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Home > Tamils - a Nation without a State> Struggle for Tamil Eelam > The Martyrdom of Thangathurai & Kuttimuni > Nadarajah Thangathurai's Dock Statement, 1983 > Defence Counsel, Nadesan Satyendra's Address to Court, 1983 > Sri Sabaratnam Memorial Lecture, 1987
THE MARTYRDOM OF
Introduction - the Trial, 1982/83
The trial of Tamil leaders, Nadarajah Thangathurai and Selvarajah Yogachandran (also known as Kuttimuni) in the Neervely Bank case was the second trial (the first trial was that of Selvarajah Yogachandran and Jeganathan) under the notorious Sri Lanka Prevention of Terrorism Act - an Act which was later described by the International Commission of Jurists as containing provisions which were 'an ugly blot on the statute book of any civilised country'. One of the draconian provisions of the Act was that the burden was cast on the accused to prove that any statement made by the accused to the Police was involuntary and inadmissible in evidence.
Six members of the Tamil militant movement, Nadarajah Thangathurai, Selvarajah Yogachandran (also known as Kuttimuni), Subramaniam Devan, Nadarajah Sivapatham, Sri Sabaratnam and Nadesudasan were charged in connection with the ambush of a Sri Lanka state owned People Bank jeep at Neervely on 25 March 1981 and the robbery Rs.8 million. Sri Sabaratnam, who was later to become leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation was tried in absentia.
The trial started on 2 November 1982 and all the accused refused to plead on the ground that they were citizens of Tamil Eelam, that they were engaged in a lawful resistance movement against alien Sinhala rule and that the Sri Lanka Court had no jurisdiction to try them for incidents which, in any event, were alleged to have taken place within Tamil Eelam. [Virakesari Report in Tamil, 3 November 1982]
Counsel for the Defence, contended that the autochthonous 1972 Sri Lanka Republican Constitution had severed legal continuity with the past and that the Sinhala dominated Constituent Assembly had acted without the consent of the Tamil people and that sovereignity had accordingly reverted to the Tamil state which had been in existence prior to foreign rule. The Defence submitted that the constitutional issue that had arisen should be referred by the High Court to the Supreme Court for determination. The Defence submission was rejected and the ensuing trial lasted 3 months.
The Accused gave evidence of the torture that they were subjected to by the Sri Lanka authorities under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Six months later the International Commission of Jurists reported:
Defence Counsel, Nadesan Satyendra addressed the Court from 15 to 17 February 1983 on the question of the admissibility of the alleged confessionary statements. He said:
He added quoting from Aurobindo's writings in 1907:
Consistent with their defence, the accused refused to answer the charges laid against them and led no evidence in response to the prosecution case. Also, at the conclusion of the trial, Counsel for the Defence did not address the Court but each of the accused made a statement from the dock.
Nadarajah Thangathurai's statement from the dock remains a moving political testament of the movement that he had led with simplicity, dignity and clarity. He declared:
All six accused were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on 24 February 1983.
In July 1983, whilst their appeal to the Supreme Court was pending, Nadarajah Thangathurai, Selvarajah Yogachandran, Devan, Sivapatham, and Nadesudasan were murdered in a high security prison in Welikade whilst in the custody of the Sri Lankan government. They will always be remembered as national heroes by the people of Tamil Eelam.
First trial under Sri Lanka Prevention of Terrorism Act
Campaign Against Execution of Political Prisoners campaigns
against Execution of Kuttimuni and Jegan, Tamil Times, August 1982
The Campaign for the Release of Eelam Political Prisoners in Sri Lanka [CREPP] has, in a statement, called upon "Those who cherish human rights and democratic liberties should raise their voices against the execution of Kuttimani and Jegan and demand the release of all political prisoners in Sri Lanka. They should demand the repeal of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act. Which has been denounced by the International Commission of Jurists as a statute that violates Sri Lanka's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."
The CREEPP statement adds:-
"Two Tamil youths, Kuttimani and Jegan, have been sentenced to death. This is the latest in a series of attacks upon the Tamil speaking people by successive governments of Sri Lanka.
"The oppression of the Tamil speaking people over several decades resulted in the gradual development of a campaign calling for a separate sovereign Tamil State of Eelam in their traditional homelands. The continued oppression, the virtual armed occupation of Tamil areas by state security forces which harassed and terrorised the people and the frequent racial pogroms unleashed against the Tamils, contributed to the emergence of a national resistance movement whichrecognised the need for the exercise of the right of self defence against the ever growing state oppression.
"Kuttimani and Jegan have become the victims of a regime which is determined to crush the Tamil Nation in their struggle for the exercise of their inalienable right of self-determination. These two Tamil youths have been sentenced to death upon a charge of allegedly killing a policeman. The death sentence was based solely on their 'confessions' extracted under torture while the two youths were in the custody of the army and police.
"Under the normal law of Sri Lanka, anyone charged with serious offences would be entitled to a trial by jury and confessions made to army or police personnel are not admissible in evidence. But under the Prevention of Terrorism Act enacted by the present government in 1979, not only are the accused persons denied of a trial by jury, but confessions extracted by the police and the army by any means are made admissible in evidence.
"Detailed evidence was given during the 'trial' of these two youths to show that they were detained incommunicado and without access to lawyers, relations or friends for a prolonged period, repeatedly beaten up, hung by their feet, metal rods inserted in their anus and penis, chillie powder applied on sensitive parts of the body, etc. The trial Judge, in his judgement, admitted that these youths were held in an army camp "in a secluded and a lonely place", without access to "friends, relations and lawyers"; they were "kept amidst armed and unarmed soldiers. They would have been unaware how long they would be detained"... "a statement made by a suspect in these circumstances would be irrelevant under Section 24 of the Evidence Ordinance". But he concluded that, under the draconian provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, he had no alternative but to admit the confessions obtained under torture as evidence and pronounced them guilty and sentenced them to death. The singling out these two Tamil youths for execution is symbolic of the draconian treatment meted out to those who stand and struggle for the exercise of the right of self determination by the Tamil speaking people in Sri Lanka, who have been subjected to a long series of repressive measures. It is in this context the campaign for the halting of the impending executions of Kuttimani and Jegan and the release of all political prisoners assumes special importance and urgency. The frame-up and the convictions based on `confessions' obtained under torture of these two youths should not be allowed to stand."