Incident at Udupiddy. 15th September 1988
S. Sivanandasundaram 21st October l988
Incident at Yakkarai - a village in Karaveddy. October 1988
Incident at Athiamalai. near Valvettiturai. 13th November 1988
Incident at Pannaikaddai (near Point Pedro town). 10th Noverter 1988
Incident at Katkovalamn - a village next to Point Pedro. 7th December 1988
Incident at Navalady. 17th December 1988
Incidents at Udupiddy and Nelliady. 25th and 26th December 1988
Vadamarachi consists of the landmass in the north-eastern corner of the Jaffna peninsula, separated from the rest of the peninsula by a three mile strip of moorland extending from Thondamanaru Lagoon and running northeast. This was the home of several key figures of the Tamil youth
militancy in the 1970s. Although the bulk of militants today are largely from Tamil rural areas outside the peninsula, Vadamarachi continues to be associated in many minds, Tamil and non-Tamil, as the heartland of the militants. The Sri Lankan army assault during Operation Liberation, which lasted five days from 26th May 1987, was a devastating experience for the people of Vadamarachi. Their sufferings did not end with the indiscriminate bombing and shelling. A large number of youths, some of them picked up from officially designated places of refuge, were summarily killed.
When the IPKF launched its Operation Pawan in October 1987, Vadamarachi remained largely unaffected except for some shelling. Ironically, a large number of civilians sought refuge in the precincts of the Sri Lankan army camp at Hartley College, Point Pedro. After the experience of Operation Liberation and the conduct of the Sri Lankan army, the people of Vadamarachi welcomed the IPKF in July through to the end of 1987 with undisguised enthusiasm.
Despite the IPKF assault in October 1987 and the deteriorating situation elsewhere, relations between the people of Vadamarachi and the IPKF remained fairly good until the 1st June 1988. The manner in which relations deteriorated raises deep questions about the capability and competence of the IPKF for anything like a peace-keeping role. By its readiness to descend to low levels anticipated by the adversary, the adversary all too easily wrested the political initiative from the IPKF.
On the morning of the 1st of June militants, believed to be from the LTTE, took cover behind an Urban Council van and shot dead two IPKF men in the Point Pedro bazaar. The soldiers were apparently shopping prior to going home on leave. The very same day, starting in the afternoon, the IPKF
rounded up a large number of males, running into thousands, and assaulted them indiscriminately. The men, old and young, were picked up from as far afield as Thumpalai and Manthikai, more than two miles from the incident.
Those beaten included Urban Council employees, doctors, engineers and clergy. Old men who could barely walk were seen being herded along roads and made to run by soldiers swinging at them with rods. Those who were treated at Point Pedro hospital for broken bones and assault injuries numbered several tens. The fact that these reprisals began several hours after the incident occurred points to deliberate high level policy - a conscious decision to terrorise. The following is the statement of a young professional rounded up in a group of 800 at Manthikai at about 3.00 p.m. that day:
We were herded along to Point Pedro camp that evening, and made to run a gauntlet consisting of a corridor formed by soldiers flailing with rods and sharp objects. I was in great pain, bleeding from my head and back, and my shirt was torn. We were given neither medical attention, food nor water. As the night wore on I felt faintish due to a loss of blood. I managed to make my way to an Indian officer and told him that I needed medical attention. He abused me, called me a bastard, and told me that I could die there for all he cared and that no one would cry for me. I went back and did what I could to stop the bleeding with my torn shirt. We were given water to drink after the guard changed at midnight. We were released the following afternoon. I disposed of my blood-stained shirt so as not to upset my family and went home in my sarong. My family, who had been in the throes of anxiety for more than 24 hours, found release in crying. I too cried
Attacks by the LTTE and reprisals against civilians then became a regular feature. The LTTE, for its part, killed several civilians. One would normally surmise that the victim was accused of being an informer. But in a number of known cases the victims turned out to be persons innocent of compromising involvements - victims rather of intrigue, rivalry and village gossip.
Many people gave vent to their resentment against the IPKF by responding to the LTTEs calls to observe anniversaries and commemorations of dead militants. These demonstrations were mostly peaceful. Sometimes women resorted to shouting and throwing sand if Indian soldiers arrived on the scene. These were tolerated by the IPKF until early October, when, outwardly at least, hopes of negotiation with the LTTE were given up. What happened subsequently is described in the general introduction.
