[APPRECIATIONS - (14-01-2019)]

Dr. Badiuddin Mahmud

Man of unmatched vision

“Let me assure my Sinhalese countrymen that I am one with them in demanding complete freedom for our country.

They can count on me as one of the most ardent admirers of their legitimate national and cultural aspirations. In me and my community, let them know that they find the most trusted friends and kind neighbours on this island...

Let me also assure my Sinhalese friends that the brave community to which I have the honour to belong, shall never consider any sacrifice too great, to make Lanka a happy, prosperous and glorious country in the world, where not one section of its population, but every son and daughter of her soil shall legitimately take pride in her glorious destiny...”

These inspiring words were spoken by an immaculately-dressed young men who addressed an August assembly of the most distinguished leaders of the Muslim community who gathered on March 5, 1939, under the Chairmanship of Sir Mohammed Macan Markar to protest against the inadequate representation of Muslims in Legislative Council, consequent the recommendations of the Donoughmore Commission. The young man was none other than Dr. Badiuddin Mahmud.

With the demise of Dr. Badiuddin Mahmud on June 16, 1997, we have lost not only a great patriot but also an illustrious national leader respected by all communities of Sri Lanka.

Dr. Mahmud was born in Matara, which was the cradle of some of the most illustrious sons of Ruhuna of the calibre of Cumaratunga Munidasa, the Sinhala poet; Anagarika Dharmapala, the Nationalist; Ven. Thotagamuwe Sri Rahula Thera, the gifted scholar and author of the famous Salalihini Sandeseya; and the great scholar monk Ven. Prof. Valpola Rahula Thera. He received his early education at Matara St. Thomas’ College.

In 1938, addressing Prophet Muhammad’s birthday celebrations at Galle, Dr. Mahmud created a sensation by urging Muslims to learn Sinhala.

He said, “If this is done, all misunderstandings will disappear and there will be perfect harmony between the Sinhalese and the Moors. Under self-government, which is bound to come sooner or later, the national language of Ceylon should be Sinhalese.”

As an educationist and efficient administrator, he immensely contributed towards the educational advancement of his community and it became a reality with the establishment of fully-fledged Gampola Zahira College.

He became the founder Principal under Dr. T.B. Jayah’s management. Dr. Mahmud developed Zahira from the state of a dilapidated structure to its present stature, with up-to-date infrastructure facilities.

The contribution he made to Zahira College, Gampola, is an outstanding monument to his yeoman services to Muslim education and he has won him an honoured place in the educational history of the Muslim community.

From his college days at Colombo Zahira, through his University career at Aligarh in India, he has, throughout, shone as a revolutionary in politics, education, culture and in all important issues affecting the masses with whom he moved. In 1933, he was asked to leave Burma within 48 hours after his rousing and forceful speech urging the students to fight British imperialism with all strength and keep Burma for the Burmese.

Only a few are aware of the close friendship between late Premier S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and Badiuddin Mahmud.

It was in 1925 that the young Mahmud invited late Premier S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike to address the students of Zahira College, Colombo. He saw, in Bandaranaike, the makings of the future leader of Sri Lanka, and from then on, his association with Bandaranaike became closer. He became the first General Secretary of the SLFP under the leadership of Bandaranaike and it is well-known that the successful emergence of the party at the general election in 1956 owed a great deal to Dr. Badiuddin’s untiring efforts and unflinching loyalty to the party and its leader. When the government was formed in 1956, much to the disappointment of Bandaranaike, Badiuddin Mahmud declined to accept the offer of a nominated seat in Parliament and a Cabinet portfolio, because he thought, at the time, that by being outside the government, he could serve his community better. However, he served as a member of the National Planning Council and represented Sri Lanka four times at the United Nations and held the office of Vice-Chairman of its third committee in 1959.

After the SLFP victory in 1960, at the insistence of Late Sirimavo Bandaranaike, he accepted a nomination to Parliament and was made the Minister of Education and Broadcasting.

As Minister of Education, his name will go down in the history as the man who gave significance to the principle of equality of opportunity in education for all by taking over the assisted schools in the teeth of opposition by vested interests.

Dr. Mahmud re-organised the schools and the system of education to suit our national needs. He courageously brought out sweeping changes in education like the introduction of technical education to rural schools and gave them science laboratories and workshops.

