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Indian company to lay North railway line

It was reported that the government has signed an agreement with an Indian company to relay or reconstruct the Northern railway line.
As one who has worked in the Way and Works Department of the Railway for a short period, I have witnessed how efficiently our workmen from platelayers to engineers worked to restore the track during the floods and wash ways in the hill country under trying conditions, sun and rain and how expeditiously they completed the work. Had this being given to contractors, it would have taken a longer period and the quality of work may not have been up to expectation, as the main concern of the contractor is profits.

Why go further, the restoration of the track in double quick time by our expert, experienced men when the track was washed off during the Tsunami disaster, weren’t they equal to the task?
Coming back to relaying the Northern railway lines by an Indian company, one should not forget that these lines were in existence for over a century, laid during the colonial regime, before the LTTE removed the rails and sleepers to build bunkers. The ‘Rail Bed’, by the constant ‘pounding’, ‘stamping’ by heavy rail traffic for a long period, I believe, is well compacted, stabilised and consolidated. What remains to be done is to lay the rails and sleepers – wooden or concrete, and pack metal under and ballast. Also the existing bridges and culverts should be tested and strengthened. This, I am sure, our own experienced men could do much faster and with lesser expenditure. Whatever it may be, the Railway Department or the Government may have their own reasons or views in estimating skills of our workmen, officials and engineers. If done departmentally, the abandoned line rooms could have been renovated and repaired to house the employees who would maintain the track after restoration.

However, it is hoped that our officials who supervise the construction by the Indian company should ensure the use of quality materials specially rails, dog spikes, fishplates etc. are according to British standard specifications (BSS) though of Indian origin.
In ending, I pose the question, is this the legacy left behind by illustrious administrations of the like of B. D. Rampala and the dedicated engineers of the Way and Works Department N. A. Vaitialingam, L. S. de Silva, Paul Senaratne, Kalidasan to name a few.

G. A. D. Sirimal


Pronunciation of expertise, cognitive…

I was listening last Wednesday evening to the news broadcast over the SLBC, now re-branded as “Radio Sri Lanka”, the announcer on board was a female who pronounced “expertise” as “experties”. No sooner the newscast was over, I called the newsroom to point out that the word was mispronounced. Another announcer who was to take over and present the “Family Choice Programme” confirmed that it was wrong and agreed that the correct pronunciation is “experteez”.
And in last Sunday’s night newscast, the announcer, another lady, pronounced the word “cognitive” as per the spelling. Here again, I contacted the announcer to inform her that, the correct pronunciation is “conytive” to which her response was that both were correct.
I was now a bit confused with the pronunciation of these two words and did some ‘homework’ on these two words. What I found will be a surprise not only to the announcers but also the readers of your esteemed newspaper.

As for the word “expertise”, if it is a noun, the correct pronunciation is “experteez”.
When “expertise” is a verb, it should be pronounced as “experties”. The word “cognitive’ has to be pronounced “as is”, and I couldn’t find the alternative pronunciation as “conytive” which pronunciation I have heard from erudite speakers at seminars, lectures etc. and also at a lecture in Psychology.
I do really enjoy listening to Radio Sri Lanka, the announcers – Fathima Razick Cader, Soundi Thawam (who is my favourite announcer), Nihal Bharethi, Shareefa Thahir, Steve Morrel, Fathima Razick, Caryl Sela, to name a few - are doing an excellent job. This is not to find fault with any of the announcers but to kindle some interest regarding pronunciation. I also would like to read, other readers’ views on this subject for me to further enlighten myself.

As a regular listener of the Radio Station’s Family Choice Programme, I would like to request Yoosuf Noordeen, Director, SLBC to intersperse Islamic Nasheeds (songs) to the above programme in keeping with their “slogan” new programmes, less clutter and new presenters. This will not only make SLBC outshine but also will definitely attract more listeners to Radio Sri Lanka – The Station to the Nation.

Mohamed Zahran


“Vaithulyawadeen” Who are they?
UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was criticised for referring to an ex-Bhikkhu Parliamentarian as a ‘Pavidda’ and a ‘Vaithulyawadee’. Those who level such criticism do not seem to have understood the correct meaning of the two words or appear to have purposely misunderstood the words for obvious reasons.
‘Pavidda’ is a term used when referring to someone who has been ordained as a Bhikkhu and is not derogatory unless used to personally address a Bhikkhu. It is the same as the word ‘sathwaya’ in referring to all beings including human beings. Then again a ‘Vaithulyawadee’ is a lay Buddhist or member of the Maha Sangha who follow the rituals and practices in Vaithulyawadism as against the tenets of Therawada Buddhism.

