By Victor Ivan

Yet another crisis in Sri Lanka’s education system-triggered by the drafting of new guidelines for state school admissions-drags on. That such a sensitive issue has caused such strong reactions is no surprise. What’s surprising is that it’s taken so many twists and turns in the space of just a few months.

The present crisis is based on several fundamental rights petitions filed against a circular presenting a new framework for admission of pupils to grade one. The Supreme Court declared that the circular violated the principle of equal opportunity guaranteed by the Constitution. The Court correctly ordered the Secretary to the President to submit a circular that would not violate people’s fundamental rights. As a result, the responsibility
of preparing guidelines was handed over to the National Education Commission (NEC). Thereafter, the Commission recommended a good, reasonable framework. Surprisingly,
this framework was not submitted to the the Supreme court. Instead, a different set of guidelines reached the judiciary.

It was then that the Supreme Court put forward its own detailed guidelines. But they recommended a system that would sharpen the dissimilarities and would push the process of admitting children to a greater mess. It was severely criticized by the educationists who pointed out the destructive effects the implementation of those recommendations might cause. Ranil Wickremesinghe a former minister of education, took up the matter in parliament. He made an excellent analysis of the recommendations of the Supreme Court, basically tearing it apart. The parliament then took the issue up for discussion. As a better alternative to the Supreme Court recommendations could not be found immediately, it was decided to use the previous system with some amendments for the coming year only, pending the introduction of a new system.

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It was a sunny morning on Saturday, July 28. The swirling rotors of an Air Force Bell VIP helicopter stirred up a cloud of dust and dry grass as it slowly settled down in an open patch surrounded by thick jungle.

Troops clapped as the door swung open.

The visitors dismounted. They were Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Chief of Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Donald Perera and Commander of the Army, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka. Unlike the highly publicised event at Independence Square on July 19, there were no television cameras, radio commentators or media corps. A lone official camera operator took photographs of this short ceremony. It was being held at Thoppigala. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa laid a commemorative plaque watched by the VIP visitors and troops.

He was then at his residence in Los Angeles and thus chose to give a slip, like his brother Basil Rajapaksa, to the Independence Square ceremonies. They were telecast live countrywide on TV and broadcast on radio. The move was intended to obviate criticism that together with their brother President Percy Mahinda Rajapaksa, they ran the military and the country. Whether the absence helped erase that wide public perception is doubtful. Even if the nation did not see him, the Defence Secretary wanted the troops to know that he, the one who ran the military machine, acknowledged their role.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa had declared in an address to the nation that the Tiger rebels have all been driven out of the East. He wanted to be able to say that, more than anything else, to shore up the image of his Government. Allegations of human rights violations, killings, abductions, kidnappings, and the breakdown in law and order have all been having a telling effect on President Rajapaksa. He grew impatient when the military operations in the East dragged on.

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By D.B.S Jeyaraj  

 

Sri Lanka’s Eastern province will be experiencing a new sunrise, according to Government propaganda. The Rajapaksa regime claims to have vanquished the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and cleared the province of two – legged felines. Now the focus will be on development of the region. If Colombo is to be believed, the east is rising!

 

Naturally, the LTTE disputes this. The tigers say that they have merely executed a strategic withdrawal. Rasiah Ilanthiraiyan, the LTTE spokesperson on Defence affairs – an eastern son of the soil himself – was candid enough to admit on the BBC that the tigers had suffered a “setback”. It was not a “defeat,” he said. The LTTE is abandoning positional warfare and adopting guerilla tactics in the future.

 

There was a time when the LTTE controlled extensive territory in the East. The tigers claimed then that 70% of the East was under them. When Jaffna fell in 1996, LTTE propagandists tried to make the best of a difficult situation by pointing out that more “land” in the east had come under their control than what was lost in the north.

 

 In Trincomalee district, the LTTE had areas north of Trinco town and the greater part of Muttur and Eechilampatru divisions in the South. It also had a small portion of the Seruwila division.

In Batticaloa district, the LTTE controlled the bulk of territory in the hinterland to the west of Batticaloa lagoon, the Vaharai region and also the Kudumbimalai /Thoppigala areas.

In Amparai district, the LTTE controlled the Kanchikudicharu – Rufuskulam jungle areas and adjacent villages. It also maintained a presence in the Lahugala and Pottuvil jungle areas.

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By Air Vice Marshal Harry Gunetilleke (Rtd)

Come around mid-July this year, there were victory celebrations with much euphoria, if not in the North and North East of Sri Lanka, with some enthusiasm certainly in the rest of the country, at the behest of the State which gave the lead with a colourful military parade at Independence Square, reminiscent of the yearly Independence day celebrations, on the occasion of the conquest of Thoppigala, even before the powder ran dry.

Here, it must be noted that the military hierarchy desired another week or two for mopping up operations but the power that be would have none of it perhaps, wanting to put up a great show before the other big event of the opposition planned for 26th July through a mass rally where crowds in six figures were expected for the event.

I leave it to the readers to judge the reaction of the masses and other organizations as to who outdid the other and at what expense to the nation. As an ex-military chief, I am pleased at the exploits of our soldiers, sailors and airmen in the battle-field which commenced with the Jaffna Peninsula being brought under the writ of authority of the Government in 1995, followed eleven years later with the reacquisition of a large land area in the Trincomalee district comprising Muttur, Sampur, Thopur, Mavil Aru and Kattaiparichan in July/August last year, ending up, to this point of time, at Thoppigala in the Batticaloa district after securing the seaward defences in Verugal, Mankeshi, Panichchankerni and Vakarai areas.

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