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People, places and crises from 1922 to 2022

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by Rajan Philips

In a rather depressing start for the New Year, 2022 appears to be a seamless continuation of 2021 insofar as the Covid-19 pandemic is concerned. The effects of the pandemic, both in public health and in the broader political and economic spheres, are likely to be significant through much this decade. Add to that the effects of climate change and the challenges of adaptation to its recurrent fire, drought and flood disasters. A hundred years ago, the 1920s began as a time of respite for much of the world after the debacles of the previous decade including the First World War and the Spanish Flu. But early signs of a positive turnaround soon disappeared and by the end of the third decade the world was into its worst economic depression and was set up for an even more devastating Second World War. Ominous signs for the third decade of the last century emerged in 1922. The historical events of 1922 provide a temporal framework as we look for people, places and crises that would be significant in 2022.

Chroniclers have noted that in 1922, while the old Ottoman Empire was finally abolished after 600 years, the British Empire was at the height of its imperial-colonial powers, commanding over a quarter of the world and its peoples. The Soviet Union came into being on December 30, 1922. Two months earlier in Italy, Benito Mussolini staged his Fascist March on Rome and became the youngest ever Italian Prime Minister at 39 years of age. That same year, Britain allowed the Irish Free State to be born, gave Egypt self-government, but sent Mahatma Gandhi to jail on charges of sedition in India.

1922 was also the year of Germany’s hyper-inflation (with the German mark losing value from 263 to a dollar in January to over 7,000 to a dollar by year end) triggering the insolvency of the Weimar Republic, its eventual collapse eight years later and along with it the rise of Hitler. The only noted event in the US that year was President Warren Harding’s introduction of radio as a mass communication tool at the White House. China in 1922 was internally destabilized and the Communist Party founded in July 2021 was a fledgling organization.

A hundred years later, the sun has long set on the British Empire and the new Britain, for a second year in succession, is among the worst affected countries by Covid-19 infections. Compounding Britain’s woes are the fallouts from Brexit – with plummeting British exports to the EU in spite of the addition of volumes of paperwork for clearing customs. In one telling instance, Britain’s traditional exports of handcrafted black iron cookware from Shropshire (the cradle of industrial revolution) to Germany are in danger of being abandoned as a direct result of Brexit complications.

Germany is more stable than Britain and calls the shots in the EU. The US that became a superpower after the Second World War is now in a cultural war within itself. Old cleavages (race and segregation) are finding new avenues (masks, vaccination, voting and abortion) to tear the country from end to end. Harding’s 1922 radio has been supplanted by a thousand social media platforms, that individually and collectively challenge and crowd out the voice of the President of the Union. Meanwhile, China has grown to be a rival superpower to the US. India has superpower aspirations, but under Prime Minister Modi, whose main political mission is to erase the Gandhi-Nehru imprint over India, the country is headed to becoming a regional bully at most.

The Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, but Vladimir Putin has managed to thrust Russia, without any of the old Soviet trappings, into bilateral reckoning with the United States. It is a consequence of the West’s failure to accommodate Russia in the post-Cold War world without making it a new target of NATO expansion beyond its original purpose. The Russian President has had two long phone calls in less than month with President Biden to diffuse tensions over Ukraine. In 2022, the US will likely be constrained to deal with both China and Russia simultaneously, a nightmare scenario for Washington policy makers despite their best efforts to keep the two unnatural allies separate.

For their part, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have struck a mutually supportive understanding between them, with Putin supporting China over Taiwan and Xi backing Russia over Ukraine and NATO. But all three leaders along with others will also be constrained to work together over what will likely be the three dominant issues for 2022, viz. Covid-19, climate change and rising specter of inflation.

Sri Lanka’s Past & Prospects

In 1922, Sri Lanka was a British colony and was in the throes of nascent communal convulsions and constitutional trial and error. The bickering over a Tamil seat in the Western Province was the sum and substance of the political differences between Low-country Sinhalese leaders and Colombo-Tamil elites. The now familiar terminology of the national question was not in anyone’s vocabulary or part of their material experience. Moreover in 1922, Sri Lanka was under the “Temporary Constitution” of 1920. It would be nine years before universal franchise, 26 years before independence, and 50 years before becoming a republic.

It would be another 56 years before the sacking of parliamentary democracy and the imposition of an executive presidential system by President JR Jayewardene. And a full 100 years before the midlife presidential crisis of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. 2021 by far has been the worst performance by a Sri Lankan Head of State and Head of Government in 73 years. President Rajapaksa’s apologetic admirers have been hoping for a course correction in 2022, aided by the hidden or unhidden hand of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The emergent signs are not of any course correction, no evidence of reaching out to helping hand from Mahinda Rajapaksa, but only a continuing course of denials, dismissals and resignations.

