Batticaloa Campus Pvt. Ltd. the controversial educational Institute being built in Batticaloa area is not only an illegal project but also an obstacle for the national unity as well as consensus says the Member of the Central Committee of the JVP Comrade Dr Nalinda Jayatissa.
Comrade Nalinda Jayatissa made this observation speaking at a press conference held at the head office of the JVP today (17th) to explain the stand of the JVP regarding the Batticaloa Campus Pvt. Ltd. And the action it intends taking regarding this institute in the future.
Comrade Nalinda Jayatissa said Batticaloa Campus Pvt. Ltd. Has gradually developed to the existing position from 2012 and has been used against the purposes it had been permitted to when the project began. The National Organizer of the Socialist Students Union (SSU) Comrade Rangana Devapriya also participated.
Comrade Jayatissa said, “The University Grants Commission is established in our country to regulate university system in our country through the University Act No 16 of 1978. In an amendment added in 1985 to the Act, permission was given to establish degree-awarding institutions. As such, a legal process is available now for any individual or an institution to form private degree-awarding institutions. For this, there are several institutions from which legal permission could be obtained. They are the UGC, the BIO and institutions relevant to the particular sector the degree is awarded. The Ministry of Health and the Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka are two such institutions.
The process of the construction of Batticaloa Campus Pvt. Ltd. continues from 2012. On 11th June 2014, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Vocational Training and Sri Lanka Hira Foundation sign an MoU to form the ‘University College Batticaloa’ institute. It was signed by the former minister Dallas Alahapperuma and Mr Hisbulla from Sri Lanka Hira Foundation. On 10th December 2014, Sri Lanka Hira Foundation gets the BOI registration for the institute. On 19th May 2016, an agreement was signed with BOI to form the institute.
The land for the Batticaloa Campus Institute is reserved in 2012. A request is made to the Mahaweli Authority to get land based on constructing an educational institution to provide free vocational training courses for youths in the Eastern Province. As a result on 24th July 2013, Sri Lanka Hira Foundation receives a 35 acre land in Batticaloa North Divisional Secretariat area on a 35-year lease agreement. The lease fee for an acre is Rs. 14,340 and the fee Hira Foundation has to pay for a year is Rs. 491,200. Also, getting funds for the construction and maintaining the institution is a debatable matter. During the period of about one year from March 2016 to June 2017, a foundation called Ali Fali from Saudi Arabia sends Rs. 3600 million to Hira Foundation on 7 occasions. Also, permission has been sought to get down professors from Saudi Arabia as teachers in the institution.
The Batticaloa Campus institute is an illegal institution. Also, it is a severe obstacle for national unity. There has been deception when buying land. When seeking the land Hira Foundation states it is for an institution to be built that gives vocational training without charging any fees. However, they construct an institution that sells courses. Mahaweli Authority had reserved this land for a project called ‘Siddapura Nagaraya’. This project had to be abandoned to give the land to Hira Foundation. Also, the process followed by President Maithripala Sirisena, who was the Minister under whose purview Mahaweli Authority came under, to leave out this land for Hira Foundation is controversial.
By now, in addition to the 35-acre land they have been given 8 acres more have been encroached and illegal buildings have been built and 15 more acres have been illegally cleared. Also, no permission has been obtained from the relevant local authority to construct the buildings for the Batticaloa Campus institute.
There are issues regarding Hira Foundation that built the Batticaloa Campus. Sri Lanka Hira Foundation or Hira Foundation has not been registered according to the Voluntary Social Service Organizations (Registration and Supervision) Act No. 31 of 1980. Also, there are serious issues regarding how this organization receives funds. It is not clear whether the funds received by it were a donation or a loan. When inquired Parliamentarian Hisbulla admitted they were a loan. However, if it was a loan it should have got approval from BOI. Also, there is no loan agreement relevant to the funds. If it is a loan it should be paid back. Also, an account that should be opened when obtaining foreign loans, which is a requirement when obtaining foreign loans had not been opened. There was no permission from the Central Bank. As such, the statement of Hisbulla regarding the transaction is controversial.
Getting permission to open the Batticaloa Campus institute, BOI registration, permission from the UGC, getting land from Mahaweli Authority, opening accounts for loans are all controversial and Parliamentarian Hisbulla signing agreements with the government while being a Deputy Minister or a State Minister is an issue regarding conflict of interest. Also, the manner the institute received funds and getting teachers from Saudi Arabia would lead to the institution becoming a university teaching fundamentalism that would be a hindrance for national unity. This is because it included courses on Sharia law, Islamic Banking etc. Also, laws in our country are not adequate to question the process of such institutions once they get permission to function. As such, even the Tamil Diaspora could open an institute to award degrees based on sustaining Tamil communalism.
Questions have been asked in various committees in Parliament regarding this institute. Also, it should be said that investigations regarding this institute commenced before the Easter Sunday attacks. There have been investigations regarding the institute by the Committee on Education and Human Resources Development, COPE etc. Several recommendations have been forwarded with the approval of all members in the Committee on Education and Human Resources Development. Recommendations have been forwarded to take over all assets belonging to Batticaloa Campus by the government, transform the institute into a national university and make it a place for the science of co-existence.
Meanwhile, Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe has appointed a Parliamentary select committee regarding the institution. Messrs Malik Samarawickreme, Mangala Samaraweera, Mano Ganeshan and Lucky Jayawardene have been appointed as members. According to the composition of the committee what could happen is handing over the institution to Hisbulla himself to be maintained as a private degree awarding institute. All in the sub-committee are the accused of this issue. It is the Minister of Finance Mangala Samaraweera, who has under his purview the Central Bank, which should have investigated how this institution received funds. The BOI, another party involved in the process is under Malik Samarawickreme’s ministry. As such, there is no doubt that Mangala Samaraweera and Malik Samarawickreme would fulfill the interest of Ranil Wickremesinghe. The trio Ranil – Malik- Mangala would do anything if they get US$ 100 million. This is the trio that makes plans to make our country a heap of garbage. They prepare the project to sell the East Container Terminal of Colombo Harbour. They were the trio who were behind selling Hambantota Habour to China. They are also in the project to sell the oil tank farm in Trincomalee to India. They attempt is to create a false notion that investors would not come to Sri Lanka and then give back the Batticaloa Campus to Hisbulla himself.
As such, the JVP has decided to ask for a day’s Parliamentary debate on the Batticaloa Campus. Also, we are seeking legal advice regarding taking over the institution by the government. The JVP hopes to launch a struggle with university teachers, students and other organizations to demand that the Institution should be taken over by the government.”