President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized the importance of having increased defence allocations as the country is looking at an economy that will be highly competitive and export-oriented.
Acknowledging that there may be questions raised as to why the government is focusing so much on the armed forces, and why the government is looking at Defence 2030, he said that if not the country will not have a future. “None of us want the armed forces to go to war or to fight anywhere. That is not what we have to do to defend the country. But we are living in a different world from what we were born into. When we were born, there was no tussle for the Indian Ocean. At one stage, no one wanted it. Today it is not so. If we are to survive, the skills, the security skills, Strategic Studies, all that has to be utilized,” he added.
The President noted that the country cannot have an export-oriented industry unless it has the freedom of navigation. If goods cannot be moved around, and the freedom of navigation is interrupted, what will happen, he questioned? “We have seen in 2021 what happened when people could not move out of our country and the goods could not be transported either by land or by sea.”
The President highlighted the significance of preparing the armed forces to face future threats while addressing the General Convocation of the Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) yesterday evening. He noted that the security skills and strategic skills of the armed forces should be utilized, if the country wants to survive.
President Wickremesinghe stated that the country’s future depends on its ability to get goods across under situations where the environment we are in will not be one controlled by us. “The actions of other people will impact us in Sri Lanka so we have to use political skills, our diplomatic skills and our military skills to ensure that our right of navigation, the right to come into Sri Lanka and go by sea and by air is not interrupted in any way. So, all these three skills are necessary. That is why if you are building a country you must also look at the future,” he emphasized.
Accordingly, the President commended the KDU for having attained their mark in the civilian streams, where he noted that many prefer to enter the KDU rather than a normal university. To carry that forward, the President said that he had instructed the Ministry of Finance and the Secretary of Defence to look at starting another campus of the KDU mainly for civil subjects, in Kurunegala.
He explained that the reason for selecting Kurunegala was because that was the constituency that was represented by Sir John Kotelawala in 1931. Hence, he said that it is appropriate that the people of Kurunegala should get the benefit and the Treasury had already been instructed to set aside monies to upgrade the hospital in Kurunegala to a teaching hospital as well.
This, he noted will make Wayamba one of the two districts in Sri Lanka where there is more than one teaching hospital which is good for the people. “But more than the civilian studies, we also have to look at the future, the future of our country, the future of our security and what role the university is going to play there. I have noted that the KDU has increased their endeavours to ensure that middle-level officers and senior-level officers also receive postgraduate education, either through this institution or the National Defense College (NDC) where many other one-star officers and two-star officers also benefit from it. That is necessary. We should go further. One of the objectives of the Defence University is to ensure that the top leadership and the middle leadership are all educated and their level of leadership is increased so that you have one of the best Military Leaderships in the region.”
The President stressed that this is a task that has to be fulfilled.
State Minister of Defence Premitha Bandara Tennakoon, Minister of Education Susil Premajayantha, Defence Secretary Kamal Gunaratne, Chief of Defence Staff General Shavendra Silva, Commanders of the Tri-Forces, IGP, Chancellor General Gerard Hector de Silva (Retired) and Vice Chancellor Major General Milinda Peiris were present on this occasion.