APPRECIATIONS 2010


Sunday Times Dec 26 2010

A man of quiet ways and gentle disposition, he will be missed by all

Lalit Prakrama Agalawatta

Lalit Prakrama Agalawatta 75, passed away at Mt Sinai Hospital in New York on December 17, after having suffered a severe heart attack, giving a rude shock to all his relatives and friends. Lalit passed away having fulfilled his heartfelt need to see his only grand son Alakai who was born just six months before. Sita his devoted spouse and Lalit had expressed their wish to see their only new born grandson and their only son Amal in New York and left Sri Lanbka only a week before Lalit’s sudden demise. My wife and I are so thankful for treating him to breakfast two days before they left Sri Lanka.

Thankfully Lalit saw his grandson before he closed his eyes. I have had the pleasure of knowing Lalit for almost 65 years and assosciating with him over this long period , both in Sri Lanka and also when he was in Britain, then the US and even in Kosovo where he served with the United Nations for a three year stint.Lalit and I lived next door to each other in houses down Havelock Rd in those halcyon days. 
Lalit’s father was the renowned Mudliyar C. M Agalawatta who in his days was the Acting Registrar General and signed many of our Birth Certificates. His mother was the sister of one time Chief Justice Hema H. Bassnayake and Lalit spoke very proudly of this connection.

Lalit and I were at Royal Collge together. He joined two years after I did. I still recall with nostalgia how we used to ride with his father in their Vauxhall Velox when he ferried us to Royal and back and then pick up his sister Irangani (who later married famous lawyer Daya Perera PC and sadly passed away two years ago) from the University of Ceylon in Thurstan Rd, only a block way from Royal and then to Holy Family Convent on Galle Rd to pick up Chitra his younger sister.

At Royal Lalit threw himself actively into sporting activities playing both Cricket and Rugger at College. I still treasure a fading photograph of the two of us when we were prefects. Lalit went on to become Head Prefect.

After Royal Lalit persuaded his parents to send him to Britain to further his studies as he was keen to be a Barrister. Events proved otherwise as he found himself absorbed into the famous Ceylon Tea Centre, down Regent St where he served many years as Asst. Tea Controller. This work took him to Paris, Amerterdam and Stockholm where there were Ceylo Tea Centres. It was during one of these visits that Cupid struck when he met lovely Sita Jayawardena who strangely enough was also working at the Tea Centre in Amersterdam. The rest is history. Soon they were blessed with two adorable children Amal (who served in the US Army in places like Iraq and Afghanistan) and Ushani who now works with the United Nations in Sudan.

After serving a long stint in London Lalit was hand picked by the then Minister for Plantation Industries Major Montagu Jayawickrema to set up a Ceylon Tea Centre in New York. He accomplished this onerous task single handedly, facing severe odds in a strange environment and ran that Centre for a few years.

Later due to considerations of cutting down overseas expenditure , the then Govt decided to close the Centre. Meanwhile Sita with her competent secretarial skills found employment in the UN building in New York and rose to be the Secretary to the Chef de Cabinet who was the second in command to the then Secretary General Kofi Anan, who found in her a reliable and efficient person.

I recall the many many occasions when I was in transit in London and New York how eagerly Lalit and Sita awaited my arrival and insisted that I stay with them in their apartment. Waterside Plaza in New York soon became a house hold name for me. Lalit was a devout Buddhist and on each occasion I spent the night with them I woke up to Pirith being chanted on the Casette Recorder.He continued to follow his strong Buddhist traditions even in Battaramulla where they moved to when they returned to Sri Lanka , by visiting the temple regularly.

I will miss Lalit as a close friend and confidant. He and Sita paid frequent visits to our Havelock Road home. Many were the occassions he poured out his heart to me about some of his problems and ailments. I listened quietly and tried my best to sort out even a few of his problems, giving him some solace and comfort.

The only times I had to reprimand him were about his smoking habits. He was a caring husband and devoted father. They will no doubt miss him the most. Our sympathies are with them. All of his friends both here and abroad will miss his quiet ways and gentle disposition.

May he attain Nibbana

Nihal Seneviratne

The healer to be who did not live to heal our sorrowing hearts

Frank Isuru Goonewardena

Born on July 23, 1984, Isuru – better known as Frank in the Ragama Medical Faculty – was smart, soft-spoken and kind-hearted. He had charming manners, elegant and yet simple in his ways. He mixed with all alike, and was indifferent to differences in social class. He was ever ready to help those in need, sharing his worldly belongings and his knowledge.

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As a child he was like any other child, but over time he grew in body and mind and wisdom, excelling in all he undertook. Isuru was blessed with many talents. He excelled in studies, as well as in scouting, music and the arts.

He never hesitated to take the role of the leader. He was disciplined and hard working, qualities that his mentors at school and in Medical College appreciated.

He was an outstanding medical student who looked forward to doing well in the MBBS. However, God had other plans for him. His untimely demise has left us with a rollercoaster of emotions. But it is a relief to know he is in God’s hands. Till memory fades and life departs, you will live in our hearts the Isuru we knew.

Anton and Mallika

Till we meet again and sing on that beautiful shore

Ivan Jayaratne

It is more than 10 years since you bade me goodbye,
V enantius Ivan Jayaratne, talented and musically inclined;
A lmost in my loving arms you passed away
N ineteen November, Two Thousand was that sorrowful day.

J esus will take care of you, shine His light on your face,
A nd Angels will sing your favourite Amazing Grace;
Y ou were husband, confidante, guru and friend,
A lthough your “Sound of Music” is now void and stilled Ranpota Thelembuwa Meniketa is the song that brought you fame;
A nd it was amazing how well you composed and played;
T ill we meet again and sing on that beautiful shore,
N o one on earth knows how I bear the pain and sorrow –
E ternal rest be with you, I will love you forever more.

Lilanthi

My highland princess

Tecla Chandra Ranaweera

When December approaches, my memory lane opens to a clear vista of my marriage 52 years ago to my Highland Princess. Hailing from a family of royal physicians, my wife was the daughter of Dr. D. W. and Ellen Pahalawela. She received her education at the Matale B. M. S. Girls’ School, where she excelled academically, and in extra- curricular activities, finally becoming Head Prefect and School Captain.

Having completed her secondary education in Matale, Tecla joined the Holy Family Convert in Kotahena for a professional training. Later, she joined the staff of Trinity College, Kandy, and it was during this period that we met and were married.

In later years, Tecla returned to Matale and her alma mater and joined the teaching staff there. Until her retirement, she served the school with dedication and enthusiasm. During her last years she travelled a lot, to the UK and New Zealand to spend time with her three sons and their families. In her years of retirement, she became much involved in charity and social work. She was always there for everyone, in times of happiness and in times of stress and sorrow.

The loss of a peerless wife and companion of over five decades is no small sorrow. The memories of a wonderful wife and mother grow stronger with each passing day.

D. E. Ranaweera

 

Sunday Times Dec 19 2010

Happy journey to the loving and generous ‘mother’ who touched so many

Mother Maria of Lansigama

Monday, November 22 was a sad day for the thousands who loved Mother Maria of Lansigama. The flame of Mother Maria, the Co-Worker, the Mother Teresa of Sri Lanka, was extinguished. They say the “face is the index of the heart.” Mother Maria’s face, full of maternal love, reflected her generous heart. She had a perpetual smile – the same face, the same smile and the same heart to all, for the known and the unknown, the rich and the poor.

“The soul laughs through the eyes,” writes Indian novelist R. K. Narayan in his book “The English Teacher.” Mother Maria’s laughter came from her soul. There was a perpetual smile in her eyes. Gratitude was on her lips to the biggest and smallest donor.

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Born on November 18, 1925, in Ostiglia, a small village in Italy, Mother Maria entered the novitiate of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. She took her first vows on June 18, 1947. In February 1950, she and four other Sisters migrated to Ceylon at the invitation of Bishop Edmund Peiris to set up a Home for the Elders at Lansigama.

Here are a few anecdotes for those who wish to know more about Mother Maria’s humanity, and how she reached divinity through humanity. One day a beggar came and sat under an araliya tree near the chapel. Mother Maria and I were talking at the entrance to the convent. She asked me who the man was. “A beggar,” I said. She said: “No, he is my visitor.” She then went and attended to his needs.

Beggars and paupers found refuge with Mother Maria. Sometimes wolves came to her in sheep’s clothing, and despite warnings from the other Sisters, Mother Maria would help them too. “They come to us because they need our help,” she said. “Let us share what we have with the have-nots. We help them in the name of Jesus. If they misuse it, it is their fault, not ours.”

She loved children, and she herself was childlike. She was a child among children, a loving friend among friends, a loving mother among her subordinates and the home inmates, a leader among leaders, and a committed servant among servants.

Mother Maria treated those at the Home as her family. She was a mother to them. When someone was dying, she would be at that person’s bedside. She would tenderly touch that person’s head and hands and say, “Suba Gamang” – Happy Journey.

Mother Maria, you were a shade tree for all the weary travellers of life. You were the gentle rain that poured down on the dry and cracked land, giving new life. You were a stream, full of fresh and clean water quenching the thirst of all. You were a bridge between God and man. You were a ferry that brought hope to those lost in the ocean. You were an oasis where the children of God could enjoy themselves without hindrance.

Ajith Perera

An inspired teacher who breathed life into every lesson she taught

Shanthi Peiris

It is a privilege to pay tribute to the late Mrs. Shanthi Peiris, with whom I had the opportunity to interact closely in the latter part of my school career. Much has been said about her phenomenal memory, her staunch faith, her attention to detail, her being a strict disciplinarian, her fairness in decision making, her dedication to teaching – and the many other characteristics that made her the great personality she was.

Mrs. Peiris was my geography teacher, class teacher, and school principal. As a geography teacher, she came to class well prepared, and she made the subject come alive. Whenever I travel around Sri Lanka, I am reminded of her geography lessons – the climate zones, the topography, the central hills massif, and so on. Such lessons as those on the monsoons winds and the ocean currents are especially vivid in my memory.

She created lasting interest in the subject she loved and taught so well. As our Advanced Level class teacher, she took us on a trip to Anuradhapura. We travelled by train and stayed overnight in the home of Damitha Perera, nee Tirimanne, whose father was the station master there. So vivid is the image of Mrs. Peiris at the top of the Mihintale Rock, worrying that her charges might be blown down by the strong winds. Mrs. Peiris joined in the fun and laughter, showing us a side of her personality not many students were aware of. Of course, she also made sure we learned about the historical significance of Anuradhapura.

As a school principal, she was firm. But those of us who served on the school committee found her ever willing to hear us out. Her punctuality was legendary. We could tell the time without looking at the clock when she emerged from the principal’s bungalow each morning.

She did not believe in ostentation, which showed in the way she conducted herself. She could well have stayed on to complete 25 years as principal, but she chose to retire when she felt she had done all she could in that capacity, and it was time for another to take over.

During the time I was on the Old Girls’ Association governing board, Mrs. Peiris ensured that we kept the values our founders had in mind when they established the school – simplicity, honesty, care and concern for others, fair play, dignity and respect, among others. These values Mrs. Peiris exemplified in her daily life.

On the day of Mrs. Peiris’ funeral, someone asked whether the school would close as a mark of respect. My response was that Mrs. Peiris would not have approved of closing the school for her funeral. She was not the kind of person who drew attention to herself.

The Bible’s Book of Proverbs, Chapter 31, speaks of the virtuous woman: “Strength and honour are her clothing and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom and in her tongue are the laws of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household and eateth not the bread of idleness.

Her children shall rise up and call her blessed, her husband also and he praiseth her. Favour is deceitful and beauty is vain but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands and let her own works praise her in the gates.”

Damaris Wickremasekera

Singing the glory of God with angels’ chorus

Claude Fernando (King Claude)

He had a Christmas party on December 12, 2009. We wondered why it had to be so early. Probably, he had a premonition. The next day he was dead, while engaged in what he most loved -- playing the piano.

Claude was born talented. As a four year old, while I struggled to learn a piece of music, he would sit at the piano and play it by ear. Needless to say, I gave up music. Educated at S. Thomas’ College, he was brilliant at both Maths and Music. He kept in touch with his small circle of college friends from Grade One till the day he died.

Claude reached the highest point of his career with his King Claude TV shows. He was a member of the band Spitfires and they sent a group photograph and a wreath in the shape of a treble cleff to be put into his coffin.

Claude lived for his son who was confined to a wheel chair due to a medical misadventure. He never grumbled even when he had to do everything for him alone when the domestic was on leave. Claude has taught countless people many of whom are celebrities today. He was a humble man who didn’t realize his own worth.

At his funeral we heard so many stories of the music he had written and things he had done. His death was a loss to the music world. He could write music while it was played. He could give the note ahead to someone playing a tune on the guitar.

At 62, Claude left us to rejoin his parents and aunt and grandmother who doted on him. He is at peace now but I miss him, my brother, more as time passes. We shared a love of simple things -- unusual key tags, coloured paper, scrap books and he would give me the notes of any song I wanted with the words over the phone.

Claude, may you continue to watch over those you loved, especially Joel, and with all the musicians who have gone before you join the angels’ chorus to praise our Heavenly Father.

May God, take care of you until we meet again.

Your Sister

Ode to an old schoolmate

R.R. Samarakone

Got to know, at 
Our old school, Kingswood College Kandy.
Often, you composed songs, that we sang and spent the
 
Days quite gleefully. You were
 
Born in Dekinda, Nawalapitiya, but
 
You moved to Colombo to engineer your future
 
Ever green you shall remain among the loved ones.
 
Rich you were in Sinhala Language, thus
 
Rewarding the society with vital stage plays that spoke about economic
 
And social problems of the down-trodden classes.
 
Many books were written that captured the
 
Attention of many a Reader.

Eternal Bliss should be your final goal.

W. Lionel Sirimanne

 


Sunday Times Dec 5 2010

 

A short life rich with human experiences

Chris Gunasekera

A few days ago, we got the news, here in Melbourne, of the passing of Chris Gunasekera, in Sri Lanka. Chris was my wife’s cousin – one of the closest, and our two sons’ favourite uncle in Sri Lanka. Many were the vacations and weekends that my family and I had enjoyed at Chris’s various “rural retreats” in the North Western Province of Sri Lanka.

Chris was an entertainer par excellence. Being trained in hospitality at Hotel School, he carried the art of entertaining to an entirely new level. Upon arrival at his estate, usually in the morning, we would always be greeted by a new and original form of ‘welcome’. Guessing what this would be was well nigh impossible as Chris’s imagination and sense of humour were entirely his own. On one occasion, we would be greeted by a series of hand drawn posters and sign-boards, from the gate of his estate up to the bungalow, warning us of various hazards to watch out for etc.

On another we would be greeted by Chris and his entire estate staff, including several local village youth, performing a welcome ‘dance’ – dressed in outrageous costumes etc., and accompanied by drums, flutes and assorted musical (and not so musical) instruments. Even his beloved dogs would be dressed up in funny hats and paper bibs. On yet another occasion, he would introduce us to a ‘lady’ guest he happened to be entertaining from ‘Ireland’.

That would be his cook and caretaker – Gnanapala, dressed in high heels, outrageous wig, funny spectacles and frock, playing the part of an eccentric old lady. Once the excitement and hilarity of the initial welcome had died down, a continuous stream of hospitality would pour out – from sweet, fresh squeezed lime juice to drinks of a more “spirited” nature, accompanied by tidbits of various types, cadjunuts from his trees, roasted and salted – hot off the pan, fresh-caught fish – crisp-fried and crunchy, dark-roasted wild boar, the list would be endless, and the day just begun.

On one occasion Chris had happened on an encampment of gypsies not far from his estate and prevailed on them to come along and entertain us with their snake charming and performing monkeys etc. On another, he had invited the local village boys over to play a game of cricket with the visitors. Once when we visited around Sinhala New Year time, Chris had invited the women from the village over to play ‘Raban’, which meant a large part of the village were present and pretty soon, everyone was dancing merrily to the accompaniment of the village damsels drumming!Later in the evening, as night fell and the stars began to come out, so would Chris’s dining table and chairs, and other assorted furniture, together with his stereo and speakers which would be rigged up on the verandah. They would be brought outdoors by half a dozen village youth, who had turned up, casually, during the course of the afternoon.

They would then bring out the barbecue and over the next couple of hours or so, put on what was very simply the best barbecue to be had anywhere in Sri Lanka! We would just sit back, relax and enjoy a level of casual, friendly and totally professional service not to be found even among the best of the five star hotels.

There was something unique and common in all of these visits to Chris’s abode. He always invited people from the village – ordinary peasant folk, too, to meet us and enjoy his hospitality with us on an equal basis. They were his friends in just the same manner as we were. They enjoyed the same fun, the same food and the same conversation. He would welcome our driver, Ranjith, in just the same manner and with the same enthusiasm as he did us. On the occasions when he visited us at our home, he would walk in the door, greet us and then head straight to the kitchen or wherever, to greet our domestic staff.

He was totally incapable of discriminating between human beings and he found and formed many deep and abiding friendships among the simple rural folk he happened to come across.On several occasions he has been known to befriend teenage orphans, who were abused and destitute, and invite them over to his place, where they would stay and become part of his household. He would support them and encourage them to learn a skill or trade according to their ability and after a few years, they would leave as confident young men, with secure employment and prospects.

His personal van, which was his only form of transport, was available to the villagers one day a week, to go to Kurunegala and back, for those who needed to attend clinics at the Hospital for treatment. It was available at any time for anyone needing emergency treatment to get to hospital. He was intimately involved in the lives and trials of his village neighbours. When the village joined together to dig themselves a new well to offset an ongoing drought, Chris’s kitchen supplied the meals and refreshments to all who laboured on the venture. Whenever a youth from the village happened to win a place at University, Chris would provide them with a personal ‘scholarship’ from his own funds to enable them to meet their ongoing expenses. Many were the occasions when he had to cut corners and economize on his personal expenses in order to keep up to his commitments to his various philanthropic ventures.

Chris had a first hand view of the devastation that the Northern war was causing among our rural families and youth as he bade farewell to many of his village friends as they joined up, only to greet them upon their tragic return as amputees, or worse. It was then that he realized that none of the homes of these amputees had appropriate toilets which they could use with any sort of dignity, on their own, and he set about building disabled-friendly toilets for them.

He didn’t bother to go looking for funds – he just started by spending his own and gradually, as the wider community of his friends and family got to know of his efforts, they began to chip in with donations and financial support. He helped build toilets, houses, wells, children’s playgrounds and play equipment for schools, provided wheel chairs, walking aids, etc. When someone from the village required specialist surgery in Colombo, Chris took him down himself, admitted him to a private hospital and got a surgeon friend to treat him, waiting in Colombo, himself, until he could bring him home again. When the doctor realized that Chris was paying for everything out of his own pocket, he not only waived his personal fee, but took up the hospital charges as well.

Such was the effect Chris had on his friends. Plagued by ill luck, ill-health and incurable, progressive illness himself, he busied himself with the burdens of others and rarely, if ever, looked to his own. He consistently denied himself, the luxuries that others among his family and friends enjoyed, to be able to provide the necessities of his less fortunate friends so that they could live with dignity. His life was short, but incredibly rich: Rich with human experience – the experience of giving – without reservation; of himself, his time, his efforts, his energies, his friendship, his humour, and his love.

My seven-year-old son remarked recently at dinner, as we remembered Uncle Chris together and the fact that ‘he had gone to heaven to be with Jesus’, “Thathi, he would be partying away in heaven with Jesus, wouldn’t he? So why are all the adults so sad? They should be happy for him!” They should, indeed…….!

Harin Corea


Father was a born teacher and scholar

Tiddy Munasinghe

Almost all parents are loved, admired and adored by their children. I can modestly say that our late father was loved and adored, not only by his children, but by all of his relations and associates alike.
He was born on April 14, 1909 at Maha Induruwa, and died on November 28, 2009, having led a simple yet contented life for more than 100 years.

He studied first at Dharmasoka College, Ambalangoda, and later at Richmond College, Galle. After completing his London Matriculation, he joined the Department of Education in September 1930 as an assistant teacher, aged 21. He was promoted to the post of Headmaster (as school principals were then called) and posted to K/Waradiwela Junior School in March 1948. He served in the same capacity at Bd/Medagama Junior School, and was promoted to the Inspectorate in August 1954.

In 1942, he married Rani, a school teacher and the queen of his heart. She remained by his side for 44 years until she departed this life in August 1986. As his faithful partner, she saw to his every need and comfort. They had eight children.

As an Inspector of Schools, our father had to supervise a number of circuits in Moneragala, Welimada, Matale, Pelmadulla and finally Kandy. He would recall how he would often park his car and walk miles, often braving bad weather and leeches, in order to reach a remote school that had never been visited by an Education Department official.

In June 1965, he had to choose between Jaffna and Batticaloa, and he chose to go to the education office in Jaffna. He said his happiest years in service were the three years he was stationed in Jaffna. Years later, we had the privilege of touring Jaffna with my father, and how warmly we were received by his friends there. He had to study Tamil for his efficiency bar exams, and he continued to study the language long after. He had a great admiration for Jaffna, its people, and their “beautiful” language.
His career with the Education Department came to an end when he retired from service in March 1968, his last station being the Anuradhapura Regional Education Office.

He must be one of a very few public officers who completed close on 40 years in public service and then remained a government pensioner for more than 40 years. This may be a record of some sort.
Our father could never get away from teaching, which was his one great passion. Whenever he was transferred to a new place, he saw to it that a part of a wall of the dining room in the new house we moved into was made into a blackboard. No matter how tired he was after a hard day’s work, he would patiently conduct a class for us.

It was a treat to listen to him quote from the works of Longfellow, Goldsmith and other poets. He had a melodious voice. He was equally at ease rendering a Pali stanza, a Christian hymn, a Sanskrit shloka or a verse or two from his favourite Selalihini Sandeshaya.

He was a voracious reader to the end. His collection of books included the complete set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and books on almost every subject, ranging from History, Geography and Economics to Ayurveda and Astrology.

At dinner, he would often get one of us to read selected passages from a school text while the others listened. He had a good knowledge of Latin, which he studied at Dharmashoka and Richmond; of Pali, which he offered as a subject for his London University degree, and of Sanskrit.

At the age of 82, on the eve of leaving for a pilgrimage to India, he started to study Hindi, as if to show that age was no barrier to learning. He loved to keep in touch with his near and dear, and wrote them long letters when he found the time. No letter was complete without a quotation from a famous writer or poet.

His passion for teaching did not diminish even after his retirement. He taught English at home to children getting ready for the GCE Ordinary Level Exam. He was a practising Buddhist with a good knowledge of the Dhamma. He was presented with books on Buddhism by people who knew of his thirst for knowledge. He read carefully, underlining sentences and making notes in the margins. In later years, he gave away most of his books to temples and aramayas and deserving persons.

He lived to be a centenarian, and to see 15 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. He was happy and healthy in mind and body to the last.

An adoring child


Remembering another noble son of Matale

Major General Saliya Kulatunga

Matale lives on in the collective memory, thanks to the contributions of a long line of distinguished Matale men, headed by the legendary hero, Keppetitipola Dissawa.

Besides this fearless patriot and warrior, Matale nurtured others who also contributed to the wealth and welfare of not only parochial Matale but the entire country. These include, notably, the three Aluvihares, Sir Richard, Bernard and Alick, whose names are synonymous with Matale; and William Gopallawa and Richard Udugama, who brought fame and lustre to Matale’s heritage.

Matale’s latest loss of a worthy son is Major-General Saliya Kulatunga. Saliya was the scion of an ancient family, going back to the times of King Rajasinha II. He received his education at St. Anthony’s, Kandy, a school that produced many distinguished alumni in many walks of life. Saliya was an outstanding senior cadet. His transition to the national Army was smooth and quick. In due course, he gained experience and promotions, ending up as a Major-General.

Destiny ordained that he participate in the epic struggle to rid the country of the scourge of terrorism. 
During his period of service in the war zones, his Gajaba Regiment made a significant contribution towards ousting the terrorists from the North and the East.

After the strains and stresses of Army life, and of confronting the LTTE in the impenetrable jungles of the North and the East, Saliya retired from active Army service. He was looking forward to a quiet life of retirement with his family in Matale. It was not to be. His passing away, one cold and windy day in November 2007, was a reminder to family and friends that “there is no armour against Fate”.

While wishing him happiness in the Celestial Realms, may we perpetuate the name of Saliya the Good Samaritan – especially among the old and the infirm.

D. E. Ranaweera


A day does not pass without a prayer for you

Bryan Paul Senanayake

I still cannot believe that four long years have passed since I last saw you, Dada. … I miss you so much. I can say with the utmost confidence that a day has not passed without thoughts of you and a prayer for you. … I talk to you often in my head, sadly more than I did when you were with us.

I wish more than ever that you could have seen your grandchildren and given them the love you gave me, taught them all you taught me, shared with them all you shared with me. I often think of those precious moments, and thank God I have those memories to cherish.

It breaks my heart that I was not with you, holding your hand, when you decided to leave this material world. I do not understand why you did not wait for me.

I know you are happy with Jesus and Mother Mary, free from all pain and suffering. I long to see you, Dada, and have you wrap your arms around me. I will continue to look forward to that day.

I guess I just wanted to remind you how much I love you and miss you every single day. …

With all my love, always, Shima


Precious memories never end

Elmo Benedict

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On his 11th death anniversary 
The brilliance of the stars fade away
The blackness of the still night
Melting into fingers of light of daybreak
Dispelling all gloom and darkness
When visions of your warm smile
Radiates my soul
Echoes of your tender voice
And wonderful memories of your loving heart
Overflowing with fullness of Christ's life within
A blossom alive in our hearts
Whose fragrance lingers in our thoughts
Precious memories never end
For love which inspired the inner self
Still riding the waves of life.

Loving wife Lourdeslin Benedict

Dad, you were our pillar of strength

S. Dissanayake


Sunday Times Nov 7, 2010

We remembered our childhood days over a cuppa…

Professor M.T.M.Jiffrey

In March this year, Professor M.T.M. Jiffrey last visited my wife and I at our home in Mount Lavina. Punctual as usual and immaculately dressed Professor Jiffrey was the epitome of a gentleman. He has, as I reflect, been a brother, peer, role model and advisor to me over the six decades of our friendship and association.

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We reminisced on our childhood over a cup of tea. He enjoyed the cup of tea so much that he wanted to know what the brand of tea was and where it could be bought. As our friendly conversation progressed, he touched on shared childhood experiences. At one point he recalled our early schooling, attending Montessori at St Mary’s Convent, Matara.

Being my cousin and neighbour in Matara, our daily trip was from Broadway Road to St. Mary’s Convent at Beach Road in Matara by buggy cart (bullock driven cart) with the “Buggy Aiyya” and our “Aaya Amma” namely Sango who looked after and cared for us in school until we returned home. Interestingly, he had a sharp memory of yesteryear and reminded me also of a concert during our childhood where we took part as a sailor and an engine driver.

Despite being peers, right from our childhood, I recognized him as a silent but talented cousin who was good in art and creative hand work. He was generous and had the habit of sharing and caring for others. I remember him presenting me his art works, paintings and handicrafts during our Montessori days. When he was about to leave that day my wife made it a point to present him with a packet of the tea that he had enjoyed a few hours before.

This was the last occasion I spoke to Professor Jiffrey. Thereafter I visited him when he was receiving treatment in a private hospital. A few days later I was grieved to learn the sad news about his passing away.

Professor Jiffrey’s mother died during his infancy and as the only child he grew up under the care of his aunts and his beloved father who cared for him with much love and affection. In adult life he became a people-friendly person and always respected people from all walks of life irrespective of their caste, creed and religion.

With the passage of time on finishing our Montessori days, we were in different schools. Later he gained admission to Mahinda College, Galle and Ananda College Colombo, from where he passed the University Entrance with flying colours. Thereafter, he excelled in his chosen career and became a Professor in his chosen field.

I met him, happy and contented as Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Sri Jayawardenapura University and as the Physiology lecturer of the same University. I am aware that he was popular among his peers and got along equally well with his subordinates. When he became the Vice Chairman of UGC, he used to tell me that his new position was challenging and arduous. Nevertheless, as an experienced academic with his knowledge on Human Resource Management, he boldly faced the realities of the new job. He spared no effort to resolve problems encountered by the students with foresight, tact and knowledge.

He fearlessly stood by the just demands of the poor University students. It is no secret that as an eminent intellectual, he had been a mentor to very many University students who are now doctors. 
Well versed in Sinhala, Tamil and English, he was an eloquent orator capable of delivering thought provoking speeches and presentations. He had won many international and national accolades for his works and presentations of scientific papers. Of late he was appointed as a member of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission but was unable to sit on this Commission due to illness.

He was a devout Muslim and had a genuine desire to help the poor Muslim students from the rural areas. Being a Professor, he did not care about his status when it came to social work. He was simple and humble in all his dealings with his fellow men and was involved in charitable activities. He always had a genuine desire to see all Sri Lankans living in peace and tranquility. As an intellectual, late Professor Jiffrey was held in high esteem by the Muslim community and was considered a shining gem among the Muslim intellectuals.

Professor Jiffrey is no more with us, yet memories of him will remain with us forever. He passed away at the peak of his career, at a time when he was rendering service and spearheading many important scientific projects.

Whilst paying my humble tribute to this gentleman, a friend and cousin, I extend my condolences to the immediate family members of the late Professor M.T.M.Jiffrey and pray Almighty Allah that he may grant late Professor Jiffrey Jennath -ul-Firodouze!

Brigadier(Ret) M. Z. Ishrath


A father figure and guiding light in so many lives

F.P. De Alwis

Loku Thathi it is very difficult to put into words what I feel, but I will try. You have helped me in so many ways, on so many occasions and I am so grateful.

As a child you helped me out by paying my cricket fees at the cricket academy, after finishing school you helped me find jobs, when I wanted to further my education you assisted me in travelling to Australia for my studies and continued to support me, assuring me that if ever I required guidance I could always come to you.

The family knew they could count on you for support and advice and you were always willing to help anyone in distress, be it a fellow villager from Galle or a friend in need!

I always admired you for the caring man that you were, treating all your brothers and sisters the same and you were not only a father figure to them, but to us all.

I know that Christmas Day will never be the same without the traditional Christmas dinner you and Loku Ammi held in your home for the De Alwis family and others every year. As kids we’d look forward to spending Christmas at your place as you always made us feel at home.

Loku Thathi, I will never forget your voice, your smile and your great sense of humour. I have no doubt that the Good Lord has reserved a special place for you in heaven, as you were a well respected man with a heart of gold.

You have touched the lives of all who knew you; especially our family and we will be poorer without you. You made me proud to call myself ‘Felix De Alwis’ and I will always remember those words you said to me as a teenager, " Son always aim high and always make me and the De Alwis family proud." I hope I will make you proud one day Loku Thathi.

I miss you so much and will always treasure you with all my heart. I am crying for your loss but deep down I know that spiritually you will never leave us because you love us all so much. I love you my dear godfather, may your soul rest in peace.

Felix Navin Anthony De Alwis


Tribute to a mother’s love

Dianne Pereira

It is hard to believe that November 7 (today), would be six years since your passing away. It is hard to understand why things happened the way they did and why you were taken away so suddenly. We can only trust in God and believe that he knew what was best.

You worked for the Diocese of Colombo for over 30 years and also as Secretary to the Bishop of Colombo for about five years. You worked with commitment and dedication and were always loyal to the Diocese and the church and I would say you regarded it more as a calling than a job.

Among some of my most fond memories of you are the sacrifices that you and dada made to give me the best, making sure that I went to church and Sunday school.

I can still remember how happy you were when I got my O/L and A/L results and also when I got my first job. You never aspired for big things but were content, with what you called “the small mercies in life”. Your faith in God helped you to overcome many things and you were simple and humble always.

Although I was difficult and stubborn at times you loved me and I am what I am today because of the faith and values that you and dada instilled in me. You were loving, patient and kind but at the same time firm and strict. I know that even though you are not physically present today, you are with me and with God’s grace guiding me in what I do. I just want you to know how proud I am to say that you are my mama and thank you so much for everything that you have done for me.

We trust that you’re in God’s loving care and with Nana and Kali rejoicing in heaven. I shall end with a verse from a poem that I gave you .

When all other love has vanished
When all other friendships fade
There is a love that moves behind
us in sunshine and the shade
And that’s a mother’s love

Ryan Pereira


The fragrance of your wonderful life will come to us on the tides of memory

Ravi de Silva

Death is most cruel. It comes like a thief in the night, creating a deep and bottomless void in people’s lives - a void that can never ever be filled.

It is hard to believe that death snatched away Ravi de Silva from our midst. The shock was terrible - his passing so sudden - and dear Ravi was gone before the blinking of an eyelid. His was an untimely death in what could be called the prime of life, at the age of 49. We who knew him and loved him have to now face the emptiness of life without him now that he has gone forever. He died in the early hours of Sunday October 17, while playing the ‘Bongo’ drums that he loved so much at a small party.

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/101107/images/Ravi-de-Silva.jpg

Ravi was my son-in-law, husband to my only daughter, Sharon, and father to my two grandchildren, Ramesh and Shenali. His father was the late L.M V de Silva (Victor). His mother is Irene de Silva (or Dolly), who survives him.

They were both loved and respected teachers. Ravi was the youngest in a family of three children. He has an elder brother Saliya and sister Mala. Ravi's father used to tell me that he was a bit of a scamp as a youth and apparently had not been too keen on studies.

However, with patience and understanding, his parents guided and nurtured Ravi through the turbulent days of youth. His father, I am told, was the one instrumental in pushing Ravi into employment at Ceylon Tobacco Company at a young age.

Ravi started with the Market Research branch of CTC. He was absorbed into the Company proper in 1980, I believe, and he never looked back since, and performed his duties with honesty and integrity, to the complete satisfaction of his superiors. His outstanding ability and straight-forwardness, and a sense of duty were predominant characteristics in Ravi. There was nothing in him that was shabby, crooked or mean.

It was fitting therefore that the Management and Staff of Ceylon Tobacco Company as a final tribute to Ravi extended unstinted assistance to the family in the days following his death.

With every phase of maturity his stature grew. He was an exemplary son, a loving devoted husband and an affectionate, caring, loving father. He was an understanding brother and a sincere and trusted friend.
His other loves were cricket and music. He had the honour of captaining the First Eleven in 1979 leading his team to victory in the Big Match. He was awarded his Cricketing Colours in 1979. Then followed an outstanding cricketing career at Ceylon Tobacco Company. He was a stylish left-handed batsman, a medium pace bowler and an excellent fieldsman. He also kept wickets at various times in this career. So much so that even at the age of 49 he was still playing for his Company. He was fitter by far than many of the younger members of his team. He is reported to have played a match just a week or two before his death. Little did we know then that the hidden dangers of a cardiac ailment lurking within was going to claim his life a few days later.

His other passion was music. He learnt to play the guitar and then the drums. He became an expert drummer of the ‘Congo’ and ‘Bongo’ drums. Many friends would invite him for parties and get-to-gethers.. He had a little hideaway upstairs in his home where he had his musical setup with a host of CD ‘s which he would listen to in his spare time without disturbing the others.Whatever Ravi undertook whether in the sphere of his official duties, or his activities in the sports field, or in his family obligations, he did to perfection. He was kindly and forgiving. If at times he had to be firm, his firmness was tempered with moderation.

He proved to be an exemplary son-in-law, and he looked after and cared for my daughter and my grandchildren with much love. Another fine trait in his character was that he did not discriminate against anyone on racial or religious grounds. He was a Buddhist and he respected the views of all faiths. 
The vast crowds that thronged his home and the Crematorium to pay their last respects to Ravi was ample testimony to the esteem in which he was held.

When a good man dies, he leaves behind the fragrances of his memory. All of us will from time to time experience the fragrance of Ravi's life coming to us on the tides of memory.

The sun has set on you, dear Ravi and we are left to face the sunset in the morrow whenever that may be. Thank you dearest son for what you were to my daughter and children and to all of us. We shall surely miss you more than words can ever say, but we shall never ever forget you.

Trevor (Chappy) Jayetilleke


Sunday Times Oct 24 2010

Obiyas Palihapitiya
 
My father, Obiyas Palihapitiya, was a Buddhist community leader who passed away 40 years ago on July 22, 1970, after a brief illness.  He was 84 years old at the time of his death.  He was well known in the area and had good relations with everybody.  He helped his poor relatives and was held in high esteem as an advisor and elder.
 
He was born  in 1886, at Pahala Keembiya, a village in the Baddegama electorate.  He belonged to the fourth generation of the Palihapitiya clan.  His great great grandfather had come from Kandy and settled down in this village.  He was the Gamarala (Village Headman).  My father had studied Sinhala, Pali and Sanskrit at the Weligama Agrabodhi temple.  This temple education moulded his character to lead a Buddhist life.  
 
He had a successful business at the Pilagoda Valley Estate owned by a British planter, George Winter during the First World War and the Sinhala-Muslim riots.   George Winter was the first editor of the 'Ceylon Observer' during British rule. There had been more than 800 estate workers of Indian origin.  My father was very fluent in Tamil.  Mr. Winter had two sons, Alick and Norman who later succeeded their father.  Norman Winter used to attend religious and social functions at our village and addressed  meetings in Sinhala in the late 40's when I was small.  Buildings constructed by the Winters in the estate still remain intact.

 In addition to this estate, another - Makurugoda estate was also owned by a British planter.  All other estates in Baddegama area were owned by Amarasuriya's, Hettiarachchis, E. W. Kannangara, etc.  
 
 During this time, my father married my mother Lelwala Gurugamage Podinona Gunawardene, from the adjoining village, the sister of late Coroner, L.J.W.Gunawardene, Veda-Muhandiram Ralahamy who lived and practised at Bandarawela.  They had ten children.  My father was the first one to bring a bicycle to the village and he was the oldest one cycling until his death.  He taught Pali and Sanskrit to his children at home. 

While he was growing up in the village, he had come in contact with a Buddhist monk at the village temple, who later became an erudite scholar who founded the Vidyaloka Pirivena in Galle - the Ven. Welivitiye Punnasara Maha Thera.  They were good friends.  My father and his cousins were chief Dayakayas at the village temple when another monk, who later became the Principal of Vidyodaya Pirivena, Maligakanda was studying.  He was Ven Akuratiye Amarawansa Maha Thera who was also a reputed scholar.  My father used to visit the Pirivena frequently in the 20's and 30's to meet Ven. Lelwala Siriniwasa Rathanajothi Maha Thera, a pupil and relative of Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayajka Maha Thera and came under his influence.  He was my mother's paternal uncle, who had compiled a Sanskrit grammar book, Sabda Rupadarshaya with another monk.  
 
My father started his own business later to supply tea chests manufactured in his own workshop to estates in the area.  He was the main contractor supplying tea chests to Yahaladuwa estate and the Weihena estate owned by Messrs. D.E. Hettiarachchi and F.W. Jayasekera, respectively.  My father was very friendly with both owners of these estates.  Mr. Hettiarachchi was a leading Buddhist philanthropist in the area.  
 
 My father a traditionalist who believed in astrology and other Sinhala customs and traditions.  Sinhala new year was celebrated a a grand scale at home.  Relatives and workers would visit with sheaves of betel and worship him.

My father was a dedicated Buddhist and a devoted family man.  He died at the age of 84 on election day in July, 1970.  President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the newly elected MP for Beliatta, came to pay his  last respects to my father on July 25 to his Gangodawila house.  At the funeral, funeral orations were made by Ven. Akuratiye Amarawansa Nayaka Maha Thera, K.L.G.Somachamdra, Dr. Gunapala Nanayakkara, M.K.Dias, P.G.D.Gunasena, Dr. Thilak Kariyawasam, etc.  
 
May he attain NIBBANA!             .  
            
-P.G.G. Palihapitiya, 
Canada 


Rev Fr Mark Perera

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Rev. Fr. Mark Perera of the Society of Jesus passed away on August 23, 2010 at age of 81 Fr. Mark was the second son of Maharage Marcelline Perera former Principal of Calvary School, Galle and Paththage Josephine Perera, a qualified teacher. 

Fr. Mark's father Marcelline (brother of Rev. Fr. Moses Perera) migrated to Kaluwella, Galle from Dehiyagatha, Ja-Ela, as his intention was to give his children the best of education.Fr. Mark had four brothers and two sisters. Prof. Wilfred Perera MRCOG was the eldest, Daisy Pathirana taught at St. Aloysius College, Galle for over 35 years, Rita Perera is the founder of MarcSri Kalutara, Newton a leading Chartered Accountant, Former High Court Judge Joe Perera died 20 years ago under tragic circumstances, and Doctor of Medicine Kitty(MACC) is the youngest.
 

Father Mark was a distinguished student of St. Aloysius' College, Galle. He answered The Almighty's call and joined the Jesuit Seminary to become a priest.Fr. Mark did his philosophical studies in Bombay, proceeded to Naples and was ordained a priest in 1961.Subsequently he obtained his MSc. in chemistry from Louis University Missouri in USA and qualified in counselling. He returned to Sri Lanka after being away from his motherland for 16 years..
 

He taught chemistry at St. Aloysius College Galle, initially in English and subsequently in Sinhala too.Though he did not master Sinhala, he mastered the art of conveying ideas effectively in Sinhala.
 

He was a student counselor par excellence.He treated the youth with kindness and dignity, Religion, race or caste were not barriers for the young to reach him. Later he was appointed as the Student Counsellor for the University of Peradeniya, which post he held for over a decade. Many came for guidance and Fr. Mark always had time for them, and he brought peace and solace to them.
 

Music was one of his many pastimes.(Maestro Sunil Santha was his first cousin).
 

