RAYS OF HOPE AMIDST DEEPENING GLOOM
REPORT NO. 1O
The UNIVERSITY OF TEACHERS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (JAFFNA)
Issued: 15th January 1993
UTHR (JAFFNA), University of Jaffna
Thirunelvely, Jaffna, SRI LANKA (CEYLON)
CHAPTER 0 : SOCIAL FEATURE: MASSACRE IN THE JAFFNA
0.1 Press Reports
0.2 The Background
0.3 The Massacre
0.4 Government responsibility and responses
0.5 Bad laws and corruption
0.6 The responsibility of other organisations
CHAPTER 1 : TRINCOMALEE : JUNE _ DECEMBER 1990
1.1 The war Begins
1.2 Army Enters Trinco Town
1.3 Killings at Monkey Bridge, Palampottaru
1.4 Ratnam Master, Nilaveli
1.5 Plantain Point Camp, Mutur
1.5.1 Festivities at Plantain Point
1.5.2 Suthahar and hostage patrols
1.5.3 Dr(Miss) Saverimuttu
1.6 Trincomalee; Normality Restored
CHAPTER 2 : THE LTTE AND THE EMERGING SOCIETY IN JAFFNA
2.2 Effects on the organisation
2.3 Influence on Caste
2.4 Impact on the Middle class
2.5 The Role of Institutions
CHAPTER 3 : THE JAFFNA GULAG
3.0 An Overview
3.1 What motivated the Tigers to hold
so many prisoners?
3.2 The wardens of the Gulag
3.3 Merchants in Prison
3.4 Other Detainees
3.5 Dangers faced by the detainees
- further information
3.6 Detainees and the ICRC
3.7 Malli Camp
3.8 Prisoners and Caste
3.9 The deserting Recruit
CHAPTER 4 : THE MASKADE CHAIN
- TAMIL DETAINEES OF THE SRI LANKAN FORCES
4.3 Prisoners & International Organisations
CHAPTER 5 : THE SOUTH : WAR, DEMOCRACY & HUMAN RIGHTS
5.1 Failure of democracy
and the culture of repression
5.2 Crucial differences
5.3 The Armed Forces and the nemesis of lawlessness
5.4 Reporting and National unity:
Operations in the North
5.5 Peace Moves
5.6 The Role of NGOs, Religious bodies
and Non-party Organisations
CHAPTER 6: NORTH-EAST NOTES
6.2.3 The Vankalai mystery
6.3 Coconuts and the fate of the North _ East
6.4 Wanni: The people and the Tigers
6.5 Jaffna : More Disappearances
6.5.1 Jaffna Lagoon : Missing fishermen
6.5.2 New Year Bombings in Jaffna
6.5.3 Pathinathar Santhiapillai(36)
6.5.4 Ganeshasunderam Chelliah and Ganeshan
6.6 Muslim Reactions to the UTHR(Jaffna)
6.6.1 A Reaction from Mannar
6.6.2 A Reaction from Sammanthurai
6.7 Executions in the Wanni : Monday, 6th July 1992
- An eye witness account
APPENDIX : RAJANI : Three Years After
The Primacy of the people
Rajani's Political vision
Rajani and Feminism
The spiritual and the material
This report makes its appearance
at a time when we approach
the 10th anniversary of the fateful July of 1983. The current phase of
the war is over 2 1/2 years old. The Tamils have no readily identifiable
political leadership. Those who promote the LTTE as political leaders
do not also feel an obligation to raise issues with them nor
demonstrate that they could be influenced to give priority to the
welfare of their people. The government's military enterprise is widely
talked of as being at a dead end. The political approach based on the
parliamentary select committee was handled in the worst possible
manner. Instead of a consensus the Tamil parties found themselves
bull-dozed towards giving up perceived gains of the Indo-Sri Lanka
Accord for what a Tamil SLFP MP described as a `paper rose'. Instead of
giving the Tamils the necessary confidence and apply pressure on the
LTTE, it tended to strengthen the only plank of Tamil chauvinist
politics - that the Sinhalese cannot be trusted. The navy's act of piracy
in the Jaffna Lagoon which left more than 35 dead or missing,
reinforced some of the worst fears. It must be said here that the Tigers
too must be blamed for not allowing the development of any structure
to safeguard the interests of civilian travellers and forcing civilians to
travel under contrivedly provocative conditions. Even 1O days after
the incident the government was `unable to verify the facts', although
several of the dead were leading government officials and the
informant was the government agent, Killinochchi. Unable to give
political leadership, it was once more covering up for the forces. If the
hard facts, such as the navy hacking civilians with knives and robbing
jewellery from the victims are admitted, an inquiry would be
Still, one need not despair
of history standing still or repeating
itself. Every positive action leaves its mark. We have no doubt that
although we may be far from realising the full potential of an
international presence,including the ICRC,UNHCR,MSF and others,
such a presence has had a benevolent influence. Even with political
paralysis at the top, international organisations working closely with
well motivated military leadership at local level can greatly improve
the general situation in the area. It gives the people greater freedom to
articulate their interests, which in turn constrains the Tigers towards
greater accountability. Such an outcome is not a victory or a defeat for
either side, but a victory for humanity. It is such an outcome that
mature leadership ought to aim at, now that we know that talk of a
military decision is futile. This is not theory, but is based on recent
benign developments in some areas, as isolated and unnoticed as they
may be. [See Ch.5]
We have from the beginning
(the IPKF days) paid far greater
importance to such developments, and have urged action in this
direction. Giving precedence to the well-being and dignity of ordinary
people,we needed to disagree strongly with Tamil nationalists of
various shades for whom the Tamil people did not exist. We
increasingly felt that our approach of checking human rights violations
by goverment forces while exposing the inhuman depravity of the
dominant Tamil nationalist politics,is, in practical terms, the right one.
Checking the violations of government forces in the East and bringing
greater accountability to the people will go a long way to make it very
costly for the Tigers to massacre Muslims and Sinhalese. This would,
in both the short term and the long term, be the practical way forward.
Another aspect where time
has thankfully not stood still is that
there is some visible openness in the Southern press in trying to
understand what is happening to the Tamil people. There is no total
blackout in the independent English press on human rights violations
by the forces.Inspite of this, whenever questions of accomodating the
minorities arise, undue prominence is given in these papers to
individuals with no sense of history. They are unable to grasp the
crucial reality of the development of the Sri Lankan state since
independence as an essentially Sinhalese state, and the consequent
alienation of the minorities. Much credit for the positive
developments in reporting should go to some of the smaller Sinhalese
papers. Unfortunately there is little openness in the Tamil press, even
in some earmarked for that purpose, in examining the legacy of Tamil
nationalist politics, and particularly the murder and alienation of
A number of incidents involving LTTE massacres of Muslims
have taken place since the publication of Report No.9, the last being on
15th October 1992. In this instance three villages in the Polonnaruwa
District populated almost exclusively by Muslims were attacked
resulting in 16O civilian deaths. This followed an earlier attack in the
same district the previous May. We refer the reader to reports
published by the International Centre for Ethnic Studies in Colombo.
We will cover aspects of these in coming reports.
For the present, high level
talks in Colombo may be of little
consequence. Where therefore the people are not involved and the
electoral map remains fluid, there is little substance in the promises of
politicians and `betrayals' will remain the order of the day. With
unpromising leadership the deep paralysis brought about by decades of
Sinhalese and Tamil chauvinism will take long to thaw. Hence the
role of international and non-governmental organisations assumes a
disproportionate importance. They must be vigilant against slipping
into some kind of paralisis. It is finally a climate of opinion and a
desire to act among the people that would move the politicians.
In this report we once more
highlight the issue of Tamil political
prisoners. We have repeatedly raised the matter involving the lives of
about 4OOO persons which hang in the balance. Commendable work
in exposing this phenomenon has been done by Amnesty International
and Article 19, and representations have been repeatedly made to the
LTTE. Even though this information reached a limited circle, the work
mentioned has had a positive influence over the LTTE's thinking on
prisoners. Some of the prisoners have been allowed visits by relatives.
The LTTE has been trying to improve its image on that score by giving
publicity to token releases of prisoners. Much more will be
accomplished if concerted publicity is given to the matter and the
politics behind it is questioned. If not those in Jaffna and elsewhere
trying to raise the matter will continue to face considerable danger.
Major news organisations appear to view the matter with some
incredulity and are not geared to what would require a greater
commitment to human rights rather than routine journalism. That
people in Jaffna do not talk about prisoners seems an adequate reason
for ignoring the existence of this phenomenon. Will this too be
exposed when it is too late for the victims, like the horrors of Nazi
concentration camps? This may be unfair to journalists when issues of
this kind and the fate of Muslims somtimes come low in the attentions
of major humanitarian and religious institutions.
The government's poor showing
in the desire for a settlement
and continuing human rights violations by its forces, appear to have
persuaded more expatriates to render `negative' support for the Tigers.
These are often persons who would privately admit that the Tigers are
`brutal' and `fascist, but also that if the Tigers are weakened now the
Tamil people will be `finished'. Indeed while we write this preface,as
though to emphasise their point, news came in of 9 civilians killed in
Siththankeni, Jaffna, as the result of the airforce bombing a civilian
area. We have argued throughout that to say that the Tigers have in
any sense protected the Tamils is to take a very blinkered view of
events. The only evidence, starting from events in June 199O upto the
massacre at Kilaly is that the Tigers deliberately endangered civilians
for their own benefit, in the face of brutal state forces.
But time has not stood still
and there is another stark ground
reality. The population of the North-East has declined from about 1.7
million in 1987 to about O.9 million today. (5.1 inside). Disease and
malnutrition are rife. In 1987 when bombing and shelling in Jaffna was
more murderous, people did not flee in such large numbers. Why this
situation today? Why such deep rooted disillusionment about our
future? Why much of our best potential in underground prisons and
foreign climes? What sort of liberation politics is this that tries to excel
the government in its oppressiveness?
Even the present population
of the North can only decline. Most
people have their only capital in terms of the one house giving a roof
over their head. They are not allowed to sell this and use the money to
move to Colombo. If they leave they lose their house to the Tigers.
Thanks to the dedication of individual teachers and university dons,
the system of education remains reasonably good at least for the
present. Under these conditions it makes practical sense for those with
children to let them complete their education in Jaffna, rather than
being destitute in Colombo. The Tiger pass system meant to keep
people in the North is in many ways superfluous,except to keep
children, who are regarded as potential recruits, a captive population.
Again a very large number have decided that once their children
complete higher education, and are old enough to be on their feet in
Colombo or abroad, they will follow them - house or no house. If peace
does not return, it is the Mosquito rather than the Tiger that will be
master of the land. This is hard reality.
If the government is determined
to destroy the Tamils in the
North-East, they do not need to waste money on new weapons and
aircraft. The president has only to talk peace, do nothing about it, and
ask the army to stay put. Tiger politics will do the rest.
It is important that the
Tamils see this for themselves. We have
argued that a politics relying on destructive strengths will only destroy
the people. The survival of the people of the North-East surely needs a
more positive strategy. Our approach of putting human rights first is
based on experience and has been sufficiently vindicated.
Special Feature : Massacre in the Jaffna Lagoon
O.1 Press Reports
Sri Lanka is a small island.
The distance from Colombo to Jaffna
is barely 25O miles or even less as the crow flies. But it is not unusual
for goings on in those now distant parts to reach the pages of the
Colombo press, and perhaps the rulers of this land through Reuter
International. So the Island of 4th January broke the news of the
massacre in the Jaffna Lagoon of the night of Saturday 2nd January,
quoting a Reuter report filed from Colombo on the 3rd, headlined:
Nine Civilians Killed in Naval Attack
"Nine civilians were killed on Saturday night when navy patrol craft
attacked a flotilla of boats trying to cross Jaffna lagoon where travel is
banned, residents said today. Sixteen boats each carrying about 2O
people were attacked as they tried to cross the lagoon from Jaffna to the
mainland, they said.
"People panicked and started screaming and shouting," he said after
reached Vavuniya. "I saw rounds of tracer fly past my boat and hit the
water. The Jaffna lagoon, the scene of frequent fire fights between the
navy and the Tamil rebels has been declared a no-go zone by the
military where people can be shot on sight.
The resident said the firing continued for about 3O minutes."Only six
boats in the flotilla reached the mainland. The rest turned back", he
added. . .
The Island of 5th January
(Tuesday) carried the following item
filed by Shamindra Ferdinando, referring to the same incident
"Navy demolishes Tiger boats"
"Naval patrol boats operating in the Jaffna lagoon blasted at least
fibre glass dinghies last Saturday night killing over a dozen persons,
authoritative military sources revealed yesterday.
"The dinghies operated by Sea Tigers were moving in a convoy when
the Navy patrol boats had swooped down on them. However some of
the dinghies had escaped carrying the wounded persons.
"The Navy boats operating from Nagathevanthurai radar-naval station
had confronted the boats while they were moving towards the
peninsula the sources indicated . . ."
"According to the Joint Operations Command (JOC) the navy's in
shore patrol craft operating from Nagathivanthurai were successful in
controlling Sea Tiger activities in the Jaffna lagoon. "All boats trying to
break the government imposed ban will be dealt with", an officer said"
It appeared from the hard
attitude above that the government
and its forces had made up their minds that anyone using the Jaffna
lagoon was a Tiger crossing in a Tiger boat. Not so, it seems, according
to a Daily News front page report of 6th January headlined.
Tiger morale declining day by day
Nearly 3OOO Tigers killed in 1992
By Daryll de Silva.
"A Senior military source yesterday told the Daily News: "They (the
Tigers) are now being frowned upon by the very people they claim to be
fighting for. It is the people's pressure that will ultimately be their
downfall. . . . the Tigers are not allowing any traffic to move up and
down through the Elephant Pass Road, although the security forces
have repeatedly assured the civilians of Jaffna. .
"This he said, left the civilians with no option but the use of `no
Jaffna lagoon Kilaly Point crossing, at great risk to their lives, as the
area is heavily patrolled by the navy."
"Most of those moving to the mainland on the Kilaly crossing were
deserters, They are in such poor shape that they are risking their lives
to come South. . ."
Now what have we here? Are
civilians Tiger deserters, or is it
that Tiger deserters with Tiger passes are crossing the lagoon in Tiger
boats? Some were getting their act mixed up.
O.2 The background
This supplements that given
in 1.4 of this report. See also 5.1 of
Report No 9. Shortly after the outbreak of war in June 199O the
northern railroad was stripped by the Tigers and even road traffic
through Elephant Pass, which was under army control, ceased.The
Tigers imposed a pass system to stem the civilian exodus and travel to
the South became a hazardous affair involving extortionate sums, with
civilians subject to occasional attacks from the air.
Following the LTTE's failed attempt to overrun Elephant Pass in July
1991, the army gradually expanded its control over surrounding areas.
It then prohibited civilian traffic through other routes and wanted
civilians to travel along the main road through Elephant Pass as
during the previous bout of war ending in July 1987. To reinforce the
ban and cut off the peninsula, the army subsequently took control of
the alternative ferry crossing at Puneryn. The Tigers cited military
reasons for themselves banning civilian traffic through Elephant Pass.
They claimed that the army would advance behind the civilians into
Jaffna. Whether this fear was genuine is questionable. The forces are
known to have used civilian cover, particularly in the East, to move
about in areas where resistance was likely to be light and sporadic. [See
1.2 and 4.11 of Briefing No. 1 & Ch. 6 of this report] But when
commencing advances in areas where heavy resistance was to be
expected and much publicity would be focused, there was a standard
established pattern. This was to declare curfew and advance behind
armoured vehicles after heavy pounding from land -based artillery and
from the air. This has been the pattern for operations in Jaffna since
1987. Civilian cover was used in Kayts in August 199O, but much after
the initial advance and when little resistance was expected.
The forces appear to have
had tacitly accepted that the civilians
had little choice. After July 1991 civilians continued to use the land
route through Kompaddi, an open space about 2 1/2 miles east of
Elephant Pass, using boats for the flooded stretches when the rains
came from October. People travelled within sight of army sentries,
occasionally shelled, but for the most part ignored.
This continued for about
an year, both civilian traffic and
essential food supplies travelling by this route, until further
consolidation of the army's position in the Elephant Pass area put a
stop to this. The forces increased their insistence that civilians must
use the Elephant Pass route (highway A-9). With Puneryn cut off the
Tigers responded by allowing the civilians to travel only through the
2O mile sea-route from Kilaly - a new course not known to living
memory. Ordinary civilians made the crossing at 8 knots in slow boats
while Tiger boats fitted with several outboard motors did the crossing
at about 3O knots or more. Whether the army or the Tigers had greater
need for civilian cover in this instance would be a topic for an
interesting debate among military strategists.
It was clear that ordinary
civilians had a problem. Once more
civilians continued to travel, occasionally shelled from Puneryn and
Elephant Pass and sometimes attacked by naval craft, where civilians
were killed. [See Chapter 1 of this report]. But there was no concerted
attempt to go all out and kill civilians, at least until December 1992.
The intention, from a purely military angle, seemed to be to apply
pressure on the civilians to use Elephant Pass.
Even before the present massacre there had been a regular toll
on civilians.But this was consistently played down by the Tigers. Little
publicity was given to civilian casualties resulting from naval action
the lagoon. Bodies were regularly discovered on the shores by local
villagers and buried. The news of these diffused slowly by word of
mouth. It is also significant that following the recent massacre, while
Tamil political figures in Colombo and the press were reporting the
number dead at about 4O or more, the LTTE office in London gave a
figure of 14. This is contrary to the normal Tiger practice of multiplying
several fold casualties from airforce bombing. Clearly the Tigers were
trying not to scare people from using the lagoon, resulting in greater
pressure on then to allow the use of Elephant Pass.
The plight of the civilians
remained largely unaddressed in a
balanced and effective manner. Given the necessity to travel, the
civilians had no choice, except to take the course that involved the
least risk as they saw it. In October 1992, the BBC correspondent raised
with the LTTE spokesman Yogi the question of civilians using
Elephant Pass. Yogi responded that this would be agreeable to the LTTE
provided that the government gave an assurance that it would not use
Elephant Pass for a military advance into Jaffna. The military
command gave such a verbal assurance. But the matter dropped and
nothing happened with regard to enforcing such an agreement. It was
widely remarked by the people that Yogi went off the international air
waves for a long time.
Something serious and big
was waiting to happen. The first
moves towards this began in mid-December. The army began issuing
hand bills to travellers through Vavuniya not to use the Kilaly
crossing. The Tigers announced through the press in Jaffna that they
would offer protection to people using the Kilaly crossing.
Many passengers came to understand later that the Tiger offer of
protection amounted to giving fast rides to passengers in their boats for
a payment of a sum of Rs. 15OO/-. For the vast majority who could not
afford it, it was to be the slow boat at Rs. 2OO/-. Which announcement
came first is probably unimportant. From the point of view of the
forces it had become a prestige battle. From the Tigers' point of view it
was a propaganda gambit. They had neither before nor after
demonstrated a will or the capacity to protect civilian traffic in the
Jaffna lagoon. Though the navy claims to have destroyed a number of
Tiger boats variously ranging from 6O to many more, it is doubtful if
even a couple of them were Tiger boats rather than civilian sitting
ducks travelling at 8 knots. Both needed to make their point at the
For the navy to make its
point, it needed to sink some boats it
could lay its hands on (i.e the sitting ducks). For the Tigers to make
their point, they needed to fire on navy boats and make a break for it.
The worst was bound to happen sometime.
O.3 The Massacre
The night's crossing on Saturday
2nd January started in the
usual manner. Passengers had queued up and were taking their turn in
crossing by boats leaving at intervals carrying 15 to 2O passengers each.
The first four boats from Kilaly reached the mainland to the south
without incident. A naval gun boat fitted with cannon was in the
lagoon at that time. This boat could operate in an area in the centre of
the lagoon where the water was deep enough. But could not approach
the shores. Whether the naval men saw the first four boats is not
known. Since movements were monitored by radar, it is possible that
these being slow boats, they were monitored and allowed to pass. We
next come to a crucial fact based on the testimony of one witness, but
on which most others are understandably reticent. Following the first
four boats, according to this witness was a fast boat with three outboard
motors of the kind used by Tigers. According to this witness the three
or so persons in the boat were not armed and were thought to be Tiger
helpers rather than Tigers.
Upon seeing the gun-boat,
the fast boat made a U-turn and sped
away northwards. The gun-boat gave a chase. The fast boat ran close to
a group of passenger boats heading south and escaped northwards. The
gun-boat opened fire at these passenger boats from a distance and kept
firing for a long time - half an hour according to the Reuter report
quoted above.Not having received return fire at any stage, it was then
clear that there were no Tigers about the place. The gun-boat did not go
any nearer, probably because it was then near shallow water. The
stricken passenger boats were then boarded by naval men who came in
smaller boats. According to the testimony of Sellathurai, a
survivor,(`Virakesari' of 5/1): "A navy boat suddenly appeared
alongside our boats and ordered us to stop. Then a torch beam was
flashed on us, followed by gun shots. Those in my boat screamed and
fell to the ground. I did the same. The other boats were similarly shot
at.The boatmen jumped into the sea."
