Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 8 February 2015





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

National unity government, after general election - Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam

Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam said that the manner in which the President, Prime Minister and the Cabinet were conducting their affairs was clear testimony to the democratic form of governance as against the dictatorial nature practiced by the previous regime.

He told the Sunday Observer that during this short period, this relatively small Cabinet had brought many progressive moves and victories for the people.

The Minister said President Maithripala Sirisena during his election campaign pledged to curtail the powers of the Executive Presidency and vest more powers with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.

Although these powers have not yet changed constitutionally, a Government which is held accountable to Parliament has been set up. Now everybody acts as one Sri Lankan nation.

During the past few decades, we experienced the repercussion of certain elements promoting racism. Now Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim leaders have made an effective contribution as one Sri Lankan nation to govern the country.

All political parties including some progressive members of the SLFP have also joined hands with the Government. Could we find a more people- friendly Government than this, the Minister queried.

Q: There is much controversy over the lack of an educational policy. University tutorial staff and academics too struggled for this. Could you say whether you intend to introduce a new educational policy?

A: A national educational policy has become an urgent need today. Certain steps were taken in the past but they did not become a reality.

We intend to formulate a national educational policy in the near future. At present, a crisis situation exists in the education sector such as formulating syllabuses , admitting children, recruitingand training teachers and giving promotions.

Sometimes, accepted circulars have been violated. At present, the quality of education has dropped to some extent.

A series of problems have cropped up in the education sector. We hope to formulate a national educational policy and find solutions to existing issues in the education sector. Today, some parents under the influence of politicians come to the Education Ministry even to admit their children to schools.

Various methods were adopted in the past to admit children to schools from the list of politicians at times exceeding the limit.

Thousands of children who studied at Carlton Preschool were admitted to Government schools. Moreover, those who held various portfolios at President's House had sent lists to to the Education Ministry to admit children to schools. As a result, most of the schools are chock-a-block.

Thus children who obtained high marks at the Year Five Scholarship Examination were deprived of the opportunity of entering a good school. We have laid emphasis on all these issues.

We have decided to take a balanced approach to teacher problems, while a decision has been taken to implement Teacher Transfer Boards.

The national education policy to be formulated will focus on all these issues.

Q: What made you to stop naming schools, laboratories and the like after politicians and school principals accepting money for school admissions?

A: As the Education Minister, I will take the decision to systematically minimise bringing politics into schools.

At present, many schools are named after various politicians and they were mushrooming. In our history, only a few schools were named after politicians of the calibre of C.W.W. Kannangara and some others considering their sublime service rendered to the education sector and the country.

But the bad precedence that we witnessed over the past few years was that a large number of schools were named after former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Even after I assumed office as Education Minister, requests were made to name seven schools after the former President.

The present Government does not expect to name any school after the President, Prime Minister or Education Minister.

Our objective is to stop political interference in schools. It will take awhile for this to be a reality.

Q: A large number of village schools had to be closed reportedly due to parents seeking better schools for their children and due to lack of qualified teachers. What has really gone wrong?

A: Proper categorisation has not been made when teachers were recruited. Teacher recruitment has not been made to fill the shortage of teachers.

Attention has also not been focused to train teachers systematically. Only a few selected schools were developed while schools being closed were ignored.

This is a serious mistake made in the education sector. The Government intends to provide facilities to all schools and develop them physically and quantitatively.

We hope to recruit teachers based on existing requirements in the education sector and maintain a balance of teachers.

We also hope to give certain targets to teachers to increase the percentage of students passing examinations.

Such attempts made by teachers will be appreciated and in the future, a special allowance will be given to them.

The Government also hopes to increase allocations made to the education sector. This would help to develop the school network and overcome shortcomings in schools.

Q: The most pressing issue is grade one admission. How are you going to tackle this problem?

A: Actually this is the biggest problem faced by us. Nearly 1000 to 2000 people come to the Education Ministry on public days seeking permission to admit their children to Grade One.

I don't think admission to Grade One should be made through politicians lists anymore. In future, we will formulate a method for this purpose. We will also rectify errors in some circulars.

According to the methodology in the university sector, it is clear that a student shoud know whether he is qualified to enter the university or not based on the marks that he had obtained in the G.C.E. Advanced Level Examination.

Nobody can interfere and change that process. A simiar transparent methodol will be formulated for Grade One admission so that nobody will come to the Education Ministry seeking permission to admit children to Grade One.

These changes can't be made overnight. I need some time to make these changes. In certain instances during the former government, children were admitted to Grade One due to political influence.

A lot of injustice has been caused to some parents over this.We have to mete out justice to them. This does not mean that there will be political interference.

We hope to systematically stop the admission of children to Grade One through political interference.

Q: You have abolished Colonel posts given to principals. What was the reason for this decision?

A: When I went to a school, I saw a photograph of a principal dressed in colonel attire.

In the past, principals didn't govern schools with a military mentality. The duty of qa principal is much more than that. They have the principal service and the administrative service. There is a procedure for them to get posts and promotions.

We will act based on official procedure.

We have stopped school processions wasting public funds.

