March 22, 2022 marks the 100th birth anniversary of our beloved Thaththi, Aluthge Dharmadasa Hemachandra Samaranayaka, fondly known as ADH or Samare to his friends. He passed away peacefully during his afternoon nap on March 30, 1996, aged 74 years.
Our father was born in Kumbuka, Horana to traditional Buddhist parents. He was the eldest in a family of seven children.
The champion athlete of St Thomas’ College and University of Ceylon
They grew up in the Mahagedara, built my grandparents in Kumbuke. Thaththi had his early education at Sri Sumangala Vidyalaya in Panadura, but later Achchi admitted him to St Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. Thaththi’s prowess as an athlete was not known until he was asked to run in the one mile event at the annual STC sports meet as the regular champion had suddenly fallen sick. Not only did Thaththi win the one mile event in his first attempt in 1939, but shattered the existing ground record in Mount Lavinia on that occasion, running bare foot! The next year in August 1940, he bettered his own record at STC in the one mile event.
Later on, for many years he helped St Thomas’ (STC) to win the coveted Tarbet and Jefferson Challenge Trophies at the public schools athletics championships. The other members of the victorious Thomian athletic team were L C Goonaratne, R D Duckworth, E D Bandaranayaka, J B R Simmons amongst others. The half mile public school record that Thaththi setup in 1941 of 2 mins 10 secs was only broken 23 years later by another Thomian S K Jayasinghe. When I was a school girl, I vividly recall answering the telephone when the Warden of STC rang up my father to inform him that his record was broken.
Many decades later when he was invited as the chief guest at the STC annual sports meet, he recalled these events with nostalgia and spoke how his hostel diet improved overnight on being discovered a prize athlete and that he was made a prefect at the next assembly. His contemporaries at STC at that time were Sam Wijesinha, Lal Goonaratne, C.N.Gunawardena and Charlie Munasinghe amongst others. Uncle Sam and Thaththi were lifelong friends and he was bestman at his wedding, when Thaththi married my mother Susila in 1947. In the appreciation that Uncle Sam wrote about my father, he mentioned “Sam was the first in our batch to get employed, get married and build his own house”.
Our Thaththi was an outstanding student of science at STC and was awarded the prestigious Wijewardene prize for science and chemistry. He proved the veracity of the adage “mens sana in corpore sano” by successfully passing the University of Ceylon entrance examination in 1941. In the University of Ceylon he represented the University of Ceylon in the half mile, one mile and the 440 yard hurdle events. At the All India inter university athletic meet held in Madras in 1943, he was the only Ceylonese athlete to win an event and that was the 440 yard hurdles .In the National Athletics Rankings of Ceylon in 1943,ADH Samaranayaka was ranked first. Later my father captained the athletics team of the University of Ceylon .The Vice Chancellor of the University at that time was the much respected and admired Sir Ivor Jennings.
The Government Examiner of Questioned Documents
Our father obtained an honours degree in chemistry and was recruited to the Questioned Documents (QD) section of the Government Analysts’ Department under the former Examiner of QD, Mr. Tom Nagendran. As Dr A R L Wijesekara (ARLW) the former government analyst and badminton champion of Ceylon recalls about my father, in the appreciation he wrote, “Samare had the distinction of being the first scientist to be recruited to the QD section of the analyst department, when QD examination was more an art than a science. The importance of his presence with his scientific background greatly contributed to revolutionizing the concepts and techniques of the handwriting experts of yesteryears and building the image of the modern examiner in QD”. He further stated that “Samare strode like a colossus in an era where giants of forensic sciences of the calibre Colvin Sirimanne, Newton Weerasinha, Noel Jayatunga, C Sathkulanadan and FC Pinto also strode”.
Dr A R L W further continued “he was a fearless witness,much respected by both judges and counsel of both sides for his scientific skills, clarity of expression and undoubted honesty and unimpeachable integrity. They were aware that Samare never deviated from speaking “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. The exposition of his evidence as an expert witness was indeed an object lesson for young forensic scientists” he concluded.
Our father received advanced training in document examination from Scotland Yard, the FBI America and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. From 1960 onwards, as the government examiner of questioned documents (GEQD), he trained document examiners for the governments of Malaysia and Singapore and trained three assistant document examiners for Sri Lanka – P H Manatunga, Thangaratnevel and Kalupahana. After retirement from the government service, he was selected as a forensic document examiner in New South Wales Australia.
As children we enjoyed travelling the length and breadth of Sri Lanka accompanying Thaththi as he drove to give evidence in courts of law throughout the country. He often showed us the basic techniques of recognizing forged documents, which was very interesting and exciting.
