Sumit Samaratunga Dear malli, our tears are not yet dry It is with much grief that I write of my brother Sumit’s death on December 17. He became ill while working in office and was taken to National Hospital where he died. He was the seventh in a family of nine, and his early demise [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka



Sumit Samaratunga

Dear malli, our tears are not yet dry

It is with much grief that I write of my brother Sumit’s death on December 17. He became ill while working in office and was taken to National Hospital where he died. He was the seventh in a family of nine, and his early demise deepened the family’s sorrow.

Professionally, he was an electrical engineer. He had worked in Sri Lanka and abroad. He was employed at Design Consortium Ltd in Colombo where he worked for 15 years and his service there was highly appreciated.

However, due to health reasons he had plans to retire on January 31 this year. But fate decided otherwise.

Malli’s love for his children was something special — a deep rooted love which was above his other interests. Even after they became adults, his love and sense of responsibility never diminished. His daughter Melani is professionally employed and married. His son Suren completed his MSc in a university in Canada and is now a lecturer in the Open University. Malli leaves behind his beloved wife Marie with whom he shared a happy married life.

Dear Malli, you left us so suddenly like a lightning bolt that lit up the sky and vanished. The thought that we will never see you again, never hear you, never enjoy your ready wit and humour fills our hearts with sorrow and desolation

Sujata Samaratunga


Rita De Alwis

An excellent sister-in-law

Rita de Alwis born on November 12, 1925 married my brother F.P. de Alwis (Chandra) in 1948.

Both Chandra and Rita enjoyed life to the fullest and their life centred on helping many relatives, friends and the poor, not excluding the villagers of Kalahe.

Rita was a very faithful wife and an excellent sister-in-law to us. She blended well with the “de Alwis” clan.

Rita and Chandra in their young days were a very popular couple playing tennis and participating in the activities of the Public Services Club. They always had an open house wherever they lived, Ratnapura, Puttalam, de Alwis Place, Dehiwala, ‘Jaya Konta Lane, Colombo 5, Welikadawatte, Nuwarawatta and finally at No. 161, Sri Gnanendra Mawatha. She accompanied Chandra on the jungle trips, camping with the crowd and was prepared to rough out and participate in all activities with Chandra including fishing and playing bridge.

Rita actively participated in the Women’s International Club playing bridge and was one of the pioneers in creating the Senior Citizens Club and YWCA in Nawala, Rajagiriya.

When Chandra and Rita took over the management of our ancestral home at ‘Rock Hill’ Kalahe, she played a prominent role in ensuring that it was well equipped and catered to all family members, relatives and friends. There again it was an “open house” policy. Rita stood like a rock with Chandra in his decisions to redecorate the house and make it a comfortable place for relaxing. It is to their credit that this ancestral home is maintained well to accommodate us at any time we wish. The villagers who attended the funeral described her as a generous lady.

Rita and Chandra were responsible for rebuilding of the “Kalahe Church” and the residence of the Kalahe Methodist priest.

She ensured that she was there with Chandra at every moment when he fell ill and did her best for him and I was fortunate to be with her when Chandra breathed his last in Asiri Hospital. The loss of Chandra on October 7, 2010 brought a deep sense of sadness, though we as brothers and sisters of Chandra together with her nephews and nieces did our best to fill that void by being close to Rita and helping her overcome her grief.

She continued to give alms to the poor children and old persons on the seventh of each month in memory of Chandra and held a memorial service every year assisted by me and the family at the Methodist Church in Kollupitiya. The last was in her house on October 8, 2013 conducted by Revs. Duleep Fernando and Shehan Fernando. They perpetually prayed over her during her time of illness.

She continued to play bridge at home with her friends but her depressed state brought about grave illness and the ultimate result was the amputation of a leg. This illness was difficult for her to accept as she had been a lover of sports, besides being one time 100 yards record holder in Ceylon.

Rita and Chandra did much for the unfortunate children and did help two boys who deserved to be educated. Rita felt that she had lived a good life and once told me when I met her in hospital: “I have lived a good life and Chandra is gone and it is best that I join him in the next” as she detested being given oxygen.

She lived a happy life and it reminds me of the saying ‘Happiness is a wondrous commodity: The more you give the more you have” and that is what Rita reaped till her last.

May she join Chandra in eternal bliss!

F. Nihal De Alwis


Dr. John( Joe) Jayasuriya

A life well lived

Having been a close friend for more than 45 years makes it difficult to trace back an interesting relationship full of fond memories of humorous escapades and mischievous anecdotes. He remains one of my unsung Sri Lankan heroes who made a significant contribution to humanity without fanfare.

