University Teachers Union, Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) and various other associations had protested against the appointment of Chancellor without qualifications at the University of Colombo (vide attachments). Unfortunately the Universities Act stated “The President shall nominate the Chancellor of each University. The Chancellor shall be the Head of the University, hold office for a period of five years reckoned from the date of his nomination, and shall, preside at any Convocation of the University.” and allows anybody without qualifications to hold the post of Chancellor (1). For example if we take the Ruhunu University established in 1978 the names of the Chancellors are listed as follows (2):
Ven. Paravahera Pannaseeha Mahanayaka Thero
Ven. Aththudawe Sri Rahula Mahanayake Thero
Ven. Athi pujya Rajakiya Panditha Pallaththara Sri Sumanajothi Thero
Ven. Dr. Akuratiye Nanda Thero (Current Chancellor)
Apparently except the current Chancellor of Ruhunu University, others were not qualified and when the politicians appointed unqualified persons as university chancellors, neither the University Teachers nor the GMOA were protesting because they were mixing religion with academic excellence. What we need is a University free from the influence of politicians and religious bigotry. Still the University Teachers Associations and GMOA are not ready for that and are not demanding an amendment to the Universities Act. They just protested against the appointment of a single individual but wanted to continue their politics without antagonizing the power of the President to appoint another person without qualifications. We all are aware that the same Universities including Universities of Colombo and Jaffna and the members of the University Teachers Union who are now protesting, had supported Honorary Doctorates awarded to politicians and religious persons without any qualifications in the past. If the university teachers and GMOA are really keen in appointing qualified persons to the post of Chancellors, let them stop the hypocrisy of protesting against a single appointment but instead demand that the Universities Act be amended so that no other persons without proper qualifications get appointed as Chancellors in future. That will be the honest way to achieve the rightful demand that a highly qualified prestigious person get appointed as Chancellor and standing at the head table with glory during the convocation.
*Dr Murali Vallipuranathan – MBBS (Jaffna), PGD (Population Studies), MSc (Colombo), MD (Community Medicine), FCCP (SL), FRSPH (UK), Board Certified Specialist Community Physician, Visiting Lecturer, Universities of Jaffna & Colombo