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Sri Lanka's Undeclared War on Eelam Tamils
...in the Shadow of a Ceasefire
|Abducted TRO Aid Workers Believed Dead - Memorial service held by TRO, 15 March 2007 [also in PDF]|
Tamil Rehabilitation Organization Headquarters in Kilinochchi held a memorial ceremony on Wednesday March 14 2007 to honour the seven (7) TRO humanitarian aid workers who were abducted on 29 & 30 January 2006 from the Welikanda area in Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) controlled Polonaruwa District by the “Karuna Group”, a paramilitary organization that is functioning with the protection of and in collaboration with the armed forces of the Sri Lankan government.
The 7 aid workers remain “disappeared” over a year after their abduction and, as a result of news reports and information conveyed to our organization, it is with great sorrow and condolences to the families that TRO now believes that our co-workers were executed soon after being abducted by the GoSL-affiliated “Karuna Group” paramilitaries. Recent news reports state that they were tortured before being murdered and their bodies disposed of. TRO requests that the Police follow up on news reports and investigate the locations where the bodies may be buried.
TRO President Mr. Sivanadiyar, speaking at the ceremony stated,
The 7 who are missing and believed dead are:
To date the Sri Lanka Police and security forces have yet to conduct any meaningful investigation or inquiry into these disappearances. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka investigated the case and made a report to its head that has never been released. In addition to not thoroughly investigating the abduction of the TRO aid workers the GoSL has also not listed their case among the 15 cases that the President’s “Commission of Inquiry” will investigate. The atmosphere of impunity that exists in Sri Lanka has lead to a steady decline in the status of human rights and the safety of humanitarian workers on the island.
Neither TRO nor any of the families have to date received any reports or response from any investigating authorities despite several persistent inquiries. There have also not been any arrests or convictions in this case. The abduction of the TRO aid workers was the first in a series of attacks on local and international NGOs and their staff. The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) has, by design, made it very difficult for international NGOs, the UN and ICRC to work in the NorthEast with the tsunami and war affected populations. The GoSL has sought to isolate the NorthEast from any humanitarian assistance by:
For further information, please contact: Arjunan Ethirveerasingam, TRO Colombo / London (+44 77 586 49198 firstname.lastname@example.org )
|First Anniversary: The tragic fate of TRO employees abducted by Karuna cadres, D.B.S. Jeyaraj, 3 February 2007|
One year has passed since the abductions and resultant
disappearances of seven Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO)
employees took place in Welikande . Five TRO persons travelling from
Batticaloa to Kilinochchi were abducted on January 29th Three were
released subsequently. On the following day (30th) another TRO
vehicle going from B’caloa to Kilinochchi was hi-jacked at
Welikande. Five full time TRO employees and ten trainee recruits
were on board. The ten rookies were released later but the other
five were not. The TRO has been often accused of being a front
organization of the tigers.
The incident did not pass unnoticed. Apart from the TRO protests several INGO’s raised the issue. Worldwide appeals for their return were issued.Christina Rocca then US asst secretary of state made an appeal for their release. The reputed human rights organization Amnesty International issued a special statement in March and requested letters of appeal be sent to President Mahinda Rajapakse.
The AI statement provided a terse synopsis of what happened in the two abduction incidents.
“Kasinathar Ganeshalingam, Kathirkamar Thangarasa, Thanuskody Premini, Shanmuganathan Sujendram, Thambiraja Vasantharajan, Kailayapillai Ravindran and Arunesarasa Satheesharan, all employees of the Tamil relief and development charity, Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), were abducted in two separate incidents in late January 2006. It is feared that they may have “disappeared” and there are grave concerns for their safety.” said Amnesty.
Amnesty also issued some Background information about the incident.” The government and the LTTE met to discuss the implementation of the cease-fire in Geneva on 22 and 23 February. The abductions of the TRO workers, which took place shortly afterwards were interpreted by some as an attempt to derail this renewed effort to put the peace process back on track. However, the talks in Geneva went ahead as planned and both parties reiterated their commitment to respect the cease-fire agreement. They agreed to meet again in Geneva from 19 to 21 April”.
“The TRO is seen as being closely affiliated with the LTTE. However, it is a legally registered Sri Lankan charity and its mission is to provide much needed relief, rehabilitation and development for the people of the northeast of Sri Lanka”.
Amnesty International in an Urgent Action release issued on March 10th expressed “grave concern” for the safety of the seven Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) staffers who were abducted on 29-30 January and are still missing. Amnesty urged all concerned to write to the Sri Lanka Ministry of Defence, Inspector General of Police and Sri Lanka’s President Mr Mahinda Rajapakse to “undertake and complete as a matter of urgency thorough investigations into the fate and whereabouts of the seven,” and to ensure safety of all TRO workers and the families of the missing.
Nothing much has happened in the case despite appeals made by the USA, Amnesty International and several reputed INGO’s. The Commission of Inquiry set up by President Rajapakse to delve into fifteen major incidents of human rights violations excluded the TRO abductions. Appeals made by TRO that these be included have fallen on deaf ears.
The breakaway Karuna faction of the LTTE known as Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) was the prime suspect. Testimonies made by two of the released employees to the Human Rights Commission also indicated that they had seen the name Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal ( TMVP) written in chalk at the camp they were held and interrogated.
But the accusations were denied. A counter - charge was made that the LTTE was responsible. A “story” was floated that a senior LTTE member had advised families of those abducted to keep quiet because it was all a “drama”. It was a LTTE stage - managed act and those “abducted” would return it was said. Nothing has happened. Meanwhile the incidents are passing into the realm of the forgotten.
But the loved ones of the “missing” have not and will not forget. A ceremony was held last week in Kilinochchi to remember the missing seven. The mother of one woman and the wife of one man addressed the gathering. They expressed the belief that the persons were still living and appealed to the world to ensure that they return.Hope springs eternal!
