TRIBUTES | Sunday Observer


TRIBUTEs K. M. Dharmarajah:

A quintessential, considerate gentleman

Around 4 pm daily, prominent Tamil newspaper editors in the city of Colombo would receive a telephone call, not only editors, but some of the senior journalists too.

The first question posed by the caller would be, ‘what is happening?’. My reply, ‘What is to happen? Everything has already happened’. The caller’s retort, ‘ When I see what happens in the country, I wonder why I should live and why is it that my life is not coming to an end’. This response is filled with pain and disappointment. Jokingly, I would console him saying ,’ Don’t be in a hurry. You are not called to heaven or hell, as the case may be, as people of your type are necessary in this world ‘. Thereafter, for about ten minutes we would talk about various matters - mostly politics.

Our conversation would end with both saying simultaneously, ‘let us wait and see what is to happen ‘. That telephone call will be no more - K. M. Dharmarajah who loved us without expecting anything in return had passed away three weeks ago at the age of 75 after a brief illness.

The news of his demise came as a bolt from from the blue.Those who were closely associated with him would have choked with grief. He was one anxiously awaiting death. Are we to satisfy ourselves saying that he has got what he was waiting for? I know well that the reason for his daily telephone conversation saying, ‘ I must die ‘ was because he could not tolerate the present sad situation in society. My associates in journalism are also aware of this situation. He had a telephone conversation every evening, not only with me but with others also based on a list prepared by him. These journalists are aware of his innermost feelings. Hailing from Karainagar, Dharmarajah was a Notary Public and a legal consultant, initially in Jaffna, and thereafter in Colombo, for several decades.

We enjoyed his profuse hospitality, in his residence at Harmers Avenue, Wellawatta Colombo. He took delight in treating his friends and journalists.When he extended an invitation for a treat, he would be told, ‘why unnecessary expenses, you take care of your health’, to which his ready response was, ‘when I see you enjoying conversation in my residence half my illness is cured.’ He did not show any interest in saving money and would say, “my wealth should be made use of for others and for the benefit of society”. Insofar as Dharmarajah was concerned, he had full satisfaction and contentment, in spreading to us the pleasure he had not enjoyed.

The friends who enjoyed the excellent treats at his residence are testimony to this. Although I do not fully accept his political thinking I have not been able to make up my mind to contest his views or to say anything to hurt him. Many of his friends have said so. He kept us completely silent by his sincere love and affection. Insofar as politics is concerned, Dharmarajah used to say with his inane smile that he was sometimes a Communist. He was a close associate and supporter of the late leader G.G. Ponnambalam, and later, his son Kumar. He was also a confidant of Kumar’s son Gajendrakumar. For the most part of his life, Dharmarajah was fiercely supporting and justifying the politics of the Ponnambalam family.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that he was a member of the Ponnambalam family. He used to tell us with a sense of pride that three generations of the Ponnambalam family were involved in politics and that after the assassination of Kumar, his son Gajan had courageously entered politics despite serious threats.

He exuded confidence that the fourth generation of the Ponnambalam family would be ready to engage in politics in the future.Whenever the birth or death anniversary of G.G. and Kumar fell Dharmarajah would go to the newspaper offices and get the articles about the late leaders published regularly.

The other personalities mentioned by Dharmarajah frequently during conversations were Hindu Board Rajaratnam and advocate S.R.Kanaganayagam. Whenever prominent Tamil leaders including G.G. Ponnamblam and Rajaratnam were defeated by voters of the North at Parliamentary elections, Dharmarajah called that society ungrateful.

He was firmly of the view that those who have no gratitude were doomed to disaster. He was frank and straightforward, did not mince his words. Dharmarajah closely associated with the Chief Minister of Northern Province, former Supreme Court judge C.V.Wigneswaran who is involved in politics at present. He said that he pleaded with Wigneswaran not to enter politics, that his fate was such he had got into an ignominous situation from which he could not be extricated.

‘This was his destny’ Dharmarajah lamented. He was fed up with politics because the struggles and sacrifices of the Tamil people for several decades did not bear fruit. There will be no more evening telephone calls. But we cannot forget Dharmarajah who is inscribed in our memories like something written on stone.When he ended the telephone conversation he used to say ‘ the good thoughts for the day comes to an end with this.’ Where can we hear those words of pleasure?When can we see a lovable considerate personality like our Dharmarajah?

