President Rajapaksa mimicked on stage; Principal interdicted

External Affairs Minister Krishna voices India’s repeating groove on full implementation of 13th Amendment
By Anthony David and D.G. Sugathapala

Mimicking President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a school play has cost the school principal his job.
However, the Principal E.K.Premasiri said yesterday it was he who had first informed police of such a play and wanted them to investigate.

Mr.Premasiri related his tale of woe. "What I want is an impartial inquiry into the incident. It is I who complained to the Provincial Education Director and the Police that the mini play staged with the character of the President was a conspiracy. But instead of carrying out a full investigation I have been interdicted”.

Mr Premasiri is the Principal of Labduwa Sridamma Vidyalaya – a National School located in Galle with over 3,000 students. He was served a letter of interdiction last week by the Secretary of the Ministry of Education H.M.Gunasekara on the charge that the President’s character was used in a comedy enacted in a short play performed by some of the school students.

Parents of students holding a protest against appointing the principal of Amarasuriya Vidyalaya, Meepawala as the principal of Labduwa Sridamma Vidyalaya

The event unfolded on the last day of the last term before the December vacation. “Since the teachers were busy correcting term test papers as most schools do, the students are given some extra activities. We had asked the students to enact short dramas or some performance. Small groups teamed up and practiced for about three to four days. There were no scripts as such,” he said.

However the students had been told to stage a rehearsal with the drama and aesthetic teacher in attendance. “On the final day I was invited as the chief guest for the event. One of the items on the programme was a short drama. I saw a student dressed in a national costume with a Satakaya coming up on stage and kissing the floor. He was addressed as ‘Nayakathuma’ (leader),” the Principal said.

“I thought since the teacher had seen a rehearsal there shouldn’t be a problem, but within a few minutes I felt suspicious and feared that the President could be insulted. I immediately called the teacher who was conducting the programme and got the act stopped,” Mr. Premasiri who has been the principal of the school for the past five years said.

Soon after the other events were over the principal summoned the teachers concerned and checked with them. “They told me during rehearsals the drama was a comedy with the main actor being a director. I was told that the costume and the Satakaya too were additions,” Mr. Premasiri said.

The principal says he had immediately telephoned the Provincial Education Director Kithsiri Liyanagamage and informed him about the incident. On his instructions he also lodged a complaint at the Akmeemana police asking for an inquiry into the incident.

The Sunday Times learns that a teacher in the same school who was against the principal had coached the students to enact a play mimicking the President and got it videoed and sent it to higher authorities.
“Without any inquiry I have been placed in an embarrassing position. A principal in a school is a person who is looked upto. These types of incidents are bad for the students as well,” he said.

“What I want is that the investigators to get to the bottom of this incident and find out who was responsible for it and take action against such persons. My interdiction without any inquiry being done is not justifiable,” Mr. Premasiri protested.

However, the Sunday Times learns that opposition against him had started in the latter part of 2009 when he refused to admit a list of 11 children sent by a government member of parliament from the district. The list included names of children nominated by a local politician.

What I want is that the
investigators to get to the bottom of this incident and find out who was responsible for it and take action against such persons. My interdiction without any inquiry being done is not justifiable.” -- E.K. Premasiri

Eventually after an appeal process seven of the 11 were admitted, but the students whom the local politician had nominated had failed to gain admission as the others were more qualified.

The principal had lodged a complaint to the Education Ministry too seeking professional protection as the threats against him were on the increase.

Local politicians had openly said he would be replaced by another Principal from the same area. In another incident which has been recorded the son of bodyguard of a UPFA MP had claimed he was assaulted by the Principal and sustained injuries to his ear. The claims were later proved to be false.

Complaints were made to the Auditor General prompting inquiries, but they had found him not guilty of any offences. Similar false complaints including allegations against his character were made. Handbills with defamatory material against him too were distributed.

In 2008 the school became the winners of the ISO- 9001 Quality management system award and in 2010 achieved the National award for productivity. Ahead of the selection process for the Productivity award representations had been made to the panel of judges not to give any awards to the school, the Sunday Times learns.

Soon after the interdiction, attempts were made to appoint the Principal of Amarasuriya Vidyalaya, Meepawala, J.K.Rajapaksa, but due to protests by parents the move was stalled. Education Ministry Scretary H.M. Gunasekera declined to comment.

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