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Dr. Wijayananda Dahanayake – Galle’s most flamboyant son

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Great sons of Galle Part III

Born on October 22, 1902, he was the twin son of Muhandiram Dionysius Sepala Panditha Dahanayake. He was named Wijayananda after the Wijayananda Vihara in Weliwatta, Galle, where Col. H. S. Olcott first observed the five precepts.

His learned father was the chief lay disciple of this Vihara. The eminent astrologer Karo Gurunnanse, who read Dahanayake’s horoscope had predicted that one day he would rule the country. With Ceylon under the British Raj at the time, and with no independence in sight, it was treated as a far fetched prediction.

He was educated at Richmond College, Galle and later at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. The born fighter that he was, he one day created a rumpus, while lunch was being served, when Warden Stone sternly said, “Dahanayake! the next train to Galle is at 4.30.”

As a young man, he took part in the by-election campaign of Kannangara for the Legislative Council, referring to him as a ‘Conscientious Willing Worker’ (C. W. W.). At the time he would never have dreamt, that they both would be future ministers of education.

From S. Thomas’ College he joined the Kingswood College as a teacher. He once said that at Kingswood he learnt more than what he taught there.

A dashing young man then, he was in love with Rev. de Silva’s charming daughter, who played romantic music for him on the piano, which included a rendering of ‘Someone like you’.

Years later when he was heavily involved in politics, a newspaper reporter asked him as to why he remained a bachelor.

And, Dahanayake replied “I was looking for the perfect woman and one day I found her and proposed to her.”

“And why didn’t she accept you sir?” asked the reporter.

“Because she was looking for the perfect man!” chuckled Daha.

From Kingswood, he joined, the Government Training College in Colombo, as a trainee, together with his twin brother Kalyanapriya.

As a young man of 23 years, seated in the garden of the Government Training College, he wrote the poem titled ‘He stoops to conquer’.

The Poem was on the famous romance of Prince Saliya, son of warrior-king Dutugemunu and the Chandala girl, beautiful Asokamala; a romance that shook the Royal Court and the entire country and has been told and re-told, sung, and re-sung down the centuries.

“In palm thatched hut alone – she sat

And breathed the jasmine – scented air

Whilst woodland bird so blithely chirped

To greet this maiden wondrous fair,

An outcast born, unloved, unknown,

What passing phantom greets her sight:

‘Tis stately Sal, King Gemunu’s son

Her bosom heaved with mad delight

Whilst Sal, with magic dreams a lit,

Beheld this sprite, of Heavenly beauty,

No darksome rift his thoughts did sift,

For lingering love had conquered duty!

This lingering love was far above,

The harrowing pangs of princely pride;

By the Gods he swore “I thee adore!”

And lost a kingdom for a bride!”

One day he was reprimanded by the principal for not wearing a necktie to dinner, a strict rule at that time.

An apparently contrite Dahanayake humbly promised the principal that he would do so, the next day. The next day Dahanayake came to dinner wearing a necktie, as promised.

It was a shoelace.

Graduated a trained teacher, he had a brief stint at Siddhartha College Balapitiya, before joining St. Aloysius College, Galle where he taught for eight years, from 1928 to 1936, teaching a variety of subjects including Latin, mathematics, history, geography and rural science.

He was also the games master in charge of cricket, football and athletics. Dahanayake was no mean athlete, easily clearing five feet at high jump.

Schoolmaster Dahanayake was a fine actor and was the chief attraction in the college plays, many of which were adaptations from Moliere’s comedies.

It was the year 1935. The loyal little colony of Ceylon was celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Coronation of King George the Fifth, in a big way, much to the infuriation of the sworn anti-imperialist Dahanayake.

Waving a black flag, he joined the celebrations and was immediately taken into custody by the Police. Hundreds of people who were there followed Dahanayake who was being dragged away to the Police station.

Thereafter he was detained at the Bogambara prison and was later produced in court, where he was fined Rs. 10.00.

Dahanayake, now an anti–British hero, was taken to his home “Sri Bhavana” in a colourful procession.

When Dahanayake started addressing political meetings, the school authorities terminated his services saying that teaching and politics were incompatible.

