- Sri Lanka troops open fire on demonstration in Jaffna
Sri Lanka troops shot in the air & Tamils on the ground
suffered gun shot injuries - 20 December 2005
fiasco has brought Jaffna to brink of war - D.B.S.Jeyaraj in
the Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Sunday Leader, 25 December 2005
NTT Video News of Demonstration at University of
Jaffna, Tamil Eelam
Sri Lanka troops shot in the air & Tamils on the ground suffered
gun shot injuries
- News Watch, 20 December 2005
Reuters Report - Simon Gardner, 19 December 2005 -
"Sri Lankan troops and protesters clashed in the minority
Tamil-dominated Jaffna peninsula on Monday, with one person shot
and wounded and each side accusing the other of trying to
provoke further violence. The army said it had fired into the
air after protesters incited by Tamil Tiger rebels attacked
checkpoints with stones. Protesters said troops attacked a
peaceful demonstration against army brutality and had beaten
lecturers and students.
"They shot at us," University of Jaffna management student
Senthil Ratneswaran told Reuters in an overcrowded local
hospital, a suspected bullet fragment still in his back.
"Some fell onto the road to save themselves and they were
kicked. They are trying to... instigate the LTTE to move towards
Hospital staff said it was the worst incident of its kind since
a 2002 ceasefire halted two decades of conflict between the
government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
One protester had been confirmed shot and wounded and 14 others
were also injured, they said. The injured included senior
university staff who said they had been beaten with sticks and
rifle butts.... On streets bearing the scars of past bombs
and shells, soldiers stood with assault rifles and sticks,
some obscuring their faces with black bandannas..."
TamilNet, Report 19 December 2005
Sri Lanka Army troopers opened fire at a peaceful
demonstration march by Jaffna University students and staff,
wounding at least seven demonstrators including Prof. N.
Perinpanathan, a Senior Lecturer, and a student leader of the
medical faculty T. Kandeepan. Professor C. Mohanadas, the Vice
Chancellor of the Jaffna University, Prof. R. Sivchandran, Dean
of Arts, and S. Kajendran, Jaffna MP were severely beaten by the
The demonstration march from Jaffna University towards the
Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM) did not proceed beyond
Parameswara Junction where the troopers began firing at the
demonstrators around 11:00 a.m. Monday. Tension prevails in the
area. At least seven people were injured and rushed to Jaffna
The demonstrators were scheduled to hand over an appeal to
the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission protesting the increased
harassment by the Sri Lanka Army soldiers on the student
community in Jaffna and the alleged involvement of Sri Lanka
Navy men in the killing of a young woman in Punguduthivu on
Saturday. Journalists covering the students demonstration
were also attacked by the soldiers at Parameswara junction.
Thinakural staff reporter Mr. N. Sabeswaran, Uthayan reporter N.
Pradeepan, Thinakaran (Lake House) reporter Wintson Jeyan and
Namathu Eelanadu reporter Mr. I. Jerad were beaten up by the
troopers. The soldiers also smashed their digital camera
equipments, media sources said. Professor N. Perinpanathan
was admitted to the Jaffna Hospital with gunshot wounds to the
Comment by Newswatch
Sri Lanka troops shot in the air and Tamils on the ground
suffered gun shot injuries.
Two decades ago in 1984, Sri Lanka troops shot at roof tops
and the bullets hit Tamils on the ground. On that occasion, Sri
Lanka National Security Minister Lalith Athulathmudali claimed
that the bullets had ricocheted - and 'stray' bullets had hit
Tamils on the ground. On this occasion it appears that some of
the troops were
"obscuring their faces with black bandannas..." - perhaps,
their vision was obstructed and they did not know where they
fiasco that has brought Jaffna to the brink of war
D.B.S.Jeyaraj in the Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Sunday Leader, 25
Front Note by R.Cholan:
The fact that the Sunday Leader published this
article doesn’t mean that this paper is on the Tamil side, or is
even neutral. The Sunday Leader has its own agenda, which are,
among other things: 1. Make life difficult for Mahinda. 2. Make
Ranil appear better, and, 3. more importantly, like all Sinhala
owned newspapers, The Sunday Leader also wants Sri Lanka to look
as if it is a ‘democratic country’ with ‘press-freedoms’ and
‘tolerance for the opposite views’, etc. What the Sunday Leader
has done to undermine the Tamil cause on its own, will take
another page. However this particular article, regardless of
DBSJ’s occasional barbs at the LTTE, is worth reading.
