Saturday, May 21, 2011
Is Sri Lanka’s Higher Education in safe hands?
The Island, May 20, 2011, 7:07 pm , A Notebook of a Nobody, By Shanie
Nicolo Machiavelli, the sixteenth century political philosopher, is notorious for his authorship of The Prince in which he advises rulers on how to be a successful leader. The Machiavellian analysis of leadership and power relationships are often clever and valid but where he fails is his cynical rejection of moral and ethical standards for rulers. His analysis of the different kinds of leaders and the need for them to select their advisers well, avoiding flatterers, is valid today, as it was then. Machiavelli went on state that advisers often had their own personal interests at heart and a wise ruler should be able to see through their ruses and keep them in check. Advisers will only be faithful and loyal as long as necessity makes them to be so. It is to be concluded, Machiavelli wrote, that good counsel, from whomever it comes, must be sparked by the wisdom of the ruler, not that the wisdom of the ruler be sparked by good counsel.
Our university system is facing a crisis. It has been facing a crisis over the past few years. For far too long, we have allowed politicians to ruin higher education in our country. In 1921, the University College was established. It functioned, to all intents and purposes, as an overseas college of the University of London. But it was not an autonomous body like the colleges of the University of London. The Principal reported to the colonial Governor through the Executive Committee on Education (after the State Council was established under the Donoughmore reforms). Ivor Jennings arrived in Ceylon in 1941 with the express purpose of converting the University College into an autonomous University of Ceylon. In his unpublished autobiography (quoted by Prof Kingsley de Silva), Jennings was to note: "To one bred in the English University tradition, where political control of university policy was one of the deadly sins, the arrangement (control of the University College by the Executive Committee on Education) seemed not merely odd but vicious."
In 1929, a twenty-five member University Commission headed by Sir Walter Buchanan-Riddell, Chairman of the University Grants Commission UK, had made made landmark recommendation for the establishment of an autonomous residential national university. But it was left to Jennings, over thirteen years later, to oversee the setting up of the University of Ceylon. The cause of the delay was principally on account of the ‘battle of the sites (between the New Peradeniya Estate and the Dumbara Valley). Following the unanimous choice of the Peradeniya site, Jennings felt that his first step should be to secure autonomy. ‘Nobody who knew anything of university traditions could justify an organisation controlled by seven politicians; authority had to be transferred .....to a senate and a council. It seemed clear, therefore that the first step must be to create a university on the lines laid down by the University Commission.’
Accordingly, Jennings drafted the new University Ordinance based on the draft provided by the Buchanan-Riddell Commission. The University was founded in 1942 and Jennings was Vice-Chancellor from that year till 1955. He was succeeded by Sir Nicholas Attygalle who remained Vice-Chancellor till 1966. Kingsley de Silva writes: ‘Thanks to Jennings, the concept of an autonomous university found wide acceptance not only with the main officials of the government and economic figures of Sri Lankan society but also among all sections of political opinion in the country. ...Under Jennings’ leadership, the University of Ceylon had been securely established at Peradeniya....He had left his stamp on the academic content of the university’s life.’
The slide in the affairs began in the sixties - first, with the university losing control over admissions and then in 1966 with the enactment of the Higher Education Act under the UNP administration in which I M R A Iriyagolle served as Minister of Education. A slide, once begun, is difficult to halt unless there is a committed and strong political leadership. We have had a deficit of such leadership, including among academics in our Universities. It is fair to say that it has reached a peak in the last few years. It is common for the political and academic leadership to cover their shortcomings by laying the blame on student politics and now when the academic staff become involved with conspiracy theories. The simple fact is that the crisis in the university system today is caused not by politics in the student unions or by unidentified conspiracies among the academics but by bumbling politicians who have tragically politicised university administration.
State Control of University Administration
Professor Navaratna Bandara in a recent article in The Island has disclosed how in 1996, a similar dispute between the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) and the Government of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was resolved amicably through negotiations. The Government appointed a Ministerial sub-committee headed by Indika Gunawardena to negotiate with FUTA. The present Minister of Higher Education S B Dissanayake was a member of that sub-committee. That ministerial sub-committee took an enlightened and pragmatic view and Indika Gunawardena had said: "We can defeat the academics by manoeuvring our political and propaganda machinery...Some people in the government wanted to do it that way. But these people don’t know that if that happened the government would lose the academics and will jeopardise the higher education system."
But that is exactly what the present Government is doing. Obviously, they do not care if they jeopardise the higher education system. Unfortunately, President Rajapaksa seems to be surrounded by the flatterers and self-seeking advisors whom even Machiavelli warned against. Instead of meeting the FUTA and negotiating an amicable settlement, President Rajapaksa is apparently meeting next week a handful of university teachers who supported him by issuing a statement in favour of the 18th Amendment No doubt the media, and through them the public, will be told that the university teachers are not in favour of the FUTA demands. The government will only be deceiving itself if, instead of listening to the respected members of FUTA (people like Professor Sumanasiri Liyanage, Dr Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri, Dr Mahim Mendis and others), they only listen to academic nobodies who represent no one but themselves. This, as Machiavelli said, can only lead to ruin.
We trust that it is not the Ministry of Higher Education that is influencing the University Grants Commission to issue circulars that are clearly in violation of the University Act and the Establishment Code. First, was a circular requiring Heads of department to give three months notice of resignation. The UGC surely knows that this is not an appointment made either by the Council or the UGC. It is understood that the UGC has now received legal notice regarding the lack of a lawful basis for their circular. Their second circular reportedly issued two days ago even more seriously lacks any legal basis. If the news reports are correct, the UGC has asked the Universities to withhold the payment of salaries to those academics who have resigned from their position as Heads of Department. These academics continue to do their teaching and research in terms of the letters of appointment issued by the University. The Universities will clearly be in breach of the agreement signed with the academics if their salaries are not paid; and the universities will be liable for heavy damages. Heads of Department receive a monthly allowance of Rs. 1000 (!!) and it is only that allowance which the academics who have resigned from that position have to forego.
