ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday December 16, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 29

Students to file FR petition alleging police assault

~ Sabaragamuwa University issue

By Isuri Kaviratne

The ten Sabaragamuwa university students who were arrested on Monday -- in the aftermath of the massive student-protest at the Lipton Circus - will be filing a fundamental rights petition against the police for allegedly assaulting them while in police custody. The Inter University Students' Union convener Duminda Nagamuwa told the Sunday Times that nine of the students except for the Buddhist monk who is the president of the Kelaniya University Students’ Union, were allegedly assaulted by the police.

The students were given bail on Thursday following a discussion on the Sabaragamuwa University issue by ministers, parliamentarians, university authorities, student leaders and the police. Police used tear gas to disperse the student demonstration calling for the release of three other students arrested on Saturday while continuing their satyagraha defying a court order to call it off.

The 28-day satyagraha held opposite the University Grants Commission demanded that the education authorities move the Applied Science Faculty from Buttala to the main university building in Belihuloya. Deputy Inspector General N.K. Ilangakoon who was present at the discussions said the police will not proceed with the case against the students.

Among the three students arrested on Saturday were the Sabaragamuwa Applied Science Faculty Union president and the secretary and those arrested on Saturday were from the universities of Rajarata, Jayewardenepura, Kelaniya and Indigenous Medicine. The discussions between the students and the authorities turned nasty when parliamentarian Basil Rajapaksa asked the students to return to the Buttala faculty for the purpose of sitting the examinations.

"But we refused to budge as we have come to a point where we can't trust them any more. We have been given enough of verbal promises on this matter already and in addition we were shocked to hear Mr. Rajapaksa saying that if we were stubborn, the university will be kept closed and the arrested students will not be given bail," Mr. Nagamuwa said.

A written assurance was given following the discussions and the students said with that they now felt confident the government would go ahead with what was decided upon. On February 7 next year the students are expected to take part in a progression assessment session at the parliament complex.

Meanwhile Mr. Nagamuwa said they expected the decision taken in 1999 to shift the Buttala faculty to Belihuloya would be finally implemented. Applied Science Faculty at Belihuloya is to be reopened on March 15 beginning with the examinations to be followed by academic activities. The Sabaragamuwa University Vice Chancellor Rohana Mahaliyanarachchi was not in favour of the students’ proposal to occupy the Management faculty buildings due to be vacated soon because of plans for a Sports and Medical Faculty to be housed there.

The students were of the view the faculties it has at present should be looked after instead of planning to open more new ones. Higher Education Deputy Minister M.M. Mustapha said two buildings belonging to the Agriculture and Management faculties would be completed by February and as such the Applied Science faculty could be moved to Belihuloya.

"But there will be a few shortcomings too such as hostels. But as a temporary measure we are planning to have caravans until permanent hostels are built", he said and added that the parties involved agreed to bear with the inconveniences till all connected matters finally fall into place. The Deputy Minister said he planned to visit the Belihuloya University to make sure the plans were implemented properly for the students to start their studies on schedule. "I will be meeting the VC, the Dean and other stakeholders and hold periodical meetings with the constructors as well", he said.

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