|Saturday, 6 December 2003|
by Manjula Fernando and our Parliament correspondents
The crisis at the Sri Jayawardenapura University came to an end yesterday following President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga's decision to remove Vice Chancellor Dr. D. S. Epitawatte last evening.
Students and lecturers who remained in the university grounds since Wednesday, protesting against the Vice Chancellor's arbitrary action to close the university indefinitely from Wednesday left the premises after a fellow lecturer broke the news of the President's decision to Dr. A.N.A. Karunaratne, a geography lecturer who began a death fast on December 2.
He began the death fast in front of the University's Sumangala Hall against the Vice Chancellor's alleged discrimination and suppression of others' different opinions.
Students and some 50 fellow lecturers joined the protest with the fasting don. To control the situation, the Vice Chancellor decided to close the university on Wednesday noon.
Several police units from Mirihana were at the university to counter a possible clash.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapakse making a special statement in Parliament on the crisis at the Sri Jayawardhanapura University urged the authorities to implement the recommendations made by the committee appointed by the President, to resolve the crisis in the university.
Rajapakse said the committee appointed by the President to look into the recent violence in the Jayawardhanapura University has already finalised its report and released it on Thursday.
The Opposition Leader pointed out that the present crisis in the university "now on the verge of moving into a grave and explosive situation" has resulted as the authorities continuously neglected the administrative problems that existed within the university for a long time.
This situation has led to deadly fighting among students from time to time and attacks on students by outside thugs.
"These incidents are occurring continuously with or without the knowledge of university authorities," the Opposition Leader remarked.
He said the university authorities closed down the university on December 3 owing to the situation that arose following the commencement of a death fast by a university lecturer.
"The closure of the university does not seem an effective measure to calm the situation since several other lecturers have joined to this death fast from then," he said.
The closure of the university has worsened the situation within the university thus severely affecting academic studies of the students, he said.
"Due to the cancellation of exams and lectures, the academic life of the sons and daughters who have come from different places in the island has come to s standstill. Parents too are facing hardships as a result."
The Opposition Leader said the displeasure of not only the students but also of lecturers has directly been expressed towards the university administration and urged the authorities to rectify this situation soon.
He said that abolishing subjects such as Buddhist culture has brought about clashes between students and staff.
Making unlawful appointments and giving undue promotions have taken place. Such acts should cease immediately, he added.
Produced by Lake House