[APPRECIATIONS - (10-09-2018)] | Daily News

[APPRECIATIONS - (10-09-2018)]

Rev. Fr. Joseph Cooray

True servant of Christ

It has been eight years since Rev. Fr. Joseph Jayantha Siri Cooray entered eternal glory to be with his maker. His death anniversary fell on August 28.

Rev. Fr. Joseph Cooray, affectionately known as Fr. Siri, was born on July 27, 1956, in Moratuwa. He was the youngest son of the family. He had two elder sisters and a younger sister.

He received his primary and secondary education at St. Sebastian's College, Moratuwa and Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa. After completing his secondary education, he entered the University of Kelaniya, to read for a Bachelor of Arts degree.

At the end of his university degree, he entered the tutorial staff of St. Peter's College, Bambalapitiya, as a Logic teacher. He won the hearts of many students as he was highly-skilled.

They still admire him for his lively and stimulating style of teaching. He also published several books in Sinhala on the same subject, and it is noteworthy that the book titled 'Logic and the Scientific Method' is the first of its kind in our country and is living testimony to Fr. Siri's service in the field of Education.

It was at St. Peter's College that he received God's calling for priesthood. In 1984, he joined St. Aloysius' Seminary, Borella and later, continued his philosophical and theological studies at St. John Mary Vianney Seminary. He was ordained in 1994.

He began his priestly ministry as the assistant of Waga Parish, later, as the assistant of St. Sebastian's Shrine in Kandana and subsequently, as the parish priest of the same.

Afterwards, he shepherded the flock of St. John's Parish, Mutwal, for two years and they still remember his service with gratitude.

While he was actively involved in pastoral work, he successfully completed his MA in Social Science, at the University of Kelaniya.

In 2002, Rev. Father Siri joined the tutorial staff of St. Peter's College, where he rendered a vibrant service in different capacities. Having recognised his potential, the church hierarchy appointed him the Principal of the St. Peter's College branch in Udugampola, Gampaha.

During his tenure as principal, he rendered a yeoman service to the branch. Being a farsighted person, he bought a five-acre land with the objective of transforming it into a school playground. He meticulously carried out this task till his death.

Rev. Father Siri was a priest with a rare personality. He was also a strict disciplinarian. His compassion to students was mixed with a tinge of humour. Many of his colleagues have fond memories of him.

Viewed from a Christian perspective, he was a true servant of Christ with an empathetic heart. His natural knack for getting along with people made him go out of his way.

Thank you, drear Rev. Fr. Siri, for all that you had done for us without expecting anything in return.

May your soul rest in peace.

Prabath Perera


Sampath Agalawatta

Unique friend

Death is certain. We come with nothing into this world, and we will go with nothing but our impact on those we encountered during our lifetime.

Our friend, our teammate and colleague Sampath Agalawatte, passed away on August 29, this year. His funeral, in accordance with his wishes, was held within 24 hours of his passing. The irony of it all for me, was that I could not be there to bid farewell to one of my closest friends, as I was stuck in the Kumana National Park.

Life seems so cruel for him to be taken away from us so young, just ten days before his 53rd birthday. But whatever religion we believe in, there is a larger plan in the works for all of us, and it is left to those left behind to accept this reality and keep forging on. Yes, we knew the end was on the horizon once Agale’s diagnoses of Cerebral Autosomal Dominant Arteriopathy with Subcortical Infarcts and Leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL) and cancer were confirmed, but it still makes one feel desolate about losing a loved one and close friend. Agale was that to many people.

Agale was a unique friend. He was quiet and reserved with many, but vivacious and hilarious when with close friends. He would not let them down and was ethical in dealing with the world, which was a refreshing quality. In most instances, my experiences with him have been either black or white; no sitting on the proverbial fence. He was an old fashioned thinker on a personal level and at work, but you knew exactly where he stood on issues. These rare qualities made working with him easy and straightforward, especially in the context of today’s corporate setting.

He was always happy-go-lucky with his friends and if he was in a drinking mood (more like a gulping mood), watch out; he danced, sang, shouted, pinched and screamed his lungs out in song during these times. He loved the Royal-Thomian Cricket match and during the last 5-10 years, if a Royalist scored a century, he would ingeniously find a way to avoid the stewards, prefects and security, in making a beeline to the middle of the pitch to congratulate the player. The sheer joy he demonstrated in jinxing and sidestepping away from the stewards on his way to the pitch, was his way of saying, “Hey, I can still sidestep like I did during my playing days.”

His love for his school and rugby was demonstrated when he joined our legendary Coach, Summa Navaratnam, to help coach our juniors (10 years and below) on most Friday afternoons and Sunday mornings. This was his dedication to his alma mater and the sport he loved the most. Agale was the Donhorst Prize Winner in 1984. He was fond of my parents and used to visit our home quite often during our rugby-playing days. On a day soon after he had achieved this accolade, he came by home and my dad was in our living room in a meeting with the then presiding Bishop of Colombo, Bishop Swithin Fernando.

