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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sri Lanka Accused at United Nations > UN Commission on Human Rights 2000
UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
54th SESSIONS: MARCH 2000
- Appeal submitted by the Tamil Centre for Human Rights , 20 March 2000
Le Centre Tamoul pour les Droits de l'Homme - CTDH
Appeal | Reports and Annexures
First of all, we extend our congratulations to you for your appointment as the Chairperson of the 56th session. Unlike the past years, this year marks the birth of the new millennium - we, the Tamil Centre for Human Rights would like to submit our appeal to you, with deep sorrow which comes from the bottom of our hearts!
One of the bravest human rights defenders, Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam who attended the Commission on Human Rights for the last few years from Sri Lanka, is no more with us. He was killed by so-called unknown gunmen in cold blood in Colombo, on 5th January. He made his last intervention during the 55th session. He had several meetings with many members of the Commission, Special Rapporteurs and Senior Personnel of the OHCHR. During his last visit to Geneva, Mr. Ponnambalam stated clearly to everyone that he could be murdered at anytime by the Sri Lankan government. Now this has become a tragic reality. Who killed him? The answer is quite simple - who is benefiting from his absence?
Sirs/Mesdames, the details of this assassination are given in sequence in this appeal to you. Being neutral and high-ranking persons of this human rights forum, you have the right to come to a conclusion as to WHO WAS THE KILLER? From this assassination what we all can learn is that the lives of any one of us - who presents the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, may not be spared! There is no guarantee that we will attend the future session of this Commission.
The assassination of Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam has many clues but no proper investigation has taken place. There are serious cover-ups and manipulations going on in this case. Nothing has emerged so far, other than a few eye-wash statements by the investigators! Until the present day, not a single person has been identified by the eyewitnesses, but the investigators issued a press release saying that the killer had been identified. This makes us consider the possibility that the investigators may know the real killers and are protecting them!
The TCHR brought the danger faced by Mr Kumar Ponnambalam to the notice of the OHCHR in December 1998. Subsequently, during his visit last year in April he met with several officials responsible for certain sections and gave them an affidavit regarding the threat to his life.
Furthermore, on 9 September 1998, TCHR brought a very confidential matter to the notice of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Later this was transferred to another section for a follow up. Now, it is plain for all to see that what we predicted on September 9, 1998, is gradually materialising at the hands of the party concerned.
The human rights situation for Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka continues to be horrendous. Aerial bombing of civilian targets, such as places of worship, hospitals and schools, continues. Last December, 42 Tamil refugees were massacred by the Sri Lankan Army as they sought refuge in the chapel of Madhu church in Mannar.
The 600 persons who "disappeared" by Sri Lankan army, during 1996 in Jaffna, are still unaccounted for. The callous letters to relatives of the two disappeared persons whose skeletons were identified in the mass graves at Chemmani, stating that the whereabouts of these persons are still unknown, displays the brutal inhumanity and disregard of the Sri Lankan government for Tamil lives. Torture, rape, arbitrary detention and extra-judicial killings of Tamils by the Sri Lankan government armed forces continue.
The food, health, education and employment situation has been severely affected in the North and East of the Island. The People in the Vanni region are starving and suffering due to ten years of economic embargo. Reports released by the U.S. Department of State, Human Rights Watch, UNICEF and other bodies have described the humanitarian situation in the North and East.
In Colombo, the Tamils are simply arrested because they are Tamils. In January alone more than 3000 Tamils were arrested in Colombo because they are Tamils.
Impunity is a serious problem in Sri Lanka. The security forces are given a free hand under the Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). They arrest, torture, kill and dispose of bodies as they wish. Many notorious human rights violators in the Security forces especially in the Army and the Police have got the best promotions and special awards from the head of state! This is the only sort of improvement you can see in the context of human rights in Sri Lanka!
Mr/Madame Chairperson, TCHR kindly requests the 56th session of the Human Rights Commission to demand that the Sri Lankan government appoint an independent public inquiry into the assassination of Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam with observers from the OHCHR.
We also request the 56th Session of the Commission on Human Rights to intervene directly to prevent the continuing gross human rights violations in Sri Lanka, in particular to : Call upon Sri Lanka to lift the economic embargo which is in force for the last ten years in Tamils regions; Call upon Sri Lanka to respect the Right to Life and the Right to Liberty; Appoint an independent committee to investigate into the mass graves in Chemmani in the Jaffna peninsula; Call upon Sri Lanka to lift press censorship immediately; Call upon Sri Lanka to free all political prisoners; Call upon Sri Lanka to repeal the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) ; Call for the removal of the thoroughly undisciplined Sri Lankan army from the North East of the Island of Sri Lanka, thereby ensuring the right to personal security of the Tamils in their homeland.
We take this opportunity to request the 56th session of the Commission on Human Rights to appoint a country Rapporteur on Sri Lanka. This would facilitate the UN recording acts of violence, humanitarian violations, ethnic and cultural genocide, etc that are taking place in Sri Lanka especially in the North East.
We hope that as we move into a new century and millennium more voices will join the fervent call for the human rights of the Tamil people and of all peoples to be restored, so that human dignity will prevail.
We place our hope in the hands of this Session. More than pity, we hope for concrete action. To halt the genocide requires an act of will, individual and collective. If this Commission does not find such will to act -then what hope can we give to those whose wounds are being cut deeper and deeper? We believe that this Commission CAN be a vehicle for an expression of the noble values and aspirations for humanity that underpin the UDHR and all the Covenants and Conventions which we stand by. We appeal to you from the depth of our hearts and in the name of humanity, to take action.
Thanking you. Yours sincerely
S. V. Kirubaharan, General Secretary - TCHR
Reports and Annexures
1 - Assassination of a Human rights defender Kumar Ponnambalam
Extracts from TCHR report to 55th session | Travel to Jaffna refused | Open letter to President Chandrika Kumaratunga | Shot dead | Killing claimed | Son gave evidence | Urgent Action Appeal by TCHR | Member European Parliament Statement | Sri Lanka government Accused | Ponnambalam Honored | As killing not by LTTE - no investigation!| President Chandrika's condolence | Why was "Shantha" in the PSD not questioned? | Urgent Action Appeal by TCHR on cover-up and manipulations | So far no-one identified by eye witnesses
2 - Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Right to Food | Starvation in the Vanni | Government Agents appeal for food
Right to Education | Council of NGOs statement - Pre-school education | Sinhala text book humiliating Tamils | Hindu school with Buddhist priest | Police block University students protest | Shortage of School Furniture | Muslim admission opposed - one teacher for 70 students | UNICEF - Colombo (September 1999)
Right to Health | Drug shortage | NGOs council report | UNICEF
Rights to work | 22 NGOs council report - Discrimination in selection | Fishermen protest over withdrawal UN aid | Plantation workers | Colonisation |
3 - Civil and political rights
Arbitrary arrest and detention | Council of NGOs situation report | Released and re-arrested | Detention order on Government Agent | 3000 Tamils arrested | Tamils arrested in Colombo - (since July 1999)
Torture - Head covered with petrol and chilli fumes | Judge rules on 'excessive' torture | Woman tortured in custody | Nail and teeth removed - JMO | Student tortured
Disappearances | Three missing in Amparai - Amnesty appeal | Missing "can't be traced" | Ministry of Defence on disappearances in Jaffna | Amnesty calls for independent inquiry | Fate of missing in Jaffna unknown!
Summary executions | UNDP says 55,000 killed in Sri Lanka | Skulls and skeletons found | Neelan Thiruchelvam killed | Ten killed in election rally | Massacres | Puthukudyiruppu | ICRC confirmation - Amnesty express concern | Fifty-six killed in Amparai | Sinhala Veera Vithana | Madhu Church | ICRC on Madhu Massacre | Amnesty on Madhu | Urgent Action Appeal by TCHR | No action on Batticaloa massacres
Chemmani mass graves
Early exhumation - Government investigators visit | Skull unearthed - Names of Army officials available | Kumar Ponnambalam denied travel to Jaffna | Many locations identified - Rape/murder home found | Rajapakse seeks legal advice | AG department on Chemmani exhumation | Filled up pit | Army commanders intefering with investigation | President of MPGA arrested by the army | Skeletons found in Chemmani | Magistrate instructs government to complete investigation | Extracts from TCHR report to 55th Session | Chemmani Road closed - Smoke visible Rajapakse assaulted by prison guards | TCHR raises questions
Kalutara Prison killings | Prison killings since 1983 | Protest of political detainees- more join the fast | One murdered, 33 injured - More violence - | Second death - ICRC Rep. Injured | Detainees in Welikada prison assaulted | Prisoner died of gun shot, Magistrate
Freedom of Expression
Priest threatened - New ID cards for Trincomalee | Pass system in Batticaloa | Journalist demonstration stopped by police | Editor questioned - Member of Parliament killed - Censorship imposed | Editor and sub editor interrogated | Presidential Security Division threatens Editor | Call for Buddhists to "Gun Down" Dr. Jayalath | UN Human Rights Committee accepts complaint
Election violence and Executive Presidency | Complaints recorded during the election | President can kill, steal and sell | Demonstration against Executive Presidency | Presidential election challenged in Courts
Independence of judiciary, administration of justice | Bail application by detainees | 1641 Fundamental rights cases in five years
Hindu Priest arrested | Historic Hindu Temple land for Army camp
Emergency regulations and Prevention of Terrorism Act
4 - Violence against women
TCHR statistics on rape | Raped and shot at genitals | Raped body exhumed | Widowed mother gang raped | Mother and daughter sexually harassed | Mother gang raped and murdered | Urgent Action Appeal by TCHR
5 - Rights of the child
Two children killed in Puthukudiyiruppu | School can be place of danger | Sexual harassment | 13 year old girl gang raped
6 - Displaced persons
Displaced by recent military operations | Relief cuts since 1997
7 - Annexures
Press release of the TCHR on Human Rights Day | Human Rights Watch - 2000 | Catholics Appeal to Pope and UN Secretary General | Human Rights Agencies appeal to UN for peace | Press release by Mr. A. Vinayagamoorthy - Human Rights Lawyer | UNICEF report - September 1999 | It's time for action | Norwegian mediation Sinhala point of view | Peace with war by Mr. S. Sivanayagam | Report of the U.S. Department of State - February 25, 2000
Assassination of a Human Rights Defender Kumar Ponnambalam 5 January 2000
Mr. Ponnambalam presented the human rights situation in Sri Lanka in the last (55th Session) of the UN Commission on Human Rights
Mr G.G. Ponnambalam Jnr. (known to everyone as Kumar Ponnambalam) was involved in human rights for many years. He was a leading lawyer in Colombo. Gunmen assassinated him in cold blood on 5th January in Wellawatta in Colombo.
Mr Ponnambalam, as a prominent expert and able criminal lawyer defended thousands of Tamil people, over many years, who suffered gross and systematic violations of human rights at the hands of the Sri Lankan government security forces - the Special Task Force, the Army and the Navy. The Attorney-General Department has stated that Mr Ponnambalam held 98% of the (PTA) cases, which went through their department, which is virtually equivalent to the entire number of cases fought by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Mr Ponnambalam filed many reports on important human rights cases. These include the internationally known case of gang-rape and murder of Krishanthi Kumaraswamy, which led to the eventual revelation of the eighteen mass graves, including Chemmani, in the Jaffna Peninsula.
His work became a challenge to the Sri Lankan government, which with its record of massive human rights violations amounting to genocide, met in him a force to be reckoned with.
Mr Ponnambalam was a brave and tireless champion of civil and political rights, and fundamental human rights. He was not afraid to speak out on Human rights and this has cost him his life. His assassination marks a tragic loss for all
who strive for the cause of justice and human rights.
( Incidents are quoted in date sequence)
Extracts from TCHR report to the 55th Session
Freedom of Expression
In March 1997, Mr. G. G. Ponnambalam was requested by certain NGOs to make representations on behalf of the Tamils, at the 53rd Session of Commission on Human Rights. On his departure from the international airport in Sri Lanka, an army of customs and police officers rummaged through his personal belongings, as if in search of a rat, to get at his papers.
Harassment of a Lawyer
Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam, a leading Criminal Lawyer and General Secretary of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress, the first Tamil Party in Sri Lanka was interrogated by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on 13 January and 20 January 99. According to the CID, Mr. Ponnambalam was deemed to have committed a crime under section 2 (1)(h) of the PTA during his interview with the Swarnawahini TV channel. Mr. Ponnambalam stated that nowhere in the Swanavahini interview did he say anything to offend that section 2 (1)(h) of the PTA.
This is considered as political revenge by the Government on Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam for exposing the fallacies in Sri Lankan President Chandrika's interview to the South African Television. In this TV interview, President Chandrika Kumaratunga had said : "They are wanting a separate state - the minority Tamils who are not the original habitants of the country".
Kumar Ponnambalam denied travel to Jaffna
Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam was denied an air ticket to Jaffna on August 27th 1999 because he had not obtained permission from the Ministry of Defence for visiting the north. Mr. Ponnambalam had pointed out to officials at Heli-Tours, the firm that currently operates civilian flights between Jaffna and Colombo, that he as a Sri Lankan citizen does not need any permission or clearance to travel to any part of the country.
Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam then contacted an Army officer at the Ministry of Defence and explained to him that it was not necessary for him under Sri Lankan law to obtain the army's permission to visit Jaffna or any other part of the country. Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam wanted to participate in the court proceedings on Chemmani on August 30th 1999.
An Open Letter to President Kumaratunga, 23 December 1999
I refer to your Victory Speech of 22-12-99 on your election, once again, as President.
I write as a Tamil Eelavan. But more importantly, I write as an unalloyed and unrepentant supporter of the political philosophy of the LTTE and as one who, with that conviction, lives in the South. I write as one who has publicly stated this position of mine not only within this island but also without, and both verbally and in writing. I write as one whom you have recognized in your speech. And, I write as one who refuses to be deterred by the naked threats that dot your speech.
Permit me to tell you that your speech reflects the hatred that you have, only too readily, recognized in others.
Your speech is nauseatingly replete with one word - "peace". But the tenor of your speech is anything but one that is, in any way, conciliatory or given to peace.
You have sent a clarion call to all your "Tamil brothers and sisters" with outstretched hands of friendship. This shows your stark insincerity if one only recalls your speech made many moons ago when you inaugurated the Sama Tawalama at Anuradhapura with the unacceptable posture that this island is Sinhala land and Buddhist country.
You refer to 18th December 1999 as "the night that will go down in history as the night this land was touched by the hand of darkness one too many times". You indulge in this rhetoric because it happens to concern you. Do you not realize that there are thousands of widows in Tamil Eelam to whom certain nights have gone down, in their own lives, as nights that have been touched by the hand of darkness caused by your machinations as Commander-in-Chief of your armed forces?
You have challenged "those who doubt (your) resolve to lift the curse of hatred and death that has fallen upon (this) land" to look you in the face now and voice our doubts about the sincerity of the desire to forge permanent peace. I hasten, with this letter, to say just that to you with all the vehemence I command. I am fortified in this statement by your victory speech itself.
You want to finish the LTTE. Please do so, if you can. With that will go, for all times, any prospect of permanent peace in this island. Your election results shows ruthlessly that all Tamils, not only Tamil Eelavar but also the Upcountry Tamils, not only do not want you because they do not trust you anymore, but also do not want a political solution from you. This is an indictment on all your postulations of wanting to forge permanent peace.
Just take your peace packages. There were three in as many years, during the first three years after the commencement of your tenure. For the next two years, there was not a murmur about those packages. Even those three packages were diluted with each subsequent appearance! Surely, anyone who has a genuine desire to bring about a political solution will not trifle with packages every summer? One stands or falls with just one.
You say that you see very clearly "the enemy that walks so freely" in this island, and you identify that enemy as "hatred". No, the enemy you see are the Tamils in this island. Thank God this is reciprocated by every Tamil worth his salt. This has also been evidenced by the election results.
You boast that "the entire LTTE terrorist enterprise will fail" against you but, in the same breath, you contradict yourself pathetically by wanting the Tamils to bring Pirabaharan to the negotiating table. You have played ducks and drakes for far too long about whether you want to talk to the LTTE or not. Political maturity demands that you and your Government finally state whether you want to talk to the LTTE, unconditionally, or not. It is only when this is known definitely will anybody move in this matter.
If talking to the LTTE at the negotiating table is your honest position, then your outburst about "cowards of the LTTE" and "terrorist cowards" or your urge to wipe out the LTTE, must surely be counter productive.
By all means "clear away the culture of terror and death", which has become the way of life in this island thanks to the Sinhalese who first showed everybody the way in June 1956. But you will realize immediately, as everybody in this island realizes, that you will have to start doing so at your very own doorstep in the first instance, before you decide to go anywhere near the LTTE!
May I close by referring to your constant refrain about bringing about peace. If you are hoping to bring about peace through any one of your packages, please forget it. The Tamils have shown unmistakably that they are not interested in you or in your peace packages.
In fact, if the Tamils are worth their salt, they will not want anything dished out by you, or for that matter, by your adversary. Why should we? We Tamils were not born to depend on the "benevolence" of the Sinhalese or on what they choose to dish out to us. A part of this island rightfully belongs to the Tamils, in as much as the other part rightfully belongs to the Sinhalese. This must be appreciated by the Sinhalese.
As far as the Tamils are concerned, they in turn, must appreciate that if their aspirations hold that as a Nation they have the right to self-determination and that that right is inalienable in that it is born with them, then they must have the political wisdom, strength and sagacity to exercise that right and decide their own political future themselves. They have, for far too long, looked to peace packages, negotiating tables and anything offered or dished out by the Sinhalese. This beggarly attitude must go. The sooner it goes, the better it is for the Tamils.
The Tamil Nation has, through the Delegation of the Tamil People, solemnly informed the world about its aspirations in August 1985 at Thimpu. To go back on that position will be tantamount to compromising future generations of Tamils yet unborn. The present generation does not have the right to compromise future generations. Any signal that would give the Sinhalese the idea that the Tamils are not serious about their aspirations, or that they are climbing down, will be an act of treachery. The present generation does not seem to tolerate such treachery or to take kindly to traitors.
May I end by saying that, on the basis of what I have just stated I, personally, have got disgusted and tired of talks, third party intervention, etc. My considered conviction is that a political solution to the Tamil Problem is in the hands of the Tamils themselves and only in their hands and that the Sinhalese and Tamils can continue to live in this island and in peace only if they live in two definite and distinct compartments each minding their own business unfettered by the other. Only such an arrangement will prove relevant that great quotation on peace you have used in your speech:
"Peace is a battle. Peace is never given freely, never acquired. Its conquest is the result of courage and of respect for others. It demands awareness and commitment from everyone. Peace is not the law imposed by the mighty, but that which is founded on equality and dignity of all peoples."
Kumar Ponnambalam shot dead
A Criminal Lawyer and the President of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam was shot dead while driving his car at Wellawatte by an unknown gunman. Police sources said that Ponnambalam had been shot with a revolver while he was driving his blue Benz car at a by-lane off Ramakrishna Road. Police suspect that an unidentified man who was riding in Ponnambalam's car was responsible for the shooting. According to information received by the police the suspect gunman had visited Ponnambalam at his home at Queen's Road earlier in the morning.
After a brief talk both Ponnambalam and the suspect had got into the Benz and while Mr. Ponnambalam took the wheel the other man rode beside him. Ponnambalam was found dead in the car with gun shot wounds in his head and neck. He had died instantly.
Police said the man who rode with Ponnambalam is missing and they are looking for him. At the time of writing police were unable to say why Ponnambalam who was driving down Ramakrishna Road had turned into Ramakrishna Lane where he was shot. (Sri Lanka The Island - 6 January 2000)
6 January 2000 - An organisation calling itself 'National Front Against Tigers' claimed responsibility for the killing of Kumar Ponnambalam, the president of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress. In a note in Sinhala faxed to leading media institutions in Colombo the group said it is warning all those who support and help the Liberation Tigers. Such people were "traitors" the group said. The note was signed "Wijayaranabahu, Commanding Officer". This organisation is considered to be the front organisation of the Sri Lanka government.
Son Mr. Gajendra Kumar gives evidence
14 January 2000 - "My father Kumar Ponnambalam, wearing black trousers and a white T-shirt with black stripes, left the house on that fateful morning with one 'Shantha' saying that he would proceed to Wellawatte and return within half an hour. "But that was not to be. He thereafter never came back home alive. We only saw him lying dead at the wheel of his blue Mercedes Benz." Thus stated Barrister Gajendra Kumar the only son of All Ceylon Tamil Congress leader Kumar Ponnambalam at the Magisterial inquiry into the death of Kumar Ponnambalam before Mount-Lavenia Magistrate K.H.Sumathipala.
Witness Gajendra Kumar continued that his father had left home that day around 10 a.m. He and his father were to bring a vehicle from the garage. But on hearing that there was a bomb blast at Flower Road, they changed their plans and his father went to Wellawatte saying he would get back in half an hour.
