15th June 1997


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‘I regret I sent my child to this school’

Have you anything you want to get off your chest? Write about your pet gripe to this column the "unreserved space".

Rip roaring debates are allowed here. Pick your own topic, or write your own opinion about "International Schools".

All letters should be marked ‘Unreserved space’ at the top left hand corner of the envelope.

Address to:

The Editor,
The Sunday Times
47. W.A. D. Ramanayake Mawatha, Colombo 2


My child attends an international school. At first I thought that an English education will be better for my child, as English educated youth have a better chance of securing lucrative and dynamic jobs, but with time I am beginning to regret and have doubts in my mind, whether these schools are of standard. The teaching standards of my child’s school are questionable.

Most of the teachers are government retired staff. Others are friends of these people and even some of their children are also teaching here. Do they have the necessary credentials or experience to teach?

The government stipulates an age for retirement, because after a while these teachers become ‘routine,’ teaching from a set syllabus for 20 to 25 years. Today education is a fast changing process continuously being upgraded to cater to the changes that are happening around us.

The syllabi being followed in these international schools is supposed to be to prepare the students to sit the London O/L and A/L examinations. Do these teachers come up to the expected standards? Will our children attain the expected standards to sit the London exams? Or do we have to send our children to tuition classes too? These are some of the many questions troubling my mind.

The medium of instruction is English, but some of the English teachers need to improve their English. The Maths teacher skips pages from the text book if she finds that she cannot teach those chapters.

Classrooms are cramped up and stuffy. I think that there should be some governing body to oversee these ‘INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL" business ventures, and stipulate standards that have to be maintained and adhered to.

B.C. Fernando

How the Police captured Sardiel in 1864

The following are some excerpts from the book A history of Ceylon Police.
by A. C. Dep former DIG. Renewed interest has been evinced in the book
following recent attempts to re-hash a history of the local police.
The exploits of Sardiel and his gang of rob bers in the Kegalle district came to the notice of the Government in 1863.

Deekirikewage Sardiel was born in 1832. His father was a tobacco vendor from Haldanduwana in the Chilaw district. This man kept a mistress named Pitchohamy of Utuwankande in the Kegalle district Sardiel was born from this union. As a boy he studied for a short period in the Illukwatte Temple School and then left to seek employment in Colombo. He was employed as a barrack boy and was sent out for theft. He returned to Utuwankande and took to crime. He was concerned in the Arrack Godown robbery and fled to Chilaw to evade arrest on a warrant. His father who was employed under the Parish priest of Chilaw declined to help him. Quite disappointed he was making his way back to Utuwankande when he was arrested by the Minuwangoda police at Pillawatte. He then fatally stabbed the police informant.

Deekiriwewage Sardiel: guarded by a member of the Ceylon Rifle regiment.
On the 30 July 1862 he was produced before the Justice of the Peace Negombo who committed him to the custody of the Fiscal Colombo. He was detained in the Hulftsdorp Jail, awaiting trial by the Supreme Court for assault and stabbing.

On the 29 November, shortly after 5.30 a.m., when coffee was being served to the prisoners, Sardiel had climbed the post in the Jail premises, got on to the roof and made good his escape. It was apparent that this escape was made with the connivance of the peons. One of them, Magiris Appu, was a friend of Sardiel and was from Utuwankande. He had been bribed with £3/ by Sardiel’s brother to help him. Magiris Appu was soon after sentenced to 6 months hard labour for this by the Magistrate.

It transpired that from the time Sardiel came into this jail he was making inquiries to find ways and means of escape. On one occasion he had feigned illness, but the Doctor sent him back, saying that there was nothing wrong with him.

No sooner he reached Utuwankande the village Constable Baba Sara arrested him, giving him no time to establish himself. From here he was sent to Colombo in the custody of Constable 131 Nallatamby and several Fiscal peons. Sardiel was pinioned and handcuffed, and those who were taking him were given very definite instructions as to the precautions they should take on the way. He was not to be un-pinioned even to enable him to eat his rice. They were not to travel at night and not to halt at places other than Police stations. But Sardiel escaped from a Gala, where they had rested for the night. This was near the 7th mile post and the escape was on 12 December.

