End of term of DR Kobindarajah as Vice Chancellor of Eastern University: Confusion for University, Corruption for UGC, Acid test for Ministry
The Registrar of Eastern University had informed the UGC by his letter dated 12th January 2015, that the period of the current Vice Chancellor ends of 12th February 2015. This is in accordance with the E-Code. Chapter III, section 18:13:2 reads as “ It is the duty of the Secretary of the Commission, Registrar of the University or an open university / Secretary of a University College to satisfy himself that an appointment is in order and to advise the appointing authority of the position”. The Registrar had done his duty and informed the UGC to take action for acting arrangements until a VC is appointed from 13th February 2015 onwards. If there were any concerns the UGC had all the time to communicate to the Registrar until he left on 31st January 2015. It is murky that the UGC sends clarification to a subsequent query from the Actg Registrar on 5th February 2015 by fax on 9th quoting section 3:8 of the E-Code. Very unprofessional and I would go beyond to consider it as inefficiency and malpractice. (however the administration has kept this a secret not divulging it to the Teachers Association)
A letter was sent by the UGC chairperson Prof K Hirimburegama to the Eastern University CLARIFYING the date of end of term on 9th February 2015( the date of her Resignation). It stated that the date of assumption of duties would be 4th March 2015, as per section 3:8 of the E Code. ( section 3:8 of the E-code: Section 3:8 states, “The effective date of an appointment or promotion will be the date specified in the letter of appointment or the date on which the person first assumes the duties of his new post whichever is the later….”). Little do they realize that this is an appointment by the President, effective from the date of appointment ( 13th February 2012) to a defined period of three years as per section 34(i) of the University Act.
The appointment of the University Grants Commission or the Vice Chancellor is not spelt out in the Establishment Code,; states in the First para 1:1 in effect, that the commission shall be appointed by the President under section2(1) AND 4(1) ; it does not speak of the appointment of the Vice Chancellor at all. Thus the regulations laid there may not be directly applicable to these positions as they are governed by the act and the appointing authority being the President of the Country. If not, the following questions would become relevant;
- Was any formal letter ( as required under 3:18:14 of the E-Code) given to the Vice Chancellor at the assumption of duties indicating his duties, responsibilities as done to academic staff under the E-Code?
- Was he subject to medical examination within a year from appointment( Chapter III, section 19:1-19:5)?
- Was his assumption of duties letter sent to the appointing authority as practiced in the other cases?
None of this had been done and thus treating of this appointment as different to Academic Staff appointment is important. The section quoted by the UGC Chairperson is also thus irrelevant to the case. The date of appointment by the President is the only important factor which is 13th February 2012. The date of termination is determined irrespective of the date of assumption of duty as 12th February 2015.
The E code also have the following which had been ignored by the UGC in reference to the Eastern University;
(a) Section 3:25 Appointment of teachers from overseas: Despite many attempts from us to clarify this matter the University failed to seek clarification to safeguard DR K Kobindarajah, who claimed to be a member of the staff of the Faculty of Science. The UGC did not answer to the query given to them by the Teachers Association on 4th November 2013. It states in 25:2 “The prior approval of the governing authority and the Minister in Charge of Higher Education before any procedure is initiated to recruit a teacher from overseas” which was never done.
(b) Section 3:18:12 speaks of “persons disqualified from appointment to the commission /Higher education institutions” and 18.2.1 states “persons who have….or person who have vacated their posts…. Without the prior approval of the commission”. How did the eastern University accept a nomination from a person with vacation of Post?
(c) The UGI circular 911 states to refer to the Government Establishment Code when the UGC E-code is silent. Section 7 of Chapter 2 specifically states that you need to be a citizen of Srilanka ( exception being some direct appointments by the Ministry) to be eligible for consideration of an application. How was an application violating this was considered? How did the UGC state that under the existing regulations this application may be considered?
- A verification on UGC circular 1/2013 requesting whether it is applicable to a candidate was sent two years ago ( as stated by the Vice Chancellor) and we have received no reply to this day. Is this efficiency of the system or the modus operandi of the system.
- In a classical case at the Eastern University where sabbatical leave to a member of staff had been recommended by the UGC, the administration referred to the Attorney General’s office for further clarification. It took the candidate 4 years since application to obtain his sabbatical leave, which the UGC was well aware and thus also responsible.
