Nalini Wickremesinghe was an elegant personality. Simplicity was part of her charm. Her funeral ceremony without the usual fanfare was a reflection of her lifestyle.
She was Director/Editorial at Lake House in the early 1970s when Lake House was still at its peak. Carol Aloysius and I, having passed out from the University of Ceylon, were among the applicants for a Women’s Page Assistant’s post in the Observer. Following a three-hour written test, an interview followed when I nervously sat before a dignified lady whom I later learnt was the eldest daughter of the legendary founder of Lake House -- D.R. Wijewardene.
The other was the formidable Denzil Peiris. This two-member interview board’s decision to recruit us was the start of my career in journalism.
A random survey held by this time had given high ratings to the Women’s Pages in the Sunday Observer.
The early 1970s marked the revival of the arts, crafts, batik and handlooms. With the economy sliding at this time and imports curtailed there was also a tremendous search for innovations, inventions and substitutes for foods, fabrics, sarees etc. The restrictions on the import of flour brought manioc and kurakkan flour to the market and chefs turned out chocolate cake with kurakkan flour.
“Bathala” was used in the making of pastries substituting for potatoes. In Mattakkuliya, two sisters opened a meat processing factory and turned out sausages, salami and other cold meats for the first time in Sri Lanka. New fashion-trends set the pace with the use of batik, tie and dye and handloom material.Under the supervision of the editor, the attempt then was to encompass this new scenario. The pioneers of the new ventures needed publicity and encouragement. Knowing what the country needed at this time, Mrs. Wickremesinghe too, graciously entered the scene directing us with care and diligence.
There was no TV at the time. Only the state-run radio channels functioned. The former Times Group and Davasa Newspapers were our competitors. But, Lake House publications almost monopolized the readership recording the highest circulation figures.
Therefore, the responsibility to cover and promote events was far greater than now.
A devout Buddhist and a lover of history, Mrs. Wickremesinghe was also a keen enthusiast of Sinhala drama. Perhaps her greatest contribution to the theatre was towards the construction of the Navarangahala at Royal College for the performance of dramas, a project which unfortunately fell through.
And I got into the habit of frequenting the Museum Library and the Anthropology Section due to her love for antiquities – a love which she infected me with. As a result, our readers got a glimpse of how our ancestors used their kitchens, drawing-rooms, bed rooms, wore their jewellery and played games.
With the takeover of Lake House in 1973 by the then government, Mrs. Wickremesinghe left Lake House. We missed her guidance and direction. However, with her appointment as director to the Laksala Board in 1977 -- she took to her new post like a duck to water -- she got into direct contact with the craftsmen. Once again, we renewed our contacts with her.
Mrs. Wickremesinghe, whenever she extended her patronage, stoutly stuck to the principle of the Wijewardene family of never making an appearance in any of the newspapers owned by them. But with the passing away of such personalities, will any such principles be left?
You’ll always be
beautiful and good
Lankika de Livera
You shall not grow old
As we that are left grow old.
For in our mind’s eye you’ll always be
Slim, young, beautiful and good,
For you were kind and generous
Yes, generous to a fault you were.
You were a marvel at giving gifts,
You could put Santa in the shade.
So sincere was the mind that gave.
You did not want to take revenge
On those who hurt you,
You did not want to litigate
Even though your grief was great.
You suffered and you bore it,
That is why you went and left us all.
Gertrude de Livera
A Bribery Commissioner who was different
I. F. B. Wickramanayake
Ian Wickramanayake was closely connected to my family through my maternal grandmother, who was a Wickremanayake. To our family he was known as “Bardo.”
He was very fond of my father, and my father of him. As a teacher, he spent his vacations in our home at Kalahe, Galle. My Dad spotted his debating talents and persuaded him to take up Law.
