Back to Main Page History Briefing Statements Bulletins Reports Special Reports Publications Links


Chapter 1




Mr. Vimalesweren — 25 years old - a student leader.   18th July 1988

Mr. Vaithilingam Paramanathan - a community leader :1st October 1988

Saverimuttu Anton Douglas — 33 years old - Delft Island.   4th October 1988

Justin Thevaraiah (‘Thevan’) - 19 yrs old - Chundukuli.  12th October 1988

Incident at Iddaikadu - Killings of Kasilingam Sivasubramaniam (40 yr) and

Kanapathipillai Velmurugan (42 yrs).    18th October 1988

Clayton Selliah - 22 years old — Jaffna.   22nd October1988

Amalesh Ariaraiah - 19 years old - Jaffna.    30th October 1988

Two civilian tragedies.    9th November 1988

Incident at Thirunelveli Market.   13th November 1988

Search of University Student Hostel:19th November 1988

Incident at St. Patrick’s   26th November 1988

Death of Nirmalan, a Farmer aged 29 years.    3rd December 198

Death of Umashankar.   19th December 1988

The tales of two young men




Mr. Vimalesweren — 25 years old - a student leader.      18th July 1988

Vimalesweren’s name came into prominence when he led the last great campaign for fundamental rights by the students of Jaffna University in November 1986. The occasion was the disappearance of the student Vijitharan when the LTTE was the controlling power. The protest attracted large crowds, and Vimalesweren was one of the six students who went on a fast. Vimalesweren is said to have dropped out some time ago from the membership of a prominent militant group when he became disillusioned with its methods. Many accusations were levelled against the students, as working against the LTTE rather than for fundamental rights. But many who witnessed the proceedings from close quarters were left with the impression that the protest was genuine and arose out of deep feelings. In one initiative to settle the protest, some religious leaders persuaded the Jaffna LTTE leader, Kittu, to talk to the student protesters. Kittu spoke to Vimalesweren, but conceded nothing. Vimalesweren then said that there could be no reconciliation without a change of heart and a new approach. Some who were present said that Kittu had condescended to meet the students, taking time off from a busy schedule, while the students were ungraciously pitching themselves rather high. But, to those who felt for the issues at stake, Vimalesweren was right. It may also be remarked that the protest was forced on the students, who undertook the task with much trepidation. It occurred against a background of much popular sentiment for the LTTE as the physical defender of the Tamil's. The protest was called off after ten days. A compromise was reached and the LTTE undertook not to harm the protesters.

Within about a fortnight the LTTE launched a campaign to suppress the EPRLF which had also supported the students’ protest. PLOTE had, by then, voluntarily ceased functioning.

Word went around subsequently that the LTTE was looking for some of the student leaders including Vimalesweren, in connection with the embezzlement of funds from a refugee rehabilitation project handled by students. Several of those who knew Vimalesweren well testify to his integrity, and said that this was a ploy to terrorise. The question also needs to be asked that if there was genuine evidence of misappropriation, why was it not brought out two weeks earlier when it would have embarrassed the students, rather than waiting until all the opposition forces had been neutralised?

Vimalesweren and several other student leaders went into hiding and some were smuggled off to the South. Vimalesweren remained with peasants in Jaffna, who gave him protection for nearly a year. During the October 1987 IPKF operation he helped the villagers with the organisation of refugee camps and medical care. Subsequently he went home, to Pooneryn. When the University of Jaffna announced examinations in March 1988, Vimalesweren approached an LTTE leader in Kilinochchi who was personally known to him and asked him if there was any danger to him in going to Jaffna to sit for his final examination. He was reportedly told that there was no problem. He sat for his Examination and lived with his wife in Chavakacheri, in order that he could earn a living by giving tuition in Jaffna. On the afternoon of 18th July an assassin shot him dead as he came out of a tutory in Nallur after finishing a teaching assignment. The same evening it was reported that two gunmen had entered the University of Jaffna, and had left after walking about for some minutes. The message to the students was clear.

A newspaper which had given Vimalesweren prominence, during the student protest barely 18 months earlier, published a small item saying that a 30 year old man was found dead in front of a tutory in Nallur. The students took no immediate steps beyond boycotting lectures the following day. Such was the state of fear. The first memorial meeting to be announced was cancelled. Subsequently another memorial meeting was held in the Kailasapathy Hall, on the 31st day after his death, where several students went onto the stage and paid their tributes. According to one student source Vimalesweren had been tipped off, four days before his death, that his movements had been monitored and that there was danger. This was not heeded by Vimalesweren, because of the assurance he had received from the LTTE leader in Kilinochchi. Why was he killed? Was he feared as too good an organiser to be left alive?

There are also some indications that Vimalesweren’s death may be linked with the underworld of slander and misinformation that straddles all levels of this chronically war-torn society. Following threats made to the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Jaffna in March 1988, the LTTE issued a notice saying that whoever was responsible, whether individuals or a militant group, would be dealt with harshly. This provided the impetus for whoever was responsible to try to shift the blame.

