23 October, 2017

Fate Of Higher Education When The Rule Of Law Ceases

By Rajan Hoole

Dr. Rajan Hoole

For many decades now, the expression rule of law has tended to be associated with pathological extremes involving murder and torture. We have tended to blindly accept repressive laws as a guarantee of our security and complained little when their use was extended to become part of our daily life, like occupation of lands for supposed security purposes. The great danger is that we become desensitised and cease from any obligation to observe the law.

The law is our common heritage that came to us through the travails of history. Marquis de Favras was sentenced to death in the wake of the French Revolution to appease the mob clamouring for aristocratic blood. The Committee of Inquiry disregarded the ancient jurisprudence of France drawn from Rome, ‘testis unus, testis nullus’ – one witness is no witness – there must be at least two. The historian John Adolphus has this to say about the social consequences of tampering with the law for narrow ends:

“This murder performed under colour of law, but in contempt of all sound rules of jurisprudence and reason, first opened the way for those neglects of the established norms of inculpation and evidence, which facilitated the mock trial of the King, and subjected the country to all the horrors of the revolutionary tribunal.”

The Revolutionary Tribunal’s judicial murder of Louis XVI again disregarded the Roman jurisprudence of France. His counsel Raymond de Seze had thundered: “Nullum crimen sine lege” – there was no crime when there was no law against the King’s rule.

That was one of the earliest statements prohibiting retroactive application of laws. It was adopted into our 1978 Constitution, but was disregarded in the Prevention of Terrorism Act. That Act and its application did immense damage to our legal sensibilities, and accelerated institutional decay. The decay becomes particularly serious when it comes to the administration of our higher education by the University Grants Commission (UGC).

We rely on the UGC to strive for high standards in our universities and ensure that this country sustains and enhances a healthy intellectual tradition. We seem to be doing the opposite.

I submit that our relationship to the law is an important marker of our intellectual integrity. To a large extent it is the urge to be right and fair that makes us thinking beings. When we lose that obligation we become dullards. Almost always, common sense and fairness constitute an adequate guide to the law.

A leading scholar from the Biomedical Genetics Section of Boston University posted his application in Boston for the Vice Chancellorship in Jaffna on 27th December 2016, allowing ample time before the closing date of 16th January. It arrived a day or two late in Jaffna. From a common sense standpoint the issue was clear. The University had appointed a search committee to search far and wide for suitable candidates; it found none. Then why make an issue of a scholar of marked achievements who applied in good faith and in good time? All applications were opened only on 27th January by the evaluation committee which duly scheduled the scholar’s application along with those of five other internal deans.

At the Council meeting the next day, the Vice Chancellor, apart from the slightly delayed receipt, gave two other irrelevant and inapplicable reasons for dropping the scholar. One was that he had not indicated his citizenship, and, the other, that he had not applied through the head of his department. The Council decided to consult the UGC’s legal department. The UGC’s advice received about two weeks later without giving any argument, or legal reference, was that the University is not bound to accept applications after the closing date.

Even if this reasoning were correct, the law does not stop there. The law is contingency-based and intrinsically considerate. It employs the concept of reasonableness, by which the applicant who has acted reasonably has legitimate expectations of being processed duly. A rule established in R v London County Council ex parte Corrie (1913) as applicable to this case is the applicant’s right to appeal against the rejection of his application; while the University had a duty ‘merely to exercise discretion in each case, and not to shut the door indiscriminately either on all applicants or on applicants who did not conform to some particular requirement [as a deadline that was not crucial – the applications were opened eleven days later].’

However, the unshakable answer to the dilemma lay in the sufficiently well-known Postal Rule, which the University and UGC tried to pretend did not exist. It was simply what reason and common-sense dictated. A healthy intellectual tradition would have railed at the crass treatment the scholar got.

The Postal Rule was established with reference to Contract Law in the British cases of Adams vs Lindsell (1818) and Henthorn vs Fraser (1892), and closer home in the Indian case of Kamisetti Subbiah v Katha Venkataswamy (1903) : “…acceptance [of a contract] is complete when it is put in the course of transmission. The place of posting has been held to be the place of completion of contract.” The unanimous judgment of the five member bench of our Supreme Court presided over by Justice Basnayake explicitly extended its scope to a more general context: “Where a letter, fully and particularly directed to a person at his usual place of residence, is proved to have been put into the post office, this is equivalent to proof of delivery into the hands of that person; because it is a safe and reasonable presumption that it reached its destination (University of Ceylon v Fernando [1957] 59 NLR 8).” This rule meant that the applicant had delivered his application on 27th December 2016.

