Colombo Telegraph

Civil Society Condemns Unlawful Detention Of Jaffna University Students

By Colombo Telegraph

“Release with immediate effect the three detained students in the absence of clear evidence linking them to the alleged crime, Permit the students access to legal assistance and regular visits by their family members, Ensure the safety, and physical and mental welfare of the students currently held in detention, Put an immediate halt to any further arrests, acts of intimidation, harassment and reprisals carried out by the TID and Sri Lanka Army on students from the University of Jaffna, Stop all interference by security forces and law enforcement authorities in the internal administration of the University of Jaffna and its student body, Investigate into all past attacks of violence against students of the University of Jaffna, including incidents where the perpetrator/s is unknown “civil society urges government.

We publish below the full text of  the statement;

Statement Condemning the Arrest and Unlawful Detention of Four Students from the University of Jaffna, and Calling for their Immediate Release

We the undersigned, strongly condemn the arrest of four students of the University of Jaffna (UoJ) by the Terrorism Investigation Department (TID) on Thursday, November 29, 2012. While welcoming the release of Kanesamoorthy Sutharsan, a student of the Jaffna Medical Faculty on the morning of Tuesday, December 4, we condemn the continued detention of the remaining three Jaffna University Student Union members: Sanmugam Solaman (24), Kanagasundram Jenamajenth, and Student Union Secretary Paramalingam Tharshaanan (24).

The four are part of a group of seven Jaffna University students who were summoned by the Kopai Police (in the Jaffna District) on Thursday, November 29, 2012, in connection with an alleged arson (petrol bomb) attack on the office of the Sri Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) in Thirunelvely, Jaffna. Sri-TELO had opened its office at Thirunelvely near the Jaffna University, only a week prior to the alleged arson attack. The students were later charged with putting up posters around the Jaffna University relating to Maaveerar Naal (LTTE heroes/martyrs day) which fell on Tuesday, November 27, 2012.

Following the summons, Sanmugam Solaman and Kanagasundram Jenamajenth surrendered to the Kopai Police at 1pm on Thursday, November 29, accompanied by two Jaffna University lecturers and a lawyer.  At the time of arrest, the lecturers were shown a document in Sinhala, which appeared to be the letter issued by the Officer in Charge of the Kopai Police, dated Friday, November 30 (Ref No. OIC/KP/ODB/6067/2012), to the head of security at the Jaffna University. It stated that the seven students listed in the document must appear at the Kopai Police station to make a statement on November 30, in relation to a complaint made to the Kopai Police by one Somasuriyasingham Senthuran of Kondavil West (Jaffna District), on November 29. The two students Sanmugam Solaman and Kanagasundram Jenamajenth, were subsequently handed over to the TID office in Vavuniya on November 30. Two more students – Paramalingam Tharshaanan and Kanesamoorthy Sutharsan – were arrested by the Kopai Police at 1am on November 30 from their temporary residences in Kaladdi and Urumpirai (Jaffna District) and handed over to the TID office in Vavuniya on Saturday, December 1.

The remaining three students are currently being held at the Vavuniya TID office. The families of the students have so far not been provided with any official document relating to their detention or charges. The students have also not been produced before either the Vavuniya or Jaffna Magistrate.  We are therefore deeply concerned with regard to the legality of their continued detention.

The parents of one student met all four students at the Vavuniya TID office on Monday, December 3.Vavuniya Police have assured the students and the parents that they would be released subject to being produced before the Vavuniya Magistrate.  The parents and the four students waited at the Vavuniya Police Station from 8am – 3pm on December 3 for the Vavuniya Magistrate to return from Colombo. However the students have not been produced before the Magistrate so far. We are concerned by evidence that the university authorities have been informed by the Deputy Inspector General for the Northern Province that detention orders have been issued for the four students as on December 2. The parents of the students have not been provided a copy of the detention order to date.

Of the three remaining students summoned in the document dated November 30, two students have already graduated from the University of Jaffna and are employed under the Government Graduate Scheme in Nedunkerny, (Vavuniya District).  Six of the seven students named in the letter dated 30th November have been active and outspoken members of the Jaffna University Student Union, post war. The students have organized and participated in several protests and campaigns against human rights violations allegedly committed by the Sri Lanka Army in the North.  On November 28, they were involved in organising a silent protest against the intimidation and attacks by the Sri Lanka Army on university students on the previous day. So far no charges or evidence has been produced linking the students with the alleged arson attack.

