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As a carrier of development news to the masses, the Media Centre for National Development marked its inauguration today (17) at a charm ceremony held at the Department of Government Information. The ceremony was presided by the Hon. Minister of Mass Media, Keheliya Rambukwella with the participation of the secretary to the ministry, Mr. Jagath P. Wijeweera  and the director of the newly established Media Centre for National Development, Mr. Milinda Rajapakse,
Addressing the audience, the minister of Mass Media Mr. Rambukwella stated that the efforts taken by Sri Lanka in the midst of this global pandemic to revive and sustain its economy should be exposed locally and internationally and thereby, Media Centre for National Development will be in operation to project this objective. 
The Secretary, Mr. Jagath P. Wijeweera, in his welcome speech stated that the role of media should focus on assisting the innocent people of this country. At this juncture, he reminded a huge social responsibility which has been left ignorant by the media personnel in terms of providing progressive news to the public. Moreover he emphasized that this ethical media culture would not be achieved merely by imposing laws and regulations, but only through self-discipline and thus he invited all the journalists to realize this need and work for it. 
The Director of the Media Centre for National Development Mr. Milinda Rajapakse in his vote of thanks invited all the journalists present at the ceremony to be a part of this dialogue built for the national development.

  • Private sector, State Universities and other Higher Education Institutions should work together 
  • IT and computer knowledge for all students, regardless of field of study….
  • Universities should compete to attract high achievers….
  • Freedom for Universities to plan their studies and manage….

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has reiterated that Sri Lanka must keep pace with transformative changes 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” the President said.

The President made these remarks presiding over the final session of the 31st General Convocation of the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University held at the BMICH, today (16).

Degrees were awarded to 1379 graduants covering the fields of Defence Studies, Management, Business Management, Law, Medicine, Engineering, Promotional Management, Industrial Science and Sociology. Among them were five doctoral students, 263 postgraduate and postgraduate diploma holders. The number of First Degree holders was 1111.

President Rajapaksa presented special awards to Second Lieutenant R.M.T.E.P. Rathnayake as the Best Army Officer , Lieutenant V.S. Palihawadana as the Best Naval Officer, Flying Officer R.G.S.D. Gamage as the Best Air Force Officer and Second Lieutenant R.M.T.G.P. Ratnayake as the Superior Officer.

The General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University was established in 1981 to meet the educational needs of the officers of the three Armed Forces. It was elevated into a fully-fledged University in 2009 by then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In 2009, civilian students were granted the opportunity to study there. At present, members of the three Armed Forces and local and foreign students can pursue doctoral, postgraduate and postgraduate diploma courses at the University.

The President commended General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University for becoming a fully-fledged University within a short span of time. The President further stated that the University’s expansion was a great success due to its ability to produce outstanding graduates in fields as diverse as Medicine, Engineering and Law. The private sector should have more opportunities to work with public universities and other institutions of higher education in finding solutions to current problems. ‘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’ the President said. The President urged the Vice Chancellors of all universities to introduce information technology and computer science to all students, regardless of the field of study.

‘Irrespective of their chosen field of study, all students selected for university education are intelligent. Any lack of exposure they have to these subjects when they enter university is due to a failure in the education system rather than due to their own weaknesses’ the President said.

‘Enhancing focus on research and development will also have a beneficial impact on the rankings of Sri Lankan universities internationally. Improving these rankings is important if we are to attract more foreign students as well as attract and retain talented faculty members at our universities’, the President added.

The governing body, Vice Chancellor, Faculties and staff of each university should have more freedom to determine, design, manage, and deliver their programmes of study. They should also be able to select the students they feel are best suited to learn at their institutions. Talented students, too, should have more freedom to choose their universities. These changes will increase the competition that exists amongst the universities at every level, leading to significant overall improvements across the entire higher education system. Through this, it is also likely that the rankings of our national universities will improve, President Rajapaksa further said.

Members of the Parliament, Madam Shiranthi Rajapaksa, Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, General (retired) Kamal Gunaratne,  Secretaries to Ministries, Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Army General Shavendra Silva, Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne, Commander of the Air Force Air Marshal S.K. Pathirana, IGP C.D. Wickramaratne, Chancellor of the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, General Gerard de Silva, Vice Chancellor Major General Milinda Pieris, Ambassadors, High Commissioners and academic and non-academic staff of Kotelawala Defence University and others participated on this occasion.

Speech at the Convocation of the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University

Chancellor of the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, General Gerard de Silva

Vice Chancellor Major General Milinda Pieris

Deputy Vice Chancellors, Deans, Faculty Members, Staff Members

Graduands

Parents

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am delighted to have been invited to preside over the final session of the General Convocation of the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University this afternoon. At the outset, I convey my congratulations to all the students graduating during the course of today’s ceremony. You have all worked hard over the course of your studies at this prestigious institution. Today’s ceremony is a worthy celebration of your hard work and your accomplishments. As you embark on the next phase of your lives and your careers, I wish you every success.

I also take this opportunity to extend my warm wishes to the management, faculty, and staff of the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University for their hard work and dedication in teaching and moulding these students during the course of their education, and for upholding this institution’s high standards and fostering its growth.

The Kotelawala Defence University has 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 qualifications in many fields to both Officer Cadets and civilian students.

Doubts were raised in certain quarters about the viability of this institution as a fully-fledged university during its initial expansion. However, the KDU was 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 is now very clear that the KDU’s expansion was a great success.

Not only are the graduates who emerge from the KDU highly proficient in their specialisms, but they 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 such 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 a 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.

