A Lady of Wisdom and Grace, a matriarch in serving women and children in need for over three decades

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Words : Nilu Rajapakse

Premlatha Rajapakse Weerasinghe, Merle to her family and friends, exemplifies the perfect Sinhala Kula-Kantha or ‘Lady of Culture’. A dutiful daughter, devoted sister, dedicated wife and mother who also became one of the most powerful forces protecting destitute women and vulnerable children in Sri Lanka. a pioneer in breaking traditional barriers for women, with grace. Much loved and respected by her comrades-in-arms in serving vulnerable groups in society, Merle never imagined the humanitarian mark she would etch for her beloved country would turn out to be such a commendable legacy.

Hailing from the beautiful southern town of Weligama, in Matara, Merle vividly remembers a colorful childhood set in a strongly patriarchal era. Her father Don Abraham Simeon Rajapakse was a dominant but distant figure in her youth. A postmaster by profession, regarded as a most respectable position in the days of colonial Ceylon, would apply himself to his duties with utmost ardor. Himself an admirer of western traditions, preferred to call her Merle. Her maternal grandparents were loving. Her grandfather was an Ayurvedic physician, and grandmother his able yet somewhat overpowering assistant.

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