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University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna)

Sri Lanka

UTHR(J)

Supplement to Special Report No. 23,  October 2006

Date of Release: 13th  December 2006

 

 

                           Supplement to Special Report No.23: Before Time Obscures the Moul’dring Heap – I

Contents:

1. Introduction

2. Cases

Principal Sivakadatcham of Kopay Christian College:

3. The Killing of Tamil Political Leaders: 24th December 2005 – 10th November 2006

The Missing TRO workers,  29th and 30th January 2006:

 The Murder of the Martin Family in Vankalai:

Cases of two women:

1. Introduction

This Supplement deals with a number of killings and other incidents since early 2005 that have remained subjects of controversy. This being so for the reason that policing has virtually broken down in the North-East. The LTTE maintained a virtual monopoly over killings until about the end of 2005. During this period (2002 – 2005) it was, in virtue of appeasement of the LTTE, the unwritten Government policy not to touch killings of Tamils. From early 2006, the Government got into the killing business in a big way and it became the business of the Police actively to cover up. Either way criminal investigations were swept aside by political expediency.

Nevertheless, we have hazarded an opinion on a number of these killings, and naturally there remained a margin of doubt. Circumstantial evidence, however strong, could be misleading. Although we gave a number of circumstantial factors pointing to the LTTE being the killers of Principal Sivakadatcham, there remained an influential block of Tamil opinion holding that it was the EPDP, including the normally well-informed TamilWeek. On the other hand a considerable push from the Government and purveyors of public opinion could transform circumstantial factors into dead certainty, so much so that it becomes impossible to raise doubts. Equally, the Government and media could make strong circumstantial evidence appear a gigantic lie as with the killing of Muslim labourers in Pottuvil.

In the absence of a professional body seeking out the evidence and having only forces that destroy evidence and silence witnesses, circumstantial evidence is all we are left with in most cases. But it is only right to hold on to a glimmer of uncertainty. If our judgment is right, time would strengthen it. If we were wrong, some new information would likely turn up that would show otherwise or open new avenues of inquiry.

We therefore think that in the public interest it is only right to offer a well founded opinion wherever we have good reasons for doing so. But one must pursue these continually seeking out relevant facts in an attempt to shrink the margin of uncertainty. In Special Report No.20, we recorded some remarks from an EPDP insider, which threw doubts on opinions about certain killings that we ourselves had expressed. It brought home to us the enormous challenge of holding perpetrators accountable in an environment where killers from several parties have a common interest in keeping the people confused. Despondency over the inability to identify the killers has also the effect of devaluing life and rendering killings ‘normal’.

One may sometimes form a strong opinion about who the perpetrator was based on a leak from a good source. While the subjective element in such an opinion cannot be removed, it should become a spur, pointing the way for any professional body tasked to investigate these killings.

We will continue with this occasional series, taking up cases old and new, on the principle that no killing should be forgotten. A civilized people has an obligation to lay every killing to rest by identifying the perpetrators and holding them to account. Where we are wrong despite the best efforts possible at that time, we would endeavour to correct ourselves. With these remarks we move onto the cases, several of which had been taken up in our reports before.

2. Cases

4th April 2005 T. Kailanathan (55): Kailanathan, who had wide experience in technical education, was deputy director in the Ministry of Vocational Education. He went to Batticaloa and as part of the effort in tsunami relief interviewed students at the Government Technical College in Manjanthoduwa to be trained in carpentry, irrigation and handiwork. Based on circumstantial factors, particularly the LTTE media’s handling of the killing, we identified the LTTE as the killer. We also recorded in Special Report No.20, testimony from an EPDP insider pointing to that group as the possible killer citing differences between the deceased and a brother of the EPDP leader. The informant also suggested the possible use of the Karuna group in the killing.

Having made further inquiries, we are persuaded that the LTTE were indeed the killers. The Technical College had been assigned to train 100 to 150 students in craft skills. The LTTE, we reliably learn, told the principal that they would make the selections and fill the list and the principal should approve it. The Principal told them that selections do not come under him and the deputy director would make the selections based on an interview. We also learn that the LTTE had sent Kailanathan a message not to come for the selections and that the college authorities also knew about this. This was the main context behind the killing and not so much that he worked for Mr.Douglas Devananda’s ministry in a professional capacity.

Local observers also pointed out that the situation in the Technical College was similar to that at Eastern University, the College of Education and the Open University. All of them had a strong LTTE network, and it would have been almost impossible for a member of the EPDP or Karuna group, to walk in, kill someone and get away so easily.

18th May: P. Sooriyamoorthy: We said in Bulletin No.38 that the former mayor of Trincomalee was killed by the LTTE. Publicity in the LTTE media to a statement by a fictitious group claiming that Sooriyamoorthy was killed because he was an LTTE spy meant that the LTTE was playing a joke or was hiding something. Doubts were expressed by the EPDP insider referred to, who pointed to talk in the EPDP suggesting that the late Murali of the EPDP may have been the killer. Similar doubts were expressed also by D.B.S. Jeyaraj in TamilWeek. Although Mr. Sooriyamoorthy was shot on 18th May, he was moved to Colombo Hospital and it was a week before he died. During this period he had been talking to people. Mr. V. Anandasangary, his closed friend both politically and personally, who was in touch with him and his family during this period, heard nothing to suggest otherwise and is in no doubt that the LTTE killed his friend. Our attempts to trace persons with material facts suggesting otherwise proved futile. Murali, we understand, was killed by the LTTE late last year. Since a doubt has been raised, we must grapple with it, though we are skeptical.

