Dr D S Bandarage – ‘Father of Modern Management of Sri Lanka’ – 5th Death Anniversary Falls on 1 July 2014
Posted on June 30th, 2014

-A Dynamic Management Guru – A Noble Man of Superior Qualities

Jayaweera M Kumarasinghe

The late Dr D S Bandarage

Dr D S Bandarage left us forever from this world on 1 July 2009. It was a very sad ending for the much renowned Management Guru of the 50s up to the 2000s.

For those who associated him, Dr Bandarage was seemed immortal. The aura that spread from him was noble and powerful, anyone would show respect to him. People would naturally get up from their chairs when they would see him approaching them. That was solely due to the respect people had for the Great Man, Dr DS Bandarage.


When Devapriya S Bandarage was born to his upper middle class parents, Baron Gunawardana Bandarage and Margaret Hewawasam Bandarage of Kaikawala, Induruwa, they may have never thought that their eldest son will become such a gigantic figure in Sri Lanka’s Management field. But, that is exactly what he did.

From very young age, D S Bandarage showed signs of extra ordinary talent for studies. He became first in class at his village primary school, then became 1st in the whole of the Southern Province by winning the coveted Valencia Rupasinghe trophy for the most outstanding student from Southern Province to gain admission to grade 2 at Ananda College, Colombo.

After an illustrious studenthood at Ananda, young Bandarage went on to do an Oriental Studies degree, later in life he completed his further Management Studies from reputed universities in the West.

Dr Bandarage had his full secondary education at Ananda College. At Ananda young Bandarage flourished with academic achievements plus extra-curricular activities. He excelled in studies. Young Bandarage was instrumental in forming the Bosath Lama Samajaya” under the patronage of the then teachers, LH Meththananda, P.De S. Kularatne, Ven Balangoda Ananda Maithree Thero and Sagara Palansuriya (then a Buddhist Monk). The members of the Bosath Lama Samajaya included some latter day luminaries as Ananda Tissa De Alwis (former Minister), Ranapala Bodhinagoda (former Chairman ANCL), Duncan De Alwis (former Colombo GA), LBT Premarathna (former Solicitor General), P L Berty Silva (former Assistant Postmaster General), P Walter De Silva (first Sinhalese Army Commander) and LS Perera (Banker). Dr Bandarage was the President of Bosath Lama Samajaya”.

Dr Bandarage was unfortunate to have lost his father, who was a school principal, at young age. His father was an ardent stalwart of Walisinha Harischandra. While growing up as a teenager and until his early 20s he lived in the posh residences in Colombo 7 of his uncle, the legendary, Mr Ponnamperuma, the then Assistant Commissioner of State Languages.

After an illustrious studenthood, young Bandarage commenced working in the corporate sector. A watershed in Sri Lanka’s corporate world arose in late 1940s when Dr Bandarage was appointed as the first ever native born Personnel Manager of a multinational Company in then Ceylon, namely, Shell Company of Ceylon Ltd. During that time most of the top corporate positions in Ceylon were held by the British.

At Shell, Dr Bandarage had an enormous task ahead. He knew that not only he must succeed himself, he must also prove to his white masters that they made the right decision in appointing him to such a top job. At that time the white company directors though they liked Sri Lankan staff were reluctant to offer them anything more than middle management level positions. They thought the locals may not be able to do the top senior executive jobs as good as them. Thus, such positions (especially in the big multinational companies) were rarely offered to locals.

Dr Bandarage knew that if he failed, the doors in Ceylonese corporate world, in the field of human resources of management and other areas may be closed for Ceylonese for many more years to come.

Fortunately WHS Bing (the then Chef Executive of Shell) liked Dr Bandarage and the relationship between the two progressed very well. Bing gave every encouragement to young Bandarage in his 20s to succeed, so he did. Dr Bandarage demonstrated to the British and other European directors of Shell of his incredible talent and managerial skills as a Human Resources Manager/Specialist.

Dr Bandarage’s English was better than that of his white masters. Intellectually, he was far superior than members of his European Board of Directors. The whites knew this. His luck was that his superiors did not envy him, they encouraged him to prosper.

Judging Dr Bandarage, the Europeans realised that the dark skinned Ceylonese could do the same jobs that they did or even better than them. The success of Dr Bandarage at Shell, led many other top level companies to establish personnel departments (human resources departments) in then Ceylon. Noteworthy among them were Lever Brothers (now Unilever), Ceylon Tobacco Company, Walkers, Browns, Whittal Boustead, Lipton, Brooke Bond, Carson Cumberbatch, Aitkin Spence, British Ceylon Corporation (BCC), Collets, Freudenberg, Rowlands, Pfizer, Hayles, Mackwoods, Pure Beverages, John Keels, Ceylon Nutritional Foods (now Nestle), Walker and Greig, Baurs, CIC, Ceylon Cold Stores Ltd (Elephant House), Bartleets, Muller and Phipps, JL Morrison Son & Jones, and United Motors, to name some.

