25 April, 2019

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Colombo University VC Controversy: A Different Perspective

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Several academics (Savitri Goonesekere, Lalitha Mendis, J.N.O. Fernando, FUTA) have written in various forums decrying the circumstances surrounding the appointment of VCs. They stress the importance of the best people applying and decry the political influence peddling that prevents that. Many demand the rule of law in doing things by the Universities Act, pointing to the lapses of past UGCs. I cannot but agree with them and endorse what they argue for.

However, most of them argue that Dr. Kumara Hirimburegama should not be a candidate for VC/Colombo because of conflict of interest by virtue of his spouse Kshanika Hirimburegama being the UGC Chairman, and they make him out as an academic nobody. Their argument about conflict of interest ignores the modern world where the wife no longer is confined to the kitchen. Just because Kumara’s wife Kshanika is UGC Chairman, Kumara does not lose his right as a Sri Lankan citizen to aspire to be VC.

When both husband and wife are in the same system – and all Sri Lankan universities belong to the same system – it creates a little untidiness but we must rise up to the occasion and make special arrangements to accommodate the rights of both to their careers. We have more than once had one spouse as VC or Department Head while the other spouse is a lecturer or professor whose promotions, leave etc. were approved by the former. We have managed to make special arrangements without asking one spouse to go home and mind the kitchen. A person being up the ladder of his or her spouse and special arrangements to avoid the ensuing conflict is untidy. But to ask one spouse to quit working to avoid that untidiness is an ugly violation of that spouse’s fundamental rights.

Yes, Kshanika Hirimburegama has a conflict in chairing the UGC when her husband’s name comes up for a recommendation to be VC from among 3 names forwarded by the Colombo Council. That is the kind of untidiness we have always handled by the deciding spouse recusing himself or herself and letting someone else take that decision. This I understand she has very correctly done by arranging to not attend that pertinent meeting and letting the UGC Vice Chairman handle that meeting. The purist may argue that such decisions will be tainted because they are all friends. That is, as stated, untidy (and should not be a problem if our appointment processes ensured that everyone has integrity). But the alternative is ugly – telling a citizen that he is not entitled to aspire to be VC like everyone else.I know of one university where a lowly non-academic applied and another where a madman did. But their applications received full consideration and voted on at the Council, as must Kumara Hrimburegama’s.

Savitri  Goonesekere makes out that Dr. Kumara Hirimburegama is a joker at the lowest rank in the university. Totally untrue. The lowest confirmed academic rank is Lecturer (B-04a) and he has been well above that for years. She refers to him as Professor in another place and then says he is Senior Lecturer Grade II lacking the qualifications for the immediately higher grade of Senior Lecturer Grade I. This is careless, irresponsible and reprehensibly false. He has a Ph.D which Prof. Goonesekere does not have – the lack of which is covered up by her title professor. In the year 2005 I know Kumara was already Senior Lecturer. If that had been at Grade II, to move to Grade I by promotion, UGC Circular 721 stipulates “A Senior Lecturer Gr. II who has completed one year on the maximum of the salary scale or has served six (06) years in that grade may be considered for promotion.” This is 2013, 8 years after I knew him as at least Senior Lecturer Gr. II. So it cannot be correct to say he lacks the credentials for promotion to Grade I. Indeed it is  slanderous for Prof. Goonesekere to make these claims against someone who has better degrees than she. Besides, he has wide administrative experience as Director and Dean and a record of international publications in high quality journals and citations that would be the envy of many academics.

So why all this nonsense against him? Jealousy against him? Against his spouse Kshanika? Politicking for the post of VC by knocking Kumara out?

I do not mean to root for Kumara Hrimburegama or either of the other two candidates to be VC/Colombo. That must be done by a careful examination of the records of all three finalists by those appointed to do that. My point is that he is no academic joker and as a citizen is entitled to aspire to be a VC and to be considered equally with the other candidates.

Faithfully,

S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

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    With all due respect sir.
    This conflict of interest isn’t simply one connected to the selection process ONLY.Let us for arguments sake assume that the selection process is clean and untarnished and that Prof Hirimburegama is appointed VC of Colombo.The UGC is the authority which allocated funds to the various institutions under its purview.Now this arguably being the foremost function of the UGC, isn’t it worth questioning how fair this process will be when the UGC headed by Mrs Hirimburegama allocates monies to the state universities including one headed by her spouse?
    Earlier I made a HUGE assumption for arguments sake. This is SL a land like no other! And I’m sure we all know how unbiased,fair and transparent our mechanisms and appointments are.Keeping in mind that the reality is Sri Lanka a country with questionable mechanisms,isn,t it pertinent to question how fair it will be on the other two candidates and their rights to a fair selection process? You speak about the rights of individuals to contest irrespective of a huge conflict of interest! WHAT ABOUT FAIRPLAY AND TRANSPARENCY?

