26 October, 2020

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Banning Historical Memory: Questions Of Politics, Quality & Academic Freedom In Jaffna

By The Jaffna University Science Teachers’ Association (JUSTA)

The University’s War against Memory

A community that has seen decades of intense violence carries a myriad wounds and trauma that need to be healed in order that life could become human. While the community can more easily absorb the violence inflicted from without, the internal violence, its divisiveness, fractured families and guilt are much harder to heal. Healing requires that the truth be told and the victims given the voice to speak it. The local university must be the first place that resists ideological twisting of history to blame exclusively the state and to shut out all voices that challenge the monolithic narrow-nationalist version of blame.

Rajani2On 24th April 2015, the Jaffna University Science Teachers’ Association (JUSTA) arranged a discussion of the book Palmyra Fallen: From Rajani to War’s End, written by its member Rajan Hoole, in the Library Auditorium. The Vice Chancellor (VC) with the backing of some senior academics banned the discussion. JUSTA was left with no honourable alternative but to defy this blatant attack on academic freedom.

The Palmyra Fallen discussion was fixed for the day the Federation of University Teachers’ Association (FUTA) delegation was due in Jaffna to discuss problems of university teachers in the North and East in the morning to be followed by the book discussion in the afternoon. The speakers were Dr. Harini Amarasuriya from the Open University with Prof. Arjuna Parakrama from Peradeniya and Dr. N. Sivapalan and Prof. Daya Somasundaram from Jaffna. The FUTA delegation arrived in Jaffna on the 23rd and independently the organisers of the discussion placed the VC’s notice on Colombo Telegraph and made it known that the book discussion would go on in the University as planned regardless of the ban.

Later in the afternoon of 24th April while the book discussion proceeded, the Vice Chancellor was questioned by BBC Tamil Service. She said the ban was requested by the University Teachers Association (UTA) and the University Students Union and was not taken by her, but by the deans’ committee. It was taken, she said, to ensure the smooth functioning of the University and she had no choice when nearly 7500 students and over 400 academics were against it. Asked by the BBC why the book would affect the smooth functioning of the University, the VC said repeatedly that the book was controversial. Asked why it was controversial, she admitted not having read the book, seen a copy or knowing what it was about.

Prof. Arjuna Parakrama

Prof. Arjuna Parakrama

The Vice Chancellor’s was a very devious way of deciding unanimity in a very diverse and multi-ethnic body of students and academics. We shall see that the pretext for the decision was a letter by one student leader, and not a committee decision, reflecting canards about politicians from the South coming for the discussion with a sinister agenda and the book being against Tamil nationalism. These had been fed to the students by senior academics close to the VC and recycled back to the VC as a request for the ban. The UTA’s was similarly not a committee decision.

After the discussion, albeit strange coming from her, the VC blamed political interference by the Foreign Ministry for the failure of her ban, and not her misguided attempt to stop an academic discussion, which invited worldwide concern. She evidently did not mention the more relevant earlier reprimand by the UGC Chairman and rather than take responsibility when questioned, she took cover by shoving the blame on the ill-used student leader.

The breaking of a taboo

A grave looking elderly man who came for the book discussion identified himself as the brother of Muruganesan, a promising and creative young intellectual who was tortured and killed in the early 1990s for being caught on the wrong side of the internecine violence that marred the Tamil struggle. To him the event in the University, previously unimaginable, was a release. Since 1990, a strong undercurrent in the University has assiduously suppressed that side of Tamil history dealing with the murderous suppression of dissent and the tragedy of tens of thousands of young misguided or forced into futile sacrifice or fatally disillusioned. However, the University had been a plural space up to the 1980s and in 1986 the scene of the massive public protest when Vijitharan, a student from Batticaloa, was abducted by the LTTE and later killed.

Dr. N. Sivapalan

Dr. N. Sivapalan

Since the militarily and ideologically triumphant Tamil faction took over Jaffna in 1990 the University has been complicit in the brutal suppression of dissent, while advancing rhetorical celebrations of its often hapless ‘martyrs’ and the movement’s heroism. Like Muruganesan, Rajani too had become taboo even though in November 1989 both the University and the public rallied in celebrating Rajani’s life. This is perhaps the reason why Rajani’s portrait is conspicuously absent in the Senior Common Room of the University where the portraits of most who have served and left us are displayed in remembrance.

The prevalence of the taboo is witnessed in the refusal of Kailasapathy auditorium for Rajani’s 25th anniversary in September 2014, where the VC told the Hindu that the organisers were ‘troublemakers’ and later, the Senate, that the medical students were against it. In fact the medical students’ union was actively part of the Rajani commemoration committee. Such actions reinforced the atmosphere of intimidation and fear – fear of being branded traitors – that even kept sympathetic academics away from the discussion not only of Palmyra Fallen, but also from the very fruitful discussion conducted by FUTA on overcoming current problems of academics. But both events were a success and of immense benefit to academics and students who came. The open mindedness of the FUTA delegates, who were at pains to tell us that universities in the South too faced similar problems, said one thing clearly. While in the South there is space in the universities for persons who openly oppose Sinhalese chauvinism to be elected leaders in teachers’ unions and to continue their advocacy, in Jaffna there is hardly any room for academics who are similarly critical of the narrow political vision offered by Tamil nationalism to become office bearers of the teachers’ union.