In the early 50s Shell Company was wounded up. Dr Bandarage was quickly absorbed to Lever Brothers by its legendary Chairman, J D Mould and its Scottish Managing Director, Mr Baberlomax.

Dr Bandarage spent nearly 18 years at Levers which time he positively revolutionized the personnel management system not only within Levers but the entire Sri Lanka (then Ceylon).

At Levers Dr Bandarage was determined to unlock doors of executive and senior executive positions to Sri Lankan born people, especially those from rural backgrounds, if they were clever and intelligent. He was looking for young talent who had brilliant academic records with a reasonably good command of English. He was not bothered whether the candidates came from poor backgrounds or villages, his motto was to give the ‘best job to the best qualified person’, disregarding colour, creed, caste, gender and race of the individual. Thus, only the most qualified and skilled people were able to secure employment at Levers. Dr Bandarage had stated to the white masters if the candidate was the best suited, I will give them the job, purely on merit, no matter what the background was”.

This strict ‘non-discriminatory’ policy of his at Levers (which he later practised at other places), effectively unlocked managerial positions to many rural youth who would otherwise never had the opportunity to get in to Ceylon’s corporate sector. Previously persons who studied in such schools as Royal, St Thomas, St Peters, St Josephs, Trinity, St Anthony’s, St Bridget’s, Ladies and Bishops and the elite Tamil schools in Jaffna and Batticaloe were only able to get top jobs in the top private sector firms. It was very difficult for someone from Ananda, Nalanda, Dharmaraja, Visakha or Mahamaya to obtain a top job in a multinational and or other leading company.

During Dr Bandarage’s time at Shell and Levers, there was not a single strike – in both places (during this time the country was turmoiled with trade union actions with leftist Trade Unions having a big say).

During his sojourn at Levers, Dr Bandarage created and published the very popular magazine Lever Pavula” in English and Sinhalese, which was a fascinating read of the time. It basically brought together all of the staff, no matter who they were. Lever Pavula showed to the world that at Levers everyone was equal (‘One Family’). It was such a popular magazine people outside of the ‘Lever Family’ eagerly waited to read it every month. Through Lever Pavula, Dr Bandarage allowed journalists like Mahanama Dissanayake (then Lankadeepa editor), DB Dhanapala (Dawasa Supremo) to do write ups. Gunadasa Liyanage was introduced to journalism through Lever Pavula. Dr Bandarage was ably supported by Ariyapala Pathirana, who was a sub editor of Lever Pavula. Only a genius could produce ‘Lever Pavula’; it was Dr Bandarage.

Dr Bandarage went and recruited a number of managers for Levers, some of them became luminaries in Sri Lanka’s corporate world. Some of Dr Bandarage’s recruits included such management luminaries of contemporary Sri Lanka (considered as Sri Lanka’s management legends) as Stanley Jayawardana (later became Chairman of Levers), Gilbert Jayasuriya (later Director of Levers), Sam Jayasuriya, Dr Seevali Ratwatte (later Chairman Upali Group), Ariyapala Pathirana, Upali WIjewardane (late billionaire tycoon), Upali Wicramasekera, S De La Mott and J Ariyanathan.

In his career as a Personnel Management Professional/Company Director, Dr Bandarage provided traineeships and employment to many thousands of Sri Lankans, selected solely on merit. The white employers at Shell and Levers were amazed in the skillful way Dr Bandarage utilized human resources management techniques to identify the talents and abilities of the prospective job seekers. Those whom he recruited, he organised them to obtain the best possible training. He did this task remarkably well. When doing this not only did he always have the best interests of his company at heart, but also of the country and the candidate that he interviewed.

For example, it was Dr Bandarage who dissuaded the Film Legend, Gamini Fonseka from joining Levers, saying to Gamini that his future lied in film industry; Gamini should not take up the Marketing Representative position that Levers had offered him but should continue with acting. Apparently Gamini had vehemently wanted the Levers job as opposed to his acting career which he had then just started. He wanted to give up acting in lieu of the lucrative career at Levers. Being a visionary, Dr Bandarage saw that though Gamini would be an asset to Levers, but, it was in Gamini’s and the country’s best interests that he continued with films. One day Gamini had gone and put a garland around Dr Bandarage in public to thank him –precisely, at Belihul Oya Rest House in the 70s, where Dr Bandarage was having lunch with some friends. Gamini had stated to the crowd that but for Dr Bandarage’s advise he would have lost the acting career.

