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More memoirs of escapades at KDU

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by Nilakshan Perera

(continued from last week)

On July 23, 1983, when the LTTE ambushed 14 Army personnel including Lt Waas Gunawardena, we were at Ratmalana Air Force hangar to receive and assist Security Forces personnel. We will never forget the tragic scene of the special Y-8 plane carrying 14 dead bodies wrapped in polythene landing at Ratmalana. The next day onwards we were deployed for Internal Security duties. That was a somber period that opened our eyes to the stark realities of military life. However, no sooner the situation in the country became somewhat normal we too reverted to our usual routine.

Though we could move around with other students at University we were strictly instructed not to engage in any form of ragging as it will lead to the suspension of our studentships as well as being discharged from KDA. Among the next batch of university students, a few happened to be the daughters of some senior officers. For ragging, we asked them to bring us packets of home-cooked lunches wrapped in “kehel kola” with dhal, pol sambol & fried dried fish and asked one of them to get us a good machete so that our midnight operation (plucking kurumbas) could continue after the machetes used earlier had been confiscated. We also asked themto take us to Hotel Rahima (biryani), Venice Ice cream Parlor, or Shanthi Vihar for dosa. They were all good sports and readily obliged.

After one of the dinner nights, we were tasked the next day to rearrange the tables and chairs (we were the juniors throughout our cadetship at KDA as no new cadets were admitted due to protests over KDA entry by various student movements), and the job was going to be quite a task as long distances had to be covered with the tables and chairs. Fortunately, the Duty Officer of the day told us to use the Army 1210 TATA truck provided there was a volunteer driver. Only two of us could drive during our cadet days, but we grabbed the chance and did the unloading and rearranging and then drove back via Airport Road, Borupone Rd, Ratmalana Station Rd – a journery of about two hours. The truck was perfectly parked at the vehicle yard with all 14 of us seated comfortably inside at the end of the assignment.

Lt Dushantha Chelliah of Sri Lanka Navy (he retired as Commander in 1995 and migrated to Canada) took over as our Troop Commander. He came directly from Naval Maritime Academy where he was the Asst Division Commander (the Course Officer of Admiral Ravi Wijegoonawardane, former Chief of Defence Staff). He was a great cricketer who played for Royal College, Sri Lanka Navy, and Defence Services as an opening batsman. He was a strict disciplinarian and didn’t tolerate any nonsense. We were fortunate to have played either football, cricket or rugby matches with teams of several foreign naval ships visiting Sri Lanka. These games were played either at Welisara Navy grounds or S. Thomas’ College grounds, Mt. Lavinia, thanks to Lt Chelliah.

In addition to sports, he also helped us with our studies and with his

contacts. We had our very first sea experience of a voyage from Galle to Colombo onboard SLNS SAGARAWARDANA. (Sadly now it’s at the

bottom of the sea). We were given on-board training of most naval operations We all loved the food that was served on board the vessel with all kinds of fresh seafood on offer. Lt Chelliah had also introduced us to maintaining a Journal. We had to write details of events that took place daily and submit our records to the troop commander by Monday morning at 0700hrs before leaving for campus. He returned the journals marked and corrected the same evening when we returned. Before doing anything else, we read and redid the corrections knowing the consequences if we did not do so. It was a great lesson we learned and we still maintain historic information and important dates.

Few of the most undisciplined cadets were made to measure the depth of Sir John’s lake near the summer hut as punishment. The water was not that salty but the smell of muddy water and different types of rotting vegetation and small fish lingered in our overalls. That was all part and parcel of our training and we still cherish the experiences.

Changing uniforms for parades had to be done to split second precision. We had to get ready in 30- 40 seconds and report to Sir John’s bungalow in a couple of minutes – a maximum of two to three minutes for running back to billets which were 750 meters away and returning to stand at attention in a place where a spotlight was focused. Cadets couldn’t move beyond that point. Lt Chelliah would come to the balcony and see/instruct us on the next kit change and timing. This will go on for about 20-30 minutes. Some tried shortcuts by placing all kits – civil, white PT, battle order uniform and recreational kit – under a coconut tree on the grounds and changing there rather than running back to billets.