Globally, thousands of young entrepreneurs have used the skills they acquired through such online resources to launch innovative start-ups or become successfully self-employed. This is happening in Sri Lanka too, and it is a trend that needs to be supported and encouraged.

In this context, the resource constraints in our overall education system are a cause for concern. I have seen at first hand that particularly at the rural level, there is a dearth of teachers in subjects such as Information Technology, Science, Mathematics, and English.

We must immediately focus on training teachers and improving the quality of teaching in these essential subjects throughout the country. While this is underway, we must also seek new resources and find innovative means to teach these subjects at a high standard at secondary schools island wide, so that all our students will be better able to face their future with confidence.

Until such time as these initiatives are fully implemented, however, there will be students who qualify for university despite having limited proficiency in subjects such as English, science, mathematics, and IT. Irrespective of their chosen field of study, all students selected for university education are intelligent. Any lack of exposure they have to these subjects when they enter university is due to a failure in the education system rather than due to their own weaknesses.

Once they reach university level, however, these students must work hard and make use of all the facilities and opportunities available to them to acquire the skills that they lack. Universities must assist them in this process and create more productive avenues of study for them to follow. This will enable students at university level to have better prospects after graduating.

Instead of finding themselves at a loss after leaving university, which is sometimes the case at present, it is my vision that every single university graduate in future should be able to support themselves and contribute positively towards the country’s economy. The changes that we seek in our higher education system are with this purpose in mind.

Increasing the research and development activities that take place in Sri Lankan universities is another important improvement that our higher education system needs. Research should be made a priority especially at the postgraduate level in all our universities. Many of the very real problems we face nationally can be addressed through our universities if talented students are empowered with appropriate facilities and encouraged by their institutions to work towards solving them.

The findings of our research students should be highlighted through regular symposia and publications so that they receive the recognition they deserve. This will also contribute to fostering a vibrant intellectual culture in our country. Any research outcomes that have commercial viability should be licensed to industry, as is the case in other parts of the world, so that they can be best made use of.

There should also be more scope for the private sector to work with state universities and other higher education institutions in designing solutions for current problems. By helping to  protect new inventions emerging from original research through the global patents system, we can also use research and development activities as a means of generating income for the universities and for those directly involved in such research, as well as for the country overall.

Enhancing focus on research and development will also have a beneficial impact on the rankings of Sri Lankan universities internationally. Improving these rankings is important if we are to attract more foreign students as well as attract and retain talented faculty members at our universities. Therefore, improving these rankings at a fast pace must be prioritised.

Another factor that universities should consider is bringing in fresh thinking to their faculties by attracting qualified professors, lecturers and researchers from other institutions. There is a tendency at present for those who obtain PhDs and other higher degrees from a particular university to stay on at that university, rather than seeking opportunities elsewhere in the country. This needs to change.

Universities should engage in greater competition with each other to attract and retain the best talent. Ideally, this competition should not be limited to faculty and staff, but also to students. The current university entrance system, which was designed around resource limitations at the university level, must change as the capacity of our universities expand.

As outlined in the Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour policy document, enhancing the capacity of our higher education system through investment in infrastructure, technology, and human resources is a key aim of my Government. By increasing the capacity of universities, there will be opportunities for more students to access higher education. They should be able to do so without having their future determined purely by the Z-score they obtain through their performance at the Advanced Level examinations.

In the future, while the University Grants Commission must still play a key role in ensuring that the quality and standard of education at universities remains high, individual institutions should be granted greater autonomy in their operations.

The governing body, Vice Chancellor, Faculties and staff of each university should have more freedom to determine, design, manage, and deliver their programmes of study. They should also be able to select the students they feel are best suited to learn at their institutions. Talented students, too, should have more freedom to choose their universities.

These changes will increase the competition that exists amongst the universities at every level, leading to significant overall improvements across the entire higher education system. Through this, it is also likely that the rankings of our national universities will improve.

Sri Lanka is fortunate to have many extremely talented, competent and highly qualified individuals involved in the running of its state universities. I am confident that if all of you put in your best efforts, we can achieve the improvements our universities need to become globally competitive, high-quality institutions that will uplift our youth and help strengthen our economy in the future, despite the rapid changes taking place in the world at large today.

In concluding, I urge all of you to contribute creatively, positively and wholeheartedly towards this endeavour for the betterment of our country and our future generations.

Thank you

The “Kekulu Thuru Udanaya” Children’s Tree Planting National Programme was inaugurated by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, today (15) at the Atabage Wimaladharma National School premises in Gampola.

The number of children entering grade one in schools every year is close to three hundred fifty thousand. The objective of this programme is to groom them to be eco-friendly citizens and to ensure a secure ecosystem for future generations in line with the Sustainable Environmental Policy introduced by the National Policy Framework, “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour”.

The President as well as the Ministers and MPs took part in the programme by planting saplings together with children.

State Minister Shashindra Rajapaksa said that the central theme of this concept is to create a sound mentality by encouraging the students, who are in an examination mindset, to cultivate.

The Ministries of Agriculture and Education will jointly implement the tree planting scheme. The “Kekulu Thuru Udanaya” programme , which commenced today continues year after year. The government aims to add 1.7 million tress including jackfruit, breadfruit, coconut and mango to the environment within next 5 years under the supervision of children. Children living in urban areas will be provided with small plants that are suitable for their environment while children who are living in flats will be provided with potted plants.

The distribution of plants is done by the State Ministry of Agriculture and it is also planned to prepare an annual report on the child and the plant through Agricultural Research Officers of the Department of Agrarian Services.

