Prof. (Dr.) Tissa Vitharana MP
— An outstanding sportsman



article_image

There are three highly respected Professors in Parliament today. They are celebrities in their own chosen field. Prof. G. L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs was a Vice-Chancellor of the University of Colombo, Prof. Rajiv Wijesingha, English scholar and an educationist and Prof. Tissa Vitharana, Minister of Technology and Research, in the field of Medical Sciences. All three of them are National List Members of Parliament and they play a very important role in government.


Out of these three learned Professors, Tissa Vitharana is a versatile sportsman and also an academic in the field of medicine. This honest and dedicated Minister of Technology and Research was an outstanding cricketer, a fine opening batsman, who represented Trinity College, Kandy, Ananda College, Colombo, University of Ceylon, Colombo and Nondescripts Cricket Club (NCC). In the 1957/1958 Sara Trophy Division I cricket tournament, Tissa Vitharana, captained the Colombo University with distinction.



Arjuna-Sanath-Wimal-Jayawickrema


Today, there are a few former cricketers in the parliament. One of them is Gamini Jayawickrama Perera, a Nalandian, who played with me in the champion team of 1957 as the opening bowler. He is the present Chairman of the UNP. He captained Nalanda in 1960. Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga, 1996 World Cup winning captain, Minister of Construction, Engineering Service Housing, Common Amenities Minister Wimal Weerawansa who opened batting for Tissa MMV, Kalutara are two others that come to my mind. Then, there is Sanath Jayasuriya, the ‘Master Blaster’ who was adjudged the Most Valuable Player of the 1966 World Cup.


Tissa Vitharana was born in Nuwara Eliya. His father was Pieris Vitharana, District Engineer, Public Works Department, Nuwara Eliya. His mother was N. P. Maggie Perera, sister of the great statesman, patriot, leader of the Lanka Samasamja Party, Dr. N. M. Perera, a fine cricketer who captained Ananda College in 1925, and later played for the University College and Nondescripts Cricket Club. He was at one time the President of the Sri Lanka Board of Control for Cricket. He was a fine gentlemanly cricketer and an ornament to politics of Sri Lanka.


Tissa Vitharana and his two brothers Nihal and Nalin, studied at Trinity College, Kandy. Tissa, from his childhood took an active interest in sports. He played badminton, tennis and cricket as a junior. His first love was cricket.


 


‘Respice Finem’ – Look to the End


Trinity College provided him with a broad and complete education to begin with. It developed his debating skills and ability to think clearly. He was very fortunate to be in the first batch of the Sinhala stream at Trinity. From his early years, he got used to the reading habit. Tissa Vitharana recollects how their famous English teacher, a former All Ceylon cricketer R. L. Kannangara, used to teach them Sherlock Holmes stories in the class. He was an all-round student and took part in Kandyan dancing under the famous exponent of this art – the maestro - Nittawela Gunaya.


 


Versatility


At Trinity, Tissa Vitharana, was a versatile sportsman. He played soccer, cricket, rugby (house team), hockey, badminton, and table tennis. His first love was cricket.


Tissa Vitharana stated that in the late 1940s there were two fast bowlers in the Trinity First XI. One was Block. The other one was Michael Kagwa from Uganda and Bonty Rieth from the United Kingdom.


"They were tactful demon fast bowlers. They had a rhythmic run-up, a fine follow through, high arm action, and they were absolutely fast. So, I was very much influenced by them. I too wanted to become a fast-bowler.


These two were my heros. Anyhow, I later become an opening batsman, not an opening bowler.


 


During the school vacations, he used to come to Colombo and spend the holidays with his two illustrious uncles – Dr. N. M. Perera and N. S. Perera, Surveyor General. Both were interested in cricket.


"They encouraged me to take part in sports. I remember my uncle N. S. Perera’s son, Sena Perera who was the Chief of Inland Revenue and later Ambassador in China who used to take me on the pillion of his bike, to witness some of the Sara matches played in Colombo. We watched the heroics of greats like F. C. de Saram, C. I. Gunasekera and Ben Navaratne. This really influenced me to play cricket," stated . Tissa Vitharana.


 


N. M., Colvin, Philip, Edmund


in Bogambara


Prof. Tissa Vitharana related a very sentimental story regarding Dr. N. M. Perera and the Samasamaja leaders who were in the Bogambara Prison.


"One day, my parents came to the Trinity Hostel and picked me up. I was a small fellow during the war days in the 1940s. They took me to see my uncle N. M. and other Samasamaja leaders like the great Dr. Colvin R. De Silva, Philip Gunawardane and Edmund Samarakkody, at the Bogambara Prisons.


They were imprisoned by the Imperialist British Government, as the Samasamaja Leaders, struggled for Independence. When I saw them, I could not recognise anyone of them. I recognized them through their powerful voices. The reason was that they had grown long beards covering their faces. We noticed that N. M. was not there. He came to see us and joined his colleagues later. They were all laughing at N. M. These prisoners were given to do menial labour. There was a time to start their work and a time to stop. Philip, Colvin and Edmund stopped work sharp on time even if they did not do their share of work. My uncle N. M. always made it a point to finish his work. N. M.’s job was peeling the coconuts husks; about 500 coconuts per day. He was so methodical and a perfectionist, that he never kept anything to finish the next day," stated Prof. Tissa Vitharana about his famous uncle, Dr. N. M. Perera.


