A group of forty Sri Lankan academics and renowned figures from the spheres of science and arts has signed a letter of protest against the abrupt and arbitrary attempts to relieve Dr Nadeera Rupasinghe from her duties as director-general of the department of national archives.
Those voicing this strong protest include Prof. Savithri Gunasekara, Prof. Liyanage Amarakeerthi, Dr Shiran U. Deraniyagala (Rtd. Director General of Archaeology), Desamanya Vidyajothi Ashley de Vos, Sanjana Hattotuwa (Founding Editor, Groundviews.org), Dr Janaki Jayawardena (Dept. of History, University of Colombo), Harshana Rambukwella (Open University of Sri Lanka), Dr Gananath Obeysekara (Professor Emeritus, Princeton University), Dr Ranjani Obeysekara (Rtd. Professor, Princeton University), Nigel Nugawela (Archivist) and Dr Kavan Ranatunga (Research Scientist).
The letter is addressed to President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and M. K. Bandula Harischandra, the Secretary, Ministry of Buddhasasana, Cultural and Religious Affairs.
Dr Rupasinghe, a distinguished scholar specialising in the Dutch colonial period of Sri Lanka, was appointed as Director-General of the National Archives by Parliament in August 2017.
The attempts to remove her are attributed to the Ministry of Buddhasasana, Cultural and Religious Affairs.
Since her appointment, she has worked hard to modernise the National Archives to engage all communities in the country, not just as a representative national archival institution but also as a more robust cultural and academic institution.
The signatories say that her removal will have far-reaching consequences for ongoing work and may also irrevocably impact the department.
In their letter, the signatories say that her removal will have far-reaching consequences for ongoing work and may also irrevocably impact the department. They also point out it’s impossible to improve institutions if government officials remove competent professionals, and intervene – with very little technical knowledge – to suspend urgent and time-sensitive work, particularly with projects developed to preserve centuries-old records.
They further emphasise that Dr Rupasinghe has worked hard to conceptualise the modernising of the department’s main building including central air cooling, fire security and advanced security systems, to draft a legal deposit law replacing the existing law from 1885 and that she has plans to carry out the cleaning, repackaging and re-boxing of extensive archival collections into acid-free boxes, and to obtain approval for recruitment schemes that have not been approved for many years.