By Hafeez Marso (Senior Superintendent of Police) Historically, sports culture in Sri Lanka has influence to North and South Indian mores. Chronicles reflect back where these primeval traditions took root in our country at different period of time, particularly during the period of King Gajaba. Martial arts had a greater significance and the most common [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Memories down the track at Police Park


By Hafeez Marso (Senior
Superintendent of Police)

Historically, sports culture in Sri Lanka has influence to North and South Indian mores. Chronicles reflect back where these primeval traditions took root in our country at different period of time, particularly during the period of King Gajaba.

Martial arts had a greater significance and the most common of them are; Kadu haramba, angampora and gusti.
Even in ancient Olympics traced back to 776 BC, events like Pankration, Horse and Chariot Racing, Wrestling, have been the main features. It also reminds of the tendencies of men exerting in physical activities in search for food to satisfy hunger and protection against enemies.

With the emergence of industrialization in the British Empire in 16th Century, the sports began to flourish in different forms. Most of the sports disciplines that exist today were introduced by the British rulers after 18th Century. In that perspective, Sri Lanka is considered to be one of the main beneficiaries to enrich the sports traditions under colonial rule.

DIG C.C.Dissanayake in action

It was in the year 1897; Major Knolleys introduced Gymnastics as a part of Police Training when there were no organized Sports events in existence. Occasionally Cricket. Boat Racing and Soccer was played as recreation for entertainment of officers at their leisure.
Athletics came to the fore in 1902 with the inaugural meet held at the Race Course under the helm of Major F. Knolleys. The Knolley’s Shield bestowed in his honour, is the oldest trophy in the Police Sports silverware cupboard, and is awarded to the Best Athlete of the Meet. Tug-of-war was also introduced in the same year. The spectator interest to the most traditional event has not diminished by any means since it was set forth. Police still enjoy the prestige of being the season campaigners in this event of show of strength.
It was after 23 years that the Police track and field Meet was first witnessed at Police Park in 1925 during the tenure of IGP Mr. I.E. David when the Governor General officially declared open the Depot Police complex, the present Field Force Headquarter which covers an extent of 6 ½ acres acquired from the Crown.

In 1947, the Sports Meet took shape to have at district level during the tenure of Sir Richard Aluvihare at the helm. Later, with the expansion of the Police Force, the 16th Inspector General of Police, Mr. Aleric Abeyagunawardene foresaw the need to conduct the highly celebrated sporting event at divisional levels. Adding more colour to the event, he made March Past compulsory to all Police Divisions.

Hitherto, the Inter Divisional Police Athletic Meet is held uninterrupted on 77 occasions except during the dark era of World War I & II, insurrection, terrorism and in few occasions due to exigencies of service. Interest and enthusiasm shown to this grand finale by the Police Divisions, including the north and east ravaged by war, is indeed encouraging. Needless to say, that the Police Athletic Meet is the most traditional and colourful event in the Police Sports calendar.

Traversing back to the past, one cannot simply write off the history of Police Athletics and the most unforgettable and significant incidents that took place at Police Park down the memory lane. It is only fitting to recapitulate the past reminiscence to refresh our minds.

Late DIG, Mr. C.C. Dissanayake, who won the Shot Putt event on 07 occasions at the AAA meet, is the first Sri Lankan Police Officer to win a Gold Medal representing the Ceylon – AAA team (virtually the national team) at West Asiatic Olympics in New Delhi in 1934. It may be recalled that the first International dual meet with India was held in 1940 at the Police Park. Out of the 17 events worked off, Ceylon won 9 events including the two relays.

The 1969 Indo-Ceylon Dual Meet was yet another centre of attraction at Police Park. The nail-biting tussle in 5000 meters event between S.L.B. Rosa (Asian Games double Gold medallist and former 10,000 meter record holder) and Edward “Eddie” Sequeira (the rhythmic Indian middle distance runner who represented 1972 Munich Olympics) kept the anxious spectators on their toes to an exciting finish. In the long Jump event, the powerfully built and born athlete from Christian College, Kotte, Sub Inspector, B.L.C. Dareeju “Christy” lost to Labh Singh by a few inches. All said, we saw the demise of Christy under tragic circumstances whilst in active service, a few years ago, and very recently of Sergeant Piyadasa Fernando, former Javelin Throw national champion who led the Ceylon Team at this dual meet. ASP, Ivan Boteju who won the 200 and 400 meters at 1958 National Meet made supreme sacrifice to safeguard the nation, was a victim of a terrorist attack.

K. S. Sivakumaran in his article to Daily News of 04th February 2002 to mark the 54th Independence had this to say; “Come to think of it, I watched in Colombo, the late Lalith Athulathmudali and the MP Lakshman Kadirgamar running neck to neck in the 110 meters hurdles in the AAA meet in Police Park”. In perusing the sporting career of the two Oxford scholars of “Jurisprudence” and “Balliol” colleges and the eminent personalities of international repute having very similar accomplishments in their academic, professional and political life, this writer found that meet had taken place in 1951 with Lakshman Kadirgamar emerging as the winner clocking 16.7 secs. Ultimate fate was such that both became victims of brutal terrorism.

The athletes of yesteryear have done proud to Sri Lanka Police. The most prominent among them who had held National Records were; Mr. Osmond De. Silva, former IGP (Double Sprint and Hurdles – 100 and 220 yards – 1931, 1930), R.E. Blaze (Javelin – 1931), C.C. Dissanayake, DIG (Shot Putt 1930-34), Chandra Senanayake, DIG (Shot Putt – 1951 and Discus 1935-1948), R.V. Pillay (Discus 1934), A.C. Dep, DIG (Pole Vault 1936-39), R.A. Stroke (Shot Putt 1952), Nimal Fernando, SSP (Hurdles – 440 yards 1961, 400 meters 1960 – 64), R.K. Lionel Karunasena (Long Jump – 1964) and P.L. Karunasena, ASP (Triple Jump – 1970). Interestingly, the national record of SI Ranjith Subasinghe in the 800 meters established on 07th November 1993 clocking a time of 1:48:56 seconds still remain intact. Besides, there are many athletes who have won major honours at National and International Meets.

Apart athletics, the Police had the fortune of having a galaxy of Sportsmen and women of repute hailing different strata of the society in every sports discipline. They have brought fame and glory to the Police and the country in the span of 147 years of its service to the nation. With the passage of time, and the ever changing facets in the advancement of sports where professionalism in some way or the other, play an integral part, the level of competition today has become very challenging that compels total commitment and dedication from the athletes. It is our fervent conviction that an opportunity is within the reach to bring glory to Police Sports with the encouragement and the support of the Inspector General of Police, Mr. N.K. Illangakone, the Chairmen and Secretaries of all Sports disciplines.

We salute all the past and present sportsmen and sportswomen of the Police Force for their valuable contribution towards the institution and the country.

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