10th October 1999

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Ananda's illustrious son - Colonel G. W. Rajapakse

Ananda made him and he made Ananda

By D. C. Ranatunga

Accompanying the body of one of its most illustrious principals, Colonel G. W. Rajapakse back to Ananda College last week, my memory went back to 1945 when he brought me to Ananda and handed me over to K. D. de Lanerolle, my Form II class master. Colonel Rajapakse had finished his education at Ananda and had joined the staff as an assistant teacher. He was then a smart young man in his mid twenties.

His was an amazing record. A unique one. A relationship with Ananda spanning 54 years. From the day he set foot in Ananda as a kindergarten student (at the age of three and a half years), the only time he was out of Ananda was for two brief spells - once to go out to India for higher education and then his stint at Isipatana Maha Vidyalaya as principal.

His ability to do a perfect job saw him assuming different roles at different times. Next to teaching, he loved cadeting(or was it his first love?). Having been a member of the Ananda team which had won the prestigious Herman Loos Challenge Cup for the first time, he had been chosen to take charge of the cadet platoon. He did a superb job. Ananda rarely lost the coveted trophies when he was in charge.

When he was appointed master-in-charge of the hostel, he was a married man. He convinced his wife, Kamala (a teacher at Musaeus College where she later served as Principal) that they should live in the hostel. He was also asked to be in charge of sports. He had gained sufficient experience as a teacher by the time he was given added responsibilities as Vice-Principal.

The Education Department watched his performance as head of Isipatana and when the Principal's post at Ananda fell vacant, they selected him to head Ananda. There is enough and more evidence at Ananda today to illustrate the devotion and commitment he showed during his stewardship as Principal. He once confessed that he was in College by 7 a.m and left the premises only around 10 in the night.

As his body was taken into Olcott Hall (that was the only imposing building at the time we were students), I looked round to see the tall buildings right round, that had all come up during his time as principal. Last Sunday, a retired teacher at Ananda in a letter to the Editor of a Sinhala weekly warned that none, however mighty, should attempt to change the traditions that Ananda had built up in its 113 year history and touched upon "the golden era of Ananda" - the period Colonel Rajapakse was Principal (1969-1981). He reminded of the time when due to austerity, all building work had been stopped on the instructions of the Government. When the then Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike came as chief guest to the prize giving, which was an outdoor event, she wanted to know why. Colonel Rajapakse told her Ananda did not have a hall where such a large crowd could gather. She looked round and told the then Minister of Housing and Construction, Pieter Keuneman to discuss with him and plan a hall for Ananda. Colonel Rajapakse saw to it that a hall with modern facilities was made available before he retired. He named it 'Kularatne Hall' in memory of yet another pioneer, P. de S. Kularatne.

Ananda did not have a playground. Colonel Rajapakse was able to get the government to acquire the premises adjoining the college for a spacious playground. When President J. R. Jayewardene came to open it, he publicly announced that Ananda is "Rajapakse's school". "No Minister, no MP, not even myself would interfere with him. If he asks for something we promptly give it," he said.

As long as Colonel Rajapakse was principal, Ananda was his "kingdom". The other day he recalled how when the then Minister of Education, Badiudin Mohamed visited College, the secretary who accompanied him suggested that the minister should be given the Principal's chair. Colonel Rajapakse politely refused saying, "This is the Ananda Principal's seat. No one, other than the Principal sits in this chair." The minister laughed and took another chair in front.

He opened the doors of Ananda to rural children. Ananda was the first big Colombo school to admit Grade V scholarship winners from outstation schools. It paved the way for intelligent rural children to get into the universities and emerge as useful citizens. That was the tradition he built.

By virtue of his distinguished service to the Sri Lanka Cadet Corps, Colonel Rajapakse was accorded a funeral with full military honours. From being a second lieutenant, he rose to the rank of Colonel in 1972. He commanded several battalions in the sixties. A large number of Anandians trained by him reached top positions in the Sri Lanka army. He was decorated with the medal for efficiency in 1964.

Colonel Rajapakse was a strict disciplinarian, a fearless man and a born leader. He was not afraid of making decisions. That was his success and Ananda's strength.

"Ananda made me. Ananda taught me to be a man. I made Ananda," Colonel Rajapakse used to proclaim proudly.

May his life in 'Sansara' be as smooth as it was in this life!

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