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‘Those who expressed doubts about KDU’s potential proved wrong’

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Prez pushing for education reforms

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that in spite of doubts that had been raised in certain quarters about the viability of the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) as a fully-fledged university, during its initial expansion, the critics had been proved wrong.

The KDU had evolved in a remarkably short span of time from a Defence Academy catering to the higher educational and training needs of the Armed Forces to a fully-fledged university offering courses of study in many fields to both Officer Cadets and civilian students, President Rajapaksa said. The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces was delivering the keynote address at the annual Convocation of the KDU on Tuesday (16) afternoon.

The President said that regardless of doubts expressed by some, the KDU had been able to attract highly qualified and capable staff, maintain excellent standards of teaching, and consistently produce outstanding graduates in fields as diverse as Engineering, Law, Management, and Medicine.

It was now very clear that the KDU’s expansion was a great success, the President said.

The President said: “The graduates produced by the KDU are not only highly proficient in their specialisms but also have the reputation of being highly disciplined, possessing great integrity, and demonstrating strong leadership qualities as well as teamwork skills. These features are all very much in demand amongst employers.

“The high demand for KDU graduates by employers in both the private and the public sector, and the high demand from students all over the country to enter the KDU for both undergraduate and postgraduate study, speaks volumes. The fact that the university already has nearly 300 international students, including close to 40 in the Medical Faculty alone, is also a laudable achievement. In this context, the ongoing expansion of the university with the opening of its Southern Campus is encouraging, as is the expansion in its programmes of study through the inauguration of new faculties in Technology and in Criminal Justice. We will look at further options for the expansion of this university in the future as well. This will allow a larger number of students to benefit from the unique features and culture of this institution.

“In considering the future of higher education in Sri Lanka holistically, however, it must be said that there are several issues which need to be addressed.

“The world is currently in the midst of what has been called the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“Building on the digital revolution that took place in the second half of the twentieth century, rapid technological innovations in a number of fields are converging to create transformative changes around the world.

“These changes are taking place at exponential speed, and are impacting almost every single industry in every single country. The ongoing global pandemic has only accelerated the pace of these changes further. Every country, every government, and every institution involved in education should therefore take note of these important evolving changes.

“Sri Lanka must keep pace with these disruptions and transformations taking place globally.

“We cannot afford to lag behind. Our higher education system must adapt swiftly. It has to offer our students an education that will remain relevant despite fast changing circumstances and help them find gainful employment in future. Unfortunately, this is an area in which our universities and other higher education institutions need considerable improvement.

“During the past year, the government employed a large number of unemployed graduates through a special scheme initiated under the Ministry of Public Administration. Of the nearly 60,000 who gained employment through this scheme, close to half were graduates in the Arts. Many had obtained their qualifications through the Open University and through external degree programmes offered by other state universities.

“It is good that such individuals had a desire to learn at the tertiary level and were able to obtain their qualifications without having to attend university full time. However, there are doubts as to whether their education has equipped them with the knowledge, skills, and abilities they need to contribute productively towards fulfilling the needs of the public. This is an essential requirement if the outcome of their studies is for them to be employed by the Government and paid using public funds.

“The skills that are most in demand in today’s job market are technology related. There are so many opportunities for graduates in information technology not only in terms of employment at private sector companies, but also in terms of potential self-employment and in launching new start-ups.

“Technology will play a key role in every single economic sector in the future. At minimum, all graduates from our university system need to have some knowledge about new technologies and at least a functional familiarity with computers if they are to have a chance to build successful futures for themselves.

“That is why I have requested all the Vice Chancellors to immediately introduce IT and Computer Studies as subjects for all of their students, irrespective of their field of study. This will give them much better prospects of finding lucrative employment or succeeding in their own businesses after they graduate.

“Alongside familiarity with technology, possessing knowledge of English is another critical requirement for our youth. If any young person has a sound knowledge of English and has access to the internet, there is no limitation on what they can learn because there are so many resources available to them online, free of charge.”



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Geneva HR vote:

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UK, Canada seek to influence member states against Lanka

The Sri Lanka Core group members, Canada and the UK, are campaigning hard to muster support for their resolution against Sri Lanka at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council. Sri Lanka Core group consists of Canada, Germany, the UK, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Malawi.

Canada High Commissioner David McKinnon met the Bangladesh High Commissioner Tareq Ariful Islam, at the Canada House, Colombo 07.

