25 September, 2018

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Something Humane President Sirisena Can Do; Ban Corporal Punishment In Schools

By Raj Gonsalkorale

Raj Gonsalkorale

Those who cannot teach young children without resorting to hitting them need serious psychotherapy. They invariably come from broken families being subjected to such traumatic treatments from their childhood, more often than not ending up in marriages that went sour. Now they let out their pent up frustrations on helpless children who have been entrusted to their care. It’s interesting to note that they tend to choose their victims carefully-more often than not from a minority ethnic group or an economically challenged background (one of the recent victims who had to be hospitalized was a Muslim boy. Isn’t it strange that you have never heard of a teacher at Royal Primary thrashing a child of a top politician requiring hospitalization? – Padmasena Dissanayake

Padmasena Dissanayake is an alumnus of Royal College, Colombo and a member of Royal ’64 Group and the Olive Group of Royal College. He is also a past Secretary of Royal College Old Hostellers Association and the main architect of the Royal Millennium March. He is a father of three children and a grand father of five.  In an open letter to all parents of the Royal Primary School, Colombo an elite school in Sri Lanka although some may disagree with that label, he is canvassing for a just and humane cause on behalf of many students in the country from the age of 5 years, and an overwhelming number of parents and teachers who probably feel helpless to take on the high and mighty of the education system in the country.

He goes onto say “We were also very surprised to learn that we were the first complainants as many parents backed down due to pressure and left without making an official complaint.  We not only went through all the procedures and declared that we’re prepared to take the perpetrator to courts on criminal charges. The Principal and the Head of the Primary School were summoned to the NCPA where both admitted to the charges and solemnly agreed to put the house in order. Just to make sure that all the teachers were made fully aware of the gravity of the crime, repercussions and legal positions NCPA conducted a three day workshop where all primary teachers participated. The workshop was conducted by the top authorities in the field. What they discovered was the larger majority of them weren’t guilty: few who used it were habitual offenders and they had no respect for Ministry circulars, NCPA warnings and the authority of the Principal or the head of the Primary. They were a law unto themselves! We thought our complaint, which led to a chain reaction, finally eliminated the scourge for good. Not so. Few months afterwards a friend whom I consider another son, sought my guidance as his son has been constantly hit by his class-teacher. I wasted no time in introducing him to the then the acting Chairman NCPA under whose instructions my friend immediately lodged a complaint at the Cinnamon Gardens Police Station. He went very far. Having met the Minister of Education and explained how rotten some teachers of the Primary were and it resulted in transferring out 35 teachers who had served over 10 years. We thought the problem was over. Apparently not! The latest I hear is that a teacher, who one might call a serial offender judging by past abuses, has struck again. This time the victims are three year 4 students. Her choice of weapons are said to be music instruments. Would any child love music after her training?”

Mr Dissanayake’s exposes cannot be considered isolated incidents. Much has been written by others in recent times  including an article by Amanda Moore in the Colombo Telegraph on the 21st of February 2018 (see later in this article) and a more recent on by Vimukthi Fernando and Husna Inayathullah in the Sunday Observer on the 22nd of July 2018. This article mentions the plight of the child of a parent in an international school, Dr Tush Wickremanayake, and an organisation formed by her, ‘Stop Child Cruelty’ which can be contacted by telephone on 0779497265 or by email: info@stopchildcruelty.com.

There cannot be any doubt that something needs to be done as whatever that has been done has not worked, although very possibly, an overwhelming number of teachers and principals are parents themselves and respects and loves their school children as their own.

In looking at some articles that have been written, it appears that there is some ambiguity whether Corporal punishment has been banned in Sri Lanka or not. 

Section 308 A of the Sri Lankan Penal Code (amendment) states that cruelty against children causing hurt, grievous or simple as well as torture, is a criminal offence. This Section, reproduced below however, is not about Corporal punishment but more generally about cruelty against children.

It is reliably understood that a circular issued by the Education Department, (ED/01/12/01/04/24), on May 11, 2005 to all local schools, regulating corporal punishment and assault of school children in Sri Lanka, had been withdrawn 3 days after its issue on account of pressure being brought upon the then Minister of Education by School Principals and others. This needs to be verified however and also whether a subsequent circular had been issued if indeed this circular had been withdrawn.

In a recent article titled “Corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure in Sri Lanka (Colombo Telegraph, February 21st 2018), author Amanda De Moore notes that at a recent session of the UNCRC it was highlighted that Sri Lanka has not taken proper measures to ban corporal punishment and recommendations were made to take necessary measures to ban corporal punishment to children at their homes as well as in schools. This statement seems to confirm that corporal punishment is indeed not banned in Sri Lanka.

