SRI LANKA: School boy assaulted and frightened by death threats made by his Principal


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-163-2008
ISSUES: Child rights, Threats and intimidation, Torture,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding a 19 year old school boy assaulted and frightened by death threats made by the Principal of his school Sri Dharmalankara Maha Vidyalaya, Galle on 23 April 2008.

CASE DETAILS: (based on the testimony of Herath Mudalige Janith Thilanka)

On 23 April 2008 Janith left for school on his bicycle at about 7.15. am. On the way the bicycle chain broke and he went to get it repaired. He then continued to go to school, but was late. On the way, he met two of his classmates, Thusith and Samanath, in a shop outside the school.  They had come to purchase some medicine for Thusitha’s headache. They told Janith that school had already started. The three boys then hurried back to school but by the time they got there they found that the morning assembly had ended.

The Principal, noticing the late arrival of the boys, called them to him, and questioned them, using bad language. In particular he questioned Thusith who told him that he had gone to the shop before school started and was delayed. He did not ask anything of Janith. However, an unsuspecting Janith was suddenly assaulted by the Principal. He received sudden and ferocious blows to his ears which gave him a concussion. Subsequently, he did not hear what was said or know what was happening around him for some time.

The Principal, dissatisfied with the boy, despite slapping him, then grabbed a wooden pole from the fence to hit him. However, another teacher, Mr. Priyankara, came to the rescue of Janith. The angry Principal then threatened that he would not teach them any more and that he ‘can even get them killed’. He then chased the boys’ home. The teachers who had seen the incident were also frightened and decided that the boys should go home.

As a result of the assault, Janith’s face began to swell, his eye become red and he began to experience a severe head ache. Janith and Thusitha then went to the Karapitiya Hospital for medical treatment. Janith told the examining doctor that he had been assaulted by his Principal. Janith was admitted to the hospital where he received treatment until 25 April. He was also examined by a Judicial Medical Officer while the Hospital Police took a statement from him.

On 28 April both Janith and Thusitha went back to school on which day there was a parent- teachers meeting. At the meeting Janith’s father told how the Principal had assaulted his son. In return, Janith’s father was scolded by the Principal who then tried to assault him and chased him from the meeting.

On 29 April Janith, his parents and Thusitha went to the Akmeemana Policie station for a police inquiry. The Principal was also there. The Principal lied, saying that Janith had tried to assault him first and his hand had accidentally struck Janith. The Akmeemana OIC who conducted the inquiry then referred the matter to the Mediation Board.

Janith is now not attending school due to study leave (Preparatory leave for Advanced Level exam which he is due to sit this August). The Principal continues to hold office. According to the students, the Principal is known to regularly conduct himself in an undisciplined manner, using bad language in addressing both students and teachers. The teachers often advise the students not to get involved in talking with the Principal.


The AHRC has documented a large number of similar cases that represent corporal punishment of a severe nature that exists in the academic institutions of Sri Lanka. For further details, please see: 
UA-276-2007: A boy was brutally beaten by his principal and hospitalized on 3 August 2007. No action has been taken by the police and the principal has instructed the parents to remove him from the school.

UA-290-2007: A 17-year-old schoolboy was deprived from his right to education by his school principal for more than 4 months, despite education department directives to the contrary. The police threatened and pressurized the boy’s parent to withdraw their complaint when they complained to the Police, Women and Children’s Bureau in Colombo. No disciplinary or legal action has been taken against the errant school principal.

UA-316-2007: A boy was allegedly assaulted by a teacher and was denied his right to education due to intervention by the teacher’s colleagues. When a new school was arranged for the boy after around six months since the incident the boy was scared to attend the school. There has been no investigation of the matter.

AHRC-UAC-089-2008: A young boy was severely assaulted by the deputy Principal in Galle on 27 March 2008. As a result of this punishment, he was admitted to a hospital for treatment.

AHRC-UAC-129-2008: A boy, who had been previously beaten by his teacher, was taken to a hospital for his injuries after having been beaten once again. The father of the boy has already made a complaint to the police, but they, instead of conducting a thorough investigation contrary to their own regulations, referred the case for mediation.

