The Sunday TimesPlus

13th April 1997




A birth centenary tribute to Richard Salgado

He was a sincere social worker

Several families in the Kalutara District are mentioned in Arnold Wright’s historical tome "Twentieth Century Impressions of Ceylon" published in 1907, as those making a mark in the social history of Ceylon and also contributing to the national wellbeing in the country.

Amongst them is the family of Merennege Mathes Salgado, who could be considered as the Patriarch of the Salgados. This historical tome devotes an entire column and a page of pictures to M.M. Salgado and his work. It says on page 682:

"The son of Abraham Salgado, Merchant of Pingwella near Panadura, on the coast South of Colombo. He was born in 1860, and educated at Wekade Industrial School. At an early age he joined his father in the produce business and for nearly ten years carried on operations at Kandy.

In 1887, he obtained the local military contract for foodstuffs..... Mr. Salgado also carries on a large contract business with the military authorities besides having bakeries at Kandy, Talawakelle, Diyatalawa, Badulla and Kurunegala.... He commenced the farming of arrack rents, in company with others in 1897, and subsequently acquired the rents for Anuradhapura, Ratnapura and Panadura....

Mr. Salgado’s private residence is "Salgado Villa", Panadura and he owns houses in Kandy and other places.... A subscriber to the Buddhist belief he built the temple at Pingwella.... He married the sister of Domingo Dias and has four daughters and two sons.

The four daughters were Mrs. Aron de Silva, Mrs. Arthur V. Dias, Mrs. Alfred Dias and Lady Jane de Fonseka and the two sons were Walter and Richard.

One hundred years ago today, on April 13, 1897, when the Sinhalese and Hindus were in festive mood, the younger son Richard Salgado was born.

Richard Salgado was educated at S. Thomas’ College, then at Mutwal in the early days of Warden Stone, and at Sri Sumangala College, Panadura established by his relatives and his father. As one interested in Agriculture he entered the School of Agriculture at Peradeniya, and obtained his Diploma.

When the riots broke out in 1915 he was just eighteen years of age. He was imprisoned by the British Government along with his brother, Walter, brother-in-law, Arthur V. Dias, W.A. de Silva, D.S. Senanayake, F.R. Senanayake, D.C. Senanayake, C. Batuwantudawe, George E. de Silva, Dr. Walter T. de Silva, A.E. Goonesinghe and several other Buddhist leaders whom the British mistakenly thought supported the riots.

After he was released from the prison at Welikada, he engaged himself in the business activities of his father who established M.M. Salgado and Company in 1886 and with his brother, Walter expanded the business by establishing bakeries in Anuradhapura, Matale, Kegalle, Beruwala, Kalutara, Horana, Panadura, Moratuwa, Lunawa and Maradana.

As the principal founder of Panadura Tea and Rubber Company Limited, he enjoyed the confidence and financial backing of many of his relatives to establish one of the largest Sinhalese owned plantation Companies. This Company floated as a Private Company in 1940 and later converted to a Public Company in 1969, owned and possessed over 10,000 acres of tea and rubber estates - Ensalawatte Group in Deniyaya, Galamuduna Group in Dolosbage, Coreen Estate in Talawakelle, Epping Forest Group in Ingiriya, Eladuwa Estate in Paiyagala and Bopitiya Estate in Matugama - at the time of take-over of estate lands by the Land Reform Commission in 1976.

Many other business firms including Panadura Bakery Company Limited, were carried on under his direction. Whilst holding various offices in many a firm, he was able to reach the higher rungs of the business world. He was popular among the people of Wekade who once returned him uncontested as the member for Wekade in the Panadura Urban Council.

As a hard working business entrepreneur and a sincere social worker who shunned publicity there were few in his time who could excel him. He had an aura of love around him and liberally gave of his wealth to fund and assist many temples, schools and social services in Panadura, particularly those less fortunate.

The Panadura Bauddha Sangamaya founded at the historic Rankoth Viharaya, had in Richard Salgado an able honorary treasurer, from its inception, until his death. It was not unusual to see this upasaka gent personally donate several bags of rice to provide the dane for those observing sil on poya days. This he did for a number of years.

It was Richard Salgado who spearheaded the construction of the Golden Samadhi Statue and a Statue of the Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera, the popular fiery debator, at the north and south entrances to Panadura Town.

The Panadura Home for the Elders, which today stands on several acres of land was managed by him. This Home had been founded over 75 years ago. The highest of the land have not failed to visit the Home at regular intervals. The Aruna Home for Mentally Retarded Children was yet another Home, which had the support of Richard Salgado. The Wekade Bauddhaloka Vidyalaya, Jeremias Dias Vidyalaya and the Koralawella Buddhist Mixed School were managed by him. He was also a founder member of the Eye Donation Society, Panadura Branch.

