[APPRECIATIONS - (02-12-2019)]

Sunil S. Abeysundara

Honest and courageous

Sunil S. Abeysundara was a leader with a warm heart. He was insightful, courageous, and determined, and was a father who advised and directed us to the correct path. He wore a smile wherever he went, to whomever he spoke to; he was always a gentleman.

Sunil Abeysundara became the mayor of Kadugannawa in the early 1950s. Obtaining electricity and water supplies to the town was one of his first efforts to make Kadugannawa a better place to live in. He stepped into Parliament defeating two major personalities: Hector Kobbekaduwa and D.B. Wijetunga, in March, 1960.

He was defeated by U.B. Weerasekara in July, 1960, but regained his status as the representative in 1965, defeating the same. In 1970, Hector Kobbekaduwa won against Abeysundara, but in 1977, he secured his seat and became the Deputy Minister of Fisheries. Thenceforth, Abeysundara became a permanent member until 1988, while also claiming the ministerial positions of Deputy Agriculture Minister and Telecommunications and Postal Minister. He retired from his post after opening the doors to his third son, Gemunu Abeysundara. He left us in 1989, completing his life journey at the age of 63.

Sunil Abeysundara advised us to be honest and follow our leaders before walking the path of one. He asked us to listen and understand rather than respond. He taught us to absorb everything like a sponge and learn from it. Abeysundara made us realise the importance of humanity before anything. He was inspired by leaders such as A.E. Nugawela, Dudley Senanayake, J.R. Jayawardene, E.L. Senanayake, Asoka Karunaratne, and N.H. Keerthiratne. We, as the younger generation at that time, followed his path and have become responsible adults today.

Abeysundara was in the second year of medical college when he had to carry the responsibility of his family, as well as that of the family business, after his father’s sudden demise. Even though it seemed like bad luck, it was the best thing that happened to the Yatinuwara people. His courage and determination in carrying out his responsibilities and giving back to the people made him a commendable person.

Sunil S. Abeysundara initiated a project to provide nutritious food to underprivileged families in the 1950s. He also transformed the Kadugannawa Maha Vidyalaya to a national school during his tenure. Furthermore, he provided facilities to all schools in the Yatinuwara electorate and was a pioneer in uplifting the quality of lives of villagers, while also supporting many religious activities.

He was a father to all of us. In his office room, where we had the chance to peek in when we were young, he had the songs of the Hindi film Abhimaan. He always had time to take us to a movie theatre and again, to walk with us around the Kandy lake.

Sunil S. Abeysundara was a role model and a father who loved us unconditionally; he was a path-creator with his honesty and dedication to everything he did. I am lucky to have been inspired by this great personality. I would like to wish that he will be born amongst us again to lead a blissful nation.

Neville P. Vidyaratne,


Shirley Clifton Bocks

Friend for all seasons

Shirley was my friend from school days. Our friendship lasted nearly 65 years till his death in March, 2019, at the age of 87. As I write this tribute, a sense of sadness overwhelms me, and the imminent nearness of my own end grips me as never before.

We completed our education way back in 1949. He joined the government service soon after, and his first appointment was at the Colombo Government Agent's Office.

He was a warmhearted and genial person, who soon became much sought-after at the office.

From his early days, Shirley was inspired by the Left movement. His socialist ideals eventually led him to trade unionism. In 1954, he was elected to the Executive Committee of the Clerical Service Union. He also served as the Editor of its Journal, The Red Tape. Before Shirley, The Red Tape was a drab record of union activities. He added colour and wisdom to it with his elegant prose style. He was also in the vanguard of the many struggles the Union led for workers' rights and pay hikes.

In 1956, he was elected to the Foreign Service and posted to our Embassy in Cairo, Egypt. After the completion of his four-year term, Shirley returned to the country and retired prematurely expecting a position in the United Nations in Vienna, Austria. When notice of the appointment was received, he left the country. He was attached to the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). While he was away, he never failed to keep in touch with me.

After his retirement from the UN, Shirley came home to Kiribathogda. He was a bachelor.

The rest of his single life was spent reading and writing.

He completed and published the biography of the then Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) leader, Edmond Samarakkody, who was also his friend. The book offered a vivid close-up of the rebel.

Shirley had an uncommon trait. He helped unreservedly all those who came to him for charity. Some crooks also exploited his generosity, but he did not mind.

According to him, those who ask are those in need. His magnificence appeared to us eccentric where nothing was free.

In my long association with him, I cannot remember seeing in him common destructive impulses such as envy, hatred, or greed. He was exemplary, and compelled our admiration.

Then, as it always happens in old age, infirmities felled him.

However, the lack of a family posed no setback to him. His kind niece cared for him till he passed.

Farewell Shirley, friend for all seasons.

Walter Silva

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