During this period there had been much speculation about the disappearance of Mr. K. Kanthasamy on 19th June 1988. Kanthasamy was a leading Company Lawyer who had dedicated himself to refugee rehabilitation and human rights work. On the 12th July 1988, six days before Vimalesweren’s death, the Murasoli (one of two daily newspapers in Jaffna) published a statement with the front page headline: “Kanthasamy cannot hereafter be seen -claims the Pasarai group”. The statement claimed that Kanthasamy ‘s disappearance was the first step in the destruction of evil forces which have permeated our institutions. According to this statement, the Pasarai group also accepted responsibility for actions to reform the university administration. This was no doubt a reference to the threatening of the former Vice-chancellor

But the Pasarai group was a defunct peasant organisation, whose former members were leading quiet lives. Some former members of this group feared for their lives and got in touch with LTTE contacts, who in turn told them that they were aware that the statement was a fake and knew who was responsible for planting it. It was clear that the editor of the Murasoli had, willingly or unwillingly, accepted that statement for publication from someone powerful.

The Colombo-based New Saturday Review, in its July issue, carried a report which said that the militant group EROS had had several encounters with Kanthasamy of an importuning nature. It also published a statement by EROS disassociating itself from Kanthasamy’s disappearance. Given such an undercurrent of intrigue, many innocent persons are bound to be made sacrificial victims.[Top]

Mr. Vaithilingam Paramanathan - a community leader :1st October 1988

Mr. Paramanathan was a community leader from Myliddy. Some months ago Paramanathan had sheltered members of another militant group who were being hunted by the LTTE. Many in Myliddy had family connections with LTTE cadres. At 10.30 p.m. on the night of 1st October 1988 some youths came to his house and called him out. Though cautioned by his wife, Paramanthan went out saying that he recognised one youth as a person he had sheltered. A little later a shot was beard. Within a short time neighbours came out and Paramanthan’s body was found. Angry villagers proceeded to barricade access roads into the village.

The following day the IPKF unit from Myliddy harbour, which attempted to pass through the village, was confronted by the villagers at the barricades. In the exchanges that followed the officer in charge denied any complicity in the incident by his unit. Later in the day the barricades were dismantled after the officer gave an undertaking that he would do his best to protect the village against such occurrences. Several villagers have said that at the time of the assassination they had seen persons in the vicinity whom they took by appearance and disposition to be Indian army personnel.[Top]

Saverimuttu Anton Douglas — 33 years old - Delft Island. 4th October 1988

 Statement by mother, Saverimuttu Arokiam (60 yrs.):

“Some years ago my son Anton approached PLOTE and sought its help to retrieve some money that had been borrowed from him. In turn PLOTE made their help conditional on his joining them, and he did so. Anton later left PLOTE and became quite successful in the dry-fish trade. This made his former friend ‘A’ jealous of him, and ‘A’ petitioned the LTTE. He was taken in by the LTTE in September 1987, but was released with the help of an LTTE leader from outside.”

“On 4th October 1988 Anton was walking when he was pointed out by ‘B’ to two members of the LTTE at about 1.00 pm. My husband Saverimuttu (65 yrs.) who later went in search of him found him tied to a palmyrah tree with his arms stretched around the trunk. The two LTTE boys, identified as Kutti and Injur, were bludgeoning him mercilessly with poles. Anton was seen to be in a pretty bad state. My husband went up to our son, hugged him, and pleaded with his attackers. He was given a whack with a pole and chased away. The attackers asked him to come back with the arms his son had hidden. My husband went back at about 4.00 PM and found our son and his attackers missing. It has now been surmised that Anton had died of the beating he received and was then buried. I heard that his attackers too subsequently died in action. Injur is said to have been the leader for the seven islands. I am told that he died in Karainagar in late November.”

Note: from the time the LTTE disbanded other groups it is known to have been very sensitive about hidden arms. Anton was probably a victim of this fear, coupled with local jealousies.[Top]

Justin Thevaraiah (‘Thevan’) - 19 yrs old - Chundukuli.  12th October 1988

The reason for Thevan’s killing is not clear. Thevan personally had no compromising connections. His home was almost opposite to an IPKF camp. It is not uncommon for persons living in such circumstances to come under suspicion of passing information. Thevan’s family is Hindu, but Thevan had been converted to a Christian sect while a refugee in India, there years earlier. Thevan’s brothers had found work abroad, and the family was basically dependent on them.. Thevan,s faith consumed all his energies. He turned down his family’s moves to send him abroad. He had told his mother that he wanted to be a pastor. When not going for Bible studies and meetings he spent his time at home in handicrafts such as ornamented Bible verses — ‘God is Love’, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ etc. On the 12th October 1988, after spending the morning at home, he had a bath and set off for ‘Trumpet Sound’ on Nallur Kacheri Road, with a Bible strapped onto his bicycle carrier. An assassin shot him dead near Rakka Road junction, leaving his fallen body in a pool of blood. His assassin is said to have been a young man who put his weapon back into his shoulder bag and went away. By the nature of things it is impossible to assign reasons for such killings. There was one rumour to the effect that it could have been mistaken identity.[Top]

Incident at Iddaikadu - Killings of Kasilingam Sivasubramaniam (40 yr) and

Kanapathipillai Velmurugan (42 yrs).    18th October 1988

Sivasubramaniam was a resident of Iddaikadu, near the army base at Palaly. During the time the Sri Lankan army was active, Sivasubramaniam and his family used to help the LTTE with food and shelter. This is something that many people gladly did at that time. It would be hardly surprising if the LTTE had been calling at his place for food, even after the arrival of the IPKF.

