Rifle shooting champ
Hemasiri Fernando - administrator par-excellence



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Hemasiri Fernando is a versatile sports personality who brought credit and honour to Sri Lanka in rifle shooting. Further, he excelled as a fine athlete, at Nalanda College, Colombo. After joining the University of Ceylon, Colombo, he played cricket and had the proud distinction of captaining the University cricket team 1967/1968. After passing, he obtained an Honours Degree in Economics and joined the Sri Lanka Navy. His Economics Professor was Dr. A. V. De S. Indraratne.


After resigning from the Sri Lanka Navy, he served as the Secretary, to Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike.


He held prestigious positions – Chairman of Airport Aviation Services Limited, and Sri Lanka Telecom. Today he is the leading sports administrator holding prestigious positions ,President of the Sri Lanka Olympic Committee and the President of the Commonwealth Games Committee Sri Lanka.


He had his preliminary education at Seevali Vidyalaya, Wanathamulla, Dematagoda and later, joined Nalanda.


As a schoolboy, he underwent many financial difficulties when his beloved father, who served as the Deputy Principal Seevali Vidyalaya, became a "political victim" under the UNP regime. He was interdicted. Due to this they were financially affected. Hemasiri’s mother, a teacher, had to keep the home fires burning. The young boy, Hemasiri, boldly took up the challenge.


Hemasiri entered the University of Ceylon, Colombo and obtained a distinction – A pass in the subject Sinhala. He was grateful to Principal Gunapala Wickramaratne and all teachers in the arts section.


Fernando, began his sports career as an athlete. He represented the group meets, pubic schools meet and national meets.


When he entered the university he excelled at the fresher’s meet, in both track and field events. The Director of Physical Education K. L. F. Wijedasa requested him to turn up for regular practices, as he knew a champion was in the making. But, Fernando never responded.


"There were two reasons. I was very keen to play cricket. I did not have money to buy a pair of spikes for athletics. Anyhow, I used to play wearing a pair of tennis shoes. I was the opening bowler and opening batsmen. One day, my good friend Anketel, gave me a big pair of cricket boots which he got down from England through his uncle. He donated it to me.


It was about size nine. Believe me it suited me very well. I am ever grateful to my dear friend "Anky" of donating this pair of boots. First he told me his uncle who is in England brought this pair for him. But, later, I came to know Anketel requested to bring this large pair to give it to me".


His first inter-faculty match was something he will never forget.


"It was a clash between the Arts and Science Faculty. Top cricketers like former Thomian and Sri Lanka opening bowler, Mevan Peiris opened bowling for Science Faculty. Those days there were no helmets or chest guards or arm guards. "The king of swing" Mevan was bowling so fast, I still remember some balls whizzed past my head. I stayed a few minutes and scored about 20 runs. It was a great experience. I still remember Lalith Weeratunga was my wicket-keeper. Lalith was a superb keeper and a fine team man stated Fernando.


"Facing Mevan was a fine baptism. What a great bowler he was. After about 25 years later, once I played in a friendly cricket match in England against a combined London University side. There were two fast bowlers. I told my friend who invited me to play, "why on earth you invited me and included me in your side". With lot of confidence I batted and scored 67 runs in this match. This was the swan song of Fernando’s cricket career.


During his university career, he did not have bus fares, to travel to the university .He used to walk daily from Dematagoda to Thurstan Road, and back. The bus fare at that time was less than five cents up and down. You can just imagine on what trying conditions he studied in the university. This is a good message for the present day university undergraduates, who enter a University to learn and do academic studies and not to engage in politics".


Some of his contemporary cricketers at the university of Ceylon, were Mevan Peiris. Chandima De Alwis, Selva Perumal, Lalith Weeratunga, Sarath Seneviratne and Desmond Jonston were some of the leading players out of many who played under Fernando’s captaincy in 1972, in the Daily News side".


There was no point 2.2 practice range in operation for rifle shooting at Nalanda. It was at Sri Lanka Navy, he started rifle shooting. He picked up very quickly and is grateful to the Navy in providing him all the facilities for rifle shooting. He was trained under Petty Officer Dissanayake, veteran Rifle Shooting champion who represented Sri Lanka.


His happiest day was the day he beat Daya Nadarajasingham in 1981, National Champion in Rifle Shooting and became the National Shooting Champion in 1981, 1982 and 1984.


Fernando represented Sri Lanka in Rifle Shooting competitions and participated in many international meets. In the world circuit he was ranked quite high.


To be a successful rifle shooter you must possess your own rifle. Hemasiri did not have his own rifle. He used to borrow it from the Sri Lanka Navy. But, as a rifle shooter it is important to have your own personal rifle. There are various restrictions at the Sri Lanka Navy in issuing a rifle. When Hemasiri was wondering how to own a rifle, luck came his way.


"One day I met Charmaine, wife of Olympian Ravi Jayewardene, fine gentleman and one of the best rifle shooters in the island. Mrs. Jayewardene told me that, she got down a rifle for their son, but, as he was now not interested in rifle shooting, she was prepared to sell it. I jumped at the idea and purchased it for a sum of Rs. 8000/=. I am really thankful to Mrs. Jayewardene, the gracious lady" stated Fernando.


"In rifle shooting, I performed well in 1982, I won the Diploma and came 6th in Asian Games. I got a world ranking with the champions of Vietnam, North Korea, Japan.


Fernando’s tenure with Mrs. Bandaranaike when she was Prime Minister, was a real experience. His whole family, were political victims. During the JRJ era, Mrs. Bandaranaikes lost her civic rights and she went into isolation. During that period he used to visit her daily and attended to her work. He got involved in restructing the party with others and campaigned in a big way to bring her back to power. The grateful people of Sri Lanka elected Mrs. Bandaranaike to power at the 1994 elections.


Fernando was appointed the Chairman of Sri Lanka Telecom. He still remembers President Mahinda Rajapaksa being a tower of inspiration to Mrs. Bandaranaike. They all worked like a team and fought against gross injustice meted out to her and the party and the people."


Fernando became the closest confidant of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Most of the leading politicians of today’s government were very close to him at that, time. As the Chairman of SLT, he re-structured it, of course the employees and trade unions supported him.


Whatever he does he is committed. He always puts country before self and maintains a very close rapport and cordial relationship with all top sports administrators of the world. Most of them call him by his first name "Hema".


The Commonwealth Games 2018 could be held in Hambantota.


President Rajapaksa appointed a very high powered committee of twenty (20) members to handle this event. The Chairman of this Committee is Ajith Nivard Cabraal, the Governor of the Central Bank. The Government has decided to name Hambantota as the "Host City" of the Commonwealth Games. By May next year, we must present our bid and might be successful. Out of 72 countries, of voting members, I am confident that 45 members will support us and Sri Lankan get the nod. But the implementation is a very big task. That is why President Mahinda Rajapaksa wanted to start the preparation early. They have to showcase Hambantota and Sri Lanka. Therefore they started their work immediately, because there are many preliminary work to be done. They have to invite the President, Secretary-General Commonwealth Games and other members to Sri Lanka.


Under the guidance of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the committee under Ajith Nivard Cabral, the 2018 Commonwealth Games will be held at Hambantota.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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