He inspired a generation of officers
M.G.S. Perera
These lines are penned on the fifth death anniversary of the late Instructor Commander M.G.S. Perera. For 23 years he trained, taught and inspired a generation of naval officers some of whom went on to hold the rank of Commander of the Navy.

Instructor Commander Perera, fondly called 'MGS' or 'Steve' by his colleagues, started his naval career in August 1949 as a Petty Officer/Stoker Mechanic. He was drafted on board H.M.Cy.S.Vijaya when this Algerian class sweeper was gifted to the then Royal Ceylon Navy by the Royal Navy. I too was on 'Vijaya' as an 'Able Seaman' and had the occasion to serve with him.

He was by nature, calm and quiet and moved well even with sailors junior to him. With a Licentiate in Mechanical Engineering (LME), he was 'over-qualified' as a P.O./S.M. and was soon promoted as an Engine Room Artificer Class - 1. It was during this period that we had a close association and became family friends.

In fact, I joined the Navy one month ahead of 'MGS' in 1949 and retired (prior to being re-called for further active service in July 1982 until October 1986) one year after his retirement. Hence I had close contacts with him, throughout his career in the Navy and beyond.

At the Colombo Plan Exhibition the Navy was required to present their exhibits to educate the public on the role played by them in the defence of the country. In addition to working models of radar, anti-submarine detection sets, depth finders and armaments, a scale model of H.M.Cy.S.Vijaya was turned out by 'MGS' which was the cynosure of all eyes. (I believe this model is now at the Naval and Maritime Academy, Trincomalee).

The Naval hierarchy soon realised that 'MGS' could be put to better use and he was commissioned as a Lieutenant, gaining direct entry into the Instructors' branch. He was the pioneer and the leader in this branch which was later expanded to a cadre of eight officers, specializing in various disciplines, to train cadets recruited to the Navy prior to sending them to Dartmouth for their Midshipmen and Sub-Lieutenants' courses.

I was selected to be commissioned and was trained by 'MGS' in Mathematics, Trigonometry and Navigation. He was an excellent teacher, with the patience and ability to explain a problem till the student understood it. His greatest asset was his ability to come down to the level of the student's intelligence.

'MGS' got regular promotions and ended up Instructor Commander / Director Naval Training and the First Commandant of the Naval and Maritime Academy at Trincomalee.

In 1966, he was entrusted with the arduous responsibility of designing, equipping and establishing an academy for formal naval training and maritime studies in this country. Within a short period of about 18 months, the basic infrastructure for the academy had been set-up successfully in Trincomalee. The Naval and Maritime Training Academy (NMA) was formally commissioned on July 18, 1967.

MGS not only gave birth but also life to the academy. Almost all the officers who serve the Sri Lanka Navy today have gone through the portals of this great institution.

'MGS' did not think the Academy was useful to the Navy alone. He considered the Academy a 'National Institute', and that the Navy, alone, could train all sea-going personnel. As reported in the 1969 issue of "Vidusidu" the then Official Journal of the Academy, he undertook to train personnel qualifying for merchant marine service from the Police, Ceylon Shipping and Ceylon Fisheries Corporations. Many of those trained went to sea with 'Academy Certificates'.

On reaching the age of 55, he retired in 1972. The Navy's loss was the gain of Walker Sons & Co. Ltd., who employed 'MGS' as the Senior Manager of the Fibre Glass & Boat Building Section for three years.

During this period, the Ceylon Shipping Corporation (CSC) was recruiting deck-officer cadets for the Corporation and was in search of a suitable Training Instructor. The Corporation offered this post to 'MGS' giving him the position of Staff Captain. He then served the 'CSC' for eight more years before age and poor eye sight took its toll. Many are the Master Mariners who had the privilege of being trained by 'MGS' as well as most of the Senior Officers of the Sri Lanka Navy.

The Naval and Maritime Academy which was the vision of the late Commander M.G.S. Perera, has today gained University status (in 2001) and was awarded the President's Colours, presented at a colourful ceremony held on the Marine Drive on December 13, 2003."They shall not grow old as we who are left behind,
Age shall not wither them nor the years condemn,
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We shall remember them."

