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Letters


Readers please note it is essential that all Letters to the Editor carry the full name and address of the writer, even if it has to appear under a pseudonym. This applies to all email letters as well.

 

 

Eradicating terrorism

To eradicate terrorism, the executive should closely examine the roots that foster it. The Northern and Eastern Provinces where the Tamil speaking people live is affected by this scourge. There being nine provinces, each province covers a large extent of land.
The governance of each province is left to the chief minister and elected representatives of the council. The President’s hand enters the administration by his appointment of a governor. The governor summons the council for meetings and administration goes on apace, guided by the constitutional provisions.

The Northern Province, the home of the early Sinhalese, saw a steady stream of Muslims at first and thereafter Tamils, who wandered in from neighbouring India. Like Hitler of Germany, a dictatorial minded Tamil surfaced, who wanted the province for Tamils only. He gave the Muslims and Sinhalese 24 hours to leave the Jaffna District, and established his writ by setting up a paramilitary Army, Police force and a kangaroo legal system, and saw to it that all free movement of the people was curtailed. With the assistance of Rajiv Ghandi of India he extended his reign to the east and the hapless residents of the area lived under his jack boot. To secure his dominance, he had to commence a war with the security forces of Sri Lanka. It went on for near two decades, when a Norwegian minister saw money in the skirmish and at first, surreptitiously financed it. When the battle raged, they sold arms to the terrorists and enriched the Norwegian state coffers.

Then came along a foolish Prime Minister, who egged on by the Norwegians signed a ceasefire agreement with the callow insurgents. The document transformed the land of the terrorists to a territory which they claimed ‘Eelam’ – the Tamil homeland.
They continued the fight to establish their dominance over the region. The present government, in no mood to mollycoddle the LTTE, has set the security forces to suppress the separatists. The LTTE has lost in the east and is battling desperately in the north. The forces, confident of victory, are now mopping up the dispersing terrorists. When the movement is on its last legs, the sure way to defeat them completely would be to disband the provincial councils and set up district councils: Smaller units where no ethnic community is likely to predominate ensuring ethnic harmony. Pious prayers and wishes will not bring peace. The ground reality is the only path that will lead to peace.

The 1978 Constitution is a drawback for smooth untrammelled governance. Ancient Lanka had no Constitution. England has no Constitution. The 13th and 17th Amendments only stultify governance.

The President has unlimited powers, which he should judiciously use. To assist him, he should rely on the Sixth Amendment and determinedly eradicate every vestige of a desire to set up a separate state. Power comes from the barrel of a gun, said Zapata of South America and recently repeated by a Chinese leader. Sovereign Sri Lanka should always be prepared, but bear in mind the great philosophical pronouncement of renowned space visionary Sir Arthur C. Clarke, “Guns are the crutches of the impotent.”

That wisecrack should halt the US maniacal quest to rule the world and thereby terminate wars. Gun powder will be directed to the manufacture of fire crackers for the titillation of little children and uranium for peaceful purposes to make life on earth a pleasure.

Shelton Perera
Mt. Lavinia

****

Studies prove enormous benefits of drinking tea

With reference to Dr. D. P. Atukorale letter on the 24.02.08 (Lakbima News), I wish to add that research studies undertaken conclusively establish the enormous health benefits of tea. The possibility of cutting the risk of heart attacks, hypertension and certain types of cancer (colon) as well as improving dental health due to its high fluoride content are some of these benefits. The researchers have also said to drink at least six (6) cups of tea a day.

Heavy and expensive advertising by soft drink companies have daily increased their sales at the expense of Sri Lankan tea, with the present day generation and future generations getting caught in these advertising jinks. So tea sales are gradually being replaced by soft drinks, with adverse effects to future generations.

Sri Lanka should not only promote tea in foreign countries but locally as well..
Another scientific research has found that, “Fizzy drinks may weaken growing bones and increase the chances of Osteoporosis in later life”. Researchers have also mentioned that phosphoric acid in some fizzy drinks may have a damaging effect on bone mass.’ The adverse effects of carbonated beverages consumption on obesity, tooth decay and osteoporosis have also been mentioned..
Indigenous drinks such as thambili, kurumba and tea are the best drinks in the world. Our future generations should be protected from dangerous advertising to promote soft drinks.

