By Ashley de Vos
China and Sri Lanka diplomatic relations was established in February 7, 1957. The fact that there were sincere personalities with flawless and focussed thinking has been acknowledged by many.
The masterly handling of the Rubber Rice Pact by R.G. Senanayake against all International opposition, speaks volumes of his loyalty and dedication, working for the benefit of his country, as exposed recently in The Island article, even standing tall against some of his own ministers in Parliament, speaks much of the clear vision and the love these worthies had for the country and its people. They acted for the country and its people. Not for their own well being. There is a noteworthy crowning to Rubber-Rice Pact that needs to be elucidated.
In 1964, when Zhou Enlai (Chou En-lai) visited Sri Lanka, it recorded the cementing of cordial relations based on mutual friendship and the greatest respect he had for Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the world first woman Prime Minister, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. The Chinese Prime Minister informed her that there was a considerable sum of money owing to Sri Lanka from China on the Rubber-Rice Pact. No one in Sri Lanka could remember any money owing. He wanted to know what she wanted done with it. Today, one will not even venture to guess what would have happened, whatever the colour. But we are discussing the honesty of both Sri Lankan and Chinese politicians in the past. This also acknowledges the honesty of the Chinese who took the special trouble to inform Sri Lanka even though decades had passed.
Sri Lanka has opted for Non-Alignment as a guiding force of the country’s foreign policy since the inception of the Movement in 1961. Sri Lanka, then Ceylon in 1961 was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement and has since remained as an active and influential member of the NAM, vigorously involved in all its summits. In 1961, Sri Lanka’s newly elected Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike attended the inaugural Summit, stepping on to the world stage as the world’s first woman Prime Minister. After the inaugural meeting held in Belgrade in 1961, the others were in Cairo (1964), Lusaka (1970) and Algiers (1973). Sirimavo Bandaranaike attended every meeting.
Sirimavo Bandaranaike on behalf of Sri Lanka, a staunch supporter of the Non-Alignment Movement was toying with the idea of inviting the Non-Aligned Movement to a conference in Sri Lanka, the first major international conference to be held in Colombo. She informed the Chinese Prime Minister that she needed a venue to host the event. The Chinese agreed, and the Ridgway Golf Course was identified as a suitable location for the project. Architect Pani Tennekoon, Chief Architect PWD, offered the roof shape for the Hall, the auditorium acknowledged as being state of the art, was the first purpose built conference hall in Asia. The Conference Hall was completed and made available three years ahead of time.
Sirimavo Bandaranaike was also informed that there was still money left over after the completion of the project, and she needed to advise them on what should be done with the balance funds. The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, this honourable and honest lady, informed the Chinese that the money should be placed in a fixed deposit for use when required for the maintenance of the building!
At the Fourth Conference held in Algiers in 1973 Sri Lanka was selected as the venue, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs meticulously planned to hold a Conference, second to none. The Colombo Summit was the first NAM Conference to be held in Asia. Senior career diplomats were picked to handle the key operations with Dr. Vernon Mendis, High Commissioner in London as Secretary-General of the Conference. Manel Abeysekera was in charge of protocol arrangements. Among others who handled the major aspects were Arthur Basnayake, Ben Fonseka and Izzeth Husain. Senior members of the Administrative Service were also co-opted to handle responsible functions. (Ranatunga 2016).
During the year prior to the inauguration of the conference, Sri Lanka was tested many times by world leaders intending to attend the summit. They sent delegations informed or uninformed to visit the island, to examine in detail and report back, to ensure their governments that this small island nation Sri Lanka, was capable and had the capacity to hold such an event and also ensure the complete safety of their leaders. The 5th NAM Conference was held in 1976 in Colombo. It was a great success.
Manel Abeysekera wrote, that “Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s decisive nature and the ability to guide and control affairs became very apparent.” “She appointed a director-general to supervise and direct the officials in their individual areas of responsibility; and later based on the reports submitted to her by each official, personally monitored and guided the decision-making of the entire organising committee” (Ranatunga 2016). The team of security experts proved that they were all up to their assignments and carried out their allotted tasks in the most timely and efficient manner.
