24 June, 2024

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Stop Using Schools As Political Platforms!

By Sam Panditha

Dr Sam Panditha

Daily on TV news (mainly Sirasa) we see Sajith Premadasa (SP) Sakwala සුහුරු පාසැල්  (Smart  School) programme donating some computer equipment to schools. A huge green banner with the Sakwala and Pathikada  names and Sajith Premadasa Leader of the opposition title is shown daily. All the school children, Principal and staff, and parents  attend the event lasting about two hours. Most of the time is covered by Sajith and other  SJB politicians from the area making political speeches, About 10 minutes cover the opening of the computer lab. This event was supposed to be the 195th Sakwala program of “donations”

The Sirasa Pathikada You tube being circulated on 21 May 2024, is shocking.  A school girl is crying and praising SP for the donation. Ranjith Somawansa – SJB organiser for the area is making a political speech also praising Sajith. The title of Pathikada video is “පාසල් සිසුවිය සජිත් ඉදිරියේ හඬමින් කිව්ව දේ ? අනුරට කටු අයිනවා වගේ ඇති . | Sajith Premadasa”. Politicisation of School Children.

Full Sajith speech can be watched here. Every such TV broadcast is used by Sajith for making Political statements, promoting Sajith Premadasa, and attacking particularly NPP and Anura Kumara Dissanyake (AKD), referring to AKD as කය්ය නායක. What is the relevance of  another party leader in a school activity? Pure politicisation. His views on many political issues and the proposed NPP and SJP leaders and Economic Council debate issues are addressed at these meetings. He even challenges the NPP – let’s debate with work and donations like him.

Before these Sakwala Computer donations, Sajith used the schools in a similar manner donating school busses, himself driving the bus to the school. These donations were also shown every time in Sirasa News. Even respected Politician Harsha De Silva, praised Sajith Driving skills relating to the school bus delivery to a school in Medawachchiya.

In his speeches Sajith promotes all schools to be converted to English speaking schools, as his preferred education policy for the future.  He even takes an example of two candidates applying for a Deutsche Bank job. He says the English and private school educated candidate will be selected for the Bank job. He is saying 90% of the time, the student who goes to private school will get the job. The national language based education started in the 1960s, gave significant opportunities for poor students from rural areas, studying in Sinhala/ Tamil to enter Universities and obtain degrees. He is proposing a total English Language based school education system. We do not have sufficient English teachers to start with and such a policy will again create an education system for the elite middle class families and marginalising the rural poor. Sajith even lectures to School children on learning English by watching various foreign TV news. What a warped education policy?

Developing Schools through “Private” Donations

In his Pathikada program on 27 May 24, Sajith claims  the following donations to date. Computers and smart classrooms to 203 schools costing  Rs 225.5 M, 87 busses costing Rs 424 M, Hospital equipment and medicines costing Rs 183.2 M to 60 hospitals.

There is no way of checking if the announced cost is actual or inflated. The total “donations” as per his estimate is Rs 832.7 M. The names  of the donors are unknown. What are the objectives of the “donors”? Were they given inflated contracts when Sajith was a Minister or are they expecting lucrative contacts when Sajith comes to power? How did the “donors” get the money at least over Rs 830M as per Sajith own estimate? If genuinely earned money did they pay tax on the earnings? If Sakwala is a registered charity the donors can get tax credits.  In the public interest and transparency, Sajith should release this information.

Sajith method of education development is donor aided school facility development. How can the country education be funded this way? How are the schools selected to receive his “donations”? . Which other country in the world, has a school development plan using private donations? What is the state role in providing the needed school facilities? Schools in Sri Lanka have many development needs, from school furniture, trained teachers,  class rooms, sanitary facilities, play grounds, laboratories etc. There are over 10,000 schools in the country. How do you prioritise the need and end up always with the computer facility and busses?

There is tremendous political benefit to Sajith from these events. To start with it is promoted as a school beneficial event and the school will ask the children to attend with their parents. It is held in a school hall and no cost is borne by Sajith for the event. In a normal political rally the politician must build or hire a stage and get the audience and incur significant cost. Here everything is free. Then the program is broadcast on Sirasa  News or as a PATHIKADA (පැතිකඩ). Complete free publicity and getting across his political message and attacking his opponents.

