Sunday 30 September 2012

Open Letter to Sri Lankan Academics

Dear Sri Lankan Academics,

I thought of writing you this to tell a different side that I see in this lecturers' strike. You are very much invited to comment if I am wrong.

I am not in agreement with many things that the present government does and the way things are done. However, in this particular issue I have some questions with respect to lecturers' action.

SB may be an utter fool who destroy our higher education......keep it a side for a while.

As lecturers themselves painted, now this strike is in full swing going towards 6% GDP issue. Even in the march everyone could see mostly this banners, vocals and even T-shirts.

Now there are few question marks ????????

At the first place have lecturers got a mandate to strike for a national policy issue?
Don't forget that university lecturers are only a part of the huge machine that we call "National Education".

They may strike for salary hike, improvement of university facilities or even demanding for air-conditioning the university toilets...........of course they have all the rights to do that, irrespective of whether the demands are fair or not.

But going on strike, demanding to allocate 6% GDP on education..................................?

Isn't this a decision that should be taken collectively at higher level?

If a lecturer really wants to get this done, he should have joined a political organization in the capacity of a Sri Lanka citizen and demand for that or even work towards toppling the government if they don't fulfill what is desired?

There is an ethical issue that also comes with this demand. When you demand for a chunk of 6% (about 4.2% increment) for education and if the government accommodate such, then they have to cut down the same percentage from another sector to fulfill your requirement. There is no percentage for contingencies from GDP.

Now from which sector you expect the government to cut down.........Medicine, Security, Social welfare......!!!!!!

Some people say that this can be done by cutting down corruption. That is ridicules. There is no allocation for corruption in the GDP. It is everywhere... When you cut down that from one sector, it escalates in another sector, as far as you don't change the entire system...

Don't forget that if you have a right to demand for an increment in % of GDP on education, then all other sectors have the same right for a demand. Doesn't that make the whole country a joke? Such as 150% of GDP divided among the sectors......!!!!!!!

Now, we are coming to a very crucial point. When you show the table of the % of GDP of education in several countries, you forget an important point.  In those countries with somewhat higher percentage, the education is not free even in the state sector. Thus, a considerable percentage of the money allocated by the government for education is gained back in the form of school, university and other tuition fees levied from kindergarten onward. However, in Sri Lanka the expenditure is an absolute value.

Some times ago Minister Wimal Weerawansha brought forward another valid point but no government proxy could capitalize on that. As he showed, the expenditure on education does not reflect only by the money allocated for education and higher education ministries which is taken by the % calculation. Even certain amounts of funds allocated for other ministries such as S&T, Construction, Engineering services, Social welfare etc. are also spent on uplifting education either directly or indirectly.

Now this whole union action has become a village pickle. You may not see the reality due to the curtains raised by the crowds that gathered in the march and the rally. But those will vanish in no-time when they see that they have no gains in joining you. If they stay, they will make sure that you will be fighting for their war instead of your own struggle.

In this context I kindly appeal you to re-think about your objectives, strategies and approaches, before it is too late.

I see a dark cloud ahead.

                                                                                                                                 -Chandima Gomes


  1. Chandima, you have a good point. National fund allocations should be determined by elected officials they are the people who represent the needs of the people. We can debate about how corrupt and under-informed our current elected officials are, but we have the preserve the process for future generations. If we do not like the way one administration is allocating public funds we can get them out of office and elect a different group.

    But if trade unions are controlling public fund allocation then, public loses the control of their money.

    This is specially disturbing when the trade unions are funded and supported by foreign organizations and governments. There is evidence supporting that FUTA is funded by foreign NGOS and governments. What do you think about this?

    Any way keep up the good work, we will be visiting your blog

  2. I thinks it better to cut down the security expensess. Even Though war is already finish they still increase the portion of the security allocation doesn't make any sense for any one .any way as you said you see a dark cloud ahead .sorry to let you know it was already there for 7-8 years ,but the thing You see it just now .cause you feel that its going to affect to the industry you worked . unfortunately it will take long time for each individuals to understand that they have a problem until they loss some thing.
    till that wait and see don't forget two dark cloud create golden light and that will light whole the world .

  3. Hmm.. looking at this strike from a distance, I believed that it was just some way of putting out the disgust for the two great ministers who have been the locus of many news articles of late. But once it started to drag and once I started seeing terms like "Brothers" and "Anthare", I started to suspect the motives behind this. I completely and utterly agree with you on your article aiya. Might be a bit hard to digest for someone who has been on these protests, but just the cup of tea for me. My point is, 6% has just become a popular slogan or a front for this protest/strike. Its becoming senseless everyday and defeating its own purpose by keeping students out of educational facilities. I mean, its becoming more and more like the "Occupy wall street movement", which started with social frustration and went no where...and importantly, did nothing. Its sad to see university lecturers been played like this for nothing.

  4. "Some people say that this can be done by cutting down corruption. That is ridicules. There is no allocation for corruption in the GDP. It is everywhere… When you cut down that from one sector, it escalates in another sector, as far as you don’t change the entire system…"

    This is where you lost me. You don't need corruption to have an allocated budget to save costs buy cutting it. How corruption work is, it make every thing expensive (because everyone involved take their cut). Reducing corruption will reduce the amount we have to spend for everything. Then you have more money to spare.

    Also this means calling for better governance. For example. SL has to burn massive amounts of public money to generate electricity using oil. Which is a direct result of not having a proper policy and a long term vision. If these issues are fixed there will be lot more money to spend on more important things. Like education and health sector.

    Any way this 6% issue is not just about corruption. What they are proposing is that there should be more priority for education. Which is right. And the involvement of NGOs and other political parties that you see is simply a result of other people trying to benefit from what these guys are doing. Because everyone want a share of the action for their own reasons. That does not make the core message of these events wrong.