- Prof. Amaratunge has been one of those very few persons whom I have approached in confidence and have never been disappointed in receiving wiser counsel
- I would like to convey our gratitude to Prof. Amaratunge for the valuable contributions he has made for the upliftment and smooth running of the Open University of Sri Lanka.
It gives me a great pleasure in penning this felicitation message to my colleague and friend, Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunge at the request of his students and well-wishers from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.
Even though I had heard of Prof. Sampath Amaratunge sometime back, especially during his tenure as the President of the Federation of University Teachers Association, I got the opportunity to personally meet him and closely interact with him only since June 2015 when both of us served as the Vice-Chancellors of our respective Universities.
During these past five years, we have discussed among many things, issues related to University administration, Sri Lankan affairs, social issues, and of course personal matters. Prof Amaratunge is one person whom I found comfortable to converse freely with, without any inhibition, even on matters that we may not agree with.
When you are in a position such as Vice-Chancellor, the number of people available for you to confidentially share and receive advice and counsel on certain issues is rather restricted. Prof. Amaratunge has been one of those very few persons whom I have approached in confidence and have never been disappointed in receiving wiser counsel.
One of the things which impressed me about him is his positive outlook to the issues at hand. I have very rarely seen or heard him give any negative comments about the possibility of achieving an objective or doing a task in hand. I am sure this has enabled him to accomplish many things to the institutions and the stakeholders for whom he offered leadership. The dynamism and energy one can witness in Prof. Amaratunge as he carries out his normal duties are contagious; making others feel recharged and uplifted.
Prof. Amaratunge identifies certain guiding principles as core values that steer his actions in day to day affairs; one of which being listening to all and addressing to all instantaneously. During my interactions with Prof. Amaratunge, I have seen him practise this to the letter. Prof. Amaratunge is open for discussion with relevant stakeholders before final decisions are made; even regarding issues which individuals are reluctant to discuss with others. One such instance I like to mention is when the new Quality Assurance and Accreditation Act was proposed and the University Grants Commission wanted the observations of the Committee of the Vice-Chancellors and Directors (CVCD), Prof Amaratunge as the then Chairman of the CVCD organised an open discussion with all the stakeholders, including the trade unions, at the University of Colombo, before sending the comments of the CVCD to the UGC. I have seen him do this many times as the Chairman of the University Grants Commission, before decisions are made.
Another principle which I have seen him practise is, accepting and admiring an individual’s capabilities and making use of them for the betterment of the system. I have seen this happen time and again with many different people, during the past five years, as we crisscrossed the country visiting Universities during the numerous CVCD meetings we have attended together. Anybody who knows Prof. Amaratunge will be aware of his capacity and knack for building successful networks with people he comes across to harness the best potentials.
One of the other principles of Prof. Amaratunge as listed by him is to cast off prejudice and discrimination of all kinds. I can confidentially vouch that he practises this principle in many of his undertakings. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Universities were struggling to cope with the delivery of courses through online mode due to lack of infrastructure, and the students faced numerous issues due to lack of technology and other facilities to connect online. In response, Prof. Amaratunge introduced many initiatives to facilitate the development of infrastructure, especially emphasising in universities affected by the unfortunate incidents the country had to face in the past. His timely actions ensured that every student in the country had equal access to education regardless of his or her background, location or social status.
Personally, I am indebted to Prof Amaratunge for the numerous interventions he made on behalf of the Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL). Even though the OUSL is part of the University system, it is quite different to other universities, with many unique features which are most often not understood by the authorities outside the university. Many a times these authorities make policy decisions based on their perceived misconceptions, often disregarding the unique aspects of the OUSL, resulting in the University facing numerous problems and issues. However, ever since Prof. Amaratunge took over as the UGC Chairman, he has made special attempts to understand our system and support the University to the best of his abilities, so that the University could operate with minimum issues. I would like to make special mention of the steps he took to ensure that the funds required for the salaries of the permanent staff of the University are provided by the Treasury, including passing a resolution in the Commission. On behalf of the entire OUSL community, I would like to convey our gratitude to Prof. Amaratunge for the valuable contributions he has made for the upliftment and smooth running of the Open University of Sri Lanka.
I am sure his courageous and visionary decision to support the enrollment of 10,000 GCE (A/L) qualified students to the OUSL to follow the Bachelor of Software Engineering Degree programme will benefit the students, the IT industry, and the country for many years to come.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate him for his achievements thus far and wish him all the very best in his future endeavours. I am sure our friendship and partnership will continue to grow, and we will be able to provide our utmost services to our motherland and its citizens, very specially in the field of higher education.
I also would like to thank the students and well-wishers of Prof. Amaratunge from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, for organising this well-deserved felicitation and giving me this opportunity to share some of my thoughts about him.
Thank you very much and may God Bless you all!
(The writer is the Vice Chancellor OUSL; Chairman, CVCD – 2020)