28 October, 2020

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Why Was Professor Saumya Liyanage Removed? 

By Sarath Chandrajeewa

Professor Saumya Liyanage became a focus of inquiry of the COPE because there were many petitions against him by a section of the University of visual and performing arts, who had harbored prejudices and grudges because he was very efficient, talented, was proficient in both English and Sinhala languages and dedicated to the university and was a professional. Because of their jealousy, they also complained against him to the internal auditor, National Audit Commission and the COPE.

Sarath Chandrajeewa

Because of these unprofessional petitions and anonymous letters, then vice-chancellor of the University of Visual and performing arts, Professor Sarath Chandrajeewa was called to COPE on the 22nd of March 2018. The negligence of the university, namely official letters sent by the university back and forth without proper inquiry in many matters was questioned by the COPE. The Vice-Chancellor who appeared before the COPE pointed out that Saumya Liyange, was appointed as a lecturer probationary on the 2nd February in 2007 and after completing his probation period he has submitted his Ph.D. thesis to the University of La-Trobe Australia on the 30th of September 2014, well within seven years and, seven months and 28 days, that is before within the speculated an eight-year period where he is supposed to complete his Ph.D. according to the regulations of the UGC. The matter was settled after the official explanation given by the Vice-Chancellor.

UVPA had a vacancy for an approved cadre for a post of Deputy Vice-Chancellor. There were two applicants for this post namely, Professor Chandragupta Thenuwara and Professor Saumya Liyanage. A presentation on the theme of future development plan of the UVPA and the vision statement of the candidate, had to be presented the Council by both the candidates, and since Saumya Liyanage’s presentation and the interview gained high marks his name was sent by the university to the UGC for their consent.

This resulted in another sabotaged attempt by a group of lecturers calling themselves ‘Music Professionals’ with a vested interest in the faculty of Music. They sent a letter to the Ministry titled “the proposed deputy Vice Chancellorship of the University of visual and performing arts”, pointing out that there was no need for such a position at that time and the UGC should not act on such a recommendation. Instead of the secretary of the ministry of higher education, Deputy Director Deshini Thilakaratne has sent an official letter to the Vice-Chancellor asking his observations on the letter written by a group of people in the Faculty of Music. An official reply was sent to the ministry of higher education through the UGC on 2019.09.04 by the Vice-Chancellor with the knowledge of the University council justifying again the need for a deputy Vice Chancellor for the University of Visual and performing arts. However, there was no official reply to that letter, and the request for a post of Deputy Vice-Chancellor was not heeded by the ministry. It is unethical to ask for reasons for a post of Deputy Vice Chancellor and to act upon letters of trade unions. However, malicious letters and petitions continued to be sent against Professor Saumya Liyanage because of deep-rooted prejudices.

The vacancy of the post of Vice Chancellor of the University of Visual and Performing Arts was advertised recently, Professor Saumya Liyanage was one of the candidates who applied for this post.

Once again, a wrong decision taken on Prof. Liyanage by one of the former Vice-Chancellors, Professor Ariyarathna Kaluarachchi five years ago with the consent of University Council was resurrected again maliciously by the present Registrar B.M. Dayawansa with the help of some members of the new university council. As a result, Professor Saumya Liyanage was demoted shamefully to a temporary lecturer position and was removed from professorship and from the position of Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. 

In an incident like this, the normal procedure to follow is to appoint an external examiner on so-called charges, but in this case, surprisingly it was not followed, instead a few members of the council had been appointed and based on their views a decision has been taken. It is a conflict of interest. The members had been divided of this matter but they had gained two more votes. Council made a major error in not having a formal enquiry in this case. Therefore, Professor Liyanage became a victim due to the conspiracy of the so-called vested interest group. Instead, of having an impartial inquiry, this group against Professor Liyanage got together again and acted maliciously to demote him, vehemently acting with undermining transparency and norms of ethics. 

No proper procedure has been conducted on this case. Without the duty of the council the opinion of the UGC and the attorney general was consulted. On 03-04-2020 UGC has officially informed the competent authority of the University of Visual and Performing arts in a letter with the heading “Changing the effective date of appointment of Professor Saumya Liyanage and rectify his appointment.” They have not recommended removing him. 