On the morning of the inauguration, a meticulously-planned operation was set in motion for the delegates to leave their hotels at specified times to arrive at the BMICH, also at scheduled times. In what Secretary-General, Vernon Mendis was to describe as “a logistical masterpiece, almost inhumanely perfect in timing of the cavalcade of the heads of state and government”, the arrangements went off smoothly. Both Governor-General William Gopallawa and the Prime Minister were present to receive the leaders, following the correct protocol procedure (Ranatunga 2016).
As a result, the 5th NAM Summit, with 92 Heads of State/Government present, was one of the best organised NAM Summits. Included was a big contingent of media persons who turned up to cover the event.
Sirimavo Bandaranaike delivered a lengthy speech tracing the progress of the Movement and paying tribute to the leaders who started it and were no more. She said that the Colombo Summit symbolised the growing maturity of the Movement which having begun the search for a better world order, within a post-colonial context, had grown into a universal movement, solidly anchored in many continents. She instructed the need to introduce a strong dimension to the NAM deliberations. She was most anxious not to confine the NAM Summit exclusively to the consideration of vexed political issues of the day. (Ranatunga 2016)
Stressing that the Non-Aligned Movement does not constitute a new bloc, she described it as one which was founded on a categorical rejection of the system of power blocs. “Perhaps the sole reason for the existence of the Movement and its growing vitality is that it answers some compelling needs of people all over the world for a new outlook on life, for a new set of value based on mutual understanding and social awareness, equity and justice, in place of the old values which enthroned a ruthless and competitive individualism. If anything, Non-Alignment is a creative and constructive philosophy and all the world is, all the better for it,” she declared. (Ranatunga 2016)
She concluded her address saying: “The nations represented in this Assembly are heirs to great and ancient civilisations and cultures, and beneficiaries of teachings of all the major religions of the world, founded on peace, compassion and tolerance.
As I invite you to the consideration of the many important issues on our Agenda, I am reminded of the words of one of the greatest philosophers and religious leaders of the world, the Buddha, who, in the course of his final discourse to the world said: ‘If we can meet together in concord, and rise in concord, and act upon our decisions in concord, so long may we be expected, not to decline, but to prosper.’ “I can do no better than to leave you with this thought for in many ways it sums up the philosophy of Non-Alignment itself with its tenets of peace, justice, goodwill and cooperation. It is also a clear enunciation of the most basic principle that should govern the conduct of human relations” (Ranatunga 2016).
In her inaugural address Sirimavo Bandaranayake proposed that a Third World Commercial and Merchant Bank be established, a proposal that was to be followed by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). With the change of government in 1977 the proposal was abandoned.
Prof. Bibile’s outstanding work in helping to develop and promote cost-effective drugs policies, particularly in relation to the wider use of generic drugs, had been adopted by Sri Lanka. It was revolutionary and path-breaking in the mid-1970s. Thanks largely to the spade work done by Prof. Bibile at Sirimavo Bandaranayake’s instigation, it was possible for the Summit to adopt a key resolution on pharmaceutical policies in the Third World. “In all, thirty three political resolutions and thirty two economic resolutions were passed at the 1976 Colombo NAM Summit.” (Ranatunga 2016)
Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda proposed the vote of thanks to Bandaranaike. All International Heads of State and other dignitaries who attended the conference were full of praise for the efficient manner and meticulous effort taken by Sri Lanka. Sirimavo Bandaranayake’s charisma and fame rose to new heights in the Non-Aligned world.
As reputed diplomat Jayantha Dhanapala wrote in ‘Sirimavo – Honouring the world’s first woman Prime Minister’, “despite harping criticism by the opposition, the Conference was one of Sri Lanka’s greatest triumph in foreign policy. Detailed planning supervised personally by the Prime Minister, ensured its success,” he added.
