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21st June 1998

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PEOPLE AND EVENTS

  • There was much to shock
  • Remembering them through music
  • SAARC Federation of University Women to meet here
  • Environment friendly family man
  • Let's save her life

  • There was much to shock

    People here would like to know what happened following the Kandy Medical Association's meetings on ragging. The first symposium, "Torture and the role of the Medic'' was well attended. Naturally, three heads of Departments were not happy at the way the education system was criticised. There were many senior students of Peradeniya University present but not one of them spoke. Junior students, however, were thankful that the symposium aired things "they were too scared to talk about''.

    At that symposium there was much to shock those in attendance. It was told how the most barbarous practices were concealed by comfortable phrases such as ''dips'' and ''watching the rainbow''. It was accepted that ragging that degenerates to torture is a sickness among Sri Lankan students - a chronic disorder that has progressed to terminal effects. It was also made evident that tertiary staff and even earlier levels of education are being infected.

    The symposium brought home to many the full horror of ragging as a system of oppression, fear, humiliation and shame.

    Senior students seek to oppress students who are lower in the pecking order. One doctor, who works with torture victims, said that even junior staff practice ragging of students and that the oppression, once taken hold, extends beyond the education system into other areas of society.

    True, there is legislation now, and ragging is banned, but what doctors ask is why further legislation is needed when all such activities are covered by criminal law; why existing laws are not enforced. When the KMA organised a follow-up public meeting in the lecture theatre of the Medical Faculty only about nine people came! There wasn't a single University student, no Dean of any Faculty and only one member of the public!

    Professor Ekanayake, who has been fighting ragging for more than 15 years wants policing by the security forces to enforce existing laws. He also asks that every student sign, at registration, a declaration that he or she will neither rag nor support ragging. Violation must be dealt with by immediate sacking.

    Also, for those who give support, be they students or staff. It has also been recommended that each second-year student be given the responsibility of mentoring one first-year student, helping the new arrival to be secure and feel at home in the new academic environment.

    The KMA hopes that the new education reform will also include aptitude tests which will uncover potential raggers and render them unsuitable for tertiary education, however good their A/L results may be. As one doctor put it, ''Universities are not supposed to be Adversities!'' Hear, hear!


    Remembering them through music

    Sivuranga- a grand musical show organised by the Seva Vanitha Unit of the Ministry of Defence will take stage on July 11 at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium. The proceeds of this show will go into a fund to provide housing for disabled service personnel and war heros' families.

    The show will take off at 7 p.m and will feature several big names in the entertainment industry. Siha Shakthi will be the main performers along with well known Rookantha, Chandralekha, Jagath Wickremasinghe, Mercy Edirisinghe, Chandimal Fernando, Anushan perera, Nirosha Virajini etc.

    There will also be a baila session and a show by the Cultural Troupes of the three services and Police- called Drums of Sri Lanka.

    Tickets are priced at Rs. 500, Rs. 250, Rs. 100 and are available at Swarna Mahal- Maradana/ Nugegoda Barefoot- Colpetty, Sarasavi - Nugegoda and at the gate. So rush now.

    Buy your tickets for an evening of musical entertainment - it's all for a very good cause. The show is presented by the Executive Committee of Seva Vanitha Unit.


    SAARC Federation of University Women to meet here

    Delegates of the SAARC Federation of University Women (SAARCFUW) from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka will meet in Colombo from June 22 to 26.

    SAARCFUW was launched in Colombo in 1995 and comprises National Chapters in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka subscribing to a common charter.

    As the organisation which launched SAARCFUW three years ago, Sri Lanka has held the first Presidency and managed the Secretariat. SAARCFUW's executive body is its Council comprising 4 members of each national Chapter.


    Let's save her life

    Five year old Sonali Gunaratne, daughter of Vijitha Gunaratne of Maligawatte Housing Scheme and the niece of A. R. Sayakkara of Bank of Ceylon, International Division, Administration Department is suffering from acute Leukaemia and is warded at the Maharagama Cancer Hospital.

    Dr. Mahendra Perera of the Cancer Hospital who attends on this patient has recommended that she be urgently referred to the Apollo Hospital for Bone-Marrow Transplant Surgery. The cost of hospitalization and surgery would be in the region of Indian Rupees 1 million.

