leaning forward and pursing her lips as she negotiated a turn.

She was a pioneer in transporting children to school, and was the first lady driver to do so. This came about quite by accident. As she drove us to school, neighbours would ask her to take their children too, and thus began mother’s very own school transport service.

She had an uncompromising sense of duty. She made sure she kept a promise, come what may, sometimes sacrificing her own needs. This was especially so when she was learning shorthand and typing, as well as bookkeeping. She would do her homework after we had all retired for the night. Many a time I saw her dozing while doing her exercises, and then she would get up with a start and continue with her lessons. She regarded me as her instant dictionary, and consulted me when she encountered difficult English words.

Old Mrs. Rogers, of Roger’s Institute for Shorthand and Typing, took a loving maternal interest in my mother. She gave her a copy of Dale Carnegie’s ‘How To Stop Worrying And Start Living’, which became her Bible. During any trials or tribulations, she would sit in a corner and read this book. We children jokingly renamed it the ‘How To Worry’ book.

Mother worried endlessly over how to feed and clothe us, and how to get a house of her own one day. She was like a warrior as she battled on through life, surmounting all obstacles to achieve her goals. She was both worrier and warrior.

My father was a dreamer, an intellectual who had a poor understanding of the mundane realities. To him, life happened. You did not have to take it into your hands to achieve anything. Because of his attitude, the entire responsibility of family affairs fell squarely on mother’s shoulders.

Although she was a gentle, mild person, she was fiercely protective where her family was concerned. Father would teasingly call her the “Royal Bengal Tiger”.

Her later interests tended towards the aesthetic – mainly in arts and crafts, which she had loved as a child but could not pursue as an adult because of a lack of finances and because she had her hands full with three children. She immersed herself in music, patchwork, gardening, flower-making and vegetable-carving. She was born with a green thumb – anything she planted thrived.

I believe she would have done well if she had studied architecture or engineering. She had a natural flair for construction work, such as levelling and angle positioning, which she executed with remarkable professionalism. A practical person, she learned to make do with scraps and turned discarded materials into something useful.

When at last her own house was being built, she would discuss the construction with the architect, who was amazed by her practical knowledge and capabilities in that field.

She was eternally thankful to God that she came to a place like Sri Lanka, where she was introduced to Buddhism. As a down-to-earth person, she appreciated the practical nature of Buddhist philosophy. The possibility of achieving Nirvana in the here and the now fascinated her. When she talked about the subject her face would light up with an inward glow and she would have a radiant smile. It was as if she had discovered a hidden cave full of treasures.

It was this philosophy that stood her in good stead during the last days of her life, when she was struck down by a degenerative nerve condition for which there was no cure. She fought valiantly, but when she realised there was nothing she could do, she willed herself to die, praying to her Maker to take her back. She was conscious up to her last breath. She died in my brother’s arms, and then let go with a serene smile. She was just two months short of 70.

She never complained, whatever the hardships. She took things in the spirit of “this too shall pass”. She took difficult situations as an opportunity sent from above to learn a lesson in life.

We, her children, are ever grateful to have learnt this attitude from her. That was my mother – a worrier, but also a warrior who fought against all odds and won. Wife, mother, sister, friend – she was all that, par excellence.

She was truly my father’s “Royal Bengal Tiger”.

Vinodini Durgabakshi

A hero is someone who stands up against fear

Colonel Fazly Laphir

In memory of Colonel Fazly Laphir, 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
Everyone can prove oneself
If things are well and fair
Greatness lies in how you act
When things are tough and unfair
When things were not certain
You gave more than your share
That was the reason
That made you much more than rare…
A hero is someone who stands up against fear
And not when you are not afraid....
A man is someone who can be so clear
When everyone else is confused.
This world is so strange
Its only reality is change
In this you were innocent, steadfast and true
I am humbly proud – that I could share this life
And it was with someone as natural as you !

Ever-loving Ano

Our two sons are committed to making your dreams come true

Tissa Dias

Tissa, this week we observe your third death anniversary. This year is a special year for the family, as both our sons are taking the GCE Advanced Level in a couple of weeks’ time. If only you were here. That thought keeps coming to my mind. You supported our sons in every way you could. You would pick them up after classes. Even in the last two days of your life, you performed these family duties.

I remember us discussing our children’s education. You would tell them: “Sons, study hard and enjoy a better life than we had.” The year you left us, our younger son Nipun took the GCE Ordinary Level. He passed with very good results, but you were not there to share the good news. We missed you badly that day.

These days both our sons are studying hard. They go to classes together, and they study together. They also help me a lot, just as you did. Some days they drop me off at the junction in the morning, and they also help me with the cooking.

I am lucky to have two sons who are very much like you. If you were here, you would be proud and happy to see what fine young men they have turned out to be.

You loved to see our sons leaving for school at the start of each new academic year. The first day our two sons came to my section of the school, you were not there to give us your comments.

You had a notebook, and on the cover were the words “Supun and Nipun”. In that book you noted all the special things that happened in their lives, from their small days. I found an interesting entry: “Nipun Putha came and said ‘Thaaththa, we are writing A, B, C’.” He was very small then.

When I read through the book, I realised how much you loved and admired your sons. I know our sons will fulfil all of your dreams. Our older boy Supun is working really hard. He was to take his A-Levels last year but fell ill just two days before the exam.

I know our sons will grow up to be good citizens, with your blessings.

We will remember you forever.

Champika Ramani Dias

Thank you for your loving kindness


The impermanence of life brought its curtain down on you on Saturday, July 18, to terminate an illness bravely borne, three years ahead of even the biblical three score and ten. Your premature demise made us all reflect on the age old sayings: “They will not grow old as we who are left will grow old; age will not weary them, nor the years condemn.”

Death humbles us all because in death we are all equal. Your life was a shining example of the consistent practice of those precepts of humility and equality at all times and the numerous tributes paid to you at its termination emphatically endorsed it. In July 1983, when some misguided people burnt down your dispensary in Horana I know your heart broke, but when the villagers together, re-built it, and pleaded for your return, you had it in you not only to forgive, but also to return to serve that community with as much, if not greater commitment. You treated patients from all walks of life with the equal

compassion and loving kindness. Your charismatic smile, and gentle, re-assuring words, often made your patients feel that they didn’t need any other prescription!

You were an exemplary son to your parents, exceptional husband to your lovely wife Pathmini, as you were a father to your three children, Sanjeev, Anjana and Nishani.

To your daughter-in-law, Jananie, and sons-in-law Brahman and Nimalan you were a very special friend and in your later years you deservedly found great happiness in your grandchildren, Ashwin, Akshara, Bhishman and Nithya.

Whilst all of them continue understandably to grieve at your loss, I am sure they are equally grateful to God for having given them a husband, father, father-in-law and grandfather of such humane qualities, whose life revolved around compassion, loving kindness and service to humanity.

Your soul we know, is already in a heavenly abode, having enriched the lives of a countless number of people who had the good fortune to know and be treated by you. Thank you dear Doctor, you will be missed.


A rare individual who was a friend to all

Kulatunga de Silva

The late Kulatunga de Silva was a man of excellent character, and known to many. He was a generous and deeply humane person. People like him are rare. I am proud to have had the privilege of knowing him and associating with him closely, until his departure. I first met him at the Teacher Training College in Maharagama, where he started his career as a senior lecturer.

He came from a respected, upper-class family. Despite his background, he treated everyone equally and impartially, from those in high places to the poorest and humblest.

I expect his children to follow in the footsteps of their caring and loving father. I mourn the demise of my dearest friend. His passing is an irreparable loss to his family and friends.

Loving Pal

Sunday Times July 19 2009

Devoted daughter remembers exemplary father


I never knew my mother. In fact, I do not remember her at all. She died in her early thirties, after a short illness, when I was four years old. She was a daughter of the illustrious ayurvedic physician, Pandit G. P. Wickramarachchi of Yakkala.

I yearn to know what she was like, what her hair looked like, what her skin and touch felt like. My only vivid memories of a parent are of Thaaththi.

Thaaththi was my hero, my world, my life, my everything. I fiercely clung to him during my mother’s last illness and for a long time after her demise. I slept in the same room with him, followed him around the house and when he went to the toilet I would stand outside the door and wait till he emerged.

I made sure he took me along wherever he went. I did the same things he did. Like him, I wore a little red striped sarong at age five. I visited the same barber he went to. Sometimes he took it upon himself to give me a trim – something I was shy to admit to the grown-ups, especially the ladies.

I would perch on the parapet wall to hear the toot of his car horn when he returned from work in the evening. As soon as he took the bend near our house, I would leap down to open the gate and greet him.

A great feeling of loneliness would overcome me if I was left alone in the evenings. I would wail and call out for Thaaththi till I fell asleep through weariness. My wails could be heard throughout the silent, dark neighbourhood (Joseph’s Lane in those days was a quiet place).

Thaaththi’s dreams and aspirations for my sister and myself were grounded in the good education he gave us. I believe he felt his dream was realised when we both graduated with university degrees.My father was extremely happy when I decided to send my son to S. Thomas’ Preparatory School. He was an old boy of S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia. He gave me a sound, well-rounded education at Ladies College, Colombo.

The day before I went for the interview, he gave me his S. Thomas’ College Old Boys’ Association membership card and two character certificates he had obtained in 1943 when he left school. One was from Canon R. S. de Saram, warden of S. Thomas’ College and the other from Canon A. J. Foster, the school chaplain. He also gave me a photocopy of the famous letter President Abraham Lincoln sent his son’s headmaster.

In his day my father was tall, good-looking and smartly dressed. He was highly articulate and charismatic. In fact, you may say he was a dashing socialite!

As a child I never understood why he remarried, when he and I made such a “great” team and were so “happy” together. Only now do I see how difficult it must have been for him as a widower with two little girls, managing a household and working as headmaster of Isipatana Junior School.

I was different to Thaaththi in my ways. I was the one who upset him the most, with what I said and did. I now realise why that was. I suspect I am much like my mother and perhaps I reminded him too much of her.

Due to circumstances, the only parent I knew was a “father”. I realise that the paternal model I followed sometimes shows in the way I discipline my only child and the way I drive the shiny black Terios my husband Aruna gave me.

I salute you for surviving the turbulent times, and holding yourself together as you put us on our feet, my younger sister Indu and myself. You helped us take pride in our place in life.

May you attain Nibbana.

Dr. Suchitra Sindurika,Kulatunga

A man so generous to family and friends


Indra Perera, Attorney-at-Law, passed away peacefully on June 2, after a brief illness. He leaves behind his wife Dr. Chintamani (Chinta) and daughter and son, Aruni and Harenda.

Indra’s family was very close to me and my wife; though Chinta is a close cousin, it was more the long-standing friendship that we valued in our relationship.

Indra had an incisive mind and an extensive knowledge of civil law which was the main sphere of speciality in his legal practice. At the time he passed away he was held in high esteem as an upright lawyer at the Panadura and neighbouring courts where he had practised for some 45 years. Quite apart from the respect he commanded from his senior colleagues, generations of junior lawyers often sought his advice which he readily and willingly provided.

Not being a lawyer myself, I have no inhibitions about expressing the view that Indra was never the type of lawyer who was extortionate in levying fees from his clients. By nature he was an extraordinarily kind person with a streak of casualness. Pursuit of monetary enrichment and a desire to be amongst the professional big league were totally alien to him. He was content in being where he was notwithstanding the talent, ability and potential that his friends and colleagues were quick to detect in him.

Indra was passionately interested in sports and had a mischievous sense of humour. He loved the company of his friends and simple food and overly-relished the delights of Bacchus. He needed no invitation to sing at parties; he sang solo as and when he chose and at other times dominated the chorus with his stentorian voice.

He also had a fierce sense of intellectual independence and a deep interest in national issues; in the arena of national political conduct he would insist on righteousness at all times oblivious to the inherent murkiness of political realities. I will surely miss the fun of locking horns with him at gatherings with common friends. We hardly disagreed on most things but strangely, we generated some heat when we both competed to be the first to say essentially the same thing.

As I reflect on Indra’s life, unqualified love and affection for his family was the most appealing and touching quality of his personal life. Chinta has not been in the best of health for some time. It was Indra who tested her blood pressure, sugar levels and ensured that she took the plethora of pills prescribed to her by the doctors. As her eyesight was somewhat impaired, Indra always stood by her side guiding her path. As far as children were concerned, both Indra and Chinta were amply rewarded for their liberal and tolerant attitudes towards them. Aruni and Harenda are deeply family-centred and are drawn to their parents like giant magnets. Unsurprisingly, both of them have high profile jobs and great partners in marriage; Suren and Saruchi despite their own job demands have fused with ease into this wonderful nest of family affection.

When Indra said good-bye to this world, his family and the four grandchildren were the emotional centre-of-gravity of his universe. In illness or pain he had no self-pity, complaints or fear of death. I believe he left without baggage but with tranquillity and peace of mind; this departure with abandon was symbolic of what might have been his last act of generosity to his family and friends.

Tennyson Rodrigo

Benevolent Piya was a father to many

P. P. P. Jinadasa

It is with a sense of deep sadness that I write about the late P.P.P. Jinadasa, better known as PPP, but as Piya to his family and friends.

For someone who associated closely with PPP for as long as I did –from kindergarten to the present, to be precise – writing a book about him would be no big deal. But as this is not the place for a full biography, I shall confine myself to a short epitaph as tribute.

PPP needs no monument. The memory of his exemplary life, which time can never efface, is his monument. His name and the goodness that filled his life, like the stars in the firmament, can never be dimmed.

After my retirement, I had the pleasure of functioning as sales manager in his company, and thus became aware of the unique way he used his wealth and wisdom for the advancement of others. PPP’s relatives and friends were not the only beneficiaries of his largesse.

I remember how he advised me to allow my children to develop their talents. He would tell me how he started life with a hammer and a screwdriver in his hands. Sensing my children’s natural abilities, he advised me to instal a workshop for them, and said he would help them get on in life. This was only one of many such instances of his generosity. Up-and-coming children, he treated like his own. I have yet to see anyone who gave as much as PPP did, from the largeness of his heart, to help others in their personal development, often unasked. Their progress in life was his personal concern.

This is a quality he inherited from his parents, especially his mother. I remember how she would generously feed us whenever we children dropped in at PPP’s parents’ home in Meddawatta, Matara, for a fresh water well bath. PPP’s quality of benevolence deepened and expanded when in later years he joined the Lions Movement.

A pioneer in the manufacture of tea machinery, PPP achieved a high status in the country as an industrialist. Backed by Japanese technology, he was outstanding in this field. He demise leaves a great void among his countless friends, relatives and fellow workers. But there is comfort in the thought that he lived a righteous life and qualified for the higher realms of Samsara.

He also leaves behind two independent sons, a talented daughter, and a wife whose culture and dauntless courage will help extend PPP’s virtues and the ideals he lived for into the future.
I have lost a true friend.

May he attain Nibbana.

Sugi Mutucumarana

Sunday Times July 12, 2009

A woman who was many things to many people

Kamalini Wijayatilake

As feminists, we would like to remember and celebrate the spirit of Kamalini Wijayatilake, who passed away five years ago. My own friendship with Kamalini was not born from childhood association; or from being accidentally assigned the same beginners’ class or even the same school. In fact, there was an age gap of 12 years between Kamalini and me; yet our friendship was a tribute to her innate capacity to strike up deep and meaningful relationships with anyone - irrespective of differences.

This was evidenced by her ever-increasing circle of friends - irrespective of differences in age, class, ethnicity, religion, sex, geography and nationality. Differences, whether biological, socio-cultural, political or economic, in fact, differences of any kind were not issues for Kamalini.

She embraced them all - unlike in today’s Sri Lanka (only five years later after her death) when people’s political, racial and religious differences are being vilified, reviled and targeted - for state sponsored-victimization and violence.

There is no doubt that it would have enraged and disgusted Kamalini to see this state of affairs in our country – as she was an exceptional woman who stood steadfast for core moral and political values of decency, a common Sri Lankan identity based on equality and respect, gender equity, and democratic human rights / freedoms.

Many roles

Like many women, Kamalini chose to wear many hats. To us, she was an intimate friend and colleague, an intellectual ‘sounding board’ and a sister feminist. She was a fellow student of the MA degree in Women’s Studies at Colombo, a colleague with whom many of us collaborated on feminist research projects, a phone-in counselor for battered women, an ‘advisor’ on gender and women’s issues (whom we had only to call to be given contacts and resources), and on many occasions, an initiator of feminist action against current events that discriminated against women. She was in her element drafting protest statements, networking and critiquing legislation with regard to women.

As her friends, we know only some facets of her life and work. There are those who knew her from her times at Visakha Vidyalaya and the Sri Lanka Law College. Others who knew her through her links to various women’s groups and community-based organizations, displaced people, and battered women - especially vis-à-vis her work in the rural areas of Moneragala, Hambantota, Kandy, Balangoda, Kurunegalle, Anamaduwa - to mention a few. We have known her over a span of 10-20 years – essentially as a feminist researcher and an activist.

Feminist activist

In the early years, Kamalini was involved with the legal literacy programme of the Sri Lanka Women Lawyers Association; she was one of the founding members of Women in Need (WIN) organization (a dire need of the time) and counseled survivors of domestic violence for many years; she then worked as a program officer at Canadian International Development Aid (CIDA) for a while; she was a long-term independent consultant on legal / gender issues and a gender trainer to many local and outreach organizations (such as the Kantha Shakthi, Vehilihini Development Centre in Moneragala, the Uva Welassa Women Farmers Organization, the Centre for Family Services, the Women’s Development Centre Kandy, the Rural Development Foundation – Puttalam, and the Sri Lanka Canada Development Fund), often traveling the length and breadth of the country on weekends, interacting with women from many fields of life, creating consciousness about gender and women’s issues, conducting legal literacy programs, and working out schemes for the overall empowerment of women.

She was also able to influence the gender policies / women’s programs of a large number of NGOs and women’s organizations on a more short-term basis. She was also very much involved in the formulation of the Women’s Charter of Sri Lanka and she also drafted the Guidelines for a Code of Ethics on Sexual Harassment for the Sri Lanka Employers’ Federation / ILO. At the time of her death she was a member of the National Committee on Women, and gave her inputs to such initiatives as the (now defunct) National Women’s Bill.


Kamalini was able to network extensively with women in countries like Nepal, Thailand, India, Pakistan etc. through the Asia Pacific Women, Law and Development Forum (APWLD); and she was also at the forefront of the Sri Lanka NGO Forum, and was part of the delegation to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (UNCEDAW) a number of times, to present the Sri Lanka Shadow Report on the Women’s Convention.


Kamalini was known to many, more closely, through her association with the Centre for Women’s Research (CENWOR), where as a board member, she initiated and researched a large number of legal and other studies spanning from her extensive work in the field of violence against women (domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment) to women’s inheritance rights; from legal aid for women, to women’s family rights etc. Kamalini’s other written work focuses on concerns such as peace, critical gender issues; Govt-NGO initiatives for women's rights in Sri Lanka; incest; trafficking of women; women's movements; globalization; women workers in the Middle East, engendering the national budget, post-conflict reconstruction etc., and form a considerable corpus of research within Sri Lankan women’s studies, and situates Kamalini as a significant feminist writer of the past two decades.

Kamalini also wrote a book on a topic close to her heart - Unraveling Herstories – A Three Generational Study on the life experiences of mothers, daughters and granddaughters during the 20th century; tracing such issues and events as menarche, virginity, marriage, dowry, divorce, childbirth etc., and such roles and responsibilities as heading the household, providing for and decision-making within the family etc. This book is a cultural analysis of women’s situation and relations within the family, and constitutes an important feminist record of contemporary history in Sri Lanka. Gender trainer
Kamalini was also one of the first gender trainers in the island, creating her own resource material to suit the Sri Lankan context. Her keen intellect and incisive arguments (enhanced by creative anecdotes) were always channeled via a calm demeanor through which she was able to convince people about the discrimination faced by women and the need for gender equity /equality.

Unlike other activists who sometimes use the media as a political tool, Kamalini believed in working at a person-to-person level – which in fact, was her great strength. For this reason, many of you did not know her – because that was the way she wanted it. And for those of us, who did know her, she was just ‘Kamalini’ – we doubt that anyone ever addressed her as Ms. or Mrs. Wijayatilake. Above all, Kamalini was a sensitive, kind and gentle person: her unassuming, low-key character; her down-to-earth nature; her subtle irony and unexpected sense of humour; her tenacity of mind; combined with her absolute integrity and strength of character with which she worked, played and lived made sure that she was loved by all, and most importantly, accepted by all who had the privilege to know her. She could empathize with all of us - not barring age, race, social class, geographical location etc. She was equally at home in the thorny jungles in Mahawalatenna talking with rural women, as she was serving ‘Mysore mixture’ to her friends in her house in Colombo.

At the same time, Kamalini’s love of life and friends, her spirit of discovery and adventure, and her appreciation of creativity whether it be in literature, art or craft, ensured that she was erudite not only academically, but also about the little things in life - such as family histories and local places of interest. She was a creator herself – though perhaps not always acknowledged by her – of exquisite embroidery and of her own clothes, of designs for book covers, of floral arrangements, and of course, through her writing.

We have merely charted and compressed to a column the things that struck us of a woman who was a dear friend. To others, she was much more. To her family members, she was a much-loved wife/partner, and a beloved and progressive mother. We know that Kamalini, herself, would have been (characteristically) very annoyed with us for writing about and publicizing her.

But, forgive us, even five years later we feel the need to salute you: your courage especially during the last three years of your life – undaunted by the craven disease that finally killed you; your activist and intellectual achievements of a lifetime - not only for yourself - but for many women in this country; and your spirit that was always unpretentious yet sometimes mischievous. While our grief at loosing you is still profound; we celebrate your life, and treasure in our minds, the image of you; and in our hearts, the memories we have of you.

Kamalini’s Friends

His life was well lived

Suren Peiris

It’s the third month since Easter Sunday (April 12) when the cruel hand of death took away Suren Peiris, one of the leading lights at the Labour Tribunal, from his family and friends.

He was the son of two well-known journalists of yesteryear, the indomitable Denzil Peiris, a one-time editor of several newspapers published by Lake House, and Roshan Peiris, a features editor from the same stables. Father Denzil went on to become the founder editor of the London based publication South, which concentrated on news and views from the economically developing world, while Mother Roshan joined the Sunday Times in the latter part of her career. Between them, they knew everyone worth knowing in Sri Lanka.

Suren grew up in such a rarified environment, but opted for the wig rather than the pen – to be a lawyer rather than a journalist. He made his foray into labour law after his passing out of the Law College and then devilling with I.S. de Silva as one of his junior’s. As a young man, he was naturally drawn to politics, and his mentor was Gamini Dissanayake, a young up-and-coming politician at the time.

Soon after the 1977 elections when Gamini Dissanayake was made a powerful Minister in the new government of the day, Suren was promptly put onto the directorate of the State Timber Corporation. His beat was to ensure there was nothing amiss in a Corporation which by then was reeking with corruption and wrongdoings. Suren was equal to the task, and won the encomiums of many, and the anger of some who found in him an obstacle to their grand designs to continue with the pickings.

Gradually, Suren got disillusioned with politics and stuck to the law. The Labour Tribunal was his specialty, and here he was respected and regarded, and was in much demand by clients for whom he would give his best. Many are the occasions when he would appear for a friend pro-deo or give him an opinion on how to proceed with a matter. Not for him, the guineas that roll in from the profession. It was a day’s honest labour that mattered most.

Despite his venturing into the law, writing would have had to be in his blood. He would churn out letters, articles and even obituaries by the dozen on men and matters and public affairs. He was not averse to calling a spade a spade and I’m told, that editors had to often use their ‘blue pencil’ to ensure they maintained the peace. Desmond Fernando, PC and one-time President of the Bar Association was his later- in-life mentor who in turn, treated Suren as his trusted friend.

Suren was full of bon-homie; one to enjoy himself at school matches and a live-wire at the 80 Club where he served as the president for a period.

The week he died, Suren donated money to the Editors Guild Journalism Award given in memory of his father to the Young reporter of the Year. He was very eager to make the donation. He was busy organizing his mother’s first year alms giving the following month and already inviting people for it. Did he have a premonition of his own impending death? Who is to know. What we do know is that his life was well lived, in the service of people.

He stuck to the ‘straight and narrow’, a very religious man. His children, Brindhini and Sharen will do well to follow in his path, in their own chosen fields, as he did in the path of his own parents, whom he loved so dearly.


He broke into the private sector at a time when the British held sway

Somadasa Bandarage

My father, Devapriya Somadasa Bandarage was born on October 10, 1919 in the beautiful village of Kaikawala, Induruwa. His family was of modest means, but, his lineage was rich in wisdom, talent and compassion. Father's grandfather was a village doctor renowned for his ayurvedic treatments. Father's father, Bandarage Don Baron Gunawardena was educated at St. Benedict's College, Colombo.

Resisting pressures to convert to Christianity, he later became a fiery orator and an ardent champion for independence from British rule. He was a close associate of Walisinghe Harishchandra and the movement against British imperialism. His father having died young, my father was raised by his two paternal uncles, Ariyadasa, a school teacher and Dharmadasa, a clerk in the colonial government.
At age ten, my father won the Fifth Standard competitive examination receiving the coveted ‘Valencia Rupasinghe Scholarship’ for the most outstanding student in the Southern Province, to attend Ananda College, Colombo.

There were few English language schools in the Southern Province (compared to the Northern Province) and bright students from the South had to be boarded in Colombo requiring great sacrifices on the part of their families. Despite great financial hardship, my father excelled in his academic activities.

He mastered both Sinhala and English developing unmatched facility with the spoken and written word and penmanship in both languages. His dynamic personality, academic achievements and commitment to social service won him the affection and admiration of his teachers at Ananda, such as, the Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya and L.H.Mettananda and Principal, P. de S. Kularatne.

