Enter a new breed of graduate teachers manipulated by politics

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The Presidential Secretariat has ordered a full investigation to determine whether disciplinary action should be taken over the conduct of certain Western Province graduate teachers during the ceremony held on Wednesday at Temple Trees to award letters of appointment to them.

The order had come following several complaints regarding what was deemed disrespectful behaviour by some of the graduate teachers.

The complaints related to some teachers refusing to rise when President Ranil Wickremesinghe, government ministers, and officials entered the hall, and teachers talking loudly amongst themselves or being on their phones as the ceremony was taking place.

Initial inquiries have revealed that the behaviour was part of an organised protest by a section of the teachers who are aligned with a certain political party, according to those in the President’s office and the Education Ministry. Officials claim they have unearthed WhatsApp messages in some teacher groups where those attending were told not to stand when the President and other government dignitaries arrived and left. Some of the messages show teachers present celebrating the fact that a large section refused to stand for the President and scolding those who had chosen to stand and ignore instructions sent via WhatsApp.

Initial inquiries have also uncovered that many of those who had exhibited such behaviour had approached a senior official attached to the Western Provincial Education Ministry to obtain transfers from the schools they had been initially appointed to. Further inquiries have revealed that this senior official is also aligned with the same political party, and she was also on some of the WhatsApp groups which organised the protest action against the President.

“We have already found that some of the teachers who behaved terribly that day had got their original appointments changed to schools closer to their places of residence due to the intervention of this particular official. Once the investigation is over, those who have used their political connections to obtain transfers in an unethical manner will have their transfers cancelled and sent back to their original schools,” said a senior official, commenting on the matter.

The official added that they had no issue with teachers holding differing political viewpoints but stressed that they must not engage in such “cheap tactics,” adding that if this is how such teachers behave, “we have questions on what they will be teaching their students when they eventually start their appointments.”


Crossovers and double crosses: Crisscross Gota’s mandate

Six MPs representing the Freedom People’s Congress (FPC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) on Friday to join the SJB-led alliance.

The FPC has 13 MPs, but only six signed the MoU to join the alliance. At a media conference held jointly with the SJB at the opposition leader’s office following the signing of the MoU, the FPC MPs expressed confidence that the rest of their colleagues would eventually join the alliance as well.

Given that many Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MPs, including dissident MPs like those from the FPC, continue to speak of the 6.9 million voter mandate former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa received, a journalist asked the FPC MPs what they had to say about those 6.9 million voters now that the six-member group has embraced the SJB.

FPC MP Dilan Perera, never at a loss to say something, shot back, asking which option was better: aligning with Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, who won 5.5 million votes at the last presidential election, or Ranil Wickremesinghe, whose party could only win a single seat in the entire country at the last parliamentary election?

The journalist remained perplexed if his question was answered, though.


Essential services order: Circular leaves President out

The President has instructed government offices and ministries to ensure that essential services continue smoothly during the National New Year holidays, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said.

A circular to this effect was issued by the Ministry of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils, and Local Government, instructing government officers to follow a set of instructions to smoothly continue essential services during the holidays while minimising inconvenience to the public. Curiously, however, the circular did not contain any mention that the instructions came from the President. In fact, the President was not mentioned at all.

It was as if the entire set of instructions came from the senior ministry official who had issued the circular. A copy of the circular with the President’s own instructions (without any mention of the President) was also sent to the President’s Office.


Britain removes harsh references to Sri Lanka in updated travel advisory

The United Kingdom has updated its travel advisory for Sri Lanka with additional information on emergency medical numbers, road travel, and safety.

References to shortages of food, fuel, and medicine due to the country’s economic situation contained in the previous advisory have been removed from the updated advisory. Additionally, references to limitations in healthcare services, such as shortages of imported medicine and medical equipment due to the economic situation, have also been removed.

In a statement, the President’s Media Division stated that the Sri Lanka High Commission in London has made repeated representations to the British authorities on the need to remove these adverse references in the previous travel advisory to reflect the ground realities.

The United Kingdom is the third largest source of tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka, with 53,928 arrivals from January 1 to March 27 this year.

The revised travel advisory also comes after an open letter was issued by campaigners in both the UK and Sri Lanka in January calling on the UK government to revise its “overly harsh” travel advice on Sri Lanka. The signatories to the open letter, provided by a leading UK travel company, pointed out that the travel Advisory was “systematically undermining the travel industry in Sri Lanka.”


Debate over Lanka’s No. 1 ranking for solo female travel

Sri Lanka being ranked No. 1 in the “best places for solo female travel in 2024” by, a British media and hospitality company, has been eliciting strong feelings in Sri Lanka’s social media sphere.

On the one hand, there have been those who have celebrated the ranking, stating that it will help boost tourism in the country. Others, however, have insisted the ranking is misleading, noting that local women face sexual harassment on a daily basis almost from the moment they step onto the road.

Some have tried to make sense of the ranking, noting that the experiences of foreign women who visit the island as tourists might be different from those of local women who understand the language and are also far easier targets for harassment. The debate continues online.

No shandy from President for State Minister’s Arrack price request

As the Avurudu season draws near, Primary Industries State Minister Chamara Sampath Dasanayake again lamented the government’s failure to implement a request he has been pushing for many months: to reduce the price of the local brew, arrack.

Mr. Dasanayake is a staunch loyalist of President Ranil Wickremesinghe. He is a breakaway MP from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and is among the group of SLFP MPs who currently hold cabinet and state ministerial portfolios. He has used his position to repeatedly advocate for a price reduction in arrack, noting that the high prices have made arrack out of reach of the common man. As a consequence, many of them have turned to illicit liquor (kasippu), he says.

In February, the State Minister used one of his parliamentary speeches to demand that the price of special arrack, or ‘Gal Arrack’ be reduced before the National New Year. He made the request from President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is also the finance minister.

Speaking to the media on Friday, Mr. Dasanayake said the President made correct decisions, but lamented that he had yet to agree to his repeated requests to reduce the price of arrack. “No matter how many times I have asked for the price of arrack to be reduced, the President has still not done so. I have to say that, but I won’t work outside his decision,” he emphasised.