With my arrival in Jaffna several sports minded officials sounded the idea of improving the standard of sports in Jaffna. I agreed to this suggestion and as an initial step decided to stage an exhibition cricket match between the Madras team that was flying to Colombo to play in the Annual "Gopalan Trophy" game against Ceylon and an invitation team from Colombo consisting of national players.
For this, we contacted Brig. Dr. H.I.K. Fernando who was then the Ceylon cricket captain, a former Peterite cricket captain and who also captained N.C.C. and Army and who was hailed as the best wicket keeper in Asia. We also requested the Board of Control for Cricket and obtained permission for the Indian team to stop over at Palaly Airport for the match and spend a day in Jaffna. Dr. H.I.K. Fernando too brought an invitation team captained by him which had Major Bala Francis who too was a member of the Ceylon team and an Old Thomian whose mother Mrs. T.G. Francis owned the famous race horse Cotton Hall which won all the important races in Ceylon and India. Another in the team was Russel Hamer of Wesley College who too kept wickets for Ceylon, and several other leading cricketers from Colombo.
This match took place on February 1970 at the Jaffna Central College grounds which was a picturesque playing field with the Jaffna Public Library with it's Hindu architectural building at the background and the lush Subramaniam Park maintained by the Municipality on one side and the clock tower on the other side.
As we were charging gates for this match the grounds which was open from all sides had to be covered at great expense. The Jaffna business community contributed lavishly. The Principal Jaffna Central College E. Sabanayagam too gave all his cooperation to make this match a success. The match was a terrific crowd-puller. At this match Dr. H.I.K. whilst batting injured his thumb which resulted in a fracture and when the Indians batted he got Russel Hamer to keep wickets which annoyed the vast crowd, as they had come mainly to see the stylish wicket keeping of H.I.K. But they were pacified through the public address system.
After the match both teams were given a reception befitting kings with dinner and expensive gifts. The team from Colombo made use of this opportunity to do some shopping as then Jaffna was famous for Indian sarees and other luxuries for which people from Colombo frequented Jaffna.
Hot on the heels of this success we decided to introduce rugby to Jaffna and formed the Jaffna Rugby Football Association. The President was I.H. Ismail - District Judge, Jaffna. Vice Presidents were R. Sunderalingam, S.S.P. Northern Province and Vernon Chanmugam, Regional Manager, Bank of Ceylon, Secretary S. Sivendran, Inspector of Police, Assistant Secretary - Ken Ariyarajah, Regional Manager C.T.B. who played rugby for St. Peter's College and the Merry Men of Uva. Treasurer was V. Kiruparajah a well known soccer and cricket personality in Jaffna. We also had a lot of support from the Government Agent Jaffna Francis Pietersz, one of the finest Civil Servants produced by St. Joseph's College, Colombo, who later became the Director, Establishments, Superintendent of Prisons Jaffna, C.T. Jansz an Old Thomian and his Chief Jailor A. Gananathan who later became Superintendent of Prisons Colombo and the caretaker of the Theivanai Amman Kovil at Kataragama, during his retirement. Rev. Fr. Mathuvanayagam Rector of St.Patrick's College, who was the President of the Jaffna District Football Association, too gave invaluable assistance.
Practices were held at the Jaffna Fort Grounds and was attended by students from Jaffna Central College, St. Patrick's College, St. John's College, Jaffna Hindu College, Canagaratnam M.M.V., Osmania College, Kokuvil, Hindu College, Vaideeswara College, and Parameshwara College, where the present Jaffna Campus is situated. Assisting me at these practices was an Englishman named Brown who was the Manager of the Mercantile Bank, Jaffna, who was living along Kachcheri - Nallur Road with his beautiful wife. He had played rugby in the U.K.
We always finished practices early before dark as there was a chapel inside the Fort which was built by a Dutch General in memory of his beautiful daughter who committed suicide by jumping into the well inside the Fort due to a disappointed love affair with a Dutch soldier and the legend goes that this beautiful girl haunts the area after dark.
