16 April, 2024


Viyath Maga Convention – Intellectualism & Intellect 

By P. Soma Palan

P. Soma Palan

Daily Mirror of 16th May, carried the Report of the Annual Convention of the Viyath Maga by Lahiru Pothmulla, under the heading “ Sri Lanka should seize the opportunity “, in the context of the shift of Global economic  centre to Asia.

One may think the title “Intellectualism and Intellect ” paradoxical. Most truths appear paradoxical. I think an explanation is necessary, here. Intellectualism is accumulating and storing knowledge in the mind; Whereas, Intellect is a tool of the mind. It is used as a faculty to acquire knowledge. Intellectualism and Intellect are two different things. Yet they are connected to each other. Intellectualism is, not the Intellect; Nor, the Intellect, is intellectualism. Intellect is thinking discriminately. It is the mental capacity to discern the difference between seemingly similar things, but really dissimilar. In Hindu Vedantic philosophy it is called “Viveka”, in Sanskrit.

Coming to the Viyath Maga Convention, is a precursory Propaganda Seminar to boost the image of its Chairman, Gotabaya Rajapaksa (GR) and lend support for his prospective candidature for the forthcoming Presidential elections scheduled for 2019.

The theme of the Convention was “An Intellectually Inspired Sri Lanka”. Quite fittingly, GR had marshaled half a dozen Resource persons of Intellectual eminence, both expatriates and locals, to justify the said theme. The notable inclusion of a Tamil and a Muslim in the panel of speakers is deliberately intentional, to suggest that his prospective Presidency will be an inclusive one, recognizing the pluralism of the Sri Lankan polity, to woo the minorities.

The Sri Lankan expatriates, of course would have been delighted to be cajoled by the offer of free air ticket, food and lodging, to come on a holiday to the mother country. Further, gracing the Convention is an implied support for GR’s Presidential bid and to give credence to the slogan “An Intellectually inspired Sri Lanka”, would be the mark of his Presidential regime, if elected. Moreover, these speakers of the intellectual caliber can be rest assured, they will be in the “waiting list” for rewards in a prospective GR regime.

Moving away from my preliminary observations, I would critically examine the views expressed by the resource persons, confining to the Media Report only and not beyond. In doing so, I disclaim being an Intellectual, armed with a PhD prefix to my name. I am just a commoner with a commonsense perception.

Intellectually Inspired Sri Lanka

The above slogan suggest that the GR  regime would be one comprising, the educated, intellectuals, Professionals, managerial Experts ,and  Technocrats and, his policies and actions will be intellectually inspired. Is this blind optimism, pragmatic, considering the Sri Lankan reality? I say no, for following reasons:

1. First and foremost, to be intellectually inspired, the country’s Legislature or the Parliament must consist of “intellectually inspired” persons. The reality is, leave aside intellectuality, majority of the Members of Parliament, does not even have the basic secondary level educational qualification of an OL or Al. What intellectual inspiration can be drawn and harnessed from such persons? The Government is the “Driving Engine” of the country. But it is not driven by intellectual inspiration, but by “emotional Inspirations” of Religious/Racist kind.

2. As a first step, to draw intellectual inspiration, those contesting elections to be chosen as Members of Parliament ,should have a mandatory requirement of a minimum educational qualification of a University Degree or equivalent professional qualification from a recognized Institute.

3. Intellectualism demands the principle of equity. People and the Rulers of the country must have a secular outlook and attitude, particularly in a multi-cultural polity. Having an emotional, religious provision in the Constitution to cater to the “religious inspiration” of  one religion of the majority, is contradictory to the proclaimed “intellectually inspired Sri Lanka”. Intellectual inspiration can flow, only from “Secular Inspiration.” Therefore, a declaratory provision in the Constitution, making Sri Lanka a Secular State is a sine qua non for the realization of the slogan “an Intellectually Inspired Sri Lanka”.

4. Unless and until the broad masses of the people of the country shed their ignorance by reasonable standard of education and their racial-religious orientation, the hope of having an “Intellectually Inspired Sri Lanka” is only a dead hope.

5. On the contrary, what we see in reality is that, when Intellectuals/l professionals formulate progressive solutions to the country’s problems, the ignorant, dark forces of Sinhala Buddhist Inspiration, Sangha Nikayas and other extremist entities, scuttle them. Some examples are, Trade Agreements with other countries, Access to higher education through Private Institutions, Private Medical College, framing a new Constitution to solve the National Question, etc.

