at UGC as president interferes with tertiary education
By The Insider
THE University Grants Commission has been engulfed in a
crisis following the refusal by President Chandrika Kumaratunga to
appoint the nominee of Tertiary Education Minister Kabir Hashim. The
incumbent chairman, Ranjit Mendis, formerly professor of dentistry at
the University of Peradeniya, succeeded Leslie Gunawardena in March,
2001, when the latter took to politics. The crowning point of Mendis'
lackluster tenure as chairman was the leadership he gave to a party
political 'Appeal to voters' published in the Lake House newspapers in
the run-up to the December 5 general election last year.
Showing a degree of partisanship little becoming the high
office he held, Mendis lobbied university faculty wanting to get on the
right side of the People's Alliance government to subscribe to an
advertisement critical of the UNF, then in opposition. The ad, drafted
personally by Mendis, referred to a 'conspiracy' by the UNF, which was,
he said, sponsored by 'Groups among big business interests who owe
massive debts to state banks.' Mendis went on: 'Self-seeking and corrupt
politicians have been 'persuaded' by these businessmen to betray the
trust placed by the people for substantial financial gain.'
"Should corrupt businessmen be allowed to install a
puppet government ready to bow to their demands?" he asked, adding,
"Should we take the risk of letting the country slide back to the
dark days of the 1980s or even possibly a dictatorship?" He called
on the voters to "teach conspirators an exemplary lesson... and
return the People's Alliance government with a clear parliamentary
Despite Mendis's lobbying from a position of considerable
influence, most members of university faculties declined to subscribe to
the advertisement. Among those who did were professors Vijitha Kuruwita,
Carlo Fonseka and S. Arulpragasam, all known as hangers-on of the PA
regime. So desperate was Mendis for signatures that many of those who
were called upon to sign were probationers anxious to secure tenure
appointments and therefore dependent on the UGC's goodwill. The majority
of them (almost 100) lacked PhDs, the basic qualification to lay claim
to being an 'academic.'
When the results came in on December 6, Mendis was
understandably crestfallen. As a political appointee, and more so one
that had taken sides so blatantly, he knew he had no choice but to
resign. With the appointment of the benign Kabir Hashim as minister of
tertiary education however, Mendis saw an opportunity: he professed to
change sides. Claiming to have been coerced into organizing the anti-UNF
advertisement, Mendis produced an ace that would secure his credentials
with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. It turned out that his wife,
Shanthi, as doctor by profession, has been treating former President D.
B. Wijetunga for the past 20 years.
Drawing on Wijetunga's patronage with the UNF
administration, appeals were made to the prime minister to retain Mendis
as chairman of the UGC. Kabir Hashim had however, in the meantime,
decided Mendis' partisan politics were incompatible with the high post
he held. He asked Mendis to resign and obtained the prime minister's
consent to appoint Ananda Kulasooriya, a much respected senior professor
of botany at the university of Peradeniya, in his place. Importantly,
Kulasooriya has no links or affiliation to any political party. On
February 9, 2002, Hashim wrote to President Kumaratunga, requesting her
to appoint Kulasooriya as chairman, UGC. Faced with a fait accompli,
Mendis resigned on March 15.
Kumaratunga however, was not about to accept the
departure of one of her favourite lap dogs with good grace. Having sat
on Hashim's letter a full two months, on April 8 she wrote to the
minister outlining what in her view was the 'progress' made by the UGC
under Mendis in the past year, concluding, 'Under these circumstances I
am of the view that the present chairman should be allowed to serve his
As she has done so often in the course of her eight years
in office, Kumaratunga has now sown chaos on yet another key government
institution. The minister in charge has expressed a lack of faith in the
incumbent, Mendis. Mendis himself has resigned. The minister has in turn
nominated another distinguished academic to replace him. And Kumaratunga
has capped it off by insisting on the retention of Mendis, who has
openly accused Wickremesinghe's UNF of being a 'puppet government'
installed by 'corrupt businessmen,' with the country rapidly sliding
into 'the dark days of the 1980s or even possibly a dictatorship.'
