Ragging – My Experience

I am concerned by your two recent reports, “S.Thomas’ College Prefects Assault Fellow Thomian” (The Sunday Leader February 20, 2011), and “Nine Thomians Assaulted By Senior Prefects” (a week later). Your first report stated that Neomal Wickremasekera, a College cricketer, was slapped at least 25 times and bodily assaulted, in addition to being subjected to humiliating ‘acts’ where he suffered serious bruising. It has been reported, that 17 Senior Prefects, including the Head Prefect, Vinura Laduwahetty, were asked to leave the school by the Warden Rev. John Charles Puddefoot. From the distance of Australia, I can only hope that this is correct, although the action taken is not what is needed in criminal assault.

A criminal act. A legal perspective

Main entrance of S.Thomas’ College

So-called ‘ragging’ in Sri Lanka, is criminal assault, and must be dealt with as such. I do not wish to go into the law in detail, but I must point out the illegality of what is being done – an act which causes physical or mental harm. Just because the perpetrators are students, they cannot rise above the law. It is dangerous for the country and its citizens if they do.
‘Ragging’, such as this which occurs in Sri Lanka, is a violation of a basic human right protected by the Constitution of Sri Lanka, the supreme law of the country. Any citizen can petition the Supreme Court in terms of Article 126 of the Constitution in case of a human right violation. The Constitution highlights ruthless, brutal or contemptuous treatment to any party by another as a violation of human rights.
Article 126 refers to filing action in the Supreme Court for human rights violations. The Article that also gets transgressed is Article 10 (and others) dealing with fundamental rights.
These Constitutional constraints are equally applicable to those in schools, universities, or elsewhere, irrespective of age. Any civil or criminal offence executed by them are liable to be punished and shall be produced before the relevant court and subject to suitable punishment after a trial and conviction.
It is also a contravention of a specific Act on ragging, passed by the Sri Lanka Parliament, Prohibition of Ragging and Other Forms of Violence in Educational Institutions Act, No. 20 of 1998. The detailed heading specifies that it is an Act to eliminate ragging and other forms of violent and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment from educational institutions:
“Any person who commits or participates in ragging within or outside the educational institution, shall be guilty of an offence under this Act and on conviction after summary trial be liable for a term not exceeding two years. The victim shall be paid a compensation of an amount determined by court in respect of the injuries caused to such person.”
Although the Act specifies Higher Educational Institutions coming under the Universities Act No. 16 of 1978, it is absurd to suggest that it excludes similar criminal activity in schools. Even if schools are excluded from this Act, those in such institutions can be prosecuted for violating Article 126 and 10 of the Constitution which I have referred to.
So, let us be clear. If the victim of the ‘ragging’ sustains an injury, physical or psychological, both of which happened in S. Thomas’ College (and elsewhere), we are not dealing with some ‘schoolboy fun’, but an indictable offence, which on conviction, carries a jail term.
The fact that the victim of the present episode in S. Thomas’ College, “ does not wish to pursue this matter further”, is irrelevant. It is a criminal matter that calls for police action and prosecution. To do otherwise is not only compounding the problem, but illegal. If a crime has been committed (and assault which has clearly occurred is a criminal act), the police must be informed and the legal process initiated. It is required by law. It is not an opinion to be debated, but a legal problem to be followed. It is the obligation of those in charge of the institution to do so, where such an act has occurred.
Knowing the corruption in the police force, and the pressure that can be applied, it is essential that lawyers of standing be retained to ensure that the case is properly handled and justice is done. What the court will do is a separate issue. What is important is that a clear message will be sent that what is going on is unacceptable and must stop.

The extent of the problem

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,  states that, “Sri Lanka is the worst affected country in the world”.

My experience

I have never been ragged in my life and do not know how I would have reacted had I been – adversely, I’d guess. Had I been traumatised physically or mentally, I would certainly have got my parents to see a lawyer and take the necessary legal action.
Although I have not been ragged, I have had extensive experience in this area and a long-standing interest, some of which I will set out in this article.  It is a serious matter that goes beyond ‘fun’.
I have been concerned about ragging in schools, universities and elsewhere, for more than half a century. I am setting out my experience in S. Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia (a student from 1939-1950), the University of Ceylon Science Faculty (an undergraduate 1951-54), Cambridge University (undergraduate 1954- 57), London University (undergraduate 1957-1960), Peradeniya University, Kandy (Senior Lecturer in Medicine 1968-76), Queensland University, Australia (Associate Professor of Medicine 1976-2001).

