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As Sri Lanka plans to achieve the status of high income economy in the next two decades,
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says that innovation and the promotion of Science and Technology will be two key areas needed to achieve rapid economic development. Delivering the welcome address at The Science & Technology For Society Forum held at the Water’s Edge in Battaramulla recently, the Prime Minister noted that therefore, the Ministry of Science & Technology has the lead role to ensure and establish a strong science and technology base in Sri Lanka by mobilizing the expertise of both foreign and local needed to prepare this plan.
“These are the first steps in formulating a National Science and Technology Policy and the connected plans and Programmes. Needles to say this will also require us to focus on the first time on the role of Science and Technology will play both within Sri Lanka itself and within the region. Science and Technology is one subject like cricket which can bridge the region together,” Wickremesinghe said addressing participants to the first Science and Technology for Society Forum in Sri Lanka (STS-SL 2016).
He said that the government is presently laying the foundations for a science and technology-led drive to enter the global value chain, making Sri Lanka the dynamic Hub of the Indian Ocean as it was in times past along the maritime Silk Road.
“I would like to share with you five priority areas we have identified in this regard, namely: (1) Advanced STI in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, (2) STI-driven manufacturing and service industries, (3) Quality “next generation” infrastructure and regional development, (4) Global freight, logistics and tourism through our international ports and airports, and (5) Civil safety on land, sea and in the air, including disaster risk reduction and vastly improved hydrology management,” Wickremesinghe said.
Noting that Sri Lanka is turning a new page in its history with inclusiveness, sustainability and greater engagement with international society, all symbolized in the agenda, he pointed out that harmonious coexistence is at the core of inclusiveness and Sri Lanka has to re-learn that diversity is not divisive but can unleash the full potential of the creative human spirit.
“I am happy to tell you that Sri Lanka has embraced the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, as central to its national development strategy. Science and technology-driven innovation is the enabling force we hope to mobilize for this endeavour. It is thus important for Sri Lankan society to have a broad awareness of the importance of science in shaping our destinies,” he highlighted.

He elaborated that to be at the frontiers of science and technology, quality instrumentation needs to be purchased or developed and deployed with strategic intent, accessible to a broad base of young talent, gently guided by mature minds.

“To house this, we need to establish a dedicated national institution of advanced studies for science and technology, benchmarked with the world’s “best and brightest”, where excellence is rewarded. Academia Sinica was established in Taiwan by Professor Lee Yuan Tseh, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, who has visited Sri Lanka in the recent past, to address this issue in the fundamental sciences. Similarly, in Japan, the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) was established by Hon. Koji Omi, in collaboration with Dr. AkitoArima, former President of Tokyo University and Minister of Education. Dr. Sydney Brennar, Nobel Laureate in Medicine and OIST’s first President, and a whole cast of Nobel Laureates helped in the launch of OIST,” the Prime Minister said.

Accordingly he said, the Ministry of National Policy and Economic Affairs together with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Research, will prepare proposals for a Central Institute of Science and Technology.

“Our Universities and Research Centers will have the opportunity of being affiliated with the CIST. Furthermore our national policy is based on the expansion of science and technology education in the school system and the universities, the strengthening of research development of private and public sectors. This calls for more Science and Technology Teachers and Academics. The concerned Ministries are now addressing their minds to preparing a report as the first step,” he said.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe added that a national Science Center initiative, with spectacular outreach even to the remotest parts of Sri Lanka is needed to engage our citizens in science, to foster young minds in our schools, and to advise on how our pedagogy might be reformed.

“The revision of the science curriculum in our schools and improvements to their laboratories are called for and an open science initiative which partners with the international community is called for in this era where globally significant issues of the kind I have mentioned earlier need to be addressed urgently with creative local enterprise,” he further emphasized.