Having completed his studies at Ananda, father entered the University College, Colombo planning to obtain a degree in Pali and Oriental Studies. But both his uncles passed away suddenly and he had no one to support him financially. He gave up higher education for the time being and began to work to support his mother and family. Over the decades, father held a range of challenging jobs in the state and private sectors. Among these were his positions as the first Personnel Manager of Air Ceylon in the early 1950s and the Chairman of the Ceylon Textile Cooperation during the height of the JVP insurrection in the early 1970s. The latter position was offered to him by the then Sirimavo Bandaranaike government on the merit of his work on labor relations. One of my father’s noteworthy contributions in the mid 60s was the Sri Lankan Government’s implementation of the 5-day week.

At a time when the private sector was dominated by the British, father was one of the first ‘locals' from the Sinhala Buddhist community to rise to the senior executive levels of Sri Lanka’s corporate world. He had an illustrious career as the Personnel Manager both at the Shell Company and at Lever Brothers. These were watershed appointments in the Sri Lankan Corporate sector when a native born Sri Lankan was selected to head the Personnel Departments of these companies. He had a long sojourn at Levers, working with tremendous dedication, where he helped make Levers a leading multinational company in Sri Lanka.

His demanding job interviews and uncanny ability to recruit the best and brightest applicants to Levers became legendary. Some of the people he recruited to Levers later became Sri Lanka’s top corporate executives, including former Chairmen of Levers. My father helped diversify private sector employment by providing opportunities for talented young people from all the ethnic and religious communities in the country. 'Lever Pavula', the company magazine that he founded and edited helped create a unique sense of community and company tradition. ‘Lever Pavula’ was an interesting read not only for the Lever staff, but to outsiders as well. It set high literary and professional standards of excellence that came to be emulated by others. As Personal Consultant to Upali Wijewardena, whom he recruited for Levers as a Management trainee, father was also instrumental in the establishment and development of the Upali Group, including Upali Newspapers Ltd.

My father continued his studies in the field of human resource management throughout his life becoming the pioneer of personnel management in Sri Lanka. He combined his vast practical experience with study and research abroad including work at Cambridge University and research institutes in Japan, India, and South East Asia.

My father has left a unique body of writing on human resource management in English and Sinhala which adapts western concepts and theories to local circumstances. Personnel Management, A Handbook for Ceylon which he compiled and edited in 1962 in collaboration with the ILO and the Asia Foundation remains the classic in the field as are his many interesting writings on case study method giving stories and anecdotes from his long and rich life as a manager and teacher in the human resources field. He wrote books both titled “Administrative Management” and “Case Methods in Administration” which were very popular among students who sat for the Civil Service Examinations (he wrote these books in Sinhala too). He finished his last book in the Sinhala version in 2004.

Father established Sudharshan Limited, one of the first Management Consultancy firms in Sri Lanka. Through courses he taught at Sudharshan and at the University of Colombo, he prepared several generations of students to take up leadership and management of the government and state sectors. His vision and dedication also led him to establish and sustain the Institute for Personnel Management in Sri Lanka, a reflection of his contribution to the betterment of labor relations and human resource management in the country. Father was also actively engaged in numerous other professional organizations, such as, CSIR and the Sri Lanka Institute for the Advancement of Science. In recognition of his great contribution to the field, he was conferred an honorary doctorate in human resource management by his peers in the academic community.

Father held executive offices and worked closely with innumerable national and local social service organizations throughout his life. These included, the charter presidency of Colombo North Lions Club, and committee positions in Colombo Jaycees and Midtown Rotary Club.

Throughout his life he was involved with Buddhist organizations such as the YMBA and the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress and attended a number of international conferences representing the Sinhala Buddhists, including the World Fellowship of Buddhists. He was a pioneer in establishing the Sinhala Buddhist organizations in the eighties such as Sinhala Bala Mandalaya, Mawubima Surakeeme Sanvidhanayawa etc . He was the founder President of the Sinhala Sanvardana Sanvidanaya. He organized activities to assist people in marginal villages who were threatened by terrorism. In this context, assistance he rendered to the late Dimbulagala Thera was noteworthy.

Father was a cosmopolitan and a bon vivant who enjoyed foreign travel, the attributes of modern western life and the company and friendship of individuals from diverse ethnic and religious groups. Yet, he never forgot his roots. He never felt that he had to hide or be ashamed of his humble village origin. He had to pay a high price for his freedom to speak and live by his beliefs. But, he maintained his dignity and integrity until the end inspiring others of us to continue his example.

My father’s compassion and ‘maithri’ to others were enormous. So many people from varied backgrounds came to him seeking advice and wisdom on many matters, which he freely made available to them. He provided tutoring to students of management studies until recently, free of charge, at his residence at 7 Ohulms Place, Colombo 8 – where the doors were freely open to all at any time of the day.

May my father attain Nibbana.

Prof. Asoka Bandarage, Author of Colonialism in Sri Lanka, The Separatist Conflict in Sri Lanka and many other publications.

Rodney Clement Austen Vandergert

Rodney, the ‘silent knight’ of the Sri Lanka Foreign Service has departed quietly into the sunset. He departed, the way he lived, with quiet dignity, without fanfare, fuss or bother…… in his own inimitable style.

Rodney’s unexpected departure has left his family and friends engulfed in deep sorrow. The sad news of Rodney’s demise reached me in the early hours of a cold morning in Geneva when my wife called me from hospital within minutes of his passing away. The initial shock and sense of disbelief gradually gave way to a flood of thoughts of Rodney and the happy times we spent together – a friendship spanning over 30 years. I was grappling with a range of emotions until the sun, I thought somewhat reluctantly, finally broke through the dark clouds hanging over Geneva valley.

My mind went back to 1979; I had a few years before ventured out to start a career as an international lawyer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Rodney returned that year to the Ministry after his tour of duty in New York, having worked under the late Shirley Amerasinghe, when Sri Lanka was basking in that “one brief shining moment of our own Camelot”. We were the Chairman of the Law of the Sea Conference, the Non Aligned Movement and held the Presidency of the UN General Assembly. New York was the epicentre of Sri Lanka’s diplomatic initiatives. Rodney returned to Colombo with this rich experience behind him.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs too was undergoing radical change; a Ministry that had functioned directly under the Prime Minister since the dawn of Independence was now de-linked and was vested with a separate identity under a Foreign Minister. A new government had assumed office with an overwhelming mandate and a Ministry that had hitherto been insulated from domestic political forces was beginning to feel the impact of such forces. The economic environment was beginning to undergo radical change; a centrally-planned economy was giving way to a liberalized economy. These changes made it imperative that in the implementation of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy, the necessary changes were effected, transforming the traditional political diplomacy to an economic diplomacy.

In a sense it was ‘the best of times’ and perhaps the ‘worst of times’. Certainly these were uncertain times. A young officer embarking on a career in the Foreign Ministry needed the sure and steadying hand of an experienced mentor and a dependable colleague to guide him through this uncertain terrain. Rodney assumed duties as Legal Adviser and offered his hand of friendship and I clasped it firmly. It was the beginning of a close friendship which was to make a deep impact on my career.

I shall always treasure pleasant memories of working together with Rodney in the Legal Division attending to the multitude of tasks then being assigned to us. He was the true professional, looking into minute detail, be it a complex treaty issue on which advice was sought or a routine Diplomatic Note that was being drafted. (We always prepared thoroughly before attending any meeting!) I particularly remember accompanying Rodney to attend meetings of a Presidential Committee appointed to finalize Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements, a virgin territory then, in the immediate flush of economic liberalization. Rodney explained at length the complexities involved, which may not always have been to the liking of some who thought that the only guiding principle in attracting foreign investment should be the maxim ‘let the robber barons come,’ but they all listened to his point of view which was always well articulated and respected his views.

Rodney’s sense of professionalism, the ability to be a team player and work together with colleagues, both within the Ministry and outside, and to be above the fray of narrow turf battles, left a deep and lasting impression on me, and I am sure to others closely associated with him.

I also enjoyed Rodney’s warm hospitality and company, on his postings abroad as Ambassador. His first appointment was as High Commissioner to Ottawa. Rodney had arrived in Ottawa without the family initially, and was attending to all the work involved in presenting credentials. He looked into every detail, which was nothing unusual. I was on a UN scholarship in Montreal at the time and used to commute to Ottawa to spend the weekends with Rodney. Not leaving anything to chance, Rodney wanted to rehearse the credentials presentation ceremony the evening before and I stood in for the Governor General of Canada. The next morning standing on the steps of the Ottawa Residence with Sri Lankan friends, we watched Rodney being driven to the Governor’s residence in horse carriage to begin another chapter in hislong career.

Rodney’s next posting was to Moscow, at the time the capital of the Soviet Union. In the winter of 1989, I had the opportunity of visiting this great city about which I had heard so much and enjoying the hospitality of Rodney and Cheryl .What I did not know then, was that these were the last days of the mighty Soviet Union and that consequent to the Gorbachev policy of Perestroika and Glasnost, cracks were beginning to appear on this mighty edifice, which once looked so solid.

Rodney took me through the usual landmarks, including the Kremlin Palace. He was particularly keen to walk me through the streets of Moscow to show me something extremely unusual then, perhaps taken for granted now. This was to get a sense of the spirit of re-awakening that was rapidly spreading among the people of Russia. I vividly recall the speech-makers, the soapbox orators in the street corners of Arabat, enjoying their new found sense of freedom, a phenomenon unthinkable in the pre-Gorbachev era. Rodney had been a keen observer of the sea change that was sweeping through Russian society and gave me a vivid description of the current political changes in Moscow. But whether Rodney or I could ever have anticipated the grand finale that was soon to follow – the collapse of the Soviet Union – is entirely another matter.

Rodney was also a godfather to the Sri Lankan student community in Moscow, always willing to give his ear and lend a helping hand to them. To these young people far away from their homes, in an alien environment, Rodney and his family was a great source of comfort.

Rodney’s final posting as Ambassador was to China in Beijing. My commitments at the time did not permit me to visit Rodney in this magnificent city, much to my regret.

As Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rodney presided over, [with complete acceptance to the political leadership of the day,] the transition from the 17-year United National Party Administration to the People s Alliance Administration in 1994. During this period, he forged a constructive working relationship with Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, which greatly contributed to the efficient functioning of the Ministry. I recall vividly the late Lakshman Kadirgamar’s first visit to the Foreign Ministry, when I accompanied Rodney and Additional Secretary Jayantha Dhanapala to brief the new Foreign Minister. Rodney together with Jayantha gave a detailed briefing to the Minister on the many issues pending from the previous administration in order to identify priorities of the new administration. For me this was a classic expose of an orderly transition between governments and particularly in maintaining a bi-partisan foreign policy.

Perhaps a lesser known fact is Rodney’s academic background. In the mid 1950’s he obtained his Degree of Bachelor of Laws from the University of Ceylon having read for the degree as one of nine undergraduates of the Law Faculty of the University of Ceylon, which was at that time housed in Peradeniya. He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1960. He completed his Advocates finals in the early 1970s and was admitted to the Bar. Although he did not go into active practice, his abiding interest in the law, saw him completing his Masters in Law degree at NYU.

While in Sri Lanka, Rodney responded to the call of the Law Faculty to serve as a visiting lecturer in International Law. He discharged this responsibility with the same degree of meticulousness that he displayed in the Foreign Ministry. It was in this capacity that he was appointed Supervisor of my doctoral thesis. It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I recall the time he devoted to this task amidst his manifold duties in the Ministry. Rodney was the happiest when I was elected to serve on the International Law Commission in 2006 and he gave me every encouragement as I ventured down a new path on the eve of my retirement from the Public Service.

During my career spanning 32 years in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I was fortunate to serve under several outstanding public servants. Among them, late W. T. Jayasinghe and Rodney Vandergert have left a deep impression on my career, with their dedication to duty, sense of integrity and high degree of professionalism. They both moved on within a short space of a month or more of each other and the personal sense of loss is immense. However the sense of values and commitment to principle they both inculcated in us, during their sojourn, gives me much comfort and courage.

Many who had the opportunity of bidding Rodney a final farewell speak of Rodney’s mortal remains with his usual smile, dressed in the navy blue suit, which had fate not intervened, he would have worn for daughter Niloufer’s wedding next month.

I prefer to remember Rodney the way he was and the warm goodbye he bid me at his home, a few days before I left for Geneva, only a few weeks before he left us. We had enjoyed a good dinner and talked into the night, of men and matters, as we always did.

These are the memories that will linger on………

(The Sunday Time - 21/06/2009) 


With the passing away of RCA Vandergert, another oak in the Foreign Service has fallen; and we are the poorer by it. Mr. Vandergert could be well described as a pioneer in this country’s diplomatic service having joined what was then a still fledgling Ceylon Overseas Service, in 1960. To those of us like me who followed him in to the profession nearly 3 decades or so later, he exemplified old world charm, much of which had vanished by the time we arrived on the scene.

Very generous to a fault, he insisted on us young cadets on the need to apply oneself with diligence and seriousness to work. He did not exhort by mere words alone but led by practice. Happily caught in the coils of work, he like many others of that generation considered working half a day on Saturday more as a norm than an exception. Spelling mistakes or even a missing comma were particularly revolting and none missed his eagle eye, they being marked three times over and circled for good measure! When a report did not embody all what was expected, it would be sent back pronto with a concisely written minute flowing off an extremely neat fist, listing how best it could be improved. But when one was good he never attempted to gild the lily and complimented the compiler – "Vandergert here" he would promptly say into the extension line "I say that brief on …… was excellent".

Once, so many years ago, in the course of drafting a speech, he sent off a young recruit to the British Council just to check on a particular comma in the "Rubaiyat" which was missing in his copy - devoured by silver fish. "Now, please ensure that you check it on Fitzgerald’s translation and no one else’s", he insisted upon the young man whose academic brilliance lay in a field far removed from literature. With such punctiliousness in the days before the arrival of the now ubiquitous personal computer, compiling reports and week-end briefs or even a letter became a challenge, specially for the hapless stenographer, with sometimes more than two drafts having to be typed all over again until the desired excellence was achieved! But the value of it all had to be experienced to be believed. Almost naturally, the striving for similar excellence by those who were fortunate to come under his tutelage was evident in their own work as they climbed the professional ladder in later years.

The gentleman was blessed with a fine mind and an innate capacity for grasping the subtleties of a complex situation. Perhaps this had its roots in a more than passing interest in the law - he did have an Ll.M, though he was never one to wear it on his sleeve. Rancour and envy he had none.

By the late 80s and early 90s, Rodney Vandergert, John Gooneratne, Manel Abeysekera, Jayantha Dhanapala, Nihal Rodrigo, Alfred David, among others of that vintage, were in their prime, having completed a quarter century and more in the Foreign Service. The likes of Bernard Goonetilleke and Daneshan Casie Chitty were to reach that milestone shortly thereafter. Many of them had imbibed the "Peradeniya tradition", post Ludowyke, and all had drunk deeply into the Queen’s language, and often new recruits were treated to a colorful nugget here or a Shakesperian quote there. In such company, Rodney Vandergert would be in his element, whether at cracking a joke filled with pun or, in a serious mode, explaining the finer points of a political development unfolding in some part of the world. Listening to him and the others was an edifying experience, not merely for the points conveyed but for the particular idiosyncrasies with which they were expressed.

For a diplomat, Mr. Vandergert was rather uniquely attired – he cared less for the frills of a crisply ironed and creased shirt and trousers, but for all the simplicity, he was well turned out at all times. The only thing of any material value on him was an old stainless steel watch, the white dial of which had been browned by time. When told of Carl Muller’s description of "the elf-faced Vandergert" in a novel, he laughingly shot back "at least my schoolmate got a better description of me than even a photographer could".

Frugality with government funds was a professional ideal and a personal passion, and even as Secretary Foreign Affairs he took time to fine comb any expenditure, ever questioning the need for something he thought could be avoided. At times he would take such exactitude to Gilbertian heights! But that was Rodney Vandergert.

Uniquely approachable and helpful for an official of his seniority, Mr. Vandergert was Mr. Simple at all times. He would deflate any pompous cadet’s ego by relating a story of how whilst on a posting to Islamabad as a young diplomat, he had to personally carry and even a feed a rare parakeet which was a gift from the government of Sri Lanka his High Commissioner was to handover to a Pakistani Zoo. Then he would regale us with the story of how he had to sometimes take the weekly incoming diplomatic bag to the racecourse where he and his High Commissioner, a keen turfite, would discuss its contents as the boss lowered his gaze in between races!

Rodney Vandergert served Sri Lanka with distinction in many overseas posts, capping off a remarkable career as High Commissioner to Canada, Ambassador to the Soviet Union and finally as Head of Mission in China. Endowed with excellent analytical skills, his usually long and cascading reports were a pleasure to read not only for their originality and depth but for their remarkable syntax and idiomatic expression.

His lifelong passion was books. We would often see him reading one while at lunch; usually a sandwich which he used to draw rather neatly from a little tiffin box. I distinctly remember him pouring over "Pride and Prejudice", with the intensity of a first timer. "I am still discovering it, even on reading it for a fourth time", he exclaimed.

The best portion of a good man’s life are his little unremembered acts of kindness, and Mr. Vandergert had many. As the evening sun on May 5 dipped its rays over the Borella Cemetery and those present at the last goodbye slowly withdrew homeward into the enveloping darkness, surely one thought would have preoccupied them all: we had just laid to rest an honorable and simple man. Rodney Clement Austen Vandergert was indeed more than the sum of his parts.

Farewell, Sir, and thank you for the memories.

(The Island - 07/06/2009) 

R.C.A. Vandergert - a tribute

Rodney Clement Austen Vandergert passed away on 4th May 2009. The lawyer, diplomat joined the Sri Lanka Foreign Service in 1961. During his formative days he functioned as Assistant Secretary, Deputy Director in various divisions of the Ministry of Defence & External Affairs and also in various capacities in Sri Lanka Missions abroad.

I came into contact with him towards the latter part of the seventies when he was the legal advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It had been a pleasure to work under him as he had been a very humane person and a gentleman par excellence.

He left us in 1980 when he was appointed the High Commissioner to Canada and upon his return after a successful tour of duty; he held high positions in the Foreign Ministry such as Director United Nations & Multi Lateral Affairs Division, Director-General Political Affairs etc. He was elevated to the highest position in 1994 as Secretary to Ministry of Foreign Affairs which post he held in high esteem. He was only the second career diplomat who became the Permanent Secretary to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

He always looked placid and relaxed even in tough problematic situations and his inspiring friendliness coupled with courtesy and patience won the hearts of all who worked with him. I never saw him in anger and never heard him speaking in an aggressive tone. I also can never forget his face which was always lit with smiles.

He was a devout Catholic who preached what he practised, discharged his duties without fear or favour, harbouring ill-will to none. The honesty and integrity of character, the devotion to duty, the simplicity in no small measure, earned the respect of all who came in contact with him.

May he rest in peace!

Vivian Fernando Panadura

Daily News June 11 2009 

Sunday Times July 5 2009

A legend passes away

Carl Sepala Illangakoon

Carl to some, Sepala to others, Sepa to many and always, “Sir” to me, a legendary tea and rubber industry stalwart passed away at the age of 86, in the early hours of Friday, June 26, whilst resting in his favourite armchair, at his Colombo residence. In compliance with his instructions to his family and the undertakers too, he was cremated at a very private funeral. The detailed, clear and no-nonsense instructions, including his own obituary notice, were typical of the perfectionist he always was. I wish I could read out three pages from one of his books under the caption ‘When I die’ but that will be too time consuming, though I must say that I do not envy his family having to comply with his numerous instructions at such short notice.

With your permission, I will refer to the great man as ‘Sepala’, lest you get bored with too many references to ‘Mr Ilangakoon’. In one of his books he says, “My firm belief in Jesus Christ makes me unafraid of death. All my responsibilities to everyone have been fulfilled. I have lived a full life. I am ready to die” – very crisp and to the point.

Sepala was charming, a gentleman to his fingertips, caring, humble and unassuming, born leader and distinguished personality. When Sepala entered any gathering, people noticed him. Erect, meticulously well groomed, with that slight bounce in his stride and always smiling. Right to the end he had a very firm fist and it was difficult to match his impeccable English, both spoken and written, as well as his in-depth knowledge of agriculture.

Sepala actively supported his old school, S. Thomas’ College, where he was the Head Prefect in the early ’40s, and was awarded the much-coveted Victoria Gold Medal for the best all-round student. I was surprised to note from his profile that he was also actively involved with Bishop’s College till I was told that several generations of Sunethra’s family hailed from Bishop’s.

Sepala gave up medicine at the university and moved to the School of Agriculture and then to planting. He passed out of the School of Agriculture, topping the batch with a 1st Class. He also won 12 out of the 16 prizes on offer. He says that it was at the School of Agriculture that he learnt to mix with the different strata of society. This motivated him to break the hierarchical order for the Sunday Holy Communion at the estate church on the second Sunday when he merely stayed back and joined the workers in the queue.

Sepala was, indeed, the best ever tea-cum-rubber planter this country has seen. He was among the earliest Ceylonese planters to join the exclusive Club of planters in the colonial era. I was told by old-timers that right from his very early days he had an abundance of self-confidence. The story goes that he was at the bottom of a steep hill, supervising the manuring of the tea in that area when his boss got off his car on the road above and called out to Sepala to come up and see him. Sepala wearing his hat and smoking a pipe, is said to have called back, “It is easier for you to come down and go up than for me to come up, come down and then finally go up again.” Apparently the boss took this near insubordination in his stride and went down the hill to talk with Sepala.

He effortlessly stood out in the two industries that he was involved in. His post-planting career as Chairman and Managing Director of Mackwoods Estates, Chairman of the Planters’ Association of Ceylon, Chairman of the Tea Board and as Secretary-General of the Planter’s Society were exceptional spells in these entities where persons who worked with him still talk of him with great admiration
It was during his term as Chairman of the Tea Board that, along with the then Minister in charge, the late Gamini Dissanayake, he worked round the clock on the clusterisation of estates, which was the fore-runner to the privatisation of the management of estates. In recognition of his services to the plantation industry he was awarded the title ‘Desabandu’.

I had the unique opportunity of working under Sepala for some six years at Hapugastenna Group, Ratnapura, in the early days of my working career, and I have kept in touch with him ever since. If I have achieved any little success in my career, a large part of it is thanks to the training imparted by Sepala. He is my super- hero.

Sepala was a stickler for punctuality which is another excellent trait I learnt from him. Sepala and Sunethra both come from highly respected, distinguished and aristocratic families, but there was never even a touch of arrogance in either of them. Just as an example, he has devoted one of the earlier chapters of the first book he authored to Kandasamy who was his Field Supervisor, when he commenced planting in 1948. He repeated to me Kandasamy’s advice to him on how to treat estate workers – “Estate workers should be treated like children, with kindness but firmness.” Another gem of advice from Kandasamy repeated to me was, “Rule over your subordinates more by practice than by precept – when you give an instruction, show them personally how to do it.” Both pieces of advice have stood me in good stead throughout my career

Sepala was courageous and was never afraid of anyone. Agency House executives who wrote to Superintendents at the drop of a hat, were very reluctant to write to Sepala because more often than not, they would get cornered into an onslaught from which they found it extremely difficult to extricate themselves. Once, however, the Visiting Agent had made an adverse comment on a particular rubber field and the Agency House executives thought this was an ideal opportunity for them to get their own back on Sepala. A letter calling for a detailed explanation was despatched. Sepala’s response was calm, short and precise: “Please note that when we drove past this particular field the Visiting Agent was fast asleep. My Assistant, Balendra, who was in the vehicle, will vouch for it.” That was the end of the story as far as that VA’s report was concerned.

Sepala was indeed fortunate to have lived to a full and rewarding age of 86, and with a very clear mind right to the end. I am told that two weeks prior to his demise, he had stubbornly (one of his characteristics) insisted, and driven his vehicle to church and back, despite his driver being available and sitting in the back seat.

Sunethra was the lady always beside the great man, and prodding him along for more than half a century. Marriages are described as ‘the high seas for which no compass has yet been invented’. Sepala and Sunethra certainly managed to invent their own special compass to guide them along and to create and enjoy a very successful union. Sunethra was perhaps the only person who could stand up to Sepala and I am sure she did so fairly often. Sunethra is not only charming but also a person to be admired in her own right. Please let me be clear - there is no Sepala without Sunethra.

Along with Sunethra he witnessed the success of their two wonderful children, Yevendra and Riyanjani, their marriages to two extremely accomplished persons in Ymara and Dhamitha, (the current Chairman of the Planters’ Association), who in turn have brought into this world five very talented grandchildren who are now all adults and professionals. Sepala was, and Sunethra is, extremely proud of the achievements of their descendants, and justifiably so. I believe it is only a question of time before we will be able to congratulate Sunethra on becoming a great-grandparent and we will all miss Sepala on that happy occasion.

In retirement Sepala became a prolific writer and his four books, all of which were published by Vijitha Yapa, give a detailed insight into the man and his capabilities. I would recommend that if you can lay your hands on them, you should read them, ignoring one and a half pages of his first book where he goes to town on my wife and me. I must, however, confess that I am delighted and proud that the respect was mutual.

With his unshakeable faith, Sepala has surely gone back Home to his Maker. Farewell Sir, and May you rest in peace.

Ken Balendra

Passionate trade unionist with a heart of gold

Bandula Eraka Fernando

Bandula Eraka Fernando, who died at the age of 46 on April 19, 1996, was the livewire honorary secretary of the Irrigation Engineering Diplomates’ Association, known earlier as the Irrigation Technical Assistants’ Union.

“BE”, as he was fondly called, was the third in a family of four, and son of the late Dr. Walter Fernando (AMP) and Maisey Jayawickrama of Nupe, Matara.

BE joined the Irrigation Department in 1969 as a trainee technical officer, with 240 others. It was the largest batch of trainees recruited in the department’s 69-year history. The trade union of which BE was a member had resorted to a 42-day strike action to ensure permanent appointments for all 240 trainees. Participation in the trade union action, at the very inception of his career, had a profound influence on BE. He had great faith in the union, and became its secretary in 1994.

