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
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.
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.
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
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
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
May he rest in peace.
- Derrick Juriansz