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M J C Fernando - Father of Buddhist revival in Moratuwa

by Wimalasiri de Mel - Daliy News, Wed Mar 27 2002

(In commemoration of the 116th Birth Anniversary of the late M J C Fernando of Moratuwa which falls on 27.2.2002)

A son born to the late L. Selesthina Silva, wife of the late Abraham Fernando of Horetuduwa, Moratuwa on March 27, 1885, was to lead the Buddhist Revival Movement in Moratuwa in the nineteen thirties.

The son John Charles, later to be popularly known as M J C Fernando had his primary education in the village school and later was admitted to Ananda College where he had his Senior secondary education. He left Ananda to engage himself in self-employment and in serving the Community as a Buddhist Social worker. M J C Fernando took the hand of Nellie Margeret de Mel, daughter of the later Mr. and Mrs. W. Johannes de Mel, as his partner in life.

M J C realized the plight of the Buddhists in Moratuwa who had no proper school to educate their children and no suitable place from which any Buddhist activity could be performed.

Thus on May 11th 1924 at his own premises, "Sunny Side" (now Veera Puran Appu Square) in the cool atmosphere of a mango tree he held a meeting of Buddhists of Moratuwa and of neighbouring towns under the chairmanship of the late Mr. Arthur V. Dias of Panadura to form the Sri Lanka Bauddha Samithiya.

It looks only a short period for M J C to purchase a block of land in the heart of Moratuwa by mortgaging one of his own properties and the property (known as Alutwatte) which was available for sale by auction; his negotiations with the Chettiars from Colombo, who were the owners of Alutwatte succeeded and Alutwatte soon became the centre for Buddhist activities in Moratuwa. For six years M.J.C. Fernando has been an elected member of the then Local Board and for three years he served in the Moratuwa Urban Council as an elected member too.

During this period he got the opportunity of widely serving the people of Moratuwa by fulfilling most of their needs.

M.J.C. held the posts of Treasurer, Secretary and President of the Sugatha Dharmodaya Samithiya, Horetuduwa and even served as a teacher in the Dhamma School run by that society.

Also, he served as Patron of the Rawatawatte Paramartha Prakashana Samitiya and President of the Horetudu Sangamaya.

He was also a Trustee of Visakha Vidyalaya which the late Jeramias Dias founded. It is said that even towards the construction of the Digarolle Bridge, Moratuwa, his views and timely action contributed a lot.

Through the Sri Lanka Bauddha Samithiya Mr. M.J.C. Fernando initiated various programmes to rally the Buddhists together and for this purpose he built the Buddhist Hall on Alutwatte with funds collected through collection campaigns conducted Islandwide and known as "Moratu Sathiya".

The hall opened in 1929 continues to serve as Buddhist Centre and as the Assembly Hall of Moratuwa Maha Vidyalaya which the Samithiya founded on January 19th 1934. All those who are connected with Moratuwa Maha Vidyalaya should be grateful to the late Mr. M.J.C. without whose efforts Moratu Maha Vidyalaya would not have seen the light of day; infact, when it was opened on January 19th 1934 Mr. Fernando had his youngest son admitted as the first student of Moratu Vidyalaya. The school stands today as a leading school to be proud of.

At the age of 55 years, on 24th August 1939, Mr. M.J.C. Fernando passed away and even at the time of his death, he was the President of the Sri Lanka Bauddha Samithiya Ltd, which he founded.