Appreciations

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The world he wanted

Jayantha Dhanapala

The essay titled, “The World We Want”, was written some  60 years ago, by a teenager in a senior class at Trinity College, Kandy. The prize in the islandwide competition was a three-month scholarship to the US to represent Ceylon, as it was then known, at the World Youth Forum.

The schoolboy essayist articulated the need to recognise the economic disparities on the planet; the existence of two worlds in one — that of the rich and that of the poor; the inevitable conflicts that human suffering can evoke; the desperation that would drive nations and people to arm themselves and go to war; and where evil triumphs over good.

‘The World We Want,” in the vision of the young lad, was where there existed one world and not two; where societies were open and interdependent; where speech was free; and where moral clarity was defined by human rights.

As he took flight to the so-called  ‘land of the free, ‘the land of hope and glory’, the winning essayist looked down at the green beautiful pearl in the Indian Ocean and hoped that his own country would be a microcosm of the world he wanted. And that was how Jayantha Dhanapala began his dream of global citizenship.

Inspired by the international exposure, he returned to graduate at the Peradeniya University, and soon thereafter claimed first place in the competition for admission to Sri Lanka’s prestigious Administrative and Foreign Service. No surprise that as an ever-rising star, he illumined the firmament of Sri Lanka’s diplomatic service, and more importantly, the image of our country as our senior diplomat in as many as five countries. He then took on the mantle of Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative at the UN and later, Ambassador to the US and many other countries. ??

Much has been written about Dhanapala and much will be reminisced following his passing this week— a massive loss in thought-leadership and integrity  to our country. He and I lived down the same street in Kandy, went to the same school. I saw him falling in love at the Trinity Drama Society  stage with the  charming lass, Maureen Elhart. And together, in their life long journey, we saw them  bring  class and polish to the prestigious positions he was assigned in larger life  on the world stage. His contemporaries Sarath Amunugama, Nihal Rodrigo and S.M.L. Marikar, Karen Breckenridge were stars with him in the galaxy of civil servants.

We knew him also as a  Ruggerite and an enthusiast: he  captained the Trinity Second XV in the year when the senior team was studded with the best that the school had produced in decades.  He loved the game and the glory that the Trinity rugby culture drew sportsmen into  in those days. Unlike many of his batchmates at Trinity he was, however, delivered from temptation when he opted to focus on his University Entrance rather than compete for a place in the redoubtable 1956 team coached by Lt. Col Bertie Dias. He went on to captain the University of Peradeniya Rugby team.  I have heard Jayantha admit that Trinity (and I venture to say  Rugby)  DNA had helped build his skills in larger life. When opposing sides (a.k.a countries ) were in conflict he was the United Nation?s peace builder. When there were suspicions of nuclear armaments ( I would say stealthily introduced in the ?scrums and rucks?) he saw how best to ?hit the gaps? as  he  presided over the balancing of conflicting and competing objectives of  nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states. He effectively helped to blend brains and brawn with tactical application of gentlemanly and diplomatic skills. And when he contested for the post of the Secretary General of the United Nations, he displayed how he can be a realist, take a tackle ?..and  graciously  bow out!

It was in Washington that I saw him deftly lay the groundwork, for establishing the Sri Lankan caucus at the US Congress, which served the nation in presenting a balanced perspective during the trauma of the Sri Lanka civil conflict.??In the global and diplomatic community in Washington DC, where the frailties and follies of international public servants are often the staple of the cocktail circuit, whenever Sri Lanka was mentioned, the name Jayantha Dhanapala evoked enthusiastic admiration and superlatives.

During Dhanapala?s stewardship at the UN, he chaired the  historic conference on disarmament that captured the world?s headlines. He was closely involved in the issues relating to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and building awareness on the tragic toll exacted by small arms and light weapons in conflict-ridden countries.??No wonder that given such credentials  former UN Secretary-General the late Kofi Annan ushered Dhanapala onto the centre stage of UN mediation in Iraq after the US invasion. He was appointed a commissioner in UN-SCOM and the head of the special group visiting presidential sites in Iraq.???