The President symbolically distributed saplings among the children.

Symbolizing the admission of children to grade one in the year 2021, the President registered the name of a child entering the Atabage Wimaladharma Vidyalaya and made a note in the school log book.

The Governor of Central Province, Lalith U. Gamage handed over the cheque for Rs. 63 lakhs collected by the Central Provincial Department of Education for the COVID-19 Fund to the President.

President Rajapaksa presented certificates of appreciation to three teachers who donated their monthly salaries to the COVID-19 Fund.

The Principal, Ven. Rupaha Sonutthara Thero together with the staff and the students of the school presented a Felicitation Memento to President Rajapaksa to mark his visit to the school.

The President, Ministers and MPs posed for a photograph with the first grade students and prefects of Wimaladharma National School.

Anushka Imeshan, a student of the school, presented the President a portrait of President Rajapaksa, painted by him.

The President, who arrived at the Udagama Public ground to attend the event, engaged in a conversation with the people gathered at the venue, and inquired about existing shortcomings in the area and problems they face.

Fulfilling the request made by the People the President said that he will take steps to develop the Udagama Kalawelgolla road by carpeting it and to inform the relevant officials about the issue of drinking water.

The President also inquired into the well-being of the children, who had gathered in front of Atabage Rajananda Vidyalaya, which is located between Udagama public ground and Wimaladharma Vidyalaya. The President said that the work on the school playground and the half completed building will be completed as requested by the children.

Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Central Province Governor Lalith U. Gamage, State Ministers Shashindra Rajapaksa and Anuradha Jayaratne also addressed the gathering. State Ministers Lohan Ratwatte, Piyal Nishantha, MPs Udayana Kirindigoda, Wasantha Yapa Bandara, Secretaries to the Ministries and officials were also present on the occasion.

 
 

Villagers don’t harm environment

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has emphasized that “the life in the village, like the village itself, should be beautiful”.

He further said that the people living in these villages never destroy the rural environment and that it is the villager who has protected the environment so far. The President also said that he does not see the cultivation activities that have been carried out for generations since the time of our ancestors as harming the environment.

The President made these remarks participating in the “Discussion with the Village” programme held yesterday (13) at the Meemure Junior School premises in the Ududumbara Divisional Secretariat Division, Kandy District. This marks the 10th in the series of “Discussion with the Village” programme attended by the President.

President Rajapaksa upon his arrival in the Kaikawala Junior School, on his way to attend the public gathering, engaged in a very cordial discussion with the students and teachers of the school as well as with their parents and inquired about the existing shortcomings of the school.

President Rajapaksa also opened the ‘Smart Classroom’ equipped with computers donated by Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) Mobitel to Kaikawala Primary School. The computers donated by the SLT Mobitel for Meemure Junior school, and televisions and internet connections donated by Dialog Axiata were also handed over to the principal of the school by the President.

The President also participated in the inaugural tour of the newly added bus by the Sri Lanka Transport Board to ply on the Ududumbara road in Meemure.

The “Discussion with the Village” programme commenced on September 25, 2020 from Badulla district. There after programmes were organized covering Matale, Ratnapura, Anuradhapura, Ampara, Polonnaruwa, Kalutara, Moneragala  and Kegalle districts. The idea behind this programme is for President to talk to the rural communities living in remote and difficult areas without intermediaries about their long-standing unresolved problems and to present them directly to the officials in order to find solutions. Problems that can be solved on the spot are instantly addressed. The rest which take time to deal with are noted down to find solutions later. The objective of the programme is to reach out to the people of the villages, understand their problems and find solutions through their own suggestions.

The village of Meemure is located at one end of the Kandy District, 40 km away from Hunnasgiriya on the Kandy-Mahiyangana road and 35 km from boarders of the Badulla and Matale districts.

According to legends, the village of Meemure was a dwelling of the King Ravana. Some believe that the village called Maha Pabbatha mentioned during the reign of King Maha Ravana is presently named as Meemure. The legends state that king Ravana has landed his “Dandumonaraya” (believed to be the aircraft of King Ravana) on Lakegala Mountain after kidnapping Princess Sita.

The village of Meemure is also considered to be the heart of the Knuckles Natural Reserve, a World Heritage Site. Karambaketiya, Kumbukkolla, Pusseela, Kaikawala and Meemure Grama Niladhari Divisions belong to the Ududumbara Divisional Secretariat.

These villages have 378 families with a total population of 1127. Paddy farming is the main livelihood of the villagers. Others engage in the cultivation of minor export crops such as pepper and kithul related industries.

The people explained to the President that their main problems are the underdeveloped status of the road network and the lack of undisputed ownership to the lands for cultivation purposes.

Responding to the complaints regarding poor road infrastructure facilities, the President instructed the Secretary to the Ministry to repair the two bridges on the Meemure-Hunnasgiriya route and complete the development of the road as soon as possible.

It was also decided to expedite the reconstruction of the by-roads in the village including the road from Mediwaka to Pallewela, from Dombagahapitiya to the 35th-mile post and from Karambaketiya to Huluketadelagaha.

The President instructed the officials to take steps to assign a doctor to the Central Dispensary in Kaikawala, to provide an ambulance, to fill the existing medical staff vacancies at the Ududumbara Hospital and to develop other infrastructure facilities.

