30 November, 2020

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Sinhalese Army Harasses Tamil Students: Reconciliation Or Repression In Jaffna University?

By Kumar David

Prof Kumar David

Let there be no doubt about it; the military entering Jaffna University, framing allegations and incarcerating Tamil students is intended to send a chilling and brutal message to all Tamil dissent. “We have crushed you once, don’t dare raise your heads again; we will do it again. Learn your place as second class citizens of Lanka; a new social order has been defined. Live with it!”  The reconciliation and rebuilding covenant that Rajapakse tried to sell to the international community has caved in; the age of another round of ethnic conflict is opening up.

Let’s get the facts on the table as far as known; and I rely on sources that are credible. It all started when Tamil students in the University decided to commemorate their war dead which undoubtedly included many LTTE cadres – so what! – and chose to do so on Heroes Day. The military intervened and broke up the commemoration, not because there was any disturbance of the peace, but because Tamils were commemorating their war dead and LTTE cadres were among the fallen. So the Sinhala-Buddhist state is going to lay down to the Tamil people who and what they are allowed to commemorate! This is the quintessential definition of racial oppression.

I am tired of explaining that I am not and have never been a LTTE member or sympathiser, despite Sinhala chauvinists attempting to pigeon hole me thus, most recently subtly assisted by Vasudeva Nanayakkara, but that I am most vehemently opposed to the Sinhala-Buddhist state laying down how the Tamils should conduct their lives, I have never hidden. This is the essence of what has happened on Jaffna Campus; the Sinhalese will decide who and what the Tamils are allowed to commemorate or celebrate. It’s just one step short of the army deciding how the Tamils should think.

The defence establishment is now arm twisting the staff to commence lectures although students are on strike till their colleagues in detention are released. The defence establishment (I do not want to quote names until I am able to get verification) has decided that detained students must undergo rehabilitation. This was not decided by a court of law, this was a unilateral decision of the military without sanction of any judicial process. The Rajapakse government is quite prepared to play fast and loose with due process whether it be impeachment of a Chief Justice or forced indoctrination of university students with no process in law to justify its arbitrary actions in either case. It is palpably clear that Tamils will not be allowed to conduct their affairs, in their areas of domicile, free of military coercion and a Sinhalese dictate, for many more years and for so long as the Rajapakse regime rules Sri Lanka.

The chauvinism of the government and the military repression are taken as given, but what to my mind is most disturbing is the neglect and indifference of the Sinhalese public and the English language and Sinhalese media, without exception. This is where the roots of future ethnic dynamite lie dormant, but for how much longer? The same has to said about the fires of anti-Muslim pogroms being stoked by dark forces, while press and public play blind-man’s-buff. Even the SLMC is more interested in protecting its cabinet posts and perks than in what may happen to the Muslim people, so it won’t make trouble for Rajapakse or make a fuss about the issue.

Letter from over 100 lecturers

About 120 lecturers of the University of Jaffna have sent an open letter to President Rajapakse titled “Grave and dangerous plight of students of the University of Jaffna”. Unsurprisingly, it has got no coverage in the press so far as I am aware (this is being written on Christmas Day). I am reproducing parts of it, considerably abridged, below.

It began with the Army entering the students’ hostels on 27th November, ostensibly to prevent the lighting of flames. The occasion had a political association that has polarized society and the community needs space to discuss its significance and to sort out its own differences. Default on the part of the Government through continued presence of the military without tangible moves towards a political settlement, has helped the mobilisation of youthful feelings to turn it into a day of defiance, where its original association becomes less important. The Army entering the halls, separating the Sinhalese from the Tamil students and showing hostility to and even threatening the latter has serious implications for the future.

The demonstration on the following day, 28th, was a protest carrying slogans that were well within the norms of democratic protest. If the students had been allowed to walk the short distance from the main entrance on Parameswara Road and re-enter by the Science Faculty entrance nothing untoward would have happened. Rather than calm the situation matters were made worse by the Police physically attacking the students.

