TamilWeek, Nov 20 - 26, 2005
Kokuvil Hindu College
Diamond Jubilee

by K.S.Sivaumaran
It’s undeniable that Yaalpaanam is a
citadel of learning and education that had
produced some outstanding intellectuals in
this country. Apart from those in Colombo,
Mahanuwara, Galle and Kurunegala, the
centres of education in the north and to a
lesser extent in the east among the Thamil
speaking areas even to this day call for
attention, judging by the results of
students scoring very high marks in public
examinations.
Among such educational institutions is the Kokuvil Hindu College in the
Yaalpaanam peninsula. The Diamond Jubilee of the College was celebrated last
year. It is praiseworthy to record its achievements in a single volume that our
future and even present generations of Sri Lankan citizens were aware of the
contributions that the Secondary and High schools in the country had made in
producing great men and women and primarily heads of schools. Kokuvil Hindu
College had had a remarkable history between 1910 and 2004. And the present
volume under review is almost comprehensive history of its role as an educational
institution in the country.

The Old Students’ Association (Colombo Branch) celebrated the event last
Saturday, November 12, 2005 at Saraswathi Hall in Bambalapitiya with the
launching of the Diamond Jubilee Volume of Articles of Historical importance in
English.

There were a few materials in Thamil as well. At this function former Principals of
the College A.Panchalingam, who was the Chief Guest, and K.Mahhendrean and
the preset Principal P.Kamalanathan and M.V.Theagarajah, Chairman Brown
Group of Companies were honoured. `A0

Yours truly reviewed this publication amidst a large crowd of people associated
with the school. Priced at Rs 1000 per copy, it is available from the President of
the Colombo Branch Old Students’ association of KHC, K.Ketheeswaran, J.P., at
365 / 1, R.A. de Mel Mawatha, Colombo 03. This B5 size book of 334 pages is a
collector’s item. The compiler and editor of this volume, S.Ratnapragasam was a
very senior official with the Central Bank of Ceylon. He is now retired but continues
to serve society in various capacities. Please read the back cover of the book
which places Mr S Ratnapragasam in perspective. There are 26 chapters in this
volume with appendixes. Let me quote two descriptions of the volume that sum up
the contents of this neatly documented facts and events relating to KHC.

One is from the foreword written by Attorney at Law, S.Sinnathamby. This what he
says: "The history of Kokuvil Hindu College is a fascinating story. No other
institution had undergone that many vicissitudes of fortune that had been the fate
of KHC. The baptisms of fire, the ravages due to the war, the occupation of Jaffna
(Yaalpaanam) by the army, the`A0 curfew imposed by the Indian Peace Keeping
Force and the mass exodus of the people from Jaffna in October 1995, created
problems in addition to the usual difficulties faced by a rural, penurious school."

Talking of the editor’s task, Mr S.Sinnathamby explains thus: "Ratnapragasam has
not confined himself merely to the bare history of KHC, but had culled a great deal
of information from various sources relating to varied subjects ranging from the
educational system of Sri Lanka to cricket, so that the`A0 volume is bound to be
very interesting, not only to those connected with KHC, but to others as well" The
other quotation is from the President’s Message. Mr K.Ketheeswaran incidentally
is the grandson of a senior citizen Kanapathipillai Appacutty. The latter foresaw
the need for Hindu education in Kokuvil and started the school in his residence.
Mr E. Chelliah, an educational theorist was the head of the school assisted by Mr
N.Chellapa, the son in law of the founder of the school. Here is an excerpt from Mr
Ketheeswaran’s estimation of Mr Ratnapragasam’s painstaking effort in compiling
this volume.

"This book is unique blend of historical narration of the school with a commentary
on the trend of development in the field of education in Sri Lanka. The narrative is
not a cold formal academic essay. The contents have been restricted to
essentials, recording what is important and relevant for a review of the history of
the school. It includes personal perspectives of principals, of alumni who have
enriched the school, and of administrative and supportive staff who have given
long service to the school." These excerpts reduce my task of mentioning what
and what are the contents of this book. However what fascinated me in reading
this volume was the ‘personal perspectives’ of some of the northern intellectuals of
an age gone by. In this regard the wealth of knowledge in various disciplines that
the compiler possesses are worthy of notice and understanding by any reader in
English in our country. In the first instant I wish to mention the Editor’s selection of
apt quotations from many thinkers and philosophers of the world. This in itself is a
way of educating the people and relates them to relevancy of the subject. For
instance very profound statements by Goethe, Park Benjamin, Bertrand Russell,
Swami Vivekananda, Jean Monnet, John Adams, Rabindranath Tagore, Percy
Nunn, Grantland Rice and S.Radhakrishnan are included at the beginning of
some of the chapters.

