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80th anniversary of Vatican City State

The Vatican City State was officially created 80 years ago - to be exact on February 11, 1929 - in the Hall of Honour of the Lateran Palace. The “Lateran Pacts” including a treaty of conciliation, a concordat and a financial convention were signed on that day by Cardinal Gaspam and Italian Premier Benito Mussolini.

This pact thereby established the independent State of Vatican City and also gave the Roman Catholic religion, special status in Italy. The agreement also marked an end to the “Roman Question” and clarifying the relations between the Catholic Church and the Italian State.

By the signing of this historical pact, the State of Vatican City was formally created. Over the centuries, the Popes held temporal sovereignty over parts of Italy (so-called Papal States), comprising several thousands of square miles and comprising a population of about 4 million in the 19th century. The sovereignty of the Pope confined to the palaces of the Vatican, the villa of Castel Gandolfo and the Lateran in Rome, by an 1871 Italian law.

Today, the total area of the Vatican City State is approximately 108 acres including St Peter’s, the Vatican Palace, the Museum covering over 13 acres and the Vatican gardens. Over a dozen buildings in Rome, outside the boundaries, enjoy special territorial rights, especially to house the officials handling the administration of the Holy See.

By the Treaty of Conciliation, the Pope who is not only the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church but also the Head of the Vatican City State, is pledged to perpetual neutrality, unless his mediation is specifically requested. He is, however, not debarred from defending the Church, whenever it is persecuted.
When Pope Paul VI was invited to visit Sri Lanka in the early 1970s, many Buddhist clergy objected to the leader of the Roman Catholics visiting this island. These protests died down when it was pointed out that Pope Paul VI was the Head of the Vatican City State as well.

At the time of the signing of the 1929 pact, Pope Pius XI noted;
“Territorial sovereignty is a universally recognised condition which is indispensable for any authentic jurisdictional sovereignty; therefore, it is sufficient at least that amount of territory which can sustain the sovereignty, without which it would not be able to exist, since it would have nowhere to be based.”

All the Popes, over the past 80 years have confirmed the nature of this territorial entity, as a means to ensure the real and visible independence of the Apostolic See in its work of governing the Universal Roman Catholic Church and at the same time, serving humanity.
It should be noted that the all-powerful Vatican Radio was inaugurated on February 12, 1931 - exactly two years after the founding of Vatican City State.

The current Pope is Holy Father Benedict XVI born 82 years ago in Bavaria, Germany as Joseph Ratzinger.
According to the Roman Catholic Church, the Apostle Peter is the founder of the Church of Rome. Peter arrived in Rome around 42 AD and was martyred about 25 years later and was made a Saint.

The Pope’s temporal title is “Sovereign of the State of Vatican City.” His spiritual titles are Bishop of Rome; Vicar of Jesus Christ; Successor of St Peter; Prince of the Apostles; Primate of Italy; Patriarch of the West; Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province; Sovereign of the State of Vatican City and the Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church.
The Vatican City State is also called the “Eternal City.”

Lloyd Rajaratnam


Bring capital punishment back!

Ever since the capital punishment was removed, crimes in our country have escalated to such a level that all serious thinking people should advocate that the capital punishment be introduced to check crimes in our country.
Very lately, we find children becoming victims to these brutes who not only to satisfy their lust but kill them. The suspect, when produced before a court of law, escapes with a few years in prison. But what about the pain of mind the parents of the victim, especially the mother, undergo is beyond anybody’s imagination.

Look at the small children who for no fault of them are the victims. This must be stopped and the only deterrent punishment would be the hanging of the perpetrator of the crime. Like in good old days, they should be hung in public. Some may argue why another life, when one is already lost? But one has no right to take the life of the other. The capital punishment is the only means to bring these crimes to a halt.

Kingsley Durairaj
Etul Kotte


Two significant landmarks

An educational institute of excellent repute, and a commercial organisation of equal standing will cross phenomenal landmarks in the year 2010, as Royal College Colombo, and George Steuart and Co. Ltd., both established in Ceylon in 1835, celebrate their 175th anniversary this year. Having had my entire school education at the former, and devoted almost all of my commercial life to the latter, I consider myself fortunate to have been part of a unique group of members who benefited from an association, at some point in their lives with both these long-standing establishments of repute.

Now, in retirement, reflecting on the chaos that has gripped the world, I can visualise with even greater clarity, the priceless values that Royal taught me. As they are too numerous to mention in an article as this, I will confine myself to those I came to value exceptionally in my own life.

The first lesson in our early formative years as students was that we were all Ceylonese, as citizens of one beautiful nation called Ceylon. The second helped to distinguish between right and wrong, and stressed that the two could never meet. The next, encouraged us to emulate the strong but did not let us forget the weak. The fourth, an inspirational lesson, emphasised that every right implied a responsibility, and was directed at class monitors, house and school prefects, captains of games etc. The next was a lesson in mature leadership that instilled in us, that success in governance, no matter in what field, required accountability. And finally the priceless farewell lesson: That a life of self- respect and dignity would always be synonymous with integrity.

