Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lanka Personalities

Those Magnificent People


Even though Sri Lankans have made significant contributions to life, society and culture, many are still largely unaware of these contributions as well as their personal stories and history. The LankaPersonalities goal is to change this. Primarily the anecdotes will focus on origins, families, politics, history, achievements, events, music, sports and entertainment of these personalities. Even then, only a relatively small number of Sri Lankans have ever received the attention they deserve. Furthermore, existing oral history collections still consist largely of memories hidden away inside ageing peoples minds; access to them is extremely limited; and, most are not easy to obtain and transfer to today’s hi-tech multi-media formats.

Like other oral history collections, The LankaPersonalities collection hearkens back to the earliest and most authentic efforts to capture the hearts of a people, while introducing state-of-the-art technology and increased accessibility. LankaPersonalities wants to provide living proof that Sri Lankan history did not begin or end with the advent of just a band people into the island but is based upon the multi-cultural integration of many different peoples who came, fought, struggled, shared, lived, loved and survived through so many varied eras of Colonialism and inter political situations.

The initial goal of LankaPersonalities is to obtain as many historical accounts of both well-known and unsung Sri Lankans within the coming years, creating an archive of unparalleled importance and exposing the archival collection to the widest audience possible.

By recording the messages of leadership, achievement and perseverance embodied in the life stories of these people and sharing the stories with the world community through its website and its ongoing public programs, LankaPersonalities hopes to enrich the lives of all ethnic groups, both young and old.

An integral part of the Lankan experience, The LankaPersonalities' stories are ones of success against the odds, of achievement in the face of adversity, and in all cases, they are stories of inspiration. They are Sri Lanka's Missing Stories.


LankaPersonalities is a national, non-profit educational organization committed to preserving, developing and providing easy access to an internationally recognized, archival collection of Sri Lankan personality histories.

The purpose of this archive is to educate and to:

show the breadth and depth of this important Sri Lankan history as told by the first person;
highlight the accomplishments of individual Sri Lankans across a variety of disciplines;

showcase those who have played a role in Sri Lankan led movements and/or organizations; and preserve this material for years and generations to come.

LankaPersonalities is committed to creating and exposing its archival collection to the widest audience possible using collaborations as well as the Internet, a digital archive and other new technologies.


Lanka Personalities is headquartered in Colombo, Sri Lanka a city rich in Sri Lankan history, especially under Colonial rule, and has been initiated in March of 2006 by a group of enthusiastic and patriotic Sri Lankan men and women.


A Lanka Personality, is a person: 
1) who by his/her own accomplishments has made significant strides; and/or 
2) who is associated with a particular movement, organization or association and event or time that is important to the Sri Lankan community. 

We are in the process of trying to identify our LankaPersonalities. Some are elderly and hard to find. Some of their notoriety may have waned, but their historical significance has not.

They may have interesting insights to share about important events or historical periods. They may be your neighbor, your relative, your friend or maybe someone you have worked with or admired over the years. They may be someone you have read about or heard their story. Please feel free to nominate someone as a LankaPersonality. While doing so, make sure to tell us their background, their accomplishments and/or their role in Sri Lankan history. It is extremely important that you also include appropriate contact information.


The Lanka Personalities is a text/graphic based history archive committed to making history come alive, making it accessible to the public through its website, digital archive, special events, public programming.

Please send all data about any Lanka Personality that you may know of for inclusion within these pages to the email address:


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

R. A. Gunawardene

Former Surveyor General would have made an excellent Governor General

R. A. Gunawardene

Former Surveyor General Reginauld Alick Gunawardene, known as “RAG” to his close friends, passed away peacefully at his home “Melville” three months ago.

Reginauld was born to a Methodist father and a Roman Catholic mother, but lived as an atheist most of his life. It was only in his last years that he acknowledged an awareness of a loving God. He died the way he lived, largely unknown and unsung. He left instructions that his mortal remains be buried within 24 hours of his death, and that he be given a private funeral.
RAG was born in Kandy on January 29, 1923. He studied at St. Benedict’s College, Kotahena, and after a successful school career joined the staff of his alma mater for a short while before taking up a full-time job as a teacher at St. Mary’s, Chilaw. He entered university and graduated with a BSc (London).Before joining the Survey Department in 1948 as an Assistant Superintendent, he was for a short time Assistant Food Controller. He was promoted to the position of Superintendent of Surveys in 1962, and rose to the rank of Assistant Acting Surveyor General. He became Acting Surveyor General in 1972, and retired 10 months later. The next four years he spent in salubrious Diyatalawa as head of the Institute of Surveying and Mapping. He trained dozens of people in the disciplines of surveying and mapping, while being quite a disciplinarian himself. He was a stickler for rules.

I had the privilege of profiling this great man in The Sunday Times of February 12, 2006, when his surveyor colleagues felicitated him as the oldest member of their fraternity.

RAG was a legend in the Survey Department. There were many stories told about him and his no-nonsense ways. For example, there was the case of the draughtsman who had refused to be transferred to a distant outstation post, saying he could not leave behind his bed-ridden mother. Later, when the draughtsman appeared before an interview board, headed by RAG, in connection with an application for a scholarship to go overseas for training, RAG asked him how he would manage to leave his bed-ridden mother to go abroad when he did not want to leave her side to work in another part of this country.

Many believed RAG should have been Governor General, rather than Surveyor General, saying he would have given the country the discipline it needed.

May this labourer who was called to the vineyard in the last hour of the day enjoy eternal rest with the Lord.

By Lenard R. Mahaarachchi


We have lost two caring doctors and a rare politician


My wife and I were saddened by the sudden and tragic passing away of our dear friends Raja and Jenny Johnpulle. I first met Raja in 1957 when he joined the Faculty of Science, University of Ceylon, Colombo, for his First MB. He has been my friend ever since. We lived in Aquinas Hall (Catholic Hostel), a well-knit community of 40 undergraduates. He was a smiling character taking an active part in the affairs of the hostel. I remember him being the Literary Secretary and producing the annual journal.

