22 May, 2022


Forgiveness Against Institutional Interest – A Plea To Prof. Rijiva

By Aahithyan Ratnam

There were two messages today (19 Jan. 2015): Even as Colombo Telegraph reported the call by the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) for the UGC Chairperson Kshanika Hrimburegama to step down, Ceylon Today reported Prof. Rajiva Wijesinghe, the new Minister of State for Higher Education, as being in a forgiving mood towards “Vice Chancellors and University Grants Commission (UGC) officials who openly campaigned for former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.”

RajivaExplaining, he added, “I am personally against witch hunts. While we must take stern action against the corrupt and try to get back the plundered money we should not be vindictive against the weak-minded.” Elaborating further he added , “As the President said, if we try to take action against all those who gave in to pressures, we will have no time to do other work. The sad behaviour of many State officials we witnessed recently is nothing new.”

I am aghast. Impunity was one of the main platforms of this new government which we all rooted for. Prof. Wijesinghe may look to his Anglican roots for justification for forgiving an offender seven times seventy in the words of Jesus Christ. But that is God giving absolutions. And this is very different. When God forgives he is not hurting anyone and is forgiving only those repenting and having a change of heart. Here however, it is telling new officials that there will always be forgiveness without any change of heart; that no restitution is required. Worse, this kind of forgiveness that Prof. Wijesinghe wants hurts ordinary people. Let me explain.

In the case of the UGC officials and the VCs, will this generous forgiveness not lead to loss of restitution for the many who have been cheated and worked for this government, hoping to earn justice?

For example, the Jaffna University Science Teachers’ Association has documented several cases of abuse of power by Prof. Vasanthi Arasaratnam, the Jaffna VC. To recruit favorites, ordinances have been violated to neglect first class graduate applicants for teaching positions saying they lack knowledge. This the Council did despite the fact that the same Department Head on the Selection Committee had earlier examined the candidate before awarding a first class degree. The VC signed negative reports on candidates whom she just did not meet.

Professor S.R.H. Hoole, the only person with a higher doctorate of service age from Sri Lanka, was found to be unqualified in teaching, research and national service – although with his 1000+ citations in Google Scholar he earns 500 points for research on one item alone whereas in all items together the relevant Circular 916 asks only for 115 points. The UGC Chairperson when queried by The Island on these matters promised an inquiry but when the facts were put to her she did nothing (Dasun Edirishinghe, “Jaffna University science teachers complain of foul play in recruitment: UGC Chairperson promises probe.”. Are the VC and Council (including internal members) who unanimously approved these egregious appointments and non-appointments to continue? From where will these people get justice if the same VC continues?

If UGC Chairperson, VCs and Councils abuse their authority like this to keep away the best teachers from our children, what is the effect? There will be no probe. There will be no justice for those denied well-earned appointments. There will be no sound teaching for our children as the second best teach them. The poor and the ordinary who voted for the new government and have no strings to pull will continue to be denied the right to rise through dint of hard work and thereby become professors. The uneducated riff-raff ministers who plundered us will be punished. But the scoundrels with PhDs will have forgiveness from our new government?

Prof. Wijesinghe wants to focus on financial plunder. Indeed the salaries being drawn by these undeserving appointees from the state is plunder. When the ineligible Dr. Priyantha Premakumara went on a conference at state expense, that is also fraud. When a student is admitted bypassing normal admissions norms on the mere request of a presidential son and has money spent on his or her education, that too is plunder of state coffers.

Worse, when university teachers are scared into signing papers of support for the president and ordinary folk vote for the president because they think that the academics who signed those papers are honest, that is plunder of our ballot.

It all finally comes down to plunder. The worst plunder is by those with PhDs who have a higher responsibility – responsibility to be honest and to be good role models to our children.

We plugged for this government based on its promises. If we are cheated now because the UGC Chairperson and many VCs are still connected to the new regime through their class connections and social networks and have earned “forgiveness”, even the salaries drawn by our ministers would be plunder because they lied to us to form this government.

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Latest comments

  • 7

    Please do hop expect much from Rajiva.

    Anyways, hopefully he is not getting too comfortable in his seat. Its only for 100 days I was promised.

  • 6

    Yes, Rajiva has been on both sides and decisions of this nature may be way beyond him.

    No excuse, I agree but we may need to be a little more patient and wait until the 100 days are over.

    Meanwhile giving them hell in the workplace within legal limits, should be indulged in !

  • 7

    So many excellent academics in the university system who are excellent teachers cum researchers today in developed countries have been falsely marked low by their promotion committees or appointment committees in Sri Lanka, even with the UGC representative present. In such cases even the external academic is chosen by the university to help with the victimization. Promotion committees are scared of dedicated researchers and true scholars it would appear.

