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Cricketer now one of Sri Lanka’s top Diplomats

The year was 1972. A carnival atmosphere pervaded Galle. The entire city was bubbling with enthusiasm. Richmond College and Mahinda College flags were fluttering atop the historic Dutch Fort and at the picturesque Galle esplanade, which today is an international cricket stadium.

The town folk were gearing for the gala event, the Richmond–Mahinda ‘Big Match’. These traditional rivals have met each other on more than 100 occasions, to date.

Prasad meets Sonia

I can say for certain, having commentated at Richmond–Mahinda encounters a few times, that this was one of the finest big matches played in the island in the best of spirits. The cricket encounter between these two schools is known as ‘The Lovers’ Quarrel’.

The 1972 ‘Big Match’ will go down in history as a record breaking encounter.

Richmond College was captained by one of the best schoolboy cricketers of the time, a prolific run–getter, Prasad kariyawasam, who had by then scored three centuries in the 1972 school cricket season.

This star opening batsman, on the first day of the match, erased a 33-year-old ground record of 155 runs held by Mahindian Sirisena Hettige (who later became MP for Hakmana), with a brilliant unbeaten run-a-minute 156. Having broken the long standing ground record, he immediately declared the Richmond innings at 274 for 4. His century was not a flash in the pan and in fact he holds the record for the highest individual aggregate of runs scored by any batsman in the Richmond–Mahinda ‘Big Match’ series, having accumulated 316 runs from 1969 to 1973.

Ironically, Prasad’s record was surprisingly broken the very next day by Mahinda’s Hemachandra Ranasinge who scored 160. In the history of big matches in Sri Lanka, this is probably the only instance where a ground record was broken twice in the same match. Prasad was a fine orthodox left arm leg spinner as well. In this same match, Prasad captured 5 wickets in the Mahinda innings, living up to his reputation as a consummate leg spinner and a prolific wicket taker. That year the Times Group selected Prasad as the Best Outstation Schoolboy Cricketer in recognition of his achievements during the season.

Prasad Kariyawasam is undoubtedly a rare gem and an ornament not only to cricket and to his alma mater, but now to the Foreign Service of Sri Lanka. He is a senior career diplomat with over 28 years of experience. At present, he is the Sri Lanka High Commissioner in India.

He was an outstanding student, who excelled in studies, extracurricular activities and as a fine all-round sportsman. I pen these few lines, as I am of the view that he can be a role model to present day schoolboys, especially cricketers. I earnestly hope our school sportsmen will emulate him and will become productive citizens who will serve the country well in their chosen fields.

There is a general belief among parents, that if children participate in sports, especially cricket, the child will neglect his studies. Some parents are of the opinion that cricket, a strenuous and time consuming game played for two days or more, will affect their children’s education.

However, some sportsmen like Prasad have excelled academically as well as sportspersons. Today, many of them are productive citizens, who serve the country and the international community at the highest level.

It is interesting to note that most of those who are highly educated are very often children of educationists and teachers, who have brightened the lives of thousands of other children by imparting knowledge with great dedication and commitment. Generally, they care very little about the remuneration they receive. For instance, Prasad’s parents were Pragnadasa Kariyawasam, a highly respected educationist, who later served as the Commissioner of Examinations and Anula Kariyawasam, a school teacher.

Prasad Kariyawasam joined the Sri Lanka Foreign Service in 1981 and has served as a diplomat in Geneva twice (1983-1987, 2001-2004), Riyadh (1989-1992), Washington (1995-1998), New Delhi twice (1998-2001, 2009-…) and New York (2005-2008). In his previous assignment in New Delhi, he served as Deputy High Commissioner. In Geneva, he served as Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, while also holding the positions of the Consul General of Sri Lanka to Switzerland, Personal Representative of the Head of State of Sri Lanka to the G-15 and concurrently accredited Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Holy Sea. In recognition of his services as the envoy of Sri Lanka to the Vatican, the late Pope John Paul II bestowed the insignia of the ‘Grand-Cross of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great’ on Ambassador Kariyawasam. In New York, he served as Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations and was concurrently accredited as the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to Jamaica and The Bahamas, as well as Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Chile and Columbia.