Even though the Bandaranayake International Conference Hall located at Bauddhaloka Mawatha was built utilising money owed to Sri Lanka, at times referred to as a gift by the Chinese, it is a tribute to one of Sri Lanka’s great statesmen and a promoter of non-alignment. As a proud Sri Lankan, I do not have problems with that. It will stand tall as a monument to honesty displayed by two nations who had a deep trust and respected in each other as friends. The complex is still being maintained with the money originally allocated for the task.
It is gratifying to note that there was a time when both Sri Lankan and Chinese politicians were honest in their dealings and respected each other. There was no real need for China to even reveal the fact there was money available. It was many decades down the road and all had been forgotten. Sri Lanka did not know and there are many countries then, and even today, including the past colonial countries and even our neighbours who even if they knew, would have never divulged it. But it is a tribute to the respect and honesty that prevailed between friends at the time. Is the China of today the same, or different?
Unfortunately, the China of today is different, heavily imbibed in western competitive economic theory, this new copy cat China is fast losing her Asianness. Culture is engrained in a people, not on cheap carnival displays, but in its ability to think long term. Indulging in a clouded vision of the original Sri Lanka-Chinese relations which was based on mutual respect that goes back 2000 years does not help. Amongst friends, each country has to be treated on its own merit. A single brush paints all does not work, as it will only lead to resentment. Africa is standing up and questioning China’s intentions, soon other countries will.
New China is also losing its ability for sympathetic lateral thinking, an Asian trait. Her present business model has to be rethought, or she will lose all she has gained in the past. The new Chinese conglomerates released on the world are based on a Shylock mould only interested in their pound of flesh, to be collected in the shortest possible time frame, even threatening lasting friendships. If China is a real friend, China should come clean and erase Sri Lanka’s debt, and release Sri Lanka from Chinese territorial hegemony. The loss of a sincere and respected friend leaves a lacunae that could never be repaired nor regained.
The Indian Ocean should remain a zone of peace, say no to nuclear weapons. The ocean around Sri Lanka should be declared a National Sanctuary for all marine life. Most of all, Sri Lanka should remain Non-Aligned, offering respect where respect is due and a haven to a Sri Lanka first policy. In the words of 5th NAM Conference Secretary-General, Dr. Vernon Mendis after Conference, “That was the day when I realised how proud we could be of our organisational resources, what our people, our officers and departments are capable of.” Today the administration requires a special group of people who could stand tall and be counted.
(Ranatunga. D.C., when over 90 leaders ‘invaded’ Colombo, 2016.., NNW Team., Sri Lanka and the Non-Aligned Movement. 2016)
South’s development debacle compounded by SAARC’s inner paralysis
From a development point of view, it’s ‘the worst of times’ for the global South. The view of some of the most renowned development organizations is that the woes brought upon the hemisphere by the Covid-19 pandemic have probably stalled its development by decades. The inference is inescapable that the South would need to start from scratch as it were in its efforts to ease its material burdens, once the present health crisis shows signs of lifting.
A recent Jakarta Post/ANN news feature published in this newspaper on January 14th, detailing some of the dire economic fallout from the pandemic on the South said: ‘Between March and December 2020, the equivalent of 147 million full time jobs were lost in the Asia Pacific region. In 2020, the World Bank estimated that between 140 million people in Asia were pushed into poverty and in 2021 another 8 million became poor…..Vulnerable groups such as women, ethnic and religious minorities and migrant workers were worst affected. Across Asia, informal and migrant workers suffered an estimated 21.6 percent fall in their income in the first four months of the pandemic.’
Needless to say, being one of the least developed regions of the South and its most populous one, it is South Asia that is likely to be worst affected in the current global crunch. A phenomenon that should not go unnoticed in this connection, is the rising number of the ‘new poor’ in the South. This refers in the main to those sections of the middle class that are sliding into the lower middle class and the ranks of the poverty-stricken as a result of the ill-effects of the present crisis. Job loss and decreasing income are some of the causes behind this rising tide of pauperization.
