Philanthropist Dr. Neville Fernando donates private collection of
books to national library

19th May 2016

Once the famous author and poet Oscar Wilde said, “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” Undoubtedly throughout the ages books have built great minds and great personalities that served humankind and the world over the years.

One of Sri Lanka’s veteran Physicians and a Philanthropist Dr. Neville Fernando – the Chairman of the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM) and Dr. Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital (NFTH) recently donated over 1,600 books in his private collection to the National Library in Colombo. According to the National Library officials Dr. Neville Fernando’s book collection is the second largest private book collection that was donated to national libraries after Sri Lanka’s ‘Greatest Author’ Martin Wickramasinghe’s private book collection that had over 5,000 books.

According to Dr. Fernando most of the books in his private collection are on the ‘Old Ceylon’ from times of British Colonial Era to date. He said he has the passion to share the knowledge he has accumulated from books over years and they are the primary source that build up his ideology and vision. Now he believes it is high time that he shares the books that nourished him ‘with the wealth of knowledge’, with the future generations of Sri Lanka.

Bringing back his memories of books Dr. Fernando said that over five decades ago most of his books in the collection were purchased from a bookseller named ‘Appuhamy’ by the pavement of Bristol Street in Colombo, just opposite the Bank of Ceylon (BOC) building.

“Since I was a good customer of Mr. Appuhamy, he always reserved his best books for me,” Dr. Fernando said adding that among the books he has; what made him interested more are the books written on ancient architecture and history of Sri Lanka, apart from the books that were written on ancient Sri Lankan kingdoms such as Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla and Yapahuwa. He went on to say that perhaps what made him more fascinated about Sri Lanka’s history, ancient monuments and ancient cities was visiting ‘Atamasthaana’ in Anuradhapura from early childhood along with his parents and other siblings which was the annual family pilgrimage.

Among the private collection he is donating are two valuable books that are older than 200 years. One being ‘An Account of the Island of Ceylon – Its History, Geography, Natural History with the Manners and the Customs of its various Inhabitants’ which was published in 1803 and the other – ‘Description of Ceylon – An Account of the Country, Inhabitants and Natural Productions by Rev. James Cordiner’ which was published in 1807.

He said that his books that were donated to the National Library in Colombo will help future generations with their language development, knowledge and skills, and building their ideologies, philosophies and interests in various subject areas.

Dr. Neville Fernando is a genius having treaded several areas and then emerging victorious overcoming problems that came along the way in his long career. He is a professionally qualified doctor of Western Medicine. Back in time, his stint at government service did not even last for more than a year and then he was repulsed and quit government service to set up his own private practice at Panadura.

His practice flourished as time went by and he became a popular medical practitioner in the area. He practiced for more than 20 years before giving that up and entered active politics to serve the public.

Back in time Dr. Fernando was also elected by popular vote as the Member of Parliament for Panadura and was an equally active patriot in politics during the 1980s. He gave up politics in 1994, and ventured into business and became a successful businessman. He owned the major shares of Asha Central Hospital, a flagship hospital in Colombo and renowned healthcare brand to date. Later he sold his shares at the Asha Central Hospital at a huge capital gain reaching top ‘Billionaires List’ in Sri Lanka.

With the passion and great intention of doing something for Sri Lanka and the country’s future generation; at the last years of 21st century’s first decade he has set up the institute of higher education – South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM) to help Sri Lankan students who have been left out by State University System as the system absorbs only less than 10% of the Advanced Level passed out students. Further in order to facilitate affordable private healthcare in Sri Lanka he has also established Sri Lanka’s largest private sector hospital with over 1,000 beds named ‘Dr. Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital (NFTH) in Malabe.