Protests against Kotelawala University Bill today
By Pamodi Waravita
The Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) will be holding protests in a number of districts today (29) against the proposed General Sir John Kotelawala National Defence University (KNDU) Bill which was submitted to the relevant parliamentary committee on 22 June.
“We are against the threat of both the militarisation and privatisation of education that this Bill poses. We opposed it earlier as well, when it was gazetted in April 2018 under the former United National Front (UNF)-led Government. It is the same Bill which was again tabled in Parliament on 26 March this year,” FSP Education Secretary Pubudu Jayagoda told The Morning.
According to Jayagoda, the Bill enables branches and other campuses to be opened under the said proposed university in different locations of the country, threatening the spread of the privatisation of education. As the university would exist outside of the purview of the University Grants Commission (UGC), Jayagoda raised concerns over the standard and quality of education provided by it.
He further said the Bill also allows for schools to be opened up under the said university, which again raises the issue of the quality of the syllabus.
“The Bill states that seven out of the nine members of the said university’s commission will be military officials – the Defence Secretary, the Defence Ministry’s Co-ordinating Secretary, the tri-forces’ Commanders, and the university’s Vice Chancellor who is also usually a military official. Only two members will represent the Treasury Department and the UGC, which is a dangerous precedent to set,” said Jayagoda.
The FSP is considering taking joint action in the future, together with the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA), which has warned that universities and higher education will be militarised as a result of it, and also together with the Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF), the latter of which is also against the Bill.
Earlier this month, National People’s Power (NPP) parliamentarian Dr. Harini Amarasuriya wrote to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, expressing disappointment about the recent tabling of the said Bill as it stands as a significant deflection from the free education policy the country has adhered to for many decades.