2nd April, 2006  Volume 12, Issue 38

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                                    


What is the law for teachers who terrorist children?

This is in response to the letter of Anton Fernando of Colombo 7on the same subject on February 5.

Fernando who appears to be the paladin of school masters and school mistresses, who by their uncontrolled tempers generated for no reason, except their inherent cruelty, clearly making them unfit and unsuitable to be entrusted with the care of dumb animals, ventures the view that it is a matter of public interest that the law, the Amendment to the Penal Code Act no 22 of 1995 is draconian in that a trial judge is not given the discretion to apply the law to stay his hand against the passing of a jail term and in lieu there of that apparently justice would be done by a fine, payment of compensation, a binding over or a suspended jail sentence.

Those interested , inclusive of parents should note that an attempt has been made to draw a red herring across the trail of an urgent and highly significant problem of national importance dealing with the country’s children who in the fullness of time will be adults.

Perhaps Anton Fernando has not moved much in the provinces and the countryside where one comes across schools in which inter alia headmasters and principals regard themselves as petty rajans and wield sticks or blunt weapons and very rarely the cane, not to reform or to correct those children alleged to be offenders but to certify their ultra sadistic tendencies apart from instilling terror among the victims and those unfortunate other children, thereby creating phobias and shutting them off permanently from healthy efforts to improve themselves to qualify to be good, useful citizens.

The present crime wave in the country, it may be noted, and I am certain that psychologists and youth workers with psychiatric training will bear me out, is principally the result of unjust, unfair and uncalled for punishment meted out by teachers when these criminal elements happened to be school children within the last 25 years.

Two weeks ago, a Sinhala paper spotlighted the sad story of a 13 -year old girl, who was hit black and blue all over the upper part of her body, her head pushed against the wall several times and confined to a dark room till late in the evening. The principal had been acting on the complaint of a female teacher about the loss of some money even in the face of a denial and corroboration of her position by almost all her classmates. Only one incident out of more than 10 gets reported in papers although such happenings are more frequent than can be. The sad fact is that very young children hailing from poor and helpless families are the usual victims of such teacher’s wrath. The particular child referred to is in hospital crying out during sleep and undergoing deep trauma .

On the facts it looks certain that this "principal" stands every chance of being found guilty. Can any of the remedies - fine, binding over, compensation or a suspended sentence atone for the injury caused to a growing child, a bud ripped prematurely with no future and in all probability a burden to herself, her parents, society at large and even the public purse?

In any event, Anton Fernando has every right to express his views and ipsofacto this writer. Therefore both parties should agree to disagree.

The legislature was aware of the situation prior to the enactment of the amendment. It is a pity that for very sinister reasons, it is virtually becoming a dead letter. It was found imperative that a mandatory sentence was necessary. As Anton Fernando says that the judge should have the discretion but anyone who understands the implications of the practical application of the law should know that the intended result has every chance of being ineffective, thereby defeating the intentions of the legislature.

The relevant law is self-contained. All that is being said of the law relating to young persons and children and persons under 12 years of age is irrelevant and extraneous to the law under review and do not even serve as guidelines .

Finally, Anton Fernando wishes the Bar Association to take up the matter. At present the Bar Association has more than enough things to do.

L.L.N. de Zoysa
Colombo 1

Why is the Palmyrah Board keepign quiet? 

Palmyrah Development Board is a government institution. Its aim is to develop the palmyrah industry. While the government promotes the palmyrah economy, employees of the same government are felling down palmyrah and coconut trees to be used to strengthen their security points. In Mandativu they cut grown up trees (planted on fences) for the same purpose.

During the civil war Sri Lankan military’s shell bombs razed away palmyrah and coconut trees. Anyone coming along Kandy Road to Jaffna, can see these topless trees. In Chavakachcheri, almost all these trees met with the same fate.

In the north thousands of trees, including palmyrah and coconut are cut down — to whom shall we tell about this sad state? After all, the Palmyrah Board is keeping quiet.

Vadamarachchi fishermen are denied or restricted in their jobs. Knowing this South Indian fishermen make use of the opportunity. They come up to our shores and go back with the trawlers full of fish.

Just a week back when our fishermen came to the shore with some fish (some because fishing time is limited by the forces) suddenly a navy boat appeared and transferred all the fish into their vessel and dashed away.

A certain bank in the north had sent notices to fishermen, asking them to pay back the loans that they obtained 16 years back. This reminds me of a proverb: "The carter fell down from the cart and the bull trampled him."

In Ponnalai, navy personnel were expanding their defence line. As a result, cattle who went out grazing in the morning were unable to come back home in the evening, as their usual footpath was blocked with a barbed wire fence.

These are but a few examples of how the guardians of the law treat Tamils and their economy.


End of the road for Unit trusts 

Many of us will remember how the unit   trust industry came into being in Sri Lanka. In the late ‘80 s and early ‘90 s investor interest was booming with a large number of first timers investing in shares enthusiastically subscribing to the attractive range of IPOs that came up. Nearly all issues were oversubscribed and a true share owning democracy was being created.

