Amila Ishan Kankanamge, the Government appointed non-Executive Director to Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd and Independent Television Network Boards, is now exposed to be a scammer. The educational qualifications he has mentioned in his profile are conformed to have been falsified.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA-from where Kankanamge is said to have obtained a Bachelor’s & Master’s Combined Degree- responding to an e-mail sent by this newspaper confirmed that it doesn’t have a record of a person by the name of Amila Kankanamge studying for such a course at the institute.
The respondent further states, ‘Thanks for writing. According to the MIT Registrar’s office, we do not have a record of an individual by the name Amila Kankanamge having been an enrolled MIT student. Thanks, Abby Abazorius, Senior Media Relations Specialist, MIT News Office’.
Employees of Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd and Independent Television Network have now challenged Kankanamge, who serves as a non-Executive Director in the respective boards, to prove that he possesses a Doctorate as stated in his credentials.
Kankanamge, the highly influential political appointee to these two institutions following the 2019 Presidential Election, is said to be a close confidant of a member of the Rajapaksa clan.
Kankanamge is said to have obtained a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Conceptual Designs from the National University of Singapore and claims to be the sixth youngest PhD holder in the world. According to the credentials provided he has also obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree (BSc.) from the Queen Mary University of London apart from the Bachelor’s & Master’s Combined Degree mentioned.
Despite Kankanamge’s claims it is alleged that he has not obtained a Bachelor’s & Master’s Combined Degree (BSc and MSc) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in USA and the said PhD in Conceptual Designs from the National University of Singapore. Hence his claim to be the sixth youngest PhD holder in the world can be challenged.
According to his profile, Kankanamge has been the Honorary Central Governing Board Member of Sri Lanka Red Cross Society from 2018 to date, Honorary President of the Colombo Chamber of Commerce (CCC) from 2016 to 2018; which institute is the premier business chamber affiliated to Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL).
He was also the Senior Honorary Advisor to the Ministry of Provincial Council and Local Government from 2017 to 2018 and Forbes Representative Sri Lanka from 2015 to 2017.
When present CCC Honorary President Saranga Wijeyarathne was contacted to find out about its former President, Wijeyarathne confirmed that Kankanamge was the past President, but said that he is no more a Board Member or an Advisor of CCC at present.
“Please note that he was a Past President ( 2016-2018) of our Chamber and is currently not a board member or advisor nor a participant at any committee of the Colombo Chamber of Commerce. Further he has not renewed his membership for the past two years.
“Members of Colombo Chamber of Commerce have endorsed him as the President considering the face value as a known industry individual and keeping in view of his affiliation on different platforms. The CCC members have now forwarded queries to me regarding the past President’s credentials to which I thought of writing to him seeking his explanation. It is the members that appoint the President and in this instance Kankanamge has been appointed taking into account the credentials he forwarded,” Wijeyarathne said.
Meanwhile a former Researcher at MIT, USA, who wished to remain anonymous, speaking from USA confirmed with the Daily Mirror that Kankanamge has neither obtained any degree from MIT nor has he attended lectures at the university. A highly reliable source from Australia, who is an associate of Kankanamge, told this newspaper that he has personally checked with the National University of Singapore (NUS) and has unearthed that Kankanamge hasn’t obtained a PhD degree as claimed.
“Since I was a Researcher at MIT all my Sri Lankan friends, who have attended this institute during the years Kankanamge claims to have been a student, requested me to search whether there was a student by that name. Following their request I made a formal request to the Registrar’s Office of the MIT Alumni Association on October 7, 2020, seeking the authenticity of Kankanamge’s MIT credentials,” the sources said.
For the record this newspaper is in possession of the e-mail correspondences between the former MIT Researcher and MIT officials.
Massive outpouring on Twitter
In her e-mail, addressed to the Registrar’s office dated October 7, it further states, ‘I am ……….. a past researcher at the MIT Media Lab and a ‘19 cross-registered student at MIT while at Wellesley College.
‘He is a prominent business leader and political figure in South Asia and sits on numerous boards and advisory councils both state-owned and otherwise. His last appointment was as the President of the Red Cross in Sri Lanka. While we were browsing his credentials we noticed discrepancies in timelines and the absence of any online research papers or links verifying his BSc and MSc from MIT.
