SAITM chairman vows to sue Government | Sunday Observer

SAITM chairman vows to sue Government

Dr. Neville Fernando
Dr. Neville Fernando

Former Chairman of the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM), Dr. Neville Fernando wrote to the Attorney General this week, demanding damages to the tune of Rs 3.5 billion from the Government, following the abolishment of the private medical school in the wake of ceaseless protests led by the powerful doctors’ union, GMOA.

If the Government does not pay, the former SAITM Chairman is threatening to sue the Government to get compensation.

A wave of trade union action to oppose the private medical campus finally had its intended effect, when the Government decided to abolish SAITM in October 2017. Students who had been halfway through completing their medical degrees, having paid tuition fees to the private medical school, would be absorbed by the Kotalawela Defence University (KDU) medical college, the Government promised, but in order to gain entrance, they would have to spend more money. Somewhere along the way, the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC), which is also dominated by the GMOA, refused to register SAITM graduates as doctors in Sri Lanka. The rejection resulted in legal action in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, which ruled in favour of the students, ordering SLMC to register the private university graduates.

Dr. Fernando in his letter to the Attorney General, said that SAITM was valued at Rs 3.55 billion by the Government Valuer.

Due to the abolition of the private medical school, its Chairman said in his letter, there was a loan of Rs 2.5 billion to repay, with interest on that loan amounting to nearly “Rs 1.5 million per day”.

“SAITM is a BOI approved and University Grants Commission recognised Degree awarding institution. Students were admitted in 2008 and the institution was managing without any problem. No complaints were made by the parents or students” Dr. Fernando had stated in the letter.

Dr. Fernando said since he had received no response from the Attorney General’s Department, he decided to file a case under the provisions of 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Dr. Fernando told the Sunday Observer that he would institute legal action to claim damages to the institution and also his reputation.

“They destroyed a well-established university that had no problem. All the problems were Law and Order related ones.

The only authority who can abolish a higher education institute is the ministry of Higher Education after an inquiry.

But no such inquiry was held regarding the SAITM. So I will definitely file a case,” said Dr. Fernando.

The chair of the President’s committee, Dr. Harsha De Sliva told the Sunday Observer that he does not wish to comment on this matter. Despite several attempts Attorney General Jayantha Jayasuriya was not available for a comment.