A hundred meritorious Sri Lankan high school students, including 32 from the war-ravaged and Tamil-speaking North Eastern Province, were awarded the Mahatma Gandhi Scholarship by the Indian High Commissioner Nirupama Rao on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti.
Each recipient will get Rs 1,500 per month till the completion of his or her higher education.
Sixty-five of the students were Sinhalas, 27 were Sri Lankan Tamils, seven were Muslims and one was a Tamil of Indian Origin.
Most of the students came from the relatively backward districts of the country. Only three were from Colombo, which has most of the best schools in the island.
Thirty-two of the recipients were from the war-ravaged North Eastern districts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Amparai and Mannar.
Eight of the recipients came from the LTTE-occupied districts of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, which are the most backward in the country because of war and frequent displacements.
SL Tamil dailies extol Gandhi
The Tamils of Sri Lanka have always had a special bond with Gandhiji.
Therefore, it came as no surprise when the Colombo-based Tamil dailies carried edited page articles on the Mahatma on Monday. One Tamil paper had been a carrying a serial on him.
Only one English newspaper took note of Gandhi Jayanti. The Daily Mirror carried an article by well known peace activist Kumar Rupesinghe.
Urging Sri Lankans to adopt Gandhi as their model, Rupesinghe said, "As an individual and as a country we need role models and heroes. We need a vision and a stubborn perseverance. Today, Sri Lanka is a spiritual desert and violence is endemic in family, community and society."
"Gandhi's example requires a profound change in the mindsets which have governed our thinking and a serious look at the possibility of an alternative Sri Lanka based on the explicit values of non-violence, coexistence and pluralism."
Gandhi Memorial Oration
In the evening, the Minister for Constitutional Affairs and National Integration DEW Gunesekera delivered the Gandhi Memorial Oration under the auspices of the Sri Lanka India Society.