The controversial three weeks training programme for university entrants in military camps was set to take off on Monday with thousands of students reaching the army camps a day before amid opposition parties urging students not to attend it and fears of increasing militarisation of society.
Reports said at least 80% students, both boys and girls, had called in on Sunday to get ready for the in-house training in military camps to be held across the country.
More than 20,000 students were expected to attend the training in two batches.
"Higher Education secretary Dr. Sunil Jayantha Navarathna told Daily Mirror on Sunday that the programme was a great success during the day," the newspaper's website said.
Confusion, however, remained over a Supreme Court order, which the government denied had instructed the higher education ministry to suspend the programme. Navarathna dismissed reports about the court order, the official government website, news.lk said.
"In fact the Supreme Court had requested whether we can postpone it at least by a week, but we have made all the arrangements for the program to begin on Monday (May 23). We even have incurred an expenditure of LKR 90 million for the program. The trainees will be given residential three weeks training with costumes, food and lodgings and the total cost of the project will be LKR 185 million," Navarathna said.
The main opposition party, the United National Party, said it is against the law to forcefully subject students, who intend to enter universities, into training at army camps.
"The issue has not even been discussed in Parliament so far, the party said in the release. There is no methodology within the university system, which is a nursing ground for intellectuals, to obey uncritical orders from higher-ups," the statement, quoted by Ada Derana website, said.
On Saturday, the leftist JVP requested parents not to send their children for military training which begins on Monday. JVP MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake urged parents ``to take a firm decision as there is no provision in the law for the higher education authorities take action against your children if they fail to attend the training sessions."