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Josephian-Peterite Alumni Association of Canada (JPAA Canada)

Posted on 01 July 2018 by admin


The Josephian-Peterite Alumni Association – Canada (JPAA CANADA), was formed in 1984.

The year was 1984, and the total number of Old Boys from SJC & SPC living in Canada may have totalled less than one hundred. With this backdrop, the history of the Josephian-Peterite Alumni Association (JPAA) in Canada can be traced back to a thought, that turned into an action that produced a result. Rest is history!

The formation of a joint Josephian-Peterite Old Boys Association was the brainchild of Old Peterite – Upali Obeyesekere. The thought originated in Toronto over a drink when St. Elmo Obeyesekere (Upali's dad) who is a proud Old Josephian suggested a Canadian version of Josephian-Peterite Cricket Series. Mr. Obeyesekere was a renowned cricket promoter in his hometown of Kurunegala along with Sir John Kotelawala. He suggested to Upali in the early eighties to start a Josephian-Peterite Cricket Match in Toronto. Upali made this happen in 1984, one year after his father passed away. As a tribute the main winner's trophy is named – ST. ELMO OBEYESEKERE MEMORIAL CHALLENGE CUP".

At the outset, he had informal discussions with an old friend who happened to be an Old Josephian – Benito de Silva. These two agreed in principle with the most practical methodology of a joint association, and set about picking a cohesive group to take the project from  concept to execution. The two visionaries turned to their immediate circle of friends who had attended the two schools. 

Upali and Benito decided to form an Ad-Hoc Committee to kick-off the formation of the first Sri Lanka Schools' Alumni Association in Canada. The two looked for candidates in Toronto who attended the two schools – SJC & SPC. This action led to the formation of the Ad-Hoc Committee of the Josephian-Peterite Old Boys Association (Canada) in 1984. In random order Upali and Benito enlisted Sunimal Perera, Roy Alles, Hamzee Hameed, Anton Perera, Jimmy Raymond, and Nihal Perera into the committee. Altogether the team consisted of an equal number of Joes & Petes (4-each) so as to strike a balance. Lyall Bakelmun, Raymon Lord and Lucky Ranchigoda were invited to join the Ad-Hoc Committee in 1985 and later years.

The Ad-Hoc Committee was totally committed to the cause. Most had come to Canada in the sixties or early seventies and had settled down well. Led by Upali Obeyesekere, the group were very passionate in forming the Old Boys Association primarily to help their Alma Mater and to create a forum where the alumni could meet and greet each other in fellowship and camaraderie and build a strong bond of friendship with each other. This group contributed in no small measure to the strength of the larger Sri Lanka expatriate community in Canada. Mind you, at this stage in time there were just over 5000 (five-thousand) Sri Lankans domiciled in all of Canada. This number has increased to just over 190,000 permanent residents.

The history is laced with the pioneering efforts of this core group who got together to form what is known today as JPAA Canada, which pioneered the start-up of the first Sri Lanka Schools Alumni Association in Canada. Second to follow was a joint Royal-Trinity-Thomian combination about five years later.

The original members of this select group were Upali Obeyesekere, Benito de Silva, Sunimal Perera, Jimmy Raymond, the late Roy Alles, Anton Perera, Nihal Perera and Hamzee Hameed. In 1985, Lucky Ranchigoda and Lyall Bakelmun were co-opted to the ad-hoc committee. In later years (1986-1990), Ian Joseph, Raymon Lord, Rohan Vanigasooriyar, Chris Cooke and Basil Gurusinghe were invited to serve on the committee. Care was taken to always ensure the group was balanced equally to justify the tag line – Joint JPAA OBA. It must be said that the formation of individual associations at the time was a near impossibility that would not have gone anywhere. In retrospect, the joint committee decision was a brilliant idea that grew with time and after twenty-nine years, JPAA Canada still remain a strong viable joint association of alumni from St. Joseph's College & St. Peter's College.

Standing L to R: Chris Serpanchy (Hony. Auditor), Bhanu Wijeyesekere (Membership Secy.), Hamzie Hameed (Social Secretary), Nihal Jayawardene (Sports Secy/SPC & Chris Cooke (Sports Secy./SJC)

As time went by, it was apparent that a formal association was the need of the hour with the growth in numbers of old boys from St. Peter’s College and St. Joseph’s College coming into Canada. In 1993, a ‘draft’ constitution and by-laws were formulated and subsequently approved giving birth to what is known today as the Josephian-Peterite Alumni Association (JPAA). At a preliminary meeting of the old boys held on Saturday, March 27, 1993 at St. Bonaventure Parish Hall in Toronto the old boys decided to continue to function as a joint entity and proceeded to elect office-bearers. The inaugural committee comprised of President Upali Obeyesekere; Vice-Presidents Ian Joseph and Anton Perera; Secretary Benito de Silva; Treasurer Srilal Perera; Social Secretary Hamzie Hameed; Membership Secretary Bhanu Wijeyesekere; Joint Sports Secretaries Chris Cooke and Nihal Jayawardene. Chris (Sandy) Serpanchy was appointed Honorary Auditor. The name Josephian-Peterite Old Boys Association (JPOBA) was subsequently changed to Josephian-Peterite Alumni Association (JPAA) at an Annual General Meeting held on April 8, 1995.