President Rajapaksa in an evaluation of the potential of the Meemure area as a tourist destination stressed the need to improve facilities for adventurous water sports and other accommodations and facilities to promote tourism industry there. The President drew the attention of the officials to take necessary measures to identify the places and activities of tourist attraction including hiking and educating and training the local people to enter tourism and providing ATM facilities by a State Bank to the village of Meemure.

Minister of Agriculture Mahindananda Aluthgamage pointed out that Meemure could attract more tourists by encouraging farmers to use organic fertilizers in the cultivation of vegetables and fruits.

When Enasal cultivation was taken up for discussion, the Minister of Agriculture was tasked to appoint a committee to investigate the matter and to take formal actions. In addition, it was also discussed to examine the reasons for poor yield in the pepper cultivation as well.

The President directed that immediate steps be taken to rehabilitate and re-activate the electric fence preventing elephant intrusion and to provide solutions to the land issues in the area promptly.

It was advised to rectify the persisting shortage of teachers in the schools in Meemure,Kumbukgolla and Kaikawala and to develop infrastructure facilities including IT rooms and libraries. It was also decided to provide other miscellaneous facilities in the preschools and Dhamma schools in the area. The President also paid special attention to building a common Teacher’s Dormitory for all three schools as well.

Restoration of canal culverts and the supply of clean drinking water have been identified as two other basic requirements in these areas. It was also decided to expedite the development of communication and internet facilities in the area as well.

The President instructed the Secretary to the Ministry to examine the issues pertaining to drinking water needs in Pusseela, Kaikawala, Hasalaka and Weragama in the Ududumbara area and provide formal solutions promptly.

The President also noted that the clean drinking water requirements of all the schools in the country should be met expeditiously.

The President instructed the restoration of the Huluketadelagaha, Madakumbura, Naela, Kodayangale and Pagirimana anicuts and six other tanks in the area.

Ministers Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Keheliya Rambukwella, Governor of the Central Province Lalith U. Gamage, State Ministers Dilum Amunugama, Lohan Ratwatte, Anuradha Jayaratne, MPs Wasantha Yapa Bandara, Gunathilaka Rajapaksa, Udaya Chaminda Kirindigoda, Principal Advisor to the President, Lalith Weeratunga, Former Chief Minister of the Province Sarath Ekanayake, People’s Representatives of the district, Secretaries to the Ministries, Heads of several State Institutes and Security officials and a large number of people were present at the 10th “Discussion with the Village” session held in Meemure Primary School premises.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa handed over letters of appointment to 12 new High Court judges at the Presidential Secretariat today (10).

Name of the Judge                                                                                         Position previously held

  1. Miss. N.K.D.K.I. Nanayakkara                                                                District Judge
  2. Mr. R.L. Godawela                                                                                  District Judge
  3. Mr. V. Ramakamalan                                                                               District Judge
  4. Mr.U.R.V.B. Ranatunga                                                                           District Judge
  5. Miss.S.H.M.N. Lakmali                                                                            Additional District Judge
  6. Mr.D.G.N.R. Premarathna                                                                       District Judge
  7. Miss.W.D.Wimalasiri                                                                               Additional District Judge
  8. Mr.M.M.M. Mihal                                                                                     Chief Magistrate
  9. Mr.Mahee Wijeweera                                                                              District Judge
  10. Mr.I.P.D. Liyanage                                                                                   Additional District Judge
  11. Mr. J. Trotsky                                                                                           District Judge
  12. Mrs. N.A. Suwandurugoda                                                                    Senior State Counsel

The ‘park and ride’ project which was initiated under the guidance of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is being implemented successfully. The ‘park and ride’ facility will pave way to the outside motorists to limit their movement and save a lot of money and fuel. This has also reduced the traffic congestion in peak hours on the main roads. Deputy General Manager of Sri Lanka Transport Board Panduka Swarnahansa said the project is successful in main cities.

The program to provide laptops on a concessionary payment scheme to the students who are qualified to enter universities commenced under the patronage of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The program has been formulated by the University Grants Commission in collaboration with the People’s Bank, to digitalize the entire education system to meet current needs as  envisioned in the national policy framework of “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour”. People’s Bank has allocated Rs 3 billion for this project.

Each laptop will be equipped with an internet connection, software package and a 4 year warranty period. A laptop is valued at Rs 80,000.

The loan scheme gives students the opportunity to settle the payment within 6 years following their employment. During his/her university education they are required to pay a sum of Rs. 500 monthly.

President Rajapaksa symbolically handed over relevant documents to six new students who will be enrolled to Universities for the academic  year of 2021 at the Presidential Secretariat this morning (Feb. 09).

Minister of Education Prof. G.L. Peiris, Secretary to the President, P.B. Jayasundera, Secretary of Education Prof. Kapila Perera, Chairperson of the University Grants Commission, Prof. Sampath Amaratunga, Chairperson of the People’s Bank Sujeewa Rajapaksa and several others were present at the occasion.

 

It is not my method to ascertain people’s problems only by consulting officials…

                                       President tells at Dickellakanda “Discussion with the Village” programme

 

  • No room for illegal activities misusing decisions taken to solve people’s problems
  • Young people’s representatives urged to win people through hard work
  • Nationalism cannot be sustained without strengthening the economy….
  • A proper development plan and housing project for Maliboda town …

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has emphasized that going to the grassroots level, in order to give swift solutions to public grievances, is neither political gimmick nor media hype.

‘The next Presidential Election is almost four years away. We travel to the villages to fulfill the respective duties that should be performed while in power. No other President has ever gone among the people living in rural areas to give them a hearing and relieve them of their burden even though they may have visited these villages as members of the Opposition. It is not my method being confined to Colombo and ascertains the people’s problems only by consulting officials. There may be some who may criticize this system but “I will work according to my own method,” said President Rajapaksa.

