Full scale assault on KNDU Bill by academics

  • Warn of massive protest action from all State Unis
  • Ja’pura, Moratuwa, C’mbo, Open, FUTA, join the fray 

BY Dinitha Rathnayake

University academics are to embark on large scale protest action against the proposed General Sir John Kotelawala National Defence University (KNDU) Bill, following the silent protest conducted by the Sri Jayewardenepura University’s Teachers Association against the KNDU Bill yesterday (20). 

Speaking to The Morning, the Association’s Secretary Ajantha Kalyanaratne said that this is the first academic level protest against the KNDU Bill, noting that members of the Open University, the Moratuwa University, the Colombo University and the Federation of University Teachers Associations (FUTA) were among the participants in this protest. 

“This silent protest was just the beginning. It was successful. We wanted to declare our opposition to this Bill. We are hoping to expand this protest action to a large-scale action with the participation of all universities in the future if the Government does not respond in a positive manner.” 

The protest focused on the KNDU Bill and the main concerns raised by them was that the said Association opposes any act towards the militarisation of education, whilst also opposing the lack of University Grants Commission (UGC) oversight, along with the composition of and the extraordinary powers vested with the KNDU governing body. 

Meanwhile, the Association also raised their concerns about not opening universities for academic activities. 

“The universities have been offering online classes and exams for over a year. We are all aware that online classes and exams are ineffective, particularly at the undergraduate level. Meanwhile, even though the school teachers have been prioritised for vaccination by the Government, university lecturers have not been prioritised. Furthermore, students going abroad are given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, neglecting the students in national universities. Therefore, we oppose that the Government has not designated university teachers or students as a priority group for vaccination. We therefore demand that the universities be opened for academic activities as soon as possible following the vaccination of academic staff, non academic staff, and students.” 

The controversial KNDU Bill received a lot of attention where different parties made comments on the issue. The Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) said that while certain sections of the Government and the Opposition were speaking of introducing amendments to the Bill, the unions are united in their stand that it should be scrapped entirely.

“The Government was attempting to push this Bill through the Parliament on 8 July using the Covid-19 pandemic as a cover, but the widespread protests against the Bill forced it to take a step back.”