The 16th International Research Conference (IRC) of the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) on “Achieving Resilience through Digitalization, Sustainability and Sectoral Transformation”, was held from 07th to 8th September 2023. Hon. Sagala Ratnayaka, Chief of Staff to the President and National Security Advisor, was the Chief Guest at the inauguration ceremony on 7th September, 2023. General Kamal Gunaratne, The Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, graced the occasion as the Guest of Honour. Dr Nandalal Weerasinghe, Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, delivered one keynote speech while Prof Leland H. Hartwell, Nobel Prize Winner for Medicine or Physiology in 2001, delivered the second keynote speech online.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by The Chief of Defence Staff, General Shavendra Silva, Commander of the Sri Lanka Army Lt General Vikum Liyanage, Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera and the Chief of the Sri Lanka Air Force, Air Marshal Udeni Rajapaksa. Ambassadors representing many countries were among the dignitaries who were present on this occasion.
The Vice Chancellor of KDU, Rear Admiral Dammika Kumara, delivered the welcome address. He expanded on the steady growth of KDU, the quality of its output and popularity as an institute of higher education in Asia, referring to various local, regional and global rankings achieved. Noting that we are in the 4th industrial revolution and the digital era, the Vice Chancellor stated that this year’s conference theme—of “Achieving Resilience through Digitalization, Sustainability and Sectoral Transformation”—is timely and significant. “It highlights the critical need to embrace digital technology and sectoral transformation for a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient society. Its scope encompasses a wide range of vital and significant research possibilities for both academia and the Defence Community,” he said.
Hon. Sagala Ratnayaka in his address referred to the present economic crisis and said that it’s because of the timely, critical and fearless decisions by the President, the Governor of the Central Bank and the Secretary to the Treasury and the support of the people that helped stabilise the situation. “What is important is not just stabilising but growing the economy again so that we can give prosperity to the country and the people,” he said.
General Kamal Gunaratne, in his address as Guest of Honour, said that he was reminded of the profound impact that academic and research conferences have in shaping our understanding of the world and driving progress in various domains. He stated that the conference theme this year encapsulates our contemporary challenges and aspirations. “It emphasizes the need to innovate, adapt, and evolve in the face of complex global issues including environmental sustainability, economic stability and social well being.” In concluding remarks, Gen Gunaratne stated that KDUY IRC “is not merely a conference but a testament to our commitment to seeking solutions, fostering understanding and shaping a better world for our future generations.”
The keynote speakers at the 16th KDU IRC 2023 were Dr Nandalal Weerasinghe, Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, and Prof Leland H. Hartwell, Nobel Prize Winner for Medicine or Physiology in 2001. Dr Nandalal Weerasinghe highlighted the difficult situation in the country and how we need to restructure the economy to move forward. He highlighted the importance of the new Central Banking act and how it would help the country. Prof Leland Hartwell, talked about the importance of restructuring our education to suit the future needs. How we should train our students to ask questions and use their imagination to explore instead of just trying to remember information already accessible by computer.
The ‘Research Excellence Awards’ of the General Sir John Kotelwala Defence University recognize the academic staff and students who have excelled in research. The Guest of Honour, Gen. Kamal Gunaratne, distributed the student awards for outstanding research in 2023. This was followed by the Chief Guest, Hon. Sagala Ratnayaka, distributing the Academic staff awards.
The Vote of thanks was delivered by Chair IRC2023, Dr Aruna Dharshan De Silva, Senior lecturer KDU, emphasising the tremendous efforts of all involved to make the event feasible at a challenging time. Whilst thanking the chief guest, Guest of Honour, keynote speakers and all dignitaries, he extended gratitude to the sponsors of the event.