JVP courts UNP over govt. crackdown on campus activists

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Will the UNP and the JVP be forced to lend a hand to each other amidst mounting UPFA pressure ahead of the inauguration of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s second term on Nov. 19?

 Political sources say Friday’s meeting between the Inter University Students Federation affiliated to the JVP and the UNP at Sirikotha points to a possible alliance in the making. They say the two parties agreed to meet in the wake of indications the government intended to clear universities of the JVP.

 Responding to a query by The Sunday Island, highly placed government sources said that the JVP would be reduced ‘zero’ once its powerful student movement collapsed.

"We are in the process of neutralizing the JVP muscle rapidly. Those causing trouble, including monks will be thrown out of universities, while JVPers instigating violence will find themselves pursued by the police," an authoritative official said.

 Political sources said that the UNP and the JVP would take a common stand on the university issue. They said that their understanding was similar to a pact between trade unions affiliated to respective parties on wage issues before they declared former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka as the common Opposition candidate at the Jan. 26 presidential election.

 The UNP-JVP alliance collapsed at the Apr. 8 parliamentary elections when they contested on their own. Since then, they have clashed over the Fonseka issue with both accusing each other of seeking political advantage of the DNA leader’s misery.

 Sources said that the Rajapaksa’s strategy wouldn’t give the Opposition any other option than trying to adopt a common approach both in and out of parliament. But the question is how such a political arrangement could affect them at the forthcoming local government elections.

 The police Friday afternoon arrested Convener of the JVP affiliated Inter University Students Federation Udul Premaratne at Pitakotte, while he was returning from a meeting with the UNP leaders including Karu Jayasuriya.

 Premaratne was arrested on a charge of storming the premises of the Ministry of Higher Education last week and causing damage to public property.

Earlier yesterday Police sought permission from the Colombo Chief Magistrate Rushmi Singappuli to arrest Premaratne. The court held that if there were sufficient grounds for his arrest, the police need not seek court’s permission.

Meanwhile the 21 suspects already in custody for allegedly damaging higher education ministry property when hundreds of students stormed the ministry recently were further remanded till Nov. 12. Udul Premaratne too has been remanded till Nov 21.

Government sources said that the JVP wouldn’t be allowed to exploit universities and use the student community as a political tool for its advantage. Sources recalled Higher Education Minister S. B. Dissanayake’s move to reach an understanding with the JVP’s student union by releasing some 30 off students held on a charge of damaging university property several months ago.

The Minister moved the judiciary to release them, but the JVP stepped up pressure on Dissanayake leading to the ongoing battle, sources said.

Political sources asserted that the government had taken the initiative by declaring war on the JVP on the campuses. The bottom line is that the opposition wouldn’t be able to concentrate on two major issues, the imprisonment of DNA leader Sarath Fonseka and the forthcoming budget as it struggles on the university front.

UNP and JVP sources alleged that the government had deployed thugs to suppress the student movement. A case in point is the recent abduction and assault on an undergraduate at Kelaniya by persons allegedly close to a deputy minister, they say.

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