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Qatar’s State Energy Minister Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday.Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardene,President’s Advisor Lalith Weeratunge and Qatar Amabassador Jassim bin Jaber Al-Sourour were present. Picture by President’s Media Division.

Army troops-built first-ever state-of-the-art rehabilitation centre, ‘AYATI’ for children with special needs at Ragama formally opened its doors to the public on Saturday (25) offering multi-disciplinary clinical operations covering all forms of disabilities.President Gotabaya Rajapaksa graced the momentous occasion as the first citizen of the country at the invitation of Prof D.M Semasinghe, Vice Chancellor, University of Kelaniya and Prof P.S Wijesinghe, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Kelaniya and Prof Nilanthi De Silva, Chairperson ‘AYATI’ Trust, Sri Lanka and Board of Trustees. Two kids with clinical disabilities, together with those above patrons welcomed the day’s Chief Guest.

Together with two children,the President lit the traditional oil lamp and inaugurated the day’s proceedings with singing of the national anthem and the delivery of welcome address by Prof D.M Semasinghe, Vice Chancellor, University of Kelaniya.

An emotional and heart touching talk by one child with disabilities, supported by a few other of the same ilk describing ‘My Life Story’ added a sentimental value to the day’s proceedings depicting the density of this national issue and the need for everyone’s focus.

The brief but elaborate presentation of Mrs Shiromi Masakorala, Executive Directress, ‘AYATI’ Trust tabled the founding of this special centre for treatment of Down Syndrome (genetic and nutritional aspects of accompanying disorders) and Autism (symptoms in children with autism). A subsequent vote of thanks proposed by Prof Nilanthi De Silva, Chairperson ‘AYATI’ Trust, Sri Lanka and Board of Trustees set the stage ready for HE the President to unveil commemorative plaque and to conduct a guided tour in the new facility premises, in the company of Mr Lalith Weerathunga, President’s Adviser, Former State Minister of Defence Hon Ruwan Wijewardene, Prof D.M Semasinghe, Prof Wijesinghe, Prof Nilanthi De Silva, Prof Samanmali, Mrs Shiromi Masakorala, Mr Roshan Mahanama, Vice Admiral Piyal De Silva, Commander of the Navy, Major General Sathyapriya Liyanage, Chief of Staff and Major General Mahinda Mudalige, Commander, Security Forces - West.

HE the President and the retinue closely looked at consultation rooms, learning rooms, SLT wing group therapy and CVI room, audiology wing, laboratory, music room, sensory integration room and a few other units. Before the day’s programme ended, several group photos were taken as symbols of memory at the occasion.

The ‘AYATI’ Centre, located within the University premises in Ragama, was built at a cost of Rs 550 million. On-going operations will require extra funds for sustainability since services are to be provided free of charge. The ‘AYATI’ Trust will continue to facilitate the raising of additional funds to ensure smooth operations.

The Sri Lanka Army’s 10 (V) Corps of Engineer Services a few months ago completed the construction of the new three-storied building on behalf of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya and vested it with the ‘AYATI’ Trust before it became functional from today (25) onwards for the benefit of all the children on free of charge basis.

Sri Lanka Army, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya, Hemas Holdings PLC, MAS Holdings, Rotary International, MICD architects, Wickramasinghe Associates, E&Y, People’s Bank, People’s Leasing, John Keels Holdings Company Ltd, Brandix, Foundation of Goodness and Triad are the main patrons and sponsors of this project of this magnitude, meant to improve those children’s quality of life, independence and promotion of full potential, innate strength and individual talents, inherent among those children with disabilities since the percentage of such children in the country stands at more than 20%.

‘AYATI’ meaning ‘Hope’ in Sanskrit would serve as a National Centre for Rehabilitation of such Children.

The Sri Lanka Army supported this magnanimous initiative by providing their services free of charge to construct the Centre in a short span of 13 months. Rotary joined hands with the provision of audiology equipment and ‘Roshan Wijerama Family Foundation’ stepped in to support as a third key donor. The ‘AYATI’ Centre is now open to serve all Sri Lankans across the country and will provide its services free of charge.

