Southlands College imbroglio / Principal and Southern Province Governor trade allegations | Sunday Observer

Southlands College imbroglio / Principal and Southern Province Governor trade allegations

The dispute between the Principal of Southlands College and Southern Province Governor caught the attention of the public and media in the past few days when she accused Southern Province Governor Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon of threatening her and speaking to her in unparliamentary language.

It is reported that this was an issue concerning the registration of Grade one students to Southlands College, Galle, a reputed national girls’ college in the South. The media reported and telecast, the Southern Province Governor visiting a continuous protest organised by some of the parents who claimed that their children had been marginalised and abandoned by the school administration and listening to their grievances.

“Defeating bribery and corruption in the admission of Grade one students to schools in Southern Province is the main challenge I faced after taking office as the Governor. I got to know that students are registered to certain schools after taking bribes amounting to as much as four, eight and twelve lakhs of rupees. When I was in the Anti-Corruption Front, I knew very well that the Southern Province is at the top when taking bribes at school level”, Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon told the Sunday Observer.

“If corruption at school level is the most common complaint I get from the people in the South, I must take steps in that regard. That is my responsibility. Every school in the province might not be under my purview. But every child in the province is under my scope” he said.

However, Mahinda Jayasinghe of the Ceylon Teachers’ Services Union told the Sunday Observer that the Governor has no right to intervene in matters of this nature.

“There are a series of irregularities in the Southern Provinces education system. He must address those before turning his attention to national schools”, Jayasinghe said.

The Southern Governor said that once the Bribery Commission (BC) held a workshop for school administrators in the Southern Province aimed at preventing corruption. As it had failed and the corruption continued, parents had personally lodged complaints with the BC. There are four complaints with the BC against Southlands College alone to my knowledge” he said.

“I once advised the Principal of Anuladevi Girls’ School (in Galle) to stop taking bribes. But she didn’t stop and finally the Bribery Commission nabbed her while taking bribes. I have already informed the Auditor General about the situation.Currently there are 210 students in the Southern Province who have not got a school despite the fact that they live close to national schools” he said.

Amidst all of this, a group of parents were protesting near Southlands College for 57 days requesting admission for their children to Southlands College claiming eligibility.

It is reported that the Minister of Education Akila Viraj Kariyawasam and the Secretary to the Ministry had sent a letter instructing the school administration to register these four children under the proper procedure. However, it had been delayed by the school administration on the grounds that an interview is required prior to the registering of these students.

“She (the Principal) doesn’t answer the phone after 4 pm. It was MP Wijeyapala Hettiarachchi who took the calls. As we couldn’t contact her on her mobile phone , I requested the police to find out where the Principal was. This is what she now interprets as threatening”, the Governor said.

“I heard that she has lodged a complaint against me at the police. The investigation must be done . That complaint affects my reputation. If she withdraws the complaint, it affects my reputation far more”, he said. Police Media spokesperson SP Ruwan Gunasekara told a media briefing that the Southlands Principal had requested the police not to probe the police complaint she had made.

According to Mahinda Jayasinghe, the Southern Governor’s recent behaviour is nothing but a good example how power can change a man. “When the Uva Province Chief Minister forced a Principal to kneel down in front of him, Rajith Keerthi fought with us against the Chief Minister. He even went before the Human Rights Commission. But the same person changed drastically when he got power. This is a common symptom among politicians” he said.

The General Secretary of Ceylon Teachers Union, Joseph Stalin while acknowledging bribery charges against school administrations, condemned the behaviour of the Southern Governor. “Corruption when admitting Grade 1 students to schools is a nationwide problem. In the name of ‘donations’ massive frauds are occurring.”

“The Governor has the authority to block corruption. But he needs to take action directly. His taking action through the back door cannot be approved. If we take the incident at Southlands College, he should not have sent a Police Officer to her house after 10.45pm and scolded her on the phone.If he wants to mediate in such matters he should have followed a proper mechanism. Even an accused has his or her own rights” he said.

(Despite several attempts to contact the Principal of the Southlands College, Sandya Irani Pathiranawasam was not available for a comment)