Every month before the meeting of the Council Douglas has what he calls a “pre-Council Meeting” in his office where he gives instructions on how to vote on every issue. The university is thus under Douglas’ complete control.
“But Douglas through his ambitions to control the university has injected a new brand of communalism based on caste and religion despite his pretence of Marxism. It has always been part of his makeup,” says Hoole,
J. Abdul Majeed
(May 22, Jaffna, Sri Lanka Guardian) The eminent academic Prof. Carlo Fonseka (Island May 13, 2011) quoting a perceptive Island editorial on university teachers (Island May 9, 2011) captioned “Pay them more; make them work harder” has endorsed HE the President’s appeal to “expatriate Sri Lankan experts including academics to return and help develop the country”. He rightly elaborated on how eminent academics like Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole and his wife Dr. Dushyanthi Hoole have been denied opportunities to serve this country though they had returned after getting the prior assurance of President Mahinda Rajapaksa of being reinstated.
However, Professor Fonseka in his article did not touch on another recent related story of a new Vice Chancellor for the University of Jaffna (Island Feb. 5, 2011) where the very Prof. Hoole who was an aspirant for the post, was quoted as saying “President Mahinda Rajapaksa made a commitment at Temple Trees to appoint me and the President always keeps his word”. But Hoole was not appointed as promised. Prof. Vasanthi Arasaratnam was unexpectedly appointed by the President instead on March 28.
To break a promise to the only Sri Lankan in service with a higher doctorate takes some doing. But to do so to appoint someone whose basic degree is a three-year general degree from Madras, whose Ph.D is from Jaffna and who has serious accusations against her by the Auditor General involving millions of rupees (Ref. NE/JF/JU/2004/03 of 8 June 2004 signed by S. Sivaguru, Asst. Auditor General), makes it seem that the President’s advisers have failed him.
What really went on? Why did the President break his promise? The real story begins well before the VC election in Jaffna. Let me please take more than the normal space to tell this rather long story.
PROF. R.S. HOOLE
Minister Douglas Devananda had got involved with universities only a few years ago, suddenly awakening to the fact that a university is governed by a Council where the UGC appoints more than half the members. For the first time the UGC began appointing all Council members in Jaffna from Douglas’ nominees. Thus while Councils in the other 14 universities have men and women of excellence, Jaffna has relatively uneducated persons who go about in Bata bathroom slippers, including a few school teachers who have no idea of a university except for the three years when they studied for a general degree and scraped through. Anyone who is good is often there for gain – for example the Director of a construction company Euroville, Nagalingam Ramathasan, who as a member of the Council illegally steers university contracts to his company and is doing Rs. 300 million worth of work for the university – illegally because as Council member he could have inside information on bids, his friends on the Council would be reluctant to supervise his work and he himself is supposed to ensure the good quality of work by contractors and therefore it is not allowed. Previously he was in the PLOTE as the brother of Deputy Leader and Military Commander Nagalingam Manickathasan alias Thasan, then he was the LTTE’s favorite contractor in Mullaitivu and is now Douglas’ contractor of choice. Another is P. Thiyagarajah a retired chemist claiming to be an engineer and General Manager of Paranthan Chemicals, a company with zero production but, if his claims are true, pays him as GM for doing Douglas’ work. Douglas’ K. Theventhiran is a teacher whom Douglas has made Chairman of the Cooperative Society under hi, Theventhiran who liaises between Douglas and Council members and orders Coop funds for Douglas’ election work much to the consternation of the executives there.
Every month before the meeting of the Council Douglas has what he calls a “pre-Council Meeting” in his office where he gives instructions on how to vote on every issue. The university is thus under Douglas’ complete control. On 6 June 2006 (as soon as Prof. Gamini Samaranayake became Chairman, the UGC rather shamelessly issued Circular 876 instructing that for certain posts such as Computer Applications Assistant, Clerk, Driver, Stenographer, etc. there shall be no advertisement and selections would be from a list supplied by the Minister for Higher Education. For Jaffna this list comes from Douglas. The procedure involves hangers on going to Sridhar Theatre where Douglas places his minute of approval. Then they go to the Minister S.B. Dissanayake who routinely puts their names on the list with a few names of his own. In addition people like the Registrar and Council members and VC sneak in a few more names and pretend that they are also from the Minister. Thus you and I as citizens do not have a right to these jobs. They are reserved for Douglas’ stooges and hangers on. In the present climate of fear no one is willing to file a Fundamental Rights plea on this. The University sinks further down as such appointees cannot be disciplined by their supervisors. With a noncompetitive process, one wonders if the Minister is serious about the quality of university education he so routinely speaks of raising up. He blames state universities and talks up private universities – but is he not the cause of the downfall of the state system by imposing these incompetent political appointees on our excellent universities? (The stooges are put through a test but taken anyhow). The latest list is shown in two parts. The first consists of Douglas’ minions and a few from Minister Dissanayake. The second short list consists of additions to the list by the Registrar of Jaffna from himself and his superiors who they pretend are also from the Minister.
