30 November, 2020

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Why FUTA Demands University Autonomy And End To Politicization

By A member of FUTA, University of Peradeniya –

Sri Lankan university system is dysfunctional since early July.  The federation of university teachers associations, FUTA, is on a trade union action close to last three months.  Among FUTA’s demands, allocation of 6% o GDP for education, stop politicization of universities, ensure autonomy of universities, are included to make sure the university system could function in its true spirit of intellectual capacity.  And, for any government that is serious about the development of the country, issuing a policy statement in support of these justifiable demands immediately cost nothing, and, there is ample time for planning.  Instead, Sri Lankan government, through unprecedented manipulation of electronic and print media, is trying its best to mislead the general public framing this trade union action as an international conspiracy. Another allegation is that this is an attempt to topple the government where university teachers play third fiddle for leftist parties and various nongovernmental organizations allegations etc.  The media suppression on publicity of FUTA activities is such that private TV channels would not dare to accept even a paid advertisement from FUTA.

The present minister of higher education, who is famously notorious – with imprisonment for contempt of court and changing political parties for personal gains – engaged in misleading the masses through lying using baseless facts. The minister appears to be worried much about the growing concern of general public and support FUTA draws out of that, this support was amply demonstrated during the march from Galle to Colombo.  Recently he started to manipulate few political stooges found among the academic staff to make counter arguments on state controlled TV against the FUTA demands.  These nincompoop come  from Open university and Kelaniya university and they openly denounce the action by FUTA on state controlled television; (ITN and Rupawahini and private channels such as Swarnawahini) – hope these so called patriotic academics know the damage they are doing to the very system in which they are a part of. Then, the minister got some of his allies, students of course, to file human right cases against striking teachers, also went for a forced arbitration process against FUTA, all seems to have failed now. To misguide the public, the latest trick of shameless higher education minister, nick named as ‘supiri boru’ (meaning – super lies), is the personal attack on FUTA leadership, ample examples appear in local week end papers. So by now it is more than convinced that the government wants to crush this TU action, which focuses on important national and social issues, in their usual style – similar examples are found in the recent history.

Request for a planned approach to allocate 6% of GDP have been argued widely in favor by professionals who know the value of education, while argued against by politically motivated academics stooges and other nincompoop, in many forums.  Therefore let us try to understand why the demand of – Stop politicization of universities and Ensure autonomy of universities – are in the FUTA’s list. Some example from university of Peradeniya, the oldest and the largest university in the system, are cited as examples of why FUTA included these two demands. Hopefully, upon reading this, one could see how the present minister of higher education inflicted long lasting, very sever damages to the state university system, where the recovery process would take years of hard work of real patriotic academics – of course, at least  if these undesirable influences and inflicting are stopped now.

Appointment of Members for the university council

Our first example is appointment of members to the council of the university. The fact that  ‘supiri boru’  minister of higher education manipulated the appointments to get his henchmen into the council is widely published in recent ‘ravaya’ paper and other concerned media. It is not a secret that this was done even at the expense of the eliminating position available for minority representation in the council. Such manipulation makes sure that whatever decisions the minister wants to implement (usually undesirable for the existence of autonomy) will be pulled through the council (as he got 11 out of 21 members) such that it looks legal so that there is little room for challenging the decisions made at the council.

Chairman of university grant commission (UGC)

The present chairman of UGC continues his term in office, with special permission from cabinet after and presidential blessing, after his proper term of 3 years was over. It is a well known fact that the present chairman is a leftist and JVP activists who has been imprisoned in 1970 for his anti-government activities. Rallying for present president during early stages while he was member of arts faculty academic staff here at Peradeniya was the main qualification for him to   be appointed as the chairman of UGC. Since his appointment, he has issued many UGC circulars in violation of the members of staff, both academic and non-academic.  In fact withdrawal of these circulars is one of the FUTA’s demands. Famous circular 890 is one example of such violation of fundamental rights of the workers.

Appointment of acting Deputy vice chancellor – DVC (acting)

DVC position is mainly there to look after student welfare aspect of the university, which is a residential university in this case. However, when new vice chancellor assumed office during the TU action (another controversial appointment of ‘supiri boru’ for which more qualified and capable candidates were nominated by then council), the DVC position was entrusted with a person whose history with this university is written only by clashes with students. The only qualification to be appointed as present DVC (acting) is his pact with ‘supiri boru’ minister, that he would do anything to disrepute FUTA and its TU action, to bring it down. Being a member of FUTA, this person has always been working against its interest and it is sensible question to ask why he is still a member of FUTA ?.  When inquired from VC why there is no proper appointment (where suitable candidates are available within the university), the answer was VC is under immense pressure from top such that this person had to be appointed. In recent weeks, he went on national TV to ruthlessly attack FUTA with baseless facts and to buy confidence for supiri-boru minister.

Appointment of a registrar with military background

The registrar position of the university was vacant more than three years, without a proper person being appointed. The application process was delayed, and finally, few months back, an ex-military person was appointed. With this appointment, which was made during the trade union action of the academic staff, enough ha-ho has been created within non-academic staff due to implementation of military style administration in the university. For example, the university security service has been demanded to salute when passing executives of university administration system.

