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GL wants universities to admit more students

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Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris has pointed out the failure on the part of the university system to accommodate a large number of students though they qualified with the required marks for university entrance.

Revealing that he is planning to increase the university intake, Prof. Peiris has drawn the attention of the academics to the mismatch between university curricula and the requirements of employers for suitable employment in the job market.

One-time Foreign Minister said so when the Alumni Association of the University of Colombo felicitated their former Vice Chancellor and an illustrious alumnus at a function held at the Senate Hall of the University of Colombo. The event was attended by Vice Chancellors, Deans, Academics and Alumnus.

President of the Alumni Association Rajeev Amarasuriya in his welcome address said “As an admired academic and university administrator, we can confidently say that there is no better person to be given the portfolio of the Minister of Education, and during your term of office we look forward to many revolutionary changes in our education system, which has much room for improvement.”.

He also mentioned the support extended by Prof. Peiris to the Association and said “when we were formulating the plan for the Swimming Pool Complex for the University of Colombo, Prof. Peiris was someone with whom, very early on I shared the plans, and we look forward to your support in seeing this project to completion before long”. He also thanked his wife, Mrs. Savithri Peries for her presence and said she has been the silent strength behind his success.

Addressing the gathering the Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo, Senior Professor Chandrika Wijeyaratne congratulated Prof. Peiris on his appointment and wished him all the best in the important national task of reforming the Educational Sector which has been entrusted to him. She reiterated that the University of Colombo has been ranked No 1 among all universities in the country as a result of strategic planning targeted at sustainable development goals, extensive research and development work that was carried out by the University with emphasis on value addition, hosting the AUA Youth Forum in 2019, participating in International webinars, and becoming the best performing university after the COVID 19 shut down.

Mr. Thilak Karunaratne, former President of the Alumni Association traced the milestones of Prof. Peiris’ outstanding education and academic achievements and his political journey. He referred to some fond memories and anecdotes about his school days.

Prof G L Peiris was formally introduced by Prof. Indira Nanayakkara Dean of the Faculty of Law.

He said that he was very happy to be back in the University of Colombo which is very familiar territory to him, having been in the University of Colombo for 26 years in different capacities, and ending up as its Vice Chancellor.

Prof. G.L. Peiris said that each of the 13 universities must focus on a unique and a different way to be identified for their strengths and capacity. Each University should be seen as different from the other. He raised the concern that the university system is unable to accommodate a large number of students although they qualify with the required marks for university entrance and therefore he has plans to increase the intake to the Universities. He drew attention to the mismatch in university curricula as against the requirements of employers for suitable employment in the job market. He said that Private Sector employers have said that there are many vacancies for employment in the Private Sector but they are unable to find candidates to fill these vacancies. The Minister said that undergraduates need to be taught Information Technology before they graduate from the University and also made competent to work in English if they are to obtain gainful employment.

Prof. G L Peiris in his address referred to the contribution made by Past President of the Alumni Association the late Mrs. Sujata Jayawardena by building a Hostel to accommodate Women Undergraduates at Buller’s Lane since at that time the University had rented 32 individual houses to accommodate these students.

The event concluded with the vote of thanks delivered by the Vice President of the Association Ms. Suranjani Wickramaratne.



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COVID-19: Jaffna faces serious risk

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Top medical man in North threatens lockdown

Five villages isolated in Ganewatta DS area

20% of IDH patients need oxygen

By Dinasena Ratugamage and Rathindra Kuruwita

Tough restrictions would have to be imposed in Jaffna if religious leaders did not help health authorities, Northern Province Director General of Health Services, Dr. A. Kethiswaran said yesterday. Jaffna was facing a serious risk of COVID-19, he said.

Dr. Kethiswaran said so during a meeting with religious leaders at his office. He said that a large number of devotees were seen at various places of religious worship during the festive period.

“None of these people follow health guidelines. It is impossible to control the virus because of this. At this rate we will have to impose travel restrictions in the Jaffna District. We need everyone’s support, if we are to avoid this fate.”

He then urged religious leaders to inform devotees of the dangers of the virus and not to gather at places of worship in large numbers.

 

Dr. Kethiswaran also said that a large number of policemen in Jaffna had contracted COVID-19. About 258 PCR tests had been carried out on Wednesday after it was found that 13 policemen attached to the Jaffna Police station were infected. Altogether 788 PCR tests were done in the Jaffna District on Wednesday, Dr. Kethiswaran said.

One hundred and forty eight new COVID-19 cases had been detected in several villages in the Ganewatta Divisional secretariat area, Divisional Secretary Niranjala Karunaratne said yesterday.

On Wednesday alone 733 PCR tests had been done there, she said, adding that about 175 individuals had tested positive for COVID-19 there.

Given these developments, Tittawelgala, Hunupola, Siradunna, Aluthgama and Hettigama Grama Niladari divisions at Ganewatta Divisional secretariat area have been isolated.

