LAKSHMAN KANDANEARATCHI Saluting a great comrade and the LSSP in its heyday Lakshman Kandanearatchi breathed his last in the United Kingdom recently, but the memories that he left behind amongst his friends and family will certainly live forever. As a   schoolboy at Vidyakara Vidyalaya – Maharagama, he was introduced to left politics through K.M.P. Rajaratne [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka




Saluting a great comrade and the LSSP in its heyday

Lakshman Kandanearatchi breathed his last in the United Kingdom recently, but the memories that he left behind amongst his friends and family will certainly live forever.

As a   schoolboy at Vidyakara Vidyalaya – Maharagama, he was introduced to left politics through K.M.P. Rajaratne and Stanley Tillekeratne who were teachers in Vidyalankara at the time. Lakshman, who was “Lucky” to his friends and family joined the Lanka Sama Samaja Party – Pannipitiya Youth League in 1954 when the late Sirisena, the then Chairman of the Maharagama Town Council was the LSSP organiser for the area. “Lucky” however remained an LSSPer dedicated to its original policies until he breathed his last.

I was a Youth Leaguer myself, but came to know “Lucky” well in 1966 when I joined the State Engineering Corporation (SEC) where he was the President of the Ceylon Mercantile Union (CMU) branch. I was quickly drawn in as a ‘core’ committee member and my writing skills were extensively used to promote LSSP ideals and SEC’s CMU membership demands.

With “Lucky” at the helm, the CMU branch at SEC grew from strength to strength. When the SLFP and UNP Trade Unions were attempting to infiltrate and create their own presence within SEC employees Lakshman did not panic, instead strengthened the CMU branch by presenting what was termed the 10 demands in 1968 to Dr. A.N.S.Kulasinghe, Chairman of SEC at the time. He was instrumental in ‘composing’ the 10 demands which included the rights of both white and blue collar workers at SEC thereby reducing the impact of any breakaways from the SEC to other Unions.

At CMU meetings Lakshman, being a dedicated LSSPer would not see eye-to-eye with that Trade Union ‘war horse’ Bala Tampoe. “Lucky” along with his friend Comrade Rasideen were always at loggerheads with Bala. But this was all taken in good spirit. Come 1969 – (March 1969) to be exact, the SEC – Branch of the CMU decided to call its members out on strike on their 10 demands against the formidable Dr. Kulasingha. After one month of the strike Philip Gunawardena, Minister in charge of Industries granted the 10 demands as reasonable and instructed SEC to yield.

Lakshman having achieved what he wanted for the membership then relinquished his position as President and proposed my name to that position which was unanimously accepted by the membership. Comrade Kandanearatchi was also one of those who crossed swords with Dr. Colvin R de Silva at the Hikkaduwa meeting when the LSSP changed course to support Mrs. Bandaranaike and according to people like Vivienne and Kandanearatchi, lost popular support for a complete decline thereafter.

When I left Sri Lanka to the UK in 1974, the advice that “Lucky” gave me was that to the best of his knowledge there was no LSSP branch in the UK and could I therefore find a way of creating a branch? In July 1979 “Lucky” himself came over to the UK and found employment with UNESCO – UK office for a brief period thereafter he worked for the Islington Council where he identified himself with Labour Party Politics. The present leader of the Labour Party, who is MP for Islington was a close friend who often visited “Lucky” in his residence in Islington.

In fact Lucky’s house was more or less a LSSP branch office, where Bernard Soysa, Vivienne Gunawardena and Athauda Seneviratne and of course Chandrika Bandaranaike were frequent visitors. In fact it was at Lucky’s place that Chandrika was influenced to come and replace her aging mother at the time.

There is much more that I can write about you my friend but that will certainly not be enough to pacify your daughter Apsara who looked upto you with pride and wife Maya to whom you are irreplaceable.  Wherever you are my friend “from earth to earth, dust to dust or ashes to ashes” you can certainly rest in peace with the belief that there are as yet some of us who believe in original Samasamajism as you believed in despite it having been polluted by placatory politics.

Dr. M.Haris Deen

Sena Wickramasinghe

An unsung hero who did much for education

Sena  Wickramasinghe  passed away silently. He was a silent personality.

The silent ones are the most observant but those were not his only traits. He was the foundation that quietly listened, comprehended the concerns of all, heard the views of all and then silently put forward his opinion, never hurting the views of another.

Sadly Sena Wickramasinghe passed away just before Shakthi Institute could celebrate 20 years of service to education. He was a pillar of Shakthi’s success and a great moral support to the Directress Mrs. Dhammeswari Wickramasinghe to help nurture Shakthi Institute to becoming one of the premier education entities in Sri Lanka.

In a world where people have lesser time to show humanity, compassion and generosity, it is good to look back and appreciate the many unsung heroes like Sena Wickramasinghe.

Because of you, Shakthi Institute will keep on going from strength to strength

Shenali Waduge


Popular figure, sportsman and much more

January 12, marked the first death anniversary of passing of Maurice, as he was known.

