Colombo Telegraph

Bishop Thiagarajah Accuses The Jaffna College Trustees Of Misappropriating Funds

In a hard-hitting statement issued by the Board of Directors of Jaffna College, Bishop Daniel Thiagarajah, Chair of the Board, has accused the Trustees of Jaffna College Funds for misappropriating the Trust funds for the purpose of paying their legal fees. The statement notes that the Trustees have laid down unnecessary and unreasonable demands since January 2017. The statement also observes that the Principal of the College and the Board of Directors worked hard to address those demands but the Trustees unreasonably insist on the resignation of the Chair and Vice Chair of the Board. Click here to read the statement in full.

Bishop Daniel Thiagarajah

The alumni who commented on the statement argue that this statement is yet another attempt by Bishop Thiagarajah to mislead and misinform the public. They claim the statement or a draft of it was never shared with the Alumni Representative to the Board before it was finalized and circulated. The Alumni Representative recently came out in full support of the demands put forward by the Trustees of Jaffna College Funds including the resignation of the Chair and Vice Chair. He also voiced his position at the last Board meeting where the Trustees’ letter was tabled. 

The alumni who spoke to Colombo Telegraph pooh-poohed many of the allegations made by Bishop Thiagarajah in the statement. For instance, they note even before the 1963 amendment to the Trust deed funds were granted to institutions other than Jaffna College.

The original Trust deed of 1877 (click here to view the Trust Deed) states the following:

“The purpose for which the Corporation is constituted is to obtain, hold and manage funds for supporting Jaffna College, an educational institution located at Vaddukoddai, Jaffna District, Island of Ceylon.”

Bishop Sabapathy Kulandran notes in his book, which details the history of Jaffna College, that a change was made to the original Trust deed in 1964. The amended Trust deed (click here to read it) states the following:

“For the purpose of obtaining, holding, and managing funds for support of Jaffna College, an educational institution located at Vaddukoddai, Jaffna District, Island of Ceylon and for supporting other Christian educational institutions in Ceylon and India and for training Christian workers in Ceylon and India.”

Even though Bishop Kulandran was deeply critical of the amendment to the Trust deed and the unilateral way in which it was done by the Trustees (page 288, A History of Jaffna College, 1983) he had earlier, before the Trust deed was amended, praised the Trust for supporting the United Theological College in Bangalore, India. The JDCSI newsletter co-authored by Bishop Kulendran in 1956 states the following:

The United Theological College was founded in 1910 as a result of many conferences between the Missions working in South India and Ceylon.  Inspite of our almost negligible size in comparison with South Indian Mission areas we sent up two students to the very first batch that enrolled at Bangalore.  Since its foundation, Bangalore one of the chief sources from which Christian churches in India have drawn their Workers.  Bangalore, however, is supported almost exclusively by grants made by Missions from Year to year. In this respect the Trustees of Jaffna College in Boston have been very generous and in fact are the greatest contributing unit towards the support of Bangalore. (p.xxi, JDCSI 9th Bulletin, 1956)

This newsletter demonstrates very clearly that the Trust funds were used for institutions other than Jaffna College even before the amendment was made and Bishop Kulendran did not object to this practice at the time although he was later critical of the moves on the part of the Trustees to direct the funds to institutions that had no connection with Jaffna College. From this newsletter, it becomes clear that those who were at the helm of the JDCSI and Jaffna College Board in the past saw a broader purpose for the Trust funds although “Jaffna College” appears in the name of the Trust. The alumni of the College continue to debate among themselves even today whether the Trust funds could be used for purposes other than those of Jaffna College.  

Multiple views exist among the alumni about the allegation that the Trustees have made use of the Trust funds to pay the legal fees. While some argue that the Trustees should take every legal step, including seeking legal advice, necessary to ensure that the money sent to Jaffna College is used in an appropriate manner for appropriate purposes by the Board in Sri Lanka and the College administration, others are of the view that the Trustees should have raised funds separately to meet their legal expenses. Some others note what the Trustees have done is well within their legal mandate. The Trustees are yet to clarify the allegations levelled against them. 

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