At present, principals and the School Development Committees collect money haphazardly from parents citing various reasons.

To collect money, they need Ministry approval. If it is a provincial school, they should get the permission from the committee of the Provincial Secretary. Some schools have collected Rs.40 to 50 million per year under the pretext of colourwashing the school and constructing playgrounds.

Money has been collected during the past without any audit query. Sometimes, principals have personally taken money to admit children to schools.

We will be strict about such things and rectify shortcomings.

Q: Will you review the examination process from the Year Five Scholarship Exam onwards?

A: We are in the process of appointing committees for various sectors to find out shortcomings.

The time has come to streamline these sectors. This is not a task to be fulfilled by me alone.

All the decisions will be taken with the joint participation of educationists, parents, teachers, principals and psychologists. When these decisions are implemented, we will have to look into their practical aspects as well.

We will also adopt a method to review the examination process. We will not leave room for political interference or the examination process while only competent people will prepare examination papers and paper marking.

Nobody should entertain any doubts as we have already decided to look into the process and streamline it.

The present examination process and some syllabuses should be subjected to change. At the moment, we are concentrating on this aspect.

Q: People are somewhat perturbed over the tardy progress of the 100 day program. Are there any constraints or insurmountable difficulties confronting the Government?

A: We are expeditiously implementing the 100 day program. The Government has already brought down the prices of 13 essential food commodities.

This is more than what we pledged. Petrol, diesel and kerosene oil prices have been reduced by an unbelievable amount.

Salaries of public sector employees have been increased by Rs.10,000. There was not even a single occasion in our history where public sector employees were given a Rs,10,000 pay hike.

The Government has appointed an anti-corruption Committee to look into large scale fraud and corruption in the state sector.

The estimated expenditure of Rs.95,930 million for the former President was cut down to Rs.2,560 million. Various progressive measures have been taken to develop the education sector.

A committee has also been appointed to regularise international schools. The Government will also set up independent commissions and ensure the people's right to information. What else can the people expect?

Q: Some social and political activists believe that it is best to appoint a full fledged Presidential Commission with punitive powers to probe into the plunder of state property. Your comments?

A: The Cabinet has already appointed a special committee to probe into fraud and corruptions in the state sector.

Ministers Champika Ranawaka, Dr.Rajitha Senaratne and Dr.Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe are members of this committee. It has already commenced operations.

If there is a need, the Government can further strengthen its task. Based on the findings of this committee, culprits will be brought to book

Q: It bodes well for the country that the Tamils and Muslims did cast their votes in an unprecedented manner this time. How would you embrace this opportunity to facilitate reconciliation and promote the Sri Lankan concept?

A: Now it is one Sri Lankan nation. We have experienced the repercussions of promoting racism by certain elements over the past few decades. Now all Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim leaders have made their contribution as one Sri Lankan nation to govern the country.

All political parties including some progressive members of the SLFP are represented in this Government.

Can we find a more people-friendly Government than this? Actually the incumbent Government looks like a rainbow.

Q: What made the Government to appoint a National Executive Council which is a novel device. Could you elaborate on this?

A: The National Executive Council was appointed following a request made by the constituent partners of the Government.

As a Government, we should adopt new strategies on governing without strictly adhering to traditional concepts.

Many other countries have also made such experiments to govern their countries. Under these circumstances, we also went for this novel concept.

Q: A situation in which the President and the Prime Minister with the Cabinet will be from two different camps, is not in the best interest of the country. Your comments?

A: I think this is a novel concept to govern the country. President Maithripala Sirisena during his election campaign pledged to curtail the powers of the Executive Presidency and vest more powers to the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Although these powers have not yet been changed constitutionally, a Government which is held accountable to Parliament has already been set up.

The manner in which the President, Prime Minister and the Cabinet are acting is testimony that this is a democratic form of governance and not dictatorial rule as the previous regime.

During this short period, many progressive moves and victories have been brought to the people by this relatively small Cabinet.

We saw the super luxury level rooms, offices and reception halls constructed at Temple Trees during the reign of the former President spending billions of public funds.

Dogs worth millions and air conditioned kennels were at Temple Trees. People have realised the extravagant rule carried out by the previous regime.

I don't think there will be another golden opportunity in the country other than the the one at the moment.

Q: How prepared is the UNP to face a General Election in April or May? Do you see any complications that President Maithripala Sirisena who is now also the President of the SLFP, your main rival party?

A: There won't be any problem. The President is a thorough gentleman. He has outlined the future forward march of the Government.

We will go for a General Election in April. The UNP will contest alone for the next General Election. We hope to win this election and there is no doubt about our victory.

A national government will be formed in collaboration with other political parties.

That would be a people- friendly government which would give relief and concessions to the people.

It would rebuild the country's economy and generate employment opportunities for youth.

The UNP consists of many leaders who can take the lead in this revolution. President Maithripala Sirisena will give leadership to our Government.

I think under the new Government, the country's future will be more optimistic.

After the election, an environment will be created to put an end to fraud, corruption and violence. I am confident that in the near future, a series of progressive initiatives will be taken to ensure good governance in the country.


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