Covid-19 vaccines for children: Latest medical information – The

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By Dr B.J.C.Perera
MBBS(Cey), DCH(Cey), DCH(Eng), MD(Paed), MRCP(UK), FRCP(Edin), FRCP(Lon), FRCPCH(UK), FSLCPaed, FCCP, Hony FRCPCH(UK), Hony. FCGP(SL)
Specialist Consultant Paediatrician and Honorary Senior Fellow, Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Joint Editor, Sri Lanka Journal of Child Health
Section Editor, Ceylon Medical Journal
In these days of evident uncertainty regarding the likely progress of the SARS-CoV-2, the causative virus of COVID-19, there is a state of apprehension and intense anxiety amongst the general populace of our country. With the added complication of several mutant variants, all designated by the letters of the Greek alphabet, the melting pot actually boils and even overflows.
In addition to scientific data and proper pedagogic assessments, there is a lot of misinformation and disinformation, particularly regarding the COVID-19 vaccines in all kinds of print and electronic media. Some totally unsubstantiated allegations, stipulations, postulations and prophesies of gloom, are being made and widely circulated for the consumption of the general public, particularly through social media. People who flatly refuse to take the vaccine, those who are hesitant to receive it and confirmed anti-vaxxers are having a field day in trying to dissuade the general public from taking the vaccine.
This situation is of particular concern when such false proclamations tend to intensely discourage children being given the vaccine. In this paradise isle, firstly it was the front-line healthcare workers and the tri-forces who were prioritised to receive the vaccine. Then came the over 60-year-olds, especially those who have on-going comorbid diseases. Following that, young adults and those under 60 years with coexisting other diseases were lined up. Then the authorities started to vaccinate all those from 19 to 60 years of age followed by students in the higher classes of 15 to 19 years of age and those over 12 years with coexistent diseases that make them vulnerable. The latest initiative of the government, based on medical advice, is to vaccinate all children from 12 to 15 years of age, starting from 07th January 2022.
The anti-vaxxers and their ilk have put forward many ‘faults and complications’ of the vaccines to dissuade others from taking the vaccine and also desist from giving it to their children. They, the antivaxxers, first blew up, out of all proportions, the issue of clotting disorders after COVID vaccinations. True enough it could occur but it is a very rare phenomenon. An erudite article published in the reputed journal Nature on 24th August 2021 estimated these clotting problems to occur in or less than 1 in 50,000 of those under 50 years of age who have received the Oxford-AstraZenica vaccine.
Then came the canard of reduced sexual prowess and sub-fertility induced by the vaccine in young people. This is a total myth and there is no scientific evidence whatsoever for this miserable contention. There is no authentic research communication to the veracity of it at all. This ‘rumour’ totally discouraged a lot of youth, young people and young adults from taking the vaccine, without any justification for that action at all.
The most recent adverse effect that has been brought to light is the occurrence of myocarditis and to a lesser extent, pericarditis, following the vaccine. The human heart is a muscular pump and myocarditis refers to inflammation of the specialised muscle fibres in the human heart. Pericarditis denotes inflammation of the membrane, the pericardium, that covers the external surface of the human heart. These inflammatory complications are seen in young adults and children and are extremely rare. An article in a Pre-print journal medRxiv, posted on 05th December 2021, estimated that these complications occurred in 297 out of a total of 19,740,741doses of the m-RNA vaccines administered. This gives a rate of 15 per million doses or 1.5 per one hundred thousand. Symptomatic myocarditis is relatively mild and does not cause long-term heart damage. Many scientific articles that have looked at this complication have not reported any deaths. In fact, COVID-19 disease itself could cause myocarditis, with an incidence of 28 percent (28,000 per 100,000) of all hospitalised patients with COVID-19. The considered opinion of the scientific community is that the complication rate of the disease itself is much more than the adverse effects such as myocarditis that could occur with the vaccine itself.
Yet for all that, one must always keep in mind that these complication rates cannot be superimposed on to given individuals. In other words, if for example, the hypothetical incidence is one in 50,000, when one looks at a single person who is to be given the vaccine, we have no way of knowing for sure whether that individual may or may not be the one to get the complication. The scientifically quoted rates only confirm their rarity or higher incidence and prevalence, as the case may be. Safe, effective vaccines against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) are urgently needed in children younger than 12 years of age. There are some recent developments regarding the feasibility of vaccinating children under 12 years. A phase 1, dose-finding study and an ongoing phase 2–3 randomised trial are being conducted to investigate the safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy of two doses of the BNT162b2 Pfizer vaccine administered 21 days apart to children six months to 11 years of age.
From the results of that study, in a scientific paper published in the most prestigious New England Journal of Medicine on 06th January 2022, the researchers have shown that a Covid-19 vaccination regimen consisting of two 10-microgram doses of the Pfizer vaccine, administered 21 days apart, was found to be safe, immunogenic and efficacious in children 5 to 11 years of age. It is noteworthy that the 10-microgram dose is one third of the adult dose of 30 microgram and two doses that are 21 days apart are needed.
In addition, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report details the preliminary safety findings for the administration of Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine among children aged five to 11 years.
To characterise safety of the vaccine in children aged 5 to 11 years, the CDC reviewed adverse events after receipt of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a passive vaccine safety surveillance system co-managed by CDC and United States Food and Drug Administration, from November 3 to December 19, 2021. Approximately 8.7 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine were administered to children agedfive to 11 years during this period. They found that 97.6 percent of the adverse reactions reported were not serious. There were 11 children who developed myocarditis and all recovered with no long-term heart problems.
Currently in Sri Lanka, only a single dose of Pfizer vaccine is given to children and young people. This position will need to be re-evaluated and revisions made thereof, if and when more scientific information becomes available. We are continuously learning about COVID-19 on the go and nothing is written in stone to stay like that forever. Flexibility with decisions being made on robust scientific grounds would be the way to go in the future.

