Tamils - a Nation without a State
- an estimated 300,000 Tamils live in Canada -
Sri Lanka’s “Shame”: the Massacre of Sixty One Innocent School Girls
Speech at the Remembrance Day in Canada to mark the
1st anniversary of the Vallipunam Senchcholai Massacre
Usha S Sri Skanda Rajah, 14 August 2007
"Ladies and gentleman let me draw
your attention to the mural on
the stage. A woman throwing up her arms in a sheer state of
helplessness depicted in the mural typifies our feelings of pain
and outrage. This outcry by women; led by women; using the
intellect, the expertise and advocacy power of women, for women
will continue until justice is done."
The Charge is Genocide - the Struggle is for Freedom...
Ladies and gentleman,
I stand before you as a proud member of the Scarborough Tamil
Women’s Organization; I am fortunate to be in the company of such
committed and outstanding women. Let me first extend my sincere
greetings and gratitude to all of you for your presence here today.
Ungal Elorukkum En Anparntha Vanakkam
We welcome you today with heavy hearts as we remember this day one
year ago when there was mayhem,
blood shed and carnage in the Vallipunam Senchcholai Compound in
the Mullaitivu district of Thamil Eelam; it was so shocking, so
horrific that you had to be there to know what happened; hear it not
from me but from Juliet, 18 years of age, a survivor who escaped
death with only shrapnel wounds on her hands. In her testimony to
NESOHR she said
“We were in the 2nd day of our workshop on first aid and
disaster management skills. More than 400 school girls were in
attendance at the 10- day workshop. It was 7am we were by the
well, when we saw the K-fir jets faraway and thought that they
were heading elsewhere. Within seconds we saw them heading
directly to our centre and suddenly started bombing our
premises. As the bombs fell the girls ran in all directions, and
took cover by lying on the ground face down, hoping that the
bombers will go away. But the Kfir jets returned….”
Continuing to describe her ordeal Juliet said
“There was chaos within the Senchcholai premises with each round
of bombing as more students were …wounded and more..killed. In
between air-strikes the girls ..were running to other positions
to take better cover. During lull periods they would run out and
aid the wounded and carry them to safer locations. Rescue
efforts got interrupted several times by a sudden return of
K-fir jets. Many died on the spot, many were wounded, most had
multiple injuries, some lost there their limbs some had severe
burns. I still have memories of the jets and the desperate calls
of the girls for help.”
The massacre of sixty one Tamil school girls and two staff members
by heavy aerial bombardment of the Senchcholai premises by Sri
Lankan President Rajapakse's men is the first such case ever to have
been documented in the world in the new millennium attributed to
government forces anywhere.
Additionally 129 girls were injured. Those who were injured, those
who escaped death, those who came in the aftermath as rescuers and
those who are relatives are all still traumatized by this incident.
Not only was this attack targeted it was as Tamil National Alliance
MPS called it “pre-meditated, deliberate and vicious… and clearly
having genocidal intent.”
It is the first case ever heard of where a government not only
boasted but also claimed responsibility for such a despicable and
In my view this is the most unforgivable act of state terrorism
inflicted on young girls each one of them just about to bloom into
womanhood – the ambitions and goals they would have nurtured were
destroyed with them.
True men in uniform are not only men of valor in my estimate they’re
decent and dignified in their conduct so much so, they would rather
die than ever hurt women and children knowingly.
Sixty one of tomorrow’s potential leaders and intellectuals, the
love and life of doting parents, guardians and siblings, the pride
and joy of the Tamil Nation were murdered in cold blood by one cruel
and barbaric State.
The Senchcholai massacre has all the makings of a crime against
humanity which would justify the basis for a thorough investigation
and facilitate the prosecution of the perpetrators at the highest
level starting from the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse at
the International Criminal Court (ICC). So we thought.
