Jaffna University officials agree to reopen campus
Classes will soon resume at the University of Jaffna, which was closed for three weeks after a clash between students and the Army and the Police.
On Friday a Jaffna University delegation, led by Vice-Chancellor Vasanthi Arasaratnam, met Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and other education officials to discuss the university’s problems and other issues. The Sunday Times learns that Vice-Chancellor Arasaratnam was advised to re-open the university. Meanwhile, the Terrorist Investigations Department (TID questioned three female undergraduates on Friday and recorded their statements. Jaffna University students have told the university authorities that they will not return for classes until the four detained students were released.
Professor V. P. Sivanathan, Dean of the Arts Faculty, University of Jaffna, told the Sunday times that students were on an “unofficial boycott” of lectures.
Army personnel deployed around the university campus during the student protests have been withdrawn, while a dozen Policemen have been deployed in three temporary huts at the entrance to the campus.
“We urge the Government to consider the immediate release of the four students being helde at the rehabilitation centre in Welikanda” academic Ratnam Vigneswaran told the Sunday Times.
Mr. Vigneswaran, who is Vice-president of the Federation of University Teachers Association (FUTA) and Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of Jaffna, said the four students, once they were released, would be counselled while the university authorities restored normalcy on the campus.
Prof. Vigneswaran said the hostels were empty and students feared to return after the recent clashes with the Army and the Police.
According to Police spokesperson SSP Prishantha Jayakodi, the four female students had no charges against them and were sent to the rehabilitation centre at their own request.
Jaffna Deputy Inspector General Eric Perera told the Sunday Times that the security arrangements at the university will continue.
On November 27, the birthday of slain LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, Jaffna University students observed what they called “Maaveerar Day” (Martyrs’ Day), to commemorate the LTTE dead. The following day, a tense situation developed at the campus, resulting in a violent clash between students and Police and Army personnel. Eleven students were arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
University teachers unions, students and civic groups have criticised the Government’s handling of the incident and have called for the release of the four detained students.
“We fully support the wish of the our colleagues to have in Jaffna University an institution that fosters pluralism, in which it is prepared to help, although the government’ action was contrary to this aim,” a statement from FUTA said.
In a letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Jaffna University Science Teachers Association (JUSTA) says obstacles to the smooth functioning of the institution should be removed. JUSTA Vice-President Professor S. Selvaraja said the university awaited a resolution of the university’s problems.
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