Deshmanya Deshabandu Jeewaka Lalith Bhupendra Kotelawala (29 October 1938 – 21 October 2023)

Lalith Kotelawala was a prominent Sri Lankan businessman who held significant positions in various enterprises during his lifetime.

Early Life and Education

Born to Senator Justin Kotelawala, a renowned politician and businessman in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and Millicent Kotelawala nee de Silva, the daughter of the eminent surgeon Sir Arthur Marcelles de Silva, Lalith had ties to some of the most influential families in the country. His uncle, Sir John Kotelawala, even served as the third prime minister of Ceylon. For his education, Lalith attended the prestigious Royal College in Colombo. Later, he moved to the UK, where he pursued studies in chartered accountancy.


Lalith Kotelawala’s business acumen became evident when he took the reins of Ceylinco Consolidated from his father in the 1960s. Under his leadership, the company ventured into diverse sectors such as banking, non-banking finance, investment banking, housing, property development, travel, leisure, communication, information technology, education, healthcare, and microfinance. His vision and drive led to the foundation of Seylan Bank. Furthermore, after surviving an attack by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 1996, he founded a peace initiative in Sri Lanka. Despite his achievements, his career wasn’t without controversy. He faced legal issues related to the misappropriation of funds from the Golden Key Credit Company.

Awards and Honours

Lalith Kotelawala’s contributions to the business world and society at large were recognized through various awards and titles:

  • University of Sri Jayewardenepura conferred upon him an honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree.
  • The Government of Sri Lanka honored him with the title of Deshmanya.
  • He became a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute.
  • The Institute of Bankers named him an Honorary Fellow.

Personal Life

Lalith Kotelawala’s personal life was closely intertwined with his business endeavors. He was married to Sicille Kotelawala (née Fernando), the daughter of Sam Peter Christopher Fernando.

Lalith Kotelawala’s life was marked by significant achievements in the business world, contributions to peace initiatives, and challenges that tested his mettle. His legacy in the Sri Lankan business community is undeniable.