On 10 April 1983, a young Tamil from Trincomalee died in police
custody after having been held without charge for two weeks. At the
post mortem 25 external injuries and 10 internal injuries were
found. At the judicial inquest into his death on 31 May, the Jaffna
Magistrate returned a verdict of homicide. Three days later, on 3
June 1983, a new Emergency Regulation was brought into effect
permitting the police to bury or cremate bodies without a post
mortem or an inquest.
On 9 June 1983, Amnesty International cabled President
Jayawardene expressing concern that such a Regulation could give
rise to the gravest violations of human rights and appealed to him
to rescind it. But the Regulation was not rescinded.
On the contrary, on 3 June 1983, the day that the new Emergency
Regulation was brought into effect, the attacks on the Tamils in
Trincomalee commenced in earnest.
R.Sampanthan, M.P. for Trincomalee wrote on the
Ethnic Violence in Trincomalee in June/July 1983 in a Tamil United
Liberation Front publication in 1984 titled 'Genocide in Sri Lanka -
"Attack on properties of Tamil people commenced on 3rd June and
continued till the end of July.
Mobs of Sinhala people went from village to village to various parts of
the town, and the suburbs, and set fire to Tamil houses and shops. A
particular modus operandi was observed in most of these attacks. A part of
heavily armed service personnel would enter a Tamil area and carry out a
search alleging that according to information received explosions and
dangerous weapons were hidden in that area. Invariably nothing would be
recovered, sometimes the service personnel would remove axes, knives and
such implements that would normally be available in any house. Sometimes
Tamil youths would be arrested on "suspicion" and taken for questioning.
The manner of the search, the demeanour of the service personnel and the
threats and intimidatory language uttered was such that the entire locality
would be terrified into utter submission. No sooner the search was completed
a band of Sinhala thugs enter the locality and set fire to the Houses of
Tamil People; if the house contained valuables it would first be looted.
This has happened in broad day light and by night even during curfew hours.
Frequently the houses of Tamils were burnt by Sinhala mobs in the immediate
presence of the security forces who conducted the search, making it obvious
that the purpose of the search was to remove any weapons with which the
Tamils may be able to defend, themselves and to terrify the Tamil people
particularly the Tamil youth, so that the Sinhala mobs would be assured that
no harm would befall them. Frequently Service Personnel encouraged, incited
and aided Sinhala mobs to set fire to Tamil Houses.
The first attack in Trincomalee was on this pattern.
On the night of 3rd June, an army vehicle pulled up in front of Mansion
Hotel along Main Street, Trincomalee, a property owned by the previous
Member of Parliament the late Mr.B. Neminathan and wanted to do a search of
the premises. No sooner the army completed the search discovering nothing,
the army left the place to another premises very close by, also removing the
Police who were on duty in front of the Hotel. No sooner the search was
completed an unruly Sinhala mob from the Market Square invaded the Mansion
Hotel and attacked it. It was partly damaged. The Naval Personnel during the
course of their attack of the town on 26th July completely gutted the place.
In certain areas it was well known that Sinhala service personnel had
themselves set fire to Tamil houses and business establishments. Every
single Tamil shop in the Anuradhapura Junction, a developing area was gutted
by fire. Sinhala mobs were aided by Air Force Personnel who themselves
actively participated. Over twenty five shops of Tamil people were
completely burnt in this area.
The officers attached to the Uppuveli police Station are reported to have
actively participated in several acts of arson. The conduct of the
Officer-In-Charge of the Uppuveli Police Station has been seriously called
in question. He is alleged to have even participated in attacks on Tamil
people outside his area of authority.
Every single Tamil Village within the area of authority of this police
station along the Trincomalee-Anuradhapura Road was attacked for a distance
of almost 25 miles and several hundreds of houses burnt. There were several
murders in this area, double murders, triple murders, not merely were the
houses burnt even the people who lived in the house were murdered. Many
police officers attached to various stations were found seriously wanting.
There has been a pattern in these attacks. The attacks have been
motivated by a desire to dislodge Tamil people and drive them out of these
The victims were Tamils who were citizens by descent, Tamils of Indian
Origin who were registered citizens, and Tamils of Indian Origin who though
not granted citizenship had applied for citizenship and whose applications
were yet pending. There were also some Tamils of Indian Origin who fell into
the stateless category, in respect of whose status and future a decision is
yet to be made.
