Noel Fernando Father of Sri Lanka squash who paved the way for all of us An Officer and Gentleman par excellence, diplomat and sincere friend indeed! That was Noel Fernando whom we knew as the “Father of Squash in Sri Lanka”! I was privileged to get to know Noel way back in 1980 when the [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka



Noel Fernando

Father of Sri Lanka squash who paved the way for all of us

An Officer and Gentleman par excellence, diplomat and sincere friend indeed! That was Noel Fernando whom we knew as the “Father of Squash in Sri Lanka”!

I was privileged to get to know Noel way back in 1980 when the game of Squash was still in its infancy played at the Queen’s Club Squash complex owned by the Gymkhana Club built by the British around the 1950s. It was played for fun and fitness then. In 1980, Noel together with Britisher Mike Smith decided to have the first Official National Squash Championship and also to form the Sri Lanka Squash Federation with Mike Smith as President. Noel was Vice President, the late Srinath Sirimanne, his brother Wg. Cdr. Wimal Fernando – Hony. Treasurer, late Milroy de Silva – Hony. Secretary were members of the inaugural Committee.

The following year in 1981, Noel took over as President SFSL with a view to take Squash to another level participating in the inaugural Asian Squash Championships held from September 3, 1981 at the PIA Squash Complex in Karachi, Pakistan. Thirteen teams from Asia participated – Pakistan, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Lebanon, Japan, Nepal, Kuwait, Thailand, Jordan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The Sri Lanka team comprised – Flt. Lt. Oliver Guruge – Captain, Harish Weerasekera, Aruna Abeygunasekera, Ramesh de Silva, Mohamed Ramzi, Milroy de Silva –Manager/Referee and Christopher Dias – Asst. Manager/Referee and Wg. Cmr. Noel Fernando represented the 1st AGM of the Asian Squash Federation as delegate.

Sri Lanka emerged 10th overall with wins over Bangladesh, Nepal and Lebanon. The inexperience of playing for the first time on wooden and glass back courts was quite evident and overwhelming for our players!

Our dear President Wing Commander Noel was ever present at the matches encouraging our team to give of their best effort which they did in the circumstances.  Noel continued for several years as President of SFSL and Squash gained momentum with his astute leadership. Today we see the fruits of his labour with our Sri Lankan players both men and women performing creditably well at Asian level, thanks to the vision of this officer and gentleman Wing Commander Noel Fernando – Father of Sri Lanka Squash”.

May he attain Nirvana.

Christopher Dias


Goodbye dearest brother and friend

On receiving the sad news from Down Under,
Of the death of my younger brother,
I couldn’t keep back many a tear,
Cause his sudden loss I couldn’t endure.

Seventy three years from the time of his birth,
He has left planet earth,
to join his parents – Bernard and Cecilia – and wife Isabel,
guided by his Guardian Angel.

He had his primary and secondary education,
In a leading Catholic institution,
A college named St. Peter’s,
amidst its garden of fragrant flowers.

His electrical engineering skills, at Walker & Greig Ltd he honed,
and to greater heights in that field he zoomed,
in the land of his birth Sri Lanka,
and in the country of domicile Brisbane Australia.

His marriage to (Tiny) Isabel,
was a perfect example,
of inter-racial harmony,
In a multiracial society.

As husband and wife
they got on without strife.
It was crystal clear all to see,
The way they nurtured-Shenika, Nilushika – their progeny.

He was fond of little children,
the occupants of the kingdom of Heaven.
Hence, during the last decade of his life – he was blessed with two grand children – Eloise and Dorian,
To acclimatize himself to the ambience of Heaven.

Though his wife predeceased him by five years,
his daughters and their families prevented him from being lonely or shed tears,
Even to breathe his last
He rushed to his daughter’s arms quite fast.

With his siblings – Terrance, Anton, Florence and Lena and their families,
He had close ties,
Till he left the world’s stage,
Three years past the Biblical age.

Goodbye dearest brother and friend,
Though your life on earth has come to an end,
Those near and dear to you – will you miss,
While you enjoy heavenly bliss.

A. Pulle


He straddled two landmark eras in our modern housing

Dunstan Jayawardena was a role model of both, a professional and public servant. He was also a pioneer  in  modern Housing Development. Therefore his death on January 2 merits reflection.Today’s generations of managers would learn much by studying in their classwork, that self-selected community of professionals like Dunstan’s.That is the practice in countries like Japan, India and China.

Dunstan’s claim to a place in the firmament of public servants of excellence is, that he was the ‘father’ and ‘mentor’ of  modern Housing Development from the 1960s right up to the late 1990s, a long period of nearly thirty years. During this tenure, he first rose to be Commissioner, National Housing  Department, and immediately after that, headed the National Housing  Development Authority as its first Chairman. He ended up being Chairman, Air Lanka, after being Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Housing & Construction.

