Sri Lanka Makes Historic Investment in Technology and Science: The President Remarks Honoring the Legacy of Professor Stanley Wijesundara
In a ground breaking move to propel Sri Lanka into the forefront of technological and scientific advancements, President Ranil Wickremesinghe announced the largest budget allocation in the country’s history for the fields of technology, science, and research. Speaking at the 100th memorial birthday celebration of the late Professor Stanley Wijesundara today (10), a renowned figure in Sri Lanka’s science sector, the President emphasized the importance of fostering innovation and research to drive the nation’s progress.
The President revealed that the unprecedented budget allocation is aimed at bringing artificial intelligence (AI) technology to Sri Lanka, with a focus on advancing scientific and technological research activities. He highlighted the need for a robust institutional system to cultivate a digital and green economy in the country, positioning Sri Lanka as a global player in these emerging fields.
President Wickremesinghe lamented the tragic loss of Professor Stanley Wijesundara, whose untimely murder deprived the nation of a valuable human resource in the science sector. The President expressed gratitude for Professor Wijesundara’s significant contributions to higher education and science, acknowledging his pivotal role in the development of Colombo University.
During the memorial celebration, President Wickremesinghe inaugurated the “Stanley Wijesundara AI Corner” at the University of Colombo, a testament to the commitment to advancing AI technology in the country. The President unveiled a statue of Professor Wijesundara and issued a commemorative stamp and a first-day cover, marking the centenary of the esteemed scholar’s birth.
Reflecting on his personal connection with Professor Wijesundara, President Wickremesinghe shared childhood memories and highlighted the close relationship between the Wijewardena family and his own. He reminisced about their collaboration in 1977, working together on the new university bill under the presidency of J.R. Jayawardena, where Professor Wijesundara played a crucial role as Vice-Chancellor of Colombo University.
The President acknowledged Professor Wijesundara’s dedication to the development of Colombo University, particularly in collaboration with Dr. Samaranayake to enhance the science department and establish a computer center. He also commended Professor Wijesundara’s interest in science and agriculture, emphasizing the significant strides made under his leadership.
President Wickremesinghe lamented the broader context of violence during that era, recalling the tragic incidents involving students, professors, and monks. He underscored the importance of remembering these events, clarifying that the police were not responsible for the killings and urging the nation to reflect on the loss of valuable contributors to education and science.
Addressing the current global landscape, President Wickremesinghe discussed the growing significance of artificial intelligence. He highlighted recent international efforts, including discussions among world leaders and proposed legislation by the European Union, to regulate and control the use of AI technology. The President emphasized the need for careful handling of AI, recognizing its potential while addressing concerns about its uncontrolled application.
President Wickremesinghe revealed that 1.5 billion rupees have been allocated in the next year’s budget specifically for AI technology, marking the initiation of Sri Lanka’s journey into advancing AI capabilities. Additionally, an unprecedented 8 billion rupees have been earmarked to enhance science and research activities, signalling the government’s commitment to fostering innovation.
The President reiterated the importance of focusing on science and research to drive the country forward. He stressed the government’s dedication to addressing climate change and promoting green energy, with significant investments submitted for approval. President Wickremesinghe outlined plans to establish the Technology and Innovation Council, tasked with utilizing the allocated funds to drive commercial applications of technology across various sectors.
In line with the vision for a digital and green economy, the President announced the establishment of a digital transformation agency and the creation of the AI Corner at the University of Colombo. Pending parliamentary approval, these initiatives aim to lay the foundation for a new scientific and green economy in Sri Lanka.
As the President concluded his remarks, he urged the nation to embrace the changing technological landscape and underscored the government’s commitment to steering Sri Lanka toward a future marked by innovation, sustainability, and global competitiveness. The memorial celebration of Professor Stanley Wijesundara thus became a symbolic moment, not just to honor a distinguished scientist but to usher in a new era of technological and scientific advancements for Sri Lanka.
Among the esteemed attendees Ven. Muruttettuwe Ananda Thero, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Ministers Dr. Bandula Gunawardena and Mahinda Amaraweera, State Ministers Shantha Bandara and Anupa Pasqual, President of the United National Party and Member of Parliament Vajira Abeywardena, other Members of Parliament including Professor G. L. Peiris, Rajitha Senaratne, and Yadamini Gunawardena, Senior Adviser on National Security to the President and Chief of Presidential Staff Mr. Sagala Ratnayaka, Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Secretary to the Prime Minister Mr. Anura Dissanayake, Secretary to the Ministry of Media Mr. Anusha Palpita, Colombo Municipal Commissioner Mrs. Bhadrani Jayawardene, Air Force Commander Air Marshal Udeni Rajapaksa, members of the Wijesundara family including Mr. Shalitha Wijesundara, Dr. Rohan Wijesundara, Ruchini Wijesundara and Danu Wijesundara enriched the gathering. Relatives of Stanley Wijesundara’s family, joining in the commemoration, underscored the deeply personal and familial significance of the event.