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GL underscores need for educational reforms to suit current, future needs

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Private sector led initiative to enhance English proficiency among student community

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris says the government wants to enhance opportunities available to the student community to learn English. Prof. Peiris explained the pivotal importance of government-private sector partnership in a large scale countrywide project geared to help the student community.

The former External Affairs Minister told The Island after inspecting an ongoing smart classroom project at Susamayawardhana Maha Vidyalaya in Colombo late last week. W.A. Kapila Weerasuriya, principal of the school was also present.

Launched in early November 2019 in the wake of the failed 2018 constitutional coup, the project was meant to boost the English education to assist the student community at an early stage. Prof. Peiris said that the project would provide an equal opportunity to the student community.

Addressing the gathering at the Susamayawardhana Maha Vidyalaya, Prof. Peiris pointed out the failure on the part of the current education system to produce young Sri Lankans capable of meeting current and growing requirements in the job market. Appreciating the role played by the Brandix Lanka Limited in the implementation of the ‘Right To Read Sri Lanka’ project, Prof. Peiris emphasized the importance of consulting the private sector in the preparation of various courses of study, updating curricula as well as amendments to current and future requirements.

Both the government and the people were really grateful to the private sector for backing the project meant to reach one million students by 2021/22, the minister said.

Brandix Director Ajit Johnpillai, Senthil Eswaran (Brandix, Director, East), Assad Omar (Manager Projects) and Lawrence Vincent (Senior Executive, Projects) accompanied the Minister.

During his brief speech the minister acknowledged that it would be a very costly project.

The Island

asked Assad Omar how Brandix intended to fund the project as a single SmartBoard had been estimated to cost approximately around USD 1,000, the private sector official said that they were having negotiations with the supplier Singer PLC in a bid to lower the price. Responding to another query, Omar said that they commenced preliminary work a couple of months before the Nov, 2018 launch of the project.

Funds made available by donors would be exclusively used to procure SmartBoards; the Brandix spokesperson said adding that the company and the Omar family were to meet other expenses, including administration, logistics, teacher training, maintenance and installation.

Described as a community driven non-profit organization, the project is implemented with the Education Ministry and ‘EnglishHelper Global’, Brandix official said that it was carried out in eight countries having initiated in India in 2013. The countries accommodated in the project, in addition to India and Sri Lanka, are Vietnam, Bangladesh, Colombia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Both the Education Ministry and Brandix acknowledged that the success of the project would depend on close cooperation among all stakeholders, including Provincial Ministries of Education.

Prof. Peiris said that his ministry and the government would provide all possible assistance to ensure the countrywide implementation of the project. The ‘RightToRead SriLanka’ project could make a big difference, if implemented, diligently, Prof. Peiris said, highlighting the importance of the project against the backdrop of the subject’s poor performance at the GCE Ordinary Level examination. According to the latest data available, 38 % failed the subject at the CCE OL, the minister pointed out in a brief interview with The Island, adding that the failure rate at the last year’s examination was three times higher than Sinhala and Tamil. The minister said that assisting the student community to learn English was part of the overall thinking of the incumbent government to prepare the younger generation for future challenges.

The minister expressed confidence that the private sector and other well-wishers could throw their weight behind the ambitious project intended to make a genuine difference.

Sri Lanka schooling system comprised 353 national and 9.841 provincial schools with a combined student population of 4.2 mn.’RightToRead SriLanka’ project has been so far implemented in the Northern and Sabaragamuwa Provinces.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on a number of occasions, discussed urgent need for educational reforms to meet current and future challenges. President Rajapaksa is on record as having said that the education system did not produce employees with qualifications to meet current requirements.



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Bipartisan US Congress legislation calls for self-determination for Eelam Tamils

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Wiley

…proposes South Sudan, Montenegro, East Timor, Bosnia, Eritrea, and Kosovo style solution

A controversial resolution has been introduced to the US Congress calling on the United States to work towards an independence referendum for Eelam Tamils and recognize the genocide committed against them by the Sri Lankan state.

The resolution, introduced by Wiley Nickel, is the first of its kind to be brought to the US Congress. It comes as Tamils marked the LTTE’s defeat 15 years ago, with May 18 commemorated as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day, worldwide.

The resolution calls for the “no recurrence of past violence, including the ‘Tamil Genocide’, by supporting the right to self-determination of Eelam Tamil people and their call for an independence referendum for a lasting peaceful resolution”.

It goes on to detail historic Tamil support for independence and how “similar conflicts have successfully been democratically, peacefully, and legally resolved by exercising the right to self-determination by the people in countries such as South Sudan, Montenegro, East Timor, Bosnia, Eritrea, and Kosovo via independence referendums with support from the United States and other countries”.

It resolves that the House of Representatives:

(1) urges the United States to strengthen diplomatic channels with the Eelam Tamils and collaborate toward peace and stability in the South Asian region of the Indo-Pacific;

(2) urges the United States and the international community to advocate for and protect the political rights of the Eelam Tamil people and work toward a permanent political solution based on their right to self-determination that is democratically and peacefully approved by them through a universally accepted process of independence referendum; and

(3) recognizes the genocide against the Eelam Tamil people by Sri Lanka.

The resolution has bipartisan support and is co-sponsored by Susan Wild, Danny K. Davis, Nicole Malliotakis, Mike Carey, Donald G. Davis, Summer L. Lee, and Jeff Jackson.

The full text of the resolution: “This conflict shattered families and communities, leaving deep scars that are still felt to this day,” said Nickel as he addressed the United States Congress today (May 15).

