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Scott Dirckze – Boss, Mentor and Friend



by Anura Gunasekera

Sujit Canagaretna, in a moving and masterful appreciation of Scott Dirckze, written soon after the latter’s demise in November 2019, has, in the opening paragraph itself, perfectly summed up the multi-faceted man whom he had known from childhood.

Quote. “Humanitarian. Corporate Leader. Entrepreneur. Agriculturist. Raconteur. Citroen Aficionado. Historian. Classical Musicophile. Art Collector. Consummate Host. Explorer. Gentleman. Friend“. Unquote; Elsewhere in the same writing, Sujith refers to Scott as a “Polymath” and “A Renaissance Man”.

I cannot better that description, concise yet all-inclusive. However, on the eve of what would be his 92nd birthday, I would like to share my personal impressions of Scott, as a belated tribute to a man who featured prominently in my life for over half a century, especially as a sounding board in times of uncertainty and, often, shaping my personal direction.For over 50 years, the 4th of July was an important day in my calendar; nothing to do with the Independence Day of the United States of America but because it is Scott Dirckze’s birthday, which he always celebrated in great style. I first attended the celebration in 1968. Since then, if I did miss it, there would have been a very important reason, as it was, literally, a standing but command invitation. Many years ago, the day before the event, I rang him and asked whether I and Malini – my wife – could arrive a bit late as I had another important matter to attend to. He chuckled and said, “Anura, please come early; you can watch the Wimbledon final on my bedroom TV”; a perfect example of Scott’s droll humour! He was all too well aware of my passion for tennis. At that time, he was Chairman of George Steuart & Co, and I was a senior manager of the company.When Malini and I got married in 1971, I had no second choice as my attesting witness. In fact, the two of us were driven away from the function in his beloved, blue and grey Citroen ID 19, chauffeured by his then driver, Dhanapala. At our daughter, Mihirini’s wedding twenty-five years later, Scott again did the honours as her witness. He was deeply touched that we made the request, but it was simply a measure of both our respect and affection for the man.

I first met Scott in 1967, a little over a year after I left school, for me a time of uncertainty and rootlessness. My friend, the late Trevor Roosmale-Cocq, then an estate executive at George Steuarts and later its Managing Director, decided that I needed sane and mature counseling. So, he took me to the man he respected most.

That first image of Scott, wearing a Thai batik shirt and cream slacks, seated on a divan below the large painting of Weligama Bay, in the simply but tastefully appointed sitting room of his modest Park Road residence, is still very vivid and framed him in my mind for the rest of our relationship. To mask my nervousness at meeting a man of obvious importance, a director of the most prestigious estate agency house in the country, I ostentatiously lit a cigarette and helped myself generously to his whiskey. But I shall never forget Scott’s unaffected friendliness and how quickly he put me at ease.

Scott was both practical and kind in his advice. Citing himself as an example, he explained what he considered to be the total uselessness of his classical education – an Honour’s degree from Cambridge –and its irrelevance to the needs of a country, struggling to free itself from the limitations imposed by centuries of foreign dominance. That, he said, was what motivated him to become an accountant, thereafter. When, some months later, I joined the Police Department as a Sub-Inspector, he did not suggest that I was being imprudent. He only said, “Anura, it can be a good career. Just make certain that you have the IGP’s baton in your pocket all the time. You may need it one day”.

Six months later I left the Police and joined George Steuarts as a planter trainee. Twelve years later, when I discussed with him my intention of leaving planting to join the newly established local subsidiary of a foreign production company, he expressed serious misgivings about my choice. I did not heed his advice but a few months on events confirmed his worst apprehensions. However, he was kind enough to facilitate my entry to a highly respected local conglomerate, when, for a number of reasons, my position with my then employer had become untenable. A couple of years later, when I re-joined George Steuarts and eventually became its head of administration and human resources, Scott, as the then Managing Director, became my immediate reporting connection. Despite the deference I always extended to him on all official occasions, he insisted on maintaining an easy friendship. The onus was on me to remember that my friend was also my employer and immediate superior.

