20 June, 2019

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Anuruddha Pradeep Karnasuriya Must Be Reinstated Forthwith

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

The University of Sri Jayawardenapura has decided to terminate the services of Anuruddha Pradeep Karnasuriya , Lecturer (Probationary).  This decision was taken, based on a stipulation that a probationary lecturer should obtain a Masters degree within 8 years after joining the particular university.  The D-Day for Karnasuriya was March 9, 2013.

A media release on the issue by the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) points out, ‘If the probationary period comes to an end while the thesis had been submitted but the result have not been released, it is customary to place the individual concerned within the ‘temporary’ position until such time that the results are released and once the results are released the appointment is backdated to the date of submission of the master thesis’.  FUTA adds, ‘there are many in the system currently, including those at the top most rung of university administration who have benefited from this practice’.

Karnasuriya submitted his thesis on March 1, 2013.  Thus, according to standard practice his status as ‘Lecturer (Probationary)’ should have been affirmed by the University Council and revisited for either permanency or termination upon the relevant authorities making a determination either way on his thesis.

What is pertinent here is that the Council has been misled into believing that the thesis was submitted on March 20, 2013 and not March 1, 2013.  Whether this was deliberate or not, we do not know. What is known is that several members of the Council were pressured by the Minister of Higher Education, S.B. Dissanayake to terminate Karnasuriya’s services.

What is also known is that Karnasuriya has been one of the most vocal critics of the Government’s education policy, especially with respect to private universities.  His notes in the ‘Ravaya’ (as gleaned from a debate with a colleague of the same university, Navaratne Banda) clearly establishes Karnasuriya as the most informed and most articulate advocate of ‘free education’.  His book, Pudgalika Vishvavidyala Vilaasithava Saha Yathaarthaya (The fashion and reality of private universities) remains the most comprehensive analysis of policy prerogatives given social, economic and political realities.

Is all this irrelevant?  Yes and no.  Yes, because the decision is preceded by a history where Karnasuriya has exchanged words with the Minister.  The Minister has referred to the fact that Karnasuriya is still on ‘probation’.   The Minister, as FUTA points out, has clearly been irked by Karnasuriya’s ‘often piercing criticism on how universities are managed, how funding for education has been systematically reduced and the loss of academic freedom’.  Silencing Karnasuriya by way of taking him out of the ‘irritancy’ that is FUTA would certainly relieve S.B. Dissanayake.  The majority of the Council members, as FUTA points out, are appointed by the Minister.  We cannot underestimate the minister’s voice and hand in the decision.  He was ‘present’ and therefore his interests have to be factored in, both in decision and in reading of decision. Revenge-intent has to be suspected.  Vindictiveness is indicated.

But whether or not S.B. Dissanayake is pleased or displease is beside the point.  What is pertinent is that the Council moved on the basis of an error, deliberate or otherwise.  Karnasuriya has been done in by the Council in an unprecedented move.  It can, should and will be read as yet another example of the Government’s policy of politicizing further the university system and reining in dissent from academic.

For the record, Karnasuriya has never given a blank cheque to the Opposition or the Government.  He has not opposed the Government on each and every issue. He has defended what he believed ought to be defended and by the same token has objected to the objectionable.   He is no yes-man and neither is he a no-man as such one finds in the academic hell bent on regime-change on account of party preference.  He has always chosen reason and substantiation over emotion and rhetoric.  He is one of the most informed and sharp-minded academics in the university system, a fact that even those who disagree with him on certain issues, would readily acknowledge.

This decision is so wrong.  It shames the council.  It shames the university. It shames the minister. It shames the Government.  There is only one course of action that can correct this injustice: acknowledgment of error on the part of the Vice Chancellor’s office leading to the Council decision.  It has to be done.  Right now.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

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    This is good !!

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      This mentioned candidate cant be the single person to have faced the situation with his thesis to this manner. There should be other candidates within lanken Unis- being a probationary lecturer but failed to complete his thesis within the dead lines. If one would and could find out, the others have also been removed in the same manner, one can then accuse the minister of being unfair in this regard.
      Besides, it is unusual a MSc student to delay his thesis work but seeing him to have given the priority for work on a book publish (Pudgalika Vishvavidyala Vilaasithava Saha Yathaarthaya (The fashion and reality of private universities)).

      Anyway, lanken way of probationary lecturer positions are not usual let alone in India. Lanken system is unique lanken universities. Indians for example would not allow just BSc degree holders to get appointed as junior lecturers for the universities. Their minimum qualifications for such level are a successful PhD.

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    For the first time, I have to applaud young Malinda S for his views. He seems to have woken up at last!

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    Anuruddha Pradeep Karnasuriya has recourse to the law, whatever that may mean!

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    Malinda Senevirathne:

    Don’t you think now that Sri Lanka is unsuitable for living or brining up children ?

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    Yet another shameless piece of self-righteous rubbish in an attempt, futile at best, to prove that Malinda Seneviratne is a defender of decency, decorum and justice. Thank God Hitler is not alive because he could well take this as an inspiration for writing a volume of praise to the Jews!

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    Malinda You are absolutely right.This academic should be given a fair go. His only crime seems to be that he is a great advocate of free education, unlike the minister of higher Education who needs to be educated himself, to hold such an important office. This Ministers PERFORMANCE IN THIS Ministry and his relationship with the academic community is dismal. The President should get rid of this joker before he creates more headaches for his Government

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    “This decision is so wrong. It shames the council. It shames the university. It shames the minister. It shames the Government. There is only one course of action that can correct this injustice: acknowledgment of error on the part of the Vice Chancellor’s office leading to the Council decision. It has to be done. Right now.”

