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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

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Kshirabdhi Aruliah (Nee Nagendra) :

She was an exceptional lady

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
She was their North, their South, their song,
We thought this love would last forever. We were wrong.
‘Funeral Blues’ by W.H.Auden

I began to love Kshirabdhi very dearly when, as a little girl of about five, she came to my speech and drama

classes. Petite and beautiful with wide eyes and buttermilk skin she would sit in class and listen attentively and very obediently. Her voice had a bird-like timbre and at a very early age she was able to bring out the subtle shades of meaning in whatever she read out loud or recited. Now that she is no more, many of those who knew and loved her remember her reciting poetry with such confidence in a clear and expressive voice. I quote from two poems in memory of our shared love of poetry.

Kshirabdhi is the daughter of two of our dearest friends, Sarla and Sega Nagendra. She is the fond elder sister of Prashan and sister-in-law of Chameli. They are a loving and close family and losing Kshirabdhi is a terrible blow.

Like our mothers before us, Sarla and I were together at Ladies College and our children too grew up together. Kshirabdhi was at Ladies College until her O/Levels. She was a keen student and like her mother and grandmother before her, excelled in athletics. She then went on to Colombo International School where she was Games Captain.

Kshirabdhi married Jekhan Aruliah and after a few years, the couple and their young son Karnan, moved to England. Despite the time consuming tasks of running a house and looking after a young child, Kshirabdhi found time to do a course in teaching differently-abled children and began helping out in a nearby school. She continued to work with these children completely free of charge, until her demise.

While she was in England we communicated mostly via emails and phone calls. It gave me joy to see this young girl grow up into a strong and confident woman who coped remarkably with a crippling illness. Her positive attitude was an inspiration. She never spoke ill of anyone or complained of the excruciating pain she endured on a daily basis.

Karnan was Kshirabdhi's pride and joy and indeed he is worthy of her great love and sacrifice. Whenever Karnan won an award or took part in a school event I would receive pictures of him from his proud mother. Kshirabdhi also told me that she spent long hours talking with her son guiding him and instilling in him the right values and beliefs which were so precious to her. I believe her efforts were not in vain for today Karnan is an exceptional young man, mature for his age, pleasant and caring. In this day where the generation gap widens and clashes between the old and the young seem irreconcilable, theirs was a bond made in heaven. Though for a very short time, Karnan had the very best mother he could have got in this world and in turn, Kshirabdhi had the best son.

Kshirabdhi herself was aware that despite everything modern medicine had to offer, there was the ever-present likelihood that she would succumb to her illness. It is truly amazing that in the face of all this she remained undaunted, brave, positive and cheerful. She is a shining example to all of us who grumble with much less cause.

Kshirabdhi was an angel who walked amongst us for a short while. She is now free of pain and despair, and back with the angels. While we mourn her death let us celebrate her life and all she stood for.

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art done, and ta'en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have,
And renowned by the grave!

(William Shakespeare)


Harindranath Sandrasekera :

A true Trade Unionist

The Ceylon Workers Congress has lost a veteran Trade Unionist in Harindranath Sandrasekera, Senior Vice President (International Affairs and Industrial Relations) popularly known as Harry who passed away peacefully on April 15, 2013.

He shone as an ardent exponent of workers’ rights especially of plantation workers at forums of the Labour Ministry and Labour Relations, Employers’ Federation of Ceylon, National Labour Advisory Council, the ILO Colombo office, trade union organizations at national level and at international forums of the International Labour Organization, Geneva, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC Asia Pacific) the South Asian Regional Trade Union Council, Kathmandu, (SARTUC), the Public Services International (PSI), Japanese International Labour Foundation (JILAF) and others.

Harry moved and worked closely with all tripartite partners. He stuck to the CWC ideals and objectives. Many collective agreements were signed by CWC leaders with his expert advice and nuances of the trade union law.

He worked very closely with the late CWC leader Savumiamoorthi Thondaman and the present leader Arumugan Thondaman in shaping and moulding the CWC to bring it to its present heights.