More than 50% of the persons attacked were in occupation of state land
which had been alienated to them on state permits or on private land. They
had developed these lands. Of the balance 50% atleast 25% had been in
occupation of the said lands for long periods of time, for as long as seven,
ten to fifteen years and who had developed these lands. They would normally
be entitled to have their occupation of these lands regularised. In terms of
the Government's policy in respect of encroachments all citizens who
were in occupation of State land as encroachers prior to 1979 are entitled
to have such encroachments considered for regularisation. The aforesaid
persons largely fell into this category. The balance were stateless people
of Indian origin who had encroached on State lands for want of other land.
In respect of all persons of Indian Origin, into whatever group they may
be categorised, it must be pointed out that these persons came to the
Trincomalee district, as indeed large numbers have gone to many other Tamil
districts, on account of the violence unleashed on them in other parts of
the country where they had been earlier employed largely in the Plantations.
Consequent to the several racial riots that have been taken place over the
past several years, in the course of which they were physically attacked,
their houses and belongings completely burnt, these persons had migrated
into areas which they considered safe or at least safer. Persons who so
migrated were later joined by their relatives, a situation quite
understandable in the context of the insecurity in which they resided, and
the hope of more security in a new place, particularly a Tamil
district.There has been a concerted plan to drive these persons out of these
After the houses of these persons were burnt, these families were
accommodated in several refugee camps. Government provided basic assistance,
which by itself was totally inadequate for their survival; in some areas
particularly within the Muthalikulam (Morawewa) A.G.A's division even such
basic assistance was not fully provided. One could discern a reluctance and
unwillingness on the part of certain Sinhala Government Officials to even
provide this totally inadequate basic assistance to persons in such dire
Tamil people in the areas in which the refugees camps were set up most
willingly and readily responded with food, clothing and other necessities
and the refugees were very well looked after.
What happened to them on the night of the 24th July will be dealt with
later on. A massive attack by a section of the security services on the
Trincomalee town, and its immediate outskirts occurred on the night of 26th
July and will be dealt with later on.
Houses in various parts of Trincomalee town and its suburbs were attacked
and burnt. Areas in which Tamils were distinctly in a majority were
attacked. Such attacks could never have taken place without the active
support of the security forces and without the fullest consciousness on the
part of the Sinhala people, that the security forces would protect them
against any retaliation or resistance by the Tamil people.
The Tamil people were not given any protection whatsoever by the security
forces, the Sinhala offenders and attackers were in no way prevented from
attacking the Tamil people by the security forces, and the Tamil people's
right to defend themselves, in the exercise of their right of private
defence of person and property was taken away by the direct intervention of
the security forces. The Tamil people were intimidated into the belief by
the State's Security Forces who are largely Sinhala that if any harm befell
a Sinhala man even in the exercise of the right of private defence by a
Tamil, the retaliation by the security forces would be harsh and severe.
One further significant feature-in respect of the acts of arson was that
when a Tamil house or shop had been set on fire, and if other Tamils in the
neighbourhood tried to rush and attempt to extinguish the fire, Service
personnel on duty would point their guns at such Tamil people and drive them
back. The Arsonists had freedom of movement, the security forces would grant
them that freedom, but innocent Tamils who wanted to extinguish the fire of
neighbour's property would have no such freedom . Can anything else be more
dastardly, and demonstrate fully the hostility of Service personnel to Tamil
Several vehicles were destroyed by arson. About 10 to 15 Sinhala houses
Temporary buildings were damaged by fire during the commencement of the
The Tamil Times reported in August 1983 -
The Sri Lankan Government's propaganda machinery would like the world to
believe that the atrocities recently committed against the Tamil speaking
people is the result of the killing of 13 army personnel allegedly by
unidentified Tamil youths on 22nd July, 1983.
The following diary (extracted from an affidavit sworn by a person
presently in detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act) of atrocities
committed in and around Trincomalee in the month of June, long before the
killing of 13 army men, demonstrates clearly a sustained and continuous
campaign of harassment, torture, arson and murder.
