TRINCOMALEE & THE SWORD OF CAIN
What follows below are accounts of a series of killings ranging from August 1988 to February 1993. These killings though tenuously linked as individual incidents, are intimately associated with the baneful and ruinous flow of events, and particularly so for Trincomalee. The actors wielding guns, who either to satiate the caprice of the hour, or with a remoter calculation in view, take a life, however valued in its time. Once the life is ended, the world will, the killers usually suppose, go on as though it never existed. Peace makers too with quick fixes in view, often, adopt this line in the name of pragmatic calculations dealing with the balance of good. The people rendered powerless are often against their judgement, left with no other option. But such assumptions cannot ever hold. Unless justice is done to the dead, the poison remains submerged, eating away the social fabric in secret places. Indeed, the killers were themselves often victims of the tide of events. By putting these down, we hope, in a small way, to do justice to the dead and give some insight into how Trincomalee lost some of her promising sons in a politics tending towards auto-genocide.
Note: Cain was the son of Adam, the first man in the Judaic tradition, who killed his brother Abel.[Top]
Vijayanathan was amoong the foremost sons of Tricomalee marked out by unshakeable honesty and forthrightness. These gave him an appearance of rigidity in a world where flexibility had come to mean being economical with principles. He was among the first to protest when confronted with something unfair and was in turn tireless in the pursuit of justice. As much as people admired him, they were also bemused by his energy.
Vijayanathan's social concern led to his involvement in several voluntary organisations, including the Young Men's Hindu Association (YMHA). The phase of the conflict following the arrival of the IPKF placed the Tamils in the East, particularly in Tricomalee, in a severe dilemma. Vijayanathan, like most community leaders believed that the IPKF presence must be used to stabilise the position of Tamils who had previously suffered massive displacement.
But Vijayanathan in no sense compromised with inhuman behaviour by members of the IPKF. An officer by the name of Andrew thrust a boy named Manivannan from Kumburupiddy into a pit containing a python (boa constrictor). He was pulled out after a week and sent home, where he died shortly after arrival. Vijayanathan was furious and told Andrew in no uncertain terms that Lord Konesar would punish him for his action. That was Vijayanathan.
About mid-August 1988, the IPKF began assisting Tamils displaced from Pankulam by Sri Lankan forces to resettle in their lands. On 17th August, unarmed IPKF soldiers went into the nearby jungles with men from Pankulam to cut branches so as to make poles that would make up temporary shelter for returning refugees. The LTTE sneaked in and shot dead about six unarmed soldiers. Subsequently several refugees were beaten and rehabilitation ceased.
Pankulam folk went to Trincomalee and informed Vijayanathan as the president of the citizens' committee. Vijayanathan was critical of the LTTE and indicated to the refugees that they too were to blame, as the LTTE could not have stalked the area without their knowledge. A senior official of the citizens' committee who was present asked Vijayanathan whether he should not have been more cautious. Vijayanathan responded dismissively that what needed to be said ought to be said.
There was another event which also took place during these dangerous days. From mid 1986 the LTTE was regularly visiting NGOs, monitoring their receipt and disbursement of funds, and also suggesting projects for them. The LTTE thus exercised de facto control over large NGO funds. Following the war with the IPKF in October 1987 the LTTE's ability to operate in urban areas became seriously limited. It was here that the EROS came into the act.
Since the LTTE attacked the TELO in mid-1986, there were considerable sections in the EROS that opposed the leadership's inclination to dance to the LTTE's tune. The leadership ignored these sections and became sniffer dogs for the Tigers. It was in these circumstances that Kanthasamy of the TRRO was abducted by the EROS, who then disappeared. Kanthasamy, on a visit to Trinco a short time earlier, had given Vijayanathan Rs1 lakh and had asked him to use it whenever an emergency arose. Vijayanathan took it on condition that it would be kept in a savings deposit and used only on express instructions from Kanthasamy. When the EROS came sniffing for the money, Vijayanathan put them off by saying it was not his to touch.
