Anthony Morais: Versatile journalist

It has been one year since the sudden demise of the famous artist and Tamil cinema journalist, my dear friend Anthony Augustin Morais. Born on September 13, 1941, he passed away peacefully on August 26, 2019, at the age of 79. I still remember the last conversation I had with him before I got the shocking news of his death, early in the morning on the 26th.

Augustin Morais served as a lead artist and composer of the Cinema Page in the leading Tamil newspaper Virakesari, in its weekly edition for 40 years, from 1970.

Anthony’s father, Charles Morais, was originally from the South-Indian port city of Tuticorin and migrated to Sri Lanka to set up a lucrative import/export business here. He had two sons: Lenin and Anthony Morais. While Anthony entered the art and journalism field, his brother Lenin entered the Sinhala Cinema field and produced and directed almost 185 films such as ‘Hatharadenama Suraya’, ‘Edath Suraya, Adath Suraya’, ‘Surangay Suraya’, and ‘Bicycle Hora’, starring Vijay Kumaratunga, Malani Fonseka, Tony Ranasinghe, and so on. Lenin was also an expert cameraman.

Anthony Morais was educated at St. Anthony’s College, Wattala. From his early days, he was very interested in art. After he grew up, his father, having observed his passion for arts, sent him to Chennai and Tamil Nadu in India to learn Arts at the School of Fine Arts there. After studying the finer points of art diligently, Morais returned to Sri Lanka with his diploma. Although his father wanted Morais to enter the business field, he was not inclined to it and chose the arts field instead. Anthony became a full-time artist, drawing pictures for various Tamil journals, novels, short stories, and banners. It was sometime in 1970 that the lead actor in the Tamil film “Manjal Kunkumam” Sri Shankar introduced Morais to the then news editor of the Virakesari, David Rajan.

Morais eventually went on to become the lead artist of the newspaper, as well as its other allied publications such as Mithran and Metro. The turning point in life came after he was assigned to compose and edit the cinema section in the Virakesari Weekly (published on Sundays) and started the ‘Question and Answer’ column under the nom de plume ‘Mona Lisa’, which was his daughter’s name.

About 25 years ago, he invited me to write cinema articles for his column and we jointly wrote numerous articles about South-Indian cinema. He was my mentor who shaped and moulded me into a cinema journalist. It was through his guidance and advice that I wrote a large number of articles for the Virakesari and its associated weekly journal Mithran for almost 25 years, which earned me a large number of admirers from all over the island.

During my long association with him, we talked to each other almost daily and met frequently to exchange views on cinema matters and discuss the questions and answers from his column. Morais’ answers were very often hilarious and thought-provoking. His drawings of female artists were alluring and were widely appreciated by the younger generation. If one met Morais, he or she would wonder how such an imperturbable person would have drawn such sensual pictures.

We used to exchange books and journals and discuss about them later. He has left a large number of books with me which I cherish very much. About three years ago, he visited Rome and the Vatican and told me he was awe stricken by the murals on the ceilings of cathedrals drawn by Michelangelo.

In 2007, Morais received the ‘Best Cover Page Artist’ award from the then Education Minister Dr. Badudin Mohamed. In 2017, when he went to Australia on vacation after his retirement, he was interviewed by S. Sundaradas, and his article was published in the Australian Tamil journal Thamil Osai. Morais was also a close friend of the veteran Tamil actor Thiagarajan, and his actor son Prashanth of ‘Jeans’ fame.

Morais has three children. Because of his love for art, he named his eldest son as Picasso, his daughter as Mona Lisa, and his youngest son as Charles, after his late father. The name Mona Lisa stuck to Morais’ name right throughout his life. He also leaves behind his wife Madonna, who was a tower of strength throughout his life.

Anthony treasured his family the most and was very sad that both his father and brother Lenin passed away prematurely at the age of 47 and 43, respectively. He used to say that had they lived longer, his life would have been fuller and much more enriched. Perhaps, now that he has joined them, his soul may be gratified.

Morais was nothing less than a brother to me, and if such a thing as life after death exists, I would wish to be reborn as Morais’ brother. He was a genial man; calm, composed, and unruffled. Anthony is missed dearly by his loved ones. May his soul rest in peace.



Thomas Savundranayagam: Ever kind and gentle

My younger brother Thomas Stanislaus Savundranayagam passed away suddenly in London, U.K., on July 3, this year, leaving his family and friends in a state of shock. His demise leaves a void that cannot be filled as he was a very loving person, always full of warmth and cheer.

Born on September 30, 1939, to Aseervatham and Annammah Thomas of Mathagal, Sri Lanka, he leaves behind his son Anton, daughter Romoline, son-in-law Dushan, grandson Daniel, brothers Benedict and Antony, brothers-in-law Philip and Eugene, as well as sisters-in-law Pushpa, Marie, Darling, and Bingho. Thomas' wife, Christine James, predeceased him a long time ago.

Thomas, or 'Savundram', as he was popularly known among friends and relatives, moved to Colombo after completing his primary and secondary education at St. Joseph’s School, Mathagal and St. Henry’s College, Ilavalai. He was a brilliant student during his schooling career, grabbing all the prizes that were offered by the school.

