Dynamic and much loved chief of Sri Lanka Customs Sarath Jayathilake I saw Subadinghe Arachchilage Christopher Sarath Wijewardena Jayathilake, then Additional Landing Surveyer (Appraising) for the first time on June 3, 1988 during our first training session after recruitment to the Sri Lanka Customs, when he gave a lecture on “Classification of Goods and D [...]




Dynamic and much loved chief of Sri Lanka Customs

Sarath Jayathilake

I saw Subadinghe Arachchilage Christopher Sarath Wijewardena Jayathilake, then Additional Landing Surveyer (Appraising) for the first time on June 3, 1988 during our first training session after recruitment to the Sri Lanka Customs, when he gave a lecture on “Classification of Goods and D branch work”. He was in his late thirties –  a dynamic young executive who adorned the Customs.

Six months later at that young age, he became a Director of Customs creating history as described by Sarath Gunawardane (a Superintendent of Customs then) in his welcoming speech to the Bonds Division.

My first posting was also to the Directorate of Bonds and it was the period when the apparel industry was in full bloom under the manufacturing bonds scheme. All officers in the division were busy as the apparel exporters played a vital role in exchange earnings and the industry was growing very fast as new factories were opened. I had been attached to the Project Unit of the Bond Directorate and was required to coordinate with the Director so I had opportunities to associate with him very often. Working with him was interesting and encouraging.

While working hard during office hours we had some leisure engagements like cricket matches. Mr Jayathilake was an equally entertaining partner on those occasions and played alongside us.

He had graduated from the University of Peradeniya with a First Class. He had good taste in music and was fond of listening to the Sinhala song “Rangahala dan atha ada andure..” by Wijerathne Warakagoda –  I remember he was very unhappy when his favourite song was sung by a pop group with an altered melody.

Mr Jayathilake was a good administrator and simultaneously engaged in Customs trade union activities as well. He served as the President of the Customs Staff Officers’ Union for many terms.

His most noteworthy contributions to the Customs service came when he was Director General of Customs in September 2002. It was a historic appointment as he was the first to become Director General from the career Customs Service. The early part of his tenure was full of challenges posed by the then ruling party. The main issue was the attempt to create a Revenue Authority demolishing main revenue departments and the government’s efforts to take over the land of the present headquarters building to start a foreign super market complex.

Director General Jayathilake stood up strongly for the interests of the department along with his fellow officers of the Customs. It’s a rare quality and the entire Customs community owes him a debt of gratitude for that deed.

In the construction process of the headquarters building his participation was immense and he attended personally to each and every aspect. Though the construction of the Customs building was a national project, the hardships that emerged en route were immense. Mr Jayathilake dedicatedly faced the difficulties ably assisted by Director Administration Duminda Jayaratne.

However, unfortunately before the completion of the head office building Mr  Jayathilake was mercilessly removed from his post by the administration just eight months prior to his due retirement date from the public service.

In that instance too he was unshaken and maintained his dignity by tendering his retirement papers and resigning from the service.

When I visited his residence last Sunday to pay my last respects to this doyen of the Sri Lanka Customs in our era, Mrs Jayathilake told us how he used to recall the memories of those who worked in the Customs even in the latter days in his life and that he loved us a lot.

Dear Sir,  we too love you a lot and the Sri Lanka Customs community will forever miss you!

Vipula Minuvanpitiya

To my beloved “Kellu”

Sepalika Seneviratne

Sepali my wife (I affectionately called her “Kellu” or “Girl”) was an extraordinary lady. This was confirmed by the many who called to express their condolences. She gave me three lovely children, Hiranthi, Navin and Duminda, who married to give three lovely in-laws Hiran, Sheerin and Saroshika, who in turn gave two lovely grandchildren Samendri and Sacheen.

Unfortunately Sepali missed out on three important events, Sacheen reaching 21 years, our youngest son Duminda turning 50 and above all, Samendri getting married.

She helped me out in all projects. Be it ‘The All Island Quiz Contest’, the ‘Day with the Children’ or ‘ Rendezvous in December’, she did all the work and I took the credit. However, her crowning glory was the Vidyatillaka Vidyalaya children. Her priority was the children in Grades 1 to 5.

It all started in 1977 with funding from Terres Des Hommes. She organised to give all of them a sachet of milk first thing in the morning, all the school requirements for the year, scholarships to the deserving children, and the many trips for all including the staff. This was done with funding from her kith and kin overseas. She arranged for the District Governor of the Lions to visit the school. It was done with all pomp and pageantry. The children in turn showed off their talents. The teachers took a great interest. She encouraged Lions to carry out their projects in the school, such as dental clinics, teaching of English to children, among them. She arranged special programmes on special days.

Nothing gave her more happiness though than meeting someone in the street, someone she had helped earlier.

Alas she is no more; she was decked with flowers; a sight she would have liked as she loved flowers.

May you attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana. It won’t be too long.

Love, blessings and kisses from your ever loving Kollu

Neil Seneviratne

To our dearest mother

 Joan De Zilva Moonesinghe

If we could visit heaven

On this our saddest day

Maybe for a moment

Our pain would go away

We’d put our arms around you

And whisper words so true

That living life without you

Is very hard to do.

We cannot bring the old days back

When we were all together

But loving thoughts and memories

Will stay with us forever.

Previn and Priyanka Moonesinghe


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