Richard Salgado was blessed with good looks, fair and tall, sporting an imposing personality when amongst any group of notables.

His residence "Salgado Villa" which he inherited from his father was always open to social service activities. The meetings of the District Scouts Association of Panadura-Horana had often been held in his residence. He had participated at its meetings even when he was bed-ridden during the last few weeks before his death.

He married Bella de Fonseka, a daughter of Dr. C.P. de Fonseka, one of the first in the medical profession in Panadura, and as a father of one son and four daughters, he always had the time to listen to them and had so much patience with the prattlings of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, of whom he had many.

There was a time when the entire family with nieces and nephews gathered around him in his holiday bungalow at Glenfall Path in Nuwara Eliya Town on his birthday, which (usually) falls on the Sinhala and Hindu New Year day.

This noble son of the land passed away at the ripe age of 91 years on 25th December 1988. At the cemetery, Ven. Rajakeeya Pandit Kahapola Sugatharatna Thera, Chief Incumbent of Rankoth Viharaya, Panadura concluding his funeral oration said, "When Julius Caesar was being buried Mark Antony said, ‘I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him’ but if everyone of us here today were to praise Richard Salgado, all that praise would still not be enough for this truly remarkable and extraordinary man". Never was a truer word spoken.

The memories of Richard Salgado shared from childhood will always remain very precious in our hearts.

Upali Salgado

A Solomon among men

Richard Salgado, a jewel to the Buddhist clergy in letter and spirit, a virtuous person among virtuous persons, a Solomon among wise men, an embodiment of tolerance, an incarnation of compassion, endowed with luxuries and comforts of life by birth, a silent social worker throughout the country and an experienced planter and businessman, added an everlasting name to the history of Panadura and graced the Panadura-Wekade Buddhist Association by being its Patron from 1963 for a continuous period of 25 years until his death.

His death is an unbearable loss to the Buddhist clergy, to the country and particularly to the Town of Panadura and our Association.

Extract from the "Wesak Handa 1989"

Excerpts from a tribute to Mukta Wijesinha at the service of Thanksgiving held by the Ladies’ College OGA

Many were the roles she played

What can one say on the passing away of one who was undoubtedly God’s own gift to us on earth

.......on the passing away of Esme Mukta Mary Wickremasinghe Wijesinha.

That she was a wonderful daughter, sister, wife, mother, grand mother, relative and friend;

That she shunned the attractions of high living and chose instead to live a simple life pursuing with total commitment and sincerity in the cause of service to others;

That she believed in the basic goodness of man;

That she was a source of encouragement and of inspiration to all those who had the good fortune to work with her;

That she was pure in thought, word and deed;

That she was a devout Christian true to her faith;

That she had a strong sense of humour and was great fun; That she was liked by all and truly appreciated .....

That she will be missed more than words can say; ........and one can go on and on and on........singing her praises and extolling her virtues.

I knew Mukta Wijesinha as my aunt and watched with admiration as she performed her roles as parent, wife, Girl Guide leader and social worker. Above all I knew her as a human being whose virtuous qualities were an example to others.

Aunty Mukta could well have lived a life of leisure and luxury, but she chose to utilise all the talents that she was blessed with to be of service to others. She was totally committed to her work and never spared a thought for herself. In the course of her work, she sought no publicity or fanfare, neither did she aspire to high positions or to win awards or recognition.... no.... such things were for lesser mortals. She was one who never showed a preference for the company of the high and mighty. Important dignitaries of this or foreign lands, little children, junior Guides or helpless inmates of a home for the aged, would all be made to feel equally at ease in her inspiring and delightful company. She was a genuine and sincere friend who could be trusted completely.

Through life it was Aunty Mukta’s heart that served her best. It was large enough not only for her immediate family but for all those others who had the good fortune to come into contact with her and with whom the family had to share her. In the atmosphere of her home - Lakmahal was an open house - one never walked in there and felt an unwanted intruder. Whatever time of day it was or whatever attire she had on, she always had a warm welcome which could have come only from the very bottom of her heart. Most visitors to Lakmahal were close enough to be taken upstairs and thereby became privy to her life the way she lived it. And what fond memories we have of her getting about her business with great gusto - be it making coffee, talking while walking, attending to household chores with not a flicker of concern while scores of dirty looking ‘us’ ran through even the rooms playing hide and seek; or pulling out scores of tins from her sweet cupboard to treat us and in later years to spoil the meal times so meticulously planned for our children; or in her room getting ready for an evening out with loads of people who were so much at home in her room that they had forgotten to leave; never complaining about these invasions into her privacy almost as if she conceded they all had a right to it; and of her hurrying down the staircase still draping her saree (which would never be an imported one) to a patiently waiting Sam .... and by the time she got into the car she would look just as beautiful as if she had spent an hour dressing up for that wedding ! That was Aunty Mukta. I’ve searched my memory bank, but one memory I cannot access is that of Aunty Mukta just sitting. Even now, I have visions of her in heaven bustling around with great gusto doing her bit to make heaven an even better place to be in - and that she will achieve by her mere presence there.

