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Tributes to the Late Mr S J V Chelvanayakam & Mr E S Thambyah

Proposed Auditorium
Mr E S Thambyah
Mr S J V Chelvanayakam

I feel privileged and honoured to write tributes to two great men: to the distinguished Tamil political leader, Mr S J V Chelvanayakam, and to JCC’s beloved sportsman and teacher, Mr E S Thambyah, on the occasion of the ceremony for the laying of the foundation stone for an auditorium on Monday, 27 April 2015. The request to write the tributes came from Mr V Shivakumaran, President of the OB&GA, UK, in recognition of the contributions of these two veterans to JCC and to the Jaffna community. Mr E S Thambyah (popularly known as Selvarajah Master) led the JCC’s first eleven cricket team in 1946.

He passionately taught ‘Social Studies’ to Middle School Students, coached cricket and athletics to JCC students for over three decades and served as Prefect of Games from 1982 to1984. We are all aware that JCC has taken large steps in the arenas of education and sports over the years, but the proposed auditorium is a major landmark in our 200-year-old history. It will be a beautiful structure with modern facilities which will meet Centralites’ aspirations and the challenges of the 21st century. It was the Centralite parliamentarians and other Old Boys in the 1950s and1960s who played a major role in Mr Chelvanayakam’s political career and he himself was a teacher at JCC. These facts are unexpected revelations to most of the Centralites and teachers. The article titled ‘Schools of Jaffna’ by Adonis in the Daily News on Monday  14 November 1960 is a testimony to these facts.

It states: ‘Impressive List To illustrate, I shall make a selection of Old Boys from one school that I happen to know fairly well. From Jaffna Central alone there are in parliament today over half a dozen members including Mr Balasundaram whose vigorous and sparkling eloquence is always a delight. Mr Rasamanickam who stood out among the cheerful sprits of his  days at Broadie House in his smiling happy sociableness. Messrs V N Navaratnam, R Rajavarothayam and A L M Abdul Majeed; also Mr S J V Chelvanayakam, quem honoris causa nomino, was for some time a teacher at Central. Of the dozen or more Civil Servants I mention first one or two, my contemporary ….’ There were strong family ties between Mr Thambyah and Mr Chelvanayakam, and their passion to  enhance the education and extracurricular activities at Central as teachers was well recognised by both families and contributed to the building of the auditorium on our college premises. The father-in-law of Mr  Thambyah was Mr Chelvanayakam’s brother, Mr E V Ponnuthurai. The proposed new auditorium with a capacity to accommodate an audience of over 800 has been pioneered by Ms Kohilam who is an eminent  architect in USA and the grand-daughter of Mr Chelvanayakam.

This new building will bring much pride to us as does the fact that we owned the first reinforced concrete and iron girder structure building (Romaine Cooke Hall) in Jaffna. But more importantly, it will face our   playground where cricket and football were first introduced into Jaffna in 1881 and 1894 respectively. On this great occasion, our special thanks are due to the Chelvanayakam Memorial Trust for producing the  architectural drawings and for financial support to build the auditorium on our school premises. The property designated for the auditorium was previously owned by Selvarajah Master’s family and they kindly
transferred it for this good cause. The new building will be a fitting memory to Mr S J V Chelvanayakam for his dedicated service as political leader to the Tamils in Sri Lanka and to Selvarajah Master for his relentless effort in promoting cricket and athletics on the Jaffna Peninsula. There is no doubt that the new building will promote education and social activities in a multi-cultural society in Jaffna and will remain a shining beacon forever. Our thanks are also due to Mr S K Elilventhan, Principal of JCC and to the Old Boys for their efforts to accomplish our goals. We are grateful to Mr Chandrakasan, Mr Elankovan, Ms Kohilam and Mr Nirmalarupan for moving the project forward by securing adequate financial support from the Chelvanayagam Memorial Trust. Finally, we thank Selvarajah Master’s son, Mr Rajan Thmbyah and Suren  Appathurai, for their relentless support in achieving our long awaited goal.

Prof R K Guganesharajah
Cambridge, UK

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