14 July, 2020

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Senior Prof. Sudantha Liyanage: USJ’s Mission Is To Usher A Tech Era To Sri Lanka

By W. A Wijewardena

Dr. W.A Wijewardena

The prophesy of J.R. Jayewardene

President J.R. Jayewardene, performing the Chancellor’s function, in 1984, of presiding over the Silver Jubilee Convocation of the rebranded Vidyodaya University as the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, prognosticated that Sri Lanka could win the 21st century if and only if the country could go for science and new technologies.

He wanted the local universities to reorient their programs to deliver this to the nation. One of the examples he cited was that the Mahaweli Project which was being accelerated to be completed in six years at that time could produce more rice but unless the farmers were introduced to new technologies, they would remain poor forever. He therefore urged universities to introduce courses in new technologies such as those in bio-technology.

Professor Sudantha Liyanage

A wish becoming a reality after three decades

This remained only a wish of a head of state nearly for three decades until it was converted to fruition by a team of academics who worked for it painstakingly after taking over the responsibility for managing the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, commonly known as USJ. That team included Dr. N.L.D. Karunaratne, Vice Chancellor, Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunga who succeeded him as Vice Chancellor and Senior Professor Sudantha Liyanage who wears two hats now, those of Acting Vice Chancellor and Dean of Faculty of Technology. The new Faculty of Technology was established some three years ago, but its new state of the art building was declared open only recently at the Techno-city in Pitipana, Homagama.

 

Leap-frogging from 2IR to 4IR

USJ has embarked on this enterprise at a time when Sri Lanka is critically in need of getting into new technologies. The world is now moving into the Fourth Industrial Revolution or 4IR in which the production processes would be turned upside down with cutting-edge technologies. The technologies that form the main part of 4IR are artificial intelligence or AI, robotisation, use of advancements in internet such as Internet of Things, nanotechnology, gene coding and editing and algorithmic inventions such as the Blockchain, to mention but a few.

As I have argued in a previous article in this series, Sri Lanka is still in the Second Industrial Revolution or 2IR in which production is done basically by using mechanical and electric operations. Hence, it needs to ‘leap-frog’ the Third Industrial Revolution or 3IR to 4IR straightaway.

Avoiding the middle-income country trap

Sri Lanka has just crossed the threshold of an upper middle-income country and should avoid the biggest problem which such countries face. That is being snared in what is known as the middle-income country trap, an ailment that has prevented them from becoming high income countries due to lack of technology to compete with the developed Western world. The secret behind beating the middle-income country trap, therefore, lies in their ability to acquire and use high technology in production, marketing and distribution. Since Sri Lanka’s present capacity to develop its own technology is low, initially, it will have to acquire technology developed in other countries.

This was the strategy adopted by successful beaters of the trap such as South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong in their initial phases of industrialisation. But later, they went for developing their own technologies by aligning universities and research institutes to industry and thereby developing a strong research, development and enterprising culture within the respective economic systems. Sri Lanka has no choice but to go through these phases not one after the other but simultaneously.

To attain this goal, several universities in the forefront, namely, USJ, Colombo and Moratuwa, have been afforded with a seat in the Techno-city at Pitipana. Now, the government has to encourage leading industrial ventures in the country to move their research arms to Pitipana so that they could work in collaboration with the three Faculties of Technology to be established there.

The effects of COVID-19 

In order to learn of USJ’s future plans in this respect, I met Senior Professor Sudantha Liyanage, the Acting Vice Chancellor, at his office in the University.

The signs of the prolonged lockdown of the country due to COVID-19 pandemic were visible everywhere in the Campus.

The university buzzing with student activities on a normal day looked deserted except for its canine population wandering freely on the Campus. Showing that the university has not lost its core-value of extending humaneness to all beings even in a pandemic like this as practised throughout by its forefathers, some staff members were seen feeding them with foods possibly brought from homes. Health checks were done at the entrance and staff working inside the offices had been wearing face masks.

Sudantha welcomed me with his usual cordial smile.

Senior Professor Sudantha Liyanage: A distinguished academic 

To begin the conversation, I asked him about his background. The humble man inside him did not want to talk much about it but after persuasion, he opened himself up briefly. “I was a product of USJ,” he said about his undergraduate studies. “I passed out from the University after specialising in Chemistry in 1991. I did my doctorate at the Cardiff University in Wales in the United Kingdom.” He has specialised in Inorganic Chemistry, Inorganic Synthesis, Rubber Chemistry and Water Quality and served in a number of reputed overseas universities as a post-doctoral scholar.

He became Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science of USJ in 2010 and held this position till March 2019 before moving to the new Faculty of Technology as its Dean. Technically, he continues as the Dean of this Faculty, though he serves the University in a higher position now as its Acting Vice Chancellor. Hence, the responsibility for developing USJ’s technology base has now devolved on him.

