TRIBUTES | Sunday Observer

TRIBUTES

Dr. Wickrama Weerasooriya: An eminent academic lawyer

The first death anniversary of Dr. Wickrama Weerasooriya fell on December 4. Dr. Weerasooriya was one time my boss, an eminent academic lawyer, university lecturer, Ministry Secretary, Diplomat, Presidential Adviser and an Ombudsman. He was also the head of several institutions and professional bodies.

I met him first at the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya during my first year at the university, and it was his final year studying Law in 1960. We were residing at Ramanathan Hall of Residence. Some years later, I had the privilege of working under him when he functioned as the Secretary to the Ministry of Plan Implementation. As Ministry Secretary, he was instrumental in establishing many a novel project under the ministry, such as the Development Lottery, Children’s Secretariat, Women’s Bureau, Fertilizer Secretariat, Population Division, Integrated Regional Development Projects and the Job Bank scheme. I had the opportunity of working with him associated with the Development Lottery. I was requested to take charge of the Lottery Centre in addition to my being the Director of Employment and Manpower Planning. When he observed my reluctance to serve at the Lottery Centre, he called me and said, “I know you are worried about your position at the Manpower Division.” He said that it would not change.

“You spend more time at the Lottery and ask your officials to meet you there for any official instructions”.

The first ‘scratch and match’ Development Lottery was started by him and the proceeds of which channelled to the President’s Fund and part of it went to the Mahapola Scholarship Fund. Mahapola Scholarships have been awarded to millions of students to pursue higher studies. This Lottery provided employment opportunities to thousands of people.

He was instrumental in reviving the publication of Samskruthi Magazine. The Plan Implementation Ministry was full of activities during his tenure. Working with him was enjoyable, rewarding, useful and valuable. The Sri Lanka-China Society was started by him.

I had the opportunity of working with him at the Ministry from 1978 until he left to take up duties as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in Australia.

Dr. Weerasooriya was a well known legal academic. He had an excellent academic record at Royal College winning coveted prizes in general and western classics. He obtained a first class in order of merit and won the prize for the best performance and the law of evidence at the University.

He obtained his PhD from the London School of Economics and later lectured at Universities in Sri Lanka and in Australia. Dr. Weerasooriya served as the High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in Australia, New Zealand and Pacific countries.

He has published over 15 books mainly on banking credit and law in Australia and Sri Lanka. He also wrote the law governing public administration in Sri Lanka. He published a book on links between Sri Lanka and Australia. Dr. Weerasooriya’s contribution to the country, society and religion is immeasurable. He commanded respect from all those who associated him and those who recognised his abilities and qualities.

May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana!

Lalith Heengama.

 


Scott Dirckze: A considerate polymath

Scott Dirckze was a humanitarian, corporate leader, entrepreneur, agriculturist, raconteur, Citroen Aficionado, historian, classical musicophile, art collector, consummate host, explorer and a gentleman. These are a few of the words that are synonymous with Scott Dirckze to many even though he will first always be Uncle Scott to me.

My first memory of Uncle Scott was when I was a young tyke, around the early 1970s. We had been on a family vacation and visited him and his father Dr. Herbert Dirckze at their farm in Anuradhapura. Since then Uncle Scott was a constant in my life over the next five decades. He was a dear friend to my parents, and I could not think of a time when he was not an integral part of our lives.

My brother and I used to love accompanying our parents when they regularly visited Uncle Scott and Uncle Herbert at Park Road and at the various George Stuart bungalows they lived in. After my parents passed away and he retired from George Stuart’s, my exchanges with him intensified not only because he represented a living connection to my parents but also because it was such an education. In all the decades that I knew Uncle Scott, I always came away from a conversation with him having learned something new or fascinating.

When I thought about writing on Uncle Scott, I realised that such an endeavour could reach Tolstoyan proportions. So, I decided to focus briefly on just three aspects of his personality that I respected tremendously and found most endearing. First, his role as a humanitarian, following faithfully, the Scriptures as outlined in Matthew: assisting those in need without drawing any attention to himself. From a very young age, I realised that despite all the material and professional success Uncle Scott enjoyed, he had a strong sense of social justice. Compassion and kindness were paramount in Uncle Scott’s personality.

Second, his prowess as a raconteur and a humorist. He was a Sri Lankan Mark Twain to me. How many of us came away from a conversation with him doubled up in laughter? Ever since I remember being around Uncle Scott, I loved his sense of humor and his ability to relate hilarious stories. Even in one of his darkest periods, earlier this year at Nawaloka Hospital, when I asked him how he was doing, he replied “Well, given that I was recently subjected to medieval torture techniques, pretty good.” He had just completed a therapy session with his physiotherapist. Regardless of health issues, he still approached life with a twinkle in his eye, a mischievous smile and that inimitable sense of humour.

Third, his extensive knowledge of a vast array of topics and subjects, buttressed by his remarkable memory of people, events and places going back decades. When going on trips with Uncle Scott, I used to be constantly amazed at his exceptional memory of how to get from place to place in the most expeditious manner. It was almost like he had Google Maps in his brain long before Google was even invented. I do know not many other individuals with the unquenchable thirst for knowledge that Uncle Scott had; he was constantly seeking new information and trying to educate himself on emerging topics.

The range of Uncle Scott’s qualities exemplifies that he was a man of wide interests and expertise, a polymath and a Renaissance man. But above those qualities, what was really appealing about Uncle Scott was his humanity, his empathy and considerateness for those he encountered in his life. He made us all smarter, kinder and more tender-hearted; thank you, Uncle Scott for your friendship and the inspiring way you lived your life. A wise man once said “Try and leave this world a little better than you found it.” Uncle Scott did that and more.

Sujit C.

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