19 September, 2020

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Jaffna University: In the Shadow Of War And Peace On A War-Footing

Jaffna University professors are threatened and the University is closed without giving any explanation.

Secretary MOD Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Secretary MOD Gotabaya Rajapaksa

“Early in the week beginning on 5th May, events bearing on the anniversary of the end of the war on 18th May followed in quick succession. The Registrar sent out letters announcing the closure of the University from 16th to 20th May with no explanation. On the 7th leaflets were posted on the University premises making death threats against professors who are allegedly guiding students to support terrorism and student leaders of just the Arts and Science faculties and the leader of the University Student’s Union. The academics threatened are Prof. Sivanathan, Dean of Arts, and Mr. Rasakumaran, Head of the English Language Teaching Centre, and the leader of the University Teachers’ Association. The same day, Major General Udaya Perera invited university officials, including the Vice Chancellor, deans, and student leaders, for discussions the following day, 8th, where they were garlanded, feasted and flattered with dancers and singers. General Perera told them very politely that no observance in the University would be permitted on the 18th, as any observance would amount to extolling the late LTTE leader Prabhakaran and would thus count as an inducement to terrorism. SSP Jaffna told the Sunday Times (11th May),’Any persons trying to hoist black flags, distribute leaflets or put up posters will be Considered supporting of terrorism and such persons will be taken into custody under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.’ says the Jaffna University Science Teachers’ Association.

Issuing a statement JUSTA Dr. J.P. Jeyadevan today asked; Why should Tamils speaking of the war be such an explosive issue five years after it ended, a war in which neither side owned a monopoly on terrorism?

We publish below the statement in full;

Jaffna University: In the Shadow of War and Peace On A War-Footing

Postwar, Jaffna University has shown considerable promise. After the lethargy and isolation of the war years, students from all communities are studying in the University, showing greater interest in their studies and library usage has livened up. The challenge is to provide a quality academic environment and reputation for probity in administration so that these students who work hard will take away with them the qualifications that are respected for worthy intellectual effort. Then we have ominous intrusions that dash hopes of the University regaining the stature it had in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Early in the week beginning on 5th May, events bearing on the anniversary of the end of the war on 18th May followed in quick succession. The Registrar sent out letters announcing the closure of the University from 16th to 20th May with no explanation. On the 7th leaflets were posted on the University premises making death threats against professors who are allegedly guiding students to support terrorism and student leaders of just the Arts and Science faculties and the leader of the University Student’s Union. The academics threatened are Prof. Sivanathan, Dean of Arts, and Mr. Rasakumaran, Head of the English Language Teaching Centre, and the leader of the University Teachers’ Association. The same day, Major General Udaya Perera invited university officials, including the Vice Chancellor, deans, and student leaders, for discussions the following day, 8th, where they were garlanded, feasted and flattered with dancers and singers. General Perera told them very politely that no observance in the University would be permitted on the 18th, as any observance would amount to extolling the late LTTE leader Prabhakaran and would thus count as an inducement to terrorism. SSP Jaffna told the Sunday Times (11th May),“Any persons trying to hoist black flags, distribute leaflets or put up posters will be Considered supporting of terrorism and such persons will be taken into custody under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.”

Why should Tamils speaking of the war be such an explosive issue five years after it ended, a war in which neither side owned a monopoly on terrorism? The answer has to do with the ideological polarization that remains because there is even less hope now of a political settlement to the national question that has been with us from Independence. Let us not forget that the Government is to observe the same anniversary in grand style in Matara, as the sole author of victory over the LTTE, and with all the pomp and circumstance that goes on around it.

Is it to prevent the Sinhalese people from asking awkward questions that the Government needs to play on their fears by harping on the revival of terrorism?

