A tribute to Late Professor Sivasubramanium Raveendranath



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This is a heartfelt tribute to a friend, colleague and former Vice-Chancellor of the Eastern University of Sri Lanka, who disappeared ten years ago, i.e. on 15 December, 2006, under mysterious circumstances, after attending the Annual Sessions of the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science at Vidya Mandiraya, Colombo 7.


Sivasubramaniam Raveendranath who was born on February 22, 1951 in Kokuvil East, Jaffna, was the father of two daughters, Dushyanthi and Abiramy. He had his education at Jaffna Hindu College. I came to know him in 1973 when I entered the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya. Our batch had 88 students including 46 Tamils. His amiable and affable ways and gentle conduct endeared him to his batch mates, and he soon became a popular person in the batch. During our first year of practical training at Maha-Illuppallama, we had plenty of free time after work; and literally every evening, we got together and revelled singing Sinhala and Tamil songs. Raveendranath (popularly known as Ravi) was often with us on the floor along with our Tamil friends, Kogulathasan, Kugatharan, Wijethungam and Manoharan to name but a few.


Ravi graduated in 1977 and began his career in 1978 as a Research Officer in the Department of Agriculture at Karadiyanaru. In 1981, he joined the Eastern University of Sri Lanka (EUSL) as an Assistant Lecturer. He read for his PhD at Wye College, University of London in England. Because of his leadership qualities, administrative competence and longstanding academic experience spanning over a period of 25 years, he was appointed the Acting Vice Chancellor in 2004, and installed as the Vice Chancellor in 2005 by President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.


At the time, I was serving as Vice Chancellor of the University of Ruhuna and was elected Chairman of the Committee of Vice Chancellor and Directors (CVCD) in 2006. That afforded me an opportunity to interact and associate closely with him again.


As Vice Chancellor, he had a vision and passionate commitment to make EUSL an outstanding leader of higher education in the country. To that end, Ravi discharged the duties and responsibilities of the post of Vice Chancellor with great dedication, devotion and distinction.


He was a most warm and affectionate person, who treated everybody that went to him with compassion and kindness. Ravi was a pillar of support and a tower of strength to me as Chairman of CVCD. He was near and dear to me and shared his concerns and problems with me. I could remember him telling me about the receipt of threatening anonymous calls demanding his resignation as Vice Chancellor. That forced him to shift to Colombo in early October 2006, and operate from there with his family staying in Dehiwala.


He was a regular at the Annual Sessions of the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLASS). On that fateful day of 15th December 2006, he had attended the morning sessions of SLASS, and had been missing since then. The disappearance of Prof. Raveendranath, Vice-Chancellor of EUSL, sent shock waves throughout the country, and the universities were utterly shaken and convulsed. Investigations were done and appeals were made to his likely captors by various parties for his release, but to no avail.


History, both global and local, is replete with examples where great leaders and scholars have been brought down by terrorists and criminals with small minds. Assassinations of the late Prof. Stanley Wijesundera, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Colombo, late Prof. C. Patuwathavithane, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Moratuwa, and late Prof. Sivasubramanium Raveendranath, former Vice-Chancellor of the Eastern University of Sri Lanka, are poignant examples from Sri Lankan universities. Loss of such personalities is obviously a blow not only to their family, relatives and friends, but as big or an even bigger blow to the whole country.


With the disappearance of Ravi, the Eastern University of Sri Lanka lost an exemplary teacher and able leader, his family lost a devoted husband and loving father, and his friends lost a much respected and trusted colleague and companion. Memories of this calm and quiet, dignified and amiable character are still vivid and green, and shall remain in the hearts and minds of his numerous friends and colleagues for many years to come.


 


Professor Ranjith Senaratne


University of Ruhuna


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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