15 October, 2018

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My Reminiscences Of St. John’s College, Jaffna

By S.Sivathasan –

S.Sivathasan

A College celebrating her 190th Anniversary

To have studied at St. John’s and particularly in the fifties, may now be deemed a privilege and a rare one indeed. For the students of those years there was behind them a proud history of a hundred and twenty five years, a cherished heritage. It was in 1948 that the Anniversary was celebrated in a way that left indelible memories. I yet have a vivid recollection of all events of the three day celebrations organized with efficiency worthy of a great College. To match her history was a wealth of traditions built over the years.

For a school to earn a name and to spread her fame the quality of the teachers counts for much. Perhaps the single factor with the highest leverage. Successive Principals had displayed a remarkable capability in identifying talent and teaching ability in the selection of staff members. During my time most of the senior teachers came from the selection of Rev. Henry Peto, Principal from 1920 to 1940. He was liked and respected by staff and students alike and is said to have enforced strict discipline. Seeking to emulate the Principal were the teachers. Venturing to follow their high standards and moving in step was the student community. In the student body itself, in dress, deportment and character the seniors set the pace for the impressionable young. The final product displayed a polish, making them stand out distinctively. Academic performance seen through the prism of results at public exams and inter school competitions, enhanced further the image of the College.

Rev. J.T. Arulanantham was a worthy successor to the long line of British Principals that the College had from 1823 onwards. He had the advantage of inheriting a talented staff and had the sagacity to manage them with acceptance and thus retaining their services. He too recruited many teachers of eminence. In the late forties and early fifties quite a few were taken from Kerala for the Science stream. Their standard of teaching was of the highest. One among them appointed in 1947 was Mr. Devadasan who taught chemistry. He was reputed to be one of the best in the country at that time. Mr. R. Panuthevan appointed in 1954 to the Arts stream was one among the best of the Ceylonese recruits. He broadened the horizons of the students and produced excellent results. Several years after leaving College, he told me JT and PT Mathai were not just Principals, they were super, super Principals. An absolutely correct estimate. In administration they complemented each other like Nehru and Patel.

An outstanding teacher of English and Maths for nearly thirty years, a Vice Principal for four years and a Principal for another two years was Mr. P.T Mathai from Kerala. The College was privileged and the students were fortunate to have had his services. He touched nothing which he didn’t accomplish with perfection. With thorough self-discipline, he transmitted the same throughout the College. His commitment to duty and dedication to the College were supreme and these made him a lodestar to the staff and students. His year of retirement 1959 saw St. John’s sending the largest number up to that time. JT’s retirement in 1957 also saw the largest up to that year. Their achievements were a perfect tribute to their untiring effort. Strange enough they never congratulated themselves on their performance. This was self-effacement.

As good as the Principals were teachers at all grades. A quality characteristic of them was devotion to the College and dedication to their profession. Many of them made a lasting impression on their pupils. Mr. Thambithurai was Head Master when I was in the fifth standard and moved up as I went up. He dinned into us that we should not take anything for granted but should question the why and wherefore of everything. The ideal he placed before us was Socrates. He would also cite Isaac Newton whose   discovery of the law of gravity was sparked by the sight of an apple falling. What will you people do? Run to pick up and eat. A teacher who can be credited with versatility and a natural flare for clear exposition was Mrs. D.C. Arulanantham. She derived them from her intellect. In the Cambridge Senior she came first in the Island among girls. Mr. Sivaguru who came first among boys was also on the staff for some time.

In demarcating the field of study with futuristic scope, JT had a vision. His choice fell correctly on Science. His predecessor Peto was a Classics scholar from Oxford. My Father the first Hindu to be recruited, was to advance Latin rather than his other subjects Tamil and English. In the twenties and thirties and partly in the forties it was all important. To him leading a good life with a grounding in literature was fundamental. Correct idealistically but not appropriate to changing world realities. To JT good living had to precede a good life. He foresaw the changing pattern of employment avenues and his priority was science. It manifested in a fine well equipped Science Block built around 1943. It owed its architectural beauty to Mr. P.C Gaussen, the Vice Principal, a Britisher. He left College in 1946 and was succeeded by Mr. Sivapragasam who introduced us to science. The experiments were interesting and still better were his humorous stories. A senior teacher with long association in the Botany department was Mr. E.M. Ponnuthurai. His contribution to the College was great and varied. Recruitment of good teachers followed and within a decade results showed the Principal’s wisdom. In 1954 the College sent 11 students for Medicine, coming bracketed first with Royal.

With me and several of my classmates – Third Form C  of 1952 stands out in our memory. Three teachers made a lasting impression. Mr. T Jeyasingham was excellent in teaching science. Mr. EA Champion later Dr. led us through English at an important stage when we were getting on to spoken English. He plunged us into a debate on the hero in Julius Caesar and we argued for two periods. With that, fear of the spoken word vanished. Mr. S.S. Kathiravelu was very good in imparting knowledge of Tamil. By year end he said that when he saw the Sixth Form Tamil question paper he found that we had reached that level. So clear was his instruction and we had taken it in our stride. Such a class of 35 counted over 20 going to the University of whom 5 were Doctors, 4 were Engineers, 2 in the Administrative Service, 2 in the Foreign Service and 1 a Professor of Mathematics. They certainly owe a debt to the College. Once a teacher told us in class that our’s was rated the best in the College. What a keen observation by the staff.

