Posted on September 6th, 2013

Dr.Tilak Fernando

Copy of Tag-In-Focus_4.jpgIf there is anything certain in this life’s sojourn it has certainly to be the death, and nothing else! Death, in other words, is the termination of all corporeal functions that endures a particular living being or organism. Death in a human being can take place under many circumstances such as biological aging, malnutrition, sickness, suicide, murder, accidents and so forth.

The awareness of mortality in human societies is always interconnected but varies with different religious and philosophical divergences making a marked divide between monotheistic (belief in one God) in Abrahamic religions and Dharmic convictions where the consciousness (term used for Soul) merging with the oblivion after the cessation of life force on earth.

Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism all go along with the concept of dharma at their core. In Buddhism and Hinduism it points out to the refinement and moral revolution of human beings. Though conflicting in certain particulars, they accept that the goal of human life is liberation in the form of reaching moksha or nirvana. Sikhism does not accept self liberation as the prime goal but it directs a Sikh devotee to be detached from the worldly craving and be attached to the Guru’s feet.

Categories of death

Heart disease is considered to be the most common cause currently causing human death. Stroke or ƒ¢¢”š¬’brain attack’, cerebrovascular diseases and respiratory disorders follow suit respectively. In certain cultures, death is considered as a spiritual process where the soul shifts from one spiritual station to another progressively depending on how moral or debauched life one had lived on this planet.

The individual who never was inclined towards spiritual aspect of life but found means always to ridicule and laugh at others will find isolated at the end of the tunnel when the final moment arrives for him or her.

He or she will be lucky to be able to see and recognise their beloved one’s crying and weeping and hear what they talk about at his death bed. The dying person senses their grief but others do not comprehend fully the dying person’s feelings equally at the final count when the fear of death associated with the gasping for breath begins to ascend on him or her.

Even the ƒ¢¢”š¬’Trojan’ type who does not care a damn about committing suicide and takes his own life, or even the innocent victim of a murderer or an unfortunate casualty of a terminal illness at the end of a chronic disease, may attempt to call out in anguish at those who stand beside him/her at his death bed; in the case of the one who decides to commit suicide will find him in an extremely lonely and desperate situation.

The person may finally try to reach others surrounding him and to feel but he is now dying and cannot touch. Finally a horrendous feeling of trepidation makes the dying shudder and weak that the body simply collapses and loses consciousness with a loud expiration of breath! Now the victim is ƒ¢¢”š¬’dead’ literally.

Sri Lankan deaths in Britain

Talking of deaths in the UK, from a Sri Lankan perspective, there are a few incidents where Lankans have faced death under different circumstances in London.

Going back as far back as 1950’s, the first tragic death has been recorded as a suicide by one Mrs Kularatne, an English lady who had been working as the sub warden at the Ceylon Students Centre in London during its very infant stages.

The research revealed that she had been working under the Education Officer at the Sri Lanka High Commission, Rev. James Cartman, who acted as the Official Warden from a diplomatic perspective overseeing student centre activities.

At the time an influential Sri Lankan (C Victor Dhanapala) who was hobnobbing with Sir John Kotelawela and intermingling with the cream of the flamboyant elite in the London society appeared to have been a frequent traveller between Colombo and London on a passport identifying himself as ƒ¢¢”š¬’the Industrial Adviser to the Prime Minister of Ceylon’,’during P. Nadesan’s time as the Permanent Secretary (to the Prime Minister.) His influence in high London society along with the diplomatic elite was so much that it is said that he used to usher young Elizabeth Taylor (as a teenager), much prior to her Hollywood stardom to Sri Lanka High Commission receptions! The facts surrounding what was known as a ƒ¢¢”š¬’ shady deal’ is somewhat cloudy but it appears that Mrs K had unfortunately got involved as a partner in this dubious deal involving ƒ”š‚£250,000 at the end of which becoming a threat to her life that compelled her to commit suicide inside the Ceylon Students Centre.


The Ceylon Students’ Centre was closed on Fridays at initial stages for business. A Tamil cook named Steven on a Friday, being his day off as well, had heard of water pouring out of an outlet from a top floor washroom and when he went to find out what the problem was he had been shocked to see the bath water red in colour pouring down through an overflow pipe.

His immediate reaction had been to summon Peter Wijesinghe who was a member of staff of the Sri Lanka High Commission, from day one of opening the Mission in London, and the emergency situation was brought to the notice of Warden Rev. James Cartman.

When the trio, Rev. Cartman, Peter Wijesinghe and Cook Steven, rushed upstairs to examine what the cause was, they found Mrs K’s washroom door locked and the water was overflowing from her bath tub . Upon force opening the locked door they were shocked to find Mrs K’s body floating on the hot water bath with blood still oozing out of her cut wrist. It was revealed that in an attempt to commit suicide, without having to go through much pain, she had slit her wrist with a razor blade and let herself bleed to death inside the bath tub!

Suicide in a row

Second incident of committing suicide inside the Ceylon Students’ Centre was by a cook named Wijeratne during the period when G.D.I. Seneviratne (Gadaya) was acting as the First Secretary at the Sri Lanka High Commission and overseeing the Student Centre administration as the Warden.

Young Wijeratne had already made plans to get married to a damsel in Sri Lanka and in his excitement applied for leave to travel to Sri Lanka for the occasion and with lots of hopes of bringing his new bride to London. It was a time all travel abroad, to and from Sri Lanka, was done mainly by sea and the journey took at least two-three weeks each way. Wijeratne had not completed his probationary period in his employment which made his ƒ¢¢”š¬’long-leave’ application to be rejected by the Management as per regulations that existed under the contact of employment of the Ministry of External Affairs (Ceylon).

The rejection of his leave application had been an unbearable shudder to Wijeratne’s emotions followed by anxiety and the trauma that made him to hang himself from the ceiling in a small store room at the Ceylon Students’ Centre, adjacent to the kitchen.

These two suicide cases acted as a ƒ¢¢”š¬’ kick off’ to several deaths of different types of deaths to follow in London, under various circumstances, out of the overseas staff who were recruited to work in London by the Sri Lanka (Ceylon) Ministry of External Affairs but had sadly resulted in tragic encounters.

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