    Well said! However, sooo many ‘decisions’ on the part of this GOSL are “so wrong”, it’s a pity that you don’t focus more on some of those as well.

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    this highlighted the level of politicization of the sri lankan universities. the higher education minister can remove any critique from the university.

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    Well said Malinda! This is a long waited piece of writing. I respect you for having courage to speak the truth despite the fact that your close kin was a part of the same council that took the wrong and unjust decision! It would have been even more meaningful if you had point to the fact that SANASA has a longstanding will to set up a so called private university in Kegalle.

    If Anuruddha Pradeep has proof to say that he submitted the dissertation well before the D-Day and if it is true that the university administration has deliberately or otherwise claim a wrong date, why on earth the university council can not acknowledge the mistake and reverse the decision? I can’t see even the fellow academics make their move effectively despite some efforts taken by some individuals at the university, SUTA and FUTA. This is total injustice!

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    The much-maligned Malinda has once again shown his true mettle in speaking up for the defenceless and those that have been unjustifiably wronged. He first caught my attention with his heart-rending plea for an innocent housemaid who was wrongly convicted of manslaughter for the death of an infant in her care in Saudi Arabia.His plea was for urgent intervention at the highest levels of office before things got too late. While the rest of the muslim community blindly and callously ignored this poor girls pleas for mercy under the brutality of the Sharia laws sentencing her, his was a solitary voice for compassion and mercy to save a helpless victim of circumstance.Even the so-called Muslim leaders and community stalwarts did nothing but pussy-foot on the matter even maintaining a stioic silence till the very end when the poor girl was eventually beheaded. Of course, there were some who shone briefly in the limelight trying to take political advantage of the situation while certain Ministers even seized the opportunity to fulfill their personal Umrahs free-of-charge on the pretext of going to Mecca to plead for her release. Malindas was a sincere call for help and even though many tend to class him as a die-hard buddhist, I personally feel that he has always been sadly, misjudged and that he is a great humanist who is sensitive to injustice whatever the religion, class or creed of the victim. Here he glows again as a firebrand, this time upholding the same virtuous principles he has often extolled but under a different set of circumstances. We are with you, Malinda.

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    Aslam Sattar:
    For those who have had the misfortune to put up with that[Edited out] and Rajapaksa stooge, Malinda Seneviratne, you provide proof that a camp-follower of Rajapaksa and all he stands for can have a camp follower of his own!

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      @Aney Apochchi
      Your chosen name suggests a load of personal frustration bedevilling you. I can understand that. Things may have gone woefully wrong for you and for some reason or other you may have fallen foul of your nemesis -the Rajapakses. For this, my commisserations are due
      to you. However, I am no camp-follower or stooge of the Pakses as you assume. I just respect Malinda for what I see in him as traits worthy of being emulated, whatever his political leanings or affiliations about which I care two hoots. So, hold your horses and dont jump to conclusions. Please try being a little more civil and display a sense of cultural refinement in your outbursts, however frustrated you may seem to be.That is the essence of a good education and a background which I can truly attribute to Malindas ilk. Have a good day and peace to all around us.

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    Dear Malinda,

    I feel sorry for the relevant academic. But I also feel that he is not suitable to work in a University. I am not sure about the current university regulations in Sri Lanka. I worked as a Lecturer in a Sri Lankan University and we had to complete a Master Degree with a thesis component within five years of commencement of the employment. As per the case, that he has spent 8 years without completing the Master’s Degree and it seems to me that he is not suitable to hold a Lecturer Position in a University. Malinda, you have done your post graduate studies in US. You must be aware that Lecturers and Professors need to conduct research and publish in order to maintain their academic positions.

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      The standards for probationary lecturers being confirmed and promoted to senior lecturer are not uniform through the system.

      Standards are the toughest for science/applied science lecturers who need a 2 year degree with full time research — effectively M.Phil. or Ph,D. Engineers get away with a 2 year degree with a research component but in reality a few are allowed get away with professional licence in lieu of the 2 year master’s degree. Medical people need a 2 year MS/MD with Board Certification, often meaning no foreign degrees please and approval by the local mafia.

      The worst standards are for law, management/business and arts where a 1 year master’s degree is enough.

      Yet they are all supposedly equal and draw the same salary when promoted to Senior Lecturer. To make the argument for high salaries FUTA uses the high qualifications of science lecturers, conveniently ignoring that the vast majority have only “a dime a dozen” one year master’s degrees.

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    If Warnasuriya submitted his Masters Research on time then he has been wronged. Obviously the University Council is incompetent and must resign, or reverse it’s decision.

    If the matter goes before legal Appeal one cannot be sure that Courts will hold with the appellant though it seems cut and dry to us. Somebody might bring in the ‘doctrine of proportionality’ or some other legal hocus pocus to hold with the Minister.

    This type of situation arises in an authoritarian climate where obviously the University Council is fearful of the wrath of the Minister. Whilst Malinda has redeemed himself to some degree with the readers of CT with his impartiality here, it may be because S.B.Dissanayake is not that intimadatory as the Rajapaksa brothers. It is fervently hoped that he will recognize injustice where ever it is present or who ever causes it. His loyalty to his masters must cease where and when it conflicts with his own values.

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    Good one. When dirty politics get into the decision making process, this kind of “misinterpretation” of facts do occur. We have seen this in the past cases of many Government officers including the Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayaka. I am not sure what is going on in the top decision making process at Sri Jayawardanapura University. At one point the VC wanted to check the virginity of female students who came late to the hostel, showing his ignorance or misinterpretation of the “fact” that being late to return can only happen after having sex!! How brilliant! I wonder if this same level of brilliance is applied on this case too.

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