It is said that a tree is known by its best fruits. Those who excelled in studies and sports, sustained that tempo in later life, achieved eminence and brought honour to the College. Foremost in this respect was Prof. C. Suntharalingam. The College can count a vast number who distinguished themselves in a range of coveted fields. Now a very large number could be identified in the diaspora in very many countries. In and about 1982, at the same point of time, Jaffna had a multitude of Heads of Institutions. Vice Chancellor Prof. S. Vithiananthan, Registrar K.C. Logeswaran, Government Agent Dr. D. Nesiah, District Manager Bank of Ceylon, Regional Manager People’s Bank, Regional Manager CTB, Medical Superintendent, Chief Engineer Highways, Assistant Commissioner Marketing and the Deputy Director Planning at the Kachcheri. Mr. V. Yogeswaran MP for Jaffna too was an old pupil. At the national level there were Heads of Departments. Four old boys consummated their career as Ministry Secretaries.

At all times the College enjoyed a high reputation for Cricket, Football and Athletics. In the thirties Mr. RR Scott was a legend for his all-round prowess. In the fifties four stood out for their achievements. Major General E. Thevanayagam, Mr. D. Canaganayagam, Mr. S.K. Mahalingam and Dr. M.B.J. Tissainayagam.  In the sixties Dr. Theivendram enjoyed a similar reputation. Sports events were always arranged with great care. The first discipline was punctuality which was treated as an index of efficiency. Prize Giving was always targeted for clock-work precision. An important item in the athletics meet was tea and most of the bites for visitors were made for several decades in teachers’ homes at their own expense. It was a labour of love towards the College and helped to strengthen their attachment. The best year in cricket was 1951, when all colleges were defeated by an innings though the final one was lost to Central. The best performance in Athletics was in 1952. In football the best match was with Kokuvil Hindu, the JSSA Champions in 1952, but defeated by St. John’s. What accounts for this? In all three fields the teams were coached by strict disciplinarians. The presence of teachers at all sports events boosted the morale of participants.

From 1959 when Mr. P.T. Mathai retired to this day, a fine balance is being maintained between discipline and student rights. In this regard the Principal’s character matters much, yet institutional memory too pervades. The immediate successor was Mr. A.W. Rajasekaram, who faced a formidable task on the financial front because of the Schools takeover in January 1961. The challenge became stronger still with societal diffidence and negative thinking. Those of a positive frame triumphed. Assistance from funding institutions, OBA Jaffna, OBA South Sri Lanka, the diaspora, mobilization effort of successive Principals and staff and prudent financial management placed the College on a sound footing. Success spread over half a century bespeaks relentlessness. Winning the Best Environment Friendly School in the All Island Excellence Award 2012, was no mean achievement.

Succeeding AWR was Mr. K. Pooranampillai. With his eye catching performance as Principal of Hartley College, Point Pedro, he was a clear choice for the management to make. With high principles and character, his personality left its mark. He was ably assisted by the amiable and respected Vice Principal Mr. J.T. Chelliah. When Mr. C.E. Anandarajan was appointed Co-Vice Principal it was known that he was being groomed to succeed KP. His tenure was marked by consolidation and steady progress. With vision and meticulous oversight on the work of all teachers and performance of students, he was seen by Jaffna as taking the College to great heights. After the turmoil from mid-1983 his energy was taxed to the maximum and he also emerged as a leader in society. He feared neither the military nor the police and rendered invaluable service to youth in travail. This was irksome to those who moved him away. His contribution was much valued and his demise was a loss to the College and to the community.

He was succeeded by Mr. T. Gunaseelan in very difficult times. He was pleasant at all times and affable. With explosions all round and some very close to his residence, his health suffered and he had to retire prematurely. Destiny brought Dr. E.S. Thevasahayam from Colombo to Jaffna. A former Teacher at St. John’s who later joined the UN offered his services at this critical time. To those who feared his safety he said, how can I remain in Colombo when my services are most needed at College. Through troubled times he steered the College with sagacity. In the IPKF onslaught the College was damaged and two wings of the Science Lab. were destroyed. He commenced work on a large three storied one and finished about 40% of the work before he left for Colombo. It was left to his successor Mr. S. Thanapalan to complete it years later.

The President of Sri Lanka H.E. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga converted the destructive nineties the most productive decade for St. John’s. A grant of Rs. Three million so graciously made by her in 1997, enabled the completion of the Science Laboratory in 1998 in time for the 175th Anniversary in May of that year. It also set the pace for more funds to flow in. A generous grant of Rs. Twelve million made by the Ambassador for Norway HE Mr. Jon Westborg through NORAD gave the College a new imposing Administrative Block. The building was declared open in 2000 May, by the Ambassador at an impressive ceremony. Incorporated in it was a Computer Unit for which Dr. Srikanthi Handy made a valuable contribution in memory of her Father Dr. GR Handy an illustrious old pupil of the College. The Block was beautifully designed by Navin Gooneratne a reputed Architect in Colombo. In this project he was ably assisted by his assistant a lady and both of them took great pains to do a perfect job. The architecture became the template for two more buildings.

