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Rev. Fr. Vito Pernio La –A gifted linguist

He was ordained as priest on the 21st of November 1943. Today signifies an important day in Father Perniola’s life 65 years in priesthood. Rev. Father Vito Pemiola was felicitated on the 6th of October, 2008 at the National Christian Literary Festival held at the BMICH. He received an award on that day from his Grace Most Rev. Oswald Gomis, Archbishop of Colombo, in appreciation of his yeoman service to Christian Literature.

I had the privilege of accompanying him on that day to the BMICH with my dear friend Mrs. Sriyanthi Silva, and her family. When he entered the BMICH, a humble, self-effacing soul, the awed respect of the people assembled there was palpable. But! Who is this Father Pemiola?

He is an Italian who has been in Sri Lanka since 1936. He was born in Italy in 1913. At the age of 15 he joined the Jesuit Order. He is a gifted linguist who is conversant with Latin, Portuguese, Dutch, French, English as well as Sinhala, Pali and Sanskrit, besides his mother tongue Italian. He has a Master’s Degree in Ecclesiastical Studies both in Philosophy and in Divinity. He secured an honours degree from the University of London in Indo-Aryan languages, and a Ph.D. from the University of Poona in Linguistics.

Vito was ordained priest in the Galle Cathedral by Monsignor N. Laudadio S.J. on 21 November 1943. Since then to quote his own words, “there is nothing I have not done as a Jesuit, from infirmaries to Prefect of Games, to Parish Priest, to being a Provincial in 1972, from Student to Teacher, Lecturer, Rector, Archivist”. He has done it all and gathered wide experience.

He is the author of several books including a Pali Grammar, a revised edition of which was published in 1997 by the Pali Text Society, Oxford. His greatest work is the near complete documentation on the history of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka from the year 1505 to 1923.

He has already published 17 volumes, two more volumes to be published to complete the series. His work, the result of many years research, is the most comprehensive collection of original documents on Catholic Church history yet published. To quote his own words again, “I started this work in 1978 when I was 65 years old and I hope to finish it next year at the age of 96 if I am still alive!”

In 1949 he was made an Honorary Citizen of Sri Lanka, where he continues to reside. He has travelled widely, read extensively and spent many hours in archives with dictionaries to produce accurate information. He spends long hours at his desk and computer, with soft classical music, which is his constant companion playing in the background.

At the final prayer service in Italy in 1932, the words; There is more joy in giving than in receiving from a reading made a real impact on him. He says “the more I meditated on these lines, the more I realised that the real joy of giving is God’s own joy and that I ought to share in that same joy”. This characterizes him. He is ever ready to give - to give of his time, give of himself for “it is only when we transcend our petty schemes for the sake of other people that we find our real fulfillment” says this saintly priest. Father Pemiola has been a spiritual father and guide to many, both religious and lay over the years and continues to do so with the many who flock to him. To quote him” I am a priest and must be available to all.”

As one who knows him and associated with him for many years, I am singularly fortunate in being exposed to this remarkable individual, brilliant, humble, and self-effacing.

Mano Ramanathan


Call for more public interest litigation

It is heartening to see the Judiciary in Sri Lanka steering the nation on the right path in recent months with landmark judgments. Majority of cases were pertaining to abuse of power by those holding public office.

Meanwhile, it is also encouraging to note the role played by public spirited citizens who filed many of these cases with no ulterior motives as reported in the press. Such actions no doubt encourage other affected citizens to move court against corruption and abuse of state authority. . Going by the recent judgments of the Supreme Court, many illegal transactions pertaining to state land could be dealt with if those public spirited citizens could file several more cases in the public interest.

In recent years many valuable state land have been disposed of through shady deals and one such is the “Chandra de Silva” Playground that was situated adjoining the Waters Edge complex. Others include vast land around Grandpass donated to leading businessmen and several more blocks in the city of Colombo given to political stooges during the Premadasa regime. Another land adjoining Arpico Super Centre at Battararnulla was acquired for a ‘public purpose’ and was gifted to a party stooge during the same period. A flourishing Service Station is functioning here at present, thus serving a ‘public purpose’ as in the case of Waters Edge.

