CONFESSIONS OF A GLOBAL GYPSY
By Dr. Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena DPhil
President – Chandi J. Associates Inc. Consulting, Canada
Founder & Administrator – Global Hospitality Forum
A Surprise at the Union AGM
The hotel union of Coral Gardens was hoping to deal with the new Manager, Major Siri Samarakoon more effectively with input from their superiors. The annual general meeting (AGM) was expected to re-establish the strength of the union. A very important chief guest, Mr. Bala Tampoe (Comrade Bala) was attending, A notice came from the hotel union to Major ‘informing’ the management of the details related to their AGM. Major wrote in bold letters across the notice, “Approved by the Manager”, signed the notice and placed it on the union notice board himself.
After all the hype, Comrade Bala arrived at the hotel in an old car and was given a rousing welcome by his devoted followers. They covered him with fresh flower garlands and ceremonially ushered him from the entrance of the hotel to the employee dormitory area where the AGM was to be held. The union was ready for the magic to happen. I was in the office in my chef uniform listening to the loud cheers of the employees celebrating the visit by their hero Comrade Bala.
I was thinking of what would happen after the AGM. At that time, Major appeared in the office dressed in a bright red shirt and a pair of jeans. I was surprised and asked him if he was going out somewhere. “Yes, of course, to the union AGM,” he said in an excited voice. When I asked him, “Are you invited to the AGM?” he said that, “As the Manager of the hotel I am their host and I certainly do not need any invitation to go anywhere in the hotel.” I was baffled, when he said, “Chandana, let’s go and have some fun with these bloody communists.”
Around 100 employees attending the AGM were shocked to see Major and I marching bravely towards their leader just before the meeting commenced. That was the first union meeting I had ever attended. I followed Major and sat right in the front row after shaking hands with Comrade Bala, who looked confused by our surprise appearance. At 4:00 pm sharp, at the exact time the AGM was supposed to commence, the Major went to the podium, took the microphone in his hand, checked the sound and addressed the gathering, uninvited.
The Major stated the importance of commencing such meetings promptly, as busy people like him do not like to waste time. He then compared himself to Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Bala Tampoe, as all four were lawyers or legal scholars. After that, Major gave a lengthy and informative lecture to the union on how he admired Karl Marx’s theories and philosophies on economics and socialism. Then he compared communism in USSR, China and Cuba. He argued that unions must embrace concepts that benefit members rather than the concepts that boost the egos of their selfish leaders.
He ended his unsolicited lecture by saying that if anyone at the AGM needs to learn more about socialism, communism or unionism, to make an appointment to consult him. He wished the union all success and left before any questions were posed to him. “Chandana, let’s leave this AGM to do some productive work,” he said while marching away, proudly. Comrade Bala and his loyal followers looked totally baffled.
Russian Roulette – Fire or Promote?
Towards the end of the tourist season in 1977, we had two more managers on our team. Sabinus Fernando had just retired from the National Milk Board as the Personnel Manager. He was an expert in handling tough unions. Neville Fernando was a volunteer Lieutenant of the Army who was previously trained by Major. He looked after security. Although they were on the management team of four, Major designated Sabinus and Neville as General Supervisors I and II. I familiarized both in hotel operations.
One day, Major had a special management meeting with one agenda item – terminating the services of either the President (Edmond) or the Secretary (Kalansooriya) of the hotel union. “Let’s break the union by promoting one leader and sacking the other. Let’s decide which one gets sacked.” Major sought our input, with a sadistic laugh. As there were no clear grounds for dismissal, I voted against such action, but the other three managers agreed to fire the younger and more radical union leader – Kalansooriya. I felt that the whole voting process was choreographed by Major. “What happens to Butler Edmond?” I questioned. “Let’s promote him as the Restaurant Supervisor!” Major concluded.
Major delegated three members of his management team specific tasks to implement his strategy:
= Chandana – Training, developing and promoting Edmond with new uniforms, good increment and benefits.
= Sabinus – Building a special case file for Kalansooriya and continuously provoking him until he makes a major mistake. “Sabinus, if you can provoke Kalanasooriya in such a manner for you to get slapped on the face by him in public, that would be perfect!” Major suggested. He was not joking.
