THE KOKKADICHCHOLAI MASSACRE & AFTER
3.1 The Massacre: 12th June 1991
3.1.2 12th June
3.1.3 After June 12th
3.1.4 In Batticaloa
3.1.6 What was behind the incident
3.1.7 How the people fare
3.1.8 The Politics behind Massacres
3.2 Incidents after the Kokkadichcholai
3.2.1 Palugamam: 28th June
3.2.2 Massacre at Kinniyadi: 10th July
3.2.3 Chithaandi: 27th July
3.3 A History of Obfuscation
In happier times, Kokkadichcholai
was renowned for the famous Batticloa curd. Pilgrims wanting this commodity
from the source, would have travelled six miles south of Batticaloa
along the Kalmunai road, turned right just past Kattankudy and Araipattai,
then through the Muslim village of Ollikulam to the jetty at Manmunai, and
by ferry across the lagoon to a point 2 miles East of Kokkadichcholai. Today
Ollikulam is in ruins, and the ferry does not function. The crossing is by
fibre glass canoes, generally two or three strapped together by cross beams
for balance. Passengers are invited to man the oars. On a calm morning, the
journey is memorable for the astounding beauty of the surroundings. Half way
across, Batticaloa town and its telecommunication tower become visible, five
miles distant as the crow flies.
Now and then one does encounter bovine swimmers, a placid face with gentle eyes, just above the water, towed by canoes going in the opposite direction. Upon inquiry, one is struck by that very word that has become a hallmark of Kokkadichcholai. These are creatures bound for the slaughter houses of Batticaloa, taking their first swim, unaware that it was also their last.
According to legend, the name of the village comes from the Kokkatti tree, whose sap was really blood. From the jetty, one then goes westwards through 1 1/4 miles of uninhabited, once marshy land, now having on either side of the road, a network of square tanks with neglected bunds. This was the prawn factory, abandoned since the STF massacre of January 1987. The area then realised a death toil of about 120 which included a number of employees of the prawn factory. At the end of this uninhabited area, one reaches the Mudalaikudah Methodist Church on the left, followed by a junction. The road on the left (south) goes to Mahiladitivu, and that on the right (north) contains the main part of Mudalaikudah (Crocodile bay - it being said that crocodiles hereabouts are not man eaters). If one proceeds straight, one reaches the main hamlet of Kokkadichcholai 3/4 mile on. It is this hamlet that contains the army camp. Although Kokkadichcholai is a collective name for the three hamlets, the name refers to the main hamlet in local parlance.
When food is brought for the army, a patrol would commandeer a local tractor and set off to the jetty, posting sentries along the road, with perhaps half a dozen men at the Methodist Church. Since this is a regular operation, it is here that soldiers are most vulnerable, as experience has shown.
As for the people of this area, the dominant group is the Mukkuvar caste - mainly farmers. Under them are the service castes-dhobys, barbers etc. The caste system in Batticaloa is more easygoing compared with Jaffna, and inter-caste marriages are common enough not to be frowned upon. Unlike the Jaffna based Tamil nationalism which is based on the old kingdom of Jaffna, the root of Tamil nationalism in the East springs from the notion of a self contained autonomous system of villages, presided over by the Ur-Podiyar, elected from among the podiyars. It claims to be egalitarian in spirit and the role of the Ur Podiyar is considered more ceremonial than coercive. Podiyars in practice were the large landowners. Like the use of Singh by the Sikhs, it has become common for people of the area to prefix their name with Podiyar. The Muslim villages of the area have the same structure, with Tamil service castes playing the same role. [Top]
The army was out on a mission
to collect provisions from the jetty. When the tractor was returning with
provisions, a landmine was set off at a point on the road 1/4 mile from the
Methodist Church and 1/2 mile from the main hamlet of Kokkadichcholai, whither
the army was bound. Two soldiers in the tractor were killed. The time was
12.45 p.m. Immediately south of this point and along the road was an extension
of Mahiladitivu. Those responsible for the explosion presumably escaped through
this area. (Going further south, one goes through Paddaiandaveli, Pandariaveli,
and Kodukkamunai to Ambalanthurai). Following the explosion, more soldiers
started moving from Kokkadichcholai to the scene of the explosion. At this
camp, there is also a group of 10 militants who had recently broken away from
the PLOTE. Most of them are from that area and have wives, children or parents
living there. Some of this group too went with the soldiers towards the scene.
