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He was the epitome of an honest public servant


The passing away of Neil Seneviratne, former Surveyor General three months ago has deeply saddened the entire Surveyor fraternity.

He was born on September 21, 1936 to the family of D.B. Seneviratne and Sumana Seneviratne, and was educated at Trinity College, Kandy.  On passing out as a young science graduate from the University of Colombo, he started his life as a teacher at Kingswood College, Kandy.

On November 2, 1959, he joined the Survey Department as an Assistant Superintendent of Surveys.  He then had the opportunity to travel to Cambridge University in England for further studies on surveying technology.  He had an unblemished career in the Public Service of 37 years, and served as the Surveyor General of Sri Lanka from 1993 to 1996.

Mr. Seneviratne was a devoted husband to Sepalika, daughter of Central Bank Governor William Tennakoon and Mrs. Daisy Tennakoon. Both.were loving parents to their three children, Hiranthi, Navin and Duminda. He was a highly respected person in society, and the entire family had his honourable qualities.

Mr Seneviratne was a lecturer at the Institute of Surveying and Mapping, Diyatalawa from 1968 to 1971 and was the head of the Institute in 1970. He served in many parts of the island during his early days at the Department before he was transferred to the Head Office. He also worked as an International Consultant in the Kingdom of Bahrain for few years in early 1980s and returned to the Department.

During President  Ranasinghe Premadasa’s term, Mr Seneviratne headed the team of officers for the selection of suitable sites for the location of the garment factories on available state lands taking into consideration transport and other infrastructural facilities. He was also instrumental in establishing Divisional Survey Offices in Divisional Secretary division areas to expedite survey work and many more innovative ideas of management. He was also in charge of the Agricultural Base Mapping Project for some time, where the new metric series of topographic maps of the island mapping commenced.

Neil as he was known to the survey community was a great pillar of strength to all of us. While in the Department he captained the Departmental cricket team in Government Services tournaments and also played tennis for the Department. While in Diyatalawa, he represented the Government Services cricket team in cricket tournaments in Badulla. At the Survey Department although he was a “boss” to most of us, he treated us more like a friend and was an example to all of us to follow.  He was a role model as an honest public servant.

He served as the Secretary General to the National Chamber of Commerce for a few years after his retirement from public service.

Mr Seneviratne was the Past District Governor of 306A of the Lions  Movement in 1996/97 and along with his wife Lady Lion Sepalika always prioritised the needs of others very sincerely. Both spent many hours and their personal funds on community work.

His kindness and admirable qualities will never be forgotten.  May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.

-Sarath Jayatilake

You will continue to live in the hearts of those who matter

 M.K. Eelaventhan

M.K. Eelaventhan was born in September 1932 to Manicavasagar  Kanagasabapathy of Nallur and Mrs. Sivayogam Kangasabapathy of Columbuthurai, Jaffna. Mr. Kanagasabapathy was a Station Master and at the time of retirement, he was an Investigating Officer.

Eelavethan was educated at St. John’s College, Jaffna, and at Wesley College, Colombo, and joined the Central Bank of Ceylon.

He retired in 1980 as the head of the Tamil translation section. He contributed much to ensure that the Tamil language had its due place in the Central Bank where it mattered.

Eelaventhan married Arulampikai Kailasapillai, daughter of Mr. Kailasapillai –VC. Chairman of Mandatheevu/Allapiddi/ Mankumban. The irony of it is that Mr. Kailasapillai was a Member of the Tamil Congress, totally opposed to the Illanankai Thamil Arasuh Kadchi at that time to which party Eelaventhan belonged.

He was the eldest of five children, three older boys and two younger girls. I am the third, and there are only two of us left behind.

Eelaventhan passed away on April 28 at the age of 92 after a three-week-long hospitalisation for a suspected stroke. Perhaps this was the only time he would have rested so long. Even at this age, he was always on the move attending mostly political meetings and other family functions in Canada where he was invited to say a few words. His numerous friends in Sri Lanka often asked me about his health.  I promptly replied that he was keeping fine as he had no time to fall sick.

