|In the late fifties and early sixties, anybody who walked up the
beautiful palm-fringed road from Trincomalee Street to Trinity
College, Kandy and asked for Rohan Wijayanayake would have drawn a
blank. If he asked for Teddy, he would have been able to confront a
tall handsome young boy athletically built and sporting a
mischievous grin. Rohan was always popularly known as Teddy.
He was my eldest brother, or Loku Aiya, in a family of four boys. He
was big in every sense of the word, a six-footer, with a physique to
match. His heart was as big as his frame, always ready to help the
needy and bleeding for the oppressed and the wretched of the earth.
He took to sports as a duck taking to water. Rugger was his first
love, while he paid a lot of attention to hockey and athletics too.
Studies received the least attention. His leadership skills were
honed under that great warrior, Denzil Kobbekaduwa who captained
Trinity rugby with distinction and later left an indelible mark in
the country’s military history, as a legendary leader of men. Later
he played rugby for Trinity College, led by Ken de Joodt, alongside
heavyweights such as Nimal Maralanda, Ken Murray, Mike de Alwis,
Jacobs. Madugalle and Odayar, under the watchful eyes of coach,
Captain Bertie Dias and Norman Walter, the Principal.
Studies did not draw his interest but he was intelligent. Sinhala
language and literature were his weakest subjects and my father had
to obtain the services of a Sinhala tutor during the school
vacations to help boost Rohan’s Sinhala skills. Not surprisingly,
the Sinhala lessons were the only occasions Rohan’s face was not
creased with that mischievous smile for he hated those sessions.
School vacations were full of fun, frolic and tights in a family
of four boys. Female cousins who sometimes visited our estate were
at the receiving end of our teasing and pranks, especially Rohan’s.
He was always the leader, our guardian and hero, in all our exploits
of good, clean fun.
My father, being a fun loving man, took everything in his stride
but lost his temper, whenever we broke a window pane whilst playing
cricket. Rohan loved to organise various games for his younger
brothers and have fun at the expense of my second brother, by
engineering the victory of the other two younger brothers. Very
often my mother had to play the role of peacemaker, in the ensuing
quarrels, giving a piece of her mind to Rohan. When cakes were made,
mother used to make one separately for the children because within a
few minutes, Rohan would cut the cake into four huge chunks and the
four children had a hearty treat.
Being a chip off the old block, Rohan opted to enter the field of
tea planting, after completing his SSC exam, with the blessings of
my parents. He had his first “creeping” assignment at Holyrood
Estate, Talawakelle, under that Senior Planter and strict
disciplinarian, Peter Inness. Rohan continued playing rugby for
Dickoya and later, Dimbulla.
Little by little, he inched his way up the ladder of his planting
career and became a Senior Planter, a “Periya Dorai”. He was a
popular figure in the planting field. He did not tolerate
indiscipline and inefficiency in his staff, but I knew that
underneath that veneer of ferocity, was a man whose heart melted at
the suffering of the poor estate labourers. I suppose the labourers
too knew about it. He received the necessary guidance from my
father, who himself was a knowledgeable and very Senior Planter.
In the early sixties, his big heart was stolen by a quite,
pretty, fair maiden called Sujeeva (fondly called Suji by family and
friends) Atapattu, a product of Kandy High School. Their association
culminated in marriage in 1966. They became the proud parents of
three sons, who had their initial schooling in Trinity College and
later proceeded abroad for higher studies.
After the accelerated Mahaweli Scheme was launched by JRJ in the
late seventies, Rohan was invited to take up a responsible post at
Kalawewa, by his school friend, Gamini Dissanayake, then Minister
in-charge of the Mahaweli Project. Rohan, along with another
distinguished Trinitian, Jayantha Jayawardene, took up the challenge
of resettling people in the Kalawewa area, thereby contributing
directly towards establishing an entirely new civilisation based on
the paddy field, tank, irrigation canals and the dagaba, with
electricity too, thanks to the vision of JRJ and Gamini Dissanayake.
