29 September, 2020

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Storm Brewing At University Of Jaffna Over Book Discussion Ban And Student Politicization

After the Vice Chancellor of University of Jaffna, Professor Vasanthi Arasaratnam, refused permission for Jaffna University Science Teachers’ Association (JUSTA) to discuss the book Palmyra Fallen by Rajan Hoole, she has been under intense criticism for breach of a university’s intellectual ethos which she is expected to uphold.

Jaffna VC

Jaffna VC

When questioned by BBC Thamil Osai, she said it was not her decision but it was based on requests from the students and the larger University Teachers’ Association (UTA). She also said the Deans’ Committee had agreed to going by the requests to ban the discussion but Deans say she had a monologue with them and did not present any letters. The UTA denies they wrote asking the VC to ban the function. Students too deny there was any union decision to oppose the ban. It is said that an extremist section of the TNA had “instructed” the VC to stop the discussion while other senior mainstream sections of the TNA and government had warned her about the censorship.

“In the end the function was held by JUSTA and it was successful. The original programme was adhered to. Freedom of thought won the day.” a spokesperson for the organisers told Colombo Telegraph.

The charge against the VC is that she did not show any leadership and is unnecessarily involving and politicizing students to cover her shortcomings. JUSTA is now asking the UTA for a meeting.

Many are complaining that the sacking of the VC is long overdue and that this delay is a violation of the government’s commitment to those who voted for it.

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Latest comments

  • 3
    1

    “When questioned by BBC Thamil Osai, she said it was not her decision but it was based on requests from the students and the larger University Teachers’ Association (UTA).”

    If it was not her decision why did she then sign the letter? I was already wondering about that “It has been decided….” in her letter.

    “She also said the Deans’ Committee had agreed to going by the requests to ban the discussion but Deans say she had a monologue with them and did not present any letters. The UTA denies they wrote asking the VC to ban the function.”

    Can she please show the letters to support her claims. If she cannot do this she is lying which would not surprise me at all.

    “It is said that an extremist section of the TNA had “instructed” the VC to stop the discussion while other senior mainstream sections of the TNA and government had warned her about the censorship.”

    What is the source of this “It is said….”?

    I suspected the hardline ITAK being behind this since the beginning. Some information provided in the book disturbs them. There are many skeletons in the closet that they would prefer being forgotten.

    Does the VC who “belonged” to Douglas now follow instructions from hardline ITAK? Looks like a real survivor!

  • 6
    4

    This woman is not fit to be even a Principal of a secondary school. She should resign immediately failing which she should be sacked.

    Sengodan. M

    • 3
      2

      Sengodan,

      I have met secondary school Principals, who are fit to be Vice-chancellors! However, unfortunately, the Peter Principle which states that every person rises to his/her level of incompetence, may come into play with some of them.

      Dr.RN

  • 6
    1

    The Jaffna University lost its way within the first few years of its inauguration. Most of its Vice-chancellors and faculty have been mediocre at best. The faculty have been a mixed lot, with a fewer excellent, few average and most mediocre. It started off as a university, then become a secondary school and is now a factory.

    It is a dream gone sour. It will take a major overhaul, much culling and a strong Vice-chancellor of the calibre of Sir.Ivor Jennings or Sir. Nicholas Attygalle to set it right.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 1
      2

      Sir Ivor YES. Sir Nicholas NO! Sir Nicholas Attygalle was not a university graduate, holding a licentiate in medicine with nonacademic, professional accomplishments as a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. To date an FRCS without a degree with class is insufficient for the junior-most academic post in Sri Lanka. Powerful Attygalle – President of the Buddhist Theosophical Society, and President of Ceylon’s upper chamber of Parliament, the Senate – was appointed VC after turning 60 on the grounds that the law stipulated only retirement on reaching the age of 60 and said nothing on the age of appointment! At his first convocation he had the university confer an honorary doctorate on him and soon dropped the words honoris causa after his D.Sc. degree on his letterhead. Unlike Jennings who walked about campus and personally drove his old car to the ministry in Colombo, the new VC, Attygalle, had the university buy a Mercedes Benz and hire a chauffeur and was driven every day the 100 yards to his office across the street from the VC’s Lodge. His tenure (open-ended because he would never reach 60) came to an ignominious end in 1967 when students rioted.

  • 5
    2

    Is this extremist section of the TNA,a shadow of the LTTE?

    If so Jaffna will not return to its former glorious days in the foreseeable future!

  • 5
    2

    I feel that this incompetent VC is acting according to Douglas Devananda’s wishes. The new government will try and keep Douglas on their side in order to counterbalance the TNA. Therefore, Douglas’s puppet will remain VC until Dogmas is thrown out by the electorate at the next election. The TNA or any of it’s factions has any influence over her. She is Douglas’s batch and wags her tail only for her master.

