Updates on ground situation in Jaffna
After the violent unrest that started late November in Jaffna, (for photos and background, read The death of Freedom of Assembly, Expression and Religion in the North of Sri Lanka), Groundviews has continuously received updates on the ground situation. In addition to forwarding these updates via email, we have decided to post them on the site for increased awareness and greater public debate on the disturbing situation in and around post-war Jaffna today. The updates are posted as we received them and as accounts open t0 contestation. We also strongly welcome further verification and corroboration by readers in the area or familiar with what’s going on.
Situation Update as at 3.55pm, 12 February, 2013
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is currently on an official visit to Jaffna, is reported to have ordered the release of the two remaining students of the University of Jaffna (UoJ). This order was made in response to the numerous appeals made to the President by the parents of these students. The Vice Chancellor of the UoJ has been instructed to come to the Welikanda detention centre tomorrow (13 February) to pick up the two students. Prior to the President’s order, the Jaffna Security Forces Commander, Major General Mahinda Hathurusingha had demanded an assurance from both sets of parents that their children would not partake in any anti-Government protests/activities again.
 Daily Mirror, MR orders release of Jaffna Uni students – http://www.dailymirror.lk/news/25687-mr-orders-release-of-jaffna-uni-students.html
Situation Update as at 12.20pm, 22, January, 2013
The TID has informed authorities of the University of Jaffna (UoJ) yesterday (21), that two of the four students of the UoJ, Sanmugam Solaman and V. Bhavananadan (Student Union President), who have been held in detention since November 29/30, 2012, will be released today. They have requested University authorities to pick up the students from the TID office in Vavuniya today. The boys are currently on their way home from Vavuniya.
Situation Update as at 10.17pm, 07, January, 2013
The students and staff of the University of Jaffna (UoJ) have agreed to end the boycott and recommence classes at the University, starting tomorrow (8 January), under the premise that the four detained students of the UoJ will be released shortly.
Subsequent to the meeting held between the Minister of Higher Education and University authorities on 3 January, where the Minister had threatened to shut down the University if the boycott was not called off, the Vice Chancellor (VC) had summoned all the Faculty Heads, student leaders and acting student leaders for a discussion today. During the course of the meeting, there had also been a lengthy phone conversation between the above group and the four detained boys of the UoJ, after which, the students had agreed to call off the boycott and start attending class.
The VC had allegedly coerced students into giving up the boycott, by threatening to resign from her post if not. Thereafter, she had made arrangements to discuss the matter with the detained students, via a phone call. The VC is alleged to have told the students repeatedly that prolonging the boycott would only minimize their chances of bargaining for the release of the detained boys. Furthermore, the VC had also allegedly threatened the students that if they did not call off the boycott the Ministry of Defence (MoD) would take over the University and shut it down for one year, with immediate effect.
Yet another student believed that the MoD has been adamant to call off the boycott, as it posed the only real challenge in terms of bargaining for the release of the four students.
Situation Update as at 12.45am, 28 December, 2012
It is believed that Government forces are behind the recent distribution of defamatory flyers against 16 present and former students of the University of Jaffna (UoJ), and the current and former Presidents of the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF), to students outside Universities in the South.
According to the flyer, the 16 students (inclusive of the four students currently being detained at Welikanda), have been labeled as key members of the ‘Pro LTTE and TNA/TNPF Network’ of the UoJ. Udul Premarathne and Sanjeewa Bandara, the former and current Presidents of the IUSF respectively, too have been accused of supporting this Network.
As many of the Southern University students and human rights movements in the South protested against the arrests and detention of students of the UoJ, student activists in the South see this as a strategic move by the State to justify the TID arrests and detention of students from the UoJ. The flyer not only attempts to ‘demonize’ the arrested students from the UoJ, but also to delegitimize Southern student leaders who are spearheading advocacy campaigns calling for the removal of the military from the North, and the immediate release of the four detained students.
 Lanka Views, ආණ්ඩුවෙන් විශ්වවිද්යාලවලට පත්රිකාවක් -http://www.lankaviews.com/sn/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=16860:2012-12-27-11-11-48&catid=35:2008-10-13-08-30-14&Itemid=48
Situation Update as at 1.15pm, 26 December, 2012
The Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) had informed the parents of the four detained students from the University of Jaffna (UoJ) to come to the Vavuniya Magistrate Court on December 24th to see their sons, as they would be produced before the Magistrate that day. The parents had travelled down from Jaffna and been at the Courts from 7am-3pm only to be told by the TID that the hearing has been postponed, as the Judge was absent that day. However, the parents have said that there were other cases heard that day, so the Judge would have to have been present.
