25 October, 2020

Blog

Target Practice

By Kath Noble

Kath Noble

Dealing with ‘inconvenient’ people is one of the Government’s main talents. Upset somebody important and you will be made to suffer. It is only the form of punishment that is to be decided, according to who you are and what the Government imagines you will do to save yourself.

Last week, it was the turn of Anuruddha Pradeep, a lecturer at the University of Sri Jayawardenapura.

Pradeep was sacked for not completing his Masters within the specified amount of time after his appointment. Except that the only thing standing between him and the completion of his Masters is the university, since he has submitted his thesis and is waiting for them to approve it. Indeed, he submitted it nearly three months ago.

Every other lecturer in this position – probably in the entire history of the university if not also throughout the university system in Sri Lanka – is granted a temporary appointment until the matter can be sorted out. Once their thesis is approved, their permanent appointment is backdated to the date of submission. Even people who haven’t finished their research are granted this facility, since it is commonly accepted that universities should help their young researchers to develop their capacities, rather than obsessing over deadlines.

Given the difficulties in retaining talent, this is understandable.

The Government is desperate to encourage the thousands of academics who have left the country in despair at the state of the university system to come back, to establish its as yet purely imaginary ‘knowledge hub’, so why does it want to get rid of Pradeep?

To facilitate his removal, the university has even stooped to the level of falsifying the submission date of his thesis in the papers the Vice Chancellor presented to its council meeting.

Why go to such lengths?

Because the Minister of Higher Education is obsessed with establishing private universities, and Pradeep has consistently and very effectively raised doubts about the policy and the manner in which it is being implemented.

Of particular importance is the Malabe Medical College.

Towards the end of last year, Pradeep and FUTA president Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri, together with Dr Sankalpa Marasinghe and Dr Upul Gunasekara of the GMOA, filed a fundamental rights petition against SB Dissanayake regarding the Malabe Medical College, otherwise known as the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine.

Curiously, when it was established in 2008/9, it was called the South Asian Institute of Technology and Management.

At least they both start with an ‘M’.

The Board of Investment approved the project on the condition that the approval of both the Sri Lanka Medical Council and the Ministry of Health would be obtained prior to starting any courses related to health, but they are yet to get around to that ‘detail’. They are also yet to fulfil any of the targets included in the gazette notification issued by the Ministry of Higher Education when it granted the Malabe Medical College the right to award degrees under the University Grants Commission.

In any case, it is not clear whether this gazette notification was legal, since the rules of the University Grants Commission require the approval of the relevant professional body for all of its courses, and this has not been given.

Silly doctors, not yet convinced by SB Dissanayake’s master plan.

How very irresponsible of them, for example, to think that medical students should be trained in an established hospital so that they can see for themselves how the most important ailments in Sri Lanka present and gain experience of treating actual patients.

The Malabe Medical College has managed to turn out seven batches of young people without troubling itself with such concerns.

The case was dismissed by the Supreme Court on the grounds that it was brought more than a month after the gazette notification, but the petitioners argue that the violation is ongoing and progressive in nature, albeit having begun some time ago. They also stress the fact that the issue is of widespread public interest, in the sense that it affects the two vital social services of health and education.

It would certainly seem to indicate how ineffective regulation of private universities is likely to be.

Pradeep has written a very useful book on private universities (‘Private Universities: Fashion and Reality’, Ravaya Publishers 2011) that explains the likely fate of the university system if SB Dissanayake is allowed to continue his crusade unchecked. He has studied the situation in other countries, concluding that many have no or very few private universities (e.g. the UK), while in places where they are common they are often almost exclusively not-for-profit institutions (e.g. the US). Where for-profit institutions are significant, a strong oversight mechanism is essential to prevent corruption.

But SB Dissanayake is confident that corporations – both domestic and foreign – have people’s best interests at heart, so why all this fuss?

It’s only education and health.

These were among the issues stressed by FUTA during its three month long strike last year, and Pradeep was one of its more visible participants.

The Minister of Higher Education made his displeasure absolutely clear in an article in Lakbima, in which he announced that ‘Pradeep can be expelled from the university any time’.

How exactly, when universities are supposed to be autonomous?