Referring to this and connected processes the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka states in its ‘Sri Lanka State of the Economy 2021’report: ‘Estimates at the USD 3.20 poverty line are forecasted to be at least 228 million, with a larger share of the population emerging from South Asia yet again. Initial projections for 2021 estimate the number of individuals in extreme poverty to be between 143 and 163 million.’ The stark and widespread poverty emerging in Afghanistan since mid-August 2021, ought to push up these figures quite a bit.
Considering that the South is way behind the North in developmental terms, the unfolding global economic crisis could be expected to widen the chasm in material wellbeing between the hemispheres in the days ahead. However, ‘the overwhelming question’ for the South would be how it could fend for itself in the absence of those Southern-centred organizations that could take up its cause in the forums of the world and bring the region together in an effort to work towards its collective wellbeing. The importance of this question is strongly underscored by the fact that SAARC is more or less dysfunctional or paralyzed at present.
The immense magnitude of the poverty question is yet to be realized by the ruling elites of the South. It is as if the chimerical growth spurt in some sections of the South over the past 30 or so years has rendered them numb and insensitive to poverty-related issues, including the ever-yawning gulf within their countries between the obscenely wealthy and the desperately poor. As is known, while the so-called ordinary people of the South have been wilting in dire want over the past two years, the hemisphere has been producing billionaires in disconcertingly high numbers. This could be true of Sri Lanka as well and the Pandora Papers gave us the cue a few months back.
By burying their heads in the sands as it were in this manner, Southern political elites could very well be setting the stage for bloody upheavals within their states. The need for substantial ‘bread’ has always been a driver of socio-political change over the centuries. They are bound to find their problems compounded by the accentuation of ethnicity and religion related questions, considering that such issues are taking a turn for the worse amid the current economic debacle. Vulnerable groups would need to be cared for and looked after by rulers and these include women and ethnic minorities. An aggravation of their lot could compound the worries of Southern rulers.
The phenomenal increase of billionaires ought to be researched more intently and thoroughly by Southern think tanks, R and D organizations and the like. Among other things, does not this disquieting emergence of billionaires prove that classical economics was wrong in assuming that wealth would easily ‘trickle-down’ to the masses from wealth creators, such as businessmen and other owners of capital? After all, we now have clear evidence that mountainous wealth could exist amid vast wastes of poverty and powerlessness.
However, the view of some commentators that ‘neoliberal policies of privatization’ and connected issues should now be reassessed and even eschewed ought to strike the observer as worthy of consideration. These policies that enthrone free market economics should be viewed as badly in need of revision and correction in view of the inherently unstable economic systems that they have given rise to over the past three decades. Their serious flaws are thrown into strong relief by the present Southern economic crisis which has resulted in some isolated, formidable towers of wealth and opulence sprouting in a sea of hardship and economic want.
Hopefully, we would see a renewed wide-ranging discussion on development models from now on. Ideally, growth needs to go hand-in-hand with equity if development is to be achieved to a degree. There is no getting away from the need for central planning to some extent in our efforts to reach these ends. Capital and Labour would need to come together in a meeting of minds in these endeavours. Development thrusts would need to be launched on pragmatic considerations as well.
However, a regional approach to resolving these issues facing South Asia needs to be renewed and persisted with as well. As long as SAARC remains paralyzed such efforts are unlikely to bear full fruit. Accordingly, India and Pakistan, the regional heavyweights, need to negotiate an end to their differences and help rejuvenate SAARC; South Asia’s key collective body that could usher in a measure of regional development.
History of St. Sebastian’s Shrine, Kandana
By Godfrey Cooray
Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Norway, Finland and Iceland
According to legend, St. Sebastian was born at Narbonne in Gaul. He became a soldier in Rome and encouraged Marcellian and Marcus who were sentenced to death to remain firm in their faith. St. Sebastian made several converts; among them were master of the rolls Nicostratus, who was in charge of prisoners and his wife, Zoe, a deaf mute whom he cured.
