20th May 2001
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  • A silent worker who shunned publicity
  • Gracious unto all
  • A signpost in life
  • A gentleman of rare quality, simple, unassuming and dedicated


    A silent worker who shunned publicity

    S.R. Yogananthan

    Yoga, as he was affectionately known to his friends and colleagues is no more. He died of a heart ailment.

    Born in the village of Sarasalai, Chavakachcheri on February 13, 1953, he was educated at Hartley College, Point Pedro. He shone in sports, especially cricket. 

    He joined the Customs Department in 1976, after passing a competitive examination and worked his way to the position of Assistant Director. 

    He was the President of the Customs Sports Club, Treasurer of the Customs Staff Officers' Union, Vice President of the Customs Hindu Officers' Association, Advisor to the magazine "Sanganatham" published by the Youth League for Sanathana Dharmic Perception and Executive Committee member of the Hartley College Past Pupils' Association (Colombo branch).

    I knew Yoga well. He was a model public servant. He would greet everyone with a smile and find reasonable solutions to problems faced by the public. However, he did not hesitate to do the right thing when it came to enforcing the law. 

    He was a devoted, honest and diligent Customs officer who proved his mettle wherever he worked, be it at the Katunayake International Airport or the Customs Long Room. He was a silent worker who shunned publicity.

    I, like his many friends, can only find consolation in what was written by K. Vinayagamoorthy, Managing Trustee of Divine Life Society, Trincomalee Sivananda Thapovanam:

    "We are aware that you (Yoga), would be rewarded for all your good deeds in this world. When the Creator found your capacity for high achievements, he called you back to his abode hurriedly and prematurely, probably to entrust you with another task."

    May he attain Moksha!
    S. Thamotharampillai

    Gracious unto all

    Augusta Fernando

    In the midst of life, we are in death." This stark reality was brought home to me when I heard the sad news of the death of Augusta (Babsy) Fernando on April 27. More so, because it was that very morning that I visited her in hospital where she was recuperating from a brief illness. 

    She was her usual self and seemed well on the road to recovery. 

    We all expected her to return home in a few days. However this was not to be, for that very night God called her to His heavenly abode.

    She was a gracious lady who lived her life for others. God gave her a loving heart and she used this gift to bring immense joy and happiness to her family, relatives and friends. 

    She was a devoted wife to the late Dr. Leslie, loving and caring mother to Hiranthi and Dilmani, gem of a mother-in-law to Siri and Asoka and adoring grandmother to Sheran, Charini, Asanga, Renu and Mihiri. 

    To the domestics in the house, she was never a mistress, but more a friend, counsellor and confidante. To her vast number of friends, she was a tower of strength. She was generosity personified. She gave without counting the cost and anyone in need who came to her was never sent away empty handed.

    To me she was the sister I never had, always solicitous about my welfare, advising and guiding me many a time. To her, I owe a deep debt of gratitude.

    Goodbye dear lady, you will always remain in our minds and hearts. 

    May a host of angels carry you and place you at the feet of our Lord, where you shall live forever more in His loving care.


    A signpost in life

    Cletus Gomez

    My memory goes back to 1977. Having just returned after a lengthy spell in the U.K, I was part of a group of old Benedictines who got together to inaugurate a trust Fund for the college. It is in this context that I came to befriend, admire and love Cletus.

    I vividly remember his incisive mind and his clear thought process, in evolving and drafting the constitution for the Trust Fund. 

    During these 25 years, our friendship grew stronger, and I can recall with pride and joy how his life had a bearing on mine.

    Cletus was truly a people's person. He had a lot of time for people. He would laugh with you at times of joy and celebration, grieve with you at a moment of heartache and console you at the time of a crisis.

    Cletus never forgot a birthday or a wedding anniversary, or even a feast of a priest. He had an amazing way of keeping in touch with events. He was a signpost in my life.

    During the last five years, we grew closer and our friendship was such that he would phone me daily. He would inquire how I was and how the rest of my family was keeping.

    Cletus was my counsellor and guide. I could ring him if there was a health problem, a business problem or even a domestic issue. I knew I could share it with him and I knew I could rely on his sound advice. He had a sobering effect on my life. When I was ruffled he would always calm me by cracking a joke and easing the tension. 

    Although I was so close to him, I did not know the charities he contributed to. 

    He truly lived the life of a Christian, not letting his left hand know what his right hand was doing.

    He was also a great family man. 

    He had ample time to spend with Christine and the boys. He valued them dearly and was proud of their achievements. It was only a year ago that he spent a month with Prashan after his graduation. 

