1 December, 2020

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Universities & Student Protests: Too Much Blood 

By Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

Sri Lanka has a lot of protests, most of them conducted by local universities. We protest everything – governments, private education, scholarships, private education, private education… you get the picture. It seems that every other month there’s a couple of metal barricades and one of them water cannon machines rolling up the road.

I’ve had the unfortunate experience of being caught up in a couple of these, and the level of thought gone into these is incredible. Mindless chanters – check. Coerced students – check. Placards. Banners onna stick. Firebrands strung at strategic intervals to make sure everyone’s equally involved. There are always university students who, for fear of ragging, temporarily take up the robes of a Buddhist monk: these are generally placed front and center. Give it a couple more years and we’ll have enough expertise to launch a B.A. in Professional Protesting.

Usually it stops there. Usually people block traffic for a while, or sit on a pavement outside the Colombo Fort Railway Station, and usually bemused-looking cops hang back and hope nobody does anything foolish. Then everybody goes away.

This time, the excrement made physical contact with the electrically powered oscillating air current distribution device.

Let me now say the obvious thing that everybody expects you to say: this was wrong, those cops should be arrested, etcetera, etcetera, students, innocent, people getting people, blood, etcetera.

At the same time, it is inevitable. Policemen are humans, and humans are not known for rational action. We go overboard. We do cruel things to one another. Perhaps there was one cop who had seen too many protests and had too many stones thrown at them. Perhaps Han shot first. This isn’t an excuse, but this is expected.

Now pull back a bit. This is not an isolated case. Why are students protesting? Why are there always students protesting?

One reason: it’s too easy to protest.

Think about it. You have an idea. Say it’s something as stupid as wanting the government to guarantee jobs (er – why? If you can’t get a job, it’s not the government’s fault – pick something people want to hire you for, you moron!). Or say it’s something intelligent, like the disgusting standards of university accommodation.

Nobody listens. This is a blanket ban: smart ideas are rejected as equally as the stupid ones.

What do you do? Contact the Inter University Student Federation. The IUSF are the JVP lapdogs: by all accounts they’re what you get when you mix communism, clever rhetoric rage and popular idiocy together. These are the rednecks of Sri Lanka. They will, at the drop of a red cap, drum up a multi-university mob and hit the streets.

Now onward! You obviously don’t disperse when told to – who does that? So you wait until the vehicles are jammed for miles behind you and the police roll out the rubber bullets and the water cannons. The next day, assuming you’re not getting your beauty sleep in hospital and bitterly cursing your JVP overlords, you’re back in university, swapping tales and planning the next one.

Is our system this bad? Not necessarily. Our system isn’t perfect, but look: we have free education. Have you tried earning a degree in this country if you can’t get those three A’s for university? I have. It’s insanely expensive – you’re literally talking millions of rupees. Only a very small minority of very privileged children fit the “white-boy-coasting-on-rich-parents’-money” stereotype that applies when you say “private degree”: the majority of students have to scrap around, take loans, get themselves into colossal debt, and then work their rear ends off for quite a while before they’re out of debt.

Many of us look upon these protests with envy and a sort of amused sense of WTF. Envy, because some people actually have the time to protest, and WTF, because most of these protests are just flat-out stupid. Increase a scholarship by 2000 rupees? For fuck’s sake, find a side job. Freelance. If you have the time to be rioting, you have the time to be a productive human being and make that 2000 bucks and then some.

And this is funny, because Sri Lanka is cheap. In the US, or the UK, or developed countries where there is no free lunch, it’s common to spend your late twenties just working to pay the rent on a crummy apartment and pay off those student loans. We have it nice, really. Our parents have houses. Ammi cooks the rice (or that’s the norm). Most people only need to get out and be functioning adults after they get married – and even then you’re subsidized. And of course, nobody pays taxes.

Where we go wrong is this leeway. There’s too much of it. Educations are delivered free: no penalties. You’re allowed to protest education; you’re allowed to riot for the lack of education; you’re allowed to, and I’m not making this up, protest for people who were arrested on charges of ragging students. And we just sit back and dismiss this.

