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Necessary amendments must be made to KDU Bill to ensure academic freedom: UNP

In a statement issued by the United National Party (UNP) today (30), the Party urged for the Parliamentary Consultative Committees of Defence and Education to convene a meeting and agree on the necessary amendments to the Kotalawela Defence University Bill to ensure the existing institution is retained and academic freedom maintained.

The UNP suggests this instead of concluding the second reading of the debate on the same with a vote.

In a statement issued by the Party, some key areas of concern which required changes were highlighted, one of them being that this bill sought to de-establish the General Sir John Kotalawela University, and establish a new institution which would take on the name, the property and the legal liabilities of the previous institution. Therefore, the UNP says that the new University would have no connection with the academic achievements of the existing University.

It also mentioned that this will create a problem for those who have been awarded degrees by the University. The UNP adds that there is also a question mark over whether the new University would be entitled to the high ranking obtained by the present institution.

In terms of legal obligations, the Party stated that the laws and charters governing Universities do not give the Minister the right to give instructions to a University. 

“In the case of the existing University the majority of the board are officials from the Ministry of Defence. The Minister has the right to give instructions to them. We would like to state that the Minister has not had power to give directions to military academics,” the UNP said.

Thirdly, the Party states that a defence University must function within a framework of a University, adding that if higher education instruction are given within the military framework then it is a military academy. 

“It is claimed that there are some provisions in this bill which are contrary to the academic freedom essential for a University. These must be amended. Otherwise the General Sir John Kotalawela Defence University will not be accepted as a genuine University. This can also affect its membership in the Commonwealth of Universities,” the UNP expressed.