"To us all towns
are one, all men our kin.
|Home||Whats New||Trans State Nation||One World||Unfolding Consciousness||Comments||Search|
Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sri Lanka Accused at United Nations > UN Commission on Human Rights, 1985
UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
41ST SESSIONS: FEBRUARY 1985
"...To be in the company of the same notorious league as Paraguay, Guatemala, Peru, El Salvador, South Africa, Indonesia etc, must have really hurt the Sri Lankan delegation headed by no less a person than the Sri Lankan Presidents brother Mr H.W. Jayewardene QC. The presence of this heavyweight, with five others including Mr Jayantha Dhanapala. the Sri Lankan Ambassador in Geneva and the Deputy Solicitor-General, Mr Sunil de Silva, indicated the nervousness of the Sri Lankan government..."
- Memorandum to Commission on Human Rights by Human Rights Council, Standing Committee on Tamils, London, 2 March 1985
"...The Sri Lankan government's attempt to explain away the violation of its international obligations under the UN Covenants by raising the spectre of 'separatism and terrorism' can no longer be acceptable particularly in the context of the termination of the All Party Conference (APC), and its obvious recourse to a military solution to the ethnic conflict in that country...."
Review of Session Proceedings by Special Correspondent, Tamil Times, March 1985
For the first time in two years, the spotlight turned on Sri Lanka, during the 41st sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) held recently in Geneva, for its appalling record of human rights violations.
To be in the company of the same notorious league as Paraguay, Guatemala, Peru, El Salvador, South Africa, Indonesia etc, must have really hurt the Sri Lankan delegation headed by no less a person than the Sri Lankan Presidents brother Mr H.W. Jayewardene QC. The presence of this heavyweight, with five others including Mr Jayantha Dhanapala. the Sri Lankan Ambassador in Geneva and the Deputy Solicitor-General, Mr Sunil de Silva, indicated the nervousness of the Sri Lankan government.
Fearing that an adverse resolution was a likely possibility, the Sri Lankan delegates spared no efforts to avoid such an eventuality. Dinners, lunches, and tea parties for chosen government delegations and delegates from Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs). behind-the-scenes manipulations. etc., saw no limits as far as the Sri Lankan delegation was concerned.
It appeared that Argentina, which had acquired a remarkable reputation in governmental forums, specially after the overthrow of the military regime and the vigour with which it is pursuing action against the former dictators for crimes committed against the Argentina people, was prepared to sponsor a resolution against Sri Lanka with the full backing of the Indian delegation. In fact, many member countries had conveyed their support for such a resolution.
As the lobbying was gathering momentum, with several NGOs taking an active interest, the prospect of a resolution against Sri Lanka seemed very bright. This sent the Sri Lankan delegation into a renewed frenzy of activity. The danger signals would appear to have been relayed back to Colombo. The government there, which had up to then rejected any form of negotiations with a role for India in regard to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, despatched its Minister of National Security to New Delhi to meet Mr Rajiv Gandhi. What happened between the two at Delhi is anybody's guess, but one thing was certain, and that was Sri Lanka was resuming negotiations with the Indian government.
Indo-Sri Lanka talks?
This apparent change in Colombo's attitude towards Delhi would appear to have had a considerable influence on what was going on at Geneva and eventually the deadline for resolutions passed without the anticipated resolution on Sri Lanka being tabled. It is not without significance that the head of the Indian delegation, Mr Dhillon, said on March 13 during his intervention before the UNHRC, 'I would not like to say more because consultations are under way between our two governments for defusing the situation so that a climate conducive to a political settlement is created.'
The fact that a resolution was not tabled did not prevent delegates from slamming Sri Lanka for the gross violations of human rights in Sri Lanka. Nine NGOs had already circulated a comprehensive statement in English. French and Spanish on the current situation in Sri Lanka, covering such subjects as extrajudicial and summary killings, torture, indiscriminate arrests, incommunicado detention, forcible evacuation of Tamils from their homes and settlement of Sinhalese in Tamil areas, army excesses, attack on democratic institutions, the new emergency regulations and their adverse impact on civilian life and the exodus of Tamil refugees to India.
A number of government delegates from several countries made direct references to the current crisis in Sri Lanka and roundly condemned the indisciplined conduct of the Sri Lankan security forces.
The leader of the Irish delegation, Mr F.M. Hayes, stated that it was the duty of the Sri Lankan government to ensure that human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Sri Lanka 's were fully safeguarded. He said that the Irish government was disturbed at the numerous reports of human rights violations committed against the Tamil population by the security forces. Rejecting the excuse that the excesses were committed by 'indisciplined members of the security forces', Mr Hayes said, it is, however, 'the government which trains and deploys these forces, and it is the government which remains responsible for their actions.'
He added that the government's efforts to seek a military solution to the problem are contributing to a spiral of violence which, if allowed to continue unchecked, will result in continued suffering of the innocent civilian population. To avoid this outcome and prevent increasing alienation of the Tamil population it is necessary that their legitimate aspirations and grievances be met within the framework of the Sri Lankan state.'
Delegates from other countries including The Netherlands. Sweden, West Germany and Australia, also expressed similar sentiments. The statement from India was much more comprehensive.
