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Desmond Fernando- A friend through
Ilica Malkanthi Karunaratne
Death is inevitable, but nevertheless, sad and traumatic;
particularly when one loses a good friend. One who has been there
through the ups and downs of life. Desmond’s contribution as a
lawyer, both nationally and internationally, and to human rights, is
considerable, and appreciated throughout the world. I know that many
legal luminaries of fame will write of his work in these spheres.
I would prefer to write oft him as a friend, as one has known him
for many decades. My mind goes back to when I first met him in
London, when we were young, full of the joys of life and free of
responsibility. His father, the late P.O. Fernando, a much respected
public servant of yore, was the Deputy High Commissioner in London.
His parents and mine were friends, and I was a favourite kind of
adopted niece to Aunty Daisybelle and Uncle Oliver. Their home was a
kind of home from home for me. It amused me no end at that stage,
and impressed me too, that Desmond, who lived at London House, had
an egg account at Harrods. The grand Harrods van, emblazoned with
its emblems, would drive up to London House to deliver a weekly
supply of eggs to Desmond and my cousin Pali, who was his closest
friend. We were part of a crowd which would frequent coffee bars
late in the evening. We would visit the famous London pubs too.
Desmond schooled at St Joseph’s College; a brilliant student, he
finished school at just 17. He was considered too young to be sent
on his own to University in London, and went to The University of
Ceylon for one year, where he did English, History and Economics,
before going on to Keble College, Oxford, and later on to London for
his Barrister’s exams. Desmond has told me often, that his days in
England were the happiest days of his life. He stressed that, this
was where he learned to have independent views and to express them
freely; to stand up with courage against injustice. Right throughout
his life, he maintained the friendships he made in his student days,
and through these contacts, was able to help many Sri Lankan
students and organisations. He helped so many people, and was a soft
touch to anyone who needed his help, or just to talk to about their
problems. His juniors and his staff at Colombo House adored him, and
are devastated by his loss. He was a rock that I leant on, after my
husband’s death. In the long years I have known him, I have never
seen him lose his temper; he was always cheerful, smiling, refined-
a cultivated man in every sense of the word. In the last few years,
he would speak to me almost every day, as we worked together, he, as
Chairman and I, as a Director of The Dudley Senanayake Memorial
Foundation. A mutual friend, Kshanika and I, would tease him
relentlessly and sometimes call him ‘Dizzy Dezzy’, when he was
forgetful, but he always took our teasing in good spirits. Since
April this year, he has been in and out of hospital, and would
always ask his staff to inform me. I never failed to visit him in
hospital and chat to him, trying to cheer him up. Unfortunately, in
this his fatal illness, I was out of town, when he was taken to
hospital, developed flu on my return and couldn’t visit him.
Something we had in common was our loyalty to and belief in Ranil
Wickremesinghe. Desmond would get very upset whenever Ranil was
attacked, and felt there was an orchestrated bash and slander
campaign against him. He was visibly agitated that one of his
juniors was involved in this campaign. I’m glad that Ranil
appreciated his steadfast loyalty and paid his respects to him in
death, more than once. Several others too remembered him. It was
good to see those he was fond of in the media, such as Singha
Ratnatunge and Manik de Silva paying their respects to him.
The curtain has gone down on a man who was a gentleman to his
fingertips, a good man, just and kind; who couldn’t bear to see
repression of any kind, who was concerned with human rights, freedom
of speech, of the media or of association. It is in a way, the end
of an era. After his serious illness in 2008, I was glad to see that
Desmond became a truly spiritual person, went regularly to Church
and read the Bible.
“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity
A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to
A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to
A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to
embrace and a time to refrain,
A time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to
A time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to
A time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for
Ecclesiastes 3.,1 to 8.
|Need vs Greed
In October 1990, as the Hon. Secretary of the Board of Control
for Cricket in Sri Lanka, I attended a meeting of the CEOs of the
seven Test playing nations of that time, at Lords in London. The
purpose was to initiate discussions on the concepts of a Match
Referee, Third Umpire and more importantly a Code of Conduct for
Yes, times were indeed changing. The gentleman’s game which for
more than a century had come to be regarded as a credible pathway to
life was being transformed by the very nature of its competition,
requiring checks and balances to be introduced to ensure that it’s
time tested values were protected. The all familiar phrase, “that’s
simply not cricket” seemed to be receding in its significance as
players set out to “win at all costs.” Looking back on the ensuing
two decades in which the commercial aspect of the game has reached
unprecedented proportion, those reforms could not have been better
timed. Appropriately enough, the sessions, lasting over three days,
were chaired by one of the finest gentlemen of the game, the late
Sir Colin Cowdrey, who was then the Chairman of the controlling body
for world cricket, the International Cricket Council (ICC).
