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Professor Ashley Halpe, the great humanitarian I knew – II



By Rohana R. Wasala
(Continued from June 19, 2021/SATMAG)

Although I could have enrolled for the external degree programme as a private candidate without revealing my job on the strength of my results at the GCE AL exam alone, which I did after completing my training and after being posted to a school, I did so as a specialist trained secondary school teacher (At that time, trained teachers had to have only two passes at the AL, in addition to their training certificate to register for an external degree programme). The reason for this was the prevalent belief among teachers that the ‘trained graduate’ status improved a teacher’s prospects for career advancement.  

Now, I realized that doing English Special (Honours) was not as easy as doing the GAQ, which I did through self-study with the assistance of my friends as described above. Their help turned me into a de facto internal student. Now after passing the GAQ with the necessary grades, I wanted to explore the possibility of becoming a de jure internal student of the university for completing my degree. (A flash-forward: A few years after I completed my English Honours as an external student, Professor Halpe succeeded, towards the later ‘70s, in persuading the country’s educational authorities to introduce a scheme under which trained government school teachers who had passed the GAQ with English as external students of the university to be admitted to the English department as internal students. So, that attractive concession was still in the future and didn’t apply to me.)



 I found that the authorities of the Department of Education that I approached with my problem did not know how to help me or were just not interested. In my desperation, as much as in my youthful naivety, I wrote a personal letter to Professor Halpe, whom I had never even seen before, but had heard good spoken about, from my friends. In that letter, I explained my educational ambition and the particular circumstances that prevented me from entering a university as a fulltime student. Written communication took several days at that time. But, to my pleasant surprise, I got a duly signed typewritten reply from Professor Halpe by return of post as we used to say in those days of snail mail. This was around 1972-73. Considering the still unsettled state of the whole country and the rough weather that I heard later, Professor Halpe was himself experiencing in his professional life, on account of the so-called university reorganization plan launched by the government of the day, this prompt reply to my letter demonstrated his genuine concern with the youth of the country. He responded with the suggestion that I continue my degree studies as an external candidate while employed and that he would do whatever he could to ease my lot as a student reading for a degree in English. He concluded the letter asking me to come and meet him at Peradeniya on a day that he suggested. 

To again anticipate things at this point, sometime after I joined the teaching cadre at the university having completed my degree as already explained, Professor Halpe surprised me one day by revealing something that he had never told me before. It was the day that the first batch of English trained school teachers who had passed the GAQ with English as external students were admitted to the English department of the university to complete their degree as a concessionary measure introduced by the Ministry of Education under the UNP government of J. R. Jayewardene. Commenting on the arrival of that additional batch of students, Professor Halpe said, “They are here because of you, Rohana!” I thought he was joking, for he used to enjoy lighter moments with us. But, somewhat perplexed, I asked him, “How?, sir”. “You remember the letter of distress you sent me, years ago?”, he said with a touch of humour. “Yes, I do, sir”, I answered. “And I asked you to come and meet me?” “Yes, sir, I came here and met you for the first time in my life,” I replied. Professor Halpe then told us (Kumar Abeysekera, a colleague, was with us) that he remembered that letter when he ran across the permanent secretary to a particular ministry who was a powerful civil functionary of the new government at a party. I faintly remember that he mentioned the name Paskaralingam, but my memory may not be accurate on this point. The university reorganization plan of the previous UF government was in the process of being dismantled. Professor Halpe’s accidental encounter with the official was at a function held in Colombo which was attended by some government higher-ups and some members from the diplomatic community. He said that he suggested to the influential civil servant, “Can’t you make some arrangement to allow English trained teachers from government schools who have passed the GAQ as external candidates to enter the university, to finalise their degree, while they are on study leave?” The official had promptly replied, “Why not?”. We were witnessing the ultimate result! (Professor Halpe said that definitely more people had to have got involved in the matter and complicated administrative and fiscal procedures to have been carried out before his suggestion was thus followed through, but that the idea germinated in his mind by my letter played a seminal role in the whole process.)


Meeting Prof

Let me again go further back in my narrative to the time that the professor and I were strangers to each other. Meeting Professor Halpe on the campus as I did around 1972-73 was easy, because I had been frequenting the place over the past year or so, in the company of my helpful old and new friends. I had even read in the library, sneaking in there with my former schoolmate already mentioned and others who were internal students. I used to rush there soon after school on two or three days every week, and on most weekends; and often at meal times I ate at the common dining room of the hall of residence where my friend was lodged. Pointing to the unfailing leafy vegetable dish – maelluma -, he’d say: “kapang, tanakola tama kanta thiyenne. Eat, there’s only grass to eat”. But the fare was still (in the early ‘70s) quite satisfactory with lots of meat and veggies and in abundant quantities, too, (not unwelcome circumstances for the voracious omnivore that I was then, unlike the controlled eater I am today). Even at that time the university retained  in this department something of what had inspired the 19-year-old Halpe who arrived at Peradeniya in 1952 as one among the first batch of Arts students to feel the place to be “very much a bowl of plenty and the perfection of a dream..” (as he poetically described in an article published in the Sunday Times Plus/June 30, 2013 to mark the Golden Jubilee celebration of the 1963 entrants of the university). 

By the way, the phrase ‘a bowl of plenty’ (comparable to the  ‘Pun Kalasa’- the Full Pot – in our Eastern  cultural tradition symbolising prosperity and plenteousness) is obviously an adaptation of the ‘Cornucopia or the Horn of Plenty’ of Western classical antiquity that stood for agricultural abundance and life sustaining nature. Professor Halpe uses one of his own paintings to decorate the cover of the poetry collection ‘Silent arbiters…, where he juxtaposes the Pun Kalasa with the image of a skull. 