The Sunday Leader – A word of praise

Before I deal with ragging, I must commend the Chairman of this paper, Lal Wickrematunge, who refused to be intimidated, pressured, or bribed with an ‘afternoon meeting’ in the Royal Colombo Golf Club, by the father of the Head Prefect, Nalin Laduwahetty. Why the golf club and not the office of The Sunday Leader? Commendably, Wickrematunge declined the offer and went ahead and published the story.  I am glad that there are still people of integrity left in Sri Lanka, who will ‘do the right thing’.   As for Laduwahetty’s behaviour, comment is unnecessary.
I note that your reporter, Dinouk Colombage, who telephoned some of the prefects to get some information, received two threatening calls from a private number that was traced backed to the UK. Does that surprise me? Not at all. As I have said on many occasions, on matters unrelated to ragging, one of Sri Lanka’s less known exports is hooliganism and even ‘terrorism’. I have most certainly been subjected to this many times for drawing attention to the violation of human rights. I will let that pass without further comment.
I strongly commend the actions of the Editor, Frederica Jansz, not only for her outstanding editorial, but also for her determination and resolve to address this serious problem.

S. Thomas’ Mt Lavinia (1937-1950)

I am an old boy of S. Thomas’ College (STC) Mt Lavinia. I entered in 1937, aged five years, and left at 18 to enter the Ceylon University. My family has had close associations with this school for many years. It is (or was) a leading school held in high esteem.
It an Anglican Christian school, founded in 1851, to “To prepare Ceylonese that may enter the Christian priesthood, and to make good citizens”. It was not founded to produce hooligans and thugs. If what has now been reported is the ‘norm’ (as stated by some former prefects), then it is time for all of us to worry.
Amusingly, the ‘General Rules of the College’ state, “Ragging of any nature is strictly forbidden”. (The bold type is not mine). To make mattes worse, the Board of Governors of the School passed a Minute on 24 October 2003 directing the Warden (David Ponniah at the time), to take positive steps to stop ragging by prefects. Words must have meaning, and if they do not, then those in charge, not just the students, must be held responsible.
I joined the Kindergarten – the ‘Baby Class’ as it was called, when I was five years old. There was, of course, no ragging – indeed the opposite – great love and affection from some extraordinary teachers, the like of whom I have never met.
What of later life in the main school? There were those who came from home (‘day-scholars’) and boarders. There was absolutely no ragging of any day-scholar that I am aware of. The boarders were, at that time, in four dormitories – Chapman (after the founder of the College), Coppleston, Claughton, and Miller.
I was in Chapman House, first as a ‘private’ and later promoted to a Prefect. I do not know what went on in the other Houses, but I can vouch for the fact that there was never any ragging in Chapman House. When I became a Prefect, I took this a step further. I nominated half a dozen senior students to ‘look after’ the new arrivals till they made friends and settled down. They were, in modern language, their ‘buddies’. The nominated students were directly responsible to me, and I had direct access to the wonderful Housemaster, A.R.L. Fernando, who supported us.
Ragging in STC, back then, would simply not have been tolerated by us, let alone the staff. The school authorities did not need to act, we would have.

Science Faculty, University of Ceylon (1951-53)

There was extensive ragging in the Colombo Medical Faculty, which I cannot describe in detail because I was not there (I did my Medical training in the UK). The ragging in the Medical Faculty did not spread to the Science Faculty because of some exceptional senior students.
When we entered the Science Faculty, we were welcomed by the senior students.  “Welcome to the Science Faculty. If we can do anything to help, please ask one of us’’.  As for ragging, “There is no ragging in the Science Faculty, but medical students may come here and try to do so. If they do, we would like to be informed at once. Be assured we will act”.
To make doubly sure, they pinned a notice at the entrance to the Science Faculty. “You are now entering the Science Faculty where there is no ragging. If anyone tries to rag our students, they will be dealt with severely. You have been warned”.

Cambridge University (1954-57)

