Letters to the Editor | Sunday Observer

Letters to the Editor

What does death sentence mean?

In various parts of the world, ‘Death Sentence,’ termed Capital Punishment, is proclaimed by courts and carried out.

Such punishment is meted out to criminals for crimes such as, murders, narcotics, rape, etc. Also in some countries honour killing too takes place!

Here in Sri Lanka, crime is rampart as Capital Punishment is in moratorium.

Legal authorities are given the task, not only to maintain law and order but to bring the criminals to book. Painstakingly, over a period of time they solve these crimes committed by unruly elements. Some officials lose their lives in apprehending these anti-social elements.

In a civilized society, Magistrates, Judges, Justices are delegated the duty to mete out justice to aggrieved parties and courts maintained at great expenditure. A separate Ministry functions to maintain law and order and prisons are set up to house these barbarians at the expense of the citizens.

Over a period, with the help of attorneys and at great risk, the Justice proclaims death sentence when the crimes are proved beyond reasonable doubt.

In many cases, the Jury (Public) is given the opportunity to give a verdict. Lately the media reported that 18 criminals were sentenced to death for the murder of Nihal Perera of Noori Estate; the criminal for little Seya’s death, and for Varsha’s of Trincomalee, and so on.

Now, we saw seven criminals being sentenced to death over the rape and murder of Vidhya of Jaffna. Invariably, the innocents are the victims of these uncouth barbarians and their lives cut short by these acts.

The Death Row in our country carries many criminals, who enjoy good food, get an opportunity to use mobile phones, drugs, cigarettes, liquor etc.

These are all at the expense of law abiding citizens of the country.

One politician says to give reprieve to these prisoners as Prisons are overcrowded. Then the trials and efforts, by the legal authorities and the sentences given would be meaningless. What is the purpose of all these efforts?

If one has committed a crime, one must pay the price for it, and the only solution is to re-introduce the Capital Punishment as a lesson to the others in this vicious circle and a reward to the authorities.

Unless and until Capital Punishment is imposed on these criminals, crime in our country cannot be contained and there would be no meaning to Death Sentence!

Kingsley Durairaj,


Kelani Valley, what about Kitulgala?

My good friend Mahil Wijesinghe has written at length about the Kelani Valley. I would like to add another aspect he has not touched upon, i.e. Kitulgala in the valley. It became famous after the production of the film, Bridge on the River Kwai, by David Lean, the famous film producer. The film was produced entirely in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) with the help of the local people.

The producer selected Sri Lanka’s Kitulgala, as Kitulgala had scenery similar to that of Siam in the story of the film. A beautiful bridge was constructed over Kitulgala Oya as part of the film.

The story based in Siam by a French novelist was about the World War in which some Japanese soldiers had to be taken in a train towards India through Burma and Siam. On their journey they had to cross a jungle river known as Kwai on the Burma Siam border.

To cross the river a bridge had to be built. The bridge was to be built by forced Allied prisoners of war in the Japanese jungle prison camp. According to the story some prisoners escape from the camp and later come quietly to destroy the bridge by setting dynamite, while the train was passing over it.

They manage to destroy both, the bridge and the train when it was passing over the bridge.

It was a thrilling story. David Lean bought an old railway engine and some old discarded carriages from the railway department (Kelani Valley narrow gauge) junkyards, for the train and made them run by motor. The film ran to crowded houses in cinemas all over the world and won Seven Academy Awards. It is rarely that we see films of this nature, today.

Later on tourists visited this site where the film was filmed. I too visited it in the late 1950s.

The original Kelani Valley train with its narrow gauge or baby train was an attraction in the valley. Originally, it ran from Colombo to Opanayaka.

I have nostalgic memories of a ride I once had in this baby train merely for the fun and thrill of it. It was rocking like a cradle and I enjoyed it. Moving this way and that, you feel as if the carriage is going to run off the rails, but it will not.

What I feel is that this line should have been preserved as a tourist attraction. The construction of the K.V. Line was done in the days of the British Sahib, with its narrow gauge. There were similar baby trains at that time in Africa, done by the British. Some Buddhist pilgrims to India sometime back told me that there were similar trains in India, but I wonder whether they are still in existence or discontinued with the passage of time, or have the Indians preserved them as a tourist attraction?

- V.M. Fernando


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