Privatisation of CWE and the Vauxhall Street property deal are also bound to bring interesting verdicts if pursued in earnest

K. A. G. Lakshman


To avoid traffic congestions in Colombo

I wish to write this letter to the President and to the Government Members of Parliament to suggest a proposal to reduce the traffic in the heart of Colombo and minimise the fuel consumption. As you all aware, the flooding, traffic jams, cost of living are the biggest burdens to all of us. During the Late, Mr. Lalith Athulathrnudali (then MP for Colombo and Minister of Trade and Shipping and National Security) with whom I was involved in doing social service work, we did some cost cutting projects. I think no doubt it brought some relief to the masses. This faded away after his death. However, I am writing this now to refresh the minds of the persons concerned.

To reduce the traffic jam during week days certain guidelines were introduced after consulting Ceylon Chamber of Commerce other authorities and implemented in 1985. From 6.00 a.m. to 9 .00 a.m. in the morning and in the evening 4.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. all heavy vehicles were not allowed to run on the roads in the city and outskirts of Colombo. This reduced the school and office time traffic congestion and resulted in saving fuel consumption and in effect lowering the cost of living to a certain extend.

As such, if the President implements these proposals again it may bring some relief to the masses. All heavy vehicles/containers should be stopped from entering Colombo from Katunayaka, Kaduwela, Panadura, Pannipitiya, Gampaha at peak times. And if the heavy vehicles are on the move at these peak hours those should be ordered to be parked until the peak time is over.

Wesley Moses
Ethul Kotte


 Satya Sai Baba

Symbol of Peace

The 83rd Birthday of Bagavan Sri Satya Sai Baba will be celebrated all over the world on 23rd November, 2008, by millions of devotees. This Great religious leader is the Symbol of Peace. He is craving for peace among all human beings irrespective of race, religion, caste or class.

Even as a child he abhorred the killing of animals and refused to eat flesh. He revealed exceptional qualities of wisdom, compassion and generosity. He offered his lunch to school mates who had nothing to eat. Even as a child he performed miracles to surprise his playmates.

Swami Sai Baba does not give prominence to miracles. He says “My greatest wealth is my Love. People speak about my powers and miracles, but my greatest miracle is my Love. All should show this Love, only then will there be oneness.” His service is not limited to preaching. Satya Sai Baba has established a modem and spacious Sri Satya Sai Super Specialty Hospital at Puttaparthi. Even complicated operations are being done free of charge by specialists who come from U.S.A, U.K, Italy and those in India. A good number of Satya Sai Colleges have been built in India for boys and girls. The Satya Sai Institute of Higher Learning is the Central University. Sai Colleges are found in Thailand , Zambia and Sweden. The first Sai School in Sri Lanka is in Jaffna. In Sri Lanka the Sri Satya Sai Service Organisation has established Satya Sai Suwa Sewana at Hanwella. This is a 50 bed centre for cancer patients.

Once Satya Sai Baba had stated, “If I had come as a mere man you would not have respected my teachings and followed it for your good. So I have to be in this human form with super human wisdom and powers. Do not attempt to see me through your external eyes. My mission is to grant you courage and joy to drive away weakness and fear. Do not condemn yourselves as sinners. Sin is a misnomer for what are really errors, provided you repent sincerely and resolve not to follow evil again. Love and serve the motherland. Love all men without distinction. Know that mankind is a single community.”

Pram Deldeniya
Lalitha Kala Shiromani


Unique divine phenomenon

The most indomitable, outstanding, hero India produced this century
On November 23rd celebrates his fruitful eighty third birth anniversary
Born to kindle loving kindness marvelous, in suffering humanity
To drag human beings gone beyond animal level, ruthless calamity

Extended numerous services to mankind unwavering dedication
Sathya Sai Universities, Colleges, Schools, Super Hospital great determination
Have revived high acclaims from National Leaders, Evaluators, United Nation
Irrespective of caste, creed, race, centres for youth rehabilitation.

Sathya Sai Education today, a light of hope in conflict ridden world
A major contribution, field of education, recognised all over the world
He says “education is to lead a fully human” spiritual life
His educational programmes provide noble, able, stable, character for human life

Distinguish feature education system philosophy helping students says Sathya Baba
To mould a perfect character, with academic skills based on Sathya, Santhi, Dharma, Prema, Ahima
His preaching reaches all comers globally sans discrimination race, religion or language
In simple language his dharmic preachings interlaced with parables great privilege

A single individual mobilizing enormous services a miracle
Respect all religions, faiths, they’re different paths to same goal remarkable
He says “you don’t have to change your religion to follow me
Follow the truth of your religion I can guide thee”

The most incomprehensible unique divine phenomenon of our age
All round the year thousands of devotees from every comer, pay homage
A life long rare blessing solemn, subtle, splendid assurance
Bhagawan the living saviour a privilege, once in a lifetime, to be in your presence

On your significant birthday in utmost sincere felicitation
I pay my ardent obeisance abounding in warm dedication
He says “in each one of us there’s hidden divinity”
May you live long healthily to stir it, in reality in humanity!!

