16 May, 2022

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Chelvanayakam’s 124th Birthday: The Need To Honour Him With Transparent CMS Administration

By John Devadasan –

Yesterday was the 124th Birth-Anniversary of SJV Chelvanayakam, the late Tamil leader, fondly known as Thanthai Chelva. About 7 events were held in Jaffna to commemorate his birthday. As we remember him, it is fitting to honour him by ensuring that the CMS that produced him is also honoured by making it transparent and accountable, insist alumni of the school including myself. Two of yesterday’s events were by the Jaffna Christian Union (JCU) – one at 9:30 am at the Methodist Church’s Trimmer Hall and the other at the Anglican Church of St. John the Baptist where SJV would have worshipped while going to school next door at St. John’s College, named after St. John the Evangelist. Most churches sent representatives.

The two events were new for the JCU because previously the Anglican Archdeacon for Jaffna, the Ven. Sam Ponniah, allege members of the JCU, had some bees in his bonnet against Jaffna people. He had discouraged the event for the last few years. This event yesterday took place after a gap because of a new Archdeacon who is into social justice. So the theme at the two JCU events was getting out of the current economic mess.

The event at Jaffna Central College had the Jaffna VC as speaker and the occasion was one for aggressive Hindu expansionism, say those who attended, in stark contrast with the values of Thanthai Chelva.

The two JCU events reflected Thanthai Chelva’s commitment to an inclusive society. The speaker at Trimmer Hall was Mr. Selvyn, a retired Roman Catholic education official who was quite up to date on all dimensions of the ongoing economic crisis – exchange rate, the shortage of goods, the drop in exports and agricultural produce, the policies of officialdom that hurt farmers with price differences between markets 10 km apart, paying fees at the market based on what they bring in and then allowed to sell only a part after paying for marketing all that they bring, etc. He demonstrated mastery over the subject of his speech. As a result, his 2-hour talk was most interesting.

The 4 pm event at St. John’s Church followed by a discussion in the church hall, was better attended because it was a working day. Notable was the presence of SJV’s grandson, Chandrahasan Elangovan and TNA heavy-weight Mavai Senathirajah who came with his son. The former diocesan Bishop of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India, The Rt. Rev. Dr. S. Jebanesan, gave the memorial talk. The church would have been regularly attended by SJV when he studied at St. John’s College, making the setting especially fitting.

The disappointment was that except for the Chaplain and Curate the Rev. Fr. Daniel Jeyaruban who directed the service, not one staff member was present from St. John’s College or Chundikuli Girls’ College, an annual event where the late principal S. Thanapalan was a force behind it. It reflected the lack of interest in society in the schools, an interest that had been the feature of the school for generations and a hallmark of the school’s products. The school is going through an upheaval according to an old-boy present. Academic standards are in free fall in terms of university admissions. The principal comes to work at 10 am showing the need for his close supervision by the school manager. And the Church Missionary Society (CMS) exercises unfettered authority and appointed a manger for the first time who does not live in Jaffna as if to give the Principal a free hand. He also appears to have no university or school experience. Even as the Supreme Court repeatedly declares that there is no such thing as unfettered discretion, SJV’s alma mater, the Bishop of Colombo (Dushantha Rodrigo) and CMS authorities are giving free rein to their tendency to appoint housewives to the CMS Board with few knowing who is on the Board and no announcement when vacancies exist for stakeholders to make nominations. Thanja Peiris, Chairing the CMS like a tinpot dictator, makes it function like a secret society. She wrote, “The appointment of the Managers of our CMS schools are by the Governing Body. We do not entertain or call for recommendations.” Her grammar reflects the drop in CMS standards. And there is no transparency or accountability in its governance. Ms. Peiris herself has no teaching experience and no university experience. It is as though she does not want anyone more qualified under her. And yet she governs some of our best schools with more qualified principals. The school’s alumni are very upset that thy were kept out of the process of appointing a manager, and feel the appointment of someone based in Colombo for the first time is to strengthen the principal’s lacklustre hands when he needs supervision.

Thanthai Chelva would roll in his grave as a man who stood-up against injustice and arbitrary decision-making. So would James Hensman whose English referred to below by bishop Jebanesan is done violence to. Thanthai Chelva’s alma mater and the CMS have been appointing to its bodies people who have only professional qualifications nothing to do with education and honourary doctorates that are improperly used to title themselves as doctor. In one instance the then Bishop Duleep de Chickera’s PA’s wife whose studies stopped at the AL was appointed to the CMS to supervise high powered Principals. To hide all this there is no CMS website to expose who is being appointed. The new manager of St. John’s has a “doctorate” from St. Andrews University International in Madras which on its website advertises an instant doctorate in one day,

You would be eligible [for an honourary doctorate] if you are focussing on a life platform for the past 15 years in a concept to be server in the society. […]

So call us to receive your Doctorate TODAY.