The clinics will be conducted by highly qualified professional experts, attached to the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Kelaniya. Prior appointments are essential to ensure the delivery of standards that the Centre expects to offer. Appointments can be obtained by calling 0115960050 between 9.00 am and 5.00 pm on weekdays.

Talks are underway to introduce an Information Technology Engineering degree centred on Mahindodaya laboratories in schools countrywide by the Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL), Information and Communication Technology, Higher Education, Technology and Innovations Minister Bandula Gunawardane said.

Speaking to the media following an inspection tour at the OUSL, the Minister said this degree is aimed at accommodating 40,000 students who do not qualify to enter universities.

He said his Ministry had received many complaints regarding the failure of the Open University to launch a degree course in Law this year as requested by a large number of students and academics.

He said he undertook the inspection tour accompanied by the University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairman Prof. Sampath Amaratunga to look into the matter as well as problems confronted by the university and possibilities of increasing the intake of students and launching new degree courses.

The Minister said following his discussions with the Vice Chancellor of the Open University and other officials, they decided to call applications for the LLB Degree Examination 2021 from March. Since processing of application and other arrangements would take at least two months to complete, they decided to recruit new students by the middle of this year.

“We also hope to connect 1,000 Mahindodaya laboratories in the country with the Open University and enable 40,000 students to follow a Software Engineering degree course.

This would go a long way to fulfil President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s concept of allowing all students who pass the G.C.E. Advanced Level examination to follow a university degree course,” the Minister said.

Students who follow courses at University Colleges that were initiated during the Mahinda Rajapaksa era before 2015 would be given the opportunity to continue their courses up to degree level, although the previous UNP led Government attempted to close them down, Information and Mass Media and Higher Education Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardane said in Parliament yesterday.

He added that all measures would be taken to ensure the future of the students of University Colleges and allow them to obtain degrees through the University of Vocational Technology (UNIVOTEC).

Minister Dr. Gunawardane told Parliament that discussions were in progress with the students and lecturers of University Colleges to allow them to obtain the degrees through the UNIVOTEC.

He added that a professor has been appointed as the competent authority to the UNIVOTEC to attend to this matter as he has enough experience in developing a university. But the UNP government had appointed an Army officer as the head of the said institute.

Minister Dr. Gunawardena made these observations in response to a special statement made by JVP MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake under Standing Order 27(2).

 

He queried whether the government had taken a decision to shut down the six University Colleges established in 2014.

He added that the previous government deprived the students of their allowances as well.

Minister Dr.Gunawardane said steps have already taken to initiate University Colleges at every Divisional Secretariat.

He added that not only the student allowances but many other facilities are to be granted to those students.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa addressing the Chairmen and Directors of Corporations, Statutory Bodies at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday. Secretary to the President Dr.P.B.Jayasundera was also present. Picture courtesy President’s Media DivisionPresident Gotabaya Rajapaksa, while insisting on the importance of zeroing in on corruption, yesterday said that Government owned business entities should strive for speedy economic growth.He said that all Government institutions which are not aimed at making profits, should be committed to provide an efficient service to the public.

The President was addressing the chairpersons and directors of corporations and statutory bodies which are directly contributing to the uplift of economy and public service, at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday.The President said the Government faced the uphill task of reviving the economy which suffered a setback during the past few years. “Sri Lanka topped the Asian region in terms of economic growth rate during 2005 – 2014. The economy faced a downturn during the past few years, “ he noted.

He also said that cutting edge technology should be utilized for the uplift of economy. “Skilled labour and changes in the education system will help strengthen the economy,” he added.The President called more attention on tertiary education. “The Government should identify and develop areas which can provide a better service to the people and also help uplift the country’s economy,” he said.He added that Government institutions such as the Sri Lanka Tourism Board and Board of Investment will have to play a pivotal role in this regard.The President explained that investors should be encouraged to make investments outside Colombo and suburbs as a solution to the congestion prevailing in urban areas.

Measures implemented to introduce an insurance scheme for journalists in profession throughout the country and steps to discuss with Heads of Media Institutions in formulating a program to ensure that journalists are paid their monthly allowances properly was discussed by Hon. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The Prime Minister made this statement when he met the Sri Lanka Press Association members of the Matale District at his office in Parliament.The group of journalists who visited the Parliament to observe and be educated of its proceedings also had the opportunity to meet the Prime Minister and have a brief discussion.
On this occasion, they were able to inform the Prime Minister about the difficulties and challenges faced by the provincial journalists in the area.

