Letters to the editor | Sunday Observer

Letters to the editor

Opposition to private medical colleges: A sociability problem?

There have been violent protests by certain university students, saffron-robed inclusive, against the Malabe Private Medical College – SAITM. The protests as being political parties manoeuvred cannot be ruled out, as the students sustaining on Mahapola financing cannot organize daily protests without outside financing. The Government Medical Officers’ Association is on a warpath against SAITM. The opposition to private medical colleges is nothing new. Earlier, there was opposition to the Ragama Private Medical College, which too was violent, resulted in the medical college being closed down and taken over by the Government.

SAITM was established with the approval of the previous Government led by Mahinda Rajapaksa who now opposes it – that is Sri Lankan politics. Whatever it is, the opposition to SAITM does not really appear to be for ethical reasons or poor educational standards, as was the case in respect of the Ragama Private Medical College. Hence, the objection to private medical colleges appear to be more a sociability issue.

Even after the court order in favour of the continuity of SAITM, violent protests continued, which protests were illegal – a show of open disobedience to the law, and need to be treated as such. Heard at such unruly protests was the slogan “Billionaires’ children who won private medical college will not be permitted to exist”. The slogan is an indication that the opposition to SAITM

is a projection of “Class Hatred” and vengeance or dudgeon based on obsolete and outdated Marxist thinking backed by selfish motives. Adding fuel are political parties struggling to exist in the political arena.

Government medical officers who enjoy the privilege of ‘private’ practice, engage in ‘private’ practice in ‘private’ hospitals. Whether they pay income tax correctly is another matter. There are no objections or protests from the medical fraternity or students in state medical colleges and universities. What hypocrisy. There is a saying that “Honour and Profit do not always lie in the same sack.” There are eight state-run medical colleges. In addition, medical students qualifying in countries such as Cuba, Bangladesh, China, Russia and other countries find employment here. Is it the fear that those passing out from private medical colleges will outshine others, that opposition to private medical colleges in Sri Lanka, arise?

University students, whether from poor or affluent backgrounds are children of the citizens of Sri Lanka, children of our country on whom the future of Sri Lanka will rest. Their education should not be obstructed in any way, for whatever reason. The students should concentrate on their studies to gain the best results and all facilities should be provided to do so for gainful employment to serve the motherland. They should not waste time on the roads blocking the free movement of vehicular traffic and the public, causing inconvenience to the people at the behest of their political masters, proudly exhibiting unruly and indisciplined behaviour, foolishly so. However, they should be dealt with sympathy and understanding with a view to lead them on the correct path. The students should be freed from party political stranglehold. Shortcoming in SAITM, if there are any, should be corrected.

Upali S. Jayasekera,

Rajagiriya.


Nihal Herath

He served mankind through education

In 1976, we arrived in Peradeniya from London. Our dad’s anxiety of the need to find us a suitable school was well read by our little minds and hearts.

As kids we didn’t portray schools as being excellent, good or bad, but what was important to us was the need to have a couple of friends who would make school life enjoyable and pleasant! Our daddy had been away from Sri Lanka for over a decade and as he did not know the ground situation of Lanka, he sought Nihal uncle’s guidance.

Nihal uncle and our dad had been batch mates in the Faculty of Science of the University of Peradeniya.

They were university undergraduates from 1961 to 1964. Having completed their BSc Science degree, they parted, nonetheless their bonding perpetuated.

Nihal uncle was with the Department of Education at a hierarchical tier when we returned to Sri Lanka, thus the ideal person to steer our dad in our schooling predicament, which was attended to promptly and very willingly, by Nihal uncle.

The advice was that we need to go to a school where we would not be ‘bullied’ for our inadequacies. Our daddy was guided to meet Rev. Fr. Marius Peiris (His Lordship Most Reverend Dr Marius Peiris, the Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo) on the matter.

His Lordship paved our way into the Good Shepherd Convent, Kandy, to commence our primary education. Nihal uncle was very handsome, tall, fair and of mild temperament. He listened more and talked less. He based his decision taking on facts. He never waffled in implementing his decisions as a professional.