Prof. Daya Somasundaram

Prof. Daya Somasundaram

The pernicious politics hiding behind the symbols of Tamil narrow-nationalism to deny the students and academics the kind of exposure and independence needed in the real world, exemplifies the state of the University and its deep corruption. Driving away quality was a consequence of war and the totalitarian political dispensation that accompanied it. This exacerbated practices of exclusion of competent applicants that serve to hide mediocrity and rank inadequacy. In post war Jaffna, the University has become the last refuge of a brand of nationalism that has been in many ways destructive.

Post War Background

The Jaffna University Science Teachers’ Association has over the last one and a half years documented abuses in academic and non-academic recruitment and demanded an impartial inquiry and early justice for those who were cheated.

In short, the administration had become very authoritarian and steeped in power and determined to use that power to obstruct any challenge to arbitrary action. When apparent ambiguity in regulations demanded giving the employee the benefit of the doubt, the administration frequently took adverse decisions ex-parte without discussion with the employee, the unions or even the deans. The system became very vindictive and those who toed the VC’s line had it easy. The others, even deans, could only break their head against the wall. It led to sheer favouritism in the recruitment of academics.

Dr. Harini Amarasuriya

Dr. Harini Amarasuriya

The election of the new government in January 2015 led to a flutter in the dovecotes of the administration. All but one of the deans signed a letter to the state minister of higher education, which praised the Vice Chancellor as one whose role was indispensable and excoriated JUSTA’s (though not mentioned by name) complaints as rumours. The letter’s underlying message was to cut a political deal dictated by the change of regime. The deans of management, engineering, medicine and agriculture tried to collar the deans of arts and science, the two regarded undependable, at their homes for their signatures. The former refused.

How such control could be used to corrupt and degrade quality in a university, is seen in careful control at every level, starting from the recruitment of young lecturers. Quality is largely sacrificed to loyalty. At the next level the Vice Chancellor appoints heads of departments. In the past it was an easy-going affair, with usually the senior-most person given the headship. Presently the headship carries points for promotion and one has to be a head for election as dean. In the hands of an unscrupulous vice chancellor, the politics of appointing heads becomes a means of tightening authoritarian control, which explains the behaviour of most of our current deans.

Ironically the external council members got most of the blame because they were appointed by the erstwhile minister and vice-chancellor’s patron. To be fair, they have many times spoken up to avert some severe abuses, while the deans – the main carriers of the rot – remained silent. The Dean of Arts has paid a heavy price for occasional dissent in pain, heartache and harassment. It is a style of management (indeed we have a Faculty of Management) where those who fall foul of the vice chancellor are harassed with baseless inquiries and tailed by metaphorical Alsatian dogs at public expense. The case of the Librarian who had to bear the stigma for misappropriation and theft without any grounds is given in our records. Rather than promote academic excellence, this dispensation drives people to acute anxiety, sickness and short tempers, when not to the safety of outright sycophancy.

One consequence of this culture is that young and well qualified academics who have much to contribute to improving quality in Jaffna University are routinely shut out by abusing the selection process. Instances have been given in our cases. It has sometimes been done by a professor, vice chancellor or both telling the SAR concerned not to process an application. The SAR’s services became so indispensable in abuse of power that he has been kept on extension.

A rare challenge by an applicant in the Supreme Court has revealed the University’s blatant indifference to fair play and the rule of law. Miss. Ravivathani Thuraisingam, an applicant for a teaching position in Management was turned down in an interview where the Vice Chancellor had certified the selection of another candidate after being absent for most of Ravivathani’s interview, on marks awarded using an arbitrary, highly subjective, selection scheme without legal basis. The Vice Chancellor and Dean Management have lied to the Supreme Court under oath as they had done elsewhere.

The Anatomy of a Ban

JUSTA informed the Vice Chancellor about the book discussion on 17th April, which it advertised in the press on Sunday 19th. On the 20th evening USU president Thaceenthan (an archaeology special student) phoned the Science Union president about a committee meeting the next morning, which the latter did not attend. The medical union president was not told. The presidents of arts and management too, we learn, did not attend the committee meeting. A senior student counsellor holds that the letter Thaceenthan wrote to the VC as purportedly from the committee on the 21st morning is valid because the others were consulted by phone. However the other student leaders we contacted through friends contend they heard of the letter only after the BBC broadcast on the 24thnight and have for above ten days been unable to produce a copy of it, which they have been repeatedly promised.

The Vice Chancellor is the patron of the USU and Mr. E. Ratnam (Marketing) is the senior treasurer. The proper channel for the letter to the VC was through Mr. E. Ratnam and university senior student counsellor Prof. Pushparatnam (Archaeology) to ensure its bona fides. The USU president says that he did not use this channel, but delivered the letter direct to the VC who promptly acted on its claims. To questions from concerned fellow students and JUSTA, the USU president has been insistent that several lecturers (he once mentioned the senior treasurer) had misguided him that politicians from the South were coming for the book discussion.