    Hopefully the Freedom of Information Bill that is to come will allow us to see the marks given by these unscrupulous academics for academic promotions and appointments and allow for internal comparisons. This would expose the deeply entrenched cheating by the Heads of Depts, academics and endorsed by the UGC.

    Yet if the New Minister is in a forgiving mood, helping the wicked perpetrators to bury their sins and is not interested in doing justice to the victimized who are daily so belittled and bullied by them, what difference would it make if he crossed over or not? He sounds just like Madam Hirimburegama and her cronies. Why talk of his Anglican roots then or that he is the nephew of the great man, Bishop Wickremasinghe? It would be to add insult to injury.

  • 10

    We all agree there should not be any witch hunt but this does not mean you let go all the , mis management, corruption at higher levels. This is so especially when these acts are committed
    By educated people. Everyone will agree when a ordinary man steeels a few coconuts from the neighbour’ s tree he is arrested and produced before a magistrate and sentenced to jail. If this is the law of the land which we all accept, this law must be exercised more severely on thpeople at the higher helm of power or position.

  • 6

    Well,the sounds that are ringing from the newly elected are not very much different from those of the past.
    At the end of the day it a bunch of crooks that are ruling and here it looks like “you kiss my ass I kiss your ass”.
    Many of the present people do not have a clean sheet and you cannot erase the spots on a Leopard how much you wash him.
    The word “witch hunt” is been abused here although all that is been asked by the citizens is to bring everyone to Justice in a legal way.
    And like DCN said if the poor man stole he would have been sent to Alcatraz by now. Double moral.

  • 2

    In the Jaffna university especially, a politician now in the doghouse,
    directly intervened in selection of academic/administrative appointments.
    These should be reviewed if not cancelled, by the minister taking suitable action, and a new process of selection commenced.
    VCs have been appointed by the former president, and, not the most suitable, but the most politically subservient were appointed.
    The chair of UGC and her husband are those who got their positions thus, though more suitable candidates were available.
    These should be reviewed.
    Else, the university community will have no faith in the minister – and this is very necessary for him to function effectively.
    Rajeeva was never in the administration of any university, and should learn and make right decisions.

  • 2

    At the University of Colombo Hirimburegama’s are acting as if it is their own coffee shop. Deans are appointed at their whims and fancies. Acting institutional heads are appointed till they get their favorite person. Promotions and appointments are made on the basis of personal favor.

    Abusing their power for election campaign may be pardonable if Professor Wijesinghe thinks that that is what academics should do or have the ‘intellectual freedom’ to do, but abuse of power obtained through the back door is unpardonable.

    University of Colombo was highly regarded for its integrity up to the time of Professor Shanika Hirimbregama took office as the VC. Even Professor GL was a VC in UOC and maintained commendable integrity and impartiality despite his political inclinations and connections. No what has happened the UOC has gone to dogs. Professor Wijesinghe do you still want to keep these people?

  • 2

    Prof Wijesinghe is way out of touch.
    Mrs Hirimburegama is a Rajapakse political sucker who proved herself to be gossip dependent,incompetent and dishonest. Take for example the Chair in Paediatrics in Colombo. Prof Harendra De Silva was denied his rightful appointment to Colombo for 6 years. He is just being appointed after a Court order to do so. Prof Harendra will retire shortly. All this was done to protect Prof Manouri Senanayake, a Hirimburegama friend and informant, the other applicant who is a staff member in Colombo. There are several other instances like this. Academic sins cannot be forgiven. These academics have sweated all their lives not to be robbed by third rate illiterates of the Hirimburegama types. She should have never been appointed in the first place. Now we are fighting to prevent her from continuing further.
    Professor Wijesinghe, you need to learn fast, act fast or get lost.

  • 1

    News – State Minister of Higher Education Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha said that he was not ready to remove anyone due to political reasons, but it would be done if anyone was found guilty of financial fraud.

    Rajiva’s argument is flawed.
    – We felt that we needed a change in the overall governance of the country – thats the reason we supported a change of govt
    – good governance does not only mean correcting financial corruption
    – if the govt is only after financial corruption, it is well known that the country’s budget was controlled by MR’s family, so it boils down to that the government is mainly after MR’s family which is exemplified by searching his house (which I am sure most Sri Lankans will not endorse which ever side they belong to) – this could be called a witch hunt
    – if the government wants to introduce good governance it has to address the existing issues as well
    – if interference with the university system was introduced by JRJ, financial fraud also was there for a longer time than that, so why bother
    – or is this all about a witch hunt on MR’s family and the talk about good governance a facade

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