Asia

Sri Lanka protesting university students evicted

  • 9 January 2012
  • From the section Asia
Students shout slogans to protest against a petrol bomb blast that damaged a memorial statue at the Sri Jayawardenepura University in Colombo January 5, 2012.
Image caption Protests at the university have been going on for days

Thousands of protesting students have been evicted from the campus of one of Sri Lanka's main universities following a court order.

The evictions at the Sri Jayawardenepura campus comes amid disputes between students who have been protesting for days and the government.

Students accuse the government of interfering in their lives.

A senior opposition figure has said that Sri Lanka's entire education system is in a state of collapse.

Sajith Premadasa of the United National Party (UNP), said students were being threatened and their rights violated with the deployment of the army and police at Sri Jayawardenepura. Several other universities are also closed.

The government denies being heavy-handed. It accuses student union leaders of "ragging", or victimising, college newcomers.

Accusations have been exchanged between students and the army and there is nationwide indignation about official bungling in the marking of school leaving exams.

Major disruption

Despite the arrests of many student leaders last year, and their still pending trials, college unrest has returned on a large scale causing major disruption.

At the root of the unrest lie numerous disputes between student activists and the government.

Above all the activists' oppose plans for private colleges, which they say will end young Sri Lankans' entitlement to free higher education.

They blame both university officials and the government for interfering in their lives - for allegedly subjecting some women students to virginity tests; for insisting that all universities engage a security firm linked to the defence ministry; and for sending in the army to thwart student marches.

Last week a monument to dead student leaders was firebombed. Students blamed soldiers; the latter denied it.

Separately, widespread blunders in the recent marking of A-levels have caused many Sri Lankans to lose all faith in the examination system.

Student unrest has had deadly consequences in post-independence Sri Lanka. Such unrest set in motion a brutal conflict in the south of the island 22 years ago which ran in parallel to the much higher-profile war in the north.

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