He was in a wheelchair for over a year, but his spirit never flagged. He was an optimist.
 

The last rites and burial was held at Lewella, Kandy, amidst a large gathering of his Jesuit Brethren, students, friends and relatives.
 

May Fr. Mark Rest in Peace and may his work be carried on!
 

-
Cecil Perera


Bandula Manawadu

Bandula Manawadu whose second death anniversary we observe joined Richmond at a time when the student population was in the grip of an identity crisis. Though gone where all ultimately journey, his memory remains etched indelibly in our minds eye. 

I do not know whether the identity crisis which I speak of here still prevails in College. If it does it’s a terrible thing. If it does not it is certainly a paradigm shift. 

There always were two tiers. Those that were identified were noticed at every turn and got favoured treatment be it in studies or extra curricular activities like cricket 

and football or even in scouting and in the choice of prefects. Others were left to fend for themselves as best as they could. They were simply ignored or dismissed as not being of any worth. 

It was under teachers like Mr. Bandula Manawadu that the less favoured were made to feel that they were not unwanted after all. Mr. Manawadu along with other teachers like Mr. J.H. Ariyaratnum, Mrs Manel Tampoe and the late Mrs Indranie Gomez by their very nature and also due to their liberal education received from the University of Peradeniya was able to instill a sense of self confidence in their students which helped them immensely in their life and survival at College. Those teachers were a class by themselves at any age and added lustre to the staff. At all times smartly dressed, they were well mannered, and truly majestic in appearance, taking immense care and uncompromisingly insisting that everyone under their charge performed exceptionally well. 

One of Mr. Manawadu’s great gifts (he had many) was his ability to instill knowledge and confidence. He very successfully adopted his own style of teaching which took immense pains to see that his student audience was made to concentrate rigorously on what he was trying to instill in them. His delivery whether in the history hour or the civics class was indeed both electric and high octane and went right into the heads of those of us who were not taken much notice of in other classes. His choice of and organization of words and imagery (reminiscent of Eliot’s The Love Song of J.Alfred J Prufrock (1911), and their masterly delivery, had the stamp and intensity of poetry, which we again encountered in James Joyce’s A Portrait of an Artist. 

Towards the achievement of these ends he indulged in and perfected the technique of repetition which at times appeared aggressive or even oppressive but which in the long run proved to be very effective and rewarding. 

Poor performers in other classes fared exceptionally well in Mr. Manawadu’s subjects arousing suspicion and often envy among some other members of the staff. 

His life and achievements bristle with an intellectual and moral toughness which many others of his day seemed unable to emulate even after much labour. 

I have no doubt that Bandula Manawadu continues to be a source of great strength and inspiration to his former students, to his devoted wife and other members of the family including my dear friend Ananda. 

May his soul rest in peace and may he attain the eternal bliss of Nibbana. His devoted and ever grateful student. 

Neil Dias


Sunday Island Oct 17 2010

Late Professor M. T. M. Jiffrey

October 16, 2010, 5:27 pm 

In March this year late Professor M. T. M. Jiffrey last visited my wife and me at our residence in Mount-Lavina. Punctual as usual and immaculately dressed Professor Jiffrey is an epitome of a gentleman. He has, as I reflect, been a brother, peer, role model and an advisor to me over last 6 decades of our friendship and association.

 

On this day, as I recall, we reminisced on our childhood days over a cup of tea. He enjoyed the cup of tea so much that he wanted to know the type of this tea used in the preparation and where this brand could be purchased. As our friendly conversation progressed, he started touching upon sentimental aspects of our childhood experiences together. At one point he was so moved, that he recalled our early schooling, attending Montessori at St Mary’s Convent, Matara. Being my cousin and neighbor in Matara our daily scheduled trip from Broadway Road to St. Mary’s Convent at Beach Road in Matara by buggy cart with the "buggy aiya" and our "ayah amma," namely Sango, who looked after and cared for us in school until we returned home. Interestingly, he had a very sharp memory of the yesteryear and reminded me also of our participation in a concert during our childhood as a sailor and an engine driver.

 

Despite being peers, right from our childhood I recognized him as a silent but a very talented cousin who was very good in art and creative hand work. He was very generous and had the habit of sharing and caring for others. I remember him presenting me his pieces of art works, paintings and hand work during our Montessori days. When he was about to leave our place after discussing our nostalgic memories on this day, my wife made it a point to present him with a packet of same quality tea which he and his wife relished a few hours earlier.

 

This was the last occasion I spoke to Professor Jiffrey. Thereafter I visited him when he was receiving treatment in a private hospital. Couple of days later I was grieved to learn the sad news about his passing away following his brief illness.

 

Professor Jiffrey’s s mother expired during his infancy. As the only child in his family, he grew up under the care of his aunts and his beloved father who cared for him with much love and affection. In adult life Professor Jiffrey became a people friendly person and always respected people from all walks of life irrespective of their caste, creed and religion.

 

With the passage of time on finishing our Montessori days, we were in different schools. Late Professor M. T. M. Jiffrey gained admission to Mahinda College, Galle, and later schooled at Ananda College, Colombo from where he passed the University Entrance with flying colors. Thereafter, he excelled in his chosen career and progressively rose up and emerged as a Professor in his chosen field.

 

I met a happy and contented Professor assuming the position of the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Sri Jayawardenapura University and as the Physiology lecturer of the same University. I am aware that he was popular among his peers and got along equally well with his subordinates. When he became the Vice Chairman of UGC, he used to tell me that his new position in the UGC is very challenging and arduous. Nevertheless, as an experienced academic together with his knowledge on Human Resource Management, he boldly faced the realities of the new job. He spared no effort to resolve problems encountered by the students with foresight, tact and knowledge. He fearlessly stood by for the just demands of the poor University students.

 

It is no secret that as an eminent intellectual he had been a mentor to very many University students who are now in the medical profession as doctors. Well versed in Sinhala, Tamil and English, late Professor Jiffrey was an eloquent orator capable of delivering thought provoking speeches and presentations. To his credit, he has won many international and national accolades for his work and presentations of scientific papers. He has held various high posts during his lifetime and had been an exemplary academic throughout his career. Recently he was appointed a member of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. However, he was unfortunate unable to sit on this ongoing Commission due to his illness.

 

He was a devout Muslim and worked tirelessly and had a genuine desire to help the poor Muslim students from the rural areas in Sri Lanka. Being a Professor, he did not care about his status when it came to social work. Thus he was very simple and humble in all his dealings with his fellow men and had a knack for helping the poor and downtrodden and was therefore highly involved in charitable activities. During our friendly discussions he always showed his keenness and genuine desire to see all Sri Lankans living in peace and tranquility. As an intellectual, late Professor Jiffrey was held in high esteem by the Muslim community of Sri Lanka and was considered a shining gem among the Muslim intellectuals. He showed great love and affection towards the poor and needy Muslims and took great interest to look into their problems.

 

Professor Jiffrey is no more with us, Yet the memories of his past will linger and always remain with us forever. No doubt that this great man’s name will be inscribed in the annals of Sri Lankan history. He passed away at the peak of his career, at a time when he was rendering service and spearheading many important scientific projects. His sudden demise is an irreparable loss.

 

Whilst paying my humble tribute to this gentleman, a friend and a cousin, I extend my condolences to the immediate family members of the late Professor M. T. M.Jiffrey and pray Almighty Allah that he may grant late Professor Jiffrey Jennath -ul-Firodouze!

 

By Brigadier (Ret) M. Z. Ishrath, 170/68, Templers Grove, Templers Road, Mount Lavinia

Sunday Island Oct 17 2010


Sunday Times Oct 9 2010

Two affable, gifted sisters who guided many a student

Fanny & Mavis Fernando

Fanny and Mavis Fernando were two sisters, my first cousins. They were exemplary teachers and shining examples of lovable siblings. They were always together working in harmony and were inseparable friends. They remained unmarried and got along very well, not only with each other but with every person who came to know them.

Both of them had their early education at Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena and after their professional qualifications decided to teach in the same school. They taught at GSC up to the time of retirement and continued teaching privately thereafter for several years. Hundreds of students would have passed through their benevolent hands whether it be English or Mathematics they learnt. They were both gifted with remembering names of students even after several years.
They were sociable and never absented themselves from attending meetings of past pupils, past teachers of GSC and also the alumni association of Aquinas College. Fanny incidentally taught at the Colombo International School and also at the Asian International School.

They were always present together at functions whether it be a wedding, a party or an anniversary. They were both empathetic towards friends and relatives when in difficult situations. Together they would attend funerals of known persons to console the bereaved. Fanny would go a step further in organizing and arranging help to those in need. She always had a ready smile at all times.

To me Fanny akka and Mavis akka were like my own sisters reaching out at every turn, very specially at my wedding, when Fanny organized the designing of the entire bridal ensemble. She knew offhand the names of people to be contacted for the various requirements that every bride has to go through whether it be clothes, flowers, shoes, invitations or decorations. I say a silent prayer for both of them when I recall these.

Mavis was more or less the house proud lady who used to run the household with ease and charm. She was like the “Martha” of the New Testament. She would see that all visitors (mainly Fanny’s) were entertained in a similar manner. The selection of food items, how they were prepared and how they were served were her sole responsibility. Fanny was the more sociable “Mary” of the house. She would keep everyone entertained and in good spirits till the very end. We felt being loved by both of them every time we met them Their wide circle of friends can vouch for this.

When Mavis passed away in November 2009, the younger sister Fanny was devastated. She felt lost in a sort of wilderness, unable to cope with a totally new situation without Mavis. Every time I called her over the phone she would say “Not too good, Julitta” but showed the outside world that she was calm and controlled – but not for long. Three and a half moths later, in early March 2010 Fanny passed away after a brief illness. It was too late when cancer was diagnosed.

God has been merciful to Fanny for He took her after a very brief separation from her beloved sister. Mavis I am sure would have been waiting to greet her. They are now, I am sure, in Heaven happily serving Jesus.

There was perfect joy and beauty in the lives of this marvellous duo. May they Rest in Peace.

Julitta Fernando


A brilliant man whose humility shone bright

Dr. Surendra Ramachandran

The passing away of Deshmanya Dr. Surendra Ramachandran, a gentleman leader of the medical profession and our friend, has left a void in the medical field.

He was a brilliant product of the then only medical faculty in Colombo of the University of Ceylon. He sailed through his postgraduate examinations in medicine locally and abroad with consummate ease.

As a consultant physician in the state health service he pioneered research in many areas of medicine including kidney disease. His interest in the latter made him donate a prize for the best paper in nephrology at the Annual Scientific Sessions of the Sri Lanka Medical Association. He was one of the pioneers who were responsible for the establishment of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at the General Hospital Colombo in the early 1980s, when I was its Director.

He served the Sri Lanka Medical Association in many capacities including President. During his tenure as President, he was responsible for the inauguration of the Annual Foundation Sessions and the E.M.Wijerama Endowment Lecture. Among many orations he delivered was the second E. M. Wijerama Endowment Lecture where he spoke on kidney disease in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Ramachandran was also President of the Ceylon College of Physicians. He was a devout Hindu. He and his wife Nirmala travelled extensively visiting Hindu and Buddhist sacred places locally and abroad.

He was a much sought after teacher by medical under-graduates and post-graduates. His knowledge, simplicity and straightforwardness attracted them to him.

He was very kind and soft-spoken to the rich and the poor. The main quality I will remember about him was his humility and kindness.

Dr. Lucian Jayasuriya, Past President, Sri Lanka, Medical Association


To the best Seeya in the world

Dr. P.A.C. De Silva

My grandfather passed away on 20 September, at 7.15 pm. After developing a chest pain, he fell into a coma that lasted 12 days. With Seeya gone, I feel very empty. It is not easy to accept the fact that someone who was very close to you is no more.

Seeya made sure we had food to eat, that we had our dinner at the proper time, that we studied, and that everything was all right with us. He would teach us new things. Most of the time, we were too tired or lazy to learn, but we did our best to absorb the knowledge he gave us. He made sure we were happy, and that we did not mix with the wrong types.

I will miss Seeya’s toothless smile and cute laugh. A lot of people do not appreciate what they have until it is gone. This was not the case with Aiya and me. We knew Seeya was the best grandfather in the world (equal to Aththa), and that when he left us everything would change. What matters is that Seeya loved us more than anyone else, and we loved him equally in return.

I am happy that I was beside him, holding his hand, when he was dying. He was happy to hear our voices. I do not know of anyone as inspiring, loving, kind, sweet, happy and caring as he was. My grandfather had a long and excellent life. He had a wonderful wife, two wonderful children, and two loving grandchildren. What more can a grandfather ask for? Seeya was very content.

I hope his next life will be as happy and good as this one was. I will miss him dearly.

Your Granddaughter, Shenali Katha


For the good times we shared

Sumana Cooray

To my Mother-in-law, with love

Something made us come together
With mutual respect,
We both shared someone special –
Your son – my better half.

We did not fight
But defied the classic clashes
The cat and dog coldness
Of mother-in-law and her rival.

We laughed, cracked jokes
Talked and argued
And. of course, gossiped;
We felt no difference

Moments of gladness
Things of sadness
Life full of emptiness
Made into fullness.

All those lovely memories
Of valuable advice 
Caring ways
Sharing with others.

It is your 84th Birthday
The 5th of October is the day;
And I wish to say,
“Thank You, and I miss you” 
May you be content – 
May you seek the supreme fame
With the end of your Samsara!

Savithri Jayasinghe Cooray, Melbourne, Australia


Sunday Times Oct 3 2010

Two affable, gifted sisters who guided many a student

Fanny & Mavis Fernando

Fanny and Mavis Fernando were two sisters, my first cousins. They were exemplary teachers and shining examples of lovable siblings. They were always together working in harmony and were inseparable friends. They remained unmarried and got along very well, not only with each other but with every person who came to know them.

Both of them had their early education at Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena and after their professional qualifications decided to teach in the same school. They taught at GSC up to the time of retirement and continued teaching privately thereafter for several years. Hundreds of students would have passed through their benevolent hands whether it be English or Mathematics they learnt. They were both gifted with remembering names of students even after several years.
They were sociable and never absented themselves from attending meetings of past pupils, past teachers of GSC and also the alumni association of Aquinas College. Fanny incidentally taught at the Colombo International School and also at the Asian International School.

They were always present together at functions whether it be a wedding, a party or an anniversary. They were both empathetic towards friends and relatives when in difficult situations. Together they would attend funerals of known persons to console the bereaved. Fanny would go a step further in organizing and arranging help to those in need. She always had a ready smile at all times.

To me Fanny akka and Mavis akka were like my own sisters reaching out at every turn, very specially at my wedding, when Fanny organized the designing of the entire bridal ensemble. She knew offhand the names of people to be contacted for the various requirements that every bride has to go through whether it be clothes, flowers, shoes, invitations or decorations. I say a silent prayer for both of them when I recall these.

Mavis was more or less the house proud lady who used to run the household with ease and charm. She was like the “Martha” of the New Testament. She would see that all visitors (mainly Fanny’s) were entertained in a similar manner. The selection of food items, how they were prepared and how they were served were her sole responsibility. Fanny was the more sociable “Mary” of the house. She would keep everyone entertained and in good spirits till the very end. We felt being loved by both of them every time we met them Their wide circle of friends can vouch for this.

When Mavis passed away in November 2009, the younger sister Fanny was devastated. She felt lost in a sort of wilderness, unable to cope with a totally new situation without Mavis. Every time I called her over the phone she would say “Not too good, Julitta” but showed the outside world that she was calm and controlled – but not for long. Three and a half moths later, in early March 2010 Fanny passed away after a brief illness. It was too late when cancer was diagnosed.

God has been merciful to Fanny for He took her after a very brief separation from her beloved sister. Mavis I am sure would have been waiting to greet her. They are now, I am sure, in Heaven happily serving Jesus.

There was perfect joy and beauty in the lives of this marvellous duo. May they Rest in Peace.

Julitta Fernando


A brilliant man whose humility shone bright

Dr. Surendra Ramachandran

The passing away of Deshmanya Dr. Surendra Ramachandran, a gentleman leader of the medical profession and our friend, has left a void in the medical field.

He was a brilliant product of the then only medical faculty in Colombo of the University of Ceylon. He sailed through his postgraduate examinations in medicine locally and abroad with consummate ease.

As a consultant physician in the state health service he pioneered research in many areas of medicine including kidney disease. His interest in the latter made him donate a prize for the best paper in nephrology at the Annual Scientific Sessions of the Sri Lanka Medical Association. He was one of the pioneers who were responsible for the establishment of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at the General Hospital Colombo in the early 1980s, when I was its Director.

He served the Sri Lanka Medical Association in many capacities including President. During his tenure as President, he was responsible for the inauguration of the Annual Foundation Sessions and the E.M.Wijerama Endowment Lecture. Among many orations he delivered was the second E. M. Wijerama Endowment Lecture where he spoke on kidney disease in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Ramachandran was also President of the Ceylon College of Physicians. He was a devout Hindu. He and his wife Nirmala travelled extensively visiting Hindu and Buddhist sacred places locally and abroad.

He was a much sought after teacher by medical under-graduates and post-graduates. His knowledge, simplicity and straightforwardness attracted them to him.

He was very kind and soft-spoken to the rich and the poor. The main quality I will remember about him was his humility and kindness.

Dr. Lucian Jayasuriya, Past President, Sri Lanka, Medical Association

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To the best Seeya in the world

Dr. P.A.C. De Silva

My grandfather passed away on 20 September, at 7.15 pm. After developing a chest pain, he fell into a coma that lasted 12 days. With Seeya gone, I feel very empty. It is not easy to accept the fact that someone who was very close to you is no more.

Seeya made sure we had food to eat, that we had our dinner at the proper time, that we studied, and that everything was all right with us. He would teach us new things. Most of the time, we were too tired or lazy to learn, but we did our best to absorb the knowledge he gave us. He made sure we were happy, and that we did not mix with the wrong types.

I will miss Seeya’s toothless smile and cute laugh. A lot of people do not appreciate what they have until it is gone. This was not the case with Aiya and me. We knew Seeya was the best grandfather in the world (equal to Aththa), and that when he left us everything would change. What matters is that Seeya loved us more than anyone else, and we loved him equally in return.

I am happy that I was beside him, holding his hand, when he was dying. He was happy to hear our voices. I do not know of anyone as inspiring, loving, kind, sweet, happy and caring as he was. My grandfather had a long and excellent life. He had a wonderful wife, two wonderful children, and two loving grandchildren. What more can a grandfather ask for? Seeya was very content.

I hope his next life will be as happy and good as this one was. I will miss him dearly.

Your Granddaughter, Shenali Katha

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For the good times we shared

Sumana Cooray

To my Mother-in-law, with love

Something made us come together
With mutual respect,
We both shared someone special –
Your son – my better half.

We did not fight
But defied the classic clashes
The cat and dog coldness
Of mother-in-law and her rival.

We laughed, cracked jokes
Talked and argued
And. of course, gossiped;
We felt no difference

Moments of gladness
Things of sadness
Life full of emptiness
Made into fullness.

All those lovely memories
Of valuable advice 
Caring ways
Sharing with others.

It is your 84th Birthday
The 5th of October is the day;
And I wish to say,
“Thank You, and I miss you” 
May you be content – 
May you seek the supreme fame
With the end of your Samsara!

Savithri Jayasinghe Cooray, Melbourne, Australia

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Rev Fr Mark Perera

Rev. Fr. Mark Perera of the Society of Jesus passed away on August 23, 2010 at age of 81 Fr. Mark was the second son of Maharage Marcelline Perera former Principal of Calvary School, Galle and Paththage Josephine Perera, a qualified teacher. 

Fr. Mark's father Marcelline (brother of Rev. Fr. Moses Perera) migrated to Kaluwella, Galle from Dehiyagatha, Ja-Ela, as his intention was to give his children the best of education.Fr. Mark had four brothers and two sisters. Prof. Wilfred Perera MRCOG was the eldest, Daisy Pathirana taught at St. Aloysius College, Galle for over 35 years, Rita Perera is the founder of MarcSri Kalutara, Newton a leading Chartered Accountant, Former High Court Judge Joe Perera died 20 years ago under tragic circumstances, and Doctor of Medicine Kitty(MACC) is the youngest. 

Father Mark was a distinguished student of St. Aloysius' College, Galle. He answered The Almighty's call and joined the Jesuit Seminary to become a priest.Fr. Mark did his philosophical studies in Bombay, proceeded to Naples and was ordained a priest in 1961.Subsequently he obtained his MSc. in chemistry from Louis University Missouri in USA and qualified in counselling. He returned to Sri Lanka after being away from his motherland for 16 years.. 

He taught chemistry at St. Aloysius College Galle, initially in English and subsequently in Sinhala too.Though he did not master Sinhala, he mastered the art of conveying ideas effectively in Sinhala. 

He was a student counselor par excellence.He treated the youth with kindness and dignity, Religion, race or caste were not barriers for the young to reach him. Later he was appointed as the Student Counsellor for the University of Peradeniya, which post he held for over a decade. Many came for guidance and Fr. Mark always had time for them, and he brought peace and solace to them. 

Music was one of his many pastimes.(Maestro Sunil Santha was his first cousin). 

He was in a wheelchair for over a year, but his spirit never flagged. He was an optimist. 

The last rites and burial was held at Lewella, Kandy, amidst a large gathering of his Jesuit Brethren, students, friends and relatives.

May Fr. Mark Rest in Peace and may his work be carried on! 

-Cecil Perera


Email Fri Sep 17 2010

Prof. M.T.M.Jiffry, Deputy Chairman, University Grants commission  passed away this morning, Fri Sep 17 2010. Inna  Lillahi Wa  Inna Ilaihi Rajioon (From God he comes and unto God he returns)

 

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Prof. M.T.M.Jiffry

 

I met him as a freshman at t the Peradeniya Campus of  the then University of Ceylon. I ragged him and we became friends immediately and enjoyed our campus lives though  we were in different faculties. After graduation  and right throughout our careers we kept in touch with each other, though not regularly and exchanged news of each other. We became professionally closer when he joined the University Grants Commission.

When the idea to form the Insight Education Trust   came up, the first person that I contacted  by phone  to be a member of the Trust was Prof. Jiffry who without  any hesitation agreed.  It was a rich experience for me and other Trustees thereafter to sit with him and dissect, repair and suture the Insight Deed of Trust as an excellent document crafted initially by Br. Najeem AAL.

 

 

Prof. Jiffry , Dr. Ziyard Thaha and Shibly Azeez  PC went into lengthy discourses on words, values and principles that were embedded into the Insight deed of  trust. His last official function at Insight Institute of Management and Technology was delivering the Keynote address at the launch of our BBA programme  at the City Campus 

 

Then we met at the Insight Trust meetings.

 

Since April or May his phone went dead virtually. We could nor get the Deed of Trust Signed by him though he contributed heavily towards it. That was Allah's will.Today he is no more. His professional contributions will live on and on.

 

May Allah grant him Jannathul Firdhouse

  

Hilmi Sulaiman

Secretary

Insight Education Trust

himsulaiman@gmail.com

Phone  +1 201 915 0263


Daily News Fri Sep 17 2010

Dr Ray Wijewardane:

The coconut grower

Denzil APONSO

Much has been written about Dr. Ray Wijewardane, his graduation in Mechanical, Aeronautical and Agricultural Engineering from the prestigious Cambridge University, obtaining the well respected MBA from the Business school of the Harvard University, USA.

The British patent right he received for inventing the two wheel farm tractor, which was a boon to the small scale farmer in Asia, and his assignment as an advisor to the World Bank at the Tropical Agriculture Institute in Nigeria, and back home his appointments as the Chancellor of the University of Moratuwa, an Institution exclusively dedicated to produce Technologists and Engineers.

Chairman of Tea Research Institute and as member of practically all statutory bodies established for promoting Plantation Agriculture and also Engineering Research at one time or the other.

Numerous tributes published in the media speak little about his prowess as a practical farmer and the contribution he made in agronomy particularly as a dedicated coconut grower. He was fortunate to inherit from his parents over 500 acres of coconut land and managed them until the extent was limited by the land Reform Act of 1973.

These included two prime properties Bopitiya Estate off Pannala on the Banks of Maha Oya and Khombe Estate off Kakkapalliya both among the best coconut lands in the country. With the limitation imposed by the above act, he was left with 125 Acres of land at Kohombe Estate for himself and his three children around 1975. It was thereafter perhaps to overcome the disappointment of losing much of his well nurtured lands that he opted to take up the appointment at the World Bank at the tropical Research institute Nigeria.

Kohombe Estate which he owned and managed until he was bed ridden a few months prior to his death is considered by those in the coconut industry as perhaps the best coconut property in the country, with an annual production per acre among the best in the country. True that it is located adjoining Karawitagara Tank with deep soil, but the agronomical and cultural practices he has adopted and the dedication he exercised in carrying out various innovations were largely responsible for the excellence.

He was bold to carry out experiments and to commit his own funds on fields that were within the purview of government funded research institutions which were otherwise delayed due to bureaucratic indecisions.

Almost 15 years back, he highlighted the importance of gliricidia as a means of enhancing soil fertility, and a source of electricity generation. The members of the Coconut Growers Association remember him making a power point presentation at Ratmalagara Estate, some 12 years back, expounding the virtues of gliricidia.

At that time no one took it seriously, specially the aspect of electricity generation. Today everyone talks of it.

He set an example by growing gliricidia extensively in his estate, using it as organic fertilizer and progressively increasing the extent of Gliricidia grown over the years to cover the fertilizer requirement of the whole estate by organic methods. Further the gliricidia loppings were used for the generation of electricity to meet all requirements of the estate.

An admirable attribute he had, was to try out himself his discoveries, and not risk others money or lives. Whether it was piloting the plane or the helicopter designed by him and sometimes rudely constructed but functional, agronomical practices in his coconut land, use of decorticator to separate coconut fibre and pith so that the fibre can be used by the thriving fibre industry and ploughing back the pith into the land, instead of burying the whole husk for moisture conservation hitherto practiced, growing mahogany at the middle of the coconut planted square to maximize land use and income with agro-forestry.

The writer was fortunate to be a co-member of the Research Committee that dissects and comments on the research work done by the Senior Researchers of the Coconut Research Institute, to be seated by him day long, three to four days each year for a number of years and be impressed with his all round knowledge, and practical approach to agronomy and engineering and later in life his condemnation of the use of chemical fertilizer. The great man will occasionally turn to the writer and seek his opinion with child like simplicity. He always valued others opinion and often lavished praise with a word of encouragement.

Dr Ray's contribution to the coconut industry will be long appreciated and remembered.

The writer is a Past President of Coconut Growers Association of Sri Lanka.


Sunday Times Sep 12 2010

He lives in the hearts of the people of Harispattuwa

Dr. A. C. S. Hameed

September 3 marked the 11th death anniversary of my dear brother, the late Dr. A. C. S. Hameed, former Foreign Minister and Member of Parliament.

As a Member of Parliament, he represented Harispattuwa, a predominantly Sinhala Buddhist electorate, for an unbroken 39 years. The people of Harispattuwa voted for A. C. S. Hameed from 1960 until his demise in 1999. His nephew M. H. A. Haleem has been representing Harispattuwa since 2000. The Hameed family has represented this region for 50 years, a rare achievement.

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Eleven years after his death, my brother is still remembered with affection by the people there.

I was in Harispattuwa during the last general election, and wherever I went, I would meet people of all backgrounds who spoke affectionately of Hameed and remembered with gratitude his work for the community.

It may be no exaggeration to say that Harispattuwa is one of the few electorates where true democracy is practised. The people voted for the man who looked after them.

Hameed set up several organisations to help the poor of Harispattuwa and Kandy district. They were provided with such essentials as roofing sheets, medicines, spectacles, school books, as well as financial assistance for newlyweds.

To mark Hameed’s 11th death anniversary this year, 1,000 pairs of spectacles were distributed among the poor. It is with pride that we note that career diplomats and other class officers hailing from Harispattuwa have appointments at almost all the Sri Lanka embassies overseas.

Dr. Hameed was also very concerned about the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka. When he became the first Foreign Minister, in 1997, he had the job of promoting Sri Lanka as an investment. As a result of his efforts, a number of foreign companies invested in the Free Trade Zone, giving thousands of Sri Lankans employment and bringing in billions of dollars in foreign exchange.

Before 1977, a guarantor had to sign a bond on behalf of anyone applying for a passport. A. C. S. Hameed persuaded President J. R. Jayewardene to waive this requirement. As a result, Sri Lankan citizens need produce only their national identity card to obtain a passport.Before Hameed’s time, Sri Lankan Muslims had to prove they were not of Indian origin in order to register their deeds. 
My brother requested President Jayewardene to change the law so Muslims could register deeds by producing only their Sri Lanka birth certificate.

It was during A. C. S. Hameed’s time as Foreign Minister that embassies were opened in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and Dubai. Before 1977, Sri Lanka had just one embassy in the African continent, in Egypt.

Hameed was also a good man to his immediate and extended family. Despite a busy schedule, he would be present at all family gatherings.

He enjoyed meeting the villagers, and knew them all by name. He made sure that whatever was promised to them was delivered. Many of us have fond memories of Hameed, holding a Cuban cigar and chatting with the people.

Cartoonists would have great fun drawing Hameed for the newspapers, and Hameed would take all this in good spirit. The soft-spoken Hameed had no enemies, even among the politicians. 
May he be granted a place in Jannathul Firdouse (Paradise) by the All-Mighty Allah.

A.C.A. Ghafoor


The aroma of virtue of a good man spreads everywhere

Al-Haj Bakeer Markar

It is usual for the Speaker of the House to have a copy of Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice by his side for ready reference. But Speaker Deshamanya Al-Haj Bakeer Markar kept a copy of the sacred Dhammapada to guide him in his solemn duties. He was always ready to be guided and inspired by the sacred teachings of our spiritual leaders, regardless of the religion.

On occasion, he would quote from the Dhammapada. He passed on his affection for and deference to the Dhammapada to his son, the former Minister Imthiaz Bakeer Markar.

It is apt therefore to begin this tribute with a quotation from the Dhammapada: in the Puppha Vagga (Flower Canto), the Supreme Buddha declares:

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“The sweet smell of a flower never wafts up-wind, nor does the fragrance of sandalwood. But the aroma of virtue of a good man spreads up-wind, down-wind, in every direction and everywhere." These words well describe the virtues of Deshamanya Al-Haj Bakeer Markar.

As Speaker, he oversaw the transition of the Parliament from its old premises, facing the sea in Colombo, to its present home, in Kotte. It was a monumental challenge. He carried out the move with masterly efficiency – calm and dignified even in the most trying of circumstances.

M. A. Bakeer Markar was born to a family that traces its ancestry back to Sheik Jamaludeen-Al-Maghdoomi, the pioneering Arab leader who settled down in the coastal city of Beruwela.

Al-Haj M. A. Bakeer Markar had a deep sense of tradition, but he was never narrow-thinking or parochial. He believed that all communities should live in harmonious co-existence. National unity was at the heart of everything he said and did.

In 1950, the Urban Council of Beruwela became the first local government body to pass a resolution to the effect that Sinhala should be the state language. Al-Haj M. A. Bakeer Markar was chairman of the council at the time. He had a book in Tamil, titled “Yane Sinhalam” (“Why we should learn Sinhala”) printed with his own money and distributed among minority communities.
He worked hard to improve conditions for the Muslim community, especially through education. He was a champion of the socially discarded.

His father, Hakeem Alia Marikar Mohamed Marikar, was a successful businessman who practised Ayurvedic medicine. The name Hakeem means “physician”, suggesting ancestors who practised medicine.

Young Bakeer Markar received his early education at Zahira College, where he also acquired a taste for active politics. The presiding genius at Zahira then was the legendary Dr. T. B. Jayah, the school principal. Dr. Jayah was a highly respected educationist, and he was also a political activist, driven by a zeal for social reform. The young Bakeer Markar came under Dr. T. B. Jayah’s spell.

At Zahira, the young Bakeer Markar showed outstanding leadership qualities. He was made editor of the school magazine, speaker for the Majlis, and president of the Tamil Literary Association. He was also a skilful orator. To top it all, he was proficient in all three languages – Sinhala, Tamil and English.

The pursuit of law studies was a natural choice for a young man with all these qualities. At the Law College, he was Speaker of the Muslim League Senate and the President of the All-Ceylon Muslim Students’ Movement.

Young Bakeer Markar entered the rough-and-tumble world of practical politics in 1947. He was the obvious choice to handle the election campaign of Dr. T. B. Jayah. In 1950, he was elected to the Beruwela Urban Council, and became council chairman in his first year. His political career progressed steadily from then on.

He dreamed of a united Sri Lanka. The climax of his political career came with his appointment as Governor of the Southern Province. Whatever the troubles, he was ready to restore harmony. His devotion to his own faith and his respect for the religions of others are legendary.

In the restoration of the Majid-Al-Abrar mosque, he ensured that the original architecture remained. 
Al-Haj Bakeer Markar was a politician, a statesman and, above all, a gentleman.

Irvin Weerakody


Ammi was the ‘English Literature Teacher’ to a generation of students

Dora Boteju

June 4, 2010 was probably the saddest day of my life. It was the day my precious darling Ammi left us for eternal life, to be by the side of our loving Lord Jesus. Dear Mother was probably my best and only true friend. It was only when she left us that my sister Enakshi, my father Edward and I realised how much she meant to us.

My mother was known to many as “Mrs. Dora Boteju, the English Literature Teacher.” Her standing as a teacher was demonstrated by the crowd of grateful students, young and old, who came to her funeral. Many of them stopped to tell me what a wonderful teacher and friend Mrs. Boteju was to them.

Ammi loved her job, and she is still remembered at Methodist College, Colombo, 18 years after retiring from active service. She retired prematurely when my sister and her husband announced they were going to have a baby. My mother chose the baby girl’s name, Anarkalee.

Despite family responsibilities, including taking care of her grandchildren, Mother still found time and energy to teach needy and poor children. She did not expect anything in return. All she wanted was that her students did well at the public exams. She never took a vacation with the family because she did not want her “deserving students” to miss a lesson. If there was a teacher who called her students whenever they missed a class, it was Mrs. Boteju.

Ammi was the driving force in our lives. We consulted her on all big decisions, whether it was planning a party or naming a baby. Ammi was such an inspiration that I aspired to be like her in everything I did. She was a perfectionist. She would say that if I decided to do something, I should go ahead and do it, without looking back, and stop only when I had completed the task. She was supportive of any decision I made, so long as it was in my best interest.

When I met my future wife, I was nervous about telling Ammi. I had fallen in love with a Buddhist girl, and Ammi was a devout Christian, a Baptist. How would the family receive the news, I wondered. One day, while chatting with Ammi, I told her about Manik.

With her warm smile, she said: “When am I going to see her?” I repeated that Manik was a Buddhist. Again Ammi smiled, and said: “Why should that worry you? If she’s a good girl, that’s all that matters. My advice is don’t pressure her for a church wedding. Your wedding day should be special to both of you.”

Manik and Ammi were the best of friends.

Even when her cancer was getting the better of her, up to the middle of May this year, Ammi would continue to call daily to ask how the family was. Every call had some good advice for me.

She once told me she had no fear of dying, and was in fact looking forward to eternal life, in the arms of Jesus. But she couldn’t bear the thought of being separated from her grandchildren. She wanted to see Dineth and Manish grow up just as Anarkalee and Nevan did. She wanted to see them enter the gates of S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia, holding their parents’ hands.

She recalled my first day at the same S. Thomas’. I was holding her hand and begging her to stay at the gate as she handed me over to my class teacher. I remember that day too. I was crying, and Ammi’s eyes too were filled with tears. That was the first time I saw tears in her eyes.

I feel her loss daily.

Dilo (Dilshan Boteju)


A Christian life dedicated to giving – as teacher, parent, parishioner and good citizen

Sybil Elvina De Chickera

She had requested that her love letters, which she had preserved for more than 70 years, be burnt. These were tied with blue ribbon in three bundles and packed tightly in a shoebox that was kept in her wardrobe.

Among the letters was a self-made card addressed to Guy, her husband. The greeting ended with the words: “From a maid who loves you madly.” There was also a New Year card, from 1942, from Guy to Sybil that said: “Whatever the year brings, it brings nothing new.”

In accordance with her wishes, the letters and cards were burnt and interred with her ashes at a private family gathering at Borella Kanatte, on August 30.

The Bishop of Colombo, her second son, officiated at the funeral. Sybil’s four children, 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren were present that day, and if one or two were unable to be there in person, they were there in spirit.

From Kanatte, the mourners headed to the Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, for a requiem service. The cathedral was packed, and Sybil’s favourite Anglican hymns were sung by the congregation, led by the Cathedral choir.

The handout sheet said: “A service of thanksgiving and remembrance for God’s gifts of Sybil Elvina and Geoffrey Eustace (Guy) de Chickera.” Guy de Chickera, a proctor of the Supreme Court for more than 25 years, passed away, aged 55, in August 1965. Sybil joined him on August 21, 2010. 
Sybil’s grandson read out a poem, “The day God called you home”, and Sybil’s daughter Nalini read the intercessions, which Sybil herself had written and read at the Cathedral’s last Easter service. The Rev. James Ratnanayagam gave the sermon.

Sybil studied at the Teacher Training College, Maharagama, and taught English and Geography at the Maradana Central College, where she served under such distinguished principals as Vivian Blaze, Edward Anthonisz, and Mr. Asirwatham. She was greatly loved by her students, many of whom were present at her funeral.

From Maradana Central, Sybil moved to Presbyterian Girls’ School, Dehiwela, as vice-principal. Her teaching career ended officially at Presbyterian. In her retirement, she taught underprivileged children in and around Dehiwela, where she lived, before moving to live with her son and his family on the Cathedral premises, in Colombo 7.

Sybil was God-fearing. She practised her Christianity in her daily life. As a young mother, she took her children to the Church of St Paul the Apostle, on Kynsey Road, and then, when the family moved house, to the Church of the Good Shepherd, Jawatte Road. Sybil and the family later joined the parish of St. Michael’s Church, Polwatte, and finally, that of the Cathedral, on Bauddhaloka Mawatha.

Sybil had a beautiful voice, and enthusiastically joined in the singing at Sunday service. Wherever she worshipped, she loved singing the Lord’s songs. She did little things for Him. Whenever she went out, she would return with fish buns for the Cathedral’s security guards. She gave Mangalika, the maid who looked after her during her convalescence, a bottle of perfume on her birthday. 
When her son Rohan, living in Canada, was holidaying in Sri Lanka, she told all her four children that she had saved money for them over the last decades.

She was generous to all. As her grandson Gihan said, she bore ill-will towards no one. Sybil had a fiery temper, but her anger would fast disappear and all would be forgiven and forgotten. She drew a teacher’s pension, which would not have been much, but she would never fail to pull a note out for a needy person.

Sybil started a patchwork class for the poor girls of the neighbourhood of St. Michael’s, Polwatte. The girls loved these classes. Sybil would collect raw material from parishioners, and the girls would turn these into exquisite works of art, under Sybil’s guidance. Sybil would exhibit the finished products and hold a sale at the church premises. The proceeds would go to the girls. The patchwork classes were so popular that when Sybil attempted to turn her attention to another charity project, the girls would not hear of it.

At the Cathedral, Sybil held English classes twice a week for the young deacons. She extended these classes to members of the police and the armed forces, who would spread word of “the old lady who gives English classes at the Cathedral.” They loved her for it.

Sybil had two dogs, Mafia and Bua. Mafia would growl if anyone walked unannounced into Sybil’s room. Both dogs slept in her room and followed her around the house. When Sybil went for a stroll in the Cathedral garden, the ponies would whinny, as she would carry carrots and sugar in her pockets for them. After the ponies had gone, there were the guinea fowls and tortoises. The animals somehow seemed to recognise Sybil’s voice.

She loved her grandchildren and took great pride in their achievements as lawyers, doctors, corporate vice-presidents, computer wizards, playwrights, cartoonists, holders of MBAs, CIMAs, CIMs, PhDs – the lot. Her 10 great-grandchildren called her Nana.

Duleep’s granddaughter Kithmie formed a special attachment to her great-grandmother. “Nana has been taken by the angels, so she can get well,” said Ruwa, her mother, when Sybil was called to her rest. Kithmie then asked, “When she gets better, will they bring her back?”

Sybil maintained good health for most of her 88 years. She spent a couple of days at the Durdans’ Hospital on two occasions, when she came down with a viral infection. Early this year she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She was taken to Singapore for a second diagnosis, and underwent surgery before returning to Sri Lanka.

The family decided that Sybil would stay at home, rather than be hospitalised, and that she would receive all the “tender loving care” (TLC) and professional service and advice she needed. Up to the last, she took her meals and supplements on her own, with minimal help. She laughed, chatted, and walked about – albeit hoarsely and slowly.

On the night of August 20, she had her dinner as usual on her own. The meal included a caramel pudding that friends from the Church of the Good Shepherd had brought her. She then went to sleep – a sleep she would not wake up from. Sybil Elvina left us at 12.10 a.m., August 21, 2010. According to her wishes, she was cremated within 24 hours. She was given a private funeral service at the Kirulapone Cemetery.

May the Good Lord grant her eternal rest.

Lucky

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Sunday Times Sep 5 2010

Trinitians salute a role model on and off the field

Lakshman Jayakody

Trinity gave Lakshman Jayakody the ‘final farewell’ when his mortal remains were cremated on Thursday, September 2 at the Divulapitiya- UC grounds at Balagalla.

He had done much for Trinity from the time he was awarded cricket colours in 1948 in the company of Percy Deheragoda, Lakshman Kadirgamar, R.G.D.S. Misso, Eustace Rulach, George Wijeratne and C.Shanmuganathan.

