Need for scrutiny stressed
By Shamindra Ferdinando
The Civil Society group Mahajana Yuthukam Kendraya has urged the government to inquire into the continuing selection of foreign scholarship recipients on the basis of ethnicity by some Colombo-based diplomatic missions.
The group’s spokesperson Wasantha Alwis told The Island that in addition to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Education Ministry, Foreign Ministry and the University Grants Commission (UGC) was informed of the biased procedures followed by some missions.
Alwis said that the government should intervene to ensure selection process should not be based on students’ ethnicity under any circumstances. “We recently raised this issue in the wake of Pakistan High Commission intervention in organising an examination at Aligar School in Eravur to select a group of students for scholarships offered by the Allama Iqbal Foundation, Pakistan”.
About 200 Muslin students from Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee who had sat the Advanced Level examination were invited to face the examination, Alwis said, adding that an SLMC lawmaker Zeinul Abdeen Nazeer Ahamed made required arrangements in that regard.
Responding to another query, Alwis said that their inquiries revealed Pakistan and Bangladesh had picked students for scholarships without securing prior consent from foreign and education ministries as well as the UGC. Alwis said that recently the media reported Pakistan High Commission of assuring President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa of 1,000 scholarships to Sri Lanka. However, the selection process couldn’t be solely in the hands of the Pakistan HC.
Noting that Pakistan always stood by Sri Lanka during the war against the LTTE and defended the country at international forums, Alwis underscored the urgent need to address this issue. In their letter to the President copied to Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris as well as the UGC, the Mahajana Yuthukam Kendraya revealed that they discussed the issue with Pakistan HC some time ago.
Alwis said that they received an assurance from Pakistan HC that shortcomings pointed out by them would be rectified and in the future the selection process would be conducted in a transparent manner. Unfortunately, the examination conducted at Eravur on August 17 bared the continuing practice of granting scholarships on ethnic grounds.
Alwis pointed out that Sri Lanka couldn’t turn a blind eye to such controversial practices particularly in the backdrop of Turkey officially alerting Sri Lanka regarding FETO terror group funding the education sector as well as a section of the media. Failure to take appropriate action swiftly and decisively could expose Sri Lanka to further violence, Alwis said, urging the government to be mindful of what was happening in the world.
Alwis said that selection for scholarships should be based on proper qualifications. Entirely basing selection process on a selected ethnic group couldn’t be acceptable under any circumstances, Alwis said, pointing out that the government and those in the Opposition seemed either unaware or uninterested in the issue at hand.
Alwis said that the government whichever party in power should be wary of high profile operations undertaken by foreign powers. Foreign scholarships, foreign funding and various other projects needed to be under constant scrutiny, he said.
He said the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) that inquired into 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, in its final report observed how the then Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe allowed extremists a free hand thereby created an environment for the NTJ (National Thowheed Jamaat) to strike at will.
The developing scene in Afghanistan was an example to all countries, including Sri Lanka as to how situations were exploited by interested parties, Alwis added.