9th April 2000

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Boy sex horror

Young boys are being trained to become professional sex workers, even receiving a certficates at the end of a 'friendship course' in Hikkaduwa

By Leon Berenger

In a dimly lit room of a sleazy hotel in Hikkaduwa a group of boys, the eldest not being more than 14, waits patiently for their names to be called.

The children have come to the hotel mostly on their own account. Some may have been persuaded by their parents and even friends to enter the 'friendship course' which eventually would model them as professional sex workers catering to the growing homosexual and paedophile market in this once flourishing seasside resort town.

The selected candidates are told that they would have to play their part mostly in pairs and sometimes in groups, with the so-called trainers insisting on a high degree of professionalism that is needed for the foreign market, since the clientele are mostly Westerners.

Male prostitution is no secret within the borders of Hikkaduwa. Infact it has become a way of life for the people, many of whom depend heavily on the tourist industry to keep their home fires burning.

So, sex between male and male is no big deal for the local populace, and what's even more interesting is that it rakes in huge sums of money and in some cases even bails out hotels and guest houses facing closure owing to poor tourist arrivals.

Apart from a handful of recognised hotels who struggle on to maintain their dignity the bulk of the other lodges do not hesitate to rent out their space for anything as long as the greenbacks keep flowing in.

And when there is a request to rent out their place to train boys as professional sex workers the doors are still wide open, even though the youngest may be just six or even less. But then who cares? If one guest house refuses there are dozens of others ready to offer their services.

The high rate of male prostitution in this country is already well known in most parts of Europe and even across the Atlantic, thanks largely due to a covert advertising strategy which has now even flowed through the internet and other forms of modern technology.

But now it appears the time has come to introduce more professional handlers into the booming market which will rake in up market customers for a larger fee.

And so that is the reason for the presence of those youngsters in that wayside guest house in Hikkaduwa.

The Sunday Times learns that selected candidates are made to undergo a three-week crash course where they will be taught and trained on how to sexually entertain their clients.

During the training period the youngsters are asked to perform oral sex on each other while all the time being shown homosexual clippings from pornographic movies. Sometimes these sessions are conducted in groups, depending on the instructor on hand. The training sessions are also filmed and these tapes eventually find its way into several European countries where prospective clients are shown the performances and encouraged to visit Hikkaduwa in Sri Lanka.

The Sunday Times found out that on occasions sweets and other goodies given to the children are often laced with drugs to check if it would enhance their performances. At the end of the course, the participants are handed a certificate, a piece of document they are told will help them to find customers who are willing to pay more.

For their part the organisers behind this sordid trade lose little time in getting the message across to their clients in foreign lands.

All one has to do is to reach Hikkaduwa and make contact with the local agent and the rest will be seen to.

There is nothing to worry about anything. The organisers, pimps, hotel operators, beach boys even the gypsies know what's going on, but they prefer to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear while remaining woven into one happy family as long as the bucks keep rolling in.

But now there is also an increasing foreign hand in the trade, with more and more westerners, they themselves homosexuals getting directly involved by buying their way into the industry along with the cooperation of their local lap dogs.

Foreigners, mainly Germans are buying up a lot of land and buildings and extending cash to support other institutions regarded friendly to their operations. But they also have many other things on their mind.

For one, they know it is a lucrative trade if it can be done in a more professional manner in keeping with foreign competition. So the initial investments do not matter if the market could be improved to international styling. And this is exactly what they are doing in Hikkaduwa and perhaps in other known tourist destinations of this country as well.

But the sad fallout from all this is that the genuine tourists are leaving Hikkaduwa never to return for what they see and hear all around them during their brief holiday is not pleasant and to an extent even disgusting. One local businessman said that the foreigners had practically bulldozed their way into the city with their money, buying up whatever was available and possible, and to this end there are many locals to help them from the beach goons to the local officialdom.

The foreigners have not only targeted Hikkaduwa but have spread themselves as far as Tangalle.

