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17 March - speech in ParliamentSpeech of Prof Rajiva Wijesina

With regard to the issue of his resignation raised in the House

On March 3rd, by the Hon Dinesh Gunawardena

Mr Speaker, I am most grateful for this opportunity to explain my position, following the question raised about this in the House a couple of weeks ago. At the same time I am sorry, because I had hoped that it would not be necessary for me to explain what occurred, which led to my resignation from the position of State Minister of Higher Education.

I am compelled however to speak, given what seems to have been a misleading account to the House. The Hon Dinesh Gunawardena, who raised the question, spoke to me the next day and indicated that the response was that the status quo had not changed.

I spoke to the Hon Prime Minister about this, and said it was wrong of him to imply that I was still the State Minister. His answer was that my resignation had not been accepted. But, as he should know better than me, such acceptance is not relevant. The Constitution is very clear about the fact that a Minister holds office unless he ‘(b) resigns his office by a writing under his hand addressed to the President’.

To confirm my resignation, I would like to table my letter of resignation along with my speech. It is in both Sinhala and English, and I would like both versions tabled (1) (2) .

It is clear then that I have resigned, with effect from February 17th. The Ministry has accepted this fact in taking back the cheque for my salary for the whole month which they had sent me, and instead sending me a cheque for a period only.

My resignation Mr Speaker, as the letter makes clear, was because the Cabinet Minister, having first told me that I would have to do all the work because he had to work on the election, then took decisions without consulting or even informing me. I told him once that this was unethical, when he ordered the Secretary to the Ministry to look into matters pertaining to the activities of the earlier Minister. But then he went further, and instructed the members of the University Grants Commission to resign, without bothering to inform me. He told me when I inquired that this was under pressure from the FUTA. FUTA itself has subsequently gone on record, with regard to the charges it made against the Chairman of the UNG, to say that ‘If the government wishes to inquire into these allegations, we most certainly welcome such a move’. But in reality the Minister and the Prime Minister made a decision to act at the meeting held with FUTA on January 27th, and ignored all principles of decency in going through with their decision.

The FUTA record of the meeting, which I am tabling (3) , noted that

  • ‘Prime Minister stated that all UGC Commission members including the Chair will be requested to resign. Request letters will come through the Secretary to the President.
  • Minister Kabeer Hashim stated that he requests all Council members of universities to resign’

On that very day, January 27th, the Cabinet Minister wrote to His Excellency the President, in a letter I am also tabling (4), to say ‘We, therefore, request permission of Your Excellency for the following: a. To request the chair person and members of the University Grants Commission to tender their resignations forthwith.’ Whether this is a Royal We, or included the Prime Minister (though obviously not the State Minister) is not mentioned.

But when he received no response, as it seems, he took matters into his own hands. Though the President told me vey clearly on the morning of February 12th that he had not ordered her removal, the Cabinet Minister had written, in a letter I am tabling (5), to the Chairman of the UGC on February 5th to inform her that the President had directed him to obtain her resignation.

Mr Speaker, this government came in on a promise of good governance. This is not good governance. And with regard to my own resignation, I must report that neither the Cabinet Minister nor the Prime Minister kept any of the promises they made, about telling me what was going on.

On February 12th, the Cabinet Minister said he had been asked by the President to resolve the issue, and pledged that henceforward I could take decisions. His interpretation of this was that I could choose members of the UGC from lists in the Prime Minister’s Office. But the Prime Minister has no business to interfere with this matter, unless he believes that the Constitution has already been changed to allow him to take all executive power into his own hands without having been elected to such authority.

The Cabinet Minister realized the situation was untenable and told me he would inform the Prime Minister that evening to appoint me to the Cabinet portfolio. He failed to do this. The Prime Minister called me on Saturday, having been told of the problem by the Hon Nirj Deva-Adithya, and then promised to get back to me, but did not. The Cabinet Minister reiterated his view of how to resolve the problem on Monday 16th. That evening the Prime Minister called me and said he had to consult former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. He promised to call the next day to let me know the situation, but did not. His tame excuse when we spoke, after his misleading statement in the house, was that it had been impossible to get in touch with her thereafter while she was in England. This seemed to me, as I told him, no way to run a government. He shrugged.

But all this makes it crystal clear Mr Speaker that I must confirm that I am no longer a Minister, and that I must be treated as a Private Member. As you may be aware, I have proposed two Constitutional Amendments, one in fulfilment of the pledge in the Manifesto to reform the electoral system, which I hereby table (6). The Secretary General said I could not bring it forward since I could not be considered a Private Member, as he had not been informed of my resignation. However I trust that, in line with the position the Secretary General who is universally agreed to have been the best holder of that office always held, he accepts that there can be no question of resignations being invalid because they have not been accepted. Now that my letter is before Parliament, I must in terms of the Constitution be treated as a Private Member.

As my letter of resignation makes clear, I am happy to continue as a Private Member and work towards fulfilling the principles on which this government was elected. I am sorry for studens, though, because nothing seems to have moved in the Ministry after I left, contrary to what was said in this House two weeks ago. Last week I was sent about 50 unopened letters addressed to the Minister of State Minister, a few of them in my name, but clearly they were all official. I sent them back and told the Cabinet Minister, in a letter I am tabling (7a), that it ‘is important that government responds swiftly to the public’. I am aware that, as he told me in mentioning his need to concentrate on the forthcoming election into which his party wishes to dragoon the country, he finds it difficult to multi-task. But this must be done, assuming the government is serious about its obligations. To show how much can be done with concentrated effort, I am tabling some of the work done during my brief tenure at the Ministry (7b), which included also a new draft Act, which I will also table (8) and draft Cabinet Papers on Divisional Level Language Centres and a University Press (9).

For my own part, Mr Speaker, I am content to leave all this to an effective Minister, and will now work on the reforms to which we are pledged. The exception is abolishing the Executive Presidency, as opposed to cutting down on its powers. Replacing an Executive President with an all powerful Executive Prime Minister would be a grave mistake, given the manner in which this government is behaving. The blatant manner in which political appointments are being made, the recall to the mast of septuagenarians who cut their administrative teeth a third of a century and more ago, the failure to keep so many of the promises of the manifesto that are in the people’s interests (as opposed to the interests of politicians) is frightening.

Mr Speaker, we need to entrench systems of Good Governance and Accountability. This is not difficult, as you can see from the swift progress of the Committee on Standing Orders, the minutes of which I table (10), even though the Prime Minister wanted the meeting delayed. I have also put forward a motion to introduce the Bill of Rights (11), also tabled now, which was prepared through the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights when I was its Secretary. And I yesterday proposed an Amendment to the Constitution to strengthen the Public Service, also tabled (12), which has been grossly neglected in the discussions thus far on measures to reduce the power of the Executive.

To do all this however requires freedom of action. To maximize my contribution in the short period that remains to this Parliament, I must therefore make clear that I am no longer in the Executive Branch of government. I thank you therefore, Mr Speaker, for this opportunity to make my position clear.

Tabled Item 1 – Letter of Resignation (Sinhala)


ගරු මෛත්‍රීපාල සිරිසේන මැතිතුමා

ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ අතිගරු ජනාධිපති

ජනාධිපති ලේකම් කාර්යාලය

කොළඹ 1

අතිගරු ජනාධිපතිතුමනි,

මම මගේ උසස් අධ්‍යාපන රාජ්‍ය ඇමති තනතුරින් ඉල්ලා අස්වීම ඉදිරිපත් කරන්නට කැමැත්තෙමි.

මට තනතුර ලබා දෙන අවස්ථාවේම මම මා කැබිනට් ඇමතිවරයකු ලෙස පත් නොකිරීම පිළිබඳ මගේ

කලකිරීම ඔබතුමා සමඟ සාකච්ඡා කළෙමි. මෙම තත්වය සියලු දේශපාලන පක්ෂවල නියෝජිතයන්

කැබිනට් මණ්ඩලය තුළ නියෝජනය විය යුතුය යන ප්‍රතිපත්ති ප්‍රකාශනය ප්‍රකාශය

උල්ලංගනය කිරීමකි. එහිදී, කඳුරට ජනතා පෙරමුණේ රාධක්‍රිෂ්නන් මහතා හා ලිබරල් පක්ෂයේ

මා පමණක් අතහැර දැමුණි.

කෙසේනමුත්, මට උසස් අධ්‍යාපන ක්ෂ්ස්ත්‍රයට තුළ කළ හැකි දායකත්වය සුවිශාල හෙයින් මම

එය භාර ගතිමි. කොහොම නමුත් මම බොහෝ කලකට පෙර කල්පනා කළේ අධිකාරීත්වයේ සිටින අය

යම් කෙනෙකු කෙරෙහි විශ්වාස තබන්නේ නැතිනම් කාර්යක්ෂමව වැඩ කිරීමට අපහසු බවය.

මුලදී, මා සිතාගෙන සිටියේ ම ඍජුවම ඔබතුමා යටතේ වැඩ කරන බවය. නමුත්, පසුව කබීර් හෂීම්

මහතා ඔහුට තිබෙන මහාමාර්ග හා වෘත්තීය පුහුණු අමාත්‍යංශයන්ට අමතරව උසස් අධ්‍යාපන

කැබිනට් ඇමතිවරයා ලෙස පත්කොට ඇති බවය නිවේදනය කර තිබුණි.

හෂීම් මහතා සංසන්දනාත්මකව දේශපලන ක්ෂේස්ත්‍රයේ ගෞරවනීය සහ හැකියාවකින් යුත්

පුද්ගලයෙක් නිසා මා ඔහු හට විරුද්ධ නොවිය. මේ පිළිබඳව කෙරුණු ප්‍රථම සාකච්ඡාවේදී ඔහු

කියා සිටියේ ඉදිරියේදී පැමිණෙන මැතිවරණ කටයුතු සම්බන්දයෙන් ඔහු කාර්යබහුල වන බැවින්

ඔහුට අවශ්‍ය වන්නේ උසස් අධ්‍යාපනය පළිබදව සියලු වගකීම් මා දැරිය යුතු බවත් තවද,

වෘත්තීය අධ්‍යාපනයේ වගකීමද මා විසින් ගතයුතු බව උපකල්පනය කළේය.