Moments before the blast in Anuradhapura
He and Jenny left the government health service very early to engage in full time private practice in Anuradhapura. They were respected and popular practitioners.
He was happy when I was appointed the Superintendent of Health Services Anuradhapura in 1978. Then he was Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in the USSR. When he was on leave in Sri Lanka he paid a special visit to me at my office and had a long chat about the health services of Anuradhapura district. We became closer friends from the 1990s as we met at the monthly meetings of the Independent Medical Practitioners Association of which he was Vice President. He travelled regularly from Anuradhapura and most of the time went back in the dead of night.
He was dedicated to the UNP under every leadership. He did not gain financially from politics. Jenny did not dabble in politics but stood by his side always. When the UNP office situated in his clinic was first damaged. I telephoned him and told him that the time had come for him to give up politics. Regretfully, he did not agree. We met them after their home was burnt. They were calm and resigned to what had happened.

Sri Lanka has lost two honest and caring doctors and a rare upright politician. Their children among whom one is a doctor can be proud of them.

May they rest in peace.

Dr. Lucian Jayasuriya, Rajagiriya

Major General Janaka Perera

Saluting a soldier, politician, diplomat and an Aiya

Major-General Janaka Perera

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

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

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

Whenever you were home on leave, you would entertain us with your stories of Army life in faraway places, and we would listen enthralled. When I married Mohan, also a serviceman, you and my husband would get together and swap Army stories for hours on end. It was wonderful to see the two of you taking centre stage at family functions and talking about your lives as servicemen, but always careful to censor and edit your stories to suit your audience!
In Vajira – your charming wife and companion for 25 years – you found the perfect partner. She was your soul mate. She complemented you in stature, temperament and intelligence.
We enjoyed your gracious hospitality countless times – whether it was at the Army married quarters, or at your Poorvarama Road home in Colombo, or at the High Commissioner’s residence in Canberra, Australia. It was always open house at your home, even to the most casual of acquaintances. Everybody who visited you and Vajira was given a very warm welcome. Your home radiated great warmth and hospitality.

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday Times Oct 12 2008
May your roar reverberate in the echoes of time

The loss of Major General Janaka Perera is a devastating blow to a country now devoid of learned, respected and beloved leaders who potentially could have united all the races of Mother Lanka under one banner. With his untimely demise, another shining light has gone out, only to be remembered in memory by generations of Sri Lankans to come. His life of service to the nation will be part of the great historical record that is the exclusive preserve of the privileged few, who served a grateful nation; never for personal reward or recognition, but to answer a call of duty, that for this Lion of Sri Lanka, was too loud to ignore.

Like his esteemed brethren Lieutenant General Denzil Kobbekaduwa, Major General Vijaya Wimalaratne, and other dedicated and decorated service personnel before him, Major General Perera was a Sri Lankan patriot who served his motherland to the end, and vehemently believed that a return to greatness for our country was on the horizon. His success on the battlefields over 20 years will now be part of the essential reading on military strategy, and he was the true epitome of courage and perseverance. His leadership on the battlefield against all odds and adversity today is the stuff of legend. His colleagues in the Army will vouch with pride that in a lifetime of service to his beloved country, he never wavered in his duty and obligations to his troops and commanders, and he put our nation’s interests first.

In an age where moral values have been desecrated, and where politicians are the standard bearers for the prevailing social fabric of society, Major General Perera stood out like a beacon. While he was human and therefore vulnerable to human failings, he always strove for greatness, and his learned discourse and dialogue always smacked of hours spent reading on subjects that he couldn’t speak on with authority. His supreme self-confidence coupled with an unbridled self-belief was seen as arrogant by some, but viewed in general as the hallmark of all great leaders. He had that rare quality where he never expected anyone to do something, that he himself would not do first, and he always led from the front, even when it was strategically important that he manage his troops from the safety of his command centre. His loss will echo throughout the armed forces more than anywhere else, as he spent almost his entire life in their service, and
was one of their most beloved sons.

A record of distinguished service…

He had the unique distinction of being the Colonel Commandant of the Commando Regiment, Special Forces Regiment and the Corps of Sri Lanka Engineers. Major General Janaka Perera had been awarded the gallantry medals Rana Wickrama Padakkama and Rana Sura Padakkama, the distinguished service medal, Vishista Seva Vibhushanaya service medals, the Uttama Seva Padakkama, Sri Lanka Armed Services Long Service Medal, combat service medals Purna Bhumi Padakkama, North and East Operations Medal, the Vadamarachchi Operation Medal, the Riviresa Campaign Services Medal, and also the Republic of Sri Lanka Armed Services Medal, 50th Independence Anniversary Medal 1998, Sri Lanka Army 50th Anniversary Medal and President's Inauguration Medal.

His entrance into politics was controversial, and even when many of his family and closest advisors questioned his decision, he always said that he still had so much to give his country, and wanted to contribute even after completing his exemplary military service. While many will rue his decision in the coming days, it important to see his most dominant quality of self-sacrifice, shining through. One can only hope that his peers and colleagues alike will carry forward the legacy of this great man, as a testament to his sacrifice. What is now needed is not further political divisions and debates, but for Sri Lanka to go forth united together in her efforts to stamp out the scourge of terrorism, and bring peace and prosperity to all people of this island.

He was one to all…

He was dearly loved by the people of all races and creeds, and always expended his duties to ensure racial harmony was maintained wherever he or his division was based. Even in hostile territory, he always assured the minorities that he would never tolerate anyone, even his troops, to violate the rights of the very people they had sought to liberate from the evil clutches of terrorism. He had no patience for political masters, and refused to compromise himself or his troops for the petty political mileage that today has become the hallmark of politics and service in Sri Lanka.