At the end of it all they would have earned hundred times more than their initial investments, leaving behind a trail of sick children, who will one day grow into adults and somewhere in the dark corners of their minds begin to curse the society they were born into.

The Tourist Board authorities are aware of the harm being caused to the industry as a result of such activity, but they silently agree that there is very little that can be done.

They laid much of the blame on the police who they claim should play the lead role in battling this scourge by conducting more raids and arresting known pimps and others connected with this trade. But this is not happening for reasons, perhaps known only to them, one senior official said.

It won't be a sweet New Year

By Nilika de Silva

Sweetmeats this New Year are priced higher than ever before, making it doubtful whether people will be able to celebrate in the style associated with previous New Year festivals.

With the rise in sugar and oil prices, and the sharp increase in fuel prices people have started thinking twice before preparing their repertoire of sweetmeats.

This cost increase is clearly seen when one visits shops selling avurudu fare. A 'kavum' at Sweet House costs Rs. 6 this year, a rupee more than last year, while a 'kokis' costs Rs. 3.50, once again a rupee more than last year and kaludodol is sold at Rs. 10 more than during the last New Year.

One can well survive without eating a kavum or kokis during New Year, but the problem is that this same hike in prices is reflected in other more essential food items.

The rise in vegetable prices is so marked, that many households which used to buy a pound now limits itself to buying 250 grams. It is the same with fish and meat while the price of an egg has risen by more than Rs. 1.25.

Meanwhile the once Rs. 3.50 loaf of bread has almost trebled in value, while the salaries of state employees have remained the same. However, among the changes that the householder has to get used to are that the kilo of potatoes which cost Rs. 32.70 last year has risen to Rs. 36.84 today.

With more than two million people suffering from malnutrition and diseases that go hand in hand with it, the prices of foodstuffs go up day by day.

However, the Co-operative Wholesale Establishments (CWE) has come forward to provide some relief to the consumers by reducing the prices of certain items.

Parliament was in an uproar last week regarding the need to increase the salaries of public servants. The debate followed back dated salary hikes for parliamentarians.

Ministers salaries were raised to Rs. 29,815, and those of Deputy Ministers to Rs. 28,750 while salaries of Members of Parliament were jacked up to Rs. 22,100 excluding allowances amounting to a further Rs. 13,000

UNP Members of Parliament on Friday staged a protest meeting outside the Finance Ministry, demanding that all public sector employees salaries should be raised to make up for the rising cost of living. Following the protest march the MPs went in procession to the Ministry of Finance to hand over a copy of a letter to be given to the President, who is the Minister of Finance.

Since the Minister of Finance was not accessible and the Deputy Minister of Finance was also not available nor the Secretary Ministry of Finance, the group of MPs had a discussion with the Additional Secretary Ministry of Finance, MP Ravi Karunanayake told The Sunday Times.

The letter signed by 41 persons, including MPs Gamini Atukorala, W.J.M. Lokubandara, Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena, Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku, Renuka Herath, Pradeep Hapangama and Ravi Karunanayake, stated, "As you are already aware with the sky rocketing cost of living and with the increase in the price of diesel and gas the people of this country have been burdened beyond endurance by your Excellency's Government, to keep their home fires burning."

The letter further stated, "the UNP propose that the government should take immediate steps to grant an interim allowance of Rs. 2,500 a month to the one million public servants and concurrently extend it to other sectors whilst granting a reasonable floor price to all agricultural produce".

Celebrations: Where and for whom?

By Nilika de Silva

While Opposition MPs battle it out with the Government over issues of salaries and increments 'ordinary' people preparing for New Year festivities are wondering how they are going to celebrate, at a time when making ends meet, is in itself a problem.

The Sunday Times spoke to a cross section of people to hear their side of the story.

"This year only one of my three children will get new clothes for the festival said K. Thraupadi of Tharawatte in Borella. Thraupadi sews and also works in bungalows, to earn for her young children.

