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Sri Sumangala College Panadura
The Old Boys Association of Sri Sumangala College, Panadura, recenlty celebrated its 86th anniversary.  Founded on the 2nd October 1922 by the then principal of the College Mr. Abeyseela Ginige, the OBA has assisted the college immensely to develop its educational and welfare activities. Established on 3rd March 1909 with 77 students, Sri Sumangala College is the pioneer Buddhist educational institute in the Kalutara District.  It commenced its teaching activities at the Hall of the Rankoth Vihara, Panadura, under the headship of Mr. Thomas E. Gunarathna aided by philanthropists of Panadura such as Maththes Salgado, Lewis Dias, Cornelis Perera, Domingo Dias, P.C.H. Dias, Leo Fernando and many others.

Sri Sumangala College excelled in education, drama and sports in the last century.  The College was lucky to have many distinguished scholars as principals.  I would like to mention specifically two of them, Mr. P. de S. Kularathna and Mr. M. W. Karunananda, because they became principals of my alma mater Ananda College, Colombo, later. The 26th December tsunami did not spare Sri Sumangala College. Except for the Buddha statue, the school was devastated.  From Nalluruwa the school was shifted to Wekada, my village, having received a grant of Rs. 390 million from the Japanese Government. This shift, spearheaded by the OBA facing many obstacles, has given Panadura a modern educational institute with a fully functional computer centre, excellent laboratory and library facilities, an official residence for the principal and many other facilities hat even many Colombo schools do not enjoy.

Sri Sumangala College has produced Buddhist scholars, professionals - doctors, engineers, accountants etc. - politicians, sportsmen, entrepreneurs and artists.  Rev. Panditha Madupitiye Medhananda, Rev. Panditha Kottegoda Gnanalankara, Rev. Thanthirimulle Sarana, Rev. Alubomulle Dhammalankara and my Buddhism tutor Rev. Panditha Panadure Ariyawansa are some Buddhist scholars, Sri Sumangala has produced. The two greatest musicians in Sri Lanka, Pandith W. D. Amaradeva and Dr. Premasiri Khemadasa are old boys of the Sri Sumangala College.

In the journalism and literary field, old Sumangalians Chanaka Lalith Senanayake, Merril Perera, Mahinda Malalasekera, Kirthi Sri Perera, Malith Jayathilaka and late Ariyadasa Somathilake and Gnana Vipula Munasinghe excelled. Many old boys of the College entered politics to serve the people and the nation. An eminent politician during the struggle for independence since 1930s and former minister Senator A. P. Jayasuriya, the first student from Sri Sumangala to enter the Law College, Senator Sir Ukwatte Jayasundara,  a leading businessman turned politician who came to Parliament from far away Butthala, Sir Leo Fernando, the first school teacher to enter the Senate and who proposed that the Senate should be abolished, the great mathematics teacher D.W.J. Perera, physician turned an uncompromising politician, former MP for Panadura Dr. Neville Fernando, and former MPs Mr. Merril Kariyawasam, Mr. R.M. Punchibandara and Deshabandu Alec Robertson are some of the honest, patriotic and decent politicians produced by Sri Sumangala.

Panadura has always been a city of entrepreneurs who served schools, temples and other service institutions. U. Abeyaratna, Rohantha de Fonseka, Tissa Illeperuma and Naomal Fernando are some distinguished old boys of Sri Sumangala who have excelled in the business field.

Many Sumangalians have also excelled in cricket. Don Anurasiri and Indika Gallage represented Sri Lanka as test players.  As I was travelling daily from Panadura to Ananda College, I had no opportunity to watch my school team playing in Colombo during the weekends.  But I enjoyed the weekend school cricket played by Sri Sumangala with other schools at the Panadura esplanade. I can vividly remember some of the cricketers who represented Sri Sumangala then – Gaminiratne, Murphy, Mervyn, Sigera, Premadasa, Thungasiri and my relatives Kingsley Mendis and Ernie de Fonseka.

The services rendered by Sri Sumangala College to the nation cannot be fully covered in a short letter like this.  A publication dedicated to distinguished Sri Sumangala old boys and its principals, teachers and benefactors should be published when the College celebrates its centenary on 3rd March 2009.

Professor Ravindra Fernando

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