Scott was a wonderful traveling companion to places of interest in the country, on account of his encyclopedic knowledge of its history, places, people and, especially, its agriculture, in which he was passionately interested. For him the high points of such trips were the dining stops at humble roadside eateries, where he would wade in to locally made sweets – “Gnana Katha”, a supremely unhealthy combination of sugar and flour, was a favourite, along with oily Chinese rolls of uncertain origin and dubious hygiene – washed down, invariably, with Elephant House Cream Soda, whilst engaging in long conversations with servers and fellow diners in his grammatically precise Sinhala; another contradictory aspect of this multifaceted Cantabrigian. I believe the vernacular was more effective for being delivered in a clipped, British accent!

He was a classicist who became an accountant but who may have been happier as an automobile engineer, or a paddy cultivator in the North Central Province, or a tea grower in the Morawak Korale. In fact, for many years Scott was thus engaged, first with his fifty-acre paddy farm close to Mihintale and, later, with little tea estates in Neluwa and Ingiriya, consecutively. Kannattiya Kele Watte, the paddy farm was, for decades, one of our favourite holiday destinations. In between, there was also a dalliance with a rubber plantation in Kuruwita.

As for Scott’s knowledge of automobile engineering, I have heard him explain precisely, over the phone from his hospital bed to a mechanic perplexed by the intricate electricals of his latest model Citroen, how to carry out a complex repair. A favorite, post-retirement pastime was the buying and restoration of derelict vehicles – invariably Peugeots or Citroens – under his supervision, in the little workshop that he had set up at his home in Pelawatte.

Scott came from a highly conventional, upper middle class Burgher family. He lost his mother when very young and was brought up, largely, by his father Dr. Herbert Dirckze, who retired as Chief Medical Superintendent of Colombo. On his return from Cambridge, he taught briefly at Royal College, Colombo – his old school – before joining Mackwoods, eventually becoming its Head of Finance. In 1964, he joined GS&Co at the invitation of its Board, replacing the retiring Finance Director, John Ferguson. Scott became Managing Director in 1973, when Tony Peries, then Chairman, abruptly left the country, paving the way for Trevor Moy to become the Chairman. Scott became Chairman in 1986, on Moy’s retirement and himself retired in 2001. One of Scott’s greatest disappointments in professional life was that unlike the other Agency Houses, GS&Co was unable to branch out into new businesses early, in preparation for the impending nationalization of large private plantations and the consequent loss of the lucrative estate agency business. Scott attributed this failure, not so much to a lack of foresight, but more to a combination of restrictive historical circumstances and the aversion to both change and risk, on the part of a Board which, till 1964, was entirely British.

Amongst his friends Scott will be remembered best for his unobtrusive generosity to those in need, the deep caring for friends and the meticulously organized, lavish parties at his home, which always represented a bewildering, but enchanting, diversity of cultures, personalities, professions and socio-economic levels. Often, his invitation to a gathering at his home would be qualified by the comment, “the food may be mediocre, but I guarantee that the company will be interesting”.

Scott’s sparkling wit has produced numerous gems over the years. Often, he was the object of his own satire. Some years ago, after he was fitted with a stent on account of a minor cardiac deficiency, I asked whether he was in any physical distress as a result. His immediate reply was, “my dear boy, I felt absolutely no pain till I saw the bill”.

A couple of years before the nationalization of plantations and the threatened state acquisition of other private businesses, a well-known British head of a large commodity broking company made what was then considered, under prevailing circumstances, a rather daring investment. When this was discussed at a gathering at which Scott was present, he had offered the pithy observation, “well gentlemen, I fear he will soon be taken over, “Boss-Stock and Barrel”, sending all present in to paroxysms of laughter; Scott was brilliant at the pun.

He was a totally honest man who despised pretension and hypocrisy. He did not hesitate to expose such in others, irrespective of station, with well-placed, often biting observations. He was always witty, sometimes sardonic but never malicious; acerbic though, if the circumstances warranted, when his razor-sharp tongue would be fully unsheathed.

Notwithstanding Scott’s semi-Victorian upbringing, education and Westernized background, he was passionately Sri Lankan, and a fierce advocate of local products, local innovation, and of the imperative of achieving sustainability through national enterprise.

