16th October, 2005  Volume 12, Issue 14

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    


Ranjit - 50 years of excellence

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

Rows and rows of well-worn books greet us, and right in front of the many  volumes stands Evidence by Sarkar giving......


Review more articles

> Bogus film director caught in the act

> Have some breudher and enjoy the kaffiringna...

> Fasting helps to realise the pangs of hunger

> A kidney for a Sri Lankan

> Anything to look hot or cool... (....Balder dash)

Ranjit - 50 years of excellence

Deshamanya Ranjith Abeysuriya PC

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

Rows and rows of well-worn books greet us, and right in front of the many  volumes stands Evidence by Sarkar giving an inkling as to where his interests lie.

    It is a spartan office room that smells only of books and knowledge. One could instantly recognise this to be the perfect backdrop for a legal luminary whose contribution to the system of criminal justice is unparalleled.

Having dedicated no less than half a century of his life in the  furtherance of criminal justice, Deshamanya Ranjit Abeysuriya PC, nevertheless remains a big critic of the system " that miscarries justice and fails people."

He refuses to accept that archaic and colonial pieces of law should be allowed to burden the Sri Lankan legal system that makes people lose faith in the system of justice. It is almost as if he was born to advocate homespun criminal jurisprudence. "We should shed the shackles and work towards a system that could deliver speedy justice," he observes. That streak of relentless pursuit seems to settle well on Abeysuriya who is serving the third five-year term as a member of the Law Commission of Sri Lanka.

For someone who claims that "if at all, greatness was thrust upon me," he had no wish to become a lawyer during his formative years. He simply concentrated on doing whatever he did, methodically and well.

Educated at Royal College, Colombo, he next opted to do law. This was the year 1950 and an Arts stream student had limited choices. " The Law Faculty had been set up just four years ago, and after our first year, the Faculty shifted to Peradeniya. The batch only had10 students including one girl.

Tough going

"There was also Lakshman Kadirgamar with whom I shared a great friendship." The students harboured fears about the possibility of passing the examinations. Added to that was the uncertainity that surrounds a new field of study. Only four from the very first batch managed to obtain their law degrees which put fear into the young students' minds. Abeysuriya was determined to make it.

With a second-class degree, he next spent a year at Sri Lanka Law College and was enrolled as an advocate in 1955 at the age of 23. "There were so few of us, unlike today where people take oaths in their hundreds. It was possible for us to choose a date as well as a judge to take oaths before," he reminisces. Abeysuriya wasted no time and quickly settled in Galle where his parents lived. Galle courts were where it all began to happen.

The pull for some reason was towards matters criminal. His quick mind would often take a microscopic view of cases and soon his career had taken a swift turn that contrasted what his good friend Kadirgamar predicted during their university days.

" A quiet civil practice" was what Kadirgamar predicted for Abeysuriya whom he thought had the makings of a great civil lawyer. But the criminal courts soon became Abeysuriya's domain. " In fact I have never done any civil work. I did assigned work, the work of a junior lawyer assigned by the state," he says with a smile.

Public prosecutor in the making

His next move was to join the Attorney General's Department. The unwritten rule was that an advocate should have some experience before joining the state service and Abeysuriya was enormously popular in his role as a state prosecutor. In 1963, he obtained his LLM Degree in Public Law from the University of Stanford, California.

Life flowed smoothly, and Abeysuriya rose to the rank of director, public prosecutions in 1975,  some 18 years after joining the state service. He thought he was meant to play the role of public prosecutor and was committed to state service. But the change of government in 1977 brought in its wake a devastating blow that crippled his soaring career.

A "catastrophic change" he calls it, still wistful about being unjustly dealt with. A leading UNP politician against whom he initiated a prosecution vengefully caused him to be sent on compulsory leave for two months.

It altered his life and his career path. Not yet 46 years of age and at the peak of his career, he was next sent on compulsory leave for two years. "A charge sheet was served but there was no inquiry held against me. I was of firm faith that I had not done any wrong except perhaps to affect the vanity of a politician."