As of 2016, an estimated 128 countries have prohibited corporal punishment in schools, including all of Europe, and most of South America and East Asia. 

Approximately 69 countries still allow for corporal punishment in schools, including parts of the USA, some Australian states, and a number of countries in Africa and Asia.

A number of medical, paediatric or psychological societies have issued statements opposing all corporal punishment in schools, citing such outcomes as poorer academic achievement, increases in antisocial behaviour, injuries to students, and an unwelcoming learning environment. Research shows that corporal punishment is less effective than other methods of behaviour management in schools, and “praise, discussions regarding values, and positive role models do more to develop character, respect, and values than does corporal punishment Evidence links corporal punishment of students to a number of adverse outcomes, including: “increased aggressive and destructive behaviour, increased disruptive classroom behaviour, vandalism, poor school achievement, poor attention span, increased drop-out rate, school avoidance and school phobia, low self-esteem, anxiety, somatic complaints, depression, suicide and retaliation against teachers. 

Clarity is needed however as to whether Section 308A bans Corporal punishment in schools.  It does not appear to do so unless the action of a teacher impinges on the provisions of the Penal Code and an action within whatever is permitted under Corporal punishment has been used deliberately to cause grievous bodily harm to a child, and then proven to have been so. It is very likely an offending teacher or Principal engages in this type of act due to his or her own psychological battles, and is likely to offend again. They too may need counselling and treatment by professionals and even medical practitioners. 

However, children who have no psychological issues are likely to develop them if they have to endure corporal punishment. They are the next generation who will give rise to the one that will follow. It is therefore important to ensure they are treated as human beings, their vulnerability and helplessness is recognised and they are supported with love and understanding.  

Corporal punishment within whatever bounds would give legitimacy to a narcissistic individual to harm a child and claim it was not intentional, and then not face any  legal consequences for his or her action. The damaged child then will not have any protection by that very same law that would exonerate the offending individual.

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Latest comments

  • 2
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    Corporal punishment is one of the most inhumane actions taking place in the country.

    Unfortunately those who clung to conventional wisdom still safeguard it as an essential.

    Is the president an appreciator & safe guarder of conventional wisdom?

    Most probably the answer is “yes” as he’s hailing from village but it doesn’t mean that there’re no teachers in Colombo, Kandy or Jaffna with a cane or a stick or even an iron bar; the magic wand, in his/her hand.

    The irony is that even primary school teachers, who is expected to rock children too using this magic wand.
    Install CCTV camera system covering every nook & corner @ least in primary schools & catch the culprits who frighten & threaten kids.

    Unless there’ll be no future for SL & signs are already visible as our society is uncontrollably corrupt.

  • 1
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    Raj Gonsalkorale wants corporal punishment banned in schools
    This issue is trivial but has become political. The mindset of some, frozen decades before the present point in time, still prevails.
    In the teacher/student tradition of the past, the teacher is highly respected. The teacher earned the respect and the punishment the teacher inflicts was accepted by the community.
    But times have changed. Teachers arriving drunk, under drugs are not uncommon. Sexual exploitation is there. The culture of corruption/nepotism/impunity has crept into the sector. Corporal punishments have gone perverse. The few errant teachers have made student lose respect of teachers in general.
    .
    Those supporting corporal punishment in schools are the ‘old mindsets’. They still believe in Hitler as a saviour.
    .
    Yes Raj, MS can do something but he will not. He needs props of the Uva CM ilk!

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      Corporal punishment trivial…?

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    Right at present,Syria and Yemen kill hundreds at a time. there is not talk about that. In GAZA and that part of the world humans are treated like Rats and are caged. PEople tqalk about getting rid of Drug dealers. Why on one is talking about that Ranajan Ramanayake’s statement that 175 PArliamentarians involved at one time or the other to sign drug consignments from entry points. How about west send drugs and west wants us to import remote sensing equipments to scan the near by seas. NGOS and businesses are there to support it. Drugs are from and via pakisthan but. Muslims do not have have hroine additiction problems. Even in Sri lanka Muslims are big traders in that. but the owenrs of the business are all VVIPs. Even Mangala Samaraweera withdrew the names of roaty club and the Lions’s club.

  • 1
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    Mr Gonkorale,

    There is no reason to protect Muslim boys from any kind of punishment. Violence is ingrained in their culture. That Muslim boy should thank his lucky stars he was born in SL. If he was born in Mid-east, he would be flogged, sodomized and even beheaded.

    Haven’t watched you watched any of the beheading videos of Moslems on Ogrish? If you did, the last thing you’d be worried about is a Muslim boy being caned on his rear-end.