Story of technology coming to USJ

How did technology come to USJ? I asked Sudantha. “That’s a long story,” he began his narration. “It’s the story of many people working within the university as a team as well as three governments continuing with the same policy. The idea of setting up of a Faculty of Technology at USJ was mooted by the then Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Bandula Gunawardena, in 2013. The government provided a fund allocation for this purpose in the same year. But this policy was continued unchanged even after there was a change in the government in 2015.”

“We earlier had the idea of setting up this faculty close to USJ’s main campus. But Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka of the new government allocated 20 acres to USJ from the proposed Techno-city in Pitipana and coaxed us to go there. Similar land allocations were made to Colombo and Moratuwa too. The objective was for these universities to have close liaison and collaboration with industry which too had planned to set up tech incubators there.

The building complex was put up in this site and it was declared open by the new government” This was indeed a rare occasion of governments of different hues following a consistent policy relating to higher education. It shows the importance assigned to technology in the policy objectives of the governments in power.

Need for close collaboration between universities and industry

For economic growth to sustain, universities which come up with new things – called inventions – should team with industry which converts such inventions into commercially viable products. This latter part was named ‘innovation’ by the Austrian-American economist Joseph Schumpeter. Therefore, inventions and innovations should go hand in hand if inventions are to serve a nation.

What this means is that universities and research institutions should necessarily build a link with industry as it has happened in the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre or AMRC set up around the University of Sheffield in the UK. In this facility more than 110 industrial members have got linked with the researchers of the University of Sheffield to innovate inventions created by the latter. The new Faculty of Technology of USJ, and also those of Colombo and Moratuwa, should necessarily follow this model.

Trust-building with industry

I asked Sudantha how he plans to link the Faculty with industry. His answer was straightforward. “We’re planning to do it at two levels, namely, at undergraduate and research levels. One of the problems which Sri Lankan graduates face today is that they’re not accepted by private industry. The reason for it is that industry has lost trust in graduates. Therefore, we must first undertake a trust building exercise. But this cannot be done overnight and it should evolve over a period of time.”

“Industry should begin to trust graduates and graduates should have confidence to work in private industry. The university is now creating a bridge for both parties to cross each other’s path. We started it first with our Faculty of Applied Science. There, it is compulsory for students to serve an internship with recognised private firms. This had been the case with the Faculty of Management Studies and Commerce too for a long time. We’ve extended it to Faculty of Technology and are presently exploring the possibility of assigning our students in the Arts Stream too to private and state sector organisations for internships.”

“Our experience is that when students begin to work in a private company, the management realises that their long-held opinion about them is ill-conceived. The lost trust is then gradually regained. Students too get an opportunity to work with confidence in private businesses. It changes the mindset of students who are normally anti-business. In the case of the Faculty of Technology, the period of internship is a little longer one covering both the third and fourth years. Once these students pass out from the university, they’re fully immersed in the private sector work cultures and in a position to make the best contribution to the national economy.”

Learning by doing is the best

This ‘learning by doing’ philosophy of Sudantha is a long-held view by educationists throughout history. The 6th century BCE Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu is said to have pronounced that ‘If you hear something you will forget it; If you see something, you will remember it; If you do something, you will learn it’.

The 3rd century BCE Indian Guru Kautilya in his treatise on economics – The Arthashastra – rated good learners by their ability to use learning for solving practical problems.

According to the London University’s educationist Alison Wolf, only the education that is linked to practical training that matters for economic growth. Hence, the current plan of USJ to produce practically trained graduates to meet the requirements of industry is a policy taken in the correct direction.

Linking Technology Faculty to industry

What about linking the new Faculty of Technology to industry for bringing out inventions? I asked Sudantha. This is important because industrial firms should be continuously fed with inventions that could be innovated by them by commercially producing such inventions.

“We’ve a plan for it,” he said. “First of all, we must find out what industry wants and for that purpose, we’ll conduct a comprehensive survey of industry. Then, we should develop internal capacity to turn out products which industry wants. For that, we’ve decided to recruit only those who have a doctorate to our staff in the Faculty of Technology.”

“In that way, we’re planning to create a critical pool of researchers among our academic staff who are capable of delivering what the industry needs. When I was the Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science, we recruited to the Faculty mostly those who are with a doctorate. This is now being applied to Technology Faculty fully. Our intention is to make our presence known to industry, earn its trust and then work together to attain a common goal. That is to contribute to national development by being an important partner of the new tech era in the country.”

Target: Go for those with a doctorate

I asked him whether it is possible for him to find suitable researchers with a doctorate for recruitment to the Faculty. His view was that it is challenging but not impossible.

“There’s no choice,” he further elaborated on it. “In the current context, we’ve to deliver what is expected of us as quickly as possible. We can’t sit on it for years. The nation is impatient and prolonging the delivery of our products is extremely costly to us as well as to the economy. Hence, in the Faculty of Technology, we can’t follow the old model of recruiting fresh graduates and then sending them abroad for higher studies which is costly in terms both time and money.”