Inquiries revealed that those who had custody of Sardiel did everything contrary to the orders given to them and made escape possible. "Contrary to orders his arms were undone at Ballapane, 5 miles from here and he was not again pinioned. The only Police station at which they halted was the one at Ambepussa. They travelled after dark and moreover allowed the prisoner’s stepfather to join the party." This man seems to have bribed the guards and given them enough to drink. At one stage arrack was got down and the constable and peons, except one drank. One peon became incapable after liquor.

A reward of £5 was promised for the arrest of Sardiel and his description was published in the Government Gazette of 10 January 1863. It read... "Description of Sardiel Appu.

Birth place: Uttoowankandy
Residence: Uttoowankandy
Trade: Boutique keeper
Caste: Wellala
Religion: Buddhist
Age: 31 years
Height: 5ft. 3 inches
Hair: Long
Eyes: Hazel
Complexion: Brown
Make: Well
Read and Write: Both
At what school taught: Private School
Family: None
Former Convictions: None
Distinguishing marks: mark of a mole on the right cheek - Escaped 29 November 1862 from Hulftsdorp Jail."

He had taken up his residence at Aranayake. Much crime occurred in this area and he was suspected to be involved in these. July 1863 at the request of Mr. Sharpe and the Dolosbage Planters a Police station was opened at Aranayake. The Sergeant and the three constables of this station were all Malays. Macartney sent Acting Sergeant Mendis, who was familiar with the area to assist them. Besides the stations of Hingula, Kadugannawe and Gampola were requested to assist this station.

Much of the crime in the area was attributed to him. He acquired a reputation for daring and recklessness. "He had however a name for daring and reckless character and many acts were laid to his charge of which he was guiltless". Macartney was convinced that his arrest could not be secured without the loss of life. But he stated "if anyone could be got to point him out I will have him arrested at once." He wanted the reward raised to £20 and the Police to be allowed to carry firearms.

As the Officer Commanding the Government was not willing to allow the Police to carry firearms, he asked that a party of Rifles be sent to assist the Police "as it is impossible to expect an unarmed Police body to act appropriately against an armed body of ruffians prepared to fight to the last, as will appear from Mr. Sharpe’s letter as well as information I have received’’. He was then asked to put a body of Malays on the job.

The Capture of Sardiel

By January 1864 Sardiel’s confederates were identified. They were Hawadiya, Baya, Mammala Marikar and Samat. The rewards offered were enhanced - £100 for the arrest of Sardiel and £20 for the arrest of each of his accomplices.

On 19 February Head Constable Amat of Utuwankande received information that Sardiel was hiding in a house. With a police party he promptly searched this house. Sardiel was not there but he found the following:-

7 loaded single barrel guns and 2 Pistols. 
I bag containing ball and 2 canisters of gunpowder. 
I pair of boots. 
I writing box containing papers.
I Silk umbrella.
The house of Sirimala was also searched and one bunch of 50 keys of different sizes were found. All these articles 
were produced before the Magistrate.
On the 21 February the house of Sardiel’s mother was searched but nothing was found. And a further search of 
Sirimala’s yielded the following:-
21 pieces of brass vessels.
1 Silk Umbrella
I Tortoise shell box containing 18.7 Rd and one Spanish Dollar.
I Set Silver studs.
I pair gold studs - said to belong to Sardiel.
And Silk Cloths, China coats and Woollen shirts, all these items were probably loot.

Now on the orders of the Magistrate the jungles in the vicinity were searched. The Chief Superintendent suggested to the Assistant Government Agent that he should get up all the headmen and make a search of the area. There was a rumour that Sardiel was trying to enter the Kurunegala district and reach the Pearl Fishery.