Our profound gratitude to you Sir, for who we are today – dedicated disciplined gentlemen officers. Though he was a strict disciplinarian he always respected us cadets and trained us to be the best. He punished us when we did wrong with the good intention of making us better officers so that we too will train our subordinates in the same way in the future.

Normally on Poya Days, we had bana for about an hour, preached by one of the Buddhist monks from Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya. Having this in mind, on the day before Poya, we took our civil clothes and left them at a friend’s place on the other side of runway of the Ratmalana Airport.

This particular Poya day in Dec 1983 also happened to be a Saturday which suited us fine for our escapade. While the rest of the cadets were plucking araliya flowers for the bana, five of the worst rascals crossed the runaway to our friend’s place for a quick change into the civilian clothes left there and then scooted off on trip to Sri Pada. We caught the 9.40 am Udarata Menike express train and got to our destination.

We didn’t have any plans for meals but for our good luck, while climbing the mountain we made friends with a very nice family with four pretty daughters. They looked after us very well with food and soft drinks and all we did accompanying them to the summit. We returned their hospitality by carrying all their belongings down the mountain as we had nothing to carry ourselves. This was easy as we had carried heavy backpacks and weapons as punishments and for training and compared to those what we carried for our friends was nothing.

Two of the daughters of that family became popular pediatricians and one a well-known banker. We were fortunate to have met them and still are in touch. We managed to return to KDA secretly by 4.55 am on Monday to be mustered for PT at 5.30 am. All went well but the Air Traffic Controller at the Airport had spotted five cadets wearing PT kits crossing the tarmac. But he had not reported it to KDA as he was a good friend of one of the cadets. We owe him for not reporting his observation to our superiors; and also the rest of our batch-mates, who who covered for us by putting down our mosquito nets and pretending that all of us were asleep in our billet. The duty sergeant on his night round saw all nets down and thought 14 cadets, including us absconders, were sleeping soundly.

We were the very first Intake to decline the leave given for Sinhala/Tamil New Yearone year. We were given four days off but it was hardly enough time for Saliya Weerakkody, whose home was at Diyatalawa, to travel to and fro with the travel time alone two days. We requested more days of leave on behalf of Saliya but when this was refused, all of us said we’d stay back at KDA. Because of us many others from the training staff, naval catering, medical, and transport also had to sacrifice their leave. We were very well served for our ‘solidarity’ with pack-drills, in the morning, afternoon, and evening continuously on all five days. As a result of this became fitter and tougher and also well united and bonded.

Mess Assistants from the Navy and two waiters were dead scared of us as we used to complain about the quantity and quality of food etc. to duty officers who had to either instruct the catering staff to cook separately for us or reach the proper standard. Because there was only the 14 of us in the camp at that time, our unity and comradeship was very high. Only two of us had girlfriends when joining KDA and whenever a love letter was delivered by post, the recipient had to read it aloud for everyone to hear. Others hardly received any letters even from parents but on our own we posted letters to ourselves, just to pretend that we too were getting mail. Few of us were so well known at the Ratmalana Post Office that letters addressed with only a name and Ratmalana reached us. With no WhatsApp, Viber, FB, Twitter and Instagram then, we used to have many singsongs. Preethi would sing Amaradeva’s Minidada Heesara, and Upul Wijesinghe, Mal Warusawe. Just Walking in the Rain was Damian’s favourite while Thiru contributed Maha Re Yame. There were a lot of M.S. Fernando’s songs and baila sung too.

Shantha Liyanage used to do ‘bat drills’ as he played cricket for University and Lal Padmakumara, being a jack of all trades, advised even carpenters and masonry workers at construction sites at KDA. Manoj was glued to James Hadley Chase’s books, one after the other, but Dimuthu had other plans. He used to take us fishing at Bolgoda lake and Panadura bund. Whether we like it or not, we too went with him. He knew all the culverts in the Borupone area, where guppies breed. Only later did we learn that he had fished the best Mermaid of the Kanangara family consisting of three daughters who lived down Borupone Road. That was Nalika (Dr. Nalika Gunawardena, former Senior Lecturer at Medical Faculty Colombo and presently at WHO as National Professional Officer) Catholics among us were allowed to attend Sunday Mass at nearby St Mary’s Church in Ratmalana and Buddhists went to Bellanwila Temple. While returning to KDA we used to check if Dimuthu’s Dad’s EN 2876 black Morris Minor was parked under the portico of the Principal’s bungalow(highly respected Mr.

