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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

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A.L.M. Hashim:

His sincerity paid dividends to the Muslims

November 29, 2012 was the fourth Death Anniversary of A. L. M. Hashim, P. C. His untimely death created a vacuum in the leadership of the Muslim community. I vividly recall how I first met uncle Hashim, as I fondly called him until his death. Uncle Hashim was a very good friend of my uncle Marhoom T. A. Jayah and was a regular visitor to his house at Bambalapitiya. I would anxiously look forward to his visits because he would always bring a bag of sweets. I remember uncle Hashim always immaculately dressed in a suit, seated in the back seat of his limousine. He would always have a natural charming smile on his face and was a lover of children, a trait of great people.

One morning I received a surprise call from none other than Dr. M. C. M. Kaleel M.P. President of the All Ceylon Muslim League, to join the league as a member of the working committee. This was one of the most prestigious Muslim organizations in Sri Lanka. Since my uncle Tony Jayah (as he was fondly called) and his father T. B. Jayah were active pioneers of the All Muslim League I was delighted to accept this invitation from the undisputed Muslim leader of that time M. C. M. Kaleel. Uncle Hashim was the Joint Secretary of the All Ceylon Muslim League when I joined. With the demise of M. C. M. Kaleel uncle Hahsim was rightfully eligible and was made the President and I was honoured to be made a Joint Secretary of the All Ceylon Muslim League. I had then the memorable opportunity to directly work under the guidance and direction of an astute leader, A. L. M. Hashim P.C. This was an unforgettable experience of working closely with a Muslim National Leader of the caliber of Barrister A. L. M. Hashim P.C. as he would fondly be referred to and remembered by all those who were fortunate to know and work with him in many fields.

He was a fully dedicated, sincere, humble, God fearing, practicing Muslim totally immersed in the role of identifying the problems and issues affecting the Muslim community in particular and civil society of Sri Lanka. I have had many nostalgic opportunities of visiting many trouble spots involving Muslims in Sri Lanka, where our revered Leader A. L. M. Hashim P. C. would visit the site within 24 hours to obtain first hand information of the actual situation.

He would promptly take up the issue affecting the community. No offenders high and mighty were spared. His inborn qualities of leadership, courage, wisdom, knowledge, experience and sincerity as a Leader paid ample dividends to the Muslim Community. He not only won the respect of the Muslim community but more importantly the majority community. Buddhist leaders and the Buddhist clergy had the greatest respect for him as he was able to win their confidence and respect.

He could approach political leaders with ease as Marhoom Hashim's integrity was beyond question. At the same time he was a man who had helped the lesser privileged of all communities in the Kegalle District where he lived. He had donated lands on which schools and temples have been built. He was a link between the Muslims and the Sinhala community living in the Southern part of the country. He has served the community and the country even better than a Parliamentarian could have.

The Muslim community should be eternally grateful to a great Leader of the calibre of A. L. M. Hashim. Admittedly even after four years of his untimely death, the Muslim community remains somewhat orphaned. Let us hope and pray to Almighty Allah to give the Muslim community, leaders of the caliber of A. L. M. Hahsim. May Almighty Allah grant him Jennathul Firdouse


Prof. Niriellage Chandrasiri:

Honesty and truthfulness were worth more than anything to him

It is six years since our father Professor Niriellage Chandrasiri passed away after a battle with cancer. Many who knew him are aware of his personal struggles in his early life. To us he was simply Appachchi. He was not only a father to us but also to many thousands who entered the gates of the Ruhuna Medical Faculty at Karapitiya. The Medical Faculty was his home away from home. He worked tirelessly to improve the standards of this fledgling medical institution during its formative years. There are many successful medical practitioners who will attest to this. He believed in teaching the lessons of life to his children through example than simple instructions. We have never seen anyone so dedicated to duty and service as our father was. Punctuality, honesty and dedication to service were the pillars on which he moulded not only his, but also the lives of others around him.

He loved his motherland and its people. Times were when most of his colleagues chose to leave Sri Lanka for more lucrative work opportunities overseas. He simply refused to leave. He refused to live as a 'Second Class Citizen' as he would call it in a foreign land. He was most happy, comfortable and at ease among his fellow people. There were times in the late '80s where he left to perform his duties as a Judicial Medical Officer. We would anxiously await his arrival home not knowing whether he would make it safely. He firmly believed that no harm would ever befall him while he was performing his occupational duty. We believed it too when a jeep he was travelling in the deep South during the 1980s unrest period, was shot at and a police officer sitting next to him was seriously injured. He miraculously escaped injury. Incidents like this only made him work harder.

