There have been many tributes paid to Ravi in the media, which may make mine seem superfluous, but I cannot fail to pay tribute to one, whom I have known for most my life and whose qualities of head and heart, were rarer than one in a million.
Ravi was a unique person, who never made use of any of the privileges that could have been his, as the son of the highest in the land.
He was an exemplary example as to how children of rulers should conduct themselves. I recall the many times I have seen him walking to his destination from Ward Place-the official cars were never used by him.
Just as he inherited his sense of humour and wit from his father, he inherited his simplicity from his mother. Once, as I came out of the gates of ‘Braemar’, his parental home in my car, I spotted him walking and stopped to ask if he needed to be dropped somewhere.
He laughed and asked me “Are you following me or am I following you”
That was Ravi.
Another incident I recall was when during those halcyon days of my youth, Ravi’s mother and I were making milk wine. It was the first time for both of us; Ravi came into the room and teased us saying, “Both of you smell like a tavern!
He had an innate sense of responsibility to our country at a time when attacks from terrorists were building up with carnage at his height particularly in remote border areas and villages, with innocent children and villagers suffering death, loss and devastation, which led him to establish the STF [Special Task Force],they were a trained, skilled and disciplined group with the capacity to counteract these attacks.
This was his brainchild and it was good to see that this was really appreciated even now, when the STF took over and conducted his funeral.
He was a true Buddhist, who practised his faith and lived it through thought, word and deed. Although born with a silver spoon, his mother was an heiress and an only child, he felt immensely for the suffering of humanity, organised medical supplies to be sent to areas which were badly hit by the ongoing conflict and his sincerity and simplicity endeared him to one and all.
"Just as he inherited his sense of humour and wit from his father, he inherited his simplicity from his mother. Once, as I came out of the gates of ‘Braemar’, his parental home in my car, I spotted him walking and stopped to ask if he needed to be dropped somewhere."
Ravi was a man, who always stood firmly by his principles. He was a man of honour, of integrity and was very angry with some who were close to his father, but who he felt had brought disrepute to his father by their acts of corruption. He didn’t mince his words about them and his disgust at their behaviour.
One cannot write about Ravi without mentioning Penny, who gave him the happiest years of his adult life, they were devoted to each other, always together, sharing each other’s interests, and supporting each other in all their endeavours.
Wherever they were, Ravi would look at her and say “You are still the prettiest and the best.”
A great compliment after so many years together!
During his last and fatal illness, the late President had sent for Ravi and Penny and told them to always stay close to Ranil and to be there for him through good times and bad.
Ravi kept his word to his father and honoured this promise to the end, he was one who gave Ranil his utmost loyalty and sincere advice but was one of the few, who never asked for anything in return.
I recall that we were all together at Ranil’s 5th Lane home the night before he was sworn in as the Prime Minister after the Parliamentary Elections of 2015. Ranil told those responsible for the arrangements for the swearing in, the next morning, that he wanted Ravi to sit in the front row. To my surprise, the next morning, I found Ravi and Penny in seats upstairs near me. This again is typical of Ravi. He never sought glory, the trappings or the grandeur of basking in the reflected glory of his father’s position.
Ravi was a modern warrior, of great compassion, who always had time for the downtrodden.
He and his mother were the late President Jayewardene’s greatest assets, never projecting themselves, always a few steps behind.
There are few people like that around, which is why he will be missed, much more than words can ever tell. Life will certainly be poorer without the presence of such a man.
‘Here was a man, when comes such another?