Hailing from Matale, he had  his education at S. Thomas  College,  Matale  and made his mark in the classroom  and in sports, going on to become head prefect. He  excelled in cricket and hockey, and was active in the Scout Movement and the Cadets .

He started off working at the Department of Immigration, and thereafter served the Bank of Ceylon  for nearly  40 years  rising to become an Assistant General Manager.  He took every opportunity as a challenge and accomplished his work  leaving no room for criticism.  He was also active in the Ceylon Bank Employees  Union, and more especially in the Bank of Ceylon Sports Cub. His prowess as a slicer saw him elected as the Secretary of the Carrom Federation.

With his wit and humour Mauice was a popular figure.   A  colleague once observed that if he puts on a cassock he could easily pose off as  his priest brother, if he walked in  Leningrad , people would think  that he was a reincarnation of Lenin, and if he did a walk around Pettah at election time he could be mistaken for a well known politician !.

He led a simple and useful life after retirement teaching English to the needy children free.

It is fitting to end these memories of a good friend in the words of the Psalmist

“Return to thy rest  O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with thee.”

Merril de Silva

N. G. Cooray

A virtuous man whose life was an example to all

“As virtuous men pass mildly away,

And whisper to their souls to go,

Whilst some of their sad friends do say

The breath goes now, and some say, No”

   - John Donne

My father-in-law, Nawalage Gunathissa Cooray had many noble qualities. His demise three months ago made me pen down some sentiments about this amazing person who was a second father to me. I treasure his memory and value the true inspiration he imparted to us to live well. He was a pillar of strength and  his presence in our lives gave us much courage and wisdom.

Born in 1920 to Selesthina and Davith Cooray of Nawala, my father-in-law lived his entire life in Nawala. He was very much locally rooted, studied at Carey College Colombo 8,  and had a deep love for his motherland. He had a strong personality -a tall, well-built man with a booming voice, he commanded attention easily. He was fearless, and any adversity was borne with a pleasant smile.

He was blessed with a happy marriage and was a proud father of two sons and a daughter. He outlived my mother-in-law, Sumana Cooray, who was such a devoted and caring wife and whose loss he bore with his philosophical thinking. They were a wonderful pair with worthy qualities and instilled many a valuable lesson in us.

Although he was a landed proprietor with means, he lived a simple life and exercised frugality in every sense. Whatever he inherited he valued and was conscientious in looking after it. He had a strong sense of duty towards his three children, gave the best to them and raised them with love and care.

Another trait he possessed was a strong sense of discipline. As a rule, he woke up at 5 a.m., breakfasted at 7, lunched at noon and had dinner at 7 p.m. That was a strict routine he followed with simple meals, and whatever grand dinners afterwards, he never touched food. He was a teetotaller and non-smoker, and these qualities along with his positive mindset contributed to his enjoying a long, healthy life as a nonagenarian, a few years short of reaching century.

My father-in-law lived his life according to the Dhamma. The Nawalage Coorays are devoted dayakayas of Sri Diyawannarama Temple, Nawala. His contribution to the temple was very much appreciated by the resident monks with whom he maintained a cordial relationship. His continuous interest in sermons and Buddhist rituals allowed him much clarity of mind and this sustained him till the last moment of his life.

He led a blessed life without the curses of the complicated health issues many have to endure due to lifestyle choices. There was no malice he bore towards any person; he had the supreme virtue of mudita and found joy in the happiness and success of others. True to his exemplary life, he breathed his last breath surrounded with peace in his sleep after the priests chanted seth pirith.

He was one of the most virtuous men I knew, and his memory is a celebration forever.

Dearest Thattha, may you attain the bliss of Nirvana!

Savithri Jayasinghe Cooray


My grandfather will always have a special place in my heart

As the world welcomed a new year, our family remembered the blessed life of my grandfather, Lionel Pasqual, who left us exactly three months ago. In this theatre of life my grandfather played many roles spanning 87 years from a dutiful son, supportive brother, doting husband, loving father to a talented photographer; however my personal favourite is the years he shared with me as my grandfather.

I do not remember since when but I always knew I could count on my grandfather. I vividly remember a particular incident that occurred when I was about four or five years old. I had somehow managed to get a matchstick stuck deep in my nose and was terrified to go to my grandmother or my parents because I knew they would scold me first for getting into trouble. So I approached my grandfather who calmly used a coconut bristle to make me sneeze and solved the matter all in five minutes and never told anyone. My grandfather was approachable, cool-headed, versatile and above all was always my person. He continued to prove this to me over the years.

As his eldest grandchild I benefitted the most from the last two decades of his life. My grandfather was present on time to pick me from my first day of nursery to the last day of my Advanced Level Examination and to take me to any extra-curricular activities I was involved in, in my school life. He was never late even when he had to walk miles and ride the ever crowded buses on the 138 route. Later even when he had access to private vehicles, he still loved to walk and maintained his simple lifestyle as much as possible.