Why should the Tamils be barred from remembering thousands of people, young and old, most of them innocent, who died during the last phase of the war? They were scattered; many were separated from their families and many died when their loved ones were not in a position to mourn. The Tamil people should have the freedom to mourn collectively the untimely death of a large number of members of their community whether or not the dead persons are members of their family. When Sinhalese people remember dead JVP insurgents they are not subjected by the authorities to such repressive measures.

While the Government wants to use the war for political deception, it is only to be expected that its obverse, in the wake of hopelessness and humiliation in being forced to accept  the Sinhalisation of their lands and symbols, and the erasure of huge civilian suffering in the latter months of the war, might lead to latent nostalgia for the LTTE – despite the anger against its holding the civilians hostage in the last stages of the war. The way to deal with such nostalgia is allow people to express themselves freely, and to ensure that the mechanisms of justice function to eradicate, and not to instate impunity.

The war is part of our history and we need to talk about it frankly, not just the end of it, but about the depraved politics on all sides that sustained it for three decades and even after its close, conspire to hold us in the mire of partisanship for decades to come. It is the very task of a university to offer the community leadership on such questions. But a politicized university that the authorities try to sanitize and repress cannot contribute to the task of reconciliation with dignity. This is evident in the way the University was closed.

The Registrar and Vice Chancellor are responsible for issuing the notice of closure referred to, but have evaded questions and refused to take responsibility. The threatening notices in the University again singled out the Dean of Arts, Prof. Sivanathan, as trying to revive the LTTE. The authorities and the Council should have condemned such crude intimidation, which strikes at the very root of a University – that the LTTE did this in its day is no excuse. The Dean was practically the only member of the Council to oppose, as he had done before, the recent recruitment as Computer Application Assistants a list of unqualified persons at the behest of a political party that virtually runs the Council. He rebuked the Council that this was a ‘malpractice’.

The issue of freedom to discuss the war thus runs much deeper; it is about defending academic freedom and excellence. It is to do with political appointments to the non-academic staff, which adds another dimension to surveillance and the appearance of threatening posters, as well as favouritism in academic appointments. Sadly these kinds of threats are not new to Jaffna University: in the post-war period threats against students and staff were issued in 2010, 2011, and 2012. The culture of threat and surveillance at the university affects everyone who works there: spying and intrigue inhibit collegiality and the open exchange of ideas that are needed to produce excellent teaching and scholarship. If the university cannot be a safe place for the exercise of freedom of speech, for dissent and debate; if faculty are afraid to teach known facts, if students are afraid to attend classes, and if rehabilited ex-combatants are never allowed to pursue their studies but are continually detained, pressurized, or made into informers, then we are not only  cheating our youth of the chance positively to change their futures, but cheating our entire society of the opportunity  to transform itself for the good of all who live in Lanka. Repression and intimidation only leads to further self-censorship and silence; this may secure acquiescence, but at the expense of the truth, which is at the heart of scientific inquiry, and of all knowledge. The university simply cannot function under these circumstances.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. J.P. Jeyadevan, President JUSTA

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Latest comments

  • 8
    1

    A question was recently asked in which country has there been a celebration to commemorate the victory of a civil war? Well this question made me to think. What are we trying to celebrate. The regime is trying to celebrate the victory of the armed forces which have been under constant accusation of violating human rights, for the benefit of votes. The Tamils want to celebrate the death of the LTTE soldiers and the civilians to keep the genocide claim alive. Both purposes in my mind are wrong.

    In actual fact what all the Sri Lankans should do, irrespective of the religions or races is to observe a day of prayer for the souls of the dead and to reflect upon the evils of the war.

    In both cases the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, children, relatives all have been affected by the death of a family member. It does not matter what sort of celebration we have, deep in their hearts the lost ones relatives are suffering a lot.

    Its stupid to call for any celebration, it should be a day of prayer.

    • 8
      0

      Park

      It should be more than just a day of prayer. This could have been the day when MR had an golden opportunity to unite people of Sri Lanka people all races and religion. But he blew it away and succmbed to Gota’s Sinhala nationalism.

