The Quest for Economic survival & Human
Batticaloa & Amparai Districts: June 1996
The situation in the Batticaloa and Amparai Districts, as of June 1996,
one of limited and slow improvement regarding the accountability of the
Sri Lankan Armed Forces. Nonetheless, Human Rights violations by the
security forces, LTTE,and homegurads continue. The mood among Tamil
communities is that while abuse by the army is less outright than
previously, there is a definite lack of concern for civilian interests among
the security forces. Feeling that that LTTE is by no means representing the
interests of Tamils either, these communities also find themselves
neglected by government rehabilitation, as well as find their own
politicians not meaningfully effective.
Torture in the form of beatings by the armed forces is prevalent, as
cases of arbitrary arrest.In the Batticaloa District, reprisal shelling has
cost more civilian lives, though the extent of casualties is less than that
which was occurring during the final months of 1995. Some amount of
sensitivity has recently been reported on behalf of some members of the
army in the East, while the extent of abuse seems to be more prevalent in
STF controlled areas. Use of human shields, forced labour and beatings
continue to be carried out by the STF resultilng in at least two
disappearances this year. Of increasing concern are violations committed
by homeguards and other Tamil militant groups, which act under the
direction of the security forces. Extortion, abduction and beatings have
been attributed to some of these groups, often in coordination with
LTTE movement in the East is reported to be higher, though recruitment
urban areas is down. Although attacks on Sinhalese villages in the East by
the LTTE have not been reported since January 1996, individual killings of
Tamil civilians continue. Central command of the LTTE may be breaking
down, leaving local leaders to act at will. LTTE destruction of public
property such as telephone exchanges and passenger buses is frequent, as
is extortion of unbearably large sums of money and resources from Tamil
Extortion by the LTTE is increasingly harsher and more difficult because
is these regions in the East to which it has access that are the poorest.
Tamils are thus left with unmitigated alienation and poverty. This is
especially true in the area south of the Amparai District. It often appears
to Tamil communities that it is only the Muslim and Sinhalese areas that
are being restored, even at the expense of Tamils. This is very disturbing
since many Tamil and Muslim communities rely on a close relationship of
communal interdependence in the East.
Progress on the thousands of disappearance cases in these districts
been frustratingly lacking. The Government apparatus continue to release
accused members of the security forces on bail, with no charges being laid.
If the past cannot be properly investigated and perpetrators brought to
justice, it is difficult to seriously tackle the problems of today. If Tamil
communities can expect nothing positive from the armed forces, the LTTE
or their Tamil politicians, the future remains bleak. Civilians need to be
guaranteed the freedom to speak out and be heard, without fearing
further reprisals. All perpetrators of this violence and brutality must be
held accountable for their actions. Atrocities will continue and
communities will continue to fall into never ending poverty and instability,
if anything less is done.
The Quest for Economic survival & Human Dignity:
Batticaloa & Amparai Districts: June 1996
1. A sort of normality
Where security is concerned, it must be said that some of the worst fears
have so far not materialised. Since last December, following the Sri
Lankan Army gaining control of much of Jaffna and the dismantling of the
LTTE's structures of control there, reports emerged of a massive LTTE
build up in the East to destabilise Batticaloa District. In the run up to the
operations in Jaffna, the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) had removed its camps in
the interior and had concentrated on controlling the main trunk road. The
two major attacks by the LTTE last December on Puthukkudiyiruppu STF
camp and on the army around Sittandy claiming the lives of about 70
servicemen were the first signals of the LTTE's intentions. The first
claimed the lives of about 30 civilians- killed by the LTTE when they were
used as shields by STF reinforcements. In the latter the SLA had acted with
commendable restraint towards civilians. When 40 soldiers were killed
near Vantharumoolai on 23rd March 1996, the Army's reprisal or response
was confined to shelling which caused the death of a small girl. The worst
incident affecting civilians this year was the reprisal shelling of the village
of Kaluwankerny on 11th May following an LTTE attack on troops at
Morakkatanchenai. Eleven civilians including 5 children were killed. The
pressure on the armed forces is also regularly evinced in attacks on patrols
in the sparsely populated area around Welikanda. Hardly a fortnight
passed without ten or so servicemen, attempting to keep the Batticaloa
road, open being killed.
Thus at present bus travel to Batticaloa is subject to enormous delays
the train has ceased to run following a land mine attack. Although civilians
have to continuously go through a series of ordeals owing to the security
situation and face many uncertainties, there has been in most places a
steady but slow improvement with regard to accountability on the part of
the armed forces .
There have been no reports this year of the use of civilians as shields
Army. There have on the other hand been some reports of the STF using
human shields in the Amparai District. Instances of disappearance this
year that came to our notice are two persons reportedly taken by the STF
in Thirukkovil last April. The last instances of direct cold - blooded murder
by the armed forces on record took place in November last year: four by the
police in Akkaraipattu and one by the Army in Valaichenai. There has been
no official response to 13 disappearances that took place about the last
month of 1995: two taken by the Army in Valaichenai and eleven taken
from around Unnichchai in December by persons believed to be Sinhalese
homeguards.The Government has no excuse for evasion on this matter. It
could easily find out the truth. Homeguards operate under the forces.
Abductions could hardly be the work of ordinary civilians living in villages
with no credible protection.There are also regular individual killing by the
For those arrested on suspicion torture in the form of beating is still
much the norm. It is suggested by local sources that the two youths who
disappeared in Thirukkovil may have succumbed to beating. According to
the Batticaloa Peace Committee, the Army high command for its part is
anxious to show that it is playing by the book. They said that receipts for
arrest are issued even in rural areas. The STF had issued receipts for the 9
persons detained in Akkaraipattu in early June.
Thus while there has been a measure of real improvement, very much
remains to be done. There remains the feeling that the improvements are
responses to constant prodding by the political executive and presidential
commissions of inquiry into past violations, rather than from reflection
within the armed forces on what it takes to win and the political
implications of their conduct. For example the civilians still do not feel that
the armed forces are concerned about their interests. Civilian interests
tend to be overshadowed by the often unimaginative measures taken by
the armed forces to protect themselves. This will be discussed in the sequel.
Having said this, the problems of the East to a large measure arise
the urgent questions Tamil politics has failed to address, and indeed
appears to lack the capacity to do so. When these questions go by default, it
often appears to the Tamils that the other communities- the Muslims and
the Sinhalese -particularly in the areas of rehabilitation, educational and
economic advancement, are gaining at their expense.