Dr Bandarage realised that Sri Lanka as a young nation, which had just obtained independence, vehemently required talented mangers for its emerging mercantile sector, and that doors must be opened up for the best and the brightest, irrespective of their race, creed, class or caste.

Those who tried to canvass him to obtain jobs by various ways and means were immediately disqualified from the selection process. It is stated that Dr Bandarage had stated ‘no’ to very influential politicians and top business persons who had wanted to put their stooges into the companies that Dr Bandarage was involved in. When Dr Bandarage had refused, they had respected his decision.

It is stated that at Levers he ran ‘on the job training’ for the staff so well that the parent company in the UK started sending their staff to Sri Lanka for training, so did Hindustan Levers in India (previously Sri Lankans were sent to those institutions for training).

In the fifties and sixties Dr Bandarage had emerged as a giant in Sri Lanka’s Management field. Along with Sir Cyril De Zoysa (then Chairman of Associated Motorways group), he established the Institute of Personnel Management (Inc). This was way back in 1960. In the formative years of the institute, Sir Cyril was the President and Dr Bandarage was the Secretary of the institute. Later, Dr Bandarage became the President of the Institute and held this position for a long time – he was the President in the 60s and then again for a spell of time in the 80s. He is the first Fellow of the Institute of Personnel Management in Sri Lanka – the honour was bestowed on him on 1 November 1976, Brigadier Cecil Caldera was the then President of IPM.

Dr Bandarage established a close link with the IPM until his demise from this world in 2009. When IPM was in strife in early 1980s and nowhere to go, Dr. Bandarage took the Institution to his home at 7 Ohlums Place, Colombo 8. Mr Chanaka Bandarage, his youngest son, commented to the IPM Council last year – one early morning we were astonished to see many filing cabinets, tables etc. piled up on our front lawn.” This action to bring the Institution home saved the IPM from a possible shut down.

At the IPM National Conference in 2003, the Institute bestowed upon him its highest award – the ‘IPM Gold Medal’. He was the First Recipient of this prestigious award.

Today the IPM boasts of having being firmly established in Sri Lanka. It is housed in a multi storey set up in Colombo 5 with scores of staff working. The IPM must profoundly thank Dr Bandarage for his untiring efforts to bring it into today’s position. It was Dr Bandarage who accredited the IPM with other leading Management institutions in the western world, especially with bodies and universities in the UK, US and Australia.

With such management luminaries as Mallory Wijesinghe, Ananda Tissa De Alwis, Brigadier Cecil Caldera, Lalith Godamune, Sena Mahawatthe, Neville Ranasooriya, Mansour Ghouse, Dr Ranjith Cabraal, MC Mathupala, Leo Samson, K Deraniyagala, Gerry Hidellearachchi, Cyril Chinnaih, Dinka Muthukrishna, Upali Wickramasekera etc., Dr Bandarage was involved in the establishment and improvement of several Management Development Institutes in Sri Lanka. The Institute of Management of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) is one of them, where he was a founder member with Mallory Wijesinghe being the first President (in 1978). Dr Bandarage served in the Council of this institute for a long time.

Dr Bandarage served as a visiting lecturer of Management Studies at the Universities of Colombo and Sri Jayawardanapura. His contemporaries at the universities included Professor Gunapala Nanayakkara, Professor Karunasena Kodituwakku, Dr Kamal Karunanayake etc. In fact, it was only few years ago prior to his death that Dr Bandarage finished his sojourn with these universities.

Dr Bandarage was a long standing panel member in the recruitment to the Ceylon Civil Service (later Sri Lanka Administrative Services). Thanks to Dr Bandarage’s brilliant teaching hundreds of educated youth from rural Sri Lankan villages ended becoming senior public servants, including Government Agents and Departmental Secretaries.

During the Prime Ministership of Dudley Seneanyake in 1965 Dr Bandarage was assigned to study and report to the government regarding the formulation of the Five (5) Day week. Dr Bandarage did substantive studies both locally and overseas and recommended to the then government (the Ministry was held by J R Jayawardana) that Sri Lanka should implement a 5 day working week (until then Sri Lanka had a 5 ½ day week, where people worked ½ day on Saturday). The present day workforce must be thankful to late Dr Bandarage for fighting for them to obtain the 5 day working week, which is still in existence.

In 1964 Dr Bandarage edited the Handbook of Personnel Management for Ceylon” which book is even today regarded by the Sri Lanka’s management fraternity as the ‘Bible’ of Sri Lankan Management. It is somewhat impossible for any Personnel Management professional to operate without this Handbook.

