TRIBUTES | Sunday Observer


Vijaya Dahanayake: A gentleman politician

Vijaya, as we all knew him in school, was born with a poor eyesight but never showed any hesitation in meeting, chatting or behaving like one with such a disability. Probably, he never in his wildest dreams thought of being a politician.

Perhaps, his close association with his uncle, W. Dahanayake, one time Prime Minister, and being his private secretary and the influence he had on him made him embrace politics in the local region, not seeking parliamentary positions.

Often I used to meet him in his residence whenever I visited Galle and as the Mayor when he used to travel overseas with his wife, at the Colombo Airport.

He always had a vision to improve Galle. If he enjoyed his family life probably the closeness he was to his father, mother and the two brothers Saranaguptha and Prakrana certainly had some influence on the methods and the caring ways inculcated in him over the years.

His father and mother were excellent examples of parents. I remember, while in school whenever we visited Vijaya and his cousin Ranjith (who later was my Police colleague) Vijaya’s mother always ensured we had a biscuit and a cup of tea. Vijaya certainly lived up to their expectations, maintaining principles with a great sense of compassion, love and care, tempered with a high degrees of honesty and integrity, and never forgot his friends when they were in dire need. For him, his family and outsiders who were in need were equal.

Vijaya was no exception, in that, he acquired his parents’ characters and habits. Life is full of decisions, some minor and some life changing, but tragically many people are the victims of their own decisions, faced with choices every day, and decide on what is wrong which results in bad consequences. But Vijaya, in his own inimitable style did think wisely, discussed with others, and made decisions.

Probably, that is why he decided to end his political career as the Mayor of Galle and not seek parliamentary elections.

He, his wife and brothers were always content and happy, and believed in the saying, “Happiness is the byproduct of something greater, not an end to itself”. Happiness cannot be pursued and caught any more than one can pursue.

He believed, anger must be overcome with gentleness, evil with goodness, a miser with generosity and the liar with truth. Vijaya was an avid reader while in school but never gave up general knowledge, listening to world views or seeking the assistance of others to read to him history and world news from books, magazines, journals and newspapers, due to his poor eyesight.

He was certainly up to date with current events in the world and in Sri Lanka. It was certainly enjoyable speaking to him as he spoke fluent English on various topics. No doubt the training he received was from his father who possessed a wealth of knowledge.

The late K. Dahanayake was his mentor. Vijaya was a gentleman politician who never cared about amassing wealth.

A gentleman, always content with what he had, and never complained about inadequacies. But he had a wealth of knowledge and was affectionate and sincere to his friends and family.

“To us as schoolmates and friends, Vijaya is in our thoughts until we leave this world”.

Nihal De Alwis.

Dr. S.K. Alwis: A much loved and hallowed gentleman

A few weeks ago, the Colombo Medical Faculty lost an iconic figure with the passing away of one of its much loved and hallowed gentlemen, ‘Siri’ as he was called by his family, and ‘SK’ as he was known to his friends. Having served his patients in Sri Lanka after graduation, he proceeded to Ohio, Cincinnati, where he qualified as a Consultant Psychiatrist and practised in that State until his retirement.

Following a brave and prolonged battle against an invincible enemy, a chronic and progressive illness, he finally succumbed to it, freeing himself from the intense and relentless suffering he endured for so long.

SK, was soft spoken and a man of few words, always preferring to listen than to speak. His slow, measured walk and genial smile was evidence of his rare quality of equanimity, being relaxed and unruffled in the face of challenges and adversaries. Never have we seen him in anger in the long years of our association. He was always dependable and would readily walk that extra mile to help anyone in distress, be it a friend or a mere acquaintance.

It is most sorrowful and heart breaking for our Medical Faculty alumni of 1961 to accept the news of the demise of our hallowed batchmate who has contributed more than his due share for his patients’ well being and support for his countless number of friends, especially, when the chips were down. Dearest SK, in this, my Last Post and final salute to you I bare my deep-felt sentiments. “As the rays of the sun fade away and fail to shine again next morn we will always remember you and rejoice in the endless happy memories and endearing company shared across six long decades and more. In our long journey in Samsara we look forward to that delightful day we meet once more.

As the strains of our gun salute echoes to a close, your colleagues join me, chanting in unison, “Dearest SK, Obata Nivan Sepa Labeva!”

Dr. Basil Goonewardene


 Lakshmi Kumari Lenawa : A devoted Buddhist

Lakshmi Kumari Lenawa passed away in July this year having spent three scores and seven years of fruitful life. A scion of the famous Maurian family clan who brought a right branch of the Sri Maha Bodhiya during the reign of Devanampiyatissa in Anuradhapura, this clan consisted of eight princes, uncles of Maha Therani Sanghamitta and Maha Thera Mahinda (Bodhi Vansa). The royal visitors were received by our King and appointed to various high posts in his domain.

Totagamuwa Sri Rahula Maha Thera, Sangaraja of Kotte gives details in his Kavya Sekara. They were entrusted to set up human settlements in various parts, and two of them were appointed to Bodi Bodigupta to be in charge of the rites and rituals connected to Bodi – Sumana to be the custodian of the Bodi and in addition they were appointed Maha Lena (Bodhiwansa). These posts were akin to the Secretary to the Treasury and Secretary to Public Administration in today’s parlance. Lakshmi was a descendant from this clan. Maha Thera Mahinda of the Kilin Kasda Lenawa clan (Suluwansa) brought the tooth relic from Jetavana Maha Vihara which was in the custody of Maha Thera Jayasena, his pupil. This tooth relic is enshrined in the Somawathie Chaitya from about 170 BC.

Lakshmi Lenawa was an English trained teacher attached to the staff of St. Sylvester’s College, Kandy. She was a devoted Buddhist and visited Buddha Gaya and Lumbini in Nepal where she observed sil. She maintained a ‘Pinpotha’ with a record of her religious activities and donations made to charities. She was my devoted wife and life partner for 55 years, following the rituals of a Buddhist wife as preached by the Buddha. She practised the five virtues except Vadaka and Chaura Bharya. My nostalgic memories go back to the insurgency period and the mental agony she underwent. She displayed her sterling quality of Mathu-Bhariya to look after the family when our family was under death threats during the insurgency period, and two of our sons were undergraduates at the Peradeniya University. I was away from the area for security reasons. The two were identified by the University activist for total annihilation. The universities all over the country were closed for six long years.

She accompanied me to all places of Buddhist worship. We went to Japan to participate in a ceremony to inaugurate the world’s fastest train service in Tokyo. During this visit we were able to see the mass devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a result of the World War. Together we participated in a Trade Fair in China, and were able to observe the ‘Commune Life’ of the Chinese. When we visited Taiwan in late 1980 it was fast developing in technology. Lakshmi was blessed with three sons and a daughter. They are professionals in their selected fields, the eldest a High Court Judge and the youngest a Senior Deputy Director in a government organization and the other two in the legal profession. She has one grandson and six granddaughters. Her only son-in-law is a Chartered Electrical Engineer in the Electricity Board and the two daughters-in-law are, Deputy Director in the EDB and a Lecturer in the English Training Institute, respectively.

Her last wish to donate her eyes to the Sri Lanka Eye Donation Society and the dead body to the Department of Anatomy of the Medical Faculty, Peradeniya was fulfilled by us amid a gathering of friends and relations. May I end this appreciation wishing Lakshmi her aspiration to stop this long sojourn in Sansara.

May she Attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana.

- S.B. Karalliyadda