National People’s Power (NPP)
The National People’s Power (NPP) notes with grave concern the crisis that has emerged at the Open University of Sri Lanka with regard to the appointment of a new Vice Chancellor. This situation has arisen because the President has arbitrarily rejected the shortlist of candidates forwarded by the University Grants Commission for the Vice Chancellor position which falls vacant on 23rd June.
This shortlist was arrived at after a two-step selection process as stipulated by University Grants Commission (UGC) Circular No 02/2020 of 4th May 2020. Ironically, the President’s arbitrary action implies he has no faith in a system introduced by his own government. In addition, the President’s actions also call into question the autonomy and authority of the Council of the university – the highest body assigned the responsibility of governing the institute because it is the Council that selects the final shortlist and forwards it to the UGC. This arbitrary action violates the letter and the spirit of the Universities Act of 1978 which clearly states that it is the President’s duty to select one of the three names forwarded to him by the UGC.
As the NPP we support these calls by the university community to halt the re-selection process and ask that the President respect established principles of governance and appoint a Vice Chancellor to the Open University of Sri Lanka immediately from the already existing shortlist, without pushing this vital higher education institute into further crisis.
The NPP further notes that this arbitrary action is reflective of the complete politicisation of appointments to important posts in the country that has arisen today. We believe this is yet another example of how executive overreach and interference is undermining the independence and autonomy of vital public institutions. At a time like this when the country faces multiple challenges we need our public institutions to be led by capable, highly qualified and politically non-partisan people. However, the message sent out by this arbitrary rejection will have a chilling effect – it will discourage qualified and politically neutral candidates from applying for important public positions.
These actions only exacerbate the sense of instability and chaos in the country which is hardly conducive to resolving the multiple crises that the country is currently facing. We call upon the President and other responsible members of the government to desist from actions that erode trust in public institutions and also weaken them.
The press released issued by NPP.