By Ranee Mohamed
Today is the 47th birthday of Tiran Alles. It is far from being a happy birthday. In fact, it is the bleakest birthday ever experienced by this man whose parents have done more for other people’s sons and daughters than it is humanely possible in this lifetime.
[Tiran Alles greeting President Mahinda Rajapakse during merrier times]
Ralph I.T. Alles has been acclaimed as teacher, principal and educationist par excellence. Emerging from Royal College, as teachers, both Alles and his wife Rohini Alles, are today leading figures in imparting an international education to thousands of children.
Not only that, investigations have revealed that on the instructions of their eldest son Tiran Alles, the couple had assigned special teachers to prepare the President’s youngest son for his London examinations.
It is also learnt that the President’s youngest son arrived at a special section of the Gateway International School till the last day leading upto his examinations. He had received specialised lessons in physics and computing among other subjects.
It was only last week that the young lad sat for his examination and soon after, as if by way of a twisted pay back, Alles’s own son, the apple of his eye, Tiran was arrested by the Terrorism Investigations Department while he was seeking treatment for a severe allergy and other complications at the Nawaloka Hospital.
Though it was medically advised that Tiran Alles not be exposed to trauma lest his condition worsens, there was nothing that his parents, brother and immediate family could do to arrest the agony, humiliation and interrogation that followed the arrest.
At his Kuruppu Lane residence in Borella, there is a constant supply of cool drinks as people from all walks of life stop by to offer their ‘sympathies’ at the fate that has befallen the dynamic young Tiran Alles, who was the former Chairman of the Airport and Aviation Authority.
His mother Rohini Alles is ill; the tears in her eyes are not drying. She is not able to get up from her chair. This teacher who has shown only loving compassion to the thousands of children she has taught in her 50 year old career as a teacher is today at a loss for words. On medication, Rohini Alles, who was in control of her self at the tragic death of her younger son Malik Alles, in 1984, is today unable to come to terms with the fate that has befallen Tiran Alles, who is very much alive but is dealing with a fate as dark as death itself.
Dark grief returns
Alles’ youngest son, Malik Alles died at 17, when a cricket ball hit him on his head at the D.S. Senanayake College grounds in 1984. The anguish that the Alles’ fell at that time was felt by the entire nation.
“I remember that time, there were many photographers trying to capture our grief. On Wednesday, May 30, too I felt that same dark grief as photographers flashed their cameras and crowded around us after Tiran was taken into custody,” said Ralph Alles. For the Alles’ the pain of losing a son that ripped them apart 23 years ago, returned again this year, this time threatening to rip their very being.
It was painful to see this educationist cry. But locked in their bedroom, these two teachers with a teaching career of over 50 years have been crying uncontrollably day and night. Their anguish is taking a toll on them, for at 70 years, their frail bodies are now weighed down with an unbearably heavy heart.
“Why? Why? Why?, did this happen to me?” queries Alles in distress. The tears well in his eyes and he reaches out with an unsteady hand to wipe them. These hands steadied a ten thousand children. But today there is no one to steady Alles in a way that is meaningful, for the only thing that he wants is to see his son Tiran, safe and free.
“If he has done wrong, then he has to be punished. Then he ought to be taken to courts. But this continuous ‘arresting’ from time to time is confusing. I think my son is being politically victimised. He is a man who would do anything for his friends and when he started this newspaper I knew that it was to help his friends. He did not know anything about media or journalism and I do not think he even knew the editorial content in his newspaper,” said Alles.
Visitors believed that it was a strange coincidence that Tiran Alles was arrested 24 hours after Mangala Samaraweera said ‘no’ to rejoining the government.
In the centre of controversy is also the newspaper of Tiran Alles’ which, it is learnt, was warned by the powers-that-be to tone down.
Rohini and Ralph Alles and their other son Harsha had in fact opposed the idea of Tiran Alles starting a newspaper. They had even opposed his entry to politics. “Politics is a dirty game in this country and we vehemently opposed his decision,” said Alles. But the family had finally given in.
Tiran Alles is blessed with this close-knit family. But today he is unable to see his own children. His eldest son, sitting for his A.S. examinations is suffering from uncontrollable fever. He is asking for his father. His daughter who is sitting for her G.C.E. O/Ls is in deeper turmoil. They want their father back.
