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Report of the Committee of Enquiry appointed by the Peradeniya University Vice-Chancellor Prof. B.L. Panditharatne into the disturbances at the university May/June 1983. Committee was composed of K.M. de Lanerolle (Chair), Dorai Calnaido and Mrs T.K. Ekanayake (who resigned without signing the report)

Vol. I   6th December 1983

P A R T   I

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`       This is the Final Report of the Committee of Enquiry appointed by the Vice-Chancellor on 18 May 1983 to investigate and report on a series of incidents which commenced on 11th of May. An Interim Report, submitted to him on 21 June, was necessitated by an incident at Arunachalam Hall on the 4th of June, the suspension of two students of the Science Faculty by the Vice-Chancellor and the partial boycott of lectures which followed that suspension order. The two sets of Terms of reference (the first dated 18.5.83 and the second 10.6.83) are attached. The two Reports deal with aspects of the same phenomenon; they form and should be read as one connected document.

Sittings commenced on the 23rd May and concluded on the 22nd of October with a long interruption caused by factors beyond our control. The Committee spent a total of 108 hours at sittings, interviewed 124 persons and received 13 memoranda. Two Conferences were held, one with the Wardens and Sub-wardens and the other with the Deans. Appropriate buildings and sites on the Campus were visited. A list of those who gave evidence, a record of the evidence taken, memoranda received and copies of relevant documents are to be found in Vol. II of this Report.

150 applications from students, in response to our notice, were received by the Secretary before the deadline set. We were in the process of coping with this unexpected large number and had interviewed 34 of them, together with other key personnel who we had summoned, when events of a serious nature overtook the institution

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and it had to be closed indefinitely. This had hardly been done when the entire country was plunged in a turmoil, from which it is still recovering.

At the urgent request of the Vice-Chancellor to bring our work to a speedy conclusion, we decided, in the general interest, to conclude our assignment with a week’s sittings at which it would, while denying a large number of students of the chance of giving evidence, provide those named as participants in the disturbances, the opportunity to appear before us as a precautionary measure, these sittings were held at a venue outside the University.


By student we mean male student, hall men’s hall and by Warden and sub-warden, male Warden and male sub-warden. Disturbance/s means the incidents of May 11-13, sporadic incidents refers to those that occurred in late May and early June. According to the Universities Act of 1978 “The Vice-Chancellor shall be responsible for the maintenance of discipline within the University” while the Council is “the executive body governing authority of the University”. When we use the term ‘the authorities’ in this Report we mean by it one, some or all of those who are invested with authority in the University of Peradeniya, leaving it to the reader to make closer identification, mutatis mutandis, in each context in which the term is used.


Presumably triggered off by the obliteration of the Sinhala lettering on the main plaque of the University, a series of incidents took place at various points

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on the Campus. Students armed with various implements took off from the halls on the night of the 11th of May, charged into places where other students were and created much havoc, causing some destruction to property making a great din and committing a large number of offences, most of them legally punishable.

A succession of ‘fire-balls’ appearing in the sky could well have been the signal for what was clearly a planned campaign on the part of non-Tamil students against Tamils. The attackers appeared to have had suspicions of sectionalism and subversion on the part of the Tamils, judging by the remarks made and the questions asked, the forcible entries into rooms, the inspections of identity cards and the scrutinizing of documents written and printed in Tamil.

One particular student was singled out as a ‘Tiger’ and was handed over to the Police by the authorities; several other students were manhandled and all the Tamils were threatened that if they did not leave by the next morning they would be in danger of losing their lives (‘We will parcel you and send you to Jaffna!”).

The campaign lasted throughout the night of the 11th of May and by mid-day on the 12th most of the Tamils had left. On the night of the 12th, three staff members who were occupying a room at Arunachalam Hall were attacked by a group of students, dragged along the road and severely manhandled. Some Medical students, anxious about their hospital work and final examination, remained and were being persuaded by their teachers to find lodgings outside. By noon on the 13th, however,

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they too were attacked, two of them severely, by a crowd of invaders into the Medical Faculty and Teaching Hospital premises.

The last person to suffer from the campaign was the Canteen-keeper of Sangamitta Hall, for having agreed to look after the possessions of some of the Tamil students in their absence.

A schedule of these incidents is given below, with details of their location, date and approximate time of commencement:


       INCIDENT                        LOCATION        DAY                    TIME

1.     Defacing of main                      main road             May 11                 before 4 p.m.


2.     Disturbances at                  Sc. Faculty                   11                 before 8.30 p.m.

        Science Faculty


3.      Defacing of name-            Campus                       11                 10.30 p.m.


4.      Attack on students           HO Hall                       11                   9.45 p.m.


5.       Storming of JP                 JPHall                          11                 10 p.m.


6.       Massing near ANell         ANHall                        11                 11.30 p.m.


7.       Attack on students          Marrs                           11                 12 midnight


8.        ‘Tiger’ incident        HOH etc.                       11                12 midnight


9.       Barricading of                 main road                      11                12 midnight



10.     Attack: on 3                     AruHall &                     12                12 midnight 

          Teachers                           environs

11.     Trespass                            Med, Faculty &

                                                   Teaching Hospital         13                  7.45 a.m.

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12.     Attack on 1 student         Hospital premises         13                  1.30 p.m.

13.     Attack on 2 students              Med. Faculty and          13                  2.00 p.m.

                                                   Galaha Road

14.     Attack on Canteen-         Sangamitta Hall             13                  8.00 p.m.



1.    There are clear signs that the disturbances of 11 to 13 May did not erupt spontaneously but represented an organized campaign. The timing of the incidents, the deployment of the attackers, the consistency of their accusations, all show careful planning.

2.    In this concerted attack, the offenders were non-Tamils students and the victims were Tamils. The traffic being entirely one way, it may be described as racist.

3.    The campaign was marked by some ferocity, though this may not have been intended by the planners. The attackers carried sticks, staves, iron rods, bicycle chains, belts, knives, arms and legs of University furniture and even a human humerus.

The following offences were committed: intimidation, disorderly conducted, unlawful assembly, stoning of halls, abuse, willful damage to property, looting, restraint, forcible entry, incitement to violence, physical and psychological violence.

4.       The purpose of the campaign was to evict the Tamils from the Campus. In complete defiance of authority and acting with blatant violence, the attackers succeeded in achieving their ends.

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       5.    At some points, personal grudges appear to have taken precedence:

jealousy at examination performance, some earlier quarrel, an inferiority complex, etc.

6.    We have noted with some misgivings the role of the President of the Peradeniya Students’ Union before and after the night of terror (the 11th), his assignment in the halls of residence, (at meetings, which, we understood, were unauthorised), his solicitude for the victims of the campaign [i.e. the suspended perpetrators Note added by RH as unclear here], and his ubiquitous presence at focal points of the campus during the disturbances.

7.    There are indications that students of the Science Faculty were in some way linked with the disturbances. Among the attackers many students from this Faculty were recognized and a high proportion of Science students were among the trespassers on the premises of the Teaching Hospital and Medical Faculty. The first violent incident which occurred took place at the Science Faculty Canteen and its chief participants were Science students. When two Science students were suspended for complicity in the disturbances, the SSU acted in many ways to signify their concern and in the end staged a boycott of lectures, without prior notice to the authorities. We wonder whether there is any significance in this involvement

8. Throughout the night of the 11th, gangs of students rampaged along the road and made mayhem in the halls. Yet the Security Service (which believes only in ‘acting on information received’) saw nothing and heard nothing. We are left to wonder why these blind and deaf men remain on the pay-roll of the institution.

9.  During this critical period what authority existed within the campus was in eclipse. Not only did the Security Service signally fail in its duty, but wardens

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and sub-wardens appear to have abdicated their responsibility. Here was a situation which could not be handled by the University’s own structures. Yet were serious attempts made to call in the Police?

10. Apart from the largely ineffective Security personnel, the responsibility for dealing with each incident as it occurred seems to have fallen on the Director of Student Welfare. Was it fair or prudent to expect Dr. Premasiri to handle single-handed a crisis of this magnitude?

11.  The one happy feature of these disturbances was the kindness shown by several Sinhala students to the victims by warning them of possible attacks, advising them how to avoid them and agreeing to look after their belongings in their absence. One outstanding gesture of compassion was made by a Sinhala boy who had led Mr. Navaratnam away to safety after he had been mauled and abandoned in front of Wijewardene Hall.


The period under review comprises three phases:

(a)    The disturbances of May 11 to 13;

(b)   The interim period from May 14 to 21;

(c)    The sporadic incidents between 22 May to 10 June.

We have briefly described the incidents of 11 to 13 May and propose dealing with some of them in greater detail in Part II. In this section we would like to touch on the other two phases, ending 10 June.

After the successful eviction of the Tamils by those who planned and carried out the campaign, quiet descended on the campus. Shocked and bruised, the authorities rallied their scattered forces to ponder how

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the prestige of the institution could be restored and the Tamils brought back. A deadline was fixed for the return of those who had fled and comprehensive measures were planned (in the words of the Vice-Chancellor) ‘to see that the situation returns to normal as early as possible and that Tamil students can come back to their lectures.’ (P 6)

A series of steps were taken with the purpose of strengthening the hall administration, creating an atmosphere of vigilance and preventing further violation on the part of students. Meetings were, held, letters were issued and committees formed.

We have already dealt at some length with the Peace Plan in the Interim Report (D: OBSERVATIONS IV) and referred to its strength and weaknesses. The peace was proved fragile by five incidents which occurred in four halls of Residence after the return of the Tamils, who, respecting the deadline set of the authorities (May the 31st), took courage into their hands and came back for lectures. These sporadic incidents are listed below with details of location etc.


incident                                  location        day                    time

15.  Stoning                                  Akbar-Nell           May 22                 2.45 p.m.

16.    Masked attack on                  Aru. Hall              June 4                   9.30 p.m.


            17.  Masked attack on                  JP Hall                          5                   11 p.m.


            18.  Attempted arson                   Akbar-Nell                    7                  2.55 a.m.

            19.  Attempted arson                   Marrs                            10                 3 a.m.

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Except for incident 16, the information that has been received on these sporadic events is patchy. Rooms that had been occupied by Tamils had been marked with chalk and there is evidence of some looting of personal belongings. The victim of incident 15, a staff member, has told us his story. There was a masked attack in James Peiris Hall (incident 17) which bears a marked resemblance to that of the previous night in another hall. We understand that the case of attempted arson at Akbar Nell Hall (18) was referred to the Police.

Of these five sporadic incidents, the masked assault on two Tamil students of Arunachalam Hall was investigated by this Committee (with Mrs. Ranaraja taking the place of Mrs. Ekanayake) at the urgent request of the Vice-Chancellor. It is the main topic of our Interim Report. What is of significance here is the letter written by the DSW to the Vice-Chancellor (P 3) in which he refers to ‘an organized group of extremists’ and ‘a grave potential danger to student lives and University property’.

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P A R T    I I


In this Part of our Report we deal with some aspects of the disturbances which we consider to be of special significance.


By Terms of Reference dated 18 May, we are required to investigate

‘the spreading of rumours regarding the presence of outsiders in the University Campus.’

In a situation such as we have had to study rumours of all kinds could well have started and spread. One that appears to have been current is the story that outsiders from another part of the country had come in bus-loads and established themselves in the kovil; this was effectively scotched by the CSO who visited the kovil and found nobody there. Another, casually mentioned, is that the main plaque of the institution was defaced by outsiders.

