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Dr. Neville Fernando of Panadura

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Appreciation

Dr. Neville’s death took the winds out of my sails to live for a little longer. It was only the previous day that I spoke to his wife Mrs. Swarnamali Fernando and told her that the doctor had the will to live and would pull out of the Corona infection, but it was not to be.

I first met Dr. Neville as MP for Panadura when I went to Kalutara as GA in 1977 a little after the UNP won all the seats in Kalutara district and got their overall 5/6 majority. Although Dr. Neville himself came with the wave, he did not agree with everything that the leadership ventured out to do with the land slide victory. He stood his ground and walked out when the former prime minister, Madam Sirimavo’s citizenship rights were deprived along with a few of her senior cabinet ministers. During the short period he served Panadura as MP, his contribution to the electorate was unique. I would be documenting just a few that I am personally aware of.

Dr. Neville had a vision for his electorate which he would not compromise with anybody at any cost and his idea of a private medical school ran through his blood throughout the period I knew him for over 40 years. Once when we went to see the Minister of Education with a draft of a pilot project, the minister asked us some cynical questions and the additional secretary at that time didn’t even lift his head to look at us!

Dr. Neville gave up his lucrative private practice in Panadura and spent large amounts of money from his own funds which is generally not the done thing in politics, at a time when politics was also becoming a fast growing industry with avenues for income generation. His pet project was the reclamation of lands at Modarawila and shifting the congested town of Panadura to clear the Galle Road and to build up a beautiful city with a circular road in the congested area facing the sea with recreational facilities for children as well as for adults. Mr. A. P. A. Gunasekara, who was the manager of the housing authority at Kalutara at that time, was of immense assistance to Dr. Neville in acquiring Modarawila and also completing several housing schemes for the needy including the scheme at Paraththa in particular, where Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne from Sarvodaya mobilised shramadhana work.

His commitment to the Dhamma was quite apparent when he helped us to build a fund to finance Dhamma schools by meeting philanthropists at Panadura. With Dr. Neville, the District Minister Mr. Hettiarachchi and MP for Kalutara Mr. Wijemanna, we collected close upon a million rupees from philanthropists at Panadura and the then Minister of Shipping Hon. Athulathmudali who treasured Dhamma education which he always felt was the foundation for his Oxford achievements later, gave us a million rupees on a rupee to rupee basis which became a big fund for the development of Sunday Schools along with contributions from the Bodhi Trust and well wishers from time to time. I cannot forget the support he got from Rev. Gonaduwe Gunananda for this worthy cause.

The Bhikku ward of the Panadura hospital and the cardiology unit were two other lasting contributions to Panadura through Dr. Neville’s initiatives. The Kethumathi hostpital for women in Panadura has no equal anywhere in the country. It was an outright donation of a philanthropist which Dr. Neville improved with funds from the health ministry and his decentralized budget. Later, there were many other philanthropists in and around Panadura who wanted to donate their very valuable properties to Dr. Neville for public use but he couldn’t accept them as he did not have the funds to maintain them. The red tape in departments irritated him as some heads of departments and ministries who required office space at Panadura, wouldn’t move even to take over things given for free where provisions were not made in the annual budget.

I remember Dr. Neville taking me to the site where the famous Panadura debate took place. He wanted to acquire the land and develop it for posterity but I am not aware as to what happened later. In my retirement I met him when he had purchased the Central Hospital at Horton Place Colombo 7 where I took my wife for regular treatment. He had not changed one bit. He helped me until she passed away in his hospital in 2016 from a respiratory problem she carried for a long time.

Later he invested in a land at Kynsey Road and shifted his hospital to the newly built several storied building well equipped but he sold that too and put all his money for the SAITEM when his eternal interest in medical education got the better of him once again.

His commitment to temperance pursuits saw no bounds. He wanted the two arrack taverns at Nalluruwa and Walapolapattiya closed. That lead to unprecedented complications on his first attempt but later he prevailed on the authorities that mattered and got the colonial excise law changed to break the monopoly of renters. Dr. Neville called a spade a spade with no reservations, but he had a tough fist to punch those who betrayed him and undermined him for their mean advantage. In the process he antagonized vicious influential elements for which he had no regrets. Some of his successors whom he brought up turned against him and he nearly escaped death when hooligans opened fire at his house during the insurgency in 1988.

Like many philanthropists, he too was a victim of ingratitude. Many people who exploited him washed their hands off when the tide turned. He had to fight his battle all alone with his dear wife, children and grandchildren and in-laws helping him and looking after him to the very end.

He had his greatest regards for the officers who helped him. In his long speech before he quit parliament, he spoke about me and Mr. Hewage, my AGA at Panadura. His last trip to see us was with a copy of the Hansard where our names appeared as officers who helped him to get his work expedited. We are eternally grateful to him for his magnanimity.