This appreciation may also serve to enlighten the present day officers and sailors in the Navy that the Naval and Maritime Academy which has reached such great heights in the field of naval training in this country today, was the creation with much foresight and devotion of Instructor Commander M.G.S. Perera. He was not only its First Commandant, but also its founder.
It is sad to note that we are yet to see even a portrait of him at the Naval and Maritime Academy in Trincomalee.

Lt. Commander (Rtd.)
M.H. Weliwitigoda

He faced life with patience & fortitude
W. D. Fernando
At the beginning of 1946, I joined a provincial school as a teacher, where among my colleagues was a thin, tall, genial gentleman,W.D. Fernando, popularly called 'W.D'. His first appointment was to Moratuwa in May 1944. He taught Sinhalese, Pali and Buddhism.

As a teacher he was punctual. I always consider punctuality as the first rule of discipline and from there flows a sense of responsibility, a sense of duty and efficiency. This was what all of us (the teachers and students) learned from our Principal. W.D. would keep the staff room lively with his jokes, pranks and comments during the interval.

A short while later he left to join St. Joseph's College, Colombo. He then joined the Ministry of Education, and soon got his promotions from Circuit Inspector, through District Inspector, Education Officer to being Director of Education from which position he retired in 1978. During this long period he worked at Kekirawa, Kalutara, Matugama, Hanwella, Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. He served as Director of Education in Kandy, Colombo, Galle and back again in Colombo where he retired from service.

This rise in service, I know, was due to his efficiency and sensitivity in solving problems. No one was made to feel that he or she worked under him. The problems he had to solve were school admissions, transfers of teachers, the varied issues of Principals and the lack of junior staff in schools. He took all these in his stride and solved the problems satisfactorily.

Whenever I went to him with any difficulty he would greet me with a smile and say "Kohomada Yaluwa?" Although he held a high post he did not hesitate to come down to our level to solve problems. He was humane and sympathetic but also stern when the occasion demanded it.He never swerved from the path of duty.

He was a good, practising Buddhist. His life was an abject lesson on how to face personal problems with patience and fortitude. This was particularly seen during his last illness, when he resorted to Buddhist practices including meditation even while ill.

He lived the good life and though his wife Ranee is left to face the rest of her life alone, I am sure he has taught her to accept life in the way he faced it. May she have the strength of mind and the readiness to face everything in the way he did. May W.D. enjoy the bliss of Nirvana.

Erica Fernando

You were our best friend
and teacher
Ms. E. Salgado
You helped us walk along the path of knowledge,
A rough path leading to a smooth one,
That we knew we had to go on,
To be efficient teachers,
So you led us gently and firmly,

Encouraging us whenever we seemed to fail,
You gave us advice, the most precious gift,
The gift which helped us to go on,
Steadily and meet the storms bravely,
You became the best teacher and the best friend,
To all of us
And we shared together happy times.

Though you have left us so soon
How much we'll miss you, words cannot say
But you'll live in our hearts for ever and ever
For you taught us the best things one could ever learn,
A teacher like you is worth more than anything in the world.

Anoja N.K. Goonetilleke

You’ll always be a part of our lives
Mrs. Nanda Dissanayake
You were our pillar of strength on this earth
You were the tree under which we took shade from birth
You were the role model that found every ship a berth
You were our life and friend billions worth
Devoted mother and a dutiful wife so pure
With your advice we felt so secure

With all our efforts could not find you a cure
We have no choice but just to endure
When you were alive everything seemed fine
Your delectable food with pride we'd dine
Your gentle kind words everything else outshone
Longing for you here we all pine

Apart from family you captured many a heart
Leaving this void you had to depart
Our precious darling you'll always be a part
Of our lives since death do make us apart
Goodbye Sweet Princess till we meet again
To drown our sorrow we're trying in vain
Your sweet memories cannot be erased nor the pain
Our mutual undying love is a golden chain

Shanti Jayasuriya

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