In 1933, he published a newspaper called ‘Ruhunu Handa’. It was four-paged, priced at three cents and was published every week. Its humour column ‘street talk’ was very popular. When D. R. Jardine’s controversial cricket team came to Galle, Ruhunu Handa headlined “Go back Jardine”.

Soon after leaving St. Aloysius College, he got into main stream of politics.

The humble John Aloysius and Alice Akkas, with whom he rubbed shoulders with easy familarity and affection, became his idols.

He also became a frequent visitor to the Pacha Gaha (Fibber’s tree), the local Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner, where he waxed eloquent as a political aspirant.

It was not long after, he became the first mayor of Galle in 1939. In 1940 he declared May Day as a holiday for the Municipal Council workers, long before 1956.

By now, he was an amusing speaker, a crowd puller, a very lovable human being and the undisputed champion of the down trodden masses.

He then went to Keppitipola’s Wellassa, far removed from his native Galle and contested the Bibile seat in the second State Council at a by-election in 1944, and was elected.

At the State Council, he functioned as a one man opposition, espoused the idol of the masses and was always in the limelight with his gimmicks and fun.

In 1945, he made a marathon speech in the legislature lasting 13 hours. It is still an unbroken record.

Once he was named for a week for calling the State Council “a den of thieves”.

Dahanayake was the one and only member who voted against the introduction of the Soulbury Constitution, on the grounds that the cabinet system was not suited to the genius of the people. He preferred the then existing executive committee system of government.

He was a man with a keen sense of humour who had a gift for eloquence and repartee which he often displayed in the House.

Some of his delightful parodies as a master parodist, drove a point home where extended verbiage failed.

Here is he on Sir John.

Twinkle, twinkle, good Sir John,

How you’ve fooled our fair Ceylon.

Looking young in spite of age.

Like an actor on stage,

When the girls at “Temple Trees”

Crowd and dance like buzzing bees,

Then you sing your sweetest song,

Twinkle, twinkle, all night long!

But if you care to see the woe.

Of starving men who come and go,

Then you’ll sing a sadder song.

And twinkle like a wiser John.

Addressing a meeting at Galle, Premier Sir John Kotelawala once said “If Dahanayake tries his nonsense with me, I will devour him.”

The next day Dahanayake issued a statement: “Then at least Sir John will have a brain in his stomach”.

He was a darling of the press, who always found him for a good story.

As an unconventional parliamentarian he was the first M.P. to travel third class with a first class ticket. And once he was asked why he travelled third class. He chuckled, “Because there is no fourth class.”

It was one way that he kept in touch with the people.

Those were the days when in December every year, the Galle Gymkhana Club held their horse racing meets. And Dahanayake devised an ingenious way of keeping contact with the people. On the morning of a meet, he displayed the “Treble Forecast”, on the Beli tree in his garden. As some of his tips clicked, the Beli tree became more popular.

His official telephone was like a public telephone. Those days there were no direct dialling facilities and calls had to be monitored through the exchange. If the call happened to be an urgent one, then Daha would help the caller by calling back the exchange to give the call ‘official priority’.

He was not a globe trotting M.P. or a minister. Once Sir John, the then Minister of Transport invited him to join the inaugural flight of the newly created Air Ceylon to Madras. That was the only time he left our shores.

When S.W.R.D came to address one of Daha’s election meetings at Galle in 1956, he went up to the mike and shouted “Banda comes to town! UNP down!” On hearing it S. W. R. D. had a hearty laugh.

When W. was a hot-blooded young man, he was presiding at an LSSP meeting at Galle Face Green, when a comrade came up and whispered in his ear, that thugs from a rival political party had been posted at strategic points in the crowd to disrupt the meeting. When told this, Daha immediately got up, stopped the comrade who was speaking and in stentorian tones cried out.

“Mage gama Gaalley!

Gaalley kollo bohoma vasai!

Ung hapuwath Naaga visai!

Yakada kandan dekata navai

Dekata navala thunata kadai!”

(“I am from Galle!

The boys of Galle are very dangerous!

If they bite you, it’ll be like a snake-bite!

They can bend iron giders!

They bend them in two and break them into three!”)

And the planned disruption never took place!

