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Government Gazette

Jayantha Dhanapala - diplomat cum sportsman

Sporting Personalities with Ken de Joodt

PERSONALITIES: It was indeed a great honour and privilege to spare some precious time talking to one of Sri Lanka's most distinguished diplomatic personalities, a true career Ambassador, Jayantha Dhanapala who has held many prestigious positions in the diplomatic service and the United Nations, now in the 'run-up' for the powerful post of UN Secretary-General.

Having been a sportsman, he would take it in his stride to take up any challenges and suitably counter the opposition.

Jayantha Dhanapala

As Jayantha spoke refreshingly, sweet sentiments and memorable moments of exactly fifty years ago, rugby clock and ball 'rolled-back' onto the rugby fields of Asgiriya and Bogambara, up in Kandy, where as young students, we would spring into action and take absolute delight in mixing the fun and joy of sports with the seriousness of studies... and participate in any form of sport!

In that period of time, at Trinity College Kandy, it was the school policy that every boy should be encouraged to integrate study with sports, as a part of his education and to build desirable qualities of character and camaraderie.

As a sporting personality, Cricket, Hockey, Boxing and Athletics were the main attractions for participating and building life-long friendships, with goodwill.

In addition, as a brilliant student of Trinity College, Jayantha Dhanapala, nominee of the Sri Lanka Government for the post of UN Secretary - General and currently a Senior Advisor to His Excellency Mahinda Rajapakse, the President of Sri Lanka, could recall his college days in 1956 as a significant year for an 'Outstanding Personality'!

Jayantha Dhanapala, a true example of a gentleman of high integrity, modesty, sincerity, persevering and peace-loving, won himself the "Ryde Gold Medal" for the Best All-round student at Trinity in 1956, an award which includs performance in studies and sport Jayantha took a keen interest in rugby and played as a wing forward, who could be depended on, whether it be on or off the field.

His advice, encouragement and words of wisdom was communicated to his team-mates and received with delight.

Reminiscing on Trinity Rugby, memories were refreshed of the classy rugby played by Trinity, during a remarkable year of school rugby in 1956, when Trinity won all their school matches, with their goal-line uncrossed - and even registering a couple of good wins in 'friendly' games against Up-Country clubs.

This team, considered to be one of the best rugby sides Trinity has ever produced, was captained by David Frank, an outstanding No. 8 forward, backed by 'flying' flankers Franklyn Jacob and Wilhelm Balthazaar, second rowers Gamini Weerasinghe and Rodney Frank, props Jinnah Dias de Singhe and Raji de Sylva with mercurial Mike de Alwis as hooker. 'Safe-Hands' Nimal Maralanda (fly-half) paired off with Ranjith de Alwis (scrum half), with two versatile, weaving centres, Ken de Joodt and Sena de Sylva, while Public School Athletes Vernon Boteju and Sene Ettipola manned the wings. A bold and courageous M. U. Odayar was the full-back.

Nine members of this team represented the Combined Schools XV and went on to be superb club rugby players, with most of them being picked to play for the country, Nimal Maralanda and Mike de Alwis captained Sri Lanka in 1964 and 1966 respectively.

At the end of 1956, Jayantha gained entry into the University of Peradeniya, along with college mates Sarath Amunugama (present Minister of Public Administration), S. M. L. Marikkar (Foreign Service) and N. G. Perera, (who migrated to Australia).

He chose to concentrate on his studies and then focus on his future career, after obtaining a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree.

Before embarking on a star-studded Diplomatic career, he entered into marriage and subsequently had two children.

In his own words, he described his desire by saying "My twin and life-long interests in literature and diplomacy have led me to a fascination with those in the diplomatic profession who have succeeded in retaining the creative spark under the carapace of protocol...!"

To further his career ambitions he became proficient in speaking both French and Chinese, in addition to his fluency in English and Sinhala.

Since joining the Sri Lanka Diplomatic Service in 1965, his achievements vary from receiving prestigious Awards, to delivering several keynote lectures, numerous Statements and Addresses at major Conferences, plus Publications of many Articles and Books, most importantly as an Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United States of America, (1995 to '97) and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva and Austria, ('84 to '87), then Under-Secretary General, Department for Disarmament Affairs in the United Nations, New York ('98 to 2003) and now as a hopeful prospect for the UN Secretary-General's prestigious post.

This would be a proud achievement for him as well as the country. May all the blessings of God be bestowed on him for success.

In absolute frankness and honesty, Jayantha Dhanapala has immense experience and expertise to draw from and be able to advise many involved in sports, of their dedication and handling of their specific responsibilities.

Good reasoning, Justice and Fairplay must be considered top priorities, be it the player, the coach or the official at the helm of a sports organization. Victory is the main goal but how it is achieved matters a great deal.



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