    It was an event that gave him immense joy and pride.

    I have lost a friend and there remains in me an emptiness.

    I thank God for the gift of Cletus' friendship. I also thank God for his life. 

    I will not say farewell because I know we will meet again. 

    May the turf lie gently over him. May his soul rest in peace.


    A gentleman of rare quality, simple, unassuming and dedicated

    T.B. Werapitiya

    T.B. Werapitiya who was in politics from 1977 to 1989 as a Member of Parliament, Deputy Minister of Defence and Minister of Internal Security, passed away on May 18, 1996. He had his education at Trinity College, Kandy, where he was the Senior Prefect, Captain of Cricket, awarded the Cricket Lion, Rugger Colours and the Ryde Gold Medal as an all-round student.

    He entered the Ceylon University Colombo, from where he graduated and took a teaching post at Jinaraja College, Gampola, and later Mahinda College, Galle. He encouraged all forms of sport and coached teams in cricket, athletics and soccer. During this time he did the College proud being selected to the All Ceylon Cricket Team, captained by B.R. Heyn, that toured South India in 1947. 

    T.B. Werapitiya gave up teaching to join the police as a Probationary Assistant Superintendent. J.B. Bandaranayake, in his appreciation, "He rose above the mud and slime like a water lily", said of T.B. Werapitiya that he got his first lessons from such able policemen as R.H. Bromley, D.I.G and W.T. Brindley, S.P. His uniform did not prevent him from displaying the sterling qualities of Metta, Karuna, Muditha and Upekka. On one occasion when the owner of a vehicle was hauled up for running on a bald tyre and was to face prosecution, he dipped his fingers into his purse and handed over enough currency notes to the officer to help the offender buy a tyre, which was difficult to obtain at that time. While serving in Chilaw, he risked his life and limb to save human life in a devastating flood.

    Mr. Werapitiya was in charge of the Provinces, the Police Training School and rose to be Senior D.I.G. He took no sides, showed no favour. Reaching his 50th year in 1974, with so much promise, he was retired.

    In 1977, he took to politics representing Paatha Dumbara where earlier his father was the Rate Mahatmaya. He was made the Deputy Minister of Defence and later, Minister of Internal Security. S.B. Karalliyadde who was his private secretary paid him a tribute that he was in his seat at 8 a.m. each working day and worked until the last vehicle of the Presidential motorcade left the ministry gate. Such was his loyalty and dedication.

    To demonstrate his partiality for justice, his sense of discipline and simplicity, Karalliyadde had this little episode to highlight. While returning from Anamaduwa where a by-election was to be held, a police constable had signalled the Minister's car to a halt. When the P.C. asked the passengers to get down, the driver, a police driver, had revealed the identity of the passengers. Stating that it did not matter to him, he had got the boot opened and searched it properly. Next the P.C. had wanted to search the car. 

    Alighting from the car, Mr. Werapitiya had called the P.C. "Lamaya" and said, "We are not standing in your way. Search the car". The search over, the journey was resumed. A ministry Assistant Secretary who was one of the passengers had commented, "And if it had been another Minister (mentioning him by name) he would have slapped the P.C. for his high handedness." Then Mr. Werapitiya had asked, "You want me to slap a public servant doing his lawful duties? On the contrary he needs to be praised."

    As an M.P. he did everything within his power to develop his electorate. He also did what he could for the promotion of Buddhist activities.

    As President of the Cricket Board in 1979, Mr. Werapitiya infused a rare sense of assurance that moved all those who were around him. We had no funds to guarantee the visit to the Aussies. Our bank refused to oblige at first but later relented, thanks to the personal assurance of the Chairman of a leading company, a cricket admirer himself. 

    The tour of England also needed funds. We had only the contributions of the TCCB in our coffers. When Mr. Werapitiya approached the Chairman of a leading mercantile establishment, he responded with a large contribution received from his business contacts abroad. Mr. Werapitiya initiated the formation of a Steering Committee comprising eminent professionals in the UK and they collected a staggering 24,000.

    Mr. Werapitiya's term ended a few weeks before Sri Lanka gained full membership of the ICC. Knowing well the extent of his contribution during his short tenure, it could well be described as a daring attempt to revamp the Board to achieve its objectives.

    A gentleman of rare quality, simple and unassuming, he has left us at the end of a long and illustrious innings. Sri Lanka salutes him for his services at a time when we need more of his ilk.

    May he have the peace of Nibbana!

    M.B. Werapitiya.

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