On 18th August 1988, the day following the Pankulam
incident, Vijayanathan was sent a message saying that a militant group
wanted to talk to him in Kanniya, a couple of miles west of Trinco. He was taken
to Kanniya on the pillion of motor cycle by a lad well known to him. A number
of persons in Trinco have said that the group concerned was the LTTE.
Vijayanathan, though outspoken was cautious. Had the EROS or a pro-Indian
group wanted to talk to him, he would not have easily budged from Trincomalee
town where they openly operated. Vijayanathan too disappeared. [Top]
Guheendiran was born on 2nd February 1966 and at the age of 2 became a sufferer from tuberculosis of the spine. For the next 4 years the parents devoted every possible attention towards his cure. He was taken to a number of specialists starting with Dr. Anton Mariathasan. Finally he was treated and cured at Trincomalee hospital by the team of Dr. Duraisingam, surgeon, who is now in Australia. Guhendiran was in one bed for 22 months. His mother was with him by day, and his father, a senior civil servant, by night. For about an year, Guhendiran's neighbour on an adjoining bed was an old man from Muthur with a leg amputated and facing the prospect of losing the other as well. The old man, who later died, had become Guhendiran's close friend. The man's dying wish was that when Guhendiran became cured, he should go to the Hindu temple at Verugal and perform a vow. Guhendiran was six when he was cured and was then under observation for an year.
His parents regarded him a son who was brought back to life by God and spoke of him as God's child. The ceremonies at Verugal were duly performed as wished by Guhendiran's late companion. Owing to a heavy dose of antibiotics administered, Guhendiran continued to suffer from a tendency to obesity. His diet was therefore closely monitored by his mother, who prepared special food for him.
During the mid-80s Guhendiran's elder brother Babu went to the University of Jaffna as a medical student and was boarded with friends of the family. This was the time government backed violence in Tricomalee was at a peak. About a year later, Babu's parents were told by his guardian that he felt disturbed by the company Babu was keeping. His mother wrote to him discreetly, "Son, you come from among people faced with great difficulties. Should you not set your mind on your studies?" Babu replied, "Mother, during ancient times in our great tradition, Tamil mothers used to tell their sons, `Son, be a great warrior and I will be proud of you'. Now you tell me, `Son, study and be a doctor'. Mother, do tell me, your son, `Be a warrior'. Then my mind will be at peace". That was the last they heard from Babu. Babu dropped out of his medical studies, joined the LTTE and received the name `Ravi'.
Then came in October 1987 the war between the LTTE and the IPKF and a bitter bout of fratricide involving militant divisions. This rose to further heights when groups in the provincial administration felt more insecure following President Premadasa's call for a departure of the IPKF.
On 26th August 1989, Guhendiran was abducted near the Moor Street Mosque junction in Trincomalee by two militants said to belong to the EPRLF. Guhendiran being well known in Trincomalee, the progress of his abduction was widely observed. He was conducted through Green Road, Mudaliyar Street and Vanniya Street. Guhenthiran's father then being away from Trinco, his mother Balamaheswari went to Major Sharma of the IPKF and complained. His father, being an experienced administrator, had been consulted by very senior IPKF men on a number of occasions, who also knew him well. As soon as he got back to Trinco, he, with his wife, went to Major Kumaon, secretary to the brigadier with a written appeal and asked for an interview which was granted. But the IPKF in practice seemed far less eager to help him than they were to use him when it suited them. An appeal was also made through Dr. K. Vigneswaran, secretary to Chief Minister Varadarajaperumal of the NEPC, but to no avail.
Feeling utterly distraught, the couple went to the Sri Lankan police. A concerned Tamil sergeant called the father aside and asked him, "Iyah, can you go and stay peacefully in your house after complaining to us?" The idea was dropped. For all practical purposes Guhenthiran had disappeared.
The parents saw Ravi for the first and the last time since his joining the LTTE during the 3 months between the IPKF pull-out and the commencement of the war of June 199O. It was a brief meeting during which little was said. Following the outbreak of war the Sri Lankan army placed a sentry point just outside Guhenthiran's house. A captain told the soldiers that it was a Tiger house. At the start the parents were humiliated and ordered to keep their doors and windows open all the time. After an year the sentry point was removed. Even friends are now reluctant to visit them unless they are old.