My unique association with Professor Halpe started somewhere around 1972/1973 and remained close and unbroken until, in 1982, I resigned from Peradeniya and left Sri Lanka to go to the Sultanate of Oman to serve there under the Ministry of Education of that country. When I returned to Sri Lanka in 1999 and resumed teaching at Peradeniya on a visiting basis, Professor Halpe had retired, but was occasionally seen on the campus, himself doing visiting. As both of us were only visiting, and were longer occupied with doing our own things than was usual in the past, our meetings were few and far between. The visiting work, I was sure, he cherished for the opportunity it gave him to enjoy some more time in the paradisiacal environs of the scenic Peradeniya campus, where he had spent most of his youth and adult life. For an aesthete like Professor Halpe, the Peradeniya campus premises could not but be paradise! I remember Dr Kandiah once remark, “If I had to choose between paradise and Peradeniya, I’d choose Peradeniya”! The university is located in an extremely picturesque setting on the banks of the Mahaveli that traverses a part of the lower Hantana mountain range. The following extract from the aforementioned Sunday Times Plus column verbally recreates the vernal splendour that all those who studied, taught, worked and lived on the Peradeniya campus have experienced, unless they were stone-dead to natural beauty: 


Beauty of Peradniya

“The Peradeniya campus is beautiful at all times of the year, but particularly in the months of Duruthu and Bak, which correspond to Spring in colder climates. Then, it is like a vast pavilion decked gaily as if for a festival, with festoons of flowers hanging over- head, and yellow petals falling lightly from them to rest on the cool green grass and make a carpet for the feet, while bougainvilleas twine themselves into multi- coloured trellises all around. The shimmering vault of the noonday sky resounds to the cry of the kovula, rising higher and higher up the scale, and ending in a crescendo of longing.”  

In the same context he describes the architectural magnificence of the university buildings thus: “Peradeniya was all planned, its variations of Kandyan architecture daringly blended with elements from Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa as well as infusions of inspirations and models from the modern world.” Professor Halpe’s delineation of the exquisite beauty of the architectural and horticultural features of the Peradeniya campus reminds one of the legendary ‘University Architect’ Shirley D’Alwis who designed those buildings. It was said of him that he wanted to so plan them as to make them blend with the grandeur of the natural landscape. However, the UK trained ‘University Architect’ died in 1952 in which Halpe entered university.

The thought of Shirley D’Alwis reminded me of the the memorial monument built in honour of him at the roundabout not far from the tennis courts. Some gruesome images from a later time (1986-90) associated with that spot on the campus that have been seared into my memory reverted my mind to the earlier era that mostly features in this article. The early ‘70’s proved a particularly dangerous time for my generation because of the murderous violence unleashed in the wake of the Che Guevara inspired JVP uprising. Unprecedented violence between the rebellious youth and the security forces swept the country to the utter dismay of ordinary people who were looking forward to a bright future for the country following the landslide electoral victory scored by Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike at the head of an alliance of left parties led by the SLFP (the United Front) in 1970. It was in that election that I voted for the first time as a new voter. The rebellion was ruthlessly crushed by the government, killing nearly 5000 barely armed rebels according to unofficial figures, though the government sources put the number at 1200. Sri Lanka was declared a people’s republic in 1972 under a new constitution. 


University reorganisation

A drastic university reorganization programme, among many changes introduced by the government including the republican constitution after the abortive JVP insurrection of 1971, turned all the existing universities into campuses of a single university, and the Peradeniya University became the Peradeniya Campus of the University of Sri Lanka. Most students believed that, under this programme, Professor Halpe got dislodged from his accustomed Peradeniya to the Vidyalankara University at Kelaniya (the University of Kelaniya today) along with the famed Department of English; they thought that it was engineered by certain influential people just to spite him. As a result of this ‘dislocation’, Professor Halpe was going to be at Peradeniya only on one or two days of the week. He had to move his young family to Colombo, which must have been very inconvenient to them. It was under these circumstances that I met Professor Halpe for the first time.

The day I met Professor Halpe for the first time 50 years ago, is still fresh in my mind. I was immediately struck by his oval Shakespearean visage – at around forty he still had something of his youthful rotundity – with a prematurely receding hairline, but a fairly abundant crop of shoulder-length flowing grey hair that was uniformly pepper coloured. When I told him that I received my school education in a rural school called Poramadulla Central, he reassured me: “That’s no problem. I am also from a village school”, he told me, “I studied at De Mazenod College, Kandana.” Perhaps, he was exaggerating the facts a bit to put me at my ease, for that school was not such a rural school as he made it out to be. Later I found that he was better known as a past student of St. Peter’s College, Colombo, but he could have attended De Mazenod before he went there. 


Concerning my problem, Professor Halpe suggested that I should get a transfer to a school close to the university so he could arrange for me to attend at least some lectures, and also to make use of the central library – all this to be made available to me unofficially, though against the rules, in view of my exceptional situation, as a special favour offered with the consent of the other lecturers in the English department, which he promised to secure for me by appealing to them on my behalf. He himself was, at that point, being transferred to the Vidyalankara university under the university reorganization programme, and was going to operate from Colombo, and would be available at Peradeniya for a couple of lectures each week. 

I told him that, in fact, I had already tried to get a transfer to a school nearer to Peradeniya, but that I couldn’t persuade even the head of the school where I served then to agree to release me. So that avenue was closed. Professor Halpe promised to put me in touch with his predecessor, emeritus professor H.A. Passe, for help in English (which was my principal subject). The latter was then living alone in a house at Mahaiyawa (where the car sales are today).

Professor Halpe similarly directed me to Professor Merlin Peris, for me to consult regarding Western Classical Culture (my subsidiary subject). So a few days later, one hot afternoon, I trudged up a hilly road, to go and see Professor Peris at his quarters at Dangolla (which involved a steep ascent from near Getambe). He welcomed me with a delicious bowl of ice cream, before he asked me the purpose of my calling on him. He became a very inspiring source of generous help for me in WCC. In later years I particularly admired his desire to make his expertise in western classical literature relevant to the local culture and history.

He claims he has detected Greek motifs in the Jataka Stories, and Greek mythological elements in the Mahavamsa. Sensitivity to local cultures and history was something I admired in all those generous university teachers that I approached for help. 

