De Silva’s clarification in no way rules out the involvement of current stakeholders in the to-be-established institution. Despite De Silva’s assurances, it would then be a SAITM without SAITM but with SAITM, the difference being that it will a) be a not-for-profit entity and b) will comply with yet-to-be-legislated ‘minimum standards’.
There have been many interpretations of what happened yesterday for the fast to stop and hopefully the decision to call off the class boycott.I offered clarifications on the section on the abolition of SAITM as per the President’s communique on the solution to the SAITM crisis. There were suspicions on the ‘abolition’ due to various statements by various people. But it is clear in the 29 October government statement that (abolition) in fact was the position. And that all assets and liabilities as well as students will be taken over by a new non-state and not-for-profit entity upon agreement of current shareholders, financial institutions that have lent money and the to be agreed new entity. And thereafter SAITM will no longer exist.
So last night I explained that all current SAITM students will be absorbed to a special purpose vehicle of sorts that will have a specified sunset clause. And that they will continue their education over the remaining period. No new students would be admitted to this ‘sunset’ entity. After all current students complete their education, it would cease to exist.
I was pointedly asked the question as to whether the Government was trying to mislead the students by saying SAITM will be abolished but in fact attempting to establish a new entity and it was just a change of name? I said that I was not here to mislead nor to lie; that the government position as articulated in the 29 October communique is to establish a non-state not-for-profit entity that meets the (to be legislated) Minimum Standards. But that is separate from abolishing SAITM. Both will happen over a period of time; and the new entity will begin after meeting compliance conditions of Minimum Standards. Anyway we agreed to delink the two issues as that was out there in the future, not last night.
It was indeed a mature political discussion where we all agreed on the abolition of SAITM. Of course certain groups (who oppose any non state higher education at all) were not in agreement of the envisaged medium term outcome. But we agreed that in a democracy we have the privilege to express differing views.
I thank everyone who assisted us in resolving this issue. I hope this matter is now behind us. (By Renuka Jayasinghe)