Her passing closes the chapter on the life of an iconic couple Rosemary Weeramantry The passing of Rosemary Weeramantry a few days ago at the age of 83 years and her husband the world-renowned Judge and Jurist, C.G. Weeramantry a little over four years ago at the age of 90, have removed from our midst [...]

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Her passing closes the chapter on the life of an iconic couple

Rosemary Weeramantry

The passing of Rosemary Weeramantry a few days ago at the age of 83 years and her husband the world-renowned Judge and Jurist, C.G. Weeramantry a little over four years ago at the age of 90, have removed from our midst an iconic couple who brought lustre and glory to the entire country and the wider Sri Lankan community.

Christie Weeramantry was a colossus in the legal firmament. Behind this great man stood a great woman, his beloved wife Rosemary who cared for him in every way and saw to it that all needs and comforts were provided to enable him to strive, excel and achieve greatness.

It was in 1958 that Christie Weeramantry met Rosemary de Sampayo and in his own words? “I realized that this was the young lady I had been looking for. I wasted no time in showing my interest which was reciprocated and things moved rapidly and by 1959 we were married.”

They enjoyed a close-knit family life and were blessed with five children i.e.,two sons and three daughters and eleven grandchildren.

Christie described their life? together as
follows:

“Rosemary and I shared all things, all experiences and a series of wonderful memories. Rosemary was an immense source of support to me in my work, never interfering in it but always unobtrusively giving me all the support needed. Even when I launched out on the great enterprise of writing my books on the law of contracts, the amount of time this claimed increased my concentration on legal activities. Yet Rosemary never grudged this extra time but wove herself into the activities connected with it. When typists were typing the manuscript or juniors were reading through it or I was busy writing it, she was part of the scene, supporting us all with refreshments as well as with her company and making less tedious the endless hours spent on this work”.

It was during the April holidays of 1962 that I first met Christie. My family was spending a few days at the Railway Quarters occupied by Shirley and Nanda Karunanayake (Nanda Akka) at Nanuoya, when a Benz arrived from Nuwara Eliya. Next morning, I saw the visitors at breakfast – the redoubtable criminal lawyer Lucien Weeramantry, his wife Doreen (‘Bubsy’)and Christie Weeramantry. Lucien attracted all the attention. Having appeared for Ven. Talduwe Somarama in the Bandaranaike assassination case, in 1961, he was the talk of the town. I closely watched the conversation between my father Dharmasena Weeraratna and Lucien. Christie hardly spoke but was cheerful and smiling.

After their departure, one of my Aunts made a prophetic statement. She said,‘You may talk highly of Lucien, but one day Christie will outshine all’. How true I thought to myself much later in life.

My path crossed that of Christie again in 1974. Daisy Thenuwara (a close relative) advised me to consult Professor Christie Weeramantry who had returned to Sri Lanka for the holidays from Australia to seek advice on pursuing higher studies overseas. Christie encouraged the idea of studying overseas and said that if I wished to apply to Monash University (then relatively new) he would provide a reference.

I duly applied and in January 1975 received the letter of admission from the Faculty of Law, Monash University. Christie invited me in the meantime to proofread and correct the manuscript of his new book ‘Law in Crisis – Bridges of Understanding’. I did much of that work at a house in Sulaiman Terrace, where Rosemary was the hostess and a great help to her husband. Rosemary had a character far different to that of Christie. Very opposite one might say but complementary.

Arriving in Melbourne in July 1975, I visited Christie in his spacious office at the Law Faculty at Monash University. He welcomed me warmly and took me to his home in Glen Waverley where I met the whole family- Rosemary and their five lovely children – Ravi,? Shalini, Romesh, Nilmini and Roshy. There began a long and close association with the Weeramantry family.

Studying in Australia and interaction with Christie Weeramantry changed the course of my life.? The Weeramantry family home (Maha Gedera) wherever it was, was an open house where many friendships were forged. Rosemary was a talented pianist. Old Sinhala favourites of Sunil Shantha, C.T. Fernando, and Baila music kept everyone happy. The Weeramantry children’s weddings were another source of joy. Rosemary played a big role in these family gatherings.

