If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.
-John Stuart Mill (Liberty)
This column dedicated to the notion of fulfilling the aspirations of Sri Lankan society turns its spotlight on the danger of silencing dissenting voices and thereby inviting uncontrollable public strife resulting in detriment to Sri Lankan society.
It has been repeatedly stated in many news items in the recent past in Sri Lanka that many journalists have disappeared, some threatened and
assaulted resulting in their departure to foreign lands to seek refuge and some murdered to still their voices for ever. In a democratic society citizens are free to express their opinions as John Stuart Mill admirably expressed in his famous saying quoted at the outset of this piece A strong opposition is actually a blessing to any ruling party as then the errors made by such rulers could be corrected to the benefit of the people. When protest marches and demonstrations are held the regime must inquire in to the reasons for such dissent and take remedial measures rather than using tear gas, water cannon, baton charges and even firing live bullets into the multitude of demonstrators killing innocent citizens peacefully demanding their rights as seen in Sri Lanka in the recent past. The proper action would be to settle such disputes amicably by inviting the protestors or their representatives to a discussion to reach a compromise and finally a consensus on the solution to such matters. Violent suppression of such protest would finally lead to dissatisfaction, dissension and finally the disastrous consequence of destabilization of the State.
The demonstration by the Federation of University Teachers Associations (FUTA) is the latest in a series of demonstrations that have taken place in Sri Lanka in recent times. University dons are educated well disciplined persons with exceptional intelligence and any dispute with such persons could always be solved by the process of consultation, compromise and finally consensus. In their blog opened recently on the internet they state:’ We are a concerned group of academics fighting to ensure the opportunity of high quality public higher education for the Sri Lankan masses. This blog is intended as a bulletin board to share news and ideas relevant to the cause.’ The public have been invited to express their views on the blog. The government must ensure a peaceful negotiation with the University dons if the regime does not welcome the commencement of a large scale brain drain from our land thereby affecting the high standards of education maintained by the academic staff in our Universities. The Minister in charge of Higher Education in his anxiety to set up foreign universities in our land would finally end up ruining the entire university system in Sri Lanka unless saner counsel prevails and a committee of balanced minded persons appointed to reach a consensus on their demands It must be understood that there is a great demand from Universities all over the World for the services of academic staff in our Universities due to their ability to impart high quality education. Finally it will be our children who would suffer due to the negligence of arrogant politicians who do not wish to give a fair hearing to the just demands of the University dons.
With the bungling of the Z score by the politicians appointed by the present regime to supervise the education system in the Country, the Supreme Court had to intervene to grant relief to the suffering masses of students eagerly waiting to enter the Universities. As the due processes of Court involve the passage of time the students are facing further delays in entering the universities. The unwanted and unwarranted regimentation process of students in leadership training camps resulting in a colossal waste of public funds unheard of in foreign lands would further delay their education process and this process must be suspended at least on the present occasion as already the students have lost the time allocated for studies at the Universities. The Minister has announced the suspension of the English and Technical training programs already due to the said delay. The question that arises is did the present politicians in our Parliament undergo a leadership training program before they entered the Universities in Sri Lanka Is this program an admission that such politicians some of whom are graduates, incompetent to be leaders of our country as they lacked the training? The leadership training should be provided to the politicians in this land who need it the most judging by their erratic performance of their assigned functions such as the bungling of the higher education system which is under the supervision of these politicians in our land resulting in the misery of the student population. Adverse public opinion is mounting by the day and the regime should take meaningful steps to resolve the crisis.
As usual let me conclude with an amusing anecdote. The teacher called little Johnny to her desk. She said: “This essay you have written about your pet dog is word by word exactly the same as your brother has written’ ””Of course it is” said little Johnny
”It is the same dog.”
The writer is an Attorney-at-Law