Students sans free textbooks

By Nilika Kasturisinghe
One month after schools re-opened for the new academic year thousands of students are still to receive their free text books.

The majority of the books were given for printing to 26 private presses including presses in India.

While parents and teachers complain that the lack of text books is a serious obstacle to their children's education, the authorities try to cover up the issue.

Approximately 25 million books had been printed for the current school year. Two thirds of the requirement of text books had been awarded to the private sector for printing while 1/3 had been awarded to the State Printing Corporation.

Education Publications Division Commissioner, S.L. Gunawardena said an open tender procedure had been followed in the printing of school text books with 26 private sector presses being selected.

He said the number of books required by schools had been supplied but additional books had been requested subsequently. He also claimed that last year the distribution of books had not been completed until September 2001.

The Sunday Times contacted many schools and zonal education offices in many parts of the country to check whether the free text books had reached the students. Many complained of the shortages but did not want to be identified as it could have an adverse effect on the schools and officials.

A senior official of a boys' school in Colombo who did not wish to be identified as the relationship between the school and the zonal office would be affected as a result said, in general, the previous year's books were being used. However, he said they were facing difficulties as new syllabuses had been prepared for subjects in Grade 5, and so far only the Buddhism and Sinhala books had been received by the students.

An official in the Nuwara Eliya district told The Sunday Times so far only the mathematics books had been received by the children in the sixth grade of one school.

The Nuwara Eliya District had so far received 54,000 books but was still short of another 13,000. He said by this time last year the books had been distributed to the children.

Government Printer Neville Nanayakkara told The Sunday Times, "The printing of books was given to the private sector. The Government Press did not receive any printing orders. Some were printed in India violating tender procedures. Even now the printing is going on."

Right of Reply - President's House tantrums

Presidential Spokesman Harim Peiris says:
I write with reference to the above titled article appearing as a boxed item in The Sunday Times of 26th January, 2003 and would wish to respond as follows.

Firstly, the meeting with the President and the Prime Minister commenced with a forty five minutes to one hour discussion on finance matters at which discussions the Finance Minister, Treasury Secretary, Secretary to the President and Additional Secretary to the President were also present. The President queried the funds to the Provincial Councils and explained the serious consequence of the same, especially for the educational reforms program.

Thereafter the discussion moved on to the peace process. Minister Milinda Moragoda and Senior Presidential Adviser Lakshman Kadirgamar also participated. The President queried the progress made on a political framework for a durable settlement and was informed by the Prime Minister that several international models were under consideration.

According to briefings by the Prime Minister the models under consideration have kept changing from the draft 2000 Constitution of Sri Lanka, to the Indian and Canadian federal models, to the Swiss canton system, to the Scottish federal model and currently Ladakh and Pondichery. The President reiterated the importance of the Government side formulating a clear vision and an Action Plan even at this late stage for negotiations with the LTTE. Without this the President stated that it would be extremely difficult to reach a political arrangement that would provide a framework for a durable solution to the country's ethnic question.

At no point during the meeting did the President even mention that she needed a bigger say in the peace process. This issue was not even discussed. However, it is the President's position that the prior advice of the President in matters relating to the peace process would be beneficial to the process.

The President's position on a Presidential nominee to the peace process is that such a nominee(s) should participate in the Political and De-escalation Committees of the peace process.

The Liam Fox agreement was not spoken of during the entire meeting. The Liam fox agreement between political parties is irrelevant to dealings between the Government and the Executive President. The Liam Fox agreement is an understanding between the Government and the Parliamentary Opposition. There is a clear distinction between an Opposition nominee and a Presidential nominee to the peace process committee.

During this discussion Minister Moragoda queried as to whether the President would be interested in advising the Women's Committee of the peace process that was being established. When queried as to the terms of reference (TOR) of this committee, Minister Moragoda responded that the same was being worked out. The President stated that when this Committee decides on what they would be doing she could be informed in order to obtain her advice.

The President's Office has in the past maintained strict confidentiality of discussions between the President and the Prime Minister. However , since inaccurate media reports of the proceedings abound in the press these clarifications become necessary to ensure accurate report of the facts.

I would kindly request that this response receives the same prominence accorded to the original news item in question.

Our Political Editor says:
While respecting the President's Right of Reply, our political Editor therefore sees no reason NOT to stand by his story.

As for the Liam Fox agreement, our column did not say that the agreement was discussed at the meeting at President’s House even though Liam Fox was mentioned in our column after mention of the meeting between President Prime Minister. All we said was that the UNF has decided that Liam Fox should be the guideline when dealing with the opposition viz the peace process.

Ranger killed as guns lie idle

A load of automatic weapons imported for wildlife game rangers had not been issued as a result of authorities failing to train the game rangers to use the weapons, senior officials charged.

They said game rangers had risked their lives by carrying out raids with only outdated shotguns and repeaters.

The problem had come into focus after the killing of game ranger M.K.C. Kumarasinghe, last Tuesday at Yala national park during a raid on a ganja plantation in the area.

Forest officers have taken four men into custody in connection with the killing. A diary carried by one of them contained telephone numbers of two policemen.

Interior Minister John Amaratunga said they would be investigating the link between the two policemen and the killers.

Colonel crook

By Chris Kamalendran
An alleged confidence trickster who cheated some big companies after posing off as an Army Colonel attached to the Welfare unit at the Army headquarters is being hunted by Police detectives.

Police said the man dressed in army uniform walked into leading business establishments and first requested for quotations and thereafter placed an order to purchase goods.

He claimed the goods were for the Army Welfare unit and ordered TVs, refrigerators, fans, washing machines and musical instruments.

The man eventually paid by cheque but when the companies presented them to the bank they found that the cheques were bogus though they contained the rubber stamp of the Army Headquarters Welfare unit.

The Fraud Bureau is looking for the man who has been identified as Nawalage Rienzie Cooray of Huludagoda road, Mt. Lavina.

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