Sunday, 29 November 2015

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<%on error resume next%> Tributes
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Remembering Dr Seevali Ratwatte

Dr. Seevali Ratwatte answered the inevitable call from above on November 16, 2014 after a brief illness, having lived a full life. He passed away at the age of 91. He hailed from the Barnes Ratwatte family.

Dr. Seevali Ratwatte was born on November 24, 1923 to Barnes Ratwatte, (Barnes Ratwatte Dissawa), a legislator and a headman during the Colonial epoch.

Dr. Sivali Ratwatte was primarily educated at the Colombo St. Bridget's Convent and later at Trinity College, Kandy from where he gained admission to the Colombo University and passed out as a medical doctor. He discharged his duties as a medical practitioner attached to the government and private sector hospitals as well, with excellence until mid 1970 where he joined Lever Brothers Ceylon Ltd (Unilever Sri Lanka) as the Company Doctor.

Dr. Ratwatte was the founder and President of a special organisation called the 'Sinhala Tharuna Sangamaya (Sinhala Youth Organisation) where Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike was the Patron, the late Dr. Buddhadasa Bodhinayake Vice Patron, Nimal Siripala de Silva (organiser - men's section), Karuna Bodhinayake (organiser- women's section), along with a Central Committee comprising Ven Alle Gunawansa Thera, Dr. Sarath Amunugama, U.K. Edmond, M. D. Premadasa, Prof. Tuly de Silva and treasurer the late Wijeratne Siriwardena, Chartered Accountant and the Secretary, of the late Lakshman Ranasinghe. The organisation had a great impact and an influence on society at that time and helped to overturn the UNP government during the 1970 general elections.

While Dr. Sivali Ratwatte ,was working as the Medical Officer for Lever Brothers Ceylon Ltd, Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike invited him to head the Export Promotion Secretariat, one of the first government institutions set up to promote exports. When the late President J.R. Jayewardene set up the Greater Colombo Economic Commission (GCEC), he appointed Dr. Ratwatte as Director (Promotions) of Free Trade Zones and investment. Upali Wijewardene, Dr. Ratwatte son-in-law, was Director General of GCEC at the time. Dr. Ratwatte subsequently secured a post at the International Trade Centre, a United Nations body, based at the Export Promotion Bureau in Kathmandu, Nepal, as adviser and project coordinator.

With the mysterious 'disappearance' of his son-in-law, Upali Wijewardene, he was compelled to return to Sri Lanka to take over as Chairman, Upali Group of Companies.

Dr. Seevali Ratwatte married Seetha Rohini Ellawala of Ratnapura and had two daughters. Lakmini Ratwatte who married the late Upali Wijewardene and later married Nimal Welgama. Dr. Ratwatte later handed over the responsibilities of to Ms. Lakmini Ratwatte Welgama, while her husband Nimal Welgama assumed duties as the Chief Executive Officer of the company. His second daughter Eranthika Sirimavo Ratwatte married Dr. Saman Kelegama.

Dr. Seevali Ratwatte was a simple, sincere and an unassuming person with a noble and magnanimous heart. Hailing from such an affluent family and being Chairman of the Upali Group of Companies, he never lost touch with the ordinary worker but developed immense love and respect towards his employees by maintaining a close rapport with them and by at times being personally involved in resolving their individual problems.

As much as being an extremely kind manager, Dr. Seevali Ratwatte successfully maintained discipline. His inborn qualities always helped him to cultivate many a friend. In his service to others he did not expect any reward in return or seek any publicity. Everyone who associated with him appreciated his great qualities.

Dr. Seevali Ratwatte was also Chairman of the Commonwealth Press Union's Sri Lanka branch.

Once when Dr. Ratwatte was in London, we met him for the first time in 1987, while he was a student.

It was a strange coincidence when the Sri Lanka's High Commissioner at the time in London, Chandra Monarawala, after reading and showing a full spread article published by us in a London Indian tabloid 'New Voice' on February 20, 1987 about Sri Lanka's 39th Independence Anniversary at the Sri Lanka High Commission where Monarawala had organised an overnight Pirith Sangayanadoing away with the traditional tamashas, Dr Ratwatte had requested Chandra Monarawala to invite us to the High Commission Office.

On Dr Ratwatte's first death anniversary many relatives and close friends attended an overnight Pirith Sangayana organised by the family at his residence in Borella. A Sangika dana on the next day was given to 20 Bhikkhus.

Tilak Fernando


Maj. Gen. Gratiaen Silva

It is with much grief that the news of Gratiaen Silva's demise on November 6, was received by family and friends.

I first met Gratiaen in 1989, when I joined the Rotary Club of Cinnamon Gardens. In the following year he was elected President. Gratiaen was loved and admired for his unstinted commitment to all Club activities, his quiet, calm and serene composure at the most difficult times, tempered with sound advice and comfort. His Sandhurst training has held him in good stead.

He was selected by the Rotary District to be a team leader of the Group Study Exchange Program of Rotary International, visiting Rotary Clubs in the UK. On his return, he introduced Quiz Programs titled 'Ask me Another' as a competition among local clubs. This became a major fundraiser for the club and proceeds were utilized to finance several community projects. To his credit, this program and projects are still continued.

Gratiaen was also instrumental in establishing the club's first Family Home Visit Exchange Program with the Rotary Club of Bangalore. I vividly remember how proud and happy (that smiling face) he was when we made our first visit to Bangalore during my Presidency.

I owe a special debt of gratitude to Gratiaen who, at a moment's notice, arranged for soldiers, from as far as Jaffna, to donate blood for my heart by-pass surgery when my blood group AB negative, was so rare, that getting five pints was a near impossibility.

It was then that I realised "friends are like stars, you do not always see them but know they are always there."

To his dear and gracious wife Mallika, his charming daughters, son and grand-children, my wife Shamalee and I offer our heartfelt sympathies.

May he rest in peace.

- Derrick Juriansz

 

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