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Appeal by academics against infringement of university autonomy in Sri Lanka

23 September 2011

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The Ministry of Higher Education has issued a directive that all state universities should hire the services of Rakna Lanka Ltd for provision of security services. The undersigned of the University academic community considers that directive to be in complete contravention of the norms and conventions by which universities are expected to function.

The letter issued by the Secretary to the Ministry of Higher Education seeks to bypass standard procedures that are followed in the university system in the hiring and outsourcing of services. That process requires tenders to be called for and for a suitable company to be selected in a transparent and independent manner. The Secretary’s instruction therefore is in violation of established processes and is contrary to the underpinning principles of governance and the autonomy of academic institutions.

Rakna Lanka is held out to be a government owned commercial security venture and has been set up under the Ministry of Defence, under the direct supervision of the Secretary to that Ministry. The website of Rakna Lanka states that only ex-servicemen are hired by the company. The website also provides a list of other state owned departments that have hired the services of Rakna Lanka.

Internationally, privatization of security has been debated on intensely owing to the sensitive nature of what is termed as “security” and how such “security” is maintained. Experiences in other parts of the world suggest that accountability should be increased in the maintenance of security, not decreased. In that light, the directive by the ministry that all security in all state universities should be handed over to one commercial enterprise owned by the state, coming under the supervision of one public officer, becomes problematic. Holding such an entity accountable to the university authorities could, predictably, become difficult.

It is important that universities retain their independence in matters of hiring and recruiting, tailored to suit the individual needs of each university. The authorities should abide by just and fair procedure, engage in dialogue and consultation with the University community, and give due recognition to the positions occupied by University authorities, the Vice Chancellors and others in these matters. It is of the utmost importance that university autonomy is preserved under such circumstances.

We are also concerned about the increasing infringement of university autonomy in matters pertaining to academic programmes and in decision making by the state. We are especially concerned about the role the military establishment is increasingly playing in the administrative and academic spheres of the universities, which are a place of free exchange of ideas, critical thinking, and innovation. We of course have in mind the leadership training programme conducted by the Military to university entrants, which, arbitrarily imposed on all concerned, reduced the authority of the academic community within its own area of purview. This last development of encroachment via hiring procedure by the Ministry of Defence is seen as a further elaboration of this trend of increasing militarization of the universities.

As an academic community we are willing and able to cooperate effectively with the authorities in these and other issues facing university administration and academic quality. We urge the government to respect its obligations toward the academic community and the universities with respect to its written and unwritten contract with the university system.


Ranil Abayasekara, University of Peradeniya
- Harini Amarasooriya, Open University of Sri Lanka
- Suresh de Mel, University of Peradeniya
- Sampath Deegalla, University of Peradeniya
- Noel Dias, University of Colombo
- Priyan Dias, University of Moratuwa
- Lesly Ekanayake, University of Moratuwa
- Primal Fernando, University of Peradeniya
- Lakshman Galagedara, University of Peradeniya
- Ranil D. Guneratne, University of Colombo
- Camena Guneratne, Open University of Sri Lanka
- Dileni Gunewardena, University of Peradeniya
- K. R. B. Herath, University of Peradeniya
- S. R. Herath, University of Peradeniya
- Rohini Hewamanna, University of Colombo
- M. I. M. Ishak, University of Peradeniya
- Janaki Jayawardena, University of Colombo
- Romaine Jayewardene, University of Colombo
- Danesh Karunanayake, University of Peradeniya
- Parakrama Karunaratne, University of Peradeniya
- Dulakshi Karunasinghe, University of Peradeniya
- Gamini Keerawella, University of Peradeniya
- Manikya Kodithuwakku, Open University of Sri Lanka
- L. C. Kurukulasuriya, University of Peradeniya
- Amal Kumarage, University of Moratuwa
- Shamala Kumar, University of Peradeniya
- Darshana Liyanage, University of Ruhuna
- Sanjeeva Maithripala, University of Peradeniya
- K. P. P. Pathirana, University of Peradeniya
- A. L. M. Mauroof, University of Peradeniya
- R. Meegaskubura, University of Peradeniya
- Nilhan Niles, University of Moratuwa
- Rathnamali Palamakumbura, University of Peradeniya
- Susantha Pathirana, University of Peradeniya
- Asoka Perera, University of Moratuwa
- Nimal Ratnayake, University of Peradeniya
- Rohan Ratnayake, Open University of Sri Lanka
- Asanga Ratnaweera, University of Peradeniya
- Dinesha Samararatne, University of Colombo
- Gameela Samarasinghe, University of Colombo
- I. M. S. Sathyaprasad, University of Peradeniya
- Kalinga Tudor Silva, University of Peradeniya
- M. Sitralega, Eastern University
- Upul Sonnadara, University of Colombo
- Sumathy Sivamohan, University of Peradeniya
- Ruvan Weerasinghe, University of Colombo
- Carmen Wickramagamage, University of Peradeniya
- B. Dileepa Witharana, Open University of Sri Lanka

Dated: Sept 21, 2011