With these time tested values loyally protected over 175 years by successive generations, Royal has held its own with the best schools in the world, from its very inception. In that period, fellow Royalists have successfully traversed that single path leading to man’s estate, while keeping the valuable work and fame of our fathers inviolate.

At George Steuarts, where I spent almost the entirety of my commercial life, I found these values to be the hallmarks of the company in the conduct of its businesses and in its interpersonal relationships. As at Royal, successive generations at George Steuarts too have faithfully protected the work and fame of its founders by respecting such values.

May these values also find their appropriate place in the era of prosperity for our beautiful nation and its wonderful people, now that the war is at its end. Given the impermanence of life, there can be no greater reward at its inevitable termination, as the comfort derived from knowing that through it all, we acted consistently with common sense and our conscience.

Many happy returns and may God bless the new dawn!
S. Skandakumar


Correct pronunciation of Al- Qaeda

The most correct pronunciation for Al- Qaeda – the controversial Islamic group associated with Osama bin Laden is Al- Qaa ‘ e dah (a four syllable Arabic word). ‘Al’ in Arabic is the definite article ‘the’ and Qaeda means ‘foundation / basis’ and not Al -Qai da pronounced as three syllables by all the newsreaders over the radio and the TV. I request that the radio and TV stations apprise the announcers accordingly about the correct pronunciation, that is, regarding the elongation on the second syllable, a small pause on the third and the ‘ah’ sound on the last syllable.

Mohamed Zahran
Colombo 3



W. S. Mendis Abeysekera

126th birth anniversary of my father

I am happy that my father’s birth anniversary fell on January 26, a red letter day for the future of my motherland. May his birth anniversary bring more peace and prosperity to our country!
His name was Walimuni Simon Mendis Abeysekera born in Balapitiya to a very respectable family. His father was Peter Mendis Abeysekera, Notary Public and his father’s father was a lecturer in Sinhala, Pali and Sanskrit at the Seminary at Christ Church College, Baddegama. My father’s mother was Mempi Mendis Abeysekera, a niece of Muhandiram Palis Mendis Abeysekera and her only brother was an astrologer, Arnolis Mendis Abeysekera who published the first almanac (astrological) in the history of Sri Lanka (Epa Litha). He was better known as Ahungalle Gurunanse.

Simon Abeysekera’s wife was Dolly Mageret de Zoysa Siriwardene, Headmistress for 38 years from Gamakarana Walauwwa, Balapitiya. Her mother’s brother was the famous lawyer, Francis De Zoysa (Kings Counsel) who was also instrumental in fighting for our Independence. His son Stanley de Zoysa (Ja-Ela) was the Minister of Finance in the Bandaranaike cabinet while her first cousin MP de Z. Siriwardena (Minuwangoda) was the Minister of Labour and Sydney de Zoysa (DIG), Bunty de Zoysa, famous lawyer and Lucien de Zoysa, famous All-Ceylon cricketer, and commentator were her other cousins.

My father retired as a teacher and principal on January 26, 1950, exactly on his birthday. He died when he was 97 years old. He taught in eight schools in the Southern Province. He was a non-smoker and teetotaller. He also joined CLI (Ceylon Light Infantry 1907-1912) and was trained in warfare. He had three sons and two daughters.
His son, late Susil was the simultaneous interpreter for the Senate, Parliament, Criminal Justice Commission, IGP and the Presidential Commission. His daughter Padmini was a retired English Trained Teacher from D.S.Senanayake College, Colombo 7. Late Cyril was the Personnel Manager, Lanka Salu Sala. The other daughter late Srimathie was a retired English Trained Teacher at Musaeus College, Cololombo 7. Son Percy is PR Consultant, ACL Cables PLC, Colombo 10.

It was in 1949, Holsinger, Principal, the Government English Training College, Colombo was showing around the College to a team of Educationists from England and was walking across the huge library where my sister Padmini was busy with the classification of books. While passing Holsinger introduced my sister to the Englishmen as the daughter of the Principal who was a landmark of the Education Department and told my sister if you could be 5% of what your father was as a teacher, you could be satisfied and proud. In fact, my father named me after three English Directors of Education under whom he served and loved namely; Denham, Percy and Gimson. Let these meritorious deeds help my father attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

Percy Abeysekera


Miss Mavis Fernando and Mrs. Matilda Perera

The two M’s of Good Shepherd Convent Kotahena

In the past one and a half months, Good Shepherd Convent Kotahena has lost two of its stalwarts; they were very active members of the Association of the Past Teachers of the School.
The soft-spoken solid Mavis Fernando whom we upheld as the foundation stone in the Sinhala stream and Mrs. Matilda Perera very competent and ably taking on the finishing line of the same stream are the two M’s

The little buds that were placed under the loving and expert care of Miss Mavis Fernando, in year one were moulded and nourished by her before she passed them onto us to take care of them and nurture them year after year until they reached the finishing line in the A/Ls class of Mrs. Matilda Perera. She was not only a teacher but a sister and friend to her pupils. Under her guidance and care, the little buds that were placed with Mavis Fernando bloomed into women of career and character.

