C.V. Wigneswaran’s Accusation – Leading Nowhere
The NP Chief Minister in declaring open a housing scheme by a chartable member of the public in Achchuvely about a month ago, made a startling claim. He said in public from the stage that:
A foundation in Singapore had donated Rs. 90 million for the furtherance of Tamil studies and so far the university has seen only Rs. 30,000 of it.
As proof of his source, he pointed to Aru Thirumurugan who has present, and is and has been a member of the University of Jaffna Council for at least three terms. This was reported to me by T. Thayalan, the Sunday Times and Uthayan Correspondent who was present.
It is a testament to Jaffna’s continuing fear psychosis despite the war’s end that, not even after the CM’s public revelation, has the matter led anywhere as it should in a healthy society. If we truly are a democracy with working institutions, it would have been raised at least at the University Council. People fear that if they point to wrongdoings, they will be made to suffer.
My Note to the UGC on the Singapore Bequest
My mind went back to the time I was the Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna. On 4 May 2006, when my relations who had made the bequest expressed concern to me over the use of the money, I promptly wrote to the UGC Chairman Prof. Gamini Samaranayake:
“One of my relatives in Singapore died in 1975 leaving much of his property to be given to University of Jaffna to be spent on Tamil studies, Tamil music studies and the library, after providing for his widow. The latter provision hindered an immediate transfer of funds and the funds were carefully managed by Trustees, one of whom is my cousin Vijendran Alfreds. Mr. Alfreds has informed me that the money was carefully managed and after making provisions for the widow, they dealt with Prof. S. Mohanadas carefully through lawyers, and in January of this year transferred S$1 million (close to SLRs. 67 million). As this huge bequest was not reported to the UGC up to the time I was on the UGC as required by the Universities Act, as Council Members are not aware of this huge gift and as there has been no public announcement of this unusual gift from an expatriate Jaffna man, I please ask that the UGC look into this and ensure that everything is in order. I make no accusations but ask as Vice Chancellor at a time when odd things are going on in the administration of the University only that the UGC ensure that there is transparency any time a gift like this is made and that an old man’s last wishes are correctly implemented by the money going where it was intended.”
After writing to the UGC Chairman, I assumed that the UGC will do the right thing, and put that matter out of my mind – until the CM’s speech, and widely circulating stories that the Agriculture Faculty buildings in Kilinochchi built by the LTTE cost yet another Rs. 650 million to “rebuild” with locks costing more than doors.
Auditor General’s Indictment
I am now very worried. Under the university regime of that period that is still continuing, the Auditor General strongly indicted the then Dean Medicine (who is presently the VC). His report is dated 08 June 2004 and titled “Unauthorized payment for the procurement of Computer Network Facilities to the Medical Faculty” (His Ref. NE/JF/A/JU/2004). It was given to me as a Member of the UGC. It says
The Dean … has deviated from the procurement procedure … and ordered equipment at a total cost of Rs. 3,000,000 whereas the procurement by a Dean is limited to Rs. 100,000. When the availability of grants was Rs. 963,000 order was placed for Rs. 3,000,000. No tender/quotation was called … to obtain the lowest and efficient bid. A sum of Rs. 722,550 … had been paid without any supporting documents. … The price quoted by Delven Computer had been reduced to half of the original prices after negotiation made subsequently. It shows that the price had been quoted arbitrarily. .. All equipment purchased was not installed. … The entire expenditure incurred could be considered irregular, unauthorized and fruitless.”
Incredibly, the expense was retroactively authorized by the Finance Committee after the AG’s indictment and the matter hushed up, an Assistant Bursar of that time informs me. Clearly more people were involved.
The UGC – Encouraging Lawlessness
I have since learnt of the UGC’s irresponsible position on unlawful universities. The present Chairman in his affidavit dated 21 Oct. 2015 on a matter where two universities disobeyed orders by the UGC in the now concluded case USAB 873, incredibly says:
“Universities are separate legal entities and the UGC has not given the power [sic.] to compel Higher Educational Institutions to do things by the Universities Act No. 16 of 1978.”
The powers for the UGC to compel unlawful universities are amply illustrated in the Universities Act. The parlous state of our universities and their pilfered finances is revealed not only by this UGC attitude but also by the lack of grammar in an affidavit.
Obviouly the UGC thinks it can do nothing but has gone to Jaffna to punish the culprits behind the student riots – thinking all the while that it has no power to do anything! Perhaps it is for the holiday they will enjoy at a 5-star hotel.
The opposition seemed clueless about the UGC’s stand on its powers although MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena said in Parliament that If the officials of Jaffna University had refrained from making an intervention to bring the Jaffna student riots situation under control, “the University Grants Commission should take disciplinary action against them.” Good luck Mr. Gunawardena!
Public Giving – What we Must Do
Public giving is what all private western universities thrive on. As we try to revive our educational system and speak of privatization as a means to quality, people must feel encouraged that their giving will really help our universities and not go to line private pockets. The Sunday Leader (1Feb. 2015) has with documents blamed University of Colombo “for allowing former Higher Education Minister S.B. Dissanayake to acquire a valuable residence in Colombo 7 on forged documents which was a gift to the university by an eminent Gynaecologist.” This was the residence of Dr. Siva Chinnathambi, at No.11, Hewa Avenue, Colombo 7.
Unless there is some guarantee that our bequests will not be embezzled, no one will give. No one should! There is a lot of noise about the frauds in government that have been going on. We who grumble that our new government is doing nothing, must do something ourselves. The Council of the university has first responsibility. It has failed us. The UGC is our next line of defence. It too has failed us. Now the Minister of Higher Education must act.
We members of the public must do our bit, pressuring the Minister and the government to honour the mandate that we the public gave them to clean up. And to honour the memory of the generous dead by ensuring that their hard earned savings are used as they intended.
Post Script: The Government Gazette of 15 July, 2016 gives the Auditor General’s indictment of the university.
Section 2:2:4 refers to the non-rendition of “Detailed reports on donations received from foreign countries/embassies.”