THE CLASH OF IDEOLOGIES AND THE CONTINUING
TRAGEDY IN THE BATTICALOA & AMPARAI DISTRICTS
RELEASED: 8TH MAY 1991
Despite periodic massacres, life in Batticaloa
towards some low level of human existence with the trappings of
normality. But the sharp deterioration in the situation from
about 24th April ushered in what many observers feel is a new
level of calculated terror, reminiscent of counter insurgency in
the South and the headless bodies of Thirukkovil.
On 24th April, two headless
bodies were displayed near a
police post in Iruthayapuram. On the same day Kunaratnamani (18)
of Mankerni, Valaichenai, was taken away by the forces. Kunarat
namani was of Indian Tamil origin and his father Arul, a long
standing employee of the Civil Rights Movement, was in the pro
cess of arranging for his schoolboy son to come to Colombo.
Kunaratnamani's severed head and body were found in the area the
following morning (25th). The forces warned the people to dispose
of the body before the ICRC arrived. Two bodies were also repor
ted in Mandur. The next corpse was that of a younger brother of
the LTTE area leader Karikalan, an employee of the Telecommunica
tions Department. He is said to have been personally uninvolved.
On 1st May, the bodies of two girls were discoverd near thesecond
bridge to Puliyantheevu in Batticaloa.
The Sunday times of 5th May reported:
who confined themselves to their homes said that the streets were
deserted by noon. They also spoke of reports of a mysterious van
The new situation coincides with the
appointment of Major
General Cecil Waidyaratne as commander of the Eastern Province.
However, the Brigadier in Batticaloa is said to have appeared
genuinely surprised. Observers hold the government forces respon
sible for this outrage with the same degree of certainty as with
which the LTTE is held responsible for massacres of Sinhalese
villagers further south. These activities have become the ceremo
nial aspect of widely reported peace overtures.
Observers coming from Batticaloa describe recent
totally counterproductive, in a region where the peasant expres
sion 'sowing corpses' has come to assume deeper significance.
On the positive side, there appears to have
been an improve
ment in Kalmunai. It was this STF controlled region that saw
headless corpses last September. In Kalmunai according to re
ports, disappearances have ceased in recent times. Those taken in
round ups are mostly released immediately. Someone released after
three days would usually have experienced severe beating. Of
those detained, it is said that both an acknowledgement and the
place of detention are usually given.
C O N T E N T S
Preface .. .. .. .. .. .. .. i - v
1. THE EAST: AN OVERVIEW .. .. .. .. .. 10
General Introduction .. ..
.. .. 10
1.2 Inter ethnic relations .. .. .. .. 11
1.3 The consequences of the LTTE strategy .. 12
1.4 Waiting for the Unknown .. .. .. .. 13
1.5 The Intrinsic unity of the East .. .. 15
2. Reports .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 17
Chenkaladi .. .. ..
.. .. .. 17
2.2 Eravur .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 18
2.3 Kudiyiruppu .. .. .. .. .. .. 21
2.4 Batticaloa .. .. .. .. .. .. 24
2.5 Kattankudy .. .. .. .. .. .. 26
2.6 Kurukal Madam .. .. .. .. .. .. 30
2.7 Kaluwanchikudy .. .. .. .. .. .. 31
2.8 (Periya) Kallar .. .. .. .. .. 32
2.9 Kalmunai .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 33
2.10 Karaithevu .. .. .. .. .. .. 34
2.11 Akkaraipattu .. .. .. .. .. .. 36
2.12 Thirukovil-Thambiluvil .. .. .. .. 37
2.13 Vinayagapuram .. .. .. .. .. .. 38
2.14 Thandiyady .. .. .. .. .. .. 38
3. Reports - Personal .. .. .. .. .. .. 39
Saved by his dog .. .. ..
.. .. 39
3.2 Shot by home guards .. .. .. .. .. 40
3.3 Taken from the Eastern University .. .. 40
3.4 Hide and Seek in Batticaloa Prison .. .. 41
3.5 Left for dead in Kallar .. .. .. .. 42
4. The Refugee camp at
the Eastern University
- Vantharumoolai .. .. .. .. .. .. 43
The beginnings .. .. .. ..
.. .. 43
4.2 From the records of Eastern University .. 44
4.3 How the people benefitted from the camp .. 45
4.4 The LTTE and the camp .. .. .. .. 45
4.5 The disappearance of 159 inmates .. .. 46
4.6 The General arrives .. .. .. .. .. 46
4.7 The last days .. .. .. .. .. .. 47
4.8 Refuge in the jungle .. .. .. .. 47
4.9 The significance of the closure of the
Eastern University .. .. .. .. .. 48
4.10 A postscript .. .. .. .. .. .. 50
5. The Armed Forces .. .. .. .. .. .. 51
The STF .. .. .. ..
.. .. .. 51
5.2 The army .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 52
6. The Social Fabric and Communal Relations.. .. 53
6.1 Why did
the LTTE turn on the Muslims .. 53
6.1.1 Majority arrogance.. .. .. .. 53
6.1.2 Yogi's speech.. .. .. .. .. 54
A note on the origins of the Muslim
communities in Ceylon .. .. .. .. 56
6.3 The character of leadership in the East .. 57
6.3.1 The politics of cap turning:
Myth & reality .. .. .. .. 57
6.3.2 Sitting on a powder keg.. .. .. 59
The land question in Tamil Muslim relations 61
6.4.1 The beginnings .. .. .. .. 61
6.4.2 The 1960's and after .. .. .. 62
6.4.3 A Tamil perception from Kalmunai .. 63
6.4.4 Truth and fiction .. .. .. .. 65
6.5 Muslim perceptions .. .. .. .. .. 66
7. The Eastern Borderlands
.. .. .. .. .. 72
7.1 The Borderlands .. .. .. .. .. 72
7.2 Massacre of Sinhalese in Athimale-
Moneragala District .. .. .. .. 73
7.3 Kantalai .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 75
7.4 The abduction of Pushparani Chelliah .. 75
7.5 Massacre at Niedella - Moneragala District 76
8. Colonisation - Issues and Non-Issues .. .. 80
Early motivations .. .. ..
.. .. 80
8.2 Tamil reactions .. .. .. .. .. 81
8.3 The flaw .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 82
8.4 The current war .. .. .. .. .. 83
8.5 The LTTE and Tamil interests .. .. .. 84
Appendix 1 - The human rights agreement
in El Salvador
(Press summary).. .. 86
Appendix 11 - An appeal by the Council
Organisations .. .. 87
The current report is centred on the East and
which we think are central to the political future of this coun
try. Our inquiries were made mainly on the stretch of the east
coast from Vantharumoolai, north of Batticaloa, to Komari, near
Pottuvil. In the course of preparing this report, we received
invaluable help from some human rights activists in the South,
who also gave us accounts of recent massacres of Sinhalese pea
sants in parts of the Moneragala district bordering the East.
Through discussions with them, we were able to gather something
of the feelings of Sinhalese settled in the East. At the cost of
some repetition of material from earlier reports (No.5 and Spe
cial No.3), our final chapter attempts to clarify the issues
surrounding state aided colonisation.
Some of the areas covered in Special Report
No.3 were revi
sited. This time we had the benefit of several cordial conversa
tions with Muslims living in the region from Eravur to Akkarai
pattu. This helped us to correct some of the imbalance that
readers of Special Report No.3 complained of.
The current report is fairly detailed,
as some of the ear
lier ones have been, and may deter the average reader. Given our
situation and our capacity, our primary purpose is not only to
make an immediate impact. By leaving behind a historical record,
we hope that it would influence the development of healthier
politics in the future.
We have argued in our reports that at
the root of the pre
sent political crisis and the spate of human rights violations,
lies the degrading feeling of powerlessness which the different
communities feel in the face of forces who not just impose upon
them, but are often ready to resort to massacres. Though the
protagonists, whether the state or a militant group, may tempora
rily gloat over the powerlessness of the victim, it also turns
the alienated young into militant potential that could be moul
ded. It becomes all the more explosive in a culture where it has
become respectable to be insensitive. It has become fashionable
in our universitites to tell students not to talk about political
issues, while young men and women, peasants, soldiers and even
children, are giving their lives by the hundreds. For the, per
haps small, minority of students who are keenly aware of the
tragedy of their own village, are unable to talk about it in a
sympathetic environment, and feel angry about it, secret socie
ties and covert activity become the only outlets.
We have also constantly argued
that the state, with its
legal obligations and material resources, must make a bold poli
tical initiative based on human rights, to break the ideological
blockade, remove the feeling of powerlessness among people, and
give them confidence, instead of being trapped in its ugly ac
Being university teachers rooted
in Jaffna, through the
experience of our own tragedy, we have found it a necessary part
of our special obligation to question those ideological predilec
tions, prejudices and hypocrisy on the part of our own community
that have also contributed to this tragedy. Though such unortho
doxy has caused unease, as we have explained earlier, it is a
necessary part of the unfolding. Also, we on our part, regard it
as meaningless to record violations without going into the
The_East : Sadly today, despite
the government's claims to
have restored a semblance of normality, there are constant remin
ders of the state's brutality, potential and actual. Following
the incident in Iruthayapuram, a northern suburb of Batticaloa,
at the end of March, when 12 civilians were massacred in repri
sals, the regional police chief reassured the citizens' commit
tee. He did not refer to any inquiry or disciplinary action. The
police officers involved, he said, were being transferred to
Mannar, that was incidentally being prepared to receive a refugee
influx from India. A month later, end of April, civilians passing
a police check point in the area, witnessed two beheaded corpses
50 yards away. Routine experiences of Easterners are variations
on the same theme.
In dealing with such a government, in
and Muslim civilians, the Tigers have been prepared to pay the
price of utterly discrediting themselves as a liberation group,
and greatly diminishing the dignity and security of Tamils, in
return for longevity.
A climate of terror now prevails
among all communities in
the Moneragala district, following massacres of Sinhalese civi
lians. Reprisals against hill country (estate) Tamils in the
area, appear consistent with some security officials in the area
giving the impression that attacks on Sinhalese were carried out
by estate Tamils.
With the government proceeding thus in
a political vacuum,
we need to take serious alarm at the prospect of escalation.
Sheer anger and alienation, rather than any tangible gain, may
push many estate youth towards a cause which would only use them
The_North : In their state of helplessness
the Eastern Tamils tend to look admiringly at their Northern
counterparts as forming a bastion of resistance. Little do they
understand that what obtains in the North is a community with its
moral sensibilities shrivelled, groping at survival. Through
manipulation and playing on its weaknesses, the community does
not question why young children are sent on a suicidal course to
give their lives. But in the little room allowed for it to manage
some survival tasks, it can show considerable will power and
resistance. People set themselves immediate goals such as : take
son to Colombo, arrange to stay or go abroad. Come back to
Jaffna. Secure house from takeover. Collect son's documents,
testimonials, leaving certificate etc. Go to Colombo and so on.
Irritation resulting from punitive delays at LTTE and Sri Lankan
army check points in Vavuniya, can elicit both strong protest as
well as some harsh counter action. The task of catching that
day's train to Colombo can be so all consuming, that beating the
queue by ignoring warnings of minefields would appear natural.
Persons may carelessly remark that now with
the army camp at
Mankulam demolished, if the same is done to that at Elephant
Pass, the route to Colombo will then be clear. This shows the
differences in perception between ordinary civilians on one hand
and the children who are giving their lives for what they think
would be a separate state. The obsession of many is with having a
clear route to Colombo, which existed before the war, and not to
Trincomalee or Batticaloa. Driven to such a level of existence,
the community earns increasing contempt from all armed parties.
The people must also ignore the experience
of 1987, reinter
pret the contrived tragedy of the East, and go in for hallucina
tions, in order to believe that the LTTE is protecting them from
the vindictive ire of the Sri Lankan army. Many would argue that
the policemen massacred by the LTTE last June were killed by Sri
Lankan forces, The Eastern Tamils continue as refugees because
they are lazy as usual, and so on. The politics needs to encou
rage such illusions.
We have pointed out that it would
be a grave mistake for
anyone to take satisfaction in the reduction to such a state, of
this or any other section of this country. Jaffna has much poten
tial to be tapped for the good of the whole country. Nothing is
gained by a politics that turns a section of the people into
It must also be mentioned that
persons with diverse voca
tions in Jaffna feel the urge to speak out at considerable risk.
One speaker said at a recent public seminar in Jaffna:
"Is it good to lose one's inner freedom and
the sake of existence? The war has created a sense of
powerlessness which has led to helplessness. Are we
being used as pawns in a game of chess? Are the people
The speaker constantly referred to the social
impact of the
American veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars, to illustrate
what was going on in Jaffna.
Glimmers of hope amidst a_sea_of_despair.
In the light of
experience over the past decade, and the existing political
vacuum, what we face now is surely frightening. Looking back over
the war, there have been a few initiatives, often by individual
officers, which can be utilised to improve the situation.
We have recorded in this report the case
of an army unit at
Kaluwanchikudy which had set high standards and also a police OIC
in Akkaraipattu who attempted the same. Such attempts did help to
usher in a benign atmosphere.
There is also the case of the Brigadier who was brought in
after a bad experience in Mannar. He promised civilians in Mannar
that there would be no further disappearances and that detainees
would be treated according to normal rules. His intentions were
not doubted, and by comparison elsewhere, his promise was largely
Bombing in Jaffna was mostly stopped
when the new defence
minister took charge on 6th March. It helped to soften in civi
lian minds the vindictive face of the government.
We have also seen that good officers
can enforce a high
level of discipline. Civilian life in Mannar town now goes on
normally while injured soldiers are brought to hospital - some
thing unique in the annals of the Sri Lankan army. Things were
also helped by the interest taken by the UNHCR, the ICRC and the
But all these are largely isolated instances
in a political
vacuum. An officer who rises above the general level of political
culture deserves high praise. In this situation, which lacks
clarity regarding goals, the work of a few good officers and the
effect of isolated initiatives soon wear off at the slightest
fraying of tempers.
Over the traditional New
Year there was some senseless
bombing and shelling in Jaffna resulting in civilian casualties.
The recent bombing of the repaired ferry at Puneryn had no pur
pose except to give vent to anger.
When 4 civilians were hacked to death
in the Mannar sector
on 17th February, even the well-meaning Brigadier became party to
a cover up.
There is no momentum leading to disciplinary
offenders in order to move ahead with confidence building mea
sures. There is thus no option except to lauch a bold political
initiative. Once the momentum is generated, we are certain that
everyone concerned will be pushed into responding positively.
The_Demands : We put forward the following demands pertaining
some urgent issues raised in this report.
1. Create institutional machinery using locally
tionally based organisations to further and monitor the
observance of human rights. There is an urgent need for the
security forces to respond positively to complaints by civi
In this connection, a press
summary of 'Human Rights in
Civil War - the case of El Salvador, a statement issued by
the Civil Rights Movement of Sri Lanka, is given in Appendix
1. The statement deals with the agreement of July 1990
between the two parties to the Salvadorean conflict laying
down a detailed framework for UN participation in the
maintenance and monitoring of Human Rights. This precedent
opens creative possibilities for both sides to the Sri
Lankan conflict. It, more importantly, provides for space to
enable ordinary people to express their aspirations.
2. Take all necessary steps to convince
Tamils and Muslims
living in the East that the state has no agenda of its own
to change the demography of the North-East.
Halt the ongoing process of resettlement
of a particular
community with state patronage. Ensure that all three major
communities feel that their specific needs will be taken
into consideration in resettlement and rehabilitation pro
3. Appoint a committee consisting of persons from all
ties to study the question of land settlement and to propose
a solution acceptable to all three communities living in
these areas, respecting the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural
nature of our society. The committee should probe into :
(i) The history of re-colonisation
and the demographical
changes that took place as the result of manipulation by the
Whether the nature and the working of the present state
machinery is biased towards any particular community.
(ii) Social changes resulting from
transfer of lands to
particular communities, with no state involvement, and the
social forces behind such transfers.
(iii) Social changes resulting
from a neglect of economic
development in the North-East, such as emigration of a large
section of the middle class, and the resulting sense of
isolation and vulnerability.
4. The government should come out with a clear equitable
statement on land settlement, and should take positive
action at a high level to ensure that any built up inertia
of the state machinery to favour a particular community is
1.1 General Introduction
The common mood one comes across among Eastern
Tamils is one
of resignation and utter helplessness. The humiliation they feel
has been rubbed in deep by the frustration they experienced in
respect of missing persons, and the dire threats connected to
burning tyres with which government servants were ordered to
return to work. The Batticaloa and Kalmunai areas each have lists
of dead and missing extending over 1000. The regime is not always
so harsh now. Sentry point checks are mostly formal and policemen
and soldiers could frequently be friendly and human. Yet there is
an undercurrent of unpredictability. The massacre of 20 or so
Tamil travellers in Eravur on 21st February, following the kil
ling of two Muslim homeguards is among several sharp reminders
that lives are playthings for the state.
Apart from the fact that people are nearly
in Sinhalese, there is the very visible fact in Batticaloa town,
that Tamil and Sinhalese policemen are distinguished by the
former being unarmed and the latter armed. This is a humiliation
to which Sinhalese policement were not subject following the
recent JVP uprising.
The visit by President Premadasa on 14th
February did not
hing to restore confidence among Tamils. A delegation of Battica
loa mothers wanted the President to look into the matter of 175,
mainly youths, removed by the army from the Eastern University
refugee camp on 5th and 23rd September, who then disappeared
without a trace. The President told them in effect: "The mothers
of those killed by the JVP are crying. The mothers of dead secu
rity forces personnel are crying....." To many people in Battica
loa, this sounded a piece of sarcasm completely evading the fact
that the President has an obligation to be accountable. The
people also noticed that the President visited Kattankudy where
the Tigers killed Muslims, but made no attempt to visit places
such as Valaichenai where a large number of Tamils had been
killed. The President's gift to Batticaloa town of a clock tower
based on Kandyan architecture, topped by an ornament of Buddhist
significance, only gave further offence. A university don obser
ved, "Kandyan architecture may be good in itself. But we have
been through an experience after which we see everything through
coloured glasses. Could he not understand that?"
Coupled to a measure of satisfaction that the
LTTE is embar
rassing the government, there are very grave reservations about
its record. When the LTTE ran away in June after announcing the
final battle, deserting the people faced with an angry army,
there was both puzzlement and anger. After building heavy forti
fications, the Tigers had abandoned the Oddaimavadi bridge - the
gateway to Batticaloa District - without a fight. Many expostu
lated:"Whatever happened to those arms captured from the TNA
which the Tigers had displayed in lorry loads?" One observer said
that the Tigers had met their Waterloo in Kiran. Their failure to
overrun the small unprepared army camp despite repeated attacks,
he felt, had changed their psychology. Their policy then evident
ly changed to concentrating their military strength in the North
and to provoking and using the conduct of the forces to turn the
East into a source of recruits.
Like elsewhere, the result of the struggle
the Batticaloa and Amparai Districts is paradoxical. A powerful
driving force in these areas was to break out of the hegemony of
Jaffna and to assert an Eastern identity. The massive participa
tion of Eastern youth in the militancy, it was once thought,
would lead to this. Eastern youth are today dying for the Tiger
cause in larger numbers than ever before. But the hegemony of the
Jaffna based leadership has been strengthened. Myths far removed
from reality, concerning the superiority of Jaffna, are current
in the East. Common ones are : "Our Tigers are rotters. They are
only good at settling personal scores. But those in Jaffna are
doing a splendid job, sincerely dedicated to a cause", and, "We
Tamils in the East have no future. We are always cutting each
others' throats. We have no leadership like in Jaffna." Ironical
ly, the Tigers have been saying repeatedly in Jaffna that it is
the Eastern boys who are largely fighting for them, while Jaffna
boys were being selfish and are running away. People have become
tired and fatalistic, not wanting to talk about what happened
("It is all history now!") and not wanting to analyse. Only a few
understand that Tiger policy is a well co-ordinated policy with
Eastern cadre doing a good part of the fighting and dying in the
North. To enhance and sustain the Eastern man's loss of confi
dence in his own ability is an important aspect of Tiger poli
tics. When the Eastern University became a large refugee camp
where people were learning to take up issues collectively, des
pite serious ups and downs, and the camp leadership was develo
ping a strong sense of responsibility, whom the people were
looking up to, the Tigers forced the closure of the camp without
any discussion with the camp leadership. People who were reali
sing some collective strength to fight back, were driven to
become helpless fugitives in jungles, unprotected and facing many
natural perils in addition to bombing and helicopter straffing.
The lesson that has been tragically brought home to both
Muslims and Tamils is that the two communities are inseparably
linked and that a sound basis for co-existence needs to be found.
The fear of LTTE attacks on Muslims and Tamil fears of reprisals
by Muslim home guards, directly or indirectly backed by the
forces, has affected all areas of life. In the rice bowl of the
nation, the fields of both communities remain untended. Herds of
cattle which used ot supply milk are unaccounted for, because
villagers dare not go far looking for them. On the road between
Batticaloa and Kalmunai, passenger vans belonging to one communi
ty drive at break neck speed through villages of the other commu
nity, not daring to pause. The bulk of Muslim staff and students
do not attend Eastern University because it is situated in a
Tamil area, although the neighbouring area is Muslim.
Mutual necessity however helps to build bridges.
is a Muslim village heavily dependent on trade. Owing to the
security situation, Tamil traders lack the ability to transport
goods from Colombo. Within three weeks of the Kattandudy massa
cre, there were gestures of conciliation. Kattankudy traders have
now re-opened their shops in Batticaloa town.
In many areas peace committee meetings
have been organised
by security forces commanders and held in police stations - the
most acceptable venue for both parties. The exercise has several
drawbacks. With the state, ironically in concert with the Tigers,
having actually encouraged and used Tamil-Muslim differences, its
motives are suspect, although individual officers may be sincere.
An important draw back is that apart from expressing good senti
ments and bringing about some thaw, these committees can deter
mine very little. They cannot give guarantees of safety. At least
in the area of expressing goodwill and trying to understand each
others immediate difficulties, there have been some successes. A
notable failure is Kalmunai.
The resumption of Kattankudy Muslims
trading in Batticaloa
was aided partly by good personal relations between the community
leadership at Kattankudy and the Roman Catholic Church. The
Church had also tried hard without success to get the LTTE re
lease three Muslim leaders it had abducted form Eravur on 4th
But the ultimate guarantee for secrutity
rests with forces
outside the control of ordinary people, pursuing their own aims.
Tamils fear getting back to Pottuvil and Eravur because they
cannot predict how the security forces would react to acts of the
LTTE. Acts of violence attributed to Muslims have almost never
been independent. Muslims on the other hand are looking for
guarantees, not from the security forces or from Muslim politi
cians, but from the LTTE. In town after town Muslims has said
that the Tamil-Muslim differences would vanish the moment the
LTTE states publicly that it would not harm Muslims. The more
mature Muslim leaders are extremely anxious to re-establish good
relations with Tamils. Our discussions were always cordial. After
9 months of war, the LTTE is seen on the surface as the major
actor - it shows the powerlessness of all the communities and the
destructive power of the LTTE.
1.3 The_Consequences_of_the_LTTE's_Strategy: From
the time it
massacred Muslim and Sinhalese policemen at the outset of the
war, the LTTE has pursued a clear strategy of attacking Muslims
and deepening communal enmity. Even at the time some Muslims
reacted in Kalmunai following the killing of Muslim policemen and
the arrival of the army, there were no signs of unrest in the
Batticaloa district. There was even a tendency among Muslims here
to rationalise the Tigers' actions. Yet from the 12th July, the
Tigers set about attacking Muslims in the Batticaloa district,
starting with the massacre at Kurukkal Madam. It is this that
argues against the supposition that the initial killing of Muslim
policemen among others was simply a mistake by a local leader.
The Tigers have stirred the communal cauldron and have used the
anger and frustration resulting from government actions to get
their recruits. But at what price? All creative activity in the
region has been brought to a standstill, and the Tamils in parti
cular are on the way to becoming a smaller and fragile community.
While there is a limit to which the state could
afford to be
seen as working towards anarchy, the Tigers have no such inhibi
tions. They have cloaked total irresponsibility as a sacred
prerogative. Thanks to their adversary, they have been able to
demonstrate that they could frustrate anything by anyone else. If
they choose to give a guarantee of safety to the Muslims tomor
row, the relief will be so great that if elections are held
immediately afterwards, many Muslims would consider voting for
them as a survival tactic. Such benefits can only be shortlived.
