The March of folly | Daily News


The March of folly

Whoever coined the term ‘March Madness’ to describe the Big Match season, had got it dead right. For, the revelry and roister that is a marked feature during these cricketing extravaganzas between the leading boys’ schools in Colombo and a few other major cities resemble one mad, youthful, frenzy.

Such is the boisterous (male) abandon during the Big Match days that all laws seem to get thrown overboard and law enforcement is treated with an impudence that borders on contempt. Vehicle parades (known as ‘trucking’) of supporters of the rival schools are one of the main ‘attractions’ of these weekend-long revelries. But often taking centre stage in the whole itinerary is the forced entry of bands of revellers into leading girls’ schools of the area, some of them in various states of intoxication. Such antics cause pandemonium and disrupt work in these institutions.

Currently, yet another Big Match season is upon us, and, true to form, it has commenced with an incident that captured the media headlines. This incident, however, seems to be somewhat more violent than the usual juvenile antics. According to news reports, at least four vehicles were badly damaged when a Land Rover Defender, driven at high speed at a Big Match vehicle parade in Colombo 4, had crashed into a group of parked vehicles near the SSC Grounds on Sunday. Fortunately, no human casualties ensued.

This happened despite warnings by police that schoolboys and their supporters, who violate the law during the Big Match season, will be dealt with legally.

This is a familiar refrain from the police on the eve of every Big Match but the caravan rolls on unheeded, with various laws violated with impunity. In some instances in the past, the Police themselves have been at the receiving end of these schoolboy revellers’ who come from well- heeled and privileged families.

There was the case of the son of a former Government Minister went so far as to assault a police officer when he was apprehended while drawing obscene graffiti on the walls of a girls' school in Colombo. No action was taken against the lad after papa's intervention. This is the dilemma that is being faced by the law enforcement agencies which this time too is bound to give into pressure unless orders go from the top to brook no nonsense.

Nobody should be spared if he acts against the law, however influential.

Besides, some of these vehicle parades cause hindrance to the ordinary traffic movement and, in most instances, is a risk to life and limb of the revellers themselves who travel in these vehicles perched in precarious positions after being well fortified with liquor. In fact there was an instance some time ago when one of the schoolboys in a Big Match vehicle parade fell off the vehicle resulting in serious injury.

The Principals in all the schools in the island participating in Big Matches should speak out more loudly in getting their charges to adhere to the laws during this period. Serious violators should be dealt with in the strictest terms. The Big Match time should not be used by schoolboys and their supporters to harass the public and to invade girls' schools.

We are not trying to be killjoys to rob an event such as the annual school Big Match of its right atmosphere and entertainment. In some of the schools, the annual Big Match sees swarms of Old Boys descending on the venues from all parts of the world, drinking in the atmosphere and reminiscing childhood. A sport is also a social unifier that promotes camaraderie and brotherhood as is demonstrated during the Big Match season.

But things certainly cannot be allowed to get out of hand. The merriment should not create obstacles and difficulties to others nor be a hindrance to the enforcement of law and order.

The other Big Match

While it is Big Match time for the schoolboys around the country, another Big Match appears set to commence and it is only a matter of time before the Umpire calls ‘play’. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa last night became constitutionally empowered to dissolve Parliament and call for general elections.

However, unlike the school teams who play as one unit, certain teams in the political Big Match are yet hardly a ‘team’ and do not even know their ‘school crest’. In fact, in one of the camps they are even not yet firmly settled on a captain.

Most important of all, though, is that just as much as schools Big Matches should respect the law, we expect the adults in the forthcoming political Big Match to set the example to all – especially the younger generations – in strictly observing the laws.

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