“I became the President after rendering years of service to the people. One can become a people’s leader only by right performance of the responsibilities of a leader.” Therefore, the President advised the young people’s representatives to go among the people to see for themselves the difficulties citizens undergo and addressed them.

The President made these remarks participating in the “Discussion with the Village” programme held yesterday (06) at the Dickellakanda Junior College premises in the Dickellakanda Grama Niladhari Division within the Deraniyagala Divisional Secretariat Division in the Kegalle District. This marks the ninth in the series of “Discussion with the Village” attended by the President.

The President emphasized that if any individual or a group engages in illegal activities misusing the decisions taken to solve the problems of the people as a pretext, they will be severely punished.

It was decided to grant the cultivation rights to the farmer who has cultivated a particular plot of land for generations. The President said that it has been revealed that a group of people are exploiting this opportunity to cause damage to the environment and the forest reserves. The power of nature must be used for the betterment of human beings. President Rajapaksa said that nationalism could not be sustained without strengthening the economy and that the aim of the government is to build a national economy based on agriculture.

The “Discussion with the Village” programme commenced on September 25, 2020 from Badulla district. The previous programmes were organized covering Matale, Ratnapura, Anuradhapura, Ampara, Polonnaruwa, Kalutara and Moneragala districts. The idea behind this programme is for President to talk to the rural communities living in remote and difficult areas without intermediaries about their long-standing unresolved problems and to present them directly to the officials in order to find solutions. Problems that can be solved on the spot are instantly addressed. The rest which take time to deal with are noted down to find solutions later. The objective of the programme is to reach out to the people of the villages, ask their questions and find solutions through their own suggestions.

Dickellakanda village is located at a distance of about 23 km from Deraniyagala town and borders the Sri Pada reserve. Asgala, Pallahena, Namalwatta and Urawanawa belong to the Dickellakanda Grama Niladhari Division. These villages have 208 families comprising a population of 718. Maliboda, Pothdeniya and Magala are the other villages around Dickellakanda.

Majority of the residents in these villages, which are located in a highly sensitive ecological zone, are engaged in tea cultivation or in an occupation affiliated with it. Cloves, Cardamom and Pepper are their other plantation crops. A total of 25 families are engaged in the Kitul industry.

People are severely affected due to status of underdevelopment of the road network and bridge system and the weak public transport services.

The people during the programme apprised the President of various issues they face frequently. In response to the complaints by the public with regard to the dilapidated condition of roads, President Rajapaksa instructed the officials to commence development of the road forthwith from Pothdenikanda area to Dickwellakanda and complete it.

In addition, President instructed the relevant officials to develop the roads in the area including routes from Maliboda to Pandeniya on the way to Sri Pada, Deraniyagala to Nuriya Udamaliboda to Dickellakanda and Maliboda to Urawanawa Ambagahakanda  expeditiously.

President Rajapaksa emphasized the need to develop the minor access roads in rural estate areas across the island connecting them with the by-roads in close proximity.

It was also decided to carry out a comprehensive survey of all the bridges in the area and develop them accordingly. The President also instructed that if contractors fail to deliver their service appropriately in the construction process, they should be blacklisted and replaced with other well performing agencies and contractors.

“From now on, all the constructions should be expedited under the supervision of people’s representatives and officials” the President added.

Special attention was paid to expedite the Polgaswatta, Basnagala-Horagahahinna water projects to address the shortage of clean drinking water and to identify the water sources in the district for the purpose of fulfilling drinking water needs.

President Rajapaksa advised the Ministry of Urban Development to develop Maliboda town in a systematic fashion and the State Ministry of Estate Housing and Community Infrastructure to expedite the launch of a new housing scheme.

It was also decided to construct a new building for Dickellakanda Junior College, accommodate laboratory facilities and develop the school playground. President Rajapaksa also decided to donate a three-wheeler to the school to facilitate transportation for the teachers.

The development of the Pothdenikanda Vidayala’s playground will commence immediately. The President instructed the Secretary of Education to provide sports ware and band instruments to all the schools that do not already possess them. President Rajapaksa also advised the officials to look into the computer requirements in the schools and meet them accordingly.

President Rajapaksa added that steps should be taken to address the issue of shortage of teachers in all schools in the district and to develop other infrastructure facilities. Special attention was paid to providing opportunities for students who have passed G.C.E. Advanced Level to fill the vacancies for teachers in English, Mathematics, Science and Information Technology persisting in Tamil medium schools.

It was also decided to fill the vacancies of medical and other staff members in rural hospitals in the Kegalle District and to develop the infrastructure facilities as well. President also paid his special attention into the issues pertaining to lands in the area.

The computers donated by the SLT Mobitel for Dickellakanda Junior College, Maliboda Tamil College and Udamaliboda Sri Devananda Vidyalaya and televisions and internet connections donated by Dialog Axiata were handed over to the principals of the respective schools by the President.

Governor of the Sabaragamuwa province Tikiri Kobbekaduwa, Governor of the North  Central province Maheepala Herath, State Ministers Kanaka Herath, Tharaka Balasuriya, MPs Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, Sudath Manjula, Sarathi Dushmantha, Rajika Wickramasinghe, Principal Advisor to the President, Lalith Weeratunga, People’s representatives of the district, Secretaries to the Ministries, Heads of the State Institutes and Security Forces officials and several others attended the 9th “Discussion with the Village” programme held at the Dickellakanda Junior College premises.

