First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

News

November 4, 2007  Volume 14, Issue 20


Focus

Arts

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Fashion

Editorial

Review

           

Medical Student  Superstar can heal with music too


Pradeep Rangana and Surendra Perera
harmonising together

By Ranee Mohamed

Pradeep Rangana, a third year student at the Medical Faculty of the University of Ruhuna like all of us, has been singing in the bathroom for a long time.

But it  was his mother who discovered that when he used to go on trips with his friends, it was Pradeep who did the singing, while the others merely listened.

And on Wednesday, October 31, seated here inside the offices of MTV, he saw that  the very people who made him a man as popular as Michael Jackson, were busier doing the paper work for Pradeep Rangana to receive his gift of a  car worth over Rs.3.8 million. He also receives Rs. 1 million as the top  winner's prize.

Today, Wednesday, Pradeep Rangana who became the Sirasa Superstar of 2007 could not stop looking at his rival Surendra Perera. "I enjoyed his songs," he says as his eyes welled up with tears.

Pradeep Rangana and Surendra Perera were a duo who sang together on stage for over nine months along with other contestants  in Sirisa's Superstar programme on Saturdays, which showcased talent from all over the country. This popular musical programme showed us a  number of talented young men and women during its initial stages.

Selected by the judges 

While the first 100 were selected for the public by the judges, another 48 from among them too were picked out.  It was  the votes from the public via sms that eliminated the  singers thereafter,  and the figures decreased from 24 to 12. Thereafter heartbroken viewers watched some of their personal favourites being knocked off till towards the end, they saw three of the  more talented  contestants  Amila Nadeeshani, Surendra Perera and Pradeep Rangana, take centre stage.

On October 20, semi finalist Amila Nadeeshani had to step down, leaving Pradeep Rangana and Surendra Perera to sing their way to the top and vie for the title.

And on  October 27 the music stopped for the singing sensations, as one of them had to necessarily step off the stage to make way for the other to become the Superstar. The public who voted the superstar expect the Superstar to be happy, but the happiness of Pradeep Rangana is tinged heavily with sadness as he shed tears for his singing rival on stage Surendra Perera.

"Call him and ask him whether he is okay. Let us go and see him and find out whether he is well," Pradeep Rangana constantly tells his family and friends. He has  a strange longing, he wants Surendra to be as happy as he is. But there can only be one Superstar and that special happiness that this single person experiences is unique.    It is the assurance and the knowledge that the public has through their personalised voting system given him. That they have acknowledged his music talent and performance  is a monopolised happiness meant only for the Superstar.

'Elated over my achievement'

"We were both talented, that is why we came to the top," insists Rangana. "I cannot tell you how happy I am today. My mother, my father, my family. I have never seen them so happy. We cannot go anywhere without being recognised and mobbed. All the people in our village, my friends at the faculty, they are elated over my achievement. And seeing them so happy brings tears of joy to my eyes, for it is only then I realise the true meaning of all that has happened," confides Rangana.

The petite Chandrani Abeysinghe, who never stopped clapping in the audience is the mother of Pradeep Rangana. "Children bring great happiness to parents. And my son has brought me great happiness from the day he was born. He did not trouble me, and was always an obedient child. I love him very much," said Abeysinghe, her voice cracking with emotion.

She said that when Pradeep Rangana was an infant, she was alone at home. "I had to sing for him morning, noon and night, otherwise he would never sleep. I had to do the cooking and the washing of his nappies. Sometimes my son would not wake up at the normal time, and I would come from the kitchen while squeezing coconut milk and shake my sleeping baby to see whether he was okay. I love him so much and had great fears about him. My son,  has  never let me down. He was always a good boy, he would listen to me and do as I say," she said.

Recalling his childhood days, she said that Pradeep Rangana would practice some Karate postures when he was about five years old. "But he grew up to be a soft person. I can barely hear him sometimes. It has never been necessary for me to tell him to study, I have never had to pursue him to do his homework or study. He did it all on his own.. my son  is such a good boy  ." said the proud mother.

Humble despite victory

Despite all the popularity and victories, Chandrani Abeysinghe remains humble. She speaks of her love for all children.

