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
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
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."