TRIBUTES | Sunday Observer


Jayatilleke de Silva:

A newspaper great

His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him, that nature might stand up, and say to all world, ‘This was a man’. _ Shakespeare in Julius Caesar.

Jayatilleke de Silva was a man of the world, a multi-faceted personality - school principal, consecrated communist and a newspaper great, to mention a few ‘tempered’ during a sojourn at Mahaulugedara as a political prisoner.

Having graduated from the University of Peradeniya, he launched his career as a school principal and later plunged headlong into politics. His brand of politics as in the case of many who empathised with the victims to exploitation of labour, was communism. He was a member of the Communist party of Sri Lanka and worked in the party’s firebrand newspaper, Attha for some time. Jayatilleke de Silva became a brand name after he ventured into journalism. He was the editor of the prestigious Daily News and the Sunday Observer. Doubtless he was known as a stern administrator of poet Goldsmith’s ‘Village school master mould. However, if one knows his job well, it was much easy to work with him. He was gifted with a sense of proportion and independent judgement and took decisions and executed them to the letter. The name, Jayatilleke de Silva bloomed into a full flower after he ventured into the newspaper domain.

Perhaps it would not be incorrect to say he would have been mesmerised by Karl Mark’s exhortation, ‘Workers of all countries unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains’. As homage to Marx, he translated his tour de force, Das Kapital into Sinhala which no other academic ever ventured to try. It was a gigantic task. Simple, unassuming and accessible, he had been a source of strength and guidance to newcomers in journalism. There was always a kind-hearted man of immaculate honesty in him despite his school master-like exterior. He never bowed down to injustice but stood firm his ground.

If one goes down memory lane, one could visualise the lean and short figure who left the Daily News editorial in the evening and returned around eight in the night dressed in batik shirt and remained in office till midnight.

I am ever grateful to you, Sir, for it was you who introduced me to the fine art of newspaper sub-editing.

May you be born in the academia among the literati to complete the remaining tasks. As Poet Thomas Gray in his Elegy Written in Country Churchyard lamented, one morn we all missed him.

K.D.M. Kittanpahuwa

Romali Maria de Silva:

A loving heart

It was a day like this two-years ago that Romali Maria de Silva passed away following an attack of dengue. The void she left in all our hearts is a tribute to the life she led. Her motto was live, laugh, love and you will see why.

She attended school at Holy Family Convent, where she met extraordinary friends. Romali did her Advanced Levels at Ladies College. She was a headstrong woman determined to further her education and studied Management and Applied psychology at Nottingham University, Malaysia, where she attained a 2:1. Returning to Sri Lanka, she was offered a job at Hsenid. Working in HR for two years, Romali had a passion for marketing and her talent blossomed at Brandix I3.

Her work was extremely important to her and whatever she took on, she completed to the best of her ability. In office, she was known for her leadership and skills. Romali was also known for her jovial and lovable side where she spread her kindness and warmth to all her co-workers. If one were to describe Romali, her spirit was always full of life. She knew how to live every second of her life and made sure everyone around her did the same. She was the life of the party, the soul of people’s lives, the spark in our eyes.

Through good times and bad, you could always count on Romali to bring laughter into your life. She was a happy-go-lucky, jovial person that always found a reason to have a good laugh. Whenever her friends were going through a rough patch, she was the first to pull them together and put a smile back on their faces. Especially for her family, with her around, there was never a dull moment. Laughter was the essence of Romali life and she always made sure she never left home without it.

Romali spoilt her family and friends with unconditional love. It was only after she passed away that we found how much love she had for others. Many people approached us with so many stories of her kindness and generosity. Romali had a special place in her heart for people in need. Without hesitation, she would be the first to step up and help others who needed it. In countless times she would distribute lunch packets during her lunch break among workers.

Monthly, she donated money to a child at a children’s home to help with her education and day-to-day needs. Her empathy for others’ suffering was what made her stand out. She did not hesitate to collect dry rations for the victims of floods. She wanted to get involved and change people’s lives for the better.

These are just a fraction of what Romali has done for others. She has changed our lives for the better and we hope and pray that her love for others is instilled in all of us, so that we can continue in her footsteps.