I knew him best from his stint at NHDA. He consistently and wisely gave ethical and professional leadership to an equally dedicated team of deputies, with whom he collectively built up an exemplary public institution. No doubt, he was inspired by the exceptional and abundant political commitment of Prime Minister Premadasa. But credible and respected institutional building is not everybody’s cake and does not come easily, especially in our polarised polity. But the NHDA succeeded in laying a firm foundation of high standards of performance and incorruptibility and a lean and mean institution at the centre and the districts. The cutting edge was in the districts, which steered a totally decentralised and devolved Rural Housing Process, which literally touched every grama niladhari division in the country.

It is moot to remember that this institution functioned near normally, against all odds during the Second Insurgency in ’87 – ’89 and implemented a Gam Udawa in Mahiyangane in 1989, covering the whole Badulla District.

The words Father and Mentor are used advisedly.He straddled two landmark eras in our modern housing, namely the Pieter Keuneman  era (1970-1974) and the Premadasa era (1977 to 1988). The two eras  are distinctive for their  difference. The former  introduced and implemented a policy where Regulation  and Control were the leading concepts (housing  ceilings, surplus houses, rent laws),  mainly applied in Colombo.This was in sharp contrast to what followed as housing  policy and programme,after1970, namely  a ‘ lead’ programme of  countrywide new/ upgrading  and housing  loan development  in  two successive programmes, the Hundred  Thousand Houses Programme(1978-83) and the Million  Houses Programme(1983-94). The  significant difference  lay in the fact that these two dispensations were premised on two opposed paradigms. One was   provider-based  with the State playing the dominant role. The other was premised on support or facilitation of the efforts of the poor  families,with  the people playing the dominant role and the State a subordinate support role.

In his personal make up we saw the  stamp of  a man  of  conscience. He was led by  a visible sense of values, spirituality  and  humanism. He was humble while being  strict in matters  of public duty. He ensured  a  corruption free institutional culture. He was so much his own self, that he had no chips and complexes.He had a big  heart  and his subordinates saw that, and loved  and  respected  him. He was large  minded, well read and incapable of pettiness. He had fashioned his personality from his Peradeniya Economics education and the  use of  that famous Library.

The  community  at  large  has lost a role model. Let  us recall his memory and learn from his many-sided life.

Susil Sirivardana


Thank you both for filling my life with love

It is with deep sorrow and affection that I write this appreciation of my beloved maternal grandparents, whom I called Ber Thaththa and Am Amma from my childhood. Whilst Ber Thaththa passed away in December 2003 at the age of 77, Am Amma went to be with Jesus just one year ago. She passed away on  January 21 last year at the age of 82. I was born on the day of their 26th wedding anniversary and was lucky to get their love and affection as their first grandchild.

They married on April 30, 1953 and with the strength and courage received from our Lord they lived an exemplary and happy wedded life together and even celebrated their Golden Wedding in April 2003,  with a reception at Galle Face Hotel which was also the venue for their wedding reception. I too had the opportunity of celebrating my birthday jointly with them on this day.

Am Amma was a loving wife to Ber Thaththa and was behind him in all what he did and looked after him well until his death.

Both of them were loving grandparents not only to me, but also to my two  cousins Trishan and Shiran. We enjoyed every moment being together with them. Even though Ber Thaththa could not see our own children, Am Amma was lucky enough to see five great grandchildren. She was a tower of strength to the family and was admired by all.

Dearest Ber Thaththa and Am Amma, you loved me so much and I always thank Jesus for giving me such loving grandparents. I thank you for all what you have done for me from the day I was born as your eldest grandchild. Both of you will always remain in my mindforever.

In God’s care you rest above

while in our hearts you dwell with love

May God Almighty grant peace and eternal rest to their souls

Your loving grandson

Asanjay Fernando  

Mona Khoban-Wickreme

Her memory will live on in the precious stories she shared

On my many short visits to Sri Lanka Aunty Mona was always around and I remember all the wonderful stories she related.  Aunty Mona is no more but her legacy lives on as a part of it lies in her friendship with my 94-year-old mother.

After I left Sri Lanka to live in the USA 32 years ago, I began to realize the value of the old stories.  At my request, Aunty Mona consolidated all her recollections and we shared letters and phone calls with updates as she remembered.  It all came together and I was happy to present it to her but it never got published as intended.

Mona would have celebrated a birthday on January 9,  but short of another milestone she left us on December 27 , 2014 to go to her eternal rest..

Writing Mona’s recollections encompasses not only her life experiences but those of the couple we remember as Uncle Khoban and Aunty Mona who were friends with our parents from a time before I was born.

Freddie was Alfred Khoban Wickreme and Mona was from the Krishnaratne clan.  Freddie was educated at Trinity College, Kandy and Mona at Ladies’ College, Colombo.