    • 2
      1

      Dr. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole bragged in his last article on the Jaffna
      University that a new set of external council members, are to be appointed,by the current Minister of Education Dr. Sarath Amunugama and that was the end of the Jaffna Uni.V.C and this information seems to be false and she continues, unabated. In reply to “Ethir”s comments on this matter,I gave the real reason as to why she is still kept in her position.i.e. If TNA does not fall in line with the next govt.,
      they need the help of the EPDP, which has a para military force, who could silence the Tamils, if they were to agitate further for their rights, and this statement was further supported by Piranha and few others who commented on the subject. This is exactly what the previous regime did to keep the Tamils under control. So,there is no likelihood that the V.C., brought in by EPDP ,will be removed in the near future, unless TNA as the sole reps. of Tamils take up the matter with the govt.in the interest of the students at the Jaffna University and prestige of this great institution.

      • 0
        0

        He did not say new council members are TO BE appointed. He wrote of a report that they HAVE BEEN appointed. Even that was questioned by one person but Hoole’s report now turns out to be factual. I do not remember reading anything from him in that article about the end of the Jaffna VC as claimed by this LANKA WATCH who really seems to be watching although he is blind about what he reads.

        You fellows write something he did not write and then attack him on that basis. That is enough for me to judge your intellect and speculation on why the VC is being kept on.

        What keeps you chaps going? Jealousy? Or a simple horrible mental makeup worsened by dishonesty?

        • 0
          0

          Cynic – I suggest you go back to Dr. Hoole’s article on Jaffna
          Uni. and read the 03rd Para clearly where he was quoting a report stating that Douglas Devananda’s council had been fired.(in his own words)and it is obvious that when a existing former govt’s council is fired, the V.C. too goes with it and if you have followed the problems closely at the Jaffna Uni., it was all about the V.C.. No one expected Educationist like Dr. Hoole to quote an unreliable report from a mushroom media outlet to convince the readers of CT. You must understand that people are
          keenly watching the situation at this great institution and writers on this subject should be more specific.

          • 0
            0

            Lanka Watch, I beg your pardon but you are not correct and need to be careful because it is not right to mislead readers. When one makes a mistake, it is better to admit it than make it worse by putting out new versions. Let me explain.

            A Council has two parts, internal and external. The UGC appoints only the external members, who in this instance might be correctly referred to as the Douglas Council.

            The Deans and the VC make up the internal part of the Council. The Deans are elected and cannot be fired by anyone (unless as individuals they do something criminal). The VC is appointed by the President and can only be fired by the President.

            The UGC therefore fired and can fire only the external members for whom they are the appointing authority. They cannot fire a person appointed by the President. It is that simple.

  • 1
    4

    Whether the VC is fit or not, different factions should not be allowed use the University premises to carry out their own political and personal vendettas. Hoole is trying his best to stir up things in Jaffna University, cause his dream is to come back to Jaffna as the VC. The crowd behind this ‘book discussion’ is no one other than the people currying up with Hoole- (the so-called Science Teachers Association!!) to bring him back as VC.

    University should be left alone, and the institution is bigger than any individuals. Keep the stupid political activities outside the University. My request for these people is : Now, after 30 some years, we have a chance to move forward. Don’t spoil it for your petty, narrow-minded, personal and political gains.

    Part of the reason why some in Jaffna are against this VC is because she is a woman. The male chauvinistic mind of some in power in Jaffna is showing the ugly face here.

    • 0
      0

      “Hoole is trying his best to stir up things in Jaffna University, cause his dream is to come back to Jaffna as the VC. The crowd behind this ‘book discussion’ is no one other than the people currying up with Hoole- (the so-called Science Teachers Association!!) to bring him back as VC.”

      Please note that there are two Dr Hooles here: Dr Rajan Hoole (Jaffna) and Dr. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole (USA). They are brothers.

    • 1
      0

      Mr. Rajendran- You got it wrong. Please read my earlier comment on the
      this page about the real reason for keeping this V.C.who is incompetent
      You said it right that we got a chance to move forward for the first time with this govt. and we should see that we do not spoil the chances
      by creating local problems for the govt. in N/E .The govt. should see her off and employ some one from abroad like, UK,USA or Canada, where there are highly educated Tamil professors serving with leading and well known universities, well versed in modern education and university
      administration, who may be willing to serve the country, once again on local terms and on short term contracts, instead of saddling with infighting among the local academics.

      • 0
        0

        Lanka Watch, What is up with you man?

        You say
        “The govt. should see her off and employ some one from abroad like, UK,USA or Canada, where there are highly educated Tamil professors serving with leading and well known universities, well versed in modern education and university administration, who may be willing to serve the country, once again on local terms and on short term contracts, instead of saddling with infighting among the local academics.”

        You are not rooting for Prof. Hoole are you? You seem to be describing him exactly! But you seem to hate him. Or are you schizophrenic or something?

