Forced departure of Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole – A tragic episode

By Dr. S. Narapalasingam

D. B. S. Jeyaraj has written about this disgraceful event. His article was in the Tamil Week May 4 and Daily News May 6. Some facts are worth repeating here. The academically brilliant Professor with exceptional track record as a university scholar and teacher was not in the LTTE’s good books for two reasons. “One was due to his sturdy independence and personal integrity. He was a man who fought injustice and foul play wherever he found them”. His honesty and uprightness are “anathema to the LTTE which wants weak, pliable minions to be at the helm of affairs in the North – East”. The second reason for LTTE’s resentment was Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole’s political beliefs. “He stood for a united, undivided Sri Lanka where the Sri Lankan Tamils could live with honour, justice, peace and equality under a federal system. The LTTE wants a separate state. Also Jeevan’s elder brother Rajan Hoole is a prominent member of the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) a well – respected Human Rights Organization that has been strongly critical of the LTTE. Though Jeevan had nothing to do with the UTHR (J) the LTTE held him guilty by association and regarded him as hostile”. Prof. Hoole, like some other Tamil intellectuals who were eliminated for their enlightened thinking was considered a ‘‘traitor”. One has to be seen as a Tamil nationalist supporting the political aims of the LTTE to qualify as a patriot.

Amnesty International issued a statement giving particulars about the threats made by LTTE front organizations and agents to Prof. Hoole and his family. AI stated that the Professor’s life was in grave danger. D.B.S. Jeyaraj has also mentioned in his article the despicable ways the protest against the appointment of Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole as Vice Chancellor were carried out against the feelings of many enlightened Tamils, who considered him as eminently suitable for three reasons. “One was his qualifications. Two his visionary plans for developing Jaffna University. Three his dynamic ability to interact with and confront Colombo if necessary to get the best for Jaffna” He is the first Sri Lankan to get a double doctorate in engineering from the London University and had been a Professor at Harvey Mudd College in California, U.S.A for many years.

“Student organizations whipped up protests and hung Dr. Hoole’s effigy. They threatened him with assault, if he stepped into Jaffna. Later on various threats including death threats were made against him and family

members. Several tiger propagandists also began attacking Hoole. The religious cry was also raised and objections were made that a Christian should not be Jaffna Varsity Vice – Chancellor”. The contributions made by Christian schools and teachers to education especially in Jaffna and Batticaloa are well known. These have been acknowledged and appreciated by the Tamil Hindus for centuries. Religion did not stand in the way of the nomination of the late Joseph Prarajasingham as TNA Member of Parliament. The LTTE’s ideologue and chief negotiator for the Tigers Anton Balasingham is not a Hindu. The hypocrisy of the protestors is obvious.

A distressed person has observed in his article titled, “LTTE’s constant betrayal of Tamil hopes” published in the Daily News 22 April 2006

has observed: “Apart from behind the scene moves to arrange meetings between Prof. Hoole and the LTTE leadership, the Catholic and other Christian Bishops and other church leaders should be far more open in their criticism of this threat to Prof. Hoole, not only because he is accused of being a Christian, but because it threatens his freedom of thought and worship, and that of the Tamil people”. The Bishops and Reverend Fathers known to be LTTE sympathizers opted to remain silent on this and other important matters that conflict with their religious beliefs.

K. Pandiyan in his article “What ails Jaffna University” published in the Daily Mirror 26 April 2006 has also lamented the harm done to the cherished values of the Tamil community. He has poignantly said: “The Tamil community cherishes education (kalvi) and knowledge more than wealth (selvam) or valour (veeram). Education has been the bedrock of the Tamil society in Sri Lanka from time immemorial and the University of Jaffna is the highest seat of learning in the traditional habitat of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka, namely the North-East Province. However, the past two decades of internal strife has devalued education in the Tamil heartland dealt a severe blow to the core of the Tamil psyche”.

The question, “What ails the Jaffna University?” should be considered along with the ills afflicting the society. With the view to influence thinking, the measures taken by former Soviet Union and East European countries such as curtailment of the freedom of _expression and control of the print and electronic media are adopted wherever possible. Perhaps the latter may be considered necessary for winning the propaganda war. The Tamil expatriates in Canada and Europe get the news and opinions from the media controlled by the LTTE agents. Universities in authoritarian regimes were not allowed to spread knowledge contrary to their ideologies and their governing systems.

The attempt to assassinate Dr. A.G. Hussain Ismail, Vice Chancellor of the South Eastern University led to a general shut down on Friday May 5 in all the predominantly Muslim towns in the Eastern Province. Shops, banks and government offices were closed and bus services came to a standstill. Demonstrations were held after Jumma prayers condemning the attempted murder. The protests were organized jointly by University Teachers Association, Varsity Students Consortium, University Executive Officers Union and Non-Academic Staff Union. The solidarity of the concerned persons in the Eastern province is in sharp contrast to the passivity of those attached to the Jaffna University. In anticipation of the ‘final war’ for Eelam, the LTTE asked the university students to boycott the universities against the wishes of majority of students and parents. While the under-graduate students in Batticaloa refused and attended the lectures, the Jaffna university students obeyed and boycotted. The contrasting situations in the East and North reflect the varying influence of the LTTE there. Using students for protests to achieve political objectives will not help to broaden their outlook and in some cases will even hinder their education.

Jeyaraj’s concluding remarks should be noted by all concerned about the future of the Tamil community. “Ratnajeevan Hoole being forced to flee with his family is no disgrace or loss to him. The loss, however, is to the Tamil people in particular and Sri Lanka in general. Even more is the loss to the LTTE’s image as the so called saviours of the Tamil people”.

‘Traitors’

Tamil human rights activists, who openly condemned violations of the human rights of civilians, were also branded as ‘traitors’. The activist, Rajini Rajasingham Thiranagama, who along with some of her colleagues in the University of Jaffna exposed the misdeeds of the warring parties including the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) deployed in terms of the 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord to disarm the Tamil militants and restore peace was considered a ‘traitor’ and assassinated. Not only the university but also the Tamil community lost a promising intellectual. The title of the book ‘Broken Palmyra’ to which she had contributed, published after her tragic death by the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) is increasingly relevant now than at that time. The present human rights activists, who are continuing the work without Rajini also remain branded as ‘traitors’.

Elected Mayoress Mrs. Sarojini Yogeswaran, the widow of the slain V. Yogeswaran (assassinated by LTTE armed cadres along with the TULF Secretary General A. Amirthalingham in 1989) passionately wished to serve the people in Jaffna at a time when they were in need of better municipal services. She was gunned down in her office. She had no political ambition to be a threat to those aspiring to seize power and was assassinated because of her determination to serve the people independently.

Are such civic conscious Tamils really disloyal to the Tamil community? Were they working against the future well-being of the Tamils in Sri Lanka? The answers depend on how one understands the meaning of ‘liberation’. It should not result in a system where the Tamils have to live in isolation devoid of the freedoms and outlook of those in modern societies. On the contrary, conditions suitable for international recognition, internal and regional unity, development and prosperity must be the outcome. A society gets its recognition from the attitude and conduct of its members and the contributions to human development by different talented persons. It is only a few who come up to qualify as intellectuals. Their diverse views on matters in their own specialized fields and politics have not been a deterrent to the advancement of their societies. Open discussions on vital issues have contributed to their advancement. Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole is a True patriot and those who consider him as an outsider unfit to be the Vice Chancellor of Jaffna University are not concerned about social development.

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