Distinguished veterinarian and scholar, honoured here and abroad
Prof. PETER SENEVIRATNA
Prof. Peter Seneviratna, who is remembered with respect and affection by many generations of veterinarian students, passed away in Melbourne on July 16, 2012. He was 84 years. He retired in 2004, after a lifetime of teaching and research. He spent his last years with his wife Sakuntala, four children and eight grandchildren, all of whom live in Australia.
The training of veterinarians in Sri Lanka began in 1947 at the University of Peradeniya with the arrival of Professor Charles McGaughey, an internationally renowned microbiologist and veterinarian. Peter Seneviratne was the first Sri Lankan veterinarian to join the university, in 1953, after obtaining his veterinary degree from the University of Madras in 1951.
Over 22 years (apart from the years spent in the UK in postgraduate training), he taught veterinary medicine and parasitology (veterinary entomology) to undergraduate students. He became a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (MRCVS) in 1958, and received a fellowship (FRCVS) in 1964 for his studies of the parasite Babesia gibsoni.
When Prof. McGaughey returned to the UK, Peter Seneviratna was appointed Professor in Veterinary Science (1966), taking on the responsibility of leadership in developing veterinary training at the university. He also served as Dean of the (joint) Faculty of Agriculture and Veterinary Science from 1966 to 1972.
As the Veterinary Council’s first Registrar, he was involved in preparing and implementing the Veterinary Surgeons & Practitioners Act. He also served as President of the Sri Lanka Veterinary Association on two occasions (1963 and 1968), and as President of the Sri Lanka Veterinary Council for one term. Peter Seneviratna achieved the ideal balance of teacher and researcher, so crucial for a university academic. He drilled into us the importance of the scientific method and the need to keep “an open mind” when approaching a problem or a case.
As a schoolboy, I quite serendipitously chanced to observe him collecting insects on a field trip in Uva-Wellassa. That experience influenced me to later take up scientific research.
Peter Seneviratna is the author of two books and more than 60 articles in scientific journals. His research is quoted in standard textbooks. In 1966, he took over from Prof. McGaughey as editor of the Sri Lanka Veterinary Journal, and during his seven years in the post maintained the journal’s high standards. He also served on an UN panel as an expert on tick-borne diseases.
In recognition of his scientific achievements, he was included in a list of “2,000 outstanding scholars of the 21st century.”
Although he left for Australia in 1975, his contributions in Sri Lanka were recognised here. In 1988, the University of Peradeniya named him a Doctor of Science, Honoris causa, and the Government of Sri Lanka gave him a National Award at ceremonies to mark 50 years of Independence.
In Australia, he worked for the Australian Federal Government in Public Health, first in Victoria and later in Canberra (1975 to 1985).
During this period, he was made a member of the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists. In 1985, he joined Murdoch University in Western Australia as an academic, and after completing his tenure in 1990, continued to contribute as an adjunct professor. According to his colleagues at Murdoch, Peter Seneviratna made a significant contribution to Veterinary Public Health in Sri Lanka, Australia and North America.
He retired in 2005, at the age of 78, and returned to Melbourne to join his family. In his last years, he published “Perceptions”, a collection of poems. Although he made Australia his home, the poem below shows where his heart lay:
Where the mighty Mahaweli meanders along,
Where the verdant canopied rain trees throng,
Where the road to Galaha winds through the valley,
There my heart reposes. To leave a folly?
The Senate building stands on stilts concrete,
Like a gaunt reminder of past cities of the east,
Flanked by hills where fine teas grew,
Now replaced by halls, great and new
Marrs and Marcus,
the hills dominate,
And Sanghamitta, a walled-off Astoria made
To secure gals in their pristine youth,
From nasty barbs and males uncouth
A bridge too narrow, for traffic vehicular,
Spans the river, now so popular,
An avenue for boys of Akbar Nell Hall
To meet the girls under the willows tall
On the grounds where once golfers strode,
Stands a faculty, today the abode
Of lads and lasses, Lanka’s pick
Learning the art of healing the sick
The scene has changed,
The trees have grown,
Oh how I love,
To be there again.
All of us – his students – know that we can never repay the debt we owe Professor Peter Seneviratne.
May he rest in peace.
