[APPRECIATIONS - (23-07-2018)] | Daily News


[APPRECIATIONS - (23-07-2018)]

Alfred David

Selfless public servant

Since the sad news of our father’s passing on Sunday, July 15, the many messages of condolence we have received, have been filled with vivid memories of his kindness, compassion, generosity and gregarious personality. We have been gladly reminded of the respect, admiration and love which people around the world felt for him.

Alfred Kulendran David, or Alfie to his friends, was a diplomat, a selfless public servant for his beloved Sri Lanka, a sportsman, a scholar, a man of deep religious faith and above all, a man who loved and was beloved of his family and friends.

His 35-year diplomatic career spanned three continents and eight postings, book-ended by arriving in Paris, and his retirement from Islamabad in 2000. He spoke fondly of the cohort of six who topped the entrance exams and together, joined the foreign service in 1965: Jayantha Dhanapala, Nihal Rodrigo, Willhelm Wouterz, N. Navarathnarajha and Nandasiri De Silva. He revelled in their camaraderie and the sense of purpose that they shared.

As Head of Mission, he was responsible for an ever growing number of countries. He was the High Commissioner to Bangladesh (1988 - 1993) and was also Ambassador to Nepal. As Ambassador to Sweden (1995-1998), he took responsibility for Denmark, Finland and Norway. Subsequently, he expanded Sri Lanka’s formal diplomatic relations to concurrently become Sri Lanka’s first Ambassador to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. As High Commissioner to Pakistan (1998 - 2000), he was responsible for the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan.

He would joke that his career coverage of countries might be breaking some sort of record! He was dedicated to his role, influencing how Sri Lanka was understood globally, undertaking delicate negotiations and crafting pithy communiqués for the Foreign Ministry. Members of his staff found him kind and fair, albeit an exacting taskmaster expecting the best of them at all times. He was a natural leader.

There were many memorable highlights to his career; notably, representing Sri Lanka at the 1988 UN General Assembly and the SAARC Summits of the 80’s and 90’s. Though perhaps meeting Mother Teresa in New Delhi where he was Deputy High Commissioner stood out. His work, his experiences and studies, gave him an abiding interest in approaches to peace and conflict-management, particularly in South Asia.

He was proud to be a Sri Lankan, proud of his Tamil and Christian heritage, and wanted above all else, a peaceful, united and reconciled country. Around the world, he epitomised Sri Lanka’s reputation for being friendly and hospitable, showing kindness and compassion to friends and strangers alike. He would put people at ease and go out of his way to help those stranded or in need of assistance.

Very few knew that he sang Handel’s Messiah in Cairo, but many would remember him leading the singing of the National Anthem, Danno Budunge, or the Hymn for Lanka at official functions. His friends would remember his readiness for a sing-along, invariably singing Surangani, Belafonte’s Marianne or Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night! His enthusiasm for singing and his even greater love of sports was infectious.

As an athlete, a cricketer, a rugby player and a tennis player, it was his speed as well as his stylish, smooth strokes which impressed most. A renowned schoolboy athlete, he held the Public School Boys’ and the Peradeniya Hop Step and Jump record for many years and captained the Peradeniya Rugby team. Although an accident to his knee ended his stint on the Havelocks rugby team, cricket remained a passion.

Whether in Kuala Lumpur, Dhaka or Stockholm, he would make the time to play, using sport to create that strong sense of community. He was an ardent supporter of the Sri Lankan Cricket team. He would send them congratulatory messages when they were victorious in the 80’s and 90’s, show the team hospitality when they toured Bangladesh or Pakistan, and attend games in Colombo or elsewhere with his daughters, his sister-in-law Nandini Singham, or his brother Paul. The Sri Lankan team’s skill and victory in 1996 had him ecstatic. There were many shouts of zam zam zaki, zam zam zay that day; a phrase which any Wesleyite of his time would instantly recognise.

Wesley College bore a special place in his heart. For the school’s 125th anniversary, he wrote eloquently about the school’s history and his own time there when he had been the Passmore House Secretary, Captain of the Athletics team, College Prefect, Editor of the Double Blue Magazine (1958), Student President of the Student Christian Movement (SCM), a member of the debating team, and the 1958 recipient of the Moscrop Award for the best all-rounder.

When he graduated with a History degree from Peradeniya, it was to Wesley that he returned to teach for a year. Recommended by his friend from Jayatilake Hall, Jayantha Dhanapala, he joined Whittall Bousteads, while preparing for the highly-competitive foreign service exams.

