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Letters


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.

 

An Easter Delight

The season of Lent paves way for the splendid celebration of Easter Sunday where the followers of Jesus Christ unite to celebrate his resurrection and victory, painfully achieved at the Cross. Every culture has its own influence in the observance of its religious days and rituals. As I recollect the joyful days of years gone by I’m sure you can relate to a few of these moments in your own lives.

As a child I remember going to the service on Good Friday at the ancient Dutch Church along with my parents and elder sister. This sacred edifice was referred to as Wolfhendhal Church located on the hill within the precincts of Colombo 12. I used to be somewhat intrigued at the graves located within this sanctuary and every year tried to read carefully the Dutch inscription and decipher the coat of arms on them, indeed the innocence or rather silly mind of a young one! The service was multi-lingual and lasted almost three hours, which did cause some worthies in the parish to mourn! I can still smell the mild aroma of the Communion wine, the solid handmade golden chalice from which it was severed. The rest of the day was spent in much silence. However, over the years I have come to really understand the genuine sacrifice of that humble carpenter’s son, to indeed redeem an unworthy soul like me.

The following Saturday morning was a very active day as people, even non Christians made all manner of preparations, with due reverence, to indulge in celebrating Easter Sunday. One of the stories rushes to my mind is how the late Uncle Vernon Prins used to describe to us the attack on the Trincomalee Naval Base by the Japanese, just like they did in Pearl Harbour. It is said that the Japanese squadrons were spotted by a lone British patrol aircraft (which was shot down later) off the seas of Koggala and the alarm was raised in time!

A visit to the market was mandatory and I used to accompany my father. The stalls that were mostly crowded were the ones that sold meat and poultry. During this period eggs were in much demand and the hens certainly ruled the day, making poultry farmers very rich!! I must confess the members of the Burgher community excelled in such fine culinary preparations for Easter, and the beautiful girls wore the most creatively stitched dresses. We made all kinds of crafts at Sunday School under the watchful eye of the amiable aunty Yvonne Bartholomuez and aunty Maxine Janz. However, I did not pay much attention to the requests of Aunty Helene, who played the piano and tried to teach us new songs.

The ringing of the bells from every Cathedral and Chapel did herald the dawn of Easter. Some expressed their joy by lighting firecrackers. The playing of the pipe organ could be heard faintly amidst all this clamour. We went to church, where the altar was decorated with an abundance of fresh flowers. Thankfully, the service lasted only an hour and then we received our almond flavoured Easter eggs, and I recall how my buddy Rodney Patternot was able to swallow this symbol of the resurrection in about four seconds! The Easter Bunny did not feature prominently in our lives in those times, except I guess in the stew pots of some dear old aunties who wanted a change of menu. Two bakeries that were sold out on Easter Sunday were the Perera and Sons at the Colpetty junction and the Little Lion Store at Colombo 13.

As I became an adult the celebration of Easter was even more enriched. Working in a city hotel we were busy weeks ahead promoting our Sunday Buffet and making sure that all the chocolates and gourmet cakes were sold. I remember how I used to visit two of my dear old friends. One was the late French Benedictine priest Fr Marc Berra and the other gentle Italian Jesuit priest Fr. Joseph Chienese, who always prayed with me. These two missionary men served our communities with a divine dedication.

It was also the time when my kind Uncle Justin Alvis came on his regular three month vacations to escape the harsh winters of Canada. Uncle Ginger as he was affectionately called was a jolly soul. I remember going with him to purchase a duck, which almost took us two hours to cook. Every year he made his signature dish the beef smoke. He would carefully select a prime chunk of beef from the Dehiwela market, down Station Road. This prized portion was slow cooked in thick coconut milk and many a secret spice was added. Sunday lunch was very entertaining with spicy food infused with simple humour. I happily recall how we used to visit the Cathedral of St Lucia in the evenings. The faithful would gather here in thousands bringing traffic to a standstill from Armour Street to the other end at the Forshore Police Station! I can still see the old blind man selling tiny crosses and yellow candles. The women from Negombo selling the old time sweets like muscat, aluwa, and kalu dhodol in their cane woven baskets.
Yet, apart from all these celebrations we must take time to reflect on our lives and live with courage and faith, Animo et Fide!