‘Over the past few days, we have seen a massive outpouring on Twitter over his falsified credentials. As tax-paying citizens of our country our intention is to bring this to the attention of the state authorities. I am writing to bring this to your attention and to seek advice on how issues like these could be escalated with the university.
‘I have attached a formal letter herewith, with more context.
The formal letter states as,
‘To: Registrar’s Office,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
77 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02139-4307.
Falsifying Academic Credentials from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Amila Kankanamge
‘This is to bring your attention of Amila Kankanamge (a resident of Sri Lanka) a well-known individual within the political and business communities who has been misleading and scamming hundreds of individuals and dozens of companies over the past decade by claiming to hold:
1. A Doctorate in Philosophy - Conceptual Designs and Expert Systems from the National University of Singapore and being the 6th youngest Ph.D. holder in the world.
2. A Bachelor’s & Master’s Combined Degree (B.Sc & M.Sc) in Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA)
3. Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Business Management and Marketing from Queen Mary, University of London
Amila Kankanamge has misled the general public and numerous organizations using these credentials. Alumni from these institutions attest to have never known this individual; he doesn’t have a single research article or publication to his name nor does he appear on any alumni directory. Using these falsified credentials Amila Kankanamge fabricated a persona around him of being a researcher, technologist, and subject matter expert and thus managed to secure board positions in the following organization thereby amassing both financial gains and numerous other opportunities:
Director of Sri Lanka Mobitel
2. Director of the Independent Television Network - Sri Lanka
3. Board Member - LAK OLYMPIC TEAM, Urban Development Authority
4. Honorary Central Governing Board Member - Sri Lanka Red Cross Society
5. Honorary President - Colombo Chamber of Commerce
6. Senior Honorary Advisor - Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Government
7. Forbes Representative - Sri Lanka
We would be grateful if academic institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the National University of Singapore provide verification as per Amila Kankanamge’s candidacy to ensure that the general public of Sri Lanka is made aware of his actions. Looking forward to a positive response. Best regards’.
“I have no comment,” Kankanamge
Amila Kankanamge when contacted on his mobile, to get a comment on the allegations levelled against him, said that he will not respond to any allegation levelled against him on social media.
“I have no comment,” Kankanamge said.
When asked whether he still stands by the educational qualifications he has mentioned in his profile, Kankanamge hung up abruptly.
The following day, the whistleblower (former Researcher at MIT), has received a response from the Institution stating that it does not have any record of a former student by his name.
The MIT response further states, ‘Thank you for contacting us about this. Indeed, we have already fielded other requests for this person’s information recently. Thank you for letting us know that this is a very public event; this means we are likely to hear from others. That’s annoying, but there’s nothing we can do about it besides just be prepared to repeat ourselves a few times.
‘We have no record of a former student with this name. Please note that MIT did not award degrees on July 21, 2004. MIT does not offer a degree with this title. MIT does not bestow latin honors (“summa cum laude”) upon graduating students. Please do let us know if you needed anything further’.
Employees at Mobitel (Pvt) LTd and ITN queries as to why the respective managements are silent and don’t initiate action against Kankanamge.
“Had any lower ranker caught for submitting fake qualifications he would have sent on compulsory leave immediately pending inquiry. But for the political appointees, there is a different law in this country,” an ITN employee said on condition of anonymity.
According to Kankanamge’s educational qualifications, he has passed his Ordinary Level Examination while being a student at D.S. Senanayake College Colombo in 2001, enrolled at MIT in 2001 and completed the BSc and MSc in Computer Science in 2003. Whilst studying at MIT, USA, he had enrolled at Queen Mary University, London in 2002 and completed his MSc degree in Business Management and Marketing in 2004. Whilst studying for his BSc and MSc in Computer Science at MIT and also MSc in Business Management and Marketing at Queen Mary University, Kankanamge has got himself enrolled at National University of Singapore in 2003 and was successful in obtaining the PhD in Conceptual Designs, Expert Systems in 2006.