“In addition, there’s a tendency now that those who leave the country for doctorates do not return. We can’t take that risk either. There are a large number of such researchers working in other places. Since university remunerations are relatively better today, we can easily lure them to the university if we develop a better working environment. This’s exactly what we’ve done. Presently, we’ve 41 researchers with a doctorate at the Faculty of Technology. We’ll gradually increase this number thereby creating a critical pool of researchers in the Faculty.” His words exuded the innermost confidence he was having.

Collaboration 

USJ is uniquely placed to lead the country in its new journey to be a technology-based economy. It has been able to inculcate a research friendly culture in its core researchers. It has, in preparation for its new role, established a Research Council overlooking research work at the university and under the Council, nine new research centres. Some research centres have established research collaboration arrangements with world famous universities like Oxford, Duke, North Carolina, National University of Singapore and Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University.

The university says that it has got funding; it is willing to build further collaborations with universities of repute in other countries. The National University of Singapore adopted this policy right from the beginning. As a result, that university which had no place at all among world-class universities in 1970s has now moved to the top to be among the Ivy League Universities in the world. USJ too can follow this example. This is the way a proactive university should support the Government’s initiative to convert Sri Lanka into an innovation-based economy and become a high-income country within a generation.

Senior Professor Sudantha Liyanage who is charged with this responsibility is confident about USJ’s ability to attain success.

*The writer, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, can be reached at waw1949@gmail.com

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Latest comments

  • 2
    0

    In these uncertain times, this article brings hope. While pushing for research, we also need scholars who are able to read and write English well, and access to the best academic journals online.

  • 0
    1

    Then why Professor Sudantha Liyanage is only an acting VC? How can a acting person will wholeheartedly get involved in long term plans?

    • 0
      0

      Dear Mallai@

      Vit B makes it possible.
      :
      And dont you know that this is SRILANKA under JUNTA leaders ?

      Time has come to put MaRa in a SWING to the manner HINDIANs go on with their spiritual leaders right ?

      I would PUT MARA in a SWING to the manner HINDIANS do it but ” making him naked” so that entire world can observe it…… Artists over to you.. do the job for us please.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXZQomvJn4Q
      .
      What else is left Mallaiyuran ?

      In a country, where almost over 50% of the GRASS EATERS would react totally ignorant/illiterate/buffaloes-like – how can you ever dream of a better future ?????????????????????????????????

  • 3
    0

    The idea of faculties of technology is good, if we have a clear idea of the kind of technology graduate we will be producing. The graduates should not be below par engineers, agriculturists etc.
    Also, there are too many keyboard PhDs in faculties such as engineering. (I do not blame the PhDs, but that is what is mostly on offer.)
    Faculties of technology should nurture staff with greater practical orientation (desirably, hands on), and a multi-disciplinary approach .
    School programmes for technology are weak for lack of suitably trained personnel and resources. The university will have to offset that handicap as well.

    • 0
      1

      SJ:
      Please can you be specific about what you mean by keyboard PhDs ?

      • 2
        1

        SAV
        Sorry about the academic coinage.
        It refers to people who do virtually no laboratory or other practical work for their research, and whose theses rely solely on software. As a result their relationship with practice is poor.
        Keyboard refers to the computer keyboard.

        • 0
          0

          SJ,

          By your definition, a large percentage of the Ph.D.’s in America won’t meet your approval. But they have been very productive in the private sector while those who did experimental work of the kind you describe may not bring the same value.

          It all depends on finding a match to local industry needs, service sector’s dominance over manufacturing, etc. People at the VP level from the industry are part of the advisory boards at U.S. universities and help determine how to revise their academic offerings.

          • 2
            0

            Agnos
            The term (not my creation) was coined in the context of the inappropriateness of many post-1980s PhDs for Sri Lankan universities.
            They came from not just the US. There are many from Japan.
            Engineering had a minority of PhDs up to mid 1960s. There was a good mix of professionally experienced academics and PhDs (several of whom had work experience besides laboratory based research) in the 70s. That is something that we badly miss.
            How a software based PhD fits into the system in the US cannot be simulated here. Not many build on their PhD work to suit the local context. (Dean/Eng, Jaffna is one who had done well.)
            We still need to produce multi-talented engineers here. We cannot afford over-specialization until we industrialize adequately.
            I have said a little more in my response to SAV.

            • 1
              0

              SJ types

              “There was a good mix of professionally experienced academics and PhDs (several of whom had work experience besides laboratory based research) in the 70s. That is something that we badly miss.”

              Thanks to Pandaranayakam and his weeping widow, thanks to Sinhala/only, thanks to Constitution of Sri Lanka/Chapter II, thanks to majoritarian rule, thanks to closed economy, …. thanks to inward looking Viva! Socialism, …..

        • 0
          0

          SJ: So to if someone were to do a PhD in the stability of power systems, with computer simulations to do load flow calculations and transient currents, would we consider them as keyboard types because they lack the practical experience of climbing up lamp posts to change bulbs?