That surely is not a role model set by a school for educating children that gave us SJV Chelvanayakam, King’s Counsel.

Bishop Jebanesan in his folksy way, told us during his homily:

On 26.04.1977 SJV Chelvanayakam passed away at the Jaffna Teaching Hospital while receiving treatment. He who had injured his head after slipping and falling after breakfast had been receiving treatment for a month. Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister, M. Karunanithy had sent the famous neurologist Dr. V. Ram but to no avail; Thanthai Chelva passed away in his 79th year.

Thanthai Chelva was born on 31.03.1898 in Malaya. At the age of 4 his mother Annammah, with him and his two brothers, returned to Tellippalai so that they might receive a good education. Memories of his father, James Velupillai were always predominant in the young Chelvanayakam’s head. Thanthai Chelva would always enquire of his father whenever the opportunity arose. During the Second World War Christian Ministers were scarce in Malaya. When the father passed away it is worthy of note that it was a Saivite friend who arranged for the funeral by Christian rites.

Chelvanayakam’s education that had begun in Tellipalai continued at St. John’s where most Principals came from Oxford and Cambridge and passed on their values to the young Thanthai Chelva. I must note two of his experiences at St. John’s. The Principal at the times was Jacob Thomson. Two of his sons had perished fighting in the First World War. Governor Sir John Anderson brought the medals awarded posthumously to the sons to St. John’s to be given to the father. The boys assembled expected the principal to cry when the medals were put on him. But the Principal was so stoic that it formed a strong impression on Thanthai Chelva who took on that stoicity.

As for the second incident, this was the time that James Hensman studied at St. John’s. The knowledge of the English language, grammar and speech imparted to James Hensman, stood him well. He was the son of Velanai Naganathan (the name taken by E.M.V. Naganathan upon reverting from his family name, a founder member of the Federal Party and grandson of the first Anglican Tamil priest from Jaffna, John Hensman). James Hensman went on to become Professor of English and Principal of Kumbakonam College in India. He taught English to Srinivasa Shastri who is said to have corrected Sir Winston Churchill’s English.

From St. John’s Thanthai Chelva continued his studies at St. Thomas’. There he came to be associated with S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and Dudley Senanayake, among others.

After school, by his own effort, Thanthai Chelva became an Advocate and in 1944 was elevated to King’s Counsel. He entered politics in 1947, joining G.G. Ponnambalam, then considered the uncrowned king of the Tamils. At the time Thanthai Chelva contested for Parliament and was elected MP from Tellipalai.

The year 1947 was a major turning point in Thanthai Chelva’s life. That year the United National Party brought in the Indian-Pakistani Citizenship Act. He quit the Tamil Congress which supported the Act and formed the Federal Party. From 1956 when he was returned to Parliament as a Federal Party MP, to the time of his passing away, he was considered “the Saviour” of the Tamils.

Thanthai Chelva had all the attributes expected of a great leader. This included Stamina which was declared indispensable to a leader by US President Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower. Thanthai Chelva was repeatedly cheated by Sinhalese politicians. Some Tamils were his most savage enemies. Many Muslim politicians left his fold. But he never lost his stamina in persisting in his efforts for and on behalf of the Tamil speaking people.

SJV had much political wisdom, and embraced and included young legal minds of his time, besides law students.

Born a Christian who lived to the end as a Christian, Thanthai Chelva had full faith and trust in God. It was his habit every morning to wake up early and pray on his knees for the needs especially of others. Being rooted in principle was his most treasured quality. He firmly believed that federalism or confederation afforded the best protection for his Tamil people against Sinhalese inroads.

It was the late Bishop Sabapathy Kulandran who once asked him whether the Saivites may not turn on and treat Christians cruelly under such a set-up. Responded Thanthai Chelva, “Indeed I know that it is inevitable. However, that should not stop me from doing the right thing. When a man is assiduously engaged in an effort, supposing one questioned him while his efforts were on those outside his family, ‘What would happen to your wife and children if you were to die?’ His reply would be, ‘Right now my job is to save those who are drowning.’ Likewise is my own response to questions over my dedication to my people’s drowning political life.”

It is now being asked what has been achieved by this great leader. In a political firmament filled with comics and cheats, if there is one man who walked as the representative of absolute truth, it is Thanthai Chelva. Prior to his advent in politics, the Tamil-speaking peoples were like a gunny bag of nelli (Indian gooseberry) whose ties came loose. We were scattered like such nelli let loose, divided by caste, religion and region. Thanthai Chelva’s dedication and straight forwardness stilled the voices of these divisive forces. Batticaloa MP Chelliah Rajadurai would begin his speech saying that he greets Thanthai Chelva prior to his own mother who gave birth to him. That is how he united the fissiparous Tamil tendencies.