The life of a butterfly is wondrous but fleeting. The grace of her flutter holds so much beauty. Romali was our butterfly, unique, extraordinary, a symbol of all that is good in the world.

May God’s blessing always be upon you my darling sister.


P. Shanmugarajah:

An exemplary teacher

On the occasion of the commemoration of the first anniversary of the late Paramalingam Shanmugarajah, may I join in paying tribute to the memory of an outstanding personality whom I had the pleasure and honour of knowing him for more than 40 years.

Shanmugarajah, who passed away on March 20, 2018, had been one of the noblest sons of Tholpuram, a popular village in Jaffna, which has produced men and women of dignity carrying on old traditions and adapting them to changing times.

He joined the staff of Zahira College, Matale, as an assistant teacher in 1959. On account of his sheer ability and remarkable human qualities, combined with wide knowledge of various subjects and perseverance, he rose to positions of trust, such as a Principal, a Circuit Education Officer and a Deputy Director of Education. Voltaire said, “Everyone is the creator of the age in which he lives but only a few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of time”.

He was a versatile man and a star in the Department of Education, guiding and directing everyone who served under him. Almost all officers looked upon him for his comments and views. He believed in teamwork and chose the right people and delegated powers. He possessed an extraordinary sense of devotion and dedication. He worked hard during abnormal situations on account of the internal conflict. He did what he could with what he had. He went calmly through his multiplicity of responsibilities unperturbed.

He insisted that teachers must have an urge to learn new things to adapt to the rapidly changing complex world. He stressed the importance of additional reading which is a sine qua non for widening one’s horizon. He said students had distractions, attractions and diversions that make them neglect education which is the foundation of their careers.

Leadership came to him with natural ease. He had been a leader who knew the way, made use of the way and showed the way. There was no task that was ‘impossible’ when assigned to him. He shouldered responsibilities with commendable ability and conspicuous success. There was authenticity and nobility of courage and earnestness in whatever he did and said.

He was interested in humanitarian service and had been a member of the Northern Province Teachers’ Association and Northern Province Principals’ Association. His retirement diminished neither his spirit nor his enthusiasm. He encouraged me to write articles and stories.

One day I told him that I had written a good story and an article. He commented with ease “every ass loves to hear its own bray”. But it was his friendliness that made him most lovable. The most genuine homage that we could pay is to give warm and faithful recognition to his memory, the memory of a respected teachers, principal, Deputy Director of Education and an outstanding personality who would continue to inspire our efforts and activities.

His wife and his only daughter and her children were behind his success.

May he attain shanthi!

Vadakovai P.K. Rajaratnam

Leo Singham:

A caring father

If our father was alive, he would celebrate his 100th birthday on April 12. Unfortunately, he passed away peacefully on December 13, 1978 at 59 due to a heart attack.

He along with his four siblings Reggie, Eta, Benny and Archie, was born in Burma where his father was attached to the British Army. Due to World War II, they had to be evacuated from Burma and returned to Sri Lanka encountering difficulties. They continued their university education in Sri Lanka and got married and had their families. The families were closely knit, and as a result, we as cousins used to have great times.

He joined the Bank of Ceylon after graduating from the university and spent his working life in the bank, retiring as the acting General Manager. He shunned privileges. For example, we were only allowed to use the official vehicle when he went out of Colombo on inspection. One day, it was raining and Mano had to go to the university and I had to go to work, but he refused to take us even though both were on the way to work and we had to go by bus.

Our mother Gnaneswari was affectionately called Podi as she was the youngest in her family. Our father and she had a happy married life for 33 years and had three children Shanti, Mano and Rohini.

We were lucky that they were loving and caring parents and always concerned about our well-being and many others. When Mano got a disease, our father got a transfer to the London branch of the Bank of Ceylon and took all of us there so that he could get him treated.

He did not want us to be boarded in schools. Wherever he was transferred, he took the whole family with him, so we moved a lot and lived in many places in Sri Lanka.

If our father was alive, his greatest happiness would be to see his seven grandchildren and seven great grandchildren who would have been his pride and joy.