ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 30

Disappearance of VC: CID in the dark

By Asif Fuard

Controversy shrouds the disappearance of Eastern University Vice Chancellor Prof. S. Raveendranath as the CID probe into the alleged abduction remains deadlocked. Eight days after his disappearance family members are awaiting information about his whereabouts. He was reported missing after he attended the annual sessions of the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science at Vidya Mandiraya, Colombo 7.

The CID investigations have revealed that Prof. Raveendranath who specializes in agricultural science faced threats to his life from a particular group in the Eastern University in Batticaloa which opposed him remaining as Vice Chancellor of the university.

The family members of the Vice Chancellor who met with President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday urged him to accept the Vice Chancellor’s resignation which was said to be a demand of the group.
The Vice Chancellor’s son-in-law Dr. M. Malaravan told The Sunday Times that Prof. Raveendranath had faced several threats to his life as Vice Chancellor and he had informed the University Grants Commission (UGC) of the threats he faced which made him tender his resignation which was not accepted.

“He received several threatening calls from an unknown group asking him to resign, which led to him coming to stay with his family in Dehiwala in early October this year. He informed the UGC chairman with regard to this matter. He also wrote to Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa about the threats to his life,” Dr. Malaravan said.

“The UGC chairman then asked him to continue his work from Colombo as Vice Chancellor and leave the internal administration of the university in the hands of an acting Vice Chancellor,” he said.
Prof. Raveendranath was last seen on December 15 (Friday) at around 1 p.m. when he attended the annual sessions of the SLAAS.

On Friday Prof. Raveendranath who usually travels by public transport or by using a UGC vehicle phoned the Eastern University guesthouse at Kirulapone to request an official vehicle to attend the SLAAS sessions.

The official vehicle is said to have arrived at around 11.30 a.m. According to CID sources his regular driver was absent on that particular day and a new driver was said to have been at the wheel.
Prof. Raveendranath is said to have reached his destination in Colombo 7 and shared a few moments with his colleagues. He was expected to stay for the whole session as two lecturers from the Eastern University were due to take part in a presentation.

However Prof. Raveendranath was not seen at the second session. He was last seen going outside after receiving a phone call. His daughter who expected him for lunch at her place in Dehiwala had called her father’s cell phone at around 2.45 p.m and found it switched off.

As the professor did not turn up, his daughter had then called the driver who had taken him to the sessions and was to wait for him till the meeting was over. The driver had then told the daughter that he had tried the professor’s phone and found it switched off.

The family members of Prof. Raveendranath then called the UGC chairman and colleagues of the professor to try to locate his whereabouts. Eventually by 7 p.m. the family lodged a complaint with the Dehiwala police under the log number CIB II 225/260.

In the backdrop of this incident the Defence Secretary who was aware of the threats faced by the Vice Chancellor, as the latter had provided phone numbers from which he received death threats, had ordered Inspector General of Police Victor Perera to expedite a probe into the abduction.

The CID investigators had detained the driver who had last been with the professor. A CID source who spoke on grounds of anonymity told The Sunday Times the driver had received calls from members who were believed to be supporters of the Karuna faction.

The CID investigation revealed that the first threat to the Vice Chancellor’s life came in the wake of the Eastern University Arts Faculty Dean K. Balasukumar being abducted in September this year by an armed group suspected to be members of the Karuna faction.

The group which had kept Mr. Balasukumar as a captive for nearly a week demanded the Vice Chancellor should resign from his post which led to Prof. Raveendranath handing over his resignation to the UGC chairman in a letter dated 30.10.2006.

The following day he came to Colombo as the situation in the East remained volatile. He resided with his daughter and son-in-law in Dehiwala. The UGC did not accept his resignation but asked him to work in Colombo while remaining as Vice Chancellor. CID Director, Senior Superintendent of Police Sisira Mendis told The Sunday Times several statements had been recorded but declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.

The spokesperson for the Civil Monitoring Committee Member of Parliament Mano Ganesan told The Sunday Times that the family members had lodged a complaint on the abduction with the committee and said it was the duty of the Government to accept the resignation of the Vice Chancellor or provide him with security as his life was in danger.

“This is negligence on the part of the Government and the Government should have taken immediate steps to ensure the Vice Chancellor’s safety,” he said. When The Sunday Times contacted UGC chairman Prof. Gamini Samaranayake as to why the Vice Chancellor’s resignation was not accepted he said the ultimate decision making authority was the President as Chancellors for Universities in the country are appointed by him and not the UGC.

Eastern University in crisis
In the wake of the alleged abduction of Eastern University Vice Chancellor Prof. S. Raveendranath, educational activities of the institution are in the throes of a crisis as many lecturers and students have left the university in fear of their lives.

For the past four months six lecturers have left the country and migrated as they have been facing threats to their life while nearly 20 lecturers how not turned up during the past few months. The lecturers who have left the country are Dr. K. Thiruchelvam, Dr. S. Govindaraj, Dr. C.Y. Thangaraj, Dr. (Mrs.) Thangaraj, Dr. S. Sathanandan and Mr. Balasukumar. 17 Sinhalese students from the Management Faculty of the Eastern University have transferred to the Rajarata University in Anuradhapura as they were facing threats allegedly from student bodies supportive of the LTTE and the Karuna faction.

Due to 38 Muslim students from the Eastern University Medical faculty facing a similar situation they have appealed to the UGC to transfer them immediately to the Rajarata University. UGC chairman Prof. Gamini Samaranayake told The Sunday Times arrangements have already been made for the 38 Muslim students to be transferred in the coming weeks.

Top to the page

Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.