The Role of the Media

A key attraction in this media promoted school political propaganda is for the school officials and children to see them in the evening TV news, and get some free propaganda or a thrill from vanity. We do not know why Sirasa News spends almost daily air time on this standard story, which in TV jargon is a “repeat” episode. The recent Sakwala programs on social media has the Sirasa Pathikada (පැතිකඩ) Logo, which clearly indicates Sirasa is promoting the propaganda, free or paid.

There are many other TV “News” items that are actually advertisements. The following are examples:

GAMMEDDA (ගම්මැද්ද)

This item comes in almost every Sirasa News and occupies around five to seven minutes of the 30 minute News program. It covers Maharaja- Sirasa group social assistance program mostly covering water projects and rural infrastructure, to promote their TV Brand. The events are highly hyped with dancer’s, drummers etc. ideal for a TV show.  The Police, Navy, Government officers (school principals, divisional Secretaries) attends the event using the Government provided vehicles. All are happy to see their participation during evening news. Most are water projects and a sister Maharajah Company SLON that constructs water tanks, plastic pipes and fittings may reap benefits when the water project is expanded. Should we watch news to see this?

Vanithabimana වනිතාබිමාන

We regularly see clips of this competition program in Sirasa News, occupying around 5 minutes promoting the program and the initial rounds. NDB website defines it as “an esteemed awards programme aimed at empowering the remarkable women of Sri Lanka, proudly returns for its fourth consecutive year, jointly organised by NDB Bank and Sirasa News 1st”. It is clear that it is a commercial agreement between the two parties to organise and air the event. This should not be thrust on the public regularly as a news item.

දැරියගේ ශක්තිය Deriyage Shakthiya  

Promoting Commercial sanitary ware as දැරියගේ ශක්තිය (Deriyage Shakthiya) as a Sirasa news item. Watch the Video on 31st minute of the news programme as Corporate News. Here again Medical officers, Schools principals and other Government officers participate. The sanitary ware is manufactured by a Maharaja Group company.  Promoting sanitary ware as essential health product by the medical officers, teachers would encourage the poor to spend money on the products, and the Manufacturer to promote their own sanitary pad brand. Sajith Premadasa is one who publicly promoted Government paid sanitary pads. Which company benefits from the program? A subtle method of using Television news to promote their products.

School bags Divi SAviya (LOLC)

Another almost daily Sirasa News program is Divi Saviya (දිවි සවිය), where about 20 LOLC marked promotional school bags are given. LOLC brand is displayed prominently in the school bag and the “news item”. Here again the news item runs for about 5 minutes. A commercial advertisement on TV for 3 minutes would cost more than the value of the bags donated.

Immediate Action Needed

* Using schools and children for Political purposes must stop immediately. Department of education must immediately send a circular to all schools, banning such political manoeuvring of schools for political campaigns.

* For TV licences in all countries, there are regulations on programs and advertisements. We must regulate the maximum time per hour allowed for advertisements. Ideally a maximum of 10 -12 minutes per hour. Particularly on news time, where the public comes to listen to news, advertisements must be limited to about 5 minutes for 30 minute News.

* To protect consumers, paid commercial activities and TV brand personal promotional activities should not be included in News. A clear message should be shown along such items that it is a self-promotion or a paid commercial program. In all Newspaper advertisements, such a clear statement is mandatory and we can see them in large newspaper advertising that can be mistaken as a news item.

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Latest comments

  • 6
    6

    I do agree with Dr Sam P on the unfair practice of this News Media allowing SAJITH P to get free Propaganda. Its benefitting atleast some poorer sector of the population.The Schools or any Temples SHOULD not be used by any Political organisations to promote themselves.
    The Voters should cast their votes to a Political Party that hasn’t had their turn to GOVERN as others have been part of the current SYSTEM. We need system change NOW.