On November 30, the police raided and ransacked the houses of two other students from the Jaffna University. The names of these students were not included in the letter dated November 30. According to the students, the raid was carried out by Police officers and persons in civilian clothes who did not disclose their identity.  One student was also subjected to intimidation and questioning by the officers. The other student’s house was ransacked twice on the morning of November 30, and early morning on December 1. Since the student was not at his house on both occasions, the officers instructed his parents that he must surrender to the Point Pedro Police immediately.

In light of the facts above, we are deeply concerned that the students’ arrests are baseless and politically motivated, and constitute an act of reprisal against their activism and campaign against human rights violations by the Sri Lanka Army.  Jaffna University students are presently carrying out a protest campaign against these arrests and several acts of intimidation and attacks carried out by the Sri Lanka Army against Jaffna University students.  Students have boycotted their classes in protest and many students have left the University hostel premises in fear of further attacks or arrests.

We are also deeply concerned about the impact of these actions by security forces on the Jaffna University, which has been brought to a virtual standstill, and the adverse repercussions on the students’ academic work and their safety and security within the university.

We reiterate the call by the University Teachers Association of Jaffna (UTAJ) in its Open Letter to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna to take all measures to ensure  the immediate release of the detained students and obtain assurance  in order to create a more secure and conducive environment for teaching and learning within the University, that no further student arrests will be made by security forces; to ensure the immediate removal of the presence of military, police and security checkpoints in the university environs since November 27; and ensure that no outside person, particularly military and police personnel be permitted to enter the Jaffna University and hostel premises without the prior permission of University authorities.

We therefore call on the Sri Lankan Government to:

  • Release with immediate effect the three detained students in the absence of clear evidence linking them to the alleged crime
  • Permit the students access to legal assistance and regular visits by their family members
  • Ensure the safety, and physical and mental welfare of the students currently held in detention
  • Put an immediate halt to any further arrests, acts of intimidation, harassment and reprisals carried out by the TID and Sri Lanka Army on students from the University of Jaffna
  • Stop all interference by security forces and law enforcement authorities in the internal administration of the University of Jaffna and its student body
  • Investigate into all past attacks of violence against students of the University of Jaffna, including incidents where the perpetrator/s is unknown 

Situation Update as at 12.30pm, 7 December, 2012

On the morning of 6th December, 2012, the Kopai Police have handed over a list of a further 10 students to the University authorities to be handed over to the Police for questioning, over an undisclosed charge. The list includes five students from the University of Jaffna (UoJ) Medical Faculty and the Presidents of the Jaffna University Student Union, Science Faculty Union and Management Faculty Union. The five students from the Medical Faculty and one student from the Management Faculty were accompanied by the Dean of the Medical Faculty and lecturers and handed over to the TID office in Vavuniya for questioning late last evening.

The Vice Chancellor of the UoJ has requested all Faculties of the University and the parents of the students summoned by the Police, to hand over the students for questioning to the Police. The parents have agreed to do so, but have requested that the University authorities accompany their children to the Police.

The remaining four students, three from the Science, and one from the Management Faculty, have refused to surrender themselves to the Police until they are provided with a legitimate charge. The three Science Faculty students are known to be outspoken activists in the University. Many students, particularly former Student Union members have gone into hiding due to the fear and panic caused as a result of these arrests. With the student boycott of the UoJ reaching its ninth day (since the 29th of November) today, the situation in the Jaffna University remains tense and volatile.

Signed by:

CLERGY

  1. Most Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph – Bishop of the Diocese of Mannar
  2. Most Rev. Dr. Thomas Savundranayagam – Bishop of the Diocese of Jaffna
  3. Most Rev. Dr. Norbert Andradi OMI – Bishop of the Diocese of Anuradhapura
  4. Most Rev. Dr. Raymond Wickramasinghe – Bishop of the Diocese of Galle
  5. Most Rev. Dr. Harold Anthony Perera – Bishop of the Diocese of Kurunegala
  6. Ven. Buddhiyagama Chandra Rathna Thero
  7. Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera – Bishop Emeritus of Colombo, Anglican Church
  8. Rt. Rev. Kumara Illangasinghe – Bishop Emeritus of Kurunagala, Anglican Church
  9. Fr. Arulanandam
  10. Fr. B. Regno
  11. Fr. C. Jeyakumar – Parish Priest, Kayts
  12. Fr. Jeyabalan Croos
  13. Fr. R. Augustine
  14. Fr. Terence Fernando
  15. Fr. Yoges
  16. Rev. Jason J. Selvaraja – Assembly of God Church, Chavakachcheri
  17. Rev. Fr. Lawrence Gnanathicam
  18. Rev. Fr. M. Sathivel – Christian Solidarity Movement
  19. Rev. Fr. S. Mahesan
  20. Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda
  21. Rev. Reid Fernando – Chaplain of YCW/CWM Archdiocese of Colombo
  22. Sr. Angela Fernando
  23. Sr. Helen Fernando
  24. Sr. Immaculate
  25. Sr. Marie Angela Cooray
  26. Sr. Mary Christine
  27. Sr. Milburga Fernando 

