Several Sinhala and Muslim undergrads of the Vavuniya campus of Jaffna University on Wednesday staged a walkout from the campus premises, despite ongoing examinations, claiming the escalating violence in the North posed a threat to their studies and lives.
Over 60 first and second-year students, following degrees in Business Studies, handed over a letter to the Dean of the Faculty R. Nandakumaran and the Rector Ms. T. Mageswaran, stating they were not safe to carry out their studies in the wake of increasing violence. The students said their parents had requested them to return home and requested permission from the University authorities to leave. When permission was denied, the students had staged a walkout, despite ongoing examinations. Third year students, however, had not participated in the walkout.
The killing of a police officer at Park Road in Vavuniya, on Tuesday, had reportedly heightened the fears of the Sinhala and Muslim students.
The protesting students, yesterday, met University Grants Commission (UGC), Chairman Prof Ranjith Mendis to discuss the issue. ?Action to rectify this problem needs to be taken at Government level. The students say they are unsafe at the Vavuniya campus. However, we feel they don`t face an acute problem there. We also need to explore ways and means of accommodating them in other universities, if the need arises. But, first, a decision must be taken by the Government,? Prof Mendis said. The UGC yesterday referred the matter to the Education Ministry, and the undergrads have written to Education Minister Susil Premajayantha requesting a meeting.
Dean of the Vavuniya Faculty R. Nandakumaran said that although the students had left in the middle of exams, special provisions could be made to hold a special exam for them, if they return. ?That is our duty. The students requested permission to leave, saying their parents wanted them to return, after the killing of a police officer in Park road,? he said. ?I could not grant written permission. So, I signed their letter, saying I had received it. We then informed the Vice Chancellor of the campus and also the UGC of the matter?, he said, adding that he believed the real intention of the students was to seek transfers to other universities. ?Even if they had requested for the exams to be postponed we could have done it?.
Examinations at the Vavuniya campus began on December 19, but were temporarily halted following clashes between security forces and Jaffna undergrads in the peninsula. Exams resumed and will continue until January 10. For the present exams only Tamil students are sitting for the papers.
Earlier this year the UGC granted special places for 49 Sinhala and Muslim medical students of the Jaffna University to follow degree courses in other universities. The UGC also decided for the 2005 A` level university intake next year, to exclude Sinhala and Muslim students from Jaffna University entrance, to avoid similar problems.