Dr. Aryadasa Amarasinghe: Hard-working and versatile

My father’s birth anniversary, which was on November 1, reminded me of his picturesque life story. My beloved father, Dr. Aryadasa Amarasinghe, was born and bred in a small fishing village in the far South known as Tangalle, to parents Muhandiram ‘Loku Ralahamy’ Don Sauderis and Gillian Gamage from Weligama, as the sixth of nine children.

While being educated at Mahinda College, two of his brothers who were brighter in their studies got a chance of studying at Colombo schools for their higher studies. He and his elder brother Wimaladasa, who challenged the Colombo education, altered their journey in their academic career; depositing all their belongings on further education, they travelled to India and graduated in Veterinary Science at the Bengal University in 1939.

During World War II, my father served the Burma Frontier brigade as a commissioned officer in the Army Horse Cavalry Detachment. He related how military sustaining strategies were helpful in survival on the long rail from India to Tangalle, on horseback after the retreat with a colleague: a Gurkha.

Dr. Aryadasa Amarasinghe had a heart of a lion and gained what he envisioned, however mammoth of a task it was. Anxious members of the family who assumed he had reached the life’s destiny during the war were so joyous to find him at the door step of ‘Amaragiriya’ one evening.

My father selected by the US Government for a public health fellowship to do higher studies. On the peaks of his academic career, reaching the stars, he gained a Masters in Science on Dairy Technology in 1951, Masters in Public Health, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Diseases Communicable from Animal to Man in 1953, from University of Minnesota, USA.

He served as an expert advisor to the Government of Tunisia on behalf of the WHO/FAO and carried out research project on ‘Brucella Melitensis’ at L’Institut Pasteur DeTunis. On returning, he was appointed Chief Veterinary Surgeon of Department of Health of the then Government of Ceylon.

Dr. Aryadasa Amarasinghe was the President of the Veterinary Council from 1961to 1968 and served as the Deputy Director of Agriculture, National Milk Board, and Coconut Development Board at the Ministry of Agriculture under guidelines of late minister Philip Gunawardena, who rendered a yeomen service to the field of agriculture.

As the Managing Director of the Oils and Fats Corporation from 1968 to 1970, he industrialised our own coconut and vegetable oil manufacturing and Poultry and Animal Food Production Unit, and even offered a bonus to the employees during his tenure. As the Chairman of the Committee on Industry-Based Animal Production, he was engaged in several international conferences representing on behalf of the government.

Upon goodwill and influence, he was largely responsible for importing a heard of two thousand cattle and buffaloes from India and New Zealand; as well as the setting up of cattle farms in Ambewela, Bopaththalawa, Thamankaduwa, Polonnaruwa, Ridiyagama, Nikawaratiya; goat farms and piggeries at Weerawila, Kottukachchi, and Welisara; and Research Institutes at Matara, Karagoda, Uyangoda, and Mahailluppallama.

My father pioneered the setting up of the Parakum Condensary in 1968 and the Spray Drying Plants at Ambewela. His vision of making Sri Lanka independent in animal produce and evolved the production of ghee, yoghurt, cheese, ice cream, eggs, and poultry locally. The consumption of 18 eggs per annum and 2oz of milk a day per person was increased to 250 eggs per annum and ½ pint of milk per day per annum within five years through his work. He was responsible in drafting the Animals Act of Parliament and Regulations, amendments to the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Ordinance; drafting of the Milk Board Act, as well as other legislative enactments and revisions.

Having travelled the world over, his achievements and knowledge were vast; he could speak Burmese, Urdu, Hindi, French, and German and was also fluent in Pali and Sanskrit. He would recite any stanza or sutra by heart and explain them; he had a vast knowledge of the ‘Abhidhamma’ and also possessed a wonderful memory.

My father has left an undeniable imprint on public health and animal produce; he has improved national health purely due to his commitment, perseverance, and hard work.

May my father be remembered even in the future for his outstanding contributions to the nation and may his life story be an example to future generations. He left us as a true son of the soil, leaving no debt to his motherland. One would not believe it if I would say the last words out of his mouth were “Anichchawatha Sankhara!”

May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana!



Ivan Pedropillai: A humble philanthropist

Ivan Anandanayagam Pedropillai, a devout Catholic and a great philanthropist, passed away peacefully after a brief illness on March 28 in London, within three months of his wife’s demise.

Ivan was born on October 2, 1937, in Jaffna to Catholic parents Pedropillai and Emily. He was the eldest, and had four sisters of whom two predeceased him. Ivan and Indra were an inseparable, affectionate couple; they lived as guardians and companions to each other, respected and admired by all their relatives and friends. God of Mercy found Ivan’s inability to live separate from his beloved wife and summoned him to join her in Heaven.

Uncle Pedropillai was close relative of my father, late T.B. Soosaipillai of Karampon. He and Indra, as well as their children, were much attached and helpful to us when they were in Wellawatte. When Ivan’s beloved late sister Dr. Indra Swampillai was working at the De Soyza Maternity Ward of the Colombo General Hospital, she was of great assistance to us; she took personal interest when our three children were born at the same ward. She often visited our home and checked the progress of our baby’s health.

