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When it was known as the Harley Street of ceylon

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The Homes in Ward Place in its early days,

(Continued from 16 May)

by Hugh Karunanayake, Dr Srilal Fernando, and Avinder Paul

The large four-acre property with the name Tyaganivasam (previously named Jaffna House) was the home of J Tyagarajah, member of the Monetary Board, and son of Namasivam Mudaliyar Tyagarajah. The grounds of Tyaganivasam included the property on which Cargills Pharmacy stood. Tyagarajah was also a Director of the Central Bank. He served in this capacity for more than two decades, never failing to attend meetings of the Monetary Board, and is reputed to have not claimed a cent for the expenditure incurred by him, a remarkable example of service to the nation. Part of the Tyagarajah property is now home to the University Grants commission.

With two major hospitals in close proximity, and despite the presence of Cargills Pharmacy at the opposite end of De Soysa Circus, the need for a pharmaceutical outlet in Ward Place was almost a sine qua non. The void was filled by the opening of the Lanka Pharmacy at 6, Ward Place by David Silva, who named it after his son Lanka Silva, who stepped into the father’s shoes on leaving school. Lanka Silva was a champion athlete at Royal College of the early 1950s. “Manohari” The impressive home of Sir Arthur M De Silva ENT Surgeon was located nearby. His daughter married Justin Kotelawela, brother of former Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawela, in 1948.

Proceeding on the same side of Ward Place at No 16 stood Veerin the two storied home of Dr LAP Britto Babapulle a leading Veterinary surgeon of the time. Dr Babapulle was known as the owner of the largest number of tenement houses in Colombo, mostly located in the Grandpass area. His daughter, Andrea, lives in the house today.

A few properties away is Sukasthan Gardens, a cluster of homes built on the grounds of the former stately home of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan named “Sukasthan”. It was inherited by Ramanathan’s daughter, Sundari, who eventually sold it. Gynaecologist Dr PR Thiagarajah lived in one of the houses that were built there. Another well known resident of Sukasthan Gardens was LS Boys, a Director of Gordon Frazer and Co who lived in a house named “Shiel.” Proceeding further at No 36 was the home of Physician Dr VEP Seneviratne. Around here were the homes named Chetwynd and Donnington belonging to DF Peiris, built around the turn of the Twentieth century.

DF Peiris’s daughter, Maud, married Thomas Lambert Fernando, the grandfather of Dr Srilal Fernando, a joint author of this memoir. Donnington was later occupied by ARM Ameen, Consul for Egypt. Chetwynd was later owned by DF Peiris’ younger brother, the father of orthopaedic surgeon Dr Rienzie Peiris. Adjoining Donnington and located northwards was “Greylands” the home of Mudaliyar JCS Fonseka a stalwart of the Orchid Circle of Ceylon. At No 48 was the home of former Minister Montague Jayawicjkreme on whose large property many houses have since been constructed.

A few properties away is Sukasthan Gardens, a cluster of homes built on the grounds of the former stately home of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan named “Sukasthan”. It was inherited by Ramanathan’s daughter, Sundari, who eventually sold it. Gynaecologist Dr PR Thiagarajah lived in one of the houses that were built there. Another well known resident of Sukasthan Gardens was LS Boys, a Director of Gordon Frazer and Co who lived in a house named “Shiel.” Proceeding further at No 36 was the home of Physician Dr VEP Seneviratne. Around here were the homes named Chetwynd and Donnington belonging to DF Peiris, built around the turn of the Twentieth century.

DF Peiris’s daughter, Maud, married Thomas Lambert Fernando, the grandfather of Dr Srilal Fernando, a joint author of this memoir. Donnington was later occupied by ARM Ameen, Consul for Egypt. Chetwynd was later owned by DF Peiris’ younger brother, the father of orthopaedic surgeon Dr Rienzie Peiris. Adjoining Donnington and located northwards was “Greylands” the home of Mudaliyar JCS Fonseka a stalwart of the Orchid Circle of Ceylon. At No 48 was the home of former Minister Montague Jayawicjkreme on whose large property many houses have since been constructed.