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Sorry folks, Cassandra will keep mum about local glories and glorious living in our country. If she cries her usual lamentation of “I see blood /mayhem/riots or whatever …” it won’t do you good; Cass neither. Consequently, she again casts her eye over the oceans to pass on snippets of news. Her cowardly restraint is due to a piece in The Island of Wednesday, January 12 the headline of which read: “Warning over public comments: Explanation sought from police.” It leads with the sentence: “The Human Rights Commission has asked police headquarters not to interfere with people’s freedom of expression.” Hosannas and kudos to the boss of the HRC, an intrepid woman! Praise be, but…
Cass’ situ is still gas-less, courageless, hopeless and helpless. A kind store owner from an outstation offered her a cylinder of gas. No thanks, Cass said. She waits till her usual gas vendor delivers a cylinder ‘pramithi anuwa’. Does Cass blame Litro gas or its boss who said that the proportion of the two gases that make up cooking gas has not been tampered with, even as cylinders exploded all over the island? Does Cass blame the az mobile notarygovernment? Not at all. Then whom does she blame? Herself for changing to gas usage to save electricity for the good of the country. She blames the cylinders, which though seemingly innocuous, get the devil into them and decide to bedevil their connecting tubes and regulator, so gas leaks and the cylinders turn to lethal bombs. People are injured. But never mind; the cheated, injured and dead were all simple folk, expendable and never mind their loss. As was said, no gas cylinder explosions occurred in Colombo.
Djokovic vs Australian Immigration Minister
The Australian Open Tennis tournament scheduled to start on January 17 was keenly awaited as a fillip to the spirits and a much needed distraction from current travails. And who was Cass cheering for? Novak Djokovic, undoubtedly. He is spectacular, having won the Australian Open nine times: 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020 and 2021. So what were we waiting for? To see him win the tenth time, a record if ever there was one. He won the British tournament in Wimbledon six times starting in 2011 and ending in 2021; French Open in 2016 and 2021, and the US Open in 2011, 2015 and 2018.
It was reported that when applying for his visa to Melbourne, he was permitted an exemption from vaccination against COVID-19. He had caught the infection a month ago but mercifully mildly. On arrival in Melbourne he was detained and quarantined. His lawyers, cheered on by Australian fans and approbation worldwide, argued for his freedom with the judge, pronouncing his detention in quarantine be ended forthwith. Then up rises the Minister of Immigration who is determined to cancel his visa. It is yet to be seen whether Novak Djokovic will enthral his fans again in Melbourne.

