The Sunday Leader

Ragging At S. Thomas’

I did my entire schooling at S. Thomas’ (STC), Mt Lavinia, from age 5 to 18 (1937-50), when I left to enter the Ceylon University, and from there to Cambridge and London Universities. I returned to Sri Lanka in 1968 as Senior Lecturer in Medicine, Peradeniya University, and left in 1976 to join Queensland University, Australia as Associate Professor of Medicine.
I have had a long-standing interest in ragging, which I will write up for your Paper shortly. Here I will deal with a few points.
1. Ragging is widespread in educational institutes in India and Sri Lanka. Harsh Agarwal, co-founder of CURE (Coalition to Uproot Ragging from Education), a Delhi-based NGO, who has written extensively on the problem, states that, “Sri Lanka is the worst affected country in the world”.
With this disgraceful record, I applaud The Sunday Leader for bringing this to light, despite attempts to block the publication, and even threats to your reporters.
2. There was no ragging in STC in the decade and a half I spent in that College where I was a Prefect. If we heard of any form of ragging, however ‘benign’, we would have come down on the ‘raggers’ in no uncertain terms. It was simply not tolerated by us, let alone the staff.
3. Cambridge University is known for ragging. People have no idea that the ragging there is not of the ‘freshers’ (newcomers), but done by them. The ‘victims’ are the people in the town who are entertained or ‘persuaded’ to part with some money to be sent to recognised charities. I took part in this in 1954.
For the first two days, I was a ‘tea-plucker’, complete with basket, into which people threw coins. In the next three days, I was a ‘baila dancer’. People were fleeced to see me ‘perform’ in a tent set up in the town, and I invited the audience to join me! Everyone had a ball, especially the ‘freshers’. We raised 10,000 Pounds (a huge sum back then) which was sent to the Widows and Orphans Fund.
4. There was no ragging in London University in the many years I spent there, as an undergraduate, post-graduate, and a Lecturer in Medicine.
5. Ragging in the Peradeniya University was the worst I had seen. It was sadistic, crude and illegal. I blew a fuse when a female student who was about to have a candle inserted in her vagina, jumped from the 2nd floor of Ramanathan Hall, broke her spine and became a paraplegic. She later committed suicide. I wrote an extensive article in one of your English papers, and then had it translated and published in a Sinhala paper. Under pressure, an inquiry followed, three students were suspended for a year, and ragging banned in the University. (I gather it restarted after I left).
6. ‘Ragging’ in Sri Lanka is assault. Like any other criminal act, the perpetrators must be hunted down and prosecuted like any other criminal. The fact the victims and their parents do not want to ‘pursue the matter’, is irrelevant. Nor is the excuse that it is ‘an internal matter for the school’. It is also not up to the Warden or the School Board to decide what should be done. Their obligation is to inform the police, see their lawyers regarding prosecuting the assailants, and file action.
7. If what has been reported in STC is the ‘norm’, and that the Senior Prefects are a ‘law unto themselves’ (as stated by some former Prefects), then it is time for all of us to worry.  If that College has decided to abandon its founding principles, one of which is “to make good citizens”, has opted to produce hooligans and thugs, then protest we must, and will
8. At a national level if Sri Lanka’s educational institutes are the worst in the world where ragging is concerned (as stated by ‘CURE’), then it is a matter of public concern. As such, I applaud the courage, determination and resolve of The Sunday Leader to take this on and not be intimidated or pressured by hooligans and thugs in the community, trying to intimidate, threaten or bribe your staff, including the owner of your paper.
I am most certainly not going to tolerate this, which is a violation of basic human rights, worse, criminal activity with no accountability. As I have said, I will be sending you a detailed article on ragging and after you publish it, or if you decide not to do so, I will put it on the net so that the outside world will know what is going on in Sri Lanka.

Brian Senewiratne
Australia

6 Comments for “Ragging At S. Thomas’”

  1. Crazy Horse

    Criminal Charges against Dr. Brian Senewiratne -

    http://www.lankanewspapers.com/news/2007/9/19185_space.html

    An open letter to the Oxford Union against inviting President Mahinda Rajapakshe to address the union –

    http://www.globalpeacesupport.com/globalpeacesupport.com/post/2010/12/25/Mock-indictment-of-the-Rajapakses-via-Oxford-Union-by-Dr-Brian-Seneviratne.aspx

    Dear Brian Senewiratne, Dont insult our alma mater. If you want something published on the Leader there are other ways to do it. Thank you. God Bless

  2. Crazy Horse

    Criminal Charges against leading LTTE agent in Australia – Dr. Brian Senewiratne

    http://www.asiantribune.com/index.php?q=node/7308

    PS: Hope your not selling out STC to score points against Sri Lanka.
    Best Regards.