Here was an offer from a scholar of proven ability that would have enhanced the academic resources of the University. The University’s and the UGC’s attitude to him was entirely negative. The President’s commitment regularly made to welcome back skilled expatriates, demands courtesy and a willingness to engage and secure the applicant’s skills even if not as vice chancellor. Instead we were attempting to knock him off with invalid legal reasons hoping that he would simply disappear.

On 25th February, the VC stood by the rejection of the application. Giving a variety of legal reasons, including the Postal Rule, Prof. Tharmaratnam expounded to the Council why the rejection of the application is a violation of the law.

The VC backed up the UGC’s negative advice by citing universities’ Establishments (E-) Code, which states that ‘Applications…should have been received not later than the last date and time stipulated in the advertisement’. She claimed that the E-Code was an authority superior to the Supreme Court. Tharmaratnam replied pointing to the absurdity of this position; the e-Code drafted in 1984, which remains largely unrevised all this time, is only meant to be a guideline. He said besides that the UGC’s advice, without giving any argument or legal reference does not constitute legal advice at all – it is just one line dogma.

Given the scholarly context of the question at hand, our intellectual curiosity and reason should have been stirred to find a solution appropriate to a university. However, the internal council members (deans etc.) had little to say and did not stand up to the VC. One external council member later told Prof. Tharmaratnam, ‘I agree with you one hundred percent, but the UGC appointed us and we must do what it tells us.’ It is the general trend in our universities that where political or personal favour determine the standing of both internal (academic) and external council members, they are eager to satisfy their patrons than protect the academic standing of their institution. It gives an idea of how our higher education system hugs mediocrity and keeps its doors shut to protect persons who detest ability.

Although the election was held on 26th February, three external members, Tharmaratnam, Jeyakumaran and Nesiah, reserved their right to pursue the matter legally and in the first instance to seek the Attorney General’s opinion on Prof. Tharmaratnam’s argument, on the understanding that, if he agrees with it, the Council would cancel the election.

The event, though, not newsworthy in the usual sense, is a lesson on how our legal and intellectual sensibilities are dulled by demands of repressive laws adopted in the name of security to our great hurt. We must not lose faith that the law, in spirit, works towards greater fairness and aspires to become more human and accessible. It is the property of all mankind.

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Latest comments

  • 8
    2

    Thanks Dr Rajan Hoole,

    This also appears in today’s Island doesn’t it? What a well constructed article, considering also that you are not a lawyer.

    Taking all this in to account, there can be no doubt that if there is any respect for the Rule of Law in this country, there should be a completely new election for the Vice Chancellor vacancy at Jaffna University.

  • 7
    1

    Rajan Hoole has superbly argued the Legal and Moral issues involved in this case.It is now clear vested interests at the University of Jaffna were hell bent on short-circuiting Prof: Sam Thiagalingam.

    Prof: ST HAS BEEN THE VICTIM OF SMALL MINDS IN BIG PLACES!

  • 4
    1

    “Tharmaratnam replied pointing to the absurdity of this position;

    the e-Code drafted in 1984, which remains largely unrevised all this time, is only meant to be a guideline.”

    BE CAREFUL! FOR FOOLS RUSH IN WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD.

    I am sure he understands that his opinion works both ways for the same: “The -e-Code is only a guideline”- was repeatedly invoked by the Late Prof. J. N. O Fernando at the Board Meetings when he was Dean Science/OUSL. Just that he spun it the other way, thereby knowingly empowering his dept. heads to destroy those who did not connive with them. How can one be an academic and not see or protest when a matter absolutely defies logic or the ethical consciousness of a civilized world? He/she then has to be an unconscionable liar and a born boor. Aren’t the universities put in place to safeguard values?

    This devious, both way, e-code interpretations gives malicious administrators so so much power because every faculty and staff member who opposes their schemes is done for for life for she has to face these same arrogant folks at every job/promotion/scholarship interview for life, or require their character certificate to apply elsewhere.

    One would think that the system is run by

    ” Bookful Blockhead(s), ignorantly read,
    With Loads of Learned Lumber in (their) Head,..”

    Not so. The biggest posts at the UGC and Jaffna are lately held by small folks.

    To quote the e-code or the Bagavad Gita or even the Dhamma to them is a waste of breath. The Tamils of Jaffna should wake up to their accelerating degradation.

    Hope President Sirisena is aware and appoint a VC to Jaffna whom we can look up to.

    All responsible Tamils including the TNA should use “their” breath to that end.

  • 2
    4

    There is the Tamil saying “மழை ஓய்ந்தாலும் தூற்றல் ஓயவில்லை” meaning ‘even though the rain ceased the drizzle goes on’.

    OR, is there an attempt at artificial rain?