Proceeding towards Borella on the left side of Ward Place are the two major government health care institutions the Victoria Memorial Eye Hospital and the Dental Institute. The Victoria Memorial Eye Hospital was built in honour of the Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897 and constructed in 1906. Designed by architect Edward Skinner in traditional Indo Sarasenic lines, it is characterised by its red brick façade and the many turrets of Sarasenic design. Further down the road is the Government run Dental Institute. The Dental Institute was set up in the 1930s with Dr W Balendra as its first Director. Dr Balendra himself was a resident of Ward place. Alongside was Volkaart gardens where homes of the Directors of Volkaart Brothers were located . Further on was the home “St Brycedale” of Dr Richie Caldera, Obstetrician in Charge of the De Soysa Maternity Home located on Regent Street running parallel to Ward Place. At No 53 were four homes built around the 1960s one of which was the home of Dr Chris Raffel.

A home in Ward Place and two eminent doctors, father, and son, also from Ward Place featured in a much publicised murder trial called the “Duff House Case” in the 1930s. White House in Ward Place was a large elegant home belonging to Solomon Seneviratne who was married to the sister of Sir Solomon Dia

s Bandaranaike. Solomon Seneviratne himself owned broad acres and his country home was situated on his coconut estate in Kotikawatte, Angoda. Solomon’s son Stephen was like the father educated at Royal College, and later at Cambridge University, where he qualified as a Barrister. He did not practice at the bar and spent his time managing the cattle farm which he inherited. He soon became a keen and enthusiastic cattle breeder with an expert knowledge of animal husbandry.

He married Lilian de Alwis, sister of Leo de Alwis, who was married to a daughter of Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike. Leo’s wife was a sister of the late Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike. The life of Stephen and Lilian was tumultuous. They had many quarrels regarding Stephen’s intention to sell his home, White House. The couple lived in Duff House at No 4. Bagatelle Road rented out at Rs 100 a month, a considerable sum as rent in the 1930s.

Lilian had a troubled pregnancy which ended with the birth of their only child Terrence. She did not have a warm relationship with the son as she blamed him for her difficult pregnancy. Lilian was found one day dead in the living room of the house having inhaled chloroform. The case tested the strength of the family relationships within the Bandaranaike extended family. Here was Sir Solomon’s brother-in-law’s son accused of the murder of Sir Solomon’s son-in-law’s sister. The police were notified and Lilian’s family, particularly her brother Leo de Alwis, was convinced that Stephen had forced his wife to inhale a lethal dose of chloroform.

Dr S C Paul who was a close friend of Sir Solomon gave expert medical evidence to support that contention, which was rejected by Stephen who said that his wife was depressed and could have inhaled chloroform which Stephen kept for his animal husbandry.

Stephen was however charged with the murder of his wife before Justice MT Akbar. Stephen’s defence was supported by the expert medical evidence of Dr SC Paul’s son Dr Milroy Paul. In his direction to the jury, Justice Akbar ignored aspects of evidence that would benefit the accused, and consequently, the accused was found guilty of murdering his wife and sentenced to death. This was in 1936 when there was no Court of Criminal Appeal, so the accused appealed to the Privy Council which overturned the judgment of Akbar and acquitted Stephen. The Privy Council also made some scathing observations on the findings of the trial judge which led to Akbar suffering depression and submitting his resignation from the bench. Finally, it seemed that the murder trial ended in the trial of the presiding judge!

There were two other older well known homes on Ward Place.. One was Chateau Jubillee occupied by Adrian St V Jayewardene, Supreme Court Judge, and brother of JR Jayewardene’s father EW Jayewardene. The other was Fairy Hall built in 1880 the original home of Dr Simon de Melho Aserappah and his wife Emily Wake. It was part of the large homestead on which 20 years later Rao Mahal and other homes were constructed by the family of Dr SC Paul who married Dr Aserappah’s daughter Dora.

