Connect with us


Unbelievable…it is one year since she left us



* Appreciation


By Dr B. J. C. Perera
Specialist Consultant Paediatrician

A full year has gone by since my wonderful charismatic wife, Dr Sarojini Perera, left all of us, and this earth, forever on the 6th of December 2019. Yet for all that, it seems only the other day that I was able to hold her gently and ever so softly in my arms. The absolute and complete sense of unbearable loss and the agonising grief that was left behind by her untimely demise has not abated by even a fraction of a miniscule element; not even after a very desolate and bleak one year. Just as Richard L. Ratliff, that passionate orator and poet from Indiana, USA, so graphically described, “Time is a passing: not leaden stepping, but sprinting on winged feet. Quicksilver slipping by“. Yet for all that, the legendary healing touch of Father Time has very definitely passed me by. In point of fact, eons may pass, things may change, but memories will always stay where they are; in the heart…, for hearts never forget.

Sarojini was all of what a man could ever ask for, and even hope and pray for. From the time of developing a starry-eyed romantic liaison with her, as young doctors in the latter part of 1972, and from the day we tied the knot on the 26th of April 1975, it has been a life of perpetual love, in the form of a fulfilling commitment to each other. I have often asked her what she saw in me and her answer has always been “I saw the potential“. What she called ‘potential’ would never have borne fruit without her. Indeed, she was the proverbial wind beneath my wings, the breeze in my sails and the gust that lifted me up to the lofty echelons that I would never have been able to reach without her. She raised me up to being much more than I could ever hope to be. I was forever so strong when I was on her shoulders, literally and metaphorically. Life blessed me with her wonderful companionship for such a memorable length of time, but I do wonder in my heart of hearts, why? Oh, why…? did she have to go away, even after being with me for 44 years 7 months and 10 days. I really have no answer to that and I can only lament quietly. It only brings out the truth of the saying that the most painful tears are not the ones that fall from your eyes and cover your face, but are the ones that fall from your heart and cover your soul.

She was also a doting mother who, like all mothers, was absolutely delighted at even the smallest achievement of our daughter Manisha. But then, Sarojini was also an outright magician as a mother. Nothing ever ruffled her. Our daughter would be witness to the fact that her mother would be quite adept at turning pain into hope, hardships into lessons, calamities to optimism, and even tears into laughter. Manisha would confide in her mother, rather than in her father, ninety-nine per cent of the time. The very special rapport and the bond the two of them had was quite remarkable.

Sarojini’s staunch loyalty to her family and her total dedication to all of us was absolutely fabulous. Oh yes…, it would really surprise many that there was a kind of hidden rugged strength beneath that soft and tender placid exterior. That fantastic asset was carefully veiled in reams of the softest silk of gentleness; a very rare and exceptional blend. In fact, she was much stronger mentally than me. Whenever gloomy thoughts and setbacks tried to get her down, she just blew them away with a dazzling smile; just one of those smiles that she was forever renowned for. However, she would not hesitate to express her opinion on compelling issues and very often her enlightened views were bang on target.

The lady was eternally comfortable with life because she firmly believed that to be happy it was essential to find strength in forgiveness, hope in disagreements, security in fear, and even love in discordance. People used to say, and still continue to say, that no one could fight with her because you need two to fight, and she never ever would fight back. She was just not made that way. Despite her fame and popularity, for her ways were so very alluring and attractive to all around, the lady never felt the need for the parading of flashy and pretentious charades. Humility was her much revered forte. She preferred to be the type of person who would fit in with any type of crowd and she always managed to do it with finesse, elegance and style. It is said that a living is made in this world by what one gets. My wife was very happy with what she got in life, even me for that matter. In addition, she also made her life sublime and inspirational by what she gave to others. She generally worked for a cause and not for the applause. Her life was lived to express but not to impress. She never strove to make her presence felt but now that she is gone, her absence is felt ever so strongly and perpetually. We, her immediate family, together with her numerous friends and admirers, have felt that just to even talk or write about her in the past tense is in itself deeply distressing to all of us.