He said he wanted to advise his father not to go out because of the bomb blast but before he could do that, his father had driven out. He also believed another person was in the car.
Referring to the mysterious 'Shantha', Mr. Gajendra Kumar said he had come to the residence that morning and had also called several times earlier. Shantha spoke in Sinhala and he believed he was a Sinhalese.
He said after he received the call from the Sun FM Station, he had telephoned his father on the cellphone but had got only a recorded answer. Later when he went to the scene, with Mr.Thomas, he saw his father fallen inside the vehicle. Both windows of the air-conditioned Benz were open and the automatic gear was at parked position. The cellphone number 077311922 was missing.
TCHR issued an Urgent Press release, 5 January 2000
On 5th January 2000, the Tamil Centre for Human Rights - TCHR issued an Urgent Press release, which read as follows :
Mr G.G. Ponnambalam Jnr. (known to everyone as Kumar Ponnambalam) was involved in human rights for many years. He was a leading lawyer in Colombo. Gunmen assassinated him in cold blood this morning in Wellawatta in Colombo. The post-mortem carried out tonight revealed five revolver shots behind his right eye and one bullet in his shoulder.
According to his family members and friends, Mr Ponnambalam had been contacted by a Sinhalese person in recent times, who had arranged to meet him today. He had told the person that he would be at home and would not be going to the Courts, so the person came to his home at 10.00am this morning. They both went to Wellawatta. He never returned.
Mr Ponnambalam, as a prominent expert and able criminal lawyer defended thousands of Tamil people, over many years, who suffered gross and systematic violations of human rights at the hands of the Sri Lankan government security forces - the Special Task Force, the Army and the Navy. The Attorney-General Department has stated that Mr Ponnambalam held 98% of the (PTA) cases which went through their department, which is virtually equivalent to the entire number of cases fought by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Mr Ponnambalam filed many reports on important human rights cases. These include the internationally known case of gang-rape and murder of Krishanthi Kumaraswamy which led to the eventual revelation of the eighteen mass graves, including Chemmani, in the Jaffna Peninsula.
His work became a challenge to the Sri Lankan government, which with its record of massive human rights violations amounting to genocide, met in him a force to be reckoned with.
Mr Ponnambalam spoke out for human rights also in the international arena. He denounced the torture, arbitrary detention, disappearances and extra-judicial killings of Tamil people at the hands of the Sri Lankan government's security forces, in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1997 and 1999. Amongst many important international bodies, he addressed members of the European Parliament in Brussels and the Royal Institute in London-U.K
In December 1998 Mr Ponnambalam was threatened with being arrested by the present government of Sri Lanka. The Tamil Centre for Human Rights brought this to the notice of human rights organisations and international bodies. Eventually, he was interrogated by the Sri Lankan Police in his home.
Everyone knew that Mr Ponnambalam had been facing a threat by the Chandrika government for a long time. On certain International platforms Mr Ponnambalam stated openly that President Chandrika Kumaratunga was "after his blood". Recently he stated that the government was "looking for his blood". Today this has become a tragic and sad reality.
Mr Ponnambalam was also a devoted husband and father. He leaves his wife Dr.Yogi, his daughter Mrinalini aged 27 and his son Gajendrakumar aged 26.
Mr Ponnambalam was a brave and tireless champion of civil and political rights, and fundamental human rights. He was not afraid to speak out on Human rights and this has cost him his life. His assassination marks a tragic loss for all who strive for the cause of justice and human rights. We appeal to all individuals and human rights organisations to strongly condemn this callous and heinous act.
Assassination of Tamil a tragedy says MEP
7 January 2000 - Labour Member of the European Parliament Robert Evans said that the death of Kumar Ponnambalam was a tragic loss for Sri Lanka and the Tamil community. Mr Ponnambalam, a Tamil lawyer, was assassinated in Colombo yesterday. Speaking in London Robert Evans MEP, said 'I considered Kumar Ponnambalam a friend of mine. I had met him several times and visited him only a few months ago in his house in Colombo. I am devastated that he should have died in this way.
'Mr Ponnambalam was never afraid to speak out and was always conscious of the safety of others. His personal courage was such that he knew he would always be a possible target but his concern was always for other people. This was especially so when I went to his home.'
'Kumar was also a realist,' said Robert Evans. ' He knew from years of personal experience that the freedom struggle of the Tamil people could not rely solely on the democratic process. He was also prepared to point a finger of blame for atrocities at the Sri Lankan military and the Sri Lankan government. ''Above all he recognised, like me, that the only lasting solution to the war would come from discussion and dialogue between the two parties to the conflict with international mediation.''
As a human rights' lawyer Kumar Ponnambalam spoke of the situation in Sri Lanka at forums around the world. 'Only recently he was in Brussels meeting with MEPs. He drew attention to the amazing lack of coverage of the Sri Lankan civil war in the European and world press.'
'The contrast' commented Robert Evans, ' between the lack of coverage of the situation in Sri Lanka and Chechnya is very stark. The war in Sri Lanka is different but equally violent. The Sri Lankan government suppresses the coverage and Kumar was exposing this and many other aspects of the Tamil case.'
'His loss is a devastating blow to the whole Tamil community. Our thoughts today must surely be with his family. The best lasting tribute to Kumar Ponnambalam will be if the struggle for peace in Sri Lanka continues in the wake of his tragic death.
Sri Lanka Government accused of the assassination
LTTE Headquarters - Tamil Eelam 6 January 2000 - The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) wishes to express its deep shock and profound grief over the brutal killing of Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam, a courageous Tamil leader who fearlessly exposed the hypocrisy of the Sinhala state and audaciously championed the cause of the Tamil nation.
We accuse the Sri Lanka government and the Tamil quisling groups of masterminding and executing this heinous crime to silence a brave, daring voice of reason that defended the rights of the Tamils. Mr. Ponnambalam's sudden death is a great and irreparable loss to the Tamils, a monumental tragedy that has befallen the Tamil nation at a critical historical time.
Faced with constant threat to his life and property, Mr. Ponnambalam lived in the heart of the Sri Lankan capital and boldly challenged his racist adversaries. His speeches and writings, which touched on extremely controversial issues, expressed his truthfulness, genuiness, uprightness and indomitable spirit for justice. He pleaded for the rights and liberties of thousands of innocent Tamils in Colombo who were subjected to constant persecution at the hands of the tyrannical Sinhala state. He also voiced for the Tamils rights at international forums.
Mr. Ponnambalam was the only Tamil leader who openly and fearlessly supported the armed freedom struggle of the Liberation Tigers. He endorsed the policy of the LTTE as the authentic political project based on the right to self-determination of the Tamil people. By his gallant and heroic life in advancing the legitimate cause of the Tamils amidst all dangers, Mr. Ponnambalam has earned the respect and admiration of his people as a true Tamil patriot. (Released by the International Secretariat of LTTE, 211 Katherine Rd, London E6 1BU, United Kingdom.)
COLOMBO: Prominent Tamil leader Kumar Ponnambalam, 61, assassinated by an unknown gunman, last Wednesday, was cremated in a heavily attended ceremony at the Colombo general cemetery on Sunday. While the police has so far been unable to crack the mystery behind the killing, it has become the centre of a political controversy here. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in an unprecedented development on Sunday posthumously bestowed the outspoken Ponnambalam, with an award of "the most eminent person" - Mamanithan. Commending him on his "leadership, dedicated patriotism and outstanding
contribution to the cause of Tamil liberation." (by Charu Lata Joshi Times of India - 9 January 2000)
Police will not spend time investigating as it was not done by LTTE
6 January 2000 - The Tamil Information Centre (TIC) espresses deep concern over the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Sri Lanka. Insecurity and violence are spreading fast. The Killing of Kumar Ponnambalam, president of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress and a leading human rights lawyer on 5 January 2000 has shocked the Tamil community. The brutal and callous murders of Kumar Ponnambalam and chief editor of Tamil weekly, Thinamurasu and Tamil Member of Parliament Ramesh Nadarajah on 2 November 1999 have posed further threats to the freedoms of expression, assembly and association. The government is unable to prevent deliberate killings. Its believed that "deaths squads" freely operating in the capital Colombo are responsible for these killings. The TIC calls upon the international community to monitor the situation in Sri Lanka, urging the government to conduct a public inquiry into the killings of Kumar Ponnambalam and Ramesh Nadarajah. The Tamil Information Centre understands that Police Officers who came to the scene of the killing of Ramesh Nadarajah had told concerned MPs that they would not spend time in investigating the case as it was not done by the LTTE and that they have no interest in the case.
Politics of the gun
The brutal killing of the leader of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress Kumar Ponnambalam in Colombo yesterday is a pointer that the politics of the gun has gained precedence over democracy. It is no doubt condemned by all those who believe in democracy. A member of an influential political family and lawyer, Mr. Ponnambalam was a well known personality and had a large number of personal friends belonging to all communities. In keeping with the dynastic politics of the country he was carrying his father's mantle as the leader of his political party.( Extracted from the Editorial "The Island" 6 January 2000)
Kumar was killed on 5 January 2000, Chandrika's condolence dated 6 May 1999!
The assassination on January 5 of Kumar Ponnambalam, might have been planned by the Sri Lankan government "eight months previously"! A condolence letter by President Chandrika Kumaratunga was sent to Ponnambalam's widow, dated May 6th 1999.
According to Mrs. Yogi Ponnambalam, the President sent the condolence letter through one of her security officers on the evening of January 7th. It has raised suspicions as to whether President Kumaratunga's letter has been dated May 6th 1999 by mistake or the assassination had already been planned last year.
The date was not a mistake as the chances are minimal for such an error to happen in a letter, especially a condolence message, from the country's highest administrative office, the Presidential Secretariat. Mrs.Ponnambalam and other family members consider that the letter appears to be deliberately intended as an insult.
Why was Shantha in the PSD not questioned
The media in recent times has been full of allegations about an individual call "Shantha" who is allegedly a member of the Presidential security Division. He has been "credited" with several acts of violence against civilians considered as enemies of this government. But the police so far have not interviewed this gentlemen in this regard! ("The Sunday Leader - February 13, 2000)
Assassination of Kumar Ponnamblam has clues - but no proper investigation - TCHR, (28th February 2000)
With reference to our Urgent Action - Ref. No. AE/02/01 of 5 January 2000, we would like to bring the following matters to the concern of all human rights organisations, human rights activists and persons committed to promoting values of human dignity and worth.
Our observations on information that TCHR has received since the assassination of the human rights defender Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam, strongly indicate that a serious cover-up and manipulation by the investigators are taking place.
So far, no proper and serious inquiry has been carried out regarding this assassination! We would like to draw your attention to the press release of the Tamil Information Centre (TIC), in London, dated January 06, 2000. This states that "The Tamil Information Centre understands that Police Officers who came to the scene of the killing of Ramesh Nadarajah (Editor of a weekly Tamil news paper) had told concerned MPs that they would not spend time in investigating the case as it was not done by the LTTE and that they have no interest in the case!"
When a crime is reported in Sri Lanka it is the local police in whose jurisdiction the incident occurred that investigates along with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). In the case of Mr Ponnambalam's assassination, it is the Wellawatte police along with the CID that ought to be investigating the crime. However, on the 3rd day after the murder, this case was handed over to the Colombo Detective Bureau (CDB) on the instruction of the President and the Inspector General of Police. This is highly irregular.
Even though the person named "Shantha", referred to in our previous Urgent Action had come to the family home, had sat and spoken with Mr Ponnambalam before going in the car with him, and even though the CID had been informed of this, no attempt was made to find out where he sat in the house, which chair he sat on, or to take finger-prints anywhere in Mr Ponnambalam's home.
According to a human rights lawyer and a good friend of Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam, there was an eyewitness to this assassination! He is Mr. "X", a businessman in Colombo. Mr "X" had gone in a trishaw to Ramakrishna Terrace via Marine Drive and Ramakrishna road. As the trishaw turned into Ramakrishna Road he had seen a jet-black Isuzu Trooper jeep with dark tinted windows parked at the bottom of Ramakrishna Road. He had proceeded up the Road and turned into Ramakrishna Terrace where he had seen Mr Ponnambalam's car parked on one side to the left.
He had noted a man seated in the left-hand front seat of the car and another man standing outside the window closest to Mr Ponammbalam. He had driven past them and had got off opposite No. 7 Ramakrishna Terrace and had rung the bell/knocked on the gate. There had been no reply from the house.
At that point he heard what he described as fire-crackers. He had not taken special note of this, as it was the festive season. Since there was still no response from the house he had turned to go back towards Ramakrishna Road when he saw the indiviiual standing outside the window where Mr Ponnambalam was seated, tuck a gun that seemed like a revolver /pistol into his waist and pull the shirt over it. The other man had got out of the car by this time and they were both "casually" walking towards Mr "X", that is, towards Vivekananda Road. Then he found that a person had been shot dead inside that particular car.
Immediately he brought this fact to the notice of two policemen who were nearby at the time. When he told these policemen about the killing, they said that they had come to that area because they had received information that there was a suspicious vehicle parked and it had been there for some time. In fact, even the policemen were referring to the same "Isuzu Trooper Jeep" which the businessman had seen.
In Sri Lanka, the vehicle referred to above, is only used by the Security forces, especially by the Sri Lanka Army, Ministerial Security Division (MSD) and the Presidential Security Division(PSD).
Furthermore, we feel it important to note that the Government Analyst Department who examined the car in which Mr. Ponnambalam was killed could not find any fingerprints anywhere on this car. Even Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam's finger-prints could not be found on the driver's wheel, or anywhere else! The Government Analyst Department checked the car on three separate occasions yet could not recover any evidence whatsoever, and could not find any bullets in this car. Whereas later, two bullets were found in this car by others.
A columnist of the Sunday leader of February 13th 2000 has said in his article "It is indeed frightening that anyone called Shantha could become an automatic suspect in the Kumar Ponnambalam case. But then again there are reservations. The media in recent times has been full of allegations about an individual called 'Shantha' who is allegedly a member of the Presidential Security Division. He has been 'credited' with several acts of violence against civilians considered as enemies of this government. But the police so far have not interviewed this gentleman so far in this regard."
It is a well-known fact that that Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam was an able Criminal Lawyer in Sri Lanka, who had seen many criminals and murderers in his life-time. Therefore, anyone with bogus information such as a false name, address, profession, etc could not have approached him. The talk in Colombo is that the organisation which claimed this assassination is not a fake one, but it is considered a front organisation of the Government. In the light of the above information, we kindly request you to send letters / faxes of protest to the President of Sri Lanka and the Inspector General of Police, urging a genuine, rigorous and serious inquiry into this matter and to follow up every suspect whatever sector they belong to or work in. TCHR recommends that the Sri Lanka government should conduct a public inquiry into the brutal assassination of Kumar Ponnambalam.
No one has yet been identified by the eye witnesses
Between January 5, 2000 and the present day no one has yet been identified by the eye witnesses who saw "Shantha" on the day of the assassination nor by the Colombo businessman who heard the firing and saw the killers. But there have been two statements by the Police investigators that the killers have been identified! This is considered to be the routine "Eye wash", given to the outside world by the investigators and the government.
Economical, Social and Cultural Rights
According to the UNICEF report of September 99, there needs to be a community development approach which ensures that the multiple stresses of poverty, malnutrition, poor education and social dislocation are alleviated - and the social fabric of the community and family life restored.
Right to Food
Starvation in the Vanni
On July 17th 1999 the Government Agents of Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi appealed to the government to take immediate action to send relief food and essential commodities to the civilian population. The appeal has been sent to the Commissioner General of Essential Services with a copy to the Government Agent in Vavuniya.The contents of this appeal said that the multi-purpose co-operative and shops are without food as the road to the Vanni has been closed since June 26th 1999.
There is an acute shortage of sugar, flour, dhal and kerosene oil in the Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi districts. Both Government Agents have informed the government that "starvation among the population is identified and acute shortage of essential drugs is also experienced.
Rt. Rev.Rajappu Joseph, the Bishop of Mannar has said that 4000 people belonging to 900 displaced families from the Vidaththalthivu and Pallamadu areas, who have sought refuge under trees along roadsides in Thevanpiddy, in the western coastal areas of the Mannar district, are suffering without proper food, drinking water and relief assistance. He has appealed to the government to rush food and kerosene and to supply drinking water in bousers to the displaced population. As usual the government has ignored this request.
Government Agents appeal for food
In September 1999 the Government Agents (GA) of Kilinochchi, Mullaithivu and Vavuniya made a request to the government officials in Vavuniya to make arrangements to dispatch the required quantity of relief food items to the displaced population in the Vanni areas.
The GAs pointed out to the government officials that 5 kg of rice, 4 kg of wheat flour 1.5 kg of sugar and a half a kilo of dhal are required for a person for a month and this amount of foodstuff should be transported every month. However no positive responses were given.
Right to Education
Situation report of the Council of NGOs Jaffna (December 1999)
A large number of teachers' posts continue to remain vacant. Certain schools in remote areas are bereft of teachers. This is one of the main reasons for the lowered standards of education reflected in the GCE O/L results. Many damaged schools have also not been fully rebuilt and equipped.
In Vanni, education facilities are lacking, not enough equipment and resources to engage motivate and stimulate pupils in the learning process. Other factors outside the family mitigate against them becoming more involved - needing to help their families survive, looking after elderly or injured relatives, needing to find basic essentials for living.
Pre-school education in Jaffna needs a kick start. The main asset of the Jaffna population which was education has received a colossal set-back due to the war over the last 16 years. Earlier the percentage of literacy was very high but the adverse impact of the conflict has been identified even in the field of pre school education.
According to recent information, there are 505 pre-schools in the Jaffna peninsula with a total strength of 611 teachers and 11,854 children. Though the training programme for the teachers is conducted by various organisations both governmental and non- governmental, it has been noted that more than 30 percent of the pre-school teachers have not undergone any type of training. It is also learnt that 28 percent of the pre-school teachers do not receive any allowance or salary for the services rendered.
Other relevant information reveals that 163 of the pre-schools do not posses water supplies, 315 are without proper sanitary facilities and 342 are without any furniture for the use of both teachers and children. (an extract from "The Weekend Express" of January 15-16, 2000)
Sinhala textbook humiliating Tamil community
The World Bank and the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom jointly organised a two day workshop in July 1999. At this workshop the Samshakthi Teachers' Forum presented its report on the role of school textbooks for multi social reconciliation in Sri Lanka. The Samshakthi Teachers' Forum pointed out in its reports that several portions from the Year 7 Sinhala textbook on Buddhism, were humiliating to the Tamil community in the island.
In page 74 of the book it had been wrongly stated that when a Tamil king Elara captured Anurdhapura, Tamils started destroying Buddhist temples and harassing monks. This is factually untrue and blatantly incorrect. These Sinhala text books, prepared by the National Institute of Education have been published by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.
The following are some points raised by Samshakthi Teachers' Forum:
1 - "It is a great tragedy that the curriculum developers of the current textbooks have failed to take into consideration, the national needs of the country. They have not taken into consideration the educational policies and their objectives.
2 - "The Sri Lankan text book writers have not considered this country is a multi-racial and multi-religious one.
3 - "The most lamentable issue is that the majority of the Sinhala medium textbooks seem to have taken great pains to highlight the Sinhala- Buddhist attitudes.
4 - "One other interesting issue is that of the use of maps. They are so distorted that one would wonder whether the original maps of Sri Lanka had no North and Eastern provinces. The text book writers have ignored these two regions in their references.
5 - "When one analyses these facts, one wonders how a unitary or united country could be maintained under such hostile conditions. It is the minority that has been hurt and crushed most in the hostile attitude adopted by the Sinhala text book writers.
6 - "Even in studying art, the Tamil learner is forced to study only the Buddhist and the Sinhala aspects of the history of art of Sri Lanka.
7 - "In Year 7 text book on Buddhism, it is said " I shall refraining from killing". This explanation has been limited only to the killing of animals. It is known that some Buddhists extend their sympathies only towards animals.
8 - "The words of Lord Buddha teaches the humans to condemn war and uphold peace and equality. Yet it is sad to realise that such truths have been neglected in the text books on Buddhism.
"In examining the text books used in Sri Lanka, we find that they encourage our students to be racial and sectarian, cutting off all chances of socialisation in a meaningful manner".
Hindu School with Buddhist Principal
July 1999 - A Buddhist is functioning as the Principal in the Kurunegala Hindu Maha Vidyalayam. Kurunegala is an important town in the north western province. When a deputation of the All Ceylon Young Hindu Federation led by its General Secretary recently visited Kurunegala, Hindu residents in Kurunegala brought to the notice of the General Secretary the fact that a Buddhist principal was running the administration of the Hindu Maha Vidyalayam. Several Hindu residents expressed that the welfare of their children was not properly looked after by the school administration. The general secretary of the ACYHF has written to the Minister of Education and Higher Education to appoint a Hindu principal to the school. He has also sent a letter to the provincial Minister of Education requesting him to transfer the Buddhist principal from the Hindu Maha Vidyalayam in Kurunegala.
