Exposure at Peradeniya campus

The University community of a country is generally identified as a concentrate of the intelligentsia of that country. Dishonesty, cheating, favouritism and other frailties are not generally not expected from members of such a community. Therefore it was indeed depressing to read in the media that the University of Peradeniya has charge sheeted Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole, Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and a member of the UGC for exposing several instances of serious misconduct by academics in the appointment of senior staff. As evident from references cited of various appointments made flouting accepted UGC circulars and marking schemes it is clear that these malpractices may contribute merely to the tip of the iceberg.

Any layman would agree that Universities being the highest seats of learning, honesty, transparency, and adherence to norms laid down by the UGC, should be the criteria governing appointments to staff at all levels, and especially to senior staff. If these norms are violated, not only the appointee, even the whole University system loses respect in the eyes of the public as well as the student community. It is not surprising that few university teachers today can command respect in their own campuses, let alone the whole University system. The fact that a prestigious body of persons constituting the Citizens Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG) has thought it fit and proper to probe into the university appointments, is itself a reflection of the sad state of our universities that demand urgent corrective action.

Prof. Hoole deserves our plaudits for exposing these irregularities while the Vice Chancellor Prof. K. G. A. Goonesekera and the administration at Peradeniya stand indicted for trying to muzzle Prof. Hoole by reference to a ‘breach of trust and confidentiality’. May I ask the VC whether he can defend these appointments in the face of the criticism made and what course of action an academic should follow to bring such irregularities to the attention of the general public, i.e. the people to whom ultimately all are accountable. Does he believe that such irregularities should be kept under wraps and not be placed before the public when the so called authorities have ignored, suppressed or become deaf dumb and blind to these allegations? As rightly promoted and upheld at a recently held public seminar on public interest litigation, whistle blowing should be encouraged, rewarded and made immune from any punitive action. It is only then that errant academics who behave like demi-gods are made to think twice before they break the law under cover of confidentiality and breach of trust. Let us hope that Prof. Hoole’s voice in the wilderness will draw echoes from other like minded academics who are kept subdued by these threats.
Dr. Nanda Amarasekera