On the night of 18th October 1988, at about 10.30 PM, gunmen entered his house and attempted to drag him out. His brother-in—law, Velmurugan, went up to him and hugged onto him, pleading and crying. The gunmen first shot Velmurugan in the head. They then shot Sivasubramaniam and went away.

The following morning Sivasubramaniam’s cousin-brother had to face an interview at a public institution. A kindly senior civil servant, an Orthodox Hindu, who was on the interview board, noticed that the young man was distressed and inquired why. The young man came out with the story and broke down crying. The civil servant comforted him by telling him that whatever happens is already written from the beginning of time; and if one understands that, it may provide a cure against breaking one’s head.

Sivasubramaniam and his wife Sivarani (36 yrs.) have two daughters and two

sons: Kayalvili (14), Yalini (12), Sivaseelan (9) and Dwarakan (2).

Velmurugan and his wife Parameswari (35) have a son and four daughters:

Ganeshavel (13), Chitra (12), Subathira and Susnithira (twins, aged 8) and

Sarithira (6).

Note: It seems that this incident follows another killing. It is said that in Idaikadu there was an understanding between LTTE and EPRLF cadres not to attack each other since almost all the members of the village are

related to each other. This understanding was broken when Sarny, an EPRLF supporter was gunned down only 19 days after his wedding. This shooting took place a few days before 18th October 1988.[Top]

Clayton Selliah - 22 years old — Jaffna. 22nd October1988

  Statement by mother, Rosemalar Selliab (48 yrs) of 18 Convent Rd., Jaffna.

“My son Clayton was the family’s breadwinner. My husband is a bad asthmatic. We have, besides Clayton, three daughters and another son aged 28, who is a psychiatric patient. On the 22nd October my son Clayton was playing volleyball in the field opposite the Holy Family Convent at about 5 o’clock in the evening. Three young men approached my son and asked for Clayton. When my son owned up to that name, one of them pulled a pistol out of his bag and fired once at my son. Clayton fell on the ground and screamed. The attackers shot him again and went away. The others playing volleyball ran away in fear.”

Note: Clayton’s mother was emphatic that her son had no militant ties. Other neighbourhood sources said that Clayton may have been suspected of LTTE links. His friend, who was an LTTE activist, had been killed a few weeks earlier. They added that Clayton had been in hiding for some weeks and had been forbidden from leaving home. Having tired of confinement, Clayton had left saying that he. would go nearby and return shortly. Even if Clayton had LTTE links, it would have been in a very minor capacity considering that he had stayed at home.

Amalesh Ariaraiah - 19 years old - Jaffna.     30th October 1988

Amalesh was an active member of the LTTE until the IPKF operation in October 1987. When the IPKF occupied Jaftna town, Amalesh and another LTTE cadre had reportedly taken shelter in a house which had once been an LTTE camp. This is believed to have led to the well-known case of the disappearance of the lady of the house Mrs. Sangaralingam, and her three daughters, after they had been taken in by the IPKF. Amalesh was subsequently arrested and then released around Christmas 1987. From that time he was an active member of the Ceylon Pentecostal Mission (C.P.M.). He was anointed a full member of the Pentecostal Church a few days before his death. He was active in spreading the message of his Church. In October 1988 EPRLF cadres were brought into the Jaffna town area under the protection of the IPKF. In the evening of 30th October 1988 Amalesh was cycling along Hospital Road, near the Railway Station, when he was stopped by individuals believed to have been from the EPRLF. Amalesh screamed and local residents came onto the road. The cadres then made him get onto the bar of a bicycle and they went towards the EPRLF camp, near the Mahatma Gandhi statue (now refurbished by the IPKF). On hearing this, his father Rev. Ariarajah contacted the IPKF. According to Rev. Ariarajah, an IPKF officer told him that they had arrested no such person and that they had nothing to do with internal quarrels.

Amalesh’s dead body was found with a gunshot Injury on his head, in front of the William Harvey Hospital, Chundikuli, the following morning.[Top]

Two civilian tragedies.       9th November 1988

Chundikuli: About 6.00 a.m. a car described as a black Volkswagen was parked opposite the late M.P. Mr. Vanniasingam’s house at the junction of Kandy Road and Old Park Road. This was about 80 yards from the Kachcheri. All versions of events agree that the driver was a young man, who is said to have gone away after saying that there was some difficulty and that he would be back with a mechanic. Shortly after 8.00 a.m. a powerful bomb inside the car exploded. This was a time when the area is normally crowded with school children and others coming for official business at the Kachcheri. Four died immediately and two succumbed later in hospital. Amongst the dead were two boys from St. John’s College, one girl from Convent Girls’ School and the father of a pupil at Chundikuli Girls’ College who was returning after dropping his daughter at school.

