TAMILS IN THE SOUTH:
Following the arrival of the IPKF in 1987, the Tamils were treated in the South with consideration by the security forces. More than any change of heart the reason was that India had used the treatment of the Tamils between July 1983 and July 1987 to legitimise its presence in this country. This conclusion is suggested by their current conduct. This continued until shortly after the LTTE began talks with the government. The undermining of the EPRLF led provincial government to which the government was morally and legally committed became the common aim of both the LTTE and the government. The government forces still did not touch Tamils. This was left to the LTTE which was given facilities and Pajero Jeeps.
The process was at first subtle. The LTTE set up check points at Nochchiyagama and Manampitiya close Sri Lankan police stations, to monitor Jaffna bound vehicles and Batticaloa bound vehicles respectively. A new phenomenon observed in STF searches in the South for JVP suspects was the appearance of Tamil persons on some of these search parties, speaking Jaffna Tamil and knowing lanes and faces in Jaffna. This has been reported by Tamils who had come across these parties in Colombo and in the Kandy district. A typical case is that of a Tamil who was caught in an STF search in Teldeniya [near Pallekele] after which several dead bodies were found. As soon as he identified himself a Tamil, another member of the party was directed to him. This was a young Tamil person who after questioning his whereabouts in Jaffna identified him as the brother of a person who was in a dissident militant group.
About the time IPKF commenced its withdrawal, arrests in the South by the LTTE became more open. The Sri Lankan police too harassed members of militant groups opposed to the LTTE who started arriving in Colombo to seek safety. The LTTE even seemed free to move about the Colombo airport premises pick up persons. About November an EPRLF member was picked off an Air India flight which was in the process of departing.
The murders of Tamil MP's Amirthalingam, Yogeswaran and Sam Tambimuttu were committed in Colombo while the LTTE enjoyed this freedom of movement. The LTTE has admitted the first two killings. responsibility has not been fixed for the third. The Sri Lankan authorities had little to say on these killings.
Following the withdrawal of the IPKF to the Jaffna peninsula, arrests by the LTTE in Colombo became more blatant. A typical case is that of Michael, who was a member of the EPRLF more than six years ago and was now working at a plantain shop in Colombo. Those arrested like Michael were handcuffed to the seats of passenger vans plying between Colombo and Jaffna in the nights. The van upon leaving Colombo would go past Sri Lankan police and army check points with the chained prisoners, who would remain seated when the others got down to be checked. Upon reaching Paranthan about 3.00 A.M., LTTE cadre who had been informed by radio would meet the van and transport the prisoners to Mullaitivu in a pick up van.
The first time large numbers of Tamil youths were arrested in Colombo was when the Defence Minister Ranjan Wijeratne announced in mid-February that the Indian agency, the RAW, had plans to destabilise Colombo. The plan, if ever there was one, did not materialise and the IPKF departed quietly by March end.
THE PRESENT: The next large scale arrests of Tamil youth in the South took place after the commencement of hostilities between the LTTE and the government on 11th June. The numbers detained in Colombo ran into hundreds. Significant numbers of Tamil youth were reported missing in the South. A human rights official in the South said that he had been approached in the cases of about 40 Tamils detained in Colombo, 7 of them, he said, could not be traced. Two young assistant lectures in Engineering at Peradeniya University went missing about the end of June. Both were Tamils from Batticaloa. They had finished dinner at Leon's restaurant, Kandy about 10.00 p.m. and left for their quarters on Lady Hill, on a motor cycle.
Seven engineering students from Jaffna on their way to sit for their examination at the University of Peradeniya went missing on 16th July. The following is taken from `the Virakesari' of 23rd July:
3rd year engineering students S. Dayanandarajah, B.N. Robinson, K. Anandarajah, K. Ramesh, S. Senthilrajan; and second year engineering students Suthakar and Thillainathan; all from Jaffna, arrived in Vavuniya on 16th July. From there they were helped to reach Anuradhapura by Rev. Croos of Vavuniya. From there they boarded a CTB bus for Peradeniya. They were arrested at the Dambulla Police check point. The Police instructed the bus driver to hand over the students at the Revula police station the driver first went to this police station and handed over the students before proceeding. Prof. C.L.V. Jayatilleke, the Vice Chancellor of Peradeniya was informed of this the following day. The I.G.P. and D.I.G. [Central Province] have also been informed of this. The O.I.C. Dambulla Police has denied the incident.