11th October 2005 :

 Principal Sivakadatcham of Kopay Christian College:

Sivakadatcham was killed in the night of 11th October 2005 followed by Central College principal Rajadurai the following day. Although the first was widely blamed on the EPDP and Military Intelligence and the second 'tit for tat' for the former, we in Bulletin No.38 pointed out several features that urged caution. Some of these are:

a) Word from a good source who called on the family soon after the murder that Sivakadatcham knew those who came and called him, and went immediately saying 'coming sonny'. This strongly suggested to them the LTTE owing to his close dealings with them at that time.

b) In their protest, the students of Kopay Christian College, were very discreet. They did not blame the LTTE, but they did not blame the Army either, and merely called for a proper investigation. This kind of bold discretion would have been hard to imagine with LTTE agents everywhere pushing them to blame the Army, unless there was strong suspicion otherwise.

c) Sivakadatcham was posthumously awarded a counterfeit title of Tamil National Patriot by someone of as little consequence as the Jaffna political commissar, rather than by the Leader as precedents indicate – a fact the Tamil media except Nitharsanam tried to hide.

Our suspicions were supported by a number of people in the government sector in Jaffna whose work places also function as an information exchange. Answers to all inquiries directed to Jaffna generally pointed to the LTTE. An appreciation for him in the Uthayan by a Sivanesarasan suggested reasons why he was killed. The writer stated, “He never hesitated to express what touched his heart”, and moreover, “For the sake of the welfare of the school, he on occasions sold his good name and his self-respect.”

Those who knew him elaborated these coded references. He had on one or more occasions complained to LTTE agents he dealt with about the group’s unruliness in dealing with schools and students. Second, the LTTE, which under the access provided by the ceasefire agreement was applying heavy pressure on school principals to send their children for its functions and activities, pulled up Sivakadatcham for refusing to send his children for their activities. He told the LTTE not to ask for his children, but he would work for them in their stead. This was how from about July 2005, Sivakadatcham began speaking on LTTE platforms. Evidently, this did not satisfy the LTTE.

After many months, we got through to persons in Kopay who had been very close to Sivakadatcham and had worked with him on educational matters. They said, “It was very obvious that it was the LTTE who killed him.” They repeated what a number of people gathered earlier from the deceased’s circles, but could not ask very directly – that the persons who came to kill were the same persons who had come to the house before. They added that he was shielding his school children by not sending them for LTTE activities calculated to brainwash and recruit. On this he had been very firm, despite speaking on LTTE platforms. A visitor to Kopay earlier this year raised the matter with several residents casually. Not only did they confirm this, they were privately very angry with the LTTE.

3. The Killing of Tamil Political Leaders: 24th December 2005 – 10th November 2006
 

Three Tamil political leaders, Joseph Pararajasingham of Batticaloa, Vanniasingam Vigneswaran of Trincomalee and also N. Raviraj, were shot dead on 24th December 2005, 7th April 2006 and 10th November 2006 respectively. Because of the common features and issues involved, we treat them together. The day after Pararajasingham was murdered, Christmas Day, the Defence Ministry’s version was contained in the title of its statement, “Tamil National Alliance Member of Parliament Gunned Down by LTTE Pistol Men during Midnight Christmas Prayers.”

The Sunday Leader of 22nd January reported a meeting some TNA MPs had with President Rajapakse a few days earlier, where he was quoted as admitting that the security forces were involved in murders calculated to discredit him. He was also quoted that Pararajasingham was killed inside a church to paint him as anti-Christian and given the heavy security presence in the area, the killers could not have got away without their connivance.

The Government promised a thorough investigation and has announced several times that it was on the verge of arresting the murderers. A recent instance was 12th July when CID Deputy DIG Asoka Wijethilaka said at a press conference at the Human Rights Ministry that a positive development was around the corner and strongly hinted that the offenders would be brought to trial. One gathers that the Police know but are prevented from acting. A fuller story of these killings must begin before the November 2005 presidential election.

The LTTE’s killing of Lakshman Kadirgamar in August 2005, which followed its killing of SP Charlie Wijesekera virtually brought to an end the tottering ceasefire. Tough action was already being contemplated by the Kumaratunge presidency. In October 2005, a very senior police officer in Batticaloa told some religious leaders that they had been ordered from Colombo to accommodate Karuna cadres in security forces’ camps and added with alarm that killings would go up.

In an interview with the Island (25 Sep.05) JHU Treasurer and former DIG H.M.G.B. Kotakadeniya said in the event that ‘the LTTE did not agree to a solution within the framework of a unitary state... the Tigers should be crushed militarily.’ This was a declaration of war against Tamils in general. For the LTTE federal or unitary did not make any difference. But, federalism is a long-standing Tamil demand. All this was no doubt music to the LTTE’s ears. It did its part to have Rajapakse elected and started its provocations against the Army with land mine attacks before November was out.

By 6th December, Rajapakse’s hard line team was in charge of security. Gotabhaya Rajapakse was Defence Secretary, Kotakadeniya Defence Advisor in Police matters and Sarath Fonseka, the new Army Commander. In President Rajapakse’s meeting with the TNA, who were totally expendable as far as the LTTE was concerned, reported in the Sunday Leader of 22nd January, he told the TNA MPs, ‘he believed the STF was responsible for the murder of the Trincomalee students and was again done to discredit him. Rajapakse had also drawn the attention of the TNA to the fact the STF was set up by the UNP.’ The reference was to the 5 students killed on the Trincomalee sea front on 2nd January. We keep coming back to it because it is the defining event of the new dispensation.

