â€˜Mother Courageâ€™ of Giruwapattuwa
TRIBUTE: Dr. Kamalika Abeyaratne by her exemplary life and work
inspired us all in different ways. To be associated with the launching
of the biography of a most outstanding Sri Lankan of recent times is
indeed a rare privilege.
To me, personally, the moment is of dual significance and
satisfaction for not only does the volume celebrate a life of devoted
service, inspiration and courage of someone who touched and influenced
my own outlook towards life in general and my professional life in
particular, but also, the book, A life in the round - the girl from
Giruwapattuwaâ€™ has been authored by none other than my own teacher,
mentor and in more recent times, friend, Hilary Abeyratne whose
influence on my life has been manifold, both at school and in later
MOTHER COURAGE: Dr. Kamalika Abeyaratne
This evening, tributes will be paid and thanks given to the life and
work of Deshamanya Kamalika Abeyratne by relatives, friends and
professional colleagues. Unrepresented this evening, however, are the
legion of children and parents from the vast remotes of Nuwara Kalaviya
to the busy metropolis of Colombo, whose lives she touched with so much
love, grace, devotion, dedication and empathy.
Their treasured memories and admiration will be no less than that of
us gathered here this evening. As we pay our individual tributes to a
loving wife, devoted mother, affectionate aunt and cousin, an inspiring
teacher and brilliant clinician and innovative researcher and an
energetic and persuasive colleague with relentless drive and motivation.
We also pay our collective tribute to one we could, together, well call
It is my brief to recall and pay homage to Dr. Kamalika Abeyratne,
Paediatrician par excellence, teacher and clinical researcher. Legion
are the medical practitioners in this country from consultants to
general practitioners who received their baptism in the practice of
medicine under her caring and sharing guidance over a period of three
decades as a Consultant Paediatrician in the Government Health Services.
It was not merely her unquestionable clinical and research excellence
but her ethics, both moral and professional that made her a breed apart.
Kamalika set the highest standards for herself and expected it of others
under her charge.
She had little time or patience for bureaucratic procrastination and
would not suffer fools gladly. In this she had a steadfast ally in
Michael, her husband, who was never known to give up the good fight for
what he thought was right and just.
Kamalikaâ€™s loyalty to those under her tutelage was legendary and with
her wise counsel, guidance and support was a source of silent strength
to her juniors. It was no surprise then that many of her juniors who
followed in her footsteps are now Paediatricians of distinction
themselves, to carry forth her legacy.
My own personal acquaintance and friendship with Dr. Abeyratne began
four decades ago as I turned up at Anuradhapura to commence my
Internship. Anuradhapura at that time was a far-flung outpost, certainly
not the epicentre of medical excellence.
My first appointment was as an Internee in Paediatrics under a young
and vivacious Consultant who herself had assumed duties not many months
earlier. Only her short hair betrayed her Charles Way and Ladies College
The simplicity of dress and humble demeanour with an absolute lack of
false airs endeared her to the rustic rural Rajarata peasantry that was
her clientele. Perhaps her own Giruwapattuwa roots provided an
I still take pride in the fact that I, along with Mal Weerasinghe,
later Consultant Anaesthetist and Neville Fernando, also later to be a
Consultant Anaesthetist, were the first to complete a full internship
with Dr. Abeyratne.
Of course, I had known her husband, Michael, earlier at school, as a
Prefect of the Junior School and who later went on to be the Senior
Prefect and Winner of the Ryde Gold Medal for the Best All-round Boy.
The Abeyratnes - Finest, Hilary and Michael, sons of the legendary
Lloyd and Augusta Abeyratne had carved an indelible niche for themselves
at Trinity as one of the most distinguished families, excelling in both
scholastic and athletic pursuits.
We learned under Dr. Abeyratneâ€™s care both these arts unfortunately
now a disappearing facet and the science of Medicine. By her example we
learned not only clinical skills and competencies but the more difficult
ethics of the discipline of medicine. But we had excellent teachers in
It was at Anuradhapura in the midst of a raging malaria epidemic that
Dr. Abeyratne published her first research paper, the first of many, in
the Ceylon Medical Journal. It was my privilege to be named as Co-Author
of the paper.
Sensitively to Primaquine in Ceylonese Children due to Deficiency of
Erythrocytic Glucose 6 Phosphate Dedrogenese is now considered a
landmark publication, quoted not only by Haemoptologists but also by
anthropologists and archaeologists in relation to early migration
patterns to Sri Lanka.
My friendship and association has continued over the years though our
meetings in later years were less frequent than either of us would have
liked them to be. In fact, one occasion that I have never been able to
forgive myself and I wouldnâ€™t blame if she never forgave me was when due
to other compelling reasons, I failed to attend the Annual SLMA
Kumaradasa Rajasooriya Oration which she delivered in 1999.
It has been my privilege to pay this tribute on behalf of her
professional colleagues to an outstanding medical personality who by her
professional skills and achievements, her determinations and example
towards ethical practice and her courage and resolve in facing her
personal tragedies, has done the profession, the women of Sri Lanka and
all of us proud.