= Neville – Getting Security Guards to check Kalansooriya thoroughly every time he leaves work while further harassing him with frequent questioning.
The very next day, I promoted Edmond and issued general notices to all employees. Edmond was very pleased with his new title and impressive salary increase. He came to our office with a big smile to thank Major and myself. “Sir, should I wear a tie to work?” a highly motivated Edmond asked us. Major did not want to spend any more hotel money for buying ties. Therefore, he told me, “I say Chandana, I see that you have a big collection of ties. Just give this chap a couple of your old ties.” I did so immediately, without asking any questions.
After that even when Edmond was off duty, he travelled home wearing my old ties, as that was a status symbol in his village. Before issuing the letter of promotion to Edmond, Major told him, “Edmond, one thing you need to do before your promotion is confirmed. You must resign from the hotel union.” “No problem, Sir, I will do that now.” Edmond said.
Timely, but Unfair Action
By early April, 1977, on the last day of the tourist season, when the last European tour group left the hotel, the occupancy dropped down to single digits. Major terminated Kalansooriya’s service on that day, as the last tourist coach left the hotel. Major had drafted a long letter with many legal terms. He managed to get the letter of termination issued from the head office and signed by a member of the board. We were expecting a strike, and if that happened, Major was prepared to close the hotel for the off season of six months to focus on maintenance and upgrading projects.
The union delegates wanted to meet with the management to discuss what they termed as: “a revengeful and unfair dismissal”. During that emotional meeting, a few union delegates broke down in tears. Major looked very sorry and spoke softly, “My heart goes to Kalansooriya, but unfortunately my hands are tied as the letter was issued and signed by my superior – the Hotel Company Director from the head office.” The union delegates then asked. “Can’t you speak with the Director and try to convince him to give Kalansooriya a second chance?” Major responded, “Sure, I will ask that when the Director returns to Sri Lanka after his current two-month holiday in England.” That was the end of the story.
After a week, there was no more talk about Kalansooriya among employees. Although, now not a part of the union that he built and led over 10 years, Edmond appeared to be a popular supervisor. Major took a one-month vacation making me the Acting Manager, once again.
One morning in May, 1977, the kitchen became busy with a last-minute order for a Sri Lankan lunch for 50 persons of a major political party. As the majority of cooks were on their annual leave during the off season, I did most of the cooking. When the group arrived, I realised that it was for then Leader of the Opposition and the Member of the Parliament for Colombo South, where I was registered to vote. The veteran politician, Mr. Junius Richard Jayewardene (JR) was campaigning hard to bring his United National Party (UNP) back to power and become the sixth and the oldest person to become the Prime Minister of Ceylon/Sri Lanka. At age 70, he appeared to have a lot of energy to do three rallies a day during a three month-long campaign.
When JR arrived at the hotel, his 50 close supporters expected him to have lunch with them in the restaurant, but he had a different idea. When I greeted JR on his arrival at the entrance of the hotel, he wanted to meet with the Hotel Manager. I told him that I was acting for the Manager who was on vacation. JR said, “I thought that you are the Chef.” “Yes, Sir. I am. Do you need anything apart from lunch?” I inquired.
JR wanted a room and all newspapers of the day. I knew that JR had given strict instructions to his followers to boycott all newspapers published by the Lake House Group which had been taken over by the government of Sirima Bandaranaike. Therefore, I quickly asked, “Except the Daily News and Dinamina?” “I need to read all news papers including those two prior to my next rally this afternoon.” He was very clear. I ushered him to his room and arranged for his lunch to be served there. Then, while I was leaving his room, JR requested, “Can you stay and chat with me?”
JR had a quick wash and sat for lunch by himself while glancing through the headlines of the Daily News. I kept standing for over an hour chatting with JR. He sounded optimistic of a landslide victory during the general election scheduled for July 21, 1977. As the voters of Ceylon/Sri Lanka gave the victory to the main opposition party at all five general elections held after 1952, it was not a difficult prediction. Overstaying their term by two additional years by the government of Sirima Bandaranaike, motivated the voters to opt for a change. As arguably the father of modern-day tourism, JR was happy that I was a graduate of the Ceylon Hotel School. He was also pleased that I was from Colombo South and his namesake.