The USU president said he knew nothing about the book, its contents or the author. He had no proper answer to why he hurried into demanding a ban on the book discussion without consulting the JUSTA or verifying his facts.

The VC read out to the deans the USU leader’s letter. While mentioning politicians with agendas coming here with the connivance of insiders, its main focus was to ban the discussion on Palmyra Fallen, which it claimed was inimical to peace. One of the deans had warned the VC not to blame them if she was banning the discussion, which she later did, as the deans’ committee had no statutory power.

The sequence of events suggests that the UTA was not inducted into the banning game until the 22nd. The VC and company having issued the ban on 21st April were faced with the FUTA delegation being involved in the programmes of the 24th. On the 22nd UTA president, Mr. Rasakumaran, phoned FUTA and asked them to postpone their coming. After consultation with JUSTA, who agreed as initially arranged to run the programme for all academics willing to attend, FUTA decided to come. Rasakumaran then told them that UTA Jaffna will not participate in FUTA’s programme for university teachers because they were in the afternoon gracing the discussion of a book that was against Tamil nationalism. This was followed by other senior academics close to the VC trying unsuccessfully to stop FUTA.

Snubbing both FUTA and JUSTA was an awkward decision for the UTA president. More awkward was the VC claiming on BBC that the UTA wanted the discussion arranged by JUSTA banned. While Rasakumaran refused to comment, a UTA committee member told us that there was no UTA committee meeting to decide on the ban. This committee member asked the secretary who told him that Rasakumaran had on his own written a letter to TNA leader Mr. Sampanthan calling for a ban on the discussion and had given a copy to the VC. When asked, Mr. Sampanthan had no recollection of such a letter and strongly hinted that the University should settle its own internal matters and not involve them.

It appears from his palpable discomfort that the UTA president whose re-appointment as ELTU head awaits the VC’s decision was arm-twisted. Also, seeking re-election as fourth-time UTA president under the banner of saving Tamil nationalism (a dangerous sport in a multi-ethnic university), the choice for him, between being an honest academic and joining the ban-bandwagon, was decided.

The world and times are changing and the University is under the control of a sectarian group that does not acknowledge diversity. Despite the Tamils’ decades-long opposition to the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), the university administration and some so-called academics have dug up their own PTA from the worst legacies of Tamil nationalism to facilitate book-banning. How out of step the University has become is reflected in its advocacy of ideologically determined censorship, when ordinary persons who have been mentally and physically maimed by our history are writing frank and harrowing accounts of the pathos, betrayal and trauma that passed under the name of liberation struggle.

This is why JUSTA has held that abuses in academic recruitment must be addressed urgently and justice given immediately to the young applicants who were cheated; this could be done only by the appointment of an able and dedicated competent authority with administrative experience, who would not balk at delivering the necessary shock treatment.

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Latest comments

  • 4
    2

    Is this VC a Vice Chancellor or a Village Council leader?

    Has she decided to produce more morons than free thinking future generations, who would be the leaders of commerce, art, finance, politics, science, technology, industry, etc.

    The university should nature students and bring the best out of them, a place where they learn, debate, discover and disseminate new knowledge.

    So the current Village Leader has decided to ban the students from critical thinking and reasoning, probably she does not want the future generation to be smarter than herself or her political masters. Then she should avail herself to be cloned and encourage her political master to follow suit.

    We know a song about education:

    Another Brick in The Wall Lyrics

    We don’t need no education
    We don’t need no thought control
    No dark sarcasm in the classroom
    Teachers leave them kids alone
    Hey! teachers! leave the kids alone!
    All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.
    All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.

    We don’t need no education
    We don’t need no thought control
    No dark sarcasm in the classroom
    Teachers leave them kids alone
    Hey! teacher! leave us kids alone!
    All in all you’re just a another brick in the wall.
    All in all you’re just a another brick in the wall.

    -smooth guitar solo-

    “Wrong, do it again!”
    “Wrong, do it again!”
    “If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding. how can you
    Have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?”
    “you! yes, you behind the bikesheds, stand still laddy!”

    Songwriters
    WATERS, ROGER

    Another Brick In The Wall
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR5ApYxkU-U

    • 1
      1

      Machan Vedda,

      “The university should nature students and bring the best out of them”

      Maybe they are already achieving it. What reason have you to believe there is more to be brought out?

      • 2
        1

        Jaymass

        If Village Councillors set the standards, expectation and aspirations much, much, much, lower even you can achieve it with colours.

        Unleash the full potential of the young, soon you will out of job (not that you are gainfully employed now).

  • 2
    4

    But, if VC refuses permission, hos did they organise a function in the library? VC banning the event is one, but conducting against the ban is another.

    There is a lot of politicking in Jaffna University. The losers will be the students and the people.

    • 1
      2

      … and two readers thump down this comment? hmmmm….

  • 5
    1

    Thank you very much for all the information you provide.

    “This is perhaps the reason why Rajani’s portrait is conspicuously absent in the Senior Common Room of the University where the portraits of most who have served and left us are displayed in remembrance.”

