Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)
Vijaya Malalasekera The Stellar Man I Knew
I had actually heard of Vijaya Malalasekera and his sterling character at a high, corporate level but one comes to know the reality of the true measure of a person only when one associates closely, and that occurred when I served under his able leadership as the Chairman of Sri Lanka Cricket, being the Secretary during his one-year tenure of office (2001/2002).
In that period of time, the exceptional qualities of governance adopted as per his experience and legal background enabled us to structure standards, systems and discipline with a vision that we (Michael Tissera, Sidath Wettimuny, Ashantha de Mel, Manil Jayesinghe and myself) as the Interim Committee upheld consistently, yielding results compatible to the way he led from the front.
To me, he was none other than a commander in his own right and justice had to prevail at all times, not to forget his most important feature of integrity that he never wavered from, a lesson that he instilled across the board to demonstrate that the best results emerge from these outstanding principles of management.
He was never afraid – courageous, brave, upfront and forthright no matter who was on the other side –to communicate his message but at the same time he did listen when he had to, though most of the time he had his own way unless I was convinced to present my case repeatedly to secure his consent.
He picked good, expert teams to delegate and relied on their professional feedback in making key decisions for greater betterment and stood by those verdicts, not allowing for interferences to make changes once concluded.
That is the inimitable character of an outstanding gentleman who abides by high quality values of leadership, which actually resulted in creating a historic, milestone accomplishment of 10 consecutive wins for the National Cricket Team culminating with the Asian Test Championship under the Captaincy of Sanath Jayasuriya, a record that has withstood the test of time.
Off the field, so to say, he had a humorous side to him that was pretty entertaining, coupled with blunt statements of his choice which we understood in the same spirit, knowing his stature and his overwhelming personality that was somewhat larger than life, with an aptitude for impressive public relations skills.
I also had the good fortune of working with him subsequently, post-tsunami, when he was appointed as the Chairman of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) Local Trust, to administer their funds towards the Foundation of Goodness’ humane endeavors, not limited to only the development of cricket but to also elevate the standards of underserved communities for a period of 15 years.
He was meticulous, professional, versatile and diligent, setting deadlines and making us work hard to present reports for accountability, transparency and to deliver on the confidence placed in him by those who entrusted these responsibilities. He was very passionate, in a personal capacity, to assist those less fortunate and in distress. I also know through firsthand experience how much he cared for the domestic associates who worked alongside him, treating them with such care and affection.
He certainly was one of a kind, and I’m glad to have picked up some amazing attributes for my own development and in that process I have also observed that his dutiful sons Sanjiv, Rajiv, Ashan and Prashan have taken after his different characteristics to continue the legacy which Vijaya inherited from his father, Gunapala Malalasekera, the world renowned Buddhist scholar, that his beloved wife Niri will rejoice in seeing their sons sustain.
I will miss his distinctive communications in his unique style that I cannot forget.
The writer served as the Secretary in an interim committee at Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) that was lauded for its integrity in administrating the sport in the country, led by the late Mr. Malalasekera in 2001-2002. He is also the founder and chief trustee of the Foundation of Goodness that seeks to bridge the gap between the urban and rural communities in Sri Lanka through a rural development model.