Well, SB Dissanayake has packed their councils with his supporters, including both his relatives and people eager to set up private universities. At Sri Jayawardenapura, the Minister of Higher Education appoints nine members, while eight come from the university. Even the university representatives are under tremendous pressure.

FUTA has issued a media statement condemning the dismissal of Pradeep, complaining of political interference. It says that it has received reports from several other universities of similar incidents, especially in the North and East. Perhaps the willingness of Pradeep to come forward and challenge his treatment stems from the fact that he is also an office-bearer of the JHU, giving him some protection from the full weight of the administration. He is fortunate. If he were a member of the TNA, he would have been labelled a Tiger and that would have been the last of him.

According to FUTA, political interference in the university system is now reaching unprecedented levels, as Shanie reported in these columns on Saturday with special reference to recent developments at Peradeniya.

This is hardly surprising.

The one thing that the Government is absolutely committed to is getting its own way. It doesn’t matter what you do, only total commitment to its goals and to the specific objectives of its key personalities will be enough to keep you out of trouble.

*Kath Noble’s column may be accessed online at  http://kathnoble.wordpress.com. She may be contacted at kathnoble99@gmail.com

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    S. B. Disanayake should be sacked.

    • 0
      0

      … and replaced by??

      • 0
        0

        anyone else would be better than him.

  • 0
    0

    //The Government is desperate to encourage the thousands of academics who have left the country in despair at the state of the university system to come back,//

    What evidence is there for this?

  • 0
    0

    Anuruddha Pradeep analyzing why Government is wrong in their education policy

  • 0
    0

    The decision-makers at government ministry level must use the public health system when they themselves are sick. That is the only way that they will understand the serious implications of commercial or business interest in the nation’s health.

    Until that becomes a reality, the public health system will probably be risky for its users, due to the inconsistencies in training levels, operating standards of medical equipment and inadequacies in quality of medical supplies.

  • 0
    0

    PM Cameron is appalled and rushing home from Paris.

    The same Cameron wants to get rid of our PTA, to please BTF,TGTE and the TNA,not forgetting the latest ally Salley.

    Srlanka lost her brave soldiers in dozens every day and every week for thirty years.

    No British PM was never appalled,and the chief of staff of the Terrorist Leader was living not far from Woolwich.

    Now British Cath is appalled that Pradeep couldn’t finish his Masters in time because he was busy with his extra curricular activities obviously which are not related to his project which is funded by the Taxpayers.

  • 0
    0

    You have bravely turned your attention to a perennial conundrum that has plagued the administration of this crowded island for years. Alas, the powers that be work on the simple principle that if you are not with us, then you must be against us. The all powerful ministers of the GOSL take no prisoners. Oops! Sorry. Now do we know why there is a Diaspora of, not just Tamils but, Sinhalese and others too? Alas, the erudite scholar would do well, for his own sanity, to find a perch far from home, from which he may argue these points to his heart’s content.

  • 0
    0

    It is true that one should not be obsessed with deadlines. On the other hand, one should not submit a thesis on the verge of allocated time, just to get away from set rules. I appreciate what Pradeep is doing not in feudal politics but in free education. However, 8 years is a long time to get MSC qualification. You mentioned here about universities in the UK and the US. It is hard to get a lecturer post in these universities and even harder to retain it if you do not get post graduate qualifications on due course. It is a paradox that on one hand, Pradeep is vigorously standing for free university education. It is also important that university academic staff have “academic qualifications” and up to date knowledge in their field to make this sector sustainable in the long run.

    • 0
      0

      however this is the common practice in sri lankan universities. at least fifty percent of all academics here in sri lanka submitted their theses on the verge of their deadlines. i know that even sumanasiri liyanage did the same and vijitha nanayakkara too in that group. no one has so far been terminated for that reason. this is the first time that someone was sacked on this reason and it is purely and openly on political grounds. this is the problem. pradeep is better than others, because he has done so many other things unlike his colleagues who did the same for their masters.

  • 0
    0

    SB’s political past only proves the character of the man.

    He will continue his immoral antics until such time the whole academic edifice collapses in a heap.

    Isn’t the President aware of the damage SB is doing to our children and their future?

  • 0
    0

    Kath; Do you think these so called acadamics have proper qualification??

  • 0
    0

    “The one thing that the Government is absolutely committed to is getting its own way.”

