3 August, 2021

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FUTA Slams Gota For Arbitrarily Rejecting Nominations For Open University VC

The Federation of University Teachers Association (FUTA) has slammed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for his arbitrary decision to reject nominations for the post of Vice Chancellor of the Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL).

In a letter to President Rajapaksa dated June 14, FUTA said the University Grants Commission had arbitrarily rejected the names of candidates recommended by the Open University of Sri Lanka for the VC post, which falls vacant on June 23, 2021.

Rajapaksa

FUTA said the President’s action sends the message that he will reject nominations for the post of VC until such time that a name acceptable to him is forwarded. “It will lead to the direct politicization of the VC selection process. Such an impression within the academic community will discourage many highly qualified and independent academics from applying for the top position in the university, leaving the door open for mediocre and politically partisan individuals to become the VC,” FUTA warned.

FUTA told President Rajapaksa that the selection of the candidates had taken place according to the procedure introduced by the current Government through a UGC circular in May 2020.

“Under this system, five candidates are selected at first by a five-member committee comprising two academics from within the university and three members nominated by the UGC. The circular requires this committee to allocate marks to the applicants according to a predefined set of criteria as specified in the aforementioned circular. Then within the same day, the council of the university re-allocates marks for the five candidates based on their qualifications, experience and a presentation they may make before the council, and select three names which are ranked according to the marks they receive,” the letter explained.

FUTA said that this list is then forwarded to the UGC which must forward the list to the President with its recommendation. As mentioned in clause no.34 (1) (a) of the Universities Act of 1978 it is the President’s duty to then appoint a suitable candidate from the three names thus sent considering the UGC’s recommendation,” FUTA told the President.

FUTA said the President had arbitrarily rejected the shortlist with no apparent reason, following this selection procedure which took six months. “As FUTA we believe such an arbitrary action creates an extremely negative precedent for the entire university system. This arbitrary rejection implies that you have no faith either in the VC selection system introduced by your own government or in the council of the university, which is the supreme governance body of the institution,” the letter to the President added.

See full letter from FUTA to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa: 

14th June 2021

His Excellency Gotabaya Rajapaksa

President

Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

Presidential Secretariat

Colombo 1

Your Excellency,

As the Federation of University Teachers Associations (FUTA), the body that represents all academic staff of the entire state university system in the country we write to express our extreme displeasure and strong opposition regarding the arbitrary rejection of the names of candidates recommended by the council of the Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL), for the post of Vice Chancellor (VC) of that University, which falls vacant on 23/06/2021.

We would like to bring to your attention that these candidates have been selected following a procedure introduced by your government through the University Grants Commission (UGC) Circular No 02/2020 of 4th May 2020. Under this system, five candidates are selected at first by a five-member committee comprising two academics from within the university and three members nominated by the UGC. The circular requires this committee to allocate marks to the applicants according to a predefined set of criteria as specified in the aforementioned circular. Then within the same day, the council of the university re-allocates marks for the five candidates based on their qualifications, experience and a presentation they may make before the council, and select three names which are ranked according to the marks they receive. This list is then forwarded to the UGC and the UGC is expected to forward this list to your excellency with its recommendation. As mentioned in clause no.34 (1) (a) of the Universities Act of 1978 it is the President’s duty to then appoint a suitable candidate from the three names thus sent considering the UGC’s recommendation.

We observe that this entire procedure, which took up to 06 months, was carried out properly in this instance, but your office has arbitrarily rejected the shortlist with no apparent reason. As FUTA we believe such an arbitrary action creates an extremely negative precedent for the entire university system. This arbitrary rejection implies that you have no faith either in the VC selection system introduced by your own government or in the council of the university, which is the supreme governance body of the institution. This message sent out by this action is that the President will reject nominations for the post of VC until such time that a name acceptable to him is forwarded and it will lead to the direct politicization of the VC selection process. Such an impression within the academic community will discourage many highly qualified and independent academics from applying for the top position in the university, leaving the door open for mediocre and politically partisan individuals to become the VC.

In the current period of crisis where the Coronavirus pandemic has caused multiple negative impacts on Sri Lanka’s economy and society, we need independent and qualified academics to lead our university system. Upending an established procedure and creating confusion within the academic community is not the kind of action that we as FUTA expect from an enlightened political leadership. We also believe that the arbitrary rejection of the nominations undermines the core principles of autonomy and democratic governance enshrined within the Universities Act of 1978 and creates an impression of highly politicized executive overreach in university governance. Given the above context, FUTA demands that the re-advertisement process for the post of VC of the OUSL be immediately halted and that a suitable candidate from the already recommended list be appointed as soon as possible. Your excellency’s failure to act responsibly and transparently at this juncture can lead to the destabilization of the entire university system of the country.

Rohan Laksiri

General Secretary – Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA).

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Latest comments

  • 14
    3

    If true this is truly shocking!
    It is a nadir unexpected even from Gothabaya, the Double-Paka Regime and the Cabal of Henchmen who surround the President.
    Prof A. K. David
    Retired Dean of Engineering
    HK Polytech University
    Former Fellow IEEE and IEE

    • 3
      3

      Prof KD,
      “Former Fellow, IEEE”
      Ah, so you haven’t been paying the annual toll?

      • 9
        0

        Dear OC
        Please accept Prof K Ds candour. He has given up that field. Some others would have used these qualifications without disclosure of status – like some erstwhile “Professors”.