No alternative to negotiation
Already, many of our academics have been absorbed into prestigious foreign universities. The present Minister of Higher Education plans to allow private Universities to be set up in our country. Even if these private Universities are of dubious quality, they will offer reasonable salaries to attract the best of the present teachers in our Universities. The private universities will undoubtedly have to charge high student fees so that the owners get a satisfactory return on their investment. The net result would be that our state universities, the only access to higher education for the not-so-wealthy student, would be run down to third class status. The country cannot allow that to happen. That is why it is necessary that this dispute is resolved by negotiation with FUTA, the only body that is representative of the academic community. Over the past three years, various sub-committees of the UGC and even of the President (in which his own Secretary served) have recommended and promised to the university teachers a substantial increase in salaries. But to no avail. Professor Navaratnea Bandara has shown that the net effect of the Government’s recent proposal is only a 1.25%. A conditional research allowance is not a salary increase. The Island also carried a well-argued statement by the Peradeniya Science Teachers Association comparing the salaries of university teachers with those of their counterparts in the Central Bank.
Since the sixties there has been a creeping compromise with the lofty traditions of academic freedom and university autonomy that our first Vice Chancellor, with the support of able Ministers of Education like Mr. C. W. W. Kannangara, laid down. Let not those traditions be erased completely by present-day politicians and their apologists. Let them ponder on and adopt the wise approach that Minister Indika Gunawardena and the Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga Government took in 1996. Let us not lose our academics and jeopardise higher education by political manoeuvrings of the university administration and the shameless use of the state propaganda machinery.
Some Reflections on the Trade Union Action by the FUTA
Groundviews, 20 May, 2011 Mahendran Thiruvarangan Colombo, Education, Politics and Governance
The ongoing trade union action by the Federation of the University Teachers’ Association (FUTA) has drawn the attention of the entire nation. Cutting across the ethnic boundaries which have hitherto divided them on many issues of national importance, especially the minority question, the academic staff of the universities in the North and East have joined hands with their counterparts in the South in a common struggle for pay hike. Reports from the different universities in the country inform us that the resignation of academic staff from voluntary positions is gathering momentum day after day with more and more academics and teachers’ unions coming out in support of the trade union action initiated by the FUTA.
Privatization of higher education in Sri Lanka is a cause for concern for students coming from underprivileged background. Free education at both secondary and tertiary levels has played a pivotal role in increasing the living standards of low-income families. In spite of its low per-capita income, Sri Lanka’s Physical Quality of Life Index is nearly as high as that of the developed world owing to the availability of free education and free health care services to all citizens. The trade union action that the FUTA has embarked on coincides with the crucial move made by the government to establish private universities in Sri Lanka. While the government is preparing to allow the establishment of private universities, students from disadvantaged sections of the community continue to regard the state-run universities as places that ensure their upward social and economic mobility. Private universities might entice the teaching staff of state-run universities sooner or later by offering them attractive salary packages. If the demands of the academic community of the state universities are not addressed in a sensible way, students who come from not-so-affluent families may have to pursue their higher education at state-run universities under academics of low caliber disqualified by private universities or deemed unfit for teaching at private universities. In the end, the government’s persistent refusal to increase the salaries of the teaching staff at the country’s state universities may put the common man’s children at the risk of losing access to quality education. As we are expecting the establishment of private universities at any moment, failing to meet the demands of the academics will cause a situation of “inter-sectoral/intra-state brain-drain” which would adversely affect the future and aspirations of the poor of this country. Though I do not see this trade union action as one that stems from a larger concern for the future of the educational opportunities for indigent students or the poor citizenry of this country, we need to transform this action into a significant component of a political program to contest the haphazard neo-liberal policies of the present regime such as privatization of higher education.
In the context of escalating cost of living, the salary paid to the academics employed at the state-run universities is not adequate to cover their routine expenditure. We should be mindful of the fact that an academic utilizes her salary not only to fulfill her daily needs, but she also invests part of it in her research and higher educational ventures. Given the lack of funding for research and higher education outside Sri Lanka, the salary paid to an academic is an important source of human resource of development in the university system, which, in turn, becomes a source of national development. If the present salary is barely sufficient to meet one’s day-to-day expenses, how can an academic develop her research skills or present her research at international conferences which charge exorbitant amounts of money as registration fee, let alone the travel expenses the academic has to bear?
Teaching at a university is not a walk in the park, though the lack of commitment of some in the academia towards teaching and research has regrettably produced a repugnant image of university academics. Teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students involves rigorous preparation. Evaluating student assignments, moderating and making question papers, evaluating answer scripts and providing guidance to research students are tasks which consume huge amount of time and require a high degree of scholarship, expertise, training and patience. Besides these academic tasks, teaching staff at our universities are burdened with innumerable voluntary chores ranging from mentoring students to providing administrative assistance to the functioning of academic departments, faculties and the entire university system. In many respects, the academic staff of our universities actively deliver their services in their non-academic capacities as student counselors, heads of departments, deans, vice-chancellors and members of various committees, besides their mandatory responsibility of teaching. We need to ask the authorities whether all these services—academic and non-academic—are valued in determining the salaries of our academics. Do we see a logical connection between the services rendered by the academic staff and the salaries they are paid? Academics who are in support of the trade union action have also argued that the salary paid to Sri Lankan university teachers is far less than the salaries earned by their counterparts in India and other South Asian countries. Hence, the trade union action launched by the FUTA cannot be dismissed as irresponsible or unneeded.