    • 4
      1

      SJ or Prof Sivasegaram,

      You are a poor soul… The Sam Thiagalingam episode has exposed your fake Marxist face. Why don’t you deal with Rajan Hoole’s arguments rather than arrogantly dismissive about what he says? I know what you would say: “I am forsworn to some gods and goddesses and scriptures and cant disclose my positions to the public. This is not an appropriate forum.”

      • 1
        1

        தூற்றல் ஓயவில்லை
        Merci, petit lion, for confirming that.

        (For the non-Tamil-speaking reader:There is a pun in the word தூற்றல், meaning drizzle as well as abuse. The text on top translates as ‘The drizzle/abuse has not ceased’.)

      • 3
        0

        The Marxist face/mask was lost when he married a bourgeois lady from Flower Road (Colombo 7) – a proposed marriage. Then his philosophy became “run with the hare and hunt with the hounds” at Peradeniya.

        SJ is more like “Son of Judas” SJ, to us at the University. No honest person can survive here. So stop calling SJ Marxist and misleading the Council members and the poor young students who are looking for role models and the few true Marxists around.

        We need charismatic and successful fellows like Sam to inspire. If the elections can be cancelled it will be good. At least as a warning. Hope the Minister will overrule the erroneous judgement given by the apparently clueless UGC Chairman on the postal fiasco.

        U of Jaffna students must have the opportunity for interaction with internationally renowned successful scholars who operate at that level on a day to day basis. This is what the VC and SJ are stopping. Throw these two out first, then we can arrest the sinking. Can SJ provide intellectual stimulation and caring friendship with the students and staff or the VC or Sri Satkunarajah? In the US faculty members are evaluated also on these criteria so we know what we will be getting.

        Please start a signature campaign Prof. Rajan Hoole. We will do University and outside civil society. Please help the young staff and the students from the continuation of this gang’s rule and the long voted- out totally detrimental political domination.

        “VELLAM VARU MUNNE ANAI PODA VENDUM” (MUST BUILD THE BUND BEFORE THE FLOODS COME)

        • 1
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          Don’t worry – When Srisatkunarajah becomes the VC he will throw SJ out with ‘full respect.’

          Since SJ has said in this forum that he prefers to send the name of the first candidate alone to the President, he would not want to be seen supportive of the second or third candidate becoming the VC. Hope he still stands by what he said.

          Some people are saying that those who support and worked hard for Srisatkunarajah’s victory, especially Faculty associated with the Tamil People’s Council, want an all Tamil nationalist council. Let’s see what is going to happen to the Council and SJ.

        • 0
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          Dawn:
          “No honest person can survive here”

          I assume that you are surviving.
          In which case, congratulations.

          Little lion:
          “Some people are saying that those who support and worked hard for Srisatkunarajah’s victory, especially Faculty associated with the Tamil People’s Council, want an all Tamil nationalist council.”

          Is it a joke, a threat, soothsaying or mere speculation?
          Be careful, while I sit back and laugh as the earth spins, there are quite a few frustrated people around who may do stupid things.

          • 0
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            It is being talked about at the University. I don’t think it will be possible. Knowing Srisatkunarajah, I can say confidently say that he will dump the Tamil People’s Council if he thinks that he needs to have the government’s support to survive as Vice Chancellor. You have to wait and see whose support he would need more – the government or the TPC.

            I am not sure whether you are sitting back and laughing or you are one of the few people who are frustrated. No other Council member is writing comments here. You are writing half truths and dismissive one-liners here maybe out of frustration. Maybe because the Marxist in you is speaking against what the pro-Vasanthi Sivasegaram did at the Council. Sad. Sincerely hope the Marxist will triumph.

            Good bye.

            • 0
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              Little Leo:
              “You have to wait and see whose support he would need more – the government or the TPC.”

              What has that got to do with me?

              But if you really meant your “Goodbye”, then “Goodbye and bitter-sweet dreams” to you from me.
              Do not take the bitter part too much to heart. It is just that I like bitter sweet things.

          • 0
            0

            Dawn:
            “No honest person can survive here”
            “I assume that you are surviving.
            In which case, congratulations” SJ

            Thanks for the compliment anyway. Hope intended. By the way I am honest only on CT. At UofJ I am a suck-up just for survival..Honestly, it don’t matter no more.

            Life I find at last, is more than UofJ

            • 0
              0

              Thanks for not being rude.
              Although no postmodernist, I am always open to interpretation.

              “Life I find at last, is more than UofJ”
              Good for you.

              Tell those who are obsessed with it here and elsewhere.

  • 0
    0

    “to seek the Attorney General’s opinion on Prof. Tharmaratnam’s argument”

    ha ha and a ha! to that.

    Are we still living in the old civil service, Ivor Jennings era like ostriches?

    Are these three gentlemen unaware of what happened at the Batticaloa VC elections and what the AG’s own rep did to your kinsman (I believe)?

