23 February, 2024


FUTA Struggle: Who “Ruins The Chances Of Reconciliation?”

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr Laksiri Fernando

This refers to The Island editorial yesterday (26 September 2012) on basically the same title without the question: Who? It may be in order to caution the FUTA (the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations) of any possible deviation or adventure, given the subtle machinations that the government and more particularly the Minister in charge are hatching with the hope of crushing the legitimate demands of the academics which are the concerns of the general public at large on education and higher education.

But it is entirely a different thing to blame FUTA, directly or indirectly, for unduly politicising the issues as the government has been all out to denigrate the academics as political pawns of local and foreign conspiracies from the beginning. The demand to increase public expenditure on education (both school and university) targeting 6 per cent of the GDP is not a political demand but a social one.

The other main demands, apart from a salary increase, are to stop political interference in universities (i.e. academic freedom and autonomy) and to consult academics on university reforms (i.e. academic responsibilities and participation). It would only be a political lunatic or a schemer who could characterise these demands as political.

Of course there have been on and off political overtones or expressions by individual academics or even by spokesmen of FUTA. Those were inevitable given the intransigence of the government. The dispute started not this year but last year. The history of trade union struggles show, particularly in the public sector, that they are naturally intermingled with political realities and forces. After all, their employer or the adversary is the Government. Those who aspire for pure trade union struggles are pathetic dreamers.

It is entirely correct for the FUTA to take the struggle to the streets and seek broadest possible support from the students, religious and civil society leaders and political parties in the opposition and also in the governing coalition, the UPFA. Even the international support is soon warranted. The issues are too important to leave them to be a mere ‘labour dispute.’ The past of the organizations such as the Inter University Student Union is not very relevant to the present context as far as they have clearly expressed that they abide by the democratic norms.

As the editorial has acknowledged, “Determined to win its demands, the FUTA is all out to crank up pressure on the government and its resilience is to be admired.”

This is the third month that the academics are not paid their salaries, a most inhuman measure that is carried out without any appropriate effort to negotiate and amicably resolve the issues at stake. I personally know the intellectual or rather the anti-intellectual calibre of the present Minister being a university teacher during his student days, and he appears to act as if to take revenge from those who have excelled in education and academic pursuits.

There is no need to hide the need for ‘regime change’ in Sri Lanka in connection with the FUTA struggle or outside. While The Island editorial has shied away from the issue or insinuates that talk about regime change can be counterproductive for the FUTA struggle (as sympathetic advice perhaps) the lead story on the same day and many editorials and news reports before confirm that there is no other way for the people of this country rather than changing the regime and changing many regimes (to mean the systems) within the constitutional, policy and institutional framework of the country.

‘Regime change’ in higher education is the central issue at present starting from the Minister down to the Vice Chancellors who are mere political appointees at present. I would request the FUTA to ask for the resignation or the removal of the Minister to begin with. This is not an ‘Arab Spring.’ It is a legitimate demand. He has failed as the Minister and failed terribly in addition to corruption and nepotism. No confidence motion in Parliament is in order.

There are those who have genuinely raised the issue that mere increase of expenditure is not sufficient. Yes. FUTA demands include educational reforms with full academic participation and that is the right thing to do. It also demands a halt to political interference and that is also a regime change to mean the change of systems. At this very moment the academics are marching towards Colombo and they should win their struggle.

If the government is serious about it’s declared ‘Chinthana’ or ‘Hubs,’ then it should allocate at least 2.5 per cent of the GDP for education in this forthcoming budget. This is the time of budget preparation. The necessary allocations can come by pruning the present exorbitant and unnecessary expenditure on External Affairs and Defence. That kind of gesture with other promises can settle the present dispute so painful for every one and particularly for the students and their parents.

The editorial has raised the ‘scarecrow’ that the government is strong. Yes, the government may be strong but not on this issue. No doubt that a total regime change is a long way ahead through democratic and peaceful means. But FUTA should win. Let me quote finally what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declared in its Preamble.

“Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”

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Latest comments

  • 0

    dr Laksiri says “…There is no need to hide the need for ‘regime change’ in Sri Lanka in connection with the FUTA struggle or outside. While The Island editorial has shied away from the issue or insinuates that talk about regime change can be counterproductive for the FUTA struggle (as sympathetic advice perhaps) the lead story on the same day and many editorials and news reports before confirm that there is no other way for the people of this country rather than changing the regime and changing many regimes (to mean the systems) within the constitutional, policy and institutional framework of the country….”
    Come on Laksiri … Do you think FUTA led by Ranjith Devasiri of history dept and Mank Dambre Amila had mandate to do a ‘regime change’?
    Establish a political party rather than hiding behind a small association to do the dirty work for the Oppostion …

    By the way, there are more than 5000 fee paying Srilanka students from SL in Australia alone according to a report … It is estimated that 300 million Australian dollars are spent by these students anually in Australia …
    As this money spent by srilankan parents of students for education, have they included them in the calculating education expenditure of the country?
    Education in many countries is done by the combination of private and public participation … Many think that the staff members of universities vehemently protest for private partnership in education while their children are being sent overseas for higher education …. Demanding money for PRIVATE education for their children while demanding more money for PUBLIC education shows the twisted mentality of the FUTA leadership and it’s members …

    • 0

      Then theres no difference between taking medicine from a state hospital or a channel practice?