"It is difficult to make three square meals for the family. A bottle of kerosene is nearly Rs15. The two lamps we use takes up about half a bottle of kerosene a day. We used to cook on a kerosene cooker but now since it is so expensive we have turned to firewood," Thraupadi said.

Another resident of Tharawatte, Borella, Priyanka Dilrukshi (31), a mother of two, said that since New Year was around the corner they were feeling the pinch. The price of goods are going up day by day. "The people here are those who have to work daily for their bread.If a child falls sick we simply cannot manage," she said.

Another road construction worker D.G. Jayaratne (45) said after they collected their festival loan they would have to manage for one and a half months without any salary, and life was difficult because of the high cost of living.

"New Year this time will be very different from previous years," D.M. Bandara Menika who runs a small boutique selling sweets in Colombo 7 said. Bandara Menika, the mother of three explained that even the cart she uses to sell her goods has to be rented for Rs. 600 a month. "We have to go without food sometimes to pay the rent on the cart," she explained.

"I plan to work even on New Year's Day, because I need every cent I can earn, since the cost of living is so high," said, K.B. Jayasinghe, a three wheeler driver.

"Celebrations this year will be on a low key. The problem is that prices of goods have gone up, while our incomes remain the same."

A worker of the CMC, Senaka Perera from Hokandara said it would be difficult to even survive on the festival allowance, let alone celebrate.

Paddy pandemonium rocks House

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti, Our Lobby Correspondent

Having to perform unsavory duties is perhaps part of any political culture. And nobody envied the PA General Secretary D.M. Jayaratne who heads the trouble plagued Agricultural Ministry, and often had raving battles with his trade counterpart to secure a better deal for farmers.

It was the same minister who had the unenviable duty of presenting a regulation proposing the abolition of the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) last Wednesday.

When the day began, there was no inkling of what was going to unfold later, when UNP's Lakshman Seneviratne opened the debate with studied calmness.

Openly sarcastic, he asked the minister whether he ever read reports by experts on paddy cultivation. "Do you at least see or try to read them? Or do you at least have people who would study them and advise you on vital issues. It's a damn shame that a true villager is at the helm and we are abolishing the PMB," he declared.

CP stalwart K.P. Silva was next attempting to do the impossible-defending the government decision by pinning the blame on the UNP for allegedly hatching a plot to destroy the PMB from the very outset.

" Are you in agreement with the closure," chorused an irate opposition. While brushing aside terse reminders of betraying CP principles, the senior politician said inefficient management and external pressures had caused the closure.

"When the UNP began restructuring the PMB in 1990 on World Bank recommendations, it destroyed the state monopoly and opened flood gates to private sector monopoly," he opined.

"But we didn't close it, so why are you doing it," chimed the Opposition, excited to have a go at the left parties by goading Mr. Silva who nevertheless continued unruffled - listing the UNP's many sins ranging from removal of subsidies, reduction of agricultural loans to the ushering in of a consumer culture where the farmer had no role to play.

Rising to a point of order then was UNP member Renuka Herath who wanted to know who actually wrote Mr. Silva's speech.

"We still need a government institution to purchase rice and protect the local producer. Storing food to avert a future crisis is mandatory. While circumstances have compelled this closure, the CWE is able to handle the situation," Mr. Silva explained, amidst protests from the opposition which shrieked collectively that Mr. Silva's statement was the ultimate betrayal of the Left.

With attendance of members at an all time low, defending the move to restructure the PMB was the man who initiated it, former Agricultural affairs minister Dharmadasa Banda.

The Moneragala member opined that even when the PMB was set up in 1971, it never sought to purchase 100% local paddy production. Similarly, the UNP's proposed Authority was meant to play a facilitator role, not just for paddy farmers but all cultivators in general. "You are deliberately misinterpreting it," he said.