During this period a West Pakistan Youth hockey team which visited Ceylon was invited for a match which was arranged in Jaffna against a Combined Jaffna Schools team by Dr. Thuraisingham a big name in Ceylon hockey. The West Pakistan Youth team stayed inside the Fort with facilities afforded by Chief Jailor Gananathan and the Police. The Manager of the West Pakistan Youth team was Ali Chowdry who had represented Pakistan at the Olympics and as he was not satisfied with the accommodation afforded he stayed with me at my residence at Nallur during his stay in Jaffna. This encounter between the Combined Jaffna Schools and the West Pakistan Yough team was played at Canagaratnam M.M.V. grounds and the Principal C. Rajadorai gave all support.
My transfer as O.I.C. Kayts in early 1971
made me experience a different world of life which lasted till mid 1973. Kayts
Police Station looked after several islands which were joined by causeways,
ferry and road service. As you enter the main Kayts island from Jaffna through
the Pannai causeway you are in Allapiddi where there is the Mankumban beach
which is famous for sea bathing. Then you come to Velani before reaching the
Kayts town. On the northern side of Kayts is Karainagar which is across the
Kayts lagoon and a ferry operates from early morning till evening. In the nights
you cannot cross the lagoon as the ferry service does not operate by night. The
Elara Naval Base too is in "Karainagar. The " Ham- mons Hiel", a
fortress built by the Dutch is situated between Kayts and Karainagar. This was
used as a remand prison to detain several AirForce personnel including some of
their rugger players who were taken into custody in connection with the 1972
abortive insurrection by the J.V.P.
The island of Pungudutivu is connected to
Kayts by a three mile long causeway and from Pungudutivu you have to take boat
to go to Nainativu (Nagadipa) and Delft from Kurikattuwan jetty. The islands of
Analativu and Eluavathivu were reached by boat service from the Kayts jetty.
Kayts Police came under two members of Parliament.
One was Pundit K.P.Ratnam of the Federal
Party who was M.P. for Kayts and the other was A. Thiagarajah who was M.P. for
Vaddukoddai which electorate included Karainagar where the M.P. resided and he
was the former Principal of Karainagar Hindu College. He was elected on the
Tamil Congress ticket and then crossed over to the ruling S.L.F.P. These two
members of Parliament were always at loggerheads and the two earlier O.I.C's of
Kayts were transferred within very short periods as they could not meet the
demands of both M.P.s true to the saying " You cannot satisfy two
masters". In my case I never got involved with the politics of these two
M.P.s and struck to my police duties and both M.P.s left me severely alone and I
managed to survive in Kayts for three years very happily.
Most of the Kayts people were either farmers
or businessmen spread all over the island especially in places such as Pettah
and only the women were left behind in the islands and the husbands visited them
once a year to lay the foundation for their future offsprings
When I went to Kayts the O.I.C's Bungalow was
two miles away from the Police Station in a place called Oluwil. One day I had a
call from " Bole" Rajan Philips who played rugger for the St Joseph's
College and CR & FC and against whom I had played several rugby games in
He had come to his ancestral home in Kayts.
He was the nephew of Alfred Thambiayah former U.N.P.M.P. for Kayts and the
Chairman of Cargo Boat Despatch Company who was the father of Shivantha
Thambiayah and Ravi Thambiayah who owns Renuka Hotel. The Thambiyahs own three
huge mansions in Kayts and Rajan Phillips offered me one of these which was
provided with electricity by a windmill and was equipped with a swimming pool.
Kayts had no electricity then.
Kayts was a peaceful place and for me and for
my family it was like living in a far away place. The Naval Base at Karainagar
had a lot of friends from Colombo.
The Commander of the Base was Fritz
Dharmaratne. Lt. Commander, Malcolm Marshall who played rugby for the Navy and
against whom I had played several matches too was based there and I used to
visit them in the Police launch named S.S.John Attygalle which was like a mini
yacht driven by diesel with all modern facilities including a cabin. I made my
regular 22 mile trip to Delft across the Indian Ocean in this Police launch.
There were also a Norwegian couple who were
working in the Cey-Nor Project who were staying close to my house and we too met
I was elected the President of the Islands
Division Football Association and a football tournament was conducted for the
" Leydon Trophy" and K.Palakidnar who was the Magistrate of Jaffna and
Kayts graced the finals as the Chief Guest and gave away the trophies. Before
him the Magistrate was Colleen Mendis another Magistrate who helped the Police
to maintain law and order with his strict approach towards offenders.