It is 44 years since Thanthai Chelva gave up his life. The dream of federalism or confederation that he lit in Tamil hearts will never be snuffed. One day, surely, the Tamil people will achieve that dream.

The service was followed by an animated discussion led by Thanthai Chelva’s grandson Ilangovan Chandrahasan on the economic problems confronting us. Mavai Senathirajah gave a fascinating account of the Tamil National Alliance’s negotiations last week with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He described how they, the TNA, had asked for Tamil lands to be not settled by Sinhalese. The President had responded in dissembled surprise that he had stopped all that, and that it is no longer an issue. Mavai thereupon told the President of the 2000 acres East of the Palali Airport, the temples being taken over etc. The line by Mavai says it all about how sincere the government is: He expressed shock that settlements were still ongoing. But it was a dishonest expression of shock.”

The question was put as to whether there is any hope of the government being driven out just like Dudley Senanayake was forced to go with the Rice Hartal in 1952. Because of the role played by the army today, no one was prepared to gainsay the possibility. While going home, the hope of that possibility was kindled by the news from the President’s house in Nugegoda-Mirihana: Bus carrying soldiers set afire, police fire tear gas, STF opens fire, 9 persons including journalists injured, curfew in Colombo.

Hopefully the 6.9 million people who voted in the President have developed a new perspective, and the president will go the way of Dudley, said a retired gentleman attending the event, expressing his hope.

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Latest comments

  • 10
    6

    SJV we call Thanthai Chelva fulfilled the two commandments of Jesus: Love God with your all, Love your neighbour as yourself.

    I remember how we felt like one big Tamil family when he was around we would like a family gather around him in great silence. There was a peace about him which calmed us all. He gave us an identity though we felt lost after the 1958 murderous riots, and the abandoned and exploited estate Tamils had a friend in him.

    May be King’s Counsel later QC, SJV Chelvanayagam should have been the Anglican Bishop. The Tamil Christians would have had an identity in their church. A true role model embodying the teachings of Christ and spending his family money.

    Sadly the Anglican leaders appointed by their Bishop to Jaffna are specifically those who have by choice renounced their Tamil identity, Sam Ponniah and Thanja Peiris are now fully Sinhalese and the new manager of St. John’s is now Chinese and their families don’t connect with us Tamils. The Bishops’ appointees did not enter university when they well know that is the total focus in Jaffna.

    Bishops knowingly choose such to add insult to injury to the Jaffna Christians and ruin us.

  • 11
    5

    SJV we call Thanthai Chelva’s secret was there was always positive thoughts in him like his saviour and a burden for the oppressed in his heart. Thanthai fulfilled the two commandments of Jesus: Love God with your all, Love your neighbour as yourself.

    I remember how we felt like one big Tamil family when he was around we would like a family gather around him in great silence. Children would be brought just so they can see a great man. There was a peace about him which calmed us all. He gave us an identity though we felt lost after the 1958 murderous riots, and the abandoned and exploited estate Tamils had a friend in him.

    May be King’s Counsel later QC, SJV Chelvanayagam should have been the Anglican Bishop. The Tamil Christians would have had an identity in their church. A true role model embodying the teachings of Christ and spending his family money.

  • 9
    5

    Sadly the Anglican leaders appointed by their Bishop to Jaffna are specifically those who have by choice renounced their Tamil identity, Sam Ponniah and Thanja Peiris are now fully Sinhalese and the new manager of St. John’s is now Chinese and their families have chosen not to connect with us Tamils.

    The Bishops’ appointees did not enter university when they well know that is the total focus in Jaffna.
    Bishops knowingly choose such to add insult to injury to the Jaffna Christians and ruin us. They will serve Colombo well.

    Naturally Sam Ponniah and Thanja Pieris will appoint their friends as Principals of St. John’s and Chundikuli who do not even show up at church saying that is the only day they can sleep on Rs. 3 lakhs a month salary each.

    No wonder the Jaffna Protestant Church is dead says the Sinhalese Historian, Prof. GPV Somaratne.

  • 18
    3

    Yes, Chelva was a man of Peace.
    .
    Would be lost today. But why not this guy as President of Lanka when he is a few years older – only 31 right now. Fluent in all three languages.
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Sd-mPCChLA
    .
    People have to be blunt!
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela

    • 4
      18

      Sinhala_Man,
      “Yes, Chelva was a man of Peace.”

