Appreciations | Daily News


 Sunil Perera:

An entertainer par excellence

The untimely demise of Sunil Perera, versatile singer, musician, composer and entertainer brings back a flood of memories. As Managing Director of Zenith Advertising in the ‘90s, my team and I had associated very closely with Sunil, who was introduced as a brand ambassador for the first time to promote the Singer range of audio and video products.

It was indeed a challenge to establish Singer as a quality electronics brand competing with reputed global brands dominating the market in Sri Lanka. It was against this background that Sunil was identified as the ideal fit to strengthen the brand’s presence and create a stronger bond with the Sri Lankan consumer since he was very much a hit with the masses.

It took a great deal of convincing to get Sunil to agree as it was the very first time that any agency or company had approached him with such a proposition. He was reluctant to appear in any TV commercial since he was too shy and self-conscious. However, after much convincing he agreed to appear in the first-ever TV commercial featuring him as the brand ambassador for Singer Electronics which incidentally clinched a Gold at the Annual Advertising Awards.

The outstanding jingle composed by Sunil with simple, powerful and meaningful lyrics touched the hearts of Sri Lankan consumers across all social strata and was sung in his on inimitable style. ‘Anang Manang Mama Kiyanne Ney, Singerta Samana Kisiwak Ney, Ganna Singer, Masuran Wati, Gaththoth Singer Wardinney, Gaththu Ayata Thawa Weradila Ney, Ganna Singer, Masuan Wati’. The catchy melody still resonates in our minds though two decades have gone by. The testimonial from Sri Lanka’s larger-than-life music legend Sunil Perera elevated the brand to the role of a ‘lead singer’ in the country.

Quite unassuming despite his unparalleled achievements, Sunil Perera, the musical genius, captivated music lovers across generations with his inimitable, powerful voice for over five decades. Those who had the luck to know him will swear that he’s one of the most down-to-earth celebrities they have ever met because he doesn’t have the typical celebrity attitude and is always in the mood to have a normal conversation.

He did not lose touch with the common man despite his rise to stardom. He was outspoken against social injustice, corruption, racism and suppression of democracy both on and off stage and much of his music reflected unconventional ideas and viewpoints. He was such an amazing person to be around – very kind and cheerful with a positive aura and could always light up a room with his light-hearted conversations.

An extraordinary man, singer and human being who helped so many people and touched so many lives not just with his music but with his generosity and wisdom. His music, his style, his genius endeared him to millions of fans as he carved a niche for himself and the band ‘Gypsies’ in the music world.

This heartfelt tribute is a token of our love and admiration for Sunil, an entertainer par excellence and a great friend of Zenith Advertising. For someone like Sunil, there is no death. He is so much part of the Sri Lankan society. His powerful voice will echo through the ages. His is only an enduring legacy that will live long even after we have passed away.

May he rest in peace and may his family have the strength to get through this difficult time.

Felicia and Team
Ex Zenith Advertising

Senerat Wijayasundara:

A fervent scholar of Buddhism

October 9, 2021 marked the first death anniversary of Senerat Wijayasundara (SW), a great Buddhist scholar, socialist, free thinker and above all, a true human being. I came to know SW when I joined the Encyclopaedia of Buddhism (EB), Colombo, in 1979, where he worked as a member of its editorial board. SW continued to work at the Encyclopaedia of Buddhism till his retirement. Before joining EB he taught philosophy initially at Peradeniya University and subsequently at Kelaniya University.

Born in Galle and having had his school education at St. Aloysius College, Galle, SW joined Peradeniya University in 1959 where he studied Pali and Buddhist studies under such eminent teachers as N.A. Jayawickrama and Jotiya Dhirasekera and philosophy under K.N. Jayatilleke, and as a result, he was one among few scholars who had mastery over both Buddhist and Western philosophies.

For his Master of Philosophy degree SW did research on the philosophy of the Atthaka and Parayana chapters of the Suttanipata, one of the 15 texts belonging to the Kuddaka-nikaya of the Pali canon. Later in 2012 this research was published as ‘The Buddhist thought Revealed in the Atthaka and Parayana Chapters of the Suttanipata’ (in Sinhala). The following year this book was awarded the best Buddhist academic work by the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC) at its annual Buddhist literary festival.