          • 2
            0

            A person without even stepping into a power plant or power distribution facility doing PhD research will only be performing an academic exercise. A mathematics graduate may be able to do the same research.
            Don’t be surprised if some of them cannot change a light bulb at home.
            *
            The complaint was mainly in the context of PhDs without the relevant practical exposure who cannot relate what they teach to engineering practice in our context.
            That is how we get ‘bright ideas’ like teaching all engineering laboratory by computer simulation.

            • 2
              0

              //is how we get ‘bright ideas’ like teaching all engineering laboratory by computer simulation.//
              I don’t know whose bright idea you are referring to (care to elaborate?), but there is space for both in engineering education– some things are best done in simulation (e.g. how an adaptive noise cancelling system works) and some best in a physical laboratory setting (testing a wiring system for faults). Preferring one to block progress in the other is not helpful.

              • 0
                0

                SAV
                The idea was expressed and that is what matters.
                It is not my wish to block anything that is educationally most feasible.
                Software based PhDs were partly the result of economising in universities in the West as research funding by the state shrank. Research contracts generally decided research content. Thus, Third World graduates had little choice even in their research topics.
                The drift of our graduates from universities in the UK to the US and later Japan, was driven by funding. One cannot blame them for the content of the PhD, as our universities lacked resources to get done the exact research they desire.
                *
                PhDs who would fit well into the system in the West lack in important ways here as university teachers.
                A corrective step would have been to place them in the relevant industry.
                It did not work out somehow.
                You may know how promotion schemes have led to much academic corruption, and that efforts to rectify the flaws have recently been blocked by interested parties.

                • 0
                  0

                  SJ:
                  //The idea was expressed and that is what matters.//
                  Not really. There is a big difference between a formal proposal made to the system and a random comment at the local barber shop.

                  • 0
                    0

                    I cut my own hair.

                    • 1
                      0

                      SJ types

                      “I cut my own hair.”

                      Self sufficiency!!
                      Denying workers their right to livelihood!!

                      I suggest workers of the world unite against this person who is reluctant to share his wealth and income among the people, a form of exploitation, … leading to capital accumulation and further exploitation, creating imbalances between the working class and ……

                  • 0
                    0

                    SAV
                    I appreciate your difficulty in even imagining that a person with above average intelligence and a postgraduate qualification would make such a proposition seriously.
                    I will therefore not seek further to persuade you that such a proposition was made at all.
                    *
                    I should confess that I do on occasion visit the hairdresser. But gossip in saloons has lost out to the TV, like family conversation in many homes.

            • 2
              0

              SJ,
              .
              very right Mr SJ. Exactly the truth, I agree with you more.-

              I got to know so called senior lecturers arrived to Central Germany for their further studies. These are about some graduates from local universities.

              The manner they behaved themselves in the winter period was similar to that of men reacted in the film ” KOOMBA SANNIYA”. Kolomba sanniya was a good film in my memories.

              https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLRC91B5CXTXputBZ3Qo3jXZ9E0bWP6yuz

              Even if some of them were graduates in physical science, they did not care the least about indoor heating systems and how it work going by their SCHOOL physics. The manner their little ones (2-6 years old) were dressed as if they cant feel compfortable anymore ( looked similar to patients that needed full body be plastered). All these precautions were made to keep them warmer. However these graduates were not aware of the facts, that not only through our nose, even your skin is part of the breath process. You need to wear winter cloths, but there you would not need to do it to the manner, patients are bandaged. Consequence was that the little ones were caught by a wave of flu. Even if the doctors advised them, they did not take them serious, but went on the manner they are used to.

      • 2
        1

        Singar A. Velan

        “Please can you be specific about what you mean by keyboard PhDs ?”

        Wijedasa Rajapaksa, Channa Jayasumana, Dr Mervyn Silva PhD, Namal Rajapaksa (about to complete one in 2015), ………………. Tom, Dick and Harry who have ……

        • 2
          0

          Native Vedda,
          .
          Wijedasa Rajapakshe – is one of the best examples to easily prove even if he or the like men earned doctoral titles but in the same time does not cotton on the basics need of lanken society. He as the minister of justice in GG govt only protected Rajapakshes being charged for high crimes they deliberately committed. Going back to srilanken history, this we never experienced from a PhD then. Those days academics kept records setting examples to the society. This is public secret, for some reasons, lanken media seems to have some problems improving the awareness of the general public on the topic.
          .
          Jaya Sumana@ – became a professor for a srilanken institute though lack of enough post doctoral research (anyone can study his post doctoral research) Most of the kind of professors rather belong to the category of ” post docs” in the developed world. I happened to study this regarding Jayasumana since his PhD focused on few research papers aimed at ” unknown renal diseases of farming communities exposed to overdose of herbicide – Glyphosat”. This particular herbicide is highly demand and an eco product of american agro/genetic engineering company-Monsanto. Howver, where water pollutions are the case, drinking water become contaminated with any kind of agro chemicals and heavy metals. Latter is the case with srilanken Rajarata and Nikaragua farming communities.

