Mahendra Percy Rajapakse now known as Mahinda Rajapakse is a man
of many surprises. One facet of his personality is the impressive
ability to pontificate. The Catholic Bishops of Mannar and Jaffna
were two Pontiffs who witnessed this in full measure when they
called on him last Tuesday (May 30th) to outline the problems
experienced in recent times by the ordinary civilians of the North -
East. Chief among these was the violence.
There were newspaper reports about the meeting. This is what one
report said about discussions on the prevailing violence.
” President Mahinda Rajapakse has requested the Bishops of
Jaffna and Mannar to urge the civilians to immediately bring to
the notice of the police and security establishment, provide the
necessary evidence and assist investigators, whenever violence
is unleashed on civilians in the North and East.In the event of
civilians encountering any difficulty in complaining to the
police or military authorities, such complaints could be
directed to the government peace secretariat, the President told
The news report also stated the following
” Associated with the President at the talks were Defence
Secretary Gothabaya Rajapakse, Secretary of Plan Implementation,
Ajith Cabraal, head of the Government Peace Secretariat Dr.
Palitha Kohona, Chief of Defence Staff Vice Admiral Daya
Sandagiri and Navy Commander Vice Admiral Wasantha
President Rajapakse’s pronouncements project an impression that
the average civilian in the North - East is reluctant "to
“immediately bring to the notice of the police and security
establishment,” and to "provide the necessary evidence” and also ”
assist investigators, whenever violence is unleashed on civilians “.
The President has also been magnanimous enough to proffer the advice
that "In the event of civilians encountering any difficulty in
complaining to the police or military authorities, such complaints
could be directed to the government peace secretariat”.
I would have loved to see the faces of Bishop Thomas Soundaranayagam
and Bishop Joseph Rayappu when the President made this statement.
Both Bishops are fully conversant with ground realities of the North
- East. They know the nature of prevailing violence and the persons
responsible. Being tactful and diplomatic the prelates would no
doubt have maintained stoic silence.
What then is the reality behind North - Eastern violence? It
emanates basically from four sources. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE), the Tamil armed groups like the Eelam Peoples
Democratic Party (EPDP) and Karuna faction, the Sinhala homeguards
and armed hoodlums that are instigated by Sinhala chauvinist outfits
and aided by the Police and Armed forces comprise three of these.
The last but certainly not the least source are members of the armed
forces and Police themselves.
In a scenario that brings fresh meaning to the proverbial
saying about the fence devouring the crops it is supposed to
protect the preponderantly “Sinhala” speaking Armed forces and
Police are mainly responsible for the violence against innocent
Tamil civilians of the North - East. Against this backdrop where
and to whom does the civilian complain? Even if they complain
what action is taken?
Take for instance the killing of Tamil National Alliance
Joseph Pararajasingham. He was shot dead in the St. Mary’s
Cathedral of Batticaloa while attending midnight mass for Christmas.
The assassins came up near the altar and fired just after Joseph
received Holy Comunion from Batticaloa Bishop Kingsley Swampillai.
The killers walked coolly away after the shooting. Joseph’s five
Police bodyguards did nothing. The surrounding area was filled with
security personnel when the service began. They had all mysteriously
disappeared after the shooting. It is well - known that one of the
killers was a Tamil “Sitha” from the Karuna faction. The other was a
Sinhala army man in civils. No action has been taken yet. Worse
still the Army website announced that the LTTE was responsible for
killing their close supporter.
It was only four months ago that Lakshman Kadirgamar was shot dead
in Colombo. Kadirgamar and Pararajasingham were on opposite sides in
Politics. One was part and parcel of the Government while the other
was supportive of the LTTE. Both were democratic politicians
appointed as national list MP’s. Yet one killing received worldwide
condemnation but the other was virtually ignored. Even the fact that
the sanctity of Church had been cruelly violated found no responsive
chord in International circles. Subsequently some of Joseph’s
relatives in Batticaloa too have had to flee.
