By Helasingha Bandara –
It was reported that Theverapperuma’s membership was suspended by the UNP for verbally abusing and physically threatening its Leader Ranil Wikremesinghe. Let’s begin with some infamous examples of violent people and violence. Mervin and his son, famous for both giving and receiving .The Rupavahini episode comes to mind first. Rangebandara was another example for a severe receiver. Rajpal Abeynayake was hopitalised after an assault. There are many examples from within the parliament. Parliament is supposed to be the supreme house and those who occupy the benches are expected to behave supremely, do they? Outside, the whole country is violent and assault is a common place occurrence, anywhere and every where and any time and all times.
Whilst many countries in the developed world have almost eradicated the epidemic of physical assaults, ours is getting worse. Assault on a person is considered a serious offence in those countries and it is guaranteed that a physical assault on a person is charged at the courts of law. If proven guilty hefty fines are levied on the culprits and even jail sentences are not ruled out depending on the severity of the assault. More importantly, society condemns people who are violent and aggressive. Therefore, everyone thinks twice before assaulting another. In day to day living, assault is almost unseen except for drunken brawls during anti-social hours beside nightclubs. On the contrary assault is so common in Sri Lanka that thousands are being assaulted daily and people are hit for the slightest disagreement.
Assault Culture in Sri Lanka
In the Sinhala language ‘gahanawa’ (hit) is prefixed by a range of words in a range of fields. For example
Field of Sports- Bola Gahanawa – This includes Cricket (Cricket gahanawa), football, Volley Ball, Elle and all sots of other balls including coconut (pora Pol gahanawa)
Agriculture – Pohora gahanawa (Fertilize), Thel gahanawa (Spray pesticides/weedicides) etc
Politics – Mada gahanawa (Slinging mud), geta gahanawa (scheming), kela gahanawa (spitting)
There are thousands of other examples including Adi Gahanawa (Drinking), Thadi Gahanawa (beating particularly women), Anda Gahanawa (calling), Goda gahanawa (Stacking), Hama Gahanawa (Skinning) etc. For the benefit of Apriya and Kakkushima I refrain from bringing in examples of other forms of Gehili (hitting) which should not have violent connotations but love and care. Unfortunately gahanawa has invaded every field of action indiscriminately. So everything is almost some form of a gehilla or assault in our language and no wonder assault has become so common in daily activities. Such words as gahanawa (hit), maranawa (Kill) are almost at the tip of the tongue of most people and they spit them out without hesitation or remorse. People hit each other at every situation and every place. An entertainment event has never ended without a few groups fighting. A public transport station that does not see physical violence is hard to find, a simple debate ends up in a fight and the Universities, colleges and schools breed more thugs than ever. Why hitting is so common in our society that boasts of being 90% literate and of being fashioned by non- violent cultures and religions.
Glorification of Chandi culture
Chandiya, Ganankaraya are celluloid character heroes who fight against injustice, famously portrayed by Gemini Forsake and some others in the past. That must have an influence in the acceptance that assault is part of life.
Culturally, assault is not considered serious in our society. Recently a minister’s son and his cronies assaulted a son of a DIG. The Minister justified the assault as a simple brawl between young people. “Kollo ohoma thama gahagannawa” (It is the nature of boys to fight with each other). The vast majority of assaults is unreported because of the belief that there would not be any action or punishment. In most of the reported cases, parties are called upon to settle the matter with a shaking of hands.
Another reason is the unwritten protection for the politicians, their sons and the supporters who unleash violence to intimidate anyone standing their way. Politicians, their kith and kin and the supporters are too many and once all of them engage in violence and intimidatory behavior it escalates to mega proportions and can hardly be curtailed.
The legal system pay scat attention to assault. It is therefore in the rise. The irony is that in Sri Lanka the offender is also the aggressor. For example when some one breaks a road rule and if another questions that, the offender becomes the aggressor. “ado katawaha ganin. Nethnam gahanawa”. (shut it or I will hit) where as anywhere else the offender is the one to shut up or in most cases to apologise.
Despite our claim to be a highly civilized nation, living in Sri Lanka where assault is rampant, is a daunting task for the powerless. Assaulting is barbaric behavior from the point of view of a peace loving person. People need the freedom to live without the fear of being assaulted. Assault can come any time any where in this island like a stalking tiger. Therefore assault has to be eradicated from among us. Even Mervin and Rajpal should not be assaulted.