An open letter to Kavan Ratnayaka -  Chamara Lakshan Kumara

A few months ago, when I got to know that you had decided to resign from your post as the Lake House Chairman, the news shocked me as I had not heard of any other Chairman who stepped down from Lake House voluntarily.

It’s true that your detractors have created many tales around your name; but you proved them wrong by taking the ‘high road’. Your gesture, without doubt, deserves appreciation.

The Lake House, needless to say, was a treasure mine for many in the past. We have heard of many top officials who siphoned off its wealth and plundered resources, in the past. But you, on the other hand, were an exception. You never asked Lake House employees to repair your house, nor did you ask for commissions to buy vehicles. Your track record in terms of best practices is perfect, in every sense of the word. You, being a member of the famous Ratnayaka family which owned the first car in the Southern province, did not show any inclination to steal money. Although you do not show off your ‘Buddhist-ness’, you conduct yourself as a true Buddhist, strongly denouncing any act of corruption, malpractice and misappropriation.

This does not mean you were a ‘dream Chairman’ for Lake House. But, at the most crucial occasions, you acted with great integrity, as a leader with a backbone. The company, at the time of your appointment, was in a debt-trap, and you resurrected it. Your active involvement in the entire process made you the ‘Man of the match’ in the success story of Lake House.

Being yathawaadi thathakari (Doing what you say) is more difficult than being thathakari yathawadi (Saying what you do). You always executed your plans to near perfection, without much ado, and implemented your decisions, without delay. This quality makes you stand out as a leader.  You had to carry the baggage of some one-legged horses who served with you as members of the Director board. Due to their inability to keep up with your pace, they constantly pulled you back, overtly and covertly. Despite being burdened with a bunch of ‘clowns’ of that nature, you managed you survive for 30 months – which, in my view, is a significant achievement.

At the same time, during your 30-month tenure, you managed to prevent Lake House journalists from becoming the likes of Rajpal Abeynaike, Dinesh Weerawansa and Mahinda Abeysundara, for their survival. You did not micro-manage newsroom decisions and allowed your journalists to operate in a relatively free and independent atmosphere.

Although you did not possess a magic wand, Lake House employees expected a lot more. Especially, the ones who supported the UNP - who were at the receiving end of many injustices and discrimination since 1994 – wanted you to resolve their grievances.

But, this was no easy task, given the way the stage was set. Today, the majority of Lake House employees are the ones who joined the institution after 1994, under two SLFP-led governments. Even the ones who held very senior positions had strong affiliations with the previous government. At the same time, it was impossible to give special treatment to UNP supporters, due to the composition of the current Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government. As a result, your corrective action fell short of the expectations of these disgruntles workers.

The coveted position you held was not a decoration on you. Instead, you, being the thorough gentleman that you are, decorated the position. Your humility will be remembered by the workers of Lake House in the years to come. I also wish more strength and power to do an even better job as the new Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority. 

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