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Tribute to Sunil Karunanayake

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The evergreen, erstwhile crusader for Thurstan is no more. He was an Accountant by profession, a fellow member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka, a fellow member of the CIMA (UK) and a MBA from PIM Sri Jayewardenepura. 

He started his professional career as an Accountant at Chas P. Hayley & Co. Galle and later joined Brooke Bond Ceylon Ltd. and was there for many decades and when Brooke Bond was acquired by Unilever, Sunil was made the Commercial Controller of the Unilever Tea Division in which position he retired.

Hailing from Kamburupitiya in the Matara District he was the youngest son of a School Principal father and mother whose children became respected professionals later in life.

Sunil was a live wire and in the forefront whenever any event to do with Thurstan was initiated. In fact no Thurstan event was complete without his presence. During the formative years of Thurstan OBU, he did yeomen service as the Hon. Treasurer of the OBU for many years. Though afflicted with a slight physical disability from his young age he was undaunted and was an enthusiastic tennis player. He was a sportsman at heart and during his heydays never missed a cricket or rugby match where Thurstan was involved. Few years ago we jointly brought a resolution at the OBU to make a request to the relevant authorities to restore the name “Thurstan Road” as the name change made several years ago was done apparently with no reason or basis when already there was a school by that name on this road. Unfortunately, though the most powerful in the land at that time was a Thurstanite this proposal never saw the light of day.

He was a multi-talented person. A freelance Journalist (Sports and Financial), Author (Business and Corporate Affairs), Editor (ICA’s quarterly publication “The Chartered Accountant”), Radio Commentator, Moderator at financial forums and Committee Member (Ceylon Chamber of Commerce) among many other pursuits. My association with Sunil started in the Year 1961 when both of us entered Form IC (now Grade 6) at Thurstan. The class consisted of a blend of students with many diverse attributes, artists, musicians, athletes, bookworms and even “street fighters”. Challenging and fighting after school was not uncommon. This was to be expected when the class included the brother of late Kumar Devapura. Being the harmless pacifier Sunil never encouraged or got involved in any of those physical episodes. Once when I received a thunderous slap (for unceremoniously breaking-up the class when the lunch interval bell rang) from our Science Master, E.S. Soysa, then an energetic and young teacher, later a practicing lawyer, Sunil was the first to come and console me. In early 1980s I was walking down Pitakotte Road in search of a house of a colleague who was working with me in the Middle East, to deliver a parcel he sent through me when I was vacationing in Sri Lanka, Sunil came and stopped his car beside me and tooted the horn. Apparently, he had recognised me when passing and done a u-turn to come and speak to me. Thereafter, we both went to his brother Jayasiri’s house close by and had a good chat reminiscing the past. Whenever something unfortunate happens to a friend he is the first to be there with help. When our friend and classmate M.B. Fernando met with a serious accident a few years ago and both his legs were fractured, I know for a fact that Sunil made a periodical financial contribution until he got back on his feet.

My relationship with Sunil developed and blossomed into a full blown friendship through our school, academic and professional careers and came to a stage where none of my family events were complete without his participation.

He never went after politicians in seek of positions but in his retired life provided his services as an independent, non-executive Director/Chairman to many public quoted companies.

We met Sunil last when we were invited for lunch by our good friend and colleague Mano Wickremasinghe who had returned from Canada for good and was hosting us at his refurbished country house in Horana. Even though Sunil was very feeble with a debilitating illness he made it a point to be there even for a short time.

May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana

T de S

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