Graduate Protest Resolved
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 07 July 1998, 23:59 GMT]
Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga agreed to appoint protesting unemployed graduates as high school teachers yesterday evening, but not before high school students demonstrating in Trincomalee town, were assaulted by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA), said sources in Trincomalee.
Three graduates, whose protest fast to death entered its fifth day yesterday, called off their protest last evening, when the Chief Secretary for the Northeast Province handed over a glass of water to A. Adambawa, a student participating in the relay fast.
The fast to death by three students was supported by 10 other students who staged relay fasts from last Thursday.
Earlier yesterday, the condition of N. Nasurdeen who was fasting to death, deteriorated to the point that he was forced into an ambulance and taken to hospital.
He followed Selvanayagam Pushpakumar, who was taken to hospital on Saturday with a heart complaint. Soon after the strike was called off last evening, the third and last member of the fasting trio, Dharmaratnam Raveendran was also whisked off to hospital.
Once the strike was called off Gamini Fonseka, Governor of the Northeast Province, faxed the president of the Association of the Unemployed Graduates of the East (AUGE) to say that immediate steps will be taken to give 1000 graduates who passed out of university prior to 1996 appointments as graduate teachers.
Other graduates passing out before 1996 will be given suitable employment. However the three men who staged a fast to death are to be given appointments as teachers regardless of when they passed out.
Earlier today, high school students from Trincomalee town and its suburbs gathered before the office of the NEPC Governor around 11:20 a.m., to hold a peaceful demonstration in support of the fasting graduates.
P. Sooriyamoorthy Chairman of the Urban Council, Trincomalee, described what he saw in a fax to President Kumaratunga.
He said that he had seen with his own eyes members of the armed forces assaulting students with their belts and rifle butts. This happened while the students were seated demonstrating peacefully in front of the Governor's office.
The action taken by the armed forces caused pain to the students and their parents. Mr. Sooriyamoorthy requested the President to inquire into the incident immediately.
There were no serious injuries to students reported, said sources. Unconfirmed reports said that students dispersing after the assault had vented their anger by throwing stones at the Regional Education Office in Trincomalee town.
The harshness with which the students were dispersed was attributed to the SLA having taken over security in the town from the police, said sources.
This rendered the police mere bystanders. Details of the incident were conveyed to R. Sampathan MP, (Tamil United Liberation Front - Trincomalee District), Brigadier Lawrence Fernando, Civil Coordinating Officer, Trincomalee, and Major General Nihal Jayakody, Commanding Officer 3rd Division SLA.
While the students demonstrated before the Governor's Office, elders of Trincomalee, supported by the members of EROS, PLOTE, TELO, EPRLF and EPDP staged a peaceful demonstration before the Secretariat in Trincomalee town in support of the same demand.
In Batticaloa, students of the Eastern University at Vantharamoolai, staged symbolic fast in University's main hall in sympathy for the fasting graduates. This was followed by a demonstration in front of the University gates. The walls were pasted with posters and the demonstrating students held placards.
The Eastern University Democratic Teachers Union issued a statement in sympathy with the unemployed graduates.
07.07.98 Graduate protest over unemployment
04.07.98 Trinco fast over jobs continues