His devoted and lifelong partner Mrs. Vajira Perera, who also perished in this cowardly attack, was his tower of strength, his harshest critic and his biggest fan. She always went everywhere with him, and made sure that in his battlefield absences, she raised a wonderful family that he could be proud of today. His children share his gregarious nature, and their mother’s charming and pragmatic approach. They will take heart that they had extraordinary parents who made the supreme sacrifice serving the country they loved so dearly.

Farewell Lion of Lanka, and may your roar reverberate in the echoes of time, and may your spirit inhabit the generations of patriotic children of our motherland. May you find in eternal rest, the peace for which you have worked so long.

Ashan Malalasekera.
Founder & Executive Director, Youth Progressive Foundation (YPF) - Sri Lanka.

Goodbye to a brave general, eloquent diplomat, popular politician and patriotic friend

I have known brave generals, eloquent diplomats, popular politicians and patriotic friends in my lifetime, but I can confidently say that there was only one person known to me who possessed all these qualities and that person is none other than the late Major General Janaka Perera. The country has lost a patriotic and dedicated military and political leader. He risked his life over and over again because he had a vision to regain the lost paradise in this country by defeating the LTTE both militarily and politically. The LTTE succeeded in assassinating him on October 6, 2008 at Anuradhapura in the most cowardly way through a suicide bomber, before
he could make his vision a reality.

His military efforts to defeat the LTTE are numerous and among them his victory at Weli Oya is among the greatest, wherein nearly four hundred LTTE cadres were killed, while the losses on his side were only one soldier and one home guard. He was sent to defend Jaffna at a time the political leadership in Colombo were making preparations to withdraw the Security Forces from Jaffna, with the assistance of India. His leadership turned defeat into victory. While the whole country is well aware of these two victories of his, there are many other victories he achieved as a military officer that perhaps only those in the Security Forces would know.

The liberation of the east when the late D.B.Wijetunga was President, where he was one of the front line Commanders and the subsequent successful march via
Elephant Pass to Kilinochchi, which was implemented with him as the Operations Commander and his role in the capture of Rohana Wijeweera to end the last JVP
insurrection are just a few that I can recall from memory.

The Major General Janaka Perera that I knew was ambitious and nothing short of becoming the President of this country would have enabled him to make his vision a reality. In an article that was published in The Sunday Times of July 20 2008, I said, “However if this is his aim, the path ahead is pitted with many obstacles. The LTTE will not be the only enemy he will have to contend with. He survived the LTTE threat when he was a serving officer in the army because he had the necessary security. As an opposition nominee to the post of Chief Minister who is considered a threat to the governing party, his security will never reach the level that he enjoyed while serving in the army.

Therefore the question is whether he will be ever allowed to work his way up…” He was not allowed to work his way up, because the government failed in providing him with the necessary security and has to now take the responsibility for allowing the LTTE to assassinate such a valuable person. Let this be a lesson to the government to make an independent analysis of the threat assessment on very important persons, without considering political affiliations.

As a close friend I tried to persuade him not to take to politics at this point of time, but he was too strong willed to heed my advice. He even declined an offer by the President to be appointed as a Governor and made the mistake of taking to politics by joining the UNP and being nominated as the candidate for the Chief Minister’s post in the North Central Province. It was this mistake that paved the way for his assassination.

Major General Janaka Perera was very confident of victory and said on the political platform that he had never lost a battle and would therefore be victorious at the provincial council elections. However, though he was the candidate who polled the highest amount of preferential votes, his party the UNP was defeated and he was appointed to the post of the Leader of the Opposition in the North Central Provincial Council. He was preparing himself to serve the people in his new appointment
when the LTTE assassinated him.

As an army officer he stood by his men because he valued the lives of those under his command more than his own promotions. Therefore he refused to dance to the tune of politicians and as a result possibly even lost the chance of becoming the Army Commander. As a diplomat he succeeded not only in Australia and Indonesia but at all international diplomatic gatherings to eloquently show that the problem in our country was a terrorist one and not ethnic. As a politician he won the hearts of the people in record time and became the most loved politician in the North Central Province. Finally as a true friend of mine he went beyond the call of
duty when he was in the army to help me when I was in difficulty.

Though he is no more there are many in the army who were trained by him and who served under him to follow in his footsteps. Therefore, I am certain that the LTTE
has made another great blunder in assassinating Major General Janaka Perera, because though they were able to kill him, they will never be able to kill his vision of
defeating the LTTE both militarily and politically.

His determination to do so I hope will gather immense strength in the days to come with the support of both the government and the opposition. This, however, is unlikely to happen if the opposition tries to use the assassination of Major General Janaka Perera to gain petty political mileage, without keeping in mind that the common enemy responsible for death and destruction is the LTTE. May the late Major General Janaka Perera, his wife Vajira and all his supporters who were killed

by the LTTE in Anuradhapura on October 6, 2008 attain the bliss of Nibbana. I also take this opportunity to convey my heartfelt condolences to his children and his

Lt. Col. Anil Amarasekera

Vajira Perera

Perfect wife to a soldier and diplomat

Vajira Perera

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

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

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

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

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

The last time we met Vajira, she was very excited about her new life in Anuradhapura, and the prospect of inviting the people of the area to meet Janaka. In those last few months, she became very popular among the people of Anuradhapura. She was always ready to lend a sympathetic ear to their problems.

Much has been written about Janaka, but he would not have been the great man he became without his best friend and devoted partner, Vajira, to inspire him. She was an excellent mother to their children, instilling in them the high principles that have stood them in good stead during this time of family grief.Janik, Janu, Shehara and Ashanka – your parents were very special to all of us. We have no doubt that in time you will make your parents very proud of all four of you.