V. K. B. Ramanayake
Maharagama

****

                                                                    Appreciation                                                                  

Anura Bandaranaike

Farewell to “a colossus of our times”                                                                

“A man in a million, my mentor, farewell!” – I dread to recall that moment when I penned this phrase in the condolence book kept in the glum surroundings of the Acland House on that fateful Monday morning.
You were my childhood hero, a friend, a mentor and a guiding light. It was not until 1977, when you entered Parliament, that we made our first contact. Together we chatted about evolving global patterns in politics, socioeconomic changes, a future Sri Lanka which we both dreamt of as we made long car journeys outside Colombo, sometimes on gruelling election campaigns. You respected me for my ability to engage you in an intelligent conversation.

I was someone with modest standing in terms of money, power and social background in comparison with your rich and famous friends, the world over. Yet you related to me in a way which was not even a notch below the way you treated the mighty and the glitterati.

We shared our passion for the English language. You encouraged me in my writing, and admired my skills whilst stressing the need to improve. There were times when you even edited my professional writing.

I recall my first ever visit to London. On the eve of my flight, it took you just a couple of minutes at the dining table to provide me with your own handwritten guide on the use of the London Underground to my location. Such was your personal touch.
I was a prime source for comments and feedback on your Parliamentary speeches, which you yearned for. You ensured my presence in the gallery to listen to them – if I failed to be there, you made it a point to drop me a copy of the Hansard with a personal note.

Your speeches came after painstaking preparations and your inimitable two-fingered typing on the old manual typewriter. They were speeches extraordinarily enriched with substance, garnished with banter, parry and repartee.

Sadly, even your most innocuous of mannerisms provided ammunition to your detractors. You loathed the smell of food on your fingers. Your use of cutlery to eat kiribath was misconstrued as a trait of your snobbishness. No drive out of Colombo was possible without at least one change of clothing along the way. These were insights to your obsession with personal hygiene.

There was not a day in your political life when you were afforded the chance to take things easy. You were in recurring perplexity as a result of constant backstabbing and conspiracies to undermine your progress in the party your father founded and your mother led.

Your unfailing love for your mother knew no bounds despite all the differences of ideology that you may have had with her. Her tears held you back when you were thrust in to the position of the general secretary of the SLFP. The entire Parliamentary group had endorsed the move, defying your mother’s wishes. You gave up because you were moved by your mother’s pain, evident by her tears. In retrospect that sealed your fate in the party.

You received flak for leaving the SLFP but only a handful knew what a difficult decision it was for you to resign from the party you so dearly loved. You broke down sobbing with your political friends over the phone, having returned home upon receiving the UNP membership. Some of them now occupy high positions in the land.

The outpouring of your emotions in front of your father’s portrait just before leaving for Parliament to take oaths as an UNP MP is something I shall never ever be able to erase from my mind. This country was not fortunate enough to see you as its leader but you will be revered in the thoughts of millions forever. You were indeed a gentleman to the core and a colossus of our times.
Mahendra Ratnaweera

****

Nirantha De Silva

He walked with kings but never lost the common touch                                  

The news of the sudden death of Nirantha came to me as a rude shock. The sting of pain and grief of the loss of a beloved friend gripped my heart with sorrow. Nirantha and I worked at Car Mart Ltd. in 1972. He was attached to the Parts Department and I was in the Sales Division. He carried himself with dignity and self-confidence. His charming smile, good looks and honesty won the hearts of his superiors and co-workers.

Nirantha was about 23 years in age in 1972. After a brief period at Car Mart, he left to the UAE. He was appointed as the general manager of a leading property development company in UAE. His hard work, dedication and honesty kept him in good stead. All these amiable qualities, combined with his social grace, won the smile and approval of his directors and also of the owner of that reputed organisation. Nirantha was a man who walked with kings but never lost the common touch. There was charisma and a kind of divinity in this man, who always wore a pleasant smile.

