5.1 Jaffna Report
5.1.1 Attacks on civilians by remote delivery
Air attack on civilians crossing Jaffna Lagoon
Shell attack on Jaffna Town: 15th March 1994
June 11th to 13th 1994:
5.1.2 Health conditions in Jaffna
5.1.3 The Regime
5.1.4 Expatriates, Australian visas and visas to Vavuniya
5.2 Developments in South Vanni
5.3 Report on the District of Mannar
5.4 15th March 1994: Kudiraimalai: The massacre of Sinhalese fishermen.
5.4.1 Background :
5.4.2 Immediate causes of the incident :
5.4.3 The massacre & its aftermath.
5.4.4 A week afterwards :
Between 1st October 1993 and 6th January 1994 93 civilians were killed in aerial attacks, land based shelling and attacks on fishermen at sea. Well over 200 civilians were injured. Shells or bombs fell into the ICRC controlled safety zone around Jaffna Teaching Hospital at least 3 times. A Hindu temple in Varani was completely destroyed. At least 45 civilians died in bombing in and around churches - St. James Jaffna: 19th November, near St.James again 5th December, Chavakacheri American Mission Church and Town Centre: 30th December 1993.
The apparent reason for bombing near St.James on 5th December when 23 civilians were killed was a protest march two days earlier over the bombing of 19th November.
During the same period bombs fell in the vicinity of 4 hospitals in the North (Jaffna, Manipay, Killinochchi and Mullaitivu). The maternity ward at Killinochchi hospital was hit on 15th November 1993 killing 2. The pilot had apparently thought that a tank captured by the LTTE during the Pooneryn attack was in the area. From 6th January 1994 to March end at least 19 (11 at sea) have been killed for the same reasons in and around the Jaffna peninsula (January: 2 (at sea), February: 4 (2 at sea), March: 13 (7 at sea)) and at least 38 were injured. Of the 19, one or two died as the result of aerial attacks during the second half of February. Shells fired from Mandativu again fell twice within the Jaffna Teaching Hospital safety zone during January.
On 15th and 16th February, about the time the new Air Chief assumed duties Puccara Aircraft dropped a total of 15 bombs on Nochchikudah, on the west coast of Killinochchi District. Two men and two women were killed and ten seriously injured were taken to Jaffna via Jaffna Lagoon. Since the Pooneryn attack of November, travel across Jaffna Lagoon has generally been without incident.
A notable exception was 26th February, a week after the new Air Chief pledged to fight a clean war. The crossing which commenced at 7.30 P.M. had almost been completed. It was the day after full moon. The SLAF does not attack on full moon days because of its sanctity for the Buddhists, and when all meat stalls are closed - previously the only guaranteed safe day for crossing the lagoon. At 10.00 P.M. one of the last 10 boats south was mid-way across the lagoon when a helicopter appeared and opened fire. The boat was hit and two were slightly injured. The boatman zig zagged and continued his journey. 15 minutes latter Puccara aircraft appeared and commenced bombing over the entire area.
Strangely, a team of Methodist churchmen with MoD approval was at the tractor point at Nallur, waiting to go by tractor and board north bound boats to Kilaly. They had sought MoD permission to take along with them 3 German church folk from Dortmund and had also got approval for their white van. The aircraft fired rockets at the van and missed. Passengers in a tractor that had just started, stopped the tractor and took shelter under the trailer to watch the fireworks on either side of them. Although a high death toll was initially feared and 3 boats reported missing, in the final count one or perhaps two had died. One was a lady reported to have fallen into snake pit while runnig for safety and was bitten. The bags of several passengers who had run for safety had been stolen.
The Colombo press published the MoD version which claimed that aircraft had moved in after the LTTE fired at the helicopter from the sea. According to a reliable witness in the boat first attacked by the helicopter, there was no firing from the ground (sea) and the LTTE was not in the vicinity at that time. Others also said that they became aware of trouble only when attacked from the air. The general consensus was that it was a planned attack using visibility provided by the near - full moon.
