The Sunday TimesPlus

26th January 1997



Child porn: insult to children everywhere

By Maureen Seneviratne

"Most of the child pornography available in the world - on video tape, in audio and in books, pictures, photographs, illustrations, is produced in Sri Lanka." This was the considered opinion of experts and statisticians in this field, revealed at workshops held in Stockholm at The World Congress on the Commercially Exploited Child and quoted by our own Commissioner for Probation and Child Care, S. Ranugge at a meeting held recently.

"It is an insult to all children in the world," cried Jean-Marc Schwenter, the General Prosecutor at the trial of "Walter" in Lausanne, Switzerland, concluded a few weeks ago with a two-year detention sentence which the prosecutor stated he wished, could have been four - except that the crimes were committed by "Walter" in Sri Lanka in 1991/1992 when the laws in Lanka gave only a two-year (usually suspended) sentence to a convicted paedophile (child abuser).

"It is an insult to all children in the world," cried Jean Marc Schwenter - at the conclusion of a video- film shown in open court, a video tape taken from the flat of "Walter" in his home town, Lausanne, one of dozens of pornographic video's shot by this man, well known school teacher during his sex holidays in the sea, sun, sand of Sri Lanka.

What really roused the ire of the court was not simply the disgusting scenes of a naked boy, showering, masturbating, performing all manner of grotesque sex acts with his adult partner, the "Walter" who was directing the film and giving "orders" to his "boy-child slave" barely thirteen years of age.

It was the concluding scene in the final frame: "Walter" ordering his "victim with the apathetic face" to turn over on his stomach on the bed and then "Walter" places a one-hundred Sri Lanka rupee note between the child's buttocks. One hundred rupees: the equivalent of 2.50 French Francs.

In the hall (of the courthouse) the reporter Jean-A-luque writes in his article "Tribunal Correctional" in his paper "24 hours," there is silence. On the bench of the accused Walter shook his shoulders. Did he observe the apathetic face of his victim? Did he only pay attention to the amorphous look of his slave?"

"Walter" had been a much respected school teacher in his home town for 28 years. But suddenly in his mid-fifties, in 1991, he "cracked". He had closely bottled up his sexual appetite for young boy- children all those years but his resolve broke in a holiday spent in Sri Lanka on the beach that year.

He took the child in as a "domestic" in the house he rented. "The child came to the house as a houseboy but soon his list of activities enlarged."

"Walter's" odyssey in search of boy-children to abuse led him to Sri Lanka, to France, to Haiti. But he met his "Waterloo" when he attempted to abuse one of his pupils in Lausanne. The young child found the courage to report him to the authorities.

"Walter" was arrested in August 1996 and his flat searched. The shocking evidence was all there: of abuse, indecency, indignity, the crimes committed upon innocent and helpless victims. "The children of the Third World do not consent to these practices", said one of the witnesses, a renowned psychiatrist in this field, one Dr. Benard Salem, "they do not have the choice: it is their sole means of survival where they are exploited by well organised networks."

"Cultural differences do not exist in this field which would make these children suffer less than those here (in Switzerland); they too are traumatized, lose all notion of personal dignity up to becoming indifferent to their own lives, while becoming in their turn predators," said Dr. Salem, "Simple" kissing and fondling causes no less disgust than, for example, penetration.

What was also found and produced in that court in Lausanne were the "intimate diaries" of "Walter".

These revealed a man obsessed with child sex who had let go of himself and craved for and obtained sexual satisfaction not only through sexual acts with boy children but from pornographic video-tapes directed and produced by him, where he was the all-powerful "master" victimizing the object: the boy he had obtained.

The Lausanne Prosecutor deplored the "weak and inadequate laws" that existed in Sri Lanka at the time "Walter" had visited to abuse Lanka's boy children and the same situation obtained in Haiti where he had also gone to abuse boys while on holiday.

He commented on "the sad, switched off look" of those children without trousers, from whom obscene gestures were demanded, "and he called" for a better international protection of childhood.

He wished, in order that such affairs are not merely discovered by accident, that governments get in place a network of informers who could denounce the abusers across frontiers.

And finally in that Lausanne courthouse his voice rang out in righteous anger, "It is an insult to all children of the world," "We saw in the video tape produced by the abuser how the note (Rs. 100/=) slips between the buttocks. It is there where the real pornography lies."

Wake up to reality, S.L

Tigers, moderates, and Pandora's package by S.L. Gunasekera. Reviewed by S. De Silva

You begin, Mr.Gunasekara, with the assumption that there is one nation on this island (the Sri Lankan nation). Tamils make up only 12% of this so-called Sri Lankan nation, so for the LTTE to demand a third of the island and two-thirds of its coastline is by any stretch of the imagination unjust.