Till the very end, despite multiple medical complications in the latter years, Scott retained that irrepressible sense of humour, intellectual interest in a disparate array of subjects, the incredibly retentive memory and his concern for fellow men; and, irrespective of the circumstances, he never lost his refined and charming old-world courtesy, another distinctive feature of his personality. In many ways Scott was unique and the last of an ilk, for that ilk died with him.

Some years ago, at the funeral of Abey Ekanayake, a dear mutual friend, as the smoke rose from the funeral pyre Scott turned to me and said, with tears in his eyes, “there goes a very good man; I will miss him very much”. At Scott’s funeral, as the earth tumbled on to the casket, another mutual friend, Nihal Ratnaike, said to me with great sadness, “he was a good and dear friend; I shall miss him very much”. Those are my sentiments as well. I can pay Scott, that fine human being, no greater tribute.

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The battle against KNDU: Renewing our contract with the people



By Sivamohan Sumathy

The KNDU Bill is designed to single-handedly change the face of education in Sri Lanka. Since the ‘90s, successive governments have tried to roll back the gains of the Free Education Poliicy of 1945. The history of free education is not linear, nor is it without contradictions. It is implicated in the hierarchies of class, ethnicity, gender and the multiple vectors of violence of state and civil society. Despite and because of these very contradictions Free Education has come to represent and symbolise the often contradictory but powerful assemblage of social aspirations and social desires of the general body of citizenry, particularly the vast majority situated on the margins or near margins of society. Free education does not serve everybody equally, but over the years and across decades, it has come to represent the hope of a vast majority for a better place in society. For a populace that is increasingly disempowered, it opens up opportunities toward social mobility, limited as they are; and as or more importantly, becomes the ideological and political weapon of the vast majority in the struggle for justice, social justice and bid for a democratic pact with the state.

Privatisation, Corporatisation, Militarisation

The State university system is an integral part of the state apparatus. Successive governments, have attempted and, to some degree, succeeded in undermining its integrity from within, creating parallel systems of higher education that would be on par with it. Privatisation of higher education follows a two pronged plan; the creation of fee levying centres and bodies of education and the degradation of state universities through under funding and sub-standardization. The fortnightly Kuppi Talk column in The Island has consistently foregrounded the pressures exerted upon the state university compelling it to carry out multiple reforms that compromise on standards and force it to privatise itself. From the ‘90s onwards (if not before), spending on university education has steadily deteriorated and in the post war years spending on education has stayed under 2% of the GDP (Niyanthini Kadirgamar, “Funding Fallacies,” The Humanities and Social Sciences are the most affected as highlighted in the various contributions of the Kuppi Talk column. It is no accident that the most recent move toward privatisation from within and without takes place by fiat and through militarisation. Much has been written about the principles of militarised authority that the KNDU bill enshrines. I do not have to reinvent the wheel here, but want to note that by rolling back the gains of free education and its potential to empower people, the KNDU bill points toward a future of repressive technocratic governance and repressive exclusions of those who most desire education as the path to mobility.

While the ‘80s and ‘90s saw a few stuttering steps toward privatisation of education, at the turn of the new millennium one is witness to the onset of an aggressive campaign toward the the dismantling of the long cherished free education apparatus as we know it. I trace this historical trajectory in “SAITM: Continuities and Discontinuities” looking at the different impetuses behind the establishment of NCMC and SAITM, the ideological similarities notwithstanding (

Certain forms of privatised tertiary education have existed for a long time and have expanded in recent years, but to this day, the establishment of a fully-fledged private university has run into problems. Popular will stood in its way. But it is also a fact that the country simply does not have the infrastructural, intellectual and investment-capacity for a viable private university to take off. Private sector in fact is weak in Sri Lanka. In the post war years, the then Mahinda Rajapaksa Government, with S. B. Dissanayake as Minister of Higher Education spear headed a move to formalise private universities through an umbrella organization that would act as an accreditation council, bringing private and state universities on par and under the same purview and placing this purview within the ambit of corporate interests. In their eyes, Sri Lanka is to become an education hub, attracting foreign investment (“Education and its discontents,” ). The Yahapalana government is no better and blindly follows through on the privatisation plans of the previous regime with its Private Public Partnership policies, SAITM, and the degrading of Arts Education to some vague notion of soft skills development. The KNDU Bill was gazetted in April 2018 and was opposed by the academic communities and members of civil society. As with most corruption ridden neo liberal moves that render all aspects of life commodified, in this instance too, the state becomes an investor in privatised education. We hear that Bank of Ceylon and NSB have been ordered to pledge 36.54 billion rupees to KDU. ( If the rationale for privatising education is to ease the burden on the state, why does the state continue to subsidize these institutions? The logic boggles the mind.

