Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sisira Adikari's reply to Prof Sivasegaram

Sisira Adikari has written a reply to Prof Sivasegaram.

First read Sisira's article that was serialsed in this blog recently.

Parts I & II - Paving the Way to Clear Applied Electricity Backlog
Part III - Aftermath of the boycott
Part IV - Student clash on the final day
Part V - Revenge

This is Prof Sivasegaram's letter sent to us and published alone with moderators reply.

Professor S Sivasegaram's eMail and our reply

Now read Sisira's reply.

Dear Professor,

It is true that in order to to tell my story, I had to refer to others by their names and with details of their actions.

I had no other way.

To me, if someone has done a bad thing, telling that it is not right is not an attack on them. That is simply telling the truth! That might even help them not to repeat their mistakes.

Have you thought about inconveniences I faced due those incidents I described in my article?

Certainly those incidents could not be explained with all pleasant rosy words. Those were unpleasant to me than they were to anyone else. However, I took care to convey the message with minimum side effects.

I would like to reiterate that all incidents that were mentioned in my article are truth and noting but the truth. Please also note that I have not mentioned a few other incidents that may be even bitter (to you).

When I was writing about things that someone may have another opinion on, I used the terms “In my view”, “I think”, “I believe” etc. In some instances I let reader to decide (eg: safety aspect of laboratory classes)

What I wanted to achieve from my article were:

(a) To shed light on the grosly unfair treatment that I received from the faculty which adversely affected my life and career.

(b) To tell the truth to the world.

(c) To prevent similar incidents, hopefully.

(d) To show how a simple lie affected someone’s life and unfairly prevented doing what one is passionate about.

If similar thing happened to you what would be your feelings?

Sir, those days when I saw some lecturers I avoided eye to eye contact and slowly crossed to the other side of the corridor. That was not out of respect them mainly due to fear.

We had lecturers that I fully respect: Prof Mahalingam, Sameul, and Milton Amaratunge to name a few (think about their calibre, haven’t they preserved standards of their subjects).

The difference between respect and fear is fear would go away once you loose your powers but respect would not.

Finally it is pathetic that you blame the technology rather commenting anything about what has happened to me fair or otherwise. It seems that you want to cut the finger that pointed at you but not address or comment on the issue that the finger is pointing at.


Sisira Adikari

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Professor S Sivasegaram's eMail and our reply

Professor S Sivasegaram has sent us the following eMail.

Dear Editor
I think that some of the recent articles are in bad taste.
There is a tendency to settle old scores with people.
Several of the personal comments are inaccurate and suggest dubious motives.

Some lecturers were not very popular, but they cared for students in far far better ways than ones who sought popularity at the expense of standards.

Light hearted remarks are all right but harsh judgments are quite another matter.
What do some of the writers seek to achieve with their attacks on former teachers and colleagues?

The Internet in some ways is a curse, I fear.


This was our reply.

Dear Professor Sivasegaram,

If you said bad English - then perhaps I can agree because we can perhaps agree on a point of reference.

But bad taste is all relative. Not all taste buds are made equal. Some like beer, some like Arrack but some like neither of them.

These people who have written about their experience during their student days at Peradeniya are all products of the faculty. They are just documenting certain incidents they experienced and offering their opinion. If alternative opinion or points of view is available, I am quite happy to publish it here.

During my time at Peradeniya, I dont think there were any lecturers seeking popularity. If they were, they badly failed because we did not notice any such signs. You were considered as a good lecturer and a good person, that is because we compared you to CLVJ.

I am sure you agree that you too displayed your bad tempter at least once (AFAIK) and some of us were afraid of you as well.

Since graduating from Pera, I have studied at four universities in three countries and have worked in six universities in two countries. I have not come across a place similar to Pera e-fac during our days in any of these places where the majority of the students were living in constant fear about lecturers.

Internet is a good medium at least as far as these issued are concerned. Those people who dispute what is written can always enter their comments with what they think is correct.

While there are names mentioned and claims made, I doubt if there is any ill will or hatred.