He never tried to forcibly guide us or try and influence our career aspirations. He offered us support in whatever we chose to pursue as our future occupations. 'Career satisfaction comes from not by doing what you like to do, but by liking what you do' was his belief. This attitude we believe, he developed after he discovered that he could not pursue the pathway of becoming a surgeon due to lack of vacancies in the university system at the time be completed his medical degree. He proved his motto by reaching the pinnacle in forensic medicine in Sri Lanka as no one had done before or may be even since. Another principle that he often used to encourage us was "aim at the moon if you want to reach the sky". He always believed in giving one hundred and ten per cent to whatever task was at hand. Honesty and truthfulness to him was worth more than anything else. He expected the same from us. He was a strict but fair in his approach towards the three of us, his sons. He was not only our father but also our friend. We all felt that we could discuss the most difficult personal issues and problems with him and find a solution. He taught us how to be independent in whatever we do in both our professional and personal lives. Above all he taught us the value and satisfaction you feel when you know you have done the best you can in whatever you do.

Our one regret is that we could not spend as much time as we could have together due to his extremely busy workload. During the rare but much welcomed times that we spent with him made us realise that this man who made a name for himself, having been given almost nothing to begin his life with as a child and who seemed to work almost three hundred and sixty five days, had his vulnerable sides as well. There were many occasions that we have seen him discretely wipe a tear from his eye when watching an emotional scene in a movie. We all miss our father and so much. We all wish he was here to see our children grow up. We wish he had the chance to grow old together with our mother and do all the things that he wanted to do with her. Yet it was not to be. He is still alive in our hearts and will be so as long as we live and cherish his wonderful memory.

We wish that he attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana !


A. Chandra Siriwardena:

A dedicated and efficient officer

Chandra Siriwardena of Kelaniya passed away peacefully after a brief illness. At the time of his demise he had completed his 83rd birthday. About a month back I met him at the Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya with his family members who had come on their normal visits to worship.

Although he appeared to suffer from some physical immobility due to an ailment in the legs he looked quite hale and hearty and mentally alert and engaged with me in a short chat about his health. At that time I never for a moment thought that death would come to him so soon and it was indeed a real shock for me to hear of the sad news that he was no more.

Immediately, the words of wisdom of the Buddha Dhamma echoed in my ears. Anichawata Sankara, Uppada Vaya Dhammino, Uppajitva Nirujjhanti,Tesam Vupasamo Suko. "Impermanent are all component things, they arise and cease, they come into being and pass away, release from them is bliss supreme."

Chandra was a product of S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia and had joined the Post and Telecommunication Department as an Inspector of Telecom in the 1950s. He was elevated to the post of Traffic Officer, subsequently as Assistant Superintendent of Telecommunication and finally retired as Superintendent of Telecommunication in the late '80s. Chandra was a dedicated and efficient officer whose services were recognized by the higher authorities which enabled him to get a Colombo Plan Scholarship to undergo a training course in Telecommunications at the British Post Office in U.K.

While being in the service of the then Post and Telecommunication Department he was released to serve in the Emirates Telecommunications for a couple of years and even after retirement he worked for a short time in the Emirates Telecommunications.

He had the privilege of working longer in the Middle East but as his three children were growing up he thought it was wise to cut short his serving abroad for the greater good of the family. I have known Chandra and their family members for well over fifty years. Moreover while he was attached to the internal division of the Post and Telecommunication Department I was attached to the Overseas Telecom Services, the external division of the same department. In my retirement I used to have close contacts with him. Most of the time we were on the same 'frequency' whether it be sports, religion or any other matter of general interest.

Whenever I visited his house Chandra and his wife Sepali, greeted me with a warm smiling welcome and hardly allowed me to leave them without enjoying their hospitality. I could without hesitation say that he was a good Buddhist, a keen student of the Dhamma, a sports fan, especially cricket and hockey. He had a good knowledge of national and international affairs being a regular reader of daily newspapers and also being in touch with the electronic media.

He was indeed a true national minded, patriotic and public spirited person having shaped his life according to the tenets of the Buddha Dhamma. He used to tell me that he imbibed some of these qualities due to the influence he had from the environment of the Bambalapitiya Vajirarama temple where his father was Dayakaya.