Sarojini was beautiful for the way she thought. She was beautiful for the sparkle in her eyes. She was beautiful for the way she smiled, and she was beautiful for her inherent ability to make other people smile too. Oh no…., she wasn’t beautiful for something as transitory and brittle as her really good looks, which of course she had in plenty. She was so very beautiful for the fact that she really was a serenely gorgeous person deep down…., right down to her beautiful soul; the poignant charm of her innermost loveliness. The sublime qualities that were an integral part of her nature, nurtured in her formative years by her fantastic family at Bandarawela, and the magnificent traits like compassion that she acquired as a result of her medical training, depicted her as an outstanding example of an exquisite and caring human being. She was a sunflower to all and sundry. She managed to remain as a blossoming lotus even in a sea of raging flames. Indeed, my soul-mate was somebody very special and unique. They have thrown away the mould in which she was made. However, the fragrance of her memory would live on forever.

As a doctor, she was totally loved by her patients and her colleagues. In fact, the words of two of my younger lady colleagues immediately after the demise of my wife epitomise their appreciation of her qualities. One referred to her as “one of the loveliest people that I knew” and the other referred to her as “the lovable English rose“; metaphors that described my Sarojini perfectly. During this year after her demise, the Sri Lanka College of Sexual Health and HIV Medicine, in which Sarojini was a Founder Member, Assistant Secretary from 1995 to 1997 and then the Honorary Treasurer in 2000/2001, has inaugurated an annual award in her memory for the Best Scientific Poster Presentation at their Annual Congress. The inaugural award was to be presented during their Silver Jubilee Celebration Banquet on 24th October 2020, but was postponed due to the calamity of COVID-19. In addition, the AIDS Foundation of Lanka, in which she worked as the Director – Research and Programmes after her retirement from the National Health Service, has initiated a monthly scholarship in her name for a needy child afflicted or affected by HIV/AIDS. We, the members of her family, are truly grateful to these two august institutions for those most magnanimous of gestures which would perpetuate her memory forever, without any boundaries of time.

It was Christian Dior, the celebrated French fashion designer, who once said that “After women, flowers are the most divine of creations“. My lady loved flowers and that perhaps made her to be a creation doubly divine. She may have been taken away from us physically but her sweet-scented presence lives on and tenderly lingers on around us, every single day.

In our own way, we, of her family, have tried ever so hard to portray our eternal love for her, in a gesture of zealous admiration and affection, in the epitaph that we engraved on her tombstone. It goes as:-


“Forever in our hearts”

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,

Love leaves memories that no one can steal.

You held our hands for quite a while,

With much devotion, in your unique beautiful style.

A super lady gentle to all on her call,

Your radiant smile will be treasured by one and all.

In the words of the religion that we believe in, all human beings are made in the image of God the Almighty. This precious and exquisite person Sarojini, whose body went into extinction when she left this earth, most definitely had her soul taken into the Good Lord’s own kingdom in heaven.

In the arms of her creator, may the eternal heavenly glow shine upon her and may she rest in everlasting peace.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Becoming a water-wise citizen



By Eng. Thushara Dissanayake

According to current demands and availability, potable water resources are rapidly depleting in Sri Lanka. Finding new potable water sources has become increasingly challenging due to the competition between irrigation water and drinking water needs in many areas. Population growth, industrial demand, pollution, and climate change exacerbate water scarcity more than ever. Despite this, society often overlooks the importance of water conservation, with water waste remaining widespread. As responsible citizens, it is high time to adopt effective water management practices at household and industry level for its sustainability. On the other hand, doing so will reduce the energy requirements for water treatment and distribution, helping lower greenhouse gas emissions.

According to NWS&DB only about 46% of the population in our country are supplied with pipe-borne water. Therefore, wasting water deprives others who really deserves fresh water but currently lack access.

Here are several common ways water is wasted presumably by users due to ignorance, along with effective strategies for reducing waste at the household level.Following are some other practical measures to save water.

Standard plumbing

Using standard pipes and fittings and skilled workmanship are crucial for preventing water waste, especially in embedded areas where such leaks are hardly noticeable. PVC pipes should not be exposed to the sun as that will deteriorate the quality of pipes over time leading to water leaks. Properly installed systems are often devoid of leaks and ensure efficient water distribution minimizing maintenance costs.

Selecting water-saving fixtures

There are many water-saving fixtures available today as low-flow showerheads, taps, and dual-flush cisterns having two flushing options. For instance, kitchen taps with fine mesh give the feeling that more water runs through it than the actual flow. Replacing the existing fixtures with these advanced items will reduce water usage significantly.