Despite the fact that the trade union action of the FUTA is justifiable for important reasons, the government has shown little interest in engaging with the demands of the academics. The University Grants Commission, in a hasty move to snub the trade union action, has issued a circular, the legal validity of which is now being questioned. It is unfortunate that the government has chosen to respond to the academics’ call for pay hike in a nationalist diatribe calling the trade union action unpatriotic. It may be true that the crisis that besets Sri Lanka’s economy will be a hindrance for the government to concede to the demands made by the FUTA immediately; but it does not warrant the government to belittle their grievances or project the trade union action of the academics in an unfavorable light, as a threat on the national interests of the country.
Trade union action in the recent history of Sri Lanka does not have many success stories. However, in any society, trade union activities are necessary for the protection of labour rights and to harness the arbitrary and exploitative practices of the state and capitalist forces. The thirty-year-old ethnic conflict has overshadowed the hardships and struggles of the working people. In a militarized society where war-heroes have been celebrated, the contribution of the working people towards this country’s progress has not been duly recognized or remembered by the state. Trade unions have lately become less independent and ethnically polarized in Sri Lanka. May Day rallies have been manipulated by the state and its aides to whip up nationalist sentiments among the public and to create a cult of personality for political leaders. The resignation of university academics enmasse from their voluntary positions as a key trade union measure to demand the introduction and implementation of a revised salary scheme and their persistent refusal to compromise their demands will hopefully rejuvenate the emaciated spirit of the trade unions belonging to the different sectors of Sri Lanka’s economy.
The support given by the United National Party and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna to the trade union action of the university teachers is commendable. However, I sadly note that political parties representing the minority communities seem to remain silent over the trade union action started by the FUTA, as though it were not their concern or responsibility. On several occasions, political parties identifying themselves with minorities have been accused by leftist political parties of conniving with imperialist forces. Though one may argue that it was the failure of the traditional left to back the minorities’ struggle for their rights that moved the minority parties closer to political parties and movements propagating the ideology of neo-liberalism, political parties speaking for the rights of the minority people should consider the role they could play vis-à-vis trade union activities such as the one that has been organized by the FUTA. Supporting this trade union action would broaden the scope of their politics and may offer them an opportunity to work with multi-ethnic groups, and garner their support to address the political aspirations of the minority communities. In the absence of strong left parties, minority parties need to realise that the task of bolstering the rights of the working people is their responsibility too. At the same time, it is time that trade unions such as the FUTA to come forward to re-evaluate their position on the minority question and render their support to the cause of the minorities.
The hegemonic structure of the nation needs to be contested from multiple-fronts. The proletariat, minorities, oppressed castes and women are the peripheral, marginalized subjects of the nation. Each of these groups relies on the others to move forward in their quest for power and emancipation. In charting its future course of action, the FUTA or any other activist movement or political party needs to consider a Sri Lankan context marked by multi-pronged struggles and the manner in which those struggles are inextricably intertwined. The success of any political action aiming at better freedom for the oppressed is contingent on the ability and willingness of the political movements and trade unions involved in that action to accommodate struggles of different kinds under a common political program. The struggle initiated by the FUTA and the support extended to it by academics from all regions of the county remind us once again of the importance of mass-based, multi-ethnic political movements to overcome the political challenges that lie before us.
It is time to decide on Sri Lanka’s university system
Groundviews, 17 May, 2011 The Academic Colombo, Education, Features, Politics and Governance
The trade union action called by the Federation of University Teachers Association (FUTA), has once again highlighted the crisis in our universities. Unfortunately it is the strikes, the clashes and the protests that bring the universities to the news headline, and not their silent contributions to educating the youth and equipping them with skills and competencies.
The State universities in Sri Lanka need to be modernized and energized. Presumable to begin this the Government has proposed that new entrants be sent for three weeks training at a military academy. It also says that the long standing salary demand of academics is non-negotiable. Neither of these auger well for successful reforms which need to be derived by consultation with the relevant stakeholders. Lack of discussion and transparency can only be interpreted as the government having a narrow political agenda such as deliberate neglect of the State University system and the militarization of the country. This in the background of increasing advent of military intervention in many spheres of civil life such as in dengue control, land acquisition, commercial air transport services, vegetable trade and even garbage collection possibly underlines the fear that there is no need for universities to produce graduates except for a few that will seek to make loyalty to their political masters a higher calling than professional conduct. It also begs the question if converting the universities to military academies is a more pragmatic strategy at this stage.
The government however, cleverly shrouds this reality in stating that Sri Lanka will become a knowledge hub. But what steps it has taken towards this remains a mystery. It has not as yet succeeded in attracting a single private university of repute. Since higher education in Sri Lanka has been monopolized by the State, how it can achieve a knowledge hub by willful neglect of its own universities is hard to understand. The tracer surveys undertaken by the UGC indicate that the vast majority of graduates of State Universities are gainfully employed. In fact they are in high demand even in foreign markets. Many do accept these positions sadly so because the country cannot offer them suitable employment. Those that are reported as ‘misfits’ are mostly victims of policy blunders under political pressures to increase intakes in certain disciplines far beyond the market can cope with. It is not that universities are not without their own internal problems. But the remedy to this is to strengthen the universities and not to weaken them further.
Many articles have been written showing how so very low Sri Lankan university academic salaries are when compared even to our neighboring countries, many of which have lower per capita incomes. The government now states that it cannot afford this increase and that other public servants will also request similar increases. This is a question it should ask when it determines the salaries of its Central Bank employees. But this is done since it is a practical requirement that unless such market based salaries are paid, the Central Bank would lose its gifted staff to the commercial banks and the regulator would be weaker than the industry.
Government should not forget that most academics are in a similar position and able to secure employment abroad. This is amply evident if you scroll through the faculty names of any reputed university which will always include a high proportion of those who graduated from our State universities and perhaps did not return. Those that are more altruistic and wish to serve their mother country do so sacrificially. Not only are the salaries an insult to their abilities (it is not uncommon for a fresh graduate to find a job that pays more than his professor!!), the working conditions are often hostile and difficult. Doing quality research and publications for a Sri Lankan academic is an uphill task, having to also undertake many administrative duties that are required to keep the system operating due to administrators not being competent- again due to low wages and poor resources.