Not only are these parents being made to undergo severe mental and emotional trauma over the detention of their children, but they are also being subject to much inconvenience and harassment as a result of having to travel to and from Jaffna, unnecessarily wasting their money and time.
Previously on the 10th of December when the students’ parents and University lecturers had visited the students at Welikanda, they had left Jaffna at 4.30am and reached Welikanda by 12.30pm. One parent said that they had been able to share a meal with their son, but were unable to speak freely as many officials had been present in the vicinity. They had returned home by 10pm that night. One day prior to this visit (9th December), one of the boys had called his mother and started crying whilst talking to her. She said that this was very uncharacteristic of her son, and that she was very worried about his mental wellbeing. Recently he had called again and said that he wanted his mother to get him out as soon as possible. He had also told her that he was made to sign a document written in Sinhala, and as he could not read Sinhala, he had not been aware of the contents of the document.
The boys are able to make a ten minute call once a week via the official phone at Welikanda. However, one mother said that it was very difficult for the parents to get through to this number if they needed to contact their son, and that once her husband had been able to get through after trying for a few hours.
The parent’s next visit is scheduled for December 27, but it may not take place now due to some logistical problems.
The mother also said that there was no indication of her son being released in the foreseeable future and that they have no idea how long he would be detained for.
Situation Update as at 11.22pm, 24 December, 2012
The President of the Jaffna University Teachers Association (JUTA), A. Rasakumaran who was summoned to the TID office in Vavuniya yesterday, had been interrogated for more than three hours. He has been repeatedly questioned regarding the incidents that occurred on the 27th and 28th of November, 2012. Most of the questions have allegedly been directed towards learning more about possible links between the University students and academics and Diaspora groups.
The Ceylon Teachers Society (CTS) has issued a statement condemning the intimidation and investigation of academics, yesterday.
According to a news item in the Uthayan Newspaper today, on average, three students a day are being summoned to the TID office in Vavuniya for interrogation and intimidation. It goes on to say that most of the summons are delivered via local intelligence based in the vicinity of students’ houses, direct house visits by TID personnel or via parents of the students. Therefore, University authorities are not aware of the extent of the interrogation and intimidation. The News item has also mentioned the case of how a student from Vadamarachchi East, who had returned home due to the ongoing boycott, was intimidated and subjected to few hours detention at a military camp close to his home. Many other students from this area too have been intimidated by the military and instructed to abandon the boycott and return to their classes.
 The lamp lighting to mark LTTE Heroes Day at the Girl’s Hostel at the UoJ on the 27th and the subsequent peaceful protest organized by the students of the UoJ on the 28th in protest of the military intimidation the previous day, which was also violently suppressed by the security forces.
 A Tamil Daily circulated in the Jaffna District.
Situation Update as at 2.25am, 23 December, 2012
The President of the Jaffna University Teachers Association (JUTA), A. Rasakumaran, has been summoned by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) via a phone call, to report to their Vavuniya Office today. With four University students currently being held in detention, and many other students being subject to interrogation and intimidation at the hands of the military and the TID, the focus has now extended its reach to academics as well. It is believed that Mr. Rasakumaran has been summoned in relation to the strong statements he issued to the BBC and other local media condemning the detention of the four students and military’s interference in University matters. He has also been summoned to meet with the military Commander of Jaffna.
The TID has stated that they have not summoned him for an inquiry, but rather as a warning message to all other academics who have expressed their concerns regarding military interference in University activities. This developing trend of intimidation by the TID and military has created a state of grave insecurity and fear amidst both University students and academics.
Situation Update as at 1.17am, 22 December, 2012
Unidentified persons suspected to be military intelligence, have attempted to foil the ongoing hunger strike organized by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), calling on the Government to release with immediate effect, the four detained students from the University of Jaffna (UoJ). Furthermore, the strike is calling for a general amnesty to be granted to all surrendee LTTE cadres and that they be released, the release of all Tamil political prisoners, an immediate halt to the ongoing arrests of innocent Tamils and to restore normalcy in the North and East. In addition, they are calling for a cease in military occupation in the North and all military interference in civilian activities, an immediate stop to the confiscation of land, an end to illegal colonization in the North, and to accelerate the political settlement process for the Tamil people in a dignified manner.
