[APPRECIATIONS - (24-06-2019)]

Prof. Anton Jayasuriya

Multidimensional personality

Anton Chitralal Jayasuriya, the founding father of the concepts such as integrated medicine, acupuncture, and alternative medicine, was born on June 20, 1930 and died on April 6, 2005. He passed out with an MBBS degree from the University of Ceylon in 1954 and practised Allopathy till he was decertified in 2001.

In addition to being a doctor, he was fellow of a number of international colleges and a visiting professor in acupuncture, homeopathy, and manipulative medicine. He has 14 postgraduate titles, as well as eleven knighthoods from the countries that benefited from his expertise.

Prof. Anton was a multidimensional personality and a man in a million. He served the sick for a time period of over 50 years in Sri Lanka and abroad, until his demise in 2005. During this period, he had treated over 3.5 million people from 140 countries without ever charging a fee. A remarkable act of charity, indeed, among men of healing.

He had certified and accredited over 27,000 doctors, clinicians, and medical practitioners in the fields of acupuncture and integrated medicine. He was a great innovator and a man of vision as the founder of the foregoing disciplines of the integration of complementary and alternative medicine.

He had authored 90 books on medicine and translated them into nine languages. Prof. Anton also authored books on Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism. One of his books, titled ‘The Principle and Practice of Chinese Medicine’ weighs over 3.5 kilograms.

The United Nations awarded him the Millennium Service Award in recognition of his services to humanity in organising alternative medicine, as well as the Open International University for Complementary Medicine (OIUCMED).

Residents of Jaffna named the Casuarina beach as ‘Jayasuriya Avenue when he was functioning as the Director of Health at the Jaffna General Hospital. In August, 1970, the Jaffna Municipal Council passed a unanimous resolution requesting the then Minister of Health to postpone his transfer by four years.

Professor Anton Jayasuriya was a rare genius, a man for all seasons, and a pride to the medical profession as well as Mother Lanka. Truly, he is a remarkable man of heart and talent, whose value and worth cannot be fathomed and appreciated as we are too close to his life’s unfinished work that abruptly ended 14 years ago. May he rest in peace.

T. Don Augustine


Dr. A.T.W.P. Jayawardena

Always charming and kind

Dr. A.T.W.P. Jayawardena, affectionately known to all of us as Dr. Thistle Jayawardena, is no more. That doyen of medical and surgical intensive care in Sri Lanka breathed his last on May 6, after 90 years of an illustrious sojourn on this planet. It was a solemn and peaceful end to a sublimely productive and immensely successful life of a leading light of the medical profession of Sri Lanka.

We grieve the loss of one of the greatest sons of Mother Lanka who was a model of academic brilliance, innovativeness, creativity, and entrepreneurship, as well as a renowned archetype of humility. A man with a heart as large as his imposing physique, he was the father of, and the godfather for, that most laudable venture of establishing Intensive Care Services to seriously ill patients in the whole of this emerald isle.

Young Dr. Jayawardena, following his postgraduate training, and fresh from the acquisition of the coveted Fellowship of the Royal College of Anaesthetists of the United Kingdom, had returned to the island in 1964. He was posted as the Consultant Anaesthetist to the Badulla General Hospital. After that and following a short stint in the Kurunegala General Hospital, he was appointed as the Consultant Cardio-Thoracic Anaesthetist to the Colombo General Hospital.

The latter hospital then was planning to start open-heart surgery and a team of five consultants and a nurse were sent on a round trip to the United States of America for training in that venture. Dr. Thistle Jayawardena was one of the two Consultant Anaesthetists in that team.

On their return, Dr. Jayawardena had categorically stated to the hierarchy of the Ministry of Health that no open-heart surgery could be successfully performed without the services of an Intensive Care Unit. They agreed and entrusted the task of setting up the unit to Dr. Thistle Jayawardena.

He worked ever so hard to set up the unit and on that golden letter day of June 15, 1968; the Colombo General Hospital, as it was then known; saw the birth of its Surgical Intensive Care Unit. This was the very first such unit in the island.

The rest, of course, is history. A few years after the opening of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit, a Medical Intensive Care Unit too was established in the Colombo General Hospital. From then onwards, the specialties of Intensive Care and Critical Care expanded and developed in leaps and bounds. The one person who virtually single-handedly took great pains and all necessary steps to establish these specialties was Dr. Thistle Jayawardena.

Today, virtually every large hospital in our motherland can boast of an Intensive Care Unit for adult patients and quite a few have been able to extend that facility to Paediatric Intensive Care as well. All these units have become the pride of the curative services of our Ministry of Health.

Anaesthesia and Intensive Care are not ‘glamorous’ specialties in the general sense of the phrase. Those consultants are often people who work very quietly, unobtrusively and without fanfare. As a rule, for many of our general populace, all these very fine consultants are quite unknown entities. This is perhaps with the exception of Dr. Thistle Jayawardena, as I am quite sure that many people knew him. Yet for all that, they really are the experts at this calling of treating extremely ill patients.