We have had no evidence placed before us on the subject of rumours, what they were and who made them up. In any case, rumours are unsubstantial things and the less Committees of Enquiry go into them the better.


Occupying a prominent place on the fringe of a roundabout, a large concrete plaque about 10 by 5 feet in size, let into the sloping bank of the Kandy Teaching Hospital, points the way to the University. The name is engraved in Sinhala, Tamil and English.

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Some time before 5p.m. on the 11th of May, the Sinhala lettering of this plaque was seen to be obliterated. The Works Superintendent and his painter have told us that a white paint mixed with an additive had been used and was so hard that it had to be chipped off.

The defacing of road-signs and lettering on name-boards, resorted to frequently in this country, has symbolic significance at times of communal tension. Chronologically, this is the first incident in the sequence of events that come under our purview. No evidence, however, has come to hand as to who was, or was likely to be, responsible for the obliteration.

The name-board could have been defaced by persons unconnected with the University – at the risk of being see and exposed. On the other hand, a party of university students, armed with paint and brush, could have done the job unnoticed.

All we can say is that, whether it was done by mischievous outsiders, whether it was the work of a crazy Tamil, whether it was engineered by a Sinhalese as a casus belli, the stark fact remains that it was itself a punishable offence (damage to property) and that an anti-Tamil campaign of terror took place immediately after it.


At about 8.30 p.m. on the 11th of May a Tamil film was being shown on the televisions set at the Science Faculty Canteen and several Tamil students, both male and female, had gathered there to view it.

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The Situation Report of the C.S.O. addressed to the Vice-Chancellor on the 15th takes up the story. “We had information in the morning that a group of Sinhala students had at 9.30 p.m. on this same night gone to the Science Faculty Canteen and dragged out Tamil students who were viewing a Tamil film on T.V., taken them out to Galaha Junction and defaced all Tamil lettering on faculty boards up to the Arts Faculty.”

Evidence from several persons confirms this. The women students had been ignored and the men students marched off in batches and made to deface the printing in their own language, a humiliating action, done, presumably, in retaliation for the defacing of the Sinhala lettering on the main plaque of the University. Dr. Premasiri has told us how he obtained information and came to the conclusion that T. Wickremasinghe and A. Ekanayake were the ring-leaders in the Science Faculty Canteen episode.

The Works Superintendent has testified that the defacing of the Medical and Science Faculty boards had been done with black paint while that of the Engineering Faculty had been done with mud and cow dung. Later that night, two Tamil students had been noticed with black stains on their hands which they had not been able to obliterate. V. Muralitheran, a resident student of Jayatilleke Hall has told us that his Hall was unusually quiet from 10 p.m. on the 11th till 1 a.m. on

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the 12th when he heard a number of students returning. He submits a sketch map showing the rooms of these students. (M2)



Warden:   Prof. K.N.O. Dharmadasa

Senior Academic Sub-Warden:   Mr. K.A. Nandasena

Academic Sub-Wardens:    Mr. G.R.C.B. Gamalath &

                                            Mr. G.L.C. Sunil

Full-time Sub-Wardens:    Mr. S.W.A. Samaranayake &

                                           Mr. M. Dissanayake

Students:   Sinhalese – 299,  Tamil – 106;   total:  405

The attack on Hilda Obeysekera Hall seems to have been primarily to find certain Tamil students suspected of being engaged in subversive activities and to discover in their rooms evidence of this involvement.

The attackers must have been mostly from other halls because they did not seem to know Balasooriyan and others whom they mentioned by name as having attended meetings at the kovil and a shop in Peradeniya.

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But they were aided and abetted by students resident in the hall who pointed out rooms occupied by Tamils and generally helped in identification of victims. In the process of discovering their suspects, the attackers were not averse, however, to threatening and doing bodily harm to other Tamils interrogated and when they forcibly entered their rooms.

Thirteen resident students of Hilda Obeysekera gave us details of the humiliating treatment that they and their friends received at the hands of the attackers. P. Sathyananthan says: “One boy in particular who played football with me threatened my life and used abusive language.”  T. Damyantharan related how his room-mate fainted after having been mauled and identifies W.A. Somaratne as carrying and using a humerus as a weapon. M.V. Varnagulasingham throws light on the arguments that had taken place about who was responsible for the defacing of the main name-board and the pro-eelam posters. There were two schools of thought among the students: one, that this had been done by Tamils; the other that it was the work of Sinhalese boys in order to implicate the Tamils.

The case of the suspected ‘tiger’ is dealt with separately.


The burden of the charges leveled against Tamils by their attackers was that they were engaged in subversive activities; but only one case was identified. This was P. Balasooriyan, a 1st Year Engineering student, resident at Hilda Obeysekera Hall.

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Returning to his hall from the Faculty at about 4 p.m. on the 11th of May, Balasooriyan heard from friends that he was being accused of defacing the main plaque of the university. He did not take this seriously. At about 9.30 p.m. that night he heard a commotion downstairs (his room being on a higher floor) and accusations that there were ‘tigers’ in the hall. Soon the crowd came upstairs, armed with staves and parts of furniture, shouting “Where is kotiya Balasooriyan?”  A friend took him to his room for safety and they planned, if asked, to say his name was Mohan. After several other Tamil students were molested, Balasooriyan attempted to get away by jumping down to the first floor, injuring himself in the attempt.

He was soon identified by two Sinhalese students, his neighbour Santha Ratnayake and his ‘practicals’ partner, Bandara…… [?]. He was brought to his room which by that time had been completely ransacked. Here he was assaulted by several students among whom was W.M.V. Fernando.

Security Service Inspector Senaratne got a telephone call from the sub-warden (Mr. Samaranayake) that he was giving shelter to a Tamil student who was being harassed by fellow-students and that a crowd of about 300 boys were in and around Hilda Obeysekera Hall. On arrival he was told that there were grounds for believing that Balasooriyan was a ‘tiger’. He thought it advisable to inform the Warden, Dr. Dharmadasa, who told him to get a directive from the Vice-Chancellor.

Mr. Gunatilleke, sub-warden of Akbar Hall who happened to be there, went with the Security officer to meet the Vice-Chancellor who directed that

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Balasooriyan be handed over to the Police if there were reasons to suspect him of being a terrorist. Dr. Sivasekeram, who had been sent for at the request of Balasooriyan, intervened at this stage, saying he would discuss the matter further with the Vice-Chancellor. Later, on instructions by the Vice-Chancellor, Balasooriyan was interviewed by the D.S.W. and finally sent to Security to be handed over to the Police the next morning.

Further light on the ‘tiger’ incident has been thrown by the Warden of Hilda Obeysekera Hall, his sub-warden and Rambanda Ranasinghe. Dr. K.N.O. Dharmadasa states that he visited his hall at midnight and saw a large crowd of students, mostly from other halls (his own students avoided him as he approached). They were accusing Balasooriyan of being a tiger and he cautioned them that they should have proof. Their demand was that he be handed over to the Police. Balasooriyan was ‘in a pathetic state and without a banian’. He inspected a plastic bag containing a journal in Tamil, some rubber stamps and printing blocks which the students had taken over from the suspected tiger who, however, said that he had no connection with the Tiger Movement. At 8 o’clock the next morning he had discussed the situation with the D.S.W. and noted that Balasooriyan was handed over at about 9 a.m.

Mr. Senanayake had told us that in his view the situation in the hall did not warrant notifying his Warden, though he would have done so if the hall phone had been in order. He had tried to get the Warden earlier in connection with an unauthorized

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meeting that was held by the P.S.U. When he saw Balasooriyan sweating and kneeling on the floor he took charge of the situation and sent a fellow sub-warden to fetch the Warden. This was at 1.15 a.m.

Balasooriyan has told us that he is one of the editors of a Tamil magazine called Pudusu (New) which had been started at Mahajana College when he was a senior student there. It was a literary magazine and not political and was openly sold by him in the University. We are aware that Balasooriyan was investigated by the CID and exonerated.

There are, it appears to us, some unfortunate elements of this episode. The sub-wardens of Hilda Obeysekera Hall do not appear to have correctly assessed the situation on the night of the 11th. Evidence has been placed before us that assaults on and harassment of many Tamils had taken place prior to and concurrently with the very long drawn-out ‘Tiger episode’. A prima facie case by the appropriate authorities does not appear to have been made against Balasooriyan before taking the very serious step of sending him to the Police. They seem to have panicked when some 300 boys stormed the hall demanding action against a victim and had allowed themselves to be intimidated.  Dr. Dharmadasa himself admitted that their prime concern was to defuse the situation. Looking back on the affair, we think it could be described as yet another nail in the coffin of University irresolution. Had a less hasty step been taken, regarding Balasooriyan, it would have saved the authorities and his 300 accusers the ignominy of learning (later) that the ‘tiger’ was only an ‘unoffending cat’!

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Warden:   Dr. R.A. Gunatilleke

Full-time Sub-Warden:   Mr. Francis Karunasena

Students:   Sinhalese – 110,  Tamil – 60;   total:  170

Marrs Hall is situated at the extreme end of the university campus and has neither a Senior Academic sub-warden nor an Academic sub-warden.

The cluster of incidents which took place here on the night of the 11th of May exhibited features usually associated with celebrations by medicos: besides the now traditional ‘bucketing’ and hooting, liquor and filthy language were freely used, while attackers showed a perverse interest in nudism and genitals

We find some of the most serious offences of the campaign committed in this hall. C. Maruthainar was trod on so mercilessly that he defecated, while a Sinhala batch-mate who had helped to identify him averted his eyes. E. Sritharan has told us how he came to be hospitalised after he fell from the ceiling where he had taken refuge.  S. Nagendran was accused of contesting an 'M.S.A.' election and assaulted by a group of students led by Dr.  S. N.  Gamage, a former student who, with several other outsiders was living without permission in the hall.

The reason for such excesses are clearly due to the fact that no one in authority was in duty that night.  The Warden was not contacted and Mr. Karunasena was away on leave.  Thus the attackers had a field day. It was left to a resident staff member who was not a Hall official to step into the breach.

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Giving evidence before us, Mr.  Ratnayake Bandara a lecturer in Chemistry with experience of University life abroad,  has described the cries of terror he heard,  the revulsion he felt at the havoc caused and the steps that he (with the help of Mr.  Wimalasiri and the janitor) took to soften the impact and alleviate the suffering. We strongly commend this timely and humanitarian gesture. We are aware that several Sinhala students if the hall went readily to the help of those attacked but they have not had the courage to come forward and say so.


Three members of staff (Mr. K. Selvarajah, Instructor in Electrical Engineering, Mr. R. Navaratnam, Lecturer in Geography and Mr. K. Jayantha Kumaran, Lecturer in Economics) have given evidence in the attack made on them on the night of the 12th of May at Arunachalam Hall and its environs along Galaha Road.

There appears to be some connection between this attack and certain events which preceded it.

Mr. M. Sivasangaram, Lecturer in Economics, is a cripple who lives in Room No. 1 in Arunachalam Hall. He uses a chair to get around and a plank which enables him to move from one level to another; these are left at the entrance to the Hall when not in use. On the evening if the 11th, several students were seen to remove the plank in the direction of the 'Alwis Pond' in the roundabout some distance from the Hall.  That night, as student activities appeared to escalate, Mr. Selvarajah and Mr.  Navaratnam informed Security of what they saw: the locking of the Science Faculty Canteen door, Tamil boys with paint on their hands which 

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they had said was got through being forced to deface Tamil lettering on Faculty name-boards,  etc.,  etc. The Security officials, however, said they could do nothing unless officially informed by the Registrar, D.S.W., or Vice-Chancellor.  Greatly perturbed by the growing signs of dissidence, the two men, accompanied by Dr. Pathmanathan, went to apprise the D.S.W. of what they thought was a dangerous situation.