3.1 24th December 2005 – 3rd January 2006

Trincomalee 2nd January – The New Dispensation: Iqbal Athas in his Sunday Times defence column of 8th January drew attention to the STF unit under Chief Inspector Vas Perera sent to Trincomalee on the initiative of Defence Advisor Kotakadeniya that was implicated in the killings. On January 15th Athas reported that Kotakadeniya accepted responsibility for sending the STF, but held that he had first got clearance from Defence Secretary Rajapakse. The latter declined to comment. Athas had reported on the 8th that the deployment of the STF team had been done with little or no knowledge of other security officials. Once the postmortem reports confirmed that the students had been shot dead in cold blood, Athas was surprised that the MoD announced simply a full scale inquiry and the President had been persuaded not to make a commitment to punish the offenders.

The facts on the ground that became clearer in due course, gave a very disturbing picture. Far from the other branches of the security forces in Trincomalee not knowing about the deployment of the STF, the Army and Navy fully cooperated in doing their share in facilitating the cold blooded murder. The incident was planned and executed and the point man on the ground was SP (now SSP) Kapila Jayasekere. Chief Inspector Vas Perera told the magistrate’s court that he was hand picked for deployment in Trincomalee by Kapila Jayasekere. The STF as part of the Police came under Kotakadeniya’s purview, but not the Army and Navy. Only Defence Secretary Rajapakse could explain how the Army and Navy got involved. Needless to say nothing came of the MoD’s full-scale inquiry.

This event in Trincomalee brings us to the killing of Pararajasingham MP nine days earlier. Looking back we could see the similarities in the modus operandi. The event elucidates the atmosphere created within the security forces after Rajapakse backed by extremist parties won the election. The appointments to the defence sector themselves carried a message of their own, of which Kotakadeniya’s pronouncements over the months left little doubt. Among his more explicit messages was his citing with approval an alleged British propensity for fighting terror by killing suspects willy-nilly. Rajapakse from time to time tried to put on a moderate face, but this was drowned by the passage of actual events.

Thus with regard to state killings there is no need to ask whether this or that killing had explicit approval from someone high in defence. The atmosphere and the message of impunity that was proclaimed by inaction over the initial killings had a momentum of its own. Had the Government acted firmly to punish the offenders in one instance it would have stopped. The absence of any deterrent action acted as an inducement to criminality.

3.2 24th December 2005: Joseph Pararajasingham was to attend midnight Christmas Mass. During the hours leading to the Mass, two persons were seen going around the cathedral area in a white van. One was recognised as they passed the office of a party now in the TNA to which he had previously belonged.  (He had lately joined the EPDP.) As mentioned earlier he is not loyal to any party but wanted to take revenge.  His base was some miles from the city. The LTTE had made several attempts on his life and he never moved without an army escort. His companion was a military officer of the intelligence type. When it was time, two Karuna cadres who had already been brought to a house in the area were transferred to St. Mary’s Cathedral to do the deed. The military officer and the EPDP man stood outside the church premises near the entrance.

Officials of the Roman Catholic Church in Batticaloa told us that Joseph and his wife Sugunam were the first to arrive at the Cathedral with their driver and bodyguard. Seeing the place almost empty, Sugunam became worried and suggested going back home. Then her nephew arrived in a car and they took courage and stayed back. Then the Cathedral began filling up. The bodyguard and driver were left at the Cathedral entrance while the MP and his wife went to the front.

The Cathedral is in the high security area of Puliyantivu and there was a high level of security forces activity around it before the service. Church sources said that when the service started, the security personnel suddenly withdrew and were thereafter conspicuous by their absence. Against this the movement white van mentioned above was very noticeable. About five youths were noticed standing at the entrance to the wing of the Cathedral facing St. Michael’s College and the bakery. They were constantly whispering to each other which those who noticed them found alarming.

When Joseph and his wife went to receive communion, one killer made his entrance from the wing on the opposite side and pumped bullets into Joseph, injuring also Sugunam and six other civilians. The killers then fled amidst confusion created by the firing of crackers by accomplices, ran to the lagoon shore behind the public bus stand, took a boat and went across to the mainland. This too was well planned like the action on the Trincomalee beachfront. The fact that the outrage was committed in the very centre of the Church in the region, in the presence of the Bishop, has not resulted in the powerful Roman Catholic Church taking the Government to task.

We understand that much of this information, which we have verified independently, was also passed onto the Government by the TNA. We also learn from sources connected to the Government that the same military officer who was placed in charge of one of the several groups of Tamil killers cooperating with the State, also supervised the assassination in Colombo of Atlas Bala (Balendran) on the night of 3rd January 2006.

Atlas Bala was a Tamil businessman dealing in Travel and cellular telephones in Colombo and Jaffna who prospered during the Norwegian brokered CFA. A part of the inspiration behind the CFA, misplaced though it was, was to transform the Tigers through a surfeit of commercial activity into captains of commerce. Many businessmen took advantage of this and prospered. It went without saying that the Tigers would get their share. That was how the CFA was meant to work and no fault of Bala’s. All known circumstances point to Vigneswaran and Raviraj being killed in a similar manner with state intelligence types directing from behind.

