Tuesday 17 September 2019

Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

17 September  2019

University of Jaffna's Negative Heritage

A few years back when Professor Shanmugalingam was stressed over the position of Vice Chancellor,  University of Jaffna, I went over to the temple within the University of Jaffna and prayed for him. At the end of the poojah, while I was enjoying the sweet rice that the priest gave me also – a lady came over to me and had a friendly chat. Later when Professor Vasanthy Arasaratnam was chosen – I concluded that that interaction was the indicator of what was to come and also that my prayers were also  getting granted.  This year when I saw Professor Shanmugalingam regularly at Nallur temple – I was satisfied that he was free of such stress-giving expectations.
During the period leading to the appointment – there were many rumours in the media – including of alleged sexual misconduct. Since I have no knowledge of Professor Shanmugalingam’s character in that regard and since he conducted himself respectably with me – I dismissed those allegations in my own mind. That was necessary to form an independent assessment through my own intuitive truth. Later when a relative asked me to help Dr Darshanan who was dismissed under similar allegations – I felt that it was a standard formula used by the University of Jaffna’s seniors to demote and/or dismiss those they had no use for. As requested – I helped Dr Darshanan present his case to the Panel of Inquiry appointed by the Vice Chancellor – who was by this time Professor Vigneswaran. Dr Darshanan usually stayed within the lines agreed to between us – which were about his legal rights. As expected,  the panel upheld the dismissal and the matter is now being heard by the Labour Tribunal, where Dr Darshanan is representing himself. It is noteworthy that during the course of that inquiry – neither Professor Vigneswaran – then the  Vice Chancellor nor Dr Kumaravadivel Guruparan who has been listed as Head of the Department of Law, University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka by Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research of which he is the Executive Director, presented themselves to ensure that the hearing upheld the principles of  a lawful structure and its relationships. I myself did not know whether Dr Darshanan suffered from weaknesses that were likely to manifest under certain environments. As in the case of Professor Shanmugalingam – I needed to know that only if such manifestations were substantiated through evidence. But the evidence presented confirmed mismanagement that the authors of the Colombo Telegraph  article ‘Removal Of The Vice Chancellor Of University Of Jaffna And Politicization Of Higher Education’ have claimed in the case of Professor Vigneswaran  - who according to Dr Darshanan was a ‘soft’ natured person.
As per the above article:
[When the decision to sack Professor Ratnam Vigneswaran  from the post of Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna surfaced in the public domain in May this year, many academics and well-wishers of the University were shocked by this unprecedented development. Prior to the announcement, the former Vice Chancellor was not even called for an inquiry by the University Grants Commission or any of the authorities responsible for higher education in the country.]
[As per documentary evidence dated 08 May 2015, Dr Darshanan was informed by letter by the Vice Chancellor that the University Council had promoted Dr Darshanan to the post of Senior Lecturer Grade 1 in Music at the University of Jaffna, with effect from 04/03/2013 - the announcement happening after a delay of two years and two months from the eligible date. 
On 30 June 2015, Five members of staff of the Department of Music - wrote letter of complaint about Dr Darshanan to the Vice Chancellor
On 02 July 2015 -  16 staff of the Department of Music confirmed through a memo dated 02.07.2015, advising the Vice Chancellor, that they were satisfied with the new component ‘Music Technology’ to promote Industrial Training and English, introduced by the Defendant,  as per advice from the Ministry of Higher Education.
By letter dated 14/10/2015 the Vice Chancellor informed the Defendant that the University Council at a special meeting held on 14/10/2015 “having considered the allegations levelled by the students and staff attached to the Department of Music” against the Defendant had decided, firstly, to remove him from the post of Head of Department of Music with immediate effect, secondly, to interdict the Defendant from the post of Senior Lecturer Grade 1 without any emoluments with immediate effect, and thirdly, to declare University premises out of bounds to the Defendant with immediate effect. ]

There is no record that Professor Ratnam Vigneswaran ensured that Due Process as per the Universities Establishment Code, were followed  when the inquiry into allegations against Dr Darshanan  were conducted.

As per the evidence that surfaced:

[ On 14 September 2016, the report of Dr. Shyamala Gomez, Country Director Fokus Women was received by the University and was included as part of the evidence provided to the Tribunal. Published records state:  'FOKUS WOMEN is the locally registered Sri Lanka country office of FOKUS based in Oslo, Norway. FOKUS – Forum for Women and Development is a member-based knowledge and resource center. FOKUS' objective is to strengthen collaboration between women's organizations in Norway and globally through advocacy, campaigns and international development cooperation. It began operations in Sri Lanka in 2012 and has been implementing the UNSCR 1325 Programme on Women, Peace and Security in Sri Lanka with partner organizations working at national and local level. This programme with conflict affected women as primary beneficiaries includes research, data collection, advocacy, redress for women who are sexually exploited and survivors of violence including early marriage and domestic violence, strengthening women and government officers for women to claim their lands and other Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR), post conflict healing and memorialization within a transitional justice framework. The organization is responsible for monitoring the implementation of partner projects.]
Dr. Shyamala Gomez did not interview Dr Darshanan, nor did the University Administration submit evidence that the lady had interviewed any of the complainants. At least of her conclusions were contrary to the evidence by two complainants.
Am I surprised by the way the Vice Chancellor was  dismissed?? NO. Those who were shocked confirm ignorance of the reality of management of University of Jaffna.
  Most institutions do not follow the rules to the letter. As per the article by academics the dismissal ‘places under threat junior-level academics and other employees of the public university system who have looked upon universities as places that nurture and respect freedom of expression.
That was already happening within the University of Jaffna. Such threats would be real – if the University relationships were in par with the best practices around the world. Where they are in reality substandard – one has to use the rule of Dharma. As per Dharma – unless we restructure a position in which our predecessors  failed in their duty – we inherit the uncured cumulative weaknesses of that position – proportionate to  our own weakness in a certain aspect.  Professor Vigneswaran’s – like that of many others in Central Administration – is lack of courage to treat the victim as part of himself – just as the perpetrator who ‘gave’ him the position of Vice Chancellor – is also a part of himself.  Usually those lacking in ownership tend to ‘work’ to rule – their rule.

Those who look after Dharma are looked after by Dharma. I do not know about Dr Darshanan’s contribution to Dharma – but mine is strong and to the extent he respects and submits to my goodness – he would find his own solutions. THAT to me is what self-governance is all about. It is not about political rallies while Education is burning.

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