He was about 20 years my junior, in age and in the department. However, we associated closely, especially when the union and he sought my assistance in 1995 to resolve a service problem. We travelled the length and breadth of Sri Lanka in the two years after organising the membership for action.
He was loyal, committed and ready for any sacrifice for the union. These same qualities were his hallmark as a family- man and friend. His portly frame hid a heart of gold and a gentle nature.

BE worked very hard for the union. Unfortunately, he did not live to see and enjoy the fruit of his efforts.

Nissanka de Silva, Former President, Irrigation Technical Assistants’ Union and Government Technical Officers’ Trade Union Federation.

A life that lit up the paths of other people

J. A. Baharan

A deep and personal sorrow fills our hearts. Daddy has silently closed the door of life and departed from us. Our lives will be empty in many areas he had so brightened for us. His sense of humour and laughter, which was contagious, has fallen silent foever. But I thank God that he gave us so much to live for, including some of the timeless virtues he was known for by his kith and kin.

We carry in our minds and hearts precious memories of a special Dad. He was one of the most gentle, thoughtful and charitable men whom I have ever known. His kindness and warmth attracted many people to him, forming good relationships that he sustained and protected over the past 97 years of his life.

I have come to know and believe that he gave us the greatest gift of a father to his children – his belief in us. As much as Daddy was free-going, he was also a strict disciplinarian. I'll always remember Dad's love for his family. The security he wrapped around us made us sure that we were loved.

Albert Einstein has said “the value of a man should be seen in what he gives and not in what he is able to receive”. Daddy was a man who gave. He gave much to his family, work and society as a whole. That is why, as we bid goodbye to him, I would like to speak in celebration of his life. Here was a simple life that demanded very little, a life that exemplified diligence with humility, a life that lit up so that others' paths were illuminated.

We will continue to live his name and make him proud even as he rests peacefully with the Almighty. I believe that he was called for a greater reward which he deserved for his good work. I am consoled that he was called by the creator to grant eternal peace and joy. We feel truly blessed and privileged to have had him for so long in our lives.

I don't want to cry anymore. I don't want to yearn to hug my Dad one last time, long to see his smiling face or hear his cheerful voice. I wanted all the people who loved my Dad to be around, so that I might feel his presence through sharing memories of him, sharing tears....and maybe even sharing some laughter.

Thank you Daddy for the wonderful and generous times you have given us and the affection you have shown us. They are forever etched in our minds.

May Almighty Allah grant you the bliss of Jannatul Firdous.

Deena Burton

Sunday Times June 28 2009

She dreamed of a united country where all were equal before the law

Susanne Wickramaratne

It is now six months since she left us after a 13 year battle with illness - a woman who influenced thousands and yet, was a private person; a person who changed the lives of many children and the poor but shied away from recognition and applause. She would be embarrassed by my public tribute, but I overcame the fear of her rebuke as I thought of writing these lines, so that others could also learn to appreciate their own mothers.

She taught me that society was bigger than self, and arrogance and pride went before a fall; that material wealth was fleeting, and contentment lay in sharing.

Even though she was a private person she gave up her privacy, and our home became a shelter for those in need of protection and care. Everyone was welcome regardless of their status in life and was treated with dignity and equality shattering the deep divisions of language, ethnicity, caste, creed and class.

Many unwanted babies and abused women travelled through our home, sometimes staying for weeks and at other times, a few years. One such baby became her precious daughter and our beloved sister. Each story was terrifying and unique often involving the abuse of women by men. She sheltered these women throwing caution to the winds, risking the reputation of husband and sons. She taught us that ‘right’ work was more important than ‘good’ work, and had to be undertaken whatever the cost.

The poor and the weak were at the heart of her mission in life. It was not just compassion that drove her to provide a meal for 1,500 children each day, but an inward belief that the poor had a right to demand from others who had plenty. She strove to educate those who could not afford it - always attempting to move every family one step higher, while driving home the point that education does not create moral beings, but that a transformation of heart was the beginning of an ethical life.

As her mission grew, it had to be institutionalized to cater to many. But she never lost sight of the individual’s need - for food, medicine, shelter, education, protection or to escape from a destructive habit - even if it was outside the defined institutional programme. She strove to demolish the separation between public life and private living by embedding her mission into her lifestyle.

The lot of the marginalized, the weak and the poor stirred her soul, making her a natural ally of the underdog. She was constantly looking for ways to defend and fight their cause. One evening at dinner, we were introduced to a lady who had been released from prison for a couple of days into my mother’s care. In a well publicized case, the lady was convicted of murder despite pleading her innocence.

My mother reading the newspaper account appealed on her behalf, visited her in prison, and gave her hope until she assumed a new identity and settled into family life upon being released from a life sentence.

Though she was born to the majority race, she had a deep sensitivity to the injustices and aspirations of the minorities. She believed in the lines of our national anthem which says “Eke Mawakkage daru kalebawina” (we are but the children of one mother) and dreamed of a united country where all lived with dignity and were equal before the law. Her death has cast on us an even heavier responsibility to work towards this goal in spite of the many detractors.

She was mentally alert to the last and spent her fading years in talking, advising, counselling, writing and working on email and computer, never giving up on life. There are many memories that I recall amongst which are the late night discussions in which she advised and sometimes argued her case, always advising her sons to treat their spouses with equality, love and dignity. She sometimes had a word of counsel about the grandchildren or would often directly speak to them herself, with remarkable relevance and respect. She gave us all the gift of being open and communicating from the heart, instilling in us that people were always more important than things.

Life is uncertain, death is sure. She always lived in the context of eternity and death held no terror for her. She had experienced forgiveness and therefore, was a forgiving person. I share in her belief that we do not earn our eternal reward, but life, and eternal life is a gift given by God to be celebrated throughout. Death is only a temporary parting. Ammi, I will meet you soon.


She blazed a trail for education here

Deshabandu Joyce Goonesekera

A tribute to mark her 99th birth anniversary

The word Montessori is synonymous with pre-school in Sri Lanka, a country that has one of the highest literacy rates in Asia. The great Italian educator Dr. Maria Montessori founded and refined a system of child care that is still accepted internationally as the most effective way to educate toddlers. Among Dr. Montessori’s first students, after she made India her home in 1940, was Joyce Goonesekera, an energetic and enthusiastic 30-year-old pre-school teacher at the time.

“Aunty Joyce”, as she was known all her life by her little pupils, was totally absorbed in the teachings of Dr. Montessori. After spending six years studying under the great pioneer educationist, Aunty Joyce returned to Sri Lanka in 1948 to introduce the Montessori method in her hometown, Galle.

The school was so successful that Aunty Joyce expanded her operations to Colombo, opening the Montessori House of Children in 1951, followed shortly after by the Montessori Training Centre. Through the two institutions, Aunty Joyce tutored infants according to Dr. Montessori’s methods and trained young teachers to follow in her footsteps.

How did Aunty Joyce’s methods differ from those of other pre-schools? The Montessori method avoided examinations and grading schemes and instead encouraged teachers to “observe” little children and encourage them to learn on their own. The method identified critical stages in a child’s development, such as when he or she learns to talk, crawl and walk. Montessori teachers learn to identify these stages in a child’s growth and thereby help accelerate the child’s learning process.

When Joyce Goonesekera passed away in November 2003, aged 93, she was known not only as Aunty Joyce but also as Deshabandu Joyce Goonesekera, a title she received from President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1989 for a lifetime dedicated to the teaching of Sri Lanka’s children and their teachers.
Spreading the Montessori method across Sri Lanka was perhaps the greatest service ever rendered to the education of our country’s youth. Science Magazine published a study in September 2006 that showed that pre-schoolers in Montessori schools performed far better than those in other types of pre-schools.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of the late Joyce Goonesekera, Sri Lanka long ago achieved a goal that developed countries around the world are still scrambling to replicate.

Devoted Student

Across the country he took us, imparting his wisdom

Paul Perera

Tribute to a Father on his 80th Birth Anniversary falling tomorrow

My family has been touched by the many who shared our loss at this difficult time. From the Venerable Clergy, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremasinghe, Senior Judges, Members of Parliament and other political bodies, friends from the media, the BOI and the political associates of my father from the Gampaha and Colombo Districts, there were also many from overseas who expressed their sincere sympathies on the passing away of Mr. Paul Perera.

I have heard many who were closely associated with my father affirm, “We learnt a lot from him.” I too can vouch for that. He was a scholar, a voracious reader and an expert on the history, geography, religion, culture, laws, languages, traditions and the people of Sri Lanka.

He revelled in the great pleasure of taking his family all over Sri Lanka in his quest for justice for the “common-man” throughout the country—from the North to the South; East to West–Jaffna, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Ampara, Anuradhapura, Nuwara Eliya, Ratnapura, Hambantota and so on and so forth. Fondly taking his family along, criss-crossing the land he adored so much, in his Hillman, and later, Humber motor cars he proudly possessed, he took the time to impart his wisdom on us, that: “Life is like a raindrop that falls from the heavens onto a mountaintop and joins a river which runs through forests and paddy fields serving the needs of all earthly beings, and flowing into the ocean, and returning to the heavens.”

He went onto opine that: “The people and religions of the country are like the rivers that flow from the mountains to the sea.” As he explained to the inquisitive young minds at the time, rivers are formed from the raindrops from the clouds over the central hills, travelling a fair distance through hills, valleys, mud and sod, ending up in the sea and thus the continuation of the cycle through vaporization. His conclusion was that this process depicts the religions and the peoples in our country.

As he extolled, water from the rivers are used by people for a multitude of purposes; from personal use to irrigation schemes of varying scale for paddy and other traditional and non-traditional cultivations, and to large and small scale hydro electric projects, thereby providing immense livelihood support for those who are living in the areas where these rivers flow.

However, the flowing water also results in some hardship for the people in the forms of flooding etc. Obviously the people, living around these rivers and benefitting from the water resource consider that particular river to be the most superior in the land. Yet, a wise person may envision the view from the above and come to the realization that from the beginning to the end as well as the effects on life of all these rivers is virtually similar to one another.

Through this metaphor he gave us all an opportunity to think about the many aspects of life in a philosophical yet pragmatic dimension. My father who loved history as well as literature having gained proficiency in a wide array of linguistic skills (the three languages of the country, Sanskrit, Latin etc.) appreciated reading highly. It was in his vast literary collection that I sought refuge to console myself from my heartfelt pain in the aftermath of his demise. By reading some of the highlighted texts in the books my father had often used in his library, I was able to access some of his innermost thoughts and feelings. In one such classic he treasured, the “Subhashitaya” of Alagiyawenna Mukaweti, he had highlighted:

Wana kala sathun hata siri sepatha mana kala
Kasa pala thule hi diya londa men wei vipula
Yana kala esiri sampath wena sei siyala
Gaja gala ethula mada sun divula pala thula

During good times, people’s luxury grows as the soft pulp and the liquid in the young coconut, whereas when the bad time comes, all these luxuries diminish as the emptiness of the woodapple swallowed by a tusker.

Another stanza in the same text:

Pun pirisidu sil mul guna kandin yuthi
Dan kama nena kuru mal saa madulu ethi
Pin cup thuru sagamok pala denu kamethi
Man suda nan men sili len wadei nithi

The “Kapruka” the wishing tree of merits which has its roots as virtue, its trunk being goodness, its shoots as generosity, its flowers as forgiveness, its branches as wisdom and its fruits being celestial bliss, is watered by the compassion of righteousness.

I am certain my father surmised the second stanza as a way to deal with the circumstances depicted in the first quotation.

It is well known to those who have been associated with my father, the sacrifices he made with the hope of making the lives of his five children meaningful and successful. Although it is very difficult to express his vision for his family in brief terms, it can clearly be presented in a verse highlighted in another of my father’s treasured collection—De Senectute by the Roman Philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Abores serit diligens agricola, quarum adspiciet baccam ipse numquam. “The diligent farmer plants trees, to bear fruit when he shall be no more.” A farmer, who being asked for whom he is planting, will reply, "For the immortal gods, whose will it was, not only that I should receive this estate from my ancestors, but that I should also transmit it in undiminished value to my posterity.”

Loving Father, we can proudly declare that you honoured all your obligations. Because of what you had achieved, you will remain a hero to us all.

As the youngest in the family, there have been numerous occasions when I have had to obey the “strict” orders given by my father. And I often sought refuge in the arms of my mother’s compassion to plead for leniency. But on this occasion, I have to diligently carry out another, possibly the last, instruction my father requested me a while ago.

That is to thank my mother, his beloved wife, for the sacrifices she made in her life for his well being, for 53+ years, the last ten of which were difficult years ever since my father suffered that fateful stroke even though he made a miraculous recovery thanks to the perseverance of my mother. So here it goes, from my father to Amma, “Thank you Kulaseeli for looking after me—being my life-long companion through thick and thin. I do not mind being with you even for eternity. You are the Saint in this family.”

Although my father was known to preach and practise according to the Gospels of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, he often quoted from the Gospels of Saints Luke and Mark—

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet lose his soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” This is on the principle on which E.P. Paul lived his life!
Along with this, the Dhammapada verse he had underscored will be on his epitaph:

Here he rejoices, hereafter he rejoices; one who performs meritorious deeds rejoices in both existences. He rejoices and greatly rejoices when he sees the purity of his own deeds.

E. Rodney M. Perera, Ambassador of Sri Lanka in Norway. (From the oration made at the funeral of E. P. Paul Perera who passed away on August 11, 2007)

Email - Jun 27, 2009

Nizar Haji Omar - An Irreplaceable Human Being

June 22, 2009 was a black day in my life, when I lost my good friend, brother, and mentor Haji to fate and God's will. Life is so fragile that we have to accept our fate, learn to live for the day and move on.

Haji was a legend of RUGBY, the game he loved and breathed. He first represented St. Peters in 1962/63 and went on to play for CR & FC commencing in 1965 and continued for 10 years as the most feared lose head prop forward. His partner in crime in the front row was D.V.P. Samarasekera who he played with for 10 years excepting for one match in 1971.

He first captained Sri Lanka before captaining CR (1970), was the first Sri Lankan captain of an Asiad in 1969/1970. He went on to play in three consecutive Asiads.
He was the youngest President of CR & FC, taking the helm at the age of 36, the youngest President of the SLRFU (38), and eventually was named a life member and Trustee of the CR & FC. He also was the Manager of the "Bowl" winning Sri Lankan team led by Hisham Abdeen at the Hongkong Sevens', which is the only team in Sri Lankan Rugby history to-date to win an international trophy outside Sri Lanka. He was about to be appointed as a Life Member of the SLRFU, but sadly his demise came first.

He was my rock at the CR & FC, and his contribution in the last 4 years to CR rugby, serving in his capacity as the Trustee and Honorary Life Member on the General Committee was indispensable. Haji was the "in between" the old and the new and managed to balance the needs of both with his charm and diplomatic self.
Haji wanted me to be the President of the Club much earlier than this year, and we talked about it in length where I knew I had to spend more time building the club and bringing in the necessary skill and people prior to taking over.

All the aspirations I have for the CR was always double checked with him prior to going into motion, and there were times where he admonished me saying "Jehan, this is not the time".

Haji was an immensely private person, sharing little of his issues with anyone. I know he has helped numerous people anonymously and never asked anything in return. He had so many friends and relatives that it confused me to no end. His years without Linda was of colossal pain, and I know without doubt, other than his daughters Ayesha, Nadia and maybe two or three others, no one knew or bothered to check up with him or check up on him as to what he was going through.
Our final days at the CR were taking a picture of the General Committee of 2009 on Thursday 18th and I was honored that I could sit in the same row as he did. After the picture was taken, he told me JC, one with you and me.

Haji was there for me in my darkest hour and days, May thru September 2008 as I was there for him in his darkest times, after Linda's death.
Linda was his life, and he only chugged on because of Ayesha and Nadia, his precious jewels.

Haji, may your soul rest in peace, I will miss you immensely like no other and I will miss those Yala trips to Panthera.

The CR will not be the same to me anymore! The grave stone on my fathers' grave reads as "Resting with my Beloved in My father's house" - it is most appropriate too for Linda and Haji.

To quote his brother Razak last evening, "It is Allah's call".

Jehan Canagaretna, President - CR & FC

Sunday Times June 21, 2009

Another maverick’s encounter with Leonard Woolf in Jaffna

By Richard Boyle, Thalawathugoda

In my tribute to Manik Sandrasagra (“Manik the Maverick and I”, May 17, 2009) I forgot to mention another of his famous forebears who had a run-in with Leonard Woolf when the latter served in Jaffna as Office Assistant from 1904 to 1907.

Woolf upset the bureaucratic status quo at the Jaffna kachcheri by demanding an end to inefficiency such as delays in replying to correspondence. “My unpopularity in Jaffna was not undeserved,” Woolf admits in his An Autobiography, Volume 1 (1980).”The difficulties and friction made me for the first time dimly perceive the problems of the imperialist . . . I remember the first time I became fully aware of it and the awareness brought my first doubts whether I wanted to rule others.”

Leonard Woolf

The Jaffna Tamil Association twice reported Woolf to the Governor and asked for his dismissal. The first incident concerned Woolf’s order that no spitting be allowed on the kachcheri verandah. “In the second complaint,” Woolf relates, “the Jaffna Association pitched on something that was certainly not true. They said that one of their most respected members, Mr Harry Sanderasekera, a well-known lawyer, had been deliberately hit in the face. Mr Sanderasekera had been driving his trap down the main street of Jaffna and he met the GA, Mr Price, and the OA., Mr Woolf, who were riding up the street in the opposite direction. As they passed one another, Mr Woolf turned his horse and deliberately hit Mr Sanderasekera in the face with his riding whip.

“I knew and liked Sanderasekera and had had business with him several times in kachcheri and Court on a friendly basis. Then suddenly I remembered an incident which seemed to explain his misunderstanding and accusation. Shortly after Price took over as GA, he and I were riding up the main street, and, when we got to the top of it I asked him to stop and look back down the street, so he would see clearly how people had encroached upon the street by building verandahs onto the highway.

I remember that my horse had been restless, continually fidgeting and turning round as I pointed out with my riding whip the old line of the street. And then I suddenly remembered that as my horse was dancing about, I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye of a trap with Mr Sanderasekera sitting in it.”

Woolf had to give a written explanation to the Governor, which was accepted, “but I doubt whether The Tamil Association and M Sanderasekera believed it”.

So, according to Woolf, this incident time made him “dimly perceive the problems of the imperialist” and “brought my first doubts whether I wanted to rule others”, although his often aloof manner would give little indication of this, I suspect.

The memories that will linger

Rodney Clement Austen Vandergert

Rodney, the ‘silent knight’ of the Sri Lanka Foreign Service has departed quietly into the sunset. He departed, the way he lived, with quiet dignity, without fanfare, fuss or bother…… in his own inimitable style.

Rodney’s unexpected departure has left his family and friends engulfed in deep sorrow. The sad news of Rodney’s demise reached me in the early hours of a cold morning in Geneva when my wife called me from hospital within minutes of his passing away. The initial shock and sense of disbelief gradually gave way to a flood of thoughts of Rodney and the happy times we spent together – a friendship spanning over 30 years. I was grappling with a range of emotions until the sun, I thought somewhat reluctantly, finally broke through the dark clouds hanging over Geneva valley.

My mind went back to 1979; I had a few years before ventured out to start a career as an international lawyer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Rodney returned that year to the Ministry after his tour of duty in New York, having worked under the late Shirley Amerasinghe, when Sri Lanka was basking in that “one brief shining moment of our own Camelot”. We were the Chairman of the Law of the Sea Conference, the Non Aligned Movement and held the Presidency of the UN General Assembly. New York was the epicentre of Sri Lanka’s diplomatic initiatives. Rodney returned to Colombo with this rich experience behind him.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs too was undergoing radical change; a Ministry that had functioned directly under the Prime Minister since the dawn of Independence was now de-linked and was vested with a separate identity under a Foreign Minister. A new government had assumed office with an overwhelming mandate and a Ministry that had hitherto been insulated from domestic political forces was beginning to feel the impact of such forces. The economic environment was beginning to undergo radical change; a centrally-planned economy was giving way to a liberalized economy. These changes made it imperative that in the implementation of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy, the necessary changes were effected, transforming the traditional political diplomacy to an economic diplomacy.

In a sense it was ‘the best of times’ and perhaps the ‘worst of times’. Certainly these were uncertain times. A young officer embarking on a career in the Foreign Ministry needed the sure and steadying hand of an experienced mentor and a dependable colleague to guide him through this uncertain terrain. Rodney assumed duties as Legal Adviser and offered his hand of friendship and I clasped it firmly. It was the beginning of a close friendship which was to make a deep impact on my career.

I shall always treasure pleasant memories of working together with Rodney in the Legal Division attending to the multitude of tasks then being assigned to us. He was the true professional, looking into minute detail, be it a complex treaty issue on which advice was sought or a routine Diplomatic Note that was being drafted. (We always prepared thoroughly before attending any meeting!) I particularly remember accompanying Rodney to attend meetings of a Presidential Committee appointed to finalize Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements, a virgin territory then, in the immediate flush of economic liberalization. Rodney explained at length the complexities involved, which may not always have been to the liking of some who thought that the only guiding principle in attracting foreign investment should be the maxim ‘let the robber barons come,’ but they all listened to his point of view which was always well articulated and respected his views.

Rodney’s sense of professionalism, the ability to be a team player and work together with colleagues, both within the Ministry and outside, and to be above the fray of narrow turf battles, left a deep and lasting impression on me, and I am sure to others closely associated with him.

I also enjoyed Rodney’s warm hospitality and company, on his postings abroad as Ambassador. His first appointment was as High Commissioner to Ottawa. Rodney had arrived in Ottawa without the family initially, and was attending to all the work involved in presenting credentials. He looked into every detail, which was nothing unusual. I was on a UN scholarship in Montreal at the time and used to commute to Ottawa to spend the weekends with Rodney. Not leaving anything to chance, Rodney wanted to rehearse the credentials presentation ceremony the evening before and I stood in for the Governor General of Canada. The next morning standing on the steps of the Ottawa Residence with Sri Lankan friends, we watched Rodney being driven to the Governor’s residence in horse carriage to begin another chapter in hislong career.

Rodney’s next posting was to Moscow, at the time the capital of the Soviet Union. In the winter of 1989, I had the opportunity of visiting this great city about which I had heard so much and enjoying the hospitality of Rodney and Cheryl .What I did not know then, was that these were the last days of the mighty Soviet Union and that consequent to the Gorbachev policy of Perestroika and Glasnost, cracks were beginning to appear on this mighty edifice, which once looked so solid.

Rodney took me through the usual landmarks, including the Kremlin Palace. He was particularly keen to walk me through the streets of Moscow to show me something extremely unusual then, perhaps taken for granted now. This was to get a sense of the spirit of re-awakening that was rapidly spreading among the people of Russia. I vividly recall the speech-makers, the soapbox orators in the street corners of Arabat, enjoying their new found sense of freedom, a phenomenon unthinkable in the pre-Gorbachev era. Rodney had been a keen observer of the sea change that was sweeping through Russian society and gave me a vivid description of the current political changes in Moscow. But whether Rodney or I could ever have anticipated the grand finale that was soon to follow – the collapse of the Soviet Union – is entirely another matter.

Rodney was also a godfather to the Sri Lankan student community in Moscow, always willing to give his ear and lend a helping hand to them. To these young people far away from their homes, in an alien environment, Rodney and his family was a great source of comfort.

Rodney’s final posting as Ambassador was to China in Beijing. My commitments at the time did not permit me to visit Rodney in this magnificent city, much to my regret.

As Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rodney presided over, [with complete acceptance to the political leadership of the day,] the transition from the 17-year United National Party Administration to the People s Alliance Administration in 1994. During this period, he forged a constructive working relationship with Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, which greatly contributed to the efficient functioning of the Ministry. I recall vividly the late Lakshman Kadirgamar’s first visit to the Foreign Ministry, when I accompanied Rodney and Additional Secretary Jayantha Dhanapala to brief the new Foreign Minister. Rodney together with Jayantha gave a detailed briefing to the Minister on the many issues pending from the previous administration in order to identify priorities of the new administration. For me this was a classic expose of an orderly transition between governments and particularly in maintaining a bi-partisan foreign policy.

Perhaps a lesser known fact is Rodney’s academic background. In the mid 1950’s he obtained his Degree of Bachelor of Laws from the University of Ceylon having read for the degree as one of nine undergraduates of the Law Faculty of the University of Ceylon, which was at that time housed in Peradeniya. He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1960. He completed his Advocates finals in the early 1970s and was admitted to the Bar. Although he did not go into active practice, his abiding interest in the law, saw him completing his Masters in Law degree at NYU.

While in Sri Lanka, Rodney responded to the call of the Law Faculty to serve as a visiting lecturer in International Law. He discharged this responsibility with the same degree of meticulousness that he displayed in the Foreign Ministry. It was in this capacity that he was appointed Supervisor of my doctoral thesis. It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I recall the time he devoted to this task amidst his manifold duties in the Ministry. Rodney was the happiest when I was elected to serve on the International Law Commission in 2006 and he gave me every encouragement as I ventured down a new path on the eve of my retirement from the Public Service.

During my career spanning 32 years in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I was fortunate to serve under several outstanding public servants. Among them, late W. T. Jayasinghe and Rodney Vandergert have left a deep impression on my career, with their dedication to duty, sense of integrity and high degree of professionalism. They both moved on within a short space of a month or more of each other and the personal sense of loss is immense. However the sense of values and commitment to principle they both inculcated in us, during their sojourn, gives me much comfort and courage.

Many who had the opportunity of bidding Rodney a final farewell speak of Rodney’s mortal remains with his usual smile, dressed in the navy blue suit, which had fate not intervened, he would have worn for daughter Niloufer’s wedding next month.

I prefer to remember Rodney the way he was and the warm goodbye he bid me at his home, a few days before I left for Geneva, only a few weeks before he left us. We had enjoyed a good dinner and talked into the night, of men and matters, as we always did.