John (Joe to his friends), and I met in the mid sixties when we were both poor students trying to support ourselves financially. We ran into each other quite by chance, of all places in the men’s toilet at Carleton University, Ottawa, never expecting each other to come from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) at a time when almost all South Asian students were of Indian origin. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we both came from the Kuliyapitiya region.

We had an instant rapport from this first day of meeting, the beginning of a wonderful and close friendship until his death. When I ran into Joe, I gathered that he had just met a young, pretty Canadian teacher by the name of Barbara, his sweetheart who eventually became his lifelong partner, his most loyal friend and supporter of his multiple skills and undertakings. Barbara, a wonderful friend of both my wife and I, was slowly introduced to rice and curry through our cooking in her posh apartment. Thanks to Joe’s promise to wash dishes and clean the apartment and my cheap gifts of flowers and beer, she allowed us to entertain gatherings of friends including some of our professors, in her apartment, a crowd that would sometimes spill onto her balcony and even her bathroom.

Joe, an incredibly motivated undergraduate, had started at Carleton as a mature student having given up a very comfortable lifestyle and a career in automobile insurance in Ceylon while I was pursuing make up courses to gain admission to the Graduate School at Ottawa University. Joe later finished his Graduate Studies in Criminology at the University of Ottawa and was hired by the Ministry of Correctional Services of the Government of Ontario.

Apart from being a strong senior manager in his career in Canada, Joe could have easily become a successful automobile engineer, an architect or a chef. Joe put himself through school in Canada as a mechanic. He knew the working of an automobile inside out ranging from a used 1960 Chrysler Valiant, a 1958 Vauxhall Wyvern to any luxury car ranging from Mercedes Benz to a Rolls Royce. Until he finished his Masters Degree he drove a $ 75 dollar Vauxhall, while he bought me a Chrysler station wagon for $ 250 which I used for two and half years until the floor boards could not tolerate heavy rains!

Joe ended his career in Canada as one of the first South Asian/ Sri Lankan Superintendents of a maximum security correctional facility in Ontario, an accomplishment at a time when Canada did not have a record of equal opportunity for non-whites. However, he never planned to live in Canada for too long. He always had designs of returning to Sri Lanka. He ultimately took his retirement after nearly 25 years in Canada.

From then onward, he backed his brother Dr. Anton Jayasuriya in starting a private academic institution centred around the study and teaching of alternative medicine, acupuncture and health care training. This proved to be a very successful enterprise and attracted students and physicians from all over the world to study in Sri Lanka.

In order to house the large number of students coming to Sri Lanka to study alternative medicine, Joe and Anton acquired a couple of small hotels in Mount Lavinia. These hotels proved to be very successful and led to the building of many other boutique type hotels, chalets and restaurants in several beautiful locations in Sri Lanka. The harmonious relationship between the two brothers played a major role in the success of all their undertakings. Anton relied on his younger brother for wise counsel on a regular basis.

Even though Joe was not an architect, the design and location of these beautiful hotels was all Joe’s brainchild. He had the knack of incorporating the natural landscape into his buildings. Rather than cut down a beautiful tree, he would build around it so that the tree became a part of the building itself.

However, in my opinion, Joe’s single achievement was his contribution to Sri Lanka in the area of human resource development. He would pick up young men and women from the remote villages, provide them with skills, knowledge and training in the hospitality industry and ensure that his employees were proficient in the English language, thereby offering them decent career opportunities even outside his organization. He instilled in them a strong work ethic, discipline and a commitment to productivity. He got to know every single employee of his organization of more than 250 people. He had a talent for recognizing ability and enterprise.

Joe was fun to be with and extremely generous with friends and employees. He went on to build residences for some of his employees, took care of the mortgages of the others and always stepped in when they were in difficulty or in ill health. When he discovered that one of his staff had an autistic child, he set up a privately funded facility with programmes to take care of several other autistic children. The funding for the entire facility including the staff salaries was borne by Joe personally.

The kindness and compassion that he showed, ultimately resulted in the outpouring of truly heartfelt help and support on the part of his employees when Joe himself fell ill and needed personal care. All his employees stepped up to give their 200% to him and to Barbara until his death. In Buddhism we call this Dhitta Dhamma Vedeni Karma, receiving back what you gave in this life itself.
My wife and I are very fortunate to have had him for a friend. He knew how to take life on the stride, never showed stress and enjoyed every moment.

May he Rest In Peace and as a Buddhist I would wish to meet him in another life and continue our friendship in this journey of life- Sansara.

Ari Dassanayake

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