He could have gone anywhere but it was Colombo Hilton he called home Gamini Fernando January 26 was the 17th death anniversary of one of Sri Lanka’s top hoteliers. As a close friend and colleague, it is more than appropriate that I pen a few words to remind Sri Lankan hoteliers how much the late [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka



He could have gone anywhere but it was Colombo Hilton he called home

Gamini Fernando

January 26 was the 17th death anniversary of one of Sri Lanka’s top hoteliers. As a close friend and colleague, it is more than appropriate that I pen a few words to remind Sri Lankan hoteliers how much the late Gamini Anthony Fernando did to raise the profile of Sri Lankan hoteliers at home and abroad.

I worked with him for several years but having lived so long Down Under I missed great opportunities of closer association with Gamini whose name is still synonymous with the Colombo Hilton.  I knew Gamini, a product of St.Joseph’s College Colombo, from the time when we were working with the Intercontinental Hotel chain in two different cities in West Germany. Our paths took different directions. But not for long. In 1973, he was transferred to Colombo as the first Front Office Manager at the opening of the Hotel Ceylon Intercontinental, the hotel that pioneered the 5 star hotel scene in Colombo. On a visit to Colombo he persuaded me to return to Sri Lanka. So I did.  I also noticed that he had already made his mark at the Intercontinental working alongside expatriate colleagues and locals.

He had some rare qualities. Only the best was acceptable. His leadership and managerial qualities are now in a case study at a local university. It is often seen the extent some people go in destroying the career of another colleague in corporate life. We see that to this date. With Gamini Fernando it was just the opposite. He trained people to be better than himself. He did not like employees at any level cheating the organisation. He punished those who got caught appropriately setting an example to others. Many of his employees would vouch for that. His commitment and loyalty to his employer was an example to others.

He left the Intercontinental chain to work in the Middle East with Hilton International Hotels and then in Africa. I was once again with him in the Middle East with the Hilton chain. He made his name with the Hilton chain when he worked in the area office in a regional role together with the Area President of Hilton International in Cairo, Egypt and later in Cyprus. He was trained in several training centres belonging to the Hilton Company including the prestigious Career Development Institute in New York where he was groomed to be a General Manager.

When the Hilton was looking for a Sri Lankan as the understudy to the General Manager of the new Colombo Hilton in 1986, it was Gamini Fernando whom they picked. His fame had reached new heights. I joined him again in Colombo at the same hotel because of his strong conviction that we could do more in Sri Lanka at home than abroad.

No one could stop Gamini going high up in the corporate ladder. We saw his best at the Colombo Hilton. He outshone the expatriate Managers. It was a stroke of luck for us that he was made the General Manager in Colombo, the first Sri Lankan to hold the position in any Hilton Hotel. His achievements are too numerous to mention. His attention to detail was so clear we enjoyed working along with him. He developed a great team spirit. We were proud that we worked at the Hilton at that time. He could have gone anywhere but it was Colombo Hilton he called home.

Hilton made him an Area Director covering India / Bangladesh and the Maldives in addition to his duties in Colombo. In the 1980 and 90’s the Hilton became the  ‘the’ Hotel in Sri Lanka. His capacity to innovate was unparalleled in professional hoteliering and his ability to lead the team to implement those innovations unquestionable.

I met him in Sydney, Australia again, when he was selected to a panel evaluating Hilton General Managers over there. He made Sri Lankan hoteliers proud. His ‘can do’ attitude could not be questioned because he wanted to do the best. All that at a location, unfortunately, which had a tumultuous past  due to civil unrest. He thrived through adversity and brought about the best in everything. Once it was our Hotel getting top financial results, so much so,  I remember,  the Chief Executive Officer of the Hilton chain paying a rare 24 hour  visit to Colombo to personally thank Gamini and his staff  for the wonderful achievements made under trying circumstances.

If he had made one mistake in life it was that his work came first followed by family and personal health. He paid the ultimate price for that. The employees of that time still carry the scars of losing a great leader and mentor to so many. If you look around the city today you see his products shining in corporate life. He did leave such an impression among colleagues in the Hilton Hotels both here and abroad. A rare tribute was posted by the editor of the US based prestigious ‘Hotels Magazine’ alongside the editorial to a Hotelier who brought Hotel Management in Sri Lanka to a different level. He left ‘The Gamini Fernando Era’ at the Colombo Hilton, a legacy, even so many years later, people are still talking about.
-Ranjith Samaranayake

A friend of the government pensioners is no more
C.H. Prema Kasturiratna
With the demise of Prema Kasturiratna, the country has lost an indefatigable social worker who devoted her time and energy especially for the welfare of the government pensioners. Until her sudden illness recently, she functioned in many of the positions of the Pensioners’ Association and was the editor and publisher of their magazine. While performing the numerous duties entrusted to her she travelled to many parts of the island, willingly and enthusiastically, even against the advice of her doctors.
She was a brilliant student of the Galahitiyawa Central College excelling in academic studies and extra-curricular activities like sports, music, drama, handicrafts and was active in numerous school societies.

