Bernard Tilakaratna A man for all missions Tribute by Bradman Weerakoon at Bernard Tilakaratna’s funeral on 28.09.2004 I have been asked to say a few words on this sad occasion as we say a final goodbye to a towering personality of our times. I feel very privileged to do so. Most of us gathered here [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka



Bernard Tilakaratna

A man for all missions

Tribute by Bradman Weerakoon at Bernard Tilakaratna’s funeral on 28.09.2004
I have been asked to say a few words on this sad occasion as we say a final goodbye to a towering personality of our times. I feel very privileged to do so.

Most of us gathered here know the details of his remarkably successful career in the Foreign Service of Sri Lanka including his ambassadorial appointments in Japan and India, and his achievement of the highest position possible for a career diplomat, of Foreign Secretary. He was the first to hold that post from the career Foreign Service and he did that in the time of President Premadasa.

Those of you who have ever worked with President Premadasa know how difficult it was to satisfy his demands and his exacting attention to detail. I worked closely with Bernard during many exciting events during this time; the JVP uprising of 1989, the return of the IPKF to India in 1990 and the episode with High Commissioner Gladstone. We tried in vain to persuade President Premadasa to refrain from peremptory action against Britain but it was impossible to divert him from his confrontational stance.

Bernard was the quintessential diplomat. He didn’t have to learn diplomacy. It was part of his personal life; it was there naturally in him. He had all the courtly graces of the archetypal diplomat. Dignified, yet totally accessible; serious, but never pompous; Bernard was always able to see the funny side of a situation. He had the knack of defusing difficult moments with a quip and a joke. Indeed the ideal man for resolving the impossible situations which our political leaders sometimes got the country into. Virtually; a man for all missions.

Bernard was blessed with a wonderfully satisfying family life. A totally supportive wife- Prithi- for the constant hospitality that his high-pressure work demanded and three brilliant children- all highly qualified. Now in the fullness of time he enjoyed the company of his highly talented grand children with many of his trade mark characteristics- a zest for living, equanimity in whatever happens around them and a delicious sense of humour. They will ensure Bernard’s immortality.

Bernard will be long remembered. If you have met him once you will be attached forever. He had that magical quality and a repertoire of stories about his rich experiences that were remarkable for their insights, their detail and their authenticity.

He was on the way to putting down his valuable memoirs and had mastered the computer- but the illness which he fought so valiantly and with such courage made him put this off for another day. His personal papers remain available for the budding historian.

Well done thou good and faithful servant. Thank you for all you have done for your country and for the thousands whom you have touched with your generosity and compassion throughout your life.



A legacy of love, strength and courage

Esther Ismail was the wife, mother and neighbour that anyone could wish for. I remember the time she moved into our neighbourhood with two little children and immediately became friends with all those who passed her front gate – big or small it didn’t matter. She had time to smile and talk to anyone who came by and get to know them by name.

As a family they were the perfect mix. Esther Ambrose married Aleem Ismail, in a romantic love story that started at the Shell Company, that she shared with me as we became friends. I was privy to early pictures and in my young mind I was struck by the Elizabeth Taylor-like beauty she was.

They had a good life and two beautiful little kids when we first met the family. Her husband Aleem Ismail was the technical brains behind the company Industrial Asphalts Ltd., where he was a director. He was the proud owner of a Humber Super Snipe, a car that was like a mini ship that we took rides in with Aleem and Ettie. He was amazingly talented and knowledgeable and she was the perfect public relations arm in the family that knew everyone in the area within a short time.

The minute I heard the sad news that Esther had passed away on September 12, memories of years past flashed through my mind. I remembered the time she chaperoned me to movies. Aleem was always hovering around his candle making hobby and I added decorations to his candles at holiday time. It was a joke among us that one day he would set all those candles alight and burn down the house! We laughed about it, but Aleem’s candles made my 21st birthday bright when my mother gave me a Spanish Hacienda style party with Spanish Paella on the menu with Aleem’s candles and candle holders to complete the decor.

I visited Sri Lanka several times in the last 30 years since leaving home but I always had contact with Ettie on every visit. I will always remember her kindness shown to me as a young girl. No birthday or wedding was complete in our family without “Aunty Ettie” being around and it was the same during tragedy and hopelessness. She would visit for a friendly chat and our doors were open to her anytime.

She was a sounding board for me with all the little secrets that I was not comfortable dealing with at home. Although I was not a rebel, Aunty Ettie had a lot in common with those of us who were younger and needed advice. Her life experiences and vision were something she gave to anyone who needed it. I can almost hear her voice ring in my ears and I will always cherish those conversations I had with her when sometimes I was at the cross roads with decisions or when I needed that extra push to make a decision before I approached my mother to say I had found my life partner who met Ettie to receive her approval and give me validation.

