Jaffna Hindu College and Ananda College, Colombo recently held their annual events organised with the aim of promoting national reconciliation and the north-south dialogue. The events included a cricket encounter between the two premier Hindu and Buddhist schools for the Sivagurunathan Memorial Challenge Trophy and a debate in English for the Panikkar-Thanabalasingham Challenge Shield — [...]

Sunday Times 2

Bridges can be easily smashed but not so easily built: Chief Justice


Jaffna Hindu College and Ananda College, Colombo recently held their annual events organised with the aim of promoting national reconciliation and the north-south dialogue. The events included a cricket encounter between the two premier Hindu and Buddhist schools for the Sivagurunathan Memorial Challenge Trophy and a debate in English for the Panikkar-Thanabalasingham Challenge Shield — in memory of two excellent teachers who taught science and encouraged English at Ananda. The events culminated with a banquet at the Kingsbury Hotel on May 1 with Chief Justice K. Sripavan, an alumnus of Jaffna Hindu College, participating as chief guest.
We publish below the Chief Justice’s speech on the importance of building a peaceful society.

Chief Justice Siripavan delivering his speech at the banquet

The speech
My wife and I feel honoured by the invitation you have extended to us to be your chief guest at this most important event in the school calendar of both Jaffna Hindu College and Ananda College. Being invited to be chief guest at a function involving one’s old school must be one of the high points of any person’s life. I am very conscious of the privilege that the Old Boy’s Association of Ananda College has accorded to me today. I extend my warm appreciation to all who made this event possible.

Let me also congratulate all those who have taken part in this year’s V.T.S. Sivagurunathan Trophy and the winners of the Pannikkar-Thanabalasingham Challenge Shield. Many of you would have strived to do your best in order to be a part of this annual event and I believe that represents the true spirit of both schools. Although we all know that taking part is a key element in team sports, school events and life in general, winning is what makes us push ourselves and achieve our full potential. I am very impressed with the continuous efforts of the Old Boy’s Association of Ananda College and Jaffna Hindu College in developing bonds of friendship, understanding and trust through this annual cricket encounter between both colleges. This is indeed a futuristic attempt by the OBA’s of both schools to lead this country towards positive changes.

As I pondered on what I should talk about, my mind flashed back to a series of events and encounters in virtually the most important first two decades of my life at Jaffna Hindu College. I believe all of us here, to a greater or lesser extent, are where we STAND, in regard to the important national issues that challenge us today — regarding questions of peace, violence, good governance, human rights, economic development and so on, on the basis of our own individual experiences in what is commonly referred to as the formative years of our life, in school. I am happy that Ananda College is conducting this annual event to pay tribute to her revered teachers; Mr. V.T.S. Sivagurunathan one-time headmaster and a distinguished alumnus of Jaffna Hindu College, and two other senior teachers Mr. Pannikkar and Mr. Thanabalsingham who excelled in teaching Science and English at Ananda College, for their tireless and dedicated services for decades.

Jaffna Hindu College is the premier Hindu Institution in this country and has nurtured generations of students who have distinguished themselves in whatever vocation they engaged in, with discipline, dedication and character, inculcated in them whilst in school. There is no doubt that Jaffna Hindu College always ventured to make this objective a reality among all the students who passed through her portals. Discipline and order has been the hallmark of Jaffna Hindu since inception. Alumnus of Jaffna Hindu College over generations has set forth unparalleled standards that are envied and at the same time silently respected by many. Some of the illustrious old boys of Jaffna Hindu who achieved distinction in the legal field include former Chief Justice S. Sharvananda, former Attorney General Shiva Pasupati and former Court of Appeal President K. Palakidnar, just to name a few. Similarly, some of the legal luminaries produced by Ananda College I understand are, former Attorney General Yuwanjana Wijayatilake, present Additional Solicitor General Yasantha Kodagoda and many Presidents’ Counsel.

We should always remember that students are the real promoters of the prosperity of the future of any country. They must therefore cultivate strong virtues and be courageous and enthusiastic helpers of society. Students should try to develop an optimistic attitude towards life. Thoughts automatically give rise to actions. Actions in turn produce habits and habits then form man’s character. It is the character which decides our destiny for good or bad. Character is that on which the destiny of a nation is built. Whether in public life or in student life we cannot reach great heights if we are lacking in character. In this regard the schools play a major role.