Veeragathy Thanabalasingham,
Consultant Editor,Express Newspapers,
and former Chief Editor of Thinakkural Tamil Daily.


Lakshmi Karalliyadda:

Accomplished and gracious lady

Our mother passed away a year ago, having lived up to the age of seventy six. She would have completed her seventy seventh year, had she lived another two months. It was her life span “Genapu Ayusa”. She was the mother of three sons and a daughter and a grandmother of seven.

Amma was attached to the tutorial staff of St.Sylvester’s College, Kandy, where she spent almost her entire career as a teacher. She was an accomplished and gracious lady helping those who sought her assistance, and was loved by all.

Amma’s love for us, to bring us up as useful citizens in society lasted until her death. She faced the darkest periods in our history and courageously raised the four of us, two as science graduates of the Peradeniya University and the other two Attorneys-at-Law. She sacrificed her happiness in her endeavour to bring us up as useful citizens.

Those in our age would have undergone the pain and agony of these periods faced by parents and children alike, which would be reminiscent of the darkest days that we went through.

Amma, we are ever so grateful to you and will never be able to repay our debt. Going through your ‘Pinpotha’ we noted your lavish contributions to charities and places of worship not only here, but also abroad in Rajghat, Buddhagaya, Isipathana, Saranath, and Lumbini, to mention a few. Last, but not least, you donated your eyes to the Sri Lanka Eye Donation Society and your body to the Anatomy Faculty of the Peradeniya University.

Dear Amma, our gratitude to you is beyond all boundaries and we pay homage with “Maathu Padam Namami.”

May you attain the Supreme bliss of Nirvana.

Udaya, Arjuna,
Lilantha and Janaki.


Raja Peeris:

A lawyer, with high ethical values and moral standards

Rajendra Mahendra Peeris, Attorney-at-Law passed away on March 9, 2018 suddenly, causing a shock to his family and friends.

He was fondly known as “Raja” among his friends and inner circles. He hails from a respected family in Uva-Badulla/Passara (His uncle Simon Peeris – was an early era Cabinet Minister 1965-1970). Raja had his early education at St.Bede’s College, Badulla, later joined Christian College, Kotte and completed his secondary education at Wesley College, Colombo.

I met Raja as a young man at the Bank of Ceylon, Foreign Department in the late sixties, where we were colleagues and subsequently Law students at Law College.

Raja had a naturally friendly attitude towards all who encountered him and always behaved in a respectful manner, with a smile on his face. While at the Bank of Ceylon his solidarity with his colleagues and co-employees was such that he would not hesitate to address the gatherings/meetings whenever necessary. I remember, even at times of crisis, such as, trade union action by the employees he would not hesitate to express his opinions boldly.

Later, in 1978, Raja entered the legal profession as an Attorney at Law and joined the Chamber of Gamini Marapana P.C. as his first junior. When he left the Chamber, he had already become a competent counsel in criminal and labour laws.

He was retained by a leading group of companies (also the publisher of a newspaper) to handle all labour matters. Later, I had the opportunity to be with him at a few Labour Tribunals and High Court matters.

Raja conducted himself as a counsel with high ethical values and moral standards, serving the interests of his client. He was never motivated by financial gains and condemned unscrupulous legal practitioners. There were times when he was so unconcerned about the fees, that it was his senior or his colleagues who collected the fees for him.

Raja was a genuine practitioner of Buddha Dharma, including, meditations and other such Buddhist activities.

However, his versatility was his ability to write ‘short stories’ and novels. In fact, some of his novels had been published – ‘The Purple Flame’ and ‘A Farewell to an Angel’.

I used to get phone calls from Raja requesting me to read his short story published in the ‘Sunday Observer’ on certain weekends. Most of his short stories were published in the Sunday Observer as he was a regular writer to the paper.

Raja’s wife was a Pharmacist in State Service, and they were blessed with two daughters and a son.

His daughter, Janani Dissanayake completed her law studies and entered the legal profession recently, where her proud father was present for the oaths ceremony at the Supreme Court, on February 15, 2018. It was the last time I saw him before his demise.

Raja had led an exemplary life not only as a human being but also as a legal practitioner committed to genuine Buddhist thoughts. May he reach meritorious status in the journey of Sansara and attain Nibbana.

F.I. Anver ,