22 July, 2024


Belief In The Worth Of Teachers At S. Thomas’ Colleges

By Panini Edirisinhe

Panini Edirisinhe

Panini Edirisinhe

There has been much recent discussion of the role of Private Schools and their place in the social fabric of Sri Lanka. The touching story of the Kuliyapitiya Boy, Rahul, clearly illustrated the effectiveness with which a private Anglican school was able to resolve an issue that the country was agonising over.

These Anglican schools are among the best in the country, yet I see them beset with many a vexed question in their running. The greatest anxiety appears to be regarding the staffing of these schools. The school at Mt Lavinia has the fewest such problems and I see this as being because there is a neat and clear system of administration. The OBA is active and has two members on the fifteen member Board of Governors, while the Staff elect one member. How these elections are to take place is clearly laid out here.

These are rules that can be changed by the Board itself, but it is good that they are rarely tampered with, although my intention is to draw attention to some sections which need, urgently, to be changed.

The very special role that these schools used to play is reflected in this Ordinance which can be changed only by An Act of Parliament, and amending it is hardly ever considered.

S. Thomas' Colleges, GurutalawaIn early January 2016, the Staff of the College at Mt Lavinia unanimously elected Mr Channa Asela de Silva, as their Representative on the Board, with no interference from the Administration. There often is a contest for this election and only an Anglican who is not an employee can be elected. This year, nobody ran against Channa who had been an exemplary teacher of Mathematics and had retired early to continue his teaching privately.

Long before the Annual General Meeting of the OBA on Friday, the 13th of February, all members of the OBA received profiles of the six proposed and seconded candidates. The conduct of the elections with printed ballot papers, ballot boxes etc. could hardly have been improved upon.

However, there have by now arisen a multitude of problems over how the three Branch Schools elect two Board Members to represent them – one to represent the three OBAs, and the other to represent the “Tutorial and Administrative Staffs” of the three schools. The OBAs are at least conscious of their rights, but the Staff Representatives have always been “appointed” in questionable ways, although “the election shall be by secret ballot”. I had been discussing the conduct of these elections informally with the present Bishop of Colombo even before he had been formally inducted.

The elections for the Branch Schools this year were pushed back almost as far as possible, to “The Ides of March” (the 15th of March 2016); the new Board Members are to serve four years beginning on April Fools’ Day. I wrote formally to the Bishop, the Secretary to the Board, and the three Headmasters, “with copies to the staffs of the relevant schools” as long ago as the 23rd of November, stating that I could be considered a candidate, and asking what procedure was to be followed. I kept inquiring from the Headmasters on various occasions, but there was no official intimation of any sort.

The Headmaster of the Gurutalawa school is currently overseas, and he held the elections very fairly and impartially in early February 2016. It now appears that they alone, for the third successive time, held an election transparently and by secret ballot. I happen to live very close to the Bandarawela school, and I kept trying to persuade the Headmaster to have proper elections; those he promised but refused to divulge details. There were three declared candidates: Mr Chrishmal Warnasuriya, Mr Christopher Gonawela, and myself. I have spoken to both the others today, the 16th of March, and we are all agreed that our primary goal was not our personal election, but ensuring that the contest was conducted properly.

When I consulted a leading lawyer, who, like me had been a student in three of the four Thomian schools, on the 1st of March, he told me that I couldn’t define myself in to being a candidate, and that at this election, given the poor wording of the Rules, only the voters had rights. I immediately wrote to the Headmasters in Bandarawela and Kollupitiya telling them that given such an interpretation of the Rules, I would patiently sit it out for them to conduct fair elections.

The Headmasters of all three schools are Anglican priests and I have met them all and cordially discussed these elections with them, but I regret to state that it was only the election at Gurutalawa that I was satisfied with. I have a particularly affable relationship with the Headmaster at Bandarawela, but now it is with his “performance” that I am most dis-satisfied with.

When the e-mail I sent him got returned, I sent him a text message. As a measure of the inexplicablity of his conduct here are the texts of two Dialog sms messages:
Friday, 04/03/2016 4.20 p.m from me to Fr Christopher Balraj (his mobile number:+9477xxxxxxx):

“Please check ur email address. What I sent you 2 days ago has bounced & no sign of delivery. Also the school website seems inaccessible. Not really a complaint.”

His response from the same phone on Saturday, 05/03/2016 at 8.15 a.m.

“All email with school Managed by moratuwa uni has been blocked by SLT because the uni has not made the payments due to SLT I am told”

I am currently in Colombo, having left Bandarawela satisfied that a staff meeting was at last being held, on Thursday, the 10th March, to decide the election in a fitting way. Alas, many members of the Bandarawela staff are now furious. They had been told that Board Member to represent the staff had to be elected, but that the Bandarawela school would merely follow the lead given by the other two schools. Two delegates had, however, to be nominated. The Secretary to the school, a retired non-commissioned officer of the Airforce, agreed to represent the Administrative Staff. As for the Tutorial Staff, senior teacher after senior teacher, when requested to go, absolutely refused to go, saying that they had seen farcical elections enough during their service, and that this time they wanted a proper election. Finally, one of the few Old Boys on the staff had agreed to travel down to Kollupitiya on the Ides of March.

Reports I now receive suggest that there’s even more fury after the staff heard what had happened. It had been the Secretary-delegate, who had proposed the name of a man who had never been known to be a candidate, although the mandate he received at the Staff Meeting had been to agree to what came from the other two schools. Kollupitiya seconded. Gurutalawa just looked foolishly on. Obviously, making things even worse was the fact that a man with absolutely no academic qualifications (no, not even O. Levels) has been named the Staff Representative!