කෙසේ වෙතත්, පසුව, ඔහු මට සඳහන් කළේ අගමැතිවරයාට මෙම ක්ෂේස්ත්‍රය ඔහු යටතේ

තැබීමටව අවශ්‍යව තිබෙන බවය. එය ගැටළුවක් නොවේ. නමුත්, මේ අතරතුර, ඔහු මගේ ලේඛම්

වරයාට මා හට කිසිදු දැනුවත් කිරීමක් නොකොට උපදෙස් ලබා දෙණු ලබයි.

මුලින්ම, පසු ගිය මාස කිහිපය තුළ අමාත්‍යංශයේ තනතුරු වලට පත්කිරීම් මෙන්ම වාහන භාවිතය

පිළිබඳ තොරතුරු විමසා ඇත. මෙය දේශපාලන අරමුණක් සඳහා යයි මම අනුමාන කරණ මුත් මම

ඊට විරුද්ධ නොවේ. කොහොම නමුත්, මම ඔහුටද ලියා දැන්වූ ආකාරයට, අදාළ අමාත්‍යවරයාට දැනුම්

දීමක් නොකොට රාජ්‍ය අමාත්‍යංශයේ ලේඛම් වරයාට ඉල්ලීම් යොමු කිරීම ආචාර ධර්ම වලට පටහැනි

බව මම විශ්වසස කරමි.

ඊට පසු, මට කිසිදු දැනුම් දීමක් නොකොට, විශ්ව විද්‍යාල ප්‍රතිපාදන කොමිසමේ සාමාජිකයන්ට

ඉවත්වන ලෙස දන්වා ඇති බව දැන ගන්නට තිබේ. වරක්, ඔහු කැබිනට් ඇමති වරයා බව මම දැන

ගැනීමට පෙර, පසුගිය රජය සමයේ පිඩාවට පත් වූ යූ. එන්. පී. විද්වතුන්ට තනතුරු දිය යුතු බව

ඔහු මට යෝජනා කර තිබුණි. එහිදී, විශ්වවිද්‍යාලවල තනතුරු විශ්වවිද්‍යාල තුළම බහුශ්‍රුත නොවූ

එහෙත් ඉන් පිටත වෙසෙමින් විශ්වවිද්‍යාල ක්‍රමය සමාජයට අදාළ කර ගැනීම පිළිබඳ මනා

දැනුමක් හා අවබෝධයක් තිබෙන කිහිප දෙනෙකුටද අවස්ථාව දිය යුතු බව මගේ අදහස බව මම

එහිදී සඳහන් කළෙමි. ඔහු ඒ පිළිබඳ විරුද්ධත්වයක් ප්‍රකාශ නොකළත්, මේ වන විට එම තනතුරු

දේශපාලන ආධාරකරුවන්ට දිය යුතු බව ඔහු විශ්වාස කරණ බවත් ඒ අනුව කටයුතු කරණ බවත්

මට වැටහේ. මෙම තත්වය තව දුරටත් සනාථ වන්නේ, ආයතන කිහිපයක්ම නැවත ප්‍රතිස්ථාපනය

කිරීමට තිබෙන වෘත්තීය අධ්‍යාපනය ඔහු යටතේ තබා ගැනීමට ඔහු තීරණය කරගෙන සිටින


මේ අවස්ථාවේදී, සභාග රජයක් අත්‍යවශ්‍ය බව මම විශ්වාස කරමි. නමුත් එය සත්‍ය වශයෙන්ම,

එක්සත් ජනතා නිදහස් සන්ධයනයෙන් තේරී පත් වී ඔබ තුමාට මෙන්ම යූ.එන්.පී යටද සහය දැක්වූ

පිරිසෙන් ද සමන්විත සැබෑ සභාග රජයක් විය යුතුය. ඔබ තුමාට සහය දෙන ලෙස රාජිත

සේනාරත්න මහතාගේ ඉල්ලීමට මම සුභවාදිව ප්‍රතිචාර දැක් වූයේ එ.ජා. ප. ය ශක්තිමත් කිරීමට

නොවේ. පසු ගිය රජය තුළ සිට ප්‍රතිසංස්කරණ සඳහා බලපෑම් කළ වසන්ත සේනානායක මහතා

හා මම කිසිදු සැකයකින් තොරව ඔබව ජනාධිපති අපේක්ෂකයා ව‍ශයෙන් දැනුම්දුන් ප්‍රථම මාධ්‍ය

සාකච්ඡාවට පැමිණියේ යූ. එන්.පී. ය ශක්තිමත් කරන්නට නොවේ.

එක්සත් ජාතික පක්ෂයට ආර්ථිකයට සම්බන්ද වැඩිපුර වගකීමක් ලබා දුන්නද, ඔබතුමාගේ

සමාරම්භක දේශනයේදී, මහාමාන්‍ය ඩි. එස්. සේනානායක මහතා හා ගරු එස්. ඩබ්. ආර්. ඩි.

බණ්ඩාරණායක යන මහත්වරුන් උදාහරණය වශයෙන් දක්වමින් ප්‍රකාශ කළ පරිදි, සමාජ

සාධාරණත්වය සඳහා කැපවීමක්ද අවශ්‍ය බව මම විශ්වාස කරමි. අවාසනාවකට, හැත්තෑව

දශකයේ බලයට පත් වූ එ. ජා. ප. ආර්ථික වර්ධනයේ බලපෑමෙන් පමණක් මගින් අපේ රටේ

ජනතාවගේ අභිලාෂයන් මුදුන්පත් වනු ඇත යන විශ්වාසය මත පිහිටා අවධානය යොමු කළේ සරල

ධනවාදය දෙසටය. ඊට පරස්පරව, ලොව අන් රටවල් රාජ්‍ය සමාජවාදය එතරම් සාර්ථක නොවන

බව අවබෝධ කර ගනිද්දී, ශ්‍රී.ල.නි.ප., රාජ්‍ය සමාජවාදයේ අන්තයටම ගියේය.

මෙම තත්වය හේතුකොට ගෙන ඊට පසු පැමිණි පක්ෂ දෙකේම නායකයන් මැද මාවතකට යොමුවීමට

උත්සාහ කළහ. නමුත්, ඔවුන්ට මෙම මැද මාවත් සංකල්පය වඩා පැහැදිලි ලෙස ග්‍රහණය කර

ගැනීමට නොහැකි විය. එසේම, කැබිනට් මණ්ඩලයේ විධායක බලය භාවිතා කිරීමට තෝරා ගත්

පුද්ගලයන්ද මෙය හොඳින් අවබෝධ කර ගෙන තිබුනේ නැත. කොහොම නමුත්, ඔබගේ ජනාධිපතිත්වය

යටතේ වඩා හොඳින් ගැලපෙන මධ්‍යස්ත දේශපාලනයක්, පාලනය සඳහා ආචාර ධර්ම පදනම්

කරගත් ප්‍රවේශයක් හා පුද්ගලික වශයෙන් ඇතිකරගත් පූර්වනිගමනයන් හා පෙර හිතවත්කම්

වලින් තොර වූ ඵලදායි ක්‍රමයක් ඇතිකළ හැකි බව මම බලාපොරොත්තු වුනෙමි.

නමුත්, මෙයින් උදාසීන නොවිය යුතු අතර නිරන්තරයෙන්ම අවධානයෙන් සිටීම අවශ්‍යය. මේ සියලු

කරුණු හේතු කොට ගෙන මගේ පවතින ධූරය ඉදිරියට ගෙන යා යුතු යයි මට නොහැගේ. එනමුත්,

රාජ්‍ය සේවයේ දිගටම කටයුතු කිරීමෙන් මා සතුටු වන අතර, ඔබතුමා මා අමාත්‍ය මණ්ඩලයට

පත් කළහොත් ඉතා ඵලදායි ලෙස මාහට කටයුතු කිරීමට හැකිවනු ඇත. අගමැතිතුමා සහ කබීර්

හෂීම් මහතා, විශ්වවිද්‍යාල හා වෘතිතීය අධ්‍යාපනය ඔවුනට හැසිරවිය හැකි යයි විශ්වාස

කරන්නේ නම්, තමා සහයෝගයෙන් කටයුතු කළ අංශයන් වන මානව හිමිකම් සහ ප්‍රතිසංවිධාන

වැනි අංශයන්හි කැබිනට් තනතුරකින් කටයුතු කිරීමට මා සතුටුය.

විශේෂයෙන්ම, මෙම ක්‍රියාවලිය නැවත පනගන්වනු වෙනුවට, අප කළ යුතු වන්නේ, අපට දැනට

සිටින ඉතා වටිනා පාර්ලිමේන්තු නියෝජිතයන් වන සුමන්තිරන් හා එරාන් වික්‍රමරත්න යන

මහතුන්ගේ සහය ඇතිව ප්‍රතිසංවිධාන සඳහා සකස් කළ ජාතික ප්‍රතිපත්තියක් සම්මත


මා ආපදා කළමනාකරණ සහ ජාතික මානව හිමිකම් අමාත්‍යංශයේ ලේකම්ව සිටියදී සකස් කරණ

ලද මානව හිමිකම් සැලසුම ක්‍රියාත්මක කිරීමේදී අපි වඩා කාර්යක්ෂමව මනා

සම්බන්දිකරණයකින් ක්‍රියා කළ හැකි අතර මානව හිමිකම් පිළිබඳව පණත් කෙටුම්පත සම්මත

කළ යුතුව ඇත. 2005 දී, මහින්ද චින්තනය මගින් පොරොන්දු වූ ආකාරයට ජයම්පති වික්‍රමරත්න

මහතාගේ සභාපතිත්වය යටතේ එම කමිටුව මම නැවත ක්‍රියාත්මක කළාට පසුව සකස් කළ

මූලික හිමිකම් පිළිබඳ කෙටුම්පත ද සම්මත කළ යුතුව ඇත.

