Media helps us stay on track- Col. Anthonis
[TamilNet, Monday, 26 February 2001, 23:36 GMT]
The condition of education in the north and east was discussed by the Sri Lanka army at its headquarters in Colombo said Colonel V.L Rohan Anthonis, the commander of the 23-3 brigade in Batticaloa, addressing a meeting with local journalists and school principals Monday. He emphasised that students should not take part in anti-government activities. "We want to make sure we are on the correct track" officer said, speaking about the importance of monitoring the media. Col. Anthonis, a former cricketer from St. Thomas' College, the island's most prestigious private school for boys, claimed that he and his staff look up the press daily to check whether army has wronged anyone in Batticaloa.
The officer said that the Ministers for Education and Higher Education had also participated in the discussion on education in the north and east at the SLA headquarters. Col.Gunasekera, the civil coordinating officer for Batticaloa had attended this meeting in Colombo on behalf of the 23-3 brigade, according to him.
Col. Anthonis denied reports in the Tamil political weekly, Sarinihar, that the army had refused all the town schools except Vincent's Girls' High School access to the Weber stadium because they had failed to show up for a music show organised last month by the army.
A school principal who was at todays meeting conjectured that SLA appears to have felt compelled to examine the situation in schools and universities in the north and east as a consequence of the recent political upsurge among Tamil students.
Col. Anthonis charged that the Pongu Thamil program at the Eastern University (on 20 February) was organised by the Liberation Tigers. He said that the LTTE is an organisation banned in Sri Lanka and that the declaration read out at the conclusion of Pongu Thamil at the Eastern University was for a separate state.
(The Pongu Thamil declaration was based on the right of self-determination, the Tamils' traditional homeland and their recognition as a distinct nationality)
The commander urged the principals who were at the meeting to discourage their students from taking part in such activities against the Sri Lankan government.
The principals of fifteen schools in and around Batticaloa town and the Deputy Director of Education for the Batticaloa zone, Mr. Saravanapavan, were present at the discussion with the brigade commander and his staff at the former Municipal Council office which has been occupied by the army for more than a decade.
Mr. G.Nadesan, the Batticaloa correspondent for the Tamil daily Virakesari, Mr. Shan Thavarajah (Thinakkural-Tamil daily) and Mr.R.Thurairatnam (Thinakaran-state run Tamil daily newspaper) were also present at the meeting with the brigade commander.
Col. Anthonis was the opening batsman for his school at the centenary cricket match between St. Thomas' College and Royal College in Colombo in 1979. (His team was coached by Col.F.C de Saram who was involved in a botched coup in the 60s) He played for his school the next year as well (So did his brother Stefan after him) He joined the army as a cadet officer in 1981 and was trained at Diyatalawa where he was one of the most outstanding of the intake.
At the completion of the training in 1982, Anthonis was posted to the SLAís 4th Field Artillery Regiment, then under the command of Brigadier Jayantha Jayaratna. Later he commanded the 6th Artillery Regiment.
In 1991, Anthonis was attached to the Joint Operations Command of the SLA in Colombo as a staff officer under Brigadier Tilak Paranagama who was the Principal Staff Officer at the time. Col. Anthonis was posted in Trincomalee as well.
In early 2000 he served briefly at the Elephant Pass base as Col. General Staff of the 54 Division. (The officer who succeded him at Elephant Pass, Col. Harischandra Hewaarachi, was killed in action when the Tigers overran the garrison in April 2000)
He has endeavoured to develop a rapport with the local press despite occasional hiccups since he took command of the 23-3 brigade in Batticloa.