    It is the AG, Minister and UGC Chair who appear to have “salaam madaam”-ed the VC all the way. They are all in it together and they act regardless of the law or conscience, and that quickly.

    “It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.”

    ― Leo Tolstoy, The Kreutzer Sonata

  • 1
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    What happened at the Batticaloa VC elections?

    Two reasons: one, I am curious; two, I think it is now Batticaloa’s turn to be bashed.

    • 0
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      DEFLECTOR-IN_CHIEF like Donald Trump – for Vasanthy Arasaratnam.

      SJ,
      MUTHTHI NERI ARIYAATHA MOORKANODU MUYALVENO?

      • 0
        0

        arOharA (Praise the Lord)
        entha muththineRi? (Which path of salvation?)
        This God has shown different muththineRis to different people and caused a lot of confusion.

        Will someone educate me on events in Batticaloa as it has been talked about here; or kindly tell me which muththineRi will take me there— I do not mean the place but the story.

        • 1
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          Suggest sending Inspecteur de grenouille to Batticaloa :-)

          • 0
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            Sorry mate. (My friend is not yet Inspecteur de grenouille.)
            He is busy busy busy croaking to the frogs who flew in in fancy colours for the big match.

            In fact, he still has not overcome the shock treatment he had from the LWFH.
            Women always get the better of him so easily.
            He will be reporting soon on returnee frogs, with kind permission from CT.

  • 0
    0

    The law is our common heritage that came to us through the travails of history. Marquis de Favras was sentenced to death in the wake of the French Revolution to appease the mob clamouring for aristocratic blood. The Committee of Inquiry disregarded the ancient jurisprudence of France drawn from Rome, ‘testis unus, testis nullus’ – one witness is no witness – there must be at least two. The historian John Adolphus has this to say about the social consequences of tampering with the law for narrow ends:

    Why ut is this way, Why always people quote from European history or literature.

    Is this because of Crappy post-colonial education or people are still licking the colonial boots ?

    they don’t have any Indian, forget Simhale, they are Indians who know only the everything Indian, or at least Chinese or Afghan literature to quote ?

  • 5
    0

    Forgive me for repeating:

    a) It is wrong for a member of Council to chair a search committee when her husband is a candidate for the job. It is called conflict of interest.

    b) It is wrong for a member of Council to come here under a pseudonym and mock people who raised objections to (a) as “how come you know the name of the chair and not the members of the committee?” [knowing full well that it was indeed true that she was chairing the committee, and it is mentioned in the union’s letter].

    c) It is wrong for candidates to the post to be part of Council meetings discussing the technicality by which the external candidate was ruled out. It is called conflict of interest.

    d) There is good appetite for change in our university. The letters seeking a wider field be considered came from trade unions and student union who represent us — the community here. Yes, nasty personal attacks have appeared in CT. But responsible members of Council should ignore the noise and address the more substantive points that have been put by interested stakeholders and the unions that represent us.

    Amusing wordplay, mockery and one-liner dismissive remarks is not the way forward. What has been achieved — intentionally or not — is a clear message: “outsiders are not welcome here.” This is sad.

    • 2
      2

      Thanks, but I am rather thick right now with a runny nose (do not believe everything that I say literally when I m in this mood) and whisper in my ears whom you are attacking on pretext of hitting me. I will keep it a secret.
      You are now funnier than my friend Jaques; and Jaques, the plagiarist he is at times, may even use your jokes without your kind permission and risk breach of copyright. I will have a word of warning with him.

      This makes it well over four lines. Happy?

      • 1
        0

        Lets try again, one at a time this time. I claim:

        “a) It is wrong for a member of Council to chair a search committee when her husband is a candidate for the job. It is called conflict of interest.”

        Agree or not?

        • 0
          0

          Explain where the conflict of interest lies.

          • 2
            0

            I can’t believe you ask, but I will help.

            The dictionary defines: “a situation in which someone cannot make a fair decision because they will be affected by the result” and then goes on to give an example: “I need to declare a conflict of interest here – one of the candidates for the job is a friend of mine.”

            In this case, by not doing a good job of searching, she can increase her husbands chances of getting the job.

            Does that help?

            • 0
              1

              NO.
              But if it is frivolity, I enjoy your sense of humor. Are you related to RK Laxman by any chance?

              BUT
              If you are serious, with such extrapolation, Bani Sadr could have defended himself better in Khomeini’s court than anyone could in yours.

              Make your next joke when I am ready: I am not able to control my laughter.

              • 0
                0

                There is a difference between

                (a) “it is wrong of her to chair a committee when there is conflict of interest — i.e. her actions/ decisions can be biased (or seen to be biased) to advance her husbands case”

                and

                (b) “she has done something criminal/blasphemous, and I am going to try her in Khomeni’s court to have her head chopped off.”