University students will be university students, eh?

We have become too used to this, I tell you: too jaded.

Every month the banners go up. Every month some hapless policeman must call up his wife, promise to get home for dinner, then don the helmet and go out into the streets. Every month, we share pictures, we make noises of outrage. Activists hashtag stuff. Someone cleverly blames it on whoever is running the government at the time. And then we go back to our lives.

Nobody fixes the problems. Nobody gives a fuck. All that happens is a bunch of students get used as cannon fodder, a couple of policemen are carted off to disciplinary hearings, and the world goes back to what it was. Does it matter whether universities are letting themselves be politically exploited ? Who cares? Some men just want to watch students burn.

Suren Raghavan

While people bleed, the anti-government rhetoric goes up. I’m no Hemmingway myself, but some of this stuff is genuinely bad writing.

What do we do to fix this? First, we arrest those policemen. Then we arrest those protesters. Then we arrest the organizers. While they’re beating the crap out of each other in a jail cell, we need to seriously address the issue of fixing things. Someone needs to get the Ministers of Education and their motley crew to go over each and every complaint, see if it’s reasonable, and implement it – or denounce it. And the next time a protest happens for something stupid, those protesters need to be kicked out of university. No buts, no temporary suspensions. There are a thousand others waiting to take their place.

If someone wants to riot, they better believe in it: believe in it to the point where they’re willing to sacrifice their educations and future careers for it. This is real life. You shouldn’t get to disturb a whole city and then get back to your dream of a white picket fence, three kids and a pension. If you want to Disturb the Peace, it better be for a very, very good cause.

__________

Regarding the recent protest: the clash reportedly injured eight people – including four female students and a police constable. The injured have been admitted to the Colombo National Hospital. The police arrested 39 students: five female students and two monks were among the arrested, said the police. For what it’s worth, I’m glad that they’re not discriminating and letting the monks go.

*Yudhanjaya Wijeratne is a contributor to Colombo Telegraph, his articles can be found on his blog, icaruswept.com

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Latest comments

  • 5
    2

    A good next step would be to abolish free education.

    • 4
      2

      Here is my adorable journalist with one of a kind reporting.

      I enjoyed the well orchestrated drama with the university students protest. So funny that whoever choreographed the whole drama thinks that some of us are naive and stupid. I could use some really strong, negative words for the waste of time, tv air time, newspapers with space allocated abundantly to show how bad all this was and for obstructing the normal business of many authorities, companies etc. that gives me an idea- if someone wants to make a point, they should make an effort to find a tranquil place, a garden, some playground that is not in use, or some where near the jungles to demonstrate and protest. Well, I don’t know the technicalities or logics behind protests, but just an idea since Sri Lankans love to protest, I think.

      About that girl- really sad. Why did she go to this low level to get her point across? Will this time she spent protesting and bringing insult to herself will be logged in with her 4 years of university education, when she applies for jobs? Wasn’t there any other way she could express her view on her fear that private university graduate is going to have the equal opportunity when being selected for employment? Nah, I don’t want to think further about how absurd this is and what a waste of time.

      Yudhanjaya, keep these marvelous pieces coming. Just love it.

  • 15
    4

    To the author:

    Why is it that you need to express your ideas with words like
    MORON
    WTF
    Nobody gives a fuck.
    Every article is strewn with expletives not just this one.

    You can express great ideas without strewing expletives along the way.

    Read some of the other great writers here on Colombo Telegraph. They may express ideas that many disagree with like Dayan Jayathilake or Rajiva Wijesingha yet their writings don’t descend to using expletives.

    I guess at the end of the day, breeding does tell however much you get “educated” one might be.

    • 3
      12

      Fizz

      What the fuck is wrong with you?

    • 4
      12

      Calm down you politically correct drama queen. I enjoyed this article. It made better sense than writers such as dr dayan and co. The word fuck was most appropriate.

    • 2
      12

      @Fitz –

      Because I a) can and b) want to.
      But let’s try for a more “well-bred tone”. Fornicate thyself, my good critic.