The same night a petrol bomb exploded at the Sri-TELO camp behind the University. Security around the university, including by several agents in mufti, had been very tight and we find it puzzling that the perpetrators got away scot-free. Even more remarkable is that Kopay Police was able to come up with names of four persons to arrest over the incident, which evidently no one had given them. We are confident that these students had nothing to do with bomb throwing. Two were arrested at their homes before the night was out and two were handed over by the University authorities the following day. They were all detained under the PTA and taken to Vavuniya.

There were several acts of harassment in the University by persons in mufti and the interrogation of an assistant lecturer over the phone over his casual reference to heroes’ day in response to a text query by a Sinhalese student. These reveal an attempt to tackle a political question through heavy handed intimidation. Instead of putting an end to the insanity, more followed.

On the morning of 6th December, the university administration was given a list containing names of ten persons to be produced at the Jaffna Police Station, without any intimation of the reasons or the charges against them. The news shocked the university community and parents were distraught. A study of the list convinced us that all these students were wanted only because they were well known as prominent in student activities.

The war is long over and the PTA is most inappropriate to deal with questions that are political in nature. To see terrorism in political gestures and political opinion that do not take recourse to violence and to respond to them by an overwhelming show of force, is both illogical and counter-productive. There is now no anti-state terrorism in Jaffna. An important part of consolidating peace is for the State to conduct itself in a manner that induces respect for the rule of law. Of immediate concern to the University is that in 2011 student leaders were twice attacked and grievously injured by men wielding metal rods. The reasons were entirely political and they had not committed any crime. The Police showed no interest in arresting the culprits. Now using the petrol bomb explosion as a pretext the Police seem determined to detain and harass student leaders and those active who had nothing to do with the bomb.

The result is to cause considerable fear, anxiety and trauma among the students. More importantly dragging innocent students through police stations and police cells, as happened in the 1970s and 1980s, hardens them and breeds contempt for the law and for the officers entrusted to uphold it. Where there should be trust and co-operation there is fear, resentment, and then defiance. Surely, we do not want the consequences of that again.

The purpose of reproducing portions of this letter is not because I suffer from illusions that the political leadership or the military authorities will take any notice of it. It is the hope that some sections at least of Sinhalese opinion will respond that motivates me.

Correction: Tissa Jayatilaka has pointed out that a quote I attributed to Macbeth in my CT piece of 15 December (“The Pakse Authoritarian Project”) in from Hamlet Act III, Sc.3. The slip up and my irreversible aging are regretted.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    The ghost of VP is haunting the Top of the Forces, viz Gota-affi and
    to keep nagging about the long dead LTTE is to keep the Sinhala Voters
    in fear and the Army planted in the North, far from what the LLRC
    wanted. MRs blessings go with it undoubtedly. Let us hope some
    light dawns on these two Brothers for the sake of Sinhala well-being.

  • 0
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    Gota-ffi and Mad -hinda are bad apples. Must be removed from the basket soon.

    • 0
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      Hi Kumaraya

      Not a bad idea. Who is going to do that? Will that be you and your dudes of Tamil Die-Ass-Poo-ra? Good luck with your thoughts!!!. Perhaps after another 20 odd years.

  • 0
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    The President seems reluctant to intrude into the brothers domain. The great president receives a letter from his subjects but remains silent because he is afraid to utter one word of restraint. Looks like there is an understanding and power divided at the top.

    However they cannot escape the condemnation of all decent people who have children wether they be Tamil, Sinhala or Muslim. Being parents we know very well the love and care with which we bring up our own children. It is intolerable that the youth and future of this country is subjected to this type of abuse.

  • 0
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    Kumar David is fighting to promote Lawless-ness.

  • 0
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    USA, because of just one incidence which killed over 2000 people, if just one person, who uttered the word BOMB inside the Airport, would have arrested that person, questioned, closed the airport for hours and who knew what happened to that person ?

    Sri Lanka suffered for 30 years. these University students are supporting that.

    Kumar David though you say you are a professor, I think you are just Stupid.