The passing of Guhenthiran is something the parents
can hardly come to terms with: "He was such an innocent boy of delicate
health whom everyone knew and loved. God cured him and gave him life. Now he
has taken him away. We have surrendered him to God and perform all temple ceremonies
on his birthday as if he were alive. We have mostly withdrawn from social and
public life, except for going to the temple. People too are scared and generally
avoid us. We understand their plight and do not blame anyone." [Top]
From the time Gnanasekaran was a dental student at the University of Ceylon (Peradeniya) he was known to be both unselfish and socially concerned. His idealism led him to identify with the EPRLF. Later owing to disagreements over the conduct of the group he left the EPRLF. The rise of the LTTE placed him in a delicate position.
Gnanasekaran associated with the TDYMHA and became a prominent channel of NGO funding. It is believed that he had, to safeguard himself, reached some passive understanding with the LTTE - an almost routine occurence for those in NGO work.
The EPRLF had asked Gnanasekaran to be their candidate for the February 1989 parliamentary elections. The offer was declined. Gnanasekaran, it is believed, had decided that, under the circumstances, it was best for him to distance himself from militant groups and make his contribution in social work.
On 3Oth September 1989, ten days after the IPKF had announced its pull-out, members of the EPRLF met him in the morning on his way to work and gave a him a note with the message that some of their leaders wished to talk to him. Gnanasekaran gave them a scribbled message at the back of the note given to him, to say that his heavy routine did not allow a meeting. When Gnanasekaran went for lunch in the afternoon, he was abducted by militants on bicycles and taken away, never to be seen again.
A social worker who knew Gnanesekaran well testified that he was a most singular human rights activist. He did an additional degree in Law so that he could make representations without incurring exorbitant legal costs. When he took witnesses to Colombo, while looking after others he drove himself hard and severely limited his personal expenses (i.e. Rs 1O/- per day for food - about Rs 3O/- today). He personally visited scenes of violations in disguise - such as that of an ice-cream vendor.
Uppuveli was a prosperous Tamil suburb, from which people were in 1985 being progressively evicted by means of terror. There was an incident where the Sri Lankan forces locked up people in a house and exploded a device inside. Five were killed and several others injured. Gnanasekaran was instrumental in taking 14 of the civilians involved to Colombo as witnesses. During 1986, in Peruveli in the Muthur area, the Sri Lankan army in one of its massacres killed and burnt about 45 refugees. Gnanasekaran promptly visited the area to collect evidence - something very dangerous at that time. The social worker also added that Gnanasekaran had also actively worked for the coming of the IPKF.
A young member of a literary group gave another side of Gnanasekaran. According to him, Gnanasekaran's commitment and integrity made him a major channel of NGO funding for local concerns. This nudged him into a balancing act requiring both considerable skill and luck. He maintained a close relationship with Robert, an ENDLF member of the North-East Provincial Council. Though the ENDLF was a pro‑Indian group fighting a bitter battle for survival with the LTTE, Robert was not reputed to be a strong party-man. Robert is described as a Left wing intellectual who could maintain a relationship on the basis of an exchange of ideas.
As to the literary group concerned, it was in a difficult environment and was lacking in funds to continue. According to this member, Gnanasekaran had approached them and offered to find the funds, provided they would carry material that is favourable to the LTTE. The group decided to suspend publication indefinitely.
After long administrative experience, Ganeshalingam retired as AGA, Town and Gravets. As a man anxious to do something for Trincomalee, he, among many able administrators, joined the provincial administration formed at the end of 1988, as secretary to the ministry of rehabilitation. Towards the end of 1989 when pro-IPKF groups were preparing for an exit, the ENDLF, it is said, sought funds from his ministry. Ganeshalingam declined to be party to handing over such funds on the grounds that it contravened financial regulations. On the morning of 28th January 199O a gun man entered his house and killed him. An IPKF guard was in front. Ganeshalingam's personal bodyguard, a member of the ENDLF, had then been in the toilet, leaving his pistol on the bed. The killer, it is surmised, had come from the back of the house.
