– Island January 18 2003
Jack Van Sanden
The sudden demise of Jack Van Sanden on 10th December came as a shock to friends and relations. Two months earlier on 11th October, he had celebrated his 90th birthday with friends and relatives at a largely attended felicitation.
He started his education in the prestigious Kingswood College in Kandy in 1921 and studied there until 1931. He excelled in school at Soccer and was Company Quarter-Master in the Ceylon Cadet Battalion, Prefect and school Captain. It is not surprising he was selected into the Ceylon Police as Sub-Inspector, a very coveted position in the good old days.
He quickly rose to the rank of Superintendent of Police and finally Deputy Inspector General of Police. During his career he figured in some of the sensational cases of the time. The case of ‘Yakadaya’ (iron man) is familiar to many. Yakadaya was on the most wanted list for the gruesome murder of the Post Master of Maradankadawala, a sleepy town in the NCP. The net was cast far and wide for this fugitive’s arrest. As one can imagine going after a desperado like Yakadaya is like Yakadaya is like playing Russian Roulette. Jack, tough as boot in his young days, went after him like a hound and nabbed him. Jack was met by Mr. (later Sir) John Kotelawela, the Prime Minister of the time and presented before the Governor-General Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, who highly commanded and decorated him.
Even earlier as ASP, Ratnapura he smashed the activities of a murderous gang that terrorised and rampaged the whole village of Pallekele. The leader was an ex soldier and a crack shot. Jack, a master at disguise, took him completely by surprise, all by himself, at a lonely rendezvous. These are but a few of his exploits in a long and exemplary carrier in the Police.
In recognition of his services he was selected in 1959 to proceed to Ryton Police College in the UK to follow Special Police Courses. He acquired glowing reports and later served as Commissioner of Police, for City of Colombo, a responsibility he discharged in those rough and tumble days of the 1970s with great ability and acceptance. He also served in highly sensitive areas such as Jaffna and Trincomalee where he is still remembered with great affection by the people. He was the brain and tireless worker behind the building of the stadium, which will remain a monument for his services to Jaffna. It is no secret that in the Police one can be a leader or a ladder. Jack always lead and he lead from the front. In recognition of his services he was specially assigned to be the D.I.G In-charge of the General Elections of 1976. He retired as a Deputy Inspector General of Police and migrated to Australia with his wife Helen - his soul mate for more than 72 years.
Hospitality in the Van Sanden home was generous and he had the knack of making his friends at home, and wanted at all times. These words from the Taming of the Shrew are truly applicable to him:
"Give them friendly welcome everyone,
Let them want nothing that this house affords."
He was deeply religious and a devoted Catholic. He was steadfast in his love of Jesus and a regular Church-goer up to his end. In the final assessment, Jack gave the most to all he knew and took the least from life and others. He has an assured place in Elysium.
He leaves his wife Helen (nee: Gerryen), daughter Joan and two sons Ronny and Christy and five grand children.
those of us who knew him and loved him in life, we can truly say ‘you will
never be forgotten in death’.