In defying every human norm, the Tigers have also sown the seeds
of their own destruction. The longer the crisis lasts the greater
the anger against elders, who appear to compromise Muslim dignity
to survive. More Muslim youngsters will draw the conclusion that
to oppose the Tigers, they must imitate them. With economic
hardship and confinement, there are disturbing signs of such a
reaction. Posters have reportedly appeared in Eravur threatening
those who have dealings with Tamils. Many Muslims are keenly
aware what it would mean for the Muslim community. A Muslim
leader in Akkaraipattu said vividly:"An attack is something that
lasts a short time, some die and it is over. What we are worried
about is the counter-attack. It grows within us and terrorises
us, as it happened to your community."
The other danger referred to by both
Muslim and Tamil lea
ders is that while the present state of communal enmity lasts,
there will be no political initiative and matters of common
interest vital to both communities will be lost sight of. While
the Tamils and Muslims are preoccupied with each other and with
the security forces dominating most of Amparai District, the
state will push Sinhalese colonisation from the west. As it is
few Tamils and Muslims are left in the Gal Oya scheme. With the
commencement of the war, the few Tamils left in Amparai town and
places such as Inginiyagala and Ingurana were killed or thrown
out. Pottuvil is now a no go area for Tamils. While the Tigers
have used the mad policy of state sponsored Sinhalese colonisa
tion of deprived Sinhalese for mobilisation, they have done
nothing to address the issue creatively.
1.4 Waiting_for_the_Unknown: While the Sri Lankan forces
the war in an orgy of blood, as though they were co-operating in
a recruitment campaign for the Tigers, the killing at present is
at a low ebb. The occasional massacre still does take place. From
mid-February to late March at least, those taken prisoner are
generally said to be alive. In many cases visits have been al
lowed. In Thirukkovil-Thambiluvil, the last known killings by the
STF were about early February. In Karaitivu it is said that most
of those taken in are released soon. There is some uncertainty
about what happens to the rest. We have no information on deve
lopments following the deterioration in Moneragala.
There appeared to be a change of
orders and a change of
tactics. There are even cases in early March where the STF had
warned LTTE suspects and sent them home. These may have borne
some fruit if the government had launched a parallel political
initiative to give confidence to the Tamils. But the forces have
been sent to do a thankless and frustrating job in a total poli
tical vacuum. The forces lack the discipline, and character to
match the Tigers' destructiveness. They had discredited them
selves and hurt the Tamils too deeply. The initiative is thus
clearly with the Tigers. Everytime the forces react by punishing
the Tamils, they move a step in the direction of defeat.
While the government has over 9 months
not made up its mind
on a political programme, the process of destruction goes on.
Barely three days after we had conversations with Muslim leaders
in Akkaraipattu, who were both warm and hospitable, a bomb went
off in the fish market killing at least six persons and injuring
several more. This co-incided with LTTE attacks elsewhere in the
East. In Akkaraipattu, both Muslims and Tamils had to put in much
creative effort to restore something close to normal relations.
Many old friendships had been reactivated and even some inter-
communal organisations were functioning. It took only a split
second for an imbecile bomb to destroy that trust so painfully
In handling the aftermath, the forces have predictably failed,
however determined they were to prevent trouble. Local sources
said that 23 Tamils had been abducted by Muslim homeguards, not
in Akkaraipattu, but in the sensitive region between Kalmunai and
Karaitivu. A senior police officer is quoted as saying that he is
not aware of such abductions.
This would only further enhance Tamil fears
and distrust. To
the Tamils, homeguards are simply an arm of the forces. In the
incident of 21st February near Eravur, where about 20 Tamil
travellers were massacred, at least two gun shots were fired and
one or more persons in uniform were sighted. There was no attempt
to have an inquiry to punish the offenders and to reassure the
Tamils that this would not happen again. The late Minister for
Defence simply contended that homeguards were not involved, as if
that were the end of the matter. The state of mind of Tamils
around Kalmunai should be understood. It would take a generation
or more for them to recover from the entry of the first army
battalion last June. Their subsequent experience is one of conti
nual horror - mostly linked to Muslim home guards and their
masters. They would tell you today: "Do not go on the streets
after six", "Do not go near the old police station. That is
where they behead people." To the outsiders, the burnt out shops
of Kalmunai are merely an eyesore. But those who pass them day
after day are reminded of corpses and skeletal remains. Whether
the information concerning the abduction of 23 Tamils is accurate
or not, the authorities have to go far beyond simple denial - to
the process of the law. It has been brought home to the Tamils
again and again that publicising Muslim deaths is good propagan
da, but Tamils do not matter for the government. For the Tigers
it is the reverse. In the meantime the Tigers have launched a
recruitment drive with the slogan of liberating South Tamil Eelam
(the East). Tamils in such an environment will seldom see through
1.5 The_Intrinsic_unity_of_the_East: Barring a new initiative
a force that can give confidence to all communities, the East
stands to slip further into tragedy. On a human level, the trage
dy of the East is beyond description. Its vast agricultural
potential remaining unused is a mere symptom. Communities who had
lived together have been split asunder by hatreds. The Tamils
have been prostrated by a sense of division. Many families resul
ting from intercommunal marriages had been broken up. Communities
of Sinhalese had sprung up in many Eastern towns in a healthy
manner, through normal migration in search of oppotunities. These
Sinhalese who had intimate social relations with those whom they
lived among, have also been humiliated, killed or expelled.
The Muslims and Tamils spoke the same
language, lived with
each other and were bound by local customs. The question whether
one is Tamil or Muslim is ironical at a time when perhaps the
greater volume of literary output in Tamil appearing locally is
of Muslim authorship. Tamils must face up to the fact that in
stead of using much that was common to strengthen existing ties,
by giving respect to Muslims for their contribution to the econo
my and culture, they treated them as an appendage. Attempts to
forge only a mechanical unity in the face of threats from the
state, such as colonisation, exposed all the contradictions.
The tragedy of the East is
one aspect of the corrosive
politics that has been the bane of every part of the nation.
Despite all this human destruction that is a living reality for
the vast majority of people in this country, conventional econo
mic indicators blithely proclaim a growing economy. It is this
that would weigh heavily with those powers who mechanically
decide the fate of small third world nations.
In order for the Easterners
to find a creative means of
fighting back, they need to rediscover the history they had
forgotten. Today they are dominated by a total sense of their
division and worthlessness, coupled with an admiration for Jaffna
that was initially a part of the middle class value system.
The truth is very different. Until quite
recently the Eas
tern militant cadre showed a community spirit which ignored group
divisions. When this posed a challenge to the leadership in
Jaffna, they had to send men from Jaffna to create division and
restore their authority. When the LTTE took on the TELO in May
1986, the native born Batticaloa LTTE leader, Kadavul, issued a
statement expressing the need for Eastern Tamils to be united and
assured the other groups that they would not be harmed. The LTTE
leadership had to send Kumarappa and Pottu to enforce the divi
sion. Francis, another LTTE leader born in Batticaloa, was very
highly regarded and is said to have been against the killing of
Batticaloa resident Sinhalese in October 1987. The killings were
ordered by the Jaffna leadership. Francis later died a miserable
man. Division, mutual suspicion and a feeling of worthlessness in
the East are thus integral to the LTTE's strategy, which based on
Tamil chauvinism has also meshed with the aims of Sinhalese
chauvinism. The organic unity of the East needs to be
The army arrived in Chenkaladi
in late July 1990. People
fled into the jungle and later ended up at the Eastern University
refugee camp. On the first day the army took 8 persons in a round
up. They released 3 and went away with 5. Nothing more was heard
of them. Three months later information was received that one of
the prisoners, Elango, was under detention in the South.
The first army unit stationed at Chenkaladi
was harsh. A few
days later a two thousand strong army unit arrived. The senior
officers were camped in the Methodist Church. This unit was
extremely well-disciplined and the officers very courteous. When
ever they removed cooking vessels from homes of local residents,
they washed them and put them back. Though this unit was there
only a few days, people became over confident. The word go around
and those who had fled started coming back.
Eravur_Massacre_and_after: On 11th
August a landmine went
off in Chenkaladi. Though there were no casualties, the army
fired shells and took away 25 persons, including the post master
and a technical assistant. Some buildings were burnt. Many civi
lians fled into the Muslim area (Eravur North). The army did not
respond while the LTTE massacred Muslims that night.
As the army began moving towards Eravur
from Chenkaladi the
following day (12th), soldiers stabbed Maruthappu, the sexton of
the Roman Catholic Church, and Seeni Podiyar, an 80 year old man.
One soldier who was concerned came running into the Methodist
Manse premises, collected the boys and pushed them inside, and
made the women stand in front. The other soldiers then passed by
without bothering to look inside (See Report No.5). The church
was full of civilians' things, and 125 refugees were in the
church. At 12.00 p.m. Fr. Joseph, the Roman Catholic clergyman
brought news of the stabbings. Two soldiers were then standing
sentry in front of the church. At length, a church worker took
some water for the soldiers and asked them whether it was safe to
move about. The soldiers replied that there was nothing to fear
as long as they were there and that they could move about until
5.00p.m. A tractor was arranged to transport the things and the
people left for the Eastern University.
The Methodist priest, Rev. Arulrajah, and Fr.
Joseph went to
the Athiyamalai Roman Catholic Church and made it to Batticaloa
the following day by a circuitous route. There they made a com
plaint to the military authorities about killings by the army.
Brigadier A.N.U. Seneviratne denied that there had been killings.
The clergymen returned to Chenkaladi with Fr. Diconic from Batti
caloa. He and Fr. Joseph conducted the burial rites for Maruthap
pu. An old beggar lady remaining in the Methodist Church was
dispatched to an old peoples' home. Nearly all those left in
Chenkalady went to Batticaloa on the 13th. An old couple, Mr.
Kanagaratnam and his wife decided to remain in their home. They
were later killed in shelling.
Eravur is a village 4 miles north of
Batticaloa town having
37,000 Muslims and 13,000 Tamils living in wards 4 and 5. Tamil-
Muslim relations had been consistently good and the two communi
ties were integrated, and their economic activities were comple
mentary. The Tamils were chiefly from the service casts such as
barbers, dhobys, builders, goldsmiths and iron smiths. In some
sense they were better off serving Muslims rather than caste
conscious Vellalas. The Muslims were mainly farmers, labourers or
fishermen. These categories made up 95% of the Muslim population
in sharp contrast to Muslims of Kattankudy.
Apart from the integration of economic and
social life, the
relations between the two communities were also cemented in
educational life. Aligar Maha Vidyalayam in Eravur had eminent
Tamils and Muslims among its alumnii, and came first in the
island for Arts and Commerce in 1986. It attracts Tamil students
from as far as Kiran and Saththurukondan. S. Thambirasa was among
its eminent principals. The school has also produced many Tamils
who are doctors and engineers. Although recent politics has
tended to strain relations, there were leaders on both sides
working hard to maintain good relations. In 1985, a Tamil-Muslim
unity committee was set up with Dawood and Sivanandarajah as
joint secretaries. More recently Dawood and Thambapillay who were
class-mates at Aligar MV were joint secretaries. Dawood was
cluster principal of a group of schools in Eravur. Mr.Haniffa the
present AGA of Eravur was a principal who had served largely in
Tamil schools at Pandiruppu and later at Vantharumoolai Central.
Following the LTTE assuming control in
late 1989, Muslim
expectations were high. Because of the conduct of groups aligned
to the IPKF, the Muslims had provided substantial help to the
LTTE. Dawood, together with a number of other Muslim leaders held
talks with LTTE leaders including Anton Balasingam and Yogi with
regard to Muslim rights in the future political arrangement.
These were leaders who had staked the future of Muslims on good
relations with Tamils. The LTTE's response was lukewarm on Muslim
rights. These Muslim leaders spoke from LTTE platforms and were
filmed with LTTE leaders at the latter's Vaharai convention.
The_June_War: Eravur was among
these villages which had no
record of communal violence on anything approaching the scale
known elsewhere. Although the massacre of Muslim policemen had
taken place further south and the army was expected in Eravur
anytime, the village leadership was intent on not allowing Tamil-
Muslim relations to suffer. An elder showed a diary entry, where
Dawood summoned a meeting about 16th June of the village elders
and told them:"Do not fraternise with the army. Our Tamil bro
thers will be angry".
The army which had been ordered to retake
the East, went
into action without a clear strategy. The army was rushing to
Batticaloa from Valaichenai without securing its lines of commu
nication. It moved into Eravur about the 23rd of June and moved
unresisted towards Batticaloa without setting up a camp. The LTTE
then moved back into Eravur.
On 4th July (Haji), the LTTE
abducted community leaders
Dawood, Kazi, M.L.A. Gafoor and Al Haj Ali Mohamed. This happened
in the morning. A person who had collected several lakhs of
rupees for the LTTE, approached them. Independent efforts were
also made by the Tamil-Muslim unity committee and the Roman
Catholic Church. After a long delay, the LTTE let it slip that
the last rites for these leaders could be performed.
Just after the army passed through on 23rd
June the LTTE had
come in large numbers and looted the MPCS and local shops, inclu
ding Tamil ones. The same thing was going on in Chenkaladi. A
curfew was imposed. Mr. Tawfeek, a graduate teacher, who was on
the road was tied to a post while the looting went on. Others
seen with prayer caps were assaulted. The LTTE had also brought
Tamils from the neighbourhood and had encouraged them to loot.
The Pradeshiya Sabha (Regional Council) and Public Library were
also destroyed. Equipment from the Aligar MV laboratory was
carried away. These happened between 23rd and 27th June.
One Muslim observed, "I was in
Jaffna when the forces des
troyed your public library. It was a piece of cultural genocide
worthy of publicity all over the world. Imagine what we would
have felt when the same was done to ours?"
The army returned from Batticaloa
in late July, about a
month later, to secure its lines of communication. Camps were set
up in Chenkaladi to the north and in Sathurukondan to the south
of Eravur. Patrols used to set off from both places simultaneous
ly and meet in Eravur. Following the Kurukkal Madam massacre of
Muslims, there was talk of setting up an army camp in Eravur.
common rumour in circulation among Tamils is that Dawood and
others were killed because they had garlanded the army when it
arrived. In fairness to these men, it is necessary to examine
this claim. Dawood belonged to the class of Eastern Muslims who
from humble beginnings rose through sheer hard work. He first
became a Tamil trained teacher, then worked for his degree,
diploma in education and finally passed the Administrative Ser
vice examination. He was also a member of the Eastern University
Council. From his school days he had identified himself with the
social advancement of Eravur. As a schoolboy he had organised
Jinnah library in 1952 which later became the public library. As
a community leader, he had staked his diplomatic efforts on good
relations with Tamils. He was an experienced man with a sense of
history and had seen a number of forces come and go in the space
of a few years. It was only logical and in keeping with common
sense that he had, following the outbreak of war, cautioned the
village against fraternising with the Sri Lankan army. Would such
men have suddenly lost their heads to go and publicly garland the
Sri Lankan army that was passing through?
This claim about Dawood welcoming the forces is strongly
denied by others close to him. Asked whether the villagers wel
comed the army, a government servant gave an answer which carried
much conviction. He said, "Most people in this village have
hardly gone beyond this region in all their lives and do not
speak Sinhalese. When the army came, the atmosphere was tense. A
boy was called out by soldiers from near my house. They asked him
for young coconuts to drink. He just stared in fear. They then
asked him where the LTTE was. The boy pointed to the jungle. A
soldier slapped him. That was how things were. Of course several
people gave them water when asked. Does that amount to welcoming
the army?" It is further pointed out that when Dawood and others
were abducted on 4th July, the LTTE came to their homes and
called them. They came out promptly because they knew the LTTE
and did not think they had anything to hide."
What could then have happened? Many community
Muslim and Tamil, will readily admit on the basis of commonsense,
that when an army moves in, it is best to establish some human
communication. the soldiers are new to the place and are tense.
When they make irrational judgements, much damage can result.
Thus nearly all citizens' committees appointed by the LTTE in
Jaffna did business with the Sri Lankan army in 1987 after Opera
tion Liberation, and with the IPKF later on. They even took part
in functions. Furthermore, if one had an LTTE connection of some
sort, it is better to introduce oneself before an informer does
it. These are realities in the North-East. The LTTE does not take
kindly to any action based on the initiative of persons not under
For the disappearance of these Muslim
leaders, one has to
look for causes in the LTTE's self inflicted paranoia against
Muslims. This is discussed separately.
The_Massacre,_12th_August : By early August
the cauldron had
been stirred. The LTTE had conducted massacres of Muslims in
Kurukkal Madam and Kattankudy and had destroyed the very communi
ty leadership in Eravur that had worked for the maintenance of
good relations between Tamils and Muslims. This leaderlessness
combined with anger and fear were natural catalysts towards the
creation of anarchy.
Muslims deny allegations that Muslim
agents were then at
work pointing out Tamil youth to the army. In this atmosphere of
growing suspicion, Tamil claims are based on the premise that
several Tamil youth were picked by army patrols in the market
shared by Tamils and Muslims. There were other factors contribu
ting to the tension. A call had been made by Muslim leaders based
in Colombo to set up an army camp in Eravur on the grounds that
Muslims were being attacked. Tamils on the other hand had fears
of the army based on experience. The anti-Muslim direction of the
LTTE had caused several Muslim cadre to desert and return to
their villages. News had also reached Eravur that the LTTE had
killed five of its Muslim cadre at Kokkadichcholai on suspicion.
It is however a fact that Muslims and Tamils did have social and
neighbourly relations until 11th August.
LTTE cadre arrived in Eravur about 10.30 p.m. on 11th August
and went about massacring Muslims until the early hours of the
morning. They went through the Muslim areas of Surattayankuda,
Michnagar, Meerakerni, Saddam Hussein village and Punnakuda,
killing 121 persons. Among the worst reported incidents was the
cutting of a pregnant lady's stomach. The baby is said to have
been pulled out and stabbed. The army based at Chenkaladi 1 1/2
miles away, it is said, came in the afternoon to 'collect
The soldiers accompanied by mobs then went
through the Tamil
wards (4 & 5) killing a number of civilians and burning dwel
lings. The rest fled. (Reports given separately). The creation of
home guard units by the government which went into action two
weeks later created an impossible situation for the Tamils.
The_Present: Eravur is relatively calm
today. Muslim elders
are very anxious to reassure Tamils and point to Tamils who have
been functioning unharmed. They are very anxious to re-establish
fraternal relations. One quoted a saying attributed to a Tamil
politician that Muslims and Tamils in that region are like coco
nut and flour in the pittu. However, continuing LTTE attacks on
Muslims and a hint of anarchy which the forces have done little
to discourage, keep the two communities apart. Tamils go through
the main road of Eravur with some trepidation. It is a sad legacy
of liberation politics.
The local economic life is at a standstill
and the people
are living on government rations. 95% of the people who depend on
agriculture cannot go to their fields. 36,000 cattle are un
accounted for and over 40,000 acres of paddy land belonging to
the village remain uncultivated. Two seasons - Kalapoham and
Munmari - have been missed. Villagers dare not go out to obtain
clay for bricks, firewood, river sand and keerai (spinach).
Fishermen who used to go to Punnakuda beach 3 miles away to the
east dare not go beyond 1/2 a mile from the village. While Mus
lims are used by the state for propaganda, little publicity is
given outside to their sufferings. Tamils quite often believe
that Muslims are well off. Meanwhile the Tamils who used to earn
a living by providing services to the Muslims, languish in refu
2.3 Kudiyiruppu:_The_Massacre_of_Passengers,_21st February_1991
News was received that 6 Muslim home
guards who went beyond
Eravur station road had been shot by the LTTE, killing two. The
four injured were sent to Polonnaruwa hospital. The university
staff who were opperating from Batticaloa, decided to return home
immediately. They left Eastern University in two vehicles, a car
in front and a Tata bus behind. At Chenkaladi, vehicles were
waiting in a queue, from the People's Bank up to the army camp.
The time was 1.30 p.m. In the queue were vehicles and buses
transporting train passengers from Valaichenai to Batticaloa. The
AGA, Chenkaladi, drove his jeep up to the camp and went in to ask
for an escort to take them past Eravur. The AGA came out and said
that an escort will be given. When the escort did not turn up,
Prof. Mano Sabaratnam and Dr. Jeyarajah went into the camp to ask
for an escort. Two TELO members with guns were then seen coming
out of the camp and stopping a van. The van went in front and
others followed. Behind the two university vehicles led by the
car, was a CTB bus from Valaichenai with passengers from the
train which had come from Colombo.
While passing through Eravur,
an army picket was on both
sides of the road. When passing the police station, Muslim home
guards at the sentry point lightly made a cryptic utterance. They
said, "Say ta ta (goodbye) and go carefully". On reaching the
camp marking the southern boundary of Eravur and the deserted
Tamil village of Kudiyiruppu, the TELO escort turned back, presu
mably on the grounds that it was a Tamil area all the way to
Batticaloa, and further that the LTTE may thus attack them.
Vehicles then took off on their own. After several vehicles had
gone ahead, the university car reached the security post marking
the end of Eravur. At this point the Chenkaladi AGA's jeep which
had gone ahead came rushing back to the post at full speed,
sounding the horn and flashing the head lamps, evidently warning
others of trouble.
The university vehicles stopped
near the security post.
After a few minutes the front vehicle started moving. The univer
sity vehicles and the CTB bus followed. The car was about 1/4
mile behind the vehicle in front. As the university vehicles came
to the bend 400 yards from the security post, those inside saw
two men crouching behind bushes wearing camouflage banians of the
type worn by the armed forces and homeguards. One was carrying a
shot gun of the kind given to the homeguards and the other had a
pole. On seeing the university car, they ran back, presumably
thinking that those inside were persons of consequence.
A little further on, those
in the car saw a man in a T
shirt, soaking in blood, running towards the road with a limp,
signalling that he wanted help. Three men in sarongs, two with
knives and one with a pole were chasing him. The car being full,
the driver slowed down and signalled the Tata bus to stop and
pick up the fugitive. The bus driver not having seen the man,
overtook the car and went. The car driver then took the centre of
the road and braked, forcing the CTB bus behind to stop. The
conductor helped the injured man on board.
At the same time the driver of the car
saw in his mirror a
woman in a red sari, chased by other saronged men with knives.
All decided that she was too far for them to risk stopping. The
driver saw the woman being overtaken and stabbed. The vehicles
moved off and reported the incident to the army at the Saththuru
kondan camp. The soldiers took over the CTB bus and rushed to
wards Kudiyiruppu, in sharp contrast to the army in Kudiyiruppu.
40 train passengers were
squeezed into a van which had proceeded ahead of the university
vehicles. After the final check post in Eravur, the escort left,
and the van proceeded on its own. The following story was given
by a Jaffna University graduate working in Batticaloa:
"I was seated in front with my brother-in-law who was next
to the driver. Just before we reached the bend (400 yards from
the security post and visible from it), a shot gun was fired,
catching, the driver full in the face. My brother-in-law became
soaked in the driver's blood. The van went straight, got off the
road at the bend and after some distance, was stopped by an
electric post. The driver had died immediately. Several of us
clambered out. I squeezed out through a window. I ran westwards
towards the lagoon. As I was running, I tripped against a clump
of grass and fell down. This saved me, as just then a pursuer
opened fire and the shot went over me. I got up and made it to
the shore of the lagoon. Evidently our pursuers had lost interest
in those who got away, and were busy with those trapped in the
"At the shore of the lagoon,
I discoverd a lady and a 20
year old girl, who had run into the water and whose feet were
stuck in the slime. I pulled them out and the three of us walked
along the lagoon shore to Thannamunai. I later discovered that my
brother-in-law had escaped and was picked up by a bus. As I got
up from my fall and was making it to the lagoon, I saw a ball of
smoke and realised that the van was being set on fire. I know
that about 15 of the passengers with injuries were later warded
at Batticaloa hospital. I figure that about 20 dead and injured
would have been burnt with the van."
the incident, no one
was questioned and no inquiry was held. The late Minister of
Defence when questioned at a press briefing maintained that the
attackers were civilians and that homeguards had not been invol
ved. But the people had seen much and drew their own conclusions.
It is understood that when the
AGA reported the matter to
the security point on the Eravur-Kudiyiruppu border, he was told
that this was the boundary of the forces there and that they were
not supposed to go beyond.