Principal S. Thanapalan had the good fortune of building four impressive blocks and completing one. They were all done within a span of seven years. He had the temperament for shouldering a heavy load without showing any strain in an environment of the most unsettled times. In the programme of construction he had the devoted services of two senior engineers from the Buildings Department. Both of them were old boys and they made an honorary contribution by way of their expertise.

The Principal also had the privilege of organizing a three day celebration for the Anniversary. The first day saw eight events packed and executed at the appointed hour and minute. An event of note was the issue of the Anniversary Stamp which was cancelled by the Secretary, Ministry of Posts and Tele communications, Mr. K.C Logeswaran, an old boy of the College. It took a good part of his energy for nearly an year to do everything with precision. In these tasks he had the unstinted support of the Vice Principal, Rev. N.J. Gnanaponrajah. A very worthwhile addition to the College ten years ago was a new block of ten classrooms. This was a contribution from Dr. Thevasahayam and family members in memory of his Father Mr. Eliyathamby who was Head Master in the forties.

Groomed in the tradition of physical transformation of the College is the incumbent Principal Rev. Gnanaponrajah. Appointed in 2006, he continues to provide fresh facilities to the institution. Computers now total a hundred and reach all students from grade l to AL classes. When the war in the Wanni left many children orphaned and destitute he picked up a few hundred for accommodation and instruction at College expense. Affable in many ways he performs his duties with acceptance to staff and students. While his present work is appreciated fresh laurels are looked forward to.

The current year saw the 190th Anniversary celebration of the founding of the school. It is cause for elation among teachers and students, both past and present. I have often wondered whether the good souls who made the College great, see the present from their perch up above. So I wish and so would all.

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Latest comments

  • 3
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    Excellent article but one thing he forgot to mention carnival and the police attacked innocent civilians I believe in 1974

    • 1
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      That might have been at St. Patrick’s not St. John’s. At least that is my recollection.

      • 0
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        Thank you

  • 0
    4

    You forgot Hoole, Ratnajeevan with an earned D. Sc.(Eng.) London, the only one I am aware of with a D. Sc from St. John’s. This is the rarest in Sri Lanka particularly among the swabhasha-generation.

    • 0
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      That is not fair especially because Hoole’s grandfather Rev. Canon Somasunderam was C. Suntharalingam’s maths teacher and Dean of St. John’s at that time. Canon’s daughter, was a Chundikuli old girl and teacher there with a first class in Maths.

  • 0
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    When I read this ,I remembered the farewell speech of his Father (Kadavul = God) Subramaniayam .He invited all of us to visit him at his home and partake Mangoes. As I was 2 years junior to Mr.Sivathasan I am able to understand all the history. I was admitted to college by both Rev.J.T and Mr.P.T Mathai. in 1956. I just came from Wesley Colombo and JT was telling PT that since my father was recommending me ,he felt ok to which PT agreed.

    I have lots of memories. My oldest friend of 65 years shares with me of having studied in both Wesley and St.Johns. We still call each other regularly.

    Some of the legendary teachers were C.J.Eliyathamby,Mr.Gunaratnam Mr.Rajaratnam .I recently heard from my Hatton friends that al our teachers were going around the island seeking donations to run the college.

    It was a very noble gesture

    Mr.Pararajasingham passed away in UK recently. Mr.Vamadevan joined Police Service as an ASP and retired as DIG. He offered to recruit me as Sub Inspector which I felt not the post for me as I am a bit soft.

    In the Evening of our lives, We can say that we have passed on to our children all the noble values of St.Johns,Rev.J.T,Mr.P.T and all others.

    After leaving college some years later I crossed in to Mr.Sivathasan in the Secretariat, but, I did not seek to interrupt him as he was known for his strict observation of his duties.

    In my later days at Lisbon and Amsterdam, I discovered that the site of St.Johns has an old history.

    I hope some young person can document this.

    Finally I met Rev.Gnanaponrajah in USA some years ago.I was impressed with his ability to integrate and do his best for the college.

    All the best wishes for him

  • 0
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    A great college indeed produced a few high ranking army officers as well and if im not mistaken as late as 1989 an old boy joined the army as an office and was injured in the frontline in the 90’s

    also have to mention the dastardly crime of killing of Principal Anandarajah by the terrorists (correct me if im wrong it was either the TELO or the LTTE?)

    • 5
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      It was the LTTE which murdered Mr. Anadarajan in cold blood.

      Assassin 1: Peter – committed suicide over some love affair in LTTE custody as he fell out with the LTTE.

      Assassin 2: Richard – He is still alive (unfortunately) and currently a Catholic priest somewhere in Europe, not sure exactly where.

      Accomplices: One is still stuck in India. 2nd one is in Canada (old student of St. John’s), 4 teachers from St. Johns [Sivarajah died in a bomb blast, Sithamabaranathan (wife is a Tamil MP) still alive and not sure where he is, Alphonse (dying of Cancer or already dead) and Kamalainathan (died in LTTE custody as he also fell out with them)].

