able and just administrator
Dr. Anura Goonasekera
I was saddened to learn of the sudden death of former Information
Ministry Secretary Anura Goonasekera in Brisbane in July.
old boy of St. John's Nugegoda, he was a contemporary of mine.
Junior to us
was Ananda Goonasekera, Anura's brother, a career diplomat and former
High Commissioner in Canada who is today the Additional Secretary
of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ananda has just been appointed
Ambassador to France.
It is perhaps
relevant to refer briefly to the period Anura and the others who
achieved eminence, grew up and how the early years at school equipped
them to become key figures in this country and elsewhere.
The early 1950s
were swept by effervescent winds of freedom. The country was quietly
settling into a new era. All aspects of life were different. Our
basic values were better. We were also far more tolerant as a community.
had left us a mixed legacy. In retrospect one such was a system
of secondary education which had depth and character. The British
and their indigenous successors in education had established a set
of schools that produced citizens who had undergone a rigorous training
that prepared them for the future, instilled discipline and stressed
the need to hold the scales of justice evenly. The cultural equilibrium
they maintained contributed to harmony in those distant days.
At the top
layer there were schools like Royal, S. Thomas' and Trinity as also
great Buddhist institutions like Ananda, Nalanda and Mahinda. Some
of them were elitist yet were meritocracies - they recognised bright
and talented children early and nurtured them.
At a different
level, schools like St. John's Nugegoda, St. John's, Panadura and
several others were established in major towns across the country.
There were smaller yet modelled on the same lines. Anura was basically
a product of such an institution. Anura like some of us during that
period had also been to other institutions. But the foundations
for a solid start were laid by St. John's Nugegoda.
hailed from a family which treasured education, it was a natural
step for him to enter the University of Peradeniya, then one of
finest seats of higher learning in our part of the world. Peradeniya
absorbed some of the brightest and the most capable in those days.
had lost contact with Anura like some of my other school friends
I followed with keenness his rise in the public service. It is not
necessary to trace that excellent career but suffice it to say that
he played an important role in the media - especially in the introduction
of television to this country. He was Rupavahini's first Director
Also at a critical
period, he was Director of Information - a post even at the best
of times could be one of the most difficult.
It has been
a feature of our turbulent contemporary history that senior government
officials in fields such as the media are subject to extreme forms
of criticism, sometimes unfair. Such officials generally had delicate
tasks that were similar to balancing acts performed by trapeze artistes.
undertook such sensitive tasks with ease is indeed a tribute to
In a way, Anura
was fortunate to have served at a time when the country had able
ministers of the type of Dr. Anandatissa de Alwis in overall charge
of the media.
the pinnacle of his career in the public service when he was appointed
the Secretary to the Ministry of Information.
He was neither
forceful nor overbearing, a feature that is common to some top public
sector persons. But beneath his quiet demeanour was a steady resolve
and ability to analyse issues in their proper perspective.
lost an able and just administrator with the departure of Anura
to foreign climes several years ago. With Anura's demise we have
lost an uncommonly able public official and rare gentleman for good.
perfect gentle knight
It is a year since Titus Malgahagamage, perhaps one of
the most brilliant students and subsequently illustrious engineer,
produced by Trinity College passed on leaving his grieving wife
Yvonne, and daughter Nirasha to carry the torch of kindness and
humility which he bore throughout his life.
People of Titus'
calibre, intelligence, integrity and generosity were as rare then
as it is now. It was normal for him to secure first place in every
examination that he sat at Trinity and later at university here
and abroad. His name adorns the prize panels in the College Hall
at his alma mater.
was such though that Titus never flaunted his brilliance. It could
be mentioned on the contrary that he epitomised the statement made
by Phillip Chesterfield a century ago: wear your learning, like
your watch, in a private pocket: and do not merely pull it out and
strike it; merely to show that you have one."