I have already received a protest letter sent by one of the other “declared” candidates and I have spoken briefly with both. Where do we go from here? I just don’t know; at least we can console ourselves that this reflects many other things in our world today!

I have been as objective as possible and avoided naming names. However, if any reader were to pose questions I shall respond with as many details as I am certain of. As Old Boys (aged ones, really), we desire no more than seeing the current teachers of the schools treated with respect; and I, for one, will not be satisfied with less!

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Latest comments

  • 1

    Is PRABATH JAYASUNDARA accepting the election as rightfully conducted and is agreeable to accept the position at the BOG as the OBA representative of the branch schools?

    I don’t know if Prabath is following these posts but I hope someone known to him is following and will ask him this question.

    Why should the OBA representative election be considered unfair?

    1. As per the Board rules those who are eligible to vote are the three Senior Vice Presidents and the Secretaries of the three OBAs. Obviously this didn’t happen on the 15th of March. There had been only one Senior Vice President thus making the constitution of the electoral college invalid.

    2. With only one eligible voter present either the proposing of Prabath as the nominee or seconding is not valid.

    Will PRABATH JAYASUNDARA as a true THOMIAN gentleman refuse to accept the position based on above or will he be greedy to accept the position ignoring these facts? Or is he too a part of the conspiracy?

    • 4

      Dear Viraj,

      Prabath is NOT following any of this, although he had read through my article. NO comments read by him.

      If, and when, the the Board invites him to a meeting, he will attend. He is NOT interested in all the politics and the legalities. I wish I, too, could be like that. However, he appreciates what I have done.

      Please write your article!

  • 5

    The intention of Rule 1.5.2 is clear. The Staffs of the three schools must exercise their joint wills to elect somebody who “will look after their interests”.

    In the selection process their will should be supreme.

    While that much is clear, it is true that, as with all representative elections, the day after the election process is over, the value accorded their votes is gone. I, myself, have warned them of this. There was a two page e-mail, I’ve just counted the words in the body of the letter – 730. It went to all the important administrators AND to the three staffs. The same, acceptable, message to all.

    I’ve writtenan article: my comments are far too long. Please, Viraj Kariyawasam, write an article on this subject yourself and put it on CT. I can then respond at length, the way Old Codger has.


  • 2

    Doesn’t Prabath have any shame?

    Knowing very well that he was elected through a very fraudulent process and knowing very well that the OBAs would not recognize him as their representative on the Board how can he accept the position? Is he a politician by any chance?

    Shame… Shame…. Shame… I really regret to note there are ungentlemanly Thomians..

    • 4

      Oh, another point. This OBA election was the a no-contest one, that is why nobody bothered to attend. However, please note comma of both the B”wela and the Gurutalawa OBAs of the need for a serious approach and I told Prabath that he was going to represent all three schools. You are fortunate to have a man like him.

      You have yet to prove, that you are a man of Honor or of courage.

      Your article, please.

    • 4

      Really, Viraj! Shame trice over! What for? What has Prabhath done? He’s not even following all this, just waiting unbothered for all this to be resolved by idiot Old Boys like us!

      Viraj, I’m pretty sure that the name you coined is a play on the Education Minister’s name. Why don’t you tell us who you really are, and what you do for a living?

      Shame is what the cheating clerics should feel! Fr Christopher, the Headmaster of the Bandarawela school is a decent man, and yesterday, I could feel that he felt ashamed of what he’d done.

  • 2

    Dear Viraj,

    I respect most of the sentiments you have expressed. However, having received the letter that Chryshmal has written to the Headmaster of his school, I realize that you have been from the beginning been collecting information for him. I am dictating this into a tablet, which is why I’m using the minimum number of proper nouns.

    Instead of all this bluster, please write an article. It is unethical of you to force me to answer your questions. Fraudulent is definitely the wrong word to use. Prabhath will be only too glad I’m sure, I broke the branch School positions. He heads a very successful engineering consultancy firm. If the board calls him, he will attend a meeting. However, I have learnt from different sources that the bishop is in Zambia, and that neither of those “elected” on the Ides of March has been summoned for a meeting yet.

    All those, elected from the Mount Lavinia School, will be at the first meeting of the new board. This proves what I have always said. All 3 branch schools receive step-motherly treatment.

    Shame on you, Viraj. Having milked me for so much of information, it is now up to you to write an article. That sounds great I’ll buy you a valid, the legalistic rather than moral.

    If you are sincere, do not address any more unfair question to me. Be a man and write your own article, and then answer all the queries that are raised. You guys are cowards!

  • 5

    Panini Edirisinghe

    I can only have a hearty laugh for what you say. If you think nobody from the OBA was bothered because there wasn’t a contest you are totally wrong. Further your reasoning for the Staff Rep election to be faulty is totally wrong too. Basically you have proved to be a “Kohedha Yanne Malle Pol” guy.

    I will not be bothered to waste my time any more on this as I have already found the avenue where there are people who are well versed on this matter unlike you who doesn’t seem to know what you are talking about.

    What ever you may tell Prabath, please understand that he is an elected representative by foul and unfair means.

    • 8

      The only conclusion I can draw from this whole saga (and the fact he has still not replied my initial post) is that Panini Edirisinghe does not seem to know what he wants, feels that he alone of the candidates is fit for this post, has a high opinion of himself because of some assumed superiority in the English language, and really doesn’t know what is going on other than making assumptions about people who are posting here. What is the point in him asking people to write articles? I am beginning to think Casie Chetty was right – he really is not the sort of chap you want on a board of governors.

