Sunday the 19th of January 1986 was a quiet day in Batticaloa, especially
at Iruthayapuram, Jayanthipuram and Karuveppankerai all within the limits of
Batticaloa Municipality. The night was unusually quiet. All the people were
fast asleep as that was the only day of rest in a week for the poor peasants
of the area.
The calm that prevailed that night never cast even a shadow of doubt as
to the impending storm that was to strike them unawares like a bolt from the
blue. The police and the S.T.F (Special Task Force) had silently moved into
these three suburban areas at about 8.30 am, cordoned off the whole area and
were waiting in ambush, lying down on the ground inside the compounds of the
houses of the residents.
The much publicised Battle of Batticaloa that never took place
At about 5.00 am the sound of an explosion was heard followed by a volley
of gun shots. It was later learnt that a hand grenade had been flung at two
police personnel who died on the spot. Sub Inspector Tharmasiri and P.C.
Karunananda. However it was revealed at the postmortem, that S.I. Tharmasiri
had bullet wounds on his back and constable Karunananda had similar wounds
on his chest.
What happened exactly no one seems to know. It may be that the same
person who threw the grenade had seized the weapons of the Police Officers
and had shot them. These weapons were later claimed to have been recovered
by the security forces. The person who had either thrown a grenade or shot
the two police officers, had subsequently taken cyanide and committed
This incident took place at one end of the area cordoned off for search
operations, beginning from the State Timber Corporation Depot. This was the
one and only act of violence directed against the security forces that day.
"The Big Battle of Batticaloa", much publicised in the Colombo newspapers is
a calculated, mischievous canard to mislead the Sinhala masses, and to
justify the horrible atrocities perpetrated by the security forces
Hell let loose on innocent civilians
Consequent to the death of their two colleagues the armed forces in
and around the area went berserk. Their wrath knew no bounds. At once they
shot and killed the three watchers at the Timber Corporation. Then they
smashed all the valuable articles in all the houses in the area where their
colleagues died; all the males between the age 14 to 30 were pulled, forced
and driven out of their houses.
These young men dazed and half asleep as it was just the break of day,
were brutally hit on their faces with the butt ends of their heavy guns and
were herded into the front yard of the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart
of Jesus at Iruthayapuram, amidst the wailing, weeping, and screaming of the
women and children who could not bear the suffering that their near and dear
ones were being subjected to.
The church of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is dear to the parishioners
of the Church, more than anything else in the world, because it was built by
their sweat toil and contribution, after the old Church was destroyed during
the cyclone in 1978. The church was consecrated just only ten months ago.
Little did these poor peasant parishioners know that this Sacred precinct
was going to be their own torture chamber a few months later.
All the men herded and driven into the church compound were tightly tied
in pairs and were ordered to lie down on the gound face down. The Parish
Priest who was there at the time witnessing these atrocities was ordered
into his Mission House and a sentry was placed to prevent him from coming
out to plead an behalf of his parishioners. The Priest past his middle age
was a helpless witness to the whole tragedy.
The security forces started working on the innocent civilians lying on
the ground. They surrounded the victims and started to thrash, beat and kick
them mercilessly. Some of the victims were picked up by their legs and were
dashed on other victims lying down. The heart rending cries and screaming of
the women and children who saw their sons, husbands, brothers or fathers
being tortured filled the whole atmosphere. Some of them fell unconscious.
This brutality exceeded by far, even the torture of the Nazis. For they -
the Nazi's - dared not execute their torture rituals publicly. But here it
was not only done publicly in broad day light, but also in the holy
precincts of a consecrated church.
While these horrible doings were going on in the church premises gun
shots were heard in the other parts of the surrounding areas and innocent
civilians who had not been brought to the church were being hunted out and
shot at. Armoured cars were firing heavy weapons and empty shells were found
in the area.
Bullets from one of the shells entered through the window of the house of
Mr Thambirajah pierced through the chest of his youngest son Xavier who was
crouching terrified in a settee, and got lodged two inches deep into the
opposite wall. The boy, a student of St Michael's College died
instantaneously. When his sister started screaming at this bloody sight,
some police men 'came into the house, dragged the dead boy's body and threw
it on to the road.
The beating thrashing and kicking of the tied up innocent civilians in
the church compound continued unabated. As the day advanced, and the heat of
the sun became intense, the guardians of the law, found it uncomfortable for
them to continue their notorious wickedness to their full satisfaction. So
they kicked open the doors of the Church and pushed in all those tortured
victims into the Church. It was a pathetic sight to behold, bruised faces
and broken limbs staggered into the Sacred House of God.
Inside the Church the armed forces saw the Catechist Sahayanathan,
Sacristan George Anton and Gnanadas , a young man preparing for Theological
studies. These three were summarily ordered to run and were mowed down with
bullets. The sacrilegeous act alone is ample proof of the savagery and
brutality of the security forces. These three young men were in the service
of the Lord. They were in charge of preparing the Altar and making various
other arrangements for the celebration of the holy mass on Sunday morning.