Cambridge is well-known for ragging. As such, I was concerned when I got there, not only what was in store for me but how I would react. I arrived in Selwyn College, not knowing a single soul there. The Porter gave me a note, “ Welcome to Selwyn. You are in room 101. We are in 105 and 107. If you are not too tired, do pop in for some coffee – Dick Bird and Richard Jowers”. (They were two senior students).
I popped in after dinner. “Oh! You’ve arrived? So glad you were able to come. Would you like coffee, or would you prefer tea from your country? You must tell us about your country when you have settled down”.
I had far more important things on my mind than to deliver a dissertation on Ceylon. Nervously I asked, “When does the ragging start, and what happens?” They laughed. “Oh that? Sometime next week, and we sincerely hope that you will take part.”  I asked, “Do I have an option?” They replied, “Of course you do, but it will be so nice if you could come”. Seeing the look of utter confusion, they explained.
Ragging in Cambridge is not of the new entrants (freshers) but by them. The recipients are the public in Cambridge, who are entertained, or ‘persuaded’ to part with some money for the Widows and Orphans Fund.  Greatly relieved, I offered my ‘services’ gladly.
On day one, I was invited to dress up as a tea plucker, complete with basket strapped on my back. Parading in the main street, the fascinated spectators were invited to drop a coin or two in the basket. Many did.
The next day, I was a ‘baila’ dancer, complete with sarong and headscarf. A tent was set up for the ‘performance’ with an admission fee that was well above the level of the performance. I ‘performed’, inviting the audience to join me on the stage. They had a ball, and returned in larger numbers for the midday and evening ‘shows’.
Day three, saw me as a policeman. I was asked if I would like to stop the passing cars and collect some money. The senior students were right behind me – “Ask them for what they can afford, but if it is a Jaguar, Rover, or similar, set the price. We will help you”.
Came a Rolls Royce. “Stop that car and ask for 5 pounds.” I thought that was exorbitant and asked why. “We know the owner, he has pots of money”.  I stopped the car. The window came down and a one pound note was offered. Instructions came from my ‘support group’, “That’s peanuts, give it back”. I said, “Sir, My instructions are that to accept this would be an insult to your standing. Permit me to return it to you, with thanks.”
That night, three senior students (there might have been more), managed to get into the gentleman’s garage and ‘pinch’ (‘take a loan of’ – in Cambridge language) his 1925 Morris – a highly valued antique. The car was taken and hoisted on the roof of a nearby building. I have no idea how this engineering feat was accomplished, but there it was in the morning. It cost the owner more than 200 pounds to get a crane and manpower, to get it down. He got the message, and the next year ‘voluntarily’ contributed 50 pounds.
We raised 10,000 pounds (which was a small fortune in those days) and donated it to several charities. All of us, especially the ‘freshers’, had a ball.
The following year, I was a senior. I could perform another ‘baila’ dance, or stand back and tell the new freshers what had worked and what had not.
That was the Cambridge ‘rag’ – misunderstood and misrepresented in many places, including Sri Lanka, as you will see.

London University (1957-60)

There was no ragging at all. As I entered the medical school, two seniors met me and introduced themselves. “We are John and Peter. Catch us sometime in the tea-room and we will tell you what lectures are worth going for and which ones are a waste of time. Welcome to University College Hospital. You will have a great time here.”

Peradeniya University (1968-76)

I arrived in 1968 as Senior Lecturer in Medicine. Where ragging is concerned, I have never been in a more barbaric place. Let me walk you through this dreadful experience.
As a school boy in the 1950s, I had, of course, heard of the terrible ragging that went on in the Medical College in Colombo. It was not until that I arrived in Kandy as a don in the University, that I realised that ‘ragging’ could be more accurately described as ‘sadism’.
I made my intentions clear, that I was going to stop this barbarism. I pinned a notice on the Medical Faculty board that ragging would not be tolerated by me and that if anyone was caught ragging in the Medical Faculty, I would act, and the consequences would be serious.
I saw the Vice-chancellor and explained my stance. I asked him to back me, and suspend any student who was caught ragging. If he did not, I would inform the media, or quit the University which, incidentally, Professor Chandima Wijebandara did nearly three decades later.

A necessary digression

Let me digress to show that there are still people of integrity in Sri Lanka and others who have paid a price for the stance they have taken. In November 2002 there was a serious incident in the Jayewardenepura University. Samantha Vithanage, a third-year student, pioneered an anti-ragging campaign. He and others argued that ragging was demeaning and intimidating. They were meeting with representatives of the JVP-controlled Student Council who defended ragging.  Whatever the rhetoric of the JVP, the reality was that it was a means of recruiting thugs to its ranks as well as intimidating its political opponents.
During the meeting, some 200 JVP supporters armed with clubs and stones stormed into the room and viciously attacked Vithanage and others. One of the attackers broke a large glass vase. Others picked up the pieces of glass and stabbed their victims. Vithanage was struck, fell to the floor and had, for good measure, a computer monitor dropped on his head.
When the ambulance arrived, the thugs stood around chanting, “We killed him, we killed him”, then pulled Vithanage out of the vehicle and assaulted him again. He died in hospital two days later. Thirteen other students were seriously injured.
The University was closed for a month. When it was reopened, Professor Wijebandara was appointed Vice-Chancellor in 2006. However, ragging restarted and Wijebandara unable to stop the abuse, resigned.
Professor Stanley Wijesundera, the first Vice-Chancellor of Colombo, one of the finest I have ever met, was not so lucky. He came under pressure by the JVP to shut down the University, which he (rightly) refused to do. On 8 March 1989, this distinguished academic was shot dead by the JVP.
Is all this relevant to what is being discussed? It sure is. If the schooling system produces thugs and hooligans e.g.: senior prefects in a major school who can slap a boy 25 times and injure him, when they get into university, they continue to be, well, thugs and hooligans. Hence the importance of stopping this nonsense early.

