25 September, 2020

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Justice Marsoof’s Report On Ragging: Ten-Point Summary

Every intake of students to Sri Lankan State Universities and other Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) have in one way or another highlighted the breakdown of value system and discipline in our society through an increasingly phenomenal menace called “ragging”. The enactment in Sri Lanka of legislation entitled the Prohibition of Ragging and Other Forms of Violence in Educational Institutions Act No. 20 of 1998 has not succeeded in curtailing this phenomenon. 

Despite the enactment of legislation, during the last two decades we have seen many new entrant students dying or suffering serious injuries due to ragging. Many students have reportedly dropped out of these state universities and higher educational institutions, and many other eligible students have refrained from opting to study in these institutions due to ragging related abusive conduct. This has not only adversely affected the students and their families, but also deprived the state of valuable human potential that could have been harnessed for national development.

It is in these circumstances that on the instructions of the then Minister of Higher Education, Hon. Dr. Bandula Gunawardane, that a Committee was appointed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) under the chairmanship of Justice Dr. Saleem Marsoof PC to specifically address the issue of providing appropriate relief to students who have been deprived of their education due to ragging in State Universities and HEIs coming within the purview of the UGC during the academic year 2014/2015 onwards. This Committee was also required to propose a regulatory mechanism to prevent ragging to ensure that the affected students do not suffer the same fate when re-admitted to an academic institution. Due to the onset of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka, the initial time frame of 3 months from 31st January 2020 for the submission to the UGC of the Report of the Committee was extended by another 3 months. Accordingly, the Committee submitted its Report on Monday, 31st August 2020. 

The Committee consisted of Justice Dr. Saleem Marsoof PC (Chairman), Senior Professor Janitha A Liyanage (Secretary), Ven. Professor Magammana Paññananda Thero, Rev. Dr. Benet Shantha Fernando, Senior Professor Narada Warnasuriya, Dr. Chandra Embuldeniya and Mr. Prasantha Lal De Alwis PC. The Committee gathered information by interviewing students affected by ragging and ragging related violence in and after the academic year 2014/2015, and concluded that the primary factors that inhibited the implementation of anti-ragging measures contained in the Prohibition of Ragging Act of 1998 was the existence of a long standing and deep rooted ‘culture of ragging’ in the campuses of Sri Lankan State Universities and HEIs. 

The Committee has in the Foreword to the Report included a ten-point summary of the conclusions and detailed regulatory measures that should be taken to curtail ragging in state universities and institutions of higher learning, which read as follows:- 

1) Ragging is a manifestation of prevailing social conditions and issues that fall outside the scope of this Committee’s terms of reference;

2) The primary responsibility for curbing ragging in universities and other higher educational institutions coming within the purview of the UGC vest exclusively in these universities and institutions;  

3) The UGC as well as the academic institutions themselves should develop policies and procedures for the elimination of ragging and ensure due compliance;

4) Security and discipline should be strengthened in all state universities and higher educational institutions and the heads of these institutions should create incentives for due compliance and disincentives for failure to comply;

5) Greater co-ordination between police and academic institutions should be established on a permanent basis;

6) It is necessary to create wide public awareness of the disruptive consequences of ragging, and the UGC, state universities and other institutions should take steps to develop such awareness and set in place anti-ragging measures; 

7) For discouraging ragging it may be necessary to be proactive than reactive, and academic institutions should put in place programmes that enhance awareness of human values and potentials, human rights, personality development, vocational guidance etc that can help in redressing the underlying causes of ragging;

8) Relevant institutions should review the management and regulation of hostels and canteens, the hotbeds of ragging; 

9) Counselling and other guidance systems should be put in place; and

10) As an essential part of compliance and due diligence, periodic training programmes for all university and institutional staff on ragging must be conducted regularly.

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Latest comments

  • 36
    1

    The ten points could be condensed into one point – We are passing the buck. Ragging must be treated as a criminal offence and severely punished.

    • 20
      0

      Stanley,
      Very true.
      The necessary law has been already there for two deades. Thus failure to implement it in any university reflects badly on the entire university community.

      • 8
        0

        SJ@
        U may know lot more about inside info as to why lanken govt s failed to take harder action s against brutal raggers? I was then thrown to Sarasawiuyana drain, hurting me that much.
        Greetings from Hamburg/Germany for the current week😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎

        • 0
          0

          This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

          For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

        • 2
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          LM
          Sorry, not about why governments do or do not do anything.

