Civil society groups demand official nullification | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Civil society groups demand official nullification

A number of civil society groups are demanding that the proposed controversial Sir John Kotelawala National Defence University Bill be revoked permanently. Despite Minister of Higher Education and Cultural Affairs, Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe claiming that the Bill will not be taken up in Parliament, civil society members say the Bill is one that is too dangerous not to be permanently revoked. Speaking to the Sunday Observer, activist and Senior Lecturer at the Open University of Sri Lanka, Dr Harini Amarasuriya said without the Bill being officially nullified there is no assurance that the government will not take it up at some point in the future.

“Therefore, our demand is that it be revoked through a gazette notification,” she said.

The General Sir John Kotelawala National Defence University (KNDU) Bill was gazetted on April 6, 2018.

Civil society groups have been vehemently opposing the Bill based on the fact that it would militarise civilian-based higher education in the country allowing for private military-based education institutions which will function independently of the Ministry of Higher Education and the University Grants Commission, and be managed by the Ministry of Defence and the Armed forces.

“It attempts to expand the existing Kotelawala Defence University in alarming ways,” she said.

According to Dr. Amarasuriya, members of civil society have also signed a petition expressing their concern and sent it to a large number of Parliamentarians.

“We are yet to receive a response from the Government in this regard,” she said, adding that, however, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) have expressed their agreement with the demands of the group.

She clarified that the group is not disagreeable to the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University (Special Provisions) Bill which seeks to absorb registered South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM) students.