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President should intervene as 'no official here seems able to deal with university students problem' “ Jaffna citizens

President should intervene as 'no official here seems able to deal with university students problem' “ Jaffna citizens

2012 Dec 09

Academics, clergy and members of the public want the Police and military banned from entering the premises of the Jaffna campus, including the student hostels. If they insisted on visiting the campus, they should seek the permission of the university authorities. Two separate letters and a statement to this effect were issued last week.

Writing to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Jaffna University Science Teachers’ Association (JUSTA) warned that “dragging innocent students through police stations and cells – as in the 1970s and 1980s – would harden them and breed contempt for the law and its enforcers.”

“Where there should be trust and co-operation, there is fear, resentment and then defiance,” the association said. “Surely, we do not want the consequences of that again.”

In a separate communication, members of the clergy and the public expressed concern that Jaffna University students had been arrested for campaigning against alleged Army human rights violations.
Describing the arrests as “baseless and politically motivated”, 121 persons, some representing organisations, signed a document urging the Government to release the students, as there was no clear evidence of wrong-doing. They also demanded legal assistance and family visits for the detainees and an assurance that the students in custody would be treated well.

The statement was signed by religious leaders, including the Roman Catholic bishops of Mannar, Jaffna, Anuradhapura, Galle and Kurunegala. Jaffna University students were boycotting classes to protest these arrests and “acts of intimidation and attacks carried out by the Army,” the statement pointed out, adding that many students had left their hostels, fearing further assaults or arrest.

“The situation in the Jaffna University remains tense and volatile,” the statement said, adding that the actions of the security forces would disrupt life at the university, academic work and threaten the safety and security of the students on the campus.

The Jaffna University Science Teachers’ Association has called for intervention by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Association said it wasforced to write to the President because no official in Jaffna seemed “able to deal with the problem or to adequately comprehend our concern.”

The association said there was no agreement or consensus among the university community on the action taken by some students to observe “Heroes’ Day.” The significance of the actions had to be discussed and differences of opinion sorted out, they said. In the absence of a political settlement to the problems in the North and East, “residual influences” have been allowed to legitimise November 27 as a day of defiance, the association added.

President Rajapaksa has been in politics for several decades and was at the centre of two insurgencies in the South, the Jaffna University Science Teachers’ Association said. The President should therefore know that the defeat of an insurgent force does not extinguish or eliminate the feelings or causes that gave rise to the insurgent movement, the JUSTA observed.

“Such feelings are not a police matter, but are rather to be handled as part of the political task of reconciliation and rebuilding,” it was pointed out.

In an open letter to the Jaffna University Vice-Chancellor, the University Teachers’ Association of Jaffna (UTAJ) called for the “immediate removal of military, Police and security checkpoints around the campus (set up after November 27).”

It also demanded a guarantee that no outsider, particularly military or Police, be allowed to enter the Jaffna University or hostels without permission from the university authorities.

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