 It was past three o’clock one afternoon when I  made it to Professor emeritus Dr Passe’s. His only companions were two dogs (a small breed). They walked to and from the door with him, and lay spread eagled on the floor at his feet, their paws with overgrown toenails protruding like the tines of forks. Listening to the clicking noise that their paws made on the polished cement floor, when they walked, Dr Passe said, “They are suffering because their toenails are grown too long and their paws have no firm grip on the floor. Sometimes, their legs tend to slip sideways, making them fall, when they try to run.  I’ve asked a man to come and trim them”. Professor Halpe had spoken to him about me. “Ashley told me about you”, Dr Passe said, “I like to guide young English enthusiasts like you”. Dr Passe, who was a Burgher, I thought, like his predecessor Professor Ludowyk, spoke English with what struck me as a  native British accent. “I have always insisted that standards must be maintained at any cost”, he said. This is something that Professor Halpe also used to stress. In the following years I met Dr Passe many times. I even borrowed books from his private library with the knowledge of Professor Halpe, and duly returned them.

Both Professor Halpe and Dr Kandiah were sincerely concerned with and selflessly dedicated to the welfare of all the young university students, with whom they had great empathy, while being completely neutral about their usually left or anti-establishment politics. Both of them made us feel warmly welcome. At the beginning of our stint as instructors, Dr Kandiah drove three of us (me and two colleagues, Kumar A and Kingley F) one day in his brand new white Subaru hatchback almost all over the sprawling 800 acre campus precincts house-hunting for us, and found us a temporary place to stay. Later, we three found separate apartments. I found accommodation in a room in Akbar-Nell Hall adjoining the faculty of engineering. Professor Halpe took us for a ‘hopper treat’ with a beer at a prestigious restaurant in the ground -floor of the Queen’s Hotel building in Kandy. Noticing that the waiter had not brought any cutlery with the food, he called him and asked him to bring some. “Let him be civilized”, he said to us smiling cheerfully. We didn’t know whether he was serious or being funny. I don’t remember if we, including our host, used the forks and spoons that the man brought, or just used our fingers, to eat.

When the Halpes moved to Colombo (where they resided at Thimbirigasyaya)  as a result of his removal from Peradeniya, Professor Halpe’s work was divided between (Kelaniya) Vidyalankara and Peradeniya campuses. The day or two he spent at Peradeniya every week, he spent at his quarters at Meewatura, right behind the Akbar-Nell Hall. It was a ‘C’ house, something less than what he was entitled to as a senior professor. Probably this was partly due to the discrimination he was subjected to by those that resented him being at Peradeniya.  Professor Halpe made the house available to the two of us, Kumar and me, to stay for free.  I moved into it from the Akbar-Nell Hall nearby, and Kumar joined me from somewhere else. Then later, an old friend of Professor Halpe, a university colleague of his vintage, just returned from the ‘States’ (America), came to stay there, apparently on a long sojourn at Peradeniya courtesy his benevolent host. Kumar and I had no truck with him, as he seemed aloof, even when his friend was around. 

A little digression: Kumar Abeysekera played the role of the old man Chubukov (father of Natalia) with the late Dr Neil Halpe of the Medical Faculty teaching staff playing the nervous hypochondriac suitor Lomov in Anton Chekhov’s hilarious one act play of 1889/90 ‘The Proposal’ under the direction of Professor Halpe in 1979, as I can recollect. The play was staged in an auditorium, in the engineering faculty probably, but I don’t remember the venue so well. Nor can I remember who played the female character Natalia. When this happened, I had left Professor Halpe’s house to get married. My spouse and I attended the staging of the play as newly-weds.

On the morning of the second day he spent at Meewatura with us every week, we shared ‘bed-tea’ with him, which I routinely made for Kumar and myself on other days  (The first day he was with us at Meewatura, Professor Halpe was not available for this, as he travelled to work from Colombo on that day.) He surprised us one morning by bringing us two cups of bed-tea to our room upstairs. Fortunately, we were both awake; I was just preparing to go downstairs to the kitchen to do my daily bed-tea making. He handed us the tea, and said, quite casually, “You take your own time; I am going a bit early today”. This was before the coming of his friend. 

One rather warm afternoon, I lay prone in my bed resting on my elbows trying to read a book (it was the red coloured paperback edition of  Shakespeare’s sonnets by J. Dover Wilson entitled “The Sonnets”) which was propped against a pillow. I had left the door and the windows open. I didn’t know that Professor Halpe, who had just come back from a lecture, was looking at me, until he said with searing sarcasm: “That’s a perfect position to read, Rohana, especially when you read serious stuff like Shakespeare’s Sonnets”, and walked to his room, before I could form anything coherent in my mind to say in defence of myself. Another victim of his sarcastic humour was his old friend, who had come from the States. This person used to spend at least ten minutes each time washing his hands at the wash stand, while the water was flowing freely from the open tap, probably trying to cool himself. He did this umpteen times. One day Professor Halpe, watching him performing this wasteful ritual, smilingly commented: “P……. is a perfectionist at the wash stand..”

One morning, about nine o’clock, as we were approaching the central canteen for our breakfast, we saw him coming from Colombo, dressed in his usual bush shirt and slacks, a cloth bag slung over one shoulder, having got down from the train at the Sarasavi Uyana station near the Agriculture Faculty, and walking briskly towards the Arts Theatre, eating a snack for breakfast. He was rushing for his lecture that morning. He never put on airs. That was why he was so popularly respected by the general mass of students and teachers.

Years later, in personal conversation, referring, without a hint of malice, to the petty personal jealousies, academic rivalries, moral hypocrisies and intellectual deceptions that sometimes plagued life among the denizens at the otherwise salubrious Peradeniya, and that eventually evicted him from there for a brief three or four years, he told me “and this also is one of the dark places of this country”. He was parodying the philosophical Marlow, the tough seaman, in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Sitting cross-legged in darkness one evening in his ship The Nellie at the Thames estuary, Marlow has just told a couple of his fellow sailors listening to “one of his inconclusive experiences” that “messengers of the might within the land, bearers of the sacred fire” …. “had gone out of that stream, bearing the sword, and often the torch..”, etc. This image of the sacred fire is important. Peradeniya was indeed a source of the sacred fire of a different type (intellectual stimulation, knowledge seeking, science, creative arts, etc), something alluded to in the name NAVASILU, the academic publication/magazine that Professor Halpe started after being landed in Kelaniya (Vidyalankara). The name is Sinhala, nava (new), silu (flames), meaning ‘new flames of creativity’. He had this penchant for choosing names that reflected aspects of national culture. The name of the house he built on Riverdale Road, Aniewatte, Kandy is “Varama”, a word which means “assurance or confirmation” (of achievement and protection); that word is rich in associations in secular and religious Sinhala literature.