එමෙන්ම, අමාත්‍ය ධූරයක් යටතේ, එක්සත් ජනතා නිදහස් සන්ධානය නඟා සිටුවීම සඳහා මගේ

සේවය ලබා දීමට හැකියාව ලැබේ. මා ඇතුළු හුනෛස් ෆාරුක්, රාධක්‍රිෂ්ණන් හා වසන්ත

සේනානායක යන මහත්වරුන් ඔබතුමා ජනාධිපති අපේක්ෂකත්වයට පත් කෙරුණු අවස්ථාවේදීම

මුලින්ම සහය දුන් කණ්ඩායම වේ.

ලිබරල් පක්ෂය මගින් එකගත්වය සඳහා යොමු කෙරුණු ඉල්ලලීම පිළිගන්නේ නම් එ. ජ. නි. ස. හා

ඔබගේ රජය, එ.ජා.ප. සමඟ මධ්‍යස්ත පදනමක පිහිටා අභිබවා නොයන පරිද්දෙන් ශක්තිමත්

බලවේගයක් ලෙස නගා සිටුවීමට කටයුතු කළ හැක.

මේ වන විට මම ලබා දී ඇති සාකච්ඡා කිහිපයක් ඇති බැවින් මගේ ඉල්ලා අස්වීම පෙබරවාරි මස

දාහත් වැනිදා සිට බල පවත්වන්නේ නම් ඉතාම කෘතඥ වෙමි. විභාගයන්ගෙන් පසු සිසුන්ගේ

නිකරුනේ නාස්තිවන කාලය සඳහා සිසුන් හට ප්‍රයෝජනවත් කුසලතා ලබා දීම සම්බන්දයෙන් සහ

ශ්‍රී ලංකා විශ්ව විද්‍යාල මුද්‍රණාලයක් පිහිටුවීම සම්බන්දයෙන් කැබිනට් පත්‍රිකා දෙකක්

කෙටුම්පත් කර ඉදිරිපත් කිරීමට කැමැත්තෙමි. ඔබතුමා එයට එකඟ නම් මෙම අදහස් ඉදිරියට

ගෙන යන ලෙස කැබිනට් අමාත්‍යවරයා හට ඔබතුමා උපදෙස් දෙනු ඇතැයි සිතමි. ඔබතුමා මගේ

ඉල්ලා අස්වීම මේ අවස්ථාවේ පටන් ක්‍රියාත්මක වීම වඩා සුදුසු යයි අදහස් කරන්නේ නම් මම හෙට

සිටය කාර්යාලයෙන් ඉවත්ව යාමට වුවද සතුටුය.


ඔබගේ විශ්වාසී,

මහාචාර්ය රජීව විජේසිංහ (පා.ම.)

උසස් අධ්‍යාපන රාජ්‍ය අමාත්‍ය

පිටපත- ගරු කබීර් හෂිම් මහතා (මහාමාර්ග, උසස් අධ්‍යාපන හා යෝජන ප්‍රවර්ධන අමාත්‍ය)


Tabled Item 2 – Letter of Resignation (English)

Your Excellency

I am writing to tender my resignation from the position of State Minister of Higher Education. When the appointment was made, I discussed with you my disappointment that I had not been made a Cabinet Minister. This was in violation of the commitment in the manifesto that the Cabinet would consist of representatives of all political parties in Parliament. But both Mr Radhakrishnan of the Upcountry People’s Front  and myself from the Liberal Party had been left out.

Nevertheless I took up the task since I felt I had much to contribute in the field of Higher Education. However I have long realized that it is not possible to work effectively if one has lost the confidence of those in authority. Initially I assumed that I was working directly under you, and was content. But then it was announced that Mr Kabir Hashim had been appointed Cabinet Minister of Higher Education, in addition to his other portfolios of Highways and Investment Promotion.

I did not object then because I believe that Mr Hashim is one of the more honourable people in politics and also comparatively able. He also told me, when we first spoke on the subject, that he wanted me to take full responsibility for work in Higher Education, since he would be busy with the forthcoming election. He also added that he assumed I would also be responsible for Vocational Training.

However subsequently he told me that the Prime Minister had wanted this area kept with him. That too would not have been a problem. But I found that meanwhile he was issuing instructions to my Secretary without informing me.

First, he asked for information about appointments by the Ministry in the last few months as well as information about the usage of vehicles. I suspect this is for political purposes, but I would have not objected. However, as I wrote to him, it was unethical for the request to be made to the Secretary of the State Ministry without the Minister being informed.

Subsequently, again without keeping me informed, it transpired that he had asked for the resignation of the members of the University Grants Commission. Previously, before I was aware that he was the Cabinet Minister, he had suggested that vacancies should be given to UNP academics who had suffered under the previous government. I told him I thought any vacancies should go to non-academics who understood the need for social relevance in the university system. Though he did not demur, I suspect that he has now subscribed fully to the belief that appointments should go to political supporters. This may also explain the determination to keep Vocational Education under him, since a number of bodies in that field need to be reconstituted.

I believe a coalition government is necessary at this stage, but it must be a genuine coalition of those members elected through the UPFA who support Your Excellency as well as the UNP. I did not respond positively to the request of Mr Senaratne that I support your candidature, nor did Mr Vasantha Senanayake and myself, who had been pressing for reforms from within the government, come unhesitatingly to the press conference at which your candidature was announced, in order to entrench a UNP government.

Though the UNP has much to offer with regard to economic discipline, I believe this country also needs the commitment to social equity exemplified by the two great leaders you mentioned in your Inaugural Address, Mr D S Senanayake and Mr S W R D Bandaranaike. Unfortunately, from the seventies onward, the party of the first moved towards simple capitalism and the belief that the trickle down effect of economic growth would be enough to satisfy the social aspirations of our people. Contrariwise, the SLFP sank into an extreme form of state socialism, just when the rest of the world realized this did not work.

I believe subsequent leaders of the two parties did try to move towards a median position, but they have not been able to conceptualize this, and it is not well understood by many of those they have chosen to exercise Executive powers in Cabinet. I had hoped however that, under your Presidency, we could develop a coherent politics of moderation, an ethical approach to governance, and effective systems that are not subject to personal prejudices or predilections.

The manner in which the Cabinet Minister of Higher Education has completely sidelined me indicates that we should not be complacent, and that constant vigilance is needed. I should not therefore continue in my present position. But I shall be happy to continue to serve in government if you appoint me to the Cabinet so that I can function effectively. But if the Prime Minister and Mr Hashim believe they can handle university and vocational education on their own, I would be happy to serve in a different area such as Human Rights and Reconciliation, which requires concerted action at this state.

In particular, instead of reinventing the wheel, we should adopt the draft National Policy on Reconcliation which I prepared with the assistance of two of the finest Parliamenarians we have, Mr Sumanthiran and Mr Eran Wickremaratne, as well as representatives of Civil Society. We should work more coherently on implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan, which was drafted when I was Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights. And we should adopt the Bill of Rights, also drafted during that period, after I reactivated the Committee set up under the Chairmanship of Mr Jayampathy Wickremaratne in accordance with the pledge in the 2005 Mahinda Chintanaya.

But I may also be able to serve you better through working to build up the UPFA. This was the grouping through which many of us who supported your candidature early on, such as Mr Hunais Farook and Mr Radhakrishnan and Mr Senanayake and myself, were elected to this Parliament. If the UPFA accepts the request for an agreement which the Liberal Party has made, perhaps I could contribute towards rebuilding it as a force for moderation, able to work constructively with the UNP without permitting the restricted vision of that party to dominate your government.

I would be grateful if my resignation could be effective only from February 17th, since I have made some appointments I would like to keep. I would also like to submit draft Cabinet Papers on the establishment of a Universities Press of Sri Lanka and on providing useful skills to students in the period now wasted after public examinations. If you approve, you could ask the Cabinet Minister to take these ideas forward. But I shall of course be happy to vacate office tomorrow if you feel this would be more appropriate.

Yours sincerely,


Prof . Rajiva Wijesinha MP

cc.  Hon Kabir Hashim


Tabled Item 3 – The FUTA record of the meeting 27 Jan 2015

Notes from Meeting at Temple Trees on 27th January 2015.


Prime Minister Mr Ranil Wickramasinghe

Minister of Investment Promotion, Highways and Higher Education, Mr Kabir Hasheem

Minister of Education, Mr Akila Viraj Kariyawasam

Mr C. Thenuwara (UVPA)

Prof .Rohan Fernando (OUSL)

Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri (Colombo)

Dr. Anura Uthumange (SJP)

Dr. T. Jayasingham (Eastern University)

Dr. A.W. Wijeratne (Sabaragamuwa)

Dr. Rangika Halwatura (Moratuwa)

Prof. Devaka Weerakoon (Colombo)

Dr. Harini Amarasuriya (OUSL)

Dr. Prabath  Jayasinghe (Colombo)

Prof. Aruna Kumara (Ruhuna)

Dr. Upul Abeyratne (Ruhuna)

Dr. Anura Karunathilaka (Kelaniya)

Dr. Jaufer (South Eastern University)

Dr. S. Barnayaka (Peradeniya)

Mr. Saman Ekanayake (Prime Minister Office)

Key Points

  • Prime Minister stated that all UGC Commission members including the Chair will be requested to resign. Request letters will come through the Secretary to the President
  • Minister Kabeer Hashim stated that he requests all Council members of universities to resign.
  • If individual universities present allegations against VCs, these will be investigated.  It was mentioned that Jaffna, Eastern, South Eastern, Colombo and Peradeniya have already submitted documents in this regard.
  • A Task Force will be appointed to look at Education Reforms.  FUTA reiterated that ad hoc policy reforms should not take place and expressed concerns about recent announcements by the State Minister for Higher Education regarding revisiting the University Act and other policy initiatives.
  • A committee of retired and currently working senior academics will be appointed to provide a situation report of universities particularly with regard to revisiting university Act, politicisation and loss of autonomy.  This will be appointed immediately.
  • All Circulars/Gazettes reducing the power of the UGC’s regulatory functions will be withdrawn (particularly in relation to non-state universities). Regulatory functions will no longer be directly under the Ministry.
  • Universities with no student councils will be asked to immediately establish councils.
  • All Universities will be requested to withdraw Rakna Lanka Security Service from providing security services
  • To remove all surveillance equipment such as CCTV cameras from public spaces in all universities
  • The joint statement agreed upon by the former government and FUTA will be revisited.
  • The Higher Education Minister (Mr. Kabeer Hashim) will conduct regular meetings with FUTA (once a month) to discuss pressing and ongoing issues.
  • Any salary related recommendations stated in the 2015 budget will be implemented.


