Ban the harmless, encourage the dangerous is what’s being done | Sunday Observer

Ban the harmless, encourage the dangerous is what’s being done

Ven Omalpe Sobitha Thera, oops sorry, Ven Doctor Omalpe Sobitha Thera stepped down recently from his position as head of the Jatika Hela Urumaya and left it to younger members to lead the Party. Patali Champika R will continue as General Secretary while Sobitha Thera and Ratana Thera will serve on a special advisory committee. All this is well and good; it’s the business of the JHU and none of ours. But, what the ex head of the JHU pronounced recently should be our collective business. He said, (and wanting his suggestion put into effect), that all inter-school cricket matches should be banned forthwith. Easier said than the Queen of Alice’s Wonderland who thundered the order: OFF with their heads!

Loverly cricket season

Now, why did the venerable senior monk want inter school cricket matches banned? The season is just starting and it gets really hot come March, with the Battles of Blues, Maroons, Saints worked out not only in Colombo, but the outstations too. It’s a fun and games time of the year before kids settle down to heavy study for end of year exams, if not public at least school tests, which in our time we called ‘promotion tests’. Now, all get promoted, the geniuses and low IQs too. Education is supposed to be total development of personalities which means mental, physical and emotional development. The latter two are developed through sports, team games and co-curricular activities. Thus, learning with book and with pen is only one-third the content of education. And in boys’ schools, cricket matches are all important. They not only develop team spirit but leadership qualities and happy co-existence with students of other schools. Of course, this co-existence is extended to that with girls’ schools where boys often vault over walls and run round classrooms, even cycle, as they used to long ago, within the classrooms. Oh goodness, this is fun; no harm done. The girls enjoy the fun as much as the boys. Thus, it was/is that certain girls’ schools declare holidays on the days of the Big Match of theirsisterschools. It means, the girls can go watch their brothers play the willow game, some to cheer boyfriends, and the school gatekeepers and security personnel are left in peace. No lit crackers to avoid and no barricaded gates to be kept barricaded.

The Ven Monk’s reasons

Oh goodness, Menika got carried away. She asks the question ‘Now, why did the Ven Senior Monk want cricket matches banned?’ and without answering her question which was far from rhetorical, she goes into theories advocated by her promoting cricket matches. The Ven Monk declared that cricket matches encourage intake of alcohol by schoolboys and indiscipline. It has to be admitted boys break the taboo and imbibe beer if not arrack. The tents put up on the cricket grounds to house the old boys, often divided according to vintage, see much imbibing going on. But, for goodness sake, do the matches have to be banned to stop this imbibing? It’s as damning as blinding young ones who exchange looks whether of admiration or the sexier come hither kind. It’s as drastic as chopping off an arm of a thief, as they say happens in Saudi Arabia. They go further than amputation as punishment for adultery - stoning to death. Such morality, considering something that comes naturally in deprived circumstances as a heinous crime.

I, Menika, would like to boldly ask the censorious monk whether less drastic measures aren’t at hand to stop the intake of alcohol by schoolboys. Often, it’s a one off giving into the temptation of breaking rules and tasting the forbidden, like most young boys and girls experiment with smoking cigarettes. Hasn’t the monk heard of drugs and how schoolchildren are mercilessly enticed to get addicted by people who make mints of money on this, which is a heinous crime. That’s where his attention should be focused.

It looks as if not much notice has been taken of the monk’s request. Schools are announcing their big match dates; the Minister of Education, bless him, has said nothing about cricket matches. In fact, he is busy on loosening school uniforms, correctly criticizing the wearing of school ties daily to school. Menika did this in her Kandy school, but the tie was pinned on, not tied around the neck and it was cool enough in Kandy to tolerate a uniform with a collar.

What Ven Dr Omalpe Sobitha Thera should do is turn his piercingly censorious eye on drug dealers; ethanol importers; abusers of women and children and let schoolboys have their fun on big match days. The police should be vigilant about overcrowded vans and open lorries with boys dangerously spilling over. Schools should have vigilantes monitoring the schoolboy tents at the match venues, augmenting the patrolling by school prefects. You prevent taking of alcohol and dangerous driving; you do not ban the matches. And if these boys want to play pranks in girls’ schools let them, since they don’t cause harm or damage. Most play their papara bands louder at girls’ school gates and move on.

Many will join Menika in asking the Ven Monk who totes the stick of banning and the wet blanket to discard both and turn his attention to more seriously detrimental behaviour. Why does he not want these constant road protests which disrupt traffic so badly, banned or stopped as they start? He should turn his attention to the Sangha whether it is genuinely ordained or pretend monks in yellow robes. Ban them from participating in road protests and behaving so atrociously by getting into fisticuffs with police officers, climbing barricades and vaulting over walls and gates. That’s where his attention should be focused. He has power over his fellow monks and there is much to correct in them. Let the schoolboys have their cricket matches and fun these days in March.

- Menika

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