He opened batting and was a classicist to watch. His scores of 54 not out and 58 against Wesley and St Anthony's in 1948 and 53 and 58 vs. STC and SJC were his main innings but he had several cameos in his three-year period under Lala Wadsworth ['48 and '49] and Lakshman Kadirgamar in 1950.

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At rugger, he won his colours in 1950 along with Mervyn Panditaratne, Lionel Pilimatalauwe, Kavan Rambukwella, C. Shanmuganathan, Gamini Tennekoon, Sinha Weerasekera and B.O. Speldewinde.

Lakshman was appointed a prefect in 1950 together with Michael Abeyaratne, K. Arumugam, S.S. Bambaradeniya, D.C. Bandaranayake, L.U.C. Kuruppu, N.S. Madugalle, C.H. Meares, D.L.Y. Pakstun, B.O. Speldewinde and Terry Unamboowe who authored the Napier House anthem whilst yet a schoolboy.

He was a role model among the foursome of Lala Wadsworth, Lakshman Kadirgamar and Mervyn Wanduragala. He was always accessible to any who had a problem. He was the original 'Hammogayma Dukgannarala." Friends like him were God's apology for relations.

Away from the sports field, Lakshman won the Sinhala Literature Prize in 1947 and '49 and the Sinhala Prize in 1948. He was Secretary of the Sinhala Literary Union in 1948 and when he sported the national dress that had come into focus at the time, we knew he was tailor-made for politics.
As a Cabinet Minister even in turbulent times he scorned security and would walk the constitutional mile every morning. He led a simple life and never was the laird of Balagalla, his pocket borough. He even wished to be simple in death.

When he was the Cabinet Minister of Buddhist Affairs he took my family on a learned tour of the Dalada Maligawa, explaining in great detail all the nuances that make up the edifice.

I sought a priority letter from him to obtain an elusive telephone connection. He was walking for lunch when I met him on the stately stairs of the then Ministry of Defence of which he was the Deputy Minister when Mrs. Bandaranaike was the Minister. Without a qualm he turned around and gave me the letter from his desk.

When Trinity had a problem with the lease of Asgiriya it was Lakshman who sorted out matters with the help of Nahil Wijesuriya's near million by meeting Mrs Chandrika Kumaratunga who was then the President of the country.

It must be stated that Lakshman Jayakody is the only one of his clan to have been at Trinity and that is because he was of a mischievous bent and his father decided that a boarding life far from home would cure the naughty streak.

I can vouch for the fact that the streak was curbed but that it shone at times even through the veneer of position as a prefect. The boys were smoking just one cigarette in the Ryde House toilet one Saturday morning when Head Prefect Lakshman Kadirgamar came down the steps with towel around his shoulders and soap dish and toothbrush in hand. He saw his namesake manning the entrance, read the script and turned on his heels, thereby restoring honour amongst thieves.

Lakshman Jayakody has been the President of the Trinity College OBA, a member of the Board of Governors and President of the country's Cricket Board in a period that covered a trinity of Trinity Presidents with the other two being Gamini Dissanayake and .B.Werapitiya.

Lakshman Jayakody lived a full and pleasant life and he made our lives much the richer. I would like to believe that he co-authored 'What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us’.

At the end of the epic, when the sun has set, let us say not in grief "He is no more" but live in thankfulness that 'he was’. And he touched our lives.'

Sharm de Alwis


Unassuming Parliamentarian who filled his life with art, music and song

A telephone call on the night of Monday, August 30, broke the news of Lakshman Maamaa’s passing away. He had been ailing for a month, first at a private hospital, and then at the National Hospital.

I had known Lakshman Maamaa most of my life, going back to my childhood. The sad news of his death brought back memories.

In the early ’50s, Lakshman Maamaa and my father were executives at Freudenberg & Co., the firm owned by the late Robert Senanayake. Both were bachelors at the time, and they became close friends.

Lakshman Maamaa and Father had a great liking for art, music and song. When my Father got married in 1958, he invited Lakshman Maamaa to be his bestman.

Lakshman Maamaa entered Parliament in 1960, where he stayed for the next 40 years, till 2000, with only a three-year break, from 1997 to 1980. Lakshman Jayakody served as Deputy Minister of Defence/External Affairs, under the 1970 regime, and as Cabinet Minister of Cultural Affairs under President Chandrika Kumaratunga, from 1994 to 2000.

On retiring from Parliamentary politics, Lakshman Maamaa became vice-chairman of the National Development Council, and later served as a Presidential adviser, up until the time of his death.

Lakshman Maamaa was always accessible. He answered the telephone himself, whether at home or in the office, and he always travelled in the front seat of his Jeep, next to the driver. As a Cabinet Minister, he would walk from his Polhengoda home to our Thimbirigasyaya home to see my father, who was in poor health in 2000/2001. He would listen to anyone with a problem and try to help in any way he could.

Lakshman Maamaa was a jolly presence at family parties, singing Tower Hall-era songs. He enjoyed life and lived his 80 years to the fullest. He had a wide circle of friends, from all walks of life. I don’t think he had any enemies.

His demise is a loss to the nation.

Mangala Herat Gunaratne

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A sincere friend and livewire at gatherings

Malini Ratnaike

The lamp that lit the wartime Visakha Bandarawelites has been extinguished. No more the happy gatherings of Bandarawelites at her spacious home. No more coach rides as her guests for a happy outing to Kandy. No more Vesak sil at her home emulating Mrs. Motwani's programme of sil day at Visakha. Malini and Malini alone kept us together all these long years, no one will refute. It was as if she was Mrs. Jeramias Dias reborn.

Yet I well recall the picture I have of Malini when I first saw her at our Bandarawela Visakha, two new girls were standing together in the garden facing each other with unsmiling faces, one taller than the other. They were two sisters, Malini and Chandrani.

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Years later Malini told me she was urging Chandrani to cry, cry. Malini thoroughly resented being removed from her friends at Ladies’ College and desperately wanted her father to put her back there. And "Chandragiri" which was the wartime hostel cramped to the hilt with primitive toilet facilities would have compounded her resentment. I wonder how long it took Motwani to write to her father; 'Malini smiled today.'

In no time Malini was proving herself a star on the netball field and running about happily. She had accepted us. "FRIENDS"! That is the cue to Malini's entire life. She lived for her friends. Her sons who all lived abroad wished her to live abroad too but she could not contemplate a life without her friends. She always came running back.

Malini could very well have hosted all her parties at the Hilton and graced the social columns of our newspapers. She chose the other road - Home. She offered only sincere affection and simplicity in the extreme. Here in her home, designed it seemed for these gatherings, we Bandarawelites watched each other as we changed from teenagers to vibrant young mothers and onto grey-haired grandmothers sans competition and rivalry whatsoever.

Her sil programmes at Vesak gathered momentum over the years and non-Visakhians joined in. Eminent bhikkhus and citizens accepted her invitation to address her erudite audience on a heavy scheduled day. She welcomed all.

Her open house had no limits. It was only five years ago, when I moved to our old home near to Malini that the quiet friendship between us suddenly soared into a sweet intimacy. Since I was now somewhat house-bound, we reached each other through the telephone which we used like an inter-com. She was the kind of friend to whom I could send a piece of cake, a few springs of flowers, a painkiller at night when she 'phoned to say her spine was aching. It is not to everyone you could send such trifles. Her staff would bring me her cutlets and sandwiches whenever she made them.

Although Malini was deeply spiritual and spent herself caring for the bhikkhus in the temple, she was full of zest for the joys of life. In her seventies, in between running to doctors, she walked across to show me her fancy dress for some event at the Women's International. She won first prize.

She had a heart of gold. A beautiful compassion the Buddha spoke of, which in this cruel world often brought her misery. She was fleeced. She was robbed. Her hospitality was sometimes abused.

This last month she was none too well. But she was looking forward to a cruise a son was taking her to and was packed and ready to go to the airport for Singapore. But her flight was not to Singapore. She had removed her brilliant ear-rings and asked the maid to wash them well to offer to the Dalada Maligawa. Her last thought - The Buddha. There was no next thought wave. She was gone.

To us Bandarawelites she was a treasure. There could be no doubt that in her next birth she will have pirivara-retinue galore of friends.

May she attain Nibbana.

Manel

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Patriot who worked tirelessly to protect the Buddha Sasana

Gamini Perera

Gamini Perera – chartered engineer, old boy of Royal College, Colombo, past president of the Dharmavijaya Foundation and SUCCESS Colombo, and founder of the Joint Committee of Buddhist Associations – passed away, after a brief illness, on May 6, 2010. He was 80 years. 
Gamini worked as chartered engineer in Hong Kong for 14 years before returning to serve his motherland.

He was a tireless champion for Buddhist rights, and dedicated more than three decades of his life to protecting and furthering the Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka.

He brought together a number of Buddhist organisations under the umbrella of the Joint Committee of Buddhist Organisations. The committee – comprising Dharmavijaya; the All-Ceylon Buddhist Congress; the All-Ceylon Women’s Buddhist Congress; the Young Men’s Buddhist Association; the Buddhist Times; the Centre for Buddhist Action, and SUCCESS Colombo and Kandy – was set up to protect Buddhist rights, places of worship and Buddhist archaeological sites in the North and East, especially the Deegawapi.

He gave much of his time, effort and money to campaign against the unethical conversion of poor Buddhists to other faiths. He also contributed generously, through the Lady Gimara Fernando Trust, for the construction and renovation of Buddhist places of worship.

Dr. Anula Wijesundere

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Sunday Times Aug 29 2010

Father found his heaven among his people of Nattandiya

Harold Herat

My father had a mission to dedicate his entire life to public service. It started with hope, and it ended with the fulfillment of a long-cherished dream.

It is three years since my father passed away (on August 31, 2007), but it feels like an eternity. Whenever I visit his beloved electorate, Nattandiya, I feel his presence in every nook and corner.

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The Marawila post office, the massive bridge in Iranawilla dedicated to the fishing community, every church and temple in the electorate – all these benefited from his contribution, even in a small way.
His beloved people looked up to him as their saviour; his clean leadership will be hard to replace.

The only time I saw my father hold his head down and weep was when he received a call to say that the Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa had been assassinated. He sat at his office table and was silent for hours. My father was down with chickenpox, but that evening he got dressed and rushed to Colombo to attend to the final arrangements for his beloved leader. I cherish such dear memories.

I do not remember a day my father missed Sunday service, even during the height of JVP insurgency. He would drive to his small chapel in Mudukatuwa, kneel down and pray.

He taught us to be thankful for our blessings, to be humble in all ways, and to create harmony in life and among people. He worked seven days a week for the betterment of his people; on Sundays, he worked a half-day in order to have time with the family.

That was when you saw him relaxed and happy, at home, in his white sarong. There were many Sundays he could not join us because of commitments in his electorate. Although his duties must have been at times tiring, he never complained.

The family misses him dearly. We miss his large presence at the dinner table, his voice on the telephone, his driving around in white garb in Nattandiya, his presence at the tennis courts most evenings, and mostly, we miss his big smile and sparkling eyes when he was among his people.
Looking back, I realise he had found his heaven among his people of Nattandiya.

As his youngest daughter, I thought of writing this article to share a few moments of my father’s life.
When I read the following words, I remember my father and his teachings:

“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it. ”

Parveen Herat


He had reached the Himalayan heights of his medical career

Dr. Anantham Harin

Dr Anantham Harin earned a rare mix of undiluted superlatives: an outstanding humanitarian, a brilliant award-winning physician, a dedicated husband and a resolutely-steadfast friend.

Affectionately called "Hari" by legions of friends, he spent nearly 30 years as Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Richmond University Medical Centre in the New York City borough of Staten Island.

As a first-rate physician, Hari was anointed -- multiple times-- one of New York city's "best doctors": a prestigious accolade bestowed annually by New York magazine. But modesty prevented him from keeping a count of the number of times he adorned the pages of the widely-read magazine. When he passed away at the age of 65 last month, he had reached the Himalayan heights of his medical career.

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Hari was a specialist in neonatal-perinatal medicine and was a onetime clinical Professor of Pediatrics at New York University's School of Medicine. He graduated from the Medical School at the University of Colombo back in 1970.

In his field of speciality, he was responsible for ensuring the survival of hundreds, if not thousands, of infants. In a moving tribute to Hari, Bonnie Gleicher wrote on a Staten Island newspaper blog, that 22 years ago, "Dr. Anantham Harin brought me into the world -- a three-month premature baby -- and now, he has left it. As I thank this man for the healthy, exuberant life he's helped me live, I celebrate his own. The world has few gems, and Dr. Harin was truly one of them.”

In a message to Hari's wife Nirupa, Linda Sarno, another former patient, wrote: "26 years ago, your beloved husband saved my daughter and my life due to my pre-eclampsia. We loved and respected him very much, as many others did. Too soon, but I am sure he is taking care of ALL in heaven."

When his cash-strapped hospital was forced to make budgetary cuts, Hari volunteered to take a 50 percent reduction of his own salary primarily to save the jobs of two of his assistants who would otherwise have been laid off. It was a display of his innate humanitarian qualities.

The tributes at Hari's funeral came from near and far: nurses, doctors, patients, friends, old Royalists and parish priests. As president of the Royal College Old Boys East Coast Association (RCOBECA), he offered a scintillating toast at the annual dance last year. Royal College, he said, has been the cradle for leadership for 175 years. "We rose to different heights, shared a rich history, followed great traditions and on its way produced a long list of distinguished men."

Hari possessed a vibrant sense of humour as he traded jokes and anecdotes with his friends. He was the creator of a group of free thinking, philosophically-bent friends of his generation whom he dubbed the "Sophists". Hari was the leader of the Sophists brotherhood which met at least once a month in a New York city restaurant to talk politics, sports, movies, theatre -- while, all the time, reminiscing the memorable days in school and university back home.

At the RCOBECA dinner last year, Hari fondly remembered a teacher at Royal College who was mischievously dubbed "the sheriff of fractured jaw" : the memorable title of a Hollywood western. Hari quoted the teacher as having famously advised his class: "If you cannot dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with your bull---t." In real life, Hari opted for brilliance over bull---t.

In his eulogy, Dr Simon Rabinowitz, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Hari's hospital, said: "While his friendship and his leadership will be missed, his legacy lives on in his many success stories."

TMD


Always a smile and a laugh, despite the suffering

Umanga Charmaine Wanduragala

I met Umanga for the first time, when she suddenly turned up on our doorstep, more than 14 years ago, saying she was Kingsley Wanduragala’s daughter. The Wanduragalas are old family friends. From that moment she was a part of our family, her friendly and easy-going manner winning us over instantly.

Over the years, she became more than just a friend; she was like a sister, sharing my room whenever she was in Colombo (which was quite often), and crying at my wedding.

We would go to Church together. She loved to sing, and her powerful hymn-singing voice would fill the church. She loved to praise God.

It was a very sad time for us when Umanga suffered renal failure. But she showed great courage and faith. Being afflicted with a serious illness at a young age did not stop her from experiencing the joy of living.

She loved to go on trips. She was a constant companion whenever we went on holidays. hristmas was a time of fun, and Umanga added her brand of fun to the season’s cheer.

Umanga’s illness did not stop her from experiencing life. She somehow did what she wanted to do – getting married (to a wonderful husband, Wijey), and having a beautiful and intelligent daughter (Chanuri), in whom Umanga’s qualities and wonderful loving ways will live on, for sure.

Despite the hardships, Umanga always managed a smile and a laugh. She saw the fun side of things, even when straight after dialysis. She never failed to encourage others, even when her own situation seemed hopeless. She never failed to help others, even though she did not get a lot of help in return.

Although she suffered greatly, physically and mentally, Umanga never blamed God for her troubles, nor was she ever angry or resentful to others. She would help anyone at any time, whether friend or foe. Her forgiving nature reflected God’s nature.

Umanga’s passing away has left us without a mother, a wife, a sister and a loyal friend, but her work and the love she showed will live on in our hearts.

Let us hope she is in a happy place, where no illness or sadness can touch her. I hope that some day I will get to meet my friend again, in the presence of the Lord.

We miss and love you, Umanga.

We will never forget you.

Anusha Wickramasinghe


A police officer and gentleman, loved and respected by all

Vimal Samarasekera

Vimal left us on July 7, 2010, and was cremated at the Mount Lavinia Cemetery in the presence of a large gathering of friends, relatives and a host of Police personnel. He was given a full Police funeral.

The Police cortege, comprising all ranks, including the Women Police Corps, set out from the Galle Road and drew up at the side entrance of Kanatte, where Police officers of Vimal’s rank (Senior Superintendents of Police) took charge and carried the coffin to the crematorium.

I met affable Vimal for the first time 30 years ago, when I was officer-in-charge of the Ministers’ Security Division of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). At the time, we were housed in a railway building within the Fort Railway Station. Vimal was still a Sub-Inspector of Police, with about seven years of service.

There were some 40 Inspectorate officers under me, but Vimal was closer to me than the others, probably because I was drawn by his sincerity and his professional conduct.

Vimal was a product of St. Sylvester’s College, Kandy. He represented the school at football and cricket. As a Sub-Inspector, he was the personal security officer to the late Nissanka Wijeratna, the then Minister of Education. As an ASP, he was security officer to the late Lakshman Kadirgamar, the affable foreign Minister.

Vimal was a perfect gentleman and an excellent Police officer. He will be looking upon you all from where he is now. To conclude this tribute to my dear friend, I quote the English Bard, William Shakespeare:

“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.’ ”

Ananda Jayasena


Sunday Times Aug 22 2010

Ray: The last Renaissance man

WIJEWARDENE - PHILIP REVATHA Loving husband of Seela, father of Anoma, Roshini and Mandy, father-in-law of Arjun and Suresh, grandfather of Rehan, Anisha and Francesca, brother of late Pamela Wijetunge, brother-in-law of Rohini de Mel. Cortege leaves A.F. Raymond’s Funeral Parlour on Thursday 19th August at 1.30 p.m. Cremation at General Cemetery, Kanatte at 2.00 p.m. Sunday Observer Aug 19, 2010

By Sunela Jayewardene, Pic by M.A. Pushpa Kumara

 

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There will be many tributes to his soaring intellect and the trail of achievements he leaves behind; the inventor of the hand tractor, the ‘Father of Dendro Power’, the architect of SALT (Sloping Agricultural Land Terracing), the designer of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, the Olympic Sailor… academic extraordinaire! However, beyond the giant, in the quiet conversations and long letters of his twilight years, was the amazing man who called himself my, ‘Uncaray’!

His idol was no less than Leonardo da Vinci, the ultimate Renaissance man! On a custom built stand in that wondrous study of his, rested the Works of da Vinci, a massive volume that was often referred and pondered. Not surprisingly, his own multiple interests resulted in experiences and exploits that covered all the bases, and I never ceased to be surprised by how versatile he was! One day we started writing letters…an uncle to a niece, on subjects of common interest (subjects unbearably boring to most others); we exchanged quotations and poems, philosophies and theories and even mathematical formulae…. Revealed by these exchanges, was a man who was intoxicated by knowledge. The very knowledge that allowed humans to become the superior race. In the extracts of the letters I have saved and from the tales I was privy to, perhaps I can hint at the man he was, and the gape of the chasm his absence will leave.

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I talked of kayaking down the Mahaweli and he regaled me with the tale of his own adventure down that wide, wild river, in the company of no less than the famously, eccentric Major Raven-Hart! As their kayaks swept on a slow current beneath the Manampitiya Bridge, the locals who had gathered on the bridge were shocked into silence by the man waving madly at them; the curious Major Raven-Hart lying spread-eagled in the kayak, dressed in… absolutely nothing!

I stressed about my daughter Savera’s antics at water polo, and he wrote, ‘I was highly amused by the tale of your daughter who had been ordered out of the pool for ‘rough-play’ … It reminded me when our St Thomas water polo team of some 65 years ago… considered the best in the country until we came up against a team from the Australian navy (that was during WW2) and we didn’t know what hit us!. In five minutes we were struggling, almost drowned, hanging to the edge of the pool.… We then learned what rough play was… and how to use it ourselves without being seen by the referee!’ So, he had been a water polo player too!

Behind his desk, hung a Blow Pipe; once long ago, he had accompanied an anthropologist and Sarawak tribesmen as they pursued a cattle raiding tigress and standing behind a tree he watched the tigress brought down with a poison dart from a mere Blow Pipe. So inspired, he went to the extent of joining a club and learning the rare art of using a Blow Pipe (with no intent of bringing a Tigress down, of course!).

I was fascinated by ancient technology, and he didn’t disappoint me; ‘…As I know for sure that DaVinci never got air-borne in any of his technologies… Yet am quite acceptable to the claim that Ravana flew… WE (or rather I) would have been airborne SANS external power by now if we were not ‘grounded’ by ‘security’ rules. … Why?... even as far back as 1981 I flew with Prof Ponnamperuma from Bolgoda Lake to Kandy Lake – and back – which was even reported (somewhat incredulously) in the papers, and then using only the power of a small motor-cycle engine and about 6 gallons of petrol!

I was getting ready to do the same trip, two years ago, using only a VERY quiet electric motor and batteries, when the police came here and made a HECK of a shindig!’ This airborne escapade was in addition to the notorious landings of his ultra-light aircraft at Dharmapala Mawatha in Colombo where he informed the Police that he simply wanted to use his own toilet…and then on the roof of Lunuganga, where the homeowner, Geoffrey Bawa stepped out and asked the pilot who had crash landed on his roof, what he would like to drink!

And then surfaced the confident ‘ying’ of the evolved man when he wrote, ‘Sundi, dear, when next you visit a pharmacy in search of Lavender cologne, please search for me a picture (or bottle or ‘cover’) of the Mitchum Lavender label. This shows a picture of a lady with two children, selling sheaves of lavender… You may – as one of the VERY, VERY few I know with a taste for the subtle fragrance of Lavender - recall the picture. It brings back memories of my mother (also a lover of Lavender) who once attended a CMS Church-Missionary-Society with my sister Pamela and me in attendance, suitably attired for our role, to sell sheaves of Lavender for the CMS… A memory from some eight decades ago! I believe they were a ‘sell-out’ to the primarily English ladies who attended those CMS Sales at Ladies College!’

Despite himself he was humble, readily admitting mistakes. When at Harvard studying for his MBA, discussing his most famous invention the Hand Tractor, with the great futurist Buckminster Fuller, he admitted, ‘in hindsight, I mechanized the buffalo’! (He eventually believed, it was the harvesting he should have mechanized, not the ploughing!). On parenting he conceded ‘Families are prime-time in my thinking (having neglected my duties when I didn’t oughta!)’. Often he reminded me why a pencil has an eraser on the far end; because we make mistakes and must make fresh attempts! 
I sent him a poem I had written, of night in an ‘Attale’, as the watch huts of farmers, set high in the trees of Matale District are known.

High
Over moon coloured fields
The wind
Twists blackened limbs
Shakes silvered leaves
Tosses me then
Cradles me….

He saw an opportunity to erase a mistake and make a fresh start….

A few days later I received an invitation to his beloved Kohombe Estate, ‘where we shall be pleased to disclose to you the ATTAALE site (as inspired by your poetry… so you only have yourself, dear Sunela, to blame, for this additional ‘karadara’!!)’. Focusing on a dysfunctional water tower, he wrote, ‘I am turning this over to you so that you turn it into a magnificent little Atthaale cum ‘pad’… and you can make it as ‘cranky’ as you will, as the art will be yours, and the eccentricity will be mine!.... It will necessarily be both environmentally artistic and architecturally livable as well as (maybe) being a little functionally-eccentric! … Upon which one could even spend nights in pleasant contemplative company… (“A flask of wine, a book of verse, and thou?”)’ Thus, we built an ‘Attale’!

To be easily inspired and then, driven by a unique passion, determined to take an idea to its ultimate end…. This, I believe, was his edge!

For a man as active and productive as he was, the physical disadvantages of ageing were depressing and in reference to my father (the late Dr. H.W. Jayewardene Q.C who passed away 20 years ago), he confided, “My cousin knew when to go; I have stayed too long!” One last day he took us sailing, and with the wind on the water, watching the aerodynamics of low skimming birds, he sat beaming, happy in a familiar medium, once again! This was the man who had revelled, with deep awareness in Theja, Vaayu, Patavi, the three vital elements, Energy, Wind and Earth; this was the cosmos! Finally, when he could fly nor sail no more, he presented the three elements ingeniously, in the geometric continuum of a Mobius strip which became his carefully designed, personal insignia! I sent him a quotation from Einstein, ‘The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity.

Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism.’ And he replied, ‘The observation of Einstein is exactly how I feel. Perhaps it’s in the word ‘cosmic’… whatever that means… his word for God!’

In the maelstrom of the cosmos you understood better than most, Uncaray, I pray you fly high and ‘touch the face of God’… may you attain Nirvana!


Man of many parts: Ray Wijewardene

Internationally acclaimed, multi-talented, multi-faceted Revatha Wijewardene or Ray as he was fondly known has passed beyond the realms of time. Ray was a frontline engineering personality, with outstanding accomplishments in Sri Lanka.

Graduating from the University of Cambridge his engineering disciplines included Aviation, Mechanical and Agricultural Engineering. On his return from Cambridge, he took over as the Works Engineer at Lake House in charge of the newspaper presses and after a while, he struck out on his own.

Ray also laid claims to a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the prestigious Harvard Business School. Adding to all these accolades were two Honorary Doctorates DSc., from the Universities of Moratuwa and Sabaragamuwa. He served as Chancellor of the University of Moratuwa for several years.

Among his foremost engineering feats was the world’s first two-wheeled tractor – the Landmaster, which he pioneered in Nottingham in 1955. Not content to rest on his laurels, he initiated the designing, manufacture and flying of aircraft at home.

Ray was a man of many parts – he was interested in art and music and an avid sportsman. He was placed fourth in Yachting at the Mexico Olympics in 1968, but won a Silver Medal at the Asian Games in Bangkok. He could have been Sri Lanka’s first Rowing Blue but unfortunately because of an accident just prior to the Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race, he was out of the selection.

A passionate agronomist, his coconut property in Chilaw was a model to the coconut plantation industry. He was dedicated to introducing innovative methods of farming suited to the tropics.

Though he deemed agriculture as his bread and butter and flying as his great love, he held many significant posts during his career, giving of his immense knowledge both to his motherland and to foreign countries. He was Head of Agricultural Engineering at the Agricultural Engineering Research and Development Institute, a FAO instituted body in Malaysia and went on to Nigeria where at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, he was the Head of the Agricultural and Engineering and Research Division from 1974 to 1980. He was also Chairman of the Tea Research Board and served on the Mahaweli Authority, Coconut Development Authority, Presidential Task Force on Science and Technology and the Arthur C. Clarke Centre for Modern Technologies.

Widely regarded as the father of Dendro power in this country, Ray also authored many publications on conservation farming; his books include ‘Management of Weed and Fertility yielding Maximization of Agricultural Productivity’.

He was also an enthusiastic amateur pilot. His greatest joy was tinkering with and flying his many ultra light aircraft until security requirements of the war precluded him from doing so. He would build planes in his Dharmapala Mawatha home and one of his many scrapes was when he landed his plane on the Town Hall lawn. Questioned as to why he did so, he replied he needed to make a toilet stop.

He received many honours in his lifetime, receiving the Presidential Awards of ‘Vidya Jyothi’ and ‘Deshamanya’. He was also given an honorary Fellowship of Silsoe College, University of Cranfield.

Few could aspire and indeed achieve the heights Ray Wijewardena reached in a mere lifetime


Memories of our flying days

By Suren Ratwatte, Dubai

“So you are determined to be a pilot?” my father despairingly asked me many years ago. “In that case you had better go and see Ray – he might be able to talk you out of it.”

On that promising note I was despatched, on my bicycle, this being an earlier and simpler era, to Turret Road to meet Ray Wijewardene. A scholar, businessman, agriculturist, inventor, Olympian and pilot, Mr. Wijewardena did nothing of the sort, of course. Instead he encouraged, nurtured and enjoyed my success in my chosen field, as proud as my father would have been were he alive to have seen it.

That first visit was to be followed by many more. Both to the garage in his house, filled with the latest creations he was working on, the office above with one of the first PCs in the country and also to the Ratmalana airfield, where accompanied by the faithful Cyril, his chauffeur, co-pilot and general factotum, he would fly any number of the aircraft he built from scratch.

I was but one of the many young people Mr. Wijewardene was to take under his wing. Being a naturally modest person, it took me years to piece together everything he had done in an incredibly diverse career. References to representing Ceylon in the Olympics, inventing the ‘half-tractor’, serving on the Board of Directors of Air Ceylon and many other accomplishments were mentioned casually during the many conversations we enjoyed after flying, while watching the sun gradually set over the sea, and nursing steaming cups of tea produced by Cyril.

Once airborne of course, conversation was no longer possible and was conducted by gesturing, as we enjoyed the sensation of flying through the air in an ‘ultra-light’ aircraft. By this time I was fortunate enough to be flying for AirLanka, and it was a huge change from the much larger aircraft I flew professionally.

In fact there it is, in an old logbook, nestled between flights on AirLanka’s 737; From Ratmalana to Ratmalana, Type - Experimental, Registration 4R-RAW!

This was Ray’s greatest creation, the Kitfox he built and flew at Ratmalana. The manqué is now 25 years old and very popular all over the world. His was almost certainly the first Kitfox aircraft in Asia, probably one of the first sold outside the USA. As aficionado of the world-famous Oshkosh Airshow, Ray had first seen the aircraft there and fallen in love. His enthusiasm, and mechanical aptitude, was so great that he travelled to the factory in far off Idaho, USA in order to do the welding of the frame himself.

“I couldn’t claim to have built it myself, if they did the welding, could I?” he barked when I (who can barely change a light bulb) inquired as to the reason. “This is my aircraft son, I have made every bit of it.”

The most bizarre of Ray’s flying machines was the Gyrocopter he produced, a weird and wonderful machine that terrified this airline pilot. So much so that it was the last aircraft we flew together
Sadly, as the years went by and my career progressed elsewhere than Sri Lanka, we gradually lost touch. The plans we had to go to Oshkosh together never materialised as the burdens of marriage and parenthood ate up all my spare time. Many times I meant to take my sons, now older than I was when I first met my mentor, to see him while on holiday in Colombo but somehow it never happened. Now of course it is too late.

Happy Landings Sir, it was a privilege to have known you.


Charismatic personality will be missed by all

D.A.Stephen

Everyone associated with Carey College in Colombo for the past 60 years would have been deeply saddened by the passing away of David Alexander Stephen. Born on July 2, 1929 he was educated at Kingswood College, Kandy and took to teaching at Carey College as early as 1951. Just prior to his teaching stint there he served as a relief announcer at the then Radio Ceylon, English Service.

Most students came to know him as a Sunday school teacher, chief hostel master, master in charge of the first cadet platoon, chief house master of Carey House, master in charge of the senior English Literary and Dramatic Association and the staff advisor to the Student Christian Association.

Mr. Stephen was a wonderful teacher, good friend and illustrious Christian. He was a dedicated teacher for whom it was a life-long passion. An eloquent teacher of English, a specialised trained teacher in Mathematics, he was an indefatigable admirer of Elizabethan theatre and contemporary poetry. His benevolence was displayed when he even bought books for deserving students.

During the era of the late Rev. W.M.P Jayatunge, when morning school assemblies were a regular feature at Carey, everyone eagerly awaited Fridays, when it was Mr. Stephen’s turn to address the gathering. His characteristic smile and youthful vigour that radiated beyond the classroom touching all hearts, still linger on in our memory.

He was an active link between the Rev. Jayatunge and Rev. Wickramasinghe periods. Mr. Stephen’s charming personality was enhanced by his excellent communication skills. His subtle humour and his humility were part of his intrinsic personality. His loved ones bade him farewell on July 3 this year, but his influence will be remembered by many for years to come.

Dr. Don U. W. Wickrama


Thank you for being you

Prof. S. Mahalingam

You said, “Call tomorrow”;
You did not know you would have to leave tonight;
We had no chance to say goodbye.
Accomplished and dedicated, yet humble;
You were funny, generous, and unselfish,
You gave unconditional love.

You were my beacon.
Thank you for being my lifelong friend,
Thank you for being my soul mate,
Thank you for being you.

Cor


He left his footprints on the sands of time

Brian Lourensz

The story I am about to relate is about a man I once knew when I was very young. He is the father of a friend of mine. I knew him when I was between the ages twelve and about 25, and though I met him infrequently thereafter, in those dozen years he left with me certain memories - memories that should I pass through this world and not commit to paper an account of, I would be remiss in a duty to my generation of friends, and in particular to my countrymen.

It'll be obvious to the reader that it is for this reason, and moreover my fondness of him and admiration for his inimitable style that also causes me to write. Some may perhaps find the line blurred between my being nostalgic and being (possibly) obsequious, so for that I apologize at the onset. I attribute that blur to the deference one is usually wont to attach to a unique personality, and my story is indeed such an example.

Brian Lourensz, my friend Simon's father died a few months ago. Every adventure has a cupboard, a keyhole, a borough but in this one, a parapet wall through which you passed into another world. My dear late friend Harith’s home at 292, Bullers Road was one such escape. It was accessed via approximately 100 metres of parapet wall guarded by four German Shepherd dogs owned by four separate owners, whose houses I had to cross and, who were never pleased with my travels along their undulating Kabok.

It was on one of those adventures that I met Uncle Brian. My first recollection of him was his charming smile, firm handshake and crystal clear diction that made his very presence 'foreign'. Something struck you about him which I understood only many years later to be that which is defined as ‘charisma’. On that first meeting, I was given a turn to ride pillion on his motorcycle and was taken on his steed towards Kanatte- it was the first time I had ever travelled at over 100 mph. The thought of death doesn't enter the adolescent mind, and I returned sans helmet with inverted eyelids. In this day and age, the act of travelling on a motorcycle without a helmet would be illegal. In that day though, it was thought of as fearless, so those must have been reckless times.

One evening Simon invited me to the screening of a movie of an aircraft - a sea plane of sorts - that Uncle Brian was about to import. After the screening of what was a promotional movie, Uncle Brian told me I should let my Papa know that this aircraft would get him to his hotel in Trincomalee and home by the sea, and return him to the city the same day. Thinking this was a splendid idea and in the spell of the ‘Late Buccaneer’, I marketed the ‘brilliant’ idea of acquiring a plane to my father who was dismissive of my flight of fancy.

Not prepared to take no for an answer, at my next meeting with Uncle Brian, we conspired that he would fly over my home at 11.30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, which was about the time my father would have returned from St. John's fish market and would be in the kitchen cooking his famous crab curry. So come 11.30 a.m. on a Sunday in Colombo, a young boy paces up and down the kitchen of his home taking an unusual interest in cooking, and conveying to a disbelieving father that an aircraft was about to descend from the heavens and fly past our front door. True to his word, Brian affected a fly past.

There was the scream of a turbine. The whole house shook. A crab bit my father's thumb. Radio Ceylon complained of low-flying aircraft. The Ratmalana control tower censured Brian, and the lunch guests at 292 Bullers Road applauded the ‘Lake Buccaneer’. And I, together with the mad man who flew past, was berated for the rest of that Sunday.

Brian bought not one, but two aircraft. I recall flying with him and Simon and landing on the Kalu Ganga. I enviously witnessed 12-year-old Simon take the controls under the watchful eye of a beaming father. Brian was the agent for Yamaha motorcycles in Sri Lanka and on one occasion, I was invited to Katukurunda, where he commanded the Yamaha pit. Brian had imported a Yamaha TZ 750 which was a copy of a motorcycle raced by Kenny Roberts in the USA, and it was to be ridden here by famed racer U.D. Jinadasa. Jinadasa, a policeman, known for racing a Norton Manx in the good old days, took to the task with alacrity, but the bike proved to be a tad overwhelming for him so he sputtered around the track as though he had lost second gear somewhere between pit and start line. It was as unsightly as seeing Sherga being ridden by Billy Bunter on a school trip to the pyramids.

But the day was not all lost, for the ‘Lake Buccaneer’ repeated its fly past - this time over the Katukurunda race track - and dropped thousands of Yamaha promotional brochures on the track, much to the chagrin of the Jinasena brothers and the Ceylon Motor Sports Club officials who were aghast at this blatant commercialism. The villagers ran all over the track to claim their prize which was the distant dream of a motorcycle. We hip hip hoorayed and incurred the wrath of a few raised Colombo seven eyebrows. The races were temporarily suspended as punctilious officials of the Motor Sport Club, who bereft of their ayahs' and kollas', had to bend in two and three and pick up the remaining leaflets scattered over the tracks.

Many were the frowns that joined eyebrows that day. Brian seemed oblivious to the furore he'd caused. He was an outsider you see, and considered by most an upstart. The trick, of course, was that he could carry such things off. And carry them off in style did he. I might add here that most who considered him in this way suffered from a combination of social ineptness and envy, and it might not surprise the reader that the author has a particular affinity for those with a penchant for thumbing a nose at stuffed shirts!

My family spent their holidays on the East coast in Trincomalee and this gave me another opportunity to meet with Simon, Brian and his wife Aunty Heather. Brian was often at the Sea Anglers Club and I'd meet him there for a chat. I rode a motorcycle when I was 13 and I would wonder from Uppuvelli waving at Policemen and Air Force personnel and arrive at Brian’s boatyard. I was awestruck by some of the world’s most luxurious sailing craft he built in China Bay. I'd investigate the boats and he'd quip in his exquisite accent “Big Cadi, did you know that timber from two dozen teak trees was used to build the deck and trimmings on this boat?.” I am not therefore, as a result of these encounters, the environmentalist I might have been!

To be taken to Marble Bay and the coves of Trincomalee by boat by Brian is to have lived life. The hidden bays, tales of ship wrecks, the reason the water changed colour at certain points, the species of fish that lived here and there, and why all those oil tanks were built and left to rust in one of the deepest natural harbours on the planet. He once landed the Buccaneer and alighted from the cockpit into knee deep salt water of the Nillaveli surf, linen-suited and briefcase in hand.

He then 'squished' his way to the bar and in a style reminiscent of Bond, asked the barman for a whisky, utterly unperturbed by his soggy footwear. He had the gait of a Greek ship owner walking out to his Island on the Aegean, but please dismiss any natural visualization of Stavros Nicharos or Onassis. This man was STATELY!

It was on one of those trips that I learned that Uncle Brian had invented, yes invented, the kerosene outboard motor. This patent, which he later sold to Yamaha, enabled fisherman the world over to upgrade themselves from outrigger canoes to motorized fishing at very little cost. This is perhaps his most significant contribution to mankind. Every fisherman in the third world from Kota Kinabalu to Mombasa to Oluvil, has a kerosene outboard motor thanks to Uncle Brian, and though he did not attach much value to his invention, he ensured its widespread benefits through his relationship with his Japanese friends at Yamaha.

Always the inventor, there were many projects he was constantly involved in - projects often researched and experimented at great cost to his core businesses. A dreamer if there ever was one, he also built the shallow water Naval craft using Hamilton ets from New Zealand. In the early eighties, this gave the Navy considerable advantage in their Northern operations. I guess because Brian was not cut from that all too common cloth that makes sycophants of men, he never got the contracts he ought to have, and for those he did, he was often not paid on time ... situations he accepted with equanimity and characteristic good humour.

All this brings me to the reason I wrote this note. In today’s world, it is who you know, who you kow tow to, and the quantum of money you have to get ahead of everyone else, that matters. What did you create? How industrious were you? And how generous were you to those who needed your assistance? These are questions that seem, sadly, to matter very little nowadays.

In absolute contrast, the men of my childhood were true MEN. They dared to dream. It was anathema to them to simply eke out an existence through pelf or bribery. They were bold Men. Great Men whose magnificence illuminated their ideas.

I leave you with a poem by T.E. Lawrence that reminds me of Uncle Brian. "All men dream but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible".

Sherhan Caderamanpulle


Hand in hand, we walked the roads of life together

Victoreen M. Hassan

It is with profound sadness that I write about my loving wife, Victoreen M. Hassan. We saw the love in our eyes the day we met, and your smile that said, Stay awhile to love me. We knew our lonely days had ended.

We were married on October 8, 1968. The next 40 years, and more, were spent in wedded bliss, filled with fun, laughter and joy. She passed away peacefully on August 25, 2008 after a brief illness.

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/100822/images/Victoreen-Hassan.jpg

Victoreen was loving and caring, the greatest blessing in my life. We prayed together as one from the day we married until her untimely death. Now I pray alone the prayers we prayed together.

Vicky, precious memories are all I have of you. No more will I see the love shining in your eyes, the tender words you spoke to me so softly. You have gone far away from me.

I struggle hard just to carry on. Although you are gone, I know you are near me and my fears disappear. My only consolation is that you are now with God. I had your love for a lifetime. You made me smile when I was sad, and you were always there to comfort me.

Every morning, evening and night we thanked our lucky stars that we found each other. Hand in hand, we bravely faced each new day. Side by side, we walked the roads of life together as one, each step drawing us closer.

To know we will meet some day is my only comfort. I cherish the love you gave me and thank God for the gift of your life. I welcome each new day with faith and hope. Wherever Victoreen was, I was there for her, always beside her and always near her. She was my one shining star.

Thank you, Victoreen, for the generous sacrifices you made for me and our children, and the love, affection and care you showered on me.

Thank you for being what you were. 
Darling Vicky, with love in our hearts, we will walk together. 
Deeply missed by your loving husband,

M. Kamil A. Hassan


Sunday Times Aug 15 2010-08-15

Tribute to a brother who played all his roles in life with honour and dedication

Hussain Rahim

Hussain Rahim was my immediate younger brother, born four years after me. Despite our differences, we remained close for 59 years, until his departure on August 8, 2010, two months short of his 60th birthday.

