Election decides fate
of tsunami-hit school
A rare case of an election being held to determine the relocation of a tsunami-ravaged school in Kalmunai after the students’ parents were divided on its re-location, was reported recently.
This unconventional poll was conducted by the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission’s (HRC) regional office in Kalmunai, to bring about an amicable settlement to a growing split among the parents of children studying in Shums Central College, Maradamunai in Kalmunai over the relocation issue.
One group had insisted that the tsunami-affected school which was about 65 metres away from the sea should be rebuilt in its original location while the other group maintained that the school should be shifted to another location.
Interestingly the mini-election held last Monday had the atmosphere of a Lankan political election where the two rival parties had clashed verbally with near exchange of physical blows and shouted their slogans while police had been called in to provide security and a zonal educational official to monitor the election.
Shums Central College where approximately 1,300 boys and girls study was severely damaged by the tsunami and many students and a teacher there had been killed by the deadly waves.
Kalmunai HRC Regional Co-ordinator M.M. Zarook, told The Sunday Times there were an number of complaints from people for and against the relocation of the school but attempts to settle the matter amicably failed as the two groups were not ready to come to a compromise.
“Since there was no agreement we decided to conduct an election among the parents to bring about a solution to the issue and everyone agreed to it”, he said.
Mr. Zarook said the election despite its small size resembled an election conducted by the Government with clashes, exchange of strong words and campaigning though not marred by any physical assaults.
He said one group wanted the school should be relocated to a safer place to avoid any further trouble from a possible tsunami, while the other group was insisting that the school should be rebuilt in its original place.
“Despite the division among the parents, all the students were requesting that the school should be shifted to a safer place and once about 1000 of them came to me and handed over a document asking for my intervention for the relocation of the school,” he said.
Mr. Zarook said that not only were the parents divided but there were also disagreement among teachers over the shifting of the school.The election results showed that 449 out of the 669 votes cast were for the relocation of the school.He said that finally when the results were announced there were cheers and celebrations from some parents while some others were dissatisfied with the outcome.
The school principal M. Jalaldeen said there was a strong need for the school to be shifted to a safer place so that it will not be affected in the event of a possible tsunami.