KANDY: The Peradeniya Arts Faculty Teachers Association (PAFTA) has strongly condemned the excessive use of force by the state to suppress the lawful expression of dissent by the students of the University of Peradeniya on Wednesday (21). The PAFTA in a statement issued yesterday (23) has stated that it also condemned the suspension of the student unions of the university by the Vice Chancellor on the recommendation of an Advisory Committee.
However, the PAFTA has warned the student body to use democratic means to settle differences.
The statement of the PAFTA is as follows:
“On 21st the student body of the University of Peradeniya embarked on a march to Colombo to protest against the proposed new University Act. The march was stopped by, an inordinately high number of armed personnel of the state who were deployed in and around the university premises. We as the Peradeniya Arts Faculty Teachers’ Association(PAFTA), strongly condemn the excessive use of force by the State to suppress the lawful expression of dissent by the student body of the University of Peradeniya. We also condemn the use of armed Military personnel in matters concerning actions of civil society.
“PAFTA also condemn the temporary suspension of the Student Unions of the Peradeniya University by the vice chancellor on the recommendation of an advisory committee. Firstly, it is the democratic right of the students to organize themselves and hence banning of the student unions contravenes this right. Secondly, we see this decision as an arbitrary act, taken without following any procedure of inquiry. By banning student unions, they are stripped of their democratic rights, forcing them to go underground. We know from history that this could have deplorable consequences.
“We also urge the students and the academic staff to avoid unnecessary confrontations. As mature and responsible members of the academic staff we should strive to maintain normalcy at times like these. On the other hand, if any of the students have assaulted a member of the staff, we condemn that action strongly and urge the student body to use democratic means to settle differences and remind them that they have no moral right to preach what they do-not practice.
” We at PAFTA, have not, so far, heard from the lecturer concerned. He has not made any complaint either to PAFTA or to the University authorities concerning the incident that is purported to have taken place on Wednesday 21, December, 2011, involving him. The directive demanding action on the student unions has come from forces outside the university administrative structure. We are deeply unhappy about this and wish to voice our protest at this kind of arbitrary action. Such interventions are a grave threat to the autonomy of the University system, which we are fighting hard to maintain in spite of extreme external pressures.
“In the matter of the incidents that took place on Wednesday the 21st, we request all concerned to voice their protest against violent suppressions of legitimate dissent. We also request that all action taken by the authorities follow transparent democratic procedures. And in conclusion, we appeal to all to restore normalcy in the University and to restore the democratic rights of all.”