Army refuses to quit Jaffna schools
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 14 May 2002, 15:02 GMT]
Sri Lanka military commanders in Jaffna Monday refused to move troops out of several schools as required under the terms of the ceasefire agreement, Tamil press reports said. Civil administration officials who met the military to discuss moving army units out of school premises were told that troops would not be moving out of 32 schools “for the foreseeable future.” Sri Lanka defence officials said that these schools were in ‘high security’ zones and reopening them to the public would pose security risks.
Senior local government figures and education officials were present at the meeting at the Subhas Lodge, headquarters of the Sri Lanka army’s 51-3 Brigade.
Those attending included the Secretary of the Ministry for Education, Andrew Silva, the ministry’s North-East coordinator, K Shanmugalingam, as well the commanding officers of the Sri Lanka forces in Jaffna, Major General Sarath Fonseka and Major General Shantha Kottegoda.
Education officials from each part of the peninsula presented figures on the number of schools presently occupied by the army. They appealed for schools that have not functioned because they were in the army’s possession to be allowed to reopen for the sake of their students.
The figures indicated that twenty-three schools have not functioned for over twelve years in Valigamam North alone, for example.
The Army officials said that there were problems even with allowing schools situated just outside ‘high security zones’ as students might be injured by ordinance fired by the army when training. They said schools outside the zones had to be de-mined first before the army vacated them.
The Sri Lanka army occupies many schools in the Kankesanthurai and Palaly areas. Other schools in the area that have not been occupied are in poor state due to war damage and lack of repair.