Child Abuser Pahalagama Somaratana Jailed!!!
It was with great relief and pleasure that the Sri Lankan community in London, the UK and Buddhists all over the world in general heard that ‘Reverend’ Pahalagama Somaratana the chief incumbent of the Selsdon Temple in Surrey has been sentenced to seven years in prison for child abuse. Several cases of rape had been dropped, possibly due to the fact that these allegations were brought forward after many years. Children and parents are traumatised and details get blurred as time passes and perhaps they do not wish to disclose all the sordid details. Is this the reason that Pahalagama Somaratana escaped these other serious allegations of rape? (Please note that I do not call him ‘Reverend’ as he has disgraced the great religion of Buddhism and these excellent monks who propagate and perpetuate the teachings of the Buddha.)
During my time as a Consultant Paediatrician in the UK, before I returned to Sri Lanka, I was involved with the investigation of alleged child abuse (both physical and sexual) and the follow up social service and police procedures. Proving sexual abuse and rape is a very difficult process but the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (supported by Paediatricians trained in this difficult speciality) do an excellent job. They have done a wonderful job in this case which was brought up many years later and got a conviction but a very short sentence in my opinion.
When I was dealing with child abuse, we had many regular allegations of child abuse by teachers, child minders, ‘Uncles’ and ‘Family friends,’ scout masters and priests of all different sects. These were duly investigated and appropriate action taken. Thankfully the British system is well geared to combat these horrible perverts and their activities. However, are we in Sri Lanka able to deal with these rapists and child abusers? I don’t know for sure but I don’t think so! We must improve our child protection services so that our children are safe from paedophiles and rapists.
If these incidents happened in Sri Lanka, I am sure Pahalagama Somaratana would have been shielded by the politicians, policemen, pimps, prostitutes, the publicans and would have continued on his rampage of rape and child abuse. He would never have been brought to court.
What has the Sanga Sabha of the UK done about this child abuser? Does he come under the jurisdiction of the Sanga Sabha of Sri Lanka? Have they disrobed him and chased him away from the priest hood? I doubt it!
If not, why not?
Are they shielding their own and tacitly condoning the activities of this paedophile?
It is believed by those attached to the Selsdon Temple that he owns the temple. Can a priest own an institution like a temple? I await suitable opinion.
Somaratana got a custodial sentence of seven years which seems a very mild punishment for a major offence committed on an innocent child. The period of imprisonment can extend from 15 years to 25 years together with a fine (USA). He should also be given psychiatric counselling to try and change his ways. Will Somaratana change with counselling? Your guess is as good as mine! “With good Behaviour”, Somaratna’s sentence will be cut down and he will be out in a couple of years and perhaps up to his tricks again!
There is provision in British Law, to defrock or disrobe a guilty offender before a sentence is passed. I hope this was done in Somaratana’s case.
As usually happens when a paedophile is convicted, many more allegations are brought forward. Let us see what happens!
I believe, Paedophiles when incarcerated in her majesty’s prisons are given a hard time by the other prisoners. Assault is very common and being pissed on and spat on is a regular feature!
As a Buddhist, I write this with a heavy heart and a lot of sadness in my soul. I have associated with a large number of exemplary Buddhist monks who have done excellent work and practised Buddhism as it should be preached and practised. One rotten apple has spoilt the whole barrel and ruined the good name of Buddhism.
Dr. Asoka Thenabadu
MBBS DCH MRCPCH
Beware of Mafia and Oligarchs: Danger Signal to Leaders
A well known economist and MP recently vociferously indicated that Sri Lanka’s stock market was manipulated to a hitherto unknown extent by an emerging ‘Mafia’. Also, leading members of the business community and chambers have expressed their concern regarding the increased trend of insider trading operations that flagrantly violate laws and regulations.
While we agree that one of the areas recently affected by these operations is the stock market, such gangs also seem to intrude into other financial sector activities including, foreign exchange markets and the corporate sector in general. These operations are interconnected and are sometimes supported by gambling (casinos and book makers) and money laundering channels.
The three key objectives of these organized gangs of manipulators are:
(i) Laundering ill gotten gains (locally & internationally)
(ii) As ambitious social climbers, to gain higher status through building business empires.
(iii) Most importantly to gain power or access to leaders through manoeuvring ill gotten gains.
The political leadership and business community in countries like Sri Lanka should be well aware of the modus operandi of gangs of this nature and understand the risks of associating closely with them. It is also noteworthy that most, if not all, political parties and governments in democracies are coalitions of some form or the other.
