Universities and Democracy

The simple Truth I discovered is that the actions of a surface thinker who does not look for a reason but merely accepts reality – are the expressions of the net balance of her/his surface memory. Surface memory is unprocessed data registered through physical observation – through the five senses. This memory is harmless when it is registered on a blank memory – zero base – level playing field. But when pre-existing information is not consciously deleted – this memory gets influenced by that old memory.

l by Gaja Lakshmi Paramasivam

(November 18, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) I respond to the open letter headed ‘A remedy as dangerous as the malady’ by Dr. Jayantha Dhanapala, on behalf of the Friday Forum, published in Sri Lanka Guardian. The letter is addressed to ‘Vice Chancellors of Universities, members of Senates/Councils of Universities, Deans of Universities, all academics of Universities, the University Grants Commission Chairman and Members , the Secretary and Officials of the Ministry of Higher Education and the Minister of Higher Education ‘
This sounds very similar to the communications from me to the University of New South Wales. The first Vice Chancellor did not respond; the second delegated the matter which ended up with me going to prison and the third who did respond after I successfully had their criminal case against me (for trespass) dismissed. Chancellors Sir Anthony Mason and Dr. John Yu – both responded. Dr. Yu in particular, engaged democratically, showing respect for my feelings.
Recently, I wrote to the Senior Staff of the University of Jaffna but there was no response. It is highly unlikely that there would be a substantive response from any of the above. But, through my own experience, I believe, that the Friday Forum, to the extent it is genuine, will derive value for its work. After Mr. Obama became President and he was dealing with the Financial crisis – I sent a letter – on the basis of my belief. The letter was published in one of their websites. More recently, I thanked President Obama in my heart – for celebrating the Hindu festival of Deepavali. Yesterday, I shared with fellow Australians – the Goodwill that President Obama was sharing with us – through our Parliament. This feeling for me would not have been possible, if I had not felt connected to Mr. Obama’s goodness. Ultimately, we reap as we sow .
Friday Forum’s letter to my mind is also about its own Research and Teaching work. My experience at the University of NSW became my Research into Racial Discrimination and my continuous sharing is my Teaching work.
Dr. Dhanapala says ‘Academic freedom and autonomy in academic matters has been a feature of the national university system from the time the University of Ceylon was established in the 1940s. These values have been confirmed by a Supreme Court decision where academics challenged certain amendments to the Universities Act as constituting violations of university autonomy and academic freedom’
Given that no Sri Lankan University staff has put her/himself through the Due Processes of the University Administration followed by legal actions, based on an individual’s experience they do not know the realities of their Administrative system. Hence the Political ‘takeover’. After I took my complaints to court some migrant academic staff of the University of NSW went to ABC Radio and TV. Having had the direct experience, I could not identify the published version. It was similar to my reception of the Published versions of the Battle of Vanni by the ABC. Facts are received by us as per our own Truth/Belief. If we hastily use others’ versions, then we lose depth and therefore feelings for the issue. One who becomes the issue has natural powers to influence. That is the power of Truth.
Global laws, including those relating to academic work, are towards us developing this power to influence each other beyond our physical borders. The question is – ‘How effectively have these laws been used by Sri Lankan Universities to realize academic freedom?’ As per my observations – these laws, like the Anti Racial Laws in Australia – decorate our shelves. But one who uses them genuinely will be ‘free’ of others and would enjoy the Power of One. Until the experience is had, it is mere theory to show others. The more of these show-pieces we produce – the stronger the confirmation that we are in prison – the prison of limits – as to what others in power would think.
Universities have the greatest difficulty in changing over to Democracy. By habit, they start from someone else’s work/theory and often by believing in their predecessors. Democracy requires one to start from zero base. This means, we renounce all credits and debits from the past and take forward only the essence of it – as a natural part of ourselves. The above mention by Dr. Dhanapala, of the challenge by academics of the past going to the Supreme Court – therefore is in breach of this requirement to start from zero base.