          • 0
            0

            leelagemalli

            Thanks

      • 0
        1

        SAV,
        “what you mean by keyboard PhDs”
        A Doctorate in keyboard repair?

        • 0
          1

          Good guess, OC!

        • 1
          0

          The quality of PhDs in some part of India is beyond all low levels.

          So what more talks about our men coming from a SMALLER country is not bigger to the ” Bavaria” province of Germany.
          :
          Gone are the days even if Basic degree holders from local Unis possessed a wealth of knowledge. I go to know Nigerians, how proudly they spoke about SRILANKEN Teachers that then worked in their schools (Science, Maths, English and other subjects).

    • 0
      0

      SJ,
      .
      Srilanken Unis are not closely connected with private sector companies as is the case in Korea, Japan and Germany (and other european countries). I think that way, our academics and their expertises in various fields are being caught by stagnations.
      .
      So how can those Uni dons share their expertise with the industry community so that the country/nation could profit it ?
      .
      What do you make of this ?

      • 1
        0

        LM
        Not many companies ask for research and consultation from the universities.
        The Institution of Engineers maintains some sort of Consultants Directory. Universities have their Consultancy Services divisions.
        But Industry has not much R&D worth mention.
        In fairness, several academics provide services as needed. But earnings are on pocket money scale.
        There are joint projects (a few long term) with a handful of companies.
        The private sector as a whole lacks long-term vision; but that goes hand in hand with state policy and planning.
        In fairness, the private sector does help with industrial training of undergraduates.
        *
        We lost much of the initiative of the engineering firms in the country following the economic policy change of 1978.
        Also we should remember that teaching load is fairly big in some faculties and departments. My own view is that teaching and training of students should be emphasized in our context. We needs to retain our best products. (Do governments have plans?)
        The government could coordinate industrial R&D.
        Research of direct relevance to national needs should also be encouraged.
        Sadly, the university system has excess emphasis on publications with unfortunate consequences.
        *
        ps. I was pleased to hear that Peradeniya came within the top 500 in the recent Times Higher Educational Supplement survey. That is a pretty remarkable step forward.

        • 0
          0

          SJ@
          .
          No wonder why nothing seems to work there down. I have no doubt, that they went for so called gigantic projects in Hambantota -native place of SRILANKA’s MODI, without proper feasiblity studies. Outcome is known to you -even if 8 or more years passed since they introduced them to investors.
          :
          See all of them ended up in vain. Now with 8 years passed since they opened for investments, not even 1 lack of income brought to the country.
          :
          So is the case with all other numerouss wasting projects such as SURIYAWEWA stadium, Nelumkuluna or any other bungalows that they wasted funds of the poor man to the very same manner tribal leaders in TOGO and Burkino Faso built churches wasting billions while forgetting their destitute people continue with their struggle of survival.
          file:///C:/Users/Asus/AppData/Local/Temp/SSRN-id3076117.pdf

  • 2
    0

    I believe Dr. W has failed to ask a very pertinent question from Prof. Liyanage, viz, does he believe in Astrology? I think the dichotomy between qualifications and performance in Sri Lankan technologists stems from the fact that their scientific education clashes with the weight of superstition that is fed into them at school. I have yet to see one SL scientist come out publicly against unscientific practices being promoted even by the state at times. They instead prefer to go with the flow. There is a professor of Physics at Colombo Uni who also researches ESP and meditation.
    Then of course there is the inimitable Nalin Dr Silva, who gets his science from Maths Deviyo.
    Scientific progress can only come with total independence of thinking.

    • 2
      0

      Sorry, Natha Deviyo.

      • 3
        0

        Old@
        :
        I have listend to Nalinda De Silva aka Natha Deviyo s public speeches several times, because one of my friends asked to me to read his articles based on srilanken history. This was at the time, SLRC telecasted a weekly program by name ” Yatharuupa”. This was the best ever programs I ever happened to watch in SL TV.
        There I very well understood Nalin De Silva or the like senior academics should have gone through a set of untold stories during their PhD research work which he for example compelted at Sussex/UK. PhDs in UK would not take longer than 3-5 years while it is not always the case in the US, Germany, France and several other EU countries.
        At the time, unknown renal failures (chronic unknown kidney disease) killed an unprecidented number of young farmers in SL and like minded countries in middle america/asia and africa -, Nalin De Silva to guess at an ” arsenic god and divine forces” to be the reasoning behind the etiology – should NOT come from a PhD who is said to have written whole lot of research papers based on his mathematical models/quantom physics. But it is common in srilanka such men being held WEERAYAS of the commoners.

      • 1
        0

        Old@
        I am not surprised about the mind set.. Yesterday i happened to call my cousin in the UK to see how they are doing. They has late sepatagenarians feel that they are now really old. But as many would see it, he started telling me, we in UK dont care about masks. …. we dont wear them at all. See how their mentality works ? In Germany it is not allowed to enter any super markets without masks. That is why as a grand nation, their number of recovering and deaths are relatively low compared to other grand nations in Europe.
        UK numbers are beyond estimable levels. I know the statistics well about them. And already 43,995 are dead in UK (population – 60 mio). Only 9000 reported in Germany (population 83 mio).