"One day my husband fell down because he could not walk. He suffered from severe arthritis and Pradeep Rangana had been  a little child.

"My husband began to cry because he could not move because of arthritis. When my son saw his father crying  he too began to cry uncontrollably. On the day that a fellow contestant - Buddhika Ushan was knocked off the contest, my son cried the same way. Those were the two days that I saw him cry uncontrollably in his entire life," said his mother.

Emerging as a superstar from among 51,000 contestants from all over Sri Lanka is a crescendo. But Pradeep Rangana seems to be used to victory. Already on the path to becoming a doctor, Pradeep Rangana says that music cannot take second place in his life. "Music is for healing. It is for the entire body and soul," he insists, and says that music has a calming effect on one's whole being.  "Doctors are under much stress. They deal with human lives and they have no way of releasing that stress. I think that for any disease the greatest cure is music," said Rangana.

"I have decided to learn music for four months. I have to talk to the medical authorities," he said.

Many commitments

Today he cannot switch on his mobile phone, for it never stops ringing. But Pradeep Rangana says that he has kept aside three hours for his fans. "I have not slept for the past few days. Now I can sleep at last," he says happily.  Pradeep Rangana has many commitments and more involvements now. He plans to dedicate some time and money to charity too.

Pradeep Rangana's gratitude to Sirasa for making him what he is today cannot be expressed in words. "From the chairman down to the minor employee, all I saw was a deep personal dedication. It is not easy to put a show like this together. There is a lot of hard work. What the public is able to see is the fun and singing on stage. But all this requires very hard work," pointed out Rangana.

Thanks and appreciation

Expressing his thanks and deep appreciation to every employee of Sirasa, Rangana says he wishes Superstar Season 3, all the best.

Meanwhile, Surendra Perera who came close to being the superstar  said that he cannot believe that he did not become the superstar. "My only consolation is that my mother did not cry. There were people who were telephoning me and crying on the phone. I  did not know them and I felt like crying too. There are people who are still in shock that I did not win," said a dejected Perera.

Surendra Perera looks dejected. He was but a breath away from a great victory.  But Surendra Perera has enough reasons to be consoled. His popularity remains - after his debut on stage with the winner, singing to capture hearts with an equally strong  emotion as the winner did.

Besides this, he can be consoled with Sirasa's unique style of appreciating both - the one who won and the one who did not win - for Surendra Perera will not go empty handed. Sirasa's gift to him is an amazing Rs.500,000. The final 12 contestants too were presented with motor bicycles. This is  Sirasa's way of  appreciating  those who did not win.


The honour of knowing Sandanam


Sandanam: You will always live on

When I first arrived at The Sunday Leader's editorial office on a warm June morning to begin my apprenticeship as a sub-editor, I was greeted at the entrance to the office by a grand, towering man dressed in an impeccable white sarong and shirt. I told him I had come to meet Lasantha Wickrematunge, at which point he fondly grabbed my hand and took me to the office of the editor-in-chief of the newspaper group.

When Sandanam opened Lasantha's door without so much as a knock, to find him on a possibly confidential phone call, and strolled in to his office regardless, drawing no response or rebuke from this most reticent of newspaper editors, I knew that there was something about the venerable Sandanam that I was missing. He commanded a level of trust and respect from Lasantha that was shared by few in his most inner circle.

Going back in time

It was only later during my days at The Leader that I learnt Sandanam's story in his own words, as he patiently explained to me, as a grandfather would to his grandson on his knee, how he came to be in the employ of Leader Publications from its inception - and helped me to understand even then why he would remain an employee of the newspaper until he breathed his last breath.

Hailing from Kotahena, Sandanam was employed by Lasantha's father,   Harris Wickrematunge, and served his household while both Lasantha and his brother, the newspaper's publisher Lal were growing up. It was not long before I started to feel a deep connection with Sandanam, as he related memories of Lasantha's childhood experiences in such vivid detail that I could feel myself being contemporaneously present watching these tales unfold.