Latest List of Stooges for Appointment at Jaffna through Minister of Higher Education from Douglas Additional Names sneaked in by Jaffna Officials
Miss. Sorubini MarimuthuMr. Kanesh Jatharsan
Miss. Janatha Premukumar
Mrs. Sobiga Kapilraj
Miss. Anurega Thurairaja
Mrs. Elilarasi Gowsikan
Mr. Gunasingam Niruban
Mr. Kodeeswaran Vijiharan
Miss. Janeni Anton Wijeindran
Mr. Kandiah Uthayarasa
Mr. Selvarajah Kabilraj
Miss. Girija Giritharan
Mr. Sellathurai Nirmalan
Mrs. Shobana Mahintharaj
Mr. Sothilingam Dacikaran Miss. Subathira GnanasampanthanMr. Saleem Nisthar
Miss. Niroshini Arokiyanathan
Miss. Sriranganayaki Srikantha
Miss. Tharsika Paramanantharaja
Miss. Sivapalan Vijeyaragavan
Mr. Sanmugarasa Piratheepan
Mrs. Subajini Arulkumaran
Miss. Thayalini Panchadcharam
Mrs. Sujikala Suriyakumar
Miss. Sangeetha Mahendran
Mrs. Suthakaran Sobana
Mr. Balasingam Julian Dilshan
Mr. Thangarajah Marutharajan
Mr. Thangavel Nanthakobe
Miss. Nadeeka Chamila KumariBandarawatta
Miss. Kajenthiny Ranjithkumar
Mr. Abdul Wahid Mohamed Lareef
Mr. Sameera Prasanjith Somasiri
Miss. Nisansala Jeyawardene
Miss. Pradepika Subasinghe Ms. T. Minoba
Ms. M. Mathura
Ms. K. Thushyanthi
Ms. N. Upasana
Ms. N. Sabina
Interestingly there is a TNA MP who is the most critical of Douglas and therefore is the one we would expect to make a big noise over citizens of this country being denied the opportunity to apply for positions that should rightly be open to all with selection by merit. Instead he, say Jaffna officials, has gone to Minister S.B. Dissanayake and has had his own hangers on added to the list. Thus he has become invested in the corruption – bought over while we of the public lose.
Continued control of the university is therefore very important to Douglas. This means the complete loyalty and obedience of the VC. When three names were to be selected from the applicants and nominees by the Council for Jaffna’s new VC, the matter was discussed at many pre-Council meetings at Sridhar Theatre. Prof. Hoole who is known for his independence and commitment to rules was strictly unacceptable. But the other candidates were lackluster with poor research records and had never shown any interest in public affairs to the extent required of a leader. Douglas was not sure how the internal Council members would vote and had to have a viable candidate in case Hoole made it to the list of three. Dr. P. Raviraj of the Council is the surgeon at the hospital. A poor surgeon with the record of operating a university employee, Uruthirakumar, on the wrong leg and thereby making him disabled, he is viewed as a joke at the hospital especially after he successfully carried on a vendetta against fellow surgeon Gunanandan, FRCS and got him out. Raviraj’s colleagues say he came back from the UK without an FRCS but put FRCS on his seal until challenged by a colleague of his, Oncologist Jeyakumar, who openly asked him at a meeting of consultants flashing a sheet with Raviraj’s FRCS (UK) stamp: “Is it FRCS-UK as in your seal or FRCS-Fail?” Thereafter Raviraj went about trying to retract from students every piece of paper on which he had placed that seal. Approaching retirement age, he has arranged with the pre-Council to be recruited to the university where he can work until 65. It was now time for him to pay back his master. Just one week before the VC election he proposed to Douglas the promotion of Prof. Vasanthy Arasaratnam as VC. For she had a respectable list of papers compared to the typical Jaffna professor. She had tried several times before but failed to get even 5 votes and had therefore told friends emphatically that she would not try this time. Promised Douglas’ block of votes, she quickly jumped into the fray.
