23 July, 2024


Dons Protest Against The Cancellation Of Swasthika Arulingam’s Lecture At Jaffna University

It is with perplexity and disappointment we state our protest at the way Ms. Swasthika Arulingam, Attorney at law, was recently turned away from a lecture she was scheduled to deliver at the University of Jaffna. Ms. Arulingam, a human rights lawyer has championed the cause of justice in a wide array of cases and has stood by so many who had been denied justice: she has fought for the independence of the judiciary and for justice for all people; she has stood against state repression and has stood by women, minorities and other marginalised persons.  

Swasthika Arulingam

At a recent event in Colombo, Ms. Arulingam had, among many other pronouncements on the cause of justice and repressive laws, characterised the LTTE as a fascist organisation. This one remark, an aside in her speech at this unrelated event, had earned the ire of the student union of Jaffna University. 

Subsequently, when the Department of Law, University of Jaffna had invited her to deliver a lecture ironically on judicial independence in a time of crisis, on the 31st of October, 2023, certain sections of the student population, including the Student Union, had railed against the conduct of the event. They had forced the Dean and University authorities to cancel the lecture, with threats of gheraos and barricades, barring her entry into and exit from the venue. The University authorities had caved into this pressure, and had suggested a change of venue, outside the university, which Ms. Arulingam had quite rightly said no to. 

Violence in our universities needs to be checked  and countered with greater openness and discussion.  Universities are places for the exchange of ideas. They are considered the crucibles of new ideas and change. Developments such as these further undermine the history of the university as a space of freedom, a space where one can dissent without fear of retribution, essential for the flourishing of criticality. There is no place for violence and acts of intimidation in our universities. To condone censorship in such a space is a violation of this spirit. It severely compromises the substantive mandate of the university. There is, in addition, a subtle rhetoric around Ms. Arulingam’s being an ‘outsider’ who was invited ‘in’ for a talk, who therefore should have abided by the tacit rules in place. We find this attitude objectionable, because we should not subscribe to the gatekeeping of ideas nor any form of insularity in our thinking. On the contrary, universities should facilitate the open exchange of ideas, in and across the many spheres of our civil and political lives. 

It is ironic that the incident takes place at a time when university students themselves are facing severe repression from dominant state forces. In such a context, it is all the more disheartening to see that students, particularly student unions who have a certain amount of political clout and power within university spaces, engage in willful suppression of views opposed to theirs. This attitude is visible in ragging as well as in other instances of dissent, such as in this case. The fact that student politics increasingly mirror that on the national level, in spirit and in strategy, signals a dangerous trend of intolerance coming to define life at all levels of society. In this extremely trying time of a severe economic crisis, repressive laws that undo protection for the ordinary people, and a resurgence of majoritarian chauvinism in many areas of policy and populist appeal, the space for independent thinking needs to be kept alive and fought for with vigour.  

The incident at Jaffna University is a wake-up call to all of us in the university system, to jealously guard the space for independent thinking and push this ethic to the utmost. We therefore call on all in the university system – academics, students, administrators – to urgently commit to ensuring that the university remains a space of freedom, criticality, and mutual respect. We call on the University of Jaffna and all other state universities to cherish and promote these principles. In this spirit, we call on the Department of Law, University of Jaffna to re-invite Ms. Arulingam to deliver her lecture, in an affirmation of the values of freedom of expression and respect for different viewpoints that she has consistently fought for.  