As Chairman of Red Cross Society
As recalled by P H Manatunga, who succeeded him as document examiner in 1977, in his appreciation “Samaranayaka was a man with tremendous energy who applied himself with dedication and devotion to any cause. He was a man of action and was known not to postpone what had to be done today for tomorrow. If his office was not swept, he would not hesitate to do it himself and set the example.
“He was greatly influenced by his wife who was a social worker of great repute, who introduced him to the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society in the early 60s. The organization recognized his talents and he was soon made the honorary treasurer and in no time he was elected as the chairman. This position he held with great distinction from 1967 to 1977 by annual election. His organizational capabilities and leadership qualities blossomed in full measure as a chairman. He is best remembered for having taken the Red Cross movement to the village school, temples and churches and setting up first aid units islandwide.”
He was the first to spring into action when a disaster struck the community and would himself lead the Red Cross volunteers in providing emergency food, shelter and clothing. He resolutely upheld the fundamental principles of the Red Cross which are impartiality, neutrality and independence. He saw to it that the society steered clear of politics and passed on the society to his successors free of rift, and the fundamental principles uncompromised untarnished and intact. He represented the society at many international conferences held in many parts of the world and brought much credit and recognition to the society by his innate leadership qualities, with the finesse of a diplomat” Manatunga concluded.
There is no doubt that his pioneering efforts helped in the construction of the four storied Red Cross building in Colombo 7. I must also add that when an ambulance driver was not available, my father would personally drive the ambulance even long distances to the outstations. Such was his commitment to the sick. Sometimes the occupants of the ambulance never realized that the driver of the ambulance of was the chairman of the Red Cross Society himself!
The family man
Our father was the patriarch of the Samaranayaka clan. He was called “Loku Aiya” by some of his relations and “Colombo Mama” by others. He was always helpful to the extended family and the village folk of Kumbuka. Our home in Ascot Avenue was open to all his relations from Kumbuka. Many of his relations lived with us during their school days and my sister and I gladly shared our beds with them. He never turned away anyone who came to his gate, seeking help. He was a warm and caring person and was always transparent in his dealings. He had numerous friends and associates from all strata of society and he treated them equally, with the respect they deserved.
Thaththi was a keen environmentalist and Ascot Avenue, where he lived for nearly50 years was probably one of the greenest and cleanest lanes in Colombo at that time. This was indeed a tribute to his untiring anti – garbage and anti – litter efforts. He prided himself in his car, which was always spotless and gleaming.
As a dutiful son, he showered much attention on his mother. Visiting her on Sundays with food and sweets was often a family weekend routine. Thaththi taught us many lessons in life. Foremost among them were the values of honesty, integrity, civic sense, contentment. These were the qualities he practised and enjoyed throughout his full and fruitful life. He was indeed a man in a million.
Dearest Thaththi, may your journey through sansara continue to be rewarding and may you finally reach the supreme bliss of nirvana.
Your ever loving daughter – Anula Wijesundere nee
Samaranayaka and son
BRICS emerging as strong rival to G7
It was in the fitness of things for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hold a special telephonic conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin recently for the purpose of enlightening the latter on the need for a peaceful, diplomatic end to the Russian-initiated blood-letting in Ukraine. Hopefully, wise counsel and humanity would prevail and the world would soon witness the initial steps at least to a complete withdrawal of invading Russian troops from Ukraine.
The urgency for an early end to the Russian invasion of Ukraine which revoltingly testifies afresh to the barbaric cruelty man could inflict on his fellows, is underscored, among other things, by the declaration which came at the end of the 14th BRICS Summit, which was held virtually in Beijing recently. Among other things, the declaration said: ‘BRICS reaffirms commitment to ensuring the promotion and protection of democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all with the aim to build a brighter shared future for the international community based on mutually beneficial cooperation.’
It is anybody’s guess as to what meanings President Putin read into pledges of the above kind, but it does not require exceptional brilliance to perceive that the barbaric actions being carried out by his regime against Ukrainian civilians make a shocking mockery of these enlightened pronouncements. It is plain to see that the Russian President is being brazenly cynical by affixing his signature to the declaration. The credibility of BRICS is at risk on account of such perplexing contradictory conduct on the part of its members. BRICS is obliged to rectify these glaring irregularities sooner rather than later.
At this juncture the important clarification must be made that it is the conduct of the Putin regime, and the Putin regime only, that is being subjected to censure here. Such strictures are in no way intended to project in a negative light, the Russian people, who are heirs to a rich, humanistic civilization that produced the likes of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, among a host of other eminent spirits, who have done humanity proud and over the decades guided humans in the direction of purposeful living. May their priceless heritage live long, is this columnist’s wish.
