After the massacre at Kokkadichcholai on 12th June l991 a presidential inquiry was ordered, and sittings are continuing up to now. With all the risks involved, the victims have courageously gone and given witness to the commission. They hope that at least this inquiry might produce some results, which will put an end to these types of massacres which forced them to take this risk. Every one is eagerly waiting for the commissions report, but there is scepticism at large about the final outcome.
But the day-to-day life of the people in those hamlets still continues to be very uncertain. We bring out below a few incidents, which occurred after the massacre to show the real plight of these people who are trapped in between the LTTE and the Government forces and their allies TELO. As we have mentioned in our earlier Report 8, though Kokkadichcholai is a collective name for the three hamlets, Mahiladitheevu, Muthalaikuda and Kokkadichcholai, the name refers to the main hamlet in local parlance. [Top]
As usual when the Army was trying to bring the provisions to their camp from the jetty, a group of Tiger cadres suddenly ambushed them nearly 200 yards from the jetty. Eight(8) soldiers were killed in the ambush and in the following shoot-out two Tiger cadres were also killed. It happened round about 3.00 pm and the army left the place and came later to take the bodies. They were able to take only a few bodies and for the rest, they seemed to have approached the ICRC. In the evening a group of TELO members came near the Methodist church area and beat the old man who is a circuit steward in charge of the church and another man who is a barber, and ransacked the place.
After the earlier massacre the NGO EHED had organised to distribute dry rations, 500 sarongs, 200 sarees, and stitched uniforms for the school children, with the Brigadier’s permission. They had distributed some of these the previous week and left the remainder with the circuit steward in the church. All these were ransacked by the TELO group. The army did not get involved in any reprisal attacks. [Top]
On the 9th of November a large number of TELO members came in an army truck with some army men who were in civilian clothes to the Methodist Church area. Once again they beat up the old caretaker and removed all the furniture and kitchen utensils from the church as well as from a neighbouring house. The old man was found unconscious when some others came into the house. He is still having pain in his leg and finding it difficult to walk. All the medicines and furniture from the nearby dispensary were also removed by the TELO group.
On the l2th some army men came to that place on their normal routine. When they saw that there was no furniture in the house, they inquired about it and when they came to know about the earlier incident they promised to inquire into it. They blamed the TELO and promised to find the things, saying that TELO might have sold the furniture for a booze. Nothing happened. But recently, during the first week of December, the TELO boys came and removed the only things left, the flowerpots. People are wary about the army’s version as they don’t believe that TELO could have come in an army truck without it’s knowledge. The people are keeping quiet for not wanting to loose other things in the neighbourhood.
Here we want to qualify the term TELO boys as there is some confusion regarding this. It is a well known fact that there are TELO boys with the army in the camp at Kokkadichcholai proper. At the same time there are some errant boys from that village who do not belong to any movement but are with the army. Then there are some boys who were earlier in the PLOTE and later joined the army. They were called Mohan’s group. Most of these boys are from the same village Kokkadichcholai and the above incidents all happened in Mahiladitheevu. There was a general animosity between these two hamlets and people are feeling that these boys are also settling old scores. We shall discuss the behaviour of the TELO and PLOTE in a separate section. [Top]
Here we quote a paragraph from our previous report number 8, which is very relevant here:
“When food is brought for the army, a patrol would commandeer a local tractor and set off to the jetty, posting sentries along the road, with perhaps half a dozen men at the Methodist church. since this is a regular operation: It is here that soldiers are most vulnerable, as experience has shown”.
As we have pointed out, the earlier pressure mines were planted under the tree inside the Methodist Church compound where usually the army stays for sentry duty. On the 30th, Saturday, as usual they came there and one soldier got wounded due to a pressure mine.
Next to the compound is the circuit steward’s house. They had already lost their furniture and in an earlier massacre one of his daughters had been wounded in the legs and is still in Batticaloa unable to walk. In the l987 massacre one son got killed in a prawn factory and recently the old man was twice beaten up badly by the TELO. They did not have any idea that the mines were there. Usually the mother of that house sweeps the compound every Saturday for Sunday Church prayers. For some strange reason she decided to sweep the place in the evening instead of in the morning and thus narrowly escaped losing her leg.