Cyril Gunawardane was the Principal of the Deaf & Blind school) and if the car was there we were sure of a good dinner and a free ride to KDA with Dimuthu. We’ll never forget Uncle Cyril and Aunt Dolly’s wonderful hospitality and unconditional affection for all of us.

Whenever we were invited for a birthday party (especially girls’ 21st birthday parties) or any other social gathering we got permission but had to return before the 10.00 pm roll call so that the Duty Cadet could report that all 14 of us were there and no one was sick. In case the Duty Cadet wanted to check, he would call them personally by 2200 hrs but not later. Whoever had gone out had to walk along the Kandawala Road would look at our top floor bathroom window. If a green towel was hung there, he could go back to the party and come for the next day’s PT by 5.30 am. A red towel signaled “return immediately.” Coming back we had to navigate a 12 ft. high barbed wire fence.

We were fortunate to have our first ever CADET BALL in December 1984. We were asked to bring our dancing partners and most of the pretty girls of Moratuwa and Colombo Universities were there on the floor. It was all organized by Cadets of Intakes one, two and three and we were well trained in all aspects of hosting these functions very well by our Officer Instructors.

We had the privilege of associating with Military Academy Intake 16, 17, 18 & 19 Cadets on their Unit visits, and having a football match played at railway grounds and also several Cadet Intakes of Naval Maritime Academy Intakes 11 & 12 and China Bay Air Force Academy. Among these cadets, there were two future Army Commanders, Three Navy Commanders, and two Air Force Commanders.

We were also fortunate to have the remarkable company of a few great Air Force flyers like Jayanthalal Thibbotumunuwe, TTK Seneviratne, and Ruwan Punchihetti as they were attached to KDA while doing their flying training at Ratmalana. Sadly all three of them died in action later, (Wing Cmdr. Thibbotumunuwe in Nov 1996 at KKS and Pilot Officer TTK Seneviratne & Officer Cdt Ruwan Punchihetti in May 1995 during a Sia Marchetti training flight accident at Beruwala)

In our last year, five of our batchmates captained University teams.

Dhammika (rugby), Saliya (football), Damian (basketball), Dimuthu (rowing) and Ruwan Upul (athletics). After completing the University final exams in Nov 1985, four joined the Navy, another three joined Air Force and seven others joined the Army for their advanced and further training, saying goodbye to KDA, where we had spent almost three years and three months. Our passing out parade held in Aug 1986, with Mr. Lalith Athulathmudali, Minister of National Security, as the Chief Guest.

Thanks to General John Kotelawela five of our batch-mates found their life partners from Colombo University and two got married to two

doctors from the Medical Faculty while two others wed lawyers from

the Faculty of Law. One found his bride in the Faculty of Science.

After joining the respective services our cadets excelled in their duties to the country at the highest level, especially at sea. Manoaj Jayasooriya, Preethi Vidnapathirana, and Dimuthu Goonawardena played aleading role in defeating Sea Tiger craft and engaging with Sea Tiger cadres face to face many times. For bravery and selfless acts, Manoj was promoted to the rank of Commander while at sea (Field/Sea promotion) by the Commander of the Navy in Feb 1999.

November 19, 1997 was perhaps the saddest day for the officers of Intake three when news was received that Lt Preethi Vidanapathirana, one of the most disciplined and adorable of our batch mates and a dear friend, has made the supreme sacrifice during one of the fierce sea battles in Mullaitivu.

The evening before, three batch mates Manoaj, Dimuthu and Preethi sailed from Trincomalee harbor as directed by the Commander Eastern Naval Area along with a flotilla of ships and crafts on an offensive patrol to disrupt an enemy movement that was due to take place between Thiriyaya and Mullaitivu.