Under customary international law a crime against humanity has the
following 5 elements: The crime committed has to be:
1. One of a list of prohibited acts
2. Committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack
3. Pursuant to or in furtherance of a state or organizational
4. directed against any civilian population
5. with knowledge
I t could be said all of these 5 elements are satisfied in this
On all of these Rajapakse and his men are culpable!
But the truth is that Sri Lanka is NOT a party to
the Rome Treaty, therefore an action at the ICC would not be
possible. Sadly the ICC has no jurisdiction to hear the case since
Sri Lanka has not ratified the Rome Statute. Karen Parker is known
to have expressed concern over this.
It’s a well known fact that the Senchcholai compound was designated
and respected as a “humanitarian zone” housing civilian population
and was accepted as such by international agencies such as the
UNICEF and the Red Cross with LTTE giving precise coordinates to the
Sri Lankan Army through the good offices of these agencies. UNICEF
had even held some seminars in the same building.
SLMM official Mr. Hendricsson rejected Sri Lanka’s official
spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella’s allegation that it was a
Tiger training camp. He said “we couldn’t find any sign of military
equipment or weapons. It was not a military installation.”
Ann Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director referring to the children
who were killed said “these children are the innocent victims of
violence.” The Sri Lankan government’s allegation that they were
“Tamil Tiger Terrorists” has been found to be baseless. The young
victims of approximately 18 years of age following GCE (OL) and (AL)
classes selected from 18 schools in the Mullaitivu and Vanni
districts were undergoing first-aid, leadership skills and disaster
management training at Senchcholai. School Principals, civil
servants, the Education Board and injured students together with
NESOHR, ITRO, UNICEF and Amnesty International have all attested to
According to NESOHR press release dated Oct 1 2006 three of the
injured girls taken to Kandy hospital (outside of the NorthEast)
were placed under police custody, under the provisions of the
Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and removed to an undisclosed
location for interrogation. Of the three one of them was taken away
from Kandy and is now under the custody of the Criminal
Investigation Department (CID) and two of them were sent back to
Vavuniya District hospital where one died. The post-mortem revealed
the student died of medical negligence while in Kandy; the latter
has been sent allegedly to Colombo for further treatment while
remaining under the custody of the CID.
The two who were alive were coerced into making statements
favourable to SL government and were paraded like captive animals on
state television traumatized not only by the ordeal of the bombing
and injury but by the anguish and humiliation of making an untrue
statement under duress on national television.
I spoke to Father Karunaratnam of
to find out the fate of these two girls Kasthuri Sripathy and
Sumithra Balasingham. I was shocked and outraged to find out that
even though no charges were filed against them, they were still
under police custody in Kandy and that Kasthuri is paralyzed and
could not walk.
The Senchcholai massacre will feature as one of many incidents of
“Shame’ for Sri Lanka.
It’s also such a shame that the State responsible; the police state;
the rogue state; a failed state that is Sri Lanka has not been
condemned by other States. When will Rajapakse, the Commander in
Chief of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and his men, the perpetrators
who committed this dastardly act, the murderers who snatched these
young lives in their prime ever be punished and when would these
young victims ever receive justice?
Ladies and gentleman let me draw your attention to the mural on the
stage. A woman throwing up her arms in a sheer state of helplessness
depicted in the mural typifies our feelings of pain and outrage.
This outcry by women; led by women; using the intellect, the
expertise and advocacy power of women, for women will continue until
justice is done.
As we cherish the memories of these precious young lives let us vow
to be loyal to the cause for freedom of our Motherland and loyal to
those who are defending it.
in Combat: Relationship between Crimes against Humanity and War
Crimes by W J Fenrick, 2004 [Mr. Fenrick has been a Senior
Legal Adviser in the Office of the Prosecutor of the
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia since
1994. Until recently, he was the head of the Legal Advisory
Section. He is now the Senior Adviser on Law of War Matters.]
2. Tamil and Sinhalese Media reports
3. Survivor’s Testimony