-Moderator, eFacMemories

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Part V: Revenge (by Sisira Adikari)

Parts I & II - Paving the Way to Clear Applied Electricity Backlog
Part III - Aftermath of the boycott
Part IV - Student clash on the final day

Part V: Revenge

Throughout my time from first year to the departure from the faculty (approximately after 8 months from the final examination), I academically supported fellow students. I taught almost all subjects that I have learned, via small group classes and also in bit mass scale. Often for more demanding subjects we had to use lecture rooms on weekends to conduct these classes commonly named as “kuppis”. I believe our lecturers were not okay with at least for conducting “lectures” at the faculty lecture rooms which is not unreasonable.

My classes were not solely targeted for passing examinations. I attempted to deliver fundamental theories in an appealing manner. I conducted these classes because I enjoyed teaching as a hobby and provided self satisfaction to me. I had a good demand from “tourists” especially for second year Applied Electricity. I am no way claiming that on any subject I had knowledge over that of a lecturer. However, I knew what I was teaching.

We had extraordinary smart, talented and enthusiastic teachers: Profs. Ranaweera, Mahalingam, Samuel and Dr. Keerthisena to name a few. They all have had a unique teaching style and they taught their subjects extremely well. At least for subjects taught by these teachers it was not teachers’ fault that student were not being able to grasp the subject. Among other reasons the content and complexity permitted a student either to listen in order to grasp the lecture or just took notes and study later. Most students picked the latter and unfortunately the “study later” part never came thorough.

As a side note, in my career I had an opportunity to teach for Engineering Council examinations, at the Katunayake Technical Training Institute and at the Open University.

Subsequently from the Final Part III examination, I obtained a Second Class (upper division) pass with Prof. R. H. Paul prize for the best academic performances in Electrical Power and Machines.

After the final examination usually interviews for departmental positions are conducted. I applied for both the department of Electrical and Electronics (EE) and for the department of Mathematics.

I was not even called for an interview for a position with the EE department. Irrespective of academic performances, all my fellow EE batch mates those who had applied for a position were recruited to the EE department. I was not offered even an instructor position in the department. I was told that, in the first meeting for newly appointed EE department staff members (my batchmates), the head of the department Prof. Jayasekara announced that even though scored well some students (i.e. me) were not offered a position. Though obvious this announcement depict that the decision was a calculated one. This is the reward given for one who obtained the R.H. Paul Prize for Electrical Power and Machines with a Second Upper. Discrimination had not come to an end along with this unprecedented (may be not that unprecedented in Peradeniya) action.

As mentioned I applied for a position in the mathematics department. The head of the department, Prof T.D.M. Samuel, who personally knew me and my academic achievements, interviewed me for a position in his department. He verbally agreed to offer me one of the assistant lecturer positions at the department.

But one day before any formal appointment letter was being delivered I have noticed Prof Samuel coming out from the EE laboratory. The time was around 6.30 PM. No brainer I realised that it was after a meeting with Prof. Jayasekara. The time that the meeting concluded suggested that it has been a long perhaps intensive meeting. I smelled something fishy.

I met Prof. Samuel at the corridor right after the jet engine and he asked me to follow him to the department. At the department I was told that Prof Jayasekara strongly opposed me being appointed as an assistant lecturer or even as an instructor in the mathematics department. Prof. Samuel further explained that he wants to have cordial relationship with other departments and therefore he is not in a position to offer me the assistant lecturer position as agreed. But he said he do not want to totally disappoint me and also do not want to see me ruin my career. He suggested as a compromise to take the Research Assistant (RA) position under him. RA position enjoyed the same salary as an assistant lecturer but it has been a non academic position. What it meant is I was not allowed to conduct lectures which I eagerly anticipated for doing and most of my batchmates believed that I am very good at. I had no option rather to take up the offered RA position. The guy with very good academic performances who delivered informal lectures for wide range of students and subjects had sidelined due to an arrogant act of one teacher who wanted to keep his superiority unchallenged. I have heard several similar incidents in Sri Lankan universities but all of them about denying a position in ones own department. But my case had gone beyond that by making sure not to be given a position in other departments as well. In my mind, though hard, I would be able to justify refusing me a position in Prof. Jayasekara’s own department but I have hard time to justify using his powers to deny me a position in the mathematics department. I must have had annoyed the scared cow and this was the deserved punishment.

