ECONOMYNEXT – A clause in Sri Lanka’s controversial Kotelawala National Defence University (KNDU) bill could be used to crush any views among students that is seemed a threat to national security, an opposition MP said.
Main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) parliamentarian Rohini Wijeratne told reporters Monday (12) that the proposed bill – the target of a series of recent protests – could remove the KNDU from the purview of the ministry of education and the University Grants Commission (UGC) and be brought entirely under the purview of the ministry of defence.
As per clause 18 of the bill, the board of governors of the KNDU will be appointed by the minister of defence and will consist of nine members. This includes the secretary and additional secretary to the ministry of defence, one nominee each from the UGC and the treasury, the chief of defence staff, the commanders of the army, navy and air force, and the vice-chancellor of the university who will be a military officer.
Clause seven of the bill states: “Where the [defence] minister is of the view that any situation prevailing in the university is likely to endanger national security or is detrimental or prejudicial to national policy or is likely to disrupt the smooth functioning of the university, he may direct the board of governors to take all such steps as he may deem necessary, to bring such situation under control.”
If the bill is passed, said Wijeratne, students will lose their rights and free education itself will be in peril.
“This act will suppress students,” she claimed, adding that it is at university campuses that foster free expression and intellectual debate.
The MP accused the government of trying to crush students’ freedom with its boot.
Clause five (o) of the bill states: “The university shall, subject to the provisions of this act, have the power to establish campuses, colleges, faculties, departments, centres, academic institutions and such other specialised institutes, schools and divisions as may be required by the university.”
Wijeratne said this will pave the way to a culture of following orders.
“By bringing the schools under the defence ministry they are trying to inculcate a ‘yes sir, no sir three bags full, sir’ attitude in students and destroy future leaders of this country,” she said
“Where is the clause in the bill where it states that the schools such as Royal, Ananda Nalanda, Vishaka, Devi Balika and others will not be affiliated to this act?” she added.
Any degree awarded by a university in Sri Lanka must be awarded through the UGC to ensure quality, she added. (Colombo/July12/2021)