Nevertheless, he continued to take an active interest in Wesley by remaining involved in the School Management Committee and the Old Boys’ Association. Similar to his father, he believed in the importance of education and life-long learning, not just for himself, but for everyone. Even with the responsibilities of his role, he took a sabbatical at the International Institute of Social Studies at the Hague and later, in New Delhi, completed a Master’s at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. An ever increasing library always followed us from country to country!

His strong religious beliefs and concept of service to others were ignited through his association with the SCM at Wesley. His passionate activism is well-remembered by those also at the 1960 SCM conference in Lahoreand by his appointment as Acting General-Secretary of the National SCM in 1965. His was a quiet and personal faith, encouraged and guided in his student days by the likes of Rev. Lakshman Wickremesinghe.Throughout his life, he nurtured it through daily private study and by being an active member of church congregations across the world. Even in these latter years, when poor health did not allow him to be as active as he once had been, his regular attendance at Kollupitiya Methodist Church was a constant, and gave him great comfort.

Alfie was fiercely loyal to his family. He aspired to always honour the memory of his parents, Paul (Deputy-Principal of Zahira College) and Mabel (neé Gnanapragasam). After his father’s early death, as the eldest child, he felt a deep responsibility for the well-being of his mother, his sister Sarojini and his brothers, Joe, Paul and Charlie. They too, until his last days, showed to him that same love and care. Alfie met Ranji in 1965, in Colombo. As the story goes, spying her across from him he was thunderstruck and begged her cousin, Patrick Chelliah, for an introduction.

A whirlwind romance followed. She left for London, but his posting to Paris meant he frequently visited her and her parents, Reggie Singham and Mary Singham (neé Rutnam). After a Parisian engagement and a London wedding in 1967, Alfie and Ranji embarked on a sometimes adventurous, and sometimes challenging, diplomatic life. From those first three postings in France, Malaysia and Egypt, they returned each time with yet another baby daughter. Over the years, the David and Singham families grew closer entwined when his brother, Paul, married Ranji’s younger sister, Ami. Family, whether they were Davids, Gnanapragasams, Singhams, Rutnams, Mathers or the kindred spirits and the adopted families of the Galappattis and the Pandithages, always knew that they could call on him when needed, and similarly, especially in recent years, looked out for him.

Alfie and Ranji’s marriage was a true partnership. They complemented each other’s strengths, sharing that sense of duty and responsibility and a passion for fun and life. As their children, our abiding family memories would be of happy, but contentious games of scrabble, boisterous family meals, long family drives and a home often filled with singing, laughter and love. Her unexpected and early death hit him hard. With illness following retirement and a deterioration of health, during the latter years, he lived a more secluded life. During these most recent years, whilst he lost touch with a number of old friends, they remained dear to him and locked within his, and our, happy memories of times gone by.

For us, his three daughters, Shona (Sudeshna), Shantha and myself, we know that he is at last, at peace. We are thankful to have been loved and cherished by him and to have been encouraged to always reach for the moon (and you will at least end up on a coconut tree!)

We have been blessed that his legacy would live on in his grandchildren, Oliver Elliot Rae (12), Ella Ranjini Baalham (9) and James Alexander Baalham (7). They each, in their own way, embody his thirst for knowledge, his musical and sporting abilities, his love of life as well as his kindness.

The funeral service will be at Kollupitiya Methodist Church at 3.00 pm on Thursday, July 26, followed by a cremation at the Borella General Cemetery at 4.30pm. Dr. Sumi David


Prof. Samantha Hettiarachchi

He lived a principled life

The touching tributes and appreciations of Professor Hettiarachchi, both in print media and social media since April 24, this year, bear testimony to the lives he impacted in many ways, as an academic, a teacher and a friend.

Three months since his passing, I pen these words of appreciation and admiration more from the perspective of knowing him and growing up with him for almost 40 years, as my eldest brother-in-law. I was just nine years old when he connected with our family as a friend of my eldest sister Premini.

I believe our first acquaintance was through the telephone. In a day and age when the ringtone of our land phones were similar to clanging cymbals and no CLI, my efficiency as a telephone operator was appreciated by aiya and to this year, he would have enjoyed mimicking my responses to him over the phone. Aiya was my sister’s world for almost four decades. During the early years of marriage, they were overseas on postgraduate studies, pursing their academic fields of interest. Imperial College, London and the UK were their second homes until about 2005, when after the Tsunami hit.

