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Legal implications on claiming damages by SL under international law

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Fire on New Diamond crude oil tanker:

BY Dulip Jayawardena

A Very Large Crude Career (VLCC) double hull tanker under the flagship of Panama was built by Mitsui Ichihara Engineering and Shipbuilding, Ichihara, Japan, in 2000 and has a gross tonnage of 160 079, with a dead weight of 299986 tons (DWT). The former names were Diamond Warrior (2013 Panama) and Ikomasan (2013 United Kingdom). It was reported that this tanker carried over 270 000 metric tons of crude oil above the gross tonnage.

The length of the tanker is 333 meres and breadth 60 metres. The present owner and manager are from New Shipping Company Athens, Greece. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) Registration No. 9191424 Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) is 351247000 for this tanker.

According to Ekathirinorini.com an Athens-based business site, the VLCC Panamanian tanker has been owned by Porto Emporios Shipping Inc., since 2013. The vessel’s commercial and safety manager is Greece-based New Shipping Ltd., which has a fleet of 32 oil tankers and bulk carriers under its care.

 

THE SEA ROUTE OF VLCC

NEW DIAMOND

This VLCC set off from Mina Al Ahmadi Port, in Kuwait, to the Paradeip Port, in the east coast of India, with 270 000 tons of crude oil. There were 23 crew members, comprising of five Greek and 18 from the Philippines. The position of the VLCC by the Automatic Identification System (AIS) was at the Persian Gulf (co-ordinates 26.32473 N/53.7858 E) on 23 August 2020 and was scheduled to reach the Port of Paradip Garh, on the east coast of India, on 5 September 2020, at 10.00 am. However, a fire erupted due to an explosion of a boiler in the main engine room on 3 September 2020 at 8.00 am, Sri Lanka time, when sailing 38 nautical miles off Sangamankanda Point off the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, according to the Sri Lanka Navy.

The VLCC, that left the Persian Gulf on 23 August 2020, reached the location of the explosion on 3 September 2020 after 11 days, travelling a distance of 2153 nautical miles at 195 nautical miles per day. It was scheduled to reach the port of Pradeep Garh on 5 September 2020 at 10 am travelling a distance of about 750 nautical miles at over 10 knots or 240 nautical miles per day. It is evident that the VLCC was to increase its speed while travelling from the south of Sri Lanka to the Port of Destination and it should be ascertained whether this caused a boiler in the engine room to explode.

 

PRESENT STATUS OF THE FIRE ON VLCC NEW DIAMOND AND SALVAGE OPERATIONS

According to News First, a Sri Lankan media, the VLCC, as of 6 September 2020 at 7.58 am, is 40 nautical miles away from land and there is a continuous effort to spray cooling agents to cool the oil storage section of the tanker.

As mentioned earlier, the vessel’s commercial outfit, New Shipping Ltd., of Athens, Greece, has appointed SMIT Singapore Pvt Ltd., as a salvage group for future operations and has one tug boat at site with the salvage chief who deals with such disasters. Two more large tug boats that can handle oil tankers of this size are expected. Further, 10 British and Dutch professionals with expertise in rescue operations, disaster evaluation and legal consultations have arrived in Sri Lanka and are expected to make recommendations on the future course of action.

It was reported that the fire erupted again on 8 September 2020 and was brought under control by the Disaster Management Team on the morning of 9 September 2020. A Dornier aircraft of the Indian Coast Guard air dropped diesel dispersant as there was a leak of diesel from the engine room. Further a research vessel from NARA has been dispatched to collect sea waters around the distressed tanker.

 

LEGAL IMPLICATIONS UNDEER

INTERNATIONAL LAW

The legal issues under international law are complicated as there are responsibilities under the three major entities involved, namely the Panamanian flag state, the owners Porto Emporios Shipping Inc and New Shipping Ltd of Athens, Greece.

The fire on board VLCC New Diamond as reported by the Sri Lanka Navy has occurred 38 nautical miles on 3 September 2020. Since this point is not within the territorial sea of 12 nautical miles and also is away from the contiguous zone of 24 nautical miles, it is within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) which is over 200 nautical miles.

 

UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON

THE LAW OF THE SEA (UNCLOS)

It is now evident that since the fire occurred within our EEZ, the vessel had the freedom of navigation under UNCLOS.