This sentiment receives support from the disarray within the Tamil
community compounding the absence of meaningful political or
administrative power. The way they see things and experience the effects,
every ministerial visit, and every development programme announced for
the East, is seen as another blow aimed at the community. There is a sense
in which the politicians are failing again while the armed forces are trying
to improve. These are matters in which fiction and reality lie strangely
intermingled. Yet it remains important to separate them out.
2. Tamil perceptions
A very common sentiment one hears among Tamils is that they expect
nothing good, neither from the Government, their own politicians, nor
from the LTTE. There is much anger against their helplessness, against the
course of murder and ruin the LTTE's politics has condemned them to ,and
also their inability to speak freely what they feel. These were expressed
most forcefully by a Tamil writer and respected senior public figure, who
has put in several years of service at the grass- roots level:
"The manner in which Government
policy works in the East is totally
contrary to stated intentions.The Tamils, their areas and their life
are being progressively downgraded. The Tamil MPs are totally
ineffective, and the LTTE does not care nor understand the plight of
the Tamils in the East.You see, every day , every hour we are being
killed, whether in cross-fire, in killings by LTTE, the armed groups,
or by the Army. Even otherwise we are dying a slow death through the
strangulation of our economic life and the resulting inability to
educate our young or to obtain the necessary nutrients to keep body
and soul together.
"The LTTE's strategy is utterly
mistaken and counter-productive
particularly where the East is concerned. We only see destruction. Whom
do they kill? Several of the victims are young boys with no political
interest who joined the police to earn a living and perform some
innocuous tasks such as traffic control, record complaints of theft
and mediate in minor disputes.
"In every village and close
to or within every family there are young
men who dropped out of other militant groups such as the TELO
several years ago, are married with say three children, and are now
ordinary farmers. One day an LTTE person, quite often a relative,
comes to the paddy field, calls him and shoots him dead. It is all
meaningless. A number of heart-broken youths from other militant
groups come and talk to me.They continue their militant association
only because they cannot go home and live in security, and they lack
the connections to go aborad. If the LTTE wanted to, it had the
capacity to bring unity among the Tamils and end all this meaningless
killing. But now it may be too late."
The speaker also recalled the heart - breaking sight in December 1989
when the LTTE entered Batticaloa town with the aid of the Sri Lankan
Army. Corpses of hundreds of members of other Tamil groups and the
dissolving Tamil National Army, and of youth dying but not dead, were
loaded into trailers like rubbish and driven out via Lady Manning
"When the Government talks
of the rehabilitation of Batticaloa,
officials descend on the Batticaloa Kachcheri and a meeting is held
with the GA, public officers and engineers, most of whom are Tamil,
with our Tamil MPs also present. Plans drawn up at the Rehabilitation
Ministry are unveiled. Practically all the major infrastructural
development is in the Muslim towns of Kattankudy and Eravur. The
public officers and engineers are asked to carry out the work and
are told that funds would be forthcoming. No one openly discusses
or questions the rationale behind the programmes. Health Minister
Fowzie came here recently. He visited Kattankudy and Earavur and
was received by Deputy Minster Hizbullah and MP Moulana
respectively. He made major allocations for expansion of their two
local hospitals. But he did not care to visit Batticaloa hospital.
The Hospital Committee has been for more than a year writing to the
Ministry of Health for a new cooler for the mortuary as the existing
one had broken down. There is yet to be a response.
"You would recall the incident
last December when 30 civilians used as
a human shield were killed. There are so many international agencies
represented here, but there was not one to attend to the injured on
time or to collect the bodies [See our Bulletin No. 9]. 48 hours
later the bodies were brought to the hospital mortuary in a bloated,
stinking state and deposited there without any cooling. Then fresh
bodies were brought and placed between these bodies. A sticky fluid
began oozing out of the old bodies and flowed into drain. One could
not even go 50 yards within. Among those killed as part of the
human shield was Anandan, a polyglot versed in the literature of
several languages and a man of letters-truly a renowned son
of Batticaloa. In paying his last respects, even his family did not see
the body. It was taken home in a sealed coffin because of the state
it was in.
"The Health Ministry has been asked again and again for an emergency
unit that could cope with situations such as which arise after a
confrontation. There has been no response. Promises have been made to
upgrade Batticaloa Hospital to teaching hospital in view of the faculty
of medicine that Eastern University has been pledged. This is now a
bit of a joke.
"A few months ago a new container
was to be installed at the Batticaloa
telephone exchange to provide 1000 more connections. Citing reasons of
security the project was transferred to Polonnaruwa or Kandy. Since
then the same reasons have been given to install a massive telephone
substation at the Muslim village of Kattankudy hardly 3 miles away,
from which village the Deputy Posts & Tele-communications Minister
Hizbullah hails. Kattankudy has barely a hundred telephones. It is
now feared that the Batticaloa telephone exchange will be shifted
"Recently the LTTE robbed
equipment from the Fisheries Training School
at Navalady after intimidating or roughing up some of the staff and
inmates.The students have since been sent to Negombo. It is now feared
that the school too will be shifted out. The LTTE using its access to
Tamil areas to attack public amenities like telephone equipment (eg:
Kalmunai), public buses, the train, and transformers is playing into
the hands of those who would use these as excuses to keep Tamil
"Take even agriculture, our
most important pursuit. I tell you, if the
Government and the LTTE would leave us alone, we would get by. Our
people would farm or fish. Now most of Batticaloa's rice growing area
is under LTTE control. Those who cultivate would first have to pay the
LTTE a tax of Rs. 500 per acre. Then there are other taxes such as water
tax. Claiming that urea could be used for explosives, the Army allows
farmers to transport only restricted quantities of mixed urea. When
the crop comes up and it ready for harvesting, the LTTE may ask the
owner to keep away and harvest it themselves. The owner then bears
the loss and ceases to cultivate. The next time the LTTE does the
cultivation with hired labour. They get all the urea they want from
Sinhalese merchants in Amparai District. To the LTTE it is a matter
of making money whatever the cost to the society. Now, most of our
fishermen are lagoon fishermen. This activity too is severely
restricted after it was found that LTTE infiltrators often came to
Batticaloa in boats disguised as fishermen. Thus thousands
have been plunged into dire poverty. But no compensation is paid to
farmers and fihserfolk who are affected by the prevailing situation.
