‘The university has become a desolate place without Nalin’– Dr Piyaseeli Wijegunasinghe, after Professor Nalin was sacked.
He’s referred to in all three ways. Naturally, the addressers are of three types. He is ‘Nalin Sir’ to his students. Those who weren’t his students call him ‘Naliya.’ Then there is another category. Those who learned from him. For them he is Professor Nalin.
Now there are lots of stories about Professor Nalin, most of which are similar to those narratives vilifying the Rajapaksas. However, regardless of all these stories, there is one thing that all, his supporters and detractors, agree upon: he is an honest man.
It was in the first half of the 1990s that Colombo University sacked him. Now, typically, it is behavior detrimental to the name of the university, hanky-panky related to examinations or financial fraud that can lead to someone being sacked.
Nalin was sacked ‘for teaching “Jathika Chinthanaya.”’
Although Jayadeva Uyangoda alias ‘Oo Mahaththaya’ knew that only ‘vijaathika’ (foreign) chinthanaya (doctrine) could be taught in Sri Lankan universities, Professor Nalin didn’t know this. At the time he was sacked, G.L. Peiris was the Vice Chancellor of Colombo University. GL is an educated man. Nalin is an intellectual.
On one occasion, when the educated GL dropped by to see if Nalin was actually teaching ‘Jathika Chinthanaya,’ Nalin the Intellectual simply embedded ‘Jathika Chinthana’ within mathematical formulae.
It is said that when he was small, GL struggled with math. His parents got him a reputed tutor. The tutor happened to be Professor Nalin’s father. GL expressed gratitude by sacking his math tutor’s son when he, GL, was Vice Chancellor. The matter ended in court and the determination went Professor Nalin way, but by this time he was close to retirement age.
Nalin was compensated, but no punishment was meted out to those who prevented university students from benefiting from his knowledge. It was not only over ‘Jathika Chinthanaya’ that Professor Nalin and GL crossed swords. In fact it’s a story that GL himself doesn’t know. It was usual for university students to organize a ‘Bhakthi Gee’ show during Vesak. It was also normal for the group to visit the Vice Chancellor’s house for a special performance.
The then President of the Science Faculty Students’ Union, Roshan Gunawardena (currently a very close political aide of Champika Ranawaka) threatened the group of singers, stopping them from visiting Vice Chancellor GL’s house.
‘Are you going to give your a*** to GL?’ He had thundered.
GL, who had got his house freshly painted and was awaiting the Bhakth Geetha group believed that Nalin had a hand in all this. .“Aege Vairaya (Her Hatred)” starring Chandi Rasika was being screened in cinemas at the time. After this incident ‘Mahachaarya Vairaya (Professorial Hatred)’ starring GL began to be screened in Colombo University. Finally, Nalin was thrown out. So too was his best student, Gevindu.
Nalin had lots of followers, most of whom were part of ‘Chinthana Parshadaya.’ Among them was Karunaratne Paranavithana (who has since modified his name to ‘Karu Paranavithana’). When SL sacked Nalin, Karunaratne Paranavithana organized a weak campaign against the move and thereby helped turn it into a non-issue. Later, when GL was appointed as Minister of Justice, Paranavithana was offered a secretarial post.
That was a good deal. He essentially diluted the protest against sacking Professor Nalin. The secretarial post was payment. During the time Nalin was in campus, there would be a play, a musical show or some other performance every Monday in the Art’s Theater. On the following day, Tuesday, there would be a discussion on the same. These discussions often so unyielding battles between Professor Nalin and Dr Piyaseeli Wijegunasinghe.After Nalin was sacked she once observed, ‘the university has become a desolate place without Nalin.’ What she implied was that the culture of debate and discussion that had been developing in the university had come to a halt.
At the time Professor Ediriweera Sarachchandra was a member of the university’s ‘sankruthika bandalaya (Board of/on Culture)’. He was paid an allowance for services rendered. A problem arose when it was planned to show one of his plays at the New Arts Theater. Professor Sarachchandra wasn’t prepared to offer even a five cents worth discount from the usual charges. Instead he suggested that price of the ticket (usually Rs 10) was increased.
Professor Nalin objected. The story that was spread regarding all this was an absolute fiction.
Sarachchandra’s golayas in the media painted Nalin as a villain and Sarachchandra as some kind of god. Then there was another issue.
This time it concerned Nanda Malini. Nanda Malini, who had once crept through a barbed wire fence to sing at Jayawardanapura University where her long-time friend and lyricist Professor Sunil Ariyaratne (sorry, SENIOR Professor) taught, demanded Rs 20,000 as her pound of flesh for the ‘Pawana’ concert. Finally, the students were charged Rs 10 per ticket and the balance amount was furnished by the university.
The Gadfly records all this because these are matters everyone should know.Finally, everything went to the man who took the side of the students, Professor Nalin.
At the time there were two exceptional individuals in the ‘Anthar Vishvavidyaaleeya Aachaarya Balamandalaya (Inter University Teachers’ Federation), Professor Osmand Jayaratne and Professor Nalin. Under their leadership, the salaries of university teachers were increased. However, before he could receive the benefits, the door to the university was closed upon Professor Nalin. Not a single university lecturer stood up to speak for Professor Nalin in any manner that could be felt. They pocketed the increment and went away.
In the new parliament there are two individuals who were Professor Nalin’s students: Gevindu and Anupa Piyum Pasqual. There’s also GL, who did Nalin much wrong.
We watch. We wait.
This is the English translation of an article written by ‘Aeta Messa’ (The Gadfly) published in ‘The Leader (https://theleader.lk/) under the title ‘නලින් සර්, මහාචාර්ය නලින් හෙවත් නලියා.’.