Sri Lankan students boycott graduation to protest appointment of monk as chancellor

A section of the students and faculty members boycotted the graduation ceremony at the University of Colombo to protest the appointment of a monk as university chancellor by the Rajapaksa government

December 20, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Students refused to accept degrees from the new university chancellor, monk Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera. Photo: Screenshot

On Sunday, December 19, during a convocation ceremony at the University of Colombo, graduating students refused to accept their degree certificates from the new university chancellor, monk Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera, in an act of protest. 

In a video that went viral on several social media platforms, some students can be seen walking past the chancellor and refusing to accept degree certificates from him. Many of them can also be seen attending the ceremony wearing black bands.

The students’ act of protest follows a statement by University of Colombo’s Science Teachers’ Association (UCSTA) expressing their concern over the suitability of Ananda Thera as chancellor due to his “political affiliations.” Believed to be favored by the current government, Ananda Thera was appointed to the position on November 17 by Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The UCSTA statement highlighted that “even though the Chancellor’s role is mostly ceremonial, the person who holds the position ideally should have a track record of flawless professional and personal integrity, whose reputation and credentials will assist the University in furthering its reputation and credibility nationally and internationally.”

Discontent over the appointment has been expressed by a number of other groups including Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA), Colombo University’s Academic Federation, Faculty of Medicine Teachers’ Association (FMTA), and Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA).

On November 6, shortly after the declaration of Ananda Thera’s appointment, current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa justified the move in a speech saying that the monk had “helped this government to come into power. The Thera made contributions from the time of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.” 

Prior to his appointment, Ananda Thera was the chief monk at the Narahenpita Abayarama Temple. According to The Morning, the temple in Narahenpita was used by current prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa as his political headquarters following his defeat in the 2015 presidential election. Ananda Thera also campaigned for the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) during the 2019 presidential election and the 2020 general elections, although he has been critical of the current government in the recent past. 

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