  • 3
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    There has to be social awareness of abuse in Schools. This is not a recent problem. It has occurred at big schools too. While discipline at boys schools at times, can be a problem there is no need for abuse. When I was at Royal we had several sadistic teachers who took pleasure in assaulting(and I DO NOT say that lightly) students as opposed to caning or sending students to detention. In some instances my friends from less powerful families had no recourse. In grade 8 two teachers assaulted my classmate brutally that his arm was in a cast or a bandage for a long time. Hitting students is not the answer for disciplinary problems. Sometimes senior prefects abused younger students also by assaulting them in the prefects room. Was this all part of “Tradition” and boys will be boys? NO caning and assaulting are different. Then how about sexual molestation in the Hostels? Are we to pretend all this is the fault of the west? Even the legendary Vice Principal called Kataya had his weaknesses in promptly slapping students or hitting them to take out his personal frustrations over his love affair. In Grade 12 R class I was in the Science Library with my classmates and I failed to get up on time when he walked in; without a question he slapped me. Then he said it was because my hair was over my collar. It may have been but I was no hippy with long hair. He could have told me the reason and caned me and not slapped me. Same damned Tamil Teacher in Grade 4 and again in Grade 7 came in as a substitute teacher and slapped me across my ear. Yes not a cheek slap but a thundering slap across my ear. He was a grumpy bugger but a good teacher who rode a bicycle. I hated that bastard for ever and even almost 60 I remember this. Children who are molested also become molesters later too. Keep these in mind. Disce Aut Discede. This is not a laughing matter.

  • 3
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    Most of these violent teachers are men with severe problems. For example my Grade 8 Classroom teacher later, I am told mellowed a lot when he married and moved to Nalanda . He also hit a lot of boys in my class. In Grade 10, like I said, a group of students were taken to the Senior Prefects room and ASSAULTED. Thanks to our classroom teacher the Late Ernie Amarasekera who drew the line and got those bastards to apologize to our classroom. The boys came back crying. If we boys had problems because of domestic issues etc that could be solved by having trained professional counselors as in the USA where there is lot more opportunity to address disciplinary problems. Some teachers took out their political frustrations. One guy who is domiciled in Australia now had a sadistic pleasure in insulting and hitting some students he disliked frequently if they were sons of political leaders. He was the Hostel Headmaster too. One guy used to hit me across the back with thundering slaps while walking between rows of desks. He took pleasure. This was all at Royal. How about all the sexual abuse? We had great fantastic teachers who would scold me for being lazy or sometimes use harsh words but they were dedicated teachers who made a difference. I can take that. I even accept the canings across the butt/rear for violations. But some teachers hit you to make sure you have welts or bleed. And like I said that same teacher hit me across the ear twice; deja vu. In Grade 4 and in Grade 7. He was our substitute teacher. I cannot remember his name but will ask my classmates. He was a famous figure because he rode his bicycle, wore a colonial hat and had these braces to clip his trousers so they do not get entangled in the chain of his bicycle. Sadistic sexually repressed teachers and those who probably were angry at some kids in class envy or something were many. But luckily the great teachers who loved us and cared for us were more.

  • 2
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    And good thing guns are restricted in Sri Lanka. If such sadistic teachers existed in the USA, teenagers will probably bring guns and shoot them. They must consider themselves lucky. LET US NOT BLAME WESTERN VALUES and the west for these sadistic people.

  • 3
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    President will never do this. He takes decisions NOT based on science or facts but mere cheap political 18 th century political popularity. So it’s futile to request this from the president.

  • 2
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    Several studies have been done and many discussions/workshops have been held in recent times including some by Save the Children. All point out to the need for banning corporal punishment in any form in schools. A report done with Pro Harendra De Silva as the chief coordinator also found some reasons why corporal punishment, maybe within some guidelines, a beneficial form of discipline. However, while formal studies on those benefits are hard to find, there is enough research material to say that any positives of corporal punishment are far outweighed by the negatives. The injurious effect, both physical and mental to children is and has been horrendous. Children as young as 5 years old have suffered such injuries and they have suffered in silence as both their parents and even principals have been scared of the offending teachers, and often their political connections or connections with law enforcement authorities. This has to stop and I whole heartedly agree with the author. I hope others will canvass for the desired outcome at the highest possible levels

    • 0
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      Save our Children hits the nail on the head with the reminder that teachers are often there because of ~ “………their political connections or connections with law enforcement authorities…….”.
      We often see a very high high-up distributing letter of teacher appointments. Will one find this anywhere else in the world?
      .
      Teaching is no longer a noble profession. Can we expect them to be noble when it comes to using force to enforce their version of discipline?

