Plus - Appreciations

Vidyartha College was privileged to have dear Kappy for 30 years

K. A. Perera

K. A. Perera, retired Deputy Principal of Vidyartha College, Kandy, passed away a few weeks ago. He was an exceptional teacher who devoted almost his entire professional life to the service of this school. He retired after serving Vidyartha for close on 30 years.

Mr. Perera was closely associated with the school during its formative years. Before becoming Deputy Principal, he had served the school in several other capacities. He was warden of the school hostel in the early years, was involved in scouting, and was master in charge of rugby, helping the school establish its strong reputation for rugby. He was also the school’s most senior English language teacher.

It was probably during his wardenship of the school hostel that he came to be known as “Kappy”, short for K. A. Perera. His genial smile reflected his pleasant personality. He forged friendships unobtrusively. He was a true friend, someone who shared in his friends’ joys and sorrows.

His popularity and reputation as an English language teacher was such that his students pursued him to further study the language after he had retired from teaching. He was attached to the Gamini Dissanayake Language Teaching Centre in Kandy, and was a visiting instructor in English at the College of Education, Uyanwatte, Kandy. K.A.P. studied at Trinity College, Kandy, and in 1947 joined the University of Ceylon, Colombo, where he qualified as an English language instructor.

Kappy was a highly respected member of the VCK Retired Teachers’ Association, of which he was a patron at the time of his death. The high esteem and affection he was held in was demonstrated by the large gathering of past pupils and colleagues who attended his funeral, which took place at Mahaiyawa.
With K. A. Perera’s demise, I have lost a close friend of six decades.

I convey my heartfelt condolences to his family.

May he attain Nibbana.

H. S. Rajapakse

Outstanding scientist who was disarmingly modest about his accomplishments

Professor B.A Abeywickrama

Professor B. A. Abeywickrama died on May 3, 2011, aged 91. He was an unusual person who never sought the limelight, but was placed in responsible positions by people who needed to get certain jobs done.

Bartholomeusz Aristides Abeywickrama (Bernie to his friends since childhood) was born on February 17, 1920. His father was an Inspector of Schools who served in many stations, including Galle and Colombo. His mother was a home-maker. B.AA. was educated initially at St. Aloysius College, Galle, and later at Royal College, Colombo.

The school he was attending offered a prize in “Christian Knowledge”, and B.A.A., a devout Buddhist all his life, thought this would make an interesting challenge. He read up on the subject and won the prize.
He distinguished himself academically at Royal College before entering University College, Colombo, in 1937. He graduated with an external degree (B.Sc.) from the University of London, in 1941. He was appointed Assistant Demonstrator in Botany in 1942 at the University College, Colombo. It was about this time that he met his future wife, Pulsara, the first female bioscience student at University College. She predeceased him in 1993.

In 1946, B.A.A. went up to Clare College, Cambridge, on a Government Science Scholarship, to do research on temperate woodlands. He greatly enjoyed his time at Cambridge, which included cycling to various locations for research work. He obtained a PhD in 1946 for his “Study of the Variations in the Field Layer Vegetations of Two Cambridgeshire Woods.” He returned to the University of Ceylon to take up an appointment as a lecturer. He was appointed Professor of Botany in 1965.

Although he did not seek appointments, his services were much sought after. Details are recounted in an appreciation written by Dr. U. Pethiyagoda on the occasion of his being appointed Professor Emeritus and being conferred the degree of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa). The Open University conferred on him a Doctor of Science degree.

B.A.A. also had the honour to be appointed the first Vice-Chancellor of the (amalgamated) University of Sri Lanka. While he enjoyed all he set his mind to, he seemed to take particular satisfaction in his assignment as a member of the UNESCO Advisory Committee to the Director-General on Humid Tropics Research (1959-1964). He contributed to the revised Trimen’s “Flora of Ceylon”, just one of his many scientific writings.

It would not be out of place to mention a couple of incidents from his life that I have not seen recorded elsewhere. During his term on the first board of the Central Environmental Authority, the waters of the Beira Lake in Colombo turned a bright green. The then Prime Minister, Mr. Ranasinghe Premadasa, was told that an industrial establishment was dumping green paint into the lake. Professor Abeywickrama asked for a sample of Beira water for inspection, and established that this was a case of “eutrophication” by minute algae and other microorganisms due to pollution of the lake. The Police were grateful for this information, because they were under pressure to find out who was dumping “green paint” into the lake.