My grandfather did not care to own or collect worldly possessions but instead focused entirely on the well-being of the people around him.  A few months before he passed away I came home after a particularly difficult day at work and the moment he saw my face he asked me what was wrong. This was extra touching as it happened at a time when his memory was failing him and he could no longer recognize me as family. Yet he continued to be caring and was concerned about others around him.

He lived his life every day on simple values and the person who knew him best, my grandmother, summed up his life well at the funeral. She said, “He was always, truly a gentleman.” Having known my grandfather closely and well, I strongly believe that is precisely the memory he wanted to leave behind as he left us.

I believe every child needs that someone who believes in their potential, supports them in their childhood missions and helps them dream big. I found that person in my grandfather. He was my confidante, my champion and my very own cheering squad. When I came home after my grandfather’s cremation it dawned to me that my childhood was officially over. However I will remember the values he instilled in me and go diligently forward. At every achievement and accomplishment in my life I will remind the world of him, my grandfather.

Seeya, may you have a short and fruitful journey in sansara and attain the supreme bliss of nibbana!

Imasha Pasqual


She was an epitome of courage and determination

My memory of Anne Ranasinghe goes back many years.  In my schooldays in the late 50s, I attended ballet classes at Timmy Ingleton’s School of Dance.  I can still picture Anne driving her daughter into Aunty Timmy’s residence in Colpetty.

But then the years went by and we went our separate ways and I lost touch completely with them.  In the latter part of the 90s I was involved in some creative writing (mainly travel articles) and then went on to write short stories and poetry. Anne was one of the founders of the English Writers Cooperative of Sri Lanka where one could join as a member only after having published some creative writing in the English language. She realized that there were many persons out there who were interested in the art of writing but had not published any work as such. In order to accommodate these people she inaugurated the English Writers Workshop which in later years was renamed the Wadiya Group of Writers.  Anne did not continue to be active in the English Writers Workshop as she had too many other assignments to deal with and so she delegated this organization to the members to manage.

In early 2000 I published my first book and my friend Faith Ratnayake invited me to join the English Writers Cooperative of Sri Lanka which was headed by Anne at that time.  I was only too pleased to do so and thus began my close association with Anne.  I was appointed Secretary of the EWC and held the post for a few years.  During this period I was put to the discipline of being ultra organized and to get on with my tasks in a super-methodical manner.  This was something that I myself liked doing and I must admit that working with Anne certainly sharpened my skills. For example, when we organized a Prose & Poetry Evening as we did every year, she would first select a ‘theme’ – the readings would have to keep to this; then there would be the music which would also have to fall in line with this ‘theme’.  The timing would be absolutely precise – so we would go through the readings then go through the music. Finally there would be a colour she would select for those participating to wear for the event.  Three rehearsals at the minimum and then on the final day we would have to be at the venue at the correct time.  Refreshments would be selected with great care.

This is just one example but everything we produced was planned with the same kind of detailed preparation.  I have to admit though that the absolute precision which she required could be very demanding and even stressful at times! And yet, when I look back I now greatly value these experiences as a positive learning curve in my life.  Anne established a very strong foundation for the EWC to maintain its goals to inspire writers in English to develop their creative writing skills and the opportunity to publish their works through the programmes organized by the EWC.

A few years ago Anne resigned from the EWC as various health issues were making it difficult for her to carry on with this work.  However, I did keep in regular touch with her and visited her whenever possible.In latter times I didn’t see her very often but used to chat with her on the ‘phone.

Anne was a writer of repute and I shall always be grateful that she encouraged me in my writing. Occasionally I would  show her some of my poems and she would go through them painstakingly, line by line, while I was told to ‘sit and listen’ while she made her comments. What always struck me about her was that despite the hard and traumatic childhood she experienced, her strong personality took her to the highest levels in whatever she undertook.  Her writing is moving to the point where the reader can feel what is taking place and experience the emotions she describes. During our chats she sometimes would relate to me the agonizing happenings she encountered in her childhood and just listening to them was absolutely heartbreaking.

Now for another side of Anne .Her deep love for animals, birds and plants was something I shared. We often spoke of the crows she used to talk to when she fed them from her balcony and the dogs she reared as companions in her life.She loved plants as well and tended to her garden with great care. I well recall being in her sitting room when this large Labrador bounced in with a key in his mouth. I was too stunned to even scream! This was Jeremy who used to bring her the car keys when he needed to be taken for a drive!  He began dashing around with the keys in his mouth, then he ran up to Anne and looked at her with such love and longing. She firmly but kindly told him that she would take him later as she had a visitor (me!)and he just sat there looking rather sad and disappointed! I will never forget this!

Anne was a writer who gained prominence not only in Sri Lanka but  was also presented many international awards for her books. She was a shining example of how a human being can overcome the difficulties and problems of personal experiences by going forward with courage and endurance. May she rest in peace.

Anthea Senaratna





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