Dr Bandarage had written several books on Management Studies, first in English, later in the 90s in Sinhalese. Noteworthy among them are the books Case Methods in Management” Administrative Management”, Comprehensive Management”, ‘විෂ ක්‍රමශික්ෂනය’ and ‘අවබෝධය’ . These are considered landmark text book in the Management Studies of Sri Lanka. They are still selling fast in Sri Lankan bookshops.

Dr Bandarage had written innumerable number of articles on Modern Management which had been published in the Sri Lankan and Asian/US newspapers and journals. He had been interviewed on BBC about Management.

After an exceptional career Dr Bandarage left Levers as its General Manager in the late 1960s and set himself up as a Management Consultant. Dr Bandarage is unarguably Sri Lanka’s first ever Management Consultant. His company provided Management Consultancy to so many companies in Sri Lanka (medium and large scale companies). The help he rendered to Sri Lanka’s private sector is unprecedented.

In 1970 Dr Bandarage was appointed as Chairman of the National Textile Corporation. This appointment was a non-political appointment wherein the then Mrs Sirima Bandaranaike Government had stuck to the principle of ‘giving the best positions of the government to the best qualified people, solely on merit’. Dr Bandarage ran the National Textile Corporation somewhat like a private company, where strict discipline and able administration was the hallmark. He brought the management and minor staff together during important festivals like the New Year, Wesak and Christmas. Corruption was unheard under his leadership. He used the official vehicle only for official purposes; himself and his family used the private family car for private trips. In addition to the two giant textile mills, Thulhiriya and Veyangoda; Dr Bandarage prepared the groundwork to start two new mills in Minneriya and Mattegoda, both of which were later established.

A fine example of his honesty – in early 1970s Dr Bandarage travelled to Egypt with late Charlie Abeysekera, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Industries to purchase cotton wool for Thulhiriya and Veyangoda textile mills. They made big orders there. Some people in Egypt tried to bribe them offering money and cases of expensive liquor – French wine, scotch etc (so that they would buy a low grade cotton wool instead), the two rejected the bribe and promptly reported the incident to the then Minister TB Subasinghe. A special Memorandum of prepared by Dr Bandarage for the Minister to know exactly what happened. This form of honesty by top government servants rarely take place today.

Shortly after taking over the reins of the National Textile Corporation, Dr Bandarage cut costs and showed profits. This was despite the effects of the brutal 1971 insurgency where both Thulhiriya and Veyangoda factories were badly affected by fire (today the National Textile Corporation is permanently dead and all the four factories are closed down).

In late 1970s and early 1980 Dr Bandarage served as a UN Adviser in Africa. The Kenyan Government, including the then Prime Minister of Kenya, Daniel Arap Moi, felicitated Dr Bandarage’s efforts to rehabilitate and streamline Kenya’s ailing management and administrative system. A special trophy was presented to him by the Kenya Institute of Administration for the services he rendered to that country. The function was presided over by Mr Moi.

Dr Bandarage associated with the late Upali Wijewardane and helped him to become one of the most successful business entrepreneurs in Asia (it was Dr Bandarage who recruited Upali to Levers as a Management Trainee in the early 60s, after his return to the country obtaining an MA from Cambridge).

Mr Upali Wijewardane, unarguably the richest man of Sri Lanka that time considered Dr Bandarage as his ‘right and left handed man’ (personal friend and top most adviser). Dr Bandarage was very saddened by the untimely loss of life of the Great Sri Lankan son, Upali WIjewardane, which occurred in the early 1980s. Dr Bandarage served as a Consultant/Director of Upali Group. When Mr Upali WIjewardane started his newspaper company, he especially requested Dr Bandarage to pick up the best journalistic talent available in the country at that time. Some of them still work for ‘The Island’ and ‘දිවයින’.

Thanks to Dr Bandarage’s contributory efforts and groundwork Sri Lanka today is well abundant with a huge reservoir of managemental talent.

Dr Bandarage had close association with the NIBM, Lanka Foundation Institute, CISIR and SLIDA and the Sri Lanka Institution for the Advancement of Science.

In the last two or three decades prior to his death Dr Bandarage had not only been involved with management development activities of Sri Lanka, but also in the propagation of Buddhism. Being a great Buddhist and a Philanthropist himself, in many years preceding his death Dr Bandarage lavishly donated monies to charities and Buddhist institutions, especially towards the propagation of Sinhala Buddhist values in rural and urban Sri Lanka.

