Several trade unions and students are protesting in Sri Lanka demanding government to withdraw proposed Kotelawala University Bill which they fear could pave the way for privatisation of the higher education sector and militarisation of universities. Government presented the General Sir John Kotelawala National Defence University Bill to Parliament for the second reading on July 8th despite protests. During the protests, police arrested 31 persons for holding a protest violating quarantine regulations at the Polduwa roundabout in Battaramulla near the parliament. Students’ union member monk Ven. Rathkarawwe Jinaratana Thera and the Secretary of the Teachers’ Union Joseph Starlin were also among the arrested group.

“Under the guise of an epidemic, government is trying to pass the bill which is destroying free education” protesters are saying.

While Sri Lanka is relaxing travel restrictions, few days ago, Director General of Health Services has instructed the Inspector General of Police that public protests and rallies should not be held until further notice as there is a risk of the COVID-19 spreading.

IUSF Convener Wasantha Mudalige said that with the bill, the government was “moving towards military dictatorship”.

“If this bill passes, this will be the greatest risk for free education,” he told University World News, adding that more protests were planned.