A giant boulder on the highway of evil and corruption
Sarath Ambepitiya
January 1959 saw the migration of a bunch of about 200 excited young lads stepping into the halls of fame of Royal College, Colombo, in anxious pursuit of knowledge and sport, to emulate their illustrious predecessors in the school, "where our fathers learnt the way before us, learnt of books and learnt of men and learnt to play the game".

Sarath Ambepitiya was one of those lads within this group of 200, some of whom were moving up to secondary school from Royal Primary School, while others were entering the realms of Royal from other primary schools in the island.

The young lads trooped into Form I which comprised six separate classes -- from 1A to 1F - which were put in charge of some of the finest educationists the country could boast of, the likes of the late M.K.J. Cantlay (Canto), J.H. Rupasinghe (Rupperty), Samararatne (Poltoks), M.M. Alavi (Alavi), Justin de Silva (Lincoln), G.W.D. de Silva (Kotta), Sabaratnam (Half Soda), Belleth (Bella), Gunasekeram (Thosai), Arulananthan (Arul), Ratnathikam (Rat) and E.C. Gunasekera (Kataya).

Those names represented the pillars on which these enthusiastic young men rested their heads to seek knowledge, righteousness, decency and dignity. Yes, it was an era where the teaching profession enjoyed such prestige that the need for private tuition was not only unheard of, but even shunned and teachers enjoyed the highest respect and confidence of the students.

The hearts and minds of the boys, that's us, were set on academic and sporting goals not missing out on the grandeur and glory of the annual Royal-Thomian cricket encounter and the coveted Bradby Shield Rugby regalia. Sarath, as he was affectionately known by the rest of the group, was boarded at the college hostel and came across as a very shy, quiet and obedient student, amidst the bustle and roar of a clique who could have easily moved mountains over water if and when the need arose.

Life at Royal from 1959 through 1967 was one of dignity, with spills, thrills, and some study along the way as we moved up life's ladder towards university education or other professional pursuits. Those eight years at Royal will remain etched in our hearts and minds as the most memorable period of our lives.
And then came reality.

Moving into the echelons of law and justice, Sarath embarked upon an unblemished and upright career scaling the dizzy heights of success to become a Colombo High Court Judge until, the very systems of injustice that he so devotedly and courageously fought to defeat caught up with him and demolished him at his own doorstep. Men like Sarath were like giant boulders on the highways of evil and corruption.

No doubt, such people of dignity, eminence and justice are in serious danger of extinction no different from the T-Rex's of many million moons ago, unless some radical transformation is not enacted to a weak and widely alleged system of corruption.

We knew him, as a colleague at school and then later on as a righteous judge in Court, enacting his duty diligently and honestly. Sarath was an outstanding man, who upheld the dignity and integrity of his chosen profession, right to the very bitter end.

In decent hearts, Sarath will remain, alive and loved, as much by all of us as he was way back in 1959. In righteous minds, Sarath will still be remembered as that much admired and respected bastion of truth, integrity, and justice, sans all the negative influences of money, power and politics.

In evil environs, Sarath will just be another barrier that has been moved aside so that those vicious creatures of the dark could comfortably spread out their bloodthirsty tentacles, seeking to pursue their brutal "business" across this beautiful nation.

May he attain the pure state of mind that he always pursued in this world. May his soul Rest in Peace. Goodnight, sweet Prince!

Royal College '59 Group

The waves snatched away a man who would have done so much in this hour of need
Tennyson Edirisuriya
In the morning of Sunday December 26, tsunami waves snatched away Tennyson's precious life in seconds at his Hambantota residence. His demise was a great loss not only to his family and friends but also to the masses of Hambantota District, because if he had been spared that morning, he would have been in the forefront in arranging much needed rescue operations and rehabilitation work.

His funeral was held at Kanatta, Borella in the afternoon of December 29, where a remarkable array of political leaders from the government and the opposition, university academics and eminent members of the Bar made an unbiased assessment of Tennyson's political career in Sri Lanka and his contribution as an advocate of the Judicial Bar. In addition to these prominent facets of his life, there are many other important and interesting features of his character and life that should be properly remembered and appreciated.

