Buddhist monk wants STF out of school
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 04 June 2002, 17:52 GMT]
The Ven. Miragalle Dharmalankara Thero, the principal of a Sinhala school in the Ampara district, said Tuesday he has complained to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) that the Special Task Force, an elite counter insurgency unit of the Sri Lankan security forces, should vacate his school. "The Sri Lanka army occupied my school in 1987. Then the STF moved in. I have been requesting all the government that came to power since 1987 to pull out the troops from the school. But nothing was done. This is why I am complaining to SLLM now. It is a great wrong perpetrated on the children of this school. If anyone says that the troops should remain in the school, then his head has to be examined," the priest said in a letter faxed to the press in Batticaloa Tuesday.
The STF commandos occupy the major portion of the Bakmiriyawa Sinhala Vidyalaya in the Damana Education Zone in the interior of the Amparai district. "The STF takes over the whole school whenever there are meetings with its officers. Hence, children miss classes often. The teachers' quarters of the school are also occupied by the STF. The commandos use the school grounds, its toilets and well," the priest said.
He charged that there are bunkers and mines in the school compound, which endanger the lives of the students and disrupt their education. "Children cannot study when the STF start up their vehicles. The quality of teaching the children get here remains poor because most teachers are very reluctant to work in this school or go away on transfer, fearing the STF's presence in most parts of the school," the Buddhist monk lamented.
There are many suitable places in the village of Bakmiriyawa for the STF to set up its camp but it nothing is done to transfer the commandos out of the school, according to Ven. Miragalle Dharmalankara Thero.
"A school symbolises peace and harmony, the military represents death and destruction. The two are contradictory. They cannot be in the same place," the Buddhist monk said.