Appointment of technical staff

The applicants are to be selected from list which minister sends. The only qualification is affiliation with the present government and be supportive of the corruption. Without the enrolment of qualified technical level staff, conducting the academic program in science streams, and maintaining the required standards is becoming extremely difficult. The main issue is, once appointed; these people are there in the system for their whole life, so the menace will not be over for decades.

As one could see, the political influences on appointment of key administrative figures and other staff has already been done severe damages to the university system and its existence. Though this is the case of Peradeniya University, this situation is far worse in regional universities where the number of staff is smaller, they virtually have no voice. In such places the VCs act like dictators and direct agents of H.E minister. Continuous suppression and subtle but persistent manipulation of the administration of the university system has lead to a very serious breakdown of discipline among the staff, and in senates and councils. Some members of academic staff directly get involve with the government and the ministry in order to get into admin seats – become members of UGC, VCs, or other posts that are important for the development of the society.

As shown by the examples above, the policy of scratching each other’s back with the politicians have caused serious damages to the autonomy of university system. This politicization is the one FUTA request to be stopped.

On behalf of  – Peradeniya university community, who love this beautiful university  / Sept 2012

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    You have not mentioned how I was appointed the VC at Peradeniya. I will tell it. I got my brother-in-law and one other guy to apply for the VC position. They are dummies and they have no connection to University of Peradeniya. My friend “supiri boru” Dissanayake ordered all the sombies in the council appointed by him to vote for me and those two dummies. Unfortunately only I was able to get into those three names sent to President and those stupid dummies did not get enough votes because some council members were not as dumb as others. It was really difficult for me to get the job as the other two candidates were really capable and more experienced than me. However, my friend SB was able to convince the stupid president and get me appointed to this prestigeous position. But now I have realized that I cannot carry on like this because I have never done anything in this University and I feel embarrassed to chair meetings without any prior experience. I regret the whole thing and that’s why I divulged everything happened. I appologize for the sins. Otherwise I know that I will have to pay the price and suffer whole my life and I am sure in future lives as well.

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      Same goes for the new Vice Chancellor of the Open University who is a pet poodle of Rajapassa who ran for the UPFA elections in Kandy and failed sometime ago!

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    The whole country is over-politicised! This is our national curse. How can the universities be the exception! The depoliticisation has to begin with changes to our constitution, dethroning of our politicians and restoring the sovereignty of the people. FUTA should steer clear of all politicians and not bite more than it can chew. All sectors of education in Sri Lanka- primary,secondary and tertiary- need serious re-orientation and reform. This has much more to do with vision and related objectives than money. Ravindranath Tagore’s Shanthi Niketan attained the highest point in its reputation and influence, when it was operating under trees and sheds. FUTA should start a debate on what is wrong with our entire education system, beyond politicisation and money. The entire system is rotten from bottom upwards and is resting on very shaky foundations .

    Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

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    The first thing to be kept in mind is that this is a government that was elected by the people and the fact of the matter is that it is profoundly representative of the people in its nature and culture. For the first time we have a government and a president who actually behave in ways that the people of this country admire and support. FUTA is amongst the very small minority that allegedly does not subscribe to this culture and pattern of behavior.

    The nincompoops referred to are all products of the education system and it is my contention that the majority of the products of our education system are very similar to them if not the same although over the past twelve months or so I have found some delightful and valuable exceptions because of whom I have chosen to devote as much time and effort as possible to supporting this change initiative because it is clear to me that our future depends on our joining forces with and strengthening such people wherever they may be in the world.

    The government is behaving in typical Sri Lankan style in moving to crush this change initiative rather than respond to the issues that it brings to awareness. Remember the ongoing efforts to crush the rebellion of the minorities who maintain that they are being oppressed?

    Appointment of Members for the university council:

    If there was political manipulation at this level then there should have been some action taken in this respect when it occurred. How is it that such actions were tolerated until they built up to this level?

    Chairman of university grant commission (UGC):

    Here again this move could have been resisted in many ways. Was it?

    Appointment of acting Deputy vice chancellor – DVC (acting):

    Here again we have an instance of political strategy and tactics. What counter moves were made if any?

    Appointment of a registrar with military background:

    This again is politics. How was it resisted?

    Appointment of technical staff:

    Same story again.

    This is the same scenario that is being played out across the country in various ways. It is possible to do this because the education system has produced people who do not know how to maintain the integrity of democratic processes.

    My concern is that 6% of GDP is not going to guarantee the production of a different kind of person who is able to maintain the integrity of the democratic process. On the contrary it may produce more and more of the same kind of people who worship authority and curry favor which is something that they learn from the way their own teachers and parents related to them.

    I maintain that while I support the change initiative that FUTA has set in motion, those with the ability and willingness must come forward to ensure that the government commits as much resources as are required, which may be far more than 6% of GDP, to restructure the education system so that it is able to produce people who are equipped to address the critical issues of our times which I have articulated elsewhere and hence will not do so here.

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    I fully agree with this article. Successive govts have continued with the politicization of the everything and have wrecked everything.

    Now, Sri Lanka is a system run by a few individuals.

    Universities should be independent and should be allowed to charge some money from students too.

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    What a come down in position we have witnessed over the years. In the days gone by to be the VC of Peradeniya was such a High calibre post and people of the calibre as Sir Ivor Jennings, Sir Nicholas Atygalle are names held in high esteem even after sixty years. Today VCs come and go and the society is hardly aware of the characters, let alone another sixty years, they are not even known much now holding office. The VC’s post is no different to the Presidents Post in the country, where buggers who Loot, Lie, Rob and Murder are the one’s holding such Prestiges office.

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      Your and my cries are fair. But not many seem to seeing it this manner yet. How many months we have to tolerate these buggers are unpredictable.

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    Going shopping for the ruling party is the only qualification requires for any Govt.vacancy. Just research yourself whether I lie. All the best qualified ones are with private sector or gone abroad.

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    Nice piece of word

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    University lecturers are the most selfish lot in the Sri Lanka. They worked for the Rajapakse regime. They are the ones who drafted the Mahinda Chintana. At that time they did not allocate the 6% GDP for education. Lecturers supported the Anti Ragging Bill. They not made any protest when large number of students arrested by police in numerous occasions. Lecturers were silent when private universities started. Lecturers were dead silent when large number of schools were closed by the governmont. Lecturers not protest when Docterates issued to famous thugs in Sri Lanka. Lecturesrs silent when war crimes commited by Fonseka and others. Lecturers do not protested when a criminal who offended court was elected as the Minister of Higher Education. These lecturers did not protest when Professor Desmond Mallimarachhci’s Professor post was removed for political reasons. They silent when Professor posts were given to political stooges who have not done any research papers. How can we believe them when suddenly they come forward and say they are the protetor of free education. They are worried only about their salaries. Sure they will drop the 6% GDP demand when they get the salary increase. This 6% demand is only to fool the students, trade unions and parents. Nadesan.

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    One of the successful strategies of European colonial administrations of the 18th to 20th centuries was to deny the colonised “natives” a means to education.

    Therefore, large parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America remained illiterate and failed to develop as “knowledge” or “wisdom” centres.

    For generations, the colonial masters exploited their ignorance, apathy and lack of intellectual advancement to their advantage to bleed those countries of their resources.

    The British had a relatively novel idea to train the natives in their own systems and therefore Sri Lankans also remain faithful to British values and systems of the 19th century.

    It is in that context that scroundels use nationalism as their last resort, where rallying cries bring out the loyal and the faithful to enable perpetuation of an exploitative environment manufactured with evil intent.

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    lllll

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    Please understand the realities in our university system. Nadesan is quite right. Can anybody challenge his argument? Why academics are so selfish and fear even they have no unity when it comes to challenges and opportunities. They are the most jealous people the world. Academics should be free and active and supportive of each other as they have no threat in their jobs, promotions etc, but they are the worst as they see their fellow academics as enemies and hate each other.
    There are many people in university system who have no professionalism, up-to-date knowledge, research, but they all got professorship even they haven’t write a newspaper article. Just see our fellow members in overseas universities, how hard they work and contribute to research, innovation, and industry. You do nothing and get most of the things. Don’t you feel shame as so called educated bunch of people in the community?
    Minister and his admin people are really useless they can’t even run a funeral or such society. What skills they have?
    President and his team need to remember that the end of their fortune begins with touching and influencing badly to the education of the country as it is very sensitive especially university system.

    Both parties need to be understood their limits and weaknesses and work cooperatively and build the trust. University academics and administration need to be independent and all should be based on results and performance. There are plenty of academics who migrated and will happy to help to develop world class practices and systems for our university system. Why don’t you all agree and invite them to work with as many good Asian Universities have done.

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    Most of these FUTA members have been working in the University system for 10-20 years including the Chairman of the FUTA. Just think what these people have done to the University system. Worst Department of the Art Faculty and the University of Colombo is headed by Nirmal Ranjith. This man completely destryoed the academicas and their dignity in the society.

    Most of the University teachers come to work at 9-10 in the morning and leaving the university at 2 p.m. These false academics must remove from the university system first before asking for a demand

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    I know of a guy who became professor by submitting reference to abstracts, which he never read at SLAAS. Many in the selection committee knew it but he got promoted. Now he is a politically appointed Vice Chancellor. WE have paved the pathway for such guys. It is now a very hard task to for the FUTA to bring sense into such a highly politicised system

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    If the futa is not politicised, how come all these politicians joined their rally including Ranil who was a member of the mob who iss responsible for destroying our education system? What was Pakiasothy’s role in meeting the demonstrators? Why is Devasiri numb about his past when questioned- his “billa role”, his article about Lecturers doing nothing, his “catholic priesthood” and finally the war agsinst the terrorists?. Can he also please tell us where does he get the funds to make these T shirts, print placards etc? This is not to say the Govt is innocent.

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