When they were disarmed by the soldiers, they realised that a plan was hatched
to punish the civilians. They went back to Kokkadichcholai (the main hamlet)
and warned the people to get clear. Those who could not run were taken, and
some went by themselves to the local school.
Sivapragasam Tissaveerasingam, a leading person of Mahiladitivu, was attending to his lunch-time chores when the explosion was heard. A few minutes later he heard small arms fire. He ran to the end of Mahiladitivu and waited there. He then saw people running, chased by soldiers firing with automatics. He ran a further 3/4 mile south and saw fire rising above the village.
A short distance from Tissaveerasingam's house is a mill belonging to G.Kurukulasingam. Many of the people in Mahiladitivu who could not, or preferred not to run away, gathered at this mill and in the house north, across the adjoining lane. Over a hundred people were in this house. Among those in Kurukulasingam's house with him were, his wife Puvaneswary and their children Rupavathani (6), Nishantan (5), Suganthan (3) and Vivekananthan (8 months).Velupillai Arunasalam is a carpenter who had gone that morning to Manalkadu, on the other side of the lagoon, for his day's work. When the shooting began, his wife Alikipodi Revathy and daughters Bavani (10) and Tharisana (1 1/2) were among those who took refuge in the mill compound, which also contained the owner's house. A group of soldiers came running along the adjoining lane from the direction of Kokkadichcholai (west), entered the mill premises and opened fire. Those inside the mill and the compound were all killed, and those in the house injured. Four bullet holes which pierced the wall of the house are prominently visible. Soldiers then went across the lane and shot Nallathamby Subramaniam (80), who was on the verandah. This was seen by his daughter Paranchothy. The rest who had taken refuge in that house were chased away.
Velapodi Alaiyapodi (53), a farmer, was at Coloniadi Mill. He saw 7 soldiers coming from the Methodist Church, firing their automatics. They encountered Sivapragasam Thirumathi, who was chased away. He then saw 5 soldiers entering Kurukulasingam's mill, followed by firing noises. After the soldiers left, he went there to see what had happened, and noticed 7 corpses in the compound and 5 injured persons in the house asking for water. He fetched water in a bucket and gave them. Just then another group of 6 soldiers arrived, and though Alaiyapodi quickly went into the house, he had been spotted. The soldiers asked him how many dead bodies there were and how many injured. He gave them the figures. He was asked to bring the injured out of the house, and to follow them so as to fetch a cart to take the injured for treatment. Alaiyapdi went with them for a short distance, gave them the slip and came back to a house two doors away. By this time several people had gathered at the mill to see what had happened.
Alaiyapodi saw the same six soldiers coming back. They thrust about 35 onlookers into the premises and shot the whole lot, as well as the 5 previously injured. The soldiers then attempted to set fire to the corpses.
Vyramathu Santhanapillai's daughter -in- law and Alahipodi Kunamani's grand daughter, Ponnamma, was beaten while protecting her baby. Alahipodi Kunamani's son Kumarasingam Shanthilingam was 4 months married. He and his wife were in Sempar's compound. The young couple were among those dragged to the mill and shot. Vijayakumari (19) was shot in the leg by soldiers while running away. Her mother Theivanai was at the mill with her 1 year old child. Both Theivanai and the child were among those killed.
Among those killed in the mill, was a mother suckling her infant. Evidently, the mother gave the infant her breast in order to quieten it in the tense surroudnings, when the end came.
Further from the junction and south of the mill was a concrete house in which a large crowd of mainly women and children had gathered. Among those there were Ponniah Visalatchi (55), a Colombo Chetty lady, her step-daughter Kanagasabai Praba, teacher at Saraswathy MV and Praba's aunt Usumundapodi Soundarmma (60). There were about 50 in the room, together with Visalatchi's niece and a 1 1/2 year old child. By the time the soldiers arrived here, their murderous passions appeared to have cooled. But they were getting other ideas.