Tents and sheds that were erected to house protesters at the Thanthai Selva Square in Jaffna town have been damaged and removed. Despite this attempt to sabotage the strike which commenced yesterday morning (21st), the strikers have remained put, and are continuing with the strike.
Situation Update as at 3.15pm, 21 December, 2012
The meeting between Army Commander of Jaffna, Mahinda Hathurusingha and the four parents of the detained students from the University of Jaffna (UoJ) concluded with no result. The Commander had refused to discuss any matters relating to the release of the students. He had added that the students’ activities symbolized the return of former LTTE Leader V. Prabhakaran, and that therefore they must be treated as hardcore LTTE supporters, requiring intensive rehabilitation. That if not subject to rehabilitation, the students would cause trouble at the University again.
When Hathurusingha had refused to release the boys, some of the parents had dropped down to their knees and begged for their release. The Commander had allegedly refused to respond and turned away.
When University lecturers had raised their concern regarding the interruption to the students’ studies caused by the boycott calling for the release of the boys, Hathurusingha had replied that it was not possible to release the boys prior to the completion of their rehabilitation.
The Police Spokesperson has added that the boys have consented to their rehabilitation and that therefore it should not be considered as them being detained arbitrarily by the military. This however is contradictory to the initial response given by the Inspector General of Police to the University authorities that that he could not comment regarding the arrests as it was a matter under the purview of the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID).
Situation Update as at 12.05pm, 21 December, 2012
The parents of the four detained students from the University of Jaffna (UoJ) have been summoned via the Vice Chancellor of the University, to the Army Head Quarters in Palali for a meeting/inquiry today.
Student Union leaders and the Faculty Heads have refused to abandon the boycott and commence classes until the boys are released, but the military is allegedly continuing to intimidate students into returning to class.
The Vice Chancellor has requested Student Union representatives to recommence classes, but the students had unanimously refused to concede. University academics have also strongly criticized the military’s interference in the academic field, and have therefore refused to attend any future meetings called by the military. Meanwhile, the Faculty Heads have confirmed their continued support of the boycott until their demands are met.
Situation Update as at 12.20pm, 17 December, 2012
The Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) of the Jaffna Hospital has confirmed that the death of Nadarajah Kijani, a student of the University of Jaffna (UoJ), is a suspected murder. He had found visible scars on her neck that seemed to have been caused by a cloth in an attempt to strangle the girl. He has said however that he requires more information to reach a conclusive decision. Furthermore he has sent an extract from the victim’s abdominal to Colombo, to conduct an anatomical test on the sample.
Meanwhile the situation in Jaffna remains tense and fearful for recently released former LTTE cadres, as a recent announcement by Military intelligence has stated that all former LTTE cadres will be subject to rehabilitation again.
The UoJ student boycott has reached its 19th (since 29 November) today, with no definitive assurance being given by the Government regarding the release of the four Student Union members of the UoJ, currently undergoing rehabilitation in Welikanda.
Situation Update as at 4.13pm, 15 December, 2012
Four female students from the University of Jaffna (UoJ) who were summoned to the TID office this week, were accompanied by their parents and an University lecturer, and handed over to the TID office in Jaffna for questioning yesterday. Each of the students were interrogated separately for three hours, and released in the evening.
The Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa had assured a group of University authorities (led by the Vice Chancellor), that the four detained Student Union members would be released following a short time in rehabilitation, as they have been identified with having alleged connections with terrorist activities.
Furthermore, the parents of the four students, together with a group of University lecturers are meeting with the Jaffna Army Commander in Palali today, to discuss the possible release of the students.
Meanwhile, the sudden death of first year Fine Arts student of the UoJ, Nadarajah Kijani, on 13 December, still remains a mystery. There should be a clearer picture following the post-mortem procedure which is currently underway.
Situation Update as at 6.57pm, 14 December, 2012
The parents of the four student union members of the University of Jaffna (UoJ) who are currently being detained at Welikanda, were permitted to visit them for two hours on Wednesday the 12th of December. Although the students have not been subject to any physical torture, they are apparently under intense psychological trauma and torture. They are allegedly being intimidated into revealing details regarding other student activists and their continued detention is due to the students refusing to reveal details of other students.
Parents of the students have yet to receive any specific documentation regarding the detention of their sons. On the 10th of December, the families had received a letter written in Sinhala from the Jaffna Police stating that their sons have been detained due to their alleged involvement in reigniting terrorist activities.
The Vice Chancellor of the UoJ and the Dean of the Science Faculty have had a discussion with the Defence Secretary today, but there has been no positive response as yet.
