Upali Wijewardene - the 20th century colossus
Wijewardene, a 20th century colossus of Sri Lanka begins to relive in
our memory with the dawn of ‘Navam Maha’ every year. Dedicated to social
welfare, he was an avowed Buddhist, a business tycoon and a newspaper
Born in 1938, to Don Walter Wijewardene and Mrs Anula Wijewardene, he
ventured into the business world after obtaining, an Economics Degree
from Cambridge University, England.
His genealogical heritage helped him to be a philanthropist and the
first Basnayake Nilame of the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara. To my knowledge
he was simple, magnanimous and popular. While walking with the Dayaka
Sabha at the annual Kelaniya Navam Perahera in 1981, the Chief Basnayake
Nilame Upali Wijewardene promised to allocate two pages of his newspaper
for a supplement on the Kelani Navam Perahera which came into being in
Divaina, the Sinhala daily began publication in 1981 under the
editorship of veteran journalist Edmund Ranasinghe and his competent
staff. This was Upali’s dream come true. He was an active member of the
Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara. Many were the times when Upali was busy that
his wife Lakmini Wijayawardene deputised at the Kelaniya Raja Maha
Vihara Dhamma School annual prize-giving.
The unique belfry at the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara was opened in
This was Upali’s concept and to this day he is remembered for this.
He moved around with the dayakas who gave their support during the
annual Nawam perahera. During the perahera period it was a pleasure to
see Upali attired in the Basnayake Nilame costume because he stood out
in the crowd.
The Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara was the beneficiary of all the maiden
products of Upali’s industries, the UNIC Radio, the Mazda car and the
Upali Fiat which were presented to the then Viharadhipathi Talewela
Vijitha Dhammarakkhitha Nayake Thera. I was the third owner of his Fiat
car. I functioned as his closest coordinator.
Upali Wijewardene was appointed Chief Basnayake Nilame of the Kelani
Raja Maha Vihara in 1950. His tenure as Basnayake Nilame heralded a new
era in that the dilapidated Vibhishana devala was restored, and the work
of the new Vihara Mandira was also launched by him.
A ten million rupee fund was set up to train bhikkhus on dhamma
propagation abroad. Infrastructure facilities at Egoda Kelaniya were
also developed. However, on February 13, 1983 his end came when tragedy
struck his Lear jet on its way back to Sri Lanka from Malaysia and he
was gone forever from our midst.
Deshabandu Dr. Piyasiri
Prasad Senaratne - pioneer quantity surveyor
Fifty two years might seem a long time, but it is a shame that we
seem to have short memories when it comes to remembering our pioneers.
This has certainly been so when it comes to remembering Prasad Senaratne
– the indomitable quantity surveyor who revolutionised the practice of
the profession of quantity surveying in Sri Lanka.
Senaratne, the boy from Kalutara returning to Sri Lanka in the year
1964 having qualified in the UK as an Incorporated Quantity Surveyor, a
qualification equal to a Charter, Prasad joined the State Engineering
Corporation as the Head of Quantity Surveying. This was a time that
Quantity Surveying was not recognised as a profession and the subject
was taught only as ‘Builders Quantities’ at the Maradana Technical
College – now known as the Trades School and also at the now defunct
Colombo Polytechnic. There was no method to the preparation of Bills of
Quantities although such documents were in existence, and any piece of
foolscap paper or even the back of a cigarette packet served as a ‘Take
off form’. Prasad Senaratne brought some method to that madness. He
introduced the ‘TDS’ take off sheets for measurement and for the first
time in Sri Lanka, Taking Off, Abstracting and Billing that professional
quantity surveyors in the UK got introduced.
Those employed as quantity surveyors in the SEC – including myself
was introduced for the first time the Standard Method of Measurement and
taught the different methods of preparation of bills of quantities.
Prasad encouraged us to study the subject by correspondence courses for
the City and Guilds, Institute of Quantity Surveyors London and the RICS.
Thus Senaratne was the first to pioneer the fight to get quantity
surveying as a recognised profession when engineers were resisting.
The large number of quantity surveyors passing out from the Moratuwa
University and others from various other institutions in Sri Lanka,
might not know this but they all owe a great debt of gratitude to Prasad
Senaratne who brought recognition and regard which the Sri Lankan
quantity surveyors enjoy today.
Prasad, you might not have lived to see your efforts bear fruit, but
my friend you can surely ‘Rest In Peace’ knowing the results of that
Dr. M.Haris Deen