  • 1
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    In Grade 4, that teacher hit me across my ear because I giggled. Why did I giggle? He came and asked us to draw coconut trees in our general science book. I did not do a good job. So he summoned me to the desk and drew a really nice coconut tree but with a Blue pencil. I still remember it though I am nearing 60 and cannot remember what I ate last night. Why? Because of the trauma… Same guy came to our classroom in Grade 7 too. Mind you at that time the SLFP Was in power. This time I was having a desk fight with the guy behind me and I turned around and said something when he wanted total silence. He summoned me to the front and again gave me a thundering slap across my ear. No I did not go running to my parents. No we did not use our political power to harass the guy. But I hated the bastard forever since then. Some students would pee in fright when they were hit by teachers or senior prefects. All at Raajakeeya Maha Vidyalaya aka Royal College when fantastic dedicated teachers also existed and helped us pass classes. But people like Ranil or Malik or Harsha or Eran CANNOT PRETEND this shit did not happen at Royal. At least issue WRITTEN guidelines if corporal punishment is to be given about paddling or caning. But do not allow teachers to beat kids up. Just like when kids have abusive parents, abusive teachers can lead to kids becoming abusive themselves too. STOP pretending this is fake news. Also stop pretending homosexual assaults are uncommon in top Boys schools.

  • 0
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    Remember the thick blue and red marker pencils? That guy who slapped me across the ear used a blue pencil of that type. This was in Grade 4 in 1968. Then in Grade 7 in 1971, the same guy hit me again across my ear. Wish I had retaliated. I did not and neither did my parents. But I will remember this until I die and even if I become a blithering idiot with Dementia or Alzheimer’s I will remember that.

  • 0
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    Those sadistic teacher and perverted teachers and prefects are lucky. Why? Because there is strict gun control unlike in the USA. I do not doubt a student or two would have snapped and brought guns to school when we were growing up if they were constantly assaulted. We had guns under license at home those days. But it never even crossed my mind until I became an American as to how free people are in using guns here to settle scores at schools and the tragedies. Of course nowadays the politicians in Sri Lanka humiliate teachers by forcing them to bow and worship them. Sigh sigh sigh. I am a proponent of the 2nd Amendment in the USA. I think with increased attacks on minorities in the US by racists emboldened by Trump, perhaps more ethnic minorities should exercise their constitutional rights to bear arms too and not just white people. I totally digressed there but……oh well a blue coconut tree. It was drawn beautifully by that teacher but I was in grade 4. Did I deserve a massive hit on my ear? Hell no..If he was angry at my giggle, he could have sent me out to stand in the corridor. Disce Aut Discede

  • 1
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    Let me tell you fellas a little story from personal experience. The last time I went to Sri Lanka in 2016, I have this niece of mine, who’s mater was complaining that her behavior was not top notch.

    While I was there, there was this little incident that she had been caught red handed with a boy. We inquired about the boy only to find out that he’s the son of a Post Master.

    I warned her that she must stop this affair. She was caught again getting into a bus with him. Also, the boy was known to be a petty thief in the area. Her Mother (my sister) pleaded with me to “correct” this situation. I waited till she came home, asked her to go to a room, took a plastic hanger onto my hand, asked her to pull her panties down and gave her a bloody good whipping.

    Two years later, today she still talks to me over the phone and respectfully still addresses me as Uncle Reggie and above all, she’s completed her CIMB or CIMP or whatever that God damn accounting exam is.

    Moral of the story. If this girl went to the Police and reported me that day, perhaps I would still be in jail today. Or perhaps, if I never administered that punishment to her, she would be in jail today.

    • 0
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      Hey Retarded bugger, nobody wants to read your retarded stories from your past.

    • 0
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      You’re a shameless sadist.

    • 0
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      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
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    The subject of corporal punishment has really never ended in Asia. In Europe, it is considered an archaic way of disciplining and incidentally in those countries, even the death penalty is abolished in their law. Singapore has systematized the administration of this punishment, both in schools and as well as in the penal system of the country, which borders to cruelty. For quite some time in Sri Lanka, particularly in private schools, the dictum was, “spare the rod and spoil the child”. But today the entire landscape has changed. Teachers must be taught and trained how to discipline the students without recourse to the rod, vigorous exercises, standing in one leg for about half an hour, slapping in the face etc. There is something more serious than corporal punishment itself, namely public and to some extent private humiliation, causing the child to retard and that give rise to depression and all kinds of mental diseases which is far worse some of the physical injuries.

