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Welfare at what cost?



SLAF Reaction

Recently the Sri Lanka Air Force sent a response to an article this Seeya wrote in The Island. Excerpts of which are given below.

“The newspaper article in concerned has caught the attention of the Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force. As stated in the article, the Commander has not declared on behalf of the SLAF, that there is no objection for the removal of the wall and replacing it with a fence. On the contrary, he had, in fact, stated that a collapsible wall could be put in place of the permanent wall which should have a solid finish obstructing the view from outside due to security reasons.

In addition, to date there has been no incident/accident reported at the Ratmalana Airfield related to the wall along the Galle Road. Further, vehicles such as passenger coach/container, etc., travelling on the main road would be taller than the wall in question and according to the article, the main road would also have to be closed every time an aircraft is approaching or taking off from that end of the runway. International runways, with due limitations can also can be considered as hazardous to flight safety. The SLAF consider Flight Safety is a paramountly important factor as an organisation which operates different types of aircraft over the years from this airfield.

It is pertinent to mention the wall concerned was erected by the SLAF before the year 2009, with the consent of the Airport and Aviation of Sri Lanka (AASL) to address the security concerns at that time and maintained to date. The outer perimeter security of the Colombo International Airport at Ratmalana is being provided by the SLAF free of charge over the years. As a measure of gratitude, with the consent of AASL and the approval of the Ministry of Defence (MOD), SLAF authorized to erect hoardings along this wall and to utilize the funds generated for welfare measures of airmen.”


WADC Wijesinghe (Group Captain SLAF)

Today is a very sad day for ‘Air Safety’. That hazardous wall remains and the advertisements are reappearing. Perhaps they think that “dogs may bark but the Caravan moves on”, how sad! However, we have to be thankful for small mercies.  The SLAF, has removed the continuous solid concrete beam strengthening and retaining concrete blocks of which the said wall is constructed. Therefore, this will certainly weaken the strength of the said wall and collapse more easily on impact, but won’t solve the problem that has been pointed out. If there is a significant overrun or an under-shoot of an aircraft of any size, there could be serious damages and even loss of life.

The war is over

There is no war now and arguably Ratmalana is the busiest civil training airports. You could drive any morning down the airport road and watch aircraft on the runway. This wall goes against the spirit of being ‘Proactive, Predictive and Preventive’ as recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The SLAF Safety Record

SLAF says that for them Air Safety is Paramount. We need to compare the number of fatal accidents/ incidents that have occurred during the past 10 years in the SLAF and the Civil Aviation operations. From any point we look at it, the number of fatal accidents in the SLAF exceed that of civil operations. The latest thinking by Air Safety experts is that an organisation’s ‘Attitude’ is foremost, when it comes to causation of accidents. Then and only then comes Skill and Knowledge in that order. ‘ASK’ is the acronym used. No one denies that the SLAF pilots are skillful and knowledgeable.

The hazardous wall adds insult to injury and only goes to prove the ‘bad attitude’ of the gentlemen of the SLAF. They seem to be thumbing their noses at well thought out and proven ‘Air Safety’ principles which should be the cornerstone of any ‘high risk’ operation.

Captain A. G. Lamplugh, a British pilot from the early days of aviation once famously said “Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous”. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.” 

This observation still holds good. The SLAF have grossly neglected to recognise ‘Murphy’s Law’ which says “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. Ratmalana Airport can do without a man-made wall on the landing or take-off path. These air safety principles are set in stone and nothing new. By now the SLAF should know these facts of life (and death).

Public looking into the airport

Group Captain Wijesinghe, on the Commanders behalf, further states that the said wall prevents the general public from peeping into the Airport. If he saw what happened on the 3rd and 4th of February this year where the general public (men, women and children) parked their cars down the Airport Road and peered through the barbed wire fences from strategic places at the Ratmalana Airport to watch the formation take offs and landings of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, for the fly-past. What would he now say? Will the SLAF want to wall those places up or build a wall right around the Airport perimeter?

