1 December, 2020

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The Royal Cabinet And School Chauvinism

By Udan Fernando

Udan Column Name PicA hot topic among the middle class circles in Colombo and on social media in the last couple of weeks was the humongous number of ‘Royalists’ in the Cabinet. Factually that’s true. But why is there such a big noise about it and a waving of the blue-gold-and-blue flag, two months before the Royalists can do it at the SSC grounds?

We had a period close to a decade which was dominated by an extra-large Cabinet that drew Ministers who went to so many unheard of schools. Interestingly, nobody talked big about the respective schools the former President and Prime Minister attended. The former President is said to have gone to a half a dozen of schools from Galle to Colombo and nobody claimed that he was a product of this school or that school. But could it be that no school wanted to make that claim due to their embarrassment about their product? Probably. After all, school OBAs are nothing but Ego-Gyms. So why would they claim for themselves someone that would be a liability and tarnish the reputation and image of a school?

I think the current Royal-claim needs to be unpacked. In my observation, Royalists are not a homogenous group. Rather, there are a few types of Royalists and there seems to be a hierarchy between them. I shall therefore organize them along the following typology.

Type I Royalists: Those who genuinely live close to Rajakeeya Mawatha and Ried Avenue. I say genuinely, because many become Royalists thanks to the efficient document forgery services available in this country. Those who live genuinely close to the school also have a class affinity because Colombo 7 is not like a plot of land from a former rubber plantation in Bandaragama. So you get my message, right? And one can also be a Type I Royalist, if his father or grandfather is a Royalist. I have come across many people claiming that they are third generation Royalists. So here, we see a hierarchy within the Type I.  Such a system would separate a kid of nouveau riche parents — who could afford to buy an apartment building close to the school — from a Real-Royalist!

royalType II Royalists: Those who get admission to Royal based on high marks gained at the 5th Year Scholarship Exam, aka the Pahe Shishyathvaya. Now these kids come from every nook and corner from the island simply because they earned their admission by sheer hard work and success at the exam.

Type III Royalists: There are so many ‘Royals’ in many parts of the island : Maharagama, Panadura, etc, etc. How can one say that they are not Royalists? Or would one say Panadura Royalists?

Type IV Royalists: There’s also a higher education institute and an international school with the inclusion of Royal in its name. This institute was started by a popular tuition master from yesteryear and is located in a not so posh-looking area in Colombo (this morning I was amused to see a kiosk called ‘Royal Burgers’ located just opposite the school! Royalists eating Royal Burgers like, ‘mutton eating croton’, a Singlish slang). This Royal has prepared many graduates who sat for the University of London degree programs. But I wonder whether the kids who went to this Royal call themselves Royalists. Probably not. Still they remain Royalists by virtue of the name of the educational institute they were attached to.

I was telling a friend of mine who went to St. Bridget’s College that the newly appointed Women’s Affairs Minister is from her school. The response was not very enthusiastic and jubilant as I expected: ‘oh must have been there just for ALs’. So you see, the subtle owning and disowning of the Alma Mater! Another friend was telling me that the current Ladies’ (College) is not really the Ladies’ of those days. She meant that there are a lot of kids of nouveau riche parents, a situation which became rampant in the last 20 years. So the parents of traditionelle riche are now sending their kids to international schools. This is also a common trend seen in other private schools in Colombo.

Mr. Mahinda Deshapriya became the Man of the Match at the Prez Elections though he had the humility to say that he was in fact the Grounds-man. I have a vague memory that some time back, Mr. Deshapriya was trying be the President of Galle Sports Club. Or have I got it wrong. If so, the error is regretted. Anyway, Mr. Deshapriya went to Dharmashoka College, Ambalangoda, which is a dream-school in the South. Many children from the South who passed their 5th Year Scholarship Exam would strive to get admission at Dharmashoka. I saw a paid newspaper advertisement – quite a large one that covered half page of a broadsheet – with a photo of the Elections Commissioner, praising the crucial role he played to restore democracy in this country. The two individuals who identified themselves as ‘Damsokians’ – or a similar sounding name — had sponsored this advertisement to express their pride and joy about a fellow-Damsokian.