  • 0
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    spare the rod and spoil the child is a Biblical backward notion. I know a very good black christian family here. Wonderful friends. They talk proudly of how their parents used sticks from trees and switches of tree branches to hit them. It is a backward christian concept. That is why private schools and even government schools who have deep seated western traditions perhaps continue it. I am not sure why but come on it is high time an honest dialogue happens there. Not only about corporal punishment but about child abuse and homosexual sodomizing rape of junior kids by senior prefects etc… Why not have trained counselors as part of teacher’s training schools also in all major schools with privacy guaranteed that students can go talk? look at teen pregnancies in Sri Lanka now too. Even in the International schools there are lots of kids who become pregnant because they are promiscuous. And how about in the rural schools which are not segregated by gender? What is going on in the national dialogue about serious social issues? same with heroin addiction. Is Narcan available for emergency medical workers to administer in case of overdoses? Don’t serious problems need serious discussions and solutions? Thank you Sir for writing this article.

  • 0
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    Subjecting our children to corporal punishment is a national tragedy that needs eradicating just like child labor. When I was younger, we had a small ‘servant’ boy working at home. This was quite acceptable. When I was a student at Visakha I too was forced to kneel down, in the hot sun, on piercing sandy soil. This too was quite acceptable. 40 years on, child labor is abolished in Sri Lanka but corporal punishment prevails. I look back in regret of the small boy who worked in our home and wish I could locate him to apologize for the callous infringement of his rights to enjoy a wholesome childhood. I look back in anger at the incident of kneeling down at school and wonder how on earth I turned out to be a dutiful caring citizen across the globe. Punishment in school didn’t make me; good values engraved by our parents in our home did! The law is clear. Our children are protected via 3 tier mechanism 1) Article 11 of the Constitution 2) Penal Code 308A 3) UNCRC. We need Police and other agencies to act with a backbone to uphold the law. We need parents stepping out to speak up and defend their children. We need social mobilization to act against injustice. Most importantly, we need measures to prevent corporal punishment rather than finding measures to bring perpetrators to justice in a legal system that is severely warped. Records show that there are over 270 cases of child cruelty since 2007 stuck at Attorney General’s Department awaiting advice. Those who were convicted received suspended jail sentences; all abusers are roaming free and possibly re-offending without any tracking or observation from relevant authorities. It’s time to ‘just say NO’ to Corporal punishment! http://www.stopchildcruelty.com

  • 0
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    The degradation of a human being in society is the degradation of all. I can confirm through personal experience, the first person to interfere in a legitimate investigation is either a politician or an officer related to a politician. Law enforcement services will be crippled by external pressure. Money and power corrupts absolutely. My message to parents is ‘be bold and be brave’. Do not be afraid to expose the abusers. First, you WILL lose your friends. They move away from you as if you got the plague. Next, your child WILL be harassed. Gullible kids will be turned against your own. Kind teachers become helpless observers. You WILL be portrayed as a winging fusspot and treated as public enemy number 1. You WILL be discriminated, discredited and demoralized. Then, you WILL be urged to leave the school.…but…Empower, Energize, Enlighten! Stay firm & stay convinced of your inner strength. No child is too young to learn what is right or wrong. Appraise your children of the international norms so they can defend themselves. There is protection for your child via the law – witness protection, victim harassment, etc. Every government department is lethargic and immune to the word “urgency”. You WILL be frustrated to the core to deal with them. A good lawyer is costly but an absolute necessity. Your silence is ammunition to anyone condoning corporal punishment. Change is NOT easy. There are many silent sufferers, avoid being one yourself. Speak now or forever hold your peace! Reach out for help at http://www.stopchildcruelty.com

  • 0
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    Raj,’ It is reliably understood that a circular issued by the Education Department, (ED/01/12/01/04/24), on May 11, 2005 to all local schools, regulating corporal punishment and assault of school children in Sri Lanka, had been withdrawn 3 days after its issue on account of pressure being brought upon the then Minister of Education by School Principals and others. This needs to be verified however and also whether a subsequent circular had been issued if indeed this circular had been withdrawn’.

    Yes, there is a new circular issued by the Ministry of Education on 2016/04/29, circular no 12/2016 banning corporal punishment. This was issued primarily to fulfill one of the conditions to gain GSP and was circulated only to the government schools but many did not receive it and thus ignorant of its existence. The circular is not listed on the Ministry of Education website suggesting that it was a mere paper exercise rather than a conscious effort to ban corporal punishment. You can view the circular on http://www.stopchildcruelty.com

  • 0
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    Thanks to Tush Wickramanayaka Mano Ratwatte and all others who have made very informative and positive contributions. It is up to all like minded people to canvass with the appropriate authorities to enforce the law, as it appears the law is clear on this subject.

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