Manoj who commanded the prestigious Fast Attack Craft Flotilla (FAF4) twice in his career after perfecting the art of naval battle, joined this important operation displaying his tactical leadership taking quick and vital decisions in battle. His presence in the theatre was undoubtedly a morale booster to all. Preethi was in Command of another FAC, P452 and Dimuthuin Command of a Chinese Gunboat SLNS Ranawickrama tasked to neutralize enemy launching pads along with SLNS Ranarisi. The two gunboats and eight Dovras engaged targets both at sea and on land to prevent a Tiger logistic move. The battle which is considered one of the bloodiest at sea lasted from approximately 2100 hrs on Oct. 18, to 0330 hrs on October 19, 1997. In the ensuing battle, Preethi having successfully attacked one of the enemy clusters was hit by a high caliber gun mounted on the bows of an enemy boat which immediately immobilized him, paving the way for two enemy suicide boats to ram his vessel sinking it within seconds approximately 3.5 nautical miles off Kokilai.

By this time, the enemy was forced to abandon its logistic move and return to base and what remained at sea were their two offensive clusters. Preethi was one of the best swimmers of his time and shone both in Ananda College, KDA and at the University of Colombo. As the incident occurred quite close to the shore, Manoaj and Dimuthu scoured the area for the next 24 hrs hoping to find and recover Preethi and his crew. But there was no sign of them.

Preethi was posthumously promoted to the rank of Lt Commander having been killed in action. We never forget to leave out Preethi’s beloved wife, Dr. Dayani Panagoda (Senior Technical Specialist Global Communities at USAID/SCORE) at our gatherings for she too is a part of our Intake family.

Manoj retired from the Navy as Commander in 2002. For his gallant and meritorious conduct in battle, he had been decorated fourteen (14) times by the President of Sri Lanka and he remains the most decorated officer in the Navy with this record has not been broken to date. He is a proud recipient of Rana Wickrama Paddakkama (RWP) seven times and Rana Sura Padakkama (RSP) seven more times. He is presently Executive Director of a well known Motor Company and Director/General Manager of a famous Engineering Company.

Dimuthu retired as Rear Admiral in April 2018, and presently functions as Director Communications and Publications at the Institute of National Security Studies having served in several senior positions in the naval hierarchy with his distinguished naval career recognized with awards on several occasions. Shantha Liyanage retired as Major General in Feb 2018 and held the prestigious appointments as Colonel Commandant Army Service Corps and former Commandant Army School of Logistics. He is recipient of PSC, and LSC.

Lal Padmakumara retired as Major General in Sept 2017 and was the former Director Budget & Finance Management of the Army, also the recipient of PSC and HDMC Damian Fernando retired as Rear Admiral and was the former Director-General Budget and Finance of the Sri Lanka Navy, proud recipient of USP, VSV, Purna Bhumi Medal too. Major General Dhammika Pananwela retired in Nov 2018, functioned as Commander Security Forces East, also a proud recipient several times of RSP for bravery, NDU for academics and was trained to bring death to the enemy from the sky. A qualified combat parachutist. Palitha Sirimal retired as Lt Col in 2002 and is at present he is a Director of a semi-governmental organization.

Ruwan Upul Perera retired as Wing Commander in Aug 2005 and is looking after his coconut plantations and other properties in Marawila.

Upul Wijesinghe is the Deputy Chief Executive of one of the largest Life Insurance Companies in Sri Lanka and also former President of the Sri Lanka Insurance Association. Others are well settled abroad like Thiru Amaran (Sydney) Shantha Edirisinghe ( London) Saliya Weerakkody (Melbourne) and yours truly in Singapore.

We salute all our senior officers of Intake one and two for their insightful guidance and patience, tolerating all our acts of misbehavior.

I take this opportunity to thank from the bottom of my heart my fellow batch mates of Intake three for the wonderful memories and camaraderie and humbly salute my brother officers who made the supreme sacrifice. During these past 38 years, we were united not just in friendships but in brotherhood and comradeship.

You guys truly are The Best

 



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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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