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Tense scenario at Jaffna college after authorities take away struggle memorial

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The sculpture was erected in reminiscence of civilians killed within the remaining part of the civil struggle in 2009.

A tense scenario continued on the Jaffna University in a single day, as dozens of locals, college students, and politicians gathered, protesting the elimination of a struggle memorial on campus on Friday night time.

According to college students and eyewitnesses, college authorities bulldozed a sculpture, depicting arms held out of water, erected in reminiscence of a number of thousand civilians brutally killed within the remaining part of the civil struggle in 2009, in Mullivaikkal in Sri Lanka’s northern Mullaitivu district.

“We heard about this move to destroy the memorial and I rushed from my home in Vavuniya and got here at 2 a.m. Students and some local politicians had gathered here, and there was a heavy police presence,” Pakianathan Ujanthan, President of the Jaffna Students’ Union mentioned. “There are over 100 people protesting even now, despite all the police and army here,” he informed Daily News from the spot, on Saturday morning.

Following early reviews on Friday night time within the Jaffna-based newspaper Uthayan and Tamil Guardian web site, the event drew consideration on social media, with many expressing shock and anger. Many posts described the event as a “blatant attack on Tamils’ attempt to memorialise”, and an try by the Sri Lankan authorities “to erase” the troubling historical past across the bloodbath of scores of civilians.

When contacted, S.W.M. Senarathne, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, Jaffna, mentioned: “The decision to demolish the unauthorised structure was taken by the university administration. Our personnel were deployed there only after we heard students were gathering outside the premises last night. In this pandemic period, it is our responsibility to prevent such gatherings,” he mentioned.

A photo of the war memorial that was removed from the campus of Jaffna University in Sri Lanka.

A photograph of the struggle memorial that was faraway from the campus of Jaffna University in Sri Lanka.
| Photo Credit: Twitter/Tamil Guardian


The memorial, in keeping with media reviews, was erected in 2019, to mark the 10th anniversary of the civil struggle. “Since then, authorities have been asking the university administration to remove the unauthorised structure. I received multiple instructions from higher authorities, and we discussed this at several meetings with the university’s capital works, engineering and maintenance departments,” mentioned University Vice-Chancellor S. Srisatkunarajah, who assumed cost in August 2020.

Asked who the upper authorities have been, he mentioned: “Defence, Intelligence, Education Ministry, everyone. I am a civilian carrying out an administrative responsibility. Sometimes, I have to take decisions beyond my personal likes and dislikes,” he informed Daily News. “So, I delegated the responsibility to the concerned departments about a month ago, giving no particular date. They have executed it, that is all.”

He mentioned the demolition work started round 7 p.m. on Friday night time and it was solely when two truckloads of particles left the campus that some locals had seen it and “people with political interests” got here to the spot and “tried to enter the campus unlawfully”, in keeping with the Vice-Chancellor. “You know, even at the time this unauthorised structure was first erected at the courtyard of our campus, it could have been prevented. But for a long time now, the University has been exploited by different political forces here,” he mentioned.

Memorialisation has been each a delicate and contentious problem in Sri Lanka’s war-affected north, with many situations of the state and its safety equipment stopping households from remembering their family members.

While defending affected households’ proper to recollect the useless, some inside the Tamil neighborhood, together with college lecturers, have prior to now questioned the “politicisation” of memorial occasions, within the Sri Lanka’s post-war context.

In a public submit on Facebook, Jaffna University lecturer Mahendran Thiruvarangan mentioned: “I have a number of issues with the Tamil nationalist commemoration processes that take place at the University of Jaffna… it is a conversation that needs to happen within the academic community. Demolishing, in the stealth of the night, a monument commemorating thousands of people who died during the last stages of the war cannot be justified under any circumstances. This is nothing but a high-handed, chauvinistic act by the state.”

Jaffna parliamentarian S. Shritharan described the developments as “very disturbing.” “This is a deliberate provocative act, knowing well that memorials are to do with people’s emotions and feelings. After a relatively peaceful period here, this act will trigger much pain and anger, especially among our youth. That is very worrying,” he mentioned. “I also feel the state has tactfully used the VC to carry out this, pitting Tamils against each other, while achieving what they want,” he added.

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