        • 0
          0

          JR – You got me wrong. I was not speaking on behalf of Dr.Jeevan
          Hoole.as he has one foot in Sri Lanka and the other in the US.He had been in the news for some time, trying his hand at Jaffna Uni.V.C post. I am from the old school and have great respect for Hoole family as they are all educationists and imparted their knowledge to the people of Jaffna from independence days.

          I was talking of other professors, thousands in numbers, in those countries mentioned who never got involved in Sri Lankan politics and those who have a soft corner for the Tamils in Jaffna. They
          may deem it a privilege to serve this great institution.

    • 1
      0

      Wow! Academics in Jaffna should “not be allowed” this and that. Another Rajapakse and another Vasanthi on our hands.

      I do not understand Rajendran. People who want Hoole should not work for him? Rajendran sees only sexism as the reason for people opposing Vasanthi Arasaratnam. He does not see anything wrong in banning a book discussion? Forcing academics to sign a petition for Mahinda?He is fine with a VC who screams and cries in turn at meetings? Who makes millions in computer purchases as in the Auditor General’s report? Who recruits the second best because they will be grateful and obedient?

      Rajendran clearly has his own agenda – he is working for Vasanthi and cannot see beyond his nose. He is totally unaware that the science teachers in JUSTA have asked the TNA to appoint retired Prof. Tharmaratnam as Competent Authority and not Hoole!

      Rajendran, please stop spewing ignorant venom. If you are writing, please write with facts. What you are doing is called clutching at straws in your campaign against Hoole. When you spit into the wind, it falls on your face.

      If you want Vasanthi, say so and give your reasons. We will not say “We cannot allow that” because we are used to democracy. We are not into book bannings and democratic campaigns.

    • 1
      0

      Did this V-C canvass for ex-president Rajapakse? She did and that was political. Did she not close the university and banned the commemoration of the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent people? She has always been a partisan political stooge of EPDP and the military.

    • 1
      0

      I disagree.
      You are trying to treat university as a factory. It is not. It is a place where people question everything, disagree even with their professors and search for the right answers. Only when something like that is practical, we can nature an environment where new ideas can come out.
      Jaffna university was formed to shine its light to the people.
      by the way, Dr. Rajini Thiranagama was the head of anatomy department until she was killed. Dr. Rajan Hoole was a university lecturer until LTTE chanced him out. Now what is the best place to discuss about book that was written by an academic, from the Jaffna university background about the Jaffna society and about the another former head of department?
      Your other argument “Keep the stupid political activities outside the University” is nothing other than stupid. Why we have political science as a subject in the university? Why do academics do research on political culture?
      Tell me Mr. Rajendran, one thing that is not political. From the air you breath, the water you drink, food you eat, books you study all are part of politics. Even your phrase “the stupid political activities” is a political statement.
      Our country went backward, simply because we did not allow space for. different opinions. We allowed only one opinion, towards only one goal, which led to extremism. The only way forward is to allow multiple opinions to be expressed.
      In the past I have worked in the University of Jaffna. I had enough chances to mingle with Dr. Rajini Thiranagama, Dr. Hoole, Prof. Vasanthi Arasaratnam (then Dr. VA) and Prof. Sivathamby. (Unfortunately I had little chance to know Prof. Kailasapathy.) In fact, they all (including Dr. VA) allowed different opinions to come up. In fact, I too have seen at many times, she giving different views contradicting to her head, Prof. Balasubramaniam (Professor of Bio Chemistry & Former Dean of Faculty of Medicine). it is sad to see that she is pushing the same ladder she used to climb.

  • 1
    0

    God help the Jaffna University, once installed in great hope by the TAmils of Sri Lanka. Dr. Neelan Thiruchelvam asked me many times to join it and find books etc to build it up. Like the white ants destroying the houses in Jaffna it seems it is the small minds that are destroying JAffna’s intellectual capacity. May the best person be taken irrespective of religion, caste etc..

  • 1
    0

    This whole episode centring around the release of a book in a university typifies the hypocrisy prevailing in Jaffna society: “Drinking Palmyra behind the almirah.”

  • 0
    0

    The VC is a protege of the EPDP and it is absurd to claim that the extreme faction of the TNA interfered in her decision. The best course of action is to publish the letters she received from the Students organization and University Teachers Organization. If she produces those documents she can clear her name, otherwise her action to disallow the meeting deserves condemnation and as an attempt at throttling freedom of speech and dissent.

  • 0
    0

    ABRAHAM.

    PL.check your sources.In the old days before the MBBS it was the LMS.

    Sir Nicholas[God only knows who knighted him] was an OBSTETRICIAN and GYNAECOLOGIST.

    Taking over from the legendary Sir Ivor the man could not deliver!

  • 3
    0

    Vasanthy Arasaratnam is a so called professor of biochemistry in the medical faculty. Poor medical students are studying at university of Premises.

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