The Buddha recommended Bhikkhus not to give themselves airs of superiority over the laity. There is no distinction between a person who enters the Pavidibahavaya and lives in a temple or a monastery or a person who gets married and lives with his family. It is the bahaviour that makes the difference. The Buddhists respect the Maha Sangha and the Sangha is one of three-fold refuge in the lives of the Buddhists - The Buddha, the Buddha Dhamma and the Sangha. I, as a child, saw my grandmother getting up from her seat in the veranda of our home on seeing a member of the Sangha on the road, walking past our house. Others did the same. That is the respect with which the Sangha was held then.

However, when a Bhikku behaves in a manner that brings disgrace to the Cheevaraya he wears, does not uphold the tenets in Buddhism or breaks the Vinaya Rules, such Bhikkhu does not deserve respect or reverence as a member of the Sangha and such Bhikkhu cannot expect the lay Buddhists to respect him. Such Bhikkhus should be exposed and criticised so that unethical behaviour will not take root or spread to others, and to protect Theravada Buddhism in it’s purity. Criticism of such Bhikkhus is not sacrilege.
Vaithulyawadaya is a sect of Mahayanism (Mahayana Buddhism) that was introduced from India by Dhamma Ruchi Thera. Vaithulyawadee sect embraced certain Hindu rituals and practices distorting Therawada Buddhism. Certain Theravada Buddhists turned out to be Vaithulyawadeens, praying to gods and deities to obtain favours for themselves or to punish others, offering sacrifices, following un-Buddhistic practices such as getting married and being engaged in business activities.

That was supported by some Bhikkhus for material benefit and income earning. The Vaithulyawadeens razed the Maha Viharaya, the headquarters of Theravada Buddhism and destroyed books and documents. It was worst during the reign of Mahasen who even destroyed Theravada Buddhist Temples and converted the premises to paddy fields. With the death of Mahasen, Vaithulyawadee sect came to an end through hangovers continued as certain Buddhist Temples still promote God and Deity worship and practices alien to Buddhism for income generation. This distortion of Buddhism has paved the way for indiscipline among the Bbikkhus and has led to the emergence of a political Bhikkhu sect side stepping the precepts of Theravada Buddhism and bent on material gain and political power. Recently I saw a photograph on the front page of a newspaper where a lay politico was seen speaking to a Cheevaraya clad politico, keeping the hand of the former on the shoulder of the latter - what disrespect for the Cheevaraya, what indignity? That is the result of politicisation of Buddhism or at least the Sangha taking to politics.

Certain Bhikkhus have been corrupt in the past and even as of today it is so. Bhikkhus have taken to business and politics in a big way. By being seated alongside laymen, addressing political meetings, and participating in demonstrations Bhikkhus have lost the respect they were held in, before. The manner in which they address meetings, press conferences and go in demonstrations is unworthy of Bhikkhus. The Sangha have taken to politics, sadly so, and it is apparent that the Maha Sangha is in the process of being politicised. The tragedy that is in the offing should be averted.
I as a Buddhist, firmly believe that Bhikkhus who have taken to politics, who are doing business, who have thrown open their temples for God and Deity worship are Vaithulyawadeens who have gone against Buddhist Philosophy for material gain.

Upali S. Jayasekera
Colombo 4


Drama on our streets

From time to time while peacefully driving on our roads in Colombo we have to encounter the phenomenon of police vehicles asking us to move to a side to make way for a VVIP in a car which is perhaps bullet proof.
This continues although the war was over in May 2009. Who are these VVIPs scared of?
We need to go back to the December 2001 ethos where the security on the roads was handled well.
My memory of the 1978 Constitution is that sovereignty is with the people of Sri Lanka. Then how come that these people are treated thus by the Police? Over to those responsible for the security of the VVIPs.

Sydney Knight


Adieu to Colombo life

As a preliminary to my departure from this world, I will be going to my birthplace, Jaffna, by the end of this month from Colombo, where I have been living for a little over 60 years out of my 80 odd years of life span up to now, necessitated by the universal needs of old age to get personal attention from my relations in times of sickness and inability to attend to my own needs alone, as I have been doing all these 60 odd years in Colombo as a bachelor.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank, among others, all the news papers and other media, especially from Colombo, for accommodating my small contributions readily for over half a century and those readers who appreciated as well as those who contradicted my contributions and made me to carry on the contributions, though a tiny drop in the ocean of writing in the country.