3.3 7th April 2006: Vanniasingham Vigneswaran was a central committee member of the TELO who became a leading Tamil nationalist in Trincomalee advancing the LTTE’s claims. He came into prominence campaigning for the removal of the Buddha statue erected with the connivance and equipment of the security forces on the Trincomalee sea front in May 2005 and was appointed by the LTTE to take Joseph Pararajasingham’s place in Parliament. He was shot dead in the premises of the bank where he worked in Trincomalee’s naval high security zone on 7th April 2006. The Government condemned the killing and ordered the IGP to find the killers. The then IGP Mr. Chandra Fernando, who knew the victim personally from his days in Trincomalee, did nothing apart from visiting Trincomalee and giving arguments why the LTTE killed him.

Sources in Trincomalee told us that Vigneswaran was killed by a Karuna cadre named Riyaseelan (Seelan), whom we are told is different from the Seelan known as Sinthujan. The latter was also, we learn, some time used for operations in Trincomalee by military handlers and then removed. Sinthujan now has his office adjoining the STF camp in Akkaraipattu and is notorious for conscription. Both the area and the use of a Karuna cadre suggest the same modus operandi as in Pararajasingham’s

3.4 10th November: Nadarajah Raviraj was a young but articulate TNA member, a moderate, who felt for the people and is also on record criticising the LTTE leaders for sending their children abroad while wanting other children to fight. Perhaps a number of parties had their own reasons for wanting him put out. He was young at 44 and popular as a communicator of the Tamil point of view to Sinhalese audiences through the broadcasting media that regularly invited him as a guest. He thus challenged the Sinhalese extremists. He was also an active member of the Civil Monitoring Committee (CMC), working with Mano Ganesan MP (Colombo District), Vasudeva Nanayakara MMC, Dr.Vickramabahu Karunaratne, and Appapillai Vinayagamoorthy

The Civil Monitoring Committee made a significant impact in challenging the recent spate of abductions and killings of Tamils in Colombo. Many of those abducted were held for ransom. Some of the abductions, such as from Galle Road, Wellawatte, were so open and in broad daylight with several check points or a police station a stone’s throw that it was abundantly clear that they had the connivance of the security forces.

There were also strong hints based on earlier precedents that many of these abductions and killings were an outcrop of the killer groups set up by the Government, extending their privileges to get rich in the bargain.

As for the recent abductions, there are strong indications that some cadres of the Karuna group, the EPDP and sections of the security forces are acting together. Several of the kidnapped persons were taken to Welikanda where Karuna has several bases. In some instances the EPDP also became involved in negotiations to release the victims and received large sums of money from the family, holding out hopes of having the victim released. A notable feature in the affair is that the Karuna group, having broken away from the LTTE, knows many of those in LTTE lists as potential targets for extortion.

Events of the past year have shown that once the Government by acts of commission and omission allowed killer groups to function, the latter become a power unto themselves and any move by the Government to check them would inevitably carry serious repercussions for it. Thus the Government’s hands are tied however much these criminal actions bring it to disrepute. With or without government approval, they had in effect an open licence to kill in Colombo.

On the morning of 10th November Raviraj returned home from a programme with the Sinhalese TV channel Derana and thereafter left home in Narahenpita driving his car with his government-assigned Sinhalese bodyguard Police Sergeant Laxman Lokuwella of Gampaha. His driver and domestic help had taken leave and had reportedly extended their leave. At 8.45 AM, from Martha Rd. he was to enter Elvitigala Rd., a prominent road having several government and security establishments, when two men on a motorcycle came and fired at him from an automatic hidden in a bag. The gunman got down from the pillion went round the vehicle firing. The gun men fled on the motorcycle, registration number JE 3500, leaving behind the T 56 rifle. An auto-rickshaw which is believed to have contained spotters was also observed leaving the place. Raviraj died in hospital about 40 minutes later, while his bodyguard was dead on admission.

The killing in a very public place and widely witnessed conveyed an inevitable message. A prominent journalist Ameen Izzadeen wrote in the Khaleej Times (14 Nov.): “The presence of police officers and soldiers on the streets of Colombo is conspicuous. They are there every hundred metres — armed and on alert. Virtually, nothing escapes their attention. But the killers of Tamil Nationalist Alliance parliamentarian Nadarajah Raviraj got away with ease on Friday after committing the crime in broad daylight in the heart of Colombo which sometimes resembles a garrison city.”

The National Christian Council said in a statement: We note that Mr. Raviraj’s assassination was carried out in broad daylight on a busy road on a week day morning. It is also clear that the assassin was in no hurry but got away without even a semblance of challenge from any soldiers guarding that road at several places.”

The President condemned the killing and arranged to invite Scotland Yard to investigate. TamilWeek quoted a police officer saying that if only they were allowed to do their work without interference they could easily bring the culprits to book. And the Police did make some rapid progress. They found according to press reports that the motorcycle had been bought from a garage in Tangalle by persons with military or ex-military connections and registered in the name of a Tamil politician. They made some arrests and took the unusual step of handing over the file to the Colombo magistrate for safekeeping, as they feared political interference.

We received some information on the murder from Tamil expatriate sources having an intimate knowledge of the situation on the ground. According to these sources, a former EPDP MP who left Sri Lanka for the West in September 2005 has been told that a vehicle used in the killing was registered under his name and is since both puzzled and extremely worried. The former MP is said to have left Sri Lanka with hard feelings for the EPDP leader. According to these sources the Police arrested about 4 Sinhalese working for the EPDP for questioning.

These sources also disclosed that the modus operandi was similar to that used in the killing of Joseph Pararajasingham. A team of six was involved, two from the military of intelligence type, two from the EPDP and two from the Karuna group. Only the EPDP and Karuna cadres went to the vicinity to do the killings. The military accomplices or handlers were keeping the escape route clear, making sure that the killers were not challenged by security forces personnel in the area. Diverse and normally reliable sources also said independently that an individual affiliated to one of the two extremist parties supporting the Government, and enjoying high-level contacts within it, arranged a temporary hiding place for the escaping gunmen. 

