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Eyes 'gouged out' in Sri Lankan gaol David Beresford Reporting from Colombo to UK Guardian, August 1983
The Badulla massacre of civilians is the only one, apart from Jaffna, of which the Guardian has an account from a witness. But there are reports of at least one other similar massacre in the town of Nuwaraelya, near Badulla, in which 13 people are said to have been killed. Troops were again allegedly involved.
While accounts of these massacres are circulating widely among Sri Lanka's Tamil population, it is the massacres in the Welikada gaol which are attracting the most attention. There is particular interest in circumstances in which two alleged guerrilla leaders were killed.
The two men, Sellarasa 'Kutimani' Yogachandran. leader of the Tamil Felam Liberation Organisation and a political writer and Ganeshanathan Jeganathan had been sentenced to death last year for the murder of a policeman.
In speeches from the dock. the two men announced that they would donate their eyes in the hope that they would be grafted on to Tamils who would see the birth of Eelam - t e independent state for which they were fighting.
Second hand reports from Batticaloa gaol, where the survivors of the Welikada massacre ale now being kept, say that the two men were forced to kneel and their eyes gouged out with iron bars before they were killed.
One version has it that Kutimani's longue was cut out by an attacker who drank the blood and cried : " I have drunk the blood of a Tiger."
The two men were among 35 killed in the Welikada gaol on July 25. Another 17 were killed in the gaol two days later and the Guardian has obtained a first hand account of part of the light in this incident, including the circumstances in which Sri Lanka's Gandhian leader, Dr Rajasunderam, died.
Dr Rajasundaram was one of nine men, including two Catholic priests and a Methodist minister, who were moved out of their cells immediately after the July 25 killings to make way for survivors moved into their cells on security grounds �into a padlocked hall, upstairs in the same block.
The nine, convinced that further attacks were coming, made repeated
representations to the prison authorities on July 26 for better security
measures. Assurances were given that they would be protected, but
At 2.30 pm on July 27, hearing screaming and whistling outside, one of the priests looked out of a high window and saw prisoners breaking in from a neighbouring compound, wielding axes, iron bars, pieces of firewood, and sticks. There was no sign of prison guards.
The mob which was later found to have killed 16 prisoners in the downstairs cells, ran up to the hall and began breaking the padlock.
Dr Rajasunderam then went to the door and cried out " Why are you trying to kill us ? What have we done to you ?" At that moment, the door burst open and Dr Rajasunderam was hit on the side of the neck by a length of iron. Blood was seen to spurt several feet.
" At that juncture, we thought we should defend ourselves," one of the prisoners related. "We broke the two tables in the hall and took the legs to defend ourselves.
" We kept them at bay. They threw bricks at us. We threw them back. Pieces of firewood and an iron bar were thrown at us. We used it to defend ourselves. It went on for about half an hour. They shouted : ' You are the priests, we must kill.' The killing was eventually ended by the army, who moved in with teargas.
An inquest has been opened into the Welikada massacres, but the above details did not emerge. Prison warders claim that keys to the cells were stolen from them.
Lawyers for the prisoners, who have accused the warders of having participated, claim that they were not given the opportunity to bring evidence despite representation to the Government.
Survivor describes Sri Lanka Badulla massacre David Beresford Reporting from Colombo to UK Guardian, August 1983
NEW EVIDENCE that the security forces were involved in the massacre of civilians is beginning to emerge in Sri Lanka.
The Guardian has obtained a first-hand account of a massacre in the southern town of Badulla in which the army and police were allegedly involved in the murder of 14 people, according to a survivor.
Details are also emerging of the killings in Welikada. prison. Colombo, in which 52 prisoners died � which suggest that they might have been carried out with the connivance of prison staff.
An account of how a group of inmates, including three clergymen, fought a pitched battle for their lives has been given by survivors.