The women were subject to beating and abuse, and were asked to go to the Kanniamman Temple, north and towards the junction. At the same time a part of the house was set on fire.
One soldier grabbed Praba, tore her clothes, held her tight and began biting her. Soundaramma forced herself in between and covered her niece. The soldier went into a rage and started kicking Soundaramma. One kick with a booted foot struck her in the mouth, causing her to lose 8 teeth. Praba managed to get away.
About this time, the elder daughter of a prominent government official was dragged by soldiers into the house. As the crowd moved the younger daughter of the same official, a schoolgirl at St.Vincent's, Batticaloa, was dragged into a shop on the opposite side of the road. A soldier attempted to drag A.Kala, after prancing around with fierce gestures and making bestial noises. Kala's sickly mother was not there. Once again Soundaramma, the sextagenarian matron, strong though minus 8 teeth, intervened, grabbing Kala and interposing herself. The beast become enraged and the face further contorted with the noices even fiercer. Soundaramma was again assaulted, this time with a rifle butt, receiving some hard shots on her back. Kala was shot at once near the GS's house. She fell to the ground. A round of bullets then went over her. She then got away.
As the women reached the temple, the abuse became even nastier. Variations of an expression many remembered, was that they would only entertain the male organs of the LTTE and thus deserved to be taught a lesson. On the way, the women met some unarmed Tamil militants who were normally with the army, and had pleaded with them in Tamil to stop this. They replied sympathetically that anything they said would not be heard. The women felt that the soldiers were drugged.
At the temple, Visalatchi who was also fluent in English and Sinhalese, spoke to a man who appeared to be an officer, and pleaded with him. saying that it is a sin to do such things to ordinary people who were like his own. The man assured her that they would be safe in the temple and started walking away. The women then spotted 3 soldiers with knives coming towards the temple. She rushed after the `officer' and told him that his words were of little use because the moment he left, others could do whatever they pleased. The man came back, spoke to the soldiers and went away. Things were then calmer.
Throughout this period there had been firing and burning of huts. Tissaveerasingam, his brother Sivalingam and 4 others cautiously approached Mahiladitivu at 3.00 p.m. They retreated when the army fired at them. While the women were at Kannaiamman temple and soldiers were about making threatening gestures with knives and weapons, some unarmed soldiers also came there and pleaded with the other soldiers to leave the women alone.
After about 3.00 p.m. looting began in earnest. Soldiers got busy removing valuables, including bicycles from houses and also trying to burn the bodies. Soldiers were moving about very freely on bicycles till after 5.00 p.m. before going back. People identified the leader of the operation as a bearded man waring a red handkerchief. The menfolk who had run away from the village started trickling back towards nightfall.
Mudalaikudah (North of the Methodist Church)
At 12.45 p.m. the time of the explosion, Motchamala Kanapathipillai, a teacher at the nursery school at Kokkadichcholai maintained by the Red Barna, was cycling home eastwards, her home being next to the Methodist Church. Her father, Kanapathipillai, was the circuit steward in charge of the church. Her brother, an employee of the prawn factory, had been murdered during the prawn factory massacre of January 1987, Motchamala lived with her father, her widowed sister-in-law and her brother's children.
On hearing the explosion in front of her, Motchamala turned back towards Kokkadichcholai. She was shot through the knees by soldiers coming out of Kokkadichcholai - by men whom she recognised as those who came to her house to ask for water and sometimes fruits.
Later 17 youths were taken, mainly from Mudalaikudah, to the crater left by explosion, where they were shot, killed and burnt.
On hearing the commotion, the teachers at the Mudalaikudah school kept the children inside and stayed there. Later in the evening the army came and dismissed the students after beating the teachers. [Top]
Arunasalm the carpenter was
one of those who had waited on the other side of the lagoon, anxious for tidings
about his family. The boatmen who had brought their boats to Manmunai, also
brought news that much was amiss on the other shore. Little did he know that
Revathy and the two children had fled mortality leaving behind half burnt
corpses. On the 13th, people began trickling back to Kokkadichcholai, often
to burst into tears of agony on reaching home.
