The Arts Faculty Teachers’ Association – Colombo University (AFTA-CU) has today urged the Prime Minister to reconsider the decision to immediately seize the Muttiah Road hostel.
Speaking to Colombo Telegraph president of the AFTA-CU Thiyagaraja Waradas said: “It has come to our knowledge that there is a serious ongoing effort by different state authorities to acquire two of the properties that are currently in possession of the University of Colombo. Accordingly, the Urban Development Authority (UDA) is attempting to acquire the Muttiah Road hostel for women and the differently abled students and the State Ministry of Skills Development, Vocational Education, Research and Innovations is attempting to acquire the plot of land adjacent to the planetarium along with the road that connects Bauddhaloka Mawatha to Stanley Wijeysundara Mawatha along the Planetarium. These efforts seem to be the latest episode in the long-term push to relocate the entire university to a different location.”
“In this ongoing saga, the latest move by the Urban Development Authority to seize the Muttiah Road hostel for women and the differently abled students with immediate effect comes as a surprise to all of the stakeholders of the University of Colombo as no viable alternative hostel facility has been offered in its stead. The Muttiah Road Women’s hostel which occupies a 2.5-acre land in Colombo 02 is only one of eight permanent hostel facilities available to the University of Colombo and hoses more than 550 students including 69 differently abled students. All these students come from faraway places and all of them are not in a position to find lodgings at their expense. They heavily relay on these hostel facilities to continue with their education. Moreover, all of them are benefited by the convenient location and the safe and secure living conditions of the Muttiah Road hostel. Similarly, the university has recently renovated the hotel premises to meet the special needs of the many differently abled students who reside there,” Wadas further said.
“We, the Arts Faculty Teachers’ Association – Colombo University (AFTA-CU), vehemently oppose this strategic move by the state to seize university resources at a time when none of the relevant stakeholders including students and faculty are physically present in the university premises. To our knowledge, the Vice Chancellor and the members of the Council of the University of Colombo have formally expressed their disapproval of this act. However, we are also aware that the state authorities are not willing to pay heed to their disapproval” he said.
We publish below the letter in full:
Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa,
Prime Minister of Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Prime Minister’s Office
No: 58, Sir Ernest De Silva Mawatha
Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa
Re: UDA’s Decision to Seize the Muttiah Road Hostel for Women and Differently Abled Students
We, the Arts Faculty Teachers’ Association – Colombo University (AFTACU) the official trade union of the Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo, wishes to acknowledge the efforts taken by your good office to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the citizens during the pandemic. However, we regret to express our concern regarding the decision taken by the Urban Development Authority (UDA) to seize the 2.5 acre land where Muttiah Road hostel is located with immediate effect.
Muttiah Road hostel is one of the eight permanent hostels of the University of Colombo housing more than 550 female students including differently able students majority of whom are from the Faculty of Arts. Its convenient location, capacity to accommodate a large number of students, close proximity to our faculty and the safety of the locale make it an ideal place of residence for our students. The hostel has also been recently renovated by the University of Colombo to provide better access to the differently abled students. The hostel facilities serve the neediest students from rural areas and are a vital resource that ensures their uninterrupted education. The University of Colombo currently does not have adequate hostel facilities and is in the process of enhancing its hostel facilities. In light of the government’s plans to increase the annual intake of students to all state universities, this action that will result in curtailing the limited resources available to the university seems counterintuitive. Any move to seize the said property immediately, not only deprives the needy students of a chance to better education but also endangers their safety amidst the pandemic which makes finding alternative housing nearly impossible.
This decision to immediately seize the said property comes to us as a surprise as no other hostel facility has been provided and the relevant student and staff bodies have not been duly consulted in the process. As a union concerned with ensuring access to education and safeguarding the state education, we have serious concerns regarding this decision which has been taken without providing an another hostel facility at a time when the on-site functions of the university are on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
We strongly urge your good office to reconsider this decision to immediately seize the Muttiah Road hostel.