Cricket, known as a gentleman’s game, has produced talented athletes who have brought pride to the world. However, some of these players have revealed their true character outside the sports realm. Despite this, there are a few exceptions who exemplify the spirit of a true gentleman. Roshan Mahanama is one such individual, known for his dedication to social service and his anonymous efforts to make a positive impact on society.
Lankasara had the pleasure of having a brief meeting with this gentleman.
Question: For us who love cricket in this country, Roshan Mahanama is a legend. Who is Roshan Mahanama to you?
Answer: A Sri Lankan citizen, aware of life’s fleeting nature, recognizes the impermanence of things. With the understanding that we must eventually leave everything behind, they strive to create a better world for future generations.
Question: How has cricket inspired your outlook on life?
Answer: My parents, cricket coach, and teachers inspired me, expanding my thinking. Coach Nelson Mendis taught us cricket and valuable life lessons. He emphasized discipline, goal pursuit, and embodying the qualities of a gentleman.
However, while many teachers do teach us the philosophical aspect of life only some can truly understand it. Similar to the saying that goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”
Question: You are a world-renowned match referee. But why are you leaving ICC?
Answer: I used to work as a match referee, but I had to leave due to a policy issue. Resigning from such a privileged and prestigious profession is uncommon, but I prioritize my conscience above all else. Now, I am a part-time referee.
Answer: This is what I think. As a nation, most of us have become utterly selfish thinking only of our personal gains and benefits while disregarding the feelings of other people. Such a country will only be heading towards destruction. We cannot expect a different fate.
As a player, I represent 22 million people in our country. Our team’s objective is to win the match by focusing on individual contributions. However, playing well individually holds no value if we ultimately lose the match. Unfortunately, what happens in our country mostly is that individuals prioritize personal achievements over team success, resulting in overall defeat.
No one accepts blame for major losses; instead, they highlight their past successes, but had they truly excelled during their time and taken responsibility for whatever that goes wrong, our country wouldn’t be in this situation today.
As the public, we too need to ask ourselves if we made the right choices in the past by pointing fingers at others.
Our current situation is a consequence of the decisions we made.
Question: I want to interrupt a little. Is this your way of saying you will enter politics?
Answer: (Laughing)… Absolutely not.
I had the chance to enter politics twenty years ago when I was invited in 1999, but I find greater fulfilment in making a more effective contribution outside of politics.
Serving the public is a tradition in our family. My father’s younger brother, Lakshman Mahanama, has dedicated fifty years to quietly serving the community.
During the Tsunami disaster, my father made a sincere commitment to help those in need. While others focused on the south, we directed our efforts towards Kalavanchikudi, organizing various programs.
The support I received from sports enthusiasts who paved the way for my success in my chosen field also motivates me to serve the people in this capacity.
Another important thing I recognized is that if the people in power who have the authority over the funds that are meant for the people act with heart and empathy, then Sri Lanka would be in a much better place.
Question: What paved the way to work with social projects as you are doing now?
Answer: It all started when I met my good friend, Shiromi Masakorala, who runs the Hemas Outreach Foundation. The 1996 World Cup-winning team came together and play a match to celebrate Babycheramy’s 50th birthday. This event helped raise funds for social care.
After that, Hemas Outreach Foundation invited me to be their brand ambassador, and I’m really thankful to Hemas and Abbas Yusuf Ali for giving me this opportunity. As their brand ambassador, I’ve always believed in giving my best to every project we take on.
One of the big things we did was to open 39 preschools, and I put in my own money as a part of my contribution to this project.
While working on this, we realized that there was no primary school in one area, and the villagers asked for our help. Unfortunately, building schools is not something the Hemas Outreach Foundation focuses on. But I took it upon myself to gather support.
During that time, I was also working as a professional match referee, and therefore, the match referee for the 2015 world cup. It is there I invited David Kruse and Eraj Kapukotuwa to join us in this social care project. My father’s friend, Malik Tariq Qureshi, also contributed funds. With our combined efforts, we managed to build Veherathanna Primary School. Chaminda Vaas and Upul Chandana also got involved, and it is through them this story spread across social media.
Question: How many social care organizations are you currently responsible for?
I am currently involved in many social care organizations. To name a few:
I serve as a trustee for various organizations in Sri Lanka, including Ayati Institute, which provides exceptional care for children with special needs. I am also proud to be the brand ambassador for SOS Children’s Village. Additionally, I contribute as a trustee for Cancer Trust.