University education in Sri Lanka now stands at the
crossroads, with the chairman of the UGC being daggers drawn with the
government, unwilling to quit and immune, thanks to his political
alliance with the PA, to dismissal. Hashim's quandary now is how to
break the deadlock: whether to hound Mendis out of office by exposing
him to ridicule, perhaps going so far as to amend the UGC act so as to
facilitate his removal, or losing face by retaining the delinquent
chairman and making the best of a bad job. But that is hardly what the
voters gave him a mandate to do last December 5. The electorate's
judgement was firmly against Mendis and all he stood for. He himself put
his and the PA's credibility to the test through the medium of the
newspapers and exposed himself to jeopardy: he lost. Now, rather than
accept the verdict of the voters and go gracefully, Mendis has decided
to stay on and enjoy the fruits of his perfidy. That is something the
UNF should not countenance. Mendis must go, and if he will not go the
nice way, he should be hounded out with all speed.
Oliver hits back at Chandrananda
Former Commander for the Sri Lanka Air Force Oliver
Ranasinghe has replied former Defence Secretary Chandrananda De Silva's
missive that he alone could not have been responsible for concluding the
purchase of two C130 aircraft after the government had allocated eleven
million sterling pounds for three planes.
De Silva's denial to The Sunday Leader followed our
expose on the matter early this year. Ranasinghe maintains that De
Silva's explanation that no single person can be held responsible for
military procurement is untenable
He asserts that while he was commander the finger was pointed at him alleging that he individually
procured equipment and planes for the SLAF. De Silva, who was at the
time defence secretary, never once spoke up in his defence to maintain
the same sentiments he has expressed when the finger of doubt was
pointed in his direction.
04 April 2002
The Sunday Leader
410/27 Bauddhaloka Mawatha
Where the C-130 Aircraft went
Reference your article which appeared in The Sunday
Leader on 31/03/2002 under the above heading, the undersigned is
surprised to read Mr. Chandrananda de Silva's reply where he states
"As a result no single person in the process has decided by himself
to the exclusions of others on any mater relating to procuments."
In other words what he is saying is that a service commander or any
other member of the process cannot be held responsible singly. A service
commander is authorized to purchase up to rupees five million only, that
is also with the approval of the tender board of the respective service.
All other purchases beyond this must be approved by the ministry of
"If Mr. Chandrananda de Silva can close his eyes
and take his memory back to the period I was the Commander of the Air
Force and he was the Secretary of Defence, I don't think he can forget
the many articles that appeared in a Sunday newspaper alleging and made
up under various captions pointing the finger at me. I ask Mr.
Chandrananda de Silva why could not he come out then and say what he is
saying today, that no single person had decided by himself but by a
technical/financial committee appointed by the Secretary Defence and
there after by a cabinet approved tender board and cabinet of ministers
after presentation of a cabinet paper by the HE the President, the
minister of defence. By not explaining to the public the truth at that
time where he was duty bound, isn't it that Mr. Chandrananda de Silva
purposely allowed "the dog to bark in the wrong direction"
thereby misleading the public of this country?. Why? Is the million
dollar question. Does not one get the impression that the stories were
created for a purpose? Also being silent knowing the truth, isn't it
that Mr. Chandrananda de Silva as Secretary Defence endorsed the
contents of the articles and encouraged the public to believe them?
At that time I brought the contents of these articles
to the notice of the HE the President. She said, "Oliver, they are
trying to get to us through you, so just ignore them," so I did
what the commander in chief said. However, Mr. Chandrananda de Silva the
Secretary Defence never said anything to the press at least on the
procedure of purchase in the government, but when the finger is pointing
at him today he comes out to say that no single person could be held
responsible but spells out a long tidy procedure in-order to safeguard
him. Isn't it the done thing for a top bureaucrat, the Secretary of
Defence, Mr. Chandrananda de Silva to enlighten the media and the public
of the truth rather than keeping quiet there by encouraging a wrong
picture to be created. On the other hand Mr. Chandrananda de Silva may
have had good reason not to tell the truth to this particular Sunday
newspaper reporter who was frequent visitor to the ministry of defence.
