Vadamaratchi: April/August 1989
Incidents of 13th ‑ 14th April : Nelliady
The Failure of Peace Keeping
21ST AUGUST Alavai ‑ Thambasiddy
The Medecins sans Frontiers at Point Pedro Hospital
It was pointed out in our previous reports, that the situation in the area was relatively peaceful in the presence of the IPKF until 1st June 1988. On this date the IPKF systematically rounded up and beat up the male population around Pt. Pedro, in response to the shooting of two soldiers by the LTTE. In the ensuing cumulative process of civilian resentment and harshness on the part of the IPKF, many young boys, particularly at middle school level, joined the LTTE. By March 1989, the IPKFs telephone lines were being destroyed. The visible presence of the LTTE increased as that of the IPKF declined. Unlike in the rest of Jaffna where the IPKF could go out in two vehicles and make an arrest, their mobility in Vadamaratch became increasingly restricted. In this process of rising alienation between the IPKF and the public, it became a commonplace assumption of the former that ordinary people were backers of the LTTE. Their day to day actions and reprisals betrayed such a feeling. The reality was of course far more complex.
Given the helplessness and humiliation of civilians in the course of IPKF actions, at least a passing sympathy for the LTTE was natural. For the young no alternative seemed to be given. But a large section of the civilians also had misgivings about the manner in which the IPKF was regularly provoked into showing its darker side, causing them immense suffering. The LTTEs program appeared to be based on the simple recipe of exposing the IPKFs oppressive character when under pressure -the same technique used against the Sri Lankan army with remarkable success. After two years on the job, the IPKF appeared to lack the flexibility to adopt a response that was human and sensible except in relatively isolated instances.
The sequence of events leading to the closure of Nelliady bazaar give a depressing picture of the IPKFs vision.
Another element enhancing the alienation between the people and the IPKF was the decline of Citizens Committees. It was pointed out in Report No.1 that CCs began as relatively independent organisations in 1984 with the exit of MPs. With the LTTEs dominance, they became weighted in favour of LTTE sympathisers. Soon after Indias overtures to the LTTE failed and a decision was made to elevate the EPRLF to provincial leadership, a number of CC figures who were allegedly close to the LTTE were assassinated. The LTTE too had previously assassinated CC figures.
By the end of the first quarter of this year, the LTTE had killed a number of remaining CC figures, some ostensibly accused of passing information, and contact with the IPKF became forbidden. Perhaps for reasons of state on both sides, Velvettithurai remained an exception. While the situation deteriorated sharply elsewhere in Vadamaratchi, an active citizens committee in VVT regularly protested against violations of citizens rights and kept it a zone of relative peace. This was looked upon with mixed feelings by others. But political forces at national and subcontinental level had created a strained atmosphere of suspicion where fragile arrangements were bound to break. Tragedy hit Velvettithurai with a poignant intensity on 2nd August resulting in 51 civilian deaths and 7 IPKF deaths according to the BBC.
Another factor which led to the total breakdown of CCs was the IPKFs own cavalier attitudes to the civilian leadership. One such instance was that of Proctor Rudra, a leading citizen of Pt. Pedro, who along with other such persons, was led at gunpoint on 13th February to perform election duties at the hustings two days later. On the way a grenade explosion was heard. Proctor Rudra and his companions were made to roll on the road and were assaulted by the troops with gun butts. They were later released when they pointed out to a senior officer that they had passed the age of retirement and were not government employees eligible to volunteer for election duty. The old sextegenarian was bedridden with aches and pains for a number of days. A popular joke in Vadamaratchi was that the only section of the economy doing well was that of the native physician. In the face of regular beatings by the IPKF, the pain relieving concoctions of the latter, blended from herbs and oils were said to be in great demand. (Amongst the elders to be manhandled by the IPKF in the course of time were two members of the University Council.) After being subject to such treatment, the natural leaders of the people were in no position to represent matters to the IPKF with dignity on an equal footing. In this situation the LTTEs demand to break all contact with the IPKF, h.ad in the eyes of the populace, a note of legitimacy.
Given the prevalence of attacks, shelling and breakdown, Vadamaratchi is tending towards a depopulated area. The IPKF should take a large share of the blame for this as well as for its own discomfiture. Its methods and misgovernment turned an area of relative peace into one of turbulence in a little over a year.
The rest of this section will sketch some of the developments.
13th April: Pt. Pedro
Mr. C. Balasingam (65), retired principal and Justice of Peace from Alvai and Vijayanathan alias Sinnathurai Babu (45) of Pt. Pedro were killed at Muruthady on the Jaffna road. According to local sources, the name and address of the latters son Sumanan had been in the diary of Hari which fell into IPKF hands. LTTE leaders Hari and Bhavan were ambushed in their hideout in early March. The IPKF had then taken in Sumanan, one of whose hands was fractured during detention. Sumanan was released on condition, that he would be brought to the camp to sign in regularly for a period. After some time Sumanan ran away to join the LTTE. The father had not taken to this kindly. Precisely what he had done is unclear.
A teacher S. Ganeshu of Puttalai M.V. was killed at his home the same day. Ganeshus cousin Mahendran, a tractor driver was killed around mid February. The allegation against Mahendran was reportedly that he had a relative in the EPRLF. This relative used to stop at Mahendrans for a chat when on patrol with the IPKF. Ganeshu is said to have expressed himself rather strongly on the killing of his cousin.
22nd April: Point Pedro Town
Some LTTE militants were coming up Iyenar Kaladdy Lane in order to cross the Jaffna road into the lane opposite. This was at 8.20 a.m. Coinci dentally 5 IPKF trucks were going towards Pt. Pedro camp along the Jaffna road. Some soldiers spotted the militants who had just come to the top of
the lane on bicycles carrying arms and fired at them. The shots struck the corner wall missing them. The militants fled the way they had come. Apparently in frustration, the soldiers fired into the air and at buildings breaking tiles. Those who had come to attend Dr. Vadivelus clinic which was at the cornor opposite crept to the rear. A man who had come on his bicycle. left his bicycle on the road and lifted his hands prayerfully. The soldiers let him creep into Dr. Vadivelus clinic.
Someone had to be blamed for the presence of the, LTTE at that junction. The IPKF left after breaking open the corner house. whose owners had gone visiting at that time,and putting a time bomb into it. When the owners returned. they could not find traces of their colour television in the debris.