Five shells fired by the army from Mandativu fell in Jaffna Town at 10.30 A.M. on this day killing four. Though a routine kind of incident, it was also the day the LTTE massacred Sinhalese fishermen off Kudiramalai. Any connection however is very hypothetical. One shell hit the top of a lamp post in Rasavinthottam near the Holy Family Convent and exploded spraying shrapnel. It was at that instant that Mrs. Indranee Paranthaman (53) was at the gate receiving Dr. Suntharam Sivayogasundaram (56), a veterinary surgeon who had come to treat her cow. 0ne of the formers 4 children, a daughter Gowri(19) and Mr. Pulendran(59) a passer by were also killed. Three others received injuries through shell explosions, including Mrs. Sinnathurai(80), mother of Mrs. Paranthaman. Such inncidents are routine.
This period saw an intensification of shelling which was also random. The areas affected were Valalai, Idaikkadu, Atchuveli and the coastal area near Jaffna town. During this period several church festivals were taking place in the latter area. The people believe that the shellings were delibrately timed for the festivals. Some of the incidents are:
11th June, Saturday 2 a.m: Gurnagar shelled. Three persons killed: Seran Niroji (4), Ushanthini Sindhu (8) and Rohini Gallister Suresh (15). The dead were sleeping in the same house. Six others were injured.
On the night of the same day shells fell about the Bishops House at St.Patricks. The building of the social service organisation HUDEC was damaged.
12 th June Sunday : Shells were fired into the Gurunagar market at 8.00 a.m when the market was active. Three were killed and thirty injured.
On the same morning two shells fell in the primises of St. Anthonys, Passayoor, where the church festival was being celebrated. The shells failed to explode.
13th June 5.00 p.m: Passayoor shelled again. Four were injured including a pregnant woman.
People in the Gurunagar, Koddadadi and Passayoor areas are moving out. Those around Atchuveli are moving towards Avarankal and Puththur.
Among the worst affected by shortages and general deprivation are the poor, unemployed and refugees whose resistance is comonly low. The latter often live in crowded temporary hamlets on vacant lands which are also subject to flooding during rains. The common ailments are malaria and typhoid. Cholera has disturbingly made its appearance after being unknown in Jaffna for much of this century. Some infectious ailments resulting in fever are said to be undiagnosable and in some varieties lead to certain death. This caused panic in affected areas.
Some of the monthly accounts filed by SCF, the reporting NGO for Jaffna District are strongly reminiscent of 19th century administrative reports from parts of the dry zone where illness and high death rates were endemic:
January 1994 : Cholera seems to have reached a plateau in most areas but is increasing more rapidly in Pt Pedro. Total admissions as on 31/1/94 1155. There hasbeen a sharp rise in the number of malaria cases, including a number which are Chloroquine resistant. Anti-malaria drugs were out of stock at the end of the month, and Malathion had not arrived. The RDHS had not received the supply of drugs and medicines for the first quarter ..
February 1994: The RDHS received the first quarters drugs this month in addition to 50 barrels of Malathion. Cholera remains a problem in the Pt Pedro area and one school was temporarily closed. Incidence of malaria and septicaemia is still high particularly among children leading to 34 deaths in the paediatric ward of Jaffna Teaching Hospital (JTH) this month.
NGOs implementing the RFG (German aid) programme are now several months behind because of restrictions on transportation of project materials from Colombo......
Permanent water and sanitation facilities cannot presently be constructed so that public health, especially amongst the displaced population, will continue to be a perennial problem. [The number displaced is given as 8968 families of 37 767 persons in camps, and 70 866 families of 226 568 persons outside camps. Total 79, 834 families of 264 335 persons].
