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Dr. Uthum Heart (1957-2009)

It is with deep sadness that I heard of the passing away of my dear friend Dr. Uthum Herat on Friday, October 23, 2009.

I write to honour my friend. I first met Uthum in the early 1960s when he joined S.Thomas’ Preparatory School in Kollupitiya. We then moved to the ‘big’ school S.Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia in 1968. Uthum was a serious, studious young man.

He excelled in his academic studies. At one stage I sat behind the same desk with Uthum Herat and Suresh Thambipillai, at S.Thomas’ College. Our friend Suresh was fascinated by the Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy. Uthum and I used to tease Suresh no end.

He did have a sense of humour. He loved to play a friendly game of cricket at lunchtimes and on a serious note he was a member of the celebrated Thomian debating society, chess club and other Thomian Societies.

It was in the 1970s, that a charismatic former Rugby player and Old Royalist called Rev. Duleep de Chickera joined College as Chaplain. He was instrumental in bringing us into that area of belief, faith and spirituality as we turned to Christ. Uthum joined the Student Christian Movement and in later years he became a Lay Preacher in his church, - he certainly was a man of faith.

Before I left for the UK, Uthum and I participated in a celebration called ‘Breakdown and Breakthrough’ with Ronald Toussaint, Asitha Perera, Yohan Dias-Abeysinghe, Suresh Thambipillai, Johann de Silva, together with students from S.Thomas’ College, Royal College, Ladies College and Bishop’s College.

The dramatised act of worship for Easter at the Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour was directed by a British Religious Education worker, Gillian Todd. The newspapers featured Uthum and all of us in an article titled - ‘Easter Detente with the Now People,’ it was also featured in the Daily News and the Sunday Observer in 1974. Hundreds of people attended this act of worship.

Uthum was the cross on which Christ was crucified and we all shouted out: ‘Christ has smashed death, he has liberated the world, he has freed the Universe. You and I and everything are free again, let’s have a festival and follow him across the skies, through the flames of heaven!’

We kept in touch over the years and his last e-mail to me was only a few weeks ago when I wished him for his birthday. I last met Uthum in 2003 on a visit to Sri Lanka - we reminisced about College days.

Uthum, always the caring friend, was concerned that our son Charin was diagnosed with autism and wanted to know more about our Autism Awarness Campaign.

Uthum was a loyal son of Sri Lanka - with 27 years of public service at the Central Bank. Before being appointed as the Deputy Governor at the Central Bank, Uthum served in the Statistics Department, Economic Research Department and as an Assistant Governor in charge of Bank Supervision, Supervision of Non-Bank Financial Institution Department, Financial Stability Departments and several operational departments. He has worked in areas of financial systems and price stability of the Central Bank.

Uthum was on release to IMF to serve as the Alternate Executive Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Sri Lanka in IMF from 2004 to 2007. He held a degree in Science from the University of Sri Jayawardenepura with a first class honours. He obtained his MSc and PhD degrees from University of Purdue, USA, where he specialized in Finance and International Finance.

He was also an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, UK and had authored many articles in reputed international and local journals in the areas of monetary policy, foreign exchange market, financial sector reforms, money laundering, Central Bank independence, economic growth, exchange rate, financial market deployment, unemployment and savings and investments.

Uthum was a visiting lecturer and resource person at Colombo and Moratuwa Universities, SEACEN Research and Training Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka.

Uthum served as member of Monetary Policy Committee, Financial System Stability and Foreign Exchange Management Committee of the Central Bank. He was the Central Bank nominee to serve as the co-chair of the Financial Services Sub Committee for negotiations with India on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. He played a pivotal role at the Central Bank.

I will never forget childhood memories of Uthum attending my birthday parties at Maha Nuge Gardens. I will miss my friend - a kind hearted, caring gentleman with impeccable manners.

I have never heard Uthum saying a bad word against anyone. He was a gentle soul who was quiet and unassuming but he was also a deep thinker with a heart of gold.

May he rest in peace, in the arms of Christ.


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