"This in short is the development
and rehabilitation of Batticaloa.
What makes it even more painful is the fact that the Tamils voted
overwhelmingly for Chandrika Kumaratunge as president. For example,
in the entirely Tamil electorate of Paddiruppu the proportion she
polled was 85%".
This refrain one hears over and over again from Tamils. The catalogue of
neglect is much longer, and some of them, such as pertaining to Eastern
University, are keenly felt. Travelling from Batticaloa to Akkaraipattu, the
contrast between Tamil and Muslim areas has become more visible over
the years. To the cursory outsider there is much more building activity,
both public and private, in Muslim areas, the Muslim poor are of course
hardly visible from the main road although there are many. In the Tamil
areas one would see the scars of war and hardly a new building of
significance. The people too would appear frequently undernourished. A
part of the reason is of course that agriculture has been much more
adversely affected than trade, and that the Muslims have been more
successful in adapting themselves to new circumstances. The dominant
feeling among Tamils is one of being overwhelmed and rendered helpless,
and behind the events they read a conspiracy to disinherit them. As a
consequence the feeling that `if the LTTE is defeated the Tamils are
finished' has wide acceptance despite strong reservations and even anger
at the LTTE's conduct. Recently when some foreign personnel met
Karikalan of the LTTE near Batticaloa, he cold-bloodedly articulated the
view that the people need to lose everything, and only then will they join
the struggle en masse! That says something about the thinking of the LTTE
and what the people are up against.
Muslims in Batticaloa:The Struggle for Economic Recovery
For the Muslims in the Amparai District economic recovery was relatively
easy. The LTTE is present but not in control, and neither the security forces
nor the LTTE have obstructed cultivation in the proximity of Muslim
areas. Tamil paddy land owners around Muslim or mixed villages ( eg
Akkariapatu and Sammanthurai) too have benefitted from being able to
cultivate and harvest their fields.Tamil labourers too have benefitted from
employment. At present the ripening rice fields bear the colour of joyous
green as far as the eye could see. Yet Muslim traders, particularly those
catering to Tamil customers, such as those in Akkaraipattu, Kalmunai and
Batticaloa bazaars, feel the pinch of falling incomes resulting from the
general impoverishment of the Tamil population in particular.
The hardest hit were Muslims in the Batticaloa district who had lost
use of their fields in areas under LTTE control. Several of them receive a
small rent for their fields from Tamil cultivators, since the latter had also
to pay the LTTE a land tax in fields west of the lagoon. Eravur, for
example, is a Muslim village that depended mostly on agriculture.
In the Muslim villages of Eravur and Oddaimavady, many of their
tractors and boats used for fishing have been taken by the LTTE. Only 3
tractors are now owned by Eravur folk that are currently employed in the
But through sheer determination and a willingness to adapt, Eravur has
been making a slow recovery. A number of Muslim paddy land owners or
Podiars now work as seasonal labourers in Akkaraipattu and
Sammmanthurai, and also in Polonnaruwa District where lands are
owned mostly by Sinhalese.
As communal tensions with Tamils, which reached a peak in 1990,
milling activity in Eravur has recovered. An estimated 75% of the paddy
cultivated in the surrounding area is brought to Eravur by Tamil
cultivators for milling.
Several more have also taken to the traditional pursuit of tobacco
cultivation which was pursued along the banks of the Mahaveli and in the
less accessible parts of Polonnaruwa District ( earlier known as
Tamankaduwa Division) at least as far back as the 19th century- when the
majority population in the district was Muslim. During 1993 a police party
from Anuradhapura raided tobacco plots along the Mahaveli close to the
Mannampitiya security post. The crop was destroyed, the pumps and
other equipment were severely damaged and several hundred cultivators
were remanded for a time at Anuradhapura. The reason given was that
the land concerned was protected as a forest or wild life reserve.
Asked for his observations, a conservationist said that the police action
probably defensible under the law. "But", he added, "there is a broad
shaded region between what is a legitimate traditional pursuit or is
permissible, and what is clearly not. Now take the Sinhalese peasants who
have been planted on the borders of forest reserves in the Mahaveli region
[eg;Dimbulagala] and in the Trincomalaee district [ eg; Tamplakamam]
with influential backing. That in itself may not violate the reservations.
But in the absence of a viable economic life you know for sure that they
would make a living off the forest by becoming party to timber rackets.
Then the question of taking action to protect the forest becomes also a
political decision, and you know what politics in this country is about."
There have also been allegations by the security forces that the LTTE
obtains food from Muslims in the tobacco `Wadis'. But life in the East is
such that it is difficult to draw lines. There is no separation between the
LTTE's economy and the `legal' economy.
As we have pointed out in earlier reports, the inescapable interdependence
of the Muslim and Tamil communities stands in sharp contrast to the drift
towards separate schools, hospitals, AGA divisions and even separate
* Tamil rice cultivators
traditionally obtain advances from Muslim rice
merchants( eg. in Eravur ) and pay these back at harvest time.
* Muslim tobacco cultivators
obtain advances from tobacco merchants
from Jaffna's off-shore islands who have been prominent in the trade
from the last century.
* Tamil migrant labour from
the Batticaloa District have found regular
and lucrative employment in harvesting the rice fields of Muslims in
the Amparai District.
*Akkaraipattu provides a
stark illustration of how the economy falls
apart if the two communities do not get on. Of the 4900 families in the
Akkaraipattu Tamil Division, 2000 persons go daily into the Muslim
area to work as labourers( Rs 150 per day), masons (Rs 250 per day) and
carpenters ( Rs 500 per day). Another 800 to 1000 Tamils work as
agricultural labourers in more than 10 000 acres of rice fields owned
by Muslims in Tamil areas. It has been said that when there is communal
tension and life comes to a standstill, there is no food in Tamil
houses. Although there appear to have been cases of isolated threats
in times of tension, senior members of both communities have been at
pains to insist that communal relations are good.
With all these signs of steady improvement of their economic life, there
among Muslims an anxiety about the LTTE's unpredictable behaviour.
