Commemoration of the late Mr. V. A. Sugathadasa will be held today July 10, 2019 at 9.30 a.m. at the Sugathadasa Stadium in front of the Sugathadasa statue. This article is prepared in memory of his yeoman services to sports and the nation.
Mr. V.A. Sugathadasa was born on July 7, 1912 as a second child of a renowned business family consisting of three children . He received his education at St. Benedict’s College and Ananda College, Colombo. He captained the football team of both the colleges. V. A. Sugathadasa who was the Mayor of the Municipal Council from (1956-1957, 1963-1965) entered politics as a local councillor in the Colombo Municipality winning the Kochchikade ward as an Independent Candidate. As a UNP Municipal Councillor he was elected as Deputy Mayor in 1949 and became Mayor in 1956 having ousted then Mayor Dr. N. M. Perera.
With that glamorous result, it paved the way ahead of converting red party based Colombo to internally green coloured city of Colombo.
- Sport was identified as a subject under the Ministry of Nationalized Services in 1965
- He was instrumental in securing power and established the 1965-1970 U.N.P. National Front
- Colombo voters always remember him as the re-incarnation of King Wessanthara
In Sri Lanka for the first time, sport was identified as a subject under the Ministry of Nationalized Services in 1965 by the then Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake. Similarly the sports division, which was established at the Secretariat building in Fort was shifted to the office of the Sports Development Department at Torrington on 5th January 1966. The governments of the day having realized that sports should be started at the school level, recruited 150 Health Education Instructors through the Department of Education who were attached to schools at Assistant Government Agent Division levels.
Accordingly, Mr. V.A. Sugathadasa, who was the first Sports Minister showed the contribution of sports for the protection of health by supplying sports equipment and infrastructure facilities. Sports in Sri Lanka that started in this manner has become a strong medium today, capable of taking the name of Sri Lanka to the international arena by the committed sportsmen and women of Sri Lanka. At present the Sports Ministry is an important link in any country.
Sugathadasa Stadium at Prince of Wales Avenue stands as a monument to his love for sports
Let us see with what resources sports bodies and their men of vision laboured both day and night in the years gone by. By the sweat of their brow, they left no stone unturned to offer the players, sports gear, playing fields, training camps, sports clinics, competitive matches, residential training, food, medicine and the whole gamut of inputs. At the initial stages, all these were made available without the aid of grants, sponsorship etc., while most of the expenses were borne by the officials themselves. V.A. Sugathadasa while spending his own money and on his personal contacts initiated funding, through men like Donovan Andree, Robert Senanayake, Julian O’Tero and others who donated out of their pockets.
The Sugathadasa Stadium at Prince of Wales Avenue stands as a monument to his love for sports. It was a marshy plot of land partly owned by Mr. Sugathadasa, who donated to build this massive sports complex and worked hard to accomplish his task. He was very proud and enthusiastic and finally, Mr. Sugathadasa floodlit the stadium and it catered to football and athletics and many an international soccer team played at the new stadium. Many international athletes too ran on that track. The Southern Football Pentangular tournament was also played at the stadium.
A few years later, the stadium was in a deplorable condition and reports were called on by the then Prime Minister and Minister of Housing and Construction R. Premadasa who was also a footballer, to move in and re-do the stadium which is a great deed to remember. A footballer, keen sports fan and a promoter, the Prime Minister called a meeting of the business community at the Sugathadasa Stadium, and explaining the project to the business community requested them to contribute lavishly for this worthy cause. At that time Mr. Sugathadasa was not alive, but his family made their contribution to this worthy cause. His plan was to support island wide sports programmes in Sri Lanka. He had the vision of achieving all his ambitions. In many parts of the country there was an awakening of sports in a multifaceted manner. As a result of this massive programme the stadium at Welagedera, Kurunegala also started on construction. This ground which is about five and a half acres in extent, has a capacity for over 7000 spectators. The Kurunegala Stadium was originally declared open by the late Minister of Sports, Mr. V.A. Sugathadasa on September 25, 1967. Later this ground was re-named as the Welagedera stadium in 1977 after a resolution passed by the Kurunegala Municipal Council to honour the service rendered by the late Minister D.B. Welagedera, the founder of the stadium.
