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Returning a favour? Rajapaksa explains why a Sinhala Buddhist monk was appointed university chancellor

File photograph: Rajapaksa with the monk earlier this year.

Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa justified his recent controversial appointment of a Sinhala Buddhist monk as Chancellor of the University of Colombo, by stating that the monk had “helped this government to come into power”.

“I gave the Chancellor position of the University of Colombo to Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda Thero of the Abhayarama,” said Rajapaksa in a speech last week. “The Thero helped this government to come into power. The Thero made contributions from the time of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. That’s true.”

He went on to claim that opposition politicians had also sought advice from the monk “but when the Thero becomes the Chancellor, they say it is not appropriate”.

His speech came as controversy over the appointment continued to grow, with the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA), the Colombo University’s Academic Federation, the Faculty of Medicine Teachers’ Association (FMTA), and the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) all condemning the move.

“The chancellor position is a ceremonial one,” FUTA President Prof. S. Banneheka told The Morning. “However, it is a position which demands a certain respectability as it is a reflection of the university’s culture. We have a problem with the premise of this appointment.”

Days after the announcement, it was made public that another Sinhala Buddhist monk Kollupitiye Mahinda Sangharakkhitha was also appointed as the Chancellor of the Kelaniya University.

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