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English as medium of instruction at Law College

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The step the government has taken to introduce English as the medium of instruction in the Law College will definitely ensure the quality of the lawyers produced by the Law College, and it will also increase their employability. It will help them for their higher studies and foreign employment as well.  It will boost their image too in the eyes of the public. People would always try to look down upon a lawyer speaking halting English or no English at all.

At present the number of students who study law in the vernacular, that is, Sinhala and Tamil is much higher than the students who study it in English.  In my view the arguments of some opposition parliamentarians that the introduction of English as the only medium of instruction in the Law College will discriminate against students from rural areas does not hold water. Foreign Minister Ali Sabry in the parliamentary debate on this effectively quashed their concern by his well posed rhetorical question “if the students from rural areas can study  Medicine and Engineering in the English medium even without a pass in O level English, how come the students admitted to the Law College through an entrance examination including an English language test cannot do it?

To enter the law faculties of the conventional universities to study LL.B,  a candidate should have a credit pass in O level English. The LL.B holders from the Open University should have completed the Professional Certificate in English course conducted by the Open University to enter the Law College. The candidates who enter the Law College directly have to pass the English language test. Therefore, there is no issue for these three groups of students to follow the Attorney at Law course in the Law College in the English medium as they have already got the basic knowledge of English.

The standard of English of most lawyers who studied law in the vernacular is very poor. These lawyers themselves admit that their English language proficiency is poor and they cannot refer to legal books in English. Nor can they draft documents in English.  They cannot go to higher courts for legal practice either. Prospects for foreign employment for them are bleak too.

Why English medium? 

If you want to specialise in an area of study, you should first have ample literature in that area of study in the language you know.  For instance, when you google for online literature on law in Sinhala or Tamil, you will get a blank screen.  When you go to a university library, you will not find any book on law in Sinhala or Tamil. Literally speaking you do not have any literature to read. You have to depend on the notes and handouts your lecturers give you.  If your lecturers have a good command of English, then they may refer to English books and translate some study materials for you. If their English is not that much good, you will not have that either.

Translation of Course Materials

cumbersome.

Some argue that if Japanese, Chinese and Koreans can do their higher studies in their languages why we can’t. This is a faulty argument. Literature on any subject is immediately translated into their languages by subject experts and  efficient reading materials are readily available for them  for reference in their universities. Our situation is different. Even important bills are pending in parliament because their translation is not available in Tamil to be enacted as law. This is our situation. Do we have enough manpower and resources to translate a large number of books from English to local languages? Can we at least translate one eighth of the reading materials available in the Peradeniya University library? What about the quality of the materials translated? Translators should be subject experts with high command of English. I met some students doing LL. B in Tamil in one of our universities.  They said their greatest challenge was finding reading materials in Tamil. They said they had access to a very limited amount of reading materials in Tamil and the standard of these materials was questionable too. When the first Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew visited Peradeniya University, he asked then Vice Chancellor, ‘How can three engineers educated in three different languages build one bridge?’ And the VC replied: ‘That, Sir is a political question for the ministers to answer’. Then the Vice Chancellor mentioned that all the basic textbooks which were printed in English had to be translated to Sinhala and Tamil and by the time they were translated and printed, they were three to four editions old. (Source: The Island)

Some English Medium

Courses only in name. 

Some English medium courses in higher education institutions exist in name only.

I worked for a National College of Education and nearly half of the academic staff had completed their degrees and post graduate degrees in the English medium but ninety percent of them could not express themselves in English nor could they write simple letters of request like request for leave.

According to them, though they were enrolled for English medium courses, for them most lectures were conducted in Sinhala or Tamil. This had happened for two reasons.  One reason was students could not understand English lectures and the other reason was some lecturers could not lecturer in English confidently.  The final examination was also conducted in Sinhala or Tamil. Only the academic transcript said they had followed the course in the English medium. Now they have made it compulsory for the candidates following the English medium courses to sit the final examinations in English.  English medium degree holders working in government sectors are exempted from the English language requirement for efficiency bar, get a once and for all allowance, an additional increment and additional marks too in promotion interviews, but most of them do not have even working knowledge of English.  English medium degree is also a basic qualification to become English instructors in Universities and lecturers in institutions like Technical Colleges. It is good to recruit English medium degree holders to these positions through an English proficiency test not a General knowledge test. Therefore, the English medium courses should maintain their standards. They should not exist only in name.

