Plus - Appreciations

It was an honour to have served you sir

Cyril Herath

Soon after the recent demise of Cyril Herath, (one of the finest officers ever to adorn the coveted office of IGP,) the print media afforded the widest publicity to the deluge of moving tributes and eulogies extolling the virtues of a unique human endowed with compassion and justice.

I waited till the dust settled before recording thoughts of my own of the officer I knew since 1958 on my first assignment to Kurunegala as a rookie sub inspector and he a probationary ASP. Unlike in those days when officers in and above the rank of ASP were not blessed with the luxury of government vehicles with police drivers on call on a 24/7 tour of duty, Mr. Herath made do in a Peugeot 203, EN 4378. Even as the IGP, several years on, he coped with just one official car in contrast to a fleet as seen recently of one of his successors. His simplicity was his forte.

It was on the occasion of the book launch of Dr. Frank de Silva, (former IGP), that I had the occasion of meeting him and spending time in light banter when we reminisced our days in Kurunegala. He looked in fine fettle health-wise. It never occurred to me though, that it was the last time I would ever meet with him as fate decreed otherwise when he succumbed to an illness which he had battled bravely.

I knew him as a professional and a committed officer who did not know the meaning of fear or favour, a trait which cut short an otherwise illustrious term of office as the IGP, when he defied the President of the time.

An epitome of class and finesse, ever unassuming and unpretentious, Cyril Herath strode the halls of power stamping a rare breed of class and finesse. He attained the pinnacle of his career through sheer dint of hard work and commitment and was never known to crave the indulgence of political patronage, a trait which contrasts sharply today. His style was unique in that he was never known to condescend in exchange for professional advancement but rather he donned the mantle of the coveted office of IGP with dignity decorum and elegance. Indeed, he symbolized incorruptibility.

In recognition of his professionalism and vast contribution to the Police Service he was appointed after his retirement by the Kumaratunga Government, firstly, as the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence which was at the peak of the embattled ethnic crisis and the armed conflict that ravaged our country and thereafter as the Chairman of the National Savings Bank in which disciplines he acquitted himself with credit and excellence.

His decision to retire pre-maturely was a culmination of a string of events that would have broken a lesser man. It would have been easy for Cyril Herath to become bitter, hardened and to surrender to self pity or regret but rather he chose to retire from public life and live out his years in the peace and quiet of his own family which really was his private world and no one would have blamed him for that.
Cyril Herath brought vision and meaning to the Police Service, especially in the face of a ruthless war and other maladies that plagued the Police Service. The delight and spirit he derived from his profession was his driving force in his quest to make the Force a practical outfit and restore some lost pride and prestige.

In large part he reminds us of stalwarts of similar calibre who adorned the high office of IGP. They were Messrs E.L.Abeygunawardene, John Attygalle, Stanley Senanayake and Rudra Rajasingham. Because of them; we could grieve and then go on. In more recent times there were officers of the likes of Ana Seneviratne, Frank de Silva. These great people lifted us, and in doubt and darkness gave the rank and file their pride, true identity as policemen, a true sense of belonging and of being different.

In all the years of his life, his genuineness and depth of character continued to shine through his jealously guarded affection and loyalty to the police and the country. He made a splendid and a noble contribution to the Police Service. To his family he was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, and to others who he knew, a true and a loyal friend.

He graced our history. For those of us who knew and loved him - he graced our lives. I pray that God gives his family the strength and fortitude to let go and move on.

Goodbye and farewell Sir, it was great to have known and served you.

Carlyle de Silva

Didi Akka, you were a caring big sister to all of us

Kusuma De Silva

Kusuma, my beloved sister was popularly known as "Kusa" among her contemporaries as well as pioneers of Mahamaya Girls' College Kandy. She was an English Trained Teacher. As a child I remember watching her draping the "osariya" in seconds and then rushing to catch the early bus, as she served in remote schools off Teldeniya, Udu Dumbara and Kondadeniya.