Journalist and national organizer of the National Coalition for Journalists and The Federation of Media Employees' Trade Unions Mr. Kanchana Kumara Ariyadasa in expressing his views also made the Prime Minister aware of the existing concern.While pointing out that Mr. Karunaratne Gamage, a veteran journalist in the Polonnaruwa district is paralyzed due to an accident and that he is not receiving any support or any aid, Mr. Ariyadasa also highlighted that many provincial journalists are faced with various inconveniences accordingly.

As payment mechanism for professional journalists are not regulated by media institutions, they emphasized on the practical concern regarding the inability to pursue professional responsibilities when they are unable to get paid properly.

The Prime Minister said he would intervene given the views of journalists and emphasized that he will look into the process of introducing an insurance scheme for journalists in profession working within the provision.

The Prime Minister stated that he will inform on this regard and will also called for a mechanism to ensure that journalists are paid on time at the meeting of the heads of media institutions.

More than 20 journalists including Gemunu Dharma Sri Herath, Chairman of The Sri Lanka Press Association of Matale District, and its Secretary Mahesh Keerthirathna and Mr. Kumarasiri Hettige, Coordinating Secretary to the Prime Minister were also present at this meeting.

The cabinet proposal presented by the Minister of Higher Education to construct an International Education Hub in this country has been passed, stated by Hon. Bandula Gunawardana, the Minister of Information and Communication Technology and Minister of Higher Education, Technology and Innovation at the cabinet press briefing today (23) held at the auditorium of the Department of the Government Information.

The Minister further said that when 30,000 students are annually given university entrance, 21,000 students go abroad every year in search of higher educational opportunities and after the establishment of the International Education Hub, the wealth flowing to greener pastures can be saved for our country. The Minister also said when our students leave the country for higher education, around 50 Billion Rupees go out of the country and it has a direct impact of the economy of the country in terms of Rupee depreciation. Even in such a situation the students from the countries such as Bangladesh and Maldives come to our country for higher education and last year 1,568 such students have come, the minister emphasized. Their prime objective has been perusing education in the subjects such as Information Technology, Bio systems Technology, Engineering, English and accounting.

The Minister explained that he would pay way for the establishment of number one universities and High Technological Institutions in the world and to implement foreign education in this country by way of providing tax concessions offered by the Board of Investment to the foreign investors. He further added that the economy of the country would also be uplifted by creating the opportunity for both local and foreign students to pay the course fees in standard foreign currency.

The Minister Gunawardana emphasized that Dr. In–Ki Joo President of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) in Washington had promised him to extend his support to make the proposed International Educational Hub fertile ground to produce the experts in the field of Accountings. The Minister also requested from the media not to misinterpret this fact.

All unemployed graduates will immediately be recruited in order to involve them in strengthening the national economy President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said.President made these remarks addressing a gathering of representatives of unemployed graduates held at the Presidential Secretariat.Information on existing vacancies at government, semi-government institutes and departments had already been collected. Graduates will be immediately recruited to these positions. They will be provided with formal training and awareness on leadership skills and the public sector. President said that his objective was to create a responsible government service and a government employee.

Unskilled workers are a main source of foreign exchange. Comparatively the country lacks industries with a solid foundation. Human resource is the main strength of the economy. Therefore, the need to properly guide the youth of the country and ensure their contribution to the growth of national economy is a top priority, President added.

People are critical of the public service due to inappropriate conduct of few individuals. President pointed out that wrongdoings of few government officials had brought the entire service into disrepute. Government officials are paid with the hard earned income of the people of this country. Hence, it is the responsibility of the public servant to deliver his or her service efficiently and diligently for the benefit of the people, President said.

In order to increase facilities and perks given to the government officials economic growth has to be accelerated. The public servants should commit themselves to achieve this objective, emphasized the President.The education system in the country is being subjected to major transformation to give every child the opportunity to become an active contributor of the growth of the economy. Our education system should be reformed to meet the requirements of both local and foreign job market. That should be done through a strategy based on modern technology.

