Nigel Hatch, Chairman of the University Services Appeals Board or the USAB, was asked by Minister Lakshman Kiriella to resign and he has done so.
The USAB as a specialized court was established under the Universities Act. It was meant to be a simple tribunal without elaborate rules where university academics could write a letter, speak for themselves and be heard. If they did not know the law, the chairman, a lawyer or retired judge, and two retired administrative service officers on the 3-person USAB would help them. There was little formality. This was the case in the old days.
In our universities where the concept of autonomy is used by Vice Chancellors to do anything illegal with total impunity, the USAB formed a healthy check and balance – only for a while though!
For, under Judge G.W. Edirisuriya who was USAB Chairman for 2 terms of 5 years each, the USAB lost its simplicity where an ordinary academic could navigate the system without lawyers. Letters would no longer do. They had to be “motions.”Objections from the universities spoke of “in limine,” and “ab initio.” It became an expensive long drawn out process where lawyers made money. Even young lawyers from the Attorney General’s trying to overawe academics with their Latin, misspoke, writing garbled phrases, thereby adding to the pandemonium. Judgements tended to side the university and Edirisuriya’s second term saw only under 200 cases being filed because there seemed no point in filing cases.
With the new government, a fresh panel was appointed. Nigel Hatch, a President’s Counsel, was the pick when the law college saw scandals involving Namal Rajapaksa and he filled in as Acting Principal.
“Hatch did a fine job clearing cases very quickly, some ten years old. However, he faced several administrative hurdles as the university system, claiming to run in English, really cannot. Stenographers at court could not take down notes correctly and Hatch would be seen angrily reprimanding the staff. Even the UGC’s filings were in garbled English. Yet, issues were resolved quickly by Hatch. Some of the Board’s decisions went against universities for a change and this had angered the authorities.” a source closed UGC chairman told Colombo Telegraph on the condition of anonymity.
Colombo Telegraph reliably learns that Minister Kiriella demanded Hatch’s resignation and Hatch complied. It is not clear whether the other two judges also have been fired or not. They are Mrs. K.P.M. Speldewinde (a retired SLAS Officer) and Mr. D. Kalansooriya (lately Chairman of the Ceramics Corporation).