By Colombo Telegraph –
Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) University teachers’ Union is said to have lobbied the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Gotabaya Rajapaksa to get a candidate of their choice appointed to the post of Vice Chancellor, University of Colombo and got an assurance that their wish will be granted. Hence, it is expected that any time soon the President will sign the letter of appointment for this candidate. It is said that if the President accedes to the demand of Gotabaya Rajapaksa the person thus appointed will be the one who got the lowest number of votes from the Governing Council of the University of Colombo when they voted for the three candidates who have applied for the post.
One of the candidates Kumara Hirimburegama is the husband of the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo and the present Chairman of the University Grants Commission. Controversy surrounded the nomination of this candidate for the post by the University Council as critics pointed out an apparent conflict of interest as it is the UGC Chairman who has to recommend a suitable candidate from among those who are nominated by the University Council for the President to make the appointment. Observing the public discussion on the issue the government authorities at the highest level is said to have expressed their displeasure over this nomination.
It is then, that the Sri Lanka Freedom Party University teachers’ union is said to have approached Gotabaya Rajapaksa to lobby his support to get the second candidate Prathiba Mahanamahewa of their choice appointed for the post. Leaders of the SLFP teachers’ union have informed the members of their union that Gotabaya Rajapaksa had agreed to make sure that their wish would be granted.
In the voting that took place at the University Council, the order in which the candidates got the votes is as follows; Professor Lakshman Dissanayake 15 votes, Dr. Kumara Hirimburegama 13 votes, Dr. Prathibha Mahanamahewa 08 votes.
However, Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri, President of the University Teachers’ Association (FUTA) , and the Head, Department of History, University of Colombo and a member of the Arts Faculty Teachers’ Association, Colombo University (AFTA-CU) has informed the membership of both the AFTA-CU and the FUTA that in the eventuality of a candidate lesser qualified for the post from among the three candidates nominated are appointed to the post he would propose to take strong trade union action.
In a note issued to members of FUTA and AFTA-CU Dr. Devasiri has informed them that he has made up his mind to prepare himself for the worst, in which case members of FUTA and AFTA-CU have to say clearly that they are not going to tolerate politically manipulated appointments. Dr. Devasiri adds that he is convinced now who will be appointed for the post: “ When the appointment is made which is probably a matter of few days, we can give two weeks to rectify the mistake and during that time a non-cooperation campaign will be launched. After too weeks if nothing happens, there is no other alternative than going for a continuous strike.” Taking the position that this is a decisive moment in the life of his union activity at the University of Colombo Dr. Devasiri observes that given that the whole Sri Lanka is looking at Colombo University teachers it is a god given opportunity for them to show the world that they are not a bunch of spineless fools.
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