At the 1947 general elections, Dahanayake contested W. Amarasuriya, one of the richest in the island at the time and defeated him.

There is an interesting aftermath almost four decades later. A statue of Amarasuriya was erected after his death by the grateful people of Galle, and Prime Minister Premadasa was invited to unveil it. On that occasion, Dr. W. Dahanayake, Minister of Co-operatives, made a stirring speech, going to describe the late H.W. Amarasuriya as a Bodhisatva.

The Prime Minister, in his speech, quipped that had Dahanayake made that speech in 1947, he would have lost the election!

On that fateful day of September 25, 1959, Dahanayake who was staying at the M.P’s hostel ‘Sravasti’ ordered a plain cup of tea for the security officer on duty and another for himself and was chatting with him at the security post, when he received an urgent message, on receipt of which he drove to the Queens House to take oaths as the acting Prime Minister.

On the days he was at Galle, the premier’s Cadillac was somewhat of a public vehicle in which the young men used to go on jolly jaunts, even to the extent of going to the Galle Town to bring hoppers for those manning his election office in the night.

Soon after his defeat at the 1960 March election, Dahanayake went on a pilgrimage, armed with a camera given him by Sir Susantha de Fonseka, a former Ambasador of Ceylon in Japan and a former deputy speaker.

He was going to the Avukana Shrine after parking his vehicle, when he felt thirsty and went to a hut close by, asking for some water. The woman there brought a glass of water and while offering it asked him where he was from. Dahanayake answered that he was from Galle, when the woman fuming with indignation said, “The people of Galle do not deserve to be given even a glass of water, for the way they defeated Dahanayake Mahattaya.”

Dahanayake chuckled and resumed his journey, without revealing his identity.

After a long and eventful tenure in the legislature, he lived in retirement sans opulent wealth, respected and loved by the people.

There will never be another like him!

 



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Pernicious, ubiquitous strikes

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Railway strike

Local news on most TV channels is almost wholly about on-going strikes and preparations plus controversy on the to-be-held presidential election come October.

Political news is centered on this election. Chief protagonist, the present Prez, has said the election will be held at the correct time this year. UNP side-kicks and a maverick have countered this by saying it need not be held since at the present juncture it is best to postpone change by two years. The present incumbent has a further one year to serve according to the Constitution said the bright spark, who filed an application in the Supreme Court was roundly dismissed by it, with an implied but unsaid upbraiding for wasting the time of the Apex Court.

People surmised filing a case was with the approval of the Prez or his Secretariat if not actual promotion, but RW dismissed that suspicion; “I firmly believe that the President’s term is five years, and I support the Election Commission’s steps to hold the Presidential Election in 2024.”  So there! Three cheers! The Prez is on the side of the people who want an election. It is correct constitutionally too.

Political platforms are raucous with praise of their chosen candidates, with photographs of VIPs who have recently changed loyalties in the forefront, some giving shocks to viewers. They seem to have turned 180 degrees or even 360, now championing a candidate they tore into with sharp barbs of ridicule and criticism. To serve themselves to continue in the most lucrative job in the island, they will turn cartwheels and leapfrog from one party to another. Such are most visible in the meetings held to promote Ranil W, as our next president.

Karadara kara strikes

Strikes of varied nature and kinds are rampant so much so that half the time news is telecast we see crowds marching or standing around with police facing them. These strikers are three quarter responsible for the chaos the country is in at this juncture when all should be contributing their might to pull the country out of the morass it was pushed into by its leaders. Cass has so many epithets to express her revulsion at these spectacles that are a shame to the country at large. Don’t those sick note presenters, continuously striking non academics, utterly disgraceful and unethical, nay immoral, teachers know the country is still in the economic doldrums and unless everyone pulls his/her weight we will remain down in the sludge of bankruptcy, notwithstanding IMF assistance and nations having shown leniency in our debt restricting process.

The trade unions demand monthly increases of Rs 25,000 and even more. Don’t they have an iota of sensibility in them to know this is no time for strikes whose demands cannot be met and the strikes making worse the parlous state of the country with lost man hours? Many a striker deliberately loses man hours of work when  supposedly working in their jobs: teachers sit chatting in staff rooms, tea breaks are more than an hour long; leave is taken at their whim and fancy, never mind completion of syllabuses or school exams; least of all consideration of the students in their hands.

