The recent clash between the students at the Jaffna University has shown the increasing need to enhance people-to-people engagement to develop greater understanding and sensitivity to the concerns of each ethnic and religious community, while also understanding the reasons for the frustration of the students.
“While the government, Tamil parties and liberal academics are having a positive rapport at the highest levels, this relationship of trust and cooperation has yet to permeate the student consciousness. This problem is likely to exist at the larger community level also. There is a need for a more concerted effort to be made for people-to-people engagement to develop greater understanding and sensitivity to the concerns of each ethnic and religious community,” the National peace Council (NPC) said.
The NPC also said that it is necessary for the government and university administration to keep reasonable ethnic ratios in mind when allocating places for students to universities in different parts of the country.
Emphasizing its point further, NPC noted that the Jaffna clash follows a clash March this year between Tamil and Sinhalese university students in the Trincomalee campus over an incident of ragging.
“The high proportion of Sinhalese amounting to between 60 to 80 percent of the student body in some of the university faculties in the North and East has caused a feeling of being under pressure by the influx of Sinhalese students in traditionally Tamil (and Muslim) areas,” the statement said.
According to NPC, the changed ethnic composition of the student body is invariably accompanied by a change in the administrative composition of the university system. “Both these factors may be viewed with anxiety by the Tamil and Muslim communities in the North and East who are seeking to protect their identity not least in the areas in which they are a majority,” the statement added.