Mrs.Manel Nanayakkara:

Our neighbour, a ray of light

My husband and I were going for our morning walk and suddenly, we heard this voice from a distance saying “Good morning, Swarna and Mervyn!” It was none other than Manel Nanayakkara on her daily fitness walk, prior to meditation and a full day’s work dedicated to the Lord, helping groups of impoverished people through a variety of programmes.

One day we happened to accompany her home after our morning walk and from the moment we stepped in the phone was ringing nonstop… and therefore we had to make our visit brief.

She had a particular interest in women, street children, abused and abandoned children and shanty dwellers. She was also our neighbor and friend and always extended her professional duties as a Justice of the Peace to those who are in want of it most. Whenever we visited her home, we always went away with a bunch of bananas, mangoes or other items which grew in her garden!

As much a missionary as a social worker, Manel’s duties have always been fulfilled in line with her beliefs in her Creator.

Her abilities as an organiser, instructor and leader were well expressed via her varied workshops which she conducted all around the island, both in English and Sinhalese. Her community assistance as a Justice of the Peace (which she extended to all), is another example of her desire to help the wider community.

She had this quality which I call a ‘gift’ of coming down to people at their level and being able to really communicate, ‘heart-to-heart,’ to explain, convey and instill deep values and to enhance their daily life which most of them unfortunately have to battle with in these times. In most times of conversation with her, ‘Peace’ was a dominant theme and we know that the current ‘schisms’ within the Sri Lankan society were of great concern to her; and she did what she could, through her speeches and talks to share her belief that ‘all people are equal and valuable’ before the eyes of God.

Through her work at such institutions such as the YWCA, the Baptist Church and the Ceylon Association for the Mentally Retarded (CAMR), Manel consistently extolled her duties with great enthusiasm and dedication.

She was also a nature lover and her garden filled with an array of plants and flowers never failed to become the focal point of visitors to the house.

To our family she was a ray of light, a cheerful neighbour and a spiritual guide.

-Swarna and Mervyn Fernando


Malaika Kannangara Gunawansa:

Mother and friend remembered and loved always

When we were little, we struggled to write our mother’s name. This is because she chose to keep her maiden name along with our surname, and it was not until years later that we discussed with her the importance of holding on to one’s identity even when many facets of your life change. Our mother, Malaika Kannangara Gunawansa, was a brilliant mother, wife and daughter. Many knew her as Mira and Aanya’s very loud parent who came for all of their sports matches and screamed louder than all the coaches combined; Dr Asanga Gunawansa’s loyal and steadfast partner, who acted as his pillar of strength in the ups and downs of their life together; or Anne and Gamini’s beloved child, the light in their lives.

Before she adopted the roles of a wife and mother, our mother grew up to become a strong, independent and honest woman, who always stood by her friends and loved ones and never feared to be righteous.

She was a great athlete; one of the best swimmers of her time and won national colours for representing Sri Lanka in squash. Our mother was a force to be reckoned with. Her dedication and perseverance in the pool and on the court translated to a life of commitment to health and love for sports.

She was also a scholar; having followed many academic pathways, including a Masters in Sports, Politics and Society at the University of Warwick. Our mother discovered that her heart lay in teaching. This is an area that she was arguably most renowned for, having taught at several institutions in Sri Lanka as well as overseas, including the Stafford International School, The British School in Colombo, and the Anglican International School of Jerusalem. In the last few years of her life, she established an extremely successful tuition practice from home, where she helped countless students gain confidence in their abilities and grow beyond the structure of the formal education system.

She was most importantly, a leader. Kind, compassionate and giving, our mother always was there for a friend or family member in need. She led extensive charity work for several years, empowering educators and institutions, like the Foundation of Goodness, through knowledge, guidance and resources.

The values that our mother cultivated throughout her life did not cease to hold any less value when she fell ill to cancer in the summer of 2017. In fact, many of us are certain that her experience with the sickness spurred her forwards to effect even more change wherever she could. Our mother continued to teach throughout her treatment, up until the December before she passed; a feat very few can manage given the circumstances. This is testament to her immeasurable strength, love and dedication to the children and communities she worked with.

In the years of her diagnosis, our mother established a new mission in life; to empower those who did not have access to the same knowledge she had to pursue to lead a quality life in sickness. She eventually came to write an incredible book, “A Helping and through your Cancer Journey; I Can-cerVive”. A collection of advice from a cancer patient who had experienced it all, this book was written with the intention of providing assurance and guidance to others struggling with the disease, including family members and friends. Having painstakingly written the book over the course of her illness, our mother compiled everything she had learned - of diet, chemotherapy, mindfulness, and life after diagnosis - in meticulous detail in hopes of providing comfort to those in need. This book was published and distributed freely in English, Sinhala and Tamil; it is still available for those interested, serving our mother’s purpose even after life. Although she may no longer be with us physically, our mother certainly made sure to leave her mark on the world. We see her in everything, from the shouts of parents at swim meets to the proud smile on our father’s face; the reminder to eat breakfast from our grandmother to the laughter of all of our aunties on the phone. She instilled her values of dedication, humility and compassion throughout every facet of our lives; it would be impossible for us to grow into the independent women she taught us to be without a reminder of staying true to one’s identity no matter what challenges life throws our way. So, while our hearts ache a little every day, we remember that she has not truly left us.

- Mira and Aanya Gunawansa


 Jaliya Medagama

Pleasing personality in Public Service

Jaliya Medagama, who entered the Sri Lanka Administrative Service in 1970, and I, who entered in 1967, had been thick friends since the day we first met accidentally during our school days.

Jaliya was from Dharmaraja, Kandy and I was from the Nugawela Central College. We entered the Peradeniya University in 1961. Though we were not at the same Hall of Residence in the University neither in the same Stream of Studies, we maintained our solid and unfathomable friendship beyond description.

We joined the teaching profession upon leaving the campus and thereafter, Jaliya entered the Sri Lanka Administrative Service where he got his first appointment as the Divisional Revenue Officer, Ududumbara. During the period of service in the public service he held several positions such as the Commissioner of Agrarian Services, Secretary of the Ministry of Indigenous Medicine among others, and in 1994, he was appointed as the Secretary to the Ministry of Irrigation, Mahaweli, Power and Energy, which had 18 institutions under its purview. He supervised all 18 agencies without distinction as an able administrator. After retirement, he served as the Chairman of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation.

He had close relations in the then government but he never compromised his independence in making administrative decisions in view of those relationships and he was not a person who could be distorted by such connections. No allegations of fraud or corruption were levelled against this honest officer who was free of all vices.

Jaliya Medagama was an honest and modest officer of rare breed who served all government officers, peoples’ representatives and the public-at-large alike without any distinction of political affiliations or otherwise.

Jaliya was an active member of the Group of the Peradeniya ‘61 Batch where I was the President. Members of our Batch fondly remember how he supported the annual get-togethers organised by the Group.

Jaliya Medagama’s father was a Judge of the Rural Court. After the father’s demise, Jaliya shouldered the role of father to his brother and sisters. He lived a very pleasant family life with Pathma, who met him on the very first day of entering the University. Humbleness inherited from the rural culture of Poholiyadda , his native place and Dodanwala, where he was brought up, was the lifeline reigned and scented his life all throughout . I am fully aware of the efforts made by his son Professor Arjuna Medagama of the Medical Faculty of Peradeniya University, to save Jaliya’s life when he was critically ill in the past few years. However, Jaliya left all of us in grief on February 11 after exhausting the lifespan he was destined.

May this pleasing person, Jaliya Medagama, attain Supreme Bliss of Nibbana!


Tilak Ranaviraja