I had the benefit of associating him from the days of my long career in the Department of Labour and Labour Relations as Assistant Commissioner of Labour, Senior Assistant Commissioner of Labour in the regions and later as Deputy Commissioner of Labour, Colombo.

I was fortunate to work with him subsequently as a colleague in the CWC. Sandrasekera's approach to workers’ problems was unique and humane which satisfied both the employers and workers.

His departure has created a void which is hard to fill.

May be attain Nibbana!


A. Vincent Wickremasinghe :

He provided us a good education

My father D. Alfred Vincent Wickremasinghe married my mother Premeani Therese Adeline Ekanayake on 16th August, 1958 at St. Mary's Church, Lauries Road, Bambalapitiya. I remember the ancestral house in which all us lived for 27 years when my mother expired in July 1991 due to a heart attack aged 65 years, which shocked all of us. She was the daughter of Dr. Hector and Mable Ekanayake.

My father was a Senior Clerk at the Grand Oriental Hotel where he always took us for Christmas parties, which is an annual event at the Hotel even now. He retired from his hotel career in the 1970s and looked after my mother as she was not well. Father used to go to hospital and get medication for my mother and even looked after my sister and me in providing good education though we were financially handicapped.

He was of a family of 13. soon after I finished my school education, I managed to join the Mt. Lavinia Hotel as an Assistant Kitchen Helper which kept me going until my mother's untimely death in July 1991.

Being the only son, I cared for my father and as he got a stroke and was confined to bed for almost four months and never recovered, we looked after him as best as we could, and finally god called him to rest with in April,1992.

When both my sister and I were young, my father used to take us either to his home town in Panadura or Colpetty during our school holidays, and we had fun with our cousins.

I was told that he was the football Captain at St. John's College Panadura, which his other three brothers namely, Willie, Edward and George also attended. He was also a keen cricket fan and very enthusiastically listened to commentaries over the pocket radio. He is remembered on his 21st Death Anniversary by his family.

May his Soul Rest in Peace!


Dr. Subramaniam Arulthasan :

A gentleman all round

It is now more than six months since Dr. S. Arulthasan departed from this world leaving his siblings, brother-in-law, sisters-in-law and those associated with him immersed in deep grief. He passed away in Colombo after a brief illness on 12th August 2012. He was a gentleman par excellence whose integrity and honesty were unquestionable. He was straightforward, disciplined and had certain principles and ideals in life and one who did not compromise his principles under any circumstance. Being a septuagenarian, he was born on 17th May 1937 as the second son in a family of seven.

Dr. Arulthasan received his primary education at the Velautham School in Puloly and his secondary education at Hartley College, Point Pedro. He entered the Ceylon Medical College and followed the Apothecaries course for two years which final examination he passed with excellent results in 1959. He joined the Medical Department as an Apothecary, now designated as Assistant Medical Officer. He served in many parts of Sri Lanka with dedication and his sole concern was the welfare of the patients who came to him for treatment and earned their re spects.

In 1983 he was attached to the rural hospital at Gokerella in the Kurunegala District. While serving there, in July 1983 he went on leave to his home town Point Pedro to see his parents. While he was enjoying the company and nearness of his parents, the July 1983 riots broke out in Colombo and its suburbs and it was feared that it would spread to other places as well. Dr. Arulthasan did not return back to the Gokerella Rural Hospital to resume his duties there, not minding the fate of his job.

While he was in a perplexed mental state in this manner, another heart-rending event dealt a heavy blow not only to him but also to his entire family by the passing away of his father in August 1983 at the age of 94 years. Thus, while being amidst happenings of sad events and an uncertainty of his future, by unexpected luck, nay by providence, he got an opportunity to go to Oman a Middle East country and to join the medical sector there in the same capacity as he was in Sri Lanka. In Oman he served the medical sector and the citizens whole heartedly and with dedication. While serving in Oman he made use of every opportunity that came his way, to come to Sri Lanka and see his mother and spend some moments in her company and enjoy her nearness as he was deeply attached to her.

