Thursday, 4 December 2003  
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Students refuse to leave:

J'pura varsity closed

by Manjula Fernando

A group of Arts Faculty lecturers and a mass of Arts students refused to leave the Sri Jayawardenapura university grounds yesterday after it was declared closed by the university authorities fearing another clash.

They were gathered in support of the Arts Faculty lecturer who was on a death fast demanding the removal of the Vice Chancellor Dr. D. S. Epitawatte and action against his alleged rigid administration.

The fast was launched by the Arts lecturer Dr. N. A. A. Karunaratne, the Jayawardenapura University Teachers Association President in front of its Sumangala Hall, after he was served with a charge sheet on Tuesday on allegations of examination fraud.

Enraged Arts Faculty students laid seige to the university premises after the authorities declared the university grounds out of bounds to students after 12 noon. He is accused of leaking an exam paper to his pupils prior to the exam. Dr. Karunaratne claimed the disciplinary inquiry was a plot to frame him for his open criticisms of the VC.

The University Student Union held a protest inside the university at 2.00 p.m. yesterday and about 29 Arts lecturers sat with Dr. Karunaratne in a gesture of support to his action.

The University Student Union protested against the arbitrary and unfair decision of the authorities to close the university indefinitely, postponing the on-going exams, instead of resolving the root causes of the conflict.

At the time of the closure, the management faculty year-end exams were in progress while the exams of the other faculties were due to commence shortly.

Meanwhile, the Tertiary Education and Training Ministry in a press statement issued last afternoon said it was unethical for a lecturer to go on a death fast against a decision by the university senate. The release says the inquiry was initiated following a complaint by his own faculty head.

It says the proper thing would have been for the lecturer concerned to make a formal appeal to the Senate or the University Grants Commission's Appeal Board without resorting to means that would jeopardise the whole university system.

There had been constant protests by certain student factions demanding the removal of the Vice Chancellor, but this was the first time a member of the academic staff had openly criticised him.

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and the Tertiary Education and Training Ministry appointed two separate commissions to investigate the allegations about a month ago. Their observations are yet to be announced.

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