Sri Lanka’s major university students’ union Inter-University Student’s Federation “Anthare” / IUSF launched a protest marched in Colombo based on six demands including an increase in Mahapola Scholarship Fund and students’ bursary up to LKR 10,000 .
IUSF protest marched from Town Hall and proceeded to the Presidential Secretarial and staged a protest in front of the Presidential Secretariat Colombo. The protest march resulted in severe traffic congestion along the Galle Road.
When the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa learned about the protest, he instructed all security forces to allow students to enter the Presidential Secretariat without any obstruction for talks.
Since the President and the Secretary to the President were engaged in a duty outside the office, negotiations with the students was entrusted to the Additional Secretary to the President and the officials of the Ministry of Higher Education to negotiate with them.
Officials briefed the Secretary of the President on students’ demands at the time and sought advice.
It was decided to pay the arrears of Mahapola scholarship funds for the months of November and December by next Monday (Jan 13).
Attention was drawn to expeditiously resolve the issues presented by the students including granting Mahapola scholarship to students who have not completed 80% of attendance to lectures, granting student aids and Mahapola scholarships at the same level, issues regarding the University of Sabaragamuwa, increase of scholarship recipients’ parental Income up to Rs.7 million and increasing the wages of working people.
The officials agreed to provide the material discussed in writing. It was also proposed to discuss the existing issues of the students at least once a month or two weeks as per the wishes of the students. The student representatives stated that a decision will be taken in consultation with the student unions.
After the discussion, the students gathered in front of the Presidential Secretariat and dispersed peacefully. Rohana Abeyratne, Additional Secretary to the President, Anura Dissanayake, Secretary to the Ministry of Higher Education, Prof. Sampath Amaratunga, Chairman of the University Grants Commission and several officials were present at the discussion.