Immediately after the incident two army men rushed towards the adjacent house and one was pointing the gun towards the old man and was about to shoot when two colleagues of his came and stopped him. After things cooled down they explained that they didn’t have a clue that the bombs were there, and if they had known they would not have been there, and thus convinced the soldiers of their innocence.
After that the army left the wounded soldier in the camp, and returned to the village at about 5.30pm. Meanwhile the people who had moved out of their houses started to come back in the belief that the army had gone to the camp and that they wouldn’t be returning. When they realised that the army was returning it was too late. The army stopped those whom they met on the way and ordered them to follow them. When they reached the house of Mr.Wijayratnam, Grama Sevaka for the village Ambalanthurai, they fired through the cadjan fence, seeing his movements. Three shots were fired and only after the third shot the shout “Aiyo”! was heard by others. Then the army moved with its captives further down. After that no serious incident happened. All others were released later.
Why was Mr.Wijayaratnam killed? This puzzles everybody. In the earlier massacre his two daughters were molested by the army. One of his sons is in police custody for a long time purely on suspicion that he has links with the LTTE. The previous day Mr.Wijyaratnam had been in the Batticaloa town where his two daughters are staying after their earlier ordeal. He went to his home in Mahiladitheevu on the day of the incident. His daughters asked him to stay there. But he told them that it was his duty, and he insisted that he should be there, and went. Even when the people left the place after the incident, he continued to stay in the house, confident that since he was a Government servant no harm would be done to him.
Was he killed to terrorise the people who are giving evidence to the commission? People who are closely monitoring the commission proceedings don’t think so. There is a feeling that the army is looking for his brother’s son, who is suspected to be involved with the LTTE and planting mines in those areas. The poor man may be an innocent victim of the army’s revenge.
Of course his death is put into the category of “ killed by unidentified persons” as people are scared to give witness. More over to get at least some compensation for the tragic family which has suffered a lot, it is necessary that the Killers should be “unknown”. Only when the “terrorists” kill somebody does the Government pay compensation. Mr. Wijayaratnam is a government servant and only because of that, he returned from Batticaloa and stayed at Mahiladitheevu. He has been killed by the Armed Forces, and if the Government really has any notion of reducing human rights violations, then it should make a full inquiry into it and pay the compensation for the family and punish the people involved in the crime. The whole question of paying compensation to the victims of state terrorism has to be squarely faced if the government wants to build confidence among the people. There is no point in military officers and the government asking the people to forget the past when hundreds and thousands of people have lost their loved ones just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. [Top]
Ambalanthurai is another village in the Kokkadichcholai area. LTTE’s presence is very high and the army goes there very seldom. On the 11th of December, the Army surrounded the village and did a cordon and search operation. Naturally the Tigers had vanished from the scene, and only the innocent civilians were harassed. They arrested seven fishermen and brought them to Batticaloa. When they approached the fishermen, one person who was about 45 years old tried to run and he was shot dead. It is ironic that the person’s brother who is called Pandian is with the army in Kokkadichcholai and belongs to Mohan’s group. Moreover the dead man’s son is a Tiger. But he is a family man and he was killed because he got scared of the army and wanted to get away from them.
Moreover it brings out the complex reality of these families where it is natural for brothers from the same family to be on different sides. It is more accidental than any commitment to the cause. The next day the Sri Lankan TV Rupavahini claimed that a terrorist was killed in Ambalanthurai and seven others were arrested!.
Here we want to bring out another incident in which the army moved in to the Kalai podda madu village where they set fire to 40 - 50 houses. In that “operation” a boy who had a hearing problem was shot at and later admitted to the Hospital.
The people who are living in these areas are very poor and live in huts thatched by cadjans. It is very difficult to take provisions to those areas as well as other items which are needed to rebuild these huts as the army won’t allow them for “security” reasons.
