In his goodness lay his strength
Dr. Noel Stephen de Alwis
It will soon be 10 years since the demise of Dr. Noel Stephen de Alwis, who was a medical practitioner in Kandy for five decades. He was an individual who remained at all times true to his calling to practise healing and for this reason was known as the "good doctor" in our neighbourhood and elsewhere.

He received his education at St Benedict's College in Kotahena and then entered the Medical College of the University of Ceylon and obtained his MBBS degree. He was first employed at the Mental Hospital at Angoda at the height of the Second World War and experienced the bombing of that institution by the Japanese air force.

In 1945 he married Miriam Wickramasinghe, the daughter of the renowned Dr Sextus Wickramasinghe who was a physician in Kandy and thereafter joined his father-in-law in general practice.

In 1950 he went to London and further qualified as a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) and as Licentiate to the Royal College of Physicians (LRCP). On his return to Kandy he continued his father-in-law's practice, upon the latter's demise. He also served as Medical Registrar of Kandy for a long period.

He had a wide array of interests from chess to tennis to cooking. As a young man, he was a keen violinist and a ballroom dancer, sharing a love and talent for music with his siblings. My encounters with the late Dr Noel de Alwis go right back to the day I was born, as he was our family's physician and we lived across the road from his home in Kandy. He was involved in tending to the poor but some of his charitable work remained unknown till his passing away. This was typical of his unassuming nature and it could be said of him very fittingly, that in his goodness lay his greatness.

It was on the occasion marking his 50th year of private practice in 1995 that he collapsed and was found to be suffering from ischaemia of the brain. He passed away a few months later on December 7,1995, just 20 days short of turning 77 on Christmas day.

Ananda Abayratne

Noble in death as in life
Major General Ananda Hamangoda
A valiant officer’s sudden death is an irreparable loss to his motherland and its people, in the sense that the making of a fully-fledged soldier itself is not only a question of time, but also a process for embodiment of many other factors such as proper command, decision-making, valour strategy, values etc, to name a few. The Army, in its span of over 50 years while simultaneously transforming itself to be one of the most challenging and battle-hardened professional outfits, deviating from its former ceremonial role, hitherto perhaps remains the only organ that has so far produced the finest assortment of military leaders for the country, fondly remembered by right-thinking countrymen in all corners of our land. They certainly laid down their lives for others, and to make our tomorrow better.

Nine years seems a long time, and yet the memories of Major General Ananda Sri Sisira Kumara Hamangoda, USP Msc psc, popularly called, ‘Ananda’ live on vividly among many of his associates and fellow military men who used to admire him as a source of strength and inspiration. Major General Hamangoda’s sudden demise on July 4, 1996 following an LTTE suicide attack with several other soldiers in the heart of Jaffna was a loss not only to his artillery regiment, his wife and children, but also to his motherland, for whose territorial integrity he fought along with his troops. To all his companions, he was that so-called ‘jolly good fellow’ who was sober and exceptionally decent.

My close association with General Hamangoda, though he was senior to me, dates back to our good old days in school at Kurunegala Maliyadeva College in the early 1970s where he excelled in many spheres as sportsman, student leader, house captain, senior cadet, and more importantly, as the school’s best orator, thus bringing fame to our alma mater. Ananda was exemplary, energetic, innovative, admired and often picked by our principals and teachers alike as a role model for the students. He was the captain of the school's badminton team in 1971 and in the same year he won the Gold Medal for overall best performance in the school. We, as juniors in the college looked up to him as a prefect, beacon of hope and guiding light.

He enlisted in the Sri Lanka Army (Regular Force) as a cadet officer in 1973 and received his commission later on as a Second Lieutenant in the 4th Regiment of the Sri Lanka Artillery. Second Lieutenant Hamangoda became Lieutenant in 1976, Captain in 1979, Major in 1983, Lieutenant Colonel in 1990, Colonel in 1994 and finally Brigadier on November 15, 1995 before he suddenly left us. His progress was only through his commitment to the cause and his brilliant approach to situations.

Ananda was posthumously promoted to the rank of Major General after his supreme sacrifice in 1996 in recognition of his achievements.

For two years (1981-1983) he served as Adjutant for his own 4th Regiment of Sri Lanka Artillery before he was posted to the Staff Officer appointment in the 5th Regiment of Sri Lanka Artillery (Volunteer) for about two years. With the rapid expansion of the Army, he on his own initiative raised a new Field Battery in the newly founded 6th Regiment of Sri Lanka Artillery and became its first Battery Commander. Later he was also appointed the first Second in Command in the newly raised 7th Light Artillery Regiment in November 1988, particularly taking stock of his excellent and extensive knowledge on artillery and wide experience in the battlefield. His dedication towards the Artillery Regiment, judged by all what he did, was commendable.

