University Grants Commission Chair Prof. Sampath Amaratunga has claimed that the Mullaiviakal memorial at Jaffna university, which commemorates the tens of thousands of Tamil lives lost Sri Lanka’s military offensive, “threatened North-South unity”.
He further claimed that the decision was to avoid a rift between students and that there are 1000 Sinhalese students in the Jaffna University and several Tamil students from the North studying in universities in the South.
Amaratunga further decried that the statement was a monument to war, stating;
“What Sri Lanka requires today is not war monuments but peace monuments”.
His statement follows large protests outside the University of Jaffna against the removal of the memorial. The protesters which included students and parliamentarians were surrounded by Sri Lanka’s Special Task Force last night as they peacefully demonstrated outside of the university.
The memorial was initially unveiled in 2019 and was designed and constructed by locals, including those who had lost family to the massacres of 2009.
Speaking to the Hindu, University Vice-Chancellor S. Srisatkunarajah noted frequent requests by the government to remove the monument. He told the paper;
“Since then (2019), authorities have been asking the university administration to remove the unauthorised structure. I received multiple instructions from higher authorities, and we discussed this at several meetings with the university’s capital works, engineering and maintenance departments".
The Vice-Chancellor was appointed in August 2020, Jaffna University's former Head of Law, Dr K. Guruparan has noted that the previous VC was fired from his position for his refusal to destroy the monument.
The previous VC was sacked because he didn't demolish the monument. I have concrete reasons to believe that one of the pre-conditions for appointment of the new VC by the incumbent President was demolition of this monument.
— K. Guruparan (@rkguruparan) January 8, 2021
The Vice-Chancellor has since disparaged the protesters and warned that continued protests will be dealt with.