Professor Rajiva Wijesingha says the Federation of University Teachers Association (FUTA) must accept that it has engaged in politicization when considering the manner in which they dealt with their call for the resignation of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairman.
Responding to the statement issued by FUTA over the misconceptions surrounding the resignation of UGC Chairman Prof. Kshanika Hirimburegama, Prof. Wijesingha has pointed out that going over his head as the State Minister for Higher Education as well as over the head of the Cabinet Minister for Higher Education and appealing directly to the Prime Minister is engaging in politicization.
“I have never commented on FUTA’s call for her resignation. It’s a perfectly legitimate exercise . . .,” Prof. Wijesingha has said in his statement adding, “I am deeply sorry that FUTA has turned this controversy into an effort to attack me personally. . . My quarrel is with the process followed by the authorities not with what FUTA requested.”
We publish below his statement in full:
Response to FUTA Statement
I am deeply sorry that the Federation of University Teachers, in an otherwise very sensible statement regarding the current controversy over the Chairperson of the University Grants Commission, has misrepresented my position in the matter.
It has claimed that ‘the misrepresentation of FUTA’s call for her resignation, as a form of political victimization by the State Minister of Higher Education is either deliberately mischievous or astoundingly naïve’. I have never commented on FUTA’s call for her resignation, which is a perfectly legitimate exercise. It is FUTA’s duty to bring possible abuses to the notice of the authorities, and it is the duty of the authorities to inquire into allegations, which is a measure FUTA says it would welcome.
I am deeply sorry that FUTA has turned this controversy into an effort to attack me personally, because I believe strongly in many of their ideals, and was delighted by the statement concerning the manner in which official bodies relating to the university sector should be established. At a very lively discussion at the Senate room in Peradeniya, in which many academics participated despite FUTA calling, because of my presence, for a boycott of an event to celebrate Lakshman Kadirgamar, it transpired that I had already included much of what they suggested in my initial draft for a new Universities Act.
My quarrel has been with the process followed by the authorities, not with what FUTA has requested. As FUTA now seems to grant, once allegations were made, they needed to be looked into. I have looked into all allegations brought to my notice appropriately, and it is astonishing that the Cabinet Minister should have, as he put it, demanded the resignation of the UGC, invoking the name of the President which was completely misplaced because of pressure brought by FUTA..
But FUTA must accept that sadly it has engaged in politicization by going over my head, and indeed over the head of the Cabinet Minister, by appealing direct to the Prime Minister. This is precisely the nonsense that happened earlier when, in response to complaints made to him, the former President gave instructions to others. I am happy to say the present President does not behave like that, and instead refers problems to those to whom he has delegated authority. The interference by the Prime Minister in matters where the President has delegated authority elsewhere is unacceptable, and must stop, in the interests of Good Governance. FUTA should support me in my efforts to ensure that proper systems are followed, and that their complaints are properly investigated rather than accepted without question. Those are practices we should all work together to stop, because giving in to pressure and perpetuating injustice in the supposed interests of justice is also abuse of power.