Ahmad Yahya, an SRP lawmaker and prominent member of the Cham community, has repaid $100,000 in debts owed to Norton University after he fell behind in paying the tuition fees for 300 local Muslim students.
Ahmad Yahya, who made the payment to Norton by check Thursday, said he got into debt after he began to fund the education of Muslim students in 1999 through charitable donations from Saudi Arabia and other sources. Following the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the US, the donations from the Middle East dried up, leaving him to meet the obligations alone, he said.
“They were afraid the donations would be involved in terrorism,” he said Monday.
Norton took legal action and the Appeal Court in July last year upheld a lower court decision ordering Ahmad Yahya to repay all $135,285 owed in fees.
In recent weeks, however, the lawmaker and the school struck a deal in which Ahmad Yahya agreed to make a one-off payment of $100,000 and to pay a further $10,000 in installments.
The university, in turn, agreed to drop its lawsuit.
Ahmad Yahya said he raised the $100,000 by selling 43 hectares of land in Kompong Chhnang province.
Norton University Rector Chan Sok Khieng confirmed Monday that the school had accepted the $100,000 payment and that he intended to discuss new admissions with Ahmad Yahya.
“This is a good thing,” Chan Sok Khieng said.
Ahmad Yahya added Monday that he will continue to sponsor students to attend Norton and benefactors from the Middle East are also now starting to sponsor students again.
Last year, Saudi Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal al-Saud, the world’s 13th-richest man with assets valued at $20.3 billion, according to Forbes Magazine, approved a $9,777 donation to Muslim students in Cambodia, $3,000 of which has already been disbursed toward the tuition costs of 31 Norton University students, Ahmad Yahya said.
The remainder of the donation will be used to send another 71 students to the school, he said.