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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Allegations on human rights violation against the Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo

Lankanewsweb.com, 18/07/2011

On 15th July 2011 the Supreme Court granted Leave to Proceed for an application No SC (FR) 238/2011 filed by Mrs. Sehu Allaudeen Fathima Shanaz who was an applicant for the post of Lecturer in Journalism of the University of Colombo. She alleged that although she was unanimously recommended for the post by the duly appointed Selection Panel the Vice Chancellor had prevented her been appointed for the post because of her race and religion in violation of her Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Articles 12 (1) and 12 (2) of the Constitution.

In her application to the Supreme Court she has stated that having secured 3.5 G.P.A she obtained her B.A. (Special) Degree in Mass Communication with a Second Class (Upper Division) from the University of Kelaniya in 2006. Thereafter the University of Kelaniya appointed her as a Lecturer on temporary basis. She then moved to the University of Colombo for better prospects.Even as an undergraduate of the University of Kelaniya she had made significant contributions to the organizing of Mass Communication development programmes, among the students as well as the general public. In 2003 and 2004, she functioned as an announcer and the script writer of the “oQú,sudj;” Radio Programme transmitted by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation in collaborating with the Department of Mass Communication at the University of Kelaniya. In 2004, she also functioned as the Director News of the “iqyo FM”, the official Radio of the National Arts Festival organized by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. She also participated in the workshop on “The Film Aesthetic & New Trends of Film” organized in July 2004. Furthermore she had participated as a resource person of the “Resource Exchange Programme” conducted by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation in collaborating with the Department of Mass Communication at the University of Kelaniya.
In 2008 the University of Colombo advertised the post of Lecturer in Journalism but no appointment had been made. This was again advertised in 2010 and there were 21 applicants but only 2 had the required qualifications. The Applicant in her application had stated that only she appeared before the Selection Panel appointed by the Governing Council of the University.

The interview was conducted on 10th February and the selection panel unanimously recommended to the Council, the appointing authority to appoint her as a Lecturer. Professor (Mrs.) Ksanika Hirimburegama, the Vice Chancellor chaired the said selection panel but she was reluctant to appoint a Muslim candidate for the post. However the other members insisted to appoint this candidate for the post as she was the ideal person considering her various capabilities in the area of journalism. The other members of the said selection panel were as follows:

i. Prof. Indralal de Silva, the Dean - Faculty of Arts
ii. Mr. C. Maliyadde, Member appointed by the Council
iii. Prof. Sarath Wijesuriya, Member appointed Senate
iv. Rev. Agalakada Sirisumana, Head, Department of Sinhala
v. Dr.(Mrs) A. Hapuarachchi, Coordinator – Journalism Unit
The Vice Chancellor did not place the said recommendation before the Governing Council which is vested with the power to make appointments in terms of the provisions made in the Universalities Act No 16 of 1978. Instead the Vice Chancellor had surreptitiously proceeded to obtain a report from Dr. Hupuarachchi and placed the recommendation of the Selection Committee along with the said report to an adhoc committee called as Management Committee of the University.

The Applicant is now aware that the said report was not submitted through the Dean of the Faculty. Prof. Indralal de Silva, the Dean of the Faculty raised his objections at the said meeting of the Management Committee as Dr Hapuarachchi had no right to submit such a report as she did not state any remark about the candidate at the interview. However the Vice Chancellor had insisted to advertise the post again. Accordingly in May 2011 the University advertised the said post for the 3rd time.

The Counsel for the Petitioner informed the Supreme Court that the Applicant had developed her capabilities in a multi cultural community, since she had her secondary education in Mawathagama Madya Maha Vidyalaya, Kurunegala and St Anthony`s College, Kandy. She passed Buddhism as a subject of the G.C.E Ordinary level Examination and obtained “A” Grade for Drama and Theater (Sinhala) and “B” Grade for Kandyan Dancing at the G.C.E Advance Level Examination. She had also passed the National Dancing Final Examination and she had taken part in the Inter School Drama Competition conducted by the Tower Hall Foundationin collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the All Island Dancing and Ballet Competition 2000 organized by the Ministry of Education.

The Counsel further informed the Court that being a devoted Muslim she had maintained a respectable image amongst the members of her community, specially because she was employed as an academic member of a University. Furthermore, on several occasions she had also been invited as a guest Lecturer to deliver special lectures on Islam religion and its culture. She states on a request made by the Head, Pali and Buddhist studies of the University of Kelaniya she delivered a lecture on “bia,dus wd.fus uQ,O¾u” for the student who follow the Degree programme in Buddhist culture in the University of Kelaniya. She had also delivered a similar lecture on “ bia,dus újdyfha ikaksfjsokdra:” on an invitation made by the Head, Department of Sinhala of the University of Colombo.

In her application to the Supreme Court the applicant had stated that the Vice Chancellor and the other members of the Council are bias against her by taking the decision not to appoint her as a Lecturer of the University as recommended by the duly appointed selection Committee because of her race and religion. As such she had stated that her Fundamental Right guaranteed under Articles 12 (1) and 12(2) of the Constitution have also been infringed by the Vice Chancellor and the other members of the University Council.

Having heard the Counsel of the Applicant the Supreme Court granted leave to proceed and fixed the case for hearing on 20th September 2011 .

Senior Counsel Mr. K. G. Jinasena with Udeshi Senaratne as instructed by Mrs Yasanthi Bandara appeared for the Applicant.