However much one would wish that these abducted human beings whose “humanity” is being obscured by the TRO label be returned or return , recent information gathered by this writer point otherwise. The facts that I am privy to indicate that all seven abducted have been killed. The solitary woman among them was painfully gang raped before being killed. Cadres of the Karuna faction (TMVP) are allegedly responsible.
This writer has been communicating with some sources, well - informed about some of the goings on, within the Karuna faction. These include disgruntled ex - members who quit the TMVP in disgust over its conduct and the fact that Karuna cadres were functioning as the “running dogs of (Sinhala) Imperialism”. While some of the details divulged by these circles should be taken with a healthy dose of scepticism the information provided about the abductions was deeply disturbing. It is after many weeks of probing that I venture to re- construct in print the tragic fate that befell the abducted seven.
The Karuna faction has a man called “Pillaiyan” who is described as the supreme military commander of the TMVP military wing. Pillaiyan was responsible among many things for the assassination of G. Nadesan the “Virakesari” Batticaloa correspondent. He is said to be the main “link” between the TMVP and its military intelligence handlers. Pillaiyan is also the alleged mastermind behind the on going “abduction of Tamil businesmen for ransom” racket in Colombo.
Theevuchenai is a village in the Polonnaruwa district on the borders of Batticaloa. The TMVP had a string of camps in the adjoining jungle areas. An order was given to TMVP cadres at Theevuchenai on Jan 29th evening by Pillaiyan over the telephone. He told them that a van with TRO employees was coming from B’caloa . Pillaiyan commanded his cadres to lie in wait at Welikande and then pick the TRO people up.
A TMVP team led by a man called Sinthujan alias Pratheepan was given the task. Armed Karuna cadres went from Theevuchenai in a white vehicle and waited at Welikande. The Karuna faction cadres in the abduction team were Jeyanthan, Kumar, Pulenthiran, Siranjeevi and Yogan. All of them are in their early twenties.The TRO vehicle proceeded after checking in at the army post at Welikande. The TMVP van followed and at about 8. 30 pm seized the van at gun point in a convenient location. They took the TRO van to Theevuchenai.
The five people in the van were Kasinathar Ganeshalingam, North East Province Secretary of Pre-School Education Development Centre (PSEDC), Ms S.Doshini, PSEDC Coordinator for Manmunai North, Ms Punniyamoorthy Nadeswary, Pre-School teacher at the Vavunatheevi pre-school, Ms Chitravel Sivamathi, Pre-School teacher at the Vavunatheeevu pre-school and vehicle driver Kathirgamar Thangarasa.
The females were separated from the males. Sinthujan himself interrogated the two males while Sitha alias Pradeep the head of TMVP intelligence along with two others questioned the females. Sitha’s claim to notoriety was after the murder of former Tamil National Alliance National list MP Joseph Pararajasingham on Christmas day in 2005.
He was shot dead near the altar at the St. Mary’s cathedral in Batticaloa after partaking of holy communion at the hands of Bishop Kingsley Swampillai. Sitha was identified as one of the two killers and full details were given by the TNA to President Rajapakse. No arrests have been made so far but the “witnesses” who identified Sitha are now abroad in fear of their lives.
The three females were initially questioned by Sitha and Shashi alias Shanthan and Jeeva alias Thilakan. At one stage Sitha separated Doshini from the other two and proceeded to interrogate her alone.Shashi and Jeeva continued questioning Sivamathy and Nadeswari.
Sinthujan himself interogated the two males. Ganeshalingam was from Thellipalai in Jaffna while Thangarasa was from Kilinochchi. Both were from the north while the females were from the East. Both males were assaulted and accused of being Pottu Amman’s intelligence wing operatives. Their Jaffna origins were also ridiculed by Sinthujan. Later both were taken out and personally executed by Sinthujan.
Nadeswari and Sivamathy were cleared by intelligence and handed over to Sinthujan as “clean”. They were released by Sinthujan the following day and put on a bus near the Vavunatheevu army camp.. Both were not physically assaulted and treated quite decently by Shashi and Jeeva. The TMVP were under the impression that some of Pottu Amman’s tiger intelligence operatives were functioning as TRO employees. Once they were convinced that Nadeswari and Sivamathy were not tigers the TMVP intelligence operatives relaxed.
In the case of Doshini it was discovered that she was a close relative of a senior Karuna faction member. This was of some help initially. Thereafter it appears that Sitha took a fancy to Doshini. He “interrogated” her alone and at one point threatened her with death on the charge of being a tiger accomplice. She broke down and sobbed. Sitha comforted her gently. Later Sitha himself drove her back home in his vehicle.
Apparently a Theevuchenai version of the Stockholm syndrome occurred. The captive began “loving” the captor. According to unconfirmed reports Doshini is now living with Sitha as his “common law” spouse. She has not been questioned by the authorities so far and is protected by powerful people.
But Nadeswari and Sivamathy were required to give statements to the Police. They were harassed by Police officials who kept them at the station overnight. The victims were treated as suspects. Both of them also went to Colombo and voluntarily tendered statements to the Human Rights Commission. Ms. Doshini has not made a statement to the HRC.
On the following day (Jan 30th) the TMVP cadres at Theevuchenai received another phone call around noon from Pillaiyaan. Sinthujan was told of a second TRO vehicle proceeding from Batticaloa.The same team led by Sinthujan went to Welikande and followed the same modus operandi. The white van waited at the checkpoint and followed the TRO vehicle. It overtook the TRO van after 100 metres and stopped it around 4.15 pm.
While Sinthujan remained in the white van the other five (Jeyanthan, Kumar, Pulenthiran, Siranjeevi and Yogan) seized the TRO vehicle. The driver was pulled out and pushed to the road after a few blows.
Yogan got in and drove the hi- jacked vehicle while the TMVP white van followed suit.
The vehicles stopped after getting off the main road. Pulenthiran and Siranjeevi got in and blindfolded all fifteen abductees. The vehicles then proceeded along circuitous routes and reached Theevuchenai. The fifteen were taken in and questioned by Sinthujan, Shashi and Jeeva.