He also held the position of Director General of the Economic Affairs Division and served as an Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Kariyawasam was the Alternate Representative of Sri Lanka at the 53rd, 54th and 55th Sessions of the UN Commission for Human Rights (CHR) held in Geneva and led the observer delegation of Sri Lanka to the 57th and 58th Sessions of CHR. At the 59th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Kariyawasam was elected Vice-Chairperson and served in the Expanded Bureau of the 59th CHR. At the World Conference against Racism held in Durban in 2001, he was elected Vice-Chair of the Main Committee. In 2003, he was elected to the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. At the inaugural session of the committee, he was elected Chairperson, a post he held until 2008. He was also elected Chair of the 2004 Sessions of the Chairpersons of Human Rights Treaty Bodies and Inter Committee Meetings. From 2005 to 2008, he served as the Chairperson of the United Nations Special Committee Investigating Israel Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestine People and other Arabs in the Occupied Territories.

He was a member of the United Nations Panel of Experts on Small Arms, which produced a report on the subject to the UN General Assembly, in 1997. He also served in the UN Group of Government Experts on the Relationship between Disarmament and Development, in 2004. In July 2006, he presided over the UN Conference to Review the Progress in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate Illicit Trade in Small and Light Weapons in all its aspects held in New York. He served as a Vice-Chairperson of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in 2006 and was elected Vice President of the UN General Assembly for the years 2007-2008. He was the President of the Council of the International Organization for Migration in 2001-2002 at its 50th anniversary session. In 2002, he participated at the annual session of the World Economic Forum held in Davos. Recently, he served in the Advisory Board of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.

While a student at Richmond College, Galle, he won the Principal Medal for best results at the G.C.E (OL) Examination in 1969 and was the Head Prefect from 1972 to 1973.

He captained the Richmond College First XI cricket team in 1972. The same year, he skippered the Southern Province Schools cricket team and played for All Ceylon Schools Combined team. During his school cricket career, Prasad Kariyawasam scored five centuries.

Prasad Kariyawasam was also a Queen’s Boy Scout and was the Scout Troop leader at Richmond in 1968. He had the proud distinction of representing Sri Lanka at the 9th Australian Scout Jamboree held in Sydney in 1969.

Kariyawasam did well as an athlete and played badminton for his school. He was a member of the College English Debating team and a member of the College Sinhala Drama Group.

As one of the most brilliant products of Southern Sri Lanka, he entered the University of Peradeniya and obtained a Bachelor of Science (Hons) Special Degree in Mathematics in 1978.

The unassuming and charismatic Prasad Kariyawasam was a born leader.

In 1977, he was elected President of the Science Students’ Union at the university. He was also elected President of the University Sport Council in 1978 and Treasurer of the All University Students’ Council in 1977.

At university he excelled in cricket and captained the University cricket team in 1977-78, in Division I, Sara trophy. He was adjudged the Most Outstanding University Sportsmen of the Year, in 1978.

While playing for the university, in 1978, Prasad was selected to represent the Sri Lanka Board President’s XI against the visiting Derrick Robins XI. In that match, Kariyawasam had figures of 3 for 22, including the prize wicket of David Gower, who went on to captain England.

Prasad Kariywasam was born on March 21, 1954. His better half Kanthi also hails from Galle. She is a scientist presently attached to Georgetown University in Washington DC. They tied the nuptial knot in 1981.

They first met while at university and Kanthi has remained the light of his life, providing strength and inspiration.

They have two loveable children. Daughter Mayookha is a Computer Engineer while son Pramodh is a second year Bio-Medical Engineering student.

With the appointment of this dynamic and versatile diplomat as the High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in India, which is considered as one of the top most diplomatic posts, the president has ensured that the friendly ties and cordial relationship that exists between the two countries will be further strengthened.

My best wishes to His Excellency, Prasad Kariyawasam.by Premasara Epasinghe

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