Police blocked protest by Jaffna university students
On July 26, 1999 - A march organised by Jaffna University students, demanding that the government open a route into the Vanni, was blocked by the Sri Lanka Army and Police at Parameswara college junction.
The march started from the University and was heading towards the Jaffna Kachcheri (Government Agent's secretariat) where the students were to hand the Government Agent a letter addressed to the Sri Lankan president. The organisers of the rally said that even though they had obtained permission from the Jaffna police, the police at the scene had blocked this march saying that permission had not been granted!
Shortage of school furniture in Vanni
Type of Furniture Killinochi Mullaitivu Mannar Vavuniya
Secondary - desks 10,206 17,010 3,402 6,810
Secondary - chairs 10,403 17,340 3,468 6,930
Primary - desks 5,058 8,430 1,686 3,370
Primary - chairs 7,415 12,355 2,472 4,940
Total required 33,082 55,135 11,028 22,050
Muslim admissions opposed by Buddhist monks and Sinhala students
October 7, 1999 - More than 3000 students of Ananda and Nalanda Colleges and Buddhist monks demonstrated in Colombo protesting against a demand by the leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, stating that 20 percent of the seats at Ananda College be allocated to Muslim students. Ananda and Nalanda Colleges are leading Buddhist schools in Colombo.
One Teacher for 70 students
According to a statement issued by the Ceylon Tamil Teachers' Union, there is an acute shortage of Tamil medium teachers prevailing in schools in the Tamil areas. The union said that the ratio is one teacher for 70 students in these areas while in rest of the island there is one teacher for 22 children.
The General Secretary of the CTTU said the Government could not ensure equal opportunity of education to Tamils until the existing vacancies for about 10,000 Tamil medium teachers in the country are filled.
The statement added that on an island-wide basis there was a surplus of about 14 thousand Sinhala teachers. 600 of these surplus Sinhalese teachers are in schools in the East of the island. But in the whole country over 10 thousand vacancies remain to be filled by Tamil medium teachers. In the north east schools, over five thousand vacancies exist for Tamil medium teachers.
UNICEF - Colombo, Sri Lanka - September 1999
Literacy levels which were higher than 80% have fallen due to the deterioration of educational facilities. Schools in host communities attended by displaced children have their limited material and human resources stretched. The prolonged conflict has led to extreme vulnerabilities for children and women.
Right to Health
In the Vanni, children suffer from respiratory infections, diarrhoea and malaria. The most easily preventable diseases are the greatest cause of morbidity and mortality. More than half of the allocated posts for medical officers are vacant, resulting in a reduced service.
Essential service delivery a problem.
Drug shortage at Pulmoddai
There is a severe drug shortage at the government hospital in Pulmoddai in Trincomalee District, as the security forces interfered in the administration of the hospital.
Patients in that area were badly effected because the hospital authorities wilfully ignore their request to order more drugs. Patients said in addition that the hospital was without even basic drugs like paracetamol.
Two medical officers attached to the hospital prescribe drugs to patients to buy from pharmacies in the village. But pharmacies in Pulmoddai do not have enough stock drugs due to the restriction imposed by the military authorities.As a result, people of the area were forced to travel to Kebettigollawa, about 50 km. from Pulmoddai, to buy medicines prescribed by doctors. Over 18 thousand people live in the traditional Muslim village, Pulmoddai.
Situation report of the Council of NGOs Jaffna (December 1999)
Medical reports pinpoint a shortage of medical staff and drugs. Certain units are not even manned by an Assistant Medical Practitioner. In the absence of ambulance services to these units, seriously ill patients find difficulty in gaining admission to the district hospitals or the Jaffna Teaching Hospital. These shortcomings need to be rectified for a better health service in Jaffna.
UNICEF - Colombo, Sri Lanka - September 1999
Morbidity and mortality for infants and under five year old children are mainly related to the poor health of mothers. 58 percent of all infant and under five deaths in the areas are due to short gestation period and low birth weights.
Right to Work
Situation report of the Council of NGOs Jaffna (December 1999)
The report states that awareness programmes bombastic in scope but without substance, were the main reason for the problems not being tackled. For example the awareness programme on malnutrition was irrelevant as the main cause of poverty was due to acute unemployment and under-employment created by various restrictions on income generating activities.
Due to heavy rains (more than 20 millimetres) during October and the consequent floods, the paddy crops which were at the germination stage have been affected.
Discrimination in selection
The Tamil language candidates sitting for the competitive examination for selection to the Sri Lanka Accountant Service and the Sri Lanka Administrative Service are subjected to discrimination in appointments.
In the competitive examination held for selection to the Sri Lanka Accountants Service in 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1998, only one Tamil in each examination was selected for appointment which was far below the ethnic ratio of the Tamils in this country.
In the meantime there are over 40 vacant posts for Accountants in the North East Provincial Council which have not yet been filled for the past several years.
In the competitive Examination for the selection of candidates for Sri Lanka Accountants service held in 1999, 38 Sinhalese and 2 Tamils were selected. (In the competitive Examination held in 1998 for selection of Accountants, 15 Sinhalese and only one Tamil were appointed.)
In the competitive Examination held in 1999 for selection of candidates for the Sri Lankan Administrative Service, 151 Sinhalese and only 2 Tamils were summoned for the interview. (an extracted from "The Weekend Express" of January 22-23, 2000)
Fishermen protest over withdrawal of UN aid
Fishermen on the coast of Vadamaradchi north in Jaffna have been affected by the withdrawal of aid from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Officials of the Vadamaradchi North Fishermen's Federation accused the Jaffna Kachcheri for the cancellation of eight hundred and twenty thousand rupees granted by the UNDP for making sea going rafts and fishing boats. (Please see summary report of fishermen killed, seriously injured and equipemnt damage in recent years, prepared by the Mullaitivu District Fishermen's Co-operative Societies Union.
There are approximately 1 million Tamils of comparatively recent Indian origin, the so-called ''hill Tamils'' or ''Indian Tamils'', whose ancestors originally were brought to Sri Lanka in the 19th century to work on plantations. About 75,000 of these persons do not qualify for either Indian or Sri Lankan citizenship and face discrimination, especially in the allocation of overnment funds for education. Without national identity cards, they are also vulnerable to arrest by the security forces.
Over 70% of the plantation work force, whist is overwhelmingly "Indian" Tamil, is unionised. In total there are over 900,000 union members, 650,000 of who are women. (Excerpts from the 1999 Country reports on H/R - U.S. Department of State - February 25, 2000)
State sponsored colonisation - jubilee celebration by Sri Lanka
The golden jubilee celebrations of the Gal Oya development scheme was held in Ampara district on August 28th and 29th 1999. The Deputy Minister of Defence Mr. Anurudha Ratwatte was the chief guest and the Leader of the Opposition and the President of the United National Party Mr.Ranil Wickremesinghe was the distinguished guest at the celebrations.
The Gal Oya development scheme was inaugurated in 1949 by the first Prime Minister of the country. This was the first state-sponsored colonisation scheme where majority lands were distributed to Sinhala peasants living in other districts outside the eastern province.
This colonisation scheme paved way for the creation of a new electorate called Ampara, now Digamadulla, in the east dominated by the Sinhalese community. In effect, the government is to celebrate the successful implementation of the state-sponsored Sinhala colonisation schemes in the traditional homelands of the Tamils and Muslim communities in the east over the last fifty years. (Please refer to the TCHR addendum on "Sinhala Colonisation" to this appeal)
Civil and Political Rights
Arbitrary arrest and detention
Situation report of the Council of NGOs Jaffna (December 1999)
Arrests on suspicion are on the increase and youths are living in fear. After questioning some are released while others are detained in the Kankesanthurai Detention Camp. Some others are taken to Anuradhapura for trial before the High Court Judge. In the absence of a Court in Jaffna, parents and guardians face the hazardous problem of travelling out of Jaffna.
Released after 5 years sentence and re-arrested
Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of Chitravel Manivannan, who
has reportedly been repeatedly tortured during interrogation by the police Counter Subversive Unit (CSU) in Vavuniya. He is reported to be in need of medical attention.
He has allegedly been repeatedly beaten with batons, and had a plastic bag filled with petrol tied over his head until he nearly suffocated. He now has difficulty walking.
Chitravel Manivannan was arrested on January 10th 2000 at a lodge in Vavuniya. He had just served a five-year sentence in Kalutara prison, and had travelled to Vavuniya to have the detention order lifted by the court that issued it. He had done this, and was waiting for a pass from the security forces to leave Vavuniya for Colombo when he was arrested. He is being held under a 60-day detention order.
Detention Order on Mannar Government Agent
On September 4th 1999 The Government agent of Mannar was issued with a Detention Order (D.O) for seven days under emergency regulations. The detention order can be extended to three weeks at the discretion of the defence authorities under the emergency regulations.
3000 Tamils arrested in Search under curfew
Up to 3,000 men and women from the Tamil community were arrested in a massive house-to-house search conducted under cover of a curfew in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, officials said.
"About 3,000 people had been taken in for questioning during a 12-hour period," a military official here said, adding most of them were being freed after establishing their bona fides. As the men and women were brought to several police stations, anxious parents and relatives were seen gathering outside waiting for their release.
Tamil politicians complained those arrested had been subjected to video filming as well as photography violating an earlier undertaking given by the authorities. "These people are not criminals to be treated like this," said Tamil legislator, R. Yogarajan, complaining against the treatment of the detainees.
With Colombo paralysed by the curfew, anyone unable to explain their presence in the city was detained, police said, as the search targeted areas where Tamils are concentrated. Offices, shops, banks and schools were shut as state radio and television said the curfew was being strictly enforced. Search operations were conducted in the adjoining Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia area which is popular with tourists. (AFP Jan 7th 2000)
2000 Tamils arrested in Colombo
On January 22nd 2000 - More than 2000 Tamils were arrested in a massive cordon and search operation in Kolonnawa, a suburb of Colombo, and in Gampaha district. The combined operation by the Sri Lanka Army and Police began in the early hours of the morning after enforcing a ten-hour curfew. A large number of people, the kith and kin of the detained, flocked to different police stations soon after the curfew was relaxed at 2 p.m.
Tamils arrested in Colombo since July 1999
Month Number of Arrests July 1999 152 August 1999 275 September 1999 80 October 1999 560 November 1999 60 December 1999 49 January 2000 3246 February 2000 90 Total 4512
Head covered with bag filled with petrol and chilli fumes
Shanmugam Manogaran (23), a resident of Maamangam, a suburb of Batticaloa town, was arrested by the Sri Lanka Army on June 12th 1996. Three separate cases under the PTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) were filed against him earlier last year by the Police in the Batticaloa high court. He was detained at the camp of the Batticaloa unit of the Sri Lanka Army military intelligence at Lake Road One and at the office of the Counter Subversive Unit at Pioneer road in Batticaloa town.
Later he was transferred to the Batticaloa jail. A fundamental rights case was filed on behalf of Manogaran in the supreme court that he was tortured during his detention and interrogation. A three-member bench of the supreme court which heard his case, ordered the judicial medical officer of Batticaloa, Dr. S CCandrapalan, to examine Manogaran.
The JMO in his report to the supreme court observed that Manogaran had been tied upside down by his toes and severely assaulted with plastic pipes, blunt weapons and sticks and that his eardrums were affected by internal bleeding due to heavy blows on his ears. Manogaran's hand, according to the JMO, was fractured when he was beaten while trying to remove a bag that had been pulled over his head filled with petrol and chilli fumes.
The supreme court held that the state should pay Manogaran 30000 rupees in damages as well as his legal costs amounting to 5000 rupees.When the cases against Manogaran were taken up for hearing in the Batticaloa high court on July 26th 1999, his attorney Perinpam Premnath argued that he should be acquitted in all the cases in view of the supreme court's verdict.
Subject to 'excessive' torture - Judge
July 1999 - In the hearing into the mysterious death of a youth from Gurunakar in the Jaffna peninsula, the extra Jaffna District judge, Mr. A. S. E. Ekanathan, identified torture as the cause of death. The youth, Gnanasingam Anton Kulasingam, was arrested by troops of the Sri Lanka Army on September 9th 1998. His body was handed over to his relatives three days later.
The Judge came to his conclusion on the basis of post-mortem reports, which indicate that the youth had been subjected to excessive torture and that he had been bleeding profusely while undergoing shocks and pressure.The Judge said that the three Army personnel responsible, including a captain, are being investigated.
Woman tortured in military custody
Antony Krishnaveni (22) who had been tortured in military custody was released on bail on July 30th 1999 by the Batticaloa courts. She had been arrested by paramilitary gunmen from the Razeek group whilst on her way to Batticaloa from her village Kaluvankerni before being handed over to the Sri Lanka Army.
She was charged under the PTA. Her lawyer, Perinpam Premnath, argued that she had been severely tortured and thus requested the judge to order a medical examination of the accused.
The medical report by the district doctor documented the torture and psychological pressure applied. The judge granted bail to the accused and instructed her to remain within the town limits until further notice.
Nail and teeth removed and burn marks - JMO
Kalithas Selvam, 49, who was detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act had been tortured in the police custody said the Judicial Medical Officer while testifying at the Batticaloa High Courts in October 99. Kalithas of Eravur was arrested by the Sri Lankan Army on March 5th 1998. He was later handed over to the Counter Subversive Unit of the Sri Lankan Police. Mr. Premnath, the lawyer who appeared on behalf of the accused said that the police had filed charges against his client on the basis of a confession obtained under duress. He said that his client had been asked to sign a confession written in Sinhala. The lawyer argued that the JMO's report provides substantial evidence for his claim of torture.
The JMO, in his report submitted at the courts, said Kalithas had been severally beaten, with injuries all over the body. He further stated that a nail had been removed and that there were burn marks caused by cigarette being put out all over his body. According to the JMO, Kalithas had teeth removed from upper jaw and cannot function normally in future due to injuries he had sustained under the torture. The lawyer urged the courts to release his client on bail as he had been detained for more than a year and was in need of medical care. The judge, on the basis of the medical report accepted the bail application and released Kalithas.
Student tortured and died of gun shot injuries - Judge
October 21st 1999 - The Kalmunai Magistrate returned a verdict of homicide in the death of Sathasivam Sanjeevan, 19, a student of Wesley College in the eastern town. Sanjeevan was shot dead on October 15th 1998, while being held under the detention of Kalmunai police. The court ruled that the student had been tortured and died of gun shot injuries. Sanjeevan was arrested by the Kalmunai Police during a search operation in Paandiruppu on October 13th 1998. The police later handed over his body to the Ampara Hospital.
Following a hospital inquest, the police handed over the body to his parents, and ordered them to bury it immediately. The body of Sanjeevan was exhumed on October 22nd 1998, on orders by the Kalmunai Court, and an autopsy was done by the Judicial Medical Officer for the Batticaloa District. The JMO's report revealed that the student had been tortured and shot dead at close range either by AK-47 or T-56 type riffle.
Three persons missing in Ampara
Three villagers were reported missing in the south-eastern Ampara districts after being arrested by Sinhala home guards on October 8th 1999. Three Tamil villagers - Seenithamby Sathasivam (42), Somanathan Panchchadcharam (51) and S.Velautham (56) of Malayarkaddu were arrested by home guards near Sinnawatte in Konagala when they were on their way to collect milk. Thereafter, whereabouts of the three persons were not known. It is believed that they have been murdered in the Eastern province.
Amnesty International on three disappeared in Amparai
In a communiqué released by Amnesty International on October 29th 1999, the organisation said that it is concerned for the safety of three men arrested by Sinhalese home guards on October 8th 1999, who have since "disappeared".
Witnesses report that Seenithamby Sathasivam (42), Somanathan Panchchadcharam (51) and S. Velautham (56) were handed over to security forces personnel, possibly the Army, but the Army denies they are in their custody. The arrests took place at Sinnawathai, a Tamil border village in the eastern Battialoa district where the men had been living there with a number of other Tamil families after being displaced from the village of Malayarkaddu following tension between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities in the area.
Amnesty is urging that "an independent and impartial investigation into the missing people's whereabouts be undertaken, that the findings be made public and those responsible be brought to justice and that, if the missing are in detention, they be promptly charged with a recognisable criminal offence, or immediately released".
Missing 'cannot be traced'
In November last year, letters of regret from Ministry of Defence officials were sent to 355 parents and relatives of persons who disappeared in the Jaffna peninsula in 1995 and 1996. These 355 persons are members of an association of relatives and parents of persons missing in Jaffna peninsula. The letters were sent by the Ministry officials to the Human Rights Commission branch in Jaffna. The defence ministry officials have in those letters expressed regret that they were unable to trace relatives or children "disappeared" during the military operation. This standard letter was even sent to the families of the two persons whose skeletons were exhumed and identified in the Chemmani mass graves!
Ministry of Defence on disappearances in Jaffna
December 2, 1999 - The Ministry of Defence in Sri Lanka said that in the final analysis regarding complaints of disappearances in the Jaffna peninsula, 16 people were ascertained as dead, 201 were found in prisons and there was no evidence at all in respect of 174, even to commence inquiries. A press release issued by the Ministry of Defence said "inquiries in respect of 374 cases commenced with available evidence, but could not proceed due to inadequacy of such evidence" and added that their "relatives have been informed of this position". The Government appointed a Board of Investigations into complaints of disappearances in Jaffna in November 1996. Over 2600 complaints were made to this board.
The statement further said, "after detailed comparison of the names the Board decided that the allegations continued only 765 names." "On examination of lists and information obtained from the Police stations, remand prisons and detention centres and later visits to various prisons, the Board was able to trace 201 persons in custody", the defence ministry statement said. It further said "legal action has been initiated in the case of 14 deaths alleged to have occurred at the hands of security forces". (Human rights activist say that this statement does not have any true information and it was purely produced for the purpose of eye washing the International community)
Amnesty calls for Independent commission to investigate disappearance
On December 7th 1999, Amnesty International said that an independent commission was needed to investigate the "disappearance" of hundreds of people arrested by the Sri Lanka Army in Jaffna in 1996, commenting on the Sri Lankan military's own investigations into the matter. "The international community is waiting to see how the government deals with human rights violations, committed under both the previous regime and the present one," Amnesty International's Secretary General Pierre Sane said, in a letter to President Chandrika Kumaratunge, asking her to set up such a commission.
"As a preliminary step, the government should make public the findings of an internal investigation by the Ministry of Defence into "disappearances" in Jaffna in mid-1996," Mr Sane was quoted as saying in a press release. Relatives have been told that the fate of at least two of the "disappeared" is not known, even though their bodies were among those exhumed and identified in June last year at Chemmani in Jaffna, the organisation pointed out.
Amnesty International also urged the Sri Lankan government to seek international expertise in forensic criminal investigation to help bring to justice the killers of those whose remains have recently been exhumed by the authorities. Experts from Amnesty International who were present during the exhumations of the remains of 15 people in September last year in Chemmani, "concluded that a pattern of injuries had emerged, making it easier to identify the perpetrators of these crimes,"
Fate of missing persons in Jaffna unknown - 1999
According to the National Human Rights Commission, the fate of about 50 percent of the 147 persons, who were reported missing in the Jaffna District, in 1999, are not known. The bodies of only seven missing persons were recovered. According to the preliminary investigations conducted in this regard, the Sri Lanka Army's involvement was ruled out. There was no information about other missing persons. During the year 1999, the Jaffna branch of the NHRC received complaints of 526 arrests in the district.
UNDP said fifty-five thousand killed in Sri Lanka
The report 'Human Development in South Asia 1999' prepared and released by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), says that "around fifty five thousand people have died so far in the civil war in Sri Lanka" far more than those killed in political and communal violence in Pakistan (since 1995) and India (1954-94).
"Ethnic and religious minorities are often faced with limited opportunities for economic and political empowerment (In south Asia). More than three thousand people have been killed in politically motivated violence in Karachi since 1995. Between 1954 and 1994, there were approximately fifteen thousand communal riots in India which resulted in 13301 casualties. Around fifty five thousand people have died so far in the civil war in Sri Lanka.
Unless there is a new compact between the citizen and the state, underpinned by humane governance, the majority of people in South Asia will continue to be shut into a downward spiral of deprivation and distress" says the UNDP report. (Various human rights organisations figures shows that the number of people killed in the North-east conflict is more than 65,000)
Skulls & Skeletons Found
A family from Piththanai, a hamlet in Velanai, an island off the Jaffna peninsula, had found a skeleton when they were cleaning out their well on July 19, 1999. The skeleton is thought to be that of a woman because a green sari and violet blouse were also found in the well.
