Former Surveyor General Reginauld Alick Gunawardene, known as “RAG” to his close friends, passed away peacefully at his home “Melville” three months ago.
Reginauld was born to a Methodist father and a Roman Catholic mother, but lived as an atheist most of his life. It was only in his last years that he acknowledged an awareness of a loving God.
He died the way he lived, largely unknown and unsung. He left instructions that his mortal remains be buried within 24 hours of his death, and that he be given a private funeral.
RAG was born in Kandy on January 29, 1923. He studied at St. Benedict’s College, Kotahena, and after a successful school career joined the staff of his alma mater for a short while before taking up a full-time job as a teacher at St. Mary’s, Chilaw. He entered university and graduated with a BSc (London).
Before joining the Survey Department in 1948 as an Assistant Superintendent, he was for a short time Assistant Food Controller. He was promoted to the position of Superintendent of Surveys in 1962, and rose to the rank of Assistant Acting Surveyor General. He became Acting Surveyor General in 1972, and retired 10 months later. The next four years he spent in salubrious Diyatalawa as head of the Institute of Surveying and Mapping. He trained dozens of people in the disciplines of surveying and mapping, while being quite a disciplinarian himself. He was a stickler for rules.
I had the privilege of profiling this great man in The Sunday Times of February 12, 2006, when his surveyor colleagues felicitated him as the oldest member of their fraternity.
RAG was a legend in the Survey Department. There were many stories told about him and his no-nonsense ways. For example, there was the case of the draughtsman who had refused to be transferred to a distant outstation post, saying he could not leave behind his bed-ridden mother. Later, when the draughtsman appeared before an interview board, headed by RAG, in connection with an application for a scholarship to go overseas for training, RAG asked him how he would manage to leave his bed-ridden mother to go abroad when he did not want to leave her side to work in another part of this country.
Many believed RAG should have been Governor General, rather than Surveyor General, saying he would have given the country the discipline it needed.
May this labourer who was called to the vineyard in the last hour of the day enjoy eternal rest with the Lord.
By Lenard R. Mahaarachchi