So much so, Kingswood College reminisces Nihal Herath’s 1985 – 1988 era as the Principal of the College as, ‘Herath introduced changes to the College which brought progress in discipline, standard of education and sports.’

Meanwhile, his capabilities as the Principal of Dharmaraja College (1988 – 1990) are etched in the minds of contemporary Rajans.

Nihal uncle lived for a purpose. He educated himself to serve mankind through education. He was a sober gentleman – loveable and affable. He was a disciplinarian with a unique disposition.

With the Kingswoodians and the Rajans, we pay our homage to you. A ‘proud son of mother Lanka’, you will always live in our hearts.

Nihal Herath was Consultant to Ministry of Education; former Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Education, President, Polgolla National College of Education; Retired Principal of Kingswood College and Dharmaraja College, Kandy.

Diyan and Susan W Gunasekera

Lecturers in Chemistry and Cambridge ESOL


Padma Arthenayake nee Ekanayake

True embodiment of sincere love and kindness

It is a year now since Padma Arthenayake has left us for good. That was on February 25 last year, when I was not here. It was only when I phoned to wish her, on her birthday this January 24 that I heard the sad news that she was no more, from Savanthi, her only daughter.

Padma and her husband, (he was always ‘Mr. Arthenayake’ to us) were truly our well-wishers and, remained so until their demise. We have missed their company and care ever since.

Padma was the third daughter of Mr and Mrs. D.W.S. Ekanayake of Bandarawela. Her father being a Notary Public with a lucrative practice, it was natural that she too chose to be a Proctor.

Having had her schooling at the Badulla Central in Bandarawela, and at Anula Vidyalaya, Nugegoda, she joined the then Ceylon Law College, where she met her future partner in life.

She and Arthe took their oaths as Proctors of the Supreme Court on the same day in 1961 and, got married the same year. Having worked initially at the incorporated Law Society of Ceylon, she ceased employment due to family commitments.

It was in 1970 as a Legal Officer of the Bank of Ceylon that she re-started work and thereafter, she was for a short while at the NDB. Joining the multinational Nestle Lanka Ltd. later, she rose to be its Secretary/Legal Officer.

I had the privilege of being professionally associated with her, when I was required to represent Nestle’s around the country.

She was a founder member and a live wire of the Women Lawyers’ Association and an active Committee Member of the Soroptomist International Sri Lanka Chapter.

Despite her numerous professional and social commitments, she continued to be a dutiful housewife and a loving mother at “Etiyawala”, which Arthe inherited from his father and, which she kept spick and span.

Following his father’s principles, alcohol continued to be taboo in the house even under Arthe.

Padma was an excellent cook and we had their company whenever a new hotel or restaurant came up in or around Colombo. Such was their love for fine-dining.

As destiny would have it, I had an occasion to visit their home to lunch just the day before Arthe suddenly passed away.

It was such a terrible shock to hear from Padma the very next morning that Arthe had suddenly passed away.

When I was to invest all of my meager savings on a piece of land and looking for a reliable Notary to handle the notarial work, to the late Advocate K. Shanmugalingam, the much loved doyen of the Jiniors’ table at the old Colombo Law Library, Arthe was the obvious choice.

When I wrote to Arthe, introducing myself, there was a prompt response, but with one condition, that there will be no professional fee payable, though I did not know him then.

Not only did Arthe advise on the matter and handle the conveyance of the block of land where our house stands now, he had also advanced the 25% of the auction price on a Sunday, when I was out of the country.

Whenever Padma or Arthe hear our claim that we would have never had this house of ours if not for them, they would be genuinely embarrassed and would reprimand us. Such was their kindness and modesty.

They had two children Kavinda, settled down in the USA since 1987 and Savanthi married Sopaka.

Padma was a true embodiment of sincere love and kindness.

Their domestic aids were treated not as servants but as family members. One of them was married and her husband too lived with them.

Padma was not ‘Madam’ but ‘Amma’ to their two daughters. We and our own daughters will always remember her for her generosity and endless kindness to all who were fortunate to meet her.

May she attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirwana!

Upali A. Gooneratne PC 

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