18 September, 2018

Blog

Scandalous South Eastern University

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

“Political success but academic failure“, was how a local Muslim scholar described to me the South Eastern University of Sri Lanka (SEUSL) in 1998, when I visited that place.  I thought he was too quick to pass judgement on the academic side because that institution was established only in 1995 and one could not expect academic miracles to happen within such a short period. However, he was dead right on the political side and it is that politics that still bedevils the academic development of that university. 

SEUSL was the joint product of LTTE’s suicidal militant Tamil nationalism on the one hand and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress’ (SLMC) battle cry for Muslim sub-nationalism on the other. President Chandrika Kumaratunga played the role of a midwife in delivering the SEUSL baby. It was a baby born with a birth defect and that defect was its sustained link with SLMC politics. Sri Lankan universities in general have become recruiting grounds for political parties and SEUSL in no exception to this phenomenon. Politics has ruined academic performance and administrative standards in all universities. 

Because SEUSL was SLMC’s baby there is a misconception prevailing among that party’s stalwarts and supporters that it is a Muslim University. It is in fact a national university situated in a Muslim populated area. Therefore, there is no hard and fast rule that a Muslim has to be the vice-chancellor of SEUSL. For that matter, a competent Muslim scholar with impeccable academic achievements is eligible to be appointed as vice-chancellor in any of the universities in the country. Why should a Muslim academic of respectable stature confine his/her aspiration to become a vice-chancellor only in SEUSL? If the government allows meritocracy and not political affiliation decide appointments to top level positions not only universities but every other prestigious institution in the country will function without breakdowns and scandals. 

In the case of SEUSL one has to be a SLMC stooge to become the vice-chancellor or a member of the university senate or a member of the University Council. Herein lies the fundamental problem of that university, which, with endless scandals, has virtually descended to the level of a glorified Maha Vidyalaya. Nepotism in appointments, misappropriation of funds, misconduct of academics and indiscipline among non-academic staff are symptoms of a disease born with the university’s attachment to SLMC politics. 

With these general observations let us turn to the latest scandal of the President’s reappointment of the SEUSL vice-chancellor who on several grounds lost the confidence of the Minister of Higher Education and Cultural Affairs. “By virtue of the power vested in me by section 20 (4) (b) of the Universities Act No. 16 of 1978, I Dr. Wijedasa Rajapakshe, Minister of Higher Education and Cultural Affairs on being satisfied that the administration of the affairs of the South Eastern University of Sri Lanka has been seriously dislocated and that the authorities of the said University have failed to restore normal conditions do by this order appoint Uma Coomaraswamy to be the Competent Authority with effect June 18, 2018 for the purpose of exercising, performing and discharging in lieu of Vice Chancellor of the South Eastern University any power, duty or function which has been conferred or imposed upon or assigned to the said Vice Chancellor under the said Act or any Order, Ordinance, Statute, By-law, Regulation or Rule made thereunder.”

This Gazette Extraordinary, no. 2076/13, declares in no uncertain terms the minister’s no confidence on the Vice Chancellor; and in the light of the allegations brought against that person, which are still under investigation, his reappointment by the President for another term of three years is not only scandalous but also a gross insult to Sri Lanka’s academic community and educationists. It is a reward for academic mediocrity and administrative incompetency and exhibits political considerations overtaking intellectual integrity and administrative decency. Above all, it is also a slap on Minister Rajapaksa’s face. It is a recipe for the continuation of unrest and demoralization within the university community. No wonder both TASEU and FUSA are up in arms. 

The fact that the allegations against the vice-chancellor have not proven yet is a different matter. However, until that person’s name is cleared after proper investigation he should be deemed ineligible to be reappointed. At the same time, once he is cleared of all allegations he should be entitled to apply and compete for the same position whenever a vacancy arises in the future.

In a way this scandalous situation reflects the parlous state of Sri Lankan democracy, governance and rule of law. If defeated candidates at General Elections could enter Parliament and become ministers and deputies through the backdoor, if criminals convicted and sentenced by courts are allowed to hobnob with politicians, and if politicians are allowed with impunity to entertain and court friendship with known underworld mafia chiefs what hope can one have in cleaning up the academic institutions?      

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  • 5
    0

    Dr. Ameer Ali makes some truly trenchant observations in this article. Thinking people should ponder these deeply – And Act!

    “The fact that the allegations against the vice-chancellor have not been proven yet is a different matter. However, until that person’s name is cleared after proper investigations he should be deemed ineligible to be reappointed. At the same time, once he is cleared of all allegations he should be entitled to apply and compete for the same position whenever a vacancy arises in the future.”

    This principle should apply to those with presidential aspirations too!