She was an avid reader and introduced me to authors that I enjoyed very much. When I left home to migrate to the US, I knew exactly where my books would find a good home – with someone who appreciated them very much.

It was not long ago that I felt a compulsion to call her. She shared her health updates and checked with me about my mother. As long as she was able to get around she never failed to visit and always remembered my mother’s birthday. When on the phone from far away in the USA it was always a lively conversation no matter how much time had passed and how big the age gap was between us.

Just a few days before her passing , I tried to call her but she was too weak to take the phone. I missed that last conversation and it makes me sad how very quickly she was gone.

I truly believe now that it takes a village not only to raise a child but also to take care of the elderly. She was more than a neighbour to us. I remember the days when my grandmother was around and later became very ill, it was Ettie who came by to relieve my mother or sit by my grandmother and keep her company.

She was kind to the core and cared for those who had little in life. When it came to my turn, I encouraged her to get over her fears and use the talent she had to get back in the work force when her family was grown up. For all that she was to me, I had the opportunity to hold her hand and give her the confidence that she was good at what she did. I was glad to be able to see her working at the same company I did – at Whittall Boustead Ltd where she blended in well. So well that when her boss Asoka Herath moved companies he took her with him. That says a lot for the person she was and what she delivered in the job after a long hiatus.

Her passing is a personal loss for me. Shane and Sandy, Shanaz and Ishan will remain in our thoughts. We will continue to keep the friendship and bond that Ettie had with us through to the next generation.

She has taken a journey that we will all follow someday. Esther Ismail will certainly be rewarded for all the good and love she gave. May her soul rest in eternal peace. All of us who knew her closely will always remember her and the legacy of love, strength and courage she left behind. We loved you in life and we will continue that love and remember you in death.

Anjalika Silva


Prof. Ravi Sangakkara

A good teacher is a joy forever

The news of the sudden demise of Senior Professor Ravi Sangakkara came as a shock to all those who knew him intimately. The Peradeniya University, Faculty of Agriculture lost a senior professor with exemplary qualities. He was a committed academic, teacher, researcher and scientist in the field of Crop Science.

Prof. Ravi Sangakkara had his primary and secondary education at Trinity College, Kandy, where he excelled winning the Ryde medal.
One of the privileges of being an administrator was the chance I got to interact with Prof. Sangakkara and share his life experiences. When I worked at the University of Peradeniya as a Deputy Registrar I associated closely with Prof. Sangakkara. He was one of the most humble, genuine professors in the University. I had the good fortune to work with him on several committees.

Apart from his academic work he was also a member of the Corporate Plan committee. I realised his commitment to the University was unparalleled when working on this committee with him. His friendly advice, the simple words spoken and constructive ideas, were helpful in overcoming controversial ideas raised at the meetings.

Prof. Sangakkara was a quiet, courteous and simple gentleman; he never spoke of his outstanding achievements and conducted himself with humility and kindness.

The University of Peradeniya will miss you very much because a good teacher is a joy forever. The void created by you can be never filled.
Prof. Sangakkara was never given to ostentatious talk or action. Last month I met him at the Research Symposium held at the Faculty of Agriculture, Rajarata University of Sri Lanka. He had attended this forum as a Resource person. During the inauguration I was next to him and we laughed together at various jokes.

Many words, no doubt will be written about Prof. Ravi Sangakkara and also many quotations used to bid him farewell. These words by poet Henry Wordsworth Longfellow for me sums up the man he was, “Lives of great men all remind us. We can make our lives sublime and departing leave behind us, footprints in the stands of time”.

A.M.G.B. Abeyasinghe


Upali Abeykoon

Still missing my

It was only three months for my wedding
When Amma told me you entered hospital
Weeks later Doctors gave-up on you
I didn’t fully know what it meant.
I felt numb, and you were gone, but I still cried.

I didn’t know how big a hole
your passing would leave.
I didn’t understand how much loneliness
I was about to receive.

As the years have gone by,
I’ve forgotten a few things,
Like the sound of your voice,
And how your laughter used to ring.
But I have your voice message in my phone

I can’t remember exactly what
It was like when you held me,
But I do remember it left me with
A feeling of warmth and security.

My first birthday spent without you
Was hardest after you were gone.
Coz I missed the early morning hug and my gift
That first new year just wasn’t the same,
And it remains so as the years go on.

There have been thousands of times
When I’ve wished you were still here, my darling appachchi
To celebrate all of my joys,
And help me calm my fears.

I do miss you at every turn and I will always do.
You were my shadow and my hero and I am so sad
That you never lived to see your little princess as a bride.
I am so happy and grateful to you appachchi for finding
The best partner one could ever find to be my husband.
May you attain Nibbana

Ranjeewa Kulatunga

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