Start lectures or face closure: SB tells Jaffna Uni. – Sunday Times
Higher Education Minister S.B. Dissanayake warned that the Jaffna University would be closed if academic activities did not recommence tomorrow. “I have told the university authorities that, willingly or unwillingly, we will have to close the university, even for one year, if campus activities are not normalised,” Mr Dissanayake told the Sunday Times.
The Minister on Thursday met the university’s Vice Chancellor (VC) Vasanthy Arasaratnam and Deans of the Faculties, and directed them to resume academic activities. However, they pointed out that, though they were ready to resume lectures, students were not attending.
Students have vowed to boycott lectures until four students including the secretary of the students union, who were arrested and sent to Welikanda camp for rehabilitation recently, are released. The VC had explained that the offices were functioning, but students have kept away citing lack of security in addition to demanding the release of the students. Students claim that they may be arrested if they return for lectures.
Minister Dissanayake had reportedly told the authorities that students should return for lectures and the matter of the release of the students would be decided by the Defence Secretary. Mr. Dissanayake said the students security concerns wouldhave to be taken up with relevant authorities.
The meeting was attended by Minister Douglas Devananda, Higher Education Ministry Secretary Dr. Sunil Jayantha Nawaratne and Jaffna Security Forces Commander Maj. Gen. Mahinda Hathurusinghe. Jaffna University Teachers Association President A. Rasakumar told the Sunday Times that, usually, when a person was arrested and sent for rehabilitation, a letter is issued to that effect, which had not been the procedure regarding the four students.
“Majority of the students are worried they too would face similar situations,” he said adding that the exams have already been delayed due to the previous closure of the university due to the strike by academics, and the Arts Faculty exam is scheduled for January 16.
Meanwhile, the Federation of University Teachers Association (FUTA), in a statement, expressed concern about the recent beating, harassment and arrests of students in Jaffna. The FUTA has called on the government to either charge the detained students in court or release them forthwith.
The organisation said of the nine students detained, six have were released, while three remain in custody since December 10.FUTA said it condemns the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to deal with a problem requiring political effort and a political settlement.
By Chris Kamalendran