Among the NGOs, the International Commission of Jurists. Amnesty International, Pax Christi, Pax Romana and Centre Europe-Tiers Monde dealt with the current situation providing graphic accounts of the violation of human rights in Sri Lanka.
The several hundred delegates and observers were given a harrowing account of the random murders, arson and rape and other forms of atrocities committed against the Tamil people by the security forces and heard an impassioned plea for concrete action by the UN Human Rights Commission from Mr P. Rajanayagam who spoke on behalf of Centre Europe-Tiers Monde. The interventions by Mr Rajanayagam, a Sri Lankan Tamil himself, who narrated the tragic tale of how his own family had been forced to flee by boat to India due to military terror, must have caused serious embarrassment to the Sri Lankan delegation, which has time and again endeavoured to keep Tamil human rights activists out of such forums by bringing pressure upon NGOs not to grant accreditation. The embarrassment was quite apparent from the behaviour of the members of the Sri Lankan delegation who tried to hide their faces away from the staring looks of the delegates present.
Memorandum to Commission on Human Rights by Human Rights Council, Standing Committee of Tamils, London, 2 March 1985
'...it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, then human rights should be protected by the Rule of Law" - Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The question of gross violation of human rights in Sri Lanka demands urgent attention particularly in the light of the grave situation that has arisen in that country. The Sri Lankan government's attempt to explain away the violation of its international obligations under the UN Covenants by raising the spectre of 'separatism and terrorism' can no longer be acceptable particularly in the context of the termination of the All Party Conference (APC), and its obvious recourse to a military solution to the ethnic conflict in that country.
2. The government of Sri Lanka, in its Note Verbale dated 30th January 1984 (E/CN.4/1984/l0, 1. February 1984) distributed to the delegates to the Human Rights Commission at its 40th sessions, inter alia, stated
"The Government of Sri Lanka is fully committed to strengthening of national unity by promoting co-operation and mutual understanding among all people of Sri Lanka... As a part of this process, in January 1984, the President of Sri Lanka summoned a Conference of all political parties representing various ideologies and ethnic groups, with a view to discussing the relevant issues and proposals concerning the rights of the minorities and finding solutions acceptable to all parties concerned within the democratic framework of the country....
The events of July 1983 were caused by a minority of lawless elements in particular circumstances. The guilty have been or are being punished and the Government has initiated a complex and sensitive political process to deal with the fundamental issues which led to the events of July 1983. In this Context, the constructive approach of the international community is to desist from any action or comment on the situation in Sri Lanka." (our emphasis)
It is in the above context, and the various assurances given by the Sri Lankan delegation, the Commission at its 40th sessions desisted from examining the serious complaints of violation of human rights in Sri Lanka, and appealed for and welcomed all measures for national harmony and reconciliation.
ALL PARTY CONFERENCE
3. The various assurances given by the government of Sri Lanka have not been kept, the All Party Conference (APC) has been terminated without a settlement having been reached to the ethnic conflict and violence has escalated to alarming proportions in the course of which further gross violations of human rights are continuing to take place.
4. The manner in which the APC was conducted, and the actions that the government took while the APC was in session throw serious doubt as to the sincerity of the government to achieve national reconciliation on the basis of the recognition of the rights of all sections of the people in Sri Lanka. The President widened the participation in the APC by inviting 'interest groups' which had hitherto opposed any concessions to the minorities. The Annexure 'C' proposals were agreed to by the President as the basis for negotiation at the APC, and these proposals provided for a measure of devolution of power through the setting up of regional councils. However the Annexure C proposals were abandoned by the government no sooner the APC got under way.
5. The APC was postponed month after month while the government was placing heavy reliance on military means. A process of militarisation was undertaken, including the hiring of foreign mercenaries and the services of the dreaded Mossad.
6. The most crucial factor which brought the APC to its predictable inglorious end was the government's failure to create a climate in the country in which a negotiated solution could have been achieved. The government's extravagant and massive offensive against the Tamil people in general, putting thousands of them in detention in army camps, and permitting its troops to commit unprecedented acts of arson, murder and other forms of atrocities accompanied by giving wide publicity in the state-controlled media to widely exaggerated accounts of 'terrorist' attacks, a government initiated campaign of a 'National Defence Fund', an appeal to the Sinhala people to volunteer to fight the Tamils from dividing the country, and a loathsome and well orchestrated campaign to whip up anti-Tamil hysteria and a war psychosis based on an imaginary invented invasion' from India were hardly the actions of a government which wanted to produce a political and social climate of respect for the rights of the Tamil people in the country. Every action and speech by the government's leaders from the President downwards were consciously calculated to undermine that necessary climate and incite the Sinhala people against the Tamils.
7. Even as the APC was in session, the government promulgated new Emergency Regulations which, while giving unlimited powers to an army described as the 'most undisciplined in the world', put the Tamil areas under virtual military siege.