The last time I met Professor Halpe was in July-August 1997, I think. It was a chance meeting. I was reaching the end of my annual vacation from Oman. It was at Gatembe on the day of the ‘water cutting ceremony’ of the Kandy Esala perahera, that is, the day of the final day perahera, which marked the end of the annual event that year. My wife and our two children were with me. We met Professor Halpe and his daughter Haasini there. A large crowd of people were waiting there to witness the water cutting ritual that was going to be performed there at the ford of the Mahaveli after the arrival of the diya kaepum perahera from Kandy. The sound of music from the approaching perahera was heard from a distance. Professor Halpe had come with Haasini, who was waiting there to report on the event for the TNL or the Young Asia TV (I am not very clear about which TV channel it was). While chatting with us Haasini referred to the popular belief that it rains (miraculously) when the water cutting takes place; she seemed to empathise with that belief. When Professor Halpe learned that my son was going to sit for his OL exam at the end of the year, he said: “Don’t put too much pressure on the child. It is enough if he passes the exam with the minimum number of credits that would qualify him for the AL. He should reserve his energies for the more important AL hurdle.” Sound advice for a parent, so characteristic of the  always humane Professor Halpe.  

Finally, we have already seen how Professor Halpe let his own conscience torture him while thinking about “young bodies tangled in monsoon scrub…” in that first book of poems “Silent Arbiters…..” (1976). These are the final lines of “April 1971”:

I sit through night hours 

trying wonted work, compelled 

into blank inattentions 

by these images 

young bodies tangled in monsoon scrub 

or rotting in river shallows, awaiting 

the kind impartial fish, 

and those not dead– 

numb, splotched faces, souls 

ravaged by all their miseries and defeats.  

Professor Halpe never expressed any personal venom or nurtured any vindictive thoughts about the gratuitous harassment and humiliation inflicted on him by his detractors. Neither did he slacken the pace of his ‘wonted work’ (which, in his case, was nothing if not utterly committed and service oriented). In the year 1976, Professor Halpe was still ‘doing time’ for no crime done in that period of adversity while based in what I’d call his punishment station Kelaniya (Vidyalankara university). In the same year he inaugurated the scholarly publication NAVASILU under the auspices of the English Association of Sri Lanka: Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies, which he led at the time. I remember him soliciting sufficiently ‘heavy stuff’ (meaning serious research articles) to be featured in it.

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Sat Mag

Living building challenge



By Eng. Thushara Dissanayake

The primitive man lived in caves to get shelter from the weather. With the progression of human civilization, people wanted more sophisticated buildings to fulfill many other needs and were able to accomplish them with the help of advanced technologies. Security, privacy, storage, and living with comfort are the common requirements people expect today from residential buildings. In addition, different types of buildings are designed and constructed as public, commercial, industrial, and even cultural or religious with many advanced features and facilities to suit different requirements.

We are facing many environmental challenges today. The most severe of those is global warming which results in many negative impacts, like floods, droughts, strong winds, heatwaves, and sea level rise due to the melting of glaciers. We are experiencing many of those in addition to some local issues like environmental pollution. According to estimates buildings account for nearly 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions. In light of these issues, we have two options; we change or wait till the change comes to us. Waiting till the change come to us means that we do not care about our environment and as a result we would have to face disastrous consequences. Then how can we change in terms of building construction?

Before the green concept and green building practices come into play majority of buildings in Sri Lanka were designed and constructed just focusing on their intended functional requirements. Hence, it was much likely that the whole process of design, construction, and operation could have gone against nature unless done following specific regulations that would minimize negative environmental effects.

We can no longer proceed with the way we design our buildings which consumes a huge amount of material and non-renewable energy. We are very concerned about the food we eat and the things we consume. But we are not worrying about what is a building made of. If buildings are to become a part of our environment we have to design, build and operate them based on the same principles that govern the natural world. Eventually, it is not about the existence of the buildings, it is about us. In other words, our buildings should be a part of our natural environment.

The living building challenge is a remarkable design philosophy developed by American architect Jason F. McLennan the founder of the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). The International Living Future Institute is an environmental NGO committed to catalyzing the transformation toward communities that are socially just, culturally rich, and ecologically restorative. Accordingly, a living building must meet seven strict requirements, rather certifications, which are called the seven “petals” of the living building. They are Place, Water, Energy, Equity, Materials, Beauty, and Health & Happiness. Presently there are about 390 projects around the world that are being implemented according to Living Building certification guidelines. Let us see what these seven petals are.


This is mainly about using the location wisely. Ample space is allocated to grow food. The location is easily accessible for pedestrians and those who use bicycles. The building maintains a healthy relationship with nature. The objective is to move away from commercial developments to eco-friendly developments where people can interact with nature.


It is recommended to use potable water wisely, and manage stormwater and drainage. Hence, all the water needs are captured from precipitation or within the same system, where grey and black waters are purified on-site and reused.


Living buildings are energy efficient and produce renewable energy. They operate in a pollution-free manner without carbon emissions. They rely only on solar energy or any other renewable energy and hence there will be no energy bills.


What if a building can adhere to social values like equity and inclusiveness benefiting a wider community? Yes indeed, living buildings serve that end as well. The property blocks neither fresh air nor sunlight to other adjacent properties. In addition, the building does not block any natural water path and emits nothing harmful to its neighbors. On the human scale, the equity petal recognizes that developments should foster an equitable community regardless of an individual’s background, age, class, race, gender, or sexual orientation.


