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Professional Manager

Special issue dedicated to the late Dr. Wickrema Weerasooria

There are two common approaches followed in the study of management, and more importantly as to how seasoned managers manoeuvre their commitments and responsibilities. The simpler of these is to study what the text books say based on the research findings and the experiences of authors themselves.

Studying Biographies – The Profound Approach

However, the surest and convincing approach is by studying how specialists have acted in their lifelong careers. This profound approach is through the study of their biographies. Biographies reveal the different ways and means they have followed in different circumstances to attain the desired ends. This approach is evident-driven. The birth of the Professional Manager has been to fill the gap that exists between practitioners and professionals. The Professional Manager, has thus adopted both these approaches, and its latest issue, No. 16, has been dedicated to the late Dr. Wickrema Weerasooria, who excelled in a vast array of specialties as an academic, civil servant, diplomat and lawyer.

Issue on Dr. WickremaWeerasooria – 3rd in a Series of Biographies

This is the third in a series of Professional Manager publications that have been dedicated to the country’s eminent personalities, who have contributed immensely to their respective spheres of specialty. Two previous publications had been dedicated to the late Prof. Uditha Liyanage, former Director, PIM, whose contributions stand prominent in the fields of marketing and management, and the late Dr. Saman Kelegama, former Director, IPS, who had carved a niche-position especially in the areas of research and international negotiations.

A True Biography – A 360 Degree Performance cum Behavioural Assessment

The current issue of the Professional Manager on the late Dr. Weerasooria could be treated as almost a 360 degree performance cum behavioural assessment of this rare personality, as contributors to this issue represent peers, contemporaries, friends, academics as well as students with whom he had a close affinity.Here, the focus has been mainly on his philosophy of life, human relations, motivation, academic and professional contributions and leadership.The information carried in these articles, apart from being authentic, has added depth, vividity and colour to this personality well beyond the common knowledge that the society knew of him thus far. The publication is unique in this sense as most of the revelations embodied in these articles, wouldn’t have been surfaced if not for this dedicated issue. Senaka Weerasooria, Dr. Weerasooria’s son, writing of his father exposes a glimpse of his philosophy of life. He says ‘Like his uncle C.W.W.Kannangara – the father of free education in Sri Lanka – he (Dr. Wickrema) believed that access to education was essential to alleviate poverty, to develop the country. Moreover he wanted equal access for women often quoting “When you educate a man you educate an individual, but when you educate a woman – you educate an entire family.”Senaka further says that ‘He (Dr. Wickrema) never asked for royalties for any of the books he wrote because the waiving of royalties was means of repaying a debt for the education received in the country of his birth… My father had a passion for teaching. In his own words “Teaching of others teacheth the teacher.”

Weerasooria’s Banking Law and Financial System in Australia

While at the Monash University as Associate Professor of Banking Law, Dr. Wickrema made a significant contribution to banking law, credit law, finance law and commercial law gaining prominence both nationally in Australia and internationally. Among the many books he authored were: The Banking Law and Financial System in Australia – printed into six editions was re-titled ‘Weerasooria’s Banking Law and Financial System in Australia’’ by the publisher. According to the publisher the sixth edition of this well-established text has been completely rewritten. Chapters 1-9 are entirely new, covering in depth the radical changes effected by the government’s implementation of the Wallis Financial System Inquiry. The text also covers the changes made to payment, clearance and settlement systems. A rare feat in a foreign soil by a Sri Lankan!

Observations of Dr. Wickrema’s Contemporaries

Dr. Pratap Ramanujam with a 38-year long history behind him as a public servant, observes that ‘Dr. Weerasooria was widely known as a brilliant tactician and a clever organizer.

We who have worked under him witnessed this priceless quality which had resulted from his unparalleled brilliance and great intelligence. Commenting on Dr. Wickrema’s leadership, he says ‘Dr. Weerasooria was a master in extracting the latent talents of his officials. He encouraged the officers to write articles about their work, the economy and other development –related activities, and get them published in the newspapers.