March 1994: Cholera continues to decline. However, incidence of malaria is still high, particularly in Vadamaratchi and Thenmaratchi. According to JTH there have been 1244 positive malarial cases this year..... 68 children have died of septicaemia this year which health officials say is symptomatic of a lowered level of resistance among vulnerable groups within the population. .....With the onset of the dry season there has been an increased incidence of snake bite leading to the JTH running out of anti-snake venom...
If the people have not gone under, it is little thanks to the authorities in the South or to their liberators. But much credit must go to the dedication of the staff of JTH, Pt Pedro and other satellite institutions. Those intimately familiar with Jaffna and with hospitals in the South have commented on the commitment of staff in the former and the corruption that prevails in many hospitals in the South - where not infrequently drugs and facilities provided by the government are used for private practice and profit. Those in the South begrudging anything going to Jaffna hospital argue that it is the best hospital in the Island, provided moreover by the government for the benefit of the Tigers. The widespread bombing, shelling and illness may also make JTH the most hard-pressed hospital in the Island. It may in some sense be the best hospital in the Island though poorly endowed with amenities. But that is inspite of the government and the Tigers.
As mentioned elsewhere there is no obvious armed presence on the streets. But the repression has become internalised. Experiences, fears and memories lie buried within. Vehicles with darkened panes travel unobtrusively about the streets. Mothers do get worried if children stay away too long after it is dark, although Jaffna is said to be free of crime.
Sometimes the peculiar internal politics of the LTTE spills over as a public event. Rumours are spread to rationalise the event and the matter is hushed up. Last year a bomb was thrown at the LTTEs intelligence chief Pottu Amman from which he escaped. Later the sensational arrest of Mahattaya and his supporters. More recently was the suicide of a member said to have been very close to the Leader after he went into hiding and a chase launched to apprehend him.
As for the large number of political prisoners held, the LTTE continues to put out contradictory statements. The Counterpoint (November 1993), was told by the LTTEs one time chief spokesman Anton Balasingam (present status not known) that Manoharan and Chelvi, two student detainees from Jaffna University, are alive and well. But since then no indication has been forthcoming.
While the communal violence of July 1983 was raging, a group of Tamil expatriates in Australia became very active in exposing the culpability of the Sri Lankan regime - a very legitimate activity. But the effective thrust of their campaign was not to help Tamils to live here with dignity, but for lenient terms on which their kith and kin could migrate to Australia, and in this they were successful. The less privileged sections being left behind no doubt became more vulnerable. This was the thrust in most Western countries. Copies of stories published in the foreign media, horrible and true no doubt, were circulated to thicken asylum applications. Nothing wrong in that. The fear was no doubt real.
Many of them settled down to live in the West and became strong advocates of the Tigers, perhaps to salve their consciences or to feel virile and militant amidst the reality of their humdrum existence. Having successfully negotiated their exit from this country, one effect of their pro-Tiger activity is to condemn their former compatriots in Jaffna to be denied even visas to Vavuniya by the Tigers. While their sons go to prestigious universities, school children in Jaffna are imposed upon, and given little choice but to join the Tigers and die for them, often in disillusionment, preferring to die rather than to live.
Living in this political environment amidst death rained on them by their government, with deteriorating infrastructure and conditions of health, many for a variety of reasons would like to take their children out. Not to Australia, but just to Colombo, Vavuniya or Trincomalee. But most of them are actually or effectively denied visas by the Tigers to make the journey to Vavuniya in the first instance. These people, if anything, should be commended by their compatriots in the West because they had stuck it out through many difficult years after 1983, and now the denial of their right to leave is being legitimised by many of those who had left.
There are many discrepancies in the way the Tigers operate granting of visas. The amenable elite are kept on very good terms and they could take their children out freely. In the course of their travels abroad, they could be trusted to reinforce the LTTEs propaganda, at least by what they fail to say. Then come the rich with capital outside Jaffna who could buy their way out, even giving their house to the Tigers. For the middle class there is the dilemma that if they surrender their house and belongings to the Tigers, they would have little capital left to earn and start life anew in Colombo. For the others there is no way they could go unless they had some special influence within the Tiger bureaucracy.
