ignificantly on the International Nelson Mandela Day yesterday, the National Government launched a landmark move towards interracial reconciliation and amity with the opening of the Sri Lanka-German Training Institute (SLGTI) in Kilinochchi. It came in the aftermath of Saturday’s Jaffna university science faculty tragedy which showed the need to speed up moves for interracial and inter-religious dialogue and reconciliation lest some extremist group or groups reignite the tensions that devastated Sri Lanka during the past four decades.
President Maithripala Sirisena, playing a leading role in the moves for reconciliation, himself went to Kilinochchi -- one of the most impoverished districts in the North, for the launching of this project to give highly professional vocational training to about 200 youth every year in the highly paid and highly productive fields of automobile technology, construction technology, food- processing technology, mechanical engineering and electrical and electronic technology.
This important job-training institute is being sponsored by the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) in partnership with the Government of Sri Lanka and the German Ambassador Juergen Morhard was also present at the opening ceremony.
SLGTI is part of Vocational Training in the North and East with the goal being to improve demand-oriented vocational training. It will be a national level training institute with equal access for all citizens, regardless of ethnicity or religion. Sri Lanka and Germany hope that the centre, as a common meeting point, will facilitate the development of mutual understanding and appreciation among students about the diverse cultural heritage of Sri Lanka. The medium of instruction will be English.
Vocational Training Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said these sectors had been identified for the opportunities available within them for well trained, skilled labour. The government is confident
that SLGTI will provide the best opportunity for war-affected youth in the Northern and Eastern provinces and also youth from other parts of Sri Lanka to develop and enhance valuable industry-specific knowledge and market-oriented skills. This is expected to significantly improve their chances in a competitive job market.
To prepare students for the SLGTI, 14 vocational training centres offering National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Levels 1-3 training have been identified as satellite centres in the Northern and Eastern provinces. These satellite centres have been upgraded to meet the standards set by SLGTI.
Meanwhile, the Jaffna University authorities last Saturday decided to close the university’s Science Faculty for a week after violence erupted between two sections of students. This was mainly over a cultural programme to welcome science faculty freshers, much in contrast to the ragging that is often seen in universities. But the good move ended up in a tragedy with some 25 students being injured. The Jaffna University Science Teachers’ Union (JUSTA) in a statement strongly condemned the violent actions of some of the students and urged all citizens to do all they could to defuse the situation and help all students to resume their studies in the University at the earliest.
The main Tamil political party, the Tamil National Alliance which is now positively involved in the moves for interracial dialogue and reconciliation also strongly condemned the violence in the Jaffna University. It urged that strong measures be taken to provide full security to students from other parts of the country.
We also urge parties such as the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna which still has much influence over some university students’ federations to come forward and insist that students should not allow themselves to become pawns of extremist parties which are trying to ignite ethnic tensions in a wicked and selfish move to comeback to power. JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake on Sunday urged the university students to campaign for social justice instead of racial division while he also urged the media to play a responsible role without highlighting events or incidents that could spark off tension. He was referring mainly to the Facebook and other social media reports highlighting the violence.
We urge the Government, all parties and the students to come to the awareness that to go back to an ethnic conflict and a war would be a disaster for Sri Lanka and generations to come. We all need to pledge and act on the principle, Never Again Yesterday.