Notes Prepared by Rohan Fernando and Harin Amarasuriya

Rohan Fernando (PhD)

Professor in Geology

Department of Physics
Faculty of Natural Sciences

Open University of Sri Lanka

Tabled Item 4 – Letter from Cabinet Minister Kabir Hashim to the President

Reconstitution of the university grants commission & Councils of.. (2)

 Tabled Item 5 – Letter to the Chairman of the UGC on February 5th 2015

Reconstitution of the university grants commission

Tabled Item 6 –  Constitutional Amendment to reform the electoral system

Delete Sections 95 to 99 of the Constitution and replace with

95 (i) Within one week of Sections 95 following being amended, the President shall establish a Delimitation Commission ….(as in current 95). The Commission shall be required to present its Report within three months of its being appointed.

(Current 95 (2) to remain)


96. (1) The Delimitation Commission shall divide Sri Lanka into 100 constituencies so that the population of Sri Lanka shall be divided equitably between those 100 constituencies, with the variation between the constituency having the largest number of voters and that having the smallest number not exceeding 10%.

(Clauses (5) and (6) of the current Constitution shall remain as (2) and (3)


  1. The President shall by Proclamation publish the names and boundaries of the constituencies, which shall be the basis of elections to Parliament at the next ensuing General Election.
  2. (1) At General Elections, each voter shall be entitled to cast two separate votes. One shall be for an individual, chosen from amongst those nominated for the constituency in which such voter is entitled to vote. The second shall be for a political party, from a list of those registered political parties that are contesting that election. Political parties will be deemed to be contesting the election if they have nominated candidates for at least 5 constituencies.

In addition to candidates nominated for constituencies, each Party contesting the election shall be entitled to nominate on a National List 5 candidates who are distinguished for service in any two of the following areas – Administration, Business Enterprises, Cultural Activities, Education, Social Service. Each Party, in presenting its National List to the Elections Commissioner shall indicate the qualifications of each candidate on that list.


(2) Each constituency will return as the first representative of that constituency the individual who received the most votes cast within that constituency.


(3) One hundred more members will be returned to Parliament on the basis of the second party vote, such that the final composition of Parliament shall reflect proportionately the votes cast for each such Party.


(4) After the number of seats each Party is entitled to on the Party Vote is communicated to each Party, it shall nominate upto half the number of seats it is entitled to from the National List, to the maximum of 5. The remaining vacancies shall be filled by those candidates contesting individual constituencies on behalf of the Party who received the highest percentage of votes in the individual vote.


  1. (1) Current 99 (13) (a) save that the section from ‘Or independent group’ to ‘Parliament’ should be deleted.

(b) Where the seat of a Member of Parliament elected on the individual vote to a constituency becomes vacant, a bye-election shall be held for that constituency, with each voter being entitled to one individual vote.

(c) Where the seat of a Member of Parliament elected by means of the Party Vote becomes vacant, the political party to which such member belonged shall be entitled to fill that seat, either through nomination of a candidate on its National List, or through the next candidate of those who contested individual constituencies on behalf of the Party who received the highest percentage of votes in the individual vote.


Renumber Clause 104 as 104 (1) and add


104 (2) If the Proclamation under 97 shall not have been made at the time of the next General Election, the Elections Commissioner shall hold such election on the system described above, subject to the proviso that, instead of the 100 constituencies envisaged, he shall determine between 100 and 120 constituencies on the basis of the electoral registers currently in use in the several constituencies into which each Electoral District has now been divided.

He shall combine constituencies in consultation with the Delimitation Commission appointed by the President, such that constituencies with fewer than 80,000 registered voters shall be combined with similar neighbouring constituencies.

Any constituency with more than 200,000 registered voters shall return the two members who received the highest number of individual votes at the election held under these transitional provisions.

Tabled Item 7a – it ‘is important that government responds swiftly to the public’

March 12th 2015

Hon Kabir Hashim

Minister of Highways, Higher Education and Investment Promotion

Dear Kabir

I was startled yesterday to be sent, from the Ministry, several letters addressed to the (State) Minister. Some of them also had my name, but if seemed clear that these were all official documents.

It looks like nothing had been looked at since I vacated office. This seems unacceptable. It is important that government responds swiftly to the public. I had set a system in place before I left to ensure that responses were sent as soon as letters were received, while those required to act would do so within a week, and respond accordingly.

Multi-tasking is not difficult, as you may have noticed from the work I was doing on Good Governance while I was State Minister. I think that has been appreciated by the Minister as well as other members of your party who are committed to this. In the present context, given that as you mentioned you are busy with elections, perhaps you could delegate dealing with all correspondence to the Deputy Minister who could certainly handle this through an effective system.

Please look into this matter, since this is a sector that requires much care, and could be the key to the development this country needs.

Yours sincerely

Prof Rajiva Wijesinha

c. Hon Eran Wickremaratne, Deputy Minister of Highways, Higher Education and Investment Promotion

Karu Jayasuriya, Minister for Democratic Government

Tabled Item 7b – work done during my brief tenure at MOHE

1.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  January 2015



Dear Chair

A number of interesting points emerged in my discussion yesterday with students from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Languages. They were worried about what they saw as the reduced intake into the Faculty.

  1. Checking of admissions and improving the system

In general perhaps you should check with regard to every Faculty in the system how many fail to register of those who gain admission.

Also, is the system of filling vacancies satisfactory? Students think this can be done immediately, to make sure numbers do not go down, but given delays in the system I suspect vacancy filling does not work well. Let me have statistics. It would then make sense to analyse this information.

We must – and sooner rather than later – work out a system of admissions that reduces the wasted time. Can we not get universities to call for applications before the Advanced Level, and then give conditional offers, so that work can begin soon after the results come out?

  1. Maximizing resources

Related to this is sensible use of facilities. As far as I can make out, we now have an endless cycle of increasing admissions and then finding that buildings and staff are not enough. You should ask every university to work out what is the ideal intake with reference to buildings they have, or have begun to build.

Staff resources should be used more sensibly. Sabaragamuwa told me that they have around 20 contact hours a week, which is absurd. University students should not need to attend so many lectures. Staff must learn to encourage reading and thinking, and syllabuses should be streamlined since pouring knowledge into students that will not be used again makes no sense as compared with developing competencies for the world of work and society. In this regard they must have much more time and space for extra-curricular activities, as well as space for self study. Sabaragamuwa Arts does not have a reading room, nor a Faculty Library.

  1. Books and modernizing syllabuses

Again, please check with every university, and find out which Faculties do not have Libraries and whether these can be developed . They need not be equipped with massive numbers of expensive books, but multiple copies of basic texts should be available.

In this regard please ask the Standing Committee on the Humanities to draw up basic reading lists for all subjects. The students said that they had not read anything recent, and the Economics ones had not heard of Friedman, being still stuck it seems with Adam Smith and Keynes. Please ensure that all universities have

I think this confirms the need to quickly set up relationships with reputed academic publishers, and perhaps start a University Press, perhaps with CUP or OUP or Longmans to collaborate initially.

  1. Administrative reforms

Some of the problems could be resolved through streamlined administrative systems and delegating authority. Every Faculty should have a budget for basic needs that is spent in consultation with the students. Also ensure that Faculties produce minutes of their meetings with Action Points noted, and that within two weeks of the meeting the Dean can discuss with students and relevant Heads what progress there has been.

  1. Geography

On a more parochial matter, the students were worried about a lack of resources for Geography. They complained that setting up a Geography Department had been agreed but was being delayed. I did not think a Department was a necessity, but if this has been agreed, the decision should be implemented, or else students should be told why this is inappropriate. However they should have the resources to learn properly.

  1. NCAS

Finally, I was disturbed to find out that the NCAS has been involved in developing something called the SLQF with regard to Technical Education. Coming on top of the fact that the NCAS was concerned with Quality Assurance, I think this shows that the UGC has connived in distorting what the NCAS was supposed to do. Far from ensuring Advanced Study in the Arts, it has turned into a tool for fulfilling what should be done by dedicated specialists.

This must stop. Please make sure that the NCAS is headed by someone who is dedicated to the subject, and will ensure better academic standards in the humanities. We cannot have a situation where neither staff nor students know about the most recent developments in their fields of study. The NCAS together with the Standing Committee must draw up norms and ensure that graduates are on a par with graduates in similar subjects from other parts of the world. Basic reading lists must be drawn up, and access to books ensured.