The cases demonstrate that the authorities have failed to address the existing practice of corporal punishment in schools and have been found reluctant to acknowledge such practice as a serious problem.

This practice has developed fear among the children, lowering their courage and creativity and gradually weakening their respect for their teachers. Teachers, who often beat students, fail to understand that they are continuing an unethical practice thereby earning themselves a bad reputation in the community. They foster disrespect and distrust among the children. These teachers fail to realize their responsibility in building the next generation. They are responsible for creating an uncomfortable and an undesirable environment for the impressionable minds of the younger generation.

The authorities think they have accepted their responsibility by issuing such official circulars as Circular No. ED/01/12/01/04/24 or a Section (Section 308A (1) of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka) prohibiting cruel treatment of children. No law provides any benefit to its expected beneficiaries unless it is applied and enforced with equity. The authorities cannot deny their primary responsibility of ensuring a safer and education-friendly environment in the schools. This can be accomplished either by correcting the behavior of the perpetrators or by punishing and removing them from the teaching profession.

Please write to the relevant authorities listed below and request them to investigate this case and take immediate disciplinary action against those responsible.

Please be informed that the AHRC has also written separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture calling for an intervention in this case.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear __________,

SRI LANKA: School boy assaulted and frightened by death threats by his Principal

Name of victims: 
1. Herath Mudalige Janith Thilanka (19) resident of Thalawa goda, Thalgampala, Galle
2. Thusith, 
3. Samanatha
Both are students of the same class
Name of alleged perpetrator: Principal of Sri Dharmalankara Maha Vidyalaya, Galle
Date of incident: 23 April 2008
Place of incident: At school Sri Dharmalankara Maha Vidyalaya, Galle

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the alleged assault about the ears of a 19 year old school boy, by the Principal of Sri Dharmalankara Maha Vidyalaya, Galle on 23 April 2008.

According to the information I have received, the boy Janith had arrived at school late with two other boys. Janith was not asked why he was late while the other boys with him were questioned about it by the Principal. However Janith was allegedly assaulted about his ears by the Principal.

I am told that the unsuspecting Janith suffered a concussion and did not know what was happening.

I am informed that the Principal tried to hit him again with a pole he had grabbed from a nearby fence. However a teacher had dragged Janith away.

I have learned that the Principal had allegedly threatened the boys that he will not teach them and that he “can even get them killed.”

I am aware that subsequent to his assault Janith received medical treatment at the Karapitiya Hospital where he was treated until 25 April. Janith claimed that there were many eye-witnesses who could support his statement of assault.

I have been informed that at the Police inquiry the Principal allegedly lied and denied that he assaulted Janith. He stated that Janith had tried to assault him first and that his hand had accidentally struck Janith.

I urge you to write to the concerned authorities to make inquiries into this incident. If the Principal is found guilty in the investigation, due disciplinary and legal action should be taken against him. A Principal who assaults and frightens students with death threats and lies to cover up his actions is hardly to be considered a teacher and unworthy of such a prestigious post.

A screening system should be in effect with regard to teachers’ recruitment. In the post-recruitment phases there need to be recognized ethical standards of discipline for a sustainable educational system.

Yours sincerely,



1. Director 
Provincial Education, 
Education department, 

2. Director, 
Zonal Education, 
Department of Zonal Education, 

3. Chairperson
National Child Protection Authority 
330, Thalawathgoda Road 
Tel: +94 11 2 778912/13/14 
Fax: +94 11 2 778975

4. Chairperson
OIC Women and Children’s Bureau
25, Yst Building Srimath Baronthilake Mawatha
Colombo 01

5. Secretary 
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka 
No. 36, Kynsey Road 
Colombo 8 
Tel: +94 11 2 694 925 / 673 806 
Fax: +94 11 2 694 924 / 696 470 

6. Bo Viktor Nylun
Head of Child Protection
UNICEF Sri Lanka
P.O. Box 143, Colombo
Tel: +94 11 2 555 270 (6 lines)
Fax: +94 11 2 551 333

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : AHRC-UAC-163-2008
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Child rights, Threats and intimidation, Torture,