Dr. Milina Sumathipala: A champion of the arts | Sunday Observer

Dr. Milina Sumathipala: A champion of the arts

 The death of Dr. Milina Sumathipala at the age of 81 leaves a great void in many spheres, including the art world. Born on the 25th of May 1935 Sri Vira Kumariya Milina inherited an artistic streak from her father who was a well known sculptor. An all-round student, young Milina had great love for the theatre which was later extended to the world of movies.

Falling in love with a distant cousin U.W Sumathipala, young Milina tied the knot on the May 11, 1956, with her parents’ blessings. Under the guidance of her husband, she was introduced to film production. She produced the acclaimed movie Ahasin Polowata, the recipient of the best Third World Film Award at the 1976 Cairo International Film Festival and several other accolades. Among the other films she produced are Ganga Addara (Presidential Award Winner for Best Film, 1981), Duwata Mawaka Misa, Uthpalawanna and Pathini, all of which received rave reviews. She was also instrumental in establishing the annual Sumathi Tele Awards - a platform that recognizes artists and technicians from the television industry. She had a very cordial relationship with all TV, stage, vocal and movie artistes.

After the demise of her husband in 1978 she took over as Chairperson of the Sumathi Group and under her management the group has made a name for itself as a successful corporate entity. Dr. Milina Sumathipala was also the first woman to be elected as Chairperson of the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC).

A committed philanthropist, she has spearheaded countless welfare activities including relief for Tsunami victims, monetary and equipment donations to hospitals, donation of spectacles and wheelchairs, empowering and uplifting women through numerous programmes, awarding scholarship to underprivileged students, building homes for the less fortunate and various other social services.

Dr. Sumathipala was also the Honourary President of the Sri Lanka Neurology Trust Fund and Stanley Weraniyagala Memorial Trust Fund. Her services as a member of the Hospital Committee of the National Hospital of Colombo and of the Lady Ridgeway Hospital (LRH) for Children are immense. She was also the President of the Hospital Committee of the De Soysa Maternity Hospital for a couple of years. In recognition of her varied contributions to society she was awarded a Honourary Doctorate in 2008 and recognized as an exemplary Sri Lankan woman in celebration of the International Women’s Day 2015.

Among her religious and philanthropic services are; donation of a Ran Sivige to the Sri Dalada Maligawa; construction of a rest room for Pilgrims in Anuradhapura; donation of statues of Prince Dantha and Princes Hemamala to the Sri Dalada Maligawa; renovation of beds and wards at the LRH, Colombo; construction of Bhikku rest facilities at Gampola Vihara; donation of an MRI scanner to the National Hospital; construction of a pilgrims’ hall at Dutugemunu Rest, Kataragama. She was passionately involved in many company CSR projects as well.

She celebrated her 80th birthday in May this year at a function presided over by President Maithripala Sirisena. A book titled ‘Milina’, penned by veteran journalist Edwin Ariyadasa was presented to the President by her son Jagath Sumathipala in the presence of her other son Thilanga who is Deputy Speaker and President of Sri Lanka Cricket. Sandya, Ramani, Anoja and Shanika are her daughters. Another book titled ‘Diriya Matha’ (Courageous Mother) was also launched at the event.

Campbell Terrace in Colombo 10 was renamed Dr. Milina Sumathipala Mawatha at an event held under the auspices of Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa on the afternoon of Tuesday May 26. The road was renamed on the instructions of President Maithripala Sirisena. Ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Rajitha Senaratne and Anura Priyadarshana Yapa were among the invitees at these events.

Dr. Sumathipala leaves a rich legacy in several fields that will be hard to emulate. She was one of the most prominent and versatile businesswomen in Sri Lanka, but it was a rare combination of devotion to Buddhism, philanthropy and artistic endeavour that set her apart from many others. She also had a passion for sports, particularly billiards and snooker – in fact, she donated the headquarters building of the Billiards and Snooker Association of Sri Lanka. Hers was a life well lived and well loved. 

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