The Colombo Branch of the Dharmaraja College, Kandy is having a Centenary Dinner at Hotel Galadari on 23rd August to celebrate this occasion. Following is a brief history of this organization in Colombo.
The Colombo Branch of Dharmaraja College, Kandy was formed in 1914, on 5th December, at a meeting held at the College Hall in Kandy. A. E. Gunasinghe who later became the first labour leader of this country, and ended Minister of Labour in the 1st Cabinet of 1948, had been elected Hony. Secretary. At that time he had been the editor of a magazine named ‘People’ and the Assist. Secy. of the YMBA Literary Club.
The Committee comprising A.E. Gunasinghe, C.R. Batuwanthudawe, S.K.B. Dharmakeerthi, R.Wanigasekera, B.Chas Silva and P. Hendrick Silva met regularly at Colombo. From reports appearing in the College news bulletin, ‘Telescope’ and the annual magazine Rajan, this Committee has been able to successfully enroll most of the eminent Old Rajans residing in Colombo at the time. According to the same sources, they had assisted the Principal K.F. Bilimoria in his fund raising projects and also through individual contributions. They had also assisted the College Prize Givings and Annual Sports Meets.
‘Telescope’ vol.VII of May 1920 reports an Annual Dinner of the Colombo Branch held at the Bristol Hotel, Fort which was presided by Principal K.F. Bilimoria. Some of the guests present had been prominent Buddhist leaders of the time such as D.S. Senanayake (later 1st Prime Minister), Sir D.B. Jayatilleke, Arthur V. Dias, D.D. Pedris, V.R. Ondatcchi, H.D. A. Meewanaplana, P.de S. Kularatne, N.E. Weerasuriya (later QC) , C Batuwanhdawe (Advocate), Mudaliyer D.S.Weeratunge, U.B. Dolapihilla among many others. At this dinner, Sir D.B. Jayatilleke had proposed the toast to the College and Principal K.F. Bilimoria replied.
Similarly, ‘Telescope’ of 22.2.1922 reports of an Annual Dinner held at the same venue on 11. 2. 1922 where most of those mentioned earlier had been in attendance with others such as Gordon Pierce, C. A. Hewawitharana, Dr. W.A.de Silva, F.R. Senanayake, A. John de Siva (Tower Hall playwright), W.E. Bastianz and distinguished Old Boys, A. Ratnayake (later Minister), S.L.B. Kapukotuwa (later Director General of Education), William Gopallawa (later Governor General of Ceylon) and Dias Desinghe (lawyer). Representatives of newspapers, Ceylon Independent and Ceylon Daily News too have been present. Proposing the toast to the Country and the College by selected distinguished guests and replies by others and also by the Principal had been the main features at these sit down dinners. The dinners had also been attended by Principals of sister schools viz., Amanda and Mahinda.
It is on record that in 1956, Colombo Branch had been actively associated in raising funds for the construction of a new pavilion for the Lake View grounds by the Parent Union in 1956.
In 1962, C.B. Kumarasinghe, then Commissioner of Labour had been elected president with U.M.K. Wijesinghe and Nala Hewawissa as Jt. Secretaries. Nala Hewawissa was a member of the all conquering Dharmaraja cricket team of 1943 captained by T. B. Talwatte. Hewawisa later came to Colombo becoming an Executive of the Shell Co. and migrated to Australia after the nationalization of Oil Companies in the 70s. It was Nala Hewawissa’s grandson Ashton Agar who became a sensation when he as the last man in the Australian side touring England in 2013, scored 97 runs in his debut as the last man, though selected as a spin bowler at the age of 19.
There are no records regarding the activities of the Colombo Branch since 1962. On 7th July 1976, Principal A.P. Gunaratne himself an Old Boy, came to Colombo with the officials of the Parent Union and held a meeting of the Old Boys in Colombo at Thurstan College Hall where the following were elected to form the Committee.
Patrons – H.E.William Gopallawa, Sir Bennett Soyza and A.P. Gunaratne
President – Dr. M.H.G. Siriwardane( Surgeon)
Vice Presidents – Col. R.B.W. Narampanawa, S.J.Munasinghe, Dr. Wedanda (Surgeon), Sirimegha Wijeratne and Dr. Ranjan A. Abeysinghe (Dental Surgeon).
Jt. Secretaries – D.M. Dharmatilake(then Addl. Gen. Manager of Railways) and Gamini Gunawardane (then SP CID)
Assist Secy.- A.B.Lewke Bandara.
The first social function the new Committee was to organize the Annual Dinner. This was held at Hotel Oberoi with Old Rajan, H.E.William Gpallawa as Chief Guest with over 100 Old Boys in attendance. There was speech making and proposing toast as was customary then at previous dinners.
The Colombo Branch thus revived continued its activities vigorously contributing their mite to the school activities and sports while spreading its wings in Colombo. It now has its head quarters housed at No.24, Beddegana Road, Kotte. This Union has made its presence felt in Colombo actively participating in the activities of the other O.B.Us of Buddhist schools in Colombo. The Secretary of the Sri Lanka Federation of Associations of Buddhist Schools is a member of the Colombo Branch of Dharmaraja OBU who actively participates of the activities at the SLFABS to initiate action to improve Education Policy of the country. It also played a vital role in conceiving and launching the Olcott Schools’ Cricket Foundation which conducts an annual tournament among Olcott Buddhist schools, with a view to promote brotherhood and co-operation among the Old Boys’ and present boys of these schools. The president of this foundation until recently was an Old Rajan.
Besides this, the now popular ‘Kandy Bash’, an annual day-long event of fun and frolic that brings together all members of the Colombo Branches of Old Boys’ and Old Girls’ Unions of Kandy schools, is the brain child of the Colombo Branches of Dharmaraja Union and Kandy Girls’ High School OGA who conceived and launched it a few years ago. This event has become so popular that it had led to the formation of a Kandy Schools Past Pupils’ Association in Colombo. They have already achieved their 1st objective which was to find a building to house the Kandy schools’ sports teams coming to Colombo.
Besides all this, the chief contribution of the Colombo Branch to Dharmaraja is the completion of the Swimming Pool project, raising sum of Rs. 35 million, together with the funds provided by Old Rajan, late E.W. Balasuriya and the government. This swimming pool remains one of the most picturesque pools in the country.
The present Committee is headed by Chandana Ekanayake (Supdt. Prisons) president and Chaturanga Thoradeniya, Hony. Secy.