Sunil Wijeratna, my beloved cousin, passed away in Zurich, Switzerland while recovering following surgery in Colombo. He had a nasty fall in Kandy in February 2020. After surgery in Colombo he was flown to Switzerland by special air ambulance arranged by his two sons, Norman and Ranil, who reside in Zurich as Swiss citizens. Sunil was in hospital in Zurich until he passed away in mid-October. He telephoned me from the hospital few days before his demise. He was my favourite cousin and we were in touch for many years.
Sunil migrated to Europe in 1973; selecting Switzerland, the best country in the globe. He worked for a leading Swiss finance company CSC as data base administrator till his retirement in 2010 and returned to Sri Lanka, his homeland. He held dual citizenship. He married a Swiss lady named Magdalene and raised a family of two sons. Wijeratna despite working in Zurich made regular visits to Sri Lanka. He visited our ancestral village Ematiyagoda, Godakewela. The grand old Wijeratne Walawwa in Ematiagoda is where many of us were born and raised.
He was a unique person in more than one sense. After his retirement and decision to settle down in Sri Lanka he initiated his well-funded retirement plan. He was undoubtedly guided by his patriotic feeling and immense love for the country.
First, he purchased the ancestral Ematiiyagoda ‘Wijeratne walawwa’ from Ranjan Wijeratne, my other cousin who migrated to U.S.A with his family. This walawwa was built in 1870 by three Wijeratne brothers; our grandparents. Lokku Bandara, Madduma Bandara and Tikiri Bandara were Wijeratnas.
First, he purchased the ancestral Ematiiyagoda ‘Wijeratna Walawwa’ from Ranjan Wijeratne, my other cousin who migrated to U.S.A with his family. This walawwa was built in 1870 by three Wijeratne brothers; our grandparents. Lokku Bandara, Madduma Bandara and Tikiri Bandara were Wijeratnas
It was built on a well-designed architectural plan, using local material obtained from surrounding lands they had owned, utilizing a beautiful site overlooking a narrow valley with paddy lands they had developed by then. The living quarters of the walawwa are spacious. There is a very large ‘Meda midula’ measuring 40 x 80 ft; perhaps the largest one in Sabaragamuwa.
The unique feature of this grand building is that no metal or cement had been used at the time. The family history indicates that the Walawwa was built to last for five generations or more. The pride of this walawwa complex is the Bo Maluwa built on a three-tier platform, which serves as the family shrine. It enshrines a Bodhiya brought from Anuradhapura. Daily pujas have been held there since then. Wijeratna got the Department of Archaeology to recognise the Bo Malluwa as a historic site. Having brought the old walawwa to a very comfortable living place he employed a group of workers for the maintenance of the premises. His sister Naranjana, who came to live in the walawwa, did an excellent job of managing the place while Wijeratna financed the operations. Being the pay master Wijeratna looked after the workers well. His generosity extended well beyond the ancestral house he maintained. He donated more comfortable desks and chairs to the village school which our grandparents had started way back in 1880s. He got the school shrine room renovated for daily pujas for the school children. The village temple was built on a large land donated by the three Wijeratne brothers in the 1890s. He knew the family history and its traditions and never forgot to observe strictly as the occasion demanded. When New Year arrived in mid-April he made it a point to be present and play the role of chief host; never boasting that he came to own the grand walawwa built by the ancestors. He was keen to observe the auspicious times set for various things to be done on the day, giving gifts to every one including village visitors and his workers and their families. Very sumptuous meals and drinks were served during the New Year celebration at the walawwa. The menu always included few traditional foods that tradition demanded He was keen on maintaining the traditions and of course included his favourite items. Niranjala used her culinary and management skills to the maximum to produce the choice meals on such occasions. Traditional new year lunch or dinner was according to the auspicious times set. Usually relatives and friends stayed over several days at the walawwa. After staying a few days at the walawwa, for the New Year, Wijeratna often arranged a trip to a distant place; either to the beautiful coastal area or the mountainous up country. The last trip we did was to Pasikuda and Baticoloa in the east coast and Jaffna in the north; visiting Naga Deepa and Jaffna Fort and observing the negative effects of the civil war. It is noteworthy to mention that he being such a large-hearted employer took his employees on these trips. We were to meet again in April 2020, but it was not to be, as he had that that fatal fall last year. He faded way in Zurich, Switzerland, on October 14.
Today the grave of my beloved cousin Wijeratna lies not too far from that of that of his dear wife in a village at the foot hills of beautiful Alps. Though he left us so suddenly has left a beautiful imprint of love generosity in the heart of many. May he be blessed by the Supreme bliss of Nibbana.