By K E Karunakaran –
It is a glorious moment that Dr Vickramabahu Karunaratne was granted relief from 1982 by the President recently. Can he be given all what he has lost over these years? NEVER. Then, how do we assure that this does not happen to another member of the society? There had been many such cases where applications for Professorship had been stalled for nearly 10 years, Promotions and increments stalled for many years and shelved stating that it has passed the time barrier. Who questions the delay, why it was not dealt within the time frame? What relief would the candidates have and what measures do we take so that this is not repeated? Who pays for the lost time and values to that individual?
Eastern University, Sri Lanka has had more than its share of ‘malpractices’, ‘misuse of power’ and ‘dictatorship’ over the past three years, which ended in the appointment of Professor Uma Coomaraswamy as the Competent Authority in April 2015. It is rarely a Teachers Association pays tribute to a Competent Authority(CA) but it also becomes the duty of the association to do that as we criticize when it is not done by the said authority.
Over the past three months she had achieved what this institution failed to achieve/ could not achieve over the past three years in terms of staff relations and rights.
- Many Ph D s which had been withheld for three years held their viva voce examinations
- Many staff whose promotions were withheld for three years were attended
- Leave of staff which were with held for flimsy reasons have been resolved
- Staff promotions which had been pending UGC verification of a circular for two years, granted
- Vacation leave of staff have been restored
- Appointment of Heads have been rationalized
- Staff whose appointments were with held for unknown reasons were granted
- Appeal of Staff who had to resign office for failures in administration was considered for reinstatement
- There were clear guidelines and authority established in the University for different categories of staff and they were implanted as per the E-Code and University Act
Devolution power has been emphasized
- Roles of various bodies have been clearly defined and authority given as per the regulations
- Senate’s role has been critically established including that of the Faculty Board
- The role of the Vice Chancellor and his limitations have been established and clearly informed that NO ONE needs to violate any rules to oblige persons in office.
Thus we the TAEU fully endorse the functioning of Prof Uma Coomaraswany, CA and express our support in her endeavor. We visualize her as a champion on the cause of those affected unjustly by the former Vice Chancellor.
The academic staff, administrative staff and all other technical and minor staff are been educated of their duties and responsibilities and their rights in office to ensure smooth functioning. There is an air of freedom of expression without fear and a feeling of the university in the campus which was marred by the attitudes and arrogance of the former Vice Chancellor. The Deans of Faculties and the Heads of Departments have been educated on their power and responsibilities in the University system as academic administrators. More than all, the complaints from the staff of all grades have been given a hearing and a response as favorably as possible within the limits of the regulations.
Staffs are also shocked to learn how the system has been tampered and misused by the former administration to suit themselves, illegally. One cannot forget that the former UGC also has a fair share of the blame for what happened at the Eastern University.
Then there comes afloat an anonymous letter querying the actions of the CA. The notice taints/paints the issues with Jaffna-Batticaloa orientation which is often used to ignite the issues when facts do not speak for themselves. This type of notices damage the harmony of the community and should be taken seriously by the government as these lead to communal tensions in the community and the country at large, sparked by a few individuals for their own benefits. We have seen these types of notices in 1990, 1996, 2004 and now. These sprout when some persons (often influential) have not got what they wished but also have no legal claim for it. They are also cowards who are unable to make direct claims or allegations. Often these are ignored as they are anonymous which makes them safe and allows them to repeat and in fact they become specialized over it. It is time that these persons are exposed in the interest of the university by the University and the People of Batticaloa. It is time that the law of the country deals with these to prevent breakdown of harmony. Many have an idea where this may have risen from the content itself also from its distribution patterns. The notice has also touched on issues of payment , fuel allowance, working hours, misuse of office and vehicle etc. over the two month period. It is also interesting that the same issues have been recently raised by the Government Auditors. What is striking is that when the Teachers Association of Eastern University raised issues in writing to the Auditor General and Presidential Secretariat on similar issues in the past the Government Auditors office in Charge of the Eastern University remained silent for more than two years not querying on any of those issues raised. Many of the queries forwarded by the TAEU have not been processed even to this day.
We Teachers Association of eastern University, Sri Lanka (TAEU)have always been requesting the CA, that there should be inquiries on the allegations made/ documented by the Teachers Association and given to the VC and UGC in November 2013. She had maintained that her task was to establish the system and norms and to address grievances but not get onto inquiries. It is the failure of the system to arrest the wrong doers that certain illegal practices continue and also promotes the culture in the system as they seem to have IMPUNITY by the goodness of others which they do not even recognize. Corrupted files if not removed always interrupt even while rebooting the system which is common; they need to be cleaned.
It is understood that it is those that have been part of the mal administration in the past and gained benefits unfairly and illegally are trying to derail the process in the University, as they find it difficult to ‘work by the rules’. It is also a weakness or failure of the University system that it did not address the mal administration issues raised by the Teachers Association of Eastern University at all levels from Council to Presidential Secretariat. It is essential that those who suffered unnecessarily has a right to relief and also those who caused the suffering unfairly be identified and punished for the betterment of the future. Recently the UGC had indicated to FUTA that there was an inquiry on the former Vice Chancellor of the Eastern University whose details are not known.
The Politicisation of the University systems had authorized/regularized many malpractices in the universities violating the Establishment Code and the University Act over the years. The removal of the Vice Chancellors alone does not rectify the errors and restore the system. It is essential that while those affected are provided relief there has to be action taken against.all those who violated the law. These are fundamental requirement for the establishment of good governance in the system and the sustainability of it.