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