A three man committee inquired into all the purchases
of aircraft and military equipment in the air force up to 1998. This
report HE the President wanted completed in 2 months and was in banner
headlines in interested newspapers. Not two months, but four years have
lapsed now but the committee report is not out to the public yet. I was
made to understand that it is with HE the President I hope Mr.
Chandrananda de Silva has spelt out the procedure, like what he has done
today thus saving time and energy of the committee.
I wish HE the President and Hon. Prime Minister will
inquire in to all the air force and other military purchases up to date
like how they inquired in to the purchases up to 1998 in the air force.
The public of the country has the right to know the truth, and not a
It is imperative to say and sad to note that two
innocent officers are sitting in jail for a crime that they did not
commit. The CID henchiyas and other means were used in order to ensure
that someone's 'Pandora's box' is sealed for good, by placing these too
officers on top of it.
As the editor of a prestigious Sunday newspaper you
will always want to report the truth and I believe that no journalist
wants to be a disgrace to the profession" by knowingly publishing
made up stories to gain personal glory and money. As such please publish
this letter in your valuable newspaper along with your analysis and
comments in order to keep the public informed of the truth.
Anyhow, even after many years what Mr. Chandrananda de
Silva now says to the world is that if something is wrong in the
purchase of aircraft to the air force that he is responsible.
Sports shooting bodies fire the wrong bullets
By Frederica Jansz
more is sports shooting in Sri
Lanka confined to the parameters of Olympic sport.
In fact, an investigation by The Sunday Leader has found
that only about 25 shooters, who are members of the National Rifle
Association and other sports shooting bodies are dedicated to practical
shooting. The others, who number in the hundreds have no interest in the
Asian Games, SAF, Commonwealth or Olympic games.
their sole interest apparently lies in the acquisition of high-powered
weapons, and shooting meets, which are not part of Olympic sports
weapons for civilian members affiliated to these sports shooting bodies
are issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on recommendations made by
the National Rifle Association (NRA).
has now been observed by both, the MoD and other senior military
personnel, that some civilians who have obtained membership in these
clubs have done so with the sole intent of obtaining high-powered
weapons and building up armouries for their personal use.
have found that in Sri Lanka, the simplest way to obtain a high powered
weapon is to join a shooting club for three years and go through the
NRA. None of the civilians
in this country are otherwise given the approval to obtain such high
tech weapons other than cultivators, who are given a shot gun with a
limited amount of cartridges.
issue has been growing over the last ten years, during which time, a
large number of civilians have steadily amassed high powered weapons for
their personal use and to take part in shooting events that are not
included as an Olympic sport.
example, the NRA in 1992 introduced Practical Pistol Shooting (which is
not an Olympic event), whereupon civilians began to import the following
high-powered guns — 9 mm Browning semi-automatic pistols, 9 mm
semi-automatic pistols fitted with aim points and scopes, .38 special
revolvers and semi-automatic pistols, .40 semi-automatic pistols fitted
with special sights and .45 semi-automatic pistols fitted with special
practical rifle and practical shotgun shooting was introduced, which
again are not Olympic events. For
this, members of the various sports shooting bodies including the NRA
imported .303 rifle, repeater shot guns, double-barrelled shot guns,
over and under shot guns.
addition, the NRA introduced silhouette shooting (also not an Olympic
sport) where civilians have imported 7.62 + 51 rifles with scopes (as
good as sniper rifles) and .44 magnum revolvers.
rules and regulations by which the NRA is supposed to abide when
approving the purchase of such weapons is ridiculous to the extent by
which it has been determined that a member is required to shoot only
three times a year in order that he may keep his weapons.
situation is so bad and out of control that for the year 2001 the
Technical Committee of the NRA recommended the purchase of many weapons
out of which a mere 4% only are weapons used for Olympic sports
fact that Sri Lanka’s national security as a result is being seriously
compromised was cause for concern with the Defence Ministry in 1999.
