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Ceylon Teachers’ Union Secretary detained for protesting education bill

Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, and ten other people have been forcibly detained in a Sri Lankan army quarantine centre for their protest against the "Sir John Kotelawala National Defence University Bill".

The arrests came on Thursday as demonstrators protesters near Sri Lanka's parliament. Demonstrators have criticised the bill as a move to "militarise the universities on the island". Stalin has since been released on bail. 

Speaking to the press, Stalin said that he "still remains in the same clothes" which he was wearing when he was detained and expressed resentment that the inmates in the centre are being fed low-quality food and impure water. 

Stalin also stated that he has been put in the quarantine centre deliberately as a form of punishment against his protest near the parliament against the bill. 

Jaffna Mayor V. Manivannan, Valikamam East Divisional Secretariat chairperson Thyagaraja Nirosh and others visited the Keppapulavu Air Force premises earlier today and provided a set of clothes and other necessities to those being quarantined. 

The Jaffna University Employees' Union condemned the detention of Stalin in a statement and emphasised that COVID-19-related health restrictions should not be used to suppress the rights of human rights activists.

“We can never accept the government’s attempts to oppress genuine human rights activism and democratic protests that respect health measures, in the guise of pandemic health and safety restrictions,” the statement said. 

The National Defence University Bill has been widely denounced as a move that intends to curb freedom of thought and expression in universities and militarise higher education on the island. It is feared that if brought into force, it would make universities in Sri Lanka fall short of international academic standards. 

Read the full statement by the Jaffna University Employees Union in Tamil here.

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