      One hand the Govt says they liberated the Tamils from the clutches of LTTE terrorism. If so why not let the Tamils also observe this day and pay repsect to all their kith and kin who perished in the war including women, children, old men and old women, brtohers and sisters, mothers and fathers, including sons, daughters, those who were forcibly recruited by LTEE and perished and also pay respect to the Sinhala Soldiers who sacrificed their life to liberate the Tamils form the clutches of LTTE Terrorism!

      What is the Govt scared of?

      • 2
        0

        Colombo civil society should organize a candle lite vigil to commemorate the dead in the war on May 18, and protest the Rajapaksa regime’s militarization and victory parade in the land of the Sinhala Modayas.

        Keeping the war alive with victory celebrations is the Mahinda Jarapassa regime’s principle means to DISTRACT Sinhala Modayas from the Rajapaksa family and cronies’ CORRUPTION AND CRIMINALITY

        No RECONCILIATION with minorities is possible because Mahinda Rajapaksa needs minorities to be the THREAT EXCUSE and build up the Sinhala military – to secure and protect the Jarapassa dictatorship. The name of the Rajapaksa game is DISTRACT (with racist attacks against minorities who “do not exist”), DIVIDE and RULE the Sinhala Modayas!

        The dead tiger and minorities are Gota’s excuse to keep a massive and expensive military and STATE TERRORISM APPARATUS in place to protect the Jarapassa dictatorship. Gota the goon in using Islamophobia and guess what, the dead tiger – to militarize Lanka and rule the Sinhala Modayas..

    • 2
      0

      You are right. There is no reason to celebrate the end of the war. Perhaps for the rajapaksa regime, it is something to boast about, and they were propelled into having more powers after killing terrorists, and anyone else in their way, but articles like this only remind us, that everything is not what it appears to be in the North. There are thousands of people still looking for their loved ones, who have lost their property and valuables, and are still living in limbo. As usual, the regime keeps conjuring up scenarios, to remind the country that there are terrorists still lurking about, so that desperate Sri Lankans will continue to turn to them, and ignore the crimes committed by them. In Colombo people simply shrug their shoulders, and ignore the plight of the people in the North, having no compassion for victims of the war, and their suffering.

      • 1
        0

        The Joint opposition and civil society should have a candle lite vigil in Colombo to remember ALL who lost their lives in the civil war in Sri Lanka on May 19.

        This should be a a simple and dignified alternative commemoration to Mahinda Jarapassa’s celebration of his so-called victory and of the Sinhala Modayas over Tamils in Matara.

  • 4
    0

    Embassies of the International Community , Mr Sharma of the Commonealth Secretariet, Human Rights Council in Geneva please note.

  • 1
    0

    The Police cum Military State seeks to wipe off collective memories of tamils about the butchering of batches of tamils since independence until the final mass murder in May 2009.
    Even grief is a luxury to relatives left behind to suffer the post war indignities and human rights violations – now taken up for inquiry by UNHRC.
    Now four more tamils have been killed to invent a ‘resurgence’ of LTTE,to justify continued repression.

  • 0
    11

    Let’s cut the crap and get to the point.

    Those who want to grieve for the lives lost on May 17th or 18th are really not grieving for all the lives lost during the last days of the war. They are really grieving for the death in Nandikadal of the most brutal cold blooded killer of the innocents in Sri Lanka for the last 30 years before May 2009.

    So dear LTTE lovers come and say it. It is very correct and proper that Jaffna University as well as all institutions that want to Cry for Fat Ugly Prabha be closed down and any one want to demonstrate or make a hue and cry be locked up.

    Why the heck can’t the Sri Lankan government blend the population of north and east with more and more members from the majority. This should be carried out within the next two years at least, so that there is a balance in the population demography.

    JP/USA

    • 5
      0

      Jay Pathbey the pathetic

      “They are really grieving for the death in Nandikadal of the most brutal cold blooded killer of the innocents in Sri Lanka for the last 30 years before May 2009.”

