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.
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
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.”
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
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.
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
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
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?
A farewell to an officer and a gentleman
Deshakeerthi Colonel H.H.
Lawrence De Silva. KSV
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
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
He was absorbed into the National Armed Reserve in 1986 and later in to
Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force, fifth Battalion Sri Lanka Light
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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.”
Herbert Cooray – Gentleman first, businessman
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
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
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
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
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!