The East : Report from the Times of London
JP Pogrom 1 by James Pringle
Amparai, Sri Lanka, 22nd June - They came bearing hoes and machetes and cans of Kerosene and with murder in their hearts. To the 15 families huddling in their homes after nightfall, the terrifying shouts meant almost certain and violent death.
"We were just eating supper," said Mrs. Mahen Keliamma, age 22, a Tamil woman from the village of lngineyagala, near here. "It was almost time for the children to sleep. then I heard the noise."
According to Sinhalese neighbours who had barricaded themselves in their homes, a mob of about 150 people stormed through the village towards the little community of Tamils who have lived among them for half a century.
They marched past the police station, whose occupants remained inside and they were shouting: "The Tigers killed us and we have come to kill you." Soon, they said, they could hear the screams of the Tamil men, women and children.
"I picked up three of my children and told my fourth boy, the eldest, to follow me," said Mrs. Kaliamma yesterday describing the pogram in which 26 out of a community of just over 100 Tamils died on 12th June, the day after fighting erupted in Sri Lanka's eastern province and the first massacre of Sinhalese policemen was reported.
"We ran from the house and towards the forest at the back of the village," she said: "I looked back and saw some men grab my son, Mannivannan. They seemed to be throwing liquid on him from a can."
Her eyes steaming with tears as she spoke in a refugee camp in this eastern town, 220 miles east of Colombo, the capital, she said: "Later, his burned body was found. They had doused kerosene on him and set him ablaze.
"My mother, brother and sister also died. some were hacked to death and others burned alive. I hid with my other children in the forest for four days until the police came to bring us out."
With 77 other Tamils, all of whom lost family members, she is under the protection of the Sri Lankan army in a school house in Ampara. "We are afraid to go back," Said Mrs. Selliah Rohini, aged 30, a mother of three children. "We think they may do it again."
Eastern Sri Lanka is still embroiled in the cauldron of a bloody communal war. there have been massacres of Tamils by Sinhalese, such as the progrom in the village of Ingineyagala and of Sinhalese policemen by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) the Tigers claim about 100 policemen were shot `attempting to escape.'
The latest massacre report is of Muslims in the coastal village of Ninatavur by the Tamil Tigers - Hindu, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians all live in uneasy proximity in this area - who are said they were `agents of the Sinhalese authorities but a police official reached here last night denied there had been such a massacre.
There are twitchy soldiers guarding Sinhalese villages and roadblocks of angry, nervous Sri Lankan policemen on the look out for any young Tamils they suspect of being Tigers attempting to flee.
And there is the generally more cool but ruthless Tiger cadres who claim they started the present round of fighting two weeks ago `because we were tired of waiting for the rights of our people.' "If we don't act now, we will just be slaves again," one Tiger local said.
Pogrom 2 Ex Pringle Ampara
In an interview with the Times, Brigadier Rohan Daluwatte, Deputy Commander of all troops in eastern Sri Lanka, said that the army had the Tamil Tigers on the run. "They are retreating into the tropical forests and that is just where we want them because our soldiers are accomplished jungle fighters now,"he said
"we are clearing the roads, removing mines and hope to have order restored soon," said the Brigadier here at his HQ in Ampara.
But a tour of the war-zone indicates that the Tigers, though falling back, are far from being routed and that the army has not been quite as successful as it claims.
For their part, Tiger cadres say that their forces are regrouping to counter-attack and that they are inflicting heavy casualties on the army.
Civilians caught in the crossfire are fleeing this way and that, trying to avoid the mines, the exchanges of mortar fire and occasional helicopter forays and the suspicious fighters of both sides.
They fear fresh outbreaks of religious violence - though at other moments there is religious compassion. In the near deserted town of Batticaloa, on the coast north of here, Hindu refugees are sheltering in two Christain churches, St. Mary's and St. Jude's awaiting the arrival of the army, who are advancing slowly on the town from which the tigers have already withdrawn.
But elsewhere in the town, once a popular tourist resort, Buddhist shrines have been desecrated and statues of Buddha decapitated. In the gutted remains of the police station, are the files, phonically, of Tamil Tiger members and suspects strewn at random.
One was headed `V. Prabakaran,' the name of the LTTE leader, who is based in the Jaffna peninsula, the Tamil heartland in the north of Sri Lanka, where fighting was also continuing yesterday.
There is only motor cycle traffic in the town, where food is running out and where grain warehouses have been looted. This correspondent drove through villages where the entire population had fled.
The Tigers, as they have pulled back to forested areas where as seasoned guerrilla fighters, they can survive indefinitely, are blowing up not just police stations but banks and government offices.
Confusion abounds. While the government in Colombo was ordering people in the Eastern province to hand in their weapons, whether licensed or unlicensed, officials here say that in the past few days they have handed out 2,000 weapons to villagers - mainly Sinhalese or Muslim - supporting the government and these vigilantes are patrolling near villages.
Even the wildlife has not escaped the mayhem. Local villagers claim that the Tigers recently shot 17 elephants in a game reserve south east of here when the elephants `got in the way' while the guerrillas were cuting down trees with which to make fortified bunkers - bunkers which in many cases are now deserted and booby - trapped.
They claim the elephants, only three of which were `tuskers,' were `executed' with rocket - propelled grenades the guerrilla's AK.47s notbeing upto the job.
Pogrom 3 Ex Pringle Ampara
The Army claims it is being welcomed in villages, including Tamil villages, because at least they represent some from of stability that neither the Tigers nor the police were able to provide.
Local government officials said that Muslims were cooking food for the soldiers in the village of Nintavur, on the coast where the bodies of 62 inhabitants were said to have been found following a massacre. There was no independent confirmation of such a massacre.
At Ingineyagala, 12 miles from here and scene of the earlier massacre of Tamils, scraps of clothing, a child's left shoe and broken d0lls lay among the scorched debris of 15 homes. There was a pervasive smell of death but around the ruined homes and a desecrated Hindu temple, where an image of the elephant for Ganesh lay smashed, a pink blossom was in bloom.
Abandoned family dogs wandered morosely in the ruins.
"We are sad at what happened," said Mrs. Chandrasiri, a Sinhalese women who lived next door to the Tamils. "Some of them were our friends, but people here were afraid to leave their homes when the mob came,"she said. "Now my husband and children do not stay here at night because we are afraid of the ghosts of the people of who died."
Some villagers said that the killings had occurred because we the young policemen earlier reported massacred by the Tamils were from the locality of the village.
The frightened Tamils sheltering in Ampara say, however, that they recognised some people from Ingineyagala among their attacks.
As this correspondent was talking to villagers near the gutted homes, three policemen armed with rifles came from the local police station 200 yards away and ordered me to leave. "You have no police permission to be here?"
When two Europeans visited the remains of the Tamils' homes, the police were quick to arrive. When the Tamils were being massacred in what seems to have been just one of a series of bloody pogroms in the east of blood-soaked Sri Lanka, there was not a sign of the police for hours - may be days - after wards.[Top]
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