It was found within a short time that eleven of the fifteen were newly recruited trainees on their way to Vavuniya for a training workshop.The others were on their way to TRO headquarters at Kilinochchi. The TMVP was not satisfied about one of the trainee recruits whom they accused of being the henchman of Keerthi the B’caloa area intelligence chief.
The other ten trainees were blindfolded again and taken by van to the A - 11 highway. Kumar, Yogan and Jeyanthan were in the vehicle. At one point one Jeyanthan saw a Police jeep and shouted “munnale Police jeep”. Yogan replied casually “Athu Pirachinai illai” (No problem). When releasing the ten trainees the abductors told them that the last rites could be performed by family members for the other five.
The five persons kept at Theevuchenai were Aruneswararajah Satheeswaran an accounts trainee from Vellaveli; Kailayapillai Ravindran the accountant at Vipulananda Childrens home, Palugamam, Shanmuganathan Sujendiran the accountant of Manikkavasagar Children’s home, Santhively; Thambyrajah Vasantharajan acct at B’ caloa TRO office and Ms.Premini Thanuskody the chief TRO accountant for the Eastern Province. Premini was also an undergraduate at the Eastern university at Vantharumoolai.
All five persons were “interrogated” intensively by TMVP intelligence led by Sitha. Sinthujan was also involved. The men were assaulted and even tortured. Sitha and the other intelligence personnel then left the camp telling Sinthujan “Ini ungadai poruppu” (Now your responsibility).
The four males were then given rice to eat and tea to drink. Afterwards they were blindfolded and put in a pick - up. It was driven into the interior. The men were then forced to walk into the jungle blind- folded.. The blindfolds were removed and they were asked to dig a huge pit. When it was over the weeping men were lined up and shot. TMVP cadres quickly covered up the grave.
The fate of Premini was terrible. The dusky woman with attractive features and a slight squint was taken to another camp and raped first by Sinthujan himself. Threafter it was a horrible gang rape with TMVP cadres taking turns to sexually assault her. Fourteen cadres raped the poor girl. Some troubled TMVP cadres did not participate in the rape but were powerless to stop it.
Premini was heard to shout and cry at the start. Later she merely sobbed and whimpered. Premini was taken out before dawn by TMVP cadres to the jungles. She walked like a “nadaipinam” (walking corpse) without crying or showing signs of emotion said one ex - TMVP cadre. She was apparently hacked to death and thrown into the bushes.
This account of what allegedly happened to the abducted TRO personnel has troubled me greatly. The tragic fate of Premini is deeply distressing. I have re - constructed the tragedy from accounts related by ex - TMVP cadres. It may be possible to persuade them to testify to these incidents at a genuine inquiry if their safety is guaranteed and identity protected.
Meanwhile the onus is on our former human rights champion and current executive president Mahendra Percy Rajapakse to take action in this matter. Looking back one sees the Govt and law - enforcement authorities acting as “obstructors” of justice in this matter. Cabinet ministers accused the TRO of not co-operating thereby implying that the victim organization was at fault. When TRO employees went to lodge complaints they were treated shabbily as if they were the offenders and not the victims. TRO officials made repeated attempts to contact authorities but were simply ignored. All this points to a massive cover up exercise.
I have also heard of one decent Sinhala military intelligence official who tried to probe this incident and the massacre of 12 Sinhala workers at Omadhiyamadhu being killed by Karuna cadrs themselves. It may be recalled that the Omadhiyamadhu killings were blamed on the LTTE. According to this yet to be confirmed version, the TMVP was responsible for that incident too. The MI official was lured into a trap by Pillaiyan and killed by TMVP cadres. The blame as usual was put on the LTTE.
The case of Welikande abductions did not receive the attention it should have received because TRO personnel were involved. It has been easy to downplay the incidents because the TRO is perceived as a tiger front organization. Even civilian employees of the TRO are treated as terrorist because of suspected LTTE affiliations. The well - designed campaign to cripple the TRO also has not been objected to stronly due to alleged tiger links.
Against this backdrop it was easily possible to float conspiracy theories against the LTTE over the TRO abductions and disbelieve that a massive human rights violation had occurred. I am ashamed to say that I too initially felt that the abductions were choreographed dances of deception. The information that is available now makes me realise the full impact of the incidents. There is a crying need for justice here.
The fact that the LTTE is no saint and that it has perpetrated innumerable human rights violations is widely accepted. Yet in a society that is under the rule of law and has a democratically elected government of gigantic proportions the individual is entitled to fundamental rights. Even those working for the TRO or even LTTE members have those rights however unpalatable it may be to some people. This is a crucial truth that cannot be denied in the tragic episode of the abducted TRO personnel.
|TRO Urgent Action Press Releases, 30 January 2006 [also in PDF]|
Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation
Five (5) staff members travelling from the Batticaloa office to Vavuniya for an accounting workshop have been kidnapped by unidentified gunmen after passing through the Welikanda, (Polonnaruwa District) Sri Lankan Army Checkpoint at approximately 16:00 hours 30 January, 2006.
Fourteen (14) TRO Batticaloa staff members (10 women, 4 men) and a hired driver departed Batticaloa at approximately 14:00 hours in a hired van (vehicle number: 250-8993). The TRO staff vehicle had registered at the Welikanda army checkpoint and was continuing its journey when a “white van” that had been parked a “few meters” (as stated by one of the women who was released) away from the checkpoint. The “white van” forced the vehicle carrying the TRO personnel to stop approximately 100 meters past the GoSL Security Forces checkpoint on the A11 road.
Five (5) men, aged between 20 and 25 dressed in casual attire and carrying small arms, got out of the white van and entered the TRO vehicle. One of them dragged the driver out of the driver’s seat, dumped him into the back seat and started driving into the nearby surrounding jungle.
