Like in many other fields the team work counts in politics too. For that I am lucky to have a distinguished gentleman politician like Prof. Ravindra Fernando as the organizer of my neighbouring electorate Panadura.
Prof. Ravindra Fernando is a product of my own alma mater Ananda College, Colombo, and had an outstanding career as a medical undergraduate. In addition to being a conscientious student, he immersed himself in the activities of the Buddhist Society (an ardent participant and organiser of Vesak Bakthi Gee!) and the Medical Student Union. He made an early decision to specialise in Forensic Medicine and joined the Department of Forensic Medicine, Colombo, as a Lecturer soon after his pre-registration jobs. He then proceeded to the UK to specialise, working in London (Guy’s) and Berkshire, and returned as Senior Lecturer (also acquiring postgraduate qualifications in Clinical Medicine along the way). He was appointed Professor of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology in Colombo in 1996.
Image: Both of us learnt ‘Appamado Amathapadam’ at the same place, the highest Buddhist educational institution in Sri Lanka, Ananda College.
Prof. Ravindra Fernando’s abiding interest has been toxicology. While being a clinical teacher he also found time to set up the National Poisons Information Centre in the National Hospital, Colombo in 1986 and has been its head from its inception. In a country where self-harm from drugs and chemicals is very common, the Centre has been a source of great strength and encouragement to all physicians who access it. He has published extensively in his own field and is the author of 12 books. He is also the Director, Centre for the Study of Human Rights, and the Chairman of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board. His national standing is reflected in numerous awards (Lion’s, Sri Lanka Jaycees and a Presidential award) he has received.
Prof. Ravindra Fernando was the President of the Ceylon College of Physicians in 1997 and will be the President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association in 2004. Prof. Ravindra Fernando has represented Sri Lanka in UN and British forensic teams (investigating the Thai Airways crash in Nepal) and was a member of the Presidential Task Force on Child Abuse. He is philosophical about his foray into the field of politics in Sri Lanka. “No amount of training in Forensic Medicine could have prepared me for the carnage in the political battlefields of Sri Lanka” he says.
Prof. Ravindra Fernando was also the author of two famous books. ‘Murder in Ceylon, A : The Sathasivam Case’ a Vijitha Yapa publication, objectively examines and presents the pertinent facts, and expert evidence led at the 57-day trial of this landmark case in the history of law and forensic medicine in Sri Lanka.
‘Sri Lanka LTTE and the British Parliament’, another Vijitha Yapa publication his first work on a national issue. T he debate on ‘Sri Lanka’ in British Parliament on 2nd May 2007 led to passionate, sensitive, emotionally charged and sometimes irrational responses from Sri Lankans living in the country and abroad. A few days later, the Parliament in Sri Lanka held a debate on this issue in a highly charged atmosphere. The author has compiled this book including, for the benefit of the readers, the entire debate of the British Parliament. He has then documented the Sri Lankan reactions. The book has references and explanatory notes enabling readers to have clear overall picture of the tragic ethnic conflict spanning more than two decades in Sri Lanka.
Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, Secretary-General of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process reviewing the latter book says:
Prof. Fernando’s measured account will help to diffuse some tensions that arose when the debate first occurred and it was assumed that this was unwarranted interference by Britishers. After all, with Sri Lankan constituents, it is understandable that British MPs should want to debate the situation. The book will help to make clear the relatively balanced discussion, whilst highlighting areas in which there were misconceptions that must be cleared.
As the British High Commissioner said at the launch in Colombo, Britain continues to ban the LTTE and, while assistance with the peace process will continue, it is based on the sovereignty and unity of Sri Lanka. It is up to us to take advantage of this commitment without allowing those who seek the division of Sri Lanka to benefit from inaccuracies and an adversarial approach.