K. S. C. de Fonseka

The 12th death anniversary of Kalutaravedage Sarath Chandra de Fonseka fell on November 25, 2008. He was the former Port Commissioner and with the formation of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority in 1979, he was appointed as its Managing Director.

Born in Moratuwa to middle class parents, he received his primary education at St. Sebastian’s College. After entering the University of Ceylon, he passed the B. Sc. (Eng.) Examination in 1956 and joined the Colombo Port Commission as a junior engineer and rose rapidly in rank which could be attributed to his dedication to duty and perseverance.

De Fonseka obtained Post Graduate Diplomas in Hydraulic Engineering (Delft) – 1963/64, Coastal and Tidal Engineering, and Port Engineering. He was a Chartered Civil Engineer, a Member of the Institute of Civil Engineers (London), Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers (Sri Lanka), and a Fellow of the Economic Development Institute of the World Bank.

With his high qualifications in civil engineering he was closely involved in conceptualizing and implementing various projects under each successful phase of port development. His expertise in the technical aspects in port and maritime construction has been internationally recognized. He was widely traveled and had addressed several international seminars.

I had the privilege of working with him when he was the port commissioner and later as his personal assistant when he was appointed the managing director of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority in 1979, until his retirement. His most difficult period was his final year in office when certain unscrupulous elements worked against him, which is nothing new in a corporation.

With the passage of time, most of the schemers fell by the wayside. They say that a good man cannot be kept down or brought down and De Fonseka withstood all this with dignity — the hallmark of an honourable individual. On reaching the age of 60 years, he retired from the Ports Authority.

Shortly after his retirement he was appointed as chairman of the Road Development Authority by the then Minister A. H. M. Fowzie. However, as fate would have it, a dreaded terminal decease cut short his brilliant career and he died on November 25, 1995.

The three individuals who did much for the development of the Port — Lalith Athulathmudali, Wimal Amerasekera (perhaps the best Government Agent, Jaffna ever had) and De Fonseka, have ironically all crossed the Great Divide! Each of them were brilliant in their own way and their contribution to the Port stands as testimony even today.

De Fonseka leaves behind his devoted wife Pearl, a lady of strong character who hails from the wealthy Wijesuriya family and stood by him at all times; daughter Menaka and son Manik. Menaka needs no introduction. She is a fellow of the Trinity College of Music, London and a Licentiate of the Royal School of Music both in piano and singing. Manik is a qualified engineer and a chartered accountant.

May he attain the supreme bliss of nibbana.

Leslie Cooray

From the Daily News of  27th September, 2003.