  • 1
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    Mr. Sivathasan has to be congratulated for bringing forth his old memories which keep us connected to our institutions and help us advance them. St. John’s certainly is an institution that has done much for the people of Jaffna and indeed Sri Lanka.

    What I wish to set straight in his piece, however, is the contribution to the school of Charles C. Handy, BA, really the first local principal although he is rarely mentioned as such because he was Acting Principal for three years, from 1889 to 1892. And what a principal he was!

    CC Handy is from the illustrious Handy family. CC Handy I am reasonably confident was TP Handy’s son. Born in 1825, T.P. Handy of Manipay, following early education at the mixed government school there, was educated at the Batticotta Seminary from 1841 and baptized on Dec. 7, 1845. Thus was founded the Tamil Handy family. TP Handy was one of the second batch of three Jaffna Anglican priests who were ordained deacons at St. James’ Church Nallur in 1865.

    CC Handy rose to be Headmaster at St. John’s and when the Rev. GI Fleming (principal from 1878) left for Colombo in 1889, Handy was made acting Principal.

    The reason why CC Handy was not made full principal was that he was not a priest, not even a deacon at the time, whereas the post was by tradition for clergy missionaries.

    But Handy was fully in charge of the school and not short of energy or vision. During his three years at the helm of St. John’s, the school became a centre for the University of Calcutta presenting candidates – 6 were presented for their matriculation exam of whom 3 passed in 1891. The Jubilee celebrations of the founding of the school in 1851 were during his tenure in 1891.

    In 1892 when the mission appointed Rev. J. W. Fall in 1892 Handy had risen to be Deacon and his ordination as Priest in 1893 was too late for him to be a candidate for appointment. The next year, 1893, his work would reach its culmination when Calcutta recognized St. John’s as an affiliated college and a student passed the First in Arts Exam and joined the school’s staff. Handy continued his strenuous efforts on behalf of the school, raising funds for the school from old boys in the Federated Malay States in 1901.

    It is unfair to deny CC Handy his rightful position as the first national principal of St. John’s College,especially in view of the fact that incorrect histories have a way of entrenching an author’s peculiar ideas.

    Once something is committed to writing, it is part of the historical record. Inaccuracies even after correction are revived because when a book is proved wrong it remains to be read – we do not go about burning such books proved to be incorrect. That is the nature of history. Thus we see things like the age of the school and C. Suntharalingam being “foremost” among those who “brought honour” to the college, making their rounds again and again despite the historical record. These will go on, repeated parrot-like.

    Correcting these entrenched myths may be a lost cause. But let us at least acknowledge the contributions of CC Handy as the first Tamil to lead St. John’s.

    • 2
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      Dr Hoole,
      Mr Sivathasan did not write the authoritative history of the college here. In the heading itself he makes it clear it is his reminiscences about his old school. By definition it is a subjective essay and one that gives the author’s memories of his old school. If you read the article, the author writes mainly about what he experienced and observed in his life time. Therefore to say he overlooked CC Handy, who was at college long before the author was even born is not a fair comment, in my view.
      Secondly, you seem to suggest that somehow we must treat CC Handy as the first native principle. Yes he was as good or even better than many other principles and he came very close to being appointed a principle. However the reality is he was never appointed principle. So he would never be remembered as the first native principle. It is unfortunate but this is how it is. I say this as someone who has the Handy line from my maternal side.

  • 3
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    A rebuttal of Sivathasan and Chundikuli girl (Mrs Ratnajeevan?) is appropriate. This article is colonial era trash. St John trained Tamils to be Government servants, professionals and clerks, ready for export to the British-ruled Malay Strait Settlements and Borneo.

    It failed to produce industrialists, pioneers and entrepreneurs, who alone would have salvaged the Tamil people. Look at the Sinhalese Karave, Salagama and Durave castes or Ceylon Moors who produced entrepreneurs, manufacturers, plantation owners, loggers and bankers in the 1800s and 1900s, those who took initiative and strode new horizons.

    All that St John’s produced were bland risk averse bureaucrats like D. Nesiah and Sivathasan and elite professionals (dentists, lawyers).

    Had we been a people of innovation and risk takers, we would have developed the Vanni and the Trincomalee interior, devoted its fertile agrarian land to the cultivation of cash crops, made profits, diversified into agricultural processing and export, and finally into industry or manufacturing.

    We did nothing of that sort – thanks to the education provided by the likes of St Johns which produced a nation of bureaucrats and clerks. With SWRD Bandaranaike’s (an Anglican no less like St Johns), the Tamils were overnight deprived of their positions in the civil service (metaphorically speaking) such that we lost our livelihoods, power and pelf.

    Had we instead had the Navaloka Mudalali’s, the Dasa Mudalali’s the C.P de Soysas, the de Zoysas, the Muslim business acumen like Hamedia’s, Macan Makers and Marikars, our future would have been so different. This warped sense of priorities on our side to only be Government Servants and white collar workers in service of the crown can be attributed to the education provided by the likes of St Johns and Jaffna Central.

    Lets take the example of the Chinese in Malaysia. Malaysia introduced similar policies that SWRD Bandaranaike did in Sri Lanka. The Chinese simply shifted gears and moved from the bureaucracy that they had been prevented from joining given the language policy to business!