State Ministers Shehan Semasinghe, Janaka Wakkubura, Kanchana Wijesekara, Kanaka Herath, Members of Parliament Niroshan Premarathna, D. V. Chanaka, Thenuka Vidanagamage, honorary adviser to the President Lalith Weeratunga were also present at the discussion.

Information and Communication Technology State Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardana yesterday alleged that Rs. 2005 million from the Central Cultural Fund (CCF) had been allocated to construct temples, kovils and churches during the past one and half years without the Management Board’s approval.

The State Minister further said that it is compulsory to have the approval of the CCF Board of Management comprising the Prime Minister as the Chairman of the CCF, the Subject Minister, the Finance Minister, Hindu Religious Affairs Minister, Education Minister, Tourism Affairs Minister, Archaeology Commissioner, the Prime Minister’s Secretary andthe Cultural Affairs Ministry Secretary to allocate CCF funds.

Addressing the weekly media conference held yesterday at the Information and Communication Technology Ministry, State Minister Abeywardane said that Rs. 270 million is required to pay the salaries of the CCF workers and Rs.100 million had been withdrawn from the fixed deposit to pay the salaries of last December. A Ministerial Committee had been appointed by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Cultural Affairs Minister to look into the alleged financial fraud at the CCF.

The Government would soon introduce new policies make Sri Lanka a regional education hub for South Asia, said Minister of Information and Communication Technology and Minister of Higher Education, Technology and Innovation Bandula Gunawardana.

The Minister said that he would put in place policies to create hubs such as the Biyagama Economic Zone for the export of services.

Gunawardana was speaking at the launch of a Commemorative stamp for the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants on January 17. CIMA Chairman Amal Ratnayake was also at the event. Gunawardana said that when Sri Lankans think of exports, they tend to only think of the exports of goods. He felt that Sri Lanka could emulate the Malaysian model and begin to export educational services to students from the broader South Asian region. He noted that there was a considerable number of Maldivian students in the country. He called for a Human Resource based export zone.

He noted that CIMA was present in Sri Lanka even before Independence.

He described this period as being one where in only the English media existed. He noted that after Independence, the Sinhalese and Tamils came into a more widespread usage.

Gunawardana regretting the civil conflict said it had a negative impact on development.

He alleged that development came to a halt following the election of the previous government. He said the construction of roads, port infrastructure and land reclamation, were all at a standstill. He said Sri Lanka was far from its production possibility frontier during the tenure of the previous government.

“Entrepreneurs were treated as rogues. He said that entrepreneurs had been dragged to the FCID and asked to explain their wealth.

He said that this resulted in the low growth rates experienced in the recent past. He hoped to rebuild confidence to bring in foreign investment.

He said that the previous government had fallen and he would bring institutions to the stature of CIMA into the country.

He said that the Port City would be suitable for the location of educational services and that he would help create the enabling legislation.

Four new ambassadors along with a new High Commissioner concurrently accredited to Sri Lanka presented their credentials to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the President’s House in Colombo yesterday (20). The ambassadors of the State of Qatar and Republic of Turkey as well as the Pakistan High Commissioner will be based in Colombo. The ambassadors to the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg and Slovenia will be based in New Delhi.

After the presentation ceremony, welcoming the delegates the President spoke of strengthening bilateral relations and expanding on areas of common interests such as education, development, technology and agriculture. The new diplomats also expressed their commitment to uphold the long ties their countries had had with Sri Lanka and work with Sri Lanka to develop on the common interests as mentioned by President.

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena also spoke and noted that Sri Lanka always had maintained cordial relations with all five countries.

The envoys who presented their credentials today are:

Mr. Jassim bin Jaber J.B. Al-Sorour
Ambassador- designate of the State of Qatar based in Colombo

Mrs. Rakibe Demet Şekercioğlu
Ambassador- designate of the Republic of Turkey based in Colombo

Major General (Retd) Muhammad Saad Khattak
High Commissioner- designate of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan based in Colombo

Mr. Jean Claude Kugener
Ambassador- designate to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg based in New Delhi

Dr. Marjan Cencen
Ambassador- designate of the Republic of Slovenia based in New Delhi

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