The attack had taken place about 400 yards
from the security
post. At least two shots were fired which would have been clearly
heard at the post. Not only was no attempt made to offer help,
but no attempt was made to stop other vehicles going past their
From the point of the attackers,
they had chosen ideal
conditions. They had lain in wait in a Tamil area abandoned
during the arson and killing that followed the Eravur massacre.
Thus their presence was not anticipated. It is logical that they
were aware that the armed escort sent by the Chenkaladi army post
would stop at the end of Eravur. Who could have given them such
information? The attack was significantly carried out from a
point close enough to the security post to ensure that the attac
kers would probably not be disturbed by Tigers. Further, in the
Sri Lankan context, it is very seldom, if ever, that civilians
had been instigated into violent acts without inspiration from an
The vehicles from the university had
not seen the van that
fell victim, because it had gone off the road at the bend and was
hidden behind the lush greenery that followed in the train of the
The known facts and the cover
up by the government led
ordinary people to believe that the forces were involved, and
that it was, by default or otherwise, part of government policy.
When the army entered Batticaloa in June, the town did not
witness the sensational massacres that took place elsewhere. But
people were picked up and burning bodies started appearing at the
rate of about 5 a day. The largest single incident in town was
the appearance of 27 bodies down Bar Road. Three battalions of
soldiers had moved into Batticaloa. One remained and two went
back having finished their 'job'. Brigadier A.N.U. Seneviratne
remained in charge of Batticaloa, with Brigadier Karunatilleke at
Valaichenai. During the early days, the army refused to entertain
civilian delegations. A leading army officer is quoted as having
said, "We are different from the IPKF. They came to maintain
peace. But we came to fight." At that stage the LTTE had vanis
hed. Of killing there was a good deal. But of fighting, almost
An elderly person gave an experience
to illustrate on what
delicate threads lives of young boys hung in those days. He was
passing an army checkpoint when a Roman Catholic priest who had
finished a service came with a boy. The soldier at the checkpoint
detained the boy and asked the priest to go. The priest tried
explaining that the boy had just come from church worship. The
soldier again asked him to go. The priest then appealed to others
passing through, "This fool does not understand English or Tamil.
Can someone tell him in Sinhalese?" The layman being a retired
government servant, went up to the soldier. The latter told him
that he had no business here. The old man tried to explain calm
ly. The soldier being unyielding, the priest darted inside and
grabbed the boy from his captors. Within those few moments the
boy was already bleeding from two head injuries. The old man
said, "If someone was detained and you did not get him out imme
diately, you had to assume that he was finished!" This was a
commonly held view based on tragic experiences, capped by burning
bodies. Often the myth that soldiers are foolish brutes and
officers are not too bad, served both sides.
Massacre_at_Thannamunai: The next
serious occurence around
Batticaloa, took place in Thannamunai, just north of Batticaloa.
The exact location was Pillaiyarady, near Sathurukondan. Early in
the morning about 7th August 1990, a cyclist who had come into
town with injuries was taken to the Roman Catholic Church autho
rities. He reported that the army had moved in and massacred
about 200 people and that their bodies were being burnt. When the
army was contacted, they denied that such had taken place. After
further insistence by civilians, the injured man who was both
tired and confused was sent with Colonel Percy Fernando to the
area. It was around 3.30 p.m. The man, in his state, was unable
to locate the places where dead bodies were supposedly set on
fire. The party returned to town a short time later, before
The army wanted Mr. Arunagirinathan,
chairman of the Batti
caloa citizens' committee to sign a statement to the effect that
there had been no massacre as alleged. The chairman signed the
statement and resigned from his position. It was then claimed in
the Defence Ministry press briefing that citizens'committee mem
bers who were taken for an inspection had said that there was no
evidence of such an incident.
As things calmed down, nuns from the Holy Family
church officials went back to the are to restart the convent and
the Boys' town. They_stumbled_into_about_100_skeletons.
Twelve_bodies_in_Iruthayapuram: Although Batticaloa
numerous sentry points appeared calm on the surface and there
appeared to be a move towards not killing suspects detained,
things could hardly be other than deceptive.
On 30th March 1991, a police
patrol on bicycles through
Iruthayapuram was fired at killing one policeman. According to
the Virakesari (2nd April), 'uniformed' persons arrived that
evening and took several persons into custody. On the following
morning, Sunday, twelve bodies were found dumped with stab
wounds, and some with gun shot injuries. At the time of going to
press, 7 bodies had been identified by relatives at the Battica
loa mortuary, whither they had been conveyed by the ICRC.
Iruthayapuram had witnessed a massacre
prior to the Indo-
Lanka Accord. The recent massacre will persuade the people that
the Sri Lankan forces are incapable of maintaining order and will
add to the furthering of anarchy in the East. The militant stra
tegy is also significant. Civilian cover was used to kill one
policeman and go into hiding. There was no strategy or wish to
protect civilians from reprisals.
Bay) lies in the hinterland across the lagoon from Batticaloa.
Access is by ferry. The area is no man's land with no permanent
army presence. The villagers are normally left alone. The LTTE
comes occasionally. But when the army comes, pandemonium reigns.
A woman described a visit on one such occasion
year. She had entered Mudalaikudah by ferry when gun shots were
heard. Then there was panic as people were urged to run for it
because the army had come. It was later learned that there had
been no confrontation with the LTTE. TELO cadre who came with the
army, it is said, had killed some alleged LTTE sympathisers. The
woman saw 3 bodies on the road. The army's visit was brief.
In UTHR (J) Report
No. 6, (Section 6.5), we quoted local sources to the effect that
over 100 civilian refugees were killed when the army moved in
during January. When we tried to check this out from leading
civilians in Batticaloa, no one was aware of deaths on that
This points to some of the difficulties about
rate information about the East. Many persons who used to play a
role had lost hope to a point that few are aware with any cer
tainty, about what happens beyond their village or town. Documen
tation of information is not done at the level of organisation
existing in 1987. When it comes to an incident in a remote area,
some person who escapes from the noise and confusion would give
an impressionistic picture. It is often difficult to go beyond
that. Regarding Vaharai, one individual said that he was aware of
4 refugees from one particular village being killed. Refugees in
the jungle would have been from several villages. It would thus
not be possible to get an accurate picture unless there is an
organisation having contacts in all villages actively involved in
In Trincomalee, people have been so intimidated
forces, that there is little information on what had happened
there. Another angle to this situation is that several persons
who used to take risks in highlighting human rights violations
have been killed after 1987, both in Batticaloa and in Trincoma
lee, by more than one Tamil militant group.
During the IPKF presence, the LTTE had
good relations with
the Muslims of Kattandudy, where they used to take shelter. When
the LTTE assumed control in December 1989, the LTTE was said to
be extremely well behaved during the first two weeks. Hopes were
then very high. But from then on things gradually soured below
the surface. The high taxes demanded by the LTTE placed the
population which largely depended on trade under strain. The LTTE
began taking a repressive approach to any form of independent
Muslim activity. There were small incidents of acts against LTTE
supporters and subsequent reprisals.
But the local leadership represented
by the Federation of
Mosques and Muslim Institutions (FMMI) took a pragmatic approach
to the LTTE and constantly intervened to smoothen out matters.
The FMMI was under considerable pressure from young activists who
felt that it was a disgrace to palaver the LTTE unless it was
prepared to respect Muslims and recognise their right to some
autonomy. The FMMI together with other Muslim leaders constantly
put friendly pressure on the LTTE to make such a commitment. At
one point, in cracking down on all independent forms of Muslim
expression, the LTTE banned the FMMI.
When Yogi visited the East subsequently,
the local leaders
explained to him the tense situation created by the banning of
the FMMI. They told him that they had no wish to defy the LTTE
and that they could carry on as before if Yogi officially lifted
the ban imposed by the LTTE. This was done by Yogi. But Yogi also
maintained a silence on other Muslim demands. However, normal
relations continued. Newton, Karikalan, David and Ranjith Appa
were among the LTTE leaders maintaining frequent, friendly con
tact with the Kattankudy elders.
The_June_War : With the beginning
of the June War, the
importance of Kattankudy to the residents of Batticaloa District
increased. With the direct routes leading out of the district
becoming closed, the Tamil traders and lorries unable to go out,
Kattankudy traders who were able to fetch goods from Kalmunai
became the source of food for the entire district. People from
outside regularly flocked into Kattankudy to purchase food items.
Jinnah Hadjiaar was a mill owner living
near the Manjantho
duwa border, who knew Ranjith Appa. After the outbreak of war,
Hadjiaar had innocently told Ranjith Appa, "You must look after
the people of Kattankudy and see that they come to no harm." The
general tendency in Kattankudy even at that time was to rationa
lise the massacre of Muslim policement at Rufus Kulam, together
with their Sinhalese colleagues.
The residents of Kattankudy were taken by surprise,
LTTE came into the village on 26th June, imposed a curfew, stood
on both sides of the road and proceeded to loot the shops. One
person who came out unawares was killed. The looting was part of
a pattern everywhere in the district, including several Tamil
villages. 93 shops were looted. What offended the Muslims most
was that 3 shops adjoining a Mosque and maintained in support of
the Mosque, were burnt. The Mosque itself was saved by the people
dousing the fire after the LTTE had left. This spate of looting
left residents of the district with almost no access to food.
The local leaders had maintained
friendly relations with
officials in the Roman Catholic Church, to whom they made repre
sentations. Within a week of the looting, LTTE leaders Newton and
Ranjith Appa came to the village, had a meeting with 15 elders
and conveyed their apologies for the 'mistake'. They gave assur
ance of the LTTE's future good behaviour.
While the Muslims remained hopeful,
another blow came on
12th July when the LTTE massacred at least 68 Muslims at Kuruk
kalmadam, 3 miles south of Kattankudy. (See next section for
report). Though these persons killed were from Kattankudy, there
was then, still a tendency to find reasons for the incident.
There was a story around that the LTTE had done it because a
Muslim deserter from its ranks had led the army to its Kanjikudi
The_Massacre_of_3rd_August: The massacre
of 3rd August (See
UTHR (J) Nos. 4 & 5 for reports), finally persuaded the local
people that there was no hope of accomodation with the LTTE. Like
the one of 12th July, this too was totally unprovoked. The local
leaders explained that the secretary, FMMI, issued a statement
because there was a great deal of confusion about who was respon
sible. Among local residents itself there was a story that the
army, which was camped at the Araipattai and Navabkudah ends of
the main road, was responsible. The leaders explained that they
knew the LTTE and had seen who was responsible.
Just prior to the massacre,
Ranjith Appa had gone to the
house of Jinnah Hadjiaar and asked for his son-in-law. The son-
in-law's small son had said that he was in the bathroom. Since
Ranjith Appa was a familiar visitor, there was no alarm. When the
son-in-law came to meet Ranjith, he was shot dead in the sight of
his wife and son. The party then proceeded to two Mosques and
massacred over 120 persons at 8.30 p.m. The massacre took place
at the time of Sujuth - prostration, the most sacred of moments.
The leaders admitted that there were
instances of mob violence against Tamils. But the FMMI did large
ly restore calm. Since the Muslims felt helpless, it was decided
that they should accept the government's offer to train home
guards. One leader explained, "We did not want an extremist
organisation starting here. So we decided that the FMMI would
nominate persons for homeguard training. Whenever the government
decides to settle the problem, let them take back the arms they
issued. The problem is then off our hands".
While homeguards may have been an expedient
to restore calm,
as elsewhere, they were of no use in defending the people, but
were rather a nuisance to them, an easy target for the LTTE to
boost their image, and a source of terror to sundry Tamils within
their reach - particularly after an LTTE action. They became a
part of the problem. In the sequel the LTTE killed Muslim strag
glers. The homeguards responded in similar fashion. According to
Muslim leaders 40 Muslim fishermen have been killed in several
incidents. Following the killing of some Muslim fishermen last
September, persons identified as Muslim homeguards abducted 17
Tamils and murdered then on the sea shore. This happened about
19th September, leading to an outcry to ban homeguards.
In the process the boundary areas between Kattankudy
neighbouring Tamil villages became deserted. Muslims had to aban
don the surrounding villages of Palamunai (800 families), Siha
ram, Ollikulam, Keechchanpallam, Kankeyan Odai and Manmunai
(south of Kattankudy). Some of the residents of Palamunai and
Kankeyan Odai have now gone back. The rest of the villages are
completely deserted. Kattankudy now had a population of 40,000
confined to one square mile - amongst the world's highest popula
Muslim stragglers trying to make a living
by fetching fire
wood or by doing small business on bicycles, continued to be
picked off by the LTTE. In one incident 8 Muslims are said to
have been killed near Kallady, on the way to Batticaloa.
In another incident during the first
week of December, two
Muslim women of ages 65 and 55 went with two young boys in two
bullock carts with drivers, to fetch things from their abandoned
house in Ollikulam. All six were killed. A small boy of 8 is said
to have been killed when his grandmother tried to hide him in her
sari. Only 4 bodies were recovered.
The_present: One elder said that he was
not angry, but felt
broken hearted about Tamil responsibility for the entire tragedy.
Kattankudy which depends heavily on trade
has been hard hit
by its confinement. 6000 acres of paddy land in Paduvankarai
across the lagoon, belonging to its residents, have been aban
doned for 5 years. They have also lost access to their coconut
estates situated in Tamil areas.
Bishop Kingsley Swamipillai of
the Roman Catholic Church
gave the following anecdote to explain how Tamils tend to under-
estimate the difficulties and anxieties of Muslims. At a peace
meeting last year Tamils complained how they have to spend Rs.50/
to go from Batticaloa to Araipattai because they cannot go
through Kattankudy. They have to cross the lagoon, bypass Kattan
kudy on the other side, and cross the lagoon again. "We have to
spend Rs.500/- to go Valaichenai, because we cannot go through
Batticaloa," replied the Muslims, "We have to go to Kalmunai and
then to Valaichenai via Amparai and Maha Oya." The Bishop added
that this was an eye opener to many Tamils.
Among the handful of Muslim students
attending Eastern Uni
versity is one young boy offering Mathematics, acknowledged as
brilliant by his teachers. His future is as bleak as that of many
of his Tamil counterparts. He comes by van from Kattankudy. Gets
down just after Kallady bridge, follows classes at the universi
ty's Uthaya Motors premises, and returns without loitering in
Batticaloa. His opportunities for further studies are remote.
It is evident that the Muslims are as
anxious as Tamils to
restore normal relations. The trend of current politics on the
part of both the government and the LTTE would be to keep the
At the level of NGO's there appears to
be little communica
tion between those working among Tamils and those serving Mus
lims. While the former are largely funded from the West, the
latter receive funds from Muslim sources. If there is better
communication and a pooling of resources at that level, it would
also help to bring some thaw at ground level. It is often the
case that the NGO's serving Tamils are often subject to stories
about the villainy of Muslims, and receive little information on
the difficulties faced by them. This has added to the process
leading to a feeling of isolation felt by the Muslim community.
On the way from Batticaloa to Kalmunai,
there is a village
every two or three miles and each has peculiar traditions of its
own. Kurukkal Madam lies just south of Araipattai. It is a vil
lage where both aspiration and attainment in the field of educa
tion are high and many of its present and former inhabitants are
in government service or in the professions. The admission fi
gures from the village to the Eastern University are said to be
very creditable. As the name suggests, the level of Hindu piety
is also high in the village. The militant tradition in the vil
lage is said to be low in comparison with the neightbouring
villages of Ambalanthurai, Kirankulam and Chettipalayam. About 11
of its members were in the PLOTE and TELO. After the LTTE deci
mated other groups in 1986, nearly all these persons left the
East. Subsequently almost no one from the village joined the
LTTE, and thus it experienced little trouble from the forces that
came. Understandably, some suspicion and ill-feeling was directed
towards Kurukkal Madam from neighbouring villages.
The_Massacre_of_Muslims: Following the end
of the first week
of July, a convoy of Kattankudi resident Muslims was proceeding
thither, from Colombo, via Kalmunai. In the convoy were also
lorries carrying a large quantity of goods. The convoy was stop
ped in Kurukkal Madam by the local LTTE group led by Mani - a
somwhat notorious figure. The captives were herded into a single
house. A witness put their number at 60 to 80. It was widely
understood that the initial motive was robbery.
How the decision to massacre was
taken appears a little
involved. A number of refugees from Karaitivu, Kalmunai and
Pandiruppu were present at Kurukkal Madam. Muslim informers and
helpers were associated in their minds with the widespread atro
cities of the Sri Lankan forces. In terms of support and recruit
ment, however irresponsible, the LTTE had some populist advantage
to be gained in the bloody assuaging of anti-Muslim feelings. But
it is unlikely that a local leader would have taken such a deci
sion upon himself, since there was apparently no clear line at
that time about Muslim civilians. Muslim sources in Kattankudy
name a senior LTTE leader in the Batticaloa hierarchy as having
given the order to kill. The Muslim civilians were later taken
out and reportedly killed nearby. Witnesses saw old women and
children among the victims. Among the motives suspected by resi
dents is that of putting them into trouble when the army arrived.
It was by then clear from what had happened elsewhere that the
LTTE had no intention of stopping the army.
Those in Kurukkalmadam left in fear.
Many left as refugees
wading across water to Ambalanthurai. Several of them came back a
few days later.
The_army_arrives: When the army arrived
a few days later, a
young man was in his house with his parents. A cyclist on the
road, on seeing the army left the bicycle on the road and ran
away. The army came into the house and took the young man and put
him into a tractor containing six young boys with hands tied and
eyes blindfolded, brought from Chettipalayam. The young man's
parents went up and pleaded. The mother was beaten. An officer
who came behind released the young man. Later six bodies were
found burnt, placed radially around a tyre. The army had also
done its usual looting of TV sets and watches.
The local residents had further
instances of the Tigers
wanting to put them into trouble. On one occasion, a Tiger was
standing near a house containing civilians while a patrol was
coming, ready to run away. On another occasion a landmine was
placed opposite the post office, then containing refugees. The
mine did not go off when a patrol passed by. The LTTE later
removed the mine.
When things settled down,
it turned out that a number of
people from the surrounding areas had been killed, while none had
died from Kurukkal Madam itself. That strengthened the prevalent
Many of the buildings in town were destroyed
when the army
shelled the area before moving in from Amparai. There used to be
a big LTTE camp in the area. The shells were fired from Periya
Porativu as the army moved along the Gonagolla - Kaluwanchikudy
road. There were initially the usual symptoms of Sri Lankan army
occupation. But we shall confine ourselves to what happened
subsequently, and for a change, to the rare positive side.
The battalion that came into occupation
commanded by Colonel Halangoda. The conduct of this unit is
spoken of with high praise by local civilians and others in
neighbouring areas. This period provided the civilians with both
dignity and confidence. The standards set were very unusual for
the Sri Lankan army.
On one occasion an army patrol as well
as the LTTE ended up
in the market at the same time. The troops were ordered not to
fire for the fear of hitting civilians. The confrontation ended
peacefully. In another incident an army patrol was ambushed in
Kottai Kallar, south of Kaluwanchikudy. Two soldiers were killed.
The army behaved itself and there were no reprisals against
civilians. The villagers were asked to tell the LTTE that there
was no objection to their coming into the village, provided they
did so without arms.
When in mid-December 1990, the STF was on a
in Kallar and Periya Nilawanai further south, resulting in many
disappearances, the army at Kaluwanchikudy was warning people not
to proceed south as the STF was on a spree. Colonel Halangoda
left earlier this year on an overseas scholarhip. Because of a
total political vacuum, such achievements are too often short
lived. Good officers, although they can decisively influence the
character of their unit, cannot compensate for poor political
According to residents in Kallar,
the worst incident with
the IPKF was the kicking to death of a young boy by soldiers in
public view. This happened after the outbreak of the October 1987
war. Later things were quiet. About July 1989, 26 boys from
Kallar were conscripted for the ill fated TNA. The TNA was posted
in the Methodist Church Community Hall, and were described as not
aggressive. Strangely enough, many Tamil youth then took up
residence in Amparai town to evade conscription. They were then
well received, though Amparai became a death trap the following
In November 1989, the TNA confronted
the LTTE at Thumpan
kerni, beyond Palugamam. 7 were killed. The rest, including those
from Kallar, were taken prisoner and are missing since then.
The_June_War: On June 16th,
the day on which the army ar
rived, a man was hacked to death on the causeay to Kottai Kallar.
Five youths, including Suntheralingam, Paskaran, Sasikaran and
Gunam, were taken by the army in a round-up and are missing.
Subsequently, refugees from Veeramunai, Central Camp, Division 8,
Malwattai and Mallikaitivu came to reside at a camp in Kallar. In
late July, 35 of these refugees were rounded up by the STF and
Muslim vigilantes, taken to the Kallar beach, and shot dead.
Local residents were called in to carry the bodies into vehicles.
During those days the STF
used to fire at people from a
distance without verifying their targets. In September, a CTB
driver, Eliyathamby Rasiah and conductor Arumugam Anandan, both
from Kallar, on their way to work in Kalmunai, were shot dead by
the STF. This happened at 6 a.m. in Periya Kallar. A retired
gentleman, Kanthappar Vyramuththu was shot dead while crossing
Kallar used to be a place patrolled
by the STF in Periya
Nilawanai (Maruthamunai) from the south, and the army in Kaluwan
chikudy from the north. The Batticaloa district ends with Kallar.
During late September, Sellappah Kanapathipillai (51) a teacher
who was listening to the radio in his house with Maruthanayagam,
a carpenter, were both taken out and shot by the army. Three
relatives who went in search of their bodies never returned.
Their bodies were recovered from the lagoon in a decomposed state
in Onththachichi Madam. Three women relatives who went to Kalu
wanchchikudy to meet the army are said to have been hacked and
thrown into a well. The well was later covered up. Three mothers
and three sons from Kallar travelling to Colombo by CTB bus in
October, were taken at Malwattai by army personnel and Muslim
home guards. They are still missing.
Disappearances_in_December: Two days after STF men were
ambushed in Panama (about 7th December), in the south of Amparai
District, the much dreaded white van doing nocturnal rounds, made
its appearance in the area. On the first day it drove into Kallar
at 7.30 p.m., with armed men in plain clothes. It went away at
8.30 p.m. taking away six persons. Among them were the son (O.L
student) and son-in-law (newly married) of Mr. Kanagasabai, and
three members of the Nadarajah family, including Nadarajah him
self, his brother-in-law and his son (O.level student). The other
was a recently married 27 year old son of Bobby Arulampalam.
Another who disappeared during
this period was a graduate
teacher Thayalan from Jaffna University. He was taken on the way
to the National Savings Bank at Kalmunai. His father, Mr. Tissa
veerasingham, principal of Thurainilawanai MV (High School),
appealed to the Minister of Education and to the Director of
Education, Batticaloa. There has been no response.
Others who went missing during
this period are 17 traders
from Kaluwanchikudi, Kurumanveli, Eruvil and Palugamam. These
persons used to come on bicycles from the north to purchase goods
from Muslim traders at Maruthamunai, after passing the STF camp.
While this was happening, the army at Kaluwanchikudy was warning
people not to go south (See also UTHR (J) No.6).
While this was going on people
were wondering why the STF
was resorting to reprisals there for what happened far south. The
reason now believed by many is based on the discovery that the
OIC at Thurainilawanai (Maruthamunai), was the namesake of the
commanding officer at Mankulam army camp, which fell to the LTTE
less than two weeks prior to the disappearances.
According to local sources, 76
persons have been killed or
are missing in Kallar, since the outbreak of the war. The figure
includes the 35 refugees massacred in July.
We add to what has been given in Reports
4 & 5. Following
the killing of policemen and 10 soldiers on 11th June, Kalmunai
town was subject to intense shelling by the army. On 14th June a
responsible person concerned about the Girls' Home, Kalmunai
telephoned LTTE's Castro as to what they should do. Castro rep
lied not to worry and that nothing would happen. Despite making
plans for their withdrawal, they offered no guidance to the
civilians. Since shells were falling all around, it was decided
to evacuate the Girls' Home. Late that night 150 girs and others
walked to Karaitivu through Sainthamaruthu, a Muslim area. As the
army got close, confusion also reigned in Karaitivu. Lacking
guidance from anyone, plans were afoot to walk the girls 12 miles
south to Akkaraipattu. This was abandoned when others in Karaiti
vu advised them to stay put. The girls got back to Kalmunai in
July, when a lorry sent with food by church authorities in Colom
bo, was made available to transport them.