Yours sincerely


Kshanika Himburuwegama

Chairman, UGC

Dear Kshanika

I would be grateful if you could put the following items on the Agenda today, for at least preliminary discussion. With regard to the first I would expect a draft today, since this was requested by COPE some time back.

a)     Criteria for appointment to University Councils

b)     Ideas regarding pre-university training (a letter requesting consultation of students is also being sent)

c)     Mechanisms to improve transparency. As you know, the government is pledged to introduce a Freedom of Information Act, but I think that the accounts of universities should be open to all stakeholders even without them having to ask. Can you think about a circular to enforce this, or another way of making the authorities accountable? The last few years have seen much suspicions as to expenditure on construction, and we must overcome these. Please let me know whether involvement of the Ministry has led to this situation.

d)     A code of conduct for academics that will prevent politicization of the system. While academics must have political rights, perhaps this should be limited in the case of officers, and members of the UGC, since they might otherwise fall prey to pressures, and apply them in turn.

e)     Measures to tighten criteria with regard to university admission while ensuring remedial teaching for those who might fail because of shortfalls of teachers in their schools

f)     Necessity of answering letters without delay (I attach a letter from an LLM student to the Colombo University Vice-Chancellor. This was sent on October 20th2014 and refers to a letter of 10th January which did not receive a response. This is not acceptable, and you must make sure that this does not occur again. Please send me a copy of the response by next Monday). This must be mandatory with regard to complaints.

Tabled Item 9a – Draft Cabinet Paper to Establish Language Centres in every Division, and Develop Training Programmes for Staff to run such Centres

Currently students waste a lot of time between public examinations and the next step in the educational ladder. More than three months pass between the Ordinary Level Examination and the commencement of classes in schools for the Advanced Level. After the Advanced Level students have to wait a minimum of one year before they are admitted to university.

Such enforced idleness is socially destructive. After the Ordinary Level, parents start sending students for tuition, in part to avoid them having nothing to do. Once this practice starts, it flourishes, and even after teaching commences, students (and some teachers) are more concerned with tuition classes than classes in schools.

The situation after Advanced Levels is also upsetting, in that many students find they cannot gain admission to university, whereas this is the only thing for which they have been gearing up. While some students in urban areas have other classes which they attend, such facilities are not available in the country as a whole. In short, many youngsters end up wasting the most valuable years of their lives.

In addition, students who come to university, and others, are ill prepared for the world of work. Many students now highlight the difficulties they face because their English is not good enough to allow them to take full advantage of educational opportunities at university. A recent survey of student needs also indicate that they would like courses in Personality Development and Socialization, while some students have also said they would wish to have their mother tongue writing skills improved. They have welcomed the idea of further work in the periods after the Ordinary Level and the Advanced Level Examination that are now wasted.

It is therefore desirable to develop good courses which students can follow during this period. Universities will be invited to give credit to students for these courses, or else they can receive credit from the government Vocational Training Institutes.

The project will also need to identify centres for the purpose. It will be helpful if schools can be made available on the model of the old General English Training Programme that was held in the nineties. Alternately Divisional Secretaries could be requested to find a building that could be used for the purpose, since in most Divisions there are several unused buildings. The ideal would be to identify at least one such Language Centre in every Administrative Division, and perhaps a few more in large Divisions, extending to a maximum of 400.

For this purpose it is also necessary to develop a good training cadre, but this can be done readily at local level, by obtaining the services of currently unemployed graduates and Diploma holders. They will be trained in conducting classes in

  • a) English
  • b) Critical Thinking
  • c) Personality Development
  • d) Socialization through games and cultural activities
  • e) Mother tongue writing skills
  • f) Third Language Speaking Skills
  • g) Study Skills
  • h) Mathematical Skills and Calculation

Each Centre should have a cadre of 8 teachers plus a Principal and an Administrative Officer, both of whom should also teach. Applications will be invited for a 6 month Certificate course, for which a fee will be charged. These courses may be conducted at Training Centres under the Ministry of Higher Education. The best of those who obtain a Certificate will be hired, and have the opportunity to move on to a Diploma while engaged in teaching at the Language Centres. Retired teachers may also be hired for the programme in the short term, but will be expected to go through a refresher course for the purpose.

The Project would envisage hiring 4000 teachers, who would be expected to work in rotation to cover classes for 7 days a week. The programme will commence in October 2015, and courses will be for three month periods with credits for every course for every such period. Students attending such courses will be charged nominal fees, to cover the costs of materials. Students will also be expected to engage in project work during this period, and to make presentations on such work.

Tabled Item 9b – Draft Cabinet Paper to Establish a University Press of Sri Lanka, and Develop a culture of book usage in universities.

At present there is little emphasis on reading books in many courses in Sri Lankan universities. Students have got used to taking down notes and learning them up by heart because of the tuition culture that has taken over Advanced Level learning. In addition there is no requirement in many courses to get through prescribed reading. Though some syllabuses have long reading lists, these are often unrealistic, and even lecturers who prescribe or teach such courses have not read what is set out.

This lapse is understandable in a context in which there is little suitable reading material. Books are very expensive and, while some libraries have good stocks, in many cases the language used is too difficult for the average student to understand readily. Meanwhile there has been no tradition of academic publishing in Sinhala and Tamil, so that students who wish to read in those languages too have little from which to choose.

It is also particularly desirable to provide for publication of low cost materials for language learning, since opportunities for self-study must be made available. Currently much time is spent in producing materials, which for instance all English Language Teaching Units seem to do, with no effort to have uniform high quality materials. Such Units regularly produce new materials and ignore useful items which different individuals in the same unit have produced.

It is desirable therefore to set up an academic publishing industry in Sri Lanka, which will produce user friendly books for the majority or students. This is particularly important for Arts students, whose English language skills are comparatively limited, and who have not been encouraged to read for the most part.

It is proposed therefore to establish a University Press of Sri Lanka, which shall be administered by the Ministry of Higher Education and cater also to Vocational and Technical Training Institutes.

Initially it shall develop through partnerships with established academic publishers in the region who will be willing to help produce low cost, and if necessary simplified, editions of their works for the Sri Lankan market. Production of basic textbooks in Sinhala and Tamil will also take place. It will also work on suitable English Teaching texts and also practical exercises to stimulate Study Skills and Critical Thinking.

The Press, together with its partners, shall establish book centres in universities wishing to engage in partnerships for this purpose. It will be expected to cover the costs of producing and selling books, though government will provide seed money for establishment of the institution, and will also fund a full time Director with limited staff. The Press will not engage in printing activities but, as with academic publishing houses generally, outsource printing on the basis of tenders.

The Governing Body of the Press shall be a Syndicate chaired by the Secretary to the Ministry of Higher Education, and including five Professors with national and international publications to their credit. No books by members of the Syndicate may be published by the Press. All publications shall be approved by the Syndicate as well as advisers appointed by partner publishing houses, and will be subject to editing by those partners until quality editors can be employed locally.

Tabled Item 10 – Minutes of the Committee on Standing Orders

standing orders

Tabled Item 11 – motion to introduce the Bill of Rights

Delete clauses 10 to 17 of the Constitution and replace with

10 Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

(1) Every person is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
(2)  No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of the fundamental right declared and recognized by this Article.


 10A  Right to human dignity

 (1) Every person has inherent dignity and the right to have his or her dignity respected and protected.

(2) No restrictions shall be placed on the on the right declared  and recognized by this Article.


 10B Inherent right to life

 (1) Every person has inherent right to life and no person shall be arbitrarily deprived of life.

(2) No person shall be punished with death.

(3) Every person against whom a sentence of death has been pronounced before the coming into force of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, shall have such sentence commuted to one of rigorous imprisonment for life.

(4) No restrictions shall be placed on the on the rights declared  and recognized by this Article.


 10 C Right to recognition as a person before the law

 (1) Every person shall have the right to recognition as a person before the law.

(2) No restrictions shall be placed on the right declared and recognized by this Article.


 11 Freedom from torture

(1) No person shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

(2)  No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of the fundamental right declared and recognized by this Article.

11A Security of the Person

 (1) Every person has right to-

(a)  bodily and psychological integrity; and

(b) not to be subjected to medical or scientific experiment without such person’s informed consent.

(2) No restrictions shall be placed on the on the right declared and recognized by this Article.


 12  Right to equality and freedom from discrimination
(1) All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law.
(2)  (a)  No person shall be arbitrarily discriminated against on any ground including on the ground of such as race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, maternity, marital status, caste, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability, religion, conscience or belief, political or other opinion, culture, language, place of birth, and place of residence.

 (b) It shall be lawful to require a person to acquire within a reasonable time sufficient knowledge of any national language as a qualification for any employment or office in the service of the State or in the service of any public corporation, Provincial Public Service or local government service where such knowledge is reasonably necessary for the discharge of the duties of such employment or office.

 (c) It shall be lawful to require a person to have sufficient knowledge of any language as a qualification for any such employment of office where no function of that employment or office can be discharged otherwise than with knowledge of that language.

(3) No person shall, on any of the grounds referred to in subparagraph (a) of paragraph (2) (a) of this Article, be arbitrarily subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to access to shops, public restaurants, hotels, places of public entertainment and places of public worship of the person’s own religion.

(4) Nothing in this Article shall prevent special measures being taken by law, subordinate legislation or executive action where necessary for the sole purpose of the protection or advancement of disadvantaged or underprivileged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged or underprivileged because of ethnicity, gender, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

(5) No restriction shall be placed on the exercise of the rights declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of national security, public order or the protection of public health or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.


 13  Freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention and punishment and prohibition of retroactive penal legislation, &c.
(1) No person shall be arrested, imprisoned or otherwise physically restrained except in accordance with procedure prescribed by law.

(2) Every person arrested, held in custody, or otherwise deprived of his or her liberty shall be treated with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.

(3) Save as otherwise provided by law, no person shall be arrested except under a warrant issued by a judicial officer causing such person to be apprehended and brought before a competent court in accordance with procedure prescribed by law.

(4) Every person arrested shall be informed, in a language which the person appears to understand, of the reason for the arrest and of the person’s rights under paragraphs (5) and (6) of this Article.