Satire on impact of global warming

I watched Netflix’s second highest grossing film Don’t Look Up and without setting my mind on it, accepted it at face value. Astronomy research assistant, Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), discovers a huge object with its trajectile pointed earthwards. She alerts her boss Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) who co-opts a NASA veteran and they solicit an interview with the President of the United States. This time around the Prez is a woman, Janie Orlean, with long golden hair and a couple of fools around her, played brilliantly by Meryl Streep. After a wait they do get an interview. The Prez almost laughs at the earnest young female researcher and brushes the entire matter off with a ‘let’s wait and see’. Finally they decide to go public on a morning show, The Daily Rip, with Cate Blanchet as co-anchor. Here again derision, so Kate goes ballistic but to no avail.
The film ends with the massive comet, with parts disintegrating and missiles trying to destroy or deflect it, impacting Earth to totally destroy it. Kate and Mindy, with families, get pulverised mid meal. The Prez and an entourage of 2000 escape in a sleeper spaceship and land on a habitable planet. Orlean is attacked, killed and devoured by a monstrous creature.
On Wednesday, January 12, I listened to a BBC interview with director-producer and writer Adam McKay, who said that the intention of making the film was to get a message across. It had a short run in cinemas after its release on December 10, 2021. Then streamed on Netflix.
Don’t Look Up is a satirical sci-fi film intended to awaken people to the imminent and immense danger of global warming. It also satirises government and media indifference to the climate crisis. It received mixed reviews, though the acting was commended by all critics. However, the severity and immediacy of its warning message about global warming was doubtful in its impact. The film received four nominations for the 79th Golden Globe awards, but won none. Netflix reported that the film set a new record for the most viewing hours in a single week, making it the third most watched Netflix film so far.
To Cass, Al Gore’s 2006 film on global warming, The Inconvenient Truth, made a greater impact as there was no intention to entertain, at all. Cassandra bets our Sinhala cinema folk could come up with a superb satire or tragicomedy on the country situation. But censorship? Yes.
A sort of comedy is playing out in Britain at the moment; a frenzy of enquiry, was he there or wasn’t he? The ‘he’ here is PM Boris Johnson and the ‘there’ is a party at the garden of 10 Downing Street in May 2020, with the first lockdown in force. Some say BJ and wife were at the party, he and others say no. To Cass it looks like a genuine storm in a teacup. The announcement or invitation email that circulated among staff at the PM’s residence or office indicated that it would be under strict pandemic restrictions and said to ‘bring your own alcohol’.

Local tragicomedy

We watched a sort of comedy on a day that reminds us of tragedy. Cass means here the recent commemoration of SWRD Bandaranaike’s birth anniversary. There was Maithripala Sirisena leading the Blue Hands with floral tributes, accompanied by sacked State Minister Susil Premajayantha in the forefront. Cass swears her eyes were playing no tricks when she espied him again following the two daughters and their retinue to place flowers at the feet of the statue of their father at Galle Face. Premajayantha is running the double race again with new Hands and the inheritors of the Hand. This blue politician was the first SLFPer to sign in as a member of the newly formed SLPP. Here was a tragicomedy, satire with no satirical impact, showing the flat out reluctance to go back to being a nonentity. ‘Cling to any branch’ is the name of the game.

