25 April, 2019

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Law Violated At The University Of Colombo: A Response

Devaka Weerakoon - Colombo Telegraph

By Devaka Weerakoon

Devaka Weerakoon - Colombo Telegraph

Prof. Devaka Weerakoon

I have read with great interest the opinion expressed by Aahithyan Ratnam in the Colombo Telegraph of January 30th, regarding the meeting of the Senate of the University of Colombo held on January 28th. Given the highly prejudiced and misleading nature of this article, I would like to make the following response, in order to set the record straight.

Mr. Ratnam accuses the members of the Senate of failing to uphold the “principles for which we fight” and of voting “to remove the VC,” characterising these actions as “mob rule” and accusing the Senate of taking the law into its own hands. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Although it had been incorrectly reported in the press that the Senate had voted to remove the Vice-Chancellor, in fact no such vote was taken. At a duly scheduled and constituted meeting chaired by the VC in terms of the University Act, at which I was present, the Senate decided to discuss a letter that had been submitted to the VC on 22nd January 2015 by myself, as President of the Colombo University Federation of Teachers Associations, since the VC had failed to respond to the letter. After initial resistance, the VC agreed to discuss this issue under Preliminaries, which was the first item in the agenda. Since the subject of the letter was the actions and omissions of the VC himself, he, after seeking the advice of the Dean of the Faculty of Law, withdrew from the discussion. In this, it must be acknowledged that he acted properly. The Senate members then elected Mr. V. T. Thamilmaran, the Dean of the Faculty of Law, as the pro tem Chair in order to continue the meeting of the Senate. It must also be pointed out that the VC’s withdrawal from the meeting did not constitute an adjournment thereof. Therefore, contrary to what Mr. Ratnam implies, the discussion that took place after the VC withdrew from the Chair as well as the meeting were deliberations of a duly constituted Senate meeting. It is common practice for any democratic body to elect a pro-tem Chair in the absence of the regular Chair, and doing so in no way invalidates the outcome of the meeting.

Having discussed the large number of issues summarised in the letter, too many to be enumerated here, the Senate endorsed the letter. This endorsement does not constitute a vote to remove the VC. Contrary to what Mr. Ratnam appears to believe, the members of the Senate are well aware that they are not the appointing authority for the position of Vice-Chancellor. This fact should not prevent them from discussing issues, which strongly impact on the academic and administrative aspects of the university, and expressing their collective opinion. To characterise this event as mob rule is mischievous and indeed totally unacceptable.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    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/

  • 1
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    many political appointees and boot lickers of Rajapajse as VCs specially in Colombo and SJU.

    Any idea about the VC appointments in other universities ?

  • 1
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    The Colombo UNI council has too many oldies above 70 and is not effective at all. Most of them are out of touch on current trends.

    Is there an age limit to serve on a UNI council? For example no one above 70 can serve on a board of a bank or every director above 70 should elected on an annual basis in a company under the Co Act

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    whether there was a no confidence motion or not any person with self respect will step down once it is known that majority do not want him. It is a pathetic situation in the Higher Education system in Sri Lanka to see VCs and the UGC chairperson sticking to their position despite obvious protest from the academia.

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    The present VC is the husband of the previous VC who offered honorary degrees to President Rajapakse and to his brother Gotabaya – when no other university offered such honorary degrees to politicians, or public servants.
    The president made her chairman of UGC, and her husband the VC.

    The same senate which approved these honorary degrees, exists now.
    “……………….the senate endorsed the letter”
    The contents of the letter are not given. Why?

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    If what Devaka Weerakoon says is right, The Island would have corrected it. I checked the Act. It is explicit that the VC should chair the Senate. There is no provision for a pro-tem chair.

    The times are such that anything goes. Rajiva Wijesinghe who asked Prof. Mrs, Hrimburegama to resign at a recent UGC meeting and she refused, now says in a Sunday Observer interview that he will not sack her but correct her mistakes. Is the appointment of her husband one of those mistakes to be corrected?

    It looks like this government is so unreliable that they are still censoring CT and Rajiva and his new government are the same old wine in new caskets — back to crony government again?

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    It is not fair to blame the two family members who have taken positions as Chair of the UGC and VC of a university. We have to remember that these two people are at least qualified to be in the academic community. We have to consider the culture that has been created at the helm of affairs and their families, positions and their competencies. We are all responsible for this past.

    University is an academic institution and the academic senate is the most responsible body where most of its members are not only qualified but have risen to the state of a senior academic or a professor by virtue of their contribution to knowledge in their discipline. Unfortunately this is NOT the case in all of our Sri Lankan universities.We can count the number of professors, not even in two digit figures in many faculties in some universities. This situation results in dilution of faculty boards with inexperienced staff members and any democratic process will not bring the best qualified and experienced staff in responsible positions.The situation has been different when we had only one or two universities.

    When we consider some of our universities, political decisions have been taken on appointment of council members on the recommendations of former militants (terrorists some say), some of them have been advisers to the president and even ministers.These people had more say in academic matters and appointment of VCs in the universities than the senior academics and professors in those places.

    Hopefully with the increase of budget for education and appointment of an academic as a state minister we should expect some change in the university system.

    jayawick

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    Those who talk about legalities must use the law to protect people who are clean. Why is there so much of law talk when it comes to protecting the Hirumburegamas and Mohan Peiris when they got their positions through thoroughly unsalutary means and never deserved them. It would be good for them to go gracefully than have themselves exposed as charlatans who got their positions through sycophancy of a power drunk tyrant.

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