In order to maximize the chances of gaining power the politicians are willing to associate with many of these parties. However, the day these manipulators have constraints imposed upon their nefarious activities, history has clearly demonstrated that they will resort to extra legal and violent methods to maintain or expand their illegitimate or shady business empires.
As an ordinary citizen, I hope that the current political and business leadership of the country would learn from and continue to remember the lessons of the assassination of Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, a great leader, in 1958 by the insiders themselves.
M. K. Sunil Perera
It Makes You Think
Young Haresh Selvaskandan’s story on The Sunday Leader on 23rd May 2012 by Raisa Wickrematunge is symbolic for many a reason. Firstly he is the only Sri Lankan chosen to be one of the Olympic torch bearers for the London Olympics 2012. This is a huge achievement not only for Haresh but also for Sri Lanka since only 8,000 nominees were chosen out of a staggering 60,000 list.
Secondly the commitment and compassion with which Haresh reaches out to those in need portrays him in a unique light of empathy and gifted dedication. He is a medical student at the University of Leicester. Even during his school days at CIS, he was an intelligent student who graduated with flying colours. His academic excellence continued even at university. Owing to his outstanding performance he was chosen by the Vice Chancellor for a special meeting with Queen Elizabeth. Yet his generous heart and not his brilliance was what qualified him as a nominee to carry the torch. Haresh is involved in charity that focuses on sustainable health related projects in local communities. He was responsible for collecting funds for the Kenyan Orphan Project carried out by the charity. Along with 20 other students he travelled to Kenya where he worked with underprivileged students and even helped with the construction of a school. Even while in Sri Lanka he was an active volunteer at the Red Cross.
The best part of the story lies in the actual nomination of Haresh as a torch bearer. It was his fellow medical student and close friend Lahiru Satharasinghe, an ethnic Sinhalese, who first thought of this idea. According to Haresh’s father the move was touching and symbolic against a backdrop of friction that often existed between the two ethnic groups during and after the war. Quoting his own words “she realized that he deserved to carry the torch…it makes you think”.
It indeed makes us think. Though it was a simple gesture of friendship, it carried a meaning far deeper than the gesture itself. It transcended boundaries of ethnicity in the name of friendship. If being a Sinhalese did not prevent Lahiru from nominating her Tamil friend Haresh, why can’t we, the rest of Sri Lankans tread on the same path and shape an all encompassing identity as Sri Lankans? Exclusion and discrimination take us nowhere. Three decades of bitter armed clashes and the loss of all the best days of friendship and love, of innocence and harmony, of trust and care, surely has had enough of an impact on us to have that message pass through.
Haresh’s nomination could be made into the first step of a long but successful journey. Dividing along the lines of ethnicity only compromises the inclusive Sri Lankan identity. We were born in war, but fate was not so cruel to let us die in war too. But if we want to die in peace, and not just in the absence of war, we have to do something constructive. A change in attitudes is a must. Granted that the large picture features only the highest members of state bureaucracy, but with absolutely no support from the general populace, there would not be a canvas on which to paint that picture! Any attempt at moulding the truly Sri Lankan outlook requires synchronizing all ethnic identities and giving more prominence to the new outlook and less of it to individual ethnicities. If this unity in form cannot be achieved, some components of the society might be left behind in the march to a shared future, which could ultimately cost Sri Lanka’s realization of her full potential.
Lahiru’s disregard of the ethnicity of Haresh enabled a Sri Lankan the much coveted chance of bearing the Olympic torch. If this same attitude could be promoted in the collective mindset of all Sri Lankans, the country could be propelled to unimaginable heights which in turn would negate the detrimental effects of the destructive war that raged on for three decades at the cost of our happiness.
Nipunika O. Lecamwasam
Repairs To Kurunduwatte Road (Kumaragewatte Road)
Kurunduwatte Road also known as Kumaragewatte Road, a by road along Pannipitiya-Kottawa Road, is in a very bad state. This road serves for over 100 householders, two Montessori schools, a large construction company that has heavy vehicles plying. Sri Lanka’s cricketing icon Muttiah Muralidaran also lives down the same road.
Repeated representations made to the Kaduwela Pradeshiya Sabha have been to no avail. In desperation on more than one occasion residents have collected monies among themselves and carried out temporary repairs and filled up the bigger potholes.
Finally, the residents even went to the extent of making written representations and handed the document to the Mayor, but so far there still does not seem to be any response. It is also ironic to observe that although the main trunk road, as mentioned earlier, is not repaired, three side roads have been concreted.
Would any higher authority help the residents who are undergoing immense hardships?
100, Kurunduwatte Road