    “In a way this scandalous situation reflects the parlous state of Sri Lankan democracy, governance and rule of law. If defeated candidates at General Elections could enter Parliament and become ministers and deputies through the backdoor, if criminals convicted and sentenced by courts are allowed to hobnob with politicians, and if politicians are allowed with impunity to entertain and court friendship with known underworld mafia chiefs what hope can one have in cleaning up the academic institutions?”

    Or any other type of institution for that matter.

  • 3
    0

    Dr.Ameer Ali’s observations are very true and it should be the call for the rest of the universities in Sri Lanka. And no wonder the Sri Lankan universities are in the lowest order in international rankings which would not only affect the universities but also it’s students. Because of the personal ego of the few politicians, the future of these institutions is jeopardized. Therefore politicians should take their hands off from the university management and entrust the responsibility on the academics to run smoothly.

  • 3
    1

    The FP did not want the Jaffna Camous in the first place. When the Campus was in place the TULF (an alias for the FP) wanted to keep it all Tamil. But the University was firm. Reputed Sinhalese academics joined the staff and the University attracted Sinhalese students. There were Muslim academics too.
    Things changed in 1977. State-backed mischief led to the departure of Sinhalese staff and students. Then the LTTE did its bit to drive off the Muslims.
    However, UoJ now has a fairly large Sinhalese student population, much against the wishes of sectarian elements. Bad publicity (much of it mischievous in recent years) is a factor that made the university less appealing to Jaffna students. Things are changing in some faculties, not dramatically.
    The situation in the Eastern University is comparable. Once regionalism, driven by the self interest of a few, dominated the affairs of the EUSL.
    There is a general local feelingthat the two universities should be ‘Tamil’. So there is not much to complain about Muslim sentiments.
    But for a few universities in the ‘South’, in others there is visible Sinhala or Sinhala Buddhist dominance. That too is a reflection of the country’s ethnic divide.
    *
    Many universities are in crisis much because the appointment of the VC is political. But there are other matters to look into as well.
    I do not see much harm in SEUSL having an informal Muslim identity.
    But there are bigger issues at state.
    *
    “…allegations…not proven yet …. until that person’s name is cleared after proper investigation he should be deemed ineligible to be reappointed….once he is cleared of all allegations he should be entitled to apply and compete….in the future.”
    Will it not be fair to reappoint him promptly if his name is cleared?

    • 6
      1

      FP wanted the campus in Trincomalee as a future capital of Tamil homeland, but Sinhala racists refused and decided to site it in Jaffna. This is the reason FP was against campus being sited in Jaffna and for nothing else. It is true that Tamils wanted Jaffna campus to be Tamil dominated with Tamil culture to predominate, like Colombo and Peradeniya campuses are Sinhala dominated with Sinhala culture predominating. For your information, no Tamil has been appointed professor in any of the departments of Colombo Medical faculty for the last 60 years after Prof. Chanmugam in Anatomy, Prof. Hoover in Bio-chemistry and Prof. Sivalingam in Parasitology. Prof. Sreeharan who secured a first class in final MBBS and probably the best student of that era was not even selected for lecture post in Medicine in preference to a person who only secured a second class in final MBBS, belonging to another community. Later Jaffna campus honoured him with the post of professor, which pot was denied to him by Sinhala dominated Colombo campus. Also Sir Arulkumaran who was professor in NUS Singapore and later Nottingham University and St. George’s medical school London, would have never been appointed professor in Colombo medical faculty, though he has outshone all his peers in Obstetrics in all the medical faculties in Sri Lanka.

      • 0
        0

        Dr GS
        It is easy to blame ‘the Other’ for all out failings.
        *
        The Tamil Congress wanted a Hindu University in Jaffna as a counter to the Tamil University project.
        That was a serious obstacle at the time.
        *
        The Tamil University project was well and truly screwed up by the ‘team’ that undertook the task.
        The project was dead and buried in the 1960s.
        BTW, what did the FP do to revive the project when it was in government from 1965 to 68?
        Cash donations and some of the land given free or almost free by well wishers is now in the hands of a small group which is using the land for non-educational purposes for profit.
        *
        The Jaffna Campus came up in 1974 following the University of Sri Lanka Act.
        The FP tried hard to wreck it, but failed in the face of public anger.

        • 2
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          Tamil congress always opposed demands of Federal party, for no reason. Tamil congress was used to undermine federal party and then TULF. Though FP joined the UNP led government in 1965, Sinhala racists prevented any rights to Tamils. This is the same thing happening at present though TNA is supporting present government from outside. No Sinhala dominated government will do anything good to Tamils other than some slip shod offering to hoodwink international community.

          • 0
            0

            Politics in the North has been based on personal rivalry and caste and still continues to be so.
            The reasons of the FP as as good or as bad as those of the ACTC.
            They were united in one purpose, namely taking the people for a thundering ride.
            *
            We should not forget that the international community is hoodwinking all of us.

