Sons Sons & daughters of Sri Lanka : Ronnie Abeysinghe

Exactly two years ago on 11th February 2002 Sri Lanka lost one of its most distinguished personalities, a man for all seasons Mudiyanselage Ronald Abeysinghe fondly called 'Ronnie' loved by a very large cross section of people in this country.

His demise at the fairly early age of 65 years shocked thousands of his close associates. His funeral at Kanatte was patronised by a large gathering of VIPs, relatives, friends and by those who knew him by name from all walks of life, including a number of reputed sportsmen particularly as he was a member of the weight lifting association, Kinross swimming and life saving club and a physical culturalist.

He was a native of Teldeniya, close to Kandy. His father was a government doctor of repute while his mother Meraya Goonatillake hailed from a respected family in Panadura. Ronnie was born on 26th July 1936 had his education initially at St. John's College, Panadura and then at Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa. He was probably the most popular student, then in College in his era. He indulged in curious and sports activities in weight lifting and physical culture exercises. He was once 'Junior' Mr. Ceylon, Mr. Moratuwa and was a finalist in the Mr. Ceylon contest.

One of his prime duties as Sergeant-at-Arms was to bodily remove a misbehaving M.P. either alone or with the help of the police, on orders of the speaker when an M.P. refuses to leave the house when politely requested.

The reputed speakers who served during his long tenure of service were M/s R. S. Pelpola, Hugh Fernando, Sir Albert F. Pieris, Shirley Corea, Stanley Tillekaratna, Anandatissa de Alwis, M. A. Bakeer Markar, E. L. Senanayake, M. H. Mohamed and T. B. Ratnayake.

Although he was held in high esteem he disliked extravagance and led a simple life living with his family modestly at the Government Flats at Bambalapitiya. He married Iromi, a teacher at S. Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia and was blessed with three children, one son and two daughters.

Parliament made a glaring tribute in appreciation of this long unblemished career by organising a special session to felicitate him. He also participated in many sports activities and was a member of many reputed clubs. He was a club man having held office at the Havelock Sports Club and Kinross swimming and life saving club at Wellewatte.

He held the post of President of Sri Lanka Powerlifting Association and Automobile Association. The thousands of mourners who flocked to Kanatte to participate in the funeral, all felt that his life was snatched away from us too soon, but links and lessons he enriched will linger in our memories for ever.

We remember 'Ronnie' to pay homage and tribute to a true gentleman, sportsman and former Serjeant-at-Arms, on his 2nd death anniversary.

Sunil Thenabadu.

Sunday Observer feb 29 2004