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Monday 18 July 2011

Crucifixion of Prof. Nalin De Silva

As a physicist and a student of Prof. Nalin De Silva I strongly condemn the action taken against him by a group of science faculty academics at the University of Kelaniya and the Sri Lankan Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS). According to the media reports, SLAAS had virtually threatened the members of his research group to dissociate themselves from Prof. Nalin De Silva, while the Science faculty academics have sought intervention from the vice chancellor to put an end to his work on the Rajarata Kidney Disease. What these two groups have done is both unprofessional and unethical. While trying to discredit Prof. Nalin De Silva and his groups’ recent work on the issue of Rajarata Kidney Disease they themselves have abandoned ethical conduct in science. Scientists should rightly demand that inferences made through scientific research are logical and are consistent with the experimental data and facts. If these academics had any issues with Prof. De Silva’s work, as scientists they should have made their arguments solely on the inaccuracies and inconsistencies, if any, of Prof. De Silva’s results and conclusions setting aside all egos, hatreds etc. This is what Scientists are trained to do and is expected of them by the general public who pay their salaries. SLAAS and the science faculty academics have failed to live up to it. Further, Prof. De Silva had publicly invited all who had concerns about his group’s work to visit their laboratory to see how they carried out specific experiments. If they were genuinely interested, being from the same institute, the Science faculty academics should have taken this opportunity to investigate for themselves if they had any doubts about Prof. De Silva’s group’s results. This would have been the most socially responsible thing to do. They did not do this either. Instead of being objective, SLAAS and the science faculty academics have resorted to a child like smearing campaign against Prof. Nalin De Silva, which appear to be based on sentimentalities rather than science. Indeed a very sad state of affairs.

Then there is a more important question of accountability. The greater issue at stake here is not Prof. Nalin De Silva’s reputation or any other person’s or institution’s reputation for that matter, but the health and well being of thousands of paddy farmers in Rajarata. Those who conduct smear campaigns against him essentially threaten to shut down his group’s future works which according to Prof. De Silva include finding a cure for the disease and promoting wholesome methods of paddy cultivation. The people of Rajarata cannot afford an ego battle at their expense. If the SLAAS or the Science faculty academics think that this work should be stopped because of its poor science then they may do so with plausible arguments while holding themselves accountable to the general public, especially to those Rajarata families who are undergoing immense suffering because of the disease. Will they stand up to that responsibility? If so, can the SLAAS or the science faculty academics produce an alternative solution to the Rajarata kidney disease? If not why should the public take them seriously?

Janaka Wansapura, PhD