After few weeks I met Prof. Jayasekara one-on-one at his office room and asked why he did what he did. His simple answer was “you are not suitable for an academic position”. Answering my question, reasoning provided to me was you closely associated ordinary radical students and you gave priority for these students over smooth functioning of the department. He further mentioned that he would fully support for me to go to industry without being engaged in academic field. The message literally was don’t waste your time here go and get a job in industry. Ironically about 8 months later when I was being scrutinized by the Ceylon Electricity Board interview panel Prof. Jayasekara tried to support me in my view knowing that his action would help to fulfil his wishes.

Obviously it was impossible for me to get a recommendation for higher studies from the EE department. About eight months of service as RA I gave up my hopes for higher studies and joined the Ceylon Electricity Board. In 1993 one of my colleagues introduced me (with my situation) to Moratuwa academic and prominent engineer Dr. Tilak Siyabalapitiya who later provided a recommendation for me to enter the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) to pursue my Masters in Industrial Engineering.

After my Masters degree I again approached Peradeniya Department of Mathematics to secure a temporary senior lecturer position. By that time Prof. Samuel was not in the faculty and Dr. Sarath Siyabalapitiya was serving as the Head of the Department. I was told that AIT Masters degree has not been recognized for a senior lecturer position which is far from the truth. I gave concrete examples to negate his claim but Dr. Sarath Siyabalapitiya was adamant. It is hard to believe he was unaware of the fact that by that time AIT Masters Degree has been accepted by the University Grant Commission for senior lecturer positions. I think, having past memories, he simply didn’t want to have a figure like me in his department. It would have been nice if Dr. Siyabalapitiya directly and openly conveyed the real reason to me. A statement such as my skill set didn’t match with the department needs would have been a fair one.

In Canada, where I live now with full of freedoms, fairness and moreover respect to human values, during social gatherings Sri Lankan descent folks complain and talk about discrimination. My answer to them has been even being a majority I had been terribly discriminated before I left Sri Lanka for good.

Here is one such story not the first and would not be the last. Yours to decide!

Later in my career I attempted to secure a permanent academic poison in the Open University hoping that would pay way to higher studies but that also did not materialize (there is another story behind this) but not relevant here.

Open for comments, criticism, clarifications.

- Sisira Adikari


Editor's note: Please leave your comments.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Part IV – Student clash on the final day (by Sisira Adikari)

Parts I & II - Paving the Way to Clear Applied Electricity Backlog
Part III - Aftermath of the boycott

Part IV – Student clash on the final day

For good or bad it is customary on the final day of academic year students to pitch parties especially for final years where this day is the final day of their student life. The fraction among final years was that prominent they were unable to hold a one unified party. “Pro boycotters” (minority among final years) organized a toddy party at the faculty common room while the other group had their party at the Akbar hall dining room. As I was told later (there may be different versions as to how the fight erupted) apparently couple of students who were participating at the toddy party happened to visit Akbar hall. These “pro boycotters” were confronted by a group of “anti boycotters” who were parting at the Akbar hall. The incident was being sited to “pro boycotters” at the Akbar hall and joined to support other “pro boycotters”. This apparently led to a big fight where unfortunately one student lost his eye. When I came to the Akbar hall the fight was about to over.

The big fight followed by few isolated incidents the university premises became potentially unsafe for “anti boycotters”. The engineering faculty was closed indeterminately and students were sent home.

An investigation to the incident was conducted and there were suspensions from both groups. As usual pretty apparent that suspensions were deliberately targeted on student leaders or whom the administration thought as student leaders.

I must command the student leadership: J.P.S. Weerasighe and Channa Rajanayake respectively, for the efforts they had made to dormant the clash. But unfortunately later they, together with me, were brutally targeted by the administration and suspended. It was pretty clear the only reason that I have been targeted was due to growing angry towered me among “anti boycotters” since I supported the boycott.

Lack of other allegations only charge laid down against me was alleged presence on an assault scene. Quite surprisingly not on the day of the main clash (on the 1st day at least I was there) but the following day (Saturday) at the Arunachelam hall among group of students who assaulted “Tin Ton” (I forget his real name to date).

The key witnesses against me, final year anti boycotter Kapila Weerasooriya who provided a blatant false statement mere to knock me to fulfill someone else aspirations, was “kind” enough to state that I was only presence at the scene but not physically assaulted “Tin Ton”. If the allegation levelled against me was good enough for a suspension then on that ground along fair number of students should have been suspended.