Sugathadasa always tried to uplift the poor living in the Colombo City. He did not consider how much he donated on a day when he visited his electorate. This was great help for the poor and Colombo voters always remember him as the re-incarnation of King Wessanthara. Those were the days when people of all parties acted democratically and politics was not a profession or a lucrative business but a noble service to them, irrespective of the camp they belonged to. Most of them were born with the silver spoon in their mouth and when they retired from politics they had only a meagre income for their survival, having spent everything on social services. Dudley Senanayake had only Rs. 456 in his bank account at the time of his demise. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike had mortgaged his Rosmead Place property for his political campaign. Similarly, most party leaders in the past ended their lives as virtual paupers in contrast to the present day defeated politicians who had amassed wealth for generations, pilfering state coffers and having ventured into all types of corruption, malpractices and illegal deals.
During his period, in many parts of the country there was an awakening of sports in a multifaceted manner
At one time there was a baseless allegation against Mr. Sugathadasa and it was mentioned by Mr. Pieter Keuneman in Parliament. Finally it was proved as baseless and Communist leader Pieter Keuneman too tendered an open apology in Parliament for a somewhat untrue allegation against Minister V.A. Sugathadasa.
In Mutwal, Pradeepa Hall was also a property of late V.A. Sugathadasa and now it is of great assistance to the people in that area to have their functions in a good environment, thanks to this generous kind-hearted politician.
Similarly, Mr. Sugathadasa who was a Buddhist, donated money and other assets to the temples believing it to last them for generations and expecting the continuity in the future and many more valuable treasures for under-privileged people. He had donated money to purchase a tusker to the Hunupitiya, Gangaramaya temple. A valuable plot of land where his match factory was established, is now the temple called Shri Wickramaramaya, in Mutwal. He supported many temples, specially Kotahena Jethawanaramaya, Paramananda Purana Viharaya, Kalapaluwawa, Thapowanaya, etc... He had a vision of a harmonious way of living among the communities in Sri Lanka and practised it, demonstrating a very good rapport with the Catholic Church of Kochchikade, attending Vel Pooja at Hindu temples in Kotahena, genuinely supporting them and in return they supported him.
Mr. Sugathadasa was also very much instrumental in securing power and established the 1965-1970 U.N.P. National Front. The late Dudley Senanayake and the team consisting of a few others including V.A. Suagathadasa, managed to get the support of minority parties after arriving at a consensus to reconcile on many issues confronted by those groups. Sugathadasa undertook the task of delivering the letter to the Governor General William Gopallawa, who instructed the SSP to clear the road and the task was handed over to the Assistant Superintendent of Police V. Vamadevan who went to the spot with a Police contingent. The way was cleared by the Police for Mrs. Bandaranaike to submit her resignation to the Governor General. After she did so and left Queens House, Dudley Senanayake was asked to call over. Anticipating trouble, the strong man of Colombo North, V. A. Sugathadasa took over the security of Senanayake. The UNP leader was escorted by Colombo’s former Mayor Sugathadasa and a convoy of vehicles packed with some ardent stalwarts. The convoy took a route from Kotahena to reach Queens House. While the protective escort vehicles and their occupants remained outside, Dudley and Sugathadasa went in. Dudley Senanayake was sworn in as premier for the fourth time.
Most of them were born with the silver spoon in their mouth and when they retired from politics they had only a meagre income for their survival
Mr. Sugathadasa was awarded the honour of The Order of the British Empire, or OBE which, is an award granted by the government of the United Kingdom and awarded, typically in person, by the current king or queen of that nation to individuals who have performed excellent work in arts, sciences, public services and charitable efforts.
Mr. Sugathadasa rendered yeoman services to the nation which was not limited only to the people of Colombo or his voters. The time has come to give him the nations respect and recognition. Considering his services, we request the government to take an action by naming a road or street in his name.
We also request the government to honour him by issuing a stamp as a mark of appreciation of Mr. V.A. Sugathadasa’s services and to show the nation’s gratitude to this reborn King Wessanthara.
May he attain the noble bliss of Nibbana.