SW had an immense respect for Professor K.N. Jayatilleke as his teacher of philosophy. In 2008 SW translated into Sinhala the celebrated work of Jayatilleke – his lectures on Buddhist jurisprudence delivered in Hague in 1967 (‘Principles of International Law in Buddhist Doctrine’). This work – Budusamaya saha Antarjatika Neethiya – which SW did as a mark of respect for his teacher was published by the Department of Cultural Affairs.

SW’s scholarly contribution is substantial. He wrote on various aspects of Buddhist studies such as Buddhism and economics and Buddhism and Marxism.

His support for the reintroduction of the Bhikkhuni Sasana in Sri Lanka was very strong. He wrote on this theme to Buddhist journals and newspapers, and delivered lectures in support of Higher Ordination for women. The paper he published in The Buddhist (YMBA Borella) in 1984, “The Revival of the Order of Buddhist Nuns,” won admiration of readers at home and abroad. SW justified his position not only from Buddhist doctrinal and Vinaya points of view but also with reference to women’s rights to practise of religion. A selection of his academic writings in Sinhala and English have been compiled and published as an anthology by Yodhakandiye Ariyawansa Thera, one of his many students, under the title Dr. Senerat Wijayasundara: Philosophy, Culture and Counseling (Godage and Brothers, Maradana, 2018).

SW was an admirer of socialism, and he believed that a society moulded according to the principles of socialism would be quite in harmony with the teachings of the Buddha. In his paper titled “Economics in Buddhist Perspective” and in several other papers in Sinhala, SW highlighted how Buddhist and socialist perspectives of economics and social justice do not contradict each other. In addition to his academic interest in Buddhism and socialism, as the Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Sri Lanka Buddhist Congress, headed by Mapalagama Vipulasara Maha Thera, SW actively worked to promote relations between Buddhists in Sri Lanka and in socialist countries such as Russia and Mongolia.

SW was a highly sought-after teacher in Buddhist studies. He taught Buddhist studies for nine years in Vidyalankara (later Kelaniya) University before he joined the Encyclopaedia of Buddhism and continued even after at Vidyodaya (later Sri Jayewardenepura) University and at the Buddhist and Pali University from its beginning.

After his retirement from the Encyclopaedia, SW expanded his teaching career to Buddhist colleges in England, Malaysia and Singapore. His last academic assignment was to serve as the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies at Nagananda International College, Manelwatta, Kelaniya.

His services to the nation and to Buddhist scholarship was recognized by the State, the Maha Sangha and the public. In 2012 the Ministry of Cultural Affairs awarded him ‘Kala Bhushana,’ and the Kotte Chapter of the Syamopalivansa Maha Nikaya recognized him as ‘Saddharma Visharada.’

SW was a Buddhist academic and scholar of very high caliber. He disseminated his knowledge without reservation, and he enjoyed doing so. Personally I have gained much from his sound scholarship and solid friendship like many who came to associate with him. One of his last public functions was to attend the inauguration of my Collected Works at the BMICH in September 2020.

Even with limited capacity to move around, he made it a point to join this event exemplifying his magnanimity and true friendship. No doubt, his passing is a loss to the Buddhist academic world. But it is even a bigger loss to Ratna, Nelum and Sobha, his beloved wife and two daughters, and to his extended family with many cousins and nieces and nephews, with whose love SW was blessed till his last moment.

May his samsaric journey be short and sweet!

Asanga Tilakaratne
Encyclopaedia of Buddhism and Emeritus Professor of Buddhist Studies
University of Colombo

Anura Perera:

Salute to a great leader

A great sorrow has fallen on the Lions of Sri Lanka. Our respected Past Multiple Council Chairman and Past District Governor Lion Anura Perera, a Melvin Jones Fellow and a Mahendra Amarasuriya Fellow and Justice of Peace, parted from us forever at the age of 76 on the night of September 2, 2021.

Although he had been ill the last couple of months, there hardly were any perceptible symptoms that warranted anxiety. Aware though we are of mortality to which the flesh is heir, we had not for a moment thought of his leaving us so soon. Our hearts are rent with grief and mourning.

I have known Anu from my school days at Ananda. He was one year senior to me. I have many memories and recollections of him during our school days. After leaving school we lost touch only for a few years, to be reconnected through Lionism.

PDG Anu started Lionism with the Lions Club of Bandarawela when he was the area representative of Lever Brothers, an institution that produced the country’s elite management personnel. He resigned from the Bandarawela Club to join the Lions Club of Kelaniya which was extended by the Lions Club of Wattala in 1975 as a charter member. His father Walter D. Perera JP UM, an eminent lawyer, was the Charter President.

