SRI LANKA: Teacher transferred on charges of writing poems on FaceBook
Posted on July 3rd, 2017

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission has received information regarding Mr. Kushan Shalika Herath (30), a teacher at the Kuliyapitiya Central College. Mr. Kushan has been transferred to Narammala Central College, effective 11 June 2017, on charges of writing poems on Facebook (FB). The teacher, who taught advanced level Technology at the Kuliyapitiya Central College, has habitually been writing poems on his FB page. This unlawful transfer been dictated by the Ministry of Education.

This is not the first time such an unfair decision has been taken by Authorities in Sri Lanka. Previously, a female schoolteacher of Mahanama College, Colombo, filed a Fundamental Rights Petition with the Supreme Court based on similar facts. The Supreme Court ruled that the Government should accept the freedom of expression of government employees. The teacher and concerned parties raise their collective voices against this unlawful, volatile action. The State is curtailing the rights of its citizens to enjoy their rights of free speech and expression enshrined in the Constitution.
CASE DETAILS:

The Asian Human Rights Commission has received information regarding Mr. Kushan Shalika Herath (30) a teacher at Kuliyapitiya Central College. He teaches Science for Technology for Advanced Level students at Kuliyapitiya Central College. On the side, he has published some of his poems on Social Media. According to Kushan, he has taught this particular subject, ‘Science for Technology,’ at Kuliyapitiya College for three years. According to recently issued Advanced Level results, his students have had excellent results within district ranks.

He engages in creative writing, writes poems as a hobby and has published many of his poems on the Internet in Social Media. Some of his poems were published on his FB page as well. Mr. Kushan said that his creative writings are highly appreciated by his peers as well as senior teachers specializing in literature.

Meanwhile several officials of the Education Ministry’s Counter-Fraud Unit visited Kushan’s school on 23 January 2017. They questioned him about writing and publishing his poems and their content. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the school Principal remained silent about Kusan’s situation. It was learned that the Principal yielded to the Authorities demands and did not openly support Kushan.

The Ministry of Education officials made the following point. Kushan insulted both the School and the Education Ministry by publishing his ordinary poems while being employed as a State Sector Teacher. Kushan was asked if he was trying to persuade teachers and students to speak against the government. The investigators recorded statements from several teachers and students.

Kushan states that he had not written anything detrimental to the school. He has only written of interesting happenings in the school. When the two Ministry of Education senior officials questioned him, he opened his Facebook (FB) and showed them all the poems he had written. The officials concurred that the poems did not in any way damage the reputation of the School or of any individual.

Later, however, he received a letter from the Ministry of Education transferring him to Mayurapada Central College, Narammala, effective 11 June 2017. He states that he joined the Kuliyapitiya Central College to teach the newly introduced subject, Science for Technology to Advance Level students. The new school does not have any vacancies in that subject.
Kushan states that he has not been accused of any other misdemeanors that justified his transfer. As far as he was aware, he neither violated any principles as a teacher nor had he failed in carrying out his duties as required by the School.

According to the transfer, Kushan has been directed to teach Mathematics in his new workplace. He is not up-to-date on this particular subject. In effect, this transfer is only to replace a teacher who has gone on sick leave for two weeks. He believes that there is no justifiable reason for his transfer. This transfer was not made in line with the established National Transfer Policy Circular No. 2007/20 on teacher transfers.
On Wednesday, 14 June, the Education Ministry’s Media Unit, stated: the transfer was made due to an administrative requirement and had nothing to do with their investigation.

Meanwhile, Mr. Joseph Stalin, the General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU), made a pronouncement. He said that the transfer had been done in a haphazard manner, without conforming to the National Transfer Policy Circular No. 2007/20, on teacher transfers. He has written to the Ministry of Education in protest against the injustice and will keep abreast of the problem. If nothing is done to reinstate Kushan,the CTU will take legal action against the Ministry.

Kushan states that he has the right to enjoy free speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution. He has never engaged in anything illegal. He has not caused any damage to the reputation of an individual or Institution. While he has behaved like a peaceful citizen, the Ministry of Education officials have violated his rights.

Suggested Action:

Please send letters to the Authorities listed below expressing your concern about this case. Request an immediate inquiry into the allegations of violating the rights of a teacher by officers the Ministry of Education. All officers involved must be examined by an internal investigation for a breach of Duty of Care. Finally, please appeal to the Secretary of the Ministry of Education to set up a special investigation into the case.