Many of these people are desperate to leave not for any selfish reasons, but for pressing reasons of health or because of family problems. We give a few typical instances.
*The father of the family, a government servant, was abducted by the police in June 1990 in the Polonnaruwa District, was murdered and burnt with 3 others. The wife in Jaffna never saw the body, underwent a terrible trauma and broke down. She went to Colombo for treatment and is now with two daughters, the eldest and youngest of her three children. Her son, a boy, is in Jaffna and has been refused permission by the Tigers to join the mother. This creates much anxiety in the family and hinders the mothers recovery.
*The father of the family is in Canada, the mother in Colombo with some of the children and two children in Jaffna who have been refused visas by the Tigers. The father wants the mother and two children in Colombo to join him in Canada as he cannot afford three establishments. But the mother refuses to go to Canada leaving her sons in Jaffna.
The daughter affected by the trauma of life in Jaffna broke down and came to Colombo for treatment. The mother is expected to stay in Jaffna with her youngest son, obstructing the daughters recovery.
Many of these problems arise from a high rate of breakdown in Jaffna and the Tigers wanting to make up in Jaffna their falling recruitment elsewhere [Chapter 6]. However highly the Tigers are praised by their expatriate supporters who relish their videos as part of family drawing room entertainment, their sons and daughters are not going to make up the shortfall in LTTE recruitment. There is a limit to which even the poor and alienated in this country could be driven. If they care even a little for their people, they should look for a healthier way to resolve this problem. They could start by demanding the right of people in Jaffna to obtain visas to Vavuniya as intently as the right of privileged Tamils to obtain visas to the West was pursued in the 80s.[Top]
In chapter 3 of the last report (No 12) we highlighted a general mood of disenchantment towards the LTTEs politics against pressure from the LTTE on villagers to join its volunteer force. Essentially, these are people with a collective mind with a memory of neglect going far back in time. With the onset of the militant struggle in the 80s and several massacres by the Sri Lankan forces, especially during 1984 & 85, the youth readily joined the various militant groups. The first of the major massacres was the Murungan massacre in the Autumn of 1984 in which more than 100 civilians were killed. As time went more than 200 Sinhalese residents were killed by militants in sporadic violence resulting in their displacement.
An element in the ethos of the people in the westerly part of this area is given in the 1921 Census Report: The mean infant mortality rate of 380 per mille for the decade is much the highest in Ceylon, being 184 per 1000 higher than the Island rate, and 50 higher than any other district rate. Weakness both of mothers and children due to malaria infection, insanitary habits,.... are the stated causes of this figure .... Deaths of women in childbirth are also excessive, and the following statement made in 1911 is probably still true: - This matter has now reached such a state that when a woman conceives she gives up all hope of successfully getting through the ordeal, and makes all future arrangements subject to that contingency. I think this hopelessness and fear are great contributing factors to this disastrous state of affairs.
By pushing them hard to the point of hopelessness the LTTE invoked a kind of opposition that was both instinctive and unpremeditated. The LTTE encountered few problems in dealing with the Church. But with the people it observed some caution. Its collection of 2 sovereigns of gold or the equivalent in cash, more or less compulsory in Jaffna irrespective of affordability, was only directed here at people rich by local standards. Such a person would be say a farmer who owned a tractor. Non payment exposed them to having the tractor borrowed by the LTTE and returned in a state where the repairs were far in excess of 2 sovereigns (Rs 10 000/-). But people found ways of resisting that as well. An elderly woman insisted that she could not pay. When the LTTE persisted, she said, I will write off a piece of my land to you. You sell it, take your Rs. 10 000/- and give me the balance. The LTTE rejected this and went away saying they would call again for the money. But they never returned. People also discovered that an effective means of controlling local LTTE leaders was to petition the Chief in Jaffna. The area leader around Parappankandal left his bicycle outside a shop and went inside to make some purchases. When he returned his head lamp and dynamo had been stolen. The young man in his late teens was almost at the point of tears of bewilderment. We seem to see elements of Wanni culture which so exasperated Dutch colonial rulers who found Jaffna smooth sailing.