After a considerable period of time and work, he migrated to Canada and established a freight forwarding company – Trico International Canada Inc. This company, with Nirantha at the helm, became a household name among the Sri Lankan community in Canada and also among the Canadians who held high positions.

He was invited to all social gatherings of important personalities. Nirantha walked the red carpet but maintained his simplicity. He possessed a heart of gold. He never turned down anyone who came for help. His generosity knew no bounds. I got to know that Nirantha has been helping the poor and needy in Sri Lanka. His left hand did not know what his right hand did.

Pride was alien to his noble nature. He was truly a boon from heaven to his charming wife Dawn and to his two sons, and also to society at large. He respected all religions but stuck to his faith. He was a devout Catholic. The noble truths of the Bible and its great teachings were woven into the fabric of his being. Honesty and kindness flowed abundantly from his heart. Social service became a part and parcel of his life. He was the vice president of the Canadian Sri Lanka Business Council and also an active member of the Canadian Tamils’ Chamber of Commerce.

Nirantha leaves behind his beloved wife Dawn and his loving sons Hillary and Harsha. Nirantha, the golden memories of your beautiful life spent on earth will be carved in our hearts. May the angels sing you to your eternal rest.
Palitha Wijesekera, Toronto

****

Mrs. Mary Hayman

Mrs Mary Hayman, widow of late Dr R.L.Hayman, legendary Sub Warden and Headmaster of S.Thomas’College Mount Lavinia and Gurutalawa, passed away in a private Nursing Home on November 17th, 2007. She was accorded a simple funeral at the crematorium, at Atwood Road Worcester, on November 27th, 2007.. In her life, she recoiled from being the cause of any ‘fuss’, and so it was ensured that, it should be so, as she passed away too.

Writing of her funeral old boy expatriates Kamal Gammanpila together with Kamal Nilaweera wrote evocatively. Of the pervasive Gurutalawa ambience of that morning, of the overnight mist lifting to a thin crispy hue, so familiar, as one looked across the paddy fields from the Headmasters bungalow, as the hearse bearing her name, rolled its way gently through the wooded landscapes reminiscent of the Farm’s windbreak, and of the autumn leaves gentle fall: in nostalgic contrast to the rainbow hues of the summer flowers of Gurutalawa, as if to comply with her request; No flowers Please!

Mrs Hayman was the last, but not the least of that great triumvirate which moulded the lives of the many boys at Gurutalawa, in their formative years. While it is inevitable to associate her as the wife of Dr Hayman, she emerged from the shadows of his towering presence, albeit in her characteristic self effacing manner to establish herself, in her own right as the sickroom matron, complementing the Headmaster and the Chaplain Canon, A.J.Foster.

Together, they established the ethos of a public school in the illustrious tradition of such schools which were bywords for gentlemanliness, leadership, learning, fair play and manners: in the English paradigm of such schools at their height.
She was born Mary Rudd in Sutton Surrey, and her family settled down in Worcestershire. Trained as a nurse, she joined the Army and in the line of service was posted to the military base hospital in Bombay. The Divine hand which passes as fortuity in the Secular view, in its benevolence, brought her to Ceylon and to the military hospital established at S.Thomas’College Mount Lavinia.

Her contact with the College, therefore predated her meeting with Dr.Hayman, who was sent in charge to a part of the College relocated in a showpiece farm of thirty five acres, at Gurutalawa in April 1942.But Diyatalawa, across the hills was( and is )an Army camp and so there was a ‘fortuity’, in their meeting. Hikes were exchanged since Dr.Hayman made use of the Army personnel, to help out with physical training, boxing, the establishment of a battle course and other sporting activities.
They married in 1945, when Dr Hayman took leave after the war was over.

Initially, they returned to the College at Mount, which had been derequisitioned. Warden de Saram needed the old and well tried firm to rehabilitate the School, with Canon Foster an integral part of it (1931 –1942), who has also returned from his Leave.
The triumvirate was back in harness at Gurutalawa from the first term of 1948.

