[APPRECIATIONS - (15-11-2017)] | Daily News

[APPRECIATIONS - (15-11-2017)]

David Soysa

He was a humble individual

Former Deputy Commissioner of Labour and Founder Chairman of the Foreign Employment Bureau, David Aiya, you left us four years ago with our hearts bleeding and our eyes full of tears and yet those memories of your presence and closeness still lingers on. Born to a family of eight children as the eldest son of late Henry Peter De Soysa and Melka Allan Jayamanne, my Brother-in-Law David Soysa was brought up in Negombo.

Being a very methodical person by nature, he had guided and looked after his three sisters and four brothers. As a result of the conditions maintained at home, all of them have become very methodical, capable and disciplined persons.

David Soysa had his primary and secondary education at St. Mary's Collage, Negombo and at the age of 18, he joined the Peradeniya University and achieved a BSc. Economics Hons. Degree with Second Upper Class. Apart from his academic work, he had been an active member of the University's Economics Society.

He started his career as a teacher at Maris Stella College, Negombo and thereafter appeared for SLAS Examination and became first in the island. With this development, he joined the Labour Ministry as a Labour Officer and served in different areas of the island such as Kurunegala, Hatton, Chilaw etc. He married Clauda Madurawela of Thoppu, Kochchikade, in 1964. He was a son-in-law of the late Augustin Madurawela and Catherine Wijesooriya.

Due to his commitment and dedication, he was promoted to the position of Assistant Commissioner of Labour. As a dedicated government servant, he was a most simple and humble person. He practiced honesty in every deed he carried out in the government service.

He was awarded a scholarship to Australia to follow labour and management education and after a few years, he was awarded another scholarship to the Netherlands and achieved a MSc. He has made many developments in the labour field and he was appointed as Deputy Commissioner of Labour in 1979. During his career in the Labour Ministry, he acted few years as the Editor of Labour Gazette Magazine published by the Labour Department and introduced important articles in order to improve labour-related issues in Sri Lanka.

Soysa, who was a specialist on labour law, has represented Sri Lanka on several occasions at International Labour Organisation (ILO) seminars.

With his exposure both overseas and in Sri Lanka in different fields, he was keen to establish a Bureau for Foreign Employment in order to provide job opportunities to our people and to earn foreign exchange for the country. He drafted the Foreign Employment Act and formed the Bureau of Foreign Employment in 1985. He became the Founder Chairman and initiated many development programmes to improve foreign Employment opportunities for Sri Lankans. He visited most of the Middle East and other countries in Asia and Europe to find job opportunities. He served nearly 10 years as the Chairman of the Bureau and made several developments in the field.

His untiring effort, commitment and foresight has immensely contributed to the growth of assignments undertaken by him in the Labour Department and the Foreign Employment Bureau.

As a loving husband and a father, he fulfilled his duties and obligations to his family as directed and blessed by Almighty God.

He left his beloved wife and two daughters. The eldest daughter, Ruwanthie Weerakoon, is currently serving in the UK as a Medical Officer and the second daughter, Nishanthi Dissanayake, is serving as a teacher in the UK.

Joe Perera,

Dr. Sarath Abeykoon

He was an icon

I pen these words with deep regret and sorrow for the sudden and untimely death of Dr. Sarath Abeykoon, an oncologist whom our family knew for many years. He was eminent in his field, honourable in his deeds and was a honest personality with amiable qualities. He was an icon as a caring doctor, who strove to treat terminal patients for many years both in government service and in private practice.

We could always count on him without hesitation as a professional who practiced and kept his word, living up to the the Hippocratic Oath. Our family is ever so grateful and appreciative of him for the special dedication and caring shown to our late mother during the time of her illness as far back as 1982. Our family and so many other families ow him our gratitude and appreciation and we wish to state that his longstanding medication, given with a human touch and caring extended with continuous support, prolonged her life for many years after the initial diagnosis.

As the world at large is aware and whoever present at the cemetery would've bore testimony to, a large mass was present and paid their last respects until the coffin was closed. The funeral was embodied with simplified last rites and an unforgettable and exceptional short funeral oration, as it should have been for a highly respected person of such simplicity in comparison to Mother Theresa and Florence Nightingale.

All would agree that his death is a great loss to the medical fraternity and patients as the vacuum left by him will take many more years to fill due to his is incomparable and indispensable contribution to society.

