Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Disinformation and deception - Editorial

More than 231,000 students are sitting this year’s GCE (A/L) examination on the new syllabus and up to 31,000 on the old syllabus with their minds not fully focused on the subjects but more on last year’s Z-score fiasco over which tension and controversy still prevail with thousands of students uncertain as to whether they will be able to enter university.

The Supreme Court and the educationist who formulated the Z-score marking system have said the calculation by taking into account the old and the new syllabuses as a single entity was basically flawed. Higher Education Minister S.B. Dissanayake, after some boastful if not arrogant talk is now saying the marks are being recalculated based on the SC ruling, which called for the old and new syllabuses to be taken up as separate entities. Education Minister Bandula Gunawardane has been promising or saying cheese but producing old chalk in an education system that appears to be degenerating into a black board jungle. Student unions are holding protest campaigns demanding the resignation of the two ministers for messing up the vital education sector. But the era of the moral high road when ministers resigned for clearly mishandling their subjects has apparently ended and they stay on because of the greed for power and personal gain.

Amid the uncertainty after the Z-scores, university academics have been on one of their longest-ever strikes over salary anomalies. Their talks with both education ministers have been a virtual dialogue of the deaf.

Having tumbled from the high road, many UPFA leaders appear to have descended to the level of surviving or winning on lies, damn lies and deceptive statistics. The most blatant case in recent days was the charge repeatedly made by Minister and SLFP General Secretary Mithripala Sirisena.

Minister Sirisena said he had substantial evidence to prove that Opposition UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had been a spy for SLFP candidate Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge in the 1994 presidential election. Minister Sirisena said that he had proof that Mr. Wickremesinghe had met Ms. Kumaratunge and given her secret details about the campaign, plans and strategies of UNP presidential candidate Gamini Dissanayake.

Making matters worse, a popular media network, which claims to be strongly independent and first in most things, repeatedly gave prominence to Minister Sirisena’s allegations backing them up with hard-hitting comments from anti-Wickremesinghe elements in the UNP. The media network though popular, appears to be lacking in professional and ethical journalistic standards of not mixing news with comments, distorted facts or fiction.

Last Friday, Ms. Kumaratunge herself issued a strong denial saying that Mr. Wickremesinghe, as the out-going Prime Minister, had only paid a courtesy call on her as the new Prime Minister after she won the general elections in 1994. It is disturbing and disgraceful that such high-ranking ministers could resort to such deception and disinformation for the sake of winning votes.

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