"kankun imports killed our mukunuwenna cultivation," said a cheeky UNP backbencher Suranimala Rajapakse while Mr. Banda read out a litany of corruption charges against the PMB.

Firing his salvos with customary zeal and attacking both sides of the House was firebrand Vasudeva Nanayakkara. With his own political future hanging in the balance, the Ratnapura member, commented sarcastically that Mr. Banda was obviously a recent convert in defending farmers. Or else, where was the love and concern when he was at the helm?

"How did World Bank dictates become the norm driving farmers to commit suicide? I am not deceived by the UNP fervour- because I have certainly read previous PMB reports and know as a fact how the UNP masterminded the eventual death of this vital institution," he charged.

With arms flaying , he demanded to know why the staple diet of the country was being so insulted. "It's like a step-mother ill-treating the best kid in a family," he charged.

"Amidst all this, minister Batty Weerakoon has shown guts in hitting the streets to protest against the sale of Eppawala. Why couldn't minister Jayaratne do the same and side with the cultivators?" he asked.

With a feeling of foreboding, he noted that ill effects of the open economy had begun to affect all sectors alike; the PMB closure was merely representative of the fact.

"What happened to the minister's previous zeal? He used to lock horns with the trade minister demanding a better bargain for the local producer. The same minister now miserably presents this traitorous resolution," he charged.

Mr. Nanayakkara analyzed the present political realities when he said that under President Jayawardene's gem of a Constitution, members were brutally brought under the party whip's iron hand.

"You all sing for your supper. Your future as ministers depends on the party leader's good will. It is this which curbs honest actions by otherwise honest men. This is why I sit on this side. It hurts to see a government flouting its cardinal pledges and paving the path for the UNP to take over reins."

"You have no future," butted in a few government MPs , and an enraged Mr. Nanayakkara responded with vehemence. " I am waiting for you to charge me, and I shall seek a Supreme Court determination on' true representative democracy' and ask whether it was wrong to follow a member's conscience if a government didn't fulfill its obligations" he breathed.

But the ultimate fireworks came unexpectedly when Deputy Chairman of committees put the resolution to vote with the government benches in a sadly depleted status. The quorum bell couldn't bring enough government benchers while the UNP, ready to spring an unfortunate surprise on the government filled their side to capacity.

In walked PA's T.B. Ekanayake and P.B. Dissanayake, just a little too late and were not counted in. Amidst opposition cheers, the resolution was defeated 62-59 with the general feeling being that backbenchers have gone into hiding- in a bid to avoid the vote than expose themselves as staunch opponents to a presidential move.

But Mr. Hakeem's move was vehemently opposed by red-hanker-cheifed minister C. V. Gooneratne who declared that a member had a right to sit and vote. "It is his fundamental right, please count them in," he said. But the Chair was equally adamant that if the member wanted to vote, he also had a duty to appear on time!

And the PMB theatrics reached a climax when UNP's Mahinda Samarasinghe requested the government to resign- in keeping with the British tradition of resigning upon being defeated on a bill with finance implications. "This government has been defeated, so it must go, " he urged, well aided by his party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The Learned Professor of law, G.L. Peiris tried to be heard amidst the din. He wanted to make the point that there was a marked difference between a parliament Bill and a mere resolution. And up jumped trade minister Kingsley Wickremeratne, absent throughout the debate to accuse the UNP of losing its Buddhasasana Ministry vote but never even contemplating resigning.

Point of view

District as the unit of devolution

By Neville Laddu-wahetty

The failure of the Westminster model of government adopted by independent Sri Lanka to meet the expectations of the Sri Lankan Tamils caused them to seek alternative political arrangements. The alternatives they sought vary from a separate state, to confederal arrangements of two self- governing units, to federal arrangements where substantial powers are devolved to regions.

