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Training SLFS officers to be effective diplomats

Mr. Charles Wijeyewardene has countered my response [in The Nation edition of 24 August] to his article titled “No Difference between SLAS and SLFS” by his reply in The Nation edition of [Eye] of 7 September.

He starts by stating that I have “shown great agility and sprung quite unbelievably fast to respond” to his article. Well, is not that quite characteristic of a professional diplomat, to spring into action and not at all unbelievable as he thinks, to put him or anyone else right in a matter of misrepresentation? By this I mean his question posed as to whether the late Lakshman Kadirgamar, “put the emphasis on intensive training to create a professional service”. I was not by any means responding to his article but merely showing that Mr. Kadirgamar strongly believed in training SLFS Officers to be effective diplomats.

Mr.W’s inability to have recognised exactly what I was responding to viz. confining myself to Mr.K’s belief in training SLFS Officers, which he wanted to be “In House” and was, as he declared when he inaugurated the training course, a dream he had not been able to realise in his first term of office. Sadly, it could not be realised even in his second term; yet, those who believe in such training should cooperate in getting it underway.

The training commenced with SLFS Officers in the Ministry for the simple reason that a new batch of officers was awaited [after a gap of some 3 years]. It is obvious that with new recruits – hopefully recruited at regular intervals – a full- time training course could be organised provided they would not have to work in the Ministry, especially as I had worked out Workshop Modules each of which could be conducted daily for them. It is clear that the Editor of The Nation understood this as he [not I ] quite rightly captioned my response to Mr.W’s article as “Towards a truly Professional Foreign Service”, whereas it is Mr. W, not I, who is “ selling a dummy” and seeks to “draw a red herring” over the point I made about Mr. K’s start of the process. Able though he was to a very high degree, even Mr. K could not have created an instant institute for diplomatic training, and we are only too aware that where some institutes have been created even through legislation, they do not necessarily fulfill the objectives for long.

I must thank Mr. W for his comments about me [tongue in cheek?!]and my resemblance to my father who was my hero, whom I have tried to emulate in mind, though not in size which was not of my seeking! Mr. W could have granted me an iota of credit for understanding the concept of diplomatic training, especially as Germany has a training school for prospective Foreign Service hopefuls, equipping them for selection.

We too could have gone on to not only having an institute for training Foreign Service Recruits but also one for pre-training to suit selection for the Service, What Mr, K created could have been a nucleus of a Training Institute for Diplomats, which is no joke except perhaps for those like Mr.W who are ignorant of Mr. K’s dream to which I wanted to testify.

Mr. W, in order to justify his highly personalised views, has taken the unpardonable step of imputing my real concern to be Dr. Palitha Kohona having terminated my contract and that I have a grouse against him. May I enlighten him that I did not state or imply that he did so and that I am not one to have grouses against anyone and that to me, a grouse is a bird which is, sadly, hunted in the northern hemisphere. I have cordial relations with Dr. Kohona whom I first met in Geneva when I was Ambassador to Switzerland, concurrently accredited from Germany. What is more, I have a letter from Dr. Kohona expressing appreciation of my training modules. Besides, I am least concerned as to who terminated my contract [technically or otherwise] as I had not sought after it, nor am I blaming anyone for having terminated it as I am fully aware that – even if Mr.W is not –the Administration can “appoint” as well as “dis-appoint.”
Manel Abeysekera


Journalism award for letters

Journalist awards for excellence, has now become an yearly event. Deserving journalists are given awards by which their work in the field is recognised besides other journalists being encouraged. It is in a way, an honour for all the journalists.
In this connection I would like to make a suggestion.

Those writers who regularly write to the letters to the Editor column, should also be recognized and honoured in some way or other. They write without receiving any remuneration. Some of them write which is beneficial to the society and in excellent language.

The late Geo. P. Solomons, to mention only one writer, wrote excellent letters with lot of wit and satire in an inimitable style. Today retired civil servants and professionals are also writing letters to the editors. These writers of letters also should be recognised to honour not only the selected writer among them but all of them, as a class.