    • 2
      0

      “Ideally a maximum of 10 -12 minutes per hour. Particularly on news time, where the public comes to listen to news, advertisements must be limited to about 5 minutes for 30 minute News.”
      True, but this is not practical. TV channels nowadays run on advertising money. The channels like Sirasa and Derana have higher viewership figures, and can charge more from advertisers. This is a consequence of abolishing the TV licence fee many years ago. In the UK, the licence currently costs £170 annually, enabling some channels to be free of ads. But the advent of streaming services has screwed up the system. With these, people can watch what they like at any time they want. We will eventually catch up, like our neighbours in this region.
      Our people still expect TV to be free. They get what they pay for, so to speak.

    • 2
      0

      “I do agree with Dr Sam P on the unfair practice of this News Media allowing SAJITH P to get free Propaganda.”
      Why do we need separate “Sajith” and “Sirasa” news media. It is a very common practice of politicians and media in Sri Lanka. Now, President RW is going around Jaffna in Election propaganda using his Presidential Power. In the past we show MR doing the same thing. If we have a system change and attitude change to operate an election rule, then it is possible to stop such violations. But if the Government itself violate the law how can you blame opposition?

  • 2
    7

    Mr. Sajith Premadasa is a good man. He simply does not have the scholarship nor the acumen needed to untangle the tangle this country is sadly in. The mantle he is wearing is because he is the son of a President. It was a side show of political aberration invented by the old fox JRJ to grab the Presidency.

    • 3
      0

      “It was a side show of political aberration invented by the old fox JRJ to grab the Presidency.”
      The history to JRJ’s rehabilitation in the UNP is almost forgotten.
      Amid clashes with Dudley S, he chose to capture the party by invading Siri Kotha by sea and road (an elephant parade?).
      It failed and his stock went low in the UNP. To make things worse he talked to Sirimavo to join the UF. NM Perera blocked it (rather unwisely I think on hindsight).
      His stock went further down.
      Premadasa who was always close to Dudley S had some serious quarrel with him (not a split really) and was abroad at the time of Dudley’s death. JRJ seized the opportunity and made a feast of the funeral with himself centre stage.
      Reminded me of CP de Silva’s absence when SWRDB died.

  • 2
    2

    SP comes across as a guy who likes the simple things in life – driving buses, tractors, playing cricket and soccer with young children etc. etc., Will he survive the onslaught from the wily old fox in the next few weeks and months? I don’t think so.

  • 7
    5

    Some years back Sajith P when he was a Minister, sat under a tamarind tree and lined up the people with employment applications. He interviewed the applicants and gave jobs adopting the criteria: “Usa Nam Security” (if tall a security job) and Miti Nam Kamkaru (if short kamkaru). This video is still being circulated on social media. Sajith P to date has not challenged this video clip going viral.

    Has Sajith learned anything since then to engage in a responsible and honorable way of doing politics? NO. Now he uses schools and school children, mostly in primary classes to get engaged in his political work. In one of these types of missions, he addressed a class of primary students and talked of his “Debate” with NPP leader AKD. This too is going viral on social media. He has not refuted it so far.

    What can we expect from a man of such IMMATURITY in electing as our President? Don’t SJB members have the courage to tell him to stop this behavior and be a leader?

    • 15
      2

      Pot calling the kettle black? …….. Everyone uses everyone/everything.

      Sajith uses school children ……. JVP uses women.

      I’m just waiting for the JVP ……… to get rid of the perks for ex-presidents and their kin, perks for pols …….. beyond that I don’t expect much …….

      No matter what “Sinhala-Buddhists” will be “Sinhala-Buddhists.” …… Incompetence is a 2500 year generational hallmark.

      • 1
        1

        Nimal,
        “Incompetence is a 2500 year generational hallmark.”
        Isn’t that a little unfair? They built all those magnificent stupas over 2000 years ago, while the evil Europeans didn’t. But on the other hand, the evil Europeans have houses that are 4500 years old while we don’t have even a 500 year old one. Bad priorities, not incompetence. Or is that the same thing?

        • 4
          1

          NF/OC
          .
          Fact check should not be mixed up:
          1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stupas_in_Sri_Lanka#:~:text=Mahiyangana%20Raja%20Maha%20Vihara%20in,reign%20of%20King%20Devanampiya%20Tissa.

