Tuesday, 12 November 2002  
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PM orders report on murder of J'pura student

by Manjula Fernando

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has ordered a full report on the death of Sri Jayawardhanapura University third year Management undergraduate Ovitigala Vithanage Samantha who was brutally assaulted by a group of extremist students of the same university on Saturday.

Mirihana police arrested 18 students in connection with the case. Five students seriously injured are receiving treatment in Kalubowila and National hospitals.

Tertiary Education and Training Minister Kabeer Hasheem has ordered all university heads to evict outsiders and non-residents from hostels and keep a close watch over the hostels so as not to leave room for ganging up and organised thuggery by politically manoeuvred students in the future.

The Minister said the university heads will be given the freedom to seek police assistance to remove outsiders and non-residents from hostels if necessary.

Hasheem has summoned a meeting of Vice Chancellors and the faculty deans to discuss the situation and precautions to prevent a similar incident in future. "We are all responsible for what has happened. It is very sad to note that a student who opposed ragging had to die such a brutal death. We must act to stop this," he said.

He admitted that there had been a lapse on the part of administrators. "We must ensure a safe environment for all students in universities. This has not been the case in the past. The level of thuggery is such that lecturers and others don't get involved when they see ragging in university. Samantha became a victim because he did." He said: "Eyewitnesses and other injured students have confirmed to police that members of the Maha Shishya Sangama was involved in the attack. This is shocking when you think that they should be fighting for students' rights." Hasheem said it was evident that certain political movements force upon students their secret political agenda through these unions. "Students unions should be free of politics," he said.

The Inter University Students Federation known to be backed by a certain political party was trying to take control of all the student unions. They had been organising protest campaigns against an alleged privatisation move by the government.

"We have told them again and again that there is no such move. But they talk only about a 'blood bath'," he added.

The Sri Jayawardhanapura University Students Association has accused the JVP of creating a 'blood culture' in universities and trying to suppress different opinions through violence.Association President Sasuntha Gamlath said the JVP shows a different face to the masses while implementing a different agenda in universities.

"A faction of undergraduates who label themselves as progressive front members are using thuggery and violence to suppress other students in the university. We all know that they are backed by the JVP." In a statement issued yesterday, New Left Front Presidium Member Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne said it will be difficult for the JVP to dissociate from Samantha's murder. "Clearly the student group responsible for this bloody murder is associated with the political campaign of the JVP."

Meanwhile, Minister of Human Resources Development, Education and Cultural affairs Dr.Karunasena Kodituwakku, Tertiary Education and Training Kabeer Hasheem and Rural Economy and Deputy Finance Minister Bandula Gunawardena paid their last respects to Sri Jayawardhanapura University undergraduate Samantha Vithanage yesterday. They visited the University and met the Vice Chancellor Prof.D.S.Epitawatte earlier. They were accompanied by Colombo District MP Jayantha Ketagoda.

CID on trail of 18 suspects

The CID, assisting Police in investigating the Jayawardhanapura undergraduate murder case, has deployed several teams to arrest the other suspects who have gone underground since Thursday, police sources said yesterday.

Eighteen students have already been apprehended by the Mirihana Police and 13 more are to be taken in. According to Police, five students alleged to be JVP student activists known as Sujee, Senavi, Amare, Ossie and Ravi are among those to be arrested. Police warn the public not to provide protection to these suspected students wanted in connection with a murder inquiry. SM


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