What moves through us now is a silence and a quiet sadness. There is a longing for just one more day together, one more word, one more touch. Little by little, we realise his life has given us memories too beautiful to forget. So, rather than mourn his death, let us celebrate his life.

Hussain belonged to the Royal College 1962 Group. He was a good sportsman. After captaining the college Under-16 cricket team in 1966, he found himself in the First XI squad for the 1966/1967 season. For some unknown reason, he did not figure in the Royal-Thomian of 1967. He was the 12th man on the side. Shortly after, he quit cricket to focus on athletics, and went on to represent the school at sports meets. A glowing moment was when he won the Under-16 440 yards challenge trophy at the inter-house sports meet in 1966, four years after I had laid hands on the same prize.

In the 1969/1970 cricket season, I coaxed him to forget the past and get on with life. He finally agreed to get back into the game. Getting into the team after a three-year lay-off was not easy. But he applied himself with a firm resolve and found a place in the team. He grabbed the opportunity with both hands, and found himself playing in the Royal-Thomian of 1970, at the Colombo Oval. Sportswriter T. M. K. Samath wrote in a special box story in the Observer: “When Royal’s M. H. Rahim walked out to bat in the 91st Battle of the Blues, it marked a unique achievement. He is the first Malay in 42 years, since M. S. Ahamath, to play in the big match”.

I took along my parents, who saw their first and only Royal-Thomian cricket match. Hussain was elated to see them in the invitees’ block, reserved for the players’ parents. He won the Fielding Prize for his fine performance that season. He also turned out for the Colombo Malay Cricket Club in the early Seventies.

After leaving school, he joined an accounting firm and continued to play sports. In 1976, he married his sweetheart, Mufliha Jaldin, and they had two children, a boy and girl, who were brought up in the best Islamic tradition. Son followed father at Royal, and like his father, the son represented the school in sports. He was in the Royal College First XV rugby team and won his rugby colours. The daughter studied at Sirimavo Bandaranaike Balika Vidyalaya and graduated with a Bachelor of Information degree from the University of Colombo School of Computing.

Hussain was deeply religious and performed Haj twice. The first time was to fulfil his obligation as a Muslim, the second to accompany his dear wife on her first holy pilgrimage. In later years, he built a separate prayer room, adjoining his house, where he spent many an hour in spiritual communion with Allah.

Hussain was laid to rest on August 9, 2010, as the sun was setting and the shadows of the adjoining buildings began to lengthen on the Kohilawatte Muslim Burial grounds, by the banks of the Kelani River.

A dear friend said: “It was a very well attended funeral, and the sermon reflected the high esteem in which your brother was held by the local community.”

Goodbye, Hussain. May your path to joining the Creator be free of obstacles, and in the fullness of time may Allah grant you the Bliss of Jinnathul Firdouse, which you so richly deserve.

Branu Rahim


I was lucky to have called her my grandmother

Anula Robert Pathikirikorale

Ninety two years ago in a small rural town bordering the southern skirts of Sri Lanka, a baby girl took her first breath and opened her eyes for the first time. Who would have known that this baby named Anula Sophia Gooneratne would have such a profound and far-reaching influence on all our lives.

In her later years, when she used to reminisce on her childhood, she would always joke about the fun and mischief she got up to during her convent days. I remember vividly one story she told us when she used to travel by rickshaw to school and how the schoolboys in the area used to shout out “Anula my sweet” “Anula my sweet”. It made us laugh imagining the fun of schoolchildren of that era. As the years rolled by, she blossomed into a young lady and subsequently married Robert Pathikirikorale, a dashing young Sub Inspector of the Police from the Kalutara District.

Her proudest achievements were bringing up her four lovely children Lilamani, Gaya, Nalin and Jayantha, my Thathi, the baby of the family. She did this for the most part on her own as her husband passed away unexpectedly in 1955, shortly after my Thathi’s birth. At that time she was only 35 years old and there was no real financial support given to young widows, but she was adamant to send all her children to good schools, so that they would have better opportunities to succeed in life.

The hardships that come with bringing up four young children on one’s own with no financial support to count on, would have terrified most people, but she never shied away from the challenge, being an incredibly strong and determined woman. As the years progressed and her children excelled in their personal and working life with careers and families of their own, she was proud of their achievements.

When, we the grandchildren were born, she was overjoyed. Being the youngest of her grandchildren, I still recall all the fun times we shared. She used to recall the pranks she used to play on her stern governess Mrs. Woutersz, when she was young.

I keenly remember one late night in Galle when it was nearly bed time and she was finishing one of her many stories, we were just about falling asleep when we heard a loud bang. When we opened our eyes, we gasped as Achchi had her legs high in the air doing her nightly exercises.

I remember another time when Achchi came on a visit to Australia. She and my other Achchi were discussing each other’s height and one thing led to another and a height competition ensued. Akki and I tried leaving the room to avoid the imminent battle ahead and risk alienating one grandma or the other if we said one was taller than the other. With no luck of escaping, it was obvious to me that Galle Achchi was shorter, but I couldn’t say so and ended up saying they were both of equal height. This made both Achchis’ happy and I dodged a bullet!

Even in the final years of her life, she was always up for a laugh. I remember a recent telephone conversation where I knew she was suffering from aches and pains, yet she managed to joke about playing rugger in the backyard and dancing with the devil dancers, when we come down.
Galle Achchi had such a profound effect on all of us.

The laughter and joy she brought to us will live on as wonderful memories for the rest of our lives. I will pass on these vivid memories to my children and their children, of this strong, devoted, loyal and fun-loving person that I was lucky enough to call my grandmother.

It is difficult to accept that she’s gone, but the suffering is over and she’s at peace. Akki and I pass all our merits to Achchi. May she attain Nibbana!

Gimhani Pathikirikorale


A star that burnt so bright not only through the night, but constantly

Malsiri De Silva

Ninety two years ago in a small rural town bordering the southern skirts of Sri Lanka, a baby girl took her first breath and opened her eyes for the first time. Who would have known that this baby named Anula Sophia Gooneratne would have such a profound and far-reaching influence on all our lives.

In her later years, when she used to reminisce on her childhood, she would always joke about the fun and mischief she got up to during her convent days. I remember vividly one story she told us when she used to travel by rickshaw to school and how the schoolboys in the area used to shout out “Anula my sweet” “Anula my sweet”. It made us laugh imagining the fun of schoolchildren of that era. As the years rolled by, she blossomed into a young lady and subsequently married Robert Pathikirikorale, a dashing young Sub Inspector of the Police from the Kalutara District.

Her proudest achievements were bringing up her four lovely children Lilamani, Gaya, Nalin and Jayantha, my Thathi, the baby of the family. She did this for the most part on her own as her husband passed away unexpectedly in 1955, shortly after my Thathi’s birth. At that time she was only 35 years old and there was no real financial support given to young widows, but she was adamant to send all her children to good schools, so that they would have better opportunities to succeed in life.

The hardships that come with bringing up four young children on one’s own with no financial support to count on, would have terrified most people, but she never shied away from the challenge, being an incredibly strong and determined woman. As the years progressed and her children excelled in their personal and working life with careers and families of their own, she was proud of their achievements.

When, we the grandchildren were born, she was overjoyed. Being the youngest of her grandchildren, I still recall all the fun times we shared. She used to recall the pranks she used to play on her stern governess Mrs. Woutersz, when she was young.

I keenly remember one late night in Galle when it was nearly bed time and she was finishing one of her many stories, we were just about falling asleep when we heard a loud bang. When we opened our eyes, we gasped as Achchi had her legs high in the air doing her nightly exercises.

I remember another time when Achchi came on a visit to Australia. She and my other Achchi were discussing each other’s height and one thing led to another and a height competition ensued. Akki and I tried leaving the room to avoid the imminent battle ahead and risk alienating one grandma or the other if we said one was taller than the other. With no luck of escaping, it was obvious to me that Galle Achchi was shorter, but I couldn’t say so and ended up saying they were both of equal height. This made both Achchis’ happy and I dodged a bullet!

Even in the final years of her life, she was always up for a laugh. I remember a recent telephone conversation where I knew she was suffering from aches and pains, yet she managed to joke about playing rugger in the backyard and dancing with the devil dancers, when we come down.
Galle Achchi had such a profound effect on all of us.

The laughter and joy she brought to us will live on as wonderful memories for the rest of our lives. I will pass on these vivid memories to my children and their children, of this strong, devoted, loyal and fun-loving person that I was lucky enough to call my grandmother.

It is difficult to accept that she’s gone, but the suffering is over and she’s at peace. Akki and I pass all our merits to Achchi. May she attain Nibbana!

Gimhani Pathikirikorale

A true family man and dear friend who left us all too soon

Neomal Dissanayake

It is three months since Neomal Dissanayake passed away. He was 38 years. His departure was like a flash, hard to believe. How unprepared we are for life’s harsh realities.

No one thought that fateful Good Friday night would be a time of farewell. Neomal’s grieving mother recalls how he waved and smiled when she stopped at the hospital room door before leaving. The following day, before dawn, Neomal answered God’s call. His beloved wife Nirosha was by his side. It was heartbreaking news to everyone.

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Neomal was born on July 9, 1971, the only son of a devoted Roman Catholic couple, Noel and Calista Dissanayake, of Bogamuwa, Yakkala. Neomal had his primary and secondary education at De Mazenod College, Kandana. He chose accounting, following in his father’s footsteps. He was a true family man – obedient son, loving and caring husband, and caring older brother to sisters Anjalee and Kishani; a very caring grandson to his 90-year-old grandfather; a loving “maama” to little Nethmini, Jude and Damian. His brothers-in-law Piyavi and Amila were like his own brothers.

Neomal was always ready to help. Caste and creed were not in his vocabulary. The large gathering that came to bid him goodbye at his funeral says it all.

Everyone has some special memory of Neomal. I too have one special memory. Despite a busy schedule, Neomal once accompanied my elderly mother to visit a priest in Kurunegala for a special blessing. It was my mother’s wish.

I had the privilege of associating with Neomal for close on a decade. I will miss our long chats on politics, religion, music, books – everything. There were also the practical jokes. He had a great sense of humour. He also gave very good advice.

This very religious man never failed to be part of the church activities, and he was a source of strength to all – to the priests, the congregation and the family.

We pray for you, dear Neomal. Your departure has left an emptiness that cannot be filled. We pray for your family too. Thank you for all you did.

Thilina Nimalshantha


Little anecdotes that made him who he was

Lt. Colonel Upul Dushmantha de Lanerolle

He left us on July 31, 1999 and his birthday is August 15. This is not just the outpouring of a grieved mother but also the deep love of a mother for a dear departed son. Many and varied are the appreciations and articles written for and about him. Through them, even those who didn’t know him would have obtained a clear picture of him. But what I want everyone to know are the small details which maybe only his close friends would know.

Upul had a strong grip in so much that when he shook someone’s hand, that person’s palm would turn red and the knuckles would stand out. Whenever he came around to sit with his brother officers, they would say ‘Hide your hands, Lane is coming’ (Lane was short for Lanerolle- their pet name for him).

He had his faults, of course, but he would never hurt anyone wilfully. Once he slapped a minor staff soldier and to his horror saw weals standing out on the man’s cheeks. He ran to the Mess kitchen got a pot of hot water and rushed to the minor staff quarters. So many soldiers pleaded to be allowed to take the pot but to no avail.

H e took his foam mattress as well, got another soldier to put the soldier on it and fomented his face till the red weals were all gone.

As the then Colonel Wadugodapitiya said, when Upul said something disparaging to a friend, he couldn’t rest till he had apologized. Then and there he would go up to the friend and say ‘I’m sorry’.
When I was Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s Private Secretary and working at the Prime Minister’s office, Upul would come unannounced. No one was allowed to pass through the gates but Upul ‘s jeep was allowed.

He would dash into my office with a friend or two and ask for executive lunches for them. From my desk drawer he would take the chocolates that he knew I kept for him and give me a big hug. I would soon dispatch a peon to get the lunches for him.

He came to my office always in his officer’s uniform but one day he came in civils. My clerk remarked “Upul Sir is always handsome but today he is more handsome than any other day.” It breaks my heart to think that that was his last visit. I implore the deities above that he be born in a a good place.

The blessings of the Holy Triple Gem and all the deities be on my beloved younger son Upul Dushmantha de Lanerolle.

Amma


Sunday Times July 25 2010

The last of the “Buccaneers”

Dr. S. Mahalingam

In Royal College, Colombo, in the late ‘fifties’, there was a group of students who called themselves the “Buccaneers”. And true to their name they engaged in all manner of mischief much to the amusement and the occasional discomfort of their peers and superiors. Some illustrious names were among them. The late Minister C.V. (Puggy) Guneratne, the former Chairman of the Coast Conservation Department, the late Sumantha (Summa) Amerasinghe, former tea planter, the late Kumar Gunetilleke were some of them.

The late Dr. S. Mahalingam, former Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, Peradeniya, who passed away a few days ago, was the last of that illustrious group, I believe. As to the antics and reputation of the Buccaneers, suffice it to say that it was only the late Kumar, who would actually admit to being a member or to the group’s existence in their later years!

Dr. Mahalingam (or Magsie, as he was universally known) – academic, confirmed bachelor, raconteur par excellence and a distiller’s best friend was many things to many people, and no doubt, many different things would be said, and remembered, all over the world, at this time of his passing for he was not one to hide his light under the proverbial bushel. His mischievous bonhomie and inimitable good humour were spread and shared with all and sundry. But my best memories of him are from my childhood.

I first met Magsie at (where else?) the Peradeniya University Faculty Club, when my father went up to Peradeniya for his interview for a lecturer’s post some 36 years ago. The ‘Faculty Club’ was at the former Golf Club premises, where the Peradeniya Teaching Hospital now stands. Magsie was surrounded by the likes of R.O. Thattil, Rex Clemens and assorted budding Veterinary and Agriculture academics having a “sing-song” to –as he put it – pay their last respects to a pig, the remains of which, devilled, curried, roasted, lay scattered about on plates interspersed with numerous bottles of “Lion Lager” and the occasional “Old Arrack”. I was ten years old.A month later, my father took up his post at the Medical Faculty, Peradeniya, and we moved to Kandy. As the years passed, Magsie and my father became firm friends and so did we children. For Magsie loved children and we, children, loved him to the point of hero worship. To us, he was like Bertie Wooster come alive. Wherever he went, laughter and good fun followed. We imitated his walk, imitated his talk, and treasured his spontaneous jokes and witticisms in our memories for later use.

My brother and I would long for the weekends when our parents went down to Colombo and Magsie would move in to “baby-sit” us. We would meet up with Magsie at the Queens Hotel lobby after school and head straight to Lyons for a “Lyons Special”. The waiters at Lyon’s all knew him, some of them harking back from his undergraduate days. We would then head to the Faculty Club (on foot to save money!). Magsie would sing German war songs while we marched in step from Kandy to Peradeniya, with him yelling out garbled marching orders which he claimed were from his days as “Company Quartermaster Sergeant” in the Royal College Cadet Corps. Apparently he was cheated of his due promotion to Regimental Sergeant Major due to – as he put it - “jealousy in high places”.

At the Faculty Club, my brother and I would play table tennis, eat chips and drink lemonade, while Magsie and friends “exercised their elbows” as he put it, quaffing mugs of “liquid bread”. Around midnight, with none of us looking forward to walking all the way back to Kandy, Magsie would persuade one of the others at the Club to drop us home. Invariably it was either the late Prof. “Pep” Jayasena or Prof. “Muggy” Varagunam who obliged. Having secured a ride home, he would then work on “Pony” Thangarajah to invite ourselves for lunch the following day, as by now we had finished the money my parents had given us for the weekend, and it was only Friday night.

The next morning, we would, once again, march to Augusta hill where Pony lived at the time. Mrs. Thanga invariably put out a spread of thosais, iddlies, stringhoppers, crab curry etc., into which we would happily dive. We would leave the Thangarajah’s after tea in the afternoon and march on to the Faculty Club, once more, for a repetition of the previous night. Sunday lunch, he would get us an invitation to the Varagunam’s, who thankfully, lived just a short walk away from our house.Magsie loved music. New Orleans jazz and classical music in particular, and he had a fantastic collection of records. When we were learning to play the piano accordion as kids, he bullied, cajoled and coaxed us into learning to play the “Greats” as he put it. Verdi, Offenbach, Beethoven, Ella and Satchmo. Every time he came home, he would get us to play for him.

Magsie also loved Science and the “pursuit of knowledge”. His dedication to his students was without question. His room at the Vet Faculty was an open house for us kids to wander in at any time and be “entertained” by his “cultures” of calf liver cells etc. All narrated in his inimitable self-effacing style of wit and humour. He would actively encourage us in our studies and he would be one of the first to inquire as to our O/level, A/level and later, University results, taking more personal pride and satisfaction in our successes than, perhaps, we did ourselves at the time. He would inspire us and kindle our desires to explore the world of knowledge, with his own experiences at Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Toronto, all narrated with side-splitting humour.

Once when I inquired how come he had an M.A. (from Toronto), when he was a scientist, pat came the reply – “It was there that I Mastered the Art of Scientific Research”! When my brother finally made it to Cambridge for his post graduate studies, Magsie was over the moon, and when, finally, my brother and I returned from our studies to join the staff at Peradeniya, where Magsie was still teaching, he was prouder than a hen that had laid its first clutch of eggs! And it was not just the two of us. All the kids who grew up as “Pera kids” at the time would agree that we were all fortunate to experience and be touched by his particular magic.

At the end of the day, many would consider it their privilege to have known Magsie and be touched by him during the course of their lives – be it his students, his colleagues, family or friends. But it was us, kids, who were the most privileged – for he truly loved us, and we, children, of many faiths, races and hues, all loved him. Let’s all raise a final glass to the last Buccaneer – may he rest in peace!

Harin Corea


You left me to save others

Colonel Fazly Laphir

My dearest, darling Fazly,

“Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die.”

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While others were dying to live
You died for others to live
When others didn’t care for their own
You cared for others as your own

While others wanted everything
To give something in return
You gave more than everything
To let others return

While others avoided and gave up
Complaining things were not perfect
You accepted, faced and acted
Making the possible perfect

While others held back without living and loving
And blamed it on life, society, race or religion
You respected life – sharing, caring and loving
And for others, you let go of life, me and everything

Your everloving Ano

(Colonel Fazly Laphir, PWV, RWP, RSP, Commanding Officer, 1st Regiment Special Forces, died in action on July 19, 1996 while on a rescue mission in Mullaitivu).

She gave her best to school and church


Myrtle Mendis

It was just a few weeks back that we lost our dear friend – Myrtle. Myrtle served the Lord in many ways. In her life at home with her parents she was ready to help her mother, father, brother and sisters. After she married Felix, who was devoted to her, the two of them lived a happy life.

Having served as an organist at Holy Emmanuel Church for a long period, she gave of her best to the Church.

Princess of Wales’ College, where she studied and taught for 37 years, will undoubtedly remember her with much affection. Her pupils always speak of her kindness and dedication when teaching them.

The Princess of Wales’ College Union, or “Old Girls’ Union”, lost a resourceful member. She served as Secretary, Vice President, and later as a Vice Patron. The Union members showed their deep appreciation of her services to the Union, by taking her coffin through the Prince of Wales’ College gate and out through the Princess gate, before taking it to Church. Many present and past pupils and the Principal, were present and sang the school song as they felt it a fitting tribute to her.

During her young days she was an active member of the Moratuwa Y. W. C. A. She was a member of the Moratuwa Women’s Aglow and attended meetings regularly till her last days.

All her relatives and friends miss her because she was loving, helpful and understanding of others’ needs. However, the Lord knew the time was ripe for Myrtle to leave this earthly life and be in His heavenly abode.

The Lord has welcomed her with open arms, saying “Welcome, my good and faithful servant, Myrtle”.

Lorna


A salute from one old Trinitian to another

Ranjit Ratnayake

News of the demise of Ranjit Ratnayake, a loyal old boy of Trinity College Kandy, was received with profound sadness. That he had passed away after a brief illness on Wednesday, June 2, was indeed a shock! He was relatively young – but an incurable illness suddenly claimed this precious life at 63 years.

Ranjit’s connections with Trinity Rugby in the early 90’s, is what brought my fellow Trinity Rugby ‘star’ Franklin Jacob and myself (both Trinity “Lions” and Sri Lanka players in the 60’s), to have close contact and communications with him.

Ranjit was a good ‘team-player’, caring and helpful. His great qualities of leadership were seen particularly in the export garments business, apart from him being a competent, qualified accountant. He later started his own garment manufacturing factory, with the significant support of his wife Maxine. As an influential ‘man about town’ he was known to be generous, forthright and vigilant, as well as persevering to ‘get things done’!

One day in June 1993, Ranjit an enthusiastic College Rugby fan, fondly called “STR” by his school-mates – was all stirred up! We were driving up to Kandy, to help in coaching some of the Trinity Rugby players in ‘kicking’, when he emphatically expressed his concern to me about the Trinity Asgiriya grounds (built in the 1920’s). It was to be taken over by a Government authority to convert it into an International Cricket Stadium. In reality, this vital asset would be lost to all Trinitians involved in various sports activities – except cricket.

At this point, he came up with ‘his idea’ that a new location for Rugby practices and matches, should be found close to Kandy – which I fully endorsed.

In due course, to cut a long story short, on his own initiative he negotiated to obtain four hectares of coconut land in Pallekelle, with the help of the UDA and former President, the late D.B. Wijetunge, who sanctioned it after Cabinet approval was obtained, on a 99 year lease. This also received the ready approval of Principal, Lt. Col. Leonard de Alwis, plus the Trinity Board of Governors. With the expertise of engineers, architects and the advice of two former planters, Wilhelm Balthazaar and Franklin Jacob, the planning and building project, got underway.

Ranjit Ratnayake will long be remembered for the clever, quick, praiseworthy action he took to set-up the plans for a new Rugby Stadium. This huge project, slowly but steadily ‘got off the ground’ and with timely financial support from Hemaka Amarasuriya, Chairman of Singer (Sri Lanka) Ltd., together with Hatton National Bank; Dr. Asoka Balasuriya and many other well-wishers, this Stadium is a reality today!

It would have been a great consolation to Ranjit, having had his wife Maxine by his bedside caring for him. His elder son Rajeev from USA and Maheesa from Dubai along with his petite wife, Sarah Azad arrived in time to bid him ‘farewell’. His grief -stricken brothers and sisters together with many good friends, were present to pay Ranjit their last respects.

Although he has left his Trinity ‘buddies’ here on earth, he is indeed privileged to be with the “Greatest Trinity” up there!

Ken de Joodt


As banker and club member he did his bit for Kandy

Lion Don Winkle Pathirana

The demise of Lion Don Winkle Pathirana last month deprived our community of a sincere and dedicated social worker. Winkle lived the last 15 years of his long and happy life in Colombo to which he moved from Kandy for career reasons. However, he was essentially a Kandy man who studied at Dharmaraja College and worked as a banker mostly in Kandy.

I first met Winkle in Kandy 30 years ago when he became the first manager of the Bank of Ceylon second city branch in Kandy. He ended his distinguished career at the Bank of Ceylon in the early 1990s as one of its most experienced and senior bankers and then moved to the private sector.

Winkle was one of the charter members of the Lions Club of Senkadagala that was established in 1982. He was one of the most committed members of the club. He insisted on ethical conduct in all matters connected with the club and constantly reminded the club members that the main rationale for being a Lion was to render service to the community. In the late 1980s he was at the forefront in the battle to admit women as full members of Lions Clubs that many male members at that time were not quite willing to accept.

For almost quarter of a century Winkle held a major office in the Lions District cabinet. During that period almost every Governor came to rely on Lion Winkle, especially to properly administer the District and its forty plus clubs. With his death the Lions Movement in Sri Lanka lost one of its most dedicated members.

Winkle’s dear wife Mallika pre-deceased him. He is survived by his children Mahesh, Lalani and Channa, their respective spouses Rebecca, Chathura and Anouchka and a host of grandchildren who lost their beloved Seeya.

May he attain Nibbana.

Lion Sam


Sunday Times July 18 2010

Desmond Fernando PC

It was a pleasure and a privilege for anyone to have known Desmond Peter Malcolm Fernando MA (Oxon), PC, Barrister-at Law and Advocate, as closely as I did, both here and abroad for nearly 40 long years.

The last time we were abroad together was in Malaysia, where he, Marzuki Darusman (the Chairman of the controversial UN Panel of Experts), an Australian QC and I were International Observers at the Appeal hearing of Dato' Anwar Ibrahim (former Deputy PM of Malaysia) against his conviction for sodomy. A pleasure and privilege it was, not only because of the eminence Desmond had reached, but also due to all that one could learn from him, about our noble profession (whether it be local, regional or global), its history and workings. As there is simply no one here, in my view, as knowledgeable as he was on such matters, it would not be easy to fill the vacuum created by his demise.

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We belonged to different generations and backgrounds; he, to an affluent urban family, where he did not have to earn his living; I, to a modest outstation one, where one necessarily had to do so. We had our share of agreements and disagreements, but continued to be friends all these years, invariably meeting him with my wife Shirani, every 31st October, his birthday.

Exasperated by the non-availability of wing collars and bands in the market, I was to make a complaint to him. That was how I first met him in early 1972. He was the (last) Secretary of the then Bar Council of Ceylon, and I, a helpless young advocate apprentice. In his characteristic way, he tried to pacify me by offering a set of his own, which I declined. That was to be the beginning of a long association.

I last met him recently at his bedside at Colombo House. He did not forget to congratulate me on my recent appointment, for which he (and the late Eardley Perera PC) first asked me to apply, more than one and a half decades ago.

As there were only a handful of active advocates at the Bar then, compared to the large numbers today, it was not unusual for a junior like me to have been able to know a senior like him. He was always approachable, unassuming and friendly and, was therefore one of the few rare seniors we could communicate with freely.

We became almost family friends. Though I had the pleasure of knowing his late mother Daisybelle and his only brother, late Trevor, his father the late P.O. Fernando, a top civil servant during the colonial period, had passed away long before I met Desmond.

Like most of his relatives, his secondary education was at St. Joseph's College, Colombo after which he entered the prestigious Oxford University where he obtained an MA. He was called to the Bar from Lincoln's Inn, of which he was later appointed a Bencher.

Desmond had several unique distinctions -- having been the last Secretary of the Bar Council of Ceylon and the first Secretary of the newly-formed unified Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL). He was the first and the only Sri Lankan and the second Asian to hold the distinguished office of President of the International Bar Association (IBA). Before this appointment, he served as the IBA’s Vice President, Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General (the last being one which I too was privileged to hold). He also served as Vice President of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), and the only member to be elected thrice as President BASL, among others.

Unpredictability, in my view, was one of his personal traits. Of course, he would always justify his position -- genuinely, sometimes even convincingly. One example was when he, after having held the office of Secretary BASL, volunteered to serve as secretary of one of its branches, albeit the largest, Colombo Law Society. Similarly, it was after having led the World Bar that he plunged into the fray for the third time as a candidate for the local presidency. As I (and probably many others) advised him, in doing so, he had nothing to gain but everything to lose. He did win the election vindicating his stand, but did not go for the next term, on advice from many.

He would be long remembered by the grateful for the yeoman services he rendered as president of the BASL during the 1989-1991 period of turmoil. He managed to handle the threats faced by BASL members, some of whom were abducted, tortured and killed, through his inimitable quiet diplomacy. No one would have been able to negotiate as skilfully as he did with the different parties to the conflict.

I am aware of a couple of incidents where his good work of saving lives and securing the freedom of members was hampered, by an over-enthusiastic colleague, who even had no qualms about taking credit for Desmond's good work and those of the previous office bearers in cases such as the abduction and murder of Wijedasa Liyanarachchi, the first lawyer in history to die in the "custody of the law". Desmond was too much of a gentleman to even attempt to put the record straight.

He and Suriya were the champions of the underdog, whether the victims were from the North or the South. This might not have appealed to the conservative majority in the Bar. It was to their Chambers and to their home that many with problems gathered. I am personally aware of at least a dozen members who were being hunted, who were found a safe haven in the West, through their good offices. Desmond was the face, while Suriya worked behind the scenes. She took over the burdens of the Civil Rights Movement from him. My own initiation into the BASL, of which I became a founder member, was solely due to my association with Desmond. He took me to the Chambers of Nimal Senanayake, where a representative body of the former Incorporated Law Society and the Bar Council were engaged in drafting the proposed BASL Constitution.

It was therefore natural that Desmond was a candidate at the first election of the BASL in 1975. Despite belonging to the minority (of Advocates), outnumbered many times by the former Proctors, he managed to be elected, over two active members of the former Law Society, along with the late H.W. Jayawardane QC, the first president. Though they belonged to different political orientations, they worked well together, and in harmony, setting up the foundations of the BASL, (which is now in its 35th year) from a small room in the former Colombo Law Library.

He was later elected president in 1989 defeating the formidable and popular Jayantha de Z. Gunasekera, an islandwide criminal practitioner. Desmond, on the contrary, was confined to Colombo and that too, to the civil, labour and appellate Courts, whenever he found the time among his many other commitments.

He did not forget (except during his brief unpredictable escapades) the importance of those two elections, and the chance he unexpectedly received to represent the BASL at the IBA in the absence of the late H.L. de Silva. Without this opportunity, he would have never become the president of IBA. He openly acknowledged this at a felicitation dinner held for him by the Kochi Bar Association in Japan on his appointment as President of IBA. It is at this ceremony that he presented a pair of silver cufflinks of the IBA to the president of the Asian Legal Research Institute (ALRI), Japan and a neck tie to me. I could not help but say in reply "All Desmond's gifts have been around my neck".
During these years, not only did we travel together to IBA meetings around the world, but also spent some interesting times at ALRI in Japan, thrice for over three months. He first came there when he was invited to the East-West Centre in Honululu and, spent about a week.

I was able to have him invited again for a couple of months to advise and assist me, when the first Asian Lawyers' Conference was being organised in 1981. Our hard work was reciprocated with him being elected a Vice President and I, the Secretary- General, of the new All Asia Bar Association (AABA).

Speaking of his unpredictability, as many would know, though I played some role in his two election campaigns, Desmond surprised me by wanting to "think about" my request for him to sign my nomination for BASL presidency in 1999. He did so once again, by asking me to sign his, when he contested for the third time. I had to decline, not as a "tit for tat", but because his opponent Ikram Mohamed PC had signed mine as a proposer, while he was "thinking about" it.

Probably due to the way he had been brought up, he could not believe that there could be anyone who is not a gentleman. Some made good use of this failing, (if one could call it so) of his. He was one with whom anyone could discuss even the most controversial matter, objectively. Sometimes his objectivity was misunderstood. A very good sense of humour was another enjoyable quality. On occasions he disappointed me, I could tell him "I do not need enemies, when I have friends like you".

Desmond had no time to look after the property he inherited, which Trevor did. His Chamber was always a hub of intellectual activity. He therefore had to phone to ask me before one Sinhala New Year, "How do I get to Akurawa Estate?" Many may find it difficult to believe. But, that was Desmond.
We were all surprised to read in the media, his open praise in Oslo, of President Premadasa's non-interference with the judiciary. Knowing of my support to Desmond, many complained to me about it. I knew that he would have had a good reason to do so. He did convince me of why he did it.
With Desmond's passing away, we have lost one of the most active members of the Bar, a distinguished international legal luminary, a fighter for others’ rights and, above all, a thorough gentleman, now a rare species, I, a good friend, mentor and critic.

He was a devout Catholic. Now that he has gone back to his Creator, "may Desmond rest in peace, until we meet again".

Upali A. Gooneratne


The good doctor behind a volunteer army of healing hands

Dr. Vajiranath Luxman De Silva

The nation mourns the demise of Dr. Vajiranath Luxman de Silva, who passed away after a long illness, at the age of 82. He was the founder of the Sri Lanka Saukyadana Movement, a truly national medical and first aid movement, Dr. Luxman (as he was known to his friends) was a rare combination of medical talent, commitment to serve, and leadership. He led thousands of youth volunteers in the service of the nation. He believed in self-reliance, and he refused to yield to external forces.

He drew on Meththa and Karuna in his service to needy communities. The Saukyadana movement provides health and medical services to the needy, free of charge, with loving kindness, through dedicated volunteers.

The idea for the Saukyadana movement came to Dr. Vajiranath Luxman de Silva 50 years ago, when he was leading a team of young doctors up Sri Pada. He was impressed by the pilgrims’ determination to reach the shrine at the top of the mountain, despite the physical difficulties involved, including extreme weather conditions. He wondered what he could do to make the journey easier.

He then came up with the idea of a dedicated medical unit to provide pilgrims first aid and medical aid, free of charge, in a spirit of compassion.

Thus was born the Saukyadana Movement. Young medical doctors, nurses and well-wishers set up posts along the path up Sri Pada and provided free medical services. The Sri Pada initiative was subsequently extended to all places of religious significance, and also at festivals, regardless of the religion.

The state declared the movement an approved charity, and the Ministry of Education provided facilities for schools to spread the benefits and services of the movement to the community.
The Saukyadanians work on one golden principle – that all who join the movement offer their services in a spirit of volunteerism, with no desire for personal gain. The only returns would be the satisfaction and contentment that come with doing good for others.

Through school programmes, the movement groomed young people to be social leaders, giving them organisational, management and leadership skills.

Many know about the movement, but not much about the good doctor behind the movement. He shunned publicity. The story of Dr. Luxman is the story of the Sri Lanka Saukyadana Movement.
May he be blessed with the Supreme State of Nibbana.

Yasapala Nanayakkara


Modest Malli, teacher and principal, was loved by his students and staff

Upali Nanayakkara

Upali Nanayakkara was a teacher with extraordinary qualities and talents who touched the lives and hearts of countless students.

It will be eight years (on July 19) since my beloved Malli, Upali, passed away. Eight years have gone by, and I still cannot believe he has left us forever. He was a dutiful son, a devoted husband, a loving brother, a precious father (to his only child, Shashi), and a dedicated teacher.

Malli was a product of St. John’s College, Panadura. He began his teaching career as a science-trained teacher at Wadduwa Central College, Gampaha Central College, and later Ginigathhena Maha Vidyalaya.

He then assumed duties as Vice-Principal of St. John’s College, Panadura. At the time of his retirement, he was Principal (Grade I) of Maha Vidyalaya, Bekkegama.

Persons of Malli’s calibre are rare indeed. Malli was a disciplinarian, but he was much loved by his students and his staff. He was modest, humble and honest, and never spoke ill of others. He would go out of his way to help others. He was a favourite among his students, and he never charged fees for tuition.

Malli, you were not just a brother, you were also my best friend. I will not forget the sad look on your face when you begged me to stay by your side at the nursing home. You were in great pain and distress.

With silent tears I think of you, my beloved Malli. You did so much for your only child – far beyond what is expected. He is still mourning. Your beloved wife passed away recently. You are remembered by your beloved son, your family and your loved ones. We will cherish our memories of you, my beloved Malli.

May you be born as my own brother once again, with the blessings of the Most Holy Triple Gem, and all the merits derived from all alms we give in memory of you.

Your beloved brother,

V. A. D. R. Nanayakkara


Sunday Times July 11 2010

A diplomat par excellence and man of integrity, intellectual curiosity and humour

Dr. Vernon L.B. Mendis

One of the country’s most erudite diplomats – Deshamanya Dr. Vernon L. B. Mendis – passed away on June 23. He was 85 years.

Dr. Mendis belonged to the first intake of the Ceylon Overseas Service, created in 1949. He was the country’s most senior professional diplomat at the time of his death. In his long and distinguished career, Dr Mendis served in a number of Sri Lanka diplomatic missions, including Washington, Moscow, Tokyo and Paris.

Later, he was named Chief of Protocol. He also served as Counsellor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from 1960 to 1963. He was Deputy High Commissioner in New Delhi (1966-69), before being appointed Director General of the Ministry of Defence and External Affairs, with the rank of Additional Secretary and Head of External Affairs.

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The late Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike appointed only career officers as heads of missions. Dr. Mendis successively held the positions of High Commissioner in the UK and in Canada, and Ambassador in France. He also served as Regional Director for UNESCO to Arab States, with headquarters in Cairo, and as a Fellow of the United States Institute of Peace. He was chairman of the Telecommunication Board of Sri Lanka from 1985 to 1990.

In addition, he was Secretary General of the Non-aligned Mini-Summit (December 1962) on the Sino-Indian border conflict, and Secretary General of the 5th Non-aligned Summit held in Colombo, in September 1976. Dr. Mendis carried out his duties with dignity and aplomb. With his meticulous diction and impeccable language skills, he could hold the attention of any audience.

He was tall and handsome, always well dressed. He could walk into any international gathering and mingle comfortably with royalty and the elite. He could lecture for hours without notes. His many skills brought credit and honour to the country.

Dr. Mendis received a Peace Fellowship Award from the US Institute of Peace Studies, in Washington. He was also the recipient of local national honours, such as the Vishwa Prasadini (1996) and the Deshamanya (1998) for distinguished service to the country.

On retirement, Dr. Mendis chose to live in the land of his birth and make himself available for any national cause. It was not long before he was invited to lecture at the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS), by BCIS director Ray Forbes.

It was around this time that Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike conceived the idea of the Bandaranaike International Diplomatic Training Institute (BIDTI). When the institute was eventually set up, in 1995, Dr Mendis was the unanimous choice as founding Director General.

Dr. Mendis launched the institute’s first course of lectures, in November 1995, and created the curriculum for the first General Course – a comprehensive introduction to international affairs and international relations.

The course proved very popular, and came to be described as “a voyage around the world in 100 hours”. Dr Mendis’s diplomatic skills were appreciated by trainees at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the wider public.

The general course attracted participants from the public and the private sector. These included high-ranking government officers, the armed forces, media personnel, foreign diplomatic personnel, lawyers and students. Most of the high-ranking officials now serving in the Ministry of External Affairs and occupying diplomatic positions have benefited from Dr. Mendis’s teaching and guidance.

Dr. Mendis was blessed with a charming wife, Paddy, an accomplished son, Harish, and a pretty daughter-in-law, Dayalini. Former US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Christopher van Hollen, had this to say in a contribution to a felicitation volume (2004) in honour of Dr. Mendis: “We think of Vernon as a person of great integrity, intellectual curiosity, candour, warmth and good humour. Paddy shares most of these traits and she has her own ebullient, outgoing personality.”

I was on the staff of the Bandaranaike International Diplomatic Training Institute (BIDTI), from its inception until 2007. My first encounter with Dr. Mendis was in 1976, when he interviewed me for the post of attaché in our High Commission in New Delhi. I well remember my trepidation facing him on that occasion.

My association with Dr. Mendis at the BIDTI was very different. Working closely with him, I saw his benevolence and magnanimity. He was ready to help any junior who needed his assistance or guidance.

Dr. Mendis was a devout Christian who respected all religions. In his public speeches, he would proudly say that Sri Lankan diplomacy originated in the bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and India, between King Devanampiya Tissa and Emperor Ashoka. Budhism was introduced to Sri Lanka with the blessings of that historic diplomatic relationship.

We hope the Bandaranaike International Diplomatic Training Institute, which owes its existence to the visionary Dr. Mendis, will perpetuate Dr. Mendis’s name in an appropriate way.

May his soul rest in peace.

G. A. Harischandra


I will hold on to your memories for ever

Shahran Haniz

It is true what they say, you do not realize what you truly have till it is gone. Shahran Nana you meant so much to a lot of people and you are going to be missed immensely. You were a warm-hearted and tender person to all.

I still remember the many days in Sri Lanka when we were small, we had so much fun! But after your father’s death you had to shoulder the responsibility of your family. You were their pillar of strength. As a result at a very tender age you had to go abroad for employment, but still you did everything with ease and aplomb. Though you were abroad for many, many years we did not sever the bond we had as children. You never failed to come to our house every time you were in Sri Lanka.

On the 12th of June 2010 you were taken away from us unexpectedly. You suffered your very first heart attack at the tender age of 42. It was indeed a shock to all those who knew you.

I know you are in a better place now, pain free, and happy, but still it does not feel like this has actually happened. We are going to miss you so much and I know so many people are too. You are always going to have a place in our lives and hearts. We all wish we could have had more time to have seen you and caught up on all those lost years. I can sit here thinking of what could have been, should have been and would have been if things were different, but that is not what I want to concentrate on. I want to hold onto and remember the good memories we have of you. We are cousins, and always will be no matter wherever we are; nothing can ever break that bond.

We never loved you any less or cared any less about you although you were abroad. When I came to Mecca to perform Hajj while you were employed there, you looked after us really well. I will not forget that. The last time you came to Sri Lanka in March we wished you and your family well and to come back safely, but alas! It was never to happen. Being apart from people you love and care about, just makes you love and care about them even more. So I’m holding onto our memories forever. You were such a lovely person - always cheery, always nice, an all round great person. Everyone who had you in their lives should be so grateful. You were a people’s person.

I know it is a great loss to your dear mother Shareefa- my periaumma, your loving, grieving wife Sharmila, to your adorable children Zikra, Maryam and Abdul Azeez, your affectionate brothers Naushad, Sabry and Fariz and your only sister Farzeena. Love is stronger than death even though it cannot stop death from happening, but no matter how hard death tries, it cannot separate people from love.

This was indeed a witness at your funeral in Qatar when an amazingly large number of people attended your janaza, those who did not even know you, who came in bus loads to bid you farewell. The charitable acts you have performed right throughout in your life will illuminate your grave with brilliance and make it spacious for you. Death cannot take away the memories we have of you. Our loss is God’s gain because after all God only takes the best.

May the Almighty God grant you Jennathul Firdhouse.