All the TRO personnel and the driver were blindfolded with the women’s shawls and had their hands tied by the men while inside the vehicle. The vehicle was stopped inside the jungle and all the TRO personnel were taken out of the van. The men were forced to sit under a tamarind tree and the women were given back their shawls.
The TRO personnel were interviewed for approximately 2 hours during which time they were abused physically and mentally. Eventually all the girls (9), except TRO Batticaloa Chief Accountant Thanuskody Premini (also currently a university student at Eastern University), were put back into the vehicle with the driver and started to take them back to the main road.
The following is taken from a statement made by one of the women that were released by the abductors. For fears for her safety, she does not wish to be identified. This is a translation from the Tamil telephone interview.
When they came to the main road one of the abductors shouted that there was a police jeep up ahead on the road. Another of the armed men replied that it was not a problem for them.
Ms. Premini and the 4 male staff members listed below were detained:
The armed gunmen told the driver and the 9 TRO women that they should return to Batticaloa and tell the families of the 5 people in their possession to make arrangements for their last rites.
TRO Kilinochchi and TRO Colombo were notified of these events late in the evening on 30 January 2006 and immediately contacted the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), ICRC, various human rights groups, international NGOs, Members of Parliament and other significant actors in the Sri Lankan peace process in Batticaloa, Colombo and worldwide.
TRO was informed that due to the fact that night had fallen none of the above mentioned agencies could journey to the area in question due to the prevailing security situation and concerns for their safety. On the morning of 31 January 2006 TRO personnel in Batticaloa and Colombo filed statements and requests with the SLMM, ICRC, the Batticaloa Police, the office of the President of Sri Lanka and the media.
TRO would like to appeal to the Government of Sri Lanka, the international community and the Sri Lankan Civil Society to make every effort to assure the safe return of these persons to their families. These TRO staff members have been involved in post-tsunami/post-war humanitarian relief and development work with orphaned children and are staff of a registered Sri Lankan National Non Government Organisation(Charity).
|Another five TRO staff reported missing, 31 January 2006|
Full text of the press release issued by TRO's Headquarters in
31 January 2006
23:00 Sri Lanka Time
The following Pre School Education Development Center (PSEDC) personnel and their driver have been reported missing to Colombo:
These TRO and PSEDC personnel had traveled from Kilinochchi to
the Batticaloa District to carry out the final assessment of the
Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) funded Temporary Pre School
Construction Project for Tsunami Welfare Centers (15 pre schools
throughout the East) and to evaluate the progress of the
construction of Permanent Tsunami Pre Schools funded by Save the
Children in Sri Lanka (36 pre schools throughout the NorthEast).
The Pre School Education Development Center (PSEDC) is an
organization that is funded by TRO and implements projects in
partnership with Save the Children in Sri Lanka, FORUT and UNICEF.
PSEDC supervises the operation and coordinates the activities of Pre
Schools in the NorthEast. The organization assures that pre schools
in the NorthEast meet the minimum standards as set forth by the
government of Sri Lanka. PSEDC also trains teachers and serves as a
coordinating agency that ensures that there is a bottom up design
and management of the pre school education of the children of all
communities in the NorthEast. The PSEDC works closely with the
Provincial Education Ministry and the Social Welfare Ministry.
|International Federation of Tamils Appeal [also in PDF]|
International Federation of Tamils
18 Rue des Paquis,1201 Geneva, Switzerland
tel/Fax 00 41 22 7320 831 email@example.com
31 January 2006
Urgent Press statement
|US urges Sri Lanka to investigate kidnapping of TRO staff, [TamilNet, January 31, 2006]|
The US Embassy in Sri Lanka, on Tuesday, expressed concern about the
reported January 30 kidnapping of five members of the Tamil
Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) at Welikanda in Polonnaruwa
District. Urging the relevant authorities to rapidly investigate the
allegations of the kidnapping, the US embassy called on all parties
to exercise restraint and calm, especially in the run-up to the
cease-fire talks in Geneva.
Full text of the press release follows:
UNITED STATES CONCERNED ABOUT REPORT OF TRO KIDNAPPING
Colombo, January 31, 2006: The U.S. Embassy is concerned about the reported January 30 kidnapping of five members of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) at Welikanda in Polonnaruwa District. The Embassy urges the relevant authorities to rapidly investigate these allegations. The Embassy again calls on all parties to exercise restraint and calm, especially in the run-up to the cease-fire talks in Geneva.
|Australasian Federation of Tamils Media Release, 1 February 2006 [also in PDF]|
AUSTRALASIAN FEDERATION OF TAMIL ASSOCIATIONS INC.
Abduction of TRO humanitarian workers by Paramilitary Forces in Sri Lanka
Five staff members of the Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), a Tamil NGOregistered in Sri Lanka and helping the war and tsunami affected people in the NorthEast of the country, have been abducted on the 30th of January, allegedly byparamilitary personnel working in collaboration with the Sri Lankan security forces.Another 5 officers working for the Pre School Educational Development Centre(PSEDC) who have gone missing from 29th of January now presumed to have beenabducted by the same paramilitary group.
The TRO members have been abducted while travelling in a convoy of vehicles with10 other staff members from the town of Batticaloa in the east to the Northern townof Vavuniya to attend a training program. Soon after their convoy passed a SriLankan military checkpoint, within 100 meters from the military checkpoint a whitevan had pulled up in front of the convoy and had blocked the road. Paramilitarypersonnel who were travelling in that white van has then dragged out the 5 seniorstaff members, forced them into the white van and driven them away. The otherswere assaulted and forced to return to Baticaloa. There were no eyewitnesses forthe PSEDC personnel’s abduction.
AFTA condemns this cowardice action by the paramilitary personnel and fear for thesafety of these innocent humanitarian workers. Paramilitary groups abductinginnocent Tamil people and executing them extra judicially is a common phenomenonin the North East of Sri Lanka after the cease-fire agreement came into effect.AFTA feels that, these abductions have been masterminded by those paramilitarypersonnel who are keen on scuttling the peace negotiations scheduled to be held inGeneva soon.
