This obituary of Dr. (Mrs.) Padma Ratnayake was first published in the Sri Lanka Sunday Times, February 10, 2013.
By Lakshman J. K. Hettiaratchi
It is nearly a year since the demise of Dr. (Mrs.) Padma Ratnayake. As the Executive Director of the South Asia Partnership (SAP) Sri Lanka, she made a unique contribution towards the enhancement of living standards of our economically disadvantaged population and in strengthening civil society. Unfortunately, her contribution has gone largely unrecognised.
Dr. Ratnayake started her working career as a government teacher. She was naturally dedicated to help and guide her students, and was instrumental in organising a students’ voluntary interaction project to upgrade the village Rajasisugama, in the Ratnapura district.
Based on the overwhelming success of this project, and her realising her potential in societal development, she moved to institutes and organisations engaged in training and research in societal development, such as the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute (SLFI), as a lecturer in the Youth Development Programme, and the Commonwealth Secretariat in Chandigar, India, and the South Asia Partnership.
She excelled in programme design, planning, resource identification, implementation and monitoring. Recognising the importance of training as an essential ingredient for success, she set up a Training Centre at Warana, Thihariya, for the South Asia Partnership.
Under her stewardship, the Partnership grew from strength to strength, and was at the forefront of national development activities and issues such as social and economic development; governance; violence against women; developing youth as agents for change, etc.
She was an authority on social development work, with hands-on experience in organising and managing development activities at grassroots level. During her two decades of service, the South Asia Partnership empowered several thousand economically disadvantaged families.
Dr. Ratnayaka’s contribution to this sector includes a new People Centred Development Model, the Cluster Development Programme, which has been tested in over 100 villages in Sri Lanka. This model has been presented at different international fora and replicated in Bangladesh and India.
She also helped launched a sustainable credit scheme for South Asia Partnership member organizations, benefiting more than 3,000 families. She launched a Small and Medium Credit Program Unit that proved sustainable within five years.
In 1996, she initiated the SAP-HNB Credit scheme, which has helped hundreds of rural poor to access credit from this commercial bank (the repayment rate is 100 per cent). She also devised a progressive partnership linking community-based organisations and individuals living in remote areas with Hatton National Bank.
She helped establish two community development programmes in collaboration with Citibank and Hatton National Bank, and launched the “Peace through Partnership” project. This was implemented in Vavuniya where the three communities – Sinhala Tamil and Muslim – worked hand in hand to improve their socio economic conditions.
Dr. Padma published several books, including a manual on Micro-enterprise as a means of empowerment.
She led the revival of the lace-weaving industry, after the tsunami disaster. This project later led to two major exhibitions and marketing outlets in Colombo and Galle. The brand Paramparawen will be remembered as a tribute to her.
Within hours of her demise, more than 1,000 villagers whom she had assisted came to pay homage. Such was the love they had for her selfless dedication to their cause.
Dr. Ratnayake was a graduate of the University of Peradeniya. She held a PG Diploma and Master of Philosophy in Education from the University of Colombo, and a PhD in Sociology from Punjab University, Chandighar, India.
She married a university friend, Ranjith Ratnayake, who became a professional banker. Their daughter Dinithi followed in her father’s footsteps in banking, and is vice-president of a Colombo-based international bank, while son Indira is an architect, practising in Australia.
Padma was an exemplary wife to Ranjith and a dedicated mother to Dinithi, Indira and her grandchildren, Charrin and Shehara.
Padma had a very friendly personality. She had strong values and strict ethics. She was always ready to listen and help, even at great personal sacrifice.
May she attain Supreme Nibbana.
Lakshman J. K. Hettiaratchi