By:Staff WriterColombo (LNW): The government’s move to lease out the President’s House in Jaffna to the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT) has sparked widespread criticism on the shady deal to develop an IT University in collaboration with a Canadian investor.
The investment value here is approximately Rs. 5,000 billion and the proposal outlines the development of a portion of the property, excluding the existing buildings and reception halls.
The construction work of President’s House in Kankesanturai, Jaffna, was started during the administration of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. It was within the five years of 2010-2015.
Originally constructed at a staggering cost of Rs. 3.5 billion, the opulent Presidential Palace in Kankesanthurai (KKS) was envisioned and built by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Committee on Public Enterprises (CoPE) former Chairman Prof. Charitha Herath criticised the Executive for undermining the Legislature with its recent decision to lease the President’s House in Jaffna to the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT).
It was reported that the decision was reached regarding the premises following a recent discussion chaired by the Chief of Presidential Staff and Presidential Advisor on National Security Sagala Ratnayake.
“The decision clearly undermines the Legislature. On 6 April 2021, the CoPE presented a significant report to the Parliament, unveiling cases of fraud and corruption within SLIIT, which is situated on a State-owned three-acre plot of land in Malabe and was built with Rs. 500 million of public funds.
Numerous cabinet papers from members of successive governments have been submitted to address these issues. Despite this, SLIIT has been permitted to persist in this manner,” he noted in Parliament.
According to Herath, even the Cabinet paper presented during the tenure of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa regarding this issue was disregarded and not implemented.
Herath criticised the Executive for its recent decision and asserted that it was inappropriate for the Executive to make decisions that undermine the authority of the Legislature in the country.
The MP suggested that the Government should refrain from implementing the decision and, instead, conduct a thorough analysis of a 500-page report submitted by the Auditor General and a committee appointed to investigate fraud carried out by a temporary group appointed from the University of Moratuwa to oversee SLIIT.
“As the situation stands, the Executive’s decision to lease the President’s House in Jaffna to SLIIT for establishing a branch has undermined the authority of the Legislature.
There is no objection to setting up a branch of SLIIT in Jaffna, but the decision that undermines the CoPE, which is a part of the legislature, is incorrect,” he emphasised.
The President’s House, situated in Kankesanthurai, encompasses 29 acres of land, with 12 acres allocated to building complexes. It was constructed by the Rajapaksa Government in 2011.
In the initial phase, it has been decided to lease the 12 acres owned by the Government to SLIIT. Additionally, a decision has been made to lease the remaining 17 acres of land, which was acquired from the local population, with the aim of generating income for the people.
Currently, the land is under the control of the Sri Lanka Navy, and once the relevant lease agreement is finalised, the relevant land is expected to be handed over to SLIIT.