Cass heard of students who had completed their university degrees not being able to get their certificates due to the prolonged strike of non-academic staff. Thus, employment and even accepting scholarships from overseas universities have been thwarted.

Train strikes came unannounced. Wednesday morning Cass received a call from weekly domestic help: “No trains running and so I cannot come.” She was expecting very urgent financial help. She wakes up on these days of work at 4.00 am; cooks for her family; walks a mile; boards the train and is in my flat at 7.30 am sharp. Now she is never sure whether she will have to turn back with no trains running. When health sector workers strike, and even doctors of the recent past have resorted to this deplorable ruse, it is a matter of life or death to some. A person called Mudalige was seen smilingly distributing leaflets while protest marching, the cause of which Cass could not catch nor fathom. He thinks himself a saviour; he is a destroyer.

A silver lining appeared. Cass watched on TV news Prez Ranil chairing a meeting with financial secretaries. They expressed their opinion strongly and clearly that salary increases were impossible to give and money printing was now taboo with the IMF overseeing matters financially. And the Prez concluded that it was not possible to give in to strikers. That gladdened the heart immensely. We hope he will be of the same opinion regarding MPs’ demand for tax free luxury limos and life-long insurance for them and theirs in addition to the pensions they now receive after just five years of warming comfortable chairs in the Chamber.

The Editor of The Island of Wednesday July 10, has in his style of sharp and spot-on comment, criticism, blame laying and solutions to be taken dealt with this common bane of Sri Lankan existence. (We don’t ‘live’ now, the word connoting security, justified happiness and fairness to all; rather do we merely exist). He writes under the title Strikes, demand and harsh reality and points out the fact that there are about 1.5 million public employees, working out to about one state worker for every 14 citizens. Preposterous! Only possible in SL, a land like no other where politicians and their chits are to be mostly blamed for this imbalance. Culling or weaning of public servants should be started. Then strikers will not go by instigators of strikes who plan to destabilize the country, but cling to their paying jobs.

How the Iron Lady broke the back of strikes

Cass recollected how newly appointed Conservative PM, Margaret Thatcher, manoeuvered to stop strikes of coal miners and earned the hypocoristic of ‘Iron Lady’.

Cass surfed the Internet to refresh her memory. In 1884 –85, UK coal miners’ strike was a major industrial action in an attempt to stop closure of pits that the government deemed uneconomic; the coal industry having been nationalised in 1947. Arthur Scargill was a name remembered as instigator and leader of strike action. Some minors worked and so, starting in Yorkshire and Midland, the back of the year long strike was shaken and the Conservative government went to work and allowed closure of most British collieries.  Margaret Thatcher was credited with breaking up the ‘most bitter industrial dispute in British history.’ The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) strategy was to cause a severe energy shortage that had won victory in the 1972 strike. Thatcher’s strategy was to build ample stocks of coal; to retain as many minors as possible; and to get the police to break up strikes, which were ruled illegal in September 1984; they ended a year later. Miners suffered but the country gained.

It was heartening to hear that the railway has been made an essential service. Station masters said they would go on striking. Drastic measures have to be adopted to stop such anti-national activities.

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Why human capital development is essential for Sri Lanka

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by S. D. Gamini Jayasooriya
Wayamba University
gaminij2025@gmail.com


The development of human capital is of immense importance for the economic development of Sri Lanka. Thus, investing in education and skills training raises the overall productivity and effectiveness of personnel, spurring innovation and economic growth. Analysing the current situation in Sri Lanka, human capital development can be seen to be of particular importance for creating a competitive economy.

Levels of Human Capital Development

Human capital development in Sri Lanka can be categorised into three main levels: school-leaving level, higher education, and tertiary levels.

School Level: The primary and secondary level of education are indispensable at the basic level. Promoting quality education for children creates a pool of educated human capital in society. Special attention should be paid to raising the level of education, revising curricula, and integrating the use of new technologies in education processes.

Higher Education: In particular, specific skills and knowledge are cultivated at universities and colleges. Improving funding, research and industry linkages in higher education institutions help to produce ready-made graduates to suit the global market demand.

