ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 32

Great friend, witty writer, orator and much more

~ Palitha Silva Gunawardene

As I gather my thoughts and commence writing these lines dedicated to my dear friend Palitha Silva Gunawardene, I seem to sense a feeling of bewilderment and disbelief. Like most of those fortunate enough to have known Palitha, I believe this is due to the realization that he is no more, but the events surrounding his death two years ago still continue to linger with us. It is perhaps even stranger that I should be the one writing this, when in better times he would have been the obvious choice to put his accomplished writing skills to fulfil such a cause.

I have vivid memories of my first encounter with Palitha. At the time I was on my way, as part of a marine mammal expedition, to retrieve the remains of a whale beached off Bentota.

Palitha had just met with the then Chairman of the National Aquatic Resources Agency (NARA), Dr. Hiran W. Jayewardene. Being fully aware of Palitha’s capabilities and commitment, Dr. Jayewardene immediately offered him a key role that sought to promote and organise an islandwide public awareness campaign on marine fauna.

I offered to give him a ride on my way to Bentota that day and we started talking. We never seemed to stop. It seems like yesterday, but that was a humid afternoon back in September 1985.

Then a keen young school leaver having just completed his Advanced Levels, a distinguished school record at Ananda College and a short stint at Lankapuvath as a journalist, Palitha soon became a much sought after member of our team at NARA. From those early days he had a natural ability for forging excellent working relationships and making friends regardless of age, race, colour, religion, status or any other conventional taboo. Most of us identified him to be a person who would always stand for justice and strict principles but also at the same time, one who would be compassionate and selfless when the situation demanded.

Soon after leaving NARA to embark on his degree in the sciences at Colombo University, he lost no time in pursuing a career in finance and had no problem qualifying on both fronts. Though we always made an effort to keep in touch, it was again destiny that we ended up studying for our accountancy qualifications at the same institution.

Palitha made his mark wherever he was or in whatever he did, not just academically . In his own inimitable style he wrote many excellent scripts to accompany caricatures I did of mutual friends.

He followed this up by making sure a copy was available and distributed to all in the spirit of public awareness. He had a talent for writing and together with his own style of humour soon had everyone in fits of laughter. Being eloquent in both English and Sinhala languages enabled Palitha to establish himself as a potent orator and mediator, often influencing and persuading people with minimal effort.

I had the pleasure of once again meeting Palitha on numerous occasions while he pursued his post graduate studies obtaining a distinction pass at Reading University in the UK and later at the Morgan Stanley Bank also in the UK. Being an active committee member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, he forged many links with his counterparts in the UK and was a much respected member of his profession.

He had no difficulty in obtaining his MBA from Reading University in a relatively short space of time and was back in Sri Lanka to pursue more challenging aspirations. Time and again he would visit the UK and Europe for academic and professional reasons, never failing to drop by or at least have a quick word on the phone if ever in transit.

With the sudden demise of his father Admiral Ananda Silva a few years later Palitha devoted much of his time and effort towards caring for the welfare of his beloved mother and other members of his family. During this trying period he took helm of the affairs of the family.

He later went on to hold high office in the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka and at the time of his demise, was the Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka.

I was naturally elated one day in 2004 when I heard his familiar voice informing me that he was to tie the knot. Upon inquiring when this was to take place, he replied it was to be in a matter of hours.

Subsequently, I met him and his lovely wife Harshini later that year while in Sri Lanka. I awoke to the grim reality of the events of Boxing day that year and it was not until two days later realised the fate that befell him and his wife. Palitha and his wife like many others on that fateful day, were sadly victims of the tsunami that struck the coast of Sri Lanka.

He was at the time spending his vacation at Yala with his wife. I recollect desperately trying his mobile phone number, just in case, but this time there was no answer.

In the end I took solace in the belief that he finally departed with the one he loved in a place he considered his other home.
My thoughts and prayers are with his family, Aunty Chitra, Nilmini, Kamini and their families who have had to come to terms with this huge loss, but who have demonstrated that they ensure everything is done in his memory to invoke much merit and blessings on his soul.

We can be confident that Palitha, no matter where he is right now, is intently watching over our every move with a smile on his face and resting peacefully assured that our tireless efforts on his behalf are testimony to the legacy he has left behind.

May he attain Nirvana.

By A close friend

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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.