The decapitated body of a female and a body of a male were handed over to the Mannar hospital on July 31st 1999 by the Sri Lankan Army . The Sri Lanka army claimed that the bodies were found in the shrub at Chinna Pandivirichchan near Madhu. But accusation is being pointed at the Army by the villagers. Mannar hospital sources said that the dead persons appeared to be around 25 years old and that they had been shot and knifed. The two appeared to have been killed on July 29th 1999. According to the hospital sources the female had been raped.
In Munai-Point Pedro
A human skull was found by diggers in the village of Munai on the coast of Pt.Pedro in Jaffna on August 10th 1999. According to the residents there was a Sri Lanka army camp at the spot where the skull was discovered. They said that Anthony Vincent Mariyanayagam was digging a well in his compound when the skull was found at the depth of about ten feet. The digging was stopped as a consequence. Neighbours said that Mariyanayagam has not reported the matter to the authorities out of fear but has left the skull at the local cemetery.
Villagers of Katkadanthakulam in the Cheddikulam about 25 km. north west of Vavuniya found two human skeletons in the jungle on October 1st 1999. The skeletons are believed to be of S.Suthagar (22) and S.Gopikumarahaath (34), who went missing after they went hunting on 15 February last year, the villagers informed the local authorities. Sources said the villagers have found the axes and knives which they took with them.
October 6th 1999 - A skeleton was found in a well in Suruvil in Jaffna district when a family who were cleaning out a well. The skeleton is being kept at the Kayts Police.
In Point Pedro
October 16th 1999 - The body of a young man, with hands and legs tied, was found in a well belonging to Puttralai Sithivinayagar Temple, in Pt.Pedro on the Jaffna peninsula. The body was identified as that of Kanapathipillai Pathmanathan, 27, of Puloli. The man had been beaten and there were injuries on his head. The man was seen at the temple, talking to two of his friends, according to witnesses. His relatives went in search of him, as he had not returned home. Local residents found the body in the well, and his bicycle and identity card near the well.
On November 24th 1999, two human skulls were recovered from a pit in a compound behind the Kopay Christian College in Jaffna. The two skulls were recovered when the owner was digging a pit to plant a coconut seedling. The Sri Lanka Army has a camp at this college compound. The environs of the college are now declared as mined areas.
On December 8th 1999 - The body of Christy Jesuthsan, 25, was found washed ashore at Pallimunai, a suburb of Mannar town. He had been arrested by the Counter Subversive Unit of the Police and later released by the Mannar Magistrate on October 14th. An inquest was held by Additional Magistrate for Mannar district. Jesuthsan's relatives testifying at the inquest said the youth had gone fishing three days previously and had not returned since. It was revealed at the inquest that the youth had suffered several blows to the head.
January 12th 2000 - Two human skeletons have been recovered from the compound of Vigneswara Vidyalayam - school in Kuppilan in the Jaffna District. A skeleton was found by students who were clearing the school compound. Police said the skeleton was about five years old and of a male.
Neelan Thiruchelvam killed
On 29 July 99 - Mr. Neelan Thiruchelvam was killed in bomb blast while he was on his way to his office at Kynsey road in Colombo. The driver, the body guards an inspector and four policemen who were also travelling with Mr. Thiruchelvam were injured. The blast was caused by a person who was seated on the back seat of a motorbike that came from Ward Place road. Mr. Thiruchlevam became a member of parliament in 1994 when he was nominated from the TULF's national list.
Amnesty condemns Thiruchelvam killing
Amnesty International, strongly condemned the assassination of Neelan Thiruchelvam on July 29th 1999 in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, and paid tribute to him as "a politician who contributed greatly to his country".
In a statement issued by, Amnesty International said Thiruchelvam, a member of Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) part of Sri Lanka's ruling coalition, was killed on his way to work at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies. "The nature of the attack suggests it could be linked with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), in which case it constitutes a clear breach of international humanitarian standards," said Amnesty.
10 killed and President Chandrika wounded at election rally
December 19, 1999 - A bomb blast at an election meeting of Sri Lanka's ruling People's Alliance killed ten people and wounded several others, including the President and three cabinet ministers. A statement issued from the Presidential Secretariat said that President Kumaratunga is safe and that Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga was wounded in the blast at Town hall grounds in Colombo. The statement said 104 people were wounded and admitted to the National hospital in Colombo.
Massacre in Puthukkudiyiruppu
On September 15 1999 - More than twenty two civilians, including school children and women were killed and more than forty seriously wounded when two Kfir jets of the Sri Lanka Air Force bombed a crowded public place in Puthukkudiyiruppu in Mullaithivu. The Puthukkudiyiruppu market and a many houses and buildings nearby were destroyed in the Sri Lanka Air Force bombing.
ICRC confirms Puthukkudiyiruppu massacre
A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that sixteen civilians were killed on the spot and six who were seriously wounded died in the hospital when Sri Lanka Air Force jets bombed a busy market place in Puthukkudiyiruppu. "It is with deep regret and concern that we confirm the death of 21 civilians consequent to the air strike in Puthukkudiyiruppu. We deplore the fact that the air strike was in a civilian area." The sub-delegation of the ICRC in Puthukkudiyiruppu is less than two kilometres from the market place which was bombed.
Amnesty expressed concern over bombing in Puthukkudiyiruppu
September 17, 1999 - Amnesty International said that the explanation proffered by the Sri Lanka Air Force for the bombing of the Puthukkudiyiruppu market "does not absolve it from its responsibility under international humanitarian law to take all possible precautions to avoid harming civilians" Amnesty, in a statement expressing concern over the bombing, said a Sri Lankan military spokesperson had denied the raid, which killed at least 21 refugees in a crowded market place, had been a deliberate attack on civilians.
Amnesty said that the reported high number of civilian casualties and the significant distance between the intended objective of the air strike and the actual place where the civilians were killed, raise serious doubts about the quality of the intelligence used before the bombing raid. It also raises questions as to whether the alleged military value of this attack was proportionate to the risk it posed to civilians, said Amnesty. Amnesty International has written to President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga expressing concern as to whether this may have been an unlawful attack.
Gunmen killed 56 in Ampara district
More than 56 villagers were killed by gunmen who attacked three border villages in the Ampara district in south-eastern Sri Lanka on September 18, 1999. Houses were also set on fire by the attackers. The gunmen had killed civilians in the villages of Borapola in Uhana, Bedi Rekka in Mahara Oya and Sinnawatta near the Batticaloa district. The Police said the Liberation Tigers had carried out these attacks in retaliation to the Sri Lanka Air Force bombing of a crowded market place in Puthukuddiyrupu in Mullaitivu district.
Sinhala Veera Vithane contributed to inflaming communal tensions - Bishop
The anti-Tamil and Muslim propaganda conducted by the Sinhala Veera Vithane, a Sinhala extremist organisation in the Ampara district could have contributed to inflaming communal tensions ahead of the massacre of civilians in the border villages, the Bishop of Trincomalee and Batticaloa, Rt. Rev. Kingsley Swampillai said on September 24th 1999. He added that it was imperative the Sri Lankan government takes steps to curb the activities of the Sinhala Veera Vithane.
The Bishop said that a few days before the Ampara massacre, the Sinhala Veera Vithane propagandists visited the Ampara district and addressed meetings at which they whipped up sentiment against the Tamil and Muslim communities. The Sinhala Veera Vithane wanted that Tamils and Muslims be ousted from the Ampara district.
Massacre of 42 civilians at Madhu church
November 20th 1999 - Thirty seven civilians were killed and sixty four wounded when shells fired by the Sri Lankan Army hit Madhu church. The civilians were killed when shells hit the revered Catholic shrine at Madhu. Thirty three refugees who had sought shelter in the precincts of the Church were killed on the spot by shells. Four died on the way to Vavuniya hospital.
Church sources quoted refugees as saying Sri Lanka Army troops had turned a tank gun and fired three shells into the church. More than 3000 refugees had sought safety in the precincts of the Madhu shrine when the Army advance had begun. The bodies of 37 civilians who were killed at the Madhu Church were later brought to the Mannar hospital.
ICRC on Madhu massacre
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva issued a statement, expressing deep shock over the killings of 37 civilians at Madhu church and has called on the warring parties to spare civilians and places of worship. The ICRC statement says:
"On 20 November fighting between the Sri Lankan army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam left 37 civilians dead and 56 others wounded. Thirteen children were among the dead. The victims had taken refuge in the compound of a Roman Catholic church in Madhu, between Mannar and Vavuniya in the north of the island. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), deeply shocked by this event, has once again called on the warring parties to spare civilians and places of worship"
"Since the upsurge in fighting at the beginning of November, the ICRC has repeatedly reminded the parties to the conflict of their obligation to comply with international humanitarian law. It urgently appeals to the parties to take the necessary measures at all times to prevent casualties among the civilian population during military operations."
Amnesty call over civilian deaths in Madhu
Amnesty International, said it was "gravely concerned about the killing of 37 civilians in Madhu church on November 20, 1999 and urged the Sri Lanka Army and the Liberation Tigers to "to take all necessary measures to prevent civilian casualties".
"These tragic deaths underscore the need for both sides to the conflict to recommit themselves to upholding principles of international humanitarian law," Amnesty International said. " They must issue clear orders to their personnel to ensure the protection of civilians at all times."
"Under international humanitarian law, civilians must not be deliberately exposed to bombing or shelling. All parties must refrain from direct attacks on civilians or indiscriminate attacks," Amnesty said.
Madu Church bombed by Sri Lanka Army - Nearly 40 refugees massacred, 64 wounded - TCHR
The Tamil Centre for Human Rights strongly condemns the heinous atrocity and gratuitous act of hostility, which has caused such a massive loss of innocent life at Madhu Church in the North of the island of Sri Lanka. At 10.00pm local time, on Saturday 20th November, an armoured column of Sri Lanka Army tanks opened fire on Madhu Church Shrine. Dead bodies and injured people were strewn everywhere on the spot, following the massacre, according to a wounded refugee who was admitted to Vavuniya hospital.
It appears that the Sri Lanka Army has a habit of killing people who are sheltering in temples and churches. The Sri Lanka Air Force deliberately bombed St. Peter's Church and School in Navaly, on 9th.July 1995. Having dropped leaflets asking the people to move to places of worship the Sri Lanka Air Force had then bombed the places of worship where Tamil civilians had sought refuge. St Peter's Church in Navaly was far from the battle line and hundreds had sought refuge there. The church was deliberately bombed, killing 120 people, 13 babies died in their mothers arms. The bombing was condemned by the ICRC and the Vatican.
We urgently request world bodies and human rights organisations to take serious action regarding this latest massacre in the island of Sri Lanka.
No government action in Batticaloa massacre (9th anniversary)
On September 5th 1990, in Batticaloa district 158 Tamil refugees went missing after they were arrested and dragged away by the Sri Lanka Army from the Eastern University campus at Vanthaarumoolai.
The Human Rights Task Force (HRTF) appointed by the UNP regime in 1993 under international pressure and the Human Rights Commission (HRC) established by the PA government in November 1994 have both investigated the massacres of innocent civilians and clearly named the Sri Lanka Army officers and paramilitary leaders.
"But nine years have gone by and none of these have been brought to book. No action has been taken, despite the two commission's findings, to determine what came of the people who were arrested by the SLA and have gone missing. We intend to agitate for the identification and exhumation of the mass graves that are said to be at Navalady and Saththurukkondaan where many of them are buried", a representative of local citizens in Batticaloa said.
174 Arrested in Vanthaarumoolai
In the final report of the commissions findings published in September 1997 by the government, it is stated that: "The arrest from the Vanthaarumoolai eastern university refugees camp was the biggest group arrest of Batticaloa district. The arrests took place on 5 September and 23 September 1990. Hundred and fifty eight persons were arrested on the first day, while sixteen were taken into custody on the second day. A list containing the names of hundred and fifty eight persons who were reported to have disappeared was produced before this commission and eighty-three witnesses testified to the disappearances of 92 persons out of the 158 reported above. Also evidence was given regarding ten of the sixteen persons who disappeared on subsequent arrest. According to the evidence, nearly 40 thousand people had taken refuge since July 1990 following the outbreak of violence in the vicinity of the university."
On 5 September 1990 by about six o'clock in the morning army men from the Kommathurai army camp along with personnel from some other army camps came in a SLTB (Sri Lanka Transport Board) bus and entered the premises of the eastern University.
This was followed by an announcement by an amplifier fitted to a white coloured van asking the refugees to form into three different queues- persons of the age group of 12-25 in the first row, persons of the age group of 26-40 in the second row and persons over forty years in the third row.
People in the three queues were asked to pass through a point where five persons in masks clad in army uniform were seated in chairs along with seven Muslims standing behind those in masks. Whenever the persons in the masks gave a signal, the people who were in the queues were taken away from the queue to a side. When this operation was completed, 158 persons who were pulled out from the queues were taken away by the army despite the protests by their kith and kin.
Army officials responsible for the disappearances
There was evidence to show that the arrests were done by the Kommathurai army camp with the assistance of personnel from other army camps as well, and that the following army officers were directing the operations. Captain Munaz, Captain Palitha, Capt.Gunaratna, Major Majeed and Major Mohan."
"There was also evidence to show that Gerry de Silva - former Army commander had visited the refugees camp on the 8 September 1990 and had told the officers responsible for the administration of the refugees camp that all the 158 persons who were taken into custody on 5 September 1990 were found guilty. However, he had declined to say what had happened to them after they were found guilty."
"There was further evidence to say that one of the officers who were in charge of the refugee camp made a request to the Army personnel in charge of the operation to give a list of persons arrested for which there was no response.
Letter from Secretary to MSD
It also transpired in evidence that Thalayasingham Arunagirinathan, the chairman of the (Batticaloa) peace committee, had received a letter in October 1990 from A.W Fernando, Air Chief Marshal, who was then the secretary to the Hon. Minister of State for Defence, wherein it was stated that on 5 September 1990 only 32 persons were taken into custody from the Eastern University refugees camp and that all had been released within 24 hours of arrest. The letter contained a list of 32 names who were alleged to have been released.
However the commission was informed that none of those who were arrested had returned either to the said refugee camp or to their homes but still remain missing. (p. 31 - 32 of the Commission's final report) One of the commissioners, retired judge Krishnapillai Palakidnar, heard evidence in Batticaloa. More than 2400 Tamils went missing during this period due to the activities of the Army and paramilitaries operating with it, mostly from the northern coastal parts of the Batticaloa district, according to the findings of the human rights commission.
Chemmani Mass Graves
( Incidents are quoted in date sequence)
In September 1996, Krishanthi Kumaraswamy, a student at the Chundikuli Girls School was attacked by Sri Lanka Army and police personnel at a military checkpoint in Jaffna. She is said to have been gang raped by up to 11 security forces personnel, before being murdered.
This incident brought widespread local and international condemnation which eventually led to government taking steps to search for the missing people. Finally their bodies were found in a shallow graves several weeks later. Krishanthi's body had been dismembered. On the orders of the Government, the bodies were flown to Colombo Krishanthi's family was told to dispose of the bodies within two hours.
The Sri Lankan government ordered the arrest of the suspected soldiers and police personnel. However the trial took nearly two years leading to accusations that the government has been dragging its feet. On July 3rd 1998, the Colombo High Court sentenced five Sri Lanka army soldiers and a policemen charged with abduction, rape and murder in the Krishanthy Kumaraswamy case to death.
Ironically, an admission by one of the soldiers accused in the Krishanthi case has highlighted the magnitude of the problem. On being asked why he should not get the death sentence, the first accused in this case, Corporal R.D. Somaratna Rajapakse, reportedly denied murder and said in court "We only buried bodies. We can show you where 300 to 400 bodies have been buried". He also reportedly said, "almost every evening, dead bodies were brought there and the soldiers were asked to bury them".
The whole world was alarmed with Corporal Rajapakse's statement in Court and the Government kept silent about it. Expectations of finding the bodies of the 'disappeared' have risen in the minds of the public since July 3rd 1998.
Early exhumation instructed by the Magistrate
Jaffna additional magistrate, M. Ilancheliyan, instructed the CID and the attorney general's department on July 15th 1999 to begin examination of the alleged mass graves of Tamil civilians in Chemmani in Jaffna on August 30th, 31st and September 1st.
He ordered the CID and the Police to bring the five Sri Lanka Army personnel who were convicted in the rape and murder of the Jaffna school girl Krishanthy Kumaraswamy to identify the areas where civilians allegedly killed by the Sri Lanka Army are said to be buried in Chemmani and nearby areas.
The judge further instructed the Police and the Attorney General's (AG) department to exhume the grave sites from September 6 to September 30. The counsel from the AG department pleaded that it was not possible at this juncture to begin examination or exhumation of the alleged grave sites of civilians arrested and killed by the Army in Ariyalai near Jaffna town as there are bunkers and defence positions of the government security forces in the area.
Government investigators visit Chemmani
A team of government investigators arrived in Jaffna on 13 August 99, to examine the sites of the alleged mass graves in Jaffna. The team also studied conditions in Ariyalai and Chemmani for possible exhumation work and for setting up a field laboratory in these places.
August 19, 1999 - A part of a human skull and a grenade were unearthed in Ariyalai West, a suburb of Jaffna, by two woodcutters who were attempting to dislodge a tree stump by digging around. The Chairman of the Human Rights Commission in Jaffna, and the Divisional Secretary subsequently visited the scene. The officials' visit may have been prompted by statements made by witnesses in the Chemmani case about further graves of civilians being located in Ariyalai.
Investigators failed to record the names of Army officials
On 30 August 1999 - Somaratna Rajapakse, the Sri Lanka Army corporal and four others convicted in the rape and murder told the district judge in Jaffna that Police investigators who questioned them on the alleged mass graves in Chemmani did not record the names of Sri Lanka Army officials who, according to him, were involved in the arrest and killing of more than six hundred civilians in the peninsula in 1996-97.He said that his life has been further threatened following the publication of a report in the Sinhala daily Divaina in which his evidence had been distorted.
The state counsel, Mr. Yasantha Kothagoda, told the court that Somaratna Rajapakse would be taken to Chemmani and Ariyalai to identify the nine mass graves in which, according to the ex-Army corporal, scores of Jaffna civilians arrested and killed by the army were buried. The soldier had alleged that there were ten graves in the general area of Chemmani and Ariyalai. He identified one at Chemmani on June 16. The bodies of two civilians were discovered by investigators here.
Kumar Ponnambalam denied travel to Jaffna
Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam wanted to participate in the court proceedings in Chemmani on August 30th 1999. He was denied an air ticket to Jaffna on August 27th 1999 because he had not obtained permission from the Ministry of Defence for visiting the north. Mr.Ponnambalam, a leading lawyer in Colombo was representing the interests of the kith and kin of the persons who went missing in Jaffna in 1995 and 1996 after being arrested by the Sri Lanka Army. Mr. Ponnambalam had pointed out to officials at Heli-Tours, the firm that currently operates civilian flights between Jaffna and Colombo, that he as a Sri Lankan citizen does not need any permission or clearance to travel to any part of the country. Heli-Tours, however, told Mr.Ponnambalam that no one could be issued a ticket to Jaffna without the necessary clearance from the ministry of defence.
Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam then contacted an Army officer at the Ministry of Defence and explained to him that it was not necessary for him under Sri Lankan law to obtain the army's permission to visit Jaffna or any other part of the country.One of the fundamental rights entrenched in Sri Lanka's constitution is the inalienable right of any of its citizen to travel to any part of the island.
Ex-soldier identifies many locations
August 30th 1999 - Nineteen places where scores of arrested Tamil civilians were allegedly killed and buried by the Army in and around Chemmani near Jaffna town in 1996 and 1997 were identified by ex-soldier Somaratna Rajapakse convicted in the rape and murder of the Jaffna school girl Krishanthy Kumarasamy. Five places at Chemmani in Jaffna were identified, in which, according to him, about forty-three Tamil civilians, arrested and killed by Sri Lankan Security forces lie buried.
Rajapakse showed investigators a gravesite at 'Kerniyadi', the first of the five sites, on the road from Chemmani junction to Nallur where he said the bodies of ten to fifteen civilians were buried by the Army. Two of the civilians killed and buried here, according to Rajapakse, were a husband and wife who were arrested at Ariyalai while watching a movie. 'Kerniyadi' is about hundred yards from the Army checkpoint at the Chemmani junction. Rajapakse identified the second grave site at the 'Uppalam' (old saltern) in Chemmani. He said that twenty to twenty-five civilians were buried in an abandoned bunker of the Liberation Tigers.
His colleagues had brought the bodies in tractors from Atchuvely and Kaithady; and as there had been not enough sand to cover the pit, according to Rajapakse, it had to be brought from another area. Most of the bodies were naked and a few had underwear. He told investigators that a government officer called Mr. S.Gunaratnam who had close relations with Army at the time was also aware of this. Mr. Gunaratnam was the Director of Agrarian Services in the peninsula at the time and is currently employed by the Food and Agricultural Organisation in Jaffna.
