By Saman Indrajith
State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene told Parliament, yesterday, that the government would hold an investigation to find out how son of Eastern Province Governor M.L.A.M. Hisbullah had secured shares amounting to 500 million rupees in the proposed Sharia University in Batticaloa. The University is a gift from Saudi Arabia.
President Maithripala Sirisena in January this year appointed Hisbullah Eastern Province Governor. At the time of his latest political appointment, Hisbullah was a National List MP of the UPFA.
The State Minister said so in response to a question raised by Ratnapura District UNP MP Hesha Withanage who pointed out that obtaining shares from a fund received as a grant was dubious.
MP Withanage: The people are talking about the Sharia University under construction in Batticaloa. Eastern Province Governor Hisbullah’s son has obtained shares worth Rs 500 million from the university.
He is one of the closest friends of presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa. How could a son of a Governor obtain shares from a project implemented by the government. On the other, how did he get shares from a project being implemented with foreign funds given as a grant. Public opinion today is against this university. What action will the government take against this project?
Minister Wijewardene: To the best of my knowledge there is an investigation underway in regard to this university. The Prime Minister and the Speaker too have made inquiries about this project. Currently, the Sharia University has been handed over to the Ministry of Higher Education. I, too, think that an investigation should be held to ascertain the veracity of various statements being made about this university.
UPFA MP Bandula Gunawardena: Higher Education Minister Rauff Hakeem is in the chamber right now. We think he owes this House some explanation with regard to this project.
Higher Education Minister Hakeem: The Ministry of Higher Education would give the degree awarding status to any higher education institute only after a lengthy process of checking that institute’s ability to offer courses of study leading to degrees. We have not yet made any decision with regard to this institute. This morning, too, I had a discussion with the Speaker in this regard. This should be done only after a thorough study. Doubts are being expressed about this university. We will have to allay them first if we are to think of the setting up of this university. That should be done in accordance with the proper procedures. I could give the House a detailed explanation on this issue on a later date.
Badulla District UNP MP Chaminda Wijesiri: There is no problem with regard to the degree courses to be offered by this university. This university is to be set up on a grant received by this country. There has been a fraud in giving 500 million rupees worth shares to the son of the Eastern Province Governor. That is the matter we have raised here. We want to know how he received those shares.
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya: The State Minister of Defence already said that there will be an investigation by the government. Isn’t it Minister?
Minister Wijeawardene: Yes, it is. There is an investigation in progress.