nothing but good to say about him
J. Chrisantha R. Cooray
My association with Chrisantha R. Cooray spans over
four decades. William Shakespeare in the "Seven Ages of Man",
said that "all the world's a stage and all the men and women
merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one
man in his time plays many parts." Chrisantha was indeed a
man who played many parts, whether as Chairman of a Group of Companies,
a husband, a father, a son and a friend. He played his parts well
and discharged his obligations with dedication and excellence.
have watched and admired his ascendancy of the management ladder
at Browns Group until he reached the pinnacle of his career as Chairman
of Browns Group and Hatton National Bank on February 10, 1989. At
Browns Group I was always impressed by his sheer grit, determination
and devotion to duty, which enabled the Group to regain its eminence
and to establish the infrastructure necessary for the growth of
his leadership Hatton National Bank achieved a phenomenal growth
becoming the number one private sector bank in Sri Lanka. He introduced
unique schemes of mobilization of deposits and lending which won
the admiration of many local and foreign banks who later adopted
similar schemes. This speaks volumes for Chrisantha's creativity
and entrepreneurial skill.
has always been a great motivator and an inspiration to the Group's
staff, instilling in them a team spirit and the drive to contribute
their best to the Group. We remember him as a firm and fair leader.
Chrisantha was taken away from our midst at the prime age of 60.
I will always remember him, tall, well groomed and meticulous, with
an enigmatic smile which he used with great effect when dealing
with difficult issues.
dictum states thus: "De mortuis nil nisi bonum", in other
words "say nothing but good of the dead". For us who knew
Chrisantha, this is not an injunction but a self evident truth.
May he rest in peace
of an upright man
My mother's diary of March 18, 1921 has the following entry: "Sister
Pussey gave birth to a boy". That boy was the youngest son
of Dr. Henry and Mrs. Pussethi Coorey of Panadura, and he was named
Chandana Aelian. Born to affluence, he lived in the mansion known
as Leela Mal at the corner of the Galle Road and 5th Cross Street.
I lived with my parents and five brothers across the side road,
and I knew Chanda Coorey all my life.
lived in an atmosphere of excellence in studies, his brothers having
been Gerry (G.H. Coorey, later Professor of Pathology) and Clarrie
(C.O. Coorey, who joined the Indian Civil Service). Prize books
were aplenty in his home. At Royal College, Colombo, where he travelled
daily by train, Chanda was in the habit of receiving annual form
prizes from the Governor, and special prizes in the higher classes.
went on to show promise of his future speciality when he won the
prestigious de Soysa Science Prize, thereby earning two places on
the coveted prize boards in the college hall. He proceeded to win
a scholarship at the University College in 1939.
the University, Chanda read natural philosophy (i.e., the physical
sciences) and concluded his first year with a record achievement
of twelve "A"s - an "A" in each of the four
subjects in each of the three terms.
the next three years, he followed the Chemistry Honours course.
When Chanda gained the expected First Class in Chemistry in 1943,
he was awarded several prizes, a gold medal, and was selected for
a government scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford. But no scholars
could travel to England at that time due to the second world war.
was appointed Asst. Lecturer in Chemistry, and I recall the first
day he walked into the tiered Chemistry lecture theatre to speak
to my batch on modern Inorganic Chemistry.
was greeted by the prolonged sound of the scraping of leather soles
on the floor boards; the friction was converted to heat that appeared
on the face of the new lecturer. He sternly said, "If you fellows
are not interested in studying, so be it. I shall be back in a minute".
left the theatre, and was back in a few minutes to commence the
lecture. For the next hour, not a sound was heard from the students
as the lecturer gave us a splendid introduction to modern Inorganic
tenure of lectureship was not for long. Chanda joined the ranks
of the elite Ceylon Civil Service in 1945 and the loss to the University
was offset by the gain to the Government of a clear-thinking administrator.
Coorey had a robust physique. He had two main interests. He became
an inveterate hiker, and on one occasion, went on an arduous walking
tour with his friend Christie Wickremasinghe (later of the Wild
Life Department) in the Mullaitivu District, and travelled by boat
across the Kokkilai lagoon.
bore a darkly handsome resemblance to Nelson Eddy, and was an accomplished
tenor to boot. His favourite songs were (in order of merit) "Maytime",
"Gianina Mia", and "Sweet Muchacha, Belle of Spain"
which he was wont to sing particularly within the confines of his
bathroom. It is unfortunate that Chanda hid his light under a bushel
especially at party time.
held several appointments in the lower rungs of the Civil Service.