Materials are used without harming their sustainability. They are non-toxic and waste is minimized during the construction process. The hazardous materials traditionally used in building components like asbestos, PVC, cadmium, lead, mercury, and many others are avoided. In general, the living buildings will not consist of materials that could negatively impact human or ecological health.


Our physical environments are not that friendly to us and sometimes seem to be inhumane. In contrast, a living building is biophilic (inspired by nature) with aesthetical designs that beautify the surrounding neighborhood. The beauty of nature is used to motivate people to protect and care for our environment by connecting people and nature.

Health & Happiness

The building has a good indoor and outdoor connection. It promotes the occupants’ physical and psychological health while causing no harm to the health issues of its neighbors. It consists of inviting stairways and is equipped with operable windows that provide ample natural daylight and ventilation. Indoor air quality is maintained at a satisfactory level and kitchen, bathrooms, and janitorial areas are provided with exhaust systems. Further, mechanisms placed in entrances prevent any materials carried inside from shoes.

The Bullitt Center building

Bullitt Center located in the middle of Seattle in the USA, is renowned as the world’s greenest commercial building and the first office building to earn Living Building certification. It is a six-story building with an area of 50,000 square feet. The area existed as a forest before the city was built. Hence, the Bullitt Center building has been designed to mimic the functions of a forest.

The energy needs of the building are purely powered by the solar system on the rooftop. Even though Seattle is relatively a cloudy city the Bullitt Center has been able to produce more energy than it needed becoming one of the “net positive” solar energy buildings in the world. The important point is that if a building is energy efficient only the area of the roof is sufficient to generate solar power to meet its energy requirement.

It is equipped with an automated window system that is able to control the inside temperature according to external weather conditions. In addition, a geothermal heat exchange system is available as the source of heating and cooling for the building. Heat pumps convey heat stored in the ground to warm the building in the winter. Similarly, heat from the building is conveyed into the ground during the summer.

The potable water needs of the building are achieved by treating rainwater. The grey water produced from the building is treated and re-used to feed rooftop gardens on the third floor. The black water doesn’t need a sewer connection as it is treated to a desirable level and sent to a nearby wetland while human biosolid is diverted to a composting system. Further, nearly two third of the rainwater collected from the roof is fed into the groundwater and the process resembles the hydrologic function of a forest.

It is encouraging to see that most of our large-scale buildings are designed and constructed incorporating green building concepts, which are mainly based on environmental sustainability. The living building challenge can be considered an extension of the green building concept. Amanda Sturgeon, the former CEO of the ILFI, has this to say in this regard. “Before we start a project trying to cram in every sustainable solution, why not take a step outside and just ask the question; what would nature do”?

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Sat Mag

Something of a revolution: The LSSP’s “Great Betrayal” in retrospect



By Uditha Devapriya

On June 7, 1964, the Central Committee of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party convened a special conference at which three resolutions were presented. The first, moved by N. M. Perera, called for a coalition with the SLFP, inclusive of any ministerial portfolios. The second, led by the likes of Colvin R. de Silva, Leslie Goonewardena, and Bernard Soysa, advocated a line of critical support for the SLFP, but without entering into a coalition. The third, supported by the likes of Edmund Samarakkody and Bala Tampoe, rejected any form of compromise with the SLFP and argued that the LSSP should remain an independent party.

The conference was held a year after three parties – the LSSP, the Communist Party, and Philip Gunawardena’s Mahajana Eksath Peramuna – had founded a United Left Front. The ULF’s formation came in the wake of a spate of strikes against the Sirimavo Bandaranaike government. The previous year, the Ceylon Transport Board had waged a 17-day strike, and the harbour unions a 60-day strike. In 1963 a group of working-class organisations, calling itself the Joint Committee of Trade Unions, began mobilising itself. It soon came up with a common programme, and presented a list of 21 radical demands.

In response to these demands, Bandaranaike eventually supported a coalition arrangement with the left. In this she was opposed, not merely by the right-wing of her party, led by C. P. de Silva, but also those in left parties opposed to such an agreement, including Bala Tampoe and Edmund Samarakkody. Until then these parties had never seen the SLFP as a force to reckon with: Leslie Goonewardena, for instance, had characterised it as “a Centre Party with a programme of moderate reforms”, while Colvin R. de Silva had described it as “capitalist”, no different to the UNP and by default as bourgeois as the latter.

The LSSP’s decision to partner with the government had a great deal to do with its changing opinions about the SLFP. This, in turn, was influenced by developments abroad. In 1944, the Fourth International, which the LSSP had affiliated itself with in 1940 following its split with the Stalinist faction, appointed Michel Pablo as its International Secretary. After the end of the war, Pablo oversaw a shift in the Fourth International’s attitude to the Soviet states in Eastern Europe. More controversially, he began advocating a strategy of cooperation with mass organisations, regardless of their working-class or radical credentials.

Pablo argued that from an objective perspective, tensions between the US and the Soviet Union would lead to a “global civil war”, in which the Soviet Union would serve as a midwife for world socialist revolution. In such a situation the Fourth International would have to take sides. Here he advocated a strategy of entryism vis-à-vis Stalinist parties: since the conflict was between Stalinist and capitalist regimes, he reasoned, it made sense to see the former as allies. Such a strategy would, in his opinion, lead to “integration” into a mass movement, enabling the latter to rise to the level of a revolutionary movement.

Though controversial, Pablo’s line is best seen in the context of his times. The resurgence of capitalism after the war, and the boom in commodity prices, had a profound impact on the course of socialist politics in the Third World. The stunted nature of the bourgeoisie in these societies had forced left parties to look for alternatives. For a while, Trotsky had been their guide: in colonial and semi-colonial societies, he had noted, only the working class could be expected to see through a revolution. This entailed the establishment of workers’ states, but only those arising from a proletarian revolution: a proposition which, logically, excluded any compromise with non-radical “alternatives” to the bourgeoisie.

To be sure, the Pabloites did not waver in their support for workers’ states. However, they questioned whether such states could arise only from a proletarian revolution. For obvious reasons, their reasoning had great relevance for Trotskyite parties in the Third World. The LSSP’s response to them showed this well: while rejecting any alliance with Stalinist parties, the LSSP sympathised with the Pabloites’ advocacy of entryism, which involved a strategic orientation towards “reformist politics.” For the world’s oldest Trotskyite party, then going through a series of convulsions, ruptures, and splits, the prospect of entering the reformist path without abandoning its radical roots proved to be welcoming.