Civilian suffering and reprisals against them in the wake of clashes between the LTTE and the IPKF reached a peak around the time of the incident at Nelliady on 10th November, described elsewhere. On hearing noises of explosions or firing, the first thought that comes to males of all ages is to get away as soon as possible. Several have been shot or beaten up by soldiers while attempting to get away. Many of them, when questioned, refer to the IPKFs record of indiscriminate beating. They said that they would rather get shot and killed while trying to get away, than stay and get beaten by soldiers. Such is the reputation of the IPKF for beating civilians. Many of the victims killed, injured and maimed and from the labouring class. This has resulted in several homes being deprived of breadwinners, where the women, on top of their sorrow, have to manage as best as they can.
The sight of men, old and young, getting down from their bicycles (which they are not obliged to do) and cringing past soldiers at the sentry points in Nelliady, is a strange comment on what is still, officially, a relationship between the protectors and the protected.
The following sample cases give some insight into the human situation in Vadamarachi:[Top]
Chandra Teacher was a resident of Karanavai South near Nelliady, and was a teacher at Sacred Heart School, Nelliady. She had mostly worked in the South and her last posting had been in Galaha for eight years. Amongst her colleagues she was outspoken in her views, which were often critical of the way things went. Her friends too were often English-speaking, .and were of a cosmopolitan kind. While she was very much respected as a teacher, her qualities also made it possible for those who did not like her to indulge in careless and malicious gossip.
A series of coincidences surrounded her death on 9th June 1988. Towards the early part of that year two leading LTTE persons were hidden in a house in front of hers, under the care of the LTTEs local leader, Chukla. On one occasion the IPKF had apprehended the helpers who had gone to fetch food for the V.I.P.s. This led to the arrest of Chukla, who had gone in search of them. The V.I.P.s got away, after being warned by a helper who had escaped.
Chandra Teacher lived with her elderly mother and a domestic help. After the Vadamarachi Operation she had also kept two young boys, ex-militant helpers, whose parents had sought her help in rehabilitating these boys. The boys were attending school. It was once rumoured amongst the LTTE helpers that a walkie-talkie had been found in her chicken coop. Her relatives contacted the LTTE leadership, who in turn told them that there was no problem. After this, Chandra Teacher had told the two boys not to be at home when she was not there.
Later Chandra Teacher sold a piece of land and deposited the proceeds of 300,000 rupees at the Nelliady Peoples Bank. This was to provide the dowry for her sister, who was to be married soon. A malicious rumour got around that the IPKF had paid her the money, for information supplied. A few days before she died she went to talk to her surveyor who lived near the Mandaan IPKF camp. This was because she had wanted a piece of land surveyed prior to sale. Again, a rumour got around that she had visited
the IPKF to give information. On the 8th of June the IPKF did a round up of her area.
On the morning of the 9th of June, Chandra Teacher went to her brothers place to return her niece, who had been staying with her, to the parents. In the afternoon, when she was returning from school on her bicycle, she is said to have been pushed down and eight bullets were fired into her body. It is said that she took some time to die. When her relatives contacted the LTTE leadership, the first private reaction was reportedly to the effect that there could have been a mistake. Old rumours then
start-ed to resurface. Many people talked uncritically. Even educated persons passed on rumours that she had been paid 300,000 rupees by the IPKF, without asking themselves whether a person would give publicity to
such acquisitions by depositing the money in a local bank.[Top]
Mr. P.R. Suntheralingam, a lawyer from Udupiddy, was around 58 years of age when this tragic end befell him. Udupiddy is a place in the neighbourhood of Valvettiturai. He was a Tiger sympathiser, though not an ardent supporter. In earlier days he sincerely gave food parcels and other forms of help in some measure.
On the 15th September 1988 he attended a wedding in Valvetti, mainly to write down the dowry particulars. As usual he went on his motorbike, wearing a silk Veshti and a long chain. His family did not see him alive since then.
When he came out from the wedding ceremony some youths, believed to be from the Tigers, called him and took him with them. Coincidentally, one of his daughters friends saw him taken in a van, driven by two militants. When she saw this she shouted This is my friends father. Where are you taking him? They scolded her back to keep her mouth shut, and went away.
The family and his brother contacted a few people who have connections with the LTTE. For about four days they could not get a reply. They denied having anything to do with it.
