Former Chief Minister and leader of the Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kootani (TMTK) C V Wigneswaran has said that a senior Jaffna University was barred from his private legal practice to protect the interests of the Sri Lankan army.
The University of Jaffna banned Dr Kumaravadivel Guruparan from engaging in private practice, after pressure imposed by the Sri Lankan University Grants Commission (UGC) which in turn faced pressure from the Sri Lankan army. After Dr Guruparan undertook the case into the disappearance of more than two dozen Tamil Youth, the Sri Lankan army sent a letter to the UGC enquiring whether he had authorisation to engage in private practice. The letter was rapidly sent to Jaffna university, and shortly after the UGC voted to bar Dr Guruparan from private practice. Dr Guruparan announced his resignation from his position at Jaffna university on 16th July 2020 saying that he felt ‘’compelled to resign’’.
Guruparan challenged the University Grants Commission’s decision by filing a Fundamental Rights petition in Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court last year. As stated by Dr Guruparan, he will re-join the University of Jaffna with his ‘independence, dignity and autonomy intact’, if the Supreme Court rules in his favour.
Wigneswaran said during an election campaign event in Kilinochchi that, ‘’the University Council has succumbed to instructions provided to prioritise and protect military interests, a phenomenon that is not seen in other parts of the world.
It can be seen that higher education institution and civil society independence, such as the university’s, is not as essential as of military interests.’’
Dr Guruparan is not the first academic to be subjected to disciplinary action by Jaffna University due to military pressure. In October 2019 the Vice Chancellor of Jaffna University was dismissed on ‘‘national security’’ grounds, supposedly after the Sri Lankan army made a complaint with reference to ‘‘pro-LTTE student activity’’.
“The UGC must conduct an inquiry, interdict me and issue a charge sheet, They can’t just dismiss me from work for no reason,’’ Professor Ratnam Vigneswaran told the Daily Mirror in October 2019. To this day, no additional information has been presented over his dismissal.
The TMTK leader wrapped up his speech by stating ‘‘militarisation is going to take this country to a terrible state.’’