As a young boy he used to attend the Dhamma school at Vajirarama. At the time of his demise he was a prominent Dayakaya of the Kelaniya Rajamaha Vihara, Galborella Sugathramaya and Waragoda Bodhirukkaramaya temples in Kelaniya.

I may say that Chandra was a loving husband and a good dutiful father which I am sure will be endorsed in toto by his wife and children. Above all he was an unassuming gentleman to the fingertips.

While extending my heartfelt condolences to Chandra's wife and children at their irreparable loss, personally I may say that I have lost a Kalyana Mitraya. It is time to ponder on our ephemeral existence. Let me quote a few lines from the English poem "Death the Leveller"

"The glories of our blood and state - are shadows, not substantial things,

There is no armour against Fate - Death lays his icy hands on kings

Sceptre and Crown - Must tumble down, And in the dust be equal made

With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

Only the actions of the Just - Smell sweet and blossom in their dust."

May Chandra's sojourn in Sansara be short and sweet and he attain the final bliss of Nibbana!


Patricia Jayewickrreme nee Wijesinha:

She left behind a legacy of prayer

Our mother went to be with the Lord fifteen years ago, on December 6, 1997. I was by her side when she closed her eyes for the last time.

It seemed as though the angels had come to take her into the presence of her Saviour Jesus, whom she loved so dearly. She passed away into the presence of her Maker, so peacefully. Ammi as we affectionately called her, walked thru the valleys of life for a greater part of her life. She met Lord Jesus Christ as her personal Saviour and never looked back ever since that life changing experience.

Our mother was the most beautiful woman we ever saw. It is not an exaggeration to say that she epitomised a meek and quiet spirit which is of great price in the sight of the Lord.

Though she is long gone whenever I am confronted with a challenging situation, I recall how my mother would handle it herself in a difficult moment, in the meekness of wisdom. It would be truth to say she carried herself with the beauty of a broken and contrite heart.

When I was a student at Methodist College, Pearl De Silva a teacher who was one of my mother's colleagues at MC, admonished me to walk in the footsteps of my mother whom she described from the words of Shakespeare, "her voice was ever so sweet, gentle and low. An excellent thing in woman." Pearl commented, "that was your mother!"

My father Harold Jayewickreme and my mother were based in Anuradhapura for over 30 years. My father was a leading lawyer of the North Central Province at the time and was known far and wide. But to me their greater feat is the fact that the two of them displayed the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to the poor and needy and the rich and powerful of the city. No man ever contended with them for everyone in that city knew what they spoke was truth personified in their lives.

It was my privilege to take care of ammi in the last thirteen years of her life. She loved to pray for her family and friends. Her praying voice though soft, reverberated thru our home.

The last thing I heard in the night was my mother praying and I always awoke in the morning to the sound of ammi's praying voice. She had no riches to leave behind instead she left behind a legacy of prayer and the sweet fragrance of a gentle praying mother. On my mother's home-going, her earthly life and work was summed up for me from the following description in the book of Psalms in the Holy Bible.

"Nevertheless I am continually with you; you hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with your counsel and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart faileth; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever." Psalm 73:23 - 26.

With grateful thanks to God and loving remembrance of our parents Harold and Patricia Jayewickreme.


Lilian Seneviratne:

She played 'Silvery Waves' on the piano

My sister Lilian Seneviratne's sixth death anniversary fell recently. She was both a sister and a mother to me. I was 15 years junior to her. Lilian had her entire education at Museaus College. She was a hosteller. I remember my mother mentioning that they had to engage a special ayah to look after her.

The period Lilian was at Museaus was a memorable period in her life because even in the twilight of her life she used to recall vividly stories like acting in the play Pandukabhaya and her role and how the costumes were borrowed from Tower Hall and so on.

Lila was in Museaus until she passed the English School Leaving Certificate, the equivalent of our O/Ls now. Sister used to relate of numerous anecdotes and events at Museaus in her time and most of it revolved round the Founder of Museaus College, Marie Museaus Higgins.

She used to describe how after dinner Higgins used to leave her bungalow, which was within the school premises and come to the hostel to relate bedtime stories to the young ones. Another story she used to relate was how the hostellers were taken for a walk every Sunday evening and on their return how they stopped by at the Principal's bungalow where Higgins waited for them with a huge bowl of pudding and how my sister used to eat it with relish. Lila and her cousin Jessie had been the beneficiaries of the best of education at Museaus.