Over and above imparting knowledge based on a sound value system, schools should always strive to be the epitome of harmony and unity; and create communities where racial and religious prejudices do not exist. In a country that was once torn apart by war; stemming from deep racial and religious divisions, I believe these efforts by the Old Boy’s Associations of both Ananda College and Jaffna Hindu College will lay the foundation to maintain the multi-religious, multi-ethnic character of this country, and instill into the minds of all Sri Lankan citizens the consciousness of belonging to one nation. This I believe would be the greatest contribution to our nation.

The end of the protracted armed conflict that divided our country has created a reasonable expectation that we would be able to reach reconciliation and healing that would lead to rapid economic progress. We have all once again begun to believe in the dreams of Martin Luther King in the 1960s that our children too can now have an opportunity to live in a nation where they would not be judged by the race they belonged to or the creed they believed in, but by the content of their character. Lord Buddha has said that each one has the essentials of enlightenment. Jesus has said that the kingdom of God is within you. Prophet Muhammad has said that God is nearer to you than the very artery of your neck. Lord Krishna says in the Bagavatgita that in the lowest worm, as well in the highest human being, the same divine nature is present. Thus one could see that all religions are affirming the presence of a divine element in human beings. It is this that confers on us dignity, which confers on us responsibility, which makes us believe that it is possible for us to shape the future in any manner we choose. We should try to find out what it is that we want and, when once we know it, if we are firm in our view, if we act unitedly, there is nothing impossible for human beings to achieve. Bridges can be easily smashed but not so easily built, and the emotional and psychological bridges of life are far harder to rebuild and they also leave scars behind.

It is because we are divided, fighting one with another, undisciplined in our nature and not united, that we have all the confusion that we come across in this country. The confusion in this country is a reflection of the confusion in our own souls. If we are able to discover the element which is able to integrate our own nature, immediately we will find that there is nothing determined, that there is nothing fixed but the whole thing is open to us and it depends on us what we make of the future of this country.
Unfortunately, as you all know our students are not trained in schools to approach life’s problems with the fortitude, self-control and sense of balance which our atmosphere now demands. Without this disciplined enthusiasm for great causes, students become a danger to themselves and to the society as a whole. Youth is the stage in life when the slightest turn, towards wrong will spell disaster.

Discipline is therefore necessary. It is necessary for all achievement, especially great achievements. Discipline is not something just for students it is also essential to our society. Discipline is following rules and customs even though no one else is there to see us do it, because we respect the origin, or fear the consequences of these rules we generally accept them as the “right” way to do things. It gives us our integrity and honour, which is a crucial part of who we are.

Today, we have come to realise that we have to live together and if we are to live together, we must have tolerance of other people’s views; religious tolerance, ideological tolerance, and these are the things which have become inevitable in the interests of self-preservation. Forgiveness is love at its highest power. I think the philosophy on which this country should rebuild itself is definitely not the philosophy that believes in extermination or segregation or assimilation, but one that believes in achieving racial harmony, and if racial harmony is to be achieved, our whole outlook on life must be different. We must respect every individual. An individual may not be as great as we are; he may not have the intellectual achievement or the educational gifts or the vast experience which some of us may claim to possess, but that does not mean that the unsuspected possibilities and potentialities of people have all been explored. If you take democracy in the proper sense of them, it is tolerating of differences, it is accepting the variety of the world as something to be encouraged and not as something to be destroyed. If you have differences, they have to be settled by peaceful methods.

There is so much unknown to us that may yet come out. I sincerely hope Sri Lanka will begin to provide the atmosphere and circumstances which will help each individual to grow to his utmost. There is an observation of Aristotle which I would like to Quote: “Man when perfected is the best of animals, but, when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all since armed injustice is the more dangerous, and he is equipped at birth with arms; meant to be used by intelligence and virtue which he may use for the worst ends. Therefore, if he has no virtue, he is the most unholy and the most savage of the animals”.

In conclusion, I would once again congratulate the winners of the Pannikkar-Thanabalasingham Challenge Shield and also wish both the cricket teams the very best for their cricket encounters.

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