Attorney-at-Law Nalin Laduwahetty telephoned the Chairman of The Sunday Leader, Lal Wickrematunge repeatedly in an attempt to stop this newspaper from running this story – even pushing for an afternoon meeting at the Royal Colombo Golf Club, Friday. His request was politely declined.
- Head Prefect’s Father Nalin Laduwahetty Pressures The Sunday Leader
- Seventeen Prefects Cause Serious Bodily Harm On A Junior Prefect
By Vimukthi Yapa
Seventeen Senior Prefects including the Head Prefect of St. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia were asked to leave, with immediate effect by the Warden Rev. John Charles Puddefoot, after having assaulted a fellow student, which took place in the second week of this month.
The student, a spin bowler for the St Thomas’ Cricket team Neomal Wickremasekera had been repeatedly slapped in his face (as many as twenty five times according to an old boy of the school) and bodily assaulted in addition to being subjected to other humiliating “acts” where he suffered serious bruising. The incident took place as a result of “ragging” which according to former prefects of St. Thomas’ College speaking to The Sunday Leader said is the “norm.” Both, when a new prefect is chosen and happens frequently among the sporting teams of the College as well, they said. Neomal had recently been chosen as a college prefect and all new recruits according to prefects who spoke on conditions of anonymity, they said are subjected to ragging. “The senior prefects are a law unto themselves and even have a private room where not even a teacher will enter without knocking,” a past prefect told this newspaper.
Romesh Wickremasekera, Father of the victim, Neomal, said his son had indeed “been badly assaulted” adding, “action was taken against the prefects by the Warden and my son does not wish to pursue this matter any further.”
The incident led to wide speculation with Old Boys and students of the school maintaining the prefects had been sacked by Puddefoot. The latter unfortunately remained unavailable for comment with his office refusing to lend us a phone number the British born Warden could be contacted at. His office also did not tell us Rev. Puddefoot in fact was overseas and due back in the country only today, Sunday.
Puddefoot was previously Deputy Head at Eton College including Head of Mathematics and Honorary Chaplain before coming to Sri Lanka to take over as Warden for St. Thomas’ College.
We have one question for Puddefoot who boasts of an enviable 25 year record at Eton College. If such an incident had taken place at Eton what indeed would have been the consequences?
Sub Warden Harshana Perera also remained unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts by this newspaper to reach him. He did not even respond to a text message.
School principles and teachers remained tightlipped over the incident insisting they had no formal intimation of the exact punishment metered out or action taken by Puddefoot.
M. D. Maurice, Principle for the Upper School when contacted maintained he had no formal knowledge of the incident.
Maurice however explained that St. Thomas’ usually has a prefect brigade of 25 to 30 boys chosen from the Advanced Level classes. He said it is a two tiered system consisting of college and house prefects. Asked if seventeen college prefects of that batch were still in school or not Maurice responded, “I don’t know.”
Michael Sproule, a member of the Board of Governors for St. Thomas’ College when contacted said, “I am aware there was a major incident involving the prefects at the school but I have had no formal intimation of what exactly took place and the Board has not met since then.”
Udaya Gunewardena, Honorary General Secretary of the Old Boys Association also admitted that he had heard of the incident but could not formally comment.
The Sunday Leader meanwhile came under intense pressure from the father of the former Head Prefect Vinura Laduwahetty to stop this story from being published. Attorney-at-Law Nalin Laduwahetty telephoned the Chairman of The Sunday Leader Lal Wickrematunge repeatedly in an attempt to stop this newspaper from running this story – even pushing for an afternoon meeting at the Royal Colombo Golf Club Friday. His request was politely declined.
Dinouk Colombage, a journalist for this newspaper meantime contacted and spoke with Laduwahetty snr, and jnr. including a few other of the disgraced batch who denied having been sacked, suspended or asked to leave the school with immediate effect.
Vinura Laduwahetty, former Head Prefect when questioned on whether the senior batch of prefects including himself, had been asked to leave responded, ‘We were not sacked, the school has changed their policy and senior students will now not be allowed to stay on after completing their final exams.’ When asked about the allegations of a student being assaulted he replied, ‘No I am unaware of any complaint against the prefects having been made.’ His father Nalin Laduwahetty insisted to Colombage that his son Vinura had a leaving certificate issued by the school on Monday February 14, which proved he had not been sacked. Nor, any disciplinary action taken against him.
Trehan Ranatunga, another senior prefect no longer in the school when questioned on whether the senior batch of prefects including himself had been sacked said, ‘We were asked to leave by the school, it was a new policy they have implemented which says that students cannot remain in school after completing their exams.’
Ashwin (refused to divulge his surname) when questioned on whether he together with his entire batch had been asked to leave responded with; ‘I do not have a comment.’ The Sunday Leader reliably understands that among those abruptly asked to leave by Rev. Puddefoot were also the previous Water Polo Captain, B A C A Perera, the former Rugby Captain, Rajinda Gunasekera and ex Basketball Captain Shehan Gomes. Traditionally, senior prefects continue in their posts after having completed their A Level exams until the conclusion of the Royal-Thomian cricket match which is scheduled to be held next month. Old Thomians confided that it is unheard of prefects being asked to leave mere weeks before the Big Match.
They all however unanimously applauded the action taken by Puddefoot maintaining he has lifted morale by upholding discipline in the school. The question being asked though is if these boys will be issued with both leaving and character certificates. According to Vinura Laduwahetty he already possesses a leaving certificate.