I came to know Ian closely when I joined the Police. I sought his advice and assistance of the Crown Counsel at the Galle Assizes in pursuing prosecutions, having assisted the Crown Counsel in all our non-summary cases, when I was Officer-in-Charge of Hungama in 1964.
His good friend was Daya Perera, and he referred to Ian as Yakadaya. Crown Counsels at the time were of a high calibre, respected by the judges from the Bar and the Police. Ian, who had an excellent memory, could remember the regimental numbers of the Police constables and sergeants better than we did.
Ian had many good qualities, but he could sometimes be very emotional, and his emotions sometimes got the better of him. He never failed to help anyone in difficulty.
I recall with gratitude how he helped me when I was charged for attempted murder after using excessive force in arresting a drunkard.
My brother Vere, also in the Police, took me along to see Ian, whose immediate reaction was, “Don’t worry, Nihal I will help you.” He called his good friend, the eminent lawyer Eardley Perera (later President’s Counsel). Ian introduced me to Mr. Perera at his residence, saying I was his cousin. He said, “If he is your cousin, I will appear free for him.”
Eardley appeared on 18 dates of trial with another family friend of ours, Chula de Silva, who also appeared free. I was acquitted.
Ian’s assistance was available to everyone he knew, and to friends of friends. His benevolence and compassion knew no bounds, as a lawyer and when he was a Senior Solicitor General and Bribery Commissioner.
As a father, he was very close to his son and daughter, but because of work, he tended to neglect the family, something he regretted later in life. He had excellent support from his late wife and the children and son-in-law, not forgetting his sister-in-law, who took great care of him in his last years.
As a Senior Solicitor General and Bribery Commissioner, Ian reached the apex of his career. He could be emotional, and sometimes undiplomatic, which strained his relationship with the late Minister of Justice and Public Administration, Felix Dias Bandaranaike. He would disagree openly on various issues with the Minister; sometimes he was correct, but he lacked diplomacy in dealing with his superiors. He felt he deserved to be Attorney-General, when someone else was appointed. Ian felt he had shown enough dedication, commitment and loyalty to the Government and the Minister.
He loved music, singing and dancing. He loved to play the guitar and sing, and often entertained us at his home in Mount Lavinia, with Gaya Pattikirikorale, Upali Seneviratne, Jeyanathan, Pat Suaris, and Ariyasena.
He also played an important role with the Special Squad, formed with the Director of Intelligence at the time, L. D. C. Herath (later IGP), Minister Felix Dias Bandaranaike, and a team comprising Upali Seneviratne, Zernie Wijesuriya, B. A. Jeyanathan, G. Ariyawansa, Gaya Pattikirikorale, Pat Suaris, etc.
Ian played an important role in rounding up the insurgents of 1971. He had excellent leadership qualities, and the intellectual capacity to plan, execute and prosecute. He had his plans for rehabilitating those who required a change of attitude.
He was very flamboyant, and proud of his revolver, which he carried and displayed whenever necessary. He was dedicated, committed and showed honesty and integrity, and courage and boldness in his decisions. He was not one to be swayed by political influence.
When he fell ill, his wife and family looked after him. Sadly, his wife and loving son predeceased him. His daughter, Shyama and son-in-law and sister-in-law and grand children cared for him in his last years. He was hardly able to speak when I visited him, but he was clearly happy to see Vere and me.
Nihal de Alwis
A devoted service at the warfront
The third death anniversary of Capt. Euranga Rathnayake fell on June 4.
During his career in the Sri Lanka Navy, he was awarded the ‘Ranawickrama’ medal for his devoted service at the warfront.
He was later also awarded the ‘Uththam Seva’ medal.
He also received the Long Service medal, 50th Independence anniversary medal, 50th anniversary North and East medal, Poornabhumi medal and the Vadamarachchi Riviresa medal.
He was also honoured with the Fast Attack Flotilla Pin.
This highly decorated officer passed away after a brief illness. We miss him greatly.
Wife Shiromi and
daughter Sanuji Ruwanya