These are the memories that will linger on………

Dr.A. Rohan Perera PC

A brave spirit and woman of substance

Binthi Fasiah

My Umma passed away three weeks ago, after a brief illness. She was 74 years old. I am relieved she had a peaceful death, and I am sure she has gone to a better place. At last, she will be reunited with her parents, after 65 long years.

The day of her death was not the saddest day in my life. The darkest and saddest day in my life was the day I found out that she had only a month to live. I cried every day until the day of her death. The one day I did not shed a single tear was the day she passed away. She must have given me the strength to make sure everything went well that day. The very next day I started to cry again, unable to bear the pain.

She learnt to endure pain from a very young age. She lost her parents when she was just nine years old. She was brought up by her maternal aunt and uncle, along with their six children. She remained deeply grateful to them till the time of her death.

My brother was everything to her, and she adored him. She lived with him until her death. Their love for each other was unconditional.

Then came her grandson, my brother’s son. He brought joy into her life. They were inseparable. While grieving over the loss of his grandmother, he consoles his father. The nine-year-old has the courage of his grandmother.

My Umma was an active and courageous woman. Her humble home was open to all. She was generous and kind. Headstrong and straightforward, she was not one to complain. Instead, she always looked on the bright side, and this helped her get through most of her difficulties.

She cooked and cared not only for her own, but for many others. She single-handedly brought us up, under very difficult circumstances. We were everything to her, and we were her only happiness. I cannot thank her enough for what she has done for us. I owe my life to her.

All my efforts to make her life better and comfortable were in vain. Her idea of comfort and happiness was very different to mine. She was comfortable and happy where she was and with whomever she associated.

A few days before her death, she wanted a meal of rice and dried fish, instead of my home-made broccoli and chicken soup. Considering her ailment, I refused to give her the rice and curry. How sorry I am that she did not have her humble rice and dried fish – for the last time.

The last six weeks we spent together were the most cherished, irreplaceable time of my life. True to her character, her spirits remained high to the end.

My Umma was a woman of substance.

May the Almighty Allah grant her Jinnathul Firdouse.

Daughter, the first-born

Sunday Times June 14 2009

Beloved citizen and ‘pillar of strength’ will be remembered by the people of Matale

Alick Aluvihare

Alick Aluvihare passed away on May 17, 2009 in a private nursing home in Colombo at the age of 83.He hailed from an illustrious family in Aluvihare, Matale. Under the tutelage and guidance of Bernard Aluvihare, Alick took to politics, and in his very first attempt was elected the first mayor of the Matale Municipal Council.

It was smooth sailing from thereon, in his nearly 50 years of political life. He won all but one of the parliamentary elections, and with convincing majorities, proving the love and affection the people of Matale had for him.

He held important ministerial portfolios under the UNP government, and during this period secured employment for thousands of people, mostly in his electorate. His many contributions to society cannot be listed in a short appreciation like this.

He was ailing for some time. For reasons of health and for parliamentary sessions, he spent most of his time in Colombo. When he was ill, he would request my presence at his residence. I always obliged, treating, consoling and comforting him as best I could.

In the eulogies given at his funeral, Alick was described as a person with no secrets, and as a man with a generous heart and a clear, strong voice. He was also described as an “Indra Keela”, a pillar of strength.

He was extraordinarily brave, and adept at handling tense, difficult or explosive situations, which he defused in minutes and with the utmost ease. A six-footer, Alick cut an imposing figure and could be spotted from a distance –a tall man with a most amiable expression.

Alick Aluvihare made a tremendous contribution to the upkeep of the historic Aluvihare Temple. His last accomplishment was the construction of a dagoba for the temple. With the assistance of the people and the blessings of the Maha Sangha, he completed this Herculean task in less than one year. It is the largest and most beautiful dagoba in the Matale district.

Alick ceremonially unveiled the stupa for public worship just a few days before his death. The dagoba was a tremendous personal triumph for him.

In another funeral oration for Alick , he was described as having “a clean pair of hands”. It is true that he was utterly honest and led a clean public life.

I extend my deepest sympathies to his family. May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.

Dr. K. J. S. Weerakkody

Affectionate, cheerful, lively and impeccably dressed to the very end

Frieda Silva

It was in the 1950s that I first met my good friend Frieda Silva (nee Wijeratne), who joined Ave Maria Convent, Negombo as a boarder.

I recall her wearing a black-and-white frock on the first day of school. She was probably mourning for her recently deceased mother. When her mother passed away, her father boarded all three daughters.

In class, I remember her face and hands being always smudged with ink, much to the annoyance of her sisters. This was the time we used G-nibs and inkwells in the classroom. Her two older sisters were quiet and reserved, while Frieda was lively – smiling, chatting and craving attention. She was a popular figure with both the day scholars and the boarders.

She loved beautiful clothes, and dressed in grand style all her life, right up to the last. Her photographs appeared in the fashion pages of the newspapers. One photo captioned her as “grandmother of the year” – she was still in her forties when she had her first grandchild.

She was the shooter in the school netball team, and we would head to the netball court whenever we had an opportunity. She sang and acted, and was good at imitating others. Frieda had a lead role in every school play or concert. She loved dancing, and was familiar with both oriental and western dance.
As an adult, she played minor roles in teleplays.

She was one of the founding members of the Ave Maria Convent past pupils association, Colombo branch, which was set up 15 years ago. She was a livewire at the monthly meetings. She organised a concert by past pupils for the entertainment of the school’s current students. At the annual Christmas party, she was always Santa Claus, distributing gifts, dancing and making the day a memorable one for everyone. There was no one to play Santa Claus last year, and her friends missed her badly.

She was a pillar of strength to her family. Her husband, her only brother and one older sister predeceased her. She showed strength in her bereavement and believed in moving on in life. The poor residents of Ratmalana will miss her greatly. She was a very sympathetic and generous neighbour.
As a devout Christian, she would talk about her convent days, when going for daily mass and evening prayers was compulsory. Once she hid under a bed to avoid going to church and got caught.

She had a good memory and could recall in detail her escapades and the punishments she received. It was a joy to go down memory lane with Frieda.

When she was in hospital for bypass surgery, visitors, flowers and get-well cards filled her room. Her friends could not accept the fact that their beloved companion was ill. Frieda, we miss you. We will never forget your smile and your cheerfulness.

Your two daughters, their husbands and children and the many friends you gathered around you during your lifetime need not grieve: they should simply follow your example and be helpful and cheerful all their lives.

Julitta Fernando

Model mother figure to an adoring Muslim family

Atheeka Siddick Mahuroof

She lay there peaceful, with “something of an angel light” around her. Her eyes were shut forever, yet she had a contented smile on her face. Ummamma – Atheeka Siddick Mahuroof.

Her nobility in death was testament to her greatness as a mother and maternal figure. She trained her 40 grandchildren and 40 great-grandchildren in the way she trained her nine girls and two boys – to be dutiful Muslims, wives, mothers and daughters.

The epitome of patience, she spoke few words, but when she spoke, her words carried weight.
Born 86 years ago, Ummamma lived a complete life, having travelled around the world and having experienced all the pains and joys of bringing up 11 children, each child very different to the others.

To me she was a grandma, “a perfect woman, nobly clad … to warn, comfort and command”.
Ummamma, may your soul be granted Jannatul Firdous.

Mrs. Zainab Ajmal Mubarak

Gentle lawyer-diplomat was loved and respected here and abroad

R. C. A. Vandergert

Rodney Clement Austen Vandergert died on May 4, 2009. The lawyer-diplomat joined the Sri Lanka Foreign Service in 1961, and during his long and illustrious career served as assistant secretary and deputy director in various divisions of the Ministry of Defence and External Affairs.

He also served in various capacities in Sri Lankan missions overseas.I came in contact with R. C. A. Vandergert in the late ’70s, when he was legal advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was a pleasure to work under him. He was a very humane person and a gentleman par excellence.

He left us in 1980 when he was appointed High Commissioner to Canada. On his return, after a successful tour of duty, he took up various senior positions in the Foreign Ministry, such as Director, United Nations and Multi-Lateral Affairs Division, and Director-General Political Affairs, and so on.

In 1994 he was made Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was only the second career diplomat to become the Permanent Secretary to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

He always looked placid and relaxed, even in the most problematic situations. His unfailing friendliness, courtesy and patience won the hearts of all who worked with him. I never saw him angry and I never heard him speak in an aggressive tone.

His face was always lit with a smile. He was a devout Catholic who preached what he practised, discharged his duties without fear or favour, and harboured no ill-will. His honesty and integrity, devotion to duty and humility earned the respect of all who came in contact with him.

May he rest in peace!

Vivian Fernando

Country’s welfare came first for this fine officer and gentleman

Major Surendra Lal Wijewardene

It was very saddening to learn of the sudden demise of Major Surendra Lal Wijewardene, gentleman and officer of the Sri Lanka Army National Service regiment and the Sri Lanka Army Rifle Corps. He was son of the late Mr. and Mrs. D. E. Wijewardane (former Public Trustee).

Surendra was educated at Royal College, Colombo, and at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo. He excelled in studies and sports. He was also a cadet. After completing his secondary education, he left for the UK to join the London School of Printing (UK). After graduating with a diploma, he returned to Sri Lanka and joined the printing department of the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd. Later he was appointed as compiler of the Ferguson Directory, a Lake House publication.

He was also a land owner and an agriculturist, and worked as a coconut planter in the Kurunegala district.

Following the nationalisation of the Lake House Group by the Sirimavo Bandaranaike government, he became a founder member of the Sinhala National Heritage with the late Upali Senanayake, son of the late F. R. Senanayake.

In April 1971, during the JVP insurgency, he was commissioned as an officer in the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force, of the Sri Lanka Army Artillery Regiment, Panagoda. It was that year that I met him.
In 1978, Surendra was transferred to the Sri Lanka Army Rifle Corps, commanded by the late General Ranjan Wijeratne. He was appointed as adjutant to the unit.

After retirement, he took a keen interest in welfare services for the people of the Rajarata, through the Rural Youth Leadership Training Institute Foundation. He obtained funding for the charity work from the Japanese and Australian governments.

He married the lovely Wimala Perera Wijewardana, of Panadura.Our deepest sympathies go to his wife Wimala, son Demintha and daughter Olu.

Capt. L. B. Lanka (Wilbawe) Jayaratne, Mrs. Iranganie Devi Seneviratne B. Jayaratne

Daily News Thu June 11 2009

R.C.A. Vandergert - a tribute

Rodney Clement Austen Vandergert passed away on 4th May 2009. The lawyer, diplomat joined the Sri Lanka Foreign Service in 1961. During his formative days he functioned as Assistant Secretary, Deputy Director in various divisions of the Ministry of Defence & External Affairs and also in various capacities in Sri Lanka Missions abroad.

I came into contact with him towards the latter part of the seventies when he was the legal advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It had been a pleasure to work under him as he had been a very humane person and a gentleman par excellence.

He left us in 1980 when he was appointed the High Commissioner to Canada and upon his return after a successful tour of duty; he held high positions in the Foreign Ministry such as Director United Nations & Multi Lateral Affairs Division, Director-General Political Affairs etc. He was elevated to the highest position in 1994 as Secretary to Ministry of Foreign Affairs which post he held in high esteem. He was only the second career diplomat who became the Permanent Secretary to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

He always looked placid and relaxed even in tough problematic situations and his inspiring friendliness coupled with courtesy and patience won the hearts of all who worked with him. I never saw him in anger and never heard him speaking in an aggressive tone. I also can never forget his face which was always lit with smiles.

He was a devout Catholic who preached what he practised, discharged his duties without fear or favour, harbouring ill-will to none. The honesty and integrity of character, the devotion to duty, the simplicity in no small measure, earned the respect of all who came in contact with him.

May he rest in peace!

Vivian Fernando Panadura

Sunday Times Jun 7 2009

A walking encyclopedia who knew his literature as well as his medicine

Prof. C.C.Balasubramaniam

Professor C. C. Balasubramaniam, Founder Professor of Pathology of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Jaffna and later, Professor of Pathology, North Colombo Medical College, passed away peacefully on November 3 last year, after serving his country with quiet dedication and guiding generations of medical students in Jaffna, Peradeniya and North Colombo.

He leaves behind his devoted and gentle wife Kausa, his only daughter Darshi and beloved grand daughters Meera and Neeraja (Gigi).

Prof. Bala, born on November 9, 1918, was the son of Mudaliyar Chelliah and Ponnammah Chelliah of Chundikuli, Jaffna. Being the youngest in a family of four male siblings he was the centre of attraction and the principal beneficiary of family love and affection. After his primary and secondary education at St. Patrick’s College, Jaffna, he got admission to St. Joseph’s College, Colombo, to study for university entrance.

In pursuit of Mudaliyar Chelliah’s dream of making his youngest son shine as a brilliant lawyer, young Bala was reluctantly persuaded to gain admission to the Ceylon Law College to become a proctor. Bala however had other ideas kindled by his love for medicine and a desire to emulate his grandfather’s vocation in life. His conflict became compulsive enough to make him stand up to his father and say goodbye to a career in law and embark on his cherished career in medicine.

After graduating as a doctor in 1948 with honours, Bala’s early carrier was nourished and nurtured by the guidance of such eminent members of the profession at the time as Dr. Wijerama and Professor Milroy Paul. Later he was posted to the provinces where his services were rendered to rural Ceylon.
In 1955 he proceeded to the United Kingdom to pursue post-graduate studies in pathology and clinical medicine and, in due course, succeeded in getting memberships of both the Royal Colleges of Pathologists as well as the Royal College of Medicine. Few years later, he was elected a Fellow of both these Colleges. In recognition of the services he had rendered in these fields, the Ceylon College of Physicians also conferred the honour of electing him a Fellow of that College.

His qualifications and training in medicine and pathology made him a highly respected clinical pathologist; during his long tenure as Consultant Pathologist at the Kandy General Hospital he was affectionately referred to by his colleagues as the ‘walking encyclopaedia of medicine’.

After a short stint as Consultant Pathologist at Prince Charles Hospital in Wales, UK, he was appointed as the Founder Professor of Pathology in the Faculty of Medicine, Jaffna. Being a devoted son of the soil, he put his heart and soul to found and develop the department of pathology. The pathology museum he established, which is still being used for teaching and examinations, is testimony to his relentless dedication to the cause of pathology education.

In 1990 when he left his Nallur Road residence for his daughter’s confinement in Colombo, little did he realise that he had said goodbye to Jaffna. The escalation of the ethnic conflict was to isolate him from his own native surroundings. Years later he was to tell me that shortly after he had left his Jaffna home the ‘boys’ had robbed him of all his belongings leaving behind only the shell of his house––the dispossession of his library which he had lovingly collected over the years added to the intensity of his poignancy.

When I first met Prof. Bala in 1991 he had reached the sunset of his professional and academic life. By then he was physically wracked by years of diabetes and emotionally devastated by the personal tragedy that had befallen his only daughter; for him, the devouring flames of ethnic violence that had engulfed the country were beyond comprehension.

It was at such a juncture that I was selected by Prof. Bala as a temporary lecturer in his department. The physical and emotional traumas didn’t dampen his attitude to help me professionally. I was then a fresh graduate considering pathology and paediatrics as possible future career paths.

He allowed me to conduct most of the teaching, reporting of specimens, performing post mortems, and conducting clinico-pathological meetings––he virtually pushed me into the deep waters of pathology! His intention was to make it easy for me to make up my mind one way or the other––which is exactly what I did at the end of my attachment with the department. At the end of 9 months when I was leaving for my internship, Prof. suggested that I return to the department and start training in earnest under his guidance. After completing my internship and a further 10 months in Anuradhapura I decided to return to Prof Bala’s department. The sound foundation I received there helped me so immensely in my post-graduate training that I am ever indebted to this wonderful man.

Although Prof. was a quiet and contemplative person brilliant in his academic and professional stature, the conversations we had while travelling between Colombo and Ragama gave me insights into his broader character and interests.

His eyes sparkled when he walked down memory lane and recalled his childhood in Chundikuli when he had to stand up to his father on career changes. He told me how as a young medical student he used to cycle with his friend Mackie Ratwatte to a stately home down Rosmead Place where a youthful and radiant Sirimavo treated them to tiffin while a thoughtful SWRD would pace the colonnaded verandah puffing at his pipe.

He had an impish sense of humour and a twinkle in his otherwise mournful eyes when he related the pranks they played on the handful of female medical students who had dared to invade a male-dominated profession at the time. Prof. was an avid reader with wide interests in the arts and literature; he would quote the Bhagavad Gita or Shakespeare with equal ease.

He had bitter memories of the terrible carnage inflicted by the “IPKF Saviours” recalling how they ran amok in the Jaffna hospital killing doctors, nurses, patients and bystanders. He was a helpless witness to this orgy of killing during the last months of 1987 following the Indo-Lanka accord.

During my contacts with him I found that his two granddaughters Meera and Gigi were very much a part of his mental preoccupation and concern. He wanted to secure their future through a good education. Prof. was fortunate to see this dream come true when Meera graduated as a doctor and little Gigi entered medical school. With his last wish thus fulfilled, I am certain Prof. Balasubramaniam was ready to meet his Maker in peace and contentment. I pray for his soul to be with God.

Dr. Thushara Rodrigo, Consultant Pathologist, UK

Sunday Times May 31 2009

Exemplary planter who did much for the Tamil estate workers

Bertie E. Wijeratne

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

He was a courageous person who would take bold decisions when required. He was knowledgeable and hard-working, qualities he acquired through a rigorous training under the Europeans. His superiors saw in him the makings of an efficient planter, and every few years would recommend him for progressively bigger estates.

Even in those days there was keen competition to become a planter. I was told that at an early age Thaaththie was talking about mastering all aspects of tea and rubber planting and manufacture.

It did not take Thaaththie long to show his superiors that he was capable of managing very large estates. After just four or five years on the job, he was put in charge of tea and rubber plantations of as much as a thousand hectares.

During this period, the majority of the labour force on estates comprised Tamils. Thaaththie and his team worked in harmony. He looked after the interests of his labourers and got the best results from them. He was fluent in Tamil, and was very close to the Tamil people, who loved him very much. Thaaththie gave priority to the well-being of the downtrodden labour force. His kindness and large-heartedness was appreciated on the many estates he managed.

His lady love, my mother, was also from a well-known family, the Delgodas, who hailed from Ratnapura, the land of gems. Thaaththie was a loving husband and the proud father of three children, two daughters and a son (myself). He made sure that his children were second to none.

At the time of his death only one of his children, his elder daughter, was married. Today we are all three of us married. I wish Thaaththie was around to see his eight beautiful grandchildren. They would have made him the happiest grandfather ever.

Thaaththie was the darling of the family to his parents, brothers and sisters. They were very proud of him and he in turn was prepared to do just about anything for them. He had this rare quality even as a boy, I have been told.

Thaaththie’s untimely demise has created a vacuum in our lives that can never be filled. He had carefully planned out his life after retirement. With his passing, the family felt like a rudderless ship, caught in midstream and at the mercy of God. We were left with no one to guide us.

Thaaththie had more than 40 years’ experience as a planter. He was much sought after as a visiting agent for several private sector estates. The vast areas he replanted and managed are testimony to his invaluable services to the industry and the country.

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

His 74th birthday falls tomorrow. May he attain Nibbana.

Son, Haren

My father was my great friend and teacher

Loku Banda Ekanayake

My appachchi, the late schoolmaster Loku Banda Ekanayake, was born on January 28, 1907, in Naranpanawa.

The village of Narampanawa has great scenic beauty, bordered as it is by hills and tea estates and the Hulu Ganga, a tributary of the Mahaweli River. This village, where my father and I were born, was blessed with a number of erudite teachers and headmasters, the most famous of them being the Sinhala poet Wilmalaratne Kumaragama.

My father was a school headmaster, and he wore cloth and coat. He adopted the national dress for a short period but reverted to cloth and coat, declaring that the national dress suited politicians only.
My mother was also a teacher. Our parents gave my two brothers and three sisters and myself the best education possible, in leading schools in and around Kandy.

My father believed that everyone should enjoy the same high level of education. The six of us were married with our parents’ blessings.

Appachchi’s father was a village mudalali. My father told us that the shop was built on premises that once housed a wholesale establishment, and that in the old days provisions would be carried by elephants from Menikhinna. The roads were not motorable in those days. My grandfather supplied the white planters on the surrounding estates.

My father was an abstemious person, and advised us to follow his example. He once told me, “If a person helps you with Rs. 2 (a fairly big sum then), but you cannot help in the same way, at least help with 25 cents”.

He told us never to be stingy, and to respect teachers and elderly persons and the clergy of all religions.
He was on close terms with the high priests of the temple. The villagers addressed him as “Kapurastenne Loku Mahattaya”.

He would accompany me whenever he visited from Poppitiya School (about seven miles walking distance from Madugoda, now Uda Dumbara), towards Kandy. One day, in the 1940s, I was accompanying him along a forest footpath at about 5.30 am. We saw a fleet of aircraft flying in formation. I was seven years old at the time.

Later, I came to know that that particular day was Easter Sunday, in 1942, the day the Japanese bombed Colombo.

My father died at the age of 70. He did not live to see his grandchildren grown up. He would have been happy to know that his grandchildren are doctors, engineers, surveyors, teachers and nurses, and all are married to professionals with high posts in the country.

May our parents attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana.

Tikiri Bandara Ekanayake


Nugegoda will miss beloved family doc with a magic touch

Dr. D. W. (Shelton) Jayasinghe

Dr. Shelton Jayasinghe, one of Nugegoda’s best-known family physicians, was called to his rest on May 13, 2009.

He was a doctor par excellence. He started practice at his clinic on High Level Road, Nugegoda, where he received patients of all ages and from different walks of life. He would spend a lot of time with his patients. His ever-present smile and his conversation was a healing experience. His patients prized his magic touch.

Dr. Shelton was our family doctor for many years. He attended to my grandmother, my mother, my children and myself.

A keen golfer, he was for many years captain of the Royal Ceylon Golf Club. He also loved his flowers. He had one of the best gardens in Nugegoda. In his last years of practice he served his patients at Gangodawila, Nugegoda. He worked to the end. He treated many patients free, giving both free advice and free medicines.

The people of Nugegoda will miss him dealy. He leaves behind his beloved wife Mallika and his four daughters. Dr. Shelton was a great doctor, an exemplary family man, and a gem of a human being.

He lived his life well,
He served his people well,
He has done his profession proud
He has now gone to his maker.

We will all miss him so much.
May he attain Nibbana.

Johanne de Zilwa

Goodbye my brother

Michael is gone And so is my spirit;
A piece of my heart feels gone as well.
How do we fill the void?
How do we tell our emotional system
It will recover
Yet it will never be the same?

Goodbye my brother.
I am sorry for the lost years
Yet thankful for our once unassuming,
uncomplicated lives
When everything was simple and beautiful;
I have numbered them carefully;
I will keep you in the forefront of my mind;
You are a forever memory
I love you,
I’ll be seeing you
Some day, my brother.

Charmaine Candappa

Sunday Times May 24 2009

Pioneer Thurstanite and my close friend

Susantha (Sam) Samaranayake

It was just a week ago that death removed from our midst Sam Samaranayake, a colourful personality who shone in many spheres of life.

During our schooldays we saw him as a distinguished senior citizen of Thurstan, playing a dominant part in most school functions with aplomb and precision. Sam was proud of his linkage with Royal Primary where he began his schooling and was also equally proud to be a pioneer in the original batch of Thurstan in its formative years.

Sam came over from the neighbouring school with his buddies Sarat Weerasuriya, M.D.D. Pieris, Shunith Gunathileke, Surath Wickremasinghe and Sri Nagendra – a group which formed a life-long friendship full of adventure and fun. It is said that this batch crossed over not only with their school bags but also rich public school traditions of an established premier education institute to a school that had been just set up.

Sam began his career with Indian Airlines and then moved to IBM at a time when Colombo’s elite corporate sector was small. Thus he was undoubtedly a leading figure in the circles. Sam was also known as a pioneer in the Toastmasters and the Rotary movement in Sri Lanka, these attributes no doubt made him a much-sought-after speaker in many functions.

Sam left his career at IBM suddenly over a matter of principle from which he never wavered and later joined his erstwhile buddy Sarat Weerasuriya at Finco.

Though there was a big age gap between us, we struck a deep friendship that developed under strange circumstances. In the early seventies when I had just begun apprenticeship training for Chartered Accountancy, I was looking for a change. At that time, finding a place in a reputed firm was no easy task. Upon evaluating options, I was advised by another Thurstan stalwart, Upali Ahangama, to meet Sam along with a short note from him.

Being just out of school I was a novice to the Colombo Fort. I walked with mixed feelings to Ceylinco House, then probably one of Colombo’s prestigious office blocks, and entered the plush IBM office. I was well received by Sam. On hearing my story, he was quick on the job. With a few telephone calls, my issue was resolved and I was at my new firm two days later without any formalities or interviews. This was a turning point in my life. If not for Sam’s assistance I might well have given up my chosen profession. Thereafter until his sad and unexpected demise he remained a close friend and kept in touch with me regularly.

It was no strange coincidence that just a few months ago, Sam thought it fit to host a get-together for his school buddies, most of whom have crossed the 70 mark. Though I was of a different vintage, I together with two of my buddies had the good fortune of attending this event. It was organized with absolute precision and zest and all of us had a good time. This was our last fun-filled meeting with Sam.

When Sam fell ill, we rushed to see him at the hospital but we were told he had left a few hours ago. The following day, I had a long chat with him and he was in his characteristic self with humour and wit, having come to terms with his terminal illness. He was bold enough to face reality. He was proud of his son Sumantha and daughter Sumalka and their achievements.

He was a good family man with his loving wife Sunethra being a tower of strength to him. When we went to pay our last respects to Sam at his Waragoda residence, we were told how he had documented all the required steps for his final journey and even drafted the obituary notice and a brief note to our colleague Suren Abeygunasekera with further details. That was typical of Sam. The large crowd that gathered at Kanatte was a clear indication of Sam’s wide network of friends and relatives who held him in high regard.

