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GMOA Executive Committee opposes KNDU Bill



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Government Medical Officers’ Association’s (GMOA) Executive Committee had unanimously decided that the Kotelawala National Defence University bill would have a disastrous impact on education and social stability, GMOA Secretary Dr. Senal Fernando said yesterday.

Dr. Fernando told The Island that the GMOA had also prepared a report on the KNDU highlighting the flaws in the Bill.

“We have no problem with a military university and the current act that governs the KDU is enough for that. There is no need for a university that operates outside the University Act,” Dr. Fernando said.

The report said that in the 2019 policy document of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, there was a promise to expand state universities and to develop their facilities. Those steps were proposed because the President admitted the importance of strengthening state university system and the need for students to enjoy academic freedom.

“However, this bill proposes the creation of a university outside this existing system. An institution that is not regulated by the University Grants Commission (UGC). We fear that this will be the beginning of a series of institutions outside the purview of the UGC,” the GMOA report says.

The KNDU bill will also degrade the quality of Sri Lankan degrees, the GMOA’s report says, adding that the members of the current administration opposed the KNDU proposed by the yahapalana government and the current bill is a carbon copy of the previous one.

“All the establishments under the UGC are administered under a national policy. To enter a university one must pass the GCE AL examination and get a stated Z score. This score determines what course one can offer. However, we do not know under what criteria that students will be taken into KDU, under the proposed act. This is important because the new act opens the doors of the university to others outside those of the defence establishment,” the GMOA said.

The GMOA added that the governing body of the KDU, as proposed by the act, comprises nine members. Out of that, five are military officers in active duty.

“They are the Chief of Defence Staff, Army Commander, Navy Commander and Air Force Commander. Moreover, the act proposes that the Vice Chancellor should also be a senior Army Officer. Meanwhile, two others are Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and an Additional Secretary to the Ministry. Thus seven out of nine are associated with the Defence Ministry and five are direct members of the military. There are only two non- military people,” he said.

The GMOA has said in its report that the quorum of the governing body is only five and therefore, decisions can be taken by the military officers. “This is not the governance structure of an institution that plans to offer degrees to civilians.

“This body also decides on the method of recruitment, setting courses, salaries of teachers, establishment and repealing of positions, creating links with other public and private institutions. They are also given independent monetary powers. This is the establishment of an independent body with self-determination.”

The KNDU will also be able to attract the best teachers from state universities. This will lead to shortages of lecturers in state universities and that will lead to a drop of quality in these institutions, the doctors’ union has said.

“However, this university will also be able to secure government funding outside allocations to the Ministry of Defence. This means that a chunk of money that would have gone to government education will be channeled into a private institution outside the purview of the UGC.”

All these factors will lead to unrest in other universities, which in turn would affect the smooth functioning of those establishments. “For example medical students lost a year because they boycotted classes opposing SAITM, the GMOA has said, arguing that a graduate from a military university will be conditioned to follow orders from above. However, only a scholar who was able to think independently could contribute to the development of the country.

“Civilian students who join the KNDU will not be able to talk or negotiate with the university administration. Let’s assume that they are unhappy with the service provided by the university, can the students gather, organize and win their rights? The answer is a resounding no. The students can’t even run a student council, which is a hallmark of any university.”

Article 07 of the bill states that if the Minister of Defence feels that anything that happens in the university is a threat to national security or affects the functioning of the university, he can order the governing body to take action.

“So, students have to submit to any decision taken in the name of ‘national security. This is ludicrous.”

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Central Bank urged to save collapsing local industries



The National Freedom Front (NFF) has requested the immediate intervention of the Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal to save micro, small and medium scale industries badly affected by the current economic downturn caused by the Covid-19.

The NFF parliamentary group comprises six members, including one National List.

Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, on behalf of the SLPP constituent parties, has warned of steep increase in unemployment, drop in the contribution made by small and medium scale industries to the national economy and the further widening of the gap between the rich and poor.

Party sources told The Island that the NFF had decided to take up the urgent matter because, in spite of repeated promises, those who had been severely affected were yet to receive assistance. Minister Weerawansa has urged the Central Bank to restructure loans obtained by affected industries and also extend the moratorium.

Weerawansa has in a letter dated Oct.18, told Cabraal that according to a survey conducted by the Industrial Development Board, micro, small and medium enterprises suffered serious setbacks. However, of the loans made available through the banking sector, a substantial segment had been disbursed among major players, the Minister said, while pointing out that in other countries in the region more than 50 percent of total loans were made available to micro, small and medium industries.

Unfortunately, here in Sri Lanka they received approximately 15 percent of the total given as loans, the minister said.

Minister Weerawansa said that though industries suffered, almost all state and private banks had recorded much improved performances with significant profits.

The Minister said that following his intervention with the cabinet of ministers, the government agreed on a plan of action to deal with the situation. It would be the responsibility of the Central Bank to implement the agreed proposals, he said.


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So far no side effects among Pfizer vaccinated 15,000 A/L students



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Over 15,000 GCE AL students had been vaccinated with Pfizer and there had not been any side effects, Colombo District Director of Health Dr. Dilip Liyanage told the media yesterday.

He said that the Ministry of Education had given them a list of 20,688 that needed to be vaccinated.

“We would like to assure parents that there is no need to worry. Over 15,000 children have been vaccinated and there have been no problems so far. Trust the health professionals and vaccinate your child at the first opportunity you get,” he said.

Dr. Liyanage added that children who missed their chance to get vaccinated on weekdays, can get vaccinated at the MOH office near their home.

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Govt. approves prohibition of cattle slaughter



The government has approved the prohibition of cattle slaughter. The decision was announced at the weekly Cabinet meeting at the Information Department yesterday (19). The government said the relevant laws and regulations, including those passed by Local Government authorities would be amended for that purpse.

The Legal Draftsman has drafted Bills to amend the following acts and ordinances.

• Authority 272 of the Cattle Slaughter Ordinance No. 9 of 1893

• Act No. 29 of 1958 Concerning Animals

• Municipal Councils Ordinance – Section 252

• Section 255 of the Municipal Councils Ordinance

• Ordinance No. 15 of the Urban Council Act of 1987

The Attorney General has certified that the said Bills do not clash with the provisions of the Constitution.

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