Northern Jaffna was the citadel of education in Sri Lanka following
the advent of Christian missionaries who set up schools there. Even
Sinhalese students, many of whom later became top-flight lawyers,
doctors and other professionals, were sent to the north to be 'disciplined'
at these colleges.
After Independence too, the northern populace placed education on
a pedestal because there was this firm belief that it was the gateway
to a better life - wherever in the world.
more recent times, when the northern insurgency broke out, the warring
Tamil militant groups targeted certain educationists, especially
those in the field of human rights who stood in their way. Yet,
overall, they were under 'people-pressure' not to go into battle
during exam times and to generally keep schools functioning even
in the midst of war.
this week's tit-for-tat double murders of two Jaffna Principals
must be viewed with great sorrow by the wider northern populace
in the background of their reverence for education and schooling.
Bishop of Colombo, a great advocate of appeasement in this on-going
insurgency, has called for a Commission of Inquiry to probe who
is behind these killings and a visiting human rights specialist
who was given the task of pushing the human rights agenda in the
insurgency some years ago, has woken up to suggest an international
mechanism with investigative powers to arrest this anarchical situation.
Norwegian-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) has clearly failed
in what was expected of them: to police the Ceasefire Agreement
of 2002. And their attitude still seems one of nonchalance, shrugging
off accusations of inefficiency by saying they "do not have
the powers to do anything", while still remaining on the scene.
Compounding all this is the fact that the country's all-powerful
President is now a virtual lame-duck and seems totally uninterested
she has done is to provide a helicopter to ferry an injured rebel
cadre to Colombo - though not asking for a quid-pro-quo in the release
of three of her constables still in rebel custody. Even the murder
of her Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar has not propelled her
into action. Instead, she is on a whirlwind worldwide tour visiting
China, the UN, France, the UK - and very soon, Malta and Bangladesh
in her last days in office.
these circumstances, all one can do is to appeal to everyone concerned
for some moratorium on these happenings -- that's how desperate
the situation is.
Mahinda's slip showing ?
UNP Presidential candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe is accused of the
purchase of computers from India for the Prime Minister's office
when he was PM between 2001and 2004. The complaint, made by Minister
Mangala Samaraweera mentions Rs. 340 million, of which Wickremesinghe
is alleged to have paid Rs.175 million to an institute under his
Ministry and a further Rs.165 million to the Tata Consultancy Services
Institute. the PM's then advisor R. Paskaralingam was alleged to
have been a party to this transaction.
Samaraweera, himself once at the centre of charges of abuse of public
funds, has made the complaint against the UNP's Presidential candidate
in a clear retaliatory move for the UNP's prosecution of the SLFP
Presidential candidate Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and his
'Helping Hambantota Fund' where the latter is alleged to have misused
tsunami relief donations.
have already said that the Prime Minister ought not to have applied
to the Supreme Court to have the Police and Magisterial investigations
against him withdrawn, because what that did was to trigger suspicion
that he wanted a cover-up before the elections. And, whoever wants
a cover-up is someone afraid of an investigation revealing any issues
that could compromise his public image as a clean and honest politician.
Opposition Leader Mr. Wickremesinghe on the other hand, has taken
the right stance -- calling for a quick and expeditious investigation
by the Bribery and Corruption Commission.
making allegations and counter-allegations before that Commission
is fair game on the eve of a poll, those who complain must be mindful
of Sections 21 and 23 of the Commission Law which refers to persons
who make false allegations. If the Commission deems that such complaints
were made "knowing such allegation to be false, or having reason
to believe that such allegation is not true", the complainant
himself could face a jail-term of up to 10 years. The law can cut
either way - as indeed, it should.
the problem here is that the Premier's lawyers have asked the Commission
to stay their investigations into the UNP complaint against him
on the basis of his succeeding in getting the Supreme Court to stay
the Police probe against him, while the Opposition Leader has urged
the Commission to expedite the inquiry against him.
not too late for the Prime Minister to withdraw his lawyers from
the Commission given the Opposition Leader's diametrically opposite
stance. Otherwise, lodging a complaint against his rival, and then
asking that same Commission not to investigate himself, makes him
stick out like a sore thumb and could only show him in a negative