Many universities have large number of vacancies for qualified staff and many others have filled them out of necessity with those having partial qualifications. This is the status of the universities that are expected to drive the knowledge hub. If the country is unable to attract and retain gifted lecturers, it will find increase of the university admissions not only difficult, but also constrained to traditional areas, as staff in newer and more popular subject areas are in great demand globally. Alternately more students will seek foreign qualifications which cost an average 20 times more in foreign exchange.
Increasing salaries alone won’t fix all the problems o four universities. But consultation and negotiation would. It is important for university staff to feel part of the country’s resurgence as opposed to being labeled pawns of foreign powers and JVP sympathizers which may be label that even stretching the imagination fit just one or two.
The government should not compare the salary scale of university academics with those of Director Generals of government departments. There is no dearth of applicants for DGs posts. How many such vacancies are there currently? Today a Chairman of a corporation who may not even have O/Ls or marketable skills is allowed a salary of Rs 90,000 plus many other perks. On the other hand University lecturers are not entitled to any form of perks for transport, telephone, housing or for attending meetings. Even a Head of Department which is a full time job which only sets back his or her career, gets an additional measly Rs 1,000/- per month and vice-chancellor also not much more. If government did not create tens of thousands of new jobs in areas of little economic value addition in many government institutions- just so that employment is created for political supporters, paying a reasonable salary to university staff would not be an issue. Government should also not that even the termination of the war has not stopped the brain drain of university staff. Besides they leave even to join the private sector, as those salaries and benefits are much more attractive. The recent decision to impose PAYE tax on university staff and constrain the duty free permits will only accelerate this.
The government has so far shown that it lacks in sound judgment and considers steam rolling the protest as the preferred option. Clearly it does not seem to have the foggiest idea of the role of universities or higher education. Treating universities in this dismissive manner can only be a short term political gain, as the youthful minds and enthusiasm if not respected and nurtured by capable staff will only lead to greater chaos in the future and possibly set back Sri Lanka’s dreams of progress even further.
University to military
Sri Lanka Guardian, 20/05/2011,
by Janith Thilakaratne
(May 20, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Students who wish to enter into national universities have to engaging the new compulsory task of spending 3 weeks in a army camp which is allocated to them by the higher education minister S.B Dissanayeake, has now become a controversial topic which need to be analyzed carefully. The higher education ministry has acquainted the new programme to the public with asserting that the intention of this programme is to develop leadership skills of the student, but it is important to scrutinize whether the above programme truly deals with the given intention or it is another step taken to militarize the Sri Lankan society.
Most, if not all universities already conduct orientation programs at which Leadership development skills, English, IT and other soft skills are developed. And if this all about leadership skills and personality development it is much better to strengthen the existing process and direct it inside their respective university premises which will help them to be exposed to their future academic environments. But the government decision to take them to army camps is a critical issue and majority of students are apprehensive about participating. It is not clear how Tamil students will react to this as they would not like to be in military custody for 3 weeks.
A university student is a person who is not going to become a soldier in the future. Military is there to administer national security, but not to teach students. They have not given rights to deal with civil affairs of people (some exceptions have given under the prevention of terrorism act and emergency regulations).
Members of military forces are restricted from enjoying most of the fundamental rights granted by the current constitution of Sri Lanka as a mode of maintaining disciple among them. So the students who have to go through the given process will have to dwell three weeks of severe disciplines which could be oppressive to an ordinary citizen.
University students are privileged to acquire their higher education charged on government budget. They have been given that exclusive right on the ground to make sure the best brains of the country will enter to the development process with new ideas and inventions. To achieve that task they need to be given total freedom to think out of the box and let them to come up with new discoveries beneficial to the country. The problem arose is whether they will be able to achieve that goal with highly maintained disciplines which peculiarly given to military soldiers who deal with terrorists. It is problematic whether the students, who are expecting to enter medical, music, engineering fields etc, would be benefited from going though such training.
Sri Lanka is a democratic country free of any imminent security threats. But using these kinds of measures, government is trying to bring civilian affairs under the control of the military establishment.
And on the other hand, if the government engaged in this process to conquer ragging and make the university students well disciplined citizens; I see that this will make the condition worse by militarizing them (trained them to be fearless). So instead of making the minds tranquil after 30 years of violent war, the minister is trying to let the students recall the memories of that abrasive scenario again.
And from the parent’s aspect, could a parent send his child to a military camp far away from home for 3 weeks unhesitatingly? Disinclination would be more severe in case of girls. And it is important to scrutinize whether those students will get the needful protection and all other requirements in case of any emergency (such as the medical treatments). Letting a child to expose to unfamiliar environment with unknown people at once would sometimes help them to develop their personality. Nevertheless it would probably make some of them mentally anxious. There could be some students who have never exposed to such situation before and it is need to be considered how effective this compulsory training will be to them. (this could be a mental torture to them).
As a result of fear of some parents which could arise from the initial step of local higher education process, who could afford their child’s higher education may prefer private universities which already allowed by the government and as a consequence of this decision a large number of students who are still studying to achieve the university goad might lose their interest to enter the national universities. This could affect the A/L system as well. Even now most parents are afraid to send their children to national universities with the marks of disgrace made upon them (specially ragging). So this new process may make the situation worse.
So if the government becomes successful in continuing this process it is vague what will be the next move and it may be compulsory cadet training for all students at schools.
( The writer is a student at the Faculty of Law, University of Colombo )
Sunday, May 15, 2011
The Sunday Leader, 15/05/2011,
By Tisaranee Gunasekara
Nazism offered….a society that had been scarred by deep divisions…a sense of lofty purpose, almost a national mission….”