“What a studious student Kankanamge was though he has not sat for the Advance Level Examination in Sri Lanka as shown in his profile. According to his credentials he was able to follow the combined MSc and BSc from MIT between 2001 and 2003 and has involved as a volunteer in Engineers Beyond Borders, Intern/Research Assistant at NASA Godard Space Center.
“At Queen Mary University, from 2002 to 2004, he was the lead researcher Astrophysics unit of the Royal Astronomical Society UoL Chapter. At NUS, from 2003 to 2006, he was a volunteer at Engineers beyond Borders and a member of the Astrophysics society. He has sat for four degrees at one time in three different continents in the world,” a senior high ranking official at Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd told the Daily Mirror.
A source from Australia further said that when he verified with the NUS about Kankanamge’s past details there wasn’t a single record linked to his name.
Meanwhile Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd sources query as to why the Presidential Secretariat, that appointed Kankanamge to Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd, failed to verify his credentials before offering numerous board/ advisory positions.
He further stated that Kankanamge is a member of the Mobitel procurement committee and doubts have been raised regarding the procurement decisions he has taken so far.
“He goes as Dr. Amila Kankanamge and we too respected him assuming he was a highly qualified person. He claims that he has more than 10 years experience in the mobile value added services industry in Sri Lanka and Asia. He also claims that he is a veteran in satellite communication & broadcasting systems and a pioneering partner in Sri Lanka’s first satellite TV channel. The Presidential Secretariat may have appointed him to Mobitel and ITN Boards considering the knowledge he mentions to have in satellite communication and satellite TV channel. As a procurement committee member at Mobitel, whenever his associates were involved in bids, who knows whether he has helped them out? For a person of his caliber, isn’t it a conflict of interest to sit at the procurement committee? Who has appointed him to this committee and on what grounds? Either the Ministry officials or the Mobitel Management should answer” sources said on conditions of anonymity.
“Action has to be taken against the said ITN non-Executive Board Member, if proved that he is a scammer”
- Media Minister
Minister of Mass Media Keheliya Rambukwella when contacted stated that he will have to take action against the said ITN non-Executive Board Member, if it is proved that he is a scammer.
“It is the Presidential Secretariat that nominated Kankanamge to the ITN Board and I was told that they have taken up this issue very seriously. My Secretary had spoken to Kankanamge two weeks ago regarding this allegation. He has stated that he has already written to MIT, USA giving the dates of his enrollment to the Institute and the date he was awarded the degree and awaiting their response,” the Minister said.
Asked how long he would give Kankanamge to prove his innocence, Minister Rambukwella said that he has to give him (Kankanamge) more time to obtain a reply from the Institute.
However Rambukwella said that to become a Board Director Kankanamge need not hold degrees or any other higher educational qualifications, but added that stern action would be taken against him if found guilty for misleading the authorities who appointed him.
“Not received any complaints”
- Rohan Fernando, Chairman
Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd
Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd Chairman Rohan Fernando said that he has not received any complaints regarding Kankanamge’s credentials, but came to know about these concerns via social media.
“I cannot rely what is on social media,” Fernando told the Daily Mirror.
When asked whether Kankanamge has submitted the false credentials even to Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd Fernando said that it was the Presidential Secretariat that has made the appointment and his résumé should be there (Presidential Secretariat).
“For political appointments the appointee should not produce his educational certificates. What’s needed is only a copy of his résumé. I am not aware whether he has mentioned the qualifications you are claiming to have been falsified. It is up to the Presidential Secretariat to initiate any inquiry if it wants,” Fernando said.
When asked whether Kankanamge is in the procurement committee, Fernando confirmed it by answering in the affirmative.
“Kankanamge has to submit his credentials to the Presidential Secretariat”
- ITN Chairman
Meanwhile ITN Chairman Sudath Rohana too confirmed that Kankanamge is a non-Executive Director, but declined to give further details.
“I saw the allegations levelled against Kankanamge on Facebook. When the recommendation came from the Secretary Finance Ministry, the Ministry of Mass Media upheld the decision. This issue hasn’t been taken up at the Board meeting yet,” Sudath Rohana said.
Asked whether Kankanamge has submitted these alleged credentials to ITN as well, the Chairman said that he has to submit his credentials to the Presidential Secretariat, the institution that made his appointment, and not to the institution that he was appointed to.