Meanwhile the boycott continues and the military has been allegedly trying to intimidate students into going for classes and abandoning the boycott.
Update as of 3.25pm on 14th December, 2012
Nadarajah Kijani, a 21 year old first year student of the Ramanathan Fine Arts Department of the University of Jaffna, was found dead in her home in Kantharodai Jaffna, yesterday. Her father had said that she was at home studying when they left the house yesterday, and dead upon their return home. Students have been at home since the 29th of November, due to the ongoing University boycott in protest of the arrest and detention of four student union members.
Her sudden death has raised a lot of suspicion and fear among students and parents.
Situation Update as at 11.50pm, 13 December, 2012
This morning, three female students, including the Girls Hostel Student Union President from the University of Jaffna (UoJ), have been summoned by the TID to their office located with the high security zone Jaffna. The TID had informed University officials today to hand over these three students to their office immediately. When University officials explained the difficulty in bringing these students in the evening, the TID had instructed the officials to bring the students tomorrow (14th) morning instead.
One student is from Mannar and the other two from Vavuniya.
There are serious concerns as to whether the TID division has female officers in its ranks to deal with the female students, as if not, it would be a direct violation of their rights.
Furthermore, a group comprising parents of the four students from the UoJ and University lecturers, visited the students at Welikanda yesterday (12th), and were able to speak to them for two hours. They are currently being detained at an open prison called Kanthankaduvai and have made an appeal for their immediate release. The parents have confirmed that the boys are safe and have not been subject to any torture as yet.
Situation Update as at 3pm, 11 December, 2012
Prior to their transfer to Welikanda, the four above mentioned students had been detained at Joseph Camp, Vavuniya, a camp notorious for torture and inhumane interrogation practices. Although there is no information pertaining to the students being tortured, the fact that they were detained at Joseph Camp is deeply troubling, considering there still being no legitimate charges made against them.
On the 10th of December, when the parents of the students raised questions as to the reasons behind the continued detention and transfer of the students to Welikanda, they were told that the students were required for a further two-week long inquiry conducted by special investigators and officers. As a result, families of the detained University students are deeply concerned regarding the security and well being of their children.
Meanwhile, university authorities have tried to obtain special permission to visit Welikanda, but have been refused permission by TID officials, stating that visits are only permitted over the weekend.
The boycott called by the students and staff of the University of Jaffna (UoJ) continues onto its 13th day today, with their demands to release the detained Student Union members and remove the military/Police presence from in and around the University, as it is an obstruction to restoring a sense of normalcy within the University. There still remains two temporary military and Police installments, in the vicinity of the University.
The remaining students who have been named but still not surrendered to the TID due to fear, are still in hiding.
Situation Update as at 10.45am, 11 December, 2012
The initial three Student Union members of the University of Jaffna (UoJ), Sanmugam Solaman, Kanagasundram Jenamajenth and Paramalingam Tharshaanan (Secretary) and also V. Bhavananadan (President), have been transferred to the Welikanda Rehabilitation Centre on the 9th of December. There is still no charge against Bhavananadan. And the alleged charge of being involved in an arson attack made against the other three students too seems to have taken a back seat to the new allegations against them of allegedly being involved in ‘transnational terrorism’. Prior to their transfer to Welikanda, they had been told by the TID that they were being sent to Welikanda to follow a three-month long lecture series on ‘reconciliation’. The students fear they’ll be interrogated further at Welikanda, and possibly detained there for the next three months.
Some of the students’ parents who had been to visit their sons at the TID office in Vavuniya yesterday (10th), were initially denied access to their sons as they had already been transferred to Welikanda by then. Thereafter, they were interrogated by TID officers for about four hours, which had caused them further emotional and mental stress. Following the interrogation, the parents had been compelled to sign a document that was written in Sinhala, but as none of them could read Sinhala, they had not known what they were signing.
There are also approximately 600 former LTTE combatants currently being detained at the Welikanda.
Situation Update as at 11.20am, 10 December, 2012
The six students including five from the University of Jaffna (UoJ) Medical Faculty and one from the Management Faculty, who were handed over to the Vavuniya TID on December 6th, 2012, have been released this morning.
Furthermore, of the three students who surrendered to the Human Rights Commission on the 7th of December, who on the advice of the Commission surrendered to the Vavuniya TID office, two have also been released this morning following 2-3 days of interrogation. However, there seems to be no further news on the whereabouts or welfare of the Student Union President, V. Bhavananadan, who also surrendered to the TID with the two Science Faculty students who have now been released.