The Department of Attorney General has replied on 2020.07.22, under the heading “Consultation of the Attorney General’s Department on making a permanent post regarding Prof. Liyanage” saying that since UGC has instructed the procedure to follow in the case of Professor Saumya Liyanage, there is no need to consult the Department of Attorney General on this matter. However, both the UGC and the department of the Attorney General have not recommended the removal of Professor Liyanage from his post.

Before the stipulated of 8 years period, Mr. Liyanage has submitted his Ph.D. thesis to the University of La-Trobe, but because of the delay of sending the result by the University, Mr. Liyanage was appointed to a temporary lecturer post, but as the dean of the graduate studies I have objected to that and my objections are recorded in the university council minutes.  I have further pointed out that, we have no provision to change the position of a lecturer due to the delays in releasing the results of a degree by a university. However, my advice was not heeded and he was appointed as a temporary lecturer.  Allowing a university lecturer to go on leave with a paid leave for higher studies is an investment in the future in order to promote the quality of the learning in a university.  As we know, it is a great tragedy to note that to suppress a hard and genuine work of a Ph.D. earned after studying three or four years, due to a technical error consisting of six or seven months.

*Mr. Saumya Liyange was appointed as a lecturer Probationary on 02-02-2007 because of his Bachelor of Arts degree (1994/1998) from the University of Kalaniya and Master of Creative Arts (2001-2003) University of Flinders, Australia.

*Mr. Saumya Liyanage has finished and submitted his  PhD. Theses to the University of  La-Trobe on 30.09.2014

*It is a custom in Universities in Sri Lanka, to confirm or promote lecturers on the day they have submitted their M.A. or Ph.D., thesis for their registered universities for post graduate studies.

All these norms were not considered or ignored completely and intentionally either in 2015 to the Vice-Chancellor or to the present Competent Authority (Emeritus Professor W.M.A.Bandara from Faculty of Management, University of Sri Jayawardanapura) in 2020 by the Registrar of the University, Mr. B.M. Dayawansa and the responsibility of the technical and erroneous mistake falls on him alone.

*Sarath Chandrajeewa (Senior Professor), Former Vice Chancellor, University of the Visual & Performing Arts.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    0

    Nothing to be ashamed of, we get what we deserve.

  • 7
    0

    If this is the level of skullduggery at the higher levels of learning (Universities), what can one expect from the lower levels in schools and administrations.
    Any wonder that Sri Lanka is slipping backwards in everything except nepotism, bribery and corruption.

  • 2
    0

    It is disgusting and sickening to hear of these types of behavioral trends among the so-called “Educated” and “Intellectuals”, especially among the “Academics” who are running the affairs in the “Highest Learning Institutions” of the country. If the facts, as reported are correct, leaving aside the “Administrative Incapabilities”, one can imagine to what levels the “Moral Levels” of these “Academics” have collapsed and appear to shake society to its foundation. No wonder these “Academics” have and are leading the “Majority” down the garden path to the destruction of moral standards of the society. Shame on you “Academics”.

    • 0
      1

      Ad, My View & Simon
      Do you think that CT should be treated as a dirty linen launderette by people with scores to settle.
      If one feels that he/she has suffered injustice, there are institutional ways to deal with the issue.
      To plunge for ‘trial-by-media’ without exploring institutional options is not becoming of a decent academic.

  • 0
    0

    If Saumya Liyanage does not qualify to be what he was then why was not the persons responsible for his placement as Professor and subsequently the Dean etc. not taken to task? Was there an inquiry and was Saumya Liyanage afforded the opportunity being heard? I think based on the material placed here, Saumya Liyanage must take legal action. I was told by a person, recently retired as a senior public servant that having a good command of the English Language is a disqualification and can be subjected to harassment of all sorts, especially when the people around only understand Sinhala. The common allegation can be that the fellow thinks in English (In this instance it can be Australian English) and responds in Sinhala. I am not the least surprised that to survive in that fine arts setup one must be betel chewing, attired with a crumpled National Dress and throw airs by flying off a few Sanskritized words. In other words, one must be more “National minded” than the best of the brand. (A zealot better than the Ayatollah.) Yes! Some Sri Lankans can be intolerant, and we are far from a common Sri Lankan identity.