Sir Cyril de Zoysa

A great philanthropist, visionary and entrepreneur

Sir Cyril de Zoysa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ven. Galaboda Sri Gnanissara Maha Thera

Vinitha Rukmani Wijesinghe

A perfect grandmother

Vinitha Rukmani Wijesinghe

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

The devotion, joy, pain, sacrifice, and equal love, are only a few attributes that mothers’ possess. My grandmother had each and every of those qualities. Throughout her life, she fulfilled the duty of being a mother to full of her ability, loving, and sharing everything she had, with her five children equally. A grandmother’s love is something rare that should be cherished. She can be defined as someone who had a big heart, a warm smile, and a loving touch. On every occasion a grandchild was born, she opened up her heart to let that one in. At 70, she passed away from a life full of generosity, kindness, commitment, and unreserved love. It was a life that will not only be dearly missed, but admired immensely by everyone who knew her.

Though she had left the mortal life, she will stay in the hearts of anyone she had come in contact with.We all love you very much Aachchi, and may you attain Nibbana.

Sarindee Wickramasuriya

Dr George Benedict

A doctor who was loved for his simplicity and humility

Dr. George Benedict

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

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

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

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

You left us precious memoriesThat made us laugh and cry,But the love you planted in our heartsNo millionaire can buy.

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

Family members

Ms Sithy Cader

Mrs. Sithy Cader

Mrs. Sithy Cader, joint secretary of the Women’s Bureau of the Moors’ Islamic Cultural Home (MICH), passed away peacefully on August 1, 2008. Innalillahi wa Inna Ilaihi Rajioon.
Mrs. Cader served the MICH Women’s Bureau from its inception 33 years ago, first as secretary and finally as president. She held many positions within the bureau, and was actively involved in the home’s various activities. She served the MICH up to the very end.

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

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

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

Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe

Sunday Times Nov 2 2008
Remembering a reconciler and bishop of the people

Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe

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

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

Bishop Lakshman’s teaching ministry is remembered and appreciated by many generations of youth, students and adults. He had a special concern for lay persons in the Anglican Church and beyond in regard to equipping them for their ministry in the church and in society. He stressed the importance of responsible political involvement and being socially conscious trade unionists. When he became Bishop of the Diocese of Kurunegala, he produced a booklet, titled “Kiriya Huruwa”, which was a guide to help lay people become agents of change in church and society.
Although “born with a silver spoon in his mouth”, Bishop Lakshman was committed to the struggle for justice, and empathised with the plight of the farmers, the working people and the minorities, and the poor and oppressed. He responded to the needs of the poor by initiating a series of development projects in his diocese in the late 1960s and the 1970s. He helped set up two farms-cum-training centres for youth, “Christodaya” in Kurunegala, and “Uda Gira” in Galgamuwa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Revd. Jeffrey Abayasekera

Ven. Ratwatte Siddhartha

Ven. Ratwatte Siddhartha

His interest was not self-glorification

Ven. Ratwatte Siddhartha, who was the founder and the Chief Achariya Teacher of the well-known Dhamma Khuta Vipassana Meditation Centre on the hilltop of Mahakanda in Kandy, passed away on the September 9 2008 at the age of 85.

He was virtually the local representative of the world-renowned guru Goenka whose technique of Vipassana Meditation is followed all over the world. Before ordination he was Brendly Ratwatte, who hailed from an aristocratic family in the hill capital of Kandy. Although he was a lawyer who could have easily built up a lucrative practice, his interest was not self-glorification but understanding the vanity of glory.

He married Miss Damayanthi Ellepola of a family of parallel standing in Matale. They gifted to the society, a very valuable daughter who is a doctor and a valuable son who is a lawyer. Then onwards, this great lover of humanity did not belong only to his family and relations but he was a guide and a teacher to all those that sought emancipation on Buddhist principles of Vipassana Meditation, as practised on the techniques introduced by his guru Goenka. Incidentally his wife, who was a university lecturer, too excelled in the art of meditation followed by her husband, and after his becoming a monk, she took over the role of the Chief Teacher at this meditation centre. She conducts courses of training by herself and with the help of the other teachers trained on the technique of meditation of Sri Goenka.

The Buddha always emphasised the value of doing good for oneself and for others (attahita, parahita). Late Mr. Ratwatte as a layman and then as a Buddhist monk was an embodiment of this great precept. His mission is reminiscent of the parable of the ship (nava) in the Suttanipata: As one who boards a sturdy boat,With oars and rudder well equipped,May many others then help cross,Sure, skilful knower of the means. In his search for light he travelled abroad, followed instructions under the eminent Buddhist monk Webu Sayadow of Myanmar. He also had a spell of meditation in the Himalayas.

It was on one of these journeys that he encountered his final guru S. N. Goenka, whose clarity of teaching and the efficacy of the technique of meditation attracted Mr. Ratwatte more than those of any other in the field. He studied his technique, practiced it, tested it with his own intuitive wisdom and accepted it as a very pragmatic approach. From then onwards he became the local representative of this International Guru Goenka. He founded the “Dhamma Kuta”, the well-known Buddhist meditation centre with his own money and with those lavishly contributed by other followers of this technique of meditation and attracted people of various walks of life, Buddhist monks, judges, physicians, scholars and also those less privileged people, for courses of training on Vipassana.

The followers of the practice of meditation were not limited to Buddhists but included people of other races and religions as well. Eventually he became a Buddhist monk, receiving his pabbajja (novice ordination) and as well as upasampada (higher ordination) under the Ven. Ramhukwelle Vipassi Maha Thera, the High Priest of the Malwatte Chapter of Shyamopali Maha Nikaya in the year 1999. Thereafter he continued his meditative practice in a kuti constructed and donated by his children, in a plot of land in the vicinity of Dhamma kuta, until his passing away. What was so impressive about Rev. Siddhartha, however, was not what he contributed to the field of meditation but what he was. He was truly selfless, because he totally dedicated himself to the mission he had undertaken. He left behind a world of good things for others to emulate.