Nearly a century ago Lytton starchy, a prominent member of the Bloomsbury Group, said that “Letters are the real satisfactory from of Literature”. Perhaps letters might become a form of literature in the 21st century.


Special Living Allowance to pensioners

The Special Living Allowance (SLA) of Rs. 350 to public servants and half of that, Rs.187.50, to the pensioners, was paid only in February this year and to date, it has not been paid for the other months.
It is understood that the Treasury has not released the funds to pay the SLA to the Pensions. The Director of pensioners should get the funds released from the Treasury without further delay. The pensioners are nearly half-starved, why discriminate them?
Minister Bandula Gunawardena has promised to give an increase in the next Budget. Why keep the pensioners wait so long?
The pensioners have given the best period of their lives working for the government under trying conditions. The cost of living is skyrocketing with prices of essential food items increasing daily. People are finding it very difficult to exist as they try to keep their heads above water.

In addition, cost of gas, water, electricity and SLT telephone call charges too are being increased without any tangible reason, to cover up for the wasteful, corrupt and inefficient administration. What is the necessarily for the highest in the land to attend Olympics’ opening ceremony, costing the Treasury millions? This money could be used to afford relief for the pensioners and poor people suffering.

The Govt. and the minister concerned should give special attention to this burning problem of costs, because of which, the poor and pensioners are undergoing untold hardships and at best, permit them to live and exist without starving.
Budhaprema Maharagama


Ramadan is not the month of beggars

It is a pity that when the blessed month of Ramadan comes, with it comes the crowd of Muslims, and some who pretend to be Muslims, who start roaming the streets begging at each door.

Ramadan is a month of giving, but not a month of begging. Each Muslim who has more than a certain stipulated amount of wealth is supposed to give 2 % of their annual savings to the poor. A group of eight categories mentioned in the Quran, surah at-Taubah (9) verse 60: “The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and the workers who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled to Islam, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for those who are working for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarers; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is knower, Wise.”

Each city, village or mahalla (settlement around each mosque) must look after the poor in that area. The zakath, the obligatory charity due from the Muslims, must be given first to the relatives and then to the neighbours, of the said eight categories. However, since we have misunderstood the instruction of giving, we have trickled down to the status of giving a few coins to the beggars at the doorstep so that the poor people are reduced to the state of collecting what is really due for them by begging at each door.

This is all wrong. Each area must instruct their people not to venture outside the area for their zakath. Ideally each mosque must know the situation of each person in that area and know who is eligible to receive zakath, and actually go and give the zakth in their houses so that they are not humiliated into going and asking. This is the essence of zakath.
We have not taught the people of the hathees: The Prophet said, “Allah has forbidden for you, (1) to be undutiful to your mothers, (2) to bury your daughters alive, (3) to not to pay the rights of the others (e.g. charity, etc.) and (4) to beg of men (BEGGING). Saheeh Bukhari Vol three, Book 41. Loans, Payment Of Loans.... Hadith 591.

Also, he said: “(Know) that he who refrains from BEGGING others, Allah will make him contented and not in need of others; and he who remains patient, Allah will bestow patience upon him, and he who is satisfied with what he has, Allah will make him self-sufficient. And there is no gift better and vast (you may be given) than patience.” Saheeh Bukhari Vol eight, Book 76. To Make The Heart Tender - Hadith 477.

On this subject, the latest is that the university students and the students of various institutes have started going around asking rich people to sponsor their meals during fasting. Nothing can be more repugnant in Islam. Certainly some of the students in these institutes are well off and they are eating haram by taking part of the zakath money given for the poor. Actually they should provide for the others. All the students and the teachers could contribute whatever they can for all the meals for everyone; this way no one will feel they are being fed by others.

Islam is a religion of modesty (haya) not only in dress but also in behaviour. It is a pity because of the lack of knowledge we are fast losing the essence of our religion. High time the ulemas took notice and stop this rot setting in.