    • 3
      0

      Ragging was gentlemanly in the good old days but today it has sadistic tendencies. As it is difficult to control the activities it will be prudent to stop it.

    • 3
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      Stanley

      “We are passing the buck. Ragging must be treated as a criminal offence and severely punished.”

      So are politicians, functionaries, armed forces robbing the state, committing human rights violations, war crimes, …………..and severely punished.

  • 17
    0

    Ragging was a part of the UK’s elite public (private) school culture in the past. At that time, a public school education was necessary for a successful career in the military, as well as, in the civil service, & even in the private sector at senior level. The perception was that ragging moulded & instilled the tough culture necessary in leadership. Since then, leadership has been defined differently & ragging is banned in all educational establishments in UK.

    The university ragging in SL has a sadistic streak & the perpetrators have either a chip on their shoulder or bear a grudge against society, or both, & the same people go on to become high ranking officers, mainly, in the public sector. Therefore, the corruption, inefficiency & lethargy in govt. institutions is no wonder . The self serving members of the GMOA is a good example.

    I was not intelligent enough to be selected to a SL university but was fortunate to be admitted to 2 universities in UK for my graduate & post graduate studies. Despite the stress of completing assignments on time & countless hours spent in the library, university life is considered to be the best time in life.

    • 14
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      Well said Raj. SL politicians do not have the will to end ragging. They ask the question that is all-important to them “What’s in it for us?” and get no answer, so they do nothing.

      • 4
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        What is needed is the will, which we have never seen for decades. It is will that is power. In 1989 – ’90 President Premadasa had the power and Minister Ranjan Wijeratne had the will to make the universities function in the worst of times. In earlier times the personality of Sir Ivor Jennings counted for much.

        Politicians need not have any role in the management of a university. The administrators and the academic staff have to take it upon themselves to shoulder that responsibility. The Vice-Chancellors lend their aura for the government and the greats of academe to decide and the student community to acquiesce in the decisions.

      • 7
        1

        Stanley

        What can you expect from politicians when as many as 94 of the 225 Parliamentarians – over 40% – haven’t passed even the GCE (O/L)?

        • 4
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          Muhandiram, I don’t think passing the GCE is a good measure of honesty or competence but yes there should be a minimum standard of education for an MP. And he shouldn’t be waiting trial for alleged crimes.

          • 3
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            Stanley
            I doubt if there is a requirement in most countries that a parliamentary candidate should have a minimum educational standard.
            Such demand will be anti-democratic in spirit.
            But to ensure that an MP upholds healthy social attitudes (like being not guilty of anti-social crimes) is important.
            *
            However, in Thailand, to be eligible to be a minister an individual must meet the following qualifications:
            Thai national by birth.
            Older than 35 years of age.
            Graduated with no less than a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.
            (I doubt there being any for an MP besides a minimum of 5 years in a school in the province concerned.)
            *
            A rich young Thai friend of mine did a PhD in Engineering because his ambition was to become the Minister of Education.
            He might have made it under the system, but for changes that occurred in this century.
            *
            The level of education of the MPs is an indication of the attitudes that prevail in society.
            I do not think that a parliament packed with PhDs will be better performing than one dominated by MPs with upper school education.

        • 1
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          Stanley

          Sorry. I should have mentioned that my comment was regarding your observation:

          “SL politicians do not have the will to end ragging.”

          How can guys who haven’t even passed the GCE (O/L) have any clue about problems in the Universities including Ragging?

      • 3
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        Stanley

        ” SL politicians do not have the will to end ragging.”

        Not just ragging they do not want to resolve anything.
        They thrive on chaos, conflict, war riots, racism, patriotism, ….. and the saddest part is that you elect them to benefit from all the above.

        By the way Gota is too happy banning imports of everything left right and centre, soon will end up like the late weeping widow. During her time as the prime minister in the early 1970s I am told she recruited Pali graduates to Economic Planning Ministry. If Gota wants more support he could easily recruit Pali graduates from 60,000 strong saffron brigades or from the unemployable 400,000.

        Next time around when UNP gets 5/6 majority don’t blame the people.

        • 3
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          I would agree that they thrive on chaos etc but I do not elect them. I have never yet voted in an SL election. Make of that what you will.
          .
          Yes I agree Governments cannot create sustainable jobs, only industry in a liberal economy can do that.
          .
          I think you have been blaming the Sinhala people for electing useless Governments all along. You are probably right, they did have good alternatives in some smaller parties but they don’t see the bigger picture. Perhaps it suits the rulers to keep them poor and hungry.

