By 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?