Being well past the age of retirement, and somewhat frail at his ripe age of  72 did not stop Sandanam from waking at 5 a.m. every weekday morning in order to catch a bus to take him from Kotahena to Maradana, from where he would walk the distance to The Leader's Ward Place office to be there by 7:30 a.m. "I don't do it for the salary, money is not important," he would quip after relating the trials he endured on his journey to work every morning. "What is important to me is that Lokka (Lasantha) and his father have been so good to me and my family that my place for the remainder of my life is by his side."

His grey eyes widening and voice lowering, he continued "even if there is no work for me to do, I can only feel peace if I am here, and ready for anything they might need me to do. I am so old that there is nothing important they need me for, but still I know they would do anything for me, so I have to be here." Slight contradictions and repetitions were some of the hallmarks of Sandanam's speech and the hint of patience required to bear these was easy to dismiss by considering the sheer warmth of the man.  

Care and concern

Sandanam clearly saw each and every journalist at The Leader as a carefully chosen and cultivated treasure, and so personally strived to make each and every one of us feel more at home in the office. He would insist that we each get our free copies of the Sunday and Wednesday papers delivered on time, placed on our desks, and would peer over our shoulders to ensure that our pens were not about to run out as we wrote, or that our notebooks were not on their last leaves.

Not a fan of red tape, should anyone be running low on ink, red, blue or black, he would escort us personally to the stationary department and instruct whoever present to issue as many new pens as required, as in his mind, the journalists had to be taken care of.

Alas, being spoilt to this extent was a luxury that did not follow us as we moved our editorial office from Ward Place to Ratmalana, consolidating the Leader's printing press and editorial office under the same roof.

Rushing into the Ratmalana office for the first time, I was stopped cold in my tracks near the entrance as Sand- anam grabbed me by the hand and looked me in the eye. "I've been asked not to come to work anymore," he said solemnly, "so I won't be seeing you all very often..." he trailed.

'Retirement'

In a flash my mind raced trying to process who would possibly fire Sandanam and what for? My thinking most likely showed on my face, as the old sage broke into a smirk before quipping, "Too far for me to travel, Lokka says." Only then did it dawn on me. Sandanam would have to travel from Kotahena not just to Maradana, but all the way to Ratmalana if he were to keep doing his job.

Appreciation

"My salary will be sent, as long as I don't come to work, since he doesn't want me to be stressed," said the man proudly, re-emphasising that he was always with us and would never leave The Leader. Rarely did we see Sandanam from that day. He would make the odd appearance in Ratmalana to meet Lasantha, and on each such visit I was, like many others in the editorial, filled with genuine excitement to see him and speak to him.

On one such visit he betrayed a secret, "Even though he told me not to work," he began, "I stay once in a while at the advertising office in Rajagiriya, doing what I can there. How can I leave? It's not in me," the man said. He made it a point to speak to every single journalist in the office on that day, as well as a few others, before he descended the staircase, shunning my offer to take him down in the elevator, to leave the office.

When I left The Sunday Leader early this month, as Sandanam did, I never expected to see him again. However, fate works in mysterious ways and it was another young man of whom Sandanam was fond of, Arthur Wamanan, who was ultimately responsible for bringing us together again. "He's the best boy here!" Sandanam told me on my very first day at The Leader, with his arm wrapped affectionately around the shy 'king' Arthur.

"He is small and scrawny, but his heart," he started, before banging his fist against Arthur's chest, "his heart is the biggest of all the people here," Sandanam concluded, making no exceptions. This heart Arthur would require, on October 24 when officers of the Criminal Investigations Division invaded his home to whisk him and his terrified mother away to their fourth floor interrogations department.

Collective support

This incident sent the entire Leader machinery into hyper-drive, with the normal business of the paper all but grinding to a halt. Drivers and officers were called upon to stand by Arthur's family and the CID building at all times in case he was released or any other eventuality presented itself. Journalists such as my former investigations boss Dilrukshi scrambled to assemble any evidence that could possibly be used in Arthur's defence, whilst some of Colombo's finest lawyers brainstormed on the legal options available to secure a quick release for the victimised Arthur.

Fellow feeling

While all this was going on in a blur, Sandanam no doubt felt the same sense of helplessness that  I did, being unable to do anything to help our dear friend Arthur, no longer being a part of the well-oiled Leader machine. When I heard of Arthur's bail hearing on Friday, October 26, it was almost an unconscious decision to be there to support him, and it would turn out that Sandanam made the same decision as we met and sat together on the gallery benches of the Mount Lavinia Magistrate's Court, and eagerly awaited the hearing of Arthur's case.