The third grave site shown to investigators by Rajapakse lies between a small water tank by a 'Poovarasu' tree and the 'Theruvalippillaiyar' temple on Kandy road in the Chemmani area. Here, according to the ex-corporal, a Hindu priest and his assistant who had come on a Charlie motorcycle were killed and buried. The motorcycle was also buried with the two bodies said Rajapakse.
The fourth grave site was identified by the 'Theruvalippillaiyar' temple (Now known as the Nulaivayil Pilliyar). Three bodies, according to Rajapakse are buried here. He identified a grave under the plastic water tank by the 'Poovarasu' tree where two bodies had been buried. Rajapakse said that there is another grave site at the spot where investigators and the Jaffna courts set up a tent on that particular day on the Kandy road in front of the spot where the Hindu priest and his assistant were allegedly killed and buried. He said there were many bodies here.
Rape and murder house identified
August 30th 1999 - Somaratna Rajapakse showed investigators the house of the couple who were dragged from their home and allegedly murdered by the soldiers while watching a video movie with their two children at Mulli in Ariyalai. The woman according to evidence, was stripped naked and raped. According to Rajapakse the couple had been beaten to death with mammoties (a spade like instrument used for digging sand). The children have been orphaned.
Rajapakse seeks legal advice
August 31st 1999 - Somaratna Rajapakse said that under military aggression and interference he was not in a position to further identify places where the bodies of Jaffna civilians are buried in the Chemmani area. Rajapakse asked the court to allow him to seek legal advice and assistance.
Rajapakse appealed to court that it was not right to keep him separated from the other witnesses in the case as he was unable to consult and discuss with them about the location and details of the alleged grave sites in Chemmani. The judge allowed his application and instructed the Police to keep him with the other witnesses. The ex-corporal was then taken away from the special temporary court.
The other witnesses in the case, ex-soldiers Mudiyansalage Jayasingha, D.M Jayatilaka, S.A Perera and Gunasekera Priyadharshana, were meanwhile brought to Chemmani to show investigators places where bodies of civilians killed by the army in 96-97 were buried. Jayasingha identified 4 places, Perera showed 5 and Priyadarshana 2 where the Army had allegedly killed and buried Jaffna civilians.
D.M Jayatilaka showed investigators a place by the Kottukinaththady Pillaiyar shrine in Chemmani where he had seen 50 bodies of civilians in a bunker used by the Liberation Tigers. He told them he had put six bodies into the bunker. Thereafter, Rajapakse was brought to Chemmani and he showed a spot where he and Perera had buried three bodies, including that of a civilian named Yogeswaran who had been tied upside down and tortured before being murdered. Another grave-site was shown by him near this spot. Investigators found the area mined.
Attorney General Department on Chemmani exhumations
Sri Lanka's Attorney General's Department said in a news release issued on August 30th 1999, that the exhumations of alleged graves in Chemmani, Jaffna, of civilians murdered by Sri Lanka Army troops would recommence on September 6th 1999.
The Attorney General's press release as follows: "Prior to the commencement of field investigations, the connected case was taken up in the Jaffna Magistrates Court before the Additional Magistrate Mr. M. Illancheliyan.
"At the outset of the case, State Counsel Yasantha Kodagoda, informed court that the Criminal Investigations Department and the Forensic scientists had made all arrangements with the assistance of the Jaffna Police and the security forces of the Jaffna peninsula, to conduct excavation of all graves alleged to be in Chemmani and that for the purpose of identifying the locations of all the graves, the co-operation of the convicts of the Krishanthy Kumaraswamy rape and murder case have to be obtained.
"For that purpose, all 5 prisoners had been brought to Jaffna. "Later, court adjourned and reconvened in Chemmani. Initially prisoner Somaratne Rajapakse was asked to point out the locations of all the graves he knew. Accordingly, he pointed out the alleged locations of 7 graves.
"At each location, the prisoner was questioned at length by the magistrate, the state counsel and Chief Forensic Pathologist Prof. Nirielige Chandrasiri. The remaining prisoners D. M. Jayasinghe, G. Pradeep Priyadarshana, A.S.Priyashantha Perera and D.M.Jayatilake were asked to point out the locations of the remaining graves.
"The prisoners pointed out a total of 19 locations and some of the locations overlapped. In the circumstances, the total number of graves may be around 14. "Based on information provided by the prisoners, excavation work with the objective of exhuming human remains will commence on the 6th of September.
Filled up pit in Chemmani
September 6, 1999 - No bodies or human skeletal remains were found by investigators who cleared and dug the area in Chemmani where Somaratna Rajapkshe had earlier claimed were four graves in which eight bodies of civilians arrested and allegedly killed by the Sri Lankan army were buried. Investigators identified a spot near the Theruvalipillaiyar temple in Chemmani after the general area near the temple identified by Rajapakse was cleared which appeared to be a filled-up pit. It was dug up, to a depth of about 5-6 feet. Nothing was found.
Army commanders interfering in investigation
September 6, 1999 - The Jaffna district judge Manikkavasagam Ilancheliyan severely reprimanded the Jaffna Sri Lanka Army Commander Lohan Gunawardana and the Sri Lankan Army's 51 division General Officer Commanding Maj.Gen.Nihal Marambe for interfering in the Chemmmani court proceedings and investigations
MPGA President arrested by Army
Army personnel who came to Chemmani at the spot where investigators were clearing and digging the place identified by the ex-corporal, arrested P. Selvarajah, the president of the Jaffna Missing Persons Guardian Association, who was at Chemmani to observe the proceedings. Selvarajah was taken away to the 51 division headquarters for interrogation.
The lawyer representing the interests of the MPGA, S. Paramarajah, told the judge that the president was arrested on suspicion for a bomb allegedly found in the compound of his house on September 1st 1999. The judge said that this was a conspiracy to disrupt the investigations.
Skeletons found in Chemmani
September 7th 1999 - Investigators digging the graves at Chemmani found two human skeletons at a spot. However, no bodies or human skeletal remains were found at the site identified by the main witness in the case.
September 8th 1999 - A human skull was dug by investigators from a pit in the general area identified near the Chemmani Sri Lankan army checkpoint. The skull was found about five feet from the spot where two human skeletons were found by investigators.
September 9th 1999 - Three human skeletons, including one suspected to be that of a woman allegedly raped and beaten to death by an Army officer, were found in a grave pointed out by ex-corporal Somaratna Rajapakse.
Investigators dug near the Chemmani road junction Army sentry which Rajapakse had specifically identified as the spot where a man and his wife who were dragged out by the soldiers from their home at Mulli in Ariyalai and murdered had been buried along with another civilian. A piece of a woman's clothing, an ear stud and the waist band of a male's underwear were also found in the pit near the skeletons. The skull of one of the bodies in the grave was pulled out earlier in the day when a bulldozer was removing the upper soil at the spot.
According to a convicted soldier turned state witness, the man and his wife had been watching TV with their two children in their house at Mulli when they had been dragged away to the Army camp in the area. He had later found the woman standing naked near Lt.Dunuwila, an Army officer at the camp. Her husband had also been standing nearby. The woman had been raped according to the witness. Lt.Dunuwila had ordered the soldier to bring a mammoty (spade like implement) and with it, he had beaten the woman and her husband to death. The children were orphaned and are growing up with relatives in Tellipalai in Jaffna. Lt.Dunuwila was later promoted and deployed elsewhere.
September 11th 1999 - A skeleton believed to be of a woman was found by the investigators at the mass grave site. The skeleton was found at a site behind a Sri Lanka Army sentry near the Chemmani junction.
Excavation of the site, identified by the courts as 'site B,'. Five skeletons have been found at this site during the past few days. Investigators have found 10 skeletons at Chemmani and Ariyalai.
24 bodies buried behind rice mill - MPGA
The Missing Persons' Guardian Association (MPGA) said 24 civilians who were arrested on July 19th 1996 at Kaithady, Navatkullu and Maravanpulum are believed to have been buried behind a rice mill at Navatkuli and not at Chemmani. Some bodies are believed to have been disposed in wells.
September 13th 1999 - Investigators found a finger bone and a red hat while removing the upper soil at a depth of 1.5 feet in the general area near the Chemmani junction Sri Lanka Army checkpoint. The skeleton of a man was found when the spot was dug further.
Several bunkers filled up
Meanwhile, the lawyers representing the interests of the Missing Persons Guardian Association (Jaffna) informed the Judge Manikkavasagam Ilancheliyan that workers at the Chemmani saltern had told them that they had found several bunkers around the saltern bed filled up in March 1997.
Rajapakse flown again to Jaffna
September 14th 1999 - It was suggested by the investigators that ex-corporal Somaratna Rajapakse, will have to be flown to Jaffna again to identify graves sites there. Some of the grave sites identified earlier by Rajapakse could not be located, and it has been suggested to the authorities to bring back him to Jaffna.
Investigators have found 11 skeletons at these sites.
September 16th 1999 - Fourteen human skeletons have so far been dug up in the Chemmani area by investigators, according to officials in Jaffna. Three skeletons were found near the Kottukkinattady Pillaiyar temple. Two were found in the place identified by D.M Jakatilaka, one of the former Army soldiers convicted in the rape and murder. Jayatilaka told investigators that fifty civilians were killed and buried at this place. Another skeleton was found in front of the temple.
September 17th 1999 - A complete skeleton was found when investigators dug a place pointed out by Somaratna Rajapakse, west of the Kottukinattady Pillaiyar shrine in Chemmani. It hands were tied up. The forehead of the skeleton's skull was crushed on the left side. A piece of yellow cloth was found under it. Investigators said the person may have been tortured in the abandoned house near this grave. Ropes were found hanging from its beams. A pair of army boots were also in the house. Fifteen human skeletons have so far been dug up in the Chemmani area by investigators.
Magistrate instructed the government to complete the investigations
January 24th 2000 - The Jaffna Additional Magistrate has instructed the government to complete the investigations and the identification of human skeletons recovered from Chemmani grave as early as possible.
Mr M. Ilancheliyan called for a speedy resumption of the Chemmani probe when the State Counsel Yasantha Kottegoda made an application to postpone the inquiry for another six weeks. Attorneys appearing on behalf of the missing persons objected to the application made by the State asking for six weeks to complete the investigations in the Chemmani massacre.
Refusing the application made by the State, the Additional Magistrate said that he would allow only one month's time for the police to complete the investigation and to identify the human skeletons recovered from Chemmani grave. The Additional Magistrate ordered the State to complete the investigation and the identification of the human skeletons recovered before February 21st.
In support of his application for an extension to complete the investigation, the State Counsel argued that due to the present unsettled condition in Jaffna district people were displaced and living in other areas. Therefore, it could take longer to complete the investigations. Furthermore, it was unable to take steps to arrest the suspects. The State Counsel further said that up to November 1999 statements from about 336 persons were recorded.
Some Extracts re Chemmanni Graves from TCHR Report submitted to 55th Session of UN Commission on Human Rights
Chemmani road closed by the Army
During the third week of July 1998, the Sri Lanka Army kept the Kaithady-Nallur road passing through Chemmani closed. This has led to suspicion and unease in the minds of the Jaffna public.
With the closure of the Kaithady-Nallur road there is no movement of civilians in the Chemmani area. On August 2nd 1998 - the People's Power Forum (PPF), a civic organisation in Jaffna had passed a resolution demanding that Sri Lanka Army should take steps to open the Chemmani road as early as possible.
Smoke rising and bulldozers working in the Chemmani area - TCHR
TCHR press release of August 29th 1998, stated that "reports from the Jaffna peninsula say that, on occasion, smoke has been seen rising from the direction of Chemmani since the area was sealed off. This contributed to concerns that Sri Lankan soldiers who might have been responsible for 'disappearances' may currently be deployed to destroy the evidence at the site."
In the meantime various other organisations have said that there are allegations from the people of the area that there are nefarious activities at night with spot lights burning, bull dozers feverishly working, helicopters descending and smoke emanating at Chemmani.
Smoke and vehicles moving in the Chemmani area
On September 8th 1998, the Missing Person's Guardian Association - Jaffna (MPGA) sent a letter to the National Human Rights Commission urging it to take action on the Chemmani mass grave issue without delay in view of reports that there are secret moves to destroy evidence on the Chemmani mass graves.
The MPGA expressed fear that evidence might be damaged due to the monsoon rains that are expected to start next month. The MPGA letter further states that there are complaints from civilians that they had seen smoke and vehicles moving about in the Chemmani area after dark.
Corporal Rajapakse attacked by prison guards
On August 23rd 1998, Corporal Somaratne Rajapakse was attacked by Welikade prison guards and admitted to the prison hospital for treatment for injuries he sustained. This attack is believed to have been carried out on the instruction of the Army commanders responsible for the Chemmani mass graves. It was an attempted murder on Corporal Rajapkse. He was released from hospital on 28 August 98.
TCHR Now Raises the Following Points:
1 - On August 23rd 1998, There was an attempted murder on Corporal Somaratne Rajapakse, in the Welikade prison. He is the one who disclosed the fact about the Chemmani mass graves. This attack was carried out on the instruction of the Army commanders responsible for the Chemmani mass graves.
2- On August 27th 1999, Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam was denied travel to Jaffna on August 27, 1999 because he had not obtained permission from the Ministry of Defence for visiting the north!
Mr.Ponnambalam, was the main lawyer in the Krishanthy Kumaraswany case in which ex-coporal Somaratne and four others were convicted to death sentence and in which Somaratne Rajapksa disclose the fact about Chemmani mass graves.
3- August 31st 1999 - Somaratna Rajapakse said that under military interference he was not in a position to further identify places where the bodies of Jaffna civilians are buried in the Chemmani area. Rajapksa asked the court to allow him to seek legal advice and assistance.
4- December 1999 - Somaratna Rajapakse wanted to meet Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam and sent a letter of request written in Sinhalese to Mr Ponnambalam. As Mr Kumar Ponnambalam was the lawyer in the Krishanthy Kumaraswamy case, he sent a letter to the Judge, seeking permission from him to meet with Rajapakse.
5- January 5th 2000 - Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam was killed by an unknown gunmen in Colombo!!
Kalutara Prison Killings (In date sequence)
The Tamil political detainees are kept in prisons alongside hardened Sinhala criminals and drug addicts who illiterate them in various ways. There were incidents when convicted Sinhala prisoners, with the connivance of prison guards and soldiers attacked the Tamil detainees.
In July (25 & 27) 1983, the Sinhala convicts in Welikade prison butchered to death fifty-three Tamil political prisoners. In February 1996 the Tamil detainees in Magazine prison were seriously assaulted with metal rods, clubs and cricket bats by prison guards. On 22nd April 1987 Sinhala prisoners attacked Tamil detainees who were on hunger strike. On 12th December 1997 three Tamil political detainees were hacked to death by Sinhala convicts while prison staff and members of the armed forces stood by and watched. Several other detainees were injured. (Hot Spring, January-February 2000)
According to officials more than 700 Tamil political prisoners are held at the Kalutara prison. A large number of them have been detained for several years without any legal charges against them.
September 14th 1999 - Twenty five Tamil political prisoners got on the roof of the Kalutara maximum security prison in support of twelve of their colleagues who have been on a protest fast from September 14th 1999. Tamil political prisoners at this maximum security prison south of Colombo have protested many times in the past against being incarcerated indefinitely without being charged in court for anything. "File the case or release" is the slogan of the Tamil political prisoners held at Kalutara who say that they have been denied the due judicial processes. (See summary report for list of names).
More join the fast
On September 19th 1999 about a hundred fellow Tamil political prisoners joined a token fast that started in support of the twelve who have been fasting since September 14th 1999.
The Human Rights Commission who was asked by the Prisons Commissioner to mediate with the fasting prisoners told the prisoners that he is not in a position to do anything except bring the matter to the notice of the Chief Justice and the Minister of Justice. Lawyers persuaded them to give up the fast.
One murdered and 33 detainees injured
January 6th 1999 - Thirty four Tamil political detainees who were staging a hunger strike were attacked by Sinhala prisoners and guards. The wounded have been taken to Nagoda hospital. The prisoners have staged hunger strikes several times earlier appealing for their release or for legal action to be taken against them.
One of the 34 wounded Tamil detainees admitted to hospital following violence died later. Four of the wounded have been transferred to the National Hospital in Colombo while the others are being kept at Nagoda Hospital. The detainee who died is Mr. Jesudasan.
More violence at Kalutara prison
January 7th 1999 - Fifteen Tamil political prisoners were wounded in further violence at the Kalutara Prison. Three of them have been admitted to the Nagoda hospital, where 33 others were warded before.
Second prisoner dies - ICRC representative injured
January 7th 1999 - Another Tamil political detainee, Srikumar of Jaffna, who was injured in violence at Kalutara Prison succumbed to his injuries and later died. Several others, including Vavuniya Red Cross Co-ordinator, Mr.Kishore and a fisherman from India, were among the injured
Welikade Tamil detainees assaulted
January 28th 2000 - Three Tamil political detainees at the Welikade prison in Colombo were beaten up by the Sinhala prisoners and prison guards. They have been warded at the prison hospital.
Three women prisoners were injured following a brawl with Sinhala women prisoners. Tamil prisoners were later beaten up by the prison guards when they complained about the incident.
Mr.A.Vinayakamoorthy, a human rights lawyer in Colombo has informed the Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of the details of the incident.
Prisoner died of Gunshot wounds says Magistrate (The Sunday Leader - February 7, 2000)
The police is yet to take action against the jail guards attached to the maximum security prison at Kalutara despite evidence in assaulting prisoners detained with suspected links with the LTTE.
In the clashes that took place at the prison on January 6 and 7, 2000, two prisoners died. The inquest into the death of one prisoner was certified as due to gunshot injuries by the magistrate.
Despite a court case that had witnesses testifying that they were attacked by jail guards of the prison while they were unarmed and helpless, no action has been taken against the assailants, except for the superintendent of this prison who was transferred after the incident, said sources.
Freedom of Expression
Parish Priest threatened by police
October 19th 1999 - The Parish Priest of the Vankalai St. Ann's Church, Rev. Thevasagayampillai who had complained to authorities about the army rampage in the village has been intimidated by the Sri Lankan Police. A group of policemen had gone to the church on 21 October 21st 1999 and threatened to assault the Parish Priest. The policemen had also warned him not to get involved in the incidents in the village.
Trincomalee residents get new identity cards!
The Sri Lankan government has decided to issue a new identity card to all persons above the age of 12 years, residing in the Trincomalee district. The Sri Lanka Army is distributing the necessary application forms to the people of the district through the police.
Pass system in Batticaloa district
The Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) Batticaloa district MP, Joseph Pararajasingham in a letter to President Kumaratunga has said that he was alarmed to hear of a proposal by the defence ministry to introduce a pass system to the Batticaloa district. He has said this would prevent the free movement of people within the island and that the government has created a de facto separation of the north east from the rest of the country.
In a letter addressed to the president he said that the number of security check points which people have to pass while travelling and transporting goods from Batticaloa subject them to much hardship.(an extract from the "Sunday Leader" - January 30th 2000)
Journalists demonstration stopped
A large number of journalists demonstrated in Colombo on July 21st 1999, protesting against several of their colleges being assaulted, allegedly by personnel from the Presidential Security Division (PSD). The journalists and media photographers were assaulted during a picketing organised by the main opposition party, the UNP on July 15th 1999. The demonstrators marched from Kollupitiya towards 'Temple Tress', the official residence of the President, to hand over a memorandum to the President. However, they were stopped on the way by police who had barricaded all the roads leading to the Presidential Secretariat.
Sunday Leader Editor questioned by the CID
Lasantha Wickrematunge, the editor of the independently owned Sunday Leader, an English weekly, was questioned in Colombo by officials from the Criminal Investigations Department, on August 20th 1999. He was accompanied by his lawyers who reportedly waited outside the offices of the CID. Mr. Lasantha Wickrematunge was interrogated with regard to the 'Channel 9' controversy said his lawyers. The matter concerns an article in the paper, which exposed alleged government corruption over the Channel 9 Television deal. The Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her Media Advisor Sanath Gunathileke have been implicated in the article.
Journalists file fundamental rights cases
October 13th 1999 - The Fundamental Rights applications of five media photographers complaining against the assault on them by the Presidential Security Division whilst they were covering the UNP protest rally on July 15th last year, were granted leave to proceed by the Supreme Court.
Ajith Samaranayaka, (Ravaya) Janapriya Samarajeewa (Yukthiya) Buddhika Weerasinghe ( Lakbima), M.A Pushpakumara (Sunday Times) and Sanjeeva Chinthaka (Sunday Times) are the five media photographers who filed the Fundamental Rights Applications in the Supreme Court. They have alleged that they were subjected to assault while they were performing their professional duties covering the rally on a directive by their employers. Their expensive cameras and equipment were smashed by the Presidential Security Division.