    • Daya

      Crazy Horse,

      Thanks for presenting us with a link to another interesting character.

      I am inserting a link which I obtained as a result of the first revelation that you made:
      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article540488.ece – Similar

      I think it was an important revelation but it has no direct relevance to Rev. Puddefoot’s performance at S. Thomas’ Mt Lavinia and perhaps, through extrapolation, it indicates just how difficult it would be for a Sri Lankan to stand against political and social pressures in a school of an elitist nature. It is unfortunately true that S. Thomas’ does indeed fall into this elitist category.

      It is good to know what happened at Eton, but we must assess how Rev. Puddefoot has managed our own school; pretty well, I feel.

      Dr. Brian Senewiratne appears to be an admirable man, but he appears to have created problems for himself by not taking account of the fact that most of us Sinhalese who were forced by various considerations to stay put in our mother country were praying that Veluppillai Prabhakaran’s terrorism should be made to end. Sad to say, even for me, the end half justifies the means.

      I know I have said two odd things in the foregoing paragraph. Firstly,staying put in our homeland is a very natural thing to do! Secondly, when a guy says, as I have, “half justifies”, he appears to be sitting on the fence. I plead guilty. The forces arraigned against me appear to be too hydra-headed.

      Whew! What a tour de force that indictment of the Rajapaksas is. And this guy is 79 years old. It took me an hour to read, and I won’t have the time to re-read it. But thank you Dr Senewiratne, I learnt a lot from it. But, good Doctor, as I said, we wanted to be rid of Veluppillai the monster. There could exist something known as divine justice, and the monster may have been created by “Sinhalese ragging of the Tamils” in 1958, 1983 etc. I just can’t handle such issues, but somebody has to say the things that Brian Senewiratne has said.

      What a contrast, though, between the fearsomely apocalyptic (one sided) truths said by Dr Senewiratne, and the ridiculously trivial and nit-picking nature of the charges against him!

      A chance telephone chat with one of my relatives this morning also made me realise that Brian Senewiratne’s detractors throw mud at him that has been carelessly collected. I was told that Brian S. is a niece of Aunty …. . I’ve done some checking and found that he is indeed very closely related to the Dias Bandaranaikes, the veracity of which his detractors query. I have little stomach for these things (and neither would Dr Brian S., I’m sure). I did tell some “fifth generation Thomian” about two weeks ago that each of us would have had 16 great, great grandfathers and the same number of female forebears. These people have inter-married a lot, but on this line the relationship to the former ruling family appears to be very close.

      http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~lkawgw/gen1002.html – Cached – Similar

      This link gives another line of descent from the very political Samarakkody line:

      http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~lkawgw/gen3118.htm – Cached

      I’ve had enough of this! I’d be disappointed if I found that Dr Brian Senewiratne himself has wasted time on compiling such stuff himself. Knowing one’s roots is fine but putting it on the Internet indicates obsession.

      Dr Brian Senewiratne appears to live on a loftier level; one might say he’s “other-worldly”. I have much more admiration than disdain for this man. May there be the peace and reconciliation that Brian S. dreams of. Please note that Brian S. nowhere praises Prabhakaran, the LTTE, or terrorism. What if he doesn’t denounce them? He has clearly stated his agenda.

      Accounts of recent Thomian ragging have been harrowing. I look forward to reading what the good doctor has to say next week.

      Thanks for the links, Crazy Horse.

      • Elton John

        Dear Daya
        As a Peradeniya medical college graduate I have personally known the good doctor Brian Senewiratne.He had a small research lab close to the female medical ward at Kandy hospital.This was about 40 years ago.He was then definitely Non Compos Mentis (of unsound mind) I dont think he would have improved over the time.

  3. Elton John

    Dr Brian Senewiratne was Non Compose Mentis forty years ago.He must be worse now,His favourite song used to be I am a tiger I am a tiger.

    • Daya

      Dear Elton John,

      You appear to have known Dr Senewiratne for a long time; I haven’t, but I HAVE read everything about him that has appeared recently. Admittedly there is much that is thrown up when I Google his name.

      So far, I have not seen him write (let alone sing) “I am a Tiger”. Admittedly he has very strong (and for a Sinhalese, unconventional) views, but he appears to be a man of PEACE. If it is otherwise, please produce evidence.

      But wait, Dear Elton, while my request stands, is it not true to say that it is a very different subject that is under discussion?

      It would help solve problems if you desisted from bringing up ad hominem arguments and stuck to discussing how we, at S. Thomas’, are stuck in the quick sands. Let us work with Dr Senewiratne, so that we can once proudly more make the hills and valleys reverberate with our motto:

      ESTO PERPETUA

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