He appointed the National Education Commission and the Technical Education Commission and laid the foundation of a truly national system of education. For the services he rendered to the country in the field of education, he was conferred the Doctorate of Literature by the then Vidyodaya University and Doctorate of Laws by the Vidyalankara University. Subsequently, as Minister of Health and Housing, he took a major step in them in the interest of the common people by abolishing private practice and the introduction of the channelled system, despite opposition from the influential quarters.

Dr. Mahmud adopted many drastic measures to improve the health facilities in the urban and rural areas and also improved the facilities for Ayurvedic Researches.

Dr. Mahmud was a true national leader who always associated with the Sinhalese people in the struggle for independence.

He was not only an admirer of the Sinhalese people and their history, but also fully shared with them, their aspirations for a united Sri Lanka without divisions of any kind, be they communal, territorial, political or religious.

Dahlan Salahudeen


Cyril Fernando

He was inspiring

Uncle Cyril, fondly addressed as ‘Cyril mama’, was my mother Callista’s youngest brother. The earliest memories of him I have takes me back to the beautiful tea estates of Sri Lanka in the early ‘60s. I grew up in an upper-middle-class family with six siblings in not-so-big a house in Maharagama.

He sure was a king in the eyes of a small girl. The luxurious old colonial bungalows with flowers over the fireplace, tea served with freshly-baked muffins or cookies in the little summer house; attended by a very courteous butler, and the beautifully-maintained lawns edged by flowers of all kinds, contributed to the regal touch.

Cyril mama was a good 15 years older than I. He was an uncle we looked up to, whose stories we listened to with awe, but got pulled up if we did something wrong. Those were the days when kids were kids and adults were adults. We were allowed in their company only at meal times and during prayers.

I’m not quite sure when the gap in our relationship bridged and he became an uncle who was close to me and my husband, Tommy. I guess it has something to do with his marriage to Aunty Marie and the warmth that she brought into the family. I still remember with gratitude how both of them were a great source of strength and support when my father passed away suddenly. He and Aunty Marie were always there when we needed family support.

Uncle Cyril was born in British Sri Lanka and started working from a very young age in a prestigious tea-planting company in the hills of Sri Lanka. He trained and worked under executives who were British, thus making him a perfect gentleman in the true sense of the word.

I have never seen him emotional in all the years that I have known him. He was not a cold person, but his emotions were certainly his private domain.

Having lost his father when was just 1½ months old; his childhood, I am sure, would have been difficult. He may have formed his opinions in life through his happy and pleasant experiences, as well as those that were difficult and trying. He was a voracious reader, and that also would have influenced who he was in many ways. He was not a religious man but had a strong value system by which he was guided and did not compromise on what he thought was right or wrong.

It was quite a shock to all of us when he took ill and passed away so suddenly. He was the last surviving member of my mother’s siblings and I say goodbye to a generation of gracious, elegant and suave dear ones.

Tommy and I cherish the memories of Cyril mama. May his soul rest in peace.

His niece, Shirani Thomas (nee Nonis)


Dinusha Fernando

She was a gift from God

Three years have gone without one of the three children God gave us. Losing a child is unbearable. Only parents who have gone through it will understand this grief. As parents to three children, we often look at them with wonder, realising that they are the one love in our life that we did not choose.

We choose to love our spouse; we choose to love our friends, and we even choose to love God; but, when it comes to our children, we never had a choice. From the moment they were born, they were ours! Before they could walk or speak, or even reciprocate love in any way, we were madly and passionately in love with them.

Our youngest daughter Dinusha was a gift from God on January 13, 1987, to both of us and to her elder sister Hirusha and brother Hirushke. Dinu’s earthly journey was only 10,606 days as she was called back to her eternal home just three years ago on January 15, 2016; just one night after her 29th birthday.

Even after 36 months, the spirit of my precious daughter, a brave soldier of God, will live on through every act of kindness she ever performed. Dinu’s bright and loving smile will never dim in the memories of those whose lives she touched.

Her life journey is a story of amazing faith, endurance, and love. She had Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and later on, her kidneys failed before her main heart valve was damaged. She felt the worst was behind her, but it seems she was wrong. Following heart surgery, Dinu had a stroke. And as if everything Dinu was bearing wasn’t enough, she then contracted swine flu and afterwards, pneumonia. The last thing she needed was to find a lump in her breast, but that’s exactly what happened. Throughout Dinu’s earthly journey, she knew that God was her rock and only he could heal her of pain. This young, beautiful soldier of God was in so much pain.