It is a reflection of the general impression created by the IPKF, because of its methods and attitudes, that many persons thought it possible or even probable that the IPKF could have engineered the incident. But information available from several sources about the movement of persons and vehicles in the area for a few days up to the incident strongly points the finger elsewhere. Why explode a bomb at this particular spot at that particular time? The IPKF sentry points were too far inside Old Park to suffer from the explosion. Perhaps some IPKF officials were expected to pass that way. Maybe this was meant to bea part of a larger attack where the driver had panicked and parked the vehicle in the wrong place. It may be a long time before anyone knows.

The casualties were transported to hospital in IPKF vehicles. This time, for once, they did not beat up or threaten civilians in the area. A gentleman in religious orders who accompanied the dead and the injured to hospital had this to say:

“A well dressed man came up to me and asked if these were all the casualties. I replied in the affirmative. He asked: ‘Not a single Indian soldier?’ I said: ‘What did it matter - a life was a life’. He contorted his face and wrung his hands expressing strong dis­appointment. He sounded as if the whole outrage would have been justified if one Indian soldier had died”.

That gives some indication of the moral debasement of the community in the course of this conflict.

Nelliady: About 10.30 a.m. a grenade was flung into an IPKF truck which was parked in front of the IPKF sentry point, just east of Nelliady Junction on the Kodikamam Road. The soldiers, it is said, jumped out and

escaped with minor injuries. The attackers, believed to be the LTTE, then fired at the IPKF from near the first bend on the Kodikamam Road. The area was crowded with shoppers, many of whom ran inside shops and closed the doors. Others lay flat on the ground. The IPKF opened fire killing five civilians, amongst whom were a plantain seller, a lady vegetable vendor, a shop assistant and a young mother. The attackers reportedly got away. The IPKF also fired a shell into Jamuna Stores, a wholesale agency where many civilians had taken shelter. No one died because they were shielded from the explosion by sacks of provisions. The inmates started screaming when the sacks caught fire. The IPKF captain in the camp opposite ordered the firing to cease and asked those trapped to come out.

Subsequently the people were ordered out and violently herded to the market. Those lying flat on the ground in fear were beaten and asked if the LTTE had taught them this. The people were released after being displayed before informants.

Many civilians, who wondered why a shell was fired into Jamuna Stores, when the firing came from elsewhere, put it down to a personal grudge. While Indian ‘top brass’ are said to purchase large quantities from the trader, requests for purchase on loan by other ranks are said to have been discouraged.[Top]

Incident at Thirunelveli Market.    13th November 1988

Name: Sundaram Vaikunthanathan

Occupation:   Tax Collector in the Thirunelveli Market

Age:    46 years

Marital Status:         Married with three children; 2 girls and 3 boys (eldest 16 years, youngest 6 years)

Vaikunthanathan went to work on the morning of Sunday 13.11.68 as usual. He started his work at the market. His brother (Shan), who is an active member of EROS and was a member of its central committee until November that year, had got the lease for the market from the village council. It is he who had employed his brother Vaikunthan (as the victim was known by his friends) to collect the daily taxes. That morning Shan was also in the market, but at a different place.

While Vaikunthan was working he was approached by unarmed men who took him towards the entrance of the market. According to a friend who was also there when the incident took place, someone told him that Vaikunthan was being taken out by some youths. So he went to see what happened. As he walked towards the entrance he heard three shots and then he ran away.

Vaikunthan’s brother, on hearing the shots, went to see what happened and found his brother’s body. According to him there was no provocation whatsoever which could have led to this incident. All he can suggest is that there have been allegations to the effect that EROS is helping the LTTE. But he assures that nothing of that nature has taken place in the market. According to this same source, EROS contacted senior persons in EPRLF concerning this killing. The latter denied any connection between their group and the killing.[Top]

Search of University Student Hostel:19th November 1988

The IPKF entered and began a search of the University of Jaffna male students’ hostel at 5.30 a.m. There had been several indications in the past week that University premises were going to be searched both from words of officers as well as from searches of students’ private residences. Given this atmosphere several students as well as staff had left the area in fear. In the past few weeks several civilians who were sympathetic to the LTTE had been murdered. It is fair to surmise that those students staying in the hostel had no compromising links and would have been unaware of anything lethal hidden in the premises. It is known that some students were staying in the hostel because they were afraid of physical harm after the killing of former student leader Vimalesweren the previous July. The sub-warden of the hostel had been on leave for some time.

In the course of the search the army is said to have found some rounds of ammunition in the rubbish disposal area.- After this the absent sub-warden’s room was broken into and about 20 walkie-talkies and some timers are said to have been found. Only the latter finds can be authenticated by those present. Subsequently, about 7.30 a.m., the army proceeded to beat several of those present. Amongst those worst beaten were Joseph Ravindran, from the academic staff of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, who had assumed duties as part-time warden just a short time earlier. He was asked for the location of arms, made to bend down, and was beaten with a stiff rod on his buttocks and shoulders. Some students were beaten when they refused orders to dig up the ground. Others were badly beaten when they were ordered to lift the concrete slab covering the septic tank and were physically unable to do so. Many of the neighbours heard the screams of the students. Amongst those badly beaten were those living in fear of the LTTE. Students said that some members of another militant group who had come with the IPKF were more terrifying in their conduct than the IPKF itself.

