Jaffna Varsity Vice Chancellor flees Sri Lanka with family

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have through terror tactics caused a prominent Tamil academic and Jaffna University Vice - Chancellor Dr. Ratnajeevan Hoole to flee Sri Lanka with his family members. Dr. Hoole’s decision to seek refuge in a foreign country was due to a consistent campaign of threats and intimidation by agents of the LTTE.

The LTTE began targetting him through front organizations and tiger - controlled student bodies after the academic was appointed as Jaffna University vice chancellor by President Mahinda Rajapakse. The LTTE wanted another person to be nominated as Jaffna V- C and not Dr. Hoole. The “other” person was a weak man who was willing to dance to the tiger tune.

Ratnajeevan though academically brilliant and a dynamic go - getter 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 In recent times Dr. Hoole has crossed swords with many prominent personalities in several Lankan universities, University Grants Commission, Professional associations and the protestant church. He was in his own way a cantankerous litigant in pursuance of what he deemed justice and fairplay.This type of honest, uprightness was 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 resentment was Ratnajeevan’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.

LTTE political commissar Suppiah Paramu Thamilselvan condemned Hoole publicly and told the media that they did not want him in Jaffna because he was against “Tamil nationalism”. Student organizations whipped up protests and hung Dr. Hoole’s effigy. They threatened him with assaut 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

Many Tamils felt that Dr. Hoole was the ideal candidate 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. Ratnajeevan who had been a Professor At Harvey Mudd College In California for many years returned to Sri Lanka to serve his Country , region and people. He also wanted his children to grow up in a Sri Lankan environment and milieu. The Jaffna VC post was eminently suitable for him to realise his vision and uplift the institution.

But the tigers and their minions would have none of it. Tamil National Alliance MP MK Eelaventhan who like Hoole is an Old Johnian accepted that Ratnajeevan was the best candidate but refused to acknowledge him as Vice - Chancellor. Incidently Hoole is the first Sri Lankan to get a double doctorate in engineering from the London University.

Despite the opposition Hoole remained quiet and tried to convince the LTTE of his bona fides in wanting to improve the Jaffna varsity during his tenure. Several intermediaries tried to influence Kilinochchi but the LTTE was adamany. The level of threats against Hoole and family members also increased. So grave was the situation that the Amnesty International organization issued a statement fearing for his safety.The statement released on April 12th stated as follows.

” A group believed to be a front organisation for the armed opposition group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has threatened to kill an academic who has links to an anti-LTTE group. Amnesty International believes his life is in grave danger.

People claiming to represent a group called the People’s Uprising Force (Makkal Eluchip Padai) telephoned Professor Ratnajeevan Hoole’s home, in the town of Peradeniya, several times on 11 March, warning that if he stepped onto the campus of Jaffna University, where he had just been appointed Vice Chancellor (VC), he would return home “headless in a box”. The following day the leader of the Jaffna University Students’ Union (Yaal Palkalaikalaha Maanavar Ondriyam) has threatened to assault him if he steps onto the campus.

In February a group from the Students’ Union sent a letter to the President of the University Council, which was also published in Tamil newspapers the same day, demanding that “only someone loyal to the Tamil people should be appointed to the post of VC” and that “one against the Tamil race ought not to be appointed”. Soon after Professor Hoole’s appointment posters appeared on the university campus, alleging that he was anti-Hindu (he is a Christian), which would imply that he is also anti-Tamil.

On 12 March a website said to be operated by the LTTE, nitharsanam.com, posted a photo of Professor Hoole captioned “Who is this fool” together with an article entitled “Army Spy Appointed VC”. The article referred to Professor Hoole’s alleged involvement in the 1990 publication of a book called The Broken Palmyra which was highly critical of the LTTE’s suppression of alternative voices within the Tamil community. The article alleged that a shipment of the book, printed in the USA, had been found to contain weapons intended for a group critical of the LTTE, which the publishers categorically deny.

On 18 March the website published a second article entitled “Who is this fool Part 2″, which among other things accused Professor Hoole of being connected to the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) (UTHR-J), one of few civil society groups documenting abuses by the LTTE. Professor Hoole’s brother, Rajan Hoole, is a leading UTHR-J activist, but the professor himself has never been involved in writing the organisation’s reports.

On 22 March Professor Hoole’s daughter Anbini received an anonymous call with a threat to “kill her younger brother and chop him into pieces” if their father were to take up the Vice Chancellor post at the university. The family received further threatening calls from the People’s Uprising Force.

In a letter dated 21 March 2006 Professor Hoole raised his concerns about threats against him and his family with the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), a body comprising five Nordic countries established to monitor the ceasefire.

Professor Hoole has since received messages through MPs of the LTTE-affiliated Tamil National Alliance, and others claiming to be from the LTTE, that he must resign from the post of Vice Chancellor. ”

Ratnajeevan being a determined character was inclined to stay put without buckling under LTTE pressure. Though he could not go to Jaffna he tried through other university officials to get things going in Thirunelvely. But the University staff though willing to cooperate were terrorised into staying put. Finally Hoole realised that he was never going to be allowed to ddo work in Jaffna. More importantly he and his family members were going to be at perpetual risk from the LTTE. It was this concern for the safety of his wife (herself an academic) and children that made Ratnajeevan to throw in the towel.

He left Sri Lanka quietly on April 20th with his family to an undisclosed destination. The Amnesty International on April 25th issued another statement announcing Dr. Hoole’s departure. It read as follows

” Professor Ratnajeevan Hoole and his family left Sri Lanka on 20 April and are now safe in another country. He thanked Amnesty International members for sending appeals on their behalf. The day after he left Sri Lanka, Professor Hoole received an email entitled “Warning ” from a man called Ratnarajah Thivakaran, whom he does not know, saying “we are making arrangements to kill you, if you interest in your spirit, try to leave the country as early as possible”

The AI has called off the concern for safety campaign for Ratnajeevan Hoole and asked people to stop sending letters to the LTTE urging safety of Hoole and his family.
Thus ended Ratnajeevans valiant attempt to serve his Country, region and people. The tigers have notched up another hollow victory. One more black mark to its long list of dictatorial assaults on democracy and human rights. The LTTE has also demonstrated that its followers could raise the religious cry whenever it suited them.

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. [transCurrents.com]

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