The funeral ceremony, as well as the funeral oration which we witnessed at the cemetery, was of exceptional and of exemplary nature and bore testimony to Dr. Sarath Abeykoon's noble personality. We wish to extend our deepest sympathies to his beloved wife, Dr. Lakshmi and daughter, Dr. Chathuri.

May he attain the Supreme bliss of Nirvana.

Senaratne Family,

Devapriya Welikala

A pillar of support

It is with sadness that I write this appreciation to honour my dear cousin, Priya Welikala who passed away in the United Kingdom. I last spoke to Priya in the nursing home in Warlingham three days before he died and I thank God for the precious moment to pray with him, over the telephone. His daughter Teri took me to see him in Caterham when I was visiting the U.K., a couple of months ago. Back then, Priya's mind was razor sharp and he was determined to get better; he took his walking frame and was walking up and down the garden several times. That was Priya who never gave up.

Priya was an old boy of Richmond College, Galle, (1950-1958) and a graduate of the University of Peradeniya. I remember meeting his parents, Reverend Osmund and his wife (who are related to the Corea Family), when I was a child. I was a classmate of Priya's brother, Sunil, at St.Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia. Sunil went on to marry Shiromie Fernando, who was once a talented Sri Lankan child star. Priya was a pillar of support to all his family.

Devapriya Welikala had a distinguished career as a leading banker in Sri Lanka, with the Bank of Ceylon. He was a one time branch manger of the Bank of Ceylon in Kandy and Kalutara and also worked in the Head Office of the bank in Colombo. Priya was posted to London, UK, as Country Manager of the the Bank of Ceylon and that's when I first met him, when he came to stay with us in the 1970's, in Upper Norwood, South East London.

My parents had joined the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, working at Radio Worldwide and Priya's first port of call was to our small family flat at RW. We got to know him so well. He joined the prayer meetings and times of fellowship at RW and travelled to the bank headquarters from our home. We so looked forward to him returning to our home in the evenings—he was very much a part of our family.

My grand uncle J. C. A. Corea decided to throw a birthday party for me in the 1970's in his flat in Muswell Hill. Priya's wife Nadani and children Ossie, Edward and Teri were flying into Heathrow from Colombo that day. Priya made it a point to bring the whole family to Muswell Hill in North London for my birthday—such was his love for us.

Priya was a kind, caring, thoughtful human being. I will never forget when my grandmother suddenly passed away in Wimbledon, Priya and Nadani made several visits to our home with food and spent time with us. He had such a heart for the vulnerable. Priya was a founding member of the registered British charity, Deaf and Blind Sri Lanka, he was the charity's Treasurer. Priya and the DABAL Committee raised thousands of Pounds for deaf and blind schools across Sri Lanka. He had worked very closely with Lord Colin Low of Dalston, Patron of DABAL in the United Kingdom. Together with his wife Nadani, Priya had worked tirelessly for the deaf and blind community in Sri Lanka. A few years ago, Priya and Nadani visited some of the schools in the island.

Their commitment to the vulnerable led them to receive an invitation to St. James's Palace in London, from Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. This reception was held at the Palace prior to the Prince visiting Sri Lanka, to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) in 2013. They were both introduced to the Prince of Wales by Dr. Chris Nonis, who was Sri Lanka's diplomatic representative to the Court of St. Jame's at the time. It was a wonderful occasion for both Priya and Nadani. He was very humble about his visit to St. James's Palace.

Priya was a practicing Christian. He believed in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. He read his Bible regularly and was a man of prayer. Priya knew his final destination and we believe that he is in Heaven, gazing at his Lord and Saviour and so, Psalm 23 comes to my mind:

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

May you rest in peace Priya, in the loving arms of Jesus.

Ivan Corea

T.T. Jayaratnam

An erudite educator

I am honored to write this note on my memories of the late T. T. Jayaratnam, former Principal of Mahajana College, Tellippalai, when teachers and old students celebrated his birth anniversary on October 29.

I am proud that my family members and I have associated with Mahajana College in the early days when it was established during Pavalar’s and Jayaratnam's time. My father and Jayaratnam were classmates in early 1920’s at Tellippalai Mahajana College when his father, Pavalar, was its head. My two sisters and I were his students at the college throughout our secondary education. Further, all my four children also had their education at Mahajana College from grade one to Advanced Level. At present, four of my grandchildren are studying there. The close engagement of my family with the College now continues to the fourth generation of my father.