  • 6

    Old Codger Redux

    Exactly. I have met and spoke to quite a few people who know Panini and they too are in the same view as you. Yes. Casie Chetty was right – He really is not the man to be on the Board.

    Thank god this man didn’t get appointed as the head of any of the Thomian schools.

    • 0

      Thanks, Viraj.

      Seen only after posting my response to “Old Codger Redux”.

  • 7

    Dear Old Codger Redux,

    Ouch! I saw your comment yesterday, and it hurt me. I know what I want: to ensure that future generations have teachers who can guide them effectively, for which purpose we must make the profession attractive to young people.

    There certainly are many things that I don’t know, that’s why I have appealed to people to tell me. You came out with a lot of basic information, and some of it was even before my article appeared:


    That comment of yours I think gave me the courage to go public with this article published under my own name. And then came that wonderful long comment from you, which inadvertently got posted twice.
    Throughout I have expressed fulsome gratitude for that. See especially my comment made as Panini Edirisinhe on March 24, 2016 at 10:26 am. Some comments have come under my “Sinhala_Man” pseudonym mostly because that acts as the default on my tablet – but I don’t think that misled anyone.

    I know that there is one subject which I have not dealt with at all (and there is a reason that I will come to shortly):

    I think that you and I exchanged comments on some of these Thomian problems five years ago in the Sunday Leader. Unfortunately, they have disappeared from view, owing to this:


    I now find that a few survive here:


    After all that, in perhaps early January 2012, I came to know by chance that Board elections were scheduled once more. You have given a pretty accurate account of what happened leading up to the election of Merril Aluwihare on the 22nd of January 2012. Aluwihare and I went at each other quite a bit (I think some of it may have been on the net with me using pseudonyms, but much of it in e-mails which generated more heat than light). Suddenly, he sent me an e-mail on Sinhala New Year’s Day morning in which he referred to some of my family for whom he had respect, but he said he couldn’t understand me. Since he was getting old himself, he said he wouldn’t carry out all sorts of threats, but he was getting old – “and May God bless you”.

    I replied: “May God bless you.”

    Somewhere above, in the comments, I have said this: “I will not dwell on why that failed, because the forces that prevented my appointement have now realised their mistake – and have repented.” It’ll take too long to identify it; I had copied and pasted it many hours ago.

    Since then, hostilities have ceased. I have not ever reproached him for all that went before; that was after he found that I was not a “conventional Anglican”. I had volunteered that information at my 1990 interview for Sub-warden. I just don’t dissemble. However, I didn’t want to put all this on the Web; it’s too personal, isn’t it? I still don’t know who you are. Very occasionally I trouble Merril on the phone: I did so last morning before you commented, and referred to you, saying that you had said much that was useful, but I still don’t know who you are: he just won’t tell me. Shouldn’t we realise why and let that be?

    We all have our imperfections, but I now realise that Merril was probably genuinely shocked that a boy brought up as a good Christian had developed doubts; on the other hand, he himself has probably changed: I didn’t really KNOW him then, he seemed an ogre who was determined to snuff me out – which happened at the Guru-B’wela Headmaster interview when Geethal Mendis was (obvious to all) disastrously selected for Guru, and Chandrasekera for B’wela. The latter was as disastrous in my view (but Merril remains faithful to his memory even now). We avoid discussing that too much, but what is acknowledged by ALL is that Chandrasekera cheated two members on to the Board in 2012. For Staff Rep. that was always the system, until I initiated change in 2008, and behaved like a bull in a china shop in 2012. Perhaps that is sometimes necessary.

    I remain different from Merril, but I now realise that his motivations are genuinely Christian – at least now. How can I respond to events I don’t know about?

    Anyway, about a year ago, Merril told me that he would not contest in 2016 – time to retire. So, this time round I decided to be more circumspect, but my intention is NOT to get elected at all cost. The other two “declared candidates” visited Guru before the extra-early election, and I didn’t. A few days before the Ides of March, I realised that I had come last there. However, I knew that the actual poll took place properly there, and I applauded that!

    Complicating matters further was the fact that Rev. Christopher Balraj, the Headmaster here, is genuinely a nice man, and impressive as a quiet and humble priest and preacher. I just didn’t expect such outrageous and foolish cheating. Foolish because it would inevitably make it difficult for him to command the respect necessary to run the school. I will not be so selfish as to add to those difficulties, or to precipitate dangers for the teachers who, on Thursday, the 10th, March 2016 had the courage to speak out. Tomorrow there are Easter Carols at 4.30 p.m. in the school. I will go, but not speak to the teachers. I may place them at risk. Fr Christopher used to be affable, but may ignore me. What more can I do?

    How can I possibly write about what I don’t know? I’m so grateful to the Liverpudlian and to “Kollupitiya Kolla” for they’ve told me – and to you Old Codger. As for Viraj, from the beginning it was clear that his interest in this was complex. I then began to think him honest, but please study his last comment. Quite unjustified. Prabhath Jayasundera will contribute his Engineering Consultancy Skills to help the schools, but he will let things get resolved. He’s NOT going to fight his way in. Anything wrong in that? His personality is different from mine.

    It may be that Viraj, like Chrishmal, is a lawyer: well let him contribute his legal skills where it is necessary – now and for many years to come.

    No, I do not believe that I “alone” am “fit for this post”. And we do have a teacher, at last, on the Board – Channa Asela de Silva. But he’s from Colombo – I think. I haven’t met him yet.

    It MAY be that I am better suited to represent the Uva schools – and Kollupitiya Kolla seems to think that the teachers there are not aware of their rights, either. Chrishmal may be able to obtain those rights for them. Fine. Where have I even implied that the other “declared candidates” are unsuitable? I feel that I will understand their PROFESSIONAL needs better. LET THE TEACHERS DECIDE!