On the March 3, the censure of the Officer Commanding was received by the Police. It read "In his Honour’s opinion it is highly discreditable to the Police (assisted as they can always be by the legitimate employment of the military) that the present, state of things should be for a moment tolerated". It must however not be forgotten that he did not want the Police to go armed and wanted them to make use of Malays.

On 17 March Head Constable Amat received information that Sardiel and Mammala Marikar were hiding in Sardiel’s mother’s house. Amat immediately set out with a Police party and villagers and concealed themselves round the house to prevent them escaping. Just then another group led by George Van Haght, Special Constable, who was on orders of suspension, Sergeant Muttusamy and Van Haght’s father-in-law, Christian Appu, made an incautious attempt to gain the house. Sardiel’s mother, Pitchohamy gave the alarm and several shots were fired upon this group. Van Haght fell dead on the spot, Christian Appu was mortally wounded, Muttusamy was seriously injured and two others received slight injuries. The ambush failed and Sardiel and his companion escaped.

The Assistant Government Agent (Saunders), with Rifleman from Kandy, Headmen and villagers arrived immediately and made a full search of the entire neighbourhood. The Chief Superintendent, Macartney, with a Police party assisted in the search. Though there was information that the accused had fled in the direction of Matale the search continued. Macartney increased the reward to £150 and returned to Colombo.

On Sunday 20 March, Sirimala, who had turned informant met Sardiel and told him that the game was up and that they could not hide safely even on a tree and directed them to the upstairs house by the road. Next morning he met Sergeant Mahat and Constable Saban, gave them this information and came with them to the house. They stealthily entered the house from the rear. Sirimala said here they are and ran out while Mahat and Saban took cover under the stairs. Sardiel appeared with a gun looking for them and before he could fire Mahat brought him down with a shot in the buttocks. Saban seized the gun and climbed the stairs saying the Kandy Police have won the day. Mammala Marikar shot him dead and fired at Mahat. The shot misfired. Mahat got out and remained on the alert to shoot them if they tried to get away.

Saunders was immediately on the spot with the Rifles and surrounded the house. Firing from the house, he wounded a villager and the coach was turned back. The accused decided to surrender and handed over their guns. Saunders entered and arrested them, striking Sardiel with his cane, causing a fracture.

Saunders took the two accused in an American van, escorted by Riflemen to Kandy that very night. And on the night after Sergeant Mahat returned to Kandy with the body of Saban. Sergeant Muttusamy lay in a critical condition in the Kegalle Hospital with gunshot injuries. According to Dr. Dias his life was in danger for several days.

On 4 April Sardiel and Mammala Marikar were jointly charged for the murder of Saban. On 5 April when the case came up for trial before Justice Mr. Thomson, he had the Court House cleared because of the noise. The following were sworn in as Jurors:- G.D.B. Harrison (Foreman), A. Gottelier, F. Gray, J.A. Ebert, G. Fonseka, T.C. Hutton, P. Hoffman, J.C. De Alwis, G.W. Agley, A.M. Galloway, C. Hoffman, H.A. Fermer, and J. Christoffelsz. Advocate Dunuwille declined to appear for the accused and Purcell and J. Van Langenberg appeared for them. Both accused were found guilty and sentenced to death.

On 7 May both of them were hanged on Gallows Hill in Kandy in the presence of a very large crowd. The description of what took place is as follows:-

"All the available policemen in Kandy formed part of the procession. The Roman Catholic minister Rev. Duffo went with Sardiel from the jail and the Mohammedan priest attended on the moorman. It was quite clear that the prospect of death had completely unnerved the two unfortunate men. They were both pale and the moorman in particular appeared to be greatly affected. Sardiel walked pretty steadily, reading out of a book which he held in hand but the moorman was quite knocked down and scarcely once lifted up his head during the walk. The procession passed through the town at a funeral pace until it reached the Hill on which the gallows had been erected."

The bodies were taken down and placed in coffins and taken in cart drawn by prisoners for burial in the Mahaiyawe cemetery. Since there was a very great demand for their bodies the Police had to guard their graves. -A History of the Ceylon Police

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