This happened between 7 &
8 p.m and the lagoon water was
rough. The navy men set about attacking the passengers at least in one
boat with knives irrespective of age and sex. The boats were then towed
away. One of the boats broke loose and the navy men left it drifting
without attempting to secure it. It was this boat that was brought to the
mainland subsequently.In the meantime some other boats had taken
in passengers and were about to begin the crossing. Suddenly an LTTE
boat appeared and asked them not to cross. Sensing that things were
not safe and that things were not safe and that there had been a tragedy,
many of the women began to cry. Several of the boatmen who had
become aneasthetised to danger in return for a small income, told the
passengers that if only the Tigers let them go, they would do so without
These boat with casualities
which came ashore had about 4
survivors with cut injuries and about 9 corpses. A lady who had lain
against the prow of the boat had been missed by the attackers. The first
reports to emerge spoke of nine to fifteen or so dead. The figure later
rose to over 35 to include passengers from other boats who were either
missing or whose bodies were recovered. Among the first to be
reported dead or missing were Sellathurai, an employee of the Primary
Courts, Mannar, Nalini, a lady in her 2Os, a school teacher in
Killinochchi and Dr. Sathiaseelan, District Medical Officer of
We ascertained the following from a close relative of Sellathurai
(quoted above) who spoke to him. He and his wife Parameswary were
travelling to Colombo to meet two children living there and two
others coming from abroad. Parameswary was among those killed
when the naval men opened fire. Sellathurai lay injured. Naval men
came into the boat. A naval man first assaulted him and demanded
money and jewellery. Sellathurai emptied his purse. The naval man
then ripped the gold chain around his dead wife's neck. Sellathurai
tried to unscrew her ear rings to give the naval man. An order rang out
asking the men to return quickly. The man immediately cut portions
the dead woman's ears with the rings and vanished. The boat was then
tied for towing,but broke loose. It was left behind. A little later a boat
man who had earlier jumped out, came into the boat. It was he who
took the boat to the southern shore. Five boats were said to have been
taken by the navy.
There was much evidence of
the naval men's handiwwork.
Many of the bodies recovered were badly mutilated. Tharmaraja, the
deceased director of education had an eye gouged out. His thigh too had
a deep cut. The corpse of a lady which reached the shore was without
its head. Of the five or so boats towed away, the bodies of the dead were
placed in one boat and the boat was set on fire according to local
reports. Many of the dead also had gaping wounds suggesting that these
were caused by cannon rather than small arms. A government version
of this incident broadcast over "Makkal Kural" for a Tamil audience
did speak about a fast boat which approached the gun-boat, did a U-turn
and ran into the passenger boats. But it also added that the fast boat had
fired at the navy, which was denied by civilian witnesses. several boats
going north reached their destination later in the night completely
unaware that there had been an incident. The wind and rough sea
would have had the effect of muffling gun shot noises.
The Virakesari of 5/1 said:
14 bodies recovered were brought to
the Killinochchi Hospital. Six of the bodies belonged to women.
Among the dead was A. Tharmarajah (51) from Nunavil, Regional
Director of Education Killinochchi. Of the 14 bodies, only 9 have so far
been identified. They are mostly persons from Jaffna past their middle
age. The names of the bodies identified were released by K.
Ponnampalam, Government Agent, Killinochchi. These are:
S.Subramaniam (57), retired police driver; S.Balasubramaniam (4O),
bakery owner; S. Parameswary (52) and her daughter T. Nalini(2O),
teacher, D-5 Killinochchi; Gopalapillai (4O), Tea Boutique owner,
Pooneryn; Mdm A. Arulamma (36); V. Sellathurai;(28), Mannar
The injured were: Mdm. Rohinidevi
Nadarajah (26); N.
Selvaratnam, Security Officer, People's Bank, Nallur; K. Alagan (25),
trader; K. Sellathurai (62), retired government servant; Aingaran (27),
trader. The first was sent to Anuradhapura for advanced surgery.
The Virakesari report added: "Five boats proceeding South to the
mainland were affected during the incident. . . . Those travelling in the
lagoon the following (Sunday) morning reported seeing floating
corpses. large numbers of ordinary people scoured both shores of the
lagoon for more bodies." Despite the fear travel resumed two days later.
As the `Virakesari' of 6th January indicated, the people had become so
alienated from the forces, that they had come to believe that the Tigers
were their protectors, in Jaffna lagoon at least. There are also reasons
for the high incidence of government officers among the victims. It
was the Christmas - New Year season. Government leaks to the
Colombo press, highly publicised speeches by the president and reports
of Minister Hameed's talks with the LTTE in Europe had all given the
impression that an unofficial ceasefire prevailed in the North and that
peace was imminent. Thus many government servants and students
who needed to cross the lagoon for a quick visit to their families had
assumed that this was the best time.
The Virakesari of 9th January
reported that a further 11 bodies
were recoved in the last few days bringing the total to 25. These have
not been identified. The Vavuniya Police had said that Rohinidevi
Nadarajah who was taken to Anuradhapura hospital had died.
There are several aspects of the navy's conduct that are
indefensible. The first is the gun-boat firing its cannon towards civilian
boats continuously for a considerable time without apparently a single
return shot being fired. The second, the frightning spectre of naval
personel dominated by indiscipline, greed and a concomitant readiness
to kill and rob.
O.4 Government responsibility and responses
The `Virakesari' of 6/1 and
the Island of 7/1 reported that two
Tamil MPs Navaratnam & Premachandran had protested about the
incident to the president and had called on him to institute an
independent inquiry. There was in the coming few days no direct,
response from the president. But oblique government responses
appeared in the front pages of the Daily News of 6/1 and 7/1 although
the government controlled paper had not recorded the
massacre. The first filed by Lankapuwath headlined `Main highway to
Jaffna open since July `91', quoted a JOC spokesman: "The security
forces had done their duty by the public of Jaffna by clearing and
reopening the main A-9 highway and safe passage was ensured to the
public by the security forces. However, the public were being prevented
from using the highway by the LTTE who were more interested in
extorting money by forcing the public to use their transport in No-Go-
Zones and also by preventing the transport of ample stocks of food and
other essential items. . ..."
The second was a print out
of what was broadcast the previous
day. This seemed to suggest that Jaffna lagoon had only now been
declared a prohibited zone. It read: "The Jaffna lagoon has been
declared a prohibited zone under section 5 (Chapter 4O) of the Public
Security Ordinance, under which no person will be permitted to ply or
use any vessel, other than a vessel belonging to the Sri Lanka Navy or
any vessel authorised in that behalf by the competent authority.
"Any person who contravenes the provisions of this regulation will be
guilty of an offence. These regulations will be cited as the Emergency
(Establishment of a Prohibited Zone) Regulations No. 1 of 1992 . . .
certificate under the hand of the Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy
(Competent Authority appointed by the president), to the effect that
any area specified in such certificate is within the Prohibited Zone shall
be admissible in evidence and shall be prima facie evidence of the facts
stated therein. . . "
These attempts at a response
lightly skirt the serious issues. The
Jaffna highway is by no means cleared and reopened by the security
forces in the sense of their being able to offer reasonable protection and
right of passage to those who use it. If people travelling on it are
stopped at gun-point a few hundred yards up or down the road from
Elephant Pass, there is nothing the security forces would do about it,
except perhaps fire some shells.
The second about the prohibited
zone is a very euphemistic
representation of a harsh reality. It suggests that someone using the
prohibited zone will be committing an offence like trespassing on
private property. The offender will when caught be taken to court and
the naval commander's certificate will be produced as proof of an
Firstly what is the effect
of it? The prohibition against the use of
Jaffna lagoon has been in force for a long time whether given legal
sanction through gazette notification or not. Would the government
state publicly that government servants, corporation employees,
university staff and employees will not receive promotions and
scholarships because the Tigers prevent them from travelling to
Colombo through Elephant Pass for appropriate examinations and
interviews? Will it pay teachers who cannot report for work for the
same reason, or find university places in the South for students so
prevented from attending the University of Jaffna? We know from
experience that for practical reasons and reasons of bad publicity the
government will not take up such positions. Indeed, letters for official
functions, conferences, interviews and examinations have been sent as
if people could travel without hindrance! Is it then responsible for the
government to issue the navy commander with a certificate to enforce
the prohibition and close its eyes to the consequences?
Secondly one must look at
the pitiable traditions in which the
law of the land and its enforcement have evolved. One positive aspect
of the statement of the emergency regulation above is that it indicates
limits of action the navy could resort to in enforcing it. Implicitly it
implies that the navy could open fire only in self defence. Otherwise it
could only stop boats, question people and discretionarily treat them as
offenders to be produced in court. Firing on unarmed boats it totally
Indeed for navy men to behave
like parang wielding pirates of
the South China Sea or of the archipelagi of the East Indies is
unthinkable. The navy has shown that the spirit of the Kumudini boat
massacre of 1985 is very much alive. The action is also reminiscent of
the days in 1987, shortly before the Indian army arrived, when
government servants in government helicopters used to shoot at
government servants on bicycles and vans reporting for work via
Kopay Veli (Open Land).
Here we have the sight of
the nation going to pieces by the
government not facing up to its responsibilities towards the people and
their basic needs.
O.5 Bad laws and corruption
In the 5Os and 6Os the imposition
of curfew did not mean that
curfew breakers were meant to be shot. The forces were first meant to
ascertain whether there was a threat to security. If not there would
have been no meaning in the issue of curfew passes. People did get
shot without justification. But those with urgent needs, such as one to
see a doctor, could often talk their way through. The principle of the
state being responsible for the basic welfare of people was
acknowledged. Care was taken to give people notice and time to stock
up and attend to essential chores. In the treatment of the people of the
North today, all these obligations are being violated. Over the years the
armed forces have been given the freedom to act without reference to
the basic needs of people. The armed forces have been given the
freedom to interfere with anything from the transport of essential
goods and medicines. Its only effect has been to make lots of people rich
without bringing peace any nearer. With the build up of cynicism all
round, it has become a war with widespread corruption in the forces
accompained by a mistaken sense of pride. Press reports of corruption
in sections of the forces have been persistent.
During the phase of the war
ending in July 1987 a quantity of
basic goods to be distributed through co-operative societies was
regularly passed. Today, it is charged by very responsible persons that
such societies with the least capacity to bribe are the most harassed by
authorities in Colombo, while private traders function smoothly. The
Vavuniya check point has been notorious. At times when passes were
not issued in Colombo for large quantities of kerosene to the North,
lorry loads had been allowed through, while people carrying small
quantities with permits of authority coming immediately behind had
been sorely harassed.
We have reliable testimony
of a regular run of banned items to
the North from the Puttalam lagoon area to the LTTE controlled coast
further north with naval complicity. The run needs to be accomplished
between times of naval patrols from Talai-Mannar, given in advance.
Those in the Wanni intimately familiar with the network of
corruption and vested interests surrounding this war despair of its ever
coming to an end. Corruption is a means by which basic human needs
triumph over the harshest restrictions. But at very great cost to the
moral fabric of the nation and the well-being of ordinary people.
Malaria, para-typhoid and malnutrition have become endemic among
people of the North. A generation of infants in the North is growing
up permanently impaired.
When there is widespread
corruption a wrong sense of pride
takes over. While allowing banned goods through some channels,
there is also an accompanying need for the forces to shoot up civilians
and boats transporting innocuous civilian goods in the Jaffna lagoon to
prove that a great job is being done in fighting the war. Press
statements by the forces unashamedly speak of the cargo of several
boats captured or sunk as consisting of stuff like rice bags and bicycles.
That is the level at which military success is being measured.
A large part of the blame for this state of affairs should be placed
on the government. Had the government politically identified itself
with the well-being of the Tamil people, there would have been no
major war in the first place. When political paralysis leads to thinking
that the basic needs of the people, guaranteed by international
conventions, can be interfered with for military reasons, things are
bound to deteriorate. Once an ill-advised decision is taken to make it
illegal for people to do what they normally ought to do in the routine
course of life, a military force vested with enforcing it cannot be
expected to sit around simply watching people get about their lives .
If the ban on travel in the
Jaffna lagoon were to be lifted it would
militarily make little difference to the government. The Tigers will use
it with or without a ban, as they did in 1987. It is not food for the Tigers
that comes through the lagoon. It is a piece of old wisdom that bad laws
which allow ordinary people no alternative but to break them, only
bring the law into disrepute and lead to corruption. The ban on travel
in the Jaffna lagoon must be lifted. Though appearing to be a military
loss, it will be an enormous political gain. Particularly when nearly all
press commentators are saying that the military mission of the
government is an impossible one, there is a greater practical need to
make political gestures to the Tamil people.
O.6 The responsibility of other organisations
We have said elsewhere in
this report that given the paralysis in
the government, there was a duty which fell on other international
and civilian organisations to represent the interests of the people. THe
people of Jaffna could rightly and legitimately appeal to the
government, but they are unable to question the arbitrary actions of the
Tigers. This gap should have been filled by others outside, raising
matters such as the Elephant Pass affair with the Tigers. Sadly most
statements and observations talked about the government forces
shooting at civilians in the Jaffna lagoon without asking why the
Tigers forced them to endure this. Clearly the interests of the people are
not being represented. When asked why the Tigers make them travel
in this manner, the usual answer is `We cannot speak'. It is one thing
for leading international figures, such as church men to promote the
Tigers as sole representatives of the Tamil people. If so they should be
able to talk to them and influence them to act in the interests of the
people. If not leadership becomes a totally vacuous and a merely verbal
Army spokesman on the Jaffna Lagoon
Reporting on the Cabinet
news conference of the previous day,
the Island of 8th January reported as follows: "The military is prepared
to consider opening the Jaffna lagoon which has been declared a
`prohibited zone' for civilian traffic to and from the Jaffna peninsula
during daylight under strict naval surveillance, military spokesman
Brigadier Anil Angamana announced yesterday."
Purely as a gesture, this
announcement is welcome. Whether it
will bear fruit or not depends on whether there is also the will to give
considerable priority to the needs of civilians.
More inexcusably the military
spokesman still continued to deny
having received confirmation of the civilian deaths, although the list
was issued by the senior-most government officer of the district. Also
there is the ICRC reporting directly to the president in addition to
Reuter. The government it seems had no contact with the government
agent of Killinochchi. But the spokesman when asked about the
District Education Officer killed in the incident said, "I heard that he
was executed by the LTTE". The government's response in such
instances continues to be silly and counter-productive.
It transpired in the Cabinet
news conference that the
government had no defensible position on the Kilaly issue, except to
repeat an umpteen times that the A-9 through Elephant Pass was the
normal authorised route to Jaffna. It was as though its being blocked by
some other force that could not be dislodged was not a fact to be taken
cognizance of. In its blundering manner the government was trying to
limit the damage by pretending that the navy's action was purely a
military matter. That it was an act of blatant piracy was something the
government did not have the character to face up to.
THE SOUTH : WAR, DEMOCRACY & HUMAN RIGHTS
1.1 Failure of democracy and the culture of repression
On 1Oth December 1992, Human
Rights Day, demonstrators led
by some opposition parliamentarians on a peaceful march in Slave
Island raising the issue of tens of thousands disappeared over the years
were set upon by the police. The demonstrators were tear gassed
attacked with batons and even journalists covering the event were
subject to assault. The police were also assisted by persons not in
uniform. The following day accounts of the incident were given in
parliament by Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Mahinda Rajapakse, the
MPs concerned. There was laughter from the government benches
when the first described the treatment by the police of the latter.
So soon had recent history
been forgotten.When Tamil MPs in
the late 7Os and early 8Os described the behaviour of the forces in the
North -East, there used to be sneering jubilation from government
benches. The events inexorably led to the three year closure of the
universities in the South, the arrival of the IPKF and the JVP uprising.
The government members were then anything but jubilant. MPs were
among the 4O thousand or so killed. Several of the once all - powerful
top brass in the services tried everything from medical leave to
The events of 1Oth December
were not isolated. A few months
ago Yunoos, cartoonist for the much respected Aththa, journal of the
Communist Party, was stabbed, leading to protests by journalists.On
1Oth October, the lady mayor of Nuwara Eliya and several of her body
guards took strong arm measures to block the sales of two newspapers,
the Ravaya and the Yukthiya. This led to protest meetins in the town
organised by journalists affiliated to the Free Media Movement and the
use of the Police in attempts to deter them.
The unhealthy drift in the political culture was also reflected in
an event in the University of Colombo involving Dr. Nalin de Silva
of the the Department of Mathematics and prominently of the Jathika
Chinthanaya Movement. Dr. de Silva adopted an insensitively
communal position on the ethnic question. This position maintained
at best that the ethnic problem did not exist or at worst that it was an
Indian ploy, notwithstanding years of bloody civil strife. The Doctor's
affairs of immediate concern to the university were however his
reportedly controversial relations with his colleagues and students. It
was generally alleged that his brash attitude to colleagues and the
conduct of students influenced by him were disruptive to the
functioning of the university. On 4th December the university council
issued a suspension order against him and even before the suspension
was explained, followed it up the next day with an interdiction order.
The university was at this time closed due to disruption. It became
evident as the days followed that the matter was not so simple. Dr.de
Silva had been repeatedly elected to responsible positions in staff
unions. Currently he is president of the Federation of University
Teachers' Associations (FUTA) and also of the University Science
The problem was thus that
though many of Dr. de Silva's
colleagues disapproved of his actions, the matter was referred to higher
authorities because there was no functioning structure, such as a
healthy union, that could discuss the matter and take up positions.
This would have been the right way to constrain aberrant conduct
among colleagues. On the part of the authorities, they left themselves
open to accusations of high-handedness by acting against Dr. de Silva
without first calling for his explanation. Several of Dr. de Silva's
colleagues feel that his conduct has been both insulting and
intimidating. The kind of political ideology articulated by Dr. de Silva
inevitably leads to conduct that is insensitive and oppressive. Those
like him may arouse sympathy by rightly pointing out the
shortcomings of the system. But their ultimate role is not of reform,
but to exacerbate these shortcomings and profit by them. It is amidst
this broad failure of sound traditions that there is a resort to levers of
power that prudence demands should, if at all, be touched sparingly
and with caution. Thus the unhappy trend in our universities
continues. Instead of training the intellect and character of students,
they too are being trained, like their peers, to think and act like army
There is also a general concern
that any charges framed against
Dr. de Silva would of necessity have to be so vague and general as to
create a precedent for more thoroughgoing victimisation of those not
liked by the authorities. Expressing his concern about the whole
procedure while dissociating from Dr. de. Silva's views, Osmund
Jayaratne, trade unionist and professor emeritus ended his letter to the
Island' with a line from Shakespere's Hamlet': `There appears to be
something wrong in the state of Denmark'.
In the end there is little
happening to challenge the tragedies of
the last decade. Once again the summoning of brute force is being
advanced as a panacea for the inconveniences of those with authority.
That recent history has shown it to be a fast wasting asset, has been
This line evidently has a
wider application when one looks at
the state of the political culture within which the more pressing
question of the civil war is being addressed.
1.2 Crucial differences
There are many reasons why
history cannot once again flow
along the same channels. In the early 8Os the power and arrogance of
the state were largely unchallenged. The July 1983 violence, the civil
war, the arrival of the IPKF, the JVP episode, the government's
discredited relations with the LTTE, a series of dubious election results,
the humiliation of state forces and the much publicised attempt to
impeach the president leading to arm twisting within the ruling party,
have all helped to erode the authority and image of the state. A
positive feature of the Southern polity, as opposed to the Northern
polity, is that enough pluralism has survived in the South to make
this current crisis good for democracy. There is a more visible attempt
to assert the freedom of the press, and brave attacks upon it. The
Yukthiya has published the reflections of a soldier questioning the
military policy of 15 years directed against the Tamils. But the
overwhelming majority of leaks from the army receiving press
publicity deal not with the Tamil question, but with the helpless anger
within the army directed at the political establishment and the
government in particular.
Whether the present opportunity
for democracy will be used
with success depends on whether or not the ideology of Sinhalese
chauvinism will be challenged and laid to rest. Only thus can the
Tamil counterpart of this ideology be denied legitimacy, laying the
foundation for a united Sri Lanka. An earlier opportunity did arise
when the IPKF arrived in 1987, but was mislaid, plunging the country
into a blood-bath. Although the present government for its own
survival may see a need to challenge Sinhalese chauvinism, it is too
weak to offer an initiative. The task thus falls primarily on NGOs and
other organisations with an interest in democracy.
1.3 The armed forces and the nemesis of lawlessness
In a deviation from the headlines
that one gets used to,`the
Christian Worker' of November 1992 carried the singular caption:
Justice for Voters and Generals?. The articles inside dealt with the
Election Commissioner Chandrananda de Silva's report published
earlier in the year, the famous clandestine disclosures of Udugampola,
former DIG of Police, and the deaths of ten leading service men,
including General Kobbekaduwa, in a landmine blast on the eve of a
major military operation last August. The election commissioner in
his report earlier this year pointed by implication to considerable
malpractice during the February 1989 parliamentary elections while the
police looked on. In another of his disclosures made in April from
hiding, former DIG Udugampola added that terrorism prevailing at
that time was a necessary cover for the UNP's (government party's)
machinery of fraud to operate without impediment. Among the
methods alleged by the DIG was the deployment of `Black Cats'
supplied by UNP MPs to kill opposition (mainly SLFP) activists. The
DIG said that he had 6O names of persons so killed.
The end result of all this
was a heightened sense of insecurity
and cynicism in the South. People were ready to believe the meanest
allegations made against the state. Conspiracy theories which began
with the mysterious crash of Upali Wijewardene's jet in 1982 reached a
crescendo with General Kobbekaduwa's death. Defence Minister
Ranjan Wijeratne's death in a car bomb explosion last year had given
rise to a bout of speculation given subsequent revelations of intimate
contacts between top UNPers and a deported Singaporean financier and
gambling magnate. Wijeratne had acted against the latter on the
findings of his brainchild, the Bureau of Special Operations headed by
Udugampola.The BSO wound up in January 1992. About the time of
Kobbekaduwa's death the country had been abuzz with bizarre stories
of magic rituals for the protection of VIPs, soothsayers and
disappearing virgins-the last hotly denied by irate senior policemen.
With the killing of the 1O
leading servicemen in a mine
explosion in Kayts the dam burst. The one man commission
comprising Justice Ismail appointed by the government to quell
rumours, failed to stem the tide of press speculation fuelled by leaks
from the forces. What the investigation proved with near certainty was
that the Tigers could not have done it. The explosion occurred on a
disused jeep track adjacent to the cleared main track in use. With all
the imponderables of the officers' arrival and movements, if the Tigers
were to spend time planting a mine in a relatively open space in the
proximity of two army posts, they would have hardly chosen that spot.