Full text of the speech made by His Excellency President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on 73rd Independence Day – February 4, 2021

Today marks the 73rd anniversary of our nation gaining independence from colonial rule. On this day we pay our respects to all the leaders from the Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher and other sections of the population who made various sacrifices to win our independence.

I also pay my tribute to the brave war heroes who sacrificed their lives and underwent great hardships to preserve our nation’s independence and sovereignty.

We have faced many challenges as a nation in the 73 years since our independence. From time to time, we have had to face religious and ethnic conflicts, racist and terrorist activities, undue external influences, constitutional crises, and many other obstacles. The challenges of establishing national security, achieving true reconciliation amongst various communities of our nation, and building a strong economy that can deliver sustainable economic development and eliminate poverty still lie ahead of us.

 At a juncture when our nation’s heritage, its traditions, its national identity and patriotism were under serious threat, more than 6.9 million people elected me as President to provide the leadership needed to reestablish national security and overcome the many challenges facing our country.

I am a Sinhala Buddhist leader and I will never hesitate to state so. I govern this country in accordance with Buddhist teachings. Within the Buddhist philosophic tradition of peaceful coexistence which gives due respect to all religions and ethnicities, every person in this country irrespective of his or her ethnic or religious identification has the right to enjoy the freedom as equals under the nation’s legal framework.

Traitorous elements always band together and seek to marshal domestic and foreign forces against the leadership that upholds indigenous way of life and country’s sovereignty. Such elements mislead the public through false propaganda in a subtle way. I request the people of our nation to always think critically before acting. If people make assessments based on facts and take decisions only after finding out the truth, no one will be able to mislead the public.

The public has given the current Government a mandate to execute the policies articulated in my vision statement “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour”.

I have sworn as the nation’s leader to always protect our nation’s independence, unitary status, territorial integrity and sovereignty on behalf of our future generations. I will always uphold that pledge.

Sri Lanka is a democratic nation. Every citizen who lives in this country has equal rights. We reject any efforts to divide our citizens based on ethnic or religious reasons. We always strive to protect the fundamental rights and human rights of all our citizens, and always stand for the principle of one nation, one law.

We always respect the rule of law. The public has rejected the undue influence that was exerted on law enforcement agencies and the judiciary by politicians in the past. However, the public also expects fair, unbiased and efficient service from the officials who enforce the law. As such, I have advised the Attorney General’s Department to swiftly act upon matters that have caused great concern to the public, such as the Easter Sunday Attacks and the Central Bank scam.

I have now received the final report of the Presidential Commission appointed to inquire into the Easter Sunday Attacks.  I have already given instructions to implement its recommendations. Simultaneously, taking into account the recommendations of the previous Parliament’s Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security, action will be taken against all parties involved in this tragedy. We will not allow those responsible for designing and enabling this tragedy to escape justice.  We will never allow extremism to raise its head again, in this country.

At a time when the entire world is in crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our country has had to face many challenges. For more than a year, the pandemic has posed serious obstacles to carrying out the development activities and for people of our country to lead a normal life.

Several countries have by now successfully developed vaccines for the COVID-19 virus. I have requested the leaders of India, China and Russia to support Sri Lanka to swiftly obtain these vaccines. This matter has also been discussed with the World Health Organization.  Accordingly, we have obtained one vaccine and have already started our vaccination programme.  This vaccination programme will be carried out without any disruption.

An important lesson learnt by all nations faced with the prevailing global crisis has been the need for a strong domestic production base. This experience has further underscored the appropriateness and timeliness of our policy of strengthening domestic agriculture to ensure food security and self-sufficiency.

The stimulus provided through distribution of free fertilizer, raising the floor price of paddy to 50 rupees, striking off the debts of farmers, reconstructing thousands of irrigation tanks around the country, and the encouragement provided to home gardening and urban farming has revived the agriculture sector. We will act to further increase agricultural productivity through the infusion of new technologies. We are already seeing the benefits of strengthening farmers through managing import taxes to encourage the production of paddy, maize, grains, potatoes and onions; by limiting imports of products such as turmeric which can be grown domestically and by limiting the re-export of spices such as pepper. Domestic production has increased, and export opportunities have expanded.

I have always maintained that in order to strengthen farmers economically we must encourage them to become agricultural entrepreneurs. It is our aim to further develop and strengthen the domestic agriculture sector so that it becomes a significant foreign exchange earner.

We have not forgotten the importance of the industrial and service sectors in economic development. The Government has taken action to encourage these sectors through the provision of tax incentives and by reducing interest rates. A great improvement is already visible in traditional handicrafts such as batik, cane, clay and jewellery through the state ministries that were established for this purpose.

We have paid attention to provide entrepreneurs engaged in small and medium enterprises as well as those who are self-employed avenues in minimizing delays in various approvals they require, in helping them to access financing at single digit interest rates and in obtaining required training.

Providing stimulus to the construction industry has been shown to be a successful means of reviving stalled economies. Initiatives such as the 100,000 kilometer roads programme; the 10,000 bridges programme; the reconstruction of thousands of irrigation tanks around the country under the ‘Irrigation Prosperity’ programme; the programme to construct 14,000 houses under the theme of ‘one village, one house’; the creation of 100,000 housing units for middle income earners, low income earners and urban shanty dwellers; the programme to construct 4,000 houses for estate workers; and the construction of walkways for densely populated areas around the country will provide great benefits to the public at large whilst directly supporting the revival of the economy.