To the list of MPs whose killing causes particular concern, we must also add Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah (68) who was killed at his home in Tellipalai after nightfall on 21st August this year. A police station is almost across from his house in a high security zone.

3.5 Implications of the Killings of MPs

We reiterate that these killings are primarily the result of a state killing machine that has gone wild. It has developed its own momentum. Worse for the Government, it signifies a reliance on terror in dealing with the ethnic problem and the absence of any meaningful political overtures. Everything the JHU Treasurer and Defence Advisor Kotakadeniya said or hinted, everything the extremists desired has come to pass. Among these are generous extra-judicial measures, waging war (quite indiscriminately as it turned out) to recapture Tiger-held territory and isolating the East. The role played by the JHU and JVP in starting the ‘humanitarian’ water war using one-sidedly hysterical propaganda was very conspicuous.

Whatever happened to the moderate SLFP and President Rajapakse’s repeated promises of human rights and ‘maximum devolution’ after the Indian model? Once more the extremists who took a piggyback ride on the SLFP have virtually swallowed it up. And what about the JVP now heartily applauding and wanting more from the Army of the methods it perfected when it all but eliminated the JVP during 1987-1990? The Deputy Defence Minister then said infamously in Parliament in January 1990, “We have finished the first eleven and the second eleven. Now we are tackling the under fourteen fellows.” The JVP is fated to go down as history’s celebrated scapegoats who drowned themselves for four decades in their own rhetoric and violence, bringing nothing but misery on their hard-pressed constituents.

The peace constituency has been criticised for excessive zeal in their demonstration in Colombo after the killing of Raviraj. What as at issue is not the degree of altruism in the protest, they were right to do so. Everyone has the right to self-defence. So far the killings have been allowed to proceed by the simple rule that the Tamils are fair game. The way they have run wild few can predict what the next turn would bring. The intra-Sinhalese killings of the latter 1980s were a direct continuation of government killings in the North-East.

Raviraj’s killing exemplifies the impending anarchy. The killer group phenomenon is the bringing together of diverse elements from state intelligence and two Tamil and two Sinhalese extremist parties among others; and granting them impunity. On its own, each subgroup would have been very cautious about undertaking a killing. But under one umbrella with a guarantee of impunity gives the collective a life of its own. Any one group could initiate something and the others with no deep interest in a particular killing would go along in a game of you scratch my back and I scratch yours. There is no risk. With risk removed a larger circle of contacts would also be willing to do things for money. Collectively, they acquire a hugely inflated sense of power that also makes them reckless. The killing of Raviraj was after all such a revealingly clumsy affair.

The Missing TRO workers,  29th and 30th January 2006:

We made a brief reference to this matter in Special Report No.20; where, quoting sources who had very good contacts with the LTTE, said that the case of the 7 TRO employees missing was staged by the LTTE in the wake of the portended Geneva talks. Although what we said received wide publicity, the LTTE failed to contradict us. On 6th April 2006, the families of the allegedly missing TRO staff were brought to Colombo for a press conference. The earlier sources laughed it off saying that those at the press conference had been well rehearsed. These were the sort of persons who dealt regularly with fairly senior LTTE officials and were happy to talk about what they knew without ulterior motives.

Having made further inquiries, we must admit that we were only partially correct and the LTTE had good reasons to mislead the public. The catch is that there were two incidents of TRO vehicles going missing in the Welikanda area, the first on the night of 29th January and the second in the evening of 30th January. Both Amnesty International and the Special Rapporteur to the Human Rights Commission (SpR) have written about this.   

The first group to be abducted was a straightforward accident as follows from the SpR’s report and agrees with what we heard from sources in Batticaloa. In the evening of 29th January, Kasinathar Ganeshalingam, described as Secretary for the Pre-School Education Development Centre for the North-East, the driver Kathirkamar Thangarasa and three young female TRO employees, described as pre-school teachers, left Batticaloa for Killinochchi.

Another group of TRO employees left Batticaloa on the evening of the 30th and the vehicle was stopped in the Welikande area by the abductors and all but a few of those in the vehicle were released. TamilNet flashed the news the same night claiming that 5 staff members were missing. Internal checks had apparently failed, and it was not until the 31st evening that TRO realised that those who left on the 29th were also missing.

In SpR’s account it transpires that their van turned into a wrong road after passing Welikande, which become rough after they drove for some time, and ran into a sentry point of the Karuna group that detained them. It appears from those who know the area that the driver being recently employed from Killinochchi in the North, had failed to take a turn. Passing Welikande, the road turns right and comes to a roundabout from where the Polonnaruwa Road is to the left. If the vehicle had gone straight, the road is initially good before becoming narrow and rough and gets into Karuna’s encampments around Karapola.

Ganeshalingam, who was from Jaffna, and the driver Thangarasa have not been seen again and are presumed killed. We had no indication that they were in the TRO other than to do a job of relief work. According to local sources, the Karuna group claimed to have taken over a parcel of jewellery weighing about half a pound, which the vehicle was carrying to the North. According to these sources, Karuna’s men obtained under interrogation, information about the TRO van that was to proceed to the North the next day and who was expected to be in it.

The second TRO vehicle left Batticaloa on the 30th evening with TRO staff going to the North for a training programme. According to local sources again, one woman passenger boarded the vehicle between Vantharumoolai and Valaichchenai. The TRO employees who were there mainly for employment were alarmed at the extra company they did not know to be on the TRO staff.