The beatings stopped when the Vice-chancellor with the Deans of Arts and of Science arrived around 9.30 a.m. The students, many of whom broke down, begged not to be left alone. The Dean of Science undertook to remain with them. In the meantime hundreds of other students with some staff arrived in procession and refused to budge. In the afternoon the army agreed to release those detained after the Vice-chancellor, the two Deans present and several staff members gave guarantees that any one of the inmates would be available if required for questioning.[Top]

Incident at St. Patrick’s       26th November 1988

On the morning of 26th November 1988 started a series of events which led to the tragic death of a 17 year old church organist, Jude Zacharias, who according to people who knew him well was not involved with any militant group. During and after these events several innocent persons, including two priests and students of St. Patrick’s College, were assaulted. These events point out the sad plight of innocent civilians caught in the middle of the internecine warfare between militant groups and the undisclosed policies of the IPKF.

It is said that a number of robberies had happened in the vicinity of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Jaffna, preceding this date. On the morning in question, it is said that a group of LTTE cadres were confronted by EPRLF cadres near the Cathedral. There occurred a shoot-out and a chase, with one militant running through the church. In the gun-battle at least one EPRLF cadre and one LTTE cadre are known to have died. Soon the IPKF arrived in the area and cordoned it off. All male workers in the Bishop’s House and adjoining church offices were brought to the compound of the Cathedral along with the priests inside the Bishop’s House. During the gun-battle the church organist had been inside the church practising on the organ. There had also been several others praying in the Cathedral. The organist was arrested inside the Cathedral. In the grounds of the Cathedral the priests were addressed insultingly by Indian officers, while the organist was assaulted severely in front of the gathered people.

Meanwhile some army officers and EPRLF cadres searching the nearby hostel of St. Patrick’s College had found fresh bloodstains belonging to a student injured by a stray bullet from the shooting. Intensifying their search they found two empty grenade cases, a few empty cartridges and three live cartridges collected by students. Following this a few students and a priest had been assaulted and were taken to the Cathedral grounds. A few students and the organist were taken to the Railway Station Camp of the IPKF. The parish and other priests from St. Patrick’s College were asked to report to the IPKF camp at 4.00 p.m. At 5.00 p.m. the parish priest and one other priest from the College were released. The mother of the organist who went to the Station Carp in the evening saw her beaten and battered son being cruelly mishandled. Two priests from the College were detained overnight and one of them was severely beaten; it is not clear who his custodians were.

The two priests have so far refused to talk about what happened to them, presumably due to fear. They were released the next day. The students too were released. People living near the Cathedral heard gun shots during the night of the 26th, and in the morning they found the battered dead body of the organist Jude Zacharias lying on the road. His body showed signs of torture. Some of his nails were missing, he had a fractured skull and his leg was broken. The official post-mortem report states that his death resulted from ante-mortem brain damage due to gun shot injury. Also recorded in the report were details of bruises, fractures and internal injuries.

Given below are two statements. The first is a compilation of the eye-witness accounts of several persons, and the second is the statement of the mother of the deceased organist.

On the morning of the 26th of November, mass started as usual at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Jaffna, at about 6.15 a.m., and it was over by 7.00

a.m. Although the mass was over, at least three ladies were praying inside the church and there were one or two men standing behind the church. At this time shots were heard from around the church. A few militants belonging to opposing factions were having a shoot-out; one ran across the breadth of the church leaving a hand grenade behind. The organist was practising on the church organ.

The parish priest of St. Mary’s Cathedral heard the shots while he was having his breakfast, and he came out of the room and surveyed the Cathedral compound. It was about 8.30 in the morning. He noticed that about 10 army men had cordoned off the area; he attempted to get inside the church but was prevented from doing so by the soldiers. By this time all the workers from the Bishop’s House, the press and the Cathedral Centre were brought to the compound of the Cathedral. The parish priest was standing in front of his presbytery. Six armed EPRLF men followed by another ten walked into the compound. One of them asked the parish priest to go into the church and open his room.

However, before he could open it they had broken open the door and entered. The organist Jude Zacharias (aged 17), who was playing the organ inside the church all this time, along with the others who were inside were brought out, and Jude was assaulted by the soldiers. Though the parish priest raised objections the assault continued. Then the parish priest left the area and joined the priests who were standing under the margosa tree. Then the army wanted to check the parish priest’s rooms, but he refused to give the keys.

Half an hour later two EPRLF cadres came and asked Fr. Pilendiran, Prefect of Studies in the College, the whereabouts of the injured LTTE boy. Then two Indian soldiers came to assault Fr. Pilendiran, saying “You LTTE bastard”, but the EPRLF boys stopped them. They wanted to search the desks first. They pulled out four hostellers, and while searching the second desk they found a bag containing two empty hand grenades and three live cartridges: there was another empty cartridge in another desk. Then they assaulted Fr. Pilendiran and the hostellers. The EPRLF boys had hit Fr. Pilendiran for the first time. Five hostellers including Wilson, an A-level student from Navanthurai, to whom the second desk belonged, and Fr. Pilendiran were marched out and taken to the Cathedral compound. A soldier hit Fr. Pilendiran while on the road. This was witnessed by people who were standing on the road.