Isn’t it a terminal inexactitude to justify an unnecessary and dangerous wall at Galle Road end by the SLAF?


These days we all have access to ‘Google Earth’. If one looks at the distance of the said wall to the first SLAF hangar on the Attidiya (North side), it is at a distance of 1,266.32 Metres. In contrast,the distance from the fence at BIA on the Negombo Road to the first SLAF hangar is only 1,011.61 Metres. In other words, the SLAF Katunayake Base hangar is closer to the main road than the distance the Ratmalana wall to the SLAF hangars at Attidiya. So will the SLAF want the BIA perimeter fence be replaced by a wall? Walls are generally not built on the airport perimeters the world over. On the other hand, fences are the industrial norm Aviation

Isn’t it another terminological inexactitude to justify the presence of an unnecessary and dangerous wall?

 This Seeya believes that facts have been misrepresented to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) with a host of ‘terminological inexactitudes’ to keep the wall for the purely the purpose of hoardings and earn easy and quick money for the welfare of the SLAF. Will the said ‘Advertiser’ be willing to accept collective accountability with the SLAF when a fatal accident (God forbid) takes place at the Galle Road end at Ratmalana?


Question of ownership

Group Captain Wijesinghe, SLAF also states that wall was built with the consent of the Airport and Aviation (AASL). So is the AASL the real owner and the SLAF and the MOD are just tenants? This Seeya is aware that millions of Rupees were paid to the SLAF by the original owner, Civil Aviation Authority, Sri Lanka (CAASL) for them to move from the South side to the North Side of Ratmalana Airport. So is CAASL the registered owner? After the AN 32 fatal crash at Hokandara on 12th December 2014, why did the Director of Operations SLAF and later its Commander, Air Vice Marshall Kapila Jayampathy, request by letter (Reference SLAR/ 72/1/DAO of 27th January 2015) to the Director General CAASL, to install an appropriate navigational aid at Ratmalana? Clearly he admitted to all and sundry that the SLAF were not the real owners of the Ratmalana Airport. Building that wall is an absolutely high-handed act of a local ‘Chandiya’ (strong man). Thus sadly reflecting the bad attitude of the SLAF. The ownership of the Ratmalana Airport is certainly a Grey area. Will the real owner of the Ratmalana Airport please stand up?


Acts of omission

Will AASL be held accountable by not withdrawing the permission to the SLAF to build a wall? Interestingly, this Seeya remembers that when this wall was built, the then Director General of the CAASL was in shock and not even asked and was heard to remark “it looks as if this wall was built by non-aviators” (In those days the CAASL was the owner of the Airport and AASL was regarded a ‘Service Provider’.) There is no war now and seems like ‘an act of omission’, on both AASL’s and CAASL’s part. Do both parties have cold feet because the SLAF have got the MOD involved? As late Capt George Ferdinand (who had the distinct honour of being the Manager Operations in both Air Ceylon and Air Lanka,) would say jocularly, “It is time the real owner/s put the foot down with a firm hand”

SLAF welfare at what cost?



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Sohan…adapting to the ‘new normal’



Surprisingly, the Coronavirus pandemic seems to have galvanised our entertainers into action.

True, most of the big bands are finding the going pretty tough, these days, as most public shows, like concerts, sing-along, and dances, have been put on hold.

Fortunately, we do have artistes who capitalise on unexpected situations to continue to keep the public, and their fans, entertained – of course, doing it differently

Band leader Sohan, of Sohan & The X-Periments fame, who is always innovative, when it comes to music, has hit upon a novel idea, in order to keep his band occupied, for the next three months.

He has decided to put The X-Periments into ‘recording mode.

Says Sohan: “I’m getting them involved in doing in-house recordings at my home studio.”

And, what’s more, I’m told that Sohan has found a secret sponsor, so the boys will be paid, too. Obviously, it’s a win-win situation and that makes Sohan extra happy!

The veteran artiste/entertainer went on to explain that the main CD will contain cover versions of his favourite songs, and will also include a duet with his daughter Erandika who is scheduled to be in Sri Lanka, hopefully, in May. She is currently in the States.