    Now to Ratnajeevan Hoole – he is no patch on his brother – Rajan Hoole, pioneering Human Rights Activist along with the equally dedicated Sridharan. Ratnajeevan has descended to a low levels attacking so many individuals, like the beautiful and erudite professor – Savitri Goonesekere (he was jealous that she had made it to Vice Chancelorship while he had not), Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan and so many others that he is unworthy of respect. He has lost all credibility – a Doctor of Science regardless. So Chundikuli Girl – push for a better candidate the next time (perhaps your brother in law?)!

    • 1
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      In condemning attacking individuals, Tissaveerasingham has attacked Nesiah, Sivathasan and Ratnajeevan Hoole and taken a hit at Mrs. Hoole based on a mere guess. He seems infatuated and almost in love with Savitri Goonesekere who is known as a feminist but has been exposed for covering up the rape of a student by one of her professors – see http://www.thesundayleader.lk/archive/20030302/spotlight.htm The Sunday Leader of 2nd March 2003 by Frederica Jansz. Her decision to recruit a Colombo-based English speaking Sinhalese as a lecturer at the expense of a poor better qualified Indian Tamil girl was reversed by the courts because activists like Ratnajeevan Hoole and Elmore Perera challenged it on grounds of public interest.

      Attacking without evidence or based on personal dislikes, and guesswork, as Tissaveerasingham does, is certainly wrong. But exposing public figures who are very ordinary but are claimed by society as people the rest of us should adore and admire, is to free society from its myths and prejudices. The nation needs that kind of exposé and the people to do that. To argue for maintaining these false gods as Tissaveerasingham wants, is to be, in his words, bland, risk averse bureaucrats and a nation of bureaucrats and clerks.

      St. John’s is a great school producing for every need of society and cannot be put down so easily as Tissaveerasingham wants. A good school should produce all kinds of people. When it does that, it shows the school’s ethos of letting students develop their own talents and singular ideas. It shows a school where freedom flourishes. Mr. Sivathasan’s article proves the multifarious variety the school has produced. Keep it up Mr. Sivathasan. Keep it up St. John’s.

      • 2
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        MI

        You have not addressed the powerful point that Tissaveerasingham raises i.e. that the education provided by St Johns only produced individuals to serve “Empire” and not meet the needs of a self reliant Tamil economy. Even if one were to review university admissions in Sri Lanka today, it is the less privileged schools in Jaffna that tend to perform better, not St Johns.

      • 0
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        I concur with Passerby when he mentions that you have failed to rebut Tissaveerasingham’s thesis also endorsed by Ananda and Ponkoh Sivakumaran. Your reply reeks with venom and is defamatory. All you do is to defend Ratnajeevan Hoole and nothing else. What a disrepute to St Johns! As Ponkoh mentions, all it did was to produce ‘graduated coolies’. Your language sure reeks of one.

    • 2
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      Well said. Jaffna schools produced a generation of graduated coolies for the British. It is a pity to see these guys parade their degrees at a time when the younger Tamil diaspora, educated outside, has so many outstanding persons. Doctorates are a dime a dozen among them. I see even Mr Justice Wigneswaran is spoken of having an LLB and a BA. It is funny, this obsession with degrees which still continues. All these guys speak about is caste and degrees as if they are what matters to a people who have lost so much. There were greater lawyers who led the Tamils. SJV was a QC in the old days. Neelan T went to Harvard, had a PhD and was well-renowned as a constitutional lawyer outside the country. Tamils had a surfeit of well-educated persons and humility is one of the hallmarks of such persons. They did not parade their degrees around.

      Since you raise the question of Mrs Savithri Goonesekere, it is an illustrative case of a person being an effective and respected teacher without having a PhD. This was not unusual in the Law Faculty in SL or in most parts of the world, particularly in the US. It is only now that there is a glut of PhDs in law as the profession is getting crowded and the young are staying back to do PhDs. This was not the case in Mrs Goonesekere’s time.
      The well respected lady taught Tamils and Sinhalese alike with great acceptance as did her husband, Mr Rajah Goonesekere.

      It would be good if energies could be diverted away from obsession with religion and caste. They can bring no progress to the Tamils in their present state. The parading of past greatness of individual families is also of little use. Their days ended long ago and cannot be recaptured.

    • 1
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      The comparison between Rajan and Jeevan Hoole is made in the most unfair manner. Rajan has exposed political hypocrisy. Jeevan has exposed social hypocrisy. There is really no difference between the two. Both have excellent academic credentials. But unlike most academically clever people, both can think and see beyond equations.

      Both are great men and we need them. As a Muslim I feel particularly grateful to Jeevan Hoole for not letting us forget Ramanathan’s atrocious comments against us. Only Tamil nationalists want to forget these things and attack those who do not let us forget.

      I see a lot of jealousy among Tamils which is evident in these comments.