After a short stint at the National Milk Board, Thomas first worked for Ford Rhodes and Thornton, and then for Someswaran and Jayewickrema, both firms of Chartered Accountants. After retirement, he was a devoted parishioner of St. Lawrence’s Catholic Church, Wellawatte, and was also a member of the cash-counting team of volunteers. He later emigrated to U.K. to join his children in London.

A very sober and gentle person, Savundram remained a teetotaler and non-smoker all his life. A spirit of service to others was an emblem of his life. Cricket was his life-long passion and all the past test scores and records were always etched into his mind; Thomas was blessed with a prodigious memory.

This is a huge loss to me, but I can take comfort in the fact that he had a peaceful death and is now in the safe arms of Jesus.

Benedict Thomas


A.D. Benjamin: Devoted father

September 12 marks the 116th birth anniversary of my dear father A.D. Benjamin of Wadduwa. Our loving father left us on March 10, 1987, after living a wonderful life on this earth for 83 years. He was happily married for 52 years at the time of his demise. He loved his wife, three sons, and two daughters. My father never bore any displeasure, ill feelings, or harsh words towards anyone. He was always in a happy mood, with a kind smile and pleasing words.

He was very conscious of his familial and social obligations. He was kind and affable. All his five children are well-educated and have held responsible government posts. He has nine grandchildren. Four medical doctors, three engineers, one graduate teacher, and an army officer. My father spent a happy and peaceful wedded life with my mother, and they both loved and cared for each other. His guidance and advice to his family members were remarkable. He was full of energy and was always positive and enthusiastic. My father was respected by everybody, and he always retained his humility.

My father was a great role model. He condemned falsehood and believed in standing up for what is right, even if it meant standing alone. That is why he told that he was always independent. I also must mention that my father was such a huge influence in my life. He taught me so much about life. He always asked us, his children, not to compare anything to another: "Do not go for comparison, never refuse a kind offer, always do good and avoid evil."

My father asked us to safeguard mind against evils such as hatred, anger, avarice, and jealousy. He told us to lead kind and courteous lives. My father understood the power of knowledge; he gathered knowledge from many sources and always believed in a strong mind and strong body. I always had the utmost respect for my father. He was a rock to me. I always wish to say that my biggest inspiration is my parents, for they were always the wind beneath my wings.

My father was a devout Buddhist, and was also the treasurer at Wadduwa Sri Lankaramaya Dayaka Sabha. May he attain the Supermen Bless of Nibbana.

A.D.T. Maithripala (JP)


DR. USHA PERERA: Excellent in her work

I first met Usha as a postgraduate student in the MSc Community Medicine class. Since then, I have seen her progressing step by step to become a Board-certified Consultant in Community Medicine, and serve the Ministry of Health as a Consultant Community Physician with distinction.

She joined the Management Development and Planning Unit of the Ministry of Health for her postgraduate training attachment as a Registrar in Community Medicine. She worked under me in the Directorate of Organisation Development. Her contribution was very valuable as this unit was responsible for some important work contributing to health development in the country.

Her contribution was so valuable to function as the Secretariat for the National Health Development Network, which included the National Health Council Chaired by the Prime Minister, National Health Development Committee Chaired by the Secretary Health, and the Health Development Committee chaired by the DGHS.

Usha’s language and literary skills were immensely useful for the development of various manuals and documentation of proceedings and minutes of various committees. She was very helpful in coordinating the work of different committees, documenting, and follow-up. She also served as the MC in many workshops, seminars, and conferences, showing her talents.

She carried feature articles in national newspapers on these initiatives, including the World Bank’s 2nd Health Sector Development Project, Strengthening Health Systems, and Annual Health Forum. Usha played an important role in the 1st Health Master Plan Development Project (MPDU) supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). She was a useful link between the national team and the JICA Team, and facilitated and contributed to this important landmark activity.

When the 2004 tsunami hit Sri Lanka, the ministry did not have a unit to coordinate the work. A temporary unit was established in the ministry and Usha played an important role, and contributed to many health care interventions for the tsunami.

A disaster preparedness unit was established in the ministry and she served as a medical officer of this unit. This unit played a very important role for the Rehabilitation of the Displaced people from humanitarian operation at the end of the civil war, and the other disaster situations that followed.

After retirement in 2010, I had the opportunity of working with Usha again when she selected the World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Office as part of her overseas training. As a National Consultant in the WHO Country Office, I supervised Usha. She contributed to the WHO work and was very popular with the staff.

She continued to serve the MDPU of the Ministry of Health and fell ill while at the Health Development Committee Meeting and was rushed to the hospital. Usha worked with such determination and great sincerity in the service of the health sector and beyond.

On behalf of the entire team at the MDPU, I would like to express our sincere admiration for the amazing efforts put by Usha in the workplace. We appreciate everything that she has done over the past several years since she joined health services.

The endless hours that she has spent working there, and the professionalism that she has shown motivated the entire team immensely. We pride in your hard work and dedication to making every critical project a great success. Thank you, Usha, once again, for all your contributions. May her soul rest in peace.

Dr. Sarath Samarage


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