(5) Every person arrested shall have the right to communicate with any relative or friend of the person’s choice, and, if the person so requests, such person shall be afforded means of communicating with such relative or friend.

(6) Every person arrested shall have the right to retain and consult an attorney-at-law. The State shall afford all reasonable facilities to enable the effective representation of the arrested person.

(7) Every person arrested shall not be detained in custody or confined for a longer period than under all the circumstances of the case is reasonable, and shall, in any case, be brought before the judge of a competent court within twenty-four hours of the arrest, exclusive of the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to such judge, and no person shall be detained in custody beyond such period except upon, and in terms of, the order of such judge made in accordance with procedure established by law.

(8) Every person detained in custody or confined, has the right to be released on bail or upon the execution of a bond unless otherwise provided by law. The amount of bail and the amount of every such bond shall be fixed with due regard to the circumstances of the case and shall not be excessive.

(9) Every person suspected of committing an offence shall be charged or indicted or released without unreasonable delay, having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case.

(10) Every person charged with or indicted for an offence shall be entitled to be heard in person or by an attorney-at-law of the person’s own choosing and shall be so informed by the judge.

(11)  (a) Every person charged with or indicted for an offence shall be entitled to be tried –

(i) without undue delay;

(ii) by a competent court;

(iii) at a fair trial; and

(iv) subject to sub-paragraph (b) of this paragraph, at a public hearing.

(b) A judge may, at the judge’s discretion, whenever the judge considers it necessary, in proceedings relating to sexual matters or where the interests of juveniles so require or for the protection of national security or public order necessary in a democratic society or in the interests of order and security within the precincts of such court, exclude there from, persons who are not necessary for the purposes of those proceedings.

(12)  (a) Every person shall be presumed innocent until the person is proved guilty.

 (b) Nothing contained in any law shall be held to be inconsistent with sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph to the extent that such law imposes upon an accused the burden of proving particular facts.

 (13) No person shall be compelled to testify against himself or herself or to confess guilt.

(14)  (a) No person shall be held guilty of, or punished for, an offence on account of any act or omission which did not, at the time of such act or omission, constitute an offence, except for any act or omission which, at the time it was committed, was criminal according to the principles of public international law.

 (b) No penalty shall be imposed for an offence more severe than the penalty in force at the time when an offence was committed.

(15) Every person who has been convicted or acquitted of an offence in accordance with law by a competent court shall not be liable to be tried for the same offence save on the order of a court exercising appellate or revisionary jurisdiction.

(16)  (a) No person shall be punished with imprisonment except by order of a competent court and in accordance with procedure established by law.

(b) The arrest, holding in custody, detention or other deprivation of personal liberty of a person –

(i) pending investigation or trial shall, if not unreasonable having regard to the circumstances, not constitute punishment;

(ii) by reason of a removal order or a deportation order made under the provisions of the Immigrants and Emigrants Act or other such law as may be enacted in substitution therefor, shall not be a contravention of this paragraph.

 (17)  (a) No restrictions shall be placed on the rights declared and recognized by paragraph (2), paragraph (10), items (ii) and (iii) of sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (11), paragraph (14), paragraph (15) and paragraph (16) of this Article.

 (b) No restriction shall be placed on the rights declared and recognized by paragraphs (1), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (9), items (i) and (iv) of sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (11) and paragraphs (12) and (13) of this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of national security, public order, or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.


 14  Freedom to hold opinions

(1) Every person shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

(2) No restriction shall be placed on the rights declared and recognized by paragraph (1) of this Article.

14A Freedom of speech and expression including publication and freedom of information

(1) Every person is entitled to the freedom of speech and expression including publication and this right shall include the freedom to express opinions and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, in the form of art, or through any other medium.

(2) No restrictions shall be placed on the right declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of national security, public order, the protection of public health or morality, racial and religious harmony or in relation to parliamentary privilege, contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.


 14B Right of Access to Information

 (1) Every person shall have the right of access to –

(a) any information held by the State, including Provincial authorities; and

(b) any information held by any other person and that is required for the exercise or protection of the person’s rights.

(2) Every citizen shall be entitled to obtain, on payment of an appropriate nominal fee stipulated by regulation, any information pertaining to state action or policy or expenditure, or the actions, policy and expenditure of provincial and local authorities.

(3) Parliament shall by law make provision to give effect to this right.

(4)  No restrictions shall be placed on the right declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others, privacy, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.


 14C  Freedom of peaceful assembly 

 (1) Every person is entitled to the freedom of peaceful assembly.

(2) No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of the right declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by any law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of national security, public order, racial or religious harmony, the protection of public health or for the purpose of securing the due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.


 14D  Freedom of association

 (1) Every person is entitled to the freedom of association.

(2) No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of the rights declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of national security, public order, racial or religious harmony, national economy the protection of public health or morals or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.


 14E Trade Union Rights

(1) Every person is entitled to the freedom to form and join a trade union of the person’s choice and for such trade union to function without undue hindrance.

(2) Every person is entitled to the right to participate in trade union action, including strike, provided that the right is exercised in conformity with law.

(3) No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of the rights declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of national security, public order, racial or religious harmony or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.


 14F  Freedom to manifest religion

 (1) Every person is entitled to the freedom, either alone or in association with others, and either in public or in private, to manifest the person’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, propagation and teaching.

(2)  In the exercise of the rights declared and recognized by paragraph (1) of this Article, no person shall have the right to impair or otherwise restrict any other person’s freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of that other person’s choice.

(3) No restriction shall be placed on the rights declared and recognized by paragraph (1) of this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of national security, public order, or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others including the freedom  declared by paragraph (2) of this Article.


 14G Right to enjoy and promote culture and use of language

 (1) Every person is entitled alone or in association with others to enjoy and promote such person’s culture and, to use the language of such person’s choice.

(2) Persons belonging to a cultural or linguistic community shall not be denied the right, with other members of that community, to enjoy their own culture or to use their own language.

(3) No restriction shall be placed on the exercise of the rights declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of public order, racial or religious harmony, the protection of public health or morality, the protection of the environment or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.


 14H  Freedom to engage in any lawful trade, occupation, profession, business or enterprise

 (1) Every person is entitled to the freedom to engage alone or in association with others in any lawful occupation, profession, trade, business or enterprise.

(2) No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of the rights declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of the national economy, national security, public order, protection of public health or morality, the protection of the environment or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others or in relation to –

(a) the professional, technical, academic, financial and other qualifications necessary for practising any profession or  carrying on any occupation, trade, business or enterprise, and the licensing and disciplinary control of a person practising a profession or carrying on an occupation, trade, business or enterprise in the exercise of such fundamental right; and

 (b) the carrying on by the State, a State agency, a company fully owned by the State or a public corporation of any trade, business, industry, service or enterprise, whether to the exclusion, complete or partial, of citizens or otherwise.

 14I  Freedom of movement

(1) Every person lawfully resident within the Republic is entitled to the freedom of movement within the Republic and of choosing such person’s residence within the Republic.

(2) Every person shall be free to leave the Republic.

(3) No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of the rights declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of national security or public order or national economy or the protection of public health or morality or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others or for the extradition of persons from the Republic.


 14J  Freedom to return to Sri Lanka

 (1) Every citizen shall be entitled to return to the Republic.

(2)  No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of the right declared and recognized by this Article.


 14K Right to privacy and family life 

 (1) Every person has the right to privacy, the right to be protected from arbitrary interference with family life, the inviolability of the home, correspondence and communications and shall not be subjected to unlawful attacks on such person’s honour and reputation.

(2) No restriction shall be placed on the exercise of the rights declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of national security, public order or national economy or the protection of public health or morality or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others or for the enforcement of a judgment or order of a competent court.


 14L Right to ownership of property 

 (1) Every citizen is entitled to own property alone or in association with others subject to the preservation and protection of the environment and the rights of the community.

(2) No person shall be deprived of property except as permitted by law.
(3) No property shall be compulsorily acquired or requisitioned save for a clearly described public purpose or for reasons of public utility or public order and save by authority of law which provides for the payment of fair compensation having regard to the prevalent market value of the property at the time of such acquisition.


14M  Family rights

 (1) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

(2) Every man or woman of marriageable age shall be entitled to marry and to found a family and the rights of men and women within the family shall be equal.

(3) No marriage shall be entered into without the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

(4) The State shall take appropriate steps to ensure equality of rights and responsibilities of spouses as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution, in which instance provision shall be made for the necessary protection of any children.


 14N Rights of the Child

(1) Every child shall have the right –

(a) to have his or her birth registered and to have a name from his or her date of birth;

(b) to acquire nationality;

(c) to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation;

(d) to family care or parental care or to appropriate alternative care when removed     from the family environment;

(e) to basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services;

(f) to have legal assistance provided by the State at State’s expense in criminal proceedings affecting the child, if substantial injustice would otherwise result;

(g) not to be detained except as a measure of last resort, in which instance, the child may be detained only for the shortest appropriate period of time, and has the right to be –

(i) kept separately from detained persons over the age of 18 years; and

(ii) treated in a manner, and kept in conditions, that take account of the child’s age;

 (h) Not to be used directly in armed conflict and to be protected in times of armed conflict.

(2)  No child shall be  discriminated against  on the ground of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status including the marital status of parents.

(3) Every child shall have the right to grow up in an environment protected from the negative consequences of the consumption of addictive substances harmful to the health of the child and, to the extent possible, from the promotion of such substances.

(4) Every child shall have the right to free primary and secondary education provided by the State, and to free higher and vocational education subject to appropriate and transparent selection processes based on merit and social equity.

(5) A child shall not be employed in any hazardous activity, shall be protected from exploitative labour practices and shall not be required or permitted to perform work or provide services that-

(a) are inappropriate for a person of that child’s age;

(b) places at risk, the child’s wellbeing, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development..