On the morning of the 20th September someone came and gave a message saying that Mr. P.R. Suntheralingams body was floating near the Valvettiturai seashore. The body was floating upside down, and they coud not identify it immediately. By the time they went again with some other people they were told the body was taken and buried in the nearby cemetery. The daughter was very keen that she should see the body. Then they dug up and removed the body. Suntheralingams body was barely recognisable, considering all that it had been through. It showed signs of torture. Several of his front teeth were broken and his right forearm was also broken. They took the body to the Point Pedro Government hospital for the sake of getting a death certificate, and cremated the body the same day.
After three or four days the Tigers sent, through an intermediary, some cash and Suntheralingams ring, which were in amongst his belongings. Members of the LTTE said in their remarks that he deserved this punishment. But his close relatives could not think of any reason, except that on a few occasions he had been critical of the LTTE in private conversations.
Another speculation is that his death may be connected with a family feud within the goldsmiths community to which he belonged. His sister is said to have been killed by the Sri Lankan army a few years ago while she was travelling from Trincomalee to Jaffna. His cousin Kandasamy was also assassinated on 25th December 1988.[Top]
Sivanandasundaram, leader of the Tamil Makkal Manram, a retired government servant and leading citizen of Point Pedro, was amongst the three persons nominated by the LTTE for chairmanship of the ill-fated interim council for the North and East, in September 1988. His organisation is known to have taken the stand that the LTTE were the legitimate heirs of the Tamil National cause, and the other groups were even termed traitors.
The Uthayan in late September 1988 carried a report in which Sivanandasundaram described the recent meeting he had had with the Indian
Ambassador Mr. J.N. Dixit, where he had reiterated his position in no
uncertain terms. Mr. Dixit had also been told that the withdrawal of the
IPKF would not be a loss to the Tamils.
On the 21st October Mr. Sivanandasundaram addressed a meeting in Arialai on the invitation of the Citizens Committee of Arialal. The meeting was to commemorate the late Mr. Santhosham of the LTTE. After the meeting Mr. Sivanandasundaram set off to Point Pedro in a passenger van. This van broke down at the beginning of Vallai-Veli. Mr. Sivanandasundararn then transferred to the CTh bus which had been hired from the Point Pedro depot to carry some school children to the meeting at Arialai. Some of the parents of the children had accompanied them. Mr. Srvanandasundaram had earlier avoided travelling in that bus because of advice he had received. On this day IPKF forces were deployed about Vallai-Veli (an open moorland three miles in length). What follows is the statement of a witness travelling by a van behind Mr. Sivanandasundarams bus.
Our van was stopped, apparently for checking by IPKF soldiers, at the palmyrah grove past the Valvettiturai fork in Vallai-Veli at about 3.30 p.m. One hundred yards up the road we saw a bus stopped and a man being taken away from the bus by a youth. A little later a gun shot was heard. The civilians followed their accustomed reflex action by falling flat on the ground. A little later a Tamil-speaking soldier told us that what had happened was a matter of one of our own people killing another of his own kind. He said that in five minutes he would let us go. When we reached the end of Vallal-Veli the bus in which Mr. Sivanandasundaram was traveling was seen halted. We passed his dead body on the way. The driver of our van stopped the vehicle and proceeded to berate the other driver. He was told that he should not have left the old man alone and driven off. The other driver explained that the bus had been stopped by three youths and one of them came and asked Mr. Sivanandasundaram to dismount. he added The youth then asked me to drive away. I was hesitant. Then some of the parents amongst the passengers expressed the view that the matter was not our quarrel, and was a quarrel between two militant groups and hence did not concern us. I was urged to crive. I reluctantly did so. My driver told him that in such a situation he should have stopped the vehicle and then asked the passengers to scream. Had they done so the IPKF could not have pleaded ignorance.[Top]
Mr. Thangarajah, a mason around 26 years of age, is married with two children. He lives close to the army camp. Two months back, in October, he went out to ease himself at 3.00 a.m. While he was in his compound some IPKF soldiers jumped into the compound and shot at him, saying he was an LTTE. He was left there injured and unnoticed, but. the soldiers jumped over the fence and went on their way.
