Lalith Kotelawela to celebrate 69th birthday tomorrow

Ceylinco Chairman Lalith Kotelawala who has acquired a reputation for being "a tycoon with a human touch’’ celebrates his 69th birthday tomorrow (October 29).

Kotelawala who leads a business empire comprising over 300 companies is well known of his charitable and philanthropic efforts to improve the condition of the poor and marginalized in the country.

Anybody driving down R.A. de Mel Mawatha any Sunday morning will see the line of poor people patiently awaiting their turn to receive a package of rations.

He is a frequent visitor to the Victoria Home for Incurables and has time to sit down and talk to mothers who have difficulties in feeding and schooling their children.

The son of the late Senator Justin Kotelawala who founded the Ceylon Insurance Company and Mrs. Millicent Kotelawala, Lalith is a nephew of Sir John Kotelawala who was the Prime Minister of Ceylon between 1953 and 1956.

Kotelawala left Royal College at age 17 and went to the UK to study chartered accountancy. Exposed to the commercial world in London, he learned insurance, banking, financing and the intricacies of stock trading.

Returning to Sri Lanka he joined the Ceylon Insurance Company as a trainee and has since climbed the ladder to become one of the country’s best known business leaders.

The Institute of Bankers awarded him an Honorary Fellowship, the first such made to a businessman. Kotelawala is also a Fellow of the British Institute of Management and a member of the Institute of Credit Management (Sri Lanka) and (London).

The Lions Club judged him as the Most Outstanding Citizen of the Year for his attempts to bring peace to the country. He also holds an Honorary Fellowship from the Associate of Business Executives of the UK.

The Management Faculty of the Sri Jayewardenepura University conferred the Degree of Doctor of Literature (honoris causa). He has long served as Honorary Consul General in Colombo for the Republic of Singapore.

In 1991, President Premadasa honoured Kotelawala with the title of Deshabandu. He was thereafter made Desamanya the higher national award.

Kotelawala met his wife, Sicille, when he was 18-years old and she was 15 when she accompanied her sister, Shereen, for a farewell party before he left for his higher education in England.

Sicille’s father, Senator Sam P.C. Fernando, who was Minister of Justice in the Sirima Bandaranaike cabinet of 1960, was keen that his daughter pursued higher studies and the two teenagers in love had to wait seven years before they married in November 1963.

Sicille Kotelawala is now Deputy Chairman of Ceylinco Consolidated and other companies within the Ceylinco-Seylan group.

Sicille’s mother, Mrs. Agnes Stella Fernando, had been a teacher in the UK teaching English to British students. She was especially fond of Kotelawala who in turn was equally fond of her and helped the young couple at all times.

"They had one big common factor between them," a family intimate said. "Both had a great love for Sicille."

Family and friends said that there are many preparations to celebrate Kotelawala’s birthday "all unknown to him."



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