          SRILANKA ‘s oldest physical structures go back to the time > 2500 years
          *
          2)
          Knap of Howar – United Kingdom (Scotland)- 3700 BC
          Ġgantija- Malta- 3700 BC
          Dolmen of Menga- Spain- 3700 BC
          West Kennet Long Barrow -United Kingdom (England)- 3650 BC

          • 3
            1

            LM
            But according to many Bana sermons, when we were building stupas, the suddhas were living in trees😄

            • 4
              1

              OC,
              Blatant lies spread rapidly in Sri Lankan society and it becomes their own perception.
              *
              A whole srilanken life is driven by interesting hearsays rather than facts. Any blatant lie can be easily propagated through “Pachavahinis (Sri Lanka Television Channels)”.
              *
              Many are misled by the myths concocted by“Sinhala-Buddhist monks” in their “Bana sermons”: fact-checkers keep silent because they are not respected by cultural and social mobs.
              *
              Have you ever double-checked “2500-year-old heritage fiction”? If people are asked to taste dung, they will do so without question. Their unique bias is now often used by AKD to distort the mentality and grab their votes in the next election.
              *
              What about “a mother makes her human milk from their blood”? Its truth will be known to anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of school biology, that it is not blood but “milk produced by the mammary glands, as is the case with the other secretory glands of man and mammals, though the blood supply to the gland is common. As a whole.
              😄😄
              ******** it is the nature of srilanken people😄😄

        • 3
          1

          “Incompetence is a 2500 year generational hallmark.”

          OC,

          I was trying to make some blood boil! Get people to discard that ancient foolish-pride crap and be truly competent in the modern world. I know we are capable of it …… if we give a honest shot.

          It’s a long topic …… I don’t have a lot of time to write ……… most engineering/architectural marvels around the world ……. Versailles, Hofburg, Peterhof ………. hired the best craftsmen/artisans from all over the world. I don’t think it was solely a local effort ……. then again I can be wrong.

          • 2
            0

            Nimal,
            “I was trying to make some blood boil! “
            You should try harder. I don’t see any responses from the target audience. 😩

      • 2
        1

        Nimal- There us a big difference. between using school in schools for political speeches and using women by the JVP.
        JVP Women’s wing programs are organised, funded by JVP and attended by ADULT Women at their own will.
        School children in Sajith Sakwala are forced to attend and listen by the school.
        Lets not forget- Sajith after seeing the JVP women rallies, organised his women wing with Hirunika- NOTHING wrong with that

        • 0
          0

          “Nimal- There us a big difference. between using school in schools for political speeches and using women by the JVP.”

          Nisal,

          Very true! …….. I didn’t think of it that way.

          I was more fixated on Lankan pols …….. using various segments of the society ……. as cat’s paws ………

      • 2
        0

        NF: I am expecting a little more……stop all perks to MPs including the pension rights etc. Give them only a living allowance. Stop all political interference with Law Enforcement agencies including the AG, Judiciary, and Police. Change the political culture of impunity enjoyed by all classes of politicians.

    • 6
      1

      Political Fraud and Vote Targeting Tactics:

      Not only the former great parties, but the JVP has also fallen to the level of having to touch the “rank and file ” with a crook or a hook.
      .
      1) JVP has learned from Mahinda Rajapaksa. Their lalkanthals are today in the business of sticking stickers (this time we vote for Malima) similar to their coercion during the 89-92 barbaric period.
      :
      2)
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAuNWeM967Q&list=TLPQMzAwNTIwMjTkcZlge7Tihw&index=5

      Tuk-tuk drivers in Sri Lanka are apathetic people who have no perspective other than to earn their living by driving. Some young university rejects become TUK TUK drivers. Hence, JVP rabble-rousing leaders aim to distort any idiosyncratic mood and inject their thoughts into it and spread their political words.

    • 6
      1

      Hello Douglas,

      You may be interested in the video below ( I am sorry this is in sinhala)

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ckx0lAF_h8&t=13s

      I am very puzzled as to why AKD never tried to pursue their allegations to the level of court cases. He was given opportunities in good governance to do the job, but never proved himself capable. However, AKD is the champion of accusing anyone, but when it comes to proving it, they become “mimos”.