That is why they were in the Church. They had to sacrifice their life like
their Lord and Master - who was killed by murderers.
One of the all important Doctrines the Catholics believe is the real
presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist or the Blessed Sacrament
which is enshrined in the Tabernacle in all the Catholic Parish Churches
always for the worship and adoration of the faithful. Because therein, is
Jesus in His Divine and Human Nature. Hence a Catholic is in the presence of
God when he enters a Catholic Church.
It can now be understood to what extent the Religious susceptibilities
of the Catholics have been wounded by the of desecration of their Church by
the diabolical behaviour of the armed forces on that Black Sunday. There is
a saying in Tamil "The king hastens to chastise, but the Lord waits till the
Day of Reckoning"
In the meantime an American Missionary went to see the Parish Priest who
was forced to remain in his room. Both the Priests then came out on to the
verandah and were watching the horrible show the security men were putting
up. The Parish Priest Very Rev Fr Dekoning, the Vicar General of the
Trincomalee Diocese, had neither breakfast nor lunch. It is note worthy to
point out here that the Parish Priest is a Burgher and about 50% of his
Parishioners who underwent this terrible ordeal that day, also belong to the
Episode at the Camp
Around 2.00 pm about 20 - 24 vehicles were brought into the Church
'compound and all those arrested and those who were given the "Mas-Kada"
(Butcher's) treatment in. the Church compound were ordered to get into the
trucks. Many were too weak even to move because of the brutality of the
assault. One person both of whose legs had been broken was dragged outside
and shot and the body thrown into the truck. One by one all the trucks
started leaving the compound.
The next day some members of the Citizens' Committee met the C.O. (Co
ordinating Officer) regarding the release of the dead bodies and arrested
persons. Normally the body of a person shot dead by the forces is handed
over to the mortuary of the General Hospital where a postmortem is held. But
in this case all the dead bodies were kept in an open truck exposed to the
elements in a highly decomposing state at the S.T.F Camp, Kallady. How the
bodies could have decomposed beyond recognition is a mystery. It was
rumoured that the dead bodies are sprayed with some chemical substance to
obliterate the identity of the bodies.
The C.O. lamented that so far nobody had turned up to identify or claim
the bodies. It is surprising that the C.0 expected the people to go to the
camp which has been declared a security zone. The people of Batticaloa are
aware of the fate that awaits anyone who dare stray near the camp. Perhaps
the C.O. does not know his own men.
However, the C.O promised that the bodies could be handed over if the
identity cards of those shot dead could be produced. Now, how this could
ever be done, only God Knows. Can we ask the dead people for their identity
cards which are nowadays more important than even one's life ? Are the dead
bodies expected to speak revealing the location of their identity cards ?
Incredible though it may seem, ONE CORPSE DID REALLY SPEAK! We shall come
to that later. Everyone carries his or her identity card whenever he or she
is out of the house. The fact that the identity cards of the dead persons
were not with them proves that they were not militants out to fight the
security forces, but innocent civilians sleeping at home.
However, the Citizens' Committee managed to find twelve relatives who had
the documents required by the authorities and took them to the Camp. There
the bodies were found in a highly decomposed state. "According to the report
of the J.M.O. (Judicial Medical Officer)" said the C.O., "twelve people died
by taking cyanide and the other nine died of gun shot injury". It was
further reported that all those killed had been terrorists.
Beware all ye who wear under-pants...
The reasons given, for considering the dead persons as terrorists by the
security forces was that they were all wearing under-pants beneath their
sarongs or a pair of shorts. According to the security authorities, all
those who are found wearing under-pants early in the mornings, are
terrorists. In other words those who do not wear under-pants are innocent
civilians. Beware therefore gentlemen! If you are in your under-pants in the
mornings, woe be unto you; you are a hard core terrorist and can be shot
dead then and there and your body will not be handed over to your relatives
What is the rationale' behind such silly arguments? The security forces
arbitrarily and authoritatively came to the conclusion that since all those
dead bodies were those of the terrorists, they could not be released. The
members of the Citizens' Committee pleaded in vain.
Are they men or beasts?
As there were hundreds of arrested civilians and a large number of dead
bodies in the camp, there was a large crowd of women and elderly men outside
the camp. They had come there to. find out what happened to. the arrested
persons and to remove the dead bodies for burial. After much ado, the
authorities agreed to allow one relative of each dead person to enter the
camp and identify the bodies.
Accordingly twelve (12) people who had the required identity documents
entered the camp. Among them there were only two men, the others were women.
So these two men got into the truck wherein the dead bodies were heaped up,
and started to identify the bodies. When they came to the 9th body a faint
voice was heard crying "Aiyahl Thannee!! Thannee ! (Sir! Water!! Water!.!.)"
Everyone was shocked. All looked around to find who was calling. or where
the voice came from.