The desire to be identified with one’s school, especially after they have left school, seems to be catching up with schools out of Colombo as well. My friend, Lakshan Dias, Attorney at Law, had observed this well during his many appearances in Courts in remote areas. He asked me whether I could guess the schools attached to terms like ‘Garbians’ and Mudaliyans’. I thought  for a long while and gave up finally. Can you? If you can’t, here’s the answer:  ‘Garbians’ and ‘Mudaliyans’ are those who went to Ibbagamuwa Madhya Maha Vidyalaya and Lalith Athulathmudali Maha Vidyalaya, Ratmalana, respectively! My friend had seen these terms on banners close to the two schools announcing a carnival and another event organized by the past pupils who identify themselves with the above names. Interesting, isn’t it?

(School) name-dropping is indeed an interesting sociological phenomenon one should study to understand the dynamics of the class system and the trends of social mobility in Sri Lanka. Like the ‘glass-ceiling’ concept in the gender discourse, there seems to be a ‘school-ceiling’ that constraints the social/political mobility of people albeit in a subtle manner which is unwritten and often unspoken. I recall a term, ‘Bamunu-Kulaya‘, attached to the 1956 change that claimed the collapse of the aristocratic system that flourished with the colonial period and the emergence of a new social strata of people who were educated in the vernacular and whose roots were in non-Colombo or non-cities. In a way, this trend was reversed in the post 1977 period when a ‘yet another Royalist’, JR Jayawardena, took the reigns of the country. The Rajapaksha Decade turned the trend to another direction and established an Ananda-Nalanda supremacy. But Mr. Rajapaksha sent his three sons to a prestigious private school run by the Anglican Church, established when the then Ceylon was under the British. I wonder why Mr. Rajapaksha didn’t send his three sons to Royal College. Perhaps the father didn’t have the Type I qualification and the three boys could not attain the Type II qualification.

Let me come back to the Royal Cabinet. I tease my friends from Royal (Types I and II) that after all, all those Royalists are serving under a Polonnaruwa Royalist. President Maithrpala Sirisena went to Rajakeeya Maha Vidyalaya, Polonnaruwa. And I read an interview given by the daughter of President Sirisena that she was sent to the same school. Is this perhaps another twist to the Bamunu Kulaya saga. Or is it just an insignificant coincidence? Anyway, I hope and pray that this ‘Royal Cabinet’ will ‘disce aut discede‘. What matters is their performance not the school they went to.

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Latest comments

  • 2
    1

    An attempt in answering Udan’s question why didn’t MR send his sons to Royal. Or for that matter to Ananda or Nalanda.
    MR’s wife Shiranthi’s mother and her mother’s younger sister were both teachers at St. Thomas’s Preparatory school, from what I’ve heard and that was how Shiranthi’s brothers became Thomians. Shiranthi therefore wanted her sons to be Thomians. She perhaps thought the school her brothers went to, is the best school in the country and MR had to give in to her choice.
    Kusal

    • 7
      2

      But Finally, Moronic, psychopaths, three Buggers become No 1 Cheaters like Father and Uncles.

    • 3
      1

      Its funny as some of the Royalists from Rajakeeya Mw., in last MaRa regime like Mahindananda, Muthuhettigama were the most notorious and corrupted to the core.

      Hope the present Royalists in the MS govt will go on to that depth.

    • 5
      0

      We have inherited a lot of things British, I am afraid. Old Boy’s Networks carry you a long way in the UK too.

      David Cameron belongs to the elite Eton College network. He sort of tries to hide it. In order to project an image of modesty, which of course is BS.

      Point is he benefits well from his Eton College tatoo on his forehead.

      Cheers!

      PS: After all Royal College was started through a direct charter issued by Queen Victoria. One of only two such schools in the world, I heard.

      I support healthy competition among schools. To better ourselves. In a true spirit of friendship & brotherhood. However, not as yet another tool to undermine other people.

  • 2
    2

    Thanks for the last line. Disce aut discede indeed!

    – from a Royalist from a type I & type II mixed-family.

  • 8
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    Thank god what ever school they may have come from! At last we don’t have a cabinet full of drug paddlers, Ethanol sellers, gold chain snatchers and cold blooded murders!

  • 7
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    LETTER FROM ABRAHAM LINCOLN TO HIS SON’S TEACHER

    “My son starts school today. It is all going to be strange and new to him for a while and I wish you would treat him gently. It is an adventure that might take him across continents. All adventures that probably include wars, tragedy and sorrow. To live this life will require faith, love and courage.

    So dear Teacher, will you please take him by his hand and teach him things he will have to know, teaching him – but gently, if you can. Teach him that for every enemy, there is a friend. He will have to know that all men are not just, that all men are not true. But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero, that for every crooked politician, there is a dedicated leader.

