15 April, 2024


Men Of Little Brains Or Advising Academics

By Liyanage Amarakeerthi

Dr. Liyanage Amarakeerthi

Dr. Liyanage Amarakeerthi

Professor Sarath Wijesooriya at University of Colombo, a well-known figure in Sinhala literary circles, writing a long piece to Sinhala weekly Rawaya on November 30th touched on something extremely important in these times of election.  It is very rarely that an important Sinhala essay is commented upon in the English language press, and I want to bring that article to the attention of our English language readers. The article talks about “Niwatayan and thakkadiyan”. Niwataya is a coward. “Thakkadiya” is a word difficult to translate. It could mean something between “shrewd one” and “opportunist.” In some contexts it could mean “rogue.” It could also mean one who sells out his conscience for material gains.  Professor Wijesooriya tells us about a new brand of thakkadi and they are at universities. Another epithet he uses in describing these animals is “podi molakarayo” – ‘guys with little brains’. As the professor explains it, there is a peculiar situation at the contemporary Sri Lankan universities where these ‘guys with little brains’ have found themselves some lucrative jobs at various government institutions. This is how you get them: You go behind some politicians and pretend that you are one of most important scholars in your field and that you have some much wisdom to offer.  If it does not work right away you do some dirty work for the politicians and show them that you are almost the same as any thug working for the political bosses. Then, you get some permanent jobs and additional directorships with a hell of a lot perk. Before you know it, you have a car with unlimited fuel, fancy phones, an air-conditioned office and what not. With several directorships at state institutions such as banks bringing you several thousand rupees for just a single sitting you are well-set for a comfortable life, with some foreign tours with the Boss or bosses just for the fun of it.

As professor Wijesooriya maintains in his article there are several dozens of university academics making good money by doing the duty of “thakkadi.” Current regime has employed such thakkadiyas much more effectively than any other regimes before. So much so that, the professor explains, during the last FUTA trade union actions university union leaders found themselves negotiating with their own colleagues who had chosen to sit with rulers who have ruined the state funded education system during their rule. It was heard those days that it was those scholarly house-slaves that ran around to upset the trade union actions and to sling mud at their own colleagues. In politicizing the university system the current regime is the most anti-intellectual. For example, it appointed a man who ran for elections on the SLFP ticket as the vice chancellor at national university after the guy lost the election! Poor fellow was a university lecturer but his academic record was so much poorer with no worthwhile academic contribution to his field. Previous governments did appoint defeated politicos as heads of state institutions but when it came to universities they opted for recognized academics.

Professor Wijesooriya in his article calls these fellows ‘men with little wisdom’ – to put it another way, for a reason: Many of them have not made any significant contribution to their academic fields. People of this country have educated these fellows and paid them considerably high salaries hoping that they would commit their lives to seek knowledge. Their duty is to create and disseminate knowledge and put our country into a meaningful dialogue with the rest of the world. Many of these men of little wisdom are appointed as ‘advisors’ to politicians. But under their advice, many state run institutions have gained nothing. Under their advice corruption has increased and everyone knows it now. During the times of elections, these men of small brains are busy at sate television channels covering up the things that need to be covered parroting government propaganda. True call of the university teacher is critique. University teacher’s profession is critique and that requires maintaining a critical distance from all centers of power. A qualified university scholar can be called on to national duty if he or she has something to offer for national development. But these men with small brains are in fact doing party politics working for the ruling party. Often these fellows are given the task of writing up propagandist pamphlets for the ruling party or for the politician who is their master. According to Professor Wijesooriya the job these fellows is to wash the governmental dirty linen.

Some of these fellows have practically destroyed their own academic careers by becoming fake advisors. For example, some of these guys (there are some gals too) have not completed their PhDs and, therefore, they do not have any substantial knowledge or expertise based on quality research. Some of them cannot speak any international languages. Those facts alone signify that they are actually not hired for any consultancy work in the serious sense of the word. Only thing expected from them to have is a big mouth to repeat loudly what their masters say. As Professor Wijesooiya says, they have sold their conscience.