The Vice Chancellor’s Office of the University of New South Wales called the Police who called me Sri Lankan – confirming that they did not start from zero base – that I was Australian until proven otherwise. Judges accepted this description, despite knowing that I had protested – saying I was Australian. That which is in our memory comes out naturally and if it influences even one person involved – then that information is part of the reason why a particular decision was made. But all this was too much for our Australian University System, Public Service, Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission and the legal system – up to High Court level. Sri Lankan academics come here regularly for higher qualifications. With the status they get also the under-developed minds of our academics. Like with war-crimes allegations against Sri Lankan President and the Government – the ABC telecast the ‘dislikes’ of the complainants who failed to follow Due Process. Given that these migrants are yet to contribute to Racial Equality in Australia through the official system, their stories are not based on ‘belief’ in the global system of justice. They were their feelings for their own people back in Sri Lanka. They are the parallels of the Medical Faculty staff who went to the ABC.
The simple Truth I discovered is that the actions of a surface thinker who does not look for a reason but merely accepts reality – are the expressions of the net balance of her/his surface memory. Surface memory is unprocessed data registered through physical observation – through the five senses. This memory is harmless when it is registered on a blank memory – zero base – level playing field. But when pre-existing information is not consciously deleted – this memory gets influenced by that old memory. If that old memory was the residue of discriminative thinking in the past – then this new information is also used in discriminative thinking of the present. If for example, the Police who arrested me had knowledge of the Terrorism label give to the Tamil Tigers, and they registered that I was Tamil – then this information would be added to that knowledge of Terrorism, in assessing me. Only someone actively using current thinking would be unaffected by the past – to that extent.
The events that followed at the University of NSW– helped me connect to the influence that my genuine work had had in these complainants who went to the ABC. They were also migrants and their stories were more sensational than my intellectual analyses. The pain/disease had reached a stage where it was waiting to come out. Mine was through Due Administrative and Legal Processes and hence they become the basis for our new regulations towards harmony. To my mind, my work gave the issue some dignity.
I learnt through the events that followed – without any direct influence from me – that Truth is all powerful. These days, I keep looking back from all angles and marvel that Truth is the only real power. I see how my true deservedness brought me someone to deliver what I needed at various points in time. Had I relied on others prematurely, I would not have discovered my own powers. Those who dismissed my claims of racism (including from the medical faculty whose staff went to the ABC) now have the material to reverse their surface judgments.
I learnt also that like individuals – institutions also have karma. When we have exhausted our resources and we still are not Independent – whatever the circumstances – then we need to seek and find truly Independent individuals and institutions to add ourselves to.
The essence of the complaint by the Friday Forum is that the Government is interfering. The solution is to not give it any attention but carry on doing their Research and Teaching work and become Independent of the Government. This is also my recommendation to all those who seek to contribute to development of democracy in Sri Lanka – especially through their workplaces. When I protested I was ‘told’ many times to do this and that, including by junior Police – who were younger than my children. I accepted their ‘instructions’ even when I knew that they were unjust and unlawful. Otherwise, I would have run the risk of generating evidence of ‘security risk’ or ‘resisting arrest’ – in that territory where they were the Masters and their word reigned against a migrant. This mistake is often made by protestors (including Tamils) who are hasty for an answer. Those who are seeking Truth – must not be distracted by short answers – either way, on the way. We need to keep diving until we find our Truth. When we find it – there is Peace in our hearts.
I now know that I was observing reality when I knew that those who punished me were not using the law – often due to ignorance of the law. Had I reacted – to match their haste – I would have lost this opportunity to observe their reality without my help – and therefore would have registered lies instead of independent facts. I was able to observe because my goal was Truth and not the benefits on the way. The most economic way of doing it was through myself. I did it because I cared.
This search for Truth is the primary responsibility of our Universities. Most of the laws relating to Universities belong to the past. The path traveled by a true Support Service Provider within the University system is the path of the future management and governance and the laws of tomorrow would take shape as per this path. Hence, observe, think, analyze, conclude and keep going until you feel freedom. If the Friday Forum is able to do this – it would be naturally influencing University staff and students as well as the Public. It does not matter who gets the job done. When we love our family/university – we will do whatever we can to uphold its core values – of seeking and discovering Truth through Research and share that discovery through Teaching.
True academics would not rely on law and order but find Order in Nature by observing the outcomes that confirm their theories.

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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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