      • 12
        0

        See my previous comment – “breeding does tell”.
        The fact that you cannot write a small article without resorting to expletives indicates how you have been brought up by your parents. I guess another saying is equally apt in this situation
        “common is as common does”

        • 1
          2

          Well bred people ignore the foibles of others. Obvious you are not one of them Fizz. That’s why in the first comment I asked ‘what the fuck is wrong with you?’

      • 12
        0

        Yudhanjaya,

        The premise of your article is about placing a qualification on protest,but when challenged by Fitz as to why you use foul words, you claim that it is your right to do so. Haven’t you negated your argument by your own behavior?

        I’m not saying Fitz is right. He has no business insulting you by bringing up breeding. But he has the right to ask you what is a pertinent question and you have the right to reply. That is the very basis of protest. You can’t qualify it.

        • 0
          0

          Well put, Archimedes. But note the difference in the type of protest. As far as I’m aware, I’m not blocking streets, clogging up traffic or mobilizing human bodies in my defense.

      • 0
        0

        Yo ho ho!!!

  • 4
    1

    “Policemen are humans………………………………”

    Sure, but they have been trained (or should have been) in crowd control, containment of protests & minimum use of non-lethal force on fellow humans protesting perceived injustice – which is a democratic right, when politicians ignore undemocratic actions/decisions/procedures.

    Young women – the flower of the nation – should have never been attacked, but subdued by female constables with minimum force.
    Protests are not ‘stupid’ – they are culmination of ignored democratic requests/demands.

    Just see for example, how British unarmed police contain protests/demonstrations/riots – even against royalty.

    • 3
      0

      Sorry, policemen are sadists. That is why they join in a place where they are permitted to cause pain to other human beings.

      This is reason they should be kept on a tight leash.

      Sorry I forget the leash is in the hands of the politicians who unleash to suit their requirements. Sirisena…… what do you say? Am I wrong?

  • 2
    0

    Previous government built walkways and parks, which are at locations accessible by cars. They are not within walking distances of the neighbourhoods, which low income families live in. No local authority has developed playgrounds for youth and children and except for school playgrounds no open spaces are available for youth in their neighbourhoods. The “pent up energy” can only be released on roads because country’s laws and local by-laws require permits for mass gatherings and for using public address systems in the designated public open spaces.

    Ministries of Provincial Councils, Sports and Youth Affairs and all Provincial Councils should prepare a program jointly to develop playgrounds and public open spaces for public recreation and public gatherings in all DS Divisions. Until such time it will be “Kolambata Kiri – Apata Kekiri”.

  • 2
    0

    Good example o f Police brutality.

    Colombo DIG should step down until investigations are over.

    Good incident to see the effectiveness of the Police Commission!!!

    Yahapalanaya at work!!!

    Another reason is free education at university level has its downfall and this is one example. Time to rebook at the whole subsidized system.

  • 3
    1

    A most uncouth presentation about students protests!

  • 4
    3

    Finally an article which ends with a great punch. Well done! I hope people open their stupid eyes.

    Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “Please, don’t destroy people’s lies, their illusions, because if you destroy their illusions they will not be able to live at all; they will collapse.”

  • 1
    1

    WHy do we support these laggards who educate themselves on the public account?

    If you receive free/subsidized/public uni education, eat your peas.

    if you protest, line up to get shot.

  • 3
    1

    May I ask why the HND is being converted to a degree? Sri lanka is going to dilute the degree holders values if you give into them. These student could not get into a degree programme because they could not score in their A/L’s. Now taking to the streets for their incompetence is totally unacceptable.

