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Old 17-02-10, 05:32 PM
sriyanjay sriyanjay is offline
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Default Neville’s parents admitted him to the school close by, St Thomas Prep, Kollupitiya

Dr N. S. Karunatileke - Ex-Governor of Central Bank

Never bowed down to powers that be

Dr Neville Sepala Karunatileke, former Central Bank Governor of Sri Lanka (1988 – 1992), passed away peacefully at his residence No. 37, Alfred Place, Colombo 3, on January 24, 2010 and was cremated at the General Cemetery, Borella on January 28, in the presence of a well represented and distinguished gathering of clergy, Ministers of State, Members of Parliament, Provincial Councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas and, of course, the common man for whom he always had a soft corner.

Neville’s parents, Ariyaratna Karunatileke and Neeta Freeda Karunatileke admitted him to the school close by, St Thomas Prep, Kollupitiya as they were living at Carmel Road, Colombo 3.
His father was a Land Settlement Officer in the Land Department, Colombo. Towards the end of his career, he was called for the Ceylon Civil Service (CCS) but due to ill health he had to decline same.
After his primary education at St Thomas’, he was admitted to Trinity College, Kandy as a boarder. At school, he joined in the literary associations of Sinhala and English and from the very start he was a very fluent speaker and debater.

After finishing his secondary education, he entered the University of Peradeniya. He selected the special degree course in Economics. He graduated with BA (Hons) second class having specialised in Money and Banking. He topped the list and was selected as a Tutor in Economics at the Peradeniya University.
He joined the Central Bank of Sri Lanka during the tenure of Vice Chancellor Sir Ivor Jennings in the year 1952. After working for a few years, he proceeded on Fulbright Scholarship under the Colombo Plan to England and entered the London School of Economics in 1955 for an MSc Degree. Having passed the same he returned to the Central Bank in 1957.

He was appointed as Director of Economic Research on his return. Later on, he proceeded on scholarship to the prestigious Harvard University and he distinguished himself by obtaining MA, MBA, MPhil and returned to the Central Bank as the Senior Deputy Governor. Once again, he was sent on scholarship to London and obtained his Doctorate (PhD) in Economics, Money and Banking.

He was an erudite scholar and was regarded as a leading economist of the East. He has authored more than 17 books on Economics and Central Banking besides other books and articles on Buddhism and Astrology.
His proficiency in writing could be judged by the book ‘Fifty Years of Central Banking’ written and published on the occasion of the Central Bank’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. From this book, Members of Parliament have quoted on several occasions. I can very well remember Minister Anura Bandaranaike quoting from it and he requested the Opposition MPs to study this book when they were making their speeches.

Neville read horoscopes of relations and friends as a hobby and he was well versed in this subject too.
Neville represented Sri Lanka on an occasion, as far as I remember, at IMF, World Bank or UNO and spoke for more than an hour without notes. He never carried notes when he spoke on any subject, be it on Economy, Buddhism or at political meetings of the Hela Urumaya. He was a prolific impromptu speaker who held the floor for more than one hour on many occasions – a great elocutionist too.

He with several other economists formed the Sri Lanka Economist Society of which he was one of the founder Vice-Presidents and later the President. He was responsible for constructing holiday bungalows at Anuradhapura, Nuwara Eliya and Kataragama for the use of the Central Bank staff and pensioners.

By instinct, he knew that the Central Bank was in danger of terrorist attack and got to construct a road barrier strong enough to withstand any sort of terrorist attack in the Central Bank premises, which was later regarded as a very wise step taken by him, as almost in a few weeks time the terrorists struck and attacked the Central Finance, which was just opposite the Central Bank. All buildings around Central Finance got badly damaged. I was at Central Finance to cash a fixed deposit and luckily escaped just by nine minutes before the attack.
Neville was very fond of his mother and looked after her with dedication with the able assistance of his wife, Mani, who had a retinue of servants until her death.

