Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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The Mystery of the Recent University of Jaffna Vice Chancellor Appointment

President Rajapaksa’s Angle

by Sachi Sri Kantha, August 15, 2011

Number 5: Hoole was Chandrika and Kadirgamar’s man. I hate both of them. Both plotted to keep me out of the prime minister post. If not for my support from Buddhist constituency then, I couldn’t have climbed to the president’s wagon.

Number 4: If only Hoole had promoted himself as a Christian turned Buddhist, I would have reconsidered my options.

Jaffna University gate 2011How Professor Vasanthi Arasaratnam got the nod as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna, ahead of the front runner Professor Ratnajeevan Hoole has remained a mystery to many. As Colombo's Daily Mirror [‘Prof. Hoole leaves Sri Lanka’, Aug. 12] reported that Prof.  Hoole had fled the blessed island (for the second time within 5 years!) after four months of the appointment announcement, this mystery deserves a solution.

What is a mystery?

As a first step to understand what is a ‘mystery’, I depend on an authority (none other than Arthur C. Clarke) who has better credentials than myself in story telling. One of the books in my collection has a title, Arthur C.Clarke’s A-Z of Mysteries from Atlantis to Zombies (1993), authored by Simon Welfare and John Fairley. To this book, Arthur Clarke has written a foreword, and I quote excerpts from it. Here is Arthur Clarke’s version of what a mystery is.

“All mysteries are unsolved problems; but not all unsolved problems are mysteries. As far as my colleagues and I are concerned, there has to be something – well, spooky – about them before they’re worthy of the name.

Unfortunately, the word ‘mystery’ has been hijacked by detective-story writers to describe what are usually no more than puzzles… No, a real mystery must be so baffling that there is no obvious explanation anywhere in sight, and no boring list of suspects to be eliminated one by one. In fiction, perhaps the classic case is that of the Vanishing Lady, and I apologise to the 95 percent of my readers who have already encountered some variant of it.

A mother and her daughter are doing the Grand Tour, and check into the best hotel in a major European city. The mother isn’t feeling very well, so she goes to bed while the daughter does some sight-seeing.

She returns an hour or two later, and asks for the key to her room. The desk clerk looks at her blankly, and says, ‘Sorry, madam, but we don’t know you.’

‘Don’t be ridiculous’, she answers. ‘My mother and I just checked in to Room 222 – my mother’s still there. And you gave me the key yourself.’

The clerk refuses to budge; she demands to see the Manager. Starting with the Deputy Assistant, she eventually works her way up through the hotel hierarchy to the Manager. Like every one of his underlings, he pleads total ignorance and suggests that she’s got the wrong hotel. Checking his records, he says, ‘Anyway, Room 222 is empty. It’s being renovated.’

Finally, wondering if she’s going crazy, the girl demands to see 222. The management, obviously humouring her delusion, is happy to oblige.

There’s no doubt about it – she recognizes every detail of the room’s layout. But the management is right; not only is it empty – there’s not a stick of furniture – but a couple of painters are dabbing at the woodwork…

There’s a perfectly rational – and tragic – explanation. The unfortunate mother had died of the Plague. And the tourist season is just about to begin…

Now that’s what I call a mystery – and you’ll note that there are no criminals involved, although there are certainly a lot of conspirators, doubtless starting with the Mayor, the Chief of Police, and the Chairman of the Tourist Board.”

Now, one can place Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole’s plight in the role of the girl who had checked into this ‘hotel’ in Jaffna. He was given the key to Room 222, in 2006, by President Rajapaksa. Then, he opted to do some ‘sight-seeing’ in the USA, pleading that his life as well as those of his family members were threatened by the LTTE. He returned to Jaffna in 2010, and asked for admission to Room 222, but the hotel manager Rajapaksa after humoring him with a personal appointment visit late last year, shut him off.

Rajapaksa’s Top Ten Reasons

Though I’m not a confidant of President Rajapaksa, and have no privileged information about his decision making skills, it is not difficult to guess why he blocked Professor Ratnajeevan Hoole in receiving his Holy Grail. In talk show host David Letterman’s style, I provide below the top ten reasons.

Number 10: Hoole was offered the position in 2006. He ran away. So, he blew his chance. There are many in the waiting line.

Number 9: I’m for equal rights for women in Sri Lanka. Professor Vasanthi Arasaratnam is a worthy pick for a brownie point.

Number 8: Devananda is my kind of Tamil sycophant. At least he has one vote in parliament.

Number 7: I’m rather pissed off with Hoole’s ‘international links’ to human rights, Amnesty International and other circuses.

Number 6: Hoole would shamelessly ask for developmental funds from China and Iran to be diverted to Jaffna from Hambantota.

Number 6: My consultant Sinhalese academics told me that he has been a trouble, in whichever university (Open University, Ruhuna University, Peradeniya University) he worked previously.

Number 5: Hoole was Chandrika and Kadirgamar’s man. I hate both of them. Both plotted to keep me out of the prime minister post. If not for my support from Buddhist constituency then, I couldn’t have climbed to the president’s wagon.

Number 4: If only Hoole had promoted himself as a Christian turned Buddhist, I would have reconsidered my options.

Number 3: I have been surrounded by many Tamil sycophants. Why add one more, who brags himself as the only higher doctor from University of London in Sri Lanka?

Number 2: Brother Basil advises me to court the LTTE constituency in Jaffna who are in the majority. What LTTE wanted, I also can do the same.

Number 1: I want to show him that in politics, higher doctorates don’t count that much. Look at me, I don’t even have an earned university degree.

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