After two years of idleness and unwilling to give into forces of victimisation, he joined the unofficial bar and dealt with criminal appeals. 

Interestingly, an amendment was brought into the 1978 Constitution vesting the president with the powers to appoint eminent lawyers as President's Counsel which was earlier done by the Chief Justice in consultation with judges of the Supreme Court. Under the new scheme, the law required persons to submit a specific application to the president.

"I was much reluctant but my friends persuaded me saying that it would redeem me of the previous charges the same government brought against me if I am accorded the honour by the same  person who sent me on compulsory leave.  In 1988, I was appointed President's Counsel.  In a sense, it redeemed me and salvaged some of my dignity," Abeysuriya adds. One honour followed many others. Persuaded to compete for the presidency of the Bar Association which he comfortably secured in 1991, he also became  president of the SARRC Law that encompassed legal communities of SAARC countries. Next he was appointed a member of the Law Commission which he still serves and in 1998, he was awarded the highest civilian award - Deshamanya - by President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

Life took yet another turn in 2002 when he was appointed chairman, National Police Commission (NPC).  Being what he is, critical and desiring an evolutionary process reflecting the country's needs, he accepts that the NPC has its drawbacks and has recorded failures.  But the former public prosecutor delights in the thought that he himself being a victim of politicisation has managed to 'de-politicise the police service' beyond question.

The NPC brought in fresh duties and criticisms. His lucrative practice suffered due to the commitment he had to make and he chose not to undertake cases in which police officers would appear as witnesses. " I don't want any conflicts of interest. That's not how I was trained to serve justice," says this affable man.

Bore the brunt

The NPC decided to introduce the "Once And For All Promotions" scheme based on seniority to reduce the disenchantment of the police force.  They have stagnated for too long and desired career advancement. The scheme drew much flak and as chairman, NPC he bore the brunt. "We had no access to the personal records.  The IGP was requested to send us certificates of seniority and blemish certificates denoting pending cases, convictions, disciplinary matters etc., for the NPC to recommend promotions," he explains.  Abeysuriya was critiqued and his scheme condemned. In hindsight, he feels that there is a persistent 'system error' in the criminal justice system in Sri Lanka.  "It is a bad case actually,"  he laughs.

Though amazed at the galloping increase in crime, he attributes it largely to the lethargy of the system itself, which has taken away the fear of punishment from the minds of people. "Suspects have an outstanding opportunity to avoid conviction due to the prolongation of trials. There are non-summary inquiries which only serve lawyers than justice and archaic practices and procedures like dock statements and the failure to draw an adverse inference of a silent witness. We must overhaul these things to ensure speedy justice," he insists. And all these negative factors, he believes have cumulatively created a system that is heavily tilted in favour of the accused, delays justice and causes the system to lose its deterrent effect, he adds.

It is a subject closest to his heart, particularly as a former Director, public prosecutions. Any regrets?  Yes, those two years of idleness during which his integrity was questioned.  And the future for this 73-year-old legal luminary holds much hope.  Not specific plans but a desire to keep working and serving the cause of justice is what he wants to do.  That's after a long haul of a hefty 50 years at the bar. Justice, being destroyed will destroy; being preserved, will preserve; it must never therefore be violated.

-  Manu

Bogus film director caught in the act

By Ranee Mohamed 

When beautiful girls countrywide saw the advertisement in the popular film tabloid, they were elated. The advertisement called out to beautiful girls who, it promised, will become popular film stars with time.

So the girls of Colombo and the outstations, already dreamy eyed about being Sri Lanka's Madhuri Dixit or Charisma Kapoor, thronged  the   Sri Rahula Kalathanaya on Magazine Road, bordering the Borella Cycle Bazaar.

The popularity of the Indian films in Sri Lanka and the obsession that young  people have with acting and the film industry served to  draw more and more women to this venue in Borella. Even today, long after the advertisment had appeared and the the villain captured, girls walk down the lane asking for this venue, coming from far off places as Anuradhapura and Kandy.

Soon after the advertisment appeared and after visiting the closed up surroundings for several days, many of the girls had played a very silent role thereafter.

