|Dr. N. Rasalingam|
|Dr. N. Rasalingam|
|Achievements at a glance (click on picture to enlarge)|
Dr. N. Rasalingam
By Rohini Anandaraja
Dr. Nagalingam Rasalingam - born in Sri Lanka on 3rd May 1936, passed away peacefully in Auckland, New Zealand, on 26th August 2017.
He had arrived in NZ in 1969 to begin work as a Houseman in the Public Hospital in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. Here he impressed his consultants and colleagues with his knowledge of medicine as well as his dedication to work, his cooperation, and his charming personality, to the extent that other Sri Lankan medical professionals were enthusiastically recruited to Wellington Hospital on his recommendation.
In 1974 , he moved to Auckland, to establish his own General Practice- not in a plush elitist area, but in an area of 'special need' where he offered free health care for children under 6 yrs of age, as well as the disadvantaged, long before government funded schemes became available. Known to his patients as Dr.Ras, he served this community with great dedication and compassion.
During the Sri Lankan ethnic conflicts , his own family suffered tremendous loss. He was not only instrumental in helping his own family, but many others who were at risk of losing their lives, to migrate to New Zealand..
During his time in Auckland, there were many other refugees groups who arrived in NZ from Cambodia, Vietnam, Kosovo, Zimbabwe etc, fleeing persecution in their mother lands. His great empathy saw him dedicated to helping these traumatized people settle into their new homes, ensuring they have accessible and affordable health care.
He established interpreter services for them , became Chairperson of the "English for speakers of other languages " Advisory Board at the Auckland University of Technology. In 1991 he served as the inaugural President of the Auckland Refugee Council , continuing in this role for 10 years. In 2006 he became the inaugural President of the Refugee Council of NewZealand, ensuring that New Zealand met its legal and humanitarian obligations under the United Nations Convention on Refugees (UNCR). He was also President of the Ethnic Voice of New Zealand, and spent countless hours being an inspirational and vocal leader, assisting refugees and migrants assimilate into NZ society. Many were the lives he touched.
Making an impact on government and departmental policies and procedures has always been a difficult task. However, Dr. Ras' persistence resulted in many changes for the better management of refugee and migrant issues at the highest levels of government. In recognition of his dictated service , he was awarded a Queen's Service Medal (QSM) in 1990, and was conferred " Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM)" in the Queen's Birthday Honours in year 2000. His awards and accolades have been many, a list of which appears at the beginning of this article.
Dr. Rasalingam has been a very loved and respected member of the NewZealand community that Sri Lanka can be proud of.
His funeral took place on 3rd September, the proceedings commencing to the strains of " Disce Aut Discede" the Royal College anthem, as Ras had been head prefect of RC in 1956. It was attended by over a thousand mourners, with eulogies by a past Governor General of NZ, and past minister and incumbent Mayor of Auckland with whom Dr. Ras had worked closely. They enlightened us further on what a great, yet humble man he was, and made the point that it was unusual for one person to be conferred two honours- but that Dr. Ras was an extraordinary human being that they were very privileged to know.
He leaves behind, his wife Malar, his son Ravi-a cardiologist in Boston, and daughter- a lawyer in NewYork.
His great humanitarian work now behind him - May his kind soul Rest in Peace.
Blog Administrator's note: "Ras" was a few years senior to us in Medical School. But most of us knew him at least as a "Common Room Acquaintance".