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Sun, 17 December 2017 05:37:23
Mel Gunasekera, Goodbye, my friend
04 Feb, 2014 13:13:01
Feb 04, 2014 (LBO) - I first met Mel when she joined The Sunday Times business desk in the late 1990s as a cub reporter after returning to Sri Lanka from studies in the UK.
She soon became more a friend than a colleague.

That was one of her characteristic traits. She had an extraordinary capacity to make friends with people from all over and get involved in their lives.

I introduced many of my contacts in the corporate and financial sector that I had acquired over some years and watched from the sidelines in wonder as she gained their confidence and after a telephone conversation or two, knew more about them than I did myself.

I remarked on this many times to her and Ruvini Jayasinghe - then associate business editor at the Sunday Times Business - who had hired her to the newspaper.

Mel's answer was her wide, trademark smile.

 Mel Gunasekera - Lanka Business Online

Pretty soon she was turning the tables and introducing her contacts to me.

Mel started breaking front page stories quickly, making my job as News Editor Business (a position she succeeded when I left) much easier, mastering the intricacies of areas as diverse as bond markets to telecoms with ease.

Many of those professional-acquaintances-turned-friends from the early days visited her house over the last two days, called my phone or texted messages, expressing their shock and sadness. Some were no longer in the country and were emailing or sending messages from abroad.

When she left The Sunday Times and was mulling over whether to get into the corporate sector, leaving journalism, she was persuaded to join Vanguard Management Services, which at the time was producing business TV programs but had no print media products.

The message from my boss Lakshman Bandaranaike, who had been reading her stories for a long time, was to simply try to hire her if it was possible. "We will find something that would interest her," he told me.

I recall doing a position paper saying we should start a SMS based news service and get Mel to run it along with a website to support it. A decade or more ago the there were not that many computer owners and internet users, but mobile was growing fast. Sms alerts did not become a reality until many years later, though the internet gradually gained wider use.

Once her interest was piqued, she applied herself to starting up LBO with gusto, teaming up with Tony Thirulinganthan, then senior business development manager at Vanguard.

Always a self-starter and full of initiative, she quickly mastered the technology of a new medium, liaising with service providers and getting the website running as I watched from the sidelines.

I had little else to do other than think up a name and register the domain name.

Years later, when she left to join AFP to work with Amal Jayasinghe, I lost a teammate but not a friend.

But Last Sunday I lost my friend as well.

A vibrant life was needlessly, cruelly wiped out. But her memory will remain with all those who knew her.

Good bye, Mel. You are sadly missed by your family and all of us.

-- Asantha Sirimanne - friend and former colleague

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