    Teach him if you can that 10 cents earned is of far more value than a dollar found. In school, teacher, it is far more honorable to fail than to cheat. Teach him to learn how to gracefully lose, and enjoy winning when he does win.

    Teach him to be gentle with people, tough with tough people. Steer him away from envy if you can and teach him the secret of quiet laughter. Teach him if you can – how to laugh when he is sad, teach him there is no shame in tears. Teach him there can be glory in failure and despair in success. Teach him to scoff at cynics.

    Teach him if you can the wonders of books, but also give time to ponder the extreme mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun and flowers on a green hill. Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if every one tell him they are wrong.

    Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone else is doing it. Teach him to listen to every one, but teach him also to filters all that he hears on a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through.

    Teach him to sell his talents and brains to the highest bidder but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul. Let him have the courage to be impatient, let him have the patient to be brave. Teach him to have sublime faith in himself, because then he will always have sublime faith in mankind, in God.

    This is the order, teacher but see what best you can do. He is such a nice little boy and he is my son.

  • 3
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    In the period after 1956,when SWRD[old thomian] had unleashed the social revolution,he applied to Warden STC/Mt.Lavinia to admit his son Anura. However,for some reason or other admission was refused! A series of letters between SWRD and Warden [Both products of Oxford] ensued in the TIMES newspaper in the old days.Of-course Anura ended up at Royal! That was the spirit then.
    If,Warden/STC had refused admission to the sons of MARA,even for very good reasons,chances are that he [WARDEN] would have been White-Vanned! This was the spirit now.

    • 1
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      When these children started school, MR was/may have being not a significant person other than a ex MP

    • 1
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      Vimukthi Kumaratunga’s admission to Royal College was obstructed by a vindictive RW at that time, I heard.

      Young RW was the Minister of Education at that time.

      Vimukthi ended up at one of those so called International Schools, I think.

      Cheers!

  • 0
    1

    Udan fernando the writer, My friend, Lakshan Dias, Attorney at Law, had observed this well during his many appearances in Courts in remote areas.
    Quote: ‘Garbians’ and ‘Mudaliyans’ are those who went to Ibbagamuwa Madhya Maha Vidyalaya and Lalith Athulathmudali Maha Vidyalaya, Ratmalana, respectively! My friend had seen these terms on banners close to the two schools announcing a carnival and another event organized by the past pupils who identify themselves with the above names. Interesting, isn’t it?

    Where on earth are the courts in remote areas of Ibbagamuwa & Ratmalana are located.
    UDAN FERNANDO association with a LAWYER & SOLD THE NAME OF ONE LAKSHAN DIAS A REMOTE AREA LAWYER.

    Wonder whether both UDAN & LAKSHAN are chums and Old Royalists of Polonnaruwa?……….. Duo- Type V Royalists.

  • 2
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    Can we expect any better from these ex Royalists? Some of the outgoing ones, ex Royal, like Sajin V.G, Mahindananda A, Jelly back Dinesh G leave behind much to be despised. Members of a corrupt regime.

  • 1
    0

    One of the best pieces I have read.

    Should students who entered after excellent OL’s also be included in Type 2? (Or perhaps they are there just for the ALs?

    As for this Government ‘Disce aut discede’ indeed!!!

    – One of the Type 2s

  • 5
    0

    Good analysis.

    The school is irrelevant and what is important is the up bringing.

    Hopefully no ethanol, drugs and casino guys in the new cabinet whether they are from Royal or not.

    UNP has always had more Royalists than from any other school compared to SLFP.

  • 1
    0

    Just to add to the discussion – I heard Mahindananda Aluthgamage declaring at a TV program before the elections – that he is an old Royalist…. Shameful behaviour. As a past teacher of Royal College I doubt if he was ever disciplined by Mr.Christie Gunasekera – Dep Principal in charge of Discipline – looking at his unkempt attire and mien and foul mouthing – it is certainly very doubtful. Also MR went to Thurstan College after Nalanda Vidyalaya (where my brothers are past pupils and they know why he was sent away from Nalanda.) Some time back at the height of his glory MR invited Thurstan College teachers to a grand party and gave them each lavish cash gifts – a past teacher of Thurstan told me. Distribution of largesse!
    Pinsalee

  • 4
    0

    Thankfully MaRa failed in his attempt to esto perpetua!
    He didn’t learn. .. Had to depart.
    Long live democracy!

