A National Sickness?
There have been many comments to my article on University Autonomy which was not to support Dr. Kiddnan Kobindarajah, the former VC of EUSL, but rather to demand the rule of law. I thank those who were positive, especially those who stuck to and understood the issues in their comments.
Many of the vituperative comments, however, as a visiting researcher from the US told me, reflect a sickness in the community after 30 years of war. Readers make wild guesses and then state them authoritatively as if fact. For example that I am 64 years old, and that I was abroad most of the time and tried several times to become a VC to any university and failed (whereas I was made VC at Jaffna, the only university to which I applied to be VC, except for this nomination to EUSL and an old nomination by Neelan Tiruchelvam when I got my D.Sc. degree).
The Editor of Colombo Telegraph has informed me that the comments are impossible to moderate and has asked me what is going on. It is that sickness, I told him.
Doors Closed in Jaffna
The only comment I wish to address concerns challenges to my statement that the Competent Authority, Prof. Uma Coomaraswamy, is manipulating the appointment of VC. That needs this separate article with provision for attachments. Hence my request to the Editor of CT to accommodate this reply as an article rather than as a comment on a comment.
I was not an applicant nor a candidate for VC/Batticaloa this time because I had withdrawn before the vote. After coming to Sri Lanka to serve in1995, I doggedly pursued jobs at Jaffna, my home. They would advertise for Professor of Civil/Electrical and when I was the only applicant and an electrical engineer, cancel and readvertise for Professor of Civil Engineering. Etc. Etc. The science teachers’ staff association JUSTA, refreshingly secular for Jaffna, has carefully documented evidence of recruitment abuse. The UGC Chairman has rather shamelessly repeated to a FUTA delegation which raised JUSTA’s complaints, the Jaffna VC’s claim that these accusations are a Christian Conspiracy. I also pursued legal remedies for being denied a post at Jaffna as Professor of Computer Science as ordered by the USAB. Since my last application was dragged on for three years against the rules before I was found unqualified, I also applied in July 2015 for Senior Lecturer in Electrical Engineering because the students are so badly off without teachers and I would pass my retirement age in another three years if I waited for a professorship which is likely to be denied anyway. A Senior Lecturer appointment can be done very quickly, unlike a professorship. But they have refused to process it saying I filed a case on my professorship. That is, if you file a case against Jaffna University, you cannot apply for any position at that university according to VC Vasanthy Arasaratnam. This is the importance teaching gets as it is trumped by the need to take revenge.
Nomination as VC/EUSL
I was asked a year ago if I would consent to being nominated as VC/EUSL. I had said no because I came back to work in Jaffna and live out the rest of my life here. I was 62 years old then. But the people who asked me went to the UGC and got word that I was eligible to work for almost 3 years at the time. When they asked again, I said yes only in November 2015 when my Senior Lecturer (Electrical) application to Jaffna had not been processed for months and was to expire on 10 January 2016. I had given up on working in Jaffna because the doors seem shut to me. Dr. J.T. Xavier, FRCS, an eminent surgeon in Batticaloa, nominated me.
Manipulation by Uma Coomarasway
However, very quickly I found Uma Coomaraswamy, the Competent Authority sent to fix alleged problems in EUSL, manipulating the EUSL system:
1) Circular 880 stipulates that the Council “shall appoint a search committee comprising 03 senior academics in the rank of Professor or above” with at least one Dean (Mathi quotes this in his comment leaving out “in the rank of professor or above”). The purpose of this committee was, said Circular 880, to “search for and encourage eminent persons to apply.” But Senior Lecturers were appointed to this committee under Prof. Coomaraswamy’s Chairmanship. Perhaps she did not want the committee to have the stature to speak to and persuade eminent people to apply.
This Committee met nominally only once and did not invite anyone. Naturally no outsider applied as a result of this Committee. Prof. P. Vinobaba, its Chairman, openly supported Dr. M. Jayasingam and told the others that there was need to invite outsiders.
2) Circular 880 demands that the Council shall appoint “an evaluation committee of 03 Council members to report on an assessment of qualifications, professional experience and vision statement of each applicant.” Instead this committee, consisting of Prof. R. Sivakanesan as Chairman and Dr. M.S. Ibralebbe and Mr. A. Gnanathasan, PC, gave a composite score to some of the candidates, leaving out some as unqualified. There was not one word on our qualifications, professional experience or vision statement which was their specific job to do. Instead they proceeded off their mandate to say who is qualified and who is not, and even singled me out, out of 10 persons, to have my signature verified. That after all, is the Registrar’s job to do under Coomaraswamy’s supervision. Was it a desperate gamble to have me disqualified using this committee which seemed willing pawns just like the Attorney General’s Department was in the hands of then CJ Mohan Peiris?
