The Beginnings of the Ozanka Website- as I remember

Recollections by Dr. Harold Gunatillake (

I saw a new figure at the 1994 Sinhala and Tamil New year celebration at the Roselea Centre, in Carlingford, organized by the Sri Lankan Association of NSW. He looked atypical and prominent as he was wearing a dark red cylindrical Fez hat, which we nickname,” Thambige Thoppia”.

He was going around introducing himself and quite freely chatting with other participants. When I made inquiries, I was told that he had relocated from Melbourne to settle down in Sydney and his family were from Issadeen Town in Matara and that he had studied and worked in Japan as an engineer for a very long time.

Not long after, I had the opportunity of meeting him and his wife Kimie, at one of the home dinners at a mutual friend’s and we got quite close. Kimie quickly made friends with my wife Irangani.

As Chitran in his appreciation says, the website commenced as an experiment site in 1999 after a joking challenge by a friend of his in Sydney, and it rapidly became a reality, serving the expat Sri Lankan community in Australia and expanding to serve the Sri Lanka diaspora globally without a break, for the past 20 years

We had the opportunity of seeing the preliminary copy of his website, and of course, this was a time when we were so ignorant of the rapidly expanding techno world, and this website excited us all. We were then just learning how to send emails to friends and were told that not to make a mistake in writing the addresses, by omitting even a full stop. While here was this single individual building and running his own web server and compiling in web language. The new term "webmaster" was heard in our community.

A short while after he started publishing the website, he asked me whether I could write a health article to be published, initially, I hesitantly refused as I had never published any health article since I qualified as a doctor. He continued to encourage me for several month, and I reluctantly agreed to write and contributed my first article. The topic was “Health benefits of eating coconut in our food”.

It was published on Ozlanka, and for the first time I came to be in the limelight with an unexpected barrage of criticisms, from friends, colleagues and others from here, there and everywhere. One said, “What does he, as a surgeon, know about coconuts”.

These are the very people having enjoyed meals prepared with coconut ingredients, including the tasty mouth-watering “Polsambol’ their mothers have made for them back in Sri Lanka, and condemning me for writing about it. The era of the spread of knowledge through Ozlanka had commenced.

The webmaster got cold feet, removed my article and replaced it with a more authoritative article written by the President of the Pacific Basin Coconut Federation, in favour of the health benefits of coconuts. Critics were silent over that article.

The webmaster coerced me to write a second article. The first article that appears on the index page on health articles in the website is on the subject of “Fat, cholesterol, eggs and obesity” and then I got addicted to writing weekly articles to the website. To date in total, over a period of 15 years or so, I have written more than 400 articles on various health topics. I personally feel that this is a record that no other person in the medical profession at any level has achieved and I feel that my name should go into the “Guinness book of records”.

I remember the 10th year Celebration of the Ozlanka website organized by Siva, hotelier, at the Blue Elephant Waldorf Function Centre in Pennant Hills, Sydney. It was a great success, attended by over 200 well-wishers. Imtiaz flew down from Tokyo to attend with his wife and both children. I was given the opportunity to make a speech at this event. I remember Palitha Wijesena - the Engineer and lawyer Ananda Amaranath, a schoolmate of Imtiaz, were the other speakes.. It was a historic epoch-making event, remembered and enjoyed by all participants. Ten years have gone by since then.

I am an avid health writer today publishing in magazines, websites, newspapers regularly, and my thanks and appreciation to Imtiaz- my friend for giving me the impetus and encouragement to write.

We are saddened that he is not continuing to publish his website due to his busy professional role as a registered Consultant Engineer in Japan. We hope his successor will keep up to the same high standards of unbiased professionalism and fairness at all times.

All good things must come to an end, and we wish Imtiaz, his wife Kimie and his daughter Izumi the very best in health, longevity and success in their future endeavours.

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. Good byes are not for ever, are not the end; it simply means farewell until we meet again.

Great Friends are Hard to Find, Difficult to leave, Impossible to forget. To quote William Shakespeare from Hamlet:

“Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel"

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Views expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not represent views, opinions or beliefs of the webmaster or owners of Ozlanka

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