Any of these alternatives would benefit only those Sri Lankan Tamils that reside within the defined region. This proportion amounts to HALF of them which in terms of the country's population constitute only 5% or less. The size of the territorial unit envisaged for this 5% or less under any of the alternatives is 1/3 of Sri Lanka's land mass, along with 2/3 of her shoreline. Notwithstanding this inequity by the larger Sri Lankan nation both major political parties are committed to finding a political formula based on an arrangement other than a separate state.

If a separate state is not negotiable any confederal/federal arrangement would be equally non-negotiable because of the potential for separation the prevention of which is possible only militarily. This is not a realistic prospect for Sri Lanka.

The linkage that exists between the size of the territorial unit and the powers to be devolved have a direct bearing if separation of any of the federated regions is to be avoided. For instance, devolving significant power to 8 or 9 provinces with some having the potential to be economically independent, could tempt separatist tendencies, whereas devolving even greater powers to smaller units that lack the potential to be economically viable such as the 25 districts could dissuade separation, thereby ensuring stability. Furthermore, the smaller unit of the district lends itself to be more responsive to the local needs and therefore to greater democratic participation.

This relationship between the size of the territorial unit and the powers to be devolved would dominate the forthcoming discussions on constitutional reforms. The Sri Lankan Tamil desire to retain the largest possible unit with the maximum of devolved powers could be resisted by both major political parties due to its inbuilt potential for separation and eventual division of the country. On the other hand, if Sri Lankan Tamils are more interested in regional autonomy and less on territory, more power could be devolved to the smaller territorial unit of the district. As a proposition the district would be more acceptable politically to the larger Sri Lankan nation than the province because of the assurances of territorial integrity associated with the district.

If regional autonomy is the primary concern a realistic and achievable alternative would be a central government, different to the Westminster model, structured in a manner that permits and constitutionally assures the participation of all communities in the processes of governance while decentralizing/devolving to the maximum those functions that can best be handled by the peripheral units such as village councils, urban councils and the districts.

The district as the largest peripheral unit, and not the province, was also recommended by the Executive Committee for Local Government chaired by the late Hon. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in 1940. During a debate in the State Council The Hon. Mr. Bandaranaike stated: "Though the word 'provincial' is used here, I would point out that this body would be restricted to a revenue district, not necessarily to a province as we have it now, but to a revenue district. The Galle District, the Matara District, the Nuwara Eliya District and so on, will each have a Provincial Council...". Continuing he stated: ".... Revenue District. I mention this because the name "Provincial Council" is used here as a convenience, because the words "Revenue District Council" might be also misleading in the sense that it might be confused with Urban District Councils or other Councils of that area". In answer to a query from Mr. Aluwihare as to whether it was a' . . . firm statement". The Hon. Mr. Bandaranaike's response was "Yes; that is the intention of my Committee in presenting this report - that a Provincial Council shall be limited to a revenue district...' (Hansard [State Council] 1940,10 July 1940, pp 1362-1371).

With powers decentralized/devolved to village councils, urban councils and the districts, the central government should be structured to contain the following essential features. There should be separation of powers between the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. All members of the legislature should be constituted into committees that are constitutionally empowered to examine the legislation, assist in the formulation of legislation and monitor the performance of the Executive. Whether the Chief Executive is elected by parliament or elected by the nation could be a matter for discussion. What is material is that the composition of the cabinet of ministers whether nominated from outside the parliament or selected from within should reflect the ethnic composition of parliament. Other issues such as the powers of the President, the independence of the Judiciary, and the need for independent commissioners, regarding which there is consensus, could be resolved through discussion.

The proposals contained herein would significantly benefit the overwhelming majority of the Sri Lankan nation that includes a substantial segment of voiceless Sri Lankan Tamils as well. On the other hand, the separatist alternative would not be acceptable to the federalists and vice-versa, neither of which is acceptable to the larger Sri Lankan nation.

Therefore the only option is to implement arrangements that benefit the largest segment of the Sri Lankan nation because no alternative exists that would be acceptable to all.

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