 


Commitment and dedication to serve the country


"This was a lesson I learned from him. i.e. commitment and dedication to work. Even now, I complete my day’s work very systematically at my ministry and I give a lead to all my staff members. We are there to serve the people," quipped the learned Professor.


Q. Professor Vitharana, did you ever dream to become a doctor one day and how did you balance your studies and sports?


 


A Healer!


"Yes, from my childhood my ambition was to become a healar. During my school days, I was particularly interested not only reading articles relating to health, I used to collect those cuttings."


From Trinity, this great sports personality joined Ananda. "Unfortuantely, my beloved father developed a serious eye problem and was taken to Holland for treatment, under one of the best Eye Specialists. This cost us a fortune. It was the main reason we joined Ananda College, Colombo. The principal at that time was that great educationist, L. H. Mettananda.


"I played not only cricket for Ananda. I was awarded six colours – cricket, tennis, hockey, soccer, badminton and table tennis. I balanced my studies and did consistent work. I used to read my lessons, prepare short notes. This became very handy at exams. I was determined to enter the Medical Faculty of the University of Ceylon."


 


Most memorable big-match


"In cricket, my most memorable match was the Ananada-Nalanda big match in 1953. I opened with U. D. Wariyapperuma. He scored a brilliant 88. I scored ony 22. Ananda was captained by Henry Seneviratne. The Nalanda skipper was W. W. Silva. This match went to the wire. Nalanda won the match off the last ball, when the batsman Ananda De Soysa scored a boundary through a sneaky shot through slips. What a match it was," stated the minister.


 


University captain


Prof. Tissa Vitharana, after entering the University of Ceylon, Colombo, Medical Faculty, had the proud distinction of captaining the University in the 1957/1958 season and came third in the Sara Trophy Tournament. SSC and NCC were placed first and second.


"I had a fine side. Among them were Royalist Doranagama, W. Premartane, first schoolboy cricketer, Nihal Vithana (Nalanda Skipper – 1956) Major General (Dr.) C. Thurairaja, Dr. Rajiv De Silva (Royal captain in 1956 and a fine off-spinner and reputed surgeon) opener Mahinda Silva, my opening partner, S. Sivasunderam, M. Berman, Lasantha Fernando, Brigadier (Dr.) H. I. K. Fernando (Sri Lanka wicket keeper), J. G. C. Peiris, B. D. S. Perera and D. H. De Silva. It was a treat to lead this well knit side. I used to open with Mahinda Silva and sometimes with Nihal Vithana.


 


Attack of Diarrhoea!


Q. Any reminiscences about your cricket while at the university?


"There are two unforgettable experiences. The university side led by me, participated in the Towintan Bhariya Inter-University Cricket Tournament in India. A match was played at Cuttack, South of Kolkota. We batted first on the first day and scored 285 runs. On the following day, we faced a ‘big problem’. A few of our players were down with diarrhoea. I was fielding in the covers. I had a sweeper cover placed. One Indian batsman played a square cut. I shouted to the fielder to send a quick return. To everyones amazement, the sweeper cover was missing. He had rushed to the toilet even without informing me or the umpires," stated Prof. Vitharana.


"Then at Baroda, we beat the favorites Bombay. We were put up in the Baroda Maharaja Guest House."


Director MRI and Deputy, Virology Laboratory Regional Centre, Australia


Prof. Vitharana, after serving as the Registrar to Prof. Rajasooriya, the great physician at the Colombo General Hospital went to England and Australia and specialized in Bacteriology and Virology and became the Director of the Medical Research Institute (MRI). He also served at the world famous virology laboratory regional centre in Australia as Deputy Director and brought credit and honour to Sri Lanka. He did his PhD in London, although his scholarship was cut short by the Health Department.


"I took up the challenge. I worked in the night and found my money for tuition and upkeep. It was not that easy to work in London during the night. It was a strain. But I did it," said Prof. Tissa Vitharana.


 


Man of Honesty and Integrity


Professor Tissa Vitharana is presently the leader of the LSSP. He is an asset to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. A committed minister, he plays a vital role in assisting the development of this country in technology and research. His focus is on high technology and bridging the gap between the city and the village.


His beloved wife Kamini, is the wind behind his wings. His son, Ranil Vitharana, is an engineer at the prestigious Imperial College, London. Incidentally, Ranil’s grandfather, father of Prof. Tissa Vitharana was the first Sri Lankan to enter the Imperial College, United Kingdom. Ranil followed his illustrious grandfather. Presently, he is attached to MAS Holdings.


Prof. Vitharana is a fine gentleman and a fine human being. He is meticulous, and an perfectionist like his beloved uncle, the great Dr. N. M. Perera. A man who always stands for One Sri Lanka, the learned Prof. is a valuable ‘gem’ in the Cabinet of Ministers. President Mahinda Rajapaksa entrusted Prof. Vitharana with the important Technology and Research portforlio.


Soft spoken, he is a gentleman par excellence.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...