If a democratic politician representing the district for more than a
decade could be killed in this horrible manner in full view of a
Church Congregation in the Cathedral in front of the Bishop what
chances does the ordinary civilian have? If no action has been taken
so far on this matter then what use is there in others complaining?
Let’s take the shooting
of five innocent Tamil youths in Trincomalee at the Dutch Bay
beach. First it was made out that they were terrorists who died when
the explosive in their possession went off accidently. Next it was
said that they had died in a fire fight with security personnel.
Thanks to a fair - minded, courageous JMO it was proved later that
all five had been executed mafia style. They were made to kneel and
bullets fired at close range.
Even after the post - mortem there were attempts to obstruct
justice. The Police on duty at the hospital intimidated parents to
sign statements that their children were tigers if the bodies were
to be released. Thanks to the leadership provided by a medical
doctor parent the others stood firm. They got their children’s
bodies. Dr, Manoharan also gave valuable evidence at the Judicial
What has happened thereafter is atrocious. It was this column which
first spotlighted the terror tactics being employed to frighten Dr.
Manoharan. Later the Amnesty International issued a statement.
Namini Wijedasa of “Sunday Island” also wrote a vivid account of the
troubles faced by Dr. Manoharan. After making a victim out of a son
the whole family was now being victimised. They were living in
perpetual fear due to the harassment and intimidation. Dr. Manoharan
has written even to President Rajapakse about the family’s plight.
But has Mahinda done anything so far? No!
Who was responsible for the killings? According to the UTHR report
Police Supdt. Kapila Jayasekera had masterminded the operation that
had been carried out under the supervision of Inspector Perera.
There were also media reports about an STF platoon being deployed in
Trincomalee on the orders of National Security adviser Kotakadeniya.
The report said that the STF had been instructed to be hard.
Kotakadeniya went public with the statement that Mahinda’s brother
and defence secretary Gothabhaya Rajapakse knew of this deployment
and had approved of it.
With international attention being focused on the incident eleven
STF men and two Policemen were arrested. No action was taken against
Jayasekera . Every one on duty in the vicinity on the day of the
incident should have been detained. The Policemen on duty at the
Hospital should have been detained. The entire STF platoon should
have been grilled. But nothing happened. Now comes the news that the
bullets in the bodies do not match the guns in STF possession. They
are to be released shortly.
Rajapakse gave an indication of his mindset when he reportedly said
that the suspects will be released unless people who saw the
execution came forward to give evidence. How is that possible when
all civilians were kept out by the security personnel and lights put
out at the time of the shooting? Even if there was a witness would
he or she come forward after witnessing the persecution of Dr.
Manoharan’s family? In my opinion the responsibility for the Trinco
massacre goes way up. This explains the elaborate cover up and
Mahinda’s despicable attempt to blame the victims for justice being
Let’s take another instance. Seven persons went missing at the Amman
temple in Manthuvil. There were bloodstains and signs of violence.
The Army was observed “visiting” the temple at ungodly hours. The
people complained en masse to the security forces. They did exactly
what Mahinda wanted them to do. But what happened? The army denied
any responsibility and declared an unofficial local curfew to keep
the agitated public indoors. The people scoured the shrub jungles
and marshy lands in search of the bodies. The families of the
disappeared gathered daily in front of the Varany camp. Nothing done
Lets take another example. The “Uthayan”
newspaper office in Jaffna was attacked and two killed. The EPDP
was implicated. The attack came at a time when an International
Conference related to World Press Freedom was underway in Colombo.
With international media attention focused on the incident the
Government was compelled to take action for demonstration purposes.
Four students and two employees of an eatery were arrested as
“suspects”. All of them were innocent.
Speaking of the EPDP brings the
Allaipiddy massacre to mind. Eight people including a four year
old child and four month infant were shot dead in cold blood.
Another three members of the same family were killed in
Puliyankoodal. Another man was killed at Velanai West. Thirteen
people were killed and eleven businesses attacked in Allaipiddy,
Velanai and Puliyankoodal on the same night. The Navy and EPDP were
allegedly responsible. There were many media reports and even a
statement by Amnesty International.