The annual Kachchativu festival was very
popular then and all the Police, Army, Navy officials made a trip to Kachchativu
which included General "Bull" Weeratunge who was then the Tafai
Commander at Palali and we enjoyed every bit of the journey in one of Navy
At Kachchativu we were able to buy several
Indian goods which were brought by the Indian traders to the island of
Kachchativu for the annual feast of St Anthony.
In 1972 whilst I was serving as O.I.C.Kayts
Police Station I travelled daily to Jaffna in the evenings, a distance of 17
miles to coach the Jaffna Division Police seven-a-side rugby team who were
runners-up in the 1971 Layards Cup Police Inter Division to win the C.P Wambeck
Challenge Cup, in order to win the championship that year. It was the same team
as in the previous year and we made our trip to Colombo in February for the
Annual tournament and were the favourites to win the Layards Cup.
The Jaffna Police team won all the
preliminary matches in the tournament which were played at the Police Park,
Bambalapitiya defeating the more fancied teams such as Colombo Division, Police
Training School and C.I.D which were the usual teams who ran away with the
trophy, and entered the finals. The other team that entered the finals was
another outstation team from Matara which won all its games including Depot
which had all the Police Griffins players. This was mainly due to the efforts of
Inspector T.M.B Mahath, the former Trinity and Police rugger player who was
H.Q.I Matara and captained them.
In the finals the Jaffna Police team
dominated the game from the beginning and the team captained by Tony Mahath
defended dourly. During the dying stages of the match veteran Tony Mahath used
all his knowledge and experience to outsmart the Jaffna team which was a load of
raw rugby talent, off a penalty against the Jaffna team in their 10 metres where
Tony took a short tap and started to walk with the ball in one hand whilst
holding onto his large size shorts that was always slipping down his waist,
towards the Jaffna goal line. The Jaffna players who were tackling everyone
fiercely whilst running with the ball were bewildered and started to walk
backwards thinking of the 10 metres rule that they should be behind when a
penalty kick was being taken and Tony walked and scored the only winning try
foxing the entire Jaffna defence and Matara won the Championship and the Layards
Cup and Jaffna had to be again content with the C.P.Wambeck Cup for being
Tony Mahath in his inimitable style captured
this match under the caption "For want of a trouser the match was
won". "It was the final of the Layard's Cup Police Inter District
seven-a-side Rugger Tournament, an annual fixture started in the 1970s which may
perhaps lay claim to being one of if not the oldest rugger tournament in Sri
Lanka. Lads from remote areas who may have never seen a rugger ball before, were
inducted into the game, its rudiments drilled into them and sent to Colombo to
represent their respective Police Districts. These formed the base on which the
future champion Police teams were built on.
The year was 1972 and the large number of
teams entered indicated the increased interest in the game. After two gruelling
preliminary rounds of matches the finalists, Jaffna and Matara districts took
the field at Police Park, Bambalapitiya before a capacity, highly partisan,
wildly cheering crowd of spectators.
The team from Jaffna, nurtured and trained by
the veteran Police and Sri Lankan player, Inspector Sivendran, on the rock-hard
playing field of Point Pedro, Kankesanthurai and Jaffna was full of confidence
having imbibed the finer points of the game as only "Siva" could
Matara, however had the greatest difficulty
in even getting seven " Matyrs" to represent the district. The
Headquarters Inspector of Matara, Tony Mahat, who had long hung up his boots was
press-ganged into leading the side which had only "Patholaya" .....
who knew anything of the game. What the members of the team lacked in rugger
know-how they amply made up with a fierce loyalty to their H.Q.I. which only the
Southerner could generate. They also had the inspiration and support from the SP
division, the IG Police, Mr. Ernest Perera.
The stage was now set for a do-or-die battle.
With the strict disciplinarian Lt. Commander Darley Ingleton in charge of the
whistle, the two sides took the field, Matara with brave cheers urging them to
"fight hard", and Jaffna with the last order of their coach Inspector
Sivendran echoing in their ears, "hammer HQI Tony Mahat if he runs."
It should be remembered that two main points
of the game had been drilled into the players during practices, i.e.,
(1) do not be less than 10 yards in front of
an opposing player taking a free kick,
(2) Be behind the kicker when a player from
the same side takes a free kick.