AFTA calls on the Australian government, NGOs and other human rightsorganizations to condemn these abductions and the Australian Governmentto exert its influence on the Sri Lankan government to secure the release ofthese 10 innocent Tamil humanitarian workers whose whereabouts are stillunknown.
Media Contact: Sydney : Dr Victor Rajakulendran 0402 484 209
|NGO Consortium urges immediate action to release kidnapped TRO staff|
[TamilNet, February 01, 2006 08:08 GMT]
The Consortium of Non Governmental Organisation in Vavuniya, representing 43
NGOs in Vavuniya District, on Tuesday, appealed to the Sri Lankan President
Mahinda Rajapakse, the representative of the International Committee for Red
Cross in Colombo (ICRC), the Head of Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) and the
chairperson of the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies in Colombo, to take
immediate action to safeguard the lives and to ensure the safe return of NGO
workers who have been kidnapped. Full text of the press release issued by the
NGO Consortium in Vavuniya, follows:
|UN agencies call for immediate release of kidnapped TRO staff|
[TamilNet, February 01, 2006 12:48 GMT]
|Paramilitaries release two TRO workers but threaten them not to divulge any information|
[TamilNet, February 01, 2006 11:54 GMT]
Two of the five pre-school teachers who were abducted by paramilitaries working with the assistance of Sri Lanka Army (SLA) on Sunday 8.00 p.m. were released unharmed and returned to their families in Batticaloa on Wednesday, TRO representatives in Batticaloa said. The fate of the remaining 8 persons abducted by the paramilitaries is not yet known.
|TRO Update on Kidnapped Persons, 1 February 2006 [also in PDF]|
Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation
410/112 Bullers Road, Colombo 07, Sri Lanka
Ph: +94 (0) 11 269 3254, 471 6575 Fax: 011 471 0576
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
1 February 2006
20:00 Sri Lanka Time
Two of the women who were traveling in the PSEDC vehicle on 29 January 2006 that failed to arrive in Kilinochchi for a meeting/training with FORUT at TRO Headquarters scheduled for Tuesday 31 January 2006 returned to their families on Monday 30 January and contacted TRO Batticaloa on Wednesday February 1 2006.
Ms. Punniyamoorththy Nadeswari and Ms. Siththiravel Sivamathi PSEDC Pre School Teachers at Vavunatheevu Pre School were traveling with Mr. Kasinathar Ganeshalingam (PSEDC North-East Province Secretary), Ms. S. Dosini (PSEDC Divisional Coordinator Mamunai North Division) and driver Thangarasa. They had departed Valaichenai on Sunday January 29 2006 for Kilinochchi. They were not heard from again by TRO until representatives of Ms. Nadeswari and Ms. Sivamathi contacted TRO Batticaloa personnel Wednesday.
The details are still emerging but it appears that the PSEDC vehicle driven by Thangarasa (vehicle Number: WP PA 3074) was stopped and hijacked on Sunday January 29 2006 at the same checkpoint as the vehicle (vehicle number: 250-8993) carrying the TRO accountants was hijacked and the 5 persons kidnapped on Monday evening.
These two (2) women from the Sunday 29 January kidnapping and the nine (9) who were hijacked and kidnapped and released on Monday 30 January were told not to make a report to the police or anyone else and thus fear for their lives and the lives of their family. TRO requests that the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and Civil Society exert pressure to ensure the safety of these women.
TRO wishes to facilitate any and all police enquiries into these incidents and requests that the GoSL guarantee the safety of those being interviewed. TRO also wishes to request that the SLMM and/or ICRC to accompany these women in order to facilitate and ensure the safe travel of the women to the interviews with the Police.
In response to allegations from various sources TRO would like to state that:
|Statement by Released Teachers Punniyamoorththy Nadeswari & Siththiravel Sivamathi [also in PDF]|
Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation
410/112 Bullers Road, Colombo 07, Sri Lanka
+94 (0) 11 269 3254, 471 6575
Fax: 011 471 6576, 011 533 3147
Head Office: 254 Jaffna Road, Kilinochchi, Sri Lanka Ph/Fax: +94 (0) 21 228 3947
Registered Company Number in Sri Lanka: N(PBG) 92 www.troonline.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
1 February 2006
The follow statement was made to TRO Batticaloa Staff by Ms. Punniyamoorththy Nadeswari and Ms. Siththiravel Sivamathi the PSEDC Pre School Teachers who were kidnapped on Sunday 29 January 2006 at approximately 20:00 hours. They were released 25 hours later at 21:00 hours on Monday 30 January 2006. The statement was translated from the Tamil original into English by TRO Colombo staff. All times are Sri Lankan Time.
[Currently 8 of those abducted are still missing] .... TRO would once again like to appeal to the international community and the Government of Sri Lanka to investigate and make every effort to ensure the safe release of our colleagues.
For more information please contact:
February 02, 2006
Toronto Press Release
Abduction Of Ten (10) TRO (Sri Lanka) Staff Members by Para-Militaries
TCWA is appalled at the abduction of ten (10) staff members of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) by para-militaries working with the Sri Lankan Armed forces in two separate but related incidents. The first one took place on January 23, 2006 just 100 metres from an army check point at Welikanda, Polonnaruwa district which is under the control of the SLAF. A total of fifteen (15) staff members were travelling from Batticaloa when paramilitaries obstructed their path, dragged five out of the TRO van and forced them into a “white van.” The rest were assaulted and forced to go back to Batticaloa.
A further five (5) members who left Valaichenai to Vavuniya to carry out the final assessment of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) funded Temporary Pre School Construction Project for Tsunami Welfare Centers and to evaluate the progress of the construction of Permanent Pre Schools funded by Save the Children in Sri Lanka have also been abducted. Latest reports say two (2) out of the five (5) have been released by para-militaries, but the fate of the remaining eight (five plus three) yet unknown.
