Nethin de Silva A beautiful rose  Two years ago on a bright Monday morning God looked round his garden on earth And he saw the most beautiful rose He sent an angel into our little garden To pick that beautiful rose You were that rose, darling Nethin baba The angel took you back to heaven [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka



Nethin de Silva

A beautiful rose 

Two years ago on a bright Monday morning
God looked round his garden on earth
And he saw the most beautiful rose
He sent an angel into our little garden
To pick that beautiful rose
You were that rose, darling Nethin baba
The angel took you back to heaven
Where pain and sorrow will never touch you
Jesus was waiting at Heaven’s door
To welcome you and hold you close
As the dusk falls over the graves in the graveyard
The lovely babe, we loved and treasured
Rests peacefully in his little grave
Do you know darling Malli Baba
You have taken the joy and laughter
From our lives when God called you home
The memories of soft footsteps, innocent eyes
Gentle ways and a beautiful smile
Linger on bringing tears into our eyes
You were God’s wonderful gift- our pride and joy
We loved you so much- our darling Malli baba
We will go on loving you
And remember you with aching hearts
Nethin Baba I miss you
-Harshini Nandi


Britto Motha 

A true servant of God

The world’s idea of greatness is to rule, but Christian greatness consists in serving- J.C. Ryle.

When I saw the above quotation in a recent announcement sheet of my church my thoughts went to a personality who exactly fitted these lines. Britto Motha finished his race as a servant of God in its true sense on March 30, 2015 with flying colours and earned his crown from his Creator as assured in His Word. Though he may not have been known to the wide world, to those who had come to know him, he was a giant among men in the sense stated in the above quotation.

When I first met him in 1985 at his home which was open for fellowship and Bible Study, he had just retired from public service, but then he was in the threshold of his true service and at the end of it when it was finished and called home by his Maker, I was amazed by the example he had set. His life as I know from what I have seen and heard of, has been a challenge, especially to those who consider 60 is the age of retirement.
When I met him last, on a Saturday just a week before his going home, he had just arrived home at 2 p.m. after counselling to the needy at Sumithrayo, which was one of his many voluntary services which he continued until his last breath. Though naturally, at his age of 91 he was tired and late for lunch, he greeted me with an ever-fresh smile, a trade mark I never failed to see whenever I met him. I felt dwarfed by his humility and concern when I saw the manner in which he inquired about me and my family.

The magazine “Footprints” edited and managed by him was another of his labours of love which he carried on up to his last breath. I saw the last edition just published which, I understand, was compiled by him just before he was taken to the hospital. He made sure that it was finished before his last journey. Such an amazing sense of responsibility even in a voluntary service is very rare to see.

He has left his legacy in his children, especially with Priyani and Sharmini who have inherited his qualities of servanthood and humility, of which I am a recipient. He has firmly established his ‘footprints’ through them and in his services rendered in such a selfless and caring manner. He has set a very high benchmark for true servanthood that will be difficult to emulate.
- Deva


Dr. P.T. de Silva

Dear Sir, you will be missed

Dr. Primus Tilakaratne de Silva (fondly called P.T.), a much loved and respected physician passed away on February 28, 2015 after a brief illness. He was 85 years. His interest in medicine never waned. He was up to date and continued to offer his services to his loyal patients until about two weeks prior to his death from severe pneumonia.

He was born to traditional Buddhist parents in Mahawewa, Chilaw. He had his primary and secondary education at Nalanda Vidyalaya in Colombo from where he entered the Faculty of Medicine, Colombo. His contemporaries in the medical school were Dr.Yoheswaran, Dr. Malinga Fernando, Dr. Maheshwaran and Dr. Haththotuwa. Most of his batchmates have predeceased him.

Following his success at the M.D examination held by the University of Ceylon, he proceeded to the United Kingdom, where he was successful at the M.R.C.P. examination. On return to Sri Lanka he worked briefly at the General Hospital, Jaffna and Colombo South Hospitals until he was appointed as consultant physician, in the General Hospital, Colombo. He reached the peak of his professional career when he was selected as the President of the Ceylon College of Physicians in 1984.

My association with Dr. P.T began in 1977 when I was relief house officer of the General Hospital, Colombo. I was transferred from the accident service to work as senior house officer, in medicine in ward 45 under Dr. P.T de Silva. To me, it was a wonderful experience to treat the genuinely sick, after the unpleasant experience of treating traumatic injuries sustained after falls, brawls or road traffic accidents especially under the influence of alcohol.

There were no registrars or senior registrars at that time – only the consultant, senior house officer and intern house officer.Dr. P.T. de Silva did a complete ward round daily. He treated all patients alike, irrespective of their status. The attention and the time each patient received depended entirely on the severity of the illness or how puzzling the clinical problem was. I was directly responsible to him for the care of his patients. He was readily available for any advice and always replied my telephone calls promptly.

