FUTA President Dr Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri

By Dinouk Colombage

FUTA President Dr  Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri has made it clear that despite FUTA demanding a six percent increase in the allocations to the educations budget, the union is still unsure of what the money should be spent on.

In a debate involving UPFA Parliamentarian Prof. Rajiva Wijesinghe, and moderated by UNP Parliamentarian Eran Wickramaratne, the union president was caught unawares by several questions all demanding to know where the 6% increase in the education budget would be spent. Responding to a question posed by a member of the audience, Dewasiri responded that while FUTA had highlighted some of the main concerns, they were still awaiting a proper dialogue to identify where the money should be spent.

UPFA Parliamentarian Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha

While Wijesinghe agreed that there were numerous issues in the education sector, he denied that they would be solved by simply increasing the budget allocation. Highlighting several key aspects which needed to be revamped, including the controversial Grade 5 scholarship exam, Wijesinghe was able to illustrate the lack of direction on the part of FUTA.

He went one step further and suggested that rather than taking strike action, FUTA should have used the courts, which are at their disposal, and file a Fundamental Rights petition against the Ministry.

While Dewasiri was correct in saying that the strike action by FUTA has opened an avenue of dialogue regarding the issues in the education sector, the apparent lack of planning by FUTA is a cause of concern.

The audience were not impressed with both arguments as most members demanded to know what the 6% would be spent on. Wijesinghe suggested that the discussions take place with academics and education boards, avoiding the politicians. However, Dewasiri was adamant that no change would be possible unless the politicians were to take an active role.

The final comments of the evening from the audience showed that the FUTA strike was threatening to lead public opinion away from the issue and take on a political angle. Wijesinghe was questioned why military expenditure was on the rise, and the number of troops in the North continues to increase while the education sector continues to struggle. He responded that the politicisation of every issue would lead to no resolution, and that the sole focus should be the issues in the education sector.