TRIBUTES | Sunday Observer


K.L. Ariyananda: Dispelled darkness in many lands

Growing up in the shelter of a giant human being who harnessed nature to serve mankind, my sibling and I had the mighty Mahaweli and the best and most optimistic era of post independent development history of Sri Lanka as a backdrop to measure ourselves by. In the shelter of the shade cast by my father we grew to love this land of birth. Bowatenna, Ukuwela, Kotmale, Randenigala, Rantambe, Polgolla were our childhood playgrounds. “Damn Dams” was the hushed swearword in our home at Dehiwela, where we grew up. School vacations spent in circuit bungalows islandwide are nostalgic memories. Norton Bridge, Laxapana, Castlereigh, Maoussakele were our infant stamping grounds.

My father, was a technocrat who never misappropriated even a cent of the millions that passed through his hands. He was a loving guru to a generation of young engineers, both, at the CEB, and CECB, Katubedda University. He was a man who moved with high intellectuals but retained the common touch and had the most uninhabited sense of humor and camaraderie. He epitomized all that was good in the educational system set in place by epochal giants like, Sir Ivor Jennings and C.W.W. Kannangara.

The sobriquet “ of the Mahawelai” is a much vaunted one, but as many of his colleagues of that period will affirm this honorific appellation uniquely fits my father.

A southern gentlemen to his boot straps or rather to the sandal straps, he favoured his ancestors who hailed from the deep southern village of Kamburugamuwa mentioned in the Culavansa chronicles.

My father Kamaburgamuwae Lokuruge Ariyananda, hereafter referred to as KLA with all due respect was born in Galle on May 22, 1932. His father K.L. Paulus, Government Surveyor from Elliot Road was married to Yahathugoda Badalge Lasin Nanda from Millidduwa.

As a student of Mahinda College he excelled in studies and sports, cricket, boxing and cadetting. Having lost his father to illness at 14 years, he moved to Ananda College, Colombo for higher studies. Entering the University of Colombo to study medicine, KLA soon realized this was not his future and switched on to a BSc Hons degree in Engineering and was transferred to the new University of Peradeniya as part of the first batch of engineering students there. Passing out in 1957 as an engineer, he further qualified himself as a Charted Engineer in the Civil and Electrical field and furthermore as a diplomat of the IEE (London).

Thereafter, KLA was appointed to the Laxapana Power Station, then under the Department of Electrical Undertakings, the predecessor to the CEB. In 1961, he married my mother Kamala Indatissa from Dehiwela who had studied at the Kundasale Agriculture School and at USK in Wales, UK, under a Commonwealth Scholarship; and upon her return to Ceylon became a teacher at Buddhist Ladies College.

Soon after marriage my parents flew to UK, since KLA had received a Colombo Plan Scholarship as a graduate trainee. He received his training in Hydro Electric Machinery at North of Scotland HE Board and at Edingborough, Huddersfield and Ffestiniog in North Wales. On his return to the island, KLA was appointed as Engineer at the Wimalasurendra Power Station at Norton Bridge. My earliest memories are the lush green lawn and rose filled gardens of the Electrical Engineer’s Bungalow at Norton Bridge surrounded by the misty mountains of the Seven Sisters range. While at Norton KLA was also involved in the Kelanitissa 50 MW oil fired steam power station in Colombo.

From 1970-75 KLA was appointed Chief Engineer ( mechanical and electrical) at the Mahaweli Development Board, Jawatta, Colombo, where he was responsible for the conceptual design of a barrage across the Mahaweli river at Polgolla in Kandy. He was also involved in the supervision and installation of all equipment at the Bowatenna Diversionary project including the spillway and bulkhead gates.The preparation of a technical report for Samanalawawe 120 MW Hydro power stations and 100m high dam was another project undertaken by KLA and his colleagues at MDB, during this period.

In 1977, KLA decided to move to UK with his growing family of teenagers and baby daughter Tanju, as a senior project engineer with Kennedy and Donkin Power System of Woking, Surrey. While at K&D KLA undertook a number of projects around the world in countries as diverse as Spain, Turkey, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Malawi, etc. During this period he was seconded to Sri Lanka under a special Cabinet approval as an expatriate Engineering Consultant to work at Kotmale, Randenigala, Rantambe, Victoria and Kukule Ganga projects. The setting up of the Mahaweli Complex to coordinate and control the Mahaweli reservoirs and power stations was done by KLA as Manager of the Mahaweli Complex at Digana in Kandy.

Back in U.K during 1989-90 KLA was responsible for work undertaken in Malawi, Southern Africa, Syria, Sudan, Spain, Ethiopia and the London underground rail system and at the Enfield Power Centre .

In 1996, KLA was recalled to Sri Lanka and appointed by the then government to replace Dr A.N.S. Kulasinghe who was retiring as Chairman, CECB. KLA was responsible for making the CECB one of the few profit making government bodies. He initiated the Architect Unit at CECB where his youngest daughter Tanju a Chartered Architect qualified both in UK and Sri Lanka now works.

