Govt. to wind down SAITM Medical faculty operations to close by 31 Dec

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By 2017-11-15

BY RAVI LADDUWAHETTY

The Government will officially wind down the operations of the controversial South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM) by 31 December.

A non-profit non-State university will be formed, also by 31 December, which will absorb all the students not only those who have already graduated, but also those who are within the system, which is in accordance with a directive given by President Maithripala Sirisena.

The nine-member Presidential Committee which has been appointed to find solutions to the complex issue will see that SAITM medical faculty would be wound down on 31 December, Deputy Minister of Policy Planning and Economic Development and Chairman of the Committee, Dr. Harsha de Silva told Ceylon Today on Monday (13), minutes prior to emplaning for Geneva for the United Nations Human Rights Council sessions where Sri Lanka is up for the Universal Periodic Review.

Dr. de Silva dismissed speculation that the Government was bringing in another foreign university to replace the SAITM with similar operations under another name.

Responding to a question from this newspaper as to what destiny awaited the students of SAITM who have by now graduated from the SAITM and the students who are in their first and second years, he said that the Committee would be determining the solutions for these complex issues in the time to come. He also said that there were some students who had spent nearly eight years prior to graduating, adding that the Government would be determining lasting solutions for them, too and mentioned that the Committee had also said that neither SAITM Chairman Dr. Neville Fernando nor any of his nominees would be included in the Committee.

The Ceylon Today in its 9 November, 2017 edition published the contents of a letter that Dr. Fernando sent to President Sirisena requesting the inclusion of one of his representatives on the nine-member Committee, which he said was mandatory in order to look after the interests of the students and the academic staff. There is no case of Dr. Neville Fernando or any of his nominees being on the nine-member Committee, Dr. de Silva said, adding that he had spoken to Dr. Fernando a few minutes prior to this interview.

"We will come up with a solution for that in consultation with the Courts of law."

Asked whether these students would be rendered degreeless after years of study, he said "not at all".

The nine-member Committee has Vice Chancellors and eminent academics and Ministry Secretaries who will come up with a suitable solution for all these issues, he said.

"There will be a non-profit making non-State institution in the form of a new university which will absorb these SAITM students who will be completing their medical degrees which will have no credibility issues." But the modalities of these operations are being worked out and are too early to mention at this stage, Dr. de Silva explained.

The Committee along with the other five observers (including the Government Medical Officers Association) will come up with equitable solutions to all, he remarked.

Asked whether the proposed model would be in the form of a Public-Private Partnership, Dr. de Silva said that, "We are discussing that."

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