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      What we must not forget is also that the Hirimburegamas are close to the Rajapakses. Kshanika cannot make a speech even on academic occassions without praising MR. She has been very pro-MR. A VC is expected to be independent when it comes to administering a university. She was the opposite. She discouraged political discussions even among students. When a junior academic from the law faculty wrote a piece critical of the regime, she warned her and reminded her that she is only a temporary lecturer still. When Prof. Uyangoda wrote a similar article, he was also warned.

      May be Savitri Goonesekera is not as qualified as Kshanika. Savitri has only a taught Masters degree, not a research Master. Yes, she has not been the best administrator, arrogant at time and seen as having a chip on her shoulder. But her contribution to society is a million times more than the two Hirimburegamas put together. She has spoken out on social and political issues. She is known to have a strained relationship with Shirani B but when Shirani B was impeached, Savitri Goonesekera opposed it unconditionally.

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        Kshanika was instrumental in proposing and obtaining sanction of the university senate to award honorary degrees to Mahinda Rajapakse a lawyer and Gotabaya Rajapakse a retired colonel & citizen of USA,by the University of Colombo.
        None of the other universities cared to even consider the matter.
        This no doubt enabled her elevation to Chairmanship of UGC.
        Were there no others more qualified for the post?
        Now the husband too wants to jump onto the political bandwagon in the university system.

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    You are very right Prof. Hoole. She needs justice as a chair person to UGC. ButProf. Hoolie fight for this also if you really want to eradicate corruption from Colombo University. Why government is not appointing independent Commission (Without any University joker) to find the truth in Colombo University Arts faculty family depratment. I know majority of Lecturers are disrobed guys because Emritus educated in Pririvena at Waliama. Therefore blame of this UGC woman useless and correct root cause of Colombo University. Emritue’s all outdoor connections now leading all positions in many faculties and post graduate areas. Some are give Lecturer position because Emritus translation book done by them and some draw diagramm for that. This emritus do not have any single publication in Scopus or ISI journals and translation done by using others and put his name. [Edited out]

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    Dear Dr. Hoole:
    After the conclusion of the Provincial council elections for North-Central, Sabaragamuwa and the East, President announced that no two persons from the same family will be made a Chief Minister and a Cabinet Minister/Deputy Minister at the centre. So Minister S.M. Chandrasena, whose brother S.M. Ranjith who polled the highest preferential votes for Anuradhapura, resigned from his portfolio to make room for his brother to be the Chief Minster for NCP. Similarly, Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi’s husband Kanchana Jayaratne received the highest number of preferential votes in Ratnapura. Since Minister Pavithra was not prepared to resign from her Cabinet post her husband was not made the Chief minister for Sabaragamuwa, sticking to the principal laid down by the President. (However, President as usual went back on this word/principal after the heat of the election was over by appointing Chandrasea a Deputy Minister – de facto Cabinet Minister since this Ministry had no Minister.)
    In this case too President should say (or others should point out to him) that to tell Kshanika Sannasgala Hirimburegama to resign from the post of Chairperson, UGC if she wanted her husband to be the VC Colombo. The posts of a Cabinet Minister and a Chief Minister of a Province are similar to that of Chairperson UGC and VC of a University in many ways. Shouldn’t one person step down in favour of the other. If Kanchana Jayaratne can’t be the Chief Minister since Pavithra continued as a Cabinet Minister, then Dr. Hirimburegama can’t expect to be the VC if Kshenuka Sannasgala Hiriburegama continues as the head of UGC and not want to resign. This is plain and simple logic. What is good for the Goose should be good for Gander.

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    Looks like people around here do not learn from the past; Shirani B is the case in point. No wonder LLRC report is just a report.

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    Prof. Hoole’s views should be taken with a pinch of salt as he has a glaring conflict of interest himself in writing about this matter. His appointment as VC/Jaffna is being held back because of his underhand politics. Another conflict of interest in Prof. Hoole defending the candidature of the spouse of UGC chairman is that Prof. Hoole’s wife is also an academic in the university system.

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      You may be right, The author may be getting ready to come back to Sri Lanka. He needs all the support from UGC.