By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana
It was 14th January 1982. I, together with my family, was making slow progress from Colombo to Matara in the pre-expressway era, when we heard on the car radio, the noon news bulletin of SLBC announcing the death of my father. There were no mobile phones then for me to receive the sad news from the family. My sister Mali, the only other medic in the family, very kindly undertook the onerous task of looking after our father in the intimate environs of our traditional family home ‘Wijaya Giri”‘ in Godagama rather than allowing him to wither away on a hospital bed. Having visited my father a few days earlier and persuaded Mali against active treatment in an inevitable situation, I was not surprised to learn the end of his multifaceted life but was sad that I could not be there, holding his hand that penned millions of words, when he left this world after decades of selfless service.
Standing at the foot of the bed and looking at his majestic face darkened by death, I thought to myself, “What have I done, compared to what you achieved in so many spheres?” I am still reading about his unmatchable achievements and learning more and more about him from others who write about him. has taken 40 long years for me to pen this tribute although my admiration of him has grown exponentially over the years. In fact, I wondered whether I could be tarnishing his image posthumously by referring to him as a politician because he had so many other significant achievements. I am doing so purposefully to emphasis that our country was once blessed with politicians whose mission was to serve.

First to represent the UNP from Matara District
Communism took root in the Matara district because the leader of the Communist Party Dr S A Wickramasinghe was from there and also a very caring general practitioner. In fact, my father started social service in the early 1930s with Dr Wickramasinghe, forming the Matara Youth Society with him as secretary and Dr Wickramasinghe as the president. Although they parted ways due to ideological differences, they remained friends, and Dr W was gracious enough to offer him the nomination from the Communist Party on more than one occasion. In spite of certainty of success, my father refused and stood by the UNP. The Matara branch of the UNP proposed him as the candidate for the 1952 and 1956 general elections, but the hierarchy of the UNP parachuted outsiders encouraging caste-based politics.
In 1960, the UNP high-command was forced to relent and my father successfully contested Matara seat becoming the first UNP MP for Matara and the first to do so from the whole district. He was chosen to propose the vote of thanks to the throne speech of the Dudley Senanayake government enabling him to demonstrate his much-recognised oratory in the parliament too. His old friend, Dr W retorted cynically from the Opposition benches, “My good friend has made an excellent speech, as usual, but it may well be the funeral oration of this government”, which was prophetic! Unfortunately, my father lost in July, the seat he gained in March. One reason for the loss was malicious stories spread by his opponents alleging he had said, that he needed to wash the seat in the parliament before sitting on it. I know well this was more hurtful to him than losing the election as he was one of the pioneers in the South to stand against caste divisions. In fact, in early 1940s, when caste discrimination was rampant in the South, he organised, as the Secretary of the Matara branch, a Sinhala New Year Celebration which commenced with many from different castes eating Kiri Bath, sitting on mats with the leader of the Sinhala Maha Sabha, S W R D Bandaranaike.

S W R D’s offer
The SLFP government people elected in 1956 with high hopes also started faltering. Sensing the imminent danger, SWRD started planning a revamp. He wanted to go to the UN to display his masterful oratory and reconstitute the Cabinet on his return. He sent an emissary to my father with the offer of appointment to the Senate as the Junior Minister of Education straightaway to be made the Minister with the planned reshuffle. According to my mother, who overheard the conversation, he did not take even a second to refuse the offer.

Betrayal by UNP
Undaunted by the loss, my father continued to teach and do social work. The crossover of C P De Silva caused Mahanama Samaraweera to be nominated the UNP candidate for Matara. J R Jayewardene persuaded my father to contest the Kamburupitiya seat saying, “Justin, don’t worry. Even if you lose, we will look after you. After all, there is the Senate”. My father lost, the UNP forgot the promises, but he enabled my cousin, Chandrakaumara and my brother, Ranjan to represent that constituency subsequently.
George Rajapaksa once told me, “The UNP does not know how to treat the faithful, the best example being your father. If he had done for us what he did for the UNP, we would place him on a high pedestal”.
Even during his era, my father perhaps was too soft and remained with the UNP till his death. Would any other person have refused such offers?
Maybe, to overcome their guilt, the UNP government issued a stamp in the memory of my father in 1990.

