Royal People

A dedication to those wonderful people who served Royal Primary School & Royal College, in Sri Lanka, since 1835, and, who will be remembered for their committment, sincerety and unselfishness.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

U N Gunasekera

U.N. Gunasekera (B.Sc. Eng. London, MI.Struct. UK, F.I.E.) is considered to be Sri Lanka's Greatest Construction Engineer of the 20th Century. U.N.Gunasekera revolutionized engineering in Sri Lanka through his construction of High-rise buildings including Sri Lanka's First five star hotel (the Ceylon Inter-Continental) and Sri Lanka's Largest five star hotel (Lanka Oberoi) among various other projects.

Mr.Gunasekera has undertaken and completed projects which have included Bank Headquarters (eg. Hatton National Bank), Hotels [(eg. Ceylon Inter-Continental, Lanka Oberoi aka Cinnamon Grand (all 3 stages; 600 rooms)], Habarana Lodge and Mount Lavinia Hotel Extension), Political Party Headquarters (SLFP, UNP), Shopping Malls (Welikada Plaza, YMBA), Apartment Complexes (Police), Office Complexes (People's Park Complex), Auditoriums (Bishop's College Auditorium), Office Buildings (eg. Hemas), Headquarters for the Armed Forces (National Armed Reserve, Air Force, National Intelligence Bureau), Factory Buildings (Ceylon Glass Company), Academic Headquarters (Institution of Engineers, Institute of Chartered Accountants, Institute of Business Management) and University Buildings (Science Faculty, Arts Faculty, University of Colombo), Warehouses (eg. Aitken Spence, Ferntea), Houses (eg. Sirimavo Bandaranaike's) among many more. He is known to be the Most Successful Sri Lankan Civil Engineer of the 20th century with an unprecedented market share in Construction. He was the first Sri Lankan Engineer to build high-rise buildings and therefore was single-handedly responsible for the development of the Engineering level in Sri Lanka.

U.N.Gunasekera became a household name in the late 70's and was known to be one of the richest men, indeed arguably the richest, of the 80's and early 90's in Sri Lanka and one of its first Billionaires. He was named one of the five billionaires of Sri Lanka as recently as 1998 before he retired. By initiating the construction of high rise buildings in Sri Lanka he played a role in the economic and social development of Sri Lanka. It was said that U.N.Gunasekera set the standard for the Construction level in the country as his projects were considered to be among the highest quality in South-East Asia. He was the President of the Institute of Engineers in Sri Lanka for five years.

He developed many influential friendships including that of the First Woman Prime Minister of the world, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, The Late Hon. Premadasa, Ministers, Heads of Armed Forces and many of the Leading Businessmen. He was considered to be one of the most well-connected and powerful businessmen in Sri Lanka prior to his retirement.

He also has many other businesses, such as the Glass House Health Center and Diagnostic Laboratory and was known to be a prominent real estate mogul, having invested in famed Billion-Rupee Multi-Acre property in Sri Lanka's capital, and accumulated vast wealth placing him among Sri Lanka's richest people for many years prior to his retirement. He was known to own many houses in prominent areas of Colombo, Warehouses, Office Buildings, Bungalows, Stocks, Resources, Land and Plantation Estates.

Other than his philanthropy and representation of Sri Lankan engineers (as President of the Institution of Engineers and later Chairman of the Board of Trustees) and providing health care services through the Health Centre Glass House, U.N. Gunasekera proved the potential of local contractors and thereby saving millions of dollars for Sri Lanka on contracts which would have otherwise gone to foreign contractors. Even as recently as 1995, he was the only pre-qualified Sri Lankan engineer to bid for the 2.6 Billion Marriott renovation of the Galle Face Hotel. He was also the President of CR&FC club, Vice-President of SSC and of the Old Boys Union of Royal College. In 2006, He was awarded Membership of the British Institution of Structural Engineers and Life Membership of the National Construction Association, whose presidency he declined, in recognition of his Professional Excellence; the only person who was not a former president of the association to be bestowed with such an honour. He also received an award for 50 years of Construction Activity from the World Institute of Engineers.

U.N. Gunasekera is a strong Buddhist and one of the largest contributors to charities in Sri Lanka, though in a silent manner, and is famed to contributing to a vast number of temples, hospitals and charities. He is famed for constructing the Sambodhi Vihara in Colombo. He is known to be arguably the most generous contributor to temples in Sri Lanka. His approach to life, where he lives as an unassuming and courteous man, on par with the Buddhist way of life, made his vast wealth and power seem unapparent.

Early life
U.N.Gunasekera was educated at the prominent Royal College where he was the Captain of the Rugby team, winning the coveted Bradby shield, a member of the Cricket team and Athletics team. He also played for the Sri Lanka Public Schools Rugby Team and was known to be one of the best young rugby players of that era. He also held the All-Island Public Schools record for the 220 yard hurdles. He obtained his degree in Engineering from the University of London after completing the University of Cambridge Higher Diploma.

Family life
He married the daughter of Sir Ernest de Silva, the Cambridge-educated former chairman of the Senate of Sri Lanka and the Founder-Chairman of the Bank of Ceylon, making the lineage one of the most prominent traditionally-rich families in Sri Lanka. His mother was the philantrophist Mrs. H. M. Gunasekera (OBE, CBE) who together with Senator Lady Evadne De Silva started the Gamini Matha Home For Elders in 1938 and formed of the famous Mrs. H.M.Gunasekera Trust which mass prints Buddhist books for free distribution. His Grandmother, constructed a temple, the 'Abeysingharamaya' which he expanded and maintained. His younger daughter Sushila was a national tennis champion in the early 70s before attending University to study Architecture. His elder daughter Srimani became a Doctor and his son Dhammika an Engineer. His Grandson, Arosha Gunasekera, is currently studying at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.


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