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Sri Lanka's Undeclared War on Eelam Tamils
...in the Shadow of a Ceasefire
On 17 June 2006 morning, Sri Lankan Navy (SLN), following its serious defeat at a sea clash in Pesalai seas, took revenge on Tamil civilians in Pesalai. Tamils had taken refuge in the Church of Lady of Victory. This is the same church to which the people of Pesalai went for refuge when the tsunami struck and also when the SLN went on rampage on 23 December 2005. On 17 June, two thousand (2000) people had taken refuge in the church as the sea clash raged in their sea between SLN and the Sea Tigers. The defeated SLN cordoned the Pesalai area. The Navy personnel proceeded to Pesalai blindly firing around and several houses at Pesalai are seen damaged. Frightened people took refuge in the church. SLN attempted to open fire into the church. They came around the Church of Our Lady of Victory at Pesalai and took positions outside its walls. At this point four men in shorts and t-shirts rushed into the church compound by the main entrance riding on two motor cycles. They started firing at the church walls, doors and windows where over 6000 people, after having fastened all the doors and windows from within, were taking shelter. SLN then broke open the door. Frightened people piled into a corner.
Some Navy personnel had fired into the church through the little openings found on the large doors and a good number of innocent civilians there sustained injuries and even the frame on the main altar holding the statue of Our Lady of Victory was damaged. One of the Navy personnel, then had opened one of the windows and hurled one after the other two hand grenades in to the church. One of these fell back striking the window grills and the other blasted in the church with a big noise and heavy smoke. Then, the troopers, wearing masks, shot at the civilians inside the church and lobbed the third grenade through the window into the Church where more than 2000 civilians had sought refuge.
One of the grenades landed on a 70-year old woman, Manuel Clara Amma Leema, from 4th Division in Pesalai. She was killed on the spot inside the church. There were also gun shots fired. Due to the great numbers injured there was blood splattered on the walls and flesh every where. The attack on the church and the coastal villages around 7:00 a.m. and lasted for an hour.
There were three weddings
scheduled for Saturday and one of which was the deceased Clara Amma’s grand
"Gruesome revenge on civilians after each and every attack," has become the doctrine of the Sri Lankan Navy in Pesalai, he says, reminding the terror during the last Christmas when four persons of two neighbouring families were burnt to death inside a house in Pesalai after a Claymore attack that claimed the lives of 13 Sri Lanka Navy troopers.
On hearing the news of the attack from the LTTE Political Head for Mannar, Iniyavan, informed SLMM, ICRC and the Bishop of Mannar, Rayappu Joseph. The trio together tried to reach the church immediately. Sri Lankan military stopped them at SLA barricade for two hours while the seriously injured people in the church were bleeding. Local people arranged for their first aid. Five of the injured reached a critical situation because of delay in medical attention.
The church priest of the Lady of Victory church informed the Sri Lanka Red Cross and the Mannar Hospital to send ambulances to pickup the injured. These ambulances too were blocked for two hours by the SLA at their barricade. Nobody was allowed to go outside the church after the attack. All had to remain inside till Mannar Additional Magistrate D. J. Prabakaran, ordered the Sri Lanka Navy to remove the troopers from the location and instructed the Police to take care of the law and order at the site. Eventually the ambulances came to take the injured to hospital with the Bishop intervening. 44 civilians, most of them with grenade-splinter injuries, were rushed to hospitals. Some of the victims also had gunshot wounds. Five victims in a critical state were transferred to the bigger Anuradhapura hospital. Other injured people were taken to the Mannar hospital. At least seven civilians were killed.
Some of the fishermen who were at sea fishing, early in the morning, rushed to the shore as the clashes broke out between the Sea Tigers and the SLN. They were shot dead by the Sri Lanka Navy. The four fishermen killed in Kattaspathiri, were identified as
Thurairajah Vijayakumar, father of 3, from Tharapuram,
Abdul Rahuman Lathib, 28, father of 4,
Jesudasan Jude Nixon, 24, from Pesalai, and
Ciril Appar Sen Jude from Vidathalthivu.
Another body of a fisherman, Koodalingam Linganathan, 20, was recovered from a boat on Kattaspathri shore, where more than 40 boats with engines and fishing nets were set on fire by the navy troopers. Remains of a youth burned inside a boat was located by villagers, later in the day in Pesalai. The body was not identifiable. Three more youths were reported missing from Pesalai area. SLN also burnt the huts at the three fishing harbours in Pesalai. The civilians of Pesalai felt frightened to continue to live there having faced the persistent brutality of the SLN. The 100 House Scheme which was attacked on December 23, is now emptied of people. SLN has set up a large camp in this area. People are now seriously thinking of leaving the Pesalai area.
73 dwelling huts of the fishermen in Vanakalaipaadu have been burnt to ashes.
