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The regime considers the youth as a force to be feared rather than nurtured for the future of this country – FUTA

FUTA press statement on Jaffna university problem
While  expressing  concern  about  the  recent  beating,  harassment  and  arrests  of  students  in  Jaffna, FUTA reminds the authorities of its demands made in the recent protest to keep the universities free of  political  interference.  Not  only  does  this  hinder  academic  enterprise  but  leads  to  unrest  in  our universities.  We  in  particular  demanded  that  the  training  of  new  entrants  in  army  camps,  which included  an  ideological  component,  and  the  imposition  of  Rakna  Lanka  Security  Service  having close association with the Defence Ministry, be rescinded. This  mentality  has  led to a country that spends far more on spying and attempting to control students than on educating them. We see that the  regime  considers  the  youth  as  a  force  to  be  feared  rather  than  nurtured  for  the  future  of  this country.

The young must be given leeway to express their feelings, opinions and visions within the limits of the law. The first condition for this is that the State must be law abiding with a serious commitment to uphold the law. We cannot agree more with our colleagues in Jaffna that “Default on the part of the  Government  through  continued  presence  of  the  military  without  tangible  moves  towards  a political settlement, has helped the mobilization of youthful feelings to turn [27th  November] into a day of defiance, where its original association becomes less important.”

No  laws  were  broken  in  lighting  flames  on  that  occasion  and  the  army  intrusion  into  halls  of residence and separating Tamils  from Sinhalese students to subject the  former to threat and abuse, is very much to be regretted. The following day’s police attack on a student demonstration carrying placards  demanding  respect  for  democratic  rights  was  further  exacerbating  the  first  blunder.  The arrest  of  students  subsequently  under  the  PTA  seems  an  attempt  to  find  excuses  for  the Government’s misconduct.

The FUTA fully supports the wish of our colleagues to have in Jaffna University an institution that fosters pluralism, in which it is prepared to help, although the Government’s action was contrary to this aim.

FUTA condemns the use of the PTA to deal with a problem requiring political effort and a political settlement. To set an example in the observance of the rule of law  the Government should first set up  an  inquiry  into  why  the  Police  brutally  assaulted  students  who  were  not  responsible  for  any breach  of  the  law.  As  the  Jaffna  University  community  has  said  in  its  letter,  these  arrests  were purely  vindictive.  The  fact  that  a  magistrate’s inquiry has not been held into the assault raises questions about the role of the bypassed and intimidated Judiciary in law enforcement.

Against the harshness of the  action, we have seen no evidence of anti-state terrorism  in  Jaffna. Of the nine students detained six  have  been released. The three students who remain  in  custody  from  10th  December, the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are P. Tharshananth, K. Jenemejayan and S. Solomon. Take the case of Tharshananth. He was assaulted with metal rods by  persons  believed  to  have  security  connections  on  18th  May  2012  and  was  admitted  to  hospital and treated for head injuries. The occasion was when students planned to observe the anniversary of civilian deaths in Mullivaykkal. Tharshananth was secretary to the University Students’ Union.

 If  the  Government  had  evidence  that  Tharshananth  was  involved  in  terrorist  activities,  the  right thing to do was to arrest him and charge him in court rather than injure him. Further, to suggest that this  closely  watched,  frightened  person  was  involved  in  terrorist  activity  between  the  time  he  was beaten  up  and  the  27th    of  November  is  hard  to  believe.  His  arrest  only  underscores  the  vindictive character of the State. We are bound to regard the students arrested as innocent of any crime. 

 Once more we agree with our colleagues in Jaffna that ‘dragging  innocent students through police stations  and  police  cells,  as  happened  in  the  1970s  and  1980s,  is  frightening  at  the  start  and  then hardens  them  and  breeds  contempt  for  the  law  and  for  the  officers  entrusted  to  uphold  it.’ The country has seen the effects of breeding contempt for the law in several devastating insurgencies in the  North  as  well  as  the  South.  Justice  must  not  only  be  done,  but  must  be  seen  to  be  done.  A government that deviates from this maxim condemns us all to a bleak future.

We demand that the Government must either charge the students detained  in court or release them forthwith.

Dr. Mahim Mendis
 Media Spokesman- FUTA
12th  December 2012


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