They were the Golden years of our much cherished little Island Nation, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in the early 1950’s, when Singapore sent it’s elite administrators to learn Ceylon’s systems which produced excellent goods and services of world class. It’s Treasury had sufficient foreign reserves, to purchase armored vehicles for its army, ships for its navy and even jet aircraft for its fledgling Ceylon Air Force.  At Zahira College, it’s schoolboys, imbibed with respect for discipline; were firmly entrenched by one man’s determination to make us THE BEST. He brooked no nonsense. Major A.M.O. Muhlar – the Perfectionist. was a hardened old soldier of the second World War, which ended in 1945.

We were humble but we knew our humility was but a charade for our excellence and our determination to be the best. This man insisted on our humility. Getting up from the prone position, after pumping ten shots from the .22 rifle scoring a possible 100; he would make us feel a little inadequate by showing us that the 100 could have been better if all ten shots could be in the dead center of the bulls eye. Yet we listened with boyish humility and hidden pride. However, to achieve success, needed both patience, practice and an better understanding of the weapon itself, including it’s very finer points;  one of which was to “squeeze” and not to “pull” the trigger. He made us believe that practice makes perfect. There was all types of aids, he deployed to make us school boys, Crack shots; yes, “Marksmen”. So was it with the big bore rifle of .303 calibre, which punched a sound kick on one’s shoulder. This was the primary rifle of the then Sri Lanka Army for a decade after Independence. About thirty of these rifles were also assigned to the CCC (Ceylon Cadet Corps) in boys schools.

In the .303 big bore Rifle Meets of the Army; the boys of Zahira College, of the 3 Battalion Cadet Corps who were adjudged the Best Rifle Unit of the Army, both in 1953 and 1955. Army Commander General Wijekoon encouraged us to join up with his outfit promising us a bright future. At the National Rifle Meet, 3/CCC Zahira won the team competitions. The Ben S. Hamer Championship Grand Aggregate Trophy was won by a Zahirian. If we, as much as smiled at our successes, Major Muhlar was quick to reprimand us, cautioning us to “wipe the smiles off our faces”; lest we get carried away?

The small bore .22 Rifle Championship meets were the BSA International and the De War International meets. Each national team comprised of 15  members. However at least five schoolboys from Zahira College were chosen to represent the nation. There was also the monthly local Inter club competition for the Lord De War Shield.  Zahira Colege won every monthly competition. Finally the Lord De War Shield became a permanent fixture at the Zahira College Principal’s office and it stands there to this day, in memory of those Golden Days.

It is to the credit of this amazing perfectionist, Major Muhlar that Zahira College Junior Cadets won the coveted De Soysa Trophy. The Senior Cadet  “Herman Loos” Cup and all other awards sweeping the board at the Senior Cadet Competition in Diytalawa. When the Galle Gymkana Club held its Annual .22 shooting competition within the Galle Fort Ramparts; it was the Zahra College shooters who were the champions. Two Zahira schoolboys won the coveted “Queens Cup” at the National Rifle Association, Meets in the late 1950’s. The championship Grand Aggregate Ben S. Harmer trophy was won by a Zahirian.

Our victories made sense, by his insistence on making the perfect example of THE BEST. His approach was very realistic simple and straightforward.  His legacy of a dedicated professional is something we today cherish and can never forget.  His faults were the necessary compliments of his merits, which made the PERFECTIONIST.

Dr.M. Mulaffer.Khalid (FISMM;MCIPS(LOND.)

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