Bankrupt political parties were instigating the student population to create chaos in the country, Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena told a press conference at the Information Department yesterday.
The prevalent student unrest had been politically motivated and whipped by a section of a political party that split recently, he said.
Abeywardena said there were outside forces involved in clashes between groups of undergraduates and the Police outside Temple Trees on Thursday. The political parties represented by these outsiders have fallen apart and now they were attempting to sacrifice the student population to gain their political ends.
Explaining the incident that on Thursday opposite Temple Trees he said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had dispatched an official from the Presidential Secretariat to meet representatives of around 5,000 students who had marched over 12 km from the Wijerama junction to hand over a memorandum to him. The representative requested that a delegation of five of them to accompany him to meet the President. However, the JVP led Inter University Student Federation wanted 1,000 of them to be taken along to meet the President.
"We are all aware that all this took place within the High Security Zone and that it was impossible for such a large number to enter the premises of Temple Trees due to security threats including suicide bombers that could infiltrate with the crowd. But without accepting the proposal that five of them accompany President’s representative, the students had turned violent and clashed with the police.
Referring to one of the points made in the memorandum Yapa Abeywardena said the he personally favoured the idea of having private universities. "Those who are rich are able to send their children to foreign countries for education. But what about the parents who cannot afford a foreign education for their children, where do they go?"
The Media Minister accused these political parties of playing with the lives of students who come from poor families to follow a university education.
Commenting on their request for accommodation he said that in 2007 the Peradeniya University hostel had over 5,500 students living in it while the University of Colombo had accommodated 2,490 students. Sri Jayewardenepura and Kelaniya universities had no hostellers in 2007 despite facilities being made available to them. The total number of students who received Mahapola scholarships this year was 20,200.
Abeywardena urged parents to be cautious about their children, as they were in great danger form political activities. Parents should instill in the minds of their children that their priority should be to study and not to indulge in politics, he said.
Questioned by ‘The Island,’ regarding his statement that LTTE leader Prabhakaran could be made Chief Minister of the Northern Province he said it was his personal opinion and not that of the government. "But yes I seriously believe in that," he said.
The statement, however, had caused great concern in the National Bhikkhu Front which had said in a press release that it believed that it was a sign that the government was trying to protect the LTTE as it was losing the war.