SMU cancels opening of research centre

IN an unusual move, the Singapore Management University (SMU) has cancelled plans to set up a research centre days before its launch.

In a short statement to Singapolitics sent this week, SMU said it will not set up the Handa Centre for Global Governance and Human Rights.

“After careful re-assessment, the University has decided not to proceed with the organisation of a centre. Going forward, SMU remains committed and will continue with the study and research at the current level and scope,” said a university spokesman.

She declined to comment when asked for details.

It is understood that the decision to cancel the centre was made days before its launch last Thursday. The planning for the centre had started at least two years ago.

The Handa Centre was meant to have been funded by a large donation of between $1 million to $3 million from the Japanese philanthropist Dr Haruhisa Handa, who had flown into Singapore last week specially for the launch.

It is believed the sum would have been one of the largest the university would have received for a research centre, although it has received larger donations for libraries and buildings.

The Handa Centre was meant to look at governance and regulation issues worldwide. Its research scope would have included business investments, health crises, environmental sustainability, social media and human rights.

An article on The Online Citizen last week speculated that the Government had a hand in the closure of the centre.

When asked to respond to this allegation, a Ministry of Education spokesman only said: “We were informed by the SMU that it had decided not to go ahead with the launch of the centre.”

University centres tend to be funded by the universities themselves or through Government grants. One exception is the BNP Paribas Hedge Fund Centre, also housed at SMU.

Dr Handa is known here as the sponsor of the golf tournament Handa Singapore Classic.

When contacted by Singapolitics, Dr Handa said: “After consulting with SMU, the leadership of Worldwide Support for Development (WSD) has decided not to proceed with the organisation of a new centre. WSD remains supportive of SMU and will continue to consider future projects in Singapore.”

The businessman operates several companies in Japan and abroad, which range from management consulting to sponsoring symposia, and has authored books on business and Japan.

Dr Handa is the founder and chairman of Worldwide Support for Development (WSD), a non-profit organisation based in Tokyo that helps disadvantaged communities.

He has donated to the Centre for Human Rights Education in Curtin University in Australia, and through his organisation also helped fund healthcare facilities in Cambodia, where he serves as an adviser to the country’s prime minister.

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