A notable cause of displeasure among farmers which holds for the entire rural North under LTTE control is the effective monopoly maintained by the group on the purchase and distribution of rice. The group also controls transportation across Jaffna Lagoon to the major market in Jaffna. By means of this monopoly over the staple cereal the LTTE has been able to control the price of rice and make profits. But for the farmer it has often meant ruin. To start with, purchases by the LTTE are not well organised from the farmers point of view. When a private trader is involved the farmer sells quickly for a better price (about 20% more). Without even sacks to store paddy many farmers have paddy piled up on floors and attacked by rats.
Discipline among the cadre is also reportedly more lax than in Jaffna. A common practice among cadre is to exaggerate the number of bullets used and to retain some for their personal hunting. A cadre on a hunting expedition fired at his prey and accidentally shot dead a farmer in his field. The cadre was arrested and taken to Jaffna for disciplinary action.
Another means by which this disenchantment surfaces is common in Mannar and Vavuniya. Several villages on the frontline have decided to stay put if the army moved forward. There were recently rumours that the LTTE had ordered the people of Naruvalikkulam near Vankalai to vacate when an army thrust from Vankalai was thought imminent.
What alarmed the LTTE most seems to have been the large number of cadre from this area leaving the organisation even before the contract period of 5 years was ended. This means in general an obligatory punitive stint lasting a few months in lieu of service. This was brought home to the LTTE which sent cadre to put an end to an illicit liquor (Kasippu) brewing operation in the jungles near Madhu. What resulted was a near confrontation. The brewers turned out to be former LTTEers. Startled by this event, the LTTE summoned a meeting of ex-LTTE members at Madhu. The episode is said to have brought about a realisation that the numbers from that region leaving the organisation were comparable with, or perhaps greater than, the number joining.
Forthwith, recruitment and training for the Volunteer Force of people from that area was halted. It appears that it has been deemed unwise to train and arm large numbers whose commitment to the LTTEs cause was questionable. For the LTTE this was a consequence of abusing the people through an instrumental approach instead of raising their standards and maximising their human potential as a liberation struggle ought to do. [Top]
The district has had the misfortune to suffer from the baneful politics of the two warring parties. One aspect of this is the delight both sides seem to derive in hunting down fishermen of the other ethnic group. Where the district is concerned what is more disturbing is the lack of political perspective or direction on the part of the government. On the one hand an announcement earlier in the year that the ban on fishing in of the North was lifted was attributed to the Ministry of Rehabilitation and remained uncontradicted. The NGO community interpreted this as the MRR & SW trying to cut down on the burden of giving dry rations to families of fishermen in the North. It was also pointed out by others that the ban legally remained in force unless sanctioned by the Ministry of Defence. In fact everywhere in the North fishermen continued to be killed by the SL Navy. In Mannar of course fishermen were told by the army that they could fish. But no one was answerable if the Navy shot them. Some who believed that there was a relaxation paid with their lives.