Then to the bewilderment of everyone present there, it became known that
the faint voice came from the "9th Corpse". Trying to get up - he said
pathetically that he was a fisherman, thirty years old with three children.
A commando, watching near by, shouted "Ado! inga vaa" (come here you rascal)
and pulled him and pushed him into the camp.Whether he was given medical
treatment no one knows. Whether he is still alive is not known either. All
this while the women inside the camp were weeping and wailing. Could the
women help crying at what they saw and at what had happened to their beloved
The eighth wonder of the world
What is most astonishing is how a corpse, after having been pronounced
dead at a postmortem as affirmed by the C.O. could have got up and walked?
Did the postmortem really take place? How is it that a person shot dead 24
hours earlier was able to survive after having been pronounced dead at. a
postmortem by a qualified J.M.O. ? Was the J.M.'O. really present at the so
called postmortem? These are the billion rupee questions that must be
answered. This is imperative.
Who is being duped and to what extent the country is being duped must be
found out and the whole fraud must be exposed. According to the security
authority, all the 21 people died either by swallowing cyanide or by gun
shot injuries, and all the 21 deaths were confirmed at a postmortem by the
J.M.O. We must believe the security authorities, for they are all honourable
men. Therefore, is not it true that a terrorist who had been shot dead by
the security forces, and confirmed dead by the C.O and the J.M.0 has risen
from the dead? Let us therefore proclaim this unique event as the "EIGHTH
WONDER OF THE WORLD".
Although at one stage, the C.0 promised to hand over the bodies to their
relatives if their identity cards were produced, yet the C.0 later went back
on his promise and refused to hand over the bodies. According to the
security authorities, the 21 persons shot dead were terrorists, simply
because they were wearing under-pants in the early hours of the morning.
What wonderful wisdom What logical reasoning!
Sufferance and Suffering
Eight hours of appeal, begging and pleading by the members of the
Citizen's Committee and by the relatives of the dead and arrested, proved
futile. No one was released; not a single body was handed over for burial.
The bereaved family members from Iruthayapuram, Jayanthipuram and
Karuvappankerny who had gone to the camp returned home overwhelmed by sorrow
Sufferance and suffering have become the badge of our race, the
forsaken innocent Tamils of the East and the North. But we sincerely and
solemnly affirm that our firm belief in sufferance and suffering will bring
us Freedom, Life and Victory.
VICTIMS OF THE IRUTHAYAPURAM MASSACRE (19 January 1986)
- 1 Arokiyanathan Xavier Selvarajah - Age: 17 years. Student of
Koodamunai Maha Vidiyalayam. Killed while he was at home.
- 2 Michael Gnanadas - Age: 21 years. Voluntary teacher of St Michael
College and an ardent Church worker. Taken out of the Church of Sacred
Heart of Jesus while arranging for the Sunday Mass and killed in front
of the Church.
- 3 Thambiappah Sahyanathan - Age: 23 years. A trained Catechist,
attached to the Iruthayapuram Parish. Taken out of the Church of the
Sacred Heart of Jesus, while arranging for Sunday Mass and killed in the
- 4 George Anthony -age: 23 years,, Attached to the Forest Department,
an ardent Church worker. Taken out of the Church of the Sacred Heart of
Jesus, while arranging for Sunday Mass and killed in front of the
WATCHERS OF KALLIANKADDU TIMBER DEPOT
- 5 Muthulingam Navaretnam killed Age: 29 years - killed while on
- 6 Ku maraperumal Ravindrakumar Age: 29 years killed while on duty.
- 7 S Suriyakumar - Age 24 years- killed while on duty.
EMPLOYEE OF THE PETROLEUM CORPORATION
- 8 Vyramuthu Jeyakumar - Age: 21 years. Resident-of the Petroleum
Corp. quarters. Taken out of the quarters and killed in front of his
POST OFFICE EMPLOYEES
- 9 Masillamani Arulraj Age: 22 years.
- 10 Sellathamby Thangarajah - Age: 54 years. Married, with five
children. Taken out of the house and killed at the gate. He was a mason
- 11 Kandiah Kethatam - Age: 33- years-municipal council employee
- 12 Muthuvel Mohanathas - Age: 19 years
- 13 Ragupathi K Piyadasa - Age: 20 years- fishmonger
- 14 Ambrose Raju @ge: 18 years
- 15 Dominic Dasan Age: 24 years
- 16 Arumugam illangeswaran Age: 24 years
- 17 Anthony - Age: 24 years Labourer of Bala Bakery
- 18 Amarasingam Kandasmy - Age:32 years -Tabourer
- 19 Murugupillai Vincent - Age: 22 years-cultivator
- 20 Selvrasa Thayalan - Age 24 years-labourer
- 21 Vallipuram ' Sivanesan Age: 24 years labourer. Married with one
- 22 Muthuvel Mohanathas Age 19 years -Tabourer.
- 23 Antihony Sahayarasa Age ;19 years -student
- 24 Devathas Jayaraj Age 21 years -student