A nation’s vote

(SL 2010)

Thrice-blessed threads

Adorn the wrists

Of statesmen and political bandits

Preying...on forget or forgive!

Irene de Silva



Ranjith Wiratunga

A life full of grace, empathy and compassion

My friend and former colleague from the World Bank, Ranjith Wiratunga, passed away last week in Maryland. He has left behind a wonderful family to whom he was a devoted husband and father, a large group of devoted friends from Maryland, Sri Lanka and many parts of the world and his former colleagues who respected and appreciated his contribution to the Bank’s work and many there who counted him as a good friend.

I first met Ranjith in 1975 when my wife and I and our three young children were met at the Dulles Airport by Ranjith. I had corresponded with him through a mutual friend that we needed a place to stay for a short while until we found a house for ourselves. Ranjith’s wife Christine and his son were going to London to be with her parents to have their second child and we stayed with him. From that day Ranjith was a wonderful friend to our family. We became so close that I felt he was an elder brother that I never had and he made me feel like a younger brother that he never had. My wife calls Christine, her sister-friend.

In the thirty-five years I have known Ranjith, I never heard him say anything disparaging or hurtful of anyone He was a gentleman to the very core of his being and deeply forgiving and religious in his own private way. You could depend on him for anything. He was very much trusted, appreciated and loved by all who came to know him. He loved people and the feelings were mutual.

As a professional, his work was exceptional. This was much appreciated. He spent four years in Rome as the head of the Financial Control and Disbursements division at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The World Bank was doing IFAD a favour by giving Ranjith a leave of absence to get things started in IFAD, at that stage, a young institution. He was missed in Maryland then. But many of us visited the Wiratunga family in Rome on our trips on home-leave or in rest stops in our official travels. Ranjith brought to his work sound banking experience from the Bank of Ceylon both in Sri Lanka and in the London branch and from National Westminster Bank, a leading merchant bank in London. His work at the World Bank and IFAD took him to many corners of the world, from Latin America to Asia and to Sub-Saharan Africa. He had a great empathy for the poor of the world and he always felt that his work was to help them.

Ranjith liked to be with people and he would gather a wonderful group of friends for dinner or a party in the evening. He loved to sing. And, he sang well as a natural tenor. We used to kid him about it, that he could have been a night club singer. He had won an amateur singing competition on board a P&O liner that took him to London in the mid-sixties. He had a keen sense of humour. He compared one’s old age and impending departure from this world as a journey, in which all of us are in the departure lounge until the flight was announced. There was no flight schedule but we had to leave gracefully when it was announced. And, he did leave us with great grace, in the arms of his beloved wife, Christine and surrounded by his loving three children and his only sibling who was in Maryland to be with her brother, in his last days.

Ranjith fought hard in the last five years, battling a dreaded cancer. But he faced it with much grace. I called him our hero when we met with a group of friends to thank God for giving him a lease of life after three complicated surgeries. I reminded those who gathered on that occasion, that each hero has a heroine. In his story it was Christine who looked after him with so much dedication and highly intelligent management of his health with sharp and pointed discussions with his doctors, scouring the Internet to read about the latest advances in cancer research and appropriate therapies for his condition. It was a hard and heroic fight that our friend and his family fought.
We are all very lucky and blessed to have known and associated with Ranjith as friends and many as his extended family. On his departure from this world, we celebrate his life, so full of grace, empathy and compassion. We shall miss him to our dying days.

Sarath Rajapatirana


K. Sivagananathan

A legendary banker with a mission

March 8, 2010 marks the eighth death anniversary of legendary banker Kurunathapillai Sivagananathan who contributed immensely to uplift, upgrade and grow to unprecedented heights the Sri Lanka’s foremost state bank, Bank of Ceylon through many innovations, which is now over seven decades in existence. He joined the bank in 1953 at the age of 18 years, completed his Diploma in Banking in 1961 and became as Associate Member of the Institute of Bankers London and later a Fellow Member. He was instrumental in pioneering and changing the colonial system of banking at Bank of Ceylon. He simplified documentary procedures which became very useful in the era when the open economy was first introduced in1977. Training units were set up not only in Colombo, but in several districts to get employees adapted to these procedures. His demise was a rude shock to all bankers as he had made many invaluable contributions even after his tenure of service. He developed new innovative methods which helped immensely to our expanding competitive banking industry. He was lately a Consultant at Central Bank of Sri Lanka on banking matters.