Sebastian was named captain in the Roman Army by Emperor Diocletian, as Emperor Maximian went to the east. Neither knew that Sebastian was a Christian. When it was discovered that Sebastian was indeed a Christian, he was ordered to be executed. He was shot with arrows and left to die but when the widow of St. Castulas went to recover his body, she found out that he was still alive and nursed him back to health. Soon after his recovery, St. Sebastian intercepted the Emperor; denounced him for his cruelty to Christians and was beaten to death on the Emperor’s order.
St. Sebastian was venerated in Milan as early as the time of St. Ambrose. St. Sebastian is the patron of archers, athletes, soldiers, the Saint of the youths and is appealed to protection against the plagues. St. Ambrose reveals that the parents young Sebastian were living in Milan as a noble family. St. Ambrose further says that Sebastian along with his three friends, Pankasi, Pulvius and Thorvinus completed his education successfully with the blessing of his mother, Luciana. Rev. Fr. Dishnef guided him through his spiritual life. From his childhood, Sebastian wanted to join the Roman Army and with the help of King Karnus, young Sebastian became a soldier. Within as short span of time he was appointed as the Commander of the Army of king Karnus. Emperor Diocletian declared Christians the enemy of the Roman Empire and instructed judges to punish Christians who have embraced the Catholic Church. Young Sebastian as one of the servants of Christ converted thousands of other believers into Christians. When Emperor Diocletian revealed that Sebastian had become a Catholic, the angery Emperor ordered for Sebastian to be shot to death with arrows. After being shot, one of Sebastian supporters, Irane, treated him and cured him. When Sebastian was cured, he came to Emperor Diocletian and professed his faith for the second time disclosing that he is a servant of Christ. Astounded by the fact that Sebastian is a Christian, Emperor Diocletian ordered the Roman Army to kill Sebastian with club blows.
In the liturgical calendar of the Church, the feast of the St. Sebastian is celebrated on 20th of January. This day is, indeed, a mini Christmas to the people of Kandana, irrespective of their religion. The feast commences with the hoisting of the flag staff on the 11th of January at 4 p.m. at the Kandana junction, along the Colombo- Negombo road. There is a long history attached to the flag staff. The first flag staff which was an ariecanut tree, 25 feet tall was hoisted by the Aththidiya family of Kandana and today their descendants continue hoisting of the flag staff as a tradition. This year’s flag staff too was hoisted by the Raymond Aththidiya family. Several processions originating from different directions carrying flags meet at this flag staff junction. The pouring of milk on the flag staff has been a tradition in existence for a long time. The Nagasalan band was introduced by a well-known Jaffna businessman that had engaged in business in Kandana in the 1950s. The famous Kandaiyan Pille’s Nagasalan group takes the lead even today in the procession. Kiribath Dane in the Kandana town had been a tradition from the time immemorial.
According to the available history from the Catholic archives and volume III of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka, the British period of vicariates of Colombo written by Rev. Ft. Vito Perniola SJ in 1806 states that the British government granted the freedom of conscious and religion to the Catholics in Ceylon and abolished all the anti-Catholic legislation enacted by the Dutch. The proclamation was declared and issued on the 3rd of August 1796 by Colonel James Stuart, the officer commanding the British forces of Ceylon stated “freedom granted to Catholics” (Sri Lanka national archives 20/5).