The association between our families goes back decades when my parents and the Khoban Wickremes served the Government of Ceylon in the late 1940s in places like Vavuniya, Kandy, Matara, Puttlam and Jaffna Fort.  Mona was born in Jaffna Fort when her father Mr. Krishnaratne, Assistant Superintendent of Police served in Jaffna.  She married in Jaffna in 1941.  My father Percy Malalgoda better known as “Sonny” and my mother Violet better known as “Tiny” together with Freddie and Mona Khoban Wickreme go back to when my father served in the Judiciary and Khoban was a Government Agent prior to holding many other positions that included Conservator of Forests, Port Commissioner, Secretary to the Cabinet to name some.  Khoban served under several Prime Ministers.  Mona played a significant role in all the cities they served making friends and keeping everyone happy. Mona and Khoban and my parents, prior to my father’s early demise had positions of respect and upheld the highest standards of integrity in keeping with their official positions.

Khoban was the Assistant Government Agent in their early years in Kandy at the time of Lord Mountbatten. Those were eventful days for her as the wife of the Assistant Government Agent.  It was a time when dignitaries from Colombo arrived by helicopter landing on the helipad at Peradeniya bringing Lord Louis Mountbatten and Lady Mountbatten, the Earl of Caithness and his wife among those who arrived to witness the Kandy Perahera.  Among them was also the eighth Earl of Spencer, father of Princess Diana who served as Equerry to King George VI and later to Queen Elizabeth between 1952-1954.  These royal visitors were attracted to Benares sarees in shades of peacock blue and maroon with gold trimmings in their shopping expeditions with Mona.

In preparation for the Queen’s first visit to Sri Lanka since her coronation, Mona recalled how her husband Freddie was appointed to spend several months in London in 1954 studying royal protocol for the visit of the Queen and Prince Philip to Ceylon.  He was attached to the Palace staff to accomplish this mission.  At that time, Sir Oliver Goonetilleke was the minister in attendance and Khoban was his secretary.  They lived in a small flat in Knightsbridge within easy access to Buckingham Palace.  Every morning a car was sent for Khoban to go to the Palace for intensive training in royal protocol.  During this time, they were privileged to be invited to many Palace functions.  As she recalled, one such occasion was to witness English Jockey Sir Richard Gordon being knighted by the Queen.

Dinners and lunches at the Palace were formal occasions when guests were announced by the herald.  They were announced as, “Mr. & Mrs. A. S. Khoban Wickreme of the Ceylon Civil Service.” Instead of a curtsey to the Queen, Mona greeted her with hands together in traditional Sri Lankan or “Ceylonese” style.  Although royal protocol was strict, some flexibility was provided to member nations to greet the Queen in traditional style – a deviation from other royal protocol.  She remembered that the rich silk sarees were greatly admired in the palace.

The Coronation was the most exciting experience.  In Mona’s words, “We had to be in our seats at dawn on a cold misty morning.  The streets were lined by thousands of people waiting to see Princess Elizabeth arriving in her gold carriage with 10 white horses and all the guards in their red black and gold regalia with impressive headgear– a truly spectacular sight.”

The Sri Lanka flag flew high when Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, the Governor General, Dudley Senanayake and Sir John Kotalawela joined in the procession.

The service at Westminster Abbey was solemn and dignified when Princess Elizabeth with Prince Philip beside her, took an oath to pledge allegiance to the throne.  Khoban and Mona were among those witnessing this historic occasion.

Khoban was later awarded the title Commander of the Victorian Order (CVO) by the Queen for services rendered to the Queen.

On returning to Sri Lanka, the Khoban Wickremes were long standing members of the Rotary Club of Colombo.  Mona was also a member of the Inner Wheel Club and served as President. In addition, Mona joined the National Council for Child and Youth Welfare and took charge of operating the Pamunugama Children’s Home.  Without children of her own, she devoted her time to the welfare of needy children in the home. The Pamunugama Children’s Home was originally instituted as a TB Convalescent home for children released from the Welisara Hospital after being cured.  With the eradication of TB in Sri Lanka, the home was transformed to accommodate needy children.

Mona recalled how she enjoyed regular visits to the home serving as honorary warden for over 25 years.  She handed over to none other than my mother Violet Malalgoda who continued to run the home until age 87. Among the hundreds of children who passed through their hands, they were particularly proud of one orphan who became a Thoracic Surgeon now practising in the UK.

Khoban continued his service in the Ministry of Transport under Sir John Kotelawela.

Mona was present at a function when Sir John Kotalawela and Sirimavo Bandaranaike were witnesses at a wedding in the Nugawela Walauwa in Kandy.  The bridegroom’s party arrived with Kandyan drummers and dancers followed by the bride with the same grandeur.  As they sat around the registration table, and the witnesses were in readiness, Sir John in a loud voice said, “Madam, be careful where you sign— otherwise you and I will be married!”  The wedding party roared with laughter.  Such was his humour she recalled even as he held a high-ranking position as the Prime Minister of the country.

People like Mona inspired my mother into charitable work. They are the unsung heroes for their decades of service.  Gently and quietly they continued to give a part of their life so generously leaving behind a legacy of service.   Mona will always be remembered by those whose lives she touched. For me, she lives through memories and the times I shared with her and my mother who often mentions Mona in our long-distance conversations– that means she truly misses her friend who filled her with laughter in their innumerable years of friendship.

Anjalika (Malalgoda) Silva




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