— Michael Burleigh (The Third Reich – A New History)
Barring a last-minute judicial-intervention, the Rajapaksa plan to make ‘leadership training’ by army officers mandatory for all university-entrants will become a reality, this month. University entry will be denied to any student who does not participate in this three-month programme of physical and psychological regimentation in army camps. That this measure is a gross violation of several basic rights is obvious to the naked eye. More pertinently, if there is no judicial or societal opposition to this scheme, it may be expanded into a nation-wide dragnet (compulsory national service?) which catches 18 year-olds and habituates them into mindless obedience to Rajapaksa Rule.
After all, if the younger generations are conditioned to acquiesce unthinkingly to the decrees of their rulers, if they are disciplined into unquestioning acceptance of the status quo (a familial autocracy behind a democratic façade), a Lankan Spring may be preventable, even after decades of Rajapaksa-misrule.
Given the deadly potential inherent in this scheme, why is polity and society (including most of the academia) reacting to it with indifference? (A cogently argued piece by Prof. Prian Dias of the Moratuwa University, published in the website, Groundviews, is a notable exception to this appalling quietism). Just a couple of months ago, such a preposterous idea would have been unthinkable; today, it is a near fait accompli. And that is quintessential Rajapaksa modus-operandi; for instance, the possibility of the 18th Amendment was dismissed as an impossibility by the regime and by most Lankans, until it was sent to the judiciary for approval. (Similarly, the President has denied any intention of introducing a constitutional amendment limiting the term of the Chief Justice and enabling the President to appoint the Secretary to the Judicial Services Commission).
“I think the entire thing is mad, but I am not bothering myself with it”: this, according to Ian Kershaw, was the (not atypical) reaction of a non-Jew to the Kristallnacht (Hitler – Hubris). The planned militarisation of the universities is almost too surreal to be taken seriously; moreover it does not directly affect most Sri Lankans. Still, it should concern each one of us, because it marks an important milestone in the Rajapaksa project of societal regimentation. The Ruling Family aims to turn citizens into subjects via a process of politico-ideological standardisation; ‘patriotic standards’ are being introduced into every sphere, from politics to economics, from culture to personal conduct. Those who fail to conform to these Rajapaksa-decreed standards are considered anti-patriots, as the witch-hunting of Gen. Sarath Fonseka demonstrates.
C. Wright Mills defines America’s real rulers as men “….in command of the major hierarchies and organisations of modern society. They rule big corporations. They run the machinery of the state and claim its prerogatives. They direct the military establishment. They occupy the strategic command posts of the social structure….” (The Power Elite). Since the election of Mahinda Rajapaksa as the President of Sri Lanka in November 2005, his family has moved steadily to concentrate more and more power in its hands. Six years on, the Rajapaksas occupy the zenith of the state, with presidential siblings as military and economic czars. They are Sri Lanka’s new ‘power elite’. Concomitantly, Lankan armed forces are being transformed from an instrument of the state into a praetorian guard of this Familial ‘power elite’. The bloated military is fed a huge chunk of the national income and used by the Rajapaksas to control state and society.
Each week there are new examples of the steady encroachment of civil spaces by the Rajapaksa-ised military. For instance, last week, the Navy was put in charge of the Vihara Mahadevi Park while road development work of the CMC was placed under army supervision. The Navy is also helping tourism-industrialists in Kalpitiya to overcome opposition by concerned local communities. According to fishermen of the area, “the tourist industry is utilising the Navy to take hold of land….” (BBC – 9.5.2011). For this purpose, the Navy had set up a checkpoint in Mohottuwarama, a checkpoint which did not exist during the war. The armed forces will thus be used as enforcers to facilitate economic activities which endanger local communities and/or cause environmental degradation.
To ensure the continued success of their Familial project, the Rajapaksas need to destroy every democratic bone in Sri Lanka’s body-politic. Inculcating an anti-democratic ethos in civil society will enable this movement away from democracy to be accomplished with minimum force and fuss. Equating democracy with anarchy and glorifying iron-discipline as the path to peace and prosperity is a standard practice of despots. These appeals work best in societies facing ‘ontological crises’; for people battered by gales of political, economic and social instability, the prospect of order and discipline has a curious appeal. For instance, many Lankans may think that a dose of discipline would be good for university students. This, for instance, is how many Germans felt about the Weimer Republic, a discontent the Nazis used adroitly. The LTTE too used Tamil people’s natural affinity towards order and discipline to beat back left-wing competition and gain popular support in the 1980s.
Anarchy is undesirable; but mindless discipline is even more so. Arguably the greatest horror of human history, the Holocaust, was facilitated not by a dearth of discipline but by an excess of it. The Tigers became master-terrorists not because they were anarchic but because they adhered to an iron-discipline and obeyed all ‘Superior Orders’, however irrational or immoral; it is mindless obedience and not wild-ass independence which creates ranks of suicide bombers.
The Rajapaksas, like most despots, advocate a false dichotomy, between rigid discipline and wild anarchy. This is not the choice before Sri Lanka. Until the next national-election season dawns, the choice is not even between Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ranil Wickremesinghe or the UPFA and the UNP. Currently, the real choice is whether we allow Sri Lanka to become a Rajapaksa-property. We must decide whether the Rajapaksas should be given a carte blanche to forge ahead with their project of familial autocracy; or not. This is a choice available to all Lankans, irrespective even of political party-allegiances. A Rajapaksa autocracy will be as damaging to the SLFP/UPFA as it is to Sri Lanka, because the Ruling Family is empowering itself by disempowering the governing party/coalition. A symbol of this debasement is the fact that the 20-something Rajapaksa offspring have more real power than senior SLFPers with a lifetime of loyal service to the party.