In the midst of our chat about various topics, including tourism, sea erosion, supply chain challenges stemming from the closed economic policy, frustrations of the local population; JR asked me, “Didn’t we meet at Sirikotha (UNP head office) some years back?” I said, “Yes, soon after your party suffered a big loss at the general elections in 1970.”
As a young child, listening to my fathers’ interesting stories about his interactions with then Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, I became interested in politics. When my father asked me what job I’d to do, I made him laugh by saying that, “I want to be like Banda.” I then followed activities of charismatic political leaders of Ceylon and around the world. In fact, as a pre-teen, one of my key hobbies was maintaining an album of photographs and articles about various politicians such as JFK, Nehru, Mao, Nasser, Jomo Kenyatta, Castro, Che, SWRD and JR.
In the late 1960s, I also became a big fan of Pierre Trudeau. I was fascinated how he rapidly rose to the position of the Prime Minister of Canada only after a short two and half years as a member of the parliament. I was delighted when Pierre Trudeau visited Ceylon to open the Colombo airport re-built and expanded with generous funding from Canada. With hundreds of other school children, I stood in line under the hot sun along the Galle Road for hours holding a Canadian flag to cheer this charismatic leader.
Three people – my father, and two politically-active classmates of mine at Grade 11 (Imthiaz Bakeer Markar and Sarath Kongahage – both who became lawyers and leading politicians in later years) encouraged me to get involved in politics. When I was 16 years of age Imthiaz took me and a few other students of Ananda College to meet the newly elected leader of the UNP – JR, who wanted to recruit young members to his political party, which he was re-uilding then, with the assistance of R. Premadasa as his right-hand man.
“How come you did not join the UNP in 1970 and get into politics? You would have done well,” JR said. I told him that owing to undemocratic practices by all political parties in Sri Lanka, I lost interest in that career option. However, he was happy that I was focused on a long career in tourism and hospitality, which he believed would be the main industry in Sri Lanka in years to come.
After he finished his lunch JR thanked me and said that he will now rest. “At my age, I realised that I am more productive if I break my long days into two with a short cat nap in between” he said.
Hosting JR, Again
Over the next 12 years, I hosted JR a few times at hotel functions during his two terms as the first Executive President of Sri Lanka. My last meeting with JR was in 1993, when I conducted a quick tour of the upgraded historic wing of the Mount Lavinia Hotel at his request. By then he had retired from politics and I was planning to leave Sri Lanka to re-commence my international career.
During that last meeting JR told me how as a young man he and his buddies partied at the Little Hut Night Club of the Mount Lavinia Hotel. “Your Excellency, why don’t you bring all your good friends and have a night out at the Little Hut. Pick any day and I will make all arrangements including a live band to play all your favourite songs all night long” I offered. JR smiled, thought about it, looked at his wife, and then said, “Thank you very much. Let Elina and I think about it. The challenge is that most of my former buddies have now passed away.” He was 87 years of age then, but still had that quick wit. Mr. J. R. Jayewardene was the first of 35 heads of state or government I hosted during my career as an international hotelier.
As predicted by JR the election results on July 21, 1977 was a landslide victory for the UNP, which won 140 of the 168 seats in the National State Assembly. Controlling over 83% of seats, JR was able to initiate several amendments to the constitution and become far more powerful than all his five predecessors of the independent Ceylon/Sri Lanka. The leftist parties which controlled the trade unions lost all 19 seats they had held previously. Major took great joy in announcing to his small management team that the era of the communist unions in Sri Lanka had just ended! “Let’s bring the number of members in the Coral Gardens Hotel union to zero within a month,” said Major expanding his new vision.
South’s development debacle compounded by SAARC’s inner paralysis
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.
History of St. Sebastian’s Shrine, Kandana
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.
His musical exploits has touched millions of fans
Tribute to entertainer-singer par excellence – Desmond de Silva
By Trevine Rodrigo
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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