Writing in the left-wing journal Community in 1962, Hector Abhayavardhana noted some of the key concerns that the party had tried to resolve upon its formation. Abhayavardhana traced the LSSP’s origins to three developments: international communism, the freedom struggle in India, and local imperatives. The latter had dictated the LSSP’s manifesto in 1936, which included such demands as free school books and the use of Sinhala and Tamil in the law courts. Abhayavardhana suggested, correctly, that once these imperatives changed, so would the party’s focus, though within a revolutionary framework. These changes would be contingent on two important factors: the establishment of universal franchise in 1931, and the transfer of power to the local bourgeoisie in 1948.

Paradoxical as it may seem, the LSSP had entered the arena of radical politics through the ballot box. While leading the struggle outside parliament, it waged a struggle inside it also. This dual strategy collapsed when the colonial government proscribed the party and the D. S. Senanayake government disenfranchised plantation Tamils. Suffering two defeats in a row, the LSSP was forced to think of alternatives. That meant rethinking categories such as class, and grounding them in the concrete realities of the country.

This was more or less informed by the irrelevance of classical and orthodox Marxian analysis to the situation in Sri Lanka, specifically to its rural society: with a “vast amorphous mass of village inhabitants”, Abhayavardhana observed, there was no real basis in the country for a struggle “between rich owners and the rural poor.” To complicate matters further, reforms like the franchise and free education, which had aimed at the emancipation of the poor, had in fact driven them away from “revolutionary inclinations.” The result was the flowering of a powerful rural middle-class, which the LSSP, to its discomfort, found it could not mobilise as much as it had the urban workers and plantation Tamils.

Where else could the left turn to? The obvious answer was the rural peasantry. But the rural peasantry was in itself incapable of revolution, as Hector Abhayavardhana has noted only too clearly. While opposing the UNP’s Westernised veneer, it did not necessarily oppose the UNP’s overtures to Sinhalese nationalism. As historians like K. M. de Silva have observed, the leaders of the UNP did not see their Westernised ethos as an impediment to obtaining support from the rural masses. That, in part at least, was what motivated the Senanayake government to deprive Indian estate workers of their most fundamental rights, despite the existence of pro-minority legal safeguards in the Soulbury Constitution.

To say this is not to overlook the unique character of the Sri Lankan rural peasantry and petty bourgeoisie. Orthodox Marxists, not unjustifiably, characterise the latter as socially and politically conservative, tilting more often than not to the right. In Sri Lanka, this has frequently been the case: they voted for the UNP in 1948 and 1952, and voted en masse against the SLFP in 1977. Yet during these years they also tilted to the left, if not the centre-left: it was the petty bourgeoisie, after all, which rallied around the SLFP, and supported its more important reforms, such as the nationalisation of transport services.

One must, of course, be wary of pasting the radical tag on these measures and the classes that ostensibly stood for them. But if the Trotskyite critique of the bourgeoisie – that they were incapable of reform, even less revolution – holds valid, which it does, then the left in the former colonies of the Third World had no alternative but to look elsewhere and to be, as Abhayavardhana noted, “practical men” with regard to electoral politics. The limits within which they had to work in Sri Lanka meant that, in the face of changing dynamics, especially among the country’s middle-classes, they had to change their tactics too.

Meanwhile, in 1953, the Trotskyite critique of Pabloism culminated with the publication of an Open Letter by James Cannon, of the US Socialist Workers’ Party. Cannon criticised the Pabloite line, arguing that it advocated a policy of “complete submission.” The publication of the letter led to the withdrawal of the International Committee of the Fourth International from the International Secretariat. The latter, led by Pablo, continued to influence socialist parties in the Third World, advocating temporary alliances with petty bourgeois and centrist formations in the guise of opposing capitalist governments.

For the LSSP, this was a much-needed opening. Even as late as 1954, three years after S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike formed the SLFP, the LSSP continued to characterise the latter as the alternative bourgeois party in Ceylon. Yet this did not deter it from striking up no contest pacts with Bandaranaike at the 1956 election, a strategy that went back to November 1951, when the party requested the SLFP to hold a discussion about the possibility of eliminating contests in the following year’s elections. Though it extended critical support to the MEP government in 1956, the LSSP opposed the latter once it enacted emergency measures in 1957, mobilising trade union action for a period of three years.

At the 1960 election the LSSP contested separately, with the slogan “N. M. for P.M.” Though Sinhala nationalism no longer held sway as it had in 1956, the LSSP found itself reduced to a paltry 10 seats. It was against this backdrop that it began rethinking its strategy vis-à-vis the ruling party. At the throne speech in April 1960, Perera openly declared that his party would not stabilise the SLFP. But a month later, in May, he called a special conference, where he moved a resolution for a coalition with the party. As T. Perera has noted in his biography of Edmund Samarakkody, the response to the resolution unearthed two tendencies within the oppositionist camp: the “hardliners” who opposed any compromise with the SLFP, including Samarakkody, and the “waverers”, including Leslie Goonewardena.

These tendencies expressed themselves more clearly at the 1964 conference. While the first resolution by Perera called for a complete coalition, inclusive of Ministries, and the second rejected a coalition while extending critical support, the third rejected both tactics. The outcome of the conference showed which way these tendencies had blown since they first manifested four years earlier: Perera’s resolution obtained more than 500 votes, the second 75 votes, the third 25. What the anti-coalitionists saw as the “Great Betrayal” of the LSSP began here: in a volte-face from its earlier position, the LSSP now held the SLFP as a party of a radical petty bourgeoisie, capable of reform.

History has not been kind to the LSSP’s decision. From 1970 to 1977, a period of less than a decade, these strategies enabled it, as well as the Communist Party, to obtain a number of Ministries, as partners of a petty bourgeois establishment. This arrangement collapsed the moment the SLFP turned to the right and expelled the left from its ranks in 1975, in a move which culminated with the SLFP’s own dissolution two years later.