The army stayed within the camp on the 13th. Among the early visitors on this day were the Tigers, who after their absence from the time of the explosion the previous day, had popped in to take a photographic record of the handiwork.
As the sun rose the corpses began to stink, and the stench was carried by the dry kachchan wind. About 2.00 p.m. the villagers started burying the corpses.
A helicopter circled the area on the 15th. The army came out about mid-day, asked the people what happened and returned. They were apparently testing the ground for the next day's official visit, which had been announced in Colombo.
Even as late as the 16th, limbs were found in the crater with bits of flesh sticking out. On this day an official party including the prime minister, Bradman Weerakoon and MP's Casinadar, Joseph and Karunakaran were brought to the Kokkadichcholai army camp by helicopter. The army maintained that those killed were Tigers and that it was unsafe to go to the villages. Joseph asked Karunakaran, "You are a member of a militant group that is now with the army. Tell me, are those who died Tigers?" Karunakaran replied, "No".
The prime minister's party was airlifted back to Batticaloa and taken to the rest house. 100 yards away some of those affected were waiting at the Kachcheri, Batticaloa's administrative centre, to talk to the prime minister. This was, according to reports, disallowed on the grounds that it was unsafe to go there. The Prime Minister, who earlier that month had said that normality prevailed in Batticaloa, was now unable to meet people at the seat of administration. Joseph protested to Colombo over what he saw as groundless obstruction, saying that he was prepared to go to the villages alone. He later met the people.
By the 20th June changes had been made at the Kokkadichcholai camp and a new officer was in charge. A group of visitors came to Kokkadichcholai by vehicle after obtaining permission at the Manalpitty camp. On their return the captain at the camp stopped them for cool drinks. He told them that this kind of situation can hardly be avoided when you send village boys to fight after a few weeks' training. He also said that he was in-charge of three camps, the others being Vellaveli and Kokkadichcholai. "Who is going to answer if something happens again in Kokkadichcholai when I am not there?", he asked. On 30th June a booby trap exploded at the ferry point while soldiers were fetching provisions. Two soldiers were injured and taken away by helicopter. Immediately the shops closed and people began shutting themselves up. An officer went around asking people to reopen their shops and carry on normally. He added, "Today we die. Tomorrow the Tigers die. You need not worry." [Top]
According to a senior citizen
in Batticaloa, when on 12th June the news of the death of two soldiers in
Kokkadichcholai was radioed to the army command in Batticaloa, arrangements
were immediately made to airlift the magistrate and the JMO to the scene.
When the two were at the Batticaloa airport, they were reportedly told that
a second message had arrived making it necessary to cancel the expedition.
According to this message a second mine had gone off and it was now
unsafe. If this is true, it raises the question about the quality of information
given to the Batticaloa command, in addition to serious questions about discipline.
Or was it that on discovering that things had gone hoplessly wrong, the army
command was trying to cover up.
Where covering up is concerned, there does not seem to have been much change. According to the number count made by leading local citizens following a house to house check, 67 bodies were identified and buried and a further 56 were missing. Most of the missing persons are presumed dead and cannot be identified,because like the seventeen burnt in the mine crater, they had been mostly burnt to ashes. The rice mill had the largest number of bodies - 43.
The Superintendent of Police Batticaloa in discussions with leading citizens was sticking to a figure of 32 dead - this being the number exhumed, for whom death certificates had then been issued. The police also maintain that there was no rape, on the basis of certification made by doctors in Batticaloa, who examined several of the women. But medical officers have privately told leading citizens that there had been rape and that the doctors are afraid to certify that.
Like in almost all cases during the war, the police are not taking steps to investigate anything. It is left to the people who are willing to stick their necks out, to question people and collect evidence. The role of the police seems to be to minimize the impact of evidence that has turned up in spite of them. The proof of this is the atmosphere of terror in which the JMO's, magistrates and the medical Officers function. The police who know better pretend that this terror does not exist. Whether the commission of inquiry can go beyond this insistitutional obfuscation is left to be seen.