    Any reason given for the absent portrait of Dr Rajani?

    What about the books that Dr Rajan, Dr Rajani and Dr Daya have written together or alone? Are they also “absent” or can they be found in the Jaffna university library?

    When I was a student some 10 years ago I discovered that “The Broken Palmyra” had been removed from the shelves of the Jaffna university library. The reason was that the LTTE didn’t like the book.

    Please donate some copies of these “dangerous” books to the Jaffna university and the public libraries in the North. After the donation keep an eye on what happens to the books.

    Keep up the good work!

  • 5
    2

    It is time that we ponder a definition for the term ‘Tamil Nationalism’. Does it refer to the language, culture, people and where the Tamils live as a collective concept? Does it also imply the welfare and progress of the Tamils as a people? Is it being used as a slogan to provide a cover for those with only a very personalized political agenda? Does it only refer to the action/reactions against the real aspects of Sinhala extremism, majoritarianism and bad governance.

    Is it a stupid and regressive reaction against the Sinhalese as a people and Sri Lanka as a country? Is it a vulgar and loudly expressed Tamil extremism, of a unwise few that reflects adversely on the Tamils as a whole ,distorts their real aspirations and negates any gains? Is it cheap and vulgar politics?

    I have not heard those talking of Tamil nationalism as a political slogan raising concerns about the declining standards of Tamil as a language and a body of profound literature; and the quality of Tamil being taught in schools. I have not heard any Tamil nationalists lament about the decadent and perverse culture that has taken hold in the north. Perhaps the Jaffna University epitomizes this perversity!

    Further, I have not heard these Tamil nationalists lament about the decline in Tamil population and the quantum of lands lying unused. I have not heard these Tamil nationalists express concerns over the specter of unemployment, under-employment and the unemployable, haunting the north. I have not heard of these Tamil nationalists expressing concerns about the youth in Jaffna abandoning agriculture as a vocation and way of life.

    There are many such issues of critical importance to the Tamils that are of least concern to these so-called Tamil nationalists.In these circumstances solutions cannot be thought of and solutions sought. Sloganeering has been the curse of Tamils since the a decade before independence. Crudely said, there has been much gas but no shit!

    I hope what JUSTA has taken up as an issue is enlarged to cover the problems and missed opportunities that are blighting the Tamils in the north. The University should lead society and also become its conscience.

    “Naam Yaarkum kudiyallome, Namanai Anjoem” ( We are nobody’s slave and we will not fear even Yama, the God of Death)- Paarathiyar.This should be the ethos of a university, when pursuing what is right.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 4
      0

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

      Please note

      Namarkum kudiyallom namanai anjom – (We are slaves of no one, we shall not fear death) sang Saint Thirunavukarasar (Appar) not Paarathiyar.

      Whereas Kaniyan Poongundranar sang

      “Yaathum Oore, Yaavarum Kelir” (All the world is
      my world, all humanity is my fraternity).

      • 2
        0

        Dear NV,

        Thanks for the correction. I apologize for the error.

        I will add one more line for your quote.

        “Theethum nanmaiyum pirar thara varaa” ( The evil/bad and benfits/good are not given by others)

        The three verses we have quoted between us, should be understood by all Tamils in Sri Lanka.

        Dr.RN

        • 1
          0

          Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

          I find a fascinating collection of Sangam literature on Project Madurai website. Here is the link:

          http://www.projectmadurai.org/pmworks.html

          • 1
            0

            Dear NV,

            Thank you.

            Dr.RN

          • 1
            0

            Dear NV,

            I just went over the list, most do not fit the genre of Sangam literature. However, they are valuable works or translations in Tamil.

            Dr.RN

            • 2
              0

              Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

              While scrolling I saw Silappatikaram, Puranaanuru, … and foolishly thought the rest are Sangam literature. Please bear with as I am new this area of study.

              Please watch this youtube clip.

              Here is a Vesak day message from a Buddhist who is happened to be a Sinhalese or a Sinhalese chose to be a Buddhist and a follower of Buddha:

              From the series of Bahujana Hithaya(for the benefit of the majority)

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOj0uvSUizI

              By Ven. Galkande Dhammananda Thero ( is the pupil of the late Ven. Prof. Walpola Sri Rahula Thero.)

              Lecturer, Department of History, University of Kelaniya

              • 1
                0

                Thank you NV & DR NR.
                Excellent message from Prof Walpola Sri Rahula Thero.

              • 0
                0

                Dear NV,

                There is a list of Sangam literary works in the following link:

                http://www.gktoday.in/list-of-sangam-literature/

                I do not know whether it is complete. I shall listened to your youtube link tonight, when the internet is faster.

                Rohan,

                Thanks for the correction. I was recalling from memory and should not have used inverted commas.

                Dr.RN

          • 1
            0

            Native
            Excellent collection. Thank you.

      • 1
        0

        Impressive, NV…

        But, how the hell can we tell the academic to be fearless when after deserting the country for a safe and better life?

        //“Theethum nanmaiyum pirar thara varaa” ( The evil/bad and benfits/good are not given by others) //

        nanrum theethum pirar thara vaaraa

    • 2
      0

      DR R N,

      Thank you for your opinions.