Then one officer approached Fr. Pilendiran and asked him to go and stand with the other priests, but a different officer approached him and said “You bldody bastard, this is the last day you see daylight. Your bloody Bishop can write to the Prime Minister or Rajiv, I don’t care”. He wanted to check the boarding again. He brought Fr. Pilendiran back to the college and when he saw a few drops of blood in front of the rector’s room (from the injured hosteller who had been carried by that way), mistaking it for the blood of the injured LTTE cadre, he caught Fr. Pilendiran by the collar and asked “Where is the pistol of the dead LTTE?” When he replied that he did not know, the officer, Major Sharom, gave him about ten slaps. It was when they were taken to the lower school building that the Rector came back from the hospital after admitting the injured student. Fr. Pilendiran, along with Fr. Ranjendram and the parish priest, Fr. Jesunesan, were asked to appear at the Camp at 4.00 p.m. It must have been around 1.00 p.m. when the army and the EPRLF cadres left. They tied Jude Zachcharias with a rope, and took him along with the other hostellers to the Railway Station Camp.

The Mother’s Statement:

I was at the EPRLF camp, Hotel Ashok, at 2.00 p.m. They told me “Come tomorrow because two of us are dead”. I went alone to the Railway Station Camp at 4.00 p.m. I sat behind the four priests who were already there. I introduced myself to the army as the mother of the boy who was arrested at the Cathedral. They asked “Are you the Acca (elder sister]?” I said “No, I am the mother”. They said “Santhirakumar has been taken home to get the weapons. He will be back in 20 minutes”. At 5.45 p.m. the jeep came into the Station and they brought my son. His face was covered. He was carried by two soldiers who held him by the shoulders. They threw him from the 1st platform over the railway track to the next platform where his body fell and was hanging from the edge. Another soldier kicked him on the leg. He turned a little so that his face could be seen. He shouted Amma four times. I said “This is my son, Lord save him”. An army officer approached me and spoke in Tamil, saying “There are many accusations against him; we have retrieved arms from the church and from his house; come tomorrow”. He then chased me out. I left the camp at 6.00 p.m. When I returned home I found out that he had been brought by jeep to a third compound near, my home, and was beaten with —sticks and was pricked with pins on his head. This was at about 5.00

p.m. He was also taken to the Cathedral compound where there is a coola tree, and was asked to climb and take hidden arms from there. —But he couldn’t, for he had not the strength to climb. I was also told by those present that before being taken to the camp, he was asked to pick up a hand grenade that was lying on the ground and a photograph was taken. We came home around 10.00 p.m. We heard some shots at 5.30 a.m. Someone brought me news that my son’s body was lying a few hundred yards from my house. I ran and put him on my lap. I noticed that there was a lot of blood on my lap and found blood oozing out of his head. At 7.30 a.m. we took him to the hospital. The police took charge. From 10.00 to 11.00 I faced the inquiry by the coroner, Ketheswaran. There were 13 gun shot wounds through the forehead and temple. The rib cage had been smashed. The toe nails were missing and his hand and leg had been broken. There were pin-prick injuries all over his face.

The following is a statement by Rev. (Dr.) G.F. Rajendram of the Department of Zoology, University of Jaffna, who resides at St. Patrick’s College:

At about 11.00 a.m. I heard some altercation and came out of my room at St. Patrick’s College and saw some IPKF soldiers in the corridor. The leader of the IPKF questioned Fr. Pilendiran and slapped him a few times. I was ordered to come to the Cathedral compound.

As soon as I entered the compound I pointed out to the leader of the IPKF operation that one of those arrested was a heart patient. He am two other boys were released. I saw Jude Zacharias being bound with his hands tied behind the back. After the officer left, the hostel boys and Jude Zacharias were kicked repeatedly by the IPKF soldiers.

At 4.00 p.m. I went to the IPKF camp along with three other priests. The Commander of the camp berated us for aiding the terrorists. He then ordered Fr. Pilendiran and Jesunesan to go upstairs for further questioning. The mother of the boy Jude Zacharias was seated behind us. We were allowed to leave the IPKF camp at about 5.00 p.m.

Note to the incident at St. Patrick’s:

Within a week of the incident details of it were broadcast on the BBC’s Tamil service. There is little doubt that this was done with at least the passive approval of the Church in Jaffna. But the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Jaffna has chosen to maintain silence on the matter, much to the chagrin of its flock who are smarting helplessly under the humiliation. The Cathedral and the surrounding establishments mark the seat of the Bishopric of Jaffna.

This brings to mind two killings attributed to the Sri Lankan forces in late 1984, in which the Christian Church was intimately concerned. These were the killings of the Roman Catholic clergyman Fr. Mary Bastian, and of Rev. George Jeyarajasingam of the Methodist Church, both in the Mannar District. Both these happened during a period of escalation marked by the attempt to settle the Tamil problem by putting into practice a scheme by the then National Security Minister, Mr. -Lalith Athulathmudali. The scheme as stated envisaged settling a large number of Sinhalese, from categories such as fishermen and those with criminal records, in Tamil areas. Over 80 Sinhalese settled in Kent and Dollar Farms (which had been set up for Tamil refugees, who had been driven out) were killed by Tamil militants. Over 100 Tamil residents in the farming area of Murunkan were killed by Sri Lankan forces.

