Tamil people are well aware how the increase in military involvement affects their lives. Now, with direct approval from Parliament, it will be authorised that the military can run civilian participation on a university administration. Furthermore, about 28 serving or former military intelligence personnel in key administration posts have been introduced including those in agriculture.
The Kotelawala National Defence University Bill (KNDU) removed the state university post of University Grant Commission whilst the Minister of Defence appointed nine members, including 6 military officers. This is another move to “the accelerating militarisation of civilian government function’, echoed by the UN Human Rights Chief, Michelle Bachelet.
A similar pattern has been seen in the Port City Economic Commission Act passed in Parliament that give direct control to the President of Sri Lanka, to appoint 5 members and remove any control that the Parliament, Ministers and local government can have.
In 1981 the Kotelawala Defence Academy was established to serve the military services and the Academy was upgraded to university status in 1988.
The KNDU bill empowers to admit both local and foreign fee-paying students. This will threaten the current free education system, which gives hope for the vast majority for better living conditions in Sri Lanka. KNDU University is can open its branches countrywide with better facilities for rich and powerful people. With less than 2% of the GDP spent on education, state education system cannot challenge military expenditure and bank investments at KNDU. The Bank of Ceylon and NSB have been ordered to pledge 36.54 billion rupees to KNDU.
Lack of investment in health care affected numerous people. Allowing private healthcare to have better facilities than the public sector also undermined the health sector in general. Same way they are trying to undermine the free education system. From 2011 the Federation of University Teachers’ Association (FUTA), have been campaigning for 6% of GDP to save state education.
On 28th July, University teachers withdrew from online teaching and administrative duties in resistance to the Bill. Many activists were arrested at several protests including the Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) general secretary, who was arrested by military personnel. Afterwards the courts granted them bail and refused the police request to send all the protestors to quarantine camps, however they were re-arrested and detained at the Air Force camp Quaratine Centre instead.
The Government has been using the COVID-19 pandemic as a cover attack for democratic rights and has also increased the militarization in the northern part of the country.
Students around the country are boldly fighting whilst they also face heavy suppression from the brutal regime. The Student’s Movement for Freedom Education and Inter University Students Federation, which most of the higher education unions are affiliated to, are protesting around the country to tear down the ‘Kotelawala Private University Act.’ The police have arrested students and their family members who have been participating in protests. The government forces continue to kidnap and imprison the activists.