Ivan joined St. Patrick’s College, Jaffna, for studies in the primary section. He later joined St. Joseph’s College, Colombo, for his secondary education and from there, he entered University to pursue higher studies. At the University, he found his beloved partner Indra. They got married later and were blessed with a son and a daughter: Ajith and Corinne.

Ivan lived an exemplary life with admirable noble qualities as a devoted husband an affectionate father, as well as a loving grandfather and a supportive father-in-law. He carried out all his responsibilities with much love and commitment. He brought up his children to revere God and instilled noble qualities in them. Ivan, with his generous and sensitive heart, always helped the poor as it was a principle that was important to him.

Ivan had a loveable personality and was a gentleman par excellence. He was a faithful friend in times of need, especially for those with monetary difficulties. He was a source of inspiration for many. Many were privileged to have moved with him closely and have enjoyed his love and wisdom. Ivan helped many Sri Lankans who migrated to London due to ethnic violence in 1983, and also financially helped many displaced orphans in Sri Lanka.

He was very popular and respected among the elite and the poor. He was a virtuous Catholic with deep devotion to Blessed Mother Mary. With dynamic bravery, he would spell out his conviction without fear of the Government or to the Religious Hierarchy for any injustice committed against innocent victims while his views on politics and policies were appreciated by many.

Ivan, having obtained many Academic Professional qualifications, held several executive lucrative positions in Sri Lanka, Zambia, and the U.K.; he achieved international awards and rose to the pinnacle of his field. While patient and calm, he was firm in executing his decisions and dealings with authority.

In his retirement, Ivan was a writer and editor of the Tamil Writers Guild and was also an advocate for distressed Sri Lankan Tamils living in London. He dedicated his life to all those who sought his help and counsel. Ivan's legacy will live on through generations for all the great work he did for society.

Ivan, having fulfilled his obligations towards his family and relatives, cherished his fruitful life. Now, he has entered eternal glory. May the Lord of mercy and love receive him into his Heavenly Kingdom and grant him Enteral Bliss, enjoying with the angeles, singing and praising God Almighty. May he rest in peace!

“From the greatest to the smallest, we all return to our Creator. When his purpose is fulfilled, we shall be called back to his fold.”

The wise man delights in the truth,
And follows the law of the awakened,
When he sees the good, he has done,
For great is the harvest in this world,
And greater still in the next.

S.B. David


Dr. M.A.M. Shukri: Catalyst for progressive change

The passing away of Dr. M.A.M. Shukri on May 19 removed from our midst an eminent educationist and a scholar of high repute. The late Dr. Shukri, who was 79 years old at the time of his passing, was considered not only as an intellectual giant, but also as a catalyst for progressive change. Belonging to the category of intellectual scholars of the standing of the late Dr A.M.A. Azeez, Dr. Shukri’s demise comes as an irreplaceable loss to the country and the Muslim community in particular.

A product of Zahira College, Colombo, Dr. Shukri graduated from the University of Peradeniya with First-Class Honours in Arabic and was awarded the Commonwealth Scholarship in 1973 for his postgraduate studies at the University of Edinburgh, UK, where he obtained his PhD under the tutelage of the distinguished Islamologist Prof. Montgomery Watt.

He returned to the country and lectured at the University of Peradeniya and the University of Kelaniya. He thereafter founded the educational institute known as ‘Jamiah Naleemiah’ in Beruwala on the invitation of the late philanthropist M.I.M. Naleem Hadjiar of China Fort, Beruwala, who funded the project.

Jamiah Naleemia grew as an academia inspired by distinguished Muslims such as A.M.A. Azeez, late District Judge A.M. Ameen, well-known civil servant M.N. Junaid, and many others. Jamiah is managed under the guidance of its Chairman Yakooth Naleem, by a large number of dedicated educationists such as A.C. Aghar Mohamed, S.H.M. Faleel, and many others. It was run under the academic leadership of its founder Director Dr. Shukri, who remained as its academic head until his passing.

The Jamiah is fulfilling a long-felt need of the community for a centre of scholarship, balancing Islamic learning together with degree-level academic studies. A large number of students who graduated from Jamiah serve the country in high positions in the administrative, judicial, and overseas services.

In 1986, Dr. Shukri put out a 494-page book containing the research papers presented at the Jamiah seminar as a permanent record of a thousand years of peaceful coexistence of Muslims with the other communities. Titled “Muslims of Sri Lanka: Avenues to Antiquity” (edited by Dr. Shukri), the book remains an excellent testimony to the sacrifices and contributions of Sri Lankan Muslims for the unity and territorial integrity of this country populated by an understanding Buddhist majority, as well as peace-loving Hindus and Christians.

Dr. Shukri will be best remembered as the guiding light of the Muslims of Sri Lanka throughout a period of over 40 years. His speeches, writings, research, and books will guide this community for decades to come. His 1986 publication reflecting on the history of the Muslims of Sri Lanka and their patriotic role will remain a monumental bridge between the communities of this country, a bridge that this country is in urgent need of.

Dr. M.A.M. Shukri was laid to rest at the Matara Rahula Road, Sheikh Hamadar Mosque Burial Grounds. May he attain Jennathul Firdouse!

M.M. Zuhair