“How can I look at the faces of these children? What do I tell them when they ask for their father,” asked Ralph Alles, crying helplessly.
Life is full of strange quirks and twists for R.I.T. Alles, who built D.S. Senanayake College in 1967 with only a 100 X 20 temporary building. He also built another school called the C.W.W. Kannangara College in Galle for children affected by the tsunami and the children of fisher folk. In addition to this he has been imparting an international educational with Gateway for over two decades. Alles who has throughout his 50 years or so been showing the way to thousands of children is today unable to save his own child.
“I have instilled great qualities in my children. It was only Tiran who was able to have a foreign education. After sitting for his A/Ls, he went abroad. He studied in the UK for two years but I always told him that he has to come back and serve the country,” said Alles.
Tiran Alles had opportunities to settle down abroad but the family’s way of thinking is ‘Country Before Self,’ Alles’ Motto that prevails at D.S. Senanayake College. “When I was at D.S. I was given a scholarship to England. At the end of the scholarship, I came first in the batch of 14 scholarships. Our salary was then only three sterling pounds. The professor offered me a job as deputy principal. ‘We will pay you Sterling Pounds 120,’ he offered. I had just started D.S. Senanayake College, the shed was made into a small building, and the challenge was – here is a job as deputy principal in the UK with living quarters, education for my children and other perks. But I put country before self and I came back. This is what I instilled in my children too, to put country before self,” cried Alles.
“The largest number of officers who sacrificed their life for their country are from D.S. Senanayake College. Because this was instilled into them, this is the environment in which Tiran Alles was brought up,” said Alles.
“When I look at the situation now, I wonder whether I made the correct decision by not accepting that job. Who knows, then my younger son would not have died.
“Today we are undergoing a life and death situation. Today when I go to hospital to see my son I have to get permission from the police constables or CID there to just look at my son for a few minutes. I am allowed a limited time, I can speak only a few words, and when I see him there, surrounded by policemen, words fail me. Why this grief, why this trauma, what wrong have we done….” he asked in tears.
[Parents of Tiran Alles accompanied by ousted minister Sripathi Sooriyarachchi rushing to the Nawaloka hospital as TID detectives grilled Mr. Alles. Pic by Saman Kariyawasam]
Look what I have done for my country and look what the country is doing to my children…” cried Alles in tears.
“Tiran was at the airport for three years, first as the deputy chairman and then as the chairman. Many visitors to and from the airport made many glowing comments about the airport and it is during his time that the airport really blossomed. We were also very proud to know that he did not take a salary from the airport. He did not take his official vehicle. He did not use his official quarters. I know of instances when even for official work he traveled at his own cost,” said Alles.
“During Tiran Alles’ time, the profitability of the airport increased sevenfold. We are surprised that he is being investigated for financial dealings. We are shocked to see that either in the press or anywhere no questions are being asked about the dealings of the airport for it is during his time that billions of rupees and dollars came by way of expanding of the airport, by way of duty free shops. I am sure the government has access to this information and we are surprised why not one question is asked about the airport..” said Alles.
“We began Gateway after mortgaging our house. Tiran Alles achieved success through his own perseverance,” he said.
When it has been pointed out by the powers that be that Tiran Alles’s Maubima was being critical of the government, his father had advised Alles to either close the newspaper or stop the publication of material critical of the government in the newspaper for one week. Thereafter in one issue the newspaper had refrained from publishing critical material. The following week, due to the freezing of their accounts, only 16 pages had been published. and thereafter folded.
“Tiran had such strong qualities. His was a true friend and his belief in friendship was admirable. If he was a friend, then he was a friend in good times and in bad. We know that he is being victimised because of his ‘friendship’ with certain people,” said Alles.
“This is a tragedy for us. I have lost one son and I do not want to lose another before I close my eyes… I am appealing to everyone at home and abroad, I am appealing to the powers that be to save my child who I know has done no wrong. He, in keeping with my motto has always put country before self,” said Alles.
“He neglected his company the CBE and worked for the development of the airport and for the country and for what he has done I really thought that he will be made a king or something….. cried his father, touching his temples and looking around in anguish at his crying wife. He looks away from her, with a blurred, tear tinged vision at his kingdom which is now beginning to fall apart. [thesundayleader.lk]