The song, Sohan has in mind, is that immensely popular golden oldie, made popular by the late Nat king Cole (and daughter Natalie Cole) – ‘Unforgettable.’

Clifford Richards will be seen in a virtual concert, along with Corrine Almeida, and Sohan

The second CD will feature Sohan’s original songs, both western and oriental. 

Sohan will be working with Shobi Perera, Kumar de Silva, Rajiv Sebastian, Roshan de Silva, Chrys Wikramanayake, Rukshan Perera and Damian Wikkramatillake on his novel project, while Krishantha de Silva, who manages Sonexco Enterprises, will take on the role of coordinator.

Although this project will keep The X-Periments, busy, one day of the week will be designated as ‘recording day’ and they have a deadline of three months to complete this project, said Sohan.

There is also a possibility of Sohan inviting a few of his friends to join him in the vocals but that will depend on the materiel he decides on.

“There is no point in hanging around, waiting for work. Musicians have to innovate and create work to keep going, during these challenging times.”

 Sohan is also working closely with Corinne Almeida  and Clifford Richards and has an idea of doing a virtual concert, with the same line up that was featured at the Valentine show, called  ‘Love at the Edge.’

Rajitha, of Misty, is helping them with the technical details of the show,

No doubt, things are looking a bit rosy for Sohan & The X-Periments, and Trishelle.. 

The guys are also working with Benjy and Aquarius, on a mega event, for Richard de Soysa, to be held at Nelum Pokuna,  which is scheduled for mid- May, of 2021, and will feature 10 leading artistes ..

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Remembering Dr. Neville Fernando



This tribute is in remembrance of my father-in-law, the late Dr. Neville Fernando who would have celebrated his 90th birthday on 9th March 2021. He passed away unexpectedly on the 4th of February 2021 due to the deadly COVID-19 virus.

His birthday will be remembered with an almsgiving to the priests at the Kotikawatta temple to invoke merits on him to attain the Supreme bliss of Niravana. Religious observances on his birthday were an annual occurrence even during his lifetime.

As I ponder his memories, being ‘no more’ is the saddest thought that crosses my mind. I suspect that if you are reading this you understand what I mean logically. Death means that our loved ones never grow a year older, although logic does little to clear up our confusion when his birthday continues to happen year after year.

His memories and deeds throughout his life brought back towards the day I joined his family, when I was just a medical house-officer at the Nawalapitiya Hospital in 1982, through the marriage to his only daughter. Even then he was known to be a real legend and an honest politician. Today, I am in this position as a cardiologist due to his encouragement, loving care and continuous assistance in whatever means. My mind is full of memories of those loving moments shared together. He was a loving, kind and straight gentleman. I may also use the words handsome and charismatic leader. He will inspire us throughout our lives. His pleasant disposition will charm anyone and uplift our mood.

He led a good life and now has a left a good legacy of four children( three boys and one girl) whom any father would be proud of, nine grandchildren and five great grandchildren loved by everyone. He is now no more and no one can fill the void nor bring back the warmth and love he exuded.

We all have courage and we have our convictions, but rarely have the courage of our conviction. His kindness and compassion were his key attributes that made him so special. He had been a good general practitioner before coming to Parliament defeating a formidable leftist politician Leslie Goonewardene who represented Panadura for decades. It was a landmark victory for the UNP in 1977. He was a kind and compassionate doctor who served the rich and poor alike in Panadura for many years and was sought after by his patients for his well known ‘athguna’ (healing hands). This is where he earned his loyal fan base to enter into politics.

Among many things he achieved in Panadura establishing the “Kethumathi” Maternity Hospital, the only one of its kind outside Colombo, helping Sri Sumangala Girls College expansion programme, starting Agamathi Girls school and Janadhipathi Boys School and self funding the Sri Saugatha Vidyalaya Pirivena building at n the Rankoth Viharaya temple in Panadura. Likewise he helped many Buddhist temples during his tenure.