Dr. P.T. de Silva had a special in gastroenterology. He was the first physician to perform sigmoidoscopy at the bedside in the General Hospital, Colombo. He was a superb physician with a remarkable clinical acumen and sound diagnostic skills. He was always cheerful and had a pleasant bedside manner. He managed his patients with minimal investigations and treated them with the minimum number of drugs. He rejected polypharmacy. His prescriptions were neat, simple and legible. Dr.P.T. was a shining example to many doctors who practise polypharmacy with illegible writing.

He had a special flair for teaching undergraduates and encouraged his junior staff to follow postgraduate education. He was a fair and just examiner at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. At the end of each internship appointment, he took us, his medical staff to Fountain Cafe and encouraged us to eat to our hearts’ content. His wife, Kusuma and family joined us in these feasts.

After his retirement from the General Hospital, Colombo he was a familiar figure at Asiri Hospital for many, many years. He drove his car daily, clad in his well known attire of white short sleeved bush shirt, white trousers, with white clogs on his feet. He was very popular with the doctors and nurses at Asiri Hospital for his humour and genial personality. Within hours of hearing about his illness, I rushed to Durdans Hospital to see him. He was on assisted ventilation and I knew that, sadly, the end was near.

He was a devoted family man and enjoyed a sing-song at any time. He had a flair for reciting kavi from memory and producing kavi at the spur of the moment when needed. He had two brilliant sons and one daughter. The elder son, Janaka, is the professor of medicine at the University of Kelaniya, and the director of the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine. He is the much sought after leading gastroenterologist in Sri Lanka. The younger son, Asitha, is the professor of pharmacology at the University of Kelaniya. He is an expert on conducting clinical trials and in the management of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Dear Sir, you will be sadly missed by your family, friends, numerous patients and doctors in whose training you played a vital role. May you attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana.
-Dr. Anula Wijesundere



A genius we lost

“Jameel Sir has passed away today.” This was the text message that I received from a friend in Doha on April 28. While my tongue was uttering “To God we belong and to Him shall we all return”, my mind spontaneously embarked on a journey to the past reviewing the few occasions when I had the opportunity to sit with Mr. Jameel and discuss various concerns we both had about the Muslims of Sri Lanka.

Like many others, I only knew him from a distance when he was Principal of Kalmunai Zahira College and later Principal of Addalaichenai Teachers Training College. I vividly remember having heard of him at that time as an accomplished administrator and a very successful and disciplined principal which he undoubtedly was.

He was a towering educationist, a theorist and a visionary whose recommendations suggested that he had put in several years of careful reflection to the educational dilemma of the Muslims of Sri Lanka. I vividly remember that we also deliberated on the foundational necessity of inculcating an aesthetic sense in the hearts and minds of our students from early life and its role in creating a sound and upright human society. Although senior to me by many years, I found him listening to me with great humility and appreciation.

Our meeting was not long and when I came out of his residence carrying some of his writings on the educational contributions and services of some of our leaders and forefathers, I knew I had met a man who was an embodiment of rare qualities. We agreed to continue our discussions later under the assumption that since I would be working there, we would have other instances to meet.

Unfortunately, that was not to be. It is rightly said that Man proposes and God disposes. As I went to Egypt on a three-week leave from the University, events at Vantharumuali led to the subsequent closure of the University for an unknown period prompting me to resign and join the Islamic Research Academy of al-Azhar University. My contact with Mr. Jameel unfortunately discontinued.

After that, I met him several times, the last of which was at his residence at Dehiwela. All these meetings only reinforced my first impression of Mr. Jameel. He was a wonderful human being and a son of the soil, genuinely concerned about the wellbeing of his own society, country and particularly so of the people of the East. It was not surprising then to see him involved in many projects that highlighted and brought to light various aspects of the cultural life of Eastern Muslims in its wider sense.

In my opinion, the Muslim community of our country, especially that of the Eastern Province has lost a genius and a man of great wisdom”, an exceptional educationist and an administrator who exuded discipline. During his career, he rose to the level of State Secretary in the Ministry of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs, a position he well deserved.

He had almost single-handedly prepared a formidable archive of Muslim parliamentarians and politicians over the past 200 years of Sri Lankan history. Much of his life of course was guided by his upbringing in a multicultural ambience and that was what he dearly promoted all his life as well.

It is my sincere desire that his pupils, numbering in the thousands and occupying significant positions in society and the country will come forward to introduce their mentor’s legacy to the whole country, and thus add to the book of the History of Muslims of Sri Lanka the chapter on Mr. Jameel.