Meal times at Lakmahal were never for the family alone - the table just unfolded to accommodate more and more as her heart just expanded to embrace them all. It is that welcome atmosphere in her home shared by relations, friends, friends of children, friends of friends of children who then became friends, all of whom then became the extended family, Guide people, etc. etc. etc. that made theirs a unique home. Her presence therein was overwhelming and she gave the place a personality of its own.

As a parent, I saw her assert herself justly but firmly and yet gently. A firm believer in strict discipline it was clear she did not compromise on that score. My three cousins were (and still are) bright personalities - spirited, lively and with minds of their very own. Together with Uncle Sam she nurtured them in the highest traditions of noble human conduct. She encouraged their individualism and I have no doubt that she was proud of the quality of life that each of them had come to believe in, as we are of them, the greatest treasures that she has left behind. Her grandchildren gave her endless joy. And what a grand parent she was!

And through all this ... there was Uncle Sam - with her, by her and for her. I always saw Uncle Sam and Aunty Mukta as the perfect couple. Perfect, because they did not always agree with each other or their various doings, but yet achieved a harmonious blend, neither attempting to stifle the other’s work. There must have been something in their chemistry - which fused ....... and sparkled to complement each others personalities.

The outstandingly attractive personality of Aunty Mukta was further enhanced by the wisdom with which she was blessed. Not only did she have knowledge and education acquired in Institutions of academic learning but also the all important attribute of wisdom acquired in the University of life. Many are the people who sought and received her advice. Reading through some of the letters of condolence, I realised that Lakmahal has been a haven to so many who sought refuge and the wise counsel of Sam and Mukta.

Ordinary people are not always successful in moulding the complex mechanisms of the human mind and will to respect and appreciate differences in others and to understand rather than criticise. Mukta Wijesinha was one who understood and appreciated. She was however, never false in her praise.

A quality in Aunty Mukta for which I had the greatest respect was her courage to check wrongdoing. She was not one who refrained from comment to be popular. I know she believed that one had a moral duty to speak out for what you believed in and stand up for what was right

Mukta Wijesinha was an outstanding student of our school and later a highly respected member of the Old Girls’ Association. As someone said of her in a letter of condolence, "She was what an L.C. girl should aspire to be - a leader, a follower, an upright person, ever friendly, kind and dutiful." We were indeed proud of her.

When one thinks of her one can but believe that once in a while there comes a human being who is blessed with all of those qualities which comprise the good in man. We are fortunate indeed to have had both the privilege and the pleasure to have known her. The Girl Guides’ Association is fortunate to have had her inspiring leadership for so long and so fully.

We live in an era when man’s inability to live in peace with his fellow beings is highlighted in every sphere of life; an age when too many people find it difficult to be tolerant, to say something nice to make another happy; an age when human beings forget to be humane; when perceived benefits to self is given the highest priority. It is a time when we need many more Muktas to make this a better place to live in.

This is but a humble effort to pay tribute to a life that was both sweet and glorious. I do not believe that these words give adequate expression to all that she was, now a treasured memory.... I can only say I tried.


Zaharan Amath

He had many more miles to go

In the early hours of February 18, Zaharan Amath (34) engineering manager, ETV died after a brief illness.

As a keen and enthusiastic technical officer, he enjoyed his work thoroughly and the new channel, "Swarnavahini" launched by ETV last month was his pet project.

The sheer love for his work sometimes made him ignore the bouts of fever and the abdominal cramps which he experienced from time to time, which were in fact the early symptoms of the deadly bacteria that took his life.

A wonderful husband to Soraya and a loving father to baby Altaff, he was loved dearly by his colleagues, friends, cousins, uncles and aunts for his endearing qualities of which the most outstanding was his humility.

With sincere gratitude we wish to thank Dr. Hemantha Handapangoda, Dr. (Mrs) D. P. Atygalle and her team of assistants, Dr. (Ms) Anoma Perera, Dr. (Ms) Amarasekara, Dr. (Ms) Amarasinghe, Dr. (Ms) Kandiah and Dr. (Ms.) Kanagasabai, who took upon themselves as their personal responsibility to help this young man in every possible way in his pathetic struggle for life.

Their humane attitude helped the young wife Soraya and his parents to reach out and help Zaharan in their own minute way.

The family members wish to offer their deepest gratitude and sincere thanks to the Management and Staff of ETV.

Despite every effort death snatched young Zaharan’s life away.

Mrs. Sujatha Amath

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