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