But it was not enough for Douglas to be confident. He had to be sure. So he played the religious card. Previously he had been a Marxist and has boasted on several occasions that he is a Christian without the cross, Muslim without the hat, Hindu without ashes, etc. Of late he has been electorally weak after the Wikileaks reports accused him of running prostitution rings for the army, and the Jaffna army commander, General Hathurusinghe, publicly named EPDP cadres as being responsible for recent murders and robberies in Jaffna and a judge was transferred after going after his cadres in a violent incident in Chavakacheri. Worse perhaps was his cadres intimidating witnesses going before the LLRC. He is now perceived as so weak that many political analysts accuse him of deliberately spoiling his nomination papers to avoid the electorate at the local government elections. His more recent attacks on the UN Report on incidents at the culmination of the war and assertion that there were zero casualties have made an electorate that regularly sees families who have lost members, particularly angry at him.
Driven desperate for a support base, now he goes bare bodied to temples for thiruvilas and pretends suddenly at being a devout Hindu. Accordingly Prof. Arasaratnam, generally seen as a secular person, suddenly converted herself to Hindu Fundamentalist and promised in her VC application’s vision statement to uphold and foster Hindu civilization if appointed. It would mark the nature of the campaign to come.
Douglas then began working closely with the Hindu Fundamentalists, although most Hindus in Jaffna saw Hoole as the last hope for the University of Jaffna which has sunk to its lowest depths and worked hard for his election. Dr. Mrs. Kumar Ponnambalam began making the untrue case that the Ramanathan Trust requires the VC to be a Hindu – when in fact the university is not bound by the Trust and the Christian Jaffna College was equally part of the university as Parameshwara College at the university’s formation in 1974. Dean of Medicine Prof. K. Sivapalan, previously of the LTTE’s Human Rights Commission, jumped in and tried to stir up anti-Christian phobia at the university telling all who cared to listen that if Hoole is appointed the bell at the temple inside the university would cease to toll. During a syllabus planning meeting on Hindu Civilisation, a professor of Tamil raised the Christian bogey saying “You are wasting your time. Soon Hoole will close down the Department.”
Ms. Susheela Sarangapani, a common teacher on the Council who boasts that Douglas first asked her to be Mayor of Jaffna, got court papers filed by the Hooles at Peradeniya through her sister Shanthini Walgama of that university and distributed them in Jaffna to paint the Hooles as quarrelsome, pointedly without producing the Court rulings that found the university and Shanthini vindictive and not wanting the Hooles at Peradeniya. Sarangapani spiced it up by declaring “I am a Hindu and want a Hindu as VC.” Mr. K. Neelakandan of the Hindu Maha Sabha worked with Sinhalese in Colombo towards the same purpose.
Douglas’ former Ministry Secretary and now consultant Mrs. V. Jegarajasingham pompously pontificated that Prof. Hoole having been vacated from his post at Peradeniya during his absence owing to LTTE death-threats could not be appointed without a Cabinet Paper. The Establishments Code however simply asks for a satisfactory explanation for non-presence before reinstatement. But the inexperienced Council was swayed showing why persons of experience are usually picked for the Council of a cut well above most of Douglas’ picks.
