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Should death be the penalty for rape, child abuse and drug trafficking?

Capital punishment is a controversial topic all around the world. Many countries actively carry out the death sentence for murder while some countries including Sri Lanka pass the sentence which is automatically commuted to life imprisonment.

However, there are some countries which impose the death penalty for other offences as well. The recent execution of four Sri Lankans in Saudi Arabia was emotionally challenging for most Lankans.

The Saudi authorities stated that they were beheaded for violent armed robbery, which is punishable with death under their law. The same punishment is given for those convicted of rape.

Several other countries including Singapore and Malaysia condemn to death those who deal in drugs, readily recognised as a harbinger of death to those who use them. There have been several executions of natives and foreigners who were found guilty of trafficking drugs, which some analysts say have acted as a deterrent to prospective traffickers.

Child abuse, the physical and sexual exploitation of children, is another serious offence which attracts severe penalties in most countries. All these crimes are on the rise in Sri Lanka. There have been several gruesome instances of mob justice where the alleged offenders were summarily beaten to death by villagers, relatives and vigilante groups, perhaps symbolising the simmering frustration with the legal system.

There is a widespread belief that the big offenders are rarely caught and even if they are, a few years’ in jail is the maximum punishment. In this context, there is a school of thought that in case the gallows are re-activated, the noose should find not only murderers, but also drug traffickers, rapists and paedophiles.

Their argument is that while a murderer may take a life or two, the latter could destroy an entire generation, the entire society. The emotional scars left behind by their selfish acts are hard to efface even in a lifetime.

Given the grave nature of these offences, one is justified in questioning whether it is fair to let the perpetrators of these crimes get away with a mere term of imprisonment while they have caused irreparable damage to the lives of their victims.

Have your free say on the above issues on Daily News Debate. Our topic for the coming months is ‘Should death be the penalty for rape, child abuse and drug trafficking?’.

Send in your views in 750-1,000 words) to ‘Daily News Debate’, Daily News, Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited, PO Box 1217, Colombo, or via e-mail to debate@dailynews.lk before March 31, 2007.

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Big match fever:

Is it necessarily bad?

“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”

Middlemarch
George Eliot

relationships : Even without perfect knowledge and a comprehensive understanding about all ordinary human life, there are certain aspects of life, which we must be keenly aware of, if we are to live our lives to our heart’s satisfaction.

One such extremely important aspect in our family life as well as in our social life is relationships. We all-known it is nearly impossible to live alone; even if one were to live by oneself for some reason or other, I am very certain, he would not feel half as a happy as he would otherwise have felt; that is, when he feels connected with others.

Incidentally, it is to reach this point on which I intend to centre my brief comment on big matches, that I have been beating round the bush in this sentimental (or may I presume to say ‘philosophical’?) vein.

Today it is strongly held particularly among the schoolchildren that organizing inter-school Cricket matches helps improve relationships among the schools. Or it is also possible that this is the plausible explanation offered by the schoolchildren who are excessively in favour of big matches and take great pains to organize these events.

But, lately, it has been almost too evident that these so-called big matches do very little to improve relationships among schools, that they (big matches), in fact, give rise to hostilities between schools on some occasions. There has been ample evidence suggesting that they have become practically the hotbeds of school violence.

The positive side

Eliot’s narrator in Middlemarch, her most highly praised novel, I remember, makes an important observation at some point, “... it is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of views.”

So we too will be accused of being narrow minded if we maintain that big matches are necessarily bad and that they spell disaster virtually on all occasions. And it is my belief that big matches can indeed produce positive outcomes, Let me show you how it is possible.

First, it is students themselves who plan and organize them; on most occasions they do it all by themselves, or perhaps with a little help from their teachers and parents. While they strive to make it all a success, they may encounter many an obstacle which they will have to cope with by themselves.

The kind of experience they may get out of being engaged in this sort of things may surely hone their interpersonal skills, which are instrumental in their personality development.

Secondly, it is the students themselves that raise the funds required for the purpose. Through hat collections or by some other means, they may succeed in collecting the required sum despite fatigue and frustration they are bound to feel in the pursuit of their goal.

Persistence itself will lead them to success in the end. Further when it comes to utilization of funds, the students themselves will have to determine the most effective ways to spend their money in order to meet their goals.

Assuming that this money is spent for the right purpose, they may learn a lot of important things as they go through this kind of experience. Also, I believe that sense of responsibility, not very familiar to schoolchildren, will be felt by those students who deal with this.

Thirdly, a big match is an ideal occasion for students to take some respite from the monotony of studying. They may be able to have great fun as organizers, as players, and also as spectators.

Here they may pride themselves on their skills and talents as their victories add luster to their schools’ reputation. By the same token, they may take pleasure in their personal achievements, small as they are. Obviously all this causes them to develop deep love and loyalty towards their school.

The dark side

As I have already mentioned, it will be rather unfair to suggest that big matches do harm only; but the recent incidents buttress the seemingly unreasonable claim that they are absolutely harmful to both the students and the schools involved.

This has begotten the widespread conviction that the students should be discouraged from both organizing big matches and taking part in them as well as the chorus of protest coming from the parents, the teachers, and the society at large against these disastrous sports events called ‘big matches’.

After a big match, the winners naturally celebrate their victory. Though this is not at all wrong, with liquor having slowly crept its way into these celebrations, they (the celebrations) seem to take place often at the expense of the losers, and even more regrettably, at the expense of their schools’ reputation.

As my brother rightly said, some students just swim in a river of alcohol in the flush of their victories. Most often, it is liquor itself that lies at the root of the problem.

Once they are under the influence of liquor, they just forget who they are, where they are, and even more dangerously just what they are doing; at this point, violence is bound to erupt for the slightest reason, or sometimes for no reason at all.

It is needless to say that all this amounts to a gross violation of school discipline, or of even the country’s law for that matter. Thus, a friendly cricket match may end up in dreadful violence!

And this is not all. If it is true (and I believe firmly in the old proverb, which says, ‘There is no smoke without fire’) that some students particularly in metropolitan schools take even drugs like heroin on occasions like these, it simply exacerbates the situation.

If big matches give scope and liberty for drug dealers to ply their vile businesses, it is necessary that the authorities concerned take stern and immediate action against the perpetrators. Or else, the deterioration of the entire school system will be almost inevitable.

In spite of the bleak picture that some media have painted about big matches, it is abundantly clear that they are not all that bad. Equally evident is the fact that wrong practices in one school set a bad example for many other schools, whose students may lose no time in imitating their peers’ wrongdoings.

But I believe there is still room for us to improve the situation. One important step towards this end is to educate school children on both positive and negative consequences that may result from big matches and to help and hearten them to do the right thing in the right way.

Also, students should not be allowed to enjoy too much freedom in playing and organizing these matches. Moreover, they must be convinced that their misdemeanour may tarnish the reputation of their schools.

Both the parents and the teachers need to keep vigil on their behaviour and to actively participate in their activities whenever it is possible. This way, I believe, we may be able to see a better, healthier, stronger and more intelligent generation of students.

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