The days were very dark for my little Dinu Every movement she made caused her agonising pain; she couldn’t even lie, sit, or stand. It’s enough to make some curse God or take their pain out on their loved ones. Dinu, however, did not. She only let her love for her family show.

It was as if she knew she would only be here a short time longer and she wanted her family to have no doubt that she loved them. Her love for God was always evident and shone through like a bright light on those dark days.

Just 22 months after Diinu was born, we, as a family, went through turmoil; however, our faith in God was strengthened by the spiritual support of the Methodist Church we attended regularly and the divine ministry of the Dev Suwa Sevawa. As children often are, baby Dinu seemed oblivious to the hardships her family was facing. She was a happy and loving baby who touched the hearts of everyone with joy and love. When Dinu walked into a room and smiled, it truly seemed as though the room lit up and was instantly filled with warmth.

Little Dinusha continued to grow and thrive under our watchful care. We were guided along our spiritual pathway by the ever-loving hand of God. Though we appeared to have lost everything, the one thing we could never lose was our undying faith in Jesus.

It was 1991 and it was time for Dinu to join the school. We already had two elder children in prestigious schools and the fees were definitely heavy for us at the time. I was determined and worked every job could find to make sure youngest little girl, who was as bright as a button, was able to join her sister at Colombo Ladies College.

Dinu became a studious, beautiful young girl, but she still never lost that fun-loving spirit she was born with. She also never lost her kind soul or faith. These qualities only grew as she did. Dinusha’s hard studies were rewarded in 2006. She completed her Advanced Level exams and received great results and with an A pass for Business Statistics. These results got her a good job in a leading travel company.

She loved her work and her workmates. On March 31, 2009, Dinu’s trial period at her job was supposed to be completed and she thought she would receive a confirmation letter for long-term employment. Instead, at the end of the business day, she got a different one: it stated, “Services no longer required.”

This crushed her, and it was difficult for us to see our baby girl shattered and devastated. Instead of being the family live-wire who was fun loving and friendly, Dinusha became sad and distraught and cried for weeks.

Four months later, in July, 2009, Dinu started complaining of pain throughout her joints. In August, 2009, she was diagnosed with SLE. Although she was incredibly sick, she was also a brave young girl with a strong will. She began praying and was able to find another job. It was then that Dinusha caught Chamara’s eye.

Dinu told him about her condition, which was in remission at the time. On December 17, 2012, I was watching her as we walked down the aisle of the Golden Rose hotel, reminiscing the first time I saw her walk, but she wasn’t that toddler anymore; she was a woman. As she walked down the aisle holding my arm, she sang the words, “How can I say thanks for the things you have done?”

Things were looking good for the young couple until May 9, 2014. Dinu returned from work that day complaining of an abdominal and spinal pain. Tragedy struck when we learned that both her kidneys had failed. In March, 2015, we were told she needed to have a transplant.

Watching her undergoing dialysis every other day with unwavering faith filled my heart with pain. She was my baby girl. When she hurt, I hurt!

Dinu had developed a theme of life. It was, “The circumstances of your life don’t and shouldn’t describe or dictate the quality of your personality.” Dinu didn’t let these new and trying circumstances change any aspect of her character.

Though she herself was sick and in pain, she still took time to visit if a friend or relative was sick. Though she was in need, she was always there to help others when needed. Though a parent is supposed to be the teacher, I became the student: I learnt a great deal from my daughter.

God gave us one last birthday with our loving daughter on January 13, 2016. I couldn’t help but remember that same day in 1987. On the night of the 14th, Dinu was surprised by being able to listen to her favorite artist, Keerthi Pasquel, singing by her bedside.

No one realised, except maybe Dinu, that it was her last night on earth. Dinu thanked all her doctors, especially Dr. Surjit Somiah, who had looked after her so well. That night Dinu uttered these words to her family gathered around her bedside: “Jesus is coming tomorrow morning...beautiful. I am waiting for a message...It is beautiful.” Just as she said to us, the Lord came in the early hours of the 15th. He reached down to earth and picked the most beautiful rose that morning. My little angel is now at the Lord’s side.

Dinu touched the lives and hearts of many souls. I believe she will be looking down eternally on all of her loved ones until the day comes when we too, get a calling of our own. Then we will be reunited in the house of the Lord.

Premakumar and Roshani Fernando

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