Teacher, par excellence
Born on 18 November 1904, Kotawila Withanage Don Charlis Justin Wijayawardhana attended the missionary school in the village before joining to St. Thomas College in Matara. Don Juvanis Wijayawardhana, a notary’s clerk, decided to send his son to Mahinda College, Galle in view of the brilliant performance of his son, Justin at the Junior School Certificate Examination. More than the easy success in the Cambridge Senior examination, what Mahinda College gave my father was the inspiration to fight for independence and the preservation of Buddhism. Though he could have got a more rewarding government position with his qualifications, he opted to be a teacher and joined Rahula College in Matara.
He contributed immensely to the upliftment of Rahula College by the renowned principal Mr D J Kumarage, to be one of the best schools in the country. Rahula was an assisted school, which meant only teachers’ salaries were paid by the government. To meet the increasing demand for admissions, my father went round with Mr Kumarage and persuaded philanthropists in the area to build four buildings which were ceremoniously opened by Prime Ministers DS, Dudley, Sir John and Sir Oliver, the Governor General.
In addition, he was in charge of Sinhala and English debating teams, Arts and Drama society. He wrote many plays for students to stage of which one stands out; Matara Batha, a comedy which was so hilarious, it is said that even Mr Kumarage, who seldom smiled, burst into laughter.
My father taught Buddhism, Sinhala and art. He taught me too and I managed to fail in art, the only subject that I have ever failed! After teaching and inspiring many generations of students, he retired in 1964 having devoted his entire teaching career to Rahula.

Social service
He was a live-wire of the co-operative movement and headed the village co-operative till a few years before his death. He masterminded village development projects like roads and culverts through the Village Development programme.
When Buddhism was threatened by a fanatic sect, Thapasa Nikaya and , defended Bhikkhus threatened by misguided villagers. With the support of Chandraratna Manawasinghe, who was on the editorial staff of Lankadeepa, my father was able to dispel the falsehoods, helping save Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
He reserved his best for Community Centres Praja Mandala, which were established in Matara and surrounding areas. They were the meeting places where villagers could listen to the radio for the very first time. He obtained radios from the government for these centres. Those huge primitive devices needed a massive aerial across the tallest of coconut trees to get a rattly short-wave reception and were powered by car batteries, needing a fortnightly replacement by the post office. When they got late, the radio fell silent and the whole village missed the ‘Radio bana’.
The crowning glory was the annual congress of Community Centres, which lasted a couple of days with many competitions; that was the only opportunity for people to display their talents, unlike today, when we have too many talent shows. One of the highlights was the Kavi Maduwa, the poet’s corner where reputed guest poets gave lectures, in addition to recitals. That was the biggest event in the cultural calendar of the South.

Pioneer translator and writer
A visit to India in the late 1930s changed my father’s life forever as he was able to meet the leaders of the Indian Independence Movement but the most important was his meeting Rabindranath Tagore, whose works he had already translated to Sinhala. He recalled with great fondness the unexpectedly long meeting wherein Tagore granted him permission to translate any of his works.
Sivumal Motagedara, who studied the life and literary works of my father for his research project for the M A degree from Colombo University, has published his dissertation “Justin Wijayawardhana: Jeewithya ha Sastriya Sevaya (Godage, ISBN 978-955-30-9644-9). He argues, very convincingly that it is a great injustice that Justin Wijayawardhana has not been accorded a much more prominent place in Sinhala literature and takes to task the academia for not doing so. He rates Justin Wijayawardhana as the pioneer translator who introduced the works not only of Eastern writers like Tagore but also Western writers like Leo Tolstoy, Hall Caine, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Walt Whitman and H G Wells to Sinhala readers. He also mentions Wijayawardhana’s ability to change the style of writing to fit the original for translation and contends that it is rare.
Perhaps, the main reason why my father’s writings have not received the attention it deserves is they were published in newspapers and magazines––not as books due to lack of facilities like agents for writers and the monopoly held by only a few publishers.
I know the great difficulties he had in getting his first book, “Nasthikara Puthraya”, the translation of Sir Hall Caine’s ‘The Prodigal Son’ published in 1964. He had to give up royalty for a tiny sum and the publisher did not even notify how many copies were sold!
Although he had many manuscripts ready, unfortunately, only two more books were published during his lifetime.

