Sri Lankan Academics – Thinkers or Feelers?

The pain and loss suffered by civilians during the war – needs to be taken as per the belief of victims – who overwhelmingly state that it was due to racial discrimination.

by Gaja Lakshmi Paramasivam 

(June 29, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) I write in response to the article ‘Pathological Symptoms of the Crisis of Higher Education in Sri Lanka’ by Professor Gamini Keerawella, published in Sri Lanka Guardian.

Professor Keerawella says in his analysis of the challenges faced by Sri Lankan Universities ‘The utter incapability in crisis management and conflict resolution of the Higher Education authorities is the hallmark of their behaviour. As in the case of Medical Science, in Peace building the three steps followed are diagnosis, prognosis and therapy. Without diagnosing the problem correctly it is not possible to administer the proper course of therapy.’

To my mind, this is only part the issue/problem – the external part. A doctor needs to identify from the outside. The foundation of the cure is in the mind of the patient. The patient knows intuitively that s/he has a problem and so long as the patient relies on her/himself – the cure is already there – at the mental level.

Let’s take for example the ethnic war issue in Sri Lanka. Both sides know what their disease is. Both sides have the cure within. Yet, both sides and distracted by the other and keep blaming the ‘other’ for infecting them and are thinking of treating the ‘other’ side instead of themselves first. Likewise the University and Government systems in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan Universities need to be committed to seeking and finding Truth and / or contribute to Common thinking by other higher thinking Universities all over the world.

Let’s take for example, Professor Keerawella himself. Has he diagnosed the problem of his side in this war? All of us need to take one side or the other like we do when electing government. The side we feel with more is our side. Merit basis comes above that foundation of faith. As I often say in terms of families - mothers are feelers and fathers are thinkers. Voters are feelers and Academics are thinkers. The fact that the University problem is being presented through Unions confirms that our Academics have failed to think at the higher level. It does not matter whether they win or not. They ought to have researched as insiders, cured themselves even if it meant accepting reality and then used their higher thinking to publish their discovery/diagnosis and the solution/therapy.

I did this here in Australia at the University of NSW where I used my merit based credits towards eliminating racial inequality. Even at such a high ranking University, the decision making was largely subconscious. The information we register about people – for example their ethnicity – is the symptom followed by ‘diagnosis, prognosis and therapy – wrong-doing (when a migrant of Asian origin leads), trouble and punishment . There are preconceived conclusions about the outcomes of ethnic thinking and this is automatically matched in the mind of a person who does not consciously use merit basis as appropriate. Under those circumstances unjust, and in countries like Australia unlawful, discrimination ‘happens’ where custodian of powers ‘gives’ or ‘takes’ benefits or costs.

Australian Courts asked me to produce objectively measurable evidence that the pain and loss I suffered due to the actions of University Administrators was due to race. This line of approach is fundamentally flawed because in democracy one side should not think for the other side. I used my intellectual analysis and marked myself as ‘right’ on merit basis. Due to my investment in Racial Equality - I felt pain when I was not measured on merit basis and was treated as a lesser person than the ‘other’ side. That pain was the basis of my belief – that the discrimination was due to race. In a just system, the belief of minority would be taken as right until proven otherwise. Where the victim/complainant does not have control – the case needs to be assessed as per the effects and not the cause.

The pain and loss suffered by civilians during the war – needs to be taken as per the belief of victims – who overwhelmingly state that it was due to racial discrimination.

These are discoveries I made through my own experiences. That was my research and now when I share those experiences with others – it is teaching. An academic within the Sri Lankan system needs to first do the Research, find the Truth and then publish it. When Sri Lankan Universities accept such findings – they would have earned their keep and higher status. The higher their global status the greater the need for high level of remuneration to maintain that status.

Whether it is the war or the issue of Higher Education, each one of us would receive and use the experience differently. Ultimately it is for ourselves – for our inner balance. When we are true to ourselves, we naturally share with others who are true to themselves and therefore we feel empowered – even though we may not know it. That is the greatest value of a University. The rest – including grades is to maintain status for a living. That is the stage at which Sri Lankan Universities are at currently. Their apparent status would go up and down as per the status of the country until they are able to function independent of the Government – however painful that may be. Publishing the Truth we know about custodians of power requires courage. When we publish as ‘insiders’ and not ‘outsiders’ we would not unjustly hurt our opposition.

Academics need to think as per their own research and not as per the seen and the heard.

As a member of the Sri Lankan University system, I would publish my discovery if I feel personal pain or keep contributing towards maintaining the status of the University with outsiders.

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