      You must be kidding!
      He is the master mind behind passing ‘Vaddukkodai Resolution’ that contains a manufactured history of Sinhale to justify the bogus claim ‘Traditional Homeland’ to create a separate State within Sinhale, declared war against the Government of Sri Lanka and Sinhala Nation, urged Tamils to take up arms and fight until they achieve their objective of creating Eelam that led to the formation of Tamil terrorist outfit LTTE that massacred Sinhala Buddhists for three decades to grab land belong to indigenous Sinhalayo to create a separate State for Demalu (Dravidians) in Yapanaya.

    • 2
      1

      He called the current situation in Feb and said that PTA will be used against the Sinhalese.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_znAAmM0UU

    • 12
      1

      There’s Internet anarchy at this moment. No Youtube programmes have been getting opened for the past ten hours at least. In any case, with no electricity half the time, there will soon be a stop to all electronic communication. The intricate details, I don’t understand, but after all, even smartphones have to be charged.
      .
      That being the case, let me move my comments to the bottom of the pile as it now is.
      .
      I’m a baptised and confirmed Anglican – that’s a factual position. Where I stand now, is a pretty complicated subject, but I think that it is important, not just for Anglicans, but for this entire country to know the truth. I have read the article, and there is much that I have to say, but let most of it wait till Sunday or even Monday. What I have to report is a lot of cheating – and some of you will definitely remember that I have had much to say on that subject; how sad! Time to reveal!
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela (National Identity Card no. 48 3111 444V)

  • 4
    21

    Chelvanayagam who is the father of separatism ruined Sinhale, the Land of Sinhalayo and Vedda Eththo.

  • 10
    2

    Part 1
    I am appalled as a Johnian. It seems that what the Principal Thuseetharan needs is K. Pooranampillai (formerly Principal and later the Manager) known best as Bond for doing rounds of the school all the time to ensure order and timeliness. When the Principal comes at 10 am, will the teachers and students also not follow his example?

    Transparency and accountability are of essence for people to feel ownership of our church institutions and want to contribute. Bishop Dushatha Rodrigo who claims an MBA should now this. He seems to follow another dimension of management which says to get the best performance, those entrusted with work must not be interfered with. It is true only so long as they are functioning by the rules and selected competitively. Now however, church institutions are failing. They are unable to get anything right because the church looks for yes-men/women. The bishop is so trusting of his lieutenants that they are bilking the church and benefiting from the Bishop’s laid-back management.

    He has to explain how people who failed university entrance are at the helm of our schools and Commissions. They ensure that no one qualified is allowed to come forward.

  • 9
    4

    Part 2
    Bishop, is the article true about the CMS? Did Bishop Chiekra really appoint his PA’s wife whose schooling stopped at the A. Level to the CMS? Did you really appoint an overnight-doctorate without degrees as manager of St. John’s? This alleged “Dr.” Dhanan Senathirajah runs a church in Colombo (Christian Community Church) which is well known for “sheep-stealing.” Is it physically possible to manage a church, manage World Vision in Colombo and manage effectively our school is Jaffna? It seems to show that there is no work to be done when you make these appointments, and that is why the church is failing.

    We must be told who is on the CMS Board making these appointments. If you are appointing qualified people, you should have nothing to hide. Our ignorance allows the church to appoint your favorites lacking qualifications to manage qualified school principals. I dare you, Bishop, to list the members of the CMS Board and their qualifications to manage our best schools. Why hide that information from us unless that will let on that even OL- and AL-qualified people are on the CMS Board.

    What is CMS Chairperson Thanja Peiris’ qualification to manage our schools? Has she ever been a teacher? Has she ever been even a clerk in a school?

    I will have my trust in you restored if you can answer yes.

  • 15
    0

    Food for thought for the Lord Bishop of Colombo
    Cristian Mendoza Ovando, 2020, “What kind of transparency for the Church?” Church, Communication and Culture, Vol. 5(2).

    Operational transparency can help citizens see that action is being taken on their behalf and the process is in place. It can help restore an organization’s reputation especially if, from time to time, corruption scandals appear and it seems that little or no effort is made to eliminate them.

    The challenge is to disclose not only the specific actions in place but also to show all the problems present in a certain institution.

    Society in general expects transparency from the Church. There is an expectation of transparency, and a deliberate sense of trust needs to be increased across the Church. Moreover, the goal of corporate transparency is to keep up with the moral authority of an institution, … The Church, whose mission is mainly spiritual, when she loses moral authority, [has] almost nothing left that legitimates her action in the public square.
    Transparency plays a key role for preserving moral authority, as no one would make their corruption transparent.
    (Extract from a letter to the Bishop by Dushyanthi Hoole)

  • 12
    2

    Questions to the Lord Bishop
    Who is doing our liturgy revision? Are they particularly qualified? Why are their names not public?

