Navin Dissanayake - Crickting personality with leadership ingredients


He is a son of an illustrious father (the late Gamini Dissanayake), who can be considered as one of the greatest sons of Sri Lanka.

As a powerful and dynamic minister in the J. R. Jayewardene Cabinet, he was instrumental in completing the Mahaweli Project in six years, which was considered the greatest development project undertaken by the J. R. regime.

Further, his contribution to cricket was enormous. As the President of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka, he was able to negotiate with the ICC and Sri Lanka gained Test status.

Therefore, he is considered as a ‘Yuga Purusha’ of cricket.

He was a silver tongued orator. This charismatic personality, an Attorney-at-Law, President Counsel, married another Attorney-at-Law who, after the demise her her illustrious husband, contested the Presidential Elections. She is Srima Dissanayake. They have three children – two boys and a daughter.

Their eldest son is Navin Dissanayaka. A ‘Chip of the old block’, he is the Minister of Public Management Reforms. The 42-year-old Minister is an Attorney-at-Law (Sri Lanka) and Barrister-at-Law (Middle Temple). He is also the Secretary, Japan-Sri Lanka Parliamentary Association.

This dynamic young minister is a future leader, who has all the ingredients of a leader. Like his father Gamini, young Navin Dissanayake has a pleasant physical and mental personality and is blessed with a fine heredity and education and a great future. He is a good public relations man and a man of honesty and integrity. Probably he developed his fine stature and personality on the playing fields of S. Thomas’ Preparatory School, and Royal College Colombo, Sri Lanka and at the Melbourne Grammar School, Australia. Playing fields are important and vital in developing character and personality. How true the sentiments ascribed to the Duke of Wellington, when he said; "the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton and Harrow."

Little Navin started his schooling in 1976 at S. Thomas’. He played junior cricket, representing the U-11 and U-12 cricket teams. He learned his basics at STC and his coach was Mr. Dixon.

In 1980, he joined Royal College, Colombo and was a member of the U-13 cricket team captained by Anura Fernando, who later captained Royal College First XI. Navin excelled as a fine right hand batsman.

I still remember, in a Division I U-13 school cricket tournament match, played against D. S. Senanayake College, Navin scored a brilliant 134. He showed class and promise. He was a complete cricketer and a keen student of the game. He was also a fine team-man who always put country before self.

Navin played for the NCC School of Cricket, where he was coached by Lionel Mendis, who produced many Sri Lankan stars such as Arjuna Ranatunga, Mahela Jayawardene, Brendon Kuruppu, Charith Senanayake etc. Lionel was a strict disciplinarian and like his brother Nelson, produced more than a dozen Sri Lankan cricketers, such as Bandula Warnapura, Lalith Kaluperuma and Anura Ranasinghe, to name a few.

Navin Dissanayake was a brilliant all-round student, who excelled in studies and extra-curricular activities. He took to cricket like a duck taking to water.

"My school career at STC Prep and Royal were fascinating. We had some wonderful principals and teachers. They were very strict. I remember, one day, I was late to school. The Deputy Principal, lined up the late-comers and took us to his office. He never pardoned me, although I was a son of a powerful minister at that time. We learnt what punctuality was.

"I am really thankful to my beloved teachers. They were not only teachers, they were our philosophers and guides. Even today, whenever I see one of my teachers, I pay my highest honour and respect. That is the way we were brought up," stated Navin.

In January 1985, he left Sri Lanka for Australia, for further studies.

"If I remained at Royal, probably, I should have played cricket and represented the First XI and obtained my College Colours," quipped Navin.

Called to the Bar in England/Wales (Inner Temple)

From 1985-1987, he attended Melbourne Grammer School, Melbourne, Australia. In 1987, he passed the higher school certificate examinations. Young Navin then entered the University of Sussex, United Kingdom in November 1988 and in November 1991, he obtained his Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Degree in Law. From July 1992 to September 1993, he followed a Bar Vocational Course at Holborn College, London, and was called to the Bar of England and Wales by Middle Temple.

After returning to Sri Lanka in January 1995, he joined the Sri Lanka Law College, Colombo and passed out as an Attorney-at-Law in May 1996.

Cricket was his first love

Even in Melbourne, he played cricket, representing the Melbourne Grammer School and also played for the University of Sussex. Cricket was his first love.

In 1985, his father sent him to a cricket coaching clinic at MCC with Arjuna Ranatunga. Navin asked his father: "Appachchi, why do you want to send me to a coaching clinic with Arjuna Aiya?"

His father replied; "Putha, I want you to learn the finer points of cricket in the company of Arjuna, the future captain that will bring the World Cup to Sri Lanka."

Apprenticeship as a lawyer

Navin had the proud distinction of doing his legal work as a junior with such eminent legal luminaries such as S. A. Parthalingam, PC, I. S. De Silva, PC and K. Kanang-Iswaran. He gained the necessary knowledge in matters pertaining to patent and many intellectual property matters and experience in drafting papers, civil procedure, negotiations and advocacy. Further, he worked for Dissanayake Amaratunga Associates on a part-time basis and developed a desire to understand client needs, filter out matters and find a practical solution.

"I didn’t choose this life it chose me" – Benazir Bhutto

After the untimely death of his illustrious father, the grateful people of Nuwara Eliya district requested his son Navin to take to politics. He obliged. Like what Benazir Bhutto, the ‘Daughter of the East’ once said; "I did not choose this life; it chose me."

The son of Gamini, Navin will also say, "I did not choose this life, it chose me," to serve the people of this country.

On September 2005, Navin was appointed by the United National Party, as the youngest district leader.

After entering Parliament, he served as the deputy Minister of Plantation Industries and served the government from December 2001 to April 2004. Here, he learned, gathered valuable experience in handling government officials, policy-planning and implementation and effective use of government machinery and administration.

Joined MR to strengthen him

In January 2007, he joined the Rajapaksa Government.

"I decided to lend my support and provide strength to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who took a firm decision to eradicate terrorism from this country and bring Sri Lanka together. No other leader had the guts to do this. Therefore, I joined him. He appointed me as the Minister of Investment Promotion in January 2007. Today at 42, I am a Cabinet Minister. I have already accepted the challenges and I have already introduced new policies and reforms which will benefit the public."

Lover of Cricket

He is a great lover of cricket. He is presently the President of the Sri Lanka Softball Cricket Federation. He is an active member of the Cricket Foundation, a brainchild of his father.

With his busy schedule in active politics, he is unable to take part in cricket, but he is a great lover of cricket. Presently, he takes part in swimming and plays golf when time permits.

He is a practicing devout Buddhist and a Trustee of the Mithirigala Meditation Foundation that overseas the Management of the Mithirigala Bhikkhu Meditation Centre.

Trade Union leader

Added to all these, he is serving the Nuwara Eliya Electorate and looks after the needs and welfare of the people. Further, Navin Dissanayake is the Secretary of the Lanka Jathika Sevaka Worker’s Union, the largest trade union representing the estate workers in Sri Lanka.

GD Foundation

He is an active member of the Gamini Dissanayake Foundation. This organisation helps poor and needy students to learn English and permits them to follow courses in Information Technology. His mother is the livewire of the Gamini Dissanayake Foundation.

Navin Dissanayake is a fine human being. He is married to Dr. Nishiran Lanka Dissanayake, a Medical Officer. Navin and Lanka are blessed with two sweet little daughters.

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