He was consulted by many countries as he served as a key member of the Advisory Committee of the Disaster Management Centre. Their travels took them to other continents as well. Prof. Hettiarachchi’s name is synonymous with the University of Moratuwa and of the field of Coastal Engineering, worldwide.

The tributes paid by students on Facebook as well as the appreciations by his university colleagues and friends, spoke clearly of his personality and character. He was a good friend to many, be it during his college days at STC Mount, among his campus batch mates, or with his students. Whether you needed simple advice, a brush-up in subjects, an empathetic ear or just a listener, if you will, he would be there for you. He earned the respect of people from all walks of life, for his pleasing and simple manner. He lived a principled life, grounded by a strong sense of right and wrong. He spoke out when necessary and never let something wrong be left unchallenged. Perhaps that’s what earned him a warm welcome to our family, as he would have been a son after my father’s own heart.

Samantha aiya, led by example as he mentored not only the many students who walked through the corridors of the Civil Engineering Department for 38 years, but also was a great inspiration to his nephews and nieces, as a fond baaps, maama and loku thaththa. He was a dutiful son as well as a beloved and caring youngest brother to his four siblings.

On a personal note, I am appreciative of an elder brother who admired my various talents, and had a positive outlook on life. He endorsed my professions, though I am the non-academic in the family. Being a keen fan of my travels and experiences, he would encourage me to diversify my skills in whichever field I pursued.

Perhaps one thing we both had in common was that we were the spoilt youngest in our families, and our siblings still treat us like we haven’t grown up. If there was anything I had which he fancied for his collection of items, his claims on them got the better of me, as I just could not say no to him. In turn, he was sensitive to my point of view in discussions we had with akka and also supported me always, pointing out how I felt.

Aiya had a great memory for insignificant details of events or conversations and years later, he would refer to them vividly. He kept track of my closest friends and acquired some fans in them as well. Wherever people exchanged greetings with Samantha aiya, they became fond of him, as he possessed a unique charm and exceptional charisma in addition to a good sense of humour. During the past few years, he enjoyed posing for a click on my camera as he knew the outcome would be exceptional.

I believe his greatest achievement in university and life’s reward for him, was when he conquered the strongest wave of love in meeting my sister Premini and spending two-thirds of his life with her. He could not have asked for more in receiving such devoted care and unconditional love, especially during the latter stages of his life, while he bravely endured his illness.

Akka dedicated all her time to take care of him, while juggling her academic career and house work as well. Even on his sick bed, he would share his knowledge and expertise via email and telephone and mentor a few students who visited him at home.

I recall a few times I accompanied him for treatment; he would enumerate emotionally in detail, the many students and colleagues who showed their gratitude in numerous ways during the last few months of his life. This only bears testimony to the valued legacy he left behind which no wealth can quantify. I can imagine how much more he could have accomplished in his life, were it not for his illness.

Aiya was not really a religious person, rather, he preached a better sermon with his life than with his lips, and was a person of much faith. Whenever I visited them at home during last year, I was privileged to encourage him with prayer and praise.

The night before he passed away, together with a friend of mine, by his bedside in the hospital, we prayed and sang the famous chorus Because he lives, I can face tomorrow, little knowing that he was ready to face his tomorrow in eternal rest.

Thus, until we meet again, a professor and gentleman bade us goodbye. Nimmi Gunewardena


Dr. Srilal de Silva

A beacon of light

The late Dr. Srilal de Silva’s dedication and devotion to the quality movement is indescribable. The writer is compelled by obligation, to pen a few lines in appreciation on this colossus on behalf of his fellow quality professionals during his first-year remembrance. For me, the late Dr. Srilal de Silva was invariably, a father-figure and a beacon light in my formative years.

Dr. de Silva was born to a middle-class family in Hikkaduwa. He received his primary education at Richmond College, Galle and thereafter, was transferred to S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia, for his secondary education.

The contributions made for quality-enhancement in Sri Lanka as well as in the South East Asian region by Dr. Srilal de Silva during a time period of over 40 years, had resulted in significant changes in quality-management practices in the region. These were brought up mainly through his association with the Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI) and the Sri Lanka Association for Quality (SLAQ). They had resulted in business progress as acknowledged by many stakeholders. Some of these changes include new approaches in inspections services as well as certification and training, leading to a new era of quality-management.