In his evidence before us, Mr. Sivasangaram has told how he was himself perturbed by the malicious act of removing his ramp; he discussed his plight with friends who advised him to leave and he accordingly went away by train with his brother who resides in Akbar Hall.  This was on the evening of the 12th.

Mr. Sivasangaram told his friends who were at the station to look after his belongings, especially some 200 books which were of considerable value, some belonging to the Library. Messrs. Selvarajah and Jayantha Kumaran accordingly decided to stay in his room and they were joined by Mr. Navaratnam who lives in the same hall.  The evidence of these three teachers taken together enables us to get a clear picture of what took place; additional information comes from Mr. M.E. J.  Mendis.

At about 8.30 or 9 p.m. on the night of the 12th, a large group of students entered room No. 1, ransacked it and demanded that Tamil print and writing found there be translated. Although the occupants said they were staff members, they were dragged out of the room in the direction of the roundabout, where the attack developed in intensity along the road.

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Mr. Jayantha Kumaran was able to escape to the residence of Dr. Pathmanathan who took him to the Acting Registrar next door.  The injured lecturer was seen there by the D.S.W., Dr. Premasiri.  Mr. Mendis had him given first aid by a doctor who happened to be there at the time and arranged for the patient (who was bleeding from the nose) to be hospitalized after making an entry in the Police Station. An X-ray photograph, taken after Mr.  Jayantha Kumaran was awarded, revealed a fractured nose.

Mr Selvarajah escaped to the mosque and after some time returned to Arunachalam Hall where he was sheltered by Sinhalese students.  In his evidence he shows great concern about the significance of the disturbances of May-June and stresses the importance of discipline and respect for authority in the University.

Of the three staff members it was Mr. Navaratnam who bore the brunt of the attack. He was dragged along the road as far as Wijewardena Hall. Being in a sarong, his main concern [......... ?] parts of his body. He was injured on his knees and shoulders by bamboo poles and a belt.  We are impressed by the concern for accuracy that was shown by Mr.  Navaratnam.  He it was who told us that there were among the attackers two views about harming teachers. He it was who, though severely [....... ?] and humiliated,  scrupulously avoided implicating any particular person as having assaulted him. He identified Thulsie Wickremasinghe as one of his attackers who dragged him and said he had received blows on his back from a belt [? ];  yet he insisted that,  while he saw Thulsie having a belt and suffered shots from it,  he did not actually see Wickremasinghe hit him.

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          We have nothing but admiration for these three young teachers who [despite the heinous? ] nature of the crime committed in them, have shown such restraint in their evidence and no rancour whatsoever against their attackers.

I.     TRESPASS & ATTACK ON STUDENTS  -- TEAching Hospital &    Medical Faculty

The storming of the premises of the Teaching Hospital and the Medical Faculty and the attack in students there differs from all other incidents of the May-June disturbances in that it took place in broad daylight.  Evidence on this cluster of incidents comes to hand from teachers (Prof.  M.A. Fernando, Dean Medicine and Prof. Barr Kumarakulasinghe), the Security Service and several medical final year students, among them the victims of the attacks.

On the morning of the 13th of May the teaching staff at the Medical Faculty were considering with their final year students how their safety could be ensured and what arrangements could be made for them to continue with their clinical and other work uninterrupted.  Residence outside the Campus and travelling to and from it to the Teaching Hospital (which is not part of the University) was thought to be a viable plan.

Meanwhile, after the violence of the two previous days, notices had appeared on all the notice-boards warning students about their conduct. However, defying these warnings and buoyed perhaps by the success on the 11th and 12th, a large number of students poured into the premises determined to clear the Campus entirely of Tamils

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The staff of the Teaching Hospital have spoken of Tamil boys fleeing from attack to whom they gave refuge and S. Wijeyesekeran has described how he was dragged from one spot on the hospital premises to a grass plot where he was put down and assaulted.

In the Medical Faculty premises the crowd looked menacing.  One Professor telephoned the Acting Registrar to apprise him of the situation; he was not successful in getting the Police (who wanted the D.I.G.'s authority).  Other staff members noticed a sinister movement of would-be attackers around the office of the Dean and phone-calls came in that Tamils were taking sanctuary in various rooms of the hospital.

The women students were advised to remain in the canteen rather than go (as they wished) to Wijewardena Hall.  The men students took shelter as they could.  Some ran across the ground in panic.

It was while V. Muralitheran and K. R.  Saseendran (Final Year Medical students) were making their way to the House Officer's quarters that, near the fence, they were caught by three students.  Several others then joined them and the victims were forcibly taken along Galaha Road to the railway-line under the bridge, where they were severely assaulted; among the attackers was T.  Wickremasinghe who used his belt as he had done the previous night when attacking the teachers.

The sketch-map M1 (submitted by Muralitheran) sketch-map SW 1 (submitted by Wijeyesekeran) indicate the precise locations of the incidents.   (See Vol.  II.)

[page 24]


Large communities tend to show varying shades of opinion and when these concentrations happen to consist of young adults they are more likely to contain the entire gamut of views ranging from extreme right to extreme left. The universities of today are well-known for this phenomenon and it is not a matter for surprise if our own Institutions of Higher Education, where campus life is highly politicised, hide within their gracious portals pockets of anarchism, subversion, racism and dissidence.  In the eyes of some, this us the blooming of a hundred flowers, but in the view of others, it is a hydra-headed monster.

The present political scene in Sri Lanka being what it is, it would not surprise us to learn that the University of Peradeniya is so afflicted. However, no evidence has been placed before us to this effect.

No evidence has been placed before us to show us that it was Tamils who defaced the Sinhala lettering on the main plaque of the University, or that Tamils wrote separatist slogans or devised and put up posters on eelam. Nor has any shred of information come our way of Tamil students or staff having attended meetings aimed at subversion or being in possession of subversive literature.  The accusations made at the time the students Balasooriyan was abducted and handed to Security have gone unsubstantiated -- he was, in fact, subsequently cleared by the C.I.D.

Similarly, the forced entry into the room of Mr. Sivasangaram (the crippled Economics Lecturer) at Arunachalam Hall in his absence and the violence done there to property and persons have yielded no results to confirm the suspicions of the attackers.

[page 25]

We have therefore to conclude that there is no substance in the accusations made by the chief actors in this drama when they confronted the Tamils on the campus and that the slogans and defacing of the plaque were part of a strategy to implicate the Tamils and so to precipitate unrest in the University.

Rather than students taking on themselves the task of investigation the taint of subversion,  let the appropriate authorities do this;  let them diligently search for traitors in their midst and,  if such be found,  expose them

[page 26]                                                                              

P A R T   I I I


We are of the view that a number of factors contributed to the May-June disturbances.

        It is well to bear in mind that after the December 1982 clashes (between rival groups of students with different political loyalties) there was an inordinately long time-lag between the appointment of the Udalagama Committee of Enquiry and the issue of its report. Students, ex-students and sub-wardens knew that they were under scrutiny; among some of them there must have been some apprehension, a hint of impending doom. All this could have been grist to the mill for anyone who wanted to make further trouble on the campus.

        There are always in universities irresponsible elements which would like to see examinations postponed and for this reason are ready to initiate or support strategies calculated to bring this about. It is possible that such elements were responsible for the disturbances that occurred in the middle of this year; and when trouble-makers create disaffection and bring about confusion, others cash in on the situation to work out their own private vendettas.

The Vice-Chancellor has frequently admitted at Council meetings and elsewhere that he does not have the full support and co-operation of his staff. It is well known that this staff is a mixed bag; that while it has dedicated teachers and scholars, it also harbours not a few opportunists and malcontents; that the towering personalities of an earlier day have, by and large, been replaced by small men and women with narrow outlooks and limited objectives. In circumstances

[page 27]

such as this, any Vice-Chancellor should be hard put to it to weld his staff into a team (or several interlocking teams) to maintain law and order, let alone to achieve higher goals.

        A sub-warden, giving evidence before us, made the point that what happened in May-June is a reflection of present-day trends in the country. At the time, we thought this too simplistic an explanation. While it is true that a university is a microcosm of the larger world outside and cannot function in isolation, it is at the same time a captive [?] pledged to higher education and, for that reason, not expect as of necessity to mirror all the ugly features of society, however, sick or bitter or fragmented.

In the context of the awful shock that the entire country sustained subseqyently, we have looked again at the significance of Mr. Karunasena’s statement, remembering what was said in the earlier days: ‘What the University thinks and does today the country thinks and does tomorrow!’ Of course, this was only an ideal; but it remained in the thinking of men like Marrs and Jennings and their teams of committed academics. What we seem to have today is a grotesque twist to the University of Peradeniya’s leadership role in society. ‘What we intend to engineer at the national level we first try out in a university!’ This is one reading of the phenomenon that we have had the misfortune to investigate.

As members of the Council of the University we have viewed with growing concern the development of a ‘we-they’ attitude on the part of those in authority

       [page 28]

                      and expressed by persons in high places. Each confrontation between the

[…….?]  and the authorities drives further apart the very two elements in the institution which should be working together.

        As in a home where a child sometimes comes into conflict with his parents, it is the latter who must make the first move towards détente. In our University, the authorities blow hot and cold; at one time they shamefully yield to intimidation, at another time they are dictators. This polarization (which is the converse of the shishya-guru ideal) is a dangerous trend.

        Sarachchandra has described university students as “roaming about aimlessly like children deserted by their parents”. Certainly they are young adults without friends, without guidance, without ideals, easy prey to the manipulator. Added to this is their depressing and debilitating environment: congestion in the halls, bad living conditions, administrative vacillation, political favouritism, little exercise of authority, counseling and welfare services. All the ingredients for an explosion are present; the result is inevitable.

        Educational institutions are apt to be so preoccupied with teaching that they forget there is also much to learn. Is the University of Peradeniya is to profit from the unhappy experience of recent student disturbances, it would do well to ponder on the following:

a.       The absence of a value system;

b.      Weakness in its own structures and its unpreparedness in dealing with crises;

c.       The impact of uncongenial living conditions;

[page 29]

d.      The presence of disruptive elements within its own community;

e.       The absence of good staff-pupil relationships;

f.       The harmful effect of university politics.

The growth of violence in the modern world is a sad commentary on the state of man. Not only do majorities maintain their hold by violence but various groups resort to it to gain their (usually selfish) ends. We do not believe that the end justifies the means and are clearly and unambiguously against the growing tendency of university students to take the law into their own hands. We also condemn outright the use of violence in settling problems at any level.

What took place at the University of Peradeniya in May-June may, on the surface, not appear very serious, especially after the holocaust of July which overtook the country. But it would be quite wrong to underestimate its significance and, for that reason, to pass it off with a mild rebuff. Great oaks from little acorns grow; likewise, great crimes stem from small misdemeanours.

It may be argued that the students who staged this campaign against Tamils were forced to do so because the authorities had done nothing to counter subversion in the University. Not one iota of proof has been produced that the authorities had been apprised of such a situation not is there any evidence that they heard such complaints and ignored them. Even if it were true that some great wrong had been done by the present Tamil students to the present Sinhala students, the latter do not have the right to

       [page 30]

take on the role of the Great Avenger. “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord; I will repay;” and he does so through the due processes of the law.