This left the most reasonable explanation that the mine was an old one
planted before the army took that area, as maintained by army
spokesmen. The alternative explanation of an inside job was almost
unthinkable in a country that had singularly failed to keep even one
secret. Nevertheless the tide of speculation persisted. The report of a
former British army expert based on an examination of photographs of
the scene taken by colleagues of the officers led the late general's wife to
ask the president for an international inquiry which was promptly
The subsequent killing of
Admiral Clancy Fernando in Colombo
by a suicide bomber was relatively uncontroversial as the cause was
patent. The LTTE did not help matters when it claimed responsibility
for the killing of the 1O officers which it could hardly have done and
kept quiet on the Clancy Fernando affair. A desperate government
media eager to quash speculation publicised the LTTE admission of the
first together with photographs of an award ceremony graced by the
leader for cadres alleged to have planted the bomb. The people in Jaffna
were aware that the LTTE made the claim only after the government
media broadcast the event in August. The common strand in the
speculation both in the North as well as the South dealt with the near
certainty of secret collusion between leaderships of the warring
For many army officers and
men it was a time of creeping doubts
as to why, what and for whom they were giving their lives. The top
brass were in public dispute about objectives. Among the men
desertion increased sharply.
Speaking in parliament on
19th Novemeber, Lakshman
Jayakody (SLFP) gave the human cost of the war since July 1983 as
follows: 3O OOO civilians of all communities dead, inclusive of
militants. 8OOO made limbless, 6OO OOO made refugees. A further
2OO OOO displaced persons living with friends and relatives, 17O OOO
in India and another 2OO OOO outside South Asia. Defence
expenditure stood at an annual US $5OO million.(See 6.1 for some
different estimates given by Dr. Nithyananthan of the University of
Jaffna). For the forces: 55OO service and police personnel killed since
July 1983, 77OO desertions - nearly 13OO since August.
By thus demeaning law and
humanity, the government and the
forces became authors of their own paralysis. The heartfelt tributes paid
to the dead are of comfort to those once near to them who are left
behind in the face of uncertainties. But the reputations of men who
may have accomplished much good in happier circumstances will of
necessity remain sullied by the institutions they served. Questions over
their own deaths were not dissimilar to those which arose over the
fates of their victims, in a country lacking in points of moral reference.
Addressing a routine multi-party
conference a few months
before he died, Ranjan Wijeratne told a Tamil group in answer to a
question about Tamil detainees: "We are not interested in whether
they are guilty or innocent. If you say they are your cadre, we will
release them." Other appeals made subsequently over persons taken by
the forces from refugee camps and who then disappeared fell on deaf
ears. During Operation Liberation in May 1987 civilian detainees
viewed by then Brigadier Kobbekaduwa at Nelliady junction were a
little later taken down Pt Pedro Rd, asked to run and shot at from
behind. Despite the islands off Jaffna being taken by forces under
General Kobbekaduwa in August 199O with next to no resistance by the
LTTE, more than 7O civilians were killed at close range. Several of
them were killed by the forces after being made to perform forced
labour. The late general may have been enlightened by the standards of
the normal run of military men in this country. It is by no means
obvious that troops under his command were more humane than
others. The nation has failed these men in leaving grave doubts
hanging over their memories.
1.4 Reporting and National Unity: Operations in the North
The war on the government
side, it is said, is being fought to
unite the country. But the attitudes to the lives and dangers faced by
people whose reconciliation within the national fold is being sought
remains curious. Regular reports dealing with the North are of the
Island, 12.11.92: JOC said yesterday that, "the Navy observed a flotilla of
about 1O-15 boats approaching the Naval Sub Unit at
Nagathevanthurai (in Jaffna Lagoon) and opened fire. Terrorists on
board returned the fire and having altered course fled the area. It is
believed terrorists on board suffered casualties, but details are not
available at present.
Daily News, 3O.11.92:"Security forces have destroyed 25 boats at a Sea
Tiger base in outer Mathagal, while the navy has destroyed around 5O
LTTE craft in the Jaffna lagoon during the last month. In addition air
force bombers are attacking LTTE targets in several areas of the North.
Island, 9.12.92: "The navy opened fire and destroyed three speeding
boats in the Jaffna Lagoon according to northern military sources. The
sources said the boats were being used by the LTTE to transport fuel and
other supplies. The navy recovered the wreckage of a boat and a few
barrels of fuel.
Island, 27.12.92: "Sri Lankan air force planes bombed Tamil guerilla
positions in the northern rebel stronghold of Jaffna, military sources
"We took some targets-known terrorist camps- on Wednesday", a
senior officer in charge of operations in the North said."But we had no
details of the bomb damage or casualties yet."
Other reports of this kind mention the navy firing on `terrorist' boats
in the lagoon killing terrorists and recovering supplies such as bicycles,
food and fuel without bothering to tell us whether the persons shot at
were armed or had fired at the navy. The following nearly humorous
piece appeared in the Daily News of 2nd December 1992:
Navy seizes Tiger boats, smugglers leap into lagoon
The Shri Lanka Navy's inshore patrol craft, operating in the Jaffna
lagoon, seized two LTTE boats in the early hours of Monday. The
occupants jumped overboard and are presumed dead.
The encounter was on the southern side of the lagoon, east of
Nagathevanturai, at 3.55 am. The captured boats, equipped with two
outboard motors, were said to have been carrying 5O gunny bags of rice
and sugar and 42 bicycle frames smuggled from the mainland to the
"It looks as if Tiger mobility is now limited on the peninsula. They
would otherwise not need bicycle frames. Maybe the other items
needed to assemble complete bicycles have already been taken across, or
have still to get across," a senior military officer said yesterday.
He said that on the previous night at 9.15 pm, the navy had sunk yet
another terrorist craft in the same area and all those aboard it were
"May be cycle trimmings were in that boat?" the officer speculated.
navy was being very vigilant in this particular area, after these
incidents, he said.
The Colombo, English press did however give us some glimpses of
what was really going on:
Daily News 19.12.92 quoting Reuter: "....Military authorities declared
the lagoon patrolled by the navy and covered by radar, a "no-go" zone
and warned that anyone crossing the water could be shot on sight.
"Despite the ban about 2OOO people, mostly Tamils, crossed the lagoon
daily because all other routes were sealed by the army and the rebels
refuse to allow traffic on the main road to the peninsula.....
"The bodies of two people, apparently civilians, were washed ashore
the mainland side last week, the residents said, adding that they
thought the victims died when their boat was attacked by the navy.
"At least 1O rebels were killed when navy patrols destroyed two of
their dinghies trying to cross the lagoon under cover of darkness earlier
in the week, military sources said on Thursday.
"Sometimes the civilian boats are escorted by the guerillas who also on
occasion transport civilians on faster boats for a higher fee..."
The Island, 28.1O.92: "The TULF alleged yesterday that more then 1O
men, women and children had been killed in a quarry in Vellaveli in
Batticaloa. A statement issued by the TULF executive committee also
said that the frequency and intensity of attacks by the armed forces
against unarmed civilians in the North and East had increased during
the last two weeks. "There had been aimless bombings in Udupiddy,
Valvettithurai and Kokkuvil," it added.
There had been persistent
independent reports of civilian bodies
being washed ashore in the Jaffna lagoon. The Virakesari reported
those of a mother and daughter holding hands last October, and that of
a child in November. On the bombing operation referred to above,
independent sources confirmed that air force jets bombed Nunavil,
Chavakacheri on 26th November, killing three siblings - a girl and two
A feature in the Sunday Times of 18th October 1992 by its Defence
Correspondent which carried a feature on sea operations and included
an interview with the late Vice Admiral Clancy Fernando, shed, more
light on the situation in the Jaffna lagoon:
Referring to Sea Tiger activity it said: "Most of their activity is in the
Jaffna Lagoon, using locally made 33 foot fibre glass dinghies powered
by 3 or more out-board motors. The origin of the motors is a mystery,
but large shipments have been seized both in India and the port of
"A few of the craft are even foreign built, using five high powered
board motors which can attain speeds of 45 knots (Sea miles per hour).
At times even the fastest navy Dvora Fast Attack craft have been
unable to intercept them..... (The Sea Tigers) also use sophisticated
equipment like radar to track down navy vessels. Many are mounted
on land vehicles, which make them highly mobile, while others are at
high points in the peninsula and are hard to detect."
"...In a three week period in September, at least 15 Sea Tiger boats
sunk in the lagoon, as well as three more off the east coast of the
peninsula. This in a sharp increase in Sea Tiger loses; in contrast only
about 35 craft were sunk the whole of last year and another 4O were
sunk in the first ll months of this year".
The feature places the Sea
Tiger strength at 3OO. " They are
believed to have undergone training clandestinely in India, Malaysia
and Singapore, with Chinese, Norwegian and Singaporean
mercenaries as instructors."
If one places a modest average
of 3 Sea tigers in each boat sunk,
nearly the whole unit, one needs to believe, has been slaughtered!
There was not the slightest
acknowledgement in the feature that
the bulk of those traversing the lagoon were civilians taking 2 1/2 to 3
hours in slow boats to do the 2O or so miles (hardly 7 or 8 knots -
nowhere near the 45 knots said to be touched by advanced Tiger boats).
As to why the Tigers want
civilians going south to cross the
lagoon from Kilaly rather than use Elephant Pass is contained in a
suggestion with which most civilian observers would agree: " The
lagoon is more than just the last link to the mainland for the Tigers. It
is also their safest route to India". (Via Wilpattu National Park and the
West coast south of Mannar).
From the foregoing what is
really going on is clear. Here again
we find a persistent trend in the southern polity, the state, the forces,
and the press.They refuse to take or acknowledge responsibility for the
Tamil civilians who do not cease being citizens of this country. They
cross the lagoon to meet urgent survival tasks. Those who so cross the
lagoon include senior government servants, professionals and dons
coming for seminars and other official business in Colombo. Also
included are university staff and others who came down for
scholarship interviews at the UGC or examinations and then missed
them either because they had been informed too late or because the
police in Colombo locked them up.How they live and travel does not
appear to be an issue. There is a pretence that they are some kind of hob
goblins who pop out of the earth and disappear thence. Thus does
Tamil chauvinism receive an undeserved legitimacy.
It is against the backdrop
of an intellectual and moral paralysis
closely linked to the aforementioned events that peace moves and talks
of constitutional reform are going on. The most important
constituency - the people, Muslims, Tamils and Sinhalese - is ignored.
1.5 Peace Moves
We will confine ourselves
to some salient features without
going into details. It has been our position that the main issue of a
permanent settlement is not federalism or a merger of the former
Northern and Eastern Provinces. It is but one of giving confidence to
the minorities that they are full partners in the nation building process
and that the state will neither discriminate nor its machinery work to
their detriment. Also if the damage done in the past is to be overcome,
there needs to be a more open and generous approach. The Tamils in
the North-East have long and urgently voiced particular grievances
touching on security concerning the conduct of the forces and state
aided colonisation of Sinhalese resulting in insecurity to others.
These are matters on which,
we have repeatedly pointed out
(Reports 6,7 & Briefing No1) the state ought to act on its own as a
matter of duty. To make such action a subject of negotiation only
reinforces distrust. Two specific areas requiring such action are the
provision for real remedial action (not the cosmetic one of presidential
task forces) to challenge violations by the forces and the making of
substantial positive gestures regarding colonisation. A good candidate
for the latter would be the dismantling of the Weli Oya or Manal Aru
settlements which are in any case a costly shambles. Whatever the
merits of Weli Oya settlements, these have been trumpeted too long by
Sinhalese chauvinists in Colombo (not Weli Oya) as to frighten
Tamils. It is from such developments that the merger of the North-East
as a security measure came to be seen as necessary by the Tamils. It was
given a new force by the Indo-Lanka Accord. The situation in the Jaffna
lagoon, bombing and shelling are other areas where the government
can and ought to make positive gestures.
The government has done next
to nothing on these lines, thus
casting a shadow over any talks that take place. Even so new
constitutional measures that could give confidence to the minorities
could play a benign role. Two proposals before the parliamentary select
committee chaired by Mangala Moonesinghe that received publicity
were the Apex Council proposal for a semi-merger of the North and
East and the second for federalism without a merger proposed by
Srinivasan MP. The first, widely accepted as well-meant, was worked
out by Mangala Moonesinghe himself with help from some leading
academics. The second was noted for the magic words federalism and
de-merger. Its details were sketchy and ill-thought out. Why it received
so much publicity is a subject of much speculation.
Both had certain positive
or negative merits from the point of
all communities in the North-East. For the Tamils, up to 4O% of their
population in the North-East, particularly the East, were refugees.
There was a fear that a long war fought in the name of a merger would
mean displacement, rather than a merger, becoming permanent,
leading to creeping colonisation of Sinhalese under military protection.
From this point of view a transfer of power from the military to a
civilian authority in the East was desirable.
The Muslims in the East feared,
particularly after massacres of
Muslims by the LTTE, that a large Tamil dominated unit would work
to their disadvantage. They too, in terms of a fear of colonisation, stood
to gain by local civilian, rather than military control.
The Sinhalese in the East
shared the first fear with the
Muslims.[See Report No7 & Rev. Nirmal Mendis in the Cross-Points,
an NCC publication, December 199O and September 1992].
For the Tamils there were
also some merits in trading off a
merger for more powerful federal units. For the Tamil parties in
Colombo these proposals carried strong temptations provided they
were seen to be realisable. This is where the experience of the past and
the failure of the government to show good faith, such as in a manner
sketched above, became serious impediments. There were also doubts
as to whether a federal proposal would withstand the referendum
demanded by the constitution even after obtaining two thirds support
in the house.
The chief impediment came
from the main parties (UNP&SLFP)
who remained studiedly reluctant to commit themselves, while the
Tamil parties were under intense pressure to commit themselves.
There was a real fear that having agreed to drop the merger, which had
the force of the Indo-Lanka Accord, they would be left clutching at
straws in the wind. They feared that they were being used as land
mines against the LTTE. After the two main parties agreed to back a
consensus at select committee level they appeared to grudgingly
concede something only to claw back later. It was first reported that
they had both accepted Srinivasan's proposal for federalism without
merger. This was later changed to the Indian model and finally
Srinivasan without federalism.
The problem was ultimately
that we, perhaps in good faith, had
very fluid notions of constitution making, based on passing whims of
individuals which ignored the people. The years since July 1983 and
the Indo-Lanka Accord were painful experiences for this country. The
positive features of the Accord as regards the ethnic issue were not
effectually realised. The machinations of this government prevented
the provincial councils from coming to be seen as genuinely
autonomous bodies with real and adequate powers. The North-East
provincial council practically gave way to some unspecified
understanding between the government and the LTTE. The
justification hinted at for this was that the EPRLF though `elected' did
not represent the Tamils. How the LTTE came to represent the Tamils
was never addressed. The government-LTTE understanding fell to
pieces and the Tamils were once more left with nothing but the
dubious protection of the LTTE. If the Tamil parties in Colombo
rescind the merger, that will be gladly publicised and used. But if
tomorrow another deal with the LTTE is desired it would once more be
hinted that the Tamil political parties represented nobody. Some years
later it could be argued that the present government's legitimacy was
in question or that the LTTE became the representatives of Tamils on
doubtful premises and we would be talking something else as if
yesterday was a dream.
The SLFP's positions again
represent instability and double talk.
The DPA manifesto on which Mrs Bandaranaike contested the 1988
presidential elections envisaged a merged North-East with a part of
Amparai District excised. Recently she was reported saying that her
party did not support a merger. The DPA manifesto she said was
rejected by the people. But she had contested the verdict of her defeat in
court saying that it was arrived at by fraudulent means. It is by all
indications therefore futile to think that the talks as they stand would
lead to a solution.
The Tamil parties could however
have done much better than
turn down the proposals merely on the grounds that they did not
envisage a North-East merger. They should have been clearly and
logically examined and argued how they meet or fail to meet the
aspirations of Tamils for dignity and security, and here based their
acceptance or rejection on reason. This would have at least led to a
healthy debate and a clear discussion of issues. Instead the other side
was not made to discuss issues and merely confronted the Tamil
parties with a flat rejection of a merger. We are being further plunged
into a culture where the value of sound reason is being lost, and who
represents whom determined ultimately through brute force.
What would lead to a solution is only an open discussion of
issues and how we came to this point of paralysis. If the leaders address
the people, involve them in a public discussion and convince them,
then any resulting solution will have permanent roots. There will be
no need to whisper consent and claw back. When it was first
announced in the press that the two main parties had accepted
federalism, the country accepted it as a matter of course. There was
perhaps a sigh of relief rather than angry demonstrations.
The present state of affairs
will favour only the extreme
nationalists on both sides. They are the only ones talking to the people.
By ignoring real Sinhalese and Muslim fears, it is easy to represent to
the Tamils how the others cannot be trusted. By focusing on the LTTE
and ignoring the Tamil people and recent history, the other extremist
camp could argue that given the LTTE's persistent duplicity, only a
military solution is possible.
1.6 The Role of NGOs, Religious bodies and Non-party organisations
Things as they are, leave
the country poised dangerously. The
ordinary people feel confused and powerless and now the armed forces
are in the same state. Against this the LTTE goes on massacring
Muslim and Sinhalese civilians, ignoring the diplomatic reverses and
hoping that the next heave would do the trick. Its mind is clear. It can
live with de facto control like in the months leading up to the current
war. But survival dictates that it cannot be tied down by written legal
undertakings, even a federal arrangement. It has cornered itself by
killing in the name of the holy cause of Eelam and building up its cadre
on the basis of Eelam or nothing and that anyone who thinks
otherwise is a traitor. The alternative to de facto control is to trigger off
anti-Tamil violence in the South. Then its own past would be
forgotten, and it could expect a diplomatic swing in its favour. The
country would then for all purposes be sundered. The LTTE's closest
allies would then have been its vocal Sinhalese counter- parts. How
strong is the polity of this country to withstand this challenge?
As was pointed out there
is a certain despair among those who
were close to dead combatants on all sides as to whether they died to
any purpose. A note about the late Brigadier Lucky Wijeratne by K.H.
in the Sunday Times of 2Oth December reads:
"A soldier, particularly a commander who must send out men to kill
or be killed, will frequently question the logic of and the motives
behind a war-- We can ensure that they did not die in vain by bringing
about a political settlement that was their pot of gold at the end of a
rainbow. A prolonged battle with a heavy loss of life, even if the
ultimate result is a military victory for the security forces, will not
justify the death of Lucky and his colleagues. The final chapter of
Lucky's story must be written by the politicians."
By their performance so far
it is doubtful if the politicians by
themselves will ever write the final chapter. It is only a demand from
the people that would move them. Thus it becomes imperative that
others must talk to them and restore the value of sound reason and
sound morals rather than leave the field to extremists. It is now left to
the kind of organisations mentioned above to campaign for rational
solutions, and open up the issues by going before the people. The
country's predicament must be clearly understood. Only so can the
country derive strength. There must be an end to the illusion that the
road to peace lies through secret flattery of those who control the
means of destruction and keeping the people in the dark. If the LTTE
clearly understands that there is no prospect of communal violence in
the South, its own politics will change much for the better.
THE MASKADE CHAIN -Tamil Detainees of the Sri Lanka Forces
Many of our recent reports
have averred to detainees being
taken by the Sri Lankan Forces - from their homes, removed from
public transport while fleeing the war zone, often from refugee camps,
while fleeing to India by sea and when sheltering from the war in the
South. In Report No.5 we referred to a press report in the Virakesari
where a convoy of buses going to Colombo from Batticaloa escorted by
the forces was stopped at the army camp in Valaichenai. Then home
guards under army supervision removed about 3O passengers. The
incident took place in late August 199O. We also referred (Reports 7 &
9) to 16 persons removed from the refugee camp in Pesalai, Mannar
Island, by the army in November 199O. Special Report No. 3 was
written at the time the STF was making mass arrests from refugee
camps, a number of whom finished up as headless bodies on the high
seas. A number of Tamils in the South continued to be arrested in the
South during the course of the current conflict and nothing more has
been heard of several of them. Kugamorthy was prominent among
them. Representations made among very high circles, including the
President's office, bore no fruit.
Some have lived to tell the
tale. We now complement accounts
given by former detainees in Special Report No.3 and Reports 7,8 and 9
and also shed some light on the specific instances mentioned above.
The story still remains far from complete. These experiences also tell us
about the perverted notion of legality that has become current in the
wake of the PTA and the new emergency regulations. Even when it is
evident that the prisoner can have no information of the slightest
military value, torture is proceeded with until the prisoner confesses to
something, such as giving food parcels to the LTTE, to justify his
detention. Those who survived this ordeal have been kept for between
one and two years before being released without charges. These
considerations are relevant to the question of sending back Tamil
refuguees from India and Europe.
`Maskade' (Butcher's shop)
is a term current among detainees of
the forces descriptive of the torture chamber. Its Tamil
equivalent,`Iraichikkadai', is used by the LTTE's detainees. They
remain curious symbols of national unity in a supposedly separatist
The general pattern
As mentioned in earlier repots,
between June and October 199O,
the Forces made mass arrests in many parts of the East, and the best
information we have is that most of them were executed within a few
days. The pattern that took shape goes something like this. In the East,
the detainees not killed were generally tortured at the local forces'
camp for one or two weeks. In the Mannar District, the detainees were
usually sent to Thallady Camp if they survived the first day or two. At
Thallady, torture followed a fairly uniform pattern (See also Ch. 4,
Report 9) and lasted from one week to three.
Those who survived followed
the initiation of the first two to
six weeks in the local centres were then sent to Magazine Prison in
Colombo. Survivors who were badly mauled and were refused
admission by Magazine Prison were sent to the Kadawatte STF camp
until sufficiently presentable. In some cases they had a further period of
interrogation at the 4th floor CID building in Colombo before being
sent to Magazine. Magazine Prison has a routine where prisoners on
admission are beaten by guards on the first day - a kind of rag, but not
very serious compared to what they had been through. It is called
Varavetpadi (Welcoming beating) in prisoners' parlance. Thereafter
the prisoners were left in peace and even found the guards friendly and
helpful. Those ill at the time of admission escaped Varavetpadi. One
prisoner who was earlier at the Military Police camp in Trincomalee
said that there was no infliction of physical pain there.