My dad announced to the Bishop that Sampath was the winner of the Donhorst Prize at Royal, the most coveted prize at College previously won by another distinguished Royal alumni, the legendary Bishop Lakshman Wickremasinghe, Bishop of the Kurunegala Diocese. Before Bishop Swithin could even respond, Agale took off like a jack rabbit saying, “No, no, it’s not me.” He was too embarrassed and modest to admit that he was the winner.

Our 1984 Bangkok, Thailand, rugby team trip was a hilarious time for all of us. A time of growing up; a time when boys became men. Most of us were flying for the first time, so getting on the flight was an experience in itself. Agale, you will be missed, but not lost in our minds, you will be remembered as our friend, captain, work colleague and amba yahaluwa. We will never forget you!!

A wise man told me about 19 years ago; "Don’t have regrets in life, but think of them as learning experiences, while looking forward to the future and not the past. Live the future like tomorrow is your last day."

Wise words indeed. So, my team mates and friends, I hope you do the same. It is never too late. To Dilhani, Samali, Samal and Sahan; God’s blessings. We will not go away and are only a phone call away. Stay strong, there is always a reason why God chose your loved one. He is in a better place.

May you attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana, my friend. Rest in peace. You were a beacon of light to a lot of us. You keep looking out for us and we will do our best to live, love, enjoy and share.

Jehan Retna


Sunil C.S. Perera

A brilliant man

During most mornings, I would look at the slow-dancing river and marvel at the beauty of it. The pelicans would be wading through the waters, looking for fish, while the dugout canoes would be returning with weary fishermen dipping their paddles against the opposing currents.

Then I would see my friend Sunil C.S. Perera (Sunil Bada), sitting under the shade of a tree on the riverbank; a laptop settled on a wooden stool, working on something or nothing. That is how people of our vintage occupied our time.

He used to live close by; close enough for me to see his multi-coloured bougainvillea in bloom, as well as to hear his dogs bark. He was always a dog lover and had five of them; two dachshunds and three mixed-breeds.

Sunil Bada was my closest friend for more than 55 years. As children, we fished in the Lunawa Lagoon, played barefoot basketball and enjoyed eating ten-cent buns from the school bakery. Later, he entered university, while I flew aeroplanes.

'Buddy', as he was fondly known, was the most brilliant man I ever met in my life. At times, like most of us, he did have more folly than wisdom; but, in the over-all tally, he was exceptionally clever.

Professionally, he rose to the pinnacle, yet emotionally, he missed all the buses and ended up a bachelor. Sunil Bada had the temper of a tempest, but deep inside, he was a kind man. He worked on so many projects at Candle Aid (a humanitarian organisation), ran a cancer-assistance programme for the poor, and project-managed building houses for those dwelling in shanties as well as those who lost their houses in the 2004 Tsunami. He did have his silver linings which were never trumpeted.

Sunil Bada suffered a brief illness and breathed his last a few days ago. We all gathered, his siblings, his relatives and his friends, to give him a fitting farewell.

Most mornings, I look at the river as it does its slow dance in front of me. The pelicans are there, like sail-less galleons swimming about. The fishermen too, are crawling on their dugout canoes. An occasional fish leaps out of the water and marks his presence. I see them all, but there is no Sunil Bada sitting under the shade of a riverbank tree.

That somehow makes it lonesome for me.

Capt. Elmo Jayawardena


Niranjan Nagendra

Talented individual

We were overcome with grief with the sudden passing of my dear nephew Niranjan, son of my brother Sri.

Death is inevitable; it comes to all; but when it comes to one who is close to you, it is indeed sad. Niranjan was educated at Royal College, Colombo and after working for a few years in the Mercantile Sector, proceeded to the U.K. to do his Chartered Insurance Institute examinations. He was an Associate of the Chartered Insurance Institutes in UK and Switzerland. Niranjan was also the Fair First Insurance Sales and Marketting General Manager. He was a Chartered Insurer and an Alumni of the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland as well.

Niranjan was attached to Union Assurance in a similar capacity and also worked at Eagle Insurance PLC, where he served as General Manager/Head of Non-Life Distribution. Niranjan accounts for over 23 years of local and overseas exposure in Business Development and Marketting, in life and general Insurance.

He was qualified in underwriting the Property, Engineering, Miscellaneous and Motor classes of Insurance. A talented individual endowed with rare personal qualities, Niranjan made a tremendous contribution in every human activity he undertook. A fine conversationalist with a flair for public relations, he was a great asset to his company.