Apart from destroying their own careers these people have contributed to the destruction of the university system too, argues the professor. One can understand it if some outstanding university academic is called on to national duty for a short period of time contributing to form or to maintain national policies relevant to their field of expertise. But what has happened in the recent past is entirely different. For one thing, many these fellows do not have any expertise per se. Another is that they are not called for a short period of time. If one looks at any national university today one can see that several these ‘experts’ have been away from universities for about a decade! As professor Wijesooriya correctly argues universities cannot hire new academics in place of these ‘men of little wisdom’ because their names are still in the cadre list of the respective universities. National universities have to keep their positions secure while they are busy washing governmental linen.  I personally know several academic departments that have this problem: They cannot hire new people because their cadre quota is full. The FUTA must fight to restrict these ‘so called national duty’ time to a limited period.

Lives of these fake experts are so sad, that is the interesting part of Professor Sarath Wijesooriya’s article. He quotes from a dialogue between these two men of little brains: “We consciously got into this pit. Now were locked in a deadly trap. Now we have to do any dirty thing these guys [politicos] ask us to do. Now we have to any filthy thing to protect this[regime]…”  Conversation continues to reveal the very sad predicament of these little advisers.

By doing dirty work under a powerful minster these fake scholars can make some big bucks. Of course they are quick cash too. In ten years with the current regime some these fellows have become multi millionaires. Some of them have managed to be famous as “doctor so and so” even though they are still to begin their doctoral studies. As Prof. Wijesooriya beautifully explains in his essay, these fellows are a bunch of helpless fellows with sold out conscience.  He concludes by saying that if the current politicization of universities is allowed to continue these men of little wisdom will ruin our university system.

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Latest comments

  • 3

    Srilankans with a PhD think they are a special class although this dude reckon there are two , one with a small brain and the other .obviously must be a bigger one.

    Are they special because they have this PhD?..

    Our Diasporians will tell you there are sales reps in the West who have PhDs in Science .

    Please don’t think I am dissing these people.. My Elders tell me they are the nicest you can do business with.

    Because of their education and lateral thinking.

    • 1

      A Ph.D ( Doctor in Philosophy. ) only signifies that the person holding it has been trained to think beyond the known horizon, hypothesise on what may be beyond and have the skills to prove or disprove his hypothesis. Thoughts about the unknown beyond the known, becomes philosophy! As in all educational attainments, the quality of the Ph.D will depend on the quality of the individual and the quality of the university awarding it. What a person does with his Ph.D, will also impinge on its worth.

      This training should also enable the Ph.D holder to apply his skills to other areas of life that also interest him/her. There are more intelligent people, who have used this endowment to make a mark in other pursuits in life. There are also very brilliantly intelligent people who are languishing in ours streets, back woods, urban jungles and hospitals such as at Angoda.

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

      • 0

        Dr. R.N

        I do not understand the reason of your explanation. Our athal sumane is a thakadiya personified.

        This brings one of my favourite adages.

        advice to a donkey is useless except worthless shouting

  • 2

    Ex ; Gandasara – Thakkadiya
    Hakeem – Niwataya

  • 3

    The bane of SL dictatorship must be on the shoulders of the Sinhala
    inteligentsia. They speak out only now that the surroundings are more
    tempting?? MR does not need to think – a favorite SL banned joke:-

    ” President Mahinda Rajapakse walks into Bank of Ceylon to cash a cheque. As he approaches the cashier he says: Good Morning, madam, could you please cash this cheque for me? Cashier: It would be my pleasure,Sir. Could you please show me your ID? PRESIDENT: (utterly shocked) I did not bring my ID with me as I didn’t think there was any need. I am Mahinda Rajapakse, the President of Sri Lanka! Cashier: Yes Sir, I know who you are, but with all the regulations and monitoring of the banks because of impostors and forgers, etc., I must insist on seeing your ID. PRESIDENT: Just ask anyone here at the bank who I am and they will tell you. Everybody knows who I am! Cashier: I am sorry Mr. President, but these are the bank rules and I must follow them strictly. PRESIDENT: I am urging you, please, to cash this cheque. Shiranthi has gone to America and Namal has, by mistake, taken the keys of the safe with him. I need some extra spending money urgently. Cashier: look Mr. President, this is what we can do. Some months back, Sarath Fonseka came into the bank without ID. To prove he was the ex General, he showed his tummy scars. With those scar marks, we knew him to be ex General and cashed his cheque. On another occasion, Sanath Jayasuriya came in without his ID. To prove his identity, he just went out and hit sixes. With that we knew for certain that he was indeed Sanath himself, and we cashed his cheque. So, Mr. President, what can you do to prove that it is you, and only you, as the President of Sri Lanka? PRESIDENT stood there thinking, thinking and thinking, and finally said: Honestly, my mind is totally blank ….. there is nothing that comes to my mind… I can’t think of a single thing!!! Cashier: There you are! That is enough. Now I don’t have any doubt that you are our President Mahinda Rajapakse. In what denominations would you like the cash, Mr. President? “