Around 1946, as Asst. Government Agent, Kalmunai, he camped with
Christie Wickremasinghe, M.C. Abrahams, Divisional Irrigation Engineer,
and Namasivayam, Divisional Forest Officer, by an abandoned tank
in Kumana. He realized the potential it held for the well-being
of the villagers, and he undertook (with encouragement by his friends)
the restoration of the small tank, thereby rendering a lasting service
to the farmers there.
was transferred to the Treasury and in the early 1970s he was successively
the Deputy Secretary (DST) and the Secretary (ST) - then the highest
post in the public service - and Secretary to the Ministry of Finance.
The high regard in which Chanda's integrity was held is reflected
in the fact that the Minister of Finance, Dr. N.M. Perera (LSSP)
had no qualms about retaining him as ST/Secretary, Ministry even
though it was known that Chanda's sister was married to J.L. Fernando
(Lobby Correspondent of the Daily News, and biographer of three
former UNP Prime Ministers).
had the annual ordeal of meeting him at the DST's conference and,
like Oliver Twist, asking for more. His fair-mindedness was shown
by an incident in 1972. In preparing the estimates, I had included
an item "Purchase of a vehicle". DST Coorey had used his
red pencil to indicate "No". But I was not deterred (The
DST was known as Dr. No or No, No Coorey). I appealed to the ST's
conference, and there was the DST seated to the right of M. Rajendra,
the ST. The dialogue that ensued was as follows:
How many vehicles have you got? What do you want a new vehicle for?
De Silva: I have two jeeps, the newer of which was used by Dr. Paranavithana
in 1956. I do not want to disgrace the country when the UNESCO expert
Luciano Maranzi arrives next year, and I have to give him a rattling
old jeep for transport.
to ST: I think he should be given a new vehicle. Though I was his
cousin, his main concern was the rightness of his actions. I bought
a Renault car with the funds allowed.
innovation made by Coorey in 1973 was the introduction of programme
budgeting in the preparation of the estimates, whereby the programme
of expenditure was published by every government department. This
transparency has been maintained to this day.
last few appointments in Chanda's long and distinguished career
in public office were Executive Director for Sri Lanka, Laos, and
Afghanistan on the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank,
and founder Chairman of the National Development Bank (1979- 1989);
he then exchanged posts with his friend and old classmate Baku Mahadeva
(formerly of the Ceylon Civil Service, also a scholar and administrator
of the first class) by transferring as Chairman of the Development
and Finance Corporation of Ceylon (1990-1999). Chanda was awarded
the highest of local honours in 1992, equivalent to the knighthood
of colonial days - the title of Deshamanya.
proper in demeanour and serious-looking at first sight, there lingered
in Chanda a love of fun and games. Chanda, a gentleman of superlative
qualities, died a week before his 83rd birthday. He will long be
missed not only by his grieving wife Lakshmi and his children Dilrukshi,
Anura and Sharmini, but also by his innumerable friends and relatives,
who saw in him the upright man.
leader and man of many parts
It was with a deep sense of sadness that we attended
the funeral of our guru J.H. Gunasekera in Galle. I still have vivid
memories of this great man who took over the heavy responsibility
of the post of principal of Mahinda College in May 1962. All those
who were connected with Mahinda College, realized that it was at
a crucial time that Mr. Gunasekera accepted this challenging appointment.
He lost no time in settling down exceptionally well.
designed a plan for the future growth of the school with a far-sighted
vision. He took over every activity of the school, segment by segment,
in an analytical manner. He ensured that competent and qualified
staff was available to him to continue the progress of the educational
and all other activities of the school. His planning was so meticulous
that he did not take too long to ensure that Mahinda produced excellent
results at public examinations whether it be GCE O/L or A/L examinations.
He proved his ability in mustering the support of teachers to bring
Mahinda to the highest standards.
re-structured practically every sports activity whether it be cricket,
soccer, athletics, cadeting or scouting. His leadership and organizing
ability was so outstanding that the college was able to win the
Hermann Loos Trophy awarded to the best senior cadet platoon. I
am proud to say that I was a member of this platoon . There were
many other achievements of Mr. Gunasekera in the field of sports
such as cricket, athletics, soccer, scouting, etc., which are too
many to mention in this article. He resuscitated the scout troop
in 1964 and went up to receiving the first President's award for
us. He also started the Buddhist cadet team and St. John Ambulance
First Aid unit to name a few.
the need for further growth of the school, Mr. Gunasekera played
a dynamic role in constructing a large number of classrooms and
buildings in the school as well as the sports hostel. Mr. Gunasekera
was a well known social worker at Galle who was of enormous service
to the country. I can write at length about this great man but space
does not permit me to do so.
Lal de Alwis