Fixing water leaks

If there are leaking taps or pipes in the house or business premises they should promptly be rectified. In addition, it is wise to have regular infections to identify such defects so that possible water wastage can be minimized.

Mindful showering habits

One mode of heavy water consumption at the household level is showering. Even small reductions in shower duration such as reducing the shower time by a few minutes can save many litres of water. Any habits of keeping the shower running while applying soap and shampoo should be avoided.

Using domestic appliances only for full loads

Making a habit of using washing machines and dishwashers only for full loads not only saves water but also reduces electricity consumption. Operating appliances at full capacity also enhances their efficiency and prolongs their lifespan while reducing repair costs.

Harvesting rainwater

Rainwater can be used for many household activities, especially for gardening, landscaping, and washing vehicles. Currently, treated water is often used for these purposes, which results in unnecessary treatment costs. Rainwater can be used even for drinking if properly collected, treated, and filtered for better hygiene. However, rainwater can be used for drinking after boiling if it is collected through a clean roof exposed to sunlight. Avoiding early rain is advisable to minimize the risk of impurities mixed with rainwater.

Gardening and landscaping

For hotels, public parks, playgrounds, and similar venues with extensive gardens growing native and drought-tolerant species that require less water can lead to massive water savings. This approach not only conserves water but also enhances landscape resilience during times of water shortages. Further applying mulch to retain soil moisture and installation of drip irrigation systems and garden sprinklers for watering can minimise water requirements. Watering the lawns should be done in the morning or late evening to minimise evaporation losses.

Water Recycling

Water from sinks, showers, and washing machines which are called “grey water” can be used for toilet flushing and gardening. By diverting grey water away from the sewer system and integrating it into these activities, freshwater requirements can significantly be reduced.

Awareness and Education

Making children aware of water conservation is crucial for fostering responsible water usage habits. At the domestic level parents and elder family members can be role models by demonstrating water-saving habits. As organization-level initiatives, educating children at schools, public awareness campaigns, promoting and giving incentives for water-saving appliances, and formulating sustainable water management policies are vital.

Adopting simple, yet effective methods as discussed can save water to ensure the sustainability of this scarce resource. As the adage goes, “Water is life”, every citizen has to be water-wise by understanding its value and actively taking steps to use water efficiently and responsibly.

(The writer is a chartered Civil Engineer specializing in water resources engineering)


Continue Reading


Key takeaways from British election



PM Keir Starmer

By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana

The fact that political parties splintered by internal strife, culminating in open warfare, would be punished mercilessly by the electorate at the first available opportunity is, perhaps, the key takeaway from the UK parliamentary election held on 4th July. Conservatives, who held power for 14 years were humiliated and reduced to only 121 seats, 9 fewer than even exit-poll predictions. However, exit-polls predicted the landslide for Labour spot-on, missing the mark by only two; Labour ending up with 412, prediction being 410. This Labour win was second only to the massive victories by Tony Blair in 1997 and 2001. Terms used by news media to qualify this Labour victory, tsunami and earthquake, perhaps, are inaccurate as both are unexpected events whereas this win was not. What surprised most, however, was not the Labour victory but the scale of the humiliating defeat of the Tories, losing 251 seats. This to a large extent, was self-inflicted!

Conservatives ended 13 years of Labour rule in 2010, but as they did not have an outright majority, winning only 306 seats in a house of 650, were forced to form a coalition government with Liberal Democrats who won 57 seats. In the subsequent election in 2015, Conservatives won 330 seats, just clearing the threshold of 326. David Cameron, who was PM from 2010, resigned in 2017 when the UK voted for Brexit in a referendum, which he forced on the country, hoping to get the opposite result. Conservative divisions bloomed following the referendum disaster and Theresa May, who succeeded Cameron, went for a snap poll hoping to get a larger mandate but was unsuccessful getting only 317 seats, forcing her to continue with a minority government. However, she too, had to resign in 2019 as the draft withdrawal agreement with the EU, she negotiated, was rejected by the parliament. Boris Johnson, who succeeded her, went for an election in 2019 and was able to secure a comfortable victory with 365 seats and it was the worst defeat ever for the Labour Party, which got only 202 seats. This catastrophe resulted because of Labour being out of tune with its own supporters, majority of whom were for Brexit whereas the party policy was to remain in the EU. This was a unique event in British political history where Labour supporters switched in droves to Conservative. Worsening internal strife in the Conservative Party and the blatant breeches of Covid rules, led to the ouster of Johnson in 2022, which resulted in the disastrous 45-day tenure of Liz Truss, shortest in British history. She had to resign in disgrace when the British economy tanked with the drastic economic policies she rushed through. Not surprisingly, she could not even retain her seat, which she won with a huge majority of over 26,000 in the previous election in 2019.

