Reinstate Dr Weliange plead Rajarata University students | Sunday Observer

Reinstate Dr Weliange plead Rajarata University students

By Aanya Wipulasena
By Aanya Wipulasena

It took 20 years to do the research and another four years to compile all the collected information into a book. When Thrilokawijeya was finally launched in August 2016 it was praised by many. Why? Because for the first time in Sri Lanka an academic tirelessly collected indigenous and almost forgotten literature about medicinal use of cannabis in the country.

But little did its author Dr. Wasantha Sena Weliange know then that the book would cost his job as a lecturer at the University of Rajarata.

Early this month Dr. Weliange was dismissed from service without a valid reason. It is evident that two petitions filed by his colleagues were at the bottom of the sudden dismissal.

Dr. Weliange joined the University of Rajarata in December 2017- about a year after the launch of Thrilokawijeya as a temporary lecturer, a six months appointment. His services were extended several times till he completed two years of service. The interview that was scheduled to be held to recruit him into the permanent cadre was delayed due mostly to political movements within state-run universities.

During this time, Dr. Weliange’s counterparts at the university filed two separate petitions against him. One was in 2018 when he delivered a speech at an event organised by the Central Cultural Fund at the Polonnaruwa Museum and the second was filed in the end of the same year over a song he chose to sing at a peduru party. The former reflected the disapproval of using the university address when the author cum lecturer signed for the Central Cultural Fund speech, and the latter expressed the lecturers’ wrath on Thriloka- a teledrama song. Jeewithe raga thale athata payata kohenda enne. Ahasinda? Ahase piyasalana wala pelata desa thiyanne. Muhudenda?

Dr. Weliange would have asked if the petition didn’t oppose the usage of the song at a university event alleging it promoted cannabis usage. So instead he sang Kotu keli soyala, paranal kola genalla, thalayakata thiyala, podi kurulu geyak hadala. He was praised for his musical talents. Now he is dismissed from work. The group of lecturers who worked against him claim that his teachings contradict with the anti-alcohol and drug campaigns promoted in the university.

“This sadly shows that our university lecturers are not updated with recent knowledge or emerging research,” Dr. Weliange said. “This is a pathetic situation. Our scientists and lecturers only know what is said in the syllabus and not anything else.”

Canada became the first major country to legalise cannabis, also known as marijuana, for adults last year. Uruguay followed suit. And ever since other nations such as New Zealand and Mexico are revisiting their laws.

Dr. Weliange’s book does not call for a legalisation of cannabis on a national level nor does it encourage university students to smoke, instead it gives an insight into how ancestors used it to cure various deceases and conditions. He managed to unearth historic literature and modern findings.

His dismissal from service has aggravated his students. Speaking to the Sunday Observer member of the main student union at the University of Rajarata, Wasantha Mudalige said his peers are discussing about ways to call for an intervention by relevant authorities in order to recruit Dr. Weliange again.

“He was a good lecturer. He moved with the students and understood what they were going through. He was also there in every kala event”, Mudalige said. The student union member strongly believes that universities need to be more open to different types of researches.

Sri Lanka is open for researches on subjects that are mostly hidden behind curtains. When Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the Sri Jayawardenapura University Nandasena Ratnapala did research into beggars and sex workers his work was praised.

The students are planning to meet the Vice Chancellor to discuss the matter.

The Sunday Observer’s several attempts to contact the Chairman of the University Grants Commission for a comment regarding Dr. Weliange’s dismissal proved futile.