By Mahangu Weerasinghe
The controversy over the admission of a son of a JVP MP to a national
school has taken a high-level twist with Education Ministry Secretary
Tara De Mel being implicated in the case and the JVP citing the
Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act to absolve the MP of any
the wake of media exposure that the Matara district JVP parliamentarian
Premasiri Manage had allegedly used political influence or what
is euphemistically called 'chit system' to admit his son to Matara
Rahula College, the politician has withdrawn his son.
Sunday Times reported last week that despite the strict government
policy on preventing political influence in school admissions, the
politician's son had been admitted to Rahula College though he fell
22 marks short of the required total at the Year Five Scholarship
Principal Kithsiri Liyanagamage told The Sunday Times last week
he had received a letter from the Director of National Schools,
ordering him to admit the politician's son.
this week, fresh evidence emerged that it is not only the Director
of National Schools but Education Ministry Secretary Dr. de Mel
has also sent an official letter to the MP, assuring him that necessary
action was being taken to admit his son to Rahula College.
Dr. de Mel's letter on a ministry letterhead avoids any mentioning
of the Year Five Scholarship Examination, but attempts to justify
the admission on grounds that the MP had changed his residence -
apparently to a place close to the school.
officials claim there is no circular or official policy recommending
admission to a new school upon a change of residence.
our repeated attempts and a visit to the Ministry, we could not
meet Dr. de Mel. However, the Ministry's Media Secretary, Sharmane
Wijesinghe, categorically denied that Dr. de Mel had issued a letter
to the MP.
to the allegations, the JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva said
in a statement that Mr. Manage had made use of a privilege enjoyed
by an MP.
But education officials say that this privilege applies to only
Grade One admissions.
to an Education Ministry circular, seven percent of Grade One admissions
are allocated to children of government servants on transfers and
MPs or Provincial councillors who move into new official residences.
Sunday Times spoke to Mr. Manage at his Matara Kottegoda residence
this week. He denied he had influenced the principal or applied
any pressure to admit his son to Year Six.
principal asked me to bring a letter from the Director of National
Schools to get my child admitted," Mr. Manage said while admitting
his son had fallen short of the required 164 entrance mark.
son is not the only one who has not got the required 164. Many of
the teachers in Rahula and even businessmen in the area have managed
to get their children in to the school," he said accusing the
principal of overcrowding the Year Six classes with illegal entrants.
also charged former Education Minister Karunasena Kodituwakku had
used political influence many a time in getting children in to leading
But Dr. Kodituwakku denied the allegations and challenged Mr. Manage
to prove his claim.
Mr. Manage's charges as baseless, Rahula Principal Kithsiri Liyanagamage
said he always acted on the instructions of the Director of National
said he would resign his post, if it was proved that the school
had admitted to year Six any other child who had received less than
164 marks at the Year Five Scholarship Examination.
principal also said he was not aware of an Act that gave Parliamentarians
special privileges in school admissions bar the Year 1 privilege,
and said that the school only followed the methods outlined in the
circulars given to it by the Education Ministry.
Schools Director Mr Geeganage, who issued the controversial 'admit
him' letter declined to comment on the issue, saying it was the
media unit of the ministry that was responsible for interaction
with the media.
Thursday cabinet spokesman and Deputy Education Minister Mangala
Samaraweera downplayed the significance of the controversy, stating
that MPs "traditionally" had the right to admit their
children into a school of their choice. But he was forced to admit
that this special privilege applied only in the case of Grade One