Student deaths spark nationwide protests

protest-puthukudiyiruppu_Students across Sri Lankan universities protested on Monday, condemning the recent death of two Jaffna University students in alleged police shooting and demanding a fair investigation.

Thousands of students took to the streets in Jaffna town, blocking A9, the main highway to the island’s north, urging speedy action against the perpetrators. Sri Lanka’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID), which began investigations on Friday, arrested five policemen in this connection, and remanded them.

Seeking intervention

The Students Union of Jaffna University has sought a fair investigation into the case, and urged the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka to intervene. Students in the eastern town of Batticaloa, and in Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi in the Northern Province, gathered in large numbers outside their respective institutions, demanding justice for the students — Natarajan Kajan and Pounraj Sulakshan —whose funerals were held in Jaffna on Monday.

On Tuesday, a host of Tamil parties in the north have called for a ‘hartal’. “This is a clear cut murder and we want to register our protest,” said TNA politician and former parliamentarian Suresh Premachandran. “If a similar incident had happened in the south, the government’s response would have been very different. We need to stop such things,” he told The Hindu.

‘Police hiding facts’

In addition to the protests in the Tamil majority Northern and Eastern Provinces, demonstrations were held at various southern universities that have a predominantly Sinhala student population.

Lahiru Weerasekara, convenor of the Inter-University Student Federation (IUSF), told The Hindu that students of nearly 10 southern universities held protests on Monday, in solidarity with their Jaffna counterparts. Accusing the police of “hiding facts” in their initial report, Mr. Weerasekara said the government is responsible for “the murder”, as “the police functions under the government”.

After TNA Leader R. Sampanthan raised the matter with President Maithripala Sirisena in Trincomalee on Friday, the President ordered an independent investigation of the case. The State-run Daily News reported that a team of the National Police Commission would go to Jaffna on a fact-finding mission. (The Hindu)

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