    As for the “winner”: three days after the elections, Merril urged me to accept the result, and asked if I would visit his home on Palm Sunday for lunch – and if I approved, he would invite the winner, because he said that brothers should not fight. I asked what the ground rules were: he said no discussion of the past. I said, O.K., provided I could maintain my stand on things that are still issues, and matters of principle. That was approved, and so you will find me NOT getting personal after Palm Sunday.

    Dear “Old Codger Redux”, I have to recognise that the 1930 Ordinance stipulates that the Anglican Church has control of these schools. I agree that all clergy are human, and have their faults. I have known Dhilo for a long time, but that does not mean that we are close friends. He is an “Evangelical”; I’m sure that when he accepted the episcopate he sincerely thought he could tackle the problems that seemed to exist. Now they are proving too difficult, I guess. The solution is not to cheat, though!

    Rowan Williams is a fine and brilliant man; his premature resignation a Archbishop as Canterbury showed that the Anglican Church will not tolerate Liberals.

    This document has got on the Internet; I don’t know how, but it is not possible to give a clickable link; at least I don’t know how. Please copy and paste in your browser.

    “Illegal Appointment of a Principal Panini Edirisinghe”

    I can only say that I have gone public as much as I could. None of the six clerics involved in all this cheating can be absolved of all blame; but they may have thought they were justified in so acting. And I have acted in ways that all of you have to decide the justification of.

    As for “assumed superiority in the English language” I don’t know what to make of that. You say that you’ve met me. Some find me “weird” they say. I don’t know; I was born in Bandarawela, NOT in the metropolis. When I entered the University and wanted to read for an English Special degree, Prof. Halpe wanted to give me yet another test, despite my outstandingly good external GAQ results. I think that it was because I said that I’d been teaching in Maha Vidyalayas here. His attitude to me changed fast when he got to know me. I’ve been a loner since my father died in 1963. I was 14, my brother 19. I learnt a lot of my English from the BBC, apart from Oliver de Soysa at Guru being an excellent teacher. Prof. Thiru Kandiah, the High Priest of Sri Lankan English also thought me odd, but we still correspond. I used to say that his SL English was a tyrannical standard since it had to be learned in the Mt Lavina hostel in the 1950s – that’s where he was then. Judge for yourself! I remain what I always have been; a villager, as Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam said on March 17, 2016 at 6:01 am – see above:

    “Thus spoke the two year Thomian, AKA “Sinhala Man”. Before you could attack me, I wish to state that I am a fourteen year Royalist.” I find cut and paste creates problems! Beg forgiveness.

    Explanation for that:


    I have been harsh on him:

    “YOU are the racist with whom I crossed swords a few days ago after you claimed that Tamils had intelligence superior to the Sinhalese.”

    I can’t now find that earliest exchange. I was asked by a Bandarawela Thomian, who is now a Professor in Manchester, to be kind to him, and I have tried to desist from provoking the man.

    Aren’t you all sick of me?

    But problems remain. That is why I say that somebody else must now take over. Old Codger Redux, I don’t know if all this amounts to an explanation of sorts. But I have done!

  • 9

    Panini Edirisinghe.

    Casie Chetty was right then. You are fully exposed now. It’s better you remove yourself from all matters related to S.Thomas’ and look elsewhere. You certainly have become a huge joke especially among the teachers in the Thomian schools.

    • 3

      ” a huge joke especially among the teachers in the Thomian schools. “

      Your substantiation of that statement, please! The feedback that I’m getting is somewhat different. It may be that neither set of reports is complete!

      By the way, teaching is not an easy job; why is it that you didn’t take to it?

  • 7

    It is a little sad that Panini has gone on a vendetta to oust Rev. Marc Billimoria from STCG some years back on the basis of him not having the requisite 10 years teaching qualification. This is overlooking the fact that Rev. Billimoria was on the staff of STCML from 1991 to 1999, during which time he taught me as well. I am not sure how this (plus the time he spent at STCG) does not add up to 10 years. In reality, I cannot see at all why one actually needs to be a teacher to head a school in the modern era. What you need to be is a savvy businessman, whilst knowing how to hire the best teachers.

    • 4

      Yes, it’s sad! I say it myself!

      This was the law of the land, introduced by Ranil W. I think that Marc is doing a good job at Mt Lavinia, and is suited to the work there. And he NOW fulfills all qualifications.

      The problem is with how it was all managed.

      I’ve forgotten the details, but was Marc actually at STCML for a continuous period of eight years? I thought that I had to be honest enough to draw attention to the fact that all these things were fudged. Please don’t dwell too much on this issue.

      Let us now focus on the right of teachers in the Branch Schools to have representation. Marc did well to allow a clean election at Mt Lavinia.

      Komisiripala, I’m glad you read all that!

      • 5

        Yes, considering I saw him week in and week out for all of those 8 years, I would say he was indeed. How come I didn’t see you even once during that same period Panini/Sinhala Man/Daya/Elderly Thomian?

        • 4

          Dear Komisiripala,

          I have gone out of way to commend the role played by Marc in the selection of BoG members this year; please let me continue to praise the good in him.

          Like all of us, he may have had his weaknesses; he has actually overcome many of them. If you can’t get at my contact details (I have scattered lots of clues), I suggest that you ask Marc himself. We could engage in some constructive discussion; I sense that you have a sufficiently serious interest, and also, you sound fair-minded. The same goes for “Old Codger Redux”. He may not have realised that after his stinging comment on me, I have posted what I feel is an adequate response to him.