    • 4
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      SJ

      “I do not see much harm in SEUSL having an informal Muslim identity.”

      Is it Sri Lankan home grown Muslim identity or is it imported, packaged and homogenized global Saudi Arab identity?

      Generally my Muslim friends are scared and uncomfortable with the rapid Arabisation of Muslims not only through out Sri Lanka but through out the world.

      • 0
        1

        Muslims follow a religion which is a way of life for them. There is only cultural differences among Muslims but what they follow is the same for all Muslims. Little knowledge of anything is dangerous.

      • 0
        0

        Native Vedda,

        “Generally my Muslim friends are scared and uncomfortable with the rapid Arabisation of Muslims not only through out Sri Lanka but through out the world.”

        Arabisation of Muslims is the same as Wahabisation of Muslims , same as Satanisation of Muslims and Inlisisaition of Muslims .

        Ref. Hadith of Najd

        Text of the hadith. According to two narrations in Sahih Bukhari, Muhammad asks Allah to bless the areas of Bilad al-Sham (Syria) and Yemen. When his companions said “Our Najd as well,” he replied: “There will appear earthquakes and afflictions, and from there will come out the side of the head (e.g. horns) of Satan.”

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadith_of_Najd

        Scholar from al-Azhar: Wahhabism is a Satanic Faith, the Horn of the Devil that Muhammad Predicted

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UDy_apXW3E

        Unreported – Wahhabism and Saudis’ idiocracy

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4LzoUe7flA

        For decades Wahhabi scholars and in particular Saudi grand muftis have enjoyed the benefits of the historical pact between the founder of Saudi regime with the founder of the Wahhabi sect.

        Wahhabism is drawing an upside down picture of Islam, taking the Saudi monarchical theocracy to a new level of idiocracy.

  • 1
    0

    Thank you, Dr for the unbiased approach. Our university system is corrupt to the extent that deserving ones are out and incompetent ones are in.

    • 2
      1

      “Being in” does not make one incompetent as much as “being out” makes another competent .
      There are problems in appointments, and they were there from early days. Universities in the Developed World are not free of serious flaws.
      But that is no excuse to ignore issues.
      *
      The Australian university system is pretty rotten in important ways, and the author knows.
      In several fields our academic products are doing well in their jobs at home as well as in jobs abroad, and are in demand.
      There is room for improvement, but lack of state interest and investment can ruin things.
      We also need to review the continuous assessment scheme imposed on us by foreign experts, with little consideration for resources, thereby combining the worst of both worlds.
      *
      Cursing everything is easy. What we need is positive thinking and action.

  • 2
    1

    This is what happens when policies are made to please vested interests, rather than on real need and the availability of right resources.

    The poor sections of the Muslim population in the East never had a pool of high quality students or high calibre academics capable of building up a university of high quality. Educated Muslims all came from Colombo and Galle, and a few from Nawalapitiya. Bringing in academic staff from elsewhere would defeat the purpose anyway.

    From day one, Eastern university staff behaved like monkeys with razor blades. They had real issues of sexual harassment, financial corruption and other ills. There is no point in talking or writing about this obvious cancer, and this so-called university must be closed and students transferred to other unis.

    There are limits to reconciliation and we need to be sensible about it. This is how not to do it.

  • 3
    1

    Many university heads/ Deans/ CVs have earned PhDs from back doors ..
    It was easy during the MR period to do all dirty works..
    To print all university certificates and get forged certificates …
    Now ,,, you pay the price .
    How university lecturership appointed are made through political influence ..
    Do not think peradeniya university is good one ..
    All financial fraud and academic fraud started from it ..
    Now South East is not exceptional once ..
    So many of its staff too crook and or half baked academic..
    It’s is like a college..
    You have applied that VC post ..
    It is better Dr you did not get it ..
    Why ?
    People are so bad over there in that uni.
    Always fighting..
    Always shooting .
    Always troubles .
    Always back hitting.
    And back bitting..
    You are lucky enough that you did not go there from..

  • 0
    0

    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/

  • 2
    0

    Thank you Ameer Ali for hard hitting no-holds-barred article.
    South Eastern University staff forcefully complained to UGC and others and compelled the then VC, Prof Seeni MM Ismail to resign (or was he removed?). THIS IS A FIRST. For example most Colombo University staff do not know what happened to the Billion rupees house bequeathed by Dr Siva Chinnathamby!
    .
    What happened to Seeni is more important. Rishard Bathutheen forced out a list MP and substituted Seeni. He is an MP now has the added clout to score direct hits – starting with SEUSL staff.
    .
    Ameer: The growth of SEUSL is impeded by undue interference of politicians.

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