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Ethnic Violence in Trincomalee in June/July 1983
Ethnic violence in Trincomalee (which in effect means as events have established conclusively - the unleashing of violence by Sinhala people on the Tamil people) has been endemic. Apart from racial hatred and other factors generally applicable, racial violence in Trincomalee is also attributable to the fact that a growing Sinhala population in the Trincomalee district, desires to assert itself by the exercise of sheer physical force. It is actively aided by the armed services.
In 1947 when Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) attained Independence the percentage of
the Sinhala population in the Trincomalee district was around 5 to 6%. This
comprised of persons who have come to Trincomalee for the purpose of fishing,
persons engaged in certain trades like baking and sale of certain types
After Ceylon attained Independence, the Sri Lanka Government as part of its programme of development of the Dry Zone in Sri Lanka, embarked on certain major irrigation schemes in the Trincomalee district
Sinhala persons from, various parts of the country outside the Trincomalee district were settled on these lands. The alienation of land under the Padavi Kulam Tank even in the Trincomalee district was brought under the administration of the Anuradhapura District by certain jurisdictional changes in administration and this facilitated the settlement of only Sinhalese under the Padaviya Tank.
The Tamil speaking people in the Trincomalee district were not given any opportunity, though substantial extents of land-several thousands of acres fell within the Trincomalee district. Manipulations by Governments in power, and Sinhala officials entrusted with powers of land alienation (Most such officers have been Sinhala, Tamil speaking officers rarely entrusted with such powers ere emblem to Governmental and official intimidation, and are afraid to act independently; Tamil officers are seldom entrusted with these powers at present and for the past several years, there is no Tamil officer entrusted with such powers despite several efforts on my part to obtain one) has always resulted-in preferential treatment being meted out to the Sinhala people in the matter of land alienation.
This has been the main cause of the Sinhala population in the Trincomalee district rising from around 5% to 6% in 1947 at Independence to around 30 to 32% as at present. Ever since the formation of the Federal Party, in the late forties and the proposal that Federalism was the only solution to the ethnic problems in Sri Lanka, the Federal Party has advocated and demanded an end to colonisation of Tamil Areas- (The Northern and Eastern Province the traditional Homeland of the Tamil people) with Sinhala people.
The Bandaranaike Chelvanayagam Pact in the mid fifties, the Dudley Senanayake - Chelvanayagam Pact in the mid sixties - the proposal to set up District Councils, Regional Councils—with autonomy to these Councils in respect of land alienation envisaged fair and just alienation of land so as to prevent the Tamil people being reduced to a minority in their traditional Home lands.
These pacts were abrogated, and efforts by Tamil leaders towards solutions by compromise were thwarted. Meanwhile successive Governments relentlessly pursued the policy of land alienation to Sinhala people on a preferential basis. The Trincomalee district was very much in issue in respect of this policy. Apart from regular land alienation, Sinhala people were also encouraged to encroach upon state lands and such encroachments were, in due course regularised. Statistics would reveal that encroachments by Sinhala people for exceeded encroachment by other communities.
The 1977 Election Manifesto of the United National Party accepted that colonisation was one of the main grievances of the Tamil people and accepted that it was this and such other grievances, which had driven the Tamil people to demand a separate state. The United National Party in its 1977 Manifesto undertook to redress these grievances. In 1981, after the United National Party Government assumed Power the Periya Vilankulam Tank (Mahadivulwewa) in the Trincomalee district was restored with E.E.C. Aid and 1200 acres of land were to be alienated. Despite all efforts on my part to ensure an equitable distribution of the land nthe mode of selection at the Land Kachcheri was on the following basis:—
After renewed representations by me, and after readjusting the extent of part of the allotments in order to accommodate my representations which readjustment by reduction of extent was to the disadvantage mostly of the Tamil people, the ultimate distribution of land was on the following
The above clearly demonstrates that Government's thinking on the policy of land alienation, has not changed and will not change. Cleverly prepared excuses Government Officials to explain the above disparity were proved to be untenable at various Conferences with the Minister of Lands and his Officials, but the ultimate power to decide remains with them.