It may also be pleaded, in extenuation, that the students were simply tools in the hands of underground forces, clever activists who played on their feelings; again, no evidence has been placed before us that this was the case. We have ourselves stated that such manipulation could well have happened. But it should be borne in mind that university students are not new-born babes; they have reached a level of maturity which enables them not only to cope with studies leading to a degree but to exercise their vote as citizens. Crimes committed against humanity by such persons cannot, therefore, be condoned on the grounds that they listened to others.

There has now occurred in the University of Peradeniya an event, unknown in the annals of its history, that has tarnished its traditional image as a centre of excellence and a bastion of freedom. From among one race there has emerged a bunch of thugs and hoodlums who have unleashed a campaign of violence on fellow-students and staff of another race. There can be no pleading on grounds of provocation or undue influence. We strongly deprecate a growing tendency among our people to hide or excuse wickedness under a cloud of rhetoric or emotion; this is downright hypocrisy. To condone violence is to acquiesce in it and the interests of the University must not be jeopardized at any cost. The severest censure is called for on all students who perpetrated this outrage and the severest punishment to all who have been identified.

       [page 31]


To describe the May-June incidents as intercommunal would be inaccurate; rather, with traffic flowing entirely one-way, it would be more correct to call them an unseemly exhibition of racism.

Our discussion with University personnel tell us, and our own view is, that there has not been any deep-seated racial tension in the institution, which has long traditions of a mixed society and respect for others’ culture and points of view.

A Warden of a hall told us that when they had occasion to discuss with his students an incident which had taken place in his hall at the height of the disturbances, they had said they were prepared to have back the Tamils on condition “they did not play about”. Innuendo of this nature could be an attempt on the part of the Sinhala residents of this hall to justify what they did. Or, it could signify some suspicion in their minds as regards the conduct of Tamil fellow-students. If there was suspicion, should it not have been possible for doubts of this kind to be brought into the open and frankly discussed? And is not a Warden the best person to sponsor such a dialogue?

Among the remarks hurled by the Sinhala inquisitors at their victims are some which give the impression of an uninformed – even childish – attitude towards the Tamils of this country; “Tell Amirthalingam to build you a university in Jaffna!’, ‘You are Tigers!’, ‘You belong to the Gandhiam Movement!’, ‘You must learn Sinhala; don’t speak in Tamil or English!’ and so on. It would seem that, in the eyes of these students, all Tamils must be tarred with the same brush. The

       [page 32]

searching of rooms, the inspection of identity cards, the demands made to translate correspondence and the gearing of the campaign against Tamils qua Tamils indicate a certain naivete on the part of the Sinhala attackers, leaving room for conjecture that chauvinist manipulators, wanting to fish in troubled waters, have worked on the already impoverished minds and feelings of chosen Sinhalese students. The matter cries out for further investigation.

A Dean has made the point that students under him had complained to him of favouritism, examination leaks and the coming and going of outsiders in certain halls of residence, which has aroused their suspicions. In the same strain, a Warden has spoken of complaints made ‘during last year or so’ of discrimination regarding the award of colours and admission to the more prestigious Faculties.

Such matters are common enough in any large multi-racial institution. Unfortunately, Peradeniya has no properly-organized Counselling Service; but it surely has the capacity to deal with situations of this kind, on a personal or official level. It is highly dangerous to allow discontent and frustration to go underground or fester on the surface. We would like to ask the Warden and the Dean bluntly why they did not take steps to stop the rot.

At a Conference we held with Wardens and Sub-Wardens, one speaker suggested that discrimination in the University was a matter worthy of study. We agree – on the understanding that such a study covers all the usual grounds for discrimination: sex, age, religion, language, race, politics.

[page 33]             

Ethnic loyalty and communal tension have been part of the Lankan landscape for generations and we have learned to live with them. It is, of course, true that the confrontation between the minority Tamils and the majority Sinhalese came to a head after 1948 and erupted violently in 1958, 1977 and 1981; but it did not mar university life.

Thus, the ethnicity of the May-June outbreak is greatly regretted on all sides as the first of its kind in the University of Peradeniya. Its nature and timing, however, have far more menacing implications. Nothing can be more disastrous in a multi-racial country than when it adopts an attitude of racial superiority. By the same token, when in a multi-racial Institution of Higher Education, one group is arrogantly violent towards another group, this is the very negation of what a university stands for.

Now that the seeds of discord have been sown on fertile ground, doing inestimable harm to the University, and since there is the danger that manipulators will strike again, serious efforts must be made to defuse this potentially explosive state of affairs.


Facilis descensus Averno…

                                                          Sed revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras,

                                                          Hoc opus, hic labor est.                          (Aenid VI  126)

The way down to Avernus is easy… But to retract one’s steps and escape to cleaner air – this is toil, this is labour!

[page 34]

To live down the shame of the May-June disturbances is itself a daunting task. How much more formidable will it be to reconcile a divided community and build once again reverence for human personality among a fellowship of equals pledged to  the pursuit of Truth and Learning!

It is not within our competence to offer remedies for a long standing disease that has for the first time shown one of its ugly faces in the University of Peradeniya. We are aware that some would like to choose the easy way out by opting for monolingualism. But this would be defeatism of the worst kind and wholly repugnant to the concept of university education as it is understood in Sri Lanka. No. Because of its strategic role in nation-building, Peradeniya must needs demonstrate to society at large its capacity, despite all obstacles, to create once again an environment that will ensure freedom from the fear of violence and the right of all communities to live and learn with dignity and self-respect.

The shock which Peradeniya suffered and its speedy response in seeking to create a climate of assurance for the returning Tamils are a clear indication of the distaste with which most of its personnel viewed ethnic polarisation on its home ground. During that tense period Dr. Premasiri (the D.S.W. at the time) and his pitifully small team of helpers showed a nice understanding of needs and problems while the steps taken by their vigilantes were on the right lines. The ideals which motivated the Peace Plan were laudable; we think that it is worthy of being revived – by a larger and more representative group of leaders, with the

[page 35]                    

Vice-Chancellor as their head, and a great deal more co-operation from the halls of residence.

At the same time, we suggest the adoption of the following measures, as circumstances permit:

(a) Every student and employee of the University should be required to sign a pledge of loyalty to the institution and its ideals. Since the latter does not exist in writing, this is an opportune moment to set them down, after due deliberation.

(b)   A study of Social Injustice, in all its forms, should be undertaken. It could be jointly sponsored by the Departments of Sociology, Political Science and History.

(c)  Within the University, all proven cases of discrimination should be examined and dealt with.

(d)   Clubs and Societies which are apt to be confined to ethnic, religious or cultural sectors should be made more broad-based. At the same time, inter-cultural activities should be encouraged.

(e)    The University of Peradeniya’s record in relation to the community is minimal. In order to get meaningfully involved in outreach of this kind and at the same time to promote racial amity, we suggest that a socio-economic survey be made of the Mawalawatte and Uda Peradeniya communities, where Sinhalese and Tamils live side by side, with a view to mounting development projects in these underprivileged villages.

[page 36]                            

(f)    The University should inaugurate a Relief Fund to compensate as far as possible those who were affected by the May-June disturbances. Many of those who gave evidence before us and/or submitted written memoranda described losses incurred and also other additional expenses on board, lodging and travelling.

In a recent publication (INTER-RACIAL EQUITY AND NATIONAL UNITY IN SRI LANKA) the Marga Institute states as follows:

Sri Lanka has often been singled out by the international community for social achievements which few other low-income countries can claim. The levels of literacy, the life expectancy of its people, the foundation of social welfare which helped to alleviate conditions of poverty and the democratic processes it has been able to sustain, all have given it an international stature of unique quality. This has been the achievement of all ethnic groups working together and contributing to it fully.

Communalism can not only bring these achievements to nought but spoil the social fabric on which further gains can be won. It is surely within the grasp of the University of Peradeniya, as the leading Institution of Higher Education in the country, to ensure that this does not happen.

[page 37]                                   

The road back will not be easy. Unpleasant wayfarers are bound to show up: Complacency, Vacillation, Administrative Bungling, Opportunism and even Open Resistance. We believe, however, that there are men and women of goodwill and dedication who will lead the way in demonstrating that everybody in this institution – be he professor or peon, be he clerk or Council member – must share in the guilt for what happened and must therefore participate in the redemptive processes of campus life.

We see the road back as, basically, a spiritual enterprise, marked by contrition, compassion and reconciliation. These attributes will then inform the language of discourse and all other dealings with fellow-beings, irrespective of their language, race and religion. ‘To disagree without being disagreeable’ is a worthy aim for all who grace the Halls of Learning and will amply justify the goal so proudly displayed at the entrance to the Senate Building:


[page 38]


Newspaper notices about the setting up of the Committee of Enquiry appeared on 23 May fixing the deadline for the receipt of memoranda and applications from those wishing to give evidence for 5 June; this date was extended to 12 June.  12 Memoranda were received and 156 applications to give evidence reached us before the deadline.

The evidence in this enquiry comes from four categories of persons: academic and administrative staff, some of whom volunteered to appear before us and others whom we invited to assist us; Security personnel; Tamil students; Sinhalese students.

The evidence of academic and administrative staff has been very useful in helping us to understand more clearly life on the campus and university policy and principles. The Security Service appears to have adopted a low profile in the disturbances (there is not a single Tamil among its 89 members). The 15 guards who were on day duty and the 19 who were on night duty during the troubles saw nothing and heard nothing. The Inspectors, acting as they do only ‘on information received’, moved from site to site; faulty telephone lines and incorrect assessments of the situation by persons in authority prevented the inspectors from being on the spot when things were actually happening.

We were in the process of interviewing (in batches) the 148 Tamil students who had signified their desire to give evidence, when the University and the entire country was overtaken by events beyond our control. Force of circumstances, therefore, compelled us to limit ourselves to the 34 Tamil students whom we

       [page 39]

had by that time interviewed. Only 2 Sinhalese students applied to give evidence, the Secretary and President of the Peradeniya Students’ Union; we were able to record evidence of the latter.

We are not surprised at this pattern; it is clearly determined by the nature of the disturbances, where members of one ethnic group attacked members of another ethnic group.

For the defacing of the University name-boards and for the actual acts of violence alleged to have been committed we have no independent eye-witness accounts, though there must have been scores of onlookers. It is a matter for regret that nobody has had the courage to come forward and say: “We saw what happened”, particularly the 14 cases of physical assault which we have listed elsewhere. At the same time, no evidence has been placed before us in espousal of or explaining the disturbances which occurred.

There are, however, independent accounts mostly from Hall authorities of the crisis which prevailed on the Campus, the actions of persons in authority in certain specific situations, the build-up of student activity and some aspects of the aftermath of the attacks and their impact on persons and property.

From the evidence of the Tamil students we have a clear idea of the intentions of their attackers, the nature of the several incidents and the general impact on the victims. We are impressed by the demeanour of these young men and also by the fact that, although they had the opportunity of framing their attackers in large numbers, 24 out of the 34 did not specifically identify Sinhalese students by name. There was an undeniable ring of truth in the Tamils’ evidence.