Meanwhile, the three Student Union Members of the UoJ, Sanmugam Solaman, Kanagasundram Jenamajenth, and the Student Union Secretary Paramalingam Tharshaanan who were arrested on the 29th and 30th of November, are still being held in detention. Parents of the students had been denied permission to visit the boys at the TID Office in Vavuniya this morning. The parents of the students fear that their children have been transferred to the Rehabilitation Centre in Welikanda.
Situation Update as of 8 December, 2012
Three more University students, from the list of 10 handed over by the Kopai Police to the University authorities on the 6th of December, have surrendered to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) seeking protection yesterday (7th December). The three students include the current Student Union President, V. Bhavananadan.
This trend of seeking protection from the HRCSL is similar to how youth sought protection from the Commission and were placed in protective custody during the 2006-2008 period when youths were faced with threats and intimidation by the security forces and paramilitary groups.
This surge of arrests and detention has once again caused a fear psychosis to arise among University students and youth in the North.
The list of students handed over by the Kopai Police to the University Authorities on the 6th of December, 2012.
- Selwarathnam Renuraj
- V. Bhavananadan
- Ambalawanapillai Prasana
- T. Abarajithan
- Pranadhan Sabeshkumar
- Selvanayagam Janahan
- Rajendran Miller Alexendar
- Kanagarasa Sanjeewan
- Sathyamoorthi Prasanna
- Sinnaiya Shashikantha
Situation Update as at 12.30pm, 7 December, 2012
On the morning of 6th December, 2012, the Kopai Police have handed over a list of a further 10 students to the University authorities to be handed over to the Police for questioning, over an undisclosed charge. The list includes five students from the University of Jaffna (UoJ) Medical Faculty and the Presidents of the Jaffna University Student Union, Science Faculty Union and Management Faculty Union. The five students from the Medical Faculty and one student from the Management Faculty were accompanied by the Dean of the Medical Faculty and lecturers and handed over to the TID office in Vavuniya for questioning late last evening.
The Vice Chancellor of the UoJ has requested all Faculties of the University and the parents of the students summoned by the Police, to hand over the students for questioning to the Police. The parents have agreed to do so, but have requested that the University authorities accompany their children to the Police.
The remaining four students, three from the Science, and one from the Management Faculty, have refused to surrender themselves to the Police until they are provided with a legitimate charge. The three Science Faculty students are known to be outspoken activists in the University. Many students, particularly former Student Union members have gone into hiding due to the fear and panic caused as a result of these arrests. With the student boycott of the UoJ reaching its ninth day (since the 29th of November) today, the situation in the Jaffna University remains tense and volatile.
Situation Update as of 1 December, 2012
#2: Another Two university student arrested
Last night another two university student arrested by police. P. Tharsananth from Kaladdi jaffna arrested by four officers with police uniform last night from his house. Another medical faculty student Kanesamoorthy Sutharsan from Urumpirai arrested from his at 1am this morning.
Mother of Tharsananth spoke to Uthayan news and told last night four people came with police uniform and knocked the door at mid night and checked my son’s ID card, then they pulled him in a vehicle, I screamed to release him and requested documents for the arrest by I was not been given.
Further to two more students detained at Kopai police from last evening this two are detained at Jaffna police. This atrocity of state sponsored activity of police has emerged fear among students and activities in Jaffna.
#1: Students summoned by Police
Seven students from Jaffna University including union members have been summoned by Jaffna Kopai police over an accusation of connection with alleged arson attack on 28th night. Out of the seven students, two have surrendered at Kopai police with Faculty Deans Prof. Kanthasami (Dean Faculty of Science) and Prof. Velnampi, Dean Faculty of Management.
Sanmugam Soloman. a science faculty student union member was the victim who was brutally assaulted by riot police on 28th morning and treated for internal injuries. A picture taken while he was assaulted is widely available in the media. Kanagasapapathi Jenamayan is President of Arts Faculty student union. Both have surrendered. Two other students named have already graduated and working under government graduate scheme at Nedunkeny, in Vavuniya North (this has raised more questions about the alleged arson attack).
The students surrendered at 1pm. They are still under going questioning.
The seven students named are strong activists and active members of Jaffna University Student Union. They have taken part in several marches and protests against the oppressive nature of the Sri Lankan military, including the silent match on the 28th, which was brutally attacked by the Police and other organised armed groups.
This incident and subsequent arrests have created fear amongst students. The safety and personal security of those in custody are also in question.