Thursday, November 05, 2009

Police disperse protesting grads with tear gas, rubber bullets

by Dasun Edirisinghe - Police anti-riot squad yesterday fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon at undergraduates on a protest march attempting to enter the Finance Ministry demanding jobs. About 35 undergraduates were arrested. Traffic came to a standstill for nearly five hours. Many school children who were in Fort at that time were among those tear gassed.

Thousands of unemployed graduates who were on a hunger strike opposite the Fort Railway Station, marched to the Finance Ministry. The police anti-riot squad barricaded the road leading the Ministry near Lake House. But the protesters did not disperse. They sat by the road demanding a discussion from the Ministry or the Presidential Secretariat.

When they were told that an unscheduled meeting was not possible, the graduates tried to enter by trying to remove the police barriers. The police then fired fired rubber bullets and tear gas and water cannon to disperse the graduates.

Police spokesman Senior DIG Nimal Mediwaka told The Island that there were 35 graduates in the custody of the Fort police. Police said that those in custody would be released only after recording their statements.

The Convener of the Combined Union of Unemployed Graduates (CUUG), Sujith Kuruwita said that if President Rajapaksa was unable to give them a meeting, he must provide them with jobs before the next Presidential or General election.

The Convener said that there were 25,000 unemployed graduates in Sri Lanka. According to President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s mandate ‘Mahinda Chinthanaya’, he had promised 10,000 jobs for graduates. The Rajapaksa government had also promised 8,000 jobs in the 2007 budget and 15,000 in the 2008 budget, but the promises had not been honoured.

(Photo courtesy: Daily Mirror)

© The Island

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