17 August, 2022


On Vice Chancellorships And Diplomatic Postings

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Motivation and Reluctance

There is a lot being said about how VCs and diplomats were being appointed under the previous regime. My experience is relevant to understanding how it was done. I will share that although I am reluctant to publish this personal information which will be twisted for devious ends. I will nonetheless share my experience because it is instructive for guarding against a repetition.

A nationalist friend who has not been in touch with me for a while asked me “Who appointed you VC in Jaffna?” He had swallowed the propaganda that I was brought from nowhere by the backdoor and made VC by Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2006. I told him what was true then: that every VC is appointed by the President by the normal process – public advertisement by the then relatively apolitical council, election to the slate of three by the Council and final selection by the president from the three names forwarded by the Council.

That appointment by the President is something that selectively bugs some people as if no independent Tamil person should wish to serve as a VC to avoid appointment by the President. It is a position that only expatriate Tamils who have no stake in Sri Lanka can afford to take. By that reasoning, the VC post should be left to stooges and Tamil students abandoned to the care of those without any skills.

VC Appointment

I felt I had a vision and skills to offer University of Jaffna and applied for the post of VC In 2006. The Jaffna Council voted for me and, having the most experience and qualifications, I was appointed. The LTTE opposed my appointment. My family and I were threatened with death. However after operating from Colombo and the US my appointment was terminated as the government felt the university was suffering as a result of my absence.

In 2011 also I applied and this time I was actively opposed by Douglas Devananda who now controlled the Council. Nonetheless enough of his appointees broke ranks and I got into the Council’s short list of three. Again I had the best case in terms of credentials. President Rajapaksa called me up and, as is the custom, after verifying that I would accept, instructed his secretary Lalith Weeratunga in my presence to send me the letter of appointment the next morning. That letter never came. I was told by Sinhalese friends that it had been signed but was still at the President’s office. It was never transmitted because Douglas Devananda, as he himself had told Tamil pressmen, had informed the President that if I am appointed against his wishes he would quit politics.

Diplomatic Posting

The matter then dragged on with no appointment. At this point the government was having problems in London over Tamil political activism and was looking for a Tamil who as High Commissioner would state that there is no discrimination against Tamils in Sri Lanka. The Secretary for Higher Education, Dr. Sunil Jayantha Nawaratne, contacted me and asked if I would, instead of the VC position, accept a high commissionership. He said the request came from the President.

I replied that I am trained well to be a good Vice Chancellor but have no idea of how to be a good ambassador. I added that as a teetotaler I did not even know how to propose a toast at a diplomatic function. I declined. Subsequently Chris Nonis was appointed to the Court of St. James and Douglas Devandanda’s nominee was made VC Jaffna.

Eastern University of Sri Lanka – EUSL

Subsequently while I was still in Jaffna, I suppose there was some residual sense of obligation in the regime over my appointment as VC not having been made. As a result the then UGC Chairman Prof. Gamini Samaranayake informed me that there had been problems at Eastern University, and Prof. N.R. Arthenayake who had been sent as Competent Authority, wanted to be relieved of his duties and had recommended that I should be appointed.

The Chairman said they would advertise the post of VC and I should apply. I respectfully declined saying I did not know the people at Eastern University and would stand no chance of getting elected. I was aghast when he responded, “You do not worry. You apply and we will make sure you are elected.” The game played in Jaffna by Douglas Devananda was being extended to Eastern University. I declined saying that commanding council members how to vote would not be ethical.

The post was advertised after my return to the US. A large group of senior academics at EUSL implored me to apply. I declined. In thanking the group, this is what I wrote:

“The President called me up to seek my consent before the VC/Jaffna appointment and promised me the letter the next day. But that is all history now. I do not want to be up for any consideration before him after that. … I certainly [do] not want any manipulation of the vote as Douglas did to me in Jaffna.”

I trust that this information is for the public good.

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Latest comments

  • 6

    Hoole, you were ignorant then, and you are still ignorant! Have you thought for a minute why all those people, including the LTTE and Douglas opposed you! The only service you can do to the Tamils is stay away from them, as you had caused irreparable damage to their cause.

  • 6

    “I was appointed. The LTTE opposed my appointment. My family and I were threatened with death….. In 2011 also I applied and this time I was actively opposed by Douglas Devananda who now controlled the Council…..because Douglas Devananda, as he himself had told Tamil pressmen, had informed the President that if I am appointed against his wishes he would quit politics.”

    You slipped here, big time, Dr Hoole. Thanks for conceding that you were appointed the first time purely due to your active support to Douglas Devananda. You have provided your own testimony here to prove further that the LTTE opposed your appointment. It is a well-known secret among those who follow the academic and political affairs in Jaffna. But, the truth slips from the horse’s mouth now.

    • 3

      Have you read really what Prof. Hoole had said in his letter?
      If he did receive the appointment letter how can you conclude he was appointed?
      Now who is the horse and where is the Hoole slip?

      • 0

        Read ‘Rohan’ and the missing word between did and receive is ‘not.’

    • 2

      Dude, can’t you read. He said he was OPPOSED by DD?? And he hasn’t said anything about his first appt. You totally read that in your mind. He was opposed by the LTTE and DD cos they fear free-thinkers who actually have an independent opinion.

      Haters hate us cos they a’nus.

