19 November, 2018

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Meet The Lawyers Who Won The Fight For Kuliyapitiya – And All Children With HIV/AIDS

By Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

Some days ago, a boy was denied access to an education on the suspicion that he had HIV/AIDS. It seemed the entire Sri Lankan rose up in protest over his plight – and over the retarded comments of the Education Minister, who tried to make a case for separating the child from his mother.

And what did we do? Nothing, of course.

Three people, however, carried on the fight. Kamani Jinadasa, Senany Dayaratne and Thishya Weragoda continued pushing the Supreme Court to make sure that this would never happen again. And yesterday, K Srivpana, 44th Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, ruled in the Supreme Court that every citizen over the age of five years has a right to education at any government school in the country, HIV or no HIV.

Not only does this make it illegal for such idiocy as we witnessed not too long ago: it also sets a precedent for other HIV/Aids victories. After all, we live in a country where the discussion of sex is taboo, an STD worse than an exorcism, and an entire village and a Minister ostracize a child over the mere suspicion of him being infected.Kamani Jinadasa, Senany Dayaratne and Thishya Weragoda

Kamani Jinadasa, Thishya Weragoda and Senany Dayaratne

In this nation, these three have made history: together with Counsel Senani Dayaratne, they fought on behalf of a petition put forward by the mother of said child, seeking a legal declaration that the child would be allowed an unobstructed education in a government school within two miles of her residence. Cited in the petition (I’m assuming as Imbeciles-In-Chief) were Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, J. G. N. Thilakaratna, the Provincial Director of Education, A. S. K. Jayalath Zonal Director of Education, the Principals of three schools, the Education Ministry Secretary, IGP and the Attorney General as infringing on the rights of her child to equal treatment and non-discrimination under the law of the country.

And they won.

Who are they? Kamani is a consultant with a history of working for women’s rights, gender equality and the rights of those with HIV. Senany and Thishya are independent lawyers. They are the kind of people we need more of.

If this introduction seems a trifle too dramatic, it’s because they deserve it. They deserve a standing ovation. Because, goddammit, while we were here bitching about the Big Match and the charge in our phone batteries, they actually went out and changed the course of the future. These are the heroes of today.

*Yudhanjaya Wijeratne is a contributor to Colombo Telegraph, his articles can be found on his blog, icaruswept.com

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Latest comments

  • 23
    0

    Thank you for the report.
    With such lawyers, there is much hope for this country

    • 19
      2

      Yes, it is great that these lawyers have made sure that little boys like Rahul will no longer have to leave their familiar surroundings and go in to strange places for their education. I refer, of course to the fact that, heartwarming as that story from Trinity College was, the little guy has to adjust to life in a totally strange environment.

      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/a-school-at-last-for-the-kuliyapitiya-boy/#comments

      I also said this, on the 9th of March, while agreeing that we had to rejoice that the prestigious school had come to the rescue of the little boy, that “Sometimes the truth is more complex than at first appears. It may be that in six days I have to reveal another side to all this. I hope I don’t have to!”

      And on the 10th, I added this:

      “Come the Ides of March 2016, and I may be forced to say things that I don’t want to about these wonderful schools that I owe so much to – . . . and I keep praying that I won’t have to write that article.”

      Well the Ides of March are with us; and what has happened is worse that anything that I foresaw. We are all agreed that teachers are vital to prepare the next generation to face new challenges, and I tried to give an account of the various types of schools that we have in the country, and the need to understand the unseen forces that control them.

      Some schools are in the limelight, and there can be no hanky panky.

      “S. Thomas’ branch schools . . . this may HAVE to be explained next week”, I said.

      How many will even believe this? The teachers in the schools at Kollupitiya, Bandarawela and Gurutalawa (now who has heard of that place?) are entitled to representation on the Board of Governors that looks after the Mt Lavinia school as well.

      Well, a guy who had not been sponsored by the Staff of any of the schools, was cheated on to the Board. Just slander, says you? Well, let me throw this challenge to the Bishop and the BoG: the man they sneaked in has never SAT a public exam. No, not even the O. Levels! How could he, when he never went beyond Grade 8?

      I had quietly warned all concerned that what was contemplated was an insult to the teaching fraternity. But I only expected a lack of democracy. We talk about Minister Akila V.K.’s suitability; but I didn’t expect this! Grade 8!

      “Sinhala_Man” will have to give his baptismal name (something also referred to earlier) and with my photograph in place, I will have to explain myself – and face all consequences!

      Yes, we need lawyers who will fight for the oppressed! In this case, for the teachers!!

      • 8
        0

        Sinha Man

        The chap you are referring to I believe has been or will be sent packing, as the dictatorial and old fashioned former Headmaster of the Kollupitiya school (the chief backer of the chap you’ve mentioned) was also sent packing.

        However the sneaky Bishop has now replaced all heads of the 4 S. Thomas’ schools with priests who he can directly manipulate. In addition, he has placed his close relative and other unqualified people as moles in the hierarchy of the Kollupitiya school. Soon he will insist that his choices are nominated as the representatives to the board. You see wherein the problem lies? The same bishop (as interim chair of the Trinity College board as well) has the audacity to sit in the photograph with Akila V and grin as the “MOU” is being signed. With hats off to the TCK OBU, there should be a distancing of the schools from these power hungry bishops, who are not unlike certain monks in robes looking for political power. The present incarnation is one of the worst in history. Sad that these schools that have turned out some of Sri Lanka’s finest minds are being destroyed by the religious corrupt.