People have to go to Kokkadichcholai Army camp to get their provisions and medicines. In places like Mahiladitheevu the boys with the army have ransacked the cooperative and the dispensary. But people are scared to go to the army camp in Kokkadichcholai as invariably they are beaten up as Tiger supporters. People believe that youth who are with the army in Kokkadichcholai are purposely spreading this rumour to punish them as they had village rivalries, which have nothing to do with the present politics. So, only the older women go to the camps to collect their provisions. On the other hand the people in Kokkadichcholai fear that there will be a massacre if the army moves out, as the LTTE thinks the Kokkadichcholai people are with the army. In reality the people hate both the parties and are angry about the whole situation. They are also scared about their future. [Top]
Just before the New year, people at Kokkadichcholai became suspicious that the boys were planning an attack. So they used to flee away from their own village. The villagers expected something to happen on New Year’s Day and most of them fled. The Christians had their New year service. The army had come and inquired from them about the others. They had said that the others had gone away expecting some thing to happen. Again on the 2nd night villagers had heard dogs barking in a way which indicated that there are strangers roaming around. So they all fled to Pandariavadi, a village two miles from Kokkaddichollai. The army had come on 3rd morning up to the Mahiladitheevu junction where the Methodist Church is situated and they noticed that the whole village was empty. So they returned back to the camp and came back again with more forces. They moved with TELO in front. As they proceeded towards the jetty the army started firing and the LTTE cadres who were a little away started retaliating. The shoot out went on for an hour. Helicopters also were in action. The army was forced to retreat into the camp. Two TELO cadres and two army men died.
The people at Pandariavadi moved to Ampalanthurai when they heard the firing. At about 3.30pm the LTTE cadres returned from K’cholai and villages had seen nearly 500 of them including 20 girls. They were carrying a dead body and an injured person.
After this incident when the army comes to the village the people flee away fearing reprisals. There was no harassment reported. [Top]
In middle November, 5 to 6 bodies were burnt inside a notorious army camp (housed in Forest Dept. building) and people around that place came to know about it. When the Peace Committee approached the Superintendent of Police (SP) he said that the army had asked them to dispose of the unidentified bodies and that’s what they had done. The Peace committee raised the point that even if those were unidentified bodies, there should have been a proper procedure adopted and that there should be more sensitivity towards the people and protested against the burning of the bodies. The SP promised that it wouldn’t happen again and assured them that they would follow the proper procedure in the future.
But, on the 1st week of December nearly 10 bodies were burnt in the early morning near the Kalladi bridge and half-burnt hands and limbs were found in neighbouring compounds!. [Top]
There are large numbers of fisher folks who earn their livelihood by fishing in the lagoon in Batticaloa. The famous area for fishing is along Lady Mannings Drive which is opposite to the District Judge’s bungalow (formerly). Today nobody can use this area for fishing as the army does not give permission. Due to this, hundreds of families are affected. There are no convincing reasons given for this ban.
Since security reasons were given for the ban, the people approached the Army and pleaded saying that they are prepared to adopt any restrictive practice such as having specific identity cards, fishing during a specified time such as in between 8am - 10 am, and 2 pm-4 pm and even to fish in a confined area. But all was in vain.
Suddenly a few fisher folk began to fish in the lagoon after an incident in Manmunai Lagoon. In that incident one Navy personnel was killed due to a Tiger ambush. After that people noticed that there was no Navy patrolling around the Lagoon and they started fishing. A few days later the Navy came and beat up the fisher men and then every thing stopped abruptly.
Bringing normalcy means making the people feel that they can have their own livelihood without any disruption. People are pragmatic enough to understand any security reasons given with sincerity and will be prepared to adapt themselves. But when they are put under unreasonable constraints, how is the state going to build confidence? Is it because the lagoon is filled with human remains that the army feels embarrassed about it and prevents the fisher folks from fishing there? Legitimate question indeed . [Top]
Thambiraja Thiyagaraja and Thevanayagam Thambiraja both 21 years old were fishing along the sea coast near the Bar area at 7am on 9.11.91. The army came and arrested them on the information given by the TELO. They were from the village called Arumugathan Kurippu in Earuvur and came to Batticaloa after the massacre at Savutkady.
For two or three days relatives could not trace them and the peace committee approached the Army. Col.Vipulaguna promised to find out and later traced them in their captivity. Now immediate family members are being allowed to visit them.