6. Whichever Government comes to power, it appoints not professionals and Intellectuals of proven ability and capacity, but “Politically Inspired” family members, sycophants, to top local and diplomatic positions.

7. Mere lip service to Intellectualism, Professionalism and Technocratism is of no use, unless we change the mindset of individuals and extremist groups , from their Sinhala Buddhist inspirational thinking to secularist, modernistic  thinking, based on Intellectual Inspiration.

The shift of the economic centre of gravity to the Asian Region

The shift of the centre of economic gravity to the Asian Region, with the expanding economies of China, India and the Far East countries, is a current phenomenon that is self-evident, which even a Grade 10 student knows. But are we gearing our economy to face this economic onslaught? On the contrary, the Sri Lankan Politicians of various hues and even irrelevant professional bodies like the GMOA, wants Sri Lanka to be a closed economy and an insular one. In the face of the Global shift to the Asian Continent, Sri Lanka should be more outward looking and not inwards. The country should interact with the countries of the Asian Region, in concrete terms, like Free Trade Agreements, cross-border industrialization and market penetration etc. The incumbent Government, particularly the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremasinghe is far-sighed and cognizant of Asian Region’s rise and taking measures to integrate with the Asian Regional countries like India, Singapore, China, Malaysia etc. But our local Intellectuals and Professional Bodies, like GMOA, under the Sinhala Buddhist Inspiration, is running counter to that effort. Isn’t this a case of not “seizing the opportunity” in the face of the Asian ascendancy?

I wish to comment on some views expressed by the panel of speakers, which are not in line with the discipline of reasoning and discriminative thinking associated with the Intellect.

Dr. Rohan Gunaratne’s (RG) views

Dr.RG states that “Sri Lanka should play a Neutral Role in world Geo-Politics.”Since UN is relocating its relevant Institutional arm to African Region, due to its greater Project activities there, he opines that we should invite the UN to relocate its Offices to Sri Lanka by offering them a plot of land. In such a neutral role, Sri Lanka could become the “Asian Geneva”. We, as a Nation is, habituated to such grandiose notions of becoming an International Hub for many things. The last Regime, self-arrogated to itself the label Miracle of Asia, even before becoming an economic miracle. Before playing a neutral role in world geopolitics, the Sri Lankan State should play a neutral role in domestic affairs first, rather than playing a partial Sinhala Buddhist  majoritarian role. Taking a clue from Dr.RG, I suggest, it would be more appropriate, if Sri Lanka invites the UNHRC to relocate in Sri Lanka, because it has more work to do here, in the face of  Human Rights violations taken place, like disappearances of persons, abductions, Tortures and  State complicit murders.

Views expressed by Dr.RG are wanting in reasoning and discriminatory discipline of the intellect. Dr.RG is reported to have said that “Sri Lanka’s development in 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s was better than even Japan, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan”. He has not supported this view by comparative statistical data like GDP, Per Capita Income, Industrial Output, human welfare Index. However, Sri Lankan prosperity and the standard of Administration and Management of the economy was a legacy, and a spillover effect of the British rule , and not due to our indigenous efforts. With the nativisation of the rule of the country, particularly after 1956, the decline in the rule of the country, began. The British left us a thriving economy and the tradition of a sound Civil Service. By the nationalization of the Plantation Industry, and other successful Private Sector Industries, the degradation of the economy was achieved. Even today, we have not produced an Industry to manufacture a motor vehicle, motor cycle, nay even a pedal bicycle.

The views of the Intellectual Dr. Bandula Wijeratne

Salient views of Dr.BW are:

