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Innocent soul unduly tarnished

I am the best friend of Sandhya Kumari Jayawardene, the mother of Anuththara Kavindi Jayawardene, the 14-year-old girl who is said to have hung herself with her school tie on July, 22, 2009. Kavindi’s mother and I have been best friends since August 2000 and Kavindi was a dear friend of my daughter, who was two years younger to her. I have known Kavindi quite closely since she was in Montessori with my daughter.

Her father is a professional/graduate accountant and her mother too was in the accountancy field before she gave up her job upon marriage. Her mother is from Kegalle, an innocent, down-to-earth, virtuous woman who is a devout Buddhist. Kavindi was an only child, extraordinarily beautiful and was very shy. She was a studious girl whose report cards received from school always described her as a “Siyalu dena samaga sahayogayen kriya karana, vineetha, keekaru, sisuwiyeki”. Anyone can take a look at her school books and report cards and see if she seemed a disturbed or disobedient girl.

Kavindi’s mother is the kind of woman who even went to the extent of having a Bodhi Poojawa for my daughter who is a non-Buddhist, when she was sitting for her Fifth Grade Scholarship exam, thinking of someone else’s child as her own.
It is so saddening to hear that Kavindi’s name has been tarnished by the school making her look like a girl who was into porn, boyfriends and similar stuff whereas in actual sense she was a girl who did not even collect pictures of movie stars, cricketers or any such thing that a teenager of today would do but was always getting good grades at school and excelling in studies.
In fact, Kavindi was the pillar of strength to her mother during their family ordeal of Kavindi’s father going through a kidney transplant about two years ago. Athula, her father was not the “strict” father as depicted in the media. He, in fact, would return home and keep Kavindi on his lap and ask her what happened at school or joke with her about things on TV. Even after Kavindi attained age and showed all signs of a beautiful young lady, Athula petted her like a little girl.

She was very close to her mother and till her death Kavindi’s world and after school activities involved playing with her little cousins next door and helping her mother with housework. She even knew how to cook, something only a handful of 14-year-olds today would know.

She encouraged her mother to do home-gardening and have plenty of vegetables grown in their 15 perch house and land, and loved seeing the produce being consumed. She was never into Face Book, computer games, hip electronic gadgets or any such thing. I was always in and out of their house as Sandhya was one of the few persons (apart from my own mother) that I would trust to leave my daughter with whenever I had to leave my daughter with someone.

During the past eight years, my daughter spent most of her holidays at their home where I would drop her off in the mornings and pick her up in the evenings and stay on for at least one to two hours chatting with my best friend. Whenever I called my daughter in between, Kavindi would talk to me too, and relate what they had been playing during the day and would tell of their plans for evening play and I would often find Sandhya feeding both my daughter and hers, if I happened to call during lunch time. Kavindi played hide and seek, dolls, imaginary house, Lego and similar games with her mother, my daughter and her little cousins from next door and was innocent and unspoiled and a far cry from what is being told about her now.

It is sad to learn from her classmates that a Prefect from her school actually dragged her by her tie upon confronting her for having a mobile phone in her school bag (which did not even belong to her) and took her to the Section Head’s office and also made her kneel in public and humiliated her by showing her to others. This fact has now been denied by school authorities for obvious reasons but for a child, who had never been reprimanded in her entire life for indiscipline, just could not bear such humiliation, harassment and public embarrassment.

The school authorities should also appoint counsellors in schools who are qualified enough to handle these kind of situations instead of having teachers and mere schoolgirls (Prefect bullies) handling situations involving human emotions.
Even when her body was discovered hanging in the toilet, the teachers or authorities of the school had not even loosened her tie around the neck or given appropriate first aid to revive her.

The only thing this school can do now is to tarnish her good name and make her look like a “bad girl” who committed suicide, thereby deviating the attention of the public to the fact that the girl was suspected, embarrassed in public, emotionally abused and mishandled by prefects and teachers who were not capable of understanding emotions of a 14-year-old and never thought of repercussions of misjudgment, harshness, cruelty and public humiliation. She had, in fact, begged that it is okay to tell about the incident to her mother but never to tell her father because he was a kidney patient whom Kavindi always feared would die if he faced sadness.