After joining the teaching profession after her school career, she took a leading part in the Girl Guides Movement and for a considerable period functioned as a District Girl Guide Commissioner in the districts where she served as a teacher.
She played an active role in the Past Pupils’ Association of the Galahitiyawa Central College performing the duties of a joint secretary for a number of years and later as a patron of the association. She was an exemplary person and a role model for all the other members.

A very sincere person, conscientious and hard working, always devoted to the service of fellow citizens, she served her community utilising her knowledge and skills as a traditional Ayurvedic Physician and a Justice of the Peace (JP) helping the village folk without any consideration of a remuneration.
May she attain Nibbana.


Farewell my mentor and friend
Sybil Jinadasa

I paused for a moment wondering what I should write about this gracious and wonderful lady Sybil Jinadasa, who passed away on Janury 4, this year. Sybil was the patron of the Sri Lanka Housewives Association and an active member, who never missed being present for all events of the Association in spite of her being in many other organisations.

A devout Buddhist, she never failed to come to the assistance of our Association if ever the need arose. She was a lady who spoke out for what was right no matter what.
On a personal note Sybil was my mentor who advised and guided me during my term in office, for which I’m eternally grateful. Farewell my friend, may God bless you.
-Rajes Nonis

Tribute to an academic against whom a grievous mistake was made
Prof. Lakshman Susantha Perera
When I joined the Department of History at the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya in mid-1957 as an assistant lecturer, the acting head of the Department was the much respected W.J.F. LaBrooy. We expected and hoped that he would continue as acting head of the Department of History for a few more years. That did not happen. When the post of Professor of History became available sooner than we thought it would be, there were a few lecturers in history who had legitimate claims to the position of Professor of History and head of department Lakshman Perera was one of them.

Our early years as university teachers at Peradeniya were soon to teach us that after the departure of Sir Ivor Jennings—the founder of the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya—there were no well-established rules or practices to handle the succession to the professorship of history or, for that matter, the succession to the professorship/head of department in other academic disciplines.

Lakshman Perera’s claims to the professorship of History were overlooked. Fortunately there was some consolation for him, consolation which came a few years later. He went to the Colombo campus of the University of Ceylon (which later became the University of Colombo) as Professor of History when such a post became available.

After a few years at Colombo he moved to the Commonwealth Secretariat in London as a consultant on Universities and Higher Education. He worked there for more than 10 years, indeed till his retirement in 1983.

In this tribute to LakshmanPerera, I need to talk of his doctoral dissertation of 1949; it had taken him six years of hard work in an unusual field of academic endeavour, six years of painstaking research; and the result was a massive three-volume work; something for which there were few parallels in the academic world in and outside of Sri Lanka for a doctoral dissertation. With a doctoral dissertation of that size and scope it was virtually impossible to find a publisher who would invest the very large sum of money required to get it printed especially in a situation where the market for such a specialised work was very limited.

It was eventually published at all because the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) Kandy of which I was the head was willing to use two years of its publications fund to take it on. This was more than 50 years after the PhD was awarded to Lakshman Perera.

The ICES soon discovered that its financial resources were inadequate for the purpose of publishing this dissertation. That they were able to publish it at all was largely because of a grant they negotiated from the management board of the Consortium of US Colleges in the Intercollegiate Sri Lanka Education (ISLE) Program which was associated with the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya.

Prior to its publication Lakshman Perera’s dissertation was reviewed, slightly expanded and brought up todate, that is to say by incorporating many if not all the other inscriptions that had not been available to him when he prepared his doctoral dissertation, or had been located after his dissertation had been submitted to the University of Ceylon in and around 1949. The publication process at the ICES too took over five years, from 2001 to 2005. The expansion and revision of the original were done principally by Lakshman Perera but with the assistance of Professor Sirima Kiribamune of the Department of History and Dr Piyatissa Senanayake of the Department of Archaeology of the University of Peradeniya.

Together they provided the academic world with a monumental contribution to scholarship, an indispensable tool for those engaged in the study of ancient Sri Lanka. Scholars on Sri Lanka and especially on ancient Sri Lanka were provided with a volume, indeed a set of volumes, more valuable than most publications by Lakshman Perera’s peer group in the humanities in his day. At the time he was overlooked for the post of Professor of History in the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya and for many years thereafter Lakshman Perera’s unrevised dissertation was available for students; even that original dissertation was enough to convince many of Lakshman Perera’s peers that those who overlooked his claims to the chair of History at Peradeniya had made a grievous mistake. The feeling that he had a genuine grievance became more pronounced when his massive dissertation was converted to a three-volume publication, over 50 years after he was awarded his PhD. -K.M. de Silva

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.