Sri Lanka: 2 student leaders abducted, arrested, 2 more intimidated, visited by the policeEvent
- Sri Lanka
- Initial Date
- Aug 6, 2021
- Event Description
Confronted with a series of setbacks in addition to the failure in containing the devastating pandemic outbreak and economic crisis, the Sri Lankan government has launched a chilling crackdown on students and teachers in the Sinhala dominated south protesting militarisation of higher education. The crackdown has met with stiff opposition from academics as well as non-academics who have warned the government of consequences.
On Friday (6), police convinced a court in the capital to detain two university student leaders who were effectively abducted by police the day before. The two are in the forefront of an ongoing protest against the militarising higher education. Scores of union leaders are in hiding as police carry on with unannounced visits to their homes and places they frequent. University dons have resolved to launch a strike action against the crackdown while many workers and professionals’ organisations have expressed solidarity with the teachers and undergraduates who are protesting the General Sir John Kotelawala National Defence University (KDU) Bill aimed at the military having a greater role in education policy and administration.
Arrests & abductions
Two leaders of the Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF), the largest student body in Sri Lanka, Wasantha Mudalige and Amila Sandeepa produced before court were remanded until August 11 by Kaduwela Magistrate Manjula Ratnayake while two other activists Koshila Hansamali Perera and Chameera Koswatta arrested from their homes were also remanded until August 11. Both orders were later extended until 17.
Mudalige going home after attending a live TV broadcast was manhandled and handcuffed by men in civvies accompanied by uniformed police officers. Sandeepa abducted in broad daylight by men in civies was later declared by the police spokesman to be in their custody. University students and academics were able to foil an attempt to abduct Sri Jayawardenapura university lecturer Aminda Lakmal.
Police are targeting nearly 50 other student and trade union activists for arrest, according to activists.
“We are aware of 48 names on the hit list and police have visited many of their homes. Now they are in hiding,” a student leader told JDS on strict conditions of anonymity.
A group in civilian clothes who tried to abduct Sri Jayawardanapura University Senior Lecturer Aminda Lakmal while travelling, were stopped by colleagues and students. A mobile video streamed live by him went viral on social media platforms.
On Sunday, an Open University undergraduate tending to the father of another IUSF leader Udara Sandaruwan’s father who is undergoing treatment in the Colombo eye hospital has been given a police notice requesting Sndaruwan to present himself at the Peliyagoda police station.
The undergraduate had been warned that ‘someone from the family will be taken’ if the former convener doesn’t come the next day.
On Saturday, a vehicle claimed to be from the Peliyagoda police station in the western province had roamed Rajanganaya in the north central province seeking information about an IUSF activist while police teams had visited the office and residence of Chatura Samarasinghe, president of Ceylon Estate Staff union.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- (Arbitrary) Arrest and Detention
- Intimidation and Threats
- Judicial Harassment
- Violence (physical)
- Rights Concerned
- Freedom of assembly
- Right to healthy and safe environment
- Right to liberty and security
- Right to Protest
- Labour rights defender
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 6 and 7 August 2021, Wasantha Mudalige and Amila Sandeepa, student leaders, were abducted and beaten by the police, and formally arrested by a court the next day for their role in the ongoing protest against the militarisation of education in Colombo, Sri Lanka. In the same days student leader leader Udara Sandaruwan was summoned by the police and threatened with his family abduction in case he would not go, while labour unionist Chatura Samarasinghe had his house and office visited by the police in Colombo.