To support this case, please click here:

 

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ________,

SRI LANKA: Teacher transferred on charges of writing poems on FaceBook

Name of Victims
: Mr. Kushan Shalika Herath (30), a teacher at Kuliyapitiya Central College

Alleged Perpetrators: Sri Lanka Officers of the Ministry of Education

Date of incident: 11 June 2017
Place of incident: Kuliyapitiya Central College

According to information I have received Mr. Kushan Shalika Herath (30) a teacher at Kuliyapitiya Central College. He teaches Science for Technology for Advanced Level students at Kuliyapitiya Central College. On the side, he has published some of his poems on Social Media. According to Kushan, he has taught this particular subject, ‘Science for Technology,’ at Kuliyapitiya College for three years. According to recently issued Advanced Level results, his students have had excellent results within district ranks.

He engages in creative writing, writes poems as a hobby and has published many of his poems on the Internet in Social Media. Some of his poems were published on his FB page as well. Mr. Kushan said that his creative writings are highly appreciated by his peers as well as senior teachers specializing in literature.

Meanwhile several officials of the Education Ministry’s Counter-Fraud Unit visited Kushan’s school on 23 January 2017. They questioned him about writing and publishing his poems and their content. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the school Principal remained silent about Kusan’s situation. It was learned that the Principal yielded to the Authorities demands and did not openly support Kushan.

The Ministry of Education officials made the following point. Kushan insulted both the School and the Education Ministry by publishing his ordinary poems while being employed as a State Sector Teacher. Kushan was asked if he was trying to persuade teachers and students to speak against the government. The investigators recorded statements from several teachers and students.

Kushan states that he had not written anything detrimental to the school. He has only written of interesting happenings in the school. When the two Ministry of Education senior officials questioned him, he opened his Facebook (FB) and showed them all the poems he had written. The officials concurred that the poems did not in any way damage the reputation of the School or of any individual.

Later, however, he received a letter from the Ministry of Education transferring him to Mayurapada Central College, Narammala, effective 11 June 2017. He states that he joined the Kuliyapitiya Central College to teach the newly introduced subject, Science for Technology to Advance Level students. The new school does not have any vacancies in that subject.
Kushan states that he has not been accused of any other misdemeanors that justified his transfer. As far as he was aware, he neither violated any principles as a teacher nor had he failed in carrying out his duties as required by the School.

According to the transfer, Kushan has been directed to teach Mathematics in his new workplace. He is not up-to-date on this particular subject. In effect, this transfer is only to replace a teacher who has gone on sick leave for two weeks. He believes that there is no justifiable reason for his transfer. This transfer was not made in line with the established National Transfer Policy Circular No. 2007/20 on teacher transfers.

On Wednesday, 14 June, the Education Ministry’s Media Unit, stated: the transfer was made due to an administrative requirement and had nothing to do with their investigation.

Meanwhile, Mr. Joseph Stalin, the General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU), made a pronouncement. He said that the transfer had been done in a haphazard manner, without conforming to the National Transfer Policy Circular No. 2007/20, on teacher transfers. He has written to the Ministry of Education in protest against the injustice and will keep abreast of the problem. If nothing is done to reinstate Kushan,the CTU will take legal action against the Ministry.

Kushan states that he has the right to enjoy free speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution. He has never engaged in anything illegal. He has not caused any damage to the reputation of an individual or Institution. While he has behaved like a peaceful citizen, the Ministry of Education officials have violated his rights.

I request the intervention of your good offices. Ensure that the authorities listed below open an immediate investigation into allegations of violations of the rights of the victim by Officers of the Ministry of Education. All officers involved should be subject to an internal investigation.

Yours sincerely,

———————
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

  1. Mr. Jayantha Jayasooriya PC
    Attorney General
    Attorney General’s Department
    Colombo 12
    SRI LANKA
    Fax: +94 11 2 436421
    E-mail: [email protected]
  2. Secretary
    Human Rights Commission
    No. 36, Kynsey Road
    Colombo 8
    SRI LANKA
    Tel: +94 11 2 694 925 / 673 806
    Fax: +94 11 2 694 924 / 696 470
    E-mail: [email protected]
  3. Secretary,
    MINISTRY OF EDUCATION, SRI LANKA
    “Isurupaya”,
    Pelawatta,
    Battaramulla,
    Sri Lanka.
    Fax: +94 11-2784869

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission ([email protected])

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Asian Human Rights Commission

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