But one woman emerged the heroine when she visited the Police Women's and Children's Bureau in Fort and made a tearful complaint to the police. She said that she was "grossly abused sexually by the film director."

Director  Women's and Children's Bureau SSP Cecil Perera acting immediately on the complaint decided to catch the  'film director' in the act.

On September 29, two women  police constables responded to the advertisement. Showing eagerness, the duo turned up at the Sri Rahula Kalathanaya, dreamy eyed . One woman constable was the mother, the other her  eager young daughter. The mother seemed to encourage the daughter to become the next Malini Fonseka.

Role for Mama too

"There were two men who interviewed me. Thereafter I was asked to come on Saturday  October 8 at 1.30 p.m.We got late on this day and hence was given another date - Tuesday October 11. He told me to bring tight short clothes. He even offered to give a role in the film to my 'mother,' "      said the woman police constable.

On Tuesday, October 11 however, it was  not only the woman police constable and her her adopted 'mother' who went with her: but a whole team of police officers from the Women's and Children's Bureau.

Under the guidance of Director,  SSP Cecil Perera, SI Manoj Samarasekera, SI Premasiri, PC 3328 Bandara, PC 23147 Chandrasiri, PC 26882 Palitha, RWPS 3314 Gnana, RWPC 707 Herath, all went in search of an acting role. Infact their act was so good that if the advertiser was truly in the film directing business, they surely would have got good roles.

But the truth was that this advertiser was no actor, he was  a 33 year old man who had worked behind the scenes in the film industry - not so much in filming but in making tea, coffee, sandwiches and rotis for the film actors and actresses.

When the woman police officer and her 'mother' arrived, over anxious and and before time on Tuesday,  October 11, they had to wait for some time. The 'film director' had thereafter inspected the 'short and tight clothes' that the woman police constable brought and made a personal selection of  shorts that barely descended from the hip bone and a stringy strap short blouse.

"He asked me to wear these clothes while my 'mother' remained seated. Thereafter he beckoned me to the room," said the woman police constable. The 'film director' had thereafter removed his clothes and had pounced on her violently, removing her clothes in the process. In a bid to catch him in the act, the woman police officer waited till the sexual abuse began and then begun to scream.

With his pants down

Reacting immediately to her screams, RWPS 3314 Gnana  lifted her saree and abandoned her motherly role. Assuming one of  preserving the law of the country - RWPS Gnana who by then had alerted the entire police team, stormed into the room for a preview of the 'film director's' true character

It was then that they found the man barely with any clothes on and in a clumsy position too.

At the Women's and Children's Bureau, the suspect shocked beyond belief, sat in a corner. "He has abused several women and all of them remained silent. It was because of one woman that we were able to net him in," said SI Manoj Samarasekera. The suspect from Gokerella is now in custody.

"Consult the Women's and Children's Bureau" - SSP Cecil Perera

Director of the Police Women's and Children's Bureau SSP Cecil Perera said that it is the craze among young people to become popular and act in films and teledramas that have in many instances got them in trouble. "Consult us before you venture out on these things. The problem today is that they come here when 'everything is over.'  We are not lawyers, we do not charge a fee. But by merely consulting us women and children can be saved from impending danger," said SSP Perera.

The SSP noted that it is sad that many young people want to get into this 'popularity and publicity' trade. In the process they fall into traps and problems that will affect and change their lives forever.

SSP Cecil Perera said that the Women's and Children's Bureau is open for complaints. "Our telephone number is 2444444. It is the prime duty of the Women's and Children's Bureau to safeguard the interests of women and children," said the Director.

New President of the Burgher Association, Dunstan Kelaart says

Have some breudher and enjoy the kaffiringna...

By Ranee Mohamed

The new President of the Burgher Association, Dunstan Kelaart spoke glowingly about the Burgher community of Sri Lanka and said that there are approximately 36,000 Burghers in the country.

 "Burghers are not a demanding community. They have blended with other communities.  They are happy-go-lucky people.  I want to bring all of them under one common umbrella,"  he said.  Kelaart also went on to say that Burghers did not have  representation in parliament. "I want to make a request to seek some type of representation from the Burghers at some level of government,"  he said.

