SAITM says ready to forge ahead amid protests

Feb 08, 2017 (LBO) – South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM) says they are ready for the rough road ahead and will push ahead despite opposition from students and staff of state universities.

“These protests are driven by politics and fear of competition,” Dr. Neville Fernando, founder and chairman of SAITM told reporters in Colombo.

“We are ready for the common Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) test, and have also requested the same from the government but it has been ignored. May be this is because they are afraid one of our students will be ranked as the number one.”

Replying to questions on SAITM students who sit for the Examination for Registration to Practice Medicine (ERPM) in Sri Lanka, or the Act 16, they said that this only applies to graduates of foreign universities.

“The medical ordinance will have to be amended to accommodate this and in any case this is for students who have gone overseas for their medical degrees,” Prof. Neville Perera, visiting professor of Surgery at SAITM, said.

“The MCQ test on the other hand is for local students of all eight medical faculties and the test only serves the purpose of creating a merit list.”

Reiterating her colleagues point, the SAITM’s Head of Department of Pediatrics Prof. Deepthi Samarage said that the institute has always expressed its willingness to participate in a quality assurance exam.

“Our students are ready to face an exam of any nature.”

“At present, when the Sri Lanka Medical Collage holds such examination and they delegate it to a government medical college. We have regard for the lecturers and professors at the government medical colleges. We have no reason to oppose an examination conducted by such individuals.”

The SAITM issue began following a Court of Appeal ruling in January for the Sri Lanka Medical Council to provisionally register a graduate of the college.

Chairman Dr. Fernando went on to stress that he embarked on setting up of the collage as a service to the nation.

“If I wanted to make money, I would’ve started a casino. I wouldn’t have given 30 percent of the students scholarships valued at about 550 million rupees so that poor students who couldn’t afford it were able to join SAITM,”

“In 2013 then President Mahinda Rajapaksa requested me to give 10 scholarships to students who had got 3As, 2As, but couldn’t enter university. I obliged and all these students are now in the final year.”

Otherwise they would’ve missed out on medicine, he added.

Deepal Weerasekera, professor and head of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics of SAITM and acting vice chancellor, said fears the college would churn out substandard graduates were unfounded.

“Our clinical training is done by professors of national recognition and are well experienced.”

“We know the consequences of putting out substandard clinically trained people and have no intention of doing that.”

He charged that the state university sector graduates, who were protesting and making allegations of sub standard clinical training, are afraid of the standard of SAITM students.

“We would be happy to have an international panel to assess the training standards not only of SAITM but state universities as well.”

The officials also said opposition political parties were behind the protests against SAITM and were trying to use it to further narrow political agendas.