Appreciations | Sunday Observer


Dr. A.J.M.J.B.Walalawela: Retired Director, Quarantine Services, Ministry of Health

A modest man of ethical principles focussed on simple living

“Nirvana is not the blowing out of the candle. It is the extinguishing of the flame because the day is come” Rabindranath Tagore

Walale as he was known to his friends was a charismatic soft spoken young medical student when we first met him at the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry & Veterinary Sciences within the University Campus at Peradeniya on January 18, 1972, the date he referred to as the ‘jour de gloire’ in his editorial for the souvenir published at the Reunion in October 2016.

On being awarded his medical degree, the young Dr Walawela was posted to the General Hospital Badulla, where he undertook his early training followed by a tenure as a medical officer at Minipe and then at Deltota in the Central Province.

Towards the end of 1983 he travelled to the Sultanate of Oman for a brief spell as a general practitioner returning to Sri Lanka betrothed to Nilani Ratnayake, a school teacher whom he married on September 19, 1985.

Attracted to the speciality of medical administration he took up the position of Deputy Director at the University Hospital, Peradeniya serving the people of Kandy, his place of birth.

He took special responsibility for the education of those professions allied to medicine, especially, nursing. He was then promoted as the Regional Director, Medical Services, Monaragela District. He was a skillful and fair but a firm administrator with an affable personality whose admirable qualities held him in good stead to uphold the ethos contained within the national policy of providing a free medical service to the people of Sri Lanka.

He was subsequently appointed as the Director of National Quarantine Services taking charge of preventive health with main focus on the ports of entry playing a vital role at the peak of the Avian A HIN1 flu epidemic.

He represented Sri Lanka at the ASEAN conference held in Manilla in 2009; chairing some of the plenaries addressing the challenges posed by the Avian flu epidemic in the South East Asian region.

Walale retired from the National Health service in 2010 at the age of 60. Being a workaholic he was unable to decline an offer as company medical director for a private sector establishment, the Ihala Kothmale Plant, based in Talawakalle. Failing health at this stage meant he was unable to continue, and returned to Kandy to spend his remaining days at Katugastota in his family home with his wife and children.

Jayananda Bandara Walalawela was born on November 9, 1950 in Kandy to the late Mr and Mrs Jayasekera.

He was one of six children. His father, Jayasekera, a direct descendant of Dingirirala, dwelling in the village of Walalawela in the Hangurangetha district rebelled along with Puran Appu and Gongale Godabanda fighting foreign dominance by the British Raj in the mid eighteenth century

He received his primary education at Vidyartha College, Kandy, and St Sylvester’s College, and entered the University of Ceylon in 1972 opting to read medicine at the historic and scenic Paradeniya campus.

A modest man of ethical principles focussed on simple living he defied many of his contemporaries during the 1983 civil unrest and the ensuing turmoil often referred to as the black July, treating the victims of violence with compassion no matter which ethnic background they belonged to! — something his son Niluksha recalls with pride.

An avid reader, a linguist with an aptitude for Sinhala, English and French, Walale was a great admirer and follower of the late Prof Ediriweera Sarathchandra, the renowned playwright and dramatist. He was a caring father and a loving husband.

Daughter Chamalka reminisces how Walale discouraged them from sitting the Year 5 Scholarship exams for he believed that children should learn but not be compelled to compete at this young age; a view shared by many contemporary western educationalists promoting equality.

Walale actively contributed to the OBA functions. He had an interest in Tennis, Rugby and Cricket volunteering as a sports medical officer to various organisations. He accompanied the SAARC team to India in the early nineties as its medical officer. He wrote to newspapers in his spare time and also organised several blood donation camps.

He brought his batch mates together to Kandy in October 2016 to celebrate a reunion 40 years since graduation, a remarkable feat given that this batch is now scattered all around the globe.

Many of his friends will recall the trouble he took to attend the event with Nilani despite his poor health for he wanted to be among us celebrating the big day. Little did we realise that it was going to be our last meeting in person!

A nominal Buddhist but with an altruistic attitude towards humanity, Dr Walalawela’s legacy could be described in the words of Martin Luther King Jr who once said:

“The quality, not the longevity, of ones’ life is what is important”

May his soul rest in peace.

Dr Jayananda Bandara Walalawela was called to rest on Dec 25 2017 and is survived by his son Niluksha, daughter Chamalka and wife Nilani

Dr.Chandra Abrew,
Dr.Gamini Jayasekera,
Dr.Nanda Wahalawatte and Dr.Sathi Ariyanayagam

Dr. Elmo T. Samuel : Orthopaedic Surgeon

An ardent bird watcher

Elmo, known to his many friends as ‘Chum’, was born on January 8, 1940 in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. He grew up in Colombo and attended St. Benedict's College. He graduated from Ceylon Medical School as a physician in 1966 and emigrated to the United States in 1972 to continue his specialization in orthopaedics. After completing his residency in Coney Island, NY in 1976, he and Vajantha moved to Toms River, NJ when he joined Ocean Orthopaedics.

Elmo loved being an orthopaedic surgeon and cared deeply for his patients and their well-being. Until his recent illness, he had never taken a sick day. Outside of his work, Elmo had two passions - golf and nurturing deep relationships with family and friends. Elmo and Vajantha's house was the first home for many friends and family members when they moved to the United States.

A glass of red wine and a wonderful meal was always available. It gave Elmo great joy to watch the birds and boats on the Toms River from his home.

He would happily greet his fellow golfers at the 7th green to offer them cold beers and cigars.

Elmo passed away on Tuesday, January 30, 2018 at his home. He is survived by his beloved wife of almost 44 years, Vajantha, their two daughters Jennifer and Michelle, and his son-in-law, Nathan Mertins.

He is also survived by his brothers and sisters Betty, Joe, Renee, Eric, Dawn, Olga, Frank and Nita and by many loving cousins, nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents, Solomon and Mercy, and his brother, Oscar.

Visitation took place on Sunday February 4, 2018 from 1-5pm at the Anderson & Campbell Funeral Home, on Monday, February 5, at 10:30am, a funeral service took place at Christ Episcopal Church.

Renee Joganathan