To the Thurstan community it’s an irreparable loss of a pioneer and historian who was the first president of Thurstan OBU, which he also served in later years as its senior vice president. Death is certain in life but it’s not easy to bear and accept the departure of someone who has been dear and near to us. In keeping with our spiritual aspirations, we hope Sam’s sansaric journey will be shortened in the pursuit of the ultimate realisation of Nirvana.

Sunil Karunanayake

What makes a grandmother great?

Sithy Waffarn

A grandparent's love is purer and cleaner and easier than a parent's. You share their genes, but you are not torn from their body. You are an extension of their story, but there is no pressure to be its culmination. You come into their lives when they are in their fifties and sixties, when they are relaxed with the story of their life: they know who they are.’
- Johann Hari, The Independent

Our maternal grandmother, Sithy Kadeeja Waffarn, was born on May 20, 1924 and passed away peacefully on May 1 this year at the age of 84. She led a full and fruitful life through a century that included World Wars, men landing on the moon, and the election of the first black president of the United States. And throughout her time on this planet, she raised two children (Dr. Feizal Waffarn and Mrs. Fathima Aziz), saw four grand-children grow from babies to adults, and got to see her first great-grandson Tahir Aziz. And all of us loved her dearly, for her kind heart, her twinkling sense of humour, her quiet independence, her grace and her grit.

Her father, the patriarch of an extended family was S.L.M. Mohideen (aka "Times" Mohideen from the then prominent news daily the Times of Ceylon) and her mother’s name was Sithy Ayesha Mohideen (called Zafeera by everyone). Sithy Khadeeja was the oldest daughter of a family of four siblings -- Abdee, Ariff and Noor Shuhaiba. The extended family lived in the ancestral home at 19 Collingwood Place. The house was built in 1942 by her father.

She married Dr. Abdul Rahman Muhammad Waffarn on March 8, 1943 and he passed away on November 2, 1967. Fiercely independent, she resisted any appeal to move out of her small, modest apartment at Number 19 Collingwood Place in Wellawatte, the place where she had lived in right up to the moment of an accident that made her bed-ridden at the age of 80.

The neighbourhood changed around her. Gone are the street vendors who sold dry goods, fish, kerosene, and firewood from hand carts or bullock carts. Once quiet and sleepy, with a close-knit community of neighbours from many different backgrounds – Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher – it is now a bustling suburb crammed with densely-packed high rise apartments, the noise and traffic making it a difficult environment to live in. But she enjoyed its rhythms, her decades-long friendships with her neighbours, her memories of so many wonderful family functions taking place in the house.

My brother and I, with two working parents, spent a lot of quality time with my grandmother. She would look after us when we came home from school, make us lunch and talk to us while we ate ; she would watch us come in with dirty hands and faces after playing cricket in the neighbourhood streets and admonish us to clean up.

She was a constant source of gentle wisdom, never arguing a point with us, but rather sweetly leaving us with a thought or idea that, upon reflection, would help us see a better way of handling a situation or approaching a problem. Our notions of civility and respect, of how to behave like gentlemen, were deeply influenced by her gentle counsel.

Not that she was conflict averse – she would give holy hell to the domestic help when she wasn’t getting her way, and we frequently had a parade of cooks, cleaners and others who would come in hopefully and then leave in a couple of months, leaving my poor mother to find yet another unsuspecting victim willing to take the plunge. But she would go from stern scoldings on the state of the Sunday lunch to joking with us with a twinkle of the eye, testament to her lightness of touch and sense of humour. And every Ramadan and Hajj Festival, she would spoil us rotten by making us individual bowls of Wattalappam that my brother and I would devour, much to the detriment of our dental cavities, no doubt.
She was a sociable being and loved being out and about with her relatives, at prayer meetings and family functions; she was constantly in the midst of a throng of people, listening intently, cracking the odd joke, and enjoying the sociability of the gathering. It meant a lot to us that even when she was wheelchair-ridden, she attended my brother’s wedding, getting pride of place on the day as she arrived, nervous but determined to be there.

She was a deeply religious person, who recited the Quran every day, and had a deep and abiding faith in God; and her spirituality also took concrete form in the charity work she did, notably with the Fathima Welfare Centre for Orphans, which was run by the All Ceylon Muslim Women's Association of which she was the President in 1995/96.

On another note - we live at a time when medical science has achieved the goal of letting people live for much longer than ever before. But this advancement comes at a price; sometimes the mind outlasts the body, trapped in a prison of its own skin; and sometimes it is the mind that becomes untethered, ravaged by senility, while the body soldiers on, bowed but unbroken. The children – and grand-children – of these prisoners of age have to deal with an increasingly difficult situation. One where the desire to preserve and honour the lives of those who raised them needs to be balanced with the realities and stresses of looking after individuals whose physical and mental needs are beyond their capabilities to address.

In the West, the solution, though unpalatable, is simple: put them into an old people’s home to spend the rest of their days. In Asia, with its strong traditions of family and respect for elders, this is a worst case solution (though one which is increasingly being required) and instead the sons and daughters take on the duty of sharing a home with someone who frequently requires full time support and care. My parents have been quiet heroes in this respect; sacrificing much to ensure that my grandmother had a comfortable home, round the clock nursing care, and an atmosphere of love right until the moment of her passing away. They did this for the last four and a half years, giving up their own time and space and independence to unselfishly work towards keeping her happy and engaged just as much as when she was not bed-ridden and immobile.

The fact that my grandmother was able to spend her last afternoon in the garden, enjoying the plants and trees….the fact that her first great grandson was there the day before she died, to kiss her repeatedly as he sang nursery rhymes for her…these are all hard-won simple pleasures. And for our parents, dedication and commitment - and for the dedication and commitment of all the families out there who chose to go down this route – we salute them.

Our maternal grandmother Sithy Kadeeja Waffarn led a full and fruitful life. And we loved her dearly.
It is up to us to fulfil her dreams now.

Afdhel Aziz

Sunday Times May 17 2009

He was the humane face of the law

Justice Mark Fernando

As a student of law, I have been moved and awestruck by the capacity of legal concepts to bring about radical social change; to make societies more humane and just. I cannot, however, state with sincerity that there are many in the legal firmament of contemporary Sri Lanka who have used that potential in the law with imagination and creativity to bring about positive change. That is why I feel so fortunate to have known Justice Mark Fernando. He belonged to that rare breed of jurists who breathed life to the law through a profound empathy for the human condition and sound legal reasoning. That he had a heart of gold did indeed help. We were the richer for it.

But I cannot confine my memories or appreciation of Justice Fernando to his role as a jurist. That would be too unfair. His was a multi-faceted personality with multiple talents and interests. There will be many who would speak eloquently about Justice Fernando’s contribution to the law. But for me, in addition to that, I remember him as a deeply committed legal educator who was keen to see the institutions of legal education in the country impart legal education that was relevant and modern.

He was a humanist who was keen to ensure that rural students would not be disadvantaged because of their poor knowledge of English or class barriers. I also remember him as a social activist who ardently espoused transparent and accountable governance, respect for the rule of law and a fair deal for all. I remember him standing tall, not because of his considerable height, but because he was decent and ethical.

I first met Justice Fernando soon after my return to the island, having completed my graduate studies. It was in the early 1990s. If my memory serves me well, I met him first at an event organized by the late Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam. I remember being taken aback by the simplicity and humility of Justice Fernando, who by then was one of the most respected Supreme Court Justices. To be honest, I had not met many superior court Justices at that time. Like many mere mortals, I was quite awed by the presence of a Supreme Court Justice and was acting clumsy, unsure of the protocol. Justice Fernando put me at ease at once with his friendly demeanour and winning smile. He was like a kindly uncle, but making serious conversation about the law and legal education. I was so humbled and grateful.

What I wish to highlight here is the sterling role played by Justice Fernando in enriching the lives of both academics and students of the Law Faculty of the University of Colombo. That he did through his pioneering activities as the Patron of the Law Faculty Alumni Association. The vigour and commitment with which he threw himself into that work was amazing. His mission was to better the lot of the law students. He wanted to bring about changes to legal education and to modernize the mindset of the future lawyers and also of the legal academics. And for those efforts, we are forever in his debt.

Justice Fernando mooted the idea of an LL.M. programme in corporate law to be offered by the Law Faculty, long before anyone had thought of such a move. He was singularly responsible for the introduction of the internship programme for our students. The programme continues to benefit hundreds of students by placing them in law chambers and other professional settings. Many students met their future employers through that programme. He commenced mentoring programmes for law students with the assistance of legal practitioners, focusing on improving English proficiency and subject knowledge. He introduced the ‘welcome dinner’ for first year students and the ‘farewell dinner’ for final year students, hosted by the Alumni Association. That was his way of creating a supportive and professional environment for the students, who were mostly from rural areas. The students got to hobnob with lawyers, stalwarts of industry and the private sector, not to mention Justices of the superior courts. Sometimes he would host groups of students to a meal at his residence. The students revelled in these encounters, their self-confidence boosted by these rare opportunities. He worked with young academics in organizing those events and became a mentor to many of them as well.

What was so touching and humbling was to see this man in plain shirt sleeves walking around the corridors of the Faculty, meeting people, attending to the minutest detail of a programme, when in many a lecture hall the jurisprudence that he had developed on the Bench was being taught and debated. It was a remarkable experience for both academics and the students. Here was a man, who was reshaping the face of public law in the country, and thereby touching the lives of millions of people.

Public law of Sri Lanka cannot be taught without adverting to the innovations of Justice Fernando.
In my own human rights law class, I believe not a day passed when we did not take up for discussion the judgments of Justice Fernando—expansion of the scope of fundamental rights, liberalizing of procedures, establishing the interface between administrative law and fundamental rights jurisprudence, use of international human rights standards as interpretive guides, and the list went on. Yet, here he was with us, a simple man, partnering a common endeavour to improve legal education, not wishing to stand on a pedestal and be venerated. It was this down-to-earth simplicity and humanism of Justice Fernando that endeared him to many of us. He was truly inspirational.

Justice Fernando left us early. The ways of life are a mystery that is hard to unravel. He contributed immeasurably to society, yet life did not treat him fairly. He prematurely retired from the Supreme Court, in unhappy circumstances. Soon thereafter he was diagnosed with a dreaded disease. He carried on with his work regardless, always positive and with a smile.

Although he is no more, Justice Fernando has left a rich and humane legacy for us to nurture and emulate. Whether the Sri Lankan polity, or at least the legal community, has the capacity or, indeed, the inclination to benefit from that legacy, remains to be seen. For we live in confused and troubled times. We have become a nation of survivors, often not willing to recognize and appreciate what is good, when to do so would not serve our immediate interests. There is no doubt, however, that history will remember him as a giant in the twentieth century legal firmament of Sri Lanka, who shaped public law for the common good.

May he rest in peace. And may his beloved family find comfort in their faith and in the knowledge that Justice Fernando will live in our hearts forever.

Dr. Deepika Udagama, Faculty of Law, University of Colombo

A wonderful teacher who taught countless students to love maths

Gnanie Nalliah

Good teachers earn the enduring respect and affection of their students, colleagues and family.
Gnanie Nalliah – who was born on February 4, 1918 and passed away on March 21, 2009 – was one such a person.

Although born to a family of teachers, her early life was such that she was unable to complete her formal schooling. Gnanie was born in Thunnalai, a quiet village in Jaffna. Her father was a successful lawyer. She had her early education at the village school, and joined Vembadi Girls’ High School, Jaffna as a boarder. Her father died when she was just seven years old. The family that was once comfortably off was now in straitened circumstances.

Gnanie’s exceptional abilities in mathematics were not evident when she was a young student. One year her end-of-term school report showed such a poor performance in maths that her older brother, now effectively the head of the family, decided to take her in hand. He instructed their mother that Gnanie was not to have breakfast until she had finished her maths assignments.

Gnanie was supervised daily during the school holidays. She worked her way through the Hall and Stevens textbooks. The systematic study bore fruit: not only did she receive high marks in algebra and geometry the next term, she also developed a love for the subject that stayed with her for the rest of her life.

Sadly, Gnanie had to drop out of school in Grade 9, when her mother fell ill and her older sister got married. She was now looking after her mother full time.

For the next 10 years, Gnanie nursed her mother and did all the housework. After her mother passed away, she resumed her studies. She took a correspondence course and passed her Senior Cambridge and Inter-Arts exams.

Gnanie married Devarajah Nalliah in 1948. Financial necessity made her consider taking up teaching. When her husband was chosen for a teacher training programme, the couple faced the prospect of no monthly income. Teacher trainees at the time were not paid a salary. Gnanie got a job as a maths teacher at Chundikuli Girls’ College, Jaffna in 1949. The school principal, Dr. E. M. Thilliampalam, recognised Gnanie’s aptitude for maths and encouraged her to complete her degree.

It was not an easy time for Gnanie, who had to study for her degree exams while holding a teaching job and looking after her young son, who was ill with whooping cough. Often at night, she would study while walking up and down with her son on her shoulders. Her perseverance and hard work paid off and she obtained her BA, London degree.

Gnanie taught at Chundikuli for 26 years. Her students said she had a talent for explaining complex mathematical concepts.

Gnanie had a deep love for her work and a genuine concern for her students. Those who needed extra help would be invited to her home after school for further coaching, free of charge. The students would also be treated to a cup of tea and tiffin.

In the 1970s, family needs compelled her to start giving private tuition classes in her home, in addition to her regular teaching job at school.

Countless numbers of students passed through her capable hands and acquired her love for the subject. Average students would surprise themselves and their parents by obtaining distinctions at the exams.

Gnanie took early retirement. She gave up her teaching job at Chundikuli in 1975 and moved to Colombo. She had a busy schedule, with GCE Ordinary Level students flocking to her home at 5th Lane, Kollupitiya. Neither the students nor their parents were disappointed when the results came out.
In 1986, Gnanie and her husband left Sri Lanka to settle down in Canada. Gnanie assumed her teaching career was over and that she would now be concentrating on being a grandma. But fate decided otherwise.

Gnanie’s husband died in 1988, and she went through a dark period. A family friend whose daughters needed maths help encouraged Gnanie to start teaching again. Word got around and soon dozens of students were coming to her, including Sri Lankan-Canadian children.

Gnanie had the distinction of being an active maths teacher into her 91st year. With her integrity and talent for maths, Gnanie made a perfect honorary treasurer for various organisations. She would not hesitate to point out any irregularities.

She was much more than just a good maths teacher. Someone remarked that Gnanie had just one son, but was a mother to countless children.

Shanti Arulanantham

He was indeed a man of many parts at all times

Tissa Abeysekara

My bosom friend Tissa Abeysekara, his family and I had planned a very different celebration for the day on which he would have achieved the Biblical span of three score years and ten had he yet been with us physically. Tissa was understandably thrilled by the publication in the United States of a collection of stories including the old familiar tale about Bringing Tony Home.

With this particular 2008 publication, I know, Tissa finally also brought himself home! I am sorry we could not celebrate the 7th of May, as originally planned but, then, our best laid plans often go awry!My family and I were away from Sri Lanka seeking some respite from the continuing assault on our nerves and our conscience, when I learnt of Tissa’s sudden illness and subsequent passing. Grieve, of course, we all must at Tissa’s departure and most of that grieving will be by Asanka, Svetlana and Dmitri. But alongside this grief must also be the recognition of the need to celebrate Tissa’s life and his many splendid accomplishments. He was husband, father, delightful and congenial fellow-traveller, fine filmmaker, scriptwriter and felicitous author--in both Sinhala and English--indeed a man of many parts. And he was unfailingly the sum of all those parts at all times.

Tissa, like some of us, though not a religious person in the conventional sense, was a spiritual person. He believed in the essential goodness of all religious philosophies and his outlook and world-view were shaped by them. Hence, I know he will be pleased that Asanka and the family arranged this service at the chapel of his daughter Svetlana’s school. Asanka, was the calm centre of Tissa’s turbulent earthly existence. He told me on a number of occasions whenever we had quiet, private moments together (and I had the good fortune to spend many such moments with my namesake) that the happiest years that he has known are those spent with Asanka, Sveltana and Dmitri. He loved all of his children dearly, but he especially cherished Asanka and their two children. I think the past 25 or so years of his life were those that afforded him peace of mind and heart and the ones in which he found contentment.

I first met Tissa Abeysekara way back in 1978 at a seminar on the theme “From Novel to Film” I had organized at The American Centre in Kandy. Over the years, our acquaintance blossomed into an intimate friendship and deepened further in the period 1985 - 1990 when we both served as judges of the annual Sinhala Drama Festival organised by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. We subsequently became fellow-conspirators on many a cultural and literary project. I was quite comfortable playing second fiddle to him. I worked closely with Tissa when he served as Chairman of the National Film Corporation as did my good and dear friend Nirmalie Wickremesinghe who is here with us this evening.
He was a regular at orientation programmes, seminars and lecture/discussions at the United States - Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission where I work. Consequently, American scholarvisitors and U.S.

Embassy personnel have been the richer for becoming familiar with Tissa Abeysekara’s insights and wisdom. He could never say ‘no’ to a friend no matter how otherwise busy he was. He was generous to a fault especially to aspiring young artistes and writers. Madhubashini Ratnayake writing to me from New York where she and husband Pradeep are spending a Fulbright sojourn has told me for the umpteenth time that Pradeep owes so much to Tissa’s encouragement and guidance. And Pradeep Ratnayake is just one among the very many to benefit from Tissa’s generosity of spirit.

This is not the place for a full blown assessment of Tissa Abeysekara the man or artist. What I have attempted to do is merely express some thoughts and share a few words of re-collection, albeit inadequate, on this occasion of celebrating and giving thanks to the life and work of a man who was warm, generous, and like most of us, fallible.

One day, soon I hope, the literary and academic establishment of Sri Lanka will pay more than lip service to Tissa Abeysekara for his outstanding service to our country and acknowledge his due and proper place within our cultural firmament. We shall await that day expectantly.

Meantime I wish to end my tribute to my departed friend with a definition of life, love and death that my mother shared with me many moons ago which I wish to share with you, and especially with Asanka, Svetlana, Dmitri and other close members of Tissa’s family.

Life is eternal, love is immortal and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.

(Remarks made by Tissa Jayatilaka at the Service of Remembrance held at the Chapel of the Hope of the World, Ladies’ College, Colombo, on May 7, 2009)

Sunday Times May 10 2009

Ever-grateful client remembers a great lawyer

H. L. de Silva

Several letters have appeared in newspapers about the late H. L. de Silva, President’s Counsel, who passed away recently. Most of the eulogies have come from members of the legal profession. I write this letter as an ever-grateful client who received his professional services free of charge.

When I first met H. L. in his chambers, he was seeing me for the first time. He greeted me cordially and asked me to relate my story. When I had finished, he said I was not at fault, and that he would appear for me free, along with his junior colleague.

Thereafter we had several consultations. He spent hours in solitude, thinking about how he would conduct the case and bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. His wife Manel patiently typed out his briefs. Most of it was done overnight.

H. L.’s well-known professional integrity helped to convince the judges that his submissions were honest. H. L. was a deeply religious man who read his Bible even during his free time in courts.

I condole with his family in their great loss. Most assuredly, H.L. has been welcomed through the pearly gates to enjoy eternal rest.

Incidentally, the other senior lawyers, the late Vernon Wijetunga, QC; R. K. W. Goonesekere; the late Edward Deraniyagala, the late E. D. Wickramanayake, and Hugo Anthony – also waived their fees in my case.

I was privileged to have met all these scions of the noble profession of the law in my quest for justice.

Priyani Soysa

Lawyer and statesman who served the people

Al Haj M. A. Bakeer Markar

“One day I will have to answer to my Creator for the things I have done, and for the good things I failed to do whenever He gave me the opportunity.”

Those words would be on the lips of Bakeer Markar when he set out for work every day. That was how God-conscious he was.

Bakeer Markar was a humble man from an elitist background – a rare combination. To him, nothing was more important than serving humanity. His heart would melt when he heard stories of suffering and hardship.

He did not believe in class separation. His friends would be surprised to see “ordinary people”, such as his chauffeur, sitting with him at the dining table.

His belief in the oneness of humanity and the Oneness of God had an effect on those he associated with. I have heard people say how there would be a change of attitude in fellow travellers who spent time with him. Bakeer Markar used to say that “serving God’s creatures was an act of worship in itself”.

Recalling the life and times of his father, Bakeer Markar’s son Imtiaz told me how his father would take sick people to hospital in his car, in the days when transport was hard to come by. And so, when anyone in the neighbourhood had to be taken to hospital, they would, without hesitation, turn to Al Haj Bakeer Markar.

In true Islamic tradition, the doors of Bakeer Markar’s home in Beruwela were always open to both friends and strangers. A steady stream of people would come to seek his help and advice, whether it was to settle a family feud or sort out a business problem. He was a humble man, and associating with the high and mighty of the land only made him humbler. A man’s greatness is gauged by his humility, not by his arrogance. Besides, Al Haj Bakeer Markar was too good a Muslim to even be aware of the existence of such a word as “arrogance”.

When he assumed duties as Speaker of Parliament, he handed over his legal practice to Manilal Fernando with these words: “My clients are the poor and humble people of the land, so please don’t charge them high fees.”

That was the essence of Bakeer Markar – always concerned for the people. Al Haj Bakeer Markar lived an active life as a lawyer and politician, or rather statesman. His was a rich life, dedicated to the well-being of the people and his country.

He was a gentle, mild person, but when it came to a cause close to his heart he was a tireless fighter, never giving up as he fought for justice and fairplay, both for his clients as a lawyer and for his people as their representative in Parliament.

It is these sterling qualities that earned him the admiration and love of his colleagues at the Bar and in Parliament.

Hameed Abdul Karim

Lankan patriot who reflected country’s finest values

Susantha Perera

My uncle Susantha passed away in February, two months short of his 84th birthday. The hundreds who attended his funeral in Panadura will attest to his unforgettable qualities, including his life of philanthropy.

My uncle was born to a well-known family in Panadura. His parents were the much-loved and respected Tudor and Milly Perera. Like his father and grandfather, Susantha was educated at Royal College, Colombo, and did his alma mater proud throughout his life.

After leaving school, Susantha apprenticed under his father, founder of the accounting firm, Tudor V. Perera and Co. He eventually took the helm of the company, guiding it for close on five decades, until his demise.

Susantha was the quintessential Sri Lankan gentleman, in the same mould as his kinsman, Sir John Kotelawala, whose joie de vivre he shared. He lived a life of service and enjoyed it.

I am reminded of the lines of the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy, I woke and found that life was duty, I acted and found that duty was joy.”

He was a pillar of strength to his family and friends, and the dynamo of many organisations, including St. John’s Panadura, the Panadura Sports Club, the Morawinna Orphaned Girls’ Home, the Lions Club, and the Rotary Clubs, to name just a few.

When he visited Sri Lanka last year, he took me along to observe a Lions-sponsored charity programme that assisted visually impaired persons who could not afford to pay for cataract operations. My uncle’s pride and satisfaction in seeing these people being able to see once again was very evident.

Susantha was dapper and handsome and always immaculately dressed. His zest for life made him look younger than his years. He was the youngest 83-year-old I have ever met.

The enormous workload and responsibilities he carried – he commuted regularly between Colombo and Panadura to the very end – never seemed to weigh him down, because he was essentially a blithe spirit.

The parties he gave at his beloved “Mt. Pleasant” were legendary events – fun-filled and ringing with baila music and singsongs. He had a great sense of camaraderie and an infectious sense of fun.
As a child I never missed an opportunity to go on trips with Uncle Susantha. We enjoyed many such outings – to the hills, to the beach, and to the wild life parks. I remember how we would seize any opportunity to bathe in a river or under a natural water spout. These excursions were always meticulously organised.

They say that if you don’t find happiness along the way, you will not find it at the end of the road. During a journey, Susantha would stop to buy fruit, vegetables and curd-and-honey at specific spots where he had formed lasting friendships with vendors and boutique-owners.

Those trips were the stuff of the happiest memories, replete with good company, good food and wonderful entertainment. Susantha was a raconteur par excellence.

He seemed to change little over the decades. He was like a real-life Peter Pan, retaining a childlike appreciation of life to the end. He had a unique gift for life. He impressed on those he met his very positive attitude.

He was not an outwardly spiritual man, but he embodied spiritual qualities in his generosity, compassion and selflessness. He was a senior trustee at the Gangula Temple.

He epitomised the finest values of “old Ceylon”, coming from a more spacious gracious age. He was a true Sri Lankan patriot who reflected the country’s finest values.

Susantha Perera, “Laird of Mt. Pleasant”, as I will remember him, is no more. Rather than mourning his passing after such a memorable and sterling innings, let us reflect on his life and be grateful to have associated with such a rare individual.

Let us rejoice in his life and carry his warm inspiring memory with us.

He would probably like that.

Deepal Lecamwasam

He made his most important investment while in Ceylon

Patrick John Wye

Patrick John Wye – who was born on November 19, 1932 and passed away on February 14, 2009 – was an international banker whose career took him around the world. Sri Lanka was one of the many countries he was posted to.

Born in Hollywood, England, Patrick would later settle in the United States, in Sierra Madre, not far from Hollywood, California.

He acquired a wanderlust after serving in the British military during the Korean War. The places he worked in included Bangkok, Tokyo, Colombo, Jaffna, Assam, New Delhi, New York, Karachi, Dhaka, Bombay, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Lagos and finally Los Angeles.

Patrick lived an extraordinary life, filled with adventure and celebration. He was witty and charming, the quintessential English gentleman. He was also a prolific reader.

Patrick met his beautiful wife Indrani (daughter of the late James T. Rutnam) when he was stationed in Colombo, in 1962, to work for the Mercantile Bank. Under pressure from his superiors to break off the inter-racial relationship, he resigned from the bank to marry Indrani.

After 46 wonderful years of marriage, Patrick leaves behind a legacy: his daughter Padmini, son-in-law Michael and their children Devon and Liam; daughter Maria, son-in-law Dylan and their children Brixton and Gracelyn, and step-daughter Kshirabdhi, son-in-law Louis and their children Rachel, Tara and Louis.