The election was now nearing. The UGC’s rules require a neutral Council Subcommittee, the Evaluation Committee, to give a summary report on candidates to the Council prior to the vote. Thiyagarajah and Sivapalan of that Committee wrote to Peradeniya trying to use Hoole’s being vacated from his post and Mrs. Jegarajasingam’s advice to declare him ineligible (although Sivapalan himself had been vacated from his post while working for the LTTE in the Vanni and was reappointed during the ceasefire without any Cabinet approval). But all that became undone and Mrs. Jegarajasingam’s plot was exposed when the UGC just a few days before the election appointed Hoole without any Cabinet paper to the post of Coordinator for Engineering. But Thiyagarajah and Sivapalan, undeterred, went to town using their report. They wrote of Hoole’s “mentality” and made no distinctions between degrees from prestigious universities like Hoole’s and ordinary universities; and between international publications and local self-financed publications. Hoole’s qualifications were described as “satisfactory” without stating that he has a D.Sc. Vasanthy Arasaratnam with less than a half of Hoole’s research was said to have “extensive” publications. They were silent about Vasanthi Arasaratnam, with her three year general degree from Madras, claiming in her VC application to have a subject specialized B.Sc. in Biochemistry which is unknown in India. As can be seen from page 1 of the CV she submitted as part of her application, her application was as fraudulent she her computer purchases. That the Council missed it again points to its incompetence and why people of stature need to be selected for Councils. This is what happens when uneducated persons, in Douglas’s case deliberately not cultivating a second level leadership that can advise him, are allowed to make such high appointments.
At a pre-Council meeting, Douglas instructed his Council members to cast their votes for Arasaratnam, Dean of Graduate Studies Professor Sathiaseelan and Dean of Arts Professor Gnanakumaran and “if you like cast your fourth vote to Shanmugalingam.” But they had only three votes each and it was a teasing sop for the outgoing VC Shanmugalingam who had served Douglas loyally. He was seen more on public platforms with Douglas than at the University. He freely hired from Douglas’ lists. Hoole says that an EPDP member on the Council called him on the phone by mistake for a meeting to select EPDP cadres for appointment at the University. Shanmugalingam made professors of Douglas loyalists even when the scheme did not allow it. He ordered girls from the Ramanathan Academy to perform at Douglas’ political functions even at the Palaly Airforce Base when the President came despite the public’s wrath that girls should be taken to the army camp. He had even named some Department Heads as Douglas asked. But despite his loyal service he had become a liability because of his unbridled sexual advances to students (whose hands he would kiss when they handed in papers) and academic staff including a 50+ lady whom he would ask directly for sex.
The night before the elections Thiyagarajah and others worked the phones asking Council members not to vote for Hoole. Prof. K. Kandasamy, Dean of Science, has complained bitterly to a wide audience that he had told Thiyagarajah, “You determine everything. Can’t I at least decide on this one last thing I have by myself?”
When the vote was counted, Arasaratnam had 15 votes out of 22 but Shanmugalingam and Hoole tied for second with 9 each. Apparently some Council members had defied their master or perhaps internal ex officio members had voted them in. Douglas was shocked because he had boasted to his cabinet colleagues that he would ensure that Hoole is not among the first three.
Lobbying then began in Colombo. Hoole had wide support because, regardless of party or religion, the larger community wanted the best for the University – Carlo Fonseka, Angajan of the SLFP, J. Sriranga of the Upcountry Citizens’ Front, Kala Maheswaran of the UNP, Sritharan of the EPRLF, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Kambankalaha Jeyaraj, His Eminence Malcolm Ranjith and many senior members of the Hindu public asked the President to appoint Hoole.
Perceiving that as VC he had to be impartial, Hoole had even solicited Douglas’ blessings. Hoole says that Douglas strung him along but sent messages to him through common friends in the UK that he must approach the president exclusively through him. On multiple occasions when Hoole asked for an appointment, he would be asked to come to Sridhar Theatre only to find himself being seated at a big gathering there unable to speak anything private but presented as if to give the image that he was a close friend of Douglas’. Susheela Sarangapani then claimed that Douglas had rebuffed Hoole refusing him an appointment.
Minister Dulles Alahapperuma, who had been warmly welcoming of Hoole and told him “Do not worry. After what the LTTE did to you we will make sure you are appointed,” suddenly stopped taking his calls or answering his emails. Hoole believes it is because of Douglas.
Douglas assured his left friends whom he called Tholar (Comrade) that he would be at least neutral. When it became clear that Douglas was not neutral and did not really want the best for the university, many long standing friends broke with him, An example is Tarrin Constantine, a close friend of Douglas’ from their days in the EPRLF in the 1970s, who broke and wrote a stinging piece against him in the web-journal Thesam.
A Sihala Urumaya monk lobbied hard for Shanmugalingam. But Vasanthy Arasaratnam had Douglas.
By mid-December, 3 days before the VC-ship was to come vacant, Prof. Hoole and his wife were summoned to Temple Trees where they had tea with the President, his Secretary and Mr. Sriranga and they left with the promise that the letter of appointment would be sent out the next morning. It never came.