Neville was the founder member of the Hela Urumaya and was its first treasurer.
He walked with his head held high and never bent down to anyone – not even to the highest in the land. I remember him telling us that, then President of Sri Lanka (I do not like to mention the name) wanted him to release a vast amount of money (I think about 40 million) from the Central Bank for “Janasaviya” or some other fund. He point blank refused to release the money. At that time, the country was facing a severe economic crisis after the terrorist attack and Indian Army intervention (dropping ‘Parippu’ dhal). He was prepared to go home rather than do such a thing. He did go home honourably. He had such sterling qualities.
He was the chief dayaka of Isipatanaramaya Temple at Colombo 5. He, along with his wife Mani, contributed lavishly towards the cause of Buddhism.

At his funeral, the pallbearers were Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabral and his staff from the main entrance. The old Trinitians took over from there.
Neville was a visiting Senior Lecturer at the Vidyodaya and Kelaniya Universities. He was on the Board of Governors of the Trinity College and St Thomas’ Prep at Colombo 3, and held the post of senior member on both boards.

Friends as well as relations will feel the void created by his demise for a very long time to come.
He was one of the persons who was much interested in the conservation of the Sinharaja Forest range and took a major role in the campaign.

All in all, he was a unique person, no one hardly able to find anyone with so many achievements.
I would like to conclude by quoting from the Buddha Dhamma.
“Viyohi Vippayayogo Dukkho
Appiyehi Sampayoga Dukkho”
It is sorrowful to depart from the loved ones. Equally, it is sorrowful to associate with the not friendly ones.

May Neville attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana!
Prema (brother-in-law)
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Old 20-03-11, 08:36 PM
sriyanjay sriyanjay is offline
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Default “Life and Times of Dr.H.N.S. Karunatilake”

Life and times of Dr. H.N.S. Karunatilake
Tribute to a distinguished Central Banker and scholar

By Prof. S.S. Colombage, Senior Professor,Open University of Sri Lanka and former Central Banker

The book, “Life and Times of Dr.H.N.S. Karunatilake” is a fitting tribute to the former Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka on his first death anniversary. This publication was launched at a commemorative ceremony held at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute on March 12. Renowned scholar Venerable Thirikunamale Ananda Thero delivered the commemorative lecture highlighting Dr. Karunatilake’s excellence in his multi-faceted roles as a devout Buddhist, as a valiant patriot, as a distinguished economist, as an accomplished scholar, as an independent central banker, as a disciplined administrator, and as a kind-hearted employer. It was a solemn occasion for the family members and relatives, former and current central bankers, financiers, friends and well-wishers to express their sincere gratitude to this outstanding and outspoken gentleman who never compromised his noble principles for personal gains.



Dr. H. N. S. Karunatilake

Contributions to advancement of knowledge
Dr.Karunatilake – Neville – to his friends was widely acclaimed, among other things, for his immense contributions to the fields of banking, finance, rural development and poverty reduction. In addition to his enormous responsibilities in the Central Bank, he took the trouble to teach Economics at several universities at a time when there was a severe shortage of staff in the universities to teach the subject, particularly in Sinhala language.

This gave him an opportunity to train many of today’s high ranking scholars and practitioners in the fields of Economics, and Finance and Banking. He taught at the University of Sri Jayawardenapura (then Vidyodaya University) and the University of Colombo. Dr. Karunatilake was well known for his devotion to students. As rightly stated in the commemorative book, he was proud to see many of his students achieving high positions in the Central Bank, Ministries and various other organizations. He was also instrumental in setting up the Bankers’ Training Institute (presently, the Institute of Bankers of Sri Lanka), and he became the first Chairman of the Institute.

The Sri Lanka Economic Association (SLEA) became prominent during Dr. Karunatilake’s tenure as its President with numerous activities including the publication of bi-annual “Sri Lanka Economic Journal” and the USAID funded monograph series on contemporary economic issues and regular public economic forums.