The EPDP is led by Douglas Devananda its Secretary - General.
Devananda is a cabinet minister in the Rajapakse Government. The
recent statement by the four co - chairs points the finger at
the Karuna group and “Violent” elements in the EPDP. With Devananda
being in the cabinet the line of responsibility goes right up to
Government level.. Yet not even an iota of action has been taken. In
a show of solidarity President Rajapakse took the unusual step of
visiting Devananda at his Layards road residence and spending some
hours. An emboldened Devananda is now criticising the AI and even
the co - chairs for daring to accuse the EPDP.
There have been many other incidents like the one at Nelliaddy where
eight passengers in two auto rickshaws were fired at and killed by
soldiers who even used Rocket Propelled Grenades. In Puthur five
persons from Vatharavathai were taken in for questioning. Their
bodies were found near the army camp in the morning. In
Punguditheevu there was the
rape and murder of a 20 year old woman allegedly by the navy. No
meaningful action taken against any member of the security forces so
Then there was the
Trincomalee violence. Tamil civilians were killed and Tamil
owned businesses looted and attacked in the aftermath of a claymore
bomb exploded in the vegetable market by the LTTE. The organized
mobs went about their task systematically as members of the security
forces stood by simply. Some even collaborated in the violence
against Tamils. No one has been arrested so far for being involved
in the anti - Tamil violence.
Against this backdrop of the security forces and Tamil acolytes
being involved in the anti - Tamil violence how on earth does
Mahinda Rajapakse expect civilians to complain to the authorities?
Even if they did so has any concrete action been taken anywhere? The
Manthuvil families complained but what has happened? On the other
hand people who were courageous enough to seek justice like Dr.
Manoharan are being victimised!
The worst indictment of the Rajapakse regime is the deliberate
attacks on civilian areas.
was done in Muthur, Kilinochchi and Udayarkattu. Naval gunboats
shelled the coastal areas of Muthur East. The Army fired artillery
including Multi - barrel Rocket launchers. The justification for
this targetting of civilian areas was the suicide bomber attack on
the Army Commander and the Sea tiger operation against a Naval
flotilla. Whatever the provocation the Rajapakse regime had no right
to retaliate by launching attacks on civilian areas.
The “Sunday Times” had a piece about Defence Secretary Gotha
Rajapakse and Cabinet Minister Mangala Samaraweera being in the
Operational Headquarters when discussions were on about an adequate
response. The two options were the “Dog option” and the “Lion
option”. The dog runs away when a stone is thrown but a lion fights
back when attacked. The retaliatory Aerial bombardment and artillery
shelling was supposedly part of the “Lion” response. What hope does
the Tamil civilian have when decisions are taken at a high level and
described as a ” Lion option”?
As stated in these columns earlier the Rajapakse regime has adopted
the targeting of Tamil civilians as deliberate strategy. In some
cases it is retaliatory in nature for attacks on the security
forces.. In some cases it consists of reprisals after the attack. In
some cases it is done to eliminate or drive out civilian supporters
of the LTTE. In some cases it is simply indisciplined excesses
committed confidently in a
climate of impunity.
Mahinda Rajapakse is being arrogantly sarcastic when he calls upon
affected Tamil civilians to complain with details to the security
forces. He is neither stupid nor ignorant of North - Eastern
conditions to expect this to happen. Justice will simply not be
done. Perversion of Justice is the norm. The advice to tender
complaints to the peace secretariat is a bad joke. Under the new
boss PTB Kohona ,the peace secretariat has become a glorified
propaganda unit disseminating misinformation and disinformation. The
SLMM is becoming increasingly ineffective.
This then is the plight of the North - Eastern Tamil civilian. There
is no protection against violence. This is the ground reality. It is
the democratically elected Government which bears responsibility for
civilian safety. Sadly there seems no way out when the State begins
targeting Civilians . Until and unless the Rajapakse regime is
pressurised to remedy this situation there is no light visible at
the end of the dark, dark tunnel. A terrible Tamil tragedy is