    • 2
      0

      OC
      You are being a little unfair by many scientists.
      There is a rationalist society still very active.
      The fear psychosis of 1987-89 in the South had much to do with the resurgence of superstition, witchcraft and astrology.
      Nalin de Silva is atheist, originally in the Marxist tradition and now in the Buddhist tradition.
      I fully endorse your punchline.

      • 3
        0

        SJ,
        I think our scientists are much too quiet in the face of the torrents of obscurantist from the media.
        Nalaka Gunawardana is one rationalist who is doing his job, but there are very few others.
        I forgot to inquire whether the new USJ facilities were opened at an auspicious time.

        • 4
          0

          OC
          You seem to place too much faith in the academic community. It is as corrupt as the society that produced it.
          There was a brief spell when intellectuals were driven by public interest and ideals.
          *
          Can we declare open a toilet without chanting pirith at the auspicious time?

          • 2
            0

            SJ,
            .
            that they called ” their culture”.
            :
            Opening a toilet without chanting pirith is almost like even contract killers wearing a thick band of pirith noole around their wrists.
            :
            One european national questioned me why srilankens go after ” pirithnoole ” today more than it had been before ?
            .
            I ANSWERED; THE LEADER WEAR IT ALSO AROUND THEIR “penises”, SO THE PEOPLE just emulate. That is how the average mind set is being made in that part of the world. Indians keep their ” SPIRITUAL leaders” yet today on a HIGHER place also when listening to the MUSIC events publicly
            -.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXZQomvJn4Q

            It is just because this SPIRITUAL man and what he has to say control the society. People s vulnerability allow it in INdia as no countries in the world.

      • 2
        0

        SJ /OC@
        .
        Indian professor -Kovur has then made it clear then whoever whatever being said and done, educated or uneducated would not focus on the facts and figures, but their superstitious beliefs. That is why almost over 90% srilankens go after supertious beliefs.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._T._Kovoor-

        That is why leaving all aside, srilanken buddhists/hindu/catholic and even islam adherents yet today line up to go after Natha/Gurukam Deviyas and all other unknown gods and they cant be without them in their day today life yet today.

        Just look at the Mahinda Rajapakhe the manner his keep on wearing a WRIST BANDs filled with balls- and this guy is the best example – mirror image of the society today.

        Best examples will give you by Nalin De Silva and his Nathadewiyo and Arsenitc theories interms of the etiology of the Rajarata unknown kidney disease.

        World literiture (Europe) prove the same stories specially from Greek mythology. Gallilio s fate is one of the good examples.
        :
        To my surprise, for some reasons, those astrologists and witch doctors stayed more or less stand still – regarding COVID 19 crisis – consequence is health officials were able to focuse on the containment of the spread of viral infection, relatively better.

    • 2
      1

      Elderly codger

      You have clearly not seen the Yathaaroopa programme that was broadcast on Rupavahini some years ago. I too was amazed (pleasantly) to see a programme like this broadcast on national television, albeit late at night. Please go to Youtube and type in Yatharoopa and watch from the first episode onwards, as a few learned men of Science (specifically a prominent medical doctor and also Prof Kavan Ratnatunga an astronomer -not astrologer- who used to teach at Carnegie Mellon) week after week scientifically expose and destroy well known astrologers and conmen in Sri Lanka on live television – in front of these same astrologers who come to the studio and fail to prove any such ability on air.
      So it is not correct to say that nobody of academic standing in Sri Lanka has denounced astrology, although I cannot recall anyone currently from a prominent university taking part but it was some years ago. Enjoy.

      • 2
        0

        W.B,
        Nalaka Gunawardana is one of the prime movers on “Yatharoopa”.
        That is why I mentioned him. I don’t think the present regime would allow anything like that to be broadcast.
        This sort of show should be broadcast at prime time, and the targets should include fake Vedas , kattadiyas and light readers, as Dr. Kovoor used to.
        But as you say, nobody currently in a high scientific position wants to be seen in such a production.

        • 3
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          Old@

          could you tell us as to why that YATHAROOPA seiries were blocked by SLRC ?

          That was one of best ever programs i happened to watch in SL TV.

          • 3
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            Leela,
            Whatever may be said about the Yahapalanaya period, there was no political pressure on the media. Even State media like Rupavahini were much freer. But I think the present regime wouldn’t allow a program like Yatharoopa because it would hurt their political allies.

            • 1
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              I think people in general would not respect facts and figures of anything. To my undrestanding as one living out of the country, people down there are difficult to relinquish their myths for soem reasons. :

              Yatharoopa did so much of good improving the awareness of the average drastically. However, there had been hidden forces (astrologists/other witchery men and women -who are the blue flies being found on the garbage dumps) that stood vehemently against the kind of programs.
              I think 5-10% of europeans go after supertition while the numbers in our hell would make up over 95% of the people. Numbers in the US are little bit more than that of in EU countries. Anyways, where there are majority of people that go after superstitous beliefs, there it s not easy to expect much.
              Just imagine the way Nalinda de Silva et al go after ” Natha dewiyo – irrespetive of his achievements in research based on quantom physics). His speeches are for lingemba minset of the country. My anger is he is bitter to western medicine but paradoxially let him be treated by heart surgeons… ?

