'Persons with ambitions but no abilities, stirring Jaffna University
Professor. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole
INTERVIEW: Professor. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole has been appointed Vice
Chancellor of the University of Jaffna. However a massive protest
surfaced at the Jaffna University over his assumption of duties as Vice
Chancellor. Prof. Hoole expresses his views to the Daily News on the
current crisis at the Jaffna University in this regard.
Q: How do you see the crisis situation at the University of
Jaffna over your appointment as Vice Chancellor ?
A: It is a severe crisis without any basis. I was appointed by
the Council legally. However, a small group of people instigated by some
who aspired to be Vice Chancellor are behind this issue.
Q: What made you to go for the post of Vice Chancellor of the
University of Jaffna ?
A: I have a higher doctorate in addition to my doctorate. I
have wider experience working in several countries-Singapore, Nigeria,
United Kingdom, Canada and several years in the US, with twenty years
altogether abroad serving in various capacities.
The University of Jaffna has lacked an engineering faculty, from its
inception and its a professional field where a fewer universities have
that faculty. So my intention is starting an engineering faculty for the
University of Jaffna, because I am from Jaffna. I have a commitment to
that region of the country.
Q: What is your assessment over the functions of the Jaffna
University currently ?
A: It needs leadership at all levels. The students are being
misled very badly. Those who are talented should either keep quiet or
run away. And those who have ambitions without abilities to match are
aspiring to high office and that is the crisis. The problems have been
created by the non-academic staff unions and a few extremists among the
students who have been misled by those who are using them to gain their
Q: Why did you take the decision of making Professor
Parameswaran the Vice Chancellor of the Jaffna University temporarily ?
A: I was duly appointed. When I tried to go to Jaffna there
were several threats. Some even in public. The student leader by the
name of Vijaya Ruben made an announcement over the television, that he
would take tough action If I enter the campus premises.
There were calls to my home saying that I have to face the same fate
faced by Rajini Thiranagama. My wife was warned over the phone that If I
came to Jaffna I would return to Colombo in a coffin beheaded. My
fourteen year old daughter was told over the phone, that if I came to
Jaffna they would chop up her younger brother.
In these circumstances it was impossible for me to go and I felt
there would be more chaos. As Vice Chancellor it was my duty to ensure
that there should be some order and Professor Parameswaran is one of the
most senior Professors there and a very responsible man, widely
I asked him whether he would carry on my duties as acting Deputy Vice
Chancellor? A Deputy Vice Chancellor acts in place of the Vice
Chancellor when the Vice Chancellor is not there and Professor
Parameswaran readily agreed.
At Vavuniya campus of Jaffna University I appointed Dr. Rajendra as
its Rector. Immediately an attack was launched on him by Nitharshanam
television in Killinochchi saying that Dr. Rajendra has a son who did
some horrible things. Rajendra has no son like that. So anybody who
associated with me and supported me have been threatened and attacked
without any basis. It is sad.
Jaffna is a seat of Tamil culture and a few people are blackening the
entire community by this sort of action.
Q: How closer is your interaction with the academic staff and
the students of the University of Jaffna ?
A: With the staff extensively: Being a member of the
University Grants Commission I associated closely with them. They are
very supportive of my appointment as Vice Chancellor.
The students actually went and asked the University Teachers
Association of Jaffna to support their so called struggle. So the UTA
held a meeting and refused to do that. Senior Professor of History
Sittambalam's house was stoned as he spoke in my favour and his
nameboard as Senior Professor of History at the campus was broken up.
There is basically no respect for the democratic process. I was
elected by the Council. Council members are being attacked now.
Q: What are your comments on your fellow contestants for the
post of Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna?
A: I had a lot of respect for them until I saw them working
behind all these agitations. It's highly disappointing to see the senior
academics behaving in a mean way. One of them was going around saying
that he was most popular in the campus and he should be appointed as the
VC. They have let down the academic community very badly. Academic
learning should go hand in hand with culture.
What we have is technical learning without culture. So it is a
disease, which needs urgent attention.
Q: Being a leading academic, what's your observation on the
current political scenario in the North and East ?
A: The Government needs to solve the problems of the Tamils
very quickly. Otherwise there will be chaos. I am very saddened that
there is no consensus in the South towards giving the rights of the
The biggest problem as far as the Tamils are concerned is
migration-The brain drain.
The people who are left behind are the least able to look after
themselves. The Sinhalese need to understand that putting down a
rebellion by force is counter-productive. The only way to address a
rebellion is to provide the just demands. I think federalism is a just
demand. I don't think any sane person can contest that.
Q: Do you think that if you assume duties as Vice Chancellor
of the Jaffna University you could handle the job in the backdrop of the
various activities of the LTTE in the North?
A: I have assumed duties. My goal is to build up the
University and I believe the LTTE in need of that. So I do not see any
Whatever the problems, with regard to the University, should be
solved amicably without giving room for any clashes. When the students
agitate, it should be handled wisely instead of using any force. Sir
Ivor Jennings was very clear in his book that when students do
mischievous things just look the other way. But in my case threatening
to kill a Vice Chancellor is something very serious.
Q: As a man from Jaffna how do you recollect your student days
compared to the present situation in the region ?
A: My student days were the happiest days in my life. I am
from Nallur CMS practising school, which is a vernacular school and
frequently at St John's College, Jaffna. I entered the University of
Peradeniya and belonged to the first standardisation batch.
At that time they said, that there were too many Tamils at Peradeniya
and transferred half of us to Moratuwa and I graduated from the
University of Moratuwa. I have my higher doctorate-Doctor of Science and
I think that it's the schools and the home that made me and not the
Now I am very sad that the people of Jaffna do not have that
opportunity today. The student community in Jaffna needs a wider
learning not just the technical learning. So the students of the Jaffna
University are being denied the wider learning by the forces that are
The people of Jaffna have been deprived of the services of good
teachers by the war and that has to be urgently rectified.
Q: The University of Jaffna has completed more than thirty
years. What is your assessment of its overall functions so far ?
A: It was one of the best national universities up to the late
seventies. However, it collapsed because of the war.
And the Tamil students have been deprived of having a good
constructive university. Now the good Tamil children, good in the
technical sense, are forced into the University of Jaffna, because they
are from Jaffna, although those who have performed less well are sent to
Peradeniya, Colombo and Moratuwa, which are more capable of giving good
education, simply because of this geographic proximity rule.
That is why there is a lot to do in the University of Jaffna to have
good teachers and good opportunities for students.