The fishermen had come to Vankalaipaadu from Vankalai due to restrictions on
fishing imposed by the SLN and were living there in temporary huts with all
Fishing nets worth of 10 million rupees have been burnt down. In Pesali, 40 boats and 25 huts were damaged. The financial loss for the fishing communities was very high, according to the TNA MP Vino Noharathalingam who visited Pesalai Saturday. He took part in an urgent meeting with the Bishop and the Commanding Officer of the Sunny Village Sri Lanka Navy camp. Eyewitnesses in Kataspathri alleged that the killers were riding in a Police ambulance. The killers, who entered the church premises in Pesalai were riding in motorbikes and the fellow troopers were guarding the area when sections of the troopers went amok, kliing, burning and destroying the huts.
Batticaloa Bishop reached the site around 9:00 a.m., but was not allowed to move beyond. Civilians living along the coastal areas of Pesalai, Kaattaspathiri and Vankalaipaadu settlements adjoining the Gulf of Mannar were in a state of panic and turmoil in the aftermath of the Sri Lanka Navy troopers violence on Saturday against civilians on the shores of Pesalai, Kattaspathri and Vankalaipadu, the three fishing areas. The Bishop also said that four fishermen had been shot through the mouth. He said he had seen the bodies of the fishermen on the beach still holding their ID cards in their hands.
He also said as he was traveling to the scene he saw dwelling huts of the fishermen burning all along the coastal way of Vankalaipaadu.
The Bishop also rejected
any notion that there was any land battle or attack on the police station by the
LTTE or any one else as stated by the Sri Lankan officials and the SLMM
spokesperson, Thorfinnur Omarsson, in Colombo.
"The media should be wise
to terrorist methods as they are similar to those of disinformation campaigns of
Fascist dictators," the Lankan Minister has advised the media in a news release
posted on Government website. Also, the Sri Lankan Navy Spokesman Commander
Dasanayake, who joined Rambukwella, stated for his part, that the LTTE has fired
"scores of grenades," using grenade launchers. Neither Rambukwella or Dasanayake
had any logical explanation of the civilians who were killed by gunshots through
The church was providing refuge to more than 3000 villagers to stay overnight when tension prevails in Pesalai. Most who witnessed the horrific grenade and indiscriminate shooting attacks have been traumatized and would need help. It is felt that there are no mechanisms in place to help people who have suffered such trauma. They have been reported to be terrified having witnessed the killings and live in fear that more carnage could happen. They have expressed concern about their security and feel even the church is not a safe haven anymore.
Bishop Rayappu Joseph, one of the first persons to enter the church, Our Lady of Victory, after the attack targeting civilians, who had taken refuge in the church, told media that the attack was carried out by Sri Lanka Navy troopers. "There was no fight at the land; no LTTE cadre was there," when SLN troopers went amok in Pesalai, the Bishop of Mannar Diocese told BBC Tamil Service Saturday.
Fear has gripped civilians of Pesalai, who have no other place to seek safety, says Parish Priest Vincent Patric Cruz. Around three thousand civilians, most of them women and children, were forced to remain inside the Church, for hours, among the flesh and blood of the victims.
The events that have unfolded have rocked Pesalai, Kaattaspathiri and Vankalaipaadu areas and are said to be having a traumatic effect on the people living there. Until the Mannar Additional Magistrate Mr. Prabaharan went to the area and ordered the SL Navy to leave, instructing the police to handle the situation the movement of civilians including the Bishop’s was severely restricted.
A health official, who did not wished to be named, said the memories of the events in Pesalai, on Saturday, were similar to the massacre that took place in November 1999, also on a Saturday, in the holy shrine of Madhu Church, where 37 refugees, including 13 children, were killed in targeted artillery fire by the Sri Lankan troopers.
Shedding of innocent blood in St.
Mary’s Church, Pesalai in the island
Pesalai is a
large village that lies to the North-West of the island of Mannar with a
population of 8000 people 90% of whom are Catholic Fisher folk and the rest
being Hindus and Muslim fisherfolk in the main village of Pesalai and the
adjacent villages of Kaataspathri and Siruthoppu. They are a peace loving
people. The Sri Lanka Navy which has one of its camps in the Pesalai area on the
shores of a little village called Siruthoppu and the sea tigers of the LTTE were
engaged in a battle in the sea off Pesalai. Two days before this incident i.e.
on the 15th inst., an exchange of fire had taken place between the Police who
are stationed at the very entrance of the village of Pesalai and the LTTE, at
8.00 PM. At this incident the people of Pesalai had fled to their Church for
shelter. During this incident, six houses and a shop in the village suffered
extensive damage due to RPG mortar attack from the Police Post. The people
numbering over 6000 spent the whole night in the main Church and in the
buildings in the church compound. The same people chose to stay there even on
Friday night On the early morning of Saturday the 17th inst., as the people were
trying to go to their homes, they were held back by the sound of the battle that
had started between the Navy and the LTTE in the Pesalai sea.
