S.M. Jayaratne

A genteel artiste

Veteran comic writer and cartoonist S.M. Jayaratne passed away on January 2. His funeral was held the following day in Malabe.

I met Jayaratne first when I joined the Sunday Leader newspaper back in 1996. Since then, we worked together for about 17 years until I left the establishment in 2016.

Professionally, he was highly skilled. His creations carry a unique mark in shapes and themes. Jayaratne started his career with the comic Chitra Mitra about four decades ago and then joined Sathuta. Thereafter, he created Siththara, a comic that became very popular in the ’60s and continued to be so even until the ’90s.

Apart from creating comics, Jayaratne also drew caricatures or cartoons. His drawings of politicians, as well as political and social events, were highly admired by the public. He worked for hours on a caricature, sitting in an antique armchair at an extreme corner of the Sunday Leader Office at Ratmalana; telling in his manner an unmatched story of commitment and dedication towards his job, duty, and the art as a whole.

Jayaratne did not ridicule anyone in the office. He never ever talked about bad sides of any persons; only about the good. He talked meekly yet clearly, and never cracked jokes that harmed anyone around him. A teetotaler, his life was exemplary to everyone in the office.

His personal life was what I admired most. He had two children, a daughter and a son. His wife, a genteel woman much like him, was the strength in his life. He tried his best to educate not only his children, but also the children of others, by providing their parents with encouragement and valuable advice.

Providing education to his children was the main goal in his life. He enjoyed and rejoiced in seeing their advancement in their education and personal lives. Never had he punished his children with words or deeds, for he was a good father to them, as well as good husband to their mother.

However, life brings us many unexpected events. Most of them cannot be categorised logically or scientifically. He did not drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or engaged in any other vices; but, at the end of his life, he was suffering from a renal disease. He had to undergo dialysis twice a month. During the last days of his life, he could not undergo dialysis; his inability, in this regard, ended his life.

Jayaratne’s elder daughter is now serving at the Colombo National Hospital as a Nurse. His son is a prominent figure in the television and entertainment field. They did their best to save their loving father from the grasp of the death, but everyone has to meet their end. One’s end speaks loudly of his or her goals in life; his were being humble, supportive, and an angel to everyone he met. He succeeded in those without a stain throughout his life.

May you, my friend, attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

W.N. Fernando,


Milroy Fernando

Humble and brave

“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.”

– John C. Maxwell.

If you ever asked me to give an example for a simple yet tenacious personality, I would say it was none other than my eldest brother, late Major Milroy Fernando. Though he was small in stature, Milroy was big-hearted. My brother was a man of few words; he was one with a firm ‘yes’ and ‘can-do’ attitude. Milroy was a soft-spoken personality, always with a humble smile.

If you ask why ‘Milo Aiya’, as we all lovingly called him, important to me—how he, as a hero, made a difference in my life—I would say it was neither merely through College curricula nor through military discipline; it was because how he, and my parents, nurtured me. Our friends and neighbours on Daya Road, Wellawatte, called Milroy and me the ‘Army Boys’.

Rudyard Kipling, in his novel ‘The Jungle Book’, said, “For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”

Likewise, our strength was ‘the pack’. We were blessed to be in Wellawatte, for we were able to save many lives during the 1983 riots. And even my mother, though she was not a soldier, had such a brave heart that she, too, waded into danger to save whomever she could.

Our parents taught us to stick with the famous lines of Bob Marley’s song ‘Get Up Stand Up’: “Get up, stand up; stand up for your rights… don’t give up the fight.”

We were also made aware that the “freedom has a cost”. There are brave men who paid the price with their lives; my late brother, too, did the same to defend our nation in 1986. He lost his life to a landmine in Omanthai, Vavuniya.

On February 4, each year, people across Sri Lanka honour our fallen heroes; those who never returned home—those who gave up their lives to unify the country. And this year, in line with my brother’s 35th death anniversary, which was yesterday, let me pay the highest tribute to him, as well as to all the gallant soldiers who laid down their lives to ensure a peaceful future for our fellow Sri Lankans.

Memories don’t leave like people do

They always stay with you

Whether things are good or bad

It’s just the memories that you have

May my brother Milo and all other patriotic sons of this Motherland attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana!

Sanjaya Fernando,

Wing Commander (Rtd.),

Sri Lanka Air Force

Ivan Attanayake

A true friend and hero

Ivan Attanayake was my classmate from grade 1 to AL’s at St. Peter’s Collage, Colombo 4. He was a brilliant student who passed all exams with distinctions. We both took part in sports and extracurricular activities, and even joined the St. Peter’s Cadet Corps as Cadets, and later, as Troop Sergeants.