The massacre of hundreds
by the troops which came into
Kalmunai has been described in earlier reports. All other inde
pendent reports give variations on the figures, but the essential
facts stand. The list of dead and missing in and around Kalmunai
stands at above 1000. The army's attitude at that time is further
illustrated by the following incident. The only son of a profes
sional man was taken by the army in a round up. The parents found
out the name of a senior commanding officer and went to the camp
at nightfall. They took that risk because every moment mattered.
They informed the sentry that they would like to speak to the
officer named. The sentry put them through, thinking from their
middle class bearing that the officer was known to them. They
pleaded with the officer. The officer finally replied, "I will
release him because he is your only son. If you had another son,
I certainly would not release him". There was no question of
whether he had LTTE connections. All that mattered was that he
was a Tamil. In judging the officer, it must be kept in mind that
in an affair of low humanity, he came up at least to this level.
The scars and the atmosphere of terror in Kalmunai
a long time to heal. With the exodus of a large number of senior
government servants, the Tamil middle class has shrunk, making
the community feel more abandoned. Kalmunai hospital now has no
specialists and its medical staff is depleted. One of its last
remaining Tamil doctors, a lady, fled Kalmunai, reportedly on
receiving a note of demand for liberation tax.
At the time we visited Karaitivu, the people
were sullen and
pessimistic. But it was said that killings of detainees by the
STF had reached a very low ebb. STF patrols could be seen on
bicycles in lanes, occasionally taking persons for an inquiry
while the women screamed. It is said that nearly all those taken
would be questioned and released. A few days later, when a bomb
exploded in Akkaraipattu market, a number of persons disappeared
in an area including Kalmunai and Karaitivu. Although Muslim
homeguards are said to have been responsible, they together with
the police and the STF are part of the same institution. Preten
ding that they are distinct, serves well to shuffle responsibili
ty and to confuse. But it at the same time increases distrust and
We correct some figures given earlier.
According to respon
sible local sources, when the army came into Karaitivu in June
1990, they arrested 64 in a round up, and after 2 weeks, released
5. The others are missing. 16 others died when prisoners were
thrust into a room and a grenade was exploded. Of those killed in
the explosion were Sri Ram, who was due to enter the Faculty of
Medicine, University of Jaffna, and his younger brother. His
elder brother escaped. The total killed and missing in Karaitivu
since the outbreak of war is put at about 150.
These sources also gave the number
of Tamils in the area
killed in 1985 when the STF attacked in the company of a mob, as
19. A further 15 were missing. The damage to property was
According to local sources, an incident took
place in Karai
tivu about a month before the war of June 1990. This was the
period during which the two sides were involved in a war of
nerves. The government had set up a support police station in
Karaitivu, manned by 15 to 20 mainly Muslim policemen. One night
these policemen were killed. But no-one claimed responsibility.
The LTTE was in control at that time.
In what follows, we correct an account given in Report 6, Section
a.m the STF surrounded the refugee camp at Vipulananda College.
Refugees from each village were asked to come out in turn, and
were marched past persons described as Muslim informers. 28
persons were taken into custody. The manner in which persons were
picked up was reminiscent of what happened in the Eastern Univer
sity. Of the 28 picked up, 9 were refugees from Attapalam, a
Tamil village next to the neighbouring Muslim village of
The STF then moved into the refugee camp
premises and sur
rounded the main school building. Those outside heard a grenade
explosion followed by automatic fire and another explosion. It
turned out later that 3 LTTE cadre hiding in the ceiling had
Of the 28 taken, only one
person from Attapalam was re
leased. The rest are missing, mostly without any indication about
their fate. Chelliah Namasivayam, one of those detained, is
believed by his wife Manonmani to be in Magazine prison.
What_the_Refugees_experienced: In what follows we briefly sketch
out the experiences of refugees in the Karaitivu camp. The list
is far from exhaustive.
Amparai_Town: A leader from a community of Indian Tamil
living in Iraikamam Rd, Mihindapura, related their experience.
They were mainly Health Department labourers living in line
rooms. At 3.30 p.m. on 11th June, 3 policemen came to their
quarter, opened fire with their automatics, and started setting
fire to their rooms. They caught some boys and threw them into
the fire. It may be noted that except for the fact that these
people spoke. Tamil, they were as remote from the Tigers as
At 7 p.m. the same evening, they were
set upon by Sinhalese
mobs. Among those killed were members of an entire family. A
total of 70 persons from that community were killed. The survi
vors walked it to Karaitivu via Veeramunai and Samanthurai.
Although their work is of the most menial kind
which few is
this country would willingly perform, they are desperate to get
back to work. The leader said that he could now make brief visits
to Amparai. But whether they could live there remains in doubt.
They have been told that they could get back to work at their own
risk. The health authorities are not prepared to guarantee their
safety. Those who visit Amparai town are still subject to threa
Muhangala,_Ingurana: At 1.30 p.m. on 13th June, a Sinhalese
attacked them with sticks and poles. Among those killed were 12
children, pregnant women and elderly persons. They walked to
Akkaraipattu through sugar cane fields.
Inginiyagala: Approximately 40 Tamils were killed by police
Korakovil: 30 killed.
Attapalam: The army rounded up 36 persons on 2nd July and killed
8. Out of the remaining 28, 23 werereleased. The fate of 5 per
sons is not known. In all, 58 persons are dead or missing. Of
this number 22 were adbucted by the army while travelling to
Colombo by bus. Those in the refugee camp remain because of
Muslim home guards.
Thiraikerni: 41 died on 6th August when the STF came with Muslim
home guards. The one person taken prisoner is missing.
Going through all these stories,
one sees that a perverse
sense of historical memory justifies any act of violence by any
one party. There is no creative thrust by those who know better
to overcome this politics of destruction.
The_Police-mutiny: Discipline among
policemen in the East
was bad enough (see special Report No.3). In Akkaraipattu, things
had become unmanageable when a sub-Inspector was in charge of a
A-grade Police station. A new crisis developed when Inspector
Vahalathanthri was put in charge of the station. The new Inspec
tor broke all the good traditions of the force. He enforced a
strict duty roster, inspection parades and banned the use of
liquor in the station. He pulled up his men for getting civilians
to dig bunkers, telling them that it was work which they ought to
do themselves. His men were also reportedly pulled up for mis
treating those under detention. Both the Muslim and the Tamil
public saw stars. He later told a group of citizens that some
were trying to bribe him. But that his father and grandfather had
been in the police force, that he was a Christian (Roman Catho
lic), and that he thus took integrity in duty very seriously. He
announced that he would only meet people officially and would not
attend private parties. People spoke of him with enthusiasm and
could not believe their ears.
In the night, about 15th
March 1991, drunken policemen
mutinied. Wild firing, mostly into the air, went on for a long
time, causing people to think that there was an LTTE attack.
Fortunately for the policemen, there was'nt one. The ASP, Kalmu
nai, had to come with a party to quell the mutiny. Subsequently
many of the policemen were transferred. The Inspector told a
person that he would take the challenge and continue to do what
he was doing.
In a country where policemen have been
promoted on instruc
tions from on high, precisely for being corrupt, Inspector Vaha
lathanthri deserves both sympathy and good wishes.
The_unexpected_meeting: A man with a familar face hailed us
proceeded to greet us with touching enthusiasm. He had met us
last September when his family were among Sinhalese refugees in
Amparai town. He insisted on being the host at a tea shop. As
with most refugees, he found it depressing to live on handouts.
He left his wife and children in Amparai and had resumed work in
Akkaraipattu. Since there were differing versions of the destruc
tion of the Buddhist temple in Amparai, he was asked for his
story. "Believe me sir," he said, "We saw it with our own eyes.
The Tigers came in a jeep on 14th June about 3.00 p.m. and stole
some of the things in the temple. They took an oil lamp and our
sadhu's (priest) fan. They also stole a radio cassette presented
to the sadhu by the Tamil people in appreciation of what he had
done for them. During the Tamil-Muslim clashes in 1985, the
Tamils had sheltered in the temple. Later the Tigers bombed the
temple which was once the refuge of Tamils".
That gave another element of complexity
to the chequered
history of the East.
A sizeable refugee population still remains in this area.
Most of them are from Veeramunai and Pottuvil. The former are in
camps. The main body of refugees from Pottuvil is in Komary. In
Thirukkovil-Thambiluvil itself, things are relatively calm. At
least for 1 1/2 months after the incident in Vinyagapuram there
had been no further killings. It is known in one case at least in
early March, that a person accused of supplying food to the LTTE
was warned and sent home. There appeared to be a change. But for
The Tamil policemen from the region who survived,
are now in
a temporary police station next to the STF camp, on probation.
Life is hard for them as local people do not take them seriously,
and they in turn feel impelled to do things to show that they are
Following the news item of early
Novemebr on headless bo
dies, in 'the Island', no further headless bodies have been
sighted. The Amparai correspondent to whom the item was sourced,
had since also vanished from the pages of 'the Island'. (See Spe
cial Report No.3 for background information.)
About the first week of February,
the STF at Thirukkovil
picked up and reportedly killed two boys who had allegedly sup
plied food to the LTTE, in hiding around Kanjikudichcharu. Some
said that the boys previously had EROS links. In response to
this, a dhoby in Vinayagapuram who did washing for the STF was
shot dead on the allegation that he had given information to the
STF. Having made inquiries as to who shot the dhoby, the STF went
to Vinayagapuram looking for two boys Kuna and Kumar. The boys
not being present, the STF took their fathers. One man Shanmuga
nathan had two daughters at home. Having taken the father, the
two girls were locked up. The girls screamed. The STF then let
out the girls and chased them away. According to local sources,
the STF had said, "When we acted against the JVP in the South, we
finished off entire families. But we are letting you go'. The
house was then set on fire. The other man taken was Vadivel,
whose house too was set on fire. Nothing more was heard of Shan
muganathan and Vadivel.
It is said that the citizens'
committee of Thirukkovil-
Thambiluvil raised the matter with the STF. The STF commandant
Lionel Karunasena, it is said, appeared to have been upset, and
had assured them that this would not happen again.
The_origin_of_headless_bodies: Uthayakumar was a young boy
Thambiluvil who was looking for a new life. It is said that he
was keenly studying the Bible. Then came the war of June 1990.
Young boys were in a panic over the thought of the armed forces
coming in. The LTTE urged them to join the final battle rather
than be killed while staying at home. Uthayakumar with many
frightened boys followed the LTTE into the jungle. The STF then
assumed control promising clemency.
Uthayakumar returned about a month later
and was staying at
home. He was pointed out to the STF by two informants moving with
the STF at that time, and was picked up. One dawn in late July,
his severed head and body were found a short distance from the
STF camp at Thandiyady, between Vinayagapuram and Komari. His
remains were interred by local villagers who had found them.
Uthayakumar's was the first in a list of over 30 headless corpses
found in the area.
Karuppiah Madhavan (40) from Nawalapitiya had
mani of Eravur 4, and was the father of Selvi (13), Illankovan
(10) and Senthilkumaran (8). The children were living with his
mother and were schooling in Nawalapitiya. He had previously
worked as a foreman for the Swedish firm Skanska on the Mahaveli
project and later at Puttalam. They were barely settled in Eravur
for 7 months. He was last working for Daya Stores, Batticaloa.
On 12th August, the day following the massacre
of Muslims in
Eravur, the army surrounded his house and dragged out Madhavan
with his wife. Both were assaulted. As the army dragged Madhavan
to a place 1/4 mile away, he shouted at his wife to run away to
safety. The soldiers proceeded to kick him with their boots and
assault him with rifle butts. He received injuries on his head
and chest and lost some of his teeth. The soldiers inquired about
Kuttithamby and Suresh. Madhavan said that he was new here and
knew few people. He was losing his senses during the assault as
breathing became difficult. Then an officer arrived and Madhavan
explained to him in English. The officer asked him to be off or
that Muslim thugs would kill him. Madhavan said that he had to go
home and look for his wife. The officer followed him as he craw
led home on his knees. Instead of helping him to walk, the sol
diers tried to hold up his tummy. Finding Manonmani missing, he
shouted for her. His voice was mostly a gasp. He went over the
neighbourhood on all fours calling his wife. The officer warned
him again that Muslim thugs would get him. With injuries on the
head, teeth broken, a stab on the chest with a small knife, and
boot nail injuries all over, including the abdomen, Madhavan went
north at crawling pace, followed by his dog Jimmy.
By sheer force of will, he reached
Rameshwaram, which was
empty and devastated, at about 2.30 p.m. He was now 3 miles from
the Eastern University and physical as well as mental exhaustion
caused him to faint. As he regained consciousness, he noticed
that he was surrounded by crows and dogs, eager for his exposed
flesh. Jimmy was close to him, frantically barking and keeping
the predators at bay. Madhavan observed, "Even other creatures
became corrupted by mankind, and had developed a taste for human
flesh. If not for my faithful Jimmy, I would have been finished."
He continued,"I then heard the
thundering noise of army
trucks from the direction of my home in TC quarters, Eravur. I
felt better and slowly walked another mile. I met two persons
having a drink of coconut. They had come to look over their
houses. On seeing me they offered me a drink of coconut and took
me to Eastern University on a bicycle. That was the last time I
saw my faithful Jimmy. I reached the university about quarter
past six. Two days later my neighbours who were in the camp told
me that Manonmani had been seen cut and thrown into a well. They
had found her slippers and her rolled up sari. Silly girl. I
suspected when I asked her to go away that she would not. She
must have waited to see what became of me and Muslim thugs would
have got her."
Madhavan was hospitalised in Batticaloa for
16 days. He has
now aged, is semi-disabled and wears the scars of his ordeal. He
is now in the Batticaloa Hindu College refugee camp and is look
ing for help in starting a small shop.
Mrs. Thangamma Thavarasa of Eravur 4
fled her home with her
family to Vantharumoolai (Eastern University) on 12th August,
soon after the massacre of Muslims. On 30th August she left for
home with two other women by a jungle path, to look over their
belongings. Having walked two miles, they encountered Muslim home
guards who were recently deployed, and began to run away. The
home guards followed shooting and asked them to put up their
hands. The women were then dragged and abused in filth. They were
made to line up and remove their jewels. One home guard then
proceeded to shoot the pleading women, reloading his gun each
time. Thangamma was shot in the chest below the right shoulder
and fainted. Selvam Arokiam survived with a shot in the throat
and Pamanasom Esamma died immediately. After recovering con
sciousness Thangamma held her chest wound and walked to Vantharu
moolai with Arokiam. On the way Arokiam collapsed. Hearing dis
tant gunshots Thangamma's daughter Thavendri had come hither to
find out. On seeing her mother, she shouted Amma and ran to her.
She went back to the university and brought help. Both ladies
were taken on bicycles and received first aid at the camp hospi
tal. The ICRC took them to Batticaloa hospital the following day.
Arokiam died en route.
Thangamma was discharged 10 days later
and now lives at 7,
Pioneer Road, Batticaloa. She faces many problems common to that
area. Her son Thavendran (26), was taken by the STF from Eravur
on 5th June 1987 and is missing since then. Her daughter Thaven
dri formerly worked for Adam Lebbe at Gaya Bakery, Eravur. Adam
Lebbe is himself in difficulties and is unable to help. Her
eldest daughter Mrs. Sakthivel had lost her husband and has two
boys and a girl (11,10 & 9years) to mind. Thangamma had also
brought up an orphan, now aged 9, for 6 years. Her skill at
rolling cigars is profitable in the villages, but not in town.
She now earns a meagre sum selling pieces of chewing tobacco in
the market at 50 cents a piece. She thinks that dying would have
3.3 Taken_from_Eastern_University: Thavarani Thambirajah
has been through much looking for her brother Uthayakumar (23).
They are natives of Kommathurai. On 5th September the army sur
rounded the Eastern University. Thavarani saw her brother for the
last time when the boys were separated from the girls. Uthaya
kumar was one of the 159 taken away after being pointed out by
informers. Uthayakumar first worked as church keeper at the
Chenkaladi Methodist Church, then at the dispensary of Dr. Ragu
nathan of Eravur and later with the Director at the Methodist
Educational Centre, Chenkaladi. He was known to many leading
persons who would vouch for his character. His misfortune may
have been that he was known in Eravur.
The family went to the Roman Catholic
Bishop. The Catholic
Club circulated appeals to army camps. They went to the Morakka
tanchenai army camp in early February this year and were given a
date to call again. The mother went on 10th February and spoke to
an official through a TELO interpreter. She was told that the
army had not been able to check yet, and promised to give her
further information by post. Nothing was heard. They lodged an
appeal with the ICRC on 14th March. Among the children there is
one other boy and 5 girls.
During the third week of January
this year the army did a
round up at Santhiveli and Kaluwankerny and altogether 10 priso
ners were taken. They were sent to Batticaloa prison and were
beaten on the way. All were subsequently released, two on 1st
February and the rest, later. Many of the prisoners were middle
aged (35 - 45 years) and had 3 - 6 children. Before their release
they had some novel experiences. This was a period during which
greater leniencey was exercised. It is not representative of what
took place earlier or what may come after.
The prisoners were often kept awake by screams
in the night.
Many of the torturers were said to be Muslim deserters from the
LTTE. Sometimes they were driven in a van with tyres and petrol
cans and their eyes tied, after threats to burn them, and then
brought back after a 5 minute drive.
The ICRC used to come once a week and
they used to be shown
only a section of the prisoners. When the ICRC spoke to them
individually, prisoners were usually afraid to speak of those not
shown. Once when the ICRC arrived, 13 prisoners were quickly
hustled away by the guards and only 8 shown. When the ICRC spoke
to them they made a routine denial that there were other priso
ners. But one boy signalled with his fingers. The ICRC visitors
also apparently noticed that there were more shirts hanging than
there were people. The ICRC left. The 13 were brought back by the
guards. The ICRC officials then suddenly returned and took down
details of the 13 they had not seen earlier. The prison officials
were angry about the ICRC's discovery. They suspected one priso
ner who knew English and had with the permission of the guards,
helped the ICRC to fill up forms about other prisoners. After the
ICRC left, this prisoner was assaulted.
The prison facilities, it is said,
were not bad. They were
given good food, including noodles.
A young man holding a very responsible
job in the East left
Kalmunai on 21st June 1990 when army reprisals were at its peak,
and proceeded northwards with his younger brother. At Kallar they
were stopped by the army, and the younger brother was asked to
proceed with some of the others. The young man was then merci
lessly assaulted and was left for dead against a fence. After the
army left, the owner of the house came to look, and saw a move
ment of the young man's hand. His people were contacted in due
course and he was warded in Kalmunai hospital.
Subsequently, he was taken twice by the
police and released
after being assaulted. His identity card was also taken. He now
has a dent at the back of his head, two fingers broken by the
police and hurriedly set in the local hospital, and a voice
defect. He was asked to see a neuro-surgeon. But there are no
neuro-surgeons in the East and he still finds it difficult to
travel to Colombo.
The army moved from Valaichenai through Eravur
on 23rd June, abandoning the areas through which they had moved.
The LTTE launched a looting spree around Chenkaladi and Ervur
between 23rd and 27th June, emptying the shops and food stores.
On 25th July, the army came to the Eastern University refugee
camp about 5 p.m. 10,000 refugees were in the camp at that time.
The army left after taking 5 persons with the help of TELO infor
mants. With the army establishing a campt at Kommathurai, those
going south to Batticaloa had to bypass Kommathurai as the army
did not permit passage. This became established practice.
On 8th August, the LTTE placed
a mine in the residential
area in Eravur - Chenkaladi. But nothing happened. Another mine
was planted on 11th August (See Report No.6, 4.5). The army did
not suffer any harm, but killed a few people around the place.
One person was shot at point blank range. A cinema, two garages
and several houses were burnt by the army.
Following the massacre at Eravur
on the 11th night, the
Tamils killed by the army and mobs included 18 massacred and
burnt at the Eravur sawmill. The number registered at the univer
sity rose fourfold to 46,000. There was a floating population of
about 10,000 who lived in outlying villages, but collected provi
sions at the university. The camp had to function amidst difficu
lties caused by both sides to the conflict. Once the LTTE planted
a landmine in front. The refugees protested strongly and almost
physically forced its removal. The army camp at Kommathurai, half
a mile from the university, was among the nastiest. There were
several instances of people (including the AGA's peon) being
detained, and upon inquiry the matter was simply denied. Once a
shell fell into the refugee camp killing one person. When a
complaint was made, the Captain in charge simply replied that
they ought to ask Prabhakaran. The area came under the command of
the Brigadier at Valaichenai, noted for his draconian approach.
Given this situation, the camp, and the
university dons and
the administration who gave it leadership, had an important role
to play. Because the university was an important institution, it
attracted international attention. Journalists and NGO's which
included the ICRC and the MSF were frequent visitors. The camp,
apart from being an information centre, was also a hospital and a
food distribution centre for a vast isolated region. Probably
responding to pressure, some officals in the administration at
Batticaloa expressed anxiety about the large number of persons
registered. The camp authorities pointed out that if the adminis
tration in Batticaloa had the means to distribute food to the
remote villages that consisted the floating population, they were
welcome to take over. But since they sorely lacked the means,
they would do well to allow the present arrangement to continue.
The camp was developing a capacity to create a new social leader
4.2 From_the_records_of_Eastern_University: In functioning as
information centre, the staff maintained meticulous records of
violations reported by the inmates of the camp. The emotional
strain involved in sifting through hundreds of individual trage
dies can hardly be imagined. The records are also very informa
tive about what was happening. We learn that at least 8 Tamils
were murdered in the Eravur-Chenkalady area on 25th August, soon
after Muslim home guards were trained and deployed. It records at
least 40 persons killed and 30 missing during the aftermath of
the Eravur incident. 119 persons are recorded missing in a sepa
rate list. Those detained in the camp in two roundups by the army
(5/9 and 23/9) total 175, nearly all of whom are missing.
We give some samples from the records:
(25/8) K. T. David (60) of Eravur 4 - Killed by the forces
(25/8) Mrs. Kanapathipillai Santhanam of Eravur 5,
killed by unknown persons.
F.R. Joseph (58), Dental Technician - Assaulted to death
while on duty in Eravur hospital.
(16/8) Kasipillai Thuraisamy (85) was at home
(south of Eravur) when he was killed and burnt by a Muslim
mob in the company of the forces.
(23/9) Mrs. Thuraisamy Parvathy, wife of the above had witnessed
her husband being killed and burnt by the forces. She then
came to reside at the University. On seeing the forces
again, she fell down and died of shock.
(12/8) K.A. Arasakone (78). Shot dead while taking refuge at the
house of Mr. Razak, Chairman (Eravur). Reported by wife
(25/7) Chinniah Thambiraja (42), died in the Eravur
helicopter firing. (This was the army's second exercise in
(25/8) S. Ganeshamoorthy (37), died of gunshots and partly burnt
Balasundaram, fishmonger. Shot dead while returning from
(16/9) Ramasamy Ranjan (24). Arrested while answering a call of
nature just outside the university campus.
(12/8) Kandiah Alagathurai (37). Went to work int he field
Muslims. Did not return.
(15/8) Douglas Silva Gunasiri (34). Went on request to purchase
cigarettes at Eravur. Reported missing by wife V.Susheela.
27/7) V Thevarasa (12). Taken by forces on way back to camp with
father, after a bath.
(5/6) S. Krishnapillai (45) of Eravur. Went to Welikande to
bring firewood. Did not return.
4.3 How_the_people_benefitted_from_the_Camp: It was perhaps too
early for the camp to make an impact on curbing the army's exces
ses. The ICRC which regularly visited the camp was able to help
little in this respect. According to camp officials, the ICRC and
the MSF did help them a lot, not so much in bringing food and
medicine, but by pressing government officials in Batticaloa to
do more efficiently what they should have normally done.
They clarified that the epidemic
of diarrhoea in the camp
together with a number of deaths as reported in the press is not
quite accurate. Many of these people had already fallen sick in
the surrounding region and were brought to the camp hospital. If
not for the camp, many more would have died and would have gone
4.4 The_LTTE_and_the_camp: The camp officials are firm that
LTTE never demanded food and medicines from them and did not to
their knowledge take anything out in large quantities. With the
people having largely fled the surrounding villages, LTTE cadre
in need of food came to their relatives in the camp. The LTTE had
requested some university equipment. The staff refused, telling
them that if they were removing things as an armed force, they
could not stop them. The Chemistry laboratory was forced open and
some chemicals were removed. The pick up truck belonging to the
university was also taken away. This was reported to the army as
The LTTE was also irritated by losing its civilian
the surrounding areas. Instead of being sympathetic to the refu
gees who had suffered much, it became angry with them, accusing
them of eating sufficiently, having electricity and watching
television, while they were in difficulties outside. Towards the
end of August the transformers supplying electricity to the
university were blasted. This act was an indication that the LTTE
did not approve of the camp and was feeling around for means to
make it uninviting.