    • 0
      0

      GS
      Professors are appointed after due process. If there is an irregularity that could brought up at the Council or the UGC by concerned parties.
      One cannot pin down ‘persons responsible’ for an appointment as decisions are collective.
      A member of a selection body could express reservations if he/she sees irregularities and then the matter will come up in the Council.
      Deans are elected. One has to hold the whole faculty responsible.
      *
      The comments on cultural attitudes are uncalled for and unfair, and their converse can be said about English-dominated contexts.

      • 0
        0

        Dear SJ,

        You say “Professors are appointed after due process”. But there are exceptions –
        please check it out how “current pohottuwa state minister-Channa Jayasumana’s professorship”: As I know his profile, he has not obtained years long ” post doctoral qualifcations” other than few papers published on ” unknown kidney disease in Rajarata and like minded regions/ around the globe (like for example in Nikaragua farming community).

        That is why I feel something is fishy with his Prof. Title. but in a country where Mervin Silva or the like would not be refered without ” Dr Titles”, what cant go wrong ?

        One of my good friends, is one of the senior research in Radiation pharmacy. But he had wait many more years to be posted as a full professor. So I dont think the world would recognize some of the professor titles being given by SL and India.

  • 2
    0

    “*It is a custom in Universities in Sri Lanka, to confirm or promote lecturers on the day they have submitted their M.A. or Ph.D., thesis for their registered universities for post graduate studies.”
    I am surprised to note that submission date is taken as the date of obtaining a Master’s or doctoral degree. The norm in any civilised country is that one has to defend his thesis successfully to obtain his degree and it is that date that one is awarded the degree.
    But we are talking about SRILANKA anything is possible here, as the president says his word is the LAW.

    • 0
      0

      U
      You are right I think.
      UGC cannot run the university system based on ‘customs’. It is a lousy argument.
      There is however a case for considering an earlier date than that of award of degree where the delay in processing a thesis has been unduly long.
      *
      Making exceptions is one matter but making it a rule to make exceptions is yet another.

  • 2
    0

    have a doubts to clear:
    “…was removed from professorship and from the position of Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
    When was Saumya Liyanagemade (PhD in 2014) made a Professor? To become Professor normally takes more than 6 years.
    The writer of the article should clarify this.
    If it is a matter of reversing his promotion as Snr Lecturer Grade II which is the issue, normally such steps are initiated not long after the promotion. The question therefore arises as to whether (i) the date of award of the PhD lone is the issue or (ii) there is an unstated irregularity in the promotion that has been brought up.
    Strictly , the date of award of the PhD is not the date of submission of the thesis. However, where there are undue delays in processing the thesis, there is a fair case to consider the date of submission as the date of award for purpose of promotion, if the thesis was accepted without major correction or revision.
    There is, however, ambiguity in this matter and the University Council can rule on way or the other, provided that there is consistency in applying the ruling on the date of award.

  • 1
    0

    I find the article presumably written by a former vice chancellor rather shoddy in communicating what actually happened. He is quick to give unsubstantiated reasons for the actions of those who opposed Liyanange (jealousy and envy etc) although I can reasonably assume that these emotions lie at the basis of almost every unjust transfer or demotion, denial of a position etc. LaTrobe University (not University of La Trobe) has its main campus in Bundoora, in the north-western suburbs of Melbourne, in the state of Victoria, Australia. There are several Sri Lankan academics there, who have distinguished themselves in serving the learning community. It is also a fairly reputable university although not on par with the Australian National University or University of Sydney or Melbourne etc. Therefore, an award of this doctorate should confer much merit in Sri Lanka as a good working knowledge of English is a pre-requisite even if the candidate works in a colloquial setting in the the local visual arts university. A far more robust analysis is required if readers are to form unbiased opinions on the matter.

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