[page 40]                            

The credibility of the ‘Tamil side’ has been further enhanced by the absence of a comparable ‘Sinhala side’. To make up for this hiatus, and also in order to give those named the opportunity to vindicate themselves, we summoned the 19 students named, of whom 16 presented themselves. As regards the night incidents that took place, an identical stance was taken by all of them; a flat denial of any involvement: we were in our rooms studying, the noises we heard did not amount to much, there is always noise on the campus, we have nothing personal against the Tamils and get on well with them. One student thought that jealousy had played a part in incriminating him while another student was sure he had been framed by an Instructor rival in a love-affair. We dismiss these stories as pure fabrication.

The most important eye-witness to an incident is the one who suffers in it. We can see no reason for bias nor impute any grudge on the part of the Tamil students and staff, both in their evidence and memoranda, against the 19 students they have named as aggressors. Just as we have believed their account of the disturbances we accept their version of this particular detail as well.


One of the tasks of this Committee is, as set out in the first Terms of Reference issued to us, “To recommend disciplinary measures to be taken against individuals found to have been involved in any one or all of the above ….”.

[page 41]                     `     

We find that the following offences were committed, many of them legally punishable: disorderly conduct, unlawful assembly, stoning of buildings, willful damage to property, harassment, intimidation, abuse, forcible entry, looting, incitement to violence, restraint, humiliation and physical violence and assault.

With a large number of students rampaging about the campus, many of them brandishing a miscellany of weapons, bodily injury could hardly have been avoided. Some of it was received by direct contact with these weapons, some through attempts on the part of victims to escape. Fists and feet were freely used.

It has also come out in evidence that many minor injuries were sustained and that some students were treated at the University Health centre, having been sent there by ambulance through the initiative of sub-wardens and senior students. The D.S.W. saw several injured at the Health Centre on the morning of the 12th of May. Prof. Barr Kumarakulasinghe saw two cases of minor injuries on the afternoon of the 13th shortly after they had been caused by the assailants. Several of those injured on the 11th received treatment at hospitals in the towns to which they escaped.

We have examined reports from the Medical Superintendent of the General Hospital, Kandy, in respect of two cases warded there. Mr. Jayantha Kumaran was treated for a nose imjury, an abrasion on the left forearm and contusions. E. Sridaran sustained fractures of

[page 42]

four ribs and damage to vertebrae as a result of a fall from the ceiling of a room where he had taken refuge when the mob stormed Marrs Hall.

We have already given our reasons why we reject the denials of the 19 students named by the victims and accept as authentic the evidence of the 34 Tamils who came before us (see D. EVIDENCE above).

The following schedule gives relevant details of 8 students whom we find guilty of incitement to violence, consisting of one or more of the following offences: disorderly conduct, unlawful assembly, forcible entry, abuse, humiliation and being a member of a mob.

                                                                                                                    VENUE OF

NAME                                       STATUS       HALL    ``````DATE           `INCIDENT

A. Weerakoon                            Dental 1        HOH             11 May          HO Hall

I.V.P. Dharmawardena      Vet 1             HOH             11 May          HO Hall

K.M. Jayatilleke Banda      Med 1           HOH             11 May          HO Hall

P.M. Ratnayake                         Med 4           Marrs             11 May          Marrs Hall

H. Osmund Rupasena        Med 1           HOH             11 May          HO Hall

P.I.T. Kusaladharma           Med 4           Marrs             11 May          Marrs Hall

J.H.M.K.K.B. Jayasinghe   Med 3           Marrs             11 May          Marrs Hall

H.S.R. Ranaraja                         Med 4           Marrs             11 May          Marrs Hall

H. Osmund Rupasena failed to appear before us. We recommend that the above students be suspended for one year.

We find H.R.S.K. Keegalla (Science 3) guilty of          incitement to violence as well as of forcible restraint at Marrs Hall on the night of 11 May and recommend that, in addition to suspension for one year, he be required to give the Vice-Chancellor a written guarantee of good conduct on his return to the University.

[page 43]

We consider physical assault the most serious of the offences committed. 18 such cases have been brought to our notice in 11 of which the attackers have been identified by name. We recommend that the following be expelled from the University.

1.      W.A. Somaratne (HOH, 2nd year Medical, M/R/82/40) assaulted M.V. Varnagulasingham with a human humerus in Hilda Obeysekera Hall on the night of 11 May. Somaratne failed to appear before us.

2.      W.M.P. Fernando (HOH, 1st year Engineering, E/82/54) assaulted B. Balasooriyan in Hild Obeysekera Hall on the night of 11 May, accusing him of stealing a set of question papers from the library.

3.      R.M.U.K. Ratnayake (Marrs, 3rd year Medical, M/80/50) assaulted S. Nagendran in Marrs Hall on the night of 11 May.

4.      Douglas Perera (Marrs, 3rd year Dental, D/81/64) assaulted S. Nagendran in Marrs Hall on the night of 11 May. Douglas Perera failed to appear before us.

5.      M.A. Wettasinghe (Marrs, 3rd year Dental, D/8C/29) assaulted S. Nagendran in Marrs Hall on the night of 11 May.

6.      Prasanna Dissanayake (Dassanayake?) (HOH, 2nd year Medical, R/M/81/12) assaulted T. Damayantharan on the morning of the 12th of May as the latter was preparing to leave the campus , having been attacked the previous night.

7.      R.P.J. Ranatunge (Akbar, 3rd year Science, P/S/80/65) assaulted Mr. K. Selvarajah (Instructor, Electrical Engineering) on the night of the 12th of May in the room occupied by Mr. Sivasangaram at Arunachalam Hall

[page 44]                           and its environs. He was joined by A. Ekanayake and W.A.D.T. Wickremasinghe.

8.      A. Ekanayake (Arunachalam, 4th year Science, RB/PS/79/29) see below.

9.      W.A.D.T. Wickremasinghe (Arunachalam, 4th year Science, RB/PS/79/46) see below.

It will be recalled that A. Ekanayake and W.A.D.T. (Thulsie) Wickremasinghe were the two students who were suspended by the Vice-Chancellor on 8 June and that the subsequent boycott of lectures by the students of the Science Faculty made it necessary for him to request us (with Mrs. Ranaraja taking the place of Mrs. Ekanayake) to go into the matter on a priority basis.  In our Interim Report we made it abundantly clear that (a) the masked attack of 4 June at Arunachalam Hall was only one incident in a continuum which we were investigating and (b) the two students suspended were at the time and would continue to be, under our scrutiny. This fact is underlined by the wording of the letters of suspension issued (P 2):

“In view of the information I have received from several reliable sources that you have been involved in inciting violence against fellow students and also in view of reports that you have participated in acts of violence over the last few days, I hereby suspend you with immediate effect….”

The Vice-Chancellor had earlier issued several notices about the disturbances; one of these, addressed to all Deans, Heads of Departments, Academic and Non-Academic Staff, spoke of “an emergency situation”

[page 45]      

(see P 6)   He now deemed it necessary to make a “very urgent appeal” to all Wardens to strengthen vigilance in the Halls and set out his own suggestions for doing this (P 7).

We would also invite attention to P3, a very significant document, submitted by Dr. Premasiri to the V.C.  Dr. Premasiri was the one person who knew what was really going on; as D.S.W. he was uniquely placed to receive information of various kinds from various people and his appraisal of the situation is worthy of respect.

He makes two points in this memorandum:

(1) that the seats of trouble are in the Hall and

(2) that there is an anti-Tamil element working insidiously in the University. This view is expressed, quite independently of him. By us in our Interim Report (see Section B I, paragraphs 3 & 4).

Now that our enquiry is over, we are convinced of the wisdom of our recommendation (see Interim Report Sections C & E): that, because at that time we were engaged in dealing with the wider issues of the disturbances, including the involvement in them of these two students, the suspension be continued.  What was earlier a strong suspicion is now a firm conviction. A. Ekanayake and T. Wickremasinghe are 4th year Science students, live in adjacent rooms (Nos. 58 & 59) and are ‘practicals partners”. Of the two Thulsie is the stronger personality, a leader to be followed (see Interim report, Section C). Dr. Premasiri, who has explained to us how he obtained corroborative information on Ekanayake and Wickremasinghe, thought that the two worked hand in glove; we are of the same view after having made a study of the evidence before us.

               [page 46]

The Acting Registrar and Vice-Chancellor have explained to us the procedure that is adopted before a student is suspended, the care that is taken to listen to and weigh oral and written evidence, etc. In the case of both Ekanayake and Wickremasinghe all this was done and the letters of suspension, while making no specific reference to the incident at Arunachalam Hall, broadly refer to incitement to violence and acts of violence committed by them.

It will be noted that the incident of 4 June was, chronologically, the last of the episodes with which Ekanayake and Wickremasinghe were associated. We held (and stated quite clearly in the Interim Report) that the Vice-Chancellor was perfectly justified in the action that he and the D.S.W. took because (our inquiry on the larger issues going on concurrently) we had grave doubts about the bona fides of these two students. However, on the specific charge of participating in the masked attack at Arunachalam Hall, we gave them the benefit of the doubt and absolved them of complicity.

The case against A. Ekanayake is as follows:

(a)    Committing several acts of violence on the night of 11 May at the Science Faculty Canteen and the adjacent premises, where Tamil students were forced to smear with a black substance the Tamil lettering of the Faculty name-boards.

(b)   In the company of R.P.J. Ranatunge and T. Wickremasinghe, humiliating, attacking and assaulting Mr. K. Selvarajah (Instructor, Electrical Engineering) on the night of 12 May at Arunachalam Hall and its environs.

[page 47]                    

Ekanayake denied having had any participation in the May-June disturbances. We reject his evidence and accept that of Dr. Premasiri and Mr. K. Selvarajah. We recommend that Ekanayake be expelled from the University. If he has completed his final examination, his certificate should be withheld indefinitely.

As regards Thulsie Wickremasinghe, we have noted the evidence of Dr. Premasiri (DSW) and that of Dr. Ashley Halpe, who has stated as follows:

[K: in the following paras the original text has commas where I would have put fullstops. You decide whether to alter – MF]

“In each case, the victim informed me of what happened on the understanding that the information would go no further. Hence I refer to them as A, B, C, D, E and F.

A, Assistant Lecturer, stated that Mr. T. Wickremasinghe admitted to assaulting persons on 11 May, and in fact seemed proud of having done so.  B, Assistant Lecturer, told me that he was assaulted by T. Wickremasinghe on 12 May.  C, Lecturer, informed me of being insulted in the Library.  D, student, informed me of intimidation near the Medical Faculty. E and F communicated to me through a member of my staff that they were intimidated by T. Wickremasinghe. I believe that two more episodes were mentioned to Dr. Premasiri by the same staff member this morning. These reports have come in from all communities.”  This is however not first hand evidence, but its timing is significant.

The case against T. Wickremasinghe is as follows:

(a)    Incitement to violence on the night of 11 May;

(b)   Humiliation of and assault on Mr. K. Selvarajah (Instructor, Electrical Engineering) on the night of 12 May, in the company of A. Ekanayake and R.P.J. Ranatunge.

[page 48]             (c)  Humiliation of and attack on Mr. R. Navaratnam (Lecturer, Dept. of Geography) on the night of 12 May, in the company of others.

(d)  Trespassing on Teaching Hospital premises on the morning of 13 May with others.

(e)  Assault on V. Muralitharan (Final year Medical Student) on the afternoon of 13 May, with a belt.

(f)    Assault on R. Saseendran (Final Year Medical student) on the afternoon of 13 May, with a belt.