Well, that particular Saturday early morning I left the campus to conduct my weekly tuition for few young female AL students where one of these students later became my life long partner. You may imagine how important that tuition has been for me than the “student movement” if you will. All my close associates are aware that I was not at all at the scene. It was a big fat lie. On the face value the lie was able to suspend a student for couple of weeks but was able to result much more repercussions. In short lie that potentially contributed to where and who I am now.

To make the long story short subsequently an inquiry was held just for a formality. Finally I was sentenced for couple of week suspension just prior to my Final Part II examination and the suspension was suspended allowing me to sit for the examination.

- Sisira Adikari


Editor's note: Please leave your comments.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Part III : Aftermath of the boycott (by Sisira Adikari)

Read Parts I and II first:

Part III: Aftermath of the boycott

In my view, students’ demands were granted so comfortably due to personal conflicts between then dean of the faculty Prof. C.L.V. Jayathilake and the Electrical and Electronics department.

After the demands were granted, Prof C.L.V. Jayatilake, who signed an agreement with students granting demands, was ousted by a decision made by the Faculty Board. As a bonus to students Prof. Milton Amaratunga, who is truly a professor and a gentleman, was appointed as the new dean.

Thereafter more gentle Dr. Ekanayake became the in-charge for AE course. It was not sure Prof. Gunawardena willingly gave up AE or the subject was taken away from him. No matter what the key demand was achieved. Academic activities were continued smoothly until the very last day of the academic year.

In my view the most benefited group from the action was the long listed AE repeaters. In the subsequent AE paper most of repeaters had a rear chance to get thorough thanks to much “user friendly” paper and humane marking scheme I believe.

After the boycott whole engineering students were basically divided to two fractions - those who were with the boycott and those who were opposed. Almost all non final years with minority group of final years became “pro boycotters” and majority of final years became “anti boycotters”. I am sure there were some non final year students whose subconscious opposed the boycott but kept silent for obvious reasons.

The division was prominent among final year students where majority were “anti boycotters” and minority were “pro boycotters”.

Then there were threats and silent intimidations from each group “anti boycotters” threatening to “take care” juniors when their time come to serve as instructors where as “pro boycotters” claiming you better get through your all subjects or do not come to the faculty to repeat your exams.

- Sisira Adikari

TO BE CONTINUED with PART IV - Student clash on the final day

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Paving the Way to Clear Applied Electricity Backlog (by Sisira Adikari) - Parts I and II

Part I – Introduction

Aim of this article is, as a first hand witness and victim, to outline events happened at the Peradeniya Engineering Faculty in 1986 leading to take away (or given away) Final Examination in Engineering Part I, Applied Electricity subject from Prof. J Gunawardena and subsequent revengeful incidents occurred that adversely effected to my career.

The write-up would substantiate some facts put forward by Rasika Suriyaarachchi in his recent article.

For past 20 years I dearly wanted to publish this to off the pressure out of my mind and also to unveil some incidents. Once I had a futile attempt to publish the core of this article in a Sinhala newspaper. Being not an artistic and creative writer I have no surprise as to why my attempt was not materialized.

I would like to thank the publisher for publishing this article in this blog.

Part II –Applied Electricity boycott

If you were in the faculty during 1980 -1987, I do not have to explain how tricky the second year Applied Electricity (AE) course and not to mention associated laboratory work had been before the subject was taken away from (or given away by) Prof. Gunawardena.

In my time as a student (1984 -1990) there were few standard questions that students be prepared before step into the laboratory; one has been the chemical equations of an alkaline battery cell. Students would come to AE lectures bit early not because of enthusiasm but for the mere reason not to be ended up sitting in an aisle seat (in order to avoid scrutinized by the lecturer).

In that era students were ruthlessly being chased away from AE laboratory classes. In 1986 (i.e. in my third year) bit extraordinary (meaning above and beyond “normal” chasing away from AE laboratory classes) situation was being developed among my immediate junior (i.e. then second year) batch.

By about half way through the academic year about half of second year students faced the risk of failing AE laboratory classes due to being chased away from AE laboratory classes. This obviously led to develop a tense situation among second year students.