Dr. Mareena Reffai


Only female cops should check ladies’ handbags

This morning on my way to office, I saw three police officers deployed in Pettah to check bags and parcels for security reasons. At the checkpoint, there was a small metal board hung on the triangular metal barricade, with the text in Sinhala, which read “Bags and Parcels to be checked”- courtesy Three wheeler Association Bastian Mawatha. There were no lady cops and these policemen were checking the handbags and parcels of even the ladies.
When I reached Colpetty, I saw the same scenario close to Mahanama College – a male cop checking the bag and ID/Passport of a young female office worker. I think it must be quite embarrassing and uneasy for the female workers, if policemen do this task of inspecting their bags etc.
Can the Pettah and Colpetty OIC’s as well as the OIC’s in other stations deploy female cops to check ladies in future please?

Mohamed Zahran
Colombo 3



A farewell to an officer and a gentleman

Deshakeerthi Colonel H.H. Lawrence De Silva. KSV

Col. Lawrence De Silva passed away on Sunday, September 7 after a brief illness at the age of 66.
He joined the Nalanda College as a science teacher in 1967 and served there as the Chemistry teacher for GCE O/L classes until he retired from teaching to join the Sri Lanka Army to serve as the first Commanding Officer of the 11th Gajaba Regiment in 1986. Since then he served in the north and the east until his retirement from the SL Army in 2001.

He was the master in charge of the school cadet core and became the best commanding officer for many years in 1970s.
H.H. Lawrence De Silva was born in Elpitiya on November 30, 1941 and studied at Dharmashoka Vidyalaya in Ambalangoda. He distinguished not only in his studies but also in extra curricular activities.
He decided to take up the noble profession ‘Teaching’ as his career. Hence, he joined Maharagama Teacher Training College, where he excelled in studies, sports and obtained a first class pass.

He was commissioned in to the Ceylon Cadet Corps (CCC) in 1964 as a second Lieutenant after a probationary period of two years. He was in charge of the cadet platoon of Devananda College, Ambalangoda and subsequently at Ibbagamuwa Central.
He joined Nalanda College, Colombo in 1967 and got involved in all activities of the College very efficiently, effectively and productively.

During his stay at Nalanda College, he groomed many students in chemistry. He guided a lot of school cadets who are presently serving in Sri Lanka Defence Forces including the Police holding very high ranks and also many professionals in other key sectors of Sri Lanka and worldwide.
He was absorbed into the National Armed Reserve in 1986 and later in to Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force, fifth Battalion Sri Lanka Light Infantry.

He held many key operational, training and administrative appointments in the Army and retired from active service in 2001.
He was awarded with Karyakshama Seva Vibhushanaya (KSV) for meritorious services rendered. He also got 10 other medals for his unblemished military career.
Although he retired from services he did not just idle. He got involved in many activities as a retiree and in 2007, His Excellency the President, bestowed the coveted Deshakeerthi. He also held the Honorary Secretary appointment of the Ex- Servicemen Association of Gajaba Regiment.

Lawrence was very popular at Nalanda. He was fondly known as Lawra by his loving pupils. He loved his pupils and pupils loved him. He was very strict inside the classroom but he was a friend of students outside the four walls. It is very rare to find a dedicated teacher like Mr. Lawrence De Silva who devoted his career for his pupils. During his period at Nalanda, pass rate for Chemistry was more than 95%, students got very higher grades for GCE O/L Chemistry. He even conducted extra lessons on weekends to help the students to achieve higher grades. During his period the discipline of the college was in a very high standard. Last year when my classmates held a party for the former teachers, he also attended and I was fortunate to talk to him for 15 minutes on the phone bringing back good old memories. The only request he asked me was to help his daughter who was studying Information Technology at that time.

Col. Lawrence De Silva was a sincere teacher and a friend to all pupils and colleagues, a man of fine sense of humour, a family man and a loving father to his three children. Though he is no more with us, the void created by his demise will never be filled.
With all his virtues and good qualities Lawrence will be remembered mostly as an excellent human being.
His funeral was held on Wednesday, September 10, at the Borella Kanatte with full military honours. He left his wife Daya, two sons Indu, Thamara and daughter Yasodha.
May he attain nibbana!
Sisira Chandrasekera


Achievements of Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala

It is our duty to remember, with gratitude, our national heroes, who, in no small measure, contributed towards our independence. One such hero, acclaimed as the greatest person to spread Buddhism, next to only King Dharmasoka of India.
Locally, he is the persona who spread Buddhism in Sri Lanka and the world over, only next to our National Hero the great King of Sri Lanka Dutugemunu.

Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala was born on 17.09.1864 and his parents Don Carolis Hewavitharana and Malika Hevavitharana were from Matara. He was named Don David.

At 6-years he entered St. Benedict College, then St. Thomas’ and finally Royal where he came first in the examinations.
The writer met the Mayor of Colombo, Karu Jayasuriya in 1998, and persuaded him to change then Turret Road in Kolupitiya to Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala, in keeping with the national names for which he was instrumental.
He himself changed his name from Don David to Dharmapala. Others to followed suit; George Peiris to Gunapala Piyasena Malalasekera and many others and took Aryan names.

He diverted all his attention to create a national consciousness and a national identity. He fought to dethrone alien ways and habits and enthrone national and indigenous culture. He launched a national reawakening movement which quickly spread throughout the country.

He established the Lanka Maha Bodhi Society in 1891 and set up the Mahabodhi Society of India, The following year he launched ‘The Mahabodhi’, a journal which was published every month. He was the Editor, writer, proofreader, publisher, sub editor all rolled into one.
The downfall of Sri Lanka’s culture, customs and practices, together with Buddhism, was the result of Portuguese, Dutch and British rule.

During the Dutch period, the village school was made the base for instructions in the first principles of Christianity. Baptism was administered and marriage colonized in the village school. This was made compulsory and fines imposed on parents, if the pupils did not attend school.

The British destroyed our tanks in Vellassa and the Uva Province and uprooted the villager from his traditional homelands, forcing them to labour in the coffee plantations. The British opened up taverns in every village throughout the interior and distributed liquor, making our people develope a taste for it. This converted our sober and thrifty people into criminal wasters and the Anagarika spoke very harshly to our people and got them to change there habits.
Anagarika practiced what he preached, for he was a teetotaler, and refrained from eating meat. He denounced the drunkard and encouraged vegetarianism.

His clarion call was ‘Awake Sinhala people to save Buddhagaya’.
He was not against other religious or even the foreigners, for he encouraged the study of all foreign languages. He himself was proficient in Sinhalese, English, Pali and study of other religions.

Everywhere, he ruthlessly attacked the apes of unnecessary western habits and culture.
He had no fixed abode and hence he was called ‘Anagarika’.
The birth is, incidentally, the birth anniversary of one of my daughters in Victoria, Australia.
Anagarika’s first visit to India was in the later part of 1884, to participate in the all India ‘Parama Vighya’ Society in Madras and went with Mrs. Blavasky and returned in 1885.

Anagarika then started his career to serve the cause of Buddhism. Anagarika was the first to propagate Buddhism in Japan.
His mentor was the most respected Sri Sumangala Thera, who was consulted by Anagarika’s father to give permission for his eldest son, Anagarika to become an Anagarika and in all other matters.
We Sri Lankan’s and the Buddhists the world over, owe him much and remember him with deep gratitude.
May Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala be born in Sri Lanka again and again to serve the cause of Buddhism.
“May he attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana.”

V.K.B. Ramanayake



Herbert Cooray – Gentleman first, businessman second

September 7, marks three months since the demise of Herbert Cooray; a patriotic Sri Lankan, a far sighted businessman and a true gentleman in every sense. He was fondly and respectfully referred to as ‘Boss’ or ‘Loku Mahatthaya’ by the staff of Jetwing and as ‘Herbie’ by his friends and colleagues. He considered his staff as part of his family, termed as the ‘Jetwing family;’ a common reference in the company usage, that had special characteristics and values that everyone was guided by; among them, integrity and humility at the top, qualities he cherished and lived by.

He was a pioneer in the tourism industry and was a friend to all. He contributed diligently to the country’s economy and to the tourism industry, by re-investing his earnings in building the tourism infra-structure in the form of guest rooms that were badly needed to accommodate the inflow of tourists in the 70’s, 80s and the 90s.

Though he claimed that it was his luck that made his investments meet with success; there was much more to it. He always had a good grasp of things he did. His investment decisions were well thought out and he looked at them from numerous angles. He would always seek the views of others and would go ahead only when he was convinced that his ‘gut-feeling’ would work. He used to say that, he believed more in this approach than the ‘feasibility studies or reports’ that were available to him. He never got himself buried in figures and projections. With his given levels of confidence, he pursued his vision.

He was an early riser. By 6.30 a.m. in the morning, he arrives at one of his hotels in Negombo, driving himself from Colombo, on the way visiting the construction sites his company; N.J.Cooray Builders Ltd., was handling. He had a lot of commitment towards the work he did, though he may have referred to all positive things he did as “luck” in his humble nature. He never took credit for having done a lot of work, never felt tired nor looked forward to planned holidays. He was never heard using the word “stress;” a trendy, halo effect that follows everybody these days as an excuse to take a holiday.

The gentleman in Herbert Cooray always overshadowed the businessman in him.
He never intruded into others areas of work. Never took advantage of a misfortune of another or tried to acquire anything at an unfairly low price. He believed that a fair deal must be given, even when there was an opportunity to strike a bargain. He insisted and practiced the principle that all due payments must be made within the stipulated period, a practice followed in the company to date. He understood the difficulties of those who supplied and provided services to his companies and the need for them to get paid by the agreed dates.

He also had a lot of wit; and most jokes he narrated were his personal experiences starting from his university days. He enjoyed sharing funny stories and loved having a good laugh with the rest.

His big frame above 6 feet in height, also came with a big heart. He did his philanthropy silently and never looked for popularity and undue advantage or fanfare. He donated to school projects, churches, temples. Only those that assisted him in these projects knew what was done, not others. When it came to individuals, especially in times of their distress, he would request their telephone contacts and discreetly offer his assistance. He never wanted to embarrass or inconvenience the aggrieved party in anyway, nor identify himself with the charitable act. For him, CSR was a bounden duty he had to society and not a fad, a cover-up or an indirect marketing tool for profit making.

Whenever he was invited to a staff wedding, he made it a point to attend. If he got to know of a family death of a staff member, he gave priority among other things, to visit the funeral house. Once, at the funeral of a father of a staff member, he was told by the member that he did not expect Mr. Cooray to come all the way and especially at a time he was not too well. His reply was “As long as my feet could take me, I will attend.”

Though he has not been in the best of health during his last few years, he was in his seat at the office on most days. He remained quite alert with matters of business, until the last days of his life. He had a word with everyone he came across; a practice he cultivated all his life. He had an open door policy that went beyond mere words. Anyone, without discrimination, had the opportunity to meet him as the chairman, to sort out his or her grievance, sans any bureaucracy. Prior appointments, coming through the so-called proper channels was not in his agenda. If he was free, he was available. Seldom, did a person have to come a second time to meet him.

His business model was as simple as his lifestyle. He never complicated matters or overburdened himself with cravings. He never chose things by brand names but looked for utility value.
He was very embarrassed if the staff in his hotels paid more attention to him than to the customers and was most uncomfortable when a security guard on duty saluted him. He made sure that they did not do it a second time.

Herbert Cooray was a unique individual in very many ways. He left behind a rich legacy; a legacy of human values that made him unique. Those who came in numbers from various corners of the country; among them beach vendors and fisher-folk from Negombo, beach operators from Beruwela, to pay their last respects at his funeral, was a reflection of the genuine admiration and respect he gathered from people over the years.
May he attain eternal bliss!
Kumara Senaratne







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