Sri Lanka’s main Tamil party Thursday demanded troops be withdrawn to barracks in the former rebel heartland of Jaffna after the worst ethnic violence since the end of the island’s 37-year conflict. Twenty students were wounded, seven of whom needed hospital treatment, in clashes with security forces at Jaffna University on Wednesday, underscoring the tensions in the region despite the end of the conflict in May 2009. The Tamil National Alliance lawmaker for the Jaffna district accused security forces of triggering the unrest by storming the university on Tuesday to thwart a planned commemoration for defeated Tamil Tiger guerrillas. “Their action provoked a demonstration on Wednesday and then the police and the army moved in to break it up,” Eswarapatham Saravanapavan told AFP. “We have always wanted demilitarisation of Jaffna. After this incident what we say is that they must at least confine themselves to their barracks as a first step,” Saravanapavan said. The vast majority of the students at the university are ethnic Tamils who make up around 12 percent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million population. The military, which is almost entirely composed of ethnic Sinhalese, crushed the Tamil Tigers more than three years ago in a bloody showdown which has drawn accusations by the international community of war crimes. According to the military, the students had been planning an “illegal” commemoration of the Tigers — a guerrilla movement notorious for its suicide attacks. However, a military spokesman denied that soldiers had taken anything more than a support role in the crackdown at the university on Tuesday evening when police confiscated pro-Tiger posters and leaflets. In the aftermath of the raid, the students organised a major protest on Wednesday at the university where soldiers could be seen alongside police. “The army was asked to stand by to assist the police in crowd control,” military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya told AFP. “There were a very small crowd and no need for the army to deploy.” There have been widespread international calls to demilitarise Jaffna, 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of Colombo, and ease restrictions on civilians. Courtesy – Relief Web]]>

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