Those people who escaped massacresand came to Batticaloa for safety are also feeling insecure by the activities of TELO cadres. There is no hard evidence or reasons for the arrests of the large number of innocent civilians, apart from personal reasons of TELO members, simple suspicions or because of some prejudice they have against a village. They randomly identify some individuals as Tigers and put their lives at risk. [Top]
Kaniston Michael is from Navatkuda. He was earlier arrested by the army and later released and asked to report to the Army camp every week. He was doing so regularly and on 12th November the TELO took him into custody and his body was latter found on the 13th with his throat slit by a razor blade.
People resent the activities of the TELO and they made complaints against them to the Army and the police. The Police had declared that they have nothing to do with the TELO. People still wonder about the role played by the TELO and try to figure out whether the TELO is being used by the army in such a way as to put the blame on them for dirty work the army wants to do.
The famous Captain M who used the TELO for his dirty work had been transferred to somewhere else. Some senior citizen said that the TELO is freely moving around and behaving like an “executing squad”. The pattern seems to be the same everywhere. [Top]
A boy known as Dick from Navatkuda, who belonged to the Catholic Church, was in the seminary to become a brother. On the 8th evening he had come home to have his dinner. On the way home TELO had stopped him. So he had run into a neighbouring house and the lady of the house had hid him and stood at the door.The TELO had demanded for Dick. The lady was hurt by TELO. The boy Dick was taken away. The lady of the house ran to Dick’s parents and informed them of the plight of their son. The mother and sister ran to the nearby camp and informed the army . They said that nothing of that sort had happened. Next day morning some people reported that a body was lying near a river bank. The parents went to the scene and found that it was Dick’s body.
The body was cut with a blade. They had cut open his throat and inserted the rosary through his mouth in to the throat!. The blade too had been inserted through the mouth. [Top]
The killing of Elizabeth, aged 16, created a lot of panic in the Batticaloa Town. She was a student at the convent school and was engaged to a reserve police constable. Her body was found in the lagoon. There was evidence of multiple rape. She was seen by some at Anaipanthy Pilliar Kovil in the company of TELO boys. People had seen a red car with boys approaching the lagoon at about 2.30 pm in daylight.
People still dont understand how this car was able to pass all the check points without being detected. Whether there was a connivance of the army in the whole sordid affair or some TELO persons involved had the sanction of the army to move around is unclear.
Recently police arrested a boy named UKKAN in this regard, who is notorious for his dominating and insulting behaviour towards the people. He was earlier in the group ENDLF and later was moving around with the TELO. [Top]
In August an old van was left near the Kaththankudi sentry point near Dr.Kaleels dispensary, loaded with explosives. The explosion cost the lives of twelve Muslim civilians. After the incident the Tamils were expecting some retaliation but no serious incident occurred.
Related to this incident is the arrest of Mr.V. Balasingham a retired CISR research officer from Puthukuddiiruppu, who is in his 60’s and a young Franciscan brother called Mark. Since the van was parked in the church compound a few days before, it led to the arrest of the father. According to the people the van was in an unusable condition and it was sold to some one and they were towing it to their place. Since it got late they left it in the church compound and went. Only the next day they came and took it. Then the van was taken to the place of the explosion in the same condition and people left it there. It is very unusual that nobody suspected this to contain explosives.
Mr.V. Balasingham is an expert in cashew cultivation. He processes cashew wine and other products. He was a tireless worker and was actively involved in environmental issues. People know him feel that he is a straightforward man, an asset to this country. He was asked by the Government to survey the Valaichenai river for a development plan. His two sons who have done PhD’s are residing abroad. His third son is a motor mechanic whom the police must be suspecting of having some connection with the explosion. The father who has no involvement in this incident is being held in custody. The allegation against both Bro.Mark and Mr.V.Balasingaham is that the previous day the van was parked in their compounds. But every one thinks that they are keeping him to arrest his son. The son is missing and nobody knows whether he has any connections with the Tigers. Even if he does not have any connections, it is unlikely that any young person will voluntarily go and surrender after so many fateful experiences of youngsters. For three months Mr.V.Balasingham’s wife was not allowed to see him. Only recently she was allowed to visit him. [Top]
Noting the absence of reprisals after the bombing incident, a senior citizen expressed that it has shown the “maturing of opinion”. He compared the way in which the mood of the people in Kaththankudi had changed from abnormal frenzy - found at the time when the pilgrims were killed by the Tigers -to that of a more mature state.
