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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Address academics’ concerns about future of education, universities

We as a group of Emeritus Professors and former members of the academic     staff of Sri Lankan State universities wish to record our grave concern at the deteriorating situation in our national universities and reports of threats of violence against members of the academic community.
We are shocked by the alleged death threats received by the current president of the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA), Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri, Head of the Department of History of the University of Colombo. These threats have come after FUTA’s announcement of trade union action to be launched in the next few weeks.

The right of academics of Sri Lankan universities to engage in trade union action on issues of wider concern in the university system has a long tradition. University trade unions have played a significant role in improving the conditions of university staff and also impacting on higher education policy. The fact that some of us engaged in trade union action has never meant that our expertise and professional contribution was not respected and valued by respective governments. We were also never subject to threats and intimidation due to trade union action.

We have noted that the recent FUTA demands have not been limited to the personal concerns of academics, but have also been expanded to bring attention to the current crisis in the public universities due mostly to lack of funding and what seems to be entrenched political interference. There is a total disregard for the core concepts of university autonomy and academic freedom recognized in the Universities Act. We have watched the deterioration of national universities with grave concern and have sometimes raised these issues in public fora. Our concerns on previous occasions have related to current trends in militarisation, violence, intimidation and lawlessness. This violence is now being directed at university academics in order to prevent them from exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of thought and expression and freedom of association and peaceful assembly.

We welcome efforts of the current academic community to fulfill their responsibilities and to engage in discussions on broader national issues that are also relevant to university education in Sri Lanka. We call upon His Excellency the President to ensure the personal safety of Dr. Dewasiri and his family and of all university academics including those engaged in trade union action so that they are not subject to acts of violence and intimidation. We also call upon the Minister of Higher Education and officials of the Ministry to respond meaningfully and in good faith to address the very relevant concerns that academics have expressed regarding the future of public education and universities in Sri Lanka.

1. Prof. Arjuna Aluwihare (Medical, Peradeniya, former VC Peradeniya, former Chairman University Grants Commission)

2. Prof. Y.R. Amarasinghe, (Political Science, Peradeniya)

3. Prof. Herbert A. Aponso, (Medical, Peradeniya)

4. Prof. Kumar David (Engineering, Peradeniya)

5. I V Edirisinghe (Sociology, Colombo)

6. Prof. Asoka Ekanayake (Dental, Peradeniya)

7. Prof. J N O Fernando (Chemistry, OUSL)

8. Dr. Laksiri Fernando (Political Science, Colombo)

9. Dr. Siromi Fernando (English, Colombo)

10. Dr. Sucharitha Gamlath (Sinhala, Jaffna and Ruhuna)

11. R K W Goonesekere (Law, University of Ceylon, former Chancellor Peradeniya)

12. Prof Savitri Goonesekere (Law, OUSL and Colombo, former VC Colombo)

13. Prof. Savitri Gunatilleke, (Botany, Peradeniya)

14. Prof. Chandra Gunewardene (Education, OUSL)

15. Prof. J A Gunawardena (Engineering, Peradeniya)

16. Prof. Ratna Handurukande (Classical Languages, Peradeniya)

17. Prof. Buddhadasa Hewavitharane (Economics, Peradeniya)

18. Prof. Laksiri Jayasuriya (Sociology, Colombo)

19. Dr. Sirima Kiribamune (History, Peradeniya),

20. Prof. Savitri Kumar (Chemistry, Peradeniya)

21. Prof. Vijaya Kumar (Chemistry, Peradeniya)

22. Prof. Lalitha Mendis (Microbiology, Colombo)

23. Dr. Sinnaiah Maunaguru (Fine Arts, Eastern)

24. Prof. Desmond Mallikarachchi (Philosophy, Peradeniya)

25. Prof P.B. Meegaskumbura (Sinhala, Peradeniya)

26. Prof Mohamed Nuhman (Tamil, Peradeniya)

27. Prof. Gananath Obeysekere (Anthropology, Princeton University and formerly University of Ceylon)

28. Prof. Ranjini Obeysekere (Anthropology, Princeton University and formerly University of Ceylon)

29. Dr. Arjuna Parakrama (English, Colombo and Peradeniya)

30. Dr Dharmasena Pathiraja (Media Studies, Colombo)

31. Prof. Merlin Peiris (Classical Languages, Peradeniya)

32. Prof. Ryhana Raheem (English, OUSL)

33. Prof. M P Ranaweera (CIvil Engineering, Peradeniya)

34. Dr. N. D. Samarawickrama (Economics, Peradeniya)

35. Prof D C H Senarath (Civil Engineering, Moratuwa),

36. Prof. H L Seneviratne (Anthropology, University of Virginia, and formerly University of Ceylon)

37. Prof. H Sriyananda (Engineering, OUSL)

38. Prof D.P M Weerakkody (Classical Languages, Peradeniya)

39. Prof. P. D Premasiri, (Pali and Buddhist Stu dies, Peradeniya)

40. Dr. P.V.J. Jayasekera (History, Peradeniya)


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