This offer by Gamini Dissanayake bears testimony to the honesty
integrity and efficiency of Rohan and Jayantha and the high esteem
they were held in by Gamini Dissanayake and JRJ because they wanted
such people to man these responsible positions at Kalawewa, as it
was a pioneering project, success of which was of paramount
importance to the government in general and the country in
During the 1987 - 89 period, when the country was in political
turmoil due to the insurgencies of the JVP and LTTE, Rohan was
compelled to go to USA with his dear wife, due to the country
situation and family commitment. That was a very difficult period
for both of them. However, they survived and succeeded in educating
their three sons and see them blooming into strapping young men, who
are good and useful human beings in every sense of the word.
Even though he was in the states, his heart was in Sri Lanka. He
visited Sri Lanka practically every two years or so and never forgot
his parents, brothers-in-laws and friends. He used to call me from
Los Angeles every weekend, and find out about our health and never
failed to speak to my father.
He did his duty by his parents and family, never for once
forgetting that he was the eldest. His first question, whenever he
phoned was, “How, how are you?” and the last “What do you want from
here.” He did everything possible to ensure that my father received
the best of comforts and medical attention during the evening of his
His concern for his family member was amply displayed by his act of
telephoning from LA, every day for more than 2 months, when I
underwent “Coronary artery bypass graft” surgery, in 2007.
He was a man who was full of good humour and his hallmark was his
infectious, unstoppable laughter, even at funerals, sometimes much
to the annoyance of elder.
He brought up his children in an atmosphere of strict discipline,
but always friendly and warm. His wife Suji, was a tower of strength
to him. He never forgot his friends. The word in never appeared in
his thoughts He was generous to a fault. His heart melted for the
poor and the downtrodden.
He was a dutiful father, husband son and brother. He was a father
figure to me and I was fortunate to host him for almost a month in
2007, when he finally came to settle down in Sri Lanka. He never
forgot his roots and was lucky enough to visit his childhood
ancestral home at Jawatte, Kalutara, a few months before his
untimely demise on May 16, 2009. A cousin who went with him told me
that he was able to trace the house, after more than 50 year and was
thrilled, as a small child, taking photographs and relating
childhood incidents. That was Rohan, giant of a man, with a heart of
He was very proud of his school and was associated in its
activities as an Old Boy, whenever time permitted. He moved among a
wide circle of friends, from all walks of life. Although Rohan was a
Trinitian, two of his best friends were “gentlemen of Kingswood
College”, namely, Owen and Roy. If there was one rare occasion when
Rohan was in a pensive mood, that would have been when Trinity lost
to archrivals Royal in the Bradby.
He lost his temper only when he saw injustice, dishonesty,
indiscipline and treachery. He did not tolerate fools. He always
fought for the underdog and never compromised his principles for a
mess of pottage, like the present day politicians. Otherwise, he was
as mild as a lamb, always laughing and enjoying life to the fullest.
His sudden departure from this world took everyone by surprise. It
was as if he was taken away by some mysterious force.
Loku Aiya, it took over 3 months for me to put pen to paper to
write this article, because I could not quite get used to the fact
that you were no longer with us. You epitomised everything we
Wijayanayaka’s stand for, values such as fairplay, loyalty, honesty,
integrity, efficiency, unwavering principles, generosity, simplicity
and never say die attitude.
So my dearest Loku Aiya, it is time for me to say good-bye. Let
us meet again a brothers, at least once, before we achieve the
supreme bliss of Nirvana. Sorry, I could not peak to you during your
final moments, because I was too emotional, but I am sure you would
have understood my though process, which will remain a secret
between both of us. Until we meet again, in this ardous journey of
sansara your unadulterated, genuine laughter will continue to
reverberate through the cockles of my heart. With apologies to the
Bard of Avon, may I ay, “Good night, sweet prince, may hosts of
smiling angels sing thee to thy sleep.”
|Mrs. Sita Rajasuriya passed away peacefully on 24, September
2009. Three months have gone by. She has left us for good but will
live in the hearts of thousands of those who have been influenced by
her exemplary life.
Mrs. Rajasuriya and Guiding in Sri Lanka.
