27 February, 2024

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A Colossal Fall Of A Colossus

By Udan Fernando

Dr. Udan Fernando

Shyamon Jayasinghe is both bodily and intellectually a colossus. His height and the broad body frame were exceptionally tall and large, respectively, given the average size of Lankan men. Equally, his thoughts and ideas were as bold and strong as his body. In fact, I got to know Shyamon as he used to regularly contribute to the Colombo Telegraph and occasionally lock his horns with the editor! He was indeed a prolific writer.

He was 20 years old when Shyamon played Narrator of the famous musical Maname in 1956. He was studying for a degree in philosophy in Peradeniya during that time. By then, he was bi-lingual and well versed in both Sinhala and English. Hence, he was spared, thankfully, from being a victim of the so-called 1956 change. So, people like Shyamon, Trilicia (Gunawardena) and Ben (Sirimanne) belonged to a different generation who, in my opinion, had the best of both worlds. They rode the 1956 wave but not blindly and foolishly gulping the sugar-coated Sinhala-only capsule prescribed by Bandaranaike.

Upon an illustrious career as a top bureaucrat in Sri Lanka, Shyamon was agile and adaptable to be a book-seller (as he called himself) when he joined his children in Australia in the 1990s. He was anyway a ‘pothey-guraa’, the Sinhala term for Narrator! But Shyamon was never a pothey-guraa (the figurative meaning in Sinhala akin to being dogmatic) in his thoughts and views. He was always open to a good debate with an open mind.

I was to meet him in his domiciled turf in December last year. But sadly, I couldn’t make it. He couldn’t make it either to the screening of my film which was shown in his backyard as he had an urgent medical appointment. My great expectation of having a good long chat face to face is now lost. It’s strange that the demise of a person who I have not seen makes such an impact.

Shayaman enjoyed his life to the hilt till his last breath. Knowing the man, he is, I will offer no RIPs and Nibbanas as that’s an insult to his understanding of life. Thanks for all you’ve offered to us throughout your long and active inning of life, Shayamon! Cheers, Colossus!!

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Latest comments

  • 12
    0

    OMG, shocking. Sad that Shyamon is no more. There are very few like Shyamon , who doesn’t shy away criticizing the wrongs. I enjoyed reading his articles. Rest in Peace Shyamon. My heartfelt condolences to his family.

    • 10
      0

      I don’t know much about him, but I have appreciated his articles on CT. May he rest in peace. This is the truth of each of us, we argue, we attack each other, however, we all have to leave this earth someday.

    • 10
      0

      Chiv,
      But for a quirk of fate, he would have been my boss, many moons ago. RIP.

    • 6
      0

      You were a critic without condemnation. We will miss you.

      • 5
        0

        What is the use. He was against granting of justice to Tamils.

  • 7
    0

    Oh no!….didn’t he write recently? R.I.P. to Shya1mon.

    • 2
      0

      Shyamon*

    • 2
      2

      Dear Ramona TF,
      .
      This is probably the last article that he wrote:
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/pastor-jerome-popped-up-at-the-wrong-time-may-not-have-jesus-to-save-him/
      .
      He must have been happy that it generated 172 responses. Some from you, I find. I hadn’t commented, but at the very end I’m glad to say that I got one in.
      .
      Unfortunately, after that, “old codger” seems to have insulted me.
      .
      Now, could you please provide a straight and accurate answer to this, please? Who is you husband? Is it “old codger”, “nimal fernando”, Native Vedda, or have you got one or two in Pennsylvana (what’ that little mining town called? Ah, just remembered! Pittsburgh.)
      .
      I must write something better about Shyamon tomorrow!
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe

      • 1
        0

        So disillusioned to see that even Lankans who generally agree on political imperatives for the Motherland, yet enjoy demeaning the other for no fathomable reason. Yes, ashamed to say, but this is the microcosm of our people. Our country is in a truly sad and sorry state.

  • 5
    0

    Truly sad news. Sad to see him go.

    Didn’t always agree with what he wrote ………. but had great respect for him: that’s the nature of the beast.

    Condolences to his family. RIP Shyamon.

  • 5
    0

    I enjoyed his forthright writings. RIP.

  • 3
    0

    That’s Shocking!!!??? He was, in my belief well harnessed and on the Saddle!!! May he Rest in Peace. With heartfelt condolence and deepest sympathy to the family

  • 2
    0

    Wish him happy travels on this unending journey of life, and death.

  • 5
    0

    Sad to hear this.
    May he attain Nibbana.

  • 3
    0

    God bless you Shyamon! Rest in Peace!