Kavindi was the type of girl who was so shy that she would even nudge me and her mother in embarrassment if we ever spoke out in public in protest for small injustices such as being over-charged at stores or such similar small incidents and tell “aney randu karanna epa ammey, nikam innako ammey, etc…” and blush in embarrassment. She was the type of girl who encouraged and loved the fact that her mother was among the very few mothers at her school who only wore a simple ‘osariya’ whenever she had to visit Kavindi’s school. She never even allowed her mother’s saree blouses to have a deep-cut neckline and would protest against any body part of her mother being shown in public. It is this Kavidu of virtuous character who today is being portrayed as the girl who would watch porn or pose nude for her boyfriend and allowed to be photographed or filmed.

Since the Police found out that Kavindi was not the owner of the mobile in question, there were no porn in the mobile, there were no nude photos or SMS directed to Kavindi, then why isn’t the school issuing a statement about the true owners of the mobile phone or the actual contents of the mobile?

Why isn’t the school ascertaining the fact that the mobile did not belong to Kavindi but to the other three students of the same school/class who had pooled and bought the mobile then slipped it into innocent and shy Kavindi’s school bag when the Prefects came along, checking for mobiles in their classroom?

Why isn’t the school talking about the two girls who subsequent to Kavindi’s hanging body being found tried to commit suicide, one by stabbing herself with a bottle and the other by consuming some toilet detergent, when they realised what they had done to their classmate Kavindi and their guilty consciousness took the better of them?
Today, a majority of Sri Lankans know Kavindi as the “girl who watched porn on her mobile and committed suicide in shame”, or “the girl who had her nude pictures in her mobile”, or “the girl who was mentally ill or depressed”, or “the girl whose parents were too strict” and such ghastly impressions.

At present, my best friend is a woman who hears her only child’s voice echoing around the house, sees her face everywhere, a broken woman with no hope for the future and a woman who wishes she died with Kavindi. She is a well-read but simple housewife whose world was woven around her only child. She is still that devout Buddhist who forgives the media for tarnishing her precious daughter’s name, forgives the people who did not provide timely first aid to her daughter when they found her hanging, forgives the prefects who manhandled her daughter, forgives the three girls who slipped the phone in Kavindi’s school bag and pushed her to death in shame, but the fact remains, Sandhya’s soul died along with her only child.
My only appeal to you is, despite misleading information by the media and complete silence maintained by the relevant school, to think logically about Kavindi’s name unduly tarnished along with her parents’ reputation.


Recollections of 1971: A response

I read with certain interest the two articles written by Edward Goonawardene, formally in the Sri Lanka Police regarding some of his personal experiences in the 1971 insurgency.
After reading the two articles that were published in The Nation of August 2, 2009 and August 9, 2009 I felt some of the events recorded by Goonawardane are not factual, or accurate especially with regard to the happenings in the Pothuhera police division.
The Pothuhera police station was attacked by the insurgents on April 5, 1971 at 1 p.m. The number of officers present at the time of attack was below 20. The group of insurgents who were involved in the attack comprised of 30 members.

The leader of the group threw an instant bomb to the station and ran towards the Wadakada direction and he came back to the jungle camp on April 9. The group had about five shot guns. After the throwing of the first bomb, gunshots were exchanged and a police constable died on the spot. The constable who died was Kierthisinghe. He had gone to the Pothuhera police station from the Kurunegala police station with a message - his photo is exhibited in the Kurunegala police station in his honour.
An insurgent by the name of Leelananda also died on the spot. He was an employee of the Anti-Malaria Campaign. By about 12 midnight two police jeeps arrived from Kurunegala. The men in the jeeps started firing from the railway crossing. The insurgents were unable to enter the police station and take any weapons.

The police team who arrived from Kurunegala fired in all directions. Three of the insurgents, Alahakoon, Abeykoon and Ranjith Silva got caught in the crossfire but Alahakoon was able to hide himself. Abeykoon and Ranjith Silva were taken into custody in the morning and they were killed.
The group that attacked the police station then retreated to the jungle camp at Managala - Pattharagala, 5 kilometres from Pothuhera town.

By April 7, over 250 insurgents were there at the Managala-Pattharagala jungle camp and they were directed to collect shot guns in the surrounding villages.
On the ninth night a group was sent to attack a police patrolling team at Dambokka, 2 kilometres from Pothuhera.
On April 10, another group was sent to see the situation at Pothuhera police station and it was noticed that the station was abandoned.

Just after the New Year combined forces of army and police gradually attempted to approach the jungle base and the morale of the insurgents were fading away. They were facing severe shortage of food and many were leaving the camp though the leaders remained.
As the army and police were advancing, the group joined with the group at Rambukkana at the Parape hill, but they also had the problem of food shortage and therefore, returned to the Managala-Pattharagala jungle camp again by April 22.
On April 25 army, police and air force encircled the jungle base, but fortunately a heavy rain poured from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and their attempt to capture the insurgents failed. There were 25 insurgents on that day.