Dr Bandarage was a long standing active member of the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC) and the YMBA. Dr Bandarage presided over many committees of the ACBC and helped the ACBC to grow from a small organisation to a mammoth one. He served as Secretary of the Colombo YMBA. He was closely involved with the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) and represented the country at many WFB conferences. Dr Bandarage worked in close collaboration with such Buddhist luminaries of then Ceylon/Sri Lanka as Professor GP Malalasekera, HW Amarasuriya, Albert Edirisinghe, Boghoda Premarathne, YR Piyasena, Douglas Umagiliya, JW Piyatissa, Thomas Amarasuriya, Lawrence Thudawe, HK Dharmadasa, PC Perera, NH De S Wijesekera, Ivor Gunasekera and Leelananda Caldera to name a few.

Apart from Buddhist activities he was involved with many social welfare work for the community (down trodden people). For many years he was the President of the North Colombo Lions Club, an active member of the Jaycees, SSC, Old Anandians and the Colombo Mid Town Rotary Club. As an active playing member of the Royal Colombo Golf Club (RCGC) he is well known to have introduced for the first time a golf tournament solely for the golf caddis (the poor boys who were previously only confined to carrying the golf bags of the ‘higher class’) .

Until his death the doors of Dr Bandarage’s posh residence at 7 Ohlums Place in Colombo 8 were open to the down trodden to come and relate their unfortunate plight. Dr Bandarage helped them with words and deeds. On every Sunday until a few years before his death he conducted classes to disadvantaged university graduates numbering about 20 who were studying for the administrative services exam (former Civil Service exam where he was an examiner and interviewer). These classes were conducted free of charge at his home. Not only he provided the students with free lessons, he also provided them with free food and gave money for travel. On certain Sundays/Poya Days Dr Bandarage would call many beggars in Borella area to his residence and offer them sumptuous fresh food laid out on a table and give them many gifts, money and those who want a bath he would offer them those facilities as well. He would donate new clothes to those unfortunate people, those who are excluded by the mainstream society.

Dr Bandarage was a kind person. To him, the whole world was like his family. He truly believed and practised in the concept that the ‘man’s most noblest duty is to help the fellow man’. He helped so many people without anticipating an iota of personal benefit for himself or his family in return.

We must not forget that it is such distinguished personalities as Dr Bandarage who first started fighting for the motherland against the Tamil extremist elements. It is people like Dr Bandarage who taught us that we Sinhalese can also form organisations to fight to save our country, language and religion (Buddhism). Along with such a wide array of people as Gamini Iriyagolla, Dr De Soysa (dentist), Dharmadasa Wijemanne, Hewage Jayasena, Irnie Peiris, Gamini Jayasuriya, Padma Bailey, Ven Madihe Panyaseehe Thero, Ven Ampitiye Rahula Thero, Ven Keethalagala Seelankara Thero (Dimbulagala Thero), Ven Madhuluwawe Sobhitha Thero, Ven Bengamuwe Nalaka Thero, he formed patriotic associations and worked very hard to save the motherland from the extremist, separatist elements (this was in the late 1970 s, up to 1990s). Dr Bandarage was closely associated with the Sinhala Balamandalaya, Mawubima Surekime Sanvidhanaya, Sinhala Sangvardhana Sanvidanaya and Sinhala Employers’ Federation.

Having known him personally well, the writer could boldly say that Dr Bandarage was a remarkable man with so much wisdom, distinction and persona. Anyone who had met him will never forget the meeting of the Great Man – his kindness, warmth, due care and regard shown to the other and his natural tendency to help the person in front of him. Dr Bandarage had an exceptionally distinguished personality – this is sadly lacking in many of the contemporary leaders of the country (both in the public and private sectors).

Dr Bandarage produced 6 distinguished children, who have been brilliant in their respective spheres to bring distinction to mother Lanka.

May Dr Bandarage Nibbana.

4 Responses to “Dr D S Bandarage – ‘Father of Modern Management of Sri Lanka’ – 5th Death Anniversary Falls on 1 July 2014”

  1. Sampath Says:

    “Dr Bandarage produced 6 distinguished children, who have been brilliant in their respective spheres to bring distinction to mother Lanka” Yes – Asoka, Rohan, Wasantha, Dhammika, Chandana and Chanaka – all of them have done wonderful things for Sri Lanka.
    May he attain Nibbana

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    Is he the father of patriot Chanaka Bandarage?

    Good on him. May he rest in eternal peace.

  3. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    YES LORENZO ! I feel honoured to have known Dr. Bandarage during my stint at Levers, and I have also had contact with his son Chanaka on email and Skype.

  4. Lorenzo Says:

    Thanks SW.

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