Further, the feeling of powerlessness among Tamils has built up a
dormant animosity against the Muslims. Moreover, leading Tamil
politicians privately express the view that they are unable to concentrate
on economic development because they have no control over the LTTE
and its actions. Consequently they feel that the criticism directed against
the Muslim politician is unfair. But, since they, nor the Tamil intellectuals,
could discuss these concerns in public and so exert pressure on the LTTE,
they are unable to have any impact either on the Government or on
Muslim politicians. This results in a very unhealthy environment and
drives the people further into narrow ideologies.
The following give the general flavour, but are by no means meant to be
26th November 1995: Valaichenai: During an Army round up Siripala
Yogeswaran(27), a vegetable seller, was killed by soldiers while visiting his
uncle at Kannakipuram. His brother Athishtan(17) and cousin-sister
Miss.Jegasothy Sivanandan(29) who went looking for Yogeswaran
disappeared after being taken by soldiers. The matter was given publicity
by Mr.Thruairajasingham, the local MP, and Amnesty International.
There has been no official response to date.
17th - 21st December 1995: Unnichchai:The following six and another
reportedly abducted by Sinhalese home guards probably from
Mangalagama at 7.00 AM while grazing their cattle: Manikapodi
Shanthakumar, Devanayagam Kiruparajah, Somasundaram
Linganayagam, Ananthan Sinapodiayan, Samithamby Vellakuddy and
Kandappan Govindan. Another who escaped reported the matter to the
Police in Batticaloa, the HRTF and the ICRC.
On 21st December Vianayagamoorthy Karalasingam, Peryathamby
Vellapodi, Thiagarajah Jeyasangar and Ponnambalam Koneswaran of
Unnichchai were picked up at Koppaveli while collecting firewood by
sinhalese speaking persons believed to be homeguards. The matter was
raised with President Kumaratunga on 22nd December by Joseph
Parajasingam MP and subsequently given publicity by Amnesty
International. Local inquiries had also been made by HRTF personnel.
There has been no official response to date despite rumours that the
persons concerned were seen at an army camp in the area.
Mangalagama in the Amparai District is an interior Sinhalese village,
though relatively new is not part of a colonisation scheme. It was one of
the border Sinhalese villages attacked by the LTTE in late October 1995 on
the eve of the Sri Lankan Army's capture of Jaffna. There are aspects to
this incident that remain unexplained. Were these abductions a reprisal? If
it was a reprisal the villagers would have feared further LTTE attacks
which have not taken place. The villagers must be dealing with the LTTE
through some channel. Since October 1995, the LTTE too has been
generally restrained in attacking Sinhalese villages. The attack on
Eluvankulam in the Puttalam District on 11th June 1996 was, according to
the residents, a private vendetta directed against the inmates of one house
by a former Tamil resident of the village, who had joined the LTTE after
many in his own family were killed by a tough belonging to the house
23rd March 1996: Commathurai: The LTTE were waiting in ambush for
the anticipated army patrol. The Army was informed of this by civilians. A
group of soldiers went towards the place where the LTTE were said to be
waiting. They spotted 3 LTTE men dressed in camouflage kits with foliage
and shot them dead. They then went to the corpses, according to civilian
sources, in a mood of jubilation. The LTTE opened fire when the soldiers
were bunched together, killing 40. Thirteen others including an officer
were injured. Although the particular incident reflects carelessness on the
part of the Army, the general pattern, according to local sources, is that the
civilians inform the Army of any impending danger.
Following the incident shells fired by the Army fell at Mavadyvembu,
Vantharumoolai, resulting in the death of a little girl Rajani(7). A further
three women Appachchi Kumarasamy(55), Nagamma (55), Arasamma(23)
and a girl Kalaichelvi(7) were injured.
April 1996: Batticaloa: The following incident illustrates the Army's
sensitivity to be seen to be playing by the book. A 15 year old boy was
doubling his 12 year old brother on the causeway, on their way home,
when they were stoppedä at an army check-point. The Army detained the
elder boy and asked his younger brother to go home. Perhaps to avoid
further beating, the detainee admitted knowing a spot near a Hindu
temple where arms were hidden. When taken there, no arms were to be
found. Soldiers were then seen beating the boy. The matter was raised
with Brigadier Kottegoda by the Peace Committee. The former
immediately summoned Captain Suleyman of Military Intelligence and
verified that the boy was being held. He then told the Captain, "The men
have been told that if a prisoner is beaten, they will be punished. The
officers have been instructed that there should be no beating of prisoners".
On a subsequent occasion Kottegoda told the Peace Committee that the
officer concerned had been dismissed from the Army. Although the truth of
the claim may be doubted and it is known that detainees are regularly
beaten upon arrest, the new sensitivity of the Army was welcomed.
It is also reported that the Counter Subversive Unit of the Police at
Batticaloa has been disbanded and the OIC demoted, following charges of
extortion for the release of prisoners.
Brigadier Kottegoda was commended as being "Very reasonable, active,
and having very good public relations.... as good as Rohan Gunawardene,
who was sometimes a little moody though". Kottegoda has been succeeded
by Brigadier Anton Wijendra.
2nd April 1996: Batticaloa: Jude was a student at St Michaels,
known sportsman, was friendly with the armed forces and had even been
photographed with leading army officers at sporting events. On this day
Jude was injured by an explosion while assembling a bicycle bomb at a
house in Bharathy Lane(Muslim colony), and died on the way to hospital.
The owner of the house, a teacher, was detained. His wife, an Agriculture
Department clerk and his sister were questioned and released. A young
newly married Seventh Day Adventist pastor who had bought a
motorcycle from Jude is also under detention, but is allowed Sunday visits
by his wife.
It is now reported that Jude had joined the LTTE, but that the LTTE
sent him back to carry out sabotage operations.
May 1996: The following illustrates the continuing concern over Tamil
groups operating with the forces with considerable impunity. The most
recent addition are EPRLF cadre under Razik, a key figure in the short-
lived Tamil National Army, many of them recently brought back from
India. The total number is variously estimated at 500 and above. The
EPRLF which had formerly eschewed militancy maintains that the persons
deployed are part of the regular forces and have no links with the
organisation. But locally the Razik Group are known to indulge in some
extortion, even issuing `EPRLF' receipts for 'donations' of figures such as
Rs 500 for a lorry per month from the owner.