ORGANIZATIONS

  1. Ainslie Joseph – Christian Alliance for Social Action (CASA)
  2. Balasingham Skanthakumar – Law & Society Trust, Colombo
  3. Brito Fernando – Families of the Disappeared
  4. Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu – Executive Director, Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)
  5. Herman Kumara – National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO)
  6. J.C. Weliamuna – Convener, Lawyers for Democracy
  7. N.A. Sampath Pushpakumara – Rights Now Collective for Democracy
  8. Nadeeshani Bahabandara – Women’s Political Academy
  9. Nimalka Fernando – Executive Director, International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) Asia
  10. Padmini Weerasooriya – Mothers and Daughters of Lanka
  11. Philip Dissanayaka – Right to Life Human Rights Centre
  12. Sanjendra Vignaraja – Project Manager, American Center for International Labor
  13. Saroja Sivachandran – Centre for Women and Development, Jaffna
  14. Sepali Kottegoda – Women & Media Collective
  15. Sriya Ahangama – Women’s Centre
  16. Sudarshana Gunawardana – Rights Now Collective for Democracy
  17. Sunil Jayasekara – Free Media Movement (FMM)
  18. Sunila Abeysekera – Executive Director, INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre
  19. Thiruni Kelegama – Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi
  20. Udaya Kalupathirana – INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre
  21. Visaka Dharmadasa – Association of War Affected Women (AWAW) 
  22. Activist for Human Rights (AHR)
  23. Human Rights Defenders Network, Sri Lanka
  24. Networking for Rights in Sri Lanka
  25. Women’s Action Network 

INDIVIDUALS

  1. Amal De Chickera
  2. Ananda Jayasekera
  3. Anushaya Collure
  4. Ayeshea Perera
  5. Bhavani Fonseka – Attorney-at-law
  6. Chandraguptha Thenuwara
  7. Chulani Kodikara
  8. Deanne Uyangoda
  9. Dharisha Bastians
  10. Dilshy Banu
  11. Dinidu de Alwis – Freelance Journalist
  12. Divya Martyn
  13. Dr. Leonie Solomons
  14. Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai
  15. Dylan Perera
  16. Ermiza Tegal – Attorney-at-Law
  17. Francis Solomantine
  18. Hans Billimoria 
  19. Harean Hettiarachchi
  20. I.D. Geethika Dharmasinghe
  21. Iromi Perera
  22. Jagath Liyanarachchi – Attorney-at-law
  23. Jake Oorloff
  24. Jay Gunewardena
  25. Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala
  26. Jehanki Anandha
  27. Jovita Arulanantham
  28. Juanita Arulanantham – Attorney-at-Law
  29. Juliana Arulanantham
  30. K.S. Ratnavale – Attorney-at-law
  31. Krishan Rajapakshe
  32. Kshama Ranawana
  33. Kushlani Perera
  34. Kusum Weeratunge
  35. Luwie Ganeshathasan
  36. M.M. Jihad Al Shajhan
  37. Mahendran Thiruvarangan
  38. Maria Emmanuel
  39. Marisa de Silva
  40. Mathuri Thamilmaran – Attorney-at-Law
  41. Megara Tegal
  42. Melisha Yapa
  43. Mirak Raheem
  44. Mohamed Hisham
  45. Nalini Sivathasan
  46. Nicola Perera
  47. Nigel V. Nugawela

100. Nihal de Silva

101. Niran Anketell

102. Nirmanusan Balasundaram – Independent Journalist / Human Rights Advocate

103. Nishan de Mel

104. P.N. Singham

105. Paba Deshapriya

106. Prabu Deepan

107. Priya Thangarajah

108. Priyanthie de Silva

109. Punitharani Markpillai

110. Ruki Fernando

111. S.C. Asoka Obeyesekere

112. Sankha Ranadheera Vithana

113. Scholastica Perera

114. Selyna Peiris

115. Shehan de Alwis

116. Shreen Abdul Saroor

117. Suchetha Wijenayake

118. Sumith Chaminda Leelarathne

119. Sunanda Deshapriya

120. Thiagi Piyadasa

121. Thushari Madahapola

122. Vaidehi Perera

123. Velayutham Jayachitra

124. Vinoth Ramachandra

125. W.A. Upul Wickramasinghe – Chemist

126. Zainab Ibrahim

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