May Ven. Siddhartha attain his goal of Nibbana!

Gamini Dissanayake

Nation Nov 9 2008
14th death anniversary of late Gamini Dissanayake

Charismatic and caring leader

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

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

He was a unique and extraordinary politician who listened to the masses, solved their problems. Anyone who was keen in meeting him had very easy access irrespective of any individual’s political affiliations.He was an excellent orator who spoke sense keeping the vivid audiences spellbound. The contents of his speeches spelt out his promises inspiring the desperate with hope for their lives. The firm foundation built and the confidence gained by the people of the electorate in particular helped in his stride to nurture and mature himself to become an ideal politician.

When the United National Party came into power in the year 1977, he was entrusted to accept many Ministerial Portfolios, monumental goals and tasks during the tenure of the government. The Ministerial Portfolios entrusted to him were Irrigation, Power, Constructions, Lands, Land Development, Mahaveli, Plantation Industries and Highways. Late Gamimi Dissanayake once confessed that the word “development” means developing the infrastructure and the end result of “development” is upliftment of the living standards of the masses in physical, mental, moral, social and cultural advancement.

The most gigantic task confronted by him was, of course, the historical accelerated Mahaweli Project. The toughest challenge in its implementation was the evacuation of approximately 3,000 families from over 50 villages who lived in the valley of the Kotmale reservoir. This also included about 15 places of religious worship. The late leader too sacrificed his ancestral lands. The Kotmale reservoir was one among other reservoirs, Victoria,Randenigala, Rantembe, Ulhitiya, Rahkinda and be built and commissioned under the accelerated Mahaweli development programme.

This multipurpose diversion scheme also included the amalgamation of several canals and waterways This massive Mahaweli scheme with foreign collaboration was manoeuvred by efficient personnel deployed both locally and internationally using innovative modern technology under the close scrutiny of the great leader.

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

As a gesture of national gratitude on April 11 2003 the “Kotmale Reservoir”was appropriately renamed as the “Gamini Dissanayke Reservoir” by unveiling his statue at a glittering ceremony presided by the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. This event became more significant as it took place at a time when the farmers were blessed with a bumper paddy harvest deprived them for a long period of time.The efforts of late Gamini Dissanayake while holding several Ministerial Portfolios other than the Mahaweli project have helped immensely to uplift to a large extent the basic living standards especially of the average citizen and made possible to make a tremendous impact on the economic revival of the country, which needs no exaggeration.Besides actively engaged in our development process he found the time to be actively involved in the game of cricket having held office as the President of the Board of Control of Cricket in Sri Lanka, BCCSL (now known as Sri Lanka Cricket) from June1981 to June 1989 and thereafter for a brief period of four months immediately prior to his tragic death in 1994 during which period he made many significant contributions.

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

May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.

A. N. (Nanda) Senewiratne

In memory of Father, greatly missed

A. N. (Nanda) Senewiratne

Called home – 10-11-2002

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

Viraj and Dhakshina

Premasiri Khemadasa

Master, the music you left us speaks for itself

Premasiri Khemadasa

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

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

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

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

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

The creation of gods, of heaven, of hell –
Nothing was sacred to you, and yet everything was.
You laughed at everyone.
You laughed at ordinariness and all you seemed to be saying sometimes was:
“Just get off your a-- and DO!”
and then throw in some comment about Verdi or Beethoven.

You laughed at the illness that was killing you.
Rest, they said, and you composed an opera;
Stay in bed, they said and you carried your music
To all corners of the island, like a devotee.
You carried buns and rolls in brown paper bags
for hungry musicians, lunch packets, water.
You shouted at them.
For them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The earth beneath their feet is gone.
May we have the foresight to spread our land before them,
To make this the soil upon which they would grow
The seeds you have gifted.
You have never rested before,
Master.But do so now, in peace.

Madhubhashini Ratnayake

R Sritharan

Remembering a fun classmate and jewel of a friend


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

I am here to represent his Class of ’56 and his friends at Royal College. I first met Kaiam 52 years ago.He was quick-witted, always smiling, and ever-ready for a prank. He was a teacher’s nightmare! Cricket was his passion, and he was a sound batsman – on and off the field.
Recalling his pranks, a mutual friend, Asoka, told me how Kaiam would stop and drink the milk from the bottles left by the milkman at the doorsteps of his neighbours, when he went on his 5 a.m. jogs with Asoka.

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

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

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

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

Anantham Harin, New York

D B Wijetunga

Sunday Times Nov 9 2008
Humility was late leader’s most endearing quality

D. B. Wijetunga

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

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

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

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

Once, during a chat while we were outstation on Ministry Mobile Services duties, I asked him whether any astrologer had predicted his meteoric rise to such heights. He said, “Rajah, you ask very peculiar questions!” But he did say raja yoga (predictions of “royal” status) references had been made, but no one had spelled out that he would one day be a prime minister or a president.
Mr. Wijetunga had his own sense of discipline. My own experience was that ministry files referred to him would be returned the following day, with approval for a recommended course of action. I once asked him how he managed to deal with the mountain of ministry files and take such prompt action. He said he would get up very early in the morning and attend to office files.
Punctuality was another virtue of the late President. In the day’s programme for many ministry events, the Minister of State would be expected to arrive before the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance. Often, Mr. Wijetunga would arrive earlier than scheduled, and he would receive the Minister of State, who at the time was the late Harold Herat. Mr. Herat told me it was very embarrassing for him when he came at the appointed time, or even a little earlier, to find the prime minister already present. So, to avoid embarrassment, he would make it a point to come quite early for functions attended by both Mr. Wijetunga and himself.

