There’s 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.

I 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 the Group.

Under 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.

He 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.

Unfortunately, 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.

A Roman 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
M.V. Theagarajah

Memories of an upright man
C.A. Coorey
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.

Chanda 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.

Chanda 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.

At 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.

During 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.

He 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.

He 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".

Chanda 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 Chemistry.

His 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.

Chanda 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.

He 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.

He 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.

Chanda 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).

I 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:

Coorey: 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.

Coorey 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.

A remarkable 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.

The 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.

Very 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.

Raja de Silva

A guru, leader and man of many parts
J.H. Gunasekera
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.

He 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.

He 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.

Identifying 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

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