Saturday, November 3, 2018
Over three years ago students and lecturers played a key role behind the scenes in the defeat of Sri Lanka’s former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. But Rajapaksa is now back as prime minister after a sudden and unexpected move by the country’s president, Maithripala Sirisena.
Sirisena unleashed a political cyclone after he pulled his party from the National Unity Government, a coalition of parties, on 26 October and later appointed Rajapaksa as prime minister, joining hands once again with the leader he ousted in 2015.
Sirisena also issued special gazettes Ranil Wickremesinghe (administrative regulations) to sack Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his cabinet – in a move seen by many as unconstitutional – and suspended parliament until 16 November.
The storm of events sparked street protests and a heavy social media campaign by students and young people against the president’s “betrayal” of voters, while the pro-Rajapaksa camp celebrated sudden victory with fire crackers and later took control of government media. Clashes were reported in government institutions where one person was reported killed.
However, Sri Lanka’s major university students’ union seems curiously inactive despite their previous role in opposing Rajapaksa. Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) convener Lahiru Weerasekara told University World News the union was “not loyal to any party” and was not happy about the way the Unity government delivered on past promises.
“The Unity government came to power selling our slogans. They failed to fulfil their election promises, even for 6% of GDP [gross domestic product] for education,” he said. Instead, they continued to suppress students. Some 15 legal cases against student leaders on charges relating to protests and damage of public property during 2015-18 are still pending in the courts.
Fears are already growing among students over the new developments. On 27 October police stormed a university students’ hostel in Dehiwala, close to Colombo, and launched a search operation, possibly to gauge whether planned protests were related to the political situation in the country.
Full Article - UWN