These accounts follow details of alleged army massacres in the northern peninsula of Jaffna � including the murder of six schoolboys at a bus stop �reported by the Guardian on Monday. They raise questions about the responsibility of senior security force officers and members of the Government.
Last weekend President Jayawardene was questioned during a recorded interview about the basis of evidence gathered in Jaffna by the Guardian. He claimed that the army withheld information about the massacres from him for nearly two weeks.
But the leader of the Opposition, Mr A. Amirthalingam, who lives outside Jaffna, has claimed that he telephoned the President the day after the massacres took place, Monday July 25. to inform him. " He said "We'll look into it and do what is necessary to stop it.' " Mr Amirthalingam reported.
At least two other prominent figures in Jaffna are believed to have made similar representations to the presidential office the same day. The President says that no inquests have been held into the Jaffna killings because he was informed too late.
'The Jaffna massacres have been blamed on troops going berserk after the murder of 13 colleagues by Tamil terrorists in the area the previous night. But the latest incident to be reported took place 200 miles to the south.
The survivors' account was given by Mrs Silvamany Ganesan, aged 36, a mother of three children who belonged to one of two Tamil families attacked. She gave her story through an inter-preter and broke down as she completed it.
Mrs Ganesan said that she was a weaving teacher, married to a used-car salesman, living with her family at Muthieyangana Road. Badulla, a well-to-do street which included three Tamil homes,
At about 10 am on Wednesday, July 27, a crowd gathered outside a bus depot 100 yards away, attacking passing vehicles. She said that her family telephoned the police to evacuate them, but they did not come.
The crowd then began to attack the home of a neighbour. Mr Ramanathan�wellknown locally as a camphor dealer�trying to break down
his gate. Mr Ramanathan, who had a shotgun, fired a single round into the air through a window to try to frighten them away.
The army then arrived, according to Mrs Ganesan, and took up positions behind the crowd which began to attack the gate again. Mr Ramanathan fired at them without appearing to hit anyone.
Mrs Ganesan said that a son of Mr Ramanathan, aged about 15, climbed on to the roof of their house carrying an umbrella�it was raining�and was shot by a soldier from the street and fell to the ground.
She fled to her aunt's house nearby with her children, hiding with them in the bathroom. She heard firing outside and then an explosion. They ran out of the bathroom to find that the house was on fire. They were running away when they were stopped by a Tamil soldier.
She was led with her children down a lane at the back of this house to the main road. She said she saw pools of blood in the lane.
On the main road in front of Mr Ramanathan's house, there was a pile of bodies, including those of her husband, brother-in-law, father-in-law, and her sister-in-law's husband. They all appeared to have gunshot wounds and she and her children�two daughters aged nine and seven, and a son of five�were able to see her husband's intestines falling out and his head staved in.
Also among the bodies were a tenant from her aunt's house and his threeyear-old daugher, the tenant's brother-in-law, and a visitor to the aunt's home, Mr Ramanathan and his four sons, aged between 15 and 22.
Mrs Ganesan said she was told that her crippled and bedridden father-in-law had been shot in bed in a Singhalese house where he was taken before the attack began. The owners tried to claim that he was a servant. Her other relatives were shot in the lane, all by soldiers. she said. The Ramanathan menfolk had been hacked and beaten to death by the crowd, she said.
While they were standing by the corpses, Mrs Ramanathan was ordered by troops to go into her house and bring out "the other Tigers (Tamil terrorists operating in the north) and guns,- said Mrs Ganesan. After she protested that all the men from the house were on the pile her 16-year-old daughter was sent in, coming out to say that there was nobody there,
Diesel fuel was then poured over three lorries. a van, and a motorcycle parked around the house. A brand was lighted and handed to Mrs Ramanathan's daughter, who was made to set her home and the vehicles on fire. The bodies were then thrown onto the flames.
Soldiers started to push the women and children towards the fire, but were stopped by one of the policemen who, Mrs Ganesan said, were in the crowd. The women and children were then driven to a police station, their names taken, then released.