Some prisoners finished the
latter stage of their detention at
Magazine Prison and others at the detention camp in Kalutura.
Following their release,
nearly all prisoners had two or more of
the following symptoms: Recurring loss of memory (LM) Recurring
blackouts (BO), Nightmares (NM), Gastrits (G), Body pains (BP),
Hypertension (HT) Abdominal pains (AP), Tremors of hands (TR),
Skin infections like scabies in nearly all cases (SK), Sleeplessness (SL),
Loss of appetite (LA), and Frequent ejaculations in the nights (FE). The
last, sometimes symptomatic of sexual torture, is something about
which prisoners are understandably reticent.
An observation made by some
of the prisoners held at Thallady,
is that some prisoners with known LTTE links were released on the
intervention of certain leading local figures. Those tortured most often
had nothing to confess. Some undercurrents involving intermediaries
who smuggle fuel bought from the forces to the North have been
touched in Report No.9.
Nearly all those who were
questioned have gone back to their
homes. To prevent identification, names and certain other details have
1....(2Os), Amparai District.
Arrested Bandarawela April 1991.
Was staying with uncle to study for A.Levels. First week in local police
station. Frequently assaulted with s-lon (plastic) pipes on head and
body and ears. Kept in a dark room. On first night was masturbated
repeatedly by six policemen until he lost consciousness. Then
transferred to Pallekele Detention Camp and Magazine Prison (MP)
Released September 1992.
Symptoms: LM,BP,BO,SL,LA,and FE. Very worried about capacity to
lead a normal married life.
Jaffna, unemployed. Living in Colombo.
Was picked up by the TELO in July 1991. Was held at the CID branch
Longden Place, Colombo -7 (near SLBC) for 15 days. Assaulted with
hands and chains.
Symptoms: Pain in Chest & legs, SL & NM.
3....(2Os), Mutur. Taken from the Mutur refugee camp in
November 199O with 1O others by the police. He had already spent 4
months in the refugee camp since the outbreak of war. Tortured daily
for 13 days. Assaulted with hands and batons. Forearm bones fractured.
Witnessed fellow prisoners taken away, who were then said to be
missing. Then taken to Trincomalee prison and held under custody of
Military Police, who were helpful in getting relatives to see prisoners.
Taken to Magazine Prison after 1 month. Treated well by prison guards
after first day's Varavetpadi'. Released after 22 months.
Symptoms: LM - Frightening since prisoner was a good student. SL,
NM, LA. Was treated for fracture at OPD, Colombo only after
admission to Magazine Prison.
Was in Batticaloa when war broke out in
June 199O. Was travelling to Colombo in a bus on 21st August 199O, as
part of an army escorted convoy of buses and other vehicles. The
convoy was stopped at Ottaimavadi and 29 males and 3 females were
picked off buses by home guards under the supervision of the army at
Valaichenai. Prisoners were at first assaulted with batons by home
guards. (This was done nine days after the massacre of Muslims at
Eravar by the LTTE). At the Valaichenai army camp they were placed in
sitting positions with hands and feet tied and were assaulted with
hands and wire. Three days later, prisoners were taken to the army
camp at Punani and were kept in six cells, each 8ft by 4ft, 6 or 7 persons
to a cell. There they were tortured almost without break for 14 days.
Each time the shift changed, torture commenced with new zeal. At
Punani, the prisoner witnessed about 6 others being beaten to death
and burnt with tyres soaked in diesel.
The prisoners were visited
at Punani by the ICRC. But those to
be killed were not shown. During these sessions, the prisoner was
deprived of his Seiko watch and Rs 3OOO in cash. He was then taken to
the 4th floor CID building. He was personally not tortured. But
witnessed 3 smaller boys being tortured. Was taken to Magazine Prison
after 6 weeks, where he was held until release in early 1992.
Symtoms: Depression, General weakness, Difficulty in reading, SL, HT,
The incident of the errests
above was reported in the `Virakesari'
and was raised with the late minister of defence by Tamil MPs, but to
5....(2Os), Batticaloa. Picked
up by the SL army at Mannampitiya
in July 1991 while travelling to Colombo. Hands tied. Placed on the
floor face up and was assaulted all over the body. Then turned face
down and beaten with S-lon pipes filled with cement. Then subject to
phalanga - beating on soles of feet. This went on for 2 weeks, 2 to 3
hours daily. Released after two weeks in custody.
Symptoms: General body pain, particularly in soles, AP, Burning pain
in stomach. Presently unemployed in Colombo.
6....(2Os) Arrested from
his home by the STF in a round up in
the Thirukovil-Akkaraipattu area with about 25 others in September
199O,(This was the time Special Report No.3 dealing with violations in
the same area was being compiled. Several incidents of this kind were
recorded). Tortured for 9 days, mainly by beating with hands (See Ch.
of Special Report No.3). Witnessed killing of fellow prisoners under
torture. Spent 1 year in Magazine Prison. (Was spared from
Varavetpadi because of chicken pox). Then 1 year at the Kalutura
detention centre before release.
Symptoms: LA,FE,BO,TR-usually associated with sexual torture, SK.
7....(2Os). Arrested by the
STF in the Amparai District in
December 1991 Held at the Kondavedduvan STF camp for 2 months.
Assaulted with batons and gun butts, sometimes hung by feet.
8....(2Os), Mainland. Arrested
in November 199O from the
Pesalai refugee camp with 16 others. Assaulted with gun butts on knees
and back while being taken in the bus. Helmet was placed on head and
then banged upon with gun butts. Of the 16 taken 1O prisoners said to
have been killed (See Report No.9).Witnessed one prisoner tortured
and killed in his presence. Kept in Thallady for 8 months. Tortured
while statement was being taken. Hung upside down, beating and
phalanga. Suffocated with plastic bag placed over head and held around
neck. Penis squeezed. Hands tied, pole passed through loop formed by
hands and body and raised. Pricked under nails with needles and burnt
with cigarette butts. Torture went on for 3 weeks, but much reduced
after first week. Sent to Magazine Prison and released in July 1992.
Symptoms: BP, particularly shoulder & soles, SL, LA, tearing from eyes.
9....(4Os), Fisherman from
Jaffna, traditionally fishing off Talai
Mannar, Took refuge in the Pesalai Refugee Camp during the military
operation to take Mannar Island. Taken by the army from refugee camp
in November 199O. Assaulted in refugee camp. Taken to Thallady and
held for 45 days. Hung by feet, beating & phalanga. Taken to Magazine
Prison in Colombo. Transferred to the Kalutara Centre in June 1991.
Released July 1992.
Symptoms: Poor vision, BP, Particularly in feet, SL, Depression.
1O....(3Os) Mannar. Taken
from Pesalai Refugee Camp with two
above in Novemebr 199O. 5 months in Thalladi. Assaulted with baton
on chest & body. Burnt with cigarette butts Pricked under nails with
needles. Suffocated by plastic bag containing petrol fumes enwrapping
head. Hung by toes. Hung and suddenly released to land head first.
Then 4 months in Magazine & 8 months in Kalutura prior to release.
Symptoms: TR,LA, SL, BO & Tearing from eyes.
11....(2Os), Chunnakam, Jaffna
District. Arrested by the navy at
sea off Mannar while going to India in January 1991. Assaulted with
hands by navy personnel. Then sent to the `maskade' at Thallady army
camp. Hung upside down and assaulted with baton on chest and body
for 3 days with no food. Sent to Mannar prison to share a small cell
with 7 others. Beaten, but not seriously. Sent to Magazine Prison in
June 1991. Transferred to the Kalutura centre in November 1991.
Released July 1992.
Symptoms: TR,SK, Tiredness and Hyperventilation (Perumoochchu)
12....(3Os), Mannar, Technical
person of supervisory rank by
profession. Arrested by the army in March 1991 and taken to Thallady
camp. Electrical torture used on hands, ear lobes and nipples. Assaulted
with bare hands & baton. On one occasion Major Salman, head of the
unit, took a personal hand by punching him on the chest. After 6
months at Thallady, sent to STF camp in Kadawatte for 3 months. No
torture there. Then Magazine & Kalutura prior to release.
Symptoms: SK,HT,Vision defective and arthritis on foot. (The last two
may be natural tendencies exacerbated by detention)
District, Employee of UNHCR.
Arrested in presence of UNHCR personnel. But he is unaware of action
taken on his behalf by the UNHCR, although something was
presumably done. Was tortured for 7 days. Was hung by his feet and
beaten with a gun butt on thighs, sole and head. Suffocated by inserting
head in shopping bag containing some petrol and tying around neck.
Repeated on another occasion with chili powder instead of petrol.
Suspended from legs, forepart of body lowered into a barrel of water
and pulled out as prisoner started to asphyxiate. Hands tied behind.
Pole inserted through hands, along body. Then suspended horizontally
and beaten as pole was rotated.On another occasion soldiers stood on
abdomen. Once the penis was placed on a table and was hammered
with a baton. Kept in Thallady for 8 months. When taken to Colombo,
Magazine Prison refused to accept him because of his condition. Then
kept by STF, Kadawatte, for 2 1/2 months, Magazine for 6 days and then
Kalutura until release.
Symptoms: SL,NM,LA,BP, Tiredness, Numbness, Giddiness.
Fisherman. Arrested Pesalai Refugee
Camp (UNHCR) May 1991 with 5 others. Hands were tied at the refugee
camp itself. Eyes blindfolded in the Pesalai army and taken to Thallady
the next day & kept there for 4 months.Assaulted with baton on back
and shoulder. Then Magazine 5 months and Kalutura until released in
Symptoms: SL,NM,SK,FE,BP, Numbness.
15....(3Os), Nilaveli. Trinco District. Arrested June 1991 Pesalai by
SLA while preparing to leave for India. 1 day in Pesalai. Hung by big
toes. Petrol poured into nostrils, head inserted in polythene bag and
tied around neck. Assaulted with batons. Lost one tooth. Taken to
Thallady and tortured for 7 days. Everyday hung by feet and given the
polythene bag treatment. Out of agony prisoner falsely admitted giving
15 packets of rice parcels to the LTTE. Immediately the torture was
stopped and a statement recorded. Then sent to Magazine Prison for a
year prior to release.
Symptoms: SK, Back ache, Head ache, Chest pain, Poor vision at night.
Fisherman, Indian national.
Arrested Talaimannar sea June 1991 by navy. Tortured at Talaimannar
navy camp, taken to Karainagar navy camp and back to Talaimannar.
Transferred to Thallady where the worst torture was endured. Beaten
daily, pricked with pin under nails and given shopping bag treatment.
Then Magazine, Kalutura and released July 1992.
Symptoms: Bad skin infestation, Multiple infected wounds, Diarrhoea
with blood and mucous, Deformity of left wrist, Chest pain and Pain in
Note: Though originally from the same community and fishing in the
straits of Paulk, the use of modern methods has caused a rift between
fishermen on both sides of the straits. Fishermen in Mannr Island
have been complaining that Indian fishermen intruded into their area,
taking their catch and sometimes breaking their nets with their boats.
The navy, though ready to show their power in the Jaffna lagoon, have
been chary about acting aginst Indian fishermen.
When General Kobbekaduwa
visited Mannar before his death in
l992, a complaint about Indian fishermen was made to him by
representatives of the fishing community at Pesali.The genral smiled
and replied,"The best we could do is to ask our foreign ministry to
complain to the Indian foreign ministry."
The treatment of this particular fishermen appears to reflect a
deep seated anti - Indian feeling in the forces.
17....(2Os), Mannar Town.
Arrested SLA July 1991. Taken to
Telecom Camp, Mannar Town and assaulted with a baton, breaking
part of a front tooth. When prisoner asked for water, a soldier undid
his trousers, urinated into a vessel, mixed it with cement, put the
broken front tooth into mixture & made prisoner swallow it. Taken to
Thallady next day. Both thumbs tied together, hung and beaten. Then
hung upside down, poured petrol into nostrils & eyes and given plastic
bag treatment. Tortured for 3 days. Produced before the ICRC in late
July 1991. Torture then greatly reduced. Then August Magazine,
February 1992 Kalutura and released July 1992.
Symptoms: TR,SK,Visual difficulties and Chest pain.
2.3 Prisoners & International Organisations
The two international organisations
with which the prisoners
above came into contact are the ICRC in most cases and the UNHCR in
several of the cases from Mannar District. We have in our reports
recorded the taking of prisoners from refugee camps in all districts of
the Eastern Province, a large number of whom were later not
accounted for. The same thing has happened in Pesalai, though on a
smaller scale, despite a UNHCR presence.
The ICRC has had varying
access to detention camps in areas of
the North-East with a Sri Lankan Forces' presence. As to whether all or
only selected prisoners were seen by the ICRC,the second has usually
been the case. We do not have adequate information on the pattern in
recent months. What is found in our reports represents the changing
pattern up to about a year ago (1991 end).
Earlier on, certainly, prisoners
to be eliminated were not shown
to the ICRC. In Mannar the ICRC in general had access to prisoners, not
upon arrest, but after the torture session was over. (See also Ch.4,
Report No 9). This role of the ICRC served a purpose besides adding
something to the safety of those already tortured. Those seen by the
ICRC could and have given information on others not seen. How
effectively such information is used depends much on the local ICRC
representatives. Some of the prisoners listed in our reports have the
impression that the ICRC was not aggressive enough. Of course, the
long term benefits to the prisoners from the ICRC presence depend on
its overall institutional character and how the Sri Lankan Forces as an
institution respond. This is too large an issue for our limited
experience. But in our experience there are notable local variations.
The ICRC in Batticaloa once
had a very conscientious lady. As
soon as an arrest was reported, she was known to go to the place
immediately and remonstrate with the person in charge until some
assurance was given. According to sources in Batticaloa, when the local
office had a new head, this lady was asked to go slow, to her annoyance.
This may be because of a different perception of what was best for the
THE LTTE AND THE EMERGING SOCIETY IN JAFFNA
The following story was related
to us by a young man who was
until recently a member of the LTTE and served in all capacities
including as a member of the intelligence unit. Apart from the earnest
indignation he feels for his past, his accounts appear to be truthful
are consistent with everything else he says, together with what we
have documented over the years.
Among those who had frequent
access to the LTTE leader are
members of the intelligence and finance units. Addressing a meeting
where members from both units were present, the leader told them in
words to the effect: "You are the most important section of this
movement. Those who are fighting will die some time. We need not
be too concerned about them. You are the ones that will be left to run
Tamil Eelam. Therefore it is among you that we want greater discipline
and loyalty." The leader then went on to give his vision of the state of
Tamil Eelam: "Eventually the whole movement must become an
intelligence unit. Indeed the whole nation will become an intelligence
This is not as fantastic
as it sounds. The leader has been
disarmingly frank on earlier occasions. Everything that has been said by
LTTE leaders and its actions over the years add up to this. Yogi said
more than five years ago that what was of importance was to safeguard
the soil (mun) of Tamil Eelam. To this end the loss of the
overwhelming majority of lives was to be of little account. Then there
was Mahattaya's attempts to organise the families of `martyrs' into a
network of informers over the national heroes week of 199O. [Report
No.6]. Further, financial operations, both locally and internationally
have been meticulously organised and run for years by close personal
associates of the leader and accountable only to him. Many of these
operations do not come into the main organisational structure - the
military one. The spartan restrictions which ordinary cadre are
supposed to observe, do not apply to these operators. Any vice is
overlooked provided they enjoy the leader's confidence in matters of
importance to him. Moreover nearly all of them are connected to the
leader by ties of kin or clan. Notable in this whole phenomenon is the
symbolic importance of land and gold as opposed to life and a
wholesome enjoyment of it.
What comes through is some
of the worst traditions and
methods of Jaffna society.
Again the insignificance
of the fighting cadre whose sacrifices
were regularly lauded from platforms for public consumption has been
known for a long time. Despite the titles, glories and adoration heaped
on them by the leader and the organisation, the cadre often came to
realise that they counted for little. Their minds and bodies were needed
only to destroy and kill. It was well known by 1987 that the Kittus, and
perhaps even the Mahattayas, had no real power in the organisation,
much as they could kill ordinary civilians with impunity. Real power,
apart from the leader, lay in the hands of selected individuals in the
five continents building up the LTTE's financial empire, besides their
3.2 Effects on the Organisation
As we had mentioned before
many mature cadre who sensed
their real position of powerlessness started leaving the organisation as
painful developments from the mid 8Os unfolded what the future
held. The emphasis on recruitment then shifted to children. The
organisation evolved to adapt itself playing on the sensibilites and fears
of the young. There was no longer any need for theoreticians to
package the LTTE's programme in the language and jargon of
liberation movements. The political wing all but vanished. With the
ensuing disruption to education, the middle classes and those with
contacts outside responded by increasingly sending their children away.
The result was that new recruits were both very young and from the
poorer sections. Thus the composition of cadre from Jaffna shifted
sharply towards the oppressed castes.
The importance given to the
use of terror and the intelligence
unit had its own momentum. In jockeying for influence, every section
of an institution has a natural tendency to multiply its scale of
operations and demonstrate such a necessity. Nothing serves this
purpose so much as a massive operation involving the holding of
prisoners. Mere killing is too ephemeral and simplistic an activity.
Nothing strikes terror so much as torture chambers and long time
inhuman confinement. It is not for nothing that the Gestapo and KGB
embarked on massive prisoner operations costly as they were, and so
with the LTTE. This has also given the LTTE a capacity for massive
civil engineering enterprises using labour intensive technology.
3.3.Influence on Caste
We have pointed to the numerical
shift towards oppressed castes
among the fighting cadre. The instrumental importance attached to
such persons may in certain areas give the impression that caste as an
institution is being challenged. But this is deceptive as the foregoing
The story of Senkathir gives
an illustration of how caste
operates. When the old Left groups raised the caste issue, they worked
among ordinary oppressed caste peasants, raised their level of intellect
and discipline, and made of them responsible persons compelling
respect. This is very different from taking a person, whether low caste
or high caste, and using his worst instincts. Senkathir was a person so
used of low caste origin from the Karaveddy area. Though an unruly
person, he being Mahattayas's protege, wielded considerable influence.
It was widely believed in Karaveddy, that one of Senkathir's briefs was
to watch over, and report on the local leader Gamini. Gamini was of
high caste from the same area. Gamini was later transferred and lost a
leg in a futile attempt on Jaffna Fort in July/August 199O. The local
people viewed both Gamini and Senkathir through the spectacles of
caste. While Senkathir's star was ascendent, it appeared to give the low
castes the edge in local influence. The high castes viewed Senkathir
with a detestation not improved by his reported obsession with high
caste mistresses. During the Autumn of 199O Mahattaya's men were
removed from key positions. About this time Senkathir went missing,
reported by the LTTE as killed in action in the Wanni jungles. The
story was not believed by his community which became bitter and
suspicious. This individual instance tells us one thing. An
organisation which debases humanity and views people as mere
instruments, can have no lasting reforming impact on society.
3.4 Impact on the Middle Class
A dominant characteristic
of this class is a materialistic value
system overlaid by the presumptions of Tamil nationalism. One could
be surprised by the lack of anger or indignation one finds among
uncles, aunts and cousins of someone very unjustly killed by the LTTE,
as opposed to the Sri Lankan forces. The LTTE wearing the mantle of
Tamil nationalism has used it to deflect accountability. We recently
had an instance of how nationalism is used as an opium to deflect real
issues. A deservedly well respected TULF MP of the Batticaloa District
was speaking at a school function. He expressed his joy at the song
about the ancient Tamil King Cheran Senguttuvan who reportedly
ruled the Himalayas. Then he said how proud he was about the Tamil
youth taking up arms to fight for the people's rights - a remarkable
speech that could have been transposed from a TULF platform to an
LTTE platform and vice versa. The real problem and an urgent one is
systematically skipped. This was that the boys supposedly fighting for
rights were massacring Muslims turning the East into a powder keg.
Terror and the allure of
nationalism have imposed on the
people the habit of silence. Wherever Sri Lankan forces are in control,
people are subject to a good deal of unpredictability and humiliation.
But in Jaffna people have come to believe that by not questioning the
politics or raising questions about political prisoners and the arming of
children, life becomes relatively predictable. The ugly things are kept
out of sight and people can move about safely in the nights.
Conditioning their minds to use this atomised existence as a starting
point, they try to work out the means to send their children out. In the
short term this works well for the LTTE.
3.5.The Role of Institutions
The only institutions in
Jaffna with fairly large bases are the
university and the churches. One would have normally expected from
these institutions some resistance to the unhealthy and dangerous
developments. If it is felt that in the interests of the future, these
institutions must be kept alive through a phase of terror, they could
least avoid lending legitimacy to these developments. We have dealt
with the University of Jaffna in earlier reports. We have also noted in
earlier reports how several members of the elite perform services
glorifying this brutal political phenomenon. Such legitimisation is in
turn used to entice more children to carry arms. These elites and their
children are in turn exempt from the rigours to which other hapless
people are subject.
We shall now take some instances
of how some churches and
church men have become catalysts in this downward spiral.
To start with, few churches
as institutions in the recent past were
seen to be excelling in character and improving the tone of life in
Jaffna. Then by identifying with the nationalist cause and by their
ability to articulate the cause abroad, their authority increased
tremendously. Further, the churches became recipients of large funds
Then came the July 1983 anti-Tamil
violence. The response of
the churches in the South was seen as either communal, inadequate or
nominal by their partners abroad. Over the years a strong feeling of
guilt overlaid key sections of the Southern church to a point where it
became fashionable to be uncritically `pro-Tamil' particularly with
statements made for largely foreign consumption.