After completing ten years of service in Oman he relinquished his job and returned to Sri Lanka in 1994, which enabled him to be in the company and nearness of his mother as often as he wished. By his demise I have lost an intimate and worthy friend and a mentor. Death is inevitable and everyone born on this earth has to depart one day as destined.

May his soul attain Eternal Bliss and Moksha and rest in peace at the feet of God almighty!


Sumithra (Amitha) De Silva:

Everything she touched turned to gold

It is not very long since the death of my mother Sumithra De Silva in Wellington, New Zealand. My brother Manoraj, informed me over the phone that she passed away in a military hospital in Wellington. In the final moments of her life, by her side were an Indian nurse, my father and brother-in-law. Clean thinking and simple living, made her live upto the age of eighty seven. She hailed from Tangalle and was the only child in the family. She was born in 'Carlton House' and was educated at Museaus College, Colombo. She lived a well-led life in Wellington under the care of my sister and her family.

My mother married Victor De Silva who was Assistant Commissioner of Elections, Kalutara, Kegalle and Colombo Districts. Later he became an Advocate of the Supreme Court. He was privileged to own the first Caltex Petrol station in Hatton. His contemporaries were W.T. Jayasinghe, D.C.L. Amarasinghe, O.A. Weerasinghe, D.B.I.P. Siriwardena and Eardley Gunawardena. She was a God-fearing and honourable person, who was an object lesson to posterity. Today she is remembered by her in-laws Ivan and PHLU in New Zealand and Australia respectively and also by her grandchildren, Owanaka, Rajiv, Nimesha, Ishali and Nikeetha.

A fitting epitaph for her would be 'Everything she touched turned to Gold'.

May she attain Eternal Rest!


Shelton Coswatte:

A loveable personality

The sudden demise of Shelton Coswatte was a great shock to many of his friends and relatives. Coswatte who took ill suddenly while holidaying with his daughter at Ratnapura was rushed to Colombo and passed away peacefully. He was in the local government service for many years and served as Municipal Commissioner for a considerable period in Nuwara Eliya, and thereafter as the Secretary to the Governor in the Uva Province. He counted many friends in Sri Lanka, was a loveable personality and served the public in several parts of the country. He was an old boy of St. Sylvester's College, Kandy and the father of two sons, one who is a Brigadier in the Army and the other, a Planter. His daughter is a Medical Doctor in Ratnapura. He is survived by his wife.

May his soul Rest in Peace!


K B Ratnayake:

The minister who ushered the golden era of sports

They say that all heartaches fade away with the passage of time. But, the great humane qualities of this incredible personality, one of the ‘Dasamaha Yodayas’ of modern times, a giant from the ‘Weuwbandi Rata’, North Central Province are still etched deep within to such an extent, that the many memories I have of this great national leader will never be erased from my mind. The fine human being was K B Ratnayake, a Sports Minister and a highly respected speaker of the house.

“The first duty of a leader is to make himself be loved without playing upto any one even to himself” - stated Andre Malraux. It is with a feeling of deep sorrow, I pen these few lines in memory of this kind-hearted – sincere honest politician who served not only NCP but the entire country on his ninth (9) death anniversary – April 30, 2013. He was a shining star in our political area.

The secret of greatness is simple. “Do better work than any other in your field – and keep doing it – Wilfred A Peterson.”

KBR possessed all qualities mentioned by Andre Malraux and Wilfred Peterson.

His ‘Guru’ was another National Leader, Patriot and an honest politician, who served this country for more than five to six decades. He was known as the ‘Father of NCP’ – Maitripala Senanayake, from Kebetigollawa, Anuradhapura. Today, his nephew, Tissa Karaliyadda, continues his good work as a sincere, honest social service worker and genuine honest dynamic politician. Tissa Karaliyadde is also a main of honest and integrity, like Maithripala Senanayake. Both Senanayake and Ratnayake are six footers. These two remind one so much of our great ancient heroes – ‘Yodayas’ of Anuradhapura period. They were born leaders. Both were fluent in Sinhala, Tamil and English.

