Having tabled gazette recognising SAITM, Dinesh now protests – Kiriella

by Ajith Alahakoon and Kushan Subasinghe

The Joint Opposition (JO) practices opportunistic politics and it is clearly displayed in its varying positions on the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM) issue, Higher Education and Highway Minister Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament yesterday.

The Minister said so in answer to a question raised by JO parliamentary group leader Dinesh Gunawardena, who said functioning of SAITM as a medical faculty was illegal since it had been set up as an institute of technology and management.

Minister Kiriella said Gunawardena had recently made statements against SAITM in parliament and elsewhere but he (Gunawardena) himself had tabled the order under the 1829/36 special gazette dated Sept 26, 2013 for accepting SAITM on be half of the Minister of Higher Education on Dec 11, 2013. Kiriella said: "I table the Hansard of Dec. 11, 2013 to prove how MP Gunawardena tabled the gazette recognizing SAITM. Today, the same person speaks against SAITM. Such is their duplicity as well as political expediency," Minister Kiriella said.

"The SAITM was set up in 2009 and University Grant Commission accepted it in 2011 as an institution conducting MBBS courses," Minister Kiriella said. "The previous government granted a loan of Rs. 600 million and scholarships to some students to study medicine. But, now MP Gunawardena is speaking against the SAITM."

Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara questioned how scholarships had been granted to students following medicine at SAITM if it had been a Technology and Management institute.

Minister Kiriella said that the Mahapola scholarship could not be granted to those medical students who stage Satyagraha without attending the university lectures. "The great politician Lalith Athulathmudali introduced Mahapola Scholarship for those students who attended the university," Minister Kiriella said. "Does Gunawardena want us to grant scholarship to the students who don’t attend the university. We can’t grant Mahapola Scholarship to those who don’t attend university."

Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam said a request to grant Mahapola scholarship to the students who didn’t attend university would was similar to paying the attendance allowances to those MPs who didn’t attend parliamentary sittings.

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