To a veritable legion of patients who were fighting for their lives, Dr. Thistle Jayawardena was perhaps the classical face of their Guardian Angel. Countless numbers of patients have tremendously benefitted from those golden healing hands of this distinguished virtuoso. His services were there for all, irrespective of any and every other mundane consideration such as caste, creed, wealth, political affiliations, etc.

There must also be literally hundreds and perhaps even thousands of Specialist Consultants and other grades of doctors that Dr. Jayawardena had trained. They have continued to carry the torch that Dr. Jayawardena lit and so lovingly handed over to them by providing them with the finest of training that could ever be given to them.

Dr. Jayawardena was also involved in a multitude of other service portals in the medical profession. These are quite a throng but three would stand out above the others. The first was the Presidency of the Sri Lanka Medical Association, the oldest medical association of Asia and Australasia, which he held with dignity and aplomb in1991.

The second was his stint as the Vice-President of the Sri Lanka Heart Association, where he made very significant contributions to cardiology and cardiac surgery. The third was the yeoman service he provided as the Treasurer of the Sri Lanka Medical Library.

These organisations are three of the finest in the medical profession.

Charming and kind to the core, Dr. Thistle Jayawardena was the personification of the ideal doctor. Suavely and nattily-dressed always, mostly in a two-piece suit of shimmering whiteness, he was a soft-spoken doctor who always, without any exceptions whatsoever, had the welfare of his patients at heart. As for me, he was a sort of a most-wise mentor.

I have always loved the occasions in which I have had the pleasure and the privilege of pursuing many a fruitful conversation with this incomparable persona grata. Yet, for all that, it breaks my heart to be forced to talk about him in the past tense; he is a man who will live in our hearts forever, a man for all seasons.

Our profound condolences go out to the family members of this wonderful soul. Needless to say; we will miss him forever more.

May the turf lie ever so gently on him and may he rest in eternal peace with his creator.

Dr. B.J.C. Perera

Consultant Paediatrician


Chandrasinghe Withanavasan

A sincere and loyal friend

My good friend Chandrasinghe Withanavasan was born on November 21, 1935. He had his primary and secondary education at Vidyaloka College, Galle and Stafford College, Colombo.

He was, by profession, an accountant and was employed at the Ceylon Private Corporation. His whole career was with the private corporation. I came to know Chandrasinghe through my classmate and good friend, Nihal Gunawardane. Our friendship developed thereafter and we naturally strengthened our bonds with my good friends and classmates Raman Rajawasam, Nimal Bandaranyake, Niel Dias, and several others; not excluding my cousin David Weerasinghe.

Chandrasinghe got married on October 21, 1970, to Pushpa Walpitage, who also lived close to his village. She was a devoted and dedicated teacher. I was fortunate to be his best man when he got married in 1970.

During this time, I was in the Police Department and our friendship grew even more. He was a very sincere friend who even attended a case where I was charged in the Colombo Magistrate’s Court, for which I was ultimately acquitted. Chandrasinghe and my cousin, David Weerasinghe, were there at my time of need, together with my family. He adored Pushpa, who was a very dedicated teacher, a committed mother, and a loyal and faithful wife.

Chandrasinghe and his wife were blessed with three daughters: Lakshi, Esha and Vinidu; sons-in-law Asela, Harsha, and Manot—as well as several grandchildren; Onelli, Chenuli, Ruchith, Nelith, and Diyana. Chandrasinghe was very close to his family and his brother Sugathadasa was well-known in the Medical field. His family was a pillar of strength to him; they ensured his good health and contentment with everything around him.

My wife and son, Shevanthie and Navin, used to often visit Chandrasinghe and his family and were always treated to a good meal prepared by his mother-in-law, Emmee Gunasekara.

Chandrasinghe was a man of many vocations: not only was he an accountant, he was also a self-made motorcycle mechanic and a building contractor. Whatever the situation, he was willing to help anyone with anything.

He was always active and was considered to be the advisor to his children, sons-in-law, and grandchildren. I remember especially when he decided to repair a building and was let down by his contractor. When he came to me to seek my assistance, I helped him by obtaining assistance from the police as he was considered a loyal and sincere friend.

When he was living with his daughter Lakshi and decided to go to a boutique to fetch some food, he was knocked down by a motorcyclist at Pepiliyana. Unfortunately, at the time, I was out of the country and was not there to assist him. However, he was admitted to the Kalubowila Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries. I was told by one of his daughters that he had inquired about me when my cousin David Weerasinghe had visited him at the hospital. It was sad that I missed the opportunity of speaking to him before he closed his eyes on March 19, last year.

Chandrasinghe, to me, was a very sincere and loyal friend who always wanted to help his family and friends—always with a positive attitude. He was a gentleman par excellence who was always forthright and never shirked any responsibility.

He was always there to enjoy and live life, and he lived it well. Perhaps, according to my religion, God had better plans for a man who was always sincere, honest, and had a clean life. He was not destined to suffer and opted to go out of this world a true family man and friend.