30th April: Thambasiddy :near Point.Pedro
The IPKF did a round up of the area and made a surprise entry into the house where the area leader MOrris was having breakfast. In the encounter. 2 IPKF men. Morris and his two body guards were killed. The LTTE declared a hartal the following day. The IPKF detained the landlord. the lady and the son of the house concerned. Later the LTTE detained two persons on suspicion of having passed information. One of them. Inspector Sabaratnam (retired) was then killed. How guilt was ascribed to him is not known. But.the talk amongst the youth was that he had taken flight when the LTTE called and had jumped into a well. This was deemed proof of guilt.
lst May: Ist Mile Post. Point. Pedro
At 2.00 p.m. the LTTE fired at an IPKF convoy moving along the Jaffna road near Maruthady. from the front and from the rear. Two soldiers were reportedly killed and one militant wounded. Many of the residents had left the area when they saw the LTTE moving in. The IPKF then opened fire at random. Small shells were also fired into the surrounding area.
Mrs. Karunairajah. a teacher was caught unawares at home with her young son and daughter. Bullets seemed to come into the house from all directions. through the front door. the windows. up and down. They did not know whether to sit. stand or climb somewhere. Rev. Karunairajah. the head of the house and a Minister in the Methodist Church, was spending his sabbatical year in Britain. Mrs. Karunairajah took her two children to a corner and prayed. When the firing ceased, two soldiers forced themselves in through the front door. One soldier proceeded to smash up things while another began slapping the protesting mother. The children started crying. Then an EPRLF militant came into the house. spoke to the soldiers in Hindi, and the latter went out. The EPRLF militant left after telling the lady: Ammah. remember that I protected your chastity today.
Sometime later the house was approached by an officer with whom Mrs.Karunairajah had a passing acquaintance. Slightly relieved, she anxiously told the officer,We are innocent civilians. The officer asked them to follow him. Then addressing the crying girl he said. Come with me my child. Dont ,you trust me? They were taken to the nearby cool bar. Here they were joined by neighbours. including a disabled old lady from the shophouse opposite their home. Soldiers went about carrying out their duties setting fire to several shops and houses by setting off explosive
devices. In all about 4 shops and 5 houses were burnt with their belon-gings. Three shops were shelled. Many of the civilians who had not fled were assaulted.
Those having a ringside view of the pyromania from Joy Cool Bar were then told that they could go. No sooner had the Karunairajahs got home, than Joy Cool Bar exploded into flames.
Muruthady,was a crowded area that had, two years earlier received much attention from Sri Lankan Air Force bombers which caused much damage to life and property, always managing to miss the LTTE camp they were ostensibly after. The newly built cool bar was a sign that there was hope for Pt. Pedro. All signs were that life was going to be hot.
21st May Incident at Karanavai, Vadamaratchi
Manikkam Thanikasalam, a man in his early 30s had just returned home after working in the Middle East. He had built a house on his wifes property on the road going East from the Pt.Pedro -Jaffna road at Kunjarkadai. It was a quiet road, sometimes used by the IPKF to go towards Yakkarai. Thanikasalam had gone to Udupiddy on his motorcycle at 9.30 a.m. leaving his wife, Malar, with her mother. Malars fathers brother, an old man who could not walk much, lived in an older dwelling next door.
The LTTE had reportedly waited near the Jaffna road to attack the IPKF and later moved down Thanikasalams road. Most local residents had reportedly taken alarm and had moved out. The two ladies had their gate locked and were unaware of the goings on. Suddenly a group of boys jumped over the wall and one who came running to the back said something. What it was exactly, they cannot remember, but they understood that something alarming was going to happen and they must get away. Almost at the same time an explosion was heard as a grenade was flung at a passing IPKF vehicle.
The two ladies tried to break the fence so that the older lady could get through. The fence would not give. After an agonising physical and mental struggle, Malars mother managed to go over the back, and the two of them got away. Malars uncle stayed in his house.The boys had quickly got away, and the IPKF party moved off. Thanikasalam had tried to get back to his wife, but was unable to do so.
An IPKF party returned to the spot in the evening and entered Thanikasalams house. One soldier proceeded to smash some of the uncles meager belongings. The uncle protested while his electric kettle was smashed with a pounding pole. The Tamil speaking soldier replied that four of their men had been killed just outside and his neighbours had harboured the LTTE. The old man was later asked to lie on his back and shut his ears as the house next door was to be blasted. A loud explosion was heard and the soldiers
left. Thanikasalam managed to get into that area in the evening and look for Malar and her mother in the local temple where many residents had taken refuge. He found them the next morning at the house of some of their friends.
Their dog which was in a cage outside had survived the explosion. It was apparent from examining the wreckage that their TV deck and the almirah where valuables were normally kept had been removed before the explosive was set off. Their loss was estimated at 25 lakhs. They had not entertained the LTTE. Three days before the incident the LTTE had brought a blindfolded man to the uncle next door and had asked him to keep him and feed him. The uncle had declined stating that the IPKF used the road in front.
The LTTE threw a grenade at the IPKF camp at Navindil on the Udupiddy ‑ Malusanthi road, killing a soldier on sentry duty. This was followed by the sound of gunfire. Later the IPKF went down a lane along which they had seen the militants retreating. Entering a house, they came upon several people who had taken refuge. Amongst them were several young men. The son of the house was then pulled out and shot, the charge being reportedly that he wore a shirt resembling one worn by an attacker.
1st_July: Manthikai ‑ A Psychiatric Patients Fate
A young psychiatric patient, son of a CTB employee Sabaratnam, escaped from Manthikai (Pt.Pedro) Hospital. Later he boarded a Pt. Pedro bus near the IPKF Pt. Pedro camp, from the College Road, Beach Road junction where civilians seldom loiter. When asked by passengers if he was coming from the army camp, he reportedly replied along these lines,What is it to you, where I go? I can go where I please. When the bus reached the depot, some civilians badly assaulted him and handed him over to the LTTE as a suspected informant. Although the boy looked a pitiable sight with his clothes dishevelled and dirtied, no one dared to protest.
At 6.00 in the evening, he was brought to a point near the Puloly Co‑ op on the Jaffna Road, and an explosion was heard. His body lay there for 2 days with his head mangled. Many who saw it were unable to eat. This act was later interpreted to serve as a warning to anyone who lived there.
10th July: Point Pedro
The environs of Odaikkarai were shelled with light shells (6 long and 13/4 diameter) following an attack on a sentry point near Hartley College on the Western side of the IPKF camp. Troops then came out from several camps and about 10 civilians were killed and several others injured. Amongst the six killed in Pt Pedro was Rasiah, an electrician, who was shot in his home in his wifes presence. Two civilian cyclists were killed in Viyaparimoolai by troops who had stopped a bus from Colombo, ostensibly for trying to avoid the army. A school girl looked out of her window and saw some soldiers. A bullet pierced her cheeks, knocking out some teeth.