D S Joseph

 

Some NGOs inimical to interest of our motherland

Last Wednesday morning I was awaiting the “Morning Breeze”, the usual musical programme which commences immediately after the morning news broadcast on SLBC, but it was not to be so. Instead, there was a crucial and interesting discussion regarding NGOs with Rajpal Abeynayake, the Editor in Chief of Lakbima News and Malinda Seneviratne, freelance journalist as resource personnel and Niranjan Abeysundera, Senior Broadcaster, as the moderator.
In the course of the interview, it transpired that some NGOs are dangerous in that they are inimical to the interest of our country and are here to promote their countries agenda and are working here with a mercenary motive. NGO’s such as Centre for Policy Planning Alternatives (CPA), Transparency International (TI), etc, fall into this category. It was also mentioned that the Statement of Accounts and the Balance Sheet are not available for public perusal. I was made to understand that these NGOs don’t like their accounts to be audited by an independent body. It is ironical that TI, in particular, with what it stands for, prefer to be non-transparent. It was also said that we as Sri Lankans, are hospitable to all these NGOs whereas in some countries it is not so.
Now we have achieved peace, which was elusive to all of us in Sri Lanka after a great sacrifice - thanks to the President and the Armed Forces for all their untiring efforts, I fear that allowing these dubious organisations to operate hereafter in our motherland is no doubt detrimental to the interest and therefore, all these NGOs very likely to destabilise the peace anytime and moreover, foment other issues in Sri Lanka should be banished immediately. Hope, the President will instigate action to scrutinise the activities of all these so called NGOs and act fast without any hesitation whatsoever, to send these dangerous ones back to their respective countries.
Mohamed Zahran

 

Poor showing of UNP at last election

That the UNP would not win the Local Government Elections was a foregone conclusion for the following reasons:
Infighting in the UNP. The party failed to win voters over due to disunity.
There were two factions led by two stalwarts of the party. That failed to attract vote and even the UNP supporters apparently kept away from casting their votes.
The speeches of the two UNP ‘leaders’, their ways of addressing, their oratory did not capture the hearts of the people as that or the President’s well calculated words and terms delivered in a very pleasant manner to reach the voters politically.
The UPFA had quality leadership in the President (if not for him the UPFA would have been a rudderless boat) which was not up to that standard in the UNP, though the leader’s honesty and integrity were not in doubt, which qualities of course have little impact in today’s politics. The lack or a national minded approach was also a minus factor.
The UPFA being in power had the edge over the UNP and political history shows that the political party in power had the larger share of the cake at Local Government Elections, in most instances. People are prone to think that things could be got done only by governing party representatives.
The war victory over terrorism was used to the utmost by the UPFA, and the UNP was at a loss for counter propaganda due to their past words and deeds - wrong political behaviour.
Poor media backing.
Selfish elements leaving the party seeking political power.
Upali S Jayasekera

 

Politicians, how insensitive can they get!

At a time thousands and thousands of Sri Lankans are suffering due to the on going rains and floods, all that the politicians can think of is their insurance to their families and their dutyfree vehicles. How callous can they get! Even an ordinary man is thinking how to alleviate the sufferings of these brethren and the politicians who had been elected solely to serve the people (hmm!) have nothing better to do than to fight petty matters – who cares what Karu Jayasuriya said or did when thousands are suffering in camps, schools while their precious little possessions have been either washed away or are damaged.
How come we do not see or hear any politicians fighting to help the flood affected now? Just a small item to say the government has done everything and that’s all. Has it? How come we are getting day in day out appeals for food for the affected?
You politicians are disgusting! Have you no heart whatsoever? Stop being so childish and being so selfish! Get out there and look at the needs of the people. Go and fulfill your promises to the people. Do not think that you are safe from the wrath of the weather - the floods can affect you politicians specifically if God wants it to. He showed you a taste of it in the parliament flooding.
Stop all your other thamashas and help those in need now. Please.
Dr Mrs Mareena Thaha Reffai

 

Appreciations

Dr S Packianathar Athanasiyar, J.P.

Earned respect and affection of his patients

Dr Swampillai Packianathar Athanasiyar was born on October 16, 1917 in Sillalai, a village called “Little Rome” in the Jaffna diocese to an orthodox Catholic religious family, father late Dr Swampillai Athanasiyar and mother late Mary Josephine, as the eldest with six sisters and one brother of whom three sisters predeceased him. After a long lifetime of fruitful service as an eminent Physician in Sri Lanka and abroad he passed away peacefully at his ripe age of 93 on July 8, 2010 while in London.