Anu’s endearing personality was a key factor for his success in corporate life and as a Lion.

In 1987–88 he became the District Governor, District 306B with a comfortable majority of votes. District 306B was the larger of the two Districts A and B covering 22 out of the 25 administrative districts of the country, west, east and north.

His year as District Governor was one of the most colourful and outstanding. I served as a Deputy Governor in his Cabinet. That was one of the glorious years in which every Lion enjoyed Lionism to the fullest. He balanced service and fellowship perfectly to get the best out of every Lion and the Lions Club in the District.

PDG Anu was a highly respected, much loved, popular figure in the district. He possessed a magnetic charm. Lions got attracted to him. His equally charming and gracious Lion Lady Rashmi complemented his stature. He was part and parcel of the District Leadership Institute.

His span of knowledge and experience in Lionism was so vast that DLLI could not do without him at any of the Club Schools, Cabinet Schools or any other training programme. He had his own inimitable style, practical and most effective. He had a knack to keep the participants glued to him mixing his speeches and presentations with witty anecdotes, humour and personal experiences.

From Lever Brothers (now Unilever) he moved to Harrisons & Crossfield within the Capital Maharaja Group as a Manager and rose to become a Director. Later he became a Group Director of Capital Maharaja Group. He used to travel overseas and around the country extensively and meet and interact with people from all walks of life, from the most rural village farmer to the high-profile public and corporate figure with equal ease.

He understood people, human nature and their mindset and was very empathetic. He never took life too seriously. Very generous in nature, very faithful to his friends, accommodating but he did not hesitate to call spade a spade.

Governor Anu shared his corporate management knowhow and his understanding of people and human nature to enrich participants during training sessions and Lions in general. He was very liberal with his ideas and beliefs. DLLI will certainly miss his knowledge, experience, advice and good counsel. So will our entire Lions District. We will remember him forever with love and respect for the great contribution he made over the years to Lionism.

Deeply grieved as we are by this sudden bereavement, we cannot but accept the impermanency of life.

May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana!

PDG Lion Gamini Jayasuriya MJF, MAF, J.P.
District Lions Leadership Institute 2010–2018

Amrith Weerasinghe:

‘To live in the hearts of those we love is never to die’

My life-long best friend is no more, the golden times of our life may not ever return, but the joyous memories and the good friendship will stay in our hearts forever. I treasure the close bond we had, and cherish every moment we shared.

Amrith and I joined Unilever (called Lever Brothers then) during as youth in the early part of the 1980s, in the Computer Division. It was then known as Electronic Data Processing Department (EDP) with a large-size IBM mainframe computer (a size of a 25KVA Industrial Power generator), a high-speed printer (little smaller in size) and other peripherals, occupying a large area in the main admin office. There was only a handful of staff managing the operation and it was all in-house developments as there were no off-the-shelf application packages as is available today.

Amrith and I grew up in this environment together to our adulthood, enjoying every moment with all other colleagues in the department and outside as well. For over 15 years we were together at Unilever and Amrith continued till his retirement in 2013, adding his name to the long service category list after serving for over three decades.

Amrith was well known for his mischievous behaviour and his sense of humour. He would always drag me along whenever he wanted to tease another and I always end up becoming his partner in crime. He loved teasing and entertaining everyone around. I am sure all our colleagues at Unilever will vouch for my statement of his nature.

As the eldest son of devoted Catholic parents from Marawila, Amrith grew up in a religious environment and participated in church activities from his childhood. He found his lifelong partner Sujeewa when he was schooling as a result of his church activities. According to Amrith, she was God’s gift to him. I remember Sujeewa was working at the airport before they got married and Amrith used to apply short leave often to go to meet her there.

They were blessed with three sons, the elder two who are well employed and married and the youngest who is all set to graduate.

Before his untimely demise he was working as an Administration Manager at St. Anne’s Nursing Home, Marawila, managed by the Catholic Bishop’s Palace in Colombo. He enjoyed this job very much as it was close to his house and did not entail the work pressure he experienced during his career at a multinational. It was another gift from God to Amrith, which he admitted with no hesitation.

We had a close bond up to his death, and used to have frequent chats about family affairs, Levers colleagues, politics and more.

Amrith, it’s been one trip around the sun since you departed from all of us, yet you are remembered every day. No longer in our life to share, but in our hearts, you’re always there.

We pray that our lord Jesus has blessed you and has found you a place in Heaven!

Nihal Weerawardena

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