          • 1
            0

            Yes, many of this country’s problems arise because voters are too lazy to study what smaller parties are offering.
            .
            To me it sounds as though your never voting hasn’t been deliberate.
            .
            At recent elections, with so many groups contesting, had you been negligent, then I’d blame you.

            • 2
              0

              You are right Sinhala_Man, it wasn’t deliberate.
              .
              I blamed the masses for not seeing the bigger picture but it has to be admitted that they are poor and hungry. What do they care about constitutional arrangements when their stomachs are empty? They will vote for whoever can fill their immediate need.

          • 2
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            Stanley

            “I think you have been blaming the Sinhala people for electing useless Governments all along. “

            I don’t blame Sinhala people, they are stupid as their fellow Tamil/Muslim brethren.
            It is our responsibility not only we blame the Sinhala/Buddhist crooks (a noisy minority), smart ass patriots, .. but educate them and put it right.

            Every progressive liberal initiative has been thwarted by the the Sinhala/Buddhist smartass patriots, resulted in 72 years of chaos, two armed uprisings in the south and a prolonged separatist war in the North East, rise of saffron power and despot who increasingly relies armed forces.

            Well how Gota going to satisfy increasing demands of saffron and olive brigades will be studied by political theorist for years to come.

            In the meantime alienated middle class is actively looking for exit.

            • 1
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              ‘Well how Gota going to satisfy increasing demands of saffron and olive brigades will be studied by political theorist for years to come.’
              .
              Vedda, PLEASE don’t give DJ any ideas.

      • 2
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        Stanley!
        How about ragging the new MPs elected to the parliament? Then they might realize.

        • 2
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          Kanapathy Varunan, what a brilliant idea!

    • 4
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      Seems my final paragraph has been omitted, probably due to exceeding the word limit. Therefore, let me convey the point I was raising.

      In my opinion, ragging in SL will continue as long as there are politically motivated parties exploiting vulnerable students, particularly, from deprived backgrounds. Together, with a ‘not fit for purpose’ higher education system & selection process, SL will be turning out graduates, some even unemployable, & yet others unaware of their debt to society which funded the education.

      Anything free is not usually appreciated & higher education is not free anymore in developed countries but all students are eligible for a student loan (or a ‘means tested’ outright grant for poorer families) which is adequate for modest living expenses during uni & is payable only after gainful employment. My daughter completed uni without financial assistance from the family & though she has over £45k student loan to pay off in the next couple of decades, is quite happy that she went through uni without being a burden to her family or the society.

      • 0
        0

        Dear RAJ-UK,
        .
        Quality-wise your comments are excellent but if you have exceeded word- limit, then you are at fault. It’s good to see you accepting blame in good spirits

        .
        In my case, a few of my recent comments seem to remain unapproved for a long time, and then totally disappear.
        .
        Disconcerting!

  • 6
    4

    [edited out] If a teacher censure a student’s dress is made to stand on knee, what the heck is this study in ragging? University professors wrote the exam for the Son Prince while he was sitting in the Air Conditioned room and playing Video games. The student complained about that is chased out of the country. University VC Vasanthi used her letter head to campaign for Royals. These institutions are only there to train rapist army and teach Kleptocracy. Kanangra and Siri Ma O destroyed the country’s education by nationalizing it into Sinhala Chauvinism. After one visit to Peradeniya, Yew Kwan Lee created world class universities in Singapore. But Siri Ma O took money from USSR, China, Cuba, and North Korea and created JVP so young boys girls went to jungles for camping.
    The new dress code in Wild Life Sanctuary is every one wear Batik. When this government time ends, everyone will be wearing W. Dahanayake’ s Amude and go to work by bull-o-cart .
    Tamils has to go alone to bring back them the British’s time Education.

  • 16
    1

    This commission has only said things that everybody knows. It is a waste of public money to have such sittings only to produce something so mediocre.

    The only way to stop this blatant criminality is to deny bail for anyone accused of such a crime and if convicted a 10 year jail sentence with no remissions and a life time ban on entering any institution of higher education ( even after serving the mandatory 10 year jail term) We don’t want such criminals in society.

  • 4
    2

    How much of “Public Funds” spent to tell us those “10 Points” and didn’t all of us know those already? Yet another “COMEDY”. The picture says all that. “deepthi silva”: A very good proposal. Can we have that apply to those getting voted to the Legislature? Isn’t it better to start from the “TOP” and roll down to the bottom? You say: “We don’t want such criminals in society”. What about having such people in “TOP” bureaucratic positions even in the “Presidential Secretariat”? I believe that “SOCIETY” you referred to is unique and heavenly.