      “I have not heard these Tamil nationalists lament about the decline in Tamil population”

      Dr Murali has done that but he is a different kind of nationalist.

      “and the quantum of lands lying unused.”

      They don’t care. Money should arrive on a plate without real effort. Migration is nothing new here but earlier only some professionals left temporarily the rest didn’t. Now maybe almost all the youngsters want to leave.

      “I have not heard these Tamil nationalists express concerns over the specter of unemployment, under-employment and the unemployable, haunting the north. I have not heard of these Tamil nationalists expressing concerns about the youth in Jaffna abandoning agriculture as a vocation and way of life.”

      True. It is easy to manipulate youngsters who have little education, little or no work and no future, for instance, marriage and children. In addition many of them have no father due to war or migration and the mother is struggling with providing the basics for the family.

      Most of the population suffer from Posttraumatic stress disorder.

      Manipulating youngsters here is easy. Offer some money and excitement instead of the boring life they have.

      • 2
        2

        Dear All,

        Re “Rajani too had become taboo even though in November 1989 both the University and the public rallied in celebrating Rajani’s life. This is perhaps the reason why Rajani’s portrait is conspicuously absent in the Senior Common Room of the University where the portraits of most who have served and left us are displayed in remembrance.”

        There are 16 Faculty members and 8 student Union Leaders of the Jaffna University in the so called “Tamil Civil Society” led by Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph, Bishop of Mannar (please see list below).

        16 Medical doctors (including consultants) who are working at the Jaffna Teaching Hospital and who by virtue of their positions can influence the undergrads of the JU Medical faculty are also members of this so called “Tamil Civil Society”

        Apparently, the “Tamil Civil Society” (sic) does not want the Freedom of Expression that is available in the University’s of the South to exist in the University of the North, though that university mainly caters for the Tamils.

        What are they afraid of?
        The REAL Tamil Civil Society opinion?

        Please see The Jaffna University Science Teachers’ Association observation below.

        Quote “While in the South there is space in the universities for persons who openly oppose Sinhalese chauvinism to be elected leaders in teachers’ unions and to continue their advocacy, in Jaffna there is hardly any room for academics who are similarly critical of the narrow political vision offered by Tamil nationalism to become office bearers of the teachers’ union.” unquote

        Dr Rajasingham Narendran put’s it in a nutshell by his hilarious comment “Sloganeering has been the curse of Tamils since the a decade before independence. Crudely said, there has been much gas but no shit!”

        Heretic observes, Manipulating youngsters here is easy. Offer some money and excitement instead of the boring life they have.

        The following passages from the article is a telling indictment of the University Administration, its Staff and Student Unions.

        quote “JUSTA informed the Vice Chancellor about the book discussion on 17th April, which it advertised in the press on Sunday 19th. On the 20th evening USU president Thaceenthan (an archaeology special student) phoned the Science Union president about a committee meeting the next morning, which the latter did not attend. The medical union president was not told. The presidents of arts and management too, we learn, did not attend the committee meeting. A senior student counsellor holds that the letter Thaceenthan wrote to the VC as purportedly from the committee on the 21st morning is valid because the others were consulted by phone. However the other student leaders we contacted through friends contend they heard of the letter only after the BBC broadcast on the 24thnight and have for above ten days been unable to produce a copy of it, which they have been repeatedly promised.

        The Vice Chancellor is the patron of the USU and Mr. E. Ratnam (Marketing) is the senior treasurer. The proper channel for the letter to the VC was through Mr. E. Ratnam and university senior student counsellor Prof. Pushparatnam (Archaeology) to ensure its bona fides. The USU president says that he did not use this channel, but delivered the letter direct to the VC who promptly acted on its claims. To questions from concerned fellow students and JUSTA, the USU president has been insistent that several lecturers (he once mentioned the senior treasurer) had misguided him that politicians from the South were coming for the book discussion.

        The USU president said he knew nothing about the book, its contents or the author. He had no proper answer to why he hurried into demanding a ban on the book discussion without consulting the JUSTA or verifying his facts.

        The VC read out to the deans the USU leader’s letter. While mentioning politicians with agendas coming here with the connivance of insiders, its main focus was to ban the discussion on Palmyra Fallen, which it claimed was inimical to peace. One of the deans had warned the VC not to blame them if she was banning the discussion, which she later did, as the deans’ committee had no statutory power.

        The sequence of events suggests that the UTA was not inducted into the banning game until the 22nd. The VC and company having issued the ban on 21st April were faced with the FUTA delegation being involved in the programmes of the 24th. On the 22nd UTA president, Mr. Rasakumaran, phoned FUTA and asked them to postpone their coming. After consultation with JUSTA, who agreed as initially arranged to run the programme for all academics willing to attend, FUTA decided to come. Rasakumaran then told them that UTA Jaffna will not participate in FUTA’s programme for university teachers because they were in the afternoon gracing the discussion of a book that was against Tamil nationalism. This was followed by other senior academics close to the VC trying unsuccessfully to stop FUTA.

