(FUTA) The statement issued by the Media Secretary to the Minister of Higher Education in response to the letter sent by the Federation of University Teachers’ Association (FUTA) to the president concerning the Minister’s recommendation regarding the recruitment of a Temporary Assistant Lecturer in Political Science to the Department of Economics, University of Kelaniya reflects his gross misunderstanding of the Universities Act.
Section 19 of the Universities Act states that the Minister is responsible for “the general direction of university education and the administration of this Act”. Section 20 clearly articulates the powers vested in the Minister. Section 20 (4) is the only part where an appointment by the Minister is specifically mentioned. According to Section 20(4), in the event that a higher education institution is seriously affected by a “strike or lockout” or any other situation that prevents effective administration, the Minister may appoint a competent authority. Such an appointment, however, shall be tabled in parliament as soon as possible, as per the Act. There is no other mention either in the Universities Act, or Section 19 that the Minister cited, of any powers vested in the Minister to directly or indirectly intervene in any appointment whether to the academic or to the non-academic staff within the university system. The Universities Act does not endorse the misuse of authority by any individual out of personal interest. As such, we strongly condemn the Minister’s misinformed and misleading statement.
We deeply regret the Minister’s naive statement that FUTA has released the letter signed by him to the media to gain political mileage. In addition, we wish to state categorically that if any attempt is made to use this issue as an excuse to interfere with the autonomy of the university or to personally intimidate any university academic, FUTA will not hesitate to defend his/her professional rights irrespective of his/her personal political views or political past.
FUTA can only be responsible for our official statements issued by us, and not for any other reports or opinions publicly expressed with regard to this matter. Since FUTA statements are issued with our professional interests in view, the move to label our opinions as narrow and politically motivated and to issue discriminatory statements against individuals does not come across as mature political behavior to us.
We urge the Minister to refrain from justifying this malpractice and to act responsibly by preventing similar political interferences on his part in the future.