A Tribute from Rev. Premarajah
MRS. SUGIRTHAM ARNOLD: “A MOTHER PAR EXCELLENCE”
The passing away of Mrs Sugirtham Arnold, ‘a mother par excellence’ in Colombo at the age of 94 brought deep sadness to the family, friends, and relatives across the globe. The four sons- Rohan (London), Jayantha (London), Chrisantha (Melbourne, Australia) and Anandan (Colombo) are blessed with a mother who showered love and took care of them from their early childhood days due to her husband’s sudden demise, and in turn they took great care of her during the later years of her life in Sri Lanka.
Miss Sugirtham Selvadurai, a daughter of Mr and Mrs R R Selvadurai, a District Judge and later Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice in the Government of Sri Lanka, married to Mr Joel Dharmarajah Arnold, who was a Divisional Revenue Officer (DRO), ‘equivalent to today’s Assistant Government Agent (AGA), a legendary civil servant renowned for philanthropic and stoic services to the community’, blessed with four sons. The experience of the family before and during the civil war shaped their lives to who they are today.
Sugirtham lost her husband on the 13th of April 1966 in an unforeseen incident of getting drowned in a lake in the South of the country while travelling, he tried to save another. She had to face the responsibility of taking care of the four boys. She approached the late Mr K Pooranampillai, Principal of Hartley College, Point Pedro for admission for her eldest son Rohan at the age of 11; similarly, she approached Mr C D Anandarajan, Principal of St John’s College, Jaffna for Jayantha (9) and Chrisantha (7), and he admitted them in the Primary School. The youngest son Anandan was then only 9 months old! Three of them (Rohan, Jayantha and Anandan were at St Johns, while Chrisantha moved to Jaffna College to pursue their studies. They excelled in sports like their mother, and in leadership skills both at the College and Church activities. They grew up in a Christian environment that intermingled with the majority Saivite community of Jaffna. They appreciated their Tamil roots and Christian heritage of Jaffna- American Ceylon Mission, Methodist and Anglican, and got inspired by the work of the missionaries for their contribution in education, health and social transformation of the entire Jaffna society.
Sugirtham has been a Church Violinist at Navaly, Manipay, member of the Church committee, a delegate to the Jaffna Diocesan Council which met annually at Vaddukoddai. Sons were active in organising youth camps on behalf of the JDCSI, Jaffna Inter-Colligiate Christian Fellowship (JICCF) at Casurina beach camp house, and at other venues, in addition to local church youth fellowship activities. Sugirtham migrated to Melbourne, Australia with Chrisantha and his wife Vino, settled down in Mount Waverley, continued to support them in the care of their two boys. Once the grandkids moved to the Secondary school, Sugirtham moved to an independent unit in Noble Park, a seniors housing facility managed by the Tamil Senior Citizens Fellowship Inc. She attended the local church, St Aiden’s Anglican Congregation on Sunday mornings and became an integral part of the Tamil Christian Congregation, Victoria (TCCV), an ecumenical evening congregation in Malvern. She actively participated in the TCCV Seniors Ministry, a few years in the Parish Council (Vestry), and held leadership positions in the Tamil Senior Citizens Fellowship Inc., (TSCF) for many years. She took part in drama and skits staged by the Church and Seniors Fellowship, and became one of the key leaders in the churches and Tamil community. Her services are on record in the annals of these communities. Even after she moved to reside in Colombo under close oversight of her sons and caregivers, she became a quiet participant in a peaceful life in secure apartment.
Sugirtham, a lover of independence, a person of deep faith, loved life in all of its realms. She travelled freely by public transport, participated regularly in several programs of charity and church and community activities giving of her best talents and blessed many fellow seniors, believers, the sick and the vulnerable in Melbourne and in the war-torn Sri Lanka. She witnessed her sons giving leadership in various fields. Anandan partners the BBK Partnership Sri Lanka, “sweeping the accounting world” that caters to aspiring young people in the field of Accounting. Jayantha, with his medical profession in the UK, with the support of his brothers, relatives and friends supports the work in the American Mission Hospital in Manipay, Green Memorial Hospital where medical and healthcare services are rendered to the people of Jaffna in continuity of the mission. Nursing training, Palliative care are added to its services by setting up a charity: “Friends of Manipay Hospital”. They raise funds by Cycle “Ride for Ceylon” since 2005.
Sugirtham’s life stands out as a ‘mother par excellence’ and a woman of deep faith in Christ, and served for the extension of God’s rule representing her Church and community and family. Listing her contribution needs another article. But it is suffice to say that she is an exemplary Christian woman who faced life with its challenges and opportunities with confidence, courage and faith. Let us join in celebrating her Life and Christian Witness to the glory of God, and entrust her into God’s eternal care. We pray for God’s comfort and consolation to be upon her sons and their families, relatives, friends and colleagues. We wish them God’s continued guidance and blessings upon the work they do for the community in Sri Lanka, and in particular, among the traumatised people in Sri Lanka.
19th Feb. 2023
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