Wed, 29 Mar 2023 Today's Paper

A planter for all seasons

Kingsley Goonetilleke

3 April 2021 01:10 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Tribute to my saviour, the late Mr. Kingsley Goonetilleke, J.P. a veteran and an all round planter of uniqu type.

The tenth death anniversary of my boss, Mr. Kingsley Goonetilleke fell on March 23. He died at the age of 82 after a brief illness; leaving behind his beloved wife Srima, two daughters, two sons-in-law, (one a navy officer/commander and the an eminent doctor), one granddaughter, who is a doctor in a Government hospital, and a grandson.

He was a retired Director and an Agricultural Advisor at the Sri Lanka State Plantations Corporation – Regional Board-at the time of his demise. He had served the Sri Lanka State Plantations Corporation as its Board-Member in 1970. Later he was appointed as an Assistant General Manager (Estates) at the S.L.S.P.C. Head Office and thereafter promoted as a Director and Agricultural Advisor at the Regional Board which posts he held till his retirement.

Goonetilleke was an Anandian and had started his planting career under the British Planters during colonial era, hence his ambition, aptitude, knack and talent. He was disciplined, very active, capable of facts finding, courageous enough to face any challenging and tough situations in any circumstances. Further more, he had a majestic physical body and was magnanimous in his activities and that allured every-one to respect him with dignity.

He was a well-versed veteran in tea, rubber, coconut, cocoa, coffee, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and vegetable cultivation, including forestry. As such, no one could bluff him as he had been an all round planter of a unique type. His planting career had been his hobby too. He did everything enthusiastically. He had carried out many experimental cultivations with several crops successfully in his home garden. Whilst he was working at the S.L.S.P.C. Head Office in Colombo he used to bring basketfuls of vegetables, green leaves, etc., which he had grown in his home-garden at Nawala, and distribute them among his colleagues, merely for mental satisfaction.

Besides, he had been a lover of nature and the vegetable kingdom. Accordingly in 1977 he had brought some Mahugany seeds and got them planted at the road side in front of the S.L.S.P.C. Head Office, No. 18, Gregory’s Road, Colombo – 07: I too had planted a seed and now those seeds have grown into massive threes. When they mature a very valuable timber could be harvested and it will be a perquisite for the Colombo Municipality. This bears ample evidence to prove that like his planting career being real and meaningful so was his patriotism.

He was one of the patrons of the S.L.S.P.C. Ex-staffs’ Association since its inception till his death. He had generously contributed financially and materially throughout. After his demise his wife and daughters have donated Rs. 25,000/- to the Association in memory of the late Goonetilleke.

A heartrending event that caused grievance to Goonetilleke was the plight of which the house of Dr. C.W.W. Kannangara was in.

Kannangara’s house at No. 18, Gregory’s Road, Colombo – 07 had been acquired by the Government for the default of Income Tax payments.  That house had been used as the Head Office of the Sri Lanka State Plantations Corporation. That house should have been treasured and perpetuated as a monument in honour and memory of the ‘Father of Free Education’. Dr. Kannangara’s house had been sold for a song and was razed to the ground. Goonetilleke had been lamenting over this issue and cursed the perpetrators who are responsible for this damage.

Further, he had remarked adversely that displaying banners at the Ministry of Education to mark the death anniversary of Dr. Kannangara annually is absurd. Goonetilleke had been telling that if not for the great gesture of Dr. Kannangara most of our Sri Lankans would have been illiterate. In this regard Goonetilleke remarked that what has happened is quite contrary to the preaching of Gautama Buddha. That is, ‘Doing’ what should not be done, and ‘Not doing’ what should be done, are both sinful acts. As such Goonetilleke had said that demolishing this house is a real crime and is unpardonable.

Goonetilleke had been an upright gentleman, very strict, methodical and prompt in executing his duties. He was a hard taskmaster too. Yet he had been very sympathetic, generous and had helped very many genuine and innocent people. A gentleman of his caliber is very rare to find these days.

At one time he had been my boss at the S.L.S.P.C. Head Office and was immensely helpful to me, officially and personally. During many crucial and difficult times he rescued me, even without my asking for help. During the communal riots too he took our family to his place, looked after and saved us. Besides, whenever I had problems he used to take me in his vehicle and visit each and every office and speak to the officers concerned on my behalf to get my problems solved. Whenever I visited his residence at Nawala he never sent me empty handed; the same can be said about his wife and daughters. They always gave something to me to take home. (referring to their garden produce)

My boss used to husk coconuts and give them to me; such a lovely and kind gentleman he was. When he was hospitalised I had the opportunity of  being useful to him: I stayed with him at the hospital. His death is a great loss for me. May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.
S. Thiyagaraja, Maligawatte.


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