The UN Resident/Humanitarian Co-coordinator’s Office in Sri Lanka has condemned the abductions. A statement released by the office said
Likewise the US embassy in Colombo has asked
the relevant authorities to investigate the kidnappings.
|Canadian Tamil Congress condemns the abduction of humanitarian workers in Sri Lanka; urges their immediate release|
CANADIAN TAMIL CONGRESS CONGRÈS TAMOUL CANADIEN
219 Argyle Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario K2P-2H4 e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
February 1, 2006
Ten aid workers belonging to Tamil Rehabilitation Organizations (TRO) were reportedly abducted by government sanctioned paramilitaries in the Sri Lankan government controlled area on January 30, 2006. The aid workers were traveling to take part in the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) funded Temporary Pre School Construction Project for Tsunami Welfare Centers. The TRO is involved in the rebuilding activities for the tsunami affected people in the Northeast of Sri Lanka. It is currently the largest NGO that operates in the Northeast of Sri Lanka.
Canadian Tamil Congress reminds that the responsibility for the protection of aid workers solely lies on the Sri Lankan government. However, response from Sri Lankan authorities has been disappointing.
Therefore, we now call upon the Canadian government and all those who have influence in promoting peace in Sri Lanka to condemn this act and to exert maximum pressure on the Sri Lankan government and its paramilitaries to ensure the immediate and safe release of the abducted relief workers.
We urge Sri Lanka to put a stop to the reprehensible practice of hostage taking which is posing a serious threat to aid delivery and to the peace process. As per Canadian government's earlier requests, we urge Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse to take concrete steps to disarm the paramilitaries.
Canadian Tamil Congress is very concerned regarding the safety of Canadian aid workers in Sri Lanka.
For further information, please contact;
Toronto (416) 240-0078
Montreal (514) 898-8019
Ottawa (613) 789-9371
Vancouver (778) 231-0074
|NESOHR Case Report on Abduction of TRO Employees 2nd February 2006 [also in PDF]|
Eight employees of the Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) were abducted in very similar fashion under very similar circumstances from the same location in two separate incidents on two successive days.
First incident on Sunday 29 January
The first incident occurred on Sunday 29 January. The vehicle carrying five TRO employees including the vehicle driver was traveling north from Batticaloa. Among them were three female employees. The vehicle had cleared the checking at the Welikande Sri Lankan Army checkpoint. As their vehicle proceeded towards north, a white-van interrupted the vehicle and abducted it. Abductors kept all five TRO employees overnight. Late on the following day, on Monday, two of the female employees who were abducted were brought back to the main road by the abductors and released there. The two women scared by the experience just went home and kept quiet. TRO office was alerted about the missing five only when they did not turn up as expected at their destination for the meeting on Tuesday 31 January. The news of the abduction that broke out on Wednesday 1 February reported that five employees were abducted. Those who released the news were not aware that two female employees out of the five in this vehicle were already back in their home and were too scared to report the incident.
Second incident on Monday 30 January
Another TRO vehicle left Batticaloa with several TRO employees on Monday 30 January and traveled towards north. Like the first vehicle this vehicle also cleared the Sri Lankan Army checkpoint at Welikande. Soon after, a white-van interrupted the vehicle and abducted five TRO employees from the vehicle. The remaining employees and their vehicle were turned back to Batticaloa. Those who were turned back alerted TRO of the abduction and this news broke out on Tuesday 31 January before the news of the first abduction broke out. Among the abducted five TRO employees in the second abduction was one female employee.
Who are the abductors?
Those who escaped from the abduction in both of the above incidents have cited some very similar features about the two incidents. These are:
1. All those who were abducted were employees of TRO.
A NESOHR case
It will be useful to describe a similar abduction case that NESOHR handled four months ago. This will throw further light into the present cases of abductions. In the case that NESOHR handled,
1. Members of one family were abducted
The similarity with this NESOHR case and the two cases of abduction of the TRO employees are striking. The NESOHR case was resolved with assistance from ICRC who, according to the family, was able to visit the “camp” where the family was being held and obtain the release. According to information provided by this family whose members were tortured by those at this “camp”, the camp belonged to the “Karuna” faction.
Complaints of the abductions were made at the Batticaloa Police Station. Complaints were also lodged with SLMM and ICRC.
Details of the 8 TRO employees abducted
Note by NESOHR: NESOHR is with holding the identities of the people who have provided us with information about cases for their own safety. NESOHR is ready to share more detailed information with any reputable international human rights organizations wishing to inquire into this case. Dr N Malathy
|Released TRO abductees who went to police station to file complaint, detained by Sri Lanka police|
[TamilNet, February 03, 2006 04:55 GMT]
The two female staff of Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), who were
released on Monday by the abductors, are being held at Batticaloa Police station
from 2.00 p.m. Thursday, TRO officials in Colombo said. When the two women,
against threats to their safety, went to file a police report at the insistence
of Government authorities, they were detained at the Batticaloa Police Station
overnight against their wishes, and they are to be held at the Police station
until officials of Sri Lanka Criminal Investigation Division (CID) arrive from
Colombo, said TRO in a press release issued Friday.
|Norwegian NGO, FORUT condemns abduction of aid workers and urges the "Government of Sri Lanka to give highest priority to the investigation of these abductions."|
[TamilNet, February 06, 2006]
FORUT, a Norwegian non-Governmental Organizaton that works in Sri Lanka, said in a press release issued 2 February that it "condemned strongly the abduction of 10 workers from TRO in eastern Sri Lanka," and urged the "Government of Sri Lanka to give highest priority to the investigation of these abductions." Full text of the release follows:
|Third TRO staffer, Ms. S. Dosini released, 3 February 2006|
[TamilNet, February 03, 2006 13:53 GMT]
Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) Friday said in a press release that one of the abducted TRO officials, Ms. S. Dosini, has returned to her relatives in Chenkalady. "Word has reached TRO through the Non-Violent Peace Force (NVPF) office in Batticaloa that Ms. S. Dosini, PSEDC Divisional Coordinator Mamunai North Division, has returned to the home of her relatives in Chenkalady, a Government of Sri Lanka controlled area of the Batticaloa District," the press release said. The fate of the remaining seven humanitarian workers is not yet known.