Back to Peradeniya University

Let me get back from this digression. I pinned more notices in the Medical Faculty, that anyone caught ragging will be severely dealt with, which included suspension or sacking.
A few days later, I heard, what sounded like ragging. “Left, right, left, right, raise your frocks, left, right, pull down your knickers, left, right…” I left my room to join the raggers. They all had heard of me, but only the clinical students had actually seen me. So there was no concern at my presence. After some minutes ‘enjoying the fun’, I worked out who was doing what, and disclosed my identity. “You, you and you, will meet me in the Vice-Chancellors office at 9 am tomorrow morning.”
I saw the V-C, told him what had happened and that those responsible would be in his office (with me) next day. I asked that they be suspended, or, preferably, sacked. If such deterrent action was not taken, I was going to the media. Unwilling to test my resolve, the students were suspended for a year.
The parents of one raced up to Kandy to see me and said that both were doctors, and what I had done would blast their beloved son’s future. I told them that coming as he did from such a family, I expected an even higher standard of behaviour. I explained that the Peradeniya University was not founded to train hooligans.
Ragging stopped, at least in the Medical Faculty (I gather it restarted after I left in 1976). It was not, however, a total success since it continued elsewhere. I exploded when a “fresher”, a girl, an Agriculture student from a rural area (not that it mattered) jumped out of a window on the second floor of Ramanathan Hall because of ragging,  broke her neck and became a quadriplegic. She later committed suicide.
Why did she jump out of the window? Because she was about to have a candle inserted in her vagina (she was a virgin, not that that mattered either — perhaps it did) as part of the so-called ‘ragging’.
What made my blood boil was the reaction when I said that this sadism masquerading as ragging had to stop. The response was “Well, ragging is what they do in Cambridge University where Dr. Senewiratne was educated”.
As I have just explained, the ragging in Cambridge was very different from sticking candles in vaginae, putting testicles in drawers and closing the drawer, throwing  people into the shallow Lotus (now the ‘Alwis’) pond at the entrance of the Peradeniya campus having first put bits of broken glass into the pond, parading terrified newcomers, some of whom had left home for the first time, and getting them to perform all sorts of crazy, and even obscene acts in public. That is sadism and criminal activity.
The next day I had an anonymous message presumably from some freshers, “Sir, we are going to be ragged in Arunachalam Hall at 11pm tomorrow. Please would you help us?”
I contacted several of my senior colleagues to ask whether they would come with me on ‘a midnight call’ to Arunachalam Hall. Their excuses were unbelievable. “I would love to come with you but my mother-in-law has just had a heart attack”, said one. “I think what you are doing is commendable. I would love to be associated, but it is my daughter’s birthday” etc.
Six brave souls offered to come with me. We met outside Arunachalam Hall at 11pm and decided to walk in. Someone had clearly tipped off the hoodlums who were organising the ragging because when we arrived it was like a cemetery. Deathly quiet. However we could see doors slightly open and eyes peering at us through the slit.
Two so-called student leaders came forward. “Sir, what are you doing here”? I said that I was a senior don and did not need his permission to walk into a Hall of Residence in my University. He asked, “Have you come to check whether there is any ragging? If you have, as you can see, there is none”.  I said “Great. Keep it up”, and led my band of anti-raggers out of the Hall.
We had hardly gone a few feet when all hell broke. Hundreds of students appeared behind us hooting and throwing all sorts of missiles at us. In the chaos that followed we were, of course, hopelessly outnumbered. I thought that they would kill us.
To our great relief, there suddenly appeared a mass of students from the adjoining Halls. They were medical students who had heard that we were in danger, and quickly collected a ‘rescue squad’, came to our defence and prevented what could have been quite serious injury.
With increasing tension, I had an invitation the following week from Arunachalam Hall ‘for a tea-party’, supposedly to ‘make peace’. Naïve as I was, I decided to accept the invitation. As I was about to leave my home, four medical students arrived on two motorcycles. “Sir, where are you going?” I replied, “For a social or tea party or something like that”. They said, “You are not going any place. Some of the Arts students are ready for you with bottles of sulphuric acid. If you go what you get is not tea but sulphuric acid. We intend to park our bikes across your drive and prevent you from going”. I am, and will always be, so very grateful to these four students who saved me from a lot of suffering, if not death.
I decided that the public should be apprised of all this sadism, and criminal activity. I wrote a detailed article which was published in a Sunday paper, and later (resorting to fair means and foul), published where it really mattered, in one of the Sinhala papers. I explained that in Cambridge and Oxford, ragging was not of the students but of the of the people in the town, conducted by the students, to raise money for a charity. What their beloved offspring were being subjected to, was criminal activity, sadism and, in one instance, death.
There was a public uproar, and a demand for an investigation. The University was forced to act by the ‘Court of Public Opinion’. The ‘trial’ began. I was, as would be expected, leading the ‘prosecution’ and had to produce the evidence. I had a list of some seven students who had seen me in the General Hospital, Kandy, with quite serious injuries. I had them summoned. The level of intimidation and thuggery by the raggers was such that the victims were told that if they dared to admit anything, what they had been subjected to would be peanuts compared to what they would be in for.
I called my first witness. “Sirisena, can you please tell these gentlemen what you told me when you saw me in Kandy hospital?”  Sirisena, “Sir, I have never seen you in my life.”  Taken aback, I said, “OK. Go behind that cubicle and pull your trousers down so that we can see your testicles?” The bruising was still clearly visible.
“What’s this?” “Oh, Sir, I was climbing a tree and fell, and a branch hit me between my legs”. I clarified this, “So what you told me in hospital that your testicles were put in a drawer and the drawer closed, was untrue?” “Sir, you must have misunderstood me because my English is not very good”.
Witness number two. “Hello, Gunaratne, how is your hearing now?” “Why do you ask, Sir?” “Because when you saw me in the hospital, you had a perforated left ear drum”. “No, Sir, it must be someone else”. I got close to his left ear and whispered 42, 56, 64. “What did I say?” “Sir, I forgot to tell you that I was out bush-walking and a stick went into my ear”. “So, what you told me that during the ragging someone pushed a straightened out coat-hanger into your ear was untrue?” “Sir, who would do such a thing?” I had made notes. “Do you want me to read out the names of your assailants?” “Sir, all I can say is that no one did anything to me.”
Witness number three, “Come in Herath. How are your feet? Can you walk on them now?” “Yes, Sir, they are fine”. “Herath, tell these gentlemen what happened?” “Sir, it was very hot and I was dangling my feet in the Lotus pond, and got cut. Must have been some glass”. “So, what you told me that during the ragging you were made to walk in the pond by your raggers who had broken some bottles and thrown it into the pond, was not true”. “No, Sir, ragging is fun. They would never do things like that”.
I will not bother you with witness four, five, six and seven. The story was similar, implausible, absurd and patently untrue. The ‘investigators’ asked whether I had any other evidence, to which I replied in the negative. “Well, Dr. Senewiratne, as you could see, there has been no wrong doing. We have heard that you have been working very hard. Perhaps, you should have a holiday”. I smiled and went home.
Three decades later, I was invited as the Distinguished Guest to address a meeting in Toronto on human rights violations. After my talk, I invited questions or comments. Up jumped a senior doctor. “ I was one of Dr. Senewiratne’s students in Peradeniya. What I remember with deep gratitude is that he saved me and many others from being ragged.”