Tertiary Level: Vocational training and technical education are crucial in preparation of people for the job market with relevant skills. Thus, increasing and enhancing vocational training centers would provide solutions for skill deficiencies in different sectors, making the population fit for the actual needs of the economy.

Sri Lankan Labor Market Overview 2023

The Sri Lankan labor market in 2023 has strengths and weaknesses as discussed below. Currently, unemployment trends are still elevated, especially within the youth bracket, while skills supply does not match the skills demand in the market. There is a lack of qualified workers in a number of fields including the IT, healthcare, and manufacturing industries.

A major part of the population is engaged in the informal economy and most of them may be in the low wage employment. This state of affairs requires proper human capital development policies and the enhancement of skill and formalization of the labor market.

Importance of a Skilled Workforce in Economic Development

Skilled workforce is one of the prerequisites for developing the economy of a particular country. Employment of specialized personnel leads to increased output, creativity, and effectiveness in many sectors. They can respond better to innovations in technology and fluctuations in the market thus promoting more economic growth and competition.

Human capital is also an element that enriches the stream of foreign investment. They are likely to be established in places where human capital is readily available to them in terms of skills. This can lead to the generation of employment, technology distribution and enhancement of the economy on a whole.

Recommendations

To enhance human capital development in Sri Lanka, several strategies should be implemented:

1. Improve Educational Infrastructure: Make sure that there is infrastructure development in schools, adequate provision for the needy student, and teachers are in a position to teach.

2. Strengthen Higher Education: Encourage partnerships between universities and industries to ensure the delivered curricula align with the market needs. Contribute towards the improvement of research and development.

3. Expand Vocational Training: Increase the number of vocational training centers and adjust the offered programs to suit the current employment market. Promote the actualization of vocational education as a worthwhile career.

4. Promote Lifelong Learning: Encourage continued learning through offered adult education and online classes.

5. Government and Private Sector Collaboration: Encourage government and private sector to work together and identify the areas that require skills and come up with relevant training needs.

Conclusion

That is why human capital investment must become a priority in Sri Lanka. Investing in education and skills training of the people at all levels will enable the development of a competent and versatile human resource pool. This will help spur economic development, encourage foreign direct investment, and build a stronger and more competitive economy. It is for this reason that the management of human capital should be done strategically to foster the future growth and stability of Sri Lanka.

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Sixty-five years after entry to university of Ceylon, Peradeniya

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University of Peradeniya

by HM NISSANKA WARAKAULLE

It was sixty five years ago, and that is very long time ago, on 29 June 1959 that a batch of 378 students from all parts of Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) entered the portals of the most beautiful university at that time, the University of Ceylon, situated in the salubrious surroundings in Peradeniya, just four miles from the historic city of Kandy, after having successfully passed the then University Entrance examination conducted by the university itself, to read for our varied degrees in Arts, Oriental Languages, Law, etc.

The atmosphere was filled with excitement and sometimes with dismal and gloomy feelings, varied feelings produced from a sense of uncertainty and new-found freedom. The drive through the campus from the Galaha Road junction through the picturesque setting, well maintained lawns and well-laid out flower beds (Sir Ivor Jennings and Mr. Shirley De Alwis together had done the selection of the trees and shrubs very meticulously to bring out the blending of colours), the imposing architectural marvels of Jayathilaka and Arunachalam Halls, the Arts Theatre, the Senate building, and Hilda Obeysekera Hall and the tree sheltered kissing bend and up the winding road to Marcus Fernando Hall( Mr. Shirley De Alwis had planned out the general scheme, landscaping which was his favourite and all other details), brought thoughts to one’s mind which were mixed with perplexity, bewilderment and abandonment. One was entering a make-believe land, very artificial but, at the same time, very fascinating.

There were two significant things in respect of our batch of 1959. Ours was the last all- English medium batch to enter the university. The second important thing is our batch was the first batch where all the students were admitted directly without a viva voce, as up to the previous batch the students were selected both directly and some after facing a viva voce.