The business world too has been through a similar transition, as
the potential and incentives for rich rewards have given rise to a
new breed of executives at various levels, ruthlessly bent on
securing the pot of gold, with little or no regard for the possible
consequences. The staggering collapse of Enron, the shameful role of
Arthur Anderson in it, the astonishing policies at Wall Street in
particular, that encourage risk taking without responsibilities, the
questionable payments of phenomenal rewards, even before the
realisation of related returns, the despicable behaviour of Madoff,
(and in our country, Golden Key) to name a few, have left many
trusting shareholders, investors and the innocent civilised public
the world over, shocked, distressed and even destitute.
The dividing line between Need and Greed is a very thin one. To
cross it, therefore, is not a difficult task; once into that zone,
whether for material gain or power, the word ‘ceases’ to have any
meaning. When one is rewarded for greed, greed becomes a corruptible
factor. Such individuals live unbalanced and yet affluent and
(unfortunately) influential lives. If we encourage our succeeding
generations to emulate such lives, we are only courting disaster. No
single individual or a group of people can thrive in the long-term
by merely exploiting others; this simple philosophy applies to
countries as well. Swimming in riches while the rest drown in
poverty, pollution and violence, have only given rise to extremism,
as seen in many places.
Another issue facing corporate life is the conflict that exists
between personal loyalties and that to the Institution. Some
executives in management expect personal loyalty as a right, while
there are others who may demand it. The worst offenders are the ones
who construe dissenting points of view as disloyalty; a possible
reflection of their personal insecurity and inflated ego. Such
executives will, therefore, often be told by those reporting to
them, only what they like to hear and not what they should know. In
some instances, subordinates are even reduced to servility (a
deplorable humiliation of human dignity). Relationships as these
invariably have disastrous consequences. ‘If everyone thinks like
the Boss does, no one thinks very much’ has deep rooted meaning. It
discourages yes men, encourages independent thinking and
initiatives, all of which contribute effectively in crucial decision
making. If employees are educated to be loyal to the Institution
first, that loyalty will ensure their commitment to their superiors.
However, if they put personal loyalties ahead of loyalty to the
Institution, they end up creating conflicts, which are best avoided.
More often than not such undesirable situations are created by the
In the more successful enterprises, the focus is on
professionalism. To achieve this, superiors recognise the need to
guide their subordinates for competence, and to groom them for
higher responsibility, and eventual succession. Such a process
ensures fair play in the workplace, and inspires confidence, mutual
trust and respect. The Institution then becomes the ultimate winner.
The initiatives of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, and since
then, the Sri Lanka Institute of Directors, to encourage credible,
ethical and accountable conduct in business, and their sustained
focus as demonstrated in the many seminars and modules for
executives, young and old, therefore deserve rich commendation. The
emphasis in all of these modules has been that Directors in
particular, whether in Public or Private companies, must act in good
faith at all times.
In the final analysis, given the impermanence of life, there can
be no greater reward at its end, than the peace of mind reposed in a
clear conscience. So, as much as Corporate Social Responsibility
(CSR) has become a Board Room buzz word, let us make Common Sense
and Conscience (CSC), our personal one, and help transform the world
into a better place for all.
