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Controversy over awarding of doctorates Defence Secy. inquires into accusations

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DIG Ajith Rohana receiving his title from Prof. Chandima Wijegunawardhana as Rohan Pallewatta looks on

Institution concerned denies allegations

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Amidst a controversy over PhDs being awarded by British-American University, Florida to selected persons in Sri Lanka, the Defence Ministry has raised the issue with the Ceylon College of Applied Studies (CCAS), which organised the event at the BMICH, recently.

 The Island

learns that Defence Secretary Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratne has sought an explanation as regards the special graduation ceremony conducted under the auspices of Wimalaweera Dissanayake, State Minister of Wildlife Conservation Protection Programmes, including Electric Fence and Ditch Construction and Re-Forestation and Wildlife Resources Development.

 Executive Chairman of Lanka Harness Company (Pvt) Rohan Pallewatta, who delivered the keynote address at the event yesterday (7) told The Island that he attended the event on an invitation from the organizers.

 Pallewatta, who contested the 2019 presidential election as well as the 2020 general election emphasised that as an invitee he couldn’t be expected to inquire into the background of the organisers of an event. Responding to another query, Pallewatta said that he had responded to criticism as he felt it was unjustified.

 Asked whether CCAS had received money from any of those recipients of honorary doctorates in return for the titles, a spokesperson answered in the negative. There had been approximately 500 applications from prospective recipients representing various fields, the representative said, adding that of them 250 were shortlisted by CCAS Chairman Sainulabdeen Najimudeen and five lecturers. Subsequently, 50 persons had been chosen by the Chancellor of the British American University, Prof. Muhammad Omalaja and three Professors from the British American University, Florida USA.

 The recipients included Senior DIG Roshan Fernando, DIG Ajith Rohana, DIG Champika Siriwardhana, DIG Sanjeewa Medawaththa, human rights activist Muheed Jiran, Prisons Commissioner (Administration) Chandana Ekanayaka, Youth Director Isuru Bandara. Police headquarters removed DIG Medawaththa from the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) following the exposure group of officers and men attached to the elite unit dealing in heroin and with crime syndicates under his nose.

 Titles were received from Prof. Chandima Wijegunawardhana, who was on the UNP Colombo District list at the recently concluded general election, Dr. Rohan Pallewatta and Prof. Bashir Riskan and State Minister Wimalaweera Dissanayaka.

The Island

asked two of those who had received honorary doctorates whether the August 23 event involved any financial transaction. They said theirs were honorary doctorates and not PhDs, contrary to claims being made in some quarters.

The special graduation ceremony took place after the annual graduation ceremony of various degree holders of a couple of other universities, in addition to the CCAS affiliated to the British -American University, Florida, the spokesperson said. Responding to another query, the spokesperson said that those who had received various titles were all students.

 Sources told The Island that the government should inquire into various institutions awarding degrees to locals. They alleged that awarding unearned degrees/doctorates to well-known persons could be part of their strategy to entice new students.  

Hassan Mubarak, a recipient of an MBA from the University of Colombo, said he and his colleagues had worked hard to earn their degrees but there were some institutions which gave away MBAs and doctorates.

 Mubarak, who has inquired into operations undertaken by various educational institutes alleged that another controversial graduation ceremony where questionable doctorates was to be offered was scheduled to take place at the BMICH in a few weeks.

 CCAS responded to a spate of questions raised by The Island regarding its activities in Sri Lanka and said it was open for any inquiry. Anyone suspicious of the special graduation ceremony could inquire from those law enforcement officers et al whether the CCAS sought special favours or money for those honorary titles.

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Foreign qualified medical students protest

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A group of foreign medical degree holders protested opposite the Presidential Secretariat yesterday (23) requesting that tangible measures be taken to conduct the Examination for Registration to Practice Medicine (ERPM) without further delay.

They alleged that over 1,500 students had been deprived of the opportunity to sit the examination due to the fault of the Sri Lanka Medical Council, which is now under investigation by a committee, appointed by Health Minister Pavitra Wanniarachchi.

Photo: A section of the protesting students (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

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SJB insists referendum necessary besides 2/3 majority in Parliament

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Supreme Court moved against 20A

By Chitra Weerarathne

General Secretary of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya Ranjith Madduma Bandara, MP, yesterday (23) filed a petition in the Supreme Court stating that the proposed 20th Amendment (20A) to the Constitution was inconsistent with the Constitution. It requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament and approval by people at a referendum for passage, the SJV has argued.

The SJB says 20A violates people’s sovereignty and franchise enshrined in Article (3) and (4) of the Constitution.

The petitioner has argued that the provisions in clause 55 of the Bill are inconsistent with the public trust doctrine and the principle of checks and balances and would prejudicially affect public finance.

 The clause 54 of the Bill seeks to repeal Article 156 A of the Constitution, which provides constitutional recognition to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or corruption, the petition says.

 The petition says 20A seeks to repeal the prohibition on dual citizens being elected to Parliament and to the post of President.

The power of the Auditor General to audit the state institutions has been curtailed, the petition says, arguing that it could be detrimental to the economy.

It will be detrimental to the country if the Constitutional Council is replaced by a Parliamentary Council, the SJB General Secretary’s has contended in his petition.

Clause 20 (2) of the proposed 20A has restricted the powers of the Election Commission as regards the conduct of elections, the petitioner has argued.

The 20A states that an omission by the President could no longer be challenged through a fundamental rights violation petitions in the Supreme Court, the petitioner has said, adding that the Bill seeks to further enhance the powers of the President by allowing him to unilaterally remove the Prime Minister. The President would not be accountable to Parliament, the petition says.

The 20A would repeal Article 70/ (1) of the Constitution and enable the President to dissolve Parliament even immediately after a general election, the SJB General Secretary argues.

The respondent to the petition is the Attorney General.

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Lawyer Hijaz’s foundation received funds from banned foreign outfit – CID tells court

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By A.J.A.A beynayake and Kasuni Rebecca

The CID yesterday informed the Colombo Fort Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage that Save the Pearls Trust run by lawyer Hijaz Hisbullah, now in custody for allegedly aiding and abetting one of the Easter Sunday bombers, had received Rs.13 million from a banned organisation named the Caliphate of Qatar.

The CID told court that according to the bank accounts of the trust the money had been received by it during the last few years and the police had launched an investigation to ascertain whether the funds had been used for terrorist activities.

The CID told court the investigation had been launched under the Money Laundering Act and a psychologist’s opinion had been sought on the book titled “Navarasam” found in a madrasa (school teaching Islam) run by Save the Pearls Trust in Puttalam.

The Magistrate order the CID to submit to court a Sinhala translation of the book and examine whether the contents of the book promoted terrorism.

The case will be taken up again on October 7.

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