Interior of the Dr PH Amerasinghe home designed by Architect Minnettte de Silva

 

The house 53/3 Ward Place designed by Geoffrey Bawa for Dr Chris Raffel was sold by Dr Chris and Carmel Raffel to Ajit Saravanamuttu who resided there until his death in 2006. Next door at No 55 was “Villa Mirelle” the home of Dr Percy Kulasinghe also situated on a large block which has since been subdivided with a new road named Kulasinghe Gardens hosting several houses. In the adjoining block at No 57 stands today the hotel Jetwing Colombo. Dr Kulasinghe was for many years a Director of the Ceylon Insurance Co founded and managed by fellow Ward Place resident Justin Kotelawela.

At No 61 was the home of lawyer FR de Saram and wife Miriam (nee Pieris) acclaimed aesthete and oriental dancer in an era when women were rarely seen on stage. Her elder son Rohan de Saram is the internationally famous cellist. The De Sarams engaged renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa to design a new additional home on the grounds now bearing No:61/6. Another Rohan, Rohan Perera at 57/2 and his brother Dr Hari Perera, Psychiatrist, the sons of the eminent lawyer HV Perera had their homes also in Ward Place.

At No:65 a house named “Taprobane “was the home of proprietary planter SR Muttiahpillai owner of the 1,250 acre Naluwella Group in Balangoda. His son M Rajendran managed the family properties in Balangoda until the initiation of Land Reform, and was awarded an MBE in recognition of his services to agriculture. The Muttiahpillai Caddillac in metallic blue colour was an ubiquitous feature of life in Ward Place in the 1950s. The passing of time and the demand for quality blocks of land has led to the breaking up of their large tract of land. A new road goes through the property now with the name Muththiahpillai Gardens, serving many new homes.

Dr W Balendra the dental surgeon’s home stood next door at No 67 next door to whom lived Dr May Ratnayake at No 69. Somewhere here stands the home of gynaecologist Dr PH (Chandra) Amerasinghe designed by renowned woman architect Minnette de Silva. She also designed the home of Chandra’s brother, Dr Asoka Amerasinghe in 5th Lane. Chandra was snatched away in his prime, from injuries resulting from an accident arising from a fun filled motor cycle ride.

The architect VS Thurairajah built a block of Flats at No 75 which was almost entirely leased out by the Marga Institute on its establishment in 1972. By 1975 Marga was in its own home at 61 Greenlands Avenue now known as Issipatana Mawata. Dr AC Arulpragasam ENT Surgeon and Dr Rajah Cooke both from the extended Paul family lived at No 77 as part of the large landholding adjacent to the Paul home “Rao Mahal “. Rao Mahal was built by Dr Simon De Melho Aserappah one of the first overseas qualified doctors who returned from England in the 19th Century. His daughter Dora married Dr SC Paul whose descendants still live in the original homestead in Ward Place where the

Paul family still retain a large extent of land on the site.

Dr Gunaratnam Cooke lived at 77 Ward Place, and Egerton Paul, another son of of Dr SC Paul, lived at No 85. Dr S.C Paul’s son, Dr Milroy Paul was the acclaimed surgeon who obtained his Master of Surgery qualification in the UK and was given the signal honour of delivering the “Hunterian Lecture” to the Royal College of Surgeons in England. He inherited Rao Mahal. Prof Milroy Paul’s son, Avinder, has collaborated in this present enterprise on homes in Ward Place and his knowledge and memory has helped us immensely in putting together this piece for the readers of The Ceylankan

Ward Place was closely associated with the development of the medical profession in Sri Lanka, and its early residential character was dominated by the medical profession. From the beginning therefore it was a highly gentrified area within the metropolis. Many successful doctors lived there, but they certainly would have had some unsuccessful medical adventures too, in addition to others whose lives were decreed not to go any further. They did not have to go far thereafter, the General Cemetery Kanatte also part of the former Borella estate, was nearby to provide them everlasting peace!

A cursory study of the residential features of this precinct would reveal that today it has lost that once dominant association with the medical profession. The street is located in one of the most sought after areas for dwellings today, and where large homes and gardens once stood, are large blocks of luxury apartments. Opulence still reigns however, and there is little doubt that Ward Place will continue to play host to a privileged few.