Niranjan was dedicated to his family. He was a loving husband to his wife Shivanthi and a devoted father to his only child Shevinka.

He memorably wore a warm smile. Due to his immense capacity for making friends, he had a wide circle of people close to him. Niranjan was a man who reached out to his friends, particularly in their times of distress. He was steadfast in his loyalty to them. This was evident from the very large crowd at his funeral.

His death has created a vacuum, and I have lost a dear nephew who is irreplaceable. An emptiness remains I thank God for his life. I will not say farewell because I know we will meet again.

Sega Uncle


Dr. Suppiah Shanmuganathan

He strove for greatness

An individual who lost his father at the age of two, Dr. Suppiah Senthe Shanmuganathan grew up striving for nothing but greatness. His hard work, perseverance and commitment to reach great heights opened many doors for him, including higher education and career advancement. At the end of his career, Dr. Senthe had published 55 research papers, here and abroad. Dr. Senthe completed his education in Jaffna a year ahead of his age, yet he could not enter the Colombo Medical College as he did not pass the Tamil language exam. He then decided to major in Chemistry with a minor in Mathematics. There were only seven spots available for the programme, and he won one of them, along with a full scholarship. Dr. Senthe topped his graduating class of 1950 and was a recipient of the memorial Kahn Prize.

He joined the Medical Research Institute (MRI) in 1951, a position which lead to overseas scholarships for him to pursue his PhD. This was the beginning of many scholarships for higher education, as well as experience, knowledge, presentations and travels around the world. At the University of Sheffield, UK, his research was funded by the Guinness Brewery, to find the source of the bitterness in beer.

His presentation in 1956 at the British Biochemical Meeting in Dublin, was his first to a non-Sri Lankan audience.

A year later, Dr. Senthe gave the same presentation at the University of Oxford as the first Sri Lankan to do so there. In 1958, he was offered a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Rutgers University in New Jersey, to work on yeast before returning to Sri Lanka with his PhD. In 1964, Dr. Senthe was one of two Sri Lankans to receive the Fulbright Scholarship granted by the US State Department. He was also selected to join the International Science Conferences in China, where he met Chairman Mao, as well as in India, where he met the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Dr. Senthe's MRI colleagues were of the opinion that his greatest contribution to Sri Lanka’s medical service and general public, was also one of his best pieces of research. During the early years of his career, physicians used parameters of Clinical Pathology and Clinical Biochemistry given in British textbooks as the norm in treating patients. Dr. Senthe determined that those values were not applicable for Sri Lankans and others in Asia. He coordinated a project carrying out all baseline testing using healthy subjects and hospital patients who were Sri Lankans.

The result was the establishment of a normal value and a significant range for every test. Those were the same values which are being used by physicians in Sri Lanka today. This work was published in several of his papers, as well as medical magazines. Sri Lanka is richer from this thoughtful contribution. It could be said that among many of his achievements, this was one of the greatest contributions Dr. Senthe has made to the country.

Back in Sri Lanka, at MRI, Dr. Senthe was also a part-time lecturer at the Colombo Medical College and The Institute of Chemistry. This is when he realised the need for a diploma for lab assistants who wanted to pursue a career in Chemistry. By his initiative, the Diploma in Laboratory Technology in Chemistry (DLTC) was started at the College of Chemical Sciences.

Dr. Senthe was appointed the Director of the course and subsequently, became its coordinator. He was later appointed the President of the Institute of Chemistry Ceylon (ICHEMC), from 1972 to 1973. He received an Honourary Fellowship at the Institute of Chemistry in 2015, at the 44th Annual Sessions of the Institute. The ICHEMC bestowed upon him the Yeoman Service Award in February, this year, in appreciation of his contributions.

Dr. Senthe retired from MRI in 1986 as the Biochemistry Department Director. He then moved to Toronto, Canada, in 1987, to be with his three children and four grandchildren. There, he worked at Nucro-Technics Pharmaceutical Research and Development. Not everyone is able to work in their field in a foreign country at the age of 65. His expertise was recognised by the Canadian Government, which sent him to China three times, to solve scientific problems.

As an individual who recognised the benefits of financial assistance, as well as the importance of education, Dr. Senthe wanted to give back to the Institute of Chemistry where he served for a long time. He believed that education was the passport to a better life and a brighter future. He created a bursary at the Institute of Chemistry, and had encouraged and given the opportunity to many students to pursue their education without any hindrance. Dr. Senthe Shanmuganathan, an active individual until his last day, passed away at his home on August 20. His joyous and accomplished life was celebrated on August 22, in Toronto, Canada, with his family and friends.

Appa/Thathi brought joy and fulfilment to many. His legacy will live on forever.

We loved him dearly, then and now.

Dr. Senthelal Senthe, Dr. Nileshwa Senthe and Namita Kanishkan


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