Absence of UGC officials to listen to students, cause of Thursday’s incident – Police

Police car

Police yesterday justified the use of force on Thursday to disperse a group of protesting students of Higher National Diploma in Accountancy (HNDA). Nine students including girls suffered head injuries at the hands of the riot police.

Nine students were injured. Police said some of their men, too, had suffered injuries. Thirty nine students were arrested. Thirty one of the arrested protesters were bailed out yesterday as police did not raise objections; others are being treated at the National Hospital.

At a media conference held yesterday at Colombo DIG office, Pettah, Police Spokesman ASP Ruwan Gunaseaka, SSP Champika Siriwardene (Colombo Central), DIG Gamini Mathurata and Senior DIG Pujith Jayasundara emphasised that they had enforced the law to the useful degree to disperse a crowd of nearly 1,300 student protesters as they could not allow the protesters to enter the University Grant Commission (UGC), a government property, forcefully and therefore they used water cannon, tear gas to disperse them.

SDIG Jayasundara said that there had been in the crowd an outsider, who was among the 39 arrested, “Even though he is not a student, we did not even object to him being bailed out as police did not want to harass anyone,” the Senior DIG said.

Asked why the police had used batons to disperse the crowd and assaulted female students, SDIG Jayasundara said that the protesters had tried to enter the UGC by toppling the barricades placed there and the police had used required force to disperse them because the tear gas and water cannon failed to stop them.

ASP Gunasekara said the law did not bar them from using the batons to disperse crowd under circumstances of that nature; the protesters had blocked the main road by sitting in front of the UGC refusing to go away, he said.

If the police had violated students’ human rights, they could go to the Supreme Court, Human Rights Commission and Police Commission to seek justice, Gunasekara said.

Jayasundera said it was the duty of police to protect others’ rights, government properties and every individual and, therefore, the police had been compelled to disperse the student protesters to clear roads for patients, doctors, schoolchildren and ambulances to reach their destinations.

SDIG Jayasundara said that he had tried his best to help students meet some officers of the UGC, but to his dismay there had not been anyone to listen to them and that was where everything went wrong..

(Source: The Island – By Madura Ranwala)