By Saman Indrajith
The government yesterday said in Parliament that it was ready to consider taking over the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine if the Opposition made a demand to that effect.
Leader of the House University Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella, in answer to a question raised by MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena, said that SAITM had been established under the previous regime. "You, too, were a minister of that government and raised your hand to permit the setting up of the SAITM. We were in the Opposition when the Bill for the setting up of a private medical college was moved by the previous government. We asked how a medical college could be set up without a teaching hospital. You used your power and got it approved by Parliament.
The then government gave the SAITM a loan of Rs. 600 million. Now, it has enrolled students. Are you asking us to prevent the students from continueing with their studies. The students and their parents came to see us and submitted their grievances. Now, you ask us why we have permitted the SAITM students to undergo clinical training at state-run hospitals. Are you against it? It is the Supreme Court that decided to permit SAITM students should be allowed undergo clinical training in state-run hospitals.
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya urged the government and the Opposition to act together to find a solution to the SAITM issue considering it a national problem.
MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena, making a special statement, said the government had set the police on university students who were on their way to hand over a petition to the President on March 15, 2015 and following the police crackdown some students had been hospitalised. MP Gunawardena said that not only the university students but also the Government Medical Officers’ Association was protesting against the SAITM.
Leader of the House Minister Kiriella: What is your solution? Are you asking us to shut the SAITM down? The Medical Council of Sri Lanka, the GMOA and the Opposition have different views and stand points with regard to the SAITM. If the opposition wants the government to acquire it we are ready to consider taking it over. Today, you are making various statements but do you remember how you commenced the Medical Faculty at the Kotelawala Defence University? The Medical Council gave its approval within 24 hours. The then Defence Secretary met the Medical Council members and got their approval. When students go on protest marches on roads the Ministry of Higher Education does not try to stop them. It is the job of the police to stop them. We do not approve the beating of students. We are ready to discuss with them. The police took action to stop the protesters when they marched towards the President’s House.