Most political analysts opine that the Conservatives lost the general election in October 2022, when their acknowledged economic competence was thrown into question with the antics of Liz truss. Rishi Sunak, who took over under the most difficult of circumstances, in addition had to face frequent backstabbing, mostly from a colleague also of Indian origin. He had the unenviable task of leading a badly divided party, on top of attempting to repair the massive economic damage caused by his predecessor. Although he could have gone on until December, he called a snap election and, ultimately on 4th July, faced the inevitable!

Perhaps, the humiliating defeat suffered by the Scottish National Party (SNP), which has its origins to the demand for Scottish independence, was even worse than that of the Conservatives. SNP once exercised virtually a dictatorship over Scotland, winning almost every parliamentary seat. It was humbled down to having only 9 seats, a loss of 39 seats, in spite of stoking the fire of nationalism by campaigning that this would be a vote for the demand of a second referendum for independence. The first independence referendum held in 2014 was lost, 55% voting against independence. Therefore, the most positive takeaway from the 2024 election is that it ensured the persistence of the union between England and Scotland. This clearly illustrates that a single-issue party like the SNP has a limited lifespan, a valuable lesson for some of the communal parties of Sri Lanka.

This election is remarkable in that, rather than being a Labour win, it was a Conservative defeat, as a detailed analysis of statistics clearly show. It had the second lowest turnout with only 59.9% of registered voters voting, the lowest with 59.4% being the 2001 election where the outcome, of re-electing Tony Blair’s government with a massive majority, was never in doubt leading to voter apathy.

In 2019, Labour got 32.1% of the vote, winning only 202 seats, which is considered Labour’s worst defeat. However, five years later, the share of the vote increased only to 33.8%, the increase being mostly due to a 19% increase in Scotland whereas there was hardly any change in England. Conservative share of the vote dropped from 45.6% to 25.7%. How can a mere increase of 1.7%, lead to a gain of 211 seats, Labour ending up with 412 of the 650 seats? The main reason for this is that Nigel Farage’s Reform party siphoned off a fair share of the Conservative vote in many electorates enabling Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates to win with small majorities. Reform got 14.3% share of the vote, a remarkable achievement for a new party. Farage, who started the chain of events that led to Brexit, took over the leadership of the right-wing Reform party immediately after the election was declared and threatened to take over the Conservative party ultimately. He may well do it unless Conservatives work out a robust strategy for revival! Wonder whether Farage got letters of thanks from the leaders of Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.

This is not the first time that the ‘First Past the Post’ (FPTP)electoral system, used in the UK, has produced paradoxical results. As Liberal Democrats were regularly getting fewer MPs compared to their share of the vote, one of the conditions for the formation of a coalition government in 2010 was a referendum to change the electoral system. However, the ‘Alternative Vote referendum’ held in 2011 ensured the continuation of FPTP as the Alternative Voting (AV) system was rejected by 67.9%.

Another big paradox of the 2024 election is Liberal Democrats gaining 64 seats, increasing their tally to 72 with only a 0.6% increase in the share of their vote from 11.6% to 12.2%. This probably will make them lose their enthusiasm for a change to a Proportional Representation (PR) system!

By far, the biggest paradox is Reform, which polled 14.3% got only 5 seats while Liberal Democrats, who got a smaller share, 12.2%, secured 74 seats! Reform is bound to clamour for change of the electoral system, with other minor parties, but the question is whether they would have a sufficient clout to bring about changes to the electoral system?