I recall going to Diyathalawa for training, where we met late Denzil Kobbekaduwa, a Cadet from Trinity Collage, Kandy. After his AL’s at the age of 19, Attanayake left for the UK for higher studies in Electrical Engineering. There, he graduated in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the Mid-Essex Technical College.

His first appointment after graduation was with the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company in Essex, which was the first electronic and radio communications equipment-manufacturing company established by Nobel Prize winner Marconi in 1909. On completion of his studies in Electronic Engineering, Attanayake returned to Ceylon and enlisted in the regular force of the Royal Ceylon Navy as a Lieutenant in the Electrical and Electronic Engineering Branch. He also served in several warships and Naval show establishments for 23 long years.

During the height of LTTE war, he was the Naval officer who entered Jaffna after the LTTE cut off the Electricity supply to Jaffna for 7 days. He entered Jaffna with grave risk to his life, started generators in several places, and provided electricity to the poor people there. He served not only the Navy, but also in the joint operation command as the chief Electronics and Communication Engineer; he coordinated communication between all Forces.

After retirement, Attanayake studied at the University of Moratuwa and obtained the Master’s Degree in Electronic and Electrical Engineering. He was elected as a member of the Institute of Engineering in London and obtained PhD in Organic Photovoltaics at the University of Moratuva. He did it for the sole purpose of helping poor people; to provide them with solar panels. He also conducted educational programmes on personal computers and installed colour televisions in rural areas.

Attanayake was also engaged in Post-Doctoral projects at University of Moratuwa aimed at reducing the cost of solar panels. He will always be remembered as a true friend and a hero. He passed away due to a sudden illness on December 20. He leaves behind his wife Nayomi and son Suren. The funeral was held on December 22, at the Dehiwala Cemetery. May his soul rest in peace.

Dr. Lakshman Weerasena

Dr. Sarojini Perera

Humility was her forte

A year has gone by since my wonderful and charismatic wife, Dr. Sarojini Perera, left all of us and this earth forever on December 6, 2019. Yet for all that, it seems only the other day that I was able to hold her gently and ever so softly in my arms. The absolute and complete sense of unbearable loss and the agonising grief that was left behind by her untimelydemise has not abated by even a fraction of aminiscule element; not even after a very desolate and bleak one year.

Just as Richard L. Ratliff, that passionate orator and poet from Indiana, USA, so graphically described, “Time is a passing: not leaden stepping, but sprinting on winged feet. Quicksilver slipping by.”

Yet for all that, the legendary healing touch of Father Time has very definitely passed me by.In point of fact, eons may pass, things may change, but memories will always stay where they are; in the heart… For hearts never forget. Sarojini was all of what a man could ever ask for, and even hope and pray for. From the time of developing a starry-eyed romantic liaison with her as young doctors in the latter part of 1972, and from the day we tied the knot on April 26, 1975, it has been a life of perpetual love, in the form of a fulfilling commitment toeach other.

I have often asked her what she saw in me and her answer has always been “I saw the potential”. What she called ‘potential’ would never have borne fruit without her. Indeed, she was the proverbial wind beneath my wings, the breeze in my sails, and the gust that lifted me up to the lofty echelons that I would never have been able to reach without her. She raised me up to being much more than I could ever hope to be. I was forever so strong when I was on her shoulders, literally and metaphorically.

Life blessed me with her wonderful companionship for such a memorable length of time, but I do wonder in my heart of hearts, why? Oh, why did she have to go away, even after being with me for 44 years, 7 months, and 10 days? I really have no answer to that and I can only lament quietly. It only brings out the truth of the saying that the most painful tears are not the ones that fall from your eyes and cover your face, but are the ones that fall from your heart and cover your soul.

She was also a doting mother who, like all mothers, was absolutely delighted at even the smallest achievement of our daughter Manisha. But then, Sarojini was also an outright magician as a mother. Nothing ever ruffled her. Our daughter would be witness to the fact that her mother would be quite adept at turning pain into hope, hardships into lessons, calamities to optimism, and even tears into laughter. Manisha would confide in her mother, rather than in her father, 99 percent of the time. The very special rapport and the bond the two of them had was quite remarkable.