It is a strange coincidence that the year 1917 happens to be of
special significance to Girl Guiding in Sri Lanka; for more reason
• It was in 1917 that Girl Guiding was introduced to Sri Lanka by
Jenny Calvary a Missionary working at Girl High School, Kandy.
• It was in 1917, September 2 a child was born in Nuwara Eliya. Dr.
Soloman Silva a medical practitioner and his wife Mary Abeyratne
were blessed with a daughter whom they named SITA.
• It was in 1917 that a school for girls was established in Colombo.
This school is what we know as Visakha Vidyalaya, a leading Buddhist
School for girls.
This is why I say that the year 1917 is of special significance to
us members of the Sri Lanka Girl Guides Association, as these three
It is at Visakha Vidyalaya that Sita Silva was enrolled as a Girl
Guide. Sita married a Police Officer, A. J. Rajasuriya, who was
required to serve in various parts of the country. They were blessed
with a daughter Lilamani and son Chandra. Wherever they were and
whenever she could Mrs. Rajasuriya was in contact with Guide Leaders
Back in Colombo, Mrs. Rajasuriya was sad to hear that Girl Guiding
at Visakha Vidyalaya – 11th Colombo was not functioning. It is at
this stage in 1947 that she revived the company together with
Lakshmi Nimalasuriya and Swarna Fernando.
Later Mrs. Rajasuriya was a Nursery School teacher at Musaeus
College, Colombo when she helped with the Guides of 23rd Colombo.
I was fortunate to be a student at Visakha Vidyalaya and was enroled
by my Guide Captain, Mrs. Sita Rajasuriya, as a Girld Guide. She was
very popular as a Guide Leader and actively participated in events
organised both in Colombo and the National Level.
Lord Olave Baden
Powell, World Chief Guide, visited Sri Lanka in the late 1950’s and
it was she who identified Mrs. Rajasuriya as a person, who was
capable of taking charge of Girl Guiding in our country. When on a
flight over Sri Pada, Lady Baden Powell held Sia Rajasuriya’s hand
and made her promise that she would accept this responsibility. Thus
when Miss Edna Alwis, first Sri Lanka Chief Commissioner, completed
her term of office, Mrs. Rajasuriya was appointed Chief Commissioner
of the Sri Lanka Girl Guides Association.
Mrs. Rajasuriya was personification of dedication and commitment, to
serve the girls and young women of the country. She quietly but
steadily led the way with the dignity and simplicity. She was humble
but firm in the decisions taken.
Some of the highlights of her achievements were:
• Taking Girl Guiding into the rural areas in Sri Lanka. A
Commissioner was appointed to work in this field – Ms. Mallika
Perera who together with Miss. Iris Blacker and Ray Blaze did
• Introduced the Branch for the Handicapped, now known as
Differently Abled. Started a Little Friends Pack at the Khan
• Introduced Guiding to the inmates of the House of Detention,
• Introduced Community service into the Guide programme. Mrs.
Rajasuriya was a firm believer that girl guides must join hands and
work together with other organisations, which were service
orientated and with moral standards – values. This resulted in our
working with Abeysekera a Rural Development worker, working in the
Rodiya Community of Manawa and Kanatoluwa. Later with Dr. A. T.
Ariyaratna, Jatika Sarvodaya Sharmadana Sangamaya and Dr. Lakshman
de Silva the Saukyadana Movement.
The doors were now opened for Girl Guides to do Community Service.
An auspicious start to where we are today.
Mrs. Rajasuriya and World Guiding:
• Was the first Sri Lankan to be elected to the World Committee of
the Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).
• Was the first and only Asian to Chair a World conference
• Was the first Chairman of the Asia Pacific Region, WAGGGS
• Was involved in the setting up of a World Centre in Asia, Sangam
in Pune, India.
• The first Asia Pacific Training Pool was set up during her term of
These are some of the many achievements of Mrs. Sita Rajasuriya who
led a successful and exemplary life – she left us at the age of 93
on September 24, 2009.
May she attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana
This article was compiled and written by Mrs. Venetia Gamage,
President of the Sri Lanka Girl Guides Association.