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.
Pygmalion / July 8, 2015
Thank you Dr.Karunakaran for this essay.Well written; You have delivered the Baby!
Prof:Uma Coomararaswamy,is a very competent Academic moulded in the fine traditions of a university,and she will deliver the Eastern University towards better times.By the way,what happened to that INTERLOPER who was the VC these past few years.An absolute crook,I was told.T
Pygmalion / July 8, 2015
Thank you Dr.Karunakaran for this well written essay.
Prof:Coomaraswamy is a very competent academic no doubt.In fact in the early days of the Eastern University she had made a very valuable contribution.
By the way what happened to that INTERLOPER,the former VC? Anyway GROBR!
This Batticaloa-Jaffna axis has been the bane of the Eastern University from day one.The University community should rally round and check-mate these disruptive forces.
Great,at long last the Eastern University has been restored.
DR RIFAI.UK / July 8, 2015
I was fortunate enough to work with Prof. Although I worked at Eastern University in the culture of Arts and culture those days, I knew well. She has been a dedicated Academic. She should have been a VC a long time ago. She served this university for a long time and she is a hardworking academic. She deserves this post.
We all hope EUSL becomes a learning hub in Sri Lanka. my best wishes and congratulation
DR. RIFAI. Former Lecturer at EUSL.
Chenkalady seenithamby thaverajah / July 9, 2015
Thanks Dr Karu for nicely peice of comment. from the inception eastern University created inside fighting. Late Minister KWDevanayagam’s effort in creating this institution at the expense of a great provincial school is lost when considering this infighting. Yes earlier there were Jaffna staff brought their professional relatives and sent them oversees with scholarships and when they return sent to Jaffna universities. Later situation changed. You cannot run this higher education institution without personal from Jaffna tamils. It is the duty of the educationist to work united in bringing University in Tamil area to a highest position. Though There is agricultural department on the U , i dont think farmers around that area received any benefit in the area of research finding. specially cash crops could be grown in sandy area.
we have not seen the benefit for the lost of a fine maha vidyalayam.
Wish u all the best.
Pygmalion / July 9, 2015
Yes.I have heard from acquaintances in Batticaloa that the Eastern University was the brainchild of K.W.Devanayagam.
In doing so he converted a First rate Madhya Maha Vidyalaya into a Third rate University!
Naga / July 9, 2015
As one born in the Batticaloa soil, I have watched with dismay the ugly attitude of the academics from Jaffna who unfortunately for Batticaloa people and the East people,started ruining the Eastern University right from the beginning.
I have personally watched and known how Jaffna academics put blockers against whoever who got appointed to head this institution. When it began, as the Batticaloa University College, it had Professor Rajaretnam as its first Director. Though he was a man from Jaffna he was married to a Batticaloa girl and was devoid of the Jaffna arrogance. As a journalist I personally knew him and tried to promote the University College. At that time, Jaffna academics like Professor Mano Sabaretnam and others like your present Competent Authority Uma Coomaraswamy were critical of Professor Rajaretnam and never extended their cooperation. I have heard that when a student first met Professor Mano Sabaretnam the first question she used to ask was “Neer Efvedam”( where are you from) and that if the student was from Jaffna she always had a special consideration for that student. Professor Rajaretnam being an Arts man was looked down by these science educated Jaffna academics. After the University College was upgraded as the Eastern University, we had Professor Arulpragasam as the first Vice Chancellor. He appeared to be acceptable to the Jaffna academics perhaps because of his Jaffna ancestry. The next Vice Chancellor was Professor Santhanam who hailed from Malayagam but was looked down by the Jaffna academics as a “Thotakattan”. Professor Santhanam happened to be an old boy of Shivananda Vidyalaya, Batticaloa. EUSL also had Professor Mookiah who I believe may be from Malaygagam but I cannot confirm this because he came to EUSL at a time when I had left Sri Lanka. EUSL had Batticaloa Tamils Rajendram, Uvi Thangarajah, Premakumar, Kobindarajah functioning as Vice Chancellors or Acting Vice Chancellors at various times. I do not think any of these Batticaloa men had the full support of the Jaffna academics. Out of these four, Dr Kobindarajah was most hated by the Jaffna academics and they brought all sorts of allegations of corruption against him.
What I see as the underlying factor in their opposition against these non Jaffna Vice Chancellors is the thick headedness and superiority complex of these Jaffna academics. These Jaffna academics are no different from other Jaffna Tamils who always looked down upon the Batticaloa Tamils and Malayaga Tamils. Jaffna Tamils not just look down upot their bretheren from Batticaloa and Malayagam, they always considered the majority Sinhalese as “modayos” which, in my opinion, is the root cause of the Tamil problem. Unfortunately for Batticaloa Tamils, these Jaffna academics dominate almost all the EUSL faculties. I believe that is not the case with the South Eastern University of Sri Lanka because Muslim leaders would not tolerate the domination of these type of Jaffna academics.
Pygmalion / July 9, 2015
It appears that the Eastern University has been operating on an operating system,other than Android Honey-Comb,[H],Ice-Cream sandwich[I],Jelly-Bean[J],kIT-kAT[K] ETC.The operating system,hitherto looks as if it was Regionalism!
I was pleased when I read this article by Dr.Karunakaran that the Rebooting of the Eastern University is underway,especially with those corrupt files.
The Sinhala citizenry,with their more liberal outlook have got over their Lowcountry/Upcountry syndrome.However the Tamils continue Ad-Nauseam chanting Jaffna-Batticaloa!
It should be remembered that no university in any part of the country is an exclusive enclave for any particular group.