COLOMBO: In the continuing agitation over the killing of two of their colleagues by policemen manning a checkpoint on October 20, Jaffna University students on Monday barred Vice Chancellor Dr.Vasanthy Arasaratnam from entering the campus.
Relenting after some time, they allowed the VC in and had talks with the visiting Sri Lankan Minister of Rehabilitation, D.M.Swaminathan. The talks resulted in the decision to return to classes, which the students had been boycotting since October 21.
But the student leaders insisted on having talks with President Maithripala Sirisena to find a permanent solution to the problem of police handedness.
The President was in Jaffna on Monday to hand over to Tamil civilians 460 acres of land taken earlier by the Security Forces during the war and also grant to war refugees, houses built by the army. Reports said that the meeting could take place either in Jaffna later on Monday or in Colombo on Tuesday.
At the function held to release the land, Sirisena said that he would ensure that the investigations and trial in the shooting case are impartial and fair. He thanked the people of Jaffna for being calm in the face of the provocation, and noted that if a similar incident had taken place in the Sinhalese majority South, the unrest would have been far greater.
Two Arts Faculty undergrads, Nataraja Kajan and Pavunraj Sulakshan, both in the early twenties, who were riding a motorbike were shot at, at a checkpoint in Jaffna late at night on October 20, after they had allegedly defied the cops’ order to stop. One died on the spot and the other was killed when the motorbike crashed.
The police tried to cover up the incident by claiming that the boys had died in an accident. But the district medical officer reported that one of the boys had bullet wounds. The cover up bid triggered a huge agitation with every political party supporting it.
President Sirisena promised an impartial inquiry and the five cops posted at the checkpoint were arrested and remanded till November 4.
On October 25, a sword-wielding criminal gang known as the “Aava”group claimed responsibility for an attack on two policemen at Chunanakam. Posters claimed that the group was protesting against the killing of the two university students by “Tamil” policemen.
On Sunday ,a new group calling itself “Prabhakaran Padai” (Prabhakaran Army) sent notices to police stations in the Northern Province asking Tamil policemen to either quit their jobs or seek transfer out of the Northern Province within 21 days.
The Sri Lankan government is in the process of recruiting Tamil policemen to serve in the Tamil-speaking North and East to improve crime prevention and detection. About 500 Tamils have been recruited since the end of the war in 2009.
However, there is reluctance on the part of the government to recruit more Tamils to enforce law and order because of a lack of trust in the community. Tamils too are reluctant to join the police or the army as these two forces are not viewed favorably by the Tamils because of the 30 year war. The LTTE was particularly hostile to Tamils serving in the army and the police.