The Navy stationed at Kalpitiya and unwilling to cover the part of the coast between Kudiramalai and Mannar Island were given a substitute drill. This was for two Navy boats to wait off Kudiramalai Point and stop all the boats proceeding from Kalpitiya to Mannar. After all are assembled a roll call is taken and the boats are allowed to resume travel. Passengers arriving in Mannar Island (a cleared area) after an additional 1 ½ hours wait in the sun are faced with another novelty. They need to stand, including women and infants, in two gruelling queues for what are effectively a customs check and immigration clearance. To someone who cannot look important enough and do some queue jumping the process may at times last two hours. Things are by comparison far more relaxed at Colombo Airport. There are even body checks. It is ironically like entering a separate state. The immigration and customs buildings were gifted as part of a UNHCR Micro Project costing a little under Rs 3 lakhs. The courtesy is erratic. A Muslim businessman carrying a small quantity of naphthalene balls to Mannar Island, had declared this on the form and had got it passed by the Navy at Kalpitiya. While being checked as he was boarding , the naphthalene balls were removed by a naval rating. When the businessman asked for them back on the grounds that approval had been obtained, he was badly assaulted by a petty officer. If one torch battery smuggled or inadvertently carried was discovered at either end, it would be treated as a significant battle won and a suitable justication for the entire rigmarole. As a result, with the town generator broken down for much of April, people living under government protection in Mannar were unable even to listen to government radio broadcasts. On the other hand batteries, though at a price, are freely available in LTTE controlled areas. All this is part of a trend of poor leadership, political indecision and drift.
1st April 1994: Kokkupadayan (Near Silavatturai) : During the IPKF presence the PLOTE had been in this village. Acting on the notion that the people had rejected them, the PLOTE cadre treated the people very badly through beating and general infliction of physical pain. Although there was some relief when the LTTE took over in January 1990, the people had become disillusioned with a struggle that had led to fratricide. Consequently, it is said that not a single youth from the village joined the LTTE and this was a sore point with the latter. As the war progressed, the people left for Madhu as refugees.
Following the pull-out of SL forces from Silavatturai about August 1993, several people decided to resume their vocation of fishing. Selvam was a partner with his elder brother. During 3 years at Madhu, the elder brother had done some trading and had meanwhile become physically unfit for a fisherman. But he provided the capital. At the dawn of 1st April many of these fishermen were fishing in a bay a few miles south of Arippu. Two SL Navy gun boats on patrol from Kalpitiya made a quick foray into the bay and opened fire at anything that caught their sight. The fishermen promptly left their boats and leapt into the sea. Thanks to a fog that had descended on the bay and had not lifted at that time, no one was hit. But unfortunately for Selvams brother, three years on land had deprived him of his stamina for swimming. Although Selvam made every effort to save him, the brother had taken in too much brine and died of asphyxia as he was brought ashore. Selvam took him to Madhu for the burial. The boats of the fishermen were restored to them by the Sea Tigers.
25th April (Sunday): Pesalai, Mannar Island.
Even with unofficial permission given to fishermen to fish close to the shore, the catch has been extremely poor and unrewarding given the long hours of work. When the Colombo press announced the lifting of the ban, this was taken as a move towards leniency. But legally as explained above, the ban remained. The fishermen were told unofficially by the authorities that they could put out to sea at 5.00 A.M. On the day mentioned two brothers from Pesalai Ward 4 put out to sea at 3.00 A.M. in the hope of a better catch. The empty boat was in the sequel tossed ashore with bullet holes and chip marks. When contacted by the police at Pesalai, the Navy at Talai-Mannar accepted responsibility for the incident. [Top]
The background to the incident has a long history going back in time to the early British period in which Kalpiddy, Kalpitiya or Calpentyn as Dutch called it, played a strategic role. Kalpiddy, now the port of destination for travellers leaving Mannar Island and 60 miles south of it by sea, lies in the Akkarai Pattu Division of the Puttalam District. The division according to the Puttalam Gazetteer (Frank Modder, 1908, Reprinted, Navrang, 1993) comprehends 42 villages, and the number of inhabitants in 1831 was reckoned at 5666 in the proportion of one Malabar to ten Moors. Of Kalpiddy which lies in the north of the district it says, The inhabitants are composed of Malabars, Burghers, Javanese and Moors, and according to the Census taken in 1831 amount to 2498. It says later, The fisheries of Calpentyn have greatly increased within the last few years, by an influx of fishermen from Mannar and Negombo.... The Gulf of Calpentyn is rich in chanks of the best quality, and also in bicho-de-mar, which latter is occasionally collected and exported to the markets of Singapore and Penang by Chinese merchants.