Later, KLA was appointed Vice Chairman and later, Chairman of the CEB. In 2002 KLA retired from the CEB and found his own company, Power Consult Ltd. to develop mini-hydro projects, the first of which was commissioned at Kumburutenlawela in Belihuloya. After a period of illness KLA passed away under the loving care of his wife and children on September 22, 2017. He leaves his wife Kamala, sons Kapila and Jagath, and daughters Tanuja and Tanju, daughters in law Sanji and Chamila, and son in law Manu and five grandchildren.

May my father attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana that he so earnestly wished for by virtue of the development work he did to dispel darkness in his land of birth, and in many other lands.



Ranjith De Silva: You will be with us in spirit as we grow

Dearest Seeya, several days have passed since you left our world to become an angel. God looked down from heaven and saw you struggling, so he closed your eyes, held your hand and brought you home. Although, it is not our place to question HIS reasons for taking you so soon, we your four grandchildren feel the emptiness your spirit has left behind. It gives us comfort to know that you no longer suffer. There is no pain in heaven. In heaven you are the picture of health and happiness, free from the burdens of this earth. This is how we will remember you, and we know you are looking down at us with your twinkling eyes and contagious smile.

Darling Seeya, we only wish we had more time with you, to listen to your wisdom, laugh, sing and dance with you. While we so desperately wanted these things, God had another plan. We must cherish the time we had together and be thankful for the memories we have made over the years. We write this letter to say ‘Thank You’ for all you have given to us, your grandchildren. Not every child is as lucky as we, to have had such an extraordinary person to call our grandfather. The lessons and qualities you have instilled in us will make us better people in this life.

We each carry a unique quality that resembles the cornerstone of your person. Kavindiya was given your love of exploration and follows in your footsteps to fight and protect those who cannot protect themselves. From early days you spoke of the “difficult times” and recounted the hardships and chaos that surrounded you and your young family. What is remarkable is your love and faith in God and goodness. Your humility and fearlessness is a lesson your granddaughter will carry with her for the rest of her life.

Vihara was given your tender heart and love, for giving back to children in need. You have always had great love for children and never thought twice about buying school books, or paying for their tuition out of your pocket. Throughout your lifetime you put the needs of others before your own, unfailingly serving in God’s path.

Your calling of philanthropy is one which is shared dearly between you and Vihara.

Kevin was given a strong work ethic. Years of dedicated service to your career and craft has made a permanent impression in the life of your grandson. He will forever remember your persevering example as you built an organic empire from the soils of the earth. One day he hopes to make you proud.

Nemaya, your youngest granddaughter was given your kindness and loyalty. She loves her family as you always have loved and protected those around you. She will always remember going to work with you and finding a row of ants on the floor. After asking you what must be done you thoughtfully told her to ‘let them be’ as we should love and protect all God’s creatures. She will always remember the lesson of kindness you have taught her.

Precious Seeya, even being oceans apart as we have been for most of our life together, you have given a piece of your heart to each grandchild.

We will always remember your beautiful voice, as you lead us in song; remember the way you loved to dance with us at Christmas parties; remember how you loved to fall asleep in the middle of our stories, only to tell us you heard the whole thing when you would wake up.

We will remember the small orange candies you would pull out from your pockets; and how you would wait until we came home from school so we could eat our lunches together.

We relish in these memories not only on the days when me miss you, but everyday going forward.

And as we close our final pen to you, we can only tell you how much we love you.

Please don’t worry we will take care of Mumma and our Ammies, they will never be alone. Please know that you are never alone, for we will always think lovingly of you.

This is not our final goodbye dear Seeya, because we have not lost our grandfather, rather we have gained an angel. We know you will always be with us, gazing down upon us from heaven. You will be with us in spirit as we grow and learn and conquer the greatest mountains of our lives. We hope we make you proud.

From your loving grandchildren

Kavi, Vihara, Kevin and Nemaya


Ranjit Ellepola: An unassuming guy

Ranjit Ella or Ceeg Ella, as he was fondly called by his friends, was my special buddy at Trinity College, Kandy.The latter name was actually an honorific bestowed upon him for his remarkable ability to extend the breath of a cigarette far beyond its commercial life.

He could drag on a butt till the last fibre extinguished. Ranjit Ella, was an unassuming guy who shunned the limelight, but he was always a presence at every escapade and on every unholy occasion.

He was a humble man and a friend to all. He had no enemies. In our senior years, a few of us, took liberty from school and spent most of our afternoons at “Gustaff.” I am sure Ranjit you will see this, from the beautiful place you are in, and recollect the enjoyable times we had there and smile. It was a haven, a hideaway where we shared our lunch, indulged in a siesta or engaged in heated debate usually on very minor matters, or simply gossiped and joked about anything and everything.

Ranjit Ella contributed much to the bonhomie of the place, he possessed an unparalleled native wit, coupled with an ability to deliver grounded advice and always, always ready to laugh.

Yet, for all the life we had as boys and men and as husbands with family, when the Maker cometh, we have no choice but to leave. Ceeg my friend, there is deep, deep sorrow in your parting so young but also joy in the knowledge that you will achieve nibbana far sooner than any one of us, your character and high values insured it from birth.

You were a fine man, a fine husband to Sama and a fine father to Ayodhaya, Chulaka and Bahanuka. All of us, your friends, join to say a prayer for you and wish you a wonderful and peaceful life in the hereafter.

Your friend and buddy

Roy Balasuriya