Two youths, Balasubramaniam Pradeepan(an undergraduate) and
Rajasingham Anushyan(an A.Level qualified boy), happened to meet on the
road and were chatting. Anushyan had been given forced training by the
ENDLF in 1989 when youths were conscripted for the TNA. At this point
they were arrested by Shankar of the EPRLF, taken to their office and
assaulted, and then handed over to the Army as LTTE suspects. This was
on 23rd May. Two days earlier Xavier Shanthikumar(fisherman in his
early 20s) was given similar treatment. All three were released by the Army
as innocent by June 3rd.
The presence of armed militant groups in Batticaloa contributes to the
atmosphere of lawlessness. A number of cultivators from Paduvankarai
have been avoiding coming into Batticaloa out of fear of harassment and
further extortion to what the LTTE takes from them. A good example is a
farmer in connection with whose support for the TULF leader
Amirthalingam at the 1989 parliamentary elections, had his brother killed
by the EPRLF.
11th May 1996: Morakkatanchenai- Kaluwankery: The LTTE attacked
troops in Morkkatanchenai, killing 14 and injuring 15. Troops claimed to
have recovered 9 bodies of LTTE cadre.
Subsequently the coastal village of Kaluwankerny, 1 1/2 miles from
Morakkatatanchenai camp, was shelled from Sittandy. This led to the
death of 11 civilians, including 5 children, the youngest aged 3. A further 16
were injured, including an infant and several children.One house was
badly damaged with three corpses mutilated beyond recognition. The
Army's explanation of the shelling of the village was that they had fired at
the withdrawing LTTE force.
Late May: Thurainilavanai: The STF and a party of the militants from
Razik Group(EPRLF) waited in ambush for the LTTEers who often made
the lagoon crossing before dawn. Civilians who came that way were asked
to sit down quietly. The LTTE failed to turn up. The withdrawing ambush
party caught a boy from the village whose brother was in the LTTE, beat
him and cropped his hair.
Late May 1996: Batticaloa: The following illustrates the plight of
fishermen who receive no compensation for the loss of trade. A fisherman
went to Buffalo Island in the Batticaloa lagoon to fish during the night and
was mistakenly shot dead by an ambush party. He leaves behind 3 children.
Individual Killings by the LTTE
7th March 1996: Peruveddai, Sittandy: K. Thangaraja, father of seven,
20th March 1996: Chenkalady - Badulla Road: Vyramutthu
Kathalinam(43) and Sooty shot dead by the LTTE and left on the road with
accusatory statements. The two had been held for 45 days by the LTTE.
28th March 1996: Puthukkudiyiruppu: Thangaraja Pushparaja (20) of
Nasivanthivu shot dead about 4.00PM. He had formerly been associated
with the LTTE. The Virakesari quotes TELO sources as having said that he
had contemplated joining their group. The incident is one among many
which illustrates the meaninglessness of the politics among the rural folk.
All groups have lost any sense of purpose and carry only their hatreds,
wounding the same community and even the same family, from whom
they all have drawn their cadre.
10th May 1996: Vantharumolai: Vani was a Radiologist at Batticaloa
Hospital. Her father, Mr.Sornalingam, is a well-known Tamil poet who
was first a supporter of the Federal party, then the UNP and lately the
TULF, the FP's successor. Such things are normal in the politics of the East
where the choice between `Rights' and `government patronage' is an acute
Vani was fluent in all three languages and Army officers were among
those who conversed with her. Gossip grew around her accusing her of an
illicit affair with an army officer. She was not evidently conscious of
danger and continued staying in Vantharumoolai that was readily accessible
to the LTTE. The LTTE abducted her and held her for 45 days.
Delegations of her relatives and well-wishers met the LTTE and pleaded
on her behalf. On 10th May she was shot dead and left on the road with a
written accusation charging her with being a traitor and informer.
29th May 1996: Cheddipalayam: A member of TELO and two members of
PLOTE were shot dead about 6 P.M.
Damage to public property caused by LTTE activity:
4th January 1996: Kalmunai telephone exchange was severely damaged by
a bomb which went off at 2.30 AM.
23rd March 1996: Akkaraipattu telephone exchange damaged by bomb
explosion resulting in outage of 300 telephones.
20th April 1996: The LTTE set fire to a public passenger bus at Urani
Akkaraipattu-Pottuvil Road about 12 noon. a bus on this route had been
burnt previously.The Police party that went from Akkaraipattu was
attacked by the LTTE. Three died in the melee including an inspector and a
constable. The bus service has since been stopped. The journey from
Pottuvil to Akkaraipattu now costs an extortionate Rs 30/-, with especially
women and children who travel for medical care packed in tiny vans.
Tamil villages on the 20 mile stretch between Thirukkovil and Pottuvil are
now largely cut off.
Such bus burnings have been reported elsewhere- eg; Vantharumoolai
when the driver protested at the LTTE for removing fuel and putting him
in an awkward position.
10th May 1996: Kallady Fisheries Training school robbed by the LTTE.
13th May 1996: Explosion at the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation's depot
Batticaloa. The claim that the LTTE was responsible is contested (see
31st May 1996: 8 buses parked in the major bus depot at Kalmunai were
burntä by the LTTE during the night.
On 5th June 1996 Rehabilitation Minister M.H.M Ashraff obtained
Cabinet approval to replace the burnt buses using Rehabilitation funds and
to shift the depot to his electoral base of Sammanturai.
This is the kind of development that Tamils most fear and are helpless
against. They see the LTTE playing the scape goat enabling public
infrastructure and amenities to be progressively run down in Tamil areas
and being developed or transferred into Muslim areas.
Doubts about bombs:
Several bomb explosions have been more or less definitely identified as
being caused by the LTTE. But certain incidents have created doubts as to
whether more than one party is playing the game. On 5th June at about
10.30 A.M there was a bomb explosion in the police booth on Trincomalee
Road by the side of Hindu College. No one was seriously hurt. The
Batticaloa Station Master who was on his way to the market received
three blows from flying objects, rolled away upon seeing the flying booth
descending upon him, and crept to safety under a fence to avoid being shot
at by mistake. According to some sources the two policemen in the booth
had crossed the road into a boutique a few minutes earlier. A Maruthi jeep
with service personnel who were laughing and talking among themselves
while the jeep was parked on the opposite side of the road, had passed
close to the booth when it was driven away. The belief that the armed
services were responsible for the bomb was contested by others who said
that on an earlier occasion when a bomb was discovered in the area, the
police had stopped civilians from going that way.
