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OUSL complets annual research sessions online

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The Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL) successfully completed its Annual Research Sessions (OURS 2020) on 12th and 13th November as a fully online event.

The OUSL said in a media statement:

“OURS 2020 was initially planned as an ‘in-person’ event. However, when the public health situation in the country again became critical in October, the organizing committee of OURS 2020, deftly transferred the entire event online – in a short span of time – underscoring the university’s unique ability to deliver academic programs remotely. In addition to being the only university in Sri Lanka with a dedicated Centre for Education Technology and Media, the university’s academic and support staff are specifically trained in remote delivery of academic programs using a range of methods – online, television, radio and print. This combination of technical infrastructure and skilled human resources allows the institution to adapt to challenging circumstances like the current one posed by the Corona Virus pandemic.

“This year’s research sessions were conducted under the themes of: Open and Distance Learning, Humanities and Social Sciences, Engineering and Technology, Health Sciences, Education, Law, Management, Biological Sciences, Agriculture and English Language Teaching. A total of 165 submissions were received and 114 papers were selected for presentation following a process of rigorous peer review. The different thematic strands were conducted as parallel online sessions using Zoom technology which led to vibrant scholarly discussions on a range of topics. A special feature of this year’s research was the significant focus of how the pandemic has impacted education. Such research ranged from critical discussions on online and remote education to the significant inequities in education access and delivery caused by the pandemic. This emphasis on the pandemic demonstrated the commitment of academics in the Sri Lankan higher education system to address contextually significant social issues and deploy research to understand and resolve such issues. Papers were presented by Open University staff as well as staff from other state and non-state universities and higher education institutions from across the country.

“The research sessions were inaugurated with a welcome address by the Research Director of the University, Prof. Shyama Weerakoon who underscored the importance of fostering a research culture. She also appreciated the university-wide team effort that facilitated the online delivery of the research sessions. Prof. Anbahan Ariyadurai, the Vice Chancellor of the university, addressing the event, emphasized the resilience and adaptability of the institution in this challenging time.

“The Chief Guest of the research sessions was Dr. Priyanie Amarasinghe, Emeritus Scientist at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the keynote speech on the first day was delivered by Dr. Panduka Karunanayake of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo. The day-two keynote was delivered by Dr. Prathapasinghe Dharmawansa of the Faculty of Engineering, University of Moratuwa. The event was live cast for the students of the university and the general public through the Open University’s YouTube channel and an electronic version of the proceedings of the research sessions will be soon available for free download from the university website.”

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Sajith blames ‘Viyathmaga doc’

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Cause of Mahara Prison riot:

By Saman Indrajith

The recent Mahara Prison riot erupted as 120 inmates afflicted with COVID-19 had been taken there from the Welikada prison at the behest of a Director in charge of prisoners’ health, who was a Viyathmaga member, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday.

“Many explanations have been given by ministers about the riot at Mahara Prison. The number of deaths is not yet known and around 120 are wounded. One minister said that there was an invisible hand behind the clashes. Another said the motive was to bring the government into disrepute internationally. A theory was concocted that prisoners had taken some narcotic tablets called Reverse and they and fought because they wanted to see blood. But the truth is otherwise. The real cause is that 120 inmates infected with coronavirus were transferred to Mahara from the Welikada prison at the behest of a director in charge of prisoners’ health. That director is a member of the Viyathmaga. Those who were transferred to Mahara prison caused a cluster of 183 persons. As the infection spread fast there was unrest and tension. That was the reason for Mahara riots.”

He said that ministers had their own theories, but one day the truth would surface. “I hope that the ministerial committee appointed to probe the riots will conduct an impartial investigation and they will reveal the truth.”

“Prisoners have rights. I do not wish that this country would permit the perpetuation of the killing culture and state terrorism. The government members should keep in mind that there is a concept called rule of law and we all are expected to uphold it. So, we should dump those theories of Reverse tablets and strive to find the truth.”

Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera: The health officer in charge of Mahara Prison is not a member of Viyathmaga.

Opposition Leader Premadasa: I did not say so. What I said was that 120 inmates were transferred from Welikada prison to the Mahara prison violating COVID-19 protocols. That order to transfer those had been given by a doctor who is a member of Viyathmaga. I do not mention his name. You can easily find it.

Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said that the Opposition leader talked of lofty ideals of prisoners’ welfare but the yahapalana government had failed to construct at least a single prison to ease the congestion in the prisons. “When I was incarcerated by your government, I was in a cell with 51 other inmates. There was no place to sleep. In the Kegalle prison, they put 225 in a hall enough for 50 inmates. The former government pre-occupied with the task of constructing new courts to imprison its political enemies but did not build a single prison for the benefit of inmates.”

Opposition Leader Premadasa: We did not want to build prisons, we built schools. Mahatma Gandhi has once said that when you open a single school, thousand prisons could be closed. We followed that.

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‘It will take four years to ensure quality of drinking water from small projects’

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By Saman Indrajith

The safety of drinking water from small scale community drinking water projects could guaranteed only after the implementation of a project to check the quality of water and that would take four years, Water Supply Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara told Parliament yesterday.

The Minister said so, when Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana pointed out that although the safety of drinking water from the National Water Supply and Drainage Board was guaranteed the same could not be said of water from small scale projects.

“There are many harmful elements in water such as lead, cadmium and mercury. We know that Water Board supplied water is purified, but water from small scale project could be contaminated with them. It is said that mercury in a CFL bulb has the potential to pollute around 6,000 litres of ground water and causing kidney diseases. This is a dangerous situation. One trillion rupees have been allocated for the Water Supply ministry. Apart from the COVID-19 threat, the biggest threat to the lives of people in this country is from non-communicable diseases. Can the ministry introduce a mechanism to provide each district with at least a single testing unit to ensure the safety of drinking water supplied by the small scale community drinking water projects.”

Water Supply Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara said that safety of water from the Water Board was guaranteed owing to sophisticated purification methods employed by treatment plants. He said that it would take at least four years to provide testing units to ensure drinking water from the small scale community drinking water projects countrywide too is safe from harmful elements.

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Teachers’ Union boss Stalin accuses govt of attempting Akila’s failed stunt

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was an attempt to create a new post, Director General – Sports, at the Ministry of Education and to appoint a political henchman, Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) General Secretary, Joseph Stalin told The Island yesterday.

“According to the Education Administrative Service minute, any appointment has to be made through a competitive exam. However, this post has been created through a Cabinet paper and an SLPP henchman is to be appointed to it.”

The CTU General Secretary said that during the yahapalanaya administration, then Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam had tried to appoint a UNP henchman to the post of Director – Sports at the Ministry. Kariyawasam had been compelled to back off due to the stiff opposition of the education sector unions, Stalin said.

“The court has also ruled that people should be appointed in keeping with the Education Administrative Service Minute. The President came into power promising to uphold the rule of law, but this government, too, is attempting to undermine the education system by appointing unqualified people to high posts.”

The post of Director General – Sports would have the same perks of an Assistant Secretary and the person to be appointed was a person representing a government affiliated union, Stalin said.

“95% of unions of the education sector will oppose if the government creates this post for the benefit of a henchman. We will resort to trade union and legal action.”

Minister of Education, Prof. G. L. Peiris was not immediately available for comment.

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