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Sunday, 11 January 2009

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Not only a good leader, but a friend

Palitha Silva Gunawardena:

People of Sri Lanka never thought that they have to experience what they have heard in history books. The history of Sri Lanka speaks the wrath of the gods causing the ocean to flow over the Kingdom of Kelaniya during the reign of King Kelanitissa forcing his daughter `Devi’ to be sacrificed to the sea. This history repeated itself on 26th December, 2004 and Palitha Silva Gunawardena, my dear friend was one of its victims.

My memories of Gunawardena stretches back to 1998. In August 1998, I was called by the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) to fill up a vacancy in the Economic Affairs Division.

I was interviewed by a panel of three members which was headed by a young gentleman with a serious look. I was extremely impressed with the way he conducted the interview.

At the end of the interview he introduced himself, as Palitha Silva Gunawardena, the Director of Economic Affairs of TRCSL. Working with him made me realise that he was not only a good boss, but also a good leader.

Having come to the TRCSL with private sector experience, I was pleasantly surprised with the ease in which I was able to settle down to work with him. He was very strongly motivated and very passionate about his work.

He was a man with a vision and an exemplary leader. He gave credit to those who deserved it and led by example.Mr. Gunawardena commenced his carrier as a Systems

Accountant at Sampath Bank in 1989 and joined National Development Bank (NDB) as a executive in 1991. While he was working at NDB he became an Associate Member of Chartered Institute of Management Account (CIMA) UK and was a Fellow Member in 2001. He also obtained a degree of Master of Business Administration with a merit pass from Postgraduate Institute of Management, University of Sri Jayewardenapura.

Recognising his talent and qualifications, the British Government offered him the prestigious Chevening scholarship. He was the only recipient of the scholarship from Sri Lanka in that particular year.

With this scholarship, he completed an MSc in International Securities, Investment and Banking at the University of Reading, UK and graduated with a merit, among the top quartile in a class of 93 students from 25 countries. With these qualifications he was fortunate to acquire foreign exposure by working in a well recognised company in UK, namely Morgan Stanley UK Group, in 1997.

His vast experiences and multi-disciplined qualifications convinced the authorities to offer him a challenging key position in the newly formed Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka.

In turn, his main challenge was to recruit suitable people to form and strengthen the Economic Division of TRCSL which was a key division within the TRCSL that addressed burning issues like interconnection among telecommunication networks and the collection of operator dues to the Government.

The letter of commendation issued to Mr. Gunawardena by Prof. Rohan Samarajiva, then the Director General of Telecommunications, at the completion of his first year of service, stated that “Under very difficult conditions established the Economic Division and made it, the most productive unit within the organisation as measured by Commission Papers generated and projects undertaken and completed”.

This statement proved that Mr. Gunawardena had the ability to work well under any circumstances. Though Mr. Gunawardena was the first and youngest director in TRCSL, he gained the recognition and respect of the entire telecommunication industry, not only in Sri Lanka, but in the whole region, within a very short time. Mr. Gunawardena was known to be very systematic.

He was a firm boss to his subordinates when at work, but a good, loyal and sincere friend in his social life. He was a loving son to his parents and a loving brother to his two sisters.

The affection he had towards his mother, Chitra Silva was remarkable. The active role he played at home after the sudden demise of his father Admiral Ananda Silva, former Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy, helped his mother and two sisters to come to terms with the sudden demise of their father.

The tsunami which was took away “Princes Devi” led to the birth of Prince Dutugamunu who ruled and developed Sri Lanka under one flag, but the tsunami we experienced unfortunately took away many people of Mr. Gunawardena’s calibre who had the ability to work for the betterment of the country and its people.

May my dear friend Mr. Gunawardena and all those who died on that fateful day attain Nibbana!

Indrajith Handapangoda

 

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