|Tuesday, 17 August 2004|
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Higher Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardana recently announced that the Government is planning to establish a university in Uva Province soon.
The people of Uva/Wellassa/the Central Ruhuna would be extremely pleased to hear the news: The rulers are moving ahead with a unique post-secondary educational institution in Uva. Their response to the long felt need of the area is resounding 'Yes'.
Under the foreign power Uva was kept more or less in dark throughout except for few instances where there was personal gains to the colonial Government. They made rail and motor roads mainly for the benefit of their tea industry; relocated leading Colombo schools such as the Royal.
St Thomas and Visakha in the Upper Uva region of Bandarawela, Gurutalawa and Badulla during the World War II when the Government suddenly realized that Uva is more important and secured.
During the ancient time Uva was actually the paddy bowl (hence Wellassa) of Sri Lanka. British and other foreign powers ruined this area because the inhabitants of the area were the last to fight against them.
Governments after the independence have not commenced any major developmental programme so far in this area. Uva is the only province where there is not a single carpeted road! It is the only province without a university! Uva People know very well that its resources have been used to develop Colombo and other areas of the country. Thanks to the present government for remembering.
Uva Wellassa region, had been kept neglected wittingly or unwittingly for nearly a millennium probably since the fall of Polonnaruwa period!
The Constitution states that there should be equal educational opportunities for all. Disparity among the schools is immense. Our universities, cater just 2 per cent of the total number of children enroll into the Year I annually!
This figure is unbelievably low and negligible; even other third world countries have much higher percentages, for example, Indonesian Universities cater for about 14 per cent of the total number of students enrolling into their primary education system.
Parents, children and teachers are craving for more and more education. Probably the strongest argument against higher education is lack of jobs; the argumentation is baseless and highly unjustifiable. Simply education is a right and a long-term investment.
Further, proper education may be the best answer to majority of our social problems; the problem of unemployment is not an exception. The proposed University of Uva (UU) would be a strategic investment for the future of Sri Lanka particularly for the region of Uva Wellassa.
The universities in Sri Lanka have been criticized for their lack of responsiveness to the needs of the country. Whether these criticisms are legitimate or not is not the issue. The perception is that we in the universities need to be more responsive to the needs of State and its citizens.
Our legislators have been looking for more accountability, more application of the university resources, to the problems of the State, more collaboration among the faculty, students, provinces/districts within the country.
Today the sphere of education, especially the tertiary education is cosmopolitan, opened, and transparent. Educational reforms introduced rather recently are commendable and must be carried out with strong determination giving highest priority.
In keeping with the government policies and achieving the aims and objectives of educational reforms let's make the UU a model university for Sri Lanka, which would function efficiently catering for many thousand students so as to quench the thirst for higher education, help solve our national problems including floods, landslides and drought, farmers' problems, cultural problems, environmental problems, security problems etc., and produce quality graduates/citizens with high level career opportunities.
Every year thousands of Sri Lanka students leave Sri Lanka for higher studies in other countries including Nepal and Bangladesh, seeking university education leading to degrees in medicine, engineering, computing, management etc., spending millions and millions of rupees of valuable foreign exchange. By establishing the model university we should be able to save at least some of the draining money, if not all.
The Government can make the UU an international institution; orient it to earn foreign exchange by providing facilities for foreign students and thereby improving the quality and increasing the free education opportunities for our children as practiced in other countries.
All other provinces of the country already have one or more university. People of Uva are neither complaining nor begging for a university; it is the responsibility of educated personnel and politicians to urge the authorities to establish a university in Uva.
By establishing a university, the Government will be providing an increased range of education and training opportunities not only for Uva residents but also for the people of whole nation.
Professor S. P. Samarakoon - Department of Botany, University of Ruhuna, Matara.
The letter by G.A.D. Sirimal that appeared in Daily News on the Upper Kotmale and Norachcholai Power Plants, reflect the thinking of non-active bureaucrats, who look for a convenient excuse to push the countries problem in any which way they can and to shout that the Government is taking steps to overcome the problem.
To blame the past Governments including the PA - People's Alliance, for the lack of a coal power station to get the power crises is shameful. It was only recently that President Kumaratunga pointed out that reports given by foreign consultants do not always give all consequences that can be expected in executing power projects.
She cited, Samanalawewa and Kukule as examples of projects carried out with studies done by Japanese consultants that were undertaken in the belief that these power stations would put an end to the power crises.
What is troubling is the insistence of G.A.D. Sirimal that a power station at Norachcholai must be constructed, as studies were made by experts. Adding insult to injury is his quoting of a statement made by a representative of the Japanese Bank for International Corporation - JBIC, made in the year 2001.