        Snubbing both FUTA and JUSTA was an awkward decision for the UTA president. More awkward was the VC claiming on BBC that the UTA wanted the discussion arranged by JUSTA banned. While Rasakumaran refused to comment, a UTA committee member told us that there was no UTA committee meeting to decide on the ban. This committee member asked the secretary who told him that Rasakumaran had on his own written a letter to TNA leader Mr. Sampanthan calling for a ban on the discussion and had given a copy to the VC. When asked, Mr. Sampanthan had no recollection of such a letter and strongly hinted that the University should settle its own internal matters and not involve them.

        It appears from his palpable discomfort that the UTA president whose re-appointment as ELTU head awaits the VC’s decision was arm-twisted. Also, seeking re-election as fourth-time UTA president under the banner of saving Tamil nationalism (a dangerous sport in a multi-ethnic university), the choice for him, between being an honest academic and joining the ban-bandwagon, was decided.

        The world and times are changing and the University is under the control of a sectarian group that does not acknowledge diversity” unquote

        Here is the list of members in Rev Rayappu Joseph’s group

        Prof. K. Kandasamy- Dean, Faculty of Science

        Prof. R. Kumaravadivel- Senior Professor of Physics
        Former Acting Vice Chancellor

        Prof. R. Vigneswaran- Prof of Mathematics
        Vice – President, FUTA

        Prof. A.S. Soosai- Department of Geography,

        Prof. V.P Sivanathan- Dean, Faculty of Arts

        Mr. A. Rasakumaran- President, JUTA, Lecturer

        Dr. S. Raviraj- Consultant Surgeon & Snr Lecturer

        Dr. D. Gunarajasingham- Department of Physiology

        Mr. K. Guruparan- Dept of Law, Attorney-at-Law

        Dr. S. Kannadasan- Department of Patholgy

        Mr. V. Sritharan- Snr Lecturer in Accounting

        Dr. B. Nimalathasan- Snr Lecturer in Accounting,

        Mr. A. Saravanapavan- Lecturer in Human Resources

        Mr. T. Vigneswaran- Lecturer in Political Science

        Mr. S. Thiruchenthuran- Lecturer in Political Science

        Mr. S. Raveenthiran- Lecturer in Geography

        Mr. V. Pavaananthan- President Uni Students Union (USU)

        Mr. S. Ariharan- Former President, USU

        Mr. P. Tharshananth- Secretary, USU

        Mr. K. Jenemajeyamenan- President, Arts Faculty USU

        Mr. A. Prasanna- President, Science Faculty USU

        Mr. S. Sabeskumar- President, Mngmnt and Commerce USU

        Mr. Sanjeevan- President, Agri Faculty USU

        Mr. S. Janahan- President, Medical USU

        Dr. K. Pratheepan- Jaffna Teaching Hospital (JTH)

        Dr. M. Vasudevan- JTH

        Dr. S. Kunatheesan- JTH

        Dr. S. Sivathasan- JTH

        Dr. A.Y. Thanenthiran- JTH

        Dr. (Mrs). S. Uthayakumar- Consultant Physician JTH

        Dr. S. Sivansuthan- Consultant Physician JTH

        Dr. K. Ilangognaniyar- JTH

        Dr. K. Sureshkumar- Consultant Obst & Gyn JTH

        Dr. S. Baheerathan- JTH

        Dr. A. Kamalanathan- JTH

        Dr. G. Hyrin Arc- JTH

        Dr. S. Mohanakumar- JTH

        Dr. S. Premakrishna- Consultant Anaesthesist JTH

        Dr. P. Lakshman- Consultant Cardiologist JTH

        Dr. S. Kumaravel- JTH

        Kind Regards,
        OTC

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          Off the Cuff,

          “There are 16 Faculty members and 8 student Union Leaders of the Jaffna University in the so called “Tamil Civil Society” led by Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph, Bishop of Mannar (please see list below). 16 Medical doctors (including consultants) who are working at the Jaffna Teaching Hospital and who by virtue of their positions can influence the undergrads of the JU Medical faculty are also members of this so called “Tamil Civil Society”

          I assume that your information is correct.

          “Apparently, the “Tamil Civil Society” (sic) does not want the Freedom of Expression that is available in the University’s of the South to exist in the University of the North, though that university mainly caters for the Tamils. What are they afraid of? The REAL Tamil Civil Society opinion?”

          Sorry but I don’t understand what “Tamil Civil Society” has to do with the banning of the discussion of the book. I agree that a group who opposes Freedom of Expression in Jaffna was behind the banning or attempt to ban but why do you claim that TSC did it? Please provide more facts on why you judge them guilty. JUSTA has never written about problems with TCS.

          “This committee member asked the secretary who told him that Rasakumaran had on his own written a letter to TNA leader Mr. Sampanthan calling for a ban on the discussion and had given a copy to the VC.”

          This would be typical behaviour in Jaffna and the rest of the country. Running to a politician who might abuse his/her power despite not having any real power in the matter.

          “When asked, Mr. Sampanthan had no recollection of such a letter and strongly hinted that the University should settle its own internal matters and not involve them.”

