Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 02 October 2016





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Teen violence At play:

When it's no more a game

Nalindu,14, may not have meant to kill his friend, Malinga, 15. He was only trying to drive his point home, his teammates said. Malinga Nandana Lakshan, batting at a cricket match one humid evening, in an abandoned paddy field in Uthugama in Welipanne last Sunday, was bowled out, but refused to budge.

What ensued was a verbal argument between the two boys, as to who was right, and whether Malinga should continue to play. It is unclear how long the dispute had raged, and Nalindu, was at his wits' end, and losing his patience, insisted that Malinga leave the pitch. There were five other young boys who huddled around the two infuriated lads.

Before long, Nalindu grew tired of arguing, his patience wearing thin in the sweltering heat. He did the unthinkable. According to Welipanne Police, Nalindu grabbed the stick which the children had used as a make-do wicket, and attacked Malinga with it. Malinga, had allegedly collapsed on being struck with the wicket.

Pandemonium broke out, when the panic stricken boys cried foul. Neighbours who had seen the commotion hurried to the scene to find Malinga, lifeless, on the ground. He was rushed to the Waththawa Hospital where he was pronounced dead on admission, hospital sources said. Malinga, was a Grade 10 student at the Welipanne Ovitigala Vidyalaya.

Nalindu has spent six days, to-date, going over the bitter incident that had led to such a dire consequence. He spends the days at a shelter, until he would be produced at the Matugama Court, in-camera, on October 4, when the Judges would decide his fate.

Juvenile cases

The Acting Officer-in-Charge, Welipanne Police, IP Karunarathne said, it was unfortunate that a game of sport had turned out to be deadly. When contacted by the Sunday Observer, he said, the other children were questioned, but, only Nalindu was sent to the shelter. "The courts will decide on a corrective course of action," he said.

While the police do not have any statistics of juvenile cases reported this year, incidents of violence among young children also referred to as 'youth violence' have been increasingly reported in the media, in the recent past.

Retired Emeritus Sociology Prof Tennison Perera speaking to the Sunday Observer said, there are various risk factors which contribute to youth violence in Sri Lanka. Alarmingly, while society at large was aware of a potentially dangerous pattern of such incidents of violence among young children, little was being done to mitigate them, he said.

The Prof blames parents for their lackadaisical parenting attitude and poor monitoring and supervision of children. "Nowadays, you find parents who leave their children to their own devices; there's little vigilance exercised when children leave home or when they socialize, and if the parents do not discipline the child when he/she errs, they tend to repeat such behaviour, which may be destructive or detrimental," he said.

This poor family functioning, he said, was made worse when both parents in a family head out to work, while children are left unattended. He added, parents need to pay heed to their child's addiction to smartphones, television and games. Research has revealed that children who silently battle smartphone addiction have shown lower tolerance and patience.


Poor management of the technology has shown, it can lead to problems at home, school, and work, as well as in relationships, especially, among young people. Prof Perera added, technology robs children of skills, patience, tolerance, or the ability to cope with a stressful situation.

According to a National Report on Violence and Health in Sri Lanka, prepared by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization, there are various risk factors which contribute to youth violence in the country. Based on data from Police, National Child Protection Authority, Department of Probation and Child Care services, and Children's Secretariat of the Ministry of Social Welfare and National Youth Services Council, risk factors for violent behaviour can be viewed mainly in four domains: individual, family, school/peer group, and neighbourhood/community factors.

Individual factors needing attention are; deficit/hyperactivity, antisocial beliefs and attitudes, history of early aggressive behaviour, involvement in drugs, alcohol or tobacco, early involvement in general offences, low IQ, poor behavioral control, social cognitive or information-processing deficits.

During childhood, the strongest individual risk factors include committing serious (but not necessarily violent) criminal offences and substance use, while other factors are, hyperactivity and physical aggression, as stated in the report.

Family factors include authoritarian parental attitudes, exposure to violence and family conflict, harsh or inconsistent disciplinary practices, lack of involvement in the child's life, low emotional attachments to parents or caregivers, low parental education and income, parental substance abuse and criminality, poor family functioning, poor monitoring and supervision of children.

According to the case studies discussed at the National Child Protection Authority, other risk factors include poor parent-child relations exemplified by harsh, lax, or inconsistent discipline. Children of divorced, separated, or never-married parents are at a slightly increased risk of violence.


Sunil Abeynayake, a Chemistry teacher, said, he frequently saw clash of opinions which escalated beyond a mere disagreement. "I find there is scant respect for others' opinions," he said. "The students seem constantly trying to prove they are right and the other person is wrong, without realising the other individual too is entitled to his/her opinion."

He says, there is a domineering attitude, hard to quash in the absence of an adult during heated conversations. "I believe, parents need to be more mindful of how they communicate, not just with their children but with each other. Children learn a lot from what they see, more than what their parents say," he said.

(*Names have been changed to shield identity)


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