    The Lions Club of Colombo Fort appeals to all Lions Clubs and well-wishers to participate in the meritorious act of saving this little girl's life. Contributions towards this fund may be sent direct to the Bank of Ceylon, Personnel Branch, Account No. 106810149135 Sonali Gunaratne Medical Assistance Account.


    Environment friendly family man

    By Bandula Jayasekara

    Ravi Algama a law yer who loves lei sure and can't be accused of being workaholic, became interested in nature through his love for birds since the age of ten. He believed in Alexander Pope's words, "Hear how the birds, on every blooming spray with joyous music wake the dawning day". Algama went to Royal, watched birds with friends at Bellanwila, Attidiya, the Nawala marshes, Labugama and Kalatuwawa. He read all the available books on birds and was fascinated by the colours and movements of birds. Birds don't stay still and neither could Algama

    He roamed around the country, which is blessed with 430 species of birds.

    As an active member of Royal's wild life society he visited far off places, camped out with friends and nature lovers, and mountain peaks were his favourite places. Adam's Peak, Kirigalpotta, Thotupola, Namunukula, Great Western were all his haunts He married Priyadarshini, a pre-school teacher. A nature lover, a deeply religious person (so he says) and a family man he has one jealous mistress, the law.

    He spends most of his leisure time at the Environmental Foundation, where he is the chairman and at the land adjoining a full flowing river, growing rare trees.

    Ravi Algama formed the environmental foundation in August 1991 with his school day friend and fellow legal-eagle Lalanath de Silva, in order to ensure that our environment is taken seriously by the government and the private sector.

    Sri Lanka had 80-odd laws to protect the environment without any enforcement and the environment foundation became the watch dog. Today it boasts of fully-fledged legal and scientific departments managed by 2 professionals, a permanent staff of 12 and supporting staff islandwide.

    The legal clout of the EF has been immense. Five of the six amendments to the nature and environment act have been drafted by the foundation.

    Algama's men and women have helped to prevent encroachment in the national parks and sanctuaries by suing the wildlife authorities at a time when political influence was used. The foundation has protected the Karaganlewaya in Hambantota from unplanned development, campaigned against the coal power plant in Trincomalee, taken the Dehiwela-Mount Lavinia Municipal Councils to courts for burying the slaughter house waste 5 inches below the ground and the Kotte Municipal Council for garbage problems. EF has a few interesting cases pending, one of which is to evict the vendors at the Kadugannawa pass as they continue to block the panoramic view.The other is a landmark case against the sand miners to compel the government to change the rules and charge more from the sand miners. Algama says "sand miners pay only Rs. 15/- to the government to collect sand from our own resources and charge us more than Rs. 1000 per cube. This is totally unfair. We want the government to wake up to reality"

    The environmentalists have faced death and kidnap threats which they have got used to now. To Algama it has become a way of life. In 1988 when the EF had pushed for citizen suits, the then secretary to the prime minister and chairman of the central environmental authority Mr. K.H.J. Wijeyadasa had successfully and strongly opposed it. However when the EF magazine 'Biosphere' lead story screamed "K.H.J. Wijeyadasa blocks public access to court" the then deputy minister of local government, housing and construction S.W. Alawathuwela had raised a matter of breach of privilege against the editor of 'Biosphere' Ravi Algama.

    But J.R. Jayewardene, President at the time had saved the day for Algama when he dissolved the Parliament that same afternoon. K.H.J. Wijeyadasa became more powerful thereafter under President Premadasa but the issue has blown with the wind.

    Ravi Algama is no fan of S.B. Dissanayake but is very supportive of the youth minister's idea to build parks for young lovers to make love in a healthy environment, free from peeping toms. He is wondering why the minister had not implemented his idea yet. Algama said, "I remember SB said that he wanted to put up a park in each district". He added, the environmentalists are waiting to love freely. Algama and his fellow environmentalists are saddened by the recent nuclear tests carried out by India and Pakistan. "It is a very serious threat and we have protested to both countries and conveyed our deep concern. What else can we do?" he laments.

    At a time when joint responsibilities are flouted, war is used as an excuse and politicians continue to pollute the environment .The bird watcher Algama looks at the sky, and looks forward to that day he can relax and hang up his boots. I also heard him say "Bury me where the birds will sing over my grave"

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