(6) The rights recognized by this Article shall be in addition to and not in derogation of any other right to which a child is entitled as a citizen or person under this Chapter.

(7) For the purposes of this Article “child” means a person under the age of eighteen years.

(8) In all matters concerning children, whether undertaken by institutions of state or public or private social welfare institutions, the best interest of the child shall be of paramount importance.


 14O  Right to education 

 (1) Every person has the right to education which shall be directed to full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, to improvement of the ability to think critically and with sensitivity to the needs of others, and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Education will include extrea-curricular and leisure activities that contribute to the development of social skills and initiative and innovative capacity.

(2) Primary education shall be compulsory and available to all.

(3) Secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational secondary education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, including by free education provided by the State.

(4) Higher education shall be made available to all on the basis of capacity and equitable opportunity, by every appropriate means, including by free education provided by the State.

(5) Basic education shall be encouraged or intensified as far as possible for those persons who have not received or completed the whole period of their primary education.

(6) Nothing in this Article shall exclude the right of a lawful guardian of a child, acting on that child’s behalf, or of any adult, to select an education provided by a private institution of education whether denominational or otherwise.


14P  Freedom from Exploitation

 (1) No person shall be subjected to trafficking, slavery or forced labour.

(2) “Forced labour” as used in paragraph (1) of this Article shall not include performance of labour pursuant to a sentence of a court of competent jurisdiction or any work or service which forms a part of normal civic obligations.


 14Q  Labour rights

Every citizen has the right to the enjoyment of just and favorable conditions of work which ensures, in particular:

(a) remuneration which provides fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value without distinction of any kind, in particular women being guaranteed conditions of work not inferior to those enjoyed by men, with equal pay for equal work;

(b) safe and healthy working conditions;

(c) equal opportunity for everyone to be promoted in employment to an appropriate higher level, subject to no considerations other than those of competence and appropriate qualifications including seniority and experience where relevant; and

(d) rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

 14R  Right to health 

(1) Every citizen has the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and to have access to preventive and curative health-care services including through free health services provided by the State to all who require such services.

(2) No person may be denied emergency medical treatment.


 14S  Social rights

 (1) Every citizen has the right to have access to –

(a) sufficient food and water;

(b) adequate housing; and

(c) appropriate social assistance including social security when unable to support the citizen and the citizen’s dependents.

 (2) No person shall be evicted from the person’s home or have the home demolished, except as permitted by law.


 14T  Right to an adequate environment

 All persons have the right to an environment that is –

(a) not harmful to their health or well being; and

(b) protected for the benefit of present and future generations.


 14U Responsibility of the State to respect, secure and advance Fundamental Rights

In giving effect to Article 4(d) of this Constitution, all organs of State shall take all necessary measures including the enactment and implementation of necessary legislation and the adoption and implementation of appropriate policies and programmes for the full realization of the rights declared and recognized by this Chapter.


 15 Protection of fundamental rights in times of public emergency

(1) Where a Proclamation has been duly made pursuant to the provisions of Chapter XVIII, and subject to paragraphs (2) and (3) of this Article, measures may be prescribed by law derogating from the exercise and operation of the fundamental rights declared and recognized in this Chapter to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation and necessary in a democratic society, provided that such measures do not involve discrimination on grounds recognized under paragraph (2) of Article 12 and for the purpose of this Article “law” includes regulations made under the law for the time being in force relating to public security.

(2) In prescribing measures under paragraph (1) of this Article, there shall be no derogation –

(a) from any of the rights declared and recognized by Articles 10, 10A, 10B, 10C, 11, 11A, 14, ,14M, 14N (except 14N(1) (e)), and 14P;

(b) from the right declared and recognized by Article 13(7) unless at the same time legal provision is made requiring –

(i) the Magistrate of the area in which such arrest was made to be notified of the arrest; and

 (ii) the person arrested to be produced before any Magistrate, within such time as is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case.

(3) In prescribing measures under paragraph (1) of this Article, the State shall have a minimum core obligation to ensure the satisfaction of minimum essential levels of the rights recognized by Articles 14N (1) (e), 14O, 14Q, 14R 14S and 14T and in discharging such obligation the State shall not discriminate solely on any of the grounds set out in Article 12 (2).


 16  Existing written law and unwritten law

All written and unwritten laws in force at the time of coming into force of …. (this) Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution shall be read subject to the provisions of Chapter III and IV and in the event of a court declaring that any such law is inconsistent with any such provision, such law shall be deemed to be void to the extent of such inconsistency.


 17  Remedy for infringement of fundamental rights by State action

(1) Subject to following paragraphs  of this Article, every person shall be entitled to apply to the Supreme Court as provided by Article 126 in respect of the infringement or imminent infringement by  State action of  a fundamental right  to which such person is entitled under the provisions of this Chapter;

(2) Where the person aggrieved is unable to make an application under Article 126 owing to reasonable cause, an application may be made on behalf of such a person, by any relative or friend of such person, if the person aggrieved raises no objection to such application.

(3) An application may also be made in respect of any group or class of persons affected, in the public interest, by any person or by any incorporated or unincorporated body of persons, acting bona fide.

(4) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the Constitution, every person shall be entitled to apply to the Supreme Court as provided by Article 126 for a declaration that any law, statute of a Provincial Council or a provision thereof is inconsistent with a fundamental right under the provisions of this Chapter.

(5) For the purposes of this Article and Article 126, “State action” includes legislative action, executive or administrative action and judicial action.


 17A Rights of non-citizens permanently and legally resident

A person who, not being a citizen of any country, has been permanently and legally resident in the Republic  on the date on which …… (this) Amendment to the Constitution comes into force and continues to be so resident, shall be entitled to all the rights declared and recognized by this Chapter, to which a citizen of Sri Lanka is entitled.


 17B Interpretation of fundamental and language rights provisions

(1) In interpreting the rights declared and recognized by Chapter III and Chapter IV, a court, tribunal or other body –

(a) shall  promote the values that underlie an open and democratic society based on human  dignity, equality and freedom;

(b)  shall have regard to  the international legal obligations of the Republic and other sources of international law; and

(c) may have regard to  foreign law.

(2) When interpreting any written or customary law, every court, tribunal or other body shall promote the spirit, aims and objects of this Chapter and Chapter IV.

(3)  The rights declared and recognized in this Chapter and in Chapter IV do not derogate from any other rights or freedoms that are recognised or conferred by common law, customary law or legislation, to the extent that they are consistent with Chapter III and Chapter IV .

Tabled Item 12 – an Amendment to the Constitution to strengthen the Public Service

Dear Secretary General

As I hope I shall have made clear that I am a Private Member, I hope you will expedite the introduction of the two Constitutional Amendments I have proposed.

I would also like to propose the following Amendment

Article 52 (1) – Delete the words ‘the President’ and replace with ‘the Public Service Commission’.

Delete 52 (3)

Yours sincerely,

Rajiva Wijesinha

Daily FTThe incident he faced as State Minister of Higher Education regarding the removal of the UGC Head and Faizer Mustapha’s resignation as State Minister of Aviation will not negatively impact the 100-day program but is a wakeup call for the whole alliance to realise that it needs to be more serious, says Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Daily FT, he also noted that the alliance gave a specific deadline to the people and there were very important pledges that it had done nothing about. “People are expecting us to fulfil these within the mentioned deadlines. We are here to respond to people and we must do so quickly,” he added.

However, Wijesinha emphasised that the pledge of abolishing the executive presidency shouldn’t be fulfilled since it was something that required a lot of consideration and it was important to ensure that what was put in its place would be acceptable to the people at large.

Following are excerpts:

Daily FT interview 20 Feb 2015Q: What is the conflict between you and Higher Education Minister Kabir Hashim?

A: Kabir took some action while I was away which I thought was totally inappropriate. I think Kabir should have consulted me. However, he has been very gracious about expressing the error involved. But the bottom line is that I know that this will go on.

If ‘A’ doesn’t give the right answer, they go to ‘B’. If one person is clearly in charge and then there is another person is also there, anyone who doesn’t get a good answer from ‘A’ will go to ‘B’. If technically ‘A’ is under ‘B,’ it is impossible for ‘A’ to actually carry out his work. I have told Kabir that this cannot go on like this. He too agreed and said that he would tell the Prime Minister to appoint me as a Cabinet minister. That would make a lot of sense and I hope that it will happen.

Q: Are you saying your action was not against the removal of the UGC Chairman but was purely based on error in protocol?

A: We are going to engage in what we call good governance. You must not do things that are contrary to every single principle of good governance. People ask me why I am defending the UGC Chairman. It is not a question of my defending her. It is a question of two fundamental principles of governance being breached.

The first is, very simply, Kabir should not have taken any decision affecting my work without telling me. The second fact is that, if they wanted to respond to allegations against the UGC Chairman, there should have been an investigation with due process. Rather interestingly Kabir told me there was lot of pressure from FUTA and that is why he went ahead with it. I told Kabir that he should not give into pressure. One of our biggest complaints against the UGC Chairman was that she had given into pressure. If we are going to do things simply because there is immense pressure from other parties, how are we any better than what we claim she was?

Q: But FUTA has been against the appointment of UGC Chairman and it was one of their conditions when supporting Maithripala Sirisena.

A: I know nothing about such a condition. Don’t forget that I translated the manifesto and there was nothing of that sort there. In any case, if you are going to remove anyone, you need to do it through due process.

Let me give you an example; they now claim that I know what the allegations are. But no one has given me any of the allegations except one professor who wrote a long email to me in which he basically mentioned all kinds of negative things about the UGC Head, such as she is the worst person in the system and a strong supporter of President Rajapaksa. I wrote back asking to send me those allegations systematically because I cannot carry out an investigations based on an email with someone’s own private grievances. He didn’t come back to me. How can anyone expect me to carry out any investigations without a proper complaint?
Read the rest of this entry »

Letter to Daily Mirror 15 Feb 15The Editor

Daily Mirror

Dear Champika

I am writing with regard to the article in your columns today about the situation in the Ministry of Higher Education. While your reporter has tried to describe the situation, there were some elements that were not quite accurate.