Through many offices he held at the SLSI which he left as the Deputy Director-General after 35 years of service, he had improved the services offered by SLSI in product quality-improvement as well as safety of the community, which had notably impacted in Sri Lanka.

Many changes in national-level quality assurance programmes such as infrastructure-development, changes in approaches through introduction of regulations and mechanisms for import and exports of products, upgrading fish-handling services to meet international requirements (especially the EU’s), and enhancing the professionalism of staff, were his main contributions.

Dr. Srilal de Silva was responsible for introducing ISO-management systems and certification in Sri Lanka, and also worked to receive accreditation of the systems. Those had strengthened the umbrella for quality-management in Sri Lanka, with improvements in many associated organisations.

As the Chairman of Quality international (QI), he continued to offer his services after leaving SLSI. Quality International was the first local private certification body on ISO systems in the country, and certifications offered included quality, food safety, environment and energy, workplace safety as well as social responsibility. The QI focused on value-added international certification. He was a registered international auditor for the ISO systems and was involved in auditing management systems in Sri Lanka as well as the South East Asian Region.

His contributions to training included the accredited lead auditor-training based on ISO standards, which was conducted through Quality International, in association with IQCS (Singapore). Quality International played a leading role in promoting quality and training in Sri Lanka, especially through the SLAQ, and their services are sought after by corporate clients.

His training skills had been used by many international agencies such as FAO, APO, WTO, FDA as well as numerous other private agencies, to promote quality-related activities in the South East Asian Region. His services as a consultant and trainer had been sought by the state and the private sectors.

His publications that number over 100 articles, in many national and international journals, were well-recognised. His technical presentations, including those made at APQO conferences, were considered to be of high standards.

He graduated from the University of Colombo with a BSc. in Chemistry and later, obtained a MPhil and PhD in Biotechnology from the Loughborough University of Technology in the UK. His research was accepted by the industry and used in commercial production. He was a holder of a Diploma in Quality Management from Bouwcentrum International Education in Rotterdam. He had received advanced training in quality-management, especially at fisheries in Japan, UK, USA, China, Denmark, Thailand and numerous other countries. He also held fellowships in many international professional bodies.

Dr. Srilal de Silva’s leadership as the SLAQ president extending over 10 years, resulted in the SLAQ gaining national and international recognition, and ushered in a new dimension to SLAQ activities and quality promotional programmes. Under his leadership, the SLAQ was able to hold the country’s first National Quality Convention in 1999.

His last major activity as the President of SLAQ, was organising 18th Asia Pacific Quality Conference and National Convention in October, 2012. He was confident to bid for the conference in October, 2010, after observing the country’s security situation. This conference was attended by 400 participants, with over 200 foreign participants and was considered to be the first biggest International event held in Colombo after the end of civil war.

He was actively involved in promoting quality-training in countries within the Asian region. At the time of his untimely demise, he was involved in upgrading the national infrastructure for quality, where the SLAQ played an important role together with other institutes and organisations, to implement the National Quality Policy as well as other policies in various areas, such as construction, education and healthcare.

Dr. de Silva was the first Sri Lankan to become a Vice President of the Asia Pacific Quality Organisation (APQO) which promotes quality in the Asia Pacific Region and administers the Global Performance Excellence Award (GPEA), which is the only formal international recognition of performance or business-related excellence. His initiatives made the SLAQ reach a strong position and his successors continue following his footsteps for the betterment of the country’s quality movement.

Dr. Srila de Silva’s contribution for quality movement both nationally and internationally, had been recognised on numerous occasions. He was awarded the APQO President’s Award for Demonstrated Excellence in 2012 at the 18th APQO Conference held in Colombo, in 2012. He was awarded the APQO’s Harrington/Ishikawa award in 2013 in Bali, Indonesia. The award is presented to a proven quality professional that has distinguished himself or herself as an individual in providing outstanding contribution to the promotion and implementation of quality methodologies in the Pacific Rim nations. Dr. de Silva was the first and only Sri Lankan to receive the said two awards to date. He is fondly remembered and sadly missed by his colleagues, both local and foreign.

Dr. Srilal de Silva was far-thinking and a rare, generous professional who extended his hand for everyone working with him, to rise and improve themselves. Many professionals who are holding senior positions today are indebted to him for his continuous guidance.

His demise created a vacuum which cannot be filled as it was a great lost to our country. May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana!

Mangalika de Silva,

SLAQ President

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