Hoole who spoke freely for this article, says that some of those who had worked for him told him that the tradition is for the new VC to go to the temple on campus and be blessed by the Hindu priest and then go and sit on the VC’s seat and asked if he was ready to do so. Hoole declined. S.B. Dissanayake, based on Douglas’ assertion, asked him if he is an “Ugraha Catholic” and urged him to go to the Hindu temple (just as he, the Minister himself does, even though he is a Buddhist) to win over Hindus.
Douglas flew Arasaratnam and some Council members to Colombo where the President and his wife were invited to dinner at Douglas’ Lairds Road home. There Arasaratnam was presented as a young and energetic person who ought to be VC and the President had diplomatically stated that she is young and can wait for some time and that he had made a commitment from which he cannot waver. Susheela Sarangapani, reflecting her limited experience in the world, talked up Douglas as a great man to the President and urged the President to make him a Senior Cabinet Member. She did not recognize that a Senior Minister has no portfolio and is really a person sent to pasture. The President had good-heartedly laughed and said that he would be very happy to do that. She did not seem to catch it, said others who were at the dinner.
Things were now turning bitter. Mrs. Jeyarajasingam had asked a person advising the President to appoint Hoole quickly, “What can Hoole do that Vasanthy cannot?” The answer had been “Run a corruption-free administration.”
Douglas had around this time gone to the President claiming that if Hoole is appointed the Hindus would never forgive the President and that Hoole was a good man till 2006 but after fleeing the LTTE he had begun working for the LTTE in the US. A large meeting took place at Temple Trees between the President and his advisors on education including the Minister of Higher Education where Douglas produced an Uthayan article from 15 March 2006 where Hoole in trying to negotiate over the LTTE’s insistence that he resign as VC then, is reported saying that in matters of doing good things for the Tamil people he would work with the LTTE. Ironically it was the same article that the New York Tamil Sangam had dug up in its issue of Dec. 21, 2010 and was bandying about with caste aspersions against Christians who it claimed should not be allowed to walk near the Hindu Temple inside Jaffna University.
I asked Prof. Hoole about it and he said in doing good he would work even with the Devil and had not said anything he was ashamed of. As for the charge of his working for the LTTE since 2006, it was so absurd that he did not do anything about it but he did counter the charge of Hindus being upset over the appointment by getting as requested strong written endorsements from the Ramanathan Trust, the Bagawan Astrology Center in Colombo, and his grandfather’s friends S.D. Shanmuganatha Kurukkal (The Governing Authority and Chief High Priest of the Maviddapuram Kanthaswamy Temple, Maviddapuram) and Maharajasri Naguleswarak Kurukkal (the Governing Authority and Chief Priest of the Naguleswara Temple, Keerimalai). The endorsement from Maviddapuram’ Shanmuganatha Kurukkal is annexed.
With all this pressure the President continued to be stoic. His advisors urged Hoole to give him time till the local government elections were over so that there is no political disagreement with Douglas in the midst of elections.
Hoole could not avoid pointing out the irony that the LTTE rump in the Ilankai Thamil Sangam in New York and Douglas seemed to be working together to prevent his appointment with the same newspaper article using their shared anti-Christian and caste phobia, and that just as once to do any business in Jaffna one had to go through the LTTE, today one has to go through Douglas. Hoole used Lewis Carol’s phrase Twiddle-dee and Twiddle-dum to depict the difference between the LTTE and the EPDP and indeed the Sangam. Many of those who once worked for the LTTE today have employment in Sridhar Theatre.
The Asian Tribune’s editor K.T. Rajasingham also joined Douglas in opposing Hoole’s appointment and in fact had been the first to say in writing in his web-newspaper that the VC of Jaffna had to be a Hindu. The Sangam and he were on the same wavelength!
The endorsements of leading Hindus, however, did not help Hoole. The key change in the President’s position came with the Mullaitivu local government election. The President had been trying to work with Tamils through Douglas, Mr. Angajan Ramanathan and Mr. J. Sriranga. Angajan had been basically threatened out of Jaffna by Douglas and had to rely on a police escort when in Jaffna. Now Mr. Sriranga was routed in Mullaitivu garnering only some 50 votes. The President seemed to decide that if he let go of Douglas, he would have no one to deal with the Tamil people through. It was a very ill-informed choice given that the President’s association with Douglas only isolates the President more from the Tamil people than he already is. But that, sadly, was his choice.