  • 5

    Dear Prof. Hoole,

    When I read your revelations, I feel not only you, even others in the Northern Province are subject to the suppression of an LTTE, Devananda or his successor after the Jan 8,2015. That suppression does not come from no where but within. Though the Council Members were satisfied with you, the Academic Community in Jaffna University by and large does not like your principled stand on any matter dubbing you as a theoretician without the ability to face practical realities. Everyone knows that in the average Sri Lankan sphere, even to open and maintain a small shop requires the no objections of the local thug. So, the academics who do not like you would go to the thug and establish that they would cater to the needs of the thug far-far better than you.

    As a test, why don’t you apply again fro the Jaffna VC post when it falls vacant again? I am dead sure that some Jaffna organization would oppose your appointment to the tooth and nail. So, Prof. we are unfortunate not to have your services.

  • 4

    The country needs the best brains to accelerate development of the nothan province. The development must come from the grass roots. The example of Quality circles can be followed. Workers can be taught to practice stastics and anaysis to recommend a development plan and monitor it.
    We need worker education. We need a brain trust to present programs that attract diaspora participation. The brain drain must be reversed.

    Propose to form such a brain trust. I hope then you can take a leadership role.

  • 9

    Come on Prof, Give it a Rest.

    Seismic changes are taking place in Sri Lanka’s political landscape and yet you’re still preoccupied with mere trifles. You’re still working on the same file – your own file. How petty-minded one can get? Isn’t it time to focus on more larger issues in life? Are we bereft of all idealism? Is self-promotion the only game in town? What is even more aggravating is your shameless effort to couch your self-serving screed in high moral tones.

    Moreover your tedious sales pitch is only partially true. Why don’t you mention your desperate attempts to curry favour with Douglas Devananda. You seem to have a selective memory.

    Also your ‘story’ regarding Eastern University is contradictory. You say you declined the invitation to apply for the VC post there “saying that commanding council members how to vote would not be ethical.” But earlier in the same paragraph you say you declined “saying I did not know the people at Eastern University and would stand no chance of getting elected.” If you were looking for appointment purely on your merit, why were you concerned that you didn’t know anyone at Eastern University? Is it merit or contacts, or both?

    Will the real Prof. Hoole stand up?

    • 3

      Points for being the most unconstructive comment on CT.

      I know that the only reason Prof Hoole tried to talk to DD was because he believed that all sides need to come to the table to make change for Tamils in teh North.

      I also know it was very hard for him to have to approach DD, a beastly thug who, even when he went to visit him, treated him disrespectfully to show off his own power. People like DD are only in politics to hang on to power. In fact I admire Prof Hoole for having the ability to swallow his pride to help another. I don’t have that kind of courage – do you?

    • 4

      I do not agree with you and see no contradiction in Hoole’s position: Hoole expects a free election and says he will stand no chance. The UGC Chairman says he will make sure he is elected. Hoole responds that it would not be ethical to pressure Council members and does not change his mind about not applying.

      There is no contradiction. Perhaps you should give your Hoole-bashing a rest and think through what you write before mouthing off.

  • 10

    So you are hoping for the offer of VCship when the vacancy arises soon? Is this story a build up towards that goal?

    Sengodan. M

    • 2

      Mr. Sengodan:

      So what is wrong? If Prof. Hoole thinks he can do something for Jaffna, is that not a good thing? If you can offer more, please apply to be VC instead of being a laid back critic. Then we will have more choice.

      Prof. Hoole is by far one of the most accomplished academics from Jaffna. He has helped hundreds of teachers get jobs in Nigeria. He has trained hundreds of engineers, and funded and supervised tens of engineers to completion of their advanced degrees.

      These are unusual accomplishments for one life time. He is successful because he goes systematically for what he wants. Anything wrong with that? We should all be doing that. He is a one man engine for positive change. He can do a lot more for Jaffna that all of us CT critics.

      What have we really done for our community? Let’s all do what we can instead of throwing stones at those who try.

  • 3

    I am glad you have spelt out how the voting at Eastern University was in 2011 in the election of the VC, Post Arthanayake period. Those who were elected should at least understand this.

  • 4

    Tamils seem to be unable to accept qualified people of their own community. Whereas Sinhalese and Muslims would hold them up. Is it because he is Christian? Or is it because he did not support the LTTE? Or perhaps these are deranged expatriates simply jealous of Hoole’s achievements from Sri Lanka?

    • 3

      Aziz: I think that many of these CT commentators are upset that Prof. Hoole will go back; while they would be stuck abroad with their children contributing to the western gene pool as we see all the time. They have no interest in Sri Lanka. They have nothing to do with their free time but to spew venom in CT columns.

      Prof: Please think of getting back. Many people want you back in Sri Lanka. We your students will stand by you. You have many friends and well-wishers.

  • 1


    I am glad you did not apply for the post of VC.in the Eastern University.

    More than anything else it would have been INFRA DIG!

  • 3

    This is good piece of writing. As a lecturer in English at Teachers College, I have used this material today to teach writing and reading skills. All of my students, teachers of English in Sri Lanka commented positively about his writing. They spoke in favour of Dr. Hoole and hated how he was denied opportunity to serve the country.

    An excellent academic. Some people who are jealousy of your achievements are opposing and writing bad comments. But people know who you are and what you did


  • 2

    I only wish we use meritocracy to fill the academic positions that have a profound impact on our students of today and educators and leaders of tomorrow.

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