Rosemary was always beside her beloved Christie, ever loving and supporting her husband.

I also visited them at the Hague, Netherlands with my brother Tissa in July 1993. Christie took us to the Peace Palace and showed us the imposing International Court of Justice.

Watching with sadness the solemn online funeral proceedings of Rosemary Weeramantry (March 31), I was reminded of that sublime quote from the ninth stanza of Thomas Grey’s poem “Elegy Written a Country Churchyard”, the paths of glory lead but to the grave.

??Senaka Weeraratna


He lived his life to the full with generosity and charm

Dr NIHAL ANTON AELIAN ABEYESUNDERE

Nihal Abeyesundere was born on February 18, 1932 in Bogowantalawa, and died on February 12, this year? in Colombo.

He spent the early part of his life until he graduated as a medical doctor in 1965 and subsequently his early professional years until 1982 in Sri Lanka. During his early career he served the Ministry of Health in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) as a District Medical Officer and then as a Regional Malaria Officer of the Anti Malaria Campaign when his passion for public health was ignited. This led him later to a committed career in this field.

He became the Chief Epidemiologist in the country (1970 – 1973), and thereafter was appointed as the Director of the Anti Malaria Campaign, (1973 – 1982) which was a position of great responsibility given that malaria had resurged in the country following a near elimination effort a few years before he was appointed.

His successful work and vast experience in public health in Sri Lanka led him to a career in the World Health Organisation, first as a malariologist in Bangladesh and then in Nepal. In 1989 he was appointed as the World Health Organisation Representative in Bangladesh in which post he served until retirement in 1994.

Nihal was a committed public health professional. After he returned to Sri Lanka he was an ardent member of the College of Community Physicians of Sri Lanka, never missing their annual sessions and being outspoken on important issues to further the cause of public health. He also played an important role in the Association of Former International Civil Servants in Sri Lanka, serving as its President from 2004 to 2006 and added much life and energy to all the social and charitable activities of the Association.

Nihal was an inspirational leader. Colleagues who worked under his leadership speak fondly of him and reminisce with nostalgia about the period he led their programmes; he remained a friend to them for the rest of his life. He was a true gentleman with an exuberant, vivacious and buoyant personality. One would never see him worried or in a sullen mood, and he was always the life of the party. He was a great story teller and would keep us engrossed listening to his career experiences during the early years when he served in rural areas of Sri Lanka as a medical officer when the practice of medicine was less supported by technology and required hard work and much adaptation to stringent conditions. He lived his life to the full with generosity and charm.

Hailing from a family of musicians, he and his wife Nalini who was his constant companion, were blessed with two devoted children and three grandchildren who were the pride and joy of his life. They were surrounded by a wide but close circle of family and friends with whom he shared a rich social life.

He will be greatly missed by his wife Nalini, son Nirendra and daughter Nilani, his three grandchildren, and all of us to whom he was an inspirational figure.

?Kamini Mendis

Hema Dassanayake

Nimal Hettiaratchchi


Brilliant Shakespeare scholar whose goodness radiated a quiet influence on many

Dr Dennis Bartholomeusz

Dr Dennis Stephen Bartholomeusz, an acknowledged world authority on Shakespearean studies (90) passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on March 25 in Melbourne.

Dennis was born and raised in Sri Lanka, attended St Joseph’s College Colombo, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in English Literature from the University of Ceylon. He established the English Department at Aquinas University College, in Colombo in 1954, where he was one of the first members of the English Department to be a literature specialist. He directed a number of plays, including ‘The Teahouse of the August Moon’, with Hilary de Alwis, a hilarious Japanese-American clown, ‘Moliere’s Tartuffe’ the two absurd hypocrites played by Percy Colin-Thomé and Brian Rutnam, the tragic beauty of Reneira Campbell’s Joan of Arc in Jean Anouilh’s ‘The Lark’, all box office successes at the Lionel Wendt Theatre in Colombo. In 1966, he graduated with a doctorate in English Literature from the University of London.

