News of the demise of Ranjit Ratnayake, a loyal old boy of Trinity College Kandy, was received with profound sadness. That he had passed away after a brief illness on Wednesday, June 2, was indeed a shock! He was relatively young – but an incurable illness suddenly claimed this precious life at 63 years.
Ranjit’s connections with Trinity Rugby in the early 90’s, is what brought my fellow Trinity Rugby ‘star’ Franklin Jacob and myself (both Trinity “Lions” and Sri Lanka players in the 60’s), to have close contact and communications with him.
Ranjit was a good ‘team-player’, caring and helpful. His great qualities of leadership were seen particularly in the export garments business, apart from him being a competent, qualified accountant. He later started his own garment manufacturing factory, with the significant support of his wife Maxine. As an influential ‘man about town’ he was known to be generous, forthright and vigilant, as well as persevering to ‘get things done’!
One day in June 1993, Ranjit an enthusiastic College Rugby fan, fondly called “STR” by his school-mates – was all stirred up! We were driving up to Kandy, to help in coaching some of the Trinity Rugby players in ‘kicking’, when he emphatically expressed his concern to me about the Trinity Asgiriya grounds (built in the 1920’s). It was to be taken over by a Government authority to convert it into an International Cricket Stadium. In reality, this vital asset would be lost to all Trinitians involved in various sports activities – except cricket.
At this point, he came up with ‘his idea’ that a new location for Rugby practices and matches, should be found close to Kandy – which I fully endorsed.
In due course, to cut a long story short, on his own initiative he negotiated to obtain four hectares of coconut land in Pallekelle, with the help of the UDA and former President, the late D.B. Wijetunge, who sanctioned it after Cabinet approval was obtained, on a 99 year lease. This also received the ready approval of Principal, Lt. Col. Leonard de Alwis, plus the Trinity Board of Governors. With the expertise of engineers, architects and the advice of two former planters, Wilhelm Balthazaar and Franklin Jacob, the planning and building project, got underway.
Ranjit Ratnayake will long be remembered for the clever, quick, praiseworthy action he took to set-up the plans for a new Rugby Stadium. This huge project, slowly but steadily ‘got off the ground’ and with timely financial support from Hemaka Amarasuriya, Chairman of Singer (Sri Lanka) Ltd., together with Hatton National Bank; Dr. Asoka Balasuriya and many other well-wishers, this Stadium is a reality today!
It would have been a great consolation to Ranjit, having had his wife Maxine by his bedside caring for him. His elder son Rajeev from USA and Maheesa from Dubai along with his petite wife, Sarah Azad arrived in time to bid him ‘farewell’. His grief -stricken brothers and sisters together with many good friends, were present to pay Ranjit their last respects.
Although he has left his Trinity ‘buddies’ here on earth, he is indeed privileged to be with the “Greatest Trinity” up there!
Ken de Joodt