    • 1

      Come on punchinilame aka [Edited out] is this the best you can do. Men Of Little Brains They are the ones likes of you shouting from the roof tops to convince how educated you are. Your track record in New Zealand dose not say much about you losing three jobs in with in a year. You can use many aliases as you like but message in every name is the same out poring of hate towards Sinhalese. Only if you have the guts you will front up and admit that you are a LTTE sympathizer. Funny that even your own hard working Tamil community in New Zealand treat you like a leper.

  • 1

    Put simply, our universities are a can of worms. There was a time, long ago, that the best of our students clamoured to get into a Sri Lankan university. Now, anybody who has the resources, or are willing to struggle to earn and learn, will head overseas for a far, far better university experience and a qualification that has worldwide recognition. When will they ever learn!

  • 0

    We are all a great group of commenters and insulters.

    The article being discussed did not mention names or specific instances, both of which would have helped the reader understand and develop an opinion about the situation.

    The author of the said article is also a coward. He wants to retain the ability to write but does not want to address the matter in detail lest he ruffle some feathers and lose his perks, whatever they may be. So, he is no better than the people he very anonymously tries to implicate with innuendo. Maybe its not them, but he who is taking advantage of the system.

    Therein lies the crux of all our problems.

    We all know the present set-up must change. How many of us want to give up anything we enjoy today, for the cause? I would venture to say none!

    In another country the Supreme Court would have struck down as unconstitutional most of the rackets run by the government of today.

    In 78 they made Medical Channeling a tax-free enterprise along with duty vehicles because the GMOA threatened to strike. Today every head of department, engineers and political hacks get duty free car permits they can sell in lieu of a pay raise. In an honest country the housemaids and laborers in the Middle East, Japan and Singapore would have been the first to qualify because they really contribute to our economy. NO! Not in the Miracle of Asia.

    Today, everyone have their hands in the till. Be it the govt doctor getting his salary and running between channel clinics during his work hours, the govt teacher giving tuition at home to his/her school students, to the cop who just waves you to a stop because he knows you will gladly give up a bribe just to get rid of him.

    How can we expect any one to give up all these benefits just because it is the best thing for the country????

  • 0

    This problem is not unique to Sri Lanka. Even here, some professors are dumb. But and unskilled in that particular field. Anyway they are working in that field, and the system anyway allows them to succeed. Here I have seen companies hire unqualified people. University professors teach in field that they don’t know anything about just or two courses they did when they were under graduates or post graduates.

    We can believe that is happening in Sri Lanka when most politicians are only grade six or eight passed or they never completed O/L exam. Because, the hiring systerm in Sri lanka is just by the politician and there is no system to challenge anything happening in the govt and no checks and balances.

    Even here private companies hiring unqualified people has a meaning as those people are paid low.

  • 0

    Let us name some of the so-called academics who “kade yanawa” for the govt.

    Dhamma Disanayaka
    Suranga Silva
    Ranjith Bandara
    Premakumara de Silva
    Kshanika Hirimburegama
    Kumara Hirimburegama
    Vijitha Nanayakkara
    Ranjith Premalal
    Sampath Amaratunge
    Athula Senarathna

    pl. add to this list

  • 0

    Let us name some of the so-called academics who “kade yanawa” for the govt. Dhamma Disanayaka Suranga Silva Ranjith Bandara Premakumara de Silva Kshanika Hirimburegama Kumara Hirimburegama Vijitha Nanayakkara Ranjith Premalal Sampath Amaratunge Athula Senarathna

    pl. add to this list

    Vasanthy Arasaratnam
    Kidnan Kobindarajah
    Subramaniam Mohanadas

  • 0

    Let us name some of the so-called academics who “kade yanawa” for the govt.

    from Colombo university

    W. Wimalarathana Thero
    G.I. Aponsu
    Soosaipillai Norbert
    Ajantha Hapuarachchi
    M. Dhammajothi Thero
    Sunil Chandrasiri

    some of these people were seen at a recent dinner hosted by Gota at Water’s Edge it seems.

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