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    I read Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole’s unacceptable personal attack on Prof. Saviti Goonesekere in the course of his article titled Colombo University VC Controversy: A Different Point of View published in The Colombo Telegraph. I have known Prof. Goonesekere for a long time and worked with her professionally for years now. She is a lady who has never tried to pretend to be a holder of a doctorate when she does not possess one. She does not have to, for she has ample class of her own and has publications that show her quality as a researcher and teacher. Moreover, she is not the first to be selected as a professor in our university system, or elsewhere for that matter, without holding a doctorate. Prof. Goonesekere has contributed handsomely to the cause of education and education administration for years during a very distinguished academic career. She continues in retirement to inspire and guide our younger generation in particular.

    I think it is grossly unbecoming of a man of Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole’s academic and personal background to attack a member of his tribe in this manner. This unworthy conduct of Prof. Hoole proves to us, if such proof were ever needed, that the mere accumulation of academic degrees is no guarantee that an individual may be considered and educated person. Those who are mere accumulators of academic degrees may possess knowledge and information, but not learning in the best sense of that word, if Prof. Hoole’s latest diatribe is a criterion to go by.

    Apart from all else that Prof. Goonesekere says in the course of her article that was carried in the Sunday Island of 17 March, 2013, the most valuable, for me, is the point she makes about the degradation of our national institutions that we have had to suffer in recent times. That these institutions have been decaying for some time now is a fact. But instead of seeking to arrest this decay, we seem to be doing our utmost to make matters irretrievably worse. Also one would have thought that after the recent humiliation suffered by the Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake , that even if Prof. Kshanika Hirmburegama’s husband had all the qualifications in the world( which he does not), that she would seek to discourage her husband from throwing his hat into the ring for the post of Vice Chancellor at the University of Colombo. Quite obviously, devotion to standards or attempting to rebuild standards we have lost in recent times, is not a priority either for Prof. Hirumburegama or Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole who usually waxes eloquent about these and other related issues.

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      Nethra

      Yes, I agree with you.

      I am beginning to think though Prof. Hoole writes frequently all kinds of platitudes about ethical conduct and rule of law he is actually a petty-minded and vindictive person. He invokes high ideals only to attack people who he thinks are inimical to his interests. He doesn’t follow his own advice in conducting himself. He came from nowhere and tried to grab the VC position in Jaffna. People who had stood by Jaffna University during the war and destruction at great personal risk naturally resented his intrusion. He then launched a campaign of personal attacks and character assassinations on those well respected Jaffna University academics. Prof. Vasanthy Arasaratnam who eventually got the VC post was especially targeted by him. He tried to ridicule her by saying she got her PhD in Jaffna whereas he got all his higher degrees abroad. He didn’t realize how highly Prof. Arasaratnam was regarded by her colleagues and students for her academic abilities, professionalism and dedication to her work. Such is the small-mindedness of Prof. Hoole in spite of his big brain. Though he is much certified he is not an educated or a cultured man. By hindsight one can be certain it would been utter disaster for Jaffna University had he managed to usurp the VC position.

      Though Prabakaran’s decisions were all monumental blunders, he made one absolutely perfect decision. That was to not allow Prof. Hoole to become Jaffna VC. The fact that later President Rajapakse too concurred with that decision speaks volumes about Prof. Hoole.

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    I was a medical student when prof Goonesekere was the vice chancellor of university of colombo.Furthermore prof Lalitha Mendis was dean of medical faculty at that time. They are the people who stood as the pillars of the university of colombo.
    I find it quite unpalatable when prof Hoole is trying to portray a picture which is obviously not true.
    I sincerely hope prof Hoole will not get any post Jaffna where he and I come from because damage to our educational system (free education which I am proud of) is already done.

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    Thanks Prof Hoole. You are very balanced person seeing both sides of the coin. I also feel nothing wrong with becoming a VC of a husband of Chair person of UGC to any University. Because Colombo University has family to henchmen departments as many writers pointed out with concrete evidence. You should push to abolish Emiritus professor positions given to such low level persons and sack his all bad recuritments of family and henchmen. I guess now they are running the whole Colombo University arts faculty and post-graduate section. Some of these henchmen are still working in contract position after 65 years over.

    As your discipline is Engineering why do not you do any thing to clean Eng. faculty from joker IESL jounal publications based fake professors. Take example more than 99% Sri Lankan Eng. professors are getting that Prof.title publishing in their own IESL Journals. These journals run by them and no where indexed or even listed. Sometime Eng. faculty non-engneering professors are working.Sack them soon and clean Eng. faculty and expose people especially fake Profs without PhDs from good countries and Universities and without minimum 15 publications in ISI/Scopus level indexed international journals.