The Government in 1980 introduced Development Councils Law. Land use and land settlement was one of the functions entrusted to Development Councils. Elections the were held in 1981.The law has yet to be implemented, two years later, and the law is now virtually a dead letter. The law does not ensure non-interference by Government or Lands Ministry Officials and circulars issued by Lands Ministry Officials after the passage of the Development Councils Law clearly indicate that Government does not intend parting with the power of land-alienation.
Another method of increase of Sinhala population in the Trincomalee district has been through employment. Sinhala people are given employment on a preferential basis in the public service and the public sector corporations. In many of these Corporations coming under the Ministry of Industries and Scientific Affairs, employment is given almost exclusively to Sinhala people. This helps to strengthen the Sinhala population in the Trincomalee district. The employees take up residence permanently in Trincomalee, they are joined in due course by their relations who come from other districts.
In late 1977 early 1978 after the present United National Party Government was installed in power, a private company from Singapore was granted permission to set up a large Flour Milling Complex in Trincomalee. The "Prima Flour Milling Complex" was accordingly set up at China Bay in close proximity to the Trincomalee harbour. I had discussed the question of employment with the President who was then the Prime Minister and he had assured me that employment would be on a fair basis. He repeated this assurance on the floor of Parliament and stated that jobs would be given to the Tamil people.
When construction was completed, and the employees recruited 74% of the jobs went to Sinhala people. 18% to Tamils and 8% to Muslims. The total number of jobs was in the region of 600. A large housing complex was constructed at Government expense for this industry comprising of 450 houses, the vast majority of which were allocated to Sinhala people. Though the Prima Flour Milling Complex was a private company, Government clearance was required in the matter of recruitment and may eligible Tamils were discriminated against.
I have set out the above to indicate a planned increase in the Sinhala population in Trincomalee, a plan in which unfortunately the Government plays a very prominent and deliberate role. This factor, plays a vital role in the violence unleashed on the Tamil people in Trincomalee. This factor also has a direct bearing on the functioning of Government's security forces entrusted with maintenance of Law and Order, which are manned very substantially by Sinhala personnel.
The Violence unleashed on the Tamil people in Trincomalee in June/July, 1983 took the following forms:—
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 villages. 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 villages.
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 distress.
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 people.
Several vehicles were destroyed by arson. About 10 to 15 Sinhala houses Temporary buildings were damaged by fire during the commencement of the disturbances.
31 Tamils were murdered by Sinhala people. They comprised of males, females and children. The persons murdered were Ceylon Tamils and also Tamils of Indian origin. Murder was committed by shooting with guns, cutting with swords, daggers and knives, frequently slitting the throat or causing deep wounds on the chest, and sometimes by burning even before death. Injured persons were thrown into a house set on fire and sometimes injured persons were set on fire before death; sometimes bodies of murdered persons were completely burnt. At Kithuloothu on the 10th mile post along the Trincomalee-Anuradhapura Road a father, mother and 4 years old child Tamil citizens who were in occupation of land alienated to them on state permit were murdered and the bodies completely burnt, only the charred remains were left over. In another instance at Srimapura along the Trincomalee Uppuveli Road an elderly person a Ceylon Tamil, a long standing resident of the area was stabbed, and while he was yet gasping for breath, a burning tyre was thrown on his body.
Several Tamils after the commencement of the disturbances are reported missing. It is reasonable to infer that they have been murdered, and the bodies not traced or disposed of. One Sinhala youth was killed in an area where many acts of arson were committed against Tamil people, the night before.
2. Physical Injury:
Over a hundred Tamil people were physically injured, many grievously by Sinhala people. The injured people comprised of males, females and children, The injured people were Ceylon Tamils and Tamils of Indian origin. Injuries were caused by Gun shot wounds, cutting with swords, daggers and knives, Bomb explosions, burning and assault. Large crowds of Sinhala people collect on public highways and attack Tamil passers-by murdering or injuring them. These highways are supposed to be regularly patrolled by service Personnel and in some areas even static guards are supposed to be on duty. Bombs were thrown into Tamil Business Establishments causing injuries to people and damage to property.
