By Rajiva Wijesinha –
It took place on April 19th 2002 at the Eden Hotel, at a Conference of Ministry Secretaries to which I had been invited, as had also Dr Weerasooria who had been appointed by the then Government to advise both the Central Bank and the Ministry of Higher Education. Kabir Hashim was then non-Cabinet Minister at the latter. I checked on details with Dhara Wijeyatilaka who was then Secretary to the Ministry of Justice, and had taken me down in her car. She recalls Dr Weerasooriya approaching us, though she does not recall details of the conversation.
One reason for his approaching me was to ask for names for the Sabaragamuwa University Council. He explained that they usually asked Vice-Chancellors in the more distant universities for names, since they at the Ministry were not familiar with eligible people in the regions.
The main point however that Dr Weerasooria made was that they would have to remove my then Vice-Chancellor, Prof I K Perera. The reason he gave was that Prof Perera had signed a petition of support for President Kumaratunga’s government at the last General Election. When I said this was unfair, he asked whether I had also signed that petition.
I recall being irritated by this, and saying that I did not do such things but he had evidently forgotten that it was the Jayewardene government he had served that had initiated that practice, of getting academics to place advertisements in newspapers.
Dr Weerasooria may not remember all the details of this conversation, but I am sure he has not forgotten the animus against Prof Perera, a man of tremendous financial integriy. He was trying to clear up the mess at Sabaragamuwa where enormous sums had been expended on constructions, sometimes using funds given by government for recurrent expenditure. The previous Vice Chancellor had claimed to be close to Mr S B Dissanayake, who was then of course a member of that UNP government.
I have been told that in 2002 also Mr Hashim had asked the Chairman of the then University Grants Commission, Prof Ranjit Mendis, to resign, and he had complied, but the then President had not accepted his resignation.
Life is full of ironies.