    How can a government govern if every one has their own way? Complaining it all right, but trying to do thing their own way is another matter.

    Shouldn’t they first get elected if others want to haveit their way?

    I am only asking from your all-knowing self.

  • 0
    0

    Didn’t these same universities grant honorary doctorates to several worthies after the war ended? Sycophants shouldn’t be surprised when their bootlicking backfired. Its not as if the present university system is all hunky dory. Most non professional graduates end up barracking the government for jobs, for which they are minimally qualified. The system needs a real shake up and what better way than to establish competing private universities. Of course they won’t be following any altruism but in a consumer world, you can expect the worthy product to be appreciated. Of course the case mentioned here in this story is lamentable but just think, didn’t the academics sit quiet and mutely watch when the civil liberties of the ‘others’ get trampled? Now they have come for them.

  • 0
    0

    http://www.blacklistednews.com/Holder_OK'd_search_warrant_for_Fox_News_reporter's_private_emails%2C_official_says/26200/0/38/38/Y/M.html

    Our blind devotion to the ‘land of the free’ is misplaced. The above article is to do with the most right wing segment of the US press, which comes under attack from a segement that is somewhat less so. the land of the free isn’t all about freedom, where the Prsident admonishes the press to come to an arrangement with the military as to what they want published and what to leave alone.

  • 0
    0

    8 years is a long long time to wait without getting a postgrad qualification. Everyone knows that one’s job is not secure until one can obtain this requisite and get confirmed in the lecturer post. Why wait so long and submit a thesis at the very end of the probation period? Whatever his political views and however noble they might be, he should have focused on getting his qualifications before locking horns with the powers, political or academic. Given his vulnerable position it was an extremely stupid thing to do. He was a trouble maker to the authorities and the first moment they had the opportunity to get rid of him, they did. It was Pradeep’s own mistake. Don’t set out onto the battlefield without being adequately protected and armed. He had neither, but foolishly took on the establishment.

    • 0
      0

      He may have some reasons to get that extended.

      For a MSc THESIS, 8 years is a long time. But ones who go through such theses have already proved that they can manage to complete PG courses successfully. If the candidates are not qualified, they would not be offered placements for further studies.

      This particular case has lot to do with the politically motivated revenge than any other reasons. So has MR proved sacking Dr. SB. If they want to kill someone, they would fearlessly do so no matter the masses would not agree. That they have proved.. in the last stages of the war and very many other issues in the post war sessions. No need to go in compliance with the ruling law of the country, what governs is the intentions of the incumbent president and his bunch of thieves. There are no good advisers to president is known fact. No matter anyone would laugh at them, just to satisfy them, they would dare to do anything.

    • 0
      0

      yes he should have written his thesis well before the deadline. And we know that he is a capable man to achieve such a goal which is so simple for even the least capable ones in the academia. but the point is that he wrote a series of articles in Ravaya and several for Island against the government’s effort for establishing private universities and he finally wrote a book on the subject. we should admire it rather than criticize him for delaying his own work. on the other hand, he had submitted his thesis before the deadline and according to the common practice, he should not have been terminated. this is the first time in history that someone was terminated even when he has submitted his thesis before the deadline. this is the issue. it is purely a result of the politicization of the university council of which nine members out of seventeen are appointed by the minister. the minister wanted to expel one of his enemies from the university and he did it. and you are blaming the victim instead of the criminal.

  • 0
    0

    Kath,
    Today srilanka under the rule of MR is not fair to anyone, perhaps only to Rajapakshes. Where they feel to revenge they are not ashamed to do so. No matter any other civilized societies would not respect, no matter the rule of law in the country are against, they give the priority for taking a revenge. Needless to say about the lately held illegal impeachment against country^s CJ – Dr. SB. Rulers simply dont have any values that civilized cultures societies hold that respectful in the country country today. This has come to appalling levels to date, but as you see, there are no professionals to go against the rulers. There should be some kind of great fear in people – just to stay blind and deaf whatever degree of the issue it is. The country under CBK was not fallen to this levels even if her terms were focusing on the war in its climax. Today the rulers are not respected in and out of the country. They have become just laughing figures to the world. But locals seem to stay dumb and deaf -for some unexplainable reasons. I as a one who left the country decades ago, cant get all the realities through on line sources either

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.