On February 22, 1999, Malini Peiris, additional secretary, MoD
wrote to Rear Admiral A. H. M. Razeek, who was then President of the
NRA, and brought the following issues to his notice.
this letter, Peiris wrote, “the time is opportune for the National
Rifle Association to assess the armouries owned by individual members as
there seems to be an abundance of firearms of various categories which
may be functional or defunct at present.
Meanwhile, they seek to import more and more weapons every year,
which gets added on to their stocks.
Such individual cases may be looked into carefully before
recommending any further acquisitions for the purpose of sports.
Otherwise it could pose a threat to the national security of our
fact, in 1971, during the insurrection, all rifles which were given to
the NRA for the purpose of sports shooting, were withdrawn and as such
the NRA stopped functioning.
also noted that in some instances it has been found that some persons
who have not licensed their firearms in the proper procedure since 1997,
now resort to adopt a short-cut through the NRA.
“Such requests cannot be considered by the Ministry of Defence
on behalf of the NRA,” Peiris stated, adding that those requests will
be returned for necessary action.
this missive from the MoD, our investigation proves that since 1999
members affiliated to the NRA and its shooting clubs have continued to
import high-powered weapons that are not used for sports shooting.
must be said at this juncture that former president of the NRA, A. H. M.
Razeek did make an attempt to curb such purchases. For instance, at a
council meeting on April 1, 1999, he told members that there is a
growing concern over the issue of licenses and importing weapons by
individuals at all levels and some sort of remedial action should be
taken to prevent weapons falling into unauthorised hands in the future.
these concerns the issue continued to grow. So much so, senior military
officers have also begun to voice concern with regard to these sports
shooting bodies where civilians as members are amassing quantities of
high tech guns.
September last year, Col. A. M. B. Peiris wrote to Brigadier Nimal
Jayasuriya, director operations at army headquartres and stated his
concerns with regard to the hiring of the Panaluwa firing range to the
Sports Shooting Association (SSA).
Peiris at the time was general officer commanding of the HQ 11 Division,
Army Cantonment at Panagoda. He
noted his concerns with regard to a shooting meet held by the SSA at the
army firing range at Panaluwa from September 21 to the 23, 2001.
observed that civilians who were members of this club had been observed
carrying 303 rifles and SLR rifles (also known as sniper rifles) fitted
with telescopic sights into the range complex at their own free
Peiris noted that this was a serious breach of security in view of the
existing security situation in the country. He stated that there are
many avenues open to terrorists, subversives and other hostile elements
(underworld groups, contract killers) to either hire or forcefully
remove these rifles from the respective clubs and individuals in whose
possession these weapons are being kept.
He said such high powered weapons can be used to eliminate
targets (VVIPs, VIPs) at given opportunities (security lapses) from long
appealed to Brigadier Jayasuriya to intervene in the matter and
introduce a control measure to prevent possible attempts of
assassinations on VVIP and VIPs by skilled and hostile snipers, who may
be able to access these guns.
matter however remains unsolved. Instead, many members of these shooting
clubs which are all affiliated to the NRA continue unabated to import
high powered guns that cater more, to inflated egos than to facilitate a
have also found that members of shooting clubs owning mini armouries
trade their weapons for a price to one and another. Shanaka Rajapakse
from the Negombo Rifle Club (NRC) bought a 9mm Tangfolio gun from Major
Janaka Ritigahapola. Noel Rodrigo also from the NRC purchased a 12g BRNO shotgun
from Anil Wickremasinghe who is also a member of the same club.
Wickremasinghe also sold a .22 BRNO rifle to Anil Peiris, of the
Odayar from the SSA bought a 9mm Tangfolio from Gehan de Zoysa also of
the SSA. H. Wanigatunga,
SSA purchased a 12g BRNO
shotgun from Lister Flamer & Co.
Saman Herat from the Nuwara Eliya Sports Shooting Club bought a
.45 ACP pistol from Sarath de Zoysa, SSA.