      • 0
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        Zuhry

        Please see things beyond a Muslim hat for a change. Your community is just as riven by jealousy as is ours. Ratnajeevan is a hypocrite himself. He never ever condemned the church sponsored eviction of Muslims from the Mannar district in 1990 which increased the Christian population there from 40% in 1981 to 57% (Protestants included)! It was the church that bought Muslim land at very cheap prices as the Muslims fled Mannar. This explains why Rishaad Badudeen is so against the Bishop of Mannar.

        Ramanathan was a great statesman regardless of what you and Ratnajeevan may say. And Ramanathan never made ‘atrocious’ comments against the Ceylon Moors. By contrast, it was the likes of Razeek Fareed, Kaleel, Badiuddeen Mohamed who made atrocious comments against the Tamils when they kissed the Sinhalese rear for political plum positions.

        • 0
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          Pushpam – I agree with you on Ponnambalam Ramanathan. Nanri for saying what you did.

    • 0
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      If the Sinhala mudalalies did well in the South even without much education, it was because they possessed the capital to invest and the political patronage for support because always the government was theirs. The Tamils for the most part ‘had nothing to cultivate but their brains’ which they did very well indeed with the help of institutions like St. John’s. Even today if most of the Tamils are doing well overseas unlike most other diaspora communities,it is because of the good investments they made on education. For the Tamils in the North and East of Sri Lanka the only hope for a considerable time into the future is to continue to give prime value to education. To do this successfully education has to be more modernised and diversified which goals I am sure that institutions like St. Johns will achieve without much difficulty because of their rich tradition.

      Sengodan

    • 2
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      @ Tissaweerasingham you seem to have an axe to grind against St Johns…why is that were you refused admission there or what?

      St Johns produced so many doctors and engineers millitary officers (like Balaratnarajah who was chief of staff in 1992) and Thevanayagam and Sivashanmugam

      You cannot blame St Johns for not producing a dasa mudalali or nawaloka mudalali,do remember they were not products of Royal or St Thomas’s either so your argument hold no value

      as for Dr Nesiah and Sivathason they are higly respected and well known people unlike you

      Lastly I can see that jealousy is creeping into the Tamils once again !

      • 0
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        This is a great debate.

        Sengodan, Sinhalese capital flourished in the early British colonial period. Arnolis Dep was a forefather of the Wijewardene family. They opened the lands, traded in timber, sold forest produce and built up their assets. This did not have state sponsorship.

        The Tamils also had a nascent capitalism before the onset of a certain type of missionary education. I would refer to the ship manufacturing industry (yes, we built ships for traffic to Burma those days) in the islands and Point Pedro which ended in 1900. There was a trade in rice, conch shells, fish, teak, even pearls between Jaffna and Burma. What happened to that spirit of Tamil capitalism after 1900?

        Tissaweerasingham may be right in that the colonial education epitomized by St Johns transformed us into civil servants, not industrialists or big farmers.

        Probono – you are getting unduly personal like MI. Lets not use words such as ‘jeolousy’ to dismiss a genuine critique, even if imperfect, of St Johns. Its the sort of name throwing that the vitriolic Hoole tends to indulge in. I say this with genuine respect as you make excellent points elsewhere in CT.

        The St John products that you mention never rose to the senior most positions in the army, the engineering corp, the medical service or the SLAS.

        In that regard, Jaffna College and Parameshwara College were game changers – both represented the first steps (and by no means complete) of an indigenous tertiary (and even pre-school) education in the entire island, not just the north! Ponnambalam Ramanathan had recruited European educationalists such as Florence Farr and Juan Mascaro, not to mention helped introduce the Kindergarten and Montessori pre school methods in Sri Lanka for the very first time. The Ceylon American Mission likewise introduced modern medical education in Ceylon. St Johns does not stand out in those regards.

        So lets go beyond school parochialism and talk of the larger issues. I thank Tissaweerasingham’s for his/her intervention even if he/she should not have attacked Sivathasan and dismissed his article.

        Vanakkam

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    I agree with Tissa above!

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    Chundikuli Girl: Ratnajeevan Hoole is [Edited out]

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    Nice to read about my old school !

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    Brought back fond memories of my days at St John’s. I was there when Mr Rajasekeram and later Mr Pooranampillai were principals, but I vividly remember the hard work and strict discipline under the latter’s tenure as principal. Mr Anandarajan was my zoology teacher who was brutally murdered by the LTTE. He was a remarkable man. A sad loss to the college and her students.

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    I am realy happy to see our st Johans history.

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    Given below is an excerpt from a note I prepared in December last year for a ‘Merit Scholarship Scheme’. It is under implementation from early this year. There is no thought of churning out run on the mill products. The scheme is not for in house but thrown open to the Province.

    “A leaf may be taken from the bee colony. The Queen Bee is not of royal lineage. Any larva off a worker bee is selected by the bees and is specially fed on a rich food prepared by worker bees, called “royal jelly”. The queen bee from pupa stage, becomes strong enough for the rigours of leadership. Coveted education is this “royal jelly” that St. John’s will provide.

    Helping students of excellence and educating them is a mission before the College. Assisting St. John’s to promote education is a duty we owe to the community. To help in the process, the scheme that is outlined is to provide scholarships to students of promise drawn from the Northern Province through open advertisement”.