The Rajapaksas have proved to be past masters at replacing democratic governance with familial rule, step by stealthy step. Stopping that deadly journey thus entails opposing each anti-democratic measure, even when it doesn’t affect us directly. Tyranny, even at its best, exacts a far bitter price from the populace which nourishes it than democracy, even at its worst. The twin-facts that Sri Lanka has fallen by three ranks in the 2011 Mother’s Index and that, according to the latest Gallup poll on Global wellbeing, only 5% of Lankans consider themselves thriving (while 75% categorise themselves as struggling) presage our really destined destination under Rajapaksa rule.
සරසවි ඇදුරු අරගලය හා අධිරාජ්යවාදී කුමන්ත්රණ
සරසවි ආචාර්යවරුන්ගේ වැටුප් අරගලය අද සමාජයේ අවධානය දිනාගත් අරගලයක් බවට පත්ව තිබේ. එය වැදගත් වන්නේ වෘත්තිය අරගලයක් යන අර්ථයෙන් පමණක් නොවේ. ඊට වඩා සමාජ අවධානයට පාත්ර විය යුතු දේශපාලන ගැඹුරක් එහි තිබේ. වත්මන් රාජපක්ෂ පාලනය කටයුතු කරමින් සිටින ආකාරය පිළිබඳවත් වත්මන් පාලනය විසින් ක්රියාත්මක කරනු ලබමින් සිටින ධනපති ක්රමයේ නොහැකියාව පිළිබඳවත් තේරුම්ගත හැකි කරුණු එහි අන්තර්ගතය.
සරසවි ආචාර්යවරුන්ගේ වැටුප් අරගලය අද ඊයේ හදිසියේ ඇති වූවක් නොවේ. ආණ්ඩුව කියනා තාලයට අධිරාජ්යවාදී කුමන්ත්රණයක්ද නොවේ. ඔවුන්ට අවසන් වරට වැටුප් වැඩිවීමක් ලබා දී තිබෙන්නේ 1996 වර්ෂයේදීය. 2006 දී ආණ්ඩුව කළේ එතෙක් 30% ක්ව තිබූ අධ්යයන දීමනාව 25% දක්වා අඩු කොට මූලික වැටුපට එකතු කිරීමයි. ඒ හැරෙන්නට ගෙවී ගිය වසර 15 ක කාලය තුළ සරසවි ආචාර්යවරුන්ගේ වැටුප් වැඩි වී නැත. එහෙත් 2001 වසරට සාපේක්ෂව මේ වසර වන විට ජීවන වියදම දෙගුණයකටත් වඩා ඉහළ ගොස් තිබේ. ඒ නිසා ඉල්ලීම් ඉදිරිපත් කිරීමට පෙර සරසවි ආචාර්යවරුන්ගේ පමණක් නොව සියලුම සේවකයින්ගේ වැටුප් වැඩි කළ යුතුව තිබේ.
සරසවි ආචාර්යවරුන් මුලින්ම වැටුප් වැඩිවීමක් ඉල්ලා සිටියේ 2007 වසරේදීය. එහෙත් ආණ්ඩුව එය සැලකිල්ලට ගත්තේ නැත. එම ඉල්ලීම නොසලකා සිටි ආණ්ඩුව ඉන් පසුව කටයුතු කළේ කෙසේද?
1. 2008 ජනවාරි 31 වැනිදා ජනාධිපතිවරයා හා සරසවි ආචාර්යවරුන් අතර සාකච්ඡාවක් පැවැත් වුණු අතර මාස තුනක් තුළ ඔවුන්ගේ වැටුප් වැඩි කිරීමට ජනාධිපති මහින්ද රාජපක්ෂ මහතා පොරොන්දු විය. එම පොරොන්දුවේ අරමුණ ආණ්ඩුවේ මැතිවරණ ප්රචාරක වැඩසටහන්වලට සරසවි ආචාර්යවරුන්ගේ සහාය ලබා ගැනීම බව දැන් පැහැදිලිය.
2. 2009 මාර්තු 24 වැනිදා ජාතික වැටුප් හා සේවක සංඛ්යා කොමිෂන් සභාවෙන් සරසවි ආචාර්යවරුන් වෙත ලිපියක් ලැබිණි. ඒ වන විට ජනාධිපතිවරයා ලබා දුන් මාස තුනෙන් වැටුප් වැඩි කරන පොරොන්දුවට මාස 14 ක් ගත වී තිබිණි. එම ලිපිය මගින් ජාතික වැටුප් හා සේවක සංඛ්යා කොමිෂන් සභාව යළිත් පොරොන්දු වූයේ මාසයක් තුළ ගැටලුව විසඳන බවයි. සරසවි ආචාර්යවරුන් සඳහා ගැලපෙන වැටුප් ව්යුහයක් සකස් කරන බවත් ඊට ප්රමුඛතාව දෙන බවත් එම පොරොන්දුවට අන්තර්ගත විය.
3. එම, මාසයේ පොරොන්දුවට මාස අටක් ගත වූ පසුව එනම් 2009 දෙසැම්බර් 09 වැනිදා බැසිල් රාජපක්ෂ මහතා සරසවි ආචාර්යවරුන් හමු විය. කඩිනමින් වැටුප් වැඩිවීමක් ලබා දෙන බවත් එපමණක් නොව, අධ්යයන දීමනාව දෙගුණයක් කරන බවත් එහිදී ඔහු යළිත් පොරොන්දුවක් ලබා දුන්නේය.