      So the Sinhala parents grieve for their lost children who were members of the terrorist JVP but the those who grieve in the North East actually grieving the death of LTTE.

      You are either brutally honest or suffering from a mild form of sadism.

      Sadism defined as

      Psychiatry. the condition in which sexual gratification depends on causing pain or degradation to others. Compare masochism.

      any enjoyment in being cruel.

      extreme cruelty.

    • 0
      0

      JP,

      Are you saying VP still rules? even after his death!

      Tamils living in the rest of the world mourns (some for their dear ones, some maybe for VP), but Tamils in Lanka not allowed, and the SLG says Tamils are free and liberated!

      :-)

    • 3
      0

      Yes lets cut the crap, starting with you.
      You want to flood the North and East with Sinhalese as a final solution to the Tamil problem. It is demographic colonisation to further Sinhala Island wide supremacy and permanent oppression of Tamils.

  • 0
    4

    Do Jaffna uni students have to hoist the LTTE Flag and sing hosannas to the LTTE leader Prabakaran?.

    Who benefit from this celebration?.

    Is it the Jaffna studeents or the Vellala TNA and its current ally the Diaspora?.

    How many Vellala kids are in the Arts faculty?

    If there any, do they go around pasting posters and get beaten up from people who want to live in peace?.

    One of the gripes of the Tamil politicians in the TNA is deprival of education to Tamils.

    Their current hero Prabakran prevented Jaffna Uni producing any graduates for 30 years.

    Jaffna Uni, once the epitome of Academic excellence in SL is now mostly rehabilitated by the Govt,

    And guess who are trying to sabotage it?.

    Isn’t it the same LTTE supporters, their agents and the sponsors overseas?.

    Aren’t the Vellala as well as non Vellala kids in the Diapsora working hard to get into good Universities in London, Toronto, Sydney and Melbourne?.

    Do their parents encourage them to hoist Flags for the LTTE and wreck their studies in Law, Medicine and Commerce or even Arts ?.

    Professors Sivanathan and Rasakumaran have already got their degrees.,

    Now they can get even Green cards and Protection Visas on the back of these naive students from poor rural villagers..

    But the people who are going to suffer are the non Vellala kids and their parents in poor rural areas like Mullative, Puddithikruppu and Killinochchi.

    • 0
      0

      Kipenasekaram,

      COntact the Department of Survey for the correct spelling of your “Pundathirippu” and it’s G’physical position.

  • 2
    0

    During the aparthied period in South Africa , blacks were not allowed in to white only christian church. Blacks were allowed only for the cleaning job such as clean the floor etc.

    This black child was on his knees in the church hall in front of the massive cross.

    The priest walked in and saw the black child. The priest yelled at the balck boy. “you black boy what are you doing kneeling down in front of the cross you know you blacks are not allowed to pray her”.

    The black boy replied “I am not praying I am cleaning the floor”

    The priest replied “that’s ok then, dont let me catch you praying here”

    • 0
      0

      So There is nothing to stop the Tamils to mourn the death of their kith and kin and war heroes.

  • 0
    3

    It was a foolish decision by SIRIMA to build a university in Jaffna.

    They don’t deserve this.

    Anything you give to Tamils, they will use it ONLY for Tamils and deprive others.

    What a bunch of losers.

    How many Tamils are studying in Colombo University?

    • 2
      0

      Tamils don’t need the GOSL to build anyything for them; Tamils only need GOSL to stay out of their way but GOSL being the Sinhala genocidal entity it is does its best to obstruct Tamils any chance it gets.

  • 0
    0

    If the Jaffna University was the fountainhead of knowledge, knife edge of profound thought, repository of culture, the spearhead of societal awakening and represented evolving societal dreams and technology, it could not have been closed, by shutting down and guarding its gates.