Back to the essayist. In a  forthcoming book, ?The Trinity Story? it is recounted that the lad who seemed like a mystic preaching peace in the abstract over half a century ago developed a track record and reputation based on which the international community and historians now judge Dhanapala as ?a realist in means but an idealist in ends; as a leader whose paramount interest is not only of his country but of the world; as a diplomat with a course to steer and a port to seek?. Without such a blend of qualities, one cannot succeed when playing high stakes in the international community. In Dhanapala, The Trinity Story justifiably boasts ?we indeed have the ?man we want?, in a ?world we want.???

Much has been written about Dhanapala and much will be reminisced following his passing this week— a massive loss in thought-leadership and integrity  to our country. He and I lived down the same street in Kandy, went to the same school. I saw him falling in love at the Trinity Drama Society  stage with the  charming lass, Maureen Elhart. And together, in their life long journey, we saw them  bring  class and polish to the prestigious positions he was assigned in larger life  on the world stage. His contemporaries Sarath Amunugama, Nihal Rodrigo and S.M.L. Marikar, Karen Breckenridge were stars with him in the galaxy of civil servants.

We knew him also as a  Ruggerite and an enthusiast: he  captained the Trinity Second XV in the year when the senior team was studded with the best that the school had produced in decades.  He loved the game and the glory that the Trinity rugby culture drew sportsmen into  in those days. Unlike many of his batchmates at Trinity he was, however, delivered from temptation when he opted to focus on his University Entrance rather than compete for a place in the redoubtable 1956 team coached by Lt. Col Bertie Dias. He went on to captain the University of Peradeniya Rugby team.  I have heard Jayantha admit that Trinity (and I venture to say  Rugby)  DNA had helped build his skills in larger life. When opposing sides (a.k.a countries ) were in conflict he was the United Nation’s peace builder. When there were suspicions of nuclear armaments ( I would say stealthily introduced in the “scrums and rucks”) he saw how best to “hit the gaps” as  he  presided over the balancing of conflicting and competing objectives of  nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states. He effectively helped to blend brains and brawn with tactical application of gentlemanly and diplomatic skills. And when he contested for the post of the Secretary General of the United Nations, he displayed how he can be a realist, take a tackle …..and  graciously  bow out!

It was in Washington that I saw him deftly lay the groundwork, for establishing the Sri Lankan caucus at the US Congress, which served the nation in presenting a balanced perspective during the trauma of the Sri Lanka civil conflict.  In the global and diplomatic community in Washington DC, where the frailties and follies of international public servants are often the staple of the cocktail circuit, whenever Sri Lanka was mentioned, the name Jayantha Dhanapala evoked enthusiastic admiration and superlatives.

During Dhanapala’s stewardship at the UN, he chaired the  historic conference on disarmament that captured the world’s headlines. He was closely involved in the issues relating to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and building awareness on the tragic toll exacted by small arms and light weapons in conflict-ridden countries.  No wonder that given such credentials  former UN Secretary-General the late Kofi Annan ushered Dhanapala onto the centre stage of UN mediation in Iraq after the US invasion. He was appointed a commissioner in UN-SCOM and the head of the special group visiting presidential sites in Iraq. ??

Back to the essayist. In a  forthcoming book, ?The Trinity Story? it is recounted that the lad who seemed like a mystic preaching peace in the abstract over half a century ago developed a track record and reputation based on which the international community and historians now judge Dhanapala as ?a realist in means but an idealist in ends; as a leader whose paramount interest is not only of his country but of the world; as a diplomat with a course to steer and a port to seek?. Without such a blend of qualities, one cannot succeed when playing high stakes in the international community. In Dhanapala, The Trinity Story justifiably boasts ?we indeed have the ?man we want?, in a ?world we want.???