During the following days minor attacks on IPKF camps in Vadamaratchi East, especially around Pt. Pedro and Nelliady areas and shelling with small shells by the IPKF became a regular feature. The effect on ordinary civilians was fear and a sense of hopelessness. Many started leaving the area and those who remained were trying to send their children, especially boys abroad. While many acknowledged that in the interests of the civilians the LTTE should not provoke the IPKF knowing the consequences, by and large, people were angry that this was no way for a peace keeping force to behave. To nearly all, life became a nerve racking experience, either being a refugee with someone else, or having refugees in their house. To those with elders, there was little choice but to stick it out at home. Nearly all issues of high politics became irrelevant to them. Their basic questions were: Why are the boys moving down the road? Why are they stopping here? Are they going to attack? How angry will the IPKF be? Do I ask my son to run or do I keep him at home? Where do we run next?
13th July: Munai
The army surrounded the area and came upon a group of people plying their trade, packing fish with ice. They summoned a young boy and started beating him badly. The boy was shot dead as he tried to run in order to evade the beating. On hearing of the army moving into the area, the father of the boy had come rushing on his bicycle to get the son away. The father too was shot and injured.
A week earlier the IPKF had announced a ban on fishing for the day. As usual the message did not quite get around, and some had put out to sea. The wife of a fisherman with seven children and expecting the eighth came running desperately to a lady who could speak English. She explained that her husband was out in a catamaran (raft) and that an army vehicle was at the lighthouse with its gun pointing towards the sea. The lady rushed and finding an officer, explained matters to him. He replied that there was an order in force banning vessels from putting out to sea. The lady replied firmly, You give orders and think the people come to know. But that is hardly the case. After a silent pause, the officer told her mildly,You can go. The father of seven and an unborn returned safely to his wife.
19th July: Saraiadi, Point Pedro
From about half a mile towards Pt. Pedro along the main road, militants fired at IPKF men checking vehicles near Manthikai hospital. The soldiers returned to camp and shelled the area till about 12.00 p.m. for 3 hours. Public transport resumed at 2.00 p.m. These were nerve racking days for public transport employees. It was being said that buses and vans would run.But the routes were not guaranteed. Sometimes they would do wonders taking buses through narrow gravel lanes where one would have hardly imagined there was room, and then having to pass vehicles going in the opposite direction. Many CTB employees had been assaulted while on duty and two were killed by the IPKF.
26th July: Point Pedro South
Shortly before 8.00 a.m. IPKF vehicles going towards Pt. Pedro from Manthikai were fired at near Puloly junction. Two IPKF men are believed to have been killed. This was followed by a massive deployment of troops in the area. From 9.00 a.m. troops went from house to house, forcing their way in shooting some of the young men they encountered. Those who were detained were spared in some instances to bear a sorrow heavier than death itself.
While some had asked their sons to run away at the risk of being shot during flight, others thought they were safe at home.
Subramaniam Ganeshanandan (22) was awaiting university admission, and was being hugged protectively by his sister Kamala when soldier entered. Kamala was dragged away roughly by her hair and her brother taken out and killed. The bus was stopped by Indian soldiers at the 1st mile post junction. Kumarakulasingam who was issuing tickets was dragged out and shot. The driver took the bus back to the depot.
Kandasamy Kumarakulasingam (22) was the conductor in the CTB bus which had set off to Thunukkai from the Pt. pedro depot. When the soldiers entered the house of an old lady, one soldier took an axe belonging to her. The old lady tried to pull the axe away from him, demanding that he return it. The soldier made as if to shoot her. An officer who saw this, stopped him and ordered him to return the axe. The driver took the bus back to the depot. Amongst others killed near Puloly were Ambalavanar (36), a teacher and Sinnammah. The latter, a lady selling earthenware pots was shot dead on Maruthankerni road. On the previous day around 5.00 p.m. there had been an attack on the IPKF camp at Kallikai at which 4 soldier were reportedly killed. Troops were then deployed between Puloly and Kallikou.Along this stretch there was a point at Thunnalai which occasionally served as a sentry point. Soldiers were accustomed to being served water in the adjoining house. At this time there were only 3 ladies in the house, S. Shantakumari (20), her mother S. Thangamma (38) and her grandmother S. Sellachchi (70). According to neighbours, a soldier entered the house and following an altercation in which Shantakumaris protesting voice was heard, the three women were shot dead. No harm befell the neighbours. From what the neighbours could gather,the incident is related to an attempt at sexual assault or robbery. Later two persons attempted to take the 3 bodies to hospital by car when the car came under fire from the IPKFs Manthika camp. The two men escaped with injuries, one of them seriously. A shell fell on the car, setting it on fire and charring the bodies.
The shooting in Pt. Pedro South went on for 3 hours until 12.00p.m. a silent interval, people cautiously felt their way out. Following 3 hours of continual nerve racking gunfire, the air was now pierced by anguished cries and screams as people came to realise their loss of kin.
First reports in the press named 15 dead. It is noteworthy that this shooting began over an hour after the initial attack, well after the LTTE had fled the area. This suggests strongly that many of the killings resulted from deliberate policy at senior officer level as much as the mass beating 14 months ago that set Vadamaratchi on the path of anarchy. Quite often, as in Valvettithurai a week later, the fate of an individual depended on the decency or its opposite in the soldier he encountered.
All‑India Radio reported that 9 LTTE persons were killed. Senior IPKF sources here supported this claim on the basis of their intelligence reports.
(see also Vadamlaratchi : What The people Felt.)
8th August: Puloly South
Subramaniam Sriskandarajah (38) a hospital attendant at Pt. Pedro hospital went home for lunch. Some armed youth who called at his place pulled him out and shot him dead. His house was located at the place where the psychiatric patient was killed on 1st July. In retrospect, people regard the latter killing as a warning. People are generally at a loss to find a reason for Sriskandarajahs murder, except to speculate that he may have had some tie of friendship with someone in the EPRLF.
18th August: Irumpumathavadi, Nelliady
A group of soldiers on patrol took along some civilians picked up on the road. The general feeling was that the army was doing this more often for their own protection. This group stopped at Irumpumathavadi, near a large field. A single shell fired from a distance, landed there injuring 4 civilians and killing two, one a soldier and the other a civilian.
Then at Vathiri junction, soldiers stopped Kanthimathinathan, a twenty year old youth. The youth pleaded that he was employed abroad and had just come on holiday. He showed them some documents to prove that he was just returning from the bank. Regardless of this, he was shot and was allowed to lay bleeding with a shoulder injury. An injured soldier too had been in the company. The soldiers stopped a car and ordered the driver to take the soldier to Nelliady camp. Kanthimathinathan who knew the driver, pleaded for his help and asked for water. The driver reutrned after taking the injured soldier. The other soldier told the driver that he cannot take him to hospital and that an ambulance must come. A message was passed to Pt. Pedro hospital and Mme Jaqueline came with an ambulance party to pick up the injured. Kanthimathinathans parents referred to Mme Jaqueline as being like a benevolent goddess.
