Invitations to Expatriates to Return
The President during the health ministry budget debate has invited our doctors who have migrated to the West to return and serve.
Recall that on 1 Sept. 2015 the President announced a special policy statement in parliament promising a red carpet welcome to us expatriates who return. This was on the heels of the 100-point program of the new government. Point 94 promised reinstatement to victimized persons who returned. I had to flee twice, in 2006 and 2011, over safety concerns.
I was very enthusiastic about the changes in the offing and wanted to support them. I was just short of 63 years of age in the US. There is no retirement age there but here it was 65 for academics. I felt my mite was necessary. I took two years’ leave of absence. I thought I could put in my two years remaining here at Jaffna’s Engineering Faculty which was struggling with lack of staff. The two years’ pay loss was nothing compared to the free education I had received here.
Second Grade People Hiring Third Grade People
Alas! In the words of Dr. Michael Nelson, a top Analyst for the US Government:
“First Grade people hire first grade people and surround themselves with intelligent people. Second grade people hire third grade people.”
My application to University of Jaffna for a junior position (Senior Lecturer) was rejected. In 2010, in the aftermath of the war, the UGC effected a policy of absorbing those who returned. But the long-term effect of second rate people hiring third rate people is that the third rate people now want no qualified people.
Clueless UGC Chairman
The UGC Chairman Mohan de Silva is responsible. His qualification for office is questionable. Despite the powers conferred on the UGC by the Universities Act to regulate the administration of universities and uphold academic standards, de Silva says in three separate affidavits in the bad English characterizing the deteriorating university standards, “the Universities are separate legal entities and the UGC has not given power [sic.] to compel Higher Educational Institutions to do things by the Universities Act No. 16 of 1978.”
While hiding behind autonomy, when convenient, this autonomy is waived as when he forced the Open University VC to reduce tuition fees and when he advertised engineering vacancies for South Eastern University (SEUSL) in the Sunday Times. When I spoke to de Silva in Professor Carlo Fonseka’s presence, he was clueless about UGC Circulars and insisted that to be a professor one had to join as a lecturer, and there is no direct recruitment as professor.
SEUSL: Punishing Students to Safeguard Third Rate Academics
de Silva was defending asking a person who holds an Oxford DPhil and a professorial post abroad to come as a Senior Lecturer. This person had applied for the post of Professor responding to de Silva’s Sunday Times advertisement. He has authored many western textbooks and papers in far greater numbers than, I venture, any engineering professor here. Yet, he was asked to come for an interview for Senior Lecturer whereas he had responded to an advertisement for professor. He naturally refused. After turning him down, Senior Lecturers from other universities are now paid a fabulous bonus to come visiting, whereas this person would have commanded a lower salary and been a professor.
When students at SEUSL asked me to apply there because they had no one to teach electromagnetics, I declined saying I came back to live in Jaffna but would volunteer to come one day a week without pay and teach two courses. I communicated this to the Dean and VC through my former students who know them. But my offer was turned down. My volunteering would have interfered with paying friends to come as visitors with a hefty Rs. 150,000 a month bonus.
Unlawful Jaffna and Attorney General
The University of Jaffna to date has not fulfilled an order in 2010 to hire my wife (with a PhD degree under a Nobel Laureate) and me (with a higher doctorate). Its Selection Committees have incredibly found us unqualified although we both held professorships at a major US research university. Nor has it obeyed a directive made on 2 Feb. 2016 by the University Services Appeals Board (USAB) to pay me for the time I was VC-Jaffna and list me among past Vice Chancellors.
In the meantime, the Jaffna Council has objected to my application being rejected by the VC. It asked her to review the decision in July but she is stalling. The VC has disallowed questions from the Council, claiming that the Attorney General has ordered her not to discuss my case at the Council; even as she and the Attorney General make submissions to the USAB on behalf of the Council!
The Attorney General is behaving like a Shyster, ignoring that according to the Universities Act it is the Council that speaks for the University. Dr. Devansean Nesiah of the Council has queried the legitimacy of such submissions through a letter to the USAB. He has pointed out that the Universities Act in Article 28(2) states “The powers conferred on a University […] shall […], be exercised by its Council.”
How can the AG submit to court on behalf of the Council when the Council cannot know or discuss what is submitted on its behalf? The AG’s actions are contempt worthy of a Shyster.
UGC Ignoring President’s Letters and Promoting Theocracy
The Presidential Secretariat has written to the Minister of Higher Education to look into my reinstatement. He in turn has written to de Silva. The Secretariat has sent reminders thrice.
In an amicus curiae affidavit dated 12 Oct. 2016, Prof. Carlo Fonseka has informed the USAB that he inquired through Chandrika Kumaratunga and de Silva asking why Jaffna will not recruit my wife and me when there is such a dire shortage of staff. He states that two of the three reasons given to him were that 1) I have written against a revered iconic figure among Hindus, Arumuga Navalar, and that this makes me unwanted in Jaffna. I have questioned the myths making a national hero of a caste fanatic. What is unfortunate is that the UGC Chairman de Silva has made faith in false histories a requirement to teach engineering; and 2) Hindus seem to believe that as has happened from the very beginning, the University of Jaffna should not be headed by a non-Hindu. (My being listed as past VC would make me the only non-Hindu VC).
Previously when the Jaffna University Science Teachers’ Association pointed out recruitment violations by the VC, de Silva simply dismissed the accusations as a Christian Conspiracy when FUTA met him to ask for action. This time, out of sheer incompetence, de Silva put these in writing in his letter to Madam Kuramartunga. The UGC has refused my RTI Act request saying de Silva’s was a personal letter to Chandrika Kumaratunga although the matter was referred to him as Chairman.
When the UGC Chairman trots out these communalist claims as legitimate reasons in a secular university and legitimizes wild accusations of Christian conspiracies, he ceases to have any legitimacy as the upholder of sound university standards. When he disavows his powers to compel universities to be lawful and in fact endorses the unlawful acts of universities, it is time to remove him.
Trouble-making or Upholding the Law?
The third reason given to Carlo Fonseka is that I cause trouble. Yes, I cause trouble as I do now in exposing the communalism and ineptitude in our universities. The Institution of Electrical Electronic Engineers, the IEEE, is the largest professional organization worldwide. I was the first Sri Lankan to be made a Fellow for my contributions to the profession. It has a Code of Ethics which includes exposing corruption. Any trouble I have caused anywhere is in insisting on upholding the law.
In the meantime, I have only nine more months to reach my Sri Lankan retirement age. I have wasted 18 months of valuable time when I could have usefully served at University of Jaffna and helped the students. I made that sacrifice happily, but now I ask, for what?
It is not enough for the President to announce sound policies. He must follow through with mechanisms to underwrite those policies by giving them teeth. He must insist that his appointee as UGC Chairman is competent and law abiding, and believes in the government’s policies of inter-communal reconciliation. The Attorney General must support the lawful directives of the President. Are these not what the promise of Good Governance is all about?
When the President gives teeth to his policies, I will wish him well and join him in asking our doctors abroad to start coming back.