Kelaart said that it is his vision to make the association strong  and vibrant for all Burghers to live in dignity and honour and be useful citizens of Sri Lanka.

Dunstan Kelaart also said that it is his mission to promote the extraordinary talent of Burghers in education, sports, music, medicine, science, industry, commerce or any other skills that they may possess and lend a helping hand to all Burghers in need.

Big blow to Burghers

Dunstan Kelaart expressed sadness at the grief inflicted among all people by the recent tsunami.  He said that a section of the Burgher community too had suffered tragically due to the tsunami. "They are the Burghers living in Batticaloa, on the Dutch Bar. They have been living there for many long years and have led happy lives close to the sea. It was Boxing Day when the tsunami hit and they have been singing and dancing till the wee hours of the morning and was sleeping till late on that fateful day when the tsunami hit them," explained Kelaart. 

This Burgher community in Batticaloa have their own form of singing and dancing. Today however, the dance has been stilled, the singing stopped, for this commuinity who escaped the tsunami have been scattered all over Batticaloa.

"When we went there we found pieces of Christmas trees, toys and children's clothes among the debris. It was the most heartbreaking sight," said Kelaart wiping a tear for his brethren.

'These Burghers of Batticaloa have been offered alternative land but sadly this is right inside.  There is no bus route and these once-happy people would now have to trek long miles before reaching the main road,"  said Kelaart with concern.

"Furthermore they would no longer be able to live together as a community but would be scattered all over," pointed the new President Kelaart. "It is my ardent wish that this community be brought back  together so that they could restart their living as a community instead of living in isolation,"  he said.

Dunstan Kelaart said that anyone of Burgher origin could join the Burgher Association.  If one is married to a non-Burgher he or she could be an associate member, according to Kelaart.

Kelaart said the Burghers all over the country have made a sizeable contribution towards the country.  "We do not have anything to cry about and Burghers have been carefree, who have lived in peace down the years. We are a wining and dining, happy-go-lucky-people  and that is the way we wish to be,"  he pointed out.

Leading lights

Speaking of Burghers such as Colin Thome and Nigel Austin, Kelaart also spoke of J. B. Mueller who has contributed much to Sri Lankan society.  "Many of the 'top' Burghers are domiciled in Australia,  but the 36,000 here is a sizeable community to reckon with.  "But we have not got ourselves involved in politics. We have not been politically aggressive and never will be,"  said Kelaart.

Dunstan Kelaart, a wellknown auctioneer  made  his career by starting off on his own in 1973. Today he emerges as both a successful Burgher and a popular auctioneer conducting government auctions - of state banks and commercial banks  which calls for honesty, integrity and dedication.

Kelaart, leaving  his auctioneering work aside to work towards the welfare of his community, said that he is disappointed to note that during cultural festivals and also at Independence Day celebrations, Burghers are portrayed by a boy and a girl wearing a shirt, trouser and a frock with socks and shoes.  "They are not Burghers. Why can't they ask us for a boy and a girl from the Burgher community - it is not that we do not have Burgher children around," he stressed.

Kelaart also said that many of the beauty queens have been Burghers or of Burgher origin. "This has put the tiara on the Burghar community,"  said Kelaart.

Happening community

According to Kelaart it is the Burgher community that has been involved in many happenings on  stage during the past.  "The singing and the dancing and the kaffiringna dance emerged from the Portuguese and also the baila dance. Then we have the breudher, the yule log and the Christmas cake," said Kelaart.

 Lunch time was round the corner and Kelaart was quick to speak of the delicious lamprais of the Burgher community. "It is delicious," said President Kelaart, torn between delicious thoughts about the recipe of breudher and the secret recipe of good lamprais.

"Many people have copied the lamprais but only a few have succeeded," he said.

Kelaart was quick to point out that the raisin-studded breudher enjoyed by all is a speciality of the Burgher community.  "The breudher is best enjoyed with butter," advised Kelaart, amidst his multitude of  duties as new president of the Burgher Association.