As a witness, we found Wickremasinghe evasive and unreliable on the first occasion and equally evasive on the second occasion. He has completely denied involvement in any of the incidents listed above and offered an alibi in respect of (d), (e) and (f). Mrs. Nalini Unamboowe has stated that Wickremasinghe was with her during the period 10.30 a.m. till 3 p.m. on that day. We give no credence to this alibi and think that in a Court of Law it could well have been effectively broken. At the same time we accept the evidence of the two victims, Muralitharan and Saseendran, and their identification of him:

“Wickremasinghe is a popular figure among the students and we in Jayatilleke Hall often go to the Science Canteen which is across the road. There I have noticed Thulsie W. dominating the conversation….”


“By name I cannot identify any of those who assaulted me, except for Thulsie Wickremasinghe who was wearing a checked shirt. I knew him because I live in Jayatilleke Hall and go to the Science Faculty canteen daily. Wickremasinghe is a dominant figure….”


[page 49]

together with that of Dr. C.B. Kumarakulasinghe, who saw that very afternoon that they had minor imjuries of assault. Sketch maps M1 and SW1 have been submitted in support of the evidence.

As regards (b) and (c), we accept entirely the evidence of the victims who are staff members. Mr. Selvarajah recognized Wickremasinghe but had to find out his name later; on the other hand Mr. Navaratnam knew him as a fellow resident at Arunachalam Hall. Their evidence is completely convincing. We recommend that T. Wickremasinghe be expelled from the University on the grounds that he has played a leadership role in the disturbances and, on account of his brutal attack on staff, is not a fit person to be in any Institution of Higher Education. If he has completed his final examination, his certificate should be withheld indefinitely.

One other case of humiliation and physical assault has come to our notice. S. Nagendran, a 4th year Medical student in Marrs, testifies that during the storming of Marrs Hall on the night of 11 May, Dr. S.N. Gamage led a gang of students into his room, challenged him with the words ‘ado, umba tham [?] MSA illuwe!’ and assaulted him.

Dr. Gamage is a former resident student of the Hall, now a passed-out dental surgeon, who, it is alleged, was in occupation at the time, together with other persons of similar status. This is stated by Nagendran and corroborated by E. Sritharan.

Dr. Gamage did not respond to our invitation to appear before us. However, subsequently we received a letter from him explaining his absence but at the same time stating that he was not on the campus at the time of the disturbances under investigation. We are

[page 50]                    

not prepared to believe his story and have already expressed our grave concern at the dangers of allowing unauthorized residents in the halls.

We leave it to the authorities to follow this matter up if they think fit.

[page 51]

P A R T   I V


This section of our report deals with the Terms of Reference which enjoins us to ‘make recommendations regarding prevention of similar incidents in the future’. We understand the term ‘similar incidents’ to mean events of a violent nature involving students.

Tertiary education in Sri Lanka today functions under several constraints. Eligibility for admission is based solely on academic ability and examination performance. The young men and women who are ultimately fed into the system get little or no training in the schools as prospective undergraduates; when they enter university the orientation to life there which they sorely need is provided in a haphazard and unsystematic manner. The proliferation of Institutions of Higher Education has tended to increase bureaucratic control from the centre and is slowly eroding whatever autonomy the university possessed.

University Acts of recent times have fallen far short of the old ideals of proving ‘education for the whole man’ and a balanced life-style. Apart from the challenges that come from the academic disciplines which the undergraduates choose, in many ways student life on the campus is unreal. Released from the regimentation of school, they find themselves suddenly thrown among wide freedoms with little skill to understand and use them. They have no economic or domestic responsibilities, while the normal taboos do not operate on them with the same force as on society at large.

        It is for these and other reasons that concerned educationists lay such stress on guidance,

[page 52]

counselling and welfare in a university. Without them the student population can get out of hand or develop perversions of various kinds.

At the University of Peradeniya, not only are these basic needs neglected but the vacuum thus created is extended by poor staff-pupil relations, administrative inefficiency, bad living conditions, a debilitated Security Service and a curious lack of charismatic leadership. We are not aware of one single comprehensive proposal initiated by the authorities with the aim of improving student morale. Thus, despite extenuating circumstances, the University must bear a large share of the blame for frustration, unrest and violence among its students.

We realize that, with this as our premise, what we have to say in the following pages will receive scant attention from those whose competence has been questioned, whose vanity has been hurt and whose hypocrisy has been exposed. But we believe that there are honest men and women who have the interests of this University at heart and will, accordingly, regard this document as a much-needed (if exploratory) exercise in self-evaluation.

We fear very much that, in the aftermath of recent events, the tendency will be for the authorities not to examine themselves but to take the easy path of finding a scapegoat and developing repressive measures on its students – measures which could be counter-productive.

[page 53]                    

However, in the fervent hope that this disaster will not occur, we would say that, if ‘similar incidents in the future’ are to be prevented or inhibited, several short-term and long-term measures are necessary. They should be governed by the following three principles:

(i)                 A new life-style for the institution, based on the conviction that students are its foremost concern;

(ii)               A clear understanding of what this life-style consists of;

(iii)             A deep sense of responsibility among those who will mediate it, day by day and year by year.

We suggest that these principles be applied to all phases of university life and in particular to the following selected areas which have a close bearing on the students.

                 B. DISCIPLINE

Our view of discipline is of something positive, a state of affairs in which students are active participants and to which the characteristic features of a university jointly and severally contribute. Each aspect of its life has a disciplinary dimension: the regimen of studies, corporate life in the Halls, health and recreation, staff-student relationships, welfare, all play their part and exert their influence in varying degrees. Respect for law and order on a campus, therefore, should not be regarded as something to be

[page 54]

enforced but rather as something which flows naturally from a wise and balanced provision of the amenities we have referred to above.

While the creative side of discipline cannot be over-emphasized (because it is often not understood) we are not unaware of the need for supportive structures in a university to protect fabric, to maintain vigilance and to provide a show of strength. There is also the important punitive arm – which must be seen to be a powerful restraint on any abuse of privileges or unlimited freedom by students. Regretfully, it is this punitive aspect which usually bulks large in discussions on the subject of discipline.

Discipline, then, is an entity with many components, working in harmony for the good of the institution in which it operates. When, in a university, discipline (for whatever reason) deteriorates, drastic action has to be taken, involving recourse to outside help. This, however, should be regarded as a temporary measure. Not only could the remedy be worse than the disease but, more importantly, handing over permanently crucial areas of discipline to others is an admission of weakness and repugnant to the whole concept and purpose of education.

We do not think any harm will come to the University if guard duty is farmed out to a security agency; it would doubtless do a better job than those now in charge. But here the line should be drawn. We do not think there is any outside agency (and this includes the Police Force) which is capable of prescribing, building up and maintaining discipline among resident graduates. This is a university birthright.

[page 55]

The existing arrangements for dealing with student indiscipline are minimal. We have dealt with this subject in some detail in Section D (Suspension of Students and Action Taken by the Authorities) of our Interim Report. There is a Compendium of Rules and Regulations available in Sinhala and English which, though in need of up-dating, could be an adequate frame of reference; but it is a dead letter. Students pay no regard to it. This laxity is particularly noticeable in the Halls, where outsiders can come and go as they wish and students infringe law and order with impunity. Punishment has become so rare that a mere suspension creates a storm and is regarded by students as sufficient excuse for a boycott or a strike.

If it is accepted that the causes of student indiscipline are to be sought for within the University, then the remedy is as easy as it is obvious. Let us stop blaming it on ‘numbers’ or on ‘agitators’ or ‘the state of the country’. The remedy lies in our own hearts and hands.


In the University of Peradeniya there are many authorities but no authority. Wardens, departmental Heads, Assistant Registrars and a host of others are vested, each in his own sphere, with authority – which they rarely exercise. Violation of rules and procedures, which in any other institution would be regarded as inconceivable, are condoned, ignored or glossed over. Censuring and fining students are rare occurrences while suspension (which several officers have the right to impose) is still rarer. We have, in our Interim Report,

[page 56]

expressed our views on the unhappy consequences of vesting this minor disciplinary measure in the Vice-Chancellor.

On those rare occasions when a breach of discipline does come under scrutiny (usually during ragging and through the Security Service), the matter goes up to the Director of Student Welfare, instead of being dealt with at a lower level by the officers vested with authority to do just this. This abdication of responsibilities is a very serious matter. The situation is further exacerbated by a misconceived role for the D.S.W. While welfare and discipline may be regarded as two sides of the same coin, it is unwise to combine in one and the same person both functions. And the fact that he happens to be a comparatively junior staff member and is shorn of his legitimate power makes confusion worse confounded.

The vagueness and laxity that seem to run right through the institution as regards discipline can be stopped by the simple expedient of laying down lines of authority and ensuring that they are strictly adhered to.


The Halls of Residence, at the time they came up as elegant structures in idyllic landscape, were considered among the best in the world and most of those who entered them had visions of a rewarding fellowship with colleagues and of stimulating contact with dons, through which new vistas of learning and life would open up for them.

[page 57]

In the early years these dreams were, in the main, realized, except by those who had different concepts of what university education should be.

Today, while studies continue to challenge the large body of undergraduates, hall life is sub-standard, dreary and disappointing. Numbers have increased so much that they have severely taxed sewerage and water-supply and created unhealthy living conditions. Some young men inhabit box-rooms which fall far short of minimum health requirements, while the amenities in the Gymnasium (‘hall’ for some 74 unfortunates) are deplorable. Food is served in canteens by outside contractors who have no idea of cleanliness or dietetics. Telephone lines are permanently out of order and after dark there is minimum of lighting because the equipment has been spirited away. The once gracious lawns and gardens have run to weed, chains of washing on coir ropes obscure the view and cooking goes on in rooms in open defiance of the rules.

If physical conditions are bad, corporate life in the Halls is worse. A sad deterioration of community life and morale is depicted by the following extracts from evidence and memoranda:

“The residential life of the University is no longer what the creators envisaged when they set up this magnificent seat of learning…As a graduate of this University I feel sad that it has fallen into these straits. The Halls of Residence no longer offer the haven they did for the students of previous years.”

                                                                                                           (Mrs. C. Ranaraja)

[page 58]                    

“I find that the average student does not know the names of his Wardens and Sub-wardens.”

Rev. Sidney Knight also speaks of his experiences as a student in Marrs Hall where there was stimulating corporate life, with dinners at which the Warden was present, socials and a functioning Hall Committee.

“I grew up in a university environment where every number, whether academic or peon, was expected to participate in the disciplinary process …. One does not get the feeling that there is any moral order in the campus.”

                                                                                                                                                           (Dr. Ashley Halpe)

A number of factors have contributed to bring about this state of affairs:

a.       Congestion;

b.      The absence of Counselling and a co-ordinated Welfare Service;

c.       Lack of funds to maintain the Halls in prime condition and poor supervision of the departments concerned;

d.      Unsatisfactory methods of recruitment to posts of sub-wardens;

e.       Laxity on the part of Wardens and other Hall authorities in matters of discipline;

f.       Absence of student-staff participation.

As a result of these conditions, the Halls of Residence are more shells in which masses of young people grind out their lives, unmoved by beauty, untouched by idealism and unaware of elementary duties and obligations.

[page 59]

We held a Conference with Hall authorities and listed for discussion the following topics:

Duties and Functions of Hall authorities, Methods of Appointment, Corporate Life, Counselling, Student Welfare, Meetings, Unauthorized Residence, Action in Emergencies, Punitive Measures, Consultation.