    It is a glorified cram shop that awards degrees and is called a university, by those who do not understand what a university should be. It represents everything that blights Tamil society. It perpetuates mediocrity and is a dead weight on society. It does not represent the pulse of the Tamils and resonate to their deep felt and long standing needs. It is only a mass of concrete, metal, wood, asbestos and glass that houses mediocrity at all levels and multiplies it every passing year. Except for students crowding its corridors seeking the paper called the degree and their parents, society at large will not be affected by its closure.

    However, the reason why it was closed is a matter of concern. Was the government trying to prevent the university being used to commemorate the LTTE? If so, has it done its part to make the LTTE a distant memory? Why does it have to fear the LTTE yet, after proclaiming time and again that terrorism has been eradicated? Why close the Jaffna University, while planning to celebrate victory day in Matara? Why this contradiction? If it had negated the reasons why the LTTE was born and became what it did, why should it fear the resurgence of the LTTE? Why is it trying to mislead the people time and time again, with the Tiger bogey.

    If it has been fair by the Tamils of the north, the victory celebrations should have been in Jaffna on the fifth anniversary, with the Tamils joining in the celebrations! The government seems to need the LTTE back in some form or as a figment of its creative imagination, in order to survive the current crisis of confidence both within the island and without.

    This is in stalk contrast to the view of most Tamils that the LTTE was part of a long dream that hurt them grievously and almost destroyed them as a people. They do not want that monster back, come what may, despite the noise of the few who feel otherwise.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 3
    0

    I strongly urge all Tamils who have suffered the loss of their loved ones (dead or missing) to commemmorate them by fasting from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the 18th. Drink only plain water during fasting, not hot or cold beverages. End the fast with a simple vegetarian meal. Do this at home, not in public.

    The GOSL cannot arrest a person for fasting, can they?

    • 0
      1

      They can’t arrest someone for fasting Ramasamy. Not yet anyway! But in this day and age, one never knows. Cooked up cases are now the pattern in this thrice-blessed isle.

    • 0
      0

      Fasting from 8p.m. to 8a.m. is much propitious and wholesome to the health.

    • 1
      0

      As the commemoration has to be both private, but yet visible in some form, I would suggest that in addition to the fasting, every person/family, whether Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim or other, who lost family members to the vicious events (riots, insurrections and wars)of the post-independence era, light a covered candle in a visible place in their garden on the day the Victory Day is celebrated with military parades in Matara. The candle cover should be in red.

      This would unite us as a people at least in our sorrow.

      Are we capable of doing this?

      National Peace Council, can your organization promote and publicize such a nation-wide effort?

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 0
    1

    Ramasamy, do us all a big favour.

    Fast indifitely.

    That will get rid of this bunch of nuts.

    JP/USA

    • 3
      0

      Why are you in the US while your fellow Sinhala nationalists are lashing out at the US.

  • 3
    0

    jay pathbey

    “Ramasamy, do us all a big favour. Fast indifitely. That will get rid of this bunch of nuts. “

    Its a very good advice.

    Let them follow Weeawansa and farce onto death.

    • 0
      0

      You silly venting brute how dare you criticize of the formidable Weerawangisa’s fart unto death act.

      • 1
        0

        Koteshwar Peddi

        “You silly venting brute how dare you criticize of the formidable Weerawangisa’s fart unto death act.”

        Sorry I have misspelled farce. How far were you when he started his ceremonially declared event? Were you in the front of him or right behind him?

  • 1
    0

    I don’t think anyone wants to raise ltte flag in the jaffna university (may be never!). tamils want to grieve for the civilians lost on this period (student’s mom/dad/bro/sis etc).thats all.

    university should make sure that any direct participants for this killings (ltte/sl army)should not be remembered within university premises.

    my sinhala brothers, what do you fell when an army officer order the university of perdeniya vc/registar to meet him to discuss any university students issues?
    is this the freedom you gave to tamils students/ vc etc in jaffna!!!!!!

  • 0
    0

    Whoever this fellow is pointing at is a dead man walking.

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