Thus the link between the fishermen from Mannar and Negombo was a close one. Both were also Roman Catholics, spoke Tamil and in the early British period the reigion came within the Churchs Jaffna Diocese. Both also shared religious festivals at Our Lady of Madhu and at St. Annes Talavillu. Good relations remained although the Roman Catholic authorities following the Sinhala Only policy of the government in 1956, commenced the Sinhalisation of large Tamil speaking Roman Catholic congregations in the districts of Puttalam, Chilaw and Negombo. The Church itself became communally polarised.
Given its duty to articulate a more responsible politics at a time of conflict, much of the blame for the incident must be placed on the Government, and the mindless brutality of the SL Navy. In imposing a fishing ban on the North the Government gave no thought to how it would affect relations between communities. The Negombo fishermen are brought to Kalpiddy, taken aboard boats and trawlers owned mostly by mudalalis which sail north and fish effectively in Northern waters, officially at least just south of the banned zone. They also have land facilities in Battalankundu (Karaitivu), an oblong island just south of Kudiraimalai. The mainland of the Mannar District lies almost east across Portugal Bay. The situation resulted in an insensitively discriminatory policy. The Negombo fishermen were given naval protection, nominal as it turned out, to fish effectively in Northern waters. But for the Tamil fishermen on the mainland across Portugal Bay, if they so much as showed themselves, could be mercilessly shot by the SL Navy. There were also in the area small - scale Sinhalese fishermen operating in small boats owned by them.
The military defeat at Pooneryn prevented the Navy from further killing of Tamil civilians travelling across Jaffna Lagoon. Three naval boats and their crew were also lost in suicide attacks during August 1993. Out of a mixture of nervousness and bloody - mindedness the Navy regularly killed Tamil fishermen harassed by poverty all along the Northern coast. The press most often faithfully reported the incidents as successes for the Navy in killing Sea Tigers. At least 15 fishermen were killed by the Navy off the coast of Jaffna during the four months ending 28th February 1994.
During March the tempo of killing fishermen seems to have been on the rise again.
6th March - Off Ponnali - 1 fisherman killed, 2 injured.
7th - Off Vadamaratchi East - 3 killed, 4 injured.
12th - Off Pt Pedro - 1 burnt with boat, 1 rescued with injuries.
20th - Off Mandativu - 1 missing, 2 injured.
20th - Off Pooneryn - 2 killed.
Given the very real danger, it is evident that it was poverty that was driving these fishermen. The pattern in Mannar itself was similar and is given separately. [See 5.3].
A change came to the area in question with the pull-out of the SL Army from large tracts of the Mannar Mainland about August 1993, enabling the Sea Tigers to set up fairly secure bases around Silavatturai. However the Negombo fishing mudalalis continued to maintain links with the Tigers through smuggling fuel and other banned items from Akkaraipattu to the Mannar sea. With the coming of the Sea Tigers the Navy too generally avoided the area. Kudiramalai marked the northern boundary of the area of responsibility for the Navy at Kalpiddy. The 35 mile stretch from this point to Mannar came under the Talai - Mannar command.
Relations between the Negombo fishermen and the local Tamil fishermen was mixed. The latter caught prized items such as Lion Prawns (Singaraal) and crabs for which they were in no position to find a market. They sold these to the Negombo fishermen who sent them on to Colombo through Kalpiddy. Also as is the normal practice with fishing mudalalis with capital all the way from Kerala to Negombo, they sometimes damaged the nets of the local fishermen. But this had little to do with the LTTEs massacre.