The following day Sathananthajothy, GS/Sambaltivu,
was shot dead, reportedly by a pro-Indian group. In the minds of the local people
the two murders are linked. The identity of Ganeshalingam's killers is
said to depend on whether the second murder was a reprisal or a cover up. [Top]
George was an activist even as a student at St. Joseph's Institution, Trincomalee, and later joined the EPRLF-a popular phenomenon among Eastern students in the early 8Os. The EPRLF dispersed following its proscription by the LTTE in December 1986. George and other local leaders of the EPRLF, such as Dikka, arrived with the IPKF in August 1987.
Over the years Tamils, subject to attacks from mobs backed by the forces, had abandoned premises in Market Street and Central Road. Main Street marked the new communal border. Tamils were now west of Main Street. Following the arrival of the IPKF there was some localised communal violence in this area. During this commotion in early August 1987, George and Dikka arrived in a CTB bus with an EPRLF party and faced the Sri Lankan police at Sivan Kovil Junction. At this point de Silva, Superintendant of Police and Richard Wijesekera, ASP, arrived in a jeep. The IPKF too was present. The SP who knew George as a boy, his father having been a policemen, summoned him, "Thambirajah, come here". George said that he would not move until the police withdrew east of Central Road. The IPKF persuaded the police to comply. Richard Wijesekara evidently never forgave George this humiliation. Dikka was killed by the LTTE later in 1987 in the course of events marked by killing and counter-killing.
The circumstances in which the EPRLF and associated groups were asked by India to run the N-E Provincial Council led to a sharp downward spiral in their fortunes. [See Reports 1,2,& 3]. The tragedy comes through strongly in the fate of George during this period.
Faced with running the provincial council, the government placed hurdles in their way from the start. A council was `elected', but was lacking even office space. Officialdom in Trincomalee too was obstructive and was reluctant to provide facilities unless instructed by Colombo. The EPRLF tried to imitate the LTTE in their manner of dealing with people without the corresponding legitimacy, and thus opened themselves to progressive alienation. The result was a form of self destructive insanity.
To find space for the provincial council, George went to a government office and asked for the premises. The head refused. George ordered the head to be bodily loaded into a truck together with his desk and driven away. With a series of government offices cleared the provincial council began its functions in commandeered premises. The move had the support of many ordinary people in Trincomalee.
To sabotage the working of the provincial administration, the LTTE sent warning letters to heads of departments and commercial institutions asking them not to open their premises. George went about reopening these institutions with a mixture of counter - threat and cajolery and succeeded without too many hard feelings.
In administrative matters, despite their youth and inexperience the EPRLF showed considerable maturity. The best Tamil public servants were chosen irrespective of their past associations, and were allowed complete freedom in the exercise of their judgement. Munsoor, the secretary of education, was one against whom, in his capacity of director of education, George, then a student at St. Joseph's, used to put up wall posters.
Several people in Trincomalee describe that period as a golden era when Trincomalee was transformed from a sleepy town into an administrative centre, with masses of office employees going to work. Compared with their killings elsewhere, where provicial council employees were concerned, the EPRLF and other groups, it is said, observed considerable restraint. Those suspected of supplying the LTTE with information on a regular basis were often warned by George and let off.
From mid-1989 the LTTE becoming more active with material help and political backing from the Sri Lankan government. The IPKF gave indications of withdrawal and the of the EPRLF and other groups began forced conscription for the ill-fated Tamil National Army(TNA). This further queered the pitch and sent these groups into a panic stricken frenzy. George's state of mind is illustrated by what he told a friend, "I know the LTTE will one day get me. Before then I will make sure that many of them would go down with me". In this state of obsessive vindictiveness the EPRLF reached a new low where it went for innocent boys like Guhendiran (see above), a member of whose family was in the LTTE. Moreover it could not cope with an essentially decent fellow like Gnanesekaran whom its leaders well knew.