Australia (1976-date)

I am not sure what goes on in the schools. All I can say is that both my children went to school here and neither of them was ragged. They went to schools of the same level as S. Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia.  They certainly did not have to go to school with a candle and an onion, as I gather one of the students being ragged in S. Thomas’ had to do. I do not think I need to spell out what these objects would be used for in the sadistic ragging that goes on in Sri Lanka. Whether there is ragging in other schools, I do not know.
I might add that one of the reasons for migrating to Australia, was for the safety of my children, both of whom were going to do Medicine. I had no intention of exposing them to the sadism in Peradeniya. I heard, several times over, a veiled threat, “He has a daughter and a son. We will ‘deal with them when they enter the University”. My decision to leave a country which, according to CURE, leads the world in ragging, was not something I regret.
Ragging is not the same as bullying. There is bullying in Australian schools, without doubt. It is a serious problem being actively pursued by the authorities,
As for universities, I can speak only of Queensland University. There is no ragging, none that I am aware of. Most certainly, both of my children who went through this university were not ragged.

What importance is all this?

As I have stressed, ragging such as occurs in Sri Lanka is a criminal act that can carry a jail term of two years. To commit criminal acts with impunity is a hugely dangerous path to send children down.
If children can commit violations of human rights and get away with it, what would stop them doing the same when they are adults? What Sri Lanka is doing is to breed criminals, starting at a very early age.
These are the future rulers of Sri Lanka. These are the people who come forward as parliamentarians. I can do no better than to quote an Editorial in The Sunday Leader, which set out the options facing Sri Lankan voters at the 2010 General Election.  In one of the most accurate descriptions of the vast majority of Sri Lankan politicians, the editorial was blunt:
“None of the individual contenders, political parties or opportunistic coalitions are worthy of our respect or our vote. Together they comprise the most mind-boggling array of crooks, thugs, conmen, hypocrites, unprincipled racists, rapists, drug dealers, money launderers, and general all-round scum that is without parallel elsewhere in the world. Other nations have their share of such undesirables, no doubt, but among them are a handful of honest, sincere, principled folk who have distanced themselves from the corrupt majority. Not so in miserable Sri Lanka.”
These ‘undesirables’ are the products of the schools in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankans will have to decide whether this is what they want. If they do not, then they will have to change what is going on in their schools and universities. We have seen these undesirables, ministers in the government, behave as thugs – going into private TV stations and breaking them up. We have seen them in Parliament physically dealing with other MPs in a way which is too crude to describe in detail. Is this what Sri Lankans want?
A further downside is that parents will take their children to universities outside Sri Lanka for their education (as I have done), and that talent depleted country will lose people whom it simply cannot afford to lose. Is that what the people of Sri Lanka want?
Of serious concern to me is that these ‘undesirables’ are being sent abroad, some to even represent the country in embassies. It gives me no pleasure to say that Sri Lankan exports are tea, textiles, rubber and coconut products, gems, spices, leather goods, and hoodlums. Having been at the receiving end of this hooliganism, I can vouch for it.