Before the Europeans, the missioners were all Goans from South India. In the year 1834, on the 3rd of December, XVI Gregory the Pope, issued a document Ex Muwere pastoralis ministeric, after which the Ceylon Catholic Church was made under the South Indian Cochin diocese. Very Rev. Fr. Vincent Rosario, the Apostolic VicarGeneral, was appointed along with 18 Goan priests (The Oratorion Mission in Sri Lanka being a history of the Catholic Chruch 1796-1874 by Arthur C Dep Chapter 11 pg 12) Rev Fr. Joachim Alberto arrived in Sri Lanka as missionary on the 6th of March 1830 when he was 31 years old and he was appointed to look after Catholics in Aluthkuru Korale consisting Kandana, Mabole, Nagodaa and Ragama. There have been one church built in 1810 in Wewala about three miles away from Kandana. Wewala Chruch was situated bordering Muthurajawela which rose to fame for its granary. History reveals that the entire area was under paddy cultivation of which most of them were either farmers or toddy tappers. History further reveals that there have been an old canal built by King Weera Parakrama Bahu. Later it was built to flow through the Kelani River and Muthurajawela up to Negombo which was named as the Dutch Canal (RL Brohier historian).
During the British time this canal was named as Hamilton Canal and was used to transport toddy, spices, paddy and tree planks of which tree planks were stored in Kandana. Therefore, Kandana name derives from “Kandan Aana”.
Rev. Fr. Joachim Alberto purchased a small piece of land called Haamuduruwange watte at Nadurupititya in Kandana and put up a small cadjan chapel and placed a picture of St. Sebastian for the benefit of his small congregation. In 1837 with the help of the devotees, he dug a small well of which water was used for drinking and bathing and today this well is still operative. He bought several acres of land including the present cemetery premises. Moreover, he had put up the church at Kalaeliya in honour of his patron St. Joachim where his body has been laid to rest according to his wish of the Last will attested by Weerasinghe Arachchige Brasianu Thilakaratne. Notary public dated 19th of July 1855. Present Church was built on the property bought on the 13th of August 1875 on deed no. 146 attested by Graciano Fernando. Notary public of the land Gorakagahawatta Aluthkuru Korale Ragam Pattu in Kandana within the extend ¼ acre from and out of the 16 acres. According to the old plan number 374 made by P.A. H. Philipia, Licensed surveyor on the 31st of January 195, 9 acres and 25 perches belonged to St. Sebastian church. However, today only 3 acres, 3 roods and 16.5 perches are left according to plan number 397surveyed by the same surveyor while the rest had been sold to the villagers. According to the survey conducted by Orithorian priest on the 12th of February 1844 there were only 18 school-going Catholic students in AluthKuru Korale and only one Antonio was the teacher for all classes. In 1844 there was no school at Kandana (APF SCG India Volume 9829).
According to Sri Lanka National Archives (The Ceylon Almanac page 185) in the year 1852 there were 982 Catholics – Male 265, female 290, children 365 with a total of 922. According to the census reports in 2014 prepared by Rev. Ft. Sumeda Dissanayake TOR, the director Franciscan Preaching group, Kadirana Negombo a survey revealed that there are 13,498 Catholics in Kandana.
According to the appointment of the Missionaries in the year 1866-1867 by Bishop Hillarien Sillani, Rev. Fr. Clement Pagnani OSB was sent to look after the missions in Negoda, Ragama, Batagama, Tudella, Kandana, Kala Eliya and Mabole. On the 18th of April 1866, the building of the new church commenced with a written agreement by and between Rec. Fr. Clement Pagnani and the then leaders of Kandana Catholic Village Committee. This committee consisted of Kanugalawattage Savial Perera Samarasinghe Welwidane, Amarathunga Arachchige Issak Perera Appuhamy, Jayasuriya Arachchige Don Isthewan Appuhamy, Jayasuriya Appuhamylage Elaris Perera Muhuppu, Padukkage Andiris Perera Opisara, Kanugalawattage Peduru Perera Annavi and Mallawa Arachchige Don Peduru Appujamy. The said agreement stated that they will give written undertaking that their labour and money will be utilised to build the new church of St. Sebastian and if they failed to do so they were ready to bear any punishment which will be imposed by the Catholic Church.
