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Jaffna Uni crisis deepens, tension heightens

Jaffna Uni crisis deepens, tension heightens

2012 Dec 09

The arrest and detention of nine students of the Jaffna University have triggered unrest and tension among the student community who continue to boycott academic activities in protest, University sources claimed.

Human rights activists claim the arrest and detention of the students would once again create a fear psychosis among civilians, causing further friction between the people and the security forces in the North and East.

Convener of the Civil Monitoring Commission (CMC) and former Parliamentarian, Mano Ganeshan warned that such acts would only create tension between the two communities and hamper the reconciliation process.
The police arrested nine students last week following clashes that erupted during a protest on November 28 after students commemorated LTTE Martyr’s Day.

“The government should allow the dead to be remembered,” he said. He added that the JVP and the FLSP continued to commemorate those who died during the 1971 insurgencies. “One might disagree with the politics behind the movements. But the people should be allowed to remember the dead,” he said adding students in the North should be given the same political freedom as other parties in the South.”

Meanwhile, the Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) said the government was engaged in ‘state terrorism’ preventing students from commemorating the dead.

“We totally condemn this act by the police. The students should be given the freedom to express their political views,” IUSF Convener, Sanjeewa Bandara said. He said the IUSF would campaign for the release of the students.
Among those still under arrest is V. Bhavanandan, President of the Jaffna University Students’ Union. 
However, University officials were non-committal on the issue and noted no steps have been taken get the students released. The reopening of the campus also hung in the balance with students refraining from attending classes as a mark of protest. A spokesperson for the University said all academic activities was at standstill since November 29 and would commence once the students returned.

“It is not only the universities and students who are helpless, but the entire people. Very little can be done here,” lamented Dr Mahim Mendis, spokesperson for the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA).
When contacted, Police Spokesperson SSP Prishantha Jayakody said nine Jaffna University students were in police custody as of Friday (07). He claimed they had been arrested on charges of ‘supporting terrorist activities’.
“Originally 10 students were in custody but one was released after being produced before Courts,” he said.

Of the nine students currently in custody, three are held under Section 9 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which would enable them to be detained for up to three months, Jayakody said. The other six are held under Section 6-1 of the PTA for 72 hours. If the investigators feel that these six suspects should be interrogated further, they would go before Court to obtain another detention order for 72 hours, he explained. The suspects are currently being interrogated by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID), Jayakody added.  

Meanwhile, in a letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Jaffna University Science Teachers’ Association warns of “a deteriorating situation” at the university and expresses frustration at how the entire episode was being handled. 
The letter alleged that on the morning of December 6, a man claiming to be from the TID had given a list containing the names of ten students to be produced at the Jaffna Police Station “Without any information of the reasons or the charges against them”.

“A study of the list convinced us that all these students were wanted only because they were well known as prominent in student activities or were victims of police assault on November 28, whose pictures featured in news reports on the Internet,” the letter adds.

The letter also takes university authorities to task for allegedly “handing over” the said students to the police without any questions and for failing to seek a speedy resolution. It further notes that the PTA under which the students are detained is “most inappropriate” to deal with issues that are essentially political in their nature. “To see terrorism in political gestures and political opinion that do not take recourse to violence and to respond to them by an overwhelming show of force, is both illogical and counter-productive,” it adds.

The letter warned of dangerous consequences that could arise from allowing the situation to aggravate. “Where there should be trust and co-operation there is fear, resentment, and then defiance. Surely, we do not want the consequences of that again”, it stated. 

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