  • 8
    1

    Well done Kamani, Senany and Thishya for fighting for this selfless right. The fact is that people like you are a minority within a minority of the majority. None of the newspapers or TV stations or Radio would want to announce your victory, this is because of our ingrained culture that persons who contract HIV deserve getting it for what they have been up to. Believe me, not only the three wheeler driver thinks this way, but even the Minister of Higher Education and other highly educated individuals holding authority belong to this culture. It is in this similar way that we quietly watched innocent minorities getting harassed, killed and abused by a majority for the simple reason again that they deserve it for not towing whatever line the majority wants to impose. Our Political leaders have ravished and capitalized on the culture of this weakness amongst the majority population making this country lame, unproductive and undisciplined to what it is now. An article in CT https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/which-part-of-the-1978-tomfoolery-is-to-be-retained/ aptly summarizes one of the rulers in this country, drove this country towards anarchy and instability for what it is now. Rulers before him and after him were no different and made equally similar mistakes of arrogance. Sadly, we are also a nation sans philosophers, poets and peace activists but a country famous for Sepala Ekanayake (Hi-Jacker who was given a heros welcome when he arrived at Colombo Airport), Wijayamuni (the Navy Soldier who hit Rajiv Ghandhi with a rifle at one of the highest prestigious Guard of Honor ceremonies and thereafter became popular with the citizens for this “brave” action and even contested for elections thereafter), Somarama Thera (Sinhalese Buddhist Priest while in robe who shot and killed SWRD in cold blood) and many many others.
    Therefore, not much can be expected as reform from the people and leaders of this nation, because they all belong to a culture that views an issue with preset notions.

  • 8
    0

    These 3 lawyers surely need praise and appreciation for their contribution towards a worthy cause. The decision will mould the society to the right path.

  • 5
    1

    Hats off to these lawyers….But, the person who wrote this article has said “What did we do ? – Nothing “….That part I won’t agree to…Because, the normal citizen cannot do anything other than to show and display his/her anger towards this discriminating issue for the poor child…..

    I have been following so many articles and write ups by so many people across the globe…Thoroughly disgusted with this inhuman act……And some telling off in utter foul language in social media for the dumb ass of an education minister too….

    I, my self wrote quite a number of comments and displayed my disgust towards this issue in Social media….

    What else can the normal citizens do ???

    IF I come to Sri Lanka next, and if I find this child’s address, I would certainly love to donate things like stationery, clothing and toys for this child, in whatever the way I can…..

    To take action legally, obviously a team of lawyers should stand up for this child….And these three Lawyers did it successfully….Well done.

    • 3
      0

      If do you have commented clearly, you have done much.

  • 6
    1

    Thank you.

    Dr.RN

  • 4
    0

    Standing up and fighting for the rights of the oppressed is a noble task. It is a duty. Victory is difficult but not impossible.

    When there is oppression, there are “reasons” people attribute to it and justify oppression as reasonable. But when a person rises above all reasoning and looks with love for the oppressed, the blessing of God enables success and freedom for the oppressed.

    I thank the three lawyers for rising up to their call, to fight for freedom and win it for all those who were so oppressed

  • 5
    0

    We need more lawyers like these for “Public Interest Litigation” like what they have taken on, and succeeded, in the supreme court.

    Will they take on the horrible millstone called “Law’s Delays” in Sri Lanka, which impoverishes litigants and their families, in some cases, for generations?

  • 7
    0

    The School Principal who ashed other Principals not to take this Child to their Schools should be arrested and prosecuted.

  • 5
    0

    Well done. Keep it up.

  • 3
    0

    Kamani Jinadasa, Thishya Weragoda, Senany Dayaratne,
    thank you sincererly and gratefully for all the valuable help with regard to this case of the mother and son. Words will never be adequate enough to thank you three wonderful persons for your time and energy.

    Yes ! Sri Lanka desperately needs people like you to bring it out of the darkness it is wallowing in.
    May the good God, the author of all goodness bless you and your families in all that you do and may you go from strength to strength as life goes on. Thank you.

  • 1
    0

    well done guys,very proud of u ,for stand against this jungle law in un faith full hands,also my great thoughts and thanks for the few schools who offer this poor child a school,wonder what happend to our buddhist monks who protest for everything,where the politikos,ranjans acting was good,wonder its acting with out a act only?great work of ur team,to stand an stamp the law for future,oba samata budusaranai,

  • 5
    0

    While being grateful for helping the victim, suggest that why not gather momentum to reduce the unnecessary powers vested with the parliamentarians during the passage of the new constitution? Most of the stupid decision making is done by unprofessional parliamentarians.It would be very timely.

  • 0
    5

    If there are many HIV AIDs children wit HIV-AIDs, they deserve a different school.

    Because of compassion, other children should not be allowed to get infected because of accidents.

    • 1
      0

      Jim Shitty……..shut the hell up.

  • 0
    0

    Well done to three of you.Country is on the democratic pathway and things cannot be change d overnight.We will hope many professionals will come forward like them to help masses who don’t have s voice.

  • 0
    0

    Nice to hear about your success.Why not take up the case of a ROAD -in front of the Dalada Maligawa.

    The road being closed or not has no practical purpose for me, but I hate to see such Tom Foolery being practized.I live far away from kandy.

    Maha Nayakes are nothing but another civilian in safron. They do not claim to be follow even the five precepts.They have come into such positions through time/age and influence.They should not be allowed to dictate what the civilian does.

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