As the likes of Samarakkody and Meryl Fernando have noted, the SLFP needed the LSSP and Communist Party, rather than the other way around. In the face of mass protests and strikes in 1962, the SLFP had been on the verge of complete collapse. The anti-coalitionists in the LSSP, having established themselves as the LSSP-R, contended later on that the LSSP could have made use of this opportunity to topple the government.

Whether or not the LSSP could have done this, one can’t really tell. However, regardless of what the LSSP chose to do, it must be pointed out that these decades saw the formation of several regimes in the Third World which posed as alternatives to Stalinism and capitalism. Moreover, the LSSP’s decision enabled it to see through certain important reforms. These included Workers’ Councils. Critics of these measures can point out, as they have, that they could have been implemented by any other regime. But they weren’t. And therein lies the rub: for all its failings, and for a brief period at least, the LSSP-CP-SLFP coalition which won elections in 1970 saw through something of a revolution in the country.

The writer is an international relations analyst, researcher, and columnist based in Sri Lanka who can be reached at

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50 years of legacy of Police Cadeting at Ananda



By Nilakshan Perera

Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranayake wanted to forge a cordial relationship with school children and the Police Department, after carefully studying a similar programme in Singapore and Malaysia. With the support of the then Ministry of Education and the Sri Lanka Police, the Sri Lanka Police Cadet Corps began as an attachment to the Sri Lankan Police Reserve. On 03 July 1972, six schools were selected for the pilot programme; namely Kingswood College Kandy, Mahinda College Galle, Hindu College Jaffna, Ananda College Colombo, Zahira College Gampola and Sangabodhi Vidyalaya Nittambuwa. By 1978, this number rose to 32 Boys’ schools and 19 Girls’ schools.

Each of these individual platoons consisted of 33 cadets. The masters who were in charge of these platoons were considered part of the Police Reserve. They were assigned with the rank of an Inspector (IP) or a Sub Inspector (SI).

Cadet Corps held a selection for the camps. They would participate in annual competitions for squad drills, physical training, first-aid, drama, billet inspection, general knowledge and public relations, best commander, sports and IGP’s Challenge Shield. From these selection camps, the first three winners would be called for the final camp, from which the Island winner was then selected.

When Ananda College was selected for Police Cadetting on 03 July 1972, two of the school’s teachers were appointed as the Officers In-charge of the College Cadet Platoon. They were Mr Lionel Gunasekera and Mr Ariyapala. Later on, Mr W Weerasekera took over from Mr Ariyapala. Both Mr Gunasekera and Mr Weerasekera extended their invaluable and unwavering services for the Cadet Platoon’s success story. Both these gentlemen were there to supervise and train cadets. One could not forget Mr Weerasekera’s 9 Sri 7321 orange coloured Bajaj scooter parked next to the College main canteen. Another teacher, who trained cadets for drama competitions, voluntarily, was the late Mr Lionel Ranwala. He was the talented master who helped cadets to secure wins in the drama competition, year after year, at the annual camps.

The evening before attending the camp, a special “Mal Pooja” was organised to bless the platoon. After this, they would meet the principal, at his office, for another special blessing and a tea party, hosted by the principal himself. The then Principal of Ananda College, Colonel GW Rajapakse, gave his fullest blessings to the Police Cadets. These recognised cadets earned more responsibilities and assumed various leadership roles at the College. Prefects, Deputy Head Prefect, Head Prefect, Big Match Tent Secretaries, and Presidents of various societies were given to Cadets uncontestedly.

The Cadets stayed at the hostel, the night before leaving for camp. Our trunks were loaded into the college van and unloaded at Maradana Railway station. The most valuable trunk in the Cadet’s eyes was the PLATOON BOX. This was so since the box often contained items such as butter cakes, bottles ofcordial, sweets, such as marshmallows, chocolate rolls, and biscuits. This precious box was kept under lock and key and the watchful eyes of two Cadet Corporals.

SSP Prof Nandadasa Kodagoda, SSP P V W de Silva and a few other senior officers from Police HQ often attended as judges for different categories in the annual camp competitions, such as first aid, general knowledge, squad drill and physical training. Both these senior officers would discharge their duties to the rule and spirit.

All first-aid requirements were provided by the college St John’s Ambulance Brigade for all college special events, such as big matches and sports meets. This unit was led by 1979 Corporal Devapriya Perera (IT Professional – London) and most of the first-aiders were Police Cadets. They volunteered their services to the General Hospital Accident Ward and the Sri Pada pilgrims. It was pleasing to see Cadets controlling traffic duties in front of the college, at the Maradana – Borella main road, every morning, from 7.00 am to 7.25 am and helping with traffic duties and car park duties during the college sports meet and other functions.

Police Cadets CR Senanayake (Automobile Engineer-Brisbane), Ravi Mahendra (IT professional), and the late Dharmapriya Silva, established a swimming club that held its training at Otters Swimming Club. The School Bus Travelers Society, organized by the Police Cadets, issued bus seasons tickets for students with the help of CTB officials.

Back then when a teacher had not reported to a class, senior Police Cadets would step in and take turns to teach these classes. Deepal Sooriyaarchchi (Former MD of Aviva, Management Consultant) and Sarath Katangoda (Management Consultant – UK) were the most popular student masters in that era with their popular stories and innovative methods of teaching. This increased the popularity of police cadets among the other students. The way cadets conducted themselves had a very high impact on fellow Anandians, and the number of students attending practices rose rapidly.