  • 8
    1

    Politically, Shyamon’s alignments and allegiances in the Sri Lankan context were at odds with mine. However, we have associated with each other for many decades, as he and his wife were very much part of the Sinhala cultural scene in Melbourne and we met during those events. Furthermore, he was also from the neighborhood at one stage. I will remember him as someone who was not afraid to criticize the religious mafia that pervades the Sri Lankan socio-political landscape. He was unafraid to contest the concept of karma and to express his view that humans are merely organic matter that decay and decompose like all living beings. His loss will be felt in this fraternity.

  • 2
    0

    To that “POTHE GURA” : I stand in salute to you Sir! Have a NICE JOURNEY and end in PEACE!

  • 1
    0

    Dear Udan Fernando,
    .
    It was from your article that I got to know that Shyamon was physically a colossus; his photographs (which kept changing) showed a man who was clearly very old. He has departed after living a good life, and we’re told that he enjoyed that life.
    .
    I always enjoyed reading his very independent views on Philosophy and Religion. I knew that he’d been the pothegura in the Sarathchandara plays which I got to know quite well after Shyamon’s time in them. His writings indicated a very intelligent man, but there were those other articles which seemed to show, always, an uncritical approval of Ranil Wickremasinghe:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/are-the-militant-sinhala-tamil-diaspora-in-melbourne-loosing-steam-reflections-on-a-failed-protest-campaign/
    .
    That was one such. However, all his articles were very well written, and we have lost one of our most stimulating writers. I share Udan’s view that we ought not to wish him a future which he himself did not believe in, but I’m thankful for much that I learnt from him.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe

  • 7
    0

    Shyamon Jayasinghe was an extra-ordinary intellect. An outstanding public servant, hardworking and honest. He was my “boss” when he was appointed as Special Commissioner for the Dehiwela – Mount-Lavania Municipal Council in February, 1977. At that time, he was serving as the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Local Government. Shyamon though born a Buddhist, he was critical of the rituals found in popular Buddhism. He was in fact a rationalist/atheist. This way he followed the precepts and teachings of early Buddhism.

    In fact, Buddha himself was an atheist, since he never accepted divine creation. If we accept god created the world, then the question arises who created god?

    Buddha was a human being who tried to discover the truth about life and existence. He himself did not claim to be a god. Buddha never said that he was a god or a messenger of God. In fact, he encouraged people to discover the truth through their own efforts. It is through their own efforts one can attain Nibbana.

    Unfortunately, we have only a few like Shyamon. Today the monks don’t preach Dhamma. They preach hatred and strive among people. They build viharas where there are no Buddhists. They plant statues of Buddha in unholy places exposed to elements.

    In his writings Shyamon exposed the darker side of Buddhism as practiced today. Let us remember him for his contribution to a better society. He was a human being who tried to discover the truth about life and existence.

    • 1
      0

      Thanga, I have always appreciated and admired your maturity in making comments. People should have the capability to see the positives and not just negatives. No one is perfect. It’s all about how history remembers such individual , not just , the opinion of few / foes.

  • 4
    0

    I got to know Shyamon Jayasinghe through CT as a writer. I have read most of his articles on CT. I am saddened. I will miss reading his articles.

  • 5
    0

    Shyamon and I have interacted on these CT comment pages.
    Since I witnessed the brutal suppression of the JVP by the Premadasa regime while living in Kandy and Peradeniya during my undergraduate years, in addition to some of the SLA atrocities against Tamils during that time, I developed a deep contempt for anyone associated with that regime, including Tisaranee Gunasekara, Dayan Jayatilleka, and to some extent Shyamon Jayasinghe. But Shyamon put my mind at ease here on CT when he explained that he held a career civil service position under Premadasa and he reached that position through his hard work and talent, which I accepted. And TG, by showing courage in her fearless criticism of the MR regime over several years, even as her one-time friend or confidant, DJ, was being nauseously sycophantic, has subsequently earned my respect.

    Shyamon has also positively highlighted my explanations of rationality in response to some of his writings. The only thing I couldn’t understand was his deep loyalty to Ranil W., something so out of character for a rationalist. Perhaps he had developed an attachment to the UNP and some of their leaders early and found it hard emotionally to change his opinion when facts warranted.

  • 1
    0

    Shocked and saddened to hear that he is not with us anymore. Shyamon will be missed forever and always. Enjoy your spiritual journey in Paradise Rest in Peace.

  • 0
    0

    I did not know him personally. and was not very familiar with his writings. but it is sad to see one of the contributors here pass away. But then again that is the fate of all of us. may he attain what ever he desires in his after life.

  • 0
    0

    His writings on religious extremism were enlightening and appealed to a wider audience. His shortcomings what ever they may be should not be discussed at this juncture when we celebrate his his life.
    I will miss his writing just like I missed Rajasingham Jayadevan who passed away some years ago. Amen

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