3rd June - Trincomalee Town
Attempt to throw petrol bomb at Yal Cafe.4th June - Trincomalee Town
a) Mansion Hotel attacked and set alight.
b) Van belonging to Mansion Hotel set on fire.
c) All the furniture in the hotel damaged. The local police failed and
neglected to genuinely investigate these offences. A special team of
officers from Colombo then, came and recorded statements and a B Report was
submitted to the Magistrate who issued warrants for the arrests of the
suspects. The local police have up-to-date deliberately failed and neglected
to apprehend three of the suspects who are freely moving around in the town.
5th June - Villangkulam
8 houses belonging to Tamils burnt.
5th June - Pankulam
Murder of N.Sriskandarasa
5th June - China Bay
Pillaiyar Temple set on fire.
7th June - Mullippaththanai
Murder of S.Rajathurai.
8th June - Trincomalee Town
Chariot belonging to Sivan Temple burnt 9th June - Uppuveli
Sub-Postmaster shot at - escaped. 9th June - Huskisson Road
Samson's house bombed.
10th June - Trincomalee Town
Two bombs thrown at Mr. R. Sampanthan, M.P.'s house.
11th June - Dockyard
Bomb thrown at Gandhi Hotel.
13th June - Central Road
Bombs thrown at four shops belonging to Tamils and four injured, and
13th June - Main Street
Bomb thrown at furniture shop.
13th June - China Bay
Prima Factory employees attacked, five injured.
13th June - Pankulam
Gunapala's house set on fire.
14th June - Panmathavachchi
4 Wayside Hindu shrines damaged.
15th June - Trincomalee Town
A house belonging to a Tamil clerk attached to Railway Department
situated opposite the Trincomalee Railway Station burnt.
15th June - Uppuveli
A Tamil C.T.B. employee's house, in front of Uppuveli Police Quarters,
17th June - Kinniya
Two murders: 1) Saunthararasa 2) (Name not Known).
18th June - Anpuvalipuram
Three houses belonging to Tamils burnt.
20th June - Sivayoqapuram
Three houses belonging to Tamils Burnt
21st June - Thoduvapillaiyar
Six houses belonging to Tamils burnt.
21st June - Koviladdy
Six houses belonging to Tamils burnt.
22nd June - Singanagar
Three houses belonging to Tamils burnt.
24th June - Trincomalee Town
Bomb thrown into the houses of Mendis and Wilson.
24th June - Sivayogapuram
Two houses belonging to Tamils burnt.
25th June - Sivayogapuram
30 houses belonging to Tamils burnt.
26th June - Tricomalee Town
Bomb thrown at Nescafe Hotel.
27th June - Kithul Ootrue
a) Minibus called "Island- and belonging to a Tamil attacked; several
sustained gun shot injuries; bus burnt, 17 passengers (all Tamils) admitted
27th June - Uppuveli
b) Alvarpillai and Ramanan cut to death. Alvarpillai's wife and three
other children admitted to hospital with cut injuries. 27th June -
c) 10 shops belonging to Tamils and two belonging to Sinhalese burnt.
27th June - Kithul Ootrue
Thirunavukarasu, Seetha and Usha cut and burnt to death.
Two Hindu Temples set on fire.
27th June - Central Road
Bomb thrown at Rajamani Stores.
28th June - Thirukkadaloor
Navy took into custody Sabaratnam, Kalirasa and Amirthalingam (Indian
tourists) at the temple and handed them over to a group of armed criminals
who brutally chopped the three of them and left them bleeding on the road.
Sabaratnam died on the spot and the other two were removed to hospital some
28th June - Uppuveli
Golden Sands Beach Hotel and Restaurant set on fire.
28th June - Panmathavachchi
Hindu Temple set on fire.
29th June- Pankulam
7th Channel Three murders- Rajagopal, Thavamani and one other.
29th June - Palaioottru
30 houses belonging to Tamils burnt. 29th June - Pankulam Track No.4 Nine
houses belonging to Tamils burnt. 30th June -(Not known)
Santhirarasa and Selvarasa cut to death.
30th June - Nachchikulam
30 houses belonging to Tamils burnt. 30th June - Navattikuda at China Bay
close to Air Force Quarters.
32 houses belonging to Tamils burnt.
