giant boulder on the highway of evil and corruption
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".
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
waves snatched away a man who would have done so much in this hour
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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".
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.
dear Tenny, I am eagerly looking forward to meeting you again in
Sansara to continue those stimulating exchange of views before you
the Sun set
From the days the "Sun"
To present "Times"
The hand which made
The pages more 'erudite'
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.
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!
Who brought 'life' to many,
May your journey in samsara
End in peace you desired.