19th August: Rasapuran, Karaveddy
Thangamani was a member of the local community who had done well in the transport trade, owning 2 lorries and some pasenger vans. On this day 3 vans containing EPRLF cadres came into the village and set fire to his house. Thankamani received burns, in a failed attempt to rescue some money. His wifes elder sisters son was assaulted, taken away and shot dead at Arasady.
Other sources said that this was an area where the EPRLF used to be strong. Thangamani and his nephew are said to have supplied food parcels to the Tigers a few days earlier. This would have been understandable, as anyone in business would have been obliged to comply. Envy could have been a possible reason for passing on such information to the EPRLF.
29th August: Navindil, Karaveddy
A passing patrol stopped at the home of a young lady, a teacher and mother of two. A soldier who appeared to know neither English nor Tamil signalled her husband to come forward and join the other civilians who were being taken along with the patrol. The lady who had heard recent stories about patrols taking hostages along, strenously resisted. She told them that if they wished to question him, they could question her. She said, she could not let him go, for if anything happened, he would be killed along with the other civilians. The soldier was showing signs of losing patience. Just then a Sikh NCO came along. After inquiry, he made a token check on the husband and allowed him to stay. While parting, he told the lady, You must be careful when you argue like that. The other person has a gun. The other civilians went along with the patrol up to Mandan camp and were released. No questions had been asked. Not even Are you LTTE?
The 13th and 14th of April were traditional New Year holidays and there was a general expectation that peace would prevail. The Modern tutory on the Kodikamam Road lay close to the TELO camp at Nelliady and had an afternoon class going for high school students. Supplementing classes in school with classes at tutories had become almost obligatory in Jaffna ‑ more particularly so in Vadamaratchi, where some of the major school premises were affected by military operations.
It is believed that some TELO militants, intent on a practical joke, crept out of their camp, fired into the air near the tutory and quickly got back. (This belief received substance from apologetic remarks made later by IPKF officials to local residents). The IPKF Major in charge, quickly came out with his men, thinking that the LTTE had fired, and several students and a teacher at the tutory were badly beaten. The Major was apparently very annoyed at having his afternoon siesta disturbed. Two of the students were admitted to the psychiatric ward at Pt. Pedro hospital. The teacher, who was badly injured was also admitted.
The LTTE disclaimed any involvement in the incident, and responded the following morning by bringing Kannan, a former TELO member, and shooting him in a lane going towards Nelliady Central College. A note is said to have been left by the side of Kannans body. Kannan had got away from his TELO comrades with the intention of seeking refuge in Colombo, and had fallen into LTTE hands. It is known that many members of other groups who were getting away would first leave camp and use intermediaries to get clearance from the LTTE to leave Jaffna unmolested. An elderly man from a village off Nelliady where Kannan was held, said that he was grieved by what befell Kannan. Kannan had cried and told his captors that he would have contacted them only if he had known how to do so. He was apparently believed and his departure for Colombo seemed imminent at that time.
Nelliady town had witnessed some unruly scenes in the past few days, when a group of TELO cadres roaming the town had occasionally stopped public and private vehicles and driven around for their entertainment after putting down passengers. In the ensuing confrontations, members of the public had been assaulted. A member of this group who became well known, as well as feared was Thavam. His story was confirmed during conversations members of the public had with IPKF officers. Thavam was from the Vanni, and in a confrontation with the LTTE in the Vavuniya jungles, he had been left for dead after being shot in the leg and receiving a blow on the crown of his head with a sharp object. The IPKF flew him to India and his life was saved by Indian medical skills. His devotion to the Indian army is said to be matched only by his burning hatred and thirst for revenge against the LTTE. To the IPKF, he was an excellent hunting dog. Thavam continued to suffer from recurrences of severe pains in the head accompanied by mental trauma, for which he took pills. When his conduct came up for discussion, the IPKF view seemed that his occasional excesses had to be tolerated.
Thavam and his comrades were in a rage over Kannans killing. On the 14th April, they roamed the bazaar on the lookout for a revenge victim.
Sinnathamby Inpanathan was a schoolboy and was a son of Mr. Sinnathamby, J.P. from Kottawattai. From humble origins the family had risen to prominence through meritorious achievements in education. Inpanathan had been a prefect at Sacred Heart School, Nelliady, when the Indo‑Lanka Accord was signed in 1987, and is said to have participated in the ceremonial observances accompanying the fast of Mr. Thileepan, then prominent in the political wing of the LTTE. Such an act, whether entirely voluntary or not, would have been deemed fairly normal for a schoolboy in the mass emotional climate at that time. Inpanathan was subsequently sent off to study in Colombo. He had come home with a friend to celebrate the New Year.
On the 14th Thavam and his comrades spotted Inpanathan and his friend, who had come to the bazaar for some shopping. The friend was detained and Inpanathan was allowed to go. In camp, the friend must have said that he was studying in Colombo and had no local involvements. Inpanathan was then sent a message, asking him to call over and give evidence concerning his friends release. He went to the camp in the evening with his elder brother, Ragavan. The latter was asked to wait out and that his brother would return shortly. Unknown to the elder brother, Inpanathan was made to remove his trousers and put on a sarong in which Kannans body had been found that morning. He was then led to that spot through the back of the camp and was done to death with several blows from a knife. The elder brother waited until the news of another dead body being found got around town. Inpanathans friend was later taken to Jaffna hospital to be treated for injuries.
10th ‑ 26th June, Killings at Nelliady Market
Sangunin was a man of Malayali origin in his early 60s and a father of five, owning a tea boutique at Nelliady market. One of his employees was a young boy who had formerly belonged to the TELO. For this reason he was known to TELO and EPRLF cadres posted in the market area, who had frequented the shop for tea. The employee concerned later left, but the customers he had attracted continued to patronise the boutique. On 10th June, while he was travelling by bus, he was waylaid by LTTE cadres at Navalady junction and shot dead. The LTTE had evidently suspected him of passing information. In several circles this was readily believed. One remarked in a bus, Well, he had two wives. Such people would do such things. The story that he had another wife in Kerala was a piece of unsubstantiated gossip. The story also got about that the LTTE had warned him previously. According to Sangunins wife, he had remarked, after the killing of proctor Mahalingam a few weeks previously, that it was a shame to shoot proctor Mahalingam who was in his sixties. A customer had asked him to watch his tongue, lest the same fate overtook him. She could not think of anything else that could be counted for a warning.
