After concluding my account of work and travel while at the British Council, I move forward now six years, to my second year at Sabaragamuwa University. Shadows started now and this post describes the person whom we initially thought the source of the troubles at the university which now began to hit us, Prof Sandanam who had been Vice-Chancellor at the Eastern University before the Tigers chased him away on grounds of peculation. Unfortunately, since I was away and could not act for the Vice-Chancellor, which Somasundara had initially intended while he was away, Sandanam took over. The pictures are of him preceded by his Dean, Upali Jayasekera, whom I was sorry to see had died last year.

The beginning of troubles at Belihuloya

On Monday, the car again being late, I went to the university, where we had classes on the next two days. Somasundara was away, and had nominated me to act for him, but since I too was going on leave the following week he had instead chosen Prof Sandanam, former Vice-Chancellor of the Eastern University who, after trouble there because the LTTE had thought him dishonest, had moved to our Agriculture Faculty. He and the Dean there, Upali Jayasekera, did not get on, so Somasundara brought him to Beliuloya where he rapidly became Somasundara’s chief confidant and in time Deputy Vice Chancellor.

He was a loathsome little man and I think responsible for Somasundara’s decline. Ralf Starkloff, who found him appalling too, described him as the evil dwarf of German folk tales, and I have not been able to think of him otherwise since then.

This week was my first formal meeting with him for he wanted details of the forthcoming exams, since the students were complaining of the schedule. But he seemed to accept what he was given, and I did not worry overmuch, for I was also rushing to complete other work in addition to fulfilling university commitments, my novel about Richard de Zoysa which came out much later as The Limits of Love and a paper for Chelva Kanakanayakam now in Canada.

On the Thursday students did not come for tea as invited, and I realized that the Student Union was on the warpath. But next morning I left, for a workshop at the NIE, and that afternoon I was at Tharanjee which was printing the volume of Navasilu that I was editing for the English Association. Then there were lots of ends to tie up on the Saturday and Sunday, before I took a plane to Bangkok on the night of Sunday August 16th. It was only on the night of September 2nd that I got back, to a very different world at the university.

It took a day or two for me to realize what was going on, for the day after I got back my cousin Rohan got married, and on Friday the 4th I had a GELT workshop at the UGC, so it was only that night that I got to the university. The exams were to start the next day but the students boycotted them. However the extent of the damage was still not clear. We also had an MA workshop over the weekend, and that went off all right, and we played cards of an evening, Senanayake joining Nirmali and her daughter and her boyfriend on the first evening.