Although we expected a lively discussion on such matters as Unfilled Cadre, Pilfering, Food Problem, Damage to Property, Misuse of Electricity, Lack of Funds, Lack of Co-ordination, etc. (all mentioned in Annual reports), we got the impression that what worried the authorities most were fabric maintenance and poor communications.

        Clearly, the first requirement for a stimulating Hall life is the realization by the authorities that it is obligatory on their part to provide one, for the good reason that it will on the one hand check the present trend towards discontent, unrest and aggression and on the other hand build up morale among students.


That many unauthorized person, including ex-students and people in employment, live in the Halls of Residence openly and in defiance of university rules is well-known. This ‘gajaying’ has been going on for several years and is talked about both inside and outside as a scandal.

        Yet, apart from a grudging admission by the authorities that it is indeed a nagging problem and an occasional reference at a Council meeting to the firmness of Wardens ‘in the old days’, the problem has never been faced.

[page 60]

The Compendium of Rules and Regulations makes it quite clear (in the section dealing with Halls of Residence) that “No student shall give   lodging to visitors, whether members of the University or not, in his room without the permission of the Warden.” This rule is happily ignored both by students and Hall staff. We have already said, in our Interim Report, that, despite its high-sounding name, the Compendium of Rules is a dead letter. We are astonished at the vagueness that exists as regards the duties of Wardens and Sub-wardens and the indifference on the part of the authorities not only in this connection but towards discipline in general. We are not aware of a single instance in the last five years, where a Warden suspended a resident student. Some Wardens turn a blind eye to outside residents, others have been selective in their punitive actions.

Even when the December 1982 clashes threw up the dangers of entertaining outsiders in the Halls, little action appears to have been taken to defuse the situation. The Udalagama Report identified 4 ex-students  and 5 sub-wardens as having actively taken part in the violence; yet, while the sub-wardens were removed, nothing has been done to follow-up the recommendations regarding the ex-students.

The most flagrant violation of the rule regarding unauthorized residence that we have found in our investigation is that of Dr. S.N. Gamage who is known to have been a student resident at Marrs Hall, to have returned to it when he was ‘referred’ and to have continued to stay there even after he had obtained

[page 61]

his degree – all this with the connivance of the resident sub-warden who is said to be his close associate.

               Asked about this, Mr. Karunasena denies knowledge of anyone by the name of Gamage. Dr. R.A. Goonetilleke told us that he was not aware of any outsider having resided at Marrs Hall, while Mr. Karunasena did not know that his own Warden had in July this year sent out two unauthorized residents from the Hall. Mr. Karunasena amazed us by showing complete ignorance of the rules regarding unauthorized residents; he has not even seen the Compendium of Rules and Regulations.

               We invited Dr. S.N. Gamage to appear before us. Writing back he explained why he could not come, he added that he was not present on the campus at the time of the disturbances, a statement which we do not accept.

               We are not impressed by the evidence of the Warden and Sub-Warden of Marrs Hall and have found the latter evasive and untruthful. In view of the fact that the Marrs Hall incident on the 11th of May appears to have been the most vicious of all the attacks that occurred, in view of the leading role that Dr. Gamage played in it and also on account of the allegations that former members of the Samavadi Shishya Peramuna are housed here free of charge, we are of the opinion that, pending further enquiry by a separate Committee, Mr. Karunasena be placed under interdiction.

[page 62]

As regards unauthorized residence in the Halls, we considered this a running sore in the very vitals of university life. It can be healed by simply ensuring that those who exercise authority in the Halls know their job and do it conscientiously.

              F.    STUDENT WELFARE

The Universities Act No. 16 (Part VI Section 8 45 (2) (xiv)) requires the Council:

to appoint a Board of Welfare which shall include representatives of the students, for the promotion of  the general well-being of the students of the University. The composition, powers, duties and functions of such Board shall be prescribed by Ordinance.”

In 1979 the University of Peradeniya listed a high-powered Board of Welfare (without the student component) and has continued to do so each successive year, with the omission of the term ‘ad hoc’ which appeared in 1979. But, apart from a few meetings, it cannot claim to have done anything constructive these five years. Meanwhile, the UGC has still to prepare and issue the promised Ordinance. We have discovered an officer designated Public Relations & Welfare officer but his duties are obscure and he does not seem to have any discernible responsibilities as regards the welfare of the students or of anybody else.

There exist in this University a member of the teaching staff with the high-sounding title of Director of Student Welfare and an Assistant Director,

[page 63]

also a teacher, with responsibilities for students at both Dumbara and Peradeniya. They are paid small honoraria for duties which have not been specified. Attempts have been made to build a supportive structure of counselors and to co-ordinate what welfare is to be found in the Halls of Residence; these half-hearted efforts have all aborted at birth.

               Oddly enough, the Directors of Student Welfare are not directors of student welfare but receivers of complaints with punitive functions which they are not allowed to exercise. The situation is truly Gilbertian!

               The scope of the Student Services Branch of the administration has been explained to us. We note that it is primarily concerned with bank loans to students, scholarships, Student Assembly matters, the Arts Council and registration of societies. It issues stationary and handles the paper work of some appointments. A booklet issued to the Council contains the following information entitled ‘Welfare Activities’: the issuing of season tickets, attesting identity, financial assistance and the control of certain activities in the Student Centre. However, in the same booklet we find, under ‘Administration Branch’ a section entitled ‘Welfare Services’ which refers to the 10 cafeterias in the Halls of Residence.

In order to understand the causes of the recent student disturbances we took a close look at Student Welfare in the University and are driven to the conclusion that the authorities do not appear to know what student welfare means and have not been able to come to grips with the subject. To expect two teachers,

[page 64]

in their spare time and without any supportive machinery, to deal with such a large problem is ridiculous. The Students Services Branch provides a useful and necessary service but it merely touches the fringe of the subject.

               We have ourselves been present at meetings between students and the authorities at which the former listed their grievances. It is possible that they are over-drawn and it is also true that there are severe financial constraints which prevent a full response. What we deplore is the attitude of the authorities to a matter that is considered by anyone dealing with the young adult as crucial. That poor welfare services creates disaffection is a stark fact that is not adequately appreciated.

               The bleak and unrewarding conditions under which 4000 students now live are slowly but surely alienating from each other the very two sectors of this University which should be working in comradeship.


There is general agreement in university circles that Guidance and Counselling is a great need and that Peradeniya has, for some reason or other, given this essential aspect of Campus life low priority.

At a Conference we held with Hall authorities, one of the ladies asserted that counseling did exist and referred to the debt she owed to staff members in her undergraduate days. What she recalled was, of course, those familiar rewarding – but entirely fortuitous – contacts which are a commonplace in any well-run educational institution. What we speak of is counseling with a capital C, a well-conceived and integrated system by means of which not merely the fortunate few but the unfortunate (and equally needy) many benefit.

At Peradeniya, we understand that on those occasions when this was conceived with the best of intentions it failed. We have been told that a system of counselors had been tried out earlier but without success and that since 1977 the scheme has been abandoned; we note, however, that in the booklet entitled Administrative Organisation of the Office of Registrar (issued to the Council some months ago but not as yet discussed) ‘counsellors’ is listed as one of the functions of the Students Services Branch.

It is apparent that the authorities in recent days have not appreciated the importance of their pastoral role in respect of the 4000 students committed to their charge. Even with an embarrassing history of

[page 66]

student unrest, the therapeutic value of Counselling and Guidance is not understood. Our own view is that this is not a spare-time engagement of minor importance but a full-time enterprise on which the the existence of a university depends.

[page 67]


The Security Service of the University of Peradeniya has a cadre of 108 of which 89 places are filled; of these 10 are on interdiction, 6 are on no-pay leave and 1 has been mobilized.

There is a curious anomaly as regards the appointment of its personnel. The Chief Security Officer who heads the Service was appointed by the (former) Senate of the University of Sri Lanka while his Inspectors are recruited by the Registrar but promoted by the U.G.C. Only the watchers seem to be entirely under the control of the University’s administration.

We have made a close study of the role of the Security Services in the May-June disturbances and our conclusion is that, except for one Inspector who functioned with a modicum of responsibility in the absence of his chief, it has been dismally ineffective.

We list below some of the more glaring instances of its ineptitude:

(a)    The CSO has failed to appreciate the significance of the dual role of his Service which is, in the words of the Acting Registrar “to assist the Registrar to maintain discipline in the campus and protect University property.”

(b)   The CSO runs his Service not, as one would expect, on Standing Orders (which, in any case, do not exist) but on oral instructions occasionally given.

[page 68]       (c)  There is no checking on the performance of subordinate staff.

(d)  The CSO does not train his staff.

(e)    The CSO cannot read Sinhala; he has been found to sign without   checking reports and other documents typed out for him in Sinhala by a clerk.

(f)    The CSO has submitted to the V.C. reports which are erroneous, incomplete and misleading.

(g)   The CSO was not at his post on the 11th of May when violence erupted on the campus and continued unabated throughout that night.

(h)   The procedures for recording and logging at the Security Office are unsatisfactory.

(i)     The 19 guards who were on duty during the 11th and 12th of May stated, in effect, that nothing untoward happened that night.

(j)     The Security Service was conspicuous by its absence at all the incidents of violence on the campus at the time of their occurrence.

Special reference must be made to two documents marked P10 and P9. P10 is a sheet entitled DAILY OCCURRENCE REPORT which is sent to the V.C. through the Registrar and A.R.A. Our scrutiny of this crucial sheet showed that, while it purports to cover the period “From 08.00 hours on 06.05.83 to 08.00 hours on 13.05.83, it contains only two entries erroneously marked “12.05 payanna vayanna [Actually, what is given here are the Sinhala forms of p. and v.] 10.30” and “12.05.83 payanna vayanna 10.15”.  These are extracts from log entries made by two Inspectors. It is in Sinhala and signed by the CSO.

[page 69]

P9 is a Situation Report submitted to the V.C. purporting to cover the disturbances. While it served us as a take-off point in the early stages of our enquiry, we found it incomplete, unreliable and written in execrable English.

It is clear to us that the University is not geared to meet crises of the kind we have (and the Udalagama Committee before us) investigated. And a symptom of this unpreparedness is a feeble Security Service. The Acting Registrar has expressed the view that it is “utterly incompetent due to lack of leadership”. It does not have the respect of the student body and is the subject of amusement to the staff. As at present constituted, the Security Service is an effete structure in the last stages of decrepitude and the sooner it disappears the better.

It should, however, be noted that the administration must take a large share of the blame for this state of affairs for (a) the absence of Standing Orders (b) permitting the CSO to run his Service in a haphazard manner (c) failing to take disciplinary action against the CSO (d) employing guards and casual watchers who are patently unfit and, above all (e) maintaining a Service whose dual functions are incompatible.

               I      ADMINISTRATION

The administration of a University is not easy to describe since, besides the two large sectors under its Registrar and Bursar, a great deal of it is exercised at various levels on trust and as a matter of convention.

[page 70]

Council documents would show that in recent times the administration came under fire. Several Court cases have demonstrated inefficiency on the part of administrators while their lethargy has been the subject of adverse comment. An enquiry is now pending on the subject of Irregularities regarding Overtime while the whole subject of Finance is being investigated by a firm of consultants. Various features of the administration have been highlighted by Council members who await full discussion of them at a special meeting decided on earlier in the year but not as yet held on account of more pressing demands.