My first contact with KBR

In early 1960’s, when I was teaching at Sigiriya MV, Sigiriya, as the first graduate teacher, I came into contact through Dr S Sivamamelingam a doctor attached to Kimbissa. Two of us used to play tennis at Dambulla Hospital Premises with Dr A D John the DMO – Dambulla. Siva was a good friend of K B Ratnayake when he was serving at Kahatagasdigiliya. Incidently, Siva and KB were good friends and Tennis partners. Through Siva, I too, came to know K B Ratnayake. In facts, two of us used to go all the way to see K B R’s beloved father, another giant personality who was residing at Kahatagadigiliya.

Towering figure in SL’s politics

K B Ratnayake was a towering figure in Sri Lanka’s political firmanent. This great leader took victory and defect with true spirit. Probably the training he gained in the playing fields of Hartley College must have helped him.

K B Ratnayake was an outstanding sportsmen. He had the rare honour of captaining, the Hartley College First XI. As a left hand dashing batsmen he always led ten, other tamil boys to the field. He was moulded by the great traditions and discipline of this great seat of learning in the country – Hartley College. He not only learnt books, but he developed his personality to be a honest gentlemen. He never cared for caste, creed, colour, but always stood for One Country – One Nation – Sri Lanka.

Man of honesty and integrity

K B Ratnayake as a government servant, served the farmers of North Central Province. Later, he served as the private secretary to Maithripala Senanayake and gradually entered the field of policies. He was a very sincere honest politician. Through polities he never earned a quick ‘Buck’. For that matter, he seen field his wealth, and time for the betterment of his people. This great son of Sri Lanka, one of the leading lights of North Central Province, the highly respected Sports Minister and the speaker of Parliament passed away nine years ago, on April 30, 2004. Roslyn Carter, once said “A leader takes the people where they want to go. A great leader takes them where they don’t necessarily want to go but where they ought to be. K B Ratnayake followed these golden rules.

K B Ratnayake was born on February 23, 1924. He was in reality multi-lingual, multi-cultures man. He moved with kings and queen, but the beauty was he remained a ‘pure-villager’.

Political career in nut-shell

He was first elected from Anuradhapura on June 6, 1962. He served as the Minister of Sports, Parliamentary Affairs from May 31, 1970 to May 22, 1972. Hon K B Ratnayake served as speaker from August 25, 1994 to August 18, 2000.

Efficient Sports Minister

I assume there is no other minister, who was cricketer soccerite and Tennis player, who knew what the sports philosophy. A sportsman, sports administrator he had so much to promote Sri Lanka sports. All credit should go to that lovable lady Madam Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike in appointing the correct man to the correct position.

The demise of this great man K B Ratnayake was not only an a great irreparable loss to his family, but to the whole country.


Anagarika Dharmapala :

The patriot who propagated Buddhism

There are many definitions relating to leadership. Leading marketing management authorities, such as Philip Kotler, Kenneth Clark, John Gardiner, James McGregor, Gary Yuke, etc. claim leadership as one of the most enduring human responsibilities. Leaders must have craft, vision, inspired action and empower others. These leaders can be categorized broadly as religious, political and national leaders. Great religious leaders such as Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ, Islam Religious leader Mohammed, were outstanding. In the field of politics, Nelson Mandela – South Africa, Shri Jawaharlal Nehru - India, Sir Winston Churchill – Great Britain, shone brightly. There are other national leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi – India and a noble son of Sri Lanka Anagarika Dharmapala.

I pen these few lines to pay my humble tribute to Anagarika Dharmapala – Ven. Sri Devamitta Dharmapala, who passed away at the age of 63, eighty years ago on April 29, 1933.

He was an outstanding national patriot, who fought a lone battle to safeguard Buddhagaya and was instrumental in spreading Buddhism internationally.