    You are going to print and comments must come by the 30th, but you did not distribute it to lay persons. Are we in a theocracy?

    I, together with Fr. Steven Jebachelvan proposed a resolution 3 years ago to revise the faulty Tamil liturgy because descriptions of God are deliberately altered. God is called “Without holiness.” Our resolution was passed with near unanimity. The then bishop gave his assent. Then you and he sat on it as if to save face for the author of that vulgar liturgy who had failed his OLs. We Tamils were forced to call God unholy! After three years of your somnolence, why the sudden hurry to print?

    How come the new liturgy is full of mistakes after your experts approved it for printing? Who are your experts? Do they have expertise or were they selected to give them expertise for promotions planned for them?

    We want transparency and accountability in our church The Church is for all of us, not just for favourites. It is not only for the academically weak who when appointed will say yes to everything and carry out your bidding.

  • 13
    1

    I have read this entire article. Funny, it seems mostly concerned with the Tamil identity of Anglican Christians.
    .
    I’m concerned that under the guise of Christianity there has been cheating going on which is unworthy of any life form, and I will have much to say about Bishops from the saintly (my view!) Jabez Gnanapragasam to the present rather ineffective Dushantha Rodrigo. The worst of the lot – Dhiloraj Canagasabey. All this will be substantiated. Some of it will profoundly shock devout Christians, but certain facts have to be faced because some of them will explain what is happening to the country as a whole.
    .
    I hope that Colombo Telegraph will realise that and allow it all to come in.
    .
    My comments will be found under all sorts of articles, e.g.
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/anarchy-or-an-orderly-alternative/
    .
    and my using a pseudonym doesn’t mean that I’m anonymous.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 483111444V)

  • 14
    2

    Thank you Mr. Edirisinhe. No one doubts that you are for real. We need people like you who will tell it as it is, even when family members are part of the rot.

    I recall reading in these columns from you your revelation that your brother who crashed his O. Levels badly was put by the Church on the STC Bandarawela Board.

    It is now clear that Dhanan Senathirajah a miserable failure in his ALevels as confirmed by two of his classmates at St. John’s — he and his brother did very very badly they said — has been appointed Manager of St. John’s by Thanja Peiris of the CMS whose qualifications are no better.

    Is it not people like this Senathirajah who acquire “one day” honorary doctorates like from St. Andrews and strut around like peacocks calling themselves “Doctor”? They somehow have to make up for their failures in early life.

    Dr. Senathirajah may earn large sums at World Vision, but what we want at St. John’s is close supervision of the tardy Principal from someone in Jaffna who will not try to steal our sheep as Senathirajah is doing on behalf of his Pentecostal church of born-agains. We want a manager who knows the importance of education when parents at our two CMS schools openly say they want their child to pass the grade 5 scholarship exam to shift them to Hindu College or Vembadi! Unheard of!

  • 7
    1

    Sinhala Administration? Amazing Pattern

    Basil Rajapaksa, we are merely told on his Wikipedia page, “He had his secondary education at Isipathana College and Ananda College, both located in Colombo.”

    Did he pass his OL or AL?

    That silence tells me that he failed at least his AL or they would claim it.

    He is now the finance minister!

    Is there a pattern here? The Anglicans are doing the same thing. Secretive about qualifications. Vacancies not announced. No role for stake-holders. Then people without qualifications appointed. People without doctorates wearing the title Doctor.

    It is like Rajapaksas’ cabinet appointments.

    I wonder what the academic qualifications of the bishops are. People without qualifications want people without qualifications under them.

    The Sinhalas claim they are the true Sri Lankans. Tamils are welcome only if they become Sinhalas.

    The Pentecostals like Mr. Senathirajah claim on their YouTube that to be Christian you need to be born again like him. Is this not like what the Sinhalas say? If you want to be part of us, you must change sides and join our church. Or you are not Christian.

    I see a pattern. It is the style of Sinhala administration.

    It ruined the country. It is now ruining the Anglicans.

    I am a Johnian but I am glad I am not an Anglican under these people who do not understand good governance.

  • 10
    1

    Re the letter today from The Rt. Rev. Keerthisiri Fernando, Bishop of Kurunagala: “A Report on the Current Situation in Sri Lanka”.

    What caught my eye is:

    The way forward in this regard will be to devise accountability at all levels and to bring production to the country. In terms of politics and the rights of citizens the present government has over the years showed its inability for good governance but rather cut deals to secure their own power and stability.