“My resolution recognizes the genocide in Sri Lanka and affirms the right of Tamils to self-determination through a democratic process.” Nickel stated that the resolution “emphasises the need for a peaceful and democratic solution to ongoing tensions in Sri Lanka”.

“It advocates an independence referendum, a process that has been used successfully to resolve similar conflicts in other parts of the world. This echoes our commitment to democratic principles and underscores our support for human rights globally.”

“The resolution is a significant step forward in our struggle for self-determination,” said an Eelam Tamil activist who worked closely with US representatives, from Washington DC. They were present alongside dozens of others, as Nickel spoke.

“This is the first time that support for an independent Tamil Eelam has been publicly and explicitly advocated for at the United States Congress. Fifteen years since the end of the Mullivaikkal genocide, our struggle is continuing and support for it has only grown. We are not a defeated people.”

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Refugee from Sri Lankan now Labour Party Mayor of UK town

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A smiling Labour Councillor Elango Elavalakan (left) at a ceremony where he was accepted as the Mayor of Ipswich Borough Council.

…worked in India, Uganda and Ruwanda before arriving in the UK

A Sri Lankan Tamil, who fled the country during the conflict, has been appointed the Mayor of Ipswich Borough Council.

According to the British media, Labour Councillor Elango Elavalakan is the first Hindu to hold that position. Members of Ipswich’s Hindu community attended Wednesday (15) evening’s ceremony, with celebrations at the nearby temple planned for later in the week.

Having fled Sri Lanka, Elavalakan lived and worked in India, Uganda and Rwanda before moving to the UK, the media reported. He initially moved to Ilford, in east London, before moving to Ipswich in 2006.

Labour Councillor Elango Elavalakan has taken over the ceremonial role after a unanimous vote at Ipswich Borough Council’s annual meeting.

“I’m so happy today, and very proud to be Mayor of this great town,” the media quoted Elavalakan as having said.

Council leader Neil MacDonald, who proposed the nomination, said Elavalakan would get to read out a general election result during his year in office.

“The announcement by a refugee who fled war and persecution, and who has made a new life and contributed to society here, will send a message,” MacDonald said.

Dr. Sachin Karale, Chair of Ipswich Hindu Samaj, said: “It shows the great diversity and multiculturalism of Ipswich town that a Hindu man is becoming Mayor. I’m really proud.”Elavalakan’s wife, Manchula Elavalakan, will be his consort.

The Mayor’s theme for the year will be “support and wellbeing” with his two chosen charities Genesis Orwell Mencap and Cancer Support Suffolk. ‘Ipswich is my home town’

“When I came for one project here, in Ipswich, I felt the people were very friendly,” he said. “So I decided, Ipswich is my home town.” He became a Labour councillor for St John’s ward in 2014.

“Having lived in many different countries and experienced many different lifestyles, I have always been interested in helping those that need it,” he said. “I am passionate about empowering communities and representing those in need.” Elavalakan is not the first Ipswich Mayor from the Indian sub-continent, however.

Kavas Jamas Bashah was born in Mumbai and was a senior officer of the Indian Civil Service.

He retired to Ipswich and became Mayor in 1925.

The town elected its first Mayor, Benjamin Brame, in 1836, following the Municipal Corporations Act the previous year which reformed local government and made Ipswich a municipal borough. Its first female mayor was Mary Whitmore, in 1946.

She was a suffragette and member of Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), and was made MBE in 1951 for her contribution to public services.

Albert Grant became Ipswich’s first black councillor and mayor of Ipswich in 1995.

He moved to the UK in 1955 at the age of 21 and has dedicated his life to tackling racism and fighting to secure equality and justice.

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Govt. asked how it intends to counter US-Eelam lobby

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Dr. Wasantha Bandara

‘Far worse than Canadian declaration of Tamil genocide’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top Patriotic National Movement (PNM) spokesperson Dr. Wasantha Bandara said that the government should explain how it intended to counter the powerful Eelamist lobby seeking to divide the country on ethnic lines with the help of the US, a self-appointed world policeman.

Dr. Bandara said so commenting on a resolution that had been introduced to the US Congress calling on the government to work towards an independence referendum in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and recognise the genocide committed.

Dr. Bandara pointed out that the US move should be examined also taking into consideration the continuing Western support extended to the Khalistan movement seeking an independent state in India’s Punjab region.

The civil society activist said that the so-called bipartisan resolution had been timed for the 15th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s triumph over the separatist terrorist agenda.

Responding to another query, Dr. Bandara said that the US resolution meant that though the LTTE’s conventional military/terrorist power had been eradicated in the battlefield, the Eelamist lobby was busy in Western capitals.

According to him, the US-British led grouping pushed Sri Lanka over the accountability issue as part of their overall strategy to pressure the government on a solution that would end the country’s unitary status.

Dr. Bandara asked how could the government and the Opposition remain silent when the US-backed Eelamists’ push for a solution similar to self-determination granted to South Sudan, Montenegro, East Timor, Bosnia, Eritrea, and Kosovo through ‘independence referendums’ with support from the United States and other powerful countries.

The heightened threat to our unitary status should be one of the major issues at the forthcoming presidential poll, Dr. Bandara said, demanding that all political parties state their positions on the US moves.

Dr. Bandara said that the government should set the record straight in Washington and Geneva where agendas inimical to post-war Sri Lanka were being hatched.

Dr. Bandara said that successive governments, including the current dispensation, should be ashamed of their failure to counter unsubstantiated war crimes allegations.

The US move, unless countered, could be far worse than the Canadian declaration of Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day on May 18 and sanctions on former Presidents, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

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