By Panini Edirisinhe –
Here you will find what I said four weeks ago.
I write this because private mission schools have contributed immensely to whatever educational heritage we have in this country. The teachers of this country have borne an immense load in preparing our young to face lives on salaries that are quite inadequate. Partly for this reason there has been an institutional decline in the teaching profession, in the schools as well as in the universities. Similar problems have confronted especially the churches, which once had persons of high intellectual calibre in the priesthood as well as in the schools. I think that their fight to maintain high standards would ultimately benefit the country as a whole. Despite these pressures S. Thomas’ had held its place among the handful of leading schools in this country. This it owes largely to the fight put up by the Board of Governors of the S. Thomas’ group to maintain standards. Trinity College faces severe problems today because, having by far been the leading school in the hill country, the Board has been greatly devalued and its powers had been usurped by the officialdom of a bishop who has been censured. This is why I consider it important to fight for the integrity of appointments to the S. Thomas’ Board.
On the 15th of March 2016 at 2.00 p.m., there were elections to the Board of Governors of S. Thomas’ Colleges. The Romans called this day “the Ides of March”, and Julius Caesar was murdered on that day. Let us refer to them as “The Ides of March Elections.” The elections, chaired by Mr Rajan Asirwatham, Secretary, Board of Governors, were held at S. Thomas’ Preparatory School, Kollupitiya. At 3.00 p.m., two members were declared elected. They were Mr Prabhath Jayasundera as the OBA Representative, and Mr Mithra Edirisinhe as the Staff Representative. The elections were conducted according to these regulations, which you can find on the Internet, here.
Some legal issues have been raised with regard to the election of Mr Prabhath Jayasundera; let lawyers argue those. Shortcomings have been caused by the carelessness of the different OBAs, but everybody is agreed that Mr Jayasundera is going to be the Member who is finally elected. There was no other candidate.
However, there are serious moral concerns regarding the election of Mr Mithra Edirisnhe (who happens to be my brother) as the Representative of the Staffs of the three “Branch Schoools.” Clearly, the Teachers and the Administrative Staffs of the three schools had to elect a person whom they wanted; the Headmasters, who are themselves paid employees, couldn’t arrogate to themselves such a right. The election had to be by secret ballot, among the staffs of the three schools meeting separately, a few days before the Ides of March. Only Gurutalawa conducted proper elections. That was during the first week of February 2016, because the Headmaster was going to Hawaii for 6 weeks; three Old Boys had declared themselves available: 1. Christo Gonawela 2. Chrishmal Warnasuriya, and 3. Panini Edirisinhe. Christo and Chrishmal had visited the school, I hadn’t, because I expected the ballot to be held later.
All three candidates are happy with how Rev. Nihal Fernando held the elections. It is my view that the other two Headmasters, at Bandarawela and Kollupitiya deliberately cheated, or were made to cheat, by dishonest members of the Board. I say so; they can sue me in a District Court if they want to. You can read here what I have said about the elections.
Read it and the 106 comments by readers. This update follows the Bandarawela-Gurutalawa cricket match on the Guru grounds on Saturday, the 9th of April. I congratulated the Guru Headmaster on the clean election that he had held. The Bandarawela Headmaster looked and sounded apologetic for what he had done; the poor man couldn’t directly condemn his own action, but will probably be happy if the Bishop orders a re-poll. The imperturbable B’wela Secretary, Mr Steven Tambimuttu, who performed the actual deed of cheating came up with a cock-and-bull story to explain his actions. He didn’t seem shaken when I told him that I didn’t believe a word of his story.
Fresh elections for the Sinhala and Tamil New Year is our demand; there can be any number of “declared candidates”. Who finally gets elected is immaterial.
There has been cheating at the Kollupitiya School, although I don’t know the full details: on the 29th of March, “Kollupitiya Kolla” has said:
“Most of the staff have no idea what is going on . . .”
My earlier article written hurriedly on the 17th of March 2016, has proved to be remarkably accurate. The rules written by the Board are bad. They must be changed. For now, we, the candidates do not have any legal standing, but I will fight through non-violent moral agitation. The teachers, have definite rights, but it is now clear that the dishonest cheating Headmasters could create problems for them. My policy will continue to be one of not divulging the names of those who have passed the details of the election to me.
But these happenings have wider significance for the country, and it would be best if they could be followed, and commented upon, on the Internet. However, I will not respond on this blog to any comments of a personal nature; instead I will place my responses to such comments at the end of the previous article. We need to focus on the simple issue of how the rights of the teachers to have representation on the Board is to be given meaning.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We received a response from Chrishmal Warnasuriya 4.00AM today. We publish below the response in full;
Re: S. Thomas’ Board Elections – CORRECTION OF MISINFORMATION
As my name has been mentioned in BOTH this article and the previous WITH INACCURATE FACTS I’d appreciate a CORRECTION please …
1. I have NEVER VISITED Guru (or any other school for that matter) for purposes of this election as the author suggests, I only VOLUNTEERED to stand for election and SERVE as I was told A VOICE was needed on behalf of the branch schools on the Board, upon the invitation of one Headmaster, which I was reasonably led to believe was endorsed by the other 2 as well.
2. I have NEVER ENGAGED in ANY CAMPAIGNING for this purpose prior to this purported “election” of 15th March , directly or indirectly although I’m aware BOTH OTHER candidates including the author have been canvassing with several teachers for several weeks
3. I have NEVER COMMENTED PUBLICLY on this issue YET, whether on CT site NOR ANY OTHER, under any pseudonym, as the author seems to suggest, although I have read both his and the other candidates comments on CT.
4. We have NEVER ACCEPTED EITHER ELECTION as being valid or lawful exercise of mandate in terms of the Rules and the Law, and therefore there is NO QUESTION OF ACCEPTING ANYONE AS ELECTED, however we remain confident of these issues being RESOLVED without the need for any further action.
I shall thank you to CORRECT THE ABOVE MISINFORMATION ASAP.
I will howver, let you have copies of my communications on this matter with the Lord Bishop & Board, if and when such public disclosure OR ANY FURTHER ACTION is neccessitated.
Subha aluth avuruddak weva!!!