Colombo Telegraph has been notified about a blatant violation of the Constitution of the Jaffna College Board. Article VI 5) of the Constitution approved on 10 October 2014 states unambiguously that the Staff Representative of the College should be a member of the staff: The staff of the College shall elect one registered alumnus of the College, who is a member of the staff and who is also a member of good standing of any Protestant Church as a member of the Board of Directors.
R. Muthuratnanandan was elected as Staff Representative to the Board in mid-2014 following A. Rajasingam’s resignation from that position earlier that year. Since Muthuratnanandan was a member of the Board when the Constitution was amended, one can assume he would have been aware of the amendment brought about in October 2014 that would make him ineligible to continue as Staff Representative. The Constitution does not state that the amendments would not affect the status of those who held membership in the Board at the time of the amendments. But not only did Muthuratnanandan continue as the Staff Representative to the Board till the end of his term but he also ran for the position for the second time in 2017 when his first term came to an end.
The alumni members we spoke to asked in anger on what basis Principal Rev. Dr. Solomon who chaired the meeting where Muthuratnanandan was elected as Staff Representative approved Muthuratnanandan’s candidacy given that the Principal, as a Board member who participated in amending the Constitution, should have known that there was no provision in the amended Constitution for a person who is not a member of the staff to run for that position. They also note that by not announcing to the staff the amendment made to the Constitution which enabled the members of the staff of the College to run for the post of Staff Representative, the Principal has effectively denied the teachers and non-academic staff of the College their constitutional right.
The alumni who contacted Colombo Telegraph said that since Muthuratnanandan was ineligible to serve as the Staff Representative post-amendment, all meetings of the Board of Directors that he has attended since October 2014 and all decisions that were taken at those meetings can be declared null and void legally.
The alumni who know Muthuratnanandan as a clean, honest and hardworking man in his career as Engineer during difficult times at the height of the war in the North are of the view that the more authoritarian members of the Board have taken advantage of his unassuming ways and exploited his modesty to achieve their narrow ambitions. Some even wonder if the Constitution was amended in secrecy by the Chairperson and the Vice Chairperson, who is a legal expert, without the knowledge of the other members of the Board including Mr. Muthuratnanandan. This line of argument is supported by the fact that two other members of the Board Dr. Chelvi Selliah, Retired Principal of Uduvil Girls’ College and Mrs. Suganthy Vairasinghe, Retired Teacher, Jaffna College, had refuted a claim made by some alumni at the Annual General Meeting of the Jaffna College Alumni Association (Colombo) held in 2016 that amendments were made to the Constitution (See our Report).
After repeated requests by the Alumni Representative to the Board Sugash Kanagaratnam, the present Constitution of the Board was finally released to him by the Principal in late 2017. The Constitution states that it was adopted on the 10th of October 2014. Mr. Kangaratnam handed in a copy of the Constitution that he had received from the Principal to the President of the Jaffna College Alumni Association at a meeting of the Executive Committee held in March 2018 in the presence of the Principal. Earlier in 2017, the Trustees of Jaffna College Funds notified in one of their communications (click here to read the letter) to the Chair of the Board that they had received from him a copy of the Constitution adopted on 10 October 2014:
Thank you for The CONSTITUTION of the Board of Directors of Jaffna College dated October 10, 2014. To better understand the evolution of changes, please provide a copy of The Constitution in effect in 2006 noting the changes compared with The Constitution currently in effect. These changes may be reflected with hand written notes in the margins. Alternatively, changes may be reflected in a so-called redlined version using Microsoft Word.
The Constitution received by Kanagaratnam and the Constitution received by the Trustees have October 10, 2014 as the date on which the Constitution was adopted. The message from the Trustees was copied to 19 others including the Chief Minister of the Northern Province and representatives of the various alumni associations.
Suppression of Letters Sent by the Administrators, Teachers and Alumni
A special meeting of the Jaffna College Board was held on the 27th of July 2018 in Colombo. Before the commencement of the meeting the alumni in Colombo protested outside the meeting venue demanding the resignation of the Chair and Vice Chair of the Board and the full implementation of the reforms proposed by the Trustees of Jaffna College Funds.
The latest letter sent by the Trustees of Jaffna College Funds where they announce that the funds to the College will be completely discontinued from January 2019 unless the Chairperson and Vice Chairperson step down from the Board, until a process to amend the Constitution in such a way that the Board can function as an independent entity is started was tabled.
Kanagaratnam, who represented the alumni, tried to table the statements issued by the Jaffna College Alumni Association (Parent Body) and Jaffna College Alumni Association (Colombo) (click here to view the Colombo Alumni statement) in support of the Trustees’ decision was prevented from doing so. In the meantime the administrators of the College and the Executive Committee of the Round Table had sent the Board via the Principal and the Staff Representative two separate letters requesting the Board to act according to the Trustees’ letter. When Kanagaratnam wanted to have copies of the letters, Muthuratnanandan had reportedly told him off saying that he would not release those letters to anyone because they would not be discussed at the meeting. Later on Muthuratnanandan had apparently said he could not table the letter(s) because the subject under discussion at the meeting was the Trustees’ letter. When Kanagratnam asked the Principal about the letter signed by the six administrators of the College including the Principal, the Principal had pretended as if he were not aware of any such letter. The alumni and a section of the staff have condemned the Board leadership’s decision to suppress their letters which contained views of important stakeholders on the Trustees’ letter and their recommendations to the Board. They note with dismay and anger that the Principal and Mr. Muthuratnanandan, instead of representing the employees and protecting the interests of the College, have connived with the Chairperson of the Board in suppressing their voice.
The Board decided to seek a clarification from the Trustees as to why the Chair and the Vice Chair of the Board should resign. Kangaratnam, who demanded the resignation of the Chair and the Vice Chair, wanted his dissent recorded in the communication sent to the Trustees. The Board agreed to do so. The next Board meeting has been scheduled for the 8th of September.
The serious violation of the Constitution of the Jaffna College Board, which has deprived the staff of the College of their right to elect one of them as their representative, and the manner in which the Staff Representative let down the employees of the College that he supposedly represented once again confirms the public opinion among the alumni, parents and the larger community that there is no room for accountability, transparency and democracy in the Board of Directors of Jaffna College led by Bishop Daniel Thiagarajah.