Today, the term “Illankai Mathiya Vanki” in Tamil, displayed in addition to the other two languages at the entrance to the Central Bank is due to the unwavering effort of Eelaventhan who insisted that proper Tamil terms should be used. He was a follower of Marai Malai Aadigalar who advocated that the Tamil language should not unnecessarily borrow words from other languages, especially Sanskrit.

In the 1950’s when S.WR.D. Bandaranaike planted the seeds of ‘Sinhala Only’, which was nurtured by almost all the other Sinhala political parties competitively, Eelaventhan, a supporter of a wider united Ceylon, saw the dangers ahead and became a keen supporter of S.J.V. Chelvanayakam and his policies to achieve a Federal solution for the Tamils to live with self-respect and dignity.  However, there were differences of opinion in the Federal Party (Tamil Aarasu Kachchi) as to how to achieve it, and Eelaventhan joined V. Navaratnam’s self-rule party, expecting to accelerate the achievement, but failed.  Meanwhile, the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi became a member of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) which accommodated most of the Tamil political parties and became a formidable force.  My brother freely discussed these matters at home and I read his articles before publication.

He was appointed as the president of the Colombo branch of the Tamil United Liberation Front. Eelaventhan, I, and my younger sister were victims of the 1977 communal riots. We lost heavily. Eelaventhan was taken into custody and kept in confinement at the Jaffna Kachcheri, allegedly for inciting violence. However, various Tamil MPs took up this matter in Parliament and after a couple of months in custody, he was released.

Thereafter, he travelled to India and met the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Indira Gandhi was apprised of the problems faced by the Tamils. These matters were not publicised in the press.  Karunanidhi, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu was associated with Eelaventhan for quite some time and also officiated at the wedding of Eelaventhan’s elder daughter. However, with time, they failed to see eye to eye.

Eelaventhan was appointed an MP but lost his seat due to certain circumstances. He was considered a fire-brand. He did not hesitate to question anyone.

My dear Anna, you fought for the Tamil cause until your last breath, with honesty and integrity. You will continue to live in the hearts of those who matter.

I look back at the days when we discussed politics and argued about the right approach. You were a misunderstood politician because of your sincere and honest attitude though your mission was unaccomplished.

K. Balendra

He was greatly admired by peers and students alike

Emeritus Prof I.K. Perera 

When I learned from a mutual friend that Indral had passed away, my first reaction was ‘He has gone to his rest to a better place given the man he was’. Indral Kithsiri Perera, Senior Professor and one-time Vice Chancellor of the University of Sabaragamuwa passed away on April 5,  this year, after a long illness bravely borne, being tenderly and lovingly cared for by wife Dharshanie and son Chinthaka.

Our association with Indral and Dharshanie, was a rekindling of a childhood friendship between my husband Rabo – onetime Anthonian and Indral – forever Trinitian, and alumni of the University of Colombo. They found themselves married to classmates from Visakha, the foundation which cemented a close friendship between the two families. My first impression of Indral, an academic with a Ph.D. in Laser Physics from the University of Hull in the United Kingdom, was his simplicity of manner and warmth of hospitality, when we visited their then home in Maharagama.

Prof. Perera was greatly admired by peers and students alike. In his message of condolence current Vice Chancellor of the University of Sabaragamuwa, Prof. M. Sunil Shantha states, “Senior Professor Perera was a true visionary who dedicated his life to improving the lives of others, and his contributions to the Physics profession, particularly in the field of Mathematics, and to the education sector will be remembered for generations to come”.

Sandun Perera, from among a multitude who had the privilege of being a student of Prof. Perera, writes on social media, “Sabaragamuwa is a young university among senior giants in
Sri Lanka. Still, we have made a significant contribution in the making of scientists and philosophers, to make the world a better place. In doing so, much of the hard work was shouldered by our pioneering Vice Chancellors. Dear IK Sir being the second VC of Sabaragamuwa and the first to represent the Faculty of Applied Sciences, your leadership was pivotal and will be remembered forever. May your rich soul attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana.”

Dharshanie and Chinthaka, at this time of great sorrow, I hope you find some solace in the loving tributes that are being paid to Indral, a testimony to the many contributions he made as an academic and an administrator in the field of higher education in Sri Lanka.

-Vijayaluxmi Sivananthan Rajah