K. Kumaranayagam, SSA purchased three weapons from his father, S.
Kumaranayagam. While the SSA had bought two 9mm Glock weapons from two
other sports shooting members namely, Vipula Perera, SSA and Captain
is not all. Our contention
that civilians continue to build up on existing armouries is compounded
with the fact that the present vice president of the NRA, Sarath de
Zoysa, last year made an application via the NRA to import a second
sniper rifle despite the fact he already owns one.
application for a .308 Remington rifle was initially not approved by the
Technical Committee of the NRA on the basis that he already had a .308
rifle for practical shooting.
Zoysa argued that his application should be entertained.
He stated that the Technical Committee of the NRA had on other
occasions recommended the purchase of an extra rifle to one individual
who wanted two 12guage shotguns for two different disciplines. He said
that the .308 rifle he had was for International Practical Shooting
Competitions (IPSC) and was not suitable for silhouette shooting and
that was why he had applied for an additional .308 rifle.
Silhouette shooting by the way, is not an Olympic sport.
Rodrigo, Secretary, Technical Committee, NRA pointed out that de Zoysa
had indicated in his application that the second rifle was also to be
used for IPSC and not silhouette shooting. De Zoysa responded by saying
this was a mistake and with the president’s permission was allowed to
amend his application.
another incident which occurred last year, the Sri Lanka customs seized
a cache of fifteen .22 Chinese air rifles that had been illegally
imported. Members of the NRA approached customs to sell these weapons to
the sports shooting body. Customs agreed and it was decided by President
of the NRA that these weapons would be distributed accordingly to its
affiliated sports shooting clubs. However, The Sunday Leader
reliably learns that instead, favoured members purchased two and three
of these weapons to add to their personal armouries.
fact, the minutes of the NRA council meeting of November 27, 2001, state
that NRA president, Air. Cmdr. Sunil Weerasinghe had stated that “the
sale of these weapons had been carried out in the most improper manner
while he was away from the island and therefore he wished to apologise
to the council for such action.”
Weerasinghe did not seek to recall those weapons and ensure the sale was
carried out in a more methodical manner is not clear. When asked,
Weerasinghe replied that after the guns had been sold “it was not
right to ask for them back.”
is the bottom line. Unfortunately
for the NRA, its president is by tradition always a military service
personnel. The post is
passed on from the Sri Lanka air force to the army and navy. The
Commanders of each security force nominate persons of their choice to
present president of the NRA Weerasinghe is one such person.
Having been nominated by chief of the SLAF Air Vice Marshal
Jayalath Weerakkody, Weerasinghe heads this vital sports shooting body
but has never taken part in a single sports shooting event in his entire
life. As a result, he is
clueless with regard to the intricacies involved in running a sports
shooting body. Weerasinghe in fact has never once even visited the range
for a shooting meet. He arrives just in time to dole out prizes.
manner in which personnel for this top posting are chosen was initiated
in 1972, when the MoD agreed to allow the NRA to function provided the
president and general secretaries are elected from the services to
control all weapons and ammunition given to the NRA for sports shooting
every year, the three service commanders reach an agreement as to who
should run the NRA and nominate a president and a general secretary.
NRA is top heavy not only with persons like Weerasinghe. Wing Commander
J. C. Ranasinghe who holds the post of Hony. general secretary to the
NRA has also never participated in the sport at national level. Squadron
Leader K. R. N. N. Nawarathne, Hony. treasurer, NRA, is another person
who has never participated at Olympic sports shooting events.
present, there are only four persons in the NRA council out of 20 who
have taken part in Olympic sports shooting at national level. They are
Sri Kumaranayagam, Vice President NRA, Lt. S. Ratnayake, assistant
secretary (Pistol), Elmore Rodrigo, Secretary, Technical Committee and
P/O D. M. P. B. Dassanayake, navy shooting representative.
local purchases and
transfers approved by the NRA
Rifle Club - CZ 75 9mm pistol from CEFAP
Country Sports Shooting Club - CZ 75 9mm pistol from CEFAP
Country Sports Shooting Club (HCSSC) - BRNO .22 bolt action rifle
from Lister Flamer Ltd.