In the meantime most Tamil
churchmen got into another
fashionable rut. Whenever they came down from Jaffna they rightly
talked about the sufferings of the people resulting from bombing,
shelling and other restrictions placed by the government. But as for
harsh restrictions placed by the LTTE, arming of children and political
prisoners, they are absolutely silent - few might whisper these to close
friends. In turn the more discerning and truly concerned Southern
churchmen are afraid to raise these unspoken issues for the fear of
being branded anti-Tamil. It appears to become disturbingly fashionable
among Southern churchmen not to want to grapple with details and
understand the Tamil question in depth. It is becoming all to easy to
blindly concur with colleagues from the North in matters such as what
is really going in Jaffna, who represents the Tamil people and what the
normal run of people really want. If for example those from the North
say `ceasefire', then all agree it shall be ceasefire with no clear idea of
what it demands from the church.Attempts by the church to represent
reality have conspicuously played down the issue of political prisoners
in the North and the Muslim question, thus displaying a dangerous
slant in legitimising something totally unchristian.
With the national church
so uncritical and having no definite
perspective the same attitude was passed onto important sections of the
World Council of Churches. To some individuals in the WCC it
became enough to be pro-Tamil, which meant to back the LTTE as the
sole legitimate representatives of the Tamil people. The game for them
was to humour some Tamil prelates rather than understand the
problem. Those who did understand found it diplomatic not to go too
far with their reservations. Ultimately it is the interests of the Tamils
that suffered through legitimising unhealthy impositions.
Let us take how this worked
in a particular instance. In addition
to being bombed and shelled, Tamils travelling between Colombo and
Jaffna have to undertake an unwanted and risky journey by sea
bypassing Elephant Pass. Apart from rough sea, they need to risk being
attacked by the forces. The army has ordered civilians not to take that
route and to use Elephant Pass instead. But the LTTE has forbidden the
use of Elephant Pass and forces people to use the sea route. Both sides
have given military reasons for their positions. The LTTE claims that if
civilians use Elephant Pass, the army could use it as an advance route.
The army claims that if civilians use the sea route, the LTTE would use
civilian cover to transport men and munitions. We will not examine
the virtues of the military claims.
Where the people are concerned
they are clear that travelling by
sea is a needless imposition and that once the route through Elephant
Pass is open, even the food supply to Jaffna will be eased. They feel
helpless and want someone to represent their interests. The churches
are best placed to do this. Criticising the forces for attacking helpless
civilians travelling by sea with a view to preventing it is legitimate.
But doing only that is questionable. What is also involved is the
perception that it is less risky to travel by sea against the army's wishes
than to travel through Elephant Pass against the LTTE's wishes. By the
churches and other organaizations mounting a campaign exclusively
against the army while not challenging the LTTE, they were not
representing the people's interests. This was another aspect of a society
where institutions which are meant to be closest to the people are being
mobilised to their discomfiture.
How some church leaders more
or less willingly got into this
position is another story. Strangely, of all organisations, it was left to
the BBC correspondent to take on the LTTE concerning the safety of
travellers. If this is how the churches have handled a more or less
straight- forward issue which still lies unresolved, how will they
handle the complex questions of a sustained ceasefire?
THE JAFFNA GULAG
4.O An overview
Since our Report No 9 was
issued in February 1992, a wealth of
information has emerged about detainees held by the LTTE. The
information published hitherto has been summarised in Briefing No.1
In what follows we summarise a heap of information to aid those
actively concerned. We point out certain patterns without giving these
the status of conclusions. The latter will have to await more complete
information. The patterns should aid understanding as well as to direct
action. Our informants who are former members of the LTTE and
former prisoners have left the North-East.
In Briefing No.1 we stated
that the estimates of the total number
of prisoners as varying around 4OOO. The number in the Thunukkai
complex was estimated at 3OOO and a thousand elsewhere. Thunukkai
is now believed to be closed and the inmates have been distributed to
several camps. Prison camps, either exclusive or part of LTTE camps,
are known to exist or to have existed in Kachchai, Koilakandy (on
Thachchanthoppu - Sungupiddy Road), Urelu (in a commercial Farm),
Kopay (Heroes Hall, next to the women's camp), Kondavil,
Chundikuli, Ariyalai (Maniam Thottam) and more than 1O around
Chavakacheri. This list is far from being exhaustive. Villagers in a part
of Karaveddy, near Nelliady, know that the local LTTE camp keeps
prisoners in underground bunkers. The local wisdom is `Do not talk
about them unless you want to join them'. Among these camps, some
have as few as 3O detainees. The one at Koilakandy had several
hundred. Figures given to us vary from 15O to over 5OO. The number
killed following aerial bombing in Kachchai is put at more than 5O.
The ones in Thenmaratchi, sited in sparsely populated coconut estates
facilitate holding larger numbers. Though the treatment in most of
them is uniformly inhuman, the security in the smaller camps is not
as elaborate as in the Thunukkai complex. An old man succeeded in
escaping twice from the Urelu camp.
There are indications that
some of the larger prison camps
where the treatment is more sadistic are still sited in the jungles
between Mullaitivu and Mankulam. According to one prisoner who
was transferred from `Malli' camp in the jungle near Mankulam on
the Mullaitivu Road,the prisoners were kept in several bunkers - 2O to
3O in one bunker-smaller than the Thunukkai ones. There are no
reports of escape. The details again give substance to the estimate of the
total number of prisoners being about 4OOO.
As remarkable as this may
be, it has aroused comparatively little
indignation either locally or internationally. The local reasons are
more involved and were discussed in the previous chapter. The
international reasons are simpler. Interest in Sri Lanka in the
international media has sharply declined.
In circles that have an economic
interest in Sri Lanka, the
North-East has been written off-at least this is what senior government
officials seem to believe. Equally, there is no vested interest in exposing
the scandal of prisoners in comparison with cases where big power
interests are involved. Individual journalists visiting Jaffna who
casually pursued the matter of prisoners, understandably did not get
far. Some leading news organisations appear to believe that if their
correspondents cannot lay their hands on this phenomenon, it cannot
exist. Again attempts to expose this can deprive newsmen of highly
newsworthy access to the Tigers - almost handed out on a platter. All in
all the work of concealment for the Tigers has been made
comparatively easy and the small efforts at exposure all the more
difficult and hazardous.
We shall now go into aspects
that will clarify and add to earlier
4.1 What motivates the Tigers to hold so many prisoners?
Going through all accounts,
one sees no trace of compassion for
prisoners. If some camp warden evinces the slightest weakness of that
kind, he or she will be quickly removed. This poses the question, why
keep prisoners alive considering that the Sri Lankan forces had no
difficulty in killing off thousands of prisoners taken? The answers need
to be partial and have been touched upon in Briefing No.1. We are
here talking about some prominent tendencies - the LTTE does conduct
massacres and the Sri Lankan Forces do keep prisoners.
The Sri Lankan state was
conceived as a liberal - democratic
institution. The pillars of such an institution are a system of laws and
agencies for enforcement which derive legitimacy by acting according
to a given set of rules. Two decades of repressive legislation have
introduced parallel systems of law, or in short, lawlessness. This in
turn has led the armed forces to act in such a manner as to lose that
sense of legitimacy, leading to demoralisation and a loss of direction.
Thus killing becomes a thoughtless act of unrestrained human passion,
akin to banditry. There is little conception of acting in the name of an
institution. Also,there is room for individual officers and soldiers
show compassion and not be persecuted for it.
The Tigers in conception
were a very different kind of
organisation. The description of the prison camp in Thunukkai
(Report 9 & Briefing No.1), the whole pattern of camps and the
meticulous administration of the system give the appearance of being
consciously drawn from films and books about the Nazi and Stalinist
prison complexes. If we look at the phenomenon taking into account
these historical precedents, a consciousness of power requires objects
over whom power is exercised. An exulting feeling of absolute power
requires servile objects whose humanity is totally debased.
4.2 The Wardens of the Gulag
Through a process of selection
and elimination, the persons
running the show have the distinctions of cruelty and blind obedience
to the leadership. Beyond this their private foibles are of little concern
to the organisation. Working with the wardens in some camps are
members of the intelligence unit, whose task is to extract information.
Kanthi known as the butcher
was earlier at the torture chamber
at Thunukkai. Mampalam (38) of Myliddy was taken there accused of
being an IPKF informer. Of the ten being tortured `Katkandu' of Palaly
was asked by Kanthi if he recognised any of the others. He pointed at
Mamapalam and another from Palaly. Kanthi aimed a blow at
Mampalam with a pole. Out of excruciating pain Mampalam screamed
some swear words. The other Tigers standing around proceeded to beat
Mampalam to death with wooden and metal rods.
Following the closure of
Thunukkai after the outbreak of war,
Kanthi was moved eventually to the centre at Koilakandy. This camp
was the successor to the one at Kachchai bombed in August 199O.
During torture a detainee had fainted. Kanthi left him, went to do
something else and returned. Seeing that the victim of torture had
been given medical attention, Kanthi went into a rage. Screaming, he
ripped the bandages with a knife. He then grabbed the handle of a pick
axe and beat the victim to death.
Nirmalan was in charge of
the camp at Koilakandy and had
imbibed a taste of good life earlier. According to the local grapevine
Nirmalan had been in a number of foreign countries including
Singapore and others in Europe, dealing in a number of LTTE
operations involving the handling of money. It is also believed that his
new job was a sinecure following deportation to Sri Lanka over an
offence abroad. Using prison labour and materials obtained by stripping
public assets such as railways and government departments, he
proceeded to build for himself a luxury apartment. He surrounded
himself with stolen domestic and exotic animals and used Kannan, a
sculptor and detainee to embellish is apartment.
Things went smoothly until
Nirmalan quarrelled with Kanthi, a
man from the intelligence unit. Nirmalan was transferred. Kanthi set
free the love birds and doves and over a period consumed the pigs and
peacocks. The horse, he retained for his use. Nirmalan's castle was
demolished by the same detainees who built it and the materials were
sent for building bunkers. This much changed, but not the cruelty.
During September 1991 Nirmalan
and his sidekick Kerdi beat to
death in front of other prisoners a mechanic, Sivalingarajah, from
Chunnakam. Sivalingarajah had earlier repaired vehicles for the
EPRLF as he later did for the LTTE.
Pottu Amman is the top man
in the intelligence unit. During
May 1991, a detainee named Sri, a former PLOTE member, escaped
from detention with his legs chained. The leaders of the camp were
promptly punished by the LTTE high command. Pottu Amman then
took a hand. Sri's father, two sisters and a cousin were brought to the
camp and were tortured in separate rooms. Then Pottu Amman asked
the father to look at the daughters. Crawling to their rooms the father
saw the two daughters semi-conscious in pools of blood. Pottu Amman
subject the daughters to further cruel beating in the father's presence.
To prevent further harm to his daughters, he proceeded to name the
places where Sri may be hidden. Sri was re-arrested the next day. At the
time of receipt of this information, the family had not been released.
In connection with Sri's
escape, a 6O year old a printer, and
proprietor of `Dhurka Brothers' of Uduvil was taken to Kachchai,
accused of helping Sri. Here he was tortured by Kanthi (later at
Koilakandy as mentioned) and then sent to Urelu for confinement.
Being unable to walk, he was dragged into the camp by LTTE cadre. He
passed away at 7.OO p.m. The other detainees were asked to stitch his
body in a sack. A pick up took away the body in the night. His family
was informed of his death six months later.
Among Pottu Amman's qualifications
for the job is his blind
adulation of the leader. During 1984, in India, about the time an oath of
personal loyalty to the leader was introduced, some cadre put some
questions about the leader's conduct and about the claims of his
position. Pottu Amman, it is said, stuttered and went speechless with
Another significant incident
involving Pottu Amman is the
murder of Ruban. Ruban had left the LTTE in 1984 and was doing work
among refugees in Vetharanyam. While walking on the street Pottu
Amman was seen catching hold of Ruban and assaulting him. He was
then taken away by Pottu Amman's gang. The matter was reported by
Ruban's friends to the Indian Police and no action was taken. Nothing
further being heard, Ruban was presumed killed.
Today Pottu Amman's crew
are being blamed by the Indian
Police of having killed Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, to the
accompaniment of crocodile tears about gun culture.
A number of sources, including
press reports, have indicated
that Pottu Amman was the intended victim of a bomb thrown near
Kopay. There are rumours that he was injured, but no official
comment from the LTTE.
Ambrose was in charge of
a small camp and faced punishment
for the escape of a prisoner. By day, he had to be in a labour camp with
other prisoners making brooms. By night he had to trudge looking for
Kamal, high caste, from Puttur
was in charge of the camp at
Urelu, when a prisoner William Kandasamy (6O) was sent there.
William of oppressed caste, also from Puttur, was sent to the Urelu
camp, accused of being a womaniser. Two women with whom he had
alleged links, it is said, were publicly executed accused of being EPRLF
members, and an example of EPRLF un-Tamil decadence. Kamal, as
the prisoners well knew, and as also the organisation had inquired
into, was not innocent of what William had been charged with.
William had in his younger days been an activist against caste
oppression. William's treatment was extra-ordinarily harsh. William
escaped, through his wife contacted Nirmalan at the Koilakandy camp
and surrendered there. Kamal complained to Pottu Amman, and
William was restored to Urelu. William escaped the second time', hid
in the house of a Roman Catholic priest and contacted an international
organisation. Under the observation of this organisation and some
senior clergy, William surrendered to Valmi and Bosco of the
intelligence unit at the Anaikkottai camp. William was released 15
Several senior persons in
the intelligence unit are said to have
left the LTTE over differences with Pottu Amman. Among those who
left are Daniel and Dinesh who were at Thunukkai and Ravi who was
at Chavacachcheri. Salim a senior man referred to in earlier reports in
charge of issuing travel permits, was later transferred to look after the
welfare of wounded cadre.
Kerdi and two others were in charge of a group known in Tiger circles
as the `Special Task Force'. They took charge of legalised robbery.
Detainees were used to load the loot into vehicles and then unload
Among the wardens a common means of letting loose their
frustrations and humiliating detainees is to dwell insultingly on
questions of marital intimacy, as would be the case among regular
4.3 Merchants in Prison
As said earlier, the elite sections of the LTTE are those dealing with
finance and intelligence, and not the fighting sections glorified for
popular consumption. This comes from the highest authority within
the organisation. These sections are led by persons, now middle aged
like the leader, and close to him through clan and kinship. Those
dealing in finance work closely with selected merchants, can grant
them special favours and enjoy considerable freedom in managing
their private interests. This has enabled the LTTE to monitor, control
and exact payments from the entire merchant class. The merchants in
turn smuggle in rare materials, such as fuel, using their contacts.
When there is a smooth working relationship with the LTTE, life can
be mutually profitable. But yet curious circumstances have landed
many of them in prison. Several cases of merchants held are
straightforward. They are or were held pending payment of ransom,
often beyond their means.
During the IPKF presence
many merchants were placed in an
unenviable position. Before the IPKF arrived, they already had a
working relationship with the LTTE. Later they tried to do a balancing
act between the LTTE and the pro-Indian groups. But the LTTE
received an overwhelmingly high proportion of their payments.
Several of those in prison are said to have been `fervently' pro-LTTE,
as much as the word could apply to a businessman.
As the IPKF withdrew members
of pro-Indian groups left some
of their arms with traders for safe keeping, not suspecting that these
traders also dealt with the LTTE or were too scared to keep the arms. As
the LTTE took over, these traders handed over these arms to the LTTE.
Some however retained some revolvers and such like. This they did
not to challenge the LTTE. But as shrewd businessmen they suspected
that the present order of controlled robbery was not permanent, but
may any time dissolve into anarchy. Then they would have to protect
themselves. One of them was Sri, of Valambikai Stores, Stanley Road,
Jaffna, who kept back two pistols. The Tigers came to know of this
through Anastine, a boat owner and contact of Sri, detained in
connection with unauthorised smuggling. Sri was detained and
released after paying a fine of Rs 1 1/2 lakhs. A similar fate overtook
the proprietor of Every Day Stores, Palaly. Whether he was released is
Ranganathan was the owner of Murugan hardware Stores near the
Chavacacheri Police Station, destroyed in the TELO attack of 1984.
Though an LTTE sympathiser, he had retained a revolver recovered
from the ruins of the police station. Kannan, a former member of the
LTTE and recently appointed by the LTTE to the local vigilance
committee, led a gang of robbers. In robbing Ranganathan's house, his
revolver had also been taken. Later apprehended by the LTTE, Kannan
told everything. Ranganathan was arrested and sent to Urelu. Kannan
and co were put to sleep.
Marimuthtu Satkunam had a small shop in Palaly and was arrested on
the charge that he had sold the EPRLF paper `Viduthalai' during the
IPKF presence. Several months later, on 1Oth June 199O, he was
released and ordered to leave the Tamil region within a month. This
he was unable to do owing to the outbreak of war. He was re-arrested
on 18th August 199O.
Gunaratnam, a wholesale rice merchant in Jaffna was arrested on the
charge that he had used another militant group to get rid of an
inconvenient person. He was released after buying a Pajero Jeep for the
LTTE. This happened before the war.
Perhaps the most revealing of cases that have come our way is that of
Suthanantham, owner of SPS traders, Jaffna. Though close to the
Tigers, Suthanantham also did a balancing act. He also it appears,
maintained friendly contacts with a Tamil politician based in Colombo.
Suthanantham was also very close to Kutti, who was the LTTE leader's
hand-picked man in charge of supplies. Kutti boasted that it was he
who kept the LTTE leader on, a full stomach. He stopped lorries
carrying goods from Colombo to Jaffna in the Vanni jungles and took
what he wanted. This was during the IPKF presence. Whatever he
wanted, whether food or fuel, Suthanantham brought it for him. In
turn it was spoken in Jaffna that anyone wanting goods transported
safely without having them robbed on the way would do well to use
On one occasion Kanthi and Shoot of the LTTE's intelligence unit
asked Suthanantham to give them some fuel for their own use.
Suthanantham told them that all that he gives, he gives Kutti and that
they should ask him. Owing to his rapport with Kutti, the matter
ended there for the time being.
Kanthi and Shoot had their chance much later. The editor of
"Puththolir" was kept under surveillance. On searching his house they
found a letter from the Tamil politician in Colombo, suggesting that
any sensitive letters could be sent through SPS. Kanthi and Shoot took
in the SPS proprietor Suthanantham. After being tortured and
reminded of his earlier refusal to give them fuel, he was told that his
release was conditional upon the payment of Rs 5O lakhs. As his wife
was delivering a child, a fellow businessman had him released for 48
hours on a personal guarantee. 4 months later he was released upon
the payment of Rs. 25 lakhs.
4.4 Other Detainees
Thangarajah, director of Education, Jaffna & the Editor of Puththolir
were old friends of a politician in Colombo. The editor, a school
principal in addition, was an active member of several LTTE bodies.
But he was under surveillance because his friendship had come to the
notice of the LTTE. His wife while accompanied to Colombo by a tea
shop owner, Maniam, was searched by Theepan at Thandikulam, and a
letter to the politician was found in her possession. The editor's house
was then searched and a letter from the politician was found in which
there was a reference to `Thanga' besides the SPS (see above). All
concerned were detained, although there was nothing remotely
subversive in the relationships. Maniam was tortured and released 5
months later. There was no definite information about the others at
the time of receipt of information.
Thiruchelvam of Navaly, whose brother-in-law was in the EPRLF sold
fish to the local EPRLF camp during the IPKF presence. He was later
detained by the LTTE and subsequently released. He was re-arrested at
the instigation of a local LTTE supporter. This time he was beaten to
death by Kanthi and his fellow minions.
Parimalamuhan (6O), a toddy tapper, was a member of a Coconut
Palmyrah Products Sales Co-operative in Vadamaratchi. He had a
dispute with the administration which he accused of corruption. In the
sequel he was arrested as an EPRLF sympathiser.
Karunaikadatcharaguru alias Kili (55) of Myliddy was a strong
sympathiser of the EROS who supported the LTTE during the IPKF
presence. He was called to the local EPRLF camp, warned and let off. He
later worked at the EPRLF's Palaly office. He was later arrested by the
LTTE as a traitor for not giving them information after it assumed
control in Jaffna.
Katkandu from Palaly was detained as an EPRLF sympathiser by the
LTTE as the IPKF withdrew. The LTTE tortured him on the
assumption that he knew the locations where weapons were hidden
and under torture Katkandu admitted wrongly that he knew where
arms were buried. Following a futile search the Tigers subject him to
severe assault. Katkandu was later seen in prison with one of his legs
where the flesh shrunken and was rendered unusable.
Muhundan, a young graduate of the University of Peradeniya and a
EPRLF member, was co-ordinating officer for the North during the
short-lived provincial administration. He was later arrested and
tortured very badly. He was kept in Thunukai camp and from the
earlier accounts of the escapees he was assumed dead. But according to
recent information he is alive and although not subject to routine
physical torture, he is treated humiliatingly. Sometimes they would
give him pen and paper and ask him to write about the strategy of the
EPRLF. His writings would then be taken away and studied. Some
senior Tigers would then come and argue with him. Muhundan
would logically argue for the EPRLF position. When unable to answer
him, the LTTE leaders would strike him. After they leave, Muhundan
may be subject to a torture session.
He has been told that his
fiancee, also a graduate of the same
university, was a detainee in the women's camp. But in truth she now
lives in Colombo.
Arulappu Judaharan (23) was a member of the EPRLF. In March 199O
he was arrested in the sea off Falaly while attempting to flee to India.
His father, with 9 children, lost the use of his hands after being hit by a
Sri Lankan army shell and is without an income. But unknown to his
family Judaharan, with his head shaven and eyelashes pulled out has
been languishing in prison for 2 1/2 years.
Alexander Benedict (35) and Karuppiah (29), both from Palaly and
Sivarajah from Myliddy were among the several boatmen detained by
the LTTE on suspicion of having aided EPRLF cadre to escape to India
in early 199O.
