Royal Institute’s gamble of recruiting Retired Major General Kamal Gunaratne as its Administration Director to boost its business backfired, as besides unlawfully terminating children and causing disharmony among parents, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka in a ruling ordered the demolition of its unlawfully erected Nugegoda Branch building and cancelling of its operating license yesterday.
Businessman Chairman of Royal Institute G.T. Bandara’s recruitment of an Administration Director in retired Major General Kamal Gunaratne continued to make negative media headlines ever since he was hired.
In series of articles published recently, Colombo Telegraph revealed as to how the Retired Major General Kamal Gunaratne began unlawfully terminating school children, incarcerating and intimidating kids for nonpayment of school fees and attempted to muscle his way using emotional blackmailing tactics to extort exorbitant school fees from parents.
The enormous hiking of school fees annually against contractual obligations, to incarcerating and intimidating children in classrooms and refusing them to follow classes for non-payment of school fees and the illegal termination of two children whose parents were the spokespersons for their kids respective branches brought negative publicity to Royal Institute, which has been in business since 1971.
One such tactic that the Retired Major General Gunaratne attempted, saw the wrath of many parents who went in numbers and filed cases against the school at the Women and Children’s section of the Mirihana Police Station for the unlawful punishment meted out to their kids, besides having them subjected to intimidation by external Security Personnel specially brought in for the day for this purpose.
Cases have now been filed against the school at the Children’s Court in Battaramulla, Ministry of Education, President’s Office, the office of the Inspector General of Police, Human Rights Commission and the National Child Protection Authority.
A further case was filed by the parents with the Consumer Affairs Authority stating 34 reasons, ranging from illegal collection of funds and being provided with bogus receipts to unsafe safety practices maintained by the school at its Nugegoda Branch.
Meanwhile one of the parents who was a representative for the parents group at the Nugegoda Branch suffered the consequences for the vocal role he played.
This is as the Retired Major General Kamal Gunaratne ordered that his 12 year old child be ejected from the school barely two months into the term for non-payment of term fees and also stating that the parent was causing too many issues with the school’s management.
The referred term for non-payment of term fees was from January to April 2019 and the child was terminated midway on the 26th of February 2019. Whilst Royal Institute offers parents to pay term fees during the term, even though late but with a penalty, this facility was not offered to this parent.
The parent speaking to Colombo Telegraph on condition of anonymity as he himself has now filed a case against the school said “I sent a letter by registered post requesting the school principal to provide me with the leaving certificate for my child. As I got no reply I proceeded to meet the Principal in his office at the Nugegoda Branch. He then said that he has got strict instructions not to provide a leaving certificate to me until I pay a whopping amount of Rs 54,000 as the so called pending school fees as claimed by them. In December 2018, I got an Invoice for Rs 37,000, which I delayed paying for the term January to April. However on the 26th of February 2019, I received a letter from the school stating that they have terminated my 12 year old son, as a student for non-payment of school fees. Now in March 2019, I get another invoice asking me to pay an increased sum of a further Rs 17,000 despite them not allowing my son to finish the full term. The Principal told me that Kamal Gunaratne had provided firm instructions that if ever a leaving certificate is to be given for my son, he wants me to come to his office personally so that he could intimidate and belittle me before providing the leaving certificate. This is the current predicament I am faced with. I was the voice for all the parents of the Nugegoda Branch and now I am pretty much on my own having to fight my own battle”.
Meanwhile yesterday the illegally constructed building that housed the Nugegoda Branch of Royal Institute was ordered to be demolished and the business license to operate an international school in that premise was also ordered cancelled by the three member judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices Sisira de Abrew, Priyantha Jayawardena and L.T.B Dehideniya.
The ruling was given by the judges as 16 residents of Chapel Lane Nugegoda filed a Fundamental Rights case bearing number SC/FR 621/2010, for the illegal manner that the school had been built besides operating an International school illegally without a license.
The complainants sought relief to demolish all illegal constructions pertaining to the buildings on premises bearing assessment Nos.10 and 12 Chapel Lane Nugegoda, to cancel all the permits (if any) granted to Royal Institute to carry on business of International School Chapel Lane, Nugegoda and an order to take steps to evict Royal Institute from premises situated at Chapel Lane, Nugegoda.
This was as their fundamental rights as residents of the neighbourhood were being violated in many ways.
Citing certain technical clauses to substantiate their case, they highlighted the fact that Royal Institute Nugegoda Branch was wrongfully carrying on a business of an International School in contravention of the Development Plan – Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte Municipal Council Area (Zoning Regulations) 2008-2020 and that the said Chapel Lane is situated in a Mixed Development Zone and educational institutes are not permitted to be established there.
The complainants also stated that the school was illegally constructing a fourteen storied building on approximately 25 perches of land bearing assessment No.12 Chapel Lane abutting a twenty feet road.
Another reason stated was that the residents were being greatly inconvenienced especially due to traffic congestion which has hampered daily activities of the residents. The noise caused by the said school and the traffic congestion have made residing and travelling along the said Chapel Lane a near impossibility.
The Judge reading out the verdict, ordered the Urban Development Authority and the Municipal Council of Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte, who as the 1st and 2nd respondents in the case to demolish all illegal constructions pertaining to the buildings on premises bearing assessment Nos.10 and 12, Chapel Lane, Nugegoda and for the Municipal Council of Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte to cancel all permits (if any) granted to Royal Institute, the 9th Respondent in the case, to carry on business of an International School at Chapel Lane Nugegoda.
They were provided three months to carry out this order given by the Supreme Court.
During the Supreme Court proceedings it was also stated that the Royal Institute did not have a license to operate an International School at the said premises at Chapel Road Nugegoda.
The license that the Royal Institute of the Nugegoda Branch had was to merely conduct computer classes and also conduct English lessons.
A parent of a student studying at Royal Institute’s Nugegoda Branch speaking to Colombo Telegraph said “We were all fooled by this liar of a businessman named G.T. Bandara. We have no protection from the Ministry of Education because this school is run as a business under the pretext of functioning as an International School. He officially has no license to operate a school branch in this premise. He is merely playing with the lives of nearly 1900 children. The business contract we have signed with him is a bogus one. He was in the knowledge of and knowingly signed this bogus contract with us. We parents must all get together and sue this fraud. He must be sent to jail along with the war veteran thug Kamal Gunaratne whom he recruited to intimidate us. Our entire schedules and programmes and our kids comfort zones have now been shattered. I am gutted and extremely sad and also very angry at the same time. What’s going to happen to our children’s educational future now? Both the cunning businessman G.T. Bandara and Kamal Gunaratne will have to dearly pay for this.” (By Janaka Ranaweera)