Catholic Ashram set on fire.
30th June - Vilveri
30 houses belonging to Tamils burnt. 30th June - Paraiyankulam
Four murders: Vadivel, Chinniah, Poopayee and Valliammah.
Four sustained injuries, admitted to hospital: Ratnarasa 80 years,
Muthuluxmy 30 years, Selvasamy 20 years, Muthukumaru 7 years. h) 27 houses
30th June - Central Road
Kalai Magal shop burnt.
30th June - Dock Yard
Navy Officer Sivanathan who participated in the arrest of some criminals
attacked by Sinhalese Naval personnel.
Navy personnel Sebastian's house attacked and badly damaged.
In all, 19 Tamil persons including women and children have been killed
and more that 100 Tamil persons injured and many of them warded in hospital.
214 houses belonging to the Tamil people have been burnt and the families
who lived in the said houses rendered homeless. 21 shops belonging to Tamil
people, 8 Hindu Temples, 1 Temple Chariot and 1 Catholic Ashram have also
been burnt or damaged.
And there was a definite pattern to the attacks against the Tamils in
''And there was a definite pattern in it. The objective
sought to be achieved was to drive the Tamils out of
Trincomalee, for the Government was anxious to get a Sinhalese
majority population there as the Tamils have been holding out
Trincomalee as (their) future capital ...
The pattern of violence was such that the
police/army/navy/airforce joined the Sinhalese people in
unitedly attacking the Tamils. In early June, two Hindu temples
were burnt. The house of the (Tamil) MP for Trincomalee was
attacked and bombs thrown...
On 25 June, at Sivayogapuram, 20 Tamil houses were burnt by
Sinhalese people in the presence of the police. On 26 June the
'Nescafe Hotel' owned by a Tamil was attacked and several Tamils
were injured. One of the Sinhalese attackers was caught and
handed over to the police, who released him.
On the 27 June a coach from Trincomalee to Jaffna, with Tamil
passengers, faced a road block by the Sinhalese people. They
shot at the coach and 4 passengers were injured. The coach was
thereafter set on fire with all the passengers inside.
12 passengers, including a child sustained severe burn
injuries. One Thirunavukkarasu, a Tamil helped the victims in
the coach and despatched some of them to the hospital. On that
very night, Thirunavukkarasu his wife, Seetha and a 4 year old
daughter were killed by the Sinhalese at Kithul Uthu in
Trincomalee... By the end of June, in Trincomalee, 214 houses,
24 shops, 8 Hindu Temples, 1 Catholic Ashram were burnt...''
(Satchi Ponnambalam, Memorandum to the United Nations Commission
on Human Rights submitted on behalf of Concerned Eelam Tamil
Scholars, February 1984)
Tamil organisations protested against these attacks by the Sri Lankan
security forces in Tricomalee and one such protest telegram addressed on 1 July
1983 to 17 foreign embassies in Colombo read: ''Tamils experiencing pathetic
situation in Trincomalee. Killing, looting and arson are now taking place. State
security forces are behind violence. We seek immediate intervention by friendly
nations to help stop genocide of Tamils.''
In August 1983, the Ceylon Workers Congress, whose President, Mr
S.Thondaman, was a Minister in the Government of Sri Lanka, said -
" ... Even before the riots began in Colombo, the attack on the Tamil
settlers in the Mannar, Vavuniya and Trincomalee areas had been set in
motion. It is significant that communal violence on a large scale
commenced with the burning of the huts of settlers in Trincomalee. They were
uprooted from their homes in the early hours of the morning of 23rd July
bundled and brought against their will to Nuwara Eliya and Hatton and left
The failure to regularise the land holdings of stateless persons and
other people of Indian origin in the North, through a dialogue with the
Minister of Rural Industrial Development and President of the Ceylon Workers
Congress, has been a major contributory factor to this sad state of affairs
which we are witnessing today.
Instead, of implementing the declared policy of regularising the
settlement of persons of Indian origin in these areas, where they were
transported and dumped as refugees after the previous holocausts, a
concerted attempt had been made to drive them out of their holdings under
various false pretexts. This had been further intensified around the middle
of July when the police and the security personnel set in motion a-wave of
terror intimidating the settlers and driving them away."