May he attain the bliss of Nibbana and also be blessed with Kalyanamithras (well meaning friends) in his short sojourn in Sansara, who would realize his value and take a leaf from his book for their own emancipation.

 

Wimaladharma Ekanayake

Government Agent Kalutara District from 1977-1987



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Opinion

Regulate sports in popular schools ahead of big matches

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The Big Matches between popular schools in Colombo and main outstation cities are round the corner. In the past school sports was in the hands of former sportsmen and sportswomen who loved the game as well as their school. They devoted their time and money to coach the budding youth without any monetary gain for themselves.

But, see what has happened today. Sports coaches selected by the schools demand millions of rupees to coach the students. And this is readily agreed and paid by the school authorities. In the good old days the members of School teams were provided free meals during match days and also Sports equipment. But it is not so now. The school earn millions of rupees from big matches played for a duration of two, or three days in some cases, and this money could be utilised to buy the required cricket gear such as bats, pads gloves, boots, etc,. I understand a pair of cricket boots is in the region of Rs.18,000 to 25,000. Can a poor village lad who is enrolled to an affluent schools in Colombo, based on his performance in Education and Cricket afford this? These lads should be given all the support to continue in their respective sports rather than drop out due to financial constraints

Coaches in some schools are in the payroll of big-time businessmen whose children are, in the so called pools. Parents of children engaged in a particular sport should not be permitted to come in as sponsors as this would be rather unethical.

The Big Matches between popular boys schools are around the corner and I suggest that the Sports Ministry ensures performance based selections rather than on other criteria.

 

D.C.Atukorala

Colombo

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Opinion

‘Post turtle’ revisited

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I have written about this amusingly thought-provoking creature, the ‘post turtle’ to ‘The Island’ around three years ago (appeared in the opinion column of The Island newspaper on the 19th of June 2018, titled ‘The post turtle era’). The story, which I am sure most of you have heard/read already, is obviously not a creation of mine and I happened to come across it somewhere, sometime ago. 

And for the benefit of those, who haven’t heard the story, it goes like this:

“While surturing a cut on the hand of an old Texas rancher, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually, the topic got around to politics and then they discussed some new guy, who was far too big for his shoes, as a politician.

The old rancher said, ‘Well, ya know he is a post turtle’. Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a ‘post turtle was’.

The old rancher said, ‘When you are driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, well, that’s your ‘post turtle’.

The rancher saw a puzzled look on the doctor’s face, so he went on to explain. ‘You know, he didn’t get up there by himself, he doesn’t belong up there, he doesn’t know what to do while he is up there, and you just wonder what kind of a dumb ass put him up there in the first place’.”

Now I was having this nice, little siesta, the other day and suddenly there appeared ‘the turtle’ in front of me, sitting on a fence post, seemingly doing a precarious balancing act as the post itself was too high for it to give it a try to jump down to the ground. Not that it probably wanted to do it anyway for it looked quite contended and happy sitting there doing absolutely nothing. And no doubt some loyal and dumb all rolled into one, must have put him up there and been feeding it well too, for it looked quite contended and fat showing a thick head that kept turning to the left and then to the right, while its tongue kept on lolling out as if it was saying something, which must have been absolute gibberish and rubbish anyway.

What a fitting and symbolic representation, 

I mean this ‘post turtle’, of the lot, or the majority of it sitting across ‘the oya’, I mused on after I woke up from my snooze.

Many of them get there thanks to the gullible voter, who while ticking the boxes, thinks: he/she will surely deliver the goods this time as promised! 

And those two-legged post turtles inside the edifice, bordering the Diyawanna, like the one in the story, keep uttering sheer rubbish and spitting out incomprehensible mumbo jumbo, all in return with thanks to those, who tick the boxes in their favour.

Their statements such as ‘what is oxygen for, to eat?’, is just one among many such stupendously stupid utterances of theirs and I don’t want to tire you with the rest, for they are well known and far too many.

Now I have only one question for you before I end this:

When are we going stop being ‘those dumb asses’, once and for all?

Laksiri  Warnakula  

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Opinion

Abuse of use of title Professor

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I read with much interest the letter by Mr. Nissanka Warakaulle, regarding the above matter, in the issue of the Sunday Island of 18th April 2021. I agree fully with the contents of his letter. He should be very familiar with the regulations as he is a former Registrar of the University of Colombo. I wish to highlight another instance where it is abused. In the 1970s, the title of Associate Professor was created. Until then there were only three categories of Professors. Firstly the holder of the Chair, secondly a co-Professor and thirdly, an Emeritus Professor. There were also, Lecturers, Senior Lecturers and Readers. The title of Reader was replaced with the title Associate Professor, which is meant to be a designation, to be used after the name. However, this category of academics started using it as a pre-fix, dropping the word Associate!

Profesor Sanath P. Lamabadusuriya MBE
Emeritus Professor of Paediatrics,
University of Colombo

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