          Maybe he “forgot” the letter after all the attention of the attempt to ban the discussion.

          Dr Rajan has been seen as a trouble maker by many groups who fight each other. Often the only thing they agree on is that Dr Rajan is causing problems.

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            Dear Uthayan+,

            Re “I assume that your information is correct”

            Yes the names are correct and were extracted from a petition they signed (together with other members of the TCS) some time back. The designations may have changed since then.

            Re “Sorry but I don’t understand what “Tamil Civil Society” has to do with the banning of the discussion of the book”

            Please note the following statement in the article.

            “The world and times are changing and the University is under the control of a sectarian group that does not acknowledge diversity. Despite the Tamils’ decades-long opposition to the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), the university administration and some so-called academics have dug up their own PTA from the worst legacies of Tamil nationalism to facilitate book-banning. How out of step the University has become is reflected in its advocacy of ideologically determined censorship, when ordinary persons who have been mentally and physically maimed by our history are writing frank and harrowing accounts of the pathos, betrayal and trauma that passed under the name of liberation struggle”

            The TCS consist of 98 members. There are 24 of them in the Jaffna Uni which is 25%.

            Additionally there are 16 other medical men who are members of the TCS and who are on the Staff of the Teaching Hospital and who are in a position to influence the Medical Faculty undergraduates. Thus 40% of the membership of the TCS is directly and indirectly connected with the Jaffna Uni.

            If they were against the “sectarian group that does not acknowledge diversity” we should have seen them opposing this sectarian group by supporting JUSTA. This did not happen. and indicates their tacit support.

            Kind Regards,
            OTC

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              Off the Cuff and Heretic,

              I posted a reply more than 24 hours ago but it has not been published. I don’t know whether there has been a technical problem, human error or CT doesn’t like the contents.

              JUSTA wrote:

              “The election of the new government in January 2015 led to a flutter in the dovecotes of the administration. All but one of the deans signed a letter to the state minister of higher education, which praised the Vice Chancellor as one whose role was indispensable and excoriated JUSTA’s (though not mentioned by name) complaints as rumours. The letter’s underlying message was to cut a political deal dictated by the change of regime.”

              Heretic commented:

              “If I understand this correctly the VC is now supported by the same academics who last year wanted to get rid of her. Earlier she was said to be near the EPDP but now she appears to be near the hardliners of ITAK or “Tamil narrow-nationalism”. If this is true then the VC will continue until the end of her term”.

              I agree with both JUSTA and Heretic. There has been a change at Jaffna University since Mahinda lost power. Now most academics and non academic staff are MAYBE behind the VC and support the “sectarian group that does not acknowledge diversity”. The VC and many others who earlier were rumored to be close to the EPDP or independent have now joined the “sectarian group” or been removed. For many academics and staff this is the 3rd or 4th time they change sides. The new university council also has many who clearly belong to this group.

              This development is not only limited to the Jaffna University. There are various groups with overlapping and loose membership that control much of Jaffna District. The members range from youngsters with low education in the villages to senior government servants and politicians. Some of them like the Bishop were earlier openly very close to the LTTE and continue now their activism in other organizations. The LTTE as we know also partly consisted of groups that officially had nothing to do with it like associations of three wheeler drivers, farmers, fishermen, culture, diaspora Tamils etc.

              Many of the members of these groups are known to support ITAK (the biggest party in TNA) in Jaffna. Their ideology is spread by the leading Jaffna newspaper Uthayan that was founded by a certain ITAK MP from Jaffna. These are the people who oppose Vigneswaran and others they consider too soft. They might be the majority in Jaffna.

              Off the Cuff wrote:

              “If they were against the “sectarian group that does not acknowledge diversity” we should have seen them opposing this sectarian group by supporting JUSTA. This did not happen. and indicates their tacit support.”

              The only dean that according to JUSTA did not sign is on your list of TCS supporters. Can you please post details of the petition this list of names is from?

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                Dear Uthayan+,

                Re “The only dean that according to JUSTA did not sign is on your list of TCS supporters”

                Yes I noted that when I wrote my earlier comment. That was one of the reasons that I said the TCS was giving TACIT support to the “sectarian group that does not acknowledge diversity” within the University.

                It was ONLY that singular Dean from the TCS that supported JUSTA, the others were inexplicably totally silent.

                Re “Can you please post details of the petition this list of names is from?”

                Certainly. Here it is.

                “Tamil Civil Society Memo to the TNA regarding the Eastern Provincial Council Elections”

                http://groundviews.org/2012/07/29/tamil-civil-society-memo-to-the-tna-regarding-the-eastern-provincial-council-elections/

                Kind Regards,
                OTC

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                Uthayan+,

                Thanks. This time your reply reached the correct place.

                “The VC and many others who earlier were rumored to be close to the EPDP or independent have now joined the “sectarian group” or been removed. For many academics and staff this is the 3rd or 4th time they change sides.”

                This is called politics. Soon the VC will appear in Uthayan receiving a garland from her former enemies.

                “The new university council also has many who clearly belong to this group.”

                Yes. The new council is not independent and includes some well known hardliners.