The wife, who could not afford to hire a car, nonetheless hired one and took him to Point Pedro hospital. He had received two bullet injuries, one near his shoulder and another in his stomach. He looked pale and lost. He was so depressed that he could hardly talk about the incident. Such people hardly know what is going on in the world. They are people, who struggle hard to earn a little to support their families. That is their world. They simply attribute such misfortunes to fate. Thangarajahs main fear is that he may be disabled and thus prevented from supporting his family.[Top]
Vadivelu Murugesan, 24 years old, is a resident of Polygamdi and is married with a 2 year old daughter. He is a carpenter and has his workshop at Athiarnalai, two miles from his residence. On that day there was a clash between LTTE boys and IPKF soldiers. There was tension in that area. Vadivelu and his colleagues who work together in that shop closed up their shop and hurried to get back to their homes. While they were going, they met another group of IPKF soldiers who came in the opposite direction from Thondamanaru VallaiVeli. They caught these people, took them into a house and gave them a severe beating, without any word being uttered. Vadivelu and his colleagues pleaded. Later they were ordered to go out. While they started walking one soldier shot Vadivelu in both his legs. Later another group of soldiers came from Valvettitural and took him to their camp. He was then bandaged and they left him in the Oorani hospital. The relatives later took him to Point Pedro hospital. He fears that though one of his fractured legs may be alright, in the other leg the thigh bone is very badly smashed and he will be crippled throughout his life. When asked how he was managing, his reply was that they are managing with the small quantity of jewels which the daughter and mother have. He was an active member of the Newton Sports Club, which contributes 1000 rupees to the needs of affected members. he does not have any other income. He has not got even the refugee relief paid by the government. The IPKF never inquired into what happened, nor does it seem to care.[Top]
A grenade was thrown by the LTTE at IPKF soldiers, while they were patrolling along a lane in Pannaikacidal around 8 oclock in the morning. Later the IPKF admitted that three soldiers died on the spot. As usual the place was surrounded by the IPKF soldiers from neighbouring camps. The people were in a panic and some who ran to their backyards and down their lanes were attacked.
Among the victims was one Rajendran. He was shot on his buttocks and was bleeding. He has a pharmacy at Nelliady, and luckily among the soldiers who came that way one was known to him at Nelliady. He spoke to the other soldiers and left him with his people. The others were taken away. He could not be taken to the hospital until 4 oclock in the evening. He was still in hospital at Christmas.
A group of soldiers who came in the opposite direction saw some people going down the lane and shot at nearly 12 of the youths and took them in.
Several of them were injured in the legs and in the back. Many of them are poor. All those who were rounded up were kept in a common place. Aingaran, Karunanithy Masters son, who was a CTB worker aged 22, was one
among them. He must have remembered how the IPKF beat the people. He thought of escaping, and tried to run away. He was shot dead by a soldier. The soldiers showed some remorse by releasing immediately his brother, who was also taken in by them.
Many were released the following day, but those who had received gunshot injuries were not released but were subject to more interrogation.
Nanthakumar was shot in the back and continued bleeding. He showed signs of severe torture. His legs have burn marks from being given electric shocks. He said the experience was as though he was dying, but did not die. He was still in hospital at the end of the year. He is relied upon by the mother as breadwinner and counsellor. His father left the family when he was young. Nanthakumar looks after his brothers and sisters on his small income at a bakery. He looked dazed and lost when we met him. The main reason for his anxiety was his brother, who was taken along with him and was not released since then. The latest word on his brother, by the IPKF to his mother, was that while he was being taken to Killinochchi the truck got caught in a land-mine and Thillainathan, his brother, died. But the people near that area told the mother that they believed that Thillainathan died while he was beaten, and was buried near the camp.[Top]
Sivaganeshan Somasunderam, 20 years old, is a school leaver who could not sit for the 0-level examinations due to the Sri Lankan army operations at Vadamarachi. He has now joined his father in fishing.
On December 7th 1988, while he was going towards Point Pedro to eat Rotti, he was asked by a young pedestrian that he too would like to join him, as the bus service was very poor in that area, and this being a
common practice in these parts. While they were going towards Point Pedro they saw some soldiers coming in the opposite direction on foot patrol. Immediately, out of panic, the boy who joined him extracted cyanide capsule; broke it and swallowed it. He fell down, got into a fit of shivering and slowly died. The IPKF came into the scene and without asking any question beat Sivaganeshan, accusing him of being an LTTE member. The soldiers were Hindi speaking and could not understand Sivaganeshans plea. Two soldiers held his stretched arms and another soldier came close to him and shot at him thrice. One hit his neck and he was bleeding. He then fainted. Then came a truck into which he was thrown. The dead body of the other boy was then thrown on top of him. Then he sighed out of pain. On hearing this a Tamil speaking officer asked, Boy are you still alive? Dont worry, I am here to help you. He then went to the front. The Hindi soldiers were rude to him, then kicked him to assuage their anger.