All parties in opposition clamour for a change but when they get power, completely forget about it, especially if they muster massive majorities. It is just like our Presidents, who promise to abolish the presidency during the campaign but, once elected and having savoured power, stick to it like leeches! Politicians, wherever they may be, behave the same way, subjugating everything to self-interest.

It looks very unlikely, in spite of all the anomalies, that the newly elected Labour government, which has a two-thirds majority in spite of having only minority support, would be interested in changing the electoral system, unless they start losing support quickly. This is not an impossibility, as they promised a lot which seemed almost impossible to deliver. They rejected Sunak’s Rwanda plan, which would have been a deterrent to illegal immigration and are now looking for a ‘Chief’ to solve the problem! PM Keir Starmer wants closer ties with the EU, which however is demanding free movement for the young but that would lead to an increasing number of immigrants; a very thorny issue. He has made some backers of his as ministers by appointing them to the House of Lords, in spite of having 412 elected members to choose from. The Lords is the chamber all parties never abolish despite their promises to do so as it is the place to accommodate cronies! I do hope, if a second chamber ever becomes a reality in Sri Lanka, it would not be like the Lords.

Even if politicians want to change the electoral system to PR or AV or even the French system of two-stage elections, which seems to have created a huge problem with the latest election, will the voters opt for change? Perhaps, not. After all, the best way to mercilessly punish politicians, in spite of all its disadvantages, is FPTP!

Continue Reading


A different take on wind power projects in Sri Lanka



A representational image

by Eng. Col. N. N. Wijeratne
Secretary General / CEO

Chamber of Construction Industry of Sri Lanka

Saudi Arabia aims to utilize her vast arid lands to harvest renewable energy resources and to increase her share of renewables to around 50% by the year 2030. This is similar to Sri Lanka’s stated goal of 70% renewable energy usage by 2030. However, sadly this is where the similarity ends.

Recently, the Saudi Power Procurement Company entered into two agreements with Marubeni Corporation of Japan to purchase wind power at a staggeringly low rate of 1.566 U.S. cents per kWh. Now compare this with Sri Lanka and the power purchase agreement with a foreign investor Adam Green Energy Ltd at 8.26 US cents per kWh. True, the government states that this will be the single most significant foreign investment in the country with a price of 1 billion US dollars and Sri Lanka will have uninterrupted electricity for the next 20 years, etc., and makes the convoluted argument that it is cheaper than thermal power which is 26.99 US cents per kWh and that the Ceylon Electricity Board purchases wind power from 9.67 to 13.99 US cents per kWh. Additionally, the power bought from Odamwadi solar project is higher in that it is 8.75 US cents per kWh unit. Be that as it may be, if competitive tenders were invited even in Sri Lanka a more competitive rate could have been possible keeping with the global norms. But this was an unsolicited bid negotiated by the Government high ups. Dr. Rohan Pethiyagoda has pointed out that for newly commissioned onshore wind projects, the global weighted average internationally for wind power is between 3.5 US cents per kWh to 3.3 US cents per kWh (2022 figures) and falling. In fact, in India the levelised tariff for wind power is 3.8 US cents per kWh. The very same investor is supplying wind power to the Indian power grid at this competitive rate.

This shrouded price has spurred Transparency International Sri Lanka to file no fewer than 11 Right to Information applications about this now cabinet-approved project that will come into fruition 2 years down the line and has questions regarding the legality, transparency, evaluation process, pricing, government involvement, and the environmental impact assessment related to 250 MW wind power plant in Mannar and the 234 MW wind power plant in Pooneryn. Additionally, it strongly raises an alarm about the ecological feasibility of these projects which are located in an ecologically sensitive zone and one in a Ramsar declared wetland sanctuary. The Right to Information has elicited a stony silence by the authorities and it is petitioned that the sovereignty of the people has been violated. If we take the pricing factor in isolation, it behooves the government to answer this call at least, keeping aside the energy policy and investor friendliness that the government talks about for this sector. Next question is do we need to buy wind energy in US$ for next 20 years? What justification is there to pay in US$ for our free wind. Capital investment by the developer could have been treated as a loan repayable at a reasonable interest rate.

Geopolitical considerations may have influenced India to be involved in our power sector in order to ward off Chinese intrusions, but there are questions both big and small that require answers for it appears that the people’s sovereignty is being trampled and they have a right to know.

Continue Reading