Back to the essayist. In a  forthcoming book, “The Trinity Story’ it is recounted that the lad who seemed like a mystic preaching peace in the abstract over half a century ago developed a track record and reputation based on which the international community and historians now judge Dhanapala as “a realist in means but an idealist in ends; as a leader whose paramount interest is not only of his country but of the world; as a diplomat with a course to steer and a port to seek”. Without such a blend of qualities, one cannot succeed when playing high stakes in the international community. In Dhanapala, The Trinity Story justifiably boasts “we indeed have the ‘man we want’, in a ‘world we want.’

M.V. Muhsin


A role model in the medical profession

Dr. S. Sivakumaran

Dr. Sabaratnam Sivakumaran who was a former Consultant Physician of the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, Colombo, passed away on May 14,  after a brief illness.

Dr. Sivakumaran was literally a role model possessing all crucial qualities of a good clinical role model including an inspiring medical leader, an excellent character, effective coach and mentor, expert clinical teacher, and dedicated physician. During my tenure as Director of the National Hospital of Sri Lanka (1995 to 2000), I noted that Dr. S. Sivakumaran was one of the few Consultants who used to report to work much before 8 a.m. (in fact 6.30 or 7 in the morning) and go on attending to patients along with his team until late in the evening. Even after a day’s hectic work, he still had a kind look, warmth, humbleness and a smile on his face.

I can still remember that whenever he went abroad for any reason, on his return to Sri Lanka, he came directly to his ward from Katunayake Airport. He was among the specialists who prepared the new format of the ERPM examination conducted by the Sri Lanka Medical Council. He always insisted on all examinations being fair by the students.

Dr. Sivakumaran was a Senior Physician at the Jaffna Teaching Hospital for a long period before he got transferred to the National Hospital.

While many doctors working in Jaffna migrated to foreign countries or fled to other areas of Sri Lanka during the war period, Dr. Sivakumaran continued to serve the people of Jaffna with commitment and dedication. When the specialists were not available in Jaffna to carry out echocardiograms and endoscopy, in spite of being a general physician he came to Colombo and got himself trained in these areas and provided that service to the people of Jaffna.

His leadership, intelligence, diplomacy, integrity, professionalism, punctuality, compassion and willingness to help those in need made him a very special doctor among the others in the Ministry of Health.

Due to his passion for teaching after his retirement from the Ministry of Health, he joined the SAITM medical school and worked as a consultant at the Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital Malabe.

He was a kind and devoted Hindu, who truly followed and lived according to the principles of Hinduism.

May his soul rest in peace.

Dr. Terrence Gamini de Silva


Gone from sight, but never from the heart

 Sarath Vidanagama

On Friday morning when I was enjoying breakfast with my grandchildren, my phone rang. The caller was my friend Upananda. His message made me stand up. Shock, grief and emptiness enveloped me. Our dear Sarath was no more. Sarath had a long chat with me only two days before the angel of death called upon him.

Sarath was not the only friend who passed away recently. But Sarah was so special and exceptional. The vacuum left by him will remain a vacuum forever. Sarath was senior to me in the University of Ceylon. The difference was not in his vocabulary. Everyone was equal to him. Sarath was not extraordinary in anything. But the whole of Sarath was extraordinary. He had something to deliver to anyone and he had something to collect from anyone.

It did not take long for Sarath to be a popular lecturer among students of the University. It took an even shorter time to be the man sought after by his colleagues. His pupils are spread all over Sri Lanka and abroad. But he was not a man who asked for a favour. He was a believer that one gets what one deserves. And he got whatever he wished. His was a different school of thought. He did not believe in mending and meddling with day-to-day issues. His economic vision and philosophy were different from many of his colleagues. He was not ready to accept any ‘ism’ blindly. He believed that until and unless the macroeconomic structure was put in place, all the ‘isms’ would fail. He did not believe in scratching the surface. He wanted to go deep down in search of causes and where they lay.

Considering his ways, his thought, his manners and the simplicity, Sarath was a misfit in today’s world filled with filth.