4. 2010 ජූලි 20 වැනිදා ජවිපෙ දේශපාලන මණ්ඩල සභික අනුර දිසානායක සහෝදරයා සරසවි ආචාර්ය වැටුප් ප්රශ්නය පාර්ලිමේන්තුව හමුවට ගෙන ගියේය. ඒ අවස්ථාවේදී උසස් අධ්යාපන අමාත්ය එස්. බී. දිසානායක මහතා පැවසුවේ රුපියල් 20,750ක් වූ ආධුනික කථිකාචාර්යවරයකුගේ අවම වැටුප රුපියල් 72,000 ක් දක්වාත් රුපියල් 57,755 ක් වූ ජ්යෙෂ්ඨ මහාචාර්යවරයකුගේ අවම වැටුප ලක්ෂ දෙකක් දක්වාත් වැඩි කරන බවයි.
මේ ගෙවී යන්නේ 2011 වර්ෂයේ මැයි මාසයයි. මේ වන විට අතිගරු ජනාධිපති මහින්ද රාජපක්ෂ මහතාගේ මාස තුනේ පොරොන්දුවට මාස 39 කුත් ජාතික වැටුප් හා සේවක සංඛ්යා කොමිෂන් සභාවේ මාසයේ පොරොන්දුවට මාස 25 කුත් බැසිල් රාජපක්ෂ මහතාගේ පොරොන්දුවට මාස 16 කුත් ගත වී තිබේ. එස්. බී. දිසානායක මහතා පාර්ලිමේන්තුව හමුවේ දුන් පොරොන්දුවට මේ වන විට මාස 08 ක් ගත වී තිබේ. ගරු ඇමතිවරුනි, ආණ්ඩුවේ කැළැන්ඩරයේ මාසයකට දින කීයක් තිබේද?
සරසවි ආචාර්යවරුන්ගේ වැටුප් අරගලය තවත් එක් වෘත්තිය අරගලයකට සීමා වූවක් නොවේ. රටේ බුද්ධිමතුන් සේවය කළ යුතු ප්රධාන ස්ථාන කිහිපය අතරින් එකකි, ජාතික විශ්වවිද්යාල පද්ධතිය. උදාහරණයක් ලෙස හසල අත්දැකීම් හා දැනුම ඇති ඉංජිනේරුවකු ජාතික නිෂ්පාදනයට විශාල දායකත්වයක් දක්වයි. එහෙත් එවැනි අයකු සරසවි ආචාර්යවරයකු ලෙස සේවය කරන්නේ නම් ඔහු එවැනි ඉංජිනේරුවන් විශාල පිරිසක් බිහි කරයි. සරසවි ආචාර්යවරයකු රටේ සංවර්ධනයට අවශ්ය මානව සම්පත් බිහි කරයි. එබැවින් වඩාත් වැඩි දැනුම් සහිත, අත්දැකීම් සහිත පුද්ගලයින් ජාතික විශ්වවිද්යාල පද්ධතිය වෙත ආකර්ශනය කර ගැනීම අනාගතය ගැන දැක්මක් ඇති ආණ්ඩුවක වගකීම වේ. ශ්රී ලංකා රුපියල්වලින් ගතහොත්, ඉන්දියාව ජ්යෙෂ්ඨ මහාචාර්යවරයකුට රුපියල් 1,17,682 ක වැටුපක් ගෙවන්නේත් පාකිස්තානය රුපියල් 2,37,272 ක වැටුපක් ගෙවන්නේත් ඒ නිසාය. එහෙත් ශ්රී ලංකාවේ ජ්යෙෂ්ඨ මහාචාර්යවරයකුගේ වැටුප රුපියල් 57,755 කි.
සැබවින්ම සිදු වෙමින් තිබෙන්නේ කුමක්ද? රාජපක්ෂ ආණ්ඩුව කවර දේශප්රේමි සීතාම්බර සළු පටලවා ගෙන සිටියද, එසේ සිටීමට කොතරම් උත්සාහ කළද අධිරාජ්ය ගැති ආණ්ඩුවකි. රාජපක්ෂ මහතාද ක්රියාත්මක කරමින් සිටින්නේ ලෝකය තුළ වේගයෙන් ගරා වැටෙමින් තිබෙන ධනේශ්වර ආර්ථික ප්රතිපත්ති මිස අනෙකක් නොවේ. අද ශ්රී ලංකාවේ යම් තාක් දුරකට හෝ ආරක්ෂා වී තිබෙන නිදහස් අධ්යාපනය හා නිදහස් සෞඛ්ය සේවය විනාශ කොට ඒ වෙනුවට zඅධ්යාපන කඩZ හා zරෝහල් කඩZ ඇති කිරීම ආණ්ඩුවේ අපේක්ෂාව වී තිබේ. එය ආණ්ඩුවේ අපේක්ෂාවක් පමණක් නොව ශ්රී ලංකාවට ණය දෙන අධිරාජ්යවාදී ආයතනවල කොන්දේසියක්ද වේ. ආණ්ඩුව දැවැන්ත ශිෂ්ය මර්දනයක් දියත් කරමින් පෞද්ගලික විශ්වවිද්යාල ආරම්භ කරමින් සිටින්නේ ඒ නිසාය. එම කොන්දේසි ඉටු කිරීම සඳහාය.
ජාතික විශ්වවිද්යාල පද්ධතියට ස්වාභාවික මරණයක් අත්කර දී, දුප්පත් දෙමාපියන්ගේ දූ දරුවන්ට උසස් අධ්යාපනය ලැබීමට ඇති අවස්ථා අහිමි කිරීමට ආණ්ඩුව උත්සාහ කරමින් සිටී. ජාතික විශ්වවිද්යාල පද්ධතිය වෙනුවට විදේශීය සමාගම් විසින් පවත්වාගෙන යනු ලබන පෞද්ගලික විශ්වවිද්යාලවලට දිරි දෙමින් සිටී. ජාතික විශ්වවිද්යාල පද්ධතිය බිඳ වැට්ටවීම සඳහා කළ හැකි හොඳම දේ එහි ආචාර්ය හිඟයක් ඇති කිරීමත් සම්පත් හිඟයක් ඇති කිරීමත් අධ්යාපනය ලැබීමට නුසුදුසු තත්වයක් ඇති කිරීමත්ය. විවිධ බොරු පොරොන්දු ලබා දෙමින්, ආචාර්යවරුන්ට තවදුරටත් විශ්වවිද්යාලවල ඉගැන්වීම එපා කරවන කලකිරවන තත්ත්වයක් ඇති කරමින් සිටින්නේ ඒ නිසාය. එමෙන්ම, ආචාර්ය වෘත්තියට දෙන වැටුප අඩු මට්ටමක පවත්වාගෙන යාමෙන් සිදු වන්නේ උගතුන් වෙනත් ක්ෂේත්රවල රැකියා සඳහා යොමු වීමයි. එමගින්ද ජාතික විශ්වවිද්යාල පද්ධතිය බිඳ වැටීමට ලක් වේ.
