|Friday, 27 August 2004|
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In as much as I was a vocal critic of delays on the part of the Government to compensate at least among the victims who testified before the Commission, I must now express my gratitude to President Kumaratunga who saw to it that the recommendations of the Commission was honoured. It would have been good if Ranil's UNF Government, during whose tenure the Report was out, took the matter above party politics and compensated the victims in good time. But this was not to be in the nature of our politics.
For Ranil's Government to compensate the '83 victims, in the peculiar logic of our times and political culture, would have meant the UNP are responsible. Indeed, they are and of this let there be no doubt, if there ever was.
The apocryphal position taken by UNF sources was the Report had an anti-UNP bias and the Commissioners decidedly anti-UNP and partisan. Meanwhile, the already suffering Tamils continued to suffer although the recommendations of the Commission naturally sent their hopes soaring. The extreme Sinhala wing did not remain silent. They warned the President "if you compensate the Tamils, the Sinhalese - including the soldiers who died in action - must also be compensated" was their shrill war cry. They knew this will not succeed but the plan was to scuttle the compensation being paid to the Tamils.
However, the strong-willed President stood firm and insisted "a section of our people have been wronged and we must make good". Not only she saw to it that some compensation was paid but she also had the strength and statesmanship to offer a shared public apology to the Tamils. For those who continuously complain the Tamils did not show their appreciation to the thousands of Sinhalese who sheltered some of the victims, the Commission makes several references of the gratitude expressed by the Tamils.
Thank you, President Kumaratunga for coming out at least to offer solace to the lakhs of suffering Tamils.
V. S. Sathanandan,
Lately many have expressed views regarding the importance of teaching English and learning in the English medium in schools. Many put the blame on the incompetency of the teachers and shortcomings of the curriculum for declining standards of English education. It is praiseworthy that the Ministry of Education has taken many progressive steps with regard to this.
Drawbacks in English education are not only in rural schools but also in urban schools as well. The incompetency of the teachers are due to the teachers not being able to master the language let alone teach students. Even the teachers who pass out of Colleges of Education who are chosen after studying English as a subject for the A/Levels and securing a pass are not competent. I have met many teachers so trained who are not fluent in English.
Merely obtaining a pass in English at the A/Levels is not a satisfactory foundation for teaching English in the future. There are many who are knowledgeable in English outside this category. For example there are many students in other streams like Science and Commerce who have high standards in English and they can easily adapt themselves to teach English as they have been accustomed to grasp difficult concepts. Therefore I suggest that an open competitive examination should be held to recruit teachers in English as before.
I also propose that the age limit for recruitment should be below 40 years as many of an earlier period have superior knowledge of English and were barred by the present scheme of recruiting teachers.
Improving the competency of English teachers and English medium teachers and raising the standards of English cannot be achieved overnight. Therefore English education up to O/Levels and in A/Levels should improve.
V. S. KARUNARATHNE,
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