Though sixty-five years have gone by, we have not forgotten the best experience we had during the three or four years we spent in the beautiful campus. It is sad that many of our batch mates are not with us now having left us and moved into another world and not being with us to reminisce the glorious time we spent as residential undergraduates.

To all those who entered the Peradeniya campus before us and to our batch, that university will remain in our minds as the one and only university in then Ceylon as the University of Ceylon, which had been established by the Ordinance No. 20 of 1942 and situated in Colombo. It was in the early nineteen fifties that the campus of the University of Ceylon was established in Peradeniya.

The single university continued until 1959. It was only in 1959 that two other universities were created, namely the Vidyodaya University (now known as the University of Sri Jayewardenepura) and the Vidyalankara University (now known as the University of Kelaniya) which were established by the Vidyodaya University and Vidyalankara University Act No. 45 of 1958.These two universities were created by upgrading the two famous Pirivenas (Vidyodaya and Vidyalanakara) that were functioning at that time.

That period we spent at Peradeniya was one of the most unforgettable periods of our lives. The friendships that we cultivated while in Peradeniya remain and will not be erased from our minds.

It would be of interest to those who followed us much later to read for their degrees how the undergraduates were selected in our time. We sat the University Entrance examination conducted by the University of Ceylon in four centres, namely, Colombo, Kandy, Jaffna and Galle with the Department of Examinations having nothing to do with it. Thank God! However, if any candidate wanted to obtain the Higher School Certificate (HSC) such candidate had to sit the extra paper at the same examination and if successful received the HSC certificate from the Department of Education.

The results of the examination were not sent either to the schools or the candidates’ homes. The results were published in the daily newspapers. As such, the results of our batch were published in the The Ceylon Daily News of Wednesday March 11, 1959. Thereafter, after a lapse of a certain period of time, the successful candidates received letters from the university informing of the date of commencement of sessions of the academic year, the Hall of residence allotted and the date to report at the allotted Hall.

There was also a document indicating what we had to take, such as a raincoat and cape, etc. and the things that should not be done in which there was one item which stated that ceiling walking was prohibited. This was a little puzzling to us, but we understood what it meant later when we were on the campus. All undergraduates who were privileged to be in Peradeniya at the commencement of the campus and may be about four batches after ours had the best of time in a university in Sri Lanka.

During that time all undergraduates resided in the halls of residence throughout their undergraduate carrier, even if a person’s residence was abutting the campus premises. All those who entered from schools in and around Kandy could have easily travelled from home. But the university rules and regulations did not permit us to do so. Anyway, when reminiscing, we think that it was good that all had to be resident within the campus as we would never have got that experience otherwise.

On the occasion of the EFC Ludowyke Centenary at Peradeniya in 2006, Prof. Yasmin Gooneratne, a distinguished alumnus stated thus:

“Of the terms most frequently heard in connection with the life that we experienced there, one is “A Golden Age”’ another is “Arcadia”. 2It was a magical time” says one classmate.” It was idyllic” says another. Our companions-some of them husbands, wives, or children who did not share the Peradeniya experience, and who now have to hear us talk about it ad infinitum, look skeptical. They don’t believe us.”

“Peradeniya? Three years in Paradise” a classmate said once. “And at the end of it, they even gave us a degree”

“It was as if all the intellectual brilliance in our country had been concentrated in one spot. If the university had been a stage, we students would have been witnesses to the performances of a stellar cast”

During our time in Peradeniya the halls of residence for males were Arunachalam, Jayathilaka, Marrs, Ramanathan and Marcus Fernando. The female undergraduates had as their halls, James Peiris, Sangamitta and Hilda Obeysekera (with Mrs. Cooke, Dr. (Mrs.) Ram Aluvihare and Miss Mathiaparanam as the respective Wardens). During our final year in 1961-62(third year in the case of those who had opted to do a special degree course), a new hall was opened, which had been named after D.R. Wijewardena close to the Kandy-Colombo railway line. With this building being opened, there was a change in respect of occupants of some halls. Ramanathan was converted into a women’s hall and James Peris was made a hall for male undergraduates. The newly opened Wijewardena Hall became a men’s hall. With this change, the male undergraduates who were in Ramanathan Hall were transferred to James Peiris and Wijewardena Halls. (To be continued)

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