(This originally appeared in the Ceylankan)

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Features

English in Mathematics

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By R.N.A. de Silva

 

“Which subject did you have most difficulties with, having switched the medium of instruction from Sinhala to English?” I posed this question to a Sri Lankan student who was following a pre-University course in an educational institution in Hong Kong, having completed studies up to the GCE Ordinary Level programme in the Sinhala medium in a leading girls’ school in Colombo. “It is definitely mathematics,” she replied. Having served as a teacher for a long period of time at this educational institution with students from over 80 countries, I realised the above-mentioned view was shared by other students, too, who had to change the medium of instruction to English. This does not seem to make sense as one would have expected mathematics to be the easiest subject to follow as it has its own symbolic language. Why then has this situation arisen?

I would like to separate these difficulties into two categories:

1. Hastiness due to mindset

2. Vocabulary issues

Sometimes hastiness can automatically occur due to the mindset that mathematics should be easy to follow even if you change the medium of instruction as you are dealing with symbols. This attitude can cause enormous problems as students may skip instructions or avoid reading the question fully and concentrate only on the symbolic part of the problem

As an example, consider the following question.

The graphs of lines 3y = 5x + 1 and 2y = 7 – 3x intersect at point P. Find the coordinates of P.

Seeing the word ‘graphs’ and the two equations, a student maybe tempted to draw the graphs of the two lines and thereby find the point of intersection, which is a time-consuming affair. If it was read properly, the student could have noticed that the solution can be obtained by solving the two equations algebraically, which is much more efficient.

To a fast reader, obtaining the correct answer to the following question can be a problem as it may end up with just finding the value of x.

If 2x+3 = 5x-3, find the value of 2x+3.

The students need to be trained to read the question fully and understand what is required to be done, before attempting it.

The time spent to grasp the aim of the question is not wasted time.

Many children consider mathematics as an alien language consisting of symbols and expressions. Most of the difficulties that students encounter is related to vocabulary. The mathematical interpretation of the meaning of a word may differ from the meaning given to it in the English language. The word ‘find’ in mathematics means to obtain an answer showing the working while in the English language, it refers to discover or search. The following sketch shows the funny side of this difference.

Two of the words that has caused much confusion are ‘or’ and ‘and’.

In general usage, A or B is considered as either A or B but not both, as shown in picture.

However, in mathematics ‘A or B’ means ‘it can belong to A or B including intersection’. This is shown in picture.

The above, in normal usage is interpreted as ‘A and B’. However, in mathematics A and B refers to only what is common to A and B as shown in picture.

Here are the mathematical meanings of some of the other words which can have a different meaning with the English language definitions.

Determine

– Obtain the only possible answer

Plot

– Mark the position of points on a diagram

Write down

– Obtain the answer (Working need not be shown)

Constant

– A number that does not change

Similar

– Having the same shape but not the same size

Deduce

– To show a result using known information

Operation

– A procedure such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc.

Element

– A member of a set

Volume

– The extent of space occupied by a solid

The following illustrate some of the difficulties that the difference of meanings brings:

How odd these odd numbers are? The even numbers are even stranger.

Don’t be mean and help me to find the mean of these numbers.

Is right angle the right answer? Let me write it on the board.

The polysemous nature of some of the mathematical terms make it confusing for the students in the understanding of mathematical concepts. Mathematical terms have precise definitions to describe numerical relationships. At times these definitions resemble the everyday usage meaning but there are instances where the definitions notably differ. Consider ‘in general’ as an example. In mathematics there can be no exceptions to a result if it is considered to hold in general. However, in everyday usage, if a claim is said to be true in general, it would mean that it is true most of the time, but exceptions are possible.

To add to the problem, there are some terms such as ‘degree’ that can have many different meanings within mathematics while having a different meaning in everyday use. In mathematics, degree can refer to the measurement of an angle, the complexity of an algebraic equation and a unit of temperature.

