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This records a profoundly sad consequence of D B Wijetunge’s dithering, the death of the Vice-Chairman who had been a tower of strength to Arjuna Aluvihare. I am so very glad that I made it a point to speak to him and express my admiration and appreciation of all he had done. I cannot find a picture of Prof Balasuirya, so his successor and Prof Aluvihare’s will have to do instead.

The death of Prof Balasooriya

I had a few words on my own with Prof Balasooriya, the Deputy Chairman, who had also been asked to resign. It was not certain though whether he would be reappointed, whereas we knew Aluwihare would not be there, for another member of the UGC, Leslie Panditharatne, had been appointed in his place. I knew Panditharatne for he had been Vice-Chancellor at Peradeniya when I taught there, and though he was amiable, he was singularly lacking in either energy or ideas. I took the opportunity to tell Balasooriya how much I had appreciated working with him, and he said he felt the same about me.

Next morning I was at the Council and then at the UGC in the afternoon, and the next day I went with Nirmali to Rahangala to meet students and conduct interviews and for the Study Board. After that we went to Belihuloya where I marked papers and taught and spoke to students and prepared timetables and had a Board of Study, and also conducted a seminar, I presume for staff, over the next three days, leaving for Colombo on the Sunday afternoon.

On one of those mornings I came up to be told by Samy that Prof Balasooriya had died of a heart attack. He had in fact been reappointed Vice-Chairman of the UGC, but the uncertainly must have been too much for him. I was glad I had been able to speak to him, but otherwise devastated for this meant the end of what he and Aluwihare had started. Panditharatne would not himself have destroyed anything but his lethargy was excessive and without Balasooriya to keep things going decline was inevitable.

And Balasooriya’s replacement was no good at all, a sweet lady called Ratnasiri who would take no decisions but kept telling me she was learning. As the acerbic educationist who headed the Polgolla AUC, Nihal Herath, said to me once in despair, if you were still learning after six months, you should get up and go.

The Monday following was intensive work at USJP and then on Tuesday, after early work at Nirmali’s, I saw Mrs Balasooriya and then took classes at USJP before getting to the UGC after lunch and then Nirmali’s for more work.

Next morning, after NIrmali’s and the UGC and USJP for the Faculty meeting I set off for Amparai with one of Codipilly’s drivers. I was sorry this was not Kithsiri, but it was the regular driver I liked best, Palitha. He too was always helpful, though he did tell me later on this trip, when we stopped at Aluwihare, that he told tourists who asked about the place that it was shut. Ena did not believe in giving tourist drivers the commissions other places offered, and so Palitha like his colleagues blacklisted her.

Rajiva Wijesinha


August 2022
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