Such a bias and inefficiency in operation of the system poses a questions on role of the UGC at the helm of Higher Education. Is it a white elephant that had outlived its necessity?
It is not that Dr Kobindarajah is not aware of it, but wishes to show that he is ignorant utilising the Registrar and others as scapegoats to make statements on his behalf. He was well aware of a similar case in reference to Prof Ranjit Padmalal who was appointed as the Competent authority of the Trincomalee Campus, within the preview of the VC, Eastern University DR Kobindarajah.
- Prof Premlal was appointed the CA of Trincomalee campus on 15th October 2014 by extraordinary gazette 1885/30 of 21 October 2014
- He assumed duties at Trincomalee Campus on 29th October 2014
- He was appointed as CA from 15 January 2015 (three months after the date of appointment on 15th October 2014 and not on 29th January 2015 the date of assumption of duties) as claimed by extraordinary gazette 1898/38 of January 21, 2015
- Eastern University appointed an Actg Rector on 15th January 2015 again indicating that they were aware that the CA appointment was ending on 14th January 2015, three months from date of appointment and not based on date of assumption. ( The CA was appointed in the place of a Rector. If so the effect of section 3:8 of the E-Code should be to have his term terminated on 28th January 2015, which was not applied but he was reappointed on 15th January 2015 on completion of his term in January 14, 2015.)
An extreme case extra ordinary would be that of Prof Hoole, who operated from Colombo as Vice Chancellor, University of Jaffna by the fact he was appointed by the President, without really assuming duties in Jaffna, in consultation with the UGC at that time.
There are other cases in the system that had utilised the date of appointment as reference for end of term of Vice Chancellor, even when they had assumed duties after the date of appointment. Prof Shanmugalingam was appointed as VC of University of Jaffna on 17th December 2007 and assumed duties on 28th December 2007 and on completion of his term he was appointed acting VC on 16th December 2010(not December 27,2010) . Prof Vasanthy Arasaratnam was appointed VC of University of Jaffna on 28th March 2011 and assumed duties on April 1, 2011 and when she completed her term of three years she was appointed Acting VC from 27th March 2014 (not March 30, 2014). This was during the period of Prof Kshanika Hirimburegama as the Chairperson of UGC, giving the Actg VC appointment to Prof Vasanthy Arasaratnam. How could she now state that the term of a VC ends three years from the date of assumption of duties? This is misuse of power and corruption on one hand, incompetency on the other that cumulatively had caused the disintegration of the University system at large.
It is immaterial whether DR Kobindarajah leaves his post as VC on February 12th or March 4th 2015, but the system should know facts and operational norms and the UGC should guide us which is not the case as shown above. It had confused itself with the provisions of E-code, provisions of the act that govern the appointment of the VC, Role the Registrar and the autonomy of the university and wrongly advised the Eastern University. It is also noted that neither the Commission nor the Council had been informed or aware of the issue in question.
It reflects the deterioration of the system in operation at Higher Educational Institutes and is the responsibility of everyone concerned to rectify it. This is an event which would be a considered as an intentional fraud where both DR Kobindarajah and Prof K Hirinburegama are involved and have used their positions to suppress the truth. If such corrupt powers are entertained then the vote that Mr Maithripala Sirisena received for anticorruption and misuse of power from the public would be compromised.
The university has a right to have a legitimate VC from 13th February 2015. Dr K Kobindarajha has no legitimacy to be the VC beyond 12 February 2015, in any count, given the status quo as mentioned above. The Teachers Union had already informed the Registrar ( Mr Paskaran) in writing (with copies to other relevant bodies), that it will not recognise Dr Kobindarajah as VC from 13th February 2015 and had stated that all activities under his hand would be void in law. It had also requested to ensure that their personal files and others are safe in his custody.
In determining the date of end of term, the UGC as usual has confused itself and others and paved way for corruption in the system.
It is the responsibility of the Minister of Higher Education to deal with the situation and provide just relief to the Eastern University. The country at large is awaiting the Ministerial action, given the evidences as above in terms of rule of law, misuse of power and good governance. It is an acid test for the assurance given to people on January 8, 2015.
*Jayasingam, T – President, Teachers’ Association of Eastern University (TAEU)