As a Reader of English at Monash University’s English Department, he analysed how Shakespearean plays had been performed down the ages, resolving the age-old conflict between academics and actors over what Shakespearean texts represent. By looking at the history of Shakespeare on stage, he explored the link between text and presentation. He believed that a historical study of a play in performance, can unfold many complex cultural significances, while extending our understanding of the text, and enriching our awareness of its form and meaning.

He injected his methods into directing performances by students and staff in the Alexander Theatre: King Lear in 1966, and Coriolanus in 1973. It seems paradoxical that King Lear considered by many literary critics to be Shakespeare’s “greatest achievement”, should have a reputation for being impossible to stage. But the first ever Australian production of King Lear was directed by Dennis and performed on stage at Monash University, as part of the third year English course on Shakespearean drama. His lectures were always insightful, and thought-provoking, encouraging students to make their own discoveries, and make recommendations for their own productions.

He committed his analysis of the evidence on Macbeth to the book Macbeth and the Players (Cambridge University Press, 1969); which included interpretations by Sir Arthur John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, Samuel Richardson and Eric Porter. Confining the study to a single play, he brought the interpretations into focus, still further sharpened by concentrating on the two principal characters, Macbeth and Lady M. The book brought him wide reputation, including a Fellowship at the Folger Shakespeare Institute in Washington DC, and a visiting Associate Professorship at the University of Illinois in 1972.

He reminds us that ‘Poetry is the secret life of each and all the arts’(Jacques Maritain), and that Shakespeare’s plays contain some of the most expressive poetry ever written. His book on the The Winter’s Tale in performance was not only a technical and scholarly affair, but a creative act.

Dennis retired from teaching at Monash University in 1996, but there was no diminution in his research or academic activity. India’s Shakespeare co-written with Poonam Trivedi was published in 2005, presenting a collection of essays on how Shakespeare was read, taught, translated, and performed into the cultural fabric of India.

Profound and astoundingly brilliant, his goodness and compassion radiated a quiet influence on the people around him. Inspiringly, he remained devoted to English literature to the end.

Marie Bartholomeusz


His expertise on non-communicable diseases was widely recognised globally

Dr Methsiri Herat Gunaratne

We were all saddened to learn of the passing away of Dr. Methsiri Herat Gunaratne on March 19. He studied at Ananda College and later qualified as a medical doctor in New Delhi and specialized in tropical medicine in well known centres in London, Liverpool and Hawaii. He served in hospitals in both U. K. and in Sri Lanka.

He was the son of Dr. V. T. Herat Gunaratne, the first and only Sri Lankan to hold the coveted position of Regional Director of the World Health Organisation.

Methsiri followed his father’s footsteps and joined the WHO at an early stage in his career and was based in Fiji, Thailand and Indonesia. Later until his retirement he served as Regional Adviser at the W.H.O.? Office in New Delhi.

Even though I had met Methsiri on a few occasions in various countries, it was during my five year stint in New Delhi in the 1990s that we became good friends, a friendship that lasted until his untimely death a few days ago.

In UN circles, as elsewhere, and this still continues to be the case, it is common for certain staff members to spread malicious slanders and run down colleagues and prospective applicants for no apparent reason. Methsiri a modest man of few words stands out prominently as one who never had a bad word for anyone. Even in times of stress he remained calm and cool, never losing his composure. Even after retirement several countries requested his services but he was keen to enjoy his retirement. His expertise on non-communicable diseases was widely recognised.

He was an active member of the Rotary Club (Colombo West), Tennis Club, the retired International Civil Servants Association etc. He enjoyed going on trips abroad as well as in Sri Lanka.

Methsiri carried on the long family tradition of sponsoring the annual perahera of Muneeswaran temple in Chilaw, the birth place of his ancestors. He was a silent benefactor to many charities and people in need.

He was very much a family man. During a brief illness to which he finally succumbed, he was lovingly cared for by his wife Isramali, daughter Natasha and son Dimitri. May they have the strength to cope with the blessings of the Triple Gem.

Thinking of Methsiri, I am reminded of the words of Shakespeare:

“His life was gentle; and the elements

So mixed in him, that Nature might
stand up

And say to all the world, THIS WAS A MAN!”

May he attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana.

Dr Dayanath Jayasuriya, PC


 

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