    I remind the Bishop. You and Bishop Dhilo Canagasabey determined to make ours a national church where one of you would be Archbishop. It was put to the grassroots in Jaffna, Colombo, etc. It became clear that the Anglican grassroots did not want the extra diocese it takes with diminishing numbers. Tamils especially felt safer to be under the Archbishop of Canterbury as we are. You brought in a team of outside Bishops to convince us but once they realized our mood, they lectured us, talking down. You then decided to ram it down from the top through Canterbury and bodies you controlled.

    There is no accountability in our church. Set things right. Then preach to the Rajapaksas.

  • 11
    1

    Dear Jaffna folk,
    .
    The news this morning is good, but we owe it to simple folk who took to the streets. How different from what I must necessarily relate of what I know of corruption in places where the respectable would never have suspected it.
    ..
    Mr CGDavid, I have not been able to place you at all, but it is my intention to get some rest and write about it all this afternoon.
    .
    It is 9.00 am, and I haven’t slept all night – just at the computer. Thanks to Mr John Devadasan, who has written this bold article. I must do my bit now to give as accurate an account as I can. Mr David, what you have said is more or less correct, but it actually is even worse.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela

  • 6
    1

    I am very disappointed. Our school has been hijacked by Colombo-based church officials including the Bishop who are using the school and the church to promote favorites who seem to have no loyalties to Jaffna.
    Except for the author of the article and a few others there is no righteous indignation from Johnians. Our school surely is a football for Colombo folk and ex-Jaffna folk trying hard to be Colombo folk.
    I have Johnians speaking to me in whispers about their complaints against the administration. Is that the scaredy-cats we have been brought up to be by the school and the Church that gave us Thanthai Chelva?
    Johnians– wake up, before our school is completely destroyed as students move to Hindu College because it is academically now superior

  • 1
    10

    Am I exist to label you as an unworthy sinner?

    Am I gossip to praise you as an pundit of God-Business?

    Will history forgive the advocation of unethical understanding?

    Will memory forgive the dictatorship of colonialism and neocolonialism?

  • 9
    1

    I owe it to future generations to expand on what Mr CGDavid has said above, and it has to be done quickly since cut-off time nears. So here goes. First the “ya da da”:
    .
    PART ONE
    .

    There presently are four colleges of S. Thomas which are governed by a Board of Governors:
    .
    https://www.srilankalaw.lk/Volume-VII/st-thomas-college-board-of-governors-ordinance.html
    .
    That Ordinance can be changed only by an Act of Parliament. The effect of this Act is to stipulate that 80% of its Members shall be Protestant Christians. In accordance with that Ordinance, the Board has made rules to guide its operation. These rules can be changed by the Board itself:
    .
    http://www.stcg62group.org/PDF/College/05_Rules_of_STC_Board_of_Governors.pdf
    .
    What is necessary is that Fifteen Members of the Board must be selected/elected according to the Rules. You will see that only five are elected, just two by the Branch Schools at Kollupitiya, Bandarawela and Gurutalawa. The rules that apply are the following: 1.4, 1.5.1, 1.5.2 and 1.5.3. The operation of those Rules is clumsy, whereas the Mt Lavinia School elects three Members, two from the OBAs, and one from the Mt Lavinia Staff, and no major problems have been encountered.
    .
    No Educational Qualifications are stipulated.

  • 9
    1

    PART TWO
    .
    It is true that my only brother, Mr Mithra Edirisinhe, knowingly got himself cheated on to the oard of Governors, twice, in 2012 and 2016. To see how that happened we have to go back a little:
    .
    The Old Boys are usually aware of the Rules, the Staffs are mostly kept in ignorance. In the year 2000, Upali Panditharatne was proposed as a Member of the Board by the Gurutalawa OBA, and was duly elected by the “Electoral College”. If you get confused by any of this, please take a look at the relevant Rules. I can’t now remember who was put on the Board to represent the Staff. The practice was for the three Heads of the schools (referred to as “Headmasters” to engineer this Staff Representative Election. He had to be a Christian and a member of one of the three OBAs.
    .
    Upali initiated a gentleman’s agreement whereby the schools ensured that Board of Governors Representation would be according to a roster. Accordingly, it became the duty of the Bandarawela school to nominate somebody in 2004, and Kollupitiya in 2008.

