24 year-old Jaffna University Students Union (JUSU) leader Subramaniyam Thavapalasingham was assaulted October 16 by men on motorbikes brandishing sharpened iron rods. He had been assembling students in democratic protest against threats from paramilitary wings of Sri Lanka’s government.
Jaffna, a city in northwestern Sri Lanka has seen violence before and during the war between the Sinhalese government and Tamils.
Thavapalasingham’s student group previously staged demonstrations in Jaffna in May 2010, which resulted in retaliation from the Sri Lankan military. Despite this and a tumultuous relationship with the vice chancellor Vasanthy Arasaradnam, “there had been no formal engagement between the JUSU and the University administration.”
“The attack on Thavapalasingham,” stated a student who visited him in the hospital, “is an attack on the entire student society in Jaffna.” Wounded participants were visited by members of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and other Tamil politicians.
October 16 also saw protests in Colombo by members of several Tamil political parties, including the TNA. Although conducted simultaneously, they occurred independently of Thavapalasingham’s assault.
Of their major grievances, the settlement of Sinhalese in Tamil majority was at the fore, as well as the government’s inability to address internally displaced persons (IDPs) before allowing settlement projects.
Despite ongoing Tamil unrest, popular Sri Lankan news sources in Colombo have addressed both stories, though they have not received popular attention and have been hardly covered.
Sources: Daily Mirror; TamilNet, Oct. 16; Daily Mirror; The Island, Oct. 17, 2011.