The Karuna group later stopped the van and most of the passengers, according to our sources, pleaded that they were there only for a job and were chased away by the abductors. Those chased away then reported the incident. The TRO reported the following missing: Miss. Thanuskody Premini TRO Batticaloa Chief Accountant, Mr. Shanmuganathan Sujendram TRO Accountant, Manikkavasagar Children’s Home, Santhivelli, Mr. Thambiraja Vasantharajan Accountant, TRO Batticaloa, Mr. Kailayapillai Ravindran Accountant, Vipulananda Children’s Home, Palugamam, and Mr. Arunesarasa Satheesharan Accounts Trainee, Vellaveli.

There can be no confirmation of this claim for the lack of independent testimony from those released after the second incident. According to local sources, Karuna group cadres claimed that one woman who was in the second vehicle was a key intelligence cadre carrying important messages between Killinochchi and Batticaloa. Another source was told by an LTTE aquaintance, “We lost some important people.”

Perhaps of some significance is the difference between how the TRO (the LTTE) has treated the two incidents. Although the Executive Director of the TRO informed the Human Rights Commission that it wanted them to investigate the two incidents, it only presented the three girls released from the 29th incident to be interviewed by the HRC in the presence of TRO representatives (two girls in Colombo and one in Batticaloa). The TRO’s publicity too focused on the 29th incident, highlighting the pre-school education programme in which they were involved as being partnered by the INGOs Save the Children, UNICEF, FORUT and the Norwegian Refugee Council. While the TRO has informed Amnesty International that 10 persons were released after the 30th incident, none of them was presented to the HRC. Little was said of them except that they were accountants or office trainees. 

There is no known connection between the two incidents and the Sri Lankan forces. But the latter are so close operationally to the Karuna group that one wonders. If the Karuna group believed a prisoner to be a key LTTE intelligence cadre, would they have disposed of her without handing her over to the Sri Lankan military? The dirty war between rival intelligence sectors, started by the LTTE, gathered momentum when Newton of the LTTE went missing near Colombo in May 2005.

A postscript speaks of the tragedy of a community where people are artificially divided into the service of warlords who have nothing to do with their deeper feelings or their well-being. One of the TRO girls who was detained and released in the saga above is married to Sittha of the Karuna group who is the political wing leader for Batticaloa. The girl’s elder brother is the Head Forest Ranger for the LTTE (Vanni) in the Batticaloa District. Romance takes wing in the strangest of encounters.

The LTTE’s control of the TRO and its use as a multi-purpose organisation, besides for humanitarian work, undermines the work of many of its staff who are doing yeomen service under very trying conditions. Thilagar, the former LTTE plenipotentiary in Europe operates as L. or Lawrence Christie, Planning Officer for the TRO. Thilagar who enjoyed immense power was cut down to size and bundled off to the Vanni from Paris in an indecent hurry, shortly after two internal killings within the LTTE in Paris on 26th October 1996. The killings are still unexplained.

10th April 2006: Suthakaran Sutharuban, Kali Kovil Street, Kallady, Batticaloa District: Sutharuban was a young boy of age 15 to 17, who was abducted by the Karuna group. On the day given his body was found chopped to three pieces (head and hands severed) at the Kallady clock tower. It was taken to the hospital and brought home for burial in the evening where the mourners were gathered. The Karuna group came home with weapons and threatened the people there. The mourners, even close relatives who would normally stay over at the funeral house, began leaving. Only about three people, including the parents, were left with the body that night. Very few attended the Christian funeral the next day by village standards. Family sources said that Sutharuban had acted as a very low key LTTE informer and was betrayed by another who worked as a double agent. The victim was picked up when he was seated in an auto-rickshaw. The Karuna group according to reports also took the other later and he has not been seen.  

2nd May 2006: Attack on the Uthayan Newspaper Office: The Uthayan office was attacked on 2nd May by gunmen who came on motorcycles and, in the absence of the journalists they were apparently looking for, killed two members of the support staff. In Special Report No.21, we named the EPDP as the principal suspect. The fact that the army sentry at Sivankovil opened fire and injured two persons on a motorcycle on a slightly circuitous route from the Uthayan to the EPDP office just after the attack, was the source of this suspicion. A good source later confirmed this suspicion, adding that the injured were two EPDP cadres. One was according to this source, mildly injured and the other was being treated for his injuries even two months later.

15th May 2006: Escaping Karuna Conscripts Killed, Batticaloa: On 19th May the Police recovered two bodies from the Batticaloa Lagoon that had come ashore at Navatkudah. Forensic examination suggested that they were killed 4 days earlier. The bodies remained unidentified. We learnt from religious leaders that the two youths had been conscripted by the Karuna group and were held in its Batticaloa office. They escaped during the night, took a boat and reached Buffalo Island in the Batticaloa Lagoon. There they were apprehended by army men at a lookout post. Finding out who they were, the Army handed them over to the Karuna group who beat them to death and threw them into the lagoon. One was also shot possibly while trying to run away. This is the fate of many children of poor parents who are treated as goods by the Government, the LTTE and the Karuna group and their parents may never come to know how they perished.    

