During the late 1970s, the resources available for Badminton was so limited and seemingly negligible to the extent that the SLBA did not have an office or headquarters of its own and the finances (bank balance) hardly exceeded Rs.5000/=.
A few die-hard enthusiasts (names not mentioned for fear of omission), kept the game going for the sheer love and dedication to the cause. It was a drain on their time, money and energy.
One had to be persuaded to take up office as those positions carried no prestige or monetary benefit and it was just a thankless sacrifice. Quite the contrary today, when the SLBA Election is a hard-fought contest.
In 1980 -82, the President SLBA was the much respected P. Sivalingam and the Hony Sec: was Ajith Wijayasinghe who was just a novice.
P. Sivalingam had moved out of the Govt: Service to the private sector after a distinguished career at the Ceylon Petroleum Corp: and was a father figure to Ajith who at (26) years was the youngest Secretary to have served the SLBA.
When it came to conducting an event or coaching camp or any other activity, finding money was the biggest problem. Youngsters who excel in badminton at school and have reasonable results at O/L s & A/Ls could not find employment.
This was the background that led to the thought that activating the Mercantile Sector was the answer solving these problems faced by the game and propel it towards a more formidable position. The primary factors were (a) Drawing in sponsors and channeling financial resources for development (b) Provide employment opportunities to badminton players in the mercantile sector.
The task of forming the association was taken up by Ajith who was a Mercantile Sector Employee and the Sec: SLBA.
When working out the modalities of forming this new body it was revealed that the Mercantile Amateur Athletic Federation which was an umbrella organization had a badminton section (which was totally inactive) and a couple of meetings were held between Capt: Joseph Secretary of the MAAF and Ajith to clear the decks for the formation of this autonomous body. With much deliberation and using all the persuasive skills available, Ajith was able to convince the MAAF Secretary and in January 1982 the stage was set for the Inaugural Meeting.
The Formation of The MBA
With the MAAF position being cleared the next step was to summon as many Mercantile Sector Organizations possible for a preliminary meeting. The message was conveyed verbally to all known badminton players who were employed in the Mercantile Sector.
In addition, the membership register of the Mercantile Cricket Association was obtained from the tournament secretary of the MCA, Mr. Ainslie Cabraal who worked at Browns Group and the Secretary / Sports Secretary of each company in the list was contacted on the phone for a meeting on 13th January 1982 which was held at the Sports Ministry Canteen at Torrington Square.
This meeting was well attended with eminent personalities representing a large number of organizations.
Mr. P.Sivalingham chaired the meeting and briefed the gathering of the objective.
A subcommittee was formed to draft a constitution for the new body.
The following persons were appointed to handle this task.
- Col: Kamal Fernando – Brown & Co: ( Chairman)
- Mr. Ajith Wijayasinghe – Ceylon Paper Sacks Ltd. ( Secretary)
- Mr. T.P. Jayatunge – Bartleet Group ( Member)
- Mrs. Stella St John – Gemini Group ( Member).
- Mr. Ravi Kuruppu – Whittal Boustead & Co: ( Member)
The task was to get the new association formed before 31st March 1982.
The committee had periodical discussions, and guidelines were taken from the constitution of the Sri Lanka Badminton Association and The Sports Law. As the Secretary of the Sub Committee as well as Secretary SLBA, made Ajith the pivotal point in getting the constitution drafted. It should be recorded with appreciation the valuable advice given by senior officials of the SLBA , namely Mr. P. Sivalingam, Mr. Colvin de Silva, Mr. B.L.R. de Silva, Dr. R. Vigneswaran.
The Sub Committee finalized the draft within record time and was ready to convene the Inaugural Meeting and the date was fixed for 20th of February 1982.
The same procedure was followed to notify as many mercantile sector establishments as possible, and the meeting was held at the Canteen of The Sports Ministry.
A notable feature was the “Draft Constitution” which was handwritten by the secretary and photocopied for circulation(At that time IT facilities were not available and typing such documents in organizations was difficult).
In the presence of very large gathering, the Mercantile Badminton Association saw the light of day on 20th February 1982.
The following office bearers were duly elected.
- Mr. P. Sivalingam – President
- Mr. Eraj Wijesinghe – Vice President
- Maj: S.J. Weerasena – do
- Mr. Raja Molligoda – do
- Mr. Ananda Alahakoon – do
- Mr. Vijitha Perera – do
- Mr. Gamini de Silva – do
- Mrs. Stella St John – Secretary
- Miss. Priyanka Arachchige – Asst: Secretary
- Mr. Themuth Jayatunge – Treasurer
- Mr. Palitha De Costa – Asst: Treasurer
- Mr. Ajith Wijayasinghe – Tournament Secretary
The Committee was entrusted with the task of –
- Obtaining Affiliation to the SLBA.
- Organizing the Inaugural Inter Company Team Championship