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Government Gazette

Policymakers and scientific community:

Need for clear co-operation

Text of Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka’s address to the 38th Annual Session of the Institute of Chemistry

We are on the threshold of a new era. It is a new beginning with both challenges and opportunities.

I am no scientist; I am a politician. However, I can appreciate the relevance of this year’s theme - “Chemistry based Inventions and Innovations for Economic Development” as we are now on the threshold of a new beginning in our country after having defeated the terrorists who were trying to bifurcate our small nation.

Promoting basic sciences

I am also aware of the many notable contributions by your Institute and strides made by you over the years in promoting basic sciences in our country.

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka presenting an award to a chemist

It is heartening to note that over the years you have taken many steps to promote the study of chemistry by conducting several courses of study at graduate level. I understand that your Institute is the largest single organisation in Sri Lanka, since 1979, that is producing chemists and also laboratory technicians to meet the needs of the industrial sector in our country. You have been to produce many graduates in chemistry with the present annual intake of 150 undergraduates.

I was made to understand that many who passed through your portals are usefully employed in the country contributing to its development but the majority have gone abroad in search of greener pastures. I can certainly understand the reasons for their leaving the country in the past.

Now, that the entire country is under one rule and complete normality will soon be restored in all parts of the country, I sincerely hope they would return to the country when their services are urgently needed.

I have noted from the agenda for your technical sessions that many valuable contributions will be made in the form of research papers on very topical subjects covering a wide array which will be important in the development of the country.

I have noted with some sadness that papers presented by your colleagues in the North and East are only a few. Perhaps the transport and communication difficulties encountered by them in the past precluded them from fully participating in the activities of the Institute of Chemistry.

There is a need for you to encourage them to take part in your activities more as travel and communication facilities will be improved with those areas in the near future. I hope by the time your next sessions are held, there will be more participants from the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

I have listened with great interest to your President’s address especially the point made by him that there is a pivotal role to be played by chemists produced by your Institute to improve Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange earnings by value addition to the commodities we export in raw form.

He very correctly pointed out that in the rubber sector alone, the annual turnover can be nearly doubled by converting the 30 percent of our rubber production we export as raw sheet or crepe latex. As a person coming from a rubber producting area, I am well aware of the importance of value addition to rubber exports.

Scientific research for economic development

If there is an increase in rubber prices by value addition many small-scale farmers will benefit and-will discourage them from diversifying their holdings to other crops. Rubber tree is valuable for us for other reasons as well.

Many valuable contributions to development will be made in the form of research

Traditionally, in my area, the bakeries are using rubber wood from uprooted trees in their kilns for making bread. We should encourage this as we can save much electricity if we continue to use rubber logs for running bread as well as industrial kilns.

For household cooking, we can reduce the use of gas if our housewives use rubber logs. I am sure that food cooked by using rubber wood in a normal hearth tastes better and more nourishing.

Your President gave another example-we export our mineral sand, ilmenite, in raw form and our main market is Japan but there is a wide price difference between what we export as raw form and the titanium pigment we import from Japan.

I mentioned a little while ago that we are on the threshold of a new beginning. Our valiant Armed Forces have succeeded last month in defeating one of the most ruthless and dangerous terrorist organizations in the world.

Our Forces have thereby have brought the entire country under one flag and put an end to the putative state set up by the LTTE in certain parts of our country. The writ of the democratically elected Government now runs throughout the length and breadth of the island, after nearly three decades.

Prophets of doom

The Forces did this with dedication and commitment under the correct guidelines provided by political leadership, and with minimal collateral damage.

They have liberated thousands of innocent civilians who were traumatized under the tyranny and oppression from the LTTE. You would have seen the pictures of the luxurious life led by LTTE leadership while dispatching innocent girls and boys to certain death on suicidal missions.

The prophets of doom or so-called military experts or analysts in the West were preaching, day in and day out, that the Tigers were invincible and that there was a military stalemate and neither side could win the war. Our Forces have proved them totally wrong. There have been attempts from outside to save the Tigers until the last moment but we did not listen to those sinister forces.

Many developing countries helped us in many ways in defeating the terrorists and many of them helped us when some countries tried to pillory us over allegations of human rights violations. We are thankful to friends of Sri Lanka in helping us to expose the hypocrisy of those selfstyles defenders of human rights.

Now, that the whole country is united under one flag, we have a greater challenge - the challenge of development. We have to first rehabilitate the persons displaced and restore their livelihood. And we have to rebuild the entire infrastructure in those areas destroyed during the conflict.

Now the terrorist problem has been neutralized, we have a window of opportunity to develop the entire country so that we can come to the levels of developed countries in the South East Asia and Far East.

Attracting investors

We have to develop our tourist industry which has been in the doldrums. We have to develop our industrial production and our agriculture sector. We now have full access to rich resources in the North and East. We have to attract investors to our export processing zones.

We have the necessary human resources for these activities. We have lost three decades of development as a result of this conflict. I am confident that we can successfully meet the challenge of economic development as we met the challenge of terrorism.

There is a need for closer collaboration to meet the challenge of development between policy-makers and the scientific community. We need the services of those in the scientific community like the graduates passed out from your Institute and have gained expertise and experience in many areas.

I was glad to learn that you have a resource base of 1,000 professional chemists who will be happy to join hands in meeting the challenge of development. Together we can meet the challenge of development for a better future and leave a better country for posterity.


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