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
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
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
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 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
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
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!