Mangalam St. George

Sunday Times May 3 2009

In victory or defeat he was the gentleman politician

E.L.B. Hurulle

Sri Lanka bid farewell a few weeks back to the gentleman politician, former Minister E.L.B. Hurulle, a UNP stalwart from the mid 1950s. He led a peaceful, exemplary life in retirement as he did whilst in high office.

I came to know Edwin Hurulle as his son Themiya was my classmate at S.Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia from our junior days. I came to know the family closely thereafter and was privileged to have been considered a family member. Mr. Hurulle affectionately known to us as Uncle Edwin, was a gentleman par excellence. Having known him affectionately from the 1960s, I could say without any doubt that he never uttered a bad word against his opposition or his own party members. He steered clear during many a political turmoil.

Themiya followed the same principle. It is my fervent hope that Themiya will continue to add class and sanity to local politics.

Uncle Edwin won the Horowapatana seat in the NCP from 1956, other than in 1970 for a short spell. Immaculately dressed in a light suit, he portrayed class and character always. His speech was well mannered and never vindictive. In both victory and defeat, he always remained humble and a gentleman. His tenure initially as an MP, then Minister of Communications in 1965, Minister of Cultural Affairs in 1977, the High Commissioner to Australia and twice the Governor of the Central Province and later the NCP was exemplary. He never misused or abused his powers as a highly respected senior politician.

We took great pride talking politics with him and being educated of the former times in Parliament. I gathered from him that his dear relative late Bulankulame Dissawe and my grandfather late Simon Abeywickrama were contemporaries in the State Council and first Parliament as junior cabinet rankers. Uncle Edwin was educated at Trinity College Kandy and hailed from aristocracy, as personified in his exemplary lifestyle. Cheap politics was never to his liking.

He was a devoted father and loving husband. Mrs. Hurulle whom we affectionately call Aunty Malini hailing from nobility, was a tower of strength and the wind beneath his wings. How admirably she handled the domestic affairs and the rural constituents will be long remembered by us. Maya, Deepthi, Themiya, Vajira and Kanishka and the in-laws were hospitable and decent human beings always.

Uncle Edwin never wanted praise and fanfare. To all he was a fatherly figure held in high respect. Though I wish you dear uncle Edwin the supreme bliss of Nirvana, within me it cries that you should be born again to lead Sri Lanka to gentlemanly politics which you personified to great heights.

Edwin Hurulle held high office for many decades without any personal gain and with much acceptance that even the “ranks of Tuscany could scarce forbear to cheer” and like Eisiterion who made Athens the greatest city , " he did not make his estate a shilling greater ".

Ecce Honourable Minister, when will Sri Lankan politics have gentlemen of his stature again ?

Milinda Hettiarachchi

Giant in science was loyal to students and alma mater

Professor Charles Dahanayaka

Even at the ripe old age of 81, death can come without warning, with all around you suffering a feeling of sudden loss. If a human being cultivates his human qualities in a way that makes others emulate him, then irrespective of what he has achieved in the academic world or social stature, his departure from this world creates a vacuum which takes a long time to fill. The feeling of this vacuum was evident when Prof. Charles Dahanayaka departed from this world a few weeks ago. We lost both a human being worth emulating as well as an academic giant of mighty proportions.

Prof. Dahanayaka was born in 1928 in Hiyare off Galle. His brilliant academic career started in Galle where he passed his Senior School Certificate in the first division in the Arts stream and entered Ananda College, Colombo. Within one year he passed his S.S.C in the Science stream in the first division and also passed Higher School Certificate in the first division with four distinctions. After entering the University of Ceylon in 1946 as a scholar he won the Khan Prize awarded to the best student at the first examination. On completing a first class honours degree in Physics he joined the academic staff in 1950 and started a successful career spanning almost four decades.

He was one of the first to be selected for the University of Bristol where he received his Ph.D under the tutelage of Nobel Prize winner Prof. Powell.

While at the Colombo campus as a senior lecturer in Physics his remarkable ability to build a strong relationship with the student population was evident when he was instrumental in coordinating the first all-night pirith ceremony and alms -giving at King George hall in 1957. He earned the respect of his students due partly to his continuous organization of activities such as the Buddhist Brotherhood. The Physics Department of Peradeniya University too had the benefit of his services in the 1960's. After the establishment of the University of Kelaniya, Prof. Dahanayaka became its first Professor of Physics and the Head of Department.

Prof. Dahanayaka not only served the university in its academic development but also promoted the activities of Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science of which he became the General President. In the field of education in the country. His efforts in the successful implementation of the teaching of science subjects in Swabhasha in secondary schools is noteworthy.

He served the University Grants Commission as a member for nearly ten years. His services in promoting the establishment of the University of Ruhuna was recognized when the university showed its highest appreciation by conferring an honorary Doctorate of Science (D. Sc).

His devotion and respect for his alma mater, Ananda College was demonstrated by his serving as an active member of the Senior Old Anandians until his untimely death. He was a keen participant at every general meeting including the last Annual General Meeting held at the college only three months ago. As a devoted practising Buddhist he took a keen interest in regular programmes such as Dhamma discussions.

We offer our deepest condolences to Mrs Thilaka Dahanayaka and the daughters Rachitha.and Punitha. May he attain his full liberation through Nibbana.

Das Miriyagalla

Pharmaceutical pioneer was a visionary

Douglas de Silva

Douglas de Silva, who joined the Lord on March 25, 2009, lived a quiet life, shunning publicity and ostentation. He asked for a private cremation, without the elaborate funeral arrangements usually associated with people of his standing.

God gave Mr. de Silva the gift of a dear wife, Fedelia, who was a tower of strength to him for more than 50 years. And he would often say that his wealth was his two wonderful sons, Dilhan and Harin.
This writer was associated with Mr. de Silva for close on 50 years.

Douglas de Silva was the first Sri Lankan to venture into pharmaceutical manufacturing. At the time, this industry was the exclusive reserve of such foreign pharmaceutical giants as Glaxo and Pfizer.

It was necessary at the time to get government approval to set up the manufacturing facility. The discouragement and scorn he received from the authorities did not deter him from pursuing his goal. He obtained assistance from a UK company and established Unical Ceylon Ltd, which stands as a monument to his dedication and determination. He proved to the government and the medical world that quality pharmaceutical products could be manufactured in Sri Lanka.

Mr. de Silva was hailed as a pioneer, and although he was urged to take a leadership role in the industry, he preferred to work behind the scenes, avoiding the limelight of publicity. Industry giants would often seek his counsel, whenever the industry faced difficulties because of changes in government policies.

Douglas de Silva was a visionary, a leader, and above all a humane person. He valued human relationships. He had no enemies. He gave employment to young men from various backgrounds, some of whom have gone on to hold high positions in the pharmaceutical industry and other disciplines.

Mr. de Silva had rare qualities. He was a true friend to all those who came in contact with him. His humaneness and integrity will be the guiding factor in the lives of the younger generation he has left behind.

There was another aspect to Mr. de Silva, and that was his love of golf, a love he inherited from his father, who was Sri Lanka’s (then Ceylon) first golf champion.

Often, we would walk into his office to find him swinging an imaginary golf club at an imaginary golf ball. He would listen closely, discussing intricate business matters, without taking his eyes off that imaginary ball. That was how unique Mr. de Silva was.

He lived the life of a true Christian. He was active in the church where he worshipped. At his funeral service, the Rev. Duleep Fernando gave us an insight into Douglas de Silva’s Christian belief.

Mr. de Silva has left an indelible impression on the lives of many of us who seek to emulate him. We are grateful that he came into our lives. His life’s purpose was fulfilled through the commitment and sincerity he showed all his life.

Thank you, beloved Mr. de Silva, for touching our lives. We shall always love you.
Till we meet again.

An admiring friend

Happy b’day ‘Mother Courage’

Ganjali Jayasekera

It would have been your birthday on May 7 and I, together with your family and friends would have shared some laughter and cheer, despite your discomfort and pain. Dear sister-in-law I miss you, as I know your family and friends do, as everyone whose lives you touched will.

You left us six months ago, after a long and painful illness, bravely borne. Never during this time did you lose your sense of caring, compassion and humour and above all, the love you so unstintingly radiated among all of us. I was your brother's wife, but I know you cared for me as you would have cared for a sister. You were always there for me, encouraging me, through good times and sad.

These memories of you will always be etched in my mind and to me you will always be 'Mother Courage'.

"This day for us is sacred, for it will always be – a day of dear remembrance and fondest memory. But not on this day only upon our loss we dwell. She is remembered always by those who loved her well." (From Patience Strong).

Dear Ganji, may your journey in Sansara be short and may you attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana soon.

Verna L. De Silva

Sunday Times Apr 26 2009

A great but humble man remembered

H. L. de Silva

Many tributes have been and will be paid to H. L. de Silva, P.C., whose mortal remains were interred on April 11, rest of his bones and souls delivery. This little tribute might have remained unuttered except that his wife Manel, daughters Nilmini and Lakmali, and grandsons Sanjeev, Rajeev and Krishan, all of whom HL loved dearly and devoutly, would like to know something of what a fellow worshipper at the Mt. Lavinia Methodist Church remembers over the last several decades.

Remembrance is fondly summoned up of H. L. and Manel walking up the aisle to take their seats in the second row of pews on the right, bowing their heads in silent prayer, and then preparing to spend the next hour in silent adoration of the almighty God we worshipped together. H. L., we knew, was a young Crown Counsel in those days of early memory but he did not know us.

For, that is the way with those whom everybody knows and those whom nobody knows. He was Church steward and at the appointed time walked from pew to pew with the collection bag. We saw him seated round the vestry table with other stewards totting up the offerings for the Sunday, as part of their stewardship.

The months and then the years passed by, and there was a breaking of silence and a narrowing of distance when from time to time at gatherings outside the service of worship such as nativity plays, retreats, wedding receptions, celebrations of one sort or another or fellowship teas, we sat in close proximity and eventually next to H. L. Methodists are fond of such occasions of fellowship.

A kindred spirit of self-consciousness and reticence on his part and mine seemed to draw us to each other. In fact, Manel some years ago managed to persuade H. L. to join in a Methodist retreat in a Negombo Hotel by the sea on the assurance that he would have my company, my wife having cajoled me to attend. These were opportunities for both of us to unwind and for long chats on many matters, the Bible, politics, the past and the future. The morning began with a walk on the beach in silent meditation.

What was most rewarding was to find H. L. seek us out in the church lawn at the end of Sunday service at Mt. Lavinia and ask, Whats happening? The question invariably referred to the political situation, which in those years too looked and sounded volatile, unsettled and uncertain. Changes of government, upheavals and all manner of confusion were in the air. Mischief was afoot. Listening to him was an educative experience and others of the congregation wondered as they passed by what our animated talk was about. Such was the question my wife asked me on our way home.

A young lawyer living in our neighbourhood, who used to visit us on Sunday evenings, envied me that an ordinary mortal such as his host, only a teacher as many were wont to say, should have the privilege of knowing and conversing with Sri Lankas greatest constitutional lawyer. An envied privilege it undoubtedly was to have known H. L. Our visitor was denied that privilege.

We shared in the honour fittingly accorded to H. L. when the former President Chandrika Kumaratunga appointed him Sri Lankas Permanent Representative to the United Nations. His absence during that phase from the little church on the hill was sorely felt but Manel wrote a regular newsletter giving us all the information we yearned for.

Once on a flight back from Australia where he and Manel went every year to be with their daughters, H. L. had a harrowing experience. He had had a urine infection and writhed in pain through the long flight from Sydney. Manel took him straight to hospital from Katunayake. Emergency surgery was done. He arrived in Church many weeks later, restored to health, and under the weeping willow outside the church, he described his ordeal to me.

During H. L.s last illness, we sat at his bedside one morning at de Alwis Place. He was physically worn but mentally as alert as always and cheerful. He bore his illness with stoic resignation but also pondered his fate. The conversation was as before on a range of current matters and of the human condition. He was overjoyed that Peradeniya academic Professor G. H. Peiris had volunteered to edit and prepare for publication his magnificent collection of writings and speeches over the years. That volume Sri Lanka: A Nation in Conflict was launched a few months before he was called to rest, a lasting monument of the thoughts of a great mind.

At de Alwis Place, our thoughts flowed back to the day he celebrated with friends the award he received of Deshamanya. We also remembered his fortieth wedding anniversary celebration, the invitation to which, said No presents, only your presence.

The Mt. Lavinia Methodist Church down Hotel Road has always been a small church but enriched by H.L. It has now become immeasurably smaller. Diminished. The memory of H. L, however, as a perfume will remain in the pew he occupied with Manel, on the floor tiles (among their many donations to the church they loved) and under the weeping willow where we descanted and yet again descanted.
Farewell, H. L., Sir.


He worked for the welfare of common man

Pragathi Mahilal

I had the privilege of associating with Pragathi Mahilal over the past four years. I found him an efficient, hard-working and inspiring person, someone with whom you could develop a lasting friendship.

When he was elected by popular choice as president of the Welfare Society of Wijeya Newspapers Company Ltd, he succeeded in filling the society’s coffers through a number of large-scale fund-raising projects.

His good works for the benefit of the society were many. One was the three-wheeler he bought without using welfare society funds.

He organised a number of clinics with the help of eminent doctors attached to the Colombo General Hospital. He provided stationery items for the children of welfare members. The Welfare Society sales outlet he helped set up sells household items at concessionary rates. Pragathi organised very successful sports events and popular dramas to generate income for welfare members in need of financial assistance.
Pragathi was also successful in his personal and professional life. He acquired a master’s degree in Information Technology from the University of Rajarata, a remarkable achievement that proved how versatile a person he was. He was very keen to publish his IT thesis.

He would often talk about his beloved family – his wife and three loving daughters. He wanted to be with them as much as possible.

It was a delight to listen to Pragathi. His strong voice and personality had a powerful impact on people.
Pragathi Mahilal worked hard for the benefit of the common man. His sudden departure under tragic circumstances has created a vacuum that will be very hard to fill.

May he attain Nibbana.

D. B. Kappagoda

Grateful daughter paints portrait of a wonderful friend

Lalani Yapa (nee Dias)

Lalani, or Tita as she was affectionately known, was the youngest in a family of seven. She was a bright spark in school and excelled in everything she undertook.

She completed her education at the University of Peradeniya, where she spent some of the happiest years of her life. Her teaching career began soon after she graduated from university. Even after an early retirement, she was a very sought after teacher. Her popularity grew with the years.

She was one of the best teachers I ever had – not just because she was my mother but because of her excellent teaching techniques. I still remember the literary phrases and Buddhist gaathas she taught me.

I also recall the numerous telephone calls and notes of appreciation she would get whenever her students passed their exams with flying colours. She was responsible for all my academic achievements. I remember the evenings after school when she patiently sat with me and taught me her pet subjects.

She was a wonderful listener, in times of joy and woe. We looked up to her for advice at all the turning points in our lives. Lalani was an all-rounder in every sense. She was a wonderful cook, and as a seamstress she could sew anything just by looking at a fashion magazine. The items of household linen she sewed for her friends were miraculous works of art. Her memory will live on in the dozens of hand-made gifts she gave her friends and relatives.

She selflessly helped anyone or anything that came her way, be it human or animal. The stray animals she fed and caressed are too numerous to count.

She taught many students free of charge. The words “monetary gain” were not in her vocabulary. Her best trait was her positive attitude to life. She never gave up, even when all those around her stopped believing in their dreams. She always tried to see the sunshine and erase the gloom.

This quality helped her live through the agonies of the cancer that would plague the last 18 years of her life.

She fought the battle with unwavering spirit, with Thaaththa’s unbelievable support. When she stood face to face with death, she smiled. She made us realise how lucky we were to be alive and in good health, something most of us take for granted.

Her much-anticipated visit to Australia to visit my family was not to be. On October 11, 2008, she finally gave in, leaving me and Thaaththa behind, two weeks before her intended trip. I prayed she would live to see my children grow up so she could impart her values to them. But I am grateful that she was at least able to see them before she passed away.

Her face and words, and the memories we made together as mother and daughter for nearly 34 years, are etched in my heart. My admiration for her, as my mother and as a “gloriously wonderful” person, who lived with grace and humanity till the very end, will live on.

The void you have left in our lives will remain so forever. Amma, I will always miss you.

Hasanthi Nihara Mallawa

He captured a culture in two languages and two media forms

Deshabandu Dr. Tissa Abeysekara

Deshabandu Dr. Tissa Abeysekara – my schoolmate at Dharmapala Vidayala, Pannipitiya, in the early 1950s, and my lifelong friend for nearly six decades – has departed, leaving an indelible impression of awe and admiration in the minds of all Sri Lankans devoted to indigenous culture, literature and the arts.
I have happy memories of the times we spent together in school during those carefree, idyllic post-Independence days.

Tissa was three years junior to me in school. He came to prominence as a young and charismatic titan who spoke perfect English and made no bones about his revolutionary political leanings. He loved his school and respected his teachers. As a senior student, he displayed exemplary leadership qualities.

The students of our generation enjoyed the best of both worlds. We had English as our medium of instruction, but we also gave equal importance to the study of the Sinhala language and literature.

Tissa was a voracious reader with a good memory. His mind was a vast storehouse of knowledge. In later life he would say that the formal education he received at Dharmapala was comprehensive and complete, and was more than adequate for the literary and creative work he would pursue in later life.

He participated in almost every extra-curricular activity the college offered. He was a good orator and debater, and represented Dharmapala at inter-school oratory competitions and debates, speaking in both English and Sinhala. He held several key positions in the school’s various societies, including the literary, film and drama societies. He proved his journalistic capabilities as editor of the college magazine. He was also a cadet, and was adjudged best sergeant at one of the annual cadet camps at Diyatalawa.

While still a student, Tissa reviewed Dr. Lester James Pieris’s groundbreaking film “Rekhawa”, which heralded a new era in Sinhala cinema. Lester recognised young Tissa’s brilliance and took him under his wing and groomed him to be a great film maker.

Tissa Abeysekara was unique in that he showed genius in two fields: creative writing and innovative film-making. He made his Sinhala silver screen debut in the early 1960s as a scriptwriter. Later he directed such box-office hits as “Karumakkarayo”, “Mahagedara”, “Nidhanaya” and “Viragaya”.

Tissa acknowledged in his writings his mother’s influence on his life and outlook by instilling in him traditional Sinhala village values and the Buddhist qualities of loving kindness and compassion.
He was supremely bilingual, communicating fluently in both Sinhala and English, which he described as his “surrogate mother tongue”.

His literary works include “Ipanella” (short stories) and “Pitagamkarayo” (a novel), “Ayale Giya Sithaka Satahan” (essays), “Rupa-Svarupa” (essay on film) and “Cinema Sithuvili” (on the art of film).
Tissa Abeyesekara started writing in English later in life. His English novel “Bringing Tony Home” won the coveted Gratiaen Prize in 1996. “Roots, Reflections and Reminiscences”, his last book in English, chronicles his lifelong search for his roots and identity in a historical and cultural context.

Tissa was a man of many parts. He was a film director,actor, film critic, and a writer. I believe his uniqueness stems from his genealogy, his social background, his rural upbringing and his liberal education.

It is possible that his creativity and intellectual strengths derived from his genetic diversity: his father came of weather-beaten, low-country stock, while his mother was a docile and deeply religious village lady with Kandyan roots.

Tissa’s personality was characterised by his multi-cultural, multi-social background: His father came from an Anglicised English-speaking upper-middle class family, while his mother came from a Buddhist, Sinhala-speaking lower-middle class family with roots in the village.

Tissa Abeysekara beautifully portrayed in his writing and on celluloid the unpolluted, verdant rural environment he grew up in. The Kelani Valley is rich in folk art, dance, drama and music, and all these enriched his mind and stimulated his creativity.

Tissa Abeysekara’s parents made a wise decision when they sent their son to Dharmapala Vidyalaya. The school gave him a liberal, bilingual and complete education and provided him access to both Eastern and Western cultures. Although he did not pursue higher studies, Tissa’s senior secondary education at Dharmapala equipped him more than adequately for his roles as writer and filmmaker.
May he attain Nibbana!

Deshamanya K. H. J. Wijayadasa

Sunday Times Apr 19 2009

Orthopaedic surgeon revered in Lanka and overseas


James Randunna Corea was a friend and colleague, and I was privileged to know him. It is one year since his demise and I am personally aware that his family, relatives and friends have yet to recover from his death. His patients are lost without him.

I came to know more about Randy during the funeral, when his brother Uttum spoke of him. To be a doctor was a childhood dream, inspired by stories of a great-grandfather, Dr. John Attygalle, the first Ceylonese Colonial Surgeon. His interest in orthopaedics was fuelled by the skill of a surgeon who repaired his hand, fractured in a skirmish during a polo match. A skilled horseman, he took part in the Annual Gentleman Riders Race at the Queen’s Cup. He was an all-round sportsman at S. Thomas College Mount Lavinia.

Selected to the first batch at Peradeniya, he spent almost a year working as a clerk at the Central Bank till the Medical College began to function. Having served as an intern at the Kandy and Kalubowila Hospitals, he then left for the UK to further his studies. Returning as a Professor of Orthopaedics, he attempted to rejoin government service but was rejected, as was his subsequent attempt to join the Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital.

Sri Lanka’s loss was Saudi Arabia’s gain. He obtained a post at the King Fahd Teaching Hospital in Dammam, where he trained orthopaedic surgeons for that country.

Professor Lakshman Attygalle, who recently visited Saudi Arabia, said that Randunna was a highly respected, loved and almost revered figure in Saudi Arabia, for his contribution in in training surgeons for that country. His legacy lives on in Saudi Arabia. It was Randunna who set up the first Scoliosis Team at the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital. I recall him telling me that an article written by the parent of a Scoliosis patient in a Sinhala newspaper prompted him to write to the then President R. Premadasa, offering his services whenever he visited Sri Lanka. It was Mr. Premadasa who ordered the setting up of this unit.

Randunna loved his patients. When he first started his practice at his home in Colombo, patients would often settle their dues with fruit and vegetables. Later, he was advised to link up with reputed hospitals.
The son of Claire and Henri Corea, a well-known police officer of yesteryear, he never charged a fee from serving police officers or relatives of policemen. He was a consultant surgeon at the Police Hospital.

Randunna met Nalini during his internship in Kandy. She was a tower of strength to him when he was studying in the UK. Randunna and Nalini have three children, the twins Ranmali and Namali and Gemunu. A nationalist at heart, he wanted them to imbibe the culture of Sri Lanka and brought them back to Colombo for their education.

He is also survived by his sisters Ilona, Ranmalli and Aruni and his brothers Deva and Uttum.
A God-fearing man, he was the only person I knew who would go on his knees each night to pray. Time was not his own and meeting up with him was almost impossible, as he would be visiting friends, relations and patients who needed his attention in between his work and visits to his estate at Bingiriya.
He was a source of strength to all who knew him. He could raise you from the depths of despair with his infectious smile and his humour.

I remember a letter of appreciation sent by a grateful patient living overseas. A young boy who was once on the point of giving up on life is today doing well, thanks to a surgeon’s skill, care and love.

Randunna was a surgeon of international stature. He was ranked among the world’s best, and although we grieve at his loss we know he is in a better place with his Maker.

A friend

Giant in the field of obstetrics

Dr.Jayatissa Nalin Rodrigo

It was the voice that struck you first….

Loud, stentorian, authoritative and, if some students or underlings were around, laden with expletives. The walls of the wards or the office reverberated long before the man himself was visible.

Rotund, stern-faced, eagle-eyed and immaculately dressed, he radiated confidence, authority and sheer intelligence. He was one formidable figure of a man.

It took us, his obstetrics students and I, his sole administrative understudy, years to learn what his family always knew – that once you came under the guidance of Dr. Jayatissa Nalin Rodrigo, you had a mentor, guardian and friend for life.

His was a life lived to the full. Of aristocratic origin, he had an impeccable academic record and an unblemished professional life. As the doyen of Sri Lankan Obstetrics, his achievements as a doctor alone would have ensured his legacy. But his legend was built more on his outlook as a man.

Although he was the scion of one of the most prominent families in the country, he appreciated values other than aristocracy in people close to him.

“He is from good stock – his father was a well known poet,” he would say of a now eminent obstetrician. The fact that my father was a professor, as was his own, made him look beyond my own limited academic achievements and groom me as a medical administrator.

He regarded life as a joyous journey where having fun took pride of place. Ward rounds, lectures, and even meetings, were regarded as occasions to enjoy rather than to be serious about. When it came to patient care, however, he was seriousness itself, and everyone from the highest in the land to the most humble patient at Castle Street Hospital can testify to his diagnostic genius and surgical virtuosity.
In the journey of life, his principal ambition was to clear the path, so that the journey became easier for those who followed in his footsteps. The numerous obstetricians who adorn our country today will testify to the value of the Double Sponsorship Programme he initiated and which has enabled them to study abroad and become consultants.

Now that three years have passed since his demise, we take stock of our own lives and of those who lived in his shadow. His gracious wife and loving children have weathered the storm of his passing and have carried on their own successful lives. The achievements of his daughter and son in their respective spheres are the best testimony to their illustrious father.

His students have become eminent professionals, and their pioneering work, as well as their compassionate attitude to their patients, pays silent tribute to the values instilled in them by their mentor.
All of them not only take time out of their busy schedules to enjoy the fruits of life, but clear the path for those who follow them by actively engaging in the teaching and grooming of budding obstetricians working under them.

Boss would have been truly pleased. In the three years after his passing, whenever we gather, Dr. Nalin Rodrigo still forms the centre of conversation among us. Strangely, we never discuss his passing, the tribulations of his final illness or the void he has left in our lives.

What we talk about are the many anecdotes of his colourful life and the joyous moments we spent around him.

More often than not, we end up raising a glass in his memory and saying from the bottom of our hearts, something that we have said countless times during his life: “Thank you, Sir!”