For the university as an institution
catering for the deve
lopment of the region, the loss of electric supply meant a signi
ficant loss. The university's Department of Agriculture was in
volved in a project to find organic alternatives to weedicides.
They had been collecting and storing varieties of fungi with the
aim of culturing ones that would attack weeds in rice fields
while not harming the rice. Equipment had been provided by Bri
tish Overseas Development Aid worth 10,000 pounds. Without elec
tricity all this effort of storing went waste. This project has
4.5 The_disappearance_of_159_inmates: Early morning on 5th
tember, the army surrounded the camp and wanted the men and women
to line up separately in the grounds. These inmates were then
paraded before informers. While the parade was taking place there
was an explosion in the auditorium. It was later learnt that some
LTTE cadre were hiding under the stage and a grenade of theirs
had exploded. Three died and three others were taken away by the
army. Of those who were paraded, 159 were taken away. There was
much anger over this. A senior member of the university staff
said: "The Muslim informers brought by the army simply pointed at
anyone they knew. A young boy I knew well and who was taken away,
was timid and would not even have so much as spoken to the
Tigers." A Christian clergyman who ministered to a number of army
officers said:"The whole thing was a sham. My sister's neighbour
was a fishmonger whom I knew well. He had no connection with the
Tigers. Someone must have been trying to get rid of a business
competitor. As soon as I heard about it, I used my influence to
try to get him out. I failed. Perhaps I was late." Going through
the list of those taken, it turns out significantly that most of
them had Eravur addresses. The ages of those detained ranged from
11 to 51.
Everyone felt depressed, helpless and listless.
a lorry from Save the Children Fund arrived with relief supplies.
A senior don asked for help to unload the supplies and hoped that
it would distract their minds. Immediately there was an uproar.
People started shouting,"We do not want the supplies. We want our
children. Send the lorry back." They wanted the camp leaders to
go to the Kommathurai army camp and talk to them. The don ex
plained, "I was here when they took people away. I am not an
outsider who had just arrived to go to the camp to verify that
this actually happened. The camp officials going is of no use. If
you can persuade 36,000 people, we will all go. I will lead you.
That will have some effect."
After the initial surprise, people started consulting with
each other. The don reflected,"Had we all gone, the army may have
opened fire. Some of us may have got killed. But we would have
built something. I was waiting, thinking that on the balance they
may decide to march. At length a spokesman asked me, "Can you go
with the families of those taken?" They were obviously crestfal
len. I told them that going with just the families would not have
any effect. We then silently unloaded the lorry."
4.6 The_General_arrives: One of the advantages of
the camp was
the publicity it had received. On 8th September General Gerry
Silva, who commanded the East, arrived with the ministerial
delegation of political party representatives. During the talks,
the camp officials raised with the general the release of those
detained. the general declined to release them, saying words to
the effect that those detained were all guilty. It was then asked
whether, since those left in the camp had been screened, he could
issue passes to them for their future protection. The general
said that this would not be possible as they might tomorrow
receive information about a person which they did not have today.
The general's evasiveness made people uneasy. Someone asked why
not have the army permanently surrounding the camp so that accu
sations about harbouring the LTTE need not be made. This was
4.7 The_last_days: The army made a similar raid on the camp
23rd September. On this day fighting had taken place between the
army and the Tigers at kaluwankerny, a fishing village 3 miles
east. Following this, 500 people from the village came to the
refugee camp. Not relishing being alone in the village the Tigers
ordered the villagers to get back, threatening penalties. A camp
official on hearing this inquired of the Tigers the following
day. They completely denied making such an order and said that
the villagers could stay on.
On 27th September the Tigers abducted
the university regis
trar for a so called inquiry (later released) and about the same
time told the inmates of the camp that they must vacate by the
1st October. There was no public announcement. The word was
passed on to groups of people. Perhaps to avoid questions, the
matter was never taken up or discussed with the camp leadership.
The latter came to know this from refugees who also told them,"If
you ask us to stay, we will stay." A leader explained, "By asking
them to stay, we would have got into a confrontation with the
LTTE. It may not have done any good to us or to them. I told them
that it must be their decision. I was hoping that they would
decide to stay. Some said they would stay. On the 28th, I noticed
that the number in camp had declined. There was the atmosphere of
a sinking ship. I knew we were going. We asked for the remaining
provisions to be distributed."
The discipline that had held all
this time suddenly broke
down. The community that was coming together disintegrated. The
people, together with the LTTE, started stripping the university.
The LTTE brought bullock carts. People took away things which
meant nothing to them - chemical balances, micro computers, video
screens etc. These gadgets and university furniture started ap
pearing all over the surrounding area. Much of these were later
dumped in places and the university is still receiving messages
about things found. By 1st October the anarchy and panic came to
an end. The home of 40,000 persons stood empty. Some of the
people found their way to Batticaloa. But the larger number had
headed for starvation and perils, natural and man made, in the
4.8 Refuge_in_the_jungle: The following experience related
34 year old labourer who left the university camp and took refuge
in the jungle, is typical of thousands. He now lives in a refugee
camp situated in a school in Batticaloa : "I together with my
family were living in the jungle at Mylavedduvan. Apart from the
rains, our immediate concern was about being bitten by snakes.
(Batticaloa hospital then reported an average of 5 snake bite
patients a day). Drinking water was also hard to come by. Food
was in very short supply. Some of the farmers in the surrounding
area gave us some sacks of paddy. Several people took to trade,
particularly those old enough to look harmless and yet fit
enough, going to Batticaloa, bringing things and selling them in
the jungle. We had to sell a few things we had to survive. When
children fell ill, it was a nightmare. It sometimes took 3 days
to locate and buy one Disprin tablet. The army later restricted
trade by allowing only 10 coconuts and 4 Disprins per person.
"The ICRC used to come at all hours and be of great service.
The LTTE used to sometimes bring medicines.
"As the rains advanced things became
nigh impossible. We
used to be subject to bombing and helicopter straffing by the air
force. I saw 7 or 8 persons who had been killed by helicopter
fire. A number of people who ran into flood waters during the
bombing were carried away. By the end of October we came to
Camp: One of the versions given out by the Tigers regarding
the closure of the camp is that the army was causing persons to
disappear, and thus they had to close the camp to prevent more
people from disappearing. Since this claim received international
publicity, it needs to be examined. The facts we have presented
point to the patent truth.
Many more persons were taken away by the forces
ups of several refugee camps in the East, usually after informa
tion leaked to the foreces about Tiger infilitration. This hap
pened for instance in Veeramunai and Sorikalmunai. 250 persons
disappeared from the much smaller camp at Veeramunai. There was
no university at Veeramunai. The camp elders had repeatedly asked
the Tigers to keep away from the camp. There was never talk of
closing the camp and leading the people into the jungle. The camp
was closed on 12th August by the forces setting Muslim homeguards
on a massacre. That too remained little known. (See Report No.3,
Such behaviour by the forces in refugee
camps which receive
sanctity in international law needed to be exposed. As a libera
tion group the obligation of the Tigers was to strengthen the
people to fight against such things. The two major sets of disap
pearances from the Eastern University camp were serious matters
which apart from the loss, affected the morale of the people and
caused much insecurity.
Following the army action on 5th
September many parents
became afraid for their sons and sent them into the surrounding
jungles. These youngsters then paid brief visits to the camp, or
food was taken out to them. Some of these young in anger, frus
tration and hopelessness even joined the Tigers. ("Our government
would not even let us sit in one place and starve in peace!").
But the camp also had its strengths because
of its interna
tional standing. Apart from the services it was providing, it
was, through experience, developing a leadership with the will
and capacity to fight back. The people were becoming organised
and the camp had the ability to draw on some international machi
nery for its protection. It was because of this that everything
that happened at the Eastern University received publicity. It
was the obligation of the Tigers as a liberation group to discuss
with the people and the leadership how the camp's standing could
be protected. They should have asked themselves in this situa
tion, whether they ought to maintain a presence in the camp, and
whether they should ask those who wished to feed them to do it
outside. If the camp leadership could say that there was no Tiger
presence in the camp, it would have strengthened their case. If
this assurance were possible even the ICRC could have been asked
to co-operate in running the camp. Maintaining the camp was the
best defence the people had.
Never once did the Tigers talk to the camp
the welfare of the camp or how the people could be helped to
fight against the army menace.
If it is claimed that the people were
asked to abandon the
camp for their protection, it should be asked what alternative
protection the Tigers provided for them? Did they provide food,
medicines, shelter, protection from snakes and aerial attacks by
the government? Using the people as pawns they conducted a mas
sive international campaign appealing for help, for people shel
tering in the jungles from the oppressive Sri Lankan government.
Going by past experience and from what happened
in the camp
itself, the Tigers were up to their usual cynicism, killing 4
birds with one stone against the background of crass brutality by
Sri Lankan forces: 1. Any organised effort from which the people
drew strength and confidence had to be crushed. People ought to
be clay in the hands of the Tigers. 2.People dispersed from the
camp become civilian cover. 3. Cornered youth are potential
recruits. 4. Have an international campaign on the plight of the
Campaigning against oppression is a legitimate
thing. But it
had to be done on responsible premises.
More recently, the LTTE leader Karikalan
told a rehabilita
tion official that they are against food handouts because the
people are becoming lazy. He said that people should get back to
their villages. His reasons are understandable. We have hardly
met a refugee who is not anxious to return to work. When people
have no hope and no prospect of ever returning to their homes and
leading normal lives, they tend to become professional refugees
when this situation is prolonged. How can the Tigers expect
vulnerable people to return to their villages when they persist
in a policy of killing Muslims? This also explains their perverse
military strategy. By attacking Muslims and using Tamil-Muslim
enmity for mobilisation, the Tigers also brought about the large
scale displacement of Tamils, causing themselves problems in
mobility. This would not have arisen if good relations between
Tamils and Muslims had been a part of their political approach.
4.10 A_postscript: A number of staff members from the Eastern
University felt so dejected that they felt reluctant to talk
about their experience. The twisted propaganda about the whole
affair was so strong, that a young lecturer sounded as though he
would never be believed. For those who had worked hard and shoul
dered much responsibility, the closure of the camp delivered such
a blow as to drive them towards apathy and resignation. In compa
rison with the detailed information they had at their finger tips
covering their period of activity, they are dimly aware of events
in their region since then. One could now hardly find anything in
the East that can be called an information centre. People have
very vague impressions of what happens outside their town or
village. What is the good of knowing when the liberators do not
welcome those who care?
This experience of the university dons
explains the apathy and loss of confidence one sees everywhere in
the East as a consequence of "liberation politics". Sadly, some
international figures pledged to protect the interests of the
people, have helped the propagation of myths harmful to their
interests. The victims have become voiceless.
Many of the younger inmates of the refugee
camp who had much
to complain of the conduct of the Tigers from the beginning, have
been driven by the impressions left by the experience of the
government's conduct to have some sympathy for the Tigers. Their
government not only violated the refugee camp, but in addition to
their other miseries, bombed and straffed them in the jungles.
Regarding those who disappeared from the camp,
a letter was
received much later from Air Chief Marshal Walter Fernando of the
Joint Operations Command. He acknowledged that about 30 were
detained and that they were soon to be released. None of them
appeared. A don commented on this angrily, "This letter is a
sham. When we talked to General Silva on 8th September, 3 days
after the incident, he never contested our figure of 159 arres
ted. Furthermore, there is an agreed procedure for the release of
prisoners which the army has without exception adhered to. Those
to be released are usually handed over to a group of senior
citizens at some place like the (Roman Catholic) Bishops House."
Air Chief Marshal Walter Fernando is a member
of the Presi
dential Task Force on Human Rights!
In previous reports we have been
trying to point out pat
terns in the conduct of the armed forces. The following adds to
what has been said earlier.
5.1 The_STF: The STF is a smaller and more closely knit
sation compared with other arms of the forces. It is also a good
reflection of the political culture articulated from Colombo. Its
methods are patronage, targetted terror and deviousness. Unlike
with the army, this makes it extremely difficult to judge indivi
dual character among STF officers. Images are carefully culti
vated and used for tactical ends. Some are widely known as decent
and understanding. Some tough and brutal. Some play fatherly
types who are helpless to prevent what happens.
In the episode of headless bodies, an
impression was deli
berately given that a young officer was responsible. At the time
the incidence of headless bodies became frequent in late Septem
ber 1990, the 'good man' in charge, it became known, had left the
station. Comments by officers in the area were devious: "This
chap was caught with a grenade. So and so had taken him. You know
what would have happened," or "When we old blood do something we
think twice. You know these young chaps. They think only once,"
and so it went on. Later this young officer was transferred out.
When people started disappearing around Periyanilawanai, just
after the ambushing of 7 STF men in Panama in December, the
general talk was that the STF was generally alright, but that
this happened because the young officer previously associated
with headless bodies was now in charge at Periyanilawanai. This
supposition though widely believed was wrong. The young officer
was actually in Kalmunai. There were others who thought of this
same young officer as decent and helpful.
What happened at Periyanilawanai
had a touch of macabre
artistry, very different from the predictable reprisals of the
army. The STF did believe in terror as its creed and was bound to
respond to the ambush in Panama. What happened appears to have
involved some planning. It responded two days later in the nor
thern extreme of the STF's area of control for what happened in
the southern extreme. The arrival of the nocturnal white van in
Periyanilawanai, and the perhaps incidental fact that the OIC was
the namesake of the officer commanding the Mankulam army camp
when it fell two weeks earlier, gave the incident touches for
dramatic speculation. Although more than 25 persons disappeared
for unclear reasons, the issue itself became lost. It received no
publicity. People who expected reprisals near Panama, once satis
fied that there were none, stopped looking. But for the people in
the region who received the news from Periyanilawanai by word of
mouth, there was a clear message of menace.
The incident for many reasons could not have
been unknown to
the STF high command. The army at Kaluwanchikudy was conscious of
it to the point of warning people not to go south. They would
have routinely contacted the STF at a higher level to find out
what was amiss.
5.2 The_Army: It is widely known that among
a large class of
army officers there is reflected a feeling that they had been ill
used by the political establishment, in being asked to fight an
'enemy' strengthened and fattened with the blessings of the
government over 14 months. When the New Year ceasefire was called
off by the government on 11th January, a widespread wrong impres
sion was created and to some extent promoted after his death,
that this resulted from the late Defence Minister's personal
belligerence. The reasons were more complicated. A large section
of the army is known to have expressed the feeling that, if the
government can settle the matter politically, fine. But the
process of asking them to stop fighting one day and resume the
fight with a strengthened enemy another day must stop.
The lack of firm principles and direction
in the political
establishment, appears to have left many officers disturbed.
What is their future, what and whom are they fighting and giving
their lives for? Would their actions of today be scorned another
day? are questions that would cross any intelligent mind. To the
thinking of many officers, the war has already been messed up,
and what can be salvaged must be salvaged politically. The mili
tary can best do a holding operation. The ground reality unlike
in July 1987, is one where the army controls little in the North-
East. In the East the forces barely control the towns and the
main trunk roads. The rest is no man's land. Some of these offi
cers are frank in admitting that it is poverty and not patriotism
that brings people into the army. These officers would be gene
rally against antagonising civilians unnecessarily and would not
risk the lives of their men on doubtful ventures. The knowledge
that the battalion which first went into Kalmunai and indulged in
widespread massacres, later suffered grievous casualties to the
point of wrecking the commander's career, has also made an impre
ssion on them.
Another group of officers tends to believe
that the war can
be won with more men and material - a political liability for an
economically hard-pressed government. This group is looked upon
by the former as furthering their careers by feeding the vain
hopes of politicians who should be seriously looking for a poli
tical solution. This division is influential in determining the
company kept by officers within the army.
It is much to the detriment of the army
that the press and
the politics prevent the ordinary people from thinking seriously
about tragic realities. The games played by the government and
the opposition, constantly praising the army without addressing
issues, costs the country dearly in lives of civilians and sol
diers. The army has become a sacred animal which is bleeding
profusely. Everyone vaunts its sanctity. But the medicine to stop
the bleeding is too dangerous to contemplate. For it will raise
too many questions about the legacy on which the present politics
The answer has perhaps more than one angle
to it and we have
tried to answer it in previous reports in terms of the nervous
ness felt by the LTTE in the face of any form of Muslim self-
assertion. Tbe six months of LTTE rule from the departure of the
IPKF was characterised by increasing repression against Muslims.
If a common question at sentry points today is, are you a Tamil?
then it used to be, Are you a Muslim? Not only the Muslim Con
gress, even institutions managing Mosques were sometimes banned.
We have also tried to explain the decision to kill Muslim police
men and the successive massacres of Muslims in terms of an inter
play between the accumulated feelings of suspicion and hatred
that had grown on the LTTE leadership and the populist mileage
that was to be gained, by pandering to anti-Muslim feelings
prevalent in some areas of the East. These feelings grew rapidly
as the state set about using Muslim anger aroused by massacres of
Muslims by Tigers.
The expulsion of Muslims integrated into
the North made no
political sense, except to pander to Tamil feelings in the East.
This systematic persecution renders the explanation attributing
the whole episode to a mistake by some undisciplined Tiger area
leaders in the Amparai District untenable.
What we were told in the course of conversations
leaders in the East gives substance to what we have pointed to as
the main reason. Indeed the narrow totalitarian claims of Tiger
ideology would have found it difficult to adapt to any social
diversity. Being both numerous and conscious of an identity, the
Tigers saw in the Eastern Muslims an immdeiate challenge to their
But most Muslim community leaders in
the East tried to do
what many of their Tamil counterparts did twenty years earlier.
They were anxious to preserve the economic and social gains of
the Muslims and did not want any ruinous extremism. They also had
to contend with younger Muslims feeling humiliated and resentful
over the conduct of and demands made by the Tigers.
Muslims leaders, many of whom closely
identified with the
Tigers, constantly pleaded with them to make their position on
Muslim rights clear. A document that came up in these discussions
was one drawn up in 1987 when several Muslim leaders held talks
with the LTTE leadership in Tamil Nadu. The Muslim organisations
represented in these talks included the ACML and the MULF. A
point on which agreement is said to have been reached is that of
Muslim representation in the projected North-East provincial
council. Since Muslims formed 34% of the population in the East
as against 5% in the North, representatives of Eastern Muslims
asked for compensatory representation to secure their agreement
for the merger of the North and East. It is said that the LTTE
had agreed to 33% representation for Muslims. The idea was a
diluted form of the 50 - 50 representation sought by the Tamil
leader G.G. Ponnampalam prior to independence for Ceylon in 1948.
The Muslim leaders say that not only
did the LTTE agree to
these rights, it translated the document into Arabic and sent it
to Islamic nations and organisations. That was in 1987 when the
LTTE was in a much weaker position. In 1990 it had become the
dominant power in the North-East. According to these Muslim
leaders, despite their numerous and apparently friendly talks
with LTTE leaders such as Balasingam and Yogi, the latter stu
diously avoided any substantive commitment on Muslim rights. What
suggests itself is the same psychology that moved Sinhalese
majoirty leaders in the past when faced with Tamil demands and
reminded of promises. First it was silent resentment from a
feeling that 'these people are becoming too much'. The next stage
was complicity in communal, violence directed against Tamils -
'They should be taught a lesson', being the governing sentiment
of majority arrogance.
The following are extracts from a speech
made by Yogi, the
LTTE's political spokesman. The speech was delivered at the
University of Jaffna shortly after the expulsion of Muslims in
October 1990. The arrogance, muddle headedness, and most impor
tantly the similarity to Sinhalese communalist demonology are
self evident. This serves to illustrate the foregong:
"The expulsion of Muslims from
the North has resulted in
immense shock and amazement among the Tamil people. Why did we
expel the Muslims? 4000 Tamils were killed in the Eastern Pro
vince, of which 2000 were killed by Muslim goons and home guards.
Muslims claim that they are neither Sinhalese nor Tamils, but are
Arabs. They use this in pursuit of their selfish aims.....They
are Tamils. They study in Tamil at Tamil schools. Their culture
is not Arab. If it were so their women will be wearing purdah,
which is not done here....
"The Muslims form 35% of the East and
5% of the North. In
Sri Lanka they are 7% . In the merged North-East they form 17%.
The Muslims of the East claim that they are losing privileges due
to 35%. Why cannot they see that 5% Muslims in the North are
obtaining privileges owed to 17%? Thus those who would receive 2%
privileges in the whole of Sri Lanka would receive 17% in the
merged North-East. But the Muslims in the East do not see this.
"If the Muslims in the East
are not concerned about the
Northern Muslims, why should we worry about them?
"In the Amparai District 10 Tamils villages
are no more...
70000 Tamils there have been uprooted. The news of these atroci
ties did not come out because no one was left to write them. Why
do those who did not worry about 70000 Tamils, now worry about
40000 Muslims expelled from the North? Unlike what happened to
those Tamils, we did not kill them, rape them or loot their
property. We only sent them out.
"Some are worried whether a Muslim Jihad
also develop in the North. Premadasa will not tolerate a third
"We made several promises to the Muslims.
We promised them
35% of jobs in the North-East. We promised them the Deputy Chief
Ministership. We promised that the allocation of land will be in
proportion to the ethnic ratios in the District. The Muslims did
not listen. On the contrary, they joined forces with the Sinha
lese army and the Sri Lankan state and set about destroying
"Tamil Eelam is a secular state which has no
religion or caste.... There is no room here for division.
"The Muslims must accept that they
are Tamils. They must
understand that they are descendents of Arabs who married Tamil
This speech was delivered in the presence
of many of those
presumed to be intellectual leaders of Tamils and to an audience
in the University of Jaffna. By the explusion of Muslims, the
university had lost a sizeable section of its students and some
of its very able and popular teachers. Yet, despite the serious
questions raised by the speech and the sensitive chords touched
in view of the Tamils' own history as an oppressed minority, the
speaker was not even mildly challenged, and no discussion ensued.
Is it that all these intellectuals had suddenly become stark
blind? Or, is it something else? It is sad to note that goods,
particularly electrical items, looted form Muslims are now being
sold at a 'supermarket' established at the Jaffna BMC Building,
and people are buying. (There is however no electricity). Many
are pained by this loss of social inhibition resulting from the
politics. Others cynically refer to the selling place as the
Jaffna Duty-Free shop.
Yogi's speech should not be treated in isolation.
In 1887, a
little over a century ago, Sir Ponnampalam Ramanathan, an eminent
Tamil leader, published a paper arguing precisely the same thing
- that Muslims are Tamils by nationality and Mohamedan by faith.
This paper gave much offence and a paper in response to this was
published in 1907 by Mr. N.I.L.A. Azeez, a Muslim intellectual
and religious leader. It is evident that for over a hundred years
the Tamils have largely refused to respect Muslim feelings and
self-perceptions. A common nationality, in the wider sense, needs
to be worked for and not imposed by fiat. A Ceylonese or Sri
Lankan nationality was once a possibility, but it was not worked
The following note,
compiled from published material,
attempts to shed some light on the rich history of the diverse
communities that consist the Muslims of Ceylon.
