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Prof. Hoole,Vice Chancellor of Jaffna

There be no doubt that the all the communities wants Hoole as VC. Those who oppose him are some has-beens who fear that the old corruptions at the university and within society – rushed appointments to professorships, non-academic cadre fillings without advertisements, ponzi schemes like Shabra Finance that robbed pensioners of their savings, etc. – will have difficulties with Hoole having a voice in Jaffna.
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by Tarrin Constantine

(December 28, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) It seems finally settled that Professor S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole has been appointed Vice Chancellor of University of Jaffna. Although there has been no official announcement, this is clear from a multiplicity of sources. Lilith Weeratunga, the President’s Secretary, has told enquiring reporters that it is Hoole and that the letter will be issued soon. Minister Douglas Devananda at a gathering of news editors at the middle of last week also made this clear. He had complained that since his choice for VC, Professor Vasanthy Arasaratnam, has not been accepted, there is no point in his being in politics. Hoole himself has said that the President had given him his word on Wednesday 15 December at a meeting at Temple Trees and that he is grateful to the President for not looking at the religious issues raised by the others and for looking only at qualifications.

It is a crisis for Douglas Devananda, a senior minister of the government. Out of the university’s 25 Council members he appointed 13 in the name of the UGC and has since then met them before every meeting of the council to tell them how to vote. As a result it is not clear whether they are there to look after the university’s interests or the EPDP’s. Accordingly, as reported widely in the Tamil press, he had asked for a vote for Vasanthy Arasaratnam and two less stellar candidates so that he could easily justify the reasonably qualified Arasaratnam. He had specifically asked them not to vote for Hoole and the current VC Shanmugalingam. A few of the Council members broke ranks and voted in Hoole and Shanmugalingam with 9 votes each along with Vasanthy Arasaratnam into the slate of three names to be forwarded to the President for a final decision. Arasaratnam who on previous tries for VC got 4 or 5 votes, this time got the highest, 14 votes, because of Devananda’s backing. Devananda’s problem now was in backing Arasaratnam with the President when the other two were strong – Hoole because of his unsurpassed academic credentials and the record of having been prevented by the LTTE from working as VC; and Shanmugalingam because he is the present VC and had helped the President at the elections, appearing on platforms and adorning him with a golden shawl.

This led to Devananda’s second debacle as his nominee Arasaratnam was rejected by the President. Politically Devananda had played the wrong cards and left no room for himself to even pretend that he backed the appointee.

At present Hoole’s letter of appointment is delayed, giving space for objections. Devananda’s newspaper, Thinamurasu, has put a spin claiming that the delay is because of reconsideration and objections to Hoole. But opposition to Hoole is not being intelligently orchestrated, perhaps a measure of desperation. Devananda according to reports has threatened to withdraw from politics if Arasaratnam is not appointed. But what if the President, and Basil and Namal Rajapaksa thought it a great idea? In the meantime, Arasaratnam’s supporters, backed by the EPDP, are claiming that those who support Hoole are ruining their reputations with the LTTE-supporting public because Hoole is anti-LTTE. Have they not read the Wikileaks reports on the US Embassy communications from Colombo? Do they not know that being anti-LTTE may not sound so bad to the government and the worn out public?

As the delay in the letter of appointment continues, the argument against Hoole grows more extreme and silly. He is anti-Hindu and that was the last time the Temple bell would be heard on campus said a Dean who headed the LTTE’s Human Rights Commission at a public ceremony for Sir Pon. Ramanathan at the Temple. But does an HRC chairman not know that to use a person’s religion to put him down is part of what we here in Britain call racism, a crime punishable by fines and imprisonment? Hoole would close down the Department of Hindu Civilisation, said a Professor of Tamil. Is that practicable even if Hoole desired it? And would Hoole set off dynamite to remove the temple? The Ramanathan Trust declares the lands to be used for a Hindu purpose claimed a late politician’s widow whose family wealth comes from a Christian ancestor’s Malayan plantations. But is University of Jaffna already not a Hindu purpose? Is there anything in the Trust about a VC having to be a Hindu? Minister S.B. Dissanayake received the report that Hoole is an Ugraha Catholic when in fact he is an Anglican. Jaffna’s orthopaedic surgeon claimed that Hoole was taken to the President by his patient, Jaffna’s new commander, Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe – as if the President relies on the army for a VC appointment. Those who create these stories all seem to underestimate the public’s intelligence.

While some in power work hard against Hoole, we must note that the vast majority of people mainly Hindus in Jaffna are looking forward to his tenure and have excellent relations with all religions. Many Hindu religious dignitaries (Selvanathar Pandit, S. Jegatheswara Sarma and S. Vasanthadevy to name just a few) had written to the President asking for Hoole’s appointment. Even Prof. Sittambalam in charge of the Ramanathan Trust worked hard for Hoole’s election. A cross-political spectrum of moderate Hindu leaders, the TNA’s Mavai Senathirajah, the UNP’s Sriranga and Kala Maheswaran, the SLFP’s Angajan Ramanathan and some EPDP stalwarts (whom we shall not name here) wrote or spoke to the President for Hoole’s appointment.

Let there be no doubt that the all the communities wants Hoole as VC. Those who oppose him are some has-beens who fear that the old corruptions at the university and within society – rushed appointments to professorships, non-academic cadre fillings without advertisements, ponzi schemes like Shabra Finance that robbed pensioners of their savings, etc. – will have difficulties with Hoole having a voice in Jaffna. These has-beens are odd-ball Vellalas who think they are higher than all other Vellalas and simply see Hoole as one who would continue the process that diminished their rigid hold on society.

Even as I write, appointments are being rushed through the Council at much faster speed than ever. That is a sure sign that the choice of Hoole is the right one. The President deserves our congratulations and the eternal gratitude of the Jaffna public for his wise decision.

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