By Randima Attygalle
Sri Lanka’s scouting chronicle is almost as old as the pioneering movement in England launched by Lord Baden Powell in 1907. The scout movement here was launched locally in 1912 by the British civil servant, F.G. Stevenson, at Christ King’s College, Matale. Next year Dharmaraja College, Kandy, established their troop under the stewardship of J.H. de Saram. "Since the troop in Matale did not function continuously, 1st Dharmaraja Troop is considered the oldest scout troop in Sri Lanka to have functioned continuously with an eventful history to claim," Former Deputy Chief Commissioner of Scouting, Shantha Madurawe reflected.
An illustrious Rajan scout himself, Madurawe had been bestowed with highest accolades including President’s Scout and Silver Lion. The founder of the Old Rajans Scout Association, the first ever such association in Sri Lanka, Madurawe has had the privilege of chairing all eight international scouts events held at Dharmaraja College from 1987 to this year’s Rajans International Scout Gathering of Centennial (RISGO 2013). Having held many a prestigious position at the Sri Lanka Scouting Association from 1978 to 2009, when he migrated to Australia, including International Commissioner, National Training Commissioner and Deputy Chief Commissioner, Madurawe’s scouting faculties have been honed by his international exposure at many international jamborees as well as his tenure at the Asia Pacific World Scout Organization.
We caught up with this affable old Rajan when he flew home to be part of his alma mater’s centenary scouting celebrations - RISGO 2013, to turn the pages of Dharmaraja College’s scouting chronicles which have truly lived the maxim ‘Be Prepared’ over a century.
"Dharmaraja’s contribution towards the national scouting movement is yeoman. Whenever one talks about Sri Lanka’s scouting, no one can omit the word ‘Dharmaraja’ from it. We Rajan scouts are proud of our Lakeview Park International Scout Centre which is the most scenic and the largest scout centre in the island," he says. Lakeview Park which expands to 54 acres was assigned to scouts in 1924 by the then Principal, the late P. de S. Kularatne. In 1984 the centre was renamed Lakeview Park International Scout Centre which is modeled on the famous Gilwell Park, London. Today Lakeview Park is an experience itself for any scout-local or foreign, visiting the premises.
Dharmaraja College has organized eight international scouting events to-date, all bearing testimony to the prowess of ‘Rajan scouting’. "As part of the centenary celebrations of the school, the first Dharmaraja centenary JIM was held in 1987 during the tenure of Principal A.P. Gunaratne, an occasion which was graced by President Jayewardene. RISGO jamboree which is just concluded marking 100 years of scouting at Dharmaraja College was another first by Rajan scouts, with participation from over 30 countries representing all six regions in the world - the largest ever scout jamboree to be held in Sri Lanka," Madurawe recalled.
Fashioned on the theme of ‘Towards Global Leadership’ RISGO proved to be a forum of unity and solidarity. Enabling over 6,000 scouts, guides and leaders to experience adventure including land and water activities and survival skills, RISGO also had cultural activities and entertainment thrown in for good measure. The tour organized for the foreign participants to see Sri Lanka’s development projects and historical sites was a signature feature of the RISGO. The jamboree was declared open by Asia Pacific Region Scout Director, Abdullah Rasheed.
King’s Flag held high
The first landmark of Rajan scouting dates back to 1917 when Dharmaraja scout troop won the ‘King’s Flag.’ This was traditionally awarded to the troop in any of the British colonies with the largest concentration of King’s Scouts. Rajan scouts secured the same in two more consecutive years