The image of the post of principal of J/Mahajana College, Tellippalai, was undoubtedly glorified during the period late Jayaratnam took the mantle. He was an example to other principals during that period. His devotion to the College progressively developed its standards in all aspects to become a preferred institution in the peninsula. In his period, Mahajana College excelled in education and sports and in testimony to that, today, there are many professionals and others holding high posts around the world. Apart from this, Mahajana College became champions in football for consecutive years. Even today, students of Mahajana College show excellent performance in sports at a national level.

He was born on the October 15, 1913, Jayaratnam and passed away on October 29, 1976, having served in this college as a teacher and principal from 1932 to 1970.

He was admitted to Saivapragasa Vidyasalai, Tellippalai, in 1917, of which his father was the manager. He left this Vidyasalai in the year 1919 and joined Mahajana English High School, which was founded by his father. He passed the English School Leaving Certificate Examination in the first division in the year 1924. Records reveal that he was a student of Jaffna Hindu College and successful in the London Matriculation Examination in 1930. Thereafter, he was admitted to Jaffna College, Vaddukkoddai, in the year 1931. On passing the London Inter-arts Examination, he was appointed as a teacher on April 27, 1932. He was selected for training as an English teacher at the Government Training College, Colombo, in the year 1936 and obtained a distinction, being the only candidate from the Jaffna district.

His marriage to Raniratnam took place in 1942 and his family expanded with the birth of his daughter Jayabawani in the year 1945, son Jayakumaran in the year 1948, son Jayakanthan in 1950 and daughter Jayavani in 1953. In addition, his mother, Thaiyalnayakam too was living with him till her death in 1954. Following the demise of the Founder of Mahajana English High School T. A. Thuraiappapillai in the year 1929, the post of principal fell on the shoulders of K. Chinnappah—a close relative of Pavalar under whom the school celebrated its silver jubilee in the year 1935. The first issue of 'Mahajanan' (yearly magazine) was also launched that year and Jayaratnam functioned as its first editor. This magazine became very prominent, recording the history of Mahajana College during the time of late Jayaratnam.

K. Chinnappa passed away on March 3, 1946 and the post of principal fell on the shoulders of Jayaratnam. There were 15 teachers and 400 students at the time. At this juncture, the school was renamed as 'Mahajana College.'

At the time of my admission to this College in January 1947, the physical structure was the ‘T’ hall comprising four classrooms on the west, three on the north in between a small classroom as the library and a playground on the north.

The ambition of our principal was the development of the college in various ways. Laboratories for Physics, Chemistry and Biology were constructed on the eastern side of the College. The achievement of the college in the field of education, sports, drama etc., attracted many parents from other provinces to send their children to the college. For their convenient stay, a hostel was constructed at the north of the college premises. A silver jubilee during his tenure as a teacher and a golden jubilee and diamond jubilee during his service as a principal, were celebrated on grand scales.

Besides being a duty-conscious principal, top positions in the Jaffna School Soccer Association, Durgadevi temple, Lions Club and the Northern Province Teachers Association, were thrust upon him, which he accepted with his smiling face.

Late S. F. de Silva, one-time Director of Education, in his article in ‘Jayaratnam Birth Centenary Malar’ under caption 'Erudite son of an illustrious father,' had quoted what one of his lecturers said;

'I can still recall vivid memories of T. T. Jayaratnam as one of the most energetic and industrious students, whose young and intelligent look was always fastened to my face during lectures. I came to like him very much not only because he was an excellent student, but also for his qualities and character. He was a lovable person and his quiet an unassuming charm of manner was a great asset to him and his relations with others. He was a man of a quiet and thoughtful nature, with the strength of mind to stand very firmly by his convictions.'

Even after the takeover of school by the government in 1960, the standards of education at Mahajana College continued to maintain its mark, as 10 of its students were admitted to the medical faculty in the year 1968. Teachers were transferred to and out of Mahajana College, though it was not to his liking. The so-called political revolution in the country in May, 1970, brought in a thunderbolt to retire principals over 55 years of age. Thus, the last day of Jayaratnam’s post of principal abruptly ended on December 31, 1970. Mahajanans scattered all over the world continue to celebrate Jayaratnam’s anniversary every year on October 29.

Kanagasabai Nadarajar
No 16/1, Pamankada Lane
Colombo 06


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