(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –The Government will step in to monitor the sending of local students for higher studies in foreign countries, Information and Communication Technology and Higher Education Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardane said yesterday. The Minister announced this after visiting the home of one of the three students who had died in the fire at the education institution in which they had been studying in Baku, Azerbaijan.
“The need to monitor the process of sending Sri Lankan students for foreign education has been highlighted with this tragic incident where three Sri Lankan female students died in Azerbaijan,” the Minister was quoted as saying by the Department of Government Information.
According to information reaching Colombo, the three Sri Lankan students, two of them sisters, had died as a result of suffocation from smoke inhalation due to a fire that erupted at their apartment on January 9.
Sisters Malsha Sandeepani and Tharuki Amaya and, also, fellow student Amodya Jayakody died due to smoke inhalation when the lower section of their apartment complex in Baku caught fire last Thursday.
According to the Minister, the remains of the three students will shortly be brought back to the country at State expense.
“Neither the government of Azerbaijan nor the Western Caspian University in which the students were studying will bear the cost of repatriating the bodies. Therefore, the necessary steps will be taken in coordination with the Foreign Relations Ministry,” Dr. Gunawardane said.
The Foreign Relations Ministry, issuing a press release on Saturday (11), said the authorities in Azerbaijan had initiated an investigation into this incident.
The Ministry said that the Sri Lanka Mission in Tehran was presently co-ordinating with the Azerbaijan authorities to repatriate the bodies and was in touch with the deceased students’ families. According to the Ministry, the Azerbaijan University was also consulting with the relevant authorities in Azerbaijan in this regard.
‘The Sri Lanka Mission in Tehran and the Azerbaijan Mission in New Delhi are coordinating with the Foreign Ministry in Colombo over this incident,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardane, issuing a message on his official Twitter page, said that he met with the parents and families of the deceased students and assured that the Foreign Ministry was already engaged in the repatriation of the remains of the students to Sri Lanka as soon as possible.