The Democracy Call

From 2011-2012 the Federation of University Teachers’ Association (FUTA) launched the greatest challenge that the teachers had ever made to an incumbent government and in the post war era brought together diverse disgruntled forces under its slogan of Save State Education and the 6% GDP campaign. It brought together different groups and a wide range of actors together to formulate a response to the neo liberal forces that were riding rough shod over the needs of an anxious working and professional class. Its call for action was framed by the call to save democracy. However, in the Yahapalana years and after, the struggle for education lost its momentum. FUTA itself was riven from within, preoccupied by its members’ narrower preoccupations, diverse aspirations, and loyalties. Other disparate groups took up the mantle to fight against privatisation, some of which may not have developed in desirable directions.

Today, the bill threatens to become a dangerous reality. It is not just Universities that are threatened by the KNDU. School teachers led by their unions have jumped into the fray. Beaten by the crippling conditions of COVID 19, teachers and students are facing the dire consequences of years of underfunding in education. FUTA is joining the protest as a key player, a mighty powerful player, but not as the only player. As Shamala Kumar eloquently put it at a press conference called against the KNDU bill on 24 July, 2021, the struggle against the authoritarian bill is a struggle against the PTA, a struggle for working people’s rights, guaranteeing safety of working conditions in the informal sector, particularly women, and a struggle for democracy within the university, including raising one’s voice against ragging. University teachers, rallying forces under FUTA, are once again on the cusp of a decisive moment of the history of education in the country. Let’s defeat the KNDU bill together!


Sivamohan Sumathy is attached to the Department of English at the Univ. of Peradeniya

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Condolences, warnings and admonition never to forget



Two great Sri Lankans have died and we as a country are much the poorer, and mourn their deaths. Manouri de Silva Muttetuwegama has vacated her long held position as a wise, consistent, fearless combatant for women and particularly those underprivileged, discriminated against, and helpless against forces of war and ethnicity that caused them suffering. Another noteworthy trait of the woman and characteristic of her work-ethic was quiet efficiency in going about her remedying, healing work with no fanfare and never seeking of publicity and praise. She was a lovely friendly person, always with a sincere smile lighting her face. Manouri served the country well and her daughter carries the torch.

Business magnate and media moghul R Rajamahendran, who used his money, influence and power to help the country is mourned, more so as he could have served his company Capital Maharaja Organisation and Sri Lankan media longer. The appreciation of him by Rex Clementine in The Island, Monday July 26, detailed the great good he did for Sri Lankan cricket. Teaming up with Gamini Dissanayake he literally fought for test status for our country, amply justified by teams of yore, one of which won the World Cup and another nearly did.

(Note: Cass uses the verb ‘died’ and the noun ‘death’ in preference to the softer, gentler ‘passing’, ‘passing away’ et al as she prefers the more real though stark word to euphemisms. Death is death.)


Never forget crimes committed

This is the thought that came to mind when coincidentally Cassandra, on 22 July watched the movie 22 July, almost a documentary on the 32 year old Anders Behring Breivik, who parked his bomb-laden van outside the PM’s office in Oslo; it killed eight people and caused utter damage, and then crossed to a summer camp on an island where he shot, point blank, the manager who welcomed him as a police officer but then wanted to see his ID, and a woman in authority. He embarked on a killing spree, which left 69 Youth League workers dead and many more injured. When the police arrived he tamely surrendered. At his trial he said he wanted to save Norway and Europe itself from multiculturalism, particularly naming Muslims, and that the killing of innocents was a wakeup call. His defence attorney attempted pleading schizophrenia but on hearing the awfully heartrending testimony of some of the young campers who escaped death but were injured grievously, he was found guilty on all counts and jailed in solitary confinement for more than two decades.