In his year-end meeting with a group of newspaper editors, President Rajapaksa provided only denials and dismissals on all the issues that have been bedeviling the country throughout 2021. On the controversial Yugadanavi LNG agreement, the President offered no explanation for the deal or an exposition of its benefits. He only blamed the Weerawansa-Gammanpila-Nanayakkara ministerial trio for their alleged failure to abide by their collective cabinet responsibility. Notwithstanding Justice Mark Fernando’s ruling that the President seems to have been tutored on, it is not the trio’s collective responsibility that is at issue. What is at issue is how and for what reasons did the cabinet headed by President Rajapaksa decide to grant New Fortress Energy the contract to build an off-shore liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal for Sri Lanka.

On gas leak explosions, the President reportedly said: “I do not see the gas explosions as incidents that occurred only under this government.” This is executive temerity in spite of all the evidence this year and the number of incidents in the months of November and December alone. The President seems annoyed with the “media publicity” given to the incidents of gas leak explosions on his watch. Media publicity only reflects the number and frequency of recent explosions. Still no explanation of what went wrong primarily at Litro Gas, who has been held accountable, and what steps have been taken by the government to ensure that standards are set and complied with, and to provide a safe supply of cooking gas cylinders.

On the fertilizer issue, the President finally seems to have conceded, “I admit that there has also been a mistake with regard to the fertiliser issue. The content of the Chinese fertilizer stock should have been tested before the issuance of the letter of credit to import them.” But who authorized the letter of credit, and why? There are no answers. Only blame, again, this time it is the fault of the Ministry of Agriculture for not correctly implementing the President’s “green agriculture programme.” Agriculture is always green, but what advice did the President ask for and receive from the Ministry before launching the programme by gazette notification?

On the ills of the economy, the President seems to be quite at peace with himself that he has nothing to do with it and it is all blamable on Covid-19. And he seems peeved that he is not being given due credit for the government’s commendable vaccination launch. Others see things quite differently and people’s experiences are diametrically opposite. And the President had nothing to say on what the government is going to do about the economy in the new year. And not a word about the IMF either. Is the government going to seek IMF help, or not? When will the cabinet, with collective responsibility, decide on this? And is Nivard Cabraal speaking for the cabinet when he insists that Sri Lanka will not seek IMF help?

Finally, as the new year dawns, the man behind the President and the source of all executive fiats and gazettes for the last two years is about to resign. The media has been reporting that Secretary PB Jayasundara has tendered his resignation to the President and is expected to vacate office later in January. The resignation apparently is the result of criticisms of Dr. Jayasundara by several Ministers for his exercising power over all ministries without being accessible to the subject Ministers. The President has publicly defended his Secretary, which is understandable, even though the same courtesy was not shown to other officials who have either resigned or gotten fired via WhatsApp. Puzzlingly, however, the President also chose to publicly berate the Ministers who have been criticizing Dr. Jayasundara, and suggested that some of the Ministers “maybe doing it to cover up their own weaknesses by just ‘playing to the gallery’.” The latter is a time-worn, old-English phrase that is hardly appropriate for a Sri Lankan President whose singular referential point in politics is the 6.9 million voters who voted for him.

After his victory in 2019, I wrote in this column (January 12, 2020) with a somewhat optimistic perspective for the GR presidency. That was the week of the hullaballoo over the arrest of actor-politician Ranjan Ramanyake (RR), and mere weeks before Covid-19 struck. I took a cue from RR’s One-Shot film, and interpreted the GR presidency, whether one term or two, as a One-Shot presidency. And given the still new (in 2019) President’s military background and unusual political path, I argued that Gotabaya Rajapaksa could become a ‘legacy president’, as opposed to being a ‘career president’.

Looking for potential ‘legacies’, I envisaged that the President would avoid touching the constitution and focus on meaningful hard infrastructure development in urban areas and the strengthening of the non-plantation agricultural sector for the rural areas. I have later argued that urban infrastructure and rural agriculture should be vigorously pursued to offset the economic setbacks caused by Covid-19.

The above were not unsolicited pieces of advice given to the Head of State, but a logical outlook for the administration of an incumbent with a non-political/non-civil-service background and elected to the country’s highest political office. Alas, the last two years have seen the GR presidency unfolding as it should not have. Of all things, the President picked constitution as his top priority and outsourced it to a committee of experts, so called. Their magnum opus of a draft is expected to be presented in parliament this January.

There is nothing to write home about urban infrastructure and rural agriculture has been temporarily destroyed by the stroke of a gazette ban on inorganic fertilizers. There are more woes, including fears of food shortage and cuts to electricity and water. For the first time since its inception 51 years ago, the islands petroleum refinery has been shut down for want of cash to ship in crude oil. In addition, the breaking news is that four turbines at the Sapugaskanda 72MW Power Station have also been shut down for want of fuel. In sum, the government offers no pleasing prospect that people can look for in 2022. It is a depressing start and there is no point in denying it.



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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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