Days after the Jaffna University administration bulldozed bulldozed a structure erected in memory of war victims, setting off students protests, the university’s Vice-Chancellor on Monday promised to “rebuild” the memorial on campus.
Urging a group of students to end their hunger strike, V-C S. Srisatkunarajah laid a “foundation stone” for the said new structure. “The development [of the destruction on Friday night] has caused a lot of concern within the country and outside too. People in the U.K. are talking about it. Tamil Nadu is boiling. Authorities felt the situation had to be defused,” he told The Hindu on Monday, when asked what prompted his shift.
Earlier, the V-C had said he had instructed the university’s administrative staff to remove the memorial — a sculpture of hands crying out of help — erected two years ago to commemorate the victims of Sri Lanka’s civil war. The decision, he said, followed “instructions” from authorities, including Defence, Intelligence, Education Ministry officials, on grounds that it was an “unauthorised structure”. The University Grants Commission said the memorial at the Jaffna University threatened “north-south unity”.
The removal of the structure, dedicated to victims of the final phase of the civil war, triggered spontaneous students protests, drawing national and international attention. Many, including other national student bodies, slammed the move, that they said curbed Tamils’ right to remember their loved ones.
“After this became a big issue, I got messages from authorities, asking me to take steps,” Prof. Srisatkunarajah said.
Asked if the structure, termed “unauthorised”, had been authorised now, he said it had been cleared “in principle”. “We have to later work out the design and form it will take. It will be something that marks peace, not war.”
The Jaffna-based Uthayan newspaper reported that the Pradeshya Sabha, or local administrative body in Nallur, Jaffna on Monday granted permission to erect a memorial on campus. Meanwhile, businesses and shops across the north and east observed a hartal on Monday, protesting the demolition, local media reported.