Is there an answer?

Yes there is. In a word — prosecution. As I have repeatedly stressed, this is criminal activity that violates the Sri Lankan Constitution and the Prohibition of Ragging and Other Forms of Violence in Educational Institutions Act, No. 20 of 1998. It has to be dealt with like any other crime. If this message if not sent loud and clear, this dreadful practice would go on and might well increase.

My concerns

I left Sri Lanka in 1976, and have no connections with that country, except a bleeding heart and an aching soul. My parents are buried in that country, and that is where I happen to have been born. As such, I have concerns as to what is going on there. It gives me no pride to read a serious publication that states, that where ragging is concerned, “Sri Lanka is the worst affected country in the world”. I have not the slightest doubt that a better Sri Lanka is possible, but it is up to the people of that country to act, in this and other areas of concern, which I will not deal with here.

1    http://noragging.com/index.php/Research/Reports/Ragging-History=and-Evolution.html
2    The Sunday Leader 4 April 2010. Editorial :Let’s not create a Democratic King

103 Comments for “Ragging – My Experience”

  1. RED CAP

    Actually returning a moarning howl or a bark, we must give credit first for the bark all the way from aussy or canada …… … so we must see the diffents of the sound made when barking…..usually a local stray dog barks bow , bow….the pedigreed gog sounds woof woof the half bred dog who is abit aged and haggerd usually during his twilight years howl .

  2. The comments for this article shows how degrading our values have become. The writer addresses a very valid Sri Lankan problem, an eye opener for all of us. It is to create an awareness about criminalizing the next generation of the country. Some comments makes me beleive these people do not have sons and daughters, or if they have, they have no qualms about them being indoctrinated as perverts, thugs, and rapists or being made victims of such people.There is something in Sri Lanka that we do not clearly see – that people are getting stupider, blind for the truth and inhuman.

  3. Rohith

    This man Brian has a score to settle with his motherland and a great supporter of the tiger lobby. He is a convict in Brisbane on some land issue and I think he isbetter off there and will be a misfit in Sri Lanka though he has a sinhala name.

  4. CW

    Whatever happened at St Thomas’ is a different matter. This Sinhala Tiger is trying to come to the scene in a different way. Sunday Leader should not allow these type of anti Sri Lankan who cry about being discriminated against in Sri Lanka as he was married to a Tamil & being a Christian( but the bitter truth is that the position he was not not selected for was given to an ethnic Tamil) to publish their rubbish in your news paper.

  5. A Parent

    The children of the people who comment against Mr. Senewiratne’s article must be ragged. Must crash a computer on their head as at Sri Jayawardenapura. The parents of that boy are still mourning for their son.
    If the something happen to these people ‘s children who commented against the above article, how would they feel ? Will they talk like this..NO. That is the point..

    • Daya

      Dear “A Parent”,

      A member of the Anglican clergy, without boasting of the pomp and circumstance that ought to surround such a senior and respected Leader of the Church, has at last responded, and we can look forward to improvement.

      Ragging In Sri Lanka
      letters

      May I on behalf of all those who are the victims of ragging in schools and universities and such places thank you and your paper for having highlighted this all important issue during the last few weeks. Two persons who have contributed to this debate, Bryan Senewiratne from Down Under and Kumar David from Colombo, [...]

      I have given you the link here to make sure that you don’t miss it.

      I’m giving you a second link, to a letter from a parent of Trinity College, Kandy, which appeared in a different section of The Sunday Leader:

      Another School Like The Other

      Congratulations on your brave revelations of the despicable aspects of S. Thomas’ “culture”! However, it is not “A school like no other”, simply because there is another school of the “same tradition” up on the hills! In fact, while reading your article on the Thomian prefects’ ragging, it stuck me awfully that almost the VERY SAME [...]
      Mar 6 2011 | Posted in Letters | Read More »

      Meanwhile, dear “A Parent” let us desist from violence ourselves, and NOT “crash computers on heads”!