An important initiative I’m involved in is “Suva Arana,” the first palliative care unit in Sri Lanka, established by the Indira Cancer Trust. It is set to open on June 29 this year, and I serve as a trustee there. Furthermore, I have the privilege of being the brand ambassador for the Community Meal Share Foundation and the Sri Lanka Stroke Patients’ Association. I also contribute as a trustee for the Kidney Patients’ Association and proudly serve as the brand ambassador for the Association of Pediatricians.
My role now is to bring together companies involved in social care and work towards a shared objective.
Many people simply lend their names as brand ambassadors, but I believe it’s not enough. I strive to actively contribute in the best way possible in this position. This meaningful work holds more value to me than wasting time on trivial matters.
Question: Why create the Roshan Mahanama Foundation amidst all these efforts?
Answer: During Covid, Chaminda Vaas and I started a small foundation to help people. We were helping people by providing food through the Community Meal Share Trust.
It was during these times that, Shiromi Mascorala suggested to me, to push the foundation unto a more legal framework. It is this background that led to the creation of the Roshan Mahanama Trust.
There are five of us in custody. Those five work as an optimal team in various departments. Shiromi works as the Chief Operating Officer of the Maskorala Foundation. The members of the foundation include my wife, General Kumudhu Perera, Ashan Peiris and Renuka Senadheera. Ashan is younger than us, less than 35 years old even. He was chosen so that he can run this foundation with our children in our absence. Amarasekara and Company is doing the accounting of the fund and Hernest and Young is doing the audit.
The target group of our foundation is children. We cover three main approaches.
One is, Handicapped children. I am a trustee at the National Center created for disabled children.
Secondly, Suva Arana Center will be started with Indira Cancer Trust. I work there as a caretaker.
Thirdly, the Association of Pediatricians is giving the best possible support to create a centre to create a second childhood for abused children.
Roshan Mahanama Foundation is primarily doing this to create the practical financial base needed to run these institutions as much as possible.
In the meantime, we intervene in many cases where urgent intervention was needed for the children’s needs.
Question: So now you are responsible for finding nearly 50 lakhs per month. How do you find this amount?
Answer: We should not forget that contributing to social services is not limited to wealth. Building interpersonal relationships is the most important aspect of social services.
When I spoke to people abroad, they understood and generously helped. Those living overseas have a clear view of our country’s situation and have consistently supported it during difficult times. I deeply respect their contributions.
I will be in Australia, New Zealand and Canada in July and August. I am involved in several programs organized to increase the fund. Through all this, there is great self-confidence that we will be able to maintain these projects. Actually, all this is working successfully in a way that I can’t even imagine.
Question: What are the obstacles in front of you in these social welfare activities?
Answer: The important thing to keep in mind is that something will become an obstacle only if we consider it to be one. If we do these with an open mind and are honest then things always go smoothly.
The only thing that needs to be committed to this process is having an honest mind and a big heart.
Question: In the past, we saw that you were involved with the ‘Aragalaya’. Now that struggle is interpreted as an opportunity for real social deviation, isn’t it?
Answer: Here we are talking about this situation by taking one part of the whole. Everyone is now saying that this people’s uprising is due to grand politics. Why doesn’t anyone remember the events lined up beyond that?
It was the people who had no fuel, no gas, and were extremely helpless and were affected by the interest rates, that first came onto the streets with boards held up in front of their houses.
Every person who came out came without party colour to remind the rulers about their responsibility.
A very close uncle of my father. 85 years old. He went to the golf course before me. If my father was there, he would have gone before me. It’s for the helpless people out there. You know. I visited all the estates in Colombo. People ate one meal. Should we have just waited and kept silent in those situations?
Question: There was indeed such a time. But times look a bit better now, right?
Answer: If you can’t buy school supplies to educate your child, if children’s education expenses have been cut, if 50 percent of surgeries have been stopped in hospitals including Lady Ridgeway, if cancer patients have to buy medicine from outside, if there are no medicines in hospitals if the increased electricity bill has to be paid silently, if the people who paid more than twice the amount but hit the quota of gasoline, if they brought the gas that is been bought that has increased more than twice the amount, and they are trying to survive amidst all this with no increase in salary, then I really only have to say “good luck”.
In the end, I ask the people of this country only one thing. Put your hand on your chest and ask whether we have taken decisions for our own betterment and for the betterment of the country. I believe that professionals in every field of this country should ask themselves if we have done our part for the country.
We have to be honest with ourselves even now. This country will be rebuilt when that honesty is established.