Incidentally, 25 years ago his beloved mother who was affectionately called by the villagers as “Mother Theresa of Sillalai” for her simplicity, charity and saintly life was called to rest on this same date.
He received his primary education at R.C. School Sillalai, Pandaterrppu and his secondary education at St Henry’s College, Illavalai. Completing his secondary education, he joined the Ayurvedic Medical College in Colombo to pursue his studies in medicine and passed out as a doctor. He became a doctor perhaps to carry on the tradition set by his father. He joined his father Dr S Athanasiyar and acquired more knowledge and experience from a renowned veteran well known in the field of Ayurvedic treatment in the peninsula for his God given gift of diagnosing correctly the ailment of the patient by checking the beat of the pulses by his fingers and treating the patients with medicine prepared by him out of mercury, gold, opium and from rhino horns.

Dr Packianather serving his patients meekly with his whispering voice, passionately caring with humility earned the respect and affection of his patients. He never showed anger on his face, always with a charming and ever-smiling radiant face unruffled and cheerful. His kindness and goodness with his specialised ancestral medicine for children and adults reached out to all and he enjoyed a lucrative practice. An admirable personality always neatly dressed in white symbolising his profession. He was a gentleman par excellence. Even when he was disturbed in the dead of the night, he would be up to attend to emergency calls and if necessary he would not hesitate to visit the patient’s home and treat in the dark hours with a sense of duty and concern.

He was a deeply religious devout catholic and had strong faith in God and in Blessed Mother Kathiraichelvee of Sillalai. He played an active role in all the parish activities and served in different capacities with responsibility and honesty assisting the Parish Priest Rev.Fr Dessy OMI and built a beautiful church. In spite of his heavy schedules, he always found time to participate and assist in all the religious activities in the church and also never failed to attend any functions of the relatives and parishioners
Dr Packianather was married to Perly Swampillai, a caring, loving, compassionate and dutiful wife - a well known social worker and an ex-Chairperson of the Pandaterruppu Town Council. They were blessed with one daughter and two sons. Eldest daughter Dorris Augustine is settled in London and son Basil is settled in France. Second son Emil followed the footsteps of their generation and became a Doctor of Medicine and continuing the ancestral heritage in Colombo.

Dr Packianather established a medical centre of his own and by God-given skill in the medical practice he earned a high esteem among the elite. He was a rare personality, well respected and loved by all for his noble qualities and generosity and was held in high esteem not only in the peninsula but in the entire island
Dr S.P.Athanasiyar was a member of the Ayurvedic Medical Council - Colombo, for a long period and served as a member of the Medical Board and Examiner for final DIMS. Many medical students understudied and followed internship under his supervision. He was the Charter President – Lions Club of Vaddukkodai and was Lions Zone Chairman 1980/81. He was very meticulous and methodical in organising functions and events and everyone accepted his leadership with respect and honour. During his remarkable period many improvements and developments took place in the Vaddukkodai electorate, strengthened the membership and helped the needy providing wheelchairs, spectacles, etc and coordinated with Lions Club of Colombo.
Under his stewardship as the President of St Henry’s College Old Boys’ Association with his unstinting assistance many progress and expansion took place in the college and by his encouragement the students excelled in sports and won the all Island Soccer Championship which he witnessed at Sugathadasa Stadium in Colombo, and many students entered university

He was not only a well known Physician but also a social worker involving himself in numerous activities that benefited many. People from all walks of life, all communities and faiths came to him for help and he gracefully obliged in their needs. He was a God fearing and disciplined person whose main aim in life was to see the welfare of others even neglecting his own health. He was affectionately called “Packiam” means “Blessings” by his dearest and nearest and a tower of strength to all. In recognition of alleviations of suffering of thousands of patients in his lifetime, the government honoured him with the title of “Justice of the Peace”
Dr Pakianathar’s prayers and faith in God sustained him in all his trials and triumphs. He had fulfilled all his duties towards his family and relatives and had cherished all ambitious deeds in life, and his mission was fully accomplished and waited for his visa to Eternal Kingdom.