Your cousin

Amaana Zaheem


Lankan bridge engineer who rose to the top in the British Civil Service

Kanagaratnam Sriskandan

Kanagaratnam Sriskandan graduated from the University of Ceylon in 1953 and joined the Public Works Department as an Assistant Engineer. Relinquishing that service in 1956, he proceeded to the UK to specialise as a bridge engineer.

He rose in rank, in local and regional operations, and in 1980 was appointed as Chief Highway Engineer, the Department of Transport. This was a unique achievement for a non-white officer, in the Under Secretary Grade, in the British Civil Service.

Sriskandan was on the team that assessed proposals for the Fixed Channel link; the Anglo-French Safety Authority for the Channel Tunnel; a Council of the British Standards Institute; the Council of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and many national and international scientific committees. He contributed many papers, and lectured on bridge design, construction and maintenance.

Retiring in 1988, he served as a director of the Mott Macdonald Group for a further five years.
Born on August 12, 1930, Sriskandan was the second son of the late Dr. and Mrs. Kanagaratnam. He had his early education at Jaffna Central College, and later at S. Thomas’s College, Mt Lavinia for a short period before joining Royal College, Colombo. From Royal, he proceeded to the Ceylon Technical College to do his engineering studies. The Technical College was later amalgamated with the University of Ceylon.

Sriskandan was a talented sportsman. He represented the Ceylon University in tennis and badminton. In later years, he played squash and golf.

He passed away peacefully at his residence in Chislehurst, Kent, UK, on April 21, 2010.
Sriskandan married Dorothy Harley, sister tutor at the Colombo General Hospital, in 1956.

He leaves behind Dorothy, sons Kumar and Ranjan and daughter Shiranee; grandchildren Adam, Joanna, Kathryn, Samuel and Alexandra; and siblings Ganesan, Arichandran, Meena Selvarajah, Sivan Yoganandan, Sivathondan and Mangay Williams.

Soft-spoken, always smiling – a gentleman to the fingertips

It is with deep sorrow that I write this tribute to a dear friend, Prabath de Silva. His gentle nature and warm friendship will be remembered by all who associated with him. He was a gentleman to the fingertips.

Extraordinary people rob us of words to describe them when they leave us. I first met Prabhath in 2008, when he came to me regarding an overseas job opportunity. From the very start, I noticed something special about him. Prabhath had exceptional charisma. With him, I found it easy to get through the many formalities required for overseas employment. Soft-spoken and always smiling, he made my task that much easier.

During the short spell Prabath worked in Lagos, Nigeria, we kept in touch. I contacted him whenever I had an IT problem, and he was always ready to help. His superiors and colleagues in Nigeria held him in the highest esteem. A good team leader, he was a valuable asset to any employer. He returned from Nigeria prematurely, because of ill health.

He touched many a heart with his kindness and humanity. His friends found in him a person of rare qualities, utterly unselfish, always placing himself last. He was also very down-to-earth.

I learnt from his schoolmates at Mahanama College that he was unassuming and always smiling. Prabhath was loved by his colleagues and teachers alike. He had a passion for nature and wildlife. He would always join up with friends and spend holidays in the wildlife sanctuaries of Wilpattu or Yala. His last such trip was in March this year.

I had known Prabhath for only a short while, but he has left a vacuum in my life, just as he has in the lives of all those who came in contact with him.

Truly, the good die young.

P. Perera


Sunday Times July 4 2010

Remembering a special friend

Hemantha Perera Jayatunga

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/100704/images/Hemantha.jpgThe news hit me with no warning. My friend Priyan Fernando’s e-mail announced that Hemantha “Bundi” Jayatunga passed away very suddenly at his home. I am sure the shock was just as severe to the many friends of Hemantha, in Sri Lanka and around the world. Hemantha was one of those special human beings who always had a smile, cared deeply about his friends and family, and refused to indulge in self-pity when life took difficult turns. If I were to characterize Hemantha with a few words, they would be ‘cheerful’, ‘faithful’, and ‘loyal’.

Last year when visiting family in Sri Lanka, I joined a couple of fellow old-Royalists to visit another fellow old-Royalist who was incapacitated -- Hemantha. He was in a wheelchair, disabled due to the amputation of his legs, a result of diabetic complications. He had had a kidney transplant and could not see well in one eye. Despite all these challenges, he expressed genuine delight in seeing us and we had a wonderful time catching up on each other’s lives. Hemantha refused to spend anytime feeling sorry for himself and instead, focused his energies on living a full and active life. With a father’s pride he introduced us to his daughters, Neluka and Shalini and excitedly showed us pictures of the greeting card designs that he and Neluka were creating for their greeting card business.

His interests were wide ranging. A proud Royalist and an avid sports fan, he not only followed every cricket match and rugby football game that Royal played, he would report the progress of every Royal-Thomian cricket match and every Bradby Shield rugby football game with Trinity to his buddies, especially his class at Royal, the Royal College group of 1964. We could also count on Hemantha to keep us informed about news from the Royal College Union (RCU) office.

Hemantha was a patriot, engaged in the ups and downs of life in Sri Lanka, frequently sending his friends a commentary with his insights and opinions as well as forwarding inspirational poems or pictures. The last e-mail I received from Hemantha was dated June 16, it was a forwarded article titled ‘The Visit of a Lifetime’ by Sharlene De Chikera, about a visit engineered by Rizan Nazeer, Secretary of the RCU, for a group of Tamil students from three schools in the Trincomalee district to Royal College. The inspirational report was a true-life story about how Tamil students from Trincomalee and Sinhalese students from Colombo learned to enjoy each other’s company and build bridges of friendship as fellow citizens of one nation.

No description of Hemantha could be complete without mention of his faith. Hemantha had a deep and abiding Christian faith that grew stronger with time. He was very active and loved in his church and all who knew him saw a man who lived his faith. On April 7th he sent me the following story:

DEATH ( WHAT A WONDERFUL WAY TO EXPLAIN IT,
A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, “Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side.”

Very quietly, the doctor said, “I don't know.”
“You don't know? You are a Christian man, and you don't know what's on the other side?'”
The doctor was holding the handle of the door. On the other side came a sound of scratching and whining, and as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.

Turning to the patient, the doctor said, “Did you notice my dog? He's never been in this room before. He didn't know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here, and when the door opened, he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one thing.I know my Master is there and that is enough.”


Hemantha prefaced his e-mail message with these words:
“This really is the most beautiful explanation of death I’ve ever heard. Had to send it on to my family and friends.”

Farewell, dear friend. We who are on this side will miss you greatly. But you have crossed over. Enjoy eternity with the Master, in your heavenly body, perfect in every way.

Dilip Abayasekara


A much loved Aiya to many
D.J.V. Kannangara

Don John Vivian Kannangara left us to join the Lord’s Vineyard at a sudden and unexpected moment on February 28 this year. Affectionately called Vivian Aiya, he was married to my wife’s sister, Jasmine Akka.

Hailing from a respectable family in Grandpass, he and his elder brother Percy were carrying on their father’s business of tyre retreading. My father too was a close friend of Percy and Vivian and was engaged in the same trade. I knew them from my very young days and even attended his wedding, way back in 1968.

In later life, we happened to be members of the same social service organization, the Lions Club of Wattala. He was part of the club for nearly four decades, and at the time of his death he was its most senior member. During this time we became close friends, and my many visits to his house for social gatherings, ended up in my marriage to Jasmine Akka’s sister.

I still have fond memories of the surprise party that was organized to celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary of Vivian Aiya and Jasmine Akka two years ago. Meticulous planning of the event by their only child Dilini and son-in-law Shalana, together with cousins was proof of the affection and love we had for him. He enjoyed that event and was talking about it proudly until his last day.
I still cannot get over his last moments in life when at my invitation he came for lunch to my house with his family. He was hale and hearty and was enjoying those few hours with us discussing politics in good humour. In the evening, he bade goodbye to us and left with his family. As the car left my premises, just outside my parapet wall he suffered a sudden heart attack and passed away immediately which gave a shock to all of us.

Vivian Aiya had no worries in life. He lived a full and happy life in an exemplary manner. With his quiet and unassuming way he always gave his best to his family and the family he joined. He was a popular figure in Wattala and the large crowd that attended his funeral bore ample testimony to this fact.

He was a devoted husband to his wife, Jasmine Akka, a loving father to his only child Dilini and son-in-law Shalana, and a loving grandfather to his two grandchildren Dilinthi and Shalintha.
Personally, I considered him as my own brother and though three months have passed since his death, it is difficult for us to come to terms that he is no more.

“Good Night sweet prince, and may the hosts of devas sing thee to thy rest.”
May the turf sit lightly on you where you rest in peace.

Chandra Fernando


Sunday Times June 27, 2010

A respected public servant, loyal friend and true family man

Piyasiri Gunasekera

It was with shock and sadness that I heard of the death of my dear friend of more than 60 years, on the morning of June 8. He had called me just five hours earlier. He was in his usual jovial mood, and discussed a subject close to his heart – cricket. The focus that night was a match showing on TV.

I first met Piyasiri (Siri to friends and colleagues) in January 1950, when I joined Mahinda College, Galle. Siri had joined a few years earlier. Because of the war, he, like many Colombo school students at the time, had left their city schools (he was from Nalanda College) to join an outstation school. We were both boarded in the school hostel.Siri was the fourth in a family of five, from the well-known family of D. G. Gunasekera, of M. Y. Hemachandra & Co (Talawakelle) fame. They were born and bred in the village of Denipitiya, close to the southern coast town of Weligama.

In 1955, after passing the SSC in science, Siri joined the Technical College, Maradana, to follow a course for draftsmen. In the interim, he clinched a job as a planter. After obtaining a diploma from the Technical College, he joined the Agriculture Department, and served in several stations, including Kandy, in the late 1960s.

I too happened to be in Kandy, working for a commercial bank. We resumed our friendship, after a break of several years. This friendship continued right up to his death.

Siri served the Agriculture Department with dedication for more than 30 years. He was Assistant Engineer at the time of his retirement. As a public servant, he served with integrity. He had an absolutely clean record with the department.

Siri was a helpful and likable person, and made friends easily. He was sought after at parties and get-togethers. He was a good singer. Some of his favourite songs were “Iskole Hamine”, “Suraliyaku Wage Sobana”, “Bilinda Nelawe Ukule”, as well as popular bailas. Siri told me his mother would get him to sing the last of these songs. I believe she wanted to think back on her son’s early childhood days.

He had an abiding interest in cricket, although he had very little to do with the game, either at school or afterwards. Although he played soccer with distinction as a student, he was more interested in cricket as an adult. He was looking forward to the Asia Cup and the 2011 World Cup, both to be played in Sri Lanka.

Siri had many friends – from school, the Agriculture Department, and from among his neighbours. In his last years, he lamented that he had only a handful of friends left in the world. I was one of privileged few. He mourned the loss of friends such as R .C. R., Dammi, Ranjith, Sarath Perera and Frank Perera – who were also friends of mine.

He was deeply attached to his family – his wife Mandrani and daughters Budhima and Radeesha. Some years ago, Mandrani was seriously ill with brain fever after returning from a teaching stint in Nigeria. Siri was by her side day and night, right through an ordeal that continued for more than two weeks.

He gave his two daughters a good education and left each a house in Nugegoda. On several occasions Siri told me he was a content and happy man, now that his two daughters were happily married (to Channa and Harim) and doing well in life. He had four grandchildren – two girls and two boys.

Little wonder that Siri was a happy man. He told me he could die peacefully, with a smile on his face. This is exactly how it was on that morning of June 8.

I extend my heartfelt condolences to his wife, two daughters and his extended family.

Cyril Jayasuriya


Officer who loved peace but was pushed towards war died with his boots on

Colonel Nizam Dane

The whereabouts of Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Nizam Dane of the 10th Battalion of the Vijayaba Infantry Regiment, was not known for hours after fighting broke out. It turned out he had been hit by guerrilla fire. A weekend newspaper described him as the senior-most officer to die in the ongoing operation.

That was back in 1997, at the height of Operation Jayasukurui, conducted by the military to wrest control of the Vanni from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Lt. Colonel (posthumously promoted Colonel) Nizam Dane, affectionately known as Raja Dane, and his men from the 10th Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment (VIR) were holding ground at the forward defence lines (FDLs) at Periyamadu, off Omanthai. In the darkness of night, wave after wave of LTTE cadres mounted a fierce attack on the artillery positions. The soldiers fought back, but realised the opposition was too formidable. When they received orders to retreat, after the FDLs were overrun at several points, they managed to remove the artillery batteries, but with great loss of life.

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Raja Dane did not make it back alive. When the Army mounted a counter-attack and forced the Tigers back, they found the 10th VIR Commanding Officer propped up against a tree trunk, one hand holding his beret to his chest – his boots still on.

“With boots still on” were favourite words with Colonel Dane. He would say, “My only wish is to die with my boots on.” The Almighty granted him his wish. Nizam Dane died in action on June 24, 1997.It is 13 long years since he left us, and I still struggle to find the right words to describe the man he was.

All I can say is that Raja was a dedicated Army officer, a loving husband (to Eileen), a dedicated father (to his only offspring, Romola), and a doting grandfather, even for a brief period.

In my long association with him, I rarely saw him lose his temper, but he did get angry with me once. It was during a discussion, one of so many, on finding a solution to the ethnic or terrorist conflict. I made the mistake of asking why he, a Malay, was fighting in a conflict between two other races. I vividly remember his response.

“This is our country,” he said, with animation. “Whoever fights, it’s the future generation that will suffer. We must fight, if necessary, for our children’s sake. Mind you, it has to be a political solution at the end. The leadership to fight to a finish also should be political.”

Today, after the brave armed forces have destroyed the LTTE, the question remains: Where do we go from here? Raja Dane touched the lives of the top brass and the ordinary soldier.

“Apey Sir nitharama positive,” his troops would say. That phrase had great significance. In the military, “Apey Sir” carries much weight. It meant that Raja was “one of us” – someone who belonged to the troops. Raja was also loved for his positive take on life.

Time was of the essence for him. “Do it now”, he would insist. True to his Geminian character (not that he believed in astrology), he had many irons in the fire at the same time.

When I talked about astrology, he would dismiss it as bunkum, but he would prod me for more! How else to explain a good soldier who opted to be a voluntary officer without joining the regular force? He wanted to be on the move, he needed space. He gave up a teaching career and a comfortable office life with Mercantile Credit Ltd to be a soldier. He was with the 5th Artillery in Jaffna, Mannar, Gampaha, Colombo and Batticaloa.

For a period, he served as secretary to the North East Governor, General Nalin Seneviratne. Raja was with Military Intelligence before he was seconded to the Vijayabahu Regiment, which he commanded until his death at Periyamadu, in Omanthai, during the Jayasikurui Operation. (And, if I am not mistaken, it was one of the Vijayabahu regiments that recovered the body of the Tiger leader.)

Raja Dane never talked about his military operations. To ask him about any of that was like trying to pluck a feather off a tortoise. But once in a while he would give us that “desperately-need-to-know” tidbit.

A man who loved peace but was pushed towards war – that is as close as I can get to describing Raja Dane. He departed fighting – a fitting end for a true soldier.

He would not have wanted to be assassinated by his foes. That much I know through my experience with my friend, partner, companion and brother-in-law, Colonel Raja Dane.

Now, as we enjoy the peace that has followed the war, it will be even more difficult to forget Colonel Tuan Nizam Raja Dane, and all those like him who paid the supreme sacrifice.

T. B. Singalaxana


Dear Sir – you were Principal, and friend

S. G. Samuel

’Tis three months since you said goodbye,
Leaving friends and all quite stupefied;
No use, though, to heave and sigh,
For ’tis Nature’s law we all must die,

But you left us so very suddenly –
We knew not of your malady;
If only we had shown we cared,
Of this great grief we would be spared.
Helping hand you lent to foe and friend,
In times of grief you gave us strength;
Dear Principal, Sir, our mentor, our friend
How sorely you are missed, words cannot tell.

Teachers and students of Majeediya School Male

A doctor who had his heart in public service

Dr. Hugh Cecil Dias

It is just over a year ago that Dr. Hugh Cecil Dias passed away, but the memory of him is still fresh with his family and friends. We miss him greatly.

Cecil came from a prominent medical family in Colombo. Early in his school career he developed a strong interest in horticulture, but eventually followed in the footsteps of his brothers and qualified as a medical doctor.

After his initial hospital training, he joined the Colombo Municipal health service. His mission was to serve the local community. He could have joined the lucrative private sector, but his allegiance was to the public health sector.

He rose rapidly in the municipal health service. His administrative skills were recognised early and he was appointed head of the Colombo Municipal Dispensaries. Here he did a thorough job of keeping the books clean and avoiding the pressures of big pharmaceutical companies. He had a good future in health administration.

However, mindful of his growing family and the uncertainties prevailing in Sri Lanka in the Seventies, he decided to seek safer pastures and emigrated to London, at an age when most doctors are planning for their retirement. He started hospital practice once again, with courage and determination.

He then entered the field of family practice in London and became a popular doctor with his patients and his partners. Cecil was the ideal family practitioner – never in a hurry and always concerned about his patients, and explaining their health problems in simple terms. This fitted in with his soft-spoken, patient nature, and his conscientiousness.

After retiring from family practice, he devoted his time to his family and close friends. He and Genevieve raised a close-knit and devoted family that has been a second family to us. Cecil’s children have inherited Cecil’s and Genny’s kind, humble, considerate and unassuming ways.

Their home has always welcomed us. Cecil would entertain us with his charming smile and ready wit. We will miss his kind and gentle ways. He was such good company.

May his soul rest in peace, safe in the arms of his Saviour.

Dr. S. De.S


Sunday Times June 20 2010

Soft spoken, genial and generous-hearted neighbour

Chandra Ranasinghe

In the midst of life we are in death. This is so true in the case of Chandra Ranasinghe, who passed away suddenly, in his sleep, a victim of cardiac arrest.

The people of Kadawatha will bemoan the untimely demise of a much-loved and respected resident.
Chandra spent his childhood days in his native place, Galle, and was a student at a leading educational institution, where he excelled in his studies. He was also a keen sportsman.

After leaving school, he gained employment in the state transport sector as a field officer. To better his prospects, he went to Dubai where he worked as a tractor operator at the Dulsco Refinery Company, where he soon rose to the position of foreman. After eight years of service in Dubai, he returned to his motherland.

Chandra was soft spoken, sober and genial. He went out of his way to help others. He had friends from all walks of life. He was a popular figure at all family get-togethers and parties.

Chandra was a loving husband to his wife Mallika. His two sons and daughter will miss their beloved father, who was a tower of strength to them.

K. H. Sriyanthika Prasadini


You were a father, our best friend, and biggest champion in all our endeavours

Amal Fernando

It is with both great sadness and pride that we write these words of tribute in memory of our late father, Amal Fernando. He passed away on March 22, 2010, after a brief illness.

Three months have gone by, but his departure is still like an awful dream. We cannot believe he has left us forever. We miss him deeply. Not a day passes that we do not think of him.

We knew Thaaththi had an uphill battle. Ammi and the two of us did our best to take care of him. He was loved by all for his remarkable ability to appreciate life’s positives, and he maintained this positive outlook to the very end.

Thaaththi had a positive impact on people, and he lived a life we can look back on and be proud of. He was someone whom others admired. He believed in enjoying life and living it to the full, every moment of his life.

He was a humble person, with a heart of gold. He was always ready to help anyone who needed his assistance. The number of people who came to pay their last respects to him, and the calls, the e-mails, the flowers and the cards we received from all over the world were simply overwhelming. These were testimony to the person Thaaththi was.

You were not just a father, but also our best friend and our biggest champion in all our endeavours.
We all love you very much, Thaaththi, and we know you will be looking over us from the Kingdom of God.
There is a big void in our lives for the present, but the thought that we are on a short journey on this Earth brings us comfort.

The sun will always shine, but never as brightly as before. Until we meet again, may you rest in peace, Thaaththi.

Primal and Chamil Fernando


You were one in a million

Indrani Pieris

Unforgettable,
You were one in a million,
A rare gem on earth –
Pure, serene, cool and calm,
Your genuine ways gave you charm.

Ever helpful, always caring,
Kindness made your heart so light.

In the sky of the faith you were,
A star that shone most pure and bright.

Never did you ever hurt,
The feelings of another’s heart;
Simple, charming, full of grace,
Super human were your ways.

A mother to me you were,
Since the day I lost my mother -
A pillar of strength you were to me,
When we had to work together.

A heart of gold stopped beating
That fateful day,
Leaving another heart weeping,
She had no words to say.

You have left this world –
Never to return,
Leaving a void never to be filled,
This earth lost a precious gem
The day I lost you.

They say time heals all sorrows,
And helps us to forget.
But time so far has only proved
How much I miss you yet.

Indra Siriwardhana


Beloved Devinuwara lady was a mother to everyone around her

Seela Fernando

Our beloved Amma passed away one year ago, on June 4, at the age of 82. She was the fifth in a family of three boys and five girls.

She hailed from Devinuwara. My father, the late Samuel Fernando was a retired banker and strict disciplinarian. Our family comprised four boys and four girls. Amma was very proud of all of us. We grew up the hard way and we are all doing very well in life, thanks to our beloved parents.

Amma was a favourite among our friends, relations and neighbours. She was loved by all. She was a generous lady, with a heart of gold. She loved taking a lead role and being in the forefront of family gatherings, weddings, almsgivings and the like. She never missed any of these events.
We miss you, Amma.

You were a mother to your own children, who adored you, and to everyone around you. Whenever we meet, we fondly recall memories of you and the past. Your name is mentioned at all our religious activities and family gatherings.

May you be born amongst us once again, with the blessings of the Triple Gem and all the merits derived from all the pinkamas held in your memory.

May you attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana.

Your loving children


First Sri Lankan woman to take feminist theology seriously

Pauline Hensman

Pauline and Dick. Dick and Pauline. You couldn’t think of one without the other, so that in writing about one of them it is impossible to exclude mention of the other. Two people who truly loved this country and considered themselves Sri Lankan, they were held in high esteem and affection by Sri Lankans of every community, creed and class.

Both of them, she a Burgher and he a Tamil, worked untiringly all their lives to break down barriers of ethnicity, religion and class distinctions and it tore their hearts to watch helplessly as the war escalated and a widening divide loomed between Sinhalese and Tamils.

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Dick, who appeared to be the sturdy one, taking care of frail-looking Pauline, went first, in 2008. How Pauline survived his loss, I don’t know, but her daughter Rohini has said that her Mum smiled much less frequently in the two years that followed. They had been married for 61 years. Both were teachers of English par excellence and their pupils at Bishop’s College and St. Thomas’s respectively, regarded them with deep affection and also with something akin to veneration.

I didn’t have the privilege of being a student of either, but I have heard them being extolled to the skies by some of those they had taught. Said one of them: “Pauline was probably the greatest teacher I ever had and she worked so closely with Dick that he too became my teacher in a way that it was difficult to separate what they did. They were a completely harmonious team.”

That was how I saw them too, although in a different context. I was moved by their genuine and ongoing concern for people, their acceptance of the under-privileged as human beings who equally deserved access to the good things of life of which the middle and upper classes seemed to have a monopoly. This was evident in the simple lifestyle of their modest home in Sri Dharmapala Road, Mount Lavinia, where the door was always open to the poorest of their neighbours as much as to all their many friends.

Alongside that, was also their total commitment to working to bring about an understanding of the ethnic problem and to bridge the divide between the two major communities. As in everything else, they were of one mind on this too. Pauline was the middle child of James Swan who was a Foreman in the Railway Workshop at Maradana, and his wife Erin. The Swan family worshipped at St. Paul’s Church, Milagiriya, as did the youthful Dick Hensman. At some point, Dick started giving tuition to Pauline’s younger sibling, her brother Edward, and that’s how he met Pauline at close quarters and they fell in love.

This was at a time when “mixed” marriages were rare and neither family was thrilled about the romance. But their love flourished amid opposition and eventually both sets of parents accepted the inevitable and Pauline married her “Dicky” in April 1947.

Pauline was a graduate of University College, Colombo, as was Dick. Pauline’s first teaching job was at Holy Family Convent, Dehiwela. Later, both of them taught at Dharmaraja College, Kandy. They moved to Colombo in 1948 and Pauline started teaching at Bishop’s College, Colombo, her old school, while Dick did the same at STC.

They didn’t, however, identify themselves exclusively with the English-speaking elite, but with all people, especially the disadvantaged and poor. Rohini says, “We children felt completely at home with their diverse group of friends from all communities, whom we called `Uncle’ and `Aunty’ and treated as relatives.”

Christians both of them, there was no incongruence between what they professed and how they lived.
The Pauline I knew appeared to be a calm person, although one who passionately espoused social issues. However, I learn from her daughters that, unlike their father, “Mum had a hot temper and you could always tell when she was angry!”

She was fiercely opposed to injustice and oppression and evidence of this incurred her wrath. She was apparently quite fearless, too, as an early incident in her life that has gone down in the annals of family history, proves.

When she was a young girl, an alcoholic man who had evidently harboured a grudge against Pauline’s mother because the latter had stood by his wife and rebuked him when the distressed wife came to her, once forced his way into their house in a drunken state, brandishing a knife and made straight for Mrs. Swan and thrust the knife in her face. The young Pauline jumped forward and bit his hand so hard that the assailant had to withdraw in agony. A couple of Mrs. Swan’s front teeth were lost in that encounter in which she might well have lost her life too, were it not for her intrepid young daughter’s instant intervention.

When I came to know her, Pauline always wore saree (generally rather carelessly draped), and she gave the impression that she had weightier matters on her mind than mere outward appearance. Dick and she did retreat to England from time to time when things here became too painful to contemplate.

I believe they went away in 1958 and again in the 1990s, but they always came back because this is the country they regarded as home and which permanently engaged their hearts. They were here for the tragic events of July 1983. I learned from Rohini that a trusted Sinhala friend “whose mother had saved their lives in 1958,” stood guard at their gate, but the mobs did not sight the the Hensman home.
Pauline co-authored with Dick a book on English teaching in the late 1950s, “The Better Way to English”. With advancing years, she wrote articles and discussion papers on the ethnic conflict and on theological issues in which she had become keenly interested.

She was, perhaps the first Sri Lankan woman to take Feminist Theology seriously and she expressed her belief in its validity both verbally and in writing.

I am indebted to a close friend of Pauline’s for a copy of a book by Pauline entitled “TO MERCY, PEACE AND LOVE” – Reflections and Notes on Social Transformation and Theology, published in 1993. The title was taken from William Blake’s poem, “To Mercy, Pity, Truth and Love.” It is a work that deserves our attention as much today as it did 17 years ago.

Pauline was a founder-member of the Women’s Ecumenical Theological Fellowship in 1982 and also a member of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians and the Sri Lanka Association of Theology.

In her introduction to the book, Pauline has written: “I passionately believe in the causes I have been espousing, and perhaps the book will be at work when I no longer am……..The articles and talks selected here were the spare-time work of a busy mother, teacher, housewife, grandmother, neighbour, churchperson and citizen who took these roles seriously.”

That certainly sums up who she was. I was familiar with Pauline in some of those roles, but her children had left the nest when she and I became friends. I knew she was devoted to her two daughters, Rohini & Savi, and her son, Jimmy, but I had not personally witnessed this aspect of her multifaceted life.

I asked Rohini about Pauline, her mother, and she said: “Savi and I see Mum as a strong, intelligent and capable woman, but also an extremely loving and caring person who provided a role model for us.”
On that final day of her life on May 21, 2010, which ended after a losing battle with aspiration pneumonia, she was unconscious when her three children stood by her bedside. Says Rohini: “I believe she sensed we were there with her.

“We spoke to her, sang to her and prayed over her, later kissed her goodnight and told her how much we loved her. She breathed her last, not long after.

”The end was totally peaceful and painless, her forehead smooth and her eyes closed as if in sleep.”
Rest in peace, dear friend. Your children rise up and call you blessed – and so do all of us in whose bright and fond memories you will forever remain.

Anne Abayasekara


Sunday Times Jun 6 2010

CV and Sheami: Candles in the wind

Clement Victor and Sheami Gooneratne

There are some events in life that are too horrible to think about, when even happy memories bring little comfort. When you lose people in one hideously cruel blow, you will live in shock and denial for years to come.

Such was the case with C. V. and Sheami Gooneratne, whose warmth, bubbling laughter and goodness were cut short by a suicide bomber 10 years ago.

Reams can be written about the couple’s illustrious public life. My wish, however, is to share vignettes of their sporting life, and highlight what a delight they were on and off the playing fields.

Let us start with the “Deduru Oya herd”. In the early Sixties, a herd of elephants was running wild in that area. Meanwhile, here in Colombo, another herd was running wild in the field of girls’ school athletics: the Bishop’s College relay team was taking on the invincible Ladies’ College relay team. The Bishop’s team lived up to its name as the “Deduru Oya Herd”: not only did they destroy their nemesis, Ladies College, they also smashed the public schools record.

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The “herd” that won the 4x100 and 4x 200 relays comprised speedster quadruplets Gillian Ingleton, Valerie Lieversz, Sheami Gooneratne and her twin sister Kanthi Gooneratne. Whether they rampaged like elephants was a subject for locker room discussion, but they did win, and in style.

Sports writers were swept off their feet. Records tumbled. Sheami was the Bishop’s Athletics Captain. She excelled in sprints, long jump and hurdles. Fast on her feet though she was, she was not too fast to escape the amorous run and tackle of CV, the six-foot Royal College ruggerite, and later company executive, and finally Cabinet Minister.

The discipline and regimentation CV’s father, the late Major L. V. brought to the Gooneratne home is part of Dehiwela folklore. That’s how the boys CV and Jed were made into men.

As captain of the Royal side, CV got through the rough and tumble of the game with a wonderful mix of fun and humour. His exploits as a sportsman reflected in his leadership in the mercantile sector, as an executive at Hayleys, and then as a successful and much-loved politician.

Puggy, as CV was fondly called, played for the CR&FC as both wing forward and Number 8. He earned the nickname “Corner Flag” because as lock forward one of his duties was to secure the corner flag. This focus on the corner flag meant he was safe from getting messed up and mixed up in the mauls. Asked about his dodging tactics, he would say, “I rise above the fray and focus on the goal” --- a truism that distinguished him as a statesman.

There was, of course, the mischievous side of CV. Mohan Sahayam, his partner in fun, recalls how CV once suggested to the CR& FC ground secretary that it might be a good idea to put the fertiliser in the well. This way, the fertiliser would come out via the sprinklers, and you wouldn’t have the job of laboriously spreading the stuff on the ground by hand.

That evening, the ground secretary is said to have dumped 50 bags of fertiliser in the well. CV had to give up club rugby early in his career because of a torn cartilage in his knee. He then formed the MCC – Members of the Cartilage Club. This cartilaginous MCC boasted a large membership that included Mahes Rodrigo, Malcolm Wright, Kavan Rambukwelle, Lal Senaratne and Mohan Sahayam.
With his eloquence, CV was a star attraction at the Old Royalists’ Annual Rugby Dinner, where he proposed many a toast, while the Dom Perignon Champagne flowed.

Entry was strictly limited to Royal First XV ruggerites. For years the debate raged as to how CV got his closest buddy, “Doc” Maghalingam, whose only involvement in rugby was as a spectator, into this exclusive annual dinner. Always ready to defend the underdog, as he did so well in politics, CV spun a story that when Doc Magha played as “hooker”, he was instructed by CV to beware of the “feet up rule”. According to CV’s story, Magha kept his feet firmly planted to the ground in the scrum and thereby conceded possession to Trinity.

During another of his toasts, CV recalled how “old boy” Dr. Sunil Wickremasinghe was attending to a supposedly concussed Trinity player. As a test, the doctor asked the player whether he could remember the score. The player muttered the right score, “10/4 Royal.” The doctor said: “Son, you can get back on the field, but you had better not remember the rest of the match – simply look ahead”, adding “Respice Finem” – the Trinity College motto, which translates as “Look to the End.”

In Parliament, CV never missed an opportunity to promote sports. While in the Opposition, he championed the Bill to set up the Duncan White Foundation, to Prime Minster Ranasinghe Premadasa’s dismay. Apparently, Mr. Premadasa was upset that the Bill had not originated from the Government side. Once again, sportsman CV rose above the fray.

Whenever CV visited Washington, he did our country proud. He was the quintessential communicator. Washington culture has a tendency to discount most politicians. You have to make your mark to be credible and effective. For Cabinet Minister CV, standing tall was no stretch. He elevated the profession he was proud to call his own.

There was always – always – the light side, the quality that endeared CV and Sheami to everyone. There were stories galore. Here is one: the couple arrived at my Bethesda, Maryland, home in 1999, baggage and all. When the bags were opened, a strong smell swept through the air-conditioned house. It was the unmistakable smell (some would call it aroma) of arrack.

CV’s eyes were shining, but he was clearly embarrassed. He knew he was in a Muslim home. So he questions Sheami, who says: “Clement, what can I do? I put two bottles of arrack for Burriya [her brother-in-law] in the bag and now they are broken.” CV looks round the room and exclaims: “Now see what you have done – even the Koranic inscriptions on the wall are shuddering.”

In Parliament, CV’s eloquence and sense of humour delighted members. The CV-A.H.M. Azwer interactions are part of Parliamentary lore. During the famous Air Lanka-Emirates debate, Azwer addressed the Speaker, saying: “Sir, I first greet that red handkerchief and then my friend Mr. Gooneratne.”

Cracks CV: “You have nowhere else in myself to greet?”“No, Sir,” shoots back Azwer. “I have never gone the wild way that Oscar went.”

Shoots back CV: “Sir, I am afraid my friend Azwer may soon try an Oscar Wilde if his focus goes wild.”
CV and Sheami had a large global network of friends. Despite being accustomed to the bright lights of high places in Sri Lanka and the world’s capitals, they valued simplicity. They would entertain their constituents every morning in their home. They called it the OPD. They would have a quiet drink with Himendra and Saroja Ranaweera in their Talangama home, or visit the hospital to see ailing constituents, or visit the homes of the bereaved to console them.

It is now 10 years since the couple left us. It is hard to imagine CV without Sheami and Sheami without CV. CV was a politician who had the courage of his convictions, and he was a straight bat. Such politicians are rare.

And rarer still are those politicians who, like CV, can stand above the horizon like a star and help the rest of us to raise our sights.

Sheami stood by that “star” and made it brighter.
To paraphrase Elton John:
“For it seems to me they lived their lives
Like candles in the wind:
Never fading in the sunset
When the rains set in.”

CV and Sheami knew how to take and give a tackle. One can picture them in Seventh Heaven, enjoying Paradisal Bliss.

Ten years ago, on June 7, 2000, CV and Sheami Gooneratne were killed in an attack by a male LTTE suicide bomber. The tragedy occurred on the Galle Road, near Soysapura, in Ratmalana. CV was leading a War Heroes’ March that day.

M. V. Muhsin


Dynamic lawyer and champion of lost causes

Nihal K.M. Perera

My brother Nihal died on May 20 and was cremated within 24 hours, in accordance with his wishes. There was no obituary notice, and he had said that he did not wish to be subject to a public viewing.

Consequently, many of his relatives, friends, colleagues and clients did not know about his death until later. Some who had heard about his demise came to the funeral parlour.

A sad ending for a much celebrated lawyer. Nihal studied at St Joseph’s College, Colombo, where he showed journalistic and oratory skills even at a young age. At 15, he published a book of short stories titled “Makulu Della”.

After leaving school, Nihal read for his LLB degree. He edited the Ceylon Business Law Journal during the latter part of his law studies, and pretty much wrote all the articles himself for the journal. He was a brilliant writer, in both English and Sinhala.

Nihal was a dynamic lawyer. He was known as the “short firebrand of the Crown” in the early Seventies. Subsequently, he joined the unofficial bar and set up practice, first in Chilaw and then in Colombo. His chambers were in the Galle Face Courts, in Kollupitiya. He had a very good and lucrative practice.

He was a champion of lost causes, finding solutions for seemingly unwinnable cases. It was sad to see someone who had once been a vibrant lawyer lying helpless in a hospital bed, tubes connected to his body, unable to speak, eat or drink. He remained in this state for about two months, before succumbing on the evening of May 20.

Ananda M.N. Perera


Extraordinary Aunty June taught us duty, love and loyalty

Junette Audrey Tissera

I have always felt that writing appreciations about people who have passed on is a pointless exercise. The subject cannot read your praises. But we still write appreciations – for the bereaved, for family and friends, and for ourselves.

We write to share grief, to celebrate a life, and to remind ourselves of the impact the departed have had on our lives. Self-indulgent though appreciations may be, they have a cathartic value.

But appreciations are also written because they will not be held back. They write themselves. This is especially true of those unforgettable individuals who have left an indelible mark on our lives.

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I write this appreciation because I will never forget Aunty June. Her son Dirk and daughter Simone were childhood friends of mine. Her husband, Uncle Michael, is one of the finest persons I have had the privilege of knowing. Simone married my oldest and most trusted friend, someone I have known since kindergarten, at S. Thomas’ College, further reinforcing the bonds between her family and myself.

Aunty June was the kind of person who was always there for you. That sounds like a cliché. But she was much more than that. She was the kind of person who stood steadfastly by you when your whole world was collapsing around you.

She expressed herself plainly, and she spoke truths you were afraid to hear. She was a devoted wife and mother, and she rejoiced in her grandchildren in the way a woman who has lived a good and full life can. She was proud of her whole brood, and watched over them all. Motherhood was the essence of her being.

No person whose life was touched by Aunty June and her remarkable personality can be indifferent to her passing. Her death has impoverished us – her beloved family, her friends and all those lost souls she took in, to nurture and to set right on life’s journey.

Aunty June lived a good life, and the person she married is a greatly respected gentleman, someone who cared for her and loved her to the end. They shared a lifetime of happiness, and raised children who have grown up to be people of great heart, integrity and high ideals, full of grit and determination. Like their parents, they are simple but rare human beings.

The hallmark of the Tissera family is that they are staunch and loyal friends. Something that struck me at Aunty June’s funeral was that there was not a politician present – only friends, relatives and decent people whose lives have been touched by the Tisseras in one way or the other, always for the good.

I myself have been touched by their kindness and humanity, especially at a time when my world seemed to have fallen to pieces around me, and few wished to acknowledge they knew me. Aunty June and the Tissera family stood by me stoically. Thanks to them, I did not want for comfort or friendship. I will forever be grateful for their warmth and loyalty.

Aunty June often came to see her son play for St. Thomas’. The joke (exaggerated) was that everyone present on the field, and even outside, knew the moment her son Dirk got out, because they would hear her start her car, rev up the engine for all to hear, and roar away. That was how closely she was involved in her son’s career.

Uncle Michael captained the national cricket team. But at no time did either Uncle Michael or Aunty June plan careers for their children. All they wanted was that their children be decent human beings and responsible citizens, and this in a country, and at a time, when parents will leave no stone unturned to further their children’s interests.

That was not how the Tisseras operated. When Aunty June revved up the engine of her car, it took her away from a bad moment, but it also possibly helped Dirk get on a little further in his career.

Aunty June left her mark on our lives in many ways. She honed our values and she taught us to take life’s ups and downs in a sensible way. Through example, she taught us duty, love, responsibility and loyalty – lessons I learned as a boy and that have served me well as a man in times of adversity.

We will miss Aunty June, her unique personality and her bubbly personality. Extraordinary people rob us of words to describe them when they go. We are poorer, all of us, and especially Uncle Michael, Simone, Dirk, Varuna and Sueli, for her loss.

I wish them strength and the protection of the Good Lord.

Krishantha Prasad Cooray


A tribute to a lifelong friend

Ranjit Jinasena

Ranjit would have been 65 on June 4. He passed away on November 8, last year. He was four months older than I. We had been friends for well over 50 years. Ranjit was an exceptionally gifted individual.

He was born to a family of engineers, who were pioneers in their particular field. Ranjit like his three brothers studied at S. Thomas’, Mt. Lavinia, and then went on to study engineering at the Loughborough University in the UK. However he did not stop there.

He studied finance and gave leadership to the phenomenal growth of the Jinasena Group, and then became an information technology expert, a computer analyst and programmer of great distinction.

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At STC, he was never considered a genius, but there was indeed a streak of genius in him which blossomed much later in life. He was actively associated with stage lighting for the STC Drama Society and typically enjoyed the backstage job! He was associated with the famous rocket launch on the big club grounds of the college in the early sixties. He did much of the work but remained in the background and allowed the brilliant guys in the science stream, who were the official ‘rocket team’ to enjoy the launch failure!

When he took an interest in any particular area of work or subject, he mastered it and became an expert and an authority in that particular field. I remember when he took an interest in Christianity and the study of the Bible very late in life, he became such an authority on the Bible, that he put many of us who are supposed to have studied the Bible from our childhood to shame.

Some years ago he and his wife Nilanthi were invited to get involved in raising badly needed funds for the Ceylon Schools for the Deaf and Blind with two schools in Ratmalana and one in Kaithadi, Jaffna. This they did together with some equally dedicated friends drawn from the business community and those with interests in motor sports, another passion of Ranjit’s. They made a huge contribution to the improvement of education in these schools.

If leading a fund raising group came naturally to him, it was his contact with the schools and the children that inspired him to do everything possible to help these children in their education and future careers and to improve the quality of their lives. He was a compassionate individual who was deeply moved by the stories of these children.

He realised that more can be done for the education of these children. Given the necessary support, he was convinced that these students can excel and compete as equals with children who did not have such disadvantages. In his usual thorough style, he made it his business to find out and learn how best sight and hearing impaired children are educated in other parts of the world.

