University Teachers condemn the appointment of Narahenpita Abayarama Temple Chief Incumbent Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera as Chancellor of the University of Colombo.

BY Pamodi Waravita

The Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA), the Colombo University’s Academic Federation, the Faculty of Medicine Teachers’ Association (FMTA), and the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) yesterday (9) condemned the appointment of Narahenpita Abayarama Temple Chief Incumbent Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera as the Chancellor of the University of Colombo.

The FUTA said yesterday that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s statement that Narahenpita Abayarama Temple’s Chief Incumbent Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera had helped the Government to come to power, made a few days after the monk was appointed as the Colombo University’s Chancellor by him, is “dangerous”.
“The chancellor position is a ceremonial one. However, it is a position which demands a certain respectability as it is a reflection of the university’s culture. We have a problem with the premise of this appointment, especially since the President said this weekend that Ananda Thera helped the current Government to come to power. Thus, we stand against this appointment, alongside the Colombo University’s Academic Federation which has communicated to us their protest at this appointment,” FUTA President Prof. S. Banneheka told The Morning yesterday.

On 6 November, the President addressed the media, where he spoke of the appointment. “I gave the chancellor position to Ananda Thera. The monk helped this Government to come to power. He made contributions from the time of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. However, due to some reasons, the monk spoke against us recently. Parliamentarian and President’s Counsel Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, and MP Ranil Wickremesinghe visited the Thera and sought advice. People like Ceylon Teachers’ Union General Secretary Joseph Stalin and Ceylon Teachers’ Service Union General Secretary Mahinda Jayasinghe also went to seek advice. They all went to the Thera seeking advice but when the Thera becomes the Chancellor, they say that it is not appropriate,” said the President.
Prof. Bannaheka said that such reasoning is reprehensible and that the FUTA will reach a decision on its actions regarding the matter soon, as they “don’t yet know whether the monk will accept this position”.

Meanwhile, the FMTA, in a media release by its President Prof. Sudharshani Wasalathanthri, announced yesterday that it is “greatly concerned” by the appointment.

“The post of chancellor of the university is the symbol of embodiment of its prestige and dignity. The holder of that post should be an academic, intellectual, and professional of the highest calibre who commands the respect of the students, academics, alumni, and the community at large both nationally and internationally. The person who is appointed to this post should have a history of conduct in the past in keeping with the high standards expected of the holder of the post and should also be capable of abiding by such conduct in the future. The Faculty of Medicine Teachers’ Association is greatly concerned by the recent appointment that has been made to the post of chancellor of the University of Colombo and has already requested His Excellency the President to reconsider this appointment.”

Meanwhile, the GMOA yesterday wrote to the President, saying that the association is “highly disturbed” by the aforementioned appointment as the Thera does not have the required academic background for the post and thus, urged the President to reconsider the appointment. “A chancellor ensures the governing authority’s integrity and objectivity, promotes the university’s profile, has a strong personal commitment to higher education and its core values, and takes appropriate steps to avoid conflicts of interest. Furthermore, developing Sri Lanka as a knowledge hub will require our university system to be of international standards with appropriate leadership at the helm. Having considered all of these aspects, the GMOA is highly disturbed by the appointment of Ananda Thera,” said the GMOA.

Ananda Thera was appointed as the Colombo University’s Chancellor last week, with effect from 17 November. The Thera’s Abhayarama Temple in Narahenpita was used by current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa as his political headquarters, following his defeat at the 2015 Presidential Election. Ananda Thera also campaigned for the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) during the 2019 Presidential Election and the 2020 General Election, although he has been critical of the current Government in the recent past.

Furthermore, Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara Chief Incumbent and Senior Professor Ven. Kollupitiye Mahinda Sangharakkitha Thera was appointed as the Kelaniya University’s Chancellor on 6 November.

Courtesy:The Morning