8. Even before the APC was formally wound-up on December 16, the government announced its plans for settling Sinhala people in predominantly Tamil areas of the north and east to reflect the nationwide population ratio of 75% Sinhalese to 25% other ethnic groups. This can hardly be an act of a government which was serious about the resolution of the ethnic problem through decentralisation. The government also announced plans for training and arming the Sinhalese newly settled in Tamil areas. In fact pictures appeared in the Sri Lanka press showing the Minister of National Security giving lessons to some new settlers in the use of guns. This act of arming one section of the people as against another minority section of the population can hardly constitute an act in furtherance of reconciliation and harmony between the two communities.
On the contrary, what the government has done is deliberate incitement and encouragement to civil war. A foretaste of this was seen in the killing that took place in the Dollar and Kent farms in the Vavuniya district at the beginning of December 1984.
These two farms were previously set up at great cost and labour by the Gandhiyam organisation, a charitable institution, to settle Tamil plantation workers displaced during racial violence in 1977 and 1981. Around mid-1984, the security forces terrorised and chased away these Tamil settlers, and later in their place Sinhalese re-convicted criminal elements, many of them involved in the prison massacre of 53 Tamil political prisoners in July 1983 in the Welikade maximum security prison) were settled in these farms. They began to terrorise the local Tamil population and as a result a Tamil militant group carried out an attack on these farms in the course of which several of the new settlers were killed.
While one does not countenance or condone such killings, this incident must have served as a lesson for the authorities that forcible evacuation of Tamils from their areas and settling Sinhalese in their place is a recipe for civil war between the communities. However, the government is relentlessly pursuing this programme with a massive use of force against the Tamils and financial and armed support for the new Sinhala settlers. The Ministers and MPs have appealed to Sinhalese in other areas to volunteer to settle in Tamil areas. A Cabinet Minister, Mr. Sarachandra Ratnakara, announced : "All able bodied persons going to the north to settle down will be trained in the use of arms and on defence tactics. Each family would have a 3 .L/2 acre piece of land to cultivate. The government would construct houses for them, They will have to live there under the protection of the armed forces".( Sri Lanka, Sun 10 January 1985)
NEW EMERGENCY REGULATIONS
9. The termination of the APC by the government was preceded by the promulgation of a number of new Emergency Regulations on November 28 last year. Under these Regulations a Prohibited Zone has been set up along the entire northern coast covering a distance of 5km seawards and 100 metres landwards. All forms of human habitation and activity are banned within the Zone. The ban on fishing has deprived several thousands of fishermen of their livelihood. Some of the northern districts have been declared a Security Zone where movement of people are severely restricted by the ban on the ownership and use of vehicles of all descriptions, including bicycles without special permits. Only a few roads have been approved for use. All people are compelled to carry identity cards and no one shall leave or enter the Security Zone without special permits. The Civil Rights Movement of Sri Lanka has summed up the disastrous impact of these regulations as 'disruption of the entire civil life of the community'.
10. The government of Sri Lanka has endeavoured to depict the Prohibited Zone as just a sandy tract along the sea coast. How the small village of Valvettiturai situated in the northern tip of Jaffna is affected demonstrates not only the patent falsity of the government's' claim, but also the dire consequences arising from the creation of the Prohibited Zone
"Fifty per cent of the 14,000 inhabitants of Valvettiturai are estimated to live within the prohibited zone; five of the seven schools, the hospital, the post office, the Urban Council office, the burial ground and the crematorium all lie within the prohibited zone. What will result, if all the prohibited zone regulations are rigorously implemented, is the disruption of the entire civil life of the community". (Civil Rights Movement of 'Sri Lanka, 25.1.85)
11. While the entire Tamil population is suffering under the adverse impact of the draconian new Emergency Regulations, the "Sri Lankan Armed Forces had unleashed a bloody campaign of terror..." and "..are committing the most grotesque crimes away from international notice...Jaffna may be only 300 miles north of Colombo, but it is a world apart. It is under siege. The 800,000 inhabitants of the peninsula live in the shadow of murder, arson, bombings and looting...As the first foreign reporter to reach Jaffna...I have spent three days listening to a series of appalling stories of rape, massacre and intimidation. I saw two bodies lying in the fields at Vaddukoddai eight miles west of Jaffna. Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam, a former HP for the area, claimed troops shot dead 40 civilians last week".(The Daily Telegraph, London, 17.12.84).
12. "Sri Lankan forces are conducting a harsh and remorseless campaign of intimidation among the island's Tamil minority. By means of random murder, indiscriminate shooting, beatings, torture and plunder, ill-disciplined and trigger-happy soldiers keep the Tamils in the north in a state of constant fear.
"Many thousands of people, mostly women and children, have fled to India and to Europe. Thousands of youths have been rounded up and held in army camps. Their parents do not know where they are: they have become Sri Lanka's
disappeared ones. There is strong evidence of beating, torture and murder of young men in army custody. Meanwhile, thousands of displaced people, driven from their homes in army 'combing out' operations, are in refugee camps". (The Times, London, 31.12.84, by Trevor Fishlock) (Please see Appendix A for further extracts of recent press reports).
13. The Report of the Amnesty International released in January this year record a catalogue of killings of innocent Tamil civilians, including old men, women and children. The Al asserts that, despite government denials, there is sufficient evidence to show that these are in fact indiscriminate extra-judicial killings by the security forces.