ඇමැති ධුර නොලැබූ ආණ්ඩුවේ මන්ත්රීවරුන්ට සුඛෝපභෝගී වාහන මිලදී ගැනීමට රුපියල් කෝටි 148 ක් නාස්ති කළ හැකි, ජනාධිපති ලේකම් කාර්යාලයට වාහනයක් මිලදී ගැනීමට රුපියල් මිලියන 200 කට වඩා වියදම් කළ හැකි ආණ්ඩුවට සරසවි ආචාර්යවරුන්ගේ වැටුප් වැඩි කිරීමට මුදල් නැතැයි කීම පිළිගත හැක්කක් නොවේ. ඒ නිසා සරසවි ආචාර්යවරුන්ගේ වැටුප වැඩි නොකරන්නේත්, ඔවුන් ජනතාවගේ අප්රසාදයට පත් කිරීම සඳහා රාජ්ය මාධ්ය යොදා ගනිමින් විවිධ අවලාද ගොඩනගන්නේත් සැලැස්මකට අනුව බව පැහැදිලිය. ඒ නිසා සරසවි ආචාර්යවරුන්ගේ වැටුප් අරගලය ඔවුන්ගේ ප්රශ්නයක් පමණක් නොව නිදහස් අධ්යාපනය ලැබූ හා ලබන සියලු දෙනාගේත් තමන්ගේ දරුවන්ට නිදහස් අධ්යාපනය ප්රතිලාභ උරුම කර දීමට අපේක්ෂාවෙන් සිටින සියලු දෙමාපියන්ගේත් අරගලයක් විය යුතුය.
ආණ්ඩුව මේ ක්රියාත්මක කරමින් සිටින්නේ අධිරාජ්යවාදයේ වුවමනාවයි. එය පරාජය කළ යුතුය.
විපක්ෂයට දේශපාලනය කිරීමට ඇති ඉඩ අහුරමින්, ප්රජාතන්ත්රවාදය අහෝසි කරමින්, යුද්ධය නිසා අවතැන් වූ උතුරේ වැසියන් නිසි පරිදි යළි පදිංචි නොකරමින් හා ඔවුන්ට ප්රජාතන්ත්රවාදයත් දේශපාලන නිදහසත් ලබා නොදෙමින්, අත්අඩංගුවේ සිටින දෙමළ තරුණ තරුණියන් පිළිබඳ තොරතුරු හෙළි නොකරමින්, තවදුරටත් හදිසි නීතිය ඇතුළු මර්දනකාරී නීති පවත්වාගෙන යමින්, මාධ්ය මර්දනය කරමින්, මානව හිමිකම් උල්ලංඝනය කරමින් බෑන් කී මූන් හරහා එන අධිරාජ්යවාදයට ඉඩ විවෘත කරන ආණ්ඩුව නිදහස් අධ්යාපනය අහෝසි කොට අධ්යාපනය මුදලට විකුණන හා මිලදී ගන්නා දෙයක් බවට පත් කිරීම සඳහා ජාත්යන්තර මූල්ය අරමුදල, ලෝක බැංකුව ඇතුළු ආයතන හරහා එන අධිරාජ්යවාදී මැදිහත්වීම දෝතින් පිළිගනිමින් සිටී. පුහු වීරත්වය හා ජනප්රියත්වය තකා බෑන් කී මූන් හරහා එන අධිරාජ්යවාදී මැදිහත්වීමට සිංහලෙන් විරුද්ධ වී ඉංග්රීසියෙන් දණ ගසන ආණ්ඩුව මූල්ය අරමුදල, ලෝක බැංකුව වැනි අධිරාජ්යවාදී ආයතන හරහා එන නියෝග හොර රහසේ කුමන්ත්රණකාරීව ක්රියාත්මක කරමින් සිටී. ආණ්ඩුවේ පරස්පරය එයයි.
සමාජවාදය යටතේ උගතුන්ට සලකන්නේ කෙසේදැයි උදාහරණයක් දක්වමින් මෙම ලිපිය අවසන් කිරීම සුදුසු යෑයි සිතමි. පළමු වැනි ලෝක යුද්ධයෙන් සෝවියට් දේශයට විශාල හානියක් සිදු විය. ඒ සමගම ක්රියාත්මක වූ සිවිල් යුද්ධයද රුසියාවේ ආර්ථිකය විශාල වශයෙන් බිඳ වැට්ටවීමට සමත් විය. ඒ නිසා ලෙනින්ගේ නායකත්වයෙන් යුතු සෝවියට් සමාජවාදී පාලනයට සිදු වූයේ ජනතාවට ආහාර සලාකයක් බෙදා දීමටයි. එම ආහාර සලාකය බෙදා දීමේදී විද්යාඥයින් හා උගතුන් සම්බන්ධයෙන් විශේෂත්වයක් සිදු කරන ලදී. එනම් ඔවුන්ට ආහාර සලාක දෙක බැගින් ලබා දීමයි. හරි පාර එයයි.
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