Earlier on 9th May a bomb had gone off in the Petroleum Corporation's
Batticaloa depot. 13 newly recruited employees were taken into custody
and 8 of them, including the 4 Muslims among the detained, were released
a few days later. Senior citizens said that the continued detention of the
five is unfair, since all employees were rigorously checked by the police
prior to entry and were required to leave their bicycles outside the
premises, as at the Telecom, out of fear that they may conceal a bomb. The
police sub-inspector, they said, had resented the employees having
complained about his excessive strictness. They feel that the police cannot
shake off the entire responsibility for the explosion.
Some months ago a member of the EROS group was killed when trying to
placeä a bomb in a transformer close to the EROS office in Puliyantivu.
Tamil Militant Groups
Presence of armed militant groups along with the army is still cause for
concern among the people. Although no killings or disappearances, as far
as we are able to locate from the best informed sources, have been
reported, these groups have been known to extort either by pressure,
intimidation or abduction. The distinction between current members of
PLOTE & TELO and former members who now closely work with the SL
Army is difficult to make. As far as the people are concerned they do not see
any political need for the existence of these groups with arms. Although
the groups claim to have arms for their defence, they are invariably used to
intimidate the people.
It also shows the confusion these groups have about their present role.
these groups still carry names which have lost all relevance. In the present
context they are unable to redefine their role and to seek a common
consensus in order to work for the benefit of the people.
Two cases of detention by the TELO or PLOTE were given worldwide
publicity: Nagalingam Rishikeshamoorthy (36) of Chenkalady on 1st
January 1996 and Kandiah Vyramutthu(31) of Sittandy on 20th February
1996. According to the sources contacted, the two have been released.
Currently, these groups normally do not hold detainees for more than two
The situation in Valaichenai
The atmosphere here was rendered oppressive owing to the relatively
harsh attitude of the Army, which feels insecure, and the LTTE, which
moves freely during the nights while the Army are in barracks. To ease
their fear, soldiers have frequently fired shells westward in the night
towards the jungle, from the army camps at Valaichenai, Kumburumoolai
An incident involving the murder of a civilian by soldiers and
disappearances took place in November 1995 (see above). But of late the
situation is said to have improved following a change of approach by the
Army in trying to be friendly towards the civilians. During June, attacks by
the LTTE also reached a low ebb after showing signs of intensifying in
May. Shelling at night too has largely ceased.
7th -8th November 1995: Akkaraipattu
At 9.15 A.M on 7th November, Constable Hashim of Oluvil who brought
his OIC Jamaldeen's car for repairs to a garage at Carmel Convent
junction, was shot dead by an LTTE intruder who then escaped. Some time
later, firing was heard as policemen came running towards that area.
Civilians ran way while the village council chairman alerted the STF, 2/3
mile away, by phone. The Police then advanced from the junction. Not
finding anyone in the first few houses on Sagamam Road, they came to the
fourth set of houses, where they met Mrs.K. Ponnammah (60). The woman
had previously upon hearing the commotion asked the workmen on the
roof to come down and go into the house. When the police asked her for
persons in the house, she summoned the workmen. The three workmen
Jeevaratnam(55), a mason from Akkaraipattu, his son Wijeyaratnam (20)
and Sritharan(20), a labourer from Vinayagapuram, along with the old
women, were shot dead by Constable Irashad. Another boy had escaped by
hiding in a rolled up mat. The STF then arrived and prevented further
incidents, and tried to douse the fire in two boutiques. An Elf van-load of
home guards who arrived with fuel in cans were also turned back by the
STF. The Police then got downä a coroner from Palamunai who certified
that the four victims had died during cross-fire in a confrontation with the
The following day after a meeting of the Citizen's Committee, drunken
policemen in mufti were found assaulting two boys. The policemen were
confronted by Thayaparan, the AGA,who was also a former militant. The
latter was instrumental in the release of 5 Tamils who had been locked up
in a police station lavatoryä by home guards. Relations with the Police
have continued to be problematic. No action has been taken to punish the
The use of human shields and forced labour by the STF
10th April 96:Colony 13: STF from Colony 13 camp selected 25 civilians
from Colonies 7 & 15 and forced them to march ahead of the STF into the
Nediyawattai jungle, with the STF firing. No one was hurt.
17th April 96:Kittangi (near Kalmunai): STF in mufti took 8 students
including Thevarajah (18) as a shield on their way to
11th Apr 96: Urani and Thandiyadi (between Thirukkovil & Pottuvil):
forced daily wage earning labourers to clear jungles and shrubs along the
roadside without any compensation.
Cases of assault by the Security Forces
12 Apr 96: Kamalaharan (23) of Navithaneveli: By the STF at Mandoor
check point, on his way to discuss sale of goats.
15th Apr 96: Kalmunai: N.Sivaharan(21), N.Gengatharan(26) &
V.Vishnutharan (22)by Kalmunai police during overnight detention, after
being detained with the aid of Natpiddimunai home guards.
The STF in Thirukkovil had recently ordered all boutiques to shift to
main road and the quantities of essentials in stock have been severely
restricted, in an attempt to allegedly prevent the LTTE from getting
supplies. Some of the shopkeepers including Krishnan, Mylvaganam and
Murugan were beaten. The first is said to have been ordered to close
About 14th April 1996: Thirukkovil: Two boys in their teens from Kolavil
paid a traditional new year's visit to a lady in Vinayagpuram and were
returning the next morning when they were stopped by the STF at the
Thirukkovil check point. They were detained reportedly because the STF
suspected the lady of the house they visited to be entertaining the LTTE.
The lady then went to the STF camp. She was given the bicycles of the two
boys and told that they would be released later.The lady informed the
relatives of the boys at Kolavil who went to the Thirukkovil camp. They
were told that the boys had been sent to the Akkaraipattu STF camp . The
latter when contacted denied having received the boys. The boys remain
2nd June 1996: Akkaripattu: The STF made a swoop late in the evening
detained 9 persons accused of helping the LTTE, including the co-operative
manger Kalanathan. Kalanthan's parents -in-law,
Mr.&Mrs.Kanapathipillai, said that Kalanathan was an innocent, timid
man who mostly stayed at home. Other local sources said that the arrest
was based on information supplied by young LTTEers who had deserted
and surrendered to the STF. Local sources also said that the LTTE is
usually about the place and have little difficulty in negotiating supplies
from merchants or agents in the Muslim quarter where there are no
Latter June 1996: Colony 13: The LTTE attacked a security post in the
colony under the Gal Oya scheme killing two policemen and two Muslim
homeguards from a neighbouring ward . Other policemen with
homeguards marched towards wardä 3 of Colony 13 where Tamils live.