  • 6
    1

    PART THREE
    .
    There was this complication, which I will mention, but didn’t really matter. There were certain upheavals in the Gurutalawa OBA in 2001, which resulted in Upali Panditharatne not being viewed with much favour by that OBA. In 2004, Panditharatne was nominated by the Bandarawela OBA, thus. The Bandarawela OBA conducted a poll to select a nominee. There were two candidates, Pandithartne and Christopher Gonawela. The members of the Executive Committee of the Bandarawela OBA voted, and selected Pandithratne. It was decided by them to nominate Gonawela as the Staff Representative.
    .
    There was only a gentleman’s agreement and Gurutalawa nomnated somebody else to show disapproval of Panditharatne, but didn’t press the case with Kollupitiya. So, in Mach 2004, Panditharatne was elected OBA Representative, and Gonawela as Staff Representative. The practice was for the three Headmasters to select two pliant Staff Members and send them to the election, normally conducted at kollupitiya by the Secretary to the Board of Governors.
    .
    So, from 2004 to 2008, Panditharatne and Gonawela were on the BoG – not for those Branch Schools only, but for all four, including Mt Lavina.

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    PART FOUR
    .
    In 2008, Suren Gunewardena, of the Kollupitiya OBA was elected, as OBA Representative, as per the gentleman’s agreement, and Merril Aluwihare was elected Staff Representative. With regard to the latter, the following development took place:
    .
    I’m glossing over certain facts now to get this done!
    .
    Rev. Marc Billimoria was the Headmaster at Gurutalawa, and I was a Staff Member. I was summoned to be one of the “pliant Staff Members” representing Gurutalawa. I was asked to take along a Mr Nesaseelan and go to Colpetty to elect the Staff Representative. This was when I began to understand how this system was working. I looked at the rules and said, “no. Marc and I couldn’t sit in the Principal’s office and decide this.”

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    PART FIVE
    .
    So, a full Staff meeting was summoned, and the position was briefly explained to the Staff by Marc. The Staff was asked to select two of their members to represent them at the election. They were told that Gonawela had indicated that he was a candidate, (we didn’t know that the other two Headmasters had agreed on Aluwihare as the Staff Representative), and so would the Staff approve. Silence, followed by suggestion that Nesaseelan and I be sent down. There was normal school for two days more, and there were no objections. A slight improvement on what had prevailed!
    .
    Well, we went down to Colpetty, imagining that Gonawela was the approved choice of Kollupitiya and Bandarawela, but then, we found that it was Merrill Aluwihare, and so the wishes of Headmaster Cassie-Chetty and Chandrasekera, respectively, prevailed.

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    PART SIX
    .
    Now comes the crucial development. Upali Panditharatne died about 2010. He was no longer on the Board, but this became crucial when outrageous cheating took place in 2012. It was claimed, at the election in Kollupitiya in 2012, by Bandarawela Headmaster, L.A.M. Chandrasekera and Mithra Edirisinhe, that Panditharane was nominated by Bandarawela in 2000. and by Gurutalawa in 2004, and so it was now the turn of Bandarawela. All those participating from Bandarawela in 2012 knew that this was a lie. Mithra had actually been one of the Bandaerawela OBA ExCo Members to actually vote for the nomination of Panditharatne in 2004. Documentary proof emerged, and is now with me.
    .
    I was not really much bothered by this development, being concerned mostly with Staff Representation, but the Gurutalawa OBA was furious. Bishop Dhiloraj Canagasabey promised to set it right, but nothing was done by him.

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    PART SEVEN
    .
    I had a one to one meeting with Dhilo and told him also that my brother, Mithra had no qualifications whatsoever. He never sat his O. Levels. He entered Gurutalwa in 1955, and left from Form five (Grade Eight as normally understood in Sri lanka) having passed twice and failed three times in five years.
    However, that doesn’t really matter. I don’t know how that Gurutalawa academic record of his took place. I’m five years younger, and entered Gurutalawa only in January 1960. Mithra is intelligent and practical; had there been a proper election, I don’t think that Educational Qualifications would matter.
    .
    On a quite different sort of election, I disagree with most, who say that Buddhist monks should not be allowed in Parliament. It’s best we don’t vote them in, but you can’t surely take away the civic rights of a law-abiding individual.
    .
    I’m almost sure that CT will stop accepting comments about now. Please google these two words: “Thomian Pharisees”, to discover articles written by me.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 483111444V)

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    Since comments still seem to be open may i explain a little more of the background.
    .
    W.T. Keble, an Englishman, had come to S. Thomas’ as a teacher in 1923. S. Thomas’ had started in 1851, in Mutwal, one of the best residential areas of Colombo. It was near the harbour. The advent of steamships, and the resultant pollution from coal dust, made Mutwal a less desirable site, and the school moved to Mt Lavinia in 1918. When Mr Keble arrived, it was the only S. Thomas’ school, headed by a man, always till then a British Anglican priest, and administered directly by the Bishop of Colombo. The Board of Governors was established in 1930, to broad-base the administration, but the school remained firmly Anglican. So was the somewhat older Royal College, which had been set up by the British Colonial administration.
    .
    Mr Keble was resourceful and adventurous, and had a keen interest in the education of little children. He therefore started the school in Kollupitiya, closer to Colombo than Mt Lavinia, in 1938, to educate students only up to Standard Five.
    .
    This site has been helpful to me in refreshing my memory:
    .
    https://www.stcb.edu.lk/about-us/past-headmasters
    .
    tbc