The fishermen came down from their boats with their Identity Cards in hand. The Navy men asked them to go on their knees and fired at them through the mouths. Four of them fell dead still holding in their hands their Identity cards. The rest of the two had tried to run away and one of them was caught by the Navy and fired through his mouth and his body was found in one of the boats and the other sustained injuries on his stomach and holding his stomach, he ran and fell down at one of the houses at the village and he was immediately taken to the nearby church of Kaataspathri. He was removed by the SLRC to the Mannar hospital after an hour at 9.30 AM and had been sent from Mannar. to Anuradahpura hospital for special treatment.
The Navy personnel proceeded to Pesalai blindly firing around and several houses at Pesalai are seen damaged. They came around the Church of Our Lady of Victory at Pesalai and took positions outside its walls. At this point four men one of whom was in shorts and t-shirt and three in camouflage uniform rushed into the church compound by the main entrance riding on two motor cycles it is said. They started firing at the church walls, doors and windows where over 3000 people, after having fastened all the doors and windows from within, were taking shelter. Some Navy personnel fired into the church through the opening between the main door and the floor and as all the people in the Church were lying down on the floor, many of them sustained injuries.
One of the Navy personnel, then had opened one of the windows and hurled one after the other two hand grenades in to the church. One of these fell back striking the window grills and the other blasted in the church with a big noise and heavy smoke resulting in one lady’s head being blown off in the church and wounding 47 people, some of whom received serious injuries. Pesalai hospital lies in the adjoining compound of the Church and these four men in the words of the Doctor, entered the hospital and pointing the gun at the neck of the Doctor and pushed him to the ground scolding him in filth.
I, the Bishop of Mannar when informed about the incident, contacted the area commander of the Sri Lanka Army in Mannar and he advised me not to proceed to Pesalai. After much efforts, the Divisional Secretary and myself were able to send the Mannar Police with the Ambulances to bring the seriously wounded to the Mannar Hospital .Finally at 9.10 A.M., I was able to move towards Pesalai with the SLMM (Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission), SLRC (Sri Lanka Red Cross) and the Divisional Secretary of Mannar. We managed to send the remaining wounded people and also dispatched the six dead bodies to the Mannar Hospital in the SLRC vehicles.
In the meantime, the military sources had tried to spread false news stating that there had been an attack by the LTTE on land at Pesalai on the Police and the Navy had to open fire etc. They also had been stating that a grenade held by one of those inside the Church had exploded etc. and that the Security Forces are not responsible for the explosion in the Church. All the people of Pesalai say that there was absolutely no incident on land in their village on that morning and the grenade story as stated by the military sources is adding insult to injury.
I informed the Vice Admiral, the commander in chief of the SL Navy of the above facts as testified by the people of Pesalai and their Parish Priests. I invited the local commander of the Navy and organized a meeting with the people of Pesalai numbering 7000 at 4.30 in the evening of the same day of the incident. These people related to him in the above terms, of the inhuman incident perpetrated by the SL Navy in their village of Pesalai. They cried for their security against the Security Forces. They wanted him not to prevent them from fleeing to India or to go to the LTTE controlled Wanni for their safety.
If not they said he could bring all his men
and shoot all of them once and for all. Even if a sacred place like a Church is
unsafe for them, where else will the innocent civilians find safety? was their
question. They pointed out that the incident had taken place in the sea and the
people had nothing to do with it and why, they asked this cruel brutality
against the innocent people, babies, women and elderly taking refuge in a
Church. The Commander accepted everything the people said and tried to placate
them by assuring them their future security. The people pointed out that several
incidents of this type had taken place in the past and such assurances had been
given by the different commanding officers and they all had disappeared as words
written on waters.
The people told him of the threat meted out to all the people in Pesalai and in its sub-villages namely Kaataspathri and Siruthoppu by the Pesalai Navy saying that any LTTE attack on them will result in their wiping out the whole village sparing not even breast feeding infants. In this background, the people could not be convinced of the security. All at the meeting requested the presence of the ICRC in the village on a permanent basis to which the ICRC representative present said that he would keep his headquarters informed of the same and follow their instructions. The people are mortally afraid of the SLNavy and any amount of assurance given to them is not going to change their fear ridden psychosis due to past assurances not being kept up and the threats meted out to them by the Navy. When they sight the Navy moving in groups, the people at Pesalai run for their life to the church.
The SLNavy and the SLArmy, very unrealistically expect that the ordinary civilians should give them information about the presence and plans of the LTTE. They do not see that the civilians have nothing to do with the plans and activities of the LTTE and that their only concern is their daily civic life in search of the daily means of sustaining their large families. The fate of the so called informants is a fright to the innocent people.