My dear friend, Sarath! Goodbye, until we cross paths someday in the future. Until then we will live with lingering memories!

Chandra Maliyadde


Memories of a sister who brought joy to our lives

 SAVITHRI PEIRIS

It is with profound grief and heavy hearts that we convey the passing away of our dear sister Savithri, fondly known to all as Savi, on April 19.

Born to George and Felicia De Soyza, as the third daughter in a family of six girls, she was fortunate to inherit all the good features of our parents; she, the fairest and prettiest of us all. None of this affected her – she was down to earth.

Savi was a strict disciplinarian, guiding even her older sisters! However she possessed a heart of gold.

With the early demise of our father, when our mother was hardly 44 years, Savi, then only 17 years, decided to give up her education and follow her passion while earning an income. Our mother was the most disappointed as her plans of Savi becoming a doctor were shattered.

Savi joined Air Ceylon as a stewardess in 1967 – one of the three candidates selected at that time. She was incredibly happy flying on Dakotas and Avros to Jaffna and Ampara and the many cities Air Ceylon flew at that time. This was the time when there were food and clothing shortages in Sri Lanka during Mrs Bandaranaike’s government. But we were quite happy and contented and never felt the scarcity as Savi ensured the supply of Mysore dhal, imported chocolates, readymade garments etc.

She would bring essential medicines that could not be bought here — requests she got from friends and relatives.

With Air Ceylon entering joint ventures with UTA (French Airlines) and BOAC (British Airways), each long flight to Europe and the UK took almost 12-14 days. As a result Savi was more in the sky and overseas than at home. During vacations she visited many friends and relatives overseas and she really travelled to all four corners of the world.

She was by this time promoted to a Chief Stewardess and was immensely enjoying her job.

In 1969 she met her Prince Charming, Gamini Nirmala better known to all as Gabo. He was tall and handsome, a gentleman to the fingertips, probably due to his father, a former Principal, his mother a former teacher and older sister Chathurani. They made a lovely couple. Gabo was at the height of his musical career and as a result we were all introduced to music, dancing  and entertainment at an early age, when we attended  his concerts and rock  festivals with her colleagues at Air Ceylon and their families. We really had a wonderful time.

In the early 70’s, Savi decided to take a job in the UK. Her absence compelled us to concentrate on our studies and we led a boring life without the association of her friends or the fun times we had. But from 8000 miles away she still exercised her control over the sisters.

In 1976 she had her fairytale wedding to her Prince Charming at the then Intercontinental and three of us younger sisters were her bridesmaids.

She settled down to married life and was blessed with three lovely children Sacha, Natasha and Danya and spent her time caring for them. But travel was always a part of her life, and they now travelled as a family.

In 1990 she joined the corporate world as a Director of Gabo Travels and ensured its continuing success as one of the leading travel agents in the country.

With Anita, Nadeesha and Rajitha joining the family  she welcomed her grandchildren Amaya, Soraya, Chevaan, Nehara and Danik with open arms and the group of family members travelling on holidays only got larger with time.

After Gabo’s passing away in 2012, as Chairperson she kept the flag flying.

Savi’s inner beauty was far greater than the outer. Her generosity knew no bounds. She provided a roof above their heads to many of her employees and domestics, a livelihood for some of the families, be it tuition fees, funds for purchasing of medicines for the sick and books for children. She gave the opportunity to travel overseas not only to her staff, but also to Buddhist monks and the needy; all expenses were personally borne by her. She was also actively involved in many projects for people in rural areas as well.

We are so very fortunate to have had her in our family. It’s hard to accept the fact that she isn’t there anymore. Not a day goes by that she doesn’t cross our minds. No amount of time can heal the sorrow of her passing away.

Bye-bye dear Savi – you may no longer be at our side but will always remain in our hearts. May your journey through Samsara be a truly short and happy one until you reach the gates of Nirvana.

 Thusitha Senaratne and Anoma Abeywickrema


 

 

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