The matter was discussed extensively in the Engineering Student Union (ESU). The second year students, as a protest, overwhelming wanted to boycott AE course and laboratory work. As an initial measure, ESU took the matter up with the subject in charge, Prof. Gunawardena. His point was to carryout laboratory work safely one got to know fundamentals. Fair enough, but unfortunately there was no plan or desire to deliver these fundamentals. Given the fact that there were not much differences between equipment used for laboratory work, how most of students who performed their first year laboratory work “safely” became lack of fundamentals to become “unsafe” in the second year is an interesting question to be raised. One may argue that first year subject in charge had ignored safety of students. On the other hand in my mind it was hard to justify how the chemical equation of alkaline battery cell is connected to safety in the laboratory. Since arguments can be made both ways, I am not going to further discuss credibility of the point made by Prof. Gunawardena.

Not to surprise the dialogue with Prof. Gunawardena did not do any better and the situation continued. Soon, one Wednesday there was highly intense ESU general body meeting to discuss the situation and to determine further actions. First year batch top of the victimized second years, Sanath Alahakoon (currently Dr.), key activist and representative for the second year students, delivered the opening speech. In his speech he explained the background and strongly recommended to boycott AE.

Majority of final year students opposed any boycott action. Although not exposed openly there were couple of key reasons (a) They wanted to complete before Moratuwa and hopefully secure lucrative jobs sooner than their Moratuwa counterparts (by that time due to some strike actions Moratuwa was behind Peradeniya) (b) Since they were in the final year they (specially electrical folks) did not want to send a wrong message to their teachers.

Here came in my view most influenced few words that I have ever spoken to change my destiny. But I did it gracefully and no regrets to what I said. It was a factual statement.

As it matters to what you probably will read afterwards I shall mention now I obtained the R.H. Gunaratne prize for the best academic performance from the Final Part I examination with straight five “A”s obviously including AE. In layman terms I became the “batch top” in my second year. In my third year I served as the secretary of the Electrical and Electronics Engineering society. In the following academic year I became the Vice President of the ESU. I personally had no problem with Prof. Gunawardena’s teaching and digesting his subject. No doubt that he is an exceptionally smart but unfortunately controversial teacher.

During my second year one day I had a chance to have a small talk with one of my friend, who was an undergraduate in an American university vacationing in Sri Lanka, at the Colombo public library. We obviously talked about our undergraduate experiences. I was very enthusiastic telling about Prof. Gunawardena and his teaching methodology. I mentioned that one time only 3 out of 33 students were able to get through one of Prof. Gunawardena’s subjects. At one time my friends’ comment was if such a thing happened in his university, especially in a year after the first year, the administration would definitely point the finger to the course instructor.

With my view that something is not right with Prof Gunawardene’s teaching, attitude and marking methodology for AE specially in terms of catering for average students together with having that chat in my mind what I simply said at the meeting was one time only 3 out of 33 students were managed to pass a particular paper by Prof. Gunawardena, given that I believe there is a serious problem in the way that AE course is being delivered. In no time Prof. Gunawardena’s loyal must have conveyed that to his and perhaps some other influential ears.

Some remarkable statements were made in that meeting. One final year student stated that “If there is any boycott I will cut my hand and hang it on some prominent place (can’t remember the place he mentioned). One second year female student loudly asked final years to pat their back to see whether they have backbones.

With heated, some instances unpleasant, arguments finally a decision was made to boycott the AE. As a strategic measure all office bearers of the ESU were resigned. Finally the boycott began with some demands which I do not remember exacts.

After about couple of weeks boycott and talks between the dean, academic staff and administration finally students’ demands were accepted at least to a degree that the student leadership could respectfully claim the victory.

- Sisira Adikari

TO BE Continued with Part III - Aftermath of the boycott

Editor's note: Please leave your comments.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sisira Adikari writes his memories

Dear eFacMemories readers,

I have excellent news for you!

Sisira Adikari [E/83/008] is going to write his memories of the eFac days @ Peradeniya.

I have received a document running for seven pages with over 3000 words for Sisira.

His article focuses on the incidents that took place in 1986 at the faculty of engineering.

That was the time when e-fac students' protested against Professor J A Gunawardena's handling of second year Applied Electricity labs.

I will start publishing Sisira's article in sevela installments over the next feew days.

So, watch this space guys!

-Moderator, eFac Memories blog

READ - Parts I and II

(image taken from: