With a love for beauty, wisdom, humour and humility, he strode this earth  Dr. Lakshman Gamini Goonewardena My credentials for writing this tribute is that Lakshman and I have two strong threads running through the fabric of our lives.The first is that we were Colombo university mates who took up as our discipline the study [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka



With a love for beauty, wisdom, humour and humility, he strode this earth 

Dr. Lakshman Gamini Goonewardena

My credentials for writing this tribute is that Lakshman and I have two strong threads running through the fabric of our lives.The first is that we were Colombo university mates who took up as our discipline the study of the western classics (in basic English-Latin and Greek).

The second is that we both worked for many years commencing in the 1950s in the Department of Inland Revenue. There were invaluable lessons learnt by Lakshman from both sectors. From the first he cultivated the virtue of humanism which has long been recognised as an integral part of the western classics-the litterae humaniores the studies that mellow nature. One of Lakshman’s favourite quotes is to be found in a work of the Roman playwright of the golden age of Roman literature. The playwright is Terence and this is what he wrote: “I am a man and nothing human is alien to me”. And from the Greek, Lakshman was quite taken up by the label placed on fellow Athenian citizens of his time, by their eminent statesman, Pericles, as reported by the historian, Thucydides. “We are ‘lovers of beauty and lovers of wisdom.”

Taking a cue from the first part of that label, lovers of beauty, Lakshman sought and won the hand of Nalini. In search of wisdom he found it in his deep study of the Christian religion which earned him a Baccalaureate in Divinity (London) and a doctorate in Philosophy (cal).

Working in Inland Revenue provided Laksman a platform to hone his sense of humour whch he had to a remarkable degree. Here are two examples I can think of—when asked where he worked he would reply ‘at the IRS’ , ‘in America?’ ‘No here in Sri Lanka where IRS stands for “Income Removal Service”.’

Lakshman dealt with his taxpayers in a ‘mercy, mild’ manner. He never resorted to placing a crown of thorns on a taxpayer’s brow-never went beyond a mild admonishment —“treat an income tax return like a lady’s corset. If you put a wrong figure into it you are sure to get pinched somewhere,” said Lakshman with his trademark broad smile.
While on the subject of tax, it must be declared that Lakshman was widely regarded as the double tax expert who sat invariably on all double tax agreement panels with the foreign counterparts so much so that his reputation reached the UK Commonwealth Secretariat which showed no hesitation in selecting him to advise the Government of Botswana.

Religion played a major role in his life. In fact it was a wonder that he did not take to holy orders. When I think of his attributes I recall the words of Debbie Reynolds in the Singing Nun extolling St Dominique-”He was a soldier of the Lord, his armour was his devotion and the gospel was his sword”. So was it with Lakshman.

Humility was another of his credits. It was the crown which made him a king.He never advertised the fact that he was named in a publication by the International Bibliographical Council in Cambridge, UK as one of three Sri Lankan intellectuals of the 21st century. Indeed there are many other credits but why gild refined gold?
This tribute will not be complete without a reference to Nalini—Nalini showed the true spirit of a Christian wife. She looked after Lakshman with such love and tenderness throughout the long period of his illness. Nalini, for your caring 24/7, we the friends of Lakshman offer you our thanks with plentiful hands and say to you ‘cease to grieve. For Lakshman now rests happy and peaceful in the bosom of his Saviour ready to intercede on your behalf and ours and be so ready till ‘in the sweet bye and bye, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.’


Untold story of a first-class academic, gifted musician and jovial and dear friend


Rajeewa Jayasinghe, who was a lecturer in history at the University of Peradeniya, met with an untimely death at the age of 46. At his funeral, mourners said the country had lost a brilliant scholar. Rajeewa was one of my closest friends, going back to our days in junior school at Trinity College, Kandy. He was a chubby little guy who came from Mawilmada, Kandy. His home is one of the loveliest country-type houses in the district.

My father would drive his Morris Minor to school from Uyanwatte Training College, where my mother was the Principal. I used to love visiting Rajeewa’s home and garden in front of the Mawilmada public grounds. Hats off to whoever maintains the garden and the house. Even now, it is impeccable. Rajeewa and I were in the same Trinity College house – Carter Blues. We both played cricket and we were both left-hand batsmen. Rajeewa was the opening batsman with Gehan Rajapakse. We called Rajeewa “Thadi Jayasinghe” because of his size.

When we were in the upper school, in Grade 8, we started a music band with instruments made out of wood, and we performed and sang when there were no classes. Rajeewa was the vocalist, belting out popular ’80s English songs. Rajeewa and I had many friendly “fights” those days, he calling me “Kaluwa” and me calling him “Thadiya”. I was a bit of a bully, taking unfair advantage of my Sinhala vocabulary, but Rajeewa never gave in.

After the GCE O/Levels, Rajeewa joined the Arts stream and I joined the Commerce stream. We were in adjoining classrooms. We spent as much time together as we could, laughing through the day. Not a day went by without a joke. We spent our entire pocket money on “godamba rotties” at the tuck shop. In the Commerce class we sang songs, this time with a real guitar, owned by me. Rajeewa did a show with Srinath Chandrasekara, now a medical professor, and Shane Wanigasekara, the rugby legend of Lemuel House. The show was a huge success. We were fanatical fans of the Lionel Richie album “Hello”.

After our A/Levels, we went our different ways – Rajeewa on an academic career and me on a banking career. We didn’t meet for years, but I remember Rajeewa coming to hear me play in the band Dreams during a get-together at the Commercial Bank, Kandy, in the early ’90s. Life has it that best friends will meet once again towards the end of their lives. Rajeewa came into my life again in 2009, after we met on Facebook. He visited my home in Homagama. The last time we had met was 13 years earlier, in 1996. The photos we took that day are still on Facebook. Many of our friends have commented on the pictures. Rajeewa was a hardcore Facebook fan. I joked that he was Sri Lanka’s No. 1 FB addict. He became very close to me and my wife Nimali and we met at every Bradby thereafter, followed by the Bradby Ball, where the Batch of ’85 meets every year.

In 2012, Rajeewa came to me with a request for a sponsorship from my bank for a lifelong dream of his. The event was a musical show titled “Rajeewa J Live in Concert – An Untold Story of the Music of ’80s. The show featured highlights from Rajeewa’s music career, with ’80s songs, backed by the evergreen Hezonites. A musician myself, I was amazed by Rajeewa’s talent and the ease with which he sang all those hits of the ’80s. The concert was held at the Old Trinitians’ Sports Club, in Asgiriya. In the audience were his loving parents and family. Rajeewa was a long-time member of the Club and ended as its Secretary. It gave me tremendous satisfaction that my Bank had sponsored this great show by a truly talented singer.

That above show was not his last wish in life, although it was his last realised wish. His last wish was to reduce his bulk, which had bothered him from the days we went running around in the Trinity Junior School. He may have been heavy, but he always looked smart. Rajeewa dressed well, although his size in clothes was not easy to find. He made a point of being on a par with the others when it came to clothes and smart appearances. Losing weight was his ultimate wish, at the age of 46.

I visited him on the morning of the operation. As always, we joked around. I wished him good luck, but Rajeewa’s luck had run out. The operation that would help him slim down proved fatal, and Rajeewa left us without saying goodbye. For me, Rajeewa will remain the jovial little schoolboy of Trinity Junior School, running around with me wearing his dark-blue shorts, baggy white shirt, and brown Bata Super Star shoes.

He was one of my best friends ever. May he attain Nirvana.

Naleen Edirisinghe

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