      • 1
        1

        Dear LM: Thank you for the link. The main question is “Why are those accusations not pursued and necessary legal action not taken”? I do not know why that representative didn’t explain it well. My opinion:

        1. Most of these accusations (nearly 60) have been lodged with the Authorities of the Governing functions, viz. CID; Bribery Commission etc. and concerns investigations in a detailed form that cannot be undertaken by a political party or an individual. Out of these complaints already half of those have been “Dismissed” because of investigation errors and insufficient evidence collected by the Investigative machinery. You and I know how those investigations are done and decisions are made to prosecute. For more information, please read the Judgement in the Rathpaswela case.
        2. In the case of CB (Bond scandal) the Government a Bank Account of one of the accused was ceased and its deposit of Rs. 69 million was confiscated. Why? If there was no “Fraud” or “Corruption” why such a large amount was confiscated?

        We need Law Enforcement, the Police and the Judiciary to be INDEPENDENT. Hands-off political interference. That is the task of NPP Government.

        • 1
          1

          Dear LM: Just yesterday there was another court “Dismissed and Realesed” (Nidoskota Nidahas) the accused Nimal Cabral and four others on fraudulent investment in Greek Bonds amounting to Rs. 1.2 billion. WHY?

          This case was filed in courts on March 26th by which date the post of Director General of the Bribery Commission was not filled. But the newly appointed DG signed on April 02nd. This “Technical Error” was pointed out by the Defense Lawyer and said: “This case cannot be maintained in Courts”. The Judge accepted the argument and dismissed the case and “ORDERED” the release of all the accused. Do you know who made this complaint to the Bribery Commission? Find out.

  • 3
    0

    Videos nicely lined up . If you carefully look at the audience , it is obvious
    90% of them or more do not understand a thing these guys are uttering in
    the name of speaking . What they want is a crowd , not a crowd of enthusiasts .
    Speakers don’t care whether the crowd listened to them or not . And at the end ,
    good and not good is decided without any understanding . What system change
    will change this ? What even if the system change has to come from the same
    rotten system ? Who is the Best of the Rots for that ? Are people ready to go with
    changes that require enduring difficulties with so much patience ? System
    change is not eating cake or walk in a park . Rocky road .

  • 4
    2

    Premadas snr. played to the gallery. He squandered public money on building replica monuments in his ‘Gamudawa’ roadshow, covered the roof of the Dalada Maligawa with gold foil, etc & village folk were happy. Premadas jnr is continuing with the same agenda, like increasing the number of temples & probably Buddha statues in every street corner. Anyway, he is better educated than his old man & has taken a step to the next level with his contribution to schools. English education for everyone is commendable & no doubt, many have benefitted from the donations of computers & other ‘gifts’ but even his International education has not broadened his mind that such donations are ad hoc, therefore, any real benefit would be if within the framework of the Ministry of Education. This is not the same as a school requesting donations from past pupils to meet current needs
    Cont.

    • 2
      1

      Cont
      In UK, maybe SP is unaware, that election expenditure is capped & all donors & donations have to be disclosed. Direct contributions with the ulterior motive of gaining political support is considered as bribery. The Rajapakses used this strategy blatantly & the rational public were appalled, & not just for using public funds for personal benefit but as a form of cheap publicity. Premadas snr., correctly or not, boasted about his ‘10000 houses’ (or such) project but can junior claim credit for any personal contribution during all his life as a politician? If I remember correctly, he had ‘elephant watch’ project many years ago but were the elephants any better off? If SJB wants to be considered seriously, they need to shed the deadwood, including SP, & come out with new thinking & leadership.

      • 1
        0

        What SP seems to be unaware or ignores about modern UK is that
        Rishi Sunak is its PM and Sadique Khan is the Mayor of its capital .
        A feature too important to ignore for anyone seriously concerned
        about the country’s peace and stability , two key elements of any
        economic prosperity . An issue that got to be the talk of the town
        especially in election times but is that what is happening right now ?
        Typical characteristics is the name of the game , going to North with
        Tamil face , East with Muslim face and coming back to Colombo
        very fresh Real Sinhala Buddhist as if nothing strange happened .
        Endless Dramas in different names with the end result , a bottomless
        Comfortable Pit . NO ONE WILL PROSPER WITH OTHER’S MONEY .
        No prosperity minus Peace and Stability .