Sources said that meetings between diplomats of those countries were rare. Bangladesh is a member o the f UNHRC. The meeting at the Canada House took place close on the heels of the UK HC Sarah Hulton meeting South Korean Ambassador Woonjin Jeong. South Korea is also a member of the UNHRC.

The 47-member UNHRC is divided into five groups on regional basis. The Asia-Pacific Group consists of Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Marshall Islands, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea and Uzbekistan; Western Europe and Other States consists of Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and UK; Eastern European States consists of Armenia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia and Ukraine; Latin American and Caribbean States group consists of Argentina, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela and African States group consists of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Gabon, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Namibia, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and Togo. (SF)

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CEB Chairman: Country would have been facing daily power cuts if not for MR’s initiative

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by Ifham Nizam

The country would have been facing a daily power cut of eight hours if not for the initiative taken by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, when he was the President, to commence the first coal fired power plant complex at Norochcholai, said Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) Chairman Engineer Vijitha Herath at yesterday’s inauguration of the first Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) power plant in Sri Lanka.

PM Rajapaksa was the Chief Guest at the event. The CEB head stressed that if not for the Norochchoali plant the country would have lost more than Rs. 100 billion annually.

Power Minister Dullas Alahaperuma said that since the construction of the Norochcholai power plant in 2013, no large scale power plant had been built.

“Today, we are paying for this. Only small hydro power plants and solar power plants have been added to the national grid,” Alahaperuma said.

The power minister said that the LNG plant was coming up at an important time and would bring great relief to the economy which was heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

“Let there be a power sector that is not dependent on fossil fuels. The new power plant has been constructed at Kerawalapitiya, Wattala. This has been designed in accordance with international standards with minimal environmental damage. This power plant will have the highest efficiency F class gas turbine installed. The Kerawalapitiya Power Plant is a dual cycle power plant and will be completed in two phases. The installation of the first phase, or gas turbine, will generate 220 MW, which will be completed within 21 months and added to the national grid.”

Alhaperuma said that the second phase would add another 130 megawatts to the national grid via a steam turbine, which was expected to be completed in 12 months. With a total capacity of 300 MW over the next three years, the plant was expected to meet the country’s growing electricity demand, he said.

Speaking at the event Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stressed that the government wanted to provide electricity at affordable prices using the most advanced technology. There had been many delays in building power plants under the Yahapalana regime; but the current government would fast-track power projects, he added.

Minister Alahapperuma also said: “The LNG power plant will be a great relief to the economy. Renewable energy is the future. It was clearly mentioned in the President’s vision of prosperity as well as in the Mahinda Chinthana. Our goal is an economy fully armed with renewable energy.”

State Ministers Duminda Dissanayake, Susil Premajayantha, Nimal Lansa, Secretary to the Ministry of Power and Energy Wasantha Perera, LTL CEO of Lakdanavi Affiliates U.D. Jayawardena, and a large number of people’s representatives and government officials were present.

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US Secretary of State names Lankan for International Women of Courage (IWOC) award

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Lankan Human Rights Activist and Attorney-At-Law Ranitha Gnanarajah is among the recipients of this year’s International Women of Courage (IWOC) award presented by the United States Secretary of State.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will host the annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards virtual ceremony to honour a group of extraordinary women from around the world on Monday, March 8, at 10:00 am, the U.S. State Department announced.

The First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden will deliver remarks to recognize the courageous accomplishments of these women.

Now in its 15th year, the Secretary of State’s IWOC Award recognizes women from around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment – often at great personal risk and sacrifice, the US State Department says.

According to the biographies of the finalists for the 2012 IWOC Awards, Sri Lanka’s Ranitha Gnanarajah, a lawyer, and Head of the Legal Department of the Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) Sri Lanka continues to fight for and defend the rights of the marginalized and vulnerable communities in the country, despite threats and challenges by the state.

“Ranitha has dedicated her career to accountability and justice for victims of enforced disappearances and prisoners detained often for years without charge under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act by providing free legal aid and related services. As an individual personally affected by the conflict and based on her extensive experience working with victims and their families, Ranitha has demonstrated tremendous passion and dedication to justice and accountability, especially for Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable populations.”

From the inception of this award in March 2007, the Department of State has recognized more than 155 awardees from over 75 countries.

U.S. diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries, and finalists are selected and approved by senior Department officials.

Following the virtual IWOC ceremony, the awardees will participate in an International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) virtual exchange and connect with their American counterparts.

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