May Allah accept Mr. Jameel among His pious faithful ones and reward him Jannatul Firdous. Ameen

- Prof. Dheen Mohamed


Kenneth Abeywickrama

This country has lost a valuable son

The sudden demise of Kenneth Abeywickrama on April 7, 2015 came as a shock to everyone who knew him. What better way to end his life than while paying homage to Lord Buddha at the Thiriyaya Temple leaning against his beloved wife Bernie.

Mr. Abeywickrama hailed from a highly respected family in Baddegama. In fact, his many contributions to journals and newspapers under the pen name “Thepanis” were a tribute to his grandfather. He had his education at Royal College Colombo and graduated from the University of Peradeniya at the age of 23. After serving in the tutorial staff of Dharmaraja College Kandy, he joined UniLevers (Ceylon) Ltd as the Head of Marketing. It did not take long for the visionary Minister Gamini Dissanayake to handpick him to lead the State Timber Corporation (STC) in 1978 as its Chairman.

It was a challenging job to resurrect an organisation bound by government administrative and financial regulations. He immediately assessed the raw material, production processes and the rich human resources available to handle the daunting task at hand. This was the launching pad to bring about a dynamic transformation of STC from an ailing state corporation to a modern commercial enterprise within four years under his leadership from 1978-82.

With his innovative style of management he provided incentives to improve productivity of all staff especially the lower grades in a non-condescending manner. The generous incentives offered had never been enjoyed in the history of the STC and are talked of up-to-date. He provided ample space to bring out the inherent potential talent in staff and provided professional training to the managerial staff including international exposure. This was a positive approach that virtually turned the entire staff to rise to the challenge as a team to achieve the high standards expected of them.

Mr. Abeywickrama was a radical professional with high level of integrity which won the respect of all his subordinates. He started a bottom-up approach of preparing the corporate plan with the participation of key staff at all levels including the regional staff. Robust monthly monitoring and evaluation systems were put in place to introduce a dynamic management style and provided networking at all levels. He encouraged the professional staff to break away from their shackles and take swift decisions. Robust monthly monitoring and evaluation systems were put in place to introduce a dynamic management style and provide networking at all levels. These concepts which are in vogue today were novel then. All these efforts resulted in profitability at the end of the first year itself increasing annually to stupendous proportions. He also insulated the organization from political influences and part of the profits was ploughed back to the staff by way of handsome welfare measures; rewarding hard work and dedication. The entire staff reciprocated by extending their love to the place of work and was proud to be called employees of the STC.

Mr. Abeywickrama after his successful stint at the STC as Chairman became a management consultant to some of the well-known corporates in Sri Lanka. His expertise was recognized globally as an international management consultant on privatization and enterprise restructuring. Later he worked for the World Bank, USAID, International Trade Centre (UNCTAD\ITC) and the UNDP as a leader of multidisciplinary teams of international experts. Besides Sri Lanka, he worked in numerous countries including Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Lesotho, Mongolia, Bosnia, Albania, China, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Nigeria and India.

Mr. Abeywickrama also served the Sri Lankan Army (volunteer force) joining in 1962 as a second lieutenant and retired in 1982 as Lieutenant Colonel and was a commanding officer from 1977-1982. In recognition of his invaluable services to the Sri Lankan Army and his motherland he was accorded full military honours at his funeral exactly on his 80th birthday (April 10). He was awarded the Sri Lanka Armed Services Long Service Medal and the President’s Inaugural Medal. According to the funeral oration by the Army, he had won the admiration of his superiors and subordinates and was a source of encouragement and inspiration to others in the army due to his vast academic and professional experience.
Even though he migrated to United States he never lost his links with his homeland, friends, relatives, former colleagues and protégés. He would visit them and correspond with them regularly. He also worked closely with the Sri Lankan embassy in US lobbying for the country at times spending his personal resources during the war. He could proudly hold his head high among the best in the country and say that his contribution made the country better.

This country has lost one of her valuable sons and his colleagues lost a beloved mentor. It was his good karma that he bade farewell in the arms of his lifelong partner and best friend, his wife Bernie and his youngest son Shanaka in his motherland which he loved immensely and served to his last day.

Our thoughts are captured in Rudyard Kipling’s “IF”, which aptly sums up his life.

“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”
Sir, may you attain supreme bliss of Nirvana!
-Palitha Jayasekara and Sriyani Hulugalle


Suneetha Fernando

She embodied the worthy qualities of a bygone era

“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life…..”
Middlemarch -George Eliot

Suneetha Fernando, who left us on May 10, 2014, was our friend. She was lady-like, self-effacing and unpretentious. She taught Art at Bishop’s College for 12 years and was actively involved in setting up the Art Room during the period when Gwen Dias -Abeysinghe was Principal. She had many friends among the teaching and the hostel staff.

Suneetha didn’t fit the common perception of an Art teacher as an eccentric, and was not ‘arty’ in that sense. She was a traditionalist; a facilitator as well as a teacher, nurturingtalent and encouraging autonomy. During her tenure she mentored an assistant who would take over when she took early retirement.