Former Group Chairman
George Steuart and Co Ltd.
|Protest against UN’s unwarranted appointment
A monk who has fallen from grace is holding hands with the political
Opposition which he once contemptuously derided, to slam the
government for its opposition to the UN General Secretary’s
unwarranted appointment of a three member team to probe the human
rights status in the final stages of the Eelam war with the military
forces of the Sovereign State of the Republic of Sri Lanka, which
the State won, and is long forgotten, for it is going ahead with its
work of developing the much neglected economy which was held up for
nearly 30 years due to chiefly religious and Western intervention in
a domestic quarrel between a rag tag band of ill advised terrorists
naming themselves as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, hoping to
set up a Tamil homeland within the predominantly Sinhala Buddhist
The Christian West believed it could use the misguided Tamil
movement to spread its tentacles into the Buddhist fortress. The
Buddhist clergy since the rule of kings over Lanka has a sound
record of protecting the sovereignty of the Sinhala abode.
Regrettably, the UN General Secretary, who is obeying his masters in
the West in search of support in Asia, has struck on an underling
lackey to bolster his fawning belly crawl in a man in yellow robes,
who protects his outrageous, dishonourable, deplorable and
despicable, contemptible and reprehensive heinous behaviour that
makes the Buddhist country blush!
Gen. Sarath Fonseka, an American find, was entrusted with removal
of the Rajapaksas from the political scene. However, all that has
not registered in the man in robes, who apparently believes that Sri
Lanka should move up economically before confronting its enemies in
the West. The economic advances hitherto achieved through the
Mahinda Chintana obviously mean little to him. That the GDP has
moved up, and that the per capita income has doubled since the
incumbent President cum Finance Minister took over has not seeped in
to his apparently prejudiced mindset. When the temple bell rings
will he awaken to the danger that stares in the face of the Homeland
by the West and join the NFF and its leader Wimal Weerawansa in
recording the country’s protest.
|Archaic British Law
It is a riddle, that the reserved, retiring Sri Lankan society
that is daily informed of horrendous tales of abortion, where the
attendant staff and doctors are arrested by law enforcement officers
and the mother, unceremoniously, led away to a hospital, to be later
charged with misdemeanour and transgression of the law on abortion -
an act that she had been saddled with, not by choice, but the
fortuity of being a woman. She sought an abortion, under medical
care, to subvert the inexorable law of nature that copulation
brought. If prudish society denies a mother the attention that she
is entitled to, debasing corruption with soon proliferate vitiating
society because of a simple human need, which if conceded will be a
commendable grace and blessing! The aborted faetus is unaware of its
rejection, for it is not human until it breathes, until then it is
only the flesh and blood of its mother that has God given right to
reject it, as she would any appendage of hers. Is it not a social
responsibility for the knowledgeable to rally, to mitigate the
relentless path that nature has mapped out, following copulation
between fertile partners. If smug society will care to open its eyes
and observe the misery, that the animalism in both the male and
female human has subjected people to, and that it has to be
adequately catered and cared for, anarchy may arise.
Presently prostitution amongst both male and female is prevalent.
The archaic British law that prevails, harasses, arrests, fines and
even incarcerates those found in what are called ‘Houses of
ill-fame’, bordellos, or brothels. Both men and women find their way
there for personal reasons that preclude relief of their God given
sexual urges in the privacy of their homes. Freedom is what man
craves for, but parochialism and parish pump, insular
small-mindedness in taking a heavy toll in society. Policemen are
set on ‘offenders’ making life miserable to the citizenry that
searches for pleasure. If decorously done both by the law and the
citizen it will surely contribute to building a genteel, refined,
dignified society, which is found in progressive countries. License
the brothel that is clean and will take steps to contain HIV and
AIDS. Bordellos on wheels that corrupt the citizenry will fade away.
Twilight women who accost will wither away and a draught of fresh
air will waft through our homeland.
Only the other day I was on my way to the SLBC, Colombo 7
proceeding from my office at Colpetty to Thummulla junction and down
Baudhaloka Mawatha to Torrington Square. Incidentally, this location
i.e. the entrance to this road was in the news quite often being the
spot where National Freedom Front (NFF) Leader and Construction,
Engineering Services, Housing and Common Amenities Minister Wimal
Weerawansa held his “Maaraanthika Upawaasaya” against UN Secretary
General Ban Ki -moon. This must be the first time I must have used
this road as it was closed for traffic for the past so many years
for security reasons and on account of all the Chiefs of the
Security Forces being domiciled in and around this road. I found
that travelling on this stretch of road was not only cool and
comfortable but it was also pleasing to the eye. The reason being
trees growing on both sides of the road providing a canopy – it was
like arch made out of branches and leaves providing a comfy
The other places one can find a similar environment are down
Rajakeeya Mawatha, i.e. right opposite one of my alma maters - Royal
College, Independence Avenue leading to the Sri Lanka Foundation
Institute (SLFI) and a few other roads. Hope that the RDA and
Ministry of Environment will, wherever possible, plant trees in such
a way so that an environment of arboreal arcade is created which
will be a pleasure to walk or drive through as it is very much
comfortable and convenient.