Evluation Committee Scores
This committee’s score sheet is attached for readers to see if their score is reasonable. For that exercise I am attaching the Résumés of first ranked Dr. M. Pagthinathan (who listed Chairman Dr. Sivakanesan as his reference in his CV!), second ranked Dr. M. Jayasingam and myself.
Any reader can see that the scores were unrealistic. More amazing is that these unrealistic scores given by the three committee members are so close to each other’s. Given that they are unrealistic, I believe they could not have been so close if they had been done independently. Dr. Jayasingam, Prof. Coomaraswamy’s botanist friend and colleague from the days she worked at EUSL, has his scores so close behind No. 1, that it did not matter that he was No. 2 (that is, 68.7 and 68). As we will see, it was safe to place Dr. Pagthinathan first.
I was amazed and called up Mr. Gnanathasan whom I had regarded as a man of integrity and is known to repeat everywhere that God is watching us. He was hostile. “Just because you have a D.Sc. do not think you have to be No. 1,” he told me. He is a President’s Counsel. I do not believe that he could not read and interpret Circular 880 as to what they had to do. I believe that his misreading was deliberate and for a purpose.
3) At the Council meeting, Prof. Coomaraswamy wanted voting to be done on this score sheet without CVs. It was surely a way to hide the fact that the scores had no relationship to reality. Some Deans prevailed on her after an argument at the Council to release the CVs which she reluctantly did.
4) With a person like Gnanathasan, PC caught up in EUSL politics and losing any sign of the integrity he was reputed for, I decided I did not want to be a part of this dirty politics and to withdraw. I wrote to the Registrar and also called him up and told him that I no longer was a candidate and would not attend the interview nor make a presentation. I also informed Dr. Xavier, my nominator. I copied my letter to Council members whose addresses I had.
By then the Supreme Court had given its judgement that Dr. Kobindarajah whose name had been left out by the Evaluation Committee, should be included and that they should abide strictly by the circulars.
Yet, Prof. Coomarswamy, knowing the judgement, kept Dr. Kobindarajah off the ballot, rushed the vote and placed me on the ballot knowing that I was not a candidate any more. How did she expect the vote to go when the Council knew that I had withdrawn and had not even come for the interview? I take it that she saw some value in using me to draw votes away from other candidates who did not think like her.
Dr. Jayasingam came first. Not surprisingly Dr. Pagthinathan, ranked first by the Evaluation Committee came towards the last with 2 or 3 votes. In placing him ahead of Jayasingam, the Evaluation Committee had ensured that they were backing a sure loser and not hurting Jayasingam in any way. When I surprisingly tied for third place with Dr.P. Sivarajah who had been ranked third by the evaluation committee , a second ballot was ordered to decide just between the two. At that point, those who supported the first two, would have ensured my elimination. That vote too was outside the manner of voting prescribed in Circular 880. Prof. Coomaraswamy was duty bound by that circular to report the mandated first vote as it happened.
Cheating the President
If I had come within the first three, would Professor Coomaraswamy have forwarded my name to the President although I was not a candidate? To do that would have been absolute dishonesty since only two of the three names would have been those of genuine candidates. I assume she was prepared to do that because admitting that I had withdrawn would have invalidated the list she had worked so hard for. She would have had to try to trick the President because the Universities Act demands that she send three names to him.
Prof. Coomaraswamy as Chairman had a responsibility to see that things were done properly and by the rules. She was even prepared to send the name of a candidate who had withdrawn to the President pretending that he was a candidate.
Readers can judge if my assessment that Prof. Coomaraswamy was manipulating is correct.
Weeping for Sri Lanka
The university system, I say, is absolutely corrupt. What hope do we have when Prof. Coomaraswamy who was sent by the Minister to fix the problems, ends up adding to them? It is the UGC’s job to be exposing all this. When will the UGC ever wake up? When will the Minister realize that the UGC is asleep on the job and contributing to communal disharmony by spreading allegations against Christians? Why did the Supreme Court go away on vacation without dispatching their judgement, knowing that the future of a national institution hinged on it?
Sri Lanka – I weep for thee!