    • 0

      There are tens of thousands of better qualified children back in Sri Lanka without access to higher education due to financial deprivation. Thus 5000 fee paying students in AU can’t justify privatization of education in Sri Lanka.

    • 0

      HEY WAMBOTTA [Bruno Umbato ]
      WE know who you are.
      don’t try to Shaw and teach us how to drink king coconuts.
      better you get your pay check from galle face secretariat and get another pot shot from malay street joint and vanish some where.

      IF the parents can afford to bear the expenditure to educate their kids, they will send them to universe.
      but 99 present of sri lankan parents canot do that,
      may be you have looted money from tax payers.
      not like e your uneducated crafty politicians sending their foolish, thuggish drug addicted sex-maniacs brats to foreign schools.

      Robbing money from taxpayers coffers and spend that on tamashas and depositing in foreign banks are not show the twisted, crooked mentality of you boorish and buffoon leadership of government and it’s back licking members and thugs.


  • 0

    The Ministry of Defense is once again getting the biggest chunk of money from the up coming budget to keep Gotabaya the white van goon and his corrupt brothers safe through militarization of Lanka, while they loot the public wealth, and the academic and students and everyone else is impoverished and starved to subsidize Rajapakse’s delusions of grandeur. The regime is also responsible for the killing of 4 university students and must be held ACCOUNTABLE.
    The whole “development paradigm and priorities” in Sri Lanka as reflected in the budget is upside down, and meant to benefit a few – the Rajapakse family and cronies at the expense of the rest of the population as the rupee crashes and tourism is the ONLY growth sector: Where as Defense budget should have been cut back by half since war ended in May 2009 and investment in human development, i.e. health, education and poverty reduction increased. FUTA be of good courage and keep up the good fight to ensure that this brutal dictatorship and the Rajapakse family eleminated from Lanka and sent for a war crimes trial..

  • 0

    You are correct.Militarisation is being bolstered by indoctrination of new university entrants by compulsory military training. This happens only in sri lanka – FUTA should object against this too.
    The military is being used to oppress and deny peoples’ basic freedoms – today, it will be in the north,
    – tomorrow it will be in the south too.
    This is necessary for this regime’s survival,& for the planned third & many more terms of this president.
    The dictatership is being slowly entrenched.

  • 0

    Rajapakse and his borthers the godayaas from Hambantota, today are swollen with will gotten wealth and super luxury living after looting public resources and MR lost his head. His ego needs to be pricked and he will burst like the bubble economy his corrupt cronies have created in Lanka today. FUTA has issued a challenge from Hyde Park, next time they will need to go to temple trees and do satyagraha there..
    Rajapakse supporters were at the T-20 cricket match where the BMWs and Audis were lined up and the rich were being entertained at the expense of the poor in Lanka even — as FUTA marched to Hyde Park.
    FUTA must seek to broaden its social base — reach out to university alumnai in Lanka and abroad who benefited from the education system, and get them to join the broader FUTA campaign for DEVELOPMENT POLICY change in Lanka if not outright regime change.

  • 0

    This government doesn’t need to build a free,educated and democratic society.Instead they expect a future in which they can keep power as far as they want. Dr Fernando’s analysis must be highly appreciated.To build a nation, nothing can be useful more than the education.Some figures who are in media violate ethics and distort the truth in order to get personal benefits from the rulers…..

  • 0

    Looks like Prof. Fernando has suddenly awaken from his sleep. He was an ardent supporter of Mahinda regime. Why this “Kolaweri”. May be he is aiming at the UGC Chairman post?

  • 0

    FUTA strike shows what a mind twisted lot of men and women are these university professors following Dewasiri blinded by easy money and the power make hundreds of university professors follow him with out questioning whether they are doing the right thing or no.

    They are blaming theRajapakse’s without realising th

  • 0

    to finish my post- These University Professors led by a “foolish man full of himself” do not realise that if not it had been for Rajapakses’ they would not have been able to strike , even though they dare call themselves giants, these sleeping giants never got up during terrorism to show their disagreement or thereafter to felicitate the Rajapakses for bringing back freedom and allow democracy to function. If there is no democracy in Sri Lanka the President Rajapakse would have got the army to disperse the the rowdy manifestation and bring order into universities and Sri Lanka.

    The Rajapakses made Sri Lanka free and democratic, and the University Dons are out to destroy that hard earned freedom for which thousands of soldiers gave their lives, while others remain handicapped. The dons should be ashed of receiving large sums of money as salaries which is detrimental to the economy of the country and as there are lot of poor people in the country who who need money to send their children to universities.


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