Sandanam came to sit beside me the moment he saw me, and his eyes drifted back often to the cage filled with drug dealers, rapists, murderers and other common criminals, and his terrified, glistening eyes told me that he knew that his dear Arthur was hidden somewhere amongst the rabble.

A smile crossed Sandanam's face at just seeing Arthur emerge unfazed from the grit of the cell to take the stand. He listened intently to the long hearing, clasping my hand at various moments, up until its conclusion, when Arthur was taken off the stand back into the remand cell area, pending his bail payment. Sandanam then braved the bailiffs and policemen patrolling the court in an attempt to control the impending media circus, and strode straight past the guards to where Arthur sat, to speak a few words to him, before turning to leave.

I recall chasing behind him against the current of people leaving the courtroom, terrified that he too might end up in remand for defying court officers. I caught him as he was done talking to Arthur, and he explained "I had to at least go to speak with him before leaving," as I gently guided him out of the bustle of the courthouse.

Relieved

This was not enough to satisfy Sandanam, and it was only an hour later, when Arthur emerged proudly without handcuffs into the open air of freedom that he finally grinned. He braved the cameras and reporters surrounding the shaken Arthur to hold his face and tell him how glad he was to see him out, before turning and leaving with a sagacious air.

This was the last time I ever saw Sandanam alive, although he graced the cover of the Daily Mirror the following morning, when that newspaper captured the moment where he fondly stroked Arthur's chin. That photograph now adorns my wall, and will do for some time, as it epitomises everything that I will treasure from my short stint at The Leader: the power of a young journalist's resolve, brotherhood, and the honour of having known and loved Sandanam.


A sanctuary that will end cruelty to cows...


Launching of the Ceylinco Sarana Cattle Protection Centre

By Ranee Mohamed

For the first time in the history of Sri Lanka, a sanctuary for milking, pregnant and aged cows was launched with the opening of the Ceylinco Sarana Cattle Protection Centre. The centre came into being formally on Sunday, October 28,  in the presence of Chairman,  Ceylinco Consolidated  Deshamanya Dr. Lalith Kotelawala and his wife, Deputy Chairperson Sicille Kotelawala.

The centre will be located in Meegoda and will provide a haven to cows who will otherwise be sentenced to starvation, cruelty and eventually a violent death. The event was held one day before the birthday of Dr. Kotelawala.

A very own special  project of  Sicille Kotelawala, this sanctuary for cows condemned to a gruesome death in abattoirs countrywide, will offer them not the starvation,  beatings,  and the nightmare of a cruel  traumatic death, but a true haven where they would be appreciated for the milk they gave our children. "When steak and beef is served on the menu we ought to realise that this may be flesh of the milking cow - which gave us milk to drink when we were children.

"We drink their milk and send them to the slaughterhouse, and even their calves - the cow's 'children' are slaughtered" said a saddened Dr. Kotelawala, and went on to appreciate this venture which is spearheaded by his compassionate wife.

A meritorious act

Sicille Kotelawala said recently that the birthday of her husband saw that all beings were well - "Men, women, children and beasts were all covered and included in these celebrations," she pointed out.

Speaking at the formal launching of  the Ceylinco Sarana Cattle Protection Centre Sicille Kotelawala went on to describe her visit to a abattoir with a friend. "I could cry when I saw them all. They were starving. There was a particular brown cow, she was looking at me for a long time.

"When the man in charge of the abattoir opened the long, sliding iron gate, all the cows ran and huddled in a corner, but emergency requirements for beef means that one of these cows have to be pulled to the nearby concrete structure and slaughtered in a hurry for the  beef stall on the top of the road," said Sicille Kotelawala. She went on to observe that many of these cows were pregnant.

The beef stall and a restaurant were situated in close proximity and the abattoir tending to their more urgent beefy needs. The set  up provided an all-in-one hugely profitable venture, though it was covered with the  blood and tears of suffering animals.

Cruelty to cows

She told the gathering of close friends and well wishers that she had given up eating beef many years ago due to the cruelty meted out to the cows.