During his time as a board member of the Central Environmental Authority, he opposed a shoddily prepared Forestry Master Plan. The country owes a considerable debt of gratitude to Professor Abeywickrama for his exertions in this matter, despite much opposition. It would have been disastrous for the forests of this country if that Master Plan had gone through in its original form.

There is much to say about this exceptional person and his scientific and other contributions to the country, but space does not permit.

Professor Abeywickrama is survived by his children Kamal, Gayathri and Kumudini, and his grandchildren Prashan, Nuwan, Jeevaki, Devini, Lilani, and Aristides.

Dr. Rohan H. Wickramasinghe

The gentle Doc who soothed with words

E.S. Abraham

As someone who has known the ‘Abraham clan’ for over 50 years from the time the late S.A.N. (Solomon) Abraham joined me as my office mate at the Gallebodde Estate in 1960 or so, and being a close associate of the late E.S. Abraham I wish to add a few words in appreciation of his qualities and character.

“Doctor” E.S. Abraham as he was popularly known, was an Estate Medical Assistant (EMA) on the Palmerston Estate. He took over his late uncle Solomon’s practice in Kotagala town about 15 years ago.
In the early days of his practice, his dispensary was a dark, tiny and ill-lit building and yet he attracted a fair number of patients, From there he moved into a bright, spacious and well-lit building which was his dispensary at the time of his death.

I was shocked to hear of his death on the morning of February 4 when I was seated in front of my T.V. to view the Independence Day celebrations.

As mentioned at the funeral oration at St. Margaret’s Church, he was a kind hearted physician whose soothing words prior to administering drugs healed many patients. He was lenient with the patients when it came to payment of fees. He only levied a nominal charge for the drugs and did not have “consultation” charges and if the patient did not have enough money to pay his bill, he used to waive the balance.

Although he was 75 years old at the time of his death it was difficult to believe it as he looked much younger and was always well dressed . His writing too was beautiful, neat and legible and the estate managers who received his Medical Certificates/bills through their employees were reluctant to accept them as genuine as they were used to the scribbled writings of doctors in general. Although he had been receiving treatment from a leading hospital in Colombo for a heart ailment, he was reluctant to go for further treatment as often as he should have, as he did not want to tax anyone.

Dr. E.S. Abraham could have moved with big guns in the city but he always preferred a quiet life and chose a quiet area in Kotagala where he lived with his beloved wife Selvy. Similarly, if he wanted to earn, he could have set up his own 'lab”, conducted various “tests” and earned big money but he was satisfied with his humble earnings. The large number of mourners who visited his house and attended the funeral service was a fitting testimony to his popularity and simple lifestyle.

He was a devout Anglican and never missed the Sunday service at St. Margaret’s Church, Kotagala.
He leaves behind thousands of grateful patients, his beloved wife and children who can be assured that he has gone to rest with his Maker. He also leaves behind his old and faithful 6 Sri Datsun Car which served him well. Personally, I have lost a good friend whose company and conversation I always cherished.


Hard-working and honest, kind and unassuming – that was Gnanam

Kanagasabai Vijeyaratnam

I was greatly saddened to hear of the untimely demise of Mr. K. Vijeyaratnam (“Gnanam”), who passed away on January 24, after a sudden heart attack.

I met him last in Jaffna, in the last week of December last year. He was hale and hearty then. Gnanam was an urbane lad from a pious and respectable Hindu family in Oddumadam, Jaffna. He had his primary education at Jaffna Hindu College, a Tamil mixed school, and his secondary education at J/Vaidyeswara Vidyalayam.

The war situation prevented him for continuing his higher studies and so he went into business. Having gained some business experience, he set up a trading establishment on Stanley Road, Jaffna. Through hard work, perseverance and honesty, his business flourished.

Gnanam was kind-hearted, genial and unassuming. He participated in religious and social activities, regardless of caste or creed.“A father’s duty to his son is to seat him in front of the wise” said the saint Thiruvalluvar. Accordingly, Vijeyaratnam gave his two children a sound education.

He leaves behind fragrant memories. May his soul attain Shanthi.

K. K. Arumainayagam

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