On 9th January 199O George was travellling to Nilaweli in his jeep with the customary IPKF escort behind. The LTTE, firing from a distance, stalled George's vehicle. George was killed while trying to get away on foot. The IPKF reportedly did not intervene to save him.
George and Dikka were two more tragedies in a `liberation struggle' where the youthful energies of thousands were misdirected and wasted.
For those who lost near ones for which George is held responsible, there is no forgiving him. One senior citizen said, "He was a good boy. But with the onset of his role in the provincial administration, he changed for the worse." Another said of him, "George was a dedicated leader in many ways. When he came back to Trincomalee with the IPKF, he placed the well-being of the cadre under him first. He drank plain-tea and ate poorly. In the nights he often kept watch while others slept. If he wanted position, such as that of a minister, he could have taken it. But he did not crave for power". A senior administrator who had observed George and Dikka over a long period said, "These boys had several good qualities and the IPKF could have used them positively. Instead the IPKF used them as killers and destroyed them."
6.6. Early 199O: The Uppuveli incident: The >IPKF was preparing to leave Trincomalee, with its allied groups preparing to decamp with them. That was the situation at the ENDLF camp in Uppuveli. The camp had a number of cadre who had caught a debilitating tropical infection and were convalescing. The LTTE attackers under Daya came by sea. Hardly meeting any resistance they killed over ten ENDLF memebers groaning in sickness, loaded the captured weapons into boats and set off. One of the heavily laden boats capsied - it being the north-east monsoon - and about 22 LTTE men, including senior persons, were drowned. To many in Trincomalee, it was divine judgement. One of the two who survived promptly left the LTTE.[Top]
Having lost her husband in January, Sakuntala returned to her native place of Trincomalee after the outbreak of war in June 199O. Life was not easy for her. Once she was reportedly mocked by policemen at a sentry point and she had told them back in strong terms. This was also the time people were disappearing in Trincomalee. One day about Septemebr 1990, she was going along Court Road with another lady when she was bundled into a bus which came that way, and was not seen again.
Brigadier Lucky Wijeratne was informed, and many believe he tried hard to get her released. He had in fact invited Sakuntala to serve on the citizens' committee. People also believed Lucky Wijeratne to be above skull-duggery for personal reasons. The fact the he could not release her, they conclude, points to Richard Wijesekera, Superintendent of Police, as her abductor. The reason is attributed to her late husband Geoge's confrontation with the police soon after the IPKF arrived - in August 1987.
Wijesekera is also believed to be the cause of the disappearance of the entire Bhavan family later that year. Bhavan was a hotel owner who had lodged a complaint for misdemeanor against Wijesekera the previous year, and an inquiry was reportedly ordered. Bhavan reportedly withdrew the complaint after Wijesekera entreated him. The family was abducted one night about December 199O. The disappeared included six children of Bhavan, including a girl who attained age about 14 days previously, and an elderly sister of Bhavan's. Wijeratne and Wijesekera were killed in a landmine explosion in December 199O.
6.8. Uthayarani - Dikka's wife: 26th February 1993: Dikka's wife Uthayarani continued to live in Trincomalee following her husband's death. It is said that members of the forces used to make conversation with her as often happens. To one section this made her a loose woman who got what she deserved. One charitable senior citizen advised her to take a break in Colombo. Uthayarani lived in Colombo for over a year, married and returned home to Sambaltivu with her second husband Iqbal - a trader in sundry goods. The couple lived with Uthayarani's parents Mr & Mrs. V. Sellathurai.
On 26th February 1993, shortly before 1O.OO A.M, the LTTE entered the house and dragged the young couple out. An LTTE man stepped on Uthayarani's feet and stuffed cloth into her mouth and prepared to take them away. Old Mr. Sellathurai came out and remonstrated, "Are you not also Tamils, why are you doing this to us?" The old man was assaulted. He then followed the young couple as they were taken away and turned back upon being threatened.
A distraught Sellathurai can be regularly sighted in Sambaltivu taking his goats to the pasture. His daughter and son-in-law were tied to the lamp - post in front of the local school
and were shot dead a few minutes after being taken away. They were succeeded by their 8 months old infant.[Top]
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