Still fresh in my heart!
- Thaya in the the Morning Star,
10 May 2002
Kumuthini! What a lovely name she bore!
But on that fateful day she had not known,
As she crossed the deep ocean from the Delft shore
That she would create a history on her own!
The passengers were from all categories
The young, the old, the peasants and the learned,
Scurried and hurried to get into Kumuthini
To reach the mainland early in the morning!
Pregnant with people, the cargo and the produces
She started to sail elegantly like a woman!
In the deep blue sea, men in deep blue suits
From nowhere stopped by to check the crew!
“All on board get on to the top board
The identity cards in your hands you hold
Down when you come, yell from your throat
The place that you would like to go!”
The valiant first and the weak went last
Then the ladies the babies and the pregnant mothers,
All descended, one by one
Knowing not what awaited in the gloom
They realized the guys were ‘butchers’ in disguise
Who confused the human beings as animals
They received blows of hammers and axes
Stabs and cuts with swords and knives!
The strong ones opposed and struggled
The women with Deep wound wriggled
The bellies of the babies got dissected
They left, the bodies butchered!
The thirst of the bleeding ones
Was quenched with the blood of others
And the dying embraced the dead
To give company in death itself!
With none to give witness to her ‘fate’
But the lamenting and wailing waves
Kumuthini with her ‘still born’ babes
Drifted painfully towards the shores!
This incident, like other similar ones
That demanded justice to be done
Though become “long forgotten ones”
Is still fresh in the hearts of the affected ones
Kumuthini is the name of the passenger ferry between the island of Delft and Punguduthivu, via
Nainathivu. On the 15th May 1985, Sri Lankan Navy personnel stopped her at
mid-sea, and the government Navy personnel bludgeoned and cut to death all
her passengers, including women and children.
Excerpt from Letter from
Secretary General, Amnesty International to Sri Lanka
President J.R.Jayawardene, 7 June 1985
In respect of
the allegations that navy personnel may have been
responsible for the killings of unarmed Tamil passengers
travelling on 15 May on a ferry boat between Delft and
Nainativu, I would like to draw your attention to the
account, which Amnesty International received after writing
to His Excellency the President, of a survivor who gave
details of how the killings took place and identified one of
those participating in the killings as belonging to the
Nainativu Island Naval Camp. According to this account:
"We boarded the government launch "Kumudini" at about
7.45 a.m. on 15 May 1985...........
On the said day when the boat had proceeded towards
Nainativu Island for about half an hour, it was ordered
stopped by some men who came in a fibre glass boat.
About six men boarded "Kumudini" while about two
remained in the fibre glass boat which they tied on to "Kumudini".
The six men who boarded "Kumudini" had rifles as are
carried by naval and army personnel. All of them were
dressed variously in blue longs or shorts and T-shirts.
However, the blue longs and shorts worn by them made me
realise that these men were navy personnel.
passengers and crew were ordered to enter the forepart
of the boat and ordered below deck there, leaving the
aft section and the driving cabin completely free. All
the pasenqers thus forced into the aft section were made
to repeatedly shout out their names, status, locality
and where bound to. One man pointing out a gun shouted
out such an order in broken Tamil. If anybody lowered
his voice the man would threaten to shoot him unless he
raised his voice. As the passengers were made to shout
in this manner, one from the crowd of passengers was
called at a time and led into the aft section.
the others in the fore section knew what was happening
to each person who was led away in this manner owing to
the din created by the forced shouting of passengers.
After about 12 persons had been called into the aft
section in this manner we heard the report of a gun and
I saw a body falling overboard and being washed
alongside the boat. I was able to see this as I was
When it came to my turn I went
towards the aft section. On approaching it I saw blood
all over and the cut pieces of human bodies. At this
juncture I shouted and refused to move. I was then hit
on the head and I fell. I felt that I was dragged and
cut on my head by some kind of a hatchet. I received
further injuries on my stomach and legs and fell between
the boards of the bottom of the boat. I pretended to be
dead and lay there. I felt further bodies falling over
mine and the cries of distress of men and women.
45 minutes later I heard the fibre glass boat being
started and going away...... Of the men who were engaged
in this attack I was able to identify one of them as a
navy personnel whom I have seen in the said area and is
from Nainativu Island Naval Camp."