A fierce game ensued. Exchanges were hard and
bitter, no quarter was given and no quarter was asked, and upto the middle of
the second half the scores remained blank. Upto now Tony Mahat was nothing more
than a passenger and spectator. His spirit was ever willing, but his flesh was
too weak. There were only two minutes left for the final whistle and Tony Mahat
summoned all his resources to make one last play to outwit the opposition.
He had on that day managed to make a last
minute purchase of a pair of short trousers to be properly attired for the final
match. But, alas, when donning it on, he found it 2 sizes too large for him..!
During play whenever he tried to run, which was not very often, he found his
trousers sliding down to his knees, much to the amusement of the spectators.
At this stage a free kick was awarded to
Matara for an infringement - some insist that this too was manipulated by the
HQI, Tony Mahat. He now took the ball and instead of taking the kick from the
spot as indicated by the referee, tapped the ball with his foot long before
reaching the spot, collected it and ran towards the spot indicated by the
referee to take the kick. The Jaffna team, with the last order of coach
Inspector Sivendran reverberating in their ears, swooped on the HQI as he took
the kick from the spot, only to be penalised by the referee for not being 10
yards in front of the kicker. Matara were now given a bonus of 10 yards and the
spot from where the kick was to be taken was pointed out by the referee. This
time, at the spot pointed out by the referee the HQI tapped the ball with his
foot and collected it again. The ball was now in fact in "Play". But
the HQI nonchalantly started pulling up his trousers which was again slipping
down and started to walk towards the Jaffna goal line, all the while admonishing
his team-mates to keep behind him following Rule No 2 mentioned earlier. The
poor Jaffna players were in a dilemma. They had been previously penalised by the
hawk-eyed referee for not being 10 yards in front of the kicker, and here was
the kicker presumably walking up to the kicking spot and all what they could do
was to fall back keeping 10 yards in front of the kicker. They could never
imagine the ball was in play, seeing the HQI coolly adjusting his trousers and
walking towards them.
The crowd was roaring with laughter, advice
was shouted to the Jaffna team to tackle, but they, with the previous penalty in
mind continued to back-pedal, keeping 10 yards in front of the man with the
ball!! With all the commotion, the HQI quite undisturbed and certain of the
rules of the game continued to walk right upto the goal line all the while
adjusting his trousers, and simply pressed down for a "try" and
victory with the final whistle going!!
The sequel to this was when the furious coach
Inspector Sivendran lined up the Jaffna team and gave them a tongue lashing.
"Did I not order you to hammer the HQI Tony Mahat," he stormed at
them. "But Sir," countered the captain of the team "you ordered
us to hammer him if he ran, but he walked Sir!!"
Tony Mahat who retired as a Suptd. of Police
a few years back passed away on the 30th of December 99 due to a heart attack
and made his last journey to the Battaramulla Muslim burial grounds on the 31st
of December 99 being the last Police officer to die in the last millennium.
Tony whose father was working in the Jaffna
Prisons, had his early education at Jaffna College, Vaddukoddai which was
founded by the American Missioneries and which was one of the leading
educational institutions in the country with all facilities, which is today a
wing of the Jaffna University.
Later he joined Trinity College, Kandy and
excelled at rugger and boxing and entered the Ceylon University. Whilst studying
in the University he was offered the post of Sub Inspector in the Ceylon Police
and he accepted this offer and gave up his higher education as then the Police
was held in high esteem and the best students from the best schools with a good
family background joined the Police.
He joined the Police as a Sub Inspector in
1953 and after passing out was posted to Colombo Division during which period
Colombo Division won the Layards Cup seven-a-side rugger tournament several
times. Thereafter he served as an intelligence officer in the C.I.D. for a major
part of his Police career working in civils. But for a short spell he again
donned his uniform when he was A. S. P. Kankesanthurai whilst I was O.I.C. Kayts
and we used to meet very often either in Kayts at my bungalow or at his
residence in K.K.S. and go down memory lane talkng about the interesting rugby
games we played together for the Police, he as the scrum half and I as the
hooker especially in the scrums when he put the ball in and I hooked it out.
He played rugger for the Police from 1953 and
his last year was under my first captaincy of the Police team in 1963. He played
for the Police in the company of some great rugby personalities such as S. S.