In April 25 night the group retreated to Polgahawela. Polgahawela group had made their camp on the Yogamuwa hill. Insurgents of Pothuhera also went to the Yogamuwa hill on the 27th early morning. By that time the Alawwa group had arrived there. The three teams comprising, Polghawela, Pothuhera and Alawwa gathered at the Yogamuwa hill, stayed a week there and wanted to retreat to Wilpattu.

On May 5, 1971 at 5 a.m. at the dawn, a combined forces of army, air force, and police encircled the Yogamuwu hill and advanced to the hilltop where the insurgents were and they went to hideouts. The helicopters were flying over the hill and by about 3 p.m. till combined forces reached the hilltop.

An insurgent from Alawwa who was named “Sudu Mahattya” successfully attacked one of the airmen and he instantly died and Sudu Mahattayu was also killed by another air force person. (This was not a simple incident. This was a big operation by the security forces). On the hills of Yogamuwa, security forces captured nine insurgents belonging to all three police division areas mentioned above.

They all were taken to Kurunegala, beaten ruthlessly and killed. Edward Goonawardana’s view is that they were sent to rehabilitation camps. Of the dead, three were from Potuhera, namely, Arunolis, Somaweera and Rathnapala.
After the May 5 attack, the group again retreated to Rambukkana and joined with small groups of insurgents remained at the Parape hill, and decided to retreat to Wilpattu, via Mawathagama, Rambadagalla, Madahapola, Maho.
On their journey some of them were killed by the forces. Some left the group and most of them were taken into custody.
To attack Kurunegala police station, apart from the insurgents from Kurunegala area some groups from Wariyapola, Gokarella, Mawathagama and Pothuhera came on the night of April 5.

But for lack of coordination they were unable to attack the police station. However, some bombs were thrown at the police station and they dispersed themselves. However, Kurunegala police was able to kill the leader of the group “Thadi Wicky.”
According to Edward Goonawardana, he had arrived in Kurunegala on April 10 or 11, 1971.

Though he reveals a bomb explosion on his arrival at Kurunegala, no insurgent came on the 10th or 11th to attack Kurunegala police station. The explosion that had taken place near the police station could have been an explosion of left out bombs which were brought to attack the station on April 5.



Cricket selections and infrastructure development

In the past two and a half decades or so the gentleman’s game of cricket in Sri Lanka has became highly professionalised and simultaneously the attitude of players along with the ethics of the game have changed drastically. All established cricketers adopt similar views and attitudes and it is money before the country for the most and not country before self. The Sri Lankan players who have got themselves established in the team never like new talented blood infused and they be given a chance. They are adamant to play forcibly at any cost even if they had miserably failed for a long period of time.

The established players do not like to hang up their boots depriving the opportunity for budding youngsters. In all other Test playing nations when those who fail to deliver not withstanding the fact whether they are seniors or not are chopped and youngsters are groomed to replace the seniors and more often than not they have come up trumps by performing admirably.
This concept has worked well for India in particular who has a genuine cricketing administrative body with a vision. The world’s leading run scorer in Tests and ODI’s Sachin Tendulkar along with stalwarts like Ganguly, Dravid, Luxman were axed from the first T/20 World Cup team and a young talented and inexperienced team was selected and it paid them off and under MS Dhoni’s leadership who went on to win the World Cup. This is similar to the selection process of other Test playing nations as well. Only in Sri Lanka the teams selected for Tests, ODIs and the T/20’s are more or less the same. The most unfortunate is Indika de Saram who had to sit on the bench during the entire recent 2nd T/20 World Cup and not considered for the solitary T/20 match against Pakistan.

Our senior players have so far succeeded in their endeavours as the Sri Lanka Cricket Authorities for a long period of time were unable to have a permanent, knowledgeable and strict cricketing administrative body with a vision which has been riddled with politics and corruption. Some ageing cricketers are so greedy to remain in the team to make money and they even predict their retirement time which may be even after 40 years. The selection panel could only decide whether they deserve to be in the side, that too only if they are performing.

Due to lack of a proper administrative body, development of our infrastructure is more or less at a standstill. Our entry to Test status was denied earlier by the ICC who constantly insisted that to be given Test status there should be a drastic improvement in our infrastructure development. Although we were made full members of the ICC giving Test status in 1981 there has not been any drastic improvement in our cricketing infrastructure although the SLC is swimming in dollars. It is apparent that money has not been budgeted to develop our infrastructure.