Since several of the Sea Tigers came from Tamil fishing communities, they too would have felt some resentment that Tamil fishermen were being killed by the Navy while their Sinhalese counterparts were being protected by the same Navy. There was also resentment on the part of the Navy that the Sinhalese fishermen were not giving them information about the hide-outs of Sea Tigers. These are also rather complicated relationships since, according to well informed sources, sections of the Navy accept bribes to facilitate the smuggling operation into LTTE controlled areas.
The decision to massacre was obviously taken at a high level in the Tiger leadership. Why did they so decide? One reason may have been to tap the resentment of fishing communities, particularly when their legitimacy in that area was falling dangerously. As a later development suggests, there seems to have also been an element of killing two birds with one stone.
The information here is summarised from a Yukthia report of 24th April 1994. Anthony Fernando like most of his ill-fated companions came from a poor family. The desperation which drove them to take the risk is exemplified by the fact that Anthony Fernando had been injured 15 times in LTTE aggression. At 5.00 A.M on 15th March Anthony and his companions were boiling water on a kerosene stove. Another boat came close by and Anthony heard a shout in Tamil, Have you any thing to eat? This was not unusual because most of the fishermen spoke Tamil at home. Anthony answered, Yes, some biscuits and went forward to hand over some. One of the new comers jumped into the boat with a gun and asked, Are you Sinhalese or Tamil? . Anthony then knew that the new comers were Tigers. The fishermen replied that they spoke Tamil as well. The Tigers asked them to proceed to the front deck of the boat, and opened fire as they did so. Anthony was wounded on the shoulder. A Tiger trampled his neck and he was later thrown into the water. Anthony feigned death and bided his time. Upon the Tigers leaving, he clambered into his boat and fainted upon seeing his 5 dead companions. Recovering an hour later he took the boat ashore.
The Tigers murdered 25 fishermen on this day. Only Anthony lived to tell the tale. Anthony said that the killing took place in the permitted zone. But the press quoted him as having said that they were in the banned zone. When Anthony checked later with the reporter, he was informed that this was done as directed by the police.
The testimonies of Malkanthi, wife of deceased fisherman Denzil Fernando(28) and mother of a 1 ½ years old child; and Anthony Miral, father of Terrence Miral (17) were of similar import. The latter because of poverty had gone to the sea at the age of 11. According to all three witnesses, those killed on that day were all small fishermen who took few risks and kept well inside the permitted zone. They said that while they were hardly allowed 1 or 3 litres of petrol for their own use, there were 4 big mudalalis who submitted false requisitions, obtained large quantities of fuel and traded with the Tigers. The Tigers did of course come to the small fishermen and occasionally stole or requisitioned their engines . On the morning of 11th November 1993, 30 engines were removed by the LTTE. They received a total of Rs 7000/- in compensation for each engine - Rs 5000/- from the Ministry of Fisheries and Rs 2000/- from their Local Council (Pradeshya Sabha). Two mudalalis, they said, were caught by the Navy carrying fuel and other items such as explosives destined for the Tigers. One was sent to Colombo and was released after a month. They had heard that he had paid a bribe of Rs.16 lakhs. The other was released after two weeks. It was understood by them that the LTTE had quarrelled with the big mudalalis on account of goods not being received in return for a large sum paid by them. This they believe was the immediate cause of their tragedy. They were innocent victims of the play of powerful forces, as are countless other civilians.
About a week later passengers in a boat bound from Kalpiddy to Mannar Island saw a speck approaching them fast. It was near them within a jiffy, and its occupants were observed to be Sea Tigers who signalled the ship to stop. The Tigers admitted their responsibility for the massacre and cited the reason as being the Navy killing engadde aakkal (our people). The passengers were then closely questioned about the reactions in Kalpitty. The passengers told them that there had been no reprisals against Tamils at all. The Tigers manner of questioning also suggested to the passengers their disappointment at the absence of reprisals against Tamils. The government for its part had shown itself incapable of giving any thought to basic political imperatives in counter-insurgency. [Top]
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