|Abductions, threat to peace, say US Congressmen, 2 February 2006|
[TamilNet, February 04, 2006 12:48 GMT]
United States Congressmen Sherrod Brown and Patrick Tiberi, in a letter to
the Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, Ms Christina Rocca
said that the "situation surrounding the remaining abductees [seven TRO
staffers] greatly threatens any peace negotiations that are in process unless
the matter can be resolved quickly."
|TRO Statement to Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) (also in PDF) , 3 February 2006|
Arjun Ethirveerasingam, TRO Project Development Manager,
Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation, Colombo
|Released TRO staffers to register complaint with Human Rights Commission, 5 February 2006|
[TamilNet, February 05, 2006]
Head of Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), K.P.Regi, told TamilNet Sunday, that his staff are making arrangements to get the three released TRO workers later Sunday to register complaint with the Human Rights Commission (HRC). "We feel that it is important that released staffers meet with an impartial group such as the Rights Commision, so that facts about the abduction, obtained without any coersion, can be presented to the public and to the International Community," said Mr Regi.
Ms Punniyamoorthy Nadeswary and Ms Chitravel Sivamathy, who were released by
the abductors on Monday, registered with the Batticaloa police on Thursday. Both
were released by the Batticaloa police Friday afternoon after being kept at the
Police station overnight. Ms Dosini who was released separately has returned to
her parents home and is yet to report to Sri Lanka Police.
|Dismay at Lack of Progress in the Release of 7 Humanitarian Workers - IFT, 11 February 2006|
IFT is deeply dismayed at the lack of progress in the release of the
humanitarian aid workers from the TRO, held captive. It is now well over ten
days and the fate of 7 of the 10 aid workers kidnapped, is not clear.
The kidnapping of these workers took place in close proximity to the Sri Lankan Army camps, in two separate incidents. It is believed that either the Sri Lanka armed forces or the paramilitary groups working in tandem with SL military intelligence were behind this abduction.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Government has sought to evade all responsibilities for this heinous act by issuing misleading statements in the media. (Ref: Minister For Foreign Affairs, dt. 02. 02. 06)
The actions taken by the Government do not match its commitment to rescue the captives. Instead, it reveals a cynical attempt to hoodwink the international community with reference to the part played by the paramilitary groups in the abduction.
This attitude does not augur well for the talks in Geneva. The Tamil Diaspora is deeply sceptical and IFT fears the captivity of the TRO aid workers may hinder the talks in Geneva.
IFT calls upon the President of Sri Lanka to use all his resources to obtain the release of the captives, early.
Strong International Pressure
Essential to Save Abducted Aid Workers -
Canadian Organisation for Peace and Equality in Sri Lanka. (COPE-SL)
We have to draw your kind and urgent attention to the perilous plight of the
humanitarian aid workers abducted by the Paramilitary Karuna Group (PKG) working
with SL Military Intelligence (SLMI). Out of the ten workers originally
abducted, three have since been released and seven workers including a female
worker remain in the custody of the abductors for over two weeks now despite
widespread calls for their release from various organisations of civil society,
NGOs, INGOs, EU, UN and US spokesmen. While the safety and well-being of the
abducted remain questionable, causing fear, anxiety and concern to their
distressed family members and relatives, it is absolutely essential that their
plight be kept alive to the glare and attention of International Community and
media in order to save their lives.
In dealing with this crisis, the reaction of the Government and the police dept. and their contradictory statements smack of State complicity in this heinous crime. Playing political hide and seek out of human misery should be condemned. It is also reported that when the two released female workers went to the police station to make a statement, they were made to feel as the accused when they were detained overnight at the station for twenty two hours; they were denied legal representation and their Attorneys were sent away and their written statements were arbitrarily altered by the police.
The failure of the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the police to rescue the abducted so far and instead attempting to shirk its responsibility over the PKG is highly reprehensible. It is common knowledge that the PKG is formed, housed, fed, trained and operated by SLMI. The existence and location of PKG camp in Theevuchchenai in the Government controlled area in the East was exposed by the Sunday Leader paper of March 20, 2005. Further, when the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission Officials wanted to visit PKG Camp, it was the SL Army officers who directed them to the camp. It is therefore most dishonest as well as utterly futile for GOSL to repudiate liability for PKG and the abductions and attempt to hoodwink the International Community. The military spokesman, Bgdr. Samarasinghe cuts a sorry figure and an ace joker with his constant Goebellsian denial of PKG Camp in his attempt to hide the truth.
In light of the above facts, it is crystal clear that it is within the means and authority of GOSL to rescue the abducted promptly. What is necessary for GOSL is the will, sincerity of purpose and genuine desire for peace, lack of which is manifested in her miserable failure to implement vital clauses in the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) for the last four years.
The agonised cry of parents/spouses and relatives of the abducted humanitarian aid workers are directed at the UN, the Co-Chairs for Peace in SL, including EU and the US, pleading to exert maximum pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to take immediate action to rescue them. It has to be emphasised that soft talk and appeals in this regard from various quarters have had no effect so far. The perilous plight of the abducted demands tough talk in strongest terms for the GOSL to get the abducted released unharmed immediately.