Dr. Janaka Weeratunge

Tribute to a beloved grandmother

Winifred Fernando

I wonder

I wonder what you look like,
Lying so still. …
I wonder what they dressed you in
A sari blue or green;
I wonder whether you look peaceful
Or happy as can be
But most of all I wonder
Whether you are searching for me…

I wonder what you felt like
When you knew it was time to go;
Were you afraid or ready,
Or happy to be free?
Free from suffering and sorrow
Or tired of holding on. …
But most of all I know that
You were wishing I was home.

I wish I could have been there,
Holding your hand
As you were struggling to have one last breath
To let you know I’m there;
To return the love I received
I will never be able to do
’Cos you have given me love that overflows
For this lifetime and more. …

I wonder whether you are
With Christ in Heaven today;
Especially with Dada and Podi Mama
To be joined together again. ...
I wait for the day I can join you
And see your smile again;
Till then I will try to live a life
With you in my heart always.

Eranga Goonetilleke

Island Apr 18 2009

A tribute to my father – H. L. De Silva

Before I leave for Australia, I wish to reflect awhile on the life of my father. A man who was born 81 years ago in a small country town called Minuwangoda. The beginnings of his life were quite ordinary, with no hint of the stature he would go on to attain. His spent his early years in various schools in Negombo, before completing his secondary education at St Peters College, Colombo. Ammi always said he was a rolling stone that gathered some moss!

He graduated in law from university and started work in the Attorney Generals Dept, where his rise to prominence was swift. He was quickly promoted over the heads of many of his seniors, which caused a lot of angst in a system that was both hierarchical and conventional. Constrained by a structure that did not recognize his initiative, he left the safety of government employment to begin a career in private practice.

This was a turning point for him. He experienced instant success and appeared for many leading personalities in Sri Lanka, including Mrs Bandaranaike, the world’s first woman prime minister and her daughter, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.

He has held positions of leadership in many spheres of his life. He was elected President of the Bar Association. He was appointed Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United Nations spanning the times of Boutros Boutros Ghali and Kofi Annan. He met many of the worlds most controversial and flamboyant leaders, including Bill Clinton, the Pope and Yaser Arafat.

He was elected Vice President of the Methodist Church – the highest position a layperson can achieve. He was involved in Government delegations that have tried to resolve the ethnic conflict, which has torn this country apart, and was called upon to speak on this topic on many occasions.

Perhaps his greatest achievement was when he was awarded the title of Deshamanya, one of the highest honours the state can bestow on a private citizen. However, I’d like to believe that his proudest moments were the births of his children, who occasionally annoyed him and his beloved grandchildren who always delighted him.

His ability to think quickly and act decisively was demonstrated early in his life when he had to quickly extricate himself from a rapidly sinking car. He couldn’t swim and he had driven his car into the Beira Lake in the midst of a tropical downpour. Perhaps he was a little distracted at the time, as Ammi was pregnant with me, his first born!

He is known for his integrity and professional skill, and it is these qualities that enabled him, to be elected president of the bar association by his peers, many of whom held political views very different to his own. Because he had successfully represented both major political parties in the courts, something that few lawyers in Sri Lanka are game to do, he was able to instill trust and confidence across the profession. During this time of leadership, he did not flinch from making many unpopular decisions.

He had a very keen analytical mind and was renowned for his innovative arguments, which was reflected in the fact that the courts were often packed, when he argued a controversial case. Even when he lost, I believe his clients were happy in the knowledge that he gave it his best shot.

He had a deep love for his homeland, which has been troubled by ethnic conflict for many years. Belonging to the majority race but to a minority religion he had been consistent in his conviction that the country must preserve its unitary state. He spoke out fearlessly and with great courage against those who threatened the stability of Sri Lanka, often at the risk of his own life. Many of his peers have been assassinated by a terrorist bomb or bullet because of similar convictions.

Despite his many achievements, he was a reluctant leader and certainly felt that he was not born to lead but rather that it was thrust on him. So where did he learn these attributes of leadership?

Leaders are readers and his ability to lead in many different spheres stemmed from his love of reading. His depth of knowledge and capacity to store and recover information on many different subjects always amazed me. Our home is lined with bookcases and he was never far away from a pile of books, which he seemed to devour voraciously. He also seemed to spend a great deal of time on inner reflection as well.

He was a very humble, modest, introverted man who might have gone unnoticed in a crowd. And yet his peers in every walk of life elected him to lead them. He made many wise decisions in his life, but perhaps the wisest of these was made more than 50 years ago, when he married my darling Ammi. Her devotion to him throughout his life was completely selfless and she was by his side as he said his final goodbye.

Thaththi, this was your public life, but my memories of you, are far more intimate and special. I remember you attempting to rescue my very first kite on Galle Face Green, when I lost control and the string ended tangled up, in a very annoyed ladies hairdo! I remember trembling as you explained to my very strict Grade 2 teacher why you were delivering me late to school. I have memories of how you tried to open that guest room door with a butter knife, after Nangi locked herself in, on our very first holiday in Nuwera Eliya.

I remember fighting for my fundamental rights as a teenager but I never had the benefit of an impartial judge! I remember how exasperated you were, when you failed to convince my Vice Principal that my last name was Adithiya, not De Silva whilst I was applying for my A Levels! I will never forget our frustrating dinner table debates, where we were both convinced we were right and neither of us would back down. We have never lived down the embarrassment you caused us, by driving that DKW for about 25 years too many! Many years later I got my own back by coaxing you to into shopping for a pair of jeans when we were together in NY!

We’ve spent some unique quality time together in these last 20 years, even though we lived apart. I remember walking around Stanford with you and imagining what that must have been like for you to win a scholarship in 1958 to such a prestigious institution. It was exciting to discover that little cottage you and Ammi shared in Palo Alto, in the first year of your marriage and meeting your friends from that idyllic time in your life. I remember introducing you to my own friends at Berkeley, and how you roughed it out in my tiny dorm room for a couple of nights when you first visited me in California. You were irritated with me on that visit because I kept asking for a senior’s ticket when we boarded the bus!

I remember getting stuck at the Canadian/American border with passports that were sopping wet because I persuaded you to join us on the Maid of the Mist boat ride at Niagara Falls! We were treated like criminals till the border guards realised you were the UN ambassador and let us through! There are so many more memories. Bushwalking in Sydney, shopping for books long since out of print, that fabulous White Christmas in NY, all those turkey we carved for Thanksgiving. Christmas in Hornsby will never quite be the same, but spending so much time together as a family is a lot to be thankful for, when we lived so far apart from each other.

So what life long lessons have you left me with? You have taught me that I should never seek fame or fortune but that rather that I must strive to earn the trust and confidence of my peers. You have taught me that to lead the orchestra I must be willing to turn my back on the crowd! You were a man who walked the talk and you set us an amazing example to follow.

It has truly been a privilege for Nangi and me to call you "Thaththi’" and I would like to end with the words of Shakespeare which you inscribed in my autograph book when I was but a little girl. "To thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man."

Thaththi, your journey here has ended, but what a ride it’s been! We are all so very proud of what you have achieved and those memories will live in our hearts forever!

Nilmini De Silva

The Sunday Leader Apr 12 2009

D. G. Billy Balthazaar

A super sportsman of yesteryear

It has been said that a Captain must be everything he desires his team-mates to be. It has also been said, if the cap fits, then one should wear it.

Billy Balthazaar, lovingly referred to as ‘skipper’ by his team-mates at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo and the Mayflower Cricket Club - 1967, certainly did wear the cap, and it was a perfect fit! He started his career as a planter, thereafter he worked at Liptons and finally at the State Plantations until his retirement at the age of 62.

A cricketer of outstanding reputation, he built a team on what the Mayflower Cricket Club of the day called "the ability to inspire others by personality and example, to weld them into a team, to evoke loyalty from them, to bring out in them the need for self discipline and to make them do their best to achieve success."

The team’s expectations were high, their vision for the future very clear and they were ready to be lead by a man who had all these qualities and more to offer.

And lead them he did! All the way to the top, to success upon success, winning every match of the season and meeting every challenge along the way with aplomb. A wicketkeeper of repute, he proved he had an excellent eye on the ball by taking four catches behind the stumps in the match against CCC who were, as the local newspaper headlines screamed, ‘mowed down’ by Mayflower on that fateful day at CCC grounds.

The Mayflower Cricket Club never had a better ‘innings’ in all their existence. They were proud to hold their heads high and prouder still, of the standards Billy Balthazaar the skipper had set for the team in just two years of tournament cricket.

There were many more sparkling victories in his long career as captain, cricketer and coach that are too numerous to mention here. His final year of college cricket at St. Joseph’s College saw some brilliant team-work — a well balanced all-round combination under his able captaincy that went unbeaten in 1950. Billy opened batting and kept wickets for St. Joseph’s in 1948, 1949 and 1950.

He opened batting and kept wickets for the Ceylon Combined Schools in 1948. He played hockey for college. He boxed; Billy won cricket and hockey colours at St. Joseph’s. He played Sara Cricket for Kandy United as wicket keeper/opening batsman. He played for CPCA against the MCC in 1952. He played cricket and hockey for the Old Josephians in the Quadrangular and Andriez Shield. He captained the Old Joes at cricket. In his early days as a planter he played for Dimbulla and Upcountry against foreign teams.

All in all he is remembered as one of the great wicketkeepers of yesteryear, in both Ceylon and India. The journey from the head to the heart is long and arduous for many, for some, easier to negotiate and for a few it is a joyful, renewing, refreshing, wholesome experience. The tides of time with its ebb and flow bring sunrise and sunset with every glow. It takes away those we know. And whilst we mourn the loss we need to remember… it does leave something or someone behind, on the shore. I believe we should start looking.

As a fitting tribute to this past Josephian cricket captain, priests of the calibre of Rev. Fr. Joe De Mel, Rev. Fr. Lucien Dep, Rev. Fr. Felician Ranjith Perera and the present Rector, Rev. Fr. Sylvester Ranasinghe, all Josephian stalwarts officiated at Billy’s funeral at Kanatte, Borella, recently. Billy passed away peacefully at the age of 79.

May his soul rest in the Saviour’s embrace until that day.

Francis Wilhelm Milhuisen


Sunday Times Apr 12 2009

The gentleman from the Official Bar

K.C. Kamalasabayson, PC

Born on April 8, 1949 in Trincomalee, the late K.C Kamalasabayson PC (Kamal to many of us) would have been 60 years young on April 8, 2009, and would certainly have been at the top of the Private Bar as well.

That was not to be his Lord's plan for him, as he was suddenly snatched away from our midst on August 12, 2007, whilst in a hospital in India. He would have been one whom the Gods loved most.

My first impression of Kamal is of a lanky young man in full white, as we, law students, used to be attired those days, joining the Advocates' Preliminary Batch in 1969, commuting on his "mosquito". One of his favourite sayings then was "these things happen in the best of circles". Kamal was a brilliant student, a loyal friend, extremely pleasant company and gentleman par excellence, a trait for which he will always be remembered. That characteristic of Kamal is the one that readily comes to anyone's mind when thinking of him, even today.

Kamal and I have been closely associated on a number of matters. At the Law Students Union (LSU) elections for 1970, held in August 1969, I was elected uncontested as General Secretary and Kamal, also backed by our "Voet Inn", became an unofficial committee member.

At my request and to the satisfaction of all, he functioned as the de facto "Assistant General Secretary" that year. It, therefore, fell upon him to officiate at the longest known LSU meeting, lasting 8 hours and 20 minutes, chaired by R.K.W. Goonesekere himself, our much respected principal and vice patron, as I was to propose the draft of the new LSU Constitution which was to grant autonomy to the student body, while replacing the erstwhile "Rules of 1939". That Constitution was adopted without a division and operates until today.

In 1970, Kamal, representing the Tamil Mandram, was also in the Co-coordinating Committee of Law Students, which was a gathering made of representatives of all religious and ethnic groups at the Law College then, with the principal as the patron, to reach a consensus among all on the provisions of the new LSU Constitution. There were apprehensions that the national political climate of 1970 would be disadvantageous to the minorities. A present day politician, then a contemporary of ours, addressing the LSU in Sinhala for the first time further strengthened these fears.

Kamal and I were also in the first rugby team of the Law College, despite our doubtful skills in that game. We were naturally very kind to our opponents and never won a single match, despite the hard work put in by stars like Rohan Jayatileke, Stanley Obeysekere and Ana Jayasinghe. The warm hospitability of the planters' clubs -- which Ana managed to arrange -- was worth more than any trophy to us empty-pocketed students then.

Kamal and I were both selected as Acting State Counsel in early 1974. Kamal joined on the due date, while I asked for, and received a couple of postponements and, finally declined. Given my own financial and other circumstances, I could not afford such a luxury.

We also functioned simultaneously as lecturers and examiners at the Law College in the same subject, Criminal Law, he in the Tamil medium and I in Sinhala. He would always trust me to set the whole question paper, which we would then translate into the respective languages.

He continued in the Official Bar and by 1999 had reached the position of Solicitor General, while I remained in the Private Bar. We then came together, again later that year, at Ceremonial Sittings of the Supreme Court and of the Court of Appeal, he as the Attorney General and I as the President, BASL. This one day prompted him to whisper to me that I would have also been in his shoes, had I joined the department, an aspect that had never occurred to me. That was Kamal's good-heartedness and humility.

Holding the sensitive office of Attorney General, particularly for a person of his ethnicity, was no easy task, not due to anything wanting in him, but the very volatile situation in the country and the recent history of his department. He was conscious of the fact that there could be many an occasion when someone would have been ready to "put the stripes" on him (to use his own expression) if his advice or decisions were not to the liking of those who mattered. It is solely due to his honesty, forthrightness and ability that he was able to be in the "hot seat" unscarred until the end.

Circumstances did not permit me, lately, to meet him socially as often as I would have loved to. But there were ample occasions when I had the privilege of interviewing him on professional matters. He was fair, firm and courteous as always. No one ever left his chamber, feeling that he had not been treated fairly by "the AG'.

His charming ways saved his department from great embarrassments, not once, but at least thrice, to my personal knowledge. No one except him would have succeeded in such difficult and sensitive situations.

Towards the latter part of his tenure, he shared with me many a pressing concern but, being the gentleman he was, he entertained bitterness towards none, even in the face of all such concerns.

With Kamal's demise, the country lost one of its greatest sons, the Bar one of its ablest members, those who knew him, a reliable and sincere friend and one of the finest of gentlemen. The loss to his family must surely be irreplaceable and immense. A matter of consolation to the Bar also to his widow Ramani is that his only child Vidhya has chosen to follow in her father's footsteps. May Kamal's soul attain Moksha!

By Upali A. Gooneratne,(Past president of BASL)

Laughter and learning from teacher, mentor and friend

Rev. Brother Baptist Croos, FSC

A heart of gold stopped beating and a gentle voice was stilled when Brother Baptist Croos of the De La Salle Brothers passed away on March 21, 2009. I first met Brother Baptist in 1961, and over the next 48 years our friendship blossomed and strengthened. He was a true friend who could be trusted implicitly. Here was a man who radiated love and inspired all those around him. His ability to forge everlasting friendships based on mutual respect endeared him to people of all ages and walks of life.

He never hesitated to go the extra mile to help even a stranger. He lived the philosophy, “Never ask, never refuse.”

He reached out to heal hearts and minds. He helped people in the true Christian tradition of not letting the left hand know what the right hand gave. He never spoke of his good deeds, and he expected nothing in return. But to the many he helped, his magnanimity will never be forgotten. Not all the De La Salle Brothers are aware that for the past 25 years Brother Baptist had been helping to support a poor pre-school in Mannar. With the help of donors, he paid the teachers their salaries and provided children of the poorest of poor an education, as well as books, clothes and shoes. Brother Baptist could achieve this because his donors believed in his integrity and vision.

In October 1993, Brother Baptist invited me to set up an institute to train teachers of English. We were the founder directors of the La Sallian English Academy, which commenced operations in Mutwal in January 1994. The institute was fashioned after the 42nd General Chapter of the De La Salle Brothers.
Unfortunately, for various reasons, this vital educational institute that had been running successfully and self-sufficiently for 10 years was forced to close in August 2004.

One of Brother Baptist’s many admirable qualities was to stand up fearlessly against injustice. Brother Baptist believed in partnerships as an effective means of contributing to growth and progress. He would cite the 35 or so La Sallian Brothers in the Philippines who run varied institutes of learning, including universities. Brother Baptist attributed their success to their shared mission.

When he began his third term as the Provincial of the La Salle Brothers in 1997, he set about the task of overhauling a disorganised and creaky administrative system. Brother Baptist could talk on a variety of topics, from religion to poetry and cricket.

He held the word “brother” sacred. More important, he believed that a white heart was more important than a white robe. Here was a humble man of the cloth, a seemingly ordinary man who led an exemplary and extraordinary life.

Soon after his term as Provincial ended in 1999, he served an “obedience” in the Philippines, from 2001 to 2004, despite suffering from diabetes. On his return to Sri Lanka, he was asked to go to war-torn Mannar where, for four years, he carried out his humanitarian mission under the most difficult circumstances.

Conditions in the conflict zone in Mannar were chaotic. He stayed there without complaint, while his health steadily deteriorated. He was forced to return to Colombo for medical treatment, but by then it was too late. He died while undergoing a dialysis treatment.

Brother Baptist was a talented man. He was an eloquent public speaker and a gifted singer. He was also an artist and calligraphist. Those who knew him will remember his radiant and inspiring presence. He cheered us with his charm, compassion and light banter. He combined the great gifts of humour and humanitarianism.

Brother Baptist, you were an instrument of love, laughter and learning. We are proud to have had you as our teacher, mentor and friend.

By Denis de Rosayro

The smiling politician who was loved and respected by constituents of all faiths

Dr. A. C. S. Hameed

April 10 was the birthday of my late brother, Dr. A. C. S Hameed –‘Desa gurunan sala gedera’ Abdul Cader Shahul Hameed – who passed away on September 3, 1998. He was born in the village of Kurugoda, in Akurana, and had his primary education at St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota, and his secondary education at Vijaya College, Matale.

My brother showed his gift for oratory at an early age. He was also very much involved in literary activities, including editing the school magazine, “New Broom”, which was widely read by students of Matale schools at the time.

My brother most likely acquired his love for politics from his mother’s brother, the late Hadji S. H. M. A. Abdul Cader, and the principal of Vijaya College, the late V. T. Nanayakkara, who represented Matale district in Parliament.

Harispattuwa is the second largest constituency next to Colombo Central, with a voting population of 140,000. A. C. S. Hameed knew his electorate well. When his party came to power in 1977, he did everything he could to create a modern electorate. Roads and bridges were built, and electricity, pipe-borne water and more than 1,000 tube wells were provided.

He was a firm believer in education, and gave every school in the electorate two-storey buildings, laboratories and playgrounds. Every Maha Vidyalaya had a percussion band, which was the envy of the big schools in Kandy district.

He established a technical school in Yatiwawala, Harispattuwa for young people to gain practical skills in such fields as motor mechanics, electronics, computer studies, English, and juki machine operation.
A. C. S. Hameed had a deep respect for all religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity. Just as he made contributions to mosques and Muslim places of worship, he contributed towards the upkeep of Buddhist and Hindu places of worship.

He built a “Seema Malekeya” at Waratenna, Hallouwa, which is probably the only place for the ordination of young monks in the Central Province. He also built two “Bauddha Bala Mandala” – one on Ranawana Road, Katugastota, and the other in Alawathugoda. My brother was a soft-spoken, kind-hearted and sympathetic person. He was extremely warm to everyone he met.

His smile was his greatest asset. My brother would greet everyone with his pleasant smile. He would recognise people from all parts of his electorate, and even remember them by name. He would never send anyone from his office without giving a positive response or offering a glimmer of hope. If he promised to do something, it would be done, immediately or later.

I have fond memories of my dear brother enjoying a king-sized cigar and talking politics with his constituents. The Harispattuwa election office was like a carnival scene whenever he was present – with people flocking in day and night and buses lined up to take people to the more remote parts of Harispattuwa.

When he passed away, the Harispattuwa community held an all-night pirith for him at the Katugastota Bauddha Bala Mandalaya, which he had built, and gave a dana in his name. There were 77 Buddhist priests present, and they were presented with 108 “ata pirikalaya”. This was a historic event in Sri Lanka’s political history, with such large numbers gathered to chant pirith and offer dana for a leader who had managed, in his own way, to unite all ethnic communities.

May the God Almighty find him a place in Jennathul Firdous (Heaven).

By A.C. A. Ghafoor

Nation, Sunday Apr 5, 5009

Gayani Gunasekara

This poem is written in memory of Gayani Gunasekara who served Belvoir College International. She died on March 29, 2008. she is fondly remembered by the warden, the staff, students and the non teaching staff.

All at Belvoir remember you, Gayani

How can we forget you, Gayani dear
Who had always been so near?
We teachers and our thought
Always mingled in your thought.

You left us exactly a year ago
To be with your Maker, therefore
We beseech the Lord to grant you
Eternal life under His view.

The Warden and Belvoir staff in general
Boys and girls who are several,
Think of you, with such an honour
Miss you as one in our choir.

All of us wish you serenity,
The Triple Gem grant you tranquility,
In that land of never return
In the heavenly place you remain.

Sunday Times Apr 5 2009

A humble ‘ambassador for peace’ who was loved and revered

Brother Baptist Croos FSC

We were all saddened by the passing away of the former Provincial Visitor, the Very Rev. Brother Dr. Baptist Croos, FSC (Frates Scholarum Christianorum), who died on March 23, in Colombo. His mortal remains were taken to his native Vankalai, and then for Christian burial in Mannar on March 28.
Some people come into our lives and quickly leave. Others stay a while and leave an indelible mark in our hearts.

I knew Brother Baptist for almost three decades, and we continued our friendship after my family moved to the US in 1995. In a letter dated March 15, 2005, Brother Baptist wrote, in his elegant hand (he was a calligraphist): “The Inter-religious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP) – recognising my humble services to the less fortunate, especially the victims of the tsunami terror, through my organisation, the Sri Lanka United Nations Friendship Organisation (SUNFO) – invited me to Seoul, South Korea and honoured me with an award, Ambassador For Peace.”

We thank the Lord that Brother Baptist was recognised as an Ambassador for Peace during his lifetime. He was president of SUNFO for the last 10 years (1999-2009).

He was a unique man with a number of fine qualities. He will be remembered for his generosity, perseverance, personal sacrifice, hard work and sense of service. He worked especially hard for the underprivileged and the poor. He was sensitive to those who were suffering, and he was determined to achieve his goals. He also had a talent for rallying people for a good cause.

He was also a great scholar. He was a man of indefatigable energy who worked long hours. He was conscientious. He was jovial and easy to get along with. He served God with humility. He was inspiring. Above all, he was a good man.

He would daily sing the praises of the Lord and thank Him for the gifts showered upon him. He strictly followed the code of conduct laid down by the founder of the Lasallian order, St. John Baptist De La Salle. He was steadfast in preserving the Lasallian Catholic heritage. Considering the lives of St. John Baptist De La Salle and Brother Baptist, I noticed a fascinating coincidence: Both men joined their respective seminaries at the age of 16 and both died at the age of 68. John Baptist de la Salle was born on April 30, 1651, at Rheims, and died on April 7, 1719, in Saint-Yon, Rouen. “They that instruct many unto justice shall shine like stars for all eternity.” – Daniel, 12:3. Brother Baptist was the author of several books, including “Values of Education”, “Lilies and Roses”, “Reading for Stress”, “Laugh Off, If Possible”, and “Reflections”.

He contributed articles to local and foreign newspapers and magazines. He was the editor of the “Youth” page in the weekly Catholic Messenger. I heard many impressive homilies given by Brother Baptist at the weekly Novena to the Infant Jesus, at the Holy Rosary Church in Slave Island. He was an eloquent speaker and was much sought after for special occasions, such as felicitation dinners.

I also attended a number of seminars he organised. Brother Baptist was a gifted singer, and he could sing in several languages, including Hindi, Urdu, Sinhalese, Tamil, English and Latin. He was an expert on Gregorian music. He was also a lecturer and a professor, as the founder member and Director of Higher Studies of the Lasallian Institute, which is amalgamated with the University of Philippines.

Brother Baptist celebrated the golden jubilee of his religious life – 50 years as a De La Salle Brother – on August 15, 2007. At the celebration he quoted from the song “Amazing Grace”:

“Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come,
‘Tis grace that hath me safe thus far,
And Grace will lead me home.”

Not all of us who knew him were able to be present at the celebration, but we were spiritually present.
Hopefully, all of us, just like Brother Baptist Croos FSC, will one day be able to say, as Saint Paul did: “I have competed well, I have finished the race, I have kept the Faith. From now on the Crown of Righteousness awaits Me, which the Lord, the just Judge, will award to Me, on that day, and not only to Me, but to all who have longed for His appearance”.

Those we love don't go away,
They walk beside us everyday,
Unseen, unheard, but always near,
Still loved, still missed and very dear,

Joe Bonjean Thampoe, Secretary, Old Bens, OBU, New York, USA

Tears to shed for those who suffer

Lasantha Wickrematunge

On April 5 (today) Lasantha would have been fifty-one years old. Slightly given to vanity, I suspect he may not have readily admitted it in public. It was one of the many reasons why he and I were to spend his big five-oh last year with just 12 of his close friends quietly enjoying Tepanyaki at The Hilton Hotel in Colombo. He may have revelled in the turbulence of politics and plied his art with an almost frenetic energy but in his personal life he was unassuming and easily embarrassed.

He liked birthdays. They were happy moments. And Lasantha was a happy person. Child-like in many ways, Lasantha loved opening presents. If there was one thing he disliked more than anything else, it was exaggerated wailing and weeping. Sack cloth and ashes. Emotional excess. In his darkest moments he would still smile. In his most trying hour he had time to listen to another's tale. On his most burdensome day in office he would still greet a staffer with a hearty slap on the back. Days before his death he short messaged a friend- 'life is a celebration,' he said.