                It is a clever trick in argument/discussion to twist what someone says and put forward an extreme case as “is this what you are saying” or “if this is what you are saying you are like Khomeni” to distract from the real issue. I have had plenty of it from Tamil nationalists, starting in 1976 in Jaffna.

                What is YOUR understanding of conflict of interest, may I ask? How do you define it? Please use a hypothetical example to illustrate what YOU might regard as a COI situation here in U of J?

                • 0
                  1

                  I cannot conduct tutorials here, as you have tremendous knack to twist it around beating all logic.

                  Simply speaking, the search committee could not influence the processing in any way and could not define or decide who can or cannot apply.

                  If that logic cannot penetrate, nothing will.

                  • 2
                    0

                    Sorry I am giving the impression of twisting — I assure you it is not intentional. At least you are not laughing, which is a plus.

                    I agree the search committee could not have influenced the processing of the applicants once they are received. That is obvious. But has nothing to do with my concern about conflict of interest of the chair.

                    The search committee had a purpose. To search. And to encourage a wide field of applicants. They don’t decide who applies and who doesn’t, but they search and encourage suitable people to apply. With the chair’s husband being a candidate, the may lack the motivation to search well. That is what conflict of interest is.

                    That the later process could not have been influenced by the search committee is irrelevant to the point that they may not have searched well in the first place.

                    I hope this is clear — because I don’t want to be hung up too long on just this point and like to move onto discussing the other two concerns [(b) and (c)].

                    • 0
                      1

                      As for points b & c:

                      b)
                      Sad that you did not object when people made a mockery of a University Council by using obviously selective information but take exception to my challenging all manner of speculation.
                      I am here as a reader and exercise my right to comment without abuse of privilege.
                      If one has abused his/her position as Council Member to divulge un-authorised information you have a point. If such things happened with my connivance horsewhip me.

                      c)
                      I will not comment; and you know why.

                      To sum up:
                      There was a late application that was rejected based on a rule. CT chose to report the story for people could comment.
                      What followed was a vicious campaign based on conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory and senseless attack on candidates.

                      It is pathetic if one needs a conspiracy theory to explain every failure.

                      I cannot lie but I cannot tell the truth either even to counter a lie.
                      It is a funny predicament. So I decided to sit back and laugh.
                      I used personally inoffensive humor as defence against a barrage of personal abuse and mostly distorted second and third hand information.
                      Do view at my responses in overall context.
                      If you are offended I am truly sorry.

                    • 1
                      0

                      “Sad that you did not object when people made a mockery of a University Council by using obviously selective information but take exception to my challenging all manner of speculation.”

                      Yours was not about “challenging all manner of speculation”. It was specifically about the Chair of Search Committee: “how come you know the Chair, but not the other members?” — all the time you knew she was the Chair. Moreover, the appeal to Council to consider a wider field, and the criticism regarding conflict of interest, was from the trade unions who represent us and the student union. I saw no mockery in them. Please read the letters again and see. The substantive points they raised on our behalf — and our desire for change — was more important (and worthy of discussion) than some of the abusive comments we saw in CT.

                      Abusive comments should be ignored, not used as smokescreen to avoid facing the real issues.

                      Could I please ask if the VC or Council actually ever reply to the unions / students?

                  • 0
                    1

                    Kindly avoid mixing issues.
                    A person being Chair of a Committee whose work ceases well before applications are accepted let alone processed has no conflict of interest.
                    If you still insist that there is, then it is your problem not mine and I will not waste my breath.

                    I cannot respond to your specific charge for reasons declared very early.
                    Draw your own conclusions for it is still a free country.

                    • 1
                      0

                      Sorry if I am giving the impression of mixing issues — I think I am being very careful in not doing so.

                      Her conflict of interest has to do with (and only with) chairing the search committee set up for the purpose of search. I am not extending it beyond that. If you are appointed to search, and your husband is a candidate, the decent thing for her to do is to declare conflict of interest and step down from that role. That is the decent thing to do.That is all I am saying in (a).

                      I will return to the other points [(b), (c) and your summary of the saga] separately, so as not to mix issues. And I am not offended at all, I am just saddened by the standards at which we seem to be operating.

                    • 1
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                      SJ,

                      Don’t you think that the person could deliberately avoid doing a serious search because her husband was one of the candidates? She would have known her husband would be applying. Don’t you think she should have stepped down the moment she knew that her husband was going to be a candidate?

                    • 2
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                      No Sir. That person, Prof. Mrs. Mikunthan, knew her husband would be a candidate. It was not in her interests therefore to have good candidates applying. So she made no effort to get sound candidates to apply as was her mandate.

