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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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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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