No, he would not want us to wallow in sorrow. He would say instead, 'celebrate my life.' And by Gad! What a life. What a great body of work.

And for those of us left behind it's the memories. Memories of a smile, a touch a shared moment of laughter. We get by due to the mercy of God, the love of family and the kindness of true friends. In one of my darkest moments I was to receive a verse from Ilika Karunaratne, a true and sincere friend to both Lasantha and me. 'Í hope it will help you the way it helped me,' Ilika wrote in her note to me. The verse now serves as my constant companion.

"Death is nothing at all,

I have only slipped away into the next room.

I am I and you are you.

Whatever we were to each other, that we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name,

speak to me in the easy way you always used to.

Put no difference into your tone,

wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together:

Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.

Let my name be the household name it always was.

Let it be spoken without the shadow of a ghost in it.

Life means all that it ever meant.

It is the same as it ever was.

What is death but a negligible accident?

Why should I be out of your mind because I am out of your sight?

All is well, nothing is lost.

One brief moment and all will be as it was before."

My family and I miss him everyday. But until we meet again on that beautiful shore, we have the memories. Until we meet again we shall fight for freedom just like he did. Another true friend Sriyani was to send a little prayer to me which inspired my resolve and gave me courage. Its power compels me to reproduce it.

'May God bless you with discomfort with easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart, " the prayer began. "May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

“May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.

“And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done."

God blessed Lasantha abundantly. Perhaps it is through the death of this warrior and others like him, that the mark of freedom will be seared into the soul of Sri Lanka.

Sonali Samarasinghe Wickrematunge

The ‘Rock’ at the centre of our family life has gone

Hiran De Alwis Seneviratne

Thaaththi, it is three months since you left us. You have left a void in our lives. Life has not been the same for us since. Our home is so very dull without you. I remember the times we spent together, talking for hours on end.

I will not forget your sound advice. When all was gone from me, you gave me the courage to go on. I held on to your words when I felt totally abandoned and alone. In those times, you propped me up with your reassuring words.

Thank you for giving me the strength to live through the difficult times and for being there for me in my most vulnerable moments. I will remember this with deep gratitude.

Your five girls, Ammi included, looked up to you for guidance. You were our Rock, and our Rock is no more. We loved you dearly in life, and we will not forget you in death. The chain that is broken on Earth will be linked up again in Heaven.

So may God be with you, till we meet again.

May you rest in peace.

Your loving daughter, Roshi

The Sunday Leader Mar 29, 2009

F. Felix Delip de Silva


His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Sultan of Oman made a generous donation of US $ 104,312

(equivalent of SLR125 million) to Help Age, Sri Lanka to meet the cost of cataract surgeries of the

destitute elders in Sri Lanka.


He made the donation specifically to perpetuate the memory of the late Felix de Silva, former

Inspector General of Police and Customs for his significant contribution to the Royal Oman Police,

and the Sultanate of Oman. This donation manifestly demonstrates the high esteem in which

Felix de Silva was held and to the admirable gratitude of his Majesty.


Many Sri Lankans may not be aware of the outstanding contribution made by this illustrious son

of Sri Lanka and his versatile personality. Having served under him in the Royal Oman Police for

nearly a decade, I feel obliged to set out his contribution, to the high esteem in which he was

held by his Majesty, the Royal Oman Police and the people of Oman.


Felix Delip de Silva did Sri Lanka proud in the Sultanate of Oman when he was appointed as the

Inspector General of Police and Customs and later as Advisor to His Majesty on Police Affairs. He

was bestowed the highest and prestigious awards of the state for his contribution to the Royal

Oman Police. He guided the destinies of the Royal Oman Police for over two and half decades,

and was highly respected and admired by its people.


A multifaceted personality, an indomitable police officer, an administrator of the highest calibre,

philanthropist, sportsman, and above all a human being with rare qualities, it is not easy to cover

all the salient aspects of his personality, remarkable personal qualities, and outstanding

achievements. Further to evaluate the significant contribution he made in the transformation of a

rather medieval police force to be a highly modernised and efficient force, and the best in the

region is no easy task.


The education he received at St. Aloysius' College under the Jesuit Priests had a great impact on

him. Discipline and devotion to duty which were synonymous with the Jesuits, later became his

guiding principles and in no small measure contributed to his remarkable success. Felix was

proud of his alma mater and he loved his school dearly.


On leaving school he took to planting. Adventurous and daring by nature, the life of a planter did

not appeal to him much. He joined the Tanganyika Police Force in search of a more exciting and

challenging career and soon excelled in his duties displaying a remarkable aptitude for police

duties. He was rewarded with accelerated promotions. In the '60s he joined the Oman police

force which was in its fledgling state. Distinguishing himself with rare dynamism, dedication and

efficiency much to the envy of other serving British officers, he was elevated in rank in quick



In the early '70s he assumed duties as the Inspector General of Police and Customs. At this time

Oman was witnessing an unprecedented growth and development under his Majesty Sultan

Qaboos Bin Said. To meet the ever increasing demands of the time, he systematically planned

for the expansion and simultaneous modernisation of the police force.


Felix de Silva successfully organised the various branches of the force providing for specialisation

in their respective fields of activity setting up a Marine and Mounted Division and an Air Wing, to

effectively serve the needs of the fast growing modern society.


When he relinquished duties in early 1983, the Royal Oman Police in the international police

world was recognised as an efficient, sophisticated, highly equipped force with the most uptodate

techniques, systems and procedures and an abundance of expertise. It was the best in the

Gulf States. In fact, other members of the Gulf Corporation Council regularly sought the

assistance of the Oman Police to train its personnel.


For his significant and remarkable contribution to the Royal Oman Police and National Security, he

was decorated and bestowed the most envious and prestigious awards by His Majesty Sultan

Qaboos Bin Said and he was conferred a 'distinguished citizenship.'


On his retirement he was appointed Advisor to His Majesty on Police Affairs and was required to

undertake some sensitive diplomatic assignments as His Majesty had implicit faith in Felix.

A devout Buddhist, he practiced his religion unobstrusively, observing the four Sathara Brahma loving

kindness, compassion, altruistic joy and equanimity to the maximum. Humanism and

generosity knew no bounds. He gave generously to the temples, churches and other places of

religious worship in his birthplace Galle, and his poor relations and friends in need.


Felix de Silva passed away in the USA on October 23, 2001, and his ashes were interred at the

Radella Cemetery in Galle. He was 74 years at the time of his death. Sri Lanka lost a great man

and Oman a friend who loved the Sultanate and its people.


He was a rare personality and epitomised the legendary person who would walk with alacrity

and equal harmony with beggars and kings. His Majesty has persistently reiterated the

gratitude of his people for the outstanding contribution made by Felix de Silva and naturally his

magnanimous and generous donation to Help Age, Sri Lanka.

Sunday Times Mar 29 2009

With kindness and lending hand she touched the lives of many

Jayanthi Wijesinghe (nee Kaluaratchi)

Three months ago, the little town of Colwyn Bay in North Wales mourned the irreparable loss of one of its beloved citizens. Back in Sri Lanka, her sudden demise shocked, saddened and devastated her family, friends and all those who knew her, from all walks of life.

Since moving from London to Wales, Jayanthi was well-known in the legal field and among the Sri Lankan community as a dedicated worker, a loving personality and a great friend. With her kindness and ever willing lending hand, she touched the lives of many. She gave comfort, inspiration and consolation to those in their difficult moments of life.

Twenty-eight years ago I remember this young lady, coming to Washington D.C from Sri Lanka to look after her cousin who met with a serious automobile accident. She cared for her for six months at her bedside and nursed her at home at the cost of an attractive job offered to her in the judiciary. She was able to convince the then Chief Justice of the priority of a family need and got a postponement. Later she returned to Sri Lanka and served as a magistrate until she moved to England.

More recently, I recall how she travelled to London from Wales, quite a distance, several times to care for her good friend who was disabled. Amidst all her busy schedule, constantly she found that little time to be in touch with her family and friends around the world.

Jayanthi possessed great human qualities, which commanded the admiration of all those who knew her from her school days at Visakha Vidyalaya and at Law College. Her lending hand and kind words gave comfort to many. She was the strength behind her family. She was the darling of her friends. Today we all miss her. The sorrow is immense. The loss is irreparable. Our sadness cannot find comforting words.

Her beloved husband Bandu and her loving daughter Savini will find solace in the golden memories she left behind.

May she attain the ultimate happiness of Nibbana.

Stanley Liyanapathirana

Long and brilliant public career ‘played straight, with no spin’

D. Peter S. Perera

D. Peter S. Perera passed away on February 20, the day before his 83rd birthday. A student of Holy Cross College, Kalutara, he achieved the unique distinction of being the first schoolboy to be elected to a local village council, a feat probably unparalleled in the democratic world.

To mark the occasion, the famous cartoonist Aubrey Collette drew a cartoon for the Evening Observer with the following caption:

“Bright and Young Early Morning Face,
Satchel in Hand,
Unwilling to School,
But willingly to the Village Council.”

Peter Perera’s remarkable achievement was the talking point at the time. He left school in 1948, after an illustrious school career, and joined Carson Cumberbatch & Co as a planter. By dint of hard work and sheer organisational skill, he soon impressed the top management. He was eventually appointed a director of the Sri Lanka State Plantations Corporation.

He subsequently held numerous prestigious positions, as chairman of the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation; the Sri Lanka State Timber Corporation; TransAsia Hotels Ltd, the Robinson Club Bentota Ltd; the National Insurance Corporation; National Insurance Services (Pvt) Ltd; the Colombo Commercial Company (Eng.) Ltd, and Heavyquip Ltd. He also served on the boards of several other companies and organisations.

The payment of an annual bonus for the entire staff of Robinson Club Bentota in 1993 was a landmark decision that earned him the eternal gratitude of the staff there. Peter Perera’s governing principle was to play it straight with no spin.

He had a distinctive style of management. He was a devout Roman Catholic. The grotto he built for St. Sebastian’s Church, Diyalagoda is magnificent testimony to his benevolent spirit. He contributed lavishly to various religious institutions and worthy causes. He was ever helpful to the needy.

An exemplary family man, he was a caring husband, deeply loved father and father-in-law, and a darling grandfather.

May his soul rest in peace.

Nephew “R”

For the good times, on and off stage

Ruwani Seimon

“Forty years on when we think of times olden, memory will picture our girlhoods bright years”….goes the Kandy Girls’ High School (KHS) song….which Ruwani, together with a couple of others would sing each morning to start the day off, over the school public address system. Little did we realize then, that we would not be together for long, as she was snatched away from us even before she reached her 40th b’day.

Much has been written and said about Ruwani’s incredible talents and the many voices she helped nurture and blossom. I go back to our school years, where Ruwani began to show her skills in directing and producing concerts, from a young age. As a student producer too, she took her job seriously and she was strict with us, insisting on professionalism. But we had so much fun on and off stage. We looked forward to the opportunities to travel to Colombo and compete with the Colombo schools, whether it be at drama or singing, enjoying the fun and games on our journey to and fro.

We knew each other, before joining KHS, and while we were in different classes most of our lives, we were back in the same class in our A/L years. I used to tell her, if not for her, I would not have passed my A/L’s and entered University. She was my “mother hen” clucking away, ensuring that I did my homework and my studies. Aware of my habit to turn in for the night soon after dinner, she would regularly call me around dinner time and say “Manju, I hope you are not going to sleep – you have work to do”.

We had contrasting personalities, but we had common interests and that is what kept our friendship alive all those years. She was a risk taker, I was risk averse. She broke the rules, I stuck to them obediently, and she had a passion for life that I’ve not seen displayed by many. After she fell ill, one Sunday she called me and invited me out to lunch. I asked her "any special occasion?", she laughed and said "Yes. I am celebrating life." That was the Ruwani I knew.

Ruwani was a fighter in every sense of the word. She fought hard, but forgave quickly. That’s why I still find it difficult to comprehend that even a fighter like Ruwani who had such a passion for life could be taken away so early.

Ruwani was also bold enough to choose a profession that she was passionate about. Not many of us are courageous enough to choose a hobby as a profession. We choose the more conventional careers that give us job security. After returning from Canada, she began teaching in Kandy, and then moved to the unknown territory of Colombo and started her own school and at a young age created a huge impact on the music scene in Colombo. Most of us have had the pleasure of witnessing the many productions by her group for many years.

Ruwani achieved in her short life span of 39 years, what many cannot achieve in a lifetime. We miss you Ruwani. I miss your laughter, your wit, and your creativity. On your b'day I just want to say “thank you for the music and all the joy you brought us”.

Manju Amerasinghe

Much-loved doctor prayed for the healing of our nation

Dr. S. Sathasivam

It is with great sadness that I write this appreciation of a unique person who was always there to help and advise us –a dear friend who would listen patiently to all our problems.

I do not remember a day that he took leave from his medical duties. He was always there for his patients. Hundreds of poor people came to him for help.

He charged only a very nominal fee for the medicines sold at his dispensary, and if he wrote a prescription for medicines not available at his dispensary, he would not charge for the consultation. Often patients were treated free. Dr. Sathasivam was a devout Hindu. On the cabinet in front of his desk was a statue of Lord Ganesha adorned with white jasmine flowers.

He was appreciative of all religions. His earnest wish was that unity would prevail among all the ethnic groups of our country.

My deepest sympathies go to his family. Even in death may his aspirations be fulfilled.

Mrs. Indran de Silva

Vivacious, grandma was life and soul of every party

Georgiana Jayamanne

We write in memory of our dear grandmother, who passed away two years ago, on April 2, 2007. Georgiana Jayamanne was born on April 23, 1919, the fourth child in a family of six. Her parents were Stephen Perera, an eminent Badulla lawyer, and Eugenie Perera, a prominent Badulla social worker.

She spent her early years in Badulla, and when her family moved to Colombo she attended Holy Family Convent School. In 1945 she married the eminent neuroradiologist, Dr. David Jayamanne. They had three children – Sirini, Dinal and Deepal.

Music was an important part of Georgiana’s life. She was a brilliant pianist, and the life and soul of many a party, including parties for doctors based in Colombo. She was a piano teacher before she married.

She was an accompanist for young violinists and vocalists. In later years, she was organist at the Aquinas College Chapel and All Saints’ Church, Borella. She was also deeply involved in charity work, helping the Colombo Host Lion Ladies and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, at All Saint’s Church.
Her musical influence extended to her children and grandchildren. She played duets with her daughter, and all her grandchildren play musical instruments.

Georgiana was very proud of her grandchildren. Her eldest child and daughter, Sirini, lives in London. Sirini has two sons. Shiyam, Georgiana’s eldest grandchild, is a surgeon, and Shahan is a doctor. Both practise in London.

Georgiana’s son Dinal lives in Sydney, Australia, and he has two sons, Dayan, an accountant, and Dilhan, a physiotherapist.

Georgiana’s younger son Deepal has two children, and both have inherited their grandmother’s musical talent. Son Shanil is a marketing executive and a musician, while daughter Raajnie – also known as Anne J – is a high-profile jazz singer and radio show presenter in Sri Lanka.

Georgiana was unique, vibrant and vivacious. Her generosity and kindness will be remembered by all those whose lives she touched.

Shahan Nizar and Dilhan Jayamanne, London, UK

The Sunday Leader Mar 29, 2009

F. Felix Delip de Silva 

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Sultan of Oman made a generous donation of US $ 104,312 (equivalent of SLR125 million) to Help Age, Sri Lanka to meet the cost of cataract surgeries of the destitute elders in Sri Lanka.

He made the donation specifically to perpetuate the memory of the late Felix de Silva, former Inspector General of Police and Customs for his significant contribution to the Royal Oman Police, and the Sultanate of Oman.  This donation manifestly demonstrates the high esteem in which Felix de Silva was held and to the admirable gratitude of his Majesty.

Many Sri Lankans may not be aware of the outstanding contribution made by this illustrious son of Sri Lanka and his versatile personality.  Having served under him in the Royal Oman Police for nearly a decade, I feel obliged to set out his contribution, to the high esteem in which he was held by his Majesty, the Royal Oman Police and the people of Oman.

 Felix Delip de Silva did Sri Lanka proud in the Sultanate of Oman when he was appointed as the Inspector General of Police and Customs and later as Advisor to His Majesty on Police Affairs.  He was bestowed the highest and prestigious awards of the state for his contribution to the Royal Oman Police.  He guided the destinies of the Royal Oman Police for over two and half decades, and was highly respected and admired by its people.

A multi-faceted personality, an indomitable police officer, an administrator of the highest calibre, philanthropist, sportsman, and above all a human being with rare qualities, it is not easy to cover all the salient aspects of his personality, remarkable personal qualities, and outstanding achievements.  Further to evaluate the significant contribution he made in the transformation of a rather medieval police force to be a highly modernised and efficient force, and the best in the region is no easy task.

The education he received at St. Aloysius' College under the Jesuit Priests had a great impact on him.  Discipline and devotion to duty which were synonymous with the Jesuits, later became his guiding principles and in no small measure contributed to his remarkable success.  Felix was proud of his alma mater and he loved his school dearly.

On leaving school he took to planting.  Adventurous and daring by nature, the life of a planter did not appeal to him much.  He joined the Tanganyika Police Force in search of a more exciting and challenging career and soon excelled in his duties displaying a remarkable aptitude for police duties.  He was rewarded with accelerated promotions. In the '60s he joined the Oman police force which was in its fledgling state.  Distinguishing himself with rare dynamism, dedication and efficiency much to the envy of other serving British officers, he was elevated in rank in quick succession.

In the early '70s he assumed duties as the Inspector General of Police and Customs.  At this time Oman was witnessing an unprecedented growth and development under his Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said.  To meet the ever increasing demands of the time, he systematically planned for the expansion and simultaneous modernisation of the police force.

Felix de Silva successfully organised the various branches of the force providing for specialisation in their respective fields of activity setting up a Marine and Mounted Division and an Air Wing, to effectively serve the needs of the fast growing modern society. 

When he relinquished duties in early 1983, the Royal Oman Police in the international police world was recognised as an efficient, sophisticated, highly equipped force with the most up-to-date techniques, systems and procedures and an abundance of expertise.  It was the best in the Gulf States.  In fact, other members of the Gulf Corporation Council regularly sought the assistance of the Oman Police to train its personnel.

For his significant and remarkable contribution to the Royal Oman Police and National Security, he was decorated and bestowed the most envious and prestigious awards by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said and he was conferred a 'distinguished citizenship.'

On his retirement he was appointed Advisor to His Majesty on Police Affairs and was required to undertake some sensitive diplomatic assignments as His Majesty had implicit faith in Felix.

A devout Buddhist, he practiced his religion unobstrusively, observing the four Sathara Brahma - loving kindness, compassion, altruistic joy and equanimity to the maximum.  Humanism and generosity knew no bounds.  He gave generously to the temples, churches and other places of religious worship in his birthplace Galle, and his poor relations and friends in need.

Felix de Silva passed away in the USA on October 23, 2001, and his ashes were interred at the Radella Cemetery in Galle.  He was 74 years at the time of his death.  Sri Lanka lost a great man and Oman a friend who loved the Sultanate and its people. 

He was a rare personality and epitomised the legendary person who would walk with alacrity and equal harmony with beggars and kings.  His Majesty has persistently reiterated the gratitude of his people for the outstanding contribution made by Felix de Silva and naturally his magnanimous and generous donation to Help Age, Sri Lanka.

Rex Fernando

Daily Mirror, Tue Mar 24, 2009

Prof GM Heennilame

Prof. Gankande Muhandiramge Heennilame, or Heeni as he was affectionately known, was a close and very dear friend through four extraordinarily exciting and sometimes perilous, but very productive, decades. As we write in appreciation of this unique man, poignant memories illuminate our minds. Prof Heennilame was the architect and creator of great institutions and productive programmes.

He was a model medical educationist, family physician and dermatologist. He proved to be both role - model, advisor and confidant to many of us, an embodiment of fearless courage and conviction and he achieved the near impossible.

Dr Heennilame was born in a village named Gannegama in Pelmadulla, on 16th November, 1921. A noteworthy if not amusing incident in early life occurred when he was kidnapped at the age of 3 years. For an unknown, but fortuitous reason, his kidnappers abandoned him in a scrubland near the parental home and was found alive and reasonably well. Fortunate indeed, for had he not survived, Sri Lankan and the medical community would have been the poorer over the past 60 years.

Heeni was educated at Seevali Vidyalaya in Ratnapura and later at Ananda College, Colombo.

In 1949, he qualified the MBBS with Honours from the University of Ceylon.

During the next seven years, he was a House Officer at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children and later District Medical Assistant (DMA) in each of the following hospitals: Dickoya, Maskeliya, Bogawantalawa, Pussellawa, Gampola and Lunawa, where he first met his future wife Beryl. Heeni was later appointed a Resident MO at Victoria Memorial Eye Hospital and yet later, Medical Officer of Health Bandarawela. His final appointment in the State sector was as Medical Officer in Dermatology, General Hospital, Colombo. This appointment radically influenced his future orientation in medical practice. He came under the tutelage of the gentle and soft - spoken Dr. S Chelvarajah, the sole (one and only) dermatologist in Ceylon in the 1950s. He influenced Heeni to take more interest in dermatology. It is noteworthy that the wide spectrum of postings which he had, came in good stead to widen his repertoire and ability to enable him to become a renowned and popular general practitioner, and, an eminent and much loved family physician with particular interest in dermatology. He played this role with abundant wisdom for more than half a century in his Clinic at Dean’s Road, Maradana, Colombo 10.

In 1956, Heeni resigned from State service and worked for two years at the (private) Grandpass Nursing Home, before commencing his own practice at Dean’s Road. Heeni had a wide and busy practice.

But Heeni remained a restless man. In 1956, he enrolled with the Independent Medical Practitioners’ Association (IMPA). The IMPA is the second oldest medical association in this country and the oldest national organisation of general medical practitioners in the world.

In 1959, Heeni was elected its Secretary and held this post for nineteen years. He was later Vice President.

There is an interesting story here. In the early eighties, Heeni was overwhelmed with work at the North Colombo Medical College. Dr. Peter Kannangara was the President of the IMPA at that time and I (DJA) was President Elect, an office which groomed the incoming President. But I decided that I should not take Office as President until Heeni had been President. Heeni kept delaying acceptance due to onerous duties at the private medical college as the Chairman of the Board of Management. As a result, the incumbent President continued in Office for 7 years. Heeni decided that his commitment to the North Colombo Medical College (NCMC) was a herculean task and stated inability to take Office as President of the IMPA. I decided too that if Heeni was not willing to take office, I should not either. So, by choice, neither Heeni nor I became President.

The greatest achievement of the IMPA, which came about in the early seventies, was the founding of the College of General Practitioners of Sri Lanka and later, its independent existence after incorporation by Parliament in 1974. Dr. G M Heennilame was a founding father of the CGPSL.

He was its third President, having served as Secretary for 6 years after incorporation. He took up this Office only after two active and productive senior general practitioners, Dr. M. P. M. Cooray and Dr. A. M. Fernando, who on his invitation, took Office as Presidents before him.

One of the great achievements of the College of General Practitioners was the creation of the NCMC in 1981, after less than 2 years after the appointment and hard work of the Project Implementation Committee. One of us (LR) vividly remembers a Sunday morning when I was woke up by Heeni to be requested to accompany him to the proposed site, granted by the State, for the proposed NCMC, on a pretty promontory above the Ragama General Hospital, for inspection of the site. I did it with pleasure but was taken aback to see that the dilapidated buildings, akin to the plantation estate lines a century before, were inhabited by goats and soiled with their dung. When I was asked for my comments, I said, "Heeni, I know what you will do with this archaeological site". The end product was a well designed modern private medical school, which proceeded to produce, with care and dedication, excellent doctors in lieu of goats. Dr Heennilame was the Creator and Chairman of the Board of Governors and Board of Management of the NCMC.

This was when the now wise and very mature CEO, Heeni, displayed his outstanding qualities in leadership. At times he prevailed like a dictator albeit with benevolence. It is a tribute to Heeni that at no time, during the vigorously active ten year existence of the NCMC, until it was vested in the State, did the Board of Governors ever have to take a majority vote on any problem or issue. On certain controversial issues, there was prolonged discussion and consensus was reached without division.

In his busy life, Prof. Heennilame held several offices, including:

* Chairman of the Board of Study in Family Medicine of the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, University of Colombo, for over 2 decades. Here he spearheaded the establishment of the historic Diploma in Family (DFM) Course and Examination. He was coordinator for dermatology for several years and was a lecturer on this course for over 2 decades

* an Examiner at the DFM Examination for many years and also Examiner on six occasions for the DFM Examination held in India

* a clinical trainer in Family Medicine for the DFM and also the undergraduates of University of Kelaniya

* Member of the University Grants Commission for 3 years

* Vice President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association

* Member of the Health Council for over 20 years

Prof. G. M. Heennilame was a devout Buddhist who was involved with Buddhist temples and Buddhist institutions overseas, such as the Sri Lanka Ramanya Nikaya in Sravasti, India and the Berlin Vihara in Germany. Barely 2 months before his demise, he involved himself with yet another temple in India.

He was married to and shared with Beryl for over 50 years and she was a pillar of strength to him in all his activities. She predeceased him by two years. They have left 3 sons, Dr. Upali, a surgeon in the United Kingdom, Dr. Amal, who is attached to the Naval Hospital in Colombo and Cancer Hospital, Maharagama and Anura, who retired from the Sri Lanka Air Force after injuries, now Human Relations Officer at Stafford Engineers.

The two of us were close friends of beloved Heeni and we paraphrase T S Eliot: "This and such were" Heennilame’s ways. Heeni never failed to say thank you for every little things anyone did for him. Another admirable quality in Heeni’s conduct was that he always apologized when he perceived that he had offended someone who had been justifiably reprimanded by him. I (DJA) experienced some of these reprimands and apologies. These qualities endeared Heeni to many.

Prof. Heennilame was a caring guide, philosopher and friend to all of us. A legendary figure in the Sri Lankan medical scene, Dr. C.G. Uragoda has remarked &