Throughout a period of 27 years she continued to keep in touch with the friends she had made at Bishop’s College. She did not fail to attend weddings and funerals, or to visit a friend in hospital or when convalescing, even when the journey was a tedious one. When we visited her, spending the entire day sometimes, it was as if we were transported back to a more gracious period, to an oasis in the centre of the noise and activity of the city. We relaxed in her home with its carved ebony furniture, the jardinière of dried flowers, the mementoes of her travels,and on the walls her own charcoal drawing of her father displayed along with a small George Keyt original. The day would proceed agreeably, with desultory small talk and recapitulations and for a time we forgot our pre-occupations. We would be treated to a good meal that she had cooked herself. She would enquire after our families, sympathise with our problems and suggest practical solutions.There would be no one-upmanship, no prying, no subtle put-downs. At all times she epitomised acceptable and lady-like behaviour.

Those who did not celebrate Christmas looked forward to her occasional invitations for the festive lunch. She continued to keep in touch with friends who had moved overseas, filling a single aerogram with a vast amount of news in her miniscule neat handwriting. There were cards for Christmas, when children married, when grandchildren were born or when a relative passed away. Then there were personal gifts lovingly made; pillow cases, dusters, baby shirts, cushion covers and cross stitch samplers. As a retired teacher and a singleton with a declining income, these acts of generosity would have meant some personal sacrifice but she belonged to a generation that did not believe in self-indulgence.

Suneetha’s virtues were, for the most part, of the old-fashioned kind. Proper and strait- laced, she was not amused by witticisms if they were off- colour by a mere whisker and would manage by her presence to repress the extrovert amongst us.She was easily shocked and it amused us greatly to see how innocent she was.She had grown up among the genteel and was horrified by the increased use of bad language and slandering by our leaders and those in authority. In the face of change, the erosion of values and the abdication of responsibilities she stubbornly clung to the belief that standards would be restored . As we got older we were to recognise that what seemed like rigid conformity was a nostalgia for the order and civility she had known. If she had one fault it was that she was unbending. But then she may have held others to the same high standards and strictures she had set for herself.

She was never boastful or insensitive and the one person we felt we could always depend on.

Suneetha used to say that being single she had the freedom to do what she wanted with her time and it was this that was well spent in the service of others. For Suneetha, friendships were not utilitarian, based neither on self- interest nor even on mutual benefits.They needed only one condition – shared values and a common commitment to the good. Not for her, was High Tea or shopping trips.What circumscribed her life and in the words of the hymn gave it meaning, was ‘the trivial round, the common task ‘ of daily life as well as the planning, arranging and accomplishment of helpful acts. This was the equivalent of the Divine Office of the Nun.

She was quick to see and comment on the kindness that individuals show others without expectations of appreciation or recognition.Although she had spent her entire life in Moratuwa, that bastion of bloodlines, she showed a total disinterest in one’s antecedents, income or assets, choosing and keeping friends based on some private grading system. These friends were of different age groups and had very different personalities.

During recess she would listen to our complaints: the obtuseness of a spouse, the intransigence of domestic help, trivial anxieties about children;with an expressionless face occasionally making an ironic comment. This would leave us shamefaced,acutely aware of our own gormlessness and forced to concede (yet again) that she herself dealt with the caprices of fate,stoic and alone. Over the years these would include being scammed by a Finance Company, an armed hold – up of the Petrol Station next door with consequent death and destruction, a bold heist of all her electrical equipment carried out in broad daylight, a failed attempt at running a business, and lately some chronic health problems with the associated distress and expense.

In the recent past when two successive cook women became mortally ill, she invited a family member to reside and nurse the relative in the final months whilst enabling access to the best treatment available from the public health system. It did not occur to her to send them back to the village.This arrangement would no doubt have led to considerable inconvenience to herself as she too was frail and ailing but she did not think that an alternative was possible.

Thus she followed, unknowingly perhaps, Mother Teresa’s dictum that everyone deserves loving care and a dignified death.

To Suneetha, religion was a personal affair and she never spoke in a self- conscious or sanctimonious way about ‘charity’ , ‘duty’ or the ‘Christian way of doing things’; words which so often rob the action of its value.

She remained a private person and did not encourage an intrusion into her affairs. She embodied the worthy qualities of a bygone era and with her passing these too will slip away from our lives to be sorely missed, along with Suneetha, the individual. We are sure that there are many who have benefited from her unobtrusive acts of kindness and who now bemoan her passing.

Although she was an old girl of Ladies’ College, we, the current and former teachers of Bishop’s College recognise that she exemplified, perfectly, the school motto Non SibiSed Omnibus. Not for oneself but for others.

May she rest in peace.

-Delaine, Margaret, Lalitha, Sarojini, Damayanthi and Ranjini

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