( HNDA students didn’t act without a reason or like hooligans )
“Malabe private university was begun in 2008 and at present it charges Rs.12 million for a course from a student. The fee for a month is Rs.200,000. Children from which class could afford that amount of money for a university course? Who could spend Rs.2000,000 a month for a child for his/her education? 42% of the population in our country earns less than Rs.280 a day. In such an environment who could afford a degree in a private university and then who would these private universities cater for?”
By Anura Kumara Disanayaka.
HNDA students didn’t act without a reason or like hooligans. They attempted to solve the issue by having a series of discussions with relevant authorities and political chiefs. They took to the streets as a last resort. The government targeted the brutal attack on students who engaged in a peaceful agitation. Hence, we, as politicians, you, as the media and the people in this country should condemn with contempt the sordid act. It is necessary for all of us to rally together to halt the path the government intends to take constricting the space for democratic agitation.
The leaders of the present government should understand why Rajapaksa regime was toppled on 8th January. That regime was toppled not because of a personal weakness of Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa or any other personal move. We all remember how they acted to constrict democracy and subdue people’s agitations. Agitations at Chilaw, Katunayaka and Rathupaswala were shot at and agitators were murdered. Journalists were abducted, media institutions were torched and media suppression was carried out. President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe should remember that the main intention of defeating Rajapaksa regime was to stop its undemocratic journey and the suppression it carried out. By 8th January only five from that government had come out with Mr. Maithripala Sirisena. He should remember the mandate given to him by the people who elected him, their intentions, necessities and expectations. Also, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe too should understand the mandate given to him by the people. Deploying police to attack agitations without understanding the intentions of the mandate given by the people is a sign of a serious onslaught on democracy.
The demand of the HNDA students was equal status to their diploma course with that of a degree course. In a gazette issued in 1990 this equal status had been granted. From April this situation was completely changed and the course period was reduced to three and a half years. Students took to the streets as they could not get solutions for the issue through discussions. The authorities continuously failed to understand the gravity of students’ demands. Students took to the streets not only on behalf of those who are studying at present but on behalf of just demands of the future generations. Maithri-Ranil regime carried out the brutal attack on such a struggle.
Slashing of allocations for education continues. Despite 3.7% of the GDP was allocated for education in 2005, in 2014 the allocation was 1.27% of the GDP which is a threefold slash of the allocation for education. Schools and universities suffer from a massive shortage of human and physical resources. The present administration also issued gazette notifications legalizing private education. On the other hand gazette notifications are released legalizing collecting money in state schools. At present only salaries of teachers and educational officials are being paid by the government. Money is collected from parents for all other expenses such as expenses for holding sports meets, repairing class rooms, buying of equipment.
The situation for higher education is more serious. In 2012 an engineering faculty was begun in South Eastern University. Three years have passed, about 300 students study in the University but there are only 11 members in the academic staff. However, only 3 are permanent lecturers. There are no books in the library; no equipment in the laboratories. The students have been made to come from Samanthurai to Peradeniya for their practicals. A management faculty has not begun yet at University of Ruhuna. Even today, the management course is being conducted attached to Faculty of Social Science. The University of the Visual & Performing Arts doesn’t have an auditorium. Can you think of a University of the Visual & Performing Arts without an auditorium?
Free education is being slashed and many opportunities have been created for private education. Malabe private university was begun in 2008 and at present it charges Rs.12 million for a course from a student. The fee for a month is Rs.200,000. Children from which class could afford that amount of money for a university course? Who could spend Rs.2000,000 a month for a child for his/her education? 42% of the population in our country earns less than Rs.280 a day. In such an environment who could afford a degree in a private university and then who would these private universities cater for? The Medical Council has issued a statement that students leaving Malabe private school would not have qualifications to be recruited as doctors. The government should abolish Malabe private medical school without inconveniencing the students.
The Minister of Higher Education of the previous regime S.B. Dissanayaka mediated to get Rs.600 million from a bank to Malabe private medical school. The moves of the present administration indicate that it would break down free education and allow private education to flourish. Though the allocation for education from 2016 budget is not clear, the appropriation bill reveals a considerable sum has not been allocated for higher education. It is evident that free education is being constricted but all measures are taken to broaden private education. Issues in education do not limit to that sector only. It has now become an issue of the society. These issues cannot be considered as issues that affect only university students, University of Ruhuna or HNDA students. The move to constrict free education which is a right of the people and making education a right of the privileged class should be stopped. The brutal, repressive attacks by the government are aimed not only at the students’ movement but at the expectations of the whole society. The concealed intention of the attack is the warning that the present regime is prepared to constrict democracy and unleash suppression. Hence, our future struggles should be based on two main factors. The struggle should be carried out against constriction of democracy and to protect free education. We would raise our voice in Parliament regarding this. We have a suspicion that the government that is unable to find solutions for people’s issues has given a signal of repression through this brutal attack. The government is aware that agitations by tea small holders, vegetable farmers and others would crop up in the future. It is clear that the brutal attack on HNDA students was manipulated as a warning to such agitations.
During Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure commissions were appointed when such outbursts occurred. The present Prime Minister says an investigation would be carried out. These moves are carried out to suppress the opposition from the masses. We should demand the government to find solutions for the issues without suppressing them.”
Responding to questions raised by journalists Mr. Anura Dissanayaka said, “The statement the minister has made that students have taken to the streets despite solutions have been given is a blatant lie. The officials had said the minister had left for a discussion in the Ministry of Highways. The Minister is lying due to the opposition of the society for the brutal attack on students.
I’m not aware of the ‘stern action’ taken by the students. It is necessary to draw the attention of the society when agitating. This is how a social standpoint is built. Everyone saw how the police brutally attacked a democratic agitation as if they were attacking a violent gang of thugs. In anti-riot courses the police are trained to attack below the waist. However, in the brutal attack against HNDA students the police personnel directly attacked the heads of students. It is the police not the students who acted violently.
The ‘minimum force’ of the police was applied in Chilaw, Katunayaka and Rathupaswala. The police should explain if murder too is part of ‘minimum force’.
The duty of the Police Commission is not giving orders but administrative affairs such as recruiting, promotions, transfers. It is the government that gives orders. The minister in charge of the police should be held responsible for the incident.
The ‘all party conference’ should have been held before Geneva sessions. What is being done is like looking for an auspicious time after the marriage. We participated in the conference as there were issues that should be solved. Comrade Tilvin Silva raised these issues at the conference. The government should have put forward their stand and proposals. When this issue was raised the President’s answer was that the conference would have been useless if government’s solutions were put forward. However, the government should have explained its stand to convene the all party conference once the Geneva issue was put forward.
We have seen bunkers during the war. We have heard about palaces as well. This is the first time we saw a bunker palace. This is not a matter relevant to national security or a step taken for the protection of the state leader. We know that various steps should be taken regarding the protection of the state leader during the time of war. If the palace was built for the protection of the state leader why were tiles brought from Italy were laid and imported electrical fittings and furniture were used? This explains the power hunger of Mahinda Rajapaksa who spent people’s money for his luxurious living. The palace is not a step taken for national security.
– Anura Dissanayaka’s speech at the media conference held at the head office of the JVP at Pelawatta on 1st October. .