14. Thousands of Tamils have been indiscriminately rounded up and detained in army camps. Even in places outside the north and east Tamils have been taken into, custody in their thousands. The Lanka guardian of December 1 reported :"By 27th November, the security forces had taken into custody at least 4000 Tamils in Colombo". The Civil Rights Movement in their statement (January 25) said, "State security forces are now adopting, in the Jaffna district, the method of cordoning of f specific areas and then taking into custody all young Tamil males, falling usually between the ages of 15 and 30, caught within the cordoned areas. These persons are being taken into custody on the basis that they belong to a specific ethnic, age and sex group amongst whom there may be suspected offenders".
15. The systematic use of torture and other forms of ill-treatment of detainees in Sri Lanka has been the subject of voluminous reports by the Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists. The latest report of the Amnesty International (January 1985) confirms beyond doubt the continued systematic use of torture by the Sri Lankan security forces. (Please see Appendix B). The Sri Lankan delegate in his statement made on 25.2.85 during the current sessions of the Human Rights Commission, said:
"Any act by which one person intentionally or unlawfully causes severe pain or suffering whether physical or mental rightfully deserves condemnation. When such an act is committed not for personal sadistic satisfaction, but in the furtherance of an official purpose, it becomes a matter of international condemnation...Torture Mr. Chairman, whether as a sadistic end in itself or as a means to obtain information can never be countenanced by any civilised nation."
If the Commission were to adopt the position as stated by the Sri Lankan delegate, then Sri Lanka must rank very high on the list of countries that deserve international condemnation for its record on torture.
16. The Sri Lankan government would appear to explain away or justify the violation of its obligations under the UN Covenants on human rights upon the claim that there is an emergency in the country amounting to a war situation because of "terrorism". On the other hand, they deny permission to international relief agencies to go into the affected areas to provide relief to the thousands of refugees on the ground that there is no emergency or war situation to warrant intervention by relief agencies. The Sri Lankan government cannot and ought not be allowed to have it both ways. The reasons as to why the government of Sri Lanka is not permitting relief agencies are patently clear : firstly, the suffering and conditions of starvation inflicted upon the Tamil people are deliberate and calculated to serve as collective punishment and secondly, the government of Sri Lanka does not the world to know the extent of the violence, violations and depredations to which the Tamil people are subjected.
17 The three decades of neglect and refusal to solve the ethnic problem peacefully, the failure of successive governments to honour agreements solemnly entered into with the leaders of the Tamil people, the recourse to military suppression of even Gandhiyan style peaceful protests, the continuing discrimination and the often repeated anti-Tamil pogroms have, as a last resort, given rise to the twin phenomenon of separatism and political violence. Instead of applying all its energies in an honest attempt to seek a political solution on the basis of the recognition of the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil people, the government of Sri Lanka would appear to have decided on a military solution accompanied by a policy of totally changing the present demographic composition of Tamil areas calculated to achieve total Sinhala majority domination over the whole country thereby denying the Tami3. people their right and ability to maintain themselves as a distinct ethnic and cultural group in the areas in which they have traditionally lived.
18. It is in this context, the duty falls upon the Human Rights Commission to take such steps as are necessary to protect the human rights of all the people of Sri Lanka and particularly the beleaguered and threatened Tamil community.
The Guardian, 15 August 1984
Anti-terrorist police yesterday set fire to about 100 fishermen's huts and a dozen primitive houses and shops in the Tamil village of Valvettiturai 16 miles north. east of Jaffna.
When I arrived there yesterday.(14.8.84) afternoon, a pall of black smoke was rising from the fishermen 's huts clustered along the shore. The remains of the houses and shops destroyed in the main street were smouldering.
About 20 villagers led us gingerly through a maze of alleys from which we could see the huts being burned. The locals were terrified of showing themselves in case the special police opened fire. When they spotted some police coming towards us they bundled us into our rickety Morris Minor taxi urged us on our way.
Although I was unable to obtain confirmation of earlier charges that Valvettiturai was shelled from the sea with heavy losses of property, the villagers alleged yesterday that the shore was being machine-gunned for up to two hours every night by the navy.
Financial Times 16 August 1984
Officials in Mannar's port 195 miles north of Colombo, said they had seen soldiers setting fire to the shops. They also accused the army of shooting two civilians. Other army attacks on three nearby villages on Sunday and Monday left five dead and about 30 shops and houses burned, they added. Residents in several towns in the Tamil-dominated north have claimed that soldiers randomly attacked civilians to avenge rebel operations. The government has vigorously denied these charges. Officials who asked not to be named said about 70 soldiers arrived from a nearby military base on Sunday looted a liquor store and set fire to the main bazaar. Soldiers shot a man outside his cafe and threw his body inside it to burn. they added. A teacher was shot dead as he looked out of his front door. The soldiers. who stayed an hour. had slipped out of their base and could not be controlled by the local commander, one official said,
Mean while. in Jaffna. the frightened capital of Sri Lanka a north, funeral parlours are the only businesses sure to open round the clock these days. With residents staying in doors for fear of being caught in cross-fire between Tamil separatist guerrillas and the army almost all shops were shut. Taxi drivers rarely venture out. One was shot dead in his cab on Friday. On one almost deserted street. one Roman Catholic told journalists he was too frightened to go to Sunday mass. We art afraid we will gel shot."
