Sri Lanka: Protests at Jaffna University over removal of war memorial


More than a decade after the Sri Lankan civil war ended, the Jaffna University administration removed a war memorial from the campus, triggering protests Friday night.

Following reports of the administration using a heavy vehicle to demolish the structure, there was a gathering of people including students raising slogans even as army and police personnel were deployed to disperse the crowd.

The memorial was erected in memory of civilians killed in the Mullivaikkal incident that happened in the last phase of the war that ended in 2009.

One of the students, requesting anonymity, said they were denied entry in the campus when they gathered to protest the demolition last night. “They had used two heavy vehicles to destroy the memorial. They did not complete the demolition due to our protest. They used police to threaten us in the campus premises,” he said.

Talking to The Indian Express, Jaffna University Vice-Chancellor S Srisatkunarajah said he ordered the removal of the memorial as it was illegal. “There was already a war memorial in the campus. But this new one was erected recently during the 10th anniversary of ending the Sri Lankan war. It was being brought to the campus and installed without seeking permission from authorities. As the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) was part of the coalition that ruled the then Sri Lanka government, so it wasn’t questioned. But authorities have now asked me to remove it,” he said.

Srisatkunarajah said there were orders from the government to remove all such unauthorised structures. “There was already a memorial and that still exists, this was illegal because it was installed in 2019 without prior permission,” he said.

A senior police officer from Jaffna said there was no law and order situation. “It was the university’s decision and we deployed our personnel to prevent a huge gathering amid a pandemic,” he said.

When asked whether there were revival signs of LTTE in the latest incident, he said there was absolutely no such revival of Tamil tigers. “In north and eastern provinces, there were minor, isolated incidents in the recent past by few Eelam sympathisers who were aided by cash pumped from Europe. These scattered groups are targeting uneducated Tamil youth. However none of the incidents including the latest at Jaffna University had no leadership or an organised structure,” he said.

Meanwhile, senior politicians in Tamil Nadu including the Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and the DMK chief M K Stalin condemned the demolition of the memorial monument.

While Palaniswami blamed the Sri Lankan government for demolishing the structure and said it was a “huge shock”, Stalin demanded the India government to condemn the Sri Lankan government’s move. His tweet addressing the official handle of Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “condemn this shocking incident… This is the expectation of the Tamils globally.”

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