Another report said that 50 engineering students from Jaffna who went to Peradeniya by train on the same day, changing at Polgahawela, were badly assaulted by the police at Kadugannawa. The policeman who did the assaulting had taken care to hide his number.
In the incident where the 7 students were detained, the incident had been reported by another student whose presence in the bus had gone unobserved. He had seen the 7 students being taken over by the army. The `Virakesari' of 27th July said that upon being told of this matter, Mrs. Pulendran, the State Minister for Education, had made inquiries and was now assured by the authorities that the students were in their custody. It is a general fear that unless the detainee has someone influential to raise the matter immediately, the worst might happen.
It is notable that the incident was not reported in the English press. Concerned persons in the universities became aware of it through hearsay. In Peradeniya itself, the staff unions were slow to move and it is likely that some of them were not even told. The Tamil students themselves appeared to lack the confidence that the staff would be interested. To understand this state of affairs, it must be remembered that the southern universities themselves went thorugh a period of terror last year when a large number of Sinhalese students went missing. A fear of informants, perhaps imagined, was so great that it was considered too dangerous to speak or to make inquiries about missing students. The subject itself was deemed unwelcome. A casual remark like `I heard that the CID was making inquiries about him', would appear to settle the issue of a missing student.
A lady on the staff of Peradeniya University said: "The reason why the staff unions did not promptly take up the matter of the missing Tamil students is not racial. It is a hangover from our terrible experiences last year. Kandy was rife with killings. I went out on a morning and found 4 bodies at the top of the road. There was one tied to a lamp post. I actually went near to examine if it was alive. It was dead. I went to the nearest police station and told policemen that were bodies on the road. He simply grinned. I heard that there were 4 more bodies at the other end of the road. The incident followed the killing of a soldier. The either bodies were those of innocent local villagers. One had been a deaf mute. A colleague of mine who lived down Heerasagala road said that to them these were regular experiences. A student of mine told me that one night there was a single shot. People stayed inside. He heard later that the father of a policeman had been killed. Sinhalese students were then living in fear. A number of innocent students who had reason to believe that they were being watched, had to sleep in different places. I know that a total of 9 students are missing from two of my batches. Such occurrences came to be accepted as normal and not requiring an energetic response.
"It is not true that the staff are indifferent to the matter of missing Tamil students. These are not times when appeals to principles and justice bring a response. But the staff are sensitive when told: "Look, this war broke out and the Tamil people started questioning the Tigers and began to distance themselves from them. By subjecting Tamil students to this kind of treatment, you are going to drive the whole community back into the arms of the Tigers." An appeal to self interest does work."
Nothing definite has been heard regarding the two missing Tamil assistant lectures. University sources said that it was unusual for people to be stopped on the Kandy-Peradeniya road and that there have been indications that the pick up was planned.
All universities in this country face a number of common problems, but it is difficult to make judgement. The constraints are different. During the JVP troubles, Ruhuna University in the south was almost totally silenced. The IPKF's cosmetic attempts at maintaining normality, provided a little space for democratic activity by the students and staff at Jaffna University and for raising issues concerning the interests of the community. The experience under the LTTE was different. The next phase is uncertain.
Other incidents : In almost all current cases of violence against Tamils in the South, those responsible are persons in uniform. the scale may be small in comparison with the past. Unlike the blatant violence of 1983, the current violence in the South is secretive and is carefully kept out of the press.
Gal Oya, 21st June : The Colombo bound train from Batticaloa left early on the 11th June and was stopped at Gal Oya when news of trouble broke out. The Head Guard was M. Yogirajah (47) of Sandililpay. The Batticaloa bound train from Colombo, with Head Guard M. Marcilyn (50) of Batticaloa was also stopped in Gal Oya. The two Head Guards with their Under Guards, Dharmalingam (35) from Jaffna and Iruthaya-Nathan (38) from Batticaloa decided to put up at the Running Bungalow at Gal Oya station.
