‘Whodunit’ via Legal Passage

by K.S.Sivakumaran

As a teenager, I could remember a cricket match played at the Colombo Oval between a team of Ceylonese cricketers and a team from Australia. I couldn’t watch the match as I was living in Maddakkalappu and there was no TV in the late 1940s. I was a keen cricket enthusiast then.

Famous Aussie cricketers like Don Bradman, Keith Miller, Arthur Morris, Ray Lindwall, Neil Harvey and the like and from Lanka (it was Ceylon then), there were big guns then M. Sathasivam, F.C.de Saram, C.I.Gunasekera, C.H.Gunasekera, Sathi Coomarasamay, Ben Navaratna et al whom I fancied.

Although I collected the cricket pictures of all the world cricketers published in the newspapers, particularly in the Sporting Times, then published by the then Times of Ceylon Ltd., I had a special age in my scrap book for Sathasivam and Keith Miller for their styles in Batting and Bowling respectively.

I wanted to be an all rounder like Keith Miller and a Stylist batsman like Sathasivam. But my dream- like adoration for Sathasivam vanished when I read in the papers that he was alleged to have murdered his wife. Crime those days was shocking and a mortal sin. But these days, crime is justified in some circles. What a crude world this is.

Sathasivasm is a subject of study by Prof. Ravindra Fernando in a volume of 480 pages published by Vijitha Yapa Publications. The title of the book is A Murder in Ceylon. It is an expose of the Sathasivam case. As a ‘whodunit’ crime story, the author takes us through 17 chapters and Figures of what really happened almost 60 years ago. It is a fascinating reading for those born after the 1950s.

The author is Senior Professor of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo. He is also the Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights of the Colombo University. Dr. Ravindra Fernando has many credentials which you would gather as you continue reading his book.

The blurb says: the book objectively examines and presents the pertinent facts and expert evidence led at the 57-day trial of this land mark case in the history of law and forensic medicine in Sri Lanka.” Right.

It would be interesting for the young people to note that three famous Lankans were legally involved in one of the notorious criminal cases in the last century. The figures were: the late Justice Gratiaen (Remember the Gratiaen Literary Prizes awarded yearly in Colombo by a Trust founded by internationally known Lanka born Canadian writer in English, Michael Ondaatji? ), the late Dr.Colvin de Silva, and Justice T.S.Fernando. ‘Despite an excellent scientific analysis of the evidence’, ‘What did the Jury decide?”

To find out, you have to read the book. If you are a legal and enlightened reader, you will find the book very absorbing.

Yes, the book reads like fiction. But it is not pure fiction. And the writer succeeds in stimulating the reader to follow his account until the end.

I found the letter written by the victim Ananda to her husband Sathasivam gives a clue for the rationale for the murder. But one is not sure whether she wrote that in English or it was translated from Thamil. Nevertheless, one notices that she was deeply hurt by the actions of her spouse. Here are some lines to suggest that:

“I will release you from the bond of this unhappy marriage. It is because you want something better than me to take about, that you leave me at home, and take another woman out with you. We are just not made for each other. I can never tolerate another woman to be seen with you, so why should we quarrel over this? You must do as you like, and as long as I am married to you, I will not allow this kind of taking women out behind my back…”

The author writes on page 452: “I had the opportunity to meet the only daughter of Mr and Mrs. Sathasivam living in Sri Lanka. She told me that all family members firmly believed that Mr Sathasivam did not kill her mother. “He was gentle person. He could not have killed any one. He did not do it.,” she assured me.”

Prof. Ravindra Fernando’s book is a contribution to a different genre of writing in English in this country.

Contact: sivakumaranks@yahoo.com

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