In Remembrance – A Legacy of a Consummate Public Servant
It is with profound sadness that this tribute is being written to recall the remarkable life and accomplishments of Douglas Pemasiri, who passed away at age 88 in Miami, Florida, in the United States on June 12 this year. He was a diplomatic officer who dedicated his life to promoting trade and commerce, representing the Government of Sri Lanka abroad.
Douglas’s journey began with big dreams in humble origins, growing up in a small town in Hungama in the deep South. From an early age, he displayed a passion for hard work, qualities that would later shape his career and earn him widespread recognition. Moving on to Dharmapala Vidyalaya Pannipitiya and later to campus, the Peradeniya University of Ceylon, he specialized in economics, earning a Master’s degree under the legendary professor of economics A.D.V De. S. Indraratna.
After a brief stint as a Land Development Officer in the Sri Lanka Administrative Service and following trade promotion courses and training at the U.N. International Trade Centre and the International Trade Cooperation Organization in Japan, he moved on to the Trade and Commerce Ministry. There, his exceptional abilities as a diplomat quickly became apparent as he embarked on various assignments across the globe. His deep knowledge of Sri Lanka’s trade and commerce activities and unwavering dedication to his duties allowed him to navigate complex commercial and political considerations and play a key role in forging crucial trade partnerships that stimulated economic growth and prosperity for his nation.
During his long career, he served as Sri Lanka Trade Commissioner in Karachi, Pakistan; Secretary (Commercial) in the Sri Lanka High Commission in Ottawa, Canada; Consul General in Bombay, India; Sri Lanka Trade Representative in Copenhagen, Denmark; Minister (Economic and Commercial), Sri Lanka Permanent Mission to the United Nations; and the Permanent Representative to GATT, in Geneva, Switzerland. He also served as the leader of the Sri Lanka trade delegations to several international, regional inter-governmental conferences and negotiations related to trade and tourism issues held in several countries. After thirty-six years of service, he retired as the Director of the Department of Commerce.
With a deep understanding of international markets and an innate ability to build bridges between nations, Douglas continually propelled trade initiatives forward through successful negotiations. His tireless efforts resulted in flourishing trade relationships that mutually benefit everyone. Beyond just economic gains, Douglas recognized the importance of cultural exchange in strengthening trade ties and promoted cultural exchange programmes.
Though Douglas may no longer be with us, his legacy remains an inspiration for future generations of diplomatic officers tasked with trade promotion.
He was the husband of Prema Pemasiri (nee Jasentuliyana), father of Waruna & Nuwan Liyanapatabendi, father-in-law of Nirmali Peiris and Sirlene Vierra, and grandfather of Morgan Patabendi.
As we remember him, we should celebrate his work toward the economic growth of his country and the life of a man who lived a productive and admirable life. May his samsaric journey, be a brief one.
Nandasiri (Nandi) Jasentuliyana
Former Deputy Director-General United Nations, & Director U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs.
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