By Panini Edirisinhe –
This saga began twelve years ago in March 2008. The latest event took place at Kollupitiya, Colombo, on Wednesday, the 4th of March, 2020, at 2.00 p.m. Fifty-year-old Gihan Dias was elected by “an electoral college of six persons” as a Member of the Board of Governors of the four Colleges of S. Thomas. He is to represent the interests of about 400 Staff Members of the three S. Thomas’ Branch Schools at Kollupitiya, Bandarawela, and Gurutalawa.
If you want to understand this article in-depth, please study Sections 1.5.2 and 1.5.3 of these “Rules”:
To understand what is problematic about this, readers could glance at this 2016 article by me, and two other articles which you will be led to: (click here)
It would be sensible not to get lost in that history. Instead, please look at this article that warned, seven weeks ago, of elaborate preparations being made by some to manipulate yet again in 2020.
Those predictions have proved uncannily accurate, and constitute not just a gross violation of the rights of the teachers of all three schools, but explain why the aims of educating young children get violated all the time, throughout this country.
Together with fourteen others, the person declared elected will form “The Board of Governors of four S. Thomas’ Schools” for the next four years. The fourth school is S. Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia. The term of office of this Board will commence on the 1st of April 2020.
The election on Wednesday, the 4th March 2020, was correctly and impartially presided over by the Secretary to the Board, Mr Rajan Asirwatham. He announced that only one person had been nominated for the position, and with the delegates from the Kollupitiya School concurring, Mr Gihan Dias was declared the winner of the election. Not even the name of this gentleman had been heard by the Gurutalawa delegates, Messers Dikkumbura and Naeem. I don’t know what the Bandarawela delegates, Messers Steevan Tambimuttu and Sunanda Ratnayake, knew. I can only tell you that they had no mandate from the rest of the staff in Bandarawela to represent them. Let me not mince my words: the two crooked Headmasters of the Uva schools, together with the dishonest Bishop of Colombo, Dhiloraj Canagasabey have again cheated, and it is upto Public Opinion to prevent this result from standing. If any reader queries why this cannot be resolved by Court action, I shall respond convincingly. Conversely, when I make such a clear statement about these three corrupt Pharisees why is it that they do not sue me?
At this point, may I provide you with a link which shows you what the outgoing Board of Governors looks like? The first link will provide you with thirteen names.
The Anglican Bishop of Colombo is the Chairperson of this Board and has directly chosen nine members. Five others are meant to have been democratically elected.
This year, for the new Board, three have already been elected by the stakeholders of the Mt Lavinia School through a rigorous process of election by secret ballot. The two OBA members elected are Mahinda Halangoda and Peter Jasinghe. They won uncontested on the14th of March, but in 2016 there was a keen contest among six candidates.
The staff of the Mt Lavinia school elect one BoG member for the same stint. It is a straightforward election, and is impossible to fix in the same way as what is highlighted in this article. I don’t yet know what has happened this year. Whilst it may be argued that it is the complicated system for Branch Schools that is to blame, what is appalling is that in spell after spell, it has turned out to be the Headmasters who do the fixing, and during the episcopate of Dhiloraj Canagasabey he has had priests heading all the schools. There can be no criticism whatsoever about the conduct of Rev. Dushantha Rodrigo who heads the school in Kollupitiya.
Unless overturned by huge public outcries, the two Uva Pharisees would have succeeded in scuttling the demands of democracy and transparency. Ruthlessly effective action was instituted to prevent me from getting my message across to the Staffs of those two schools. It was unsuccessful. The Staff know that they have been cheated. But they have also been terrorised. I have been man-handled. Debarred from entering the schools on public occasions (Sports Meets), I have made Police entries, which have been investigated. I specifically requested four teachers to nominate me. They said that they would definitely vote for me if there were a secure secret ballot, but they would not dare sign up as those initiating my election. Some of the claims were hilarious. My house and garden are notoriously neglected since only I usually live here (the family being almost permanently in Maharagama). One lady offered to sweep and clean my house – anything she said, except signing or seconding my nomination. Uproarious, this might sound, but their dread is real.
To me, who is elected is of little consequence; what matters is that the teachers are allowed to choose. At Gurutalawa, we had arduously constructed a system whereby the staff voted for the candidate of their choice among those Christian Old Boys who had declared their interest in helping the Staff. Little significance was attached to the selection of the two messengers. Last week the Headmaster, Rev. Philip Nesakumar, had indulged in an elaborate exercise of getting the academic staff to elect (by secret ballot, fairly conducted, let it be granted) Mr Dikkumbura as the “delegate”, and Mr Naeem to represent the administrative staff. In 2007 and 2008 I had actually been teaching in the Gurutalawa school with them, and, if they felt safe, they would have enthusiastically supported my candidature.
Rev. Christopher Balraj did not conduct any sort of poll. He sent the same two fixers as in 2016, Steevan Tambimuttu and Sunanda Ratnayake, to vote. “For anybody except Panini” he must have told his lackeys.
As for Kollupitiya, there is no sense of fear among the Staff, and I was asked to leave copies of my manifesto with the Headmaster’s Secretary. On Tuesday, the 3rd afternoon, I met the Colpetty Headmaster, Rev. Dushantha Rodrigo, for the third time in about three weeks. Total time “wasted” by him nothing more than fifteen minutes. How come? When both of us were honest and transparent there was no need for fencing. I will get nothing out of it all; I want fair-play established for a long time to come.
Isn’t this a Kafkaesque situation where those who have been designated to represent the 400 STC staff members of the three Branch Schools and have to elect by secret ballot the person to sit in their name on the Board of Governors for the next four years were never given even the list of the candidates which they have to choose from? Interestingly, Gurutalawa’s Nesakumar told me that I was too old, neglecting the fact that at least one of the earlier assumed candidates was a full five years older than me. He was the incumbent, but not even ten Staff of all the schools knew his name despite his eight years on the Board of Governors. He is known to have not spoken once in eight years at Board Meetings.
Some may argue that the timorous teachers get the Representative that they deserve, but having been a teacher all my life, I fear that such people are usually not known for pressing demands for their rights. Let me give it as my own carefully considered observation that the two Uva Headmasters and the Bishop use terror as their method of controlling what goes on in their schools. None has a background in school education. These schools which ought to be contributing much towards the building of values and of reconcilliation in our country instead function as institutions that offer their students a feeling of superiority owing to being fee-payers.
How do I regard the election of Mr Gihan Dias? It is impossible to tell by knowing only name, age and his own schooling. If this presages an era of democracy and respect for teachers, it would be fine. If, however, as I fear is likely, this gentleman is yet another CEO from the “corporate sector”, I see further deterioration of all state-recognised education. My clinching argument is that I heard the name of Gihan Dias only on Tuesday, the 3rd of March 2020. Mr Dias must explain to us how he presumes to have won the approval of more than 250 Uva Staff who hadn’t even heard his name. Please note that since I don’t know Mr Dias at all, I refrain from calling him a cheat.
Let readers judge how much possibility of good is lost owing to three selfish and arrogant men. It would be an amazing turn of events if there were convincing rebuttal of what has been stated here, or if court action is instituted against me for clearly calling this cheating.