Statements by a number of witnesses left little doubt about the identity of the killers of Fr. Mary Bastian. The National Security Minister denied that his forces had killed Fr. Bastian. He said that the Police had spied him getting into a boat and going across to India. The American Cardinal, who preached at a memorial service for Fr. Bastian in Boston, promised to pursue the matter and get to the bottom of it. The matter was then dropped and was lost in a web of silence. Had the Vatican intervened? It is not hard to imagine how the Bishop’ Conference in Sri Lanka would have advised the Vatican. Its statements left the impression that its perception of the Tamil problem was not too different from that of the Sri Lankan government.

Rev. Jeyarajasingam had been in Murunkan during the aforementioned massacre. He was about to leave for England on a year’s sabbatical. He is said to have protested strongly to military officials about the incident. About two days later he is said to have been summoned by the army. There are strong indications that while travelling in his vehicle they were stopped by the army and he and his Sinhalese driver were killed and burnt. As Rev. Jeyarajasingam was to travel to England shortly, he is said to have taken video pictures of the army’s handiwork.

This matter too was not pursued to any conclusion, though man; individual  Sinhalese Methodist clergy felt deeply about the matter.

However, by the end of 1986, leading representatives from all main Churches in the South had joined in a Sri Lankan Armed Forces Day service, to the singing of “Onward Christian Soldiers”, which was given a countrywide airing on national television.

         It is understood that the Bishop of Jaffna had been previously ‘pulled up’ by the Sri Lankan Bishops’ Conference for being forthright about his views on the actions of the national army. Since mid-1985 he has seldom spoken out. It is not hard to guess what forces would have been at work in ensuring the Church’s silence locally on the recent incident at St. Patrick’ s.

We cannot comment further without knowing the full facts. Whatever the considerations that motivate the local Church to be silent, there are some inescapable facts:

Ordinary people see the Church in Jaffna as a powerful, highly organised institution with a following of around 300,000 persons. It gives them an identity and represents perhaps the dignity of the larger community which has no comparable organisation. When the Church chooses to be seen to remain silent in the face of a public outrage committed at its very institutional centre, ordinary people will conclude that this giant, which is potentially a source of immense moral authority, is in fact effete and cowardly. Hundreds of thousands of persons, who are driven to help­lessness and humiliation, begin to look upon and admire the handful of young men who risk much, perhaps everything, ‘shooting at the symbols of their humiliation. These young men in turn become the symbols of their dignity, regardless of the consideration that their ultimate tendency may be undemocratic and anarchic. People begin to feel that these young men —believe far more sincerely in their guns than does the Church in its God.

Such omissions in the form of silence, in the face of violence from internal and external causes, will in time cause the Church to lose both its moral authority and its esteem. Standing up for justice and dignity of the common man becomes thus a public duty, inseparable from spiritual office. Failure here means that the Church becomes more and more compromised with time, becoming part of the onset of anarchy.

Many public institutions have collapsed under the weight of moral dilemmas. A reason often given for silence is that they may be too embarrassingly compromised to thrash out matters in public. This is again a form of cowardice. A public airing often restores a necessary sense of direction.[Top]

Death of Nirmalan, a Farmer aged 29 years.  3rd December 198

Nirmalan, known as ‘Anna’, lived with his family consisting of three members, in the village of Karukampanai just two miles from Tellippalai Junction. Since his father is no more he was the only male family member who gave moral support to his mother and two sisters. He was a tireless social worker, and for the people of the village a function was not meant to be a function without him. About a couple of weeks before his death h played an important role in establishing a School of Nursing for the wome:

of the village. Thus he got involved in various social activities.

Like every other militant he also had an urge to contribute his part for the struggle for independence. Subsequently this drove him to become an active member of PLOTE in the early 1980s. Though he tried his best to make it a success, he became desperate and disillusioned with its methods. As a result of this he left the movement in 1986. In 1987, when the LTTE Jaffna Commander ‘Radha’ was killed at Punnalaikaduvan, Anna was asked to make a speech at the cemetery. In his speech he said that “I am telling you pretty clearly, I neither belong to the PLOTE nor to the LTTE. I have come here as a representative of my village - purely as an independent man”. This was his only association with the LTTE.

On the day of the incident, around 3 o’clock in the evening, his house wa surrounded by some unidentified youths. They are said to have come an three vans shouting “Anna, Anna”, and they entered the house. At that

time he was not at home and his sister told them that he had gone to the farm. Then they started scolding her in a very indecent manner. They kept on asking her whether Anna had any arms in his possession. Having taken an album with them, they set off to the farm, which is half a mile from his house, at high speed. Anna, who was irrigating the farm, was able to see the vans coming towards his farm, and not knowing what to do he came up to the gate. There his destiny was decided. The gunmen caught him and started to assault him mercilessly; the neighbours were able to hear his screaming. When he was lying half dead in an unconscious state they shot him through his eyes. Leaving the dead body behind, they got into the vans and vanished.