According to some sources with official contacts, several of the men involved in the massacre had been transferred to frontline areas in the North. [Top]
Women of the area appeared to have a sense of community, and were very open on the subject of rape and molestation. when they come out with names, it is with a sense of personal identification with the tragedy, without any hint of gossip. The rape victims were themselves apprehensive. According to the women, at-least 6 of them were raped. Two of them were sisters. The elder girl was found by her father trying to cover her breasts with her plaitted hair. The second girl was found in a shop building in a state of shock after some searching. All they said was "You would have heard what happened to us". According to the mother, the elder girl was taking it up better, whereas the younger is refusing to go back to her boarding school or even continue her studies. It was clear that something terrible had happened to these girls. [Top]
We have shown elsewhere in
this report that there was a general state of lawlessness and indiscipline
among the forces. From August to October 1990 when there were several incidents
of civilians disappearing in large groups of 30 to more than 150, there appears
to have been connivance at high level. The forces have thus been trained into
a mental frame that they have the power of life and death over ordinary civilians.
At ordinary times this leads to petty crime and beating, for which the civilians
have no recourse to justice. If they complain, they know that they will be
at the receiving end. In such a situation the slightest crisis could trigger
off a total breakdown. It also appears that the control exercised by the officers
is also minimal. After training the men to kill and loot, the officers too
would have much to fear if they were to try and impose unaccustomed restraint.
Under these circumstances, the high command is bound to receive little honest
information, if they wanted it.
If some form of discipline had existed in the camp, at-least by 1.30 p.m. whoever was in charge should have known that something was seriously amiss. Thus even if only a section of the soldiers had planned the reprisals, not long afterwards the whole camp would have been concerned in the matter. Why was this allowed to go on for four hours? It also appears that not long after 1.00 p.m. the high command in Batticaloa was also aware that something was going on. The long duration suggests either complicity or a serious breakdown in the chain of command. As we said earlier, this was to be expected.
The bestiality displayed during rape and molestation points to something seriously disturbing. It shows up the army as something totally alien, where the people are concerned-the very thing that accounts for the success of massacre politics. [Top]
Soundaramma was taken to
Batticaloa hospital by Rasathurai from Thalangkuda and was warded for eleven
days. She has now been rejoined in Mahiladythivu by her two grandsons and
nephew who had fled. Mothchamala was in Batticaloa hospital for 40 days and
now with relatives in Kallady. Soundaramma had been urinating blood for some-time.
Alavapody Nagarajah is a small made, mild, innocent man, slow of speech. He
was mercilessly assaulted by soldiers who also broke up everything in the
house. Nagrajah was admitted to the hospital with injuries and a swollen
stomach, and was kept in the hospital for 9 days. He still has a urinary problem.
Except for the limited relief brought by the Methodist and Roman Catholic churches, no relief agency had come into the area until late July. Most of these agencies distributed relief on the other side of the lagoon at Thalankuda, to those who have left the area. Normal life there is unusually difficult. At one time bus service used to operate between the jetty point and Kokkadichcholai. Now except for those who had crossed bringing along bicycles, the others have to walk anything from 1 1/2 to 2 miles, often in the scorching sun. There used to be a government dispensary. The army said that the Tigers were taking medicines and wanted the dispensary to function inside the army camp. As the result there are no medical facilities now. The most primitive methods have to be used to get a patient across to hospital in Batticaloa or Kattankuddy.
Although organisations and individuals are persuading the people to go before the commission inquiring into the massacre, the people remain deeply suspicious. Their experience since the event has not given them confidence. A common remark to be hard is, "After putting us through all the trouble of giving evidence, they are likely to put the blame on us." However the people are said to have gained confidence
after the first hearings in Batticaloa.
Behind the massacres
of Tamils that have been going on for the last few years, two aspects stand
out, resulting from the political bankruptcy of both sides. On the side of
the state there is an undisciplined army, increasingly frustrated and prone
to use vindictive terror to its own detriment. On the other is a force that
received legitimacy because the people wanted their life and dignity protected,
but because of its political bankruptcy, must rely on government massacres
for propaganda and recruitment.