However, the invaluable civilization which the Russian people have inherited makes it obligatory on their part to bring constant pressure on the Putin regime to end its barbarism against the Ukrainian civilians who are not at all party to the big power politics of Eastern Europe. They need to point out to their rulers that in this day and age there are civilized, diplomatic and cost-effective means of resolving a state’s perceived differences with its neighbours. The spilling of civilian blood, on the scale witnessed in Ukraine, is a phenomenon of the hoary past.
The BRICS grouping, which encompasses some of the world’s predominant economic and political powers, if not for the irregular conduct of the Putin regime, could be said to have struck on a policy framework that is farsighted and proactive on the issue of global equity.
There is the following extract from a report on its recent summit declaration that needs to be focused on. It reads: BRICS notes the need to ensure “Meaningful participation of developing and least developed countries, especially in Africa, in global decision-making processes and structures and make it better attuned to contemporary realities.”
The above are worthy goals that need to be pursued vigorously by global actors that have taken upon themselves the challenge of easing the lot of the world’s powerless countries. The urgency of resuming the North-South Dialogue, among other questions of importance to the South, has time and again been mentioned in this column. This is on account of the fact that the most underdeveloped regions of the South have been today orphaned in the world system.
Given that the Non-aligned Movement and like organizations, that have espoused the resolution of Southern problems over the decades, are today seemingly ineffective and lacking in political and economic clout, indications that the BRICS grouping is in an effort to fill this breach is heartening news for the powerless of the world. Indeed, the crying need is for the poor and powerless to be brought into international decision-making processes that affect their wellbeing and it is hoped that BRICS’s efforts in this regard would bear fruit.
What could help in increasing the confidence of the underdeveloped countries in BRICS, is the latter’s rising economic and political power. While in terms of economic strength, the US remains foremost in the world with a GDP of $ 20.89 trillion, China is not very far behind with a GDP of $ 14.72 trillion. The relevant readings for some other key BRICS countries are as follows: India – $ 2.66 trillion, Russia – $ 1.48 trillion and Brazil $ 1.44 trillion. Of note is also the fact that except for South Africa, the rest of the BRICS are among the first 15 predominant economies, assessed in GDP terms. In a global situation where economics drives politics, these figures speak volumes for the growing power of the BRICS countries.
In other words, the BRICS are very much abreast of the G7 countries in terms of a number of power indices. The fact that many of the BRICS possess a nuclear capability indicates that in military terms too they are almost on par with the G7.
However, what is crucial is that the BRICS, besides helping in modifying the world economic order to serve the best interests of the powerless as well, contribute towards changing the power balances within the vital organs of the UN system, such as the UN Security Council, to render them more widely representative of changing global power realities.
Thus, India and Brazil, for example, need to be in the UNSC because they are major economic powers in their own right. Since they are of a democratic orientation, besides pushing for a further democratization of the UN’s vital organs, they would be in a position to consistently work towards the wellbeing of the underprivileged in their respective regions, which have tremendous development potential.
Queen of Hearts
She has certainly won the hearts of many with the charity work she is engaged in, on a regular basis, helping the poor, and the needy.
Pushpika de Silva was crowned Mrs. Sri Lanka for Mrs. World 2021 and she immediately went into action, with her very own charity project – ‘Lend a Helping Hand.’
When launching this project, she said: “Lend a Helping Hand is dear to me. With the very meaning of the title, I am extending my helping hand to my fellow brothers and sisters in need; in a time where our very existence has become a huge question and people battling for daily survival.”
Since ‘Lend a Helping Hand’ became a reality, last year, Pushpika has embarked on many major charity projects, including building a home for a family, and renovating homes of the poor, as well.
The month of June (2022) saw Pushpika very much in action with ‘Lend a Helping Hand.’
She made International Father’s Day a very special occasion by distributing food items to 100 poor families.
“Many are going without a proper meal, so I was very keen, in my own way, to see that these people had something to keep the hunger pangs away.”
A few days later, the Queen of Hearts made sure that 50 more people enjoyed a delicious and nutritious meal.
“In these trying times, we need to help those who are in dire straits and, I believe, if each one of us could satisfy the hunger, and thirst, of at least one person, per day, that would be a blessing from above.”
Pushpika is also concerned about the mothers, with kids, she sees on the roads, begging.
“How helpless is a mother, carrying a small child, to come to the street and ask for something.
“I see this often and I made a special effort to help some of them out, with food and other necessities.”
What makes Pushpika extra special is her love for animals, as well, and she never forgets the street dogs that are having a tough time, these days, scavenging for food.