Bombs were also flung at the House of the Member of Parliament, Trincomalee, which did not hit the house of the Member of Parliament, but instead hit the house of his sister and his mother which were situated in front. The member of Parliament resides in Trincomalee Town, 300 yards away from his house on the same road is the Main Trincomalee Police Station and in the other direction about 150 yards away is the Trincomalee Harbour Police Station. The bombs were thrown during curfew hours. In one single attack over 25 persons were grievously injured.
A Mini-Bus proceeding from Trincomalee to Jaffna with a load of Tamil people was barricaded, the tyres were shot at and the bus immobilised. The driver of the bus and others were shot at by Sinhala people armed with guns while some other Sinhala people smashed the windscreens of the bus, poured petrol on the passengers and into the bus through the broken windows and set fire. Many passengers were badly burnt, and were hospitalised for several weeks. One of them a lady latterly succumbed to her injuries. Among the burnt persons were ladies and young children. The Bus was totally wrecked.
A bus carrying employees from the "Prima Flour Milling Complex" back to Trincomalee was barricaded and stopped by Sinhala people, the Tamil employees were asked to get down, and attacked with swords and knives. Several people were injured. This was on effort to even prevent the few Tamil People who had obtained employment at "PRIMA" continuing to work there.
In retaliation about ten Sinhala people were injured. Bombs were thrown into some Sinhala houses causing injuries to a few people. These isolated acts of reprisal were inevitable in the face of the mass scale violence unleashed on the Tamil people. Some Sinhala people were victims of Sinhala violence, persons who were in Tamil shops and cafes when bombs were thrown into these establishments by the Sinhala people.
Around 600 Tamil houses, shops and business establishments were completely gutted by fire.
4. Looting and damage to properties:
Before a house was burnt, if the house contained valuables, such articles were looted. In some instances damaged beyond repair. A large number of people have suffered immense loss. Substantial looting took place on the night of the 26th July when Naval personnel attacked and burnt several Shops, business establishments, houses and temples. The shops had large stocks of goods. The shops ranged from grocery stores, textile shops, jewellery shops, hardware shops, shoe marts to fancy goods stores, two private lorries had apparently followed the attackers into which the looted property was loaded. The papers carry many pictures of looted property being flushed out in Colombo, nothing even on a minor scale has happened in Trincomalee.
5. Damage to Hindu Temples:
Over a Dozen Hindu Temples have been attacked:
An attempt was made to burn the chariot on the night of 6.6.83, the chariot was slightly burnt. Evidence revealed that an army vehicle stopped in front of the temple. Service personnel were seen about, and no sooner the vehicle took off the chariot started burning. Before the fire engulfed the whole chariot the fire was extinguished. The chariot was desecrated. On the night of 26th July when the naval personnel went on a rampage the chariot was burnt to ashes. The main door of the Sivan temple was forced open, the "Nandi" image of the Sacred Cow damaged and dislodged from its position, the "Kodosthambam" the main flag mast in the centre of the temple damaged and dislodged. The Sivan temple is one of oldest temples in Trincomalee, held in great veneration and is situated in a thickly populated Tamil locality.
6. Kithuloothu Pillayar temple:
Damaged and burnt. An ancient temple. Some land had been set apart for this temple. The temple was situated within this land. When attempts were made to take over part of the -said land for a Rural Development Building and a Sarvodaya Hall, I objected to it on the ground that the land allotted to the temples should not be interfered with and that such interference would pave the way for further conflict. Eventually I protested to President Jayawardene and he replied me by his letter No.333/1 of 27th November, 1979 allowing the proposal.
A small Buddhist Shrine has now come into existence in the immediate vicinity of the old Hindu temple. The ancient Hindu temple has been destroyed. The new Buddhist temple is being developed. Every single Tamil house in this locality was burnt to ashes. Three members of one family a father, mother and a 4 years old child were murdered and burnt to ashes. This happened within 150 yards of the new Buddhist Temple. In my view an act of wrongful interference with a land allotted to the Hindu temple gave Sinhala people the encouragement to do all that has happened.
