State of anarchy
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.

In 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.

Thus 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.

The 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.

The 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 in governing.

All 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.

In 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.

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.

Mr. 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.

We 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.

The 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.

If 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.

But 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.

It's 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 light.

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