        • 3
          0

          MV,
          I do admire his honesty. Much unlike some honorary “Professors”

          • 3
            0

            And the sudden influx of “Dr”s like Bandula G and Keheliya R.
            May be two week courses.

      • 2
        0

        OC,
        .
        I am known to IEEE fellows – within my familiy circles.

      • 0
        0

        OC
        Wise man: it is very little value for money after retirement.

        • 0
          0

          Dear SJ
          Yes little value monetary-wise but some love that sense of achievement to continue after retirement. After all how many still say “Former …”. Helps keep spirits up of retirees.
          In fact it is said that Emeritus is conferred by some institutions for : “we gather glory from your reflected glory.”

    • 4
      0

      Welcome FUTA, thank for your wake up from long slumber. If not today when ?

      Amazonian sloth behaviour of senior professionals/able men can let GOTA-MARA to go beyond the levels of their JUNTA Regime number 01 by 2015.
      .
      We would love powerful HISTORIANS,, POLITICAL ANALYSTS and other experts in various other society building areas to come back and take part proactively in public discussions before everything becomes beyond cure. Internal and external pressures should work on them to the manner, Pakistan Premier was able to tame them regarding ” forced cremations of muslim COVID deaths”:, showing them, that their MEDAMULANA mlechcha theories would not be a match for our motherland filled at least with some 30% of people with some sanity.

    • 7
      0

      Nothing to be shocked.
      ……………………………………………………….
      Dear FUTA
      Surprised to hear………….” leaving the door open for mediocre” ………
      But it was your own kind and past alumni, who backed the “mediocre” persons with an infamous group called Viyathmaga and yet continues to do so.
      …… President had arbitrarily rejected the shortlist with no apparent reason………….
      But then the wretched Viyathmaga who wanted to give that power to him by 20A.
      How many in FUTA are also in Viyathmaga?
      Perhaps they will wake up when “chickens come home to roost”.

  • 10
    1

    Hi Rohan L
    It is solved very easily and very fast.
    Find a Current or Ex – Armed Forces person with academic qualification to befit the situation/vacancy.
    Jayanath C is one such personality. There are many others – scan KDA past and present academics.
    Personally do not think Jayanath C is looking forward to such office – communicating to foreigners he may consider much easier than to local counterparts! – So in my view he is not in the sight of this periscope view.
    When you find such a person, send it up, problem resolved and then the decision would be made.
    Just like under graduate entrants were sent to Army camps for initiation. This events in the campus!
    Little bit of mind reading of people with collapsed and self-centered mindset would immensely help the process.
    “Simple as SIMON”, as they would say, of yore, in good Old Blighty!
    No pun intended to our Simon of this forum, with great respect.

    • 4
      0

      I believe there are some highly qualified sergeants and lieutenants among the Ranaviruwos. If Nande can’t find a suitable candidate from the 15000 Generals, he should promote one of the highly qualified sergeants or lieutenants who are currently wasting time distributing vegetables.

  • 4
    0

    Perhaps the President is wrong and FUTA is right.
    However we cannot jump in and pontificate without knowing who the candidates rejected are.

    I remember the time Peradeniya wanted the incumbent VC reappointed. They declared strong applicants unqualified and got two Council members added to his name who were not of any particularly high quality while the VC himself had started his own jourrnal, accepted his own papers. In fact he was a crook and later had his Provident Fund deducted for the thievery but in our system of patronage went on to become VC of a university outside the UGC system.
    At the time the UGC had a duty to reject all three names but FUTA kept quiet. The Ombudsman ruled that the appointment was wrong but he had no power to rule against the President. So instead he asked for a new Circular from the UGC to ensure this did not happen again.

    Is it FUTA’s position and Kumar David’s position that the President had no choice but to appoint one of three? Nonsense. That freedom is a required safeguard against favoritism. The law only says he must appoint one of the three. That is, he cannot bring in a 4th person and appoint that person. The law does no say he has to appoint one of the persons put to him.

    • 4
      0

      Dear JM
      While agreeing with much you have said, I find that : “That freedom is a required safeguard against favoritism”, should mean that only one person alone, should not be the final arbiter. Further it is natural justice that in case of dispute, there should be recourse to another tribunal to judge the case independently.
      Unfortunately, here the Prez alone decides with no recourse to an appeal. That leaves room for favouritism.
      So initially, the system itself needs change for transparency and better outcome. FUTA should strive for that.

    • 0
      0

      Is this surprising?
      Presidents have used their discretion to appoint people low on the list of preference of a University Council for dubious reasons.

  • 9
    0

    Anyone without a proper educational background should not be allowed to decide on the functioning or administration of an educational institution.
    Then again this is Sri Lanka where moonshine makers and lumber thieves become ministers.

  • 2
    0

    eeakdavi reckons that Gotabaya is above Nadir. With the 20thA he has reached Zenith. So eeakdavi is spot on!

  • 0
    0

    Do not worry. Nsndasena will find a murderer and rapist like Shavendra to lead open university

    • 0
      0

      President should have set a good example to the UGC and the nation, by not breaking the law. Where in the constitution does it say that he can break existing laws. For new laws, yes.

  • 0
    0

    What is the point? Every university is riddled with corruption and violence. https://island.lk/everyday-violence-and-exclusion-at-university/

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