Sri Lanka ratified UNCLOS on 16 November 1994 the day that the Convention entered into force and therefore has the rights and obligations under international law.

 

NATIONALITY OF SHIPS AND FLAG STATE DUTIES UNDER ARTICLES 91 AND 94 OF UNCLOS 1982

Article 91 states that every State identify conditions for the grant of its nationality for registration of ships in its territory and the right to fly the flag and has a genuine link between the State and the ship. According to the Lloyds Register, there are 10 Flag State countries with the ships flying their flags. These are Panama (9367 ) Singapore (4962) China (4881) Marshall Islands (4163) Liberia ( 4027) Japan (3846) Hong Kong (3707) Malta (2637) Greece (1545) and Bahamas (1512).

Freedom of navigation and the right of flag State to sail ships on the high seas are included under customary law and codified under 1958 High Seas Convention and subsequently under Article 87 and 91 of UNCLOS 1982.

Freedom of Navigation as referred to in Article 87 of UNCLOS (Freedom of High Seas) also applies to EEZs.

Under Article 94 (1) (2) (3) and (4) of UNCLOS the flag State is responsible for duties related to effective jurisdiction and effective control over administrative technical matters on their ships on the High Seas or EEZs

Article 94 section 6 of UNCLOS refers to “A State which has clear grounds to believe that proper jurisdiction and control with respect to a ship have not being exercised may report the facts to the flag State. Upon receiving such a report, the flag State shall investigate into the matter and, if appropriate take any action to remedy the situation.”

In the case of VLCC New Diamond the flag State is Panama and the appropriate authorities should initiate action, if not done so, inform Panama about this fire.

Attention is also drawn to Article 217 of UNCLOS highlighting the responsibility of the flag State to strictly take appropriate measures and adopt laws and regulations to prevent, reduce and control of pollution and ensure the compliance of those vessels flying its flag with international marine pollution laws. It must also be stressed that the flag State is bound to investigate any case where any ship registered under its flag violates any international anti–pollution laws.

However, the implementation of duties of flag States termed open registers or flags of convenience do not follow the obligations under UNCLOS and other relevant maritime Conventions under the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The IMO Conventions are divided into (1) Maritime Safety – 11 Conventions (2) Marine Pollution – 7 Conventions (3) Liability and Compensation – 7 Conventions and (4) Other Subjects – 4 Conventions.

Some of the important Conventions relevant to the fire on board of New Diamond are International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) -1974 and International Convention on Maritime Search Rescue (SAR), 1979 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973 as modified by the protocol of 1978 relating thereto (MARPOL73/78),Convention on Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (LDC) 1972, and International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness , Response and Cooperation (OPRC) 1990 .

As related to claiming of compensation and liability the applicable convention is the international Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC) 1969 and the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage (FUND) 1971, and International Convention of Salvage (SALVAGE) 1989.

It is customary to delegate responsibilities of Flagship States to Ship Classification Organizations (SCO) which are private institutions who are delegated to establish and maintain standards for the construction, maintenance and classification of ships including tankers.

 

The major problem is that majority of flag States are delegating most of their duties to SCOs and it has been noted that the SCOs lower their standards due to competition and attract more clients.

Sri Lanka is a member of International Maritime Organization (IMO) since 1972.

IMO has formulated the International Safety Management Code (ISM) which applies to the safe operation and management of the vessels and also for prevention of environment pollution. As a member of the IMO Sri Lanka should take action to report if the VLCC New Diamond has violated the applicable conventions indicated earlier.

 

PROCTED WATERS OF SRI LANKA

An excellent article by Howard Martenstyn (https://www.slam.lk/protected-waters..) Have listed Marine National Parks and Marine and Associated Sanctuaries.

The fire on VLCC New Diamond if resulted to oil spills would have severely polluted the Yala and Kumana National Parks, Pigeon Island near Trincomalee The other Marine Sanctuaries such as Godayaya , Kalametiya Lagoon (Hambantota), Little Sober Island, Great Sober Island (Trincomalee), Kokilai lagoon would have also been subjected to severe oil pollution. The rare fauna and flora in these areas would have been subject to extinction, including the rare species of Omura Whales.

