Appreciations | Daily News


P.L. Newton De Silva:

He was humane to the core

Our deep friendship spanned several fruitful, memorable, and long decades; flourishing without even the merest trace of disturbing fluctuations.

Initially, we met at the unique academic domain, the first Independent University of this land; the University of Ceylon, as it was then called; administered by the iconic Vice-Chancellor, Sir Ivor Jennings. We were a young coterie of ebullient scholar novices, optimistically yearning for the ideal vistas, that the beckoning future invited us to.

Newton and I were members of a close-knit group, that included, among others, Siri Gunasinghe, Vinnie Vitharana, W.M. Tilakaratne, and B.P. Ariyawansa. We were unswerving and solid, dedicated to our studies. Our due deference to our professors and other members of the faculty did not sway, even for a moment.

While being a committed undergraduate, Newton possessed some highly surprising traits. He was a poet, writer and strangely enough, a ‘chronicler’. He had set down in one of his chronicles, such undergraduate events as our debates (friendly, of course), as well as spirited interchanges. I am particularly grateful to my friend Newton, for a reference he had made to me, in one of his printed works. He had described me as a ‘critic’, even as an undergraduate.

Newton and I were both prominent members of the All-Ceylon Buddhist Students’ Union. This union, ably and responsibly guider by Ananda Meevanapalana, propelled us towards the practice of such social and spiritual values as helping people and consoling those in distress.

After graduation, we parted company, treading different professional paths. He joined the Sri Lanka Administrative Service’s Level-I Reaction Class, while I took to the domain of communication. However, though we went different ways, our friendship—our bond—did not relax at any time.

Newton’s administrative career was distinguished to an utmost scale. He earned training opportunities in the U.K. and Japan. Over and above scaling impressive administrative heights, he earned a reputation for fulfilling his diplomatic assignments admirably.

He had written prose extensively and had composed poetry avidly. But, I am quite certain, that, he was not able to realise adequately, his rich, creative writing potential; and, to my mind, that is a pity. I had the privilege though, of reading some of his poetry. I can assure you that much of his poetic output, resounds the rhythms of Sagas.

As a person, he was a doting husband. His spouse, Chandra; whom Newton won through unrelaxed and sustained courtship (you have to take my word for it, for I know it); exuded appealing feminism under all circumstances.

Throughout his life, Newton had an undiminished and keenly-felt affection for his people. His steady loyalty to his friends was never—and I repeat, never—in question.

With all my deference to his valued memory, I feel that a few observations about his personality are quite in order at this stage. On many an occasion, he maintained a reflective, and even reclusive, mien.

But contrary to that exterior, I, at times, felt that within him there was a little thumb-sized imp, who could utter an expression of sarcastic humour. But, his primary personality was a solid image of patience and humane understanding.

On a very intimate and heartfelt note, I must confess that some of us could not find enough time to mitigate the inner loneliness he would have experienced, even with a tinge of pain, deriving from a sense of self-pity.

But, he accepted all that, summoning his unfailing soul-power. He was a dedicated and pragmatic Buddhist. He did not, even for a moment, relax his strict vegetarianism.

I wish my dear friend Newton attains the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana; and also that he does not forget to look at us while awaiting the final moksha. My deepest sympathies to all the bereaving members of his family.

Dr. Edwin Ariyadasa


Russel Baptiste

A loyal Old Joe

I have watched Russel Baptiste play rugby, basketball, as well as take part in athletics for St. Joseph’s College, Colombo.

He was an outstanding Number 8 in his final year at S.J.C. In 1992, and he jumped at Number 2 in the line out and tackled the opposition wing three quarter every time while corner-flagging. This was a task seldom seen by any Number 8 athlete in any school. May he rest in peace.

A rugby friend


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