Anything to look hot  or cool...

This week I am medium rare. Juicy and good enough to eat! The reason being I have got this new solar heater in my bathroom. Since I almost boiled myself the first time I used it, I now approach it with the utmost care. It's so hot, hot, hot!!

Now since I'm parboiled and wiser, I first stick a finger in.. Ow! Gone are the days of singing and humming a little tune in the shower, it's a big gasp and a very energetic sort of dance until I get myself used to this sauna like atmosphere. Phew!

     The Big Shot in the family gets all huffy and exasperated when I ask perfectly sane questions about this new gadget. Sometimes he yells and speaks very slowly as if to a mentally deficient person. All I know is, I am totally germ-free, since all microbes must have got killed by the scalding heat! Also, it must be so good for the skin, totally unclogging the pores.

Settle for rocker

All right, so my skin is fine, but my regular hairdresser emigrated without having the courtesy to inform me. This is the second hairdresser I have gone to, and I look quite frightful! I suddenly seem to have developed a plume like appendage that absolutely refuses to stay down.

 If I was going to a fancy dress party, I could go as a parakeet, a Roman soldier or I could dye my hair a violent colour and put one earring on and go as a punk rocker. What do you think? I think the rocker would be fun, I could put on black lipstick and outline my eyes with a very heavy line in black. Clothes would be leather and lots of brass studs. Wow !

Dressing outlandishly seems to be quite the thing these days, judging by what young people wear. One thing is, their clothes seem to be made of the minimum amount of fabric, so it must be quite cheap for those who run it up themselves. Skirts are so short and tight you wonder how they wriggle into them, I know the new stretch fabric is quite marvellous, but I feel quite nervous thinking if a zip burst or something, how embarrassing! The tops are becoming more like undergarments, a lot of bare skin showing, considering our weather I suppose quite suitable.

I went to a nightclub recently, and now I can understand my daughter saying indignantly, "My skirt is not short!" Unfortunately some rather massive girls too wear these very same outfits and look quite terrifying! Boys' hairstyles nowadays too are two extremes. Either they look like they just rose up from bed and have not combed their hair, or else they are totally hairless. The latter style too is most conducive to comfort in our kind of climate.

Expert seamstress

I still remember we too wore micro-mini-skirts, peek-a-boos,(strategically placed 'holes' on the garment) hot pants (a funky name for very short shorts) and halter tops. I remember my sister could run up a dress in a jiffy on the sewing machine at home.

A couple of times a week she would be slashing through some fabric with our sharpest pair of scissors, and in next to no time there would be a new dress for some outing of hers. Sometimes whilst she was showering I would be quickly hemming the dress! Once she went out in a half-sewn outfit, with the hems etc. only tacked on! She was very confident that it would not come off, but I was quite nervous for her. She had this friend whose mum did not think so many outifts were necessary for her daughter, who used to raid her mum's linen cupboard, and sheets and curtains would be used for her funky outfits.

My sister was her dress designer, and she would want lots of peek-a-boos, so depending on its size, saucers, dishes or glasses would be used to draw and cut out circles from various parts of the outfit. We used to have a lot of fun discussing how she would explain the missing linen! Her dhobi and servants were constantly in her mum's bad books!

Another thing my sis would do was back-comb my hair (my friends were also assaulted with her comb!) so that it stood six inches tall!  Anything to look cool !

Honky Tonk Woman

Fasting helps to realise the pangs of hunger

By Shezna Shums

Fasting for Muslims in Sri Lanka and around  the world began last week; for almost a month all Muslims capable of fasting would be abstaining from food and drink from sun rise till sun set.

Fasting is one of the pillars of Islam, the others being to testify that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammed (SAL) is his messenger; performing Hajj, Zakat and prayer.

A Hadith says 'Fasting is a shield. Let no one who is fasting commit any obscenity or foolishness. Should anyone engage him in a fight, let him answer him by saying: I am fasting, I am fasting.'