Sai Ram
Kumari Kunarasinghe Tennakoon


What, no natural disasters?

The Daily News of 24th October carries a prominent headline, ‘Sri Lanka free from natural disasters’ - Minister Karu Jayasuriya. Ironically this statement appears at a time when thousands in many districts of the island are suffering from floods and earth slips.
The Minister has also said that Sri Lanka is a lucky country because there are no earthquakes and hurricanes. The Minister is right to the extent that these are the only low types of natural disasters that the country is relatively free of. Are not floods, droughts and earth slips natural disasters that constantly ravage the country? It is to deal with the misery that accompanies these that there is a Ministry for Disaster Management, etc.

But I seriously believe that the Minister is telling the truth. The fact is that in Sri Lanka floods and landslips can also be considered as man-made disasters. The main contributory factors are the illicit felling of the forests, illicit mining of sand, illicit filling of the water retention reservations, illicit clearing of hill slopes, obstruction of the natural drainage by haphazard building, etc.

None will disagree that the bulk of the above mentioned human activities that lead to disastrous floods and earth slips go on unchecked invariably with the assistance of politicians who have no concern for the environment or love for the country.
Politicians are indeed the biggest disaster!

Edward Gunawardena


Medical advice for Hajj pilgrims

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is an obligation for all Muslims once in their life time and it is exempted for those who are very sick and debilitated. Nearly 6,000 Sri Lankan pilgrims are getting prepared to make Hajj pilgrimage this year. Sound physical and mental health is needed to perform the hajj in a perfect way acceptable to almighty Allah.

Government of Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has made compulsory to all hajj pilgrims to get vaccines against cholera and meningo coccus meningitis and to produce relevant certificates and yellow cards to the visa officer to get their visas, after realizing the seriousness of the impact of these dreaded and deadly diseases. In spite of this some pilgrims believe that producing the yellow card got illegally to the visa office and satisfying them to get visa is more than enough. These are very foolish people cheating their own self.

Nearly three million pilgrims gather from various parts of the world and converge with severe overcrowding and congestion in Macca and Madina. In an environment like this, if meningococcal meningitis bacteria (germs) are found even in one or two pilgrims air passages, it spread very fast through air like wild fire and infect thousands of people. When these bacteria reach the air passage of the pilgrims, they spread fast inside the body causing severe swelling of brain covering and severe loss of function of adrenal glands. This cause severe shock (drop in blood pressure) and death of the patient within 24 hours. Thousands of patients die when this type of epidemic occurs.

Cholera spread because of consumption of contaminated food and water. Neglecting hygienic sanitary methods in food preparation, storing, transportation, serving and eating are the reasons for contamination of food. When cholera bacteria reach the gastro intestinal tract, it causes severe infection resulting in severe vomiting, abdominal pain and severe diarrhoea. Unless the patient is admitted to hospital and emergency treatment or saline infusion and antibiotics are given, patient usually die within 24-48 hours.

Vaccines should be taken two weeks prior to embarkation. If menigo coccus meningitis vaccine has been given within last three years, repeat vaccine is not necessary. If cholera vaccine has not been given within last six months, it has to be repeated.

Those who are suffering from hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes mellitus, ischemic heart disease (cholesterol related heart diseases), back ache and arthritis, skin diseases, psychiatric illnesses, and all other illnesses should consult your specialist doctors to get your disease condition reviewed with necessary tests. With the expert opinion from your doctor you should take all the necessary drugs according to his prescription and get your disease under full control before embarkation. You have to take all the necessary drugs in sufficient quantity to cover up the entire hajj period. Some drugs prescribed by doctors here are not available in the pharmacies in Saudi Arabia. Drugs which are available there are very very expensive.
Those who are more than 40 years old should get blood pressure, fasting blood sugar and ECG checked and get doctors opinion.

‘Repiratory problems like cold cough and pneumonia are very common during hajj. Pilgrims who congregate during hajj carry viruses and bacteria in their respiratory passages. These organisms spread fast among other pilgrims especially while sleeping in overcrowded and congested rooms. To prevent these, pilgrims should use face mask while staying and sleeping in overcongested rooms and while involving in prayers and rituals like Thawaf and Saee. If face mask is not available, use towels to cover the face.
Heat stroke is a common and serious problem during hajj especially among old and obese. It occurs mainly due to walking in the scorching sun and febrile illnesses. To prevent this problem, the pilgrims especially those who are vulnerable should use an umbrella while going out in the scorching sun. A towel also can be used to cover the head. Wrapping a wet towel around the neck is also desirable. During hajj avoiding synthetic clothes are beneficial in many ways.