Though this decision of making English as the only medium of instruction at the Law College was taken by the Legal Council, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry as then Justice Minister played a bigger role in it. I very much appreciate this decision and strongly hope this change will definitely raise the standard of our lawyers and ultimately the standard of our judiciary.

M. A. Kaleel

(Writer is a Senior English Language Teacher Educator and holds an MA in TESOL from the University College of London, University of London. kaleelmohammed757@gmail.com)



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Opinion

Nelum Kuluna poses danger to aircraft

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The top of Nelum Kuluna (Lotus Tower) stands 350 above sea level in the heart of Colombo City, as the air navigators of old would say, sticking out like a ’sore thumb’. It has to be lit up in accordance with the Aircraft Obstacle Lighting recommendations contained in Annex 14 of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Convention originally signed by Ceylon in 1944.

A free-standing tower of that height is required by international law to be lit up not only at night with red lights, but also with high visibility white strobe lights during the day.

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be on always during the day. The authorities concerned must realise that the strobe lighting during the day is not for beauty but for air safety, especially these days, when the air quality and visibility are low during the day.

Have those in charge of the tower been briefed properly on the legal requirement and the use of proper lighting? In case of an accident, this certainly will have implications on insurance claims.

I wonder whether the ‘Regulator’, Civil Aviation Authority Sri Lanka would like to comment.

If not rectified, it will be just a matter of time an aircraft will be impaled by the Nelum Kuluna.

I M Nervy (Aviator)

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Opinion

Simple questions to Sirisena and Gotabaya

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If Sirisena had not been informed of the plans to explode bombs on 21st of April 2019, as he has claimed, shouldn’t he have taken immediate action to call for explanation from Nilantha Jayawardena, then head of State Intelligent Service (SIS), who had been notified several times about the impending attack by the Indian intelligence.

Sirisena and Jayawardena should be prosecuted for allowing a mass murder to take place. Further Sirisena should be made to explain his famous uttering, “I will reveal everything, if somebody tries to implicate me”.

Why did Gotabaya, who announced his candidature for presidency almost immediately after the Easter Sunday attack and promised to punish those who were involved in it, pay no attention to Nilantha Jayawardena’s failure in taking necessary action with regard to information he received, instead he was given a promotion?

President Ranil Wickremesinghe at a meeting with USAID Administrator Samantha Power on September 11, 2022 had said that Scotland Yard had been requested to review the reports and reach a final conclusion on claims that there was a hidden hand behind the bombings.

We do not need Scotland Yard, just get an honest set of Sri Lankan police officers to question Nilantha, Sirisena and Gotabaya to find the “hidden hand behind the bombings”

B Perera

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Opinion

Open letter to Sirisena

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Y you were in Singapore when the Easter Sunday attacks took place. You claimed that you had not been informed of the intelligence received by your intelligence officers. However, the Supreme Court has ordered you to pay Rs 100M as compensation to the victims of the terror attacks. The reasons for the decision are stated in the judgement.

Acting on a claim that there was a conspiracy to assassinate you and former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya you caused the interdiction and arrest of DIG Nalaka Silva, who was held in custody without bail for a long time.

In his testimony to the Presidential Commission  of Inquiry, Silva said that he had been interdicted while plans were in place to arrest Zaharan.

Due to the arrest of DIG Silva, Zaharan escaped arrest. Silva was never charged. Zaharan continued with his plans and the rest is history.

After the SC order you have been claiming that you have no money to pay the Rs 100M as compensation. You are asking for public help to pay compensation to Easter carnage victims. You even accepted some money collected by a person called Sudaththa Tilakasiri, who begged from people.

You have said publicly that you submitted your asset declarations. I suggest that you sell all your assets declared in the declarations before asking for funds from the public.

Hemal Perera

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