A. Jesuthasan, Convenor, Canadian Organisation for Peace and Equality in Sri Lanka
|Sri Lanka Minister Siripala de Silva at the Geneva Talks on 22 February 2006|
|39 days after abduction Amnesty Launches Appeal Campaign, 10 March 2006|
AI Index: ASA 37/007/2006 10 March 2006
UA 55/06 Fear for Safety/ possible "disappearance"
Kasinathar Ganeshalingam (m), aged 50, Director of theTamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) and Co-ordinator of Pre-SchoolEducation Development Centre, North-East Province. Kathirkamar Thangarasa (m), aged 43, TRO Driver, Thanuskody Premini (f), aged 25, Chief Accountant for TRO in Batticaloa town and Student Shanmuganathan Sujendram (m), TRO Accountant, Mankikkavasar Children's Home Thambiraja Vasantharajan (m), TRO Accountant, BatticaloaKailayapillai Ravindran (m), aged 26, TRO Accountant, Vipulananda Children's Home Arunesarasa Satheesharan (m), TRO Accounts Trainee, Vellavali
Kasinathar Ganeshalingam, Kathirkamar Thangarasa, Thanuskody Premini,Shanmuganathan Sujendram, Thambiraja Vasantharajan, KailayapillaiRavindran and Arunesarasa Satheesharan, all employees of the Tamil relief and development charity, Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), were abducted in two separate incidents in late January 2006 onthe Jaffna Peninsula in the far north of Sri Lanka. It is feared that they may have "disappeared" and there are grave concerns for their safety.
On 29 January, Kasinathar Ganeshalingam, Kathirkamar Thangarasa and three female TRO employees were driving from the town of Batticaloa ineastern Sri Lanka, on their way north to the TRO headquarters in the town of Kilinochchi in northern Sri Lanka. According to two TRO workers who were later released, at about 8pm they saw a white Toyota Hi-Acevan following their vehicle. They were stopped and subjected to checks at the Sri Lanka Army checkpoint at Welikanda, on the borders of Batticaloa and Polonnaruwa districts, and saw the white van parked behind their vehicle. When they moved a short distance from the checkpoint, the white Hi-Ace van came behind them, overtook their vehicle and stopped them.
An unknown number of armed men got out of the van and assaulted both Kasinathar Ganeshalingam and the driver, Kathirkamar Thangarasa, tied them up and dumped them in the back of the TRO vehicle. The TRO vehicle was then driven for about three hours and finally stopped at a camp in a jungle area at about 11.30pm. The five TRO staff members were held overnight in the camp. The women, who were reportedly held separately from their male colleagues, claim that they heard the two men being beaten by their captors. The following evening at around 9pm, two female staff members, Punniyamoorthy Nadeswari and Sithiravel Sivamathi, were released, taken to the nearest main road and put on a bus by their abductors, who warned them not to speak to anyone about what had occurred. A third female TRO staff member, S Dosini, was released later.
However, Kasinathar Ganeshalingam and the driver, KathirkamarThangarasa, are still missing.
Five more TRO employees apparently "disappeared" on 30 January in similar circumstances in the same area. At 4pm, 15 TRO staff members were travelling from the organization's Batticaloa District office tothe town of Vavuniya to attend a training session, when their way was blocked by a white van approximately 100 metres after the Sri Lanka Army checkpoint at Welikanda. According to those who were later released, the white van had previously been following them. Five armed Tamil-speaking men, aged between 20 and 25, reportedly got out of the white van and boarded the TRO vehicle. One of them dragged the driver out of his seat and then drove the vehicle to a jungle area. All 15 of the captives were then blindfolded. Thanuskody Premini, Shanmuganathan Sujendram,Thambiraja Vasantharajan, Kailayapillai Ravindran and ArunesarasaSatheesharan were removed from the TRO vehicle and the remaining 10weretaken back to the main road and released.
The released TRO workers reported that when one of the abductors shouted out that there was a police jeep ahead, another of the abductors replied that this would not present a problem to them. Before the 3 TRO staff members were released, they were told by the abductors that they should prepare the funeral rites for the five remaining abductees.
The TRO has stated that it has filed police reports with the Batticaloa Police Station and some of the relatives of those missing have attempted to file police reports. Police took statements from the two young women who were released, who were kept overnight at the police station in Batticaloa. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) also investigated and took statements from the two women but have not to date made their findings public.
The TRO staff have continued to cooperate with the authorities and the NHRC.
The government and the LTTE met to discuss the implementation of the cease-fire in Geneva on 22 and 23 February. The abductions of the TRO workers, which took place shortly afterwards were interpreted by some as an attempt to derail this renewed effort to put the peace process back on track. However, the talks in Geneva went ahead as planned and both parties reiterated their commitment to respect the cease-fire agreement.
They agreed to meet again in Geneva from 19 to 21 April.
The TRO is seen as being closely affiliated with the LTTE. However, it is a legally registered Sri Lankan charity and its mission is to provide much needed relief, rehabilitation and development for the people of the north east of Sri Lanka.
Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in English or your own language:
- expressing concern for the safety of the seven employees of the Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), who have been missing since their abduction in late January 2006;
- urging the authorities to undertake and complete as a matter of urgency thorough investigations into the fate and whereabouts of the seven, and make the findings public;
- calling on the authorities to bring those found responsible to justice;
- urging the authorities to take immediate measures to ensure the safety of all TRO workers and others involved in humanitarian relief work, in accordance with their wishes;
- calling for immediate steps to be taken to ensure the safety of the families of the seven missing TRO workers, in accordance with their wishes.
President Mahinda Rajapakse
Major General Asoka K Jayawardhana
Mr Chandra Fernando Inspector General of Police,
COPIES TO: Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka Army Commander,
and to diplomatic representatives of Sri Lanka accredited to your country.
|Fr B J Alexander, Conscience Appeal, London, UK - An Open Letter to Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation, 11 June 2006|
To: Mr K P Regi,
TRO, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Sunday 11 June 2006
Re: 7 Human Beings
Dear Mr Regi,
I am writing to you about a matter that has received much
media-attention in the beginning of this year. It is about the involuntary
disappearance of 7 TRO workers. As it happens in Sri Lanka when other murders,
abductions, rapes and even killings of innocent infants and children have begun
to take place at a rapid pace, obviously this matter, however serious it might
be, “appears” to have been put on the back-burner – certainly not forgotten.