  6. Chris

    In my opinion these prefects were let off easy by the Warden. This matter should have been taken up by the Education Ministry and the prefects should have been made an example of by having to undergo public punishment!

    Shame on all the people here who have tried to hide the real issue (Inhuman and perverted ragging) by shouting about a long defeated terror outfit!

  7. Justitia omnibus

    Not one of the venomous cretins who have criticised Dr. Senewiratne has advancedso much as ONE fact to disprove what he has had to say.

    What Dr. S has succeeded in doing, very effectively, is draw out all the racists and bigots who are obviously in the pay of you-know-who to abuse those who are critical of our current rulers. Otherwise, why would they bother to read what they constantly claim to be rubbish? Give me a break: do these Nazis think that anyone would mistake them for critics with a brain in their heads?”

  8. Dinesh Perera

    hence forth….I will not buy the sunday leader… this is just a start from one single person and I know quite a few who follow up sentiments. DOWN WITH THE SUNDAY LEADER !!!!

  9. Malathi Buvaneka

    Brian Senevirathne is a well known LTTE supporter in Australia. It is a disgrace to the St Thomas’ if he were an old student. I doubt it that he went to St Thomas’ but to a kele school. This man was convicted as a criminal in Australia (Qld courts) for breaching council regulations. Heis an utter disgrace, I think he is in the LTTE payroll. I think he is barred from viisting Sri Lanka for ever for the harm he has done to Sri Lanka

  10. This man is a big time LTTE supporter who benefited lucratively from tiger funds for giving false propaganda. Sunday Leader shouldn’t prepare a platform for him to creep in to Sri Lankan society and create more communal disharmony.

  11. billy

    ragging is inhumane but child soldiers, suicide bombings, human shields, terrorism are just fine…lol

  12. Thora

    Dear Mr. Seneviratne,
    You have sought the better climes of Brisbane to that of Mount Lavinia. We are very happy for you. You, like many others who pass their opinions on matters taking place in Sri Lanka, having fled the difficulties, have not made any contributions to the development of the school or the country. I remember a friend who fled after 83 riots sending hundreds of provoking emails asking the Singhalese to go into action. The coward was nowhere near the action. I have been in the staff of STC until recently and have given of my valuable time for NO FEE AT ALL to the students and College as an old-boy. I’m a third-generation Thomian and am still contributing even to the prize giving and the Chapel development. So, get off your high horse, since you didn’t even send your children to STC, and get off this rag, without opening the chess board for unwanted comment and dragging the name of STC and the office of the Warden in the mud.

    • Daya

      Dear Thora,

      I greatly admire your commitment: I was quite shocked by the Canada footage of Dr Brian S. that someone has posted above. At that time the man appears to have been driven crazy by what he perceived as injustice to the Tamil community. His remarkable oratory was driving his audience to a frenzy. Yes, he had to be brought under control at that time.

      I knew nothing of Dr Brian S. until I read his brilliant, thought provoking and heartfelt article on Ragging. His Canada performance was NOT thought provoking; it must have inspired people to act irrationally.

      But all that doesn’t mean that he was insincere. Some members from the families of all of us Anglicised people (we are fluent English users) have migrated; almost all for economic reasons. So many of the comments above prove beyond doubt that Dr. Senewiratne was clearly a political and NOT an economic migrant. And he has not dragged the name of the school or of the Warden in the mud. He speaks most objectively of what he saw of Ragging at Pera University and, given the FACTS that have emerged about College, has warned us all of just how bad things can get.

      Dr. Senewiratne’s article is constructive! It lays to rest the notion that Ragging is a hallowed tradition that goes back a century. We are also so keen to highlight anything that helps bind us to the British “Public Schools” (not even knowing that they are now officially designated “Independent Schools”.) I remember how some fossilised Old Thomians were mesmerising themselves with repeating that we’ve now got a Warden from Eton; until Rev. Puddefoot himself let it be known that he’d been a Grammar School boy who’d taught at Eton (and risen to be Deputy Head). Rev. Puddefoot is doing an excellent job at College. I’m sure that it will give him pleasure to see that acknowledged as an objective fact, instead of being venerated for where he came from.

      The most important consideration ought to be the boys now in school and the contribution they will make towards fashioning a better world when they are adults.

      Dear Dr. Senewiratne, I hope you will try to be more rational in your approach to the ethnic problem in our country; given the passions that were aroused by various demagogues (including you!), you’ve got off lightly. I am convinced of your sincerity and your abiding and deep love for your Old School by the Sea, to which you were unfortunately not able to send your son.

      Sincere thanks for your article.

  13. King Solomon

    This is the result of an Anglican Christian school accepting secularism thanks to liberals like Duleep Chikera.