Additional Comment by News Watch:
As Ranil Wickremasinghe (&UNP) supporting
Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Sunday Leader battles with Sri Lanka
President Mahinda Rajapakse as to who is best suited to (and
knows how best to) impose alien Sinhala rule on the people
of Tamil Eelam, the truth sometimes peeps out. D.B.S.Jeyaraj's
concern about the counter productive nature of Sri
Lanka military's actions under President Rajapakse, is a helpful
The Jaffna University or Yarlpanap Palgalaikkazhagham has become
a volatile flashpoint of tension in the ongoing conflict between
security personnel of the state and the younger generation of the
While intifada type attacks continue to be directed against police
and armed forces in the peninsula, the university precincts and
environs in Thirunelvely became the battle ground for direct
clashes. With even
the vice chancellor and members of the academic staff becoming
the university authorities have decided to close down the campus
till January 2, next year.
The Jaffna University has played a prominent role in the politics of
the region since its inception in 1974. Various undergraduate
generations have come and gone in the past. Each generation has had
its own brand of politics fashioned according to prevalent
In the late ‘70s Jaffna University students played a pivotal role in
the emergence of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and
its1977 electoral victory on a platform seeking a mandate for Tamil
Eelam. Yet in the early ‘80s, Jaffna undergraduates were in the
forefront of those revolting against the perceived betrayal of the
TULF in accepting the compromise of district development councils.
Safe house for the LTTE
The late ‘70s and early ‘80s also saw the Jaffna campus being a
virtual safe house for some leading members of the LTTE. The LTTE
then was in its embryonic stage of development.
The very same Jaffna campus exploded in protests against LTTE
hegemonism in the mid ‘80s over incidents like the Vijitharan
killing, Rajaharan abduction, etc. This was when Jaffna was being
controlled by Sathasivampillai Krishnakumar alias ‘Col.’ Kittu.
The late ‘80s saw the Jaffna campus transforming once again into a
clandestine support base for the Tigers during the Indian army
occupation of Jaffna.
The ‘90s saw the Jaffna University developing pockets of resistance
to the Tigers who were controlling all aspects of civilian life then
in Jaffna. The LTTE cracked down on a number of undergrads and young
graduates in an attempt to stifle all dissent and suppress all
protest. It would have been difficult to predict the future had that
course of events continued.
There was however a dramatic reversal of the situation in 1995 when
the LTTE withdrew to the Wanni and the Sri Lanka Army took over the
Jaffna District. Once again rebellion began within university ranks
to the dominant forces in power.
The army presence was resented. Jaffna University students played a
crucial role in the Tamil resurgence movement and staging of Pongu
Thamizh (Tamil upsurge) demonstrations.
Though Jaffna undergraduate politics has undergone different changes
at different times, there have been three constant, underlying
threads. Firstly, a fearless spirit of defiant opposition to the
powerful forces dominating Jaffna. Secondly, an inherent
consciousness of opposing or rebelling against perceived oppression
and injustice. Thirdly, a consistent pattern of being in the
vanguard against threats or potential threats to the well-being of
the Tamil people. It is against this backdrop that one has to view
all ‘tensions’ within and outside the Jaffna campus.
Two significant developments began after the election of Mahinda
Rajapakse as President and appointment of Sarath Fonseka as military
commander. One was the launching of a Palestine-style intifada
protest campaign by Jaffna students against the intrusive presence
of the armed forces.
The second was the escalation of the shadow war in Jaffna where a
series of grenade, hand bomb and landmine attacks against police and
military personnel in Jaffna. Though the LTTE did not play any overt
role the Tigers were suspected of providing covert logistical and
moral support to the attacks and protests.
The landmine attacks on army patrols saw the security forces
deploying additional personnel in key roads, junctions and zones.
The university and its environs became strategically important. The
university was seen as a hotbed of intrigue and revolt against the
pervasive army presence.
Besides the administrative office of the International Tamil Student
Federation was in the vicinity. The federation was controlled by
Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian, Selvakumar Gajendran alias
‘Kuthirai’ Gajendran. This organisation is regarded as a Tiger front
and being the live-wire behind student and youth protests in Jaffna.
