Thursday, August 23, 2012

A big lie exposed

The Island, August 22, 2012, 12:00 pm

The problem with lying is that there is no end to it. Lies have to be remembered all the time unlike the truth. It was Mark Twain who famously said, "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything." A lie also comes with a short lifespan and has to be replaced with another upon its expiry. The government's claim that the striking university teachers were reporting back for work in compliance with Higher Education Minister S. B. Dissanayake's request to that effect has turned out to be a big lie.
Minister Dissanayake is left with egg on his face. He has had to swallow his pride and admit defeat. Universities have been closed indefinitely save those whose dons have not joined the strike and medical faculties. His statement on the circumstances that led to the current situation has left us none the wiser. He ought to tell the public how he proposes to solve the university crisis instead of venting his spleen on the striking dons at every turn and waiting till the dons get fed up with their trade union action and come back to work.

Several rounds of talks between the Federation of University Teachers' Associations (FUTA) and the government have failed. The government has apparently chosen to play a waiting game and the dons are standing their ground. The on-going tussle has all the trappings of a game of chicken, as we argued the other day, with neither side willing to backtrack. FUTA is all out to transform its trade union battle into a broader public struggle––it has already been dubbed Academic Spring––and the government's response has been to harden its stand and unleash its propaganda hounds on the striking dons scheduled to have a public rally today in Colombo.

The government's argument that FUTA should not get involved in policy matters is untenable. Not only university teachers but also all other stake holders including the ordinary public have a right to agitate for an increase in funds allocated for education. Policy making is too serious a matter to be left entirely to politicians and bureaucrats. This is a country where any nincompoop could enter Parliament with the help of black money and the mandarins in key positions fall over themselves to appease their political masters. Therefore, there is a pressing need for responsible trade unions and concerned citizens to make interventions to shape public policy. They, however, must desist from trying to usurp the powers of legislators and be wary of being manipulated by external forces with hidden political agendas.

It is nothing but a crime to keep universities closed indefinitely. The government and FUTA, at this rate, will take a month of Sundays to reach an agreement. They ought to take serious note of the plight of frustrated students wasting their youth in universities.

What is possible and feasible at this juncture appears to be an interim solution with a timeframe for negotiations so that universities could be re-opened. However, the government must give the strikers a cast-iron guarantee that they will not be taken for a ride again. As Minister Dissanayake remains obdurate and other government negotiators have failed to break the deadlock, a powwow between FUTA and President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself seems to be the only way out. After all, the President has gone on record as saying that he is for a win-win situation in dealing with the dons' strike. With the university crisis getting out of hand, the time has come for him to prove that he is a leader who talks the talk and walks the walk.

1 comment:

Gunapala Ranaweerage said...


Dr. C. W. W. Kannangara – Father of Free Education

The Free Education Scheme called ‘The Pearl of Great Price’ opened the doors of higher education to the poor. Education was made free from kindergarten to the University. Along with free education more and more Central Schools were established all over the country with a greater concentration in rural areas. Scholarships from the fifth standard
providing free board and lodging, besides free education were endowed to poor talented children selected by a competitive examination.

Thus the way was prepared for those poor but clever children who earlier had only a bleak future to reap the benefits of free education. The parents of children who could not afford higher education of their offsprings because of their poverty shed tears of joy. Today as a result of free education there are University dons, administrative officers, doctors, engineers, accountants, architects, judges and lawyers who hail from among the poor and humble citizens of this country.

That was then, when we had a Patriot worthy of emulation.

How about now, when Dutugemunu has reborn to make our mother land a 'Knowledge pub'.

Dear parents, brothers, sistors, and children,

From a backward village in Hambantota, what would have been my fate if not for free education.

It is our utmost duty today to protect free education for the future generation.