His distinguished tenure of service spanning about 23 years covered almost every corner of our beloved motherland, including the war-torn operational areas in the north-east. His expertise derived from various professional study courses, both at home and abroad, served him very well in his pursuit of professionalism in all his undertakings. His gainful stays at India’s Artillery School and her Defence Services Staff College, artillery School in Pakistan in addition to those training centres like the Diyatalawa Military Academy, no doubt qualified him further in academic spheres such as Commands, Defence Force, Artillery Field Officers roles, Signal officers roles, etc.

Until his supreme sacrifice, Major General Hamangoda fought relentlessly to defend the territorial integrity of this island-nation with thousands of his fellow troops amidst enemy fire, on many occasions, even at the risk of his own life. Needless to say, his warfare was professional and characterised by elaborate planning. His proven ability to execute operations after meticulous hard work came in for high praise of his superiors. His valour was well recognized with conferment of medals such as Uttama Seva Padakkama (USP), Long Service Medal for Sri Lanka Armed Forces, Vadamarachchi Operations Medal, President’s Accession Medal and Poornabhumi Padakkama, to cite a few.

His sporting prowess in cricket, volleyball as well as in boxing contributed immensely to the promotion of sports activities in the Army while helping the Army produce a number of sportsmen of national and international standards. Thanks to his selfless commitment, all those projects are still on.
Major General A.S.S.K Hamangoda remains close to the hearts of his fellow schoolmates as a character par excellence, a talented and brave officer, and not least, a wonderful husband and father to his bereaved family, Mrs. Indrani Hamangoda, son Dulshan and his daughters Buweni and Maheshani.

As Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery once quipped, “The good general is the one who wins his battle with the fewest possible casualties”. The late Major General Hamangoda, as one of the Army’s best products during the most critical juncture of our recent history, fulfilled his sacred mission to the best of his ability and for the greater benefit of our society. His sense of humour, brought his associates closer to him.

I am sure, many of his colleagues, friends and relatives would fondly recall memories of him and join Indrani and his children at their residence for a Dhamma preaching ceremony this evening(July 3) to be followed by the alms-giving pinkama, the next day to invoke merits on this fallen hero of our times.
Farewell, dear Sir until we meet again in this journey of Sansara. May you attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana!

Brigadier Daya
Army Headquarters

Dilshad battled with courage and fortitude
Dilshad Wijesekera
Like young elephants of the herd
With their growing tusks, testing
Their skill in mock battles
Dilshad the raring teenager was perfecting
His talents on the Royal Rugby field

Oh! Then it happened, freak accident
He fell on the ball before the onrushing
Pack to be overwhelmed and critically maimed

Fate had dealt him a mortal blow
Robbing the mobility of arms and limbs
Relegating him to an oblivion of a shrunken universe

His horizon of scintillating expectations
Blackened into a chimera of deadly monsters
The family was overwhelmed in a tangled
Trauma and despairing helplessness

Harsh reality and stark truth
Demanded action and succour
It was not the time to moan and cry
But to face and try

It was mother courage who rose
To sweep the debris of shattered lives
And rally and face the world together

Destiny willed a change of wind
Family went to Kiribati idyllic pacific isle
Where Polynesians live with nature’s bounties
For Dilshad it was nature’s sanatorium
Where the convalescent regaled in the demi paradise
That brought him inner calm and peace

Before the fearful odyssey he had to launch
Roaring breakers imbued him with indomitable courage
Swinging palms to the rhythm of singing breeze
And shimmering ocean in glittering moonlight

In Australia he was shunted
From one hospital to another
Surgeries ICU and therapies
Tortured his body

Alone in a strange country
With courage and determination
He struggled between life and death
When one devil was appeased another appeared

Like Prince Panchayudho battling
The demon bare-handed after exhausting
His armoury of weapons
Dilshad battled his many faceted devils
With courage and fortitude in a relentless struggle

After a year and a half he overcame his devils
He liberated his overwhelmed mind
From the tyranny of the unresponsive body
He returned to Lanka with a glowing mind

Sobered and reconciled to disabled disposition
Like a soaring eagle downed by broken wings
Unvanquished, hobbling to be airborne
Dilshad with his motorized wheelchair was liberated
To roam in a limited range

Hoary dungeon of the chrysalis burst open
Releasing the vivid mind like a golden butterfly in flight
New vistas and visions tantalized his mind
With a mouthstick held with his gritty mouth
He manipulated computers and the internet

He assayed into academic studies
Rewarded with the Gold Medal for topping the list
Dilshad was thankful for simple things
In a life taken for granted
Became the flaming symbol of fortitude
To those disabled for life

Even in the bleak terrain of darkness
Adored by his parents, his brother, cousins, aunts and uncles
Loved by his loyal friends
With filial piety and parental love
In an edifice built by brick and mortar
Of tears, grief, love and joy
Dilshad rotating like the sun and moon
Life of tranquility and contentment reigned

One day in an unexpected hour
Mara called him to his power
Thus broke the bonded karma
That welded father, mother, son and brother
Leaving the parents in a vacuum of yearning
Tenderness and recurring memories
Only the sage could unravel
The cycles of endless sansara

- G.H.A. Suraweera

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