Journalist murdered in Colombo
On September 7th 1999, Rohana Kumara, the editor of Satana (Battle), newspaper, was killed by unidentified gunmen in a Colombo suburb. He was shot on his way home in a taxi after receiving a call that his house was being attacked. United National Party blamed the ruling party for the killing and demanded an immediate investigation. The government did not take any serious action.
Member of Parliament / Editor killed in Colombo
November 2nd 1999, unidentified gunman shot and killed the chief editor of the Tamil weekly tabloid, 'Thinamurasu', Atputharajah Nadarajah, 38, in Colombo. Atputharajah Nadarajah, sometimes known as Ramesh, was also Member of Parliament for the Jaffna district. He was travelling in a car in Wellawatte when the gunman open fire. His driver was killed on the spot.
Sri Lanka imposes censorship
The Sri Lankan President imposed censorship on the local and foreign press under the Public Security Ordinance (Chapter 40) with effect from November 6th 1999. The new regulations preclude the publication, broadcast or transmitting of any material pertaining to any matter inclusive of military operation carried out or being carried out or proposed to be carried out in the Northern and Eastern Province except with the permission of the Competent Authority.
Following is the full text of the censorship proclamation:
The Emergency (Prohibition on Publication and Transmission of Sensitive Military Information) Regulation No.1 of 1998
"No editor or publisher of a newspaper or any person authorised by or under law to establish and operate a broadcasting section or a television station channel except with the permission of the competent authority print, publish, distribute of transmit whether by means of electronic device or otherwise or cause to be printed, published distributed or transmitted any material (inclusive of documents, pictorial, representations, photographs or cinematography films) containing any matter pertaining to military operation in the northern and eastern province including any operation carried out or being carried out or proposed to be carried out by the armed forces or by Police force (Including the Special Task Force) the development of troops or personnel or the development or use of equipment including Aircraft or Naval Vessel by any such forces or any statement pertaining to the official conduct moral or performance of the lead or of any member of the armed forces or the Police force or of any person authorised by the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces for the purpose of rendering assistance in the preservation of national security."
Editor and the sub editor interrogated by Police
The Editor A.Sivanesachelvan and sub editor, Mr.T.Sivaganeshan of the widely circulated Tamil daily 'Thinakkural', published in Colombo had been summoned for an interrogation at the Head Quarters of the Criminal Investigation Department on November 24, 1999. The editors had been taken in for interrogation about news items appeared in the paper regarding the massacre of refugees seeking safety Madhu church . The chief editor A.Sivanesachelvan was taken in for interrogation from his office and the sub editor T.Sivaganeshan was taken in from his home.
Presidential Security Division threatens RAVAYA Editor and two others
Threatening media personnel has apparently become a pastime of some Presidential Security Division members - now that the PA has won the Presidential Election. The latest involves threats made against three journalists for criticising the PSD.
"Ravaya" Editor Victor Ivan has complained to the Free Media Movement that PSD Chief Nihal Karunaratne had threatened him over a "Ravaya" report on the alleged attempt to get the bodies of the PSD (killed in the Dec. 18 Town hall bomb blast) released without the magistrate's permission.
In his complaint, Mr. Ivan has stated that Mr. Karunaratne, on December 24 had questioned him over the phone on the news report concerned. The editor has then asked Mr. Karunaratne whether the report was inaccurate and if so to make a clarification. It was at this stage that the PSD boss had adopted a menacing tone. According to Mr. Ivan, the security chief, before replacing the receiver had said :
"You mean you want us to speak in the language we know? Okay, I'll do it".
"Laskbima" journalist Buddhika Weerasinghe alleges that on December 22, a suspected PSD member threatened to assault two of his colleagues who visited the home of Police Sergeant Dayaratne - President Chandrika Kumaratunga's chauffeur - who died in the bomb blast. (an extract from "The Weekend Express" of 1st -2nd January 2000)
Call on Faithful Buddhists to gun down Dr. Jayalath
Dr. Jayalath Jeyawardena, a Member of Parliament of the opposition United National Party in Sri Lanka has visited the Vanni and is eye-witness to the desperate plight of the displaced people. He has organised free medical camps in the North and eastern Provinces. On his visit to Madhu Church, May 29 to June 1st 1998, where there were 30,000 refugees suffering from lack of food and medicine, he noted that water too, they lacked. He made arrangements to rebuild the water tank because he was so moved by the appeals and requests made by the people for help. His work is purely humanitarian.
After this visit, President Kumaratunga made allegations against Dr Jayalath that he had met LTTE leaders in Madhu. He believed that the government wished to arrest him under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The Criminal Investigation Division of the Sri Lanka Police arrested the Sri Lanka Red Cross driver who drove him to Madhu in May 98, and tortured him to make him say he had taken Dr. Jayalath to meet a member of the LTTE in Madhu. Mr D Pathmanathan, the SLRC driver, did not comply, despite the torture, was detained for seven months, and then was released without charge!
On January 3rd 2000 the President appeared on Sri Lankan state Television for a three hour interview. In this interview she named Dr Jayalath as someone who had had contact with the LTTE. She insisted-indirectly that all people with contact with the LTTE would be destroyed. On 6th January a number of Ministers spoke openly, in Parliament against Dr Jayalath Jayawardena, emboldened by the President's reference.
Deputy Defence Minister, Mr Anurudu Ratwatte, said that he had tape recording evidence of conversations between Dr. Jayalath and a senior LTTE member but according to Dr. Jayalath this is an utter lie and manipulation. Secondly the Minister of Buddhist Religious Affairs, Mr Premaratne Ediriveera, spoke, calling on faithful Buddhist people to "gun Down" Dr Jayalath. It should be noted that Dr. Jayalath Jeyawardena is a born Catholic. Thirdly, the Minister in charge of Special Task, Dr Sarat Amunugama, (who has responsibility in the Central Province) said he would bring before Parliament a motion to expel Dr Jayalath for violating oaths he had taken to protect the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. This was published in the Daily News of January 7th 2000. The state owned media gave much publicity to these happenings, and Dr. Jayalath felt the president was trying to condition the mind of the people to destroy him.
He has received many anonymous calls and has been followed by unidentified motor-cyclists, resulting in a well-founded fear of threat to his life. Dr. Jayalath Jeyawardena is married and a father of three children. TCHR and other international human rights organisations fear for his safety.
UN Human Rights Committee accepts complaint against President
The United Nations Human Rights Committee has accepted a complaint made against President Chandrika Kumaratunga by UNP national list MP, Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena alleging the President has endangered his life and that of his family.
Dr. Jayawardene made his complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee under the optional protocol and article 86 of the rules of procedures of the Human Rights Committee. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva on February 24 informed Dr: Jayawardena in writing that his complaint was registered under the optional protocol to the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights - ICCPR.
The complaint has been registered as communication No. 916/2000. In accordance with rule 91 of the committee's rules of procedure, a copy of the communication has been sent to President Kumaratunga with a request that any information or observations in respect of admissibility and merits of the communication be made to the committee within six months.
The failure on the part of President Kumaratunga to respond will result in an exparte hearing of the complaint. Dr. Jayawardene in written complaint to the Human Rights committee had said he was making the complaint because domestic remedies cannot be exhausted under the constitution of Sri Lanka.
The MP in his complaint also states, the state media, both print and electronic have given wide publicity to President Kumaratunga's provocative statements. Alleging President Kumaratunga should be held solely responsible in the event of any harm befalling him or his family, Jayawardene in his complaint accuses the President of violating his political and civil rights. (Extracted from The Sunday Leader - 27th February 2000)
Election Violence and Executive Presidency
277 complaints during Presidential election
Two hundred and seventy seven incidents of violence relating to the Presidential elections in December 1999 have been reported to the Special Election Secretariat. According to the Police the ruling PA has made 110 complaints and the UNP 133, while the JVP has made 20. Other parties have lodged 14 complaints. Meanwhile the government press is reported to have printed 686,000 voting cards for polling in the Jaffna peninsula, where, according to official statistics, 555,975 people live, with only 370,000 eligible voters.
A President can kill, steal, and sell everything for a song
Former Finance Minster Ronnie de Mel made a strong case for the abolition of the Executive Presidency at a joint meeting of the United National Party (UNP) Parliamentary group and working committee on February 7th 1999 with the leader of Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe presiding. He said "the Executive Presidency was created by the 1978 Constitution, with sincere intention that it would be good for the quick economic development of a poor third world country like Sri Lanka. But it has become a 'Frankenstein Monster'. Article 35 of the Constitution gives the President complete legal immunity and he is above the law, above courts of law and not subjected to the rule of law. A President can kill, can steal and can sell everything in this country for a song. He can even rig any election and defame anybody, but there is no remedy till the term of office of the President ends.
Unlike in France or in the United States of America the President can take over and run all ministries including Finance. Parliamentary control of finance is the foundation of Parliamentary Government. The Minister of Finance must be in parliament, must be responsible to parliament, must be answerable to parliament and must present the budget to parliament. This is not so today. (an extract from "Sunday Observer" of February 13th 2000)
Demonstrators against Executive Presidency get tear gas
Sri Lankan riot police fired tear gas to disperse thousands of demonstrators who participated in a procession on July 15th 1999, demanding the government to abolish the Presidential system in the country.
The demonstrators were protesting the government's inability to deliver on a promise to scrap the executive presidency by Thursday July 15th 1995 as pledged by Kumaratunga just before she became president in November 1994.
Sources said that it is feared that several demonstrators including UNP parliamentarians were wounded in the incident. About 6000 people participated in the procession.
Recent Presidential election has been challenged in the court
January 2000 - The legality and the propriety of the recent Sri Lankan Presidential election has been challenged in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka by the opposition United National Party. The petition sought a directive ordering a fresh Presidential Election. It also sought a declaration that the election of Chandrika was void in law. The petition said that the first Respondent President address to the electors exceeding the time allotted to her by law. She even addressed the voters on days when such addresses by presidential candidates were prohibited by law.
Acting Commissioner of Elections had issued six hundred thousand of ballot papers to the Jaffna District Returning Officer while the total number of residents was in fact only three hundred thousand. It must be noted that this was brought to the notice of the Acting Elections Commissioner at the relevant time. Thirty thousand workers who are not entitled place postal votes were extended the facility of postal voting in violation of the law. The Acting Commissioner of Elections had issued one hundred thousand extra ballot papers in addition to the number of registered voters to the Returning Officer Gampaha. There had been an overall failure to comply with the Presidential Election Act, the petition concluded.
Independence of the Judiciary and Administration of Justice
Bail application by detainees
December 4th 1999 - Forty eight Tamil women who are on remand under the Emergency Regulations, allegedly for travelling from India to Sri Lanka on an emergency passport, made an application to Court to release them on bail.
Attorney at law Joseph Charles who supported the bail application in Court argued that the suspects did not violate any Emergency Regulations and that they could not be remanded under the Emergency Regulations. It was pointed out that it was not possible to grant bail in cases filed under the PTA because there was no provision in the law.
1641 Fundamental rights cases filed in five years (1994-1999)
Between 1994 and 1999 courts found police guilty in 195 fundamental rights violations cases. Forty-five percent of the fundamental rights violation cases during this period were filed by Tamil people. It is worth remarking that nearly 1446 cases were rejected in the courts due to lack of evidence. Security forces always threaten people who give evidence against them. Not every victims of fundamental rights violations files a case! Even though the compensation is ordered to be paid to victims by the courts, the victims hardly get any compensation. In a way, this is also another eye wash to the International community and other human rights institutions.
Impunity remains a serious concern, and has been consistently noted in reports on human rights fact finding missions to Sri Lanka over many years. The 1998 report of the then Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, after his visit to Sri Lanka continues to be highly relevant to the situation today.
To quote from Mr Bacre Ndiaye's report E/CN.4/1998/Add.2, "Impunity encourages political violence and is a serious de-stabilising element in all contexts of the Sri Lankan socio-political system", "Impunity perpetuates the mass violation of human rights", "This culture of impunity has led to arbitrary killings and has contributed to the uncontrollable spiralling of violence." He further stated that the systematic absence of investigations into violations of the right to life facilitates impunity. Investigations are rarely conducted and when they are, they do not lead to the appropriate convictions or penalties.
The world report 2000 of Human Rights Watch, states that in Sri Lanka impunity is a "critical problem, with few prosecutions for human rights violations, and torture is prevalent both in the context of armed conflict and in day-to-day policing. Discrimination against Tamils by members of the security forces…continued throughout the country and especially in the capital city of Colombo and in army-controlled areas of the north and east."
Some of the murder cases of Tamils drag on and on or are abandoned. Human Rights Watch states that, "There has been no progress in reopening the notorious Bolgoda Lake case which implicated Special Task force (STF) commanders in the 1995 murders of 23 Tamil youth whose bodies were found floating in bodies of water near Colombo." These Tamils were murdered in custody at the Colombo STF Headquarters.
"The second factor lies in an unsavoury precedent during Kumaratunga's first term. In 1995 there was a phenomenon of young Tamils being killed and dumped in rivers, lakes and brooks in the Colombo suburbs. A total of 27 bodies were found. Twenty-two persons belonging to the military and special task force were arrested. An indictment was filed on September 15, 1995 and the accused were released on bail. There after the country witnessed a disgraceful abdication of duty by the Attorney Generals Department. No one from the AG's department attended court when the case was heard. This happened on February 16, 1996, August 2, 1996, September 12, 1996 and December 12, 1996. This was not a case of the prosecution withdrawing or not proceeding further through adopting correct procedure but an exercise of letting it lapse through default. This could not have been possible without upper echelon sanction". (The Sunday Leader, February 13, 2000)
The massacres of Tamils, at St Peter and St Paul's Church, Navaly July 1995; at Nagerkovil school in September 1995; at Kumarapuram 1996, at Nachchikuda 1997, Suthanthirapuram 1998, Puththikuddiyuruppu 1999 and Madhu church 1999 and many more, have never been investigated or even condemned by the Sri Lankan government. Calls for independent inquiries have been ignored. The Wellikada Prison killings of 1983, the Kalutara prison killings of 1997 and now of 1999, and other incidents, have never been independently investigated, despite appeals from Amnesty International.
On September 5th 1999 prayers and fasts were held, as local Tamils gathered in memory of 158 persons from Vanthaarumoolai eastern university refugee camp massacred by the Sri Lankan Army in 1990. They had been taken into custody on 5th September 1990 by Kommathurai army camp officers. Their bodies are believed to be in the reported mass graves at Navalady and Saththurukkondaan in Batticaloa District. Sri Lankan Army officers and paramilitary leaders have been clearly named in initial investigations done by the government-funded Human rights Task Force (HRTF) and Human Rights Commission (HRC), yet nine years have passed and none of the named persons have been brought to book and no action has been taken. Captain Munaz, Captain Palitha, Captain Gunaratna, Major Majeed and Major Mohan had been in charge of operations.
The Sunday Leader of June 20th 1999 wrote that Rajapakse, one of the soldiers convicted in the Krishanthy Kumaraswamy rape and murder case, and sentenced to death had stated in Jaffna Court that Captain Lalith Hewa, Lt. Wijesiriwardene, Lt. Thudugala, Captain Jayawardena, Major Weerakody and Major Gunasekera were involved in torture and killing in Ariyalai. Rajapakse, had denied involvement in Krishanthi's murder, stating "We only buried bodies. We can show you where 300 to 400 bodies have been buried. Almost every evening dead bodies were brought there and the soldiers were asked to bury them".
In the gang-rape and murder case of Sarathambal on 28th December, her brother identified the Sri Lankan Naval officers involved, yet they were immediately transferred. This appears to be routine practice.
Impunity reigns, cutting deeper and deeper wounds into the Tamil people in the Island of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan security forces continue to arrest, torture, rape, murder and dispose of bodies with impunity.
Hindu Priest Arrested
The chief priest of the Alaiyadivemby Maruthayadi Manikkapillaiyar Temple, Sri Arasaretnam Senthinathakurukkal, was arrested on July 23, 99 by a team of police personnel who came in a white van.
The temple situated in the Akkaraipattu area of the eastern province is now closed as there is no priest to perform the daily services, sources said. The police personnel arrived in a white van, entered the temple with their shoes and then arrested the priest who was in his underwear. The temple vice president, Assistant Secretary, and an employee went to the Akkaraipattu Special Task Force-STF camp in search of chief priest. At the camp the three were also arrested and kept in a cell for two hours. Representations were also made to International Committee of Red Cross in Akkaraipattu. When ICRC representative contacted the security forces it came to light that the arrested chief priest had been handed over to the Deputy Inspector General of Police in Kandy.
Historic Hindu temple land for expansion of Army camp
A gazette notification by the Sri Lankan President on August 31st 1999 stated the government's intention to acquire the Keerimalai Naguleswarar temple and the Maviddapuram Kandaswamy temple for the expansion of the Palaly army base in Jaffna peninsula. Lands belonging to thousands of civilians in the northern part of the Valikamam division of Jaffna along with the two temples and numerous Hindu shrines were to be acquired under Gazette Extraordinary No.1083/9 of June 8, 1999.
The All Ceylon Hindu Congress sought an urgent appointment with the President to discuss the matter and in another letter faxed to her urged her to suspend any action in this regard. The Hindu Congress stated in its letter: "The two historic temples are important places of Hindu worship. Keerimalai Naguleswarar Kovil is a place where 'Aadi Amavasai' is observed by the Hindus of this country. Acquisition by the government of the area, including these two temples will amount to the denial of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution".
Emergency Regulations & PTA (A. Vinayagamoorthy - Attorney at Law, Colombo, Sri Lanka, January 2000)
In Sri Lanka the Government has given wide powers under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and Emergency Regulations (ERs) to police officers and other members of the security forces which are used for the arrest and detention of Tamils.
More than two thousand Tamils have been arrested and are detained in various prisons and police stations.
The prevention of Terrorism (Temprorary provision) Act No. 48 of 1979 gives wide powers to the police and the Minister of Defence to arrest and detain Tamils for a period of 18 months at a stretch. The Emergency Regulations published in Government Gazette No. 843/12 of 4th November 1994 enable the security forces to arbitrarily arrest innocent Tamils and detain him.
Under Section (2) of the PTA a Magistrate can remand a person indefinitely until his trial is over in the High Court.
Under Regulation 18 (1) of the ERs a person arrested in the Northern or Eastern Province by a police officer or a member of the security forces can be detained for a period of 60 days. If the arrest takes place outside the Northern or Eastern Province then he or she could be detained for a period of 21 days. If a detention order is issued by the Ministry of Defence under Regulation 17 (1) of the ERs, a detainee can be held for another period of three months.
If they are successful in extracting a confession from detainee, then they change the case midway and produce the person originally arrested under ER 18 (1) before Magistrate, and get him remanded indefinitely under Section 7 (2) of the PTA. The police misuse both these special laws to keep a Tamil person in detention.
I visit these prisons every Saturday, as a human right activist. In new Remand Prison Kalutara alone there are about 800 Tamil detainees. There are almost every Tamil detainee complains that he has been arrested for no reason just because he is Tamil, and that he has been assaulted and tortured and that he was forced to sign a self-incriminating statement written in Sinhala, a language not known to him. Thereafter he has been detained indefinitely until a trial comes up in the High Court. Recently because of the delay in bringing them to court the detainees went on hunger strike and we persuaded them to give up their fast.
Section 6 of the PTA enables a police officer not below the rank of a Superintendent of Police or a police officer not below the rank of a Sub-Inspector with written authority from a Superintendent of Police to arrest a Tamil. But normally no one is arrested under PTA. What the police do is to first arrest a person under ERs, then at the end of the 21 days or the 60 days or the 3months, they change the case and file it under the PTA to get the person remanded indefinitely.
The PTA gives the security forces extraordinary powers. No legislation conferring even remotely comparable powers is in force in any other democracy operating under the rule of law.
Under Section 16 (1) of the said Act statement made to the police are admissible as evidence in court, contrary to normal rule of evidence laid down in Section 25 and 26 of the Evidence Ordinance which exclude confessions made to the police as evidence in future trials. Similar provisions regarding admissibility of confessions are also found in Regulation 49 of the ERs.
Amnesty International is of the opinion that such provisions regarding confessions constitute a direct incentive to interrogating officers to obtain information or "confessions" by any means, including torture. The situation is particularly dire because the burden of proof, that a confession was extracted under torture, is on the victim.
Mr. Paul Sieghart, from the International Commission of Jurists has stated that PTA is an ugly blot in the statut book of any civilised country.
Almost every Tamil arrested is assaulted, tortured and a self-incriminating statement is extracted from him or her. In almost all the cases filed in the High Court against Tamils the extracted confession is the only evidence available for the prosecution to prove their case. In two of these cases where the only evidence produced were the confessions, one person was sentenced to 70 years rigorous imprisonment and the other person was sentenced to 50 years rigorous imprisonment. We have appealed against the convictions and sentence.