  1. Udari Abeyasinghe, University of Peradeniya
  2. Ranil Abayasekara, formerly University of Peradeniya
  3. Liyanage Amarakeerthi, University of Peradeniya
  4. Dewmini Amunugama, University of Peradeniya
  5. Fazeeha Azmi, M. I.,University of Peradeniya
  6. Crystal Baines, formerly University of Colombo
  7. Imani Bakmeedeniya,University of Peradeniya
  8. Dhanuka Bandara,University of Peradeniya
  9. Shyama Banneheka,University of Peradeniya
  10. Ann Conrad, University of Peradeniya
  11. Suresh de Mel, University of Peradeniya
  12. Erandika de Silva, formerly University of Jaffna 
  13. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri, University of Colombo
  14. Kanchuka Dharmasiri, University of Peradeniya
  15. Priyan Dias, University of Moratuwa
  16. Pavithra Ekanayake, University of Peradeniya
  17. Avanka Fernando, University of Colombo
  18. Amna Frouz, University of Peradeniya
  19. G D U P K Gamage, University of Peradeniya
  20. Ruwani Gamalath, University of Peradeniya
  21. Dileni Gunewardena, University of Peradeniya
  22. Farzana Haniffa, University of Colombo
  23. S. T. Hettige, Emeritus Professor, University of Colombo
  24. Tracy Holsinger, formerly Open University of Sri Lanka. 
  25. Ishafa Illiyas, University of Peradeniya
  26. Kaushalya Jayasinghe, University of Peradeniya
  27. Prabath Jayasinghe, University of Colombo
  28. Jennifer Edama, University of Peradeniya
  29. Jeyaratnam Jeyadevan, University of Jaffna
  30. Ahilan Kadirgamar, University of Jaffna
  31. Maduranga Kalugampitiya, University of Peradeniya
  32. Madhara Karunarathne, University of Peradeniya
  33. Chulani Kodikara, formerly University of Colombo, Visiting Lecturer
  34. Manikya Kodithuwakku, Open University of Sri Lanka
  35. Yasas Kulasekara, University of Peradeniya
  36. Supoorna Kulatunga, University of Peradeniya
  37. N. Savitri Kumar, Emeritus Professor, University of Peradeniya
  38. Shamala Kumar, University of Peradeniya
  39. Vijaya Kumar Emeritus Professor, University of Peradeniya
  40. Rohan Laksiri, University of Ruhuna
  41. A. H. Lareena, Sabaragamuwa University
  42. Hasini Lecamwasam, University of Peradeniya
  43. Saumya Liyanage, University of Visual and Performing Arts, Colombo
  44. K.W.S.I.Madumali, University of Peradeniya
  45. Lahiruka Madhuwanthi, University of Peradeniya
  46. Sudesh Mantillake,University of Peradeniya
  47. Prabha Manuratne, University of Kelaniya
  48. Sitralega Maunaguru, formerly Professor at Eastern University Sri Lanka
  49. Dushyanthi Mendis, University of Colombo
  50. R. Morel, University of Peradeniya
  51. Kethakie Nagahawatte, University of Colombo
  52. M. A. Nuhman,Retired Professor,  University of Peradeniya
  53. Gananath Obeyesekere, formerly  University of Peradeniya
  54. Ranjini Obeyesekere, formerly University of Peradeniya
  55. Buddhima Padmasiri, Open University of Sri Lanka
  56. Sasinindu Patabendige,  formerly University of Jaffna
  57. Hasitha Pathirana, University of Kelaniya
  58. Pradeep Peiris, University of Colombo
  59. Ruhanie Perera, University of Colombo
  60. Hasitha Perera, University of Jaffna
  61. Kaushalya Perera, University of Colombo
  62. Nicola Perera, University of Colombo
  63. Sasanka Perera, Formerly Professor, University of Colombo
  64. Rupika Rajakaruna, University of Peradeniya
  65. Udara Rajapaksha, ,University of Peradeniya
  66. Dileeshiya Rajarathna,University of Peradeniya
  67. Muthumini Rajasooriya,University of Peradeniya
  68. Harshana Rambukwella, formerly Open University of Sri Lanka
  69. Udayana Ranatunga, University of Peradeniya
  70. Madushani Randeniya,University of Peradeniya
  71. Bhathiya Rathnayake, University of Peradeniya
  72. Sajitha Ratnayake, University of Peradeniya
  73. Gameela Samarasinghe, University of Colombo
  74. T. Sanathanan, University of Jaffna
  75. Muttukrishna Sarvananthan, University of Jaffna
  76. Dr Asanka P. Sayakkara, University of Colombo
  77. Kalana Senaratne, Dept. of Law, University of Peradeniya
  78. Hiniduma Sunil Senevi, Sabaragamuwa University
  79. Poornima Senaweera, University of Peradeniya
  80. Tudor Silva, Emeritus Professor, University of Peradeniya
  81. Krishan Siriwardhana, University of Colombo
  82. Sahani Situbandara, University of Peradeniya
  83. H. Sriyananda, formerly Open University of Sri Lanka
  84. Sivamohan Sumathy, University of Peradeniya
  85. Ruth Surenthiraraj, University of Colombo
  86. Esther Surenthiraraj, University of Colombo
  87. Vasanthi Thevansan, Emeritus Professor, University of Peradeniya
  88. Dayapala Thiranagama, formerly University of Kelaniya
  89. Mahendran Thiruvarangan, University of Jaffna
  90. Ramila Usoof, University of Peradeniya
  91. Jayadeva Uyangoda, Emeritus Professor University of Colombo
  92. Vivimarie VanderPoorten,  Open University of Sri Lanka
  93. Selvaraj Vishvika,University of Peradeniya
  94. Chamini Weerasinghe, University of Peradeniya
  95. Ruvan Weerasinghe, University of Colombo
  96. Carmen Wickramagamage,University of Peradeniya
  97. Kumudu Wickramathilaka, University of Peradeniya
  98. Ranjit Wijekoon, formerly University of Peradeniya
  99. Shalini Wijerathna,  University of Peradeniya
  100. Shermal Wijewardene, University of Colombo