“These animals, too, need food, and are voiceless, so we need to think of them, as well. Let’s have mercy on them, too. Let’s love them, as well.”
The former beauty queen served a delicious meal for the poor animals, just recently, and will continue with all her charity projects, on a regular basis, she said.
Through her charity project, ‘Lend a Helping Hand,” she believes she can make a change, though small.
And, she says, she plans to be even more active, with her charity work, during these troubled times.
We wish Pushpika de Silva all the very best, and look forward to seeing more of her great deeds, through her ‘Lend a Helping Hand’ campaign.
Hope and political change:No more Appachis to the rescue
KUPPI on the current economic and political crisis: intervention 1
by Harshana Rambukwella
In Buddhist literature, there is the Parable of the Burning House where the children of a wealthy man, trapped inside a burning house, refuse to leave it, fearful of leaving its comfort – because the flames are yet to reach them. Ultimately, they do leave because the father promises them wonderful gifts and are saved from the fire. Sri Lankans have long awaited such father figures – in fact, our political culture is built on the belief that such ‘fathers’ will rescue us. But this time around no fathers are coming. As Sri Lankans stare into an uncertain future, and a multitude of daily sufferings, and indignities continue to pile upon us, there is possibly one political and emotional currency that we all need – hope. Hope is a slippery term. One can hope ‘in-vain’ or place one’s faith in some unachievable goal and be lulled into a sense of complacency. But, at the same time, hope can be critically empowering – when insurmountable obstacles threaten to engulf you, it is the one thing that can carry you forward. We have innumerable examples of such ‘hope’ from history – both religious and secular. When Moses led the Israelites to the promised land, ‘hope’ of a new beginning sustained them, as did faith in God. When Queen Viharamahadevi set off on a perilous voyage, she carried hope, within her, along with the hope of an entire people. When Martin Luther King Jr made his iconic ‘I have a dream’ speech, hope of an America where Black people could live in dignity, struck a resonant chord and this historical sense of hope also provided inspiration for the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa.
This particular moment, in Sri Lanka, feels a moment of ‘hopelessness’. In March and April, this year, before the cowardly attack on the Gota Go Gama site, in Galle Face, there was a palpable sense of hope in the aragalaya movement as it spread across the country. While people were struggling with many privations, the aragalaya channeled this collective frustration into a form of political and social action, we have rarely seen in this country. There were moments when the aragalaya managed to transcend many divisions – ethnic, religious and class – that had long defined Sri Lanka. It was also largely a youth led movement which probably added to the ‘hope’ that characterized the aragalaya. However, following the May 09th attack something of this ‘hope’ was lost. People began to resign themselves to the fact that the literally and metaphorically ‘old’ politics, and the corrupt culture it represents had returned. A Prime Minister with no electoral base, and a President in hiding, cobbled together a shaky and illegitimate alliance to stay in power. The fuel lines became longer, the gas queues grew, food prices soared and Sri Lanka began to run out of medicines. But, despite sporadic protests and the untiring commitment of a few committed activists, it appeared that the aragalaya was fizzling out and hope was stagnant and dying, like vehicles virtually abandoned on kilometers-long fuel queues.
However, we now have a moment where ‘hope’ is being rekindled. A national movement is gathering pace. As the prospect of the next shipment of fuel appears to recede into the ever-distant future, people’s anger and frustration are once again being channeled towards political change. This is a do-or-die moment for all Sri Lankans. Regardless of our political beliefs, our ideological orientation, our religion or class, the need for political change has never been clearer. Whether you believe that an IMF bailout will save us, or whether you believe that we need a fundamental change in our economic system, and a socially and economically more just society, neither of these scenarios will come to pass without an immediate political change. The political class that now clings to power, in this country, is like a cancer – poisoning and corrupting the entire body politic, even as it destroys itself. The Prime Minister who was supposed to be the messiah channeling international goodwill and finances to the country has failed miserably and we have a President who seems to be in love with the idea of ‘playing president’. The Sri Lankan people have a single existential choice to make in this moment – to rise as one to expel this rotten political order. In Sri Lanka, we are now in that burning house that the Buddha spoke of and we all seem to be waiting for that father to appear and save us. But now we need to change the plot of this parable. No father will come for us. Our fathers (or appachis) have led us to this sorry state. They have lied, deceived and abandoned us. It is now up to us to rediscover the ‘hope’ that will deliver us from the misery of this economic and political crisis. If we do not act now the house will burn down and we will be consumed in its flames.
Initiated by the Kuppi Collective, a group of academics and activists attached to the university system and other educational institutes and actions.
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