He made this observation at a press brief held at the Information Department last Saturday (11).
Minister Dr.Gunawardena pointed out that the government has decided to remit Mahapola Scholarship money directly to the bank accounts of students on the 15th of every month from January 2020.
“I promise very clearly. Arrangements have been made to continue the scholarship that all students should receive without any shortage on the 15th of every month from January 2020,” the Minister said. “Therefore, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Minister of Finance has ordered the Treasury to pay back the outstanding arrears immediately. Accordingly, the money will be paid this week,” he said.
Minister Gunawardena also said that the main request of the students was to increase the Mahapola scholarship to Rs.10,000.
“Arrangements have been made to increase the scholarship when the new budget is presented after the next election,” he added.
The Minister also revealed about a fraud that had taken concerning the Mahapola Fund. He also said the Fund has grown to Rs. 10.5 billion at present.
“There are separate companies to invest that money in order to earn more income. It has been reported that during the last government more the Rs. 2 billion of that income has been stolen in a similar manner to the Central Bank Bond scam. As the Minister, I had gone to the CID and requested in-writing to get this money back to the Mahapola Fund,” the Minister said.
Minister Dr.Gunawardena said that his intention is to launch a programme to double the Rs. 10 billion Mahapola Fund over the next five years. It has been proposed to raise funds by rallying the university community and selling a lottery, obtaining some contribution by an online system from employees who have received Mahapola benefits, and donating a percentage of the proceeds of the university courses to the Mahapola Fund. In addition receiving donations from philanthropists has also been proposed.
“We are also making a public appeal to former students who were beneficiaries of the Mahapola fund and who are working or studying abroad now to contribute if they can to the fund,” he said. It has also been proposed to reorganize the Mahapola Trade Fair at the district level to raise funds,” Minister Dr. Gunawardena added.
On a different note, Minister Dr. Gunawardena said that the government is to implement a national programme to provide higher education opportunities for all those who passed the G.C.E. Advanced Level examination within 60 days.
He also said that measures have been taken to stop the suppression of university students through tear gas, water cannons or violence.
(Except for the headline, this story, originally published by dailynews.lk has not been edited by SLM staff)