Chandrasena Maliyadde, another public servant who had worked under him reveals a few special traits he observed in Dr. Wickrema’s leadership:

1. He was almost omnipresent. Where the happiness was he was there. Where the grief was he was there. Where the success was he was there. Where the failure washe was there. He was, in fact, there for you in your success as well as in adversity.

2. Dr. Wickrema categorized officers as ‘Doers’ and ‘Talkers’. He picked up doers to deliver while sending talkers for meetings.

3. I have never seen that Dr. Wickrema ever complained about capacity or authority. He believed only in delivery.

4. When I posed an issue that some rules prevented one from making decisions, he said ‘Don’t break the rule, but bend it and do it.’

Dr. Wickrema was Firm and Resolute in Purpose

Mahinda Relepanawa, a close associate of Dr. Wickrema says that he had no involvement in politics. But J. R. Jayewardene knowing his strategic capabilities requested Dr. Wickrema to assist in the campaign for parliamentary election in 1977. He agreed to pay heed to the request for a short period not as a campaigner, but as a strategist for the campaign. The campaign he led needs no elaboration and all know how resounding the success had been. In whatever task he was involved, he gave his best and there was no turning back until the objectives were met.

A Guru Becoming a Disciple

W. A. Wijewardena, former Deputy Governer, Central Bank, and a critique mainly on contemporary social issues, says that ‘Dr. Wickrema Weerasooria, fondly known as Wickrema, was first my Guru, Mentor and Role Model. But later he became a fan of mine admiring my work immensely. That was a rare display of humbleness which only a good teacher would extend toward his students. Wickrema belonged to this rare category.

The Pioneer of Books on Banking in Sinhala

A person who had his basic education as well as higher studies up to the PhD in the medium of English wouldn’t have dared to teach a subject like law in Sinhala. In 1971, the then government had resolved that all the universities should commence teaching all disciplines in Sinhala and Tamil mediums. It was indeed a near tall order, as there were innumerable shortcomings in conforming to the directive.

However, Dr. Wickrema took up the gauntlet, and on the invitation of Rev. Professor Walpola Rahula, Vice Chancellor, Vidyodaya (currently University of Sri Jayewardenepura) not only taught law as a subject for the B.A. degree, but also published a standard text in Sinhala titled ‘The Law Relating to Banking and Cheques in Ceylon’ to facilitate

his teaching, Jayantha Newunhella of the PIM has thus unearthed a hidden-treasure, that would have otherwise got faded in the sands of time. In the latter years of his career, he took to teaching, and loved to be a pathfinder especially in the affairs of the Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM). In fact, he considered the PIM as his second home. It is, therefore, apt that the PIM management, resolved to dedicate the Professional Manage – issue 16 to this unmatchable personality.

Dr. Wickrema: A Provider, Producer, Proposer, Protector, and a Preventer for Us

Reminiscing the yeoman service rendered to the PIM, Prof. Ajantha S. Dharmasiri, Director, PIM, in his article captioned ‘Poignant Pondering on a Patriarch of PIM” uses the above five epithets to describe in brevity the prolific performance of Dr. Wickrema. Of his contribution Prof. Dharmasiri says ‘Dr. Wickrema Weerasooria provided his rare knowledge in the realms of business law. Having authored over twenty books including the seminal legal publication in Australia, we were so privileged to be partners of his wonderful knowledge sharing process. There were always bouquets and never brickbats with regard to his teaching contribution.’

Note: The magazine contains over 20 articles that provide different facets of this exemplary personality. However, due to limited space the reviewer is unable to comment on all the articles.

“Fragrance of flowers will not be carried forward unless pushed by the wind. But fragrance of wise men incessantly and effortlessly pervades in all directions.”Adapted from ‘Lokopakaraya’ of Ven. RanasgalleThero.

(Verse No. 181)

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