Bambaradeniya, "a master of dummies", Michael Schockman, Quintus
Jayasinghe, Rodney Aluvihare and Franklyn Jacob all from Trinity College, P.
"Brute" Mahendran, James Senaratne, Sumith Silva and Rahula Silva from
Royal College and Leslie "Letcho" Ephraums, Terry Williams, Muni Gomes
and yours truly from St. Peter's College to name a few.
Tony and I lived together for a long time at
the Bambalapitiya Inspector's Mess which was overlooking the Police grounds and
had a great time when he served in the Mess committee as secretary and later as
President and I too was a member of this committee and later I too became the
President of the Mess. We used to organise several mess nights and the annual
Police Dance which was very popular then during the festive season in December
and everyone looked forward to it, not only the police but even the members of
the public. But today, alas!! this dance is defunct.
After retirement Tony was the Chief of
Security at the Katunayake International Airport and thereafter was a Security
Consultant due to his brilliant qualities and vast knowledge.
May he rest in peace!
In March 1972 having returned from Colombo after winning the C.P. Wambeck Cup, my wife was blessed with a set of twins, both girls: Sharmila and Shashikala who are studying for their Ph.D. in the U.S.A. like their elder sister Renuka who was born only a year before them. All three were delivered by ceasarian operation by Dr. K. Ganeshan. We had a hectic time bringing up the three infants but had a very interesting time.
Whilst I was stationed at Kayts Police Station as Oficer-in-Charge I had to inquire into some interesting cases.
One day the Grama Sevaka of Pungudutivu came and informed me that 15 people had died after drinking toddy the same morning at Karaitivu, a small island within Pungdutivu. I proceeded to the scene which is about fifteen miles away from Kayts and conducted investigations. The small island of Karaitivu was a sandy place with a small population where water was scarce.
In the evenings they dug small pits and collected whatever water that springs from them and pour them into clay pots and leave them for the night so that the sandy residue in the water settles down and then the water is used mainly for cooking and is seldom used for drinking. But everyone drinks toddy to quench their thirst as there are plenty of Palmyrah trees from which toddy is tapped.
On that particular day, the villagers had gone to the only toddy booth in the village after breakfast for their regular drink.
The toddy tapper had brought his collection of toddy for the morning and handed over the same to the owner of the toddy booth who served everyone who began to gulp down the toddy. But on that day the toddy had tasted sour and one complained about this to the owner, who was very annoyed at this complaint as he was very proud that his toddy was the best and poured himself a big cup of toddy and drank it to check for himself.
Lo and behold! He and the other villagers who drank this toddy began to grimace in pain and fell dead on the spot!
The dead included a young man from this remote backward village who had done well in life by passing out as an Irrigation Engineer through sheer hardwork and perseverance in spite of all the handicaps and was working in Killinochchi. He had even contracted a marriage in Kayts to a wealthy girl. He had come to Kayts to see his newly born baby boy and then had visited the village to see his mother and father who served him with breakfast and also the toddy got down from the booth. He too was dead.
The inquiries revealed that folidol had been introduced into the large container that the toddy tapper carried on his bicycle into which he collected all the toddy he tapped from trees that morning. This has been done when the tapper had gone up the Palmyrah tree to tap toddy having parked his bicycle with the collected toddy in the container. A father and son who were enemies of the toddy booth owner were arrested as suspects and produced before the Jaffna and Kayts Magistrate Collin Mendis and were remanded. But they were discharged during the non-summary proceedings due to lack of direct evidence.
During this period the beaches bordering Kayts in Karampon and Suruwil were used as landing places of smuggled goods from India such as sarees, chillies and hard to get luxury items which were not found in Sri Lanka. Large quantities of coconut oil too were smuggled out of Sri Lanka from these beaches to India in return by the smugglers. My staff and I spent a busy schedule spending sleepless nights on these beaches detecting these smuggled items and promptly produced the contraband and the suspects before the Jaffna-Collector of Customs S.M.J. Senaratne, who was functioning in this capacity at Jaffna for a record 12 years and he levied heavy fines on the smugglers and confiscated the smuggled items.
He was a very popular officer in Jaffna among the Police and the public and later he went on to be elevated as Director-General of Customs in Colombo and today he is the Secretary to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication and the Media.
