Sri Lanka Sikhamani Dr. Asoka Chandrasoma Wijesurendra


 W. H. Auden once said that,

"A doctor, like anyone else who has to deal with human beings, each of them unique, cannot be a scientist; he is either, like the surgeon, a craftsman, or, like the physician and the psychologist, an artist. This means that in order to be a good doctor a man must also have a good character, that is to say, whatever weaknesses and foibles he may have, he must love his fellow human beings in the concrete and desire their good before his own."

Sri Lanka Sikhamani Dr. Asoka Chandrasoma Wijesurendra who passed away recently on April 6 after a brief illness was indeed a noble man with splendidly good character. He was a hero who tirelessly worked for the well being of his fellow citizens, especially for the wounded soldiers in the grim periods of war, which earned him the National award, "Sri Lanka Sikhamani."

Asoka Chandrasoma Wijesurendra was born on October 3, 1944, as the firstborn of Mr. Edwin Wijesurendra, Attorney-at-Law and Mrs. Irene Wijesurendra. Mr. Edwin Wijesurendra was a well-read gentleman, highly esteemed, and young Asoka was highly inspired by him. Mrs. Irene Wijesurendra was an extremely kind, gentle mother who instilled her kindness in he son, Asoka, too. Ananda Wijesurendra (an automobile engineer), and Mahinda Wijesurendra (attorney-at-Law) were his younger brothers, in whose company Asoka grew up.

Asoka Wijesurendra had his education in the Mahinda College, Galle and he soon proved to be one of the most brilliant students the school ever produced. He secured 6-7 prizes in each and every prize giving. He was the English debating team leader for two years and engaged in so many extra-curricular activities too. He passed his A/L’s with flying colours, and achieved the Kularatne Gold medal as the best student of the year. He entered the Medical faculty of the Peradeniya University in 1963 and gained his MBBS degree. Then he went to England in 1973 to pursue his postgraduate studies.

He passed his FRCS, London (Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons) and after few years of practice in England, he returned to Sri Lanka in 1982. He started working as a surgeon in the accident ward, Colombo General Hospital for some time, and thereafter worked in the General Hospitals of Nuwara Eliya and Anuradhapura.

At that time, the civil war in the North and East was raging. Being an ardent patriot, he tirelessly engaged in operations to save the lives of the injured soldiers. Once he has been in the operating theatre for 52 hours continuously. He was a close friend of the late Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa.

To honour his great service, President Premadasa awarded him the "Sri Lanka Sikhamani" in 1991.

After his time in Anuradhapura, he worked in Ratnapura, Kegalle and Matale General Hospitals and eventually retired in 2004.

Dr. Asoka Wijesurendra was a proud father of three children. He married to Ms. Mallika Kapilaratne in 1971, and they had two sons and a daughter.

The author is a son of Dr. Asoka Wijesurendra’s brother Mr. Ananda Wijesurendra. Once I inquired from my uncle whether he was satisfied with his profession, whether will he choose the same career path if he gets a second chance to travel back in time and start all over again. He answered "Yes." He said that "he was delighted to do operations and to help a human body to recover. Though he had to run so many times even leaving his meal for urgent operations, his life being a craftsman involved with the human body was wonderful and interesting.’’

My uncle was a genius, who inspired me. Once he gave me the world famous book "The God Delusion" by Prof. Richard Dawkins to read and that lead me into a grand realm of study and learning.

Lord Buddha once preached that "He who attends the sick is indeed is attending me." (Yo gilaanopattathi, so man Upaattathi.) So a person who ministers the sick, in good heart can gain so many merits and I am pretty confident that my uncle would have earned much merit leading to rebirth in a good place.

May he achieve the supreme bliss of Nibbana!

-Yalith Wasantha Manahara Wijesurendra

LLB (Colombo), Attorney-at-Law

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