Rev. Fr. Bede Bercatta’s book “A History of the Vicariate of Colombo page 359” says that Rev. Fr. Stanislaus Tabarani had problems of finding rock stones to lay the foundation. He was greatly worried over this and placed his due trust in divine providence. He prayed for days to St. Sebastian for his intercession. One morning after mass, he was informed by some people that they had seen a small patch of granite at a place in Rilaulla, close to the church premises although such stones were never seen there earlier and requested him to inspect the place. The parish priest visited the location and was greatly delighted as his prayers has been answered. This small granite rock provided enough granite blocks for the full foundation of the present church. This place still known as “Rilaulla galwala”. The work on the building proceeded under successive parish priests but Rev. Fr. Stouter was responsible for much of it. The façade of the church was built so high that it crashed on the 2nf of April of 1893. The present façade was then built and completed in the year 1905. The statue of St. Sebastian which is behind the altar had been carved off a “Madan tree”. It was done by Paravara man named Costa Mama, who was staying with a resident named Miguel Baas a Ridualle, Kandana. This statue was made at the request of Pavistina Perera Amaratunge, mother of former Member of Parliament gate muadliyer D. Panthi Jayasuriya. The church was completed during the time of Rev. Fr. Keegar and was blessed by then Archbishop of Colombo Dr. Anthony Courdert OMI on the 20th of January 1912. In 1926, Rev. Fr. Romauld Fernando was appointed as the parish priest to Kandana Church. He was an educationalist and a social worker. Without any hesitation he can be called as the father of education in Kandana. He was the pioneer to build three schools to Kandana: Kandana St. Sebastian Boys School, Kandana St. Sebastian English Girls School and, the Mazenod College Kandana. Later he was appointed as the principal of the St. Sebastian Boys English School. He bought a property at Kandana close to Ganemulla road and started De Mazenod College. Later, it was given officially to Christian Brothers of Sri Lanka, by then Archbishop of Colombo, Peter Mark. In 1931, there were three hundred students (history of De Lasalle brothers by Rev. Fr. Bro Michael Robert). Today, there are over three thousand five hundred students and is one of the leading catholic schools in Sri Lanka. In 1924, one Karolis Jayasuriya Widanage donated two acres to build De Mazenod College for its extension.
First priest from Kandana to be ordained was Rev. Fr. William Perera in 1904. With the help of Rev. Fr. Marcelline Jayakody, he composed the famous hymn “the Vikshopa Geethaya”, the hymn of our Lady of Sorrow.
The Life story of St. Sebastian was portrayed through a stage play called “Wasappauwa” and the world famous German passion play Obar Amargave wchi was a sensation was initiated by Rev. Fr. Nicholas Perera. Legend reveals that in the year 1845, a South Indian catholic on his way to meet his relatives in Colombo had brought down a wooden statue of St. Sebastian, one and half feet tail to be sold in Sri Lanka. When he reached Kalpitiya he had unexpectedly contracted malaria. He had made a vow at St. Anne’s church. Thalawila expecting a full recovery. In route to Colombo he had come to know about the church in Kandana and dedicated to St. Sebastian. In the absence of the then parish priest Rev. Fr. Joachim Alberto, the Muhuppu of the Church with the help of the others had agreed to buy the statue for 75 pathagas (one pahtaga was 75 cent). Even though the seller had left the money in the hands of the “Muhuppu” to be collected in the meantime he never returned.
On the 19th of January 2006, Archbishop Oswald Gomis declared St. Sebastian Church as “St. Sebastian Shrine” by way of special notification and handed over the declaration to Rev. Fr. Susith Perera, the parish priest of Kandana.
On the 12th of January 2014, Catholics in Sri Lanka celebrated the reception of a reliquary containing a fragment of the arm of St. Sebastian. The reliquary was gifted from the administrator of the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua and was brought to Sri Lanka by Monsignor Neville Perera. His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjit, Archbishop of Colombo accompanied by priests and a large gathering received the relic at the Katunayake International Airport, brought to Kandana lead by a procession and was enthroned at the St. Sebastian Shrine.