As a nurse, Mrs Hayman epitomised the highest standards of the profession. As sickroom matron she established her own particular Regency, over the Thomian Community. She made the sickroom, a haven of care and love, and adhered to the maxim, that prevention was better than cure, particularly with the junior boys with their predilection to colds and coughs, as temperatures plummeted in the ‘winter months’ and again, as the seasonal winds savaged through the campus in all their fury. Apart from ministering to the College boys and Staff of every category, she opened the doors of the sick room to the surrounding villages. It was characteristic of her that, those needing hospital attention were sent in the school vehicle, invariably Dr.Hayman’s car, to Badulla, 25 miles away with firm instructions to the accompanying attendant, from the school, to take good care of the patient, and she would follow up with telephone calls to the hospital, monitoring the progress. She made it a point, to train two members of the College Domestic staff, to be Locums in her absence.

Her regency extended beyond her primary writ of caring, for the sick. It included the House keeping of the built premises as well as the vast campus, redolent with gum and Fir trees, fruits of every kind and flowers of every hue. Under her unrelenting eye, grass was mowed, hedges trimmed, roofs and gutters cleared of debris, and flowers blossomed in their chosen locations. A stickler for cleanliness, every morning she was in the dining hall, supervising the cleaning of its floors and tables. She persisted and succeeded in opening out the kitchen to air and light, and making it easy to move around for the staff by increasing its size. She was adamant that, food should be served hot to the boys, and ensured that, through a queue system, each boy should be served, straight from the particular cooking utensil. Her ubiquity, kept every one on their toes .

She was a committed environmentalist and conservationist .She found bird watching an exciting hobby, and a wonderful therapy, and initiated the boys to its delights.

Her compassion extended to all forms of life. On one occasion, she had the nerve to upbraid a burly retired Rugger playing English planter, for snipe shooting in the paddy fields bordering the campus. “Madam,” he had said to her “You must be a vegetarian”. He had his day then, but that was the last occasion, he was seen around.

Once she received a turkey for Christmas, but the bird found in her, a benign new owner, and lived to die of old age. On another occasion, some villagers brought her a python they had captured, but she discreetly had it released by the same sisal plant where it was caught. She had a Siamese cat as a pet, which she managed to take to England when she left. She adopted a deer and a peacock which actually followed her around. She empathised with them, as St. Francis would have done, presiding ‘as the Patron saint of the College Chapel.’

Her love for gardening and plants, once led her to an embarrassing contretemps.
On a visit to the famous Hakgala gardens, as well known and distinguished visitors, she and the others who accompanied her, were taken round by the curator himself. Typical of the weather, there was a sudden downpour, which caused Mrs Hayman to open her parasol to protect herself, whereupon a shower of plant slips rained to the ground. The curator, a gentleman of the highest order did not merely look the other way, but hastily helped Mrs Hayman, to collect them, and got them packed.

Most boys saw her, as a latter day Forence Nightingale. But there was in her, more than a little touch of Margaret Thatcher. Kind and compassionate, she was also firm and resolute, when the occasion warranted , often in counterpoint to the innate predisposition of both Dr Hayman and Canon Foster, to be too accommodating of human frailty. Important decisions no doubt, carried some weight of her own views. She was candid and open, and called ‘a spade a spade.’

Mrs Hayman was slightly built, but was always very simply dressed and had the minimum make- up, perhaps a touch of lipstick. There was generally a suspicion of a smile in her eyes, benevolent and not derisive, as if she saw through people and things, to what was spurious. Very much the country lass, she was not spoilt by her exalted position, as the Headmaster’s wife and completely free of any desire to acquire the sophistication, that ensnared lesser mortals, to veneer shallow personalities. She was soft spoken as one would have expected, and in fact, when she spoke, it was in a whisper. She would venture the odd joke to a close friend, sotto voce’ and ensured that, it would not be a source of any embarrassment, to whoever it was holding forth, on the ‘Thusness of Thus’ often at dinners, she was obliged to attend, as the Headmaster’s wife.