We lack grounds to host International matches. We have only the R. Premadasa Stadium to play matches under floodlights. The Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium built at a massive cost to host matches under floodlights was used to play three consecutive day matches against Pakistan as the lighting at night is not conducive to play day/night matches. Ours is the only country having full ICC status where we do not have alternate grounds up to International standards. In fact, for a country which won the coveted World Cup in 1996, has only a handful of grounds to host International matches. All other Test playing nations have enough and more grounds up to International standards. Recently in the West Indies on an Island called Dominica a new International venue was christened where Bangladesh and the WI played an ODI. This is their 14th International cricket venue in the West Indies. In England despite having so many International venues, a new International venue was christened recently in Cardiff which hosted the first Ashes Test where on all five days where 15,000 full capacity fans witnessed. This is all because their cricketing administration is firm and active, devoid of partisan politics and corruption.

The only other grounds we can hardly boast of are the newly built Galle International Stadium and the SSC. But in the former venue too, like at the SSC and RPS, lacks basic facilities for the non-affluent spectators like pipe borne water, proper toilets, IDD/local telephone booths and shelter. If refreshments are provided at cost prices and the cost of tickets slashed, the dwindling spectator interest could be increased.

At last the giant screens have now been erected conforming to International standards. Now we need electronic score boards which are available in most International venues in most Test playing nations. The Sri Lanka Telecom together with Mobitel now sponsoring Sri Lankan Cricket has donated sums of unbelievable magnitude. These funds should be monitored and used mostly for the development of our cricketing infrastructure. We are yet to hear and see whether any plans have been drawn for this cause. Unlike in other countries, no ground authority in Sri Lanka can even say approximately the number of attendance.

In Australia and England, the commentators say the exact number of spectators at the venue using simple counting devices. In Sri Lanka, many enter the venues through illegal means. Many passes are issued to several unauthorised persons. Several enter with families showing Forces ID’s. Hence those with valid tickets bought at exorbitant sums are even deprived of a seat reserved for them. What was shown in black and white in the electronic media at the last T/20match at the RPS is ample evidence. The many complimentary tickets printed are just wasted. Most of the tickets are not utilised by the affluent.

Sri Lanka may have become the laughing stock of cricketing authorities of developed nations as the five ODI’s and the solitary T/20 matches against Pakistan were played only at just two venues as we drastically lack equipped grounds conforming to International standards. It is a shame for our country and the SLC.

Sunil Thenabadu
Mount Lavinia


Unnecessary stress on Grade 5 students

Most Year 5 students can be seen attending private tuition classes in addition to the extra classes held in school. I think the parents of these students are very keen to ensure that their children get through the scholarship examination, in order to admit them to leading, prestigious schools. The parents are also aware that the students will, in addition, qualify for a bursary from the State, if they are successful.

I strongly feel that the above exam should be scrapped because it puts unnecessary pressure on these students, at a time when they as small children should have ample time to play and take part in other extra-curricular activities. Long time ago, when I spoke to Dr Tara de Mel, when she was the Secretary to the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, at a seminar held at the British Council, she was also of the same opinion – that this exam puts unwarranted stress on these students and she was in favour of it being scrapped. But I see that this exam is still being held.
I also see new weekly publications for the above exam coming out very often and teachers recommend that these Year 5 students purchase them. So, it has also in my opinion, become a big business.

It was also pointed out at a recent seminar on “Free schooling” by former Central Bank Assistant Governor, Dr Anila Dias Bandaranaike that students who pass the Year 5 scholarship with flying colours, enrolls him/herself in a city school and eventually when it comes to the A/L examination, these children do not get university admission whereas their colleagues who failed the Year 5 scholarship examination do get admitted because of the district quota system.

The other day, I saw not only van loads of children but quite a number of boys and girls coming in trishaws accompanied by their parents, arriving at a certain school in Kotahena to attend a seminar being held for these Year 5 students. The seminar was inaugurated with the lighting of the traditional oil lamp and religious heads of all denominations blessing the children who are going to sit for this examination. The teacher was also promoting the sale of his books saying that a few questions from it were likely to come in their examination paper. He also had some spiral bound books which were study aids costing around Rs.700/- or so. So much business in the name of a scholarship examination!

I hope the educational authorities will take immediate steps to stop this exam and let the students be free of this highly competitive examination to enjoy their life without undue pressure. For me, it looks as if these children are preparing for their MBAs!

Mohamed Zahran
Colombo 3






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