Richard Pieris chairman conferred an honorary doctorate by University of Kelaniya
Posted on December 4th, 2017

Anjalika (Malalgoda) Silva USA

Dr. Sena Yaddehige was one of the Pioneer students of the Kelaniya University Science Faculty.

It is a great honor and privilege to see that finally due recognition has been bestowed on one of the alumni and our colleague from the first batch of the Science Faculty of the University of Kelaniya from decades past.  This was a long time coming and one that we, the colleagues of Dr. Sena Yaddehige hoped we would see in our lifetime. The country’s recognition took a long time to come.

Going back to the times when we were students in the same batch, it was a unique experience.  The first group of university admission selections that came under the National Council of Higher Education headed by Dr. G. P. Malalasekera. We were the Pioneers of the Science Faculty” , the very first batch when the science faculty was added to the Kelaniya University.   When we started lectures, the labs were still being furnished and not quite ready.  I still remember the curls of wood chips in corners as we found our lab benches to work.

We were a small batch of 25 students.  Our admission to Kelaniya was on the basis that science lectures were to be in Sinhala and English and students were selected based on their language being either.  However, we found that the bilingual training soon faded into English to our advantage globally.  Our lecturers had finished their Bachelor’s education awaiting their turn to go abroad for their PhD.  Some professors were brought in on a visiting basis to cover.   Our curriculum was planned according to the American System with Professor Milo Wolff of the MIT being there hands on.  Our testing was based on ongoing assessment which meant that last minute cramming did not help.  We graduated in an era when the Government at the time was grappling with the JVP and anti-student sentiments were at its peak.  We were sadly deprived of a formal and dignified convocation ceremony at the time when Sirimavo Bandaranayake was in power.  We were never sure if it was for security reasons or just an antagonistic move registering their contempt for agitation by educated youth asking for better employment opportunities.

Looking back, we were deprived of the pride of the cap and gown ceremony and many of us kept our own memento to record our hard-earned achievement of a science degree in difficult times.  Text books were at a premium due to the Government restrictions on exchange and a special tax was imposed on import of goods including books during the Sirimavo Government.  Foreign Exchange Entitlement Certificate (FEECS) applied to import of books that took months to obtain on special order if one could afford were out of reach for many who needed books published abroad especially in the sciences.  Friends and relatives abroad helped and we shared them among friends.  Libraries had barely one copy of prescribed text books in the sciences that we needed in original English publications.  It was a trying time for students.  All-nighters were a way of life when we got books in our hand with high demand having one copy in the library.

Dr. Yaddehige was one of us – the small group that grappled with all the odds against which we produced some of the brightest who not only graduated but we overcame all the frustrations of lack of opportunities beyond starting out as teachers in the remotest parts of the country, that was the only way to go.  However, many went on to strive further.  I remember being recruited to the Zoology department by Dr. H. H. Costa soon after graduation at the peak of the JVP.  We were only three women on the Science Faculty staff that had to report for work when the campus was closed because of the insurgency.  One of them travelled overseas on holiday.  One was on maternity leave.  I was the lone ranger woman who had to report for work to an empty desolate campus heavily guarded.  The drill was that I could only be approved for entry after examination of my handbag by a soldier who inspected the contents with the bayonet and loaded rifle to let me pass.  We had a few hours’ notice one day to vacate the campus, lock up the labs and leave as it became a mass detention camp for JVP suspects in custody.  Taking public transport to get to work meant crossing the Kelani river every day seeing floating bodies of youth in the river who were allegedly rounded up as suspects.

Our student days were hard times.  Our batch being small kept together regularly because of the concern and generosity of Dr. Yaddehige to make sure all his buddies met and were okay to come together as the years progressed.  If they were not, he was there to support them through life issues.  We enjoy our annual reunions to reminisce on our student days.  They have special memories for all of us and making travel plans to go to Colombo for those of us living overseas is exciting and always a joy to meet old friends.

Many have gone on to diverse lives, but we all have one thread in common.  That is, we can remember names, we know their stories, we remember the departed colleagues, and we also keep our kinship with Kelaniya University alumni who came after us when possible.  We were special to have come out of one of the most difficult times for youth in Sri Lanka and make contributions as Dr. Yaddehige has done.  Whether it was in big or small ways where ever we chose to be, the foot prints remain though hardly known.  We, as a group, felicitated Dr. Yaddehige in 2015 for his exceptional contribution with our own version of an appreciation award which read,

Presented to

Dr. Sena Yaddehige

 For a Lifetime of Achievement,

 Service and Dedication”

To his country of birth

Sri Lanka and

For friendship and solidarity

With his fellow university peers.

We, your friends from the past

At the Science Faculty of

 Kelaniya University of Sri Lanka,

 Applaud you with pride and admiration and wish you the best for the future.

On this day

February 21, 2015.”

All the colleagues of his student days wish him many more years of success and service to humanity beyond all boundaries and overcoming impending obstacles. Thank you for your service and friendship to all of us.  Friendships that have stood the test of time at the best of times and the worst of times.

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”— Winston S. Churchill

Anjalika (Malalgoda) Silva



5 Responses to “Richard Pieris chairman conferred an honorary doctorate by University of Kelaniya”

  1. Christie Says:

    Reading your article brings tears. If we continued with English as our medium of instruction we would have had millions like you. Our women and men would not be laboring in foreign countries.

  2. Nimal Says:

    Dr Yaddehege is one of the very few Sinhalese that is a great honour to country. I think he is one Sinhalese business man who will not seek any help or pander to the corrupt politicians in the country. Hope he could be our President of the country and put the country right. Good luck to him in is ventures, hope he will not meet the same fate that the Kothalawals met.
    My advise to him is to keep away from the present politicians and not to put all the eggs in one basket,ie the country of birth.

  3. nilwala Says:

    Dr. Yaddehige certainly stands out as a son of Sri Lanka who has deservedly earned this recognition of an Honorary Doctorate for his contribution to this nation and to Science and Technology as well as to Business.

    We congratulate him and wish him Good Luck and greater successes in the years to come!!

  4. aloy Says:

    Although a lot has been written about the great man, nothing has been written about his greatest achievement other than being the the Richard Peiris’s chairman. I have heard that he invented some part in the braking system which has been made use of in Mercedes Benz cars and he has patented it. That has enabled him to make a few millions of Dollars before returning to Sri lanka. If someone knows the details, perhaps that could be shared with readers so that other science graduates also could be inspired to do likewise.

  5. aloy Says:

    Better late than never. However, I feel this as an attempt to take the focus away from other pressing issues.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress