Mel Gunasekera, who was killed at her private residence in Battaramulla, was adored by her colleagues. They loved her personality, her willingness to help, and her radiant smile. Hence, the news of her sudden death that came on the first Sunday of the month of February was an utter shock to everyone in the country’s journalistic fraternity.
So they penned their thoughts………………
Namini Wijedasa – Journalist, Sunday Times
“Mel, are you busy?” I would call and ask. “No, tell,” she would respond. That was Mel. Even when she was up to her ears in work, she was never too busy to talk. That’s probably why, after her death, so many are able to recall what she had said to them in the seven days before her passing. Ever the cricket enthusiast, she had called my husband on Friday and chatted with him about Sanga and IPL. And on Saturday, she had forwarded me the latest Central Bank press release on finance company mergers, a pet subject for both of us. That was Mel—always reaching out, always communicating with people. There was something else about Mel. She helped people. Journalists will vouch for how she trained them, never hesitant to share all of her knowledge and skill. She was so smart but she did not dwell on that. Instead, she used her expertise to improve other people. Every time I had a problem in business or finance that I did not understand, I called Mel and she broke it down so well for me. She would do it any time of day or night. She found the time. And she found genuine joy in the success of people she gave a leg-up to. Mel was also always smiling. It was a megawatt, wide-toothed smile. She is probably the only person I know who talked through a smile all the time. There are things I will always remember about Mel. I wish I could tell her that.
Thulasi Muttulingam – Journalist
I first met Mel as a green young journalist in 2008. I was then a cub reporter and she a seasoned pro but she was one of those down-to-earth people who instantly made the other person feel at ease. We shared a hotel room at the Fortress Hotel, Galle, on a sponsored whale watching expedition for the media.
It was an enlightening two days that I got to spend with her; she had a repertoire of hilarious anecdotes about her journalism experiences, which to someone new to the field were both entertaining and informative.
Looking back on it, I often think she had instructed me in the nicest possible way of the pitfalls and quirks in the path before me, which she had already trodden. She gave a lot of information on mistakes young journalists made, the kind of problems encountered with seniors in the media field, the need to research and pitch stories right – all without being preachy.
As is the way of the world, we went our separate ways afterwards but whenever I ran into her at functions or media events, she always remembered my name and asked me how I was doing.
She was one of the few senior journalists I admired and aspired to be like. I am extremely shocked and saddened at the news of her passing. The Mel I knew was so alive. It’s hard to handle that she not only died but died in so brutal a manner.
Indika Sakalasooriya- Business Editor, Daily Mirror
I’m not going to write about Mel’s prowess as a journalist. There are enough people who could do that. I’m going to talk about Mel, the friend I lost. When I started as a business reporter, Mel was at the helm of her career, among the top few real business journalists in the country. There was no need at all for her to take notice of us podiyans. But she took the trouble and I started getting emails from her almost on a daily basis. The emails contained her comments on my stories—the things I have missed and places where I could have spiced it up. It didn’t take a long time to transform this teacher-student relationship into a very strong and fruitful friendship—at least on my side. Mel, I would miss your regular morning calls, awesome wit, gossip sessions and most of all, your gleaming smile. Rest in Peace dearest Mel!
Marianne David – Deputy Editor, Daily FT
Mel was without a doubt one of the nicest journalists I’ve ever known and I am proud to call her friend. Always eager to chat about something or the other, she’d call regularly, talking loud and laughing boisterously, or pop up on Facebook chat to relate interesting stories.
Today when I sit and think about her, hours after her life was brutally ended, I remember mostly how she was forever upbeat and ever-willing to help… Many were the instances she would offer to edit copies when I was overloaded; I never took her up on her offer, but she’d still keep offering – she didn’t have to bother, but she did.
She also had this habit of only calling the landline if she was calling for publicity, either for choir events or press releases, reluctant to call the mobile for work matters. I would tell her not to do it, but in hindsight it only emphasises the dignified manner in which she operated. Friendship was one thing but work was another, and she never abused friendship over work.
That was the kind of person she was, despite her vast experience and seniority – never boastful, imposing or forceful. Always smiling, simple, open and friendly, willing to talk to anyone.
I last met Mel nine days ago, at a book launch. A brief chat later, I had to leave. Today she has left us and the world is a quieter place without her laughter. God speed, Mel… you’re singing with the angels now.
Lakshaman Bandaranayake – Founder/Publisher LBO and Vanguard Chairman
Mel was a great professional. She never compromised her professional ethics and standards. She was a shining light in the world of financial journalism.
She was the pioneer in Sri Lanka in web-based financial journalism and she took the challenge to launch and nurture LBO during a time people were very sceptical about the future of web as a delivery mechanism for news.
That was her contribution to journalism in this country – her ethics, standards, fierce independence and opening up a new digital world for journalism in this country.
Personally, she was a friend who had no bounds to her loyalty. She worked with me for close to 10 years and was known to me more than that. I had the great privilege of developing a long lasting friendship out of our 10-year long intense professional relationship.
What I admired most is her courage, forthright views and her unwavering loyalty to friends.
Nalaka Gunawardena – Writer
Our Sunday morning was shattered by the horrible news that journalist friend Mel Gunasekera was found murdered in her suburban home in Battaramulla. She had been alone at home after parents went to church. The motive for this senseless killing is not yet clear.
Mel was versatile, highly experienced yet low key. She reported for the Sunday Times, AFP and Lanka Business Online, covering a broad range of topics from economics and war to sports and lifestyle. She was dogged in her pursuit of stories, and lucid in her writing style. She waded through complex statistics and jargon to get to the heart of the matter.
As a person, she was very amiable, fun loving and stayed above the fray. It saddens me deeply that we shall never see that dazzlingly mischievous smile or twinkling eyes again. Goodbye, spirited friend. ( – Nalaka Gunawardena’s Facebook )