People’s electronic teller machine installed within the precincts
of Maggona Branch (0282) is not working properly and most of the day
it is out of order.
This has caused much inconvenience to the clients and cardholders of
this branch. So any person need fast cash has to travel another 10
km distance to the next ATM machine in Aluthgama town.
This matter had been pointed out and made complaints many times to
the relevant Bank Manager but he has not paid any effort to repair
the electronic teller machine or replace it with a new one instead.
C. M. Kamburawala
|Opt for the octopus!
Armed with a silent instinct
And making waves on the Net
Of “sportive” Paul
.....all is well said!
Irene de Silva
Cyprus - We are grateful
For the last 20 years and more, the recently retired Consul of
Sri Lanka in Cyprus, Doros Jeropoulos had been offering invaluable
services to Sri Lanka and was the main factor for the development of
the excellent relations between Sri Lanka and Cyprus in the
political, social, cultural and economic fields.
Cyprus has been a great ally and friend to Sri Lanka and both
countries showed beyond doubt their solidarity on national and other
The Consul General developed the work market for Sri Lankan
workers so that the Sri Lanka workforce is the largest in Cyprus
from non-European countries and also helped in the development of
trade to a very great extent by promoting incoming tourism to Sri
Lanka, investments to Sri Lanka and also exports from Sri Lanka;
tea, spices, gems, fish and other commodities. He even managed that
Cyprus Airlines established direct routes to Colombo which, however,
could not continue because of the unrest in Sri Lanka at that time
before peace prevailed.
Many ministers and dignitaries including Speakers visited Cyprus
officially, mostly on his invitation and this, of course, was one of
the reasons why inter-country relations are now so close and
cordial. The five Presidents of Cyprus under his term of office and
all ministers were close friends of Sri Lanka and were always open
to help in any way when requests are made by the Consul General for
the benefit of Sri Lankans. On his request, many hundred thousand
dollars were saved as payments to Cyprus hospitals with the approval
of the Ministers of Health.
During the tsunami disaster, the aid given by Cyprus, coordinated
by the Consul General was the highest compared to what was offered
to all other affected counties. Three hundred thousand dollars in
cash was sent to the President’s Fund through Rome Embassy, 15
containers of goods of immediate need were shipped and a hundred
thousand dollars of medicine was sent by air by the Government of
Cyprus. Also volunteers from the Doctors of the World and the Church
of Cyprus worked for many months in the affected areas. Further to
that, two hospitals were built, the last one been received in Galle
by the wife of the President last year on behalf of the Cyprus Red
Cross, valued about two million dollars.
The most important achievement of the consulate, in our opinion, was
the overall welfare support offered by the Consulate to the Sri
If any worker of any nationality has a problem, he or she must
run to find lawyers or social welfare officers and until relief is
granted they have no place to stay and nobody takes care of them.
And, of course, at heavy costs which the poor workers may not be
able to cover.
Our consulate maintains safe house facilities for stranded
housemaids providing full board and lodging and also employ
qualified people, Sri Lankans and Cypriots to help solving all their
problems. They mediate with employers, appoint lawyers for court
cases, provide medical assistance by specialist doctors and they
help in every humanitarian problem which comes up. The Consulate
also represents workers at Labour Courts and all Cyprus authorities.
According to official records about 1200 cases are solved every
What is important to be noted is that, all these services are
offered to the Sri Lankans free of charge and without any
contribution from the Government of Sri Lanka. There are even cases
of repatriation of workers without insurance and work visas and also
the remains of dead workers without visas and insurance and the
Consulate pays for these expenses. The expenses of the Consulate are
partly covered by registration fees, approved by the Sri Lanka
Bureau of Foreign Employment, on registration before arrival to
Cyprus paid by employers or agents but not the workers and the
annual deficit, because there is a deficit every year, was covered
by sponsorship of the Consul General’s business or personal funds.