Tennyson was born at Dodampahala, Dikwella in 1938. During his schooldays at Vijita Central College he was a charming but mischievous boy. When he found that some injustice had happened to somebody in the class, he quickly came forward and fought on behalf of the affected party. When fighting, the size of the opponent did not matter to him. From his childhood Tennyson always stood for justice fearlessly.

He belonged to the first batch of 11 students who sat for the University Entrance and higher school certificate examination from the Dikwella Central College in 1956. He was called for the interview for admission to University of Ceylon but missed the University probably by fate. If he had been selected for university, he would have ended as another government servant. Although he missed entering university he got through the Higher School Certificate Examination and became eligible for admission to the Ceylon Law College to become an Advocate. He had a lucrative practice in Hambantota, Tangalle, Matara, Galle, Colombo and Kandy. His interest in politics and international affairs emerged probably because his father was also a supporter of leftist politics.

He was a prominent member of the Vijita OBU. He kept close contact with his old teachers whom he visited whenever he found time taking suitable gifts. People from all walks of life approached him for all kinds of help and assistance. He considered it his prime duty to help such people.

He was a great orator both in Sinhala and English. He could speak on any subject at length keeping the attention of the audience. He could approach any audience with ease irrespective of their age, intellect or political differences.

I cannot remember seeing Tennyson in trousers after his schooldays. When attending courts and other functions he always wore a cream national dress. In this attire he looked neat, smart and graceful.

I can remember Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike being present at his wedding as his attesting witness. At that time he was the SLFP Member of Parliament for Hambantota. Shortly after, he left the party with a group of his colleagues bringing the downfall of the then SLFP Government. His attachment to Hambantota that continued for 34 years began in 1970 when he became the M.P. for Hambantota.

Perhaps the main difference between Tennyson and many other present day politicians is that he was a man true to his convictions. He was not prepared to say "yes" to party policies that would not benefit the masses.

In the 1990s he held the post of Chairman, Paddy Marketing Board for a brief period. During this time he carefully studied the lapses in the ailing Paddy Marketing Board and took suitable remedial measures. In this process he asked the government as to why a poor country such as Sri Lanka should subsidize affluent American farmers by purchasing wheat flour at a higher price and selling bread to Sri Lankan consumers at a lower price. He further questioned why this money could not be utilized in Sri Lanka to purchase paddy at a higher price and sell rice to the consumers at a lower price benefiting both the rice consuming population and paddy cultivation in Sri Lanka. His insistence on this issue embarrassed the government because the government had promised the voters bread at Rs. 3.50, if I remember correct. Thus his services at the Paddy Marketing Board came to an end.

Only his close associates knew that Tennyson was a deeply religious person. Although he had a large family of brothers and sisters, he volunteered to look after his beloved mother in her old age at his Hambantota residence for a long time. I can remember the impressive alms-giving he arranged at Hambantota for more than hundred Buddhist priests including prominent Nayaka Theras of all Nikayas to please his mother who was well over hundred years old at that time. A Buddhist Nikaya bestowed on him an honorific title several years ago appreciating his services to the Buddha Sasana.

When making a careful assessment of his achievements one cannot understand why his beautiful life came to such a sad and sudden end. Only the Buddhist concept of 'Karma' would help one to understand why such unexpected happenings occur in 'Sansara".

While sympathizing with Chitra, their three daughters Lakmini, Shamila and Samurdhi and son-in law Rasika, I find it difficult to say goodbye to Tennyson. He was my colleague from schooldays and later he became my close relation. The warm affection he bestowed on me, my wife and family will be remembered for ever. Every time we met we had intellectual discussions which are still fresh in my memory.

My dear Tenny, I am eagerly looking forward to meeting you again in Sansara to continue those stimulating exchange of views before you reach Nibbana.

N.T.S.A. Senadeera

When the Sun set
Dayananda Pathirana
From the days the "Sun" shone
To present "Times"
The hand which made
The pages more 'erudite'
Fell down-numb.

The corner, you occupied
At far end of the place,
Was a sanctuary of wisdom, laughter and
A master of both languages,
With a wit to match,
You were an authority
On many a matter.

A father you were,
To correct many,
A grandpa wise, to teach life.
A friend so dear, with words of solace
Young at heart to join in pranks!

Adieu dear friend
Who brought 'life' to many,
May your journey in samsara
End in peace you desired.

Randima Attygalle

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