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Some incomprehensible lapses in Easter Attack Commission Report

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By Kalyananda Tiranagama

(Continued from yesterday)

Links of Zahran group with Muslim Politicians in the country

The country expected the PCoI to inquire into and find out the links the Zahran group had with Muslim political leaders like Rishard Bathiudeen, Azaad Salley, Hisbullah and Rauf Hakeem, whose conduct was subject to much discussion through the media and recommend how to deal with them. However, the PCoI has failed to make any definite findings and recommendations against any one of them.

In Chapter 22 of the Report titled Contributory Factors dealing with the activities of individuals resulting in aiding and abetting or causing racial and religious disturbances, the role of individual persons has been discussed and findings and recommendations made: i. Rishad Bathiiudeen; ii. his brother Riaj Bathiudeen; iii. Mohommadu Shibly Farouk; iv. Hisbullah; v. Abdul Razik; vi. Galagodaththe Ganasara Thera.

Out of all the persons whose activities are discussed, Galagodaththe Ganasara Thero was identified as the person who is mainly responsible and most severely to be dealt with. No such recommendation is made against any of the Muslim leaders.

i. Rishad Bathiudeen

There were lot of suspicious circumstances suggesting the involvement of Rishard Bathiuddeen with Zahran and other extremist Muslim groups. Not only among the general public of the country, but also among political circles there was much suspicion about Rishard’s involvement, about his contribution to the extremist forces. That is why several political leaders and Buddhist priests made complaints to the CID against him. That is why the Opposition Members of Parliament brought a no-confidence motion in Parliament against him for his removal from the Cabinet. Following the commencement of the fast unto death by Rathana Thero demanding his arrest, due to the resignation of all Muslim Ministers belonging to different political parties from the Cabinet with a view to protecting him, no-confidence motion could not be proceeded with.

The following are some of the allegations made against Rishard in the no-confidence motion on which he had been questioned by the Parliamentary Select Committee: i. Having links with Zahran’s terrorist group; ii. The treasurer of his Party Alaudeen is a terrorist involved in the attacks; iii. His links with Mohomed Ibrahim, the father of two suicide bombers; iv. He knew the suicide bomber, having attended his wedding; v. His support to Ibrahim’s import export business activities; vi. The Industrial Development Board under his Ministry issuing unusually high amount of scrap metal used for making explosives to Colossus (Pvt) Ltd belonging to the suicide bomber Inshaf at a discount not given to others; vii. The two suicide bombers Inshaf and Ilham, sons of Mohomed Ibrahim, being the major source of financial support for Zahran; viii. A Pradesiya Sabha Member of his Party, one of his Coordinating Secretaries, arrested at Mannar with some detonators; ix. A house belonging to his sister at Wattala leased out to suicide bombers x. Repeatedly making inquiries about a terrorist arrested at Dehiwala from the DIG, Army Commander and the State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardane xi. Visiting the arrested terrorist’s house at Dehiwala; xii, Ignoring the information given by Turkish Embassy about 50 trained terrorists present in Sri Lanka; xiii. Terrorists using vehicles belonging to Sathosa under his Ministry for their transport.

The Report does not mention anything about inquiries conducted on most of these allegations. It mentions only about two matters: i. Inquiries made from Army Commander about Ihsan Meinudeen – a terrorist suspect, arrested by the Army ; For that the COI has recommended the AG to consider instituting criminal action under any suitable PC provision. No criminal action can be instituted for making inquiries about a person in custody, though the COI has recommended.

ii. Chairman of the Industrial Development Board under Rishard had issued unusually high amount of scrap metal to Colossus (Pvt) Ltd belonging to the suicide bomber Inshaf, who is related to Bathiudeen, at a discount not given to others causing a loss of Rs. 4.6 million to the State. Inshaf and Ilham were the major financiers of Zahran – P. 334 Zahran has given Rs. 500,000 received from Ilham to wife of Mufeez to obtain bail for suspects in the Mawanella incident. The only recommendation is that this matter to be referred to the Bribery and Corruption Commission.

 It is strange that the COI did not probe whether this resulted in facilitating terrorist attacks with financial support and material that can be used for the preparation of explosives used in the Easter Attack;

 

ii. Riaj Bathiudeen

Riaj is a brother of Minister Rishard Bathiuddeen; He is a member of the Minister’s staff; He had close contacts with Inshaf, one of the biggest funders of Zahran; His connection with sale of scrap metal and in irregularities committed therein. – P. 335 The COI recommends that these matters to be referred to the Police to conduct necessary investigations.

 Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has stated that the April attacks were carried out by those who wanted to strengthen their political power.

 Are not these suspicious circumstances sufficient in identifying the real culprits responsible for the Easter attack?

 

iii. M. Mohammadu Shibly Farouk

Shibly Farouk is a Member of the Eastern Provincial Council elected from the Batticaloa District in 2012 and functioned until 2017. He got to know Zahran and Rilwan around 2015 and had a close association with Zahran and his group. Shibly helped Zahran to get loudspeaker permits from the Police for his meetings. Farouk had visited the hospital with Rauff Hakeem to see Rilwan after he received injuries. Zahran and the NTJ received the political patronage of Farouk at least till March 2017. No finding or recommendation against Farouk.

 

Azath Sally

The Report mentions about Sally’s involvement in the investigations into the Mawanella incident as well as the release of two suspects Nafrith and Navith arrested at Wanathawilluwa. – P. 118 Nafrith and Navith are brothers-in-law of Mufeez, the suspect arrested at Wanathawilluwa with explosives and a note written in English with instructions on making bombs; Salley admitted his involvement in making representations for the release of the two suspects Nafrith and Navith.

Salley had contacted Thassim Moulavi, a cousin of Abdul Latheef, father of Jameel Mohomed who died at the Tropical Inn, Dehiwala and inquired about Mawanella incident. With information received from Maulawi Salley had immediately called IGP Pujitha Jayasundara and Defence Secretary, Hemasiri Fernando and requested for a meeting, which was granted. Salley informed that Moulavi would surrender the two brothers, the main suspects in the Mawanella incident during the day, but that did not take place. These interventions had the effect of hampering independent police investigations. – P. 122 – 123. It was to Mufeez’s wife that Zaharan had sent Rs. 500,000 received from Ilham for obtaining bail for Mawanella suspects.

All these show that Sally had close links with the main suspects involved in the Mawanella and Wanathawilluwa incidents and that he tried to get them released. However no inquiries / no investigations conducted by the COI on Salley’s connections with terrorists and no recommendation made against Sally. The only recommendation made is the introduction of a penal offence criminalising any intervention by a Member of Parliament, Provincial Council or local authority into police investigations and about terrorist suspects in custody or detention. – P. 124. Though Sally is in custody at present, that is not on any recommendation made by the COI.

 

iv. M.L.A.M. Hisbullah

Hisbullah has played a prominent role in the Arabization of Kattankuddy. In his view Wahhabis manner of practicing Islam is the proper way. At times he has spoken of violent extremist actions. Among his associates are people like Adam Lebbe Mohammadu Mumthaz, Thowheed follower and supporter of the IS ideology and Dr. Zakir Naik, extremist preacher and owner of Peace TV, who is banned in India and Bangladesh. The COI finds that the acions of Hisbullah facilitated the spread of extremism within Kattankuddy. – P. 342-343

However no penal action recommended against Hisbullah.

 

v. Abdul Razik

Abdul Razik was the Secretary of Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamaath since 2005; In May 2014 he equated triple gem of Buddhists to three gem stones and went on to say that Lord Buddha consumed human flesh. An Action was filed by Police in M. C. Colombo case B7467/1/14 in respect of this statement, but no charges filed yet even after seven years, File was sent to AG three years back. In 2017 in a speech at Dehiwala he stated that IS is Islam; He openly speaks against Buddhism being given the foremost place in the Constitution; He was instrumental in converting Sara to Islam. He chose Hasthun to marry Sara and provided Mahr; Led a demonstration in Colombo advocating implementation of Sharia law. Only recommendation: AG to consider expeditiously whether criminal charges can be filed against him. – P. 429

 But the COI has not recommended any criminal action against him under the ICCPR Act as against Gnanasara Thero.

 

vi. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera

Findings and recommendations against Gnanasara Thera: Bodu Bala Sena to be proscribed as its actions are a threat to religious harmony. His utterances and actions contributed in part to radicalisation of Muslim youth. AG to consider instituting criminal action against him under the ICCPR Act for his speeches made at Aluthgama in June 1914 and on Feb. 17, 2013 at Maharagama.

 When charged under the ICCPR Act he cannot get bail and is liable to be punished with a heavy jail sentence.

– S. 3 (3) A person found guilty of committing an offence under this Act, shall on conviction by the High Court, be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.

