01/11/2007, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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War threatens education: closed university, youth kidnapped and tortured

by Danielle Vella
The abduction of a student of Jaffna University, freed after seven days of torture, has threatened plans to resume classes that have been suspended for five months. Courses should have reopened on 22 January but “at the moment it would be impossible”.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The civil war in north-east Sri Lanka is threatening not only the life but the right to decent education of young people. Prevalent insecurity and abductions have forced educational institutions to suspend classes or to hold them only haphazardly. This is the fate of Jaffna University. After one of its students was kidnapped, the university declared it would have to postpone the planned re-opening of its academic year later this month.

 

Arunakirinathan Niruparaj, 25 years, a final year science student, went missing on 3 January from Kokuvil, eastern Jaffna and was released after a week of torture. The student is only one of hundreds of people who have been abducted in Jaffna over the past year by so-called “unknown forces”, armed gangs – widely held to be paramilitaries that roam in white vans without number plates.

 

For lecturers and students of Jaffna University, which has been shut for the past five months due to war-related insecurity, the episode was one more sign that re-opening was not an option. Before Niruparaj was released, the university department heads issued a joint communiqué to say “it would be impossible to resume educational activities on 22 January as planned”. The deans said students were terrified, adding: “The students who had pressurized us to recommence are now confused.”

 

It is not clear whether the university will re-open on 22 January as previously hoped. Local sources of AsiaNews said they thought not. “There are too many problems especially scarcity of essential items and insecurity.” It is around 800 “outstation” students who face the biggest difficulties as they must find food, shelter, security and safe transport.

 

Niruparaj is now in hospital undergoing treatment for severe injuries due to the torture he suffered. He has not revealed the identity of his abductors. According to reliable estimates, the total number of people abducted, killed or missing in Jaffna since 11 August last year is more than 400.

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