The end objective of the association is to promote goodwill and camaraderie amongst old boys living in Canada who studied in Sri Lanka at St. Joseph’s College or St. Peter’s College. Other objectives are to assist the Alma Mater in Sri Lanka on an ongoing basis and to provide a forum for the old boys and their families to meet and greet each other socially. The association was built on a solid foundation by its pioneers and the progression has gone on splendidly over the years. Interestingly, even though the numbers of old boys from both schools had increased the consensus has been to function as a joint alumni association. In fact, the Josephian-Peterite Alumni Association in Canada is the only known joint association of its kind within the two schools anywhere in the world.

For the record, the Canadian version of the “Battle of the Saints” cricket encounter was first played in 1984, at the picturesque Marigail Cricket Grounds in Orangeville – about sixty miles northwest of Toronto. The annual Josephian-Peterite cricket encounter was popular and considered ‘the sporting event of the year’ in the Sri Lankan community in Canada. In 1985, the committee was blessed by the presence of Rev. (Dr.) Fr. Stanley Abeysekara, Rector of St. Joseph’s College who graced the 2nd Battle of the Saints as Chief Guest. This was a momentous occasion. Over the years, the venue has moved to other locations within and around Toronto. Today, the Old Josephians meet the Old Peterites in the 40-over Premier cricket game while the 25-over Masters game is also played giving more old boys the opportunity to participate in the sport.

The Inaugural Dinner Dance “Joe-Pete Nite”, organized by the JPAA Canada took place on May 27, 1988 at the Japanese-Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto. The event was an unqualified success attended by a large crowd of old boys, their families and well-wishers. Buoyed by its popularity, the dinner dance has become an annual event and attracts old boys not only from Canada but also from the United States of America. In 2007, the legendary band from Sri Lanka – The Gypsies provided music and attracted over 500 people. This perhaps is the largest crowd to ever attend a dance organized by the JPAA.

The Rectors of St. Joseph's College and St. Peter's College in Sri Lanka are ex-officio, Patrons of the Josepian-Peterite Alumni Association of Canada.

From 1993 to present, the following have provided stewardship to the Josephian-Peterite Alumni Association in Canada. Upali Obeyesekere was inaugural president of the association in 1993, followed by Jimmy Raymond (1994); Anton Perera (1995); Robin Rode (1996); Hamzee Hameed (1997); Chris Cooke (1998); Bhanu Wijeyesekere (1999); Milan Gunawardena (2000); Nihal Jayawardene (2001); Lloyd Wijesinghe (2002); Rehan Goonetilleka (2003); Jeevan Pragasam (2004); Roderick Diaz (2005);  Victor Santhiapillai (2006); Ranier De Lambert (2007), Valentine Balasingham (2008), Roshan Navaratnam (2009), Christy Joseph (2010/2011/2012), and Upali Obeyesekere (2013/2014/2015), Christy Joseph (2016/2017).

Profile of the founder of Josephian-Peterite Alumni Association of Canada.

Upali Obeyesekere had his entire high school education at St. Peter's College, from the Prelim to HSC-I. It was a stroke of fate that triggered Upali to enter SPC as opposed to SJC.

In 1956, Rev. Fr. Arthur Fernando was appointed Rector of St. Peter's College. A few months prior to his appointment, Fr. Arthur met with Upali's dad and decided his fate. Instead of SJC, Fr. Arthur advised Mr. Obeyesekere to enrol Upali at SPC since the former was taking over as Rector. His dad and Rev. Fr. Arthur Fernando were close friends. This led to Upali Obeyesekere starting his high-school career at St. Peter's College in the Prelim A class.  Though an Old Peterite, Upali's loyalties were divided between both schools and this is one of the genuine reasons why he modelled the group as a joint association.  Upali's father St. Elmo Obeyesekere, his Uncles and many Cousins attended St. Joseph's College and excelled in Cricket, Rugby, Athletics, Basketball and Soccer. The family had two past cricket captains. Upali's paternal grand uncle Claude Wijesinghe captained St. Joseph's College in 1935 and thirty-four years later his cousin Brian Obeyesekere captained St. Joseph's College in 1969.

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