The general hospital is working overtime but with only half its staff, doctors said. The rest have been afraid to come to work since the building was hit by gunfire on August 5 and 6. But the funeral parlours with names like New Bright House and White House, provide a 24-hour service for victims of the latest round of violence.
The Guardian 10 September 1984
Several thousand refugees from shelling by the Sri Lankan navy have fled to a camp on the Northern coast as the government continues its operation staged with the Israeli Secret Service advisers ….according to sources in Colombo, a camp for refugees has been set up at the village of Atchuveli, not far from Valvettiturai which was shelled earlier this week by the Sri Lankan navy. More than 2.500 civilians are said do have moved into the camp.' The section of Valvettiturai lying between the coastal highway and the sea was completely destroyed. Sri Lankan opposition sources claimed that large numbers of Tamils were killed in new Incidents in Jaffna's main street - the Hospital Street,'
The Times, London, 25 September 1984
Nineteen years old and pregnant, Mrs Kalavathi Thangathurai lay beside her husband in the dirt floor of their home, a mud-walled palm-thatched room in a compound housing 30 or more of their relatives.
'It was 9.30 pm, at night, and hurtling through the nodding palmyrahs came what one man later described as a 'fiery star'. It struck a corner upright of their shanty and exploded, showering fragments which pierced boles In bicycle wheels, in saucepans and in the walls. Kalavathi died. Her husband was injured.
'The random killing of Kalavathi is paralleled by the equally random killing of Captain Mohan Das in Point Pedro. The captain was having some trouble with one of his industrial endeavours and culled at the Post Office to make a long-distance telephone call. As he left he became caught up in a vengeful sweep through the little township by armed police who roared out of their camp after an ambush by Tamil extremists. They seized 20 gallons of petrol from the filling station near by, shot the captain, and drove off spraying bullets ad houses and people along the way.
A cyclist died at the next cross roads. An old lady visiting relatives for a wedding was shot through both feet - which have since been amputated. A mile further a 17-year-old boy was shot. At the hospital he was refused admittance by the police guard and later he bled do death, according to the local citizens' committee.
The police commandos called at Hartley College, one of the most distinguished education establishments in the north . Some 7,500 books from the school library were pulled from their shelves, piled up and burned. In classrooms and laboratories the old wooden furniture was likewise heaped up, soaked with petrol and set on fire.'
The Daily Telegraph, London, 18 December 1984
By David Graves in Jaffna, Sri Lanka
The Jaffna Citizens' Committee, an umbrella group of professional Tamils in the troubled north of Sri Lanka, appealed yesterday for the United Nations and International Red Cross to prevent further 'atrocities' by Government troops. Mr Ramalingam Balasubramaniam, a lawyer and committee secretary, said: " We must be protected to prevent further massacres by troops."
He alleged a further 65 innocent civilians had been killed by soldiers last month during search-and-arrest operations in the northern peninsula in which at least 1,200 men, mostly aged between 18 and 30, bad been detained.
The Government in Colombo has consistently maintained that the only civilians killed were those caught in crossfire between troops and Tamil rebels fighting for a separate State in the North and East of Sri Lanka.
Mr Balasubramaniam claimed more than 200 civilians had been massacred this year in the Jaffna peninsula. The Government is supposed to defend us yet the Army is killing us," he said. We need impartial observers to tell the world what is happening."
The government has admitted that 725 people, whom it described as terrorist suspects, had been initially detained last week during two round the clock curfew totaling 103 hours.
The Citizen's Committee secretary counterclaimed: "The Army has been simply rounding up every male aged between 18 and 30." Anxious parents clustered outside Mr. Balasubramaniam's home with letters from their son's employers guaranteeing their identity, so be could pass them on to the Government Agent in Jaffna to plead for their release. As they milled around him a woman aged 22 arrived eight months pregnant whose husband is overseas, to complain she had been raped by a soldier at gun point.
Tamil Times, December 1984/January 1985
Rev father Manuelpillai Mary Bastian, aged 37, parish priest of St Anne's Church in the village of Vankalai in the Sri Lankan northern Tamil town of Mannar was gunned down by a group of army men through the church window when he walked towards the door, dressed in his cassock and holding his rosary, to answer a knock on his church door at I am on Sunday, January 6 Thereafter, the soldiers broke the door open and shot dead two boys. aged 12 and 14 years. who were in the church. After killing the priest, the soldiers went to the nunnery in the same compound, ordered the nuns to line up outside and looted valuables including the Blessed Sacrament.
Fr. Bastian is the second priest to be killed by troops in Mannar during the last one month. On December 31, a Methodist Minister. George Jeyarajasingham, was killed along with two others and their bodies burnt. Several people of the locality who ran towards the church on hearing gunfire, were also machine-gunned by the army and it is reported that as many as 20 were killed on the spot. The body of the dead priest was dragged away by the army through the back door. 1k-spite pleas from the Bishops of Mannar and Jaffna to President Jayawardene for the release of the body for a Christian burial, the authorities have not so far acceded to the requests.