The former Government Agent, J. Bandaragoda was responsible for this situation. All that mattered to him was the propagation of Sinhala/Buddhist influence, at whose or at what cost was totally irrelevant. It was unfortunate that President Jayawardene was prepared to act on the report of Bandaragoda, particularly so, for the reason that there was a decision taken by a former Minister of Lands of a previous United National Party Government that this land be reserved for this Hindu temple.
A temporary Sarvodaya Building that stood on this land was burnt down under mysterious circumstances some days after the, the Hindu temple was attacked and burnt, Tamils murdered and Tamil houses destroyed. When the Sarvodaya building was burnt there was not a single Tamil living in the entire locality. I have no doubt that the temporary building will soon be replaced with a permanent building and when this happens the plan embarked on several years ago would have been completely fulfilled.
7. Murugan Temple Kithuloothu: Damaged and burnt.
8. Sinnathoduvai Pillayar temple: A small but rich and old temple. The re-consecration ceremony took place some years ago. Damaged and burnt by naval personnel on 26th July. Behind the temple, there was some temple land initially used for paddy cultivation. Since the land was situated within the town limits and was valuable land, the land was leased out by the temple authorities to about 50 to 60 Tamil families who had constructed houses, some permanent, some semi permanent, some temporary. All the houses barring one, and the temple were damaged and burnt when the navy personnel went on a rampage on the night of 26th July. The temple has numerous other lands, a fair number of lands are occupied by Sinhala people nothing whatever happened to any one Sinhala house on any one of these lands.
9. Krishnan temple: Also known as Vishnu temple—many Buddhists hold the temple is great veneration–old temple, extensively renovated recently and reconsecration ceremony held. This is a rare temple, not available in all towns. Attacked by navy personnel in the course of their rampage on the night of 26th July.
10. Saneeswaran temple: A temple dedicated to Lord Saturn, and held in great veneration by the Hindus, attacked and desecrated by naval personnel who went on a rampage on night of 26th July.
11. Nadesar Temple, Sivayogapuram: Explosives was thrown into the innermost Shrine room after the front door leading to Shrine Room was broken into pieces perhaps by another explosion. A beautiful temple with large halls and abundant garden space situated about a mile beyond town limits. Devotees come from various parts of the country–ceremonies are very well performed and facilities available for meditation. Temple damaged and desecrated.
The desecration and destruction of our temples by Sinhala mobs and sections of the armed forces is most revolting and unbearable. Not one single place of Buddhist worship was attacked.
Removal of refugees from refugee camps on night of 24.7.83: As stated before affected Tamil persons were accommodated in various refugee camps and were looked after well by their Tamil brothers and sisters. Some of them had joined relations or friends in their houses. Some people had gone back and about 500 people remained in 7 Camps.
1. Kuchchaveli Roman Catholic Church,
2. Nilaveli Methodist Church,
3. Aththimeddai Govt. Tamil Mixed School,
4. Varothaya Nagar,
5. Kanniya Hindu Madam,
6. Palayoothu Church,
7. Tamil School, Avvainagar, Pankulam Morawewa.
They had expressed no desire to leave the camps and were awaiting restoration of normally before their future could have been decided. Amongst this number of people there were Ceylon Tamils, permanent residents of Trincomalee, Legitimate Permit Holders of lands occupied by them, Ceylon Tamils and Tamils of Indian origin occupying private lands some of whom had purchased such land, persons of Indian origin with citizenship who had occupied the lands for considerable periods of time, and who were entitled to have the encroachments considered for regularisation, persons whose applications for citizenship were pending and Stateless people.
A rude shock awaited them on the night of the 24th July. Their camps were surrounded by Armed service personnel they with their children, their belongings, without any question asked or answers given, under service command were to be bundled into vehicles to be taken away to unknown destinations, which were not disclosed. Those of them who showed unwillingness or reluctance were brusquely told to hurry up. They were given no chance. Around 3 O'Clock in the morning they were taken out of Trincomalee in Ceylon Transport Board Buses to various destinations without their free will and against their consent. Even criminals under normal laws when they are taken in by armed services are required to be informed why they are being taken and where to.