1. Team work key to innovation and Research

2. Sri Lanka lack Team Work; Promotes individuality

3. Current Education system  discourages teamwork

4. Mindset of innovation should be taught at school stage and not after graduating from the University.

5. Comparison of the education system of US and Sri Lanka.

Let me examine the above propositions more closely and discriminately. Of course, Team Work is necessary for Innovative Research and Development. It is not that Sri Lanka lacks team work. It is really other way around. Sri Lanka lacks Innovative Research and Development for team work. We have several Research Institutes like CISIR, TRI, RRI, ARI and MRI etc. But what significant innovative Research  and Development have been done by them? These are non-dynamic, complacent, Research Institutes, doing administrative function of issuing certification of quality standards etc. Have they found new techniques and methods to raise productivity and yield rates? Have they discovered new range of Product lines, in Industry and/or Agriculture, Medicine?  The aim of all education and learning is to promote individual excellence and not Group excellence. The aim and purpose of Primary and Secondary education is not to produce innovative students, but to mould them and impart knowledge. Innovative ideas, creativity, inventiveness are pursuits to be followed at a higher stage of learning with the evolution of maturity. The lopsided education Dr.BW proposes, is like asking to swim before walking. In support of his thesis, he cites the ludicrous example of the Cricketer Kumar Sangagkkara, saying that he became a “master in his field of Cricket”, because he practiced cricket in his school stage. Dr.BW poses the question “imagine what would have happened, if Kumar Sangagkkara or any other star cricketer, practiced cricket after they graduated from school or University”. This indiscriminating and false reasoning is not the mark of an “Intellect”. To say in the terminology of argument, it is “an analogical fallacy”. Dr. BW fails to discriminate between the ‘mental and the physical’. Mental activity of learning is not a physical activity. Practice of sport of any kind can be and would be an advantage, if started young. Could one practise learning? This is practical only in manual or vocational training.  For example could a student of learning, practice Medicine at the school stage in his career?

Dr.BW states that “Sri Lankan education was introduced by the British and does not give room for innovation”. He fails to realize that he himself is a product of this same education system. He is not less innovative, in spite of this. He has earned a Doctorate, nevertheless. Dr. BW also states that “education system in the US is very broad. It is the most fundamental reason why the US is world’s leader in Innovation”. Further states that even students aged 10-12 come up with most practical ideas, which can be developed into Projects”. US, is a materialistic civilization. It is this preoccupation with the material in the US education system that has produced material prosperity and spiritual poverty. From the young age, Americans start making and innovating material objects rather than human development. Simply stated US worships matter over the spirit. No wonder there is a high percentage of social misfits in America.

Mano Sekeram (MS) CEO 99X Technologies/Chairman , Lanka Angel  Network

As an Intellectual in the IT field, his focus is on:

1. Upgrading Sri Lanka’s  Digital Infrastructure

2. Human Capital Development

Both these are vital for the economic development of the country. How can Human Capital be expanded when narrow minded thinking prevails in Professional bodies like GMOA, Inter-University Students Federation, who wants to limit, restrict Human Capital expansion, by objecting to Private Medical Colleges, Private Higher Education Institutes/Colleges/Universities. Mr.MS laments that out of 200000 students who qualify, only 30000 enter Universities. Hence, there is a wide miss-match between the demand for higher education and available infrastructure. The answer is more and more State or Private Universities. But the Government yields to these obscurantist elements with vested interest, to restrict than expand Human Capital, under their cock and bull story of endangering free-education and lowering of examination standards, example Clinical standards of Doctors. 

DR. Nalaka Godahewa’s  views

Dr. NG compares the Private Industrial Corporations like Samsung Corporation and Service Providers like Face-book, in terms of Turnover, Growth Rates and Assets with the economy of Sri Lanka. Is this Intellectual discriminate thinking? Isn’t this comparison preposterous and an analogical fallacy? After all, Sri Lanka is not a Business Corporation producing only industrial goods. Like any country, its economy is multi-facetted amalgam of Industry, Agriculture, Fisheries, Services, Exports of Gems, commercial crops of Tea, Rubber, Dessicated coconuts, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Tourism and a host of numerous other products. All these are subject to fluctuations in world prices and vagaries of climate, like droughts, floods etc. An Industrial Corporation producing one or more lines of industrial goods are not subject to variables mentioned above, like a country’s economy.

Mr. Eranda Ginige’s views

I have not much to comment on his views, limited to the concept of development. From what is reported, these are just generalizations. He speaks of Traditional method of development, which is “old destructive and unproductive development and we should start our own development”. He has left unsaid what is traditional development and what is” our own development.” He has not stated in what manner the traditional development is destructive and unproductive. Any development will have some productive results; Otherwise, why call it development?