Jesudason alias Soori alias Gunalan of Gurunagar Jaffna left the EPRLF
in 1988 and lived in Colombo. He returned to Jaffna after the LTTE
assumed control, was arrested, tortured and released a year later. He
was re-arrested following a lady of Ariyalai close to the Tigers,
complaining that Jesudason had attempted to shoot her son in the
Ariyalai sports grounds in 1988. This time Kanthi plucked out his
finger nails. But the three sons of the lady of Ariyalai are living in
Mudiappu Selvarajah of Oorani, KKS, Registrar of Marriages, was
arrested on the charge of registering marriages of EPRLF cadre at their
camps. He has been tortured. A further charge is that he was friendly
with Venugopal, an Indian intelligence officer.
4.5 Dangers faced by detainees - further information
See Briefing No.1 for information published earlier
The main camp of the Tigers sited in Kondavil was targeted by airforce
bombers and missed. Expecting another attempt, The Tigers shifted
their main camp and transferred several of their detainees to the
vacated premises. When the place was successfully bombed on the
second attempt, those killed were all prisoners hoplessly shut up
inside. Thus the Tigers let the government kill several birds with one
stone, giving them selves also pictures for propaganda.
We give here a slight variation of the account of an incident given
Report No. 6 and Briefing No. 1 Although the source this time is
different, the facts are substantially the same.
The LTTE prison camp at Kachchai was bombed by the airforce in
August 199O. One bomb hit a bunker where prisoners were kept. The
camp leader Kanthi came out from his hiding place once the bombers
left, sprayed the inside of the damaged bunker with his sub machine
gun. The bunker was then covered up. The camp was then moved to
4.6 Detainees and the ICRC
The occasional positive role played by the ICRC in individual cases is
exceptional and depended on several unusual circumstances. There is
as said earlier, no access to prisoners. Relatives of detainees through
invisible forces at work have been conditioned to believe that should
they complain to the ICRC, their loved one will be reported dead. The
LTTE tries to handle the problem through a mixture of terror and false
hopes. A few months ago the LTTE controlled newspapers announced:
"Ten traitors freed," in an attempt to deflect attention from a very large
About mid - 1992, a rumour took root among relatives of detainees that
they were being asked to report the detentions to the ICRC. Hundreds,
some say up to two thousand, marched towards the ICRC office in
Jaffna. Close to the office, they were intercepted by some persons who
directed them to complain to the National Red Cross, Jaffna Branch, so
that their complaints would be forwarded to the ICRC. Since nothing
came out of it, it is assumed that the complaints did not go beyond the
The local Red Cross had some persons who are well-motivated. But
even during the IPKF presence it was infiltrated by LTTE agents and the
IPKF had even complained about it. Some idea of how the Red Cross
functions now is evident from a recent occurrence. Those in the LTTE
believed to be Mahattaya's men as opposed to Prabakaran's, were
weeded out from all influential positions. About this time the entire
board of the Red Cross was changed. For the relatives of detainees, the
ICRC flag flies as a symbol of unrealisable hope.
4.7 Malli Camp
A prisoner, among a group
of 3O, was taken to Malli camp by
mistake and was returned after a day. The access to the camp is on foot
through dense jungle, after going towards Mullaitivu by road from
Mankulam. The prisoners were walked with their legs chained. The
prisoner conveyed there by mistake was left outside, while the others
were taken into bunkers containing each about 2O to 3O. Not only do
the sun's rays hardly penetrate the dense foliage, but the prisoners are
kept covered in even darker bunkers with their legs chained. They are
brought out only for meals. These prisoners are said to be condemned
with no hope of release. No one, it is believed, escaped.
On this day one prisoner
was having diarrhoea. The others
unable to bear the smell, screamed. The warden paid no attention.
When brought out for a meal, he ordered all prisoners in that bunker
to dip their forefinger in the excreta. They were then ordered to eat
with the remaining fingers in their right hand. They were then locked
up in the bunker without being allowed to wash their hand.
4.8 Prisoners and Caste
By all accounts reaching
us, a very high proportion of the LTTE's
prisoners come from the oppressed castes. Some estimate this at 9O%.
This does not mean that the LTTE has strong ideas about caste either
way. An examination of this phenomenon supports our contention
that the LTTE is not a liberation group with any notion of reforming
Jaffna society. Its clear aim is a drive for power. To this end it will not
waste time reforming society. It would rather use and manipulate
Jaffna society as it finds it.
How this society works is
illustrated by the following incident.
Although the external circumstances may be rare, the internal working
is typical. During the time of the EPRLF - led provincial
administration, it set up vigilance committees in the Palaly and
Myliddy areas, comprising young and elderly persons who
understandably had little choice. When the LTTE took over in early
199O all these persons were detained. Later, the high castes were mostly
released. Those sent for torture and imprisonment were mainly the
low caste persons. Among the latter are: Sivapragasam (Valalai
Vigilance Committee) and Poologasingham & Konjukkili, both from
the Palaly Vigilance Committee.
In the case of the high castes,
some friend or relative close to the
LTTE would have approached the leadership and have convinced
them that these persons if released could perform some useful services.
This would very rarely be the case with the low castes. Further light is
thrown on this if we look at how the LTTE, which owes much of its
character to the untypical enclave of Valvettithurai, has grafted itself
onto the main body of Jaffna society through a developing symbiosis.
As a result the institution of caste, under challenge over the two
decades leading up to 1985, has since been strengthened all but in
name. This was looked at more closely in the previous chapter.
If one looks at the prisoners
mentioned in our reports, which
may not be far from a random sample, the figure of 9O% of the
prisoners being low caste would not appear to be far off the mark,
although about 7O% of Jaffna is high caste. (It was much lower a
hundred years ago. Educational advancement can sometimes work
wonders with caste). Curiously, the same also holds for the rank and
file cadre, fighting, dying and torturing for their leaders.
Many of our cases also show
the brutal treatment accorded to
prisoners from the low castes even when they are rather old. No
restraint operates in the case of such prisoners. The image of
`reasonableness' is important for the LTTE in its dealings with
dominant sections of Jaffna society. The notion of a low caste person
striking a high caste is anathema.
A case reported to us by
a person who recently left the LTTE
concerns low caste farmer from Karaveddy, Vadamaratchi. The LTTE
was given information that he had supplied food to the EPRLF during
the time of the provincial administration. Our interlocutor was in the
party that went to question him. The farmer was in the field. Speaking
to his wife and children, our interlocutor received the strong
impression that the farmer may have supplied food on about one
occasion, almost under duress. The farmer on returning was taken
away. Under torture he made fantastic admissions. Our interlocutor
later asked him why he gave such a different story to the one given
earlier. The farmer replied that he could not take the torture. Shortly
afterwards the farmer was beaten to death.
It is very untypical for
a high caste to be so treated for a routine
offence. Also, with a useful Valvettithurai connection, much can be
forgiven, as has happened in practice.
Another important reason
for the predominance of low castes
among prisoners is closely tied up with the history of the liberation
struggle. From the mid 6Os the low castes were politicised en masse by
Left organisations and were mobilised against the practice of
untouchability. The high castes largely swallowed Tamil nationalist
slogans uncritically and were relatively un politicised. Groups like the
EPRLF which professed Marxist leanings and universal revolution, in
the early stages appealed to sections which were politicised. Even after
it became militarised to compete with the LTTE, the EPRLF recruited
heavily in these areas. Being poorer, these recruits lacked the ability to
flee as their organisation collapsed in the wake of an LTTE takeover.
The group PLOTE had a base
in high caste areas of Jaffna. By
comparison its cadre had the ability to go abroad and their families
were not as threatened by staying at home.
Because of this history,
although the LTTE has of late
successfully recruited heavily in low caste areas, as an institution it
retains a paranoia and a secret fear of areas where Left politics once had
a base. Consequently arrests in areas like Vathiri in Karaveddy have
had the character of mass arrests [Report No.6]. But arrests of members
of the higher starta of society have been mostly individual arrests. Our
next case illustrates the dilemma facing families that were once part of
the Left struggle.
4.9. The Deserting Recruit
In the following story, the names and incidental
details have been
changed. Nathan was a typical man of his village. In his younger days
he had been active in a Left party, which besides mobilising people
against caste oppression had given them considerable knowledge and
analysis of liberation struggles around the world. His intellect had been
sharpened by the experience of his own social condition. Some success
was achieved. As the years went by the party declined. Nathan too
married, retained his sympathies and his judgement, but as children
came along he busied himself raising his family as a farmer.
Then militant groups came
along. Some he more or less agreed
with. Others he regarded with horror. In time nearly all of them
accepted Indian overlordship and became military institutions. None
had a serious programme for the participation of the people. Nathan
had a contempt for speech - making. He thus kept a distance from all
the groups. As things developed, he saw in the actions of the LTTE
everything he had learnt to dread. He knew about Hitler and Stalin and
felt in his bones what was going on.
The war of June 199O had
begun and Nathan began to worry
about his son Ravi. Ravi was backward in his O.Level class. Everything
was controlled by the powers that be. For the young there was total
emptiness except what the powers offer. All that Ravi saw of the world
was what was directed at him through loud speakers and young
uniformed boys with automatics running around in vehicles. Ravi
grasped at the only visible thing which offered meaning to his dreary
existence. Nathan's worst fears came true. Ravi left home and joined
In his utter despair Nathan
found something akin to insanity
creeping over him. He sent his wife Kamala to the LTTE camp to bring
back Ravi. Kamala was turned away by the LTTE. Kamala told the LTTE
leaders that she would fast in front of the camp until Ravi was restored
to her. She built herself a shelter in front of the camp and sat down to
fast. Some LTTE cadre came out and demolished the shelter. Kamala
continued to sit in the open. Eventually Kamala was sent away.
Ravi was recruited into the
intelligence unit. After 3 weeks of
training Ravi was sent home for two days. On the pretence of attending
the some business, Nathan took Ravi to the home of Murugan is a
distant village. Nathan then told Ravi that there was no business and
that he was taking Ravi to Colombo. Ravi told him that should he not
return within 48 hours, there will be a search out for him. Nathan told
Ravi that unless he agreed to desert, he, Nathan, would swallow
insecticide. Leaving Ravi at Murugan's and asking Murugan to use his
influence and get a Colombo pass, Nathen went to fetch Kamala.
Soon father, mother and their
contrite son set off to the
Vavuniya border. To their misfortune the Sri Lankan Forces declared
curfew and started a military operation, causing travellers to get held
up at Thandikkulam. In the meantime the LTTE had sent out an alert
for Ravi and the family was traced to Thandikkulam. The family
together with Murugan were detained Nathan swallowed insecticide,
but narrowly survived. Nathan was released after treatment. Ravi was
taken back into the LTTE.
NORTH - EAST NOTES
Addressing a public seminar
in Colombo in December,
Dr.Nithyanandan of the Department of Economics, University of
Jaffna, gave the following figures giving an indication of what is
happening to the people:
Population of the North -
East down to 9OO OOO from 1.7
million in 1987, out of whom 5O OOO have been killed or missing.
(since 1983 ?) of those who had left the region 3OO OOO Tamils had
gone to the West and 2OO OOO to India. 35O OOO are in refugee
camps through out the island or were staying with relatives.The
number who lost employment in Jaffna District alone are well over
1OO OOO [Sunday Times 13th December 1992].
These estimates may
differ from those given by others. But all
figures are of the same order. NGOs in the region give long term
indicators of health which are more frightening. It is the growth of
public health care that made a considerable expansion in the
population of the North - East possible. With poor food and poor
preventive health care , the best that could be done is to administer
drugs, which too are not always accessible. Malaria and para-typhoid
have almost become endemic in Jaffna itself. It is much worse for those
in the jungle areas of the North. At the UNCHR camps around Madhu
sustaining about 3O OOO refugees, there is an 8O% incidence of
malaria. Many have to live with it as drugs have ceased to have an
In normal times Mannar hospital had 3 MLTs (Medical
Laboratory Technicians). Anyone taken ill in the mainland region was
quickly rushed to the hospital by public transport.Tests for malaria
were immediately performed and a cure administered. Now there is
only 1 MLT who is often away to be with his family. Also transport
except by bicycle and boat is almost non-existence. With so many
unemployed and even middle class mothers undernourished and
infant food priced high, one could imagine the plight of infants.The
young generation in its formative years is growing up with severe
At one level the situation
of the island itself has an appearance
of normality. The Muslim residents sent out by the LTTE are coming
back. People do not feel tense about the presence of security forces. The
police have been busy organising a series of sporting tournaments (
cricket, football etc) where local teams played those from the different
forces and came on top. Christmas and New Year were celebrated with
fireworks and public dramas. All this is much in the spirit of enjoy
today while it lasts. Beneath, there is a deep seated anxiety. People still
fear travelling on lonely roads. The security forces still have power
over life and death. The society is very hierarchical. The local army
brigadier is addressed as 'Sir' even by top government officials.
On Mannar Island itself there
have been no arrests since about
August 1992. In the army controlled areas including parts of the
mainland, according to leading persons in Mannar, the lists of persons
detained in recent months with local organisations generally tally with
those admitted by the army. The procedure for questioning and release
too is said to be much faster - 3 weeks at the most unless sent to
Magazine prison in Colombo. The discrepancies could sometimes arise
because when the army advances, some remain within the army
controlled area, while others flee into the interior.
One person to whom credit
is given for the general
improvement is Brigadier Sarath Perera, who was in charge of Mannar
for about the second half of 1992. Given the previous record of the
army in Mannar, the improvement is creditable (See Chapter 4).
Knowing the instincts of Sri Lankan forces an improvement cannot
result from the brigadier acting merely as a post box between citizens'
organisations, the ICRC and other NGO's, and his own subordinates.
Recent military advances
in the area have paid heed to the
welfare of civilians. This may also be the result of other
calculations.There may be military and political reasons for the
government wanting civilians to remain in areas brought under
government control rather than drive them into the interior and to
the UNCHR camp at Madhu. Further,the LTTE is thinly spread out and
the usual practice of bombing and shelling before an advance results in
the civilians fleeing the area and the LTTE having advance warning to
resist. Many recent advances have taken place by stealth, the civilians
coming to know about it only once the army is there.
Following a recent army advance
into Suriya Kaddaikaku near
Nanaddan, the local civilians gave much credit to Major
Wickrematilleke who was in charge. There were no casualties or
arrests.For three days the civilians were asked to lock up their houses,
spend the night in a local school and return during the day. There was
no looting at all.
In Puthukaman on the other
had there was considerable looting
and much damage to agriculture by the movement of heavy
vehicles,but no casualties. Over 4O men and youths were taken to
Thallady camp, given a lecture, brought back and released. From
January 1993 Brigadier Karunatilleke of the Armoured Brigade took
charge of Mannar. He had earned himself notoriety during the early
days of the current war (after June 199O) when he was posted to
Valaichenai. Troops under him were noted for much cruelty and
killing besides recruiting for the LTTE. Those then at the Eastern
University found him almost totally unsympathetic and difficult to
communicate with.It is left to be seen what will happen in Mannar. On
the other hand Brigadier Siri Peiris, who was poorly thought of in
Mannar seems to have improved his reputation after being posted to
Trincomalee in early 1991. The indications seem to be that an attempt
will be made to reopen the Mannar - Madawachchi Road. But
observers are sceptical.
In a district where more than 8O% became refugees, people are
anxious to re- establish themselves and resume normal living.Many
who were sent back from India see little prospect of returning to the
mainland in the near future and live in refugee camps in Pesalai and
Sunny Village. Many of the expelled Muslims with government
employment have returned to Mannar Island. Others too are coming
back amidst many uncertainties. Towards the end of December two
Muslim fishermen who set out from Erukkalampiddy lost themselves
in bad - weather, ran out of fuel and went shore on the mainland near
Vidathal Thivu. The local folk were afraid to offer them fuel. The two
fishermen it is reported, surrendered to the local Roman Catholic
parson. the latter contacted the LTTE and pleaded for their safe conduct.
The two fishermen were taken away by the LTTE and their fate is not
known. It is believed that the likely outcome would be a ransom
demand. It is notable that no concerted attempt has so far been made by
the LTTE to disrupt Muslim life on Mannar Island.
Tamil refugees are being
encouraged to go back to areas brought
under army control. Several Vankali refugees returned at the end of
December. Many of them got back to Sunny village after finding their
houses either destroyed or beyond repair.
Given the total absence of
building materials , resettlement
becomes merely a paper exercise. All received Rs 2OOO/-from the
government as a resettlement allowance after which they are
considered resettled. A further payment of Rs 4OOO/- is given to
applicants for loss of trade upon certification by the GS. This is meant
to purchase implements of trade. Many collected this in ignorance not
knowing that after collecting this, they would cease to receive food
rations. For a mason with a family of 5 food rations are worth
Rs1OOO/- or so a month. With the Rs4OOO/-grant he could buy tools.
But without building materials there is no work. The Rs 15OOO/-
allocated for those whose dwellings were seriously damaged is
unrealiseable since there are bo building materials. The system does
not work very well in providing relief. There are war widows with
children who did not receive any thing more than the first Rs2OOO/-.
But those with no losses could receive advice from a well - disposed GS
on how to benefit from all schemes.
The UNHCR's `open relief
centres' at Pesali and Madhu have
functioned with the flag of the UNHCR, but as far as people could
make out , not much more from the UNHCR besides bringing in
supplies. The neutrality of these zones was largely ignored by both
sides. During 199O and 91 the army took away people from Pesali, some
still not accounted for. The LTTE carried out an execution in Pesali in
January 1992. Madhu has been virtually under LTTE control. The
current UNHCR representative in the area, a lady with an MSF
background, it is reported, is taking a strong line on the neutrality of
UNHCR centres. According to press reports, talks with the LTTE are
deadlocked. Will the LTTE promote a more pliable alternative to the
A key problem confronting
those in areas of the mainland
recently taken over by the army is the near absence of government
services and medical facilities. A number of families have been
separated by recent army advances. Both sides want families to reunite
in their area.
The army fears that those
going to Mannar Island may take
another boat to Vidathal Theevu into the Tiger controlled area. Thus
those needing to go to Mannar Island for medical attention need to
apply to army officers for permits, the latter being mostly ignorant of
5.2.3 The Vankalai mystery
The following item appeared in the Daily News of O6th January:
Six human skulls, skeletons found in abandoned well
Mannar police found six human
skulls and some skeletons and
bones in abandoned well in the area, on a tip off by a person who had
felt a foul odour emanating from the well while he was trying to clean
Police believe that these
bodies are those of victims of some
mysterious killing and that the victims may have been blindfolded and
shot in the head and dumped into the well by the culprits.
Three national identity cards
belonging to Anthonipillai
Sebamalai, a school principal , Justin Lambert of Wankalai, Sebamalai
Anthony of Murunkan and Kandiah alias Kuruvi Kandiah of
Virichchanmandi were also found in the well. Police are trying to
ascertain whether the identity cards too belonged to any of the victims.
Further investigations are continuing.
The police need not go to
Scotland Yard to solve this mystery.
Vankalai is perhaps the most influential village in Mannar. A large
number of senior government servants and policemen received their
education at St.Anne's, Vankalai. Just ask any one of them!. A report of
the incident appeared in Chapter 4 of UTHR(J) Report No.9. The
victims were certainly killed by the army. It was then thought that
there were only 4 bodies in the well. Some of those killed were carrying
their jewellery. It was not clear whether the motive was robbery or
because Principal Sebamalai's school was in a Tiger controlled area.
The well was covered up after the matter was reported to the church
and UNHCR authorities in Madhu (early l991) by a passerby who saw
an injured victim crying for help. Brigadier Srilal Weerasooriya then
in charge at Thallady when contacted by local civilians, stated that he
could proceed no further as the field officer, Major Dias, was unaware
of the incident!
The well was excavated by
relatives following mediation by the
ICRC when civilians returned to Vankali on 28th December l992. The
story also illustrates that many little known persons disappeared
during the course of travel whose stories have gone unrecorded. Their
relatives were left to live out their grief in some unknown corner. Will
the police or the presidential task force investigate the incident?
5.3 Coconuts and the fate of the North -East
The fate of coconut production
is a reflection of what is
happening to the people and the economy of the North-East. In
Batticaloa, local citizens talked to the brigadier about a large number of
coconut trees being chopped down by the army. The Brigadier replied
that he sympathised with the people. He added that the defence
ministry had promised them concrete posts to build defences for their
camps. But these never came (IMF restrictions?). Hence the
unfortunate chopping of coconut trees.
The Tigers have been using
some of the coconut plantations in
the sparsely populated areas of Thenmaratchi (Jaffna Peninsula) for
their prison camps and ordnance depots. Some months ago a
community of toddy tappers who held an estate on contract was told by
the Tigers that they had to cease work as the land was being taken over
for the Eelam struggle. The tappers pleaded that this was their sole
livelihood. The Tigers gave them a month's extension and promised
to re-examine the matter. When the tappers returned the following
morning to collect the toddy, they discovered that the clay pots in
which toddy was collected had been systematically smashed. The
tappers joined the army of their unemployed fellows to live on
In the Mannar District the
widespread destruction of coconut
trees is evidence near army camps along the coast. On the island itself
the story is different. Mannar Island used to export coconuts. When the
war broke out and exports ceased, the price of a coconut dropped from
Rs4/- to about Rs 2/-. After the army entered Mannar Island in
November l99O, they were initially cautious, As time went and they
felt safe, they went about plucking coconuts. By doing this they were
able to pocket their coconut allowance. These nuts were used
extensively in cooking. Later the soldiers became even more reckless
and not even the young coconuts were spared. These were used for
drinking (a natural soft drink). Now Mannar Island imports coconuts,
a coconut now costing Rs 15/- or more.