We have pointed out earlier [Report No.6], that this particular political tendency could necessarily brook no rivalry. When several militant groups functioned until five years ago, competition among them, made them sensitive to the need to safeguard civilians. Thus when the Chavakacheri Police Station was attacked at the end of 1984, the approaches to the area were mined in order to delay the army's arrival. This gave the civilians time to get away.
In the case of Kokkadichcholai, while there was 1 1/4 miles of uninhabited stretch, the mine was placed near a populated area. Beginning a short time later, a small number of soldiers ran amok for 4 hours without hindrance. The militant party came in the morning for its photographs. It was also essential that no one in the village should have any idea that a mine was planted, if this kind of attack was to succeed. Thus the rebels come and go from day to day, asking for one thing or the other. People take their presence for granted. One night, presumably, a mine quietly is planted.
In all the cases that we have encountered over the years, as strongly as the people concerned are angry with the conduct of the army, they are far from taking kindly to the manner of being let down by their liberators. The latter have in many instances, taken no trouble to hide their motivations. On occasions they have said that a target of so many thousand civilians must die for the militant struggle to receive international recognition. Sometimes the camera men have come and expressed disappointment that only a small number had got killed in reprisals. The people are in general terrified to talk about it. To start with they are usually legalistic - `How can we say the LTTE planted the mine? There are so many armed groups coming and going with similar uniforms, etc.' But when trust is established, a different record comes out - `Yes, it was them. If they had just fired two shots, the army would not have come. They would have called the helicopter gunships. But the people would have got away. But defending the people had not been on the agenda when they had planted the mine. When the present politics destroys humanity, fighting for human rights virtually involves fighting against this politics. Even in village after village where the Sri Lankan forces have swelled the ranks of the LTTE, the question is asked, "Did we need all this death and destruction? Was it necessary for our sons to die?" [Top]
In this section we look into the matter of how the appointment of the inquiry commission has affected the conduct of the army, and whether the army is developing any mechanisms to ensure that such tragedies will not happen again. This will also suggest to us whether the commission has already lost its momentum or not. We let the incidents speak for themselves. [Top]
About 7.00 a.m. when the people of Palugamam were getting ready either to go to work or to go to school, the army ordered everyone to come to the compound adjoining the Palugamum M.V.(High School). When the people were assembled, 3 youths were picked up by the army. These were two students, Murugesapillai Navaneethan and Logitharajah Vallipuram, both A.L. students at the school, together with another youth, not in school. Murugesapillai, a retired teacher, is a famous snake-bite physician. The young men were marched into the school, and were subject to severe beating on the stage. Those who went there after the incident found several fragments of sticks and blood stains on the stage. Later in the morning a lorry arrived at the school gate, bringing new furniture for the school. The soldiers had the furniture unloaded outside and took the lorry inside the school. The three detainees were loaded into the lorry and the lorry was brought back with its back end covered. The driver and the cleaner were then ordered to get into the back of the lorry, which was then driven to the army camp at Poraithivu. The driver and the cleaner were then made to get out at the entrance. The lorry was then taken inside and brought back empty. The three youths have since been missing. The little information the people have, makes them pessimistic. Two days later, on Monday, the students of the school washed the blood stains from the platform. The youth detained, it is said by the villagers, had nothing to do with the LTTE. Navaneethan in fact had been shot in the knee by the IPKF, and was lame [Top]
Kinniyadi is a village on
the shore of the lagoon, west of kiran. It is generally known that when the
LTTE, who have the freedom of movement on the other(interior) side of the
lagoon come into the Kiran area, they move in the vicinity of Kinniyadi. As
the result, the army is also harsh when it comes into this village. Consequently
when the villagers learn that the army is coming, the young men go to the
other side of the lagoon rather than risk punitive beating or worse.
Thus when the army used to come and find the young men missing, it used
to become more angry. Crossing the lagoon is something familiar to the villagers,
because they have their fields on the other side. They also know where the
water is shallow, permitting them to cross on foot or swim.
On this day when the army came just after 3.00 p.m., on receiving intelligence the villagers as usual tried to get away from the village, without realising the proximity of the soldiers. Several of them were apprehended by the soldiers. These men were taken to the lagoon shore and then shot dead.