The late Mr. Wijetunga was a very humble man. He once told me he knew my father, also a politician, first in the UNP and then when they followed the late Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike to form the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. He said he had visited our home in Ratnapura in the early 1950s, when my father was with the UNP, and perhaps he was in the company of the late Mr. A. Ratnayake, a former president of the Senate, since he was at that time his private secretary.
It is not often that persons in high office refer to their connections and associations with subordinate officers, or their parents and relations, especially when they have had small beginnings. Mr. Wijetunga was not carried away by the high office he held. A great and endearing characteristic of the late President was that he never lost the common touch.

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

President Wijetunga took the many political elevations that came his way in his stride, without a semblance of pride or conceit. He always remained the simple man that he was.
I recall with nostalgia the pleasant and friendly relations we had during the period I served in the Ministry of Finance.

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

Rajah Kuruppu

Rev Sr Mary Adrian

Rev Sr Mary Adrian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With memories growing fonder, to live in the hearts of those who love is never to die.
With the passage of time Sr. Adrian too has been subjected to the law of the world where all conditioned things are subject to change. We do not mourn her death but celebrate her life.
May her upward path be smooth, sure and steady!

Neelani Wickrema Wijesinghe
The Sunday Leader Nov 16 2008

Durand Jayasuriya

Durand Jayasuriya

Devoted life for social harmony

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

urand completed his schooling career at Aluthgama Vidyalaya and taught for some time at Thudugala Vidyalaya and when he got through his Government Clerical Service Examination he joined the Government Service. He served as an Executive Grade Clerk at the Examinations Deparatment.

Thereafter, he was transferred to Cultural Dept. where he was entrusted with the highly responsible task of accompanying foreign cultural groups to all corners of the country attending to their needs, looking after their comforts, transport arrangements and coordinating with other departments which he performed meticulously to the utmost satisfaction of the foreign cultural groups and his higher officers. He also served at the Fisheries Department for a number of years and was transferred to the Department of Agriculture. Thereafter, he was transferred to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication where the former Minister Mr. Sunil S. Abeysundera impressed by his performance appointed Durand as his Personal Assistant. Finally, when he reached 60, he retired from Government service.

He was a very humble person who treated everyone with due respect. After retirement he joined Pure Beverages and served for a few years at Coca Cola Co. Durand loved his alma mater Aluthgama Vidyalaya which is situated adjoining his house at Aluthgama. He held many posts in the Aluthgama Vidyalaya Old Boys Association. He was also a founder member of Colombo Branch of Aluthgama Vidyalaya OBA where too he held many posts. Many old boys paid their last respects without considering the distance involved in travelling as all of them loved him sincerely for the long service he rendered to the OBA. Born on 22nd November, 1929 at Beruwala, Durand was the second son of Kaineris and Joslin Peiris.

He married Kamala Gertrude De Silva Manukulasuriya, an English trained teacher on 6th September, 1961. After marriage he resided at Moratuwa and Dehiwela and finally settled down at Siripura, Talawatugoda. He gave the best education possible to his two sons. He was a very friendly and amiable gentleman, a devoted husband, a dutiful father and a very helpful neighbour. He is one of the oldest residents at Siripura Housing Scheme who was a founder member of Siripura Welfare Society where he was the first Cultural Secretary who did yeoman service to unite the residents by organising Sinhala New Year festival avurudu pola, get-togethers, Wesak Bakthi Gee, eye catching Wesak decorations within the scheme, organising a procession of the residents to offer Buddha Puja at the Jothikarama Temple in the neighbourhood in the morning of Poson Poya Day, Christmas Carols, New year Get-togethers etc. He devoted most of his time to organise the above events which helped the residents to live in harmony like a well-knit family irrespective of any religious differences. He also served on its Committee for many more years making his services readily available for the greater good of the residents.

Durand as a hobby wrote regularly to the newspapers highlighting shortcomings and defects affecting the community. He never missed to write an appreciation to the newspapers whenever a resident of Siripura or a friend of his passed away. Once his wife Gertie asked him as to who would write his appreciation when he dies. He was a regular writer of articles to the newspapers and magazines and was the editor of ‘Kala Puwath’ and ‘Saruketha’. He happened to be a voracious reader and never missed to read the newspapers daily until he grievously fell ill. During his illness Durand was well looked after by his wife, two sons and daughters in law and relatives such as his nephew Wimal Dharmaratne who is also a resident at Siripura. Gertie will find it very difficult to bear the loss of her husband, so will be the two sons, two daughters in law and the three grand sons who loved him very dearly.

Durand .was also a diabetic patient recovered to a certain extent where he could walk about but all of a sudden his illness turned into worse and breathed his last at 9.30 p.m. on 12 October, 2008 at the age of 79. He will be missed not only by his family, relations and friends but by the residents of Siripura Housing Scheme who are very grateful to him for his kindness, friendliness and helpfulness. May he attain eternal bliss of Nibbana.

D. I. T. Hettiarachehi Talawatugoda

Hubert Austin de Silva

Possessed all the qualities to lead -

Late Mr. Hubert Austin de Silva

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

Late Mr. de Silva had achieved greatness and possessed the qualities of a leader. The first and foremost requirements of a great leader are honesty and sincerity of purpose. Then come vision, devotion and dedication to that purpose which could be enumerated as qualities that enhance leadership. A leader should also be able to identify temperament, the individual capabilities and ability of his entire staff. Mr. Hubert Silva possessed all these qualities to lead the entire group.His early education was at St. Benedict College Kotahena where he had a brilliant education. Late Mr. de Silva was selected for the District Revenue Officers Service in 1944. His first appointment as D.R.O. was in Matara. Later he was appointed as D.R.O. to Gampaha district. In 1951 he was selected by the Colombo Plan to undergo training at Administrative Staff College Hanley on Thames, England for a period of six months.