It is a sad farewell for Pearly Aunty Dorris, Emil, Basil, grandchildren, great grandchildren and relatives but as Christians we have to accept God’s ways gracefully. His demise is an irreparable loss to the Ayurvedic Medical Profession and to the community at large
As his brother-in-law I will not forget the good services he had rendered to my family.
May the Good Lord Bless his soul and welcome him into His kingdom and grant him Eternal Bliss
May he rest in peace!
S B David

 

Al Haj T. S. Ismail

Fragrance of his life lingers

The stillness of the night of January 10 was broken by the sad news that the cold hand of death had stealthily entered the lives of two members of a family almost simultaneously to the utter bewilderment of their dear ones. The news of the passing away of his sister-in-law came as a rude shock to T. S. Ismail that he collapsed never to rise again.

T.S. as he was fondly known to all and to me especially was a close friend and fellow draughtsman attached to the Irrigation Department. I first met him at Trincomalee where I was stationed when he had come down to visit his fiancée as he being stationed at distant Tissamaharama.
With the passage of time, our friendship prospered and continued when we were both transferred out to Colombo head office of the department at Jawatte. We were now in close proximity with our homes at Moratuwa and Panadura. With the bringing up of our children and seeing to their needs whilst keeping up the home fires burning was our immediate tasks. It definitely was a hard grind being public servants but nevertheless stood to our tasks with grim determination.

T.S. was a draughtsman par excellence having taken up to this profession as he possessed the natural flair for artistic work which stood him in good stead. His forte was in the drawing and the execution of building plans which he did with absolute finesse. His one aim, I believe, was to find a safe and permanent haven for his family and towards that end he worked relentlessly.
He sought greener pastures in countries abroad as to serve in the Middle East and Brunei. He thus became the proud owner of a fixed abode in the heart of Moratuwa. He was of immense help to his daughter aiding her son in his schooling and further curricular activities which kept him active in retirement. He even fulfilled a religious requirement by performing “Haj” thus adhering to the tenets of his faith in the Almighty. With advancing age and an impairment on his heart came under medication but when a heart improvement could be seen the inevitable happened.

He lived a life mixed with humour and an asset to his associates and family. In passing, I may miss out on one of his famous quotes as “what a life, by Wijesoma”.
Yes, the fragrance of his life lingers on as he leaves a sorrowing wife Bulang, son Binraj, daughter Sabita and their extended families and to quote that those whom he has left behind him is not to die.
I share their grief too as we were more than mere friends being from the same community.
May Almighty Allah grant him Jennalthul Firdous. Inna illahi wa inna lillahi Rajioon.
T Aniff Ahamed

 

Mrs. Mary Rajamma Pandian

She was an inspiration to family

Mary Rajamma was born as the fifth child with siblings of six brothers and one sister to Rajamoni and the late Elizabeth of “Ratnahiri Villa” Welihena Kochchikade. Four brothers predeceased her in their 70th years. As per the Bible, man’s life is three scores and 10 (70 years) and anything more is God’s blessings and Rajamma (popularly known as ‘Periakka’) lived a full life of 77 years, the extra 7 years truly a blessing.

Pandian had her early education at Welihena Catholic School and later at St Sebastian’s Convent Kandana. She was brought up in the Christian atmosphere and taught at the Welihena School for a short period. The bothers and the sisters were a united family and marriages brought great happiness in this united family. Mary Rajamma was married to P. S. Pandian (Director, St Anthony’s Hardware Stores/Cyntex Colombo) and bore four children (two boys and two girls) and her family life began in Colombo. She was an inspiration to the other members of the family and was the “First Lady” instrumental in the marriages of her siblings.

She was a lady who entertained well and her house was full of people from all walks of life. She organised annual pilgrimages to Talawila and Madhu Churches and an annual family get-together where there was a great joy as a united family. She was a philanthropist who helped the needy and was a regular churchgoer.
She moved to Chennai with her family and was a director of her husband’s hotel - Hotel Padian in Egmore, Chennai. All the children were married and are well placed in life. Her two sons along with the father manage the hotel business.

She was an ardent member of St George’s Cathedral and was honorary treasurer of the Women’s Fellowship and her beloved husband contributed immensely to the needy. Her house was appropriately named “Rajam Villa”. Her house was truly a haven for all who visited India from far and near. She was able to bring to life the famous quotation “behind every successful man is a woman.”
She was one of those who walked with kings nor lost the common touch. She had touched so many lives that it is difficult to forget her and she was a legend and leaves a rich legacy behind. She held in high esteem the rich heritage and high tradition of her family.
We pray, “Rest Eternal Grant unto her .Oh Lord! And let
Perpetual Light shine upon her and may she rest in peace!”

Kingsley Durairaj

 

 

 

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