Prime Minister’s Talk Moved Off Campus After Protest
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) _ A speech by the prime minister of Sri Lanka was moved off the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus Monday because of protests of the country’s alleged torture of an MIT graduate.
The speech by Ranasinghe Premadasa at a housing conference was moved to a university estate in Dedham because adequate security could not be assured on the main campus, said MIT spokesman Kenneth Campbell.
The function was closed to the public, he added.
About 60 people demonstrated peacefully against the arrest of Ramanujam ″Ram″ Manikkalingam, a member of Sri Lanka’s Tamil ethnic minority who returned home to teach physics after graduating last year. His family claims he has been tortured while being held without charges since March 28.
Premadas, the keynote speaker at an MIT conference on Third World housing problems, was not on campus during the protest, which coincided with the opening of the meeting.
The conference’s host, architecture school dean John P. de Monchaux, issued a statement Friday welcoming the prime minister but also expressed concern about reports that Manikkalingam was tortured while held in solitary confinement without charges.
The Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington responded by saying Manikkalingam, son of a former ambassador, was associated with a militant Marxist group called Vikalpa Kandayama, which has links with a Tamil separatist organization.
Tamils, who compose about 18 percent of the South Asian island’s 16 million population, have long complained of discrimination at the hands of the Sinhalese majority. Moderates have demanded greater autonomy for the eastern and northern districts where most Tamils live, while militants have waged a 3- year-old guerrilla war in which 4,000 people on both sides have died.
Human rights organizations have attacked abuses by both Tamil rebels and Sri Lankan security personnel.
Manikkalingum’s younger brother, Sudarshan, told a news conference Monday that his 24-year-old brother was concerned with the plight of the Tamil minority but never was active in Sri Lankan politics.
Sudarshan also expressed fears that protests in the United States might lead to greater harm to his brother.
Amnesty International was investigating the allegation that Manikkalingum was hung from the rafters of a kitchen in a Sri Lankan security bureau’s building and beaten with weighted metal pipes, said James O’Dea, regional director of the Nobel Prize-winning human rights organization.