The friend who accompanied Sicille Kotelawala who wished to remain anonymous said 'Sicille Kotelawala was saddened and shaken at the plight of these dumb, helpless animals. She could not believe the fact that they were not being fed. She immediately gave money to one of the men who accompanied in a pick up to go and buy a cartload of  grass for all the cows starving in the shed," said the friend.

"The cows were starving. There was no water to drink, they were waiting for their  turn  to be slaughtered," said the friend.  She went on to say that the man in charge of the cow shed at the abattoir said however that when these cows are fed before they are slaughter it became a 'nuisance' for them for after they are slaughtered  they have to clean their stomachs and intestines and that cleaning process took a long time.

"Speaking to the very private gathering Sicille Kotelawala went on to describe how the three cows that she had bought that day were now safe and secure and the tears had tried up from their eyes. "That is not all,  two of them had calves - one  gave birth three days after she was brought here and the other about four weeks after. They now have a happy and playful life with long hours to spend with their mothers," she said.

The brown cow

Strangely, the brown cow which had been looking at her saviour at the abattoir was in the background looking at the gathering - intelligent she seemed, able to recognise the one who gave her a new lease of life.

Meanwhile, Deshamanya Dr.  Lalith Kotelawala speaking on this compassionate occasion said that the cow sanctuary  will be a haven for aged cows and those condemned to death. "When a rural farmer buys a cow it becomes of no use to the farmer once the milking is over. This is when the cow is sold to the abattoir so that he can buy more cows. We will buy this cow off the farmer and put it into the sanctuary.

"A cow costs about US Dollars 350. When we go abroad, we will go shopping and will not think twice about spending this kind of money. We will be taking this humanitarian project to FastCash in the Middle East, Australia, London, America, Japan and Canada too and eventually not a single cow will meet with a cruel fate," he said.

"We will also give loans to buy milch cows and tie up with the Milk Board and other government agencies and work with them. We will help in the production of milk by giving them purifying and chilling machines at  very low interest rates.

Insurance scheme

"Ceylinco will get involved in the collection, evaluation, chilling, purification and distribution," pointed out Dr. Kotelawala and went on to say that Ceylinco Insurance will formulate a new insurance policy - a cow policy on the lines of the  'elephant policy.'

The cow policy will cover disease and risk, and thereafter,  there will be an undertaking given by the farmer that the cover will be bought over and given to the sanctuary after its milking period is over.

The sanctuary will also house cows and pregnant cows that are saved from the abattoirs. With a boundary wall  covering a vast acreage the cow sanctuary will have a large shed, a water tank, a bungalow, two rooms, toilet  and kitchen.

"And this is just the first, we plan to have 100 such sanctuaries soon," said Dr. Kotelawala. In addition, with the efficiency, dynamism and dedication that has been associated with the Ceylinco group, the cow sanctuary that will promote the substitution of pasteurised milk for powdered milk will be a giant step forward in taking Lanka to a Land of Milk and Honey.

"They kill the calves while their mother's shed real tears" - Retired High Court Judge

Oliver Ranasinghe, Retired High Court Judge and patron of Gal Gava Mithuro said that the opening of a cattle sanctuary is the most glorious thing that can happen in this country. He said that the brutal slaughter of cows in Sri Lanka ought to be seen to be believed. "The cow is tied down while it's calf is slaughtered amidst all the wailing. There are tears pouring down from the eyes of the mother cow as she watchers her calf being brutally killed. This is an everyday happening in slaughterhouse all over the country. Sometimes the calves watch their mothers being dragged by force, beaten with poles and sticks and forced to put their necks down in between hooks after which they are brutally slaughtered," said Patron of Gal Gava Mithuro, Oliver Ranasinghe.

He went on to reminisce that when he was a magistrate, a 'half lorry' was caught by the Horana police transporting 20 cows. He said that some of the cows were maimed, injured and dead. He went on to point out that the Animal Cruelty Law in effect now is that of 1907. And due to this archaic law, people caught transporting cattle are fined a maximum of Rs.100, which they gladly pay and take the cattle to the slaughterhouse.

