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Fri, 18 January 2019 02:36:19
Mel Gunasekera, colleague and friend
04 Feb, 2014 06:35:16
By Amal Jayasinghe
Feb 04, 2014 (LBO) - Mel was regarded by colleagues as a hard-nosed financial journalist even after she switched to a more lucrative job with an international ratings agency, but few would have known of her other passion - motor sports and classic cars.
When I had the first call asking me if I knew that Mel had been involved in some tragic event, the worst I could think of was her bending a fender in her new car. I had never heard of Mel being involved in a road accident, but, I thought, this could be a first.

A few more calls and the Sunday morning was turning into a nightmare. This was not possible. This was not true.

It had to be a horrible mistake. Many in Sri Lanka confuse the abbreviation AFP (Agence France-Presse) with ASP (Assistant Superintendent of Police), so it was possible that they were mixing up the two. Police spokesman Ajith Rohana at one point confirmed he had been alerted to the murder of a former ASP. But then, dreadful reality hit hard.

 Mel Gunasekera with colleagues at AFP- Lanka Business Online

Mel was full of energy and with a strong passion for life. Her interest in cars may have started when she did part time work for a motor racing magazine in London in the mid-nineties. Five years after working at AFP, Mel joined her current employer Fitch Ratings and kept an ear to the ground keeping in regular contact with former colleagues.

Our last conversation a few days earlier was all about the financial health of the nation. Mel could not suppress the journalistic cynic in her which jelled well with fellow hacks.

AFP is used to covering death and destruction on a daily basis, but colleagues across the agency were shocked by Mel's tragic death. "Huge shock now being followed by waves of aftershocks -- difficult to comprehend it all -- you will be HUGELY missed Mel -- RIP sweet friend," wrote her former desk chief, Byran Pearson.

The AFP report on the senseless killing was soon picked up by international broadcasters, many of whom knew Mel as a friend in Sri Lanka.

As I struggle to string these words and sound coherent, I see a Sri Lankan colleague speak for all of Mel's friends on Facebook: "How can you go away so soon?"

-- Amal Jayasinghe, friend and colleague

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