Jaffna varsity teachers assert right to mourn

Published - May 14, 2014 12:19 am IST - COLOMBO:

The Jaffna University Science Teachers’ Association has condemned the closure of the university between May 16 and 20, pointing to intimidation and repression of free discussion on campus.

It said that some university professors and student leaders received death threats warning them against holding any commemoration for those who lost their lives during the war, alleging that they were trying to revive the LTTE.

Earlier this month, the registrar of the university had sent out a circular announcing that the university and its hostels will remain closed from May 16 to 20, which coincides with the days that the country’s ethnic conflict ended.

“Why should Tamils speaking of the war be such an explosive issue five years after it ended, a war in which neither side owned a monopoly on terrorism?” the university teachers asked, in a strongly-worded statement titled ‘In the shadow of war and peace on a war-footing’ released on Tuesday. The statement assumes significance for it comes from a group of academics who are not affiliated to any political party, at a time when most people in northern Sri Lanka are hesitating to speak fearing surveillance. The Sri Lankan government has, over the last few months, maintained there was an attempt to revive the LTTE in the island’s Tamil-speaking north. Pointing to the ‘Victory Day’ celebration – to mark the end of the war — to be observed by the Sri Lankan armed forces in Matara, the teachers asked why the Tamils alone were barred from remembering those who died during the war.

“The Tamil people should have the freedom to mourn collectively the untimely death of a large number of members of their community whether or not the dead persons are members of their family,” the note said.

“While the Government wants to use the war for political deception, it is only to be expected that its obverse, in the wake of hopelessness and humiliation in being forced to accept the Sinhalisation of their lands and symbols, and the erasure of huge civilian suffering in the latter months of the war, might lead to latent nostalgia for the LTTE – despite the anger against its holding the civilians hostage in the last stages of the war,” it said. The only way to deal with such nostalgia is allow people to express themselves freely, and to ensure that the mechanisms of justice function to eradicate, and not to instate impunity, the statement said. When The Hindu earlier spoke to registrar V. Kandeepan on why the university was closed, he cited pending repair work as reason.

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