ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 33

Man of many talents, he cared for humanity

~ Pathmin Fonseka

Gampolage Pathmin Fonseka, Babsi to his friends, was born to Dr. G.A.E. Fonseka and Lydia Fonseka, on November 4, 1944. He passed away on December 21, 2005, after an illness, bravely borne, that removed him from the life he loved so much, among his wife Nimmi, son Sheran, other members of the family, friends, colleagues and constituents. His elder brother Dr. G. Dayapala Fonseka, who qualified and practised in Australia as a dental surgeon, predeceased him.

Babsi’s interests were varied and he would have continued to meet the demand on his time to fulfil his ambitious plans, if not for the illness that intervened.

I came to know Babsi during our schooldays at S. Thomas’ College Mt. Lavinia which he joined in 1956. He was one of a group of persons who cultivated a close friendship, with monthly meetings bordering on formality, where several matters of common interest were discussed before other teenage interests took over.

In school he was a member of many societies and held office in several of these. He took part in sports, in addition to his studies. He enjoyed being in the cast of Shakesperean plays and his love for debate, both Sinhala and English surely would have laid the seed for his future profession.

He was a prize winner at school and later in life a member of the Executive Committee of the Old Boys Association. Until his end he loved the school that nurtured him, his teachers and the friends he made in school, he treasured.

He entered Law College and was an honour student and prize winner, member of several Law College Societies and sports teams, including being a member of the cricket team that played in the 46th Law-Medical encounter where he was called to bowl to some future cricketers of Sri Lanka.

The result of the match will remain history. He was admitted to the Bar in 1969. At the Panadura Bar he was the junior to many eminent members of the profession, among them were George E. Chitty, Eardley Perera and Bala Tampoe, to name three.

He was called to be a Justice of the Peace and an Unofficial Magistrate in 1975. He excelled in his profession. However, for a period, the excitement of the business world caught him and he deviated from the profession at the height of his career.

As in school, his interests in later life varied. He became a member of the National Geographic Society of the United States, the magazine and its programmes enthralled him.

He played more than an active part in the Panadura Sports Club, holding high office and spearheading its activities. He was a member of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, attending its meetings in different parts of the world.

He was always concerned about humanity and concerned about the lack of opportunity to those who were less fortunate.
He was the Founder President of the Rotary Club of Panadura/Waduwa.

It was when he was 37 years old that he became the Member of Parliament for Panadura. This gave him the opportunities he dreamt of before, to help the people he cared so much about, the less fortunate. During his few years as an MP he achieved much for the different communities in his constituency.

He not only supported individuals and groups but also looked into the long term welfare of the young when he established the Sports Promotion Authority in Panadura. He attended the 41st Session of the UN General Assembly, as a delegate.

He was always on the move, within Sri Lanka and without. His regular visits to other parts of the world both before and after his marriage were not only visits looked forward to by him and then with his wife but they were educational excursions and experiences.

Travelling meant learning about the places in his itinerary beforehand, and in depth. His life was full, with travel, music, reading and collecting miniature cars, what was then referred to a Dinky toys. A large display cupboard full of cars bears testimony to this love of his. His office full of books and photographic albums bear testimony to his wide interests.

During his long illness, his wife Nimmi singlehandedly cared for him. It was the bond established that saw devotion to duty in meeting all of Babsi’s needs.

Young Sheran, a student at his father’s alma mater, was called upon to face the illness at a tender age. He bore this challenge in an exemplary manner. His potential can be seen in the book he authored, the biographical sketches of some well known personalities.

Life is a challenge; what one does with this challenge speaks of the man, when he cannot.

By C.N. Hiran Fernando

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.