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      Prof. Jeffory Abdulla is another “Prof” whose name appears on the internet only once under and only under the comments in this article in the Colombo telegraph. And the points he makes are the same that appear over and again in the comments written by a team of people who could well be sitting at the govt. information dept. typing these comments as their job. Who will be fooled by such “prof” s? It is such people who come to defend the present regime and its administrators at the drop of a hat. And this time Prof. Hoole for reasons known only to him has come to the defence of the authority headed by wife nominating husband for the job. His excuse for supporting such abuse of authority is to say it is party of our life being “dirty”.

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        Insider
        I don’t even need to search look at commentator’s credentials. I could smell a rat by the style of their writing!

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    Prof.Hoole and Prof. Jeffory both are 100% correct and real intellectuals because they know how to analyse all parts of the problem and go to the root cause. Both of them are real people and all others respect and listen to their views and implement what they says. No difference between Arts and Eng. faculties both seems like in same basket.Recheck PhD and publications of all professors in Sri Lankan Universities and published them in News papers then fakes without PhDs or PhD from right good Universities and minimum publications in ISI/Scopus level interenational level journals can be identified and people can say them to resign and pay back the salary they got. At the sametime sack wrongly given emritus professor positions to wrong chraters by his henchmen. Becuase seems like Sri Lankan University has many inside problems do correct immediatly than Colombo University VC and husband and wife issue.

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    I feel sorry about paying taxes to pay salary for these jokers from my hardly earned money and poor. As soon as possible these fake joker professor appointments must be cancelled in all Universities. Need aggressive auditing inside Universities. No phD from good country and good ranking University and minimum 15 publications in international indexed journals (ISI/Scopus/INSPEC and Compdex..) no professorship must be given please. I published my books (These are just translations robbing from foreigners books) and get professor position. I need another back to laugh to this. I am afraid that Sri Lankan fake professors do not know what is the ISI and impact factors..etc. Gotabaya Rajapaksha is the right person to get this task: Cleaning Universities from fake professors. Colombo University family dept and fake Emiritus world famous for bad governance in Universities especially in Colombo University. Ruhuna, Kalaniya, Sabaragamuwa, Rajarata all professsors are fakes. UGC and Sec.to Ministry , Minister and all of you responsible for this disaster.

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    I fully agree with Prof. Hoole. Dr.Kumara is a very good researcher . Very good teacher. He is having all the qualifications to become a VC. Number of votes should not be the only criterian to select the VC.

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    I agree with you Chamanthika, I now feel that we have got a disgusted lot in our Universities. Why should we spend our hard earned money to pay these bogus professors. I think we need to clean our entire higher education system from top to bottom starting from the minister, whose salary is also paid by us. As per those writings, the damage has already been done. All administrative positions, UGC Chairman, VC’s, Deans, Heads etc. are held by inferior quality people leaving out quality academics. Since those academics with some quality will make an attempt to maintain the highest academic standards, these rascals will not allow them to come forward. They fear that they will not get what they want.

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    Prof.I know…

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

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    All these comments are true Ruhuna, Kalaniya, Peradaniya and Sabaragamuwa, Colombo, Rajarata, J,Pura and in all Universitites are full of fake professors. No PhDs and not any single publications in ISI/Scopus level journals. Even Senior Professors without nothing. What a miracle. Presaident check by one by one. See country they got PhDs: India, Thailands, Russia, Malaysia…etc. No one goes to these countries to learn. With immediate effect have audit and sack them and recover salaey they got as fake professors. Media publish all these fake professors details and these robbers. I checked discipline wise Arts and Eng. worse but others also in same boat. Familiy, disrobed and henchmen Dept are very much obvious in Colombo University Arts faculty. Now you can see how criminals run the Sri Lankan University system.

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    Dr Hirimburegama is a real gentlemen and most students like him.
    sadun

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    Good example to show that Sri Lankan Universities full of fake and wrongly given professors in all faculties and family to sex academic depts is: if they are so good do they work for less than 1000.00 US $ per month and while one family is destroying your whole country not any single voice from University Lecturers’ side. Even they are unable to analyse the danger heading Sri Lanka within next year or so due to UNHRC proposal. Normally UNHRC three things: First penalise war crime solders in army (But this never going to happen and Gota and MR family also in trouble for this), resettle tamils in their lands (Now all these lands under military and politicians hands and even hotels already built, Autonomy for tamils (Sinhalese never allow to happen this). Then we know surely next Burma going to Sri Lanka. People will die without foods and jobs and Tourists starts to disappear for the hotel build by politicians robbing poor money. Israeal and UNHRC case is different fools. Isral never send their mothers and sisters to clean toilets and cook for others and they never eat out of this money likewise Sri Lankans. Learn University Professors how to analyse problems in this way and educate people this way.

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