In 1958 Government appointed late Mr. de Silva to the Port (Cargo) Corporation where he was the Chief Executive and Chairman, Port Cargo Corporation. He served on several other and Government organisations and was also acting chairman Ceylon Shiping Corporation. After over 27 years of valuable service he left the Government service and joined the private sector as Director of Mc Larence Ltd. which was then one of the well established reputed foreign owned shipping agency houses. In 1973 Mc Larence Limited became fully fledged Ceylonese Company as Mc Larence Shipping limited and Mr. de Siva was elected as its Chairman in the latter part of 1971. In 1975 he launched his project in tourism and constructed Hotel Topaz and later Hotel Tourmaline. He further ventured into various other fields and also built two Container Yards at Welisara and Hendala. It is the duty of all the staff employed at the group to say a prayer on this 21 October, 2008 in his memory.

I have written this appreciation for the 16th time because we are a society with short memories.

May the Almighty God rest him in peace.

Claud de Silva

Sam de Silva

Sam De Silva

A man of surpassing integrity

It is 2 years since my friend late Mr. Sam De Silva was called to his eternal rest by his creator on 24th November 2007. I knew Sam for 60 years at the time of his death. He entered St. Aloysyus College, Galle in 1945.

For the last time I met Sam when I went for the Annual General meeting of the Colombo branch of the old Boys Association on 9th September, 2007 at the entrance of the Hotel Sapphire, Wallawatta, where he invited me to be his guest. At that time I never saw anything that he was sick but to my surprise that Sam had passed away on 24th November, 2007. He had being sick for only a week but I didn’t not know it. Had I known I would have gone to see him but it was a very sad occasion for me about his death.

Sam was a very loyal old boy of the college, He took a keen interest in the affairs of the Old Boys Association where he was holding office as a Committee Member, Vice President, President, and Vice Patron at the time of his death. Now a loyal old boy is no more. Casting my mind back over the 60 years about Sam I knew and reviewing all the association of these years, counting all his achievements, there is one word that sums up him, i.e. faithfulness.

He was primarily a faithful husband, father, and then friend. He was faithful to all his professional commitments. He was faithful to his ideals. He was all in one. He was a man of surpassing integrity. He was also a very wise man. One could go to him for counsel and receive the best considered advice. He would listen with his mind and warm heart, and you could sense his mighty intellect trimming the extraneous details and getting to the core. Goodbye my dear friend Sam until we meet again.

Claude De Silve Kotugoda

D F E Panagoda

His pioneering Sinhala textbooks shaped generations of students

D.F.E. Panagoda

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

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

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

Long before Sinhala became the official language, educationists such as D.F.E. Panagoda were pioneering the teaching of algebra, geometry and arithmetic in Sinhala. Mr. Panagoda made this possible through his user-friendly mathematics textbooks. His Sinhala publications, including ‘Senior School Algebra’, ‘Senior School Arithmetic’, ‘Teaching of Arithmetic’, ‘Delight in Numbers’ (Books 1 to 5), were used widely in schools from 1940 to 1960. Some of the Sinhala mathematical terms Mr. Panagoda coined have become standard terms in mathematics.
He was also interested in language and literature, especially poetry. His other publications include ‘Padya Rasaya’ (a seven-volume series of poetry books), ‘Rasanjalee’, an anthology of Sinhala verse, and ‘Sinhala In Practice’ (a five-volume series). All of these books were widely used in schools as supplementary texts during the ’50s. Those who were students in the ’50s and ’60s would no doubt have fond memories of these books.

Mr. Panagoda served on several committees to promote the use of Sinhala as the medium of instruction. In 1960, he was appointed to the National Co-ordination Committee of UNESCO.
Educationists like Mr. Panagoda have rendered an inestimable service to the country by giving new generations of students access to higher education in Sinhala.

As the male head of a women’s college, Mr. Panagoda was a strict disciplinarian, but his kindness and understanding gave him an iconic status among schoolteachers in our country.
Mr. Panagoda will be remembered by many: immaculately dressed, cheerfully walking the corridors of Musaeus Training College.

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

"The heights by great men
Reached and kept
Were not attained bySudden flight
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upwardsIn the night."

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

Upali Cooray

S M Kamaldeen

ALHAJ S.M. Kamaldeen - My father - a man of few Words
Aug 2008 - sent in by Mo Qamardeen from New Hampshire, USA