During hajj, the pilgrims walk up and down to the mosque for prayers five times a day. During Saee and Thawaf the pilgrims walk long distances. These are good exercises for the body. During hajj, pilgrims tend to forget completely about world affairs because of intensive involvement in Ibadhath, and develop a mind of peace and relaxation. Because of these reasons blood sugar and blood pressure come down some times markedly in those who are suffering from diabetes mellitus and hypertension. There for these pilgrims should reduce their drug doses with doctor’s advice.

Females in child bearing age prefer to delay their menstrual period during hajj. According to learned ulamas, it is not necessary as menstrual period is a natural process and is occurring under Allah’s command. Those who are very keen can use a course of Norethisterone according to doctor’s advice.

The government of Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia operates several medical clinics around the holy mosque in Macca and Madina. Sri Lankan government also operate a medical clinic at Macca. Several doctors who go in various groups also conduct medical service. As the need arises, the pilgrims could take medical advice from these clinics and doctors. When there is a severe illness the ambulance can be called over the phone and the patient can be taken to the hospital for admission and treatment. Those who are very sick, debilitated and handicapped can use wheel chairs.

May almighty Allah bless the hajj pilgrims to make their journey with sound health and perform the hajj in the way entirely acceptable to him.

Dr. S. M. Ashraff
Colombo 8



Mrs. Siri Rupesinghe

Sharing, caring and giving personality

She was one of the most dynamic personalities I had met, so full of joie de vivre, always smiling, always happy - sharing, caring and giving - her life an ode to kindness and love.
I am grateful for the ten years of friendship I shared with her before she was heartlessly wrenched away by the very hands that were supposed to heal her - a splash of black on the noble profession of healing.

This appreciation I write in her memory is one which I hope will specially be a celebration of her talent in painting which she so gladly shared-with-me. It was in 1999 that I approached her as an unsure student of Art. I confessed to her that I was really unsure if I could even “draw a circle straight”, a phrase she always taunted me with jokingly, as I progressed under able guidance to reach more decent abilities in painting. I never ceased to be awe stricken by the galaxies of gorgeous paintings that adorned her walls - each one more beautiful than the other - every one a masterpiece.

She became my mentor and friend. Sunday afternoons were hours filled with happiness.They were my only holidays, and Sunday after Sunday she made my lessons a tryst with beauty and colour. When I drew the flowers, she would breathe in fragrance. When I drew wild life, she would give it life - that twitches to the whiskers of the leopard, or the glint to the eye of the tiger. She made the landscapes come alive, fresh with dew and the waves in the ocean roll on my canvas. She added the froth to .the waves of the sea, and the mist to the mountains. We worked tirelessly, she more than I, goading me forward to achieve that final feeling of satisfaction of a job well done until finally she allowed me to rest my brush.

Sunday afternoons will never be the same.
Her life was one of love, of giving and sharing, of happiness, beauty, goodness and prayer. Her profound faith in God illuminated her whole being. I can still picture her smiling face, she was always smiling, the largeness of her heart glowing through her smile.
The news of her passing away sparked shock, sadness and an aching sense of loss to all of us. I do not know if her family will ever come to terms with it as she was the life of the home. No she cannot be gone forever - her life was too beautiful to be snatched by one so puny as Death.

“Death be not proud, though many have called thee,
Mighty and dreadful, thou art not so.
For those whom thou thinkest thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death…
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more.”

Marietta Siriwardena
Colombo 5


The fine imposed on the former president

Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was imposed a fine of three million rupees by the Supreme Court over the Waters Edge deal, a good lesson to all who misuse power or resort to corrupt practices.
There was news that a fund is to be launched to collect money. I am sure that the former president could herself pay the fine easily.
On the other hand, hundreds of people are languishing in jail due to their inability to pay the fines imposed by Courts. Is it, therefore, not a better thing to raise a fund to pay the fines of the poor prisoners and have them released from jail?

Upali S. Jayasekera



An eagle’s endgame

Never to forget
The years that met
A world of regret
Tortured by hate
The spirit of justice
Must not hesitate....

Irene de Silva
Colombo 5




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