He has failed to understand that this gentleman's job is to see to it that money from his bank is lent to the less developed countries such as ours.
Under a sovereign guarantee, that literallys pawns the whole of the country any Government both present and the past could borrow money. Therefore, it is not a big deal to get any bank to lend money if the Government is willing to extend a sovereign guarantee.
To say the feasibility study for this project has cost nine million dollars and was completed in March 2000 is amusing as the CEB and the Ministry of Power and Energy is still uncertain where coal is to be unloaded.
The latest proposition is to use Trincomallee harbour and build railway lines to carry the unloaded coal to Norachcholai. I would like to find out whether the representative from JBIC made this proposal and whether Japan will build the railway line as well.
It would be good if Sirimal first checked the facts and figures that he has quoted in his letter.
It was widely reported and the records associated with the Norachcholai Power Plant states that CEB spent 500 million rupees on the site study and not nine million dollars as claimed by Sirimal. The Holy Shrine at Talawila is 13 km from the Norachcholai town and so is the site that the CEB has selected for the power station.
M/s Ramboll of Denmark are not security experts to study the question of the security at Talawila.
They specialise in the field of transport and were got by the CEB to provide a way in which coal could be unloaded at Norachcholai and not to report on the security or any other aspects of the Holy Shrine.
As Sirimal says, Japan is a very advanced country that has many coal power stations and similar to Sri Lanka has no coal.
Hence they import all the coal that is required to keep their power stations operating.
While Japan has many coal power stations they don't have coal unloading piers that stretch for a length of five kilometres and they don't use barges to carry coal as proposed by the CEB for Norachcholai.
Apart from which Japan has a very advance rail system but they are not as wise as our engineers to unload coal at a distant harbour and transport imported coal on railway lines. To do a site suitability study it only takes three months for the private power developers.
To construct a coal power plant it takes only a period of three years. As an example the US$ 1.45 billion, 1210 MW coal-fired power station at Iskenderun, Turkey was completed in three years by a Private Power Developer.
Many more coal power stations in Europe, Malaysia, Japan, and even in India has been completed in such short periods.
Then why try to make a big deal out of the petty 300 MW that is required by the CEB?
MANGALA DE SILVA - Maharagama.
There is no shortage of TV advertisers as we could see. One advertiser uses almost all the channels to advertise his ware.
The advertisers also use not only the TV, print media, the billboards or even the private walls of even temples with lewd ads. Now even hand bills are inserted inside newspapers and also posting to individuals.
I think all these are done because advertising is comparatively cheap in Sri Lanka than in other countries. Advertising has become a nuisance and bane.
I understand that in rich and developed countries like America and Japan advertisements are precisely timed. All programmes start sharp on time unlike here, and advertisements are limited and is about one minute duration during a programme of half an hour. They have struck a healthy balance between programmes and ads.
Sri Lanka TV channels accommodate far too many ads than they could possibly cope up with, with the results all programmes are put into chaos.
There is no lack of ads here and therefore the only thing is to increase further the fees charged for advertisements.
Certain TV channel's Director-General when he was formerly a senior news announcer threat that we may have to pay for all we see in the future like in other countries which are far more advanced and developed and the use of cable TV and so forth, the latest innovations will not see the Sri Lankan market in the foreseeable future.
Our population, over 80 per cent or 90 per cent are poor and there will be a handful who could afford such expensive media.
Only thing is to put your programmes sharp on time and limit the ads to a tolerable amount and the people will not use the remote control to cut off ads.
V. K. B. RAMANAYAKE - Maharagama.
We the trampled pensioners, an abandoned lot, who have been led down the garden path by all Governments and are victims of bureaucratic bungling, at last earnestly appeal to the Secretary of the Ministry of Public Administration, who we understand from those who know him, is an exemplary and most considerate high public officer, to grant us relief from our miserable plight.
To start with, we were publicly assured by the then Minister concerned a 70 per cent rise. The Devendra Commission recommended a 10 per cent increase.
Then there was a Circular in February 2004 to correct anomalies based on December 1996 salaries which date was grossly unfair. Then the papers carried a news item that the new Minister and his Secretary have announced the basis correctly and justily as the 1997 salaries. Then there was a talk of a revision.
The delay they said was in including pensions of teachers and armed forces and lack of trained officers to do the calculation.
A new amended circular was to come out within two weeks and many other fairy tales have been told from time to time. Helpless Divisional Pension Offices and their Accountants looked clueless and they admitted so.
As it is, out of the nearly four hundred thousand pensioners, not even a handful have received anything.
Therefore we earnestly appeal to the Ministry to make a candid statement of the true position as early as possible and effect a quick remedy, as we are miserably cheated and most of us are with one foot in the other world.
G. D. P. - Panadura.
Produced by Lake House