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    St.John’s College is a prestigious Institute if not the most prestigious Institute in the Island. I am honored to be an alumni of this great Institute (1958-1971). I am grieved as I read some of the comments, it is apparent to me and I am sure it is to others as well, the spirit in which some of the comments are being made. Hope we don’t insist on being right. That is not the spirit of our Alma Mater. “The Light Shineth in Darkness” ! We should be lights that dispel darkness, the darkness in the human hearts,the true spirit of St John’s College.

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    I am sad about some comments. Colleges ,just as parents,owe nothing to any one any thing. As parents devote all their lives to their children,St.John’s college did everything possible to everyone.

    I had bitter quarrels there.

    But,nothing clouded my view I am eternally grateful to my alma mater. My children ,have never seen the college as they grew up faraway.

    But,I always insisted that they remember their alma mater.

    I do remember Majors.Gen.Balaratnarajah and Sivashanmugam. I studied in the College when they were there.

    They chose army life.

    I know a multi millionaire in Florida who is very silent.But,he told me he owed everything to St.John’s

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      Anand – Major General Balaretnarajah studied at Jaffna College during his formative years (secondary school and above). He was indeed Chief of Staff under President Premadasa and has to be applauded for that.

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    Sivathason’s article appears to be just a glimpse of the activities of his time. He has left out some of the fine aspects of School-organization, sports activities, discipline and Christian values which made St.Johns’ an outstanding school. As far I know Subramanium master never taught English-though well accomplished in it. There are so many other unreliable facts included in his article.

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      Ravi
      “unreliable facts” is a contradiction in terms. Even so can you list them out for me to correct here and now.

      In support of your statement you say…”master never taught English”. Where have I said it?

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    It is a fantastic article from Mr.Sivathasan keep it up !!!!
    I studied when Mr Rajasekaram & Mr Pooranampillai were principals
    of SJC, I am proud to be an Old Boy of SJC.- from Sydney

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    Please, Mr. Goshan Che, I’m sure all principals were well principled and taught principles but they should not be referred to as “principles” themselves!

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    Here’s a list of the contributions made by the pioneers to the College:
    http://sjcoba.blogspot.in/p/st.html
    I wish to mention that J. C Handy ( son of Rev. C.C. Handy, Principal at the turn of the 20th century), Manager of schools worked tirelessly for St.John’s College. He resided at St.John’s throughout his life and died in 1972.

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    I appreciate the article. But I need to mention that Mr Sivathson has forgotten the Principal Late MR CE Anandarajan who led the school & Community during the most difficult period of our history. Also I felt Johninians were produced with a Anglo Western touch and lost their links culturally with the brooder Jaffna community. This assumption of superiority made them look down at their brethren

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    Thanks to Mr. S Sivathasan for an interesting article very well articulated showing the quality of english taught at St Johns. It has also given rise to alternate views good and less good to be aired.

    Neither the article nor any of the earlier comments refer to the number of singhalese who came to St Johns to study; it shows how well the school was regarded island-wide. Maitripala Senanayake and KB Ratnayake (initially studied at Hartley) completed their studies at St Johns. Maitripala later married Rev JTN Handy’s daughter Ranji.

    HLD Selvaratnam was a very bright student carrying away prices at St Johns and uni, he joined the Central Bank and rose to be the Deputy Governor in the mid 70s- a high position not given to the minorities until Mahendran was made Governor of the CB a month ago. Similarly another who excelled in the Banking arena was Percy Handy (son of Rev JTN), he had an illustrious career with Bank of Ceylon and then became the Deputy General Manager at Hatton National Bank.

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    I too am an old Johnian,was 10 years at St.John’s,from 1942. , during the Arulanantham ‘ s era. Sivadasan was junior to me and his father whom we affectionately called ‘Kadavul.’ Kadavul was a Tamil teacher,equally fluent in English and Latin. I remember in 1948, in our football match against St.Patrick ‘ s on our grounds., at the close of play the large number of the Crowd from Karayoor ,invaded the grounds and started assaulting our players for no reason,even though we had lost both the 1 st and 2 nd eleven matches.I played for the 2 nd eleven and I remember running away removing my jersey. I saw Kadavul going the kitchen side picking a large firewood,at the same time ordering the kitchen staff to to do the ,and running after the assailants.I will never for get this. Soon the grounds were emptied of the thugs.After this for more than 8 to ten years all sporting fixtures with St. Patrick ‘ s were cancelled. From 1966 to 1969 I was Irrigation Engineer Mahakanandarawa, covering the Kekirawa ,Mihintale,Horowupotana and Madawachiya.. Mr. Maithiriplala Senanayake was the M.P. for Madawachiya,and I came to know him personally. Once he contacted me and requested me whether I could accompany him to his native village o Kendawa,, as the villagers were were complaining re the condition of some works.I with my D.I.E. went along with him and after assuaring remedial measures will be taken ,he invited us for lunch at Madawachiya Rest House.Knowing he was An Old Johnian,I too was.He paid Glowing tribute to St. Johns not forgetting ‘Kadavul Subramaniam’s. A few years later ,in 1975 when he came as. Minister also acting Head of state, as Srimavo the P.M. Was out of the country, to Jaffna, the O.B.A. Gave him lunch at the Dining hall while making a speech he referred to Kadavul and metisaid he would have liked to meet.him. It so happened ,I left SriLanka to work abroad and on one of my visits to S.L. I mET Maithiri at a hotel , and while conversing, he mentioned about Sivathasan who was one of his Senior secretaries, and said to quote ” If Sivadasan Or Sivagnanam ( Permanent Secretary ) take a decision I will not go against.” unquote. Sivagnanam was a senior Civil Servant ,a very distinguished old boy o St. john’s, and on retirement served as Economic Adviser to S.L. Govt. at the U.N.