However, the vast majority did not have the capacity nor the deep pockets needed to have a full spread of shares to even-out the risks involved and could afford only a few shares in each company. In order to address their needs, Unit Trusts were popularised, enabling small timers to buy units which gave them a good spread of risks, stable income and healthy capital appreciation.

The subsequent political changes had their impact, with the values of units at times even going below issued value. But, by and large, the value was maintained with truly independent investment decisions being taken purely with strategic consideration for the unit holders. Their activities were overseen by reputed organisations which acted as trustees and that went a long way in reassuring investors, many of whom had bitter experiences with failed finance companies, banks and informal investment schemes.

But without any warning or notice to unit holders, fundamental changes are taking place in the main Unit Trust, Namal. The group of companies now controlling the liquor, insurance,and travel sectors is now trying to take over Namel.

It will mean that everything down to the basic business model will be altered in favour of the new owners, making it impossible for the professional fund managers to act independently in the interests of unit holders alone. That concept will be replaced by an unseen but firm hand guiding decisions which are more bent on propping up selected shares.

If there is at least an iota of truth in this it is a very serious issue which has to be looked at by the trustee – HSBC and by SEC, based on whose reputation and assurances given in the prospectus (which I still preserve) that we invested in the first place. By ignoring these attempts to take over, the trustee and the SEC will only create a situation where the only remaining avenue of equity investment available to the small timer will be closed with a Pramuka style future awaiting unit holders.

Jayalath Ranwala

 Focus on Geneva

Will peace process end up in pieces? 

Sri Lankan’s must work genuinely and harder to re-assure the people of Jaffna of our friendly and neighbourly regard for them—that we harbour no predatory designs on them.

As a matter of fact, Jaffna has already received such an overdose of it that these people have become immune to it.

Anyway, this dialogue between the two parties could take place only when there is a fundamental change in the attitude of Jaffna people Otherwise any initiative taken by us will bear no fruit.

This peace process may end up in pieces.



Claude Fernando

I was saddened by the news of the untimely demise of my pal Claude Fernando. He was a my childhood friend since our Sunday school days at St. Peter’s and again as students at St. Peter’s Day School, both in our native Koralawella. Though we attended Moratuwa’s rival schools, Claude at Prince of Wales and I at St. Sebastian’s, our friendship remained intact though we were neither schoolmates nor classmates.

We were also in the Youth Fellowship movement as adults where Claude took a more leading and active role. In Moratuwa, the Claude-Sheridan duo was registered as a unique combination and with Roy the trio stood out as the famous Jim Reeves and Hank Locklin fans among the Moratuwites.

Music was the common factor of this trio and they organised picnics, boat trips to the Bolgoda Lake and Panadura River and these were joined by other music lovers of our age. I can still recall organising pilgrimages and serenades at Xmas time, bathing at Bolgoda, not to mention the sea bathing we loved.

On completing our school career, Claude joined the private sector and I joined the state sector for jobs and still we were inseparable. The Debate Forum on Sunday kept us amused and yet engaged in heated arguments on various subjects. Politics and religion were in the main at the Sunday Forum, while cricket and other assorted subjects too were discussed. Often the atmosphere was hot but friendly.

When he took the plunge, I was Claude’s bestman and we remained family friends. Often we donned the identical attire, being dress conscious from our young days. We even had the same brand of sports cycles and other things in common. This went on till we nearly came to love the same girl.Ultimately, it was the sea that separated us when I decided to go Down Under to the land of the Southern Cross. But we were close via the mail.

I had the good luck of meeting Claude again recently after a long stint overseas. We did a pilgrimage to the Anglican Church at Hambantota where we recalled the good old school days, the church days and thereafter.

Claude was unassuming and could befriend an outsider in minutes. He had an aptitude for journalism and said and dreamt often of being a gentleman of the Fourth Estate, God willing. He used to contribute articles and letters to the press. Last year on my last visit to my home country, I had the pleasure of telephoning him to wish him a happy birthday. He planned to visit me on my next sojourn home, but alas it was not to be as his sudden demise came unannounced.

I reckon that Claude had a premonition about his death. I learnt that he had detailed funeral arrangements and even penned his orbituary. How wonderful if all of us can expect death with such peace of mind? Christians need not fear to die for it is the gateway to eternal life. If we believe that Christ lives in our day-to-day life, death is only a case of our living with Him, as famous American author cum preacher, Bishop Fulton Sheen once said when about to face surgery, and was asked whether he feared death.

Claude is no more, but he would continue to live in the memory of the parish circles of St. Peter’s, Koralawella and elsewhere. He leaves his dear wife Leonie, daughters Lakshini, my god daughter and Aroshini, attorney at law who is my legal officer. He was fond of his son-in-law Mahen and grand daughter Janelle and grandson Janeshka.

Our friendship has been exciting, adventurous and memorable. I will not forget Claude, Adios Amigos, my friend. Bye bye Claude and may you rest in peace that rest which according to St. Augustine is never ours, till we rest in him.

Sheridan Fernando
Sydney, Australia.

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