Dharmapala was born on September 17, 1864, at Hittetiya, Matara to Don Carolis Hewavitarana and Mallika Hewavitarana, a highly distinguished family. The parents named the child David.

David Hewavitarana studied at S. Thomas College, Mutwal, which was later shifted to Mount Lavinia, St. Benedict’s College, Kotahena and finally at Royal College, Colombo. He learned the Bible, sang hymns. His mother Mallika Hewavitarana, sent him to Vidyodaya Pirivena, Maligakanda, Maradana, where young David learned Sinhala, Pali, Sanskrit and Buddhism. This association with Vidyodaya, changed his entire life.

David as an ebullient youth, was very fortunate to come under the influence of great monks, such as Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala and Vadhibasinhe – Miggettuwatte Gunananda. He also pursued his studies under erudite scholars such as Walane Siddhartha, Ratmalane Dhammaloka, Waskaduwe Sri Subhuti etc.

The Great “Panaduravadaya” - Buddhist – Christian Debate, held at Panadura was a landmark of Buddhists revival and a renaissance in Ceylon. This debate got worldwide coverage and as a result, an American, Henry Steele Olcott and Russian lady Blavatsky came to Ceylon to study Buddhism. Olcott and Dharmapala set up Buddhist schools such as Mahinda – Galle, Dharmaraja – Kandy, Ananda – Colombo.

In 1891, Dharmapala visited Buddhagaya, where Gautama Buddha attained Enlightenment. He was shocked to see Buddhagaya in a dilapidated state. Dharmapala visited Buddhagaya in the company of Ven. Lunuwila Chandrajothi, Ven. Galle Sudassana and Ven. Anuradhapura Pemananda Thera on July 10, 1891. Hindu Priest Mahantha opposed the presence of the Sri Lankan Bhikkus. Dharmapala became the champion of the Buddhist cause, when he took legal action against Mahantha who forcefully occupied Bodhgaya.

Anagarika Dharmapala was resolute in his struggle. After a determined effort from 1893 to 1935, he opened the doors of Buddhagaya to the Buddhists all over the world. Bihar Parliament passed an Act known as “Buddhagaya Act” which gave equal rights to Buddhists in the administration of the Buddhagaya. Due to Anagarika Dharmapala’s untiring efforts, eventually the administration of the Great Temple, Buddhagaya, became the sole right of the Buddhists. With his master-stroke, the doors of the Buddhist Temples at Saranath, Kusinara and Lumbini were also opened to the Buddhists.

This great son of Sri Lanka, Anagarika Dharmapala, under difficult conditions, propagated Buddhism throughout the world. First, his slogan was “Sinhalayini Avadi Wewau – Buddhagayawa Beraganiou”. On and off, he visited Sri Lanka and played a lead role in the independence struggle. He opposed cattle slaughter and voiced to ban liquor from Sri Lanka. He was a very forceful orator. He always called spade a spade.

Another important achievement of Anagarika Dharmapala was his magnificent contribution in the literary field - the publishing of Mahabodhi Buddhist Journal in English in 1930. Further, he travelled extensively to Japan, England and United States of America taking the message of Buddha. He stand only second to Great Emperor Asoka in the field of Buddhist missionary activities.

The Mulagandakuti Viharaya, a renowned place of worship in India, was constructed by Anagarika Dharmapala. The construction was sponsored by Mary Foster of Honolulu, USA. It was opened on November 11, 1931.

Grateful Buddhists all over the island honour Anagarika Dharmapala. If not for the great commitment, sacrifice, efforts on the part of Anagarika Dharmapala, Buddhists in Sri Lanka and abroad, would have been denied an opportunity of visiting important places of Buddhist worship in India.

Anagarika Dharmapala, the great man of honesty and integrity, who sacrificed his entire life to prorogate Buddhism, entered the order as Venerable Sri Devamitta Dharmapala. He passed away on April 29, 1933.

 

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