Sunday, June 24, 2012

FUTA to continue union action despite threats, says its president

Federation of University Teachers’ Association (FUTA) President Dr. Nirmal Dewasiri vowed that the academics would continue their trade union action to win their demands despite continued threats allegedly by those connected to the defence authorities.
Dr.Dewasiri who faced threats not only to his personal security but also that of his family said he would continue to give leadership to the Association till the Higher Education Ministry takes serious note of the issues raised by the Federation.
A delegation from FUTA met with Higher Education Minister S.B.Dissanayake last Wednesday but the talks were unsuccessful.“It is apparent that the Minister is taking this matter lightly and his approach towards us is intimidating. We are very pessimistic that any productive dialogue can take place with this Minister in the near future,” Dr.Dewasiri said.
Staff members holding a protest in front of the Faculty of Aesthetics in Colombo. Pic by M.D. Nissanka
FUTA has condemned the intimidatory tactics allegedly used by the Government, particularly the threats to Dr.Dewasiri’s family.
He alleged that persons claiming to be from the Defence Ministry have visited his neighbours’ houses seeking information on several occasions in the past week, regarding his daughter.
The men had told the neighbours conflicting stories on why they needed such information, one being that as Dr.Dewasiri’s daughter is planning to go overseas therefore they needed the information and on another occasion that she had applied for a job at the Defence Ministry and security clearance was needed.
However, Dr. Dewasiri said his daughter is only in her first year Advanced Level class and is neither planning to go overseas nor interested in joining the Defence Ministry.
Dr. Dewasiri himself received an anonymous call soon after the conclusion of Friday’s media conference where a person claiming to be a student of the Colombo University accused him of sabotaging their studies and told Dr.Dewasiri that he and his family would be harmed unless he stops the trade union action.
He said the tactic was aimed at intimidating him and forcing him to back down from trade union action.
Venerable Dambara Amila Thera, also a FUTA member, said that the intimidatory tactics are used by the government as a means to solve problems. He warned that this would affect all aspects of society and that it is the duty and responsibility of the public to protest and object against such acts by the government and ensure that democracy prevails.
Meanwhile members of the University of Visual and Performing Arts have spoken out against the decision taken by the Higher Education Minister to abolish the aptitude test that is used to select applicants to the university.
Faculty Union President Chandragupta Thenuwara said that this aptitude test not only judges the knowledge of the subject but also the applicant’s creative skills and practical knowledge.
However at the Advanced Level examination 50% of the marks are given for the practical paper and 50% for the theory paper. Hence a student with low skills in practical knowledge can get an “A” pass by writing a good theory paper Therefore this aptitude test is vital to select students who have knowledge of the subject as well as practical skills, he said.
Mr.Thenuwara charged that the decision to abolish this test was taken after some students who failed the aptitude test petitioned the Minister.
He said if the aptitude test is done away with, deserving students will miss out on the opportunity to gain admission to this Faculty.

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