– An offence under this Act shall be non-bailable, and no person suspected or accused of such an offence shall be enlarged on bail, except by the High Court in exceptional Circumstances.

 No recommendation is made against any other person to be indicted under the ICCPR Act. One cannot understand why only Gnanasara Thera was selected to be dealt with under this harsh provision of law.

 

Incomplete Findings and Lack of Recommendations on some material issues

 

As shown below it appears from the Report that the Commission has not been able to conduct full inquiry and make due recommendations on several matters which are of vital and practical importance.

 

1. Persons having links with dangerous foreign terrorists

Yusuf al-Qardawi – is a devoted member of Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, committed to the doctrine of suicide bombing- P.52, a person banned from entering the UK in 2008 and France in 2012 – p. 53; Egyptian Embassy in Colombo has issued a press release on 15. 06. 2020 identifying al-Qardawi as a fountainhead of the banned terrorist Muslim Brotherhood, fanning religious hatred and promoting a cult of violence. He is a person stripped of Egyptian citizenship and sentenced to life imprisonment by Egyptian Court. – p. 54

 

The COI has received a photograph of al-Qardawi taken on 28. 04. 2013 along with three Sri Lankans – Inamullah; Naimullah, former Member of Central Provincial Council and N.M. Ameen, President of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka.

 No findings made against them due to time constraints, but recommends that an investigation be conducted into their association with al-Qardawi. P. 54

 

2. Officially Promoting Terrorism through Education

Quotes from Yusuf al-Qardawi are contained in Islam Tamil Civilization Teachers Guide Grade 12 at P. 79; Islam Sinhala Teachers Guide Grade 13 at P. 44, 63, 109 and 123; Books written by him are recommended for further reading in Islam Sinhala Teachers Guide Grade 12 at p. 72. – p. 54

 

Islam Sinhala / Tamil Teachers Guide Grade 12 / 13 contained recommended reading material written by several extremists – Abul Ala Maududi; Qyyim Al Jawziyya; Mohommed al-Ghazali, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood; Rachi al-Ghannaouchi, of the Muslim Brotherhood – a terrorist organization banned in Egypt;

 

Their teachings – Islam cannot be fulfilled without the power of govt and that govt. and Islam are twin brothers; their objective is not only the religion but the land and the governing power. – P. 54 – 57

 The COI has not inquired about the persons responsible for introducing these terrorist material into Teachers Guides and the impact of these material on the teachers and children;

 It has only recommended removal of these material from the books.

 One cannot understand why no recommendation has been made for the removal of these persons who introduced this terrorist material into Teachers Guides from their positions and legal action to be taken against them for promoting terrorism.

 

3. Promoting Wahhabisam through SLBC

The COI heard evidence of Wahhabist programmes being aired over the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation over a period of time. A person who spoke against the IS and Wahhabism was later not given any air time. It was one Ahamed Munuwar who has done that at the instance of Sri Lanka Jamath Islami; Munuwar’s son is married to the sister of Jameel, the terrorist who caused the explosion at Tropical Inn, Dehiwala.

 The Report states that No findings made against Munuwar due to time constraints, but recommends that an investigation be conducted into his activities in the SLBC. – P. 58

 

4. Sri Lankan Diplomats concealing vital information of preparations of IS operatives for terrorist attacks

On 10. 08. 2018 Pakistan authorities have shared with the SL High Commission in Islamabad vital information of a Sri Lankan IS operative in SL who is an active member of IS online networks and was planning / in the process of preparing explosive devices from easily available chemicals. Jihad material retrieved from the suspect included material relating to preparation of bombs. Some pictures of the suspect were also handed over. This communication does not appear to have reached the SL Defence authorities – P. 76

 Pakistan Govt had provided this information in August 2018, long time before the attack and after the disclosures made by Minister of Justice Wijedasa Rajapakse in November 1916 in Parliament about 32 Sri Lankans who had links with IS terrorists in Syria.

 If this information was conveyed to the Defence Authorities in Sri Lanka they could have taken preventive steps and this failure to convey this vital information to defence authorities may have contributed to Easter Attacks.

 Who are these High Commission Officials who withheld this information from SL Govt? Are they still in the SL foreign service? Why did not they convey this information to the Govt? Are they persons having links with IS terrorists or Wahhabist groups in Sri Lanka? All these need to be probed.

 The COI has not conducted any inquiry as to this failure of the High Commission officials.

 It has only recommended that an investigation be conducted into this omission. – P. 154



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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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