          When I made that complaint in 2009, it was after exhausting all other options. I was sure of my facts; I’m not going to start digging them up now, unless their are choruses of demand. Included in that 8 year period when Marc has claimed to be teaching, is the 3 or 4 years when he was supposed to be on study leave in Pune University. Even then, 8 years is NOT 10 years.

          Are we nit-picking? Yes, the Law often has to do that: lines have to be drawn. There are also “respectable” ways of getting round them. I have told you that Ranil W. introduced the Rule, but I have not indicated why. I think that WE know: not just me! However, we cannot prove it. He disliked one of his early teachers – Ralph Alles, and got him out of D.S. Senanayake College in 1982. Alles became Principal of Zahira, Maradana. He had enough years – but not the other qualification – a University degree. Quite petty, yes! You do know that the final application of this law was in the Eksith Fernando case, don’t you? I could e-mail you the judgement which I downloaded for free. It is very necessary that the pros and cons of such things be discussed.

          A pupil’s view of his teachers is rarely objective or reliable; so, to you, Marc was fantastic. I regard Marc as being pretty good, but I saw faults, and I pointed them out. However, what is in question is how he was appointed. Let me not expatiate further.

          However, let me also tell you that your first comment incorporates many fallacies that I will be dealing with in an article that I will write in a few days; but I will not be launching a personal attack on you. The insincere Viraj Kariawasam has provided me with plenty of ammunition!

          However, please try to contact me, and perhaps, we could spend half an hour with Marc discussing some of what I have said in all sorts of places – but never anonymously! Remember, it’s I who provided you with ALL the material. Surely, you know that there is room for improvement at S. Thomas’.

          Now a response to one rather naive question that you have asked me: a point that I have made is that most of my association has been with the two Uva schools, and I have worked as a teacher mainly in State Schools. Any problem there? I’m sure that you’ve seen what “Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam” had said. Others have told him what’s what!

          To respond to Viraj Kariawasam would be to insult ourselves! The election of Prabhath Jayasundera was bungled by the three OBAs, and the Headmasters (who are the Ex-officio Presidents) are to blame for that, too. Apparently the “Letters of Appointment” to the two members elected on the Ides of March haven’t gone out yet, and Prabhath is not bothered about it. I called him only once after the elections; he had read my article but not any of the comments. He asked me to keep him informed of anything significant. I have not called him since then – since there’s nothing that is significant to a guy like him. His main contribution is likely to be as an excellent Construction Engineering Consultant.

          My contribution is as a teacher, even when considered a non-entity! Thus these comments.

          I hope that you are the wiser for reading all this; it would be nice for me to be liked by some – but I don’t mind being hated for telling the truth. Best Wishes!

          • 1

            Panini aka Sinhala Man

            I think you are correct, and it is good that you raised this issue on a matter of principal (although I do not strictly agree that 10 years teaching experience is necessary to run a school – we are not talking about running Eton or Harrow here, and it is more likely that someone with a good corporate strategic background can place the necessary people into the roles to ensure that teaching is of high calibre while focussing on fundraising and developing the school).

            On that note though what teaching experience (or for that matter corporate experience) do either the present heads of the Bandarawela or Kollupitiya schools have? I believe the Gurutalawa head has been teaching school divinity for several years. Is it a plan by the Bishop to exercise control? Should you not be querying these with equal zeal or have I missed the teaching experience component of theirs.

            • 2

              Dear Dayanath,

              Thank you so much for bringing seriousness, realism and concern to this “debate” that is now dead because few can be spotting this ancient blog. Your sane comment will give me the impetus to launch on another article where we can focus on these issues.

              Let me reserve my attempts at thorough analysis for the questions that I hope you will pose when I write some later articles, hopefully far removed in context from Thomian politics.

              In Ceylon, it was long the practice to grant appointments to people who knew some subjects and get them to teach using common sense. Thereafter there was close monitoring of work by those in close proximity to the school – parents, village elders, etc – all very informal, but regular and friendly. Then came the take-over of thousands of schools by the State in 1962, and schools became “employment opportunities for unemployable graduates”. Yes, I mean “thousands” – so many schools were being run by Buddhist Associations, and by the Methodist Church, in particular of things by now forgotten. I mean schools which we Thomians would have referred to as “Goday” and “Gamey”.

              This article has arisen from a specific event – namely the “Ides of March Election”. Let me confine myself to that and the specific question asked there.

              Rev. Christopher Balraj is the first Old Boy of the Bandarawela School to have been appointed Headmaster. He and his brother had attended this school for twelve years each (correction of little details will be gratefully accepted), being quiet, uncontroversial, well-behaved students. I knew the school fairly well at that time, since I myself was teaching “elocution” in the evenings to a few small students – we’re talking here of boys between the ages of six and ten, in school, after formal lessons were over; also, a few older students, thereupon came to me and wanted to be taught how to speak and do little bits of acting. I myself was trying to get a formal qualification (an ATCL – the lowest of the “Teacher Diplomas” offered by Trinity College, London). I welcomed any opportunity to indulge in something different from the regulation “government teaching” in the Bandarawela Central School.

              It so happened that I also taught two boys Advanced Level English (let me give you their names – Roshan Miskin and Tissa Liyanage). This is how it came about. The Headmaster, S.L.A. Ratnayake, had added classes upwards to a school that had students leaving after Standard Five (age 11 years, by December of any given year.) There was a good teacher in the school who had undertaken G.A.Q. studies (travelling to Colombo each week-end). He was asked to teach Advanced Level English (which the public erroneously referred to as “English Literature”). It took a year for the results to come; when they did he had failed all subjects (I’m giving you bare facts – please respect the need that there will be later to skirt round some details that will be irrelevant to this discussion, for example for the name of that teacher – who was, and is, very respected; but he has not progressed beyond that point academically). The poor man was devastated, and I was asked to teach these two boys at home if they came to me. That was the 1982 A. Level exam. To date, nobody else has sat English since then from this school!

