An 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.

A distinguished 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.

The British 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.

Since Anura 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.

Although I 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 General.

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.

That Anura undertook such sensitive tasks with ease is indeed a tribute to his ability.

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.

Anura reached 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.

The country 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.
Jagath Savanadasa

A perfect gentle knight
Titus Malgahagamage
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.

His nature 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 no frontiers.
B.J. Kaurnatileka

A banking genius
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.

Aiyampillai 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.

The management, 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.

He possessed 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.

He believed in motivation and persuasion rather than compulsion in his own inimitable style.

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 success.

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 matches together.

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.

Wherever he 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.
S.S.K. Thenabadu

Back to Top  Back to Plus  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.