                      The work was complete before the closing date is irrelevant when no work was done to get good candidates

                    • 1
                      0

                      SJ,

                      “un-authorised information”

                      Like what information and why is it unauthorized? Who has decided?

                      In many other countries the Council minutes would be posted on the information board of the university. In many other countries the chairperson and others would notice a conflict of interest and stop it.

                      Confidentiality is for medical doctors, lawyers and spies.

                    • 0
                      0

                      Luxman
                      Thanks.
                      I cannot respond on behalf of the Council of which I am not the spokesperson.

                      Any governing/administrative body has its rules of engagement according to which it conducts business.
                      I can only clarify my position on the subject and I have stated the context of my responses.
                      There is no more to add and, with all due respect to you, I will not prolong this discussion any further.

                      Manu
                      I take your ethical point that a member of the Search Committee could desirably have stepped down once made aware of the spouse’s intention to apply, although the Search committee’s role is irrelevant to decisions re candidates; and in practical terms there is little room for foul play by the Search Committee as according to advertisement applications are sent directly to the Office of the Vice Chancellor.

                      The hypothetical question is when the spouse of a member declared to the member his/her intention to contest. If it was after the Search Committee completed its work, stepping down would have served no practical purpose. (The SC is appointed by the Council which as far as I know meets infrequently.)
                      And, in my humble view, no member of the SC has the right to interfere with anyone’s intention to contest.

                      Again I cannot speak for others or conduct unauthorized inquiries.

                  • 0
                    0

                    Luxman by now you must know SJ.for with SJ,

                    Pidichcha muyalukka moonru kaal

                    (The rabbit I have caught has 3 legs, i. e. right or not does not matter, will not change his stance ever.

                    They say keep your breath to cool your porridge.

                    • 1
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                      Nira, dear Lady,
                      I know of three legged rabbits. But is it not clear to you yet that I am not commenting here for just SJ to read? Take the exchanges here as starting point and organise “paddi manRam” (debate) around this topic of “conflict of interest” on campus, would you please?

          • 0
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            SJ: “I cannot respond on behalf of the Council of which I am not the spokesperson.”
            I presume this is in response to my question
            “Could I please ask if the VC or Council actually ever reply to the unions / students?”

            One doesn’t have to be the spokesperson to check if there was a reply to the letter, does one? You voluntarily checked if Nesiah’s travel claim was settled and reported your finding. Same here, is it not? Just ask the registrar if a reply to the letter was sent? Simple.

            [I will return to points (b) & (c) separately, so as not to mix issues]

            • 0
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              In case you have not noticed, I said
              There is no more to add and, with all due respect to you, I will not prolong this discussion any further.
              and
              I will stick with it.

              • 1
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                But you could be gracious enough to explain the difference between the readiness to check Nesiah’s travel claim and the reluctance to check if letters from the unions (representing ALL of us on campus) were replied to! The governing body of a university should have the basic common courtesy to reply to a letter, shouldn’t it.

                I am delighted that eventually you concede in your response to Manu: “I take your ethical point that a member of the Search Committee could desirably have stepped down once made aware of the spouse’s intention to apply”.

                Thanks for that. Persistence has paid off.

                Let’s sort out (b) and (c) please.

                • 0
                  1

                  I explsained this earlier:
                  Nesiah’s travel claim is something that any citizen could inquire on his behalf and one need not be a Council member to do that.
                  I was surprised why Nesiah could not do it himself and complained to someone who chose to place it here.
                  I have done such things for many in many places where I do not even belong: inquiring about release of results, acknowledgment of letters etc., when I had a chance.
                  What transpires in a Council is Council matter.

                  Jaques warns me that I am going back on my pledge.
                  So no more on the subject from me.

                  ps. Before I run away, thanks for protecting me from the keeper of three-legged creatures.
                  .

                  • 1
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                    “Nesiah’s travel claim is something that any citizen could inquire on his behalf”

                    Ah, it is not just “any citizen can inquire”, it is “any citizen can inquire on his behalf”.

                    Can you please confirm that you were actually inquiring “on his behalf” — i.e. did you have his consent for making that inquiry. The report filed here was detailed: “He is entitled to X, he claimed Y and Y > X”. With such detail, those who do not know the man may be led to see similarities to recent bad behaviour of British parliamentarians! That is not very nice, is it?

                    If you did not have Nesiah’s explicit consent, I believe you were able to check that only because you had privileged access to the accounting office as member of Council — no ordinary citizen could have done that.

                    Let us get back to the main sub point. Did those in power bother to reply to the unions which represent all of us?

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                      Please yourself.
                      As I said: no more on the subject from me.

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                      //no more on the subject from me.//

                      But why? All that is needed is to clarify if an arbitrary citizen could have looked up Nesiah’s travel claim details without his consent? [we should be worried if one could, shouldn’t we?]

