Various roles in different dispensations

19 September 2019 01:37 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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This work seeks to set out by recounting in anecdotal detail, situations encountered by a Public Servant in addressing himself to the responsibilities that different positions, right up to the summit of the hierarchy entail. Here we learn about the situations faced, the battles fought and fortunately for Walter Fernando, the happy-ending. It brings out the quiet but single minded determination backed up both with great courage and tact to do what is lawfully expected.  

The first sections of the book give the reader the influences that fashioned the character and contributed to the outlook of this particular Public Servant. The family background in which religion features prominently, the school which equips Walter to face the academic and administrative challenges, again in an atmosphere suffused with the discipline of religion more particularly Methodism which was Walters own faith and that of his school - Richmond Galle.  


  •  It is this slow and tedious process with its trials and tribulations as also inspired fights for justice and the vindication of principles assailed, that constitute the core of this book
  • The Immigration set up once a by-word for delay and malpractice underwent a complete overhaul

When the public service phase of Walter Fernando’s career which winds up with the highest positions in the fields of Excise and Immigration - as Excise Commissioner and Controller of Immigration and Emigration are considered, a temptation to make a comparison of his achievements with other greats of the Public Service, the inimitable D.B.I. Siriwardena, V.L. Weerasinghe, C.P. Vithachchi and, closer home, K.H.J. Wijedasa, to make a random choice, may be pardoned. What is immediately striking in this flight of imagination is that Walter’s career was cast in a more mundane mould: while these others had the advantage of a head start as numbers of the coveted, envied, undiluted - sometimes unjustly maligned - Civil Service of yore, it was Walters lot to devil up from a comparatively lower position in the Public Service - that of Labour officer. How he bridged this wide gap to reach the same heights as these others is surely a tribute to the mettle of the man.   

An Autobiography - Career challenges of a Public Servant

It is this slow and tedious process with its trials and tribulations as also inspired fights for justice and the vindication of principles assailed, that constitute the core of this book. This somewhat abstract summary statement should not deny the reader of a very live, often dramatic narration of the events in the life of a Public Servant. The very real blood-curdling threats to his life that Walter had to face as Excise Commissioner during the second J.V.P. insurrection; the encounter with the popular actor in politicians clothing, elevated to the position of Deputy Speaker sheds light on the phenomenon of power going into the heads of otherwise normal, sober people. These accounts partake the character of real life thrillers. All these and much more are related in an easy flowing readable manner. The reader will find himself engrossed in a very live sincere story that he will feel compelled to pursue his reading to the rewarding end.   

Lessons learnt and advice offered are restricted to a space quite disproportionate to their practical value. This is advice from a Public servant who left the institutions he headed - the Lotteries Board the Excise and Immigration Departments in a conspicuously stronger financial footing and what is more a visibly improved public image. The Immigration set up once a by-word for delay and malpractice underwent a complete overhaul. The one day Passport was an innovation that has benefited countless prospective travelers beyond measure. They should be taken to heart by all privileged to be in positions to serve the public as its servants.   

Walter’s career was cast in a more mundane mould: while these others had  the advantage of a head start as numbers of the coveted, envied,  undiluted - sometimes unjustly maligned - Civil Service of yore, it was  Walters lot to devil up from a comparatively lower position in the  Public Service - that of Labour officer

Now to Part 2 of the book. It bears emphasis that it is an integral part of the book and not an appendage. It is devoted to religious activities. Religion is in Walters blood, transfused by family and school. It was a familiar sight to see him rushing to the hostel prayer room every morning, shirt barely tucked in and walking to the school church at the foot of Richmond Hill every Sunday morning in sober spotless attire (and making a bee line to the school tuck shop immediately after the church service!) His immersion in his church and devotion to his faith was total. His faith informed, inspired and guided his activities as a Public Servant and his every action was stamped with righteousness. This section offers more than a glimpse of the Methodist movement in Sri Lanka and an account of the very wide-ranging activities undertaken to spread the message of his Master and Lord for the benefit of the people in and around Negombo and beyond. His writing in this section, giving expression to an inborn religion, will not leave any reader unmoved. In these religiosity times - worse when religion is abused and shamelessly prostituted for political gain - here is a compelling, touching message that should benefit everyone whatever individual religious beliefs are professed. It harmoniously complements part one of the book taken up with worldly matters, so to speak with the far more fundamentally important eternal verities which we often tend to neglect, Walter underlines the significance and truth of his school motto - Nisi Dominus Frustra - without goal in vain.   

Here then is a book of inestimable value, of comprehensive coverage which will amply reward any reader.   

H.P. Wijewardena 

 

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