13 bodies of those killed were recovered and funeral rites were conducted. Upto about 8 more are said to be missing. The thirteen whose bodies were discovered are: Murugan, Karunakaran, Shanmugam Chandran, Sinnathamby Pakianathan, Sivendran, Saravanamuthu Sounderalingam, Ravindra Alagiah, Sonarami Krishnan, Sinnathamby Krishnapillai, Kandiah Chinnaan, Karuval Kurukulam, Mylvaganam Thangarajah, Vairamuthu Chinnathamby and Ponnuchamy Sethuraman.
The incident was not reported in any of the national dailies except the `Veerakesari', a Tamil daily published in Colombo. It was reported in the government media that several Tigers were killed. This distortion has impeded relief workers going into that area, because of a fear of the forces. The villagers have virtually been isolated, with even church organisations fearing to go there. The villagers are clear that neither were any of the dead LTTE, nor were any armed. According to a senior citizen in the area, only the Ceylon Red Cross went there the following day. They also went off after asking the families to come to Batticaloa and register. This did not seem very helpful, as the families are at a loss about formalities and feel afraid. [Top]
On this day the train was to come to Batticaloa and army pickets were out to provide security for the train. A land mine attack by the LTTE about 10 a.m. resulted in 7 soldiers and a member of the TELO being killed. Perhaps because the inquiry commission into the Kokkadichcholai incident was due to convene in a day or two, army reprisals took a novel form. Travellers on the Batticaloa - Trincomalee Road the following morning were confronted with a new gimmick at the Kommathurai camp. People in buses as usual got down and queued up for checking. The soldier who was to check the bags slapped many of the passengers as they came. There was little interest in looking for bombs in bags. Those who were slapped were generally slapped several times with both hands and included women. Those frequently singled out were old villagers wearing `Verti', who could be seen progressively lowering their heads as the slaps followed. Another soldier stood with an improvised whip made of electrical wire, doing his own thing. This reportedly went on for 3 days. The officers managed to stay out of sight. The number so treated would run into hundreds. Yet another soldier was standing with a pole, to hammer people bulging out of Batticaloa's over crowded, `push-start' buses. [Top]
In this section we take up
the question of how responsive the forces have been, to representations made
by citizens' bodies and individuals. The Batticaloa Peace Committee has made
regular representations with regard to missing persons. On the 29th and 30th
August 1990, the peace committee sent letters to the military authorities
in Batticaloa, one with a list of over 400 missing persons in the Batticaloa
area. The secretaries to the peace committee were Chellian Perinpanayagam
and Arunagirinathan. Sometime in August 1990, A.Martin took over from Arunagirinathan.
On 21st September a reply was received from Brigadier A.N.U.Seneviratne of Head Quarters, 3 Brigade Group, Batticaloa. He acknowledged that 3 persons in that list of 400 had been taken and handed over to the D.I.G. for legal action. The reply added "Please note that no other person in the referred list was taken into custody by the security forces under this head quarters".
The other letter had referred to the discussion with the Brigadier of 25th August 90, and enclosed two schedules of missing persons totalling 67, mostly school boys. `A' schedule contained missing persons from the Batticaloa district, including youth of the Chenkallady and Pullumalai Brigades. Schedule `B' referred to the Amparai district. The reply acknowledged only one as having been taken.
On the 20th of September 90, the defence ministry was sent a list of names of 158 persons taken from the Eastern University refugee camp on 5th September.
A reply dated 17th October 1990 was sent from the office of the Minister of State for Defence, signed by Air Chief Marshal A.W.Fernando, Secretary. 31 persons were acknowledged as having been taken, and their names given. Not one of them is known to have surfaced although they are said to have been released.
On 9th October 1990 the peace committee wrote to the authorities about the incident at Sathurukondan of 9th September, with a list of 184 missing persons. This was followed by a letter about the army going to Savukkady, after which 31 persons were missing. On 11th October, about the incident at Chithandy (21 August), after which 44 persons were missing. No satisfactory replies have so far been received.
In recent times we have had the killings by the Iruthayapuram police in late March, the disappearances of April/May and the incidents described in the current report. None of these has been investigated. [Top]
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