    • 0
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      Jim Softly, after 30 years of untold hardship, guiltless bloodshed, one would expect you to mellow a wee bit. Unfortunately you don’t want to cross the us vs. them line. Thus far we will remain a nation poised for more blood shed and more pain!

      would be pleased if you could change your pseudo name to something more reflective of your attitude to life in general

      • 0
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        Something like yours (MY Foote???). Do not preach if you cannot adhere to your own preaching dude.

  • 0
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    GOTHA BAYA GULLA IS TERRORIZING HIS SIBLINGS INTO SUBMISSION. SOON HE WILL BE THE DICTATOR

  • 0
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    These people always want ethnic tension to prevail .They know only in such environment they can thrive and survive well.

  • 0
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    Hi Sir,

    I am proud of you while reading article about the Jaffna University student’s issue.
    It is very difficult for civilized people to talk or write the facts about and against Rajapakse regime.
    But you are dared to write what you thing right.
    May god give you long life and courage to continue your service in support to oppressed.

    Regards,

    Kuna

  • 0
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    Dr Kumar David now you have come-out Tamil Racsism in your politics Packege of related to Jaffna University student issue. Do You want to show to Interantinaol community, that an Issue of Jaffana problem of NOT LTTE realted terrororism ,is RACIST ONE Sinhalese against Tamils.And you have created concord of story against Sinhalese Army are suppresing Tamils Students in Jaffana is also, TAMIL -RACISM!
    DR Divid you have start again sepereaism, secessionism ,Eelamism and TAMIL RACISISM to encourage Armed terrorism in north,as a NEW form of STRUGGLE encouring among Tamil youth in Jaffana University.
    This is nothing NEW politics ,indeed is VULTURE POLTICS OF LTTE-TERRORIST. AND PREPARING NEW GROUND WORK FOR IDEALOGY OF RASISM TO ENCOURAGING TAMIL-SEPEREATISM FOR ANOTHER CIVIL WAR BETWEEN TAMIL TERRORIST AND SECURITY FORCES IN SRI LANKA.
    This will be another negative trend to undermine HARAMONY BETWEEN SINHALESE AND TAMIL PEOPLE AFTER THE END OF 30 YEARS WAR 2009 May.
    Your hypocrisy of ‘Socilaism’ and ‘Democracy’ has been reveal by YOUR essay, but its real term of politics and your set of mind is NOT Socialism.

    • 0
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      Kumar David

      Your thoughts are no different to Ole Brain Seneviratna of Brisbane Aus. Is Brian happened a relatve of yours? If not, the most people will be surprised.

      As a so-called educated person, I am also shamed to learn the level of your thouhghts on the issue in SL. Have you got any constructive thoughts other than utter and racist rubbish above?

  • 0
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    David,look here you have not mentioned any where that students through out petrol bombs to out site from their hostel.if that happen even in the south they will come to hostels and search all in the building.some time any matter can not be considered as Tamil issues due to leading Sinhalese government in the country.you must understand that majority people are Sinhalese and it is the nature of the any where,they will rule the country.look the situation in Malaysia,any Tamil will talk same way against the majority Malay people in the country,do you have system in the world to rule minority people in the country?if you can ADVICE to stop violence and peace you will get what you needs otherwise ask again Indian red dall

  • 0
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    Kumar David

    You must have forgotten that SL Defence Forces could go wherever in this country if the national security is disturbed. Where were you when Podian Praba and his goons ran a muck in this country? Hiding behind your mama’s saree with wet pants?

  • 0
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    David Kumar is a true instigator of trouble. He tries so hard to sound intelligent and unbiased, yet he shines like no other as a pure Tamil racist. You do no service to your people Sir. This poor man is a broken record, everything he chooses to speak on, comes out sounding the same.

  • 0
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    Dr. David, Good article to the point.
    “This is the essence of what has happened on Jaffna Campus; the Sinhalese will decide who and what the Tamils are allowed to commemorate or celebrate. It’s just one step short of the army deciding how the Tamils should think”
    k”.
    “{the age of another round of ethnic conflict is opening up.”

    Agree with your statement 100%.

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