Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Savitri sums up

The Island,
I always read Dayan Jayatilekes newspaper articles with interest. I sometimes agree with his views, and sometimes I don’t. I am sorry that he thinks that my use of quotation marks for the word paramilitary created a wrong impression, and was an unfair distortion of his views. I did not take this word from his article. He has given a full text of the relevant passages in his response, and the reader can decide whether I distorted his views.
Rajiva Wijesinha is entitled to his views on what is right about the current university system, as I am entitled to mine. I would like to clarify that I was not in the university system at the time of the referendum of 1982, when he says he resigned from his post. I joined the Open University in August 1983.We had just returned after six years working overseas, and we had means of our own. My husband is a professional, and I did not need, as he suggests a university salary for family survival. My rationale for employment in a university, like for many others, was a matter of personal choice.

Working in a university at this time was a challenge. The horrendous violence I described in my article occurred in Peradeniya when I was Dean of a Faculty in the Open University (OUSL). We as university academics and administrators received death threats in anonymous individual telephone calls, and or written documents of "sannadda"(armed) groups. And yet some of us, including the late Rajini Thiranagama could meet as members of University Teachers For Human Rights (UTHR) on our own OUSL campus. The Vice Chancellor and the Chairman UGC at this time respected our right and our freedom to do so. We worked together as a team, with the academic community, to keep the University functioning, and this I believe contributed to our collective survival.

I do not wish to respond to the flourishes of Rajiva Wijesinha’s poison pen, his personal invective, and his misrepresentation of a casual conversation five or six years ago. Ironically this was a time when I as Chairperson, and he as a member of a Committee of the National Commission on Education, worked together with other colleagues on a draft of a new University’s Act which gave more rather than less autonomy to State Universities!

Savitri Goonesekere

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