              My qualifications were no better! I had just sat the same GAQ (please ask what that meant, if you are in any doubt), but had got (for the three subjects) an A, and two Bs. There was going to be a very long wait for admission to Peradeniya University, as an internal Undergraduate on study leave. I was also travelling again to Colombo, every week-end, to do my ATCL (Speech and Drama – Teachers’ Diploma), with Wendy Whatmore, who was tickled by the idea of putting a “Maha-Vidyalaya-teaching” thirty odd year old father of two from Uva, with some guys in their late teens, living in Cinnamon Gardens, and attending S. Thomas’, Royal, Ladies’ and Holy Family Convent. Anyway, after two hours at Wendy’s (No.5, 13th Lane, Colombo 3), I used to gravitate regularly to the British Council Library.

              So, I taught these two guys, regularly bringing them the best reference material, and maintaining regular discussions with my GAQ teacher at Aquinas, Mr M.I. Kuruwila. I hope you get the picture: Saturdays in Colombo getting the best available advice in the country (much of it for free), and passing it on to these two 18 year-old boys, classmates of Christopher Balraj, whom I didn’t then know, in Bandarawela. Also providing them with the best books on each sub-topic, got from the British Council, Colombo. How little I earned didn’t matter! I was earning a reasonable amount from my classes for little kids in S. Thomas’, Bandarawela, in the afternoons.

              As for Rev. Balraj, his experience in teaching has mainly been lecturing in various aspects of religion at the (Protestant) Theological College, in Pilimatalawa. NOT school teaching. He is also enviably fluent in Tamil, English and Sinhalese (I feel that his Sinhalese is better than mine!). Such knowledge is accepted by the Ministry of Education as “teaching experience”. They are very generous in terms of what they accept – and I have no problem with that. David Ponniah was also briefly my classmate at Mt Lavinia. His teaching experience was mainly in Aberdeen University, where, I think, he ended up as a Professor of Engineering. Not experience that is very relevant to Secondary School work in Sri Lanka. Shall we leave it at that, and discuss in terms of questions that crop up later?

              What is important is a serious interest in the work one is doing; scraps of paper and impressive write-ups as c.vs don’t really matter.

              I have met Rev. Dushantha Rodrigo a few times, but let me not hazard comments on him.

              Bishop Dhiloraj Canagasabey: like most priests he has a Bachelor of Theology Degree from Pilimatalawa; that institution, near Kandy, I have visited a couple of times. It is affiliated to the University of Serampore in India, and as such their degrees are accepted by our own University Grants Commission. That’s fine with me, if only one or two in the S. Thomas’ set up had such qualifications, and if they listened to others who had experience in other fields. But now we only have guys with experience in this particular field! Recipe for disaster!

              Of course, there are solid academics on the Board of Governors:


              There’s Prof. Dayasiri Fernando (Medicine, I believe), and Prof. Amal Kumarage, whom I know well. There’s a lot of information about him in an earlier response to a question somebody asked me. Amal just doesn’t attend BoG meetings since he considers them a waste of time. He’s doing much more important work elsewhere!

              Please look here to see how well they know him at Bandarawela!


              They can’t even get his name right: he’s “Mr Amal Kumarasinghe” at this moment of writing! They don’t seem to know that he has a PhD, or that he’s a Professor.

              So, yes; what we have is a Church of Ceylon with a membership of:


              Well, it says there 50,000. Actually, most priests privately grant that by now it’s fewer than half that number!

              But mere numbers don’t indicate the importance that the Church still has. I suggest that you watch these four minutes of YouTube and enjoy the Bach cantata playing in the background:


              There are little groups of decent and serious people discussing important issues – but probably being listened to by nobody; just as you have Panini Edirisinhe laboriously typing things which only five people are likely to read!


              So, yes, you are right; the Bishop is desperately trying to keep control – and that is, ultimately, the reason for rigged elections!


            • 1

              Dear Dayanath,

              As soon as I saw your comment I responded; as usual it’s much too long and has irrelevancies. Also one inaccuracy: Bishop Dhiloraj Canagasabey has a second qualification, higher than his B.Th; he has a Bachelor of Divinity qualification, which is higher than the other. I don’t think it so very significant, but it was an inaccuracy.

              I have now begun to realise that most of these qualifications emanate from the University of Serampore:


              I just don’t want to rush in to this. It certainly looks as though the thinking in this University, and in its Affiliated Colleges is tied up with Calvinism. I don’t want to be a fool who rushes in where angels fear to tread. I have misgivings, but I can’t possibly handle all this; however, hopefully, we could have more learned people going in to this whole area which at the moment looks grey to me. May I just make this one statement: I’m not a scholar of Theology or of Religion, but I’ve always found Luther a more attractive figure than Calvin. Even that statement I make with some trepidation: I just don’t know enough!

              But let me tell you what I know: Rev. Marc Billimoria at Mt Lavinia is a very urbane and cultured man. He has a First Class in History from Peune University. What I had heard of Pune is that it’s a place in India where most people speak fluent English, and I had assumed that the University there was an outstanding one. Now I find that there is an institution there also that is affiliated to the University of Serampore. You, yourself, will know as much if you follow that link that I have given above. Marc also was at Oxford, but that again was for a qualification in Theology. I’m hoping that somebody will give us a clearer picture of what was studied by whom.

