By Karu Jayasuriya –
What was unleashed at the Pambahinna junction along the Colombo Badulla main road on a group of Sabaragamuwa University Students is by no means an action by a civilized Government of a civilized nation that values basic human dignity. Launching of peaceful demonstrations is an inherent right within a democratic system and no person has any right to rob that from anyone.
The Sabaragamuwa University students launched this Satyagraha campaign as a protest against the abolition of the University Students Unions, suspension of some students from the University and non-implementation of recommendations of the Human Rights commission. It was against this kind of peaceful and just campaign that some political thugs were unleashed. According to eye witness reports as well as those of the police investigations, these attacks were directly attributable to some Government politicians in the local area. Therefore, there is no moral right for the Government to abdicate from its primary responsibility. This is clearly an extension of the unilateral and dictatorial way in which this Government is treating the University Students. Instead of viewing these student problems with sensitive hearts and minds, the Government has chosen to show its might and authority in the silliest fashion. We are most adamant in our appeal to the Government that they must be utterly impartial in the way they handle this sensitive issue regarding University students who are an integral thread in our social fabric.
History has shown us that University students have always shown a propensity towards militancy. The present Minister of Higher education who had been a University student himself, once in his past should realize this indisputable fact.
On the other hand, the problems that the Sabaragamuwa Students are clamoring about are not only limited to that University. They are common to all universities scattered in the Island. University students should have a correct platform to take their grievances to. There is no way in which can they agitate about their grievances if their main Unions has been abrogated. That is why they are looking for alternative avenues.
We could have avoided all these unnecessary and unfortunate incidents had the authorities looked impartially into the grievances of our University students and sought right answers. The problem arises when they turn a blind eye and show lack sensitivity to their grievances. They are used to viewing all students’ problems with a warped mind and skewed eye. A meaningful solution to all the student problems could be arrived at through a proper dialogue between the University authorities and the student bodies. In such a scenario, local politicians have no role to play whatsoever. These local politicos obviously were acting on instruction received from outside bigwigs.
The Sabaragamuwa University remains closed to date. That seems to be the answer the authorities have given to student problems. It is only illusionary if they think that they could solve all these problems through such timid and simple methods. Instead of closing the Universities the Government must make every effort to address the issues pertaining to students.
The physical resources and the security of the University students is at great danger. Three years ago, a student was electrocuted due to the negligence of the authorities. One year ago, a wall collapsed and it was fortunate that there was nobody close to the collapsed wall. The Sabaragamuwa University has managed to acquire such clandestine reputation. It is incumbent upon the Government which is boasting about being sensitive to student unrest in the Universities to look at these numerous issues with compassion and sensitivity. The Sabaragamuwa University matter has reached such unsolvable heights because of the sheer incompetence of the Government and its University authorities.
In this convoluted context, we appeal to the government to address all issues pertaining to University students in general and Sabaragamuwa students in particular to resolve this matte without any further delay.
*Karu Jayasuriya, Chairman Leadership Council, UNP