It is a little
known fact that Titus was the first student enrolled at Kegalle
Vidyalaya. He was there only for a short period. It was recognized
perhaps at that time by his teachers together with his parents that
Titus would flourish in a more competitive environment so much so
that he was moved to Trinity where his educational attainments such
as winning the open prize for mathematics, were the proud 'boasts'
of his contemporaries.
Titus in natural
fashion acquired life long friendships with quite a number both
at school and during his professional career in Sri Lanka and abroad.
He was a friend in the real sense of the word.
He was present
when his friends needed him: in adversity he could be relied upon
by his kith and kin and, of course, his large circle of companions.
His hospitality and his help and assistance to those in need, knew
A. P. Gnanasundaram
It is with nostalgic memories I venture to write this appreciation
as I feel guilty and think seriously that I have failed in my duty
after having known A. P. Gnanasundaram intimately for over 30 years.
His numerous memories would be cherished by all who were fortunate
to associate him.
It was indeed
with profound grief and shock that I read his sudden demise on February
9 in the obituary column of the Daily News.
He was physically
very fit and strong. I have my doubts whether he had taken any sick
leave during his long tenure of service spanning more than 35 years
at Bank of Ceylon.
Poopalasingham Gnanasundaram was born on April 19, 1938. A native
of Tellippalai, he was the third in a family of five brothers and
six sisters. He had his primary education at Union College in the
village before completing his secondary education at St. Patrick's
College, Jaffna where he excelled in sports as well as in studies.
To persuade his higher studies, he proceeded to St. Joseph's College,
Trichy, South India, where he successfully completed a first class
honours degree in mathematics. On his return, he had short stints
as a lecturer in mathematics and as a junior executive at Alexandra
College and Walkers Ltd. before joining the Bank of Ceylon as a
staff assistant in 1963. He retired in 1998 as Managing Director/Assistant
General Manager of Bank of Ceylon Travels (Pvt.) Ltd., a fully owned
subsidiary of Bank of Ceylon.
From 1963 to
1998, he held several coveted posts in Colombo and in outstations.
I was privileged to work under him for over eight years. Initially
at Nuwara Eliya branch in 1971 for more than three years and at
Inner Colombo Zonal Office and Western Province Office North for
about five years when he was the Operations Manager.
having identified his capabilities, selected him to take over the
Nuwara Eliya branch in 1971 initially to settle an internal strife.
Immediately after taking up the post, he not only brought back normalcy
and the required environment but also took the initiative to expedite
the exercise of shifting the branch to a new spacious building at
a better location in the heart of the town.
immense leadership qualities and took only a short time to complete
a goal or any given task even of a large magnitude. In addition
to the duties entrusted, he arranged periodic social and sports
activities promoting a good rapport between the staff and the clients.
in motivation and persuasion rather than compulsion in his own inimitable
He worked with
commitment and dedication for the upliftment of the institution.
He set examples for the rest of the staff to emulate.
I worked in
a committee with him to organize Bank of Ceylon's all Island sports
festival to commemorate the Bank's Golden Jubilee celebrations.
His untiring efforts made this gigantic memorable event a resounding
After his tenure
at the Nuwara Eliya branch, he was transferred to Negombo branch.
But we continued to maintain our friendship and became intimate
family friends. As both of us were cricket maniacs we never missed
to prearrange and watch premier league and International Cricket
He was a loving
and caring husband and father figure to the family. All family needs
were attended to by him promptly despite his busy office schedule.
The most difficult
exercise entrusted upon him I believe was when in 1989 he was entrusted
with task of amalgamating the Inner Colombo District Office, District
Office Colombo South and the Inner Colombo Zonal Office to form
the Provincial Office Western Range I (now called Western Province
North) under the Provincial Council set up. Administration of nearly
40 branches in Colombo and suburbs came directly under the purview
of this Provincial Office at York Street. This massive exercise
which was a pilot project was a great success.
worked he was the first to arrive at the office as early as 7 a.m.
Letters received were replied promptly. His contribution to the
bank was enormous.