Amnesty International has on several occasions requested the Sri Lankan Government to repeal these draconian laws, or at least to abolish the provisions regarding the admissibility of confessions as evidence and to restore the normal rules relating to confessions as laid down in the Evidence Ordinance. Their requests have fallen on deaf ears.
The international community need to bring more pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to abolish the PTA, or at least remove the provisions regarding the admissibility of confessions in the PTA and ERs. The terrible powers contained in these two special laws have 'legalised' the persecution of Tamils. (Courtesy "Tamil Detainees Support Group" - United Kingdom)
Violence Against Women
TCHR statistics on Rape
The Tamil Centre for Human Rights-TCHR has documented catalogues of rape cases of Tamil women raped by Sri Lankan armed forces, in the North - East of the Island. Taken as an average over the last four years a Tamil woman is raped every 16 days. This is with respect to documented cases. The real number is much higher. Every two months a Tamil woman is gang-raped and murdered by the Sri Lankan armed forces - again this is only taking documented figures into account. Therefore, even if we saw a Court case for only the gang rape and murder cases, and not the gang-rapes and rapes where the women survive - we would be looking at 24 court cases over the last four years!
Again, dealing with documented cases alone, over the last four years, a girl child is gang-raped by Sri Lankan army personnel every three months, a woman is brutally killed because she resisted the sexual advances of soldiers every six months, and there are many attempted suicides after the ordeal experienced. None of these cases have been investigated.
Each of the incidents above carries its shock waves of ghastly horror to other members of the community, terrorising both women and men, and of course children, who have at times been forced to witness the gang-raping and murdering of their mother as in the Koneswary case.
There are many cases of relatives, brothers, fathers, husbands and mothers who have been murdered as they try to protect their daughters, wives and sisters. The latest documented gang rape and murder case was only a few weeks ago. When will the next one be? Later today? Tomorrow? Next week? Unfortunately, our statistics point to the fact that it will happen soon, if we don't act now to prevent it happening again.
According to the Sri Lanka Police statistics, the crime against women has increased in recent months. The below given figures includes complaints of rape as well. North and Eastern province were not included in these figures.
Period Recorded cases January - June1998 26,565 January - July 1999 26,660
Raped and shot at genitals
On July 13th 1999, Ida Hamilitta (21) was shot dead in her home in Pullimunai in Mannar district. Kesavan Rajah, a 63 year old shop keeper, said while testifying at the inquest into the death of Ida Hamilitta, 21, that the woman was shot dead by Sri Lanka Army personnel from the Pallimunai Army camp. Kesavan Raja, who owns a shop in front of Ida Hamilitta's home, said that he could identify the gunmen as they had been into his shop several times.
"On the particular night some one knocked on the door of my shop. When I opened I saw two people. I recognised that they were from the army sentry at Pallimunai. Two others were hiding nearby, but I could not identify them. "They took me to Ida's house and wanted me to wake her up. When I knocked on the door, Ida's mother came. One of them hit on my face and I fell down. Then they took off my sarong and tied my hand and face."Then they went into the house and pulled out everyone inside. But Ida was not among them. I was lying down and saw what was happening. They took me inside the house and I found Ida was inside a room. Then they went out with Ida and ordered the rest to go into the house. "I think Ida was raped. We heard her screaming "help, help". I heard her crying.
"Then I heard sounds of firing and it was silent after a while. When we went out we found Ida lying in a pool of blood, half-naked. "I went to the Pallimunai Police to lodge an entry in the morning. The police refused to record my statement. The police threatened me that I should not tell others about what had happened."
Body of Ida Hamilitta exhumed and flown to Colombo
On July 21st 1999 - The body of Ida Hamilitta was taken to Colombo by a CID team for further investigation. The CID officials also took 11 weapons that were used by the eleven soldiers who were on duty on the night of the incident, Mannar court sources said. The body of the young woman was exhumed by the Mannar Police on the orders of the District Magistrate, M. Ilancheliyan, for further post-mortem and analytical investigations.
The Magistrate made the special order for exhumation of the body on an application made by head of the special CID team appointed by the Police to investigate into the case. The Judicial Medical Officer in Mannar, Dr. E. Emmanual Peiris, who carried the post-mortem, said in his testimony that Ida had been raped and that she had been shot at her genitals.
He said there were 18 injuries on her body caused by gunshot and biting. She had also been stabbed on the abdomen the JMO added.
Widowed mother gang raped
On September 29,1999 - Rajeswary Krishnarajah, 35, mother of three was gang raped by the Sri Lanka Army soldiers at Vaalaithottam in Varani in the Thenmaradchi Division of the Jaffna Peninsula. Rajeswaray Krishnarajah, a widow, was sleeping with her children at her house when three Army soldiers had come home and knocked at the door around 11 p.m. The soldiers had told that they had come to search the house. Her father and brother were also at her house at the time. When the mother opened the door the soldiers had blind folded the father and brother, and then took her away to a nearby coconut plantation and raped her. She was raped by two soldiers.
While the soldiers were taking turns in raping her, she managed to escape from the grips of the third soldier, ran into her room and locked herself up. The following morning the woman had gone to the Chavakachcheri hospital, where the doctor who examined her had confirmed she had been raped.
Mother and Daughter sexually harassed by soldiers
September 30th 1999 - Mr. Joseph Pararajasingham, MP for the Batticaloa District appealed to the Sri Lankan government authorities, to safeguard a Tamil widow and her teenage daughter of Peithalai in the Valachchenai area from being sexually harassed by Sri Lanka Army soldiers. Mr. Pararajasingham informed the government's Anti-Harassment Committee (this committee is financed by the government) in writing, stating that Mrs Ponnambalam a widow and was living with her teenage son and a daughter.
On September 19th, the Army arrested her son. Thereafter, some soldiers had gone to her house and tried to harass her and her teenage daughter sexually. Mr. Parajasingham says the soldiers now harass the woman and her daughter whenever they go out to buy provisions. The son of the woman is still in the army's custody. The MP says the soldiers had separated the son from his mother in order to pressure her and her daughter, sexually. Mr. Parajasingham, in his letter, called on the Anti-Harassment Committee to take immediate steps to safeguard the mother and the daughter from the activities of the soldiers.
Mother gang-raped and murdered
December 28th 1999 - A young woman was gang-raped and murdered by the Navy personal near Kannakai Amman Temple in Punguduthivu, an island off Jaffna peninsula. Her body, covered with Palmyrah leaves, was found about 100 metres from her house.
The victim, Sarathambal Saravanbavanantha kurukal, was in her house with her child and her brother. The gunmen suddenly entered the house, raped the young mother, after forcibly removing her brother from the house. The body was found the following morning, with clothes stuffed in her mouth. A Sri Lanka Naval detachment is based in Pungudutivu. People of the area confirmed that some Navy personnel were involved in this crime.
In this gang-rape and murder, Sarathambal's brother identified the Sri Lankan Naval officers involved, yet they were immediately transferred to a different location.
On January 8th 1999 - Jaffna's acting Magistrate confirmed that Sarathambal was raped and murdered, according to the medical report furnished by the Colombo's Judicial Medical Officer. According to the medical report, there was evidence on the body to show that she had been raped had died due to suffocation caused by stuffing clothes into her mouth.
Brutal Gang Rape and murder of young woman by Sri Lanka Navy - TCHR
On 4th January 2000, the Tamil Centre for Human Rights - TCHR has called for Urgent Action. It read as follows : On the evening of Tuesday 28th December 1999, Sarathambal Saravanbavanantha kurukal, of a Hindu Brahmin family, was forcibly dragged from her home, in Pungudutivu, near Jaffna Peninsula, by Sri Lankan Navy soldiers. They then gang-raped and murdered her in cold blood. The body of the 29 year-old mother was found the following morning, under leaves, not far from her home near Kannaki Amman Temple.
As the news of yet another horrific rape and murder case of a Tamil woman by Sri Lankan security forces reaches the world outside the island of Sri Lanka, President Chandrika Kumaratunga was reported to have ordered an immediate investigation on 30th December 1999. The Sri Lankan government, it appears, wishes to act speedily to avoid the involvement of human rights organisations in the matter.
According to the witness of Sarathambal's neighbours the real suspects have already been transferred from the area to prevent action being taken against them. This is a familiar method used by the Sri Lankan government to avoid scrutiny.
TCHR has records of catalogues of rape and murder cases of Tamil women by Sri Lankan security forces in Sri Lankan army occupied Jaffna, in the North, and in the East of the island, including Amparai. The actual number of rape cases is far higher than recorded.
Many Tamil women who survive the trauma want to remain unidentified due to cultural sensitivities within the community. TCHR urges all human rights organisations and bodies of the international community to express outrage at this latest odious case of gang-rape and murder, in order to help prevent further atrocities and violence against Tamil women.
Rights of the child
The survival, development and protection of Tamil children in the North and East of the island of Sri Lanka continues to be a matter of critical concern.
The fundamental and basic rights of food, health and shelter are also denied to children as well as the right to freedom from torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In the Vanni area in the North where the Sri Lankan government has imposed an embargo on food and medicine the situation is dire. In addition to malnutrition and disease the children also constantly witness shelling and aerial bombings, and the consequent deaths and maiming. There is a rate of 30% non-attendance in schools according to the latest UNICEF report.
The heath, self-respect and dignity of children needs urgently addressing by agencies concerned with human rights and children's rights. UNICEF states that for this," there has to be a sound assessment and analysis, which is always the cornerstone of effective planning and programming. In 2000 - 2001 UNICEF will undertake in-depth and comprehensive studies on the impact of the war on children's lives, both socially and psychologically. UNICEF recognises the necessity to set up regional and international mechanisms with thorough regional offices and international lobbying to create an increased momentum both regionally and internationally in the service of children's rights.
The Right to Life itself, referred to in Article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the Right to protection in times of armed conflict, Article 38 of the CRC, are by no means guaranteed for Tamil children.
According to the UN International Labour office, there are about 20000 to 30,000 child prostitutes in Sri Lanka.
Children killed in Puthukkudiruppu
Children have been killed in bombings when the Sri Lankan air force has attacked civilian places of residence and markets (the bombing on 15th September 1999 of Puthukkudiyiruppu included two children in the massacre, 12 year-old Ariyanayagam Gajanthini and 15 year-old Patmarasa Jenitta) and places of worship where civilians took refuge believing they would be safe - 13 children were massacred when Madhu Church was bombed on November 20th by the Sri Lankan Army.
In Vavuniya two-year old Dinesh Rasalingam was killed on 25th August 99 by Sri lankan Army gunshot wounds to her head, as she was sleeping. V. Nageswary aged 14 and her mother were killed on 28th September 99 by fire from the Sri Lankan Army and the pro-government paramilitary Razeek group. One-year-old Gajenthini and her mother were killed by Sri Lankan shell attack on 18th November 99. Ramachandran Sunan, aged 17 was shot dead by Sri Lankan Army on 23rd November 99. On 23rd January 2000, a 14 year-old boy, Sinnathamby Vijeyan was shot and killed by Sri Lankan army, his death followed later that evening by that of Sellathamby Pushpalatha, a little girl aged ten, who had also been shot by the Sri Lankan army. She died in hospital from shots fired by the Sri Lankan Army.
These are some, not all of the cases of children being callously murdered by the armed security forces. The list of children injured by the Sri Lankan army, and subjected to cruel and degrading treatment is long.
Even schools can be places of danger
Even in school the children are not safe when there are Sri Lankan soldiers patrolling in the roads near their classrooms. Eight-year-old S. Rusaathan of Sungaankerni village in Batticaloa District was shot, and seriously injured while in class at school, by Sri Lankan police as they patrolled through the village firing indiscriminately in all directions. He was shot in his abdomen and bleeding profusely was taken to Valaichenai hospital but needed emergency surgery, only available at Batticaloa hospital. Since there was no ambulance his parents had to hire a rick-shaw themselves. The authorities did not help procure an ambulance.
Three year old Jenitta was hit by shells fired by the Sri Lankan Army from the Kumichchai army camp. A shell exploded in the hut entrance, injuring the child's head . Subsequently the child was admitted to Batticaloa hospital.
Young Tamil girls continue to be sexually harassed, molested and raped by the Sri Lankan army. It is not only grown women who are gang-raped but also girls as we have reported many times before.
13 Year old Girl gang raped
December 14th 1999 - A group of 5 gangsters suspected to be Sri Lanka Army soldiers, including an Army deserter, sexually assaulted a 13 year old school girl, in Mawanella east of Colombo on the Kandy road. Identifying themselves as CID police, the group entered a house in Mawanella and threatened the parents at gunpoint. They then took the young girl to the kitchen, where she was molested.So far only the deserter has been arrested in connection with this assault!
Boys too are sexually harassed
Boys as well as girls are subjected to cruel and degrading treatment at the hands of Sri Lankan security forces. A Sri Lankan Army Corporal forcibly stripped teenage Tamil boy, Tharmakulasingham Gajanthan and sexually assaulted him, having forced him to go with him to a secluded place. He warned the boy not to recount his ordeal, but the boy escaped and told parents. He was admitted to hospital with injuries.
Internal displaced people (IDPs) are amongst the most vulnerable people in conflict area. They suffer multiple human rights violations.The Government officials in Vavuniya say there are 9561 persons belonging to 2333 displaced families, in 8 Divisions of the welfare centre.
Population displaced by Military operations in North of the Island
(in between there were many massacres and displacements)
Name of Operation Operation Started Families displaced Leap Forward 09/07/1995 48,345 Dragon Fire 21/08/1995 1,582 Shake Hands 12/09/1995 7 ,918 Thunder 01/10/1995 16,500 Sunshine 17/10/1995 125,779 Sath Jeya 26/07/1996 51,820 Edi Bala 04/02/1997 6,121 Jeya Sikuru 13/05/1997 16,208 Rivi Bala 03/12/1998 2,518
Relief cuts by the government since 1997
District Families/Individuals numbers granted provided cut Killinochchi Families 46,557 25,000 21,557 Individuals 188,008 100,000 88,008 Mullaitivu Families 25,926 12,500 13,426 Individuals 103,305 50,000 53,305 Mannar Families 19,651 5,000 14,651 Individuals 80,580 20,000 60,580 Vavuniya Families 12,776 3,750 9,026 Individuals 49,559 15,000 34,559 Total Families 104,910 46,250 58,660 Individuals 421,462 185,000 236,462
International Human Rights Day & 10th Anniversary of TCHR
International Human Rights Day, December 10th, is a day to reflect collectively on human rights violations all around the world, and to continue to seek new ways to expose them. TCHR holds an event annually on this day, and this year it is particularly significant since it is also the 10th anniversary of TCHR. During the last ten years TCHR has been working hard to expose human rights violations, by organising events, seminars, interventions in human rights conferences and other activities and by disseminating information widely through monthly bulletins. Last year TCHR along with human rights organisations round the world commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, as we approach the end of this millennium, acutely aware that the gravest violations of fundamental human rights are still occurring, we held two events, one in France and one in the United Kingdom.
In Paris, the commemoration started with the opening of a photographic exhibition. This was followed by speeches by several prominent lawyers, academics and representatives of several other solidarity organizations. The exhibition was comprised of photographs of massacres, cultural genocide and displacement of refugees caused by the Sri Lankan security forces. Many spectators were shocked by some of the photographs in the exhibition. The speeches started with Mr. S. V. Kirubaharan, General Secretary of the Tamil Centre for Human Rights. He gave a brief history and explained to the audience the general task of TCHR. Today the TCHR has became challenging force to the Sri Lankan government in the International human rights arena, he said. Mr. Jean Mari-Julia, retired Principal and the French President's National award "Chevallier" winner, delivered a long speech which touch the heart of the audience. He condemned the Sri Lankan government for its extremely bad record on human rights.
In the city of Manchester, in the North of the United Kingdom, a vigil was held in the Peace Gardens near the Town Hall. TCHR and another human rights organisation organised the vigil, which was attended by many other human rights activists, organisations and individuals. Speakers contributed with poems and readings on the human rights of trade unionists, women, the disabled community, children. Deirdre McConnell, director of the International programme of TCHR, spoke on the human rights of Tamils suffering at the hands of the Sri Lankan government armed forces in the island of Sri Lanka. She condemned the Sri Lankan government for its brutal and callous genocide of the Tamil people. Councillor, speaking on behalf of Manchester City Council spoke on the need to respect diversity and all forms of human rights as we move into the new millennium.
The human rights situation for Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka continues to be horrendous. Aerial bombing of civilian targets, such as places of worship, hospitals and schools, continues. Less than three weeks ago nearly 40 Tamil refugees were massacred by Sri Lankan army bombing, as they sought refugee in the chapel of Madhu church. The 600 persons "disappeared" by the Sri Lankan army, during 1996 in Jaffna, are still unaccounted for. The callous letters to relatives of the two disappeared persons whose skeletons were identified in the mass graves at Chemmani, stating that the whereabouts of these persons is still uncertain, displays the brutal inhumanity and disregard for Tamil lives of the Sri Lankan government. Torture, rape, arbitrary detention and extra-judicial killings of Tamils, by the Sri Lankan government armed forces continue. We hope that as we move into a new century and millennium more voices will join the fervent call for the human rights of the Tamil people and of all peoples to be restored, so that human dignity will prevail.
Human Rights Watch (an extract from World report - 2000)
Human Rights Developments
Impunity remained a critical problem, with few prosecutions for human rights violations,and torture prevalent both in the context of armed conflict and in day-to-day policing. Discrimination against Tamil civilians by members of the security forces attempting to root out the LTTE continued throughout the country and especially in the capital city of Colombo and in army-controlled areas of the north and east.
On September 15 more than twenty civilians were reported killed and some forty injured in an air force bombing of the Puthukkudiyiruppu market in the northern district of Mullaithivu; houses and buildings nearby were also destroyed. Three
days later a suspected LTTE attack on Sinhalese villagers in the east killed more than fifty.
In early December1998 the army launched a new offensive and advanced Northeast-ward into the area around Oddusuddan, displacing some 12,000 people, some forcibly. In April 1999, the army overran Madhu camp, an open relief facility established by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The camp housed some 10,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), some of whom had been there for almost a decade. Half of the camp's residents-those from areas under army control-were sent home; those from regions still under LTTE control were moved to welfare centres in other areas. International relief agencies criticised the eviction, saying that it led to overcrowding of existing welfare camps in the north.
Military operations were marked by repeated closures of access across the forward defence lines, resulting in the disruption of delivery of food, medicine and humanitarian relief to the civilian population of the Vanni.
The security forces' use of home guards and armed ex-militant Tamil groups as auxiliary units to aid in military operations continued to draw criticism from human rights defenders. These groups have engaged in illegal detention, murder, abduction, extortion, assault, torture, forced conscription, and forced eviction. In 1999, fighting between two of these groups, the People's Liberation Organisation for Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) and Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) also claimed civilian lives.
Large-scale arbitrary arrests of Tamils based almost solely on their ethnicity continued in many parts of the country. In the north and east, residents complained of discrimination at checkpoints, routine beatings, torture, public humiliation of persons detained during searches, and of detainees being used for forced labour by the army and Special Task Force.
On September 18, apparently in retaliation for the deaths of civilians killed in air force strikes on Puthukudiyiruppu three days earlier, suspected LTTE members hacked to death some forty-eight Sinhalese villagers and shot six others in attacks on three villages in eastern Sri Lanka.
Official efforts continued to account for the tens of thousands of persons who "disappeared" at the hands of the security forces since the conflict began. In January, the Presidential Commission on Disappearances submitted an interim report, based on investigations since June 1998. The commission received some 10,135 complaints, mostly from the Central Province, and 460 complaints from Jaffna district. At the beginning of 1999, there were more than 7,500 complaints awaiting inquiry, and the term of the Commission was extended. The report provided details on about one hundred court cases filed against perpetrators of "disappearances." According to officials of the Relief and Rehabilitation Authority, more than 18,000 people applied for death certificates for "disappeared" relatives; death certificates are a necessary prerequisite to obtaining government compensation.
Almost a year after a former soldier named Somaratne Rajapakse alleged that the army had buried "disappeared" Tamil civilians in mass graves near Jaffna town, exhumation began in June on the first site. The first grave identified by Rajapakse contained two male skeletons. An investigating team that included Sri Lankan and foreign forensic experts and human rights observers said the remains showed signs of physical assault and murder. The victims, one with his hands tied with rope and
the other blind-folded, were identified as two men in their twenties who "disappeared" in 1996.
In August, Rajapakse and other ex-soldiers convicted with him identified twenty-four additional grave sites around Chemmani village near Jaffna town which they told a Jaffna district court contained eighty to one hundred bodies of persons killed and buried by the army near Jaffna town in 1996 and 1997. Exhumations resumed on September 6, and within days more bodies had been uncovered.
