May 21, Colombo: The Sri Lankan higher education authorities will commence the proposed leadership program for students entering the universities this year on Monday (May 23) despite an order from the country's Supreme Court to postpone the program for another week.
Accordingly 22,000 students who will be enrolled for university education this year will undergo the program what the government calls a leadership and positive thinking training at 28 locations Island wide.
The first batch of 12,000 of the 22,000 new entrants is to attend the first session of the three-week program on Monday.
The proposed program has come under severe criticism from the opposition political parties and student unions. They say the government-proposed program is military training although there was no weapons involvement.
The student union affiliated with the Marxist party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) filed a petition in the Supreme Court saying the training for university students in military camps is illegal.
The government defended the program saying that it is not a military training but a leadership and positive thinking training conducted as a part of the undergraduate orientation program from this year.
The only difference according to the government is the locations where the training is to be conducted. The training program will be held in 18 army, 2 navy, 2 air force, 4 cadet, and 2 police camps.
The Higher Education Ministry says just because the program is carried out in military camps the critics of the program are trying to interpret it as military training.
The Supreme Court late Friday directed the Attorney General to look into the possibility of postponing the program for a week. However, the government has said that the training will commence as planned on Monday, and the first batch of students is asked to report to their assigned camps.
The government says the Sri Lankan undergraduates lack management skills and supervisory capabilities although they receive an adequate knowledge in the subjects they study.
Also, according to the government the proposed leadership training programme will discourage ragging and help the new students to counter unruly elements responsible for ragging to protect themselves from the menacing practice that has caused several deaths and many injuries to the freshmen. Those following the programme will have the strength to meet the challenge, the Higher Education Secretary Dr. Sunil Jayantha Navaratne says.
The government will ceremonially launch the program at Temple Trees under the patronage of President on May 23.