In an arbitrary move, Higher Education Minister Lakshman Kiriella dissolved the three member University Services Appeals Board (USAB), a move which has denied justice across universities and also violated the Universities Act, which stipulates that the USAB is compulsory.
In March, Colombo Telegraph reported that the Chairman of the USAB, Nigel Hatch, PC, was asked to resign by Minister Lakshman Kiriella. However, at the time, it was not known if the other two members K.P.M. Speldewinde (a retired SLAS Officer) and D. Kalansooriya (formerly Chairman of the Ceramics Corporation) had also been asked to resign.
Colombo Telegraph can now confirm that the entire three-person board was dissolved on 1 March 2016 by the appointing authority under the Universities Act, Minister of Higher Education Mr. Lakshman Kiriella.
Meanwhile, the new building rented out for the USAB down Ananda Rajakaruna Mawatha, in Colombo continues to go to waste as no work is carried out with the staff remaining idle after the Minister dissolved the Board.
The USAB was established by the Universities Act as a quick, cheap and easy means to bring justice for university personnel denied justice through appointments made and not made. Following the dissolving of the Board, several academic cases have piled up at the USAB with the academics not even being told if their petitions have been received. The University Grants Commission claims helplessness saying only the Minister can appoint a new board.
As to the dissolved board which was hailed at the time of its recent appointment as bringing together legal, administrative and corporate sector experience, an academic said, “Who is the clean and fair administrator who will want to serve on these august bodies if they can be thrown out so quickly after being given a five-year term? The Minister wants only suckers-up to serve the government.”
It is almost three months since universities were given a carte blanche to make or deny any appointment in the confidence that they will not be challenged because of the higher costs of using the courts. Even the Universities Act is being violated by not having a USAB. An academic who waited for the USAB and lost his 30-day window to go to the Supreme Court as a result said, “I worked for this government to come to power and to bring law and order. Sadly, the government is not following the law. The right to challenge bad decisions by Vice Chancellors given to us by the Universities Act is being denied to us. The minister is going for iron-fisted rule with no option to challenge unlawful acts by Vice Chancellors.”