Yogirajah went to Colombo on 18th June to see his brother Shanmugasundaram who worked in President Premadasa's Ministry of Housing. He returned to Gal Oya on 20th June because of the uncertain security situation in Colombo. The police had reoccupied the army camp at Hathoroskotuwa after the outbreak of the war. The army had abandoned it in 1987. On the afternoon of the 21st, some of these policemen had come to Gal Oya station and had made inquiries about Tamils. It appears that an employee had given the names of the 4 guards.
The policemen returned at 8.30 p.m. and ordered the station master, a Sinhalese, to lead them to the Running Bungalow. After a short distance they started climbing the steps leading to the bungalow, which was on an elevation. The police ordered the station master to wait and went inside. Yogarajah was having his dinner and a number of railway men were chatting inside. The police ordered the Tamil guards to come with their bags for questioning. The railwaymen who had identified themselves as Sinhalese and Muslims protested, saying that the Tamils were friends and were well known to them. The policemen remained adamant. Yogirajah wanted to collect the flags which were part of a guard's baggage. The police said that, that was not necessary. The policemen descended on the side of the elevation visible from the village, after warning the station master not to let slip a word about their visit. That 4 prisoners were taken by the police is known in the village. Gun shots were heard at 5.00 a.m. the following day.
One sinhalese guard ventured out or a bicycle that morning and 3/4 a mile on the Trincomalee road, at a petrol shop, came across 4 bodies burning inside a tractor tire. Villagers told him that the police had warned them not to hang around. He quickly returned without trying to identify the bodies. What remained was burnt by villagers in the jungle.
Nothing more was heard of the missing guards. Senior Superintendent of Police, Kanagaratnam of Batticaloa who was a close relative of one of the guards, moved hard in the matter. An inquiry was held at Habarana and statements were taken. It is learnt that some salient points were with held in making these statements. It may be noted that railwaymen are not without influence. They were concerned for their colleagues, had communication facilities and had 8 hours in which to act. But nothing was apparently done. That gives some indication of the state of fear.
Maradana, 15th July: A young Tamil youth from Valaichenai was met at Maradana Railway Station by an elderly railway employee. Both boarded a private bus outside and bought their tickets. A young man with a Muslim cap came in and asked the young boy in Tamil to come outside for a chat. The young Tamil refused. Another man standing outside, who appeared to be a policemen, bellowed in sinhalese, "Get down Yakko". The railway employee got down with the young Tamil and was told that he was not needed. At the young man was marched, the railway employee insisted on following him. The man in the Muslim cap marched the Tamil into the community hall opposite Buhari restaurant. A police truck was parked near by. As the Tamil youth went inside, he saw 15 to 20 others similarly detained. Another Muslim youth came forward and told the young man who had brought him, "I know him. He is from Valaichenai. Let him go".
The Tamil youth later told the railway employee, that both the persons whom he had met were SLMC activists from Valaichenai. There have been widespread reports that the government was using SLMC activists and Tamil militants from other groups against Tigers. This appears to be a reversal of roles on the government's part. What happened to the 15-20 youths is not known.
Welikanda, 18th June: The army shot and burnt Mr.Pathmanathan, a Tamil police constable. Pathmanathan used to be on duty at the Welikanda railway station.
Between Madawachchiya and Anuradhapura, 22nd July Tamil passengers to Colombo, coming from Jaffna boarded the train at Madawachchiya. Some men who were dressed in trousers or shorts and T.shirts, came into a railway carriage. It is thought that they were not ordinary civilians. They selected four young Tamil men and asked them to come to the corridor for a discussion. At a point where the train was moving fast, passengers saw the 4 young Tamils being pushed out. What became of them is not known. Rumours of such incidents have spread a general fear amongst Tamils wanting to travel between Jaffna and Colombo.
The full extent of violence against Tamils in the South is not known and is not talked about. Independent contact with border areas is difficult. Scanty information often comes through friendly Muslim traders.[Top]
Next||previous||Contents of Report4
Home | History
| Briefings | Statements
| Bulletins | Reports
| Special Reports | Publications
Copyright © UTHR 2001