We, most fortunately have had no single mass murderer like Breivik and American school killers but murder most foul continues and may surface any time.

Cass’ thought was never forget terrible crimes committed on persons who were innocent or who were doing their duty. Yes, we as a nation must never forget these grievous crimes. The death of Richard de Zoysa stands out stark, but the police person who took him away from his home and his mother ‘for questioning’, tortured and killed him and dropped him far out at sea died gruesomely along with Prez Premadasa on May 1. Richard’s body washed ashore though weighted and dropped far out at sea. The person who probably ordered his demise too was killed by the same LTTE bomb. Thus, they paid for their heinous crime.

Others who murdered or ordered murders seem to live on powerfully and mightily. The gruesome murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge is kept alive by his daughter, but to no avail. Never to be forgotten or forgiven is the killing of the young, harmless ruggerite whose only ‘crime’ was cocking a snook at those who thought they were superior. What the telling vine conveyed was that the rugger captaincy almost going to him had him tortured and killed. Again a coincidence or overconfidence brought to light the crime: Thajudeen’s body was placed next to the driving seat and his car pushed against a wall to fake an accident. It was all covered up. But people remember this murder, though no one shouts for justice for Thajudeen’s grieving parents.

When you question how come murderers and torturers seem to thrive, the answer is karma, Cass supposes. Maybe, the perpetrators suffer in the midst of utter luxury and in power. Maybe, even slightly, they are overcome with shivers of fright, but never remorse, we surmise.

Unanimously, we are all triumphant that the 15 year old Tamil girl’s death by immolation after prolonged rape in an ex-Minister’s home is being investigated. We hope it will move to correct, just conclusion.


Notes on news items

Highly commended is the article ‘Whither the Sangha and Buddha Sasana?’ by S M Sumanadasa in The Island of July 26. If you have not read it, and are a Buddhist, please retrieve the article and read it. It is spot on though gently written, very timely with so many protests going on, most headed by yellow robes. He starts by saying “As a keen observer …, I feel confident and justified in what I say…” Perfectly justified and every point made is valid. The majority of our Sangha strictly follow the 200 odd vinaya rules and render invaluable service to Buddhist lay people, to Buddhism, and the country, but the yellow robed bad eggs are truly rotten. The Sangha may only advise leaders and from a back seat. Sumanadasa queries why the Buddha Sasana Ministry and the Nayaka Theros do not stem the growing tide of indiscipline and reprehensible behaviour of men in Sangha robes. We ask the same. He states a truth that the death of Buddhism in Sri Lanka is really caused by the Buddhists themselves and some members of the Sangha.

An agreeing opinion by Piyasena Athukorale is in The Island, Wednesday July 29.

Proposed Plantation University and its economic benefits by Dr L M K Tillekeratne appears in the same newspaper. Cassandra retorts: Oh goodness! Enough universities! What benefit when sane advice by university dons and experts in agriculture and related subjects have been completely ignored by the President, the PM, the Cabinet and others in power. They have still not rescinded or withdrawn the overnight ban on import and use of inorganic fertilisers. When famine stares us in the face after the demise of the farmer (the country’s so called backbone) through suicide or utter disgusted exasperation and loss of livelihood, we Ordinaries will have to suffer hunger pangs and malnourishment while those who ordered the very ill-advised and too sudden ban, will live on happily. Maybe, exotic food from around the world will be helicoptered to them!

Professor Channa Jayasumana, I was told, has said that the long awaited and longed for Astra Zeneca vaccine was delayed in transport to our land by the Olympic Games. Cass really did not know that these Games blocked air routes or interfered with air travel. Maybe, the Prof meant that the vaccine gifted (we seem never able to buy this absolute requisite) by Japan was stymied by the Games in Tokyo. He should know as he is a professor.

Why Cass mentioned this tale is because thanks to Professor Jayasumana, she increased her life span by ten years, rolling around choking with laughter (bitter though) at the explanation of why the A-Z Vaccine is so delayed.