The continual use of the term 'Muslim' to describe those whose
right of abode, or businesses, or land, or lives, are under
attack is confusing. In some contexts it can be taken to imply
that communities such as the Moors and Malays, who are almost
entirely or mostly Muslim by religion, do not have a distinctive
Sri Lankan identity or even Sri Lankan identity as the Sri Lankan
Tamils and Sinhalese do. A century ago, in 1885, Ponnambalam
Ramanathan 'explained' in a paper he wrote for, the Royal Asiatic
Society, that the Tamil speaking Sri Lankan Muslims were Tamils
by Nationality. This simplistic and incorrect view caused
offence. Understandably so, even if Ramanathan was not intending
to be insulting or racist. But what has recently been said about
and done to the Moors of the North and East by the LTTE and their
supporters is insulting and racist. It is also based on
The great majority of Sri
Lankan Muslims are Sri Lanka
Moors. Moreover, most of the Sri Lankan Malays are Muslims. As in
the case of those who are lumped together as Sinhalese or Sri
Lankan Tamils or Burghers, the formation of these communities
took a long period, and is a complex unity of many elements:
different waves of immigration, intermarriage, and conversion. It
has been suggested that the origins of what came to be called in
Sinhala Yonnu (Marakalla) and in Tamil Chonakar (i.e. the
'Moors') were Arab immigrants from Southwest Asia in the 8th
Century, or earlier. For at least a thousand years they have been
an important part of Sri Lanka's history as Moors, and not as
Tamils or Sinhalese. Their settlement in and economic development
of the Northwest coastal region, for example, may have given them
a more important role than the Tamils played in what came to be
The Moors also were prominent
in the resistance to the
Portuguese forces when they attempted their conquest. They lost
much of the influence and prosperity they had enjoyed in pre-
colonial times. When the Sri Lankans of the coastal areas came
under Dutch rule in the middle of the 17th Century, the Moors
were persecuted by the Dutch rulers and some of them migrated to
the areas under Kandyan rule. No doubt the fact that among their
new subjects this community, carrying on extensive commerce
independently and successfully between foreign countries and both
the coastal communities and the Kandyan kingdom made them the
rivals of the Dutch traders. Before the Dutch, and even during
their rule, the indigenous community which developed urban
centres most in Sri Lanka were the Moors.
The different ethnic groups
and nationalities who have
composed the people of Sri Lanka for over a millenium, and since
then, they have had different characteristics and ways of life.
They lived tolerating one another's religions and cultural diffe
rences. The language spoken before the 16th Century were only two
- Sinhala and Tamil. This was because the settlers who became
Moors intermarried with the local population, and their descen
dants adopted the language of their mothers.
The relations between the Moors and the Tamils
parts of Sri Lanka - the North, the East, the North West etc. -
at different times is complex. But at a time when there is a
struggle on to end oppression and domination of any ethnic group
or nation by any other, it is important for Tamils to resist any
attempt to deny the Muslims' separate identity, rights of domi
cile, economic security, and right to life by groups which have
greater military or political power. The Moors and Malays were
victims of colonialism, like the rest of us. Since Independence
they, like the Sri Lankan Tamils and the Hill country Tamils,
have tried to achieve the security and peace they need.
6.3.1 The Politics of cap Turning:myth
Too often political arrangements for the East are discussed
by people who do not understand the delicate communal relations,
their fears, their historcial experience and the manner in which
leadership has been exercised. Seldom is any thought given to
uniting the communities and give them the confidence to co-exist
without feeling threatened. Constitutional arrangements with
separate Muslim units violate the economic realities of the East.
The matter of SInhalese colonisation also links with the control
of water resources crucial to Tamils and Muslims. SInhalese
chauvinist politics which dominates the parliament aims at Sinha
lising the East and hence does not look beyond opposing the
North-East merger. Northern Tamils see the East through the pan
Tamil ideology rooted in Jaffna looking to a monolithic leader
ship, and prone to see dissent as treachery. To them the East is
an exasperating enigma. The Colombo based Muslim leadership to
serve its own power interests of patronage under major Sinhalese
dominated parties tends to place barriers between Tamils and
Muslims in the East. Examining the manner in which leadership is
exercised in the East, gives us some insight into their peculiar
In the 1950's when the Tamils in the East were
a more robust
community, the pan Tamil appeal of the Federal Party caught on
rapidly in the East. It also had a large number of Muslim adhe
rents. This ideology came to be challenged by the weakening of
the Tamil community. The small Tamil middle class in the East
because of its professional bias had a tendency to drift to
Colombo. The Muslim community was becoming stronger through in
creasing prosperity in trade and agriculture. Sinhalese coloni
sation was another factor in creating insecurity.
When the Tamils were more confident of themselves,
much contempt for Muslim MP's who got elected on Tamil votes and
then changed over to the ruling party. The term 'Thoppi Piratti'
(Turning the inside of the cap out) became a term of contempt
associated with Muslims. That prevented any deeper examination of
such conduct. As Tamils became a weaker and less confident commu
nity, the same phenomenon overtook many leaders of the Tamil
community who made a virtue of similar conduct. But the same
disparaging epithets were not applied to them with the similar
Early Muslim examples were Kariappar and Mustafa. Prominent
examples on the Tamil side were Kanagaratnam and Rajadurai,
elected MP for Pottuvil and Batticaloa respectively in 1977. Like
in many cases of crossing over islandwide, there was much contro
versy connected with personal difficulties surrounding Kanagarat
nam's crossing from the TULF into the UNP. But his subsequent
actions earned much local praise and others followed his example.
It was an area where Tamils were feeling increasingly threatened
and isolated, in respect of land, opportunities and security.
Although most articulate Tamils in the area
subscribe to pan
Tamil sentiments and regard the realisation of an autonomous
Tamil homeland as being necessary for their long term survival,
pressing immediate problems push them tactically into different
courses. In the Amparai district many Tamils looked upon the
creation of Tamil AGA's divisions to safeguard themselves from
perceived Muslim encroachments on land, and the creation of local
hospitals and schools as difficulties in travel and security
increased, as absolutely urgent. These could be obtained only
when the MP representing them was with the governemnt. People
were forced to think along these lines because the process of
government was flawed and discrimination against Tamils a
A resident of Thirukkovil who is a TULF
"Although many of us sympathise with the TULF, what Kanagaratnam
did has been justified by events. A Sinhalese MP in the govern
ment may have done much more for his area, using ministerial and
corporation funds. Kanagaratnam and Ranganayaki Pathmanthan, his
sister, brought us schools, irrigation and hospitals through
administering the MP's developemnt allocation honestly. For us
having an MP who was Tamil was very important. Once an indepen
dent Tamil contestant who had a good chance of winning, lost
narrowly because key personages in the village worked against
him, canvassing for a Muslim member who got elected. When it came
to jobs, the few influential persons who worked for the Muslim
member were able to secure jobs for their relatives. But others
in the village were left in the cold. I had passed my A. Levels
and my family was financially desperate. I could not afford to
enter university. I had to approach the MP through agents, was
sent here and there, to no avail. It was Kanagaratnam who later,
upon election obtained jobs for many in the village. But he never
let down the Tamil cause."
An elder in Karaitivu who
had attended the Trincomalee
Federal Party convention in 1956, later associated him with
Kanagaratnam and became a UNP member of the Amparai DDC in 1981.
He reflected on his role with satisfaction, "We have the sea on
one side and on the other 3 sides we are surrounded by the Muslim
villages of Sainthamaruthu (N), Samanthaurai(W) and Nintavur(S).
For our security and well being, we needed an AGA's division, a
school where our children could study up to university entrance
instead of going to Kalmunai, and a hospital. Thank god, these
were obtained when Kanagaratnam was MP. We created the Tamil
AGA's divisions of Karaittivu and Aladi Vembu in Akkaraipattu.
Where would we have been without these during the recent trou
bles? If we did not have a hospital, whatever would have happened
to injured Tamil civilians? I have retired from public life. I
can now go away with the satisfaction that I did my part."
He added significantly,"Mind you, I never let
down the Tamil
cause. Even as a DDC member of the UNP, I always spoke up for
Tamil. When Paul Nallayayagam reported an atrocity where the STF
had rounded up and killed a large number of Tamil youth, he was
put on trial. I testified as a witness and despite my UNP asso
ciation, the police were looking for me in Colombo and I had to
be in hiding". Thus behind the politics of 'cap turning', one
could find instances of genuine sacrifice and nobility.
Whenever there is a feeling of
beleagueredness, one does
find such politics. If we go back to the period which saw Muslim
MP's crossing the floor, we find similar pressures at work. In
the 50's and 60's, the Eastern Muslims saw themselves a backward
community in respect of the Tamils, and felt that they would
remain at a disadvantage if they remained in the opposition with
the Tamils. The governments who wanted the MP's to crossover
understood this and used it. This practice became a means of
obtaining better services, better schools and even having good
teachers transferred to these schools. In the end the Tamils were
left feeling that the Muslims had gained an advantage at their
The feeling of beleagueredness
among Tamils led to twin
reactions. One was a move to seek government patronage to offset
the Muslims' perceived advantage. The other was the growing
It may also be noted that when
leaders of Muslim villages
like Eravur and Kattankudy negotiated with the LTTE early last
year, their aim in the first instance to secure the distinct
economic interests of their immediate community (Eravur depended
largely on farming, while Kattankudy on trade). But in talking
about the rights of the broader Muslim commnity, they presented a
Behind politics of this kind lies
a feeling of fatalism,
weakness and paranoia. Each community felt that its world was
contracting, it could not trust the other and that it had to grab
whatever it could and save it for the future. The cruciality of
carving up an AGA's division corresponded to putting up a barbed
wire fence to prevent the world from contracting further through
alien advance. The end result was that brokers of power in the
East became parties from outside, from whom patronage was sought.
Whether it was the Sri Lankan government or the LTTE, a more
recent arrival, they had the common aim of keeping the people of
the East divided for their purposes.
When a weak people seeks patronage
from a powerful force
that it cannot influence, and whose overall purpose would not
tolerate the liberty of the people,the result is bound to be a
feeling of humiliation and anger among a large section. However
well founded the expedient sought by Kanagaratnam's ilk, he was
identified with a government bent on destroying the feasibility
of a Tamil homeland and marginalising the Tamils. It raised many
moral questions. Even though the Muslim MP's in the East belonged
to one of the main Southern parties, there was skepticism among
the Muslims that the government meant well by them. Indeed,
several Muslim youth joined the Tamil militancy.
Likewise when Muslim leaders sought accommodation
LTTE in return for securing basic Muslim rights, it gave rise to
anger and serious reservations among Muslims. There were moral
issues overlooked. Was the LTTE which was incapable of recogni
sing the democratic rights of Tamils, going to respect the right
of Muslims to have independent organisations presiding over their
religious and cultural life? Within a few weeks of its arrival
the LTTE showed a repressive face towards Muslims. A Muslim elder
in Kattankudy, said, pointing to some of his younger colleagues,
"When I was talking to the LTTE, I had serious misunderstandings
In the process of this politics, we have
on the one hand a
set of leaders who seek to avert trouble and bloodshed by despe
rately seeking compromises that cannot be had, and on the other
hand a trend towards an explosive militancy.
A Muslim leader pointed to current
peace talks at police
stations as signifying the enfeeblement of both communities. Each
side would ordinarily pour out a list of grievances against the
other. Having security officials presiding places a natural inhi
bition against pointing to the chief culprit. The leader said,
"We have become so small that we can only talk about others'
faults. If we change the exercise to one of talking about our own
faults and misdeeds, it may then turn out to be more productive".
The East is caught in a vice between
the government's ulti
mate aim of Sinhalese colonisation and the Tigers' bid for power
at any cost. Both these are self defeating. The explosive potency
of the Tamil militancy in the East is a corollary to the power
lessness of the people. The same process could overtake the
Muslims. It is a fatal error to gloat over another's feeling of
This is why we have called the Sinhalese
of colonisation a mad policy with serious reprecussions for the
The origin of problems in the East owed to flawed gevernment
and the intrusion of patronage in the sharing of resources. Those
who burn night oil in the academic exercise of trying to decide
the ownership of the East by reference to historical antiquity,
are divorced from ground realities. Their emotive enthusiasm will
only contribute towards the disintegration of the nation. They do
not even see the gravity of the humiliation of their national
army despite its brutal endeavours.
A national policy towards
the East should first aim at
giving confidence to the Tamils and Muslims, and allow common
sense to smoothen out their intertwined lives. A policy of land
settlement and its present momentum should be halted and censen
sus must be reached to handle the effects of the past.
There is a very big land question
in the Amparai District
that pertains to state sponsored colonisation of Sinhalese. (See
Ch. 2 and Ch. 8 of Report No.5). This matter straddles the ques
tions of land ownership in Sinhalese areas, state ideology, and
the tendency towards multi-nationalisation of agriculture. This
problem poses a grave threat to the existence and security of
Tamils and Muslims in the area. There is also a less serious land
question that has raised tempers and has kept Tamils and Muslims
apart in this area, obscuring the common danger faced by both.
This sketch tries to explain the problem. It needs to be under
stood so that the accretion of myths can be cast aside and some
6.4.1The_Beginnings: In keeping with the Jaffna model, the Tamils
here oriented their values towards educational qualifications,
government jobs and the professions. For those who made it,
career advancement first moving to Batticaloa town and then
settling down in Colombo. There was no development in the East,
as in many Sinhalese provinces. Those with high educational
attainments were rare in the East in comparison with Jaffna. The
Tamils in the East thus lost most of those persons who should
have given strength and stability to the community. It was much
later when their physical security was threatened that Tamils
came to realise the importance of securing land, to the point of
making it a political issue.
But for much of the time until the 60's,
the transfer of
land to Muslims was peaceful, legal and uncontroversial. The kind
of thing said by a Tamil political leader is commonly heard in
the Amparai District: "My father in law had nine children and 30
acres of paddy land. He employed a Muslim cultivator, whose two
sons worked with him. The second son used to do bird watching
from dawn until about 9.00 a.m. He would then catch fish in the
lagoon for sale. He started going to school late and just managed
to pass his SSC. Both sons are doing well now. The second fellow
became a school teacher and owns paddy lands and a fleet of
lorries. My father in law has sold all his paddy land and has
nothing. He says with satisfaction that three of his children are
graduates (who have now left the district) and that he has set
tled his children. Only he does not say how much he drank".
The one incident of major
violence in the 50's was the
rioting in Sammanthurai in 1954, that began with a minor private
As we had mentioned in Special Report
No. 3, the growing
economic power of a section of the Muslims set certain trends in
motion, which looked at rationally would have been innocuous. It
resulted in prejudices and stereotypes which were used by politi
cians to consolidate themselves. The Jaffna dominated poltics of
the Tamils never understood the richness of two communities
coexisting in the East. Its role was divisive and encouraged
animosities. Ulitmately all militant groups that were a product
of Tamil politcs, did mete out collective punishment to the
To place the current position of
the Eastern Muslims in
perspective, it may be useful to compare it with the position
occupied by the Islanders in the social life of Jaffna. The
offshore Islanders in Jaffna, used to perils of sailing in the
past, have been traders for centuries. In recent times their
influence had spread all the way from Jaffna town to Galle.
Because of their wealth, they have been buying up chunks of
residential property in Jaffna, and in consequence of the dowry
system have secured professional bridegrooms from other parts of
Jaffna for their daughters. By this, there has been a shift
towards greater interest in education. Their political outlook as
reflected in voting patterns is pragmatic rather than nationa
list. Their success resulted in prejudice and sterotyping. There
were even sections in Jaffna who referred to what the Islanders
suffered during the army operation last August as deserved pun
ishment. While the Islanders were similar to Eastern Muslims in
their dominance in trade, they belonged to the same ethnic group
as the other Jaffna Tamils. Nevertheless, they came in for strong
emotions and unfair accusations.
But there were some basic unmistakable
trends in the East
which were closely linked to the economic and social orientation
of the two communities. The Tamil middle class had weak ties with
the land. The Muslims on the other hand were firmly rooted to the
land on which they built their economic life and in consequence
6.4.2The_1960's_and_after: When a section of Muslims became eco
nomically active, there was a natural wish on their part to
advance educationally and socially. A Muslim leadership represen
ting the above section, similar to that obtaining in other commu
nities, tended to be shortsighted, and was not very sensitive
about making the Tamils feel insecure. In a period which was
becoming politically charged, the government was only too glad to
use its power to divide the Tamils and Muslims. The fact is that
for reasons justifiable or otherwise, Kariappar, a Muslim leader,
who was elected MP for Kalmunai in 1956 on a Federal Party ticket
with Tamil votes, crossed over to the government side shortly
afterwards. Tamil feelings were so high that when Kariappar
subsequently went by train to Batticaloa, he was prevented from
entering. There then followed a colourful exchange of words and
It was from this period that myth started
getting mixed up
with reality, leading to a tendency to put different construc
tions on even legitimate advantages gained by Muslims. The cause
was the intrusion of state patronage, which placed Tamils at a
disadvantage. The feeling of being psychologically at a disadvan
tage was perhaps more significant than the material disadvantage.
It induces a tendency towards resignation. It makes people sit
back and complain rather than take stock and organise.
Against the background of the government
and the police
tending to be increasingly anti-Tamil, the list of Tamil com
plaints grew. They saw themselves at a disadvantage whenever
there were local disputes. They felt that Muslims were getting
unfair advantage in education and services. Whether the Muslims
on the whole gained through state patronage is doubted by Muslims
themselves. From the west, state colonisation by Sinhalese was
going on. Through state manipulation Muslims lost land in places
like Ingurana. Kondavedduvan, a predominently Muslim settlement
in the Gal oya scheme was eventually lost.
6.4.3A_Tamil_Perception_from_Kalmunai: Nowhere are feelings more
high than in the area around Kalmunai. In what follows we give in
the form of a statement what was said by a retired government
servant living in Kalmunai and a few others from the area:
In 1948, the Kalmunai electorate
consisted of (1) Periya
Kallar, (2) Maruthamunai (Periyanilawanai), (3) Thurainilawanai,
(4) Pandiruppu, (5) Kalmunai, (6) Sainthamaruthu, (7) Karaitivu,
(8) Natpiddimunai and (9) Senaikudiyiruppu. 1, 3, 4 & 7 were
predominantly Tamil. The rest were mixed. Then this electorate
was numerically more or less balanced and was capable of return
ing either a Tamil or a Muslim MP. In 1948 people were not too
concerned whether a contestant was Tamil or Muslim. They rather
looked to social standing. In 1948 Kariappar, a Muslim, was
contested by Kanapathipillai, a retired Tamil civil servant from
Karaitivu. but Kariappar held the prestigious colonial title of
Wanniyar Mudaliyar. Thus even Karaitivu largely voted for Kariap
par, who was elected.
Sensing perhaps a growth in communal rivalry,
his influence to make Kalmunai a secure Muslim seat when an
electoral commission set about redemarcating electorates. If
justice was being done, the precedent set in the Batticaloa
electorate should have been followed in Kalmunai, making it a
multi-member constituency capable of returning a Muslim in addi
tion to a Tamil. But what was done could not have beem more
disadvantageous for the Tamils. The Tamil areas of Thurainilava
nai and Periyakallar were joined to the Tamil electorate of
Paddiruppu (Kaluwanchikudy) to the north, and the sizeable Tamil
area of Karaitivu was joined to the predominantly Muslim electo
rate of Nintavur. Henceforward Kalmunai was incapable of return
ing a Tamil member, and the stage was set for politcs with a
In Kalmunai town itself things steadily
moved to the disad
vantage of Tamils. Public land passed into the hands of Muslims.
Where the Kalmunai Mosque stands was once public land housing a
Tamil colony. The colony was displaced when the Local Board (Town
Council) took it over as though for a public cause, and some
years later sold it for building a Mosque. But on the other hand
when the new Kalmunai courts were built, private Tamil land
belonging to Thambirajah, the former Paddiruppu MP, in Division
4, was taken over.
Sainthamaruthu (between Kalmunai and
Karaitivu) once had a
sizeable Tamil community, that is now no more, although the area
is still called the Tamil Division. Zahira College and Mohamed
Balika Viyalayam now stand on land once owned by Tamils. Six
Hindu temples in the area were destroyed. Tamils had sold the
land cheap and had gone away after the 1967 communal violence.
During these same disturbances many Tamils
in Kalmunai Divi
sion 3 (Divisions 1, 2 & 3 used to be Tamil. Central Division was
mixed) boardering the Muslim area sold their land and went away.
Muslims have now taken over about half of Division 3. Those
persons displaced mostly resettled in Pandiruppu, Onththachchima
dam and Aralpattai.
Amman Kovil Road in Division 3 has now
been renamed Mosque
Rd. The Tamils in Division 3 suffered again during the troubles
of 1986 when the STF was in control. On 10 August 1986, the 300
year old Sri Tharavai Sithivinayagar Temple was smashed. This
temple is endowed with paddy fields in Kalmunaikudy. This temple
was rebuilt and was broken down again during the current trou
The Kalmunai Town Council once had a
Tamil majority. After
Kalmunaikudy was attached to Kalmunai, the Tamils are in the
minority. Following the damage done to Division 3 in 1986, NORAD
through the YMCA rebuilt 300 houses at the rate of Rs.15,000/-
each. Each house was 15 ft by 10 ft with a 5ft verandah. These
houses have now largely been destroyed during the current
Right now Gravel Kuli (pit), a piece
of public land in the
Tamil section of Central Division, is being given over for Muslim
settlement. This would put a lot of pressure on Tamils in the
Now the Tamils have decided that
even if they are chased
away by violence, they are not going to sell their land.
On the way from Karaitivu to Akkaraipattu,
there are the
villages of Nintavur, Attapallam, Oluvil, Thiraikerni, Palamunai,
Meenodaikaddu and Addalachchenai. Startaing from Attapallam, the
alternating villages were Tamil farming villages. Many of these
Tamil villagers sold their lands to Muslims and left because they
were constantly having trouble in getting a fair share of the
water resources and did not stand much of a chance when it came
to disputes. There are now no Tamils left in Meenodaikaddu.
6.4.4Truth_and_Fiction: It is not hard to imagine the effect such
stories would have had on the younger generation which grew up
hearing them. Those from the East who joined the militancy in the
early 80's did so largely to defend the Tamils against the Sin
hala state. As the militancy degenerated, all groups started
giving vent to anti-Muslim feelings. The LTTE now uses such
feelings for recruitment in the East, following recent events in
areas such as Kalmunai.
What then is the truth? We have pointed
out that there was
an established trend towards a transfer of property from Tamils
to Muslims, which was due to no fault of the Muslims. At the same
time with state patronage favouring the muslims, it is under
standable that some Muslims would have made criminal use of it.
This is not something specific to one community. The use of thugs
and bribed policemen in settling disputes and to cheat the help
less has been practiced all the way from Pt. Pedro to Dondra
Head. Like with people anywhere else, many sensible Muslims were
against such acquisition of property. While the whole thing is
difficult to quantify, while talking to Tamils themselves one
gets the feeling that the criminal use of influence is easily
There are certain factors
to consider. Much more than
Tamils, Muslims tend to live in clusters. If they have a field
faraway, they do not put up a house there. They would travel from
their cluster village. Thus their wanting to acquire property
close to their settlement is understandable. They were then
willing to pay a price much above what a Tamil buyer would have
Muslims in Kalmunai were a trading community.
It would have
been natural for them to acquire property in Kalmunai or Saintha
maruthu. As residential areas these places are crowded and unin
viting in comparison with Tamil places such as Kallar or Thiruk
kovil. It is hardly worth living in Kalmunai unless one is in
trade or in a profession. Most Tamils in Kalmunai were either
labourers or low ranking government servants. If they could sell
off and go somewhere where land was cheap and they could farm,
that ought to be welcomed. This appears to have happened.
Looking at the whole thing
it is hard to maintain that
Tamils have lost. When big land holders sold land to Muslims,
they often left the province. When those living in shanties in
Kalmunai left, they became economically more productive elsewhere
in the region. If we are looking towards a healthier relationship
and a healthier politics, it is best to understand the past
episode and concentrate on rectifying political mistakes. There
is still land in the East for those who have not.
The political leader we quoted at the
beginning said quite
aptly, that if the Tamils in the East are to have a future, they
must produce and they must take to trade. Also they need to
create an economic base that will make it possible for those with
educational attainments to remain in the East. Our politics needs
to be in such a direction as to secure these while having a
fraternal relationship with the Muslims.
We have lots of people producing inefficiently
per marketing facilities. These people need irrigation, transport
and a marketing infrastructure. By comparison, the Sinhalese
settled on the Gal Oya scheme were given everthing, including
The Muslims have a healthy respect
for Tamils and admire
their attainments in education and culture. Even Eastern Muslims
valued education in Jaffna. Generosity on the part of the Tamils
will certainly be reciprocated. Our politics should have used our
assets to good effect. Instead we have pursued a politics of
destruction, trying to humiliate Sinhalese and Muslims, turn
Jaffna into an educational and cultural desert, and use the
Eastern Tamils with their frustrations and anxieties as expenda
ble fuel, towards an unattainable goal.