One was a translation of a book on the invasion of Tibet “Tibbethaye Bauddha Manava Sanharaya”, which was extensively used by the UNP during the 1965 election campaign. The other was “Tom Mamage Kutiya”, a translation Of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s masterpiece ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, which was published by Marga in 1976.
The Ministry of Cultural Affairs, acceding to our request, published “Seeliyage Lokaya” in January 1983 to coincide with the first death anniversary and “Samawa Deema” in January 1984 to coincide with the second death anniversary. The latter, a collection of translations of ten short stories by Russian writers Leo Tolstoy, Maxim Gorky, Anton Chekhov and Hungarian writers Geza Gardonyi, Kalman Mikszath, Karoly Kisfaludy, was completed in September 1975 and dedicated to JRJ, the then leader of the Opposition. The dedication in my father’s handwriting, in his trademark violet ink, written with his beloved ‘Swan’ pen is reprinted in this book.
“Seeliyage Lokaya”
is an original work written in a novel genre. It is an exploration of village life, a synthesis of events and people in their respective villages of birth as seen by my parents. However, he has titled it ‘Seeliya’s world’, as he called my mother, Jinaseeli Jayawardana ‘Seeliya’ affectionately. The cover was drawn by my youngest brother Kamal. During one of my visits to President JRJ, when I presented a copy, he went through the chapter titles carefully and said “Upul, you must translate this to English as it is a mirror, showing the world what our village life is. It will be the opposite of ‘Grass for My Feet’ by J Vijayatunga”. I tried but, unfortunately, I do not seem to have inherited the translator gene!
The youngest of our six sisters, Champa is doing a tremendous job in keeping our father’s literary heritage going. She had been able to get “Nasthikara Putrya” and “Seeliyage Lokaya” republished. “Samawa Deema” has also been republished with a new title “Idama ha Thanhawa”. In addition, she has got the following in print: “Punarjeewanaya”, a translation of Leo Tolstoy’s ‘Resurrection, “Lo Pathala Keti Katha”, a collection of short stories by world famous authors including Tagore, Mulkraj Anand, Guy de Maupassant, Oscar Wild” and “Minis Angaharu Yuddaya”, a translation of H G Wells’ ‘War of the Worlds’.
‘Sai Baba: Man of Miracles’ by Howard Murphet was translated at the request of the Sai Baba Society, which was made in late 1974. Although my father finished the translation in a matter of two months, a unique achievement for a book running to 400 pages, it did not come out in print till a year after his death, in spite of Sai Baba’s blessings!
Matara C Justin Wijayawardhana started writing to Sinhala newspapers and magazines from his late teens and continued for six decades. In addition to articles on Buddhism and current affairs, there are many more translations that have been serialised. Champa is engaged in this monumental task of gathering them so that more books may be published.