Although mathematics deals essentially with symbols, it is taught through the medium of language which is the major means of communication. Students build understanding as they process ideas through language. It is important for students to give emphasis to the familiarisation with the mathematical vocabulary and at the same time understand the difference of meanings of terms mathematically and everyday usage. Teachers have an important role to play here in highlighting such terms and using them in different contexts for comfortable acclimatization. As Marcus Quintilianus quoted, “One should not aim at being possible to understand, but at being impossible to misunderstand.”

(The author is a senior mathematics examiner of the International Baccalaureate Organization and a member of the faculty of the Overseas School of Colombo.)

 

 

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Success with debut single

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Fred-James Koch: Lots of airplay for ‘I’m Runnin’

 

Fred-James Koch seems to be more in the news, these days, than his illustrious father, Alston Koch.

The turning point in Fred-James career is, undoubtedly, the Hollywood film ‘Night Walk.’

His role in the film is two-fold – actor and singer.

It’s, in fact, his singing of the theme song, ‘I’m Runnin,’ that has generated quite a lot of excitement, among music lovers.

The song is now being heard, world-wide, over radio (in Sri Lanka, on Sun FM), while the video, too, has been seen by many, on social media.

An Australian magazine, ‘Music Injection,’ had this to say about Fred- James:

“Fred- James Koch has written an incredible theme song for the movie ‘Night Walk,’ called ‘I’m Runnin.’ Just released, this song is engaging and gives us a sense of urgency, as the song builds. Fred-James vocals have a unique tinge to them and with the video having scenes from ‘Night Walk,’ it encourages me to watch the movie. ‘I’m Runnin’ features AZ Sheriff.” – Jen.

Following the debut spin for ‘I’m Runnin,’ on The Music Director programme, on 88.3 Southern FM Melbourne, the track was also played on the All New Saturday Ausmosis programme.

And, guess what! It’s now No. 3 on the Australian Top 20 Download chart. and No. 2 on the Australian Top 20 Stream chart.

 

 

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Inklings of change in national reconciliation policy

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By Jehan Perera

 

The government comfortably overcame a vote of no-confidence in one of its key ministers over the rise in the price of fuel.  Those who expected to have greater numbers supporting the no-confidence motion miscalculated that the apparent differences and rivalries within the government would be uppermost.  Any government, or institution for that matter, would have its internal differences.  The current government is better secured against these differences that might otherwise split it into different competing parts on account of the familial bonds that bind the leadership together.  The President, Prime Minister, newly appointed Finance Minister, as well as the former Speaker who is now Irrigation and Internal Security Minister, are closely knit brothers who have gone through trials and tribulations together. 

An iconic photograph of recent times would be the joy on (then) President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s face when he embraced his brother (then) Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa shortly after the latter survived a suicide bomb attack at the height of the war.  The brothers, however, have different strengths and constituencies.  They have different groups who follow and advise them, and each of these groups would prefer if their leader was the first among equals.  President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s comment that he has another eight years in which to achieve his goals has been widely discussed.  It would send a signal to others in the polity that it would be premature to gather around another member of the family at this time in anticipation that the baton would be passed on at the conclusion of the President’s current term in 2024.

On his part, the President has been promoting the institution he once served and to which most of his confidantes belonged or continue to belong.  The institution of the military is one where the closest of human bonds can be forged, because on the battlefield each depends on the other for their lives.  In his early period in office, the President has been promoting the military, both serving and retired, wherever he can, as ambassadors to foreign nations, as Covid health guideline monitors and as a supra grade of administrators in government departments.  It is often the case that those appointed to these positions are not the best suited to the tasks they have been set to do.  But the President evidently trusts them and they are his support base.  Unlike any other president in the past, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is not a member of a political party.  Civil society organisations have periodically called for a non-party presidency who is non-partisan in decision making. 