  14. Ma-Rout-Ti

    It seems that most people are offended that the reputation of St.Thomas, the School, has been brought into question.,

    In my opinion, it is not the bricks and mortar that make The School., rather, it is the people. And their behaviour IS the reputation of the institution

    Most people think nothing of criticising the government and Rajapakses with scant regard for any form of decency- yet when it comes to St.Thomas, some deep seated sensitivity comes into play and suddenly it’s “No One Must Critise The School”

    Well, that’s a load of rubbish, isn;t it ?. Seneviratne, whatever his political affiliations are, has brought up many valid points which should have been addressed but in true Sri Lankan form, has ended in a whitewash

    So if this is what they do when they are young, what can you expect of them when they become Men ?

    Exactly the same thing

    And you wonder why the country is full of louts and vandals ?

  15. RED CAP

    RED CAP

    March 28, 2011 – 1:10 pm

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    : The Sunday Leader has conviniently left this article out……
    Dear Brian,Good day !!!!

    Your article this Sunday was a long one, very interesting. We were not aware of these types of things happened in this so called great school and further more the article is quite illustrative. I share a similar doctorate as you have but my light hearted humor reminds me that I have been through the gates of a better school to yours up in Kandy .

    The article is source of information on the ragging system in SL. This seems common in all socio standards doesn’t it? In university “Ragging is exclusive for fresher’s and doubled if you are from a reputed school, it seems its different in schools like STC ,its tradition?? This should not be the case if its intended body harm. Value for a respective human being should always be the role model. Having said that we must not forget the contributions these boys from reputed schools give back to the community and the economy, like yourself has done. We also should remember the old law term – untill proven guilty” !!!!

    But my friend amount of pessimism is also aroused and blokes my thoughts of your conscience, because when watching through one of your speeches in Canada on utube – You have accused are armed forces -:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBlWgOEZl7E&feature=player_embedded

    You have highlighted that if you returned SL you would be kidnapped or killed; is it because you have accused our armed forces of crimes in one of your speeches? Or is it because you have accused Mr Gotabaya Rajapakse ? What would be your reason not return to SL was in my thoughts…..In my personal thoughts I like Mr Rajapakse. We as SRI Lankans should be happy that we are now free from terrorism, we don’t hear bombs explode, killings of innocence,….while are brothers and sisters die up north in battle for a bunch of sadistic terrorists. We should be great full to the people who stood up for us and denied a world of terrorism for our next generation.

    As such your article remains subdued in my thought, seems as something you wanted to off load from your mind, it’s questionable if there is complete truth. After all a person who always uses his name or the word” I ” in everything he does, says and writes is someone who has self believes of creating a illusion of himself and that illusion being, of greatness.

    These are just my personal views as it’s within my rites to exercise my freedom of thought.

    “The worst thing about medicine is that one kind makes another necessary”. ~Elbert Hubbard

  16. RED CAP

    RED CAP

    March 28, 2011 – 1:10 pm

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Dear Brian,Good day !!!!

    Your article this Sunday was a long one, very interesting. We were not aware of these types of things happened in this so called great school and further more the article is quite illustrative. I share a similar doctorate as you have but my light hearted humor reminds me that I have been through the gates of a better school to yours up in Kandy .

    The article is source of information on the ragging system in SL. This seems common in all socio standards doesn’t it? In university “Ragging is exclusive for fresher’s and doubled if you are from a reputed school, it seems its different in schools like STC ,its tradition?? This should not be the case if its intended body harm. Value for a respective human being should always be the role model. Having said that we must not forget the contributions these boys from reputed schools give back to the community and the economy, like yourself has done. We also should remember the old law term – untill proven guilty” !!!!

    But my friend amount of pessimism is also aroused and blokes my thoughts of your conscience, because when watching through one of your speeches in Canada on utube – You have accused are armed forces -:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBlWgOEZl7E&feature=player_embedded

    You have highlighted that if you returned SL you would be kidnapped or killed; is it because you have accused our armed forces of crimes in one of your speeches? Or is it because you have accused Mr Gotabaya Rajapakse ? What would be your reason not return to SL was in my thoughts…..In my personal thoughts I like Mr Rajapakse. We as SRI Lankans should be happy that we are now free from terrorism, we don’t hear bombs explode, killings of innocence,….while are brothers and sisters die up north in battle for a bunch of sadistic terrorists. We should be great full to the people who stood up for us and denied a world of terrorism for our next generation.

    As such your article remains subdued in my thought, seems as something you wanted to off load from your mind, it’s questionable if there is complete truth. After all a person who always uses his name or the word” I ” in everything he does, says and writes is someone who has self believes of creating a illusion of himself and that illusion being, of greatness.

    These are just my personal views as it’s within my rites to exercise my freedom of thought.

    “The worst thing about medicine is that one kind makes another necessary”. ~Elbert Hubbard

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