Student boycott called off after apology

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 08 July 1998, 23:59 GMT]
The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) tendered an unqualified apology to the high school students of Trincomalee this morning, after students insisted that they would boycott classes until the SLA apologised for assaulting them during a peaceful demonstration on Monday, said sources in Trincomalee.

The SLA assaulted students with belts and gun butts when they were staging a peaceful demonstration in front of the office of the Governor for the Northeastern Province, in support of the fast to death of three unemployed graduates.

Students in Tamil schools in and around Trincomalee boycotted classes en masse today in support of the call for boycott, while attendance was poor in Sinhalese schools as well.

The students circulated a pamphlet which stated that they had been assaulted by armed men in uniform while they were demonstrating in support of the just demands of the unemployed graduates.

"That uniformed soldiers should assault without discrimination students, who will be the leaders of tomorrow's society, is inexcusable. This has affected the students physically and psychologically," read the pamphlet.

The pamphlet requested the President to take appropriate action against the errant soldiers and to ensure that such things do not take place in the future.

The pamphlet, signed by 'Trincomalee Students', stated that till the SLA apologised for its actions, students would boycott classes. Security was strengthened near the Governor's Office and the Regional Director of Education's office, the latter was the target of irate students on Monday, who stoned the building after they had been assaulted by SLA personnel.

The SLA feared that students would organise a procession today. However there was no procession.

This afternoon P. Sooriyamoorthy, Chairman., Urban Council, Trincomalee, summoned an urgent conference to avert a crisis. Present were Colonel P. B. Wijewardene, Civil Affairs Co-ordinator for Trincomalee, Assistant Superintendent of Police Dhanapala Nannayakkara, Headquarters Inspector of Police Edward Mahendran and others.

From the opposite camp 15 students representatives and 20 heads of schools were present.

Both parties hurled recriminations at each other. Finally, Colonel Wijewardene said that he wished to apologise on behalf of the SLA for the assault on the students and assured them it would not occur again.

He said that there was a possibility that the students were being used as pawns by other forces, therefore it was best for the students to resolve their problems with the security forces directly.

A representative of the students spoke after that, accepting the apology of the SLA, and assuring them that students would not hurl stones or indulge in acts of lawlessness in the future.

The students will return to school on Friday because tomorrow is a poya holiday.


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