This was way back in the 1920s and 1930s. They were indeed extremely proud that they were Musaeites. One of her classmates she talked of much was the late Vivian Gunewardena whom she used to refer to as 'Vivi'. She used to relate how when my father collects her and my cousin and brings them home for the school holidays, he used to give a lift to Vivi too. This was when he was stationed at Kalutara. Not only was the quality of the education they had remarkable, it was also all-rounded.

We in fact had a habit of referring to Lila when we were in doubt.

We still have in our family house at "Dorville", Kalutara, paintings of my sister's hanging on the walls of the sitting room. Oil paintings, water colour paintings, stencil paintings etc, and that's not all, on special occasions we see displayed the teapoy covers with 'Hardanger embroidery' work. It was such an all round education she had at Museaus.

I remember we used to tease sister about a certain event in her life. That was the era of the Magul Kapuwas and my sister's was an arranged marriage. In order to display her accomplishments, she had to play a piece on the piano and the music piece she played was "Silvery Waves". This was for the first young man who visited whom she eventually married.

This was in 1936 and I was the Flower Girl at the wedding and my husband, now decased, was the Page Boy. All I remember was that I wept bitterly when my new brother-in-law took my sister away.

Lila spent the last few years of her life in the home of her daughter and son-in-law and this gave us an opportunity to visit her almost daily.

My husband and I dropped in one morning in the usual way but she had fallen asleep after breakfast, so we left without disturbing her only to find that we had bade farewell to her. The sad message reached us before we got back home.

My sister was a beautiful person in every sense of the word. She was very poplar among all our cousins and relatives. She was gracious, kind and lovely. I miss her very much.

May she attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana!


Chinthamani Dissanayake:

Poker was her favourite card game

It is two years since our darling amma left us to rest in the arms of Jesus. Amma Chinthamani Dissanayake nee Dias Bandaranayake was the sixth in a family of seven girls and one boy. She had one daughter from her first marriage and one daughter and two sons from her second marriage to my dad Cyril Dissanayake. Being in government transferable service my dad had to serve in distant areas which required him to move from place to place.

Amma accompanied dad to whichever place he was called upon to serve whilst we were taken care of by our grandparents who resided at Kotahena during our early years of schooling. This was in order to see that our education was not disrupted by changing schools each time dad got transferred.

Amma was a very good cook. I remember the many delicious dishes she used to turn out when we came home for the school vacations. When my dad was stationed at Nuwara Eliya, we used to count the days to go up for the vacation. Amma used to turn out all kinds of Mouth watering dishes to fatten us up during the vacation. Pork chops was one of her favourite dishes. She also used to make ham, salt beef during Christmas time and her Christmas cake and milk wine were hard to beat. Pumpkin preserve (Puhuldosi), tamarind and wattakka chutney that she made were real rice pullers.

The trouble she took in preparing these items with all her other household chores with no fuss, goes to show how much she loved us and what an energetic person she was in her young days. She did all this willingly to make us happy and contended. My dad too gave her all the support needed by way of providing material requirements to turn out the many nice yummy dishes.

In the early 1960s we came to Gampaha and after building our house in her ancestral property, established permanent residence there. As there was plenty of garden space she took a liking to gardening. Begonias were her favourite and out of it she used to love the Iron Cross Begonia the most. Every one who came to visit us used to admire her Begonias and the Undupiyali lawn which she used to weed and meticulously maintain.

One of the things she liked as a relaxation was to play cards which she did with her nieces and nephews who lived in the vicinity. Poker was her favourite card game though she never could keep a poker face.

It was very apparent whenever she had made a Royal Flush or Fives by the excited nature of bidding and eagerness to get on with the game. She was very generous and helped those who needed help especially some of her kith and kin in need of financial support. She also helped her faithful servants and they still talk about her with a lot of respect and high regard.

Finally there came a day when she could not do what she wanted to do on her own. My dad was the one who felt it most.

One day I overheard him say "I will sacrifice my life for you and will look after you to the end whatever happens". From that day my dad really gave up interest in all what he liked to do, devoted his time looking after amma. In the mornings after breakfast amma used to be brought to the verandah where dad used to sit by her side and listen to amma read out passages from the Holy Bible. Though Amma is no more with us her sweet memories will linger and be fondly remembered not only by her children but also her grand and great grand children until some day we meet in that far away land.

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