He made contact with organizations and individuals involved in similar work throughout the world, and was able to bring these resources to these schools to benefit the children. The innovative use of information technology, an area in which he himself was an expert and the development of computer software have opened many new opportunities for these hearing and sight impaired children.

Software was developed in Sinhala, and multi media methods used to teach in both the School for the Blind and the School for the Deaf. The software that was developed was so successful that it was nominated for the “World Summit 2009” awards, and was adjudged winner in the category “ e – Inclusion & Participation”.

Ranjit was always in a hurry, and wanted everything ‘done yesterday’. He had told some of us about 4-5 years ago that with his health problems he did not think he would live for more than another two years. This was perhaps one of the reasons for his impatience. I count Ranjit among my closest friends, a friendship spanning as I said before over fifty years. But even this lifelong friendship was sometimes under strain because of his commitment to the special schools at Ratmalana and Kaithadi. He was forthright in what he had to say, and didn’t ‘sugar coat’ the pill even to a friend. He was firmly of the view that if you agree to be a volunteer for a cause then you take on a commitment, and can’t give excuses for not doing the job you volunteered to do.

In recognition of what he had achieved in Ratmalana, Ranjit had just been invited by the Special Education Unit of the Ministry of Education to implement these changes in other special schools (serving the sight and hearing impaired) in the island, and he had just begun this work when he fell seriously ill.

This is a huge blow to these children with such special needs. He was always generous, generous to a fault. Many were the occasions when funds had run out for a particular programme of work, and he very silently, made available his personal resources to continue this work. There are many young people, whom he supported and mentored over the years to educate themselves and develop their careers who are today very grateful to him. In recent years he paid special attention to former students of the School for the Blind who were encouraged to believe in themselves, and who made tremendous progress under his guidance. To them Ranjit’s death is a huge blow.

Ranjit was always blunt and some misunderstood this as arrogance. This was not the case. He was a quiet, compassionate man, almost shy, who never sought to be in the limelight, but it was just that even to those who were closest to him a spade would always be called a spade. This attitude was perhaps one he acquired from his genius father and the manner in which the father and sons ran their business. The Jinasenas typically maintained the highest standards in business ethics, and could never be influenced by people in authority to lower their standards. Not even the most powerful of politicians could do this.

They always stood their ground when they were certain they were right, and consequently probably lost a lot of business because they refused to give anything ‘under the table’.

Ranjit’s loss is felt by many and most by Nilanthi and sons, Suren and Chanaka. We hope they will find consolation in the fact that Ranjit will always be regarded as an outstanding human being who made a very real contribution to improve the lot of many people, and in recent years made a very significant contribution to improve the quality of life of sight and hearing impaired children and to give them hope for a better future.

Eksith Fernando


Sunday Times May 30 2010

Captain, may you keep flying high, wherever you may be

Captain P. Nadarajah

It was Christmas 2009. I was going through the Colombo newspapers on the Internet. I could not believe my eyes. Tears ran down my cheeks. I cried for several minutes. It was about Captain Panchalingam Nadarajah, fondly known as Panch to his friends and as Captain Nada to his colleagues at Air Ceylon. He had passed away on December 24.

I called the telephone number given in the obituary and spoke to his sons, Thaj and Nandha.
I came to know Captain Nada when I joined Air Ceylon, back in 1972. Eight months later I started working in the Flight Operations Department.

Words fail to describe what a nice, friendly, honest man Captain Nada was. His roots were in the North, and he came from a good family. He and his wife raised five sons, and all of them followed in their father’s footsteps, excelling in the field of aviation. Thaj and Nandha are both flying as captains, as I believe the others are, except for the last son, who did aeronautical engineering.

When I came to know Capt. Nada, he had been flying the DC-3 (Dakota) and the Avro-HS 748 aircraft as captain for a long time. Later, after lots of politics, the late Capt. Aussie, Capt. L. B. de Silva and Capt. Nada were trained to fly the Trident-Jet Aircraft-HS 121 as captains.

When the then operations manager, Capt. Ferdie, resigned over policy matters, Capt. Nada was appointed as operations manager. I worked very closely with him on crew rosters and other aspects of the Operations Department. I have only pleasant memories of working with him. Often, on arriving in the office, he would put his hand on my shoulder and say “Machang”, and ask how everything was in the department, and talk about this and that.

In a country where, and at a time when, aircraft pilots were regarded as demigods, Capt. Nada remained firmly a very down-to-earth person. What impressed me was his calmness and quietness. He never got angry with anyone who worked with him, and he was never bothered by what people might be saying of him. He believed in doing what was right, and he did it.

I vividly remember a couple of incidents during his time at Air Ceylon. In 1975 or 1976, an Operations Department colleague, G. A. Fernando (GAF), now Capt. Fernando, wanted his flying log book certified for his Air Transport Pilot Licence (APTL) exam by the Operations Manager. The two of us took a bus from Borella to the Operations Manager’s house in Layard’s Road, Bambalapitiya.

We were wondering how he would respond to us visiting his home, but he was very cordial. He made us comfortable and signed the log book for Mr. Fernando, who remained with the airline till it was forced to close down in August 1979.

I will always remember Capt. Nada for the advice he would give me from time to time. Whenever I went home back to Jaffna, and then got stuck for a seat to fly back to Colombo, most of the Captains would make it their responsibility to have me on the flight.

I would go as a passenger, occupying the jump seat, or stand in the cockpit, all the way to Colombo. Capt. Nada never failed to give me this privilege.

Capt. Nada is survived by his wife Chitra, sons Thajkumar, Nandakumar, Sureshkumar, Premkumar and Panchakumar.

He will be greatly missed by his family, friends, ex-colleagues at Air Ceylon – and everyone whose lives he touched. May his soul Rest in Peace. And Captain, may you continue to keep flying, high above the others, as always.

With love,

Blue Sivagnanasunderam


The chapter closes on a great matriarchal figure

Maggie Vitarana

My mother-in-law Maggie Vitarana who died on Tuesday, May 25, was a woman of substance. Even at the age of 102 she greeted everyone who came to see her with an “ayubowan” and passed on her blessings.

Maggie was a remarkable woman. We were all proud of her achievements. She raised her three sons to make a mark in society. Her eldest son, Nihal has contributed in his field of accountancy. With his wife Doreen and their three children (Shamini, Prassana and Dayanthie) and five grandchildren, he always ensured that his mum was well looked after.

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Maggie’s second son, Professor Tissa, who is married to Kamini with their son, Ranil and two grandchildren was always there to look after her needs even though Tissa who is the Minister of Technology and Science has a busy schedule.

My husband and I with our two children (Nivanka and Sonali) have lived in England for the past 38 years. Nalin was a civil engineer who followed the footsteps of his father, Albert. Both Nalin and I visited Sri Lanka regularly and have now returned for good. Sonali was fortunate to be able to participate in the celebrations of her grandmother’s 100th birthday.

Maggie was one of the first pupils to receive her education at Visakha Vidyalaya. Maggie was a great companion to her husband, Albert. Both followed their philosophy in Buddhism to the fullest. Alas my father-in-law, Albert, who was an outstanding civil engineer, left us at the age of 83.

Being a perfect human being may not be possible for all of us, though looking back I can confidently say that my mother-in-law was almost perfect. Their home was immaculate. She was always well groomed and entertained her guests with her culinary skills. In her spare time she crocheted and we have been given some heirlooms which we will treasure and pass on to the next generation.

Maggie has spread joy and love and shared pain and sacrifice. She never knowingly hurt anyone. Her husband Albert experienced a severe set back in life at a young age of 45. She was his strength and guided him until his death.

Maggie came from a family of five brothers and a sister. Uncle N.J. worked for the Colombo Municipal Council as a public health officer, Uncle N.S was a surveyor general, Uncle Peter a businessman, and uncle N.M. a former leader of the opposition, finance minister and leader of the LSSP. Aunty Annie was her only sister. Maggie survived them all.

I am sure Maggie’s sons, their children and grand children, family and friends would like to join me in saying a big thank you to Maggie for being such a grand lady and an example to all of us. She has left a vacuum in our lives and we will miss her dearly

May she attain Nirvana.

Sonia Vitarana


Charitable priest who was father to many

Canon Neville Douglas Amaratunge

The death of Rev. Fr. Douglas Amaratunge on June 1, 2009, after a brief illness was sad news and a great loss to his near and dear community and to us the Amaratunge family Fr. Douglas as we used to call him, with so much of love and affection, was a devout and committed priest of the Anglican Church.

As a parish priest in charge of Churches in the Colombo suburbs including Sri Jayawardanepura Kotte, etc, he served men, women, children and elders of the Christian faith delivering moving and interesting sermons and finding redress for their grievances.

Christians who lived in the areas he served in sought his advice when they were in distress. Fr.Amaratunge’s call to the Ministry with the Anglican Church took him to Calcutta to get more training in the Theological College.

His dream was to serve the people and his family through God’s love. He believed people should see each other as reflections of God’s image. He saw with the eyes of Christ that the largest field of charity outside the Church was the social field and he unhesitatingly took measures to help the needy.

Let’s bring, he said, a little sunshine and splendour into the lives of the people, by feeding, healing, soothing, and caressing them. He sacrificed his life for the betterment of his five sisters who lost their parents when they were young.

He was a father, mother and brother to all five sisters including me. He looked after us with great love and care, taking full responsibility of the family. My brother Douglas was a bachelor.

Though he is no more, he lives in our hearts and is remembered with love and gratitude for all he has done for his five sisters. The emptiness that I experience by his demise is at times unbearable.

May his soul rest in peace

Nita (sister)


Trailblazing industrialist and master of many trades

Michael Caderamanpulle

It is one year since Michael Caderamanpulle (Mike) passed away suddenly leaving all of his friends and loved ones in a state of shock and grief. The shock has begun to abate over time, but the sadness and sense of loss has remained undiminished. The sense of loss is indeed compounded when considered in a wider national context, recalling, as one should, the impact of his life and work on many vital sectors of the economy.

Looking back on an entrepreneurial career spanning over 40 years, one thing that stands out is that Mike was clearly destined to be a pioneer in many respects. Way back in the 1960’s , as a school leaver in his twenties, he founded the company named Ceylon Paper Sacks Ltd. and set up Sri Lanka’s first ever factory for making Multi-wall Kraft Paper Sacks. The new venture was an unqualified success, and with the profits generated he embarked on several other trading and industrial activities. In the course of this diversification he ventured into the hotel business and set up, in the mid 1970s, the first Beach Resort Hotel on the East coast, Hotel Club Oceanic, which was situated on one of the most spectacular beachfronts in Trincomalee and became one of the most popular and sought after resort hotels among European tourists for many years.

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Industrial packaging, the activity with which Mike started, remained his forte and first love, and he had many other firsts to his credit in this sphere. He was among the first to commence the manufacture of Woven Polypropylene Sacks in Sri Lanka , and the one and only manufacturer of High Density Polythene Knitted Sacks used for packing onions and other agricultural produce. In the non-packaging sector he pioneered the production of Cultured Marble Bath and Sanitary ware in the 1980’s.

The most important and outstanding contribution in the area of packaging was the innovative solutions Mike devised for the tea industry- which sadly are not sufficiently widely known. It will be recalled that what was used forty years back, for packing of tea for transport and shipping, were the then ubiquitous plywood tea chests. Today almost all teas are packed in paper containers of one type or another and almost all of the credit for this revolution in packaging of tea should, without any doubt, accrue to Mike Caderamanpulle.

At a time when plywood tea chests were hard to come by due to dwindling supplies and other factors like high cost and disposal problems were beginning to emerge, he had the foresight and audacity to introduce Multiwall Kraft Paper sacks as a substitute for tea chests. The innermost wall of the sack was laminated with aluminum foil to provide the required moisture and odour barrier to preserve the freshness and flavour of the tea. The use of paper sacks gained acceptance over time and paper sacks came to be used along with plywood tea chests.

One of the main disadvantages of the paper sack introduced originally was that it was not suitable for the packaging of large leaf teas which tended to get crushed by reason of the fact that the walls of the sack were flexible and so tended to cave in when stacked on top of each other. To overcome this problem Mike designed and crafted a paper sack using Kraft Liner Board for the sides and incorporated other features to enable it to retain the brick shape when filled and stacked. He obtained a patent for this paper sack under the name of “Container Pack” which gained acceptance by the tea trade. After further trials he designed and patented an improved version under the name of “Rigid T-Sack” which was much more cost effective and acceptable for the packing of large leaf teas.

These containers were developed after a great deal of preparatory work and trials conducted in consultation with the Ceylon Tea Traders Association, Tea Research Institute and others concerned. These were landmark innovations which enabled Sri Lanka to lead the world in updating and modernizing the way bulk tea was packed. The new containers have enabled the tea trade and industry to cope with ever increasing volumes of tea in circulation. All in all it was a lasting contribution which will remain unsurpassed for a long time to come.

Although packaging was his main interest and professional pursuit, he had a wide range of leisure time activities such as orchid growing, rearing of exotic birds, and even wild-life photography for which he developed a passion after his early retirement from day to day management of his business activities. Some of the stunning pictures of leopards in Yala and tigers in Indian wildlife parks which he produced during this phase bear vivid testimony to his boundless creativity and versatility.

A.B. Elkaduwe

 

Sunday Island May 23 2010


Michael Caderamanpulle

Tribute To A Friend And Gentleman

Michael was born on September 5, 1941 and carried to the arms of his maker on May 20, 2009. He studied at St. Benedict’s College, Colombo. He was a Vice Patron of the College Old Boys Union until the time of his death. He was a great benefactor of the college and helped his Alma Mater whenever the occasion arose.

The writer knew him as a schoolmate and close friend of his brother who passed away in July 1989. My wife and I were on a brief holiday in Sri Lanka and met him casually.  We talked of the old times and much inebriation with good scotch, parted. On a subsequent visit to Sri Lanka when I contacted Mike I learnt that he had lost control of the very lucrative business he single handedly built in the manufacture of cement bags to a particular level of competence. To this day his patented inventions make a fortune to keep about 200 people employed.

Michael was not one who could ever give up. He had an enormous capacity for invention and started another undertaking the success story of which is known to a few of his close friends of whom I enjoyed the privileged of being one. His invention has contributed about 40%  saving of paper which in turn saves the environment and trees. He was able to talk on any subject and was a voracious reader. When he wanted a book which tickled his fancy he bought it irrespective of the cost and bought a second because he thought another would also benefit with that kind of book. His heart was as large as his mind.

He could not suffer fools and had many a time tried to correct those individuals in a curt manner. His former employees especially those of the minor grades had a great fondness for Mike. Even after leaving his employ they would pay him a visit and they never left empty handed. He has paid for the education, hospital bills, and weddings of his employees. On one occasion his old school Director asked him for a discount to buy an Organ and parted with a gift of the Organ.  He took pleasure in helping the under privileged often saying that “If not for the grace of God, we would be where they are”.

He used to dote on his grandchildren and love little children as he found them innocent and unspoilt, “like angels,” he would say.

Mike was an impressive entertainer. Food was always prepared the ‘Mike way’. Many were the times when his guests praised him for the perfection of his culinary art. He put to shame the ladies who sat around the table savouring ‘Mike specials’. His favourites were jumbo prawns and plump crabs which were specially selected and delivered to him by a trader whom Mike helped to set up in business. He had a knack for selecting top quality and serving the best though he himself would be content with a crab claw or the beef curry prepared by my cook. He would make the most hilarious statements and send the whole house into spasms of laughter. Mike would always insist on making his crab curry for our birthdays. This went on even when he was ill. He would never take no for an answer. These special generous actions so thoughtfully planned and done by him can never be forgotten.

He had an excellent selection of orchids, birds and  aquarium fish. Due to lack of space and care he was forced to present these to friends. The only bird – an African Gray he kept with him would make the sound of my car alarm  as soon as I parked indicating to Mike that I was at the door. This bird has now taken residence in our home.

We got very close to Mike after his retirement as we (my wife and I) too were retired. We would go quite often to Yala and Wilpattu to visit the wild life parks and take photographs. We have between the two of us an enormous collection of photographs of the animals and birds of these places. Mike also used to visit India and South Africa where he had taken some stunning photographs.

Each trip had to be meticulously planned as we very often lived in the wild life bungalows and catering had to done for 8 to 10 people including the three of us. Those were the most enjoyable days of our lives. As Mike used to say we enjoyed the humble surroundings and were cut off from the world  for just a few days – a tremendous relaxation and balm for body and soul. We would never neglect saying our prayers either at night or during the day. Mike would always carry the Rosary, the picture of Mother Mary and a copy of Psalm 91. This can still be found in his briefcase which is in my possession until his son collects it.

We were going abroad on May 14, 2009 and as usual we had dinner with Mike the night before.  Our flight was late evening and Mike called me that morning and said he was coming to my place for lunch. This was unusual as neither he nor we would never visit each other on the day of travel, unless ill and going abroad for treatment. On this occasion he was quite hale and hearty. He left after lunch  and I walked him to the car. Before getting into the car  he said “So I will not see you for four weeks.” I found that strange and immediately replied that time will pass quickly.  He gave me a stoic smile, got into the car and left.

When we got the news that Mike had passed away I got back to Colombo. On my return to Colombo I was led into the living room by his son Sherhan and instead of the warm hug we used to exchange whenever we met it was my warm body against the cold corpse of my dear friend MIKE. Rest in peace my dear; we will not stop praying for you till we meet again in the sweet by and by on that beautiful shore.

MP


Sunday Times May 23 2010

Renounce the world before the world renounces you, said scholar monk and mentor

The Venerable Dhammavihari Thera

(The venerable monk was former Professor JOTIYA DHIRASEKERA of the University of Peradeniya, the University of Kelaniya, and the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies) Listening to the sermon given three months after the passing away of the Venerable Professor Dhammavihari Thera, I was reminded of the day the scholar donned the robes of a Buddhist monk. The commemoration “pinkama” was held at the Narada Centre, where Ven. Dhammavihari Thera spent close on two decades in the service of the Sasana.

The monk giving the sermon was Koswatte Ariyawimala Thera, who was the late professor’s pupil at the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies. He recalled the first sermon the Bhikkhu Dhammavihari preached as a monk.

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The day was May 18, 1989. I looked on as Dr. Jotiya Dhirasekera stepped down from his “kutiya” and walked along the uneven footpath lined with pine trees. His head was shaved and he was dressed as an “upasaka”, in white banian and cloth. His look that day was a complete contrast to the figure he had cut as a smart young lecturer on the Peradeniya Campus.

We would see him come down the steps of Jayatilaka Hall, where he was a sub-warden, immaculately dressed in a full white suit, climb into his light-blue Triumph Mayflower, and drive off to conduct his next Pali class.

I was not his pupil in the strict sense of the word. The majority of us did not study Pali. But he did teach us many a lesson on how to lead a good, law-abiding and peaceful life.

As fresh undergrads, we could be restless. We had complaints, mainly about the food. On a couple of occasions, we walked in procession to the warden’s office carrying empty soup plates in protest! But not after Dr. Dhirasekera became our sub-warden. He would listen to us, discuss our problems with the senior sub-warden, Dr. S. Vithiyanathan (who later became Vice-Chancellor of the University of Jaffna), and find a solution. He taught us to be patient and tolerant.

Our complaints rarely reached the warden, Professor Gunapala Malalasekera, who had a completely different approach to problems from that of the previous warden, Professor J. L. C. Rodrigo. Driving his Volkswagen, Professor Malalasekera would arrive in the evening, park his car under the porch, get down and sit on the steps. “Kiyanawa ko thamuselata thiyena prashna” [tell me your problems], he would say. That was enough for us. We instantly forgot our “problems.”

Dr. Dhirasekera would quietly observe us from a distance as seniors ragging freshers. As long as we did not go “over the limit”, he did not mind. He knew we would not let him down. The worst we would do to a fresher was give him a “bucketing”, and only if we felt he was a “little too much.”

He was loved by his pupils. In a note in the Felicitation Volume compiled by the Sri Lanka Association for Buddhist Studies (2005), his one-time colleague, Professor N. A. Jayawickrema, wrote that Dr. Dhirasekera was one of the most popular teachers during his time.

“He was admired by his students for his elegance and dynamism as well as for his lively and stimulating style of teaching. Though his speciality was Vinaya Studies, he earned a very high reputation for his deep understanding and lucid teaching of different aspects of Buddhist civilisation, especially the aesthetic philosophy of Buddhism.”

Professor Jayawickrema described Dr. Dhirasekera’s study, “Buddhist Monastic Discipline”, which earned him his PhD, as “an excellent research work.” The study was regarded as an authoritative exposition of the subject, covering its salient features in minute detail and drawing on primary Pali, Sanskrit and Chinese sources.

With his deep knowledge, he was the obvious choice to succeed his guru, Professor Malalasekera, as Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopaedia of Buddhism. He was later invited to serve as the director of the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies, at the University of Kelaniya. His service at both institutions was hailed as “outstanding.”

He was always keen to disseminate the teaching of the Buddha in its purest form. In keeping with the intention of the Most Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayaka Thera, at whose feet he was ordained, Ven. Dhammavihari worked hard to establish the Buddhist Information and Research Centre. (The Sarana Road centre was put up in memory of Narada Maha Thera.)

Using the computer and IT facilities, he and Bhikkhu Mettavihari worked with a group of students from around the world. He would provide answers to their questions on a regular basis, via Mettanet, a website set up to propagate the Dhamma.

He was invited to attend international symposiums, and his contributions were widely acclaimed. He spoke with great satisfaction of his meetings with the Dalai Lama, and renowned teachers, such as the meditation guru Ajahn Brahmavamso. He also contributed to many scholarly journals. When he passed away, several manuscripts were found in his laptop. Many who knew his value made good use of him, while others were simply unable to understand him.

He was a great lover of nature. He turned a little patch of ground behind his room at the Narada Centre into a pretty garden with lots of greenery. He would do his “sakman bhavana” there, or he would take a chair and sit out, sipping plain tea with his companion, Bhikkhu Mettavihari.

I was privileged to associate with him for many years, and upto the very last. Our friendship goes back to the days when I was a student at Ananda College, and he was a temporary teacher awaiting his final-year examination results.

I treasure a piece of advice he gave me when we met at Bolawatte, a few days before he donned his robes:

“My friend, renounce the world before the world renounces you,” he said.

D. C. Ranatunga


Remembering a beloved champion of Chilaw

James Charles Welikela (Jim) Munasinha

James Charles Welikela (Jim) Munasinha was born on February 21 to Francis and Angelina Munasinha née Ameresekere of Meda Walauwa Madampe, in the North Western Province. The youngest in the family, he had four older brothers and a sister.

After completing his secondary education at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo, he returned to his hometown where he became involved in social service. During the Second World War, he was actively involved in the co-operative movement in the area. He launched a paper-manufacture industry using “borupang”, a type of grass found in the wetlands. He also set up a school of weaving to train village girls in handloom production.

He took to politics when the Madampe Town Council was established and was elected as its first chairman. During his tenure, the local authorities set up two housing schemes in Madampe, one of the country’s earliest housing schemes. He contested the first election in 1947 as an independent candidate, but was unsuccessful.

As an active member of the Sinhala Maha Sabhawa of the late S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, he hosted the annual convention at his residence in 1951. It was on this occasion that the famous Madampe resolution was adopted. In fact, several resolutions were passed at this convention, and the Sinhala Maha Sabhawa decided to ask the United National Party (UNP) to incorporate these into the UNP’s programme. The UNP decided against these proposals. Mr. Bandaranaike resigned from the Government on July 12, 1951, and formed the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on September 2 that year.

At the 1952 April elections, held just seven months after the formation of the SLFP, Jim Munasinha contested the Chilaw Electorate and lost to Shirley Corea by 52 votes. In the subsequent election, held in 1956, he won and was elected to Parliament to represent the Chilaw electorate. He was appointed the Chief Government Whip, in addition to being the Junior Minister of Industries and Fisheries. In 1959, when Philip Gunawardena and his group left the government of Mr. Bandaranaike, he was appointed as the Minister of Industries and Fisheries. He was also the party’s General Secretary.

During the short time as the Chilaw electorate representative, he launched many development projects, including the Wilpotha and Katupotha colonisation schemes, the powerloom textile factories of Kaakkapalliya and Madampe, and the Bangadiniya state tile factory.

The floods of 1957 caused extensive damage to the area, and patients in the Chilaw base hospital had to be moved to other hospitals. The difficult situation prompted Jim Munasinha to propose setting up a new hospital for the area. Land was acquired for the purpose in Madampe and plans were drawn up for a central hospital, as Madampe is about 40 miles from Colombo, Puttalam and Kurunegala. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike laid the foundation stone, but work never got underway, because of the political changes that followed. Today, only a small Ayurvedic hospital stands where there was to be a central hospital, and it is surrounded a vast area of unused land.

Unlike today’s politicians, Jim Munasinha did not appoint kith and kin to high government offices, even if these people had the required qualifications. He stopped his brother from being appointed to a post in the Judiciary, although he was a Barrister-at-Law, qualified in England, and with a special degree in social science, which was a requirement. (Instead, the job went to a person who was expressly sent to England to qualify for the post.) In 1950, when he was chairman of the Madampe Town Council, Jim inaugurated a housing scheme that was opened by the then Minister of Local Government and Housing, the late S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike.

The scheme was named Bandaranaike Pura. After Jim Munasinha’s death, the Madampe Town Council chairman, the late Segu Dawood Ibrahim renamed the road leading to the ancestral Munasinha residence as Jim Munasinha Mawatha, and a housing scheme built during Mr. Ibrahim’s tenure as town council chairman was named Jim Munasinha Pura.

Nihal Munasinha


Ambalangoda will greatly miss one of its favourite sons – the humble Baappa

Hendirik (“Baappa) Kariyawasam

That Saturday it rained cats and dogs in Colombo. I was in Borella, waiting to attend the funeral of “Baappa”, as Hendirik Kariyawasam was affectionately known to everyone in Ambalangoda, Hendirik’s hometown.

Alas! When I went to Woodlands, home of the Senanayake dynasty, Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake’s youngest grandson Rukman told me the funeral had taken place that morning, and that everyone was asking where Buddhika was.

As I was unable to pay my last respects to a man I greatly admired, I thought the next best thing would be to write an appreciation of him.

In the early ’70s, the late Mr. Dudley Senanayake asked me to run for Parliament from Ambalangoda. I declined, saying there were three people who were better suited for the post. I named them in a letter to the “Lokka”: the first was the highly respected Ambalangoda Urban Council chairman and former MP, Dr. M. H. Saddhasena; the second was Mr. S. G. A. de Silva (“Arthur Uncle”); the third was Baappa – Hendirik Kariyawasam. All three men have departed the land of living, Baappa being the last to go.
Hendirik rarely went home to Ambalangoda, but he kept in close touch with the people – so much so that he always won Ward No. 4, Hirewatta, of the Ambalangoda Urban Council, gaining the highest majority for as long as he contested that ward. He also served as vice-chairman of the Ambalangoda UC. Although he did not reside in Ambalangoda, he never neglected his duties as a city father for Ambalangoda.

Hendirik was the family retainer of the Senanayakes. Although nominally he was Uncle Robert’s chauffeur, he virtually ran the house, especially after the demise of Aunty Neela. He would tell me how he used to cart the Senanayake boys and their friends to S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia, adding that my friend Ranil Mendis was the “thug” of the lot, always fighting with the others.

Hendirik was also sent to the family estate with the pay every month. He helped the Senanayake household in many ways. When Uncle Robert’s elder daughter got married, it was Hendirik who brought the famous Porolis Baas from Ambalangoda to do the “poruwa”. When Ranjini’s daughter Irushi got married, it was again Porolis Baas who did the poruwa. The bride’s father told me they wanted to make it a tradition. When Porolis Baas died, he came all the way to Ambalangoda, in pouring rain, to pay his last respects.

The Senanayakes never treated Hendirik as a domestic. Until his death, he was well looked after. He was very frail in his last years. He was the “primus inter pares” among the rest of the domestic staff, and they addressed him respectfully as “Ralahamy.”

When people from Ambalangoda visited Baappa, he accommodated them in his annexe at the Walauwa, feeding them and even giving them the bus fare to go for job interviews and then to go back home.

Dudley Senanayake, who lived next door to Woodlands, counted on Baappa to run errands for him. He never used his influence with the Prime Minister to further his own ends. Instead, he appealed to the PM to help others. I remember how he championed the cause of Stanley Senanayake, when Stanley had a problem, and helped Stanley become Inspector General of Police. “Stanley Mahaththaya is the son-in-law of our Kularatne Mahaththaya [P. De S. Kularatne, former MP for Ambalangoda], so we must help him” was what Baappa said.

When he retired from local politics, Baappa continued to give his full support to the UNP. He was a tower of strength to me when I (successfully) contested the 1989 riot-clouded Parliamentary Elections. When he retired from contesting the UC Ward at Hirewatta, he nominated K. S. Richard Silva, a highly respectable fisherman, as the Hirewatta candidate.

In those days the counting of votes was done in the polling booth itself. The Hirewatta polling booth was the Methodist Mixed School at Maha Ambalangoda, two doors next to my house.

Early in the morning, we saw Dudley’s Pontiac approaching the polling booth. The car was flying a green flag (at that time you could fly flags). Thinking we were being honoured by a visit from our beloved leader, we flocked to the booth to welcome him. Lo and behold – Baappa was at the wheel of Dudley’s Pontiac and majestically seated in the rear seat was our very own K. S. Richard Silva, the man who once went out to sea for a living, perched precariously in a fisherman’s canoe.
With Baappa’s blessings, K. S. Richard Silva enjoyed record majorities, and he too ended up as a vice-chairman of our UC.

The annual Esala pageant in Ambalangoda, the Modara Devale procession, always had the active support and blessings of Baappa, who provided the elephants for the festivities. He was also a livewire of the Punyawardhana Samithiya, the society that organised the Vesak celebrations in Ambalangoda.
Baappa will be greatly missed on all these special occasions, and at many other social events in my hometown.

A bachelor, Baappa looked after the needs of the many families in the village. His visits to Ambalangoda were much looked forward to, especially by the children, to whom he was “Father Christ”.
May Baappa attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana.

Buddhika Kurukularatne

 


Sunday Times May 16 2010

Mapping the life of a fine man and outstanding Surveyor General

Dr. T. Somasekaram

Retired Surveyor General (SG) Dr. T. Somasekeram passed away a couple of months back. A man for all seasons, the late SG was a surveyor par excellence, brilliant scholar, writer, and much more.
Between his birth in Jaffna and death in Colombo, in a life spanning more than the Biblical three score and ten, Dr. Somasekaram did much in the service of humanity.

I wish to pen a few lines in praise of this learned man with whom I had the privilege of associating for quite a long period, both in the metro and in the Institute of Surveying and Mapping, in Diyathalawa.

Soma, as he was affectionately known to his close pals, graduated from the University of Ceylon in 1956 with a BSc, which paved the way for a long career in the Survey Department, which he joined the following year as an Assistant Superintendent of Surveys. After training for one year, he went to Cambridge, England, and on his return, in 1967, he was promoted to Superintendent of Surveys.

From here his rise was phenomenal. In 1971, he was promoted to Assistant Surveyor General, and two years later to Deputy Surveyor General. The new appointment made him head of the Institute of Surveying and Mapping.

A UN fellowship in 1976 took him to the University of Ohio, in the US, to do his MSc, specialising in geodesy and cartography.

I had the privilege of working under Dr. Somasekaram both at Diyathalawa and again back in Colombo, in the ’80s.

I continued to work under him as Assistant Secretary to the Secretary of the National Atlas Committee, where he was chief editor. Our relationship was strengthened when his daughter, Mrs. Jayanthie de Alwis, and my daughter-in-law, Ms. Pabasara Mahaarachchi, played together on the Hatton National Bank netball team.

The Sri Lanka Atlas – the first of its kind – was Soma’s brainchild. He excelled as chairman of the atlas project, co-ordinating the manifold activities required for the massive venture. In 1990, he was awarded the Sri Lanka Sikhamani.

Dr. Somasekaram was a member of the Canadian Institute of Geomatics, and he was president of the Surveyors’ Institute of Sri Lanka. He was also president of the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS), and participated in many international seminars. He served as Surveyor General in 1991 and retired the following year.

He was a strict disciplinarian, brooking no nonsense. Desultory work displeased him. As a workaholic, he made us extra energetic. His organising skills earned him the admiration of many. His students at the institute learnt the disciplines of geodesy, astronomy, etcetera, and discipline itself. He did much to liven up things at the Diyathalawa survey camp, which would otherwise have been a dull place. He organised club nights, film shows and variety entertainment.

Men and women of different ethnic and religious backgrounds lived in amity at the Diyathalawa camp. Even during the years of communal and other conflict, when education institutions across the island were closed because of the insurgencies of Sinhala terrorists and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Institute of Surveying and Mapping was the only place of learning that remained open. That speaks volumes of a man who could rule when misrule was everywhere, and who was a member of a minority community himself.

Despite standing six feet tall and possessing a robust physique, Dr. Somasekaram suffered from asthma. The salubrious climate of Diyathalawa did not suit him.

In his retirement, he kept himself busy with publishing work: his many publications include Arjuna’s A-Z Street Guide; the Travel Map of Sri Lanka; Facts About Our Land; The National Atlas of Sri Lanka; the Students’ Atlas, Sinhala and Tamil, and Surveying Stories. He was chief editor of the last four works.
Dr. Somasekaram was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, UK, in 1998, and conferred a PhD (honoris causa) by the University of Jaffna in 1998. He was vice-president of the Organisation of Professional Associations of Sri Lanka (OPA) from 1985 to ’91.

He had a good sense of humour, and enjoyed a game of bridge, counting among his bridge pals the chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force based in Diyathalawa.

His heart was as large as his physique. He never refused a favour and he empathised with people who had troubles.

My little son died on Christmas Day, 1976. Heartbroken, I went to the incumbent Surveyor General, Mr. S. J. Munasinghe, and asked for a transfer. Mr. Munasinghe contacted Dr. Somasekeram at the Institute of Surveying and Mapping, Diyathalawa, to ask whether he would take me in. Dr. Somasekeram immediately created a vacancy and asked that I be sent there. That was the type of man he was.

Irresponsible academics once accused Dr. Somasekeram of drawing the map of Sri Lanka in favour of the Northerners. They later realised how wrong they were. In his long career, Dr. Somasekeram was never guilty even once of displaying or harbouring ethnic sentiments. He was a great Sri Lankan Tamil. He would not tolerate division among colleagues.

If the surveyors ever showed a superior attitude towards the cartographic draughtsmen, Dr. Somasekeram would make sure the two teams came together and worked in a spirit of amity.

He organised a felicitation to mark the 83rd birthday of the former Surveyor General, the late R. A. Gunawardene, his colleague and mentor. The event was a huge success, attended by academics and former Surveyors General. I wrote about the event for this newspaper. May Dr. Somasekeram attain Divine Bliss.

Leonard R. Mahaarachchi


Six years on

Malathi Jeyaseelan

Six years on
Yet so vivid in our minds
Is your smile, the sparkle
And twinkle in your eye.
You took time to listen
To encourage and guide,
Your faith was the cornerstone,
A true friend who inspired.

A hug to show you care
Many a roti you did share;
Tears filled your eyes,
Whether you laughed or cried.
You were a beacon to many,
And did your brothers proud
As you lived the teachings
Of Christ personified.

Your three best boys –
Christie, Andre and Joel –
Were nurtured and loved
As dear hubby and sons.
We know you live on
In their hearts and minds.
They are richer by experiencing
The wonderful woman that you were.

The little ones at Framjee
Just loved you, they did;
You taught with such passion
And often went beyond your call.
As a Sylvanna to girl guides
And warden of the hostel
Each child received
Love beyond measure.

Malathi, thanks for the memories
That fill our days;
You were a wonderful friend,
Still dearly loved by us all.
We thank God for a life
Of giving and caring,
And try to remember
As we strive to do the same.

Your Colleagues at Methodist College Primary


Uncle’s commitment to profession and family life was exceptional

Hendrick Samarasekera

Hendrick Samarasekare was my eldest paternal uncle. He was born in Devundara, in the deep south of Sri Lanka, and grew up in Matara.

He was the eldest in his family, and in true Sri Lankan tradition, assumed special responsibility as the eldest sibling. The welfare of his brothers and sisters, and even of his many nephews and nieces, was always uppermost in his mind, even after he moved to Australia.

He lived to a ripe old age, enjoying the loving attention of his wife, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter. He migrated to Australia mainly to be near his only child and her family. In Australia, he made many friends to. Until his granddaughter entered her teens, he would accompany her to school daily. He was very happy to see her grow up and become a wife and mother.

My uncle worked in the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications in Sri Lanka for 36 years. On his retirement, the Secretary to the Ministry had this to say of his service and commitment: “Mr. Samarasekera retired from the position of Assistant Post Master General (Administration), which post he had held with ability and distinction for the last two years.

Altogether he counts 36 years’ service in the Posts and Telecommunications Department, and throughout his long career he has excelled in both accounting and administrative functions.

“The stupendous task of clearing the backlog of work in the Money Order Department, which was hopelessly in arrears, is a lasting monument to his untiring efforts and singleness of purpose. By his skill, he was able to lay bare a large-scale M.O. fraud during this period, which is testimony to his integrity.”

His devotion and commitment to family life and to his profession was exceptional. His was a life of Dana, Sila and Bhavana. He was kind, generous and loyal.

May his sojourn in Sansara be short.

Manori Samarasekare


Cambridge salutes a brilliant and affable Lankan academic

Professor George Dissanaike

This obituary appeared in the ‘Association Newsletter and College Record 2009’ of Downing College, University of Cambridge.

George Alexander Dissanaike died on July 4, 2008, shortly after his 81st birthday. He was Professor of Physics Emeritus at the University of Peradeniya (formerly, the University of Ceylon) and a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Physics, Sri Lanka.

He was also a past President of the Institute of Physics. George entered the University of Ceylon as an undergraduate in 1945. After graduating with a BSc degree in Physics in 1949, he was awarded the Ceylon Government University Science Scholarship for postgraduate studies at Cambridge.

George came up to Downing in 1950 as a research student in experimental nuclear physics. He had fond memories of Downing.

He represented the College in Badminton, and turned out for the second team. George spoke of having to use ten blankets to keep warm in the winter, and had vivid memories of the rationing just after the war. The College Kitchen staff used to give him an extra egg because he was from the tropics and needed additional energy to keep warm.

George obtained his PhD from the Cavendish Laboratory in 1953. On hearing of George’s death, his former PhD supervisor, Professor Burcham FRS, wrote to say, “George was one of my most able research students and collaborators. I also distinctly remember his deadpan humour and excellent command of the English language.”

Ceylon won her independence from Britain in 1948, and George belonged to a generation of Ceylonese academics who chose to return to their country to play a part in the development of her university system which was, incidentally, inextricably linked to Oxbridge. In fact, George’s association with the Sri Lankan university system spanned over 60 years.

Nevertheless, he also periodically held visiting professorships or faculty appointments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of South Carolina, and the Universities of Cambridge and Surrey. George’s publications covered nuclear physics and energy; the scattering of light, sunsets and air pollution; and science education.

He also published several papers on physics and biology, together with his parasitologist brother, Prof. Stanley Dissanaike, DSc (London). Many tributes were received after his death, of which the following are just two: Professor Sir Arnold Wolfendale, FRS and Astronomer Royal (1991–95):

“... a very fine man; a thinker and a very good physicist. His wise guidance will be missed by all – and there were many – who knew him.”Professor Anthony French, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA: “... an excellent scientist, a wonderful man and one of my oldest friends.”George’s wife, Vijayalakshmi, lives in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and his son, Gishan, is a senior academic at the University of Cambridge.


Sunday Times May 9 2010

Uncle played a major role in making Zahira College a centre for Muslim education

M. A. Bakeer Markar

As we remember Marhoom M. A. Bakeer Markar, former Speaker and Member of Parliament, on his death anniversary, I think of the lifelong friendship my uncle Marhoom Tuan Anver Jayah (Tony) had with Marhoom Bakeer Marker.

When I was admitted as a student to Ladies’ College, Colombo 7, I had to come to Colombo and live at my grandmother’s home in Kensington Gardens, Bambalapitiya, where my uncle Tony Jayah and aunt Marima Jayah lived.

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I vividly remember a regular visitor, whom I later came to know as Bakeer Uncle, from Beruwela. Bakeer Uncle was often accompanied by his cousin Shafie Uncle – Marhoom S. L. M. Shafie Marikar, former principal of Zahira College, Colombo 10.

Bakeer Uncle, Shafi Uncle and Uncle Tony would spend hours in our house chatting. They would be invited to stay for dinner by my aunt Marhooma Marium, whom they called Marium Datha (sister).
A great friendship developed between Bakeer Uncle, Shafi Uncle and Uncle Tony when they were students at Zahira College, Colombo, which at the time was under Principal Marhoom Dr. T. B. Jayah (Uncle Tony’s father).

Bakeer Uncle, a keen member of the All Ceylon Muslim League, would come to Colombo on the last Wednesday of each month, pick up Uncle Tony and go for the working committee meeting in Fort.
After the meeting, they would come back and sit on the verandah and discuss issues concerning the Muslim community. They were often joined by Marhoom M. H. Sufi Ismail, Marhoom A. M. Nazeer, Marhoom A. L. M. Hashim, Marhoom M. H. Amit and A. R. M. Zain and others.

My parents, Marhoom H. M. Khalid and Marhooma Fatima Khalid (Marium Jayah’s eldest sister), lived in Dharga Town, and Uncle Tony and Aunty Marium would go to Dharga Town for the weekends.
Uncle Tony would take us in his black Morris Minor to Dharga Town, and come back to Beruwela to meet up with Bakeer Uncle, Shafie Uncle and Razik Marikkar Uncle.

