Prof. Uditha Liyanage was a great economist | Sunday Observer

Prof. Uditha Liyanage was a great economist

12 September, 2021

It is interesting to see how time passes by leaving poignant memories. Such was the case of our classmate, late Prof. Uditha Liyanage. This is a candid sharing of a companion who together had “learnt of men and learnt of books and learnt to play the game”.

It is with a deep feeling of sadness that we, the classmates of Uditha from the kindergarten at Royal Junior School and later Royal College thought to pen a few words, on his sixth death anniversary. Ujja as he was affectionately called, joined Royal Junior School on January 1, 1960 along with us and graduated to Royal College in 1968.

It was the policy of then Headmaster late H.D. Sugathapala not to mix the students when they pass out to the next grade, but to elevate the same 35 students, which developed a strong bondage, intimacy between us. Thereafter, when we joined Royal College in grade 8, all our classes were mixed. We were fortunate enough to be with Uditha up to our Advanced Level examination. During our first year in the Advanced Level class, Uditha was interested in Psychology and made it a point to attend Dr. Abraham T. Kovoor and Dr. Krishnamoorthy’s talks. It was apparent that his hidden, inner talents were to be surfaced later in life. He used to always join us in witnessing college Cricket and Rugger, but never used to miss a talk delivered by Dr. Kovoor or Dr. Krishnamoorthy.

After leaving college, Uditha and I used to patronise most of the musical shows, especially organised by the girls’ schools and English/Sinhala dramas at Navarangahala, through an unauthorised entrance to the compound.

We used to never miss a Bradby Shield match in Kandy, mostly travelling by train and staying over on Saturday. I vividly remember one incident, staying over with one of Uditha’s close family friends who gave Uditha an invitation to attend a wedding at Hotel Suiesse, the following Sunday as he was unable to attend and had to be in Colombo.

Since it was a conservative Muslim wedding and knowing that there will be a scrumptious biriyani lunch, we insisted Uditha to attend first with the gift, given by the friend, which he did and mingled with the crowd for a while, hardly knowing anyone and helped himself to scrumptious lunch.

Thereafter, it was a matter of exchanging the tie in front of the hotel and the rest, numbering about 15 having the biriyani feed along with dessert Wattalappan and hastily leaving the hotel.

As his first employment Uditha joined Commercial Bank of Ceylon for a brief stint, and after realising that Banking was not his forte, he joined Brown and Co as a junior executive in the Marketing Division. Subsequently, he joined the Maharajah Organisation as a product Manager along with Chico Gunaratne and Neil Wijeratne who became his good friends later.

During his tenure, Uditha was instrumental in launching two new products of the company namely Black Knight and Chupa chups, which became a huge success at that time and was highly praised by the Management for a job well done. Thereafter, he was offered a position as an Assistant Sales Manager at Shaw Wallace and Hedges which he accepted and rose up to the position of Sales Manager within a short time.

During his stint at Shaw Wallace, he opted to move away from Corporate Management and spent his working life in academia and joined Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM) as a young part time lecturer. In view of Uditha’s capabilities and utmost commitment, he was absorbed into the permanent cadre and rose to be the Director of the PIM, from September 1, 2007.

Since PIM held a special place in his heart, the development of the institution became an instant reality after he took over which is evidenced by increased student intake and was chiefly engaged in setting up PIM’s International Centre in the Emirates and launch its MBA program. Uditha’s contribution and commitment to many students he trained and to the Marketing fraternity of this country is immense.

As an Academic, teacher, trainer and Administrator, he was greatly respected. His yeoman contribution to the consistent development of Marketing via Research, theory and concepts have been exceptional. The void created by his untimely demise is irreparable.

Uditha also served on the Boards of Institutions such as the Diesel and Motor Engineering PLC, Commercial Bank of Ceylon, Ceylon cold stores, Chemanex PLC, Richard Peiris and Co, Singer Sri Lanka PLC, Talawakelle Tea estates and Wijaya Newspapers. He also served as a fellow member, Past Chairman of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Sri Lanka and past Trustee of CIM UK.

We have lost a dear and sincere friend, so as thousands of students lost a dedicated teacher and a great mentor. Sriyani and Chathuri have lost a wonderful husband and a loving father. Aunty Nanda has lost a brightest and most promising son.

May the Blessings of Noble Triple Gem be with you always!

May you attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana!

Rohan Neomal de Silva (RN)