True, but only if your central assumption - of ONE NATION - is well-founded.

How did you arrive at this ONE NATION? By painful investigation? Not at all. You take it for granted. Then this ONE NATION assumption swims right through your book, untested and unconfirmed .

You call on us to join together and wipe out the LTTE - the perpetrators of the heinous crime of trying to destroy your noble ideal of Sri Lankan nationhood, that beautiful ideal that Tamils have systematically undermined by thinking of themselves as Tamils first instead of as Sri Lankans.

Permit me to do what you fail to do in your book: test your ONE NATION theory. Rest assured, I know full well how important that theory is to your case. You must cling to it for your dear life because without it you cannot claim that an injustice is being done to you. Indeed, your sense of INJUSTICE depends entirely on your Sri Lankan nation being a reality. If there are TWO NATIONS, your case would collapse, for why should not two nations live separately in peaceful co-existence? Oh no, you must try hard to convince yourself that there is no Tamil nation inhabiting this island. You must even avoid talking openly about any Sinhala nation, for that would undermine your case. You must convince us there is ONE NATION ONLY - the Sri Lankan nation.

So you have perfected a clever side-step. You refer to COMMUNITIES instead: the Sinhalese "community" and the Tamil "community", which together form the all-encompassing, beautiful Sri Lankan nation .

And there (behold) you have stumbled upon something noble: your glorious vision of a UNITED SRI LANKA, the whole island its MOTHERLAND for which lives must be laid down .

Sinhalese children must be taught early on to see the unspeakable injustice of the LTTE's evil separatist intentions. Our children must be enthused with the spirit of patriotism, ready to travel northward, a place they little understand, and they must stand there with guns, extra-vigilant, defending the SRI LANKAN NATION from those evil men trying to divide that one nation into two nations.

But what is nationhood, Mr. Gunasekara? Have you thought about this very much ? LetÕs start with you: How do you arrive at your own nationhood ? Your Sri Lankan nationhood?

If you are honest, you'll admit to having decided it yourself.

And rightly so. That is precisely how nationhood is decided - by one's own conviction.

Now, if that freedom to choose your own national identity is permitted for yourself, can it be permitted to others too?

Apologies for my insolence. I have just remembered that you are a noble man. Naturally, therefore, you believe that everyone has a right to determine their own nationhood, the same right you enjoy.

But does that right extend to Tamils too? Can a Tamil living in the Northeast make his own choice of nation? Or is that going too far?

Or is your view that a people may choose which nation they belong to only if the nation they choose to belong to is the nation YOU have decided they belong to?

What about me then? May I obtain your permission to consider myself a member of the Sinhala nation? It's just that I'm not much acquainted with Tamil culture or Tamil literature or the Tamil language, and I feel myself to be from a Sinhala nation and sometimes (I confess) even feel proud of it. Do you permit that? Or will you continue reducing the Sinhala people to a mere "community" or "ethnic group", instead of the self-respecting fully-blown nation that it is and ought to be proud of?

And what about the mass of people living in the West going around calling themselves Americans? What's your verdict on them? I happen to know that they are in fact descendants of various European nations. Can we allow them to pretend to be AMERICANS? Can we let them choose their own national identity all by themselves? And those Quebecers - I have tried hard to inform them that they actually belong to the French nation, but they refuse to listen.

Good Sinhala morality (in contrast to your vile so-called Sri Lankan morality) assures me that nationhood is a matter best left to every individual concerned. So if you have an unshakable conviction that a Sri Lankan nation exists (distinct from even my Sinhala nation) why not call upon this nation to establish a separate territory for itself also (this being distinct from the Sinhala nation too) so that others who profess to belong to this nation can join you in pursuing the ideals of this homogenous nation.

I for one would wish you well in this endeavour if you truly believe this Sri Lankan nation is distinct from the Sinhala and Tamil nations both. What I object to is your denial (or avoidance) of the fact that a Sinhala nation and a Tamil nation exist on this island by virtue of there being masses of people from each of these categories being conscious (and proud) of their own national existence.

Now is the time to wake up to reality, Mr.Gunasekara. There are two nations presently living on this island (because two nations say so) and our objective should be to accommodate the aspirations of both in a decent and respectful way. Not try and force an identity upon others that they do not instinctively feel. That is vile. Tamils are not trying to do that to you, so be decent and return the respect - don't try and force an identity on them. Two nations have for centuries inhabited separate parts of the island and each's territory can only be decided by traditional areas of habitat - not on ridiculous population percentages (12¡/o asking for a third) based on the false assumption that there is only one nation.

