| by A Special Correspondent

( March 25, 2014, Jaffna, Sri Lanka Guardian
) A member of the Jaffna University Council in an interview with the web news portal thinakkathir.com has alleged that the University Grants Commission is engaging in genocide of the Tamil people by destroying their education.

The Jaffna University Council consists of Douglas Devananda’s cronies and yes-men and yes-women. Although the Universities Act gives the UGC the power to appoint the Council, the UGC works as a collaborator of Minister Devananda’s by cooperating with him in destroying the Tamils’ education. It is therefore significant that this whistle-blowing interview is by one of Devananda’s own appointees. Is it yet another crack in Minister Devananda’s evil empire since his debacle at the Provincial Elections?

We note that JUSTA, the Jaffna University Science Teachers’ Association, has already written to the President about how Minister Devananda manipulated the elections and of the Vice Chancellor Vasanthi Arasaratnam’s meddling in appointments and the VC elections. This protest by JUSTA is yet another sign that the people of Jaffna are suddenly finding their voice to protest after years of suppression.

We give below a translation of that interview in Thinakkathir by a reader.

Continuing Genocide through the University of Jaffna: Interview with a Council Member (A translation from the Tamil Original)

By Thinakkathir

The election for the post of Vice Chancellor, University of Jaffna was held on 8 March, 2014. In that vote, the current Vice Chancellor, a young Senior Lecturer from Southeastern University and a mathematics professor received 25, 16 and 13 votes respectively. An Agricultural Engineer and an eminent academic each received 2votes.

At a VC election, three persons are elected, whose names would be sent to the President. The normal expectation is that the President would select the best applicant from among these three candidates. A University Council consists of internal members and external members. The system works well at, for example, the University of Colombo and University of Moratuwa, and both these universities are ranked highly in world rankings.

The Universities Act intends a university that is run by an independent Council. However, looking at the happenings at the Jaffna Vice Chancellor’s elections it appears that the status of education there has fallen greatly now. To find out about their selections we interviewed a Council member who asked for the interview on conditions of strict anonymity. Given below are his answers.

Newspaper: Can you speak to us in some detail about the VC elections in Jaffna?

Generally speaking, we voted exactly as the Minister told us to. We are 14 external members and there are also 13 internal Council members. The vote speaks for itself as you can see.

Newspaper: But does not the UGC appoint the external members?

That is what our letter of appointment says. The UGC has no genuine interests in the University of Jaffna. They only have political objectives. The UGC appoints from the list sent by Minister Devananda. That is why we went to the Minister and asked him to appoint us.

Newspaper: It was the TNA that got nearly all the votes recently. In such a situation will not the people think that you are standing in opposition to their expectations in going to the Minister?

It seems to me that you do not understand the TNA. Don’t you think they should have selected some upright people with opinions and asked the UGC to nominate them? But they stop with making platform speeches. Look at their newspapers. They did not show any interest either in the matter of the VC elections or even the customary Pre-Council meetings that the Minister holds. The Minister has cleverly figured out how the university works and has almost taken the full control of the Council in his hand. The TNA has no clue whatsoever of what is going on in our University. We cannot rely on the TNA and leave the Minister and switch support to their side. Because we have no alternative we can function only by standing on the side of the Minister.

Newspaper: Will not the question arise then whether you are representing the Minister or the University?

In such a situation there is no other way for us. How can you expect me alone to go on my own go and vote in the Council the way I like? I will have to lose my membership status unnecessarily. That is why I came forward to give this interview so I can speak at least from behind the scenes.

Newspaper: Tell us more about the elections.

Three years ago the present Vice Chancellor was appointed through the support of Minister Douglas. At a pre-Council meeting before this election the Minister said that last time the Eminent Academic’s letter of appointment was already written and signed by the President and the Minister himself at that state went and spoke to the President and had got the letter torn up. And he said that it was he who had got the Present VC appointed. He said he opposed the above said Professor because he read in one of the papers that he had gone and met Thamilchelvan in 2006. Yet the present VC is not operating fully as he says and he is displeased with her for that. The Minister told us at the pre-Council meeting, that knowing how he felt, the present VC had come to him crying for 2 hours and had promised she will obey him in the future. Even then he is not happy to nominate her. He then asked what we thought about bringing in an outsider this time. At that time it was not clear to us who this outsider would be.

There are three teachers on the Council. They were adamant in their stand that the Engineering Professor should not be appointed saying that if he comes in as one of the panel of three to be sent to the President he will use his southern connections and become VC. The teachers wanting to suck up to the minister said: “Minister Sir, you tell us whom to vote for and we will.” These treachers were given authority for the first time in their lives and did not appear to have the understanding as to how to use it. The one sitting next to me said in whisper to me: “This is coming from their social background”. When they were bending down like this none of us had the courage to sound independent at the pre-Council.

There is a Christian Priest on the Council who looks knowledgeable and respectable. He asked that the closing date for VC applications be extended on the grounds there still had been no Search Committee formed as required by the UGC. But the teachers kept arguing that there was no such committee last time and what was the need this time. When Father explained the reason we agreed to the postponement. We need at least a few people with administrative experience on the Council. First there was a little suspicion whether Father was trying to bring in another candidate but later we understood that it was not the case.