  • 4
    0

    I wonder this writer has been to a local university, if he has gone he wont write scrap, Students don’t protest for fun, its only the last resort, these greens and blue who have ruled this country only care for themselves and not the people. What have they done to this country? when the WHITES left us the left us with a Cash flow, but what has happened today? each of us is in debt around 400,000.00, you call this development, Free education is facing a crisis in the country, No equal opportunities for all, GO and see to yourself what problems the universities are faced with, then you will say the students are protesting for the future students of the oppressed. Have life style audit of Ministers, Official then you will know how much they have stole, they don’t go there to develop the country, but to develop themselves. When will the oppressed join hand with their own and wipe away the current system, I re-call in 1977 a Just society will be formed and at the end over 100,000 youth was massacred, today they came with phanaseela policy, this system can never be fair to all, its evil, it has to be changed and don’t dream that these tow parties will ever change the system, they only care for the privileged and not the under privileged. I re-call what Lenin said, the Capitalist system only crates a human to think of himself and not of others. This system have made people selfish, Students don’t protest for fun, they do it as the last action.action.

  • 0
    0

    Bloody hell – students protest,Doctors protest, gov. employees protest – Do we need to protest for everything ?? How many of these protesters are doing their duty honestly ? – you go to any Gov. Department or Local Gov. Dept , Hospital – you will see the truth – we are a nation of talkers and dreamers not doers – work as less as possible and as much as possible is our work ethic – Gov. should banned public protest that disrupt public order – If these students think that they can make their diploma a degree by shouting on roads – they should be nuts – they can go to courts with facts – the way the police handle the situation is of course wrong – but these police guys are also a frustrated lot – low pay , work pressure, family problems, corruption of superiors etc. etc.- therefore we cannot expect any thing better from these guys – they are like caged dogs-

    Anyway we have to start somewhere – first discipline , then hard honest work , if one generation starts this we will see this country developing – we have to stop expecting the politicians to develop this country – because we do not have politicians who are capable of doing that – because we always send the best selfish idiots of the country as our representative to the parliment – MR had the best of opportunities – but he had no vision – we are now looking towards Yahapalan guys – I have my doubts – so forget about them – only people of the country can develop this country –

  • 1
    0

    If these things to change stop giving every thing free. Every thing free has ruined every thing in that country. In Silicon Valley in the USA more than 3/4 of the engineers in the technology companies are Indians.In India they really struggle hard for higher education. In SL all suma, free and they don’t know the value of it, like the garland in the monkey’s neck.

  • 0
    0

    Fitzpatrick,

    You appear to be one of those “wanna be posh” self-appointed aristocrats who yearn to live somewhere close to the Royals.

    Dream on mate, posting some drivel here is the the closest you get to England.

    By the way, thanks for the entertainment.

  • 0
    0

    Fitzpatrick,

    The use of swearing in itself is a form of expression. If used tactfully as Yudhanjaya does, it can be very effective in getting through a message. I think people like him should be welcomed. I don’t agree with him on everything that he writes. I especially don’t share his view on the death penalty, but I understand the value of his incisive, pithy and irreverent voice. The future belongs to spirited people like Yudhanjaya who have been endowed with the power of mass persuasion and not people like you who are so obsessive about conforming with anachronistic customs. Change or be left behind.

    • 0
      0

      The fact that others on CT have expressed far more visionary ideas on this incident itself proves that you don’t need expletives to express ideas. This is particularly true when all this author has done is rant.

      I will tell you some who could really be justified ranting in expletives:
      Rajan Hoole, a highly educated academic who has seen his colleagues gunned down by the LTTE, seen the hypocrisy of both the govt. and the terrorists. Seen his people being herded to death for 30 years. Yes, this man could have written a expletive laden article, I would have excused him.

      I wonder if Martin Lurther King jr.’s great “I have a dream” would still be read and recited if he had filled it with expletives. He had every right to since his people really were victims of great injustice.

      But what do we see here ? A author who was slightly inconvenienced having to resort to expletives?

      For those who say I am trying to be “posh” on the contrary, it is the author who wants to be cool like some gangster in a US music group. I wonder, does he speak with these expletives to his parents?

  • 0
    1

    Fitz,

    each author have their own style to put the idea across. Wanna be posh fellows like you tried to ban the Lady Chatterley’s Lover too.

    You are just a bayya who wants to create an aura of posh and decent Englishman mate. And posting here or pretending to be an aristocrat is the closest you get to England!

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