The 14th International Research Conference of the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University on the theme, “Security, Stability and National Development in the New Normal”, was inaugurated on 9th September 2021. The Principal Advisor to His Excellency the President, Mr Lalith Weeratunga graced the inauguration as the Chief Guest and Keynote Speaker, and the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, General Kamal Gunaratne participated as the guest of honour.
The event was organized with a few invitees physically attending the event and the large majority of them joining online. The Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, General Shavendra Silva, Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugettene and the Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Air Force Air Vice Martial Prasanna Payoe were among the dignitaries who participated in the event.
Prof Rohan Gunaratne, the Director-General of the Institute of National Security Studies chaired the Defence Plenary session that followed the inauguration.
Vice-Chancellor Maj General Milinda Peiris opened the inauguration with the welcome address, and he highlighted the significance of the event and its deep relevance in dealing with the new normal scenario given the pandemic condition.
He stressed that the KDU always believes in the dictum that a quitter never wins and a winner never quits, and he described how the KDU is defiant in facing uphill challenges engendered by the pandemic conditions. He reiterated the KDU’s stance of challenging the challenges, however hard they may be.
‘We as a nation cannot afford to continue to play the waiting game forever. As our theme highlights, we need to find ways to ensure security and national development in the new normal adjusting ourselves to the new normal conditions sooner than later, the Vice-Chancellor further said.
He emphasized that this is the time in which a nation’s intellectual community must come forward to engage in serious and meaningful research to help overcome numerous issues and problems that crop up in diverse fields such as National Defence and Security; Economics and Management; Science, Technology and Engineering; Medicine and Health Care; Social sciences and Humanities, ICT, Law and ancillary subjects.
The Vice-Chancellor stressed that there is a massive demand for KDU research conference evidenced by the unprecedented response from researchers from all over the country and outside representing various higher educational institutions submitting a large number of research papers.
He emphasized that ‘many academics, professionals and ordinary people are with KDU fully, despite some unfounded criticism of KDU by certain quarters in the recent past.
Both the Chief Guest and the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence highlighted the timely value and the relevance of the theme of this year’s conference, and both stressed the important leadership assumed by KDU with Vice Chancellor Major General Milinda Peiris steering the institution to respond to challenges the country is facing, especially in encouraging and fostering research and academic inputs towards national development.
Making insightful remarks in his keynote address and responding to the Vice Chancellor’s observations about unfair criticisms on KDU, Mr Lalith Weeratunga said, ‘that’s because the KDU is doing well and has brooked no nonsense.’
He further stated that ‘with a village background, my mind goes back to a famous Sinhala saying, which means “only those mango trees that have sweet fruits are attacked.” He then said the chosen theme of the conference is a timely and relevant one for Sri Lanka as the country is going through the third wave of the COVID 19 pandemic and that it gives people food for thought.
He furthermore, stated that, the COVID 19 pandemic has caused the entire world to practice a new normal to fight this common insecurity caused by the virus and that it is evident that the national development and security are interlinked since they cannot be separated under new circumstances and that it is vital to understand about the close link between security, stability and development.
The Defence Secretary mentioned that the annual IRC of KDU has gained tremendous recognition all around the world as it provides the opportunity for academics, professionals, researchers and practitioners to share their research findings.
He pointed out that such kind of wider interaction with national and international scholars would be absolutely helpful for all the participants to broaden their knowledge.
Secretary of Defence highlighted the importance of Sri Lanka’s geostrategic locations and its pros and cons, how it is susceptible to threats, and that greater the recognition of the country greater the demands from the rest of the world given its strategic significance.
He stressed that the location also makes Sri Lanka susceptible to non-traditional threats such as violent extremism and organized crime, thus he said academic research needs to find solutions and responses to such challenges and claimed that he had all the confidence KDU would be at the forefront of generating such knowledge.
General Kamal Gunaratne illuminated that he feels immensely proud to state that the KDU is at the forefront of development and security related issues in the new normal. He affirmed that the faculties of KDU are aligned with security requirements, strong commitment, dedication for generating knowledge in diverse fields in the academic world that would be helpful not only to the academic community but to the entire humankind.