On 13th June at 9.00 a.m. Sellamuthu and Tharmalingam, two traders at Nelliady, were taken for an inquiry by the EPRLF and were released a few minutes later. Some EPRLF gunmen later went to Thirumagal Stores, a well‑ to‑do wholesale establishment, and one of them signalled with his gun for the owners son, Sivasothy (45) to come out. Sivasothy was at this time cashing a cheque for a science teacher, a friend of his. Inquiries were routine, and considering that two other traders had been taken for an inquiry, Sivasothy told his friend that he could be back soon and left after asking an assistant to count the cash for his friend. The teacher felt a sense of unease after the way the gun had been pointed and came out of the shop and stood outside. He observed that Sivasothy was talking to the gunmen escorting him as though nothing was amiss. Sivasothys father who was coming from home towards the shop at that time, told him to go home and have his breakfast and that he would take over the shop. The son replied that he had come after breakfast and would return to the shop after awhile. The father went and parked his bicycle in front of the shop and joined the teacher. Although interrogations of shopkeepers was normal, the teacher and the father stood outside feeling uneasy.
Another trader who was being escorted by the EPRLF gunmen was Maniam who had a shop in the market. Sivasothy and Maniam were being marched southwest along the Jaffna Road, towards the open space just out of town.
A little later Sivasothys father and friend who were waiting outside the shop heard a shot and, taking alarm, went the way Sivasothy had been taken. The following account of what happened was gleaned from witnesses who were around.
Sivasothy and Maniam knew that something was wrong when they discovered that they were being taken elsewhere instead of to the EPRLF camp. Having found out what was in store, Sivasothy protested that the local EPRLF leader Prabhu had spoken to him several times and that there had been no problem between them, their contacts having been fairly friendly. He asked for Prabhu to be summoned. At that time a young boy who had been operating an agricultural pump, came with a can out of the field, on his way to buy kerosene. Sivasothy pleaded with him to fetch Prabhu quickly. The good natured boy hastened on eager to help.
In the meantime one of the gunmen shot Sivasothy through the mouth. Maniam was shot dead as he began to run. On looking back and seeing what had happened, the boy changed direction and avoided the EPRLF camp. When those around came to see what had happened, Sivasothys body was found to shake in spasmic fashion. A medical practioner who was summoned from nearby, pronounced him dead after a brief examination. Those who saw the body later said that his face was bloated.
Word then went around that the killings of Sivasothy and Maniam were in reprisal to the killing of Sanguni by the LTTE. Sivasothy and Maniam were deemed LTTE supporters as it was generally known that all traders paid taxes to the LTTE on demand. Those late in paying had been warned. According to sources close to Sivasothy, after the EPRLF had been brought to Nelliady under IPKF protection, he was approached by the EPRLF and told that to even out matters he could pay the same amount now to the EPRLF as well. Sivasothy had promptly agreed to pay Rs.15,000/‑ monthly. This became the general pattern. Sivasothy was known to have been a timid sort, extremely chary about discussing politics. He was known to tell anyone who touched on politics: You must use your mouth only for two things ‑ to eat and to spit. Maniam was known to be more free with his opinions. He was critical of all militant groups. In no sense could either of them be identified as pro one militant group or the other.
Prabhu is identified as one of the two directly responsible for the killing of Mr. Kugaprakasam, a senior official of the Nelliady Traders Association in December 1988 (see Report No.1). He was withdrawn from that area by the IPKF after strong protests by local residents and reappeared some months later. Like the shooting of the schoolboy on 14th April, these killings appear to be motivated by a strong desire for revenge coupled with an inability to find victims whose fate can be plausibly argued.
The entire town of Nelliady became paralysed by shock and fear. Almost everyone felt that he could become a victim for reasons he could not imagine. For this reason the men were not prepared to talk to the IPKF. Subsequently, Sivasothys wife went to the local IPKF commander with a large delegation of women. The commander told them that the IPKF had nothing to do with the matter and that they would leave for India in a months time, (as requested by the President of Sri Lanka). After that, he said they could sort out their problems with the local authorities. The women were angry at this obvious evasion. Sivasothys wife told the commander, You must go back to India a corpse. Then your wives will understand what family life is about. The commander became very annoyed and scolded them. The women screamed, cried, threw sand at him and walked away. As they set off they were met by a member of the EPRLF, who told them that they could save their energy as there were nine more on their list. Then they could gather a bigger crowd and have a good scream.
This last threat made the situation even more uncertain. All those who traded at Nelliady had little choice but to decide that they were not going to open the shops. Those who felt most threatened paid travel agents sums ranging from 1 to 11/2 lakhs of rupees (about $2500 ‑ $2700) in order to get them away to Europe as refugees. Their wives were left to look after residual matters. Nelliady quickly became a ghost town after having become the centre of commerce in Vadamaratchi.
Subsequently threatening letters were sent to several shop owners with threats ranging from breaking open to bombing of shops. The LTTE was equally adamant that shops should not open. Some went under duress to open shops, only to close and withdraw after a few minutes when the LTTE fired in the vicinity creating a commotion.
On 23rd June, a young man, a shop assistant at Nandamurugan Medical Store went to see the state of affairs in order to decide if the shop could be opened. He was detained by the militant group in town and killed on 26th June. The killing was taken to be a demonstration of annoyance with the local traders for not re‑opening the shops.
2nd August 1989 : Velvettiturai
Prelude: While the developments reported above were taking place leading to a very violent situation in the rest of Vadamarachchi, Velvettithurai remained in comparison a haven of peace. The one major incident in Velvettithurai after May 1987 was on 19th January this year, when Indian troops went beserk after the killing of two soldiers, resulting in large scale beatings with around 150 persons hospitalised. Velvettithurai was the only area having an active citizens committee. There were complex reasons behind the relative peace in Velvettithurai. Passing remarks made by both the LTTE as well as IPKF personnel point to this arrangement having the concurrence of both sides. This would have obviously involved communication between them through intermediaries to iron out thorny differences. For instance if a number of IPKF officials wanted to participate in a temple festival, the other side might find this objectionable. To avoid a confrontation some compromise would be worked out. There are also fairly reliable indications that when an IPKF patrol sets out, some alarm system would operate enabling the other side to keep out of the way. People in neighbouring areas have often wondered why IPKF patrols have avoided well‑known LTTE strongholds.
When subject to question, some IPKF officers had even given some intimation that they used the information they possessed diplomatically.
In the atmosphere of mounting distrust, incidents where missiles were fired into the IPKF camps and shelling by the IPKF increased in other parts of Vadamarachchi. The Indian army was feeling more bitter, angry and insecure. In their encounters with civilians during roundups, many Indian officers said that they were convinced that the LTTEs apparently increased capacity to fire missiles was because the Sri Lankan government had supplied them with weapons. (The same accusation had been made by the Sri Lankan government against India during the pre‑July 1987 era). Apart from civilians, Indian officers in Vadamarachchi outside the VVT sector also started noticing the relative calm in Velvettithurai. It is learnt that they had been complaining that VVT was being used as a sanctuary from which to attack them in areas outside. The LTTE too may have been sensitive to allegations of favouritism towards VVT. Evidently a time bomb was ticking in VVT and both sides would have known it. The question was who was going to make the first move. Apart from this heady mixture of realpolitik and power games, those who suffered were ordinary individuals and their kin. The foregoing cannot by any means excuse what happened on the 2nd August. But no account will be complete without this background. The human failings of individuals and institutions can be thrown into proper relief only if mitigating factors are not begrudged.