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    The Bandarawela school was started by Keble in 1942. The two Preparatory Schools were more or less his private property, and he governed them as he pleased, with the Headmaster in Kollupitya being his employee. I’m now only trying to explain; absolute accuracy not claimed for this section.
    .
    My father, David Nicholas Edirisinhe, was from Baddegama, educated at Richmond College, and then a very good primary teacher in the mission school in Tangalle, Christ Church College, where the Principal was a Mr Samuel, from Kerala, India. He married Mita Lenis Dissanayake, in 1941, and my sister, Damayanthi (lives next door in Bandarawela) and my brother, Mithra, were born in Tangalle. My father’s close friend, R.H. Moses, long connections with Trinity College, Kandy, moved up to the Keble’s Bandarawela school and, my father moved up here in 1945.
    .
    Recent anecdotal evidence confirms that the mother of the Hoole Brothers (they need no introduction, do they?) was a Senior School Maths teacher, under the same Mr Samuel. After retirement to India, a trip by Mr Samuel to Ceylon about 1967 has had both Rajan Hoole and me meeting him, separately, and remembering his hearing aid

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    I have no personal memory of my birth, but my Birth Certificate, states that I was born in the Preparatory School. Keble and Moses were my godfathers – there will be a baptism day photograph illustrating on of my Colombo Telegraph articles. Four daughters, and a son (who survived only for four years) were born later. By then, my father had moved on to this land where I now live, with Keble’s Farm Bungalow, being behind it. It’s proud owners are the one-time caretakers; I hope you understand how brilliantly we’ve been taking care of properties.
    .
    Mr Keble was sensitive to the political changes of 1956, and he migrated to Vancouver, Canada, in the same year. My father was the Acting Headmaster for two terms, and then served under the new Headmaster, Mr Paul Raj. The two Prep Schools now came under the Board of Governors. My father remains the only properly appointed, by the BoG, Deputy Head, of this school. His designation was “Senior Master”.
    .
    My father was only 53 when he died of a botched appendicitis operation in 1963.

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    My widowed mother (she lived till December 2007) was entitled to a government pension, but never got it, thanks to the haphazard record-keeping in the school. I think that it is necessary to stress how ad hoc administration was even then.
    .
    With my father’s death, one month after I first met Michael Ratnarajan Richard Hoole in Gurutalawa, chaos descended on us. I stopped trying to compete with Rajan in Maths, and focussed on reading the most advanced literature in the Gurutalawa library. Most of my sisters (all started in the Prep Schooi, ended up at CMS Ladies’ College, Colombo) studied more sensibly.
    .
    A new Headmaster, Mr S.L.A. Ratnayake took over the school in 1964. It is impossible to overestimate his honesty and dedication; however, it is also necessary to stress that his obsession with expanding the school changed the character of the Keble school. The Kollupitiya school has changed less.
    .
    A. Level classes were started; English was begun – and floundered. Only two students have ever sat A. Level English; that was in 1981 – nobody since then. I took over the teaching of the two students; one received a B pass, the other an S. The students came to my home in the evenings, with the blessings of the Headmaster. Current Headmaster, Rev. Christopher Balraj, was in the same batch of students, so hi has to be aware!

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    My brother, Mithra’s, glittering career at Bandarawela began almost as soon as SLA R. took over. He never taught, but he was efficient in the discharge of all assignments that he was given, relating mainly to maintenance and the running of the hostel. He became the Secretary, referred to locally as the “Deveni Mahattaya”. In the absence of properly appointed Deputy Heads, other designations like “Supervisor” have acquired exalted meanings, found nowhere else, in the school.
    .
    Hob-nobbing has become an art cultivated in the school. In 1990, Bishop Jabez Gnanapragasam told me that he knew the extent of “empire building” within the schools.
    .
    As for me, since, despite my academic bent, I was refusing to study “normally”, I was destined to become a Maharagama Trained Teacher of English. Then, in 1978, to escape family pressure to study Law or Accountancy, I began commuting to Colombo every week-end for two years to sit my External General Arts Qualifying Exam: English, Western Classical Culture and Philosophy. Such things were to my liking, and that is how I came to teach those two boys A. Level English, before entering the University of Peradeniya to read for an English Special Degree.

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