Among our relatives and family members she was known as "Didi akka". Unlike today there were no three wheelers or school vans to get to schools in distant places, so she had to walk miles and miles to reach the school from the nearest bus halt.

However, she enjoyed her career especially teaching rural children and they too liked her very much.
Once she was overjoyed and showed me a letter written to her in English by one of her O/ Level students. She told me how difficult it was to bring them up to that standard. In spite of the poor salary she helped needy students.

During the JVP uprising in the 1980s Didi akka came home sobbing as she had seen some of her students' bodies by the roadside of Kondadeniya. As she was the second in a large family , she bore almost all the responsibilities of looking after the younger siblings.

She plaited my long hair and fed all of us in the morning before she left for school. Readymade dresses were rare and costly in the 1950s so she tailored the uniforms and casual wear for the younger ones.

Didi akka acted as a big sister for my friends too. Generally she called them "putha". They miss her equally. She always made it a point to see that everyone had had their meals even if there was a large crowd at home, she being the last to eat.

Darling Didi akka may you attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana

Nalini De Silva Wijayanayaka (Chuty nangi)

A more humane human resources person you would not find

Duncan Perera

We have lost a true friend, a man of sterling qualities. The demise of Duncan Perera came as a shock. He looked fit and seemed free of any ailment, before he entered hospital. No one looking at him would have thought his kidneys were failing and dialysis was the only option left. Duncan fought to the very end.

He was always cheerful and warm-hearted and delightful company. In fact, Duncan, was the nicest person to meet at any time, and if we met accidentally I would tease him, saying “any time is Duncan time.”

Duncan, whose career extended from the Royal Air Force to the Sri Lanka Air Force, was a man of steel who never lost the will to survive. He was a relentless fighter, never giving up but firmly believing he had to be a winner.

Duncan served the Royal Air Force in England for three years and then the Sri Lanka Air Force for five years. The disciplines he learnt as a young man in the Air Force stood him in good stead when he was picked to deal with a large workforce in a multinational company.

Duncan was an efficient administrator at Lever Brothers (Ceylon) Limited, where he excelled as Human Resources Manager. Dealing with a large labour force and a powerful union was no easy task. He took the humane angle in solving problems. The union leaders had faith in Duncan’s sincerity of purpose. Even in the most difficult of times, when the company went through a strike, he maintained cordial relations with the union, proof that he was a trusted manager.

He had the good fortune to work with the late Gilbert Jayasuriya, Personnel Director and Acting Chairman, and later with Stanley Jayawardena, who was Personnel Director and later Chairman. No business had a better combination, with these two honourable gentlemen working closely with Duncan in dealing with labour issues.

Thanks to them, Levers towered in the business world, acknowledged as a company that was fair and just in its dealings with employees. It is not wrong to say that Duncan did much of the ground work and sought a satisfactory solution before any matter went up to the directors.

Duncan built lasting relationships with all the employees. He played a central role in organising the Annual Long Service Awards Ceremony, the Inter-Department Good House-Keeping Contest, the Sports Meet, the Sports Club Nite and the Christmas Party, all of which fostered good relations with the workforce.

He had a knack for getting the support of those with special skills. He had a way about him. He had the support of colleagues to make every event live up to his expectations. He wanted nothing short of the best.

When the late Gilbert Jayasuriya asked me to organise a get-together of ex-Leverites, my first choice for the committee was Duncan. When I told him I wanted his support, his eyes lit up, as if to say “Yes, We Can.”

His simple, unassuming and amiable ways made even the most difficult task easy to achieve! With his demise there is a vacuum that cannot be filled. We who were so close to him cannot believe that Duncan will not be around any more. If we feel it this way, I can imagine how it must be with the family he has left behind.

To Nimal, who has completed 49 years of happily wedded life, his daughters, Shalini, Varuni and Ishani, sons-in-law Nilmin, Ravi and Chaminda. and grand-children, Mandrinee, Charith, Uvindri, Devruk, Janendra, Ranruk and Dinaya – all of whom have loved him and enjoyed being with him will doubtless feel his absence,we are consoled that we have known Duncan and learned from the exemplary life he lived.