2nd August 1989 These events have been well reported in the International media (eg. David Housego in the Financial Times). We shall thus confine ourselves to bare essentials. Additional testimonies collected by us are given in What the People Felt, later in this report.
Velvettithurai Square lies aside the KKS ‑ Point Pedro Road running west‑east with the sea about 80 yards north, and a road running south to Udupiddy. The latter road takes a double bend to the left just south of the square. This area is known as Theniambai. If one ignores the bend and continues direct south, one gets into Viththani Lane and just before the bend to the left one finds successively Sivapura Veethi, leading to the Sivan temple and then Theeruvil Lane.
Around 11.15 a.m. two Indian patrols presumably from Udupiddy, numbering 30 men in all, were approaching the square on foot. One group was somewhere near the bend at Theniambai, and the other which appears to have come along Theeruvil Lane had crossed through a bylane into Sivapura Veethi, when gunfire was heard. This was a crowded and fairly well‑to‑do commercial area, and on this morning the area was full of people.
Having given the rough picture at that time, we shall not answer questions that should be answered by a judicial inquiry. But we shall pose the questions and give some pointers. Without an inquiry the answers to these questions will remain hazy and speculative. But what the Indian army did during the aftermath is well established.
Who attacked first? The general experience with IPKF operations is that when they set off to track down and confront the LTTE, they would first surround an area with hundreds of men. This does not appear to have been the case in this incident. It is unlikely that a patrol of 30 or so men was intended for offensive action. Had the Indians attacked first, it would have been out of a real or imagined fear that they were being threatened. There have been eyewitness reports of 6 Indian soldiers killed with no comparable reports of LTTE casualties. This suggests that the Indians were taken by surprise, although one cannot be absolutely certain about this. It appears that the LTTE was well prepared for an engagement. Some of the first witnesses to flee the area told passsengers coming into Vadamaratchi by bus, that two of the six Indian soldiers killed had their bodies badly disfigured by an explosion.
In any other area, as soon as armed LTTE persons are sighted, word would quickly get around and people would flee with their families to places of refuge. Why did this not happen in VVT on that morning? Why were the civilians taken by surprise? Th fact that civilians were taken by surprise in a populated area explains the high civilian casualty figure in Indian reprisals. One would obviously connect the answers with the unwritten truce that prevailed. A public figure from VVT put it thus: People were used to the LTTE coming into their house and wanting to stay. Whether they sympathised or not, they were in no position to refuse. They were used to Indian patrols passing by while their guests were about and no trouble had been experienced. Civilians were used to armed groups moving about and had not been geared to anticipate trouble. For this reason many survivors expressed very strong emotions of having been let down.
Given previous experiences, the generally paranoid or frequently paranoid make‑up of Indian officers, and their very poor understanding of the civilian population, it would have been natural for them to jump to the conclusion that the people had connived with the LTTE and had been put there on purpose to provide cover.
Following the initial confrontation many troops started moving into town, including from Urikkadu (west of VVT) and Polikandy (east of VVT). The LTTE had quickly left the area. What followed was an orgy of killing, maiming and burning by Indian troops. A number of people were killed and burnt inside shops. Many people of all ages and both sexes were made to sit in the town square and three rounds were fired into them killing four persons. People had to flee as best they could and think of tracing their families later, running risks once again.
In keeping with their experience during Operation Liberation, the people congregated at places of refuge. Two such places were the spacious homes of Mr. Subramaniam, retired Superintendant of Surveys,(Karady to his friends, because he is said to have been bitten by a bear when a young surveyor), off Viththani Lane, and of Mr. Sivaganesh, now living abroad, each having fifty to hundred persons. At 1.30 p.m. when troops burst into his house Mr. Subramaniam came forward to meet them with his wife Rajeswary, with his hands up, speaking in English. He was shot dead. Of the eight others killed in his house were Mrs. Rajaguru and her 14 year old son, a Hartley College student, Mr. Subramaniams disabled eldest son of 28 who had been killed and burnt with three others, in his shop at the corner of Udupiddy Road and Theniambai Lane.
At 4 p.m. troops burst into the house of Sivaganesh, took 8 men to a cowshed and conducted them to a firing squad in pairs. Four of them survived with injuries. The VVT Citizens Committee reported that 52 dead persons had been identified.
LTTE casualties are not known. According to refugee sources and a person in the transport trade, two LTTE sentries in their early teens were caught with grenades and summarily killed near the town centre. They may have been trying to get away from troops advancing from Urikkadu and Nediakadu.
An irony of the situation was that while the Indian government in Delhi was voicing concern about the security of Tamils after an Indian troop withdrawal, Tamils in parts of VVT were seeking the protection of the Sri Lankan forces at Urikkadu. According to reports, a number of people were sheltered for some time, while others were asked to sit outside the camp and were later sent away.
The IPKF imposed a curfew, did a roundup of VVT the following day and beat up a large number of young men. About 75 youths were made to roll on the hot road and were assaulted. While a group of 6 youths were being treated in this manner soldier suddenly opened fire at them, killing 5. The sixth was injured was shot dead as he cried for help.
Many of the injured civilians were given first aid by local medical practitioners and were taken to the nearby Oorani government hospital by means that came to hand. A 76 year old lady with gunshot injuries was placed on a bicycle by a young man and was wheeled a mile or so to the hospital. Some with light injuries had walked to Pt. Pedro hospital, 5 miles away by late evening on 2nd August. On hearing this Mme. Jacqueline, the nursing sister from the MSF at Pt. Pedro hospital attempted to take an ambulance into VVT to fetch the injured. She was turned back on the grounds that a curfew was on. She got back and appealed to the IPKF command at Manthikai, adjoining the hospital. After consultations she was told that the refusal was based on grounds of the safety of the medical team, as the LTTE was about the area. It turned out later that the kindest thing that could be said about this cruel refusal was that it was based on a wish to cover up the shameful reality. The injured could be fetched only after the curfew was lifted on the 4th. The IPKF had made no attempt to succour the injured.
We note two more related incidents for the record. A curfew was announced in the surrounding areas, including Navindil, and was to commence at 4.p.m. Where the IPKF lacked mobility, word could only spread by mouth from those who passed sentry points. A young man, Perumal, around 20 years, came towards the Navindil camp shortly after 4 p.m. He was asked to stop and come forward with his hands up. When he came near, he was reportedly shot dead by an officer.