Dr. Sivali Ranawana
Amma was a very sociable lady, with many talents
It is with deep sorrow that we mourn the passing away of our beloved mother, who died on June 29. She was 76 years. She was a very sociable lady, with many talents, being a Sunday School teacher for 30 years, secretary of the Holy Emmanuel Church Mothers Union for 15 years, and a lively member of the YWCA Housewives’ Association for 10 years.
Mother hailed from Moratuwa, the only child of a well-to-do family in Kadalana.
She was an outstanding student at Princess of Wales College. She married Bertram, also from Moratuwa, and they had six children. My father worked for the CTB for 25 years. Their marriage lasted 55 years. She worked at Velona Garments for three years, but gave up her job after marriage to look after her children. She was blessed with five sons and one daughter. She looked after them very well and educated them to the highest possible level.
She enjoyed singing with the students during Church Sunday School and at social functions. She played the piano and sang old favourites at family parties as well. Her only daughter Shilani said music was her lifelong love, being a resident of the music-loving town of Moratuwa.
My mother was much loved by all her daughters-in-law. She was blessed with 12 grandchildren, the majority being girls.
Her sons Hirantha, Erantha, Prisantha, Mohan and myself all lived in close proximity to her house, and could visit regularly. Amma and Thaaththa celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary on October 18, 2006. All immediate family members and close friends were invited to a lavish party. She sang a special song that day.
She helped many poor people in the Moratuwa Kadalana area, where she was an active member of the Old Girls’ Union of her alma mater. She suffered from a heart ailment for the last 15 years of her life. She enjoyed a truly Christian life. She worshipped at Holy Emmanuel Church, an Anglican Church in Moratuwa with more than 3,000 parishioners.
In the last years of her life, she was hospitalised every six months. Up to her last breath, she was in prayer thanking and praising Lord Jesus for giving her many opportunities in life.
She was a great Amma to all of us. She was a beloved wife, a caring mother, a loving grandmother. She has left us with many sweet memories.
High-calibre journalist with a draughtsman’s gift for clear presentation
Don Joseph Milinton Rajasekera– the gentleman who made a phenomenal transition from survey cartographic draughtsman to veteran journalist – passed away peacefully recently. A livewire of the Ex-Draughtsmans Association, his demise was just a moon away from our annual general meeting. We miss him as the association meets today. Milinda died the way he lived, silently taking leave of Planet Earth sans much ado.
I had the good fortune to work with him in the Survey Department as draughtsmen, and again at Wijaya Newspapers Ltd as journalists, until his untimely death. We both shared our journalistic skills, he, at the Daily Mirror and I at the Sunday Times. We had also worked together in the Divisional Survey Office, in Kandy, a few decades earlier. We returned to the head office, where we worked till our early retirement, and reunited at Wijaya Newspapers.
We were active members of the Survey Department Catholic Guild. Milinda had a flair for our hela culture and changed his first name Milinton to Milinda, which he used as a journalist. After retirement, he worked at the Weekend, and later had a stint at The Island before he came to the Daily Mirror.
An expert in political and legal matters, Milinda wrote as a senior journalist on economic, cultural and social matters, and his articles were interesting reading. His columns – “Legally Yours” in the Sun, “Diary of Citizen Dharmapala” in The Island, and “Point Counter Point” in the Daily Mirror – were gems that could only have come from a talented journalist, though for more than half his life he was a draughtsman.
He had a stint with the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation with his “Periscope” and serial play “Family Panorama.” His journalistic talents reached a peak when he became Deputy Editor of the Daily Mirror.He had a knack for argument, and argued sensibly, expressing forthright views, whatever the subject. He was also a member of the YMCA Speakers Forum, where he presided at times.
He had a good sense of humour, and his company was enjoyed by all, draughtsmen and journalists alike
My first and last visit to his home was on the day the late S.W.R.D. was cremated. A prolific writer, he was busy writing a political piece when he passed away.
Milinda was gentle and soft-spoken. He never criticised others, even those who opposed his views. A good Christian, he would sometimes argue with me on controversial religious topics.He was a loving husband and a good father to his three children, one a doctor.
We had many things in common, one being that we married on the same day. Bye, Milinda. May we meet again on that beautiful shore. Till then, may you rest in peace, that peace which, according to St. Augustine, is never ours until we rest in Him.
Lenard Ranjith Mahaarachchi
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