12th October 1997


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"Not moved by praise or criticism’

By Roshan Peiris

She has not made a dramatic en trance as one would expect, making banking history as the first woman chairman of the country’s premier bank, the Bank of Ceylon. Dayani de Silva, a soft spoken woman with a charming smile and attractive face exudes a quiet determination to cope with her arduous responsibilities.

She is not only the chairman of the Bank of Ceylon but continues to retain her position in the Ministry of Finance as the advisor on Fiscal Policy, an appointment she has held since 1987. Earlier she was the senior most Commissioner of the Department of Inland Revenue, counting thus 33 years in the public service.

Starting school at Kandy High School she later studied at the Matara Convent in her home town and sat for her ‘A’ levels at St. Bridget’s Convent. She holds a second upper in Sociology from the University of Peradeniya, and a Masters degree in Public Administration from Harvard University Kennedy School.

Her erudition sits lightly on her. "I am not moved by praise or criticism," she says. "I accept responsibility with a deep sense of humility. It makes no difference whether it is a man or woman who has such responsibility."

"I don’t think of myself as a woman. I accept responsibility with confidence that I could get the co- operation of the professional staff and their expertise. It is really they who deal with the technical work" she said.

She knows her colleagues well since she has served as member of the Bank of Ceylon Board. They are all very committed, she said generously.

"I have a deep rooted confidence that I can deal positively and amicably with people, be they colleagues or customers. On customer service I am fully conscious of the fact that the Bank of Ceylon as the premier State bank has social responsibilities. We work at both spectrums, both at the grassroots level and with big business investors. This has always been a tradition of the Bank and we are trying hard to maintain and sustain such traditions and improve if possible on them. This of course, could be done with the help of the entire staff of the Bank. We have many a rural based project such as helping farmers and small entrepreneurs.

"All the same, we like challenges, that is something that makes any job interesting. We are consistently responsive to the demands of the market keeping up with new technology and diversifying our policies. We are into Stock Market operations responsive to market demands and Underwriting."

Her unruffled manner gives one confidence that she knows her job, she is also the Chairperson of five subsidiaries such as the Bank of Ceylon, Property Development and Management, BOC, Management and Support Services, BOC Travel, Property Development and Merchant Bank of Sri Lanka.

Dayani is a traditional minded woman and proud of it, so her marriage was an arranged one, she admits shyly. She is married to the high profile Secretary of Defence Mr. Chandrananda de Silva, one-time respected Commissioner of Elections and has a daughter studying medicine and a son studying accountancy.

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