Travel restrictions were imposed on Kuliyapitiya Town, Thunmodara, Dhandagamuwa – West, Kanadulla and Pahala Weerambuwa as COVID-19 cases were increasing there.

PHI in charge of Divulapitiya said that 84 new COVID-19 cases had been reported from the area during the last 48 hours. However, no decision had been taken to impose travel restrictions in the area, PHI, S.A.U.T Kularatne said.

“Twenty-eight of these patients were among people who attended a sports event organised for the New Year in Aswennawatta Grama Niladari area. Forty-four people who went on a trip at Mellawagedara have also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. If people are not careful, things might rapidly deteriorate,” he warned.

Deputy Director of IDH said that over 130 COVID-19 patients were undergoing treatment there although the hospital could accommodate only 120 patients.

All eight ICU beds at the IDH are occupied and 20% of the patients there need oxygen. The number of people admitted to hospital had increased after the Sinhala and Hindu New year, health ministry sources said.

Director General of Health Services – Western Province Dr. Dhammika Jayalath urged people to refrain from travelling to Colombo unless it was very urgent.

Director General of Health Services, Dr. Asela Gunawardane said that the coming three weeks would crucial.

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Covid figures: Govt. accused of misleading the country

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) yesterday claimed that State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals, Prof. Channa Jayasumana was making statements on new strains of SARS-CoV-2 without any scientific proof.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Prof. Jayasumana said that there had been an increase in the spread of Covid virus in the country, especially among the young people and that was due to a new strain of the virus.

President of the CMLS, Ravi Kumudesh said: “The Minister claimed they were doing a research on this. As far as we know, neither the Ministry nor the University of Sri Jayewardenepura has done any research to identify this new strain. The Ministry of Health stopped identifying new variants a long time ago.”

The Ministry of Health could neither plan for new variants of COVID-19 nor determine what vaccine was effective as it simply didn’t have the equipment to identify new strains, Kumudesh said, adding that identifying COVID-19 variants across the country had been outsourced to the University of Sri Jayawardenepura.

“I have repeatedly said that the Health Ministry officials can’t make science and evidence-based decisions or statements on new strains. Institutions under the Health Ministry do not have the ability to identify new strains of the coronavirus; only the University of Sri Jayewardenepura has a gene sequencing machine. We said this was having a disastrous impact on the country’s pandemic response and here we are,.”

Kumudesh said that identifying various strains of COVID-19 was essential to respond to the pandemic as everything from PCR testing to selecting a vaccine, depended on that.

“There are a number of strains of the virus in the world now and we now know that the new variant that led to a lockdown in the UK is here. We have to be ready to identify what strains are coming.”

Kumudesh said that since the country had opened its airports people from various countries would arrive, carrying new strains. He added that there might also be a new strain that originated here without “our knowledge because we don’t do adequate gene sequencing.

“To identify new variants, we must sequence the genes of viruses detected through PCR testing. We need many gene sequencing machines because one cannot identify new strains through a PCR test. However, the Ministry of Health has not provided a single gene sequencing machine to labs under its purview.”

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CEA accused of turning blind eye to cardamom cultivators raping Knuckles Forest

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A government decision to allow cardamom plantations inside the Knuckles Forest Reserve, which came under the Forest Conservation Department,it was already having a negative impact on the ecosystem, Sajeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agriculture Reform (MONLAR) said.

Chamikara said that Knuckles Forest Reserve was not only a unique ecosystem but also an important catchment area for rivers such as Mahaweli and Kalu.

“Illegal Cardamom planters had been operating in the forest area for many decades and there had been many attempts to get rid of them,” Chamikara said

About six years ago, there was an attempt to remove illegal Cardamom planters from the Knuckles Forest Reserve. When the Forest Conservation Department tried to remove these encroachers, based on a court order, several politicians and officials intervened on their behalf, the environmentalist said. Due to those interventions, illegal Cardamom planters could not be removed from the Knuckles Forest Reserve, he added.

“In many areas of the Dumbara mountain range, forest undergrowth has been cleared to make way for cardamom plantations. This has drastically increased soil erosion and the soil that is swept away by rains have been deposited in many reservoirs after being taken downstream to the Mahaweli Ganga. Moreover, many trees have been cut to use as firewood to dry cardamom. There are many structures used to dry the cardamom dotting the Knuckles mountain range and these activities cause significant damages to the ecosystem.”

Chamikara said it was illegal to cut trees, cultivate and clear land in a Conservation Forest. The offences carried jail terms or fines or both. Moreover, the court could estimate the damage done to the forest and make the guilty pay that amount. Under the law, even people who encouraged such violations could be prosecuted.

“The CEA has the power to act against those who carry out such illegal activities. According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without obtaining approval, the CEA can present such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both. Unfortunately the authorities concerned are turning a blind eye.”

 

 

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