Sarojini’s staunch loyalty to her family, and her total dedication to all of us, was absolutely fabulous. Oh yes, it would really surprise many that there was a kind of hidden rugged strength beneath that soft and tender placid exterior. That fantastic asset was carefully veiled in reams of the softest silk of gentleness; a very rare and exceptional blend. In fact, she was much stronger mentally than me. Whenever gloomy thoughts and setbacks tried to get her down, she just blew them away with a dazzling smile; just one of those smiles that she was forever renowned for. However, she would not hesitate to express her opinion on compelling issues and very often, her enlightened views were bang on target.

The lady was eternally comfortable with life because she firmly believed that to be happy it was essential to find strength in forgiveness, hope in disagreements, security in fear, and even love in discordance. People used to say, and still continue to say, that no one could fight with her because you need two to fight, and she never ever would fight back. She was just not made that way. Despite her fame and popularity, for her ways were so very alluring and attractive to all around, the lady never felt the need for the parading of flashy and pretentious charades.

Humility was her much revered forte. She preferred to be the type of person who would fit in with any type of crowd and she always managed to do it with finesse, elegance, and style. It is said that a living is made in this world by what one gets. My wife was very happy with what she got in life, even me for that matter. In addition, she also made her life sublime and inspirational by what she gave to others. She generally worked for a cause and not for the applause; her life was lived to express but not to impress. She never strove to make her presence felt but now that she is gone, her absence is felt ever so strongly and perpetually. We, her immediate family, together with her numerous friends and admirers, have felt that just to even talk or write about her in the past tense is in itself deeply distressing to all of us.

Sarojini was beautiful for the way she thought. She was beautiful for the sparkle in her eyes. She was beautiful for the way she smiled, and she was beautiful for her inherent ability to make other people smile too. Oh no, she wasn’t beautiful for something as transitory and brittle as her really good looks, which of course she had in plenty. She was so very beautiful for the fact that she really was a serenelygorgeous person deep down, right down to her beautiful soul; the poignant charm of her innermost loveliness.

The sublime qualities that were an integral part of her nature, nurtured in her formative years by her fantastic family at Bandarawela, and the magnificent traits like compassion that she acquired as a result of her medical training, depicted her as an outstanding example of anexquisite and caring human being. She was a sunflower to all and sundry. She managed to remain as a blossoming lotus even in a sea of raging flames. Indeed, my soulmate was somebody very special and unique. They have thrown away the mould in which she was made. However, the fragrance of her memory would live on forever.

As a doctor, she was loved by her patients and her colleagues. In fact, the words of two of my younger lady colleagues immediately after the demise of my wife epitomise their appreciation of her qualities. One referred to her as “one of the loveliest people that I knew” and the other referred to her as “the lovable English rose”; metaphors that describedmy Sarojini perfectly. During this year after her demise, the Sri Lanka College of Sexual Health and HIV Medicine, in which Sarojini was a Founder Member, Assistant Secretaryfrom1995 to 1997, and then the Honorary Treasurer in 2000/2001, has inaugurated an annual award in her memory for the Best Scientific Poster Presentation at their Annual Congress. The inaugural award was to be presented during their Silver Jubilee Celebration Banquet on October 24, 2020, but was postponed due to the calamity of COVID-19.

In addition, the AIDS Foundation of Lanka, in which she worked as the Director of Research and Programmes after her retirement from the National Health Service, has initiated a monthly scholarship in her name for a needy child afflicted or affected by HIV/AIDS. We, the members of her family, are truly grateful to these two august institutions for those most magnanimous of gestures which would perpetuate her memory forever, without any boundaries of time.

It was Christian Dior, the celebrated French fashion designer, who once said, “After women, flowers are the most divine of creations”. My lady loved flowers and that perhaps made her to be a creation doubly divine. She may have been taken away from us physically, but her sweet-scented presence lives on and tenderly lingers on around us, every single day.

In our own way, we, of her family, have tried ever so hard to portray our eternal love for her, in a gesture of zealous admiration and affection, in the epitaph that we engraved on her tombstone. It goes as:

Forever in our hearts

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,

Love leaves memories that no one can steal.

You held our hands for quite a while,

With much devotion, in your unique beautiful style.

A super lady gentle to all on her call,

Your radiant smile will be treasured by one and all.

In the words of the religion that we believe in, all human beings are made in the image of God the Almighty. This precious and exquisite person Sarojini, whose body went into extinction when she left this earth, most definitely had her soul taken into the Good Lord’s own kingdom in heaven. In the arms of her creator, may the eternal heavenly glow shine upon her and may she rest in everlasting peace.

Dr. B. J. C. Perera,

Specialist Consultant