The increase of search posts, sentry posts and the deployment of
additional soldiers in the university zone led predictably to
confrontation and tension. With most soldiers being young men and
the undergraduates also being young men, tempers frayed on both
Undergraduates resented this enhanced security intrusion into their
daily life. There were many arguments. The soldiers reacted with
assaults and tearing up of identity cards. Undergraduates began
demonstrating. Kokkuvil Technical College students also began
The undergraduates in association with the secondary school student
consortium called for a widespread Hartal in Jaffna. One of the
demands was that security posts in the university area should be
shut down and additional soldiers withdrawn. The protest
demonstration created much tension and a few incidents of
stone-throwing. Soldiers fired in the air. The situation did not
deteriorate further at that point of time.
prevailing ‘standoff’ situation underwent a drastic change on
account of the rape and murder incident at Pungudutheevu.
20-year-old Tamil woman, Eliyathamby Dharmini from the seventh ward
area was sexually violated, murdered and thrown into an abandoned
well close to a navy camp. It was widely alleged she had been
raped and murdered by naval personnel. When protest demonstrations
demanding justice were held, the navy responded with force, tear
gassing and beating up demonstrators. A few were arrested. The navy
at Pungudutheevu also prevented people from attending the funeral.
It was in this atmosphere that a group of undergraduates in three
vehicles started off from the campus at about 4 p.m. on Sunday,
December 18 to Pungudutheevu. MP Gajendran also accompanied them.
They were stopped near the Parameshwara Junction by soldiers who
refused to let them proceed further.
The students refused to turn back and a heated argument ensued. At
this point of time stones were thrown at the soldiers from a spot
behind an ice cream parlour nearby.
The soldiers then began assaulting the students. They also fired at
the ice cream parlor building. The students also retaliated and soon
there was a violent melee on. With more undergraduates streaming out
from campus precincts, the soldiers began calling for
reinforcements. Soon a large contingent of soldiers in armoured
cars, armoured personnel carriers, jeeps, trucks and motor cycles
arrived at the scene.
Unarmed students were brutally assaulted with clubs, rods, batons
and rifle butts. Firing was done towards the ground and into the
air. The students retreated into the campus. At least 25 of them
were injured. An ice cream parlour employee was also severely
The soldiers then took full control of the area outside campus. One
consequence of increased security deployment in the campus environs
was the ‘unofficial’ sealing off the one km stretch of the
Jaffna-Palaly road between Thirunelvely and Kantharmadam junctions.
No one was allowed to travel along the road stretch.
As a result students and residents were put to much hardship, being
unable to go out. People could not return to their homes. A number
of civilians were also assaulted. Soldiers blocked all access roads
to the campus area.
The International Students Federation office in the vicinity was
also affected. Soldiers entered the premises and wrecked the
interior. The ‘Godfather’ Gajendran in typical Tiger fashion was
nowhere to be seen as students bore the brunt of the attack. Army
men also fired towards the entrance of the university campus.
Movement to and from the campus was severely curtailed. It was
almost as if the university people were under house arrest.
Academics including Vice Chancellor Dr. Mohanthas and many students
could not get out from campus. The Vice Chancellor was on the phone
speaking to army authorities explaining the predicament. Finally at
about 8 p.m. the soldiers began moving away from the campus environs
and Parameshwara Junction to Aalady Junction and Post Box Junction.
The university students and staff moved out from campus at about 9
On the following day TNA Parliamentarian Gajendran urged university
authorities and student representatives to go out in procession to
protest against the previous day’s assault and to submit a petition
to the monitoring mission at Nallur.
The academic staff was initially reluctant but Gajendran succeeded
in ‘persuading’ them to do so with all the power of his arguments.
Vice Chancellor Dr. Mohanthas informed the SLMM and army authorities
of their intention. He informed them clearly that it was a strictly
Over 2,500 students and academic staff led by the Vice Chancellor
started out in procession at 10:45 a.m. Gajendran also participated.
The procession commenced from the campus precincts towards the
Parameshwara or university junction and then proceeded along Palaly
When it reached the Central Nursing Home Junction the procession was
forced to stop because the road was blocked. A massive army
contingent including armoured cars and tanks with field artillery
was stationed there. The processionists were asked to turn back.
The Vice Chancellor and senior academics went up to the officers and
informed them of their intentions. They pointed out that it was a
nonviolent protest and that suppressing it through force could prove
counterproductive. The security men would have none of it and
insisted they turn back. The university people stood their ground
and kept on pleading that the army should allow them to proceed.