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Latest comments

  • 4

    There is no scarcity of professionals in Srilankan politics. For example, Professor Gamini Lakshman Peiris is a academically qualified person in the profession of law. He is also an experienced politician who served as a minister in various governments of Srilanka under President Rajapakse, President Chandrika and also chief negotiator in peace process of Ranil Wickremasinghe. I am sure that there are any allegations of corruption or murders or war crimes or human rights violations against him. He was the chairman of the newly formed SLPP political party which gained large sunk of votes in the local elections.
    In comparison with former President Mahinda Rajapakse and former defense secretary Gotapaya Rajapakse (a USA citizen), GL Peries has all necessary characteristics and qualities that is suitable for a presidential post. Gotapaya may contributed to his brother in winning the war with LTTE. It is great that both Mahinda and Gota brought the war to an end and they need to relax peacefully.

    • 0

      The Model of Development in Sri Lanka (of UNP, SLFP, SLPP) is an outdated neo-liberal and neo-colonial one, that is intellectually Bankrupt and has been rejected in most of the world because of massive INEQUALITY and CONFLICT and war, it promotes to benefit global 1 percent..
      Sri Lanka need an alternative people-centered development approach.. But the Fake Development narrative is promoted by Fake experts: and donor funded SL Diaspora propaganda to advance their foreign (USA, Japan, India, China, S. Korea, Russia) security and business interests in Indian Ocean region.
      Sri Lanka suffers from a CORRUPT POLITICIANS and AID/Loans curse and a poverty of theory and intellect as the narratives and model are imported, half truths .
      NGOs and civil society organizations who work in the global poverty racket like Centre for Poverty Analysis but who are now colonized by Fake Aid Donors, badly need to conduct a PUBLIC discussion on the meaning of “development”, and challenge the spurious IMF/WB poverty line (1.25$ a day),

    • 2

      GLP is a snake. He has wrigggled in and out of many snake pits as and when it suits him. He is complicit in war crimes as he was in cabinet at the time they took place. Also, he is an ace plagiarist who cheated the academic system with several charges of plagiarism hushed up. Why do you have to think of tainted nuts?

  • 3

    “An Intellectually Inspired Sri Lanka” from a well known murderer and criminal like GoTa ? My foot !!! –

    Let ghosts of Lasantha, Ekneligoda, other journalists, civil activists, victims of Rathupussellawa, Welidaka Prison Massacre, Matale Mass Grave, and thousands of Sinhala and Tamil civilians killed during the Ealam war emerge to save this country from an emerging dictator.

  • 2

    Have a look at the Tamil translation of ” Professionals for a better future” . The Tamil word for” professionals ” is written incorrectly. There is no such word in Tamil language and I wonder whether this could be the discovery of an intellectually inspired person.

  • 1

    So, according to this writer, neither Martin Heidegger nor Carl Schmitt would qualify as intellectuals…? :))

    • 8

      If you are able to counter my views with better and cogent views say it.Instead of taking cover under big names, mostly foreign names to show your erudition. One piece of advice to you- when you write something, please write in simple, readable and intelligible English. All your articles are pedantic nonsense. More flourish of language than substance., written for your self gratification and to advertise that you are widely read. and nothing more..
      Soma Palan

    • 5

      They were apologists for Hitler and you are an apologist for criminals MR and Gota

  • 3

    Don’t you think that “Intellectualism” has been very surreptitiously used to “Rob”; “Plunder”; “Murder” and commit all sorts of “CRIMES” that have become an “Up-Hill” task to sort out the beginnings and ends by the investigators. That was the “HALL:MARK” of the “MR & Co.” Now they want to establish the same in a different format and named it “VIYATH MAGA”. So please understand that this “Intellectualism” has so many different FACES and any attempt to “Standardize” it as a “VIRTUE” is false and futile. Good examples are Prof. G.L.Peiris, Dr. Nalaka Godahwa, Dr. Dayan Jayatilleke, an ex CJ Sarath N de Silva, Top Class Civil Servants such as Lalith Weeratunga, Pelpita, Lawyer Gammanpila, an Industrialists and “Business Tycoons” like Harry Jayawardane and in the same group “Non Academic” corrupt politicians such as Wimal Weerawansa. Basil Rajapakse and many, many more who have deployed “Intellectualism” to commit crimes of all sorts. So in the end it has become an almost an impossible task of finding a true “Intellectual” who is compatible with its true meaning and value, particularly in Sri Lanka. What we really need is “Wisdom” to develop and acquire a strong sensual “FEELING” of sorting out and differentiation between “Right” and “Wrong” for the common good of the society.

