The untimely and unexpected passing away of Lalitha Dissanayake, former permanent secretary to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Senior Administrator, who held key positions in the public service and brought honor and prestige to whatever position she held, has left her friends and associates stunned and bewildered. Lalitha was unique, whether as friend or as professional. She showed the same concern for personal difficulties as well as for professional causes.
After retirement, she used her vitality and energy to give life to whatever project she handled, be it one at the national level or at the local. She had the same compassion for the humans unsettled by the Mahaweli Scheme as well as the dogs cast on the streets by uncaring inhumanity. She showed the highest regard for the elderly.
As an undergraduate at the University of Ceylon, she combined intellectual prowess with social consciousness. These two attributes made her one of the most honest and committed public servants ever. A friend reflected on how she even risked death by stalling a lorry of illicit timber, illegally felled from the slopes of the Mahaweli River, while the Victoria Project was in progress, standing by herself on the highway, until the police came on the scene. It is even said that she never claimed traveling, which she was entitled to as a civil servant.
In a society that is deteriorating morally and socially she was a beacon of integrity. As a dynamic member of the Sri Lanka Federation of University Women and later its president (Kandy Branch) she did her utmost to publicize and rectify various abuses against women.
To us who loved her and admired her, she was the genuine friend, warm and caring, the mother of two daughters whose happiness she ensured at all times. She balanced her family life with her professional life adroitly; not letting one upset the other.
Her heart reached out to the discarded, starving dogs in the streets, to whom she was a ministering angel. That was the measure of her greatness that she could love both human and animal alike. May her sojourn in Samsara be brief!