Cabinet to discuss Govt. takeover of Sharia University in Batti

Tuesday, 25 June 2019 00:37 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Sectoral Oversight Committee recommends takeover under Emergency Regulations, says should be run as Eastern University campus
  • Notes investment source of Rs. 3.6 b originating from Saudi Arabia not clear, recommends separate investigation 
  • Says Hisbullah and officials gave conflicting information regarding nature of funds
  • Says institute has encroached on Mahaveli land apart from what was leased



Cabinet is set to discuss today a note presented by the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Education and Human Resources Development recommending the Government takeover of the controversial higher education facility commonly known as ‘Sharia University’. 

The Committee, which has uncovered a number of irregularities in the setting up of the private higher education institute with unclear sources of funding to the tune of Rs. 3.6 billion, has recommended the Government to take over the higher education institute, registered as Batticaloa Campus Ltd. under Emergency Regulation laws. It is also recommended the institute to be managed as a campus of Eastern University while taking action against all those involved.

“We have given the recommendations of the Oversight Committee and the Cabinet has to now discuss the matter and report their observations to Parliament within six weeks,” Committee Chair Prof. Ashu Marasinghe told Daily FT. 

The report by the Committee which is being presented for discussion for the Cabinet details irregularities on how foreign funds have been obtained by the private education institute, where 90% of shares are owned by ‘Hira Foundation’. The Committee in its report notes that on different occasions conflicting information was provided regarding the source of funds which has been directed to Sri Lanka from Saudi Arabia. 

In 14 March this year, when its current chairman Hiras Hizbullah was questioned on the source of funds, the Committee has been informed that the money invested in the institution was given as a grant. However when the Committee engaged in an observation visit in 17 May, when the director Board and officials were questioned on the matter then Eastern Province Governor M.L.M. Hizbullah has informed the Committee that the funds were received as a loan facility, but failed to produce documents signed for the loan agreement. 

The funds has been received by Bank of Ceylon as foreign remittance on five occasions. As there is no record of such loan being obtained in either Central Bank, which should have given approval for the loan under laws prevailing at the time, nor at the Bank of Ceylon which received the funds, the Committee recommends a full investigation with the help of Embassy of Saudi Arabia. 

The report also notes that Hira Foundation which owns 90% of the shares in the private education institute has not been registered in the National Secretariat for Non-Governmental Organizations despite being in existence in 1999, when regulations were put in place for mandatory registrations. 

The Committee also highlighted that the foundation has brought in foreign funds to the country since 1999 without any monitoring with no record of how the money was used. Further, the Committee notes that the education institute has also encroached on Mahaweli lands beyond what has been leased to them for 35 years.