He also started an industrial zone in Modarawila, Panadura which was an abandoned marshy area before that. He had provided the first computer lab and two acres of additional land to expand the Sri Sumangala Vidyalaya which is spoken with gratitude by the students of his alma mater. He did not expect anything in return.

He was a fearless ,principled and honest man who opposed JRs’ motion to takeaway Mrs.Bandaranaikes’ civic rights as he never wanted to compromise his basic human qualities over politics. Very soon he left the Government before any attempt to expel him and formed a small party with few other honest politicians. Later he joined SLFP on the invitation of Mrs.Bandaranaike and worked in the party as an Assistant Secretary for the progress of the country.

He was a maverick par excellence ,an entrepreneur ,extraordinaire and a businessman with a foresight. As one of the pioneers in the hospitality industry, he built hotel Swanee, subsequently he started JF and I, one of the most modern printing and packaging factories in the country to date. He also pioneered a porcelain factory called “Royal Fernwood Porcelain” in Kosgama. Which provided so many employment opportunities and in time to come, helped to economically develop the area.

Continuing his political career, he entered Parliament again as an SLFP opposition member. Later on in 1994 he decided to give up politics.

His divestments in the Porcelain factory enabled him to purchase Asha Central Hospital which was developed with latest equipment and brought to international standards. This is the time I had to take a difficult decision to leave the Government as a Consultant Cardiologist and join Asha Central Hospital in 1998 to help him in his endeavour. He developed and managed Asha Central Hospital till 2007 and subsequently sold it to start his new venture SAITM or South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine with the encouragement of the then Min.of Higher Education Wishwa Warnapala.

Infact I was very much concerned about the new development because of the past experience in the country with the North Colombo Medical College. He always used to tell “every child should have the right for a decent education either in a government or non-government organisation”. His main vision was to give a higher education opportunity for the students .Therefore apart from medicine he also established nursing, engineering , IT, management programmes with the help of esteemed academics who believed in his vision. He established the Dr Neville Fernando Teaching hospital (NFTH) in Malabe to provide clinical training for his students at the medical faculty .It was a impressive state of the art hospital with 1002 beds and latest medical equipment . All of this was done during his 80s which was a remarkable achievement.

SAITM gave him immense pride and a lot of pain at the same time. He was very proud of the fact that he was able to give so many scholarships to deserving students (close to Rs.600 million scholarships during his time).In addition to saving a tremendous amount of foreign exchange he was also able to give an opportunity to students to stay in Sri Lanka with their parents, without having to go overseas for their education leaving behind all family and friends.

However, he had to face many obstacles during this period and was socially and politically crushed due to SAITM. With time, he made a decision to give the NFTH to the Government in return for the clinical training of the medical students of SAITM. In 2017 SAITM was closed down by Maithripala Sirisena who gave in due to the heavy opposition made by the unions against private medical education.

At 89 years of age he was an avid Facebook warrior and used to keep abreast of what was going on in the social media. He was a big cricket fan and never missed watching a cricket match day or night.

Writing about this unique personality cannot be limited to a few words. His life is a monumental story full of new chapters. He dreamed big and his dreams were of public service, even when he was no longer a politician. He yearned to make this country a better place for people to live in, even in his eighties.

May his journey of Sansara be a short one and may he attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana!


Dr Mohan Jayatilake

Consultant Cardiologist



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Boogie Night with Suzi



Yes, music lovers, get ready to boogie the night away, this Saturday, March 13th.

From 9.00 pm to 10 pm, you would be given the opportunity to see Friends’ former female vocalist, Suzi Croner (Fluckiger) boogie away on Facebook, on Talent Network Group (TNG).

Suzi is excited about this new scene, which will be live streamed, worldwide., and she plans to belt out songs from the Friends’ era (’80s and ’90s), country, and rock ‘n’ roll.

She is already working on her repertoire and says she will make ‘Boogie Night with Suzi’ a real exciting event.

TNG is a Dubai-based project, administered in Dubai, with moderators, worldwide.

And, that means, the whole world is going to see Suzi boogie away.

Several local artistes have already been featured on TNG.



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