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      Luxman,

      You are making this so clear that even I manage to understand.

      My humble 2 cents are:

      a) There was a clear conflict of interest.

      b) I find it strange that Sivasegaram appeared here using different names commenting on some Council events, defending decisions and refusing to comment on other events because they are “confidential”. I have asked him many times on what the confidentiality is based on but he does not reply. Sivasegaram loves rules but in this case he does not give one because there is nothing to give. And yes he knew all the time that Mrs M. lead the search committee despite denying it here.

      c) Again there was a clear conflict of interest.

      d) Yes. Many want change and some change will be coming with the new VC whoever it will be.

      My questions regarding a and c are: did not any Council member act and protest in the relevant meetings pointing out the conflicts of interest? Was there never any discussion at the meetings about the conflicts? What is the point of pointing it out afterwards?

      Regarding b: can somebody please tell me in an easy to understand way why anything having to do with the Council meetings is confidential. Unless it has to do with national security or the health of somebody I fail to understand.

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        LW
        There is a code of conduct, not always written, for members of committees, boards, politburos etc. without which they cannot be healthy discussion.
        Some organizations take punitive action against breach of code, if harmful to the organization.

        It is mainly an ethical issue with an unwritten code of conduct. There are those who observe such code and there are those who do not, including ones who indulge in selective ‘leaking’ of information as well as distortion.

        We do not live in a country where everything is in the public domain.
        Until that changes, it is good to abide by accepted codes of conduct, even if it hurts.

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          SJ,

          “There is a code of conduct, not always written, for members of committees, boards, politburos etc. without which they cannot be healthy discussion.”

          Thank you for finally revealing that there is an unwritten code that guides Council members or did I misunderstood you?

          Are you sure that this code allows healthy discussion? Should not healthy discussions and healthy decision making be proudly shown to anybody interested?

          “Some organizations take punitive action against breach of code, if harmful to the organization.”

          I am sure that you have heard about the code of silence called Omerta followed by the Italian Mafia.

          Key question is who decides what is harmful. I am thinking about the numerous leaks like Wikileaks etc.

          RTI Act, investigative journalism and even leaks are needed when there is no transparency like in our country.

          Without transparency we only have the Mafiograph.

          Soon the Lady will be out and the new Capo di Tutti Capi will take over.

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            LW
            Thanks for the response.
            There is no need to thank me for stating the obvious.

            Institutions differ and every institution has its code of ethics and general conduct, often unwritten– something like a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’.
            There are people who breach such codes: breach is tolerated within limits, but when breach brings discredit to the organization one does get pulled up. Punishment is under serious conditions, and you should know thist if you functioned in organizational bodies.

            When members abide by rules (written or unwritten), organizations prosper and when members violate them for purpose of self interest or other undesirable motives, institutions suffer.

            I think that there is an oversimplification of RTI.
            It cannot be access to everything everywhere by everybody. That, even if desirable to some, is unattainable in practice and placing all information in the public domain will lead to chaos. (You know the definition of NOISE as an excess of information.)
            I fully agree that any party affected or likely to be affected by a decision or even an observation has the right of formal access, but through proper channels– not leaks, which do lead to abuse.

            There is need for accepted procedure– not stealthy acts. I think that it is better to be safe than sorry.
            That may be our point of deviation.

            I should take a break; Jaques is knocking on my door.

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              SJ,

              “When members abide by rules (written or unwritten), organizations prosper and when members violate them for purpose of self interest or other undesirable motives, institutions suffer.”

              I am not interested in the members and their self interest. I care about the people.

              We have now the RTI Act that provides the rules. As usual in SL implementation and especially going to court will be the problems.

              “I think that there is an oversimplification of RTI. It cannot be access to everything everywhere by everybody.”

              There are pretty clear rules in the Act about what kind of requests will be rejected.

              “That, even if desirable to some, is unattainable in practice and placing all information in the public domain will lead to chaos.”

              I have studied the RTI situation in some countries like the USA, UK, Australia and India. One of the last decisions of Obama was declaring all “federal” information that has not been especially declared confidential public. Except for India these countries have a relatively long tradition of RTI. Where is the chaos you expect? In India many poor and oppressed are using the RTI to access information on what happens or doesn’t happen in their communities.

              “(You know the definition of NOISE as an excess of information.)”

              Yes I do.

              “I fully agree that any party affected or likely to be affected by a decision or even an observation has the right of formal access, but through proper channels– not leaks, which do lead to abuse.”

              I finance UoJ paying tax, I know members of the staff and students. I am worried about the alleged abuses that I have read about. Do you agree that I have the right to request copies of the minutes of the Council meetings and that a RTI request is the proper channel? Would making a request for the minutes of Council meetings be abuse or would publishing selected parts of the minutes be abuse?