On several occasions, Anula Vidyalaya Police Cadets called our Cadets to assist with their training in preparation for their Annual Camps. Having borrowed bus season tickets from students coming to College, via Nugegoda, our senior cadets were looking forward to visiting Anula to train them during school hours. This friendly culture blossoms during camps as well as outside the two schools. We still continue our friendships with Kamal Hathamuney (who joined the Army and retired with the rank of Major, residing in Sweden), Nirmala Perera, Malraji Meepegama (married to Maj Gen Sunil Wanniarachchi), Rosy Ranasekera (married to former Ananda Cadet Band leader Maj Gen Dhananjith Karunaratne) Dilani Balasuriya, (former IGP late Mahinda Balasuriya’s sister – married to Dr Priyanga de Zoysa). Interestingly our Cadet Lanka Herath continued this relationship and found his lifetime partner Ganga Thilakaratne from the Anula Vidyalaya Platoon. A famous school from Kelaniya, St Paul’s Balika Vidyalaya, too, started Police Cadeting in 1980. The writer being 1981 Ananda Sgt found his partner from St Paul’s Balika Cadet Sgt of the same year, Rasadari Jayamaha. Former Dean of the faculty of Law, University of Colombo Prof Indira Nanayakkara and Shiromi Perera (Melbourne) were the Corporals of the same platoon.

In 1972, the College platoon, led by Sgt Ranjith Wijesundara, became the Island’s best platoon. On the 23rd of July, 1983, the Sri Lankan Army’s routine patrol was assigned from Madagal to Gurunagar with the call sign of Four Four Bravo, commanded by 2/Lt A.P.N.C de Waas Gunwardane with 15 soldiers attached to Charlie company of SLLI were ambushed at Thirunelveli in Jaffna. 2/Lt Waas Gunawrdane and 12 soldiers made the supreme sacrifice. Adjutant and Intelligence Officer of SLLI Capt Ranjith Wijesundara was assigned the task of identifying the fallen heroes. Lt Wass Gunawardane was a Cadet of the 1977 platoon. Ranjith Wijesundra is now retired with the rank of Colonel.

In 1975 the College platoon, led by Sgt M A K E Manthriratne, also became the country’s best platoon and he was selected by the National Youth Council to represent the Sri Lanka Police Cadet Corps to travel to Canada under the Youth Exchange Programme between Sri Lanka and Canada. Manthriratne later joined the SL Navy and retired with the rank of Commander. Presently, as the President of Past Cadets, together with the ever-reliable 1982 Sgt V S Makolage carrying out various welfare projects under the banner of the Past Police Cadet Wing of Ananda.

Ananda held an unbroken record of winning nine out of 10 Trophies in 1978, under the great leadership of Sergeant Kithsiri Aponso who undoubtedly took Ananda Police Cadets to greater heights, was a leader with great charisma, integrity and leadership qualities. He became the Deputy Head Prefect and joined the STF. He later moved to the Police dept and is presently appointed as the DIG In Charge of the Badulla region.

The highest rank Cadet could achieve is Sgt Major. There were three Sgt Majors who brought honour and recognition to Ananda, namely Piyal Jayatilake in 1977, Jagathpriya Karunaratne in 1978 and ‘79, and Kithsiri Aponso in 1980. Chinthaka Gunaratne, a Cadet of 1981, also became the athletic Captain in 1983 (presently SSP In Charge of Highways) brought great honour and recognition as he became the Director in Charge of the Sri Lanka Police Cadet Corps.

College Athletic Captain of 1977, Ranasinghe Dharmadasa (Snr Manager BOI), 1978 JPPP Silva (Consultant-USA), 1980 Damitha Vitharana, (joined Sri Lanka Navy and retired as Lt. Commander and was the Director at Lankem Ceylon PLC before migrating to the UK), 1981 Jagath Palihakkara, (joined Sri Lanka Police as a SI in 1982 and at presently acting Senior DIG Western Region). DIG S M Y Senviratne another past Cadet joined the Police and is presently DIG in Charge of the Ampara Region. They also brought pride and joy to their alma mater during their time in their respective platoons and in their subsequent endeavours.

Two Sgts who led the Island’s best Platoons in 1983 Priyantha Ratnayake (Planter) and Pasindu Hearath of 2016 (Undergraduate of Kyoto University, Japan) became Head Prefects and Pasindu was awarded the Fritz Kunz Memorial Trophy for the Most Outstanding Student of 2017. The 4th of July 2017 was a great day for Ananda, as well as for the Police Cadets. 1980 Cadet Sgt who led the Island’s Best Platoon became Commander of the Army. It was a great honour for Cadets. Past Cadets organized a felicitation for Gen Mahesh Senanayake to recognise his prestigious appointment.

With profound gratitude, we remember past Cadets Rear Admiral Noel Kalubowila (a highly rated naval officer decorated with the highest gallantry medals especially having led the “Suicide Express” in 1990 evacuating troops from Jaffna Fort, Major General Lakshan Fernando, Major General Ajith Pallewela, Brig Mahinda Jayasinghe, Maj Aruna Vithanage, Maj Sampath Karuanthilake, Major SP Rodrigo, Lt Bandual Withanachchi, Director Prisons TI Uduwera, SSP Deepthi Hettiarchchi of STF (Zonal Commander Jaffna Mannar, Killinochchi and Mullaithivu), SSP Amal Edirimanne (In Charge of Colombo North) were Cadets who joined the forces, Police and Prison departments, respectively.

Chairman of University Grant Commission Senior Prof Sampath Amaratunge, one of the brilliant academics and a past Cadet, always believed and mentioned that “I am where I am because of my alma mater, and shall forever grateful to my journey”. Other note-worthy past Cadets are Harbor Master Capt Nirmal Silva, Prof Rohan Gunaratna (a political analyst specializing in international terrorism) present President of Ananda OBA, Bimal Wijesinghe who excelled in athletics during annual camps.

When this writer contacted one of our Masters-In-Charge, Mr W Weerasekera, he recalled those golden days. “As a pilot school where Police Cadet platoons were formed, Ananda College played its role in achieving the aims of cadetting as envisaged in the curriculum. It gives me great satisfaction to note the leadership and achievements of the Cadets, their success in later life with the highest contribution to the society at large”

Thanks for the untiring efforts of Hiranya Hewanayake (Senior Manager – Singer Sri Lanka) and Wing Commander Pradeep Kannangara Retd (Former Officer Commanding of the Special Air Borne Unit of Sri Lanka Air Force – Director – General Manager Abans Securitas), all past Cadets who reside all over the world are now well connected, via social media.We cherish the remarkable legacy of Ananda Police Cadetting.

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