Limited time for University functions

In a bid to avert violence in universities, the Ministry of Higher Education has decided to limit all university functions to one day and ban outsiders from attending them. The Ministry has notified the University Grants Commission of this decision and the UGC will circularize it to all universities shortly.

Higher Education Minister Professor Wiswa Warnapala told The Island that this was an initial step to combat violence in universities. Most clashes have led to the closure of universities for several months, he said. Since the Ministry cannot tolerate such a recurring situation, stern measures have to be taken, he said.

"Undergraduates organise several functions and art festivals such as ‘Nala Mudu Suwanda’ at the Sri Jayewardenepura University and ‘Mage Deshaya Awadi Karanu Mena’ at Peradeniya University. These festivals continue for one or two weeks

or more. Hereafter we will have to limit all these functions to a single day. However, if students want more days for a special function they would have to make prior request to the Vice Chancellor," Prof. Warnapala said.

Citing an example he said that recently Kelaniya University undergraduates clashed with villagers which led to the closure of the university. They damaged university properties to the tune of Rs 150,000. This is an incident that happened with the participation of outsiders.

The Sabaragamuwa University also remains closed following a clash at a Sports Meet at the university. "We cannot allow this. That is why the Ministry decided to declare the universities out of bounds to outsiders."

A former top academic of the Peradeniya University Prof. Warnapala said that four villages, Uda Peradeniya, Hindagala, Meewathura and Peradeniya junction are located around this university. But such an incident involving the villagers never happened there since its inception in 1952. The reason was that outsiders were banned from entering the University premises.

"Our decision does not mean that the university administration or the Higher Education Ministry was against literary activities in universities which are in fact a platform to display undergraduates’ talents. They can continue their literary works, street dramas etc. We appreciate them and students have our blessings to do that, but they have to limit it to one day," Prof. Warnapala said.

Undergraduates were unhappy with the Minster’s decision. They said that the Kelaniya University students were instigated by a politician. It was not related to any university functions. They will launch a mass protest against the Ministry’s decision.

Convener of the Inter University Students Federation, Udul Premaratne said that the decision is a block to students’ talents. "Every year we have these art festivals with the approval of the Vice Chancellor. These festivals have a long process. That’s why we take a long time."

Chairman of the UGC Prof. Gamini Samaranayake said that at present these student unions, which are attached to political parties, use university students to promote their party politics. Some students are not agreeable with their views. That is why every function ends in a clash.

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