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    Addendum to above: During our days we had Cadet Battalions ,Seniors and the Juniors,with a cadet Master,who would have had an intensive training for several weeks,in Army Drills, the use of firearms like the 307 rifles, Lght Machine Guns, ( Bren Guns) etc. the master is usually is a young master from the college staff.I was in both the Junior and Seniors,ending up as a Sergeant in 1951. The cadet corps was dipensensed with in late fifties. Briefly for those who may not know about Cadeting, 22 colleges Had the Senior cadets, and junior cadets. The seniors had 23 platoons ,one for each ,and Royal college had 2, making 23 platoons. When I joined St. Jonh’s..our cadet master was late Lt.Param Selvrajah ,an old boy, and when he left us , our Physics Teacher V.M.Mathews ,underwent training at Dhiyatslawa and became our C.O.The seniors had the annual camp at Dhiyatalawa,when 575 cadets and their C.Os met at Dhiyatalawa army camps, for 2 weeks. Each college had their Armoury ,where the 35 -303 rifles,one L.M , the uniforms haversacks etc.were stocked,under tight security,looked after by an Army trained Armourer from the army.
    During the 2nd Term 35 senior,senior boys which normally included the cream of our sportsman are selected and are trained for the annual camp., where we are instructed by Army officers, Instructors from the Ranks of Company Sergeant Majors.( C.S.M.Is) .The entire Battalion is under one Arrmy Cmmander,called ‘. ADJUTANT’.In 1950 our in fron was ,Capt. Samarasinghe from the Sigha Regiment.. Every morning the bugle sharp at 5.00 am the bugle wakes us, we have a wash, have a cup of hot tea and each platoon under the command of the respective COs go out into plains where we do physical exercises,and return, have our breakfast, then dress up in full army kit, and March to the Parade ground led by their respective Sergeants. All the 23 platoons assemble in front of a raised Dais. Where our Adjutant stands with other officers,giving orders. During the evenings, athletics,100. Yes dash,heigh jump, long jump, where certian standards are set, and it is compullsory that every cadet takes part ,and perform above the set stds, else points are reduced. We are also tested in the firing range,firing both the rifles,the L.M.G. There were 8 companies,each comprising of 3 platoon, numbered from A to H. St.Johns,Maries Stella Negombo and St.Partrick ‘ S Jaffna , formed the H Company. After a week early morning when we were assembled in front of the Dais, the Adjutant Capt. Samarsinghe stood majestically on the Dais,looking down and shouted , ” CSMI Carter,Select 6 smart cadets and march them over here.”. Carter,sprung to attention ,marched to towards the front where the A, B,C companies were and shouted at few names from Royal,Zahra college etc. naming the cadets who were familiar with him. Immediately the Adjutant in the usual army language shouted ” YOU DOPE. I SAID SIX. SMART. CADETS, SELECT ANY. SIX. FROM. St. JOHN ‘ S. JAFFNA, AND. MARCH THEM. OVER ” The annual 6 a side foot ball tournament we won the cup. Two teams A and B were fielded. Each match was of 20 mts duration,10 mts for each half. Rules were relaxed ,No OFF SIDE, 5 points for a goal and 2 points for a corner. Our B team won 2 matches,against Ananda and Royal colleges, and lost to Zahira. Our A team advanced to the finals,and played Zahira. In the first Half Zahira scored a goal, and in the 2nd half the five players were on the defensive, received a warning for kicking the ball out intentionally, and when one minute was left our star foot baller,SEGARAJASINGHE had the ball in possession mid way and dribbled the ball winding with the ball in Zig Zag way and when about to kick a zahirian kicked it into the corner. SEGA without wasting time picked up the ball ran to the corner,placed it and when the whistle was blown he kicked. To the amazement of all,the ball went parallel the bar and veered into the goal as if though it was remote controlled, . For the corner we got 2 pts and goal 5 pts,totaling 7 thus winning the cup. SEGA was small built,man with grit ,excelled in athletics,and an all round Cricketer. Easily the best soccer player among not only the schools, even when compared with others. When I migrated to Canada I came to know he was here,and confined to wheel chair. I visited him and could not believe those two magic legs were silenced.Some months later he passed away. Let me also add in 1948 ,at Dhiytalawa, our Cadets won the treasure Hunt .The sergeant who led them was THIRU KATHIRGAMAR,who was another all round sportsman. He joined the police force as sub-inspector,rose to the position Senior S.P. in the C.I.D. He too passed away recently.

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    I notice that I have unintentionally made some mistakes in my above transcripts, for which I sincerely apologise. I use an I pad, and presently my hand is not steady. Aruna.e

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