Refugees in Trincomalee were not even extended the normal courtesy extended by law to criminals. On receiving this information in Mannar on the 25th morning, I sent President Jayawardene the following Telegram
I had no acknowledgement and no remedial action has been taken thus far.
These people were taken to different destinations and in so doing some families were divided. I have it on good authority that these families are unhappy in the places to which they were taken, and are deeply shocked by the treatment meted out to them.
The above incident clearly demonstrates that Tamil people both Ceylon Tamils and Tamils of Indian origin were forced to leave Trincomalee against their will, and that their fundamental rights were violated.
The action is also tantamount to an endorsement by Government of the actions of criminals who set fire to the houses of these people and looted their property. The despatch of these persons out of Trincomalee, without question, is the ultimate fulfilment of the intentions of the attackers. After these Tamil refugees were sent out of Trincomalee, there have been fresh bouts of violence in the same areas, — Sivayogapuram, Velveri, Panmadawachi, Muthalikulam (Morawewa). More houses have been burnt. After the refugees were sent out approximately a further 90 houses have been burnt in these areas; people living in these areas have been murdered and several people grievously injured. The Sinhala people were obviously emboldened into the belief, that the Government by sending out the Refugees approved of or at least was not hostile to their actions. They wanted to complete the job they had earlier begun.
Attack by Naval Personnel on the night of 26th July:
In Trincomalee no member of the armed services was ever attacked. As at 26th July the Tamils were heavily at the receiving end. The Tamils were exercising great restraint and self control, in the face of repeated attacks on them by the Sinhala mobs. The armed services were also being ruthless with the Tamils and being openly partisan towards the Sinhala people. It was in this atmosphere that the Tamil people in Trincomalee town prepared to retire to bed on the night of 26th July. Their intentions were rudely shattered by the rattle of Gun fire first heard in front of the Naval Dockyard main gate and then in front of the house of the member of Parliament, Trincomalee. Much more was to follow.
Around 130 Naval Personnel of the lower rungs had decided to unleash a night of terror on the Tamil people and destroy Tamil shops, commercial establishments, Hindu temples and such houses as they indiscriminately or designedly chose to attack. They used service vehicles and Ceylon Transport Board Buses. They were fully armed with guns and had an abundance of fire power. They were also armed with Grenades which are apparently, normally used by service personnel at war. They were to receive replenishments that were brought out of the Dockyard by Boat and which could be collected at the Town Pier. The Armoury had apparently been broken into and the necessary arms and ammunition obtained.
All exhortations by some Senior Officers that they should desist from such action fell on deaf ears. I have it on good authority that the senior officers who persisted were intimidated with dire consequences if they did not withdraw and that they bashfully withdrew. They had a field "night". The trucks were brought to a screeching halt in front of the house of the Member of Parliament who was away at Mannar on this day, and several uniformed armed hooligans jumped off the Truck shouting out in Sinhala and firing shots. The gate of the premises was pushed but the gate had been locked.
The Member of Parliament's wife and children, his aged mother who was born and bred in the house in which she lived and whose ancestors for several generations were also born and lived in the same premises and other relatives and neighbours in their respective houses awaited their destiny. For a moment there was a glimmer of hope and the men got back into the truck and proceeded. It was to be short lived.
They were to stop at Fuel Filling Stations owned by the Trincomalee and Mutur Multi-purpose Co-operative Societies and forcibly obtain necessary fuel for the fires that they were to light to set ablaze various parts of the Town that night. From street to street from shop to shop, from temples to Commercial Establishments, to houses they were to proceed, first firing several rounds of ammunition to intimidate and ensure submission, followed by explosions with grenades to break open and damage and then set ablaze with the aid of fuel which was available in plenty.