She arrived in Colombo from Bombay, on April 2nd 1942 ,when Colombo harbour was being subject to, an aerial attack by the Japanese, and watched proceedings perforce from outside Colombo harbour. One of the planes was brought down, on the College Big Club Grounds. Prospects of danger left her undeterred. We had ample evidence of it, during her stay at Gurutalawa, whether it was climbing up the sheer face of forbidding mountains, exploring underground caves or negotiating forest short cuts, where leopards had been sighted, and the wild buffalos were a clear and present danger.

The Haymans left Gurutalawa, on March 14th, 1963.There were a series of valedictory gatherings and speeches leading to the departure. But nothing could assuage the dillusionment of the Reality.They had planned to settle down, within an hours hike from Gurutalawa, in the vicinity of Erabadde, but took note of the message of political change, and were eye witnesses to the early turbulence. They were concerned with,, how the cross currents of events would affect the school. ’But the best laid schemes of mice and men, and they absorbed the wrench with the typical unsentimentality of the English character.

Mrs Hayman settled down to run their Bournemout Establishment. But they never lost touch, looking forward to entertaining Old Boys, who made their visits a kind of pilgrimage. She delighted in giving them the traditional, Thomian fare of rice, dhal and coconut sambol, and getting first hand news of the school. She never failed to see that the visiting car was provided with sandwiches and a soft drink, for the return journey.

But the Thomian connection was too compelling . She returned five times in all, three, after Dr Hayman’s death in 1983. Appropriately her final visit to Sri Lanka was, in 1992, in connection with, the Golden Jubilee Celebration of the College at Gurutalawa, at which, she was the Chief Guest. She found that many things had changed and maintained a discreet silence, except in Sotto Voce’ to close friends, who shared her views. After Dr Hayman’s death she was immediately appointed, as the President of the OBA, UK Association, and she made the journey from Bourne mouth, for every meeting, till she was physically not fit, for traveling.

After Dr Hayman’s death, she was the ministering angel looking after the infirm and the bed ridden. Sometimes her rounds, including caring for around 17 or 18 patients, daily. These included Miss Joan Foster, Canon Foster’s sister, Mrs Mowena Hayman, Dr Hayman’s sister and Mrs Blanchard (prep School) with Thomian associations. It involved attending to daily needs, shopping, collecting medicines, arranging transport visiting Nursing homes and Hospitals, and even caring for pets.51, Boscombe Overcliff drive, was a drop point for groceries, medicine and launderies, which she would deliver by car, for friends who were not mobile, the car, a generous gift from a grateful Thomian Ward.

Laid back and simple, Mrs Hayman had nerves of steel and a heart of gold. She will definitely, have a foremost place in the History of the School, in her own right. In later years, when she was unable to continue her voluntary medical service, and her faculties had dimmed, she preferred the tranquilty of solitude. She divested herself of mementos, to be placed in the Hayman Foster memorial museum, at Gurutalawa. Her casket was draped in the College flag and the funeral service was completed, with the Thomian Song in the background. She has gone beyond the ken of human consciousness, but her twilight thoughts, would have typically echoed Christiana Rosetti’s famous lines, in keeping with her matter of fact approach to life. ‘If thou wilt, Remember, If thou wilt Forget.’ She was completely free of Romantic Illusions.

But we shall remember, we shall not forget. Her memory remains within our domain, inspiring us, to love life, and indeed, life itself, as a gift to be shared and given in the service of others. Mrs Hayman was not a religious person, in the commonly misguided perception of the religious. She lived the maxim laborare est Orare.(To work is to pray).
She lived her life, the epitome of a verse from J. Keble’s familiar Hymn.

The trivial round, the common task
Would furnish all we need to ask,--
Room to deny ourselves, a road
To bring us daily nearer God.

And on that road, Mrs Mary Hayman walked the extra mile.
P.S. Duleepkumar

****

 

 

 

 

 

 

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