            • 1
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              OC@

              The very same people – that enjoyed whole lot of press freedom under SIRISENA-RANIL, stay mum today as if they are no different to nodding head cows. This is why I believe, PEOPLE are to be blamed … they whole lot of people are indifferent, until their lovely ones would have been hurt… that is it.. buddhagama believers (incl. my relatives back in home country) are just followers similar to average rural indians that would worship rats, monkeys and any manuments of unknown gods asking some help.. no matter their times would be wasted in that way.
              .
              Is this not because people themselves are not courageous enough to fight for their own freedoms ? Why do they let a brutal family to ruin this nation ?

              Media in general dont seem to transport the message to the general public. They just enjoy their selfish gains, no matter, any facbricated stories of Rajaakshes become public perception.
              :
              Would that at all be possible, if former GG stayed in power, Karuna Amman s statement be treated with total ignorance as is the case under current regime ?
              .

            • 0
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              OC
              True.
              It was even better during the brief period of UNP-led rule early this century.
              There was room for a variety of political views both on state radio and TV– pretty commendable considering that the UNP had by then lost much of its clout in the private sector media.

  • 5
    0

    Dear Dr. Wijewardena,
    I am totally aghasted by your article, since:
    1. I am not sure if you understand the techno-education system in Sri Lanka
    2. You are singularly oriented due to your lack of exposure the academics and the dynamics of applied sciences
    3. Or if you attempting to be your arrogant self with no consideration of the exiting systems.

    I can pen down a few chapters on the subject of how to usher a Tech Era To Sri Lanka, but unfortunately, your recommendations will not be mentioned therein.
    Let’s argue the points:
    1. Ushering a technical era requires a deep understanding of the present industry operations, and the shortfalls therein or that needs to be addressed.
    2. Rolling out grandaunts off an assembly line type of an education system will not solve any problems down-the-line.
    3. If so, our country should be full of brilliant diplomats and administrators who should be running this country @ the best levels of efficiency and efficacy.

    I’d/ve developed a great respect for you ( although you were never a guru to me) , but articles of this sort belittles that respect.
    So, do choose what you choose to write and what you choose to refrain from. Else you will also become a member of the trivial-many whom many subscribers would click to avoid.

    Cheers!

  • 2
    1

    “Sri Lanka has just crossed the threshold of an upper middle-income country ….”

    and the Tea Pluckers still earn by the weight capped at rupees 700 a day

    • 1
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      Dear Rajapsh,
      .
      these were based on doctored documents in order them to claim more adulations. Else, if you would please watch TV screens and the video clips being provided by you tubers, can see it right how much rural poor is existing, even if Rajaakshes would not care much about them, so long their bums are being held above thanks to the tax payers of the very same poor people. Ironically, local media men dont tend to transport the message to the masses and make them aware their rights to fight against… and empowering their mindset – if the peoples would stay LIKE MERCY COWs, do you think that the europe would not be different ?
      Even for any tiny issues be it environmental or anything else would be considered as their own, in the west, and they the people react with opposition parties to make a real change if injustice would become visible. But our people due to various reasons, incl. poverty being the very issue not comparable to anything else, have no options but to behahve like mercy cows NOT standign against.
      People should finally be clear, it is their VOTE empowers the politicians. So to go and vote for the GOOD candidates.
      Rajapkshses would make every effort to harvest on even dead bodies, this was the case as we noticed it at the begining of COVID crisis – THE manner they handled it.

  • 4
    0

    Disappointed to see someone I respect as Dr WAW writing paens to someone of the calibre of Liyanage. Perhaps Dr WAW did not see the writeup by one of Sri Lanka’s most prominent minds respected emeritus Prof Hemantha Senanayake in the recent submission to the FT, where he exposes Liyanage’s very disturbing endorsement of ragging in Sri Lanka. In addition to having consistently aroused controversy for his alleged lack of valid academic credentials and political posturing, I cannot as someone who has at one point tangentially associated with his university think of a single thing that Liyanage has done to benefit academia in Sri Lanka.
    I reproduce the link here (if CT will permit it) or else you can look at the guest column under June 10th’s Sri Lanka FT. It is well worth a read to understand the true status of universities in Sri Lanka, and why none of the above will ever work until these basic things are fixed.
    http://www.ft.lk/columns/Ragging-is-dragging-Sri-Lanka-down/4-701376

    • 1
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      Totally agree with Walter . Prof Liyanage has been an ardent supporter of Mahinda Rajapaksa(MR) and together with Prof Sampath Amarathunga canvassed for MR during 2015 presidential elections. Being two opportunists they then became close to Sirisena to get things done for themselves. Dr WAW has only mentioned these two names in addition to Dr Karunaratna as the VCs who are responsible for the development of USJP . Dr Karunaratna who was called “Dr Kanyaratna” as he was very worried about the virginity(kanyawa) of female students who had boy friends. On the whole these 3 people can not be categorized as “Distinguished, Principled Academics”.