SUGGESTED FUTURE PLANS FOR PROTECTION OF THE SEA AREA OF THE EEZ ON THE EAST COAST

The Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) is the main body established by the Government of Sri Lanka under the marine Pollution Prevention Act No 36 of 2008 with the full responsibilities for preventing control and manage the pollution of Sri Lanka’s marine environment. The fire on VLCC New Diamond was within the EEZ of Sri Lanka and it is queried whether customary laws have been formulated and enacted in conformity with the international laws conventions and treaties covering our EEZ.

It is also reported that there is no effective modalities to ascertain that flag States set their own individual standards for registration of ships including tankers and to identify and implement protocols to effect conditions covering all flag States have failed. (Refer 1986 UN Convention on Conditions for Ship Registration).

Accordingly, the legal framework in place for monitoring and implementing effective flag State is not complete. It is also noted that most flagship States do not give much importance to identification of ownership of ships and accountability of ship owners and most of these States register ships without the requirement of the identification of owners. Accordingly, such incorporation is secretive and will normally cover all the related jurisdictions.

It has been reported that the Attorney General has ordered that VLCC New Diamond to be towed out of our EEZ which is identified as 200 nautical miles from the high water mark on the coastline.

Sri Lanka is now in the process of claiming an extended see area of 1, 400,000 sq. kilometers on the eastern Indian Ocean which is over 24 times the land area of 650 612 Km 2 under Article 76 of UNCLOS Annex 11 UN Commission on the limits of the Continental Shelf. With this development Sri Lanka will have a major task to control maritime pollution in such a vast sea area apart from the security and exploitation of off shore non living and living resources.

RECOMMENDATIONS

As a researcher at United Nations ESCAP I was involved in covering marine affairs under UNCLOS for over 13 years.

I would recommend the following for future course of action related to the VLCC New Diamond.

(1) The Treaties Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should get actively involved in filing claims related to marine pollution of the eastern seas of Sri Lanka together with the MEPA, NARA, Environment Ministry, Environment Protection Authority, Department of Maritime Shipping and other prevalent agencies.

(2) The Government must work out a new sea route for all VLCC tankers to avoid Sri Lankan waters and navigate south of Sri Lanka to the new sea port now operating at Port Blair on the Andaman Islands. From Port Blair the path of the VLCC tankers should go north to the Indian coast avoiding Sri Lanka’s EEZ at present and also the extended sea area after the finalization of the of the extended sea area by the UN Commission on the Continental Shelf. Bi lateral talks should be initiated with India and Bangladesh regarding this matter. India imported 2.724 million metric tons for its refineries on the eastern seaboard of India. Accordingly, Bangladesh imported 1.4 million tons of crude oil from the Middle East in 2020. Most of these tankers were of the VLCC class. It is also reported that Sri Lanka also imports crude oil from India and to maintain our clean seas programme should also recommend avoiding our sea area defined as our EEZ.

(3) All VLCC tankers bound to the Chinese coast and Japan avoids Sri Lanka’s waters and navigates on a sea route to the Malacca Straits. The Chinese government as an integral part of the Belt and Road Project has initiated talks with Thailand to construct the Kara Channel, a 1220 kilometer Thai Channel . However the project is still on hold by Thailand and when this project is completed our southern sea waters will be safe from any oil spills from VLCC tankers and any ships carrying dangerous chemicals.

References :

(1) A Critical Analysis of Flag State Duties as Laid Down Under Article 94 of UNCLOS – Nivedita M. Hosanee – The United Nations – Nippon Foundation Fellowship Programme 2009 -2010.

(2) The International Law of the Sea by Yoshifumi Tanaka University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Law Cambridge university Press 2012

(3) Maritime Security and the Law of the Sea by Natalie Klein Oxford Monograph in International Law 2011.

(4) Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation – The Application and future development of IMOs Particularly Sea Area Concept by Julian Roberts 2010 Springer Publication.

(5) The Law of the Sea United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea with Index and Final Act of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea United Nations New York, 1983

 

(The author is a Retired United Nations ESCAP Economic Affairs Officer and also worked as a Senior Research Officer at NARA from 1986 -1989 and a World Bank Consultant to the Ministry of Industries in early 1990 and can be reached at fasttrack@eol.lk)



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South’s development debacle compounded by SAARC’s inner paralysis

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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.

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History of St. Sebastian’s Shrine, Kandana

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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.

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His musical exploits has touched millions of fans

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Tribute to entertainer-singer par excellence – Desmond de Silva

By Trevine Rodrigo

(Melbourne, Australia)

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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