18th May 2006: The Killing of Indian Traders, the Case of Mahlingam Vijayakumar: Vijayakumar (30) was an itinerant textile trader from Sinnalampiddy, Thindukal District, Tamil Nadu, who used to tour the Batticaloa District. We reliably learn that Vijayakumar was called to Vinayagapuram, Valaichchenai at 10.00 AM for a viewing of his wares, taken to an unoccupied house, bound and imprisoned by two cadres of the LTTE intelligence unit under Tharan. Tharan, from Valvettithurai, who is in charge of the Aandankulam Division (Vaharai and Valaichchenai) area, has worked under the supervision of Pottu Amman for 10 years and has his office in Kathiraveli. The two cadres who abducted Vijayakumar are Sakthy and Ukku. Sakthy (Anthonypillai Navaratnarajah, 30 years) of Pavatkodichchenai joined the LTTE in the 1990s, surrendered to the Army in 1999, was released and rejoined the LTTE after a year. He deserted his wife Thillaiampalam Kanthimathy and his son of 7 years and lives with another married woman. Ukku, not married, has three children by a common law wife.

The night of the same day that Vijayakumar was taken, he was tortured and knifed to death. In order to cover up the killing and also because wild hogs dig up graves, local sources say that the killers also killed a dog and buried both victims in the same pit.   The pit was dug up when on 21st May, the villagers and the headman complained to the Police of an unbearable stench.

9th June 2006: The Murder of the Martin Family in Vankalai:

  During the night of 9th June the entire family of the carpenter Moorthy Martin (35), his wife Mary Madeleine (27), their daughter Anne Lakshitha (9) and their son Dilakshan (7), of Thomaspuri, Vankalai, were brutally murdered. The rest, other than Mary Madeleine, were found hanging by ropes from the roof, while condoms were strewn on the ground. The incident took place about 300 yards from a satellite army camp. Most of those who lived in the area had moved out to the church in Vankalai for the night, the normal routine in these insecure times.

In evidence before the Mannar magistrate T.J. Prabhakaran in late June, Mary Madeline’s elder sister, Mrs. Christopher Senorita Kulas (44) said that on the morning of the day of the killings, members of the Sri Lankan Army came to the village and inquired from the women in the houses as to how many persons were in each house and other ‘unwarranted details’. Mrs. Kulas stated that nobody, other than the Army, could have committed the crime, as it is only army personnel who are in control of the area and there are two army camps in close proximity.

As to the manner in which the Government was handling the case, the Daily Mirror of 28th June contained the following: “Magistrate T.J. Prabhakaran, had previously ordered the (Police) OIC Jayasena to give notice to the OICs of Vankalai Police and the Army Camp, informing them to be present in Court last Friday (23). The OICs failed to be present in Court. The Magistrate asked the OIC Crimes, Mannar Police, the reason for the OICs’ absence. The OIC Crimes told court that he could not communicate the Court order. The Magistrate noted the response of the OIC Crimes, as an act of negligence and indifference and is not plausible, as the police post concerned is under the purview of the same OIC Crimes.”

From the very outset the Police and the Defence Ministry tried to fob off the case with a story that Martin had been approached by an LTTE agent Kunduthasan and Martin had turned informer and tipped them off about Kunduthasan. Kunduthasan (Prince Croos) who was arrested by the Army in the Mannar bazaar on 26th May was washed ashore on 1st June, 8 days before the murder of the Martins. The Government story was that the LTTE had killed Martin for having turned army informer. Beyond story-telling it has done no investigation despite the horrifically sensational nature of the atrocity and the LTTE using the gruesome pictures for publicity all over the world.

We directed several inquiries to Vankalai folk about possible links between Martin and Kunduthasan, the answer was they hardly knew each other. Initially a number of persons in the area did not rule out LTTE involvement, but then decided that was very unlikely and impractical. The killers had spent some time in the Martin home, had smoked and indulged in torture. Boy Dilakshan’s neck had been broken before he was strung up with his father and sister. The mother lying on the floor had bleeding from her vagina. Contraceptives were strewn nearby and rape was suspected, but so far not medically confirmed as far as we know, though samples were sent to Colombo. For a place in a high security zone and army camps nearby, the killers had acted confidently as though no one would disturb them.

Another possibility considered by locals was an inside job, suggesting that Martin had differences with his wife owing to her having had an earlier attachment. She later met and married Martin from Trincomalee, both whose families were refugees in India. The Martins had resettled in Vankalai less than a year earlier. The suicide theory too was talked about and dismissed. The hanging of Martin and the two children suggested an external hand and there were tell tale signs of intruders.

Apart from the circumstantial fact that soldiers had been making inquiries about the family earlier the day it happened, the Police’s manner of investigation was suggestive of a cover up. Rather than try to uncover the truth, they were according to local sources, asking questions like, “Could the LTTE have done it?” and “Could the EPDP have done it?” One example of what it did to people was the state of the headman (GS) Mr. Rongalin.

At the beginning Rongalin was saying that this was calculated murder. He faced several sessions of questioning by the CID (Police) and also possibly by the Military Police. Later, he changed his position and maintained that it was suicide. Locals found that he was not normal, as though he had been given a terrible fright.

We talked to a man with whom Martin had worked closely. Martin worked in the timber trade. He and his family had been in and out of the witness’s home. Martin was by reputation scrupulously honest, the sort that needed no supervision. He had no enemies. The business in which he worked collapsed after his murder for the lack of anyone to replace him. The witness affirmed that Martin had no problems with his wife and was very fond of his children. Although the Martins usually slept in the church, because of a church function the following morning, the family had brought their jewellery and had slept at home. He said that the soldiers who were making inquiries the day before the murder were not from the neighbouring camp but from one further away. He added that the disingenuous manner in which the Police and Army posed questions about the murder, strongly indicated they know what exactly happened to the Martins.

