Rajarata Medical Faculty imbroglio raised in parliament


By Saman Indrajith

Minister of Higher Education and Cultural Affairs Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe yesterday (11) told parliament that his ministry was holding discussions with the Ministry of Finance and Mass Media to solve Rajarata University’s medical faculty crisis caused by the en masse resignation of its teaching staff in protest over withholding of their monthly retention allowance.

Responding to a question by JVP Leader Anura Kumar Dissanayake, the Minister said that neither the Higher Education Ministry nor the University Grants Commission had anything to do with the decision to withhold the allowance paid to those academics.

Minister Rajapakshe said that it was difficult to recruit lecturers and professors for universities located in rural areas without giving them some incentives.

"A retention allowance was introduced as a solution to the problem. It is not a decision of the ministry or the UGC, but the Senate Council and the Vice Chancellor of the Rajarata University. Accordingly, a professor at the Medical Faculty was paid Rs. 100,000 per month. Senior Lecturer and other lecturers were paid Rs. 80,000 and 50,000 respectively.

"However, when the university authorities were summoned before the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) on March 21, it was criticized for paying such an allowance incompatible with state monetary regulations.  Even the National Audit Commission (NAC) criticized this allowance to the lecturers by the university authorities."

The Finance Ministry on July 18, 2018 issued a circular prohibiting payment of allowances which were not approved by the Treasury. It was after that the Senate Council of the University withheld the retention allowance for lecturers of the Medical Faculty. "My Ministry and the UGC had nothing to do with that decision," he said.

The Minister said that the COPE recommended getting the Cabinet Approval for paying such an allowance to university lecturers. However, two Cabinet Proposals to grant a similar retention allowance to lecturers at South Eastern University were rejected by the Cabinet. Therefore, the Ministry was in a dilemma, the Minsiter said.

There was a dire shortage of lecturers at the Medical Faculty of the Rajarata University, Rajapakshe stated,

"There is another side to this story. The authorities of this university have not taken steps to fill those vacancies either. Instead, what they have done is using funds allocated for the university to pay this retention allowance to remaining lecturers at the faculty, without filling the vacancies. That is against the state monetary control policies."

The JVP leader Dissanayake pointed out that if the Cabinet could give approval for paying a retention allowance for lecturers at rural universities, then the Higher Education and Finance Ministries could solve the problem easily.

Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella replied that if the COPE gave a recommendation, it would be easy for the Cabinet to take a decision on that.

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