He was a native of Manipay and was born to parents, who were both teachers. After his father’s death, as the eldest child he opted to join the Bank of Ceylon instead of pursuing a career in the University purely to look after the younger sisters and brothers. He not only educated them but also found partners and gave them in marriage, at the same time closely looking after his own family. His first appointment as a Manager was at the Matale branch. Later he served as the Regional Manager in the North Western Province In the early ‘80s, he was selected to work in the bank’s first overseas branch in London as the Chief Manager during which period he was instrumental in obtaining ‘Recognised Bank’ status for the bank’s London office from the Bank of England. He also established cordial links with the top banks and bankers in London developing a close rapport facilitating to enhance easy overseas banking transactions. In keeping with his ambitions for himself he had given his two sons and two daughters ample opportunities to pursue their education in their chosen careers. During his tenure of service he was automatically promoted to higher grades to hold positions of Deputy General Manager, Senior Deputy General Manager and on several occasions acted for the General Manager as well. His vast knowledge in banking, hard work, and commitment with total dedication to duty was the path to his rapid stride to stardom.

He was instrumental under the guidance and initiative of Rienzie T. Wijetilleke, the present Chairman of Hatton National Bank, in the formation of the Association of Professional Bankers (APB) in the late eighties. Initially a few senior bankers informally discussed the possibility of forming the APB. The founder member Reinzie T. Wijetillake held the post of President for two years before the late Sivagananathan, who did a lot of spade work, was elected President. After he took up the presidency he was heavily involved in its activities until his retirement in 1995 having served an unblemished career spanning 42 years. The very first high level annual Convention was held with the participation of the Chairman of Barclays Bank as the keynote speaker, the Chairman of Lloyds Bank and the Governor of Bank of England. It was Reinzie T. Wijetillake who helped to sponsor this event financially by donating half a million rupees from Hatton National Bank. The late Sivagananathan was responsible for inviting these very distinguished guests. He was a practical banker in the true sense of the word. Whatever assignment he took over was accomplished with great success. The contribution he made towards the development of the Colombo Centre of the Chartered Institute of Bankers-UK is well known to all bankers. He was mainly instrumental in establishing the Colombo Centre which was selected as one of the best centres by the Institute of Bankers-UK on a number of occasions.

In recognition of the service rendered by him to the banking industry in general and to the Association of Professional Bankers and the Chartered Institute of Bankers-UK, the Colombo Centre in particular, he was conferred the “The Honorary Life Membership” by the APB and the lifetime award “CIB London-Colombo Centre”. The prestigious banking journal published monthly by the CIB London ‘The Banking World’ which is circulated around the world among the banking and the financial community in its issue of the June 1988 edition featured late Sivagananathan as the ‘Personality of the Month’ in recognition of the services rendered, profound and vast banking knowledge, expertise and leadership qualities. He was a doyen of banking industry. He held, in addition, a number of positions in the financial sector. Some of them were Director, Merchant Bank of Sri Lanka Ltd; Chairman, MB Financial Service Ltd; Director, Lanka Securities (Pvt) Ltd, Founder Director and Advisor until his death; Unit Trust Managing Director and CEO of Janashakthi General Insurance Company Ltd; Chairman, Steering Committee on Sri Lanka Inter Bank Payment System; Chairman, Steering Committee-SWIFT; Chairman of Promotion, founder member, Council Member and President of the Chartered Institute of Bankers London (CIB)-Colombo Centre, Founder member, Council member until his death and President of the Association of Professional Bankers-Sri Lanka.

He did not confine his contributions to the banking and the financial sector. He was actively involved in social and humanitarian services including sports activities. In 1989, during the banks Golden Jubilee celebrations he headed a steering committee to construct a ward at the cancer hospital. He was actively associated with the Rotary Movement for over 25 years. At the time of his demise he held office of the Assistant Governor, Western Zone 1 of Rotary District 3220. He also held the office of the Charter President of the Colombo Central Club. He was instrumental in the formation of many Rotary clubs. He developed many Tamil schools which were without many facilities. In the field of sports, he held the post of the President of the Sri Lanka National Services Badminton Association.

The memories and services rendered by the late Sivagananathan, the highly respected and outstanding banker par excellence, a doyen of the banking industry could not be erased from the memories of many for decades. After his demise, K. Sivagananathan Memorial Trust was inaugurated on August 7, 2002 in the presence of a distinguished gathering of eminent bankers, friends, and members of his family at the Grand Oriental Hotel. The main objectives of this KS Trust are to conduct classes, lectures, seminars, study tours, and to offer scholarships to needy students. Every year Memorial Orations were held to coincide with his death anniversary.

May he attain Moksha!

Sunil Thenabadu
Mount Lavinia





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