              As for the Gurutalawa Headmaster, you are right in saying that his background is different. Most of his study and qualifications are those he obtained when he was a Roman Catholic Priest. I just don’t want to try to evaluate any of the qualifications of these Headmasters.

              Rev. Christopher Balraj has been working hard at a PhD, and I know roughly what it is: reconciling certain aspects of the Old Testament (which has accounts of “Un-Christian sounding violence”) with what we today understand as being “peace-loving Christianity”. Which University he is presenting this to is something that I just don’t know. I can only tell you that he is a very likable man.

              I know Rev. Dushantha Rodrigo by reputation more than personally. His reputation is good, but all this is vague, isn’t it? I may ponder all this and try to write something on this, but I don’t think that I should.

              I’d certainly like to see qualifications that are more secular than what I observe, but I realise how little I know. Let me hope that your query wakes a person who is more knowledgeable than I.

              I think that I must get down to writing my next article, but I think that I will focus just on the conduct of those two “Ides of March” elections.

              There should be no problem whatever about the ultimate election of Prabhath Jayasundera as the OBA representative. Incidentally, he has identified himself to me as a Buddhist. With regard to his election the only “problems” appear to be legalistic.

              On the other hand the Staff Rep. election certainly is morally outrageous.

              So, the bottom line is, that I will try to stick to the FACTS in the case of the “Ides of March” elections, in another article; if we are to examine other aspects of the “experience” that the Headmasters bring to their work, more persons with knowledge will have to take over from me, but let’s just see – later.

              Meanwhile, many thanks for raising the issues.

              • 3

                Panini Edirisinghe – having followed this entire comment saga and just read the last one, I look forward to your next article on the matter. Also, I do hope some justice prevails. It is not the personality selected for the OBA rep that matters (he may or may not be suited for the job) it is the sheer ludicrous behaviour of the board who time and time again appear to think they can get away with daylight robbery. Will the Thomian community finally say enough is enough? Perhaps, if the few crooked members of the board do not try and add dung to the milk pot before this all comes out.

        • 2

          Dear Komisiripala,

          There are two quite decent comments by you, but how come they have different geometric Avatars? Are you one person, or a group of persons? I am easily identifiable even when I use a pseudonym, and I think that all the facts that I give are correct. If I make a mistake, I acknowledge it, and even try to make amends. Why don’t you reveal who you are, and, perhaps, obtain my contact details form Marc? Discuss with me. It is NOT now my intention to discredit Marc.

          Very definitely he did not teach continuously from 1991 to 1999. I know that an attempt was made to claim that he was on the staff AND on study leave during the period when he was reading History at Pune University (and he got a First Class in that), AND he married Manisha Onawale (a native of Pune). All that while, was he teaching you?

          Your first comment is confused about the claim for years of service – and when? When he came to Guru he advertised himself as “Headmaster” (the Education Department has just one term “Principal”). He should have called himself “Acting Headmaster”. I talk direct to people! When I confronted Marc with this, he acknowledged that as “Acting Principal” [which is what he told the Department of Education he was] he should not have had a formal installation. And the beautifully done booklet for the Order of Induction – he acknowledged that he carefully edited and proof read it. Not a single printer’s devil in it – a good thing, that is, obviously. What I mean is, there is a streak of vanity in him – again, there are worse crimes!

          By the time he was appointed Warden, he certainly had 10 years’ experience. It’s guys like Viraj K. who are more likely than I to query whether “illegally” obtained experience is valid. Yes, I made him run the gauntlet; he may have learnt a thing or two in the process! Real life is never easy!!

          Guru is a place that needs an outdoor guy; unfortunately Marc with his heart problems was not that. He is much better suited to Mt Lavinia, and he’s doing a pretty good job there is what I feel. I intend writing another (short) article. This article is not likely to be seen by any except the initiated; that is why I am putting these comments here.

          Marc was always ambitious (who isn’t?). He was the blue-eyed boy of many “elite” persons – who wanted to see him becoming Bishop. Unlikely, because he has to be elected by (layman and) priests. Priests in Sri Lanka are trained at Pilimatalawa; while there, he was suddenly pulled out, and sent to Oxford. Immediate envy.

          Around 2006, Marc was contemplating migration to Australia – I don’t think that I’ve ever put the question to him direct, but keep that in mind while you read through this interview he had granted a few years later:


          It was Jacques Huyghebaert and I who rescued the school at Gurutalawa. Bishop Duleep and Marc wanted Jacques to run all the risks. Who was the “English priest” referred to above? My guess is that it was Puddefoot, who had already encountered his “Prince Harry problems”:


          That’s just one of many accounts on the Internet.

          Anyway, when Jacques H. took over the school on the 6th of Feb. 2007, he lined up the students and found that there were only 154 – I don’t have to refer any notes to check up on such facts. We’d been working so hard at it. By June there were 550 students. Marc then found the Headmaster’s bungalow not good enough, and for a few months he travelled from “Mount Frost” (for long the Bishop’s holiday villa) in Bandarawela. Jacques drove him to and from the school daily. For a full two years Jacques (a retired World Bank Finance Consultant) looked after the finances of the school, and there was a small operational profit. He took no salary. I worked there myself (for a pittance – and with no perks) for 18 months. The school was on a shoe string budget; some Old Boys scoffed that many students were the children of housemaids toiling in Arabia. Marc was (secretly!) entitled to return air tickets three times a year for family to Pune (airport Mumbai, of course!). Out of housemaid funds, shall we say? I don’t think that he fully exploited this – but still!

          Incidentally, here’s something for Marc himself to check on (I’m sure he’ll be looking at this SOME time): in that Mt Lavinia history of his (that very impressive tome by a young man) he speaks of how a van was gifted to Guru to ferry students at either end of school terms to “the closest railway station at Welimada”! If only constructing new railway lines was as easy as writing about them in books!