We will always remember Chandrasinghe, who possessed gentlemanly qualities and was a person who was there to help others who were in need at his own risk. My sympathies to all his family members. May he rest in peace. Nihal de Alwis


Prof. S. Suseendirarajah

Man of methodical precision

No more could we hear Professor S. Suseendirarajah’s voice in the academic boards and intellectual gatherings, where his voice echoed in every sitting of higher bodies of the University of Jaffna.

Maintaining high standards was his mission. He was a man of methodical precision and clarity of language and had been singularly helpful to many of his colleagues. Many junior academics of various fields in the university and society sought his advice and guidance in methodology for their postgraduate research work and academic writing. I am very proud to record that I enjoyed his teaching and guidance as an undergraduate and a postgraduate student cum researcher.

In addition to academic and research works, Professor Suseendirarajah rendered his services as a member of various committees at the Jaffna University, namely the Research Grants Committee, Selection Committee for Professors, and the University Publication Committee. Professor Suseendirarajah, who was undoubtedly the most prolific scholar in the field of Linguistics and widely respected by many a scholar from England, America, India, Malaysia, and Russia, passed away peacefully on January 11.

Swaminathan Suseendirarajah was Professor of Linguistics at the University of Jaffna until October, 1999. His varied and well-documented contributions which appeared in learned academic journals both in Sri Lanka and abroad bear testimony to his wide and analytical knowledge in the field of scholarship.

His research fields included a variety of different disciplines such as Hindu Cultural Studies and Folklore, General Linguistics, Tamil Linguistics, and Applied Linguistics (Teaching Tamil as a Second Language to Speakers of Other Languages like Sinhalese, Chinese and Americans).

Though he was a modest intellectual and almost unknown to the common man, his name was cited in the Marquis ‘Who’s Who in the World’, USA, and also in the Dictionary of International Biography, Cambridge, UK. The Cambridge International Biographical Centre in England also selected his name to be included in their latest publication ‘2000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 20th Century’.

Apart from the academic services within the university curricula and syllabi, Professor Susee also contributed his intellectual services to society by editing the thoughts and writings of Pof. Kailasapathy, a prominent scholar in Saiva Siddhanta in Jaffna along with A.Sabaratnam, a freelance writer under the title Kailasapathy Chinthanaikal (Thoughts of Kailasapathy) published by the University of Jaffna and analysed critically the works of Pandithamani Kanapathippillai under the title Eelathu Pandithamani (compiled by Dr. Kandiah Shriganeshanand published by Kumaran Book House, Colombo) with his quest for objective and critical approach.

Born on October 9, 1933; in the coastal village of Myliddy, Jaffna and into a well-educated family; he was the seventh child of nine children of a leading educationist in the North, S. Swaminathan, a former Principal of the Saiva Teachers’ Training College, Thirunelveli, Jaffna.

Having received his primary education from Gnanodaya Vidyasalai in Myliddy South, Jaffna and Union College, Tellippalai, he pursued his secondary education at Parameshvara College, Jaffna and St. Joseph’s College, Bangalore in India. He obtained BA in Tamil in 1958 and an MA in Tamil in 1959 from the University of Madras.

Having worked as a journalist at the Associated Newspapers Ltd, Lake House, Colombo, for a brief period, he pursued his postgraduate studies at the Centre of Advanced Studies in Linguistics, Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu; in July, 1960; under eminent scholars such as Prof. T.P. Meenakshisudaram, Prof. M. Sanmugampilai, Prof. S. Agesthialingom, and Prof. S.V. Shanmugam—all of whom excelled in Dravidian Linguistics.

With his Master’s Degree with First-Class Honours and a Postgraduate Diploma in Sanskrit, as well as certificates in Malayalam and Kannada, he had a rare chance of being appointed as a lecturer in Linguistics at the Annamalai University.

He was the first to receive a PhD in Linguistics from Annamalai University, India, in 1967. His doctoral thesis, Jaffna Tamil Phonology and Morphology, was highly commended by scholars such as M. Andronov from Russia, a scholar in Dravidian Linguistics; Professor James W.Gair from the Cornel University, USA; Professor R.E. Asher from the Edinburgh University, UK; and Prof. R. Householder from the Indiana University, USA.

After such enthusiastic academic achievements, he began his budding academic career as a Lecturer in Tamil at the undergraduate Department of Jaffna College, Vadukottai, Jaffna, in 1967, and was appointed a Lecturer in Linguistics; first at the University of Colombo and later, at the University of Kelaniya, as a Senior Lecturer in Linguistics.

Having served for more than 40 years in various esteemed positions and led an exemplary life as an eminent academic, a teacher, and a researcher par excellence who fought for the cause of upholding high standards in university education; the professor’s remarkable scholarship, high quality of research, and uncompromising stand on upholding principles; would be followed by his students forever. Professor Suseendirarajah will always be remembered for the role he played in propagating the use of Tamil Linguistics and Cultural Studies in our educational fields for more than six decades. May his soul rest in peace!

Dr. Kandiah Shriganeshan

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