      • 4
        1

        Raj and all other rational thinkers,
        .
        Ranasinghe Premdasa, played to the gallery. He was most hated leader in that point in time. He could not speak good english. But his son does it today even if he is used to stand out by using ” unfrequent voccabulary” on the stage.
        .
        Ranasinghe Premadasa#s wife was the most abusive first wives we ever had in lanken history. No education, emerged from a cashier job, however, polarised by her cocky dresses. Compared to her, today’s First WIFE is a gem of a person, who is though an university Prof. does not seem to abuse her status. That teaches us a lot.
        .
        From monrings to evenings, Hema Premadasa abused her “first wife status”, and media was chasing her and taboloid headlines filled with her day today activities on and on.
        .
        All these Turned to give a moderate nod. People thought and caught, it was their voice. However, PREMADASA exaggerated day by day. THe very same is being displayed by his “only son” today. Nothing but raping the hearts and minds of the ” gallery” and get elected to be the leader. That is how the kind of deceitful politicians aim at.

        Tbc

        • 4
          1

          boldPolitical Fraud and Voter Targeting Culture:

          Premadasa’s easy targets were the prototypical test of abuse. It later became the motto of life or “Mahinda Rajapaksa who sucks the blood of the nation”.

          Giant “GAMUDAWA” campaign, but it was very profitable for political crooks. In India, Modi or the likes continue such projects by perverting the minds of “easy targets” embedded in the society through cultural, economic and other means.
          .
          Mahinda Rajapaksa continued the same abusive tactics but deceived the entire society with a blanket approach to pervert the easygoing villagers dominated by the gallery men (70% of the island’s population). Famous former communists like Vasavideva Nanayakkara, Wimal Weerawanse, Udaya Gommanipila, Elle Gunawamsa were abused with or without robes to transport and suppress his “dog thinking”. Had our peoples educated enough to cross question, what “Mahinda Chinthanaya” was, things would not have reached to the levels we are fallen today. Blind faith was learned by Goebell#s properganda machines.

          Tbc

      • 1
        0

        Raj-UK: You said it well. Thank you.

        The only thing you forgot was the “PRA” – the Para Military Brigade that was engaged in killing thousands in 1989 and the “Rs. 200 million “Donated” to LTTE. The signatory to this cheque is now living in your country – Happily and Ever After.

        • 2
          0

          Douglas

          Don’t know much about ‘PRA’ but I know Premadasa snr was responsible for Richard de Zoysa’s murder. Apparently, when a famous radio personality used his friendship with Mrs P to enquire about Richard’s fate, he was assured that Richard was safe in Police custody, only for his a body to turn up on the beach the next morning (uncannily Thajudeen’s death comes to mind).

          I am not sure if you mean Paskeralingam but he seemed to have the finances to buy most of the BP fuel franchises in London in the late 80s. A key witness to Paskeralingam’s corruption case was the CEO of LAL, an Indian national, who was told by Paskeralingam’s lawyer, Marapona, that he will be soon finishing his tenure & will go back to India & the case will be dragged on until such time, so there wont be a case thereafter, which is what happened. There is not much difference between Rajapakse & Premadasa, only Rajapakse did it exponentially & blatantly with the blessings of the average voter.

          Premadas jnr carries baggage but he has done nothing to get rid of it. He may be ‘sophisticated’ than his old man but when he opens his mouth on stage, his family traits kicks.

          • 1
            1

            Raj-UK: You hit the nail on the head.

            Premadasa jnr. is under obligation to Rajapakse for helping his sister Dulani escape that “Forfeited” money case. Sajith is not “sophisticated” but an immature and a “Joker” type in the political field. In one of the meetings, he said: ” I will get the schools in S/L to collaborate with rich “Countys” (meaning Local Govt. Institutions) in foreign countries to finance and transform the standards of education”. That is why I have rated him as immature and a joker. I know even Ranil W could not tolerate his buffoonery.

  • 2
    0

    Clearly shocking use of schools and school children for political propaganda, The Minister of Education must immediately send a circular to all schools preventing this.

    Second issue, the Media earning advertising revenue actually from the public. WE need safeguards that a NEWS program cannot be used to secretly advertise

    • 0
      0

      fully agree

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