Sri Sangabo Corea

The neighbour who stood strong during times of panic

Sidath Sri Nandalochana

A generation has passed away….

The three children of D.N.W. de Silva, the auctioneer and his active wife who took over the profession of her husband, to pioneer as one of the island’s first in this field, lived in “Fellowsleigh”, No. 9, Asoka Gardens. Of the children there were Sujata who married Stanley Jayawardene, Sampat and Sidat. All are now gone “in their season”, as Thoreau couched so eloquently:-

“Every blade in the forest
Every leaf in the forest
Lays down its life in its season as beautifully as it was taken up”.

It was 1951 when my parents moved to Asoka Gardens and the families came to know each other. The Auction House was half-way up the road, a beautiful, old colonial residence, sprawling with wide verandahs, back and front and set in a spacious garden.I knew Sujatha and Stanley in University – we were in the same “batch”. Matilda their mother became a close friend, later in my life as co-members of a Business and Professional Women’s Association, the Zonta Club of Colombo.

Sidat had quietly built himself up as a successful lawyer. He continued to live in the annexe of “Fellowsleigh” which had a separate entrance and he was scrupulous in maintaining the over 100-year-old house having it painted and colour washed. Often I would see him interviewing a client in the tiny annexe verandah, as I passed by as also invariably I would see him taking a sedate walk, up and down the road, as a discipline – late of an evening as I drove down.

Sidat was a private person, a man precise in his words but with a touch of humour: a man of regular habits and a quiet style of living. As a bachelor he had a select circle of friends, enjoying a drink at his Club, tennis of an evening and a Sunday swim at the Kinross beach.

Two memories I have of Sidat which are vivid – and I here recall… one was of that momentous morning, Sunday December 26, when the tsunami hit our shores. I recall how I just walked out from my home leaving all the doors opened and with difficulty kept my balance through the swirling eddies of water, which thankfully filled only my garden. As I walked up the road towards the higher elevation of the Galle Road, there was Sidat standing by his gate surveying the panic-stricken crowds.

When he saw me, he called out firmly, “Be calm, don’t panic, the water will ebb out fast”, and soon I returned home.

An earlier occasion, I recall was on the day the race riots broke in 1983. I stood side by side with Sidat on the kerb of the Galle Road watching the agitated office workers flowing down the road like a torrential stream. Suddenly we both noted a man who had been victimized, his head and face battered, it looked like a ripe strawberry. Sidat, a firm hand on my shoulder, said “Don’t look; I think you had better go home.”These two memories epitomize Sidat’s style and character.

Sidat faded fast towards the end – still trying to keep his privacy and independence. It was at this time that a family he had living in the rear of his spacious home, gave him the care and loyalty he needed – just as once long ago I remember the head of that young family, as houseboy and valet, had looked after my aging father. I would like to end on this, acknowledging the services of that young man as I am sure Sidat would have wanted me to.

Sidat is now at peace.

Deloraine Brohier

Top to the page  |  E-mail  |  views[1]
SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Other Plus Articles
Herbal cures go high-tech
Do we do nothing because they are old?
Letters to the Editor
Unveiling the many wonders of a revered peak
The snap that stole a soul
An England that exists just outside living memory
Keells Hotels get an arty, edgy new look
The Italian job
Chaos at the Vicarage, worthy of a standing ovation
Tradition and style at PM’s son’s wedding
Ray: An extraordinary thinker and tinkerer
Combatting the invader
The only Indonesian Burghers in Sri Lanka
How do you solve a problem like mathematics
Early painting of our natural history
Centenary of a classical study
The nettle-grub and the ratemahatmaya
People and events


Reproduction of articles permitted when used without any alterations to contents and a link to the source page.
© Copyright 1996 - 2011 | Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka. All Rights Reserved | Site best viewed in IE ver 8.0 @ 1024 x 768 resolution