May 1st marks the 23rd death anniversary of the late President R. Premadasa. He was a sportsman and a sports benefactor and above all a great gentleman who did his best for the country.
The name R. Premadasa will go down in the annals of Sri Lanka’s history not only as a nation builder, but also as a great sports promoter. He gave the best to the people as a sports promoter.
He was a great political leader who didn’t favour any caste and race. Any good worker won his heart.
This friend of the common man departed suddenly in a bomb blast on May Day in 1993 while attending the Rally.
As a politician he did his best and as the Prime Minister and President Premadasa built the Kettarama Stadium (now known as R. Premadasa Stadium). This venue can be rated as one of the best in the world.
When it came to football, he re-developed the Sugathadasa Stadium and also gave a facelift to the Pedris Park. Football was R. Premadasa’s pet sport. The game of football came naturally to him, perhaps because football was identified with the poor and common man. As a young footballer, he learnt the skills at Keselwatte. During the period of Weerasinghe Mallimarachchi and Manilal Fernando, he granted Rs. 8,500,000 for the development of football. Even after taking to politics he remained with football. He promoted this game among parliamentarians. He also gave an unstinted support to the football-controlling body.
He introduced a rugby tournament for clubs and for this he got together with Malik Samarawickrema and Y.C. Chang. This tournament was known as the R. Premadasa Trophy and became very popular. Subsequently he introduced a schools segment to this tournament. After his death this tournament was scraped.
Even in the rough and tumble world of politics R. Premadasa always maintained that “sport is the best reformer”. There is no doubt that every sport in the country benefitted from his true love for sports.