  • 0
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    Well lots of the active agents of the Indian Empire from the island are Royalists.

  • 3
    0

    It’s a well-known fact that lot of famous and great leaders have born from Royal. There is nothing to blabber about that. However I would like to re-categorize the types of royalists you have mentioned about.

    1. Royalists Around the school (Colombo 7 Higher Class)
    2. Royalist From Political or Other Influence
    3. Grade 5 Scholars (Middle Class)
    4. Transfer Royalist due to special achievements
    5. Ordinary Level Examination Entrance (Last chance to enter royal)

    Please note that the term “Royal” to be used in a school is not ordinary. The only educational institute in Sri Lanka that was permitted to use the term “Royal” by the crown was Royal College Colombo 7. Unlike other school ex: STC& PC, Royal is not connected to any other institutions in Sri Lanka anyway.
    There are Royalists who take their pride further by doing posts like these on social media. But at the end of the day its we cannot blame them.

    From a Royalist

  • 1
    4

    We Trinitians never considered Royal as an elite school. Trinity College, Kandy never mixed those from everywhere the manner in which Royal has done, according to the article. Trinity always had a rounded’ education;all the senior students had to work at least onece or twice a month in the farm Trinity owned; we broke the social barriers starting a Kandyan Dance Troupe in the seventies that toured worldwide; TCK developed two underpriviledged villeges in the out skirts of Kandy; the First Aid Unit is still in exisitance on the other side of the road opposite TCK;The Social Service Union is the most active union in TCK for a century or so. These achievements hold TCK very much higher in the society that no other school was able to achieve, definitely not Royal. And, foremost, Trinitians always, in any crowd, projected much superior.
    Thanks – Daya Gamage (USA)

    • 7
      0

      Thats how much you know about royal. It is perfectly understood since you are not from colombo

  • 1
    0

    It’s a well-known fact that lot of famous and great leaders have born from Royal. There is nothing to blabber about that. However I would like to re-categorize the types of royalists you have mentioned about.

    1. Royalists Around the school (Colombo 7 Higher Class)
    2. Royalist From Political or Other Influence
    3. Grade 5 Scholars (Middle Class)
    4. Transfer Royalist due to special achievements
    5. Ordinary Level Examination Entrance (Last chance to enter royal)

    Please note that the term “Royal” to be used in a school is not ordinary. The only educational institute in Sri Lanka that was permitted to use the term “Royal” by the crown was Royal College Colombo 7. Unlike other school ex: STC& PC, Royal is not connected to any other institutions in Sri Lanka anyway.
    There are Royalists who take their pride further by doing posts like these on social media. But at the end of the day, we cannot blame them.

  • 2
    0

    Congrats Royalists.How greater would they have been if they were THOMIANS.

    ESTO PER PETUA

  • 1
    0

    Interesting article Udan, as a Royalist all I can say that when we leave the the college there is only one type of Royalist and that is the beauty of the institution.

  • 4
    0

    Balanced review I see, Having money or power cannot make you a royalist. Its hard to enter royal even if you have money or power. Best example is CBK (she couldn’t get her son to royal). Having money also is not a point to enter royal. You have to be worthy!

  • 0
    0

    This had to come from a Thomian didn’t it Udan….,
    Of course I too agree that Royal of today is quite different to what it used to be, but the whole country has changed and a new set of social values and social segments of the society are emerging.

  • 0
    0

    “traditionelle riche” ?????
    That’s not French, is it?

  • 0
    0

    I am an Old Royalist my self. I read all the comments.Some ideas were different from others. However I liked all the comments.There is one thing that we Royalists have to understand,which is that present Sri Lanka has many educated gentlemen from other schools, and that is not only from Colombo.It is a pleasure to work with all of them. While we are all proud of our Alma Mater, we may hurt others by discussing about Royalists at top posts. We as Royalists must always remember that the era that we were the TOP CLASS is no more.To day we have to think our country as one for people of all Educational Institutions, different Cultures, Different Religions,Different Ethinic Groups and so many other differences. Therefore while being Royalists and being proud of the fact,we will enjoy ourselves as Royalists,mainly at The Royal Thomian and at other great sports events we get together. At the same time we have to admit that we have produced what we would call ” Rif Rafs” , too,and some of them may have been in the last cabinet. We hope we will not have similar types in this cabinet.Long Live Royal. College and the Royalists.
    R-O-Y-A-L……….ROYAL..

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