The Times London, 31 December 1984
From Trevor Fishlock, Jaffna
Sri Lankan forces are conducting a harsh and remorseless campaign of intimidation among the island's Tamil minority. By means of random murder, indiscriminate shooting, beatings, torture and plunder, ill disciplined and trigger happy soldiers keep the Tamils in the north in a state of constant fear.
With the vanishing of reason, the fight against Tamil separatist terrorists now has the shrill tones of naked ethnic conflict. The predominantly Sinhala army seems to have a free hand as it cracks down on the civilian population in the overwhelmingly Tamil Northern Province.
Military restrictions and the Army's savage response to Tamil terrorism, have almost shut down the economy of this region. At least 25,000 fishermen are prohibited from fishing, the sea having been declared out of bounds and there is growing anxiety in fishing communities and among civic leaders that unless food is brought into areas already chronically short of supplies, people will begin to starve.
Women have been selling their necklaces and bangles to buy food, but few dealers now have any money to buy their jewellery even at low prices.
Many thousands of people, mostly women and children, have fled to India and to Europe. Thousands of youths have been rounded up and held in army camps. Their parents do not know: they have become Sri Lanka's disappeared ones. There is strong evidence of beating torture and murder of young men in army custody.
Rigid curfew and a plethora of complex regulations and permits have reduced transport to over worked skeleton services. People find it hard to get to work and to transport food and raw materials. The army has a grip on the jugular of commerce. Factories are closing. Trade in most shops has dwindled away. It is becoming impossible to freight to and from Colombo by road.
People are dying because they cannot be taken to hospital in the 6pm to 5am curfew. Jaffna hospital is running out of vital drugs, oxygen and anesthetics.
Meanwhile thousands of displaced people, driven from their homes in army 'combing out' operations are in refugee camps. Father Michael Samy, Vicar General of Jaffna said "This is a reign of terror'.
The Bishop of Jaffna said: 'People live in fright and despair. They feel helpless. There is no equality or democracy left here any more. Tamils are being treated as second class citizens.'
The Army hits back with massive round ups and interrogation of youths. Troops have been looting and burning houses. Many women have complained of being robbed of jewellery. A civil servant said 'To the army, every Tamil is now a terrorist'.
A young clerk typical of a number of people interviewed sad: 'Everyone here is afraid. You know that the army has killed people for no reason and has shot them down on the streets. Those who can afford it are getting out of Sri Lanka. If I had the money I would go too. Those who will be left will be the old, the poor and the very young.'
The Times London , 2 January 1985
The largely Sinhalese forces are engaged in a bitter campaign against Tamil separatists in the north and cast of the island. But the army's rampages, looting murders and lack of discipline are terrifying the civilian population.
Staff at Jaffna general hospital have written to President Jayawardene protesting that doctors have not been issued with curfew passes, that there as no fuel for the ambulance that drugs are in short supply, that it as becoming hard to find food for patients and staff and that the treatment for patients suffering from diabetes, asthma avid hypertension has been so disrupted that many are dying at home.
Staff told me they see many victims of Army beating typically boys emerge from interrogation and spells of custody with multiple bruises caused by thrashings with PVC pipes filled with sand.
Some have heel fractures, having been suspended and beaten on the feet. A doctor said: "I see about five of these cases a week, but remember that many victims do not seek treatment because they are afraid or because it is impossible to travel. The Army is behaving atrociously. Troops think they have been sent here to make us submit."
Recently one of the medical staff escaped with her life when troops opened fire on two buses
in Jaffna killing five people, the doctor said. And a man and his ten-year-old son were shot out of hand on the street last week.
Another doctor said: "We can only do life or death operations now, so people are suffering.. We are not getting our drugs and anesthetics from Colombo (250 mites to the south). Four X ray machines are broken because we cannot get anyone to repair them. We have one machine which is partly working. He paused and added: "We think these people want to annihilate us."
The Times, London, 2 January 1985, Trevor Fishlock
The Sri Lankan Government's ban on fishing in the mainly Tamil north of the island, as part of its war against Tamil separatists is causing great hardship and threatening thousands of people with starvation, church and community leaders said.
The Vicar General of Jaffna said it was difficult to apply for government relief because of the complex bureaucracy and problems of transport permits and fuel.
In greater Jaffna alone, he said, 3000 families are not getting enough to eat. 'I have been watching them deteriorate. Another month of this and you will see a disaster.
With a lawyer who picked a route to avoid the dreaded army patrols, I drove to the fishing village of Myliddy, 12 miles from Jaffna. It has 1,550 fishing families and is usually relatively prosperous. Today many people are destitute and many have sold jewellery, the family treasure, to buy food.
The parish priest said the church was buying second grade rice to give families or two meals a day. Government has not issued a lorry permit and supplies are brought in by a driver taking a chance.
One fisherman, Aruna Salam, who has four children, said his wife had sold everything for food, but the family is going hungry on its diet of bread and rice. "It is just a question of survival", he said.
And it is not just the fishermen who are hit by the ban, but all the other people who depend on the fishing industry.