In this connection, we would invite attention to the Udalagama Report which investigated student disturbances in December 1982. It lists the following weaknesses in administration: ignorance of its own rules and procedures; indifference and a failure to take appropriate steps; a lack of promptness (described as a ‘surprise’ attitude); a lack of proper organization and the absence of machinery to deal with crises; incompetence; poor judgement; partisan policies and activities [inability?] to draw on its own resources.

To this list of strictures we would like to add our own list of flaws which surfaced in the course of our enquiry; we group them under the headings we have used in the discussion above of areas which impinge on campus life.

                      Student Discipline

(a)    The Security Service is saddled with student discipline, an aspect of campus life which it is patently incapable of handling.

[page 71]

(b)   The Director of Student Welfare is also the chief investigation officer into cases of indiscipline; these roles are incompatible.

(c)  Although a suggestion was made at a Council meeting on 25.4.81 for revising the Compendium of Rules and a sub-committee was appointed, this has not taken place and the Compendium continues to have numerous errors and omissions. It is not available in Tamil.


(a)    Lines of authority are not laid down.

(b)   Job descriptions are the exception rather than the rule.

(c)    There is imprecision in letters of appointment to key posts in the University.

This vagueness gives rise to varying interpretations of officers’ duties and at the same time affords leeway for avoiding responsibility. An unscrupulous officer could use the situation for his own ends.

Hall Administration

There is no clearer demonstration of the administration’s weakness than in the Halls. We have looked at letters of Wardens and sub-wardens and find them lacking in precision. A Warden is told: “You will be the Head of your Hall of Residence and shall bear overall responsibility for the proper management of the Hall” while a part-time sub-warden is informed: “You shall reside in the Hall of Residence and shall in accordance with such instructions as may be given by the Warden from time to time render every assistance towards the proper maintenance of the Hall.”

[page 72]

Full-time sub-wardens are not appointed by Selections Boards and there is great uncertainty as to their requisite qualifications and duties.


The Hall is hub of campus life and weak administration in it can have catastrophic consequences.

                      Unauthorized Residents in Halls

The administration has done nothing to heal this running sore. The Udalagama Committee found seven outsiders involved in the December 1982 student disturbances; we found one leading an attack.

Guidance and Counselling

Guidance and counseling is one of the important areas of university life with which the administration has failed to come to terms.

Director of Student Welfare

This officer and his assistant work without any supportive structure and are primarily concerned with cases of student indiscipline. The administration must be held responsible for the unhappy consequences of this anomalous situation.

Security Service

For continuing to maintain and finance an effete structure like the Security Service the administration is wholly to blame. The CSO has stated that he was not aware of the dual role of his Service and runs it on oral instructions. There are no Standing Orders, except one which is obsolete. This state of affairs should never have been tolerated.

[page 73]

There are key persons in the University whose posts are part-time. The use of this term to denote a particular job may imply that the officer so designated could avoid responsibility or at least plead that he is, after all, not a full-time officer receiving a remuneration commensurate with his post. We have a strong impression that this notion prevails among some part-time officers and also among the appointing authorities. If so, it could account for the laxity and its unhappy consequences that now prevail.

What then, in sum, is the fundamental weakness of the administration? Here, it is not a case of the dead hand of bureaucratism (an affliction to which all administrations are prone). Rather, it is the chilling winds of apathy and imprecision which inhibit all innovative effort and could end up in destroying the very thing that administration is meant to serve.

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               A.   recommendations

In response to any charge that may be made that we have presented a one-sided picture, we would say that, to the best of our ability, we have given an unbiased and accurate account of those aspects of University life which make up the milieu in which some 4000 youth live and move and have their being. We have done so because we are deeply sensible of the vulnerability of young people of today to the forces which influence them.

As we have said earlier, we do not condone their evil acts; at the same time educators must be sensitive to possible factors which predispose them to do evil. A community which, wittingly or unwittingly, creates conditions for wrong-doing stands condemned.

We are convinced that the University of Peradeniya has within it all the elements for renewal and therefore, in all humility, we suggest the following package of reforms which, we believe, will promote healthy and purposive student life. These proposals hang together and their value would be greatly diminished if they were to be implement piecemeal. In developing new structures within the University to meet pressing needs, it is prudent to start with those that need not have statutory provision and then move on to those which involve heavy expenditure or negotiation with higher authority.

                      A.   ORIENTATION

1.    A carefully planned programme of orientation, commencing at the beginning of the academic year for freshmen and continuing subsequently should be carried out.

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2.     A Committee should be set up to formulate and monitor it.


1.         Mr. A.J.M. Usoof, Chief Security Officer should be dismissed for inefficiency and dereliction of duty.

2.         The 19 guards who were on duty on the night of 11 (see P11) should be dismissed for inefficiency.

3.         The Security Service should be disbanded.

4.         There should be two security posts (manned day and night) at the two extremities of the campus along Galaha Road and another between the river and the Engineering block. They should be supplied with (internal) telephones.

5.         The internal telephone system should be placed on a workable footing.

6.         A ‘hot line’ should be installed linking the Vice-Chancellor, the Chief Marshall and the Director of Students Affairs.

C.  discipline

1.    The Compendium of Rules should be revised (in the light of these proposals) and issued anew to students in their respective languages.

2.         Every student should be required to carry on his/her person at all times an Identity Card containing the following: photograph, signature, name, hall or outside address, registration number and Department of study.

3.         Any Warden, sub-Warden, Marshal, teacher or registrar should have the right to request any student of the University to produce this document at any time or place.

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4.         Officers of the Marshals Service and the Hall Administration should ensure that the rules of the University are respected and impose summary punishment when necessary.

5.         The Chief Marshal, Senior Marshals, Wardens and teachers above the category of Assistant Lecturer should have the right to suspend a student.

6.         Each Hall of Residence should be allotted a canteen at which its residents will eat.


1.      On admission to a Hall, a student should be required to sign an agreement that he will abide by the rules of the Hall administration.

2.      Recruitment of sub-wardens should be done with great circumspection and by a Selection Board appointed by the Vice-Chancellor.

3.      A cadre for sub-wardens should be laid down in relation      

4.   Sub-Wardens’ rooms should be suitably dispersed in each Hall.

5.      Every Hall should have a suitable number of wings or sections, each under the care of a senior student, for which service his board should be waived.

6.      The duties of each category of Hall administrator should be clearly laid down.

7.      Hall Committees should be elected annually and encouraged to assist the authorities in such matter as diet, discipline, cleanliness of the premises and social activities.

8.      No Hall should house more than 250 students. Large Halls should be structurally modified to meet this requirement.

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9.      The post of Rector, Dumbara Campus, should not be combined with that of Warden.

E.       HALL LIFE (?)

1.      A Senior Warden should be chosen fromamong the Wardens to preside at Wardens’ meetings, to co-ordinate aspects of Hall life in co-operation with the Chief Marshal and to serve with him as a Vice-Chairman of the Board of Residence and Discipline (q.v.).

2.      A Warden should attend a formal dinner for all residents in his Hall once a week.

3.      Cooking in rooms should be forbidden.

4.      The co-operation of resident staff members should be solicited to help build up Hall life.


1.      Every outside resident in a Hall should carry with him the written permission of the Warden of that Hall together with the name of his host.

2.      Canteens should be forbidden to supply meals to persons who are not members of the University.

3.      No outsider should be permitted to stay on two consecutive nights in a Hall.


1.      The post of Director of Student Welfare should be suppressed.

2.      A Director of Student Affairs should be appointed. He will be a full-time officer of the same status as the Chief Marshal and accountable to the Vice-Chancellor. He should be a man of standing, able to hold his own in a community of academics, knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with youth.

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3.      The role of the DSA would be to build up and oversee the Welfare of students and to keep in close touch with all persons who have to do with student life.

4.      He will also develop appropriate structures to ensure that Counselling takes place, with the assistance of academic and Hall staff.

5.      The DSA will be a Vice-Chairman of the Board of Residence and Discipline.

6.      There should be an Assistant Director of Student Affairs for the Dumbara Campus, where student lodgings will come under his purview.

H.       A MARSHALS SERVICE (see P18)

1.      A Service of Marshals should be constituted in place of the Security Service, based on the former service of that name and appropriately modified on Police lines.

2.      The role of the Marshals Service will be to build up discipline and to deal suitably with breaches of law and order.

3.      The Chief Marshal should be a man of caliber and strong personality, with extensive experience of handling people.

4.      He will be accountable to the Vice-Chancellor and be Vice-Chairman of the Board of Residence and Discipline.

5.      There should be two Senior Marshals and several marshals with duties similar to those of earlier incumbents.

6.      Under the control of the Chief Marshal there should be a corps of security guards whose main duty should be to guard and protect university property.

7.      There should also be a ‘mobile squad’ of guards, under a marshal, suitably equipped and trained, to go into action in the event of an emergency.

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1.      The former Board of Residence and Discipline should be reactivated, with appropriate changes in its structure and functions (see P19).

2.      Its task would be to manage the Halls of Residence and exercise disciplinary control over students.

3.      The BRD should be chaired by the Vice-Chancellor and among its members should be the Director of Physical Education, the Chief Medical Officer, four Council Members and all Wardens of Halls.

4.      Its Vice-Chairmen will be the Chief Marshall and the Director of Student Affairs.

5.      Any member of the BRD will have authority over any student or group of students of the University, both within and outside the campus.

J.         GENERAL

1.      Every letter of appointment issued should set out clearly the duties of the person appointed.

2.      A job description should be issued to each University employee and a copy retained in his/her personal file.

3.      There should be a more realistic budget for Maintenance and closer supervision of this department.

4.      The Health Service should give equal importance to the curative and preventive aspects of health.

5.      There should be a reduction and/or restriction of resident student personnel to about 2000.

6.      A Committee should be appointed at the same time to find suitable alternate accommodation for those displaced.

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We reproduce below our recommendations contained in Part III, Section C. THE ROAD BACK:

(a)    Every student and employee of the University should be required to sign a pledge of loyalty to the institution and its ideals. Since the latter does not exist in writing, this is an opportune moment to set them down, after due deliberation.

(b)   A study of Social Injustice, in all its forms, should be undertaken. It could be jointly sponsored by the Departments of Sociology, Political Science and History.

(c)Within the University, all proven cases of discrimination should be examined and dealt with.

(d)   Clubs and Societies which are apt to be confined to ethnic, religious or cultural sectors should be made more broad-based. At the same time, inter-cultural activities should be encouraged.

(e) The University of Peradeniya’s record in relation to the community is minimal. In order to get meaningfully involved in outreach of this kind and at the same time to promote racial amity, we suggest that a socio-economic survey be made of the Mawalawatte and Uda Peradeniya communities, where Sinhalese and Tamils live side by side, with a view to mounting development projects in these underprivileged villages.

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(f)    The University should inaugurate a Relief Fund to compensate as far as possible those who were affected by the May-June disturbances. Many of those who gave evidence before us and/or submitted written memoranda described losses incurred and also other additional expenses on board, lodging and travelling.

Recommendations regarding punishment have already been made in the appropriate place (Part III Section E).


In conclusion, we wish to express our gratitude to the Secretary and his staff for the excellent manner in which they have serviced this Committee. Our work would have been seriously impeded without the ready assistance of Mr. Ranasinghe (SAR/Academic). To the steno-typist, Miss Angela Kammanankada who worked hard and long, we owe a special word of thanks.

                      Kenneth M. de Lanerolle                                        ……………………..


                      Dorai Calnaido                                                       ………………………


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