Introduction : In what follows
we will present some repre
sentative opinions of Muslims in the East who have thought se
riously about current problems. What came out of conversations
with a number of Muslims is scattered throughout this report. As
many Tamils, particularly those outside the East often carelessly
believe, it is far from being the case that Muslims are lording
it over the Tamils. Muslims are on the contrary frightened,
anxious and their economic life has been to a large extent
stalled. Traders too are finding it tough. Because the fields are
idle, people have no buying power. Muslims have been compelled by
circumstances to seek protection from the armed forces whenever
there are festive gatherings in the local Mosque. In the case of
Muslim homeguards, it is often fear rather than belligerence that
We spoke to a retired school principal,
much respected by
Tamils and now in trade, whose brother had been killed by the
LTTE while supervising his paddy field. He was gracious enough to
say, "We have always been, and still stand for the Tamil cause.
But not for the kind of thing we see now." Another Muslim who has
maintained close ties with Tamils was an Inspector of Schools for
English teaching, who retired prematurely because he is unable to
travel in Tamil areas. He was having second thoughts about remai
ning in Akkaraipattu and felt depressed. The building of his new
house was stalled, because the builders were Tamil and they were
afraid of working in his location. One hears many stories of
this kind. The bomb blast in Akkaraipattu in late March was a
grim reminder of the ever present mindless menace that kills and
1. The first person whose views are presented
is a retired
graduate teacher in science. At his present age of 50, he is now
in trade. Coming from a family that was prominent in Muslim
politics, he was keenly aware of the issues. None in the younger
generation, he said, took to politics because they did not have
the drive. He called himself a lifelong student who wished to
learn about things. It was rather unforseen to walk into a shop
off a dusty street in Akkaraipattu and have a long philosophical
discussion. One is struck by the ties of family and of belonging
which bind many educated Muslims to their soil. Emigration which
is now a strong driving force amongst the Tamil middle class,
seldom crossed their minds. They appear content to make a modest
living at home.
Our interlocutor like many
educated Muslims had a deep
knowledge of Indian philosophy and his world view was influenced
by it. He believed that when we quarrel, we are made to suffer
because the driving forece behind the universe wants us to learn
something. Time, he said, would vindicate and resolve issues.
Without understanding the natural drift of things, we fight for
lost causes and dissipate our energy. Some people make a highly
strung cause out of putting women back where they were centuries
ago. But the direction is already set. Unlike 20 years ago, we
now accept women professionals and it does not hurt us. Tamils
and Muslims have lived together for centuries and despite the
occasional set back, they would continue to live together and
profit from each other. But social relations and patterns are
changing. Muslims having been educationally backward are being
educated by Tamils. The Tamil caste system is breaking up, chan
ging economic and social relations. We must make sure that we do
not become emotional and expend energy on causes which future
generations would condemn.
This small digression is meant to illuminate
The gist of the conversation is presented in question and answer
Q: There is a strongly expressed feeling
in Kalmunai that they are being marginalised by the
A: Of course there is such a feeling.
But what lies
behind such feelings is not often serious. Here in
Akkaraipattu there are such feelings between Muslims in
Division 2 and those in Division 6. Those in Division 2
were once of a higher social status. Those in Division
6 felt looked down upon and marginalised. Now those in
Division 6 have made great advances and are perhaps on
par with those in Division 2. But they still feel
marginalised. It becomes a hot issue at election times.
Q: But, there is a widespread Tamil feeling that their
residential and paddy lands were acquired by Muslims
through actual or threatened violence, by unfair means.
A: I know, such feelings
are very well articulated
because your community had wide access to education.
But that is changing like everything else because you
are teaching us.
It is not only here, but such feelings
are also being
articulated in places like Kandy. Look, where do you
find Muslims living in isolation? For many reasons they
live in groups or clusters. For this reason if they
wish to purchase land and are willing to pay a good
price, is that a crime?
I do not agree that Tamils selling land
out of fear was a
common phenomenon. You must look at what happened to the Tamils
who sold their properties in crowded towns such as Akkaraipattu,
Kalmunai or Sainthamaruthu. You will find that many of them have
used that money to purchase more spacious properties elsewhere.
Is there anything wrong in that?
It is easy enough to look back
at something that has hap
pened, and put a different construction on it. In fairness you
must ask when it happened and why it happened at that time.
One part of this complex process is the
caste system among
Tamils. A significant number of Tamils living in towns belonged
to the service castes. The paraiahs who acted as town criers
later became redundant. They sold their little plots in town, and
took to chena cultivation - that is burning jungles and using it
as manure to grow paddy. After one season of cultivation, they
moved on. They did not level the land and develop it. Perhaps
they did not have the money. Such lands were sold cheap to Mus
lims who developed the land. The Tamil Vellalas were not interes
ted in such lands because they had their fertile purana (ancient)
fields. Once these service castes ran out of chena land, they
found it easier to work as labourers for Muslim cultivators. They
were less acceptable to the Tamil Vellalas, whereas the Muslims
are a more open society. Is it not fair to look upon this rela
tionship as one that mutually benefits the Muslims and those
Tamils who now work for them? Would you call me wicked or arro
gant for having a servant to work for me?
You know that there was a tendency among
Tamil Vellalas to
sell and go where there was white collar work. You may have heard
talk to the effect that Muslims were taking over Akkaraipattu
town. you must recognise the contribution made by Muslims to the
economy of the area. If not for the Muslims, Akkaraipattu would
have been a town with a dwindling (Tamil) Vellala community. You
will see that there is often a different story behind what
appears upsetting on the surface.
Q: How do you see the present
climate of violence
between Muslims and Tamils?
A: It is wrong to put the question that way.
If we take
the last 100 years of our co-existence, there may have
been about 10 days of actual violence. There is occa
sional friction and it gets ironed out. Why should we
highlight those 10 days in comparison with the rest of
those 100 years when we have worked together, traded
and benifitted from our intercourse? In the process we
have both realised greater freedom. Some people may
advocate reactionary causes for their power. But the
present troubles will pass and time will resume its
normal course towards greater freedom.
Our interlocutor also reflected on comparisons
lims and Tamils. Contrary to myth, he said, the Muslims are not a
disciplined community. In normal times, he said, you cannot get
them to agree on a single course of action.
He said, "There is very little
orderliness in the Muslim
community. If you can give the Tamils 50% for orderliness it is
about 10% for Muslims. Yours is a community with cultural tradi
tions that have evolved over millenia. Whatever order we have, it
is through inbibing of this cultural tradition through inter-
marrying. The main force in Muslim society is law and dogma. When
these are invoked, it gives us the strength of the mob. Though
potent, it peters out fast. Thus in practice there is a lot of
division and Muslims are incapable of sustained effort towards a
2. Our second interlocutor is Eastern
Ibrahim, secretary of
the Amparai District East Coast Farmers' Association (ADECFA).
The significance of this association is that it represents both
Muslims as well as Tamil interests and both Tamils as well as
Muslims are active in the association. His articles, which are
factually informative, regularly appear in the Virakesari and
are much appreciated by Tamils in the area. The theme he advo
cates is the need for Tamils and Muslims to work together against
the common danger of state aided colonisation. The name Eastern
comes from the name of his shop, now temporarily sited at the
Akkaraipattu central bus stand, and has become more or less
official. A large number of Tamils are his customers for the
likes of honey, gingelly oil, spices and condiments. Each one
goes away in the conviction that he or she made a good bargain.
Q: You have been strongly highlighting
state as the main threat of Muslims and Tamils.
A: The state is determined to make the
Under such an ideology, there will be no place for
Tamils and Muslims. In the Amparai District itself the
situation is quite alarming. This was once a Muslim
majority district with hardly any Sinhalese (4% in
1920). The ratio of Sinhalese:Muslims:Tamils in the
1981 census was 37:39:24. The estimate for 1991 is
47:34:19. The figures for Tamils includes burghers and
Tamils of Indian origin. If this trend continues, Mus
lims will only form 26% of the population in the year
Keeping in mind that the rule of law
has declined and
people are very much at the mercy of violence by power
ful groups, looked at from another angle, the situation
is even more alarming. Take the main truck route from
the western border of the district to the coast. It is
8 miles from the border to Padiatalawa. Then 20 miles
to Maha Oya. Then 36 miles to Amparai town, and then
another 8 miles to Digavapi. From there it is only 6
miles to the coast. Up to and including Digavapi, all
areas are now Sinhalese.
As long as Tamils and Muslims are engaged
each other, colonisation will go ahead, and both our
communities are finished.
Q: What do you have to say about
a widespread Tamil
perception that the Muslims have got the better of them
and that Muslims have acquired land by unfair means?
A: Generally, Tamils sold land and went away.
occasional violence, but I do not think that was very
significant. Many Tamil villages, including Meenodai
kaddu, next to Addalachchenai, have disappeared because
the Tamils sold the land and went away. One cannot
point to any significant history of violence, in res
pect of say Meenadaikaddu.
Q: Can you say more about what
you have in mind when
you advocate Tamils and Muslims working together?
A: They must work together on a
common political pro
gram with the clear objective of combatting colonisa
tion by the state. This is where I disagree with much
of the politics in the past of both Muslim as well as
Tamil groups, including that of the SLMC at present. It
has been very divisive.
Though Kariappar was thought to be helping
what he did was ultimately damaging to the Muslims. He
was angry with the Tamils and the measures he complied
with hurt the Muslims as well. He advocated the carving
out of Amparai District in 1961 from the Eastern Pro
vince, in the hope of having a Muslim majority dis
trict. Even then Kalmunai would have been the natural
district capital, as it was the centre of population,
had an administrative infrastructure, and was readily
accessible to most people in the district. But there
were few Muslims in the Civil Service, and thus Kalmu
nai would have normally had a Tamil Government Agent
and many of the administrative staff would have been
Tamil. Kariappar did not want this. So we ended up with
the district capital in Amparai town. Thus the adminis
trative power in the district passed into Sinhalese
hands, making state sponsored colonisation much easier.
In the district which is largely Tamil speaking it is
now very difficult to get work done in Tamil.
You know the outcome. Muslims have
now largely left
Kondavedduvan, a predominently Muslim village in the
Gal Oya scheme. Even Kariappar's lands there were lost.
You can see what could happen if Tamils
and Muslims do
not work as brothers. In the light of this, trends in
Tamil militant groups are very distrubing.
Q: What is your view on the North-East merger?
A: A North-East merger is a must.
If we do not have a
merger, we do not need provincial councils. Without the
merger the East would be Sinhalese by the year 2000 or
Q: Can you give your views on the sub-councils that are
being talked about?
A: Utter nonsense! These people who talk about
involved in a theoretical exercise without taking into
account ground realities. Take Akkaraipattu. If you
look out of the shop, what you see is the bazaar where
we Muslims do business. This is part of the Tamil AGA's
division. But we reside in the Muslim division. What
would a sub-council profit us if we have to live in one
administrative district and have our economy in ano
ther? The same is true everywhere in the East. With
sub-councils, we may have people living in one adminis
trative district, having their paddy fields in another
and perhaps their water resources in yet another. That
would be a nightmare. Those who talk about these things
should know how we live.
What we need is a
single council with Muslim rights
specified and respected.
The two perceptions we have presented
show that there is
still considerable potential to build good relations on a firm
foundation. This also applies at national level. We also see that
ordinary people living in a situation can be creative in their
outlook and are capable of valuable insights - often more
profound than those obtaining in intellectuals who are removed
from ground realities.
The material in this chapter was drafted in
tion with a Human Rights Group the Movement for the Defence of
Democratic Rights (MDDR), based in the South, that is in close
touch with the areas concerned. The reports on the LTTE massacres
of Sinhalese civilians in Athimale and Niedella were presented by
activists who visited the villages immediately after the attacks.
7.1 The_Borderlands: The following sketch gives an impressionis
tic picture which it is hoped would clarify current issues. We
mentioned in Special Report No.3 the existence in the East of
what was known in Survey Department parlance as Park Countries.
These were fertile lands once cultivated and abandoned to the
advance of the jungle, because of war or other calamities,
perhaps a millenium ago. That was a time when people had no
notion of modern ethnicity and it would be absurd to term them
Sinhalese or Tamil. There have also been other communities
present on the South Eastern seaboard such as those who were
descendents of seafarers presumably from the East Indies (Malaya,
Sumatra, Java), whose culture and religion (animism) were unique.
There are also Gypsies (Kuravar) speaking Telugu, who are now
Roman Catholic Christians. (See Special Report No.3).
The East came under the Kandyan Kingdom which was neither
Sinhalese nor Tamil in the modern sense. Although the Amparai
District was largely depopulated in recent times, the state of
affairs in some of its purana (ancient) villages give a hint of
their history. Among these villages are Uhana, Komariya, Bandara
duwa, Dhamana, Thottama, Padugoda, Gonagolla and Inginiyagala.
Barely 40 years ago,people living in these villages were equally
fluent in Sinhalese and Tamil, and several of them sported Tamil
names like Selladurai and Sellamma. If not for the aggressive
interposition of Sinhalese nationalism, this state of affairs
would have continued and any change would have been healthy.
To the West of Amparai District
lies the Moneragala Dis
trict, once the rich province of the Kandyan Kingdom known as
Velassa. These rice growing peasants took part in the rebellion
against the newly imposed British crown in 1818. In quelling the
rebellion, the British largely depopulated the area. The recolo
nisation of this area began under D.S.Senanayake in the early
50's. Colonists were brought in from hill country villages such
as Welimada and Nuwara Eliya. The induction of colonists did not
threaten the old residents as there was land. The latter rather
prospered as traders and had a labour force at their disposal.
They thus became the local elite.
Further North, near Kalmunai, the Central Camp
established about 1952 to 54. Colonies 3,16,18,19 and 22 were
largely settled by Sinhalese from the Kegalle District.
Further North, the Trincomalee
District was also characte
rised by a history of human diversity. Although the Sinhalese
population in recent times was very small, there had been survi
ving Sinhalese villages, often closer to the Tamils in culture
(e.g. women's dress, water pots made of a copper alloy etc) Their
folk memory traces their origin back to Velassa in 1818. Further
back in history, the building of Kantalai tank is attributed to
Agrabodhi, King of Anuradhapura. The tank fell into disuse with
the decline of Anuradhapura about a millenium ago. In recent
times Kantalai was a Tamil speaking village until colonisation
began around 1952. Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese were given land.
In recent times the drive for Sinhalisation through administra
tive means has been more overt.
Violence against Tamils in Amparai during
1958 was largely
by the employees of the Gal Oya Board rather than by colonists.
Starting from modest positions, several of these employees became
rich businessmen. With the commencement of the war of June 1990
the expulsion of Tamils from the Gal Oya Board areas neared
himale is a village in Velassa 5 miles west of the Amparai Dis
trict boundary, adjoining Pottuvil. Following massed attacks in
Mannar and Karainagar, the LTTE had by indications banked on a
ceasefire by the Sinhalese - Tamil New Year - 13th April. The
government forces had signalled their lack of interest in a
ceasefire, which they suspected to be disadvantageous for them,
by resuming limited bombing in Jaffna, and firing shells from
Palaly, killing two women in Colombogam, about the time of festi
vities. That Tigers would attack Sinhalese civilians had also
been widely anticipated by the government.
Until the terror bombings of 1986,
attacks on Sinhalese
civilians had been rationalised by regarding colonists in the
Tamil provinces as a paramilitary arm of the government. The
attack on Athimale and on other parts of Moneragala lacked even
this justification. They were simply easy targets.
Athimale is a reasonably well to
do farming village with
about 350 persons. It had a police post commanded by a Sargeant,
with 12 men. For a few days before the incident villagers had
observed armed men dressed in shorts and jungle green shirts in
the vicinity. This was conveyed to the police. The police took
little notice, evidently because false alarms were a regular
phenomenon. On the evening of the 14th April, shortly before the
incident, a young man reportedly told the police about the pre
sence of intruders. A skeptical policeman gave him a whack and
sent him off.
About 5.30 p.m. a party of
armed persons approached the
village along a track leading to it from the jungle. The first
persons they accosted were two young men on bicycles proceeding
to look over their rice fields. they were stopped and hacked to
death. There was no alarm since guns were not fired. Further down
the track the armed prowlers encountered Jayasundera (60), father
of 7, a respected farmer and village elder and also a reputed
snake-bite physician. He too was similarly done away with. A man
tying his cow met with the same fate.
By the time the attackers, said
to be about 20 in number,
reached the village, it was nightfall. They ignored the first few
huts which were quiet and walked into the 5th where two neighbou
ring families had got together for the festive evening meal.
There were two husbands, their wives and five children in all.
The two men were ordered to face the wall and an attacker swung a
sword at them. One man after receiving an injury, sprang out of
the hut before the second blow came. He ran towards the police
station. Alarmed by his screaming, others in the village started
running in panic. The attackers then proceeded to cut the remai
ning man, mothers and children, in the hut.
A man from another hut had started running,
leading away his
expectant wife and 3 children, the eldest of whom was a boy of 7.
This family was accosted by a group of 5 armed men who killed
The first hut was set on fire with the
dead and the dying
inside. A girl of 5 with a piece of her ear cut and cut injuries
on her body, crept out of the burning hut and lay down under a
papaw tree. Subsequently, she crept further away. In the morning
other villagers spotting caked blood under the papaw tree, found
this girl unconscious, having turned blue during the cold night.
She is now warded in hospital, an orphan.
Having finished their hacking
of humans, the attackers
raided a chicken coop, and their choppers got to work again. the
headless chicks were taken away in sacks in addition to cooking
material such as onions. The attackers withdrew, evidently in no
hurry, placing at least 3 Johnny mines at the bends at locations
with a high probability of someone stepping on them.
The injured man who went to the police,
got there by 8 p.m.
grabbed a gun and threatened to go himself. The police told him
that they could not go just like that and appealed for help from
Siyambalanduwe and Arugam Bay. A police party from the former and
an STF party from the latter reached Athimale police station by
midnight. They set off at 4 a.m. when a Buffel armoured car
arrived. It was considered too risky without the armoured car
because of the mines.
In the morning Piyadasa, the local
co-op manager lost his
leg after stepping on a mine while walking with the police. The
search drew a blank. Later in the day a mine clearing operation
was done in the area.
It has been customary for
some time now for persons in
isolated villages in the area to move into the jungle for the
No one doubts that the attackers were the LTTE,
movement in the jungle belt from Kanjikudichcharu. The mines used
were of the kind normally used by them. After such massacres, the
LTTE is usually silent, neither accepting nor denying. But its
propaganda machinery overseas would argue, using discrepancies in
the reporting that the government or someone else was responsi
ble. Any self-respecting liberation group would not merely deny
being responsible for such atrocities, but would express horror
on principle and show by its general conduct that its behaviour
is far superior to the forces opposed to it.
7.3 Kantalai: In Rajaela (King's Canal), Colony
94, in the
Kantalai scheme, people were out on the streets late into the
night to observe New Year festivities. But underneath the convi
viality, there was an air of foreboding. Kantalai lies on the
Habarana-Trincomalee road. At each dawn, route clearing patrols
march along the road between Kantalai and Habarana. Some of them
are ambushed. It is only after 8 a.m. that the road is opened to
traffic. By common consent it is accepted that being on the road
outside town after 4 p.m. is dangerous. On normal days the town
is nearly empty by 4 p.m.
According to village leaders, they will
not be attacked in
the immediate future as there are still settlements on either
side of them. Many of these settlers work in cane fields. But one
day, they are sure, when the adjoining settlements have been
attacked and dispersed, their turn would come. They are skeptical
about the ability of the forces to defeat the LTTE. They think
the LTTE would survive, and one day the Sinhalese would be pushed
down to Habarana.
In support of their skepticism, a villager
spoke about his
having been in the police station when a radio message from a
police vehicle, attacked out of town, was received. The police
left the station after 20 minutes. By then the attackers had fled
leaving behind two dead policemen.
The settlements were formed about 1952/53
and now the third
generation of Sinhalese are living there, with ties to the land
which they developed for a livelihood. After some discussion,
several of them agreed that the Tamils had a problem. But the
government had brought them there having told them there was
land, and moreover, were not after all Tamils living in Sinhalese
areas? they had never been warned that there would be trouble of
this kind. Although they see little hope in the future, they
think it is the reponsibility of the government to salvage the
7.4 The_Abduction_of_Pushparani_Chelliah,_ 19th_April
Pushparani (26) a final
year Dental student at the
University of Peradeniya was to sit for her final examinations. A
native of Karaitivu, she left on the 3.30 p.m. bus from Kalmunai,
which started late at 5.00 p.m. The bus stopped at the STF check
point at the 17th mile post past Amparai town and all the
passengers were asked to get down. After being checked, the
passengers got inside the bus. They were asked to get down again
on the pretext that there was a bomb inside. This time Pushparani
was given a lot of attention. She was questioned closely about
her personal details. After a delay of about an hour, the passen
gers were asked to get inside and be seated. The bus was then
Barely two miles away, about 9.30 p.m.
the bus was stopped
by armed men. The men got into the bus and made straight for
Pushparani who was seated near the rear, and dragged her out. The
driver was ordered to proceed. The bus then stopped at
Siyambalanduwe and a complaint was made to the police.
Nothing more has been heard of Pushparani.
7.5 Massacre_at_Niedella,_Moneragala_District: 20th April.
mours of an LTTE presence had been about for some time. Nimali
Rajapakse (21) a pre-school teacher was at home about 7 p.m, when
her younger sister Malkanthi came running, asking others to hide.
Just then they heard gunshots from across the field. From their
experience during the JVP troubles, they recognised the firing of
an automatic. Once more, after a long interval, they took off to
hide in the bushes with some of their close relatives, until it
was past dawn. The attackers had come from the direction of the
river. The occupants of the first house, P.R. Gunapala, his wife
and two children (5 & 3) escaped by climbing a tamarind tree. In
the next house 75 yards away, two children Thakshila (5) and her
brother Ratnayake (2 1/2) were beheaded. Their father escaped,
but the mother is warded in Badulla hospital with a neck injury.
Those in the following house escaped by hiding inside the well.
From the house across the stream
from Nimali's they first
heard hammering on the walls followed by the screams of a mother,
"Oh! my children, Oh! my children". Then silence. It was disco
vered later that the mother and three children, Radhika Priyantha
(6), Dhanushka Sampath (4) and Surangi (2 1/2) had been killed.
M.M.Dharmasena (30), a farmer,
thinking that the noises he
heard were firecrakers, went out to investigate about 7.30 p.m.
Hearing a gunshot from the neighbouring gem merchant's house, he
ran back home. His wife, who had already hidden with her children
inside bushes, called softly to him. They lay hidden until dawn.
The horn of the car next door was sounded for about 20 minutes,
which alerted many.
Dharmasena's brother escaped while his wife
and two children
had been beheaded. His brother went back to the scene and let out
a loud cry. He ran into the jungles when someone shined a torch.
The wife's gold chain was taken, while the children's earrings
had been removed by tearing the ears.
W.M. Premasiri (25), cultivator,
had a similar experience.
He lay hidden with a group of 30. He first took the firing to
have come from the army. When it was quiet, his brother Jayatil
leke went home to investigate, when he was chased by two women.
He escaped into the jungle losing his clothes on the way. About
12.30 a.m. three vehicles, which they took to be army vehicles,
sounded their horns. No one risked leaving their hiding places.
The vehicles went away. The attackers were said to be dressed in
military type uniforms.
In the morning Premasiri found
6 shiny empty shells and a
katty (traditional knife, used for lopping branches). Nine per
sons, including 3 women and 5 children, who were gathered in a
house for a ceremony had been killed by cutting blows aimed at
the back of their necks. An ear on one side was also cut. The
attackers had removed chillies, flour and torch batteries. Anan
da, who was hidden with A.M. Punchibanda (30), his wife and 4
children, went towards his house on a Land Master tractor to
check on his family. He was shot dead on the way.
The attackers also killed Kuruwita Mudalali,
at whose house
they had stopped to drink tea.
The 22 human victims were buried in a
mass grave at 3 p.m.
the following day in coffins brought by the STF. Included among
the victims were two new born calves that were beheaded.
Prior to the burial, 15 soldiers
had come in two trucks.
Some officers in a jeep were driving up and down. About 2 p.m. a
red car arrived with its horn blaring. Then the car left followed
by the military party. The frightened villagers were left to
cremate the dead with whatever flammable material they could
7.2 we referred to the
confusion and panic prevailing in the area. When the villagers
were probed about details such as times and juxtapositions, there
was confusion. Persons in the village claim that some of the
attackers spoke fluent Sinhalese. The gem merchant had been
individually summoned, it is said, by an attacker who spoke good
Sinhalese. The attackers had come in two or three groups, some of
whom it appears, were women. Nimali Rajapakse, for instance, who
says she heard one of the attackers say in Sinhalese, "There is
no one in this house," maintains that some of the attackers must
have known the village. This is also the opinion of Dharmasena,
who adds that even villagers sometimes lose their way in the
The attackers appear to have been
around until 3 a.m. at
least. This time, the army and police had come shortly after the
police at Okkampitiya were alerted - just after mid-night. But
there was no confrontation. The attackers had looted food sup
plies needed for jungle survival. amongst the incongruous things
they did, in one house they took the women's and children's
clothes, but left the men's clothes strewn about.