He related the feeling of the Muslims during and after the massacre of Muslims of Kaththankudi who were coming from Colombo in the first week of July l990. Immediately after hearing news of the abduction of the passengers, a few Muslims went and approached the prominent people in Batticaloa, who were from the Catholic Church to find about their whereabouts. A party of prominent people including Fr.Miller went to the scene to find out what had happened. On the way when they approached Kaththankudi the people wished them well and gave cool drinks and were waiting eagerly to know the outcome. When the party came without any success the mood began to change, although the group of people who went to the scene were not sure as to what had happened to the passengers and were asking people to be calm. Rumours began to spread that all were killed. Banners were hoisted all over the place and announcements were made through a loudspeaker asking for tit-for-tat. When senior citizens approached a responsible person from the Muslim community to find out what was happening he was very helpless. He said that a few young extreme elements were involved and that emotions were running high and that even if he tried to calm them he would be killed. We saw the outcome of this in the next few weeks. The Tamils were scared to go to the outskirts of Kathankudy and people in Kathankudy also lived in fear of further Tiger onslaught. All these things have been in our earlier documents. [Top]
The response after the recent explosion has shown that passions have died down and that the people have had time to reflect on what has happened on those fateful days. There is a need for a serious re-evaluation of the past by both communities. A group calling itself a Liberation Group is involved in massacres against a community which it also claims to represent. The ordinary people can claim that they have nothing to do with it. But the question still remains, how it is possible for a group to do these type of dastardly acts and still feel confident that they can claim to represent the Tamil people? Isn’t it that they have appealed to the gut feelings of the ordinary Tamil people and there is a passive approval or willingness on the part of a section of the Tamil community to rationalise it?. Unless the Tamil community begins to re-examine, and show their disgust for these types of acts carried on their name, there is no hope for our community. Similarly the attacks and brutal murders by a section of the Muslims against innocent Tamils in various places cannot be explained away as a spontaneous act done by a small number of people. It may not have been done by an organised group such as the Tigers, but those who have done the similar types of dastardly acts cannot be allowed to go scot free. The community should take the responsibility and find ways and means to overcome the sordid past. At least organised bodies should come out and condemn those acts and commit themselves that in the future their community won’t be high jacked by a few unruly elements, and ensure that there will be organised forces to combat it. It is a challenge for all political groups in their respective communities.
The peace committees in these areas which have to some extent articulated the urgent needs of the people, now need to attend to these issues, and find ways and means to bring different communities together by breaking the narrow mould of thinking which still govern our politics. By doing so they can create an environment in which people from different communities need no longer look for safeguards on specific structures only. No specific structure can guarantee safety when our politics is going to stress only the ethnic aspect without considering the other basic issues such as economic, social, civil and democratic rights (i.e.; human rights in a wider sense). [Top]
When we were writing the report we received news about bicycle bombs which exploded in Kaththankudi and in Kalmunai. According to the news the two bombs placed on bicycles exploded and four people were killed and a number of others were injured. In Kathankudy which is a densely populated Muslim area a bicycle was parked in the middle of the town with a bomb. The explosion took the lives of three civilians and injured about 20 people. Immediately after the incident the buses carrying Tamil passengers were stopped before entering Kathankudy and normalcy was restored. The passengers in a van which was already inside the town, when the explosion occurred, were manhandled by the angry crowd. But due to the immediate intervention of the police and elders from the community it was stopped.
The whole episode once again brings out the destructive nature of the LTTE. The bomb was targeted towards the Muslim civilians and they expected a backlash against Tamil civilians. Although no serious incident occurred immediately, news reports show that two fishermen were killed by the Muslim home guards later.
A similar incident happened in Kalmunai on the same day. Another cycle bomb had been placed near the police barrier in Kalmunai. In that incident police claim that they have arrested three of those involved in planting the bomb. After the incident the police, the majority of whom were Muslims, started attacking the Tamils. But because of the intervention of the STF it was brought under control. After these incidents the Muslim youths in Batticaloa town also went on the rampage and the Batticaloa police managed to control them by taking stern measures. [Top]
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