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Tuesday June 22nd, 2021
Democracy

More protests in Jaffna over removal of war memorial

A few students on hunger strike outside Jaffna campus/Tamilguardian.com

ECONOMYNEXT – Political parties in Jaffna are planning on holding a hartal tomorrow, Monday, January 10, to protest the destruction of a memorial to the civilians who died in the separatist war that was on the grounds of the Jaffna University.

A small group of students have begun a hunger strike in front of the university in protest.

The memorial was bulldozed Friday night on the orders of the Vice-Chancellor of the University Prof Sivakolundu Srisatkunarajah.

He was quoted in the Eelanadu newspaper as saying he was “pressured” by numerous letters sent to him by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to remove the monument.

The UGC Chairman Snr Prof Sampath Amarathunge in a statement released last night said the monument was removed because it is not “suitable for the Sri Lanka of today and tomorrow.”

Amarathunge said the decision to destroy the memorial was made by Srisatkunarajah on this basis.

He added that the memorial “could be a barrier to peace between North and South,” emphasizing that Sri Lanka’s universities now have a healthy mix of students from all regions and all ethnicities and religious backgrounds.

“I am happy to say that there are nearly 1,500 Sinhala students in the Jaffna University, and at least six to seven hundred Tamil students from the North and East in every other campus in the country,” he added.

There was considerable tension in Jaffna, particularly at the campus on Friday night when students and activists gathered outside the gates as a bulldozer flattened the memorial.

The authorities deployed armed Police Special Task Force personnel to block protestors from entering the campus premises. After that, there were pockets of demonstrations staged by various political groups in Jaffna city.

Police made announcements calling on the demonstrators to disperse saying they were violating Health Department guidelines to prevent the spread of the Covid 19 virus.

Ananth Palakidnar who writes for the Eelanadu criticized the University administration for the manner in which the monument was destroyed.

“Why do it under the cover of darkness like a Commando strike, like a military operation,” he asked.

In his column, Palakidnar wrote that the University authorities should have had an open discussion about the decision to remove the monument and explained their decision.

Palakidnar told EconomyNext that the monument “did not have dedications to LTTE fighters or anyone involved in the fighting. It was a memorial to the civilians who died in the last stages of the war that includes a number of Jaffna University students.”

He says schools in many parts of the country have monuments to students who have died in war, and why can’t Jaffna have the same. (Colombo, January 10, 2021)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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