Retired High Court Judge Ranasinghe also went on to say that he has been a frequent visitor to these slaughterhouses and feels helpless when he sees the unimaginable, indescribable suffering that cows have to undergo - even pregnant cows. Their foetus are ripped apart and are sold as veal and mutton.

He said that cows and bulls that die in transit are never buried, but are sold as flesh to beef eaters.

"It is in this kind of situation that this generous benefactor has got himself in this very private, yet greatly meritorious project of his wife Sicille. This is undoubtedly a venture that will guarantee them paradise.

"Mahatma Gandhi has said ' A nation's greatness and moral progress can be judged by the way it treats its animals,'" pointed out Oliver Ranasinghe. The editor of the revealing book Amanushika Gava Bheeshanaya, Ranasinghe says that the Ceylinco Sarana Cattle Protection Centre is a gesture that  overflows with loving kindness .


"This is enough to go to heaven" - Irangani de Silva

Animal Rights Activist and wife of the Minister of Health and Nutrition Irangani de Silva said that this is the best news that animal lovers countrywide can ever receive. "The Ceylinco Sarana Cattle Protection' comes at a time when we have just held a meeting with  Ven. Athuraliye Ratana Thero, SSPs, DIGs and officers of the Sri Lanka Police some Public Health Inspectors and Additional Secretaries on the large scale brutal slaughter that is being carried out in this country everyday," said de Silva.

"I commend Sicille Kotelawala and her husband, Chairman,  Ceylinco Consolidated Dr. Lalith Kotelawala for this humanitarian act. A cow sanctuary means that hundreds of cows who are condemned to slaughter will now have a resting place," said de Silva.

She went on to say that though cows, calves and buffaloes cannot be slaughtered because it is prohibited by law, our abattoirs are filled with pregnant cows and calves.  This is because of the great demand for veal and for mutton (calf meat is sold as 'mutton.')

"I read in a Sinhala newspaper a headline that screamed  'Killing 13 lakhs of cows and drinking 15 billion worth of imported milk.' Today we have to depend so much on powdered milk because we have killed all our cows and we are continuing with the killing. There is no one to stop this brutal slaughter and it has taken a humane  at the topmost rung in society couple to come forward and show us the way, to show us what true compassion  is," said de Silva.

"I am in possession of a C.D.  made by some foreigners on the brutal cattle slaughter in Sri Lanka. The C.D. cannot be watched. It is revolting, and is testimony to the brutality of these people.

"The launching of the Ceylinco Sarana Cattle Protection Centre is so good for the economy  and lays down the foundation of a self functioning economy," said de Silva.

"For me personally, it is a dream come true. I will be delighted to help out in this great project. This is enough for them to go to heaven," said de Silva.

 


An officer and a gentleman


Hemamali and Dasunma

By Sunalie Ratnayake

The most recent act of brutality carried out by a 21-member suicide commando group of the Black Tigers supported by two aircraft of the LTTE Air Force on that fateful Monday has been disturbing my thoughts ever since. A valiant soul, once an acquaintance of mine who obtained flight training at the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) while I obtained flight training at a private flying school based at the Ratmalana airport 10 years ago died in the attack.

While on flight training at the Katukurunda Air Force base, we happened to meet and we soon became friends. This incomparable colleague of mine was none other than Wing Commander Amila Prasanna Jayasekera Mohotti. Exactly10 years later, fate not only made me a journalist but also directed me to appreciate a friend with the might of my pen.

A true gentleman

The Mohotti I knew was calm, quiet, understanding yet mature at the same- time and was one who would never even hurt a fly. At the time we as colleagues trained with the same objective of obtaining the Private Pilot Licence (PPL), we happened to share the same aircraft (Cesna 152s), headsets, flight computers, flight manuals, runway, air space and not forgetting the hanger in which we used to kill the hours until our turn for being airborne arrived.

During those lengthy hours in the Katukurunda hanger filled with instructors and student pilots, since I was the only female most of them including Mohotti seemed to be extra cautious about the vocabulary used, taking care especially against using the usual pilot's terminology known to all in the field of aviation. Mohotti talked very little, yet every word made absolute sense. The exchange of ideas was based on a range of topics from our careers as well as our day-to-day lives. One thing I recall as being a common indulgence other than flying planes was reading the latest issue of the FLIGHT magazine.