Refugees had by then trekked into Navindil, and when the LTTE asked the people to move out, so that they could attack the relatively small camp at Navindil, the people were already too tired. It is believed that intelligence of this was passed onto the IPKF camp at Polikandy. Subsequently Major Pathmanathan came to Navindil to close the camp and remove the troops.
According to the Financial Times report, the Indians believe that the incident resulted from a deliberate provocation by the Tigers intended to trigger off an overwhelming Indian response; thus tarnishing the IPKFs image, during sensitive negotiations. Many keen observers of the local political scene would find that explanation credible. Still it is the machine‑like fixity of the IPKF that is able to turn a routine skirmish into a major political and human disaster. Happily there are exceptions such as during the two recent attacks on the IPKF in the Mannar Sector. (See reports).
If the IPKF is confident that such failures could be overcome, it could have moved to reassure the people instead of trying to cover up the truth. In place of taking the injured to hospital, they imposed a curfew and followed up with a beating campaign the next day. Even after the local press reported the incident giving names of 40 dead, Indian embassy claimed that 24 civilians were killed in crossfire. A later report on All India Radio claimed that 18 LTTE personnel and 12 civilians were killed. The manner in which Indians handled the matter only made the average Tamil angry, incredulous and more alienated from India. The statement by the Chief Minister of the North‑East trying to dismiss media reports as exaggerations did not do him much good.
Indian fears of an inquiry expressed in the Financial Times report are exaggerated and are to do with their insensitivity to the rule of law, that is behind many of their problems both here and in India. If they are confident that mistakes are exceptions and steps can be taken to rectify them; then to learn from mistakes a public inquiry is a must. It will also give the people a new confidence in Indias commitment to justice. A reason given for being against public inquiry is that they do not believe that the Indian army would get a fair hearing. They say that Tamils would not dare to support the Indian army in public while the tigers will intimidate witnesses in their favour. Are they saying that the Tigers are so powerful as to make the Indians disown values of the founding fathers of modern India? Such refusals are again to do with their refusal to understand the basic feelings of the ordinary people which expresses itself as arrogance and at other times as self pity. We do not think that people in Mannar will out of fear grudge an admission that the Indian army conducted itself with credit during two recent engagements. In VVT on the other hand there is a big qualitative difference. The question of whether the IPKF was first provoked or not is of little importance, because it is always happening and that is the nature of the conflict. We spoke to a number of victims without constraint, and they had nothing to say about the LTTE. But when they did sight Indian troops, the experience was as dreadful as it was unforgettable. To ignore that is to encumber oneself with illusions. That would also explain how India has been failing.
Another question that must be asked is whether a weak people should become party to arrangements based on expediency rather than on principle, that could be disastrously breached at the whims of powerful interests far beyond their control.
The causes behind this incident are not clear. An IPKF detachment had walked along the coast road from Pt. Pedro to VVT as part of the security arrangements during Chief Minister Varatharaja Perumals visit over a week before, and had returned the following day by the same route. On the previous day troops had likewise gone to VVT, this time during Defence and Foreign Affairs Minister Ranjan Wijeratnes visit. It was thought by some that the LTTE had lain in wait to attack them, in the expectation that they would return the same way. Others thought that the IPKF had come into that area in the early hours of the morning on receipt of information that some important LTTE persons were present.This too seems credible as Indian forces were there in several (about 5) groups. The LTTE too was present in about 5 groups.
Anticipating trouble during the return of Indian troops to Pt. Pedro, a bulk of the population had cleared out of the coastal stretch between Viyaparimoolai and Polikandy, west of Alvai towards VVT and had taken refuge in the interior. Several worshippers had gone to the Alvai, Mariamman temple that morning. The first firing was heard in the temple area around 6 a.m. According to persons who fled the temple, the LTTE had come towards the temple and had wanted to attack a group of Indian soldiers as they were approaching. Their pleas having failed, the worshippers scattered, several of them tearing their clothes and injuring themselves as they climbed barbed wire fences. The Mariamman temple had profound memories for them after 35 refugees inside the temple were killed by a shell‑blast during the Sri Lankan Armys Operation Liberation.
A little later a soldier knocked at the door of a couple, both teachers living in that area. He entered the house and observing some ornaments asked if they were Christians. After a reply in the affirmative he identified himself as a Christian, asked them to lock up and stay inside, and went away. He reappeared half an hour later and asked them to flee saying that it was not safe. The couple left amidst a rattle of gunfire, climbing barbed wire fences. They learnt later that two soldiers had been killed, one of them when a fault caused a mortar shell to explode when it was being fired. The other soldier who had died in the fighting, with two injured comrades had been laid out on benches borrowed from a nearby house.
About a mile east on the Thambasiddy Road, another group of the IPKF entered a house where several persons, consisting of a family and relatives who had come as refugees, were sleeping. The troops took away Ravindran (32) and Radhakrishnan (28), two sons of Kathirkamathamby and their brother
· in‑law Nagamani Thillainathan (29). Of the ten persons taken along by the troops, 7 were questioned and released. But the three young men named above were shot dead. However totally unjustified, a possible explanation for this conduct is that the young men killed were shopkeepers. The IPKF had earlier expressed suspicion against another shopkeeper in the area for allegedly supplying food parcels to the Tigers. (People had little choice in such matters).
Another group of IPKF men carrying a map went to a house adjoining a shop near Navalady junction, where Thambasidddy Road meets the Alvai Road, and accused the people there of supplying food to the LTTE. The lady of the
house explained to them that they were not the people they were looking for. The ones they wanted, she said, had left the area some time ago. In the meantime firing was going on around. The soldiers told the three men in the house and a young boy who had come to the shop that they would all be killed if anything happened to them. During subsequent firing, one soldier was killed apparently by a ricocheting bullet from their own fire. The men at home helped to lay the dead soldier on a wooden bench. According to the lady, another group of soldiers came that way, and upon seeing the dead soldier, opened fire killing the four men.
Around 7 a.m. about 11/2 miles east of Navalady, a schoolmaster observed a group of armed militants in light spirits, leaving the area of fighting by moving eastwards. Unknown to the militants and local residents, a group of Indian soldiers had come from Pt. Pedro sector to the east and had hidden themselves in the Thambasiddy boatyard. On sighting 3 militants climbing a wall, the soldiers opened fire. The 3 militants fell down disappearing from the sight of the soldiers. Other militants returned the fire, both parties exchanging fire from behind cover. Unknown probably to the IPKF at that time at least three militants had been hit. The LTTEs Jaffna leader Kanthasamy had been killed, the local area leader, Dayalan, and another militant Bosco Baskaran had been injured. The militants used the cover of the wall to retreat in a different direction, taking along their dead and injured.