A few years later, Zahira College, Colombo, an institution close to the hearts of the Muslim community, was taken over by the state. Many discussions relating to the takeover took place at Uncle Tony’s house.
A “Take Back Zahira” campaign was launched and Bakeer Uncle, Shafie Uncle, Tony Uncle and many concerned Zahirians would join in the discussions. They organised protest meetings, filed legal action and finally succeeded in getting back Zahira.

A few months later, Shafie Uncle – an old boy and Principal of Zahira College, Alutgama – volunteered to be the principal of Colombo Zahira. Zahira College at the time had no funds. Bakeer Uncle and Shafie Uncle would come to Colombo, and with Uncle Tony they would visit Muslim philanthropists and explain to them the need to run Zahira College as a centre for Muslim education.

Shafie Uncle had by then convinced my aunt Marium Jayah, retired principal of Madharasatul Khairiya, Dematagoda, and many others to join the staff of Zahira. For lack of funds, Shafie Uncle and most of the staff earned paltry salaries for years, silently serving the community.

Later, Bakeer Uncle’s daughter Deena came to live at Uncle Tony’s and attended St. Paul’s Milagiriya. Bakeer Uncle would come to see Deena and sometimes take her home for the weekends and the long holidays.

Some years later, Bakeer Uncle was elected to Parliament as the Member for Beruwela. He would come on all Parliament days, dressed in full suit and proceed to Parliament.

On special days, like the opening of Parliament and budget speech days, Uncle Tony would go with him to Parliament. A few years later, Bakeer Uncle, Shafie Uncle, Tony Uncle and a few others from the All Ceylon Muslim League formed the All Ceylon Muslim Educational Conference. Shafie Uncle was appointed as chairman.

The organisation became a hive of activity, and many of the meetings were held in our house in Bambalapitiya. Bakeer Uncle was an active and vociferous member of the Zahira College OBA. He would come from Beruwela, pick up Uncle Tony and go for the OBA meetings.

It is laudable that the Bakeer Markar Foundation and the All Ceylon Muslim League Youth Fronts – inaugurated by Marhoom M. A. Bakeer Markar – continue to commemorate the death anniversary of Marhoom Bakeer Markar.

Fauzul Khalid Joint Secretary, All Ceylon Muslim League


A blessed sister who brought tranquillity wherever she went

Sister Joan of Arc

On Saturday, April 24, we lost a true follower of Jesus the Good Shepherd. She was Sister Joan of Arc.
Sr. Joan came from an affluent family dedicated to promoting the Roman Catholic faith. At a time when Catholic families thought it a blessing to have a family member serve the church in a religious order, Sr. Joan gave up much to answer a greater call by joining the Good Shepherd Order.

She began her education at the Good Shepherd Convent, Nayakakanda, and later joined St. Bridget’s Convent, where her mother had studied. Sr. Joan passed away on the very day the Order was inaugurating celebrations for the year of St. Euphrasy, founder of the Order.

Why Sr. Joan of Arc was so named is a mystery to me. Sr. Joan was not an aggressive leader, as her namesake and patron saint was. She was known for her quiet, unassuming, self-effacing and holy ways. She was not a leader of people, but an exemplary follower, without whose loyalty and dedication leaders would be lost. She touched the lives of many. Her simplicity and her ability to move with and serve the poor, the children, and the disabled was truly amazing.

Although she took holy orders and could not be with her dear relatives as much as they would have liked, all her relatives looked forward to family events such as weddings and holidays where they could partake of her infectious exuberance and joy. When a family member was going through a bereavement or a difficult time, she was a pillar to lean on. Her prayers were a comfort to all. A happy person, Sr. Joan could calm any storm and bring tranquillity wherever she went. No one could resist her quiet authority and calming influence. Her congregation will miss her as much as her loved ones.

The Good Shepherd community demonstrated its organisational competence and generosity in the way it took care of Sr. Joan in her last illness. She was 75 years when she succumbed to a terminal illness.

The care and attention she received from her congregation befitted the tradition of the Good Shepherd.
The world has lost a true Christian – someone who left behind wealth and comfort to seek a life of service. Sr. Joan’s contribution to society was gratefully remembered in an eulogy at her funeral rites.

May she rest in peace.

Franklyn


PC who fought his cases hard and long, but the fight was clean all the way

H. L. De Silva

I had wondered whether I should publicise my thoughts and memories about my senior, Mr. H. L. de Silva, President’s Counsel, but then, a few months ago, Amarasiri Panditharathna, Attorney-at-Law, invited me to write to the Law Journal published by the Kaduwela Bar Association.

I was told to limit myself to one A4 page. I limited my article to “Mr. H. L. de Silva the Lawyer”, without any reference to the private individual, my memories of whom are abundant. A year after his demise, I have been requested to send my article to the press.

When I first met Mr. H. L. de Silva, he was handling three massive election petitions simultaneously, the ones following the 1983 by-elections for the Kalawana, Akmeemana and Mulkirigala electorates. I marvelled at how he could handle so much work at the same time. He told me it was a matter of organisation and commitment. The late Deshamanya E. D. Wikramanayake, V. W. Kularatne, Gomin Dayasiri, Nimal Siripala de Silva, and Javed Yusuf and a few others assisted him in those matters, and he had great faith in them.

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From the very beginning of my pupilage, Mr. H. L. de Silva impressed upon me three principal matters:
The first was not to go after money, but to keep working on standards of excellence in one’s professional work. He did not crowd his day with cases and more cases. He limited himself to one case a day. Sometimes he took two cases a day, but only if both cases were to be heard in the same court room. He said a lawyer owed it to his client to read the brief from cover to cover, study every minute detail, and fully research all aspects of the case.

The second was that brevity is the essence of all good drafting. This is something he said over and over again. I once submitted a draft in a writ application, where the client was Walker and Sons. I had laboured for a couple of days over a dozen pages. I showed him the draft, and in half an hour he had whittled it down to three-and-a-half pages. His edited version was more forceful and more effective. The third was that the character ethic was more important than the personality ethic.

This he always maintained, while giving personality ethic its due place. The time I refer to was at least five years before the appearance of Stephen Covey’s book on the seven great habits of highly successful people.

Mr. H. L. de Silva fought his cases hard and long, but the fightwas clean all the way. His regular opponents were H. W. Jayewardene, QC; A. C. Gooneratne, QC; Eric Amarasinghe, PC; K. N. Choksy, PC; Nimal Senenayake, PC; N. R. M. Daluwatte, PC; L. C. Seneviratne, PC; P. A. D. Samarasekara, PC, and Faiz Mustafa, PC.

Those were the days when the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal worked both sessions, forenoon and afternoon, and real substantive work was diligently conducted by all concerned. My senior was at the top of it all, committed to the cause at the highest level.

Once an opponent, a comparatively junior silk, called one night and told us not to get ready for the following morning’s case, as he would not be able to come to court. My senior told me not to take the opposing lawyer seriously, saying he would turn up in court in the morning with some lame excuse to us and then tell the court he was ready for the argument. Morning came, and lo and behold the opponent was there, with his lame excuse and telling court he was ready. My senior was thoroughly prepared and minutes into the argument had demolished his opponent’s case. We have related this story often, withholding the identity of the opposing counsel.

A striking quality in my senior was his humility. Two good examples come to my mind. The first involved myself. I was then a complete rookie, just one month into my pupilage. My senior was handling a final appeal regarding a piece of gem land in Eheliyagoda and a writ matter involving a tea factory in Morawaka. He had given me the two briefs earlier, and I had prepared the summaries after doing extensive research. In both cases, D. S. Wijesinghe, now a President’s Counsel, was the retained junior. My senior and he put their briefs aside and used the “mini briefs” I had prepared.

The second was in 1991, or 1992, when my senior started winding up his Court of Appeal practice. When asked why he was doing this comparatively early in his career, his reply was that “the juniors must also come up”. He made special mention of the late Lakshman Kadirgamar, who rose to prominence and became a President’s Counsel about three and a half years later. H. L. de Silva has gone before us. He will tarry in the good place till, God willing, we reach it ourselves. May he rest in peace.

Aravinda R. I. Athurupane


Sunday Times May 2 2010

To Miss Moses, with love and gratitude

Faith Moses

My earliest memories of Miss Moses are of her at the piano, seated on a rotating stool, while we schoolgirls sang away lustily. She affectionately called us her “country bumpkins.” She faithfully served Girls’ High School, Kandy as a singing teacher for more than 30 years, bringing much joy and colour to the lives of the students.

We cherish our memories of rehearsing for Sunday service, carol service, English Day competitions, and so on. Together we say a BIG thank you to Miss Moses for her dedicated and loving service to our school, and in turn to us all.

However, it was only after I left school that Miss Moses became someone very special to me. By then she was “Aunty Faith”. She was loved by our entire “extended family”. She was always there for us, with her radiant smile and welcoming, loving voice – always bringing cheer and goodwill and never complaining. She gave whatever she had.

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She never said a negative or unkind word. She always looked for the positive in people, and so made each of us feel special. If we said we would visit her, she would have everything ready – food and drink all laid out, as well as finger bowls and serviettes.

One Christmas, a group of Girls’ High School teachers and students went to sing carols for her and the other ladies at Pandiwate. She had taken great trouble to have her home decorated and prepare food and drink for the girls. We enjoyed our special time with her. More than the girls energising Miss Moses, it was Miss Moses who energised us.

As I think of this wonderful lady, Aunty Faith, a passage from the Bible (Galatians 5: 22) comes to mind. It lists the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

These qualities – the fruits of the spirit of her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, whom she loved and served – shone brightly in and through her life of 86 years. I have learnt much from her simple, joyful life. Miss Moses was a living example of what Christ wants each of us to be.

I shall miss her very much, as will many others. I eagerly wait to meet her on “that beautiful shore” on the other side. She gave us much and blessed us abundantly by the way she lived her life. Her piano playing brought us good cheer.

Now, as she enters the Golden Gates, it will not be just a piano that will be played for her. There will be a heavenly choir of angels blowing trumpets, with joyous singing and rejoicing, and our Lord Himself will welcome her with open arms, saying, “Welcome, my good and Faith-ful Faith!”

Charmalie Abayasekara


Teacher, philanthropist and gentleman in suit and tie

W. W. Cletus Fernando

W. W. Cletus Fernando of “Mercylyn”, Second Cross Street, Marawila, passed away on November 29, 2009, at the age of 91. At the time of his death, he was being looked after by his two domestic aides, as his three sisters had predeceased him.

A teacher by profession, Mr. Fernando devoted his entire teaching career to St. Xavier’s College, Marawila. He retired in the early Seventies. He was a dedicated teacher and worked hard for the moral and spiritual upliftment of his pupils.

He was a Josephian and, like his revered guru, the late Rev. Father Legoc, regarded botany as his pet subject. He also taught English, Mathematics, Religion and Latin, and with equal confidence.

A gentleman in every sense, he was always in full suit and tie. He was a philanthropist and he helped all and sundry. A visitor to his residence will see two new houses on either side of the main house. These two houses belong to his domestics. He gave them two half-acre plots of land each and financial assistance to build these houses.

Mr. Fernando was a devout Catholic, and rarely missed Sunday mass. He was very much attached to his parish church at Marawila, and had a good collection of records and booklets relating to the history of the church. He also wrote a book on the miraculous statue at the Marawila cemetery.

He was an avid reader, had an excellent memory, and had made regular contributions to various periodicals. His last contribution was an appreciation of the Rt. Rev. Dr. Frank Marcus, the late Bishop of Chilaw.

May W. W. Cletus Fernando’s soul rest in peace.

Sidney Venturi


A teacher who made our lives sublime

W. D. Fernando

I was deeply touched by the appreciation sent in by ‘Ranee’ in memory of our beloved teacher, W. D. Fernando (Sunday Times, April 11).

The entire school, and our class in particular, loved WD for his warm, affable and understanding nature, and mostly because he was so different. It is hard to find teachers or people of his calibre.
… “they make our lives sublime,

and departing leave behind us, footprints on the sands of Time.”

T. L. A. Peiris


A true gentleman and gentle soul, loved by all

Dilshan Bandaranayake

Discovery Channel has a programme titled “Destroyed in Seconds”, which shows cars, planes, trains, etc, crashing, or tornadoes and floods playing havoc and causing much destruction. But you never see anyone die.

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Every week, when my wife and I watch this programme, we think of Dilshan and say, “Why did he have to die that fateful day – April 20, 2008 – while motor racing in Nuwara Eliya?”

The scenes we see in “Destroyed in Seconds" are far more devastating than the accident that killed Dilshan.

Dilshan had only one hobby – motor racing. His love for cars went back to his childhood. He was very fond of the “dinky cars” his father would bring him.

Dilshan was a very gentle person who never hurt anyone during his short life. Perhaps he was too good, and that is why he left us so young. When he addressed someone, there was always love in his voice. You just could not get angry with a person like him. He also helped the less fortunate, regardless of race, caste or creed. And he never talked about any good he did.

Dilshan was an honest businessman. Anyone in or around Kandy, and elsewhere, would tell you that. He never sought money, and he served everyone alike. His parents, his wife Niroshini, son Nilesh and daughters Kawya and Yenara, his relatives and friends, are still in shock over what befell this true son of Sri Lanka.

Sunil R. Wickremaratne (Sunil Baappa)


Nation Sunday Apr 25 2010

Appreciations

Professor Charles Dahanayake

Professor Charles Dahanayake, Emeritus Professor of the University of Kelaniya passed away a year ago after an unfortunate accident. To those of us who had the privilege of making his acquaintance, he was indeed a most warm hearted and an unassuming academic, a very special kind of person, a person of rare substance. Those who have had the good fortune to have studied under this great teacher have borne witness to his commitment which to many was undisputed.

Prof. Dahanayake had his early education in Galle and later at Ananda College from where he entered University. He obtained four distinctions at the University entrance examination, a record at that time. This brilliant student did Physics Special at the University, took a first class and won a Commonwealth scholarship to read for his doctoral degree at the University of Bristol where he came under a Nobel Laureate, the famed Physicist Professor Cecil Frank Powell. After completing his doctorate he returned to Lanka and joined the academic staff of the University of Peradeniya. While he was a Senior Lecturer there, he won a Smith Mundt-Fullbright Fellowship for post doctoral research at the University of Rochester, New York. He returned to Peradeniya in 1967 and in the same year moved to the University of Kelaniya where he established the Physics Department and accepted the position of Professor of Physics. In 1971 was appointed the first Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Kelaniya. He was also the founder president of the Institute of Physics of Sri Lanka and a founding member of the University Grants Commission. He was also a past President of the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science in addition to being a member of a large number of professional associations. Professor Dahanayake also had a number of publications to his credit and has worked with some of the most famous names in his field.

Despite this most impressive academic record his greatness lay in his humility, which was an example to us all. He was indeed unassuming to a fault. He was a Buddhist who lived as a true Buddhist should; rituals were not for him, Buddhism to him was Metta (loving kindness), Karuna (compassion) and Muditha (Equanimity) and its fundamentals tenets, Sila (morality), Samadhi (meditation and control of the mind) and Pagngna or the acquiring of understanding or wisdom through Meditation. He was after all a Scientist and a Physicist.
Though a year has passed since that fateful day, he lives on not only in the hearts of his wife, Tilaka, his daughters, Rachitha and Punitha and son-in-law Rohan, his immediate family, who will miss him most of all, but also in the hearts of all those who knew him, for we have lost a friend and an intellectual with whom we interacted with profit. He was indeed an inspiration to us all.

May he attain Nibbana!
K. Godage


Anotte Kusum Ranasinghe

A great loss to social service work

Mrs. Anotte Kusum Ranasinghe of Kuda Payagala, Payagala passed away recently after a brief illness at the age of 74.
She was a very reputed English teacher and an ardent Catholic social service worker in the area. She was a past pupil of Holy Family Convent, Kalutara and immediately after completion her education she obtained a teaching post in the same school owing to her talent.
In 1955, she entered to the Teachers’ Training College at Maharagama to follow a Special English Diploma Training Course and passed out. Subsequently she received her first government appointment at St Michel Convent in Baddegama.

Thereafter, she worked on the staffs of Aniththawa Central College at Epitiya, Payagala Bandaranaike Maha Vidyalaya and D. S. Senanayake Maha Vidyalaya at Massala, Beruwala.
On her early young days she was an enthusiastic, popular, pioneer worker of the Young Christian Movement initiated by renowned Reverend Fr. Siri Osca Abeyratne (OMI) and during her last stages she worked as a patron of the Death Donations Scheme at Kuda Payagala.

In fact, her sudden demise created a big gap in social service works as well as in Catholic religious works in the area. Besides, she rendered a yeoman service in educating the young generation irrespective of caste and creed.
May your soul rest in peace!

C. M. Kamburawala
Payagala


Sunday Times Apr 18 2010

Pioneer woman deacon who touched the lives of hundreds

Revd. Canon Malini Weerasinghe Devananda

Our friend Malini, who succumbed to a terminal illness, bravely fought her illness on the night of Sunday, April 11, 2010, the first Sunday after Easter.

Malini was a Weerasinghe, and through my Trinity College, Kandy links, I knew all of the Weerasinghes. But it was through her marriage to Sevaka Yohan Devananda that I first met Malini. I had known Yohan from my Peradeniya University days.

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When I was Registrar for the College, I was invited by our Ecumenical Seminary in Pilimatalawa to be the Director of Lay Formation. It was my responsibility to find housing for Yohan and Malini. It was then that I had the joy and privilege of meeting Malini.

My friendship with Malini could be divided into my Pilimatalawa days and my Colombo days. It was during my Colombo days that I truly got to know Malini the person. This getting-to-know process was mainly because of Malini’s wish to be ordained in our church.

I was part of the group that interviewed Malini for ordination. We have a rule that all those being prepared for ordination must work with a priest and a congregation. I invited Malini to help me with the Sinhala work at the Cathedral. Malini gladly accepted the invitation.

It was a joy to be a part of the group responsible for Malini’s ordination, along with three others as the first women deacons of our Church. This historic event took place on the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2003. As Diocesan Director of Ordinands, I continued to work with Malini and the other women deacons. My last official work with Malini was to see how Colombo and Kurunegala could work together to further education.

This tribute would not be complete without mention of Malini’s qualities as a deeply caring person.
One Christmas I was alone in Pilimatalawa, as my late wife and daughter were visiting family and friends in Bangkok, and Malini invited me over to Christmas lunch.

After my wife’s death and my daughter departure to America, I came to Colombo to work. Malini made it a point to come by at Kitu Sevana, where I lived, and invite me to her Nawala residence for a meal. A few days before my daughter’s wedding, Malini visited and asked if she could be of help. She was worried about me as a single parent coping with all the arrangements for my daughter’s wedding.

At the end of the sermon at Malini’s funeral service at the Cathedral, Bishop Duleep asked, “Where is Malini now?” The answer is that Malini is now with all those with whom she worked. Malini has touched all our lives. We must continue the work she began.

Our prayers are with Yohan and the Weerasinghes, and all those who will miss Malini in the days to come.

May her soul rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.

Sydney Knight


Thank you for your advice, guidance and friendship

Abeywardena Balasuriya

Silent tears rolled down my cheeks and I saw my husband sobbing – when on March 26 at 11.45 p.m. we heard the sad news of the demise of veteran singer/artiste Abeywardena Balasuriya.

I met Mr. Balasuriya and his wife Niranjala Sarojini 20 years back when I was working at Coca-Cola Company. Mr. Balasuriya handled the Coca-Cola musical shows successfully as he had an inborn talent for organising any event. I was privileged to have met him and Niranjala which paved the way for a life-long friendship.

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Mr. Balasuriya had many good qualities, one of the noblest being his willingness to help the less fortunate, irrespective of their caste, creed or race. I recollect the days when his mother was sick and he visited her at Chilaw even amidst his busy schedule.

As his mother was bedridden during the latter stages, he got a special bed with all the comforts and even got special clothes stitched to make her comfortable. When his elder sister was down with a terminal illness, he took her to his home at Maharagama and cared for her with Niranjala’s help, until her death.

The life led by Mr. Balasuriya and his wife is an example for all of us. Amidst the ups and downs of life, they were always very happy together, helping people around them. His love and care towards his family members were commendable.

Mr. Balasuriya was straightforward and outspoken. He was a man of principles, and whenever he saw an injustice was the first to speak out and take action against it. He and Niranjala had a great belief in God Kataragama and took us with them when they went to worship there.

He found jobs for many people and helped the less-privileged overcome their financial difficulties. A staunch Buddhist, he respected all other religions. He was loved both by the Maha Sangha and the Catholic clergy.

Dear Mr. Balasuriya, though you are no more you will always be in our hearts as a loving and caring elder brother and wonderful human being. Thank you very much for all your valuable advice, guidance and precious friendship.

May you once more be born among us in this voyage of Sansara and be blessed with good health and long life.

Renuka Gunasekera


A great guru to many in legal profession

Dr. H.W Jayewardene, QC

Twenty years ago on April 19, 1990, Dr. H.W. Jayewardene, QC, a colossus in the legal profession passed away while on a visit to India. It was the end of an innings of a great legal luminary Sri Lanka had produced. It was a loss not only to his wife Claribel, son, daughters, in-laws and grandchildren but also to the legal fraternity at large.

Dr. Jayewardene was an advocate par excellence and at the time of his death, had completed 49 successful years at the Bar. Born to a family of lawyers, he was conferred silk at an early age.

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Fame and success came to him within a short period, with hard work. The civil law was his forte and the later years of his practice were dedicated to the appellate courts where he excelled in every case he appeared. The Law Reports of Sri Lanka and England bear ample testimony to his brilliance.

The legal fraternity of Sri Lanka owes deep gratitude to Dr. Jayewardene for his contribution to the legal profession in many ways. When the Bar Association of Sri Lanka came into being in 1975, he was its first President. When there was a move by the then government to shift the courts from Hulftsdorp to Bambalapitiya, it was Dr. Jayewardene who steered the opposition with success.

He was instrumental in getting the Government of China to construct the Superior Courts complex at Hulftsdorp which to date houses the appellate courts, the Supreme Courts including the ceremonial Supreme Court, judges’ chambers, Ministry of Justice etc.

Even the trees in the Superior courts complex were planted under the strict stewardship of Dr. Jayewardene. Many others in his position would have wished to get their names inscribed in a prominent place in the court complex, but not Dr. Jayewardene. He was a true leader of the Bar.
Dr. Jayewardene was a keen student of law and great teacher who was always willing to share his knowledge with fellow members of the profession.

The large number of lawyers who learnt the intricacies of law in his chambers includes judges, politicians, senior practitioners, President’s Counsel and several others. The high calibre advocacy, meticulous chambers work and academic approach to any legal issue are some of the valuable lessons Dr. Jayewardene imparted to juniors under his wing.

As a lawyer who started my career at his chambers I am well aware of the hard work put in by Dr. Jayewardene in his clients’ cause and in several cases without any payment, prodeo. He enjoyed working with his juniors in chambers and ensured that they were well equipped to be exemplary in the profession.

The other contributions made by Dr. Jayewardene were not limited to the legal field. He held several important posts in the public and private sectors including that of Chairman of the Sri Lanka Foundation.
He also led the team that participated in the Thimpu talks to reconcile the burning issues of terrorism at that time.

He was a perfectionist and his achievements are far too many to mention in an appreciation. He was a true Buddhist who followed the precepts of the Buddha in his own quiet way.

Dr. Jayewardene was a devoted husband and wonderful father. It is said that writers leave behind their books and teachers their students. It is a fact that Dr. Jayewardene, QC has been a large-hearted man and great guru to several in the legal profession.

May he attain Nirvana.


Harsha Cabral

Lyn Seeya was a judge, fun grandpa, and great friend to cancer patients

A. L. M. (Lyn) FERNANDO

My grandfather’s demise, on February 24, 2010, came as a shock to our family, friends and the many whose lives he had touched in various ways. Even in his final days, he showed little or no sign that anything was wrong. He was as energetic and helpful as his feeble self allowed him to be, and a constant source of entertainment to my family, whatever the circumstances.

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I remember how he would try to amuse my brother and me with a joke or two after a stressful day at school. Very often he would try to annoy us, so as to get us into a friendly skirmish with him. This became a daily feature of our relationship with Lyn Seeya. Looking back, it becomes extremely clear how all of this helped strengthen the bond between us.

Lyn Seeya was very supportive to the people he loved. He showed his love for us in many ways, from paying our tuition fees to getting us an evening snack. He was also a glowing example of what a human being should be. All these made him a very special figure in our lives.

Even after his retirement as Colombo High Court Judge, he did not stop his lifelong mission to serve people. His work for the Cancer Society of Sri Lanka and his work with cancer patients are beautiful illustrations of his love for fellow human beings.

I do not remember him ever missing a single function of the Cancer Society. I recall his excitement each year when he would get ready to attend the annual Christmas party for the cancer patients. Sadly, he did not live to give what would have been his last speech as President of the Cancer Society.

We will remember you, Lyn Seeya, as someone who always gave the Lord Almighty first place and fellow human beings 100 per cent. Thank you, Lyn Seeya, for everything you have been to us and have done for us. May we meet you once again with our Creator.

Medhaka Fernando


Sunday Times Apr 25 2010

Dear Sir, you were our guiding light, our treasure of treasures

H. L. B. GOMES

The perfect teacher, principled principal, astute administrator, wise psychologist, diligent worker, dignified person with a broad smile who could hold a pleasant conversation with anyone, regardless of age, cast or creed – that was Mr. H. L. B. Gomes.

Yes, it was on March 24 that our dear principal and father figure bade us his final goodbye. There are no words to describe the grief felt by his near and dear – such was the dimension of loss.

He was adored by those who knew him. This great man who saw trials and tribulations as challenges and who reached the pinnacle in his career was suddenly asked to take up another duty. This uninvited guest coldly hinted that his clock was ticking fast. Our cherished principal had an untimely demise, but as Caesar said: “The brave die but once.” Our Sir lived a magnificent life to the very end.

His competence showed in everything he undertook. Even his superiors marvelled at his amazing abilities. When our dear Sir took over Lyceum Panadura from our headmistress Mrs. Champa Fernando, he said that it was she who had managed the whole show, until he took over. He believed in consulting competent people to ensure that all went smoothly at the school – the hallmark of a truly experienced person.

We were privileged to work under such a great person. During my two-and-a-half years at Lyceum Panadura, I never once saw Mr. Gomes neglect his duties or make excuses, whether he was well or unwell.

One morning, about 9 a.m. I saw Mr. Gomes sitting down to breakfast. I asked why he was breakfasting so late. He gave his charming smile and said that he had had visitors from early morning.

I must place on record the thoughtfulness Mr. Gomes showed for others during his illness. He tried his best never to miss a special occasion, be it a wedding, a function, a match, or a funeral. He made everyone happy and proud with his presence, however brief his visit.

People from all walks of life would head to his residence, regardless of the time. Although terminally ill, he would spend time with them, asking questions and recalling old times. His mind was very alert to the end. His dear wife, Mrs. Annette Gomes, graciously received the steady stream of visitors. I salute her for carrying out her duties so well at a difficult time for the family.

Our principal was a leader par excellence. The large intake of students when Mr. Gomes took office at Lyceum Panadura speaks volumes for his fine qualities. Students and teachers – we all wanted to join Lyceum because we knew we would be working under a quality principal. We held him in the highest esteem. My teacher colleague Shiran Vaz said Mr. Gomes brought the smile back to his face: “He had a gift for sensing the truth and sorting out our problems.”

You would see our dear principal early in the morning, smartly dressed, standing in the quadrangle, a broad smile on his happy face, greeting all who walked in. Thanks to Mr. Gomes, the day always started on a cheerful note for us. He had a majestic walk as he strolled down the corridors of the school. Later, when he took his place in the principal’s office, the room became almost like a shrine, such was the calibre of this fine person.

He took the school cricket team to St. John’s College to play a friendly match. Even though the times were not conducive for such matches, he undertook this great journey with the team to bridge the gap. In recognition of his humanitarian gesture, he was invited to the 175th anniversary celebration of the St. John’s Old Boys’ Association. Both Royal College and St. John’s College played a cricket match for the peace trophy.

We organised a farewell for our dear Principal on March 18. He had handed in his resignation because of his illness. He stood tall as he addressed us. That was his final function. Teacher Tilan Perera also spoke on the occasion, saying Mr. Gomes was one of the country’s best school principals. What a marvellous tribute.

Our principal’s life is an open book. We turn the pages and learn many useful things. It speaks of how to serve humanity and how to earn respect from young and old.

It was heartbreaking to hear, on April 24, of our dear sir’s untimely demise – just six days after we had bade him farewell. As my colleague Lakshika Ilapperuma put it, we had lost a treasure of treasures.

When he passed away, messages of condolence poured in from everywhere, from the President of the country and the ordinary citizens who knew him. The staff of Lyceum Panadura, the Cambrians and the Royalists, along with parents and children, showed their gratitude by attending the funeral in great numbers – testimony to our dear principal’s distinction.

Thank you, dear sir, for all the values you instilled in us and for the guidance you gave us. You were a tower of strength to all of us. You encouraged us always to do good. You will be the kindly light leading us. May God shower you with his choicest blessings and may you enjoy eternal bliss.

Rohini Nagalingam


Night piece

Irene Letitia Ameresekere (Nee Wijesinghe)

I start, I wake, wet
With sweat as was my wont,
For two weeks now. Two faces,
Yellow in the candlelight, my father and my brother,
Look down on me and I read their eyes.
One says, “Come”.
I follow, as if mesmerised: the journey is not far but
Slow and silent (there is no need for words).
Candle flames cast shadows, stirring
My mind’s eye with scenes
Of days gone by. I see myself, a little boy
Running screaming from a snake,
Falling exhausted into comforting arms.
Wracked with fever, robbed of sleep,
In bed he lies, cool cloths and
Salves on brow and body placed,
Cared for, cuddled. …
The click of gate breaks into my thoughts
As we near our goal – a house
Dimly lit. We tread with weary feet, and in
The gloom I reach the bed and fall with a cry and
Touch the lifeless form I cannot now
Or ever call “Mother.”

Jayalath Ameresekera


He won the hearts of his medical colleagues and hospital staff

Quintus Fernando

Quintus Fernando of Moratuwa was my classmate at St. Sebastian’s College, back in 1942. After a short break, after leaving school, we were re-united in 1953 when we joined the Department of Health as X-ray technicians.

We both trained at the then General Hospital, Colombo, where we enjoyed a carefree life despite a tedious training under hard taskmasters.

After our training we parted ways again, when we were posted to outstation hospitals, only to cross paths once more when Quintus became the Superintendent Radiographer at the General Hospital, Colombo, and I became his counterpart in the School of Radiography.

He was a tower of strength to me. We would discuss the various problems we encountered in the course of our duties. Quintus won the hearts of many with his amiable personality and gentle demeanour.

He was well liked by the doctors and other medical staff; he could be depended to help you or grant you a favour at the hospital, such was his popularity.

After retirement, Quintus worked at the Durdans Hospital, Colombo, for some eight years. His wife and three children were a great solace to him during his protracted illness.

Farewell, my good friend. Your many kindnesses will not be forgotten.

Marshall Fernando


Golden memories of a triple b’day

Sadanie Liyanage (nee Peries) & Pradeep Peries

On April 24, 1981, Mariatta and Gladwin Peries had their first child, a cute baby girl Maryan Sadanie Ruha. There is a saying that a first girl is lucky for the family and indeed it was. She was a bundle of joy not only to the family but to their loved ones too.

Three years later again on April 24, 1984, this happy couple had their second child, a baby boy Stephen Pradeep. It was a surprise and joyous event to have a double birthday in the family. Two years later, in 1986 again on April 24 their third child was born. Jude Prasanne.

Pradeep

Sadanie

This time it was not only a surprise but also a miracle to have all their children born on the same day.

Since then “April 24” became the “Fun Day” at 151, St. James Street, Mutwal, when the whole lot of uncles and aunties and cousins gathered together to enjoy the party hosted by the happy parents annually.

Being the aunty next door, I can remember how I went every year from shop –to-shop looking for three gifts to match their ages. What we enjoyed most was the moment that the big cake was cut by each one while we sang happy birthday three times.

Now another April 24, will dawn-- but what an unbelievable difference. How ever much we begged, God said “No, I want them in my kingdom because they belong with me.”

This time there will be only one to cut the big cake, but bearing our pain, hiding our tears we’ll still sing happy birthday three times, because we know from somewhere in heaven both of you are looking down at us with that beautiful smile of yours.

Happy birthday darling Sado! When we jointly sing with your husband Rukshan, two more sweet little voices also will join us and before anyone you will recognize them because they are your own son and daughter, Yohan and Yuthika singing, “happy b’ day Ammi, darling”!

Happy birthday darling Pradeep, our brave boy. Son we are proud of the courage you showed through life. Strengthen us to learn what life is and how to face it.

We will sing happy birthday three times on April 24, for the rest of our lives, because both of you will always be in our lives.

Padma Manel Silva


From Wellawatte to Sydney, Chris will be remembered as good friend and beloved doc

Dr. O. C. (Chris) Raffel

Dr. O. C. (Chris) Raffel, who passed away on March 30, emigrated with his family to Australia in 1975. There must be hundreds of people in Colombo who will remember him as the most devoted of doctors, and perhaps a smaller number will recall, at least by name and reputation, his father, Dr. E. L. (Lawrie) Raffel, who founded the Raffel dispensary and surgery in Wellawatte, where Chris worked for more than 20 years.

When Chris Raffel set up practice in Sydney, he distinguished himself as a truly dedicated doctor, standing out from the run of general practitioners. His practice there expanded rapidly. The Eastwood area where he settled became a popular destination for Lankan migrants.

I remember how amused he was at the sheer surprise on the faces of his Sydney-Lankan patients, many of whom had never even heard of the Sri Lanka Burgher community, on hearing this fair-skinned doctor addressing them in fluent Sinhala or Tamil.

Others will mourn the loss of an incomparable friend, someone who radiated a steady warmth, rather than a brilliant glare. These qualities perfectly complemented the very different qualities of his wife Carmel. Between the two of them, the couple provided their friends with excellent company, fellowship and hospitality, – a privilege that will be remembered with gratitude by all who experienced it.

I have no doubt that it was his response to Chris and Carmel Raffel’s exemplary qualities that inspired the late Geoffrey Bawa, one of their closest friends, to design for them a house of great beauty, in which music and the visual arts enhanced the loving kindness that enveloped all who crossed its threshold.

In Australia, the Raffels had no Geoffrey Bawa at their disposal, but Carmel showed a genius for creating beauty in unpromising situations, while Chris acquired new skills, such as tending the garden and eventually cooking. Their human qualities glowed as warmly south of the equator as they had in the north.

Chris was a true family man, and became a surrogate father to the children of his brother Allan and cousin Lorenz, both of whom died too young. Chris will be remembered with great love by Allan and Lorenz’s children, as well as his own three children – Adam, Suhanya and Lahiru – and his four grandchildren.

Iranganie Serasinghe


Island Apr 11 2010


Night piece

Irene Letitia Ameresekere (Nee Wijesinghe)

I start, I wake, wet
With sweat as was my wont,
For two weeks now. Two faces,
Yellow in the candlelight, my father and my brother,
Look down on me and I read their eyes.
One says, “Come”.
I follow, as if mesmerised: the journey is not far but
Slow and silent (there is no need for words).
Candle flames cast shadows, stirring
My mind’s eye with scenes
Of days gone by. I see myself, a little boy
Running screaming from a snake,
Falling exhausted into comforting arms.
Wracked with fever, robbed of sleep,
In bed he lies, cool cloths and
Salves on brow and body placed,
Cared for, cuddled. …
The click of gate breaks into my thoughts
As we near our goal – a house
Dimly lit. We tread with weary feet, and in
The gloom I reach the bed and fall with a cry and
Touch the lifeless form I cannot now
Or ever call “Mother.”

Jayalath Ameresekera


He won the hearts of his medical colleagues and hospital staff

Quintus Fernando

Quintus Fernando of Moratuwa was my classmate at St. Sebastian’s College, back in 1942. After a short break, after leaving school, we were re-united in 1953 when we joined the Department of Health as X-ray technicians.

We both trained at the then General Hospital, Colombo, where we enjoyed a carefree life despite a tedious training under hard taskmasters.

After our training we parted ways again, when we were posted to outstation hospitals, only to cross paths once more when Quintus became the Superintendent Radiographer at the General Hospital, Colombo, and I became his counterpart in the School of Radiography.

He was a tower of strength to me. We would discuss the various problems we encountered in the course of our duties. Quintus won the hearts of many with his amiable personality and gentle demeanour.

He was well liked by the doctors and other medical staff; he could be depended to help you or grant you a favour at the hospital, such was his popularity.

After retirement, Quintus worked at the Durdans Hospital, Colombo, for some eight years. His wife and three children were a great solace to him during his protracted illness.

Farewell, my good friend. Your many kindnesses will not be forgotten.

Marshall Fernando


Golden memories of a triple b’day

Sadanie Liyanage (nee Peries) & Pradeep Peries

On April 24, 1981, Mariatta and Gladwin Peries had their first child, a cute baby girl Maryan Sadanie Ruha. There is a saying that a first girl is lucky for the family and indeed it was. She was a bundle of joy not only to the family but to their loved ones too.

Three years later again on April 24, 1984, this happy couple had their second child, a baby boy Stephen Pradeep. It was a surprise and joyous event to have a double birthday in the family. Two years later, in 1986 again on April 24 their third child was born. Jude Prasanne.

Pradeep

Sadanie

This time it was not only a surprise but also a miracle to have all their children born on the same day.

Since then “April 24” became the “Fun Day” at 151, St. James Street, Mutwal, when the whole lot of uncles and aunties and cousins gathered together to enjoy the party hosted by the happy parents annually.

Being the aunty next door, I can remember how I went every year from shop –to-shop looking for three gifts to match their ages. What we enjoyed most was the moment that the big cake was cut by each one while we sang happy birthday three times.

Now another April 24, will dawn-- but what an unbelievable difference. How ever much we begged, God said “No, I want them in my kingdom because they belong with me.”

This time there will be only one to cut the big cake, but bearing our pain, hiding our tears we’ll still sing happy birthday three times, because we know from somewhere in heaven both of you are looking down at us with that beautiful smile of yours.

Happy birthday darling Sado! When we jointly sing with your husband Rukshan, two more sweet little voices also will join us and before anyone you will recognize them because they are your own son and daughter, Yohan and Yuthika singing, “happy b’ day Ammi, darling”!

Happy birthday darling Pradeep, our brave boy. Son we are proud of the courage you showed through life. Strengthen us to learn what life is and how to face it.

We will sing happy birthday three times on April 24, for the rest of our lives, because both of you will always be in our lives.

Padma Manel Silva


From Wellawatte to Sydney, Chris will be remembered as good friend and beloved doc

Dr. O. C. (Chris) Raffel

Dr. O. C. (Chris) Raffel, who passed away on March 30, emigrated with his family to Australia in 1975. There must be hundreds of people in Colombo who will remember him as the most devoted of doctors, and perhaps a smaller number will recall, at least by name and reputation, his father, Dr. E. L. (Lawrie) Raffel, who founded the Raffel dispensary and surgery in Wellawatte, where Chris worked for more than 20 years.

When Chris Raffel set up practice in Sydney, he distinguished himself as a truly dedicated doctor, standing out from the run of general practitioners. His practice there expanded rapidly. The Eastwood area where he settled became a popular destination for Lankan migrants.

I remember how amused he was at the sheer surprise on the faces of his Sydney-Lankan patients, many of whom had never even heard of the Sri Lanka Burgher community, on hearing this fair-skinned doctor addressing them in fluent Sinhala or Tamil.

Others will mourn the loss of an incomparable friend, someone who radiated a steady warmth, rather than a brilliant glare. These qualities perfectly complemented the very different qualities of his wife Carmel. Between the two of them, the couple provided their friends with excellent company, fellowship and hospitality, – a privilege that will be remembered with gratitude by all who experienced it.

I have no doubt that it was his response to Chris and Carmel Raffel’s exemplary qualities that inspired the late Geoffrey Bawa, one of their closest friends, to design for them a house of great beauty, in which music and the visual arts enhanced the loving kindness that enveloped all who crossed its threshold.

In Australia, the Raffels had no Geoffrey Bawa at their disposal, but Carmel showed a genius for creating beauty in unpromising situations, while Chris acquired new skills, such as tending the garden and eventually cooking. Their human qualities glowed as warmly south of the equator as they had in the north.

Chris was a true family man, and became a surrogate father to the children of his brother Allan and cousin Lorenz, both of whom died too young. Chris will be remembered with great love by Allan and Lorenz’s children, as well as his own three children – Adam, Suhanya and Lahiru – and his four grandchildren.

Iranganie Serasinghe


Island Apr 11 2010

 

Pat Williams – Our Beloved Friend

by Nigel Kerner

The years of yore bore some grand illustrious names on wings of green and gold. None grander and more eminent than Pat Williams. Sportsman, writer, journalist, editor, and most poignantly of all to us Aloysians and Sri Lankans; our beloved friend.

We are all once in a while privileged to walk this world in the company of a legend, or a person that is simply larger than life. A human being that is quite apparently someone a bit special and goes beyond the scales we set for the best of our species.

Just say the name Pat Williams in the company of any Aloysian of any vintage prior to 1999 and I will guarantee that if you could see through the chest wall to their hearts you would see the faithful old muscle missing a beat. It is a thing of reverence. Of silence. We are remembering the rapid thud of boots, the roar of spectators, voices in a park and the beautiful Daruwela club house near Dickoya, as it rose in a crescendo to acknowledge the soccer mastery of a sporting sensation. We are remembering a truly handsome face, a mischievous smile, soft compassionate eyes and a deep framed bountiful humanity. We are remembering deeds in friendship kinship and forbearance.