The security forces in this area do not understand this at all and from top to bottom, each of them has coloured his mind with this fanaticism that the people are there to supply security information to them. If the people do not do this, the Security Forces here think that the people should be killed. Unless and until the above unfounded prejudice is removed from the Forces against the Tamil civilians, they will never be in a position to offer any security to the people. The cry of our people that they be secured from the SL Security forces in their midst is very genuine in the given situation. Their immediate expectation is that a neutral Force should be brought in to take care of the security of the innocent people in a situation where nearly 95% of the Security Forces in Sri Lanka are Singhala and except a few very good officers, almost all of them are prejudiced heavily against the Tamil people.
This truth should be squarely faced by all concerned to prevent violence and counter violence against civilians Tamil or Singhala speaking. At the moment all fishing in Mannar district is forbidden and the life of the poor fishermen is going to become miserable, many a time left only with plain water and little sugar to feed the infants. The people’s right to life and their right to earn a living are greatly endangered in the District of Mannar which has a population of 125,000 people. Today 7000 of Pesalai are staying in the Churches and over 1000 have left the area in search of safer locations.
The Church of Our Lady of Victory at Pesalai is one of the biggest churches in the country which was newly built and blessed by His Excellency Apostolic Nuncio on the 5th of December, 2004. This church has been desecrated by the shedding of innocent blood by unjust aggressors, the SL Navy. I had called for a day of penance and prayer and this day falls on Monday the 19th inst and by evening we will be having a purification ceremony for three hour and bless the Church anew for worship in the presence of the Presbyterium of Mannar and the people of Pesalai.
Details of those killed by the Navy at Siruthoppu Navy camp in Pesalai, Mannar on 17.06.2006:
In the broader perspective of the very explosive situation in the country, our deeply felt and earnestly expressed expectations expressed in the name of peace and in the name of the innocent civilians who are increasingly getting killed and in the name of us all who are living in utter fear, tension, helplessness and uncertainty in this our land are the following:
Reported by the
International Association of Tamil Academics Appeals to the College of Catholic Bishops Across the World - June 17, 2006
நேற்றயதினம் 17-06-2006 சனிக்கிழமை மன்னார் கடற்பரப்பில் தழிழீழ விடுதலைப் புலிகளுக்கும் சிறீலங்கா பயங்கரவாத அரசின் கடற்படையினருக்கும் இடையில் யுத்தம் நடைபெறடறுள்ளது.
இதில் பாரிய தோல்வியினைச் சந்தித்த
கடற்படையினர் அந்தச் சம்பவத்திற்கு பழிவாங்கும் நோக்கிலும், கடந்த 15-06-2006 அன்று
கெப்பற்றிப்பொலவில் இனம் தெரியாத நபர்கள் மேற்கொண்ட கிளைமோர் தாக்குதலில் அப்பாவிச்
சிங்கள மக்கள் 64 பேர் கொல்லப்பட்டு மேலும் 40பேர் காயமடைந்த சம்பவத்திற்கு
பழிவாங்கும் நோக்கிலும், கோழைத்தனமான முறையில் மன்னார் பேசாலையில் அப்பாவித் தழிழ்
மக்கள் மீது கண்மூடித்தனமான தாக்குதல்களை நடாத்தியுள்ளனர்.
கடற்பயணத்தில் ஈடுபடடுக் கொண்டிருந்த விடுதலைப் புலிகளுகளின் படகுகளை அழிக்கும்
நோக்கில் தேடிச்சென்று வலிந்து தாக்க முயன்ற கடற்படையினர், விடுதலைப் புலிகளிடம்
முறையாக வாங்கிக் கட்டிக்கொண்டனர்.
இவர்கள் அனைவரதும் தலையிலும்,
வாய்க்குள்ளும், கண்களுக்குள்ளும், சுடப்பட்டுள்ளது.
மக்களை இலக்குவைத்து அரச பயங்கரவாதிகள் மேற்கொண்ட எறிகணைத்தாக்குதலில் 5
அப்பாவித்தழிழ் மக்கள் படுகாயமடைந்துள்ளனர்.
Mannar SLN rampage causes $5m damage to property
Outboard engines, fibre glass boats, fishing nets and other
related accessories belonging to fishermen of Pesalai, and Vankalaipadu in
Mannar districts costing nearly US$5m were burnt and destroyed in the arson
following the fire fight between the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) and Liberation Tigers
of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Mannar Sea last week, according to preliminary reports
submitted by the Mannar Divisional Secretary to the District Secretariat
Wednesday, civil sources said.
Independent report verifies SLN
complicity in Pesalai violence (also
[TamilNet, July 04, 2006 15:44 GMT]