Professor S. Kandiah a man of vision
Professor Kandiah was a man of vision; a vision in which he saw a bleak future for the developing societies, like ours, unless the efficiency of their food production was improved soon. He saw this improved efficiency as one in which dependence on imported artificial fertilizers and pesticides and mechanization has little part. Appropriate agricultural technology through innovation was his view of the way forward for agriculture in developing countries. His wide knowledge in crop physiology and his long experience in the praxis of crop production were his assets. He utilized these in visualizing and then experimenting with new techniques which were suited to the needs of Jaffna and similar developing communities. He was interested in the development of the fruit crop potential of the northern province and was particularly involved in the research to develop the full potential of the Palmyra palm, in association with the Palmyra Development Board.
He had a long and distinguished research and academic career. He obtained his Ph.D. from the Wye college of the University of London. Upon his return to Sri Lanka he joined the Tea Research Institute, at Talawakale and spent several years as a senior researcher. In 1978, he came to the then young University of Jaffna as a senior lecturer in Botany. During his tenure in the Department of Botany he rose to the position of Associate Professor, and later became a professor and appointed as the first Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture.
He was one of the dedicated members of the university staff who have toiled, and kept on toiling under the most trying conditions to keep the flame of learning burning in Jaffna. In late 1987, he was one of the brave few who heeded the call of then Vice-Chandellor, Professor A. Thurairajah, and went to the university that was still occupied by the Indian armed forces, to start rebuilding of the vastly destroyed university. As the president of the University Science Teachers' Association, Prof. Kandiah led many delegations to numerous Indian Army camps to argue and demand the release of innocent students and staff members who had been arrested by the Indian Peace Keeping Forces. He also was involved in pressing for and obtaining conditions of safety to the University community during this period.
One of his great ambitions was to do something substantial towards the fulfillment of his vision before the end of his career. He was very pleased when he was appointed to the Faculty of Agriculture since he could then implement many of his ideas. However, he hardly had the opportunity to do that under the circumstances. he worked very hard in spite of his suffering from attacks of asthma. As Dean of Agriculture, like most of the other members of his faculty, he had to cycle from Jaffna to Kilinochchi, several times a month, in the line of duty. It was during one of these cycle trips in 1991, that he collapsed one the way and died.
Professor Kandiah may not be remembered when the history of Jaffna is written, but he will dwell in the hearts of his numerous students and colleagues. He left behind his wife and four children.