Walter Ediriweera My father, my hero, my teacher Three months have gone, since the day my beloved Thathi (father) passed away, leaving our family with a profound sense of sadness and deep shock. Thathi passed away unexpectedly on March 6 while he was being treated for his illness at a private hospital, in Colombo. Though [...]




Walter Ediriweera

My father, my hero, my teacher

Three months have gone, since the day my beloved Thathi (father) passed away, leaving our family with a profound sense of sadness and deep shock. Thathi passed away unexpectedly on March 6 while he was being treated for his illness at a private hospital, in Colombo. Though he was undergoing treatment for a few years, he was capable of managing his work at home and had the grit and determination to move on.

During his illness, I was always at his side, ensuring that due medical care was being provided by the doctors and other medical staff, on time. As a result Thathi, did not experience any complexities during his time of ill health and I was pleased to see him leading a peaceful retired life.

As a learned person, he gained much respect in the financial sector especially amongst professionals in the leasing and hire purchase industry for his wealth of knowledge, expertise, experience and commitment to uplift the profession. He held the Chairmanship of the Finance Houses Association and also the post of Secretary of the Leasing Association during his career. With the help of a few of his reputed colleagues in the industry, Thathi was instrumental in establishing the Sri Lanka Institute of Credit Management and was also one of the most sought after “resource persons” (lecturer) to conduct seminars, for those in the Finance & Leasing industry.

His dedication to his employers was recognised and appreciated by his superiors and peers. He was much loved and respected for his integrity, guidance, wisdom and even after his demise, his assistants and colleagues and those who have dealt with him speak of his legacy of honesty and transparency and recall their relationship with pleasant memories.

In spite of his busy career, he always had time for his family. His sudden demise has created an emptiness in me as he was my “guiding star” from my childhood days. Thathi and I had a special bond and a close relationship which cannot be explained in words and I feel he is still with me, guiding me on the righteous path of life. When I had questions, Thathi would always answer them. It was like a ritual for Thathi and I to have dinner together and ponder over things that transpired during the day. He always used to wait for his “Putha” to come home after work to enjoy his meal and if I did get late, he used to still wait for me to turn up at his bedside and say good-night to him. Whenever I travelled out of Colombo, he would be worried and keep calling every half an hour, until I reached my destination.

He was very helpful to his relatives and whenever they needed his assistance, was ever willing to help them and was happy to see them doing well in their personal lives. He gained immense pleasure in assisting all who sought his professional advice and his loss is still being felt not only by his family but by his friends, colleagues and assistants.

After the funeral, I realised that not only had I lost a parent but my hero and teacher as well. Just two days prior to his death, he called me from his hospital bed and said that he really loves me and he also knows, that I love him a lot too.

My dear Thathi, I will never be the same as I was before and I feel as if I am incomplete without you. We shared memories that nobody else shared, which means you knew me differently than anyone else.  We were a close knit family and you and Amma had a happy married life of 52 years together. Now,when it gets dark in the evenings, Amma and I stare at the chair in the living room and miss your words of wisdom. During the past few years, you have been telling me that according to Lord Buddha’s teachings, one day we need to leave this world in order to escape samsara and attain nirvana! However, the past three months have been hard for me as I realised that, when someone you love dies, that part of you dies as well.When you left us, I used to cry because of the void left by your death but now I have gradually realized, it is easier to smile at the memories. Several years ago you told me the day you pass away to cremate you within 24 hours which was done according to your last wish.

Thathi, I want you to know that you are still guiding me and still answering my questions. I will always miss your blessings which helped me overcome the difficulties that I faced in my life but I know that you will always be there watching me.

Thathi, I am ever so grateful to you for being my father and I hope that I will meet you again in this journey of samsara once again as “my Thathi”, prior to attaining nirvana which will be my happiest moment.

May you attain Nibbana.

Your ever loving and grieving son



Zeno Nihal Bemunuge 

A brilliant mind endowed with many talents

Bemunuge is a rare surname in Sri Lanka. “Zeno” as a first name is even rarer. Zeno Nihal Bemunuge or “Bema” as he was popularly known was a man with the rarest of qualities. He was endowed with immense intelligence and talent. With his outspoken philosophical views and rationalistic attitudes, Bema more than justified his parents’ decision to name him after Zeno, the great pre-Socratic philosopher.

Everything about Bema was unique. His handwriting was out of the ordinary and so were his mannerisms, style of speaking, his  life style etc. His knowledge in the profession he practised, electrical engineering, was remarkable and I am yet to meet a person who is more thorough in the fundamentals of electrical engineering than him. He was equally proficient in many other fields widely different from engineering such as wine making, cookery, astronomy, theology, English literature etc.