5.4 Wanni: The people and the Tigers
The people in the Wanni region
bordering on Mullaithvu,
Killinochchi, Vavuniya and Mannar were most assiduously cultivated
by the Tigers in early 199O. From the early days of the struggle these
people, hard working peasants most ill-treated by the Sri Lankan army,
formed the backbone of the militancy in the North. The Jaffna man
could think of going West.But these people were with their backs to the
wall. Mahattaya understood this. With the uprooting of the PLOTE it
was thought that these people were solidly behind the LTTE. The
pattern is by no means uniform. In areas where army discipline has
shown a marked improvement, the people have often displayed a
capacity for independence.In such areas the Tigers have also become
more circumspect about imposing themselves on the people. In one
such area the Tigers forced everyone in a village to join a procession
for a fallen hero. According to witnesses the young boys in the latter
teens were openly cracking sarcastic jokes about the LTTE. The LTTE's
grip was mainly on those very young and the older folk with interests
of personal gain.The Tigers are often viewed as a group looking for
every opportunity to grab money and gold, caring little about any-
In such areas, where fear
has declined, the Tigers have stopped
conscripting people for forced labour in their civil works, such as road
building. These are now often given out on contract.
These patterns also illustrate that the appeal of the Tigers in rural areas
is not based on positive qualities. It is rather a negative appeal based on
the oppressiveness of the Sri Lankan forces.
5.4.1 Executions in the Wanni: Monday, 6th July 1992. An eye-witness
"About 6.OO A.M travellers
going south to Vavunia queued up
at Peikulam. Until 7.3O A.M no one was allowed to move. Someone
remarked, 'We may not be allowed to go today. At 8.15 two Tigers in
mufti arrived and ordered the entire crowd of several thousand to go
back northwards. A little further north the crowd was made to sit in a
clearing on the right of the road, with no idea of what was going on. At
9.3O A.M an LTTE man appeared, silenced the crowd and began
speaking: " Today when our liberation struggle has reached soaring
heights, some traitors and anti-social elements are labouring to weaken
our struggle. We have apprehended many traitors who live on our soil
and clandestinely work against the people. During the last two weeks,
on examining letters carried by travellers, we have discovered several
secret messages together with information being passed on to traitors
living outside Tamil Eelam. In the past our struggle had endured great
losses because of sabotage by traitors and anti - social groups. Therefore,
you the people must help us to identify the traitors".
" While the speech was being
made, a covered Elf van made its
appearance. First, two women, blindfolded and hands tied behind, were
unloaded. This was followed by the unloading of 8 men in a similar
state. The women were aged bout 35 and with the exception of 3, all the
men were young. We then understood that these persons were traitors
and were going to be shown to us. We were eager to see their faces.
They were made to stand in a row 1O -15 yards to the south of us.At
this point a Pajero jeep arrived. A slightly obese man in mufti and a
further 5 persons descended from the jeep. The crowd whispered,
`Mahattaya, Mahattaya'.Six persons had come with the traitors in the
Elf van who had a frightening visage. Although two were huge, the
smaller ones were no less daunting. They wore black arm bands on the
left hand , and not a hint of a smile escaped their faces.They positioned
themselves 15 yards in front of the traitors, weapons ready.
"The first speaker resumed
his harangue: " These ten for the
crime of having worked against the struggle have been sentenced to
death. These, shame on them, for a sum of Rs 1OOO/-(US $ 25) and a
bottle of arrack (distilled fermented coconut toddy) have passed on
information to our enemies. They will now confess their sins". All the
traitors began saying that they had given information to the
government and that they accept the just and fair punishment. Two
broke ranks and screamed aloud," We are innocent, We admitted the
charges only because we could not bear the torture. Please forgive us!"
Immediately, the order "Fire" rang out ,followed by gun shots. The
women in audience screamed. "Aiyo! Kadavule!'(Oh God!). Many
bowed their heads. A cold sensation crept over my body. The victims
fell to the earth screaming and gave up the ghost. Two of the
executioners walked towards the dead and examined their bodies. One
of them pulled out a huge baynet, severed the head of one of the dead.
He lifted the head by the hair and displayed it to the people. He then
said," The army sent him here to spy on us. We will now return his
head to the army". The women and the elderly travellers started
shivering. My hands and feet became numb.
"The first speaker then said,
" You can not go to Vaunniya today.
Come tomorrow. You can all go!" Many stood up and went to view the
corpses. I could not walk. I later returned to Killinochchi. Unable to eat
nor sleep, I guzzled a bottle of arrack which helped me to drown my
senses in a drunken doze. Resuming my journey on the 9th , I heard
many in the queue speaking about the incident.
" I gathered that the Tigers
had parcelled the head and had forced
a traveller to leave it near the Thandikulam army sentry point. The
army had later forced a lady going north to leave her bags, take the
parcel to Tiger sentry point and return for her bags.
"On the 6th three lady
medical students from the University of
Jaffna had been in the crowd. On sensing what was going to happen,
the students began to leave. At the back of the crowd a Tiger stopped
them, asked where they were going and asked for their identity cards.
On discovering who they were, he said," You want to be doctors and
need to cut up people. So you are afraid of blood? You are the ones who
must watch". The three ladies almost in tears pleaded," We are scared.
We want to go". They were allowed to leave. Hardly had they walked
3OO yards when they heard the gunfire.
"I later heard that the man
whose head was severed was the
driver of the former Vauniya UNP organizer Pulendran, who was shot
dead about 198O. He had then worked as a lorry driver and was
detained by the Tigers at Viswa Madshu".
Other observers in the Wanni
point out that this show was put
on by Mahattaya at a time when his authority within the Movement
was increasingly the subject of speculation. They think that the event
involves a strong element of internal LTTE politics. Mahattaya,
according to reliable reports, has now been delegated to do
rehabilitation and refugee work. One reason for the demotion, it is
said, is a complaint that he was interfering too much with the work of
the intelligence unit!
5.5 Jaffna : More disappearances and bombings:
5.5.1 Jaffna Lagoon : Missing fishermen: We have observed in Ch.O
that since the forces established themselves in Puneryn there has been
a steady toll on civilian lives in the lagoon area, many of them slipping
The forces established themselves
at Punneryn (Kalmunai) on
22nd October l991. At 2.OO P.M on the 25th of October l991, 4 fishermen
left Passayoor,near Jaffna town, in the blue coloured boat 'Pathmaraki'
to fish in the waters near Puneryn as was their wont. The boat was
equipped with a 1OHP outboard motor, a can of fuel, a sail and fishing
nets.Nothing more has been heard of them. The missing are : 1).
Ambrose Amirthanthar Anton (38),2). Esthaki Sebastian Rasakone(42),
3) Saverimuttu Stanilaus Pattukili(34), 4). S.Emmanuel Savirian (65).
The first two were from Passayoor and the others from Gurunagar.
Fatima, the wife of Ambrose
had reported the matter to the GA
(Jaffna) and to the ICRC with no further avail.
5.5.2 New year bombings in Jaffna
Air force jets dropped bombs at Sittankeni, near Vaddukoddai,
on 5th Janauary 1993. Military spokesmen in Colombo in the
meantime claimed a resumption of operations against identified
targets. According to local sources, there were no identifiable targets in
the area. The bombs appear to have been aimed at a mill. Nine
civilians were killed including a lady living next to the mill. Although
the present bombings are not very frequent, these jets, unlike the sia
Machetti trainers, appear suddenly giving people no time to get into
bunkers. Nor is accuracy improved. Civilians believe that these
bombings are mainly target practice in newly acquired aircraft.
Regular shelling continues into areas like Mallakam and places
close to Karainagar.
5.5.3 Pathinathar Santhiapillai(36) was a resident of St. Mary's Street,
Navanthurai, Jaffna. He was arrested by the LTTE in early 199O and is
known to have been tortured. On Saturday 19th December l992 the
LTTE informed Pathinathar's wife that her husband had been executed.
The reason given was that he was supposedly the supporter of another
militant group. The deceased leaves behind 3 children.
About l986, the Tigers had
difficulties in the fishing village of
Navanthurai. During the disturbances the Tigers shot dead Pathinathar
Visian. It is noteworthy that Pathinathar Santialpillai was his brother.
In many cases the Tigers have been known to wait several years for an
opportunity to move against a marked person.
5.5.4 Ganeshasunderam, Chelliah and Ganeshan worked for the
People's Bank in Jaffna. The first was a senior manager, the second,
manager of the New Market Branch and the last a security officer. All
three were detained by the LTTE in early 199O. Ganeshasunderam was
among the foremost citizens of Jaffna, a member of several elite
gatherings and former president of the St.John's OBA, St.John's being
Jaffna's elite school. He was little different from his friends, friendly
and given to conviviality with old buddies. No one got the impression
from his conversations that he was in any way opposed to the Tigers.
His arrest naturally led
to a great deal to consternation among
his many friends and private representations were made.The LTTE
never directly made a single allegation against him. Rather , rumours
were circulated to the effect that he had entertained Indian officers and
had passed on information to them.It was not unusual during the IPKF
presence for Indian officers to visit leading citizens. The LTTE had
lightly let off several members of the elite who had been thrust into
positions of intimacy with the IPKF and who even served on vigilance
committees appointed by the IPKF. Many of these persons had no
qualms about performing the same services for the LTTE or anyone
else in power. That Ganeshasuderam dealt with the IPKF in the course
of his duties or that IPKF officers sometimes called on him, as they did
on many others, was not in any way a serious charge even where the
LTTE was concerned. But the rumours circulated about him mainly
served to silence those who may press for his release.
The story becomes even more
curious when one goes into the
circumstances of Ganeshasundarsm's arrest. It becomes clear that
Ganeshsundaram had no idea that the LTTE had anything against him.
He had been transferred to Colombo as a manager in late 1989 and he
visited Jaffna regularly to see his family and attend to residual matters
in his previous posting.
On a visit to Jaffna in March
199O after the LTTE had taken
control, there was a message at his home asking him to call briefly at
the LTTE office in Nallur. He went in good faith, thinking that it was to
iron out a small problem and that he could finish this and return to
Colombo.On the first day he was told at the camp that the man who
had summoned him was not there. The same thing happened on the
second day. Each day he went back home and returned the following
On the third day it was said
that he would be questioned and
released in a few hours. He was never released. According to several
sources, Ganeshasundaram is now dead - presumably killed as a
'Traitor. His associates in Jaffna, according to these sources were
prevented from publishing an obituary for him , even with whatever
charge made by the LTTE. But there were no charges.
It is very uncommon for the LTTE to be so harsh with a member
of the elite. To this class the LTTE tries hard to put on a 'reasonable'
and amicable face. To solve the mystery, one seems to have to look for
something that is inoffensive to ordinary people, but deeply offensive
to the LTTE. The solution seems to lie in the fact that two other
colleagues of Ganeshasunderam were taken in. Rumours merely
suggested that they had 'given information'. The security officer used
to operate a radio communication set to communicate with the head
office in Colombo. many members of the public sought the People's
Bank's help to pass on urgent private messages to Colombo- marriages,
funerals etc. Although it may naively look plausible, it is silly to
suggest that the radio was used to `pass information'. Radio messages
are easily and routinely tapped. The IPKF was on the other had only a
few yards away and called in regularly. It then appears that the LTTE's
concern is not with Ganeshasundaram personally, but with some
action of the People's Bank.
Bank sources suspect that
the answer is `Gold'. People's Bank
was the only bank that accepted pawned jewellery and gold as security
for loans to farmers and other tradesmen. As the security situation in
Jaffna deteriorated from 1985, the gold in People's Bank, Jaffna was
transferred to the head office vaults in Colombo. This greatly
inconvenienced local people who had then to go to Colombo to
retrieve their jewellery. Once the IPKF established control in Jaffna and
agreed to provide security for institutions, the gold was brought back to
Jaffna in 1988. When Ganeshsundaram was transferred to Colombo in
1989, there was no one in Jaffna to accept responsibility for holding the
gold in Jaffna. Further, the IPKF's days seemed to be numbered. The
gold was returned to Colombo with the IPKF providing security from
Jaffna to Palaly airport. Ganeshasundram only acted as a dutiful banker
looking after his customers. Knowing the LTTE's predilection for gold,
the knowledge when it assumed control that gold had been transferred
to Colombo would have been a source of irritation. The LTTE's
subsequent gold collection campaigns are well known.
It also appears that anger against Ganeshasundaram increased as
he was questioned. Initially there was no general alert out for him as a
traitor or otherwise. Even the deputy in the LTTE camp where he was
asked to report was unaware that he was wanted for questioning. If his
conscience was not clean when he was asked to come to the camp, he
would have simply boarded a train and gone to Colombo.
TRINCOMALEE: June - December 199O
6.1 The war begins:
On 1Oth June 199O, the day
the Batticaloa police station was
surrounded by the LTTE, the situation in Trincomalee was confused.
The Buddhist monk from Uppuveli went to Trinco town and inquired
from some Christian clergy whether there would be trouble in the
district. He was told that according to the LTTE, they had no intention
of starting anything.
On the 11th Uppuveli police
station was surrounded by the
LTTE and both the police station and the CTB depot were attacked.
After some firing, the police surrendered. A number of policemen
were killed by the LTTE. According to local sources, 11 bodies of
policemen were dug up from a nearby pit by a police party several days
later. Orders were then given to all LTTE cadre in town to abandon
their sentry points and withdraw into the jungle. Confusion reigned in
town that night as the people found themselves in no-mans land
between the security forces still afraid to leave their camps or slowly
edging forward, and their protectors-in-name who had suddenly
vanished. Uppuveli was shelled that night by the navy and the army
from Fort Frederick and Orr's Hill. About 35OOO people, mostly
Tamils, left Trinco town by night and set off on foot northwards to
Nilaveli, where the LTTE had apparently indicated that they would be
safe. The Muslims largely remained in town, while the Sinhalese
sought safer places.
A shell fired reportedly
from the army camp at Orr's Hill struck
a rice mill at Nilaveli killing up to 45 refugees - Tamils and Muslims -
sheltering there. The number of policemen killed by the LTTE in the
Trincomalee and Mutur areas is placed at around 1OO.
6.2 The army enters Trinco town
On 13th June 199O, troops
under the command of Colonel Saliya
Kulatunge (Sinha Regiment) entered Trincomalee town from Fort
Frederick. This was followed by soldiers in civil indulging in
widespread looting and burning. The husband of a school principal
went with a senior citizen on a motor cycle to look for a close relative,
one among a number of persons arrested. They were first stopped by a
party under a lieutenant and then again in front of the urban council
building. They got by, mentioning the name of a senior army officer
known to them. What this showed was that the looting and burning
were very much under the supervision of the forces.
During the 4th week of June
the Trincomalee residents were
asked to assemble at the stadium, leaving one person at home. The
residents were paraded before masked informants in the presence of
Colonel Saliya Kulatunga and other senior citizens who were allowed
to observe the proceedings from a distance. About 5OO suspects were
taken away for interrogation under a unit headed by Colonel Kotegoda.
A Tamil speaking interrogating officer, Corporal Ismail, was brought
from Colombo. Many of those taken for interrogation were
subsequently released. But what proportion is not clear. Several like
Balthaazer, a burgher, and Sylvester were released through personal
interventions. Among the suspects taken were 7 girls from Mutur,
then in Trincomalee. The matter was taken up by a women's
organisation in Trincomalee, including others. One of the girls, a
student about to enter university, was released that night with her
jewellery missing. A senior citizen, over the next few days, gained
access to a captain through an interrogation officer, Corporal Srilal
from Negombo, who had earlier served in Trinco. After promising to
release the remaining girls, another 4 were released at the former VIP's
hotel. One girl released was the sister of a woman police constable.
Three weeks after the arrest,
the two girls not released were
painstakingly traced to the army camp in Thambalakamam. When the
matter was reported to Colonel Saliya Kulatunge, he got the
Thambalakamam camp on the phone and let loose in unprintable
language. He then assured the citizens that the girls would be released
in one week's time. The hidden implication was that they were not in
a state to be released. Following the release of the girls, a lady medical
officer in Trincomalee was prepared to examine them. The frightened
girls refused. Their captors had warned them that they had been
marked for elimination and had been saved in the nick of time.
Among those arrested and
beaten were several employees of the
CTB and of the Port Cargo Corporation.
The foregoing complements
accounts in Reports 4 & 5. The
killings by the forces during the actual takeover of Trinco town do not
appear to have been as numerous as in the Amparai and Batticaloa
Districts. One witness (Report No 4) saw about 4O bodies in an area
near the hospital. Several of the killings were more isolated and are
difficult to quantify. Many of the Tamil refugees in the area were
housed in the aircraft hanger at Clappenburg.
Chelvanayakapuram was bombed prior to the army moving in on the
3rd day. Once the army moved in, people were asked to return.
K.Velupillai, a retired principal, was taken to the army camp. When
the wife went looking for him, she was told that she could see the
6.3 Killings at Monkey Bridge, Palampottaru
During the months following
the outbreak of war, several
civilians were reportedly stopped and knifed to death at the Monkey
Bridge army camp. One case is that of a young man who lived with his
mother at Green Road, Trincomalee. His brother had worked for the
late TULF leader and Leader of the Opposition, Mr. A. Amirthalingam.
The young man did well buying Elf vehicles, repairing and selling
them, and was fluent in all three languages.
While driving to Colombo
the young man was stopped by
soldiers at Monkey Bridge. Friends travelling from Colombo to
Trincomalee saw him at the army camp in a poor state with blood on
his face. When they spoke to the soldiers, they said that they would
When the friends reached
Trincomalee, they contacted leading
citizens. These persons in turn made representations through Major
Induruwa and through Ananadarajah, DIG of Police. There was no
response. The young man had a child and his wife was then expecting
the second. His car however continued to be seen at the Monkey Bridge
camp for several more days.
Later on Major Rockwood assumed
command at Monkey
Bridge. Thereafter the soldiers were disciplined and there were no
further incidents of the kind above reported at Monkey Bridge.
6.4 Ratnam Master, Nilaveli
Following the outbreak of
war there were 3 refugee camps in
Nilaveli Methodist Church (8th mile post), Roman Catholic Church
(9th mile post) and the Mosque (1Oth mile post). The last, housing
Muslims and Tamils, was run by the government. Most of the time it
was the first two refugee camps that were subject to frequent round
ups. On the first occasion 2O were taken from the Roman Catholic
Camp and several of them were not released. 14 were taken from the
Methodist camp and all of them were released.
Ratnam Master was a 6O years
old retired teacher who spent the
day at home and went to the Methodist church for the night. On the
day of the round up mentioned, home guards working with the army
came to his house and demanded cattle. On being refused they
threatened him and went away.
The same evening there was
a second round up of the Methodist
camp by the army and home guards. Nine, including Ratnam Master,
were taken away. Seven, including Kennedy, but excluding Ratnam
Master were later released. Later inquiries at the Nilaveli army camp
elicited the response that he may be in another army camp.
The rest of the story, which
shifted to Plantain Point Camp in
Trincomalee, did not come out until long afterwards. Ratnam Master
was taken to Plantain Point Camp where a band of old rubber was
wound around an arm and set on fire. He was kept with others with
one hand of each chained together. Together with their chains the
prisoners were marched to bathe in the sea, while the movement of all
civilian traffic on the adjacent road was stopped. Left in this manner
without medical attention, Ratnam Master's wound became septic.
Others who were chained to him then complained that the smell was
unbearable. Two young prisoners were then given detol to clean the
wound. They found that the wound had reached a stage where the
bone was showing. In the sequel, Ratnam Master, smelly and feeble,
was detached from his companions and placed on the verandah for the
night. Untended and unprotected, Ratnam Master breathed his last in
the cold hours of the night. The last resting place of the venerable old
schoolmaster was a giant pit in the compound of the army camp,
where he, like many others, was turned to cinders.
6.5 Plantain Point Camp, Trincomalee
Like many parts of the East,
Mutur was an area where the
powers that be had used the simmering tensions between Muslims and
Tamils to their advantage. In 1985 when the government was using
these tensions, Tamil houses were burnt. During the IPKF presence
Tamils attacked Muslims. When the LTTE was in charge before the
war, the Muslims were again antagonised.
Following the outbreak of
war, many prisoners from other parts
of Trincomalee were brought to Plantain Point Camp. Hundreds were
reportedly killed and burnt [Chapter 2, Report No.5]. Among the
materials used for burning bodies was cadjan sent by relief agencies to
Shortly after 1Oth June 199O, Tamil families fearing the worst,
left the elderly in their homes and went into the jungles. The army
established itself at Mutur under Lieutenant Nanayakkara (Officer in
Charge) and Lieutenant Bandara (killed later that year). The families
then returned leaving the young males behind in the jungles. They
were asked by the army to call their young men, promising that no
harm would befall them. When they returned at the end of July they
were beaten by the army, who also invited Muslim thugs from the
bazaar to beat them. Sixty of them, including S.Suthahar, and the
Dhoby's son Babu, were taken to Plantain Point Camp.
6.5.1 Festivities at Plantain Point: There was a standard routine when
prisoners were brought to Plantain Point Camp. For soldiers bored with
torture, it was a festive occasion. There would be wild howling, and
soldiers would assemble with a variety of gadgets to swing at prisoners.
Babu, who was hit on the head with a hammer, went insane and later
succumbed. In the meantime Babu's father went to the ICRC. But his
name was not found in the lists at detention camps. Babu had been
arrested in early May 1987 by Sergeant Piyadasa and Homeguard Salim,
and then released after the matter was reported to (now Brigadier)
6.5.2 Suthahar and hostage patrols: On three occasions Suthahar was
taken by soldiers, petrol was poured into tyres, and he was threatened
with the fate associated with these symbols. All three times he closed
his eyes and said, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus". There was another practice in
vogue at Plantain Point. Young prisoners were dressed in army
uniform, given unloaded guns, and made to walk at the head of foot
patrols. About 5 to 1O miles out, when Suthahar was ahead in a patrol,
a soldier behind struck an anti-personnel mine, loosing a foot.
Suthahar then heard the other soldiers asking for the `Demala
Ekkenek'(Tamil fellow). Suthahar quickly hid among the bushes. After
some time the patrol returned to camp. Meanwhile other
representations had been made and Colonel Tennekoon, in charge at
Plantain Point, was asked about Suthahar by higher authorities. The
colonel then reportedly ordered that no harm should be done to
Suthahar. When the patrol returned, they were asked about Suthahar.
Others were then set to fetch him. Suthahar was released.
