Medical Student Superstar can heal with music
Pradeep Rangana and Surendra Perera
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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'
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.
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.
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
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.
have decided to learn music for four months. I have to talk to
the medical authorities," he said.
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
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: 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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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...
of the Ceylinco Sarana Cattle Protection Centre
By Ranee Mohamed
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Cruelty to cows
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
"They kill the calves while their mother's
shed real tears"
- Retired High Court
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
"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
"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
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
"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
An officer and a gentleman
Hemamali and Dasunma
By Sunalie Ratnayake
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
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
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."
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
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
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