  • 7
    0

    As mentioned, police posts with intelligence officers must be established in every university. They need to take pro-active steps to arrest those who indulge in ragging and suspend them until the end of the legal action taken against them.

  • 5
    0

    This is not the first time that this topic has been taken up on CT. Will this be the last time … ? No.
    .
    I have kept my silence for a long time. I broke it a couple of months ago. I gave a solution.
    .
    Ragging is done by Seniors. Not every senior looks forward to ragging the freshers. What is that that separates these seniors. The remedy must be built on the answer to that.
    .
    The well to do students – who used to participate in ragging, in the olden days, no more get involved. They do not like the way things have turned into. Nowadays, Ragging is a form of revenge against a section of the society.
    .
    Take the hint from there.

  • 1
    0

    Have you casually pass through No.5 of the recommendations? This, to me, is a very dangerous move suggested. The “Side Effects” of this suggestion are going to be very disruptive and should not be allowed into the Higher Seat of Learning. One need not be a “Rocket Scientist” to fathom the”|EFFECTS” of our “Police Involvemetnts” even in simple matters of policing ordinary civil conflicts in the society. Just imagine, when “Close Association” with “Police” is established in conflict resolutions in the Institution of Higher Learning? In my opinion, this must not have been stated in the recommendations.

  • 1
    0

    I agree with Deepthi that this is a waste of money and time. NOthing mentioned about the fact that ragging is a highly organised activity of the Peratugamis who should be wiped out from the surface of this earth. If you send some of these organisers such as student union presidents home then it will stop.

    In a classic mishandling of a ragging case, several university students of Peradeniya caught red handed while ragging in a safehouse at Hindagala were released on bail and after five years the attorney general is sitting on the case. It is not only the Police who are impotent but also A.G.’s office. Part of the reason is the cowardice of university academics who are dead scared of students. In the above case it was the Dean of the Agriculture faculty who wanted these students to rejoin the course and a stupid appeals committee too took the side of the students. Where are the laws of this country? The antiragging acts says ragging is a non-bailable offence and why the judges release them is the big question. Vice Chancellors also take the path of least resistance and take the attitude “I see nothing, I hear nothing, I am OK”.
    What a rotten state of affairs. Ragging can never be stopped if the authorities take this sort of attitude.

    • 1
      0

      Thanks, appuhamy, for giving a specific instance. When a case has been proved, action should certainly have been taken.
      .
      We have to be consistent in this. I told the honest Peradeniya Vice-Chancellor of 1984, Professor Malcolm Fernando, exactly this when leading a delegation of Undergrads (I was rather a superannuated one) about the lack of action on the Lanerolle report. The line I took may be clear to you from my comments here:
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/university-of-peradeniya-may-1983-when-majesty-stoops-to-folly/
      .
      What has been said many times, above, is that action is rarely taken against proven miscreants. Prof. Malcolm could hardly believe that a student (in the presence of others) should be calling for punishment.
      .
      Each case has to be taken up – not always possible. The problem is that after all the hard work has been done, it all fizzles out.
      .
      Stringent punishments were recommended for this guy, Thulsi Wickremasinhe, who got only a pass degree, but instead, he was “looked after” by his UNP political masters.
      .
      https://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=1112482
      .
      I can go on like this – but now is too late for those cases. We’ve got to be alert for what’s going on now.

  • 4
    0

    When university education was launched in Sri Lanka, it was based on the model of British universities. Along came the practice of ragging, a sort of initiation ritual for new students. Over there, known as hazing, it did involve the humiliation and degrading of freshers, but it didn’t get too physical and lasted only for a few weeks at the beginning of a new academic year. But when it was transplanted here, it took a deadly turn because our society was very different – extremely hierarchical and oppressive. Sharp differences in social status, class, and life-style, and the huge urban-rural divide made ragging much more cruel and damaging in Sri Lanka. Further, growing up in a tradition-bound culture that was sexually repressive meant the students had not developed healthy ways of dealing with their sexuality when they entered the university. But they now found themselves in a situation where they were completely free to do whatever they wanted, and a helpless and panic-stricken batch of freshers were available for brutal exploitation in the name of ragging. Even worse, here the new students have to suffer through their entire first year. The situation at present is even much more dire with the intrusion of politics, drugs, pornography, and the social media. The concept of personal boundaries is something alien to these sadistic raggers.

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