Rev. Fr. Lalith Expeditus the present administrator of the shrine and other two assistant priests Rev. Fr. Sunath Udara and Fr. Sumeda Perea have finalized all arrangements to conduct the feast of St. Sebastian in grand scale. The vespers service will be officiated by his Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjit and the festival high mass will be solemnized by most Rev. his Lordship J.D. Anthony, Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo.
The latest book written by Senior Lawyer Godfrey Cooray named “Santha Sebastian Puranaya Saha Kandana”. (The history of St. Sebastian and Kandana) was launched at De La Salle Auditorium De Mazenod College, Kandana.
The Archbishop of Colombo His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and former Chief Justice Priyasath Dep were the guests at the event.
The book discusses about the buried history of Muthurajawela and Aluth Kuru Korale civilization, the history of Kandana and St. Sebastian. The author discusses the historical and archaeological values and culture.
His musical exploits has touched millions of fans
Tribute to entertainer-singer par excellence – Desmond de Silva
By Trevine Rodrigo
The great Desmond De Silva, who departed from this world, on Sunday, January 9th, had been in hibernation for several months, due to the devastating outbreak of Covid, which shut down many parts of Australia.
After border closures were lifted, he embarked on a 31st night dinner dance, at the Sri Lounge in the Docklands, in Melbourne, where he delivered his last fully energised performance.
Widely regarded as Sri Lanka’s best singer/entertainer by far, over five decades, Desmond has covered every spectrum of music, in Sri Lanka, and later, in England and Australia, while wowing millions of adoring fans around the globe.
His achievements in music cannot be encompassed in a few paragraphs but his fans will readily testify to the indelible mark he has made as a wonderful performer. He was to Sri Lankans what Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra was to the world, showcasing a rare and extraordinary talent that even extended to Motown.
He has travelled through numerous countries as a band member, mainly Europe and Asia, and has teamed up with hundreds of musicians along the way who have marvelled at his unique presence on stage.
After years of globe-trotting as a performer, with the Jetliners and later the Spitfires, he then continued his work as a leader of his own band, Desmond and the Clan, and this setup was very popular in Europe and Scandinavia.
After years of adventure, on the road, he then settled on a solo career, singing as a guest singer and his popularity soared when he ventured into the Sinhala music scene, as well.
Before long, he commanded the respect of the nation by being proclaimed the King of Baila which skyrocketed his fame in an era that gave fame but no massive financial gain, as he rose to an iconic status.
Ironically, Desmond always harboured his love for Western music and quite naturally chose not to be categorised, or pigeonholed, as one dimensional. He has produced many CDs, videos and commands thousands of followers on YouTube, and other related music channels.
His impressive versatility and ability to own the stage made him a standout among music lovers, immaterial of their ethnicity, and, sadly, he is another of the Sri Lankan icons who have departed this world, alongside Sunil Perera (of the Gypsies) and Ronnie Leitch, in recent times.
His musical exploits has touched millions of fans through several generations and will continue to do so, such is the impact he has cemented as a once-in-a-lifetime performer. He has nurtured several musicians, along the way, giving them pointers which have helped them launch their own careers in music to great heights. He maintained a high degree of professionalism and would not compromise his standards for anything less.
Never the arrogant performer, Des had an uncanny ability to interact with his fans, on and off stage, and this trait would see him draw invitations from all over the world.
I for one was amazed at his stamina and durability…to be in England one day, then on to Toronto and other cities in Canada, on to Sri Lanka, and several other countries, until, unfortunately, the pandemic curtailed his foreign assignments.
In our own interaction with him, my wife, Anne, and I, shared a special love for the man who slipped into our lifestyle, seamlessly, with wife, Phyllis.
He was a caring and wonderful friend and would call us at least once a week, from Sydney, to check how we were going or to share a joke. Our lives will never be the same without Desmond De Silva, a gentleman and wonderful friend.
Yes, the brilliant musician and singer/ entertainer Desmond De Silva was tragically snatched away from our midst in cruel circumstances when he suffered cardiac arrest, in his sleep, while in Melbourne. He was 77.
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