I was one of the younger fellers. An accidental Aloysian. Of ’53-‘59 vintage. One who dropped in from Royal College Colombo and dropped out at the whims of chance. A bit of a fraud really. Pat on the other hand had been there for the duration. The right stuff. The stuff that made the school motto Certa Viriliter (Fight Manfully) really mean something. He made the cement that later generations trod. There was true Aloysian history in Pat. He walked with the giants of the past be they priest teacher or student. Names that made the bridles of our island’s commitment to excellence in those halcyon days of the 1910’s, 20’s and 30’s.

We young ‘uns came too late I often feel. I would hear the older ones talk of Buena Vista as though it was the gates to Paradise not the cess pit it is now. I was just old enough to feel the beach at Closenberg in its pristine beauty before the sludge of envy took it away. Pat would talk to me about it with a sparkle in his eye. He spoke of many things with a sparkle in his eye. And that was the magic of Pat Williams. He took you everywhere with charm and humility and erudition. They were my memories but he charmed them with his take on things.

Many will open their own windows to Pat on his passing. So many memories. Their own Aloysian pasts. Funny, serious, sad, triumphant, still. It is their right and their right alone to tread there. I won’t be impertinent and hail and presume on their space, their memories. I cherish the privacy of my memories with him too much. But if you want a walk with his memories where he told me they were happiest, you can do it now. There is a place called Henk and Rhonda and Justin and Daniel; Pat’s precious family. Just take a look at them and their family sense with each other and you will see beyond a shadow of a doubt the testimony of a life spent where it is most worthwhile. It was in the abiding love of his family and in their meaning to him that Pat most loved to linger. It was through the repose he had with his family that he came most alive. I am convinced it gave him the inspiration, will and constancy to reach our lives across the scale of a planet time after time with his beloved ‘Aloysian’ magazine. The affirmation of his strength and sense to be with each of us in a thousand different places.

It was a little thing really; ‘The Aloysian’. A few A4 pages stapled together. Shining in green and gold. Shining in the uniform of an age gone by, when honour was true and fellowship firm. Its humility was its splendour - this little magazine that came every three months into the homes where Aloysian hearts and memories played with smiles and sentiment and the stuff that made them. Pat and his valiant crew brought it all to us. The names and the places, the formulas and the fellowships that meant so much to me in my tender years and over all the years. It said so much about Pat and all those who co-operated in this wonderful venture - that they cared so much.

We will no doubt read a great deal about the man who was Pat Williams in these coming days months and years. Much of it is before our eyes as we scan through the pages of his life’s works. But the power and significance of his mien can never be seen with the eye. It can only truly be held in the heart. It is called respect.

There is a stillness in our hearts just now. A soft revered stillness where the sprays of winds balmy carry memories sublime. Be it in the land of his birth or the land of his adoption, all who knew this truly beautiful man will never forget him and can never forget him. And we are all the richer for it.

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Sunday Times Apr 11 2010

Integrity, loyalty and dedication defined this noble officer and gentleman

Air Chief Marshal Harry Goonetileke

It is with a deep sense of sorrow that I pen these words of tribute in memory of Air Chief Marshal Harry Goonetileke, to honour him on his second death anniversary.

The Air Chief was a one-in-a-million person – a noble soul, the epitome of honesty and integrity, coupled with commitment, loyalty and dedication. He maintained these characteristics and qualities throughout his tenure as Commander of our prestigious Air Force, until his retirement from the service.

A stern disciplinarian, he played each inning with a straight bat and lived by his principles. He was the embodiment of an uncorrupt, true patriotic son of Sri Lanka. He stood tall, without having to cringe and receive handouts. He never abused his powers. He was content with what he had, and was never ambitious or craved wealth, although, as Commander of the Air Force, he had prerogatives, special rights and advantages.

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/100411/images/Harry-Gunatilaka.jpg

The Air Chief was quite outspoken, regardless of the consequences. He was unpretentious, and disliked deceitful wheeler-dealer activities and showy, ostentatious types. He never went against his conscience. He believed that “conscience pricks an honest person.”

Starting in 1971, if I remember correctly, Air Chief Marshal Harry, as Chief of Staff, would oversee welfare meetings with families from all the Air Force camps. They would come to the Colombo Headquarters to have their problems sorted out.

As a founder member of the ex-Air Force Association, he rendered yeoman service, helping the association to grow from its humble beginnings to what it is today. We have to thank ACM Harry Goonetileke for the annual get-togethers where we, retired Air Force officers, meet to reminisce about the good old days in the Force, and for the social events enjoyed by families and children.

After retirement, the Air Chief contributed immensely to the Ranaviru Family Counselling for war widows and the orphans of war victims. This work took him to all corners of Sri Lanka, and he did wonders with those who needed counselling.

A legendary veteran rugby coach, Air Chief Marshal Harry was dubbed the “Father of Air Force Rugby”. Air Force rugby was a dying or defunct sport in the 1950s and early 1960s. Little or no rugby was played until ACM Goonetileke took over as coach.

With limited resources and infrastructure, ACM Goonetileke motivated his team to take Air Force rugby to new heights, enabling the team to qualify for the Clifford Cup tournaments.

He continued to coach, and in 1965 the then Royal Ceylon Air Force became B division League Champions and played in the finals against the CR&FC Club – for the first time in Air Force history. This gave the team due recognition and eventual promotion to A Division Clifford Cup tournaments. Five national rugby captains were moulded by coach Harry Goonetileke. He was my role model and inspiration. It was he who motivated me to take up the sport and it was he who shaped me as a player.

A senior and highly respected referee, he contributed greatly towards the Ceylon Rugby Union (CRU), and later the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU). He was at one time president of the Referees’ Society. Along with Sivendra of the Police as secretary, he kicked off and charged through a largely disorganised referees’ society, tackling and bringing down bad -administration. They finally succeeded in establishing proper administration for the society, and from 1976, competent referees were appointed for matches.

During his period as Commander, the Air Chief flew an unblemished, honoured and esteemed Air Force flag, which has been passed on to his son. Like his father, Air Chief Roshan Goonetileke, the present Commander, keeps this flag billowing way above the mast. The whole Goonetileke clan can walk with their heads held high and their feet firmly on the ground. This is a great compliment to the entire family, and especially to Air Chief Harry’s widow, Mrs. Marion Goonetileke. The Air Chief maintained an upright and loyal service as Commander till he retired from service.

“Behind every successful person is a woman.” Mrs. Marion Goonetileke, Air Chief Harry’s ever loving wife, tended to the Air Chief and took care of the domestic chores when the children were growing up, when official duties, rugby coaching and matches, and late nights kept her husband away from home. This courageous lady kept the home front going in the Air Chief’s absence. She was the wind beneath his wings in all his endeavours.

With all her duties as wife and mother, Marion Goonetileke found time to see to the welfare of the airmen’s families, along with Maureen Seneviratne. They created and nurtured the Air Force Women’s Association, now known as the Seva Vanitha.

History was created when his son, Air Chief Marshal Roshan, became the Air Force Commander. For the first time in Sri Lanka’s armed services, son followed father to take over the command of a service.
When I called the father to congratulate him on his son’s appointment, Harry Goonetileke thanked me and said the record would have been even greater if his second son, the late Group Captain Shirantha Goonetileke, was still alive. Had he lived, he would have taken over from the older brother Roshan. “If my second son was living, I would have had three Air Force Commanders in my family,” he said.

Another record, he said, was that as a retiring commander he did not own a house to move into after retirement, nor did he own a car. Air Chief Harry did not go after money to enrich himself while serving the Air Force as Commander.

The then President, Ranasinghe Premadasa, considering the Air Chief’s unblemished and loyal service, and the fact that he lived a contented life on only his earnings, offered him a government flat in Elvitigala Mawatha. The Air Chief and his family lived in this flat sans security until the day of his passing away.

The Air Chief was more than qualified to carry the title Uncommonly Common High Ranking Officer in the Armed Services, for his exceptional attributes and sterling qualities.

The Air Chief’s death was felt by friends around the world, including former Air Force rugby team members who had honed their rugby skills under him.

Sir, it is two years since you left us, but we remember you with the same warm affection we had for you when you were alive. The legacy you have left behind will be carried forward and will last forever, etched in our minds and recorded for prosperity.

We reach out to share the grief of Mrs. Marion Goonetileke, and son, Air Chief Marshal Roshan Goonetileke, your daughters and their families. We take consolation in the fact that you departed after completing your life’s journey with honour and having answered your call of duty towards country and mankind.

You will be remembered for all your good deeds. I conclude this appreciation by wishing you a short walk through Sansara and the Blessings of the Triple Gem, so you may attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

Good-bye, Sir, until the final whistle is blown on us.

M. Maheswarran (Former Royal Ceylon and Sri Lanka Air Force Ruggerite)


She lightened the burdens of many and brightened the lives of many others

Shaliya Kamil Wadood

The sudden death of our beloved sister Shaliya shocked all her family and friends. Shaliya came all the way from England, her home for more than 35 years, to answer the call of her Creator. She was on a short holiday. She was destined to spend her last days in Sri Lanka, surrounded by relatives and friends reciting the Holy Quran with everyone praying for her.

Shaliya was the first girl from a conservative Galle neighborhood to enter university, in the ’60s. She graduated with honours in Economics, Special with a Class.

Her early schooling was at Southlands and Sacred Heart Convent, Galle, and at Ladies College, Colombo. These schools gave her insights into diverse cultures, and this helped her in the community service projects she was involved in, here in Sri Lanka and in the UK. She was a president and one of the founder members of the Young Muslim Women’s League. She had a wide circle of like-minded friends in England. After a spell as a tutor and assistant lecturer at the university, Shaliya joined the then Ceylon Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research (CISIR) as an economist in industrial research.

In 1975, she moved to the UK with her husband Kamil. She never forgot the country of her birth, and insisted on retaining her Sri Lankan passport. She visited Sri Lanka whenever she could, and remained a central figure in family affairs.

She was blessed with two sons, Akram and Anver, both qualified doctors, and a daughter, Safa, who is a final year civil engineering student.

The writer is aware of the great personal sacrifices that Shaliya, in true Islamic fashion, made for the family and for those who sought her help. Nobody was ever disappointed. She lightened the burdens of many and brightened the lives of many others.

The steady stream of visitors who came to the nursing home to pray for Shaliya at her bedside speaks volumes for her character. She was not just a star, but a shining star. She was not just a light, but a bright light. She was a visionary. For her, the word discipline was spelled with a capital D.

May Allah grant her Jennathul Firidouse.

MIAC


I loved you for a thousand reasons

W. G. Fernando

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I loved you for a hundred thousand reasons,
But most of all, because you were always YOU.
May you attain the Supreme Serenity of Nibbana.

Ranee

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Sunday Times Apr 4 2010

A friendship that evolved mentor-pupil

Suren Peiris

I came to know Suren when I was following my Advanced Level first year studies at Royal College. He was then preparing for his Ordinary Level. He had studied up to grade eight at S. Thomas’ Prep.

One day, the late Mr. Abeydheera, my class teacher, told me to help Suren with his Arithmetic and Sinhala. Suren’s mother had asked the class teacher to find someone, preferably an Advanced Level student, to help her son. I could not say “no” to my master, who was also sectional head at the time, and agreed to without any hesitation.

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That was in 1969, the year I became both teacher and friend to Suren. I would go to Suren’s house on Flower Road twice a week to share my knowledge with Suren. School ended at 3 p.m, and we would be at his house in less than 10 minutes. We would start our classes about 3.30 p.m. The servant Sumana would bring us a cup of coffee and we would go on working till about 5 p.m.

Suren’s mother Mrs. Roshan Peiris treated me like a son. Suren’s only sister was very attached to me. His father, the late Denzil Peiris, was in Hong Kong at the time, working for an international news agency. His parents were well known as journalists. Both had served as editors for newspapers and magazines.

Suren was a true son and a loving brother. This was obvious in the way he looked after his mother, who was bed-ridden for years, and the sister who was suffering from a rare ailment. He was deeply affected by the demise of both his mother and sister.

He was a loving husband to his wife Thanja. They met as students at the Law College. He was very proud of his two children and would talk about how they fared at their exams. His daughter has obtained a Law Degree, and is preparing to enrol as a lawyer. It was gratifying for him to see a daughter following in his footsteps as a lawyer.

He was always keen to improve his knowledge and share this knowledge with others. He had a fine library, of which he was very proud. Whenever he visited India, he would buy quality books, and distribute among people who would make use of them. He gave me two books on Intellectual Property Law. He knew I was interested in the subject. He also gave me a marble Buddha statue bought in India. The statue is venerated by all at home.

We were friends for nearly four decades, and he was always conscious of the manner he should conduct himself in my presence, as I held a judicial office. Surprisingly, although Suren had been practising as a lawyer in Colombo and the outstations for 30 years, he never appeared in a court where I was presiding.

Suren had a respect for all the great religions. As far as I am aware, he followed Hinduism and Christianity. He was also an ardent follower of Sai Baba. He studied Buddhism as a philosophy.
At Suren’s funeral, the Venerable Viharadhipathi of Wimalaramaya spoke of how Suren and his late father helped the temple. Suren bore no malice or ill-will towards anybody. He would help people in need. The juniors in his chambers would vouch for this.

Suren’s untimely death was largely the result of his negligence with his own health. I had advised him many times to take care of his health. I heard about his death while I was overseas. I was able to be back in time to attend the funeral. Suren had an outstanding personality and a great sense of humour.
I pray that Suren will achieve the supreme state that his religion has decreed.

Justice K.T. Chitrasiri


Beloved Loku Aiya was guide, father figure and friend

J. E. F. Fernando (Jayantha)

Two months have passed since Loku Aiya, the eldest in our family, peacefully ended his earthly sojourn. He had duly accomplished his worldly tasks. He must be now in a place of perfect peace and serenity. But for those left behind, it is “winter in the heart.”Jayantha was a source of strength and support to all of us. His clear, resonant voice was encouraging and inspiring. His genial presence was reassuring and comforting to all.

Jayantha and I were brought up with two other siblings, Santha and the late Sunil, in a Christian environment. Our parents, the late Jacob and Erin, taught us the values of life. They were our role models. One was an outspoken and honest father, and the other a gentle and benevolent mother. Their care has served us throughout our lives. As the eldest, Jayantha took charge. He became head of the family after our father’s passing away in 1982. He dutifully and conscientiously carried out the tasks entrusted to him as our mentor and guide. He was a father figure and a pillar of strength – to us and our three aunts as well.

God blessed him abundantly. Jayantha had a happy married life. Geetha was a gracious and devoted wife, and together they brought up two talented and dutiful daughters.

Loku Aiya, my senior by seven years, was an adventurous and daringly mischievous youth. He and his brothers would climb trees, enjoy harmless jokes, and go on secret expeditions that included swimming and rowing in the river in front of our house.

Jayantha had a strikingly strong personality. He was impressive physically and mentally. And yet he was loved, for deep within he was mild, generous, large-hearted and compassionate. Uncles, aunts and cousins of our extended family regarded him as a thoroughly dependable and sincere relative.

Jayantha was the livewire at our Y. B. Fernando family unions. To the less fortunate, the under-privileged and those who worked for him, he was charitable, kind and considerate. In the company of children, he became a child, and thereby won their trust as their friend.

To the weaker sex, he was chivalrous. He was the trusted friend to many women who depended on him for assistance and advice. He was a loyal and faithful friend, standing by his friends through thick and thin. As for Pemsiri and I, we had Loku Aiya to lend a helping hand, which he did with generosity and affection. Our sons Pathum and Pemsith owe him a debt of gratitude for being a devoted uncle and much more. Honest and outspoken, Jayantha was frank about his likes and dislikes.

He would fearlessly champion the just cause and stand by anyone who was getting unfair treatment. This admirable quality earned Jayantha respect and appreciation. He did what he thought was right, for he believed in his good intentions. He did nothing for personal glory.

He tirelessly and eagerly served in various societies, mainly the Prince of Wales’ College Old Boys’ Association, and the YMCA. He did not look for praise and honour. He was a true social worker. His close associates and colleagues will attest to his commitment, dedication, integrity, dependability, organising skills and amazing capacity for work.

Geetha, Lahari, Siumi, Pujitha, and Vajira – we know your loss is irreparable. Jayantha, a dignified and a truly wonderful human being, has left us. Yet his memory lingers on in all that we shared together.
As Christians we are consoled by the thought that we will be united with him, and all our departed loved ones in the presence of God our Father, where we will live eternally. Loku Aiya’s countenance, which radiated happiness and good cheer, will be etched in my mind forever.

Premila Mendis


A privileged friendship with a remarkable lady

Christine Spittel -Wilson

Christine Wilson was a woman’s icon. To those of us who knew her, she seemed a perfect blend of the East and the West. Sent to England for most of her schooling, she yet knew more about her country than did many who have lived here all their lives, and she always proudly felt a Sri Lankan.

But this is not a salute to her undoubted genius in many fields - notably in that of literature. This is a personal account of a friendship I was privileged to have with this remarkable lady – an acquaintance at first which stretched back many years and which then developed into a warm friendship as time went on.
I first got to know Christine when her daughter, Anne, and I were schoolmates for a brief time, during the war years, at a little school up in Bandarawela, the Froebel School. After the war, Anne was sent to a school in England. Christine touched my life again as wife of the chairman of the Colombo Commercial Company, where my husband was a young executive.

As the chairman’s wife, Christine could not have been more popular. She had mastered the difficult art of making each young wife seem special. Or maybe she never had to master the art at all. It came to her naturally, for she was basically a kind person who hated to wound anyone’s feelings. Her unfailing courtesy always amazed me. I was constantly reminded of that saying that the test of a true gentleman (or lady) is courtesy to those who can be of no possible use to them.

Whatever the secret of her charm, Christine gathered around her a group of young wives who remained her friends long after the Colombo Commercial Company was acquired by the Government and Christine and husband, Alistair relocated to Kenya, Africa. Upon their return to Colombo, my friendship with Christine deepened. “Call me Christine now, my dear,” she told me, something I did gladly. But my husband, Bunchy, could never get used to calling his former boss anything other than “Sir”. “You may drop the SIR now, Bunchy,” Alistair would say genially. “I’ll try,” responded an unhappy Bunchy, adding the “Sir” from force of habit. He never managed to call him anything else.

Christine was an avid reader, and she would discuss books with me. Although my little scribbles were hardly in her class as a writer, she always paid me the compliment of pretending they were, and to listening to my views closely. The implied compliment did not escape me and I always felt so flattered. I liked to know personal details about people’s lives since I often changed names and wrote up amusing skits in my own stories. Thus it was that I asked Alistair about his romance with Christine.
“Well,” he said. “I did not have too easy a time. Lots of young men were callers at Wycherley [the family mansion] and they seemed to be always underfoot, but I managed.”

He chuckled, recalling one incident.

Apparently one smitten young Englishman – an army officer - had been at Cambridge and had a degree in English Literature. He was the first one that needed to be cut out. Entering the gate of Wycherley one evening,Alistair found the young officer standing nervously on the verandah with a pile of books in his hand. “And why are you here, young man?” asked Alistair in lordly fashion (although the young officer had every right to be there). “Er, I am just returning Christine’s books,” stammered the nervous one. “I’ll see she gets them,” said Alistair, peremptorily relieving him of the books. “You may run along back to your quarters now.”

The young man vanished, never to be heard of again. “So that’s what happened,” said Christine, who had been listening amusedly to the story. “I always wondered why I heard no more of poor David.”
Christine and Alistair had a wonderful marriage. They were devoted to each other, and when Alistair passed away a few years ago Christine was devastated. Of course, she had an equally devoted daughter in Anne, but Anne and her family live in Denmark and in spite of frequent visits to help her mother, Christine was left to fend for herself.

Of course, she had other very good friends and family, but naturally I can write only of what I know.
This was where her Colombo Commercial Company group came in.

Mitabi Gunawardene and Joan Atukorale, wives of former engineers, and I, wife of an estate department executive, leapt to do her bidding. Probably Mitabi helped her the most with her day-to-day life. I helped by sending Christine temporary clerical and secretarial assistants and acting as her go-between in little matters. For instance: “What does one pay a driver these days?” Christine would ask. She always added, “I am so very sorry to trouble you, but Alistair saw to these details, and I am learning as I go along.”

She was never any trouble. All of us were honoured to feel she ever needed us. On one occasion I had friends from the US visiting. I knew they would love to meet one of our foremost writers, and so I invited Christine and Alistair to dinner, along with Tom and Linda Sloan. Linda recalls that meeting with nostalgia and vividly remembers the fascinating woman she met in Sri Lanka.

After Alistair’s death Christine undertook the enormous task of cataloguing Alistair’s library. Through the years, the books had together built up into an imposing array of tomes, many of which were immensely valuable. A few them were sold to collectors, but the bulk of the library posed a problem. At my suggestion, Christine decided to donate the books to the Jaffna Library. The civil war had just ended and Christine thought the idea was excellent. Accordingly, I made the arrangements and the books were handed over to the librarian of the Jaffna Library during one of Anne’s visits to the island.

From a personal point of view, I have to mention Christine’s unfailingly meticulous appearance. Up to the very last, Christine was always correctly and perfectly turned out, her hair coiffed and – as writer Ameena Hussein commented – her pearls in place. In Sri Lanka, too many housewives don “dressing gowns” as they get older and forget about looking good. Christine was a lesson to us all.

Nothing I can say is an adequate tribute to this great lady. With her passing, our island has lost a true daughter of Lanka. I loved her, and this little tribute has not even touched upon her many gifts as an artist (whose paintings sold for quite a price), as a patron of the Dutch Burgher Union, as a novelist whose books have been published both here and abroad, or as an autobiographer. I will leave these and other facets of her life to be treated by more skilled hands than mine.

From my intensely personal view, all I can say is: “While Sri Lanka has lost a unique daughter, I have lost a valued friend.”

Goolbai Gunasekara


The sun has set

W.T. Jayasinghe

The Sun has set
To a distant past the tide recede
Negate the weaver's recollection
Captured; lap up miles of tapestry
In salubrious clime amidst Kandyan hills
A legend emerged
Who walked this earth with head held high
A brilliant spark being one of a kind
Served man and country in high excel.
To parents by destiny chosen
The first of seven - a house fills
Their world being he, found happiness
With infinite richness of mind
Their dreams enhanced.
Nurtured a Spartan strength of spirit To shield a sudden storm
Enjoy the beautiful calm
That follows.
"Nothing of him that doth fade
But suffer a sea - change
Into something rich and strange".
Farewell.

Titti

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Sunday Island Mar 21 2010

Appreciation
M. P. G. S. Jayawardena – 20-12-1934 - 20-03-2009

Known as Gamani to Sri Lankans, and Jaya and JJ to Malaysians, he was born and educated in Sri Lanka. He came from a family of planters, and as his father too was one of the senior Asian planters during the British rule in Sri Lanka, and young Jayawardena was put to task at 19 after completing his studies at Royal College in Colombo. In college he was awarded colours in rugby, half colours in boxing and excelled in athletics and other sports, which explains his interest in estate sports.

He took up planting in 1953 as a creeper, and in quick successive years he rose to become one of the most sought-after planters in his time. Jayawardena’s reputation for excellence in manufacture and handling of labour became legendary. In Sri Lanka he was with different estate groups involved in tea, rubber, coffee and oil palm. He survived in an industry that was dominated by European planters to become one of the few Asians to rise to the top. At the young age of 25 Jayawardena became the Superintendent of Culloden Group, and then four years later, he was appointed the Manager of Panawatte group; one of the largest low-country estates in Sri Lanka.

Thereafter, through a series of company mergers and takeovers Jayawardena found himself under Upali Wijewardena, managing the largest rubber and oil palm estate in Sri Lanka. Just six months into to his new assignment, he was hand picked by his colleague and chocolate king Upali Wijewardena to spearhead his entry into plantations in Sri Lanka and Malaysia. Jayawardena came over to Malaysia in 1976, yet to take up another two challenging crops of coconut and cocoa and was made the manager of Blenheim and Perak River estates of Kuril group based in Bagan Datoh near Teluk Intan. In 1980, he was made the general manager of Kuril and Desa Upali Sdn. Bhd. which had gone into cocoa in Sabah. Later on Jayawardena went on to becoming the Executive Director of Kuril Plantations Sdn. Bhd.

Jayawardena was in his peak when he took on projects in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. He authored several technical papers for the industry, and apart from planting, research, development and management, he sat on almost every committee in the industry at one time or other. He had commented that plantations in Malaysia being among the best organized in the world, and the support given by the Government of Malaysia was crucial in this aspect. He also whole-heartedly supported the voice of the estate workers and the National Union of Plantation Workers that represented the workers and staff.

He was a former chairman of the Incorporated Society of Planters of Malaysia, and a fellow of the Ceylon Institute of Planters.

After 31 years in Malaysia, M. P. G. S. Jayawardene, returned to his homeland on Christmas day of 2006. Determined not to call it quits, Jayawardena kept himself occupied doing social service. Just little after two years he passed away in Sri Lanka in March 2009. He leaves his wife Ethel, three daughters, three sons-in law, and eight grand children.


(This appeared in the Incorporated Society of Planters – magazine in Malaysia)

 


Sunday Times Mar 21 2010

Good and generous friend who enjoyed a lively debate

Suren Peiris

Our dear friend Suren Peiris left us on the eve of Easter last year, on April 12. I first met Suren through his wife Thanja, who works for our Church. Also, the Peiris family worshipped at the Cathedral when I was on its staff. Our relationship developed with my interaction with the family through pastoral visits.

Over the years, this priest-parishioner relationship grew into a friendship. Other factors also helped: we became neighbours when I moved to Swarna Place, where Suren lived, and I was chaplain of the school where Suren’s son had his early education.

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When I look back on my visits to Suren’s residence, I realise what a generous, sharing person he was. As a lawyer, he was always ready to sign legal documents for us. He was well read and could hold his own on many an important topic. We shared a love of books.

My library is full of books he gave me as gifts – books on the 1978 Constitution and on Indira Gandhi, among many others. And there is a book by his friend S. L. Gunasekera. In fact, Suren arranged for me to meet S. L. Gunsekera so I could talk to the author about his book.

Of course, we had our differences. He was the first to telephone me when he saw an article or letter of mine in the newspaper. If he disagreed with my point of view, he would tell me that he would write a letter to the newspaper to express his opposing views. One morning I opened the Daily Mirror to see a banner headline over an article in which Suren took a very strong stand against my thinking. Both Suren’s parents had adorned the Fourth Estate of our land, and it was natural that Suren should talk the talk as a child of that home.

Suren has his own concept of the divine. He said he found it difficult to accept Jesus as both God and Man. He believed that Christ was not the only way to God, that there are other roads to God.

Whenever Suren went overseas, he would bring me a gift. It was always something in keeping with my tastes. Suren was a family man, with strong convictions about family and friends. He was deeply upset by the deaths of his sister and his mother.

It is not always easy to write about someone who has been very close to you. Although I went straight from Easter Service to pay my last respects to Suren and to be with his family on Easter Sunday 2009, it has taken almost one year to write this appreciation.

During these months, Suren must be much in the thoughts of Thanja, Brindhi and Sharen, who are assured of our prayers and love, and his friends.

May the soul of Suren and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.

Sydney Knight


A fearless voice and gentle leader of the plantation community

P. Chandrasekaran

With the sudden death of Periasamy Chandrasekaran, Minister of Community Development and Social Inequity Eradication, the plantation community in Sri Lanka has lost a fearless voice and a gentle leader who was dear to their heart.

The massive crowd of ordinary people from the plantation community and different walks of life who came to pay their final respects to the leader at his funeral in Talawakelle, was a fitting testimony to his work, advocacy and the respect in which he was held by the people. It is noteworthy to mention that this was a unique occasion when members from the entire plantation community devoid of union affiliations participated in their leader’s final journey.

My association with late Mr. Chandrasekaran began in 1980 when I was the Manager of a tea estate in Kotagala. He was an official of the Ceylon Workers Congress at that time and was running a business at Talawakelle. He would often accompany S. Thondaman on his visits to the estates and came by my bungalow on a number of occasions and thereby we became well acquainted.

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At that time, he was called the firebrand of the CWC because of his emotional, passionate and stirring speeches. Through his eloquence in the language and fiery delivery he aroused the younger generation and made them aware of conditions in the plantation sector and empowered them to take action and take part in the democratic process to achieve their goals and aspirations.

Due to certain differences of policy and strategies with his own CWC party, he reluctantly left the party and his mentor Mr. Thondaman and formed one of his own - the Upcountry Plantation Workers Front. When he formed the party, the educated community and the reform- oriented workers in the plantation sector especially the teachers rallied round him and his union emerged as a viable alternative to the CWC which had a history of more than 40 years in the plantation sector.

His open and transparent statements with regard to government policy towards the North and East people were construed by the then government that he was supporting the terrorist movement and he was sentenced to prison for more than three years. Though, he was incarcerated in prison his spirit and determination did not wane and thanks to the democratic rule that exists in Sri Lanka, he contested Central Provincial Council election in 1993 from prison and was elected as a member of the Central Provincial Council which clearly demonstrated the love and affection the electorate had for him.

On his release from prison, Mr. Chandrasekaran boldly extended his support to Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to form the Government. He was appointed Deputy Minister for Housing. Since his vote was very crucial to form the Government he could have demanded a Cabinet portfolio.

But his desire to serve his constituents through the provision of adequate housing, which was their dire need, made him take up the Deputy Minister post for plantation housing. In his period as Deputy Minister for Housing he initiated and implemented a programme to build around 40,000 single houses for estate worker families-- an achievement indeed. Thereafter, in all the subsequent elections he was elected by the people of Nuwara Eliya to represent them in Parliament.

In my association with Mr. Chandrasekaran, I have been amazed by the kindness and empathy he showed towards the members of the plantation community. He was a man from the community and he listened to his constituents in the union office, his house or in the Ministry.

He knew the trials and tribulations of the peoples and identified with them in their sorrows and happiness. Here was a man who never forgot his roots, where he came from even though he was a Minister in the National Government. He was truly a people’s Man.

As a Minister in the National Government he never showed any partiality towards the workers of other unions. He used to inform all Ministry staff that Ministry activities should be impartial and must be beneficial to not only the estate community but to neighbouring villages as well. I used to accompany him to the estates when he went to open projects implemented by the Ministry. It was amazing to see how people rallied around him.

He led a simple life and was attached to his family. He is one of the very few Cabinet Ministers who did not surround himself with security guards and hangers-on. He was of the firm conviction that he was elected by the people and he should be protected by them and not from them. He believed that Tamils in Sri Lanka should not face any differences whether they were from the upcountry or north east. He believed in the commonalities of all Sri Lankans and that they should live peacefully in harmony with all communities.

The plantation community lost a genuine leader and active trade unionist and caring politician. His family lost a loving husband and father. The country lost a caring politician who tried to build on commonalities and not differences.

May his soul rest in peace

D. Deenadayalu


Writer, artist, friend and mentor – and gracious hostess

Christine Spittel-Wilson

It was with profound sorrow that I read of my dear friend and mentor Christine Spittel-Wilson’s passing away. I came to know Dr. R. L. Spittel and his daughter Christine Spittel-Wilson some three or four decades ago, when I was working for the Gal Oya Development Board.

Like her father, Christine was a prolific writer. Her first novel, “The Bitter Berry”, was written while she was convalescing after a motorcar accident, in which she had suffered a serious spine injury. The book was translated into Sinhala under the title, “Thiththa Kopi”.

Next came “A Tea Plantation in Ceylon” (Oxford University Press), which became a school textbook in England; another novel, “The Mountain Road”, followed and was translated into German under the title, “Die Strasse Nach Kashmir”. Her third novel was “I Am The Wings” (published in 1961). She also wrote a cookery book, “Secrets of Eastern Cooking”, and co-authored with her father a historical novel, “Brave Island”. Her biography of her father, “Surgeon of the Wilderness”, was published in 1975, and a revised edition appeared in 2001.

As a freelance writer, Christine was a frequent contributor to the local English newspapers and to journals such as the wildlife magazine, “Loris”. She wrote on a variety of subjects, from the Veddahs and wildlife conservation to travel and social anthropology. She also wrote short stories.

In addition to being a writer, Christine Spittel-Wilson was an artist, and produced many fine landscape paintings. Art was in her blood. Her grand-uncle was the eminent 19th-century artist, J. L. K. van Dort.
Christine married Alistair Wilson, a Scottish major in the Army who served as an engineer at the Colombo Commercial Company. In later years, he worked for the World Bank in East Africa, where Christine and Alistair lived for nearly 20 years. Their daughter Anne Andersen lives in Denmark.

While in Kenya, Christine took the opportunity to study and research at the National Museum. She gained a deep knowledge of Africa’s history, architecture, anthropology and folklore. She travelled to the national parks, and did some globe-trotting too – to Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Germany and France.

Whenever I came down to Colombo, I never failed to call on Christine and Alistair. On the last occasion I visited them, Christine accompanied me to the gate to bid me goodbye. My two daughters and I recall with fondest gratitude the Wilsons’ generous hospitality.

Good Night, Sweet Princess – may you rest in peace.

Gamini G. Punchihewa

The “Duchess of Colombo” had done it all and seen it all

As the final chapter of the amazing life of Ira Fernando comes to an end, Tara Coomaraswamy reminisces

Whenever I asked Ira Fernando whether I could write about her again, her response invariably was: "Wait until I am gone." Sadly this has now come to pass.

Ira, whose story I told in this newspaper four years ago, passed away in London on March 2, aged 92. As Iranganee Lynette Dias, daughter of Mr. and Mrs Lambert Dias of Panadura, she was born to great wealth and status. Though she encountered great personal tragedy and hardship in her life, her forceful personality remained undimmed through it all.

Four years ago, I wrote of her struggle to bring up her only son Michael in the UK, under very different circumstances from those she had experienced in her privileged childhood. In later life, her intrepid nature, thirst for new experiences and love of travel took her all over the world, and resulted in many colourful exploits.

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A wish fulfilled: Ira at No 10. Downing Street with Cherie Blair

At the end of the article I wrote that she still had some unfinished business. The self-styled "Duchess of Colombo" had been almost everywhere she had wanted to go and done almost everything she had wanted to do. From the pyramids of Egypt to the beaches of Waikiki, from the Vienna Boys Choir to the Oberammergau Passion Play, she had been there, done that.

She had only two regrets: not having been to the Iguazu Falls in Argentina and not having been inside No.10 Downing Street. She had more or less (but not entirely!) given up on the former but still hankered after the latter. She had asked various people whether they could arrange this for her, but without success. One day she thought, "Nothing to lose, I'll have one last try," and wrote to Cherie Blair's private secretary. Two weeks later she had a phone call.

"Mrs Blair would love to meet you. When would you like to come and whom would you like to bring with you?" (She called me excitedly, saying "I did it! I did it!")

Ira took her son and daughter-in-law with her, had tea with Mrs Blair and her daughter and went on a tour of No.10. This was no token visit: they were there for nearly two hours. Ira had her photo taken with Mrs Blair against the famous mantelpiece - the one you see in newspaper photographs of the Prime Minister with visiting heads of state. Ira had the picture on her Christmas cards that year (2006), using her recently acquired expertise on the computer to make the cards herself.

In 2007 Ira turned 90 and planned her birthday in grand style several months in advance. First, she had a service at her local church, followed by a dinner party for 90 friends at the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury, festively decorated with (what looked like at least 90) pink balloons, where she cut a "90"- shaped cake with pink roses, made by her friend Daya Perera, and made a memorable speech (which her son warned guests would cover the whole of her 90 years and might take just as long to listen to!) However, everyone was riveted by Ira's life story. Afterwards, guests sang all her favourite songs, including "There'll be bluebirds over / The white cliffs of Dover," danced the Hokey-Cokey (Ira was particularly keen on this and had laid on two tapes and two cassette recorders, just in case one didn't work) and as a finale, did a conga round the room! Guests had flown in from four continents to attend the party.

Ira was still travelling. She loved sending postcards while on her travels. In May 2006, at the age of 88, she set off to visit her relative Eunice Dias in Toronto, because the latter was in hospital with a broken leg. How many would cross the Atlantic to personally deliver a Get Well Card? I received a postcard dated 20th May 2006 captioned "Mid-Atlantic. Queen Mary. Thanks be to God, the sea is very rough [??] and I'm….[indecipherable scrawl]. Breakfast in cabin. Skip lunch. Dinner - excellent. Had to dress up tonight, the captain invited me for his party. Lucky I brought 2 sarees.”

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Girl from Panadura: Young Ira with her parents Mr and Mrs Lambert Dias

In her 89th year she went once more to the Holy Land and walked the Way of the Cross (the route Christ is said to have taken, carrying the cross on the way to being crucified at Mount Golgotha). In 2007, not long after her 90th birthday, she went to Spain with family and friends. I had no idea she had gone off somewhere else until I got a mischievous postcard headed "The Arctic." "Surprise, surprise! A few miles south of the North Pole, temperature -21C - but it's still warmer than London. She wrote that she had spent four days in a "lovely hotel in Rejkjavik - very expensive, only eating breakfast" and from there travelled three hours out to sea to see "lots of whales jumping about like anything."

However, after her 90th birthday, there were signs that she was finally slowing down. In December 2007 she fell ill and this turned into pneumonia.

She had many anxious visitors while in hospital, bearing flowers and boxes of chocolates. Recuperating at home in her flat, the string of visitors continued, now bringing all kinds of special treats ranging from string-hoppers to crab curry. (Though, of course, it was impossible to give Ira anything without her giving you back as much or even more, in some form or the other. She was punctilious about repaying favours.)

She showed us photo albums of her travels. There were also photos on the wall of her parents, and of a young and very good looking Ira. One could believe her when she said she had had many suitors, and not only because of her parents' wealth.

"Once a married man offered to divorce his wife and marry me. I told him not to bother. I was more interested in my tennis! I used to follow the Wimbledon matches, especially the men's results." She was the first woman member of the Panadura tennis club. She watched Wimbledon with passionate intensity, absolutely glued to her television. Friends were asked not to disturb her till the tournament was over.

Ira turned down many "eligible" suitors, to the irritation of her parents. But when Maxie Fernando came along, it was "match over, three sets to love" (a serendipitous pun!) He was the nicest, the most charming AND the handsomest man she had ever met. They were married within a few weeks, against the wishes of her family. She was blissfully happy during her tragically short married life.

Ira said sadly, "Do you know that I have now lived 42 years without Maxie? He always said to me, 'Take care of Michael; he's the greatest asset we have; to hell with all your property.' He was right. I sold it all to bring our son to England. I think I have done my duty, and now I am ready to go."

That was two years ago. The bout of pneumonia had weakened Ira and affected her psychologically, but she still kept going. One reason was that she was always busy finding ways to make other people happy.

These projects in her last year included arranging for Nijole, her Lithuanian daughter-in-law, of whom she was very fond ("She really looks after me, that girl") to go to Royal Ascot, something the latter had always hankered after. The friend who had made this possible was next in line. "Now, what can I do for Premilla, she bought the tickets and took Nijole all the way to Ascot in her car…?"

In January, less than two months before she died, she organised and hosted a joint birthday party at a hotel for her daughter-in-law and two of her friends. Invitations were designed and printed by Ira herself for this party, which had a "hippie" theme! All guests (and the hostess) came dressed as hippies. You can see why she was a 92-year-old like no other….

A loyal old girl of CMS Ladies' College, Ira had never missed a Founder's Day service, and she was determined that 2010 would be no different. Despite being ill with a stomach complaint, she managed to sit though the entire service at Christ Church, Chesea. This was in mid-February, her very last outing. On March 1, Ira had a fall in her flat, and, though in pain, adamantly refused to set foot in a hospital again.

When she was finally hospitalised the next morning, she experienced sudden kidney failure and passed away around midday. She had left instructions that no-one was to see her dead body, or even be told of her death until after she was buried.

What can one possibly say that would capture the spirit of Ira? Through the veins of this extraordinary woman surely coursed some special elixir, which gave her a bubbly, irrepressible, "never-say-die" attitude to life and an eternal youthfulness. But she was made of more admirable stuff than mere enthusiasm for life.

She embodied so many fine qualities. She was loyal to the memory of her husband, selflessly dutiful in bringing up their beloved son, hardworking and patient in the face of adversity, thoughtful and generous to her friends, disciplined in fulfilling her commitments, honest in her dealings with the world at large.
Rest in peace, Ira. They don't make them like you any more.


Remembering a rugby mum


Jean Juhary

My friend Jean Juhary was a wonderful person and a sincere friend. I know she is heaven because she was such a great fun-loving person. She was also a caring wife and a loving mother.

Jean always had a smile on her face, and fought her long battle with cancer with great courage. I first met Jean and her family when her son and my son played rugby for Wesley College in the early 1990s. As rugby parents, we never missed a single rugby tournament the school took part in, whether in Colombo, Kandy or elsewhere.

When the rugby championships were played out at the Sugathadasa Stadium, I would be there, straight from work, and Jean would join us, with her husband Juno and daughter Tirana.

We would hail each other from a distance, Jean waving and flashing her glorious smile. The ladies formed a cheering squad, and led the cheering. If our team lost, the mothers would become very emotional and our spouses would laugh at us. We were indeed the noisiest persons on the rugby field!

After the game, we would follow the team in our vehicles. We often made a picnic out of the occasion, taking along food, water, clothing and whatnot. We had wonderful times. Those matches became social outings. Win or lose, who cared. Wesleyite