However even Father seemed to have forgotten then that neither the Minister nor the pre-Council had the authority to postpone the application deadline but the full Council. The TNA was in deep sleep regarding our higher education even though we the external members had forcibly taken over all the authority. No one there came forward to discuss the danger to the university by these acts. The Minister said nothing of whom we should support that day.

Then on the Pre-Council meeting of 2nd March on Sunday, he informed us that the Engineering Professor had written a letter to him asking for his support to run the university by the rules and develop it and he also showed us the letter. I could not understand the purpose of the Professor’s letter because it seemed to me that in promising to run the university by the rules he was also saying that he was not going to obey the arbitrary requests from the Minister like moving Council meetings to suit him and appointing his party men to job posts. The letter was in English. May be the Minister could not understand it properly. The Minister then told us his condition for supporting the eminent professor – that he had asked this academic that he should write an article in the newspapers praising the Minister and also write that the correct way for the Tamil people is through President Rajapakse, But this academic has not obeyed the minister. The current VC had in the mean time given an interview to the Sunday Leader exactly as the minister had asked the eminent professor. She praised the Minister and everything changed from there.

Newspaper: Then what happened?

The Pre-Council meeting on 7th March, had a totally different tone. It was the day before the election. The Minister was angry that the Professor had not written about him in the papers. He told us very sternly that not even one of us must vote for the Engineering Professor. It was clear then that a candidate from South Eastern University who was a Senior Lecturer in management had been brought in as a dummy candidate. Later the talk was that this candidate was brought as the dummy at the request of the VC to the Deans of Management, Science and Post-graduate Faculties. Then we were ordered by the Minister to vote only for the Vice Chancellor, the dummy candidate and the mathematics Professor. In addition the Minister chose two of us and ordered that they should vote only for the VC in order to be sure of the first place for the VC.

The Minister then dropped a bombshell. He said sternly “Last time I told you not to vote for the Engineering Professor and I know some of you slowly did. I did not do anything to you then, but if you do it again I will find out for whom and whom you voted. If anyone votes against this I will not spare him.” He said this very sternly.

Newspaper: But you have the trust of the society? Why would you like to serve in the Council like this?

We feared whether there could be some hidden identification marks on those ballots. We all thought that his threats were real and duly obeyed. It was generally known among us that the Doctor in the Council was campaigning for the Engineering Professor. We also heard that Father was also going to vote for him. If the voting were to be not in compliance we knew that it would be said that it would be the two votes of these two people. Knowing this, the Minister after saying that we must vote only for the three people he named, and he would get to know otherwise, he asked the Doctor directly in front of us all, “What do you think Doctor?” The doctor got frightened and said humbly “It is you who appointed me. I will vote exactly as you say. However I do not know Gunapalan from South Eastern. How can I vote for him?” The minister agreed to that.

Then the Minister turned to Father and asked “What are you saying Father?” Father was cornered but he spoke as if he did not break. He said, “I will vote only for those who served in Jaffna.” When the two eminent men in the council collapsed even those of us who were boasting that they were going to ask the Minister to allow us to vote as we wanted did not dare open their mouths.

Thereafter the same evening and the next day, that is, into the morning of the voting the Minister himself called even the Deans instructing them as to how they should vote.

We can easily explain the details of the results. Of us, those Council members nominated by the Minister are 14. Eleven of the University members could vote. Even though many of us do not like the VC, all except one voted for her because of the minister. For the Mathematics Professor, except for the two who were told by the Minister to vote only for the VC, all the external members and one of the internal members have voted. This means that many of the Deans did not vote for the Maths Professor but have gone and voted for the young Senior Lecturer from Batticaloa. Notably, this Maths Professor has earlier been the President of the Teachers’ Union, and later he was chosen as the Senate Representative for the Academics. From these it can be said that he was liked by the academics. Still the internal members did not vote for him. As for the result for the senior lecturer not from our University, if you leave out the Doctor, and the two who were commanded to vote only for the VC, there are 11 external votes. In addition to these he has also got the votes of the three Deans and two more. It is very surprising to think that an inexperienced young person has got such a bulk of the votes. But then, if you look at the Deans, they are already chosen from the Heads of Departments appointed by the VC. It is therefore difficult for those who oppose the VC to be nominated as Deans. Therefore the Deans have voted considering only the good of the VC. This is how we can explain the results.

Newspaper: Is there anything you would like to say finally?

There is a talk that South Eastern university person brought from nowhere is showing the 16 votes obtained by him and using Karuna’s influence and is now asking to be appointed to the VC post. In Batticaloa and here they are now saying that there is going to be a clash as to which Minister has more love for Rajapaksha. In the present situation neither the Minister nor the Deans seem to care what would be the situation if that young VC candidate gets nominated VC. Everything seems to be a political game. We have to sit and watch the placing of the education of our children in the coffin with our own eyes. We say that there was genocide during the war. Is this also not a genocide for those of us who honor education as Saraswathi?