The IPKF then went into houses in the surrounding area and ordered several of the menfolk to come out and sit by the roadside. One young man said that two soldiers were having an argument whether or not to shoot him. The argument was settled with the help of the intervention of his father and mother.
While these men were seated by the roadside, Kandasamy Tharmasalam (21) an ice‑cream seller came on his bicycle unaware of the goings on. Being the eldest in the family of ten children, he was the bread‑winner. His routine was filled with various jobs from early dawn till twilight. He had finished his first job that morning of carrying packing ice for persons in the fish trade. He was now going to take on his next job as an ice‑cream maker and seller. People recalled, how during the Sri Lankan armys Operation Liberation he would trek across the flood waters to Chavakachcheri, return with a supply of sugar and sell it at Rs.28/‑ per kilo. He had always been on the move to keep his family in bread. The soldiers asked him to stop. He apparently did not hear and was shot dead.
Following the attack on the Hartley College sentry point on the 10th of July, traffic was not allowed on the coastal road near Hartley College. Passengers Vehicles from Velvettiturai to Point Pedro were diverted via the Alvai and Thambasiddy Roads, from Viyaparimoolai. S. Suresh who was driving a passenger van into Pt. Pedro continued on the coastal road past Viyaparimoolai intending to turn inwards at a point further down the coastal road. Before reaching the turn off the van was stopped by a group of soldiers who were evidently suspicious. During the questioning, when asked where Suresh came from, he replied Velvettiturai. He was shot dead. Then the van and the cleaner were taken away. The incident shows the stereotyped prejudices Indian soldiers have and what could happen in a tense situation. Sureshs actual place was Thondaimanaru which is 3 miles from Velvettiturai. When
answering such questions people would normally name the nearest city. Others said that had he said Thondaimanaaru in reply, he might be alive today.
Sugeetha Mahendran, an A.L. schoolgirl from Thambasiddy, stepped out into the road, half an hour after the firing ceased and was hit in the leg by a stray bullet. She was given first aid by Dr. Balakrishnan, a retired naval doctor. Since people were afraid to take vehicles out, Sugeetha was carried some distance by young volunteers and was put into a passing van to be taken to hospital.
Altogether 14 civilians were killed on that day and their names were published in the local press. Two of the dead were of ages 51 and 63. The Indian troop casualties were put at 3 or 4 killed. A number of LTTE injured was seen by refugees further east in Vadamaratchi. Many local persons were surprised that the actual damage to property was far less than one would have expected from the noise. One lasting effect of this incident was that it left an additional fear in the minds of the people in Vadamaratchi. It appeared to confirm previous rumours that people were detained and taken along by troops not for questioning, but for use as hostages.
Doctors without Frontiers, or MSF as it is popularly known, is an organisation based in France, providing medical volunteers to work in areas of conflict, which are likely to be lacking in essential medical services. It is known that a large number of Tamils had qualified as doctors and even before the insurgency it became a common trend for them to settle in the West. By the time of the Sri Lankan armys peration Liberation, even the major hospitals in the North‑East were badly understaffed. The teaching hospital in Jaffna, for instance, was unable to fill several consultants posts. Even so a number of dedicated men and women strove to keep the services going. In rural areas in particular the security situation brought medical services to a standstill. During the aftermath of Operation Liberation in Vadamarachchi, 120 surgical cases were brought to Pt. Pedro hospital where there was no surgeon. For a few days these cases were attended to by two surgeons and an army voluntary doctor brought in by the Sri Lankan army from the South. Since then the MSF has been there more or less permanently. The MSF which works in collaboration with the Ministry of Health has now extended its services to other hospitals in the North‑East including Mannar, Batticaloa and Trincomalee.
In Point Pedro in particular the MSF has acquired an image for its unremitting service during difficult times. One can see that its presence has infused into the staff a sense of organisation and purpose. During the last few months in particular, a number of civilians injured during military action were left on the streets, under conditions where it was too dangerous for others to transport them to the hospital. It was often left to the MSF to go out in their ambulance and pick them up.
Even amidst scenes of gore, humour in Point Pedro hospital is not entirely lacking. Members of the staff would readily tell you with a smile that Female ward No.2 and Male ward No.7 are the IPKF wards. When several of the patients were asked how they came here, they answered in a tone of gratitude, Jacqueline brought us here. Women who have had narrow escapes have compared Jacqueline with a benign deity. By now nursing sister Mme. Jacqueline is well known to readers of the local press.
We called at the MSF quarters a few yards from the hospital on the Jaffna Road, on a Sunday morning. We were received by Mme. Jacqeline who asked us, What happened? While chatting we were joined by John Louis, the anaesthetist. We understood that anaesthetists and surgeons are posted for 1 or 2 months at a time, while nurses are posted for a year. John Louis is doing his fourth stint in Point Pedro. Talking about their work Mme. Jacqueline told us about her experiences in fetching injured victims following IPKF reprisals.
In Point Pedro, on the 26th of July, Mme. Jacqueline worked late hours getting victims into hospital. Following the recent incident in VVT, the IPKF had imposed a curfew preventing the transfer of surgical patients to Point Pedro for 3 days. They said that their local contacts were very limited because they were kept extremely busy. When asked about the co‑ operation they get from local organisations, they said that they had a good understanding with Jaffna hospital. Regarding the IPKF, they said that the officers commanding Manthikai where the Point Pedro hospital is situated, were readily approachable and easy to talk to. They added that, like in the case of the VVT incident, the actual co‑operation they got was below what was reasonable. They had no occasion to deal with the LTTE. Their previous postings involved areas such as Afganistan, Sudan, Angola and Lebanon. Generally the place where they were posted in those countries were safe places. Lebanon, had been an exception. John had worked in a remote area in Afghanistan that was far removed from the fighting. Vadamaratchi, they said was a little like Lebanon. But the danger involved, they added was pretty low, as being foreigners, they feel themselves faily immune. When asked whether the IPKF helped them by bringing injured patients to the hospital, Jacqueline replied that she wished they did that. But, unfortunately she said, They seldom do it. When asked whether the armies she had known in other countries helped in bringing injured patients to hospital, she replied that it hardly ever happened. Armies, she said were generally like that. She did not think that the Indian army is different from the armies she had known. Commenting on the previous nights shelling from the Manthikai IPKF camp adjoining the hospital, she said that now most of the patients will want to be transferred to Jaffna. Both of them said that it was always the case that the army was first provoked. They said that the army was nervous and was confined to a small camp area where a falling missile could do a lot of damage.
Commenting on the large exodus of Tamil doctors, John Louis said that it was understandable in the case of those with families; adding that the question is whether they will come back when the troubles are over.[Top]
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