The Times London, 11 February 1985
News of another jungle massacre carried out by the armed forces in northern Sri Lanka is being circulated in this coastal town. According to the heavily censored Press, which has to rely exclusively on Government hand outs for news of activities by both Tamil separatist guerrillas and security forces, a raid on a, jungle camp during an operation around a number of villages in Mannar district 12 days ago resulted in the death of seven guerrillas and the capture of a considerable amount of military equipment. According to people who were there, the reality was quite different. Distraught villagers said no guerrillas were in the villages, that none were shot and no military equipment was seized. They said instead that 32 innocent men were shot in cold blood, often in front of their wives and children.
According to the Mannar Citizens Committee, an organisation which includes lawyers, Christian priests, shopkeepers, Muslim officials and others, and which as drawing up a letter to President Jayawardene giving details of the massacre, the soldiers also called at the village school, rousing out of their quarters the principal and his two assistants. All three were shot dead.
One man told me that their hands were tied behind them before them before they were shot. After the killings, the Army released seven bodies to the local mortuary. The villagers found and buried another four in the fields. "We estimate that 32 people were killed " , a member of the citizens' committee said. "But we think the Army has disposed of the other 20."
The committee points out that the Army now takes away the bodies of those it kills. After a massacre at the end of last year the security forces made the mistake of not taking the bodies away. leaving them in the fields and at the roadsides where they could be counted. The Army has still not heard the last of' it
The Times, London 15 February 1985
The Roman Catholics - Mannar has a 60% per cent Catholic population - were incensed a few days ago when the provincial head of an order of teaching monks, responsible for the whole of South Asia. a learned and distinguished man, and a Tamil, was, as they described it. "scolded with filth' when he had to pass the checkpoint dressed in his long white cassock.
Priests are not popular among the soldiery as they have been loud and vociferous in their condemnations of Army barbarism. I could take you off and kill you and burn your body." the security man was alleged to have screamed at the holy man. And it wouldn't be the first time."
The locals believe it is all part of deliberate policy to terrify them into submission. In August last year a gang of soldiers went berserk in the town after a rebel attack had burnt down a number of shops in the Grand bazaar.
The military commander appalled by what was going on according to local legend, prevented further soldiers from leaving camp by drawing his revolver and threatening to shoot, not them but himself.
He has, since been replaced by a man, the locals say, who has not made any expression of regret.
The population of' the little fishing town of Mullaittivu in the north of Sri Lanka has been doubled by the influx of about 10.000 refugees forced to flee from 10 villages near by the security forces, according to Tamil sources here.
The villages have been emptied by the security forces in their battle against Tamil separatist rebels in the area. The refugees, some -. farmers but mostly fishermen. are now living in circumstances of great deprivation in churches, schools arid other public buildings.
It was also made clear to the villagers that this could be regarded as a collective punishment to discourage support for similar attacks in the future.
The new settler s also will be armed and given weapons training. They are also likely to be recruited from prisons
The Times, London, 18 February 1985
The Sinhalese, the majority race in Sri Lanka, are essentially friendly people. They smile easily and wave as you drive past. But in putting down the insurrection by Tamils seeking a separate state in she northern and eastern provinces, they have displayed nothing short of barbarism. The Mannar Massacre is a case in point. 'On December 4 a vehicle carrying an army patrol was blown up by mine on the road leading through the jungle to the small northern town. One soldier was killed and 11 wounded.
In the carnage that followed troops poured out of their camps and according to the townspeople, killed more than 100 civilians. One group stopped a bus and ordered everyone off. The conductor, a Sinhalese, not a Tamil, told the soldiers that he was responsible for the safety of his passengers and before they killed them, they would have to shoot him first.
The soldier, accordingly shot him first, and then shot all the other male passengers, including the Muslim driver. Another 20 died when the same treatment was meted out to a busload of passengers travelling in the opposite direction.
Off the main road,. an army Jeep drove into the village of Parappankadal. The soldiers fired indiscriminately killing 12 people including a mother nursing her infant child at her breast. The child survived though three toes were blown away by the bullet that killed its mother.
No inquests will be held on these and other killings because, according to the security forces, the victims died in crossfire between the army and terrorists, and in such circumstances inquests can be dispensed with under the draconian emergency regulations.
A similar fabrication surrounds the death of 39 Tamil prisoners at Vavuniya 70 miles from Mannar, also in early December. The official version is that they were killed while trying to escape. In fact, a senior government official told me, "a soldier ran amok and emptied the magazine of an automatic weapon at them".
"We came north to avoid being killed by our neighbours in the south," one refugee told me. "Now where can we go to avoid being killed by the army here!"