One of the most attractive and looked forward to events in Kayts during my stay was the annual cart races which were held during the Hindu New Year Festival in April where huge crowds gathered to witness these thrilling races where hundreds of bullock carts are drawn by specially bred bulls with garlands round their necks and raced along the open stretch of barren land by the Kayts lagoon and which ran parallel to the Jaffna-Kayts Road. At the end of the races which is run throughout the day in a festive atmosphere, huge sums of money were paid to the owners of the winning teams of the carts and bulls.
These cart races brought back to memory the chariot races in the M.G.M.'s film "Ben Hur" where beautiful horses drew decorated chariots and raced during the days of the Roman Empire.
We got down at the Welen Garden City and was driven to the Office of the Chief Constable of Hertfordshire County Police who is like our Inspector General of Police, who gave us a lecture on the Hertfordshire County Police. Thereafter we were given separate rooms at the Welen Garden City Police station where I met two pretty young Women Police Constables who were under training Gloria and Madeline who became my good friends and companions during my stay at Hertfordshire.
Four of us were given a constable each to take us around in the County on instructional tours. On October 3 we were taken to Eynsham Hall training school in Oxfordshire where we had lunch. On our way back we visited the grave of Sir Winston Churchill the most celebrated Prime Minister of Great Britain which was alongside his parent's at Blaydon, the village he was born. That evening we took Gloria and Madeline the two Women Police officers to a Chinese restaurant in the town to dinner and enjoyed the outing and returned late in the night and rested.
The following morning October 4 we visited the C.I.D. Training School, Registrar of Finger Print's Office, Photography Bureau, Criminal Record Office and the Narcotics Division of Hertfordshire County and were given an insight into their activities.
In the afternoon I was taken to Hoddesdon Police Station where a murder inquiry was in progress and I too was included in the team that had been entrusted with the investigations. This inquiry was about a young amorous horse riding instructor who had several girl friends and who was found murdered in his swimming pool. Their system of investigation was very meticulous where each officer was entrusted with a specific task till the end of the inquiry and every little detail was gone into.
I spent the evening in the T. V. Room with Gloria and Madeline till late and they were very eager to know about Sri Lanka and I gave them a vivid description of our country, the people and their culture which they absorbed happily.
On Thursday September 5 I was taken to the Hatfield Police Station and listened to a lecture on "Observation" which was very interesting. Then I met Chief Inspector H. A. Hills who was very pleased when he learnt that I was from Sri Lanka and he said that he had undergone the Command Course with Mr. P. Mahendran a Superintendent of Police from Sri Lanka at Bremshill. He was very impressed with the sports achievements of Mr. "Brute" Mahendran who had represented Sri Lanka in rugby, boxing, and athletics. He was even more thrilled when I told him that Mr. Mahendran and I played rugger for the Police team for several years and we both captained the Police team in 1962 and 1963 respectively. He took me around in the area and also to an Uncle of Queen Elizabeth 11 who was living in a sprawling Estate. We had tea with the Queen's Uncle which was a great privilege for me.
The following day Friday I visited the Traffic Division of the Hertfordshire Police and I was taken to the M 1 Highway and saw speed traps being laid with the aid of the radar. This was the last day of my attachment at Hertfordshire County Police. That evening the Police had organised a Discotheque and Madeline and Gloria were keen that I should join them that night as they too were passing out on that day and their parents were coming. But I had to politely refuse them as I was already invited to a Ceylonese Dance by Reggie Somasunderam and friends. I bade a sad farewell to Madeline and Gloria and went by train to Reggie's house and left with Reggie, his wife Larraine, Don Wheetley, Alex St. John and wife for the dance where I met several Sri Lankan families. At the dance Tommy Cooper a well-known T. V. personality who was compering the dance called a female cabaret artiste who was scantily dressed to select two men from the audience to perform along with him and she selected an Englishman and me and we were taken onto the stage where we were asked to mimic Tommy Cooper in one of his humorous acts which turned the entire house into laughter. We broke up after the dance in the early hours of the morning and returned to Reggie's residence and rested.
The following morning Asoka Jayasooriya came with his Welsh girl friend Lyn and took me to his flat at Kensil Green where I spent the whole day and night with them. And the following day they dropped me at Reggie Somasunderam's house from where I had to go and attend the Congress of rugby football referees as the delegate from Sri Lanka for one week.