It is a mixed school in the outskirts of Hanwella and the sports master there opted for the boys from grade eight onwards for an exercise he described as ‘leadership training’.
It all began on October five when a group of seven students and another youth left their homes in and around Hanwella to join the sports master on a trip to Kataragama.
Earlier the parents of the boys were informed by the school sports master that the group would be participating in a volley ball competition in Embilipitiya and prior written approval was obtained.
The group left the village in the sports master’s private vehicle, but instead of Embilipitiya the group headed for Kataragama.
|The sports room where it is alleged that the master had shown porn to the students on his mobile phone. Pix by Saman Kariyawasam
|The suspect’s vehicle in which he took the young
boys on the controversial trips
On arrival at Kataragama, there were no volley ball games lined up and later in the evening as dusk fell the three grade eight boys of the group each aged 13 were to undergo an experience which now investigators believe were sadistic sexual acts caught on film by the sports master with the connivance of the older boys.
Here is an account as told by one of the boy’s to his mother, that was later related to the police. “The older boys stripped us naked and forced us to carry out several exercises, and all the time the sports master had his video phone on us.
“We were told this was leadership training, an important requirement if we were to be selected for the school’s volley ball team. This went on for a considerable period of time, with a few breaks in between.
“The next day we were taken to the jungle, and once again stripped and flung into shallow pools of muddy water by the older boys despite our repeated protests. They threatened us with serious bodily harm should we inform our homes or any one on what was taking place,” the 13-year-old concluded.
Investigators believe that the suspect with the assistance of the four older boys had laced the food of the victims with mild sedatives before committing lewd sex acts.
They said that phone sim cards recovered from the 42-year-old suspect indicate the extent of what took place on those two nights but refused to elaborate since the material was now evidence before courts. “There are several lewd sex acts that have been recorded, and that is all we can say for the moment,” on officer said.
Police are also investigating reports that the suspect, the owner of a luxury passenger coach and other vehicles is also the founder of a clandestine website which may be involved in child pornography.
Investigators believe that the suspect had made similar earlier runs with the four older boys and in order to increase the number they had taken three grade eight students with the hope of convincing them to be a part of a permanent group.
The master had even planned a similar trip to Jaffna in mid December and the boys were looking forward to the trip, they said. “Some how he had a way of convincing the youngsters, so much so that they opted to keep the Kataragama ordeal a secret until a parent had felt something suspicious had happened on the trip,” the officer said.
The suspect is married and is the father of a daughter. However, since the incident the wife and he have separated and the suspect is reportedly living with a male companion.
He was regarded with the highest respect by both students and staff, is how the principal, described his sports master.
“There was nothing shady about this man. He was a strict disciplinarian who stuck to his task and goals. We never questioned his sports trips to the outstations with students and there has never been a single complaint against him. That is why, in this case too we trusted the man,” the principal of the school told the Sunday Times.
His views were shared by-Palitha Weerasooriya, the Zonal Director of Education for the Homagama Division. “A three-member committee appointed to look into the matter has come up with hard evidence to suggest that the suspect had in fact abused the boys at his school over a period of time.
“The committee, interviewed several victims and he will be dismissed with immediate effect. There will be no pardon what so ever. This is a serious matter, involving children in our care and the matter should be treated accordingly,” Mr. Weerasooriya said.
Investigations have also revealed that the master had got students interested in his activities by showing them pornographic material on his mobile phone inside the tiny sports room situated at the entrance to the school’s primary, he added.
“The parents should also share a part of the blame for failing to monitor the movements of their children. Instead of listening just to the sports master they should have also double-checked with the school principal on these so-called sports outings. The principal too has failed in his duties by not checking on the activities of the master,” Mr. Weerasooriya added.
** Names have been withheld to protect the identity of the victims.
A mother’s suspicion
leads to breakthrough
The breakthrough in the case came about five weeks after the trip to Kataragama. Until then it was a closely guarded secret by all those involved. “It was shortly before dusk last Saturday when the sports master pulled outside my gate and called out for my son. The two soon began speaking in hushed tones, and when I asked the master to come inside the house, he politely declined saying he was in a hurry to leave,” the mother of a victim who went to the police with the story told the Sunday Times.
“The following day my son went to the village temple close by and was late in coming home. I was suspicious. Later I pulled him up. I even lied and told him that his sports master had also called over regarding an urgent issue. I told him that the sports master had admitted that there were no volley ball games in Embilipitiya and that instead they had gone on a trip to Kataragama.
“ To this my son reacted in shock confirming my suspicions. “He later told me everything that had taken place, and the next thing I was running to the local police station,” she said.
How can this happen in our local school?
The elder citizens of this little known town have reacted in shock and disbelief to what was happening at the local school.“We thought these things took place only in the more affluent schools situated in larger towns and cities. For this to happen in Hanwella, it is shocking,” is how a local grocer, summed it up.
“The sports master was a respected man who was not known to abuse even alcohol and tobacco. This has come as a shock to all of us.
“Those were innocent children in his care and he went about molesting and using them as sex objects. Justice must prevail, and I hope there will be no interference from any quarter,” he added.
We will leave no room for
The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) is closely monitoring the ongoing investigations in the Hanwella case to ensure that the police investigations are carried out properly.“We will not leave room for a cover up whatever the pressures may be, NCPA Chairperson, Anoma Dissanayake said.
She added that past experience has shown culprits going free owing to the corruption of a few individuals. However this will not be the case at Hanwella, she assured.