Monday, 11  November 2002  
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Death of J'pura campus student: Fourteen undergrads arrested

by Rashomi Silva

Fourteen undergraduates were arrested yesterday in connection with the death of Ovitigala Vithanage Samantha, a 24 year old student attached to the Sri Jayawardanapura University (SJU) following Thursday's clash at the J'Pura campus premises.

According to Western Province (South) DIG Sirisena Herath who is also the DIG in charge of Crimes and Intelligence, seven of those arrested were from the Kelaniya Campus. They were taken into custody from their hostel in the early hours of yesterday. "We have proof of outside involvement in the Sri Jayawardanapura incident".

The arrests came amidst growing evidence pointing to a JVP hand in the incident where a group of students attempting to halt the ragging of freshers were set upon by a rival student group. Fourteen students were injured in the clash- two of them in a critical condition who are receiving treatment at the ICU of the National Hospital.

Samantha, a third year Management student of the SJU was reportedly beaten on the head with a Computer monitor. Bed poles embedded with brass nails were also used by the alleged attackers in the clash.

Police said they have come across evidence showing a clear JVP connection in Thursday's incident. There is also proof that outsiders were brought to the SJU to attack rival student groups. According to Police the Kelaniya campus, over the years had proved to be a hot bed of JVP militancy.

Colleagues of Samantha claim that the attackers were all members of the JVP backed Inter University Student Federation. The Sri Jayawardanapura University Students Association on Friday accused the JVP for creating a 'blood culture' in Universities and trying to suppress opinions through violence.

The president of the Association Susantha Gamlath told a media briefing that Thursday's incident was not a clash between two student groups but an attack on students who opposed ragging.

Police said the dead student was a third year undergraduate attached to the Faculty of Management studies of the SJU.

Assistant Judicial Medical Officer Dr.H.P. Wijewardana, who conducted the autopsy on the orders of the Colombo Chief Magistrate put down the cause of death to sever skull and brain damage resulting from an attack with blunt weapons.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Human Resources Cultural Affairs and Education Karunasena Kodithuwakku in a special media release expressing grief on the death of Samantha said whilst it was never a secret to the general public which organisation could be behind these murderous attacks it had now been confirmed by some student groups in the SJU.

"It is the same organisation which has continuously been resorting to propaganda and dissemination of totally baseless fabrications, that the government is consideration the privatisation of the universities curtailing the free education.

The JVP meanwhile issued a press release condemning the killing. They also denied any involvement in the assault.

Interior Minister John Amarathunga told parliament on Saturday that all those responsible for Friday's incident would be brought to book whoever they are.

SSP Nugegoda Raja Weerakoon and SP Cecil Perera is assisting in the investigations.

Samantha's funeral on Wednesday

The funeral of Ovitigala Vithanage Samantha will take place on Wednesday at the Udahamulla cemetery.

The 24 year old undergraduate from the Management Faculty of the Sri Jayawardhanapura University met with this untimely death last Saturday, while trying to prevent freshers from being ragged. He made the supreme sacrifice chiefly due to his strong objection to the practice of ragging, a family member told the Daily News.

Samantha who hailed from Gangodawila was a past pupil of Asoka Vidyalaya, Colombo. Both his parents and only sister are graduates. His younger brother is reading for a degree in Biology at the same university, a family member said.

"He always loathed ragging freshers and molesting girls by the so-called seniors. He had no political affiliation. He only wanted to put a halt to the inhumane practice of ragging, which had frequently deprived the students of their lives."

She blamed the JVP backed student union for the death of Samantha.

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