Incidents - stage-managed to rouse students
Higher Education Minister S.B. Dissanayake
When Rohana Wijeweera conducted indoctrination classes in
universities, he told us the Vietcong (Vietnamese communists) shut the
door on US imperialists’ infiltration into Asia. But via the Dudley –
Sirima duo, the US once again started creating a window in Sri Lanka to
creep in to Asia and revive their conspiracy.
Subsequently, this theory was padded up with another, that India was
going to capture Sri Lanka and that their entry is going to be via the
northern-most tip of Sri Lanka – the Jaffna peninsula. This particular
class was called ‘Indian imperialism’. These were the JVP’s tactics to
rouse and brainwash undergraduates to toe their line. That is how they
teamed us up, with sensational concocted stories.
When the JVP fractured into two, I suppose the group of members who
held an insurgent mentality but remained silent all this time, have
become the ‘JVP radical group’ with the hope of reviving their bloody
For the past 35 years, Sri Lanka’s universities were controlled by
the JVP-backed Inter University Student Federation. We expelled them and
restored the situation in universities along with the Vice Chancellors.
We were not very successful in Ruhuna and Peradeniya, but all the others
were put back on track.
I feel, as a person who had experienced the JVP’s past tactics, that
the radicals are going back to Wijeweera strategies.
What was the reason at Sri Jayawardenapura university to begin the
struggle? The popular slogans, removal of the VC and Private
Universities Bill were not there at the outset. It was started with a so
called attack on a statue dedicated for student heroes. The bomb that
exploded near the heroes statue was created using gun powder from
fire-crackers. It was not difficult to find out who did it. This is the
I attended the Colours Night of the Sabaragamuwa University on
December 30. Outsiders were there to make trouble. However, despite
their best attempts to get the students to throw pellets or at least
hoot at me, they failed. I stayed on till around midnight, having a good
time with the undergrads. There is a very strict teacher in charge of
discipline – Dr. Sanjeewa. He convinced students not to fall pray to JVP
tactics. His house was attacked by the JVP-backed students last week.
Three JVP students who are members of the Rajarata Student Union
claimed that they were assaulted by some unknown gang clad in black. The
students informed the Vice Chancellor about this and when he and Dr.
Sanjeewa got ready to visit the scene of the incident, a mob of about
200 students surrounded his house, damaged his quarters and attacked his
The students who claimed they were attacked did not even have a
serious scratch on their bodies.
All these incidents are stage-managed to rouse students. There is no
real cause for their uprising. If you analyst the sequence of events at
the universities, it does not need genius to realise this.
At the Kelaniya University, the abdomen of an undergraduate was
slashed with a sharp knife. He needed 39 stitches. At the Rajarata
University, a boy was stabbed on his hand and lower back for defying the
JVP call. There is an armed gang backing the JVP students.
In the Peradeniya University, over 15 students were suspended from
class for a certain period as punishment for serious ragging. This is
the reason for the unrest at Peradeniya. There is no ‘one single’ demand
for the students to take to the streets, they are being taken to the
streets on numerous allegations.
The ‘lost JVP-grip’ is behind the recent spate of incidents and the
ultimate aim of the JVP radical group is to take control over the
I met undergrads and teachers of the Jaffna and Eastern Universities
and the Trincomalee and Vavunia branches. Student leaders said JVP
dissident Udul Premaratne and others visited them seeking ex-LTTE
What is the reason for this? Their intentions are pretty obvious.
They are plotting a major insurgency, joining forces with LTTE
In Sri Lanka, private universities have been operating since 1987.
The Bill to allow private universities was first introduced by President
J.R. Jayewardene. There are 59 degree awarding institutions registered
under the BOI. Fifty one have begun operations, of this 11 have closed
down. As of today, there are 32 affiliated institutions which award
Even Gateway College and Royal Institute award private degrees, they
are affiliated with recognised British universities. The CINEC Maritime
Campus too is affiliated with a foreign university and awards marine
engineering degrees, because they want their graduates to have world
Three months ago, the External Affairs Minister, Australian High
Commissioner and I attended the opening of a Sri Lankan branch of the
third oldest university in Australia. It offers engineering and IT
Amidst this back drop, what is the purpose of this protest by the
Some of these degree-awarding institutions maintain a good standard,
but others are not so good. The proposed Quality Assurance,
Accreditation and Qualification Framework Act will streamline and
empower the State to monitor these private institutions. Our intention
is to assure quality and protect the rights of the students. The Bill
has laws to close down sub-standard institutions.
We have also proposed a Human Capital Development Finance Act, to
grant loans to students to follow professional or higher education
courses such as Chartered or CIMA examinations. This will enable
students to obtain easy loans.
These are the two Bills that we have proposed to introduce.
We don’t need a new Bill to bring in private universities, we already
have one prepared during Prescient Jayewardene’s tenure.
I would like to request parents to protect their children from these
destructive forces. Be alert to what is unfolding and don’t let your
children fall prey to their dark agendas.
I must also emphasise that this Government, under the leadership of
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, defeated one of the most ruthless terrorist
organisations in the world. US Intelligence termed the LTTE as one of
the most ruthless terrorist organisations in the world. Whoever plans to
establish the country will be dealt with the same force; this is the
message we like to give them.