                “This development is not only limited to the Jaffna University. There are various groups with overlapping and loose membership that control much of Jaffna District. The members range from youngsters with low education in the villages to senior government servants and politicians. Some of them like the Bishop were earlier openly very close to the LTTE and continue now their activism in other organizations. The LTTE as we know also partly consisted of groups that officially had nothing to do with it like associations of three wheeler drivers, farmers, fishermen, culture, diaspora Tamils etc. Many of the members of these groups are known to support ITAK (the biggest party in TNA) in Jaffna. Their ideology is spread by the leading Jaffna newspaper Uthayan that was founded by a certain ITAK MP from Jaffna. These are the people who oppose Vigneswaran and others they consider too soft. They might be the majority in Jaffna.”

                I believe also that they are the majority here but ITAK has many factions. Some are able to talk while others are not. It is important to remember that people have now the chance to vote in free elections in Jaffna. That is something that we did not have some years ago. As long as these people follow the law they have the right to be active even if we don’t like them. Banning book launches at a university is not illegal but it is of course against freedom of speech and not a good sign. It is nothing new in Jaffna.

                I am sure that worse things will happen in Jaffna.

                What I don’t understand and like is that these people are blocking and delaying important development projects that have to do with poverty, water etc. A politician should understand that providing better water brings votes! Since they control media and administration abuse of power and corruption will continue.

                Some of the educated hardliners are professionals who have chosen to stay in Jaffna despite having the possibility to emigrate. Most of the ignorant others are manipulated by the media and their leaders. The ignorant will emigrate if they get the possibility.

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      “I have not heard those talking of Tamil nationalism as a political slogan raising concerns about the declining standards of Tamil as a language and a body of profound literature; and the quality of Tamil being taught in schools. I have not heard any Tamil nationalists lament about the decadent and perverse culture that has taken hold in the north. Perhaps the Jaffna University epitomizes this perversity!”

      I have heard them talking about culture but unfortunately they always blame others for the problems we have. The reason for all the problems is Sinhalese Buddhist oppression. At the same time the only solution they have is more money from the Sinhalese Buddhists. A little contradictory maybe?

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    All MARA boot lickers and political appointees as VCs should be kicked out.

    Colombo is done. Many more to outstanding. SJU is one good example.

    Why aren’t academics not pursuing this issue?

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      Jagath,

      Please read this again:

      “The election of the new government in January 2015 led to a flutter in the dovecotes of the administration. All but one of the deans signed a letter to the state minister of higher education, which praised the Vice Chancellor as one whose role was indispensable and excoriated JUSTA’s (though not mentioned by name) complaints as rumours. The letter’s underlying message was to cut a political deal dictated by the change of regime.”

      If I understand this correctly the VC is now supported by the same academics who last year wanted to get rid of her. Earlier she was said to be near the EPDP but now she appears to be near the hardliners of ITAK or “Tamil narrow-nationalism”.

      If this is true then the VC will continue until the end of her term.

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    Under PTA by JR thinking about some thing ( I can’t recall exactly) is unlawful and punishable. MARA forgot to add to it that memorising also unlawful and punishable in similar way. It is not too late can make an amendment to the same law now to prevent memorising. After that fighting for memorising will be an offence.

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    Dear all,

    We often see information on suspected cases of corruption, abuse of power and worse that has happened in the Northern Province. The latest cases that I remember have to do with Jaffna University and the water in Chunnakam. In other parts of the country these kind of cases are investigated and even old cases are reopened now that Mahinda is gone.

    Why has nothing been done in Jaffna? Is it because nobody has made official complaints now that Mahinda and Douglas are gone? Or is it because the authorities don’t do anything despite complaints and the local media doesn’t report the cases due to political pressure? Both are controlled by the same people as before because not very much has changed in the North after MS took over.

    Something is wrong when accusations are published on CT and nothing happens.

    It is maybe wrong to take this up here but I didn’t find a better place.

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    At one level this reads like an all too familiar narrative of happens in any Sri Lankan University. However, this gets complicated by the fact that there are all too many of us, Sinhalese, who still wish to visit Jaffna with a sense of triumphalism and assert control over the North. I’m speaking here not of University types, but of those others whose knee-jerk reaction to whatever happens in Jaffna is that our “national sovereignty ought to be protected at any cost.”

    What such people must be made to realise is that we now have the opportunity to move forward to a position where the people of the North want to be part of Sri Lanka, voluntarily rejecting separatism. It looks as though the FUTA delegation has determinedly been doing that by going to Jaffna; the organisers of the book discussion, too, must be congratulated on defying the thuggish Vice-Chancellor, but doing it without allowing violence, and thereafter setting out clearly the reasons for their seemingly unlawful action.

    It is time now that the UGC intervened, and removed the Vice Chancellor, but following “due process” all the way. Even in the South, the intelligentsia know that despite Douglas Devananda’s courage in taking on the LTTE, he himself has begun acting as a thug who wishes to control the peninsula “for ever”. Let us thank Douglas D. for his courage of sorts but also make it clear that there can be no role in the University for him or his acolytes unless they start getting serious about how to conduct themselves in Academe.

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