My father, who initially put service over marriage, changed his mind the moment he saw a new lady teacher who joined Rahula staff. The marriage of Justin Wijayawardhana and Jinaseeli Jayawardana from Ransegoda took place on 17 May 1940, during the biggest flood ever recorded in the Southern Province. We were under the impression that the bridegroom encountered the flooding on his way to the bride’s but two books by Hewamadduma brothers give a different story. The Hewamadduma family from Lenaduwa was one of the closest families to ours. Till his untimely death in 2013, Amare, the well-known administrator, historian and writer used to write regularly about my father. After that his younger brother Dharme has taken over. In Amare’s book “Amara Samara-1”, as well as his elder brother Upatissa’s book “Ma Dutu Maha Purushaya: Justin Wijayawardhana” give detailed accounts, as recounted by their father. Every time a flood occurred, their father Sinnno Appuhamy used to say, “This is nothing compared to the flooding when Wijayawardhana mahattaya got married” and had gone on to relate how my father directed the preparation of boats the previous evening and how they paddled the 15 miles in floodwaters and brought back the couple, disregarding all warnings, safely to Godagama at 3 am, the following day! Apparently, my father having settled the new bride in bed had gone immediately to help flood victims. That shows his character and that my mother was solidly behind him. By the way, Thilakasena Sahabandu, who was married to Hewamadduma sister Karuna, wrote a beautiful anthology of poems titled ‘Sevaye Suwanda (Fragrance of service) which helped a great deal in my father’s election victory.

Unfortunately, what should have been Justin Wijayawardhana’s greatest legacy was not to be. Seeing how the poor got into difficulty with lavish funerals, he campaigned for simple funerals but his pleas fell on deaf ears. However, he ensured his funeral was simple and my mother did even better, ensuring that we handed over her body to the Galle Medical Faculty when she died on 24 February 1986.
Detailed written instructions were left about the funeral but true to his considered manner, he stated we could make changes if circumstances demanded. He also stated that if we felt bad for not spending on the funeral, to build a house for a poor family, which we did. The day after death, he was cremated in a coffin made from cheap wood and painted white, on a simple pyre made from locally collected wood. Though his voice was heard at almost every local funeral, he did not want funeral orations and as stipulated there was one anusasana. Although we did not inform any VIPs, Finance Minister Ronnie de Mel turned up and as he was representing the government, we allowed him to speak. The only thing beyond our control was the massive crowd.
As we watched, a great man who had rendered selfless service for almost eight decades, gradually turned into ashes. As requested, his ashes were thrown in Nilawala Ganga.
May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana!
It’s, indeed, heart-warming to see various organisations getting involved in charity work, and, more so, during the festive period.
Yes, we all need to lend a helping hand, whenever possible, to those in need, or facing difficult times, hardships, etc.
The Negombo/Seeduwa Methodist Primary School came into the spotlight, last month, when a caring group of people decided to step in and make Christmas a memorable event for the students of this school – numbering about 100, of all faiths – studying in Grade 1 to Grade 5.
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The school also has 10 differently abled children, with special needs.
They were all there, in the limelight, at a Christmas carol event, organised for the very first time, and held on the 23rd of December, at the school premises, with support from popular actress Damayanthi Fonseka, who was the Chief Guest, and members of the MCG (Music Clubs & Gangs of the ‘80s/’90s)
Rev. Father Asiri Perera, Divisional Director, Seeduwa Methodist Church, and Ranjith Gunathilaka, Divisional Director of Education, Katana Division, also graced the occasion.
az mobile notaryThe Chief Guest and many well-wishers donated books to the school library, while the members of the MCG handed over a valuable sound system, with mics and mic stands, to the school principal Mr. H.A. Sirisena.
The MCG was represented by Manori Fonseka (main coordinator and member of the school staff), Mumtaz Kumail Hamidon, Umer Ashrof Sookoor and Shan Gunathilaka.
Contributions also came from MCG members, living here and abroad – Akram Abbas,, Sudara Ranaweerasingha, Romaine McCluskey, Suzan Vongunster, Rocky Ranjitha Rajapakse, Prabath Jayasooriya, Irfan Latiff, as well as Mumtaz, Umer and Shan Gunatillaka, who, incidentally, was the main sponsor for gift vouchers..
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The event generated plenty of excitement among the students, who also made their presence felt, on stage.
They sang Christmas carols, and did a drama, connected with the birth of Christ, while the differently abled students did a dance act, dressed up in Christmas gear.
The children, I’m told, were thrilled having to sing, for the very first time, in front of a microphone (mic).
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