My first meeting with Bema was at Laxapana, when I joined the power station as an Operations Engineer. Bema was a senior hand there and was in charge of the Old Laxapana power station maintenance. We all lived in the “Building site” at Laxapana and Bema and his lovely wife Romaine were regular visitors to our abode, the bachelor’s kingdom known as the “OE’s Bungalow”. Or else every evening we used to meet in the famous Laxapana club. All of us used to enjoy a drink in the evening, play a game of billiards or snooker and it was the order of the day for Bema to start a conversation on some topic, varying from electrical engineering,  theology or even theory of relativity.

Bema and Romaine left for Zambia having secured employment in the copper mines and were there for a few years. On their return to Sri Lanka he joined LECO and that was the second time we started working under the same roof. He made valiant efforts to improve the reliability of the electricity supply in LECO areas, and was very particular on the use of good quality products. He was strict on the manufacturing standards of all the equipment used in the distribution system and this made most equipment manufacturers to consider him as a nuisance. Some local industries took his criticism in the right spirit and this helped them to improve their products   to compete even at international level. His statistics on the power failures and the equipment failures were meticulous and employing such information he justified his decisions convincingly.

Romaine’s unfortunate demise about a decade back was unbearable for Bema and he never recovered from it.  Knowing his father’s plight, his son Ryan decided to abandon his studies and come back to Sri Lanka to be with him.All these and many other unforeseen events made Bema to leave his employment and to serve as an independent electrical engineering consultant. Ryan became his assistant as well as his best friend

I lost contact with him after I decided to leave LECO. It was quite late in the day we got the news that he was ill and was being taken care of by Ryan with some of his faithful friends from LECO.

Bema did not do justice to the immense intelligence, talent and skills he was endowed with.  He was a man with a large heart and was ever ready to give a helping hand to anyone.At this stage, I only could pray “that his soul may rest in eternal peace”, but had Bema been living, this would have given rise to a long and fruitful heart to heart chat.



 Dr  Nihal Nagahawatte

A dedicated physician who loved life

Dr.  Nihal S. Nagahawatte, who died last week, was affiliated with St. Joseph’s Hospital at Wayne, New Jersey (NJ), where he served as Chairman of the Department of Paediatrics and the Medical Director for the Wayne School System, until he retired in 1999.

He did his residency and training in Paediatrics at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey. He started his practice in 1978 in Totowa and in 1982 moved his office to Parish Dr, Wayne, NJ.

He founded “Wayne Paediatrics” and was a bright and dedicated physician who loved his patients, when he was taken away by Alzheimer’s, at an early age of 53.

In 2000, St Joseph’s honoured him with the Distinguished Physician award, bestowed upon a physician for outstanding leadership, dedication and advocacy for healthcare system, hospital and patients.

Back in Sri Lanka, he excelled in his primary school and was a recipient of a scholarship when he attended Nalanda College. In 1964, he was the only student to be admitted from Nalanda College to study Medicine at the Sri Lanka Medical School, Colombo.

Born December 19, 1945, his parents were Santis and Violet Nagahawatte. Nihal was the third among five siblings–two brothers and two sisters.

After graduation in 1969, he worked as a doctor for five years in Sri Lanka and fulfilled his civic duties to the country that gave him free education before migrating to USA in 1975.

He met his future wife Nelum Karunaratne, in February 1975 and migrated to the USA two weeks after their wedding in June 1975.

He travelled the world with his wife and friends.  He loved playing tennis and later became a passionate golfer.  He loved music, singing, dancing and was a connoisseur of fine food and wine.

He lived an extraordinary life with Nelum in Wayne and Franklin Lakes.  He was blessed with two lovely daughters, Neoma Nagahawatte and Dr Tanya Ohly of New York.  Neoma and Pete, Tanya and Jack, have given him two grandsons Benjamin and Oliver and a granddaughter Raya.

A devoted Buddhist who practised his religion in his daily life, he was a kind and generous man, beyond words.



 M.Y.M.P. Yapa

The educationist who showed the way to many students

M.Y.M.P. Yapa an educationist, dedicated teacher, author and devout Buddhist was born in a remote village in Welimada. He had his secondary education at Bandarawela Central College. He entered the Peradeniya University to follow a Physical Science Degree and followed this with a Diploma in Education at Colombo University.

He started his career as a Science teacher at Weeraketiya Central College in Hambantota where he taught Physics. Many of his students went on to become doctors, engineers etc.

After leaving Weeraketiya Central, he returned  to Colombo and joined the Civil Aviation Dept. as Air Traffic Controller. He worked in the department for a couple of years before  leaving for Nigeria on a teaching assignment. On his return to Sri Lanka he joined the Colombo International School at a senior executive position and from there received an invitation from British School Colombo to join them and he served as Vice Principal for ten long years.

After his long and dedicated service at the British School he retired from the education field completely and took up writing.