The STF tried to prevent the reprisal attack going to the extent of firing
warning shells into the paddy field. However the attackers burnt some
Tamil huts while the residents ran away. The STF has since encouraged
the Tamils to come back, but the residents are reported to move into the
jungle for the nights. An year ago Sinhalese homeguards attacked Tamils
in Colony 4, that was recently resettled, after an LTTE attack on a nearby
Sinhalese colony. Up to about 4 Tamil civilians were then killed. The STF
had also then intervened to reassure the Tamils.
No structures exist at present where community leaders from different
communities could meet regularly to prevent such reprisals from taking
place. The role of homeguards remains as questionable as ever.
Poverty & alienation in Tamil areas.
Conditions are far from ideal for a community severely caught up in the
war. The problem is most acute in the south of the Amparai district where
the residents between Akkariapatu and Pottuvil are solely Tamil. the STF
has been applying restrictions on farming and trade without any political
opposition. The better off have moved close to STF camps to escape LTTE
extortioners. The others who supply wage labour have been largely left to
themselves and the LTTE, without work and without means.
The rice growers who need to maintain a delicate routine and keep to
timing say that it is pointless for them to sink capital when the STF has
been whimsical and arbitrary in the instructions it issues. On crucial days
the labourers may be prevented from going to work resulting in damage by
cattle, the rice not being fertilised or even the irrigation gates may be
closed on STF instructions. The owners have also lost about half their
cattle. Calves have not been branded for about two years. While regular
cattle-men are prevented from going into the fields by the STF, rogue
teams sent by butchers in Akkaraipattu who bribe the STF, the owners say,
are rounding up cattle.
Vinayagapuram, just south of Thirukkovil, is among the badly affected
villages. Since the LTTE burnt two public buses between Thirukkovil and
Pottuvil, the villages inbetween are for practical purposes `out of sight and
out of mind'. It must be remembered that it is from among the poorest that
large numbers were killed, particularly during 1990. Amparai District
alone has over 1500 Tamil widows.
Several people in Vinayagapuram came from the Ninthavur area and
have close Muslim contacts. So intense is the poverty, it is said, that most
parents borrow Rs 5000 to pay agents and send their daughters to the
Middle - East as domestic helps using passports bearing assumed Muslim
names. In several cases young women married to a farmer who went out
of work, had left the children with him and went to the Middle-East, for a
wage as low as Rs 3000 (USD 60) per month. They are often illiterate and
their salaries are conveyed home through Muslim agents. Since they
cannot write letters, the same agents bring home taped messages.Any
proper rehabilitation exercise would have ensured each householdä a
proper livelihood in place of the Rs 3000 from the Middle-East obtained at
heavy cost to the community.
There are reports of significant LTTE movement everywhere in the East
served by informers and agents. For the present, at least, a decision has
been taken not to give offence to the Muslims. Relations with the
community are relatively cautious and indirect. Younger members of the
LTTE are seldom identified by older civilians, but the young often know
Current recruitment in areas not controlled by the LTTE is placed by
observers to be almost nil. Many in the Paduvankarai area, who could
afford it, have sent their children to Batticaloa town. The town has
undergone a significant change in its composition since the beginning of
the war. Extortion by the LTTE has been among the causes of movement
into town. While people know and some times admire the LTTE's
destructive capacity, its image as a liberating force has fallen sharply. Due
to the lack of movement towards a political solution, a feeling commonly
remains among Tamils that if the LTTE is defeated, the Government
would then cheat them.
The LTTE's excesses too have contributed to whittling down its economic
base. There is too much disillusionment present for voluntary
contributions. Had it not interfered with economic activity and had
avoided alienating the Muslims, it may have got away with taxation that
was not extortionate. By driving people off economic activity through
extortion, it has now taken over abandoned paddy fields and herds of
cattle in the Batticaloa District.
A Muslim from Earavur went in search of his 145 head of cattle driven
away by the LTTE from the Welikande area. He encountered the LTTE
near Veppuvedduvan. He was courteously entertained, served tea and
vadai and was told that they needed his cattle. The herd kept by the LTTE
is estimated at 2000, from which milk reaches depots along the main road.
It also taxes many necessities that reach the residential areas from the
interior, such as gravel and illegally felled timber. Bricks that formerly cost
Rs 2000 for a tractor-load of 2000, now costs Rs 3800.
Its methods of extraction in the poorer areas are much cruder. These
point to its difficulties. Those able to pay something are no longer in areas
it has ready access to. The poverty stricken village of Vinayagapuram
though in an STF controlled area, is virtually under LTTE rule. Young boys
facing an empty life are given grenades by the LTTE or allowed to handle
weapons and are thus made to feel important. They in turn help the LTTE
in extortion. This means harassing people with hardly anything to give.
After starting by demanding Rs 1 1/2 lakhs, the LTTE goes away with Rs
5000 or so paid after pawning some belongings. When such boy helpers go
to the jungle and join the LTTE, they are often a liability. When they get
disillusioned and surrender to security forces, valuable information is
Several local observers feel that the influence of the central command
weakened and that the area leaders are doing very much their own thing.
Several individual killings of civilians have been placed as private
vendetta affairs. The LTTE's mindless destruction of public property and
its readiness to interfere with any rehabilitation effort which the people
desperately need, notä to ensure that they get a fair deal, but to fill its
purse at any cost to them, contributes towards the Tamil people despairing
of any future for them in the East. The LTTE is on the other hand a
beneficiary from official corruption that thrives off funds destined for the
lost and the bereaved.
The Security Forces: An overview
We mentioned that the main public grievance against the security forces is
notä so much to do with outright violations as the feeling that their routine
actions show very little respect or concern for the people. These actions
they feel are primarily about protecting themselves. A respected citizen
pointed out that the Army's attitude to road closures and diversions points
to sheer lack of imagination: "When the Government claims that the Army
is in control, we expect to see more confidence on its part and a
progressive easing of the situation. But we see the opposite. Alright there
is a security problem at the Batticaloa Telecom. The Army's answer to that
is to close the road. Now one taking a child to a nursery, instead of
crossing 75 yards of Station Road, has to travel over quarter of a mile.
