FUTA demands UGC head’s resignation

By Dasun Edirisinghe

Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) yesterday demanded the immediate resignation of Chairperson of the University Grants Commission Prof. Kshanika Hirimburegama, alleging she had abused power.

FUTA Secretary Dr. Rohan Fernando said the FUTA had unanimously agreed at an Emergency Executive Committee meeting on January 16 to call upon her to resign as she had already lost the confidence and respect of the university academic community.

He said they had informed Prof. Hirimburegama of their decision through a letter yesterday.

Prof. Hirimburegama had campaigned for the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidential bid, misusing her position and authority as the Chair of the UGC. She had also used her position to influence university academics to sign a petition in favour of Rajapaksa’s candidacy and publicly campaigned on his behalf, thereby subjecting the important public office to partisan activities, Dr. Fernando alleged.

The senior academic also accused her of ignoring instances of clear conflict of interest such as accepting positions on the boards of various private higher educational institutions and her failure and as regards the appointment of the Colombo University Vice Chancellor. He husband was appointed to that post.

"Prof. Hirimburegama’s husband was eventually appointed VC though he had received the lowest votes in the University Council and that fact compels us to conclude that UGC Chairperson manipulated the process in his favour," Dr. Fernando said.

He alleged that she had blocked the appointment of a qualified and deserving candidate to the post of Professor of Surgery at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo during her tenure as the Vice Chancellor of the Colombo University and further obstructed the course of justice and misused the position as UGC Chair by refusing to take remedial action in the above instance even when she was advised to do so by the then Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga.

Citing other alleged incidents, Dr. Fernando said she had nominated a don to attend ASAHIL International Conference in June 2014 despite his ineligibility, admitted a student to the Ruhuna University in violation of all established procedures, based on a letter provided by Hambantota District MP Namal Rajapaksa and ignored the serious allegations of malpractice at several seats of higher learning including the Eastern and Jaffna Universities.

He said FUTA had brought those issues to her notice on several occasions, but she had not responded satisfactorily.

Prof. Hirimburegama’s action in recent time had brought the office of the UGC into disrepute and that was the reason the FUTA asked her to resign, Dr. Fernando said.

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