Firm believer in independent central banking
Dr. Karunatilake strongly believed in the concept of independence of the Central Bank which has become globally fashionable nowadays. As articulated in the commemorative publication, he bravely expressed his candid opinions on various economic policy issues. Specifically, the Annual Reports of the Central Bank for the years 1975 and 1976 prepared under his close guidance were critical of the nationalization policies adopted by the then government stressing their adverse repercussions on domestic investment, foreign aid, foreign reserves and other macroeconomic variables.

As the Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Karunatilake made an enormous contribution to restructure the Bank to fulfill its mandated objectives. He paid special emphasis to expand financial facilities to the rural poor who have no access to formal banking institutions. He, therefore, revitalized the network of Regional Rural Development Banks to provide savings and credit facilities to the low income earners so as to supplement President Premadasa’s “Janasaviya” poverty alleviation programme.

While helping the poor at the grassroots level, Governor Karunatilake also kept a critical eye on the government’s economic policies in his own style. At the macroeconomic level, he was very much concerned about the financial and price stability as well as economic growth of the country at the height of the southern youth unrest. He implemented robust monetary and financial policies, which later helped to accelerate financial activities and economic growth to unprecedented levels.

He also gave high priority to liberalize the financial sector by introducing far reaching reforms and to maintain stability of the financial system by strengthening the supervision arms of the Central Bank. Also, Governor Karunatilake took initiatives to evolve a centralized database system to collate and disseminate district level socioeconomic profiles by setting up an Operations Room at the Central Bank equipped with the state-of-the-art information technology.

As stated by S. Pattividaa, Secretary of the Commemorative Committee, in his address to the gathering, many of us would not have survived the terrorist bombing of the Central Bank in 1996 if not for the visionary strategy of Governor Karunatilake. He had the far-sightedness to calculate such threats way back in 1990, and took action to install steel barriers and electronic security devices for the safety of the bank employees and the general public. Those precautions saved several hundreds of lives.

Young economists nurtured
Dr. Karunatilake nurtured many young officers in the Central Bank showing them the way how to apply the theoretical wisdom they gained from the university to analyze the day to day economic and financial problems and to formulate prudent policies to deal with them for the benefit of the masses. I was fortunate to join the Economic Research Department of the Central Bank immediately after my graduation at Peradeniya when Dr. Warnasena Rasaputra was the Director of Economic Research, and Dr. Karunatilake was his deputy.

As raw graduates, we were compelled to make presentations on different economic themes at regular research forums held at the Bank, sans the luxury of now common multimedia facilities, of course! We were always encourage to write papers and publish them. The ‘Staff Studies’, which was the Central Bank’s flagship publication at one time, also emerged during that period providing a launching pad to the Bank’s researchers to disseminate their scholarly work in a professional manner. Dr. Karunatilake along with Dr. Rasaputra contributed immensely to launch and to continue that professional journal for many years. Many of us are indebted to both of them for their visionary thinking that guided and inspired us to get deeply involved in economic research.

Uncompromising personality

Dr. Karunatilake was bold enough to call a spade a spade even in the presence of the highest authority of the land. This honorable quality forced him to sacrifice his lucrative positions in the Central Bank many a times, as mentioned in the commemorative volume. But Dr. Karunatilake never got disturbed in the face of such irritable incidents, which others considered as his downfalls, and strangely, he enjoyed every minute of such calamities with a smiling face reflecting his undaunted personality. He always wanted to serve the motherland, and therefore, he did not look for foreign assignments even at the worse times of his career.

On several occasions, he declined the government’s offers of positions such as the Alternative Executive Director post in the IMF and an Ambassador posting to Germany.

As noted in the commemorative publication, Dr. Neville Karunatilake had some opponents within and outside the Central Bank who could not tolerate his unblemished and straightforward qualities. Nevertheless, he won the hearts of the majority for the very same qualities as vouched by the vast crowd gathered to commemorate his first death anniversary.
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