A large number of people gathered at the cemetery. An old man among the gathering merely heaved a heavy sigh and said “Who will come and succour us in times of need? No one can fill Anna’s place. The village saw its grandest funeral within living memory.

As usual, the IPKF was very prompt in doing its ‘round-up’ after everything was over. A couple of days after his death, a rumour was spread in the village to the effect that the killing could have been a ‘mistake’. It seems impossible for an average person to believe this rumour.[Top]

Death of Umashankar. 19th December 1988

Umashankar, of Palaly Road, Jaffna (aged 29 years) was a helpful person who was willing to help anyone who asked. it is said that he helped some friends of his in putting up LTTE posters.

On the 17th of October 1988 the IPKF took him into custody at Ariyakulam Junction, along with some other youths. When he failed to return home that day, his parents got worried and started to search for him in several IPKF camps. Yet they could not trace him. On the 22nd of October one of the boys who was caught along with him was released. It was he who revealed the news of his detention at the Jaffna Railway Station Camp. Immediately, the parents went to the camp and talked to the Commander. To satisfy them he said that Umashankar was ill, and that they were giving

 him medical treatment. He assured them that Umashankar would be released only when the treatment was over. He was released after two days. His legs and arms were found to be swollen and blood clots were also found on his arms and legs. The parents gave him medical treatment for about two months.

On the 19th of December 1988, the day of the Presidential elections, he went to Kalviyankadu at 8.30 in the morning in order to attend to some work. The whole day he was missing. On the following morning the parents went and complained at the EPRLF camp. At that time the Chief Minister  for the North and East, Mr. Varatharajaperumal was there. He inquired of the parents and told them that the EPRLF had nothing to do with this arbitrary arrest. But he promised them that he would take immediate action to tace him. The parents handed over his photograph and other details about him and left the camp. The parents then started to trace him on their own. But all their attempts were in vain. At about 11.30 in the morning a stranger came and told them that there was an unidentified body at the Kannakar junction - Kollumputhurai (Colombogam). On hearing this his brother immediately rushed to the spot. When he got there, one of the neighbours came and told him that the body had been taken to the General Hospital. The brother then rushed to the hospital in a few minutes and made inquiries at the inquiry section. They directed him to the mortuary, where he identified Umashankar’s body. The post-mortem report revealed that Umashankar had injuries as a result of severe assault and he also seemed to have been given ‘electric shocks’. There were also gunshot injuries on his forehead. The body was given over to the brother at about 2.30 p.m.[Top]

The tales of two young men

The recent history of the community saw many young men fired with noble feelings. Many of them were caught up in tragic dilemmas, where their lives became threatened by others once involved in a fraternal cause. Even so, they kept much of their nobility to the very end. We sketch below the stories of two such young men.

The first was a government employee from a remote village, who was a member of the EPRLF until December 1986. He was arrested by the LTTE about the middle of 1987 and was tortured very badly to force the disclosure of locations of hidden arms. Being a strong person, this young man kept his mouth sealed. He saw and heard many terrible things in the LTTE camp. One of his more kindly captors told him many things and said that he was disgusted. The LTTE released this young man around the time of the July 1987 Accord. He was very bitter at that time. Through mutual friends, persons in the University helped him to get medical treatment. He showed several symptoms of torture, including recurrent pains in the head and limbs.

He returned to the village and led a quiet life. When the EPRLF was promoted for the North-East provincial leadership in October 1988, the LTTE was suspicious as to whether he would rejoin the EPRLF. They sent messages to test his intentions. On one occasion he was asked to report at the IPKF base at Palaly. The young man ignored all these. He knew a good deal about the LTTE in his area. He felt that the LTTE ought to be challenged, but not with the help of foreigners. One day, a friend of his who had helped him in the past was killed by the LTTE. The same nioht th young man fled his village and subsequently rejoined the EPRLF elsewhere. When he found that some LTTE supporters in his village were on a hit-list, he sent a message asking them to flee to Colombo. This was because he felt that these supporters were essentially sincere men as well as good men. Just before he went back to the EPRLF, he told a friend that he had

little sympathy for what the EPRLF stood for at present. But he added that he would keep his independence and teach the LTTE a lesson. What became of him later is not known.

The second young man is Antony from Kurumbasiddy. At one time he used to help his friends who did sentry duty for the EPRLF during the days of the Sri Lankan operations. He was then for a short time with the now defunct militant group the RELO. Antony then worked for a hardware merchant.

In December 1988 the villagers told Antony that a well-known LTTE assassin had inquired of him from them. Sensing danger, Antony joined the EPRLF, vowing to get the assassin. He knew what there was to be known about the

LTTE in his village, and he did what he could to protect its helpers from harm. He had warned several of them to get away and had told others that they were safe while he was around. Antony was later killed in a shoot-out between the LTTE and the EPRLF.[Top]


Home | History | Briefings | Statements | Bulletins | Reports | Special Reports | Publications | Links
Copyright © UTHR 2001