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Latest comments

  • 4

    What kind of opposition TamilWin has generated against those arrests took place in the East, but so actively setting up the Jaffna University Students to deny the freedom of speech for a Colombo woman in Jaffna? Is it the TamilWin’s position that Jaffna boys and MPs should not go and protest in Batti and in the same way it doesn’t want a Colombo woman to go to Jaffna and protest against the government? We asked last time what kind of protest can stop Anuratha and Cesspool mouthed Monk going to Bati to disturb the peace over there? Where is the answer for that?
    TamilWin’s strategy seems to set in the wrong direction instead of providing an internationally acceptable strategy to internationalize the Tamils Issue. The title Puli Neeka Arasiyal itself is a title not explainable or expandable to TamilWin. The 2) video keeps repeating “Puli Neeka Arasiyal, Puli Neeka Arasiyal” just to sensationalize its opportunistic journalism. It is not sure after the end of the 15 years of Freedom War what the TamilWin claimed as Puli Neeka Arasiyal. The University boys are taken into this group of opponents of Puli Neeka Arasiyal by TamilWin only for the benefit of TGTE leadership and TamilWin.

  • 4

    There is no Puli Neeka Arasiyal in the West as TGTE prime minister claimed in the Video. 3) Langkang proscribed TGTE PM with UN resolution 1373 as LTTE member, but the US has accepted him to live there. Isn’t that in the opposite direction of what TGTE is explaining in its Puli Neeka Araisyal of the West? ? What a generous act of the US!

    It is not sure if this campaign is organized and fought against the Puli Neeka Arasial group or its Tamilwin is creating a mirage, hoping its flow as a mighty river in reality. Will, one day this so-called group “Opponents of Puli Neeka Arasiyal” become a massive organization and will have the Tamils liberated from the powerful Sinhala Buddhist Government which remains a nightmare for the powerful super power and international organization. I don’t know who this Lady lawyer is, but no country in the world gave her a penny on the topic of Puli Neeka Arasiyal. These Modayas don’t understand that she is communist. Western government won’t accept her as a partner. They may accept Anura as their friend, because he can do things, if he wants. That is completely out of the scope of this comment.

  • 4

    No Western government paid even a penny to Ms. Arulingam. These guys are framing Puli Neeka Arasiyal as a West story because they know that if they associate the story with the LTTE, that sells well. This is a sin they are doing against so many thousands of people who sacrificed themselves for their dream land.

  • 3

    Why should I jump in at this late stage, you may wonder.
    There is something missing … … .
    A university is just not for academic pursuits. It has to promote stimulating the mind.
    It will be the responsibility of the Campus security to ensure that things don’t get out of hand; not that of the Dons.

    • 0

      Regret: My comment was made in haste. Please disregard.

      • 4

        “Why should I jump in at this late stage, you may wonder.”
        “Regret: My comment was made in haste. Please disregard.”
        Now you should wonder!

  • 7

    Isn’t it surprising there are so many responses to this item. All we need to recognize about Swas’ comment is that it was correct. An organization that murdered so many of the very people it claimed to represent is indeed a fascist one. End of.

    • 9

      Yes, and we also need to recognize that a government and armed forces that are supposed to represent the entire nation irrespective of ethnicity, language spoken and religion, marginalizing, discriminating, committing war crimes, structural genocide and deliberately killing hundreds of thousands of a certain section in the name of Sinhalese Buddhism is also fascist and terrorist. If the LTTE that was only responsible for around 5% of the killings was fascist and terrorist, then what is the Sri Lankan state and armed forces? You cannot be very selective in your criticism. She criticized one which committed far less crimes but ignored the state sponsored terrorism and war crimes committed on the island’s Tamils and still being committed. End of

      • 2

        R25: I don’t buy that. Making an accurate comment about the Tigers doesn’t have to come with another of the SL state all the time. Elsewhere she has been sharply, and courageously, critical of SL state. The important thing here is not her views, but the poor knowledge Jaffna University students have of their own history. Would they have heard of the poet Chelvi, student Vijitharan or lecturer Rajini? I think that university needs better teachers to educate the ignorant kids.

  • 8

    “Who CALLS THEIR KID THAT NAME? After how the Nazis used that symbol, it is BLATANTLY IMMORAL TO HAVE THAT NAME”
    Historically, go back to Sanskrit, 4th century BCE, instead of 19th century European usage!!!??? Recent common usage is 20th century CE – adverting to sign usage by warring Fuhrer of Germany, Adolf Hitler!!??
    Hindu usage predates Fascism and Hitler who was undoubtedly a Grand Opportunist who used an old/ancient Hindu/Jain and Sanskrit sign!!! So did our recent Messiah and nationalist redeemer!!

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