Violence is not the solution
Senior Vice President Independent Student Union, Gihan
The Inter University Student
Federation, which is now shedding crocodile tears over a
professorial unit, was initially dead against setting up the
new Medical Faculty at the Rajarata University. They put
forth various demands to scuttle the process when it was
The Government went ahead
with the plans to establish the new faculty under tremendous
pressure against it from the Student Federation. Their
current ploy over the professorial unit is also a publicity
stunt to convince the undergraduates and the masses that
they won this unit for the students. It is already under
construction and being completed by the University.
administration has now taken action to close the Medical
Faculty over a ragging incident. Our stand is that this is
an unfair decision. The most affected by this decision is
the first-year batch. The university authorities must
continue lectures for the first batch at least, until the
ragging issue is resolved and action is taken against the
The Nidahas Student Union is
against the arbitrary closure of faculties, depriving
education to students.
At the Sri Jayawardenapura
University, we believe that the actions of the Vice
Chancellor had somewhat aggravated the situation. A group of
about 70-80 students, supporters of the JVP, were suspended
from lectures following a ragging incident three months ago.
They were the trouble-makers
in the university. The Vice Chancellor, without any
disciplinary inquiry, allowed them to attend classes
following a protest by them.
This happened about a month
ago. With their re-entry, troubles began at J’pura. The
student monument was bombed around 3.30 am on January 5, by
5 am the entire university was covered in black flags, by 6
am a meeting of JVP-backed student leaders was convened and
around 7 am nearly 1,000 students were gathered to protest
against the Vice Chancellor.
The student leaders and
protesters didn’t ask for an inquiry to find out who
attacked the monument, but went straight to demand the
removal of the VC. They hastily concluded that the VC had a
hand in the attack. The ordinary students of the university
are aware of who is behind the attack. It was an organised
attempt to provoke students and take them to the streets.
We call upon the authorities
to initiate an independent inquiry to expose the culprits
and educate the university students and the masses of the
truth of what is happening. That is very vital in dousing
the flames of anger.
We see the current sequence
of happenings as a means to save the losing grip of the JVP.
The JVP lost badly in the national political front and they
were losing their monopoly over the university students.
The IUSF is the JVP’s face
within the university sector. These latest incidents are an
attempt by them to revive their strength within the
universities and take control of the student unions.
The JVP lost power in all
universities except Ruhuna and Peradeniya. In Ruhuna too,
they felt that they were fast losing grip. They have gone
back to their past tactics of violence to retain power. This
is our perspective on the evolving situation.
We agree that university
students have problems, but violence is not the way to find
solutions. Our student union held discussions with the UGC
on several issues and obtained results. It’s a start.
Our fight is over three key issues
Convenor IUSF, Sanjeeva Bandara
The Government says the
proposed Higher Education Ministry Bill will assure quality,
that it will streamline, monitor and assure the quality of
private universities. We know that the Government will not
be naďve to call this piece of legislature a ‘Private
Universities Bill’. However, the intention is the same.
Whatever the title may be of
the Bill that is proposed, if it allows the setting up of
new private universities in the country, we are against it.
We say that this is the Private Universities Act in a
The IUSF is aware that this
proposed Bill has legal provisions to set up private
universities as well as to sell degree courses offered in
State universities to private students.
The Act allows a Board,
comprising members of private institutions and others, to be
appointed by the Minister to monitor the private and State
degree awarding institutions. This committee will supersede
the authority of the University Grants Commission.
This Board is to be given
wider powers, the intention is to legalise private
universities and bring them on par with the State
universities. There are provisions to this end in the
proposed Bill. Our protest is against this secret move.
We agree that there are
already private universities in the country. Our stand is
that all these private institutions must be abolished. Our
continuing fight is to achieve this goal.
The Government must expand
opportunities for higher education in the State sector. The
need of the hour is that. Private universities are not a
viable solution or an option for the majority of people in
this country. They will serve an influential few.
We don’t see that the
Government has the interests of the State universities in
mind. Some of the Vice Chancellors appointed to these
institutions further the political agenda of the Government.
Compared to last year, the
Government cut down capital expenditure to universities by
Rs.1,300 million in the 2012 Budget. But the pace with which
they are facilitating and funding the setting up of private
universities is remarkable. Loan facilities, tax exemptions
and other benefits are readily given to this sector.
There is an accusation that
the LTTE and diaspora sections are behind the university
unrest, that the Student Federation is working on a
different political agenda and our intention is to take
undergraduates to the streets and create a situation similar
to the Arab Spring. These are just bankrupt statements.
University students are an
intelligent lot. They cannot be roused to take to the
streets over nothing. There are issues that need to be
resolved with State intervention. That is the truth.
Our fight is over ‘three key
issues’ the first is the abolition of the Private
Universities Act, the second the GCE Advanced Level results
mishap and the third is the undue delay in setting up of a
professorial unit at the Rajarata University.
The first batch of students
have been idling for nearly one year. They are unable to
complete their MBBS since the professorial unit is not
completed for their clinical studies.