Among the illustrious products and makers of the Kokuvil Hindu College, at least
three names reverberates my memory of them. Of the three, I had not met one.
The other two are wellknown masters in writing. I refer to the late Handy
Perinbanayagam who was the Principal of the college from 1949 to 1960. The
immediate image that comes to mind of the late Mr Handy Perinbanayagam is that
he was a socialist. I shall come back to his services a little later. The other two are
Mr.S.Sivanayagam and the short story writer in Thamil, A.Muttulingam. I would like
to invite the readers of this volume to chapters VI and VII for a concisely written
account of the late Mr.Handy Perinbanayagam, who was not only a great
educationist but also a dynamic person with political and social consciousness.
The country’s political developments during the past half a century is vividly
written by the editor. As the editor says, ‘he was a multi-faceted personality. A
quarter century before he became Principal of Kokuvil Hindu College, he had
already left an indelible mark on Jaffna society as a dynamic youth leader, a
liberal thinker, a social reformer and an energetic path-finder brimming with
idealism in the cause of freedom."

The personal perspectives of editor S.Ratnapragasam on almost all the
personalities he describes is worth reading because such personalities, though
not widely known outside the peninsula were men of great strength and abilities
that had made the people of Yaalpaanam respected for their brilliant contribution
towards education. My reference to only Handy Perinbanayagam, S.Sivanayagam
and A.Muttulingam was only because their individual contributions are more
familiar to me than the other respected principals and other colourful
personalities. Let us what the editor has got to say about one of the finest Lankan
journalists in English in this country, S.Sivanayagam. Here are excerpts from
Ratnapragasam’s perspective on Mr S.Sivanayagam in Chapter XIV: "He was a
working journalist in Colombo for 30 years. He later became an advocate of the
Thamil cause through his writings. His brilliant writing skills were admired by many"

S.Sivanayagam worked for the Ceylon daily News (1953-1955) and the Ceylon
Daily Mirror (1961-1969). When he was working for the then Daily Mirror in the
196s, a very popular feature was compiled and edited by him. It was called
"Forum" and I was also a contributor to this lively page where social, personal and
other issues were debated. I remember joining a merrymaking party organized by
the ‘Forumites’ somewhere in Kotahena. And I saw Mr S.Sivanayagam dancing
with bubbling enthusiasm. He had a fine balance of humour and seriousness of
thought which I admired in him. He used to live in 40th Lane when I was living with
my parents on the same road; but at that time I didn’t know who he was nor his
greatness. It was only later when we met at the party that I came to know him at
close quarters. I had not met ‘Siva’ since I met him last in Chennai.

Let us see what further information that the editor has on Mr Sivanayagam. "He
had worked as English language copy writer at J Walter Thompson Advertising
agency, and was Editor (Publications) at the Ceylon Tourist Board. Mr S was the
founder -editor of the Jaffna-based "Saturday Review, which was banned by the
Sri Lankan Government on July 1s 1983."

Between pages204 and 206, the contributions of Mr S are described in this
Volume. Sivanayagam is the author of two latest books -"The Pen and the Gun
(2001) and "Sri Lanka- Witness to History -a Journalist’s Memoirs, 1930-2004"
(2005). I suggest that students of Journalism in this country might benefit from the
latter book. I haven’t had a copy of this book as yet, but I would like to profit by
reading about the adventurous career of a major and senior Journalist in the
country.

The third person I mentioned was the creative writer A.Muttulingam. His
importance as a creative writer is described on pages 111 and 112. Muttulingam
now lives in Canada. I had occasions to speak with him over the telephone when I
was living in Cincinnati, USA for a short time. A.Muttulingam is one of the finest
short story writers in Thamil. He is internationally recognized although he writes in
Thamil. He is an author of prize winning collections of short stories which
transcend boundaries.

On pages 134 to 137, a short story by him in Thamil is included in the volume
under review. The The other materials in Thamil included are: The College Song,
The Old Students’ Association Song, College Song by the Girl Students, A
Dedication in Verse in honour of Handy Perimbanayagam by the late scholar, the
late S.Velayithapillai, Verses on C.K.Kanthasamy, who was a vice principal of the
college by A.Nagalingam and C.Somaskandar, a verse on Kokuvil Hindu College
by V.A.Sivarajasingham and a neatly written narration by S.Velayuthapillai on
remembering his experiences with KHC as a teacher.

This volume has many other features: World War II, Education in Sri Lanka-
Important Years and Events (1816- 1991), Schemes for university Admission in Sri
Lanka (1960- 2002), Medical education in Sri Lanka-Major Events.

These are all valuable listings that educationists in particular would stand to
gather information at a glance. The Editor has justifiably devoted 10 pages to the
contribution of Mr A.Panchalingam who was the Principal of KHC between 1980
and 1991, crucial periods in the lives of the Thamilians in the northern peninsula.
The volume edited by S.Ratnapragasam is dedicated to the late N.Senthilrajah of
the Customs department who saved the author’s life when he was about to be
drowned in Mt.Lavinia while swimming.

The volume is well printed by Uni Arts (Pvt) ltd. In Colombo and published by
Kokuvil Hindu College Old Students’ Association (Colombo Branch) Let me
congratulate all those involved in the publication of (HI) Story of Kokuvil Hindu
College.
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