He was half conscious when he was taken to the camp. When the commander appeared, he shouted with all his strength that he was innocent. lie was then given immediate medical attention, and was then taken to hospital. He is not yet recovered, but the parents have an additional fear, since the IPKF came and wanted to have the boy back once he is recovered. The boy was also very nervous and uncertain about his future.[Top]
The general feeling created in the public mind by the attitude and behaviour of the IPKF and its associates is that whoever is even a mild supporter of the LTTE will be killed. This has perhaps: resulted in several unnecessary deaths on both sides. When cornered, the usual feeling of an LTTE cadre is that he has no other option but to tight to the death.
The following incident illustrates the point. It took place at Navalady, an area in Alval, a place next to Nelliady.
Mohan, a young boy, who had been promoted to be the LTTEs area leader, was hiding in Alvai. He had been hiding in houses of. his supporters. The girl with whom he was talking when the place was surrounded is believed to have been his cirifriend. As soon as he sensed it, he hid himself behind a cupboard inside the house. An IPKF man, believed to be an officer and two other EPRLF boys entered the room, and one of the EPRLF boys asked him to come out. In reply1 Nohan threw a grenade. The IPKF man, an EPRLF cadre and Mohan are reported to have died in that grenade blast. The other EPRLF cadre was very badly injured below his hip, and was later admitted to hospital. Nohans girlfriend was reportedly killed in the shooting that followed.[Top]
Mr. Kandasamy (65 yrs), a senior citizen of Udupiddy, was at home with his daughter at 5.30 pun. on 25th December when four gunmen appeared. Two waited outside and two came inside and identified themselves as LTTE. They said that they were after shooting some persons in Valvettiturai. and expressed their intention of doing the same to Mr. Kanciasamy. His daughter knelt in front of him and pleaded with the gunmen. Nat heeding this plea, the gunmen shot Mr. Kandasaxny dead and went away.
Mr. Kandasarny was a trustee of the Udupiddy Pillayar Kovil. where he spent his evenings, and was not known for any militant-related activity. Perhaps he was a victim of times when even relatives of those having militant connections are becoming affected. Some of the most painfully affected are families with different members belonging to rival groups.
The press later reported that two dead bodies were found in Valvettiturai.
At 6.10 a.m. on the morning of 26th December, Mr. Kugaprakasam (40 yrs), a trader at Nelliady, was in town. Others, about eight of them, waiting at Nelliady junction were passengers and their friends, waiting for the Colombo bus. Two youths, identified as EPRLF cadres from Nelliady, made for Kugaprakasam, who began shaking and protesting in fear. A bicycle was commandeered from a man who had brought his daughter for the Colombo bus, and Kugaprakasam was asked to get onto the pillion. One EPRLF cadre rode
with Kugaprakasam and the other came along on another bicycle. They rode past the IPKF sentry point towards Vathiri junction. At Vathiri junction they shot at him. Observing this one of Kugaprakasams friends, who
happened to be there, screamed. The two gunmen quickly went away. Kugaprakasam, who had received a few gunshot injuries, told his friend who came to his aid, that he would be airight, but to hire a car and quickly get him to hospital. This was done. But half an hour after being admitted, he died.
It should be noted that Kugaprakasam was taken past an IPKF sentry, and along the way he had been heard pleading that he had a wife and children. But hardly anyone dared to come out and protest.
The traders at Nelliady had formerly been importuned for funds by the
LTTE. The LTTE too had reportedly warned them against giving money to the
EPRLF. Kugaprakasam was formerly treasurer to the Nelliady traders
association. Mr. Ponnampalam, the last secretary, has reportedly gone to Canada as a refugee. Kugaprakasams mother went to meet the IPKF
commander at Nelliady the following morning. When she was unable to get through, a well-wisher told her that the IPKF will not provide an interpreter when they wished to avoid an issue. She was advised to come back with someone who could speak English. But, given the state of fear, this was bound to be a task with hardly any takers. The mother then gave vent to her grief at the junction by crying and throwing sand about.[Top]
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