6.5.3 Dr. (Miss) Saverimuttu was an Ayurvedic doctor serving in the
Kinniya area. Following the outbreak of war, she moved in with
Muslim friends in Vellai Manal. Later she was arrested and taken to
Plantain Point. Fellow prisoners once heard a Muslim Homeguard
telling her, "Akka (elder sister), there are orders to kill you". Since then
they never saw her.
6.6 Trincomalee; "Normality" Restored!
Shortly after the outbreak of war, Lucky Wijeratne replaced
Srilal Weerasooriya as brigadier in charge of the region. As the weeks
wore on the usual Operation Jackal followed the first body blow of the
military takeover. This consisted of nocturnal predators going in white
vans and such like abducting people, many of whom subsequently
disappeared. The operation which was headed in Batticaloa by Captain
Munas was headed in Trincomalee by a Captain Suresh Cassim
working with homeguards.
Many Trincomalee citizens
spoke of Brigadier Wijeratne as a
`good officer' in Sri Lankan terms. He was described as a professional
soldier who was readily approachable by citizens and would face an
awkward issue rather than put it off. He well knew, and at least
accepted, what was happening under his command. On occasions he
had acted on representations and released persons taken. One citizen
said, "When it came to operations he stuck to his own way of doing
things. If he was ordered to take a place, he had his methods. There was
no listening to representations about how the people may suffer or be
cut off without food. But once in control soldiers would go and offer
food, or tell people, `What a pity some terrorists have burnt your roof.
We will give you the materials for repair'."
Lucky Wijeratne and Richard
Wijesekera, SP, were killed in a
landmine explosion in the spring of 1991. Chandra Perera who
succeeded as SP did much to raise the reputation of his office. As a
person, he is well-regarded by the public without reservation.
Muslim Reactions to the UTHR (Jaffna).
Although there was a feeling
among those Muslims who had
come across our reports that we were trying to highlight their plight
and expose the atrocities meted out to them by the Tamil militant
groups, there is disquiet among them regarding certain aspects of our
reporting. We have regretted in subsequent reports that some of the
things said about Muslims in the East, particularly in Special Report
No. 3 had been unfair, inaccurate and one- sided in certain aspects. The
situation prevailing in the latter half of 199O made it difficult for us to
talk to Muslims themselves. We have subsequently tried to make
amends. Once again we apologise for our shortcomings and for any
injury caused as a result. Within our limitations we try to give out
information and analysis in the shortest possible time, so that we could
influence current developments and be of service to those whose rights
are being violated. It is not our brief to reflect with leisure and
erudition on events past which matter little to people in their day to
day lives. We will make mistakes, but will be most happy to stand
corrected. This has to be an ongoing development and part of a
dialogue as well as mutual education.
A.1.1 A reaction from Mannar:
The following is an extract
from a letter sent to us by a Muslim
academic: "I am writing this letter to clarify a statement in your recent
publication titled "The Trapped People among Peace Makers and War
On page 46, under the sub- title 4.1.1 The Muslims of Mannar,
you state that the Muslims of Mannar Island moved to other areas
during the Portuguese and the Dutch periods and that the Muslims
had been re-established in the present places during the British era.
Further, you state quoting Phillipus Baldeus that Erukallampiddy was
not a Muslim village during his time.
The above statements are historically wrong. The following facts
bear evidence to this. There is evidence of the Muslim presence in the
Mannar Island and other areas even during the Portuguese and Dutch
periods. The Portuguese and the Dutch documents indicate that the
Muslims were employed as divers, transporters and elephant catchers
during the above two periods. Secondly, the traveller Baldeus, though
indicating a church near Erukkalmpiddy, did so in close proximity to
present Erukkalampiddy. The local traditions indicate that
Erukkalmpiddy village was not occupied by any religious group other
than Muslims at anytime in its history. There were churches
established by the Portuguese and the Dutch around Erukkallalmpiddy
Muslim village (e.g., Sampaturai, St.Jude, etc). Baldeus may have been
referring to one of the churches in close proximity to the prominent
Muslim settlement Erukkalampiddy.
It is very unfortunate that your misleading report carries an
account of the history of Mannar Muslims at a time when the LTTE is
denying the birthright of the Muslims to live in the Northern
Province. In addition, your historical account may be misinterpreted to
mean that the present Mannar district Muslims are new comers to the
region. You probably know that the history of the Muslims of the
Northern Province has not been written so far and your account may
be taken as based on facts by uninformed people"
We are sure that the reader is better informed about Mannar's
past than we are. What we made was only a suggestion that the
Muslims may have responded particularly to Portuguese persecution
by moving to safer areas. We have been clear that any community
which is displaced from its home for reasons of insecurity, whether
Palestinian, Muslim, Tamil or Sinhalese does not lose its right to the
land. We have been clear that the historical claims of Muslims in
Mannar are not in any way inferior to those of others in region.As for
historical detail, we stand corrected.
A.1.2 A reaction from Sammanthurai
A group of Muslim citizens
from Sammanturai in the Amparai
District has published a book in Tamil with the title "Another corner of
Eelam". The book gives both historical detail and reflects the Muslim
feeling of alienation resulting from the misdirection of the Tamil
struggle. It also brings out the little known fact that 132 Sammanthurai
Muslims were killed by the various Tamil militant groups up to
August 1991. The book also answers inaccuracies from Special Report
No.3. It is a welcome book excellently written with moderation by
people with a deeply felt desire for reconciliation and peaceful co-
existence with their Tamil brethren. The book is a contribution from
the people-in the long run more important than the juggling of
politicians in Colombo high society.
We give below an extract
from the preface and will follow it up
in future reports. The book is obtainable from the Publications Bureau,
Jumma Mosque, Sammanthurai, Sri Lanka. Title: "Eelaththil
The preface begins by pointing
out that Sammanthurai was a
fertile area where the Muslim majority and Tamils, mainly from the
service castes,lived in peace for centuries. The communalism of the
state gave rise to the Tamil liberation struggle. Not only did the
Muslims support the aspirations of the struggle materially and by
providing safe places for militants on the run, but Muslim youths too
joined the militant groups.
The preface then proceeds:
".... As though an evil eye was cast on
fraternal relations between Tamils and Muslims, a contrary
development took shape in the late 8Os. The guns of Tamil youth
which were trained on banks, government establishments, co-
operatives, the police, army and the STF turned their barrels towards
Muslim shops, educational institutions, social workers, Muslim
intellectuals, responsible social leaders, high officials, innocent
civilians and farmers. The Muslims were left powerless and prostrated
in the face of these "liberation activities". Tamil youths carrying
sophisticated weapons, the partiality of the IPKF, and later the LTTE
looking the other way in a bid to win support from local Tamils, are
the main reasons for this. Further, local elders and religious leaders
made a conscious decision to urge restraint on the part of Muslims.
However the unfortunate events of 17th May l989 and again 23rd July
1991, when Muslims had to run away from their homes into refugee
camps were carefully contrived and executed.
"On the other hand local
and foreign information networks ,
international terrorist agents and those in authority who give them a
voice, together with ` European' Human Rights activists have in the
name of` reports' spread mythical legends in this country, India and
Western Europe. These have represented Muslims as murderers,
informers, bandits and religious fanatics.More than all these, the
Amparai District report (Special NO.3) of the UTHR (JAFFNA), where
it concerns Muslims, has the appearance of being both subjective and
far from the truth. Like a bull trampling over one fallen from a tree,
this international propaganda document which represents the victim
as the oppressor, leaves us in a state of deep shock. Who are these
international propagandists? We who are left wondering in anguish as
to how do we contact them and explain our true position are not
approached any anyone.
"We have therefore been driven
to bring out the truth in a
publication in our defence.... In a search for a future of friendship and
amity, we place this report before you with an open heart and without
ulterior motives. It represents the tragic history of a community that
has faced needless loss of life and has been driven to penury.
"This is not intended to be merely the saga of a people. But it is
meant to lay the foundation for an ongoing dialogue that will bring
about the rebirth of a new fraternal relationship..."
Towards the end of the book it says after condemning the unfair
propaganda against Sammanthurai Muslims : " Again we must defend
every community and isolate the forces of evil. Each community must
respect the other and protect and establish the other's communal,
cultural and religious rights.
"Only thus can our fraternal
relationship be re-established. Each
community instead of thinking about revenge must count their
memories of friendship and gratitude. We cannot continue to live in
the same house and break our common wall..."
RAJANI : Three Years After
Dr.Rajani Thiranagama, a founder activist of the UTHR (Jaffna)
victim to the assassin's bullet on 21st September l989. We assess here
her lasting contribution and the relevance today of what she stood for,
and for which she gave her life.
Having identified herself so closely with those thousands who
dying un -numbered in such degrading conditions, it would not have
concerned Rajani if no memorial could be erected for her today among
the people she served and loved. That those who killed her needed to
go in for barbaric repression and lead an entire people into a twilight
existence that could barely be termed human, is surely a sign that the
memory of those like her is greatly feared by them.
A 2.1 The Primacy of the People:
This forms the key element in the vision bequeathed by Rajani.
With her it was not a slogan or merely a sentiment. She recognised
that the basis for any benign and lasting change must be rooted in the
people. This change together with a realisation by the people their
power to chart their destiny required political vision and a practical
This is not so self evident
as it might seem. In fact it is all too
easily seen in Sri Lanka that even among the Left leaning elite there is
widespread cynicism about the common people. The common people
are seen as vile or volatile and moved mainly by manipulation. This
picture emerges from a particular reading of Sri Lanka's post
Thus whether it is the JVP
crisis of l987 - 89 or the current civil
war, leading intellectuals have viewed the making of peace as a horse
deal between leaders for whom people do not matter. Ordinary people
may be suffering abject indignities from the parties in conflict and may
be dying their thousands without denting the optimism of peace
makers and intellectuals.Even effective political leadership and
statesmanship are seen as the ability to present cosmetic remedies for
past failures of character and intellect while fooling the people. Thus
in the Sri Lankan context the ability to pander to Sinhalese chauvinist
sentiment while devolving some power to the Tamils, or to dismantle
local checks on economic life to Western dictates of liberalisation
while pretending that Sri Lankan culture is being preserved in its
pristine glory, are considered virtues in a political leader. But there is
no attempt to question the legacy of the past and the constraint this
continues to impose on the countrys direction.
This cynicism about the people
has reinforced the view that
politics is a crude business to be undertaken by immoral individuals. In
turn the people have become more powerless and further degraded,
giving further confirmation to the dim view of them. The notion of
addressing the people, giving them a sense of power and dignity
through mobilising them on the basis of higher human values and
accepting the risks of confrontation with the dominant interests is no
longer in vogue among intellectuals. They have largely become
analysts talking to foreign audiences and elite circles, hardly moved by
the immense suffering below which they have come to see as
inevitable. While intellectuals have succumbed to various degrees of
opportunism and cowardice, the rot goes on apace below, with the
progressive brutalization of culture. The chronic responses of a lost
people benumbed by oppression and massive death, and the
callousness of the authorities, go hand in hand. Bunkered intellectuals
wringing their hands peer at the panorama through mental slits.
In time even the best minds
lose their capacity to analyse. One
symptom of this is the bizarre notion of peace making that has gained
wide currency. Creating conditions of peace is seen as the appropriate
sharing of power between those ready to torture and kill rather than
empowering the people by creating conditions where they could
democratically exercise it. We have thus failed to learn from repeated
It is a sign of the depth
of Rajani's commitment to ordinary
people, that she was never tempted by comfortable elitist notions. Most
of these elites did not see the tragedy of the war with the Indian Peace
keeping Force in late 1987 as one that had been in the making through
the development of our political culture. They rather saw the problem
as one of talking to Indian officials and LTTE leaders, and patching up
relations between them. Rajani considered this a waste of time.The
issue has never been that both parties did not want to talk to each other
or simply that they only wanted to carry on with the war, but rather
that both wanted certain things achieved on their own terms. When
warring parties have a real contempt for people and do not directly
represent their interests,the people rarely come into the picture as
factors determining the course of events. She knew that the warring
parties would take note only when the people are organised to
articulate healthy values and demand their basic rights in no uncertain
Rajani's response to the
crisis of October l987 was to go to the
ordinary people, not as a patronising outsider, but as one of them. She
opened her home to distressed women and students who found both
shelter and counsel. Whether it was the case of a disappeared person, a
detained student, the university being importuned by the conflicting
parties, or a woman subject of the trauma of rape, Rajani laid stress on
a collective approach by students, women or people of the village who
were to make a conscious decision to identify with the suffering of the
victim. She saw these as small beginnings by which people would
realise their power to change their world. She frowned upon
individual or class opportunism, and protested vehemently whenever
university dons approached their problems as a privileged class. With
Rajani political action acquired a new intense meaning, very
demanding intellectually and where both the intellect and action
enhanced the quality of the other.
Although she attached little
importance to talking to those with
the guns with the capacity to kill and to manipulate, she took a great
deal of time and trouble talking to the alienated young tempted by
destructive violence. She was warned by colleagues in strong terms.
But through her own past experience she understood the urges of the
young and felt for them deeply. She pleaded with them, not to commit
their courage and devotion to unscrupulous leaders who would readily
destroy them and the community to realise totalitarian power. Rajani's
ideas on collective action were making an impact. Several of her
friends came to realise the potential of disciplined, self-effacing
collective action as distinct from being heroic voices in the wilderness.
Her presence was too much for the politics of destruction.
A 2.2 Rajani's Political Vision:
The growth of cynicism about
ordinary people in Sri Lanka can
be traced to the failure of the Left to understand that the mainstream in
political life was largely independent of parliament. The development
of this mainstream takes place by imperceptible changes in the minds
of people - what they accept or reject and how they perceive their
interests. Saddled with rigid ideologies taken from mentors abroad, a
section of the Left viewed success largely as success at the parliamentary
hustings. Their inability to secure the desired parliamentary success
turned them to cynicism about the people, opportunism,
communalism and compromise as means of gaining power in the
early 7Os. This largely destroyed the Left and brought parliamentary
politics to an all time low. In times when the Left was seen as standing
for principles and ideals it had a strong base in the universities, among
mature students and the workforce, and thus was very influential in
large sections of the rising generation. On the other hand those who
opposed parliamentary politics and talked of revolutionary politics had
their own dogmatic models and sterile outlook which was neither
creative nor meaningful to the vast majority. The suicide of the Left,
far advanced in the 7Os, resulted in a dangerous vacuum, particularly
because of increasing alienation of the among young.
In fairness to the very able
leaders of the old Left, the success of
the Russian revolution of l917 in particular, turned them away from
the freshness and open-mindedness of Marx's thought and imposed on
them the identification of success with power. Rajani came into a
generation where old certainties had wilted and those with a sense of
social responsibility had to discover Marx's thought afresh.
Without the presuppositions
of ideologies matured abroad, she
set about the intellectual labour of seeking the causes of the chronic
social and political malignancy in her country in material relations- the
historical development of social and economic institutions. In keeping
with Marx's maxim, her intellect was sharpened by its application to
change the state of affairs. Her intellectual and emotional passion come
through in her writings in " The Broken Palmyrah".
In contrast to those who
equated success with power, and in
consequence became disillusioned and abandoned the people to
demagogues, Rajani had implicit trust in the people. She saw the close
connection between the low state of morality and the cynicism and
distrust of politics and leaders in general. She knew that if the people
found leaders whom they could trust, to demonstrate to them through
collective responsible actions that there was an alternative, where they
could shed their mental and physical chains in the process of realising
dignity and fellowship with justice, they would opt for this with
enthusiasm. She understood that try as she may, she was also a
prisoner of the current dispensation. Her personal liberation would
follow the empowerment of the people. Indeed she was very keenly
aware that this had happened elsewhere. She valued the experiences of
modern Marxist thinkers, both from the West and from the Third
World. Marxism which posed as state ideology has been discredited.
Despite notable successes for a time in some major areas such as
eliminating mass poverty and perhaps in containing divisive
nationalisms, it tended to become totalitarian in nature. But Marx is
very much alive , though Marxists do not make headlines.
A 2.3 Rajani and feminism:
This was an area which was
close to Rajani's heart and where
her blossoming as an intellectual and an activist were very evident.
She was far from the popular caricatures imposed on the term. She felt
deeply for the degradation of women, but also saw in the liberation of
women, the liberation of the society as a whole. Here again personal
attention and sympathy for victims went hand in hand with analysis.
She saw, as evident in her
writings, a close link between the
oppression of women and the rise of a politics with a leader - god,
sending thousands of young men and women on a suicidal course in
an apparent show of altruism.
The society in Jaffna is
also one where there was a powerful
drive pushing young men towards material success. In the past it
meant joining the professions, and most recently it came to mean
going abroad. It's value system is dictated by a very mobile and aspiring
middle class which has very short sighted and narrow vision. The
vision of possibilities in life was so narrow that failing the O Levels or
failing at university entrance could appear to mean the end of the road.
Thus the discriminatory move to restrict university places for Tamils
in l970, though affecting a small minority, was one of the major
turning points in Tamil politics.
Success for women was most
often measured as marriage to a
"successful" man. A woman who attained this success tended to be
jealous of her privileges. A pernicious norm dealing with success was
set in accordance with which most women drove their sons. For a
young girl money and property bequeathed to her by her parents was
the most likely means of advancement. Rich girls were taught to be
respectable and the poor to be humble. A young woman bubbling with
ideas and enthusiasm to go out onto the world and help others was
often broken and consigned to the subservience of a `good' marriage.
As everywhere a girl with extra- ordinary intelligence and no means
tended to suffer much more than a male. It was a society which
disposed women to be the natural enemies of women. The above
factors may be common to every other society but the rise of the middle
class and its specific nature of dependence for social mobility on a few
avenues made the crisis more acute.It was also a society which
understandably had one of the highest suicide rates, both men and
women, before these troubles.
The material conditions of
life affecting the nature of this society
are evident. The current Tamil politics instead of liberating people
from these constraints, deliberately, conspired with the adversary to
tighten them, and draw from its destructive energy. The dormant urge
for suicide was given a seemingly altruistic release by the interposition
of a religion of sacrifice and a leader- god.
Rajani set about unlocking
this prison in order to liberate
women. This meant hard systematic effort. Women who had suffered
and were rejected were the most likely candidates for this work. Every
moment she spent consoling them and opening up new vistas for
organised effort was well spent. The social breakdown which made old
norms of success unattainable also created opportunities. Death and
injury on a mass scale was pushing women into roles of leadership in
families. Many of them saw that the whole thing was wrong. This
made it important for the political leaders to repress and stamp out any
collective effort by women not under their supervision.
It is clear that the degenerated
Tamil politics of today could not
have survived liberated womanhood. To claim that mothers
consciously give their children to become cannon fodder for this
politics is an insult to human and animal motherhood. Almost every
time children were cajoled away by liberators or were taken by the
army, mothers spent days trekking from one camp to the other and
waiting hours in the sun. There have been recent instances where
mothers had spontaneously got together in villages to resist implied
demands that each household should give a child for the LTTE's
struggle. Rajani has recorded several instances where women of the
lower classes had spontaneously got together to stand up to gunmen of
Rajani has also exposed the
true position of women cadre
involved in the struggle. Their position is an extension of that of
women in society. Women in uniform are often objects to boost the
egos of men. Blank faced women in uniform putting on cyanide
capsules and shouting their allegiance to, and willingness to die for a
macho leader is more reminiscent of some bizarre and ancient temple
Rajani saw in the natural urges of women, particularly in their
role of caring and bringers of life, and in the contradictions they face as
a consequences of social breakdown, one of the most potent forces for
the liberation of Third World peoples. As Rajani's death demonstrated,
providing the necessary organisation is going to be a hazardous task.
Rajani felt that feminism as a theory gave her strength and
allowed her to understand other forms of oppression in a more
creative way. Her understanding of the difference between biological
determinism and biological potential and its implications, enabled her
to understand human potential and evaluate human potential and
evaluate human nature in a more dynamic manner. On the other
hand she was appalled by the sectarianism in women's movements as
well as Marxist movements and was always aware of the danger of
becoming too important in an elite circle.She understooed the
potential for an individual to degenerate as a mere careerist who
spends all her or his time in attending conferences and seminars with
little real contribution.
A 2.4 The Spiritual and the Material:
Rajani never diminished the
importance of the spiritual. She
did not reach any finality on the matter, but felt a sense of awe and
wonder about life itself. It would be true to say that like Marx, she did
not exalt the material realm with its dull routines. But did hold that
the chains in this realm must be broken for the emergence of a
humanity with higher aspirations. As such, she felt the task worth
undertaking. She valued being lovingly human. She was vehemently
against using people as tools. Though tactics were important, these
were subject to principles and values she accepted as part of caring
humanity and the pre -condition of trust. Trust between people was to
be the vehicle for action and not manipulation.
During the years that
have succeeded her death, the
UTHR(Jaffna) and several of those around her have drawn inspiration
from her ideals and vision. We have also come to realise the immense
intellectual depth of her analysis, and that has continued to guide
work of UTHR(Jaffna). Even at this dark hour, there are ordinary men
and women who shared her concern for the people, risking their lives
to carry on her work. Thanks to the worldwide institutionalisation of
human rights concerns, her family who most deeply feel her loss, have
been sustained .
Rajani was in many ways a
child of her time. The
oppressiveness she found in social mores made her rebel against
tradition. Yet she was also instinctively traditional in many ways - as a
daughter , a wife and a mother. She was instinctively religious
longed for some of the certainties of faith without being an orthodox
believer.In rebelling against a tradition that left much to be desired, she
walked a tight-rope, a course that was often lonely, confusing and
resulting in much private agony. It was a heavy price to pay, but had its
rewards as well. Her marriage was unconventional. She married a
Sinhalese intellectual from the deep South of peasant origin.This
undoubtedly brought her close to the common people of the land as a
whole. Her husband's interests shaped the direction of her political
views and activism was a product of her marriage. The rewards of such
a life are not unmixed with pain. We express our gratitude for the
former. Only posterity can do justice to the latter. Rajani lives in
having shown us the potential of womanhood for greatness.
End of Report 10.