          Jacques is working again – in Goma [Republic of Congo – the area in which the largest species of gorillas are to be found]. We chatted on Skype today.

          When the school got going, many office bearers of the OBA wanted to take the credit for the revival of the school. The attitudes of both Marc and the current Headmaster, Rev. Nihal Fernando, have been ambivalent. It was with immense difficulty that I got Jacques membership of the OBA – and it was only after that was granted for the standard fee, that Jacques sported the OBA tie that I bought for him from the Secretariat in de Saram Road, Mt Lavinia.

          The ’62 Website is an amazing storehouse of all sorts of repositories:


          You can’t read all that! I suggest that you look at the 3rd “concern” in Letter L, from Peter (Weerakoon) to LJ, dated July 25, 2008. What flights of fancy these guys were indulging in while we laboured!

          I’ve always been blunt, straightforward, and consistent. Has anybody been able to come up with any tangible complaint against me? It’s not that I’m without faults, and some don’t like my guts! Actually, Marc is more likely than others to acknowledge that I have a few virtues! I am on the Guru OBA now – having refused to be Secretary – I know that I’m getting nearer my grave with each passing day! Also, I’ve been getting quite a few phone calls from the Bandarawela OBA saying that they realise that many of my observations over the past years can now be seen to be correct. I’ve not been much involved with the Mt Lavinia OBA.

          Yesterday I was at Guru for their “Big Match” with the Bandarawela school. I had a chat with Rev. Balraj, who said that we had to be “friends”. He’s a good man; and I certainly will always value him as a friend. But, I said a re-poll was necessary; he said it was not within his power. Implication: he knows that what had happened was not quite right, but now we have to wait for Bishop Dhilo to return from Zambia. Obviously, I’ve written personal letters to all these people. Resolving these issues away from the public eye is preferable to airing these things on CT; but note that I’m deliberately putting it where only those with a commitment to the school are likely to see it.

          By the way, why don’t some of my critics try to be teachers themselves? Infra-dig, is it? I say it again: one of the main reasons for me to be doing these things is to make the profession one which is respected, so that it attracts people of better calibre (I say this because so many denigrate those already in service).

          Why not try to believe me when I say that any intelligent person who enters a classroom would rather teach a good lesson than a bad one – if for no other reason than that it then becomes easier to maintain order among the students? Teaching is not easy!

          Also, dear Komisiripala, some of your comments about ” savvy businessmen” and “hiring” teachers are potentially controversial. On balance, however, my attitude to you, and to Marc, and to Fr Christopher is that you probably mean well.

          I also confronted the Secretary to the Bandarawela school, Mr Steevan Tambimuttu, with his role in cheating. He came up with an elaborate explanation which I told him that I could not believe. We were good humoured enough; he acknowledged that I was one guy who would tell him something direct, and not talk behind his back.

          So, forget the past. Let’s try to act honorably, and elect teacher representatives honestly.

  • 11

    Panini Edirisinghe

    I think you should just stop writing any more as the more you write you are exposing the true yourself and making you the biggest joker in the Thomian community.

    I’ve heard about Rev. Marc’s issue at Guru and how ugly a fellow Thomian behaved on that issue. Now it’s very clear from the comments above that it was you who were behind all this. Why.. again, going through all the comments above from you it’s crystal clear that it was your greedy ambition to get in one of the Thomian schools as the head, you tried to create a vacuum so that the the board in desperation will offer you the position.

    Panini you really are a disgrace to the Thomian community. I think after attempting to get into S.Thomas’ over so many years and failing you have lost your mental balance. Or are you mentally off balanced since birth?

    I was recently told that you have been chased out of the OBA committees of the three schools you were in. I doubt any other Thomian has such a record.

    I suggest to you once again “JUST LEAVE S.THOMAS'” It will be a much better place without cracks like you.

    • 1

      Coward Viraj,

      You have been asked many times by me to clearly identify yourself. You haven’t.

      This note is just to let other readers know that there are responses above yours which show that the Thomian community doesn’t agree with you. I don’t yet know what sinister forces are trying to cheat us, and all human values, but I’m sure that answers will emerge.

  • 5

    Panini Edirisinghe,

    The focus is moving else where. I think you need to keep the focus on issue on hand and keep away from talking of matters which are irrelevant. You are talking about your self than the issue in hand.

    Anyway, I have got some very reliable information. Both Colpetty & Bandarawela were originally of the stand that they will go with the representative nominated by Gurutalawa. However, your beloved brother had wanted to continue on the board and some in the board too wanted the man to continue. This is when the conspiracy was hatched. This is how the dark horse came into to the scene. You can probably try to talk to people and get more information on this and expose.

    • 1


      All that you say is very true.

      What I post next will focus only on the issue; I was not at any time happy with all the ad hominem stuff. If anybody tries to side track us when I put the next article on, I will put my responses here at the bottom of these responses.

      I’m just wondering what the title of the next article should be, though. CT has to be congratulated on finding that quite distinctive photograph of the Guru school for this article. The same would be all right for the next, or something from one of the other schools.

  • 6

    Panini Edirisinghe,

    I think your focus should be on the irregularities at the Board. The poor Headmasters being priests are not in a position to stand for what is right when they are told to do otherwise. This conspiracy was put in place by some in the Board and the Headmasters would have had to just play the game as instructed. So, I’d think concentration on the Board will be best for the article you are planning. You need to arouse the good ones in the Board to act. How about something like “All is not well not well at the Board that is S. Thomas'” for your article?

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