He wrote many textbooks on Physics that helped many Science students in the country to excel in their G.C.E. O/L and G.C.E. A/Levels. As a devout Buddhist he wrote many books on Buddhism too. His wife Uditha was a Science teacher and taught at many schools and retired as Principal St. Joseph’s Girls College, Nugegoda.

Mr Yapa had leadership qualities and guided his sisters and brothers who now hold important positions in the country. His children too accomplished much under his guidance.

Mr. Yapa was 70 years old when he passed away. He was cremated at the Kohuwala Public Cemetery before a distinguished gathering of colleagues, friends and relatives.

May he attain Nibbana with the help of the Triple Gem.


Upali De Silva



He will be remembered for his professionalism and kindness

Michael Emil Joachim  passed away on May 28 after a brief illness, leaving his family, friends, fellow professionals and co- workers in deep sorrow.

His father Dr. A.W.R. Joachim was a former Director of Agricultural Research. He grew up with his sisters in a privileged family that imbued in him values that we, his friends, professional colleagues and co-workers saw in great abundance in our interactions with Michael over the past five decades.

After his graduation in civil engineering in 1963, he joined the National Housing Department and was later absorbed into the State Engineering services. Early in his professional life, he secured a doctorate from the prestigious University of Edinburgh. That endowed him with advanced multidisciplinary skills. On his return to Sri Lanka, he served   in a series of high level positions in the public sector:  Superintending Engineer, Housing,   Director of Programming, National Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, Director, Urban Development Authority, and Head of the Department of Buildings amongst these.  He served several ministers of the state with great distinction, being recognised by them as being among the finest of our Engineers. He was a favourite of former Ministers Pieter Keuneman, Sirisena Coorey, and Prime Minister R. Premadasa who all called on him to carry out  exacting   tasks. His most admired character was that he was absolutely incorruptible  in a system  that was  plagued  by corruption at  every level,  a trait that would surely have flowed out  from his early  upbringing.

On his retirement from the public sector around 2000,  he put the skills  he commanded  into play  in order to handle  outstanding  challenges in the private sector. He served as the Managing Director of Colombo Land Ltd , focusing on infrastructure planning and buildings. He thereafter  set up    his own  consultancy firm, Project Management and Development, of which he was Chairman. This firm collaborated  with  Aitken Spence and other investors   on major tourism projects within and outside Sri Lanka. In 2015, Sajith Premadasa appointed  him as  the Chairman, the State Engineering Corporation.  At his demise, he was the Chairman of  the Construction Industry Development Authority.

It is wonderful to know that Michael  always did his best for his   family, his loving wife Estelle, and two  wonderful children, Janice  and David. I recall that in the 1980s he was offered an attractive job with  the Hong Kong  Government but he declined it to stay with his young  family in Sri Lanka. In turn, his family gave him immense strength to overcome many problems he faced.

Michael will long be remembered by his friends and co-workers for his serious professionalism, his kindness, his deep concern for those around him, his eagerness to help others, and his somewhat aggressive yet  endearing   conversations with  us.  Michael will be deeply missed by his family and all those who wereclose to him.

May his soul rest in peace. 

Sivaguru Ganesan

 Brilliance and humility were his hallmarks

On May 28, Sri Lanka lost one of her most illustrious engineers, Dr. Michael Emil Joachim –who served in a number of public and private institutions in Sri Lanka and abroad, over five long decades  having enjoyed his last official appointment as the Chairman of the Construction Industry Development Authority ( CIDA) , for just less than a year, since September 12, 2016.

His last official mission to Jaffna in early May, exactly three weeks before his passing, symbolises  his spiritual desire to serve the country at the helm of a long service as a top class public servant. The discomfort he felt during the last day of the Jaffna journey necessitated an immediate admission to a Colombo Hospital and there he was diagnosed with a cancer.

His last wish was not to suffer, and that exactly happened; he breathed his last in his sleep in the wee hours of Sunday, the 28th. The mission to Jaffna was a great success simply because of his leadership as the Chairman. He had celebrated his 76th birthday on November 21, 2016.

Dr. Joachim had an illustrious career as a brilliant engineer and eminent public servant, yet carried his excellence with utmost humility. His loss creates an immeasurable impact to the construction industry of Sri Lanka.

Humble but tough, his approach to a problem was unique. His rowdy remarks often melted to friendly commotions. The talents he possessed after encountering a relentless campaign in life had gifted with him an impeccable reputation. The indefatigable way he worked for long hours on official correspondence, till he was satisfied, during the short spell of service as the Chairman of CIDA was incredible. He is irreplaceable. He was tough, fearless and very straight forward yet humble. The use of the word “machan” which means “friend” or “buddy” to address even subordinates like us was his style of being humble and down to earth. This kept us cool and comfortable at any official battle.

We sadly miss him. May he rest in peace!

Eng. S. Amarasekara


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