Of course, it is natural that the procedures established by the
Consul General were depriving income of lawyers and other
self-appointed welfare officers who had every reason not to support
consulate procedures. These people always exploit naïve housemaids
collecting lots of money. One housemaid to be recommended one may
charge up to 4,000 thousands dollars and of course they do not like
the Consulate who monitor these recruitments in cooperation with the
Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment.
Another important feature of the Consulate was that Consul General
or his group of companies were never involved directly or indirectly
in any business with Sri Lanka in keeping with the status of the
consulate which should not be a business concern.
These great services of the consulate gave, of course, was a
great benefit to the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment, to the
Ministry of Labour in Sri Lanka and in general to the Government of
Sri Lanka and we hope that the Consulate recently appointed may be
able in the long run to achieve even a part of all that and not
become glorified centre of profit making who instead of serving
15,000 Sri Lankans will be using them as clients.
Of course, there are thousands of Sri Lankan workers, like us, who
showed gratitude to the Consulate for the help and support they
received, but what about the officials, have they ever said thank
you? In any case, we say thank you.
Capt Kapila Kulasekera
Pauline Swan Hensman
Handled issues concerning Christian faith
Accidentally, while reading the Sunday newspapers of the June 13,
2010, I got the shock that Pauline had I died in London on the May
21, 2010. If not for daughter Rohini’s appreciation in the press I
would have never known that Pauline had passed on. Looking back I am
glad that when in London in 2007 I did make it a point to visit Dick
and Pauline at their London residence. As we read this appreciation
may know Dick died in 2008.
It was when I began my work with the Church in 1968 in Kandy that
I first met the Swans. Subsequently I met Pauline and Dick because
of my involvement with the Student Christian Movement.
In a sense, both Dick and Pauline were only acquaintances till I met
them in Colombo in 1989.
During the 1989-2003 periods when I worked at the Cathedral in
Colombo both Dick and Pauline were members of the Cathedral
congregation. Both of them made us think and relate our Christian
faith to the realities and brokenness in our midst.
Their presence at worship and certainly at Bible studies made all
of us thinks through our faith.
Pauline and Dick were also involved in study groups beyond the
Cathedral in Colombo. Both of them were part of the groups that
handled Sri Lankan Theology, Women’s ordination, human sexuality and
a host of other relevant creative, positive and significant issues
concerning the Christian faith.
Both of them were certainly concerned about the Church and the
brokenness of Sri Lanka. So in their own way they were heavily
involved with the national problem.
I was personally involved with them in trying to get schools for
persons they knew. And both of them were part of those who mentored
me and also stood with me when I had to face many problems while
being at the Cathedral both personal and official.
In 2000, when I had to take leave and go to New Delhi for a break
the concern that Dick and Pauline showed was gigantic. So I was glad
that Rohini invited me to preside at the service at Kanatte
wherewith others I interred the ashes after Dick died in London. I
did a similar service at the same graveyard years ago, when another
I owe it to the writing of Yasmin Dias Bandaranaike Gooneratne to
have had the privilege of reading her book which in Yasmin’s style
gives the reader a picture of Dick and Pauline. For it was Pauline
who, as a teacher of English at Bishops College there inspired
Yasmin to take the first step in her journey to become a leading
light as one of the Sri Lankans to adorn and embellish the English
It is strange but true that on the day I read Rohini’s appreciation
of her mother I also read in one of the Sunday Papers Yasmin’s
contribution to the current debate on Sri Lankan English refers to
Looking back at these two lives I can truly say that our world,
certainly my world, is poorer by the death of these two giants of
I think I am right when I say that both Dick and Pauline in the
context of their Christian faith and the thinking on life and death
subscribed to the thinking of Euthanasia.
I am sure that when both Dick and Pauline left their earthly abode
they would have heard the words, ‘well done my faithful servants.’
Rohini and her family, the son and his family and Savithri and her
partner can rest assured that it is not only they, the children and
their families, but also we have lost two very good friends.
May their souls rest in peace and rise in glory! Amen.