20 September, 2019

Blog

Kiriella Fiasco & Politicization Of University System

By Anushka Kahandagama

Anushka Kahandagama

Anushka Kahandagama

The recent incident sending a letter by Minister Lakshman Kiriella to the head of the Department, Political Science, University of Kelaniya has become a widely discussed issue in the media. The Minister’s act should be decried and no doubt it is an effort to politicize the University system. However, bold statements of ‘politicization’ would never help to transform the system positively. Wide and deep discussion should be brought out in order to understand the situation and de-politicize the university system.

Lakshman Kiriella, Minister of Higher Education and Highways, has not only sent a letter but also interpreted the article 19 of the University Act, ‘The Minister shall be responsible for the general direction of university education and the administration of this Act’[1] and justified his act. Former President of the Federation of University Teachers’ Association (FUTA) Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri stated that, interpreting article 19 of the university act, which reads as ‘The Minister shall be responsible for the general direction of university education and the administration of this Act, was completely hilarious. If you interpret it in the way the minister has interpreted it, then the minister is capable of anything. This justification is even more dangerous than the letter itself’[2]. As Dr. Dewasiri stated the interpretation of the University Act might be problematic and hilarious, but if the article is misinterpreted, case should be brought to the courts and the article needs to be clarified as the power to clarify the article does not rest on Dr. Dewasiri. In that way, the statement of Dr. Dewasiri can be interpreted as ‘politicizing’ the ‘interpretation’ of the University Act by using his ‘knowledge’ and position he holds as a lecturer at the University. A clear clarification of the article through a legal process would prevent future political interferences and politicization of the university system.

Minister Kiriella

Minister Kiriella

On the other hand, according to Mr. Kiriella’s media statement, ‘“it’s no secret that certain members belonging to the hierarchy of universities went to the extent of even taking part in television debates in their attempt to defeat Maithripala Sirisena. But, despite engaging in politics, steps were not taken to remove them from their positions. If they acted in accordance to their conscience, they should have ideally resigned from their positions themselves. Instead, they sought sympathy from the ‘yahapalana’ government, but engage in conspiring and also releasing letters sent by the minister to the media.”[3]

The statement of the minister suggests that, if a person has a different political opinion, that person should be removed from the position, and if that person have a sense of ‘shame’ he/she should resign from their positions. This statement is highly problematic as it suggests that people are not allowed to have a political opinion and express it openly and different opinion holders should be removed from the system.

However, there is another side to the problem other than accusing Mr. Kiriella as the first and only person who is responsible for politicizing University system. Discourse created around Lakshman Kiriella’s incident suggests that, the political interference can be done only by ‘politicians’ which is not true. Any form of inappropriate interference is ‘political interference’. The University system in Sri Lanka is highly politicized with sexual bribes, favourations and other forms of inappropriate acts. However, these inappropriate acts are known by everyone but are no action is being taken due to many reasons. There should be a proper mechanism to trace these forms of politicizations and reduce it as much as possible. As a body which acts against politicization of University system, FUTA should also take actions to solve inner political matters that prevail in the University system. Inappropriate political interference to any entity should be prevented and discouraged, but the word ‘politicization’ should be interpreted beyond already set limits.


[1] http://www.ugc.ac.lk/en/policy/universities-act/28.html

[2] https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/kiriella-justifies-political-interference-nirmal-says-justification-more-dangerous-than-letter/

[3] https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/kiriella-justifies-political-interference-nirmal-says-justification-more-dangerous-than-letter/

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 4
    0

    Anushka,

    Thank your lucky stars that your Minister is Kiriella. Kiriella is corrupt and thinks the same way as all politicians in Sri Lanka do – that they own the Ministry that they are given to manage.

    Imagine if Akila Viraj Kariyawasam should replace Kiriella – education in every form will be falling from the pan to the fire in this blessed Sinhala Buddhist country.

    So these are the best people we can appoint to be in charge of education higher or otherwise in our country. No wonder we are the wonder of Asia.

  • 1
    1

    There was a VC of a university who obtained promotions for herself and her husband, by offering honorary degrees to the head of state and his brother.
    What does the University Act say about this.

    The VC of the northern university has appointed political acolytes to the Council of the university.
    Deserving dons are denied their appointments by her – enough has been written about this in the CT – but the minister concerned neither sees, hears & nor speaks about this.

    There was even a VC who wanted female undergrads to undergo tests for “virginity”. No minister intervened.

    • 0
      0

      Justice, much of what is said is true.
      There has been a lot to the shame of our universities since the UGC took charge of running them.
      The UGC has always been filled with political appointees.
      Several of those who scream loud about the faults of our universities are people who reached high positions by sucking up to politicians.

      Re the University of Jaffna Council (there is no Northern University), may I know who the political acolytes of the VC who were appointed to the Council. All Council appointments are by the UGC where since 2015 VC Jaffna has little clout.

      Who decides on which dons deserve appointments and which do not? These are not totally personal decisions.
      There can be several sides to a dispute.
      There are codes of conduct that prevent a university from responding to every sensational allegation by interested parties.
      CT, with all due respect, is a free forum, but not quite the route to channel formal objections.

  • 3
    2

    FUTA must confine to its activities only to improve members welfare as a trade union. But now seems like they wants to put their hands to everything such as corruption, promoting political parties agendas, media business, putting troubles to minister and University Admins etc. Therefore FUTA members must resign from FUTA and start new Union which only deals with members and their families welfare.

    • 0
      0

      FUTA is not a union. It is a federation of university teachers’ unions.
      Challenging the university administration and questioning the minister on academic issues is correct.
      The FUTA in my view has of late gone slightly off track on some issues.
      If there is a political party agenda that is pushed by FUTA, member unions should take care of that.
      FUTA can be criticized from within. Calling for resignations will not work.

  • 3
    0

    Anushka Kahandagama

    RE: Kiriella Fiasco & Politicization Of University System

    “The recent incident sending a letter by Minister Lakshman Kiriella to the head of the Department, Political Science, University of Kelaniya has become a widely discussed issue in the media. The Minister’s act should be decried and no doubt it is an effort to politicize the University system.”

    “Lakshman Kiriella, Minister of Higher Education and Highways, has not only sent a letter but also interpreted the article 19 of the University Act,..”

    Expose, Expose, Expose. Put them to shame. Will it work? I have my doubts.

    Will he resign. I have my doubts too.

  • 0
    0

    ” The University system in Sri Lanka is highly politicized with sexual bribes, favourations and other forms of inappropriate acts.”

    True. This seems to work both ways. Some students are reported to offer even sexual bribes to lecturers to have their way.

  • 2
    3

    Anushka K, [Edited out]

  • 2
    3

    [Edited out]

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 300 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically shut off on articles after 10 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.