The fact that many Tamils live in the South should not confuse you. These Tamils are living within the SINHALA country and are not asking for any part of it, just as many Scottish people live quite happily in England without claiming any of it.

Interestingly, the Scottish consider themselves "British" as well as "Scottish" but this is based on a VOLUNTARY association with a larger political entity and is also rooted in a RECOGNITION of Scotland as a nation. Your so-called homogenous Sri Lankan nation can only exist and thrive when the two nations of which it would be comprised (Sinhalese and Tamils) VOLUNTARILY cede their political power to such an entity - i.e., when both offer up their sovereign consent to such an entity.

The moment you recognise the fact that there are two nations on this island (a fact you should stop trying to bomb away) the sense of "injustice" at 12% asking for a third of the country totally vanishes too. You don't have to get upset about it any more. It is not an injustice at all. What you have is not a percentage of a homogenous population asking for a disproportionate part of it, but a Tamil nation wanting jurisdiction over itself. You must get this picture clear. There's no harm done to you or the Sinhala people by this Tamil aspiration .It is not 12% of a "Sri Lankan nation" asking for a third of it, but the Tamil nation simply asking the armed forces of the Sinhala nation to leave the territories in which Tamils have lived separately for centuries! Now where is the injustice in that? That is not "Tamil racism" (as you and your friend Nalin De Silva might characterise it).That is a longing for freedom. Only a pair of idiots could confuse "se-paratism" with "racism". Separatism is in practical terms nothing more than wanting to be left alone. Racism is wanting to subjugate another race (which sounds suspiciously like what you are trying to do).

So, Mr.Gunasekara, please recognise the difference between the LTTE's Tamil nationalism and your Sinhalese racism. YOUR convictions lead you to send troops to crush Tamil independence. The LTTE's convictions lead them to fight to get you out of their faces. The racism belongs to YOU and not to them. The bully is YOU. YOU are the one refusing to let a battered and brutalized nation of Tamils simply be left alone. That's all they've ever asked. If you recall, they asked very nicely in 1977, at the ballot box.

We said no, as if their request was immoral. Do you honestly think that since 1977 (and especially after the 1983 pogrom) the Tamil nation has changed its mind about wanting to be left in peace? If so, you are either polit- ically naive or (as I am more inclined to suspect) politically devious.

Why do you not. Mr.Gunasekara (like me) want to see the Tamil nation live and breathe freely, without our guns at their heads and our bombs on their doorsteps? WouldnÕt that serve the Sinhala nation better? Go one day, Mr.Gunasekara, to a Tamil cultural event anywhere in the world. See their children singing liberation songs, feel how REAL it is. You have probably decided this is due to "brainwashing by the separatists", but that's because you lack the sensitivity to understand the depth of a nation's longing for freedom and in particular the Tamil people's sufferings at your own hands - hands that are at this moment clasped around the Tamil nation's neck. Your insensitivity prevents you from seeing that those children are not brainwashed. They have a very concrete dream - of their people one day not having to look over their shoulders for a Sinhalese soldier. Of their women not having to fear abduction, rape and murder by our army.

If I could only teach you of the importance of freedom to a nation, the importance of identity of allowing people the space and freedom to live in dignity as they choose. That is what goodness is really about, Mr. Gunasekara, that is the right side of this equation. That is real morality.

If you could only recognise for one moment how beautiful national freedom really is then you might (like me) want to give it at every opportunity to whoever wants it. If you were a refined enough person to see that freedom is beautiful - more beautiful than most things in the world - then you might stop your vicious tongue before it lashes out its call for a war to the finish, until the Tamil nation, drowned in blood, is forced into submission by our "victorious" army.

All I can hope is that the Sinhalese be no longer misguided by self-proclaimed moralists like you. I hope they realise soon that the best and most decent way to: live and prosper on this island is to affirm our own nationhood (as Sinhalese, there is no shame in that) and let others affirm theirs, and arrange for each nation to thrive in its own territory free of intimidation and fear.

We should then aspire to treat with respect the Tamils who have chosen to live in the Sinhala areas of the island. That I contend would be a Sinhala nation to be proud of. Have a restful night, Mr.Gunasekara, in your peaceful home, while Tamil children in the North shudder in terror as the bombs explode around them, minute after minute after minute. Write another book, Mr. Gunasekara, motivating our men to fight on even longer. But ask yourself, in all honesty, are you a good man, Mr.Gunasekara? Are you honestly a good man?- Hot Springs

Continue to Plus page 4 - The Bar in the face of human rights * A rare union of brains and modesty * "I heal out of love"

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