Enough is absolutely enough

Please, whoever the authority is, stop that telephone message that comes in the three languages exhorting us to act with care during this period. I have forgotten the terms used in

Sinhala and English as I don’t listen when the message comes through, but they are synonyms of urgencies, calamities, crises; which last short spells of time, not months and months as the telephone message has been. This is parallel to the Sri Lankan habit of hanging bunting, posting posters but never bothering to remove them.

It is better the government just calls up protesters for meetings (even though it intends doing nothing) so that spreader of the C19 will cease or at least decrease. We stay home – telephoners – so why have we to suffer a double whammy – eternal message and risk contracting C19. We completely disapprove of teachers protesting en masse all over the country for salary hikes. Not done, not done at all during a country’s economic crisis.

Will we ever learn to put the country’s good and people’s wellbeing before our acts of self-seeking and selfishness?

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Organic fertiliser



Doing the right thing the wrong way

By Jayasri Priyalal

Nurturing nature is the right thing to do when mother nature is struggling to adjust to the manufactured damages taking their toll and challenging the mutual cohabitation of all living beings on earth. Feeding seven billion people with depleted natural resources and a degraded environment is a mammoth task for humanity. During the past ten millennia, homo sapiens have evolved to adjust and move ahead with their advanced cognitive abilities. However, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, there is ample evidence and warning signs to suggest that human beings have crossed the line in harming nature. Maintaining balanced biodiversity is advised by experts to mitigate natural disasters triggered by climate change.

Research in 2020 by the World Economic Forum found that $44 trillion of economic value generation – more than half of the world’s total GDP – was moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services and is therefore exposed to ‘nature loss’, including tropical forests.

This article was prompted by the presentation delivered by Senior Professor Buddhi Marambe, Department of the Crop Science, University of Peradeniya, yesterday (24 July 2021). My special thanks go to the Peradeniya Engineering Faculty Alumni Association [PEFAA] for organising the timely event.

The learned Professor presented his arguments with facts and figures from authentic sources and clarified many myths about synthetic fertiliser and pesticides use in Sri Lanka. All Sri Lankans are truly indebted to all these professionals dedicated to improving our agricultural productivity in a scientifically sound manner, causing minimum impact on biodiversity. Sri Lanka’s ranking in the use of synthetic fertiliser and pesticides, and emergence above our competitors in the region on maintaining food security was an alarming highlight of the lecture.

The discussion heightened the public awareness of the proposed move by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to ban the import of synthetic fertiliser and agrochemicals and switch to organic fertiliser. Professor Marambe dealt with points and forewarned the dangers of these short sighted policy directives that appear to have been formulated without sufficient consultations with experts dealing with agriculture, instead relying on ill-advised opinion makers, based on assumptions instead of scientific facts.

Recent developments in the country, mainly various draft bills, attempting to militarise higher education, attempting to dispose of the country’s iconic properties to attract investment, indicate the quality of advisors to the President. Those who teamed up with him as Viyath Maga experts appear to have misled President Rajapaksa.

At the webinar, Prof. Marambe revealed that he and other agricultural experts had been appealing for an audience with the President to explain the dangers of this policy directive, which entails long-term adverse repercussions to an agricultural economy. President Rajapaksa has come out with strong convictions on the benefits of using organic fertiliser and sadly lacks scientific evidence to back the perceived benefits and advantages of the proposed policy directive.

I am making a humble appeal to President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and his team of advisors to seek expertise from the experts and decide on the policy directives instead of counting on assumptions.

Fareed Zakaria devotes a chapter on why people should listen to experts and experts should listen to people, in his book ‘Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World’. He refers to President Donald Trump being questioned about experts he consults, during the 2016 Republican nomination campaign. Trump responded, “I am speaking with myself, number one because I have an excellent brain; my primary consultant is myself.” His idea to inject a cleaning solution to treat COVID-19 patients could have surfaced through this process of self-consultation. Trump ridiculed the experts in 2016 thus: “Look at the mess we’re in with all these experts that we have.” The rest is history; the mess he created during his tenure as the US President. These are useful lessons for many other political leaders.



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