By Shamindra Ferdinando
Police investigating Wednes-day’s Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) ‘raid’ on the health ministry arrested three key student leaders yesterday as the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) strike against the heavy handed use of the police to oust the protesters, entered its second day.
Among the suspects taken into custody are Ven Thampitiye Sugathananda, Convenor of the Inter-University Bhikku Balamandalaya and IUSF convenor Lahiru Weerasekara.
A squad of policemen from the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) and the Maradana police arrested Weerasekera and Faisdeen Faizan Mohammed yesterday afternoon as they left the Centre for Society and Religion (CSR), Maradana, after having briefed the media on the latest situation.
Weerasekera and Mohammed were remanded till July 5 after being produced in the Maligakanda Magistrate Dulani S. Weeratunga.
Students led by IUSF barged into the ministry Wednesday afternoon demanding the immediate closure of the South Asian Institute of Technology and Science (SAITM) at Malabe.
A spokesperson for the IUSF told The Island that Ven. Sugathananda had been arrested while receiving treatment at the National Hospital for injuries sustained when the police used force to drive them out of the health ministry. Ven. thera was also remanded till July 5.
GMOA Secretary Dr Naveen Zoysa yesterday told The Island that they remained steadfastly committed to a five-point joint plan meant to resolve the SAITM crisis.
Dr. Zoysa said in accordance with their plan, the government should take over the SAITM to prevent deterioration of medical education in Sri Lanka. The plan comprised the issuance of a gazette in respect of minimum standards in medical education and legalization of the technical report of the Sri Lanka Medical Council, the suspension of further enrollment of students, an end to awarding of degrees, the appointment of a committee to check the elibibility of those already enrolled there and the Higher Education Ministry informing the court that the Sri Lanka Medical Council hadn’t recognised the SAITM.
Addressing the media at CSR on Thursday (June 22) Weerasekera said that the police had been looking for undergraduates for allegedly causing damage to health ministry property while those responsible for Central Bank bond scams were at large. Weerasekera said the Prime Minister, the then Governor of the Central Bank and the minister in charge of the finance portfolio should have been behind bars for their alleged involvement in the scam.
MP Bimal Ratnayake and Pubudu Jagoda addressed the briefing on behalf of the warring JVP and its breakaway faction now called the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP). The FSP largely controls the IUSL now though it has been affiliated to the JVP until Kumar Gunaratnam quit the JVP a few years ago.
The National Freedom Front (NFF) also another breakaway faction of the JVP, too, has pledged its support to the IUSF-GMOA campaign against the SAITM.
Political sources said that the government had initiated talks with the GMOA to resolve the crisis with the latter insisting that it wouldn’t give up its five point-plan under any circumstances. GMOA said that the government couldn’t allow some ministers to protect their interests at the expense of their own government.
Meanwhile, the JHU alleged that the police had used excessive force in Wednesday’s crack down spearheaded by the elite Special Task Force (STF). The JHU also found fault with the police for not pursuing the case against Dr Sameera Senaratne of the SAITM accused of staging a firearms attack on his car some time back.