On 28 March 2011, after 3+ months of uncertainty, Vasanthy Arasaratnam was appointed VC. As Carlo Fonseka has observed, Hoole should be able to derive some consolation from the reflection that in those days the custodians of Jewish culture and tradition preferred the murderer Barabbas to Jesus, the Saviour. The reference to the robber/murderer Barabas is because of the Auditor General’s severe report on Vasanthy Arasaratnam who as the then Dean of Medicine “ordered equipment bypassing tender procedures and attempted to make payment without any paperwork or delivery of equipment” and was severely reprimanded by the Council.
The only thing Prof. Hoole has heard from the President is through his advisors who have told him that the President was under so much political pressure because Douglas is his only ally in Jaffna and he cannot go against Douglas. What an ally!
Mr. K. Neelakandan of the Hindu Maha Sabha, highly elated, quickly issued a press statement in the Veerakesari that he is so happy that a Hindu was appointed as VC instead of Prof. Hoole. Suddenly the Hindu Maha Sabha was like the Sihala Urumaya which claims Sri Lanka is for the Sinhalese and Tamils are welcome only if they adapt themselves to being Sinhalese.
Hoole says that he is an individual and what happens to him is irrelevant. But he laments that the whole appointment has changed the Jaffna landscape which though it has been very harsh on Muslims, has seen little rivalry between Hindus and Christians. “But Douglas through his ambitions to control the university has injected a new brand of communalism based on caste and religion despite his pretence of Marxism. It has always been part of his makeup,” says Hoole, adding, “For example a member of my parish church who is not of the Vellala caste, Mr. Mangalanesan, as a municipal EPDP candidate became eligible to be Mayor of Jaffna just under two years ago based on a prior agreement within the EPDP that whoever got the highest preferential vote would be selected. No. 1 was illiterate so it would be Mangalanesan who was to be Mayor as No. 2 on the preferential list. Douglas then went to Mr. Mangalanesan’s home, assaulted him in front of his family and had him locked up at his Sridhar Theatre Complex, until a Vellala Hindu lady of his choice, Her Worship Yogeswari Patkunarajah, could be installed free of any protest or disturbance by Mangalanesan. I say this based on what Mr. Mangalanesan’s family members and several members of my parish church who voted for him have testified to me in great anger and hurt.” It is sad that Mangalanesan who is an elected Municipal Council was treated with such great disrespect because of his background.
“It is sad for Jaffna,” said a Christian clergyman, “for the VC appointment has signalled that no Christian or Muslim can ever aspire to be Vice Chancellor in Jaffna, whereas even recently Tamils and Christians have become VCs in the South. In the Jaffna municipality area (Jaffna District Secretary’s area) Christians are 57% and they voted for the EPDP because of what the President had done for the Tamil people. They now feel let down. Christians from Jaffna and the islands who vote for Douglas need to think carefully again. The President needs to choose his partners carefully or Jaffna will never get integrated.”
After being appointed politically, Prof. Arasaratnam gave an interview in the Uthayan newspaper saying there is no room for political meddling in the university under her. But already she runs to Sridhar Theatre when summoned. She is siding against her own staff in the ongoing strike to curry favour with the governing party instead of being neutral. She is processing the list above of Douglas’ people for appointment. A student from the Vanni whose family suffered during the war was presumed pro-TNA. When the university’s senior Student Counsellor Prof. T. Velnamby who liaises closely with Sridhar Theatre was informed one morning that that student was being elected president of the Jaffna University Students’ Union, an old inquiry over fighting among many students was hurried up only against that one student and by evening the campus was declared out of bounds for him without the normal approvals.
So now, Douglas’ friends like Euroville’s Director can do business with the university while being on the Council, his political hangers on can be appointed to the university without competition, his party students can be appointed as heads of unions etc.. All that the LTTE once did, now the EPDP does using some of the most ardent LTTE-ers who are regularly seen at Sridhar Theatre. But at what cost to the University of Jaffna as an institution? At what cost to the nation? The public, seeing all this, fails to realize what liberation from the LTTE the government is boasting about.