Mavis and Matilda can proudly count doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, and other professionals among their pupils.
We as colleagues are honoured to have worked with them.
May the good Lord bless and keep them!

Ranji Jayasinghe
Past Teacher



Haris Zuhair

We will miss Zu

The month of January reminds us of the passing away of our Peradeniya friend Zu as we affectionately called him.
This year our batch keeps its 50th Anniversary of entry to Peradeniya. Plans are being made to celebrate this event. When we, the Peradeniya products of 1960, gather to celebrate we will certainly miss Zu. Zu was a very close friend from the time I first met him at Marrs Hall where we resided for four years. We had a group of the 1960 batch including some from Sangamitta where the women stayed. At Marrs, we also belonged to the LSSP Group. As a member of the Marrs Hall LSSP, Zu was elected President of the Hall. Zu belonged to the Law Faculty. Since he had played cricket for Zahira, he was a regular member of the Marrs Hall XI. He was one of those who helped Marrs to win the coveted Gold Cup.

During the Campus vacations I used to visit him at his Ratmalana residence. I used to spend my vacations at Wellawatte. I still vividly remember Zu travelling with me in my uncle’s car to the Fort Railway Station in 1961 when I had to go to India for a work camp. Those days we students travelled to India by train.

Sadly all the dreams that Zu had at Peradeniya did not come true. In the context of this reality, he withdrew from us for years. However when it was discovered that he had a terminal illness I was able to see him. During those visits, in a sense, we made up our lost years. I am glad that at the hospital I was able to renew our friendship. Also, since I had lost a loved one due to cancer I was able to understand what Zu felt in those final years.

My visits to see him in hospital were markedly different to those of the 1960’s.
We spoke about Islam, Christianity, Politics etc., since both of us belonged to ancient faiths there was a depth in our conversations.

Personally, I am glad that I was there to be a friend in Zu’s last years. Zu, we will miss you when our batch meets this year for you were charismatic part of Peradeniya’s 1960 batch. Thanks for your friendship. We will always remember you with love and affection.

Sydney Knight


New Year Wishes 2010

The world celebrated dawn of second decade of the millennium
Sri Lankan proud over mammoth task overpowering brutal terrorism
Dreadful war ended nearly after thirty unfortunate long years
The sun shone over Sri Lanka sans fratricidal war gears.
For those who let us see 2010, let’s salute them preserve their dignity
From North to South, East to West reigns, prevails peace ’n tranquility
Psychosis of fear, uncertainly has gradually evaporated
Threats of violence no more, heartless civil conflicts defeated.
Let no external forces interfere internal affairs of motherland
Let us extend maximum unity to protect, safeguard dear motherland
Let long standing grievances of man be redressed
Rights of all communities inhabiting the island be ensured
Through overt not covert means let’s embrace virtues of tolerance
Promoting mutual trust for bountiful land without any hindrance
Let’s help the oppressed, displaced, a decent living secure
With new resolutions calm, serene, delightful, hard to procure
May the echo of peace, hope, prosperity linger everywhere?
New beginnings, opportunities each day for each one, reach not to stare
Let’s not be fooled by cartloads of promises of Himalayan heights
Let’s not undermine the sacrifice thousands of soldiers did in heroic might
May the New Year end fuelling revenge on ethnic groups
Not allow wounds continue to fester or form new troops.
May the New Year endow mankind, a sense of patriotism less tears!
May each one of us be an instrument of peace ‘n harmony in cheers!

Kumari Kumarasinghe Tennakoon


Geetanjali - The Mother

Born on 14-12-1938
My parents are agriculturists
My self and seven siblings
Studied upto fifth standard
Being eldest caring siblings
Helping mother in cooking
At 14 puberty attained
More security on me
At twenty marry Banda
My beloved agriculturist
Industrious and hardworking
Mother of three children
Back to caring them
Growing old gracefully
Cooking, working caring
Await - God’s call
Grey old and feeble children caring me.

Geetanjali - The Sickly!
My name Geetanjali
Born normal like others
At eight years unceasing cough
Doctor diagnoses tuberculosis
Hospitalised in Children’s ward
Left in the care of nurses
Parents, relatives visit
Hope of recovery dim
Visitors too diminish
Born to live
Living lonely in bed
Though fair beautiful
Unable to live fullest
Sinking daily
Await – God’s call
This is Geetanjali
The sickly!

Geetanjali - The Victim of Rape
Geetanjali my name
Image of mother beautiful
Dream of a bright future
Lonely walk along jungle path
Wind and rain lashed that day
Dark and lonely was the path
A hand grabs and drags
Into the jungle shouting
Noise, rain and wind
Drown my crying
Against my wishes
Pounces this man

Raped and hopes shattered
Crying go I home
Arm of law takes action.
Lost my modesty
Victim of rape
Geetanjalie my name

Kingsley Durairaj
Etul Kotte





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