      • 2
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        Daham,
        Thanks for the very interesting details. I wonder how Dr. Wije, whom I respect, got himself entangled in the maneuvres of this clique of self-promoters. Probably he wasn’t aware of the ulterior motives behind the interview.

        • 2
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          OC,

          I think Dr.WAW once wrote about Dhammika Perera’s success as a businessman, but I always think of the latter as someone who benefited from the corrupt system in Colombo, especially from his closeness to the MR regime.

          And of late, articles from WAW have contained large portions of what I had already read in Western media like The Washington Post, etc. There is nothing wrong in someone in Colombo writing in his own words to a local audience about what he reads in the media here, but it is not very original.

          • 0
            0

            Agnos,
            Thanks.
            Plagiarism is not a good thing. One should cite the source with due acknowledgment.
            Otherwise it becomes intellectual property theft.

            • 0
              0

              It is hard to make the plagiarism allegation when a writer mixes up content from others with his own writings. I don’t have the time to check it in fine detail to make that allegation, and I don’t want to go that far.

              But the author’s article on Kondratieff waves, for instance, followed just a week after Western media highlighted it, and the content seemed similar. Same with an article earlier on Black Swans. It is for the editors to check if there was any plagiarism involved.

              • 0
                0

                Agnos,
                The entire article is a rip- off of one in the FT of June 8th!
                Take it easy now, that too was by Dr.WAW, so we can absolve him of copy-paste artistry, though he may , like a lot of other people, read the Washington Post.

              • 0
                0

                I think that there is software to check such plagiarism, unless there is a lot of editing and rephrasing.
                I agree that it is not for you and me but the editors
                *
                I can tell you briefly the story of an academic who plagiarized wholesale from his undergraduate students’ dissertations. A senior colleague reported it in some context. But he was saved by an inquiring officer who chose to interpret it as a personal battle between two academics.
                When it comes to academic fraud, it is hard to pin one down.

                • 0
                  0

                  SJ,
                  You only have to copy-paste a sentence or two from the suspect article into Google. If it’s on the Web, you’ll get it.
                  Dr. WAW definitely doesn’t plagiarize , but uses ideas he picks up elsewhere. Fair enough.

              • 0
                0

                No wonder, the man did not bother to slam me for challenging the validity of interpretations based on his figure.

            • 1
              0

              SJ,
              .
              Plagiarism is not a good thing, but it is inevitable in today ‘s research groups. Be it in UK, Germany or Australia – that is the same.
              :
              I knew enough candidates that just rephrased the science articles in favour their research groups and republished them as if they found out in their labs. This is an issue that many would not touch easily, because of various reasons. There are whole lot of grey areas, you can not analyse and charge the men to the letter.

        • 3
          0

          Old Codger,
          I dont think I respect Dr WIJERWARDHANA for one single reasons, he never uttered much about the inside stories of BONDs and the history of scams to have continued from 2008-2015. He though brought one article behind the other, unfortunately, none of them focused on the hidden stories of the bond scams. He was then an insider in that institution, how can he be that silent on the issue. I yet today believe BOND scam was inevitable and multiple losses were the case during high days of mafia boss.
          What bring us the articles if the writer would not focus on the very points that the society should be well aware of. Term – ” bond scam” became known with the dawn of last govt. If mafia boss got relected, nothing like that would have been even noticed.

      • 1
        0

        What is wrong with our ACADEMICS ? Even at Unis, they stay either mum forever, to the same manner some PARLIAMENTARAINS never uttered a single word during their tenures, they dont react to anything…. this is not the nature of SINHALA genetics ?

        Why cant they see it right ? So what about the ones listening to them ? I wonder why anyone with some knowledge would line up to support Rajaapkshes. To my eyes they are all criminal supporters.
        Today, if MaRa would open his mouth, utter blatant lies, may be his BRAIN CELLS do allow only lies, thinking the listerners and viewers are stupidier than the audience in Zimbabwe to the days of Mugabe ?

        He has the audacity to call it – that previous govt did nothing, but in the same time, current men were unable to save people without ” SUWASAERIYA” ambulance services introduced by previous govt ?
        .
        And if there had been no INDEPENDNETLY functioning Election COMMISSION, brother duo would have held the election already going by their schedules no matter innocient peoples would have been hurt by COVID.
        Thanks to 19 th Amendment, COVID was controlled to some extent. COVID would have bene not controlled, if Rajakshes worked ot their MADEMULANA doctrine. This is clear to ANY FOOL but not to the slaves.

    • 2
      0

      Thank you for exposing the fraudster Liyanage. How could someone of WAW’s stature be completely fooled?

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