Sinhalese and Muslim tertiary students who were given places at universities in Jaffna and the Eastern Province have been promised places in universities in the South by the University Grants Commission (UGC). The UGC decision follows the killing of a Sinhalese student last week at the Eastern University of Sri Lanka, in Batticaloa.
A total of 183 first-year students have already begun classes in the Eastern University of Sri Lanka, Batticaloa, “Earlier, we had decided not to send Sinhalese students to the University of Jaffna, but now we have decided not to send Sinhalese students to the Eastern University as well,” said UGC chairman Professor Gamini Samaranayake. “We had telephone discussions with the vice-chancellors and faculty heads on what to do. We are treating this as a national crisis. We had a good response from the deans and vice-chancellors.”
| Sucharitha Samarasinghe
The choice of an alternative university for the displaced students would depend on several factors. Prof. Samaranayake, said allocations were based on the individual universities’ admission requirements and the Z-score.
“We cannot allocate universities as we please,” he said. “The Z score and the ranking of the university are taken into consideration, as well as the number of places available in each university. We are in discussion with the heads of the various faculties. We have to get a consensus from them.”
With regard to the 16 Year-Four Sinhalese students studying at the Eastern University, the UGC is holding discussions with the university to arrange for the students to complete their degrees without having to be present for classes at the university.
Meanwhile, parents and students protesting outside the UGC office said they would take the matter to court if they received no official confirmation that the students would be given places in a university in the South.
“We plan to go to court on Monday [tomorrow] as we have not had anything in writing from the UGC to say our children will be allocated university places in the south,” said Ranjith Wevaldeniya, parent of a student who was admitted to the medical school of Jaffna university. “And we must have an assurance that our children will be following the same courses when they transfer to other universities.”
The decision to admit Sinhalese and Muslim students to universities in the North and the East followed a Court of Appeal decision last year. “The UGC made its decisions based on the court decision,” said UGC Additional Secretary, D. P. Athulathmudali. “Last year there were 100 vacancies in the Jaffna university medical school, but we could fill only 70. A case was filed against the UGC, alleging that the UGC was not allocating places according to available quotas. The Appeal Court ruled that university admissions should not be based on a student’s race, language or religion.”
Referring to the tragedy last week at Eastern University, Mr. Athulathmudali said the UGC chairman was satisfied with the security situation in the area at the time the students were allocated to the university.
He added that he hoped the University of Jaffna was making appropriate arrangements for the Sinhalese students to travel to the south. Of the 100 students in the medical faculty at Jaffna University, 23 are Sinhalese and six are Muslim.
A total of 268 Sinhalese students were allocated to the University of Jaffna, 310 to Eastern University, and 151 to South Eastern University. A total of 896 students were given given university places in the Northern and Eastern provinces.
Murdered undergrad went out of his way to help freshers
By Chathuri Dissanayake
Twenty-two-year-old Sucharitha Pasan Samarasinghe, the Eastern University of Sri Lanka student who was shot dead on Thursday night on the campus premises, was, according to his colleagues, actively involved in helping freshers settle down and adapt to university life. His friends said he would tell fellow students to be determined, whatever the hardships they faced, and not give up on their studies.
Mr. Samarasinghe was on his way back to his hostel, after chatting with first-year Sinhalese students, when he was shot dead by an unidentified person.
|Picture One: Police inspect spot where murdered student Sucharitha Samarasinghe fell Picture Two: Sucharitha receiving an academic honour in school.
“At the request of the UGC [University Grants Commission], we would keep in close touch with the first-year Sinhalese students and ask how they were getting on, and discuss their problems,” a Year-Four Sinhalese student, a friend of the deceased, told The Sunday Times. “Most of the Sinhalese freshers have concerns when they come here.
“That night, after talking to the freshers, Sucharitha headed back to the hostel, saying he wanted to go to the gym.”
According to several Sinhalese students attached to the Eastern University, Mr. Samarasinghe’s killing was “racially motivated”.
“This is a warning for us not to come here,” said the student, who requested anonymity. “There were only 17 Sinhalese students in the final year studying commerce and management, but this year more than 200 Sinhalese students have been given places in the university. We see the killing of Sucharitha as a warning.”
Following the killing on Thursday night, Eastern University Vice-Chancellor Dr. N. Pathmanathan ordered the closure of the university.
Students who were with Sucharitha Pasan Samarasinghe on the night of the killing said he had gone with a group of other senior students to talk to the new Sinhalese students. Mr. Samarasinghe left early. Shortly after, the group of students heard a noise they assumed to be firecrackers. They said senior Tamil students were in the habit of lighting crackers near the Sinhalese students’ hostel “in order to scare us”.
“A Tamil student then rushed into the hostel, saying someone had been shot,” the fourth-year student said. “Neither the security people nor the warden wanted to go and check. They were scared, and they didn’t want us to go either.”
From an upper-floor window of their hostel, the Sinhalese students saw what they assumed to be the body of Mr. Samarasinghe.
“We saw something yellow on the ground, close to the hostel. Sucharitha was wearing a yellow track bottom. We suspected it was he. We were not allowed to go out,” said a first year student who was with Samarasinghe shortly before he was killed.