Godwin Withana : Man committed to his work | Sunday Observer

Godwin Withana : Man committed to his work

My brother-in-law Godwin Withana is no more. He was more than a brother to me. He passed away peacefully a few days ago at his residence at the age of 92. His father, Pedris Patuwatha Withana passed away a few months before Aiyya was born. His mother, the late Joslin Withana (nee Jayatilaka) brought him up looking after him with great care. Their home town was in Dodanduwa, a village in the South. He was the eldest in our generation of the Jayatilake family and was held in high esteem by his uncles and aunts and was the “blue eyed boy” among them.

After graduating as a civil engineer he joined the Port Commission and proceeded to U.K. where he followed a postgraduate course at Imperial College, London. He was an honest, diligent and efficient worker, respected by his colleagues. I could well remember him in the late 1950s. Aiyya used to wear immaculate white shorts and white stockings when he went to work at the Port Commission. He was so committed to his work that he used to go even at night to check on certain work sites. Sometimes, I had the privilege of accompanying him in the night.

In 1961, he was seconded from the Port Commission to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation at its inception, as, Operations Manager and was responsible to set up the Terminal in Colombo. In 1963, he went back to the Port Commission and was again seconded to the Fisheries Corporation in 1964, and appointed as Managing Director.

Coming back to the Port Commission in 1965 he ended up as Deputy Chief Engineer.

In 1970, he again joined the Petroleum Corporation as Vice Chairman and in 1976 with the amendment to the Petroleum Corporation Act, he was appointed as Managing Director.

He served as a member of many Boards including the Ceylon Electricity Board.

In later years, he moved to the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation & Development Corporation as Chairman. At SLLRDC his knowledge in Engineering helped him to manage the affairs quite successfully.

Finally, he moved to the National Building Research Organisation (NBRO) as its Director General.

After retiring from the public sector he opened a construction company of his own and later became the President of the Contractors’ Association.

He was a fellow of the Institute of Civil Engineers (London) and fellow of the Engineers’ Institute of Sri Lanka.

His wife, Geetha (my sister) was a shadow behind him encouraging him in his busy life, looking after him selflessly and above all, preparing tasty dishes as Aiyya was fond of entertaining guests for meals. He loved to entertain friends and relations at his home and even in the latter part of his life he never failed to ask “Did you eat or drink anything?” He was a very generous man indeed.

Aiyya and Akka were blessed with two wonderful children, Lalith and Anomi who ended up as accountants holding high posts in the private sector. Aiyya and Akka could be considered as very fortunate parents to have two children so committed in looking after them in their old age.

My sisters, brothers and cousins were fortunate to have a ‘big brother’ like him whom we all looked up to as our mentor for guidance and advice.

May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

Sarath Jayatilaka. 

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