Words of encouragement

Another incident which will remain in my mind forever also involves Mohotti, a man I undoubtedly consider simple and great. Ten years ago, November 12, 1997 was the day I completed my first ever solo flight as a young student pilot. No doubt I was feeling nervous that morning before I took flight and my instructor - Samin Attanayake encouraged me immensely. Mohotti too patted my shoulder and gave me tremendous moral support,  saying, "You can do it, don't be afraid, good luck."

For a girl about to take off on her initial solo flight with butterflies in her stomach these words of encouragement meant a lot. After hearing about Mohotti's tragic death I pulled out a momento from my closet at home in Kurunegala and that was a piece of the white shirt I wore on the day of my first solo, autographed all over with permanent markers by my instructors and colleagues. My eyes immediately caught Mohotti's signature on the bottom right hand corner of the back of the shirt and I just couldn't hold back the tears. Even though I flew at a private flying school there was some ragging and the shirt cut up was a result of it. As I recalled those memories a smile appeared over the tears.          

Education and career

Born on June 1, 1972 to a Buddhist family, and hailing from Telejjavila in Matara, Mohotti initially studied at Telejjavila Central College. After successfully completing his O/Ls he moved to  Rahula College, also in Matara and completed his A/Ls in Bio Science. Being an active sportsman in school Mohotti participated in the 100 metres, 200 metres, triple jump and marathons.

Mohotti joined the SLAF in 1996 as a cadet officer. From July 16, 1996 he obtained basic combat training at Diyatalawa for a period of six months. From there, he was posted to Anuradhapura and then to Katukurunda, where he obtained flight training in Cesna 152s for a period of nine months. Later on, Mohotti was transferred to Hingurakgoda to the 'Number Seven Squadron' for basic helicopter training where he trained in the Bell Jet Ranger 206. Thereafter he had advanced helicopter training in the Bell 212 which was over by mid 1998, also in the same squadron. In the meantime, he was commissioned as a pilot officer on January 16, 1998. Mohotti later flew as an operational pilot and was posted to 'Number Nine Attack Helicopter Squadron.' After flying for two to three years, Mohotti was once again posted to Number Seven Squadron. From then on he captained the Bell 212.

During his military career Mohotti had completed a flight safety course in Bangladesh. The medals he obtained include the North and East Medal, Poornabhoomi and the SLAF's 50th Independence Medal.

Mohotti also captained the special helicopter which transported Norwegian Minister and  Special Peace Envoy Erik Solheim many times to Kilinochchi during his peace missions in Sri Lanka. 

On the day of the Anuradhapura disaster Mohotti boarded the Bell 212 helicopter along with his co-pilot Akuretiyage Buddhika Manoj de Silva and two gunners, in order to assist the Anuradhapura Air Force camp which was under LTTE attack at the time. However, before the task could be completed the helicopter crashed at Doramadalawa in Mihintale. The cause of the crash is yet unknown and is under investigation.   

Family, marriage and love

Mohotti's father Jayasekera Mohotti Weerasinghe expired 14 years ago and his mother H.P Dayawathie is grieving for her lost elder son. Mohotti was the second in a family of four siblings. His elder and younger sisters are both married. Saman Pushpakumara Jayasekera Mohotti is his younger brother. Sharing his pain with The Sunday Leader, Saman said, "We have lost not only a great brother, but the country has lost a brave pilot. He had remarkable qualities and he treated everyone equally. When he wanted to join the SLAF, none of the family members objected because his decisions always made sense but the pain following his death will never diminish from our hearts."

Hemamali Kumari Rajapakse is Mohotti's beloved wife and Dasunma Vidusini Kumari Jayasekera Mohotti is their adorable two and a half year old daughter. Today, little Dasunma does not have a clue about her beloved father's fate. From time to time she clings onto her mother and starts to cry, yet unaware of the fact that her Appachchi is no more.

Mohotti married Hemamali on January 3, 2003 at a grand wedding ceremony held at the BMICH. Their union was a  result of an enchanting love affair. Their differences in religion or Mohotti serving the military did not pose an