Rajapakse complained in August that he and his family had received death threats, and that police investigators who questioned him about his allegations of mass graves failed to record the names of army officials who he said were involved.
Prosecutions of abuses by security forces remained rare, but several notable cases did reach the courts. On July 20 a Mannar court ordered the detention of two soldiers from Pallimunai army detachment accused of raping and murdering Ida Hamilitta, a twenty-one-year-old former LTTE member who had surrendered to the army two months before. A witness told the court he had tried to report the killing to the Pallimunai police, but that they had refused to record his statement and warned him to keep quiet. The Mannar medical officer, however, gave graphic testimony about the results of the woman's post-mortem, and a determined magistrate ensured the prosecution of those responsible. No progress was made in reopening the notorious "Bolgoda Lake" case which implicated Special Task Force (STF) commandos in the 1995 murders of twenty-three Tamil youths whose bodies were found floating in bodies of water near Colombo.
But in another notorious case in which twenty-five people, including twenty-four students between the ages of fifteen and seventeen, "disappeared" from Sevana army camp, Embilipitiya, Ratnapura district between late 1989 and early 1990,
there was some justice done. Six members of the Sri Lankan security forces and a high school principal were sentenced to ten years' imprisonment after having been found guilty of abduction with intent to murder and wrongful confinement. The court was unable to prove murder. The judgement was the first to address the enormous number of "disappearances" linked to the state's counterinsurgency campaigns against suspected supporters of the Janatha Vimukti Peramuna (JVP), a Sinhalese nationalist insurgency, in the late 1980s.
Independent press coverage of the war remained difficult, and political reporting on topics other than the war often sparked threats and physical attacks. In mid-July, when police in Colombo fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to disperse a crowd of supporters of the United Nationalist Party, the main opposition party, unidentified men in plainclothes assaulted protestors, wounding at least thirty people, including ten journalists. The Free Media Movement denounced the assaults as "the worst attack on the media in recent history," and said that journalists had identified several attackers to be from the presidential security division (PSD). The demonstrators were protesting the failure of the People's Alliance government to keep election promises including the abolition of the powerful executive presidency. On July 21 journalists held a second demonstration in Colombo to protest the assaults.
In late August, some two hundred people, including academics and students, journalists and local businessmen attended a demonstration organised by the North Sri Lanka Journalists' Association in Jaffna town protesting the August 21 grenade attack on the office of a local Tamil newspaper, Uthayan . The North Sri Lanka Journalists' Association, which sent a memorandum to President Kumarantunge, said the attack was an effort to discourage the press from exposing incidents of extortion and corruption. They appealed to the Sri Lankan government to carry out an impartial inquiry.
On September 7, Rohana Kumara, the editor of Satana (Battle), a pro-UNP newspaper, was killed by unidentified gunmen in a Colombo suburb. He was shot on his way home in a taxi after receiving a call that his house was being attacked. Members of parliament for the UNP blamed the ruling party for the killing and demanded an immediate investigation.
Defending Human Rights
Human rights defenders continued to play a critical role in demanding accountability for human rights abuses and working for an end to political violence in Sri Lanka. But these activities did not come without substantial risks. The greatest blow to human rights advocacy was the killing of Neelan Tiruchelvam. Seven others were wounded in the attack, including five policemen. The three young Tamil men arrested in connection with Tiruchelvam's murder were reportedly severely tortured in police custody in Colombo.
In September, the United States government announced that it had donated U.S.$1.3 million to the UNHCR to assist the agency's efforts on behalf of Sri Lanka's internally displaced population.
Catholics of Jaffna appeal to UN and Pope
The Catholics of the Diocese of Jaffna have appealed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, to persuade the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation of Tigers of Tamil Eelam to call off the war with immediate effect and commence negotiations.
The Government and the LTTE must be persuaded to work towards bringing about a mutually acceptable solution to the ethnic conflict which has caused untold hardships, suffering and losses to the people of the north and east of the country, the appeals further said.
The Catholics of the Jaffna Diocese made this appeal in separate memorandums sent to the UN Secretary-General and His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, in the wake of the Sri Lankan government artillery attack on the Holy Shrine Madhu in the Mannar district. According to the Catholic church the attack resulted in the deaths of 42 innocent civilians including children and women, and injured several hundred.
Human Rights Agencies Appeal to UN for Peace
"We have been experiencing a steady erosion of our rights over the years. Now under Emergency rule, most of the rights enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights have been derogated. Even the sacred rights not to be subjected to torture, which cannot under any circumstances be derogated, is in practice denied, as evidenced by the forensic experts involved in the exhumation of the graves at the village of Chemmani.
The problem of hundreds of disappearances is being treated with utter indifference by the relevant authorities. For a small nation like ours, the bloodshed has been too enormous and the violence to human dignity too barbarous".
This was stated in a memorandum, addressed to the Secretary General of the United Nations Organisation, Kofi Annan by the Consortium of Human Rights Agencies in Jaffna. Copies were also handed to the UNHCR, UNDP and the ICRC in Jaffna on International Human Rights Day by the representatives of the Consortium at the respective offices.
The memorandum further highlighted the present plight of the starving people in the war-torn areas of the Vanni district without food and medical supplies for over a month and the fact that they were totally overlooked by the establishment in the run-up to the forthcoming presidential election. The memorandum further stated that last month, the LTTE leader had publicly declared his readiness for peace negotiations through third party mediation.
The consortium of Human Rights Agencies has stated that they firmly believe that the United Nations Organisation is the most suitable mediator in the current crisis. They have added that every member of the international family however insignificant deserves the concern of the UN in the arena of international politics.
The Consortium of Human Rights Agencies also appealed to the UN to prevail on the warring parties for an agreement on the immediate cessation of hostilities and the initiation of peace talk. (an extract from "The Weekend Express" of December 18-19, 1999)
A.Vinayagamoorthy Attorney at Law & Notary Public - Press Release - 25/01/2000
I, as an Attorney-at-law, a Human Rights Activist and as President of All Ceylon Tamil Congress which is a registered Political Party very strongly condemn in no uncertain terms the action of the Police and Army in declaring a curfew recently and arresting more than five thousand Tamils including mothers with child in arms during a cordon and search operation with the help of masked men at dead of night and parading them along the streets.
This kind of action humiliates the Tamils and this is done because the Tamils, who are citizens of this country are regarded as third class citizens who have no one in Sri Lanka to complain. They are treated as chattels and animals.
Since the Tamils of Sri Lanka have no one to complain about the atrocities perpetrated on them they can only complain to the international community and ask for protection from the international community or from the United Nations.
This kind of cordon and search operation and arrest of innocent Tamils does not take place in any civilised society in any part of the world. Law does not permit this kind of arrest and this is a blatant violation of the Fundamental rights of those arrested, guaranteed by Articles 13(1) and 13(2) of the Constitution. In a similar incident sometime back which took place in the house of Mr. Anura Bandaranayake Member of Parliament when a Police Party went to his house and merely disturbed him at dead of night he complained to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court declared that his fundamental right had been violated and awarded him compensation.
It is very disturbing and saddening to note that two ladies mother and daughter have been raped at the Bambalapitiya Police station after they were taken there at dead of night after arresting them during the said cordon and search operation.
Was the cordon and search operation carried out after declaring a curfew only for the purpose of taking innocent women to the Police Stations to be raped?
I am at a loss to understand as to why the international community and their missions to Sri Lanka turn a blind eye to the atrocities perpetrated on innocent Tamils.
At least at this juncture I earnestly request the Inspector General of Police and the Army Commander not to repeat this kind of exercise.
Appathuray Vinayagamoorthy (Signed), Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Children and Women Affected by Armed Conflict by in Sri Lanka
(UNICEF - Colombo, Sri Lanka - September 1999)
Over 614,000 persons are currently internally displaced in Sri Lanka today, although it is difficult to give precise estimates due to the rapidly fluctuating situation. Out of an estimated 900,000 children in the North and East 300,000 children have been displaced and approximately 270,000 remain displaced to day. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) constitute the most depressed community group of the conflict.
The population in the Jaffna district has been reduced from its 1995 figures of 738,788 to the present estimate of 497,347. It is estimated that approximately 280,000 are under the age of 18.
The region continues to be economically and physically marginalised from the rest of the country. Fishing affected by security restrictions. Female-headed households are the worst affected. The number of registered widows is 19,000.
The population of Vanni in mid 1997 was estimated to be around half a million. Following several military operations it decreased to through displacement to 367,367 as at March 1999. This number comprises around 289,779 IDPs. New displacement take place whenever there are military operations.
According to the education department, non-attendance in many schools is said to be over 30%.
Although the Government distributes food rations to the uncleared areas, in 1998 the supply was cut by about 40%, most directly affecting the displaced populations in Killinochi and Mullaitivu districts. The supply of food items is also subject to embargoes and manipulation, especially during periods of active operations between the two parties.
The three districts of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara with a population of around 1.2 million in 1998 are estimated to include around 60,000 IDPs living in 22 welfare centres.
District neighbouring conflict areas : the 'border villages'
Puttlam, Mannar and Anuradhapura districts are adjacent to the conflict areas in the north and east and continually face the threat of sporadic attacks.
Currently there are around 95,600 displaced persons in and around these districts. 56,900 persons are in welfare centres and 38,700 persons live with hose families who have themselves been poverty stricken.
It's time for action (Extracted from 'The Sunday Times' of February 20, 2000)
Child labour and child abuse are serious issues in Sri Lanka but in the absence of proper data, planners have not been able to ascertain the extent of the problem to formulate proper and practical strategies to tackle these issue.
There have been various figures on child labour, particularly the number of child domestics employed, but these have often been 'guess estimates' with figures ranging from the thousands to more than 100,000.
The survey, released to the media on February 8, reveals that close to a million children between the ages of five and 17 years are working or are engaged in some form of economic activity. But the survey carried last year by the Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) has under-reported the extent of domestic child labour where the majority of child abuses cases occur.
It estimated that of the 4,344,770 children between the ages of five to 17, living in Sri Lanka at the time of the survey, 926,038 or 21 percent of them were engaged in some form of economic activity. Sri Lanka's population is 18.5 million.
Child rights activist, Mallika Ganasinghe, a former IPEC-ILO national programme officer in Colombo, described December's amendment to the EWYPC Act and ratification of the ILO convention as landmark events in child labour legislation.
'This is quite a significant development. In fact the Act prescribed 14 years as the minimum age at the outset but in 1956 it was lowered to 12 years through a gazette notification to allow the employment of domestic servants' she said.
Much of the child abuse as been reported in urban house holds in Colombo, whist employ children as servants. Cases of assault, torture, rape and even death have been reported amongst child domestics who come from plantation areas where their parents are unable to feed, clothe or send them to school. The Child Activity Survey of 1999 also found that the number of working children in the 5-14 years category when they should be at school was 25,533.
Norwegian mediation in Sri Lanka (Sinhalese point of view by Nalin de Silva )
Norwegian Foreign Minister, Mr. Knut Vollebaek is supposed to come to Sri Lanka on the invitation of Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar. The president Ms. Chandrika Kumaratunga in her edited version of the BBC interview in London, soon after the bomb explosion on the eighteenth of December last year, said that on a previous occasion she had requested Norway to facilitate talks between the government and the LTTE. It appears that Sri Lanka is very keen to get Norway involved in talks with the LTTE.
Why should Norway be so much interested in our problems? Why do they want the Sri Lankan government to have talks with the LTTE? In the house of lords in Britain one of the members had requested those concerned to persuade Prabhakaran to come to the negotiating table. Instead of helping the Sri Lankan government to defeat the LTTE militarily these western European countries want the government to agree to talks on Prabhakaran's conditions. One should not forget that Prabhakaran, the LTTE and the other Tamil racist parties insist that the Thimpu conditions are non-negotiable. This means that the Sri Lankan government has to accept that the Tamils are a different nation, northern and eastern provinces are the traditional homeland of the Tamils and that the Tamils have the right of self-determination even before they come to the negotiating table.
The leaders who are the products of a non-national education given by the British imperialists do not understand the history and the culture of the country. They are very often token Buddhists who do not belong to the culture of the people. Most of them are "thuppahi" in the apt terminology of Mr. Philip Gunawardane, who introduced Marxism to Sri Lanka and who was instrumental in adopting Trotskyism by the LSSP.
The present NGO "intellectuals", are only the inheritors of the "thuppahi" culture, who can only translate the knowledge, created by their masters in the west into the "vernacular", like slaves. I am told that thuppahi is the Sinhalised version of a Portuguese word meaning translator. Incidentally these NGO's are financed by countries such as Norway.
According to the "Irida Divaina" of 13th February, Norway is of the opinion that after a cease-fire is declared by the government and the LTTE a peace keeping force similar to that of the united nations should be sent to the north and the east to monitor any violent activities. Has the government agreed to this? We have some experience with these peace keeping forces and Sri Lanka can do without such forces in the future.
The "Irida Divaina" further states that Norway is already in touch with the LTTE using satellite communication. According to the Tamil Net Mr. Knut Vollebaek has already met with Anton Balasingham in London. Apart from preparing the groundwork with respect to the logistics, which one could argue is what is expected from a facilitator, (not that we agree to the concept of a facilitator) as the "Irida Divaina" goes on to reveal, Norway has interfered with our internal politics. The paper informs us that the Norwegian diplomatic sources emphasise the need of a "political solution" to fulfil the aspirations of the Tamils in this country as their rights are not protected by the existing legislation. Could Mr. Knut Vollebaek, before he leaves the country, enlighten us on these aspirations and rights, as the minister G. L. Peiris and his followers have failed to do so during the last four and half years.
If the west and the NGO's are so confident that the Sinhala people are not against a "political solution" how do they account for the fact that the government has taken more than four years to introduce the draft constitution to the parliament. The west and the NGO intellectuals who conduct surveys using artificial samples asking loaded questions believe that the Sinhala people are in agreement with the political package. If we are to believe these surveys then the most widely read book in Sri Lanka is the Koran.
The west and the NGO intellectuals do not understand how the mind of the Sinhala people works and neither we are going to conduct tuition classes on that subject. I have very often come across the simplistic argument that the UNP and the PA together polled some 94% of the valid vote at the last presidential elections and that means that the overwhelming majority of the Sinhala people are in agreement with some kind of political solution to the so-called problem of the Tamil people. This argument is valid only if the people who voted for the PA and the UNP had only this question in their minds when they went to the polling booths last December. Leave alone the general public. There are many MPs in the UNP as well as the PA who are not in agreement with the so-called political solution and I do not think that they voted for Mr. Harishchandra Wijetunga at the last presidential election.
Why does Norway act in this manner? Norway, which got independence from Sweden only in 1905, is obsessed with the right of self-determination for nations, a concept that was formulated for them about hundred years ago. Having got some money from petroleum and minerals in the last three decades they are acting like a new rich person who has found a cause to spend money on. Like the other western countries they are propagating their culture and are interested in destroying the indigenous cultures in the other regions. They have found only recently the "Christian zeal" of the other western European states that came to Asia and Africa in the sixteenth century and thereafter.
While Norway with their newly found "Christian Zeal" is "applying" (they may use better words in the jargon of international diplomacy) pressure on the Sri Lankan government to start negotiations with the LTTE, on Prabhakaran's conditions, what are the Christian European countries doing about the IRA problem? After all the children of the same God are involved on either side. There was no talk of unconditional negotiations between the IRA and the government of Mr. Blair.
Aren't they more concerned about a problem very close to their homes? Don't they have more sympathy towards the Catholic IRA than towards the LTTE? Or is it that the LTTE, though fighting ostensibly on behalf of the Hindu Tamils (after all that is how it is presented to the world - that the Sinhala Buddhists are denying the rights of the Tamil Hindus), a Christian organisation in disguise supported by the Church hierarchy?
The LTTE is only interested in an Eelam or a confederation that is nothing but a de facto separate state. There have been many discussions between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE and we know what the LTTE is after. Norway in their so-called facilitation is only helping the LTTE to achieve what they want. Mr. Knut Vollebaek has apparently no time to meet the Sinhala organisations. It was a mistake if some Sinhala organisations had asked for an appointment to meet him. All we have to say is that Mr. Knut Vollebaek is not welcome in Sri Lanka. He should find more time to help Britain to find a solution to the Irish problem closer to home. (extracted from "The Island" of February 15, 2000)
Peace with War (S. Sivanayagam - Editor in chief, Hot Spring - January/February 2000)
After sixteen years of war by successive Sinhala governments, in which several war ministers and several generals have come and gone, have failed to cow down Tamil resistance, we have at last come to the stage where a serious peace process has been initiated, thanks to the dogged efforts of the Norwegian government. President Chandrika has, it appears, adjusted her "War for Peace" strategy to one of "Peace WITH War". But if she thinks that the 1-year time-frame for talk with the LTTE which she negotiated with visiting Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek, along with her hefty 728 million dollar war budget for the Year 2000 will give her enough time and resources to try a final knock-out blow at the LTTE, she must be making a wrong calculation.
There is no doubt at all that Norway is the only country in the world with a proven record of working for peace. She is also the only country that has to her credit, peace-time funding for development projects in the north. Foreign Minister Vollebaek had rightly called for "courage and sacrifices" from both sides to enable him to carry the peace process forward. Courage and sacrifices are not new to the Tamil Tigers and Tamil people. If, given the best efforts of Norway, all what President Chandrika is trying to do is to use that government's good offices as cover for any secret agenda of hers, no one should blame the Tigers if they say - "NO WAY".
U.S. Department of State - February 25, 2000
(Excerpts from the 1999 Country reports on Human Rights)
Security forces committed numerous extra-judicial killings, and almost certainly killed prisoners captured on the battlefield. In addition up to 15 individuals disappeared from security forces custody in Vavuniya and in the east. In the past, persons also have disappeared or have been killed after last being seen near the army's forward defence lines in the north, areas civilians are ordered by the military to avoid.
No arrests were made in connection with the disappearance and presumed killing of at least 350 civilians whom the security forces suspected were members or sympathisers of the LTTE in Jaffna in 1996 and 1997.
In 1997 three regional commissions published a report that documented that more than 16,000 persons had disappeared over the period from 1988 to 1994 after having been removed forcibly by security forces (including paramilitary organisations) and antigovernment elements, primarily the leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). A fourth commission was established in May 1998 to investigate the 10,000 cases of disappearance that the first 3 commissions could not investigate before their mandates expired.
There are several former Tamil insurgent organisation that now are aligned with the Government. These pro-government Tamil militants, who are armed and at times directed by the security forces, sometimes committed extra-judicial killings and were responsible for disappearances, torture, detention, extortion and forced conscription in Vavuniya and the east.
Impunity remains a serious problem. Since April 1995 at least 761 persons have been killed extra-judicially by the security forces or have disappeared after being taken into security force custody and are presumed dead. With the exception of the six security force personnel convicted in 1996 killing of Krishanthi Kumaraswamy, no member of the security forces has been convicted for any of these crimes. In the vast majority of cases where military personnel may have committed human rights violations, the Government has not identified these responsible and brought to justice.
These who disappeared in 1999 and in previous years are presumed dead. The commander of the army and the Inspector General of police both have criticised the disappearances and stated that the perpetrators would be called to account. Nonetheless, there have been very few security force personnel prosecutions to date.
Prisons conditions generally are poor and do not meet minimum international standards because of overcrowding and lack of sanitary facilities. An increase in detentions associated with the war with the LTTE caused a significant deterioration in already poor standards in short-term detention centres as well in uncleared detention centres run by pro-government Tamil groups such as the PLOTE.
The Government detained more than 1,970 persons under the ER and the PTA during the year, a slightly higher number than in 1998. The majority of these arrested were released after periods lasting several day to several months ; however, the total number of prisoners held under the ER and PTA was consistently close to 2,000. Hundreds of Tamil who were arrested under PTA were being held without bail awaiting trial ; some of these persons have been held for up to 5 years. According to the Attorney General, there are almost 1,000 cases under the PTA or ER before the high courts. Although over 1,000 cases under the PTA and the ER were before the courts, no cases came to trial during the year.
Tamil Centre for Human Rights (TCHR) (established 1990)
Le Centre Tamoul pour les Droits de l'Homme - CTDH
Headquarters - 9, rue des Peupliers, 95140 - Garges les GonesseFRANCE, E-mail : [email protected], Fax : 33 - 1 - 40 38 28 74 Branches: Switzerland & Germany - P. O. Box : 319 Homeschr Str - 16 8172 - Niederglatt 41189 - Monchengladbach; United Kingdom - 88, College Road P. O. Box : 3174, Manchester - M16 8FH Noble Park 3174; Australia - E-mail : [email protected] Fax : 61 - 3 - 95 46 63 48; Netherlands - 422F, Moodie Drive Steelingmolen 43, Nepean 1703 TE Heerhugowaard; Canada - Ontario,Tel/Fax : 31 - 72 - 57 15 801