"A lot at people here are now afraid to sleep its their homes." said one northern worthy, "so they take their mats and bedrolls into the jungle. Of course, there they may be taken for terrorists and shot. But they prefer to take that risk. You are shot it you stay at home, you're shot at if you go out. You are shot if you run when challenged, you are shot if you stand still. What can we do
The following is a statement alleging the use of torture in Elephant Pass and Thuriappah Stadium Army Camps in May 1984. The person making the statement was released after a week, no evidence of his involvement with Tamil extremist groups having been found:
"On 4 May 1984 at about 4.30 pm, I left home with my friends for Jaffna Bazaar and was returning home. When we were crossing the Vambadi Road - Third Cross Junction, I saw three army vehicles coming in the opposite direction. I heard a command and all vehicles were stopped and we were seized by army personnel (My friend) was immediately assaulted. I too was assaulted and then lifted and thrown into the vehicle. There were three others already stretched face downwards on the floor... When the vehicle started moving, I was hit with the butt end of the gun on the back and shoulders by the soldiers.. All five of us were then taken to Thuriappah Stadium Army Camp. While ... alone, a few soldiers pulled me by the hair, kicked me and punched ..... Seven other soldiers then came into a room and questioned me... 1 denied any knowledge ...
I was then asked to lie down on a bench face downwards. One soldier pulled my hands from behind and held them together tight. Another soldier seated himself on my outstretched legs, while another held my hair very tightly. I was then assaulted with loaded S/Lon pipe, heavy boots and a broom stick all over my body, including my face. My shirt was removed before this incident took place. A python was then brought and its head was thrust into my mouth and its tail into my ears. My pleadings were of no avail. The python was then put around my neck and it was trying to coil around me and I had to prevent it from doing so with great difficulty. At this time a high official of the army arrived and ordered him to stop harrassing me in that manner and it was stopped..."
That night he was taken to a police station, and the next morning he was taken by the army to Elephant Pass Army Camp. He stated:
"My body was aching with pain. While travelling to Elephant Pass Army Camp in the military vehicle, on the pretence of vomiting, I moved to the rear of the vehicle and tried to jump out. preferred to die while jumping out of the moving vehicle or be shot by the armed soldiers who were in the vehicle rather than undergoing further harrassment at the hands of the armed personnel. However, while trying to jump out I was caught and severely assaulted. We reached Elephant Pass Army Camp at about 11.30 am...
On 6.5.84 at about 6 pm I was taken with the three others to the Inquiry Room... I was then taken to a room where I was asked to strip myself completely naked and then made to hold on to an iron bar. Three soldiers came into the room and assaulted me with weighted S/Lon pipes on my back and I would have received about 200 shots. My back was swollen. I was then asked to sit on the floor and stretch my legs on the seat of a chair. While in this position a soldier seated himself on my outstretched legs. Another held me by the hair while another pulled off my hands which were supporting me and held them tight. Then another hit me with a loaded S/Lon pipe on my protruding feet. I was then asked to get up arid put on my trousers but couldn't get up
An officer then ordered that I be taken to the (Meat Stall) and I was dragged to another room. I was asked to remove my trousers and my legs and feet were handcuffed. I was then suspended on the roof by my legs with head downwards. A soldier standing on a drum hit me on both feet with a loaded S/Lan pipe, while another hit me on the back. The beating was so severe that, while trying to free myself, 1 broke the handcuff. Every half hour or so I was dropped suddenly and then pulled up again. I had to protect myself by shielding my head with my hands and this hurt me terribly. I was then let down but could not get up to walk. Two soldiers then carried me to a bathroom and poured water on me and I fainted... I was then taken to an office and was examined by a doctor who gave me some medicine and coffee. Next morning (7.5.84) I cou]d not get up ... My mother who had brought some clothes was not allowed to see me. The whole of that day 1 could not eat and was vomitting frequently. A few officers came and examined me and on seeing my condition ordered that I be sent to the Army Hospital in Colombo.
On arrival in Colombo I was taken to the Army Hospital where I was examined ... I was then
taken by a soldier to a room where I was asked to pull open a drawer. On opening the drawer with difficulty I found a naked corpse in it. I was then ordered to lift the dead body. When I declined I was assaulted. With difficulty I lifted the body and I was made to carry the dead body towards the door and bring it back and put it in the drawer. I did this with the greatest difficulty as the corpse was very heavy..."
He was taken back to Elephant Pass Army Camp and released after several days.
Another man alleges that he was tortured for being in possession of "subversive literature". He states that in fact he was arrested for carrying a poster, which he was given while waiting to board a bus and which he said he had put into his shirt pocket without having been able to read it. It was found during an army check at Madawachchiya on an unknown date in August. He was arrested, allegedly subjected to torture and also states he had seen other Tamil men having been subjected to torture in Panagoda Army Camp:
"When I was asked to empty my pockets and this notice came out the soldier plucked it from me and had it examined by someone else who said it was subversive literature... 1 came to understand that the leaflet was issued by a militant group... Immediately after the arrest I was promptly taken to the Anuradhapura Army Camp where I was questioned by certain officials about my connections with the Tamil extremist groups and I denied any connection with those groups and explained how I came to be in possession of the hand bill. At Anuradhapura I was not assaulted in any manner.
Immediately after interrogation I was despatched to Panagoda Army Camp where on arrival I was put into a dark room, stripped of all my clothes and made to lie on the floor. My hands and feet were chained and large spikes were inserted into my body. I underwent a lot of suffering. I was thirsty after this ordeal and I asked for water and I was given urine to drink and vomited blood due to the severe assaulting and torture. I was detained for four days at the Panagoda Army Camp ... I was assaulted with machine guns, iron rods on the knee joints."