              I know that you are not a lawyer, the information officer of UoJ nor the spokesman for the Council. I am asking your personal opinion and giving my unsolicited opinion.

              Would a university in the UK reject a FOI request to have copies of Council minutes and travel allowances?

              “There is need for accepted procedure– not stealthy acts.”

              Yes but in case the masses do not understand their rights or do not use their rights an insider may decide to leak important information thinking about the common good.

              In many cases even leaking classified information is justified to protect human rights, life, environment etc.

              Hmmmm…. Where did I save that RTI request form?

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    This has all been very sad, and there can be no doubt that it is mainly with Prof. Sivasekaran that we must express disappointment.

    When I was a student at Peradeniya (in the Arts Faculty), we knew that this was a brilliant man. And I have more recently been exchanging comments with him on CT. There can be no doubt about his capabilities. Also there are quite a few YouTube programmes from which it is clear that he is extremely articulate. However, although not knowing the Northern Province at all, really, I have been trying to understand some of the issues.

    So, it may be that there are many things that I don’t understand going on here. It may be that it is none of my business, but having made an honest effort to study the issues, I can only say that various personality clashes have probably resulted in the best man in the race not being allowed to make his presentation. I hope that this gets put right, but at this moment it looks as though there is little prospect of that.

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    Sinhala_Man
    Even my late mother was disappointed with me on occasion, but for better reason.

    Life is a b**** and it is hard to find people to deliver our goods for us. Then, we are disappointed with anyone who do not fit into our agenda.

    I do not personalize issues or comment on personalities (except when some wrong impression needs correction). I would even avoid saying that I am disappointed in you, or for that matter any member of the chorus, when you join the chorus to sing my praise.
    It is wise if one just deals with issues.

    Try being disappointed with these who behave badly on these pages with half-truths, untruths and abuse. It should make you feel better.

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      Many thanks for such a civil response, Sir!

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    “Sorry mate. (My friend is not yet Inspecteur de grenouille.) – SJ

    Your friend de grenouille may even be quite dead now trying to adjust to the heat at Jaffna University these days. Frogs are cold-blooded ( ectotherms) because they are cold hearted. When the heat is turned on they die without knowing it. This is called the Boiled frog sydrome.

    Now write a requiem for Inspecteur de grenouille with musical scores like Mozart. Only that will give you eternal fame. Writing requiems is now in fashion among Sri Lankan scholars. Then we can forget about de grenouille forever without feeling any guilt.

    Don’t be sad. Frog meat is known to cure Dengue Fever, especially as Double boiled frog meat with bitter gourd –This is a popular remedy for Dengue Fever patients.

    Google gives 27 ways to cook frog legs under chestofbooks.com › Cooking › Recipes › How to Cook Fish

    But I, suggest a dish of Ratatouille
    garnished with the appendages of de grenouille;
    But don’t mention it here to Rajan Hoole*,
    ‘cos a vegan does not eat dissolutely!

    * The name Hoole I think is old French so it fits well here I think.. Must find coat of arms somewhere to verify this.

    This makes it just four lines. Happy?

    Get well SJ. I feel a storm brewing your way with DD in the picture.

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    Now that we have made some progress with respect to (a) in this thread with SJ conceding at last “that a member of the Search Committee could desirably have stepped down” as an “ethical point”, let us try and make progress with (c).

    The Council meets. It discusses if a late application to the post should be considered or rejected. Five of the participants of that discussion (some spoke, some kept quiet, one presumes) were applicants to the post themselves.

    Is that conflict of interest or not?

    Should those of us — stakeholders in the future of the institution and the community and country it serves — not be concerned that this is improper.

    Should we not be concerned that the decision being to reject sixth one, one of these five — who couldn’t know that they should have declared interest and kept away from the meeting — is actually going to lead this institution?

    And why should questioning this be dismissed as a “vicious campaign”?

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      Luxman,

      “[we should be worried if one could, shouldn’t we?]”

      I strongly believe that all of us should have the right to examine, for instance, the documentation of the 15k allowance of Nesiah. It is tax payer money and why should we not have the right to know what he has claimed. I am not at all interested in the 15k. This is just an example.

      “Should we not be concerned that the decision being to reject sixth one, one of these five — who couldn’t know that they should have declared interest and kept away from the meeting — is actually going to lead this institution?”

      Yes. I repeat my question about the importance of knowing did anybody present at the meeting take up the conflict of interest or were they all silent. For this we would need the minutes and the minutes should reflect what happened.

      As long as, for instance, travel allowances and Council meeting minutes are not available all kinds of unacceptable practices may be hidden from the public.

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