While fear and the disingenuous conduct of the investigation appear to have closed all avenues of inquiry, locals point to one that may be the way forward. Based on some indications they strongly believe that Martin resisted the attackers with some of the carpentry tools kept in his home and one or more of the attackers were injured seriously enough to need immediate medical attention. This is believed to be one reason why they acted with such barbarous frenzy.

Against this backdrop we received information from a good source that a killer group involving also Naval Intelligence and some Tamil elements of unknown affiliation committed the crime. One of those involved was later pinpointed as one who survived the LTTE sting in Mannar town on 30th June.

24th June: Kaththamutthu Rasanayagam (43), Santhiveli, Batticaloa District: The father of three was cycling on the main road about 11.00 AM. The man was a psychiatric patient and did not stop when soldiers asked him to do so. Injured, he fell to the ground. A soldier went up to him and shot him dead at close range. His wife Sivathesam who rushed to the scene testified before the Magistrate M.H.M. Ajmeer that she had seen a soldier planting a grenade on her husband. A soldier M. Anuratne told the Magistrate that the deceased was asked to stop, who then tried to throw a grenade at the army patrol. This is one of several such cases where the soldier should have been tried and punished, but are deliberately allowed to disappear in files that get stuck somewhere and are decorated with cobwebs.

26th June 2006: Baskaran and a young woman victim, Anbuvelipuram, Trincomalee: On Sunday 25th June about mid-day a bomb exploded at Gandhinagar Market in Anbuvelipuram, a suburb of Trincomalee, but no one was hurt. The Army then became rough with the civilians and beat up several people. A number of youths were arrested. That night a youth came running through the compound of a house chased by others. The fugitive tried to get through the barbed wire fence into the drain by the roadside through which apparently he hoped to escape. But he got caught in the barbed wire. Those chasing him caught up with him and began beating him mercilessly and showering him with abuse. The captured youth pleaded plaintively, “Don’t beat me.” The people recognised the youth as one who had just began driving an auto-rickshaw and among those detained that day. His tormentors were not soldiers, but persons whose mother tongue is Tamil. The next morning Baskaran’s body was found with cut and gun shot injuries.

Two days later the LTTE came again into the area and shot a young woman, who like many villagers sometimes spoke to soldiers. She was bleeding profusely but no one dared to help her. It was some soldiers who came and carried her to transport her to hospital. One soldier was heard saying in Tamil, “Thangachchi (younger sister) has lost a lot of blood, but no one is coming to help her.”

27th August, Vimalakumari Sinnarasa (44): Vimalakumari was present at her sick mother’s place at Uthayam St. in Sittandy and so was her brother Ratnavel Sinnarasa. As to what was behind the killing of the brother and sister by gunmen who called there in the evening, we heard conflicting reports. Our sources finally said that some Karuna cadres were having dinner at their house when the LTTE got word and came there. The Karuna cadres managed to run away. The LTTE gunned down the sister and brother.

3rd July 2006: A Rare Sign of Hope, Trincomalee: A bomb fixed to an abandoned auto-rickshaw exploded near the army check point at Anuradhapura Junction at noon, killing a soldier, a woman home guard, two police constables, a police sergeant and a civilian. More than a dozen others were injured. From April, the standard pattern after an LTTE provocation of this sort is for the security forces to launch reprisal attacks on Tamil civilians. But this time, the Police SSP Nihal Samarakoon rushed to the scene and controlled the situation, preventing any reprisals.

Cases of two women:

5th July 2006: Miss. Punithvathy Ambalavanar (43): The spinster lived with her mother in Ponniah Lane, Uduvil, about 300 yards from the army camp. Intruders in the night murdered her, injured her mother and robbed the house. In its report, TamilNet alleged, wrongly as we learnt, rape of the deceased and made the connection with the army camp. Information we received from two sources independent of one another, points to ruffians who are used by the LTTE for Ellalan Force type of operations. We have earlier referred to such elements forced on pain of death to do services for the LTTE, which include murder, robbery and throwing bombs at the Army. Among their tasks is to create insecurity and panic mainly through robberies intended to discredit the Army.

Another remarkable instance during the middle of this year was the robbery at Senthil Master’s. Senthil Master, a graduate teacher and native of Chavakacheri was married and settled in Kalviankadu. He ran a successful tuition centre and became quite well to do. About 4 or 5 robbers entered his house, beat him up, tied his wife and took away Rs. 10 lakhs worth of jewellery. Senthil Master complained to both the Police and to the LTTE’s political wing in Pallai. He had a clear view of his assailant and had apparently guessed his affiliation. The LTTE’s political commissar Illamparithy summoned him to Pallai, sat across him at a table with the man whom Senthil Master recognised as his assailant beside him. Illamparithy asked the Master whether he recognised any one of those involved. The Master got the message and never raised the matter again.

19th October 2006, Mrs. Piriyaliny Karalasingam (32): Piriyaliny, a native of Mutur, had married a policeman from Batticaloa and came to live in Selvanayagam Lane, Batticaloa Town, with her child. Her husband left the Police and went to work abroad. She had some jewellery and her house had been robbed a day or two earlier. She evidently recognised some of the robbers and had made it known that she was going to inform the Police. On the morning of 19th October, gunmen came to her house, called her out and shot her dead. What was remarkable was that this happened by broad daylight in a high security zone and no arrests were made. The general speculation was that the perpetrators belonged to the Karuna group. According to our sources, they were ruffians who bore to the Karuna group a relationship similar to that between the Ellalan Force and the LTTE.   


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