Many a shop building was strong and reinforced but the ammunition available at hand was more than sufficient to break through and destroy. Adequate care was taken to ensure that everything touched particularly shops, commercial establishments, garages theatres and houses were reduced to ashes. If necessary they came back a second time to ensure that the job was complete. Nobody dared resist them. They had mobility with service trucks, C.T.B. Buses and private lorries. They had arms and ammunitions in plenty. Fuel was unlimited, and for man power there was a contingent of 130 men. The Chairman District Development Council contacted various authorities but it was of no avail. The Member of Parliament, Trincomalee was informed at Mannar of the attack within minutes of its commencement and he telephoned the Government Agent, the Deputy Inspector General of Police, The Superintendent of Police at Trincomalee and the Captain of the Navy at Colombo. Efforts to contact President Jayawardene were unsuccessful. He had retired to bed.
The authorities contacted by the Member of Parliament informed him that they were trying to persuade the men or rampage to withdraw, that Police trucks were following the attackers at a respectable distance, that even a Helicopter had been deployed to hover over the attackers and that they were keeping their fingers crossed. They were helpless, in fact they were even keeping their arms folded. Meanwhile, with no resistance the attack that commenced shortly after 9 P.M. went on till after 4 A.M. The devastation was complete and the loss suffered by the Tamil people was colossal. What did it matter; it was the Tamils who suffered. They had to pay the price for being born Tamils,
The light of dawn could be the only salvation for the Tamils, throughout the night they prayed for an early dawn, with the early streaks of dawn the hooligans went back, courageously into the Naval Dockyard, Trincomalee. Could it be said that the security of the serene natural Harbour of Trincomalee was restored or at least partly restored to their care!"
The above was a cowardly unwarranted attack on innocent Tamil people indicating the hostility of the armed services to the Tamils. Ironically, the Tamils had hitherto been of the belief that the Navy was the more dependable of the armed services.
Some weeks before 26th July, 2 Tamil Naval Personnel had been subjected to violence within the Naval Dockyard. These 2 naval personnel along with some others had been on Mobile Patrol Duty in the course of which they had apparently recovered some weapons from some Sinhala people who were preparing to attack some Tamil persons. In the course of the recovery of the said weapons force appears to have been used on the said Sinhala people resulting in injuries to some of them. There was nothing unusual about this. Dangerous weapons were recovered from the possession of these people.
Many Tamil youth taken into custody on "Suspicion" had been severally assaulted. The Sinhala Naval Personnel of certain ranks in the Naval Dockyard, however seemed to be of the view that Sinhala people should not be subjected to any force not even by service personnel, if they were Tamils. Accordingly in the night of that same day one of the Tamil officers involved, was given a severe beating by a group of Sinhala Naval personnel in the barracks. He was badly injured and had to run for his life. He was hospitalised. The house of the other Tamil Naval Officer was broken into and though he with his family had managed to escape, the household articles were all smashed up. The two Tamil Naval Personnel who had dared to touch some Sinhala people in whatever circumstances, had been taught a good lesson. One does not know whether the offenders were identified and whether any action was taken against them.
If no action had been taken in regard to the above incidents of attack on fellow Naval personnel could it be that the condonation of these acts of indiscipline contributed to the armed invasion and attack on the Trincomalee town on the night of 26th July. If there had been condonation of indiscipline, could it have been for the reason that when there is a conflict-between Tamils and Sinhalese, in the armed services, discipline cannot be enforced as against Sinhala personnel; that it is just not possible.
Investigations into crimes and post investigative action:
Impartial investigations, and proper post investigative action must exist, if violence is to be controlled. If this does not exist violence will be repeated; and people encouraged to commit further acts of violence Investigations and post investigative action was deplorable and totally hostile to the Tamil people.
When Tamil witnesses identified Sinhala offenders, Sinhala officers recording statements, intimidated and threatened them, made them believe that such identification would lead to further violence by Sinhala mobs, or even by the armed services. Statements of Tamil witnesses were almost always recorded in Sinhala, the Tamils not being aware of what was recorded. Statements of Tamils were deliberately misrecorded, so as not to implicate offenders who had been identified. Persons identified were not taken into custody. Identified Sinhala people who had committed the most serious crimes roamed about freely.