Mohideen - HCSSC - CZ 75B 9mm pistol from CEFAP
Peiris - Sports Shooting Club Nuwara Eliya (SSCNE) - Germanica 12g
pump action shotgun from CEFAP
G. N. Joseph - SSCNE - CZ
75B 9 mm pistol from CEFAP
- Germanica 12g pump action shotgun
- CZ 75B 9mm pistol from CEFAP
L. M. Zubair - HCSSC - Remington Gamemaster .30-06 rifle from
Lister Flamer Ltd.
Senadhipathi - SSCC - Tangfolio 9mm pistol from Maj. S. A.
Jayasinghe - NRC - BRNO .22 rifle from M. D. P. Peiris of Chilaw
Velrajh - Negombo Rifle Club - Para Ord. .45 pistol from Errol
has an armoury”
Commodore Sunil Weerasinghe, President, NRA, refused to take
responsibility for recommending the purchase of high tech weapons
for members of the NRA and other affiliated sports shooting
weapons are recommended and approved by the council. I don’t
recommend the purchase of these weapons, the council does,” he
agreed that these guns are not used for Olympic sports shooting.
He asserted however that other forms of shooting activated
by him are also part of sports shooting. “I agree it is not an
Olympic sport but it is being done in Sri Lanka and in other
countries,” he countered, pointing out that in that case, taking
part in Practical Pistol Shooting and International Practical
Shooting Competitions (IPSC) must also be abolished as they are
not Olympic sporting events.
on the threat to national security as a result of civilian
maintained armouries, Weerasinghe replied saying, “Everybody has
an armoury. In that
case sports shooting should be scrapped from Sri Lanka, if it is
posing a great threat to the security of the country.”
a threat all depends on the individual, who is in possession of
such arms and ammunition, he reiterated.
admitted that he has never taken part in sports shooting at
national or club level. “This is not necessary in order to hold
an administrative post,” he said.
high powered weapons
November last year the
Technical Committee of the NRA recommended the purchase of high
powered weapons for the following civilians.
Peramunagama from the Negombo Rifle Club was approved the purchase
of a STEYR .308 bolt action rifle with scope.
Samarasinghe from the Sports Shooting Club,
Nuwara Eliya, was approved a STEYR scout .308 rifle with
L. M. Zubair also from the Sports Shooting Club, Nuwara Eliya, was
allowed to purchase a Remington 11.87 12g shotgun with
Dharmaratne from the Sports Shooting Association a Remington 11-87
12g shotgun with 3 interchangeable chokes.
B. Pilapitiya from the Sports Shooting Club Nuwara Eliya a
Winchester .308 bolt action rifle with scope
W. M. Reza Odayar from the Sports Shooting Association a Mossberg
9200 12g shotgun with interchangeable chokes.
Amarapala from the Negombo Rifle Club a CZ 85 Combat 9mm pistol
with .22 adaptor and extra magazines.
Gunaratne from the Sports Shooting Association a Mossberg 9200 12g
shotgun with interchangeable chokes
Cmdr. A. D. K. P. K. de Alwis from the navy a Glock 21.45 pistol
with 2 extra magazines
Gabriel from the Sports Shooting Association a CZ 85 9mm pistol.
money out of a sport
Elmore Rodrigo, Secretary, Technical Committee, NRA, dismissed any concerns with
regard to civilians purchasing high-powered weapons.
am more afraid of the threat to national security from the vast
number of 9mm pistols that are being purchased by members than any
other weapons,” he said.
reiterated that he personally knows of many members belonging to
various shooting clubs who has bought weapons without going
through the recommendations of the NRA, but solely by using
pointed out that Olympic shooting events are restrictive and as a
result there are other forms of sports shooting which has been
popularised. “The one sport that has been popularised in Sri
Lanka is metallic silhouette shooting. There is a lot of interest
in this form of sports shooting unlike the Olympic type of
matches,” he said.
meanwhile claimed there are people within the NRA who are dealing
in weapons. Who are earning by importing and selling guns. “I do
not consider this a threat to national security.
But some people are making money out of the sport,” he
however asserted that no member of NRA has any weapon that can be
compared to an assault rifle. “All the rifles purchased are semi
automatic,” he claimed.