Other Hadiths say: 'Every action a human being does shall be multiplied - a good action by 10 times its value, up to 700 times and even more as Allah may wish. Allah says: With the exception of fasting, which belongs to Me, and I reward it accordingly.'

During the month of Ramadan persons who have reached the age of puberty, are sane and capable of fasting are recommended to fast. However children, someone who is not of sound mind and persons who are sick where fasting would make them weak, are not required to fast.

Those travelling and persons who have left the religion are also not required to fast.

For the beginning of the fast Muslims  look for the new moon. Fasting is only obligatory when the new moon of Ramadan is sighted.

 In respect to the person who sees it, for those who do not see it, it only becomes obligatory when the sighting is established by the testimony of an upright witness.

In order to validate one's fast, it is necessary that there be certain conditions met  and refraining from things that can break one's fast. It is also recommended to follow these measures when one intends to fast. 

The pre-dawn meal is recommended even if it  is water. It is also important to break the fast at sunset and not delay this, preferably by eating dates, but if the person has no dates then breaking the fast with water is best.

During the month of Ramadan it is important that all persons who are capable to be generous with charity, improve the relations with their relatives, recite the Qur'an and  spend more time in the mosque, and break the fast at the time of sunset.

Lying and using foul language is unlawful, specially during the month of Ramadan.  Muslims should avoid this as much as possible.

Donating blood is also not recommended as this may weaken the person.

If a person cannot fast on all days during the month of Ramadan then there are other recommended days during the year, where he or she could make up these missed fasts.

The six consecutive days immediately following Eid-ul-Fitr are days where a  person could fast and make up for the missed fast while throughout the year there are recommended days for a person to fast -  Mondays and Thursdays always being good days to fast.

It is however offensive to fast all days of the year and on both days of the Islamic festivals.

It is also during Ramadan that Muslims should seek spiritual retreat. 

Spiritual retreat is specially recommended in Ramadan particularly during the last 10 days of fasting.

Laylat al-Qadr in fact could be any night during Ramadan but most probably occurs within the last 10 days of fasting, and even more likely on an odd numbered fast.

This is "better than a thousand nights" (Qur'an 97:3), meaning that spiritual works therein are better than works of a thousand months lacking Laylat al-Qadr.

 On his hospitalbed at the Monash Medical Centre,  Jerome hopes for a donor from Sri Lanka

A kidney for a Sri Lankan

Jerome Katugampola dreams of the day he makes a visit  to his homeland Sri Lanka  - re-live the charming lifestyle he led in Kegalle and see for himself again the green grass of home.

But Jerome's dream is just that - a dream.  For today, this 61-year-old ex-Lion who was, until three years ago, an active member of Australian society, is confined to a bed at the Monash Medical Centre in Melbourne. On dialysis three times a week, Jerome is in urgent need of a kidney.

In Australia, the waiting list is long and time is running out for him, and now, on the advice of his doctors in Melbourne, (who have also said that the most compatible donor would be someone who shares his ethnicity), Jerome has turned to his homeland with the hope in his heart that some benevolent soul from Sri Lanka would help him regain his life.  Jerome's friends contacted The Sunday Leader, requesting our assistance in finding such a donor.

If  there is such a person, so kind and giving as to donate one of his/her kidneys, the Katugampolas say they would fly him/her to Melbourne and back, ensure a comfortable stay in Melbourne and even offer a modest reward.  The only criteria the donor needs to meet is that he/she is of the O positive blood group.

At present Jerome's wife Veronica is by his bedside day and night caring for him. Unfortunately, due to her own medical complications, Veronica cannot donate a kidney to her husband. "I would have done that without any thought," she says.  The couple do not have children.

Despite his illness, Jerome is ever-smiling and positive. He is still the strong willed, bubbly and witty man he has always been.  With a big smile always on his face, Jerome still enjoys sharing a joke or discussing politics and going down memory lane, relating stories from his youth in Sri Lanka.

"I will be truly happy, he says, the day I could go back and see the country of my birth  and all those people I grew up with."

For that dream to come true, Jerome desperately needs more than just a helping hand, he needs a kidney.  And the nobility of the human spirit.

 Could that person be you?

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