Sometimes Tamil people were taken into custody on the flimsiest of reasons, invariably severely beaten up, and remanded for long periods. A Tamil youth taken into custody without any justification and released after some days through strenous efforts, informed the Member of Parliament on his release how a Sinhala Police Seargent attached to the Trincomalee Harbour Police Station late in the night, discussed with some Sinhala Youth–who were in custody at the police station (and released the next day) the possibility of the Member of Parliament, Trincomalee being bumped off when he travelled down a particular road, on which road the Member of Parliament travelled fairly often.
The Police Sergeant had proceeded to tell the Sinhala youth that they could depend on Police Assistance to be safeguarded. The hour was late, the Tamil youth was inferred to be asleep; in any event it was not known that the Tamil youth understood Sinhala This is the situation that prevails at Police Stations.
The Sinhala Police Sear gent, Perera by name resides in very close proximity to the house of the Member of Parliament in official quarters.
The Member of Parliament, Trincomalee has been publicly known to be completely opposed to violence. He has always prevailed upon the Tamil people not to resort to violence and to act with self control. Yet he was to be dealt with.
Over a dozen Tamil persons were taken into custody in a village called Palayoothu on a particular day, severely beaten up, kept in custody for almost 72 hours without food or water, except such bare food that they were able to buy through the aid of a Tamil servant with a little money that they had in their possession, and such little water that the Tamil servant was able to supply in stealth. They were released after repeated inquiries about them and their safety. Some of the things that have happened to some Tamil persons taken into custody is most shocking.
On 29th June three Tamil persons were taken into custody in a place called "Thirukadaloor" for allegedly violating the curfew–a twenty four hour curfew was in operation. One of the persons taken into custody was an Indian tourist. According to eye witness accounts these persons were arrested from inside the House of one of these persons. Naval personnel who arrested them, left them at a place-close by on a highway where a Sinhala mob had been able to freely collect despite the curfew and one of the three persons Sabaratnam by name was hacked to death by the Sinhala mob. The other two Kalirajan and Amirthalingum by name were injured, cut by the same Sinhala mob and admitted to hospital.
On 27th June bombs were thrown into a Tamil shop at Central Road and the shop was attacked by a Sinhala mob. The proprietor a Tamil by name Rasalingam, fired shots to scare the crowd, no one being injured. Not one member of the Sinhala mob was arrested. Rasalingam was arrested and put into a Naval vehicle by Naval personnel; while he was inside the Naval vehicle he was cut on his leg with a sword and grievously wounded by a member of the Sinhala mob in the immediate presence of the Naval personnel. Not even that Sinhala man was taken into custody. Rasalingam was hospitalised for several weeks. The Naval personnel burnt to ashes his large well stocked grocery shop when they went on a rampage on the night of 26th July.
I have narrated the above incidents to demonstrate the plight of Tamil persons taken into custody.
While 95% of the incidents that took place were against the Tamil people, and only around 5% as against Sinhala people (acts of retaliation here and there) the total number of Tamil persons taken into custody and remanded for alleged offences was more than double the number of Sinhala persons taken into custody and remanded.
Does not this shameful facts demonstrate beyond doubt the attitude and conduct of the security forces. Can the Tamil people ever expect justice from these forces, no, they certainly cannot; it would be suicidal for them to do so.
I have traced the events which constituted the racial violence in Trincomalee. The facts have been fairly and correctly stated.
Trincomalee was amongst the first places in which the violence commenced, and was amongst the last in which it ended. Perhaps the violence did not last as long in any other place.
Racial violence in Trincomalee is protracted once it commences. The Tamils have been the victims in many areas where the Tamils are in a majority. It must be said that Tamils in Trincomalee, like most Tamils in all parts of the country are averse to violence. They are deeply religious and have great faith in divine guidance and assistance. In over 95% of the incidents that occurred in Trincomalee whether it was to person or property, the victims were Tamils. The most brutal gruesome crimes have been committed, the violence unleashed on them by Sinhala mobs and Sinhala service personnel has been ruthless and heartless.
An analysis of the communal violence that erupted in Trincomalee in 1977 would indicate the same pattern. The Tamils were the victims even in 1977.
The following conclusions are inevitable: