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"Start as a follower, always be humble, learn from others, especially their mistakes".

In recognition of his distinguished contribution to economic, education and human rights reform in Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Dr Ranil Wickremesinghe has been awarded an honorary doctorate in law from Deakin University.

The award was conferred during a recent graduation ceremony at the Deakin University Geelong Waterfront Campus and acknowledges Dr Wickremesinghe’s role in transitioning Sri Lanka from a country once traumatised by protracted, violent conflict to a nation of stable democracy.

Deakin’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander said Dr Wickremesinghe, a former lawyer, had demonstrated eminent leadership and overseen a significant number of achievements.

‘[These include]restoring full-time electricity, rejuvenating the ailing economy, breaking down the many ethnic barriers in the country, negotiating for peace talks and galvanizing the goodwill and the financial support of the international community for Sri Lanka.’

In his 40 year career as a member of parliament, a minister and now prime minister, Dr Wickremesinghe has been a strong advocate for reconciliation - whilst ensuring accountability - and enabled groups riven by conflict to find common ground in a more hopeful future.

He has also overseen the modernisation of Sri Lanka’s laws and legal institutions to facilitate its progress through economic liberalisation and foreign investment.

Addressing a large gathering of Deakin graduands, families and Deakin staff at Geelong’s Costa Hall, Dr Wickremesinghe urged graduands to embrace the current climate of rapid technological change.

‘The world changes, we change with it and grasp the opportunities … do not hesitate to capitalise on these opportunities,’ he said.

Advising that the postgraduate years can be a ‘marathon over unchartered territory’, Dr Wickremesinghe encouraged graduands to also carefully plot their course.

‘Start as a follower, always be humble, learn from others, especially their mistakes’.

Opening his address with reference to Alfred Deakin’s historic visit to Sri Lanka in 1890, Dr Wickremesinghe concluded with a verse from the Dhammapada – a widely-read collection of Buddhist sayings:

‘All that we experience begins with our thoughts. Our words and deeds spring from our thoughts. Therefore discipline your thought process, train your mind to be detached, the way forward will then be clearer.’