  1. The Cabinet Minister of Higher Education had told me he asked the Chairman of the University Grants Commission to resign because of pressure from FUTA. The Prime Minister told me – as I mentioned to your reporter – that resignations had been requested from all officials in state institutions, and I could reappoint anyone if I wished. But that was not the way the Cabinet Minister had presented his orders to the UGC, having instead invoked the authority of His Excellency the President. This morning he reiterated that he had been under pressure from FUTA
  2. I did not say I had been told the President had informed the Cabinet Minister of anything.  The Cabinet Minister told me the President had asked him to resolve the issue. He said that he would gazette Higher Education functions under me, but I pointed out that he had earlier told me he wanted me to run things since he would be busy with elections, and then had succumbed to pressures when approach by others. He then said he would request the Prime Minister to appoint me as Cabinet Minister, but it turned out that he had not spoken to the Prime Minister on Thursday evening as promised.
  3. I did not try to contact the Prime Minister at all. It was the Prime Minister who called me on Saturday evening, after his adviser, Mr Deva-Adiththiya, requested me to wait until he had resolved the situation, since he felt strongly that my services were needed in this position. The Prime Minister had been out of communication for two days, which is perhaps why the Cabinet Minister had not got through to him, but he did call me even while still out of Colombo. The Cabinet Minister told me that the Prime Minister had indeed spoken to him on Saturday, and said he would resolve the situation, but he had no idea what happened after that.

Yours sincerely,

Rajiva Wijesinha





13 Jan 2015

Hon. Rajiva Wijesinha, MP

Leader, Liberal Party of Sri Lanka

State Minister of Higher Education, Sri Lanka


Dear Hon. Wijesinha:

On behalf of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD), let me extend our warmest congratulations to you on your appointment as State Minister of Higher Education.   We are very pleased that the newly installed government of Maithripala Sirisena has placed  its confidence in your capacity to make positive contributions to the Sri Lankan higher educational system.

Your recent appointment reminded us of the 2010 CALD Conference on Education in  Colombo, Sri Lanka, where you made this important point on what should be the educational thrust of your country: “…commitment to education is unique, and I think bodes well for the enhanced efficiency we must aim at as education and advanced training become even more important. We need to ensure that all our citizens are able to embrace the opportunities a country finally at peace can provide. For that purpose I believe the liberal philosophy of education is the most suitable, and I trust we will be able to proceed on these lines to ensure excellence, choice and a wider effectiveness.”

We are also pleased that you and the Liberal Party are now in a better position to shape Sri Lankan higher education based on liberal principles. And that you will be accomplishing this in the context of an unprecedented election result that made it very clear that the Sri Lankan people wanted positive change means that you could most likely count on popular support for the educational reforms you foresee.

The Sri Lankan people have done their part in ensuring a peaceful transition of power. Now it is up to Sirisena’s government to ensure that power will never be abused again, and that it will be used to bring peace, democracy and prosperity to Sri Lanka.

It is an enormous task, but the Sri Lankan people deserve nothing less. We wish you the best, and we look forward to a brighter future for the people of your beautiful country.

Sincerely yours,


Daily MirrorProfessor Rajiva Wijesinha, son of late Sam Wijesinha, Former Parliamentary Secretary General is a member of the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka. In June 2007 President Mahinda Rajapakse appointed him Secretary-General of the Sri Lankan Government Secretariat for Co-ordinating the Peace Process, and in June 2008 he became the Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights. In February 2010 he resigned from the Ministry and the University, and became a member of Parliament on the National List of the UPFA following which he was appointed a member of Parliament. In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Professor Wijesinha speaks about the lack of control among ruling party leaders, the loopholes in the educational system and the civil service in Sri Lanka.

Q. Describe your entry into politics

qrcode.26633243I have always been interested in political history and I have done a lot of political writings. In fact one of my best papers was political philosophy. Basically I have been involved with the Liberal party of Sri Lanka. Liberalism means freedom and for freedom you need several factors. When talking about an executive presidency, about having too much power, ever since the time of Montesquieu, there has been an idea of the removal of arbitrary powers. But the first thing we should all realise is that in any government the most important and in fact the most powerful is the executive. You need to check that executive; whether it is a child, a president or a prime minister from exercising arbitrary power. Also what are the instruments that will control the arbitrary power of the ruler on behalf of the people?

Montesquieu suggested two institutions which needed to be powerful; the Parliament, whose role was to pass the laws and money and oversee the proper spending of that money-which was why the budget was such an important occasion in our lives. The other is the Judiciary, who should independently administer the law. Another extremely powerful institution that plays a role on behalf of the people is the media.  Another element is the public service. Increasingly the concept developed around an independent public service with no servants for a king or a minister.

The need for a free economy should be addressed. However, I am delighted by the fact that statism changed its phase after JR’s open economy was established. At that time I was writing for my PhD and by the time I got back I found him to be rather authoritative and I was horrified by the type of things he did.

Daily Mirror1

RW 16 Dec 2014 1Q. What was the concept of the Liberal Party?

We were the first people to say, “control the power of the executive”. Before the 17th Amendment, the President appointed anybody he wanted for anything. We were the ones who said that on a political philosophy it was totally unacceptable. We pooled in a lot of ideas then, which are now universally accepted. Chanaka Amaratunge had a deep knowledge about the constitutions all over the world. We said that the election system was mad and proposed for a mixed system. We said a lot of things and gradually people came to accept them.

Q. What do you think of this newly emerging ‘defection-culture’ and the political scenario as of late?

I think the country is pleased.  In my opinion, every individual who crossed over to the Opposition had a strong identity. I think Maithripala Sirisena is a very capable person, yet the cross-over by Tissa Attanayake is quite ineffective. The opposition need not be sorry that he is gone.

Q. Do you regret your transition from being an academic to a politician?

No. I have done a lot in academia and I was responsible for taking the initiative to transform university education, through the introduction of ‘co-courses’. The British education system relies on a very good school education. In America, students are taught basic skills in universities and this was initiated from Harvard in the 19th Century. What they said was that as soon as you came into a university you didn’t specialise, but you have to learn a little bit about science, mathematics and the like.

The Harvard by the end of the 20th Century had expanded the co-courses into 10 separate things and the students had to do a little of each. These courses included communication, inter-cultural skills, inter-personal skills and the like. When I went back, I introduced this system at the University of Sabaragamuwa. So every student had to do English and they also had to do both Sinhala and Tamil, because my Tamil and Sinhala students could not write anything. Along with these I also introduced critical thinking. At first they used to curse me for this but then later they said that this was what they got when they went for jobs. Also many of these students did not know how to use a book. For example, when asked to find the largest country in the world the whole class was busy turning pages, but of course there was a contents page. Therefore, I also introduced library skills. Since these skills were introduced, which I think are very important to any student, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has announced that they were mandatory.

In any society 80% has to go into business, technical work and you must educate people for that. You cannot educate 100% of a population. We see graduates coming unemployed and our rulers offer them jobs. The brightest minds in the country are going and sitting at the Divisional Secretariats as Samurdhi officers and when I ask them what they when I ask them what they are doing, they say ‘data collection’. When asked for the purpose, they keep staring at me. So we can see that no one has been doing anything about this mismatch in education. In fact I think what I did was quite useful. Read the rest of this entry »

The Editor

The Island

I am grateful for your highlighting some sections of my interview with the BBC regarding the US Report on Human Rights, as also for carrying my critique of some improprieties in it.

I did not hear the BBC version of what I said, though as always they seem to have highlighted what they wanted, which has led to a misconception. I have asked them to send me recordings of interviews, but this does not seem possible for the Sinhala service of the BBC, though other journalists oblige.

Sarath Fonseka

My emphasis was on the political angle of much criticism of the Human Rights situation in Sri Lanka, and I pointed out that there would be howls of execration if investigations were pursued into any connection Sarath Fonseka might be suspected to have had with the killing. This is part of the current great concern for Mr Fonseka, whereas previously I had been shown, at the British High Commission, a note suggesting Fonseka had squads engaged in illicit activities reporting to him. This was not connected with the killing of Lasantha Wickramatunga, and my informant did not claim the note amounted to evidence, but at that stage it seemed clear to me that he thought it might be true.

I cannot comment, and the note itself is obviously not evidence, but I have pointed out that there are different views in government and in those with executive and administrative responsibility (of which I myself have none at present, so it is a mistake to represent anything I say as that of a government spokesman). My own view is that government policy, as laid down and directed by the President, is inclusive and pluralistic, but obviously there will be differences of opinion, as we had to grant when for instance the then Army Commander made what seemed inappropriate remarks about the status of minorities and about politicians in Tamil Nadu. He was entitled to his views, but they should not have been confused with the views of the government.

I should note that my beliefs were vindicated absolutely by Sarath Fonseka’s letter of resignation, in which he berated the President for not having increased the size of the army, and for having released the Displaced too early. The policy of government on both these counts was admirable, and those who flocked to the Fonseka banner during the 2010 election completely ignored all this.

Though Mr Fonseka may hold and express his views as an individual, I should note that control of squads engaging in illicit activities is not acceptable. I do not think those who pretend to think him totally innocent have taken cognizance of the presence with him or armed deserters from the army in the immediate aftermath of the election. That may have some bearing on the allegations in the note I was shown, but I am sure the British High Commission have studied the matter more carefully than I have. Individuals therein may have reached different conclusions, though we must accept as trustingly as they do our official statements, that the UK Government, with Mr Miliband still Foreign Secretary, ‘did not favour any candidate in the Presidential Elections in Sri Lanka in 2009’.

The Island 13 April 2011

Rajiva Wijesinha

June 2020
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