Outside Batticaloa, Army camps meant to protect the main road feel
threatened. Fair enough. But what do they do? Instead of shifting the
camp away from the road, they close the road. At Commanthurai, the
traffic has to take a very dusty diversion of half a mile on an ad hoc loose-
gravel road. Buses and lorries raise a lot of dust, and old men pushing
loaded bicycles and five year old children returning from school have to
walk this road at noon, covered in dust and sweat."
A middle aged man who lived close to Morakkatanchenai army camp said,
" I returned after being a refugee in 1990, rebuilt my house and lived for
four years alongside the army without any problems. But suddenly after
the resumption of war in 1995, the Army forced us terrified civilians to sit
around their camp as a shield during the nights. I decided to leave the
place and am now in Batticaloa. I do not know why they did that. The trust
we had in the Army was shattered."
Such practices have been controlled at least in army controlled areas.
the feeling remains with civilians that it is not their army, but an alien
army with an agenda, and basically untrustworthy.
Although there is tremendous disillusionment with the LTTE and
recruitment has fallen sharply, the effects of even seemingly minor
breaches of discipline should not be underestimated. Most such incidents
are covered up and forgotten. One such happened in May last year, in the
Batticaloa suburb Of Iruthayapuram [Bulletin No 6], where the police went
on a rampage killing about six civilians and causing harm to several more.
The only action taken was the transfer of several policemen. A couple of
journalists from the foreign media went there, but sadly, hardly any one
from the mainstream local media, and things seemingly returned to
normal. We learnt that about 25 youths from the locality had subsequently
joined the LTTE. A boy Rathy went the following morning. The rest
followed over the coming week as the LTTE sent messages that the only
thing they could achieve by staying there was to be beaten and killed by the
armed forces. Kumar, a recruit, was killed during the attack on the
Ambalanthuri STF camp a month later. The majority were sent to the
North by the LTTE, and their fate is not known. The effect of the Killiveddy
massacre and that at Kaluwankerny in May, we only guess.
Our reports suggest that the situation in the STF controlled areas is
worse. This is felt more strongly in parts on the Amparai District where
there is a strong feeling that the STF is part of a planned attack on the
Tamils' economic life.
Investigation into Disappearances
This particular matter which concerns several thousand victims and their
families in the East, would to a large extent determine the credibility of a
political solution. The number for the Eastern Province, if one is to go by
the applications before the disappearances commission for the North-
East, is around 4 to 5 thousand post 1987. Other estimates point to around
double that figure. Owing to the political vacuum and the lack of activism,
human rights observers feel, things are not going too well. As long as the
armed forces play an obstructive role, it would hinder a political solution.
Terror would then be in covert use,through agents and members of Tamil
groups who play a subservient role. It must be kept in mind that even this
government continues to maintain in reserve, at least, operatives such as
Martinersz (aliases: Munas and Dias Richard) and Mohan who had
earned notoriety. The former though reported dead by the Sunday Island
columnist `Ravana' in November 1993, was reported seen at the Ward
Place STF camp in mid-November 1995.
The following gives an indication of how the commission is faring: The
Commission met at Batticaloa during the first half of last year. It promised
to meet there again, but has not done so. The commission questioned the
officer, who was then Lt. Colonel Percy Fernando of the Batticaloa
Brigade, about the massacre by the Army on 9th September 1990, of about
180 persons from four villages around Sathurukondan.Percy Fernando is
reported to have told the commission, "This is the first time I have heard
Father Harry Miller, a member of the Peace Committee, recalled that
soon as they had recorded the testimony of an injured survivor the
following day, they had informed Brigadier A.M.U Seneviratne [our
Report No.8]. Seneviratne had gone to that area with a party in vehicles,
that included Percy Fernando. Brigadier Seneviratne then contacted
Fr.Miller and told him that they found nothing. Fr.Miller then asked ,
"How about the people?" Seneviratne replied that there were no people.
"There", replied Fr. Miller, "I told you that a large number of them had
been killed!" The Peace Committee had later sent the Brigadier a list of
missing persons. Percy Fernando when later questioned by the Peace
Committee had replied, "It is a mystery".
The matter was raised with JOC Chief General Wanasinghe by Amnesty
International in February 1994. Wanasinghe replied in April that he had
instructed the Inspector General of Police to conduct an investigation `at
the grass-root level'. In July 1994, Fr.Miller inquired about the
investigation from Brigadier Rohan Gunawardene who was in charge at
Batticaloa. The latter expressed surprise and suggested that the past
should be left alone!
Two recent events provide grounds for further pessimism despite some
firm initial action by the present government- action though confined to
low ranking personnel who could not have acted without sanction or
complicity from above. About a dozen army personnel had been detained
following inquires, following the Killiveddy massacre of February this
year. An MP for Trincomalee District, while talking to a judicial officer in
Trincomalee, learnt that the detained soldiers had been released on bail
during mid- June. "Who ordered their release?", the MP asked . " The
Acting Magistrate", replied the judicial officer. " Who is the Acting
Magistrate?" the MP asked. After some hesitation the judicial officer
admitted sheepishly, " I am". The MP, himself a lawyer, observed that
those detained on charges of murder cannot be granted bail by a
magistrate, it requires a High Court decision. In February, STF personnel
and other security operatives detained 5 months earlier in connection with
missing Tamil persons who appeared as corpses in waterways, were also
released on bail by a Colombo magistrate. The technicality in both cases
perhaps, is that no charges had been framed even though the evidence was
strong- in the latter case, this was claimed by the IGP at a press conference
at the end of August 1995, where the murders which took place at the STF
head quarters were described in graphic detail.It seems that the wheels of
justice in Sri Lanka turn slowly and differentially: If a member of the
security forces is accused of murder, after a face - saving public relations
exercise, he is quietly allowed bail. If an ordinary Tamil is picked up on
mere suspicion of LTTE links, he could spend an agonizing 3 years being
'reformed' at some detention centre, before a court decides that the
charges, if any, are without substance.
Other important issues which underlie current developments such as the
Government's Rehabilitation Programme, Muslim - Tamil relations and
questions surrounding the North-East merger, have not been discussed
here. Associated with these are the political compulsions of the Muslim
Congress and of Tamil Nationalism that are on a divisive course, from
which all stand to loose. On the Tamil side matters are going by default,
owing to a fear of frank appraisal. These will be discussed in a coming