One indication that the Tigers
were involved was their
standard signing off by strewing Johnny Battas (soap sized mines
that blow off the foot that treads one - a Tiger invention).
Several of them were discovered in the mine clearing operation,
including two in Nimali's garden. The person who went to the
Okkampitiya police and returned with 4 policemen at mid-night,
had stepped on a Johnny mine and is now in Badulla hospital with
an amputated foot. This man is a full time SLFP worker
who offered to walk ahead of the policemen as the latter were
afraid. This is of significance in view of allegations hinted at
by the government, suggesting that the SLFP was playing a sinis
ter role and creating a scare.
Though the people strongly suspect the Tigers,
there is also
much confusion. One story in the village holds that a JVP killer
from the village had told the police upon arrest, that there is a
combined party of 250 JVP and LTTE in the jungle. The villagers
are themselves cynical about everyone. When the JVP insurgency
was on, the village was suspect. Some of the shot guns in the
village were taken away by the JVP. The police then retrieved the
The_aftermath: Panic was
rife in the Moneragala district
after the massacre. As it was, many villagers were spending their
nights in the jungles. As soon as the news reached Okkampitiya
the following morning, the shops closed instantly. A Tamil boy
raised by Sinhalese who had said that he had seen someone running
off into the jungle, was taken away by the STF, despite pleading
by his Sinhalese family.
At Buttala, at 4 p.m. (21st),
a crowd of 5000 gathered at
the police station in search of protection. Two Tamils travelling
in a bus were pulled out and assaulted. Unconfirmed reports said
that Tamil workers at the Pelwatte Sugar Factory had been
"The Island" of 25th April, said,
quoting a police spokes
man, that two Tamil tea estate workers were killed by a mob at
Badalkumbara on the 22nd night, and that line rooms occupied by
Tamil labourers were burnt at Badalkumbara and neighbouring Ram
bukkana. It added: "Unconfirmed reports indicated that an undis
closed number of Tamil workers had been seriously injured... A
large number of Tamils living in the area had sought police
protection fearing further attacks, the officials said." The
report further said that no further incidents were reported after
Monday night and that the police were intensely patrolling the
area. A military spokesman in Colombo was quoted as confirming
the communal unrest, but adding that the police had the situation
For the villagers in Niyadella itself there
was no assurance
of any further protection beyond the promise of shotguns from the
Chief Minister of Uva. In terms of its present military and
political framework, the government had no answer. In a further
twist to the developing tragedy, the Hill Country Tamils of
Indian origin, appear to be getting dragged into this mess invo
luntarily. Dinesh Watawana, writing in the Sunday Times of 28th
April, quotes a defence official in Colombo as saying that:
"About 30 suspected LTTE terrorists were believed to be mingling
with estate labourers disguising themselves as estate workers.
The killers believed to be in groups of twos and threes are said
to be hiding in different estates. With their weapons hidden in
nearby jungles, the terrorists have, on several occasions, assem
bled together with weapons to attack Sinhala villages."
"The recent attacks on civilians
were not in operational
areas. This shows that a group of terrorists have infiltrated
into Sinhala areas to create havoc," a military official said.
A senior STF official in the area was
more forthright when
he told a very responsible person that they did not believe that
the attack was conducted by the LTTE. He suspected that the
attackers were estate Tamils.
The STF's reasons for saying that are
have more or less maintained that areas under their control have
been cleared of the LTTE. If otherwise, their peculiar methods
and professional competence will be put into question. The recent
attacks on estate Tamils in the area must raise the disturbing
question of what kind of security they would enjoy in the light
of such suspicions becoming common currency.
We know from past experience and the progress
of the current
war, that the methods of the government forces can only result in
hopeless deterioration, adding to alienation and intensification.
p.m. on 24th April, 12 attackers entered an estate owned by the
Edna group in Kumbukkanna, in the Parawilawatte division, and set
fire to 14 line rooms built by workers themselves, and a further
4 constructed by Edna group. 32 workers were injured. The estate
is 6 miles from Okkampitiya.
1500 up country Tamils live in
an estate in Srigalawatte
formerly owned by the Upali group and presently under Janavasa.
Since there is no work on the estate, the community depends on
150 workers who travel to Moneragala town to do a variety of
menial work, as seasonal workers. 100 of them were attacked and
had to spend 3 days in the jungle without food before trekking
back home. The community is now without means.
100 seasonal workers used to go from Koslanda
estate to work
in sugar can fields owned by the Pelwatte Sugar Company. These
workers were beaten and had to shelter in the jungle.
A south based human rights
group which visited these up
country Tamils with the aim of providing relief, was unable to
confirm reports of killings. The Ceylon Workers Congress visited
the Edna group estate in Kumbukkana.
8.1 Early_motivations: The colonisation issue with its
lated destructive inertia has become a major bugbear of Sri
Lankan politics. The blind vigour with which the rival claims of
Sinhalese and Tamil nationalisms were pursued have set in motion
other phenomena which have further distorted the stated aims of
the conflicting parties. The claim of Sinhalese nationalism in
its extreme form held that the whole country is sacred to Bud
dhism and belonged to its vanguard, the Sinhalese. All other
inhabitants of Ceylon were aliens who had to be subjugated, lest
they exceed their rights as guests living at the sufferance of
the Sinhalese. Whatever the original intentions of the colonisa
tion programme, from its early times the aim that there should be
no territory that could be called Tamil, became a part of its
conscious agenda. The following excerpt from a speech attributed
to Ceylon's first Prime Minister, D.S.Senanayake, addressed to
colonists in Padaviya, is self-explanatory: "Today you are
brought here and given a plot of land. You have been uprooted
from your village. You are like a piece of driftwood in the
ocean; but remember that one day the whole country will look up
to you. The final battle for the Sinhala people will be fought on
the plains of Padaviya. You are men and women who will carry this
island's destiny on your shoulders. Those who are attempting to
divide this country will have to reckon with you. The country may
forget you for a few years, but one day very soon they will look
up to you as the last bastion of the Sinhala."
The excerpt quoted by M.H. Gunaratna
was related to him by
Davinda Senanayake, D.S's grandson. The exactness of the quota
tion may be in question, as D.S. appears to be addressing modern
sensibilities rather than ones current in his time. However, what
his grandson understood of his motivations is significant. (The
quotation is from p.201 of 'For a Sovereign State', by M.H.Guna
ratna, Sarvodaya Publications).
Hidden below the violent rhetoric of
this ideology was also
a defensive aspect, talked about by apologists for the ideology.
The Sinhalese Buddhist elite saw in neighbouring India, the
vision of which was dominated by the large southern state of
Tamil Nadu, a potential menace. they saw in Indian merchants in
Colombo, Tamil government servants and other professionals in
Sinhalese areas, and even in the hapless plantation labour of
Indian origin, an alien conspiracy to disinherit the Sinhalese.
As Sinhalese scholars have themselves written, the ideology ap
pealed to different sections of Sinhalese at different levels.
The Sinhalese elite who came from the merchant class felt threat
ened by competition from indian rivals who established themselves
under the mobility provided by British Empire. The ire of Kandyan
peasants who often lived in poverty at the edges of British owned
estates, was directed against the ill treated labour from India.
The lack of economic development, and a large number of young
chasing limited government jobs, further exacerbated the growing
communalism. If in a Sinhalese village, the station master, the
medical practitioner and the post master happened to be Tamils,
they would have appeared very powerful in the village context,
while being of little importance overall. All these ingredients
helped fuel myths that motivated the ideology. In the train of
this massive emotional force, the land owning class in the South,
the owners of large estates and those whose positions depended on
these, found in colonisation of Tamil areas a ready means of
obviating the natural demand for restructuring the agricultural
economy of the South.
With developing trends in the world economy,
of large estates producing cash crops using necessarily poorly
paid labour, was becoming outmoded, particularly when a large
quantity of foreign exchange was spent on importing food. There
was thus a need for a long term national policy to dismantle all
except the adequately profitable estates, and transfer lands to
food production by individual farmers. To the vested interests in
the plantation economy, colonisation appeared a neat way out,
which also tied up with the thrust of Sinhalese nationalism. It
is no co-incidence that many of the early Sinhalese colonists in
Amparai were drawn from areas such as Welimada, Nuwara Eliya and
Kegalle, where the plantation economy was dominant.
The former Mossad officer,
Ostrovsky says on p.68 of his
controversial book,'By Way of Deception': "The Sri Lankan govern
ment was worried about unrest among farmers.......so it wanted to
split them up somewhat by moving them from one side of the island
to the other". This is not something that Ostrovsky would have
easily imagined. The theme was familiar to Israeli's who were
establishing para military colonies of Shepardim Jews on the
Palestinian West Bank. We are not saying as alleged by Ostrovsky,
that the Mahaveli project was a fraud designed to obtain large
international loans for other than agricultural and developmental
purposes. But the author of 'For a Sovereign State' gives a
detailed account of the Mahaveli Ministry's covert involvement in
the Maduru Oya settlement, the extent of Israeli influence re
mains an open question.
8.2 Tamil_Reactions: Economic developments during
colonial period saw the integration of Ceylon into an economic
whole with a network of roads and railways. Consequently, people
from all communities left their places of origin in search of
economic opportunities. Many Tamils became established in the
South. Likewise Sinhalese became established in the North-East.
In Jaffna itself, Sinhalese became renowned as carpenters and
bakers. The Tamils had tended to look upon the whole country as
places in which to live and work. The Tamil voters rejected the
newly formed Federal Party in the 1952 elections. It was to be
another two decades before its leader Chelvanayakam would be
acclaimed a prophet. The incipient colonisation schemes were not
taken seriously at that time. In contrast with 5 years later,
there was an increasing demand in Jaffna schools for the teaching
of Sinhalese as well as Sinhalese teachers.
It was the 1956 election campaign based on
the Sinhala Only
that gave the Federal Party its predicted legitimacy. The 1958
communal riots saw the first wave of mass exodus of Tamils from
the South. With this, the concept of a Tamil Homeland which had
not existed in 1952 had come of age. In its train came the
concept of a Tamil Nation held together chiefly by the experience
of common oppression.
This fruit of their own actions further
incensed the Sinha
lese ruling class. Government policy was now consciously directed
towards breaking the concept of a Tamil nation through colonisa
tion. In the course of reorganising the administration in the
1960's, the Eastern province became divided into three adminis
trative districts - Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Amparai. It is
significant that although Tamils were in the majority in Trinco
malee at that time, it has never had a Tamil Government Agent.
The adoption of separation as a slogan by Tamil
and increasing involvement of the state in anti-Tamil violence
marked the spiralling escalation of the ideological conflict.
On the one hand while Tamils were in
fact becoming weaker,
those wielding state power started seeing Tamil conspiracies
everywhere. M.H. Gunaratna, a planter who held an important
position in the Mahaveli Ministry, describes in his 'For a Sove
reign State', how Tamils holding government positions were
viewed. State power was thus channelled into what were viewed as
counter conspiracies against Tamils.
The Tamils on the other hand
experienced the oppressive
reality of state power from discrimination against Tamils in
university admissions in 1972, subsequently heightened by the
1983 violence and its aftermath. By its clumsy handling, the
state not only destroyed the economic and emotional foundations
of one nation, but gave the notion of the Tamil Nation with a
National Homeland a new moral legitimacy. What was worse, the
notions' adoption as a tool by India, gave it an invincibility.
The Tamil nationalists felt a powerful
emotional drive to
root the concept of the Tamil homeland in historical antiquity.
They thus simplified the complex history of comings and goings of
waves of diverse migrants over the centuries, the shifting boun
daries of ancient kingdoms, and posited instead a Tamil kingdom
which it was claimed had existed from ancient times. One of the
main planks of the argument was that the early British colonial
administration and several other colonial writers had regarded
Ceylon to have been made of 3 distinct regions, two Sinhalese and
one Tamil, the latter covering more or less the present North-
East. Between Sinhalese and Tamil academics, there arose a parti
san argument on this point, which had little relevance to a
On the other hand the Tamil Left largely
wanted the coloni
sation issue addressed from the perspective of the needs of the
people concerned, than from that of historical abstraction. By
the early 80's most of them were swallowed up by the rising
nationalist tide - many becoming ideologues for the nationalist
The emotional needs of nationalism
and its insistence on
simple dogmatic historical assertion, resulted in a fatal trend.
These needs also led to the destructive concepts of alien, intru
der, purity etc. It placed the Muslims, although Tamil speaking,
in an insecure position. There was also a new ambivalence towards
Sinhalese, even when they had lived in the North-East for genera
tions and were integrated into local life.
Had the manner of colonisation by the state
from a human rights standpoint, it would have united the Tamils,
Muslims and Sinhalese in the East. But the contradictions in the
nationalist approach left it open to attack. By 1984, the state
with its resources and manipulative ability, was in the business
of fomenting Tamil-Muslim enmity.
The current spate of barbarity
against civilians is the
logical outcome of the two contending nationalisms, where extre
mists with a similar mental outlook have gained ascendency on
It has been widely commented upon
that the current war is
also characterised far less by military ingenuity than by a
series of massacres and counter massacres. The LTTE's provacative
actions were meant as we have observed, not to protect Tamils,
but rather to enhance its destructive capacity using the state's
barbarity. The manner in which the government forces have been
used points to the same ideology at work with its accumulated
inertia which needed no explicit planning.
During the week following the outbreak
of hostilities on
11th June 1990, Tamils were attacked and expelled from Amparai
town and the interior villages about the Gal Oya Scheme. Once the
forces were in control, the next stage of expulsions took place
in August. Muslim home guards were set up to attack the Tamil
refugee camps at Veeramunai and Sorikalmumai. The Tamils were
thus expelled from the next line of Tamil villages in Central
Camp, to the eastern seaboard.
In the Trincomalee district, there is once
again a situation
where a draconian regime prevails. People are scared to talk
about the disappeared. No one has dared to keep records. No young
Tamils are living outside town. Those outside have fled as refu
gees to the North and to India. Any young person coming back is
very likely to disappear.
Significantly, the army brigadier
who was in charge of
Trincomalee at the outbreak of war and enjoyed public confidence,
was immediately replaced by Lucky Wijeratne. The latter was
killed in a landmine explosion. The brigadier currently in charge
of Trincomalee was previously in Mannar where about 9 persons
arrested by the army in Talaimannar disappeared. This became a
major issue as India and the UNHCR were preparing to use Mannar
to receive refugees who had fled to Inda. The brigadier's talents
were then considered better suited for Trincomalee.
The emerging pattern is broadly consistent
with the agenda
sketched out in 'For a Sovereign State'. These people are so
blind that they do not see recent history repeating itself. They
are once more making a case for an Indian role.
8.5 The_LTTE_and_Tamil_interests: The LTTE is now waging its war
with recruits who are the product of tragic circumstances and
deceit. They have no creative outlook or any perspective of the
long term interests of Tamils. Their anti-Sinhalese, anti-Muslim
or anti-state gut feelings are simply used in a destructive orgy.
Under such circumstances massacres come naturally. It is also the
LTTE's experience that it is such conduct that the government
will be responsive to. For it frustrates the government by expo
sing its inability to protect Sinhalese civilians. This brings
about legitimacy for such actions, as many Tamils begin to argue
that only such massacres press the government to think about a
But the resulting process cannot be so simple.
It also sets
in motion so many other corrosive trends. It certainly enhances
the Sinhalese chauvinist position. The chauvinists would argue
that they were always right about the Tamils being calculating,
deceitful and evil intentioned, and that the only way to deal
with them is to crush them. Unless a political party is very
mature and farsighted, and able to rise above such a destructive
tide, it will also be sucked in. We can see this in the SLFP.
Last August it showed some signs of understanding the plight of
ordinary Tamils. In its recent statements it is not thinking of
the Tamils at all. It is rather playing the accustomed chauvinist
card, calling for more support for the armed forces. The LTTE's
actions thus cannot lead to a healthy political process. In the
meantime its very destructiveness is eliminating the socio-econo
mic base for the Tamil struggle.
Very often Tamil intellectuals
are harsh with Sinhalese
human rights activists charging them of ineffectiveness, indiffe
rence and even communalism. Whatever the justification, in seve
ral concrete instances, groups that sincerely try to put forward
the Tamil case to Sinhalese villagers are frustrated by actions
inspired by Tamil chauvinism. The brother of a woman activist in
Niedella was one of the victims of the LTTE massacre reported in
Chapter 7. She, in her distress, exclaimed that she was not going
to talk about understanding Tamils again. By destroying the
possibility of human communication, it is Sinhalese chauvinism
that is reinforced.
The LTTE's actions thus actually serve to distort
of Tamils. From our extensive conversations with Easterners, they
are not saying that they do not want Sinhalese living there. Nor
are they saying that the agricultural potential of the East
should not be developed. They have lived happily with Sinhalese
and would welcome Sinhalese coming there and contributing to the
economy under healthy conditions, in the normal course of events.
What they are opposed to is ideologically motivated colonisation
by the state backed by explicit and implicit violence.
The Tigers' brutal massacres give the
that Sinhalese have no right to live in the East. This drives
Sinhalese in turn to ignore Tamil fears and see the problem in
terms of the simple question, 'If Tamils can live in the South,
why should we be killed for living in the North-East?' The per
ceived unreasonableness of the Tamils once again enhances Sinha
lese chauvinist ideology.
Whichever way one looks at it,
we see that the only way to
unfold this developing tragedy is to break the hold of politics
based on Sinhalese and Tamil chauvinism, which are locked into
The Civil Rights Movement
in a recent statement draws
attention to the agreement on human rights arrived at between the
government and the armed opposition of El Salvador, with the
mediation of the Secretary General of the UN.
The agreement also
covers such subjects as arrest
procedures, preventing enforced disappearances and abductions,
prohibiting incommunicado detention, prohibiting torture,
ensuring habeas corpus, freedom of the press and freedom of
The Agreement provides for monitoring
by the UN. What is
remarkable is not only that such an agreement has been reached
while the parties are still at war, but that the Secretary
General of the UN is now seeking to implement the agreement
before a cease-fire is negotiated; an operation for which, as he
himself states, "no precedent exists in the annals of the United
Meanwhile, negotiations with
UN participation continue
between the parties on a number of other issues including the
armed forces, the judicial system, constitutional reforms,
economic and social questions and monitoring by the United
Nations. Important progress on electoral reform has been made by
an Inter Party Commission.
These developments illustrate dramatically
the importance of
the role that a neutral body such as the UN Secretary General's
office can play in a situation of civil war.
A statement issued by the Council of Hindu
signed by its president Yogendra Doraiswamy and its secretary
S.P. Nadarajah was published in the Island of 11th April 1991. In
prefatory comments it stated :
"On June 11th 1990 renewed fighting
between the Government of Sri Lanka and the L.T.T.E. in
the North-East province. No public statement was
issued, either by the Government or the L.T.T.E., as to
the issues discussed and the points of disagreement
during the fifteen months of warm and cordial
relationship that preceded the renewed conflict.
Nine months have passed and there is no indication
cessation of hostilities. Destruction of persons and
property is taking place on a large scale. Though the
Government had announced at the outset that this war
was not against the Tamils but only against the
L.T.T.E. every month innocent civilians are dying by
the score and a large number of public buildings and
private houses are being destroyed. Refugees numbering
one million are eking out an existence in very poor
Normal life is at a standstill and people are
great hardships and untold misery. The North-East
province is turning into a waste land, a scorched earth
and many people are leaving the area in desperation".
Proposals: The following proposals were then put forward
arguing that present troubles are largely a result of the failure
to implement the Indo-Lanka Accord.
"As advocates of a united
Sri Lanka, where every
citizen should enjoy freedom, equality and justice, we
wish to suggest a package of proposals to alleviate the
situation in the North-East province and restore peace
and normalcy. The Government of Sri Lanka:-
1) to announce an immediate cessation
the L.T.T.E. to respond positively.
2) to ensure that sufficient supplies of food,
medicines are sent regularly to the International
Committee of the Red Cross, who in co-ordination with
the Government Agent, will distribute them.
3) to announce that it would fully
delay the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of July 29th 1987.
4) to nominate an Interim Council
for the North-East
province in Consultation with the parties who were
elected to the North-East Provincial Council. The
Interim Council should proportionately comprise
representatives of parties elected at the Provincial
Council elections. The L.T.T.E. should be invited to
join. Subjects assigned to the Interim Council should
also include law and order, education, health, land
development, relief and rehabilitation of refugees. The
Interim Council should function till the Provincial
Council comes into being after a free and fair
5) to initiative negotiations with the
the cessation of hostilities takes effect. This should
lead to laying down of arms and reciprocal measures by
the Government. A practical approach is necessary in
this regard. The Government of Sri Lanka is the other
party to this conflict and cannot expect to supervise
or monitor the cessation of hostilities and the laying
down of arms. A neutral force is, therefore, necessary
for this purpose. An Indian Peace Keeping Force could
be invited for this operation as India guaranteed the
Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of July 29th 1987. If India is
unable to send a Peace Keeping Force, then a friendly
country like Canada, Australia, Sweden or Norway could
be approached. Arms should be laid down by all militant
groups, home guards and private militias.
Simultaneosly, the Sri Lankan Government should close
down all security forces camps established since 1977
and the security forces in the remaining camps should
be confined to their barracks. This applies to the
North-East province. It was with the 1977 General
Elections that the fight for Eelam started and the
T.U.L.F. was returned in large numbers on this ticket.
The Government took counter measures by opening new
camps and sending large contingents of security forces
to the North. The status quo ante should be restored as
The Police should maintain law and order
as in normal
times and early action should be taken to hold
Provincial Council elections. Opportunity should be
given to the Provincial Government and the Council to
function without let or hindrance. The Peace Keeping
Force should remain till the Provincial Government had
been in office for a period of three years.
Any issue like the question of linkage
of the former
Northern and Eastern provinces, may be raised after the
Provincial Government had been in office for three
years. Such questions could be settled by negotiations
between the Centre and the North-East Provincial
Government. Time will play a role in viewing the
problem in its correct perspective."
The appeal concluded by requesting
the government and the
LTTE to come up with the necessary courage and statesmanship to
overcome mutual suspicion and distrust created by long years of
bitter conflict. It added :
"We have made these proposals in the
that their implementation would not only restore peace,
human rights and democratic institutions, but also
would set in motion a process which would create mutual
trust and understanding between the two peoples".
DISAPPEARANCES IN MANNAR
About mid-night on 20th January (0000 hrs 21st),
cles approached Talaimannar village. Subsequently there were
knocks on several house doors. Those who opened the doors were
blinded by torches flashed by the intruders. After looking over
the inmates, certain persons pointed out were taken. The others
were threatened to remain silent, and the intruders left. In all,
nine persons, including one woman, were taken. After dawn, the
villagers went to the army camp at Talaimannar Pier, 1 1/2 miles
away. The army denied any knowledge of the incident.
The officer-in-charge of the camp was
known by his nickname
Chamakkoli (Mid-night Cock) because of his habit of being active
at mid-night. Previously in late December, the entire village had
been ordered to assemble at the local church at mid-night. No one
was then taken. The Brigadier then in charge of Mannar made no
bones about his inclinations. During his public relations
exercises he used to boast about knowing how to deal with
terrorists, and how he had presided over the killing of 3000
terrorists where he had been posted in the deep South, during
recent JVP troubles. NGO's were warned to be careful and that he
had seen from a helicopter, their vehicles being used by
terrorists. Given the sensitive nature of Mannar as a prospective
refugee settlement, following the disappearances, concerted
pressure from NGOs resulted in the Brigadier's transfer - to
at Talaimannar Pier was also
transferred. The new OIC visited the village and gave an
assurance that such unfortunate things will not happen again, and
wanted the villagers to report if anything happened. The new
Brigadier gave similar assurances to the public and promised the
families that he would inquire into the fates of those taken.
So far the families have been told
nothing despite having
applied through various channels, including the ICRC. Leading
persons who knew those taken are convinced that they had no
involvement with the LTTE, but only may have had relatives in the