Addressing the editors and media heads at the President’s House in Colombo today (20th April), he said that the government has taken this decision after a series of discussions with all the parties concerned, including SAITM management, GMOA, education authorities, medical students, medical doctors’ associations, SAITM students and their parents.
Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said once proper guidelines have been established to administer SAITM, it would also be applicable to two other private medical colleges proposed to be set up by the Monash University in Australia and Manipal University in India. The President pointed out that 75,000 to 85,000 Sri Lankan students go abroad annually for higher education and if there are private institutions in Sri Lanka, it would be a great relief to them as the cost would be much less.
Referring to the tragic landslide at the Meetotamulla garbage site, the President said within two days 98 houses will be given to the families whose houses were completely destroyed. Along with this speedy programme, the steps would be taken to resettle all the families evacuated from the area. The garbage dump will be gradually removed from the area by utilizing garbage for power generation, production of organic fertilizer or for land fill, without affecting the environment or the residents in any place, he assured.
The President also announced that it was decided to provide Rs.250,000 to each of the families to purchase furniture for their houses. The Army and the Engineering Unit of the Urban Development Authority (UDA) will take steps to move the Meetotamulla garbage dump systematically within nine months. Furthermore, the Valuation Department and other relevant agencies have been instructed to conclude the damage assessment from the disaster during this week and hand over a damage assessment report. All funds for compensation will be released immediately after this is completed.
The President announced that a retired judge will be appointed to investigate those responsible for the garbage dump issue and report within one month.
President Sirisena assured media heads that the country is heading positively towards economic stability. He added that the country’s foreign reserves have already exceeded USD 5 billion and is expected to improve further in the coming months. He said that the international market prices of tea, rubber and coconut have increased, thus there is a positive trend in foreign exchange earnings from these traditional exports. “The economy is very sound and there is no possibility at all about an economic collapse,” he said with confidence.
The President said that there will be changes in the government activities within the next two weeks, including changes in heads of state institutions. Asked if there is a cabinet reshuffle and changes of heads of state institutions, he replied that everybody would be able to see the changes before Vesak (May 13-14).
Replying to a question on the proposed new constitution, the President said the first rough draft would be presented by the Constitutional Committee within 2 or 3 weeks and thereafter it would be studied before the final draft could be prepared.