Prince Gunararasa Casinader, former MP for Batticalo, passed away on December 12, 2018 at the age 92.
Prince Casinader is much more than a popular personality, as far as Batticaloa is concerned he was an institution for more than half a century. As an educationalist, civil society leader and legislator, he served Batticaloa with immense passion and distinction.
The Casinader family had its deeply embedded roots in Batticaloa. As a Tambimuttu, I can say with pride that the Tambimuttus and Casinaders had a long established kinship spanning many a generations, for instance, E.R. Tambimuttu’s daughter Laurel became Casinader by marriage. Incidentally, Laurel Casinader was the first female graduate to come out of Ceylon.
Prince Casinader was born on 21 July 1925, one of five children. Like many children at that time, Prince started his primary education at Vincent Girl’s school, and had a stint at St Cecilia’s Convent before settling in at Methodist Central College. His father Charles Brown Casinader wanted his bright son to pursue a legal career, however the fate would design much more of a nobler career path for Prince.
In 1948-49, with the departure of British nationals, newly independent Ceylon had severe shortage of competent teachers of the English Language. Then Principal, Mr. S.V.O. Somanader, impressed upon young Casinader to join his teaching staff on voluntary basis. In fact, my father Sam Tambimuttu was also one of Mr. Casinader’s many pupils. In 1951, Prince Casinader entred the Government Training College at Maharagama, and returned to Methodist Central College as a qualified teacher in 1952. Prince Casinader provided a yeoman service to students as a teacher and vice principal for 23 years, before taking on the mantle as principal of Methodist Central College, in 1975.
Under his leadership Methodist Central College was transformed into the most disciplined school in Batticaloa, if not in the entire island. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if one were to claim that it was under Casinader that the true vision of school’s founders were greatly realised. Unlike the grand institutions of the colonial era, founders of Methodist Central College had a different notion of grandeur. For them, the simple buildings were suffice to produce great minds. Prince Casinader instilled a sense of pride, and mindfulness towards duty in students and teachers alike.
I joined Methodist Central College in 1984, and I am sure Prince Casinader was the single most significant reason for my parents to enroll me at Methodist Central College! Every Monday morning students assembled in the old Victoria Hall to hear Mr. Casinader address the school. His speeches were full of anecdotes. His fondness for quoting the works of Shakespeare couldn’t be forgotten. I was introduced to everything from the life of Florence Knitingale to the adventures of Arabian Nights during Mr. Casinader’s assembly sessions.
I can vividly remember an incident when a teacher was trying to take an unplanned break, when she was supposed to be teaching in the classroom, but unfortunately for her Mr. Casinader was making one of his sudden inspection rounds. He was furious with her, and she certainly encountered the wrath of Prince Casinader.
For teachers and students alike, Mr Casinader was a strict disciplinarian who led by example. For parents, they knew very well that their sons will be moulded into well rounded human beings. Mr. Prince Casinader was the ultimate disciplinarian whose brand of tough love won over many a hearts. When he finally retired, in 1986, Methodist Central College lost its brightest of lights.
After retirement, Mr. Casinader joined the Batticaloa’s Citizens Committee, a civil rights organization that served Batticaloa citizens at the height of political disturbances. He was a Human Rights Defender who served people in dire times. He also served as a member of Eastern University’s Board of Governors.
In 1989, along with my father Sam Tambimuttu, Mr. Prince Casinader was elected as a Member of Parliament for Batticalo District. He served Batticaloa with his usual charisma and distinction. In parliament, he was truly a distinguished gentleman. His parliamentary speeches on diverse subjects is testament to his vast knowledge and interests. He put his vast expertise as an educationalist to great use in the parliamentary consultative committees, especially the committee on education benifited immeasurably from his participation. I remember sharing many meals with Mr. Casinader at the MPs’ hostel, Sravasti. After my parents passed away I left for England, and Mr. Casinader was kind enough to be present at the airport to send me off.
On my return to Sri Lanka in 2009, I was delighted to meet Mr. Prince Casinader after 20 long years. When I visited Mr. Casinader, an English colleague of mine also came along, and he queried “Mr Casinader, I am told that you are an English Teacher? Mr Casinader replied, “actually I am a Sri Lankan, and a teacher of English”.
I had many discourses with Mr. Casinader over the past 8 years, invariably his beloved Methodist Central College and Batticaloa were the topics of conversation. Prince Gunarasa Casinader’s love for his school and his town had no limits. Unlike many eminent individuals of Batticaloa, he didn’t migrate to greener pastures. He lived and died in his home at Love Lane, a stones throw from Methodist Central College in the heart of Batticaloa town. Mr. Casinader will be missed greatly but his great legacy will last for centuries!
Goodbye Sir, may you rest in peace…