SJB criticises Govt. moves to restrict civil rights

Tuesday, 20 July 2021 01:17 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

SJB MPs Rohini Wijeratne Kavirathna addressing the media while former Governor of the Western Province Hemakumara Nanayakkara looks on


By Asiri Fernando

Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Rohini Wijeratne Kavirathna yesterday charged that the Governments’ push to militarise the higher education sector was aimed at crushing civil rights and creating a population without dissent in the future.

“This move indicates that they (Government) are preparing to create a community where there is no difference of opinion, where the entire public service may be subjected to military training,” she told journalists yesterday. Kavirathna also questioned what would become of democracy in the country if civil rights and the freedom of thought were curtailed.

SJB MP Tissa Attanayake and former Governor of the Western Province Hemakumara Nanayakkara joined Kavirathna at the press conference held at the Opposition Leader’s office. 

The SJB has voiced strong opposition to the proposed Kotalawala Defence University Bill (KNDU) that many academics and teacher trade unions have warned would result in the erosion of free education policies in the country and lead to the militarisation of the population. The Government has rejected these assertions.

A former educator turned politician, Kavirathna, questioned the Government’s track record on education and criticised several derogatory statements made recently by Cabinet Ministers regarding teachers and academics.

“This Government has mismanaged the education sector during this crisis. The online teaching experiment has not delivered the expected results. Many students do not have the means to connect to such a system. There are connectivity issues all over the island. We see reports of self-harm by students who have been left out of the online teaching system,” Kavirathna said.

“How will students prepare for examinations on subjects such as science, physics, chemistry and biology? How will they face practical assessments? There are dozens of practical lessons a student needs to complete before they can confidently sit for an examination. None of these have been possible during the last year.” 

The Opposition MP stressed that teachers had not asked for additional payments for mobile broadband costs or for new mobile devices to be provided by the Government when the e-learning system was initiated. Kavirathna also argued that the Government had neglected to honour promises made to educators regarding discrepancies in their pay and blamed authorities for using heavy handed tactics and COVID-related health regulations to crush teacher protests against policy change.

She added that the Government’s changes to the higher education policy should be resisted and called on the public to get involved in creating a broad discussion on education reforms and the strengthening of democratic values.