A group of soldiers then came forward menacingly and
began firing on the
ground. Pieces of chipped tar and stones began flying about due
to the hail of gunfire. The academics including the Vice Chancellor
were lying on the ground to protect themselves. The soldiers also
began firing in the air. The students at this point began chanting
slogans against the army. The soldiers however let loose a torrent
The academics and others lying prostate on the ground were kicked,
trampled and assaulted. This included the Vice Chancellor. Bursts of
gunfire were now directed against the unarmed processionists. The
helpless students and terrified academic staff began running for
Realising that none of the processionists possessed firearms or
grenades the soldiers waded in ‘courageously’, assaulting students
and staff without restraint. The procession was dispersed brutally
with processionists scattering.
Professor N. Perinpanathan admitted to
the Jaffna Hospital with gunshot wounds to the thigh.
A senior lecturer,
Perinpanathan and five students received gunshot injuries and
were admitted to hospital. Perinpanathan was shot in the thigh. The
Arts Faculty Dean, Prof. Sivachandran and 19 other students were
admitted to hospital for assault injuries. Around 100 others
received minor assault injuries and received medical treatment. This
included the Vice Chancellor, some lecturers and Gajendran. The
encounter took about 90 minutes.
The soldiers, like a conquering army, took control of the
Palaly road stretch for hours. Tanks and armoured cars were
mounted in strategic points. It was as if the army was expecting
an armed invasion or issuing a challenge for a fight. But there
were no takers. After several hours of posturing, the bulk of
soldiers withdrew, no doubt very pleased about their
The beleaguered army in Jaffna had scored a magnificent
‘victory’ in Jaffna, unleashing violence on unarmed
undergraduates and academic staff and crushing a nonviolent
The following Tuesday saw the university students declaring a
boycott of lectures in protest against the previous day’s incidents.
Nevertheless a large number of them were present in the campus
precincts. Some students were standing near the main entrance on the
road when a jeep with five cops from the Kopay Police station drew
The policemen tried to chase students away. Infuriated students
encircled the jeep and began thumping on the vehicle. Soldiers from
nearby Parameshwara Junction and Kalady Junction hurried to the
scene, firing in the air. The students ran into the campus while the
Police jeep sped away.
A larger contingent of troops arrived shortly thereafter and entered
the campus in violation of accepted norms. They began firing tear
gas cannisters at the groups of students standing by. Firing also
commenced. Students began running inwards for safety. Soldiers went
on the rampage moving in all directions within the campus and
assaulted anyone they got hold of.
Two groups of soldiers took up positions near the Kailasapathy
auditorium and library premises and fired volleys. After a while
they went outside the campus premises and continued firing. They
challenged the students to come out and fight.
Finally they went away, leaving hundreds of empty cannisters and
cartridges behind as souvenirs for the students. A lecturer,
Manickavasagam Ilampiraiyan and undergraduate Gowrisenthooran were
assaulted and taken away by the soldiers to the Parameshwara
Ilampiraiyan is the brother of Vavuniya District Judge, M.
Ilancheliyan. Some academic staff members went to the army officers
and requested the release of the arrested persons. It was refused.
Later both were handed over to the Jaffna police.
The boycott of classes by students continued. With the army entering
university premises, the minor staff employees were frightened about
their safety. Their union had an emergency meeting and decided to
stop work until their security was ensured. The academic staff
followed suit. Representations made by the Vice Chancellor to the
President, University Grants Commission and Army Commander met with
no proper response.
Under the circumstances a decision was taken to shut the university
until January 2 in the interests of the students and university
staff and employees. Efforts would be taken to procure effective
guarantees of safety during this interregnum.
Meanwhile undergraduates staged a meeting in a very emotional state.
It was resolved that resistance to army occupation should continue
in the coming days. It was also resolved that a ‘request’ be made to
the LTTE to provide arms training to undergraduates. If there is a
prompt response by the Tigers to this request the consequences could
be very bad indeed.
The Jaffna University has about 6,000 students. In a possible future
scenario at least 10% or 600 could get arms training and become a
people’s force or civilian militia. Also, at least 60 or 10% of
these could become full-fledged Tigers.
The soldiers in Jaffna are not equipped or trained to handle the new
challenges arising in the region. Using brute force is not the way
to deal with this problem. But then neither Mahinda Rajapakse nor
Sarath Fonseka possess the mature wisdom to recognise this.
Fonseka has changed the military hierarchy in Jaffna. Responsible
officers have been replaced with gung-ho type officers. With these
men at the helm in the periphery and the centre the future is going
to be extremely bleak.
The armed forces have played right into the hands of the Tigers
through the university fiasco. The consequences will prove