    • 4

      Douglas man

      You got an impressive list of intellectuals, including Dayan’s spiritual Guru Wimal Sangili Karuppan Weerawansa. I wonder why you have omitted Jim softy, soma, Shenali, Shenali Waduge, Percy, sach, …… in the list?

      Are you biased against them?

  • 3

    Dear Somapalan as you had mentioned the basic concept of thinking in psychology identifies emotional thinking, intellectual thinking then of course you have more of a pathological variety of concrete thinking ( opposite of abstract thinking), distorted, paranoid, delusional and so forth. What we aim is for a balanced/healthy/positive thinking.We are well aware of the minds of DJ and RG. These are people who are out there using their knowledge to exploit, manipulate and cheat others for their own gains. (likes of Trump, a salad of narcissistic,hysterical, antisocial,borderline combination).There are quite a few Lankans who are well qualified and capable of making positive change, but when you have the politicians in the top giving orders and interfering with their work it really dosent matter. The only option they have is to leave the country and go abroad where you may be recognized and appreciated.We had Premadasa who may not qualify as intellectual but had the wisdom to make use of people to make a change. Then we had MR who used intellectual Guru GLP like a monkey to do hoops.He even ridiculed him in the public.Just like Trump treating his own staff ex CEO tillerson, ex attorney general Sessions.

  • 5

    Who is an “intellectual” who would line up behind an O”level cutthroat in return for a few crumbs?

  • 1

    Apart from all the arguable facts future govt.’ s should revoke following.
    1. Strengthen govt.sector by reducing number and increasing efficiency.
    2. Gradually equalize the retirement benefits of private sector and govt. sector.
    3. Suitably tax the income of doctors, lawyers, private tutors etc.
    4. Gradually minimize financial assistance to the religious organizations.
    5. Restructure salaries of govt.sector into a reasonable level.
    6. Specify levels and No. of vehicles for ministers, MP’s, and higher grade govt. officials.
    Ajith E.

  • 0

    Native Vedda: I locate and attack the “SOURCE” of the evil. I trust that is the better way to get rid of the “Lessor Evil”. That is the difference between your way and my way. You can go your way and I will go my way.

    • 2

      Douglas man

      “You can go your way and I will go my way.”

      All Roads Lead to Rome

      Many roads lead to the path, but basically there are only two: reason and practice.
      – Bodhidharma

  • 0

    Native Vedda: I knew you would say “reason and practice”. My way is different: I follow “Paticcasamuppada” i.e. Dependent Origination. I simple terms it is Cause and Effect or Result. You would agree, if we can eliminate the “CAUSE” the “EFFECT” or the “RESULT” will be no more. For your easy understanding – all those names you mentioned are the “Followers” or the “Resultants” of the “Cause”, some of whom that I mentioned. Give your thoughts to that aspect, if not, let us meet at a “Common ground”.

  • 0

    An anti Sinhala anti Buddhist rant couched in intellectualist language.

    • 1

      Hel ass

      “An anti Sinhala anti Buddhist rant couched in intellectualist language.”

      Paranoid racist sees conspiracy everywhere who cannot stand intellectual exchange of ideas and observations.

      Anti intellectual paranoid should spend more time with fellow paranoid and praise each others’ tail. Will Dayan take you as a paying guest? May be HLD M, Shenali Waduge, Sara Dissanayake, Asoka Bandarage ………… may have spare room to let.

  • 0

    Well-known writers like Sarath De Alwis and Shyamon Jayasinghe have completely unravelled the faux pas that is known as Viyathmaga. And who is to head the Viyathmaga revolution? Gotabhaya Rajapakse- a fraudulent fascist who has nothing called education attachable to his name. He tried hard to rob the war victory from SF while SF states that during the whole course of the war, Gota had travelled to the North only twice.

  • 0

    I attended Viyath Maga after paying Rs 20,000.

    Somapala failed to mention Tamara Kanunayakam. She made a powerful speech. But Gota must have realised that in 1980s and 90s Kanunayakam was a stern LTTEr campaigning rigerously for Prabhahakaran from overseas.

    All are bunch of hypocrites.

  • 0

    There are a lot of good ideas expressed here. Sadly the write does not know how to stop people getting back at him by striking a balance. For example, either you bring in Tamil Hindu when you talk about Singhala Buddhist or not mention them at all in your presentation of facts because both parties are equally bad in that light, so you cannot only highlight one without offending them..

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