 

CHALLENGE EXCESSSES

However, there is a need to challenge the excesses.  The president’s pardoning of a soldier who was held by several courts, including the Supreme Court, to have deliberately killed children and (adults, eight in all), outside of the battlefield may be due to his conviction that loyalty to the military counts most.  However, the President is expected to uphold the system of checks and balances, and if he favours one institution at the expense of the others, it leads to a weakening of the entire structure of governance.  Another looming challenge is that posed to the autonomy of institutions of higher education and specifically the universities.  The government decision to vest the Kotelawala Defence University with powers to accredit other institutions of higher education is a threat to the freedom of thought and expression.  The military hierarchy who will head the KDU can be expected to have values that are important to the military, but not to democracy which is based on human rights.

The KDU law needs to be opposed as indeed the Federation of University Teachers Associations (FUTA) has urged along with opposition political parties.  At the same time there are other issues on which civil society can consider giving constructive support to governmental initiatives.  For instance, they do not engage with NGOs who provide a variety of services complementing the work of the government. The most important of these is the national reconciliation process.  There are indications that the government is shifting its stance on the issues of post-war reconciliation.  President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s election victory on a highly nationalist platform won him a big majority of votes of the Sinhalese ethnic majority.  The government felt empowered to publicly declare its intention to withdraw from the post-war reconciliation process initiated by its predecessor government with support from the international community.  This was followed by withdrawal from UNHRC resolution 30/1 of 2015 co-sponsored by the previous government. 

However, the four subsequent internationally driven resolutions against Sri Lanka, emanating from Geneva (UNHRC), Ottawa (Ontario Parliament), Washington DC (US Congress) and Brussels (EU Parliament) seem to have led to a serious rethink within the government about its policy towards post-war reconciliation.  All four make human rights and the ethnic conflict their centerpiece.  Though not yet publicly commented upon, the signs of change are two-fold.  The first is the increased visibility of the US Embassy in meeting with the leaders of the Tamil and Muslim parties.  The media has reported that US Embassy officials discussed issues of post-war reconciliation efforts, devolution of power, rule of law and the Prevention of Terrorism Act with SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem. Recently, a US Embassy delegation, led by Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz, held similar discussions with TNA leader R. Sampanthan where the focus was on the proposed new Constitution.

 

CHANGING WINDS

The second sign of a change is the statement from the Presidential Secretariat announcing a recommendation, emanating from the President Commission of Inquiry for Appraisal of the Findings of Previous Commissions and Committees on Human Rights and the Way Forward headed by Justice AHMD Nawaz.  This is with regard to the EU call for the abolishing of the Prevention of Terrorism Act long seen by those promoting national security as part of the country’s first line of defence.  The Commission said that it cannot agree with calls for repealing the PTA but Sri Lanka’s anti-terrorism law should be reformed in line with similar laws in other countries, including the UK.  This would be aimed at affirming Sri Lankan sovereignty and national security interests, which are important to the government’s voter base, while complying with the requirements of the EU parliament which has called for the repeal of the PTA on the grounds that it violated human rights. 

The Presidential Secretariat statement also contains a significant section in which it mentioned that “It is the policy of the Government to work with the United Nations and its agencies to ensure accountability and human resource development in order to achieve lasting peace and reconciliation. The Government is committed to providing solutions for the issues to be resolved within the democratic and legal process and to ensure justice and reconciliation by implementing necessary institutional reforms.”  This is the first official indication that the Government is reconsidering its earlier position that it would blaze is own path with an indigenously generated reconciliation model which would not require international assistance. In this context it would be useful if the government focused closer attention to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Goals.

Veteran Tamil political leader V Anandasangaree, who has championed Tamil rights for a long time, and whose son is a Canadian parliamentarian, has referred to these recent developments and said that the President who holds the defence portfolio, Prime Minister and Finance Minister being members of Rajapaksa family could ensure genuine post-war reconciliation.  He also urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government not to leave the problem for a future administration to resolve, but address it now.  If the President is to successfully address the problem that has eluded a solution since independence, and been the biggest disaster to Sri Lanka’s development, he will need to broad base his support at multiple levels.  He will not only need the support of the ruling party, led by his brothers, as well as civil society, but also that of the ethnic minority parties and the opposition political parties.  This will require patience, dialogue and self-sacrifice, and the need to break from past and chart a reconciliatory course of action.

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