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Campus violence

Violence has erupted again in the University system. It was a few weeks back that the University of Kelaniya was closed following clashes between students and villagers. The University remains closed still and academic programs disrupted.

This time, violence has erupted in the University of Colombo between two groups of students. It has caused injuries to students and extensive damage to University property. Further, members of the academic staff who intervened to settle the dispute were verbally abused and threatened with physical harm.

These clashes show the level to which intellectual atmosphere in the University has fallen. The cream of the student population whose superior talents have earned for them a place in the Universities is behaving like street ruffians and underworld hirelings.

Such violence cannot be condoned or excused on the grounds of exuberance of youth. It should be condemned in no uncertain terms.

Such violence results in several negative consequences that have repercussions far beyond the confines of the University system. Firstly, it spoils the academic environment of the University which affects the quality of its output.

Secondly, it fractures the student body which diminishes its significance and relative power in the system. This gives the administrators a chance to ride rough shod on student demands. Thirdly, damaged University property has to be replaced with existing funds which could otherwise have been used for further improving the material conditions of study. Further, it is an additional burden on the public at large who provide the funds for maintenance of the Universities. Fourthly, such recurrent violence has the danger of the public losing confidence in the Universities. Fifthly, it would damage the reputation of the University.

As pointed out by the Arts Faculty Teachers Association of the Colombo University, it is only a minority segment of the student mass that is responsible for such wanton destruction and anarchy while the majority of students are hapless onlookers or held to ransom by the former.

Very often, as in the present instance, violence erupts over parochial interests mostly connected with political party allegiances. It is a sad reflection on the leadership of these political parties that profess to follow democratic and civilized behaviour that they cannot restrain their following. A considerable share of the blame goes to these political parties too for the anarchy in the University campuses.

The University authorities and the tutorial staff too cannot be fully exonerated for they have been unable to find a solution to such recurring violence for several decades. Even now they have no solution except calling for tough punitive action. Punitive action alone cannot solve the problem. One need only recall that harsh legislation has so far failed to eliminate the ugly spectacle of ragging freshers which still continues causing mental and physical agony to the victims.

Nor have sociologists, including those in the Universities found out the causes that lead to unruly behaviour amongst youth and put forward any remedial measures. There is also no proper student counselling system in the Universities.

True, the violence in the Universities reflect the violence in society at large. It was often said that the gun culture that grew and spread since the 1980s, largely on account of the war and civil conflict was the root cause of such violence. Now that the war is over, efforts must be made urgently to root out this culture of violence and restore law and order throughout society including the University campuses.

However, it must be mentioned that campus violence predates the war. Hence war cannot be given as an excuse for campus violence. Much more thought has to be given to ways and means of absorbing rural youth into the campus milieu and in developing a more congenial atmosphere for intellectual debate, discourse and creativity in the campuses.

Prevention better than cure

The current dengue epidemic has once again demonstrated the truth of the old adage ‘prevention is better than cure’. It is not only dengue, even many killer diseases such as diabetes and heart ailments prove the same. Sedentary life styles, consumption of junk food and many more features of the modern day lifestyle contribute to them. The same is true of many more including HIV/AIDS and other STDS.

In all these what is required is an extensive public awareness campaign to inculcate safe and healthy living styles. There is a strong case for increasing financial allocations for preventive medicine in the national budget.

Sri Lanka - a role model in combating terror

Sri Lanka earned high praise from the chair at the retreat of the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) for its positive contributions on the fight against terrorism. Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya who chaired the concluding session last Thursday at the 16th ARF Conference in Phuket, Thailand extended high praise to Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama for his remarks that Sri Lanka’s fight against terror is a lesson for others facing the similar condition. The following is the statement by the Minister at 16th ASEAN Regional Forum, Phuket, Thailand on July 23.

Full Story

Defining cyber terrorism

Cyber-terrorism is a controversial term. Some authors choose a very narrow definition, relating to deployments, by known terrorist organizations, of disruption attacks against information systems for the primary purpose of creating alarm and panic.

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Planting sandalwood in religious premises:

A ‘scented’ gesture towards a green world

Wood is a renewable and sustainable energy resource which is considered environmentally friendly. Unlike fossil fuel, carbon dioxide released by burning wood is recycled by regenerating forests and does not permanently remain in the atmosphere.

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Child soldiers - The Government's response

In a recent issue of The Economist - one of the world's most reputed and respected journals, focussed on child soldiers in one of its articles, and quoted James Elder, a spokesman for UNICEF in Sri Lanka saying that the Sri Lankan Government is making a genuine attempt to help child soldiers learn how to be civilians. The same article estimated that, from 2003 to the end of 2008, more than 6,000 instances of child recruitment by the LTTE had occurred in the North and East.

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