My father, S.M. Kamaldeen, passed away on August 15, 2008. Until his death in August, he had lived a full life: provided for his family, achieved success in his career, volunteered his services to social causes and saw the world. As I write this memorial to my father from my home in the United States of America, very recent words spoken to me by a relative praising my father over the telephone, resonates in my mind. However, his primary trait was described in just a smattering of words- that my father was a man of few words. My father, who was always in the habit of giving others more so than he ever received, wasn’t inclined to wasting too many words to highlight his accomplishments. Being the bearer of my father’s legacy to the world, I feel it is my duty to reflect on his contributions to the society that he lived in and recall highlights of his long and illustrious life.
My father who was born in 1922, attended elementary school at St. Mary’s College, Chilaw, a town where his family from India had settled in British colonial Ceylon. He pursued his secondary education at Zahira College, Colombo, where he was exposed to the intellect of many of the Sri Lankan Muslim leaders of the day. My father completed his high school education at Jaffna College, Vaddukoddai, which was a pioneer institution of higher Western learning in the East run by the American Ceylon Mission, during his day. Following his education in Jaffna, my father attended the University of Ceylon where he acquired a Bachelor of Arts degree and a diploma in Librarianship. When my father married my mother, Haleema (Marikar), a graduate student at the University of Toronto, Canada, he used that opportunity to travel to North America and completed a degree in Education from the same University.
In 1948, my father began his career in education as a member of the tutorial staff, at his alma-mater Zahira College, in Colombo. He entered the field of librarianship in 1954, serving as Deputy Librarian at the Colombo Municipal Public Library. In 1973, while employed at the Public Library, he won a UNESCO Fellowship to attend a study tour of Libraries in Australia. My father joined the Sri Lanka National Library Services Board in 1975, and served as a Director of the Board, until his retirement in 1981. During his employment with the Board, UNESCO sponsored his overseas trip to an IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) conference on Public Library Buildings, in Bremen, West Germany. After his retirement, my father continued to be very involved in the development of library education in Sri Lanka and served as the President of the Sri Lanka Library Association.
I can remember numerous instances, where my father volunteered his services to helping others. However, two examples where he volunteered showing true heroism and dedication to the well-being of his fellow-citizens of the World come to mind. In 1978, he volunteered in a search and rescue mission following an international aviation disaster involving a Loftleidir Icelandic Airways DC-8 aircraft shuttling Indonesian Hajj pilgrim passengers that occurred in Negombo. Another instance in 1979, where my father stepped up to the plate to assist in a much needed relief- cause, was when a cyclone hit the Eastern province of Sri Lanka.
I remember him traveling to the affected areas in Eastern Sri Lanka shortly after that disaster, to provide the much needed humanitarian assistance there.
My father was responsible for instilling the love of books in me. As a child, he inspired me to read more than just comic books and learn about the World beyond the shores of Sri Lanka. In 1976, when the Non-Aligned Nations conference was held in Colombo, my father insisted and arranged for him and I to catch a glimpse of the international attendees as World history was being made. My love for international relations was born when from a front row seat my father and I waved to the motorcades of Indira Gandhi, Anwar Sadat, Marshal Tito and Colonel Muhammar Gadaffi, that drove past us to the BMICH. I would not have experienced this once in a life-time opportunity, if not for the influences yielded upon me by my dad, the internationally conscious citizen.

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

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

Kamal’s love of books enlightened the Malay community

S. M. Kamaldeen

The Muslim community of Sri Lanka has lost one of its most illustrious intellectuals. S. M. Kamaldeen, fondly known as Kamal to his friends, passed away recently. He was 88 years. He lived a full and fruitful life in the service of knowledge and humanity.

Kamal was a former librarian of the Colombo Public Library, and served as director of the Sri Lanka Libraries Board, in addition to holding other responsible positions in the field of librarianship. Kamal devoted his life to books and the dissemination of knowledge among students and all those who sought his help in finding information.

I first came to know Mr. Kamladeen when I was a regular visitor at the Colombo Public Library in the early 1960s, when I was a student preparing for my university entrance examination. I would diffidently approach him and he would happily help me find the information I required. He was always accessible to anyone who needed guidance.

Many scholars have benefited from Mr. Kamaldeen’s vast knowledge of history, politics and literature. It was he who drew my attention to the existence of the first Malay and Muslim newspaper, “Alamat Langkapuri”, which was published by lithograph in 1869, in Colombo, by the great Sri Lankan Malay literary savant, Baba Ounus Saldin.

Kamal offered to give me a facsimile of this newspaper to use in my PhD research work at Monash University, when I left for Australia in 1974. That single finding changed my perspective on the history of the Sri Lanka Malays. Following Mr. Kamaldeen’s lead, I discovered many other hitherto unknown Malay manuscripts in Sri Lanka. I am sure there are many scholars who owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mr. Kamaldeen.

Kamal’s life was not confined to books. He was an active member of the community. He was a true leader and a dedicated social worker. His contributions to the Young Men’s Muslim Association are widely known. He was also president of the All-Ceylon YMMA Conference, back in 1960. Inspired by the ideals of A. M. A. Azeez, founder of the Sri Lanka YMMA movement, Kamal enriched the intellectual life of our Muslim youth. He helped to build up the library at the Dematagoda YMMA. Fearless and unbending, he stood up for principles, regardless of political influences. His unbiased report on the 1981 burning of the magnificent Jaffna library was further testimony to his integrity.

He is survived by his wife, Haleema Hanem Marikar, retired Director of Education, Kegalle. His son lives in the United States.

I am sure there are many who will miss this wonderful intellectual, whose memory will be perpetuated in the works of writers and scholars in Sri Lanka and abroad.

Professor B. A. Hussainmiya
Brunei Darus Salam

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tuan Zaheer Mohamed

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

Tuan Zaheer Mohamed

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

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

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

On my very first meeting with Zaheer, I was struck by his humility and lack of airs. Over the years, throughout our friendship, I would repeatedly observe this quality about Zaheer.
The meeting started. I explained the financial aspect of the project. Halfway, Zaheer stopped me and declared he was confident about my capability, and that he would like to know how much money was needed, and when. That demonstration of trust is something I will value for the rest of my life.

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

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

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

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

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

R. Nadarajah

Fond memories of a beloved cousin and friend

Tuan Zaheer Mohamed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the years rolled on, we started to go our separate ways. Zaheer went to the UK and then to Australia on different stints, and not long after Haji and I went overseas to better our prospects.
On my return to Sri Lanka, I got together with Zaheer and we did a few business deals – importing cars. Better things were in store for Zaheer when he teamed up with old Trinitian and former Havelocks and Sri Lanka rugby player, Gamini Fernando, the late Lakshman Jayawardena, former Thomian cricketer Kumar Boralessa and R. Nadarajah to form a company, Ceylon Tea Marketing Ltd. Zaheer offered me a part of his stake in the company, which I accepted and for which I am grateful.

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

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

Branu Rahim