Amidst striving to develop the agriculture, industrial and service sectors to strengthen the national economy, we are also taking steps to minimize obstacles to the promotion of foreign direct investments. While our policy of not selling national economic hubs to foreigners remains unchanged, I trust that the public will critically assess the misinformation and misinterpretations being propagated by those with ulterior political motives to deter foreign investors from investing in Sri Lanka.

I have established a Presidential Deregulation Commission to change the outdated laws and regulations that affect the general public as well as the domestic and foreign companies. This long discussed but unimplemented activity has finally commenced. I believe that implementing the recommendations of this Commission will provide significant impetus to the country’s future economic development.

The 21st Century is considered as the Knowledge Century.

Human resources are extremely important to the development of the nation. The “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” policy statement articulates the need for educational reforms to foster a knowledgeable and skilled future generation.

Accordingly, a separate State Ministry has been created to undertake the reforms needed in the education sector. Two task forces have also been created to obtain specialist assistance for these reforms. The recommendations they have provided are already being implemented.

During the course of this year, the number of students gaining admission to universities will increase by 10,000, or 30 percent. Provisions have been made to double the number of students entering the state Technical Colleges from 100,000 to 200,000. Approval has been granted for the creation of a system of city universities catering to every district in order to increase the capacity of universities. We are acting quickly to implement recommendations for educational reforms. As a result, we anticipate that there will be an appreciable qualitative improvement in the education sector within the next few years.

In order to fulfil our economic ambitions in the modern world, we must foster a society familiar with technology.

In order to compete in the future, the agriculture, industrial and service sectors will need to be infused with technology. To support this, we look forward to fostering a culture of technological innovation that will uplift the living standards of the people.

In accordance with the policies contained in the “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” vision statement, the Government will encourage innovation through the use of technology in both the public and the private sectors. With this in mind, a range of tax incentives has already been provided to the technology intensive sectors.

In recent weeks, I established a dedicated Ministry of Technology and brought it under my purview. Through this Ministry, due attention will be paid to developing the policies and legal framework required to improve the technology sector, as well as to simplify the functioning of the state sector and markets through the use of information technology as a tool for broader digital governance. Action has already been taken to create five technology parks with all facilities in five identified districts in order to encourage entrepreneurs and start-ups in the technology sector. We will have an opportunity to create a revival in the technology sector through such incentives.

I request the intelligent public to remember that all of this has been achieved in little over a year, whilst facing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has debilitated the entire world.

Our tourism industry earned approximately US$ 4.5 billion annually and provided direct and indirect employment to three million people. These people are now in great difficulty as they are unable to make a living from tourism. We need to find solutions for these people as soon as possible. As such, whilst strictly adhering to health recommendations, we have acted to restart the tourism industry in a phased manner.

I have always loved and respected the environment. In the past, whilst serving as the Secretary to the Ministry of Urban Development, I strove to protect the environment when undertaking such activities as urban beautification, urban development, and the creation of walking paths and urban parks. Today, too, our Government has paid particular attention to preserving the environment for future generations. What the creation of urban forests, designing of green cities, promotion of green businesses, undertaking of nationwide tree planting programmes, reconstruction of irrigation tanks and canals, recultivating of fallow paddy fields, promoting the use of organic fertilizer, and limiting the use of plastics demonstrate is the implementation of this sustainable environmental management policy.

The foundation of our citizen centric economic policy is that the true potential of the economy cannot be unleashed without economic freedom. To achieve the Government’s aims of eliminating poverty, providing equal opportunity for improvement of all citizens, and developing domestic businesses, we require a clean and efficient public service.

The public service is a powerful, nationwide mechanism. This represents an opportunity that many countries in the world do not possess. Therefore, I expect this powerful mechanism to make a significant contribution to the national decision making process. However, I observe that weaknesses currently prevail in decision making at every level. Even on very simple institutional matters, I have observed that officials avoid making decisions and refer them to the Cabinet of Ministers. They expect advice from circulars for every activity.

They avoid taking decisions even within the limits of their authority. If we do not change this situation, it will be extremely difficult for us to take this nation forward.

The legal reforms necessary to protect those in the public service who take correct decisions are currently being formulated. I therefore request all those in positions of authority to ease the limitations and practices that obstruct the general public through the state administration.

I personally participate in the ‘Conversation with the Village’ programme because rural development is one of my Government’s priorities. The public administration system at both the District and Divisional level is extremely important to achieving the citizen centric economic development articulated in my vision statement “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour”. There is a clear responsibility incumbent on everyone involved in this development process, from the Governors, District Secretaries, Divisional Secretaries and Public Health Officials, to officials such as Grama Niladharis, Samurdhi Officials, Agriculture Research and Production Assistants, Family Health Service Officials and Development Officials at the village level. They have all provided tremendous support in controlling the spread of the COVID-19 virus and in providing other essential services. Similarly, I look forward to the unstinted support of all public servants in successfully overcoming the challenges that confront us in terms of our economic development.

The political leadership has a grave responsibility not only on matters at the national level but also in rural development. We have instituted mechanisms to ensure the active participation of Cabinet and State Ministers, Members of Parliament, and Members of Urban and Municipal Councils in the development activities at District and Divisional levels.

Corruption and waste are significant obstacles to a nation’s development. We are setting an example to eradicate corruption and waste in the public administration. We will not be lenient on anyone who is found guilty of corruption or waste. However, one of the difficulties we face in preventing corruption is the indirect support given willingly or unwillingly by the public to such activities. I request the general public not to encourage corruption either directly or indirectly. If anyone is found to be engaging in corrupt practices, please inform the relevant authorities.

I invite everyone to join in a national effort to mobilize public opinion against corruption and waste. Our future generations too must be educated in this regard. I appreciate the support that is being extended by the media for this initiative.

Various parties claim that they worked to ensure my election as President. That may be true. People from every section of society gathered around me to support my campaign. I believe that the vast majority of these people did so not in search of personal benefits but because they expected me to serve the nation diligently. I am always prepared to fulfil the genuine expectations of the public that supported me with honest intent. However, I will never take decisions that will damage the country and to please those who seek gains for themselves personally or for their businesses.

Throughout history, strong civilizations were built and nations developed by those who worked on targets by looking positively towards the future. At this juncture, our nations’ development requires precisely that kind of vision.

No contribution can be expected from pessimists and those who do nothing but criticize the work of others.

What we require today is the support of citizens with a positive vision, who love their country, who contribute to society, and who do not make unfair criticism but offers practical solutions to the issues we face.

We are committed to achieve the principle of the ‘productive citizen, happy family, disciplined and ethical society, and prosperous nation’. If the majority of citizens in this country provide their due contribution towards this, we can make this principle a reality.   I therefore once again request all the citizens of this country to think positively and join with us to build the future for all our children.

I am the leader that you searched for. I will discharge the responsibility you have entrusted to me, with commitment and dedication.

May the blessings of the noble Triple Gem be with you.

Thank you.

 
 

  • No one behind designing and supporting Easter Sunday attacks will escape justice
  • Country’s economic hubs will not be sold to foreigners
  • Country will be governed according to Buddhist teachings

I am the leader that you searched for. I will discharge the responsibility you have entrusted to me, with commitment and dedication, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa pledged before the nation.

“Throughout history, strong civilizations were built and nations developed by those who worked on targets by looking positively towards the future. At this juncture, our nations’ development requires precisely that kind of vision”, emphasised the President.

President Rajapaksa said that he will never hesitate to state that he is a Sinhala Buddhist leader. The country will be governed in accordance with Buddhist teachings. Within the Buddhist philosophic tradition of peaceful coexistence which gives due respect to all religions and ethnicities, every person in this country irrespective of his or her ethnic or religious identification has the right to enjoy the freedom as equals under the nation’s legal framework.

President said perpetrators behind Easter Sunday attacks will severely be dealth with according to the recommendations by Presidential Commission appointed to inquire into the  attacks and previous Parliament’s Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security. “We will not allow those responsible for designing and enabling this tragedy to escape justice”, President stressed.

President Rajapaksa made these remarks addressing the nation at the 73rd Independence Day celebrations held at the Independence Square today (4).

The policy of not selling national economic hubs to foreigners remains unchanged, President added.

Measures will be taken to change the outdated laws and regulations that affect the general public as well as the domestic and foreign companies said the President adding that majority of the people who supported him at the Presidential election did so to fulfill common needs. “I am always prepared to fulfil the genuine expectations of the public that supported me with honest intent”.

The 73rd Independence Day celebrations were organized in a grandeur manner while strictly following COVID-19 prevention recommendations.

A cultural dislay representing every ethnic community in Sri Lanka added more colour to the event.  A large number of well-trained, well-dressed young men and women contributed by playing instruments and performing.

Members of Sri Lanka Army, Navy, Air Force, Civil Defence and National Cadet Corps joined the parade.

Maha Sangha and other religious dignitaries, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, former President Maithripala Sirisena, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene, Cabinet and State Ministers, members of the diplomatic corp, Commanders of Tri-Forces, Inspector General of Police, Director General of the Department of Civil Defence, government officials and war heros were present on the occasion.

 
 

  • Vaccination to begin tomorrow itself
  • No compulsion to get  the dose

The first consignment of COVID – 19  control vaccines donated by the Government of India was officially handed over to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa today (28) at the Katunayake Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) by the High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay.

The stock was donated to Sri Lanka following a request made by the President to Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi.

Developed by the Oxford University in the UK, the AstraZeneca COVISHELD vaccine was manufactured at Serum Institute in Mumbai.

Carrying 500,000 vials, Indian Airline Flight AI281 landed at BIA at 11.45 am this morning.

The weight of the vaccines stored in the aircraft’s special cold storage is 1323 kg. The stock of vaccines is planned to be stored in the cold storage of the airport premises and distributed in refrigerated vehicles covering 25 districts. Vaccines are stored at a temperature of 2-8 degrees Celsius.

Vaccination will commence at 06 main hospitals in the Western Province tomorrow (29). Around 150,000 health workers, 120,000 members of Tri-Forces, Police and security forces who are at the frontline of COVID prevention operations will be given first priority.

Responding to the request by the President, the Government of China too will donate around 300,000 vials of the vaccine, Principal Advisor to the President and the Chief of the Presidential Task Force on the Procurement of COVID Vaccine Lalith